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In Hell I woke

Chapter Text

Lelou woke with a start. Her hand reached to the pistol under the pillow, when a gruff voice spoke in the dark.

"It's just me doll, ein't got no need to shoot the intruder." She relaxed and sighed, falling back to the bed.

"You sure about that, pilgrim?" her voice was husky and dry, making her clear her throat. It was dry, always dry in this wasteland of a world.

Hancock's raspy chuckle came from the corner and the red light of the cigarette illuminated his black eyes for a couple heartbeats. She could hear the gentle slosh of liquid moving in a bottle.

"You know me, doll. I like to watch you sleep. Better past time than stare at the ceiling in an empty room."

"You perv."

"Guilty as charged." he said with a smirk, showing neat row of sharp teeth. Lelou breathed deep, relaxing back on the mattress. They bantered and snipped like this, it was easier that way. They both knew why he was in her room.

"What's the time?"

"Four in the morning. You could get some shut eye still."

"You know I can't. But hand me that cigarette." she didn't smoke before, not really. She just liked to take couple throat hits now and then. She had picked the bad habit few months ago. Didn't carry any with her though.

The ghoul stood, the whiskey sloshing in the bottle and sat down on the edge of her bed. She moved a little and took his smoke, taking a drag of dull nicotine in her system. She could feel the black eyes roaming over her half naked form. She wore the hubris comic grey tank top and grey panties to sleep. The first year in the wasteland had eaten away most of the fat from her pregnancy, the second as the Director of The Institute gave her back her plumb and soft curves, covering the hardened muscles and modified bones, leaving her look like a woman who had lived privileged life of healthy nutrition and no radiation. She was an eye candy to everyone in this ruined world -she knew that- so she let John look. The ghoul had stated his interest long ago and never tried to play her. Frank and honest. Simple. He had watched her back in good and ill, took her under his red frock coat and showed her how to survive beyond the basic camping and hunting skills she had survived with. He never hesitating to put himself in danger to save her. And she tried to do the same. Now days she had become even more adamant on it. Those few she though close, she tried to keep safe.

Reckless, Nick said. Borderline alcoholic too. She though taking a sip from the bottle the ghoul handed to her. The others, Nick, Piper, Preston, even Deacon and MaGready, all nagged her about her drinking and smoking, occasional chem use. Cait was the worst, the ex-junkie.

Ruining her health. As if she could after all the experiments and genetic modifications Virgil had done to her.

Only Hancock didn't judge her. He didn't let her out of his sight, when she drank herself into oblivion, but he didn't deny her need to dull herself like the others. They meant well, she knew, she just didn't care. She takes another swing of the bottle and rolls on her side, hoisting her legs over the man. He doesn't hide his appreciating look he gives to the brief flash of her crotch.

"Where's my..oh there." she mumbles and takes her sage colored mechanic jumpsuit, pushing her legs through it one after a time. The zipper had been replaced with buttons and though she had access to cleaner and more protective attire, she liked the simple one piece. And she had reinforced it with ballistic weave, so it gave her protection enough. She leans down to lace her worn boots.

"You really going to test that relay?" John asks, his gaze lingering somewhere between her waist and breasts.

"Yeah. Sturgess is adamant for it to work. The worst thing that could happen, is that I die." Johns shots her a un-humored look.

"That's not funny, toots."

"I know. But that's how it is." she says and stands up pulling the jumpsuit over her and takes her bandolier, sliding her hands through the loops, the small colt pistol holsters settling under her arms. Worn leather belt resting heavy on her hips, hand axe on the right side. A knife goes vertical to her back on it's sheath attached to the belt. She finger brushed her auburn hair- originally it was, at least, but the merciless sun had burned it to coppery red, leaving a mess of different colored stripes. She twisted it to ponytail, then adorned her black leather cap, sunglasses and lastly, clasped her trusty pip-boy on its place on her left wrist.

Hancock watched his friend dress. She wasn't a tall woman, around 5'5. Nice to look at with her childbearing hips and shapely ass, breast full and heavy. Curvy, with soft layer of fat on her belly-he knew- he had mapped that soft stomach of hers with his rough hands few times, counting the stretch marks and drawn the lines of the detailed tattoos covering her back and arms. She hadn't been drunk and still she didn't mind him enjoying her smooth and unbelievable soft texture. She never minded him touching her. Skin hunger, she called it, when he had wondered why she wasn't repulsed by him indulging himself. Something about needing the physical closeness of another living being, or something like that. Once - over a year ago - he had playfully grouped her heavy breast, making her moan as he squeezed, his fingers sunk deep in them. Her nipples had produced little droplets of milk when he had teased them. She had burst to tears and he had stopped, instead holding her through the rest of the night, drinking himself silly with her. They never talked about it, but he had stopped chasing her then. She wasn't ready to let anyone touch her like that. And after a while, shit had gone bad to storm. She had fought her way to reach her son and ended up finding an old man with her eyes and her dead husbands face.

And then losing him again.

Time had passed since then, but he didn't make a move on her. Now their handyman Sturgess had tried to improve the relay he made, to get her to the Institute, to better move large amount of supplies to more remote settlements in the future, and even Hancock started to get concerned of Lelous growing lack of self-preservation. She decided to do the test drive herself.

"Look, toots. It doesn't have to be you who tries that damn thing."

"We have tried it with melons, mole rats and even brahmir-all of them teleported nicely. The change of something to go shit is practically non-existing." she says taking his smoke from his mouth. She sucks long, burning it to the stump and breaths deep, dropping the stump to the floor and smashing it with her foot. She turns to look at him as she plows the smoke out, the bright hazel-blue eyes setting to his black orbs. They are softer for him, the permanent half dead stare giving away for the short moment, as she acknowledges his concern.

"It'll be fine, John." He want's to believe her. She smirks to him.

"Besides, we will toss me to the Red Rocket first, so you can wait there." John sighs and stands up. Placing his bottle to the nightstand, he lights another cigarette.

"Yeah yeah, get going then and wake that wacko scientist, so we can get this done with." he grumbles.

The feeling of unease never leaves him.

Chapter Text

Everything was green.

It wasn't anything too weird, the rad storms were green. But she was pretty sure the green storm clouds and lightnings were the only thing in the sky while there was a rad storm, not the floating rocks in the sky. And she was also pretty positive, that the radrouches didn't have so many eyes as the black creatures that were chasing her at the moment. While running, she concluded that something must have gone wrong with the relay, and she was somewhere other than the familiar area of ruined Boston. Judging by the color of the environment and the bizarre creatures, her best guess would be that she had teleported somewhere in the Glowing sea, but she had hard time to believe that. Last time she checked, there was no floating rocks at present. The black bugs nipped at her ankles and she stumbled, cursing for the loss of her pistols. She had no idea how she had lost them, or how she even came to be in this mean and green place. Worse of all, her pip-boy was gone too! She touched her axe and glanced over her shoulder, intending to stand her ground and smash the little pests, but sped up cursing again.

There was a swarm of them! Running forward and upper ground, Lelou saw blurry figures all around her. But stopping to look at them was not an option. At some point the hill she ran up to turned to stairs and she slip. Instincts told her to brace the fall with her hands, experience told her to roll the momentum out. Experience won and she fell to her side, but still hit her head to the upper steps. Her ears ringed from the trauma and she felt the warmth of blood falling somewhere behind her left ear. Something touched her leg and she scrambled up, running up the stairs. She noticed the light through her blurry vision, too bright to say what color, and then she felt a pull. Next thing she felt was strong suction feeling, sense of vertigo and then she fell again.

This time she had no control of the fall and she landed on her back, the air knocked out of her, hitting her head again. Everything around her was chaos. Her eyes saw flashing lights in all colors and her ears heard metal sounds and roaring and ...laughter? Screams and shouts and rumbling.

Memories of battlefields flooded her and she sucked breath, forcing her lungs to work again. She rolled to her stomach and stood, her feet shaking from the long run. Figures moved before her, human figures. And something else, big and dark and wrong. Someone crashed on her side and she had her axe in her hand faster than she thought, left hand grabbing the one to crash her.

A girl.

In the next moment something twisted and darkness rose behind the girl she held and Lelou acted on instinct. She swiftly twirled the girl behind herself, and chopped her axe hard on the general direction of the creatures face. It hit the mark, and when she thought it fell, it suddenly seemed to materialize right back before her!

It-whatever it was- shrieked and slashed at her. She didn't see clearly or hear, but apparently she could feel just fine. It felt like when the yaon-ti managed to slash her and her damaged brain concluded, that she was fighting a feral creature with claws and intent to pursue its kill. So she matched its brutality, let go of the girl and grabbed the combat knife from the back of her belt, repeatedly stabbing the creature despite the claws that tore into her sides and arms. Her axe rise and fell again and suddenly it hit empty air, nearly dropping her knife.

The creature simply vanished.

She heard noise all around her, shouting voices coming closer.

The girl screamed. She sounded scared. She felt a hand grab her left wrist and squeeze hard.

Scared.

She dropped her knife and took a firm hold of the hand grasping her and squeezed back.

Figures moved around her, she sensed them more than saw-her vision was pretty shit. She turned to face the blurry figures approaching, axe ready, positioning herself before the girl. She didn't scream anymore and she felt the hand growing slack in her grip. Someone shouted at her, but it sounded like it came underwater. She bared her teeth to it, not liking its commanding tone. A flash of blue and something appeared next to her. Her axe ripped through the air at the same time something ran through her.

Everything was black.

Chapter Text

Evelyn ran.

She knew she should turn and fight, but she had never been in an actual fight. She trained for it of course, her parents had provided her trainers and she was decent with sword and shield. But she had never faced an enemy that wanted to kill her, only sparring opponents.

She had never faced a demon. She was scared and tired and the track to the remains of the Temple of Sacred Ashes had been horrible, cold and filled with atrocious monsters. She only had survived by staying to the background with Varric, letting Cassandra and Solas do the heavy hitting. She felt that she was a coward, she had seen the disaprovall in the Seekers eyes.

They reached the Breach and she did as Solas told her to do and braced for the demons. She tried to fight, had managed to kill one of the Shades even. But then they swarmed her and started to chase her. The others fought the monstrous Pride demon, keeping it from chasing her too. Cassandra and Solas both shouted to her to use the mark on the Rift and she tried.

She really did!

But as soon as she connected the strange green magic to the Rift, the Shades reached her and she lost her chance, running around the ruined statue, that stood next to the Rift to get away from them. She suddenly ran into something and looked up, shrieking in fear.

A woman looked down at her with dead eyes and she froze.

They were blue, mostly, and orange brown circling the pupil.

Like sunset. She thought. Then the stranger looked up over her head and suddenly pulled her behind her. Evelyn tripped from the sudden pull and hastily scrambled to stand up, but ended up sitting on the ground, her legs too tired to carry her. She turned just in time to see a small axe land on the Shades face. It dissolved as soon as the woman pulled the axe away, and immediately another pushed on its place.

The woman grunted, when it slashed at her and proceeded to stab it with...a knife?

Evelyn gawked at the brutal display in front of her. The woman wasn't tall, probably even shorter than her, yet she attacked a small horde of Shades with only a small hand axe and a knife half the size of a normal dagger. The demons shred her clothes and skin in equal measure and she snarled in pain, but didn't stop stabbing and chopping until the last one of them dissolved before her. There had been five of them and she had hacked them through like she hadn't felt the lashes on her!

Now she stood before her legs wide apart, covered in blood and brownish goo from the demons, her too bright eyes unfocused, staring the space before her. She swayed despite her wide stance.

"Use the mark!" Someone-Cassandra- yelled and she snapped from her gawking, throwing her left hand up.

The Rift exploded and she heard the Pride demon roar as it's defenses fell. Cassandra led the soldiers attack it and then the Seeker shouted her to use the mark again. Evelyn gritted her teeth.

Using the mark really hurt, but she had to do it.

Be brave.

She screamed and threw her hand up again, and now the pull was bad. It felt like it sucked the life out of her and she grabbed something to hold on to. The something squeezed her hand back and she hoped it would root her life to her body, because she didn't want to be sucked into the Breach like she felt she was being right then.

Then she blacked out.

Chapter Text

"Stand down soldier!" Cassandra repeated angrily.

They had felled the Pride demon and the prisoner had closed the Rift.

Cassandra had been angry and frustrated of her, seeing how the girl ran around the crater, the Shades following her. The apostate and Varric had tried to pursue them, but the Pride demon demanded their attention, or else it too would have gone after the prisoner. The Mark seemed to attract demons. The only thing they could do to help her, was to keep the massive demon away from her. Solas managed to throw a barrier over her couple of times, so the girl wasn't completely defenseless, but if she kept running and not fighting, she would tire herself to the point she wouldn't have strength left to lift her sword. Then the stranger appeared from nowhere and pulled her behind her, attacking head on the Shades chasing after her.

She had only seen glimpses of the fight, being occupied by the bigger demon, but it seemed that the stranger was protecting the prisoner, keeping her alive. The girl had managed to disturb the Rift and then even close it and they were victorious.

Now the blood covered woman stood between them and the prisoner, who had fallen down. The woman held the prisoners slack hand in hers, the small hand axe in right hand, dripping dark ichor. She seemed dazed. Cassandra had seen battle rage consume soldiers in the heat of the battle and knew she probably didn't understand a thing she heard at the moment.

"I don't think she understood you , Seeker." Varric said coming to stand next to her, eyeing the woman carefully. Cassandra glared at him.

"She's in battle rage. I have to snap her out of it." she growled to the dwarf and turned back to the woman.

"Soldier! The battle is over, stand down! Now!"  the woman answers by baring her teeth, white row shining from the dark blood.

"We don't have time for this." Solas grunted and before the Seeker could stop him, Fade stepped right next to the woman. Varric saw the axe rise in alarming speed, and then the mage mind blasted the woman and the axe fell. It hit the ground with its wielder. Varric whistled looking at the mage, who had already crouched down next to the prisoner, examining the marked hand.

"That was pretty daring, Chuckles. You did see she took down a cluster of demons with only a small axe?"

"Small hatchet and a knife." the mage said offhandedly, closing his eyes and folding the marked hand in between his. Varric rolled his eyes.

"Still, pretty bold move."

Cassandra hovered over the prisoner, looking at her restlessly. She felt little bad for the harsh treatment the girl had received, now that she knew she wasn't the one to blame for the Temples destruction.

"Did it work? Will she live?"

"The Rift is closed, but the Breach is still there. It worked in some sense, the Breach is stabilized, as is the mark. She will live."

"Are we safe?" the Seeker stared down at the mage. Solas didn't look at her right away, still examining the mark.

"For now, as safe as possible with that tear in the Veil. As I said, it is stable and your prisoners Mark has stopped consuming her. We need to form a plan of how to continue from here." the mage said. Cassandra looked at him, eyes hard and then nodded.

"We go back to Haven." she turned towards the soldiers that gathered around them, starting to bark orders and organize the trip back down the mountain. Solas stood away from the prisoner, when two soldiers came to take her and made to follow after her, but stopped when a hand touched his shoulder. The Spymaster looked at him with her unnervingly unreadable eyes. He schooled his face neutral and meek, taking care to not seem too confident.

"Is she a mage?" she asked nodding her head. Solas looked at the pointed direction, seeing the strange woman that came to the prisoners rescue. She had been laid on her back, still covered in blood and ichor. Solas crouched down, reaching his hand to feel her pulse. It was steady. The mind blast had been solely directed to her only and would have dropped bigger opponent easily. He had maybe overdone it in the heat of the moment, seeing how terrible small she was, shorter than the prisoner, and she too was half head shorter from him. But then again, he had been in a rush to inspect his mark, to see there still was possibility to right his mistake at the temple.

"I don't feel magic in her. She's no more mage than you are." Solas says, feeling slightly remorseful for taking her out so violently.

"I could heal her, if you allow it."

"Is she in danger of dying now?"

"No."

"Good. Then company the prisoner back to Haven. Your expertise is best used there. Our healers will see to the other wounded." Leliana spoke in her pleasant tone that didn't stand for arguing. Solas inclined his head and left with the small group led by the Seeker, soon forgetting his guilt on using his powers against someone who was merely a human.

He had bigger things to worry about.

Chapter Text

It had been only a couple of hours of their return to Haven, when Solas was summoned away from the prisoners side. The elf servant who came to get him, was pale ghost and too anxious to even look at him, babbling about the Seeker wanting to see him in the Chantry dungeons. Solas bristled at that. Had they decided, that an apostate mage was too dangerous to stay in Haven? Even though he had only helped? He made his way to the Chantry, preparing to talk them down, persuade these hollow creatures to see him unremarkable and manageable. Or, if that failed, he would have to spend considerable amount of power to take them down.

He could, even in his weakened state, fight his way through this village. Even without magic if it came to it. Though he didn't exactly know how this 'smite' the Templars were capable of doing would effect him, he was proficient to fight without relying on magic. Unlike mages in this time, he had notice. They were raised and trained to rely only in their magic, making them vulnerable to templars attacks. Even novice fighter could take them down, if they ran out of mana. Solas reached the Chantry and took the door at the left, stopping at the top of the stairs. He had been escorted there by two Templars, when he had first arrived-offering his knowledge and help. Now there was no one escorting him and that made him think, that whatever it was that was acquired from him, didn't necessarily concern him. The thought made him relax his shoulders and descent the stairs down to the dungeons.

There was no one in the first section of the dungeon, so he headed towards the darker cell section. The door was closed and only small amount of torch light came from the cracks of the door. He pushed it open and saw the Seeker and sister Nightingale standing inside the last cell.

"You called for me, Seeker?" he asked closing the door. The warrior turned to look at him and nodded her head to something inside the cell. A woman laid on the hay mattress on the floor. She was turned to her stomach and Solas peered at her form, to understand what he was seeing. Her back was completely tattooed and so were both of her arms and she was obviously hurt, full of bruises and half healed slash marks on her arms and sides. Was he supposed to heal her?

"Do you recognize any of these symbols or pictures?" The Seeker asked. Solas looked at the two woman and gestured towards the unconscious one.

"This is why you asked me here? To look at a naked woman's tattoos? While she's unconscious?" he forgot his capricious situation for the sheer absurdity of the request. It was acceptable to attend to an unclothed person if you were dealing with injuries, but simply gawk at someone while they were unconscious, unable to prevent this breach of their privacy? It was disgusting. His opinion must have been visible on his face, because the Seeker narrowed her eyes at him.

"We asked you a question, mage." she stared at him threateningly and Solas reminded himself of the fear these broken creatures felt towards magic, and pretty much anything they didn't know or understand. Apparently the wariness and fear consisted even paintings on skin. He lowered his eyes, but his jaw was stiff in his displeasure.

"I need to look at them closer." he bit the inside of his cheek in effort to not say something that would rise the Seekers ire, he had already witnessed her temper. Sister Nightingale stepped closer to the woman, holding a lantern, so it lighted the tattoos. Solas knelt beside the woman, silently apologizing her the rude way she was exposed. She was a mere human, but even these empty husks had rights to have their dignity. He grimly thought, that he shouldn't be surprised to see they treated one of their own kind so disrespectfully, seeing how they treated elves.

He peered at the dark ink lines on the pale skin. Then he blinks surprised and stares. 

Her back was covered with wolf heads. Masterfully drawn to her skin, with differed shades of black and grey. They were all connected, one head starting where the other ends, smaller heads bursting out of open mouths. Gums and tongues colored in subtle shade of red so they didn't stand out. Some wolfs bite the others, like they were fighting each other. Solas was an artist in heart and he marveled the details and subtle way this piece was done. He had never seen such a detailed and realistic looking tattoo. 

This peaked his interest and he carefully moved her right arm. A round symbols started from her shoulder, a woman's face was painted to her upper arm, dark hair twirling around the bicep. She had been painted so her shoulders showed, bare and in an angle, that was both endearing and innocent. Her eyes looked up towards her back as if silently witnessing the battling wolf pack. There was a myriad of shapes going down towards her elbow, so full of details he couldn't determined their meaning in only one glance. Shapes and animals. Fish and unfamiliar creatures on her forearm. And then, right over her wrist was a picture of an elf boy, hair braided and falling over his shoulders, a long thin sword between his legs as he sat on a rock, it's tip in the ground and a polishing rag on his hand as he cleaned the sword. He was beautiful and wearing the graeves of an armor. Not a servant, but a warrior.

The implication of the tattoo was profound. In this time, where elves were oppressed in almost the same level as the slaves had been oppressed in his time, a human would never wear a tattoo like this on their skin.

Questions flooded his mind and he turned to the left arm. This was same way cryptic collation of pictures, but where the right bore a beautiful woman and an elf boy, this had a dark cloaked figure with a scythe, skull on the place of head and skeleton hand reaching to garb a man, old with long beard and floating robes on him, looking angry and dejected as the skeleton hand grabbed him. In the inner side of her fore arm a skeleton hand grasped her fore arm, like in greeting. It was disturbing, yet the skill of the artist was unquestionable.

"What do you think of them? Do you recognize the style?" Sister Nightingale asked behind him. Solas shook his head, his eyes roaming in the grim, yet strangely mesmerizing pictures.

There was so many details! Whoever had done these tattoos, was without a doubt a master of the craft, a true artist. Solas had always loved art and was considered a great artist in his time himself, but he knew he could never paint a living beings skin like this. Not without extensive use of magic at least and he never used magic in his paintings.

"Do you feel any magic in them?" the Spymaster asked and he briefly feared that he had spoken his thoughts out loud.

"Impressive as they are, they are not magical in anyway. And no, I have never seen anything like this. Some of these creatures are common, yet some seem to be imaginary."

"You have traveled the Fade. Have you ever seen anything like this? Is this some form of a demon?" the Seeker said beside him and pointed the hooded skeleton figure. Solas shook his head. He then realized her to be the one that had save the prisoner in the temple ruins. The one he had knocked out.

"She appears to be injured still. I would examine h..."

"No need. You may go." The Spymaster abruptly said. Solas was taken a back of the sudden dismissal and had to rein in his immediate retaliation. He swiftly stood and bowed politely.

"Of course." he said and left. The whole way back to the small cabin he had been assigned, he told himself how useful lurking in shadows was and how many ways he could use it in his advantage. If his pride was constantly taking hits, that was just another small prize for him to pay. That was a sobering though. He settled his anger and then realized, that he had failed to look at the woman's face. At the temple she had been covered in black ichor and blood and he hadn't seen her face.

By the way she was being held in the dungeon, he doubted that he would see her again.

Chapter Text

"She could be noble. She looks too healthy to be a peasant." Cassandra said.

"She has some skill in battle. A noble houses guard perhaps?" Leliana suggested. Josephine wrinkled her nose at that.

"Possibly. No high born lady would tattoo their body, and certainly not with such a tasteless pictures." The woman that had been instrumental on saving the Trevelyan heir, had been rushed to the infirmary, where the healer had had his hands full on wounded patients. His helpers had given the woman light healing potion and started to strip her, when her tattoos had been revealed. It had caused a commotion and Leliana's scouts had quickly exited the woman from the healing tents, operating under orders to take note of anything suspicious. She had had one of her agents, a woman called Mevis to clean her wounds, only to find that the potion had already healed them. It seemed, that the demons attacks had looked worse than they were and she appeared to be only bruised.

Her body was full of scars, some white and faded, some slightly red, indicating they were relatively new. Some were small punctual wounds and Leliana wondered what king of weapon had done them. A shiv maybe? The scars along with her tattoos - unfamiliar in design - made her wary of her. Perhaps she was an assassin, or a spy. Perhaps even someone related to the happenings in the Concleave and participant on Divines murder.

The Trevelyan had cleared herself and the common folk started to call her The Herald of Andraste. The Left and Right Hand of Divine didn't encourage the rumors, but they didn't dismiss them either and Josephine was in agreement with them. But Leliana's old friend didn't agree on keeping the mysterious woman in the dungeons, after hearing her save the prestige noble houses child's life, saying that Trevelyans were honorable and Evelyn most likely would want to repay the woman for saving her life.

After the apostate elf had confirmed them that there was no magical qualities on her strange tattoos, they moved her to the dungeons upper part. It was little dryer and had a cot, but nothing else. One of her scouts was stationed to watch her and inform her the moment the woman wakes up. It took a day before she did and when she did, Leliana's suspicions were thrown into a high alert and out of the window at the same time.

She didn't speak any language they understood. In fact, it sounded like gibberish, some twisted form of common. She spend a great time just standing behind her cell and staring at the woman, who stared her right back. It was weird how calm she was. At first she had seem to be confused, then suspicious. When she had asked her questions, she just looked at her and said something in that language of hers.

"What is your name?" she had asked time and again. The woman said something, her tone calm and polite. She had said the same thing every time she spoke and Leliana assumed she said she didn't understand her. So when she couldn't get her answers through talking, she observed her.

She wasn't a tall woman, half a head shorter than she herself was. Like her she was a red head with lovely freckles, but unlike her rose red hair, hers was more sun-kissed auburn, more orange than red and full of sun burned strands, witch told her she was used to being in outside in the sun. Her face was also beautiful, high cheekbones and symmetrical jawline and straight nose.

But though she seemed to be relatively healthy and possessed a straight lined white teeth's - that was a rare quality to peasants - her body head sing of harsh life without the nobles pleasantries. There was clear dryness to be seen on her skin, a sing of extended dehydration and exposure to harsh weathers. She was calm and un-bothered thou, despite the fact she was kept in a cell. 

Her clothes and weapons had been stored away to be examined by her own experts, the design of the knife and axe were unfamiliar and the clothes she had wore were equally unidentified by designs. She had been dressed in plain cotton tunic and soft leather pants, shoes and belt. Josephine had taken care to dress her in a way her tattoos wouldn't show in commoners clothes, but they were clean and relatively good quality. The Spymaster sat with the stranger for a while longer and then called a elf servant to bring her food. Nothing special, just some bread, stew and water. She took the tray and send the servant girl on her way, noticing how the mystery woman looked at the elf curiously. She opened the small hatch on the bottom of the bars and pushed the tray in. Then she left her to eat and went to attend her other duties.

She didn't bother to station a guard on her cell, deciding that the one before the dungeon door would be enough. The woman didn't have magic or even a hairpin so she would stay put.

She didn't see the shocked look on the womans face when she looked at the round bun of a bread.

Chapter Text

Bread.

Of all the things that threw her off in this strange place she woke up, it was bread.

She woke up in an unfamiliar stone building on a bare cot, dressed in homemade clothes. A woman wearing something aching to be a dress made of cloth, leather and chain rings, had come to stand behind the bars and spoke to her in a language she didn't know and then stared at her of something that felt like hours, making her wonder what kind of cult she had come across this time.

Because she was sure it was a cult, seeing how her captor was dressed like some kind of a medieval warrior, having a long dagger on her hip and a hood up over her head. Then she had noticed how clean she was, how shiny her red hair was and how spotless her clothes were. And then the smaller woman had brought a tray of food.

She was more normal looking-or normal in her new normal, witch meant skinny and malnourished body- mousy brown hair and grime on her clothes. She was normal. Except her ears. They were sharp shaped, like elves had in the fantasy movies and stories she used to enjoy when she was in college. Some kind of deformation or prosthesis maybe? And then the armored woman had left without a word and a tray had been pushed to her cell and she saw the golden brown bun.

She stared at it in shock. How had they managed to make bread in a world that eatable yeast was rare and definitely not used in making pastries? She quickly snatched it. It was hard and cold, but she crushed it and it's hard surface broke and the smell!

The smell made her bite the inside of her cheek so she wouldn't cry out in disbelief. It was bread. She hadn't had bread since the morning the nuclear bomb hit Boston.

When the initial shock was gone, she realized she was starving and bite down on the bun. It was crunchy on the outside and softer inside and tasted like...bread. She stared at it confused as she ate it, then she took a spoon full of the brownish broth in the wooden bowl. It was salty and she tasted some meaty flavor, but couldn't exactly say what it was. Her sense of taste and smell had gradually started to dull in the constant exposure to radiation, even though her body had mutated to withstand it. Still the food and the water tasted better than anything she had eaten in the past two years. The Institute had access to pure food of course, but they preferred their rations in tasteless pastes and bars that's nutrition levels were of the chard. She finished the food fast and afterwards wished she hadn't, already missing the taste of a real bread.

She found a bucket with a lid in the corner of the cell, and by the smell of it, she knew that wherever she was, they use the rudiment lavatory facilities like the most of the commonwealth. Only a handful of settlements had working plumbing, not even every house in Diamond City had them. Mainly the Stalls and her place. Placing the lid back quickly to block the stench she shivered. And not only by the offensive smell.

That made her realize, that where Commonwealth was burning hot all the time, here was rather cold in comparison. It was cool like in the Vault. But the smell was different, not chemical and full of Abraxo cleaner, but organic. Damp like cavern, but with wooden smoke of the burning torch and fresh.

She peered at the space before her, the stone floor and walls. There were wooden barrels on the opposite wall and cloth sacks. But nothing more of interest. So she inspected her clothes. They were clean and lacking the tangy smell of radiated dirt or sharp smell of cleaner. Not that clean clothes were anything unheard off to her, it was just a fact in her current life, that the Institute was the only place with constant access to pure water in wast quantity and therefore, able to keep everything clean. But last she checked, she was miles away from the underground headquarter.

Having no way of knowing her whereabouts at the moment, she returned to inspect her clothing.

They were made of cotton like material. The socks were wool as far as she knew and the shoes were made of cured leather, tied with laces. All hand made. She peeked inside her shirt and noticed her bra gone and replaced by something that looked like leather vest that was cut under her breast and laced from both back and front. It pushed her breast upwards almost like a corset, but didn't constrict her breathing as much as the sexy lingerings she used to have, but still some. She frowned at them thinking who had dressed her. The though annoyed her a little, still she had been abandoned modesty long ago, when survival was the only thing that mattered and personal privacy had to be taken if wanted. 

A sound approaching steps made her step away from the cell door. She reminded herself that she was a captive in some sort of a cult and she had no way of knowing their intentions towards her. A dark skinned bald man in attire that looked like leather armor appeared to the door speaking to her. She couldn't understand him and did nothing and the man pointed at the back wall and repeated his words.

Oh, he want's me to stand against the wall.  Universal precaution with prisoners.

She stepped around the cot and turned to stand her back against the wall, keeping her hands before her in the view. The man looked at her for a while to make sure she didn't move and then opened the cell. He quickly scooped the tray and then closed the door again, handing the tray to the smaller figure she hadn't seen before.

It was the skinny elf eared girl. She took the tray and without a word turned and left. Lelou looked after her, trying to spot some other sings of mutation on her. Then she realized that this girl wasn't the same one that she had seen before, for her hair was black and not light brown.

Strange to have so similar mutation...perhaps they are twins.

It took two days for her to come to the conclusion, that they were not mutated siblings, but members of an entirely different race.

 

Chapter Text

Leliana stood at the gates, watching the small company walking away from Haven.
Two days ago the Trevelyan girl had woken and agreed to help the newly formed Inquisition and as soon as they had her geared up, they had send her to Hinterlands with Cassandra, Varric and Solas to meet with Mother Giselle and establish a foot hold in the western side of Ferelden. The war between the mages and Templars was taking it's toll on the Crossroads, leaving the civilians defenseless and endangering the subblielines to Haven. The Inquisition needed to gather influence and what better, than to win the common folk on their side. The nobles would follow, if they wanted their peasant to tend to their fields and stock.
Josephine had already contacted the families owning the farming lands in western Hinterlands and started the long and all over too pretentious exchange of pleasantries, to garner their favor and support.

Leliana could only admire the Ambassadors unwavering patience with the nobles.

She watched the retreating group for a while, it would take weeks before they would be back to Haven. She watched the small form of Evelyn, worrying a little. The girl was young and unfamiliar of warfare. But she was instrumental in their attempts to restore order, being the only one able to close Rifts. Cassandra had promised, that she would keep her alive and train her to fight in the process and Varric had readily volunteered to go with her to the Hinterlands-much to Cassandras annoyance. Solas went as well, being one of the three mages in Haven and the only one proficient in real fight and the sole person, who seemed to be able to help Evelyn with the Mark. The thing occasionally still caused her pain. Leliana left the gates and made her way back to the Chantry. Her scout was waiting for her in the dungeons threshold, with the tranquil she had asked for.
Ben had been one of her scout for many years and was reliable and smart man. She had signed him to the dungeons, to observe their tattooed quest five days ago and report her behavior to her. She had chosen him to the task because he was good at reading people and keep things to himself.

Though one could not be her scout, if they weren't.

The 'guest' had shown no sings of hostility towards them so far and had yet to woke any more suspicion, other than her strange tattoos and scars and the inability to understand any language in Thedas. They had tested it by speaking Orlaise, Antiva and Tevene, even bit elven, behind the window of her cell, while Ben observed her inside in the shadows. But she had not reacted in any way, not even turned her head towards the window. If she was a spy and heard whispers spoken in different languages, she would have tried to listen.
And they would have known.
But if her lack of interest told them anything, it confirmed her to be unable to understand. If one could not understand and had no means to, they usually ignored the speakers. They had also learned very soon that she was illiteral.

One of her field medic had suspected, that she might have had gotten hit by the head, seeing how she stared at the elves and dwarfs that occasionally moved past her cell. There was no hostility or resentment in her eyes, just plain curiosity. Like she had never seen them before.
And she seemed to be infatuated with bread, holding it before her face for minutes just smelling it, before she ate it.

Leliana suspected her medic to be correct in his assessment.

The clothes and weapons she had had, were worn in use and there was nothing special about them, except the quality. They had never seen such neat and tightly made stitches and the handle of the hatchet was so dense it was like metal, but not as heavy.
Darkened iron bark, Harrit had suspected. The knife was too a good quality steel, but nothing special aside from the unfamiliar design.

Still there was the small chance, that she was just extremely good spy, though Leliana had started to doubt that.

But regardless of the mystery woman's origins and agenda, they didn't have time nor resource to keep her idle and under constant supervision.
Even though she appeared to be illiterate and unable to speak coherently, she seemed to be intelligence enough and understood simple gestures and she was healthy. So Leliana arrange one of the tranquil's Minaeve had brought with her, to guide the stranger to work and be productive and in the mean time, try to teach her Common.
Ellis was in laundry duty and would be sufficient to teach the woman and there was couple of Leliana's own people in the same job. They could keep eye on the stranger and dispose of her, if she appeared to be a threat. And Leliana herself would be free to do more important work.
Satisfied with her plan, she instructed the tranquil in her new duties and then send her to fetch her new charge with Ben.
Leliana herself returned to the war room.

There was still much to discuss with the Ambassador.

Chapter Text

Two weeks had passed since she was released from the dungeons and showed to a small cabin she now shared with five other woman.

Every morning, the women would get up and melt snow to a lukewarm water to wash their face with, and clean their teeth with handkerchief and small wood splinters. Lelou mimicked what they were doing, using the small commodities she had been given and then dressed on simple pants and tunic, folding the big shirt she used to sleep in. She tucked it under her pillow. She kept the under leggings on all the time, the air being too cold to be without. The women who lived with her were all servants, she had gathered, for they dressed in long skirts and aprons and she had seen them fuss all around the village looking busy, and often carrying something like bed sheets and such. They chatted between themselves, three older woman and two young girls. The three older ones were somewhere middle aged, the two younger might be twenty and then some - or younger, it was hard to say, seeing how people tented to age faster in these medieval conditions. They talked too fast for her to understand everything, but she got a word here and there. The language itself reminded English in it's structure and some words even sounded familiar, but as if someone said them in totally unrecognizable accent, that drowned the original word. Still she figured out that they were gossiping about the one they called 'Herald'. That word was pretty similar.

She had figured that the said Herald was someone important. She didn't exactly know how, except that she had something to do with the massive, slowly rotating green vortex in the sky and that she was important enough for everyone repeat her name. Though she doubted that 'Herald' was her actual name and that she had understood correctly, that this 'Herald' was a woman. Lelou didn't know much details about anything that was going on in this place called 'Haven', but got the general idea that something big had happened and this village was in the center of it. And it obviously had something to do with the Big Green Vortex up in the sky.

After she came from the outhouse behind the cabin, her roommates were finished with their morning routines and were leaving. They only greeted her curtly, before turning their attention away from her and went to their tasks, leaving her alone. Lelou went outside, sitting on the creaky bench next to the door. She took a long pipe and tobacco from the pouch on her belt and fixed herself a smoke. She had took them from the storage, where the strange, stoic woman had taken her the first day she was let out of the dungeon. She took a hit, holding it in to let the slight rush lull her head, as she watched the busy people walking pass the rows of small cabins like her's.

It had been an utter shock, the first time she had seen all this and she had nearly fainted. There was no sings of radiation, or even any hint of nuclear annihilation ever happening. Everything was pure white and hulking mountains and brisk fresh air. Green pine trees and log cabins and houses, muddy snow covered streets and people that were bulky and not covered in grime for head to toe. There wasn't any evidence of the Great War ever happening.

In fact, there wasn't any trace of modern, nor post-modern technology.

She had looked at it all, eyes wide and mouth hanging open as she walked the streets, being led by the hand by her guide, until she managed to come back to her senses. It had taken her couple days to come to understand, that she quite possible had been teleported to another continent.

Few days later - when she had decided that she was not tripping from X-Cell- she considered to be in another realm of existence.

Possible.

Maybe.

She could be tripping and this was just all in her head.

That was little too thick to swallow, so she let her mind pass the thoughts of 'where' she was, and concentrated to the place she now was as in physically. Which was cold and busy.

And not radiated wasteland.

She sighed deep and smoked her pipe, enjoying the throat hits and the small rush of nicotine - or what ever the chemical was that poisoned her lungs and brains at the moment - watching the people rushing by to do their duties. She needed to approach this logically – it was the same as when she first arrived into the world after two hundred years of freezer time. Be calm at all times and adapt. Observe what is real in here and what matters in this world. Familiar or not, she was here and she had to wrap her head around the world she was into, and adapt to it's customs. Just like in the Commonwealth.

The first thing she noted in the people here, was how tall everyone was. The five woman she bunked with were all taller than her. Granted, she had never been very tall herself, but here everyone seemed to be tall like models.

Must be something in the water.

Then there were the elves.

They were like the slender druid like creatures from folk tales, all wiry muscles and lean forms, big eyes and long ears, human looking, but still different. There were many of them in this settlement, living in a cramped tent town and hastily made shacks on the outside of the wooden wall. She had gathered through their living environments, meager dirty clothing and general behavior, that they were considered second class citizens. And treated as such, which seemed to have been going on for some time. It was almost like black people after the slavery ended. Years after the despicable practice had been abolished, they weren't forced to cotton fields, but they were not treated as equals. It was disturbing and disgusting.

Thinking that, she had to acknowledge, that this world had some incraned assumbtions of people of other races, and those assumbtions would apply towards her too. The elves were most likely wary towards humans, since they were constantly being oppressors by them, which meant that they would be wary towards her, since she was a 'humans'.  She had tried to talk to them, greed them in the words she had learned to mean 'hello'. They had covered before her, even though she barely was taller than them and when she hadn't spoken more, they had quickly made their exit, glaring at her with narrowed eyes. She had done that only couple of times, but seeing how nervous and suspicious they were, she decided to try talking to them again, when she actually knew the language.

And then there were the dwarfs. They were treated strangely equally good by both humans and elves. They were unique in appearance, being short and sturdy, the tallest she had seen, reaching her to chest. But not like dwarfism - as it had appeared in her time. They were more like sturdy short humans with bold, hard features and wide faces. And beards, of course. Just like in every fantasy movie or book, witch made her really consider her theory of being just tripping from X-Cell. The dwarfs also looked strong and healthy, like most of the humans, obviously eating a lot better than the slim elf people.

She had finished smoking and knocked the ashes away, when the stoic woman she had learned to be named Ellis came to take her to the tavern, where she received her morning portion of porridge and water. She was plain looking woman with black hair and calm, uninterested blue eyes. She didn't smile at all and taught her words in steady focus, never getting bored or frustrated with her.

While they ate, she would teach her words of the objects that were in front of them and then extended her vocabulary with the actions of the items. She was an amazing teacher, in Lelou's opinion, for she felt like she learned tens of words every day. Or their meanings at least, the forming of sentences was just rudimentary at the moment. Ellis spend the morning with her, showing her small tasks she had to do, mostly repairing clothes and tent cloth or wash them. When she had shown that she could also repair leather works, she had been ushered to another building near the smithing area. She was tasked to repair snapped leather harnesses, that the bison looking mammals wore while pulling heavy carts and machines that looked like trebuchet. That was where her teacher left her, telling her she had other duties to attend to and she would see her in the morning. Lelou sat on the corner of the small house working the last of the harnesses she had been given to repair, when she heard noises from the outside.

The huge bison's pulled a cart full of junk to the side of the smith workshop and quite the number of elves started to push all kind of stuff out of it. By the looks of it it was anything from torn fabric to metal pieces. There were couple humans too, picking pieces of metal and going back and forth between the smith and junk piles. The elves continued to separate the junk to their respective barrels.

Because she didn't have anything better to do and she was more than familiar on organizing junk, she went to the blacksmith, a tall bulky man with impressive mustache, who she remembered to go by the name Harrit. The smith scowled at her, when she approached.

"What do you want, girl?" he grunted. Lelou quickly translated the words in her head she wanted to say.

"Want to help. Know how to...do." she weaved her hand towards the junk pile and the working elves when she lost the words. He looked at her closely then and his eyes narrowed little.

"Oh, you are the one touched to the head. Well, if you want to help, go sort those metal and glass bits to those barrels." She nodded, keeping her demeanor polite.

"Yes." she just said and went to do just that.

It was easy and measly task, and as she had expected, the smith apprentices liked to gossip. She listened while working and learned that the Herald of Andraste -who ever this Andraste was- had traveled to a place called Hinterlands couple weeks ago. There had been trouble on the road with -bandits?-she thought, and the Herald was now on her way back to Haven. Someone called Dennet, was coming with her. She didn't find out why people were gushing over this Dennet person though.

At the end of the evening, when the sun was setting, she was still working with the small bits and pieces. Everyone else had already given up, the dark starting to make the job taxing for the eyes. Lelou saw just fine in the dark, her mutated body giving her the ability to catch even the slightest source of light. She hadn't been too thrilled year ago, when she learned that, fearing she would eventually change into a supermutant, or something similarly disturbing. But Virgil had assured her that that wouldn't be the case and that he had finally managed to complete the FEV. And she hadn't turned into big, green and dumb. It was pretty convenient to see better in the dark. Pitch black was still pitch black.

Virgil had really ran with his experiments, when she had convinced the bio-scientist to return to the Institute, assuring him that he would be safe with her in charge. And as her body seemed to adapt in the light genetic alterations, he had been more than eager to try what else he could do with his 'test subject'.

Who also was his boss.

And perhaps a little too careless to say no.

Being thirty two years old adult with full conscious and ability to make decisions herself, she probably should have said no.

Now she wasn't entirely sure what she was, or if she even aged like normal people did, because of the alterations to her physical constitution and immune-system. What had meant to be a slight changes to make her withstand radiation and recover from injuries faster, had turned out to be something else. Now even deep wounds would heal overnight and she probably wouldn't bleed to death if her artery was opened, thanks to the boosted self-healing mechanisms.

She hadn't tested it for the obvious reasons.

But seeing how she also had adamantium embedded to the surface of her bones, maybe regenerating health and seeing in the dark wasn't the weirdest thing in her. Still it occurred to her now, that she perhaps shouldn't wait for the night to get darker. Her eyes tented to glow a little, when light hit them in the dark. Like cats. Just as she decided to stop, the blacksmith noticed her and came to her.

"Oi, you can stop now girl, everyone else has already gone to eat. You go do the same." he ushered her away from the forge area.

"Yes." she just says to him in answer. The blacksmith eyed her, his eyes hard, but not unkind.

"You're a hard worker. If you don't have anything else to do, come back tomorrow."

"Yes." she nods and makes her way towards the village gates.

"Oi, wait up girl!" Harrit called her back and gestured her to wait, going back to the tables that had few finished swords and other metal pieces. He came back and handed her a leather wrapping. It was surprisingly heavy and the length of her forearm.

"Take these to Filissa, she's the woman who runs the tavern."

"Yes." he weaved her of after that. The sun had set when she entered the noisy building and she immediately regretted her helpfulness.

Bathing hadn't been priority in the nuked world and it wasn't a priority here either, and tonight the air wasn't the normal brisk frost, but something aching a plus temperatures. Warmer weather, damp air and tens of people packed close to each other in heated wood house just made the stench vile. She had to squeeze her way through the sweaty and shit smelling mass of people. But she managed, poking her elbow where it hurt and slipping through the opening before the road blocker managed to see who jabbed their side.

She was all sweaty herself, when she finally managed to reach the long counter. Luckily for her the blond tavern keeper was on her spot, loading tankards of beer on the trays for the two elf girls to serve. She slammed the wrapped leather on the counter making the woman look at her.

"Harrit." she just said and pushed it towards her. Filissa was a fine looking blond with her hourglass figure and rosy cheeks. Her eyes were soft brown, making her look all over approachable and welcoming. Lelou slid to sit on the stool as Filissa set last of the tankards on the tray and then turned to take the packet. There was a bundle of kitchen knifes and spatulas and something that looked over sized nails.

"Could I get food?" Lelou asked as the woman re-wrapped the packet.  Filissa looked up at her surprised.

"Oh, you can speak common!" she blurted out and blushed right afterwards, looking horrified.

"Oh no, that was really rude of me. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sound so surprised. Or say that at all." Lelou didn't understood half the things she said, blabbering it out so fast, but she got the general idea from her embarrassed face. She smiled to her, deciding she liked her.

"Is okay. No harm." she knew her sentences structure was something horrible and was confirmed by the slight puckering of the barkeeps lips, as she tried to hide her smile. Lelou snorted shaking her head.

"I know. Bad." she said with a smirk and a wink that earned her a wide smile and a laugh like bells. The pretty blond put the new kitchen tools away and filled another tankard of beer.

"It's 'could I have some food' " she said with a smile, placing the beer before Lelou.

It was a bit warm, but so was the friendly gesture of the other woman and Lelou happily accepted both.

Chapter Text

The next couple of days she worked on the outside of the forge, scavenging the junk piles. She heard from Harrit, that most of the stuff was from explosion side nearby. What had exploded, she didn't understand, but to her massive destruction sides weren't anything new. So she just concentrated to make herself useful.

There were all kind of stuff to be found. Cloth that had been either tapestry or cloak, metal pieces from armors or basic tools reduced to scrap metal. And there was different kinds of metals distinguish from other kinds by color. The colors varied in every colors of the rainbow and all of them went to different piles. It was almost like home, if you didn't count the opposite weather. When she finished at the last light, she would go to her cabin to towel wash herself before late dinner.

There was a public sauna in the south-east side of the village, but she didn't go there. Ellis had told her that the women bathed every other day and that if she wanted to bath, she could go in right after the bell rang six in the evening. She had gone once in her first week.

The building was low and long, the threshold full of simple shelves, where people could place their shoes. From there was an entrance to the dressing area, witch was rows of benches against the wall, nails acting as hangers. It was simple but working arrangement and the sauna room further in was big. Benches went as three step stairs up against two opposite walls and at the end of the room, stood the barrel like fireplace filled with big rocks to produce the heat and steam. Four big water barrels stood at the front of the room and each had two ladles. Apparently the water was never warmer than lukewarm, but then again, the steam made the room punishingly hot, depending on who was tossing water on the hot stones.

She had found a cluster of human women, laughing and chatting while they bathed. They hadn't paid any attention to her at first, but when she undressed and stepped into the steam room, soap and washing cloth in her hands, they stared at her. Usually Lelou wouldn't have cared, but being in an unfamiliar place, only barely understanding the language, made her uncomfortable being stared by punch of naked woman. She quickly washed her hair and body and left, hushed murmurs escorting her out. She figured that her tattoos were the cause of the attention and had since then taken care of her hygiene in the privacy of the cabin. It wasn't anything she hadn't used to before, being the main way to keep one self clean in the Commonwealth. 

After cleaning up, she made her way to the Singing Maiden. It was full every evening, being the only tavern in the village. Upon entering, she had to take a moment to adjust to the smell.

Hell, does anyone use that sauna?

She made her way to the long counter, knowing that the thick smell of sweat and smoke would turn bearable and weaved her hand to Filissa. The owner of the tavern weaved back with a smile. It had become somewhat a fast routine to them. Lelou would come in, sit at the bar and smoke her pipe until Filissa would come to her with her food and drink. The blond woman chatted with her if she had time, correcting her when she made a mistake. From her, she learned who the Dennet fellow was.

"He's the best horse breeder in all Ferelden, maybe even best in Thedas. The Lady Herald is bringing him and some of his horses with her. Should arrive any day now. That's why every able bodies is working on building a suitable stable near the gates." Lelou didn't ask specific question about this Ferelden, filing the name of the area in her mind. Filissa happily shared her rumors with her and though most of it went over her head, she liked the normalcy of being talked to. The two elf servant working for Filissa, had first looked at her funny when she had thanked them for filling her tankard, but after third night, they just nodded in answer.

Lelou though it to be a good progress.

She learned that their names were Mitha and Rosal. Mitha was very pretty with her big brown eyes and dark brown hair and so was Rosal, with her raven black hair and moss green eyes. Both of them moved swiftly and with practiced ease between the patrons, carrying those ridiculously big trays full of mugs and bowls with only slight struggle. Most of the customers just ignored them, but Lelou took notice of those that looked at them funny.

Though there was nothing funny in that kind of a look.

Nothing had happened yet, not to her knowledge at least. But she made sure to keep her eye on the girls when she was around.

 

***

 

The building of the stables took priority and the blacksmith was in frenzy on providing both basic building materials and finish their other works. There were only two other with Lelou working in the junk piles that day. Both were elves and in much dirtier and patched up clothes than she was. And they were so skinny. Lelou had noticed that they didn't come to eat in the tavern at evenings and the only elves that were there so late, were the two girl working in there. She was digging up large piece of blue metal, when she heard a loud crash behind her.

One of the elves-a blond, pale boy- laid on the ground. A cart with full of wood beams tipped on a broken wheel, the cargo spilling to the ground and trapping the poor man under it. His fellow elf - black haired and slightly taller-tried to lift the heavy beams. He barely managed to nudge it before his grip loosened. The other one cried out, when the beam dropped on the pile that was trapping his legs. Lelou dropped the scraps she had collected and climbed down. People by the forge just watched at the elves. One of the apprentices sneered at said something to another and they laughed. Lelou wasn't surprised, not much.

They won't even help, even though his legs could be broken.

She went to the cart and walked around it to see how she could safely lift the beams, so she wouldn't tip the whole cargo on him. Someone had piled too many on the left side, making the cart go off balance. The wheel most likely had been damaged already and the weight had finally broke it, when the flimsy elf had tried to push the cart away to make room for the other, waiting to be filled with sorted barrels. While she was inspecting the carts position, the black haired elf tried to maneuver the heavy beams off of his friend, but he was so pathetically thin and under fed, there was no way he had the muscles to do it. His friend grit his teeth's, cold sweat starting to sheen on his brow. Lelou rounded the cart and crouched to the ground to look at the damage, noticing how both of the elves stilled.

There was three beams on him. Each probably weighted as much as the man under them or more. They weren't too big, but they had sucked water in them and the cold mountain air froze the surface, making it impossible to grip them with bare hands only. The ice also added to the weight. While crouching there, she was aware of the tension in the air and the narrowed, nervous eyes glancing her.

Because I'm human, they fear me.

She had never been in this kind of position before, where her race would determine how people were interpreting her motives and actions. Or maybe she was. But the gulf between "smooth skins" and ghouls hadn't been this extreme, she thought. She stood and took off her leather belt, slipping it under the first beam.

"I lift. You..." she said turning to look at black haired elf, who was peering at her uncertainly.

"You push." she said making pushing motion with her hands. They would have to slide the beams to the left so the cart wouldn't tip to the right and release even more cargo to slide on the trapped man. They both looked at her surprised and more than little suspicious. Lelou didn't wait to reassure them and just started to lift the beam. She looked at the elf, gesturing at the beam and he swiftly came over, pushing the beam at the same time she lifted and they maneuvered it slowly to the left, so it's tip touched the ground. The men at the forge just stood there, watching them and not moving to offer help, which pissed her off quite a bit. She threw a glare at them, as she wrapped her belt around the second beam. At the third beam she looked at the dark haired elf and nodded towards the blond.

"Pull safe." she said and he nodded in understanding. It was safer to pull the man away from the cart, than move the last beam. The woods left on the cart had started to shift and wouldn't need much to release rest of it's cargo. She waited for him to be in position, grabbing a hold of the blond's vest and nod to her. She braced herself and lifted the beam straight up and he pulled his friend to safety. Lelou lowered the beam and redressed her belt. By then the two elves were on their feet, the blond leaning heavy on his friend, his right leg not touching the ground.

She moved to help them, but they both looked at her quick and the blond muttered a 'thank you' before averting his eyes.

She stopped.

They wouldn't let her help them anymore than necessary. It felt wrong and bad and disturbing. It should be the most civil and normal thing to do-to help fellow man in need of help. But she saw the rejection and uncertainty and understood. They didn't trust her help to be genuine, that she might turn against them or demand something from them they didn't want to give.

It was the start of her life in Commonwealth all over again. You had to earn peoples trust in action and time. What was normal to her, wasn't normal in the dead Boston or here.

She just nodded and weaved them to go, turning back to the junk pile to continue the sorting. They swiftly moved to hobble away. She managed few steps, when she heard shouting.

"Hey! You! Go back to work!"

She turned and saw the apprentice that had sneered at them earlier, pushing the dark haired elf away from his friend. The injured elf cried out and fell and the man just kept pushing and cursing at the other. The dark haired elf said something she didn't hear, but whatever it was, the smith didn't like it. The man cursed at him and turned to yell something to the blond one, who tried to scramble up. And again people just watched.

She didn't.

With fast strides, she was behind the man and grabbed the back of his tunic. She pulled, kicking his kneecap at the same time to drop him. He yelped in surprise and didn't even hit the ground before he was being dragged backwards. He saw two stunned elves and equally surprised men looking at him as he was forcefully dragged away from the forge. He tried to kick the dirt to get his footing, then he gripped the hand that grabbed him, trying to twist his head so he could see his assailant. But then he was dropped and before he could get up, a load crack could be heard and then he screamed.

Lelou had dragged the man to where the elf had been trapped and kicked the cart to release the slippery beams on his legs. She watched calmly as the man scrambled to sitting position, trying frantically to push the beams away, cursing through gritted teeth's.

"Hurt?"

The man shut up hearing her speak and look at her, pain evident in his face. She nodded to him.

"Good."

His eyes widened in shock and then anger and she flipped him a bird -though the man had no glue about the gesture- and walked back to the junk pile. On the corner of her eyes, she saw people running to his help and the two, now forgotten elves hurried away, glancing over their shoulders as they went.

She smiled to herself and picked up the scrap metal she had dropped earlier. 

It was very blue.

Chapter Text

Commander Cullen was pretty sure he didn't assign to settle the workers quarrels, when he agreed to join the Inquisition.

But Josephine was occupied with the visiting nobles and Leliana had made it clear from the start, that she was not to be bothered with anything, her work as Spymaster keeping her busy already. Cassandra was one to make decisions, but she wasn't very diplomat or patient. The Seeker and Herald had returned from the Hinterlands this morning, with the apostate and the dwarf and Master Dennet should be arriving with in two days with his horses.

So at the moment, it fell to the Commander, to pass justice to the people in Haven, until they found someone reliable to settle smaller arguments. The task itself was nothing to be looked down upon, but this was...not what he expected.

No less than three blacksmith apprentices, were accusing one person of an assault and sabotage of their working ability.

The Commander was a man of considered military experience. Above all else, he was a practical man and he came from humble farming family, so he knew that bodily injury that hindered a man's work, was a serious matter and had to be accordingly punished.

It was just that the accused assailant was a one small woman, who -if the rumors were correct- was slightly touched in the head and almost mute.

One of the blacksmiths - the one with a broken leg- man named Aius, ranted to him, how the woman had attacked him, knocked him over and dragged him to the junk piles, where she had dropped a cart full of beams on him, breaking his leg. He was sitting on a chair, pleading his case so loudly, that Cullen felt a little embarrassed for his behalf. The woman stood her back straight, posture calm and relaxed and listened, not once speaking in her defense. When the man finally stopped his report and let out a pained whimper, Cullen called one of his soldiers to go an look for the mage so the blacksmiths leg could be healed. He then turned to the two other men, who had slight injuries on their hands and faces, the youngest-barely a twenty and named Tylon- had a swollen cheek and the third man called Derik, sporting a black eye.

"And how did you two get involved in this?"

The boy told him, how the two of them went to help the beams off of Aius and when they demanded her to explain and apologize, she had hit them with a piece broken shield. Because she was such a small woman, they had not retaliated and gone to seek him to solve the situation.

The third man -Derik, he reminded himself- was parroting the boys story, when the mage came in.

"You asked for me, Commander?" the elves smooth voice was as polite and neutral as always, reminding him of one senior Enchanter, that used to live in Kinloth Hold, when he was just a young recruit. The man had passed away during the attack of the blood mages, trying to defend his students from the demons. Cullen knew this man was an apostate, but he had given himself up freely, understanding the danger the Breach caused. He trusted that Solas was on their side, even if he didn't trust mages in general as he used to, long time ago.

"Yes. There has been an incident and these men are in need of quick healing, so they can return to their work." The forge was in constant rush trying to contribute to the growing need of arms and armor. The Inquisition had had surprisingly many recruits in pass several days, and these men were all needed to attend to their duties, even more so now when they were in a hurry to finish the stables for the horses they desperately needed. The bald elf nodded in understanding and looked at the men.

"Of course. Who should I heal first?" he asked politely. Cullen appreciated his professionalism, even though the workers eyed the apostate suspiciously. Before they managed to voice the objection he knew was coming for a mage to heal them, Cullen said to them, that their ability to work in full capacity was priority at the moment. Nothing made common men as malleable, as the feeling of importance and there was no complaints, when the elf started to inspect the broken leg.
Not wanting to waste time, Cullen turned to look at the woman. She looked at him in a way he could only describe to be confident.

"Do you understand, what I am saying to you?"

"Yes." she says in clipping way, her weird accent so thick it was barely understandable.

"These men accuse you of an assault and sabotage of their work. According to them, you attacked smith Aius and caused a cart of wooden beams to fall on him, breaking his leg. When his fellow smiths came to help him, you assaulted them, using a broken shield. How do you answer to these accusations?" he asked, speaking in even tone and speed. He had the understanding, that she had trouble of the language and he didn't hold high hopes of her answers. It was surprise when she pointed at the boy, Tylon.

"He help his friend, then grab my hair. I hit him. With this." she says and lifts her right fist, pointing it with her left hand.

"You hit him with your fist?" Cullen asks raising his brow " Not with shield?" She nods.

"Yes. I hit him with my fist." she articulate the word very carefully, as if committing it to memory. Which, he realizes, she did.

She's learning a new language.

"Self-defense." she says. Then she points Derik.

"He grab me. Be- behind." she struggled with the word, but barely flinched doing that, focused on her explanation "Use my head." she finishes making a gesture with her head to imitate a backwards headbutt.

"Self-defense." she says again. Cullen looked at the two man.

"This true?" Both of them shake their heads, sneering at the woman.

"Of course not. She's obviously lying!" Tylon scoffs, but Cullen was no novelty Commander. He could see plain and clear, that they were lying to him. He also has an idea why they were lying. It would be rather embarrassing, to be defeated by such a delicate looking hands and pretty head. Smarter men would not judge women by only their appearances. Cullen could see by the way she stood, that she knew how to brawl. He leveled a heavy look to the two men, before pointing at the one the elf was examining. The apostate had cut the pants leg open, so as to not aggravate the injury. The swollen and bruised leg could be seen by all of them.

"And this injury? Was this caused by self-defense also?" Cullen pretty much expected that to be the case. Maybe the men had tried to do something untoward to her and she had defended herself successfully.

"No. I hurt." she just said, plain and simple. Cullen stares at the woman and the mage too, turns to look at her.

"Why?" the Commander asks. She looks at the injured man and her calm, confident expression stays.

"I punish him."

"You deliberately injured him?"

"Yes."

"Did you understand, that there would be consequence?" Cullen asked, his tone hard. He was starting to think, that this woman was in fact not crazy, but fully aware of what she did.

"Always is." came the calm answer. Cullen looked at the woman very serious.

"Why did you attack him?"

"Man was hurt. Elf man. Same way as he. He not help. I do. He hurt the two. The one who hurt and his frie-friend. I hurt him back." Cullen stared at the woman and so did the others. He turned to look at the smith with the broken leg.

"Is that true?" The man fidgeted a little.

"Well. There was couple knife-ears." he said gruffly.

Cullen let the slur slide and called a soldier.

"I need an elf worker to be brought in for ques -" he started to say when the woman spoke, her tone harsh.

"No need. Not they fault. I did this." she said garnering all eyes on her again. Cullen frowned.

"The elf could back up your side of the story."

"No. I not lie. I take my punis-ment. You judge. We walk." she made a gesture that could only mean 'move on'. Cullen looked at the strange woman, who willingly admitted an assault and defended an elf, who seemed to be the cause of the whole incident. Was she protecting him? The woman didn't seem to hesitate, so he accepted the quick way out of the situation.

"Very well then. Since you have, as clearly as you can, told your version of this incidence, I will decide." Cullen said.

"You will be removed from the forge duties. As your new work and punishment, you will be in the latrine duties for the forth night. After that, you will be reassigned." he decides, noticing the three men looking smug.

"Because of the seriousness of the smiths leg injury, you will pay a quarter of your weekly pay to smith Aius as penalty. That is all. Do you understand?"

"Yes." she says in all calmness. Derik and Tylon look surprised.

"That's all? What about us?" Tylon barks. Cullen throws a cold look at them.

"You two have three seconds to remove yourself from my presence, or I arrest you under the charges of lying to you superior." his tone could freeze a glass of water and under three seconds, the tent was two man short.

"Commander. There is no need to reset the bone, so I can heal it right here, if you don't mind." Solas says looking at him expectantly.

"Yes. Go ahead, so we can be done with this." he says and turns to look at the woman.

"You are to report to the quartermaster in first light in the morning and -"he stops abruptly realizing, that he was talking to deaf ears. The woman looked curiously at the elf, healing the injury. It occurred to Cullen, that some of the commoners might actually be terrified to witnessing any kind of magic. He turns to tell Solas to stop, when she steps closer and kneels beside the mage, watching carefully how the bruises fade. Her face didn't show any fear, instead she looked like she was looking for something. Her eye darted back and forth, between the bruised leg and the mages hands that channeled the magic to the injury.

"What you do?" she asked in her broken Common. The apostate glanced at her and returned to the injury.

"I am healing a broken bone." he says in calm voice. She frowns.

"How?"

They all look at her.

"With my magic." Solas says patiently. 

"What is makik?"

The silence is thick, as they all stare at her, mirroring the confused expression on her face.

 

***

 

Solas was still pondering the strange encounter, when he made his way to the tavern to have some dinner. After realizing, that the woman had no knowledge of magic, nor the religious standing of it, the Commander had send for a Chantry sister. With her came a tranquil woman, who told them in her unnerving impersonal way, that the woman had been placed in her tutelage to learn Common and that they had not yet progressed to the point, that the Chant of Light would have any meaning to her. Both the tranquil and the sister promised to Commander Cullen, to see to her religious education at once.

Solas sighed deep.

Yet another person will be turned against magic.

He wondered why it bothered him so much. She was just one woman. And a human to boot. Though she seemed to be one of the few, that would stand up to her fellow men in defense of an elf, as was the case. Then he remembered the unguarded, awed look in her eyes, when he told her very simply, that he had magical powers which made it possible for him to heal the broken bone, as he was doing, or strike down his enemies. There had been no fear or prejudice in her eyes, just plain wonderment.
He sighed again, frustrated this time. The Chantry would soon smother that innocent curiosity without a doubt.

His mood was still sore when Varric joined him. The dwarf immediately picked up his foul mood.

"Watch out with those smiles Chuckles, someone might think you're possessed, or are planning something sinister." Solas hummed nonchalant, returning to his food. It was stew. It usually was.

"I shall try to seem less sinister, master Tethras." Varric grimaced at that. 

"Auts. No one calls anyone 'master' anything, unless they are feeling extra moody. Come on Chuckles, what's bothering you."

"Nothing much, just the impending doom over our heads." he said. The dwarf was a pleasant company and they shared camaraderie on the road, but he didn't feel yet comfortable to voice his opinion on the Andrastian religion, that ruled over modern day Thedas. Privately, he could only shake his head to the irony of all this. He had destroyed a fanatic religious organisation to save his People, only to have them forced under another religious organisation. Not to mention the condition the People were at this today. His mood just soured at that, the weight of his mistakes sitting heavy on his shoulders. Varric watched him, drinking from his tankard and he schooled his expression neutral.

Another tankard was placed before him by one of the barmaids. An elven lass, timid and slightly better dressed than the other husks running around. She offered him a tense smile, which he didn't return, but curtly nodded to her. He felt no connection to these ghosts, even though they treated him like one of them.

As much as they dared, him being a mage and a regular companion of the fabled Herald of Andraste.

"Bottoms up Chuckles. There's no sense to mope sober." Varric quipped, pushing the tankard towards him.

"That is a bad advice, if I ever have heard one, master Tethras"

Chapter Text

Lelou was overwhelmed.

She couldn't wrap her head around the new information she had received.

There was magic in this world! Bonafide, actual, real magic!

Magic like in the fantasy movies and stories. Magic that could do wondrous things! Light fire from nothing! Make ice with a single thought! Create lightning with a wave of a hand!

And heal!

She had seen how the man had lifted his hand over the bruises and blue light had appeared from nowhere. She had tried to see the device he had been using, for that had been her first logical tough. She had even felt a shift in the air, like a breath of wind from a open window. Only it radiated from the man himself.

There had been no device, no instrument that he use. Only his long fingered hands. And he had healed with them. Mended a broken bone with his bare hands in an instant.

Lelou was in awe of it. 

I'm probably high on something and don't just realize it.

That thought crossed her mind in more than few times, but the pure amazement of this "magics" existence won over her less than reasonable speculation.

Medical science had taken leaps in the two hundred years she had been in cryo sleep. Governments restrictions gone, the scientists didn't have any restrictions and the results of uncontrolled testing and experiments had been no less then miraculous. Though the pain of thousands test subjects -willing or not- had been the prize.
She herself was a test subject, but a willing one, first having all the reasons to mold her body to withstand the violent, dangerous world she lived and afterwards having no real reason to take care of herself anymore.

Virgil was a miracle maker, when it came to human mutations, she was the proof of it. But even he couldn't mend broken bones in minutes with his will alone.
The Commander had called Ellis and another woman in the priestess robes to get her and they had chanted her prays and sat her down in the small chapel inside the Chantry, Ellis slowly telling her about their religion.

What she was able to understand, was that this Andrastian sounded like gender bender Christian to her, seeing how strict they appeared to be regarding their position as dominant religion. She didn't understand everything they told her, but got the idea that the church regulated the use of magic and it's soldiers with the flaming sword symbol were some sort of guardians of the mages.

With healing powers like that, it was only logical that the gifted were kept safe.

The medic in her teams and settlements had always been kept in back lines and protected, because they were the most important people, being able to save lives. It is so easy to take life. To save it, you needed a special skills and a level head. To heal with only a thought...that kind of medic would have been treasured.

She was so stunned of the miracle she had witnessed, that she barely noticed the days pass by, as she dig the new latrines and covered the old ones. She didn't mind the smelly job, it was something they had done in regular basis in the settlements anyway and it was an important job that needed to be done correctly. Here it seemed to be a punishment and the worst job anyone could think of. By now it didn't surprise her to learn, that she was the only human working in the waste area. The rest were elves.

Some humans were sent there occasionally. Being punished like her, she assumed.

They swore and spat at everyone, their shovels abandoned on the ground. It seemed that the smell was a punishment enough for them and there was no one to see to that, that they actually did any real work. Lelou left them be and so did the elves and in couple of hours, they just walked away. She could only shake her head in astonishment of the lack of discipline.

Another thing that made her seriously judge this whole organization, was the grave lack of the workers sanitary. There was no communal washing area for them and they were forced to try to clean themselves off the dirt the best they could with only the snow around the area. Lelou had soap to herself, but the others working with her didn't seem to have anything to help to clean the grime from their hands.

Since she didn't have much money and even less now, that she was to pay penalty for breaking the shitheads leg (witch she didn't regret one bit) she decided to make her own soap.

That meant scavenging and making use of the junk she could find.

Being a medieval village, Haven had surprisingly many things just left laying around. She found perfectly usable kettle in the junk piles by the forge (the one she was not supposed to go anymore) and another one ditched in a trash heap behind the tavern. She took them both to the woods near the latrine area. She then scavenged a sack and collected all the ash she could find from the firebitch and proceeded to make lye from the ash. The conditions made the process slow, but she had no trouble to stay up before her fire for the night and in few hours, she had a good patch of lye. It was no big bargain to get some lard from Filissa. 

She practically threw the bucket at her to get rid of her and the offensive smell she carried.

Lelou couldn't help but smile, when she threw her with a loaf of bread and banned her to come back before she had bathed properly. She did go back though, to get salt. Mitha and Rosal had trouble to keep a straight face, when the tavern keeper nagged at her while she nodded her head and smiling stupidly, parroting "Yes, yes, now give me salt".

Filissa gave her a box of salt.

Another display of the general lack of discipline was, that no one tried to look for her or order her back to the latrine area in the whole time she was making the simple soap. When she had finished boiling the mixture, she carefully scooped the soap from the top, to a wide bowl (also found from the junk piles) and then cleaned up her makeshift workstation. She took the soap to the cabin and left it to congeal and went back to the latrine area. The elves working there seemed surprised to see her back. 

They were even more surprised the next day, when she brought them chunks of raw soap.

Chapter Text

Solas walked the muddy street to his cabin.

He had been in the Chantrys library, to try to find something, that would help him with his research of the skull shards they had found. All tough, calling the few shelves of Andrastian related books a library, was exaggerating. Still, he had picked couple pieces, written by an enthusiastic researcher named Genetivi, who had been the one to rediscover The Temple of Sacred Ashes with the Hero of Ferelden. He would read them before they left on the road again. They were set to head to Val Royeaux the first thing in the morning, to meet with the Clerics. They would first travel to Jader, where they would aboard a ship to the capital of Orlais. He would visit the library there and the bookstores. The Ambassador had provided him sufficient funds to pick up some things he might need for his research.

After meeting with the Chantry representative, they were supposed to aboard another vessel, that would bring them back to Ferelden to Highever, where they would continue on foot, following the coastline to Storm Coast.

There was a group of mercenaries, that had send an invitation to the Inquisition to come and see them in action. It wouldn't have been even noted, hadn't they send one of their own to ask the Herald specifically, to come and see them. The man had been Tevinter, witch had raised suspicions when discovered, unsurprisingly. Solas own agents had informed him, that the mercenary group was led by a gunari, who most likely was a spy of the Kossith. It wasn't surprise to him, that they would try to infiltrate the Inquisition as early as possible. Solas trusted that the Spymaster would figure this out at some point and if not, his agents working in the Inquisition could always point her to right direction. There was no need to get the Qunari involved in all this, things were already chaotic enough.

He arrived to his cabin near the alchemist workshop and removed the ward from the door, resetting it upon entering. He decided to go to sleep early, feeling drained and tense.

He always felt tense in here. Right from the moment he awoke from his uthenera, he had felt wrong. Too heavy, like someone had turned his clothes into iron. 

He felt better the second his mind awakened in the Fade. He closed his eyes, standing in the raw dream world and just breathed. Except for him it wasn't a dream.

It was real.

The feeling of the ever-changing existence around him, the solid presence of magic soothed him. Here it was the air he breathed. The ground he walked on. He dearly missed this feeling every time he was awake.

"This is how it should feel." he said to himself, just to hear his voice right. From a moments impulse, he changed into his original form.

He grew taller, his shoulders widened. Long dreadlocks fell down to his back, their rich brown color complimenting his sun-kissed complexion. His plain clothes vanished and he was clad in black and gold armor, finer that any smith could hope to make in the modern day. A grey wolf pelt rested comfortable over his right shoulder and he felt good, being able to shrug away the mellow hermit's appearance - even if it was just here, in the place of the sleeping minds. There was no danger in here for him to be discovered. Even if he somehow came a cross of one of the People, who was a mage and had better connection to the Fade, they wouldn't recognize him as Fen'Harel.

They only knew one image of The Dread Wolf.

Black as the Void, with six red eyes. One for every major sense for him to track them.

He could smell them, hear them to find them. He could see them, then feel them, when he catch them and finally he would taste them, when he devoured them.

And if they had magic, The Dread Wolf would find them anywhere.

Or so the Dalish propaganda said he could do.

Originally, the black six eyed wolf was his enemies attempt to insult him, twisting his emblem of white wolf into something grotesque. He had took it as his new symbol, turning their insult to his advantage. After all, The Dread Wolf was much more intimidating than The White Wolf. So much so, that the People still remembered what the Great Wolf looked like.

And like with everything else, they had either forgotten or misinterpret the stories of The Dread Wolf.

Worst thing was, that they weren't even open minded enough to hear about anything, that didn't fit in their beliefs of the ancient Elvhen culture or their Pantheon. 

This made him upset and he felt the Fade shift. Not wanting to draw unnecessary attention so close the Breach, he calmed his mind and set off to stroll around in this part of the Fade.

He felt the dreams of the people that slept close by. Their connection to the Fade was weak, but as a Dreamer, he had no trouble to enter the dreams. Distance was irrelevant here, so he needed only to concentrate to hear the sleeping minds and then enter the dream itself, if he felt so inclined and take a form that would fit in the dream, so as to not disturb it's natural form. He concentrated and listened.

Imprinted into the magic, the voices came to him. Memories of discussions the sleeping mind reminisced, scattered all around him.

She said it would be fine, there shouldn't be any bandit's on the roads anymore. The Herald killed them all. We can go back home, the fields need to be blown.

He wanted to be part of it, he wanted to see peace restored. You should be proud of him.

He is dead and i'm a widow! Should i be proud of that?

Did you see the horses Master Dennet brought? Fine beasts. I wish i could ride one.

The pantry needs filling. Must tell the boys to go out hunting again.

Have i ever been wrong?

Yes and I have a bad feeling about this.

Commander Cullen spoke to me! He actually noticed me. Oh, Maris is going to be so jealous. 

I heard, that the Herald took down a whole fortress of highwaymen. She's so courageous.

There's been sightings of unrecognized group near Whelton. I send five scouts to track them.

The last bit of the cluster of conversations peaked his interest and Solas concentrated. Without any effort, he slipped into the sleeping scouts dream.

He was just one of the many ravens, sitting on his perch in the Spymasters tent.

Chapter Text

Lelou sat on the bench outside her cabin, smoke rising slowly from her pipes nest.

It was a still and dark night, the stars were hidden behind the curtain of heavy clouds. She fully expected it to start snowing at some point. But as heavy as the cloud might be, they couldn't hide the slowly rotating green vortex.

She had learned it to be called the Breach and that it was a hole in a something in the sky called the Veil. An explosion had caused it, a massive one that had killed thousands peoples. The "Inquisition" was formed after that, to deal with the chaos and try to find the reason of the explosion.

It had happened nearly two months ago, roughly the same time she ended up here. She had blurry memories of the time before she woke up in the dungeons and no one had actually told her how she had come to be there.

But one didn't have to be a genius to figure out, that the explosion had something to do with her ending up teleported here. Tough one had to be a genius to figure out how it had happened. 

Lelou took a deep hit from her pipe, staring at the Breach.

She felt frustrated of her lack of vocabulary. She had learned much, Ellis was a great teacher, but she still lost the meaning of sentences, were they spoken too fast. It didn't hinder every day life, not having common language wasn't an object when interacting with people. It was that she wasn't able to tell if she had understood anything correctly of what she had been told about the Breach and the Veil.

The Veil was some sort of a invisible wall, that kept the magic out of the "this world" as far as she understood. According to what Ellis had told her, the Maker ( she assumed it meant god) had made it, because demons lived in the Fade and corrupted people. There was also something about making sin against the said god that she didn't get. The people who could use magic, like she had seen that one man do, were called mages. They were somehow able to use magic, because of they were connected to this Fade, witch she interpreted to mean Heaven. Something about dreaming in there? 

That sounded silly. The whole damn thing sounded silly. 

I'm being taucht by a member of religious organization, in a world that has progressed to Middle Age. I can't trust anything Ellis tells me to be the truth.

With all respect to religions in general, she had little faith in any entities or divine believed creatures, having been raised in believing in science and evolution and that everything had an explanation, weather you knew it or not. That said, there had to be some other explanation to all these things, than just the classic " because God willed it".

Granted, her mind set had expanded in the pass two years. Surviving a nuclear annihilation and coming across extraterrestrial alien had that affect on people. And there was magic here, she had seen it herself. So maybe there was a God and Heaven too. Or Fade, whatever they called it here. Did that make the mages Angels then?

Her smoke had burned out and she knocked the pipe clean, readying a new one. Stretching her legs forward, she leaned to the wall and stared at the Breach, like it was a client who's motives weren't yet clear to her. At this moment the only thing she was certain, was that her being here was connected to the Big Green Vortex in the sky.

Or I could be tripping from the X-Cell. Or be trapped on some insane Vault experiment. Or perhaps Madison had organized a coup and stuffed me in some pod, drugging me oblivious. With the X-Cell. ...okay, I have to stop now. 

It started to snow.

Lelou stood and opened the lantern's lid hanging beside the door, picking a small flame on a stick to light her pipe. Then she sat back down to enjoy the smoke and the big wet flakes falling down slowly.

 

***

 

After she had done her time (so to speak) in the latrine duty, she had reported to the Quartermaster Therin to be reassigned. Turned out, that she was back to repairing and washing clothes. In addition to the long hours of washing bed sheets and sew ripped clothes, she had to participate in morning-prayer with Ellis, right after early breakfast and then the evening-service after the sixth bell. While she had never been religious herself, she respected the faith of others and tried to make the experience educational.

That mind set had worked for a full week and then she was fed up with the Chant Of Light and Canticle Of Whatever.

It wasn't the religions fault. The problem was the way the priest or "Revered Mother" as they were called here, droned the prayers in overly slow and monotones fashion, that she couldn't make sense of one damn word. And she was not asking Ellis to repeat the over an hour long monologue.

So after a week, she made the mature decision and told Ellis straight and fair, that she would not come to the Chantry anymore. When the woman asked her the reason, she told her she wasn't a believer. She fully expected to have to argue with the woman, seeing how devoted she was (she participated in every service without a fail) and from her bad experiences on meeting overly zealous Atom worshippers. She was surprised, when Ellis just nodded and accepted it. Afterwards, she felt stupid for making such stereotypical assumptions of the stoic woman.

Being back in "clean" job, Filissa led her in the tavern again and she was back on spending her evenings sitting by the bar and drinking the bitter ale served there. The tavern keeper helped her with pronouncing and when there was a quiet moment, she would tell her rumors and news of what was going on in the Inquisition.

The Herald had been away for some time again, first going to some big city that's name she couldn't pronounce and was now on an expedition on the northern coastal area, with her entourage. Lelou wished she had a map of this land, so she could have some sort of idea of it's geography, but the local trader didn't have any for sell.

The Herald had send a Grey Warden to Haven, tough Lelou didn't understand why it was a big enough thing for Filissa to gush over it, but she got the idea that they were some sort of special soldiers. The man came to the tavern every evening and sat in the back, often accompanied by a blond elf girl with short hair and colorful clothes.

Then there was the Horse Master. Lelou had seen the man and his horses. The beasts were as big as draft horses and still build like warmbloods.

Must be something in the water.

Dennet himself was sturdy, no-nonsense looking guy. He too had come to the tavern couple of times and perched on her regular spot by the bar, Lelou had heard the man comment about the size of the stables. Too little space apparently, but functional.

The gigantic horses with their master weren't the only new addition to the village.

As the Herald traveled and did whatever it was she did, more people heard about the Inquisition and wanted to join. The training area at the clearing before the main gate got too small for the recruits and the troops tents were moved to the woods right next to it. It had been a hassle and Lelou had been one of the workers who had sewn hours to turn all the salvageable cloth into a makeshift tents. The growing number of people had also added two other woman to share the cabin, growing the number of her roommates to seven.

Now it was midday and for once Lelou didn't have anything to do, so she wandered towards the tavern. Filissa smiled widely when she came in and pointed the stool at the empty bar, vanishing into the kitchen. Lelou sat on her spot and soon had a steaming bowl and generous chunk of bread before her. She picked few coins from her pocket, placing them to the table. The blond came to sit to the stool next to her, witch meant that she had something to share with her. And sure she did. Lelou ripped the hard bread into pieces and put them to soak into the bowl filled with salty broth, listening the tavern keeper. Filissa told her, that the Gray Warden was helping to train the Inquisitions soldiers and that some of the visiting nobles had started to visit the training grounds to watch the practices.

"And it most certainly has nothing to do with the men being shirtless during strength exercises." she giggled, her eyes shining amused.

Lelou hummed in response, her mouth full of broth soaked bread. There wasn't as many patrons in the day time, so Filissa was free to 'report' in more detailed manner of her latest favorite topic, witch happened to be the Gray Warden. Lelou soon learned, that the Warden was residing in the cabin by the forge, the smith being more than happy to share it with the warrior. Lelou had to ask her to repeat her gossips couple of time, to get it right, but the feisty blond didn't mind and she liked to talk about the Warden so much, that Lelou suspected her having a crush on the bearded fellow. 

Their looping gossiping stopped abruptly, when Rosal came in. 

Her eyes were puffed and nose red. Her knuckles where white, squeezing the knapsacks strap on her shoulder. Filissa stood from the stool her demeanor serious in an instant. She was a fair woman, who didn't like the way how some humans treated elves. She paid Mitha and Rosal as much as she could, provided them a warm meal every day and generally tried to look out for them. Seeing Rosal upset didn't sit well on her.

"Rosal? What happened to you?" Rosal shook her head as she rounded the counter, obviously swallowing a lump down her throat.

"Why cry? You hurt?" Lelou asked her eyes nailed to the girl, looking for sings of struggle. Rosal looked at her surprised and swiftly shook her head. Both waiters had grown accustomed to her and didn't shirk away from her anymore.

"No, nothing like that. I just didn't have enough money to pay for the courier." she picked a box from her knapsack. It wasn't bigger than a loaf of bread and wrapped in rough cloth. Something was written on it. An address or the receivers name. Lelou couldn't read, but it couldn't be anything else really.

"Is that for your family. They live in Denerim, don't they? How much were you short?" Filissa asked, already picking coins from her purse. Rosal looked embarrassed.

"Just two coppers. It's fine, I can send it next time the courier comes by."

"That can take weeks. You never know with all the fighting going on everywhere. Here, this should cover it. Go send your packet." Filissa pushed three silvers to the elves hand. Rosal looked at the coins and her already glistening eyes turned watery.

"But the courier left already." she sniffled handing the coins back. Filissa shook her head refusing to take them.

"You keep them. Next time the courier comes this way, you get your packet delivered." 

Lelou really liked Filissa.

Chapter Text

Commander Cullen sat behind his desk, his fingers drumming on the hard surface.

Upon moving the recruits logging in the woods, he had took the old alchemists cabin as his new office and moved all his belongings and papers there. It was easier to work late to the night when your bed was just few pace away and his previous command tent fit twenty men easily. He had first intended to bunk with his lieutenants, but Josephine had argued against it. The nobles needed to see the Inquisitions Commander in certain light and sleeping in cramped field tent or cabin wasn't it.

As a practical man, he frowned to the idea. The cabin could have fit ten men to sleep in it. But he wasn't just one of the soldiers, but a commander and he understood the importance of posturing. On the field it wouldn't have been a big of a thing, had he bunked with his men, but this was the headquarters and he did need to keep appearance. And truth to be told, his withdrawals had been acting up again and he needed as much quiet and peace he could get.

Which was almost non-existing these days.

The Inquisition was growing faster than he anticipated and the help Warden Blackwall offered in training the new recruits, was more than welcome. Had he known the Wardens were so accustomed on teaching the art of war, he would have listened Leliana way earlier on trying to find them. And it seemed they were getting more capable people among their ranks. The Spymaster had received a word from the Herald and Trevelyan informed them, that she had successfully taken down a cult, that had been responsible on killing a number of their soldiers. The mercenaries that had asked her to see them in action, had proven steadfast and effective and helped a great deal on conquering the wooden fort the cultists were holed up. The were on their way back to Haven with the Bull's Chargers. They had also received a letter from Madam de Fer, inviting the Herald to a party she was arranging in the coming month. Josephine was already making arrangements for the Herald to attend the soirée.

All in all things were going smoothly in Haven.

Except he had forgotten to assign someone to take care of the workers quarrels and the town guard turned to him when something happened. Because of that oversight, he was now in his office, sitting behind his desk, rather than training his men.

And a small red headed woman was standing before him.

She looked little roughed up, clothes wrinkled and dirty, one pants knee ripped. Her face was covered with grime and red locks escaped from the long braid. Despite her messy appearance, she stood there, arms relaxed on her sides watching him calmly.

Cullen pinched the bridge of his nose. There was a threat of headache brewing behind his eyes.

"Tell me miss, do you know why you are here?"

She nods and he waits for her to speak.

"I borrowed horse" she says "with no permission"

"You stole a horse." Cullen firmly corrects. She shakes her head.

"No. To steal needs intention to keep or profit. I needed horse short time. I bring it back." she insists. 

Cullen watched her for a while. She was as calm as she had been last month, when she had been accused for breaking the blacksmiths apprentices leg. He had expected her to learn her lesson on causing trouble, after two weeks latrine duties, but as it seemed he had been wrong.

First assault, now larceny.

 Cullen frowned, resisting the urge to massage his temples. 

"Miss...Ah. What is your name?"

"Lelou, Commander."

"Miss Lelou. Do you understand, that stealing a horse is a serious crime?" he looks at her carefully. She nods looking sheepish.

"Yes. But I bring it back. Not want to keep it." 

Cullen sighs and his hands rise up to massage his temples. He had heard, that the woman had come to the stables, asking for a horse from one of the stable hands. They had refused, of course. The horses were valuable and no one just went and took one of them. When the woman had been chased out of the stable, she had gone and took one of the horses kept in a smaller corral outside. She had rode the horse to the east road, heading to the Hinterlands and left those in pursuit fast behind her. Less than a hour later, she had rode back and the town guard had quickly apprehended her and now here she was, standing before him.

"Why did you take the horse?" he asked sighing.

"Missed the courier."

Cullen dropped his hands and glared at her.

"You missed the courier?"

"Yes. Fast horse. All well now."

Cullen pinched the bridge of his nose. The headache wasn't a threat anymore.

"Did you resist the arrest?" he hoped she hadn't. She shook her head.

"No. Fell down. Bad horse. Tried to...to break me."

"Trample?" he automatically assisted.

"Yes. Tried to trample me."

Cullen sighed for what felt the hundredth time.

I really need to sign someone else to deal with these things.

He wondered if four weeks on the lavatory duties would be sufficient enough to teach her for not doing anything stupid again, when someone knocked to the door. It opened before he could voice his permission to enter and master Dennet stormed in. 

"Where's the horse thief?" his tone was tense and the usually very calm man looked distraught. Cullen stood from his seat.  He had expected the horsemaster to get angry for someone to dare and steal one of his horses, but the woman did bring it back unharmed. Granted the crime needed to be punished, but he wasn't about to let an angry victim decide it. 

"Master Dennet, I.."

"Is this the one?" the man demanded, cutting him short. Cullen straightened scowling.

"Yes, and before you start to make any demand regarding her punishment, I would remind you that dealing with crimes is, at the moment, my duty." 

"I don't want to punish her. I want to hire her." Cullen blinked couple of times.

"You want to hire her? Why?" the horsemaster weaved his hand in the general direction of the stables.

"That horse she took, it's a damn beast and no one aside me can't handle it, let along ride it. And she just took it out of the corral for a pleasure ride without any proper gear. So yes, I'm going to hire her." Dennet said his hands crossed over his barrel like chest. Cullen looked at him and then at the woman who frowned, clearly struggling to keep up with the conversation. He cleared his throat and nodded to the horsemaster.

"Well. In that case, i see this matter settled." he gestured towards the door. Dennet nodded and weaved his hand to the woman.

"Come along then." he said and trotted out the door, not waiting to see if she followed. Cullen prompted the woman to follow and closed the door behind them.

He sunk back in his chair playing with the idea of taking a quick nap and reminding himself to assign someone to take care of these things.

Maybe I could delegate this to the Guard Captain.

 

Outside Dennet glanced over his shoulder at the woman walking behind him.

"What's your name girl?"

"Lelou."

"Do you have much experience with horses?" he asked as he led her to the stables.

"Some." he stops before the doors to the stable.

"You don't talk much, do you?"

"I am learning." she just answers.

Grunting to himself, Dennet opens the door and leads her across the wide ail. Horses neigh to him in greeting and stable hands watch curiously, as their boss leads the now renowned horse thief to the back of the stable. They come to stop before one of the boxes and Dennet takes a brush and pushes it in the woman's hands. She looks at it and then the horse in the box. Dennet flashes her a rare smile and nods his head towards the horse.

Black eyes glare at them both.

"Lelou, meet Bastard."

Chapter Text

"Ri... "

Hey...

Hey, now you listen to me!

Listen!!

It was your choice! You made the decision, you hear me!? You made a choice! You did! And you live with it! You chose this! You chose this and you sure as hell ain't getting a chance to opt out from this.

You ain't getting it!!

You will fucking live with this!

"...se and shine, Chuckles!"

A barrier snapped against his skin the same time his eyes opened, sharply scanning the small area of the insides of his tent. Two heartbeats later Varric lifted the tent flap.

"Hey, Chuckle are y-ou, good your awake." the dwarf peeked in his tent and pointed his thump over his shoulder. 

"Come on. There seems to be bad weather looming ahead. We need to get going." 

"Yes. One moment, please." Varric nodded and let the tent flap drop. Solas stared at it, his brow furrowing. His hands rose up to run over his face and scalp and he squeezed his eyes shut, calming his racing heart.

Had he had a nightmare?

He remembered the Fade. He had explored the area they were, searching something of interest, but finding nothing. They were closing the Breach and he could see it's glow in the Fade as he dreamed. There hadn't been spirits nor demons, that could have pulled from his memories.

Yet, in the short moment in between sleeping and waking, the distant echo of memories had chased his awakening mind. 

He massaged his face roughly and dissolved the barrier, he had instinctively created.

I don't have time for bad dreams.

Solas dressed and packed his things. In minutes, he had his tent collapsed and tied into a neat roll over his backpack. Varric was still rolling his bedroll and shook his head to him, muttering something about apostates and quick exits. Solas didn't mind and settled to sit by the campfire, starting to chew strip of jerky while waiting the others to finish packing. Evelyn and Cassandra were too packing their shared tent. Solas was glad for the Seekers dedication on protecting and training the young warrior and having spend weeks on end in her company, she and Solas had found common ground despite the rocky start. The closing of the Breach and finding the ones behind it, was a shared goal for them and having learned to fight together as a mage and a warrior, had made them respect each other.

They had split up with the Bull's Chargers yesterday, the mercenaries continuing towards Haven, while Solas, Varric and Cassandra accompanied Evelyn to Redcliff to meet with the rebel mages. Or that had been the plan.

They hadn't been expected, despite the invitation Grand Enchanter Fiona herself had extended to them. She had no recollection of even meeting them at Val Royeaux. Worst yet, the mages were now under the "protection" of Tevinter Magister. And as if that wasn't enough to worry about, the magic was acting strangely in the area around the town.

The Tevinter mage they had encountered, had claimed it to be time magic and that he had been involved in developing it. Solas had a hard time believing it. Not even in his time in Arlathan, had they never seriously dabbled with the concept of trying to alter time. Theorized and debated yes, but to actually try to touch the unknown element of time itself? Never. There had been no certain way to really know what would happen, if time magic would have been developed. And being Immortal and rebelling time itself all ready, they really didn't have any need to seriously consider developing it. That in mind, he wasn't surprised, that the humans had done exactly that. They lived such a short while. 

As did the People.

The salted meat turned acid in his mouth and he swallowed it down forcefully. Echoes of the nightmare whispered in his mind.

You made a choice. And you will live with it.

 

****

 

Lelou hit the ground hard,a string of curses escaping her mouth in English. 

"It would be more impressive if you didn't use that gibberish of yours!" Telahn shouted to her, balancing on the corrals fence. Lelou flipped a bird to the elf. She stood up with a groan and glared at the horse that was grazing few paces away. Obviously faking. There wasn't even one strand of grass anywhere!

She dusted her clothes and walked where the elf was grinning at her.

"You're not going to give up are you?"

"Need rest." she grunted.

"When you rest, so does he." 

Lelou glared at the horse.

"Monsters don't need rest."

Since the horsemaster had included her to his stable hands, Lelou had worked in a new routine. Every morning she and five other stable hands would get up before sunrise, to take the horses out to the corrals, where they would be fed. After carrying hay to each corral, they would spend the next hour going back and forth between the lake and the stables, carrying water for the horses and druffalos that were kept in a pen with a open shelter. When the animals had been taken care of, they had their own breakfast, witch one of them would be assigned to make in the cooking fire outside the stable. Master Dennet would join them and brief them on anything out of regular routine. He was a stern and calm man who didn't tolerate any mistreatment of animals and, as Lelou found out in the first day, wasn't a racist.

Telahn was his right hand man.

He was black haired, olive skinned baby-face, with big chestnuts on the place of eyes and he insistent on being over thirty. He was from Orlais, which made him less wary of humans. Having worked with master Dennet for three years, before the mans retirement he knew the horsemasters routines. Dennet had contacted him and asked him to come to Haven to work for the Inquisition. He had declined, but promised to come work for the horsemaster himself. Lelou had been pleasantly surprised, when the elf hadn't shied away from her and when Telahn had believed that she wasn't going to steal the horses anymore, he had gladly shown her the ropes.

He had also laughed his ass off, when he heard why she had been hired and wished her good fortune on her short life. 

As it was, she feared the man might be right.

Bastard was every bit true to it's name.

It was dark ashen brown beast, with ashen brown mane and tail, long legged and thin. It was light build in comparison to the mountains, the horses were here, but still easy 5'9 feet. Rippling with muscles and strong tendons, it looked wiry and slim and fast.

Which it was.

It was Dennet's pet project. He had seen it run away from it's handler at some market and had bought it in the price of butchers goods. He had tried to tame it ever since and had worked through pain and bruises to get it trained enough to bare a rider. The problem had been its ill nature. It was renowned on biting and kicking anyone without a warning and in the next second it behaved like any other horse. Addition to that bad behavior, no one except Dennet himself, had ever been able to get on its back and stay there more than few seconds.

That was, before she had ended up stealing it and now she was stuck with it.

Lelou glared at the horse fake grazing and shook her head.

That's not a horse. That's fucking deathclaw disguised as one. Thou even deathclaws were easier to handle.

She shook her head again, shutting her eyes. They were dry and irritated. In addition to her now painful day job, she had had increasing trouble on sleeping. Last night, she had woken from a nightmare, being on a brink of hawing an anxiety attack. She had quickly calmed down, realizing it had only been a dream. She didn't remember what she had dreamt about, she never remembered her dreams. But she remembered the feeling she had felt just before she woke up.

Utter hopelessness and guild.

She was pulled back in the moment by a amuse chuckle and Telahn dropped down from the fence, coming to stand next to her. He handed her a waterskin witch she gratefully took. She liked it how he didn't treat her suspiciously and pushed through her tiredness. The sun was starting to set, so she decided to call it today.

"I commend you though, that was a whole five minutes." Telahn commented.

"Grate."

"It's 'great'"

"Great." Lelou corrected "thank you."

"Maybe you should try to ride it outside the corral. You did it before, right?"

"Maybe. Not today. Want to go to tavern."

"Tomorrow then. I can come with you, if there isn't anything else."

"To herd the shit horse back, when i die?"

"Precisely."

 

Chapter Text

After finally getting washed up properly from the weeks journey on the road, Varric and Solas made their way to the tavern in search of a hot meal.

Nothing tasted better than hardy stew, after weeks on road rotations. They stepped into the tavern which was almost packed over it's capacity and looked around to find a spot to sit.
It turned out there was a table they were expected.
Solas spotted the qunari lifting his tankard to them, Krem and Warden Blackwall sitting with him. Solas led the way to the table and sat to the vacant chair next to the Warden.

"Nice of you to save a seat for us." Varric commented to the qunari, settling to sit on the chair at the end of the table. Bull nodded taking a long drink from his tankard, that seemed to be more like a pitcher. The serving girl swept through their table with full tray, placing bowls and pints before each of them, before rushing away to fill another order.

"And ordered for us advance." Varric continued lifting his newly received drink for the gunari as a thank you.

"Basic policy. We're going to fight together, I like to get to know the men fighting with me."

"And the women!" Sera piped up, hopping to sit right next to Krem, balancing no more than three pints of mead and two bowls of stew in her arms. A whole loaf of bread was tucked under her arm. A small hassle followed, as they all gathered their drinks and foods before they spilled, as she crashed the table with her haul. She settled to eat faster than was physically acceptable for any standards.

Bull grinned at her.

"And exspecially the women. Speaking of women, anyone know if that curvy redhead over the bar is taken? She got some figure." he pointed at the long bar counter, where a row of people were drinking and eating. Varric craned his neck to look.

"Can't say i know. But i can say, that you have to stick in short sentences. The girl doesn't speak the language very well and tends to talk in one word at a time." he said when he recognized the woman. She was sitting on the stool at the end of the counter, where she often was, eating in calm pace, not seeming to mind the ruckus going around her.

"That's alright, wasn't planning on having heart felt conversations with her." Bull chuckles in his deep baritone, making Sera laughed at his one eyed wink and because she was stuffing her face with food, she managed to burst half of it on the table.
Solas huffed disgusted and pushed his bowl of stew away from him, having lost his appetite. Rough talks didn't bother him, but the elven rogue had grated against his nerves the first time they met back in Orlais.

Poor table manners didn't come as surprise but he had hoped...

Bull started to bound the small elfs back, when she nearly choked on her bread and once the suffocation was avoided, she started to eat faster, like her life depended on the speed she could finish her meal. Solas rolled his eyes to it, witch Varric, of course noticed, grinning at him over his drink. Solas promptly ignored him settling to nurse his own ale. He also ignored the elven rogue, snaching his abandoned bowl.

"Blackwall here was telling what has been going on in Haven." Bull nodded towards the bearded man. It came as no surprise that the two warriors seemed to get along fine. Bull knew his way with people and everyone seemed to warm up to him surprisingly fast.

"Right, you came here after we set towards Val Rouaxe. So, how do you like the set up?" Varric prompted.

"Too open to be defended if it were attacked and too many people. The town reached it's capacity to house all this folk weeks ago and more just keeps coming. The requisition is drowning on the request and no one, but the Heralds team seems to be able to bring in full orders. Commander Cullen has been busy with the troops and i have tried to help with the new recruits. The Lady Ambassador does her best on securing steady income and that means noble guests and they got in their heads to come down to the training yards to gawk. As if it wasn't crowded enough as it is." Blackwall stops to take a swing of his ale and notices all of them staring at him. He lowers his pint and clears his throat.

"Considering the challenges, I'd say Cullen and Lady Montilyet are doing a fine job in here." he said sheepishly.

"Got that on your chest for a while, huh?" Varric tried to keep his smile for not splitting his face.

"So, how did your end go?" Blackwall asked, changing the subject not so subtlety.

"The Herald was able to close all the known Rifts from here to Storm Coast. We also found sings of your order. The full reports are in the Spymasters possession, but i'm sure she will share them." Solas said, politely pretending that he didn't notice the man's embarrassment. Blackwall nodded.

"I shall see them later. It's good to know that she dealt with the Rifts, some folks may be able to return to their lands."

"There are still demons in the areas the Rifts formed. Might be wise to make few sweeps. Krem, you up to it?" Bull looked his second in command. Krem lifted a eyebrow at him.

"Are you really asking, do I want to go search for demons?"

"Was your idea to sing up with the Inquisition wasn't it? Tough you liked demons, being a vint."

"Right, your still sore about that."

"No. Pick a team and go through the Commander in the morning, let him know the Chargers can take part on clearing the region from stragglers."

"Riiight, not sore at all..."

It was amusing to watch their snipping and Varric pondered if he should try to turn the qunari's company into an comical adventure series. Or collection of one-shots.

A high pitched shriek from the bar pulled their attention.
One of the men at the bar, had scooped an elven waitress to sit on his lab, laughing loudly as she tried to squirm away from him.

"Get your hands of me! Let go!"

"Well aren't you a lively one! Co'mere little rabbit and give me a kiss." the man laughed, his friends sitting either side of him cheering. Filissa cursed, shouting at the men to let her server go, but they just laughed it out on her.

"Rouker again, I thought I already teach him a lesson." Varric cursed and started to stand when Bull reached over the table to land his hand on his shoulder, his one eye nailed to the bar.

"Wait. I want to see this." he said.

The ''curvy redhead'' he had been eyeing before, had stood from her seat and walked to the three man. She swiftly took the girl by the wrist and pulled her free. When the man made a move to pull her back, a hand slapped him across the cheek with load smack. The sound of skin hitting skin had the instant effect of garnering the attention of the nearest tables. The redhead let go of the girl.

"Go, Mitha." she said in thick accent and the girl swiftly rushed to the kitchen.

Rouker glared a the woman angrily, red mark starting to form on his cheek. Then he really looked at her and his angry scowl turned to grin.

"What, beautiful? You got jealous to the little rabbit? Wanna sit on my lap?" his two friends eyed the woman with obvious interest and Krem grunted moving to stand, but Bull pulled him down.

"Boss?"

"See how calm she is. She's in control." Bull said nodding at the woman.

"Three silvers say she's going to come out untouched."

"And if she doesn't?" Krem grunted.

"Then I pay and get to play the hero."

Blackwall and Krem both scoffed at that and then focused to the brewing brawl. The whole tavern seemed to sense the tension, people started to look around to see what was going on.

The woman huffed, obviously not interested and turned to leave, but Rouker grabbed her right hand.

"Hey now lass. Don't be like that." he said. She looked at the hand holding her right wrist and then the man himself.

"Let go. Please."

The man sitting behind Rouker, leaned back in his stool then.

"Hey, I know this one. She's the girl who tipped the cart over Aius and broke his leg. Did it over couple of rabbits then." he said. That seemed to trigger some viciousness from the man holding the woman.

"Oh, you one of those. Elf fucking whore. Maybe I should teach you how a real man fucks. Could cure that queer of fucking rabbits, it could." the man sneered pulling her closer. The redhead narrowed her eyes and spoke, pronouncing each word carefully.

"Let. Go. Or. I. Hurt. You."

Rouker scoffed and stood, towering the woman by a head. He had barely stood when she moved.

She twisted her captured hand and reversed their hold, now grabbing the mans wrist instead. She stepped closer, her right side leading and rolled her body against the man, pulling him down by the hand she a hold on and drape him over her back, her left elbow coming fast over her shoulder, connecting with the mans face with an audible crack. She straightened up, dropping the man on the floor.

He was out cold.

The two other man stood, looking at the woman angry.

"You bitch." the other one snarled and maybe it was the fact that a tavern full of people was watching them now and waiting to see if he would defend his friend or not, or the unimpressed expression the redheaded woman looked at him, but he was indecisive as to how to respond. For a while.

"I not want to fight." she said calmly. It was what cracked the mans indecisive and he pulled a knife from his boot.

"Well then you shouldn't have started one." he sneered and came at her.

She didn't even move, just lifted her left hand, palm up.

The thin blade pushed through her palm and came out the back of her hand and her fingers closed into an iron grip on the mans hand that held the knife, stopping his attack. Her right fist ripped through the air and hit the man square on his nose, breaking it, causing him to let go of the knife and stumble back.

The tavern had gone quiet, all eyes following the happenings at the bar now.

The man held his bleeding nose and looked at the woman in utter disbelief. She stared at him as she lifted her hand, the knife still embedded in it. She grabbed the handle, pulled the knife out and tossed it on the floor, never even blinking.

"Out." she said.

He could not have run faster, cursing the whole way out. The third man glance at the bloody knife and went after his friend. The woman then took a chair from the nearest table, it's patrons having stood back in prospect of a fight. She carried the chair with her right hand and took a pint from the bar with the bleeding one and then calmly placed the chair over the still unconscious Rouker's chest, so his head came from under it. She straddled the chair, taking a long drink from the pint and then poured the rest of it on the man's face. He sputtered and moaned and then cursed when he realized he couldn't get up. The redhead just leaned over the back of the chair and looked down at him. When she had his attention, she spoke slowly.

"I give you advice. It is good advice, so listen." she leaned a bit closer and so did half the bar.

"Don't teach your mother to fuck."

There was silence.

Everything in that sentence was so wrong.

Then someone snorted and the whole bar bursted into a roaring laughter. Bull slapped his chest like he was in pain.

"Oh hell, I think I'm in love."

"No, that's the feeling of loosing a bet. Pay up." Krem grinned at him.

Filissa rounded the bar and wrapped a clean towel around the woman's hand, her words drowning under the sheers and roars.

Nothing hyped the common folk as much as impressive brawl, even though it was a short one. The jeers came to a halt when the guard came to investigate the sudden noise. As it was there was a very angry man trapped under the chair and a bleeding woman holding him down by sitting on the said chair. The guard made peeling at the woman and ordered her to let the man go.

"What the hell happened to you Rouker?" the guardsmen said helping the man up. The man, whose face entire left side was starting to turn deep purple, pointed at the woman.

"That bitch played some dirty trick on me. Didn't get a good hardy joke and got violent." the guard eyed the woman.

"You attacked this man? You know he is member of the guard?" the woman shrugged.

"Got bad with woman." she said. The guard looked at Rouker, who just scoffed.

"Just some rabbit." he said dismissively. Solas scowled suddenly. He had received a report from his agent concerning the happenings of Haven, while he was away and recognized the man from the report. 

"That's Fergus, the Guard Captain. He's not know of his leniency towards elves."

"Nor those who are their friends. She's going to get arrested." Varric agreed glaring the guards. He too knew the man and his reputation. Filissa rushed to their table.

"Varric, you got to do something. They'r going to take it out on her if they arrest her." the barkeeper hissed anxiously.

"I know, let me think of something."

Bull looked at the scene, hard scowl on his face. No one seemed to stand up for the woman's defense.

"Is the guard really that dirty here?" he asked.

"They are are common soldiers, that have acted as the villages guard since the start of the Conclave. The Commander just recently appointed one of them as a Captain. He chose poorly. Now they have got it in their head that they make the rules rather than abide them. The Inquisition has little interest in simple civilian quarrels." Solas said in disgust.

There was an uproar at the door and then the familiar voice of Evelyn drew all attention to her.

"What's going on here?" she strode in, dressed in her lighter armor, her head held up high, looking stern and confident. Suspiciously similar to one certain Seeker they all knew.
Fergus turned to the woman, saluting her with his fist on over his heart.

"A brawl gone bloody, your worship, nothing to worry about. We just take this woman into custody."

"Like hell you will!" Bull boomed out standing up, the rest of the table following.

The crowd split before them, as the seven feet gunari walked over to the bar, the rest of them spreading next to him, boxing the fighting pair and the guard between them and the Herald. Evelyn looked at her group blinking in surprise.

"Hey guys. What got you all worked up?"

"This joke of a city guard for one." Bull weaved his hand towards Rouker.

"This fellow here started the whole thing. Groped the waiter and she put a stop to it." Bull nodded his horned head towards the woman." She was ready to walk away from it, when he and his buddy started to pick a fight with her. Gave him fair warning, said that she would hurt him if he didn't let her go, was even polite and said please. When he didn't comply, she made good on her word and dropped him with one hit."

Evelyn looked at the woman, who in turn stared at the qunari, her eyes narrowed, like she tried to make sense of him. She noticed the woman's bleeding hand and pointed at it.

"And how did that happen?"

That broke the qunari's tough act a little and he grinned wide.

"There was another guy, that came at her with a knife. She blocked it with her hand, letting it pierce it so she could grad the hand holding it. Then decked him right to the smeller. Pretty sure she broke his nose." his nostrils flared and he eyed the redhead with clear appreciation.

"That was some damn impressive show case of pain control." he nodded to her. She raised one eyebrow at him.
Evelyn looked at the qunari she knew to be a spy and then her eyes turned to her friends. She nodded her head to Solas.

"You saw it too?"

The apostate was renowned of never hesitated to speak the truth, no matter how ugly it was or who he would anger. He had made Evelyn bristle in many cases, but she knew she would hear only the truth from him. Solas nodded, his expression serious.

"Your qunari warrior is speaking the truth." satisfied by that, Evelyn nodded and looked at Fergus.

"Seems to me that you need to discipline your fellow guardsmen. Or should we hear the waitress, to have her side of the story." she said. That made Rouker scoff.

"Just a knife-ear wench." there was a short silence where Evelyn faltered. 

It wasn't like she had anything personally against elves, it was just so normal that they weren't treated as humans. For a second she didn't know was this situation as serious as she thought, and could she demand a full punishment for the Haven guard for harassing an elf servant? The man was already pretty beaten up by the looks of it. 

The red haired woman straightened her back, her eyes settling to look at her. Her whole demeanor changed and suddenly her presence was very demanding.

"This man grab a woman. She clearly spoke, in words, that she wanted him to stop. This man did no listen, or do as she ask and try to kiss her by force. Again, she give no permission." her presence was so intense that it made up for her broken vocabulary and clipped words. She looked at the accused man, her eyes hard.

"He attack woman. And by the way he is now, I say it was not first time." she looked back at the Herald.

"He will do it again. I am sure." Evelyn stared at the woman for seconds and then he looked at the guardsman and his captain.

"Is that true? Has he assaulted a woman before?" both of them flinched and the assailant looked at his superior, like he was searching back up. Fergus made a point to not even look at him. Put of by this, Rouker scoffed angry.

"Some rabbit bitch, who cares about that!" he spat. Evelyn straightened her posture, looking at the Guard Captain.

"Guard Captain Fergus, arrest this man for the account of assaulting a civilian and put him in the lower dungeons. Since he is a member of the town guard, I will take this matter to Commander Cullen to be judged. See to it, that the accused is present at the Commanders office in the morning. "

"Yes your worship. Come along." the captain grabbed the man and when he seemed to protest, quickly whispered to his ear. He went quietly after that, but threw a dirty look at the redhead as he went. She merely looked at him, unimpressed.

"I see that they go to the dungeons." Blackwall grunted following them, Sera hot in his heels. Evelyn looked at the crowd and weaved them off.

"Continue to your evening. The matter is solved." she said and as the people milled back to their seats, she stepped closer to the woman, now boxed in by a big and clearly interested qunari. Evelyn looked at her, tilting her head to the side.

"Wait...have we met before?"

The redhead looked at her for a while. Then her hard expression softened and she smiled to her.

"Aah, you run on me then." she said looking Evelyn up and down.

"Not so scared anymore. Good girl."

Chapter Text

Evelyn blinked at the woman.

Good girl?

The redhead looked at her smiling and nodded, looking pleased. Evelyn blushed. She felt like when her mother praised her for reciting a poem right!

Varric peered at the woman.

"Hey yeah. You were in the temple and sav-erm-helped Evelyn to beat the demons. I thought you looked familiar." the dwarf quickly corrected his slip. Evelyn was still little touchy about getting so overwhelmed in the battle at the Temple.

"You not scared anymore?" the woman asks and Evelyn fidgeted from the reminder.

"Uh, no. Not anymore." she said and the redhead nodded again.

"Practice fighting?" she asked her thick accent sounding warm. Evelyn scratched her neck, now feeling embarrassed. Her companions looked at the exchange curious.

"I...aah..yes. Yes I have. Cassandra's been teaching me and...uh." she shut up glaring at the others. Varric was grinning wide and even Solas looked amused. She cleared her throat and pointed the woman's hand, wrapped in towel. Having a bit of mean streak for feeling embarrassed, she weaved at Solas.

"Solas could look at that wound if you like. He's a mage and can heal it." she said face flushed, but determined, not to let the woman embarrass her further, intended or not. Most people usually stopped smiling so damn wide, when they were dealing with mages. Solas shot her a disapproving look, knowing too how his magic could make people uncomfortable and she felt a twinkle of guilt.

The woman's head snapped towards the mage.

"Ah, heal-er. Yes. I would like that." she said and just like that, walked over to the elven mage. She unwrapped the bloody towel from her hand and held it out for him to see. Her hazel blue eyes drilled in the elf and for a second, they all just stared at her.

Solas was thrown off a little, for he just remembered the woman from last months incident. She had broken a man's leg and he had to heal it. And he too now recognized the woman to be the same one, that had hacked a group of shades to pieces and saved Evelyn's life. He looked at her, looking at him and as before, there was no fear in her eyes, not even hint of resentment. He looked at the hand she offered to him and carefully took it in his.

The wound was clean puncture wound.

"This will hurt." he warned and moved her fore and middle fingers, the knife having gone trough between them. She grimaced, but didn't try to stop him, watching carefully what he was doing.

"The bones and tendon's seem to be intact and the wound is relatively small. I can heal it fully, if you allow it." he said glancing at the woman. She nodded and Solas gathered his magic. For a streak of curiosity, he moved her hand to rest palm up on his right hand, taking hold on her wrist.

His fingers deftly pushed the shirt sleeve up a little.

The dark lines of tattoo confirmed his suspicion. She was the tattooed woman. Questions piled in his mind. Who was she? Why had she been in the Conclave? She didn't have magic, she didn't talk the Common language. Why didn't she fear magic? What did the tattoos mean? Who had made them?

He muted those questions as he placed his left hand over the wound and pinpointed his magic into it. It closed quicker than he expected and he let go of it. 

"There, all done." She looked at the hand, wiping the blood away with the towel, her eyes wide in wonderment. Her expression was so openly admiring, when she turned to look at him that he felt suddenly very, very exposed.

"Thank you, healer. You are..."she paused, searching a sufficient word and he had no idea what she would say. He suddenly understood Evelyn's embarrassment.

"You are wonder." she finished and he wished that the warmth he felt on the tip of his ears wasn't visible. She furrowed her brow, looking displeased.

"I am sorry. The words are hard. Don't want to offend." 

Solas offered her a timid smile, not wanting her to try to explain herself.

"No offense taken. And you are welcome." she nodded to him and then offered her hand to him, and he felt like he shouldn't be surprised. Not many human would touch an elf with any incline of equality and here she offered him her hand in clear gesture and intent to introduce herself with manners.

Like they were equals. In front of tavern full of humans no less.

Solas thought that maybe he should ignore it-the gesture would make people think him too bold. But his rebellious nature rushed him to take her hand in firm grip.

"I am Lelou." her name rolled from her tongue softly, sounding foreign.

"Solas"

Varric deposited himself next to the elf looking at the woman curious and Solas let go of her hand.

"That was quite the show you put out. It's not every day I see someone take out head taller men without so much as flinching. Not to mention getting stabbed on purpose." She tilted her head looking at him.

"A knife is only a knife." she said.

"Yes. But generally people avoid getting stabbed by knifes." Varric pointed out good naturally. Lelou nodded to him.

"Yes. He scared when I did not and did not want to fight me."

"Because if you didn't fear of being stabbed, he had no real power over you." Solas concluded. Lelou looked at him nodding.

"To win fight, you need to control it. To control it, you need to know your opponent. They were bullies who picked on people they thought weak."

"And you are not weak." Bull mused eyeing the woman, appreciatively. She looked at him, her eyes narrowing.

"Yes." she agreed." What are you?" she asked then.

The qunari grinned wide. 

"A man who would like to buy you a drink." she just looked at him expectantly.

"The names The Iron Bull. I'm a qunari. And you are not from here, I gather."

"No, I am not." Bull nodded and then maneuvered his large form between the woman and the bar, starting to bodily herd all of them towards their table.

"You have some interesting insight of fighting. I would be interested to discuss it with you some more. Come, join us in our table, we were just having dinner and some drinks." when the woman seemed hesitant, he leaned closer and talked little quieter.

"Sit with us for a while and that guy whose nose you broke might think twice, if he wants to go through with his plan." this made Varric, Solas and Evelyn snap in attention.

"By the back door. Got some friends with him." Bull muttered. Careful glances revealed the very same man that had stabbed Lelou, hovering near the back door, three other men with him. All of them pretended to focus on their drinks, but the way they glanced at the bar gave them away. Varric smoothly placed his hand on Lelou's elbow.

"Your accent is pretty unique. I would be interested to hear where your from. And you could practice your Common with us, you know, have a little chat." 
She eyed them all curiously, as she allowed the dwarf to pull her to their table, seating her strategically right between Bull and Krem, both very intimidating looking warriors in their own rights. Evelyn sat to the seat Blackwall had left empty and Solas next to her, straight across the woman and Varric took his place at the end of the table. Krem turned to the woman holding out his hand.

"Cremisius Aclassi, Krem for short." she took his hand with the same unreserved way she took Solas earlier.

"Lelou. Nice to know you."

"Meet. Nice to meet you." the tevinter soldier corrected with a smile.

"Nice to 'meet' you, Krem. Thank you. I am just learning." she said articulating the words carefully.

"You really didn't speak a word of Common?" Evelyn asked. Lelou shook her head.

"No. Ellis help me to learn many weeks. Now I learn myself." Filissa came to the table, expertly carrying a prick full of glasses and jug of wine and ale both. She placed the wine in front of the redhead, pouring the dark red substance to her glass. The smell of it was rich and fruity.

"On the house, hon."

"Thank you, Filissa. How is Mitha?" Lelou asked, picking a silver from her pouch placing it on the tray on the table.

"She's in the kitchen. I let her do the chefs shift for now." the barkeep looked at the coin on the tray and picked it up, offering back to her.

"Hon' I said the wine's on the house." Lelou took the silver only to place it on Filissas palm and close her fingers over it.

"Where I come, we tip the waitress, to add to their pay." she said slowly, clearly thinking every word. This piqued all of their interest.

"But wouldn't that make the patrons pay the waitress pay?" Bull asked. Lelou nodded.

"Waiter don't get much. And the work is sometimes...like today. It is good manners for patrons to tip." the qunari massaged his jaw as he thought about it.

"Huh. That's actually pretty good policy. The waitress get some better pay and the barkeep doesn't have hard time finding willing workers. That's actually pretty clever." Filissa seemed to like the idea too, for she smiled wide.

"So that's why you always pay extra, you mean the change for the waitress. Oh, I'll make sure that I add it to their pay." she promised and took her leave. Lelou took the wine glass and sipped from it. Then reached for the jug and placed it on the middle of the table.

"Do have some." Evelyn and Solas both helped themselves with the wine, not so keen on drinking ale. Varric fixed his most charming look on the redhead.

"The names Varric Tethras. Nice to meet you, by the way. And as I said earlier, you accents unusual. So, where are you from, Lelou." Varric introduced and asked on the same beat. Lelou placed her glass on the table.

"Far from here. I don't know how to say it in this tongue."

"The word you mean is 'language'" Solas was the one to correct her now, wanting to test the woman's lenience towards him. She merely smiled to him.

"Thank you. 'Language'" she repeated steadily, her attitude towards the elven mage not going unnoticed. Or rather, the complete lag of it.

"Sounded like you all have met before. Care to share?" Bull inquired. Varric weaved his hand swallowing the mouthful he took from his ale.

"Yeah, she helped us at the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Our Herald was in bit of a pin with cluster of demons and the rest of us were battling this huge pride demon. Lelou here appeared from nowhere and took a stand against the whole pack of those shades and hacked them to pieces with this small hand axe and a knife." Bull and Krem both looked at the woman impressed and she in turn looked at Varric, clearly trying to understand what he said. She sighed, ever so slightly.

"I am sorry. I could not understand." Varric weaved her of smiling wide.

"No worries, just told them how we met." the woman hummed in thought.

"Well. I no remember meeting any of you." she mused and then looked up, pointing Evelyn and Solas briefly.

"You two I remember." Varric looked at Solas surprised.

"You two met before?"

"I was healing a smith. She was at the sight." Solas briefly said, not wanting to go in details, but Evelyn perked up, looking at the woman.

"Wait! You're the one who Cullen mentioned about. The worker that broke Aius leg and had never heard of magic before." she gaped at the woman.

"I thought you were a warrior. Why were you with the workers?" the redhead took a moment to translate her words to herself and then shook her head.

"No. I am no warrior. I work at the stables." Evelyn looked put out by that.

"But surely you have a warrior training. You took out a small horde of demons." it didn't sit well on her to be saved in battle, not with her new found pride. Even less to be saved by a commoner. Lelou shrugged.

"Killing is easy. Warrior is trained to do it more better. I know enough, but I no warrior."

"Okay. And how is it that you don't know about magic? You were at the Conclave." Varric asked. Lelou took a drink of her wine, mulling the words she understood and pieced the rest together.

"I not know what conclave is. I not remember how I come here. Where I come, there is no magic." there was a collective 'humm' of understanding then. Evelyn looked puzzled.

"A place without magic? Is that possible, Solas?"

"The Veil reaches over the whole of Thedas. It is possible, that it is different elsewhere, more thicker so to speak."

"That explains why you don't fear Chuckles." Varric mused. Lelou tilted her head.

"Chuckles?" Varric patted the mages arm companionable.

"Our resident mage." he said. Lelou frowned and looked at the mage.

"Why I fear you?"

"Most people tend to fear mages because of our powers." she lifted a brow to him.

"Powers? Healing?"

"Magic can heal, yes. It can also do the exact opposite." Evelyn said solemnly. Lelou looked at her and back at Solas. She had that very intense look about her as before, and she spoke slowly and carefully.

"Killing is easy. Anyone can kill. But to heal a broken bone. A wound in a hand. That is a wonder." she sighed shaking her head, clearly not satisfied by her vocabulary.

"Again, I am sorry. The words fail me." Solas couldn't help it when the smile pulled the corner of his mouth.

"I understand. It is nice to be seen in positive light for once." his words seemed to please her. Varric looked the woman curiously.

"I have to ask, why did you break the smiths leg? There has been flying all kind of rumors regarding an incident at the forge last month. If you were involved, care to tell the true story." Lelou huffed taking a swing from her glass and then produced a long pipe from her belt pouch. She fixed a nest and then stopped, looking at them.

"Do you mind?" that she even asked told them things or two about her.

First, that she had had some level sophisticated upbringing and that she was a very considerate about others. They weaved her of in unison to go ahead. She fixed her pipe and fired it up with the candle, carefully placing it back to its holder, as she took a hit from the pipe. Surprisingly, the smoke had slightly sweet smell on it and it wasn't at all so unpleasant as pipe smoke usually was. She leaned back in her chair, pipe in her right hand, left draped over her stomach to hold the right elbow. She considered her words for a while.

"There was accident. One of the other workers got trapped under lumber. I helped to get him safe with his friend. The apprentice-Aius-just looked and did nothing. When the man was safe, it was bad. So his friend took him away. Aius pushed them. Even when they were hurt. I no like that. So I pull him and drop the lumber on him. Make him hurt like the one he did not help. And I leave him." she says taking a hit from her pipe. Varric looked at her keeping his face straight. There was something about her he suspected and he wanted to confirm.

"Yeah I heard about that. The two workers you helped were elves, right?" she didn't answer, but narrowed her eyes to him.

"Point?"

"The point is, that many people tend to look human who helps elves rather...unkindly." the redhead took a hit from her pipe, her eyes moving from the dwarf to Solas and then back to Varric. She hums low.

"You say elf, human, dwarf. I say man, woman." she makes a little circle over the table with her pipe "In this table sits four men and two women."

"Some would disagree with your way of looking the group." Solas commended. She just shrugged.

"They can. I will not agree them." Varric laughed and slapped the table with his hand.

"I knew there was something I liked about you." the woman raised her brow to him and then just shrugged. Bull leaned his elbow to the table, looking at the woman with his one intense eye.

"So you are not a warrior, but you don't fear confrontation. What did you do before ending up here, working to the Inquisition?"

"Same as here. Survive, scavenge. Handle animals."

"Survive?"

"Yes. The land I come is...dead?" she struggled to find a right word.

"Dead? You mean dry? Like a desert?" he eyes the woman. Desert usually means intense sun blaring down on you and she is far too pale. He doesn't voice his suspicion though.

"Yes." she simply says. She downs her wine glass empty and pours another fill. She blows the smoke up so it wouldn't hit their faces. All this is noted by three individual in the table.

"So how did you end up in Ferelden." the qunari press. She shrugs again.

"Don't know. I not smart enough. Far from home. And no memory of jorneey."

"Journey. The word is journey. So you have no memory of how you got here?"

"No. Just light feel. Green light, lot of noises and pain." she looks at them, her eyes turning to Evelyn. "And then you. And all this." she ends her explanation in a weave of hand.
Varric whistles at that.

"Tough luck. Must have been difficult." he looks her casually and adds "How did the Sister Nightingale treat you?" He made it so it was just general information, that the spymaster interrogated strangers. She took the question at face value.

"Sister asks questions a lot, I no words to answer. Then give me help to learn. Give me job. It is good. Then asks again later." she takes it in strides, seemingly without any reservation to answer questions. Varric notices the questioning glances Evelyn aims at him, the young noble seeing the game played, and thinking him rude. Varric doesn't budge from his game.

"Huh. Not many take it in strides when it is about the Inquisition interrogation."

"Sister was calm and ask good questions. I think. It is time after terror...attack. She does good work. Trying to find answers." the woman says and takes her now empty glass. She empties the ash from her pipe to it and takes the glass.

"It was a good talk. Now i need to go back. Lots of work to do. Good evening to you all." She stands and turns to look at Solas.

"Thank you for healing me, Solas." the elf nods at her in turn, not wanting to draw too much attention to himself in here. She already did that, by treating him with respect he had not seen any human do, not before actually getting to know him first. After she left, Bull nodded his head a little towards her retreating form and Krem stood, following after her without a word. The four men at the back halted, when they saw the warrior trailing after the redhead.

"That will work for now, better figure out a long term thing." Varric said. Evelyn looked at him.

"You think they won't give up? Surely after tonight they leave her be. She can defend herself and they saw her sit with us. Wasn't that the plan in the beginning."

"Glowbug, we are not here all the time, barely a three days in a month. Those thugs figure that out and then they take their little revenge on her."

"Or they might not. Quarrels are fought and forgotten. They are soldiers and they have their own work to do. The Inquisition is running low in everything and growing every day, there is no time for anyone to harbor petty quarrels." she said in her nobility voice.

Except you for getting your ass saved by a commoner.

Varric wisely bit his tongue and didn't voice his remark.

"That is all true. Maybe they just drink it out now and forget." he agreed instead and the young woman nodded. A runner came by to get her. The advisors wanted to have a late meeting with her. Bull shook his head when she left.

"It's always a bit disappointing to see how big the gulf with the nobles and common folk is."

"You can't blame her. She's been raised to see certain things and be ignorant of other things. Pedigree second child. And now she's with a military organization. It will be a rude waking."

Their Herald had a heart in the right place, but she was naive on how the world rolled. Sheltered from unpleasant things her parents didn't want her to think, she did not know about the roughness of soldiers life.

Nor the way the common people were, when they weren't in the presence of nobility or their superiors.

She had been surrounded by her warrior brothers and family soldiers all her life and she had never seen anything remotely a commoners way of living, or a real war before the Inquisition. It had been only couple months, and she had just gotten used to a simple and scarce camp life in the road.

Varric didn't know how to tell to those brown innocent eyes, what common woman may face in the middle of military forces in war time.

Chapter Text

The night was cold when she stepped out of the tavern. 

It hadn't perhaps been the wisest thing to get into a fight, seeing how she already had drawn too much negative attention to herself, but she had done, what she would have done in Commonwealth, when facing people who didn't know the definition of the word 'no'.

Keep it cool and drop them fast and their friends think twice and thrice of coming after you.

With the exception that 'drop' didn't mean 'kill'. She couldn't just go killing people here. There wasn't as obvious battle of sexes here as it had been in the old world, it was more like Commonwealths policy of the survival of the fittest. But this world wasn't as lawless as Commonwealth was. Here, a murder was a real crime and killing someone in a bar fight wouldn't end well with her.

Not that she was sure, if she could have killed the man, with the stunt she pulled. On the hindsight, adamantium covered elbow had perhaps been a factor in dropping the guy down with a one hit. The knife part had been pure split second decision, an attempt to enforce enough fear in the assailants to leave her alone. It had hurt like bitch and she feared her pain inhibitor was malfunctioning.

And as it had turned out, it hadn't worked as well as she would have liked and now she would need to keep out of trouble, till things and few heads cooled down.

And be smarter in the future.

But being busy or wanting to tire, wasn't the reason she left the pleasant company.

It was the questions they asked, that had her seek solitude.

She hadn't though much of home in the past months. 

Looking up at the green glowing vortex she took her pipe and fixed a smoke. This particular blend of herbs and tobacco was Telahns doing. The smoke was thick and still gave surprisingly soft throat hit, some herb making the scent of it earthy and little sweet.

I bet Nick would like this.

She took a splinter from her pocket, keeping couple with her all the time and took the light from the lantern by the taverns wall and then made her way towards the gates.

She had been here less than three months, but wasn't closer to figure out how she got here or how she could get back home. Almost three months away from the Institute, without any contact from her. The SRB was searching her without a doubt.

And so was Nick. 

She felt a stab in her chest.

Things had been complicated between them. Nick had been against her decision to join the Institute. Afterwards, when she had taken control of the organization, that had terrorized Commonwealth for years, they had reconciled.

It hadn't lasted and they had parted in bad terms. They had met occasionally, when she had been in Diamond City and kept it civil. But that too had ended. 

The last time they had seen each other was half a year after Fathers death. She had gone to ask Nick if he would accept the position of mayor of Diamond City. He had decline, they had fought and she had gone to Dugout's. Nick had later dragged her wasted ass to his couch and informed her she had a problem with drinking. Among other things. They had fought again and she had left the city in the middle of the night. 

She stopped at the gate, to stuff more tobacco in the pipe before it burned out, sucking the smoke in with greed.

Don't you fucking tell me how to live my life! You have no idea how i feel!!

Of course i don't! I'm a god damn machine, remember!?

The knife sticking in her chest twisted.

Those were the last words they spoke to each other.

And there was no doubt in her mind, that there was a missing person file on the detectives desk with her name and picture in it. 

Something moved in the edge of her field of sight and she instinctively tensed.

"'Is alright, am not here to harm you." vaguely familiar voice spoke and a figure stepped into the light. She relaxed, recognizing the warrior.

"Krem, was it?"

"That's right ma'am. Boss wanted to make sure you got home alright." his words made the corner of her mouth tick. He came to stand next to her, eyes on her. They were sharp and his posture confident. 

"Boss?"

"The big guy with horns."

"Ah." Lelou mused and started to walk again. Krem fell in step next to her, adjusting his longer stride to fit hers. They walked in silence for a while.

"How's the elbow?" the warrior asked. Lelou moved her left arm, like testing it.

"Bruise. Not bad."

"That was a nice trick. Where'd you learn it."

"Back home." They fell into silence again. 

"They know to be cautious now, you know?" 

"Yes."

"The bad thing about tricks is that you can use them only once." 

"I know that too. Got stabbed on purpose." 

Krem nodded to that and they walked the rest of the way to the stables in slightly tense silence. At the doors Lelou turned to the warrior. 

"Our tents are at the gates near the blacksmith." he said " in case anyone gives you trouble."  

She nodds to that. 

"Thank you. Good night, Krem." 

"Anytime, ma'am."

Chapter Text

"Could you do that?" Telahn asked standing next to the horsemaster.

"Don't know, never been as good with them as with horses." Dennet grunts. The two stand at the stables north sides door, watching the stable yard.

Spring was finally starting to come into the mountains and though the air was still cold at nights, it was clearly warmer by the day time. With the warmer days and melting snow came the flu.

Two of the stable hands had caught it already and Dennet send them to the alchemy. Adan had send them forward to the sick bay, to rest it out and to not contract others with whatever got their noses run and throat sore. It was just a flu and there was nothing else to do than rest it out.

Two men short, the rest had more work to do and Dennet didn't accept even the slightest drop of quality in the care the animals got. In addition to their own charges, one Ferelden noble had arrived early in the morning with his entourage, that consisted two carriage drafts, three mounts and two mabaris.

Dennet didn't like mabaris in his stables.

They were smart dogs, understood anything you said to them. But they didn't always do what you told them to do, especially if you weren't their owner. Their owner had been on a rush to go greed the Ambassador and Herald and had just left the two dogs in the stable because "they don't like to be inside." The two brown beasts had, of course, started to cause trouble with their over enthusiasm, running around chasing each other and making all the horses restless in the process. When Bastard had been taken out to it's corral, they had run pass it and it had reared up, nearly splitting it's handlers skull. Dennet had had enough and started to make his way to the town to let the noble hear a piece of his mind about how he had trained his dogs, when Lelou had started to yell at the two rascals with her almost Common -not Common language.

Yelling wasn't surprising, the woman had nearly died. The fact that the two lumps of fur had listened, was.

Now they trotted after her, tongue hanging out and following her everywhere she went. At the moment she was in the process of feeding the druffalos. The mabaris walked either side of her and she balanced  hay bales on their backs.

"Pretty convenient. Maybe you should get couple and train them to do the heavy lifting." 

"And spare your fragile back elf?" 

"My back if far from fragile, thank you very much." they watched how the woman tossed the bales in the pen and climbed in to cut the strings. The mabaris set their front pawns on the fence, like intending to follow her. She said something to them and they watched, the nubs of their tails wiggling, not trying to climb the fence.

"Aww, that's so cute." Telahn smirked. Dennet shook her head.

"If those damn mutts are going to follow her around the whole day, she can't work with Bastard." he grunted displeased. 

"You know you should just put that beast down, before it kills someone."

"After finally finding someone capable enough to ride it? Not likely."

"Crazy enough you mean."

"That speed is inborn quality. When it is trained, I can use it for breeding and pass it forward. I already have the mares tough over." Dennet said in a way Telahn knew was the sign to drop the subject. He still rolled his eyes to the horsemaster.

"Horsemaster Dennet?" a soldier, dressed in Inquisitions armor came to them.

"Yes, what is it?"

"Commander Cullen wants to talk to one of your workers, a woman named Lelou. He asked that you would come too Master Dennet." 

Dennet frowned at that and sharing a glanced with his right hand man. Telahn looked worried.

"Well be there." Dennet said and the soldier left.

"Why would the commander want to talk to a stable hand." the elf muttered.

"Don't know. I better go find out." 

 

***

 

Commander Cullen sat behind his desk, hands resting on the hard surface, fingers laced together.

The sun was climbing up behind the mountains, painting the snowy peaks gold. By now his men had finished their warm ups and were starting their morning drills. One of the lieutenant's, Darren or Elric, would be walking among them, instructing them and making sure that everyone knew, how to move with a heavy shield when breaking and reforming a shield wall. By the end of the month, they should be able to do it fast and in orderly fashion, wearing a full armor. He had instructed his lieutenants to teach them to hold the shield like Templars did, aiming the center towards the ground just a little. He would see later how they were doing. He had intended to participate to the formation training himself, to show his men that he wasn't just a man who barked orders, but actually knew how to do what he asked them to do.

That had been his plan until yesterday evening, until the Herald had told him, that he needed to see to a disciplinary matter with the town guard. Cullen would have left the matter to the Captain of the guard. It was the Captains duty, to discipline his men, not his, but he could do it this one time, to see how the new Captain was doing in his new demanding position.

And Evelyn had asked.

So now he sat behind his desk, looking every bit calm and stern military officer.

And a small red-headed woman stood before him.

"Miss Lelou. Do you know why i summoned you?"

"No, commander."

"Uh-huh, then do you know there was a fight last night, that involved members from the town guard?" 

"Ah, that." Lelou hummed.

"Yes, that." Cullen agreed "Care to tell me what happened?"

"Man harassed woman. I stop it, warn him, hit him, got stabbed and that is that."

"So my worker got into a bar fight, you let me deal with the penalties and let her go back to her work. We are undermanned today and there is enough work for full staff." Master Dennet stood next to his desk, arms crossed over his chest, looking irritated.

"That would be the way to do it, were there any demands of punishment." Cullen said. Both Lelou and Dennet looked at the commander questioningly.

"The fight wasn't the reason i asked to meet with you." Cullen said.

"The Herald is preparing a trip to Orlais. She will travel by the land and will need horses to herself and her companions. Lelou will accompany the Herald as the Handler." Dennet unfolded his arms, looking displeased.

"With all due respect, commander, it is my decision to name the Handlers, not yours."

"It's been already decided. The Herald will leave in three days time." Cullen stood up nodding in the way that clearly said 'dismissed'.

"That will be all."

They were clearly dismissed.

Chapter Text

Lelou sat on the small wharf ducked away between the rising shoreline. 

Smoke traveled slowly upwards from the pipes nest resting in her hand. She leaned back to her other hand, knee propped up face turned towards the ever rotating Green Vortex. 

She had been made a Handler.

Dennet had been angry when they left the commanders office and Lelou had rushed to Telahn to asked, what a handler was. He had explained, that a Handler was a horse handler, who accompanied nobles and officers on journeys, to take care of their horses and any other animals they kept in their company. Basically a stable hand on the road with a fancy name. The biggest challenge in Handlers job, was the battles and possible injuries the horses might get. Usually a Handler was a man or woman with years of experience in the nobles own stables, but Inquisition wasn't even half a year old. 

"You'll do fine. You handle these horses like you had raised them yourself." the elf had reassured her seeing her worried expression and smirked.

"The man thinks so too. He's just pissed, because the commander stepped on his turf. I bet he would have signed you up himself, had they let him choose." 

It wasn't the job, that made Lelou glare at the Green Vortex displeased.

She didn't want to leave Haven.

She had no knowledge of when she would return and she had no desire to leave the only thing she surely knew to be connected on her being here. She had went to Dennet and told him she couldn't be a Handler. 

"The Commanders decision if final. If you are worried for your safety, then don't. The Herald and her companions are all experienced fighters. You just take care of my horses and stay out of their way." he had glared at her and continued "And what i heard, you're not skittish of fight yourself." 

Further pleadings and reasonings of why she shouldn't go, sounded just lacy peoples whining even in her own ears, so she didn't voice them. She couldn't actually say why she didn't want to leave Haven.

The only positive thing she could think of concerning her new assignment was that she could get closer the Herald. The girl was connected to the hole in the sky some how-some thing in her hand- and therefore a potential ticket to home. 

So now she was sitting on secluded wharf, smoking her lunges ruined and glaring the Big Green Vortex, that was her only connection back home.

You better be here, when i get back.

There was no if's in her mindset. 

 

****

 

The three days before the start of the journey were packet with work.

She got a crash course on tending smaller injuries, that the horses might get on the road, everything from losing a shoe to getting deep wound or digestion problems. Dennet or Telahn was constantly at her side telling her what to do and what to not do and she listened and nodded and tried to remember everything, making them repeat the treatments to each health hazard until she could repeat them to word. It wasn't anything too different from taking care of the stocks back at home, the liniments and poultices were pretty much the only new thing. 

And because she was going, so was Bastard.

When she was not preparing to the journey, she was working with the stallion. Telahn suggestion to ride it off the corral had proved to be useful. Bastard had lots of energy and it liked to run, so when she let it run around the lake couple of times, it started to not try to throw her off all the time. Witch was great, because she was supposed to make the horse walk most of the time, not run when ever it wanted. Telahn would accompany her, riding one of Dennets brood mares a beautiful chestnut with steady nature. Lelou was so envious to him. 

When they rode back from the lake runs round, Telahn made her speak a lot and poured through vocabulary. When he found out she didn't know any curse words, he had instantly corrected her terrible shortcoming in conversational prowess. 

She was also directed to Thren to get basic camping gear. She had almost laughed out load, when she saw what the basic was. It consisted a small tent, designed to house one, but easily fitted two if one didn't mind closeness. A small metal bowl, waterskin, a roll of oiled leather as a rain cover, tinderbox, rope and a bedroll. In addition to her two sets of change clothes this was more possession she had had in the Commonwealth, where all you could carry was all you kept with you and most of the weight had been firearms and other weapons and water. Sleeping in bare ground your back against rock to keep you upright was the most common way to sleep there.

She also got her old hatchet and knife back.

They were rolled in a familiar sage green jumpsuit, tied up with her belt. She took them at the ledge over the stalls, having moved in the stable. The jumpsuit was mostly intact from waist down but the upper part and sleeves had multiple tears. She identified them as slash marks and tried to remember how they got there, ending up drawing blank. She had checked her arms and sides weeks ago and the thin lines of scars seemed to match the slash marks. Her tattoos weren't distorted by the scars so she expected, that her already boosted self-healing mechanism had been furthermore accelerated. A healing potion perhaps? They seemed to work like stimpaks. Ever practical, she rip up the ruined sleeves and used the fabric to sew the rips on the bodice. She also bought a whetstone from Seggrit, not even bothering to haggle for it.

The evening before the departure she went to the Singing Maiden.

She had kept her distance for three days, but she was not going to leave without saying bye to the girls there. Funny enough, her regular spot by the bar was left empty. She had barely sat down when Mitha brought her bowl of soup, bread and ale to wash it down. She wasn't the biggest fan of ale, but had never gotten around to ask anything else. And it had strong and thick taste rather than sharp. Could have been colder tough.

We are in the middle of a snowy mountains and have warm ale.

She smiled to the girl and this time, she got a real smile back.

Worth to get stabbed. Well not...but almost. 

She mused to herself and settled to eat. The night was busy as ever, but Filissa still came to sit by her. She learned that there was a tevinter magisterin the town. He was a very handsome and fancy looking fellow, and had he not been mage and from tevinter, half the towns women would have been all over him. Lelou filed away the words 'magister' and 'tevinter' to be identified later.

She also learned that the a place called Redcliff was now a place where the mages lived and the templars live in some castle farther away in the inner land. Lelou really wished she had a map. She was just wondering why the templars and mages were separated, when Filissa's expression drew her attention.

Filissa was staring at her.

"Well?"

"Well what?" Lelou asked frowning.

"You're going with the Herald to Orlais! Isn't it exiting?! Oh,i have never been there, you are so lucky." the blond perked up on her seat."Can you bring me something? A souvenir. They are gifts." she practically bounced on her stool and some patrons were eyeing her chest a bit too appreciatively. Lelou placed her hand to her shoulder.

"Souv-e...gifts. Got it. Stop jumping."

"Of course you don't have to, if you don't want to."

"What you like? To have?" Lelou just asked. The woman was so exited that she probably knew exactly what she wanted. And she was right. By the time she had finished she had been given a very specific description of lace Filissa wanted. Lelou asked her to write it all down, knowing that she would probably forget something by the time they finally arrived in the "most fashionable city in the southern part of Thedas".

She really hoped she had a map.

 

***

 

The morning of the departure, Lelou rose up before the sun. She dressed her jumpsuit over the leather vest acting as bra-corset and under leggings tossing a thick wool shirt over it. She tied her old belt over her hips and placed the hatchet on its ring to her right, the combat knife sliding on its scrapper behind her back. The familiar weight of them halted her.

At home she would dress her bandoriel and colts in the holsters. They would press against her sides right under arms.

Her left arm was too light.

There was noises down the stables and she took her saddlebags, she had packed before going to sleep. Telahn was up even before her and had started to prepare the horses. He looked at Lelou when she came down the ladder.

"Go eat, i prep the warhorses, you start with the dwarfs and mages rides." he was brushing an impressive white stallion, fit and large as all the animals in this magical world. Lelou had named it Apollo. After eating her breakfast she went to take care of the pony set for the dwarf. It was a stout bay mare she had started to call Paidia after the Greek god of play.

They had given a bit older, but still strong draft to the mage, a light bay with white mark on its nose. Most would think it modest and plain but there was no such horse in Dennets herd. It was calm and gentle, always nuzzling her clothes in search of treats, never demanding like most of the horses did. Lelou suspected that if a bomb would explode on the other side of the wall, she would look around an decide witch was the safest way to go and not run aimlessly. She called her Eleos, the god of clemency.

She left them to their stalls and went to ready Bastard.
The beast glared at her when she brushed him, but let her saddle him up. The additional weight of the saddlebacks and tent on its back made it stomp its hind leg in annoyans and when she fastened the saddle belt it turned and bit her on the shoulder. She grunted at it warningly, getting an angry roll of its eyes in return.

This is going to be fight every morning. Splendid.

The Seekers had big grey stallion. Lelou didn't know what qualities a warhorse needed, but if she had to guess she would say action packet and alert. She called him Ares. 

There was also a cart full of supplies being pulled by two big black drafts. They she called Krios and Kronos, after the titans. Krios had single white sock, left front and white star on his fore head. Kronos was black all over. They were huge stallions both, but bred to have even temper. She was wondering who would ride the wagon for she had packed four traveling bags on it. She got her answer when the Chargers came over, the qunari leader in front with his lieutenant, a dark skinned man, dwarf and dark haired elf woman following them.

Not far after them came Varric and Solas.

"Lelou! Nice to see you again." the giant mans voice boomed over the stable yard. She looked up from the harness she was checking on Krios.

"Good morning. The Iron Bull, Krem." the qunari grinned at her.

"So your coming with us on the road? I could almost think the horsemaster doesn't trust us with his charges." the qunari said. Lelou shrugged.

"Good morning to you all." she said politely to the rest before continuing." The trip is long and dangerous. You can not take them everywhere. I take care of them for you."

Solas glanced towards Varric, noticing how pleased the dwarf seemed to be. Usually he was a bit moody when they left the town.

Dennet came to do a last moment check on the horses. He weaved Lelou to his side and then she listened for the thousands of time the mile long list of instructions. Finally Lelou sighed and lifted her hand up. She got to hold it up for a while, before the man even noticed and stopped talking.

"You make me look unable. I got this."

The Horsemaster stopped there, grunting her something about stubborn, ignorant men behind a desk.  

The Herald and Seeker came with the stubborn-ignorand-man-behind-a desk, who came to send the Herald off and then there was the inevitable hassle, when the group finally started to mount their horses. Dennet helped Evelyn and Cassandra on their war horses, no doubt giving them advises concerning their mounts. The rest of them got on their ride and Iron Bull took the reins of the wagon. 

Only when they were all on their places, Telahn brought Bastard over. The wiry horse behaved for once and Lelou looked at it susbiciously.  Telahn slapped his hand on her shoulder.

"He probably waits that you pass a cliff before trying to toss you off."

"Yes. It was nice know you." 

"It was nice knowing you." Telahn corrected.

Chapter Text

When they set out of the stable yard, they did it in orderly fashion. The Seeker and the Herald took the lead, their two team members following and the wagon rolled after them. Lelou took the rear. There was people weaving at the Herald by the wall when they strolled by, wishing her safe journey and good luck. The young woman would weave them back with a smile. In Lelous eyes it was like movie star greeting her fans. Then they came to the main Gate. 

There was a crowd.

People waited on the road, blocking their way. They were dressed up in exquisite looking clothes, with the strangest hair dresses and hats she had seen in a while. They surrounded the Herald.

"Nobles. All wanting to be seen sending the Herald of Andraste to her adventure." Krem said, sitting in the rear end of the wagon. Lelou eyed the scene, noting how the horses ears turned and flattened a little too frequently. According to Telahn, warhorses were used to crowds, but could heat up too much, so she needed to watch out for that. 

"Is this normal?"

"Can't say I know." Krem shrugged.

"Given time, it will be." Bull commented from his seat. The young woman in clean steel armor, on a big white horse looked like she was ripped from a story book. A warrior on a shining steed. 

Like Jeanne d'Arc.

It took good twenty minutes before they let them continue and judging the pace the Seeker set to them, any longer and she would have dragged the Herald away from her admirers in the middle of a conversation. They set a rolling trot, heading to the north up the road. Bastard biting down on it's bit and tossed it's head the whole way to the bridge at outskirt of Haven, trying to saw her hands raw with the reins, she suspected. Lelou wondered for the hundredth time, why she couldn't pacify this one horse as easy as the others.

Eventually it settled to trot after the wagon and Lelou had time to look around. Not that there was much to look at. Few trees here and there, a muddy road, snow and rocks. Huge towering mountains and the Big Green Vortex.

Her eyes settled to look at it as they neared it, heading north. 

"Looks pretty spooky, ain't it." A voice spoke near her right. Varric had rode to her side. They had slowed in walk after the first hill. Lelou turned her attention to the dwarf.

"Spo-ky?"

"Scary, terrifying, makes you scared."

"Ah. Well..." 

"No need to answer, i can see you're not the type to scare easily." the dwarf eyes landed on her hip.

"And I also see you got your weapons back." that he even know they were hers to begin with, made it clear how she got them back. 

"Among other things. You?"

"Tough you would like to have them on the road. It's dangerous to travel these days."

"How good of you to think my safety." Lelou regarded the man riding next to her. Filissa had told her Varric was somewhat famous writer and adventurer. He was her regular patron, when in Haven and always had a group of other patrons milling around him. He also was the lady Heralds regular companion. 

Got my gear back for me. Ties to the upper ladder.

That didn't need much of a thinking, obviously, he was with the Herald.

"Thank you. It is good to have my tools back."

"You're welcome." they rode in silence for a while.

"At the tavern. You told how we met first time." he didn't need more prodding and Lelou finally learned something new of her arrival here. By the dwarfs description of how she just appeared from nowhere in the middle of a battle, she concluded she had teleported right in the fray and the general chaos had shielded the noise and light show of the teleportation and that it had happened right under the Breach. She had remembered the girl, the Herald as it turned out, but she didn't remember the creatures she had been fighting with.

"They are called Shades. They are demons. Don't know too much about them, you have to ask Chuckles if you want to no more."

"Noted. Can you tell me where we are going?"

"To the capital of Orlais."

"I mean the journey. How long the road is."

"Oh, we go to Jader up at the north coast. 100 miles give or take. From there, we take a ship to Val Royeux." that made Lelou pause.

"A ship? Why the horses then?"

"Posturing. The Herald needs to make stylish arrival." her aghast expression made the dwarf laugh.

"And we are going to continue to the west from the capital."

Lelou shook her head not bothering to hide her displeasure. Shipping horses had been detailed and carefully executed thing in the day of modern technology and sedatives were used if needed. She wasn't fond of the idea of going in a wooden pirate ship with seven horses.

Six horses and one disguised deathclaw.

"You didn't know about the sea travel."

"No. Commander tells me i am Handler and nothing more."

"Well. Two and a half day on horseback to Jedar, four days on sea if the weather holds. Stay in the city couple of days and then two to three weeks on horseback back to Haven."

"Got map?"

"Sure. Let's look it over on the fire later." Varric promised and Lelou nodded.

At least a month away from Haven, more even.

The woman looked so upset about that information, that Varric decided not to mention that he had arranged her to be their Handler. This was his solution to the problem the woman had gotten herself into by messing with the town guard.

After she had left the tavern that night, he had asked around about her. The woman was scarce in words and actions and didn't make much noise about herself in general. But she had done things. The elves that worked at the latrine duty now had a small cart, that consisted two water barrels with spigots attached to them and a bucket full of soap chunks. The woman had builded it from scraps and made the soap herself according to Filissa and her two waitresses. Rosal told her she had gone and chased down a courier to get her packet delivered and he had seen himself what she did for Mitha. Small things, nothing suspicious. Just acts of kindness.

That made her a good person in Varrics books and he liked to keep tabs on good people.

So he had gone through Cullen under whom the Horsemaster worked for and told him what had happened at the bar. He had talked him before he could hear the guard Captain the next morning. Cullen had first refused to name the Handler, saying it was master Dennets job. That was until he learned Lelous name. Varric smiled to himself.

He hadn't seen Curly scowl and sigh at the same time like that for a long while. Not since Hawke had caused him endless trouble, by getting his recruits shitfaced drunk at the Blooming Rose back in Kirkwall in a regular basis.

Call it the storytellers instinct, but he had a good feeling about this Lelou person.

I have to figure out a nickname for her.

 

Chapter Text

The road they used wasn't the main road to Haven, but it was well used and easy for the horses to walk and they traveled over twenty miles the first day, coming to a small river just before the dusk. Since it wasn't the main road there hadn't been any bridge over it, but a shallow crossing. Only it was a spring time and slowly melting snow had made the river flood. It wasn't more than thirty feet at most, but the length wasn't the issue. 

"How deep is it usually?" Evelyn asked directing her horse next to Cassandra. She hadn't traveled this road before and seemed worried. The Seeker glanced at the younger woman.

"It never floods so much it couldn't be crossed with Fereldan Forder and the current isn't too much for them. Our horses can cross it." the Seeker says calmly. 

"I go first, you follow me when i have crossed it." they all watched as Cassandra directed her horse to the river. The water rose quick to her knees, but not higher and her sturdy mount didn't flinch of the cold water. She crossed to the other side easily. 
"Ride a straight line!" she shouted and Evelyn steered her steed to the river.

"Hmm. The water might reach the wagon bed. Lift the sacks on the barrels and the boxes on the side benches. If theres anything that cant handle water, keep it in you arms." as Bull and his men prepared the cargo, Varric eyed at the water level nervously.

"I don't know how i'm going to cross that without ending up swimming in it." 

"Considering the size of you steed i'd say you don't."

"Thanks Chuckles, for stating the obvious." Lelou had tough the same thing when she saw how deep the water was. It was deep enough for Paidia to swim. She rode next to Varric.

"Take saddle and your gear. Go to wagon. I swim Paidia over." she said and dropped down from her ride. Varric whistledto Bull to wait him and helped Lelou to unload his stuff.

"Solas. Bring Eleos here, please." she called out to the apostate. He directed his big mare to where they were. Lelou tied a rope to Paidias neck and walked around the pony taking Eleos reins. She turned the mare, lining it to stand up stream next to the pony and gave the rope to Solas.

"Ride her next Paidia. Horses scare easy, but she is calm and strong. She can take the push from water and support Paidia." she explained and Solas nodded understanding. She then took the pony's reins and hopped on Bastard. Together they had the pony boxed in between them. Bull had followed started to cross the river after Varric had climbed in and was half way over. Padia walked forward trustingly at first, but then the stream picked up and it neighed nervously.

"Good girl Paidia, keep going." Lelou soothed. It rolled it's eyes to her, the water rising fast and it started to hob from the bottom.

Solas said something in elven and to Lelous eyes, Eleos seemed to listen. It made a soft rumble moving little closer to the pony. Lelou nodded appreciatively to him and for once Bastard didn't fight her when she directed him closer to the scared pony. Now side by side with the bigger horses, the pony seemed less agitated. Soon it's hooves reached the bottom and she perked up and tried to push forward faster. Lelou kept it in place with few words, not wanting it to rush and slip. Once they were out of the stream it was clear they would set camp there, for Cassandra and Evelyn were both wet to knee down from cold water and their metal armors kept the cold in. Solas and Lelou were too exposed to the water, tough the elf didn't seem to even notice. He was bare feet all the time anyway and Eleos was tall horse so he had only doused his calf. Lelou was wet up to thighs, but once they settled to camp for the night she started to dry the horses first.

But before she managed to even start, Solas took off Eleos saddle and started to dry her, speaking to it soothingly in his own language and Varric took care of his pony. Bull weaved her off when she went to release the black mountains from the wagon, saying he would dry them. Lelou nodded acceptingly. Tough it was her job, she could appreciate people who took care of their furry friends. Big or small. It left Apollo and Ares to her with Bastard, Evelyn and Cassandra had to dry themselves off to prevent frostbite. Krem offered to take care of the grey warhorse.

The horses were tied to a long leash, set between trees on the edge of the campsite and the others were making the fire and setting out tents. Lelou dried and brushed Apollo first and then went back to Bastard.  She had tied it at the end close to Padia and Eloes, warning the men to not get too close to it. The two mares helped to pacifying it's temper. It immediately tried to bite her and she cursed to it. Both Varric and Solas looked up while tending their horses. 

"That is one mean horse. Who did you piss of to get it?" the dwarf asked. Lelou scoffed and set the saddle on the ground.

"I can ride him. Bastard is a mean horse, but did good today." she said and picked a rough cube of sugar from her pocket. The mean bastard almost eat her fingers. She picket two more rocks of sugar from her pouce and went to Paidia and Eleos. Both hrummed delighted when they received their treats. She scratched Paidia behind the ears. She then thanked the men for taking care of their horses and set on feeding them oats. 

After having fed her charges she set her tent near them and went in to change into dry clothes, opting to simple pants and cotton shirt, before going to the campfire. By then there was a kettle full of something that seemed like porridge with meat strips and carrot pieces in it. And it turned out to be just that. She didn't complain tough. There was also bread. She took the serving in her bowl Stitches offered and sat down. She set the bowl on her lap and took the bread, ripping it half and just breathed it's scent in for a while. Then she ripped the other half into pieces and dropped them in the porridge and then she settled to eat.

Varric went down the river to wash his bowl and when he came back, he cleared an empty area close to the fire. He opened a map and smoothed it on the ground, gesturing Lelou to come and look. 

"So. We are now here, at the Sigfrost crossing. Haven is there and Jader is way up here on the north coast." Lelou looked carefully the map before her, following the dwarfs finger as he pointed the places out. 

"100 miles From Haven to Jader? On the roads? This road?"

"We came down this read and tomorrow we will come to the main road. There it is just straight line to North." Lelou looked at the map brow furrowing. 

"Is this one contry?"

"It's country. This is map of Fereldan and not a cheap one." Varric looked at the woman curiously, she seemed to be in deep tough. Lelous eyes roamed on the map and counted the distances on the best she could. 

This is a part of larger continent, no surprise there.

She started to point places on the map, asking about them and the dwarf happily told her. She learned about Redcliff a small town where the mages were living and about Therinfal Rebout, a fortress where the templars had settled. There would have tons of questions she wanted to ask about both groups, but she first had to think over another information she had received in between Varrics presentation of Fereldan locations.

The Inquisition worked on closing the Breach.

She made a tactical retreat, thanking the dwarf and said she needed to check the horses to make sure the dip in freezing water hadn't effected them. It was true and she did just that. None of the them showed any sings of cold or discomfort, but Bastard had managed to drop it's blanket. She went to dress i back on it. 

If they are intending to close the Breach, does that make it impossible for me to get home? Or is it even relative in the first place? Of course it is. It's a god damn hole in the sky! That's not normal in any way no matter if there is radiation or magic. And those flying rocks...

She paused, her hands resting on the horses croup.

Flying rocks? 

Next thing she knew, she was flying through the air.

Chapter Text

The Commonwealth was savage, ruthless land, where your life was threatened constantly by it's inhabitants.

Among all of the mutated horrors there were three types, that Lelou hated the most; deathclaws, radscorpions and feral ghouls. And from those three, feral ghouls took the top spot. They were quiet and unnoticeable, to the moment you step on them in the ruins or got grabbed by the ankle, when you were walking through the skeleton forests. They were fast and would give a relentless chase once they saw their next meal. They didn't see much with their rotting eyes, but they could smell. And they definitely heard you. And they were everywhere.

One of the first things Lelou learned in surviving in the radiated hell, was to stay as quiet as possible when injured. No matter the place, be it abandoned bunker, or the flattest area with a mile wide undisturbed visual, you just did not make a sound. It was near impossible to out run half the threats you encountered when healthy, injured it was impossible.

So Lelou instinctively kept quiet despite the pain.

The pain inhibitor had been the first modifications she had accepted from Virgil. It had been pure madness to let someone open your skull in less than sparkling clean lab, but she had been on a mission, chasing a Courser which wouldn't have emotions to hinder it, nor any physical weaknesses. It had been a risk, but forth of taking and made survival much easier.

It also had also some drawbacks, like not noticing stingwing stinging you in a fight and end up falling into ditch, delirious from blood loss. 

It's definitely malfunctioning.

Lelou pressed her hand on her the left side of her hip, searching the area. There was no sings of bleeding, just some mud on the spot the hoof had connected. The pain was sharp at first, but started to dull as her fastened self-healing mechanism started to repair the damage. She humphed and settled to look at the darkening sky.

So. Flying rocks. Where did that come from?

She peered into the dark, as if there would be flying rocks hovering over her. 

Doesn't matter. They are going to close that Breach thing. Will it strand me here? It somehow managed to mess up the signal of my designed destination back at home and dragged me here instead. Or I think that's what happened, that's logical...somehow. But did it happen during the explosion that created it, or was there something else? Can Madison trace the signal here? If she could, shouldn't she be here already? Or maybe she sends a Courser after me  while I'm not in Haven. Or perhaps they can't trace it at all. Maybe the explosion was the cause of the signal redirection, or whatever it was that went wrong. I wish I knew the exact spot I appeared. Could find my pip-boy, perhaps.

It frustrated and unnerved her, that she couldn't remember how she had arrived her. She remembered the Herald, but only in short flashes. She remembered waking in the dungeons and everything after that fine, but there was a blank space in between the morning, when she was to try the relay and the dungeon. She had been been in Sanctuary, having arrived the day before, sleeping in the house near the bridge.

Never the old one. Never there.

She had woken up, feeling someone watching her.

John...

She choked. The knife in her chest twisted and fell, leaving a hole in its place.

Focus.

Biting the inside of her cheek she sat up ignoring the pain in her hip. It hurt to stand, but she did it anyway and went to the devil to fix its blanket. It ignored her. Double checking all the horses she went back to the campfire, remembering to wait a bit to let her eyes adjust to the yellow light of flames. Others had gone to sleep, steady snoring coming from the biggest tent. She guessed it was the mercenary captain. A dark skinned man was sitting by the campfire, grading something in mortar and pestle. Krem had briefly introduced him and the elven rogue to her before they arrived to the river. The man was a healer, not magical one like Solas, but a life saver anyway, so she kept an eye out for him too.

Stitches.

Obviously they weren't their real names, but that wasn't her business. She sat down by the fire, grimacing from the sudden pain. The man glanced at her.

"You hurt?"

"Not bad. Got kick."

"By a horse?"

"Uh-huh."

They sat quietly for a while.

"Need something for it? Usually horses kick does some damage."

"No need. Not bad."

They fell into silence again. Lelou took her pipe fixing herself a smoke.

"Do you mind if i smoke?" she asked out of courtesy. The man shook his head and she light it up. The hip ached so she changed her position. The man glanced at her time to time, continuing his work.

"They say that stuff can kill you, you know."

"Life will kill." she just said. Stitches snorts amused.

"Ain't that right." They sat by the fire in easy silence. Lelou smoke two pipe fulls and then said good night. In her tent she closed her eyes and concentrate on the dull throbbing on her hip. It would be gone in the morning, but now it would help her to focus on something other than thinking.

 

***

 

Solas sat by the river, watching the steady current.

It was night time and the scenery here was pleasant, so he didn't change it. Besides, changing it could scare some of the more skittish spirits away, if there was any near by. The Fade was more stable, the farther away they traveled from the Breach and he kept vigil while his body rested, thinking.

The Herald hadn't yet decided witch group she wanted to pursue in helping to close the Breach. Solas knew he shouldn't influence the decision and truthfully, he didn't press it. To him it didn't matter as much, he only wanted the Breach closed. He was more worried about the threat, that had yet to reveal itself. Tough he didn't make the decision, he could see witch side the barer of his Anchor was leaning. The Templar Order had turned their backs publicly to the Chantry and the Inquisition had wisely turned it into their advantage and offered protection to the clerics, who didn't openly oppose the Inquisition. Cullen's men had taken the place the templars had occupied in the Grand Cathedral. Evelyn had been part on deciding how they would handle the aftermath the Orders departure had caused.

This journey to Val Royeaux had two agendas, both of them important to gather power for the organization. The Herald had to enforce her claim on being on the Chantry's side and showing her presence in the Cathedral. Then she was to attend to the Court Mages soirée. Grand Enchanter Vivienne was an experienced player in the Great Game and the Ambassador wasn't wrong when she pressed on recruiting the woman. She would be asset for sure and the Inquisitions ticket to the Court itself possibly.

It was all well and good, the Inquisition was steadily gaining influence. The Fade reflected the waking world and started to lighten a little. Solas stood, little disappointed for not having met any spirits, but not surprised. He wandered near the river bend, hearing the whispers of his traveling companions dreams. He could have blocked them out, but sometimes it gave him little comfort to hear them, to give him illusion that there was others in the dreaming, that not all of them were cut off and made like tranquil. He listened the cacophony, not concentrating on any of them, for he didn't want to enter their dreams. 

Have to remember to go to the mass in the Grand Cathedral. Light a candle for Anthony. And Regalyan. 

Did i remember to do it last time? 

They are all waiting for me to represent the Inquisition. Shit, how did the steps go? Step, step, turn? No, step, step, bow, step...no..

Are you sure this is safe? 

Have i ever been wrong?

Yes and I have a bad feeling about this.

Hope the Boss doesn't try to toss anyone again. Disaster. 

That patch was ruined. Need to find some fresh roots on the way. We should pass that grove tomorrow, maybe we could take a break there. 

Solas stopped, blocking the dreams out.

It just wasn't the same.

 

***

 

Lelou bit her teeth's looking at the bruise that was darkening the left side of her hip.

Okay...this should be healed already. Is my healing speed back to normal level?

The morning felt cool,so she dressed simple long sleeved shirt under her jumpsuit and packed her things, tossing the baggy wool shirt over it. She tried to dress the belt over her hips, but the pain was too much. Cursing she went out. She didn't mind a little discomfort, but she had work to do. She spotted Stitches coming out of his tent. Her limp was so obvious and with one glance, the man raised his hand to ask her to wait and went back in his tend, coming out with a small vial. 

"Drink that. It's light, but should work with bad bruising, small fractures even."

Lelou felt better almost instantly and nodded. 

"Thank you."

"That's why I'm here for."

Lelou went back to her tent and quickly packed it and the rest of her things, setting them neatly next to the wagon. She then went to brush and feed the horses. By the time she was finished with them, the rest of the group was up and finishing their breakfast. She took the bowl Krem offered her and ate her oatmeal without so much as thinking how hot it was, liking the clean taste of it, despite it burning her tongue. Pain was just pain and gave her what she needed to distract herself from the hole in her chest that had formed there last night. She went to ready Kronos and Krios before the wagons and then assisted the Seeker and Herald up their horses. She mounted Bastard with little trouble, as the horse kept dancing around her, trying to shook her of. And at the moment, succeeding. For some reason the hip started to ache again.

"You alright?" Krem asked from the wagon noticing her grimace. She nodded.

"Yeah. Kick me earlier."

"Should you get it looked at?"

"Stitches did. All good." she grunted, mounting her reluctant ride.

They got out of the mountain area around mid-morning and the air got hotter by the hour. The scenery turned more fertile, but there was sings of unrest all around the main road that was wide dirt road with deeper track marks. There were field that were overgrown, there was no workers on them. Somewhere farther from the road she saw a small farm house and movements on the fields before it, but after that, there was more skeletons of houses. She frowned and wondered what was going on.

"Something bothering you?" Varric asked. He had come to ride next to her. She looked at him and nodded at the field they were passing.

"It is spring. The fields are empty."

"It's the war. Some of the more remote regions have lost their regular guard patrols and banditry is on high rise."

"Ah. War." she rolled the word in her mouth and her expression soured. Varric looked at her interested.

"Yeah. War seems to be the thing in this decade. There is war between mages and templars, war between Empress Celene and her cousin Gaspar and even war between hole in the sky and everyone else. Plenty and too much war if you ask me." Lelou looked at him confused.

"Why are mages and templars at war?"

"You don't know?" Varric sounded little alarmed.

"No. That is why I ask. No magic in my home, remember." the dwarf hawed and hummed and scratched his chin.

"Right, right...erm. Okay I give you brief narrator. Basically the mages wanted to govern themselves without the Templars and Chantrys supervision. Things got pretty bad in Kirkwall. One mage blew up the Chantry there and that caused the Templars to invoke the right of Annulment on the Kirkwalls Circle of Magi. The mages defended themselves and after that, all the Circles rose to rebel the hold of the Chantry. When the Chantry tried peaceful way to solve the rebellion, the Templars separated from it in order to fight the mages." Lelou would have liked to ask him to repeat few lines and ask tons of questions, so she got the full picture. But the dwarf seemed reluctant to talk about the topic. She didn't press him, sensing there was something personal in all this. She would have to ask from someone else.

Her eyes turned to look at the untended field.

War never changes.

They rode in steady pace and Lelou noted the chatting growing less in the wagon by the hour. Everyone seemed to be alert and she didn't need anyone to tell her the reason. They were traveling with wagon full of barrels and sack of food in a war torn region. Banditry was propably more profitable now than honest work. She had used to the frequent raids, the provision caravans faced and was ready to do her part if they were attacked.

She wasn't prepared to the way the attack started when it finally came at noon.

A sound of whistle, as an arrow flew from the forest they had entered only an hour earlier and a brilliant flash of blue light. She watched stunned how the glimmering shield expanded before Solas hand, three arrows stuck in the translucent shield. The next moment the whole band -except her- was off their horses and made their way to the thick of the trees, the Chargers staying in tight formation with their captain, Cassandra taking the point, Evelyn close to her heels. Varric took position on top of the wagon and Solas...

The mage blurred into blue mist and blew through the trees vanishing from view. Her gawking lasted a full three seconds and then she whistled, gathering the horses around her, the two war horses restless and eager to bolt to the thick of things. Lelou took their reins and commanded them to stay put. Once she had the horses secured she turned to watch the fighting.

She half expected the sounds of gunshots or laser rifles mechanic charge, explosions of frag grenades -something loud to drown the sounds that people made when their gut was spilled and bones broke. Instead, she heard a clash of metal against metal, metal against wood and metal against flesh.

The screams of agony.

The wail of horror and pain when Cassandra slashed her sword across a mans stomach, attacking her with an axe. Iron Bull cleaved a head right from one mans shoulders and it made a loud thud, when it hit the ground and she was confused of why she heard it.

The Herald crushed another mans throat with the edge of her shield and she could hear the wet choking noise he made before she stabbed his lungs with her sword. A mace in the dark skinned healers hand(what the hell is he doing in there!?) cracking another mans head like a melon, blood and brains splattering everywhere. A bolt sticking from one mans knee, another from his chest. 

All the little sounds that people made when they died hit her eardrums and she stared the carnage spreading before her. The life in the Commonwealth was merciless, dangerous. Violent. Was it this brutal?

She had witnessed millions die in an instant, when the bombs fell.

She had witnessed hundreds disintegrate, when she had pushed the button herself.

She had looked in the eyes of men and women, right before she had killed them with a single bullet between their eyes, the pain and suffering minimal. She had never seen this amount of gore and spilled gut in one moment. Not even in the most brutal raider dens or Pickman gallery.

It was the sound of killing and her ears ringed because of it. And still it was so quiet.

Her eyes caught the flash of electricity and three men dropped down, not moving and she stared at them.

A lightning in the middle of a day?

A blue barrier shimmered over Evelyn and Solas stepped in view from between the trees.

Ah, it was him.

Somehow, the mage killing three men in one swift lightning strike, was more familiar to her then the gory butchering and she settled to watch him. He swung the bladed staff with practiced motions, like he was doing an exercise and lights flashed around him and from him. His enemies died fast from lightning and ice, not bleeding and screaming.

Just dying.

She felt there was something wrong with her, when she felt so at ease watching it.

Chapter Text

It felt like long time had passed, but the fighting was over under ten minutes.

The warriors were covered in blood and gore, throwing rowdy remarks to each other. They pulled strips of clothes from their dead opponents and used them to wipe most of the blood of their weapons and armor. Lelou kept the horses close to her and handed them over when they were ready. Cassandra hollered them that they would speed up, to get out of the forest before night fall.

Only few minutes of hard riding had her entire left side burning. It was bearable, but had her worried. She had taken worse hits by mines exploding few feet from her or taking a hit of falling boulder of concrete. How could a horses kick cause an injury that her body couldn't deal in one night? Lelou glared the beast carrying her. The pain was still bearable and she assumed her pain inhibitor still working in some level. When they finally slowed to walk she had come to the conclusion that she needed help. She rode Bastard next too the wagon. 

"Stitches. Do you have more potion?"

"It's potions. And yes i have." the man looked her up and down while rummaging through his pack, extracting another vial.

"The same injury?"

"Yes. Riding make it wors-st, I assume." she takes the potion and drinks it. The pain subsides almost instantly and that's good, because Cassandra informs them they would continue through the dusk to the Inquisitions outpost established in the region. 

It was dark when Cassandra led them off the road and to a small clearing with a bond nearby. The Inquisitions outpost was a sort of pit stop to messengers and troops that were on their way to new location. There was a small bond near, witch was the reason the long stay camp was established there. The lieutenant that was stationed there greeted the Herald and Seeker and those two vanished into the command tent. Lelou slipped carefully from Bastards back. Her left hip was sore, but the other potion seemed to have done the trick and she took care of her charges with only little difficulty. She stripped saddles from all the horses and took their bits off. The warhorses and big drafts were level headed and didn't bother each others despite being stallions so she hitched them and took down to the bond at the same time. Once they had drank their fill she hitched them to the long leash between trees and took Eleos and Paidia with Bastard down to drink. 

Once she returned with them, she found one of the scouts stationed there, giving the horses hay.

"Though you might need some help." the man said, flashing her a smile that she could have though fetching, had she been in a mood of company. She nodded to him, securing her horses, starting to share them oats.

"Watch out for Bastard. He is a mean horse."

"Noted." the man looked at her curiously.

"So what's it like? To travel with the Herald."

"Traveling. Nothing special." she wasn't on the mood of talking. Her hip started to throb again. 

"They put you to work with all of these alone?" 

"Yes. I am their Handler."

"Tough you would have some help from the knife-ears, seeing you have two with you."

"They keep me safe. I keep their horses." Lelou said bending down to take Eleos hoof for cleaning. "Don't say knife-ear. It is very rude." someone chuckled, making the man jump from surprise. 

"You sure are well mannered." Krem mused leaning to the wagon.

"The Herald got a message from the base, wants to brief the group. C'mon." Lelou tossed the hoof pick to the helpful man.

"Don't go near Bastard."

The others were already at the campfire. The Herald nodded to them when they came and didn't waist time for casual chat.

"I received a letter from our Spymaster. There are things that need to be investigated further in the Southern parts of Orlais. They are urgent enough, for me to split the team. I need to be in Val Royeaux, so Bull will pick a team and head west from here."

"I take my guys, Boss. What do we do with the supplies?"

"We leave them here, to be send forward."

"What about the horses?" Lelou spoke up her arms crossed over her chest."You have people to care them?" her question seemed to be unexpected. 

"Krios and Kronos are Dennets bride. I can not leave them un-una..hmm."

"Unattended?" 

"Unattended, yes. Thank you, Krem." 

"They are going with Bull's team." The Herald said. Lelou frowned a little, but Bull grinned, slamming Krems back hard enough to make the man stumble.

"We take care of the big guys, don't you worry about them. And Krem used to be a sheep farmer."

"Yeah, those two are nicer than two rams." the soldier mused "You just tell me what i need to look out for and well make it work."

"That said, i have something for you to deliver." Cassandra said taking a round container from her pouch, giving it to the qunari." It's for lieutenant Stoket at Lac d'Argent's outpost." Lelou sensed there was something else passing there between the Seeker and the qunari, than just a message baton. Bull nodded his horned head towards the horses.

"Mind give that prep class to Krem now, Lelou. We leave before the sun rises." Lelou nodded and left with Krem, assuming there wasn't anything else for her to hear. She wished she would have been send back with the drafts.

There wasn't much for her to teach Krem about caring the horses, it really wasn't that hard for a man raised in a farm.  She pressed him to memories the amount of oats and hay they needed and how often so to not cause colic. And then she told him the symptoms and countermeasures of the said complication. They brushed the drafts ready for the morning, before retiring themselves. 

"Krem, can i ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Why are the mages and templars at war?" the soldier looked at her, leaning on Krios side with his arm. Lelou was taking care of Kronos.

"Right...there's no magic in where your from..." he mused an touch for a moment.

"The way i see it, it was probably long time coming. You know the mages live in the Circles, right? The mages didn't want to be locked in them anymore and the Templars didn't want to let them out. For what I've heard of their treatment in some of the Circles, i can't blame them for wanting things to change."

"How were they treated?"

"Like they were prisoners, that could kill you with a weave of a finger." he snorted clearly thinking the tough ridiculous." There is sure much more to it, but the basic is the same. The mages wanted to be free and the templars didn't want them to." he said looking at her, his expression changing from relax to little unsure.

"I..I hope me saying that didn't worry you. Magic is dangerous, but so is a sword. Most of the mages i have met, are just normal people." Lelou offered him a half smirk shaking her head.

"No. Still not scared of magic."

I have killed thousands of people with just a "weave" of a finger. 

 

***

"Strange markings have been found close to our outposts. Someone seems to be watching the Inquisition. Leliana want's us to send Iron Bull to investigate, put his expertise on espionage to use." Solas said in Cassandras voice, letting the memory flow freely. The Seeker and Herald had this meeting privately so he had little options on spying them. He didn't feel comfortable on spying like this, but his comfort hardly mattered in the big picture.

"She finally stopped testing if he was trustworthy?" Evelyn asked.

"Hardly. She send encrypted message to one of her men. Bull needs to deliver it." Evelyn rolled her eyes to that.

"Does she ever ease up? Bull isn't here to spy on us. Well he is, but not like against us."

"Leliana is very good in what she does. She will trust Bull in her own terms."

"Do you trust him?"

"I trust he is on our side at the moment, as anyone who wants to close the Breach."

Solas had heard what he wanted and left the dream incarnated memory. It was convenient how people reflected the days events in their dreams. Some were muddled and fractured pieces mixed with the emotions, others, like the Seekers, were very clear because the person was very focused on it still. It would fade in time.

He walked around the area, searching points of interest and signs of spirits. there were few wisps around, curiously dancing around him, but too skittish to approach. He opened his mind a little to listen the dreams. 

Didn't know the Herald was so young. And such a fine looking woman.

I need to ask an autograph from the dwarf, Misell will love it.

Okay, i got this. Step, step, bow. Step, step, turn, step back, spin...

I'ts just me doll, ain't got no need to shoot the intruder.

You sure about that, pilgrim?

You know me, doll. I like to watch you sleep. Better past time than stare at the ceiling in an empty room.

You perv.

Guilty as charged.

The last conversation was charged with tension and he quickly shut it out. He didn't want to witness that kind of dreams. He turned away from the campsite and headed deeper in the forest, hoping to find a spirit that could tell him about this region. The wisps followed him from afar. 

***

OK...this isn't going to work. 

Lelou sat in her tent glaring at her hip. It was the same it had been yesterday morning. The bruise was back on and a sharp pain pushed through the inhibitor. 

Shit. It must be fractured or something. But it shouldn't be possible to break! Not from that kick at least.

The sun was just rising and being practical by nature, she quickly accepted that she needed help. She dressed her undershirt and jumpsuit on and went to look for Stitches, only to find the Chargers already gone. To the mage then. She found Solas tent and rapped the tent post. After a second or two she heard a sleepy grunt.

"Solas. It is Lelou. I am sorry to wake you, but I need healing."

"Ah, of course. Just a moment." he sounded to be fully awaken in the short time it took for her to speak. Experienced traveler then. He soon came out from his tent, fully dressed.

"What ails you?"

"Got kick by Bastard the other day. Stitches gave some potions, but they help only some time."

"Odd, usually potions are reliable. Is it the left leg? I've seen you favoring the right."

"No, he kicked me on the hip." Lelou says. Solas frowns at her and then looks around. People are still mostly sleeping, only the one in cook duty is at the campfire.

"I need to see the injured area." he says a little hesitant.

"Of course." he hesitated for a moment more and Lelou thinks it has something to do with modesty or something like that.

"I am practical person and I have work to do. I don't mind if i need to undress before you. You are a healer, you have seen it before." that earns her a sharp look.

"You are also very direct, i see."

"Easier to be understanded."

"It's said; understood. And yes, I see your point. Come inside then."

He held the tent flap up for her and she bend a little to go inside. His tent was bigger than hers, designed for three. He pointed his bedroll and she settles to lay on her right side and the elf settles on his knees next to her.

"Show me the injury, please." he is all professional and waits for her to pull the jumpsuit loose from her hip, pulling the shirt up a little. Solas eyes widen slightly and then narrow almost angry.

"I have considerable pain threshold." she says sheepishly, having seen the same glare on Doctor Sun's face plenty of times.

His hands start to glow, as he places them carefully to the blackened skin. The bruise expands from her hip all the way to her thigh and side, looking like she has been pummeled with a sledgehammer.

"I see you speak true, when you say your pain threshold is considerable. Your hip bone has fractured. It is a wonder how you have been able to walk, let alone ride at all with this."

Fractured? It shouldn't be able to break! 

"How bad is it?" she asks. Solas stares at the bruise, his brow furrowing. He doesn't answer for a while and she gets worried.

"Solas?"

"It is not bad." he says and continues like he had not just stared her absently "It seems, that the kick from your horse left a small chip of stone embedded in the bone. The potions have healed it, but the stone keeps breaking it again." 

"Ok. So...can you heal it?"

"Yes. I need to remove the stone from the bone first. I can disintegrate it by magic or cut it out. It will be painful either way." 

"Which ever is faster is fine by me."

"Magic it is then." That said she felt a burning sensation on her hip. It wasn't bad, but enough to make her grunt.

"My apologize, this will just take a moment."

"Is alright."

"When did this happen?"

"First night on the road."

"You should have come when the first potion didn't work." his tone is as scolding as is his frown.

"I am not used to this convenient health care your magic pro-provides." her words seem to remind him that she has no pre-knowledge of magic. The angry scowl on his brow melts and he sighs a little.

"The chip is gone. Lay still, please " she nods and settles to watch him. His expression is concentrated and his hands are warm and steady. A series of micro expressions pass his features and vanish as fast as they appear and she wonders what he is thinking. His hands press gently on her upper thigh and she feels something moving under her skin. Like ghost touch from memory or a wind caressing her skin. She wanted to ask about the sensations, but his expression is so focused she doesn't know would she interrupt some important magic things.

"Juts a little longer." he said absently. Lelou find that she rather liked the healers somber and focused expression. It was jarring to always have the elves glare at her suspiciously or afraid. After few more minutes he finally nodded and swiftly adjusted her shirt to cover her hip.

"All done. I took care of the bruising too, seeing you have to be able to ride long hours still. Had we been on Haven, I would suggested at least a weeks rest and leave of heavy lifting, but alas, you don't have the luxury of being idle." Lelou couldn't quite contain the amusement she felt. He was so polite when he spoke, yet she could see the scolding in his eyes. She smiled to him, sitting up and adjusting her clothes.

"Thank you, healer."

"Do tell me if you are hurt in the future." he says dead serious.

"Have you seen my horse? I bet you will be healing me again in two days." 

Chapter Text

They had crossed the border to Orlais before midday, going lot faster without the wagon. Nearing the coastal city of Jader, there was more population in the region and hirelings were tending the fields in great numbers. The road got wider and more travelers crossed path with them. Among them were few templars on armored horses, either patrolling with the nearing cities and settlements trying to find mages in hiding, or heading towards Therinfal Rebout. They greeted the Seeker with lifted hand, upon seeing her sigil and glared at Solas as they passed by, but the mage didn't even notice.

Few hours had passed since he had healed their Handler and his mind was still reeling.

The severity of her injury had come as a shock. A small piece of stone, forced inside the bone, had fracturing it to the marrow and caused an infection to the bone and surrounding muscles, making them bleed under her skin, hens the bruising. Most people would have been seriously ill, feverish and unable to move with the pain. But she didn't seem to even notice, which made him worry she suffered some sort of nerve damage. He had disintegrated the chip and set to heal the bone and infected tissues, spreading his magic wide in the affected area, both to heal and search for unnoticed injuries, that might explain why she didn't feel pain like normal people did.

How shocking had it been, to realize that her bones were covered with metal.

Tightly knit like fishing net, it covered her bones entirely. Her hip, skull and rips were netted too, but more loosely with the metal and the stone that had embedded in the bone, had slipped through one of the small unprotected areas. Her limps were covered with solid metal, the net loosening close the tendons in the way it didn't hinder the movement of the limp.

It was astonishing. 

And it wasn't the only thing he found.

When he started to heal the infected muscles, he found them already healing themselves. At first he thought she was hosting a spirit or a demon inside her body, but soon figured that it was not the case.

Her body was doing it by itself. He channeled his magic to the injury and the process sped up and he remembered the time he healed her hand few days ago. It too, had healed uncommonly fast.

His mind burned with so many questions he didn't even know where to start. 

How was her body be able to regenerate it's health so fast, without any enchanted item helping it?

Where was she from? Was she some other type of humans than Thedonians? Another race? Assuming she wasn't Thedonian, was the self-healing speed something natural for her kind? Maybe she came from a far, behind the Amaranthine Ocean, somewhere distance and unknown land, like the original Kossiths came over the Boeric Ocean. 

Solas came to startling realization, that he didn't actually know how big the world was. What lied beyond the unknown seas? How did the Veil affect the living beings in those unknown lands? Assuming there was anything but open sea.

And then his mind jumped back to the red-headed woman and the mystery she suddenly threw at his way.

How had her bones been enchanted like that, covered with metal? She claimed there was no magic in her homeland, but was that true? Or did the magic manifest in some other way where she come from, making it unrecognizable to her here? Or perhaps she didn't know, what lied under her flesh and skin. Perhaps she was some mages experiment.

There wasn't an ounce of magic in her, so it was obvious it had been done by someone and Solas was certain, that it had been magically embedded to her. There was no other explanation, than magic to be involved.

All this new unexpected revelation about her, made him wonder her purpose on being at the Conclave in the first place. Had she been with the mages or templars? She couldn't have been with the Divine, Cassandra or Leliana would have known her. Could she be agent of Corypheus? He thought it was unlikely, she hadn't done anything remotely suspicious, other than being lenient towards elves and while uncommon trait in humans, it hardly was anything unheard off. If she even was human, that is.

Still, he needed to put eyes on her. 

He glanced over his shoulder, towards the woman riding that wiry horse of hers while fixing a pipe.

So many questions and no easy way to ask them. 

If your body is so different, will your dreams be too?

Chapter Text

Lelou watched the sight before her.

She had stopped Bastard on the hill that led down to the port city, watching the scenery. The ground was bare, only few bushes struggling to grown on the rocky landscape, harsh sea wind whipping them constantly. She had somehow managed to be unimpressed of this thriving world, walking through the lush forests and majestic mountains in unfeeling indifference. That indifference shook on it's radiation infused foundations, when she watched the ocean. The sun was still high, but hidden by a mass of large clouds and the grey skies colored the sea deep blue. It reached farther than her eyes could see and the colors blended to each other, so one couldn't separate the sea level from the sky. It was just blue and grey, no lush forest or burned desert.

This sight was familiar. She breathed deep, smelling the salt in the air. If she closed her eyes, she could almost pretend she was home.

Where is home?

She opened her eyes, ripping them away from the scene, telling herself it didn't matter. She ushered Bastard forward down the road, catching the group. The hill road snaked down the steep side of the rising land and she had a good view to the port town below. 

Jader town was build in a bay that had wide mouth and deep approach to the shore. Four big and six smaller docks reached towards the open water and most of them were occupied by ships of every size. Lelou saw two huge ships, that reminded her of galleon and carrack by design, but were far too big for being either, seeming to be at least 450 feet long monsters, with three masts.

Then again, everything seemed a bit bigger here.

Must be something in the water...really now...

The town itself spread out from the docking side, stone wall surrounded it and three big gates being the only way inside. The buildings were mostly build by stone and either it was naturally light in color, or they were painted in shades of white and grey, making the town be easy to see far across the sea. Many of the buildings rose three level high and their corners were painted in some shade of blue or red, bringing some color in the mostly grey and white town. There were also quite a few buildings outside the walls, lining the main roads near the gates. Lelou guessed them to be stables and inns. The closer they get the loader the noises were. Sounds of people shouting and talking, dogs barked, horses, goats and chickens all could be heard in the background with the wailing wood and behind all that, the bells rang clear by the port, guiding ships in or out from the docks. 

She watched and listened everything, feeling like she was in some sort of theme park.

Like big movie set of some pirate movie. Or historical document. With exaggeratedly big ships. So....why am I not exited, even a little? 

The gate they arrived, was as tall as three story building and almost as big, completely made of white stone and decorated with carvings of lions and sun symbols. Such beautiful and massive stone work would have been admired in the old world. Here people passed under it without so much as glance upwards of the impressive construction. Lelou looked up as they passed it, thinking how something like this would have never been build in the old world, for the costs would have rise in millions. 

The street they were riding was crowded and they settle to slow walk, going with the flow of the crowd. There were all kind of people there. Elves, human, dwarfs, even couple qunari, in their harness armors were walking beside a big wagon full of barrels, a dwarf man in golden and red tunic shouting something to them, that Lelou couldn't understand, speaking a language that sounded like French in her ears.  There were humans wearing weird masks, elves in simple, but clean clothes milling around them, carrying bags and boxes. She guessed that the people in ridiculous masks were nobles and the elves their servants. 

It felt like ages before they arrived to the docks, breaking away from the ever moving line of peoples. They stopped before a warehouse near one of the dock, where the biggest of the ships was docked. Inside were pens, some holding sheep's, others cows. There were separated stalls for horses, but too small on Lelou's opinion. Few elves and humans were carrying water to the animals, while outside on the dock, even more people were loading cargo on the ship. Cassandra rode next to Lelou and tossed Ares reins to her, dropping down from the saddle.

"That is Sea Foam, our ship. I go find the Captain, you four wait here."

All of them dismounted and Lelou whistled through her teeth's, gathering the horses to her. She placed Bastard between Eleos and Padia, looking around to find a place to let them drink. Like in cue, one of the workers, who had been tending to the horses already in the stalls, came to guide her to the well on the other side of the warehouse. She didn't give much thought on her own doings, already thinking how she would handle loading her charges on the ship, fully expecting there to be a sling, to lift the horses up the deck one by one. Her traveling companions and the warehouse workers on the other hand, did watch her walking the five mounts to the well, two warhorses in one hand and the rest three in the other. No one said anything about it, just observed how she clicked her tongue and snapped her fingers to get the horses fan around the water tub where she started to pour water from the well. Even Bastard behaved, situated between the two mares. 

Cassandra returned then, looking unhappy. She weaved them to follow and made to the horses.

"The ship will not sail today. Some important cargo was misplaced to another docking side and transferring them to the ship will take rest of the day. We will need to find an inn and stable for the night. Preferably close to the docks, for we are set to leave early." Lelou helped the warrior on her horse and then assisted Evelyn. She went to mount Bastard who's good behavior come to an end the moment she set her foot on the stirrup. It started to turn, to prevent her from getting up, but came to a sudden stop, when Solas rode Eleos next to it, blocking the horses way. Lelou got on the saddle, nodding to the mage in gratitude. 

They rode back to the street they came, following the stream of people to find a place to stay for the night. They found one in closer by the docks, but when it turned out there wasn't stable, they kept on looking. They eventually had to go back to the gates to look for an Inn that had stable. Cassandra rode to the one nearest the gate, tossing the reins to Evelyn to go inside. The Seeker seemed to be in a bad mood, storming inside like that and missed the young woman's hesitated look when she sat on her horse, holding the reins off the other. Ares lifted it's head, tucking the reins a little, like testing, making them almost slip from her hands. Lelou observed it for a while. She had figured, that the girl only knew how to ride a horse, but didn't actually know a thing about the animals. 

"Ignore it. Ares is testing you, not trying to get away." she called from the back. Evelyn glanced at her and nodded a little. When she didn't react to the horses tucking, it stopped setting to watch around. Lelou watched how Ares munched it's bit and something stirred in her mind. Something she learned as a child. Her train of thought was cut when Cassandra came back outside, looking less irritated.

"We stay here tonight. I booked us two rooms and there is room for the horses in the stable." after he came a man in cobalt blue vest, wearing those weird masks the higher ups seemed to prefer. 

"Indeed serah Seeker. There is bath being readied for your ladyships and our stable hands can help your man servant with the horses. He can also use the servant facilities at the back." There was an awkward moment, where Cassandra and Evelyn shared horrified looks, Varric couched irritated and Solas looked like a man, who had fed up with the same bad joke someone was telling all over again. Lelou figured that this probably happened all the time, him being automatically thought to be their servant or something like that.

"Thank you, but i don't need help with them. I do hope you have soap at the 'servant facilities'. I forgot mine." the inn keeper looked at Lelou surprised, as she dropped down from her horse and took Eleos and Paidias reins. Evelyn came down handing her the warhorses, a smirk playing on her lips.

"Solas and Varric are taking the other room, but you could stay with me and Cassandra." 

"Thank you, but no. I stay with my charges at the stable. Don't want anyone get killed in there." The inn keeper gasped scandalized from both the elf not being a servant but a guest and the woman implying his stable was not safe.

"Serah, I assure you, my stables are safe and ..."

"Please take your saddlebags."

"Do join us for dinner when your done, Doll face." Varric says taking his stuff of Paidia. Lelou tenses for a second looking at the dwarf.

"A what?"

Varric grimaces.

"Yeah...not good. Need to figure out something else." Lelou looks at him puzzled.

"A nickname. That's my thing. Glowbug, Curly, Chuckles...you know, nicknames." Lelou looks at him for a while longer and then just noddes.

"Don't call me Doll." with that she gathers the horses and heads to the stable, right next to the inn. Varric looks after her, feeling like he did something uncalled for.

"Okay...that was awkward moment after another."

At the stable Lelou sett in caring the horses, stubbornly ignoring the raspy voice in her head, whispering one word over and over again.

Doll.

 

Chapter Text

Lelou hadn't come in for a dinner. 

Solas had hoped she would have accompanied them, so he could have talk with her. It wasn't necessary for him to know the person, whose dreams he was about to enter, but he usually preferred to know something about them if possible. As it was, he knew things about her, but they raised more questions, than told anything about her.

He also felt morally conflicted more than usual, about visiting someones dreams, because in her case, she had no knowledge of the dreaming world of Fade, having heard of it only recently and only from people that had bias opinions of it. It made her vulnerable in a way he had never faced before. 

Then again, his moral comfort had been ignored for quite some time now. And she claimed she had no knowledge. She could be lying. Though there was many quirks in her, that made him think she did not lie. Most obvious of them being her bare wonderment and fearlessness towards magic.

She could still be lying.

So he cast his morale comfort aside once again and laid down on his bed, listening Varric steady breathing. In the pass months the dwarf had shared a room with him so often that his steady breathing was sort of meditative ambient noise now. Listening it he slipped into the Fade.

The switch was as easy as closing his eyes in one world and opening them in another.

He stood in the shapeless landscape of the this part of the Fade and his presence alone shaped the Fade around him to reflect the waking world. He was alone in the room, the bed Varric was suppose to sleep was empty.

After thousands of years it still made him wonder, what the Children of the Stone dreamed off? What would their dreams look like? 

He walked pass the rooms of the second floor and to the main floor, opening his mind to the dreams, looking for one specific sleeper. Since he was in crowded city, there was lots of people and therefore, lots of dreams. This was why he preferred to know something personal on the people he was about to spy, it was always easier to find the right dream. He listened through the servants and the guests, recognizing Cassandra easily and Evelyn even more so, his mark making her shine like a beacon to him. 

Doll...

The word was said in language he wouldn't have recognized in the waking world, but in Fade there was no language. He approached her dream slowly, expecting nothing and letting her dream shape the fade around him. 

It was dark. The air smelled like salt and he heard the mass of water washing against the sand. He looked around, seeing a silhouette of city behind him and a shoreline traveling in both directions from him, reaching farther, than he could see in the dark, starless night. Cold water washed over his bare feet.

All four of them.

That was odd, he rarely took a form in others dreams without conscious effort. Getting curious by this vivid dream he had entered, he looked down.

It was dark, but he saw that he had paws. They were black and the skin was sunken in, so he could see every tendon on the paw, every bone too. The nails came out bare and long, vicious looking. On his right he saw a figure, sitting on the sand. A red light of some sort of smoke illuminated her face for a little while. He didn't recognize the small, stick like thing, but the smell was similar to tobacco. Since this was her dream-memory in fact- he approached her in this canine form, walking over random debris. 

She sat on the sand, seemingly not bothering to move farther from the waterline, letting the cold water wet her shoes. She was wearing similar clothes as in the waking world, but these had sleeves and unlike in the waking world her hair was let down, falling to her back long and dirty. Under the smell of tobacco, he could smell the unmistakable scent of alcohol. When he got closer she turned her face towards him. They were on eye level, her leaning back to her right hand, he standing on his four legs next to her. Her left hand lifting a bottle to her lips, several empty ones littered the ground around her. Tough it was dark he could see her eyes and as she drank, they never left his.

They were tired, wary. Intoxicated.

This is a very vivid memory, rather than a dream. 

She smiles to him, the liquor spilling between her lips, falling down from the corner of her mouth. The dream form he had adopted, stepped forward and licked the droplets of her chin. It tasted sour. She laughs, or more like chuckles, a low quiet sound and her left arm curls around his neck, pulling him against her. The bottle is still in her hand. 

"Blitz my boy. You c-game to look for me? Su-such a good boy~y." she drawls in drunken voice and he hears the canine answer in low rumbling growl. The sound was ought to lift your neck hair up, if you heard it in the darkness of the night. 

"I know, I know...mami's a bit drunk." she pulls him to sit next to her, her right hand taking the bottle and smoke both, the left starting to caress his neck. For a split second he allows the sensation of her hand, caressing his neck fill him. Her hand is sloppy in it's movement in her drunken state, but still the touch is firm as she flattens her palm against his skin. 

Skin. Not fur.

The canine growls again and he feels the rumbling of the sound coming from his chest.

Firm. Yet soft. Gentle.

Focus!

"This hand feeds you more than one way, doesn't it, ni-ka klale di-aub " she says continuing to pet him, while she took another swing from the bottle and for one insane second, he thinks he spoke out load.

"Yo-u are...you all are so hungry. In this...twisted...all of it...all of you...still so ver~ry, very hungry." she sighs, sounding upset. The bottles bottom raises again. 

"Doll..."

The voice is low, little raspy and he looks up. A figure stands to her right side, shrouded in darkness. Two yellow eyes, like cut circles, peer at her from the shadow. It is the shape of a man, wearing a long coat and a hat. She keeps the bottle up, swallowing continuously, bracing against him with her left hand. The man beside them sighs, sounding resigned.

"Had to send your hound to look for you. Good thing I did, seeing the state you're in." The figure looks around the dark shore, the gleaming eyes narrowing, when he looks back at her.

"What were you thinking?"

"...home."

He waits in silence, the unspoken worry thick in the air. She doesn't say anything for a long time. 

"Shop-stop wor-rying. I'm not finish yet...not gonna...do anything..." she finally says, lifting the bottle to her mouth. It is empty and she sighs again, tossing it away.

"Wellll...dhat's ffinisssh..."

The man nods and then bends down, scooping her up in his arms like she weighed nothing. 

"Real~ly now...I can walk."

"Sure, sure. You can barely talk." 

"..you jusss...you just wanna carry me ar-around. Like some hero cop. Or the Shourd!"

"For a dame like you, any man would."

"You're the damsel in diss-sstress, remember?"

"You ever gonna let me forget that?"

"Noo~"

"Good, means you gonna stick around for a while."

"...smartass fedora fedective..." 

The dream fades and Solas opens his eyes. He stares at the ceiling, trying to understand, what he just saw and what did it tell him about her. Nothing, but riddles and more questions.

I need to talk to her.

He closed his eyes, but didn't sleep, feeling the ghost touch of a firm hand on his neck.

Chapter Text

Solas watched the red-haired woman, walking their horses out from the stable.

She always walked them all at once, not one or two at a time, but all five. Solas wasn't an expert on handling horses, but he too knew what she did wasn't the most common thing to do. There were lot's of things she did, that weren't common. 

Like in the morning, when she came in for breakfast, she greeted them all, like she always did. And then she had politely greeted and thanked the sleepy serving girl. Not just the elven lass, but the human woman too, giving both the same polite treatment. 

It wasn't like she was the only human, who was polite to elves, Cassandra and Evelyn were too and there was many humans in the Inquisition, that treated elves with kindness. But what made Lelou stand out, was the effortlessness of her actions.

When Evelyn greeted the servants, her posture changed, shoulders dropped down a little and she smiled to them, even softening her voice when she spoke to them. Cassandra too, made an effort to not appear so hostile. Lelou on the other hand, did nothing. There was no subtle change in her body language, no drop or lift in the tone of her voice. Her behavior didn't change at all, the politeness came naturally from her.

What was it, that Iron Bull had said to him? That his magic didn't "clunk".

Lelous manners didn't "clunk" either.

She was raised to be polite. And she doesn't separate races. 

She also didn't seem to separate social standing, but treated the Seeker and Evelyn exactly in the same manner she treated Solas and Varric. Or the stable boy who had assigned to help her.

After they ate and packed their saddlebags, they went out to the front of the Inn, where Lelou brought their mounts. A young elven lad came to help her to load the horses and was about to take Eleos, when Lelou handed the two war horses reins to him. The boys eyes widened in surprise.

"The grey is Ares, Seeker Cassandra rides it. Apollo is Evelyn's horse. He likes to round his belly, so check the girth." she said to him and turned to line her three other charges to the hitch pole. The lad nodded and did the same, looking exited and Solas knew he hadn't expected to be allowed to handle such fine looking horses. The boy was all smiles and barely contained excitement, when he checked the horses gears, loaded the saddlebags and then checked everything again, constantly whispering to the big stallions. He helped the warriors on their horses and it pained Solas to see the boy so proud.

Not many Handlers would have allowed a simple servant prepare their finest horses. It was all possible, that this mundane task of gearing two impressive horses and helping their important riders on them, was the highlight moment of his entire year.

The ride to the docks didn't take as much time as before, for it wasn't even proper morning yet and the streets were relatively empty. At the docks they dismounted and took their bags again. Someone came to take the horses gear and show them their cabins. Sea Foam was big trading ship, that took on passengers. There were few cabins, all of them small, but some were better furnished to please the more demanding (and paying) customers. Solas share a space with Varric, as always. He left his things on the bunk bed and went back to the deck, to watch the loading of the horses.

When he got there, their Handler was already impressing the other workers.

Apparently, the bulls that were pulling the lift that was commonly used on loading the cargo, were used on another dock, that was not late on their schedule. Since Sea Foam was in a rush to find any replacements, the Captain had ordered to load the rest of the cargo through the ramp.

That included the horses.

Even thou the docks were raised and the ships deck wasn't higher than 16 feet, the ramp was pretty steep. It was wide enough, for four men to walk side by side and long to reduce the slope, but still many dock workers were obviously nervous, when walking few last arriving rams and sheep's up. Lelou looked at the loading, thoughtful expression on her face. When it was her turn to start loading the horses, she weaved the workers off, that were coming to help her and took Eleos to the edge of the ramp. She let the mare watch it and the water for awhile, before leading her to the ramp itself. The big draft didn't even flip it's ears and walked right up to the deck and then another ramp down to the hold where there were stalls prepared for the horses. That it self wasn't as impressive-she was a Handler and it was only expected that she knew her horses.

What made the workers gawk was that before she loaded the first horse, she told the other four to wait.

And they did. Unleashed.

Except Bastard, who's leash she had tied around Varric pony, Paidia neck. 

The rest of her charges had come easily, after seeing how calm Eleos had been and soon the Sea Foam was leaving the port. There were other passengers too beside the Heralds company. Few nobles with their servants and couple merchants. All the passengers were ordered to the front of the ship or to their cabins to stay out of the crew way.

Solas went to the forecastle deck to watch the departure. His eyes watched the ship taking off, but his mind went back to the night before.

Lelous dream left him curious for many reasons, most burning of them was the way her dreams manifested.

Usually, peoples dreams were defined by their experiences and perception of life and consisted parts of their near memories and toughs. If the memory was just a memory and not imagination fueled dream, then it needed to be recent or so significant to the person, that it stayed clear as if it just happened. That is why Fade was so full of battles, personal tragedies and moments that shaped someones life. Big or small happenings, they were all brief, moments captured to the very essence of magic. 

In some cases, Solas could reconstruct already existing memories to extend by directing Fades essence, but he rarely did that, not wanting to influence the memories with his on perceptions. 

After last night thou, some part of him suspected he might have done just that, without even realizing it.

The dreams the people of this world dreamed, had hazy quality in them. They were always partly shrouded, like paintings with clear centers and blurred edges. Mostly because they expected in the waking that the dreams were like that. But her dream had been anything but shrouded.

It was so strong and clear.

He had felt it like he felt the Fade itself. The magic brushed against his feet, when the waves washed over his paws. It tasted on his tongue, as he had tasted the sour liquor. It pulsed against his skin, when her hand had caressed his neck. Her dream had not been a dream. It was a memory. And it was not just a moment imprinted on to the fabric of magic.

It was real.

Like if he had lived it right then and there. That was why he suspected he might have influenced it without noticing. 

I need to be more careful. 

He didn't even bother to scold his morale conscious for that thought, knowing himself well enough to know, that he would visit her dreaming mind again. 

He had realized after last night, that he had in fact heard bits of her dreams months ago.

Languages worked differently in the Fade. If a language was commonly used by many living beings, it usually turned to understandable directly in the dreamers mind. Because ancient elvhen was so rare now, the Fade automatically reflected it to be unknown.

Last night, after waking up and turning the experience of her dream in his mind, he realized that she hadn't spoken a word in Common, but a language that was very similar to it. So similar was the language and so strong the memory, that the Fade had easily turned her language to him as Common. 

Now he was sure, he had heard that same tone and rhythm of speech couple times in the past months, and quite recently. 

Are you sure this is safe? 

Have i ever been wrong?

Those two phrases he had heard, at least twice if not more. And that gave him the clue that it was another memory, with great importance to her, for her to dream it repeatedly, as he assumed she did.

The ship passed the bay mouth and the wind pulled to the sails, making it jolt forward a bit faster. Being a big trade ship, the movement was almost minimal, but enough to snap him out of his pondering. Looking around revealed that his object of thoughs had joined the crowd on the deck. 

Lelou stood close the cathead, facing the open sea insted of the land. She looked to be deep in thought. Solas watched her for a while. He was pretty sure she wore something like her current clothes in the memory.

Or dream. He wasn't quiet sure, what to called it and it irritated him as much as it intriqued him.

One long braid felt down to her back, reaching over her shoulder blates, loosened locks of hair flattening against her face, when she turned her back against the wind and started to fill her pipe. Solas watched for a moment, how she tried to light it with her firekit tools, thinking it to be odd. No one wouldn't even bother to try to light a spark in this wind. She did and stubbornly too, a small crease forming between her brow.

Solas walked a cross the deck and went to stand next to her. 

"May I?"

Chapter Text

Lelou secured the stalls gates, giving Apollo a lazy pat on the neck.

Loading the horses had gone easier than she expected, despite not having the sling to lift them on board, thanks to Eleos steady performance and example. She had never before given much thought on the finer details, on how animals were shipped in medieval style and was pleasantly surprised, when she found real stalls build on the second deck for the horses and pens for smaller animals. She thought that had the ship had been designed like gallons or similar warships, there would have been cannons and cannonballs. The ships crew had closed the big hatch that had served as a ramp and a way to the upper deck and locked it tight. They pointed a narrow staircase and smaller hatch to her on the middle part of the ship, where she could get to the main deck and down to the front part of the third deck, where the cabins were.

Lelou made sure that all the horses had water and that they could lift and lower their heads freely, before making her way to the main deck. The Sea Foam had just departed from the dock and the sailors were moving around in their designed jobs, letting the smaller sails down and rowing away from the land. She quickly made her way to the crowd on the front of the ship, not wanting to get into way of the ships crew. Her traveling companions were all mixed with the poeple weaving their goodbyes to the few that had come to see them off. By the clothes of some of the men an women on board, she assumed them to be upper class or some how influential. Merchants, perhaps. Varric and Evelyn were engaged in animated conversation with a man in purple jacked and white half mask that covered his eyes, Cassandra hovering near the Herald like a bodyguard. Witch she probably was, in a way. Their healer was standing near by, watching the shore.

Lelou too looked at the city. The sun made the whole city shine, the painted decorations of blue vanishing into the brilliant white. She turned her back to the intense glow and instead looked to the sea under the sun. Yesterday it had been dark and grey, now it was rich teal and blue, the white line at the far end of horizon indicating where the sea ended and sky started. She leaned to the rail, just watching the sea. 

She remembered the last time she had been on sea.

It was last years, when she had gone to Far Harbor, searching the Nakano girl. That trip had been made by old FC powered fishing boat, with small cargo room and cockpit barely big enough for her to sleep in. Her companion hadn't needed any sleep of course. Nick had agreed to accompany her and it was the first trip they did together, after their falling out, due to her joining with the Institute. The trip had been a turning point in their relationship, in more than one way. Now that she thought about it, maybe it had been the last time, they truly enjoyed being with each others company.

Did you know your eyes have the color of sunset, Doll?

Lelou bit her teeth's together. 

The pipe was in her hand, as the hole in her chest expanded. 

Damn it, Nick...

She stuffed her pipe full, turning her back to the open sea, spreading in glorious colors before the ship, starting to hit the striking stone and metal together. 

We are so going to sit down and talk, when i get back.

The wind glued her hair to her face and the stone hit a sparkle, only to die the moment it appeared. She bend over the pipe to try to shield it from the wind and struck again.

The hole in chest kept growing, but the spark didn't take light more than a blink. 

Fucking stupid wind. Where the fuck is my match, when i need it?

"May I?"

Lelou looked up, almost startled. Solas stood there before her, his hand extended towards her. Realizing his intentions, she gave the long stemmed pipe to him.

"Thank you."

The hole in her chest stilled.

The mage pinched the pipes bit between his lips like he did it in regular basis, holding the bowl in his left hand, cupping it with his right. A smallest flick of fire between his fingers and soon he had it lit, taking a hit himself to light it properly. He gave it back, blowing the smoke out. Lelou greedily sucked the smoke in, sighing relieved when it hit her throat on it's way to lungs.

"Surprisingly soft flavor."

"Yes. Telahn made it for me." 

"That's an elven name." 

"Don't know about that, but he is an elf. Dennet's right hand man." he nods and they stood in somewhat awkward silence, Solas watching her smoking intently Lelou doing her best ignoring it. She has never been able to stand awkward silences for very long.

"What do you want?" 

"What makes you assume, I want something?" 

"Just a hunch."

Solas looks at her for a while. 

"You looked distraught. I hope your injury haven't caused you further pain?"

Oh, he was worried. Of course he was, he's a healer.

The thought both calms her and amuses her.

"No worry. You did good job. Thank you." she looks at the mage then, leaning her rear to the rail.

"Varric told me the other day, to ask you if i wanted to know about these "demons"" he raises one eyebrow to her.

"You wish to know about demons?"

"Well...not exactly demons. I would know about this Fade. Heard you're an exsperd or something." his expression turns first surprised, then pleased. 

"Expert.  Yes, you could say I am, seeing I have studied it for the most of my life." 

"Splendid. What is it?"

Her blunt questions seems to stun him and he looks at her in a way, she can only describe conflicted. Of what, she didn't know.

"Direct, remember? Keep it simple."

He looks at her, like she just said something silly.

"Nothing in the Fade is simple." he says and moves to stand next to her, leaning to the rail with his right side.

"Do you know the Chantrys teaching about the Fade?"

"Some. Is it relevant?" 

"In the perceptive, that majority of Thedas population view it as the truth, yes." he must see the frustration on her eyes as he quickly continues." The Fade is a realm of dreams and a source of all magic. It is also a reflection of the waking world, where the mages mind awakes, when they go to sleep in this world." 

Shit, it really is a thing, that actually happens?

"Just the mages?" Lelou asks, trying to keep open mind, so the conversation wouldn't die on the start just because it sounded stupid to her, than anything Hancock could monger while stoned out of his mind.

"Not just mages. Other living beings minds travel there too in sleeping. Mages thou, are connected to the Fade, it being the source of their magic and therefor they can remember their dreams and control them to extend. There are exceptions, like the dwarfs, who are incapable of using magic at all and therefor, they do not dream the same way, as elves and humans." 

"Okay..." Lelou took a hit from her pipe, keenly aware of the mans eyes, looking at her curiously. 

"You seem confused."

"I am confused."

"My apologize, it is a complicated subject and i don't know how to explain it more simple." 

"No need to apologize. It is..so unfathomable for me to meet someone, who can do what you can do and claim it to be because he dreams in magic realm apart from this one." She wished her words sounded as fluid coming out from her mouth as they were in her head. Apparently i does, because Solas doesn't correct her, but asks instead.

"Have you not experienced anything different in your dreams in your time here?"

"Like what?"

"Like realizing when you are dreaming. That is the most common experience non-mages have while dreaming, along of remembering their dream in detail when they wake up."

"Oh. Well. No. I have never been able to remember my dreams." she says. Being tuned on constantly watching the micro expressions people had, when she spoke to them, she noticed the small tightening on the corner of his mouth, before he controlled his expression back to neutral interest. 

He thinks I lie. Why would he think that?  

"I find that hard to believe." Solas says, making it clear he suspect her for lying.

"I'm not lying. There are many people back at my homeland, who never remember their dreams." She didn't say world. The majority of people she had come a cross with, seemed to think, that she came from some distance, foreign country and it was easier to blend in, when you were, what others expected you to be. 

She just hoped that, that camouflage strategy would work with the mage, eyeing at her right now, rather contemplatively.

Careful with this one.

Solas relax his posture slightly and offers her a ghost of a smile, as an apology of his mistrustful behavior.  

"My apologize. It is rather new to me, to talk to someone, who has no knowledge about magic, or it's entire existence in general and yet lacks the fear of it, when coming a cross with it. And says she does not dream."

Uh. Okay. Why are dreams so important?

She takes a hit from her pipe, thinking what to say or ask to get a better picture of her situation and possible knowledge on how to get back to where she's supposed to be when he speaks again. 

"I admit, I find myself being curious about your homeland." he says casually.

"The other day, you said that, your people doesn't have magic. It is unfathomable to me, to think a world without it. Even the most remote village, knows the existence of the Fade, the Dreaming and some isolated communities practice it in vastly different way, than what the Chantry and Circle teaches." 

Lelou was suddenly very aware, that she might not have given enough though on how to answer, if someone got curious about her. Like it seemed to be the case now. She played time by smoking her pipe. Directly lying would just make the man more curious, he seemed to be the type to like to know things. 

He want's to know about the place I'm from, not about me. Is it really that strange if there is no magic?

"Is magic something, that should actually be everywhere?" she asks just to give him something to mull over.

"According to the ancient elven lore, yes." 

Chapter Text

In the one and a half year he had been awake, Solas had learned that there were two kind of mind sets in this broken world, when it came to magic.

One group was satisfied with the Chantrys view on Fade and it's inhabitants, thinking it to be the only truth and they were the majority. Then there were those who knew it to be more complicated and that the Chantrys strict view of certain accepted schools was confining much of the possibilities of magics use. They were labelled maleficars and hunted down when discovered. Mainly because most of them used blood magic, for it to was easy to learn and use, but Solas had found sings that they explored the magics possibilities beyond blood magic when living free from the Templars supervision. Until they were found and killed.

He didn't talk about those things now, thou he had a feeling that a conversation about magics versatile use and the Chantrys limiting categorizing of it's practice with Lelou would be interesting.

And frustrating.

Lelou seemed to accepted magic with face value, but struggle with the very concept of Fade existing at all.

She kept asking him what it was and where it was and he tried to explain her the very base form of it's existence and the way Fade worked and that brought the Veil into the conversation. It had not made it easier to her to understand and she ended up drilling him about the Veil to the point he had to be careful on what he said.

Still he was pleased. It didn't matter that he had to put a lot of effort on describing his words so she grasped their meaning, due to her still lacking vocabulary. He had quickly realized that she was startlingly intelligence woman and he found himself enjoying her repeating questions, feeling there was something hidden knowledge inside of them. Particularly the question about the Fade had the feeling of having a deeper meaning. 

What is it, she asks, where is it. What does that mean? 

Solas mulled the question in his head, watching the woman sitting across him on a barrel full of grain. He himself was situated on another barrel, both tied to the rail that split the cargo area where the animals were kept. Her face was crunched as she thought, leaning her elbow to the rail and her head to her hand balled to a fist. Their conversation about the Fade had continued through out the morning and he had ended up following her down when she went to tend to her charges. There the topic had veered from the Fade to the Breach and how the Inquisition had come to be. He waited for her to come in some sort of conclusion so he could asks questions, for as much as he enjoyed talking about the Fade, their conversation had only fueled his curiosity about her.

Lelou took her long stemmed pipe and started to fill the chamber.

"So this Fade is seperated by the Veil from this world and when people go to sleep, their mind wakes up in the Fade, but only mages are aware of it." she looks at him expectantly.

"Separated." he nods while correcting her wording.

"Okay. And the Breach is a tear in the Veil and it was caused some sort of an ancient magic object." She looks at the pipe in her hand for a while, then slowly shakes her head. 

"And now the Breach threatens to swallow the world and it needs to be closed."

"Yes, that is the simplified summary of it." he says getting down from the barrels.

"This is lot to take in..." Lelou dropped down from the other barrel and turns to look at him.

"I need to smoke. Bad habit, but a habit still. Want to accompany me to the deck?"

"Lead the way." 

The sun was high and there was only a thin line of land visible at the horizon at the south. There were few other passengers on the forecastle deck, sitting on small table sets, carried there after the ship had reached open sea. Solas spotted Varric keeping court on one of them, having surrounded himself with the two merchants on board. No matter how much the dwarf complained about the Merchants Guild, he always ended up making new connections with people on business wherever he went. Evelyn too was sitting on another table with Cassandra, both being fawned over by four nobles. Lelou walked to the middle of the deck to the foremast settling to its shadow and started to pat her pockets. She paused and looked at Solas.

"Would you mind lighting this for me again?"

"Not at all." he cupped his hands around the pipes nest and lit it for her.

"Thank you."  she takes couple hits from the pipe and then offers it to him. The gesture still manages to surprise Solas, although he had observed her peculiar solidarity since yesterday morning after he healed her. He accepts the smoke, taking a couple hit's before passing it back to her. 

"What will happen if the Breach is not closed?"

"The tear will spread, forcing spirits through it, making them demons in the process. The lands will likely turn upside down as will the seas when the raw power of magic tries to settle on the world." he didn't say back. She smoked in silence watching the open sea in deep thought. Solas too turned to watch it, standing beside her. When she again passed the pipe to him, he accepted it. 

"May I ask a question?" he said giving the pipe back.

"It would be very rude of me to deny questions, seeing how you have patiently answered mine." 

"True." he tilted his head to the side, thinking appropriate question to ask from the cluster of many he had. 

"You kept asking me what the Fade was."

"A realm of magic, as you said." 

"Yes. But I can see that it doesn't answer your question. What do you mean when you ask what is?" her eyes turn to look at him thoughtfully and he has a feeling, that she is considering of what to tell him. In his numerous years of existence, he had learned to trust his gut feeling. He waited calmly for her to sort her thoughts.

"There is no magic in my homeland. Never has been. If you were there and told them about this place were everyone goes when they sleep, you would be thought to be slightly mad or on drugs." Solas lifts an brow at that, but waits for her to finish.

"Here everyone knows it is true and I am the slightly mad person. Or on drugs. Haven't decided witch." 

"You question your own sanity?"

"Wouldn't you, if you were in my shoes?"

He held back on pointing out that he didn't wear shoes and nodded.

"I see your point. And yes, i would probably question my sanity as well." 

"So in order to understand this dreaming, I keep asking what it is. Because to me, it sounds like some sort of par..para...a place where everyones minds go and that it is separated from their physical bodies and that is simply not possible, not in the way I could understand it anyway." she placed her pipe to her lips and frowned when she noticed it to be out. Without knocking it empty, she started to stuff it full again.

"And since you don't remember your dreams, you have hard time on believing it to be existing, this dreaming world."

"I do believe it exists, this Fade. You explained it logically enough. What I don't believe, is that my mind would reside out of my body."

Solas turns her words in his mind. There was something there, almost on sight. Then it clicks and he suddenly realized, that she did not think the Fade as a part of this world, but completely another world!

He quickly went through their conversation about the Fade reflecting this waking world and the Veil separating them. Adding there the language barrier, he understood her problem. And he hadn't said back, when she asked what would happen if the Breach was not closed.

"Ah. I have mislead you." he reached his hand to cup the chamber and lit the dry tobacco for her.

"You think the Fade and this waking world are two different things. They are not. They are two separated parts of one world." Her eyes widened a fracture as she stared at him.

"That is what I meant, when I said that magic is supposed to exist everywhere. The Veil is not a barrier that separates two worlds literally, it is a barrier that keeps two parts of one world from each other." a myriad of emotions pass her eyes and she opens her mouth to speak, closes it, opens it again and bites down to her pipe, sucking the smoke in greedily. She stares at him with hard eyes, searching something from his face.

"Well..."she says slowly looking at him with very serious eyes.

"I find that I don't have enough knowledge of this language to describe my thoughts on that." Solas nods slightly and accepts the pipe offered to him. 

"Then we shall postpone this topic until you do." he says taking a hit from the pipe. His throat has already learned to like the hit of the thick smoke. She nods in silent agreement and he watches her from the corner of his eyes as they continue to watch the sea in silence, the woman was deep in her thoughts. The pipe passes between them. 

Curious. 

There were still hundreds of questions he wanted to have answers, but one thing presented itself to him from this conversation. For a person who had no experience of magic or it's wonders, Lelou was surprisingly unfazed of the possibility of other worlds extincting. 

Very curious. 

Chapter Text

Lelou stared at the low ceiling lying on the hammock she'd been given, when she insisted on sleeping close to her horses. The life in Commonwealth had made her passive-social, not necessarily wanting an active conversations, but needing the presence of another living being close to her when she slept. It brought her the feeling of safety and reassurance of getting a warning in the wake of danger. It was night now and the water constantly sloshed against the ship, making it sway and the wood wail softly. Combined with the breathing of the animals around her, all the sounds created an ambient back round noise for her mind to lull in.

Her conversation with Solas had been enlightening to say the least. 

So the Fade and this Waking world are one and the same, separated by the Veil. Who would have thought? Not me obviously. 

She had managed a full ten minutes and two pipe fulls of tobacco before she had started to drill the mage again, despite her previous decision of learning to speak the language properly, ending up on repeating their whole morning discussion all over again. Solas had indulged her with a patience of a saint, answering her questions and repeating them as many times as she needed. 

Reflecting this waking world wasn't an metaphor, but a fact. The Fade is like another dimension layered with this world and reflects it, changing with every action sentient beings make...who the hell would have thought? Not me...obviously.

As if figuring how to get out of here wasn't requiring amazing feats of intelligence already. I'm so fucked!

She had really thought, that the Fade was some sort of parallel dimension that was in fact its own world, where the magic was originating from and that few individuals possessed some unique traits making them able to use magic and that if she could find a way to get to the Fade, she would also figure out how she could travel back to her own world. Even that had sounded like some far fetched scientific nonsense to her. Thou it seemed she hadn't been too off in her assumptions. Just with the distance of the worlds and the concept of them being two separated, instead of one split.

The mages minds are awake in the Fade. Their bodies sleep here and....shit...I'm really not smart enough to figure this out.

She groaned frustrated, draping her arm over her eyes. 

Hey, chin up. I know the night just got darker, but it won't last forever

The hole in her chest had gone unnoticed the whole day, as she sucked in tobacco and knowledge of this strange world. Now it appeared with vengeance. She sucked air, her chest constrict painfully. 

Fuck you Nick! Don't come cheering me up when you're just a voice from my memories! 

She growled to the hole, not allowing it to grow larger.

She would brainstorm the shit out of all this craziness and figure out how she could get back home. There were people there who needed her, friends that still cared about her and one synthetic detective with whom she had a few screws to tighten with. She banished all thoughts of her head, knowing that she needed to rise early and that she would have more success to find some sense in all of this with a clear head. She listened the breathing of the horses, the wailing of the wood and the humming sloshes of the weaves and started to relax. No more ghost voices invaded her mind through her iron clad resolve to fall a sleep.

Not before she was just slipping away in her dreamless slumber.

Did you know your eyes have the colors of sunset, Doll?

 


 

Finding her dream was easy now, when he could distinguish her language. Solas took great care to observe her sleeping mind before he entered it. This was a memory again and now he could feel how the Fade re-constructed it, drawing from her mind directly. She was so tightly connected to it, that again the memory felt as real to him as the Fade itself. With a connection this strong, she could be a mage. A powerful mage.

But she wasn't. She didn't have an ounce of magic in her in the waking world. Yet another mystery for him to solve.

He was again in the body of the hound and now he could see this form better. His paws were black, as were his legs and the rest of his body. The skin was sunken in tightly, drawing pronounced lines of bones and muscles alike. 

He didn't want to influence the dreams contents, but he wanted to be able to see more of it. Careful to not to disturb the memory, he lifted his head to look around. It was dark, a night time and again he was on a shore. He stood before some kind of a building. It stood over the water like dock, with three walls and the one facing the shore open with whole side length of stairs to climb up. A bar counter was situate close to the stairs at the opening, few people sitting on stools. Painted lanterns of colors of red, blue, yellow and green were hung up on the ceiling giving up little light and color to the brown and grey that dominated the place. The hound climbed up the stairs and he saw that it was indeed a tavern of some sort. Probably the most filthiest, saddest tavern he had seen in a while. Crudely looking walls that were pieced together of planks and scraps of wood, miss-match sets of tables and chairs, humans sitting on them, laughing and drinking. He watched them with great curiosity. 

The men and women were all wearing clothes in varying in style and color, all different, some clearly self made from colorful pieces of cloth. Their only similarity was the poor state of the fabric, patched many times and washed many more. The humans were all malnourished, their face haughty and gaunt. Still they smiled.

There was the feeling of celebration in the air and he could hear music playing in the background. He could recognize every instrument, but the slow style they were played was unfamiliar to him. And he couldn't see the band anywhere. The hound trotted across the floor, Solas being just a passenger. Some people sequel, some cursed at him. Still he walked straight to one of the booth at the back and under the table. From there he climb up on the worn seat wide enough for three people sit side by side. He sat up and a low chuckle greeted him with the unmistakable smell of dull tobacco and whiskey. 

"Scaring the wedding quests, Blitz? Poor boy. Even thou you're so handsome with that red scarf. Matches my dress." she spoke in slight hoarse voice and touched him so suddenly he would have stilled, had he been in control. One hand ran over his throat, climbing up to his neck, caressing him with such affection he shuttered. 

Focus.

She wore a blood red dress that sparkled a little in the dim light and her hair was up, few strands escaping from the bun. The dress hugged her curvy body, missing chunks of red sequins, showing the faded fabric underneath. The dresses cleavage was cut deep, flaunting her generous chest and as she leaned forward over the table to refill her glass from half empty bottle, he saw that the back was open too, leaving the wolf tattoo in plain sight. The tattoos on her arms danced before his eyes as she lifted the glass to her lips, painted as red as the dress. Her outfit looked trashy, leaving little to imagination, still she carried it with relaxed confidence.

She leaned back on the seat and placed her hand on his neck pulling him down. Skeleton like paws lifted off the seat one by one , settling on her, the vicious nails digging to the side of her right thigh. She crossed her right knee over the other while he still laid heavy on her lap. The skirt hiked up her thigh and away under his paws, his nails pricked the pale skin drawing blood. She didn't seem to notice, just drank deep, emptying her glass. She placed it on table, filling it again. Her left hand never leave his neck. He felt her fingers curling against the taut skin, flexing open and squeezing again, massaging his neck in lazy pace. The hound let out a groan - the sound of the monster in the night- and sagged on her lap, it's head settling over its paws.

Draped over Lelous lap he watched the crowd. People were gathered around a couple seated on one of the tables. They both were dressed in patched clothes, the man wore black, the woman white. Or the dress had been white once. A newly wedded couple. Thou the place was barely anything more than a shack, they looked happy and opened the small packets placed on the table, all colored the same dirty brown. Wedding gifts. A man in faded white shirt and black tie walked to the couple, lifting his rimmed hat to the woman. He spoke to them something Solas could not hear from the murmurs and music, but the bride laughed and the groom nodded, smiling wide. After few more words the man bowed to the couple and turned towards the booth where they were. Solas watched him as he crossed the floor, recognizing the yellow eyes that shined unnaturally under the shadow of the hats rim. The long coat he had worn previously was folded over his right arm. He tossed it on the seat next to himself, settling to sit opposite them. It had been dark in the dream last night and he hadn't seen the man clearly, just his strange shining eyes and he carefully lifted the hounds head just an inch to look at him. 

Solas was taken aback by his strange appearance.

The mans skin was grey, marred with grime and lined with age. A part of his throat was missing and he could see inside of him. Cords and strange veins, thick and thin laid behind the tore pieces of his grey skin. A spine that was not color of bone white nor had it's natural shape. His face skin cracked from the jaw line, giving an impression he was wearing a mask. For brief moment, Solas believed that to be the case, for the skin looked lifeless and there was no expression on his face. Then the man lifted his right hand to the table. A skeletal hand held a small pack. The fingers were thin and dull grey, small cords run along their sides, little bolts attached the pieces together and into a bigger trapeze shaped piece of something that was not bone and could not be mistaken to be anything other than metal. His left hand came to view in stark opposite to the right one. He fish one of those stick smokes from the pack and it looked normal in comparison, despite the lifelessness of the graying skin and the cracks or small pieces of skin missing. 

Is he even human? Some sort of machine? Animated sentinel? But she claimed there was no magic. She herself believes there's no magic in her home.

The strange man lifted the pack towards Lelou and she leans forward to take one, squashing the hound on her lap between her thighs and breast. A click, the sound of burning and she straightens slowly, her lungs expanding when she inhales the smoke. It was a short moment that he was trapped under her weight, but every part she had touched burned Solas borrowed skin. He felt a slight tremor run up from his chest into his throat as the hound growled and her left hand caressed his neck apolitically. She took a hit from the smoke and spoke. 

"Did you know your presence has got few people withdraw their statement on the case, detective?"

"No need to get sassy on me. I'm not in the mood." his tone is dour and Solas remembers the raspy voice from the previous dream.

"Duly noted." Lelou says under her breath, taking a sip from her glass. They smoke in uncomfortable silence. There is clearly unresolved argument between the two, their interaction differed now than in the dream on the shore, the humorous nitpicking has been replaced by awkward silence. Lelou places her glass to the table and fills it.

"You don't have to sit with me, Nick. Blitz here keeps me company." The hound rumbles like it agreed, the hand on his neck patted him affectionately.

"And unwanted suitors at bay, no doubt." a small attempt of humor, too weak to last against the tension between the two. The strange man- Nick- lookes at her, taking a drag from his smoke. Thin pillar of smoke escaped from his open throat when he breathed the tobacco in, watching her. He looked unemotional. Like a tranquil, but a lot more disturbing with all the holes and the metal parts mimicking human body. Inanimate as his eyes looked to Solas, this is Lelous memory and the gaze was intense to her and the beast on her lap that keenly observed the two.

"I agreed to travel to Far Harbor with you, might as well try to talk with you."

"Nick..."

"How's Curie doing?" Solas felt the woman under him stiffen.

"Heard from Hancock, that you took her to your underground base." his already deep voice drops a note lower and the tension between them intensified.

"I would like to know why?" 

The hand on his neck stopped caressing him and the hound lifted it's head, allowing Solas more view on the booth. Lelou glared at the strange man before her, her jaw clenched in anger. The man stared back, sitting completely still, all movement seized in a completion that no living being could ever achieve.

"You think I would harm her?" 

"No." the man says calmly, leaning his elbow on the table to lean forward. The form Solas had adopted interpreted it as a challenge, his ears flatten and his eyes turn to stare the man across the table. 

"Then again, I never thought you would join up with the Institute either." His words struck something in her and she shudders. A low growl emits from his throat, but the hand on his neck moves again, squeezing briefly and he quietens. She reaches forward and dumps the smoke to a cracked astray, snatching the bottle to fill her glass. Her movements are quick, her demeanor tense under the gaze of the yellow unblinking eyes. She brings the glass to her lips and dawns it empty, starting to pour another.

"He's sick." she says and the hand on his neck trembles. Nick looks at her still as statue. Then he sighs, lowering his head.

"I'm sorr..."

"Don't!" she snaps, cutting him off. "Don't say your sorry. We both know that's a lie. You've never lied to me. Don't start now."

"Doll.."

"No! I don't wanna hear it. I don't want to be comforted. I don't want to talk." She dawns the glass empty again, slamming it on the table. She fills it full and drinks down in two mouthfuls.  She again leans forward to the bottle, but a grey skinned hand grabs hers just before she reaches it. The tension is palpable, bristling against Solas skin. Lelou glares at the man, her anger making her eyes brighter. Without letting go of her, Nick stands up. He comes to stand next to her, looking at her as intently as before.

"We don't have to talk."

Even thou his face hold no expression, his voice is deep and gentle. She stills for a while and then the tension escapes from her with a sigh. She presses her left hand briefly over the hounds head and then allows herself to be pulled up. They step away from the table and he sees her fully.

The dress left her legs bare all the way to mid thigh and bare they were. High heels, once bright red, now dulled in color, flattered the shape of her calves. The dress left nothing to imagination, clinging to her like second skin. Still, despite her lush curves that the design of the dress accentuated, the tattoos dominated her appearance, drawing eyes to roam on the dark lines instead of the curve of her hips. A hand made of metal, settled on the small of her back, pulling her close like in embrace. She rests her left hand on Nicks shoulder and he starts to lead her in slow dance. The Fade reacts to her memory, bringing the music forth. She relaxes and leans in against the strange man, whose expression doesn't change and they dance in a small area, stepping in harmony in the simple formation, going back and forth with the music. He twirls her under his arm and pulls her back, changing direction. They never expand the area they dance, staying close to their table. Their movements are synchronized and smooth, the dance as familiar to both of them as walking. In the dirty hovel, dressed in clothes that are one hole away from rags, they dance beautifully.

His voice is soft and low as he quietly starts to recites the songs lyrics like a poem. His expressionless eyes never look away from hers. 

                "One more tomorrow, to hold you in my embrace and thrill with rapture, each time I look at your face

                 One more tomorrow, to see heaven in your eyes. To have your hand cling to mine and wander through paradise"

He dips his head down pressing the ragged skin of his cheek to her temple, speaking softly against her ear.

"Did you know your eyes have the colors of the sunset, Doll?"

Her lips twitch, trying to smile, but instead the corners pull downwards.

"So you've said before."

An image flashes into Solas mind, a memory so powerful that it manifests in another memory.

They are walking on a dry, dead ground a scorching sun blaring down on them. The desert expands endlessly all around them. She falls, tired to the bone, lips chapped and face covered with dirt. He helps her up, letting her rest against him. They stay there standing against each other for seconds, minutes. Hours. Lelou heaves and couches, her breathing is difficult.

"Nick...you should...go."

Time passes and only her ragged breaths break the silence. The man in the long trench coat looks up at the sun.

"The sun used to symbolizes life in many cultures. It's rise at dawn marks the beginning of life and when it sets it means ending of life. Death, so to speak. The sunset comes between, the brief moment of brilliant colors, always beautiful wherever it is seen. It teeter between the light and the darkness and many stories end in the sunset scenario, because there is no light after that. Only darkness." 

"Sweet...your pondering the symbolism of the very thing that is hastening my death. Don't over do it, please." she croaks, laughing weakly.

Metal fingers rake through her hair, pushing the tangled strands of off her eyes. He gazes down upon her long enough for her to stop smiling.

"Did you know your eyes have the colors of the sunset, Doll?" He speaks softly.

The memory inside a memory fades.

Solas watches Lelou sagging against the man made from metal. He continues to lead her in the slow intimate dance, his face as emotionless as statues, yet his movements full of compassion and tenderness. He does not continue to recite the lyrics, letting the invisible singer take the stage. 

 

 

 One more tomorrow, to kiss your lips constantly and feel the pounding as your heart beats next to me 

 One more tomorrow, filled with love the whole day through. And then tomorrow I'd beg, for one more tomorrow with you

When she cries he holds her close.

Chapter Text

Lelou watched the sailors working on the yard several feet above her. It was fascinating to witness how surely the men moved only robes under their foot. They reefed the sails to catch the wind that seemed to blow from south rather than east. The wind was strong, the sails fat and the ship cut then surface with speed that it had no rights to achieve because of it's ridiculous size and lack of fusion core powered engine. Still it defied logic and sped on.

It was the second day on the ship and she had learned, that cleaning after four horses and one pony on a ship was not light work. She had to scoop their droppings in a tight wowed basket and then carry them up to the main deck and haul them over the railing into the sea. Each stall needed to be cleaned three times a day and cleaning each stall took at least four trips to the deck to clean it properly. She had just finished her morning shift and was airing out at the forecastle deck. She smoked her pipe in solitude, having figured out how the sailors light their pipes. Or more like, one of the sailors had noticed her cursing with her pipe on the deck at the morning and showed her how it was done. They carried with them a small pouch of sticks, like she did,but their sticks other end was dipped in lantern oil. There was one lantern burning above the trap door to the lower decks at all times and they would lit their improvise match there. The oil was some kind of super-oil, because the wind had to be pretty strong before it blow the little fire out and she was able to lit another stick from the pipes embers. 

Which, of course, led her chain smoking three pipe fulls at one go.

The sailors were all men and looked like cleaned up version of every pirate movie she had ever seen. And acted like it. They glared at the nobles and the merchants that strolled around the deck with their wives, and shouted rowdy remarks to their servants. It didn't come as a surprise that they were elves. The women pretended that they didn't hear their catcalls, but Lelou could see their shoulders tense just a little, as they rushed after their patrons, who didn't seem to care nor mind their servants being harassed.

"Noble" my ass... 

She saw Evelyn and Cassandra with the nobles, no doubt fishing allies to the Inquisition. She might not have grown up in this medieval time period herself, but she knew how politics in this rustic age worked.

Exactly the same way as in modern world; money meant power and that's that.

She knocked her pipe empty and made her way back to the horses, not wanting to talk to anyone. Sailing in sea where you didn't have much to do wasn't her cup of tea. It left her too much time to think. Granted, she had lots to think about. Like the invisible world where every sentient being was mentally connected to each other. Or not perhaps straightly connected, but still...

Minds -conscious if having magic- sharing one defined area. Like when she and Nick shared Kellogg's memories in the memory den, but in much larger scale. Like in the size of a world scale. She couldn't be absolutely sure that it was adequate comparison, but it was the closest her mind could scramble up. And at this point she was truly scrambling. 

But it wasn't only the confusing aspect of two overlapping worlds that made her restless and aching for something to do. Memories she tried not to think haunted her thoughts and the cheer insanity of her own life started to whisper in her ears.

The fear off never being able to get back home and make things right.

Don't think about it. There's not a damn thing you can do about it now. Just...focus on the day you live. One day at a time. I'm going to get back. Has there ever been a situation where I didn't come on top?

She nodded to herself and went to the equipment crate. There was no point on dwelling in things she could not understand on her own. She would talk to Solas later. She hadn't felt fear in a long time, and she wasn't going to waist her energy on fearing for things that hadn't yet happened. She took a brush from the crate. She might not have too much to do, but she could pamper her charges. She went to Ares first, starting to brush the stallion. It was strong and hot blooded beast,  but surprisingly calm seeing how it hadn't had any exercise in the whole day. Apollo wasn't fairing as well as the older warhorse. It restlessly scrabbled the peat bedding of it's stall when she came to it, wanting to move. Had they been in Haven, one of the stable hands, Otto, would have taken him for a ride around the lake by now.

"Yeah it sucks, I know. But this is just the second day. There's still two more to go, so you have to bare it." she said to it, paying extra attention to it's head. She had made it a habit to talk in Common at all times and by now she didn't have to remind herself to do it. Paidia was all in for the pampering and constantly hummed to her, expressing how happy she was for both the company and the brushing. She was the most social of her charges and Lelou had put her hammock straight before it's stall so it could see her. Eleos was the embodiment of patience, standing calmly on her stall, humming to her as she started to work on her mane. Lelou decided, that if they got into storm and the ship was going to sink, she would first save the old girl. The draft would probably keep it's cool and just swim through the chaos, until it reached the shore. She had finished the tail and moved to brush her fur when several footsteps approached. 

"I have heard lot of Master Dennet's horses. It's said they are the best of Ferelden. King Alistair himself bought his last stock in full when the Horsemaster retired. I was on the auction then. Sadly, I couldn't compete against the throne." Lelou stilled for a moment and then suppressed a sigh. Of course the nobles would want to see the fabled horsemasters horses. They were valuable creatures and to these rich people valuable creatures were trophies which to boast to one another. She risked a peek to the front end of the stall row. Evelyn and Cassandra stood next to Ares stall. A man in tight fitted blue, gold embroidered coat and golden mask was patting the horses head. 

"What a magnificent looking creatures." he said, his accent so heavy, Lelou had to strain her hearing to understand it. The lady next to him was dressed in purple dress and a creepy white mask that belonged into Halloween party, rather than to be wore with a pretty dress. Behind them loomed two servants, dressed in pale blue and brown, with practical design. Man and a woman and elves, as it seemed to be the standard here. Lelou snorted to herself. The incident at the tavern two days pass told her what to expect from these Orlaisinas. In Ferelden, elves were scorned openly. In Orlais it would be the same, only the people oppressing them would do it "elegantly". Like it would make it more acceptable. 

She tuned out their conversation and brushed Eleos thoroughly, waiting them to make their round so she could be in solitude. The group fawned over Paidia, as the pony happily neighed them and the lady -Verchin?- offered to buy her. 

"I am sorry, my Lady, but Master Tethras would be most cross with me if i went and sold his trusty steed." Evelyn said to the woman. 

"Oh, we can't have that! I would not have my favorite author to be upset because of me." the Lady Verchin giggled.

"Certainly not. And frankly, my dear, if we were to put our moneys on requiring a horse from Master Dennet's stocks, I would prefer we turn our heads to the riding horses, not novelty pets." the Lord said. Lelou frowned. She had been warned that some nobles and rich merchants could offer to by some of the horses, most likely Ares or Apollo and Dennet had left her with clear instructions. The horses were not for sale. He had used much more colorful terms, but the idea was the same. The Lord didn't beat around the bushes with his intentions and made his offer. 

"If your Worship would be willing to part with this beautiful stallion, I would happily pay you thousand royals from it." 

Yep, not beating around at all. 

"That is the most generous offer, my Lord. But I'm afraid I will need the horse myself." 

"Of course. I did not mean it should be parted from you, merely that it's ownership and breeding rights would be officially in my names." Lelou perked up to listen. This was not just mere suggesting, this was a real offer. 

"I.."

"Please, your Worship, hear me out. The Inquisition you represent, is in need of financial support. I know, Lady Montilyet contacted me couple weeks ago concerning the matter. I wasn't entirely sure, if it would be beneficial for me to get involved with the organization that was officially denounced by the Chantry, but I understand the cause to be great enough to risk the disapproval of my fellow Andrastians. It could only help to prove that the risk is worth for me to take." 

Wow. This guy doesn't know what the word " subtle" means. He must really want one of  Dennet's horses. Too bad for him.

"One thousand royals is not enough." Lelou pipes up, stepping out of Eleos stall. 

"To even offer that low sum, I'd say you're not really intending to buy. Not that it matters. These horses are not for sale." her appearance causes a slight surprise, that is quickly turned into an introduction by Evelyn.

"Pardon, your Lordship. This is Lelou, our Handler. She's in charge of the horses as well as anything that involves them. If you have desire to purchase one of Dennets horses, you can discuss the details with her." Lelou had to hand it to the girl. Evelyn might be young and naive sometimes, but she was fast to adjust to new situations. Not wanting to make the young woman look incompetent, she nodded to the nobleman politely. There was no horses to be sold, but she could play around the subject enough for keep the illusion of possible purchase. 

"Indeed. I have been instructed by the Horsemaster himself, regarding sales. Had Master Dennet heard your offer right now, he would have refused to even open negotiations, thinking it as an insult." that was a polished way of describing how the stoic men would have shot him down with a serious "No". There was no going forth when Dennet said no. 

Lord Verchin wasn't put off by her words, instead bowing to her politely.

"Then I must apologize and say to my defense, that I have no knowledge of what Ferelden bread horses cost, having only ever owned Orlaisians. A thousand royals is decent offer of Imperial Courser."

"A thousand and two hundred, to be exact." Lelou put in.

"Yes, providing the horse is a warhorse and already tested on battlefield. In my understanding, this white stallion is rather young."

"It is. But it is tested."

"Then would twelve hundred be sufficient?"

"The prize is thirteen hundred for Apollo." Lelou said, keeping her tone even and business like. Lord Verchin peered at her behind his mask.

"What about this grey one?" 

"Ares. The prize tag goes to fifteen hundred." Now the man seems to be amused.

"I have heard that Master Dennet's horses are expensive, but I must say, I expected them to be a little pricier." 

"You are only asking after the warhorses. The working horses are the expensive once." Lelou nodded her head towards the stall next to her.

"Eleos here has a prize tag set to two thousands royals. The two drafts that were with us at the beginning of our journey, are three thousands each." Evelyn and Cassandra both glanced the draft, but didn't otherwise show their surprise. Lord and Lady Verchin both looked skeptical. 

"Surely you exaggerate! No draft horse in Orlaise is that expensive." the Lady speaks in that high pitched voice, that seemed to come with luxuries. 

"That I don't doubt. Master Dennet breeds strong and healthy horses. They are his life's work and purpose. It is to be expected that they are expensive. And he will personally choose the people who he sells them." that she didn't know, but it gave her a convenient way out of this conversation without insulting anybody. She offered an apologetic smile to the man.

"And as that is the case, I'm afraid I can't be of any assistance on regarding purchase. If you truly wish to buy, I suggest you visit the Horsemaster in person." Lord Verchin regarded her for a moment and then nodded. 

"I must say, Handler, you have peaked my curiosity. Perhaps we do travel to Haven in the near future." while he talked, he turned to look at Evelyn nodding to her, like agreeing something. The young woman returned the gesture and exchanged looks with Cassandra, who seemed pleased. Apparently, Lelou had managed to help them on something involving the Orlaisian nobles visiting Haven. 

Luring him in Haven to our Lady Ambassadors tea parties, where every Noble realizes, that they just had to be part of the heretic group...assuming the rumors of Inquisitions Ambassadors inescapable political webs were true.

"And what about this one? It seems to be rather thin to be a draft or a warhorse." Lady Verchin's high pitched voice came behind her and Lelou had but a second to push the woman to safe distance. The lady shrieked when the devil in horse skin bit the air on the spot where the woman's shoulder had been a moment ago.

"That would be Bastard. Currently priceless." Lelou said stepping calmly between the horse and the woman. Bastard glared at her, like she had stolen his favorite toy and flattened it's ears to her. Lelou willed her command to it without words, trying to pacify the fast heating horse.

Dogs are so much easier. Stupid deathclaw-horse. 

She was fully prepared when the stallion reared up, trying to intimidate her-not wanting to obey.

She was not prepared for the whip.

 

Chapter Text

Solas sighed deep, feeling the burden of the waking world lifting off from his shoulders as he opened his eyes in the Fade. After having breakfast, he had secluded himself in the cabin, claiming that he didn't feel too well and went back to sleep.

This particular sea route was calm and uneventful, and because the Fade reflected the waking world, it was still and calm in this part of the world. There were no demons or spirits here, just few curious wisps. The wisps floated closer to him, drawn in by his magic when he extricated it from the tight hold he kept it. There was no need to keep it small and hidden in this empty part of the Fade. He drew forth the new memories he had gained last night to replicate a scene from Lelous dream. He didn't need to cast spells or do much anything to manifest the images from his mind, he simply remember what he wanted to see and then release his magic to the Fade, letting the ambient magical energies, the very foundation of Fade itself, entwine with his own magic. The two magics combined and the figures of his memories manifested. Soon he stood in the wrecked little bar, the pungent smell of unwashed bodies and tobacco assaulting his nose. He did not change it, didn't change anything. It wasn't his memory originally, nor his dream, and because of that, he did not go changing them. He already assaulted the integrity of her mind by spying on her, he would not change it for his convenience.

The scene he had chosen, was the moment when the strange man -Nick- came to the table. The man, if one could call it a man, stood before the seat, faded beige coat folded on his arm. His face was stoic, the skin looked dead and looking closer, Solas saw that the eyes were made of some kind of glass. The only color in them was the unnatural shining yellow irises circling around black pupils, the white of his eyes was the same moldy grey as his skin. He peered into the hole of the neck, watched the parts that were imitating spine. There were cords, lined inside of the metal frame. Green, yellow and red. He tilted his head, wondering what they were and why were they colored? Specific colors mean codes. Lelou remembered this kind of detail, so it had some importance.

Solas circled the man, observing it from every angle. He had never been too interested in technology of any kind, never thought he would need that knowledge. But now he wished he had listened June's endless droning about machines and trinkets he liked to invent. It could shed some light to this Nick creature. It was made - that he did not doubt- to look like a human, and what he had seen, it acted like a human. But how? If Lelous claim that there was no magic in her homeland was true, he had no explanation on how this machine worked.

Solas kept walking around the metal man, marveling this bizarre construction.

Construction? Or was it a human? Or spirit possessed vessel of sort? It talked and acted like a thinking and feeling being. Even with that expressionless face, he was more human like than the tranquil's, being able to speak with great emotions, unlike those mutilated mages.

The interaction between this Nick and Lelou had been intense, and it had responded to Lelou's emotions with emotions. How? How could it, if it was a machine?

Or was it a twist of Lelou's mind? Did she imagine this being to respond to her like that, when it reality didn't posses the capability of feeling? It seemed to be some kind of sentient being, perhaps some other kind of magic... 

He stopped and shook his head to himself. He constantly caught himself thinking that magic was involved, for everything could be explained with it. He could not rule it out, it was possible that the Veil was thicker in Lelou's homeland and magic worked differently there. The only thing speaking against magics involvement was Lelou herself. But the woman had metal covering her bones, and that he could not explain anymore than this moving and talking constructed man.

He turned to look at the woman.

She sat there on the seat that's red cushions was faded and ripped, wearing a blood red dress that would scandalize nations. Her hand was frozen in the motion of holding a stained glass to her lips, watching straight to his eyes over the rim.

He moved to stand next to her and her eyes stayed still, staring the metal man over the glass. 

Did you know your eyes have the colors of the sunset, Doll?

Lelou presented a mystery after another, and last night he had witnessed a rare phenomenon. Her memories were so strong that they overlapped. It required strong feelings to happen and he hadn't seen it happening since the day he created the Veil.

It was devastating to see what his creation did to his People, how they succumbed to the flow of time and died away, their offspring's becoming less and less each time he became aware enough to wander outside his sanctuary into the Fade, their greatness and talents lost to the ages. There were only memories buried deep in the Fade, that held the feel of his reality in them when experienced, and the few Dreamers he encountered were but a novices in the fine craft of Dream Walking, fumbling with the intense connection they had with the Fade. Often they didn't know how to conceal their magic and it drew demons to them with fatal consequences. Those who did know how to do it were forceful and crude in their methods. They called themselves somniari. Solas steered clear from them.

And then this woman -this human- who didn't know what magic or Fade were, and didn't remember her own dreams, dreamed like a Dreamer. Relived her memories in such clarity that even he could feel them.

It was...confusing.

For this being- this human woman-who was nearly as distance as a tranquil in the waking world, to be able to feel so strongly. To feel so real in the Fade. It rattled him more than he cared to admit.

His gaze traveled from her face to her lap, where the beast he had inhabited laid.

It had no muzzle nor fur. It looked like a dog that had been flayed, the shape of the canines skull bare to see. Sickly dark skin covered the bony body, talon like claws dug into the pale skin on Lelou's thigh, a drop of blood running down the light skin. A red scarf had been tied around it's neck, black letters were written on the fabric and thou he wasn't sure, he guessed it said "Blitz". It's toxic green eyes had no pupils, and they were trained towards the metal man.

It looked hideous. A monster in the nightmares. Still the hand on it's neck touched it with fondness, her voice was soft from affection when she spoke to him.

He could remember that touch. The way her hand pressed on the base of his neck, fingers spread wide to cover more skin. The pressure when she closed them either side of his spine and squeezed...

It's. Not mine. 

Suddenly the Fade stirred around him and he came aware of the sounds his bodies ears were hearing. Someone was knocking on the door. 

He woke up, opening his eyes.

"Who is it?" there was a bite in his tone and he frowned displeased, both for the interruption and his own tone, but he really would have wanted to be left alone now. 

"Your roommate. Nice for you to lock the door and have the only key, Chuckles. Get up! We need your help." Varrics voice was jovial, but had a certain undertone Solas had learned to mean there was something troubling the dwarf. He swiftly got up and took his staff. 

"What is the matter?" 

"Small chaos below the deck. You can leave your staff, unless you need it to use healing magic?"

Solas put his staff away. 

"Let me guess; there is a bad tempered horse involved."

Varric snorted starting to walk towards the cargo area.

"That and two pissed off nobles, one injured servant, an angry Seeker and money demanding ship Captain, plus one Herald who tries to calm everyone down." Solas frowned, lengthening his steps a bit. 

"And our Handler?"

"Our Handler has that scary calm look on her that says; Stab me and see how impressed I am."

They came to the cargo area where the animals were kept. Nothing seemed too out of order at first, but then Solas noticed the pieces of splintered wood at the back of the stall row. Lelou was crouched down before one of the stall, tying a rope on the wooden beam. He took a step towards her, then noticed the small crowd closer the door at the side. Evelyn spotted him and weaved him over and he redirected his steps. 

"Solas. I'm sorry to force you up when you're not feeling well, but we could really use your help" the young noble was all polite and noble like in her speech, setting the stage for him and telling him the underlying crisis. These were nobles their Ambassador was fishing to support the Inquisition. Gaining their alliance was important so Solas plastered a meek, polite expression on his face and made a little bow, as expected of non-human companion. 

"Of course, Herald. Tell me what happened and how I may assist?"

Evelyn nodded him discreetly, thanking him for playing along. She told him how they had been strolling leisurely on the deck, and decided to came down to show their horses to the Lord and Lady Verchin. The Lord was having a conversation with their Handler, when Bastard had almost bit his wife. His manservant had tried to help to restrain the beast, hitting it with a whip when it had reared up to get it back off from their Handler and his mistress, Lady Verchin. Instead of backing off, the stallion had lunged after him, breaking the stalls gate and knocking the two women on the floor. It had managed to stomp on the unfortunate elf, before Lelou had regained control over the insane horse. The immediate danger was now passed and since the Lady hadn't come into any harm, Solas healing the servant would suffice as compensation for the scare they had experienced. It wouldn't do if their servant's couldn't carry on on their duties the rest of the journey.

All this was told to him in properly horrified wordings, the nobles nodding regally to him, confirming that they agreed on what the Herald said. Now Evelyn needed to come to some sort of agreement with the ships Captain, since the horses tantrum had caused damage to his ship.

Solas was directed to the unfortunate elf, sitting on a crate. The man was pale, blond hair running loose from the braid, clinging on his skin that was clammy from sweat. He was cradling his left arm in his lap. The man was like any other who wasn't used to magic and looked at him with fear and uneasiness. He calmly explained, what he was going to do before starting to examine the injury. Pale blue eyes watched him nervously all the time, but when Solas started to mend the bruises and the bone, his stressed expression eased with the lessening of the pain.

Evelyn retreated to the Captains cabin with the Captain and Verchins (their other servant trailing after them). Cassandra stayed in the lower deck. Most likely to ease the nobles mind on having a mage using his magic on their servant. She was a Seeker after all, sworn to protect mankind from the evils of demons and such. Varric stayed too, chatting to the man Solas was healing, to ease the poor mans mind. 

He was almost finished, when a shadow blocked the dim light of the small windows that weren't closed.

"How bad?" Lelou asked, coming to stand next to him. 

"Broken arm. I'm almost finished." Solas pushed last of the needed magic to the arm and straightened up.

"There. It is fully healed now. I imagine your employers want to have confirmation on the work done." 

The servant looked at the mage and nodded. Lelou offered her hand to the man. 

"Thank you, serah. You saved me from that monster." the blond said as he took the offered hand, letting her to pull himself up, seemingly at ease on addressing a fellow servant, even thou she was a human. 

"You are welcome. As a thank you, I ask you to stay away from here the rest of the journey." Lelou said in that calm and collected tone of hers, her eyes had a cold and unmoved look in them. The man blinked, unsure if she was asking or demanding. 

"I...."

"Never hit a horse. In fact, never hit any animal. Your whip cost me weeks worth of work with Bastard." 

An angry flush crept to the servant's neck and ears. He straightened his clothes and back, looking at her with resentment in his eyes. Solas reminded himself that the Orlasian born elves were more like the humans in Orlais, keenly aware of their own position and able to gain some power in the society, if they were clever enough. This man was a nobles manservant and by the way he acted, he had some standing in the household. 

The lady's lover, perhaps?

"I'm supposed to stand by and watch when my Mistress gets attacked by a crazy horse." 

Definitely the lady's lover.

Solas kept his expression nonchalant, disapproval twisting his guts. These elves were not like the People, their dalliance with the humans something no true elf would willingly submit themselves to. The Handler looked the man up and down, taking in his changed posture. She humphed, a mockery sound.

"Yes. That is what you are supposed to do, if the other option is for you to ruin my work. Stay away from my horses." she said and turned to leave, then stopped and looked at the angry elf.

"See that you're mistress stays away too." she said coldly and walked away.

The blond elf flinched, then quickly glanced around himself. Cassandra was stoic and clearly pretended she hadn't heard anything, Varric looked at the Handler like she had done something she's not supposed to and Solas watched the servant with mild interest. Thou it was common knowledge that Orlaisians had elves as lovers (their Empress had one) it was still a social taboo and spoken only in whispers. Being called out like that was dangerous, for the noble had their reputation to look after and the elf was usually the one paying the price, if and when the human patron was trying to save face. The blond man quickly excused himself and left. 

As soon as he did, Solas went after Lelou.

She had gone back to the horses, taking a broom and started to sweep the floor, her brow furrowed. The last stall had no gate anymore, but a rope tied to act like one. He wasn't surprised to find Eleos standing there. Bastard was in the stall next to it and Paidia in the one following. The perky pony greeted him with soft neigh and he scratched it's head and then swiftly moved away from the stalls when Bastard lifted it's head over the gate, glaring at him.

"Are you hurt?" he asked keeping a safe distance from the dark horse. Lelou swept the pits and splinters into a neat pile, then into a knapsack to be carried away later. 

"Hit my head. I think. Maybe it kicked me, running over me. Don't know...I think I'm going to throw up." she put the broom away and grimaced, her hands rising up to touch the back of her head. Solas looked around, found that they were alone and gestured towards the crates low enough to be seated easily. 

"Sounds like head injury. Sit down there and tell me where it hurts. Assuming you are hurting." she flopped to sit on a crate. 

"Everywhere..."she sighed opening and closing her fists, like trying to get blood flowing in numb fingers. 

"Everywhere?"

"What?..no...my head." Solas observed her for a moment, sitting there, head cradled in her hands and then sitting up straight, cracking her neck, only to tense up again in the next moment. After a minute or so she looked at him, her eyes narrowed. 

Intense pain in the head. 

"How...how does healing magic work?" Solas had expected a snarky comment about staring and not healing, not a question about magics functions.

"Magical energy mends the body as the body would naturally do in time."

"So it speeds up the pro-process?"

"Yes."

"Okay. That is what the magic does. What do you do, to make it happen?" 

So curious. 

"Healing magic can work in two ways. It can be cast to restore energy on the whole body at once, to heal every little scratch the target has. It is fast to cast and doesn't need much concentration. The downside in that way is, that the spells effect will be divided with every injury and it might leave more serious traumas only half healed. It is therefore insufficient to heal serious traumas." Solas explained and walked to stand behind her, searching for a visible injury. 

Ah, there.

The skin on her neck was red, where blood had been smeared and dried. He carefully moved her hair to find the wound. The skin had broke a little, hens the blood, but the bump was not a small thing. She had definitely received a hit to her head, the curved shape of the bump reveling it to be a kick. He didn't say anything about it, directing his magic into the skull.

"What I am going to do now, is precise healing. It requires more time and effort and I need to see the injury, so I can direct my magic in the area that needs healing. This way allows me to conserve my mana reserve, making me able to heal multiple injuries."

"You said you need to see the injury. Last I checked, bones are considered to be inside the body. How can you see them?" she looked at him over her shoulder, and the guarded expression in her eyes reminded him of the way she had looked at Nick in her dream. 

"I don't exactly see them, but my magic enables me to sense the nature of the injury. Fractured bone and bleeding tissues have certain feel in them. Every healer must learn to recognize the sings." 

"Okay...so how do you do it? Heal the internal injuries without seeing them?"

"I need at least rough idea as to where to look for. For example, if I am to heal a shattered bone, I can find it by both feeling it with my hands and seeing the outside signs as non-magic healers would. Then I will be able to direct my magic precisely to the injury. Bones that are much deeper in the flesh, I have to use more magic in larger area. Other internal traumas are much the same. The key is to have lots of experience in different kind of injuries." he explained prodding her skull around the lump. She made barely a sound, but he could feel her growing very still. 

There's no fracture in the skull. Why does she feel pain now, and not when she was injured on the hip bone?

"You got a nasty bump on your head. Sit still, please." not waiting for her to speak, he did what he had described and directed his magic to her head. What he found there, made him both horrified and extremely curious.

There was some sort of object inside of her skull, near the impact area. It was the size of a bean and three little spikes reached to the core of her brain. They were sparkling with electricity and the impulses spread everywhere in her brain in irregular pulses. There was slight bleeding around the object, but her fast regeneration ability was already dealing it. He observed the healing process until it was done. 

So fast.

He directed his attention back to the foreign object. There didn't seem to be any kind of sings on how it had gotten inside of her, not unlike the metal covering her bones. This object too seemed to be composed of some sort of metal, as well as some other materials he could not recognize. He carefully pushed his magic into it, trying to understand it's purpose and why it send electricity pulses into her brain. There was something...something he did not quite grasp. He gathered more magic and focused, unaware that his eyes started to glow blue. 

It...it's broken.

In other circumstances, if he found an unknown object inside someone brains and the person was still alive, he would leave the thing alone, but with this particular enigmatic woman, he was simply too curious for not to attempt to fix it. He gathered his magic and very carefully and slowly channeled it inside the object. The magic filled the tiny thing and mended the distorted parts. The impulses seized and an ambient hum replaced it, and in few moments, even it stopped. He could feel the thing pulsing in sync with her heartbeats, but otherwise it didn't react.

Whatever it was, it didn't seem to be broken anymore.

A weight in his hands pulled him back to the present. He looked down and found pair of hazel-blue eyes watching him. Lelous head weighted his hands. 

"You alright?" she asked. Solas was confused. 

"I...believe I'm supposed to ask that."

"I'm perfectly fine now, thanks to you, but the last time you healed me, your eyes didn't glow like that." she said calmly, her head still cradled in his hands. 

"So, are you alright?"

Solas stepped backwards, suddenly very aware of the feel of her hair between his fingers. 

"Yes. A head trauma is always tricky to heal. I had to use more magic than I anticipated. Sometimes there may be visual effects." visual effects yes, as in glowing hands as the magic flows into the patient, not glowing eyes like when a spirit worked through the mage. In his case there was no spirit helping him, the Fade simply was a part of him, like his physical body was part of the physical world.

Lelou stood, turning so her eyes never left him. The intensity of her gaze made him wary, unease. Then she nodded and the sharp look was gone. 

"Thank you, Solas, for healing me again." he nodded to her in kind.

"You are welcome." she then takes her pipe and points towards the stairs to the upper deck.

"Join me for a smoke? I would like to continue our dis-discussion about the Fade and magic."

Solas kept his eagerness in check, as he moved to walk beside her. 

"Of course. What would you like to discuss?"

"Dreams."

Chapter Text

She had suspected for a while that her pain inhibitor was malfunctioning, seeing how randomly she felt pain. Most days, when her evil deathclaw-in-disguise chomped on her shoulder, or crammed her against a stall wall, she felt the pressure and the general feel of a touch, but not an actual pain. The times she had felt the biting had gradually increased. Then happened the incident with the knife. It hadn't hurt at first, the pain came just before she pulled it off, and then it had vanished. Getting kicked on the road did hurt, a lot, and that pain roller coaster had not stopped before Solas had healed her hip. Then came this latest kick to the back of her head, where the device was closest to the protective bone of her skull, and if she had suspected the device was broken, now she knew it was. 

Virgil and Madison had told her, that it's self powering system was made of synthetic-organic components, so her enhanced healing mechanism could repair them, keeping it functioning inside her without any need to maintain it from the outside. That didn't mean it was completely self-repairing, the device itself was still made of metal and plastic parts that protected the tiny little circuits, that did all the work. Those parts had gone haywire and she guessed the culprit was the same blast that got her here in the first place, and they needed an arsenal of surgeons and high-tech equipment, if maintenance was needed. 

Turned out, that Solas magic was as good at fixing her up as the required arsenal of surgeons with their high-tech equipment's would have been.

Apparently magic is qualified to perform a difficult brain "surgery" as an highly educated and trained Institute bio-scientist would be. Minus the ability nor the need to actually see the operated area. Well, it is magic after all. Lucky me, I can imagine what this medieval world would do to me with all the mutations and metal skeleton. They would think I'm some kind of a freak or a monster perhaps. Would they behead me? Probably. Except, technically I can't be beheaded. Burned me on the stake? That would be a slow death.

She was aware that her mind drifted like she was riding on an after current of Med-X. The feeling of his magic moving inside her head was both bizarre and slightly euphoric sensation. She had been without any kind of "relief", other than her smoking for months now, and her body seemed to jump to the opportunity to ride this small weave of dopamine. It's center was in her head and didn't grow in proportion, but smaller, gentle sensations traveled down her shoulders to her arms, making them limp. They came in sync with her pulse, drifting slowly down her spine, making her muscles ease and her legs feel like jelly. Her whole body started to relax and she sagged from that rigid pose the migraine had forced her in. Along her body, her mind too muddled in enjoyable way. The fingers curling around her skull added pressure when she sank deeper, and she really wanted to lean on him and just enjoy the feels.

Better ask him if it's okay. He's not very cuddly...I think. Bah, everyone's cuddly.

She was just about to do just that, but glanced up, just in case, to see if he gets really offended. That sobers her up fast.

His eyes were glowing!

Lelou stilled completely, stopped even breathing in face of this unknown situation. She stared at the eerily glowing eyes. They were half lidded, making the glow that more disturbing and enigmatic. His face had a distant expression on them, his brow knitted in deep frown, making the lines on the corner of his eyes more prominent. Zeroing her gaze to the healers eyes, she saw them morphed completely, like there were two blue orbs in his eye sockets in place of an actual eyes. Slowly swirling orbs, that reminded her of the Mean Green Vortex up in the sky over Haven. She contemplated whether she should disturb him, but quickly decided against it. He had said he was going to heal her, and since the pain had gone she assumed he was doing just that and let him be. 

She sat still, head bend backwards, supported by long fingers cradling her head. His hands were large and undoubtedly strong, seeing how effortlessly he was able to swing the heavy staff on the battle field. Like it weighed nothing. She relaxed a little, easing more of her heads weight to his hold, watching closely if he reacts to the pressure. He did, but only to accommodate the added weight, carrying her head fully. After few moments, when Solas still didn't stop whatever he was doing, Lelou relaxed settling to wait him to finish, and since she didn't have any issues of Guns&Bullets in her pockets, she settled to watch Solas. 

He had an interesting face.

It was that kind of a face that seemed plain and unremarkable in the first few glances. Pleasant for sure, but fast forgotten. But if one stick around for a while and came face to face with the calm and unassuming man, they started to notice his distinctive features. High cheekbones, not too pronounce but enough to give him a sharp look, straight symmetric nose and sculpted chin. Lelou especially noticed the jawline, the small dip where the bone ended near the pulse point under the ears. He was a handsome man, not in the tall, dark and tough way. More like tall, smooth and shrewd.

Smooth...hehe...does he shave? Or is it like alopecia? Can I ask that?....shit...I'm really dripping. 

She felt the fingers around her skull to twitch and focused to look at the man. For a second Solas just stood there, looking down on her, distracted look in his eyes.

"You alright?" Lelou was secretly proud of her calm tone and overall performance just then, when she really just wanted to lean back on him and sigh from relief. It had been ages since she last felt this kind of a ride going through her system. Solas looked at her confused, still not quite himself. His fingers moved ever so slightly, caressing her scalp. She was pretty sure he didn't notice it himself. 

"I...believe I'm supposed to ask that." 

Okay. He's back to normal. Or whatever is "normal" in this world. 

"I'm perfectly fine now, thanks to you, but the last time you healed me, your eyes didn't glow like that." Again, she applauded herself for keeping it together. Getting a miniature scalp massage didn't help her near euphoric internal state thou. 

"So, are you alright?" the rational side of her, that never slept demanded to know. The fingers stopped, pulling away and she admitted she missed the contact. He stepped away from her and she turned to follow with her eyes. 

"Yes. A head trauma is always tricky to heal. I had to use more magic than I anticipated. Sometimes there may be visual effects."

She really didn't have any grounds to question him, nor any reason to doubt his words, so she hauled herself up to her feet, keeping her eyes on his. They didn't glow anymore, having resumed to their original storm blue color. 

Storm clouds. So unnoticeable color until you really look. Really, it's like an inborn camouflage, this whole...I mean his whole physic. 

She was aware of her own growing lack of inhibitions and staring at the previously glowing eyes did not help her regain her inner self-control. So she started to pad her pockets, looking for her smoking equipment's. 

"Thank you, Solas, for healing me again." 

"You are welcome." she finds her pipe and points towards the trap door.

"Join me for a smoke? I would like to continue our dis-discussion about the Fade and magic."

Solas steps aside her easily, seemingly not having anything more pressing to do. 

Like there is much to do in this ship. Well I do. But not now. And the sailors are constantly working and...okay...focus.

"Of course. What would you like to discuss?"

"Dreams." That's pretty much the only thing that come to her mind. Other than magic tripping, and that is something she's not going to say out loud. Plus, he likes to talk about magic things so she can just listen and keep her tongue on check. He gives her a small hint of a smile, before stepping to the stairs. 

"Again, such an complicated subject." 

"That's a given isn't it. There's no simple things about Fade, right?"

He holds the trap door open for her, turning to stand aside so he could close it after her. She steps on the last two steps and doesn't think her actions, her hand automatically taking a hold of his arm to support herself.

He goes very still. Lelou notices it and then the way he looks at her hand on his arm. It takes a split second for her to figure out his stoic demeanor. 

"Oh. Right. Sorry." she snorts and releases the hold, standing firmly on the deck, letting him close the trap door.

"I hope I didn't offend you." she can't quite keep the sarcasm from her tone, and it isn't surprising at all that the quick-witted man catches it. 

"From your tone, I would assume it to be the other way around." Solas quickly retorts, his tone and the look he gives her almost... eager? She damn near rolled her eyes at that. 

"No. I am not offended. Irritated, yes, but not offended."

"By me?"

"At the moment." 

He looks genuinely curious, his hand going behind his back in his customary pose, torso slightly tilting forward, emphasizing his curiosity.

"Why?" he asks. Lelou huffs and then sighs, her irritation apparent now. The effect of the brain healing started to wear off, and her mood started to sour. It was annoying to be reminded of the artificial bliss she had no means to get now, and it prompted her to voice her thoughs. 

"Back at home, it was customary for men to offer their hand to a women for support in this kind of situation. It's considered good manners. Here thou, me just touching you, makes you still like a I'm holding a knife on your throat." She shakes her head to the stupidity of it and puts the pipe to her lips. Solas cups his hands over the chamber, lighting it for her. 

"It is customary here too, but not between humans and elves." he says, retreating his hands. Lelou takes a lungful in her, blowing the smoke out with long sigh. 

"I know. That's the irritating part. I end up offending people and get looks that are less than pleasant, like I just said something really inpro-inapropiated."

"Inappropriate." Soals corrected " And since it is common practice in your culture, you end up laying your hand on unsuspecting elven men." 

"Aye, Telahn freaked out the first time I did something like this, thought I wanted to fuck him. How sick is that?! To just touching someones, can only mean one thing, and if he refuses, he can be forced to it or something?!" she mutters taking a hit after another from her pipe, turning to look at Solas. The man seems to be calm and collected as ever, only small frown gives away that he is not comfortable with the subject. 

"This Telahn. Did he tell you that the assumptions can go both ways?" he sounded a little hesitant to say it and Lelous irritation only grow from it. She was suddenly full of this tip toying around the subject and the general racism of the local culture. She had to look away from the man, so she wouldn't direct her wrath on him. 

"Yeah, like I give a flying shit if I'm labelled as elf fucking whore, as the those shitheads in the tavern liked to call me. What? You thought I didn't know what ticked them to attack me? I did. I also did noticed the way you looked around the campsite, before inviting me in your tent to be healed. Seriously, like would you have stripped me down and healed me there before an fucking audience rather than in privacy, if the whole camp was awake?" at some point she did turn to look at the man, who seemed practically stupefied of her sudden rant. She instantly realizes that she was more inhibited than she originally thought she was. 

Really now...one nice rush and I'm acting like a junkie in withdrawals once it's over. 

She back pedaled, trying to figure out what to say to save the situation. 

"I...I'm sorry. I shouldn't have lashed out to you like that." 

Solas lifted his hand to stop her, his expression serious, but his eyes looked at her with understanding. 

"Don't apologize. I understand your blight in this matter. You come from a culture that values equality, something that is sorely lacking here." he bows his head a little, like in shame, and she can't help but notice how tall he is. Lot taller than any other elf she has seen.

"I admit that for the..cultural reasons, I did take note on who was awake in the camp before letting you in my tent. I did not mean to offend you then." then he actually looked at her straight in the eyes. "But I most certainly would not have treated you before an audience." 

For a minute she just stares at him, little lost of words. He has that whole dignified air around him, and that too makes him distinct from the other elves she has met by now. Then she offers her pipe towards him as in peace offering. 

"I still shouldn't talk to you like that. It is terrible rude." she says. Solas accepts the pipe. 

"As I said, I understand." he says taking couple hits." Thou I must admit, I was a bit taken aback of your language. I don't believe I have heard you swearing like that before." 

"That's because I don't usually curse. The words loose their gravity if used too much." she says taking the pipe back. The tension starts to ease up." And I didn't know any curse words in this language. I do now, courtesy of Telahn, once he found out about it. We literally spend an full hour on practicing the proper pronouncing of 'fuck' and ' shit'" Solas snorts at that and shakes his head a little, with that, the air between them cleanses and she feels relieved. She really liked the companionship he provided in this crazy place, even thou he was the most abnormal person she had encountered here because of his magic. 

"A man named Telahn spend an hour cursing." he seemed to be amused by it so she naturally asked why. He gives her amused look. 

"His name, Telahn, means 'without voice'" 

"It does?" Lelou instantly knew, that the horse handler had kept this bit of information deliberately to himself. "Oo, I'm so going to mess with that."

Solas didn't seem to disapprove her musing, he had seen the dark haired elf send her of with mocking and comely fashion, and probably guessed by their interaction that they were in friendly terms. She turns to look at him curious. 

"Does everyones name mean something then?" 

"I don't know about other cultures, but elven names usually do. The names identifies the person carrying it, or a major aspect of their personality." Lelou muses in the revelation of her 'tutors' name for a minute. 

"Then your name also means something?"

"Solas is an elven word for "pride' or 'ego'" 

"Pride, huh? It suits you." 

"You think so?" he sounds a bit skeptical.

"Well you don't grovel before anyone, not what I have seen." her take on of his name seems both surprise and please him. 

"Thank you. Most people would interpret the word in less flattering way."

"Most would and then they would be hyp-hymp...um..."

"Hypocrites?" 

"Yes, that." 

It's Solas turn to look at her curiously. 

"What about your culture? Does your name have other meanings?"

Lelou nods, taking a hit from her pipe and blows it of to the wind. The sun has already started to sink towards the western horizon. 

"It does, but not directly, it is a varied form of a word from a language, that no one has spoken in hundreds of years. Le-loo is the base form, Lelou the tempered one." 

"And what does le-loo mean?"

"Wolf."

Chapter Text

Solas didn't know what to say. For a moment, he didn't rightly know what to think either. He never was one to make conclusions or see connections in places where there really wasn't any, nor was he in any way superstitious or one believing any kind of higher providence.

But her name...

Why were you named after a wolf? 

He wanted to ask her, and yet at the same time he didn't dare to speak. How could someone so strange and exclusively different being as this human, carry the name he intimately felt his own, and it to be nothing more than a coincident? 

What if it isn't an coincident? Is she hinting she knows who I am? Is she working for the Venatori? For the Nightingale? Someone else?

Paranoia took over him and he almost raised a barrier around himself from pure instinct to protect himself, managing to stop the impulse in the last second. Instead of the barrier, he pulled his magic closer. Had there been other mages around, they would have felt the shift in the Fade as he wrapped it tightly around himself, concealing his power. He expanded his senses to the surrounding area, searching for hints of magic, demonic, common, anything

But there was nothing, not a single wisp of magic other than his own and the Fades concealed presence in the distance of there. His eyes looked at the sea, but his attention was solely on the woman standing next to him, smoking her long stemmed pipe. 

And he felt nothing. 

Like she wasn't there. 

Like she was a tranquil. 

The notion chilled him, making him recoil from her. She wasn't a Tranquil, but she was as disconnected and unreal in this waking nightmare as any other non-mage. A stark contrast of what she was in the Dreams. She didn't hint in any way she had meant the revelation of her name to affect him. She didn't look at him, hadn't so much as glanced at his direction to see his reaction. 

I overreacted. 

By then the chance to ask the origin of her name had passed, not that he felt comfortable to ask such a personal question anymore anyway. She doesn't seem to notice his discomfort as she walks the small distance to the railing and turns to lean her back on it, watching him. He follows, confident that his outer demeanor doesn't give away his inner conflict. 

"I'm getting side tracked here. Wanted to ask about dreams." she speaks in easy tone, gesturing her pipe towards him. She has fixed a new one.

"Of course, I shall answer the best I can." he says as he lit the chamber for her. 

"You said that mages are the only ones aware of the Fade when they sleep. And that dwarfs do not dream in the Fade at all." 

"That is correct." the subject was more comfortable, and he had already thought what stories of his dream walks he would tell her. 

"So how do you know? That dwarfs don't dream?" 

That question shot him right out of his comfort zone. 

Usually, when people wanted to know about the Fade and the dreams, they wanted to know about the old memories imprinted there, things he had seen. They never asked how he was able to see them or how he knew what he knew, accepting that he was just a more bolder mage who explored the Fade, while others never ventured out of their sleeping area. And rarely did anyone pay attention to the basic functions and the simple hows of his dreaming ventures, accepting them as just being possible. And no one ever questioned his abilities as a Dreamer. Dreamers were extremely rare in modern age and many of their abilities were unknown to even to the Tevinters who greatly valued the lost art, so his secrets were relatively safe within himself.

But Lelou was not at all accustomed to anything involving magic to just accept it, and he had not taken account that she might be interested off this area of magic-witch he now thought was  careless and stupid miscalculation from his part. She had shown incredible amount of insight and thoughtfulness, with dangerous amount of intelligence. Solas realized that his secret, his ability to spy others dreams, was in one careless answer away to be revealed. 

Careful with this one. 

He should evade the question. He should use tack and change the subject. He should amaze her with parlor tricks, distract her with clever stories that she could ponder.

Yet he did not.

As unique and smart as she was, he was smarter and shrewd. He was confident, that he could outsmart her. 

He was named Pride.

He stepped next to the railing, leaning his back to it, mirroring her position. 

"That would be, because I can't see their dreams." 

Chapter Text

Lelou looked at the man, leaning to the railing next to her. 

Say what?!

"You can't see their dreams?" she repeated, disbelief clear in her voice. 

"Yes. Let me explain." Solas says " As we have already discussed, every mage is aware of the Fade while sleeping, but their control over their surrounding in the Fade differs. I'm a Dreamer mage, that means, that I am capable of wandering around the Fade as I sleep." 

"Really? Like, how? How do you wander in the Fade?" 

"The same way you could go wandering around this ship right now." 

"Uh-huh, and this is how you know dwarfs don't dream?"

"Yes. Mages can come across other magically gifted in the Fade and sometimes communicate as seamlessly as we do now. I have encountered many mages in my years off studying the Fade, but never dwarfs, as they do not dream in the Fade, and therefor there are no mages among their ranks." 

She mulled the information in the privacy of her head for a second. Suddenly magic was not only healing and lightning, saving a life and swiftly ending it. It was the most sophisticated and advanced reconnaissance and spying tactic. Panic made her skin turn cold and her palms sweat, but she kept it under control, scrambling something to say. 

Magically gifted. So if you are a mage, he can see your dreams.

"And this concerns only those who are mages themselves?" 

"That is correct."

"You can't see non-magic peoples dreams in there?" she blurted out before she could caught her mouth, her tone less than polite, but she couldn't stop her mind from reeling of this absurd claim. 

Seeing other peoples dreams. Seeing. As in actually witnessing them?  That's absurd! How can you see others dreams? What are they like? Are they consistence sequences of memories, or erratic bursts of moments as the brains organizes them? Are they just irrational images? You see only dreams?

How the fuck is that even possible?

Wait!

Do these feudal people even know what dreams are for? Their purpose? 

Stop! 

She grunted inwardly, forcing her over stimulated mind to halt. This world was anomaly to her, she didn't have afford to go in erratic brain-chaos-storming. 

"If that was possible, do you think I would tell you?" he asked looking at her, his expression hard to cipher.

Lelou was good at reading people, she had always trusted her instincts, that subconscious trait that was the basics of every mammals ability to read and determine their own standing in social interactions.

Instincts worked faster than thought and gathered information with every part of the body, eyes, ears, smell, even skins feeling sensory worked in unison to gather information of others, and with past experiences, determine what the other meant, wanted and needed, and what your position was in that particular moment. 

What she herself wasn't aware of, was that this personal trait in her psyche was also enhanced by the F.E.V.

Somewhere in her brains a chain reaction started. Her need to gain information to resolve a problem, caused her brains to react. Her cortisol level dropped while both her testosterone and oxytocin hormones rose up, making he physically and psychologically more confident and dominating, as well as persuasive once the situation proceeded to the point she could address her agenda. 

This didn't cause her to appear any different from the outside, but it did affect her conversation partner, who also was-like all humanoids- a mammal. 

Something flashed behind the elves storm blue eyes and then he backed away, his gaze shifting to the floor. 

"I'm sorry, my pride get's the better of me sometimes. Your question is understandable and the answer to it is no. I can't see other peoples dreams." his tone is blank, his demeanor so neutral it's almost cold. Compared to the easy camaraderie from before, that is like a slap to her face. He glances at her, his posture changing stiff. 

"Sister Nightingale asked me the same question. If you don't trust my word, you can trust her judgement. She is our Spymaster, after all." 

The realization hits her like a shovel to the guts. 

I wasn't the only one who was interrogated after the explosion. 

Though magic was normal part of this world, she had learned that those who practiced it were feared and others were extremely prejudiced towards them. There were only three mages in Haven, and Solas was the only one she knew. Now that she thought about it, she had never seen him strolling around in Haven, other than in the company of the Herald's comrades. 

She didn't know as much of the mages business and lives in general as she maybe should, but she could see silently bared unjust treatment when she saw it. Polite was static to him, but the sudden distance of his wasn't, not to her at least. She doesn't like it, but because she has caused it, she can fix it. 

"Forgive me, Solas." he looks at her then, surprise clear in his features. 

"I didn't mean to sound so accusing. This...this is much for me to handle, and for a moment the sheer possibility of someone being able to see what happens in my head while I dream was gut wrenching. Not to mention, that even I don't know what I dream." she keeps the eye contact, not looking away, for she truly is sorry. The little she had learned about the feud between mages and everyone else looked ugly to her, and she knew there was a mountain off issues in that department.

She wouldn't -hopefully- be here so long that her morals would force her to address those issues, but she wouldn't add to them herself in her stay here. 

He looked at her, and again million micro expressions pass behind his eyes, but she let's it go. It is not important. His features change in one of veiled pleasure and perhaps little amazement. It stabs her sense of justice the hardest, to see wonderment of being treated justly, when it should be the norm.

"I accepted your apology." he says, sincerity softens his voice. His expression changes, almost unnoticeable smile replaces the amazement, that kind that makes the corner of his eyes wrinkle just a little. "And I must repeat my own apology. I should not have used sass on you like that." 

And just like that, the cold distance is once again replaced by the feel of easy companionship. 

Wow. He's good. 

It seemed that she wasn't the only one who knew how to use charisma.

Chapter Text

Solas watched the sleeping figure. She looked relaxed in her hammock, her left hand resting on her stomach, right bend under her head, legs crossed by the ankle. It looked peaceful, the way she slept there in the cargo room, surrounded by animals. She was so completely still that if he didn't see her chest rise and fall in steady breath, he would have thought her dead. And of course if he hadn't felt the edge of her dream seeing he was looking the hazy image of her corporeal forms reflection in the Fade at the moment. He had gathered the Fade around himself, enforcing his claim on the area where she slept, wanting to first observe her physical form in sleep, before seeing what memories would be revealed tonight. There was a technical reason for him to do this. He refreshed his own memory image of her physics, so he wouldn't accidentally affect anything in her dream memories.

After their conversation on the deck, his need to be completely sure that he didn't influence her dreams had just intensified. 

He had been correct when he predicted, that she would jump to the possible threat of someone being able to observe dreams, other than other mages dreams. What he had seen from her memories, made it understandable that she would want to keep her origins a secret, so different her homeland seemed in comparison. And he knew that she knew, that being different than others was often dangerous. This detail let him believe, that she was aware at least some of the abnormalities in her body. To her, they might not be abnormalities at all.

He had deliberately provoked her then, wanting to see how she would react, to see how easy she would be manipulated when first her (quite real) fears was enhanced.

Her reaction was most intriguing.  

One moment she was as everyone else was, small and a hollow creature. Then her presence changed and she wasn't so easily dismissed. And when he observed her, he felt the pressure of her being. He realized, that she had done it before. Back in Haven at the tavern, when the Herald had had a moment of hesitation of seeing her demand of punishment for the guardsmen through, Lelou had intercepted. She had claimed the attention to herself and very efficiently stressed the core of the issue, convincing Evelyn to go through with her plan. 

She had an ability to persuade and coercion others, a skill he hadn't noticed, not before she directed it to him.

And it had nothing to do with magic.

She did not speak or posture herself in any too obvious way, it was more like a mental claim of the area they both occupied. Like when equally powerful and capable being of pure instinctual level of interacting came across one another, they would engage in silent battle of dominance. An instinct that was so deep in-carved into the depth of their being, that it came naturally or it didn't come at all. With that basic form of communication, she had done something that no one had done in earnest in over a millennia.

She had challenged him.

And she had known she was doing it.

In another world, where she would be whole, he would have accepted the challenge in a heartbeat. He would win, of course, in terms of base forms of beings, he was an apex predator, immortal with overwhelming amount of experience and potential of his own, and with deep connection to the Fade. 

But this broken world and it's broken creatures were no match for him, not even in that level that he would consider it. Potential as she was, being able to express herself so intensely without uttering a word, she was still a hollow replica of what could be.

What should be. 

They were not the same. They were not equals in the way it mattered the most.

She wasn't even real, not truly. 

He had gained the information he had been looking for. She was formidable in her observation skills as well as her innate ability to influence others, but she had a strong moral code she did not ignore in the name of convenience, a fact that was proven by her sincere apology, when she felt she had gone overboard.

And that would be his window to stay a step ahead of her, for thou he too had strong sense of justice, his ultimate goal exceeded his own morals. 

 

Their talks had continued in content atmosphere.

He had told her about the fragments of memories the spirits re-enacted and again she had asked questions that no other person had asked from him in this blighted world. First she had asked how the memories end up in the Fade, and he had told her how significant events that arose intense feelings are imprinted to the essence of raw magic, and how spirits can pull from those fragments and manifest them into visions that he can watch. She didn't ask examples, instead she had grasped a context that was as crucial for the visions to even exist. 

She had asked him about spirits. 

So what are these spirits, exactly?

And he had told her that they were complex, sentient beings that inhabited the Fade.

 

He let the memory flow. 

 

 

"Sentient beings?"

Thousand questions were in her eyes when she looked at him, disbelief he was familiar on seeing in others dominated her expression. 

"Yes."

Ridiculous; her eyes said, and the feeling of rightful anger coiled in his belly. 

" Okay. Alright then. Sentient beings in the dreamland....wonderful..."

She crossed her arms over her chest, lifting the pipe to her mouth, mulling over this new revelation while her eyes watched somewhere far to the horizon. Solas watched her, feeling little disheartened. Then he looked at her harder, really thinking what she said. His insides curl in anticipation. Could she...

"You think them sentient beings."

"You told me they are."

"Yes, but you just...accepted it."

"Well, I don't really have choice in this matter. This magic and Fade is very, very hard to understand. Don't see the..possibility..of any of this existing. So if you, who have lived here your whole life and know intimately the magic and stuff, tell me about sentient beings living in a dimension where our minds go when we sleep, then of course I believe you. That or I'm tripping from Daddy-O, having the longest hallucination period ever."

He had no idea of what Daddy-O was, -some sort of hallucinogenic- but she couldn't be just that accepting. 

"Didn't the priestesses teach you about spirits?"

She snorts, and immediately controls herself, but he catches the sarcasm anyway. And true to form, she tackles her slip head on.

"Apologize, I am not religious the slightest."

"Understandable, not believing to Maker. But you have named your charges after gods. Do you have a personal belief?"

"As in terms of all mighty entities?"

"Yes."

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because, in my opinion, gods are ideas. At best they help a person to better themselves and the life of others. At worst, they are a way to control others for those who want to benefit from others work and trust in pursue of selfish gain."

She looked at him, her eyes sharp.

"And this is the point you tell me if you believe in gods." 

"Lets just say you spoke my thought to the letter." she nods to that, rather military like. 

"So. Spirits is established. Then what are these "demons" that everyone fusses about."

"They are spirits too. The two are not as dissimilar. Spirits natural state is peaceful semi-existence. Once an idea is strong enough, it can become the Spirits identity and thus give it a visible form." 

"Huh. They are closer to godhood then, than any other sentient being I know off, being born from ideas." 

She seems extremely amused of the thought and Solas can't help but agree. There is purity in spirits that no physical being can ever  achieve. 

"They are born from emotions, the ideas give them identity." he says and again she smiles, remembering something.

"Right, the emotions. So desire demon is not a metaphor, but a capital D, Desire demon?"  she looked at him like she had heard the funniest thing ever, her lips curved in sardonic smile, eyes having a coy twinkle in them. 

"Funny thing, how all religions seem to slap a red stamp of disapproval over the word "desire", like it was inherently evil. I myself have never thought my desires to be evil or even harmful."  

 

 

 

Solas watched her sleeping form, thinking of their conversation and wished, for the first time in his life, that the elves were more like a human. 

More like her. 

She had the characteristics that allowed people to adapt and change. Open-mindedness, thoughtfulness, curiosity, everything that the bias dalish elves and converted city elves lacked. 

In half a heartbeat, he hated her. 

In its own way, it was one more cruel reminder of how utterly he had failed. To wish that what was left of his brethren would resemble one of those that oppressed them unchallenged. 

He scowled to her image, then covered his face with his hands. 

How low did he stoop still! 

She had nothing to do with any of it.

Angry to himself of these thoughts, he cleared the Fade from every image and just breathed. 

This is as it should be. This is the way it should feel. 

The bitterness didn't leave him, but it didn't feed his anger. 

This is how it should be. 

He was the only one to be blamed. His anger started to slip away, being replaced by the heavy feel of guilt and shame. He turned inwardly, feeling the magic around him.

On his skin.

In his lungs. 

On his tongue.

This is what it should feel. 

No point of wallowing in self pity.

No reason to delve in things that weren't.

 

Act.

 

This is how it will be.

 

 

Feeling again balanced and calm, he releases every bit of control of the area she slept in, letting her dream swallow him whole. 

 

 

It is dark. The air is cool in a pleasant way, like early autumn night when the chill hasn't yet come in the air. He is standing under a tree, oak perhaps? In a forest, for he can see silhouettes of trees, their branches forming a roof of leaves that hide the last remnants of the purple sky, making the forest darker. The feeling of truth and reality astound him, and now he is sure he hasn't been affecting her dreams in any way. This was how she dreamed. This was natural to her.

Pleased for having that doubt finally cleared, he carefully looked around in the dark and breathed the air.

This was different environment than the last dream. The air tasted pure. Fresh. There was a dampness in it that wasn't in the dream last night.

This clear contrast with the previous dream made him curious and he eagerly settled to the body he had gained. 

This time he isn't a hound.

He is a man.

And he is alone. 

He shouldn't be alone.

Where is she?

There are lights farther away. They peek between the trees. Red, green and blue. And orange. He can hear distant laughter and squeals of joy.

Childrens. 

Celebration? 

Music. 

The body he inhabits feels tense. Not agitated, just tense.

He is waiting.

Waiting for her. 

"Where is she?" his mouth speaks, but the voice isn't his. 

A rustle of dried leaves to his right and he turns slightly. 

"Took you long enough." frustration makes his voice thick. He had started to worry! 

"So impatient. Come here." 

"I'm impatient?" his mouth says with the stranger's voice.

Fingers, delicate yet strong circle his neck and pulls his head down.

Body in his arm, warm, soft. 

His arms are full of her.

 

No.

 

Her mouth seized his, opening up into a kiss full of intent.

Her lips are soft, so soft and unyielding in their softness.

Like a tidal wave, undetected under the surface, she swept him with her before he could detach himself.

She kisses him like an old lover, with the sureness that can come only after a thousand kiss from the same lips. 

He felt her in his arms, her scent filled his nose and mouth.

Vanilla, lemon and -

Don't say it. 

- her.

He gasps. He had something to say. 

Not me. Him.

Her open mouth ate his breath and she pressed herself tightly against him. 

Not me. Him.

The feel of her tongue caressing his lips, asking him to join her was his undoing. 

She was the weave and she swallowed him in whole.

But he was hungry, so hungry. 

He took the wave full on, capturing it in tight embrace, returning the kiss with wild abandon. She was warm and soft and in his arms -

Not mine.

-and she wanted him.

Not me. 

Her breath hitched against his mouth and he stole it like she had stolen his, reveling in the way it made her body quiver against him. He lifted her up at the same time her tongue curled around his tongue and her legs locked around his waist and she wanted him. 

Not me. 

Her hands run down his neck and shoulders, snaking under the shirt in urgency that spoke in all languages and none at all and he wanted her too. A sound of fabric tearing and he feels skin on his skin, and he's so hungry and she felt-

 

 

He sat up, gasping for air. 

 

 

She's not real.

 

Chapter Text

Lelou watched the ceiling above her.

It was dark below the deck, only a feint light seeped in from the small windows that were more like air holes with shudders, so she couldn't actually see the ceiling, shrouded in shadows as it was. It was early, somewhere around four in the morning, judging by the noises coming from the front of the ship. The mess was on the front side of the second deck. The cook started his work before the sunrise, feeding the sailors that switched from night and morning shifts on the deck, before he started to fix breakfast for the passengers. It would be an hour till the sun was up and the sailors moved on either on the deck tending the sails, or to the their bunks to sleep. 

The shadows above her parted and her eyes started to see clearer. Sighing, she threw her arm over them . The ships crew would start to make their way to the mess, walking pass livestock area, rather than pass the passenger cabins on the third deck. She didn't know if they were as superstitious as sailors were portrayed to be in the old world, but it wouldn't do to let them see her glowing eyes. Laying like this, she settled to wait for the dawn to break. 

Like she had been waiting for the pass couple of hours.

She had woken up in the middle of the night, out off breath and shaking, feeling confused and disjointed, and-strangely-aroused. She hadn't been able to fall back to sleep after that.

Restless dreams. 

Fitful dreams weren't anything unexpected, seeing that she had  had a mild trip going on after her little brain operation. The megavirus inserted in her would have healed her in time, she didn't doubt that, but she was glad for the faster way. She grimaced, remembering the pain before Solas had healed her.

Later when she had been alone, she had back tracked the incident in her head and come to the conclusion, that Bastards hoof had connected somewhere close to the pain inhibitor. While cleaning the stalls before retiring to her hammock, she had observed her own dexterity and even conducted a series of tests to see if everything was working as it should be. She could touch the tip of her nose while eyes closed just fine, stand on one foot and so on. And she didn't feel any pain, confirmed by a deep cut to her left palm. Whatever had been wrong before seemed to be fixed. Of course she couldn't be hundred percent sure, that it wouldn't turn into a total pain hazard right into the middle of her being mauled by one certain hell-spawn, but at the moment everything seemed to be working as it should be.

Maybe the synthetic power circuits had damaged, seeing he was able to make the pain stop. 

The sailors started to pass through the cargo area, yawning and muttering in muffled voices. She peeked under her arm to make sure Bastard didn't act up. It had lived up to it's name the day before, fighting her in every turn when she had changed the horses to other stalls and at the evening, it had clearly conveyed to her with its blown wide black eyes that she would be eaten if she came in it's box.  So she had left it's stall uncleaned. Rightful fury, or not, it was an ordeal they would go through eventually in the morning, and hopefully the horse would be less moody. At the moment, Satan's missing pet stood in the back of the stall, it's rear turned towards her. She snorted. 

As long as your head stays behind that gate. 

The story about the vicious horse had passed forward and the sailors walked to the other side of the ail, giving the stalls as much distance as possible. It was pity, because Paidia was reaching it's head over the gate and hummed to the men passing by, wanting attention. She made a note to herself to pamper it. The sailors walked right next to her hammock, going in small groups of two to four. Once they all had passed and the noises in the mess increased, she resumed to her resting and started to sum her knowledge in hopes of figuring out how she got here and how to get back home. The only thing she was certain of was that magic was in the center of her being here. Fade, magic all of that caused her to end up in this "Thedas".

So. 

The Fade is magic, that should be "here" instead of "there". Everybody, except the dwarfs are connected to both.

Mages dream lucid dreams "in" the Fade. Also, it enables them to use magic. 

Mages are able to communicate with each other in the Fade.

Solas is a mage with ability to see "recorded" memories in the Fade, a talent that is nearly extinct. He also actively interacts with these spirits slash demons, that act as a sort of  catalyst to the memories to play, if I understood it correctly.

She heard the sailors exiting the mess, and soon after the night shift came down. 

So.

Magic, this Fade and the explosion that created the Breach, all of that is involved of me being here.

How? 

She had played with the thought that it was the other way around. That somehow her relay had connected with this Fade, where ever the Fade actually was, and this otherworld's connecting had clashed, causing the massive explosion that leveled a mountain, as they said. She had quickly discarded the possibility, mostly because it was more logical to think, that a massive hole in the sky created by explosion in a world that was divided in two -magical abstract and physical concrete- was big enough phenomenal to reach whatever distance there was to be reached between Earth and Theadas. 

The change, that one measly signal interceptor could reach across the nameless universes to this world was slim. No, it was too slim of a coincidence for it to happen like that. 

This theory of hers was backed up by Solas belief, that the Breach was created by a powerful magical devise-or artifact, as he said. She thought it too to be more logical.

She huffed to that, shaking her head.

I'm talking about logic in a place that defies the "logic" I know just by existing. Thou he does make sense in his explanations, when one ignores the fact, that all this is almost too unbelievable to be believed. And that this can still be an extremely long and "realistic" hallucination and none of this is real.

What if I'm just dying on overdose from that Daddy-O I took before the test drive?

Hmm...that or the coup possibility. Wouldn't even be such a surprise, practically did it myself first. So~o, coup or dose, coup or dose...coup-o-douse...

Stop, this is getting ridiculous again...wishful thinking...

And John would never let me overdose.

 

 

There was a hole in her chest.

 

 

Ah. Shit. Don't think. Get up. Work.

She decided, that she could keep her head down and started to clean the stalls. Normally she would do it after breakfast, for out of consideration towards others eating in the mess, but now she needed something to do.

Besides, the stall's aren't even that smelly, and I can change my clothes.

She decided to start from the warhorses and proceed towards The Ass of Doom, still glaring at her with it's one eye.

 

 

****

 

 

Solas stared at the ceiling above his bed. 

Varric snored quietly in the bunk under his, fast a sleep, witch he was grateful. He was not in the mood on laying in awkward silence, when one tries to fall asleep and the other one simply can't. It had been embarrassing enough to wake in such a...disoriented state at all, let along wake up someone else in the process.

Worse, the someone was very keen witted rogue, with too much time in his hands and too restless imagination. After Varric had established, that they weren't under attack, and that he was not having any demonic possessing episode, but just a regular dream, the dwarf had of course started to drill him about the context of the said dream. 

You're an Fade expert who takes a walk in the Fade like other people go taking stroll in not war infested country road, of course that makes me curious of you having a dream that kicks you out of it. 

His refusal to say anything about the dream was a mistake he realized half a second too late. Composing himself and explaining that he too saw regular dream, when he chose not to go Dream walking and yes, he too saw nightmares as anyone else, hadn't saved the slip. Varric had looked all too smug when he crawled back into his bunk.

Nightmares, huh?

Solas groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. 

As irritating as it was, the dwarf thinking him having that kind of dreams wasn't the thing that gnawed him.

It was the fact, that he had been careless in his curiosity and too self-assured to think, that he could just go head on into any situation in the Fade. He had the knowledge of how to interact with other's dreams, and he still had been careless enough to dove in into a dream he knew would be a powerful memory replayed in the Fade, without first checking what kind of a memory it was.

And then he got jumped.

Almost literally.

It was even more humiliating because in hindsight, he could see all the signs that something like this could happen, that he himself would response strongly if came across this sort of a dream and didn't prepare for the experience accordingly. 

Fade was as complicated as the people that lived in the world, with the millions sentient beings constantly influencing and changing the "reality". Just like any mind would be influenced and changed by outside stimulation, so was the Fade bound to change and adapt.

He had been in her dreams only two times before, but both had provided him information that would have prepared him. 

The first was the fact that her dreams felt like reality to him, right down to the cool sensation of wet sand under his paws to the smell of the dust in the air.

The second time, her encounter with this Nick, had shown him that she remembered feelings and emotions as clearly as if she felt them right then and she projected them into every aspect of her memory. 

Perhaps the most crucial hint had been that that in both dreams, he distinctively noticed her touch. Lelou's dreams were realistic, stimulating, and they reminding him and all of his senses of how the world really felt like, how it felt when you had real physical interaction with someone. 

And it had been a long time since...

Since anyone had touched him like that. 

Deep sigh escaped him as he dropped his hand on his chest. As humiliating as it was, the experience was also humbling. 

Wisdom had told him that he needed to watch himself more carefully, that what he deprived from himself in his efforts to reach his goal, would hinder him in the long run. He hadn't completely heed it's words when it had first warned him. He had had so much more important things to do and think, plans to execute and forces to lead, but now he remembered it's words. 

If one robs themselves the companionship of their kin, one will eventually fall for the lack of it.

Such a simple thing to overlook. 

He laughed inwardly to his own foolishness and the added irony to this madness that was his life.  

A ghost had reminded him of his own need to feel others, yet there wasn't anyone left he could call kin. 

He had locked them all away.

Chapter Text

The stalls cleaned, Lelou occupied the sanitary area of the ship. It was a small room at the back of the ship on the second deck, containing the infamous bucket with a lid and a big enough window where you could throw the waste away. There was also couple washbasins for people to clean up a bit and a clean bucket tied to the end of a long rope to haul sea water up for quick washing. She first pulled fresh water up and then did her business. No matter that she likely wouldn't get any infections, she still did things in more hygienic order if possible. She brought a rag with her witch she dosed into a clean water, and thou the "restroom "had a lock in it's door and the smell was nearly unnoticeable today, she left back to the cargo area. 

There wasn't much traffic in there in the mid morning when the passengers were occupying the mess and the crew in their duties up in the main deck. She stripped down her faithful jumpsuit and plain shirt and wiped her body down quickly, inspecting the injuries she had received in the morning. It was nothing bad this time. Few bruises on her arms where dull teeth's had clamped on, one big bruise on her stomach from being rammed against the wall while holding an oat bucket and then the half healed cut in her left palm. After her towel bath, she slipped on brown breeches, somewhat white shirt that's neckline needed to be laced and a worn leather vest over it. That seemed to be required with a shirt like this, otherwise the neckline would be too provocative, especially for women.

She rolled the sleeves to her elbows so to not dirty them and cleaned the wound in her palm with the water she still had in her water-skin. The bad side of having no pain sensations was, that she often miscalculated her harshness on treating her own wounds and ended up opening them more often than not. Witch was stupid, considering that rarely did people treating other peoples injuries damage them. Supposedly, it was just a matter of patience. A strip of cloth was enough to act as a bandage and stop the bleeding. 

Dressed, she opened and re-braided her hair and then went to get breakfast.

The mess was almost empty, most of the passengers already finished their breakfast. The food was basic porridge and hard bread with mead. She knew that fresh water was fresh only couple of days and the usual drinks that sailors had were fermented beverages, that had been true in the medieval times in the old world too. Since this was a four day trip (that would hopefully be over tomorrow) she had hoped there was water for drink. Not because she especially disliked mead, it was just that she was thirsty and drinking alcohol didn't help much to satiate thirst. Not if one wanted to stay sober.

The mead they served in the ship was stronger than what Filissa served and that too wasn't light drink, witch was the main reason Lelou drank only beer in the tavern back at Haven. It didn't feel safe to get hammered or even slightly intoxicated in this world. The mild uninhibited state she had been yesterday just confirmed that. She hadn't done or said anything outrageous to the mage, but there had been clear laps on her manners and self control. Loosing her restrains in only a verbal level would be disaster, so getting drunk was not possible, not in a world that had so many human rights issues, unexplained phenomenal's and extreme lack of general education. 

She took her bowl and mug and thanked the cook, a burly dark haired and bearded man, who by now had somewhat gotten use to it and grunted in respond. 

And general lack of basic manners; she added to her mental list.

It was painfully clear that the higher ups rarely showed any kind of gratitude to their peers. Perhaps it was considered irrelevant or a sing of weakness. Weakness of character for sure. She refrained to shake her head to that and looked for a spot to sit. The tables were all nailed to the floor, ten people could fit in one and there was five tables in each wall and five in the middle. The benches were attached to the tables with metal hooks and rings, so when the table was empty, the benches were secured to the table so they wouldn't move in harsh weather. She went to sit at the end of one still occupied by two passengers. But the look of them they were merchants of sorts. Both men clanged at her but didn't say anything. She took a spoonful of the warm substance, settling to enjoy the plain salty flavor of oatmeal. 

She frowned, rolled the muss on her tongue and swallowed, looking at the bowl. She took another spoonful, held it before her nose and sniffed it, put it in her mouth and rolled over her tongue. 

Sense of salt.

Putting the spoon away, she took a sip from the sugary mead, getting only a weak trace of sweetness. She ripped the bread in half, holding it close to her nose and smelled it. 

Nothing.

Her mood plummeted. 

I can't smell. 

It didn't take long for her to sum up the reason for this sudden lack of sense, for it had been explained her before.

When she had been exposed to the F.E.V, she had asked Virgil would her senses get better after being lost to the constant radiation poisoning. He had told her that it was unlikely, for the F.E.V acted as an correction mechanism in her body, constantly copying her cells to the original form that it identified correct, enabling fast healing and fast metabolism. Sadly this meant that the virus deemed her already damaged olfactory sensory neurons correct and if they started to gradually heal, it would "correct" them back into their damaged state. The stalls and the restroom weren't any less smellier than the day before, she just couldn't smell all that well anymore, getting only the strongest scents. 

Makes sense. The pain inhibitor got damaged in the teleportation, causing the F.E.V to constantly heal the damage since it's programmed to heal the most vital organs first, brain's taking the top spot. That's why the pain sensations were so random and my sense of smell gradually improved. Now it's healed and the virus deals with any other "damages".

Lelou sighed deep, putting the bread away. She had liked it when she could smell things, it made her taste flavors too, naturally. Now it was back to the dulled base flavors of sweet, salt, sour and bitter.

Well, everything has a price.

"Mind if I sit here?" 

Lelou looked up and saw Varric standing next to the table, bowl and tankard in hands. 

"Not at all. Please, sit freely." 

He offered her a kind smile and settled to sit across her, placing his breakfast on the table. 

"So, did our Handler come out of the little accident unscratched? Was supposed to check on you yesterday, but Glowbug needed me to entertain the Verchins with her." 

"That's very considerate of you, Varric. Got a nasty bump to the head. Our healer fixed it." she replied between tasteless spoonfuls, dutifully eating what she got before her.  

"Glad to hear it." there was something in his tone that made her pay more attention to the man. She put her spoon away and took a sip of the mead before she focused her attention to the man. He watched her, contemplating expression on his face. His left hand's forefinger tapped the table. Lelou waited. 

"There's something I need to talk to you."

"So I gathered."

"That whole situation yesterday, it got me thinking...well, mostly the way you talked to that servant got me thinking." Varric sighed, shaking his head. Lelou placed her hands on the table, lacing her fingers together, looking at him calmly. It usually helped others to gather their thoughts if the listener appeared patient. And she was, if nothing else, patient.

"Look, I'll be straight." Varric started again "I understand that your not from around here, and you clearly don't have any knowledge about how things are going in on Val Royeaux, so hear me out." he glanced around and took asip from his tankard then leaned forward. She too leaned closer.

"About a year ago, the Orlais ruling Empress Celene, burned down a whole portion of the city of Halamshiral when the local elves started to rebel, killing thousands. That incident is in fresh memory and any relations between elves and humans are in high tension at the moment." Varric said and then glanced over his shoulder, like making double sure there weren't anyone listening in. There wasn't, but he still talked in low voice.

"That servant you talked down is in difficult position, and where we are going, that kind comments you made about his mistress can get the receiving end into a big trouble. And whether you spoke like that to an elf or to human, it will be the elf who pays the price." he stared at her intently until she nodded. 

"Thank you for telling me that Varric. I try not to cause trouble." Lelou said calmly. Truth to be told it didn't come to her as an surprise, the elves being the "lesser race", but the burning a whole section of a city to end a rebellion? That got her attention. 

So we are going into a country that's ruler deals unwanted uprisings with mass murder. 

Varric sighed, interrupting her thoughts.

"Honestly speaking, I didn't expect this to be a topic I should be worried about, not with you." 

She looks at him slightly confused, then she remembered the dejected look he gave her when she asked (threatened) the elf to stay away.

"I see." she says considering the dwarf for a second.

"Because he was an elf, you expected me to not talk to him like that." Varric seemed bit surprised. He quickly collected himself. 

"Okay, so we are speaking straight. Yes, I did not expect that kind of treatment towards him from you." 

"Because he was an elf?" she clarified. 

"Well, yeah." 

"But that is not how equality works." Lelou says  "The man did something wrong. He attacked an animal when there was no reason for him to do so. That makes it abuse. He did not only make the situation worse by interfering violently into my work, he sabotaged my work. It does not make difference if he is human or an elf. He could have been a dwarf and I would have called him out either way. If I had not said anything and let him be in the expression that his actions don't bother me, I would not have treated him as an equal. It would have been nothing else than conte-condescending from my part." she pauses, considering her words.

"But I admit that it could have looked bad for a person who doesn't know animals behavior. Perhaps I should have been more polite to him. And the last bit of...pointing out certain relations was unnecessary, from my part. I should have not said that." Varric looked at her like she had said something really strange, looking at her in silence for a moment. Then he nodded, looking at her contemplating. 

"Well. Good thing we talked about this. I just wanted to make sure you knew what kind of a mess we were getting into in Orlais."

"Thank you again for bringing these things to my attention. I try to keep out of trouble in the Val Ro-y, Roe...ugh. That city."

He chuckled to her failed attempt to pronounce the capitals name.

"It is said Val Royeaux." he then took a big swing from his tankard. Lelou did the same.

Varric weaved his hand to the cook and the man came over bringing a pitcher of mead into the table. 

"You better get even with that tab." the cook said. Varric smirked and took a small pouch from his belt, tossing it on the table. 

"That should cover it and the rest of the journey." the pouch was quickly snatched away and the cook weighted it in his hand. Apparently the sum was agreeable, because he grunted something that Lelou interpreted as confirmation and then left back to the kitchen area. 

Varric took the pitcher and his tankard standing up. 

"Care to join me up to have some drinks?" Lelou glanced at him and turned back to her breakfast. 

"No, thank you. I have work to do." for a moment he looked like he was going to say something else, but then he just nodded and left her alone. In her mind she mourned for the repeated loss of her sense of smell. Eating was going to be just another chore in her days, and not the small enjoyable moment she had learned to savor in the pass months. 

Just another thing to do. 

 

****

 

Solas sat on the deck occupying one of the table sets placed there. He had taken his breakfast up, only a tankard of mead and hard bread and was now reading in solitude. The wind was strong and constant, rounding the sails and making the ship cut through the water in top speed. It seemed they would arrive to Val Royeaux in schedule, despite leaving Jader's port half a day later than intended.

He turned the next page of his book, one of the older studies of the Fade that he had managed to find in the Chantry's library. It was rubbish and didn't give him any new insight of how the Circle mages were taught to view their innate power source, and he was tempted to throw it over board. But that wasn't an option, even if he had permitted himself to throw a book away in such manner.

Truthfully, he was only "reading" it for appearance sake,to appear busy for the other passengers on deck. Their Herald was having breakfast with the Seeker and the nobles she tried to get to support the Inquisition, sitting couple tables away from his spot. The Verchins played hard to get on purpose, enjoying the attention of the rumored Herald of Andraste. Attention, which she provided with the ease of seasoned player of the Great Game. Their conversations were the usual superficial chatting about hunting and preferences of the game, hiding subtle inquiries of the other party's opinions on the ongoing civil war. Thou young, Evelyn was good at presenting a neutral opinion and still appearing to be receptive to either side of the warring groups. 

Solas sighed under his breath, turning another page. He was pretending to read by the Heralds request. Of course she hadn't asked him to eavesdrop the conversation (and he didn't), just to stay near in the sidelines. Evelyn wasn't incompetent at spinning the nobles, but she lacked confidence, wanting to surround herself with people she knew, rather than stand alone among strangers. Having Cassandra constantly by her side reassured her and she had a habit to ask Varric or Solas to stay close whenever she had to deal with a new group of people. Back at Haven, she had the Ambassador's support and the benefit of "home ground", but outside...

Sometimes he felt like a cradle robber, having his power embedded in such a young and naive creature, hating himself even more for the mistake he made by giving his orb to Corypheus.

Evelyn's lacking confidence showed in many small ways, even stupid in some cases. The young woman had made it her mission to try to keep even the most painful injuries to herself, thinking that her getting hurt in a fight meant that she was being a burden rather than asset, and she feared for reprimand from her more experienced companions for that. A misguided perception from her part that her said "more experienced" companions had to address more often than not. She was a talented fighter and quick to learn, absorbing knowledge from anyone who bothered to teach her. She had had a rough start, nearly dying on their way to the Temple of Sacred Ashes, a time she still didn't seem to be able to let go. Her lack of experience then had resulted for her to make ill-considered decisions in the heat of the battle, and she still punished herself for making those mistakes. Solas had first though it to be just a way to get attention, for she had many habits that Noble born people had, (like expecting service on every turn) but when she had started to improve in Cassandras tutelage and they set to travel together, he had learned that she truly had a habit on being hard on herself from the mistakes she made.

He could relate to that.

Despite her insecurities, Evelyn showed great potential to truly own the role she had been forced to take as a front image of a religious organization that was gathering more power, both military and political. She had even pushed back her general superstition and the teachings she had been fed for all her life regarding magic, and had started to listen his advises on regarding all things involving Fade. She had been raise by devoted Andrastian parents and she was one herself with the Chantry established beliefs, but she had acknowledged the fact that she didn't know everything, and that the Chantry might not always be on the right.

Solas was pleased of that.

In time, the young Trevelyan would gain much more self-esteem and power, and then people would run over each others to join her cause, whatever it was.

And he would be there in the sidelines, offering advise and guidance in her endeavors. 

 

Solas lifted his eyes away from the book, looking at the sea spreading all around them.

Thinking about the Heralds surprising open-mindedness, steered his pondering to Lelou. 

The woman was older than the bearer of his mark, at the same age as the Seeker he guessed. But she appeared much older, more experienced than Cassandra, or even Leliana. Not physically but in the way she carried herself, possessing the aura of a person who had seen the world in all of it's frightening beauty and had learned how to handle it and herself.

Last nights eventful dream had hinted, that she had lived at least in two completely different places in her lifetime, witch was rare to commoners that weren't enlisted in military. The fresh cool air with lush forests and terrain, the general feel of the environment left him with the impression, that the place she had remembered last night was in likeness to the Hinderlands, a complete opposite to the two previous dreams, where the air had been dry even in the night, grading the back of his throat. She had said that her homeland was a desert. 

Dead, she had said dead. 

 

"Hey, Chuckles. Mind if I barge in?" Varric's voice pulled him out from his thoughts. He turned another page before glancing at the dwarf, heading his way.

"Not at all, Varric." he said, smoothing the blue string marker away from between the pages, turning another page. Varric sat at the chair across from him. He set a tankard and a pitcher of mead on the table, next to Solas empty wooden pint. 

"Good. Everything alright with the flattery contest? " the dwarf asked, sneaking a peek from the group couple tables away. Solas too glanced at the nobles direction. As his eyes scanned the group, the elf servant he had healed yesterday quickly looked away. Solas eyes narrowed and he kept on looking at the man, not liking the hostility in the pale blue eyes he had caught on staring at him. 

"That elf got a grudge towards you, you know?" Varric said casually pouring himself a drink. 

"So it seems, thou I don't remember offending him in anyways. Quite the opposite in fact, I am pretty sure I healed his broken arm." 

"Sure you did. And then you spend the rest of the day with the woman who threatened his position with that scandalous accusation." Solas looked at the dwarf who looked at him with very poignant look in his eyes. Solas quickly guessed what he meant. 

"He thinks we're involved." 

"If one servant thinks that, the one they work for will propably think so too." Varric agreed leaning back on his chair, looking relaxed. His golden eyes were anything but. 

Of course. I should have taken this on account.

He hadn't. It hadn't even crossed his mind.

But it should have been obvious after the incident with the dark horse. And definitely he should have thought of it after last night. 

This revelation put the elf servants hostility to another perspective.

Nobels in Orlais and Ferelden were in constant battle of position and influence with other nobles, and rumors were one of the most deceptive and powerful weapons in that endless struggle. A person credibility could prosper or died from few placed words. 

Since the servants affair with the Lady Verchin had come to be acknowledged by someone in other nobles "household", the elf was on the edge, wanting to avoid the scandal that would cost him his livelihood. Witch meant, that he could try to strike back with a scandalous rumors of his own.

It didn't matter that Evelyn herself wasn't directly involved, everyone in her immediate vicinity was under close scrutiny, and their actions too reflected to the organization she represented. The Inquisition was young organization, so much so that scandals, no matter how irrelevant or petty, would still shake it a little. 

An elven apostate sharing a bed with a human woman, under the nose of the Herald of Andraste, would be a scandal big enough to shake it more than a little, hitting directly to the Inquisitions credibility.

Varric looked at him with knowing eyes. 

"We need to snuff that rumor out before it even starts." he says and Solas can tell he is already planning something. But avoiding rumors was nothing new to him, and neither was any kind of courtly schemes. 

"We will do no such thing." he says calmly. Varric looks at him questioningly, silently asking explanation. 

"One servant bruised ego cannot cause any kind of action from our part. Particularly when his own actions have led him in that capricious situation, where he now tries to drag us. Lady Verchin's infidelity most likely, isn't exactly a secret." he explained. "For being a mere servant, he is too poise and too arrogant, sure of his value. That means he has been the Lady's lover for quite sometime and has come complaisant. His behavior gives reason to suspect, that Lord Verchin is aware of it and has chosen to pretend ignorant, probably because he too has other lovers beside his wife. Our Handler's ill-considered comment might have made the serving man feel threatened, but it is unlikely he goes to his mistress with his concern, unless provoked. Tell me, has there been any subtle hints directed to the Herald about a brewing scandal?" Varric looked at the mage baffled.

"How did you..no, never mind." he threw his hand up, weaving his own question off "No, nothing has been said or hinted yet in any ways. I just overheard that blond elf talking to the other on my way to the mess hall." 

"So there's just one small man's bruised ego and a threath of a tasteless rumors. Nothing to be concerned about." Solas calmly said, closing the book that he hasn't been pretending on reading for awhile anymore.

"Also, there's little point to hide something that isn't there to begin with." he adds.

Varric's expression is equal measure amused and impressed. 

"That's quite the observation skills you got there, Chuckles. You sure you weren't a noble in past life or something?" he asks chuckling, reaching to pour mead to the mages empty pint.

Solas lips twist into a ghost of a smile that doesn't reach his eyes. 

"Perhaps I was." 

Chapter Text

Lelou had worked constantly the whole day.

After breakfast, she had took all the horses gear, cleaning and polishing the saddles and bridles, making them look - if not entirely brand new - at least well maintained. Then she had clean the stalls again following very thorough grooming session to all the five horses, which made their coats shine even in the second decks dim lightning.

She had brushed Bastard for over an hour, suffering through the angry horses tantrums and ruined her only clean spare shirt in the process as it bit her multiple times. Seeing the blood on the left shoulder and forearm, she decided to treat the horse only in her jumpsuit in the future, the ballistic weaving giving her more protection than simple cloth. All these chores done, she made good on her previous promise to give some attention to certain pony.

Paidia hummed happily, its head turned so it could see her with its big black eye. Its black hair was cool and rough between her fingers and the running braid formed in slow pace, her hands working on autopilot as her mind run on circles. 

How long have I been here? How many weeks, how many days? 

Four months?  Yes.  At least four months. And what progress have I made? 

She started to get frustrated.

It hadn't taken her even three month's to crash through the Commonwealth to find her son. It hadn't taken her four month's to reach the Institute, the big boogeyman who had been preying on the Commonwealths residents for decades, and in those measly ten weeks, she had already organized multiple settlements and provision roads, formed and positioned strike teams to survey and take out hostile outposts. 

In the span of her first three months in the wasteland, she had taken on command of the only organization that had tried to bring some order to the otherwise lawless land and made it work. 

She had trained herself to survive that hell of a world in matter of days, thrive in it in the matter of weeks!

But now...

She hit her fist to the stall wall, though it did little to ease the frustration when she couldn't feel the pain.

Now the only productive thing she had managed, was to learn a language that sounded like English and every invented fantasy language had a child.  

Paidia neighed disapprovingly to her and she patted it apologetically. 

"Sorry girl." she murmured to it and then concentrated on finishing the braid. 

From left to middle, from right to middle. Left to middle. Right to middle. 

Simple mantra and simple work, usually it was enough to let the frustration ease.

But it wasn't enough now. 

Working and learning to speak the language had kept her stress at bay back at Haven, and though she had plenty to do with five horses on ship, work alone didn't help her keep it together. Back at home, she would work the day and at the evening, she would lay back in her corner and drink herself to oblivion, repeating that routine the next day. On occasion, she would take something else to go with the whiskey.

But here, she didn't have the benefit of "switching herself off" for time to time, and having had a taste of sweet dopamine and an actual taste, only for them to be snatched away didn't help either. 

Paidias stylish braid was finished and she knotted the tip. She petted the pony for a while before leaving the stall. Her feet carried her to the main deck. The day had come to it's end and the last light painted the sky deep blue. She peered at the dusk looking towards south. There was land there, far and barely visible. 

We should arrive to the Val whatever by midday. Two days at the city. Then three to four weeks on the road. The Breach isn't going anywhere without the Herald and I'm her Handler, I go where she goes. Solas tells me about magic, I just need to figure out how the questions I need to have answers. 

What was it he said? That Fade reflects this world, but at the same time, distance and geography are irrelevant, making the Fade malleable. Hmm...no geography.

So.

Flying rocks?

Could it be that I was in the Fade when I arrived?

She had thought that possibility couple of times, even before the flashback/idea of flying-no, hovering- rocks. All things considered, it was pretty obvious that she had been in the Fade.

It also was obvious, that people being in the Fade was nothing less than a miracle in Thedas. 

divine miracle, at that. Which meant attention she didn't need. Not that anyone would believe her, if she went and claimed that she had been there. At best, people would suspect her to have dreams about it and in the worst scenario, they would think that she dreamed in it. That would lead to whole kind of troubles and she didn't need that kind of attention.

So.

I have to ask Solas about flying rocks. This should be interesting. 

She fixed herself a smoke and walked to the lantern to light it, staying beside it in the light so her night vision wouldn't turn on. Passengers and sailors milled around the former heading towards the mess to grab something to eat before the night. Lelou decided to do the same, thou the flavorless meal didn't appeal to her at all. Still, she needed the nutrition's. When she got to the mess, she seriously reconcidered on skipping the dinner entirely. 

Being the last night on the ship, the cook had prepared all the fresh products the pantry contained into a one big meal. There was roasted chicken and pork, grilled vegetables and a large kettle full of steaming broth, meant to soak the hard ship bread. To wash the food down, the tables were loaded with jugs of mead. Nearly every passenger and off hour sailor seemed to be present and the mess was as packed as Havens tavern at the evenings. Had she been able to smell, and therefor taste the feast prepared, she wouldn't have minded.

But she couldn't and that made her moody.

And she was thirsty, witch made her mood worse.

Yeah, no. 

She swiftly decided to skip the dinner. She was still bitter about losing the ability to taste and the stress of not knowing how she got here and how she could get back home, made her too prone to grab the readily presented alcohol to dull it down.

And she had already concluded to herself that getting drunk was not an option.

Plus there is no point to piss myself off anymore than what I already am. That would only lead to trouble.

She growled in her head when she noticed the servants attending to one of the tables, filled with well dressed men. Fine clothes didn't guarantee fine manners, for the men touched and groped her as she went on her duties.

Yep. Go to bed. Eat tomorrow. It's not like I can start a fight in here. 

She turned around and left the mess heading back to the horses.

The last time she had gotten into a fight hadn't played out as well as she'd like. She didn't have solid proof, but she had a hunch that the incident with the town guard had had something to do with her being assigned to be the Handler on this trip.

And it wasn't like I hadn't ended up receiving the Commander's judgement before. I would have send the troublemaker out too, had I been in his shoes.

That wasn't so bad, being ordered to go. She had learned a lot in the pass week. But she was also reminded that she was not in charge here. She was nobody and couldn't just go and kill..BEAT people down as she saw fit, or otherwise correct them. She grimaced to herself. 

Once upon a time, she had been a woman who shrink away in terror when witnessing a cold blooded murder. 

What was it John had said to her back then? Something about eyes...and that she would fit in. She scoffed. Turned out the murderous drug lord was right, she had ended up fitting in his domain, and now she had to skip a meal to prevent herself for going into a killing spree over few unsavory molesters. 

 

Did you know that I would turn out like this, John? When we first met? 

 

There was a hole in her chest.

 

***

 

Lelou hadn't come for dinner. Solas had seen her couple times that day at the deck, smoking, but hadn't gone to talk to her, mostly because she seemed to be busy, sucking the smoke in like heaving breaths of air before rushing back down to the cargo area.

He was also keenly aware of the eyes that seemed to find him every time she came to view. The pale blue pair of the elf servant's he had expected, but the steel grey eyes of the Seeker was bit surprising. Either the woman was more perceptive that she let on, or certain dwarf had tattled about the underlying "scandal". He made a point on appearing to be occupied for the day, first reading the few little books he had and then striking a conversation with his companions. That had lasted better half of the day and the rest of it he spend on meditating in the Fade, continuing to examine the constructed man from Lelous memories. 

He had fully expected to see the Handler at dinner, but the woman didn't appear. He considered on going to check on her, in excuse of her earlier head injury, but decided against it. 

He was not avoiding her, not really, but some distance for the rest of the sea journey was advisable in the current situation, both for to stem down the rumors, and for him to put his approach on her memories in perspective. 

He was still bit put off from last night, but it didn't deter his curiosity the slightest. If anything it just got him more curious. He knew he should perhaps take distance in the Fade too, but her ability to dream clear memories was simply too fascinating. Normally memories faded and changed, time rubbing against them just like it did to the dreamer. But her memories were unchanged, and the contest of them rivaled the marvel of it. So he pit goodnight's to his companions and left the cabin key to Varric, wanting to go to sleep. By now they were accustomed to his habit to retire early and just wished him goodnight. 

 

He had been in sleep for some time before Lelou herself retired, arguing with himself if he should pull the last nights dream forward to examine it or not. Since he was waiting for her, her dream whispered in the edge of his consciousness as soon as she fell into sleep. This time he approached it carefully, observing it with care. There was a constant ambient noise. If he allowed it, he could hear it clearer. 

He opened up to the dream, just a little bit. 

 

Rain. 

The feel of cold and the smell of wet dirt, combined to something stale and bitter. Wet fur. 

Taste of blood on his tongue. 

 

And anxiety, gripping his heart.

 

He pulled away. This memory was as strong as the rest of them, but certainly not anything like the night before. He hovered on the edge of her dream for a moment longer, and then stepped in it. 

 

It was raining heavily.

The moisture in the air gave a small respite from the constant dryness, but made the smell of dirty wet fur pungent. Again, it was a canine he inhabited. A differed now, for he could smell the wet fur and feel the heaviness of the coat, a feeling he was more familiar than that of a naked skin. The place was also different. Same in the sense of dark and ragged, but there was no sand under his feet, but cobble stone pavement. Tall rundown brick buildings rose up all around him, vanishing into the dark of the night. The heavy rain made it all more blurry, but he could see there was lights on this area. A lamb post was right next to them, the design of it unfamiliar. It was entirely made of metal, instead of wood or stone. an interesting detail, that he would return later. A blue light somewhere before them hovered in the air, another, blue and red, close by it on the right. He couldn't make sense of their shape because she too hadn't been able to see more than few feet's before her, in the thick rain.

And there was something more urgent happening right then, that demanded her attention. He could see her right behind her, wearing something blue that glistened wet when the dim light hit it.

He was standing on his hind legs, growling menacingly, trying to leap forward. There was a pressure on his throat and a ragged dirty human glared down on him. He was bald, his skin sunburned all over, patches of unevenly shaved stubble decorated the lower half of his jaw. Water run down his face, painting stripes on the dirt it managed to wash down. He wore brown leathers, his eyes were bloodshot and the expression of them cold. The man was pointing a strange object at his snarling face, something that looked like a metal pipe attached to a poorly made wooden handle. An unimpressive piece of junk, but still, Lelou held tight of the collar of his neck and backed away from the object and the man holding it, pulling him with her. 

"That's right, you just keep that mutt in a tight leash and I might not shoot it." the man said, looking down at him.

Shoot? 

Whatever the object in his hand was, it got Lelou anxious and taking couple more steps away from the man. The dog he was now, struggled a little and she hushed it. 

"Down boy. We're just talking here." her tone was nervous and it was her fear that kept the dog on edge, they both knew it. Still the dog backed down a little, setting it's front paws to the ground, standing between her legs. It's eyes never left the man before it. She still kept a hold of his collar, the grip tight even when the man put away the strange little object. 

"Now, what was I saying...? Ah, yes! You hand over everything you got in them pockets, or "accidents" start happenin' to ya. Big bloody, "accidents"." the man leered at her, making her tensed up "Or, you can pay for the insurance some other way."

He did not like the look on his face and bared his teeths. 

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Time out!" 

The voice came from farther away, a masculine, raspy and deep voice. It was followed by foot steps, barely audible over the down pour.

"Someone steps through the gate the first time, they're a quest. You lay off that extortion crap." 

 

I know this voice. I've heard it before.

 

From behind the heavy curtain of the rain, a creature emerged. 

Not a creature. A man.

If you could call him a man.

His skin looked like it had been exposed to a heat so intense that it had melted, scarred beyond salvation. Assortment of scars formed grotesque slopes and holes in the skin that was stretched tight over the skull. The horrible condition of his face was finished with missing nose, sunken cheeks and hollowed eye sockets, making him look like a skeleton with a ruined leather covering. Lip-less mouth that flashed a row of yellowish teeth's gnawed down on a smoke, same kind he had seen Lelou inhale. His eyes were black as the darkest obsidian, pupil-less, unreadable.

His appearance reminded him of the monstrous dog he had inhabited two times. 

Is this her reality? Filled with creatures of nightmares? 

He wasn't terribly big man, the red patched coat hung on bony shoulders the red-blue-white colored sash knotted tight around narrow hip, holding the baggy trousers on him. He looked starved and skeleton like, in the same way as the beast she called "Blitz".

But it wasn't the size that made his fur stand on end.

It was the way he carried his deformed, starved form.

Danger was written all over the burned man. It showed in the laid back set of his shoulders, the relaxed steps of his booted feet as he prowled closer. His hands, equally scarred, hung loosely on his sides, in view and holding nothing. The other one of them briefly raising up to touch the rim of his hat when he dipped his head to a small bow towards Lelou, water pouring down from the three cornered hat's rim in a way that could have been funny in another situation. 

But there was nothing funny in him and Lelou took another step back, dragging the dog he was in with her. She was scared. 

Obsidian eyes didn't blink once, when they swept over them and landed to the man threatening her. 

"What d'you care. She ain't one of us." The thug snarled viciously turning to face the scarred man. 

"No love for your Mayor, Fin? I said let her go." the gravel voice dropped a little at the end, giving a clear warning. This Fin fellow was treading on a thin ice. Either he didn't get the warning or he didn't care, for he stepped closer to the red dressed man, squaring his shoulders to appear bigger, adding to the already noticeable size difference. 

"You're soft Hancock. You keep letting outsiders walk all over us, one day there'll be a new mayor." Fin said, his tone confident, body language telling clear intent on seeing through what he had started. The burned man, Hancock, looked at him for a moment, assessing the situation it seemed. He walked towards Fin, spreading his arms in appeasing gesture. 

"Come on, man. This is me we're talking about. Let me tell you something." he says softly landing his left hand on the mans shoulder in a way, that tells a level of camaraderie. There is no warning given and the friendly gesture is followed by two rabid stabs of a knife with his right hand, aimed straight to his heart. It happens so quickly, so effectively that the man grunts only once, surprised startled sound,and then he falls to the cobble stones, dying fast. 

"Now why'd you have to go and say that, huh? Breaking my heart over here." Hancock says putting the knife back to its hidden scrapper behind his back. The bottomless eyes turn to look at Lelou

"You all right, sister?"

"You...you killed him..."Lelou gasps horrified and then jerks backwards, when the said killer laughs. 

"Got a good pair of eyes on ya. I think you fit in here." he says taking the stump of a smoke from his mouth, tossing it carelessly to the pool of blood forming before him. Lelou's fingers dug to his neck, grasping to have a hold on the collar with only one hand. He couldn't see it, but he guessed she was reaching for a weapon with her other hand. 

"Hey, easy there, pin-up. I ain't gonna hurt you, or your furry little friend." his tone was as soft as it was before, and if it was meant to ease her mind, it didn't work. Not after the cold blooded murder delivered with the exact same soft speaking tone. But she stilled her fumbling and placed her other hand back on his neck. The squeeze she gave him was both a warning and reassuring. 

"But...you...you killed him." she was scared, something he hadn't seen or heard from her before. Now he could feel the distress in her voice. 

"That I did. Now don't let this incident taint your view of our little community. Goodneighbor's of the people, for the people, you feel me? Everyone's welcome." there is a frozen moment when the corpse like man just looks at her, glancing at the dog couple of times. Solas can feel her shaking behind him, her thighs brushing against his back. She barely kept the shivers out of her voice when she spoke. 

"Your face..." the grin that split that said face, was enough to make her...

 

Suddenly the dream was ripped away, and Solas found himself in the shapeless form of the Fade, staring at the area where her dream had claimed space. There was nothing there now.

Except the sense of alarm.

Something woke her up.

Chapter Text

Lelou stared into the darkness above her. 

The tar smelling ship moaned quietly each time it tilted from side to side, like a big cradle that the sea rocked softly. Animals breathed all around her in the quiet, making little noises as they sleep and from above, she heard footsteps of the night shift. All familiar noises, that were suppose to be there. Everything seemed peaceful. 

Which to her paranoid mind meant the exact opposite. Two years in Commonwealth had trained her to wake up fast for any signs of danger, so she kept listening while her eyes adjusted to the dark.  

A thumbing noise, something soft hitting the wood.

Was that the sound that woke her?

Her eyes adjusted and she propped up on her elbows turning her head around slowly, trying to caught the sound again and the direction it came. A moment later she heard another thumb and then a scraping sound, like wood is dragged against wood. 

It came from the mess hall.

Lelou dropped down from her hammock as silently as she could. Her right hand went behind her back, settling over the sheathed knife on her belt that she never unequipped. She didn't bother to sneak, being bare feet and the natural sounds of her environment covered any noise she might make. 

She instinctively knew what was going on even before she reached the doorway, the sound of fabric ripping and muffled whimper just made her move faster. 

The mess hall was shrouded in shadows, one oil lantern hanging over the kitchen counter. Her eyes were fully adjusted to the dark, so she had no trouble on seeing the room. One bench was loose from it's hooks and pushed half way under the table and two figures struggled on the floor between the tables. 

Lelou instantly recognized the serving girl from before. Her dress was torn open, skirt pushed up to her stomach. The sound that had woke her, was the girls foot hitting the floor as she still tried to fight off her attacker, a fight she was losing fast. A man is between her legs, pinning her left thigh down with his knee, his hand covering her mouth muffling her voice. Lelou moved quickly, pulling her knife out from its sheath with her right hand, while the left reached forward. She grabbed a handful of the man's hair, dark and curly she noticed, and pulled him off of her. Not giving him change to even realize what hit him, she reversed the pulling to pushing, slamming his face to her knee that helpfully rose to meet it. A wet crunching sound when the nose cartilage brakes and the man screams. She pulled her knife hand back, zeroing her eyes to the man's neck.

One swift stab is all it takes.

And then someone was on her. 

That someone grabbed her right wrist, and before she could see who attacked, an arm curled around her waist pulling her away from her victim. They tried to get a hold of her left arm, but she swiftly snaked it free. This wasn't the first time she had been attacked from behind like this. She dropped the knife from her right hand and caught it with her left, at the same time she planted her feet on the floor and pushed back against her attacker, making him stumble backwards. They immediately braced themselves in wider stand. Exactly like Hancock had shown her would happen, and now she knew where their legs were. A flip of a wrist turned the knife in her hand and she aimed a downwards stab to the left thigh of her opponent.

A flash of blue light behind her and she hit something so solid, that the impact ripped the knife from her hand. 

"Lelou! Stop!" familiar voice spoke to her right ear. She glanced the hand holding her right wrist, noticing the blue shimmering over his skin. A barrier spell then?

"... the fuck, Solas? What the hell are you doing!?"

It didn't make sense. Why was he stopping her? Didn't he see she was stopping a rapist? 

The said rapist scrambled to his feet, blood pouring from his nose. He turned his swollen face towards them and Solas cursed under his breath. 

"You fucking bitch! You broke my nose!" the man bellowed. Lelou stumbled as Solas quickly stepped backwards, pulling her with him when the furious man came towards them. In the next moment he came face to face with a loaded crossbow that was aimed to his face. 

"Best stay put, buddy." Varric said, his voice lacking of his usual jovial tone. It was then when the elf girl cowering on the floor started crying, drawing their attention. She was trying to cover herself with her ruined dress. Then they heard the footsteps in the hallway. Apparently, they had made enough noise for people to come investigate, the cook one of the first to enter the mess, demanding to know what was going on. Lelou twisted in the hold Solas still kept her and he instantly tightened it.

"Let me go to her." she growled. There was no way she could get to the despicaple shit now, anyway. 

"Do not attack him. He's the first mate of this ship." the mage hissed into her ear.

"I...just let go." Lelou couldn't care less who, or what he was. Solas let go of her, and she went to the girl. She quickly checked if she had bleeding injuries on her torso, and when she saw non, she took off her own shirt. 

"Here, let's put this on you." 

The girl was blond, her bloodshot eyes green. Pretty as a picture despite the red nose and swollen lips. She had been either hit or forcefully kissed. She babbled something in that french like language, her whole body shaking. Lelou helped her to get the shirt on. By then there was a crowd of people, frantically talking and arguing in mixed accent and so fast that she would have to concentrate to understand even a bit. She probably should try to listen, but right now the girl was her priority. That and she also had to stay in the light for her night vision to dim out. So she stayed with the girl, telling her in calm voice that she was safe now and no one would hurt her, words that probably didn't console her one bit, for the terror would not let go of her anytime soon.

In the same time her mind ran a mile a minute.

Solas said the attacker is the first mate! The victim is an elf. People are arguing over the matter! Over an attempted rape!!

She could barely comprehend it, it was too absurd. She felt her blood boil and then turn ice cold when someone spoke right behind her.

"You, girl. What happened here?" Lelou looked over her shoulder and saw it was the Captain. She opened her mouth to speak, but the elf spoke first.

"Nothing, sir. Jus-just a misunderstanding sir." Lelou nearly snapped her neck, turning to look at the girl shocked. 

What?

 

***

 

Solas was disgusted, hearing the elf servants shaky voice. This already ugly situation was turning fouler by the minute. 

He had woke himself up when her dream had ended, too fast and still affected by it, resulting him to see the bottomless black eyes behind his lids for few moments. He had rushed out of his cabin, not caring that he woke Varric, and went to look for Lelou. He had had a bad feeling, especially after the violent memory he had witnessed. It haunted him, the way the corpse like man had casually committed murder while there was witnesses, and that the victim had obviously been familiar to him.

And that she remembered it so clearly. 

When he had reached the second level, he saw her vanish in the mess hall and followed. 

The sight of her cold, dead expression had told him her intentions faster than the knife she had held raised up.

The very same knife that had been in the burned hand.

He had fade stepped to her, stopped her from killing the man and now he almost hoped he hadn't. The ships Captain, Corantus was his name, had swiftly cut the arguing going on between Varric and the first mate and now stood over the two women. The elf servant hunched before him in her borrowed shirt that was too big for her, trying to look smaller. Lelou stayed crouched before her, as if shielding her, her tattooed back turned towards the crowd. 

The howling wolf pack seemed to scream at them.

"Did this man attack you?" Captain Corantus asked from the elf, his tone harsher than what would be appropriated in face of a situation like this. Solas was sure he wouldn't be so rude, had she been a human. The elven girl shook her hear frantically, not even looking at the man who had assaulted her. 

"No-no sir. He...he had too much to dr-drink sir. He fell. I-I didn't manage to get out of the away fast enough." it was obvious that she was lying and Solas felt pile rise to his throat, her testimony shedding light to the situation. 

The girl was most likely one of the passengers servant and had been sent to "entertain" the first mate in order to scurry a favor, usually something concerning on booking a passage before hand, or lowering a loading fee, only this time, she couldn't go through with the plan, had panicked and instinctively tried to get away from the human, resulting into an assault. Claiming a misunderstanding was her way to try to save her job and possibly avoid punishment. And everyone here, the crew, the passengers, could piece this together and didn't say anything about it, because it was a common practice that didn't officially happen. 

Not that her telling the truth would have made much difference.

The mage grit his teeth's in anger. He and Varric were not in any kind of position to interfere, not anymore that the girl had claimed that she hadn't been attacked, and that too, everyone knew.

Everyone, except perhaps their Handler. Lelou was kneeling before the elven lass, and Solas could imagine the shock in her face. This would surely go against her morals and he feared that she would make the situation worse for herself. 

"You heard her, master Tethras, or are you going to claim that she is lying?" the Captain said turning to look at the dwarf, who was still glaring at the first mate. His crossbow wasn't aimed on him anymore, but it was loaded and ready. He didn't manage to say anything, when the perpetrator shouted. 

"Screw the knife ear! That bitch should be locked up, she attacked me with a knife!" the first mate shouted. Captain's eyebrows knitted together. 

"That is a serious accusation. Do you have proof? Where is the knife?"

Solas cursed inwardly. The Captain was in charge of the ship on the sea and wouldn't tolerate any kind of attacks on his crew. He looked around, trying to locate the knife, and from the subtle way Varric rolled his shoulders, like trying to ease tension, he knew the dwarf was looking for it too. He spotted it under the table to his right, too far to be recovered without being obvious. He considered using magic to pull it to him. Maybe try to twist the Veil a little bit to distort it...

"It is under that table."

Every head turned to look at the red-head. Lelou, glad only in her tightly fitting leather vest and pants, her detailed tattoos in full display, stood up from her crouching position and turned to face the crowd gathered. Solas was surprised. Seeing how set she had been on killing the man just moments ago, he had feared a violent reaction.

"I must have dropped it when Solas interfered. Good thing he could read the situation better than myself." she said, her naturally husky voice void of emotions, the expression on her eyes was unreadable.

"You see, I was in the expression that this woman was being attacked. My mistake. Had I realized it was all just a...mis-understanding? Was that the word?" she paused to raise one delicate eyebrow to no one and then continued "Anyway, had I known that, I certainly wouldn't have attacked this man." she gestured her hand towards the first mate who was glaring daggers at her. The Captain leveled a hard look on her. 

"You admit attacking the member of my crew." 

"Yes, Captain. I apologize. In my defense, I can only say I really though her being attacked. And it was dark. Didn't see clearly." she was composed and seemingly not bothered by the fact, that she wasn't decently dressed and in front of a group of men who, Solas noticed, quite openly ogled at her. All except the first mate. The man took a step towards her, trying to shrug the cook's hand from his shoulder, holding him back. 

"Don't you try to talk your way out of this. I want.."

"Quiet." the Captain snapped, not looking at the man. He eyed Lelou for a long time. She didn't fidget or avert her eyes from him, calmly waiting his verdict. It reminded Solas of the first time he had met her face to face in Cullen's command tent, and he wondered if she used her unique coercion skills right now. It was hard to tell when he wasn't in the receiving end. Whether she did or not, the Captains decided quickly. 

"I won't tolerated violence against my crew. For the rest of the journey, you will be arrested and kept in the holding cell down the fourth deck. But since this was unfortunate misunderstanding and you recognize your mistake, you will be allowed to have food and mead." The punishment was more of a formality at this point of the trip, since they were due to arrive to Val Royeaux at midday. Solas guessed it was more to appease his first mate than anything else.

"Yes, Captain." she just said. Varric glance at Solas, as if asking him if they should let her go with the crew members that moved towards the door, gesturing her to follow. The first mate was among them. But as it was, they were in no position to affect the Captains decision and he didn't object on the first mate for escorting her.

Lelou didn't seem nervous as she moved to follow them.

Suddenly, she slipped on the blood that stained the floor, and it had to be pure accident, that her feet connected with the first mates crotch.

 

Chapter Text

Lelou leaned against the holding cell wall, glaring the dark before her. 

After making sure that the rapist shit couldn't try to repeat his heinous act in the near future, she had submitted to the manhandling that had followed. Two of the sailors had grabbed her roughly and dragged her to the fourth deck, practically carrying her between them. They had tossed her into the cell and she had fully prepared to either bullshit herself out of the beating, or defend herself the best she could, but the Captain had shouted something in the french like language of his and they left her alone in the cell.

One lantern dangled on the upper corner of the cell, providing light that didn't reach far, making the darkness around her seem deeper. Though calling the construction she was locked in a cell was exaggerating, it was more like a cage.

The constant noise and atmosphere of the wooden ship was different here, muffled and heavy and she knew she was under the sea level. If she had been afraid of water or dark, this lock in would be very unpleasant. She wasn't, but the situation wasn't pleasant the slightest. 

She didn't do too well with confined space. 

Ever since the Vault 111 and the traumatic events that took place there, she considered herself lucky when she hadn't become claustrophobic. Though she didn't have a full phobia, the restricted confinement was still agitating. Her heart bounded heavy against her rips and the acid grip of anxiety made her chest feel tight and hands cold. Unpleasant feeling, like teetering on the edge of a panic attack. She breathed slow, trying not to start heaving. The cell she had been kept in Haven had been three times the size of this cage, well lit and made comfortable for the one occupying it, and she had had plenty to observe and think at that time, so she hadn't felt anxiety at then. Now the only thing that occupied her mind, was the reason of her being locked in the cage in the first place.

Her pulse sped up and anger rose in her, mixing in with the all ready existing stress. 

Rape was a crime she had fought against countless times in the court room when she worked as a lawyer in Boston. Her clients had been women, men, transgender, homosexual and straight.

People from every stages of life.

She had defended them with all her might and wit, spending hours up at night preparing each case, treading them all with the commitment and seriousness that they were ought to be treated. Many times she had won, but the sentences never felt sufficient when compared to the long recovery her clients had to go through. When the perpetrator had been rich and powerful, and wanting to keep the tabloids at bay, they had paid huge sums of money, settling the case in close doors. Her clients often agreed, both because they needed the money, or they didn't believe they could get real justice.

Those cases were the ones that made her lose faith in her work and in justice the most. 

Nate had counseled her to step away from criminal cases like that and she had, when she had become pregnant with Shaun. And then the unthinkable had happened, and she had come face to face with completely another level of injustice and crime. 

In the dead world of Commonwealth, she had learned the hard way, that the rules she had been raised to respect didn't apply anymore, and that whatever justice there was, was in everyone's own hands. It had been a struggle, to find the line between justice and murder. When was she delivering what was deserved? How could she know she was on the right? When did she simply murder someone, because she didn't like them, or found them to be too unpredictable and possibly too dangerous? 

She had lost herself trying to figure out those questions, but she had found herself again.

Or someone she thought was her. 

In the light of what just happened, she wasn't so sure anymore. 

She pressed her forehead to the cold metal, exhaling a long sight. 

It had been months since she had last killed a human being. Ever since her rise to power and the purge she had executed in the Commonwealth, she had had less and less enemies, less need to kill. The bloodless time didn't mean she couldn't take a life anymore, but it forced her to reflect on her actions, rethink her justification to take the law in her own hands.

Thing were different here in Thedas, more like in the old world.

Here was law and rules to keep order and she couldn't just go and kill people when she deemed them too destructive to keep breathing. She had nearly slipped up in Haven, and now she slipped again, this time even worse, nearly killing a man without so much as thinking of the consequences of such irreversible act. It was a different thing to kill an armed man attacking you in heat of a battle or a raid, that would be self defense. But she had gone to stab someone in the neck, on a civilian ship, and no matter what motivation she had, or what she would have said in her defense, in this world it would have been a cold blooded murder in everyone's eyes. 

In this world and in it's rules, it would have been a cold blooded murder even in her own eyes. 

If Solas hadn't stopped her, she would have ended the man's life and her own would've been forfeit.

But when she had seen him over the girl, she had acted purely on instinct and her instinct had told her to exterminate the threat fast and without mercy.

She closed her hands into a tight fist, doubt gripping her heart. 

Or had she gone in for the kill just out of habit? 

Did she really do it because she needed to save her?

Of course I did!

...but wouldn't it have been enough for her to apprehend the man, like it would have been done in the old world? Serve justice without out right murdering the perpetrator? 

What justice?

With a great sight, she pressed her forehead to the cool metal. She stayed in the lanterns dim yellow light, her arms pushed through the square holes, dangling out of the cage.

Adapt. This is a new world. This is't the Commonwealth, I need to adapt. 

No. This is worse, she argued herself. 

Here is law as it was in the world I was born into, with the addition of a group of people who do not benefit from it. The girl knew she would suffer if she told she was attacked. She knew she didn't matter. Everyone knew it. 

The rage grip her chest and shoulders and she breathed deep. 

I can't remove the filth.

Don't think about it. It is no use. 

With a great effort, she leveled her breathing and calmed her pulse. She repeatedly pumped up her arms muscles and shook them, turning her rage into a physical feeling and cast it away, dropped it on the wooden floor like a dog shakes off the loose fur.

I'm not going to stay here. I'm going back home, no matter what it takes, I'm not staying in this twisted world.

She started to drown her anger into the resolve of finding a way back to her own twisted world. 

 

 

She spend the rest of the night detaching herself from the incident, so she wouldn't flip her shit when she inevitable would see the first mate again. It was late midday, when they let her out and the ship was preparing to dock down on Val Roueuyx port. Luckily, she had spend most of the previous day on cleaning saddles and bridles, but she still had lot of preparation to do, before loading the horses off the ship. 

But she was too much of a smoker to get to work right away and grabbed her tobacco pouch and pipe, fixing a smoke while striding towards the main deck. She went to the lantern hanging close to the hatch to light her pipe, noticing the passengers observing the arrival to their destination, the Herald and her company among them.

And pretty much everyone took a double take on her. 

On the hind sight, she maybe should have grab a shirt and shoes, seeing how people kept glancing in her direction. Some women in elaborate clothes bowed their heads together, their mouths in sneer as they kept glaring her way. Apparently, pant's and short leather vest wasn't considered a decent attire. Behind the two woman stood an elf, holding a tray of refreshments. Lelou's mood soured.

Showing a little skin is frowned upon, but raping a woman with different kind of ears is totally okay. Fuck you bitches. 

Thou none of them were involved at the nights incident, their master-servant arrangement set her mood from irritated to angry. Aware of her increasing lack of care to keep up the appearance of a simple horse girl, she threw a dirty look at the women and walked towards them, settling to lean on the railing close to them. She got pathetic amount of satisfaction when they averted her rude staring and moved farther away, all superior sneers and huffs accentuating their stereotypical snob act. 

The rest of the passengers gave her a wide berth, her traveling companions included, all the while stealing glances at her witch nature she didn't bother to cipher. She was well aware of how she looked like with her pin-up curves and tattoos, and being watched was all good and normal to her.

She hadn't tattooed her skin just to hide the pictures away. 

She turned her attention to the city, and she had to admit, it looked beautiful. The buildings were made of white stone as was Jader. They were tall and decorated, that kind you only saw in fantasy movies. Once upon a time, she had traveled across the world with her husband. They had spend their honeymoon in Italia, and for one month, they traveled through the country visiting every historical city that was still standing. Val Ro-somethings architecture reminded her of those cities, but where those historical marvels she had visited were only a ghosts of their former glory, this city was sparkling like polished silverware.

She finished her smoke, knocking the pipe on the railing to empty the chamber. It was time to get to work. 

First she checked the horses general health and responsiveness. They all seemed to be fairing well, thou they sensed the change in the ships movements and seemed to anticipate the end of their boring journey. Apollo and Ares stomped the turf while Paidia hummed and neighed excitedly, and even Eleos hummed to her softly. Only Bastard acted out of character, witch meant that it didn't immediately try to bite or kick her when she entered it's stall.

The Lucifer first pony stared at her with it's black eyes all the while as she checked it's vitals and it's passive behavior made her neck hair stand up. 

"You fucking monster...you're up to something...." she quickly brushed it and put the bridles on and still it didn't try to eat her fingers. She glared at it suspiciously.

It just stared back at her. 

This is freaking me out. 

She was half tempted to just leave the horse locked in the stall and let some other unfortunate soul to take on its antics. But then again, it was her responsibility. And since the hell spawn wasn't throwing a tantrum, or tried to make her and solid wood wall feel like one, her practicality won her gut feeling and she brushed it, groomed it's mane and tail and checked it's hoofs. There was suddenly a large swaying movement as the ship was docked in the harbor and all it's movements seized at once. 

They had finally arrived to their destination. 

Lelou went to dress her jumpsuit on, not bothering to find a shirt to put under it to cover her arms. It was hot in Orlais and truthfully, she didn't care if people found her tattoos offending. In the next minute, she had packed her meager belongings in her backpack and after lacing the leather boots on, she was ready to take the first horse on. This time there was a sling to lift the horses on shore. She decided to take Ares first and waited for the passengers to exit the ship, their footsteps thundering above. She was dressing bridles to the horses when Solas came to her. 

"I came to take your things to shore, so you don't have to come back for them later." the mage said as in greeting. Lelou closed Apollo's stall gate and took her backpack under the hammock. Holding it out for him she found him looking at her, his expression serious.

"What did they do to you?" he asked. Lelou frowned, the question out of context at first, then his eyes dropped to her arm holding out the backpack. Behind her tattoos, there were bruises on her arm where the sailors had grabbed her. She glanced her left arm and saw identical bruising there. They were way too visible for having been caused by simple accident.

So, they wrenched my arms while they carried me down. How old are they, eight? 

Of course she hadn't noticed nothing more than pressure.

She lifted the pack again towards him. 

"It's nothing." 

"It doesn't look like nothing." his tone is tense, storm colored eyes looked at her all over, and she knew he was searching more signs of abuse. The concern he showed towards her well being made her suddenly angry. 

If you're that worried about me, why did you stop me? Why didn't you let me finish him? I could have dispose the body and save other women for being abused in the future. Now that rapist lives and is free to rape and abuse as he likes.

She knew she was being unfair, unreasonable. Had he not stopped her, she would have been a murderer and he would have been forced to either cover her crime, or he would have have to witness against her. And even if he had let her do what she intended, there was no guarantee, that she wouldn't have been caught, and then she could have said goodbye to any change she might find to get back her home. Simply put, he had saved her big time.

Still she felt unreasonable angry towards him.  

"It's my body. If I say it's nothing, then it is nothing." she said and pushed the backpack into his arms "I have work to do." her tone was biting, he didn't deserve it and she knew it. His expression changes from one of concern to one of indifference and he looped the packs strap over his shoulder. 

"Of course." he said and it sounded as inpersonal as his expression looked.

With that, he left her alone.

Chapter Text

Varric didn't see their Handler until it was late midday, when the ship was preparing to dock down on Val Roueuyx port. She didn't say a word to anyone, when she emerged from below the deck, walking straight to the lantern hanging close to the hatch on the floor to lit her pipe. There were lot of passengers observed the arrival to the capital, the Herald and her company among them, and the redheaded woman was still wearing only her brown pants and the leathers that bind her breasts, flaunting her curves and tattoos to everyone who noticed her.

And pretty much everyone did notice her. 

Varric had to admit, their Handler got a body to show off. He especially liked her belly, all smooth and soft looking. He also notices the bruises on her arms when she moves closer to the railing, scaring off two nobles and their servant. 

"She's hurt." he said quietly to the elf standing next to him, he too observing the woman.

He and Solas had followed the group down to the third deck and waited until the two men and the Captain that went down with her came back, making sure she was as safe as it was possible. Varric had first intended to stay on guard at the trap door, feeling somehow responsible of Lelou, when the Captain had ordered everyone to leave and then locked the trap door with a padlock, taking the key with him. The rogue hadn't seen any sailor sporting a black eye or broken nose, and assumed that the Handler had been left alone. He was pretty sure that if someone tried to lay their hands on her, she would at least get few hits in and above neck seemed to be her favorite part to go for. 

But now it seemed she hadn't come out of it unscratched. 

The passengers were instructed to wait till the ramp was lifted up and attached to the railing. People started to slowly get of the ship. Solas broke off the group. 

"Where are you going?" Cassandra asked. She might not be a Templar, but she sure kept a close eye on their mage. 

"To get our Handlers pack. I would think she has her hands full with our horses." Solas says after nearly unnoticeable pause, likely pulling the excuse out of the metaphorical hat right then and there. They hadn't told anything about the last nights incident to the Seeker or the Herald, the two having enough on their plates with the nobles clamoring around them.

Ever a practical woman, Cassandra nodded, agreeing with the reasoning and Solas went towards the entrance to the lower deck. It didn't take long for him to return, carrying the woman's backpack. Varric dropped behind Evelyn and Cassandra, the two warriors already swarmed by the nobles, inviting them over to their estates and city houses. He waited for Solas to reach him. 

"So?" he asked falling in the slow moving line with him. 

"It was nothing." his answer came, neutral and curt. Varric glanced up at him and saw his plain expression. Normally, he was fast to know what people were thinking, but with their Fade Experts, he never could be sure. Solas had the uncanny ability to keep his posture and voice even in all situations, but the months on road with him had started to make the rogue see tells.

Like the one when the said Fade Expert was composed and neutral in a situation where every other person wouldn't be. Like for example, when his friend of opposite sex had been assaulted. 

"She refused the healing." it wasn't a question. Solas looked at him, a hint of surprise in his eyes, before the indifference took in. 

"She made it clear that she was in no need of assistance." now there was a tone in his voice Varric could cipher; indignant. 

Really now, how long have you been roaming the forests alone, getting offended like that in a case like this?

"So she's pissed off. No surprise there. I'm pissed off too." the rogue dwarf said. Solas raised an questioning eyebrow at him. 

"That bastard got away with it. You stopped her. You did the right thing, she would have paid a heavy price otherwise. She knows it, I think. Doesn't mean she wouldn't be pissed off by it." Solas looked at him for a moment and then nodded, but didn't say anything. They moved to climb down the ramp. Passengers were herded farther from the ship and the loading lift pulled by six druffalos was slowly moved next to the ramp. Varric and Solas joined Cassandra and Evelyn by the corrals where their horses would be brought. 

"I think you too are pissed off by it." Varric said. 

"You would think right." the mage agreed. 

 

****

 

There was a crowd on the dock, watching how her charges were loaded off the ship one by one. The big grey stallion was being lifted first. Lelou was holding a long leash attached to its head, descending the ramp at the same speed as the horse was lowered down, staying close to it all the way down, rather than letting other workers receive it on the ground. She had wrapped thick layers of cloth around it's legs, provided by her cloak she had sliced to long bandages the day before solely for this purpose. 

She jumped off the ramp looping the leash over her shoulder and took a firm hold of the huge horses bridles, when it's hoof touched the ground. It neighed impatiently and two dock workers came quickly undress the harness. As soon as it was free of it, it lifted it's neck up and started to fidget and lift it's legs, soon branching on the spot. Lelou snorted. 

"Show off." she muttered and replaced the long leash to shorter one. The docking side was big and busy place, but the workers there were all fast and orderly, and one of them pointed her a corral nearby and told her to take her horses there. She quickly put Ares into the pen and commanded it to stay put and then jogged back to the ship to get Apollo. 

By the time she brought the white warhorse to the corral, Ares had already gathered a crowd of admirers and when she came back with Paidia, there was even more people. She spotted the Herald with her company. Lelou felt a stab of guild when she saw Solas, standing there on the sidelines, closed off look on his face. 

I should apologize. Fuck, I should thank him.

She knew her lashing out to the healer was unfair in many levels. The man had just done what any sensible person would in that situation, and she had come close to seriously injure him too. She sighed deep, leaning on Eleos side in it's stall.

She knew she started to get over worked. Bitching to others wasn't normal to her and happened when she was too stressed out. Back at home, Hancock would have already poured her a glass of whiskey, and if the stress was too much, he wasn't above of slipping something into her drink. Nick had come to blows with the ghoul couple of times because of that, before they stopped talking to each other. 

Have you always drowned your problems in liquor?! He had asked. No, she hadn't that was a bad habit she had picked up about a year in the Commonwealth. And as she already had established, drinking and getting high wasn't an option to dull herself out. Last nights happenings just solidified that. It would be too dangerous if she became inhibited.

The big mare hummed to her, nudging her leg a little. She patted it's neck and walked the gentle giant up to the deck and into the lift. Lowering her down went through without a hitch, no surprise there, and she took it to the corral. It didn't get as much marveling "wow's" and "ooh's" but Paidia trotted happily to greet it's friend when she let it in the pen, all neighing and whinnying to it. 

Silly pony, your only been separated twenty minutes at most. 

She shook her head while she jogged back to the ship. She stopped to talk to the two men who had took the harness of from the horses. 

"This is the last horse. It is a difficult animal, kicks and bites so beware. But don't hit it." both of them shrug their shoulders and mumble that they understood. Being worked in the busy dock had let them see and handle all kind of animals. At least she hoped so.

The second deck had got crowded too when merchants and their workers checked on the cattle, preparing to take them to shore as soon as the lift was vacated. Lelou stopped to look at Bastard. In the shadows of the cargo area, it looked black as autumn night, light hitting to it's obsidian eyes. It turned it's head to the left, staring at her with it's right eye for a while, and then it seemed to loose all interest in her. Lelou narrowed her eyes to the beast, puzzling over it's odd behavior. Horses aren't aggressive by nature, if they are, it is usually caused by fear from abuse and general bad training. After the ignorant elf struck him, she thought that it's behavior problems might be because of past abuse. She had tested it by just simply showing a whip to it she had borrowed from the druffalo stall. It hadn't even flipped it's ears back. She had tried to raise it high in fast movement, a sure way to get abused horse to flinch. No reaction. It didn't show any tell tale signs of fearing the whip, even though it was exactly same looking as the one the elf hit it with. Horses had a good memory when it came to things that caused them pain and discomfort, witch is why Bastard lack of reaction didn't make sense to her. 

Cautiously, she took it out of the stall. 

In the day light she saw the result of her through grooming and she had to admit, the horse was impressive in it's own wiry way. It's ashen brown coat had a metallic shine in it and the chiseled muscles told of explosive power. As she strapped the harness on place, with the long leash, she kept her eyes on the horse at all times. Lowering it on the ground went smoothly, and it didn't even glare at the men coming to take the harness off. Lelou jumped down from the ramp and went to replace the leash looping the long one over her shoulder. Suddenly, Bastard reared up, scaring the two men who quickly backed away from it. It's eyeballs enlarged, nostrils flared and it screamed like only a pissed off horse can.

And then it took off. 

Thank god, I thought it was sick. 

No mind that she was dragged behind it, the leash still around her shoulders. 

Chapter Text

"This is unbelievable! How can one single horse cause this much havoc!?" Evelyn cried in frustration, steering her stallion to round yet another tipped over cart. Two elves and one human were picking up the cargo scattered around the street.

"At least it leaves a trail to follow." Varric commented, earning an irritated scowl from her. She glanced towards the cart and the man trying to remove the broken wheel, that looked like something had crashed to it with force. Evelyn had an idea of what-or rather "who" it was, and her stomach sunk a little. The last few days on the ship had been stressful for her, and she didn't want to see their Handler in broken heap of bones, though it looked like that was what they would find. 

To own the truth, she hadn't been thrilled, when Cullen had told her, that the weird redhead was to come with them as their Handler. She had argued against it, pointing out that the woman was no fighter and the roads were still too dangerous, because of the random pockets of mages and templars fighting each other, not to mention the ever growing number of bandit groups, that exploited the situation. And then there were rumors of a civil war spreading over the Dales in Orlais! She had pointed out, that they had managed well enough without a Handler already. It would be too much of a hassle, to bring a civilian with them, especially someone who didn't have any proper training for armed confrontations. She would just get in their way or get hurt, or disturb their teams dynamic, when someone had to protect her.  

Her arguments had been reasonable, but in the end, the Commander had kept insisting, that the woman could take care of herself and the main team would be much better rested, when they had a proper Handler with them to take care of their mounts. Evelyn had reluctantly agreed and later, she had to admit that it was less work for her after a long day of riding, when someone else took care of her horse. There had been only one fight so far, and it had been less of a hazard after the fight, when their horses had been neatly bundled together, waiting for them and they didn't need to chase them down. 

So maybe Cullen had been right on pushing the woman with them, it was easier for the team. And she had helped to get the Verchins to go to Haven.

Until her horse nearly ruined the tentative agreement, by attacking first the Lady herself and then her servant! 

The Verchins had been graceful enough to not to make a commotion about the incident with the damned animal, and after dubious amount of exchanging flattery and promises of future favors, they were still incline to come meet with their Ambassador. And then their Handler had embarrassed her this morning by strutting around half naked in front of a deck load of people. She and Cassandra had watched mortified, how the woman had rudely claimed a spot by the railing, seemingly not caring one bit on how her indecent attire and behavior could be reflected to the rest of the group. Evelyn knew there were cultures, that had much looser dress code when it came to commoners, but the majority of any country, specifically those that held Andrastian beliefs, didn't approve such a blatant disregard of public decency. 

The Lord and Lady Verchin had watched it with raised eyebrows, but opted to not comment on it, and for that Evelyn was grateful. She still had - just in case- lured them to accompany her to the corral and boasted off in the expense of Dennet's horses, using the mans obvious desire of owning one of them to her advantages. Granted, she hadn't been anywhere near subtle, but she was not going to let some ill mannered woman and crazy horse to ruin her affairs.

Personally, Evelyn herself would have gladly burned that bridge and save herself from the trouble, but this deal was not about her. Josephine had been adamant on the importance of the merchant nobles, because while they had lesser influence in the eyes of the Royal Court, they were rich. Filthy rich in fact and at the moment, the Inquisition needed funding more than anything else. 

But as soon as one incident had been dealt with, another arise, and once they had realized, that Lelou was not coming back with her frenzied horse, they had geared up hastily and gone after them, leaving their perplex, potential allies gape after them. Evelyn groaned irritated. She didn't even want to think of all the possible rumors that people could be spun about this, first the murderous horse and then the indecent display on the ship and then the Herald running after that same murderous horse and its exhibitionist owner! She would be a laughing stock in the Court by the end of the week! She was very much inclined to report these incident to Cullen, and get rid of both of the troublesome animal and it's Handler. Those two were nothing but trouble, and following the path of destruction they left in their wake in the streets of the Orlais capital, she made her decision. 

Cullen better assign me a new Handler. 

And it had nothing to do with the way how Cullen had spoke about the other woman! The Commander had come to see them off back at Haven, and Evelyn had secretly hoped, that the man wanted to say something personal to her, with the way he hesitated before he spoke. But no~o, he had gestured towards the newly appointed Handler.

"Please, look out for her. She has a tendency to get in trouble in some...unexpected ways. But she's not a bad person, I assure you."

Pah, and I thought he was coming to say goodbye to me privately! 

Her irritation grew, but being forced to grow up fast in the pass months, she took a deep breath and exhaled long, trying to calm herself down. She knew she was younger than most of the Inquisitions members who had any influence in the organisation, and some of them still thought her to be a bit childish, but she wasn't as childish as to let her own personal feelings to cloud her judgement! The woman was too much of a hassle, to have accompany them with that creature of hers! Just look at that! That must be the third cart smashed to pieces! 

"Uh...I'm beginning to fear for our Handlers well being, just a little bit." Varric mutters behind her. Evelyn sighs.

Then again, I did promise Cullen that I would keep the woman safe...okay...maybe I'm a little bit jealous. 

She glared at the cart and the wood splinters scattered around. 

Still gonna report this.

"Come on. Let's find them." she said, urging her horse to trot.

***

Bastard dragged her good ten minutes and then some, before it slowed down enough for her to get her feet under her, and horses could cross quite the distance in ten minutes. By the time she managed to stop her ride on the Highway to Hell, she was completely lost. And able to see with only one eye, and even that, barely. Which was unfortunate, for what she could see seemed to be a splendid looking plaza of some sort. There were lots of people milling around. The gap the horse had dragged her through swiftly closed, compliments of the busy city people, preventing her to see which direction they had come. Sighing resigned, she took the all too long leach of Bastard's and looped it into a bundle to be easier to carry. 

"Ohkhay you pfucker. Leth fhing shome whather." 

Oh, damn. I hope I haven't lost too many teeth's. 

She run her tongue over her teeth's, praising the unnamed Institute scientist who had invented the pain inhibitor, when she felt three of them shattered barely staying attached to her gums. It would surely be pure agony without it, for now she could feel just a tiny sting. She more heard than saw the water, apparently there was a fountain nearby. Bastard followed her when she walked towards the sound. There were people close by, muttering something in that French like language. She might not understand the words, but the obvious disdain in their tone told her everything she needed to know. 

"Pfuck off, hjou shitheads. Fike hjou neveh seen a whoman mwauled by a chobblesshtone pfavement." she grunted irritated. She splashed few handfuls of water to her face and wasn't the least surprised seeing the water color turn to red for a moment and then dissolve as the fountains current carried the blood away. She dropped to sit down, leaning her back to the fountains stone side, while Bastard dipped it's head down beside her, drinking greedily. She opted to rest for a second, and see if the unpredictable horse had had it's fill in mischief for the time being, before starting to ask around of how to get back to the docks. Surprisingly, it didn't take long when she heard the distinguish clopping of hoofs against the stone, and then Paidia neighed loudly, followed by Eleos soft rumpling. Ares and Apollo too thrummed on the low note, all of the horses greeting her. It was kind of cute how they recognized her as the herds leader, even though the big mare held the actual leadership among them. 

So they think I'm an old mare. Hehee...more like second in command, something like a beta.

"By the Maker! Are you alright." Evelyn's voice came close fast, followed by multiple footstep. She saw only blurred figures, but could recognize Solas, as the mage quickly rounded the Herald and knelt before her. 

"Phjust pfhantastic." she slurred, feeling her lips too swollen to move.

"Don't try to speak." Solas said, and she felt careful fingers start to poke and touch her face all over. 

"Open your mouth as much as you can." Again, Lelou praised the pain inhibitor inventor to the highest esteem, when the man stuck one long finger in her mouth and poked the broken teeth's. And because teeth's had some pretty sensitive nerves, the sting got a bit closer to be identified as toothache, a form of pain she had little tolerance.

Why the hell couldn't you just look?! Oh, right, there's no flashlights. 

She felt the tingling sensation go through her face and the pain instantly vanished. Moment later she started to see clearly. Solas had that focused look on him and his fingers-pulled away from her mouth- felt her cheekbones and jaw tentatively. She took his hands, pulling them down from her face, snapping him out of the healing process. 

"Thank you, but let's continue this somewhere else, before some mage-phobic jumps on you." he looks surprised, which shouldn't surprise her as much as it did. But what she had gathered from their talks about magic, and the general fear people felt towards it's users, she didn't think it to be the wisest course of action for him to heal her in the middle of the busy plaza. Especially because the mans eyes could start glowing in brilliant blue color. She narrowed her eyes at him.

"Ugh, don't look so surprise. It should be obvious, that I care about your safety."

Chapter Text

The four Inquisition members found the runaway pair in a middle of a smaller garden plaza after a surprisingly short search. The ashen brown beast was calmly drinking from a fountain, and right next to it on the ground sat a thoroughly roughed up looking Lelou. Her long hair was partially loosened from the usually tight braid, chunks of mud and other suspicious looking trash latched on it. Her bare arms sported some new bruises and peeled skin, and for a moment, Solas feared that the tattoos would be unsalvageable, but that fear was quickly forgotten, when she lifted her head, hearing their approach. The left side of her face was badly swollen, so much so that she wasn't able to open her left eye and her nose was bleeding, the blood smearing everywhere when she had tried to wash her face, apparently not quit understanding how bad of a state her face was. She looked every bit like she had been dragged through a cobblestone street for a mile. Solas quickly dropped down from his horse and passed by the Herald, who was talking to the woman. He automatically took control of the situation, that reckless human was trying to speak, when her mouth was obviously damaged! 

He instructed her to open her mouth and felt around the inside of it, confirming his suspicion. She had cracked few teeth, but his magic told him, that her jaw was uninjured, the metal netting keeping the bone firmly on form. Her teeth were another thing, not protected by the curious enhancement covering the rest of her skeleton. That was his priority to heal and he pinpointed the healing magic to the damaged teeth's first, before setting a minor healing spell to take care of the swelling around her eyes. Her face taken care off, he started to fast scan through the rest of her body, to see if there was anything more urgent. He could not do a full healing at the time, less he wanted to attract more attention to them, than what they already were attracting, and he would have preferred privacy, when tending her. There was just so many unknown things in her physically for him to figure out all of them in these short moments, when he healed her injuries. Like that small metal chip inside her head, that pulsed rabidly, but in steady pace at the very moment. 

Interesting.

She had bumps and bruises, and they were already starting to heal, so he directed his prodding to check for internal injuries.

Warm fingers curled around his hands, pulling them down.

"Thank you, but let's continue this somewhere else, before some mage-phobic jumps on you." it surprises him, to feel her hand holding his. Her grip was...

Her hands are firm, splayed on my neck. 

No.

Not mine. 

The hazel-blue eyes looked at him, the swelling on her face fading off right before his eyes.

"Ugh, don't look so surprise. It should be obvious, that I care about your safety." 

"I..." How do you answer to something like that?

"No kidding." Varric voice came right behind him, before he managed to form an answer.

"Seeing your horse tries to murder you every other day, you need a healer more than any off us. Seriously, are you sure you didn't piss anyone off to get stuck with that animal?" the dwarf asks and Solas is grateful of his own worry, that propped him to speak. He uses the interruption to pull Lelou up on her feet and hide the confusion his own thoughts caused him.

Since when had his dreams started to bother him while he was awake? 

"I know who I have pissed off,and Bastard isn't because of that. Dennet is obsessed because of its speed and I'm just too stupid to quit while I live." Lelou groaned holding on to Solas shoulder, steadying herself. The dwarf seem intrigued by her answer, but didn't manage to continue with the subject, as Evelyn and Cassandra mount their horses, hissing them to do the same. Both of them had bypassed their armors today, and managed to get on their horses without assistance.

"Enough of this stalling, we need to get going." Evelyn said. She seemed to be in foul mood, had been most of the morning. Though her anger had subsided the minute they had seen the first blood splatters on the pavement, concern taking over, but now that the Handler was safe, her anger rose again. 

"It's a damn miracle, that no one has called guard yet, but that can change any minute now." she said, nodding her head to point out the small crowd of people that peered at them. At her words Lelou sprang to action, taking Bastards gear down from Eleos back where it had been tossed along with her backpack. It didn't take long for her to gear up the now completely calm horse of hers and she mounted it without any trouble. Solas kept his eyes on the woman, riding the big mare next to her.

As they rode deeper to city, the architecture of the buildings started to be more lavished, more ornate, and stained glass windows decorated numerous houses, the midday sun sparkled on their metal frames. The rich citizens passed them by, riding in their luxurious two team carriages, showing off their wealth in both possessions and in their attires, as was the custom of nobles around the world. To Solas, who watched their handler like a hawk, it was curious to notice, that Lelou appeared to be completely unimpressed of the luxurious sights and the exquisitely displayed goods in the merchants windows they passed by. The rotting shacks and patched down clothes he had seen in her memories, were even sadder than the city elves in their alienages, and yet the woman was not moved the slightest of the beautiful city spreading all around her. Even Evelyn, who had grown up in the lab of luxury in Free Marches, had watched everything with wide eyes, when she had first visited Val Royeaux few weeks ago. Then again, he had seen only short moments of Lelou's life and couldn't know what kind of a land this Commonwealth was in it's entirety. Still, he thought her lack of interest contradicting.

The tavern they were heading, was the same they had been the last time, when they visited Val Royeaux. The Golden Feather was a three story building, with a big stable and surprisingly moderate pricing on rooms. That was, because the Inn had afford to do it, their main income was the spirits they distilled. They were strong drinks and came in different subtle flavors and they were very popular among the merchant class. It hadn't been surprise to learn, that the Inn's tavern was a regular meeting place for the Merchant Guild, and that Varric was the one to arrange them housing in there, while they were in Val Roeyaux. As much as he complained about the Guild, he wasn't petty enough to not to use his connections. 

By the time they reached the Inn, Lelou seemed to feel a lot better. Still, Solas helped her to unequipped the horses in the stable, while the others went in to order food and baths, and after the animals were in their stalls eating oats and hay, he led her behind the stable to a small backyard where the hay bales were stored. Lelou sat quietly on a bale, letting him work in peace. He started from her face, healing the lingering bruises and checked the chip in her brain again. It still pulsed with subtle bursts of electricity, but Lelou didn't seem to react to it, not like in the ship couple days ago. Mulling the purpose of the mysterious chip, he started to probe her insides with his magic yet again. He found traces of internal bleeding, but they were nearly healed, and he just observed how the tissues knitted themselves together, leaving no scar tissue in their wake. As much as he would have wanted to continue examining her, he didn't have any reason to linger, so he pulled his magic away. He still checked her arms to see if the tattoos were unblemished. They were intact, excluding the old scars that had been there, when he had first seen them in the dungeons back at Haven. 

Why are there old scars when every new one vanishes?

Yet another mysterious detail. 

"Everything seems be alright now." he says standing up. She stand too, pushing a dirty tangle of locks behind her ear. 

"Thank you, Solas. I'm starting to think I should pay you, seeing how often you have to do this." 

"No need." he just says. She nods, looking like she has something to say and Solas waits. The silence between them gets a bit awkward, but then she looks at him straight in the eyes. 

"I'm sorry. For being so rude to you. Back at the ship." she breaks the eye contact and frowns "And I thank you, for last night. I imagine I would be...somewhere else...had you not stopped me." Solas feels his own brow furrowing. The incident last night was atrocious, to say the least. 

"I did it just so you wouldn't get persecuted." he says honestly. She glances at him and nods. 

"I know."

Now there is no way of avoiding the heavy silence. The elven lass had been saved from being raped, and since Lelou herself had caught on quickly on how much into a trouble she had gotten herself into, they had all come out of it more or less unscratched. Well, if you didn't count hits to one's personal morals and sense of justice, that is. With the additional knowledge, that the rapist was enabled to do as they liked. And all because the society allowed it to be so. Looking at Lelou, he could see the same futile anger he felt darken her eyes.

He didn't bother to console her.

 

***

 

After having apologized to Solas, Lelou took her backpack and headed to the inn to get something to eat and drink, determinately pushing the previous nights happenings in the back corners of her mind. Only she wasn't getting any service before she bathed (which was understandable) and she was promptly escorted to the bathroom by a servant, who was, non-surprisingly, an elf. The bathroom was fairly large room with two big tubs. The bath was already drawn and the woman who escorted her there, handed her a towel from the cabinet outside the bathroom. 

"If you have any laundry, leave them here on the bench and we take care of them. You will have them delivered to you in the morning in your room." she instructed. Her accent gave her a bit trouble, but she understood well enough. And she was more than happy to part with her dirty clothes. She had been washing other peoples laundry something close to three months straight, it was nice to have someone else do it to her for once. She also made full advantage of the large bath tub and poured more hot water from the boiler, making the water nearly scalding. There was soup on the shelve near the tubs and a bottle that consisted oil. She had seen similar 'cosmetics' in Haven, so she guessed it was hair oil that acted as a conditioner. She tried to take a sniff from it, but of course she couldn't smell anything. She disregarded the slight sting of disappointment and set to open the tangled braid before she undressed and climb in the tub. The hot water felt as good as she expected, and she sighed, leaning back in the tub, contemplating whether or not to take a power nap in the steaming cradle. But then she saw the water start to turn dirty around her and opted to get rid of the months worth of grime in her pores. 

Maybe I shouldn't forgo that sauna in Haven.

She thought as she scrubbed her skin red from all the dirt and blood, and then set to soap her hair. It was a bit disgusting, the among of caged blood and something she washed out of it. She stole clean water from the other tub with a bucket to rinse herself fully and then very carefully, used the oil in her hair. For all she knew it could smell something terrible. Next she separated all her dirty clothes from her backpack and added them to the pile on the bench. She was left with dark brown breeches, natural white shirt and leather bodice to be dressed over it.

I'm going to look like a pirate wannabe in these. 

She rolled the sleeves to her elbows, the weather was too hot for her liking, when she had already used to the cold mountain air. The hair oil made her hair easier to manage and she decided to by some for herself if possible. She left it open to dry. Clean and dressed as a pirate (which was normal here), she took her backpack and renewed her search of food and drink. She managed the whole way to the bar counter, when a sharp whistle drew her attention to the front door. Varric weaved his hand to her, and by the looks of it, he had been waiting for her. 

"Come on, the others went a head to the market." 

Lelou sighs, dropping the backpack on her arm and rummaging through it, producing her pipe and tobacco pouch out and put them on her belt. 

Maybe I can buy something on the way. Do they have street food? 

"There's only few hours before our Herald has to make appearance to the Court Wizards party. She and Evelyn are shopping party clothes. We're supposed to meet them at the at the Summer Bazaar." Varric said starting to walk away. Lelou stared after the short man and then rummaged through her backpack again. 

I may as well take care of this.

She jogged after the dwarf and shoved a piece of paper in his hand. 

"What's this?" 

"You tell me. I can't read, but I would imagine it to be a shopping list or something like that." Varric's head snapped towards her. 

"You can't read?"

"Nope." of course she could read, just not in any of these scribbles she had seen so far, and she was not going to point that out, or start to learn, seeing how her stay here was only temporary. The dwarf nodded, opting to not comment on the subject of her illiteracy anymore and opened the folded paper. He came to a full stop when he read it. 

"Who gave this to you?"

"Filissa. She wanted some things. So-sovr-sove..."

"Souvenirs?"

"Yes, souvenirs. She talked too fast and I couldn't understand, so I asked her to write a list." she rummaged through her back again and produced a purse "Though it isn't much of a souvenir, when she is paying all of it." Varric looked at her, then back at the list. He handed it back to her, smiling widely.

"I think this is out of my league. But I bet Cassandra can help you."

 

Chapter Text

The Summer Bazaar was much quieter than what Lelou had experienced bazaars to be. There was only couple merchant selling their goods on the square, a handful of signs marking an indoor shops and one open air restaurant. In her opinion, if a place was called 'bazaar', there should be vendors filling every nook and corner with their wears, and a cacophony of shouting as every merchant tried to get their voice drown the others. Instead of a bustling marketplace, she found herself in a 'tourist attraction' with a sign before every attraction that said: Do not touch anything. She looked around on the deserted place. Few people walked around the square in leisure pace, looking like they were on a stroll rather than shopping. They probably were.

Okay. That's just too blue.

Tall doors were painted in bright blue color. It was clearly thought out shade, designed to go along with the round blue building that stood at the center of the square. The place was extravagantly decorated, long red drapes hung above the market, doing nothing to protect anyone from the blaring sun and most of the square was paved with marble, making it all sparkle and shine in the light. There was a ridiculous amount of fountains and water works, all made of the same shining and polished stone. Bright yellow curtains were hung up to frame the shops blue doors and she knew they weren't functioning as a dust collectors, preventing dust to get inside the shops. In her opinion it was completely useless way to ample up the shops exterior, seeing how the doors actual frame was beautifully ornated already. Added to all this, a lion statues stood on their high pedestals. They looked like they were made of solid gold.

This exaggerated flamboyant use of expensive looking materials made her feel bitterness towards this world. 

In the place she called home, resources were hard to come by and there was always need to have more supplies. The Institute was no exception to that. The underground facility was relatively safe from the radiation and the scientist had made remarkable work on creating new ways to overcome the all poisoning radiation, but they still had to rely on the contaminated materials and components that came from the surface. They needed to be purified before they could be use in radiation free researches and it cut a big chunk from the Institutes own resources. Lelou practically glared at the drain, running at the side of the road. It's bottom was paved with blue stone and the waterworks framed the whole square, running from fountain to fountain like a blue sparkling miniature canal, made of the Nectar of Life.

Sighing irritated, she looked around again. 

"Where are all the merchants?" she asked, turning to look at her companion.

"Pretty isn't it? This is mainly for those with enough money and status." Varric said as an explanation. 

"Is there a real marketplace somewhere?" 

"You mean loud and overly cramped place, where every merchant has the best quality wears?" 

"Yes." 

Varric grinned at her deadpan tone. 

"The 'real marketplace' is in near the docks, you went right pass it earlier."

"You mean I was dragged pass it earlier."

"Yep. We have enough to do today, but I'll take you there tomorrow." 

"Thank you." Lelou glanced at the short man "So, can I get whatever is in the list here then?" 

"Couldn't say. You need to go to our Seeker with that." Lelou narrowed her eyes to the man. She wasn't stupid, Varric clearly had his own motivations to claim that he knew nothing about the lists content and it had something to do with the stoic warrior woman. She had noticed on the road that the two had some issues, but she wasn't that interested to find out what it was, or why, though now it seemed that she would be dragged into their feud regardless. Varric weaved her to follow him, but she touched his shoulder to stop him. 

"Wait for me." she said and made her way through the half empty square. There was a masked woman, selling all sort of supplies and Lelou spotted from a far the reddish color of ripe fruits. She identified them spring apricots and next to them was a baskets full of new potatoes and bundles of radishes, plus few other spring seasons fruits vegetables. There were people shopping there, a bulky masked man and two young girls holding smaller boxes filled with strawberries. Two elves, each carrying big baskets stuffed with supplies stood on the side and the big man seemed to be haggling with the merchant. While they talked in the frensh-like language, she picked up few apricots, a bundle of radishes and two stalks of rhubarbs. 

It's bizarre how similar some things are. This is practically Earth, if you count out all the fantasy stuff.

"Your not taking strawberries?" Varric asked, having followed her to the vendor. She shook her head not bothering to explain why she didn't buy the treat most people would by on spring season. She paid her purchases and ate the fruits while walking, not even trying to taste them. She didn't have any water, but the apricots were juicy enough to relieve some of her thirst. There didn't seem to be any water sources, where one could fill their waterskin, other than the fountains dotted all around the plaza. She figured that it probably wouldn't do for her to drink from them. 

"So" she said while walking "are we people with enough money and status?" she asked to fill the silence with something else than her munching a rhubarb. 

"We are now. We weren't the last time the Inquisition paid a visit here." Varric huffed, obviously remembering something unpleasant. 

"Ah, I remember Filissa saying something about it. Something doing with the Seeker's." she had heard only scattered second and third hand rumors, saying something about the 'Seekers' and unrest in the Val Whatever. She wasn't sure of what was so significant in the 'Seekers', but Cassandra was a Seeker, so she deduced that they were special soldiers of sort. Something like the Gray Wardens, perhaps.

The short man by her side started to talk, weaving his hands a bit. He had a habit of talking with his hands, Lelou had noticed.

"It was a mess. You see; originally the Chantry denounced the Inquisition, declaring it a heretic movement that tried to usurp the power in the middle of the chaos. That was before the Templars left as a whole organization, following after Grand Seeker Lucius to continue their holy war against the mages." 

"So these Seekers and Templars want to continue fighting with the mages? Then what does the Chantry want?"

"They want to have everyone under the same roof and continue to follow the traditional ways of the Andrastian religion, as they have followed for the pass nine centuries. Losing the Templars left the Chantry without protection. They wouldn't admit it out loud, but everyone knows that the Order leaving left them vulnerable towards burglaries and vandalism, since there aren't any Templars standing on guard in every corner of the Mass hall. The Chantry has relied on mercenaries, but few companies are above of blundering their employers properties themselves. The revered Mothers became scared of the Chantry's depleting wealth and their own general safety, and that opened up an opportunity to gain allies inside the Chantry. Needles to say that our monster-trio immediately seized that opportunity."

"Monster-trio?" Lelou asked raising an eyebrow. 

"Josephine, Leliana and Cullen." 

"Ah. So they offered protection to the Chantry. So the Her-rald is here to see if the Chantry falls in line?" 

"Its Herald. And yes, there's a big if there. Many of the Chantrys mothers have accepted the Inquisitions offer of alliances, but there are those that try to smother the new alliances on the pud. Much of the Chantry's co-operation depends on this night and whether or not we get the Court Enchanter to join us."

"The Chantry will more likely assist the Inquisition, if a mage joins it?" 

"Madam de Fer has close ties to the Royal Court, seeing she is the official Court Enchanter, and the Royal family has much sway in the Chantry's businesses. She is also the leader of the loyalist mages. It's a mage fraternity that follows the Chantry policies. You see, when all this fighting is over, there will still be mages. If the mages that are Loyalists side with the Inquisition, the Chantry will feel that they have the opportunity to reform the Circle's system and go back to the way they have always been." Varric said. Lelou shook her head to herself. She had figured out that there were multiple conflicts going on in this "Middle Earth" but only recently, she started to see the whole picture.

And boy, was she the unluckiest person alive.

How the fuck did I manage to get in the middle of another power struggle? Because this starts to sound eerily familiar. 

Templar versus Mages, imprisonment versus freedom. Institute versus everyone else. She felt a sudden drop in the ground and stumbled, not entirely sure if she had misstep, or if her gut just twisted really bad. 

The Inquisition coerces the Chantry to side with the Inquisition, using their growing military power and the influence of the loyalist mages to do it. Next, they would turn to recruit the Templars and those mages that rebelled against the system. Not unlike I did with the Institute, the Brotherhood and the Railroad.

All the people pulled under one powerhouse, one by one.

Or destroyed if they didn't fall in line.

The scale is bigger here, consisting whole countries and millions of people. 

She squeezed her eyes shut trying to stop the swaying threatening to tip her over.

It's just a coincident, stop thinking about it. This has nothing to do with me. It's just the history of men, repeating itself in another world.

Wide hands steadied her, holding on to her arm and hip. 

"Wow, there. What's the matter, you went all grey all of a sudden." Varric said, his voice laced with concern. Lelou stared down at him, forcing her focus on the short man anchoring her. His eyes were light brown, so much so that they looked golden. 

"I'm fine. Just tripped on my own feet. Four days on a boat do that to you." she swiftly said. Varric eyes her suspiciously for a moment, before he grins and lets go of her. 

"There's a way to cure the sea legs. When we get the Herald and the Seeker to their party, we're going to get some drinks of our own." He had no idea how tempting his offer was. Lelou straightened up and smiled to him, shaking her head. 

"I bet I'm suppose to take care of the horses, when they get back from that party." 

"And I didn't say you had to get too drunk to be unable to do that. Besides, you ditched my offer once already. Twice in a row is just plain cruel." the short man said and crossed his arms over his chest, drawing her gaze to the golden rug of a chest hair, and she knew he did it on purpose. Narrowing her eyes she appraised the short man (dwarf, she reminded herself). He wasn't tall by any means, reaching to the level of her chest, but he was all muscles. There was no softness in his features, nor was there roundness, he was gaunt both in figure and face. His attire -deep red jacket with golden embroidery- accentuated his well formed pectorals quite nicely, the golden chest hair a tad lighter in shade than his hair.

Varric -she admitted- was a very attractive man. Who also flirted, with all the skill of a playboy, yet he didn't strike her to be one to go beyond harmless flirting. Varric was a rogue, a term or rank she had heard others to call him, so she categorized him as a cunning person with stealth being his forte. All though the idea was a bit corny, she assumed that there was a classifying system in which style a persons fighting prowess fell: a warrior, rogue and a mage. Simple; strength, stealth or/and...science...magic?? 

Anyway.

Varric was obviously a shrewd man. He wanted to sit her down with a few drinks and have a chat with her, and because he presented his invitation so openly and did not even try to be coy, she found herself to be alarmingly open up for the idea. A fact that she knew, that he knew. She couldn't help but to admire his style. If he had been more subtle, she would have had her defenses high up.

He want's me to talk without restrains. Two can play this game.

Lelou made a show of her ogling, crossing her arms over her chest, mimicking his pose. 

"In the past, I have been accused to disregard my limits with the drinks. It wouldn't be a very good idea." 

"For you getting drunk? Why?"

"I become really loud and extremely violent when under the inf-influence. It could turn out pretty ugly." 

"So it's a no?"

"It's a strong maybe." 

"I'll take that. Now, let's find the rest of the group." Lelou followed him through the empty square, stuffing her disturbing thoughts to the deepest corner of her mind.

Chapter Text

In the end, she didn't have time to go have some drinks with the charming dwarf. As soon as they rejoined with the rest of the group, the Herald ordered Lelou to go back to the inn and prepare the warhorses, and wait there for their riders. Lelou didn't think nothing of the order at first, but then she noticed the dwarf looking at the young girl funny. 

"Why were you so rude to her?" 

She heard Varric asking from the Herald as she closed the seamstress door after herself. She didn't stay to listen, for it didn't particularly interest her whether or not the girl acted out differently towards her, but she filed the information away in the back of her mind and concentrated to find her way back to the inn they stayed. 

It didn't take her long to prep the two stallions, she only brushed them once and geared them up. And then she sat on a bench outside the stable and waited. After an half an hour she checked that the horses all got water and then she went back to sit and wait outside. Another half hour and two pipes later, she stood up again and gave the waiting horses some sugar cubes, praising them for their patience. The third half an hour she sat outside the stable waiting, started to irritated her and she ended up chain smoking her pipe. She knocked the chamber empty from the ashes and went back to the stables, relieving the two big and now restless horses from their saddles. They were unnecessarily excited for waiting all geared up in their stalls, expecting to get to go for a walk. 

"Sorry, boys. Seems I rushed you for nothing." 

She gave each another treat and calming hum deep from her throat, going back outside to wait. Nearing her post at the bench, she found it already occupied, or rather, the underside of it. A mangy, medium sized dog was laying under the shadow of the bench, panting heavily. It was a shaggy, sand colored mongrel. It stopped panting and looked at her, the half wild look in the black button eyes just confirming it to be a street dog. She calmly turned around and walked back in the stable, to fetch some water from the horses trough. The dog bared it's teeth to her, when she neared it. She kept her eyes turned away and placed the water bucket on the ground, then stepped to the side. She waited patiently, starting to fix another pipe. When the mutt was sure she wasn't interested of it, it crawled out from the shade. Once it settled to lap the water from the bucked- quite greedily- Lelou slowly sat on the bench to smoke. 

"Klàh-wa, ten'as kam'ooks." she murmured to it and it lifted it's head to look at her. Then it slowed down with the drinking. Lelou leaned her back to the stable wall and took slow drags from the pipe, just listening the muffled sounds coming from the inn and stable and the dog lapping water. When it had drank it's fill it trotted to her, and touched her knee with it's snout, leaving a cool wet mark on the fabric. 

"Klose kam'ooks. Al'ta klat'a-wa" 

The dog huffed, as if saying goodbye, and trotted away, soon disappearing behind the stables corner, heading deeper into the city. Lelou sighed fixing another smoke. If she were at home, chain smoking like she was now, Blitz would lay at her feet and growl frequently, its dis-formed physics preventing it to form fast, high sounds like bark. She would growl back at it and its skeletal tail would wag happily as they "talked". 

"Bet you're sleeping on the bed right about now. With Dogmeat." she frowned crossing her arms over her stomach "The pillow is probably gone. Shit...that was a decent pillow." 

"Eh...who are you talking to?" a hesitating voice drew her attention to the stables door. The Herald stood there with the Seeker, both woman looking at her funny. And a bit suspicious. 

"To myself, obviously." she snapped and stood up.

"Erm...right..." Evelyn cleared her throat and straightened her back, fixing her expression from confused to serious. And maybe a bit snobby, with they way she lifted her chin. 

"Are the horses ready?" she asked and yes, she even sounded a bit snobby. Well, Varric had mentioned that the nobles here were all pretty entitled, so the Herald probably had to match them, if she was to win them over.

Or just win them. 

Lelou looked the girl over. She wore an impressive forest green dress with a black riding jacket with golden embroideries on the seams and a golden eye mask. Her deep brown hair was pulled back to a tight bun, golden pins shine as the sun caught them. Lelou would have suggested a more youthful hairstyle, but the bun style was probably decided exactly because of her youth. The Seeker was wearing some sort of burgundy colored armored jacked over her armor, the eye and sword symbol shining almost pure white on dark grey steel plate, so thoroughly it was polished. Her hair was on the usual around head braid style. Evelyn narrowed her eyes to her. 

"Well? Are they ready or not?" 

"They were ready, but you two took you sweet time and the horses were getting restless." Lelou said and walked pass to them into the stable. She briefly nodded to Solas and Varric, the two men had come to see the women off. 

"I thought I was clear, when I ordered you to prepare them and wait for.."

"As I said," Lelou cut her off, taking Apollos saddle " they were ready. I had to take the saddles off, so they wouldn't get exse-ecxe- urgh. So they wouldn't heat up from waiting. One horse going rampant on the streets is enough for me." 

It took her less than five minutes to saddle the horses up and then she helped the warriors on the saddles. 

"Thank you. You don't have to wait for us. It might get late before the party is over." Cassandra said to her. Lelou just nodded to her and helped the Herald on to her horse. She didn't say anything, just gathered the reins and clicked her tongue to Apollo, urging it to trot out of the stable. Again, Lelou saw Varric frown to after the young warrior and even Solas lifted one eyebrow because of her rude behavior. Neither of them didn't seem to be willing to talk about it though. 

So the girl has something against me...go figure. 

The thought was irritating. She didn't have any motivation to figure out, why the girl suddenly disliked her, when she had been polite towards her thus far. 

"Excited." Solas said suddenly. Lelou and Varric looked at him blankly. 

"The word you were going at. Excited." the mage explained calmly.

"Ah. Yes. Thank you. Excited." Lelou repeated absentmindedly. 

In fact, she wasn't in the mood of talking at all. She kept mulling in her head the differences of these two worlds as well as the similarities they possessed. And last, but not least, she kept thinking of a dark, leather like skin snuggling against sparkling white pillow. 

Half eaten pillow.

 

Chapter Text

Solas laid down on his bed in the Inn, again listening his roommates steady snoring. It was their second night in Val Royeaux and they weren't leaving in the morning as originally planned. They had to wait for their newest companion to prepare for the journey. 

Cassandra had returned to the Inn alone from the party and informed them, that Madame de Fer had agreed to join the Inquisition and that she would travel back to Haven with them. Evelyn had stayed with the Court Mage in Duke Ghislain city estate. 

He had spied the Seekers dreams in the previous night, right after her return from the party. What he had seen through Cassandra's eyes and read from his reports, he had quite clear understanding of what kind of a person the Orlasian enchanter was; a ruthless woman who didn't do anything that didn't further her own goals, whatever they might be, and right now her goals were in line with the Inquisition. There was no doubt about it, that she joined the Inquisition with a personal agenda, but that also guaranteed that she would make herself useful to them.

And to the Herald personally, thus the private invitation to stay in her home.

One didn't need to be millenniums old elf, to see that pampering a young noble woman would get you on their good side pretty fast. 

Solas sighed a bit dejectedly. The reports he had from the human mage didn't worry him, nor her possible influence to the young Herald, though he was sure Madame de Fer would try to feed Evelyn her own thoughts about the Circles and the "necessity" of them. That woman had declared load and clear, that she wanted the Circles to be reformed, an idea most people in Thedas shared. An idea Evelyn too had shared, before he had managed to guide her to see things in differently perspective. He just hoped, that the Circle mage wouldn't ruin all his slow progress with the girl. 

...maybe he was a bit worried. 

He frowned to himself. In the long run, it wouldn't matter whether the mages were free, or locked again in their towers.

He would do his duty to his People.

Cassandra had already send a raven to Haven to inform the change of plans and asked, that they would send a respond to the Inquisitions outpost near Lydes. The rest of them had sat down for dinner earlier the day and the Seeker had let them into the new travel plan. They were to travel in two days and cut through the Heartlands towards Lydes. It would take at least six days to reach the outpost, depending on if the Orlaisian mage was riding a horseback or a carriage. With carriage, it would take a bit longer. From there, they would continue back to Haven, unless there was something other the advisors ordered them to do. Varric had whipped up a map and showed the route to their Handler. The dwarf had done this since the first day on the road, shoving her through maps where they were and where they were going. Most likely, because he wanted her to have at least some knowledge of her whereabouts, since she couldn't remember how she ended up here, Varric was kind like that. 

Lelou had asked questions about the terrain and the inhabitants of the area. Solas had watched it curiously, noticing again how she showed much more interest on the land and countryside than the city. She hadn't asked next to nothing about the Orlaisian culture, or about the city they stayed in, but as soon as she got a map in front of her, her questions came forth.

How kept are the roads? How scattered are the settlements? Is there wildlife, we should worry about? Possible ambushes? 

They were such a mundane and reasonable questions to ask and Varric answered them accordingly, yet Solas, with his extended, secret knowledge about her, bristled with questions of his own he couldn't ask. 

Why do you assume the roads aren't kept? Is your homeland a desert? Is that why you need to know the distance between one village to another, to resupply in them if needed? What dangers are there on the roads? Something other, than occasional bandits? 

Maybe she's just being really practical.

He hadn't visited Lelou's dreams last night, too occupied with fishing out information from Cassandra's, but tonight, he decided to see what Lelou had in mind. He hadn't talked to her much in the pass days, since she had been busy with her charges, trying to offer them some exercise in the busy city. She hadn't asked for healing either.

He took a deep, relaxing breath, and slipped into the Fade.

As always, when there was more sleepers in the same area, the Fade was also filled with distance voices of dreams, but he had visited her dreams often enough, to find her in the Fade fast, regardless of the added population. And it wasn't just the sleepers, that occupied the Fade here. The last time they had been in Val Royeaux, he had sensed many lesser spirits, mostly hunger and lesser rage, but there could be more powerful ones. There usually were, when enough people clustered together. Due to Lelou's unique way of dreaming, he couldn't say how Spirits would react to her, or how they would affect her, since she couldn't remember her dreams, and though it would be interesting to know how such contact would work, he wasn't going to endanger any Spirit nor the woman to satisfy his curiosity. As soon as he found her, he pushed other dreams away and secured the area with wards, to rebel any possible spirits, that could habit this part of the Fade. 

He took a moment to observe her dream, so not to repeat that mishap.

She seemed to be tense, but not excited. Alert, more like. Deeming it safe, he slipped into the dream. 

 

He was in pain.

It felt like someone had stuck a hot iron into his hind leg. He laid on his stomach on the ground, growling and whimpering. The pain was so intense, that Solas had to detached himself a little from the hairless dog, so not to feel so much. It was still pretty jarring, how intimately she could remember someone else's pain! 

She must really care for this creature. 

Lelou was short distance away from him, glad into a dark clothes that were covered in dust, as it seemed to be standard in her memories.

Dirt on the clothes, dry dust in the throat. She couched, muffling the sound with her hand.

They were in a dimly light room. There was trash on the floor and broke furnitures, a tipped over table and chairs, broken to splinters. The light source was a lamp on the ceiling, but the light didn't flicker like candles flame did. The walls had paper covering, that was peeling off like apple peels. It might have been white at some point, but now they were dirty yellow, darker stains here and there. The missing wallpaper revealed wooden boards.

Lelou couched again, her whole body stilled as she tried to stop it. She was in a process of closing the only door to the room they were in. The door was faded blue, the paint scaling off.

We are being chased.

 

No, not "we". 

They. 

 

"Ssh, boy. It's alright, it's alright. I'm coming." her voice was hoarse as she whispered. She quickly comes to him. 

He growled again.

"Shh, be still." she whispered as she crouched beside him.

Her hands came over him, one grabbed his jaw and bend his head against her chest, the other caressed his face, then moved out of his line of sight.

"I got you." she says.

And then she growls

The sound rumbled deep from her chest, reverberating through his head pressed against it. It was a low rumbling growl, heavy and hard at the start, then softening as it continued, turning round on the edges, like a purr of a really big cat. 

 

He instantly adored it. 

 

A sting somewhere close to the burning sensation of his leg and then the pain eased. She stopped growling and he missed the sound. 

"Good, boy. Good, boy. All better now." her hoarse voice chanted into his ear, before she let go of him. There was an urgency in her voice and the reason came in a form of another, more rough and clearly male voice. 

"I know your in there! Just come out! We won't hurt you." the sound came behind a door she closed just a moment ago.

Lelou grabbed his back and it was then that he noticed, that he was wearing some sort of a harness on him. It was mulled green and lined with pockets on the sides and on the back. It felt surprisingly light, though it looked heavy. Lelou dragged him behind an over turned table. 

"Said every raider I killed before!" she shouted back, digging through the pockets on his back. She took out a slightly curved angular object that was bigger than her hand, and then she swing a black long contraption from her back and attached the angular object to it.

It produced a metallic clicking sound. 

"You heard that?! That was me putting a full clip to my AK74M assault rifle." Lelou shouted and placed the things - rifles- front to rest over the edge of the table. She held it on place and took a position he had seen Varric take many times when he aimed at his enemies behind a cover.

So it's a weapon of sorts. 

"As soon as you step through that door, I'm going to blow your head right off your shoulders." 

"She's bluffing." another voice, female, joined in. It came right beside the door where the wallpaper was peeling off. Solas didn't see her move at all, but suddenly, the nose of her weapon sparkled and he heard a weird sound. 

Like a hammer hitting the nail really fast. 

Tap, tap, tap.

Three small holes appeared to the wall and a heavy thud could be heard coming from the other side. It was the sound of limp body hitting the floor. 

"OH, SHIT! I'm out of here!!" the first voice exclaimed. Lelou sprang to her feet, reaching to the door. 

"Blitz! Go!"

Menacing growl erupted from his throat and he shot through the door she opened to him. Narrow, dirty hallways flashed through his vision as he gave chase. He smelled the dust and the dirt, and he smelled blood and sweat and something else.

Something burning.

He smelled the stench of feces coming from the dead bodies he couldn't see, but knew they were there. He smelled the urine of his prey he gained. The man turned around mid run, his arm raised, the move instinctively attempt to shield against a predator, and his jaws clammed on to it. They fell, Solas landing right on top of him. He braced his paws against the mans stomach, the muscles on his neck and shoulders bulged as he pulled. A hard jerk to left and right and he felt the bone give in between his teeth.

Blood filled his mouth.

A blood curling scream erupted from his prey and he lifted something angular with his other hand. It was a familiar looking object. He had seen same kind of a thing pointed at him in the previous dream.

"Diieee!" the man screeched. The thing pressed against his throat. 

Suddenly, the mans head exploded.

The body went limp under him and the arm pulled heavy in his mouth. The thing clanked against the floor. 

Blood covered his head.

Filled his nose-less snout. 

"Stop shooting at my dog." Lelou grunted right behind him, the black rifle in her hands. She swung it over her shoulder and grabbed his harness pulling him away from the headless body. Her hands wiped the blood from his face, her eyes scanning him all over.

He growled to her. 

I got him!

 

No. Not me. 

 

She smiled, her sunset colored eyes warm.

She growled back at him, the bestial sound caressing his ears.

"Good, boy. Now, let's go find you your own pillow."

Chapter Text

Lelou couldn't remember the time she had been shopping something other than broken alarms and typewriters for scrapping, or provisions to last on the journey from one rundown settlement to other. She couldn't remember the last thing she bought before the world died, but she remembered the last thing she bought before ending up in the magical Thedas. 

Duck tape. Always duck tape.

Even if you didn't need it, but you saw it on the merchants shelves, you bought it.

No exceptions.

Same with the wonderglue. 

Now she found herself browsing over dozens of rolls of fabric. Or lace, to be precise. The elaborate textiles were placed on a long table and she wondered how they dyed them to get them so bright. Even the white was so pure, it poked her eyes with its whiteness. 

"Too many options. She didn't write more instructions?" Lelou sighed and turned to look at her companion. Cassandra opened another small roll of the lace, laying it carefully on the table. Lelou had asked her after breakfast to help her with the list Filissa gave to her. They were due to leave back to Haven early in the morning, so today was her last change to get whatever it was Filissa wanted.

At first, the stoic woman had blushed and glared at her.

"You think this is funny?"

Her tone had been accusative, and Lelou didn't have slightest idea why she looked so offended.

And...embarrassed?

Once she had explained, that Filissa had asked her to buy the lists content for her and that she couldn't read, the Seeker had calmed down. 

Or resumed to scowl at her suspiciously. 

That was, until they entered the shop. The Seeker had swiftly asked the seamstress to bring all the white laces they had in the shop and that was where Lelou was now. Standing before a long table with rolls after rolls of white lace, each having a different design, if not shade.

"No. She wrote only, "white lace" Cassandra answered, her tone calmer than hers.

"Really? When she talked about it, it sounded more specific." 

"No. Just, white lace." 

Lelou sighed. She didn't want to disappoint the tavern owner, who had been good to her by buying her something she didn't ask for. 

"It would help choosing, if I knew what she intends to make from it." Cassandra mentioned. Lelou nearly rolled her eyes. 

"don't even know what you can make from lace, other than wedding gowns and table cloths. And I don't think she want's a pure white, lace table cloth decorating the bar counter." 

"There is no wedding planned in the Haven's Chantry." the Seeker said absentmindedly. Lelou looked at the woman from the corner of her eyes. The warriors calloused hands smoothed the delicate fabric carefully, her usually scowling face having a soft expression. 

Oh, she really likes pretty textiles.

Lelou picks the money pouch from her belt and offers it to Cassandra. The Seeker looks at it, raising a eyebrow to her. 

"You choose. You obviously have an eye to this king of things. And I don't know the culture, or customs, or anything that would help." Cassandra looks at her and then the pouch and then her again. 

"You make a good point, I suppose." she says and takes the pouch with a stern nod, like a soldier accepting new missive of orders. The stern look is soon swiped away by a focused yet soft look, as she starts to brows through the assortment of laces. 

She really likes them.

 

Later she learned, that today was also the day, that one certain dwarf decided to make good of the "maybe".

Though Lelou hadn't expected, that accepting an invitation of having couple of drinks with Varric, would mean having an actual dinner out in some place else, than the Inn they were staying. After she had returned to the inn from the shopping trip with Cassandra, Varric ambushed her in and whisked her away with him, taking her deeper into the city.

And there they were, standing in a threshold of a really nice restaurant. The dining hall was furnished with clean, dark mahogany tables and cushioned chairs, matching in color, and each four seat table had a low candle in a glass pot in the middle. The walls were white as the stone they used in the buildings, but dark lanterns hung on hooks attached on the wall and the class in them was painted in yellow and red, creating a soft orange light. The main light source were the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and Lelou knew the place would look breathtaking in the night. She instinctively glanced her "pirate" attire and over shoulder pulled untied hair. 

"You look good, no need to go back and change." amused chuckle came from her side. Varric smiled at her. Lelou hadn't even noticed her self check up. He smoothly guided her to a table in the corner, farther away from the windows. It had a good view to the whole room. A waitress appeared next to them out of nowhere. 

This place must be expensive. He's totally going to waist his money. I can't even taste anything! 

Would it be really rude to decline?

Yes. Yes it would!

It's not like he has to know I can't taste shit!

Varric was looking at her funny.  

"Lelou?" 

"What?"

"I asked that is it okay, if I order for you? You absolutely have to try the duck." the man nodded towards the menu he was holding. 

Aah, right. He thinks I'm illiterate. Probably doesn't want to embarrass me. Well, technically I am.

"Oh, sure." 

Shit. Can't really back away anymore.

The waitress, who wore a white bird mask, bowed to them and said something that sounded like gibberish french and left them, taking the menus with him. Varric pulled a jug from a little cart next to him, that she hadn't noticed-did the waitress bring it?- and poured the deep red liquid in their glasses.

Wine. Of course it's wine. This is almost French.

Varric looked at her across the table, his fingers laced together and resting on the table before him. 

"You like it?" he asked, his tone conversational.

Oh, well. Might as well enjoy a little.

Lelou took the wine glass in front of her and looked around, taking tentative sip. She had to be careful with the drinking. 

"This is a pretty place. I bet it looks stunning, when it's dark outside." 

"It does, had we more time, I would have brought you here later. Though others could get the wrong idea then." 

"What, your not trying to co-ort me?" 

Varric busted out laughing. 

"It's court. And no, I'm not trying to court you. Wanted to talk to you." 

"You sure?" she raised a questioning eyebrow at him. The man chuckled with good humor.

"Trust me, you would notice. It would involve poems and bouquets of red roses. I'm a traditional guy." 

So their courting customs too are medieval

Truth to be told, she felt conflicted. The last time she was in a nice place like this, was with her husband. 

Where was it, the last time we went out together?

...I don't remember. 

 

There was a hole in her chest. 

 

She took a big sip from the glass, the tasteless liquid leaving slightly warm sensation on its way down her throat. 

"We can talk where-ever, you didn't need to bring me to a restaurant for that." she said, her tone neutral but void of the light playfulness she had felt a moment ago. Varric was just taking a sip from his glass. His hand stilled in mid air, for just a second as he looked at her over the glass, obviously noticing the change in her mood. Lelou pretended she didn't notice his assessing look and twirled the wine in the glass, focusing her gaze to that. In the corner of her eye, she saw the dwarf drink and then place the glass on the table. She wasn't in the mood of fun and games anymore.

"You said you didn't speak a word of Common before Haven." he says, passing her argument "Yet now you speak it like you had practiced years instead of months." 

Language...okay. That's pretty safe topic.

"It sounds very similar to my own language, like if they had the same roots." she said truthfully. The waitress brought them their servings. Crispy looking rousted poultry, set on a fresh looking bedding of vegetables, a shining amber dressing giving the finishing touch. It was a pretty meal, truly a feast to the eyes and no doubt delicious.

Completely wasted on her. 

"Hmm...same root you say. Interesting." Varric musing draws her away from her brooding.

"What is interesting?" She kept her tone conversational, already planning in her head on how to steer the dwarfs interest away from herself. She had heard many rumors concerning the dwarf, and though most of them must be over exaggerated, base on the few conversation and one fight she had witnessed herself, she could tell that the man had earned his reputation as being one who you didn't want to cross. 

"That Common and your language have similarities, that's interesting." that took her off guard. She looked at the man surprised. 

"Why is that interesting to you?" 

He glanced at her while cutting neat mouthfuls from his duck. 

"Well, because it's a clue. I've been trying to figure out where you're from. Haven't found much yet, but here me out." 

 ...what?

"You said you didn't remember how you got here, right? You didn't speak the language, but it is similar to your own language, so you can learn it faster. Ti's just a theory I came up just now, but if the languages root is the same, then maybe that can be tracked to certain regions around Thedas." he talked while collecting the garnishes into the fork with the cut meat. "Now I'm not an expert on languages, but I think we could use that to figure out where you came from. Or try, at least." 

...oh.

Lelou stared at the man. 

"You...are trying to figure out where I'm from?" he looked at her, straight in the eyes and decited that they were pure gold, not just goldish. 

"Thought you could need some help with that, seeing how you drill Chuckles with questions of magic." he offered her an easy smile and her insides twisted from various reasons. "These are pretty crazy times, but I'm pretty convinced too, that magic has something to do with your case of, from where and how. It usually is involved." Lelou could only stare at him. 

He wants to help me....

"You don't have to look so surprised. I'd think it's the least I can do, seeing that our best change to survive the demon spitting hole in the sky, would most likely be dead without you." 

"That's...really kind of you." was the only thing she managed to say. He looked at her, a warm, kind expression on his face. 

"Thedas is a big place, but not that big. I would imagine, that there are people missing you back at home. " 

 

There's a hole in her chest.

 

And inside of it, doubt crawled out.

 

Are there?

Chapter Text

Lelou sat on the bench outside the stable. Smoke rose slowly from the pipe nest, resting in her hand. It was night and the city was asleep, as were the rest of the group.

She couldn't sleep. 

The dwarf offering to use his connections, to try to figure out where she might come from, had been more than surprising. She'd immediately wanted to know what he wanted from her, but couldn't ask it straight away, less she would have appeared like she was hiding something, which didn't fit in her image of unfortunate soul with amnesia.

So she had played along and the dinner had gone on smoothly.

Varric had been the perfect host, and she had been the perfect guest. She thanked him for his consideration, it would be really helpful, and even if he couldn't find anything, she was grateful, and she answered his questions, the few he asked.

Yes, the main terrain is dry, hard to farm. Yes, there is a big body of water, it is a coastal region. No, there are limited traveling changes. Traveling on sea would be extremely risky without proper vessel and they were scarce. She didn't answer the open question, if there were people waiting for her and she was sure he noticed. 

He didn't press. 

She also complimented the food and the atmosphere of the restaurant, such a great choices, and then she asked questions too. 

She learned, that he had ended up in the Inquisition, because he and his friends had been part of some incident that triggered the mage rebellion to start couple years back. He had wrote a book about the whole thing, which had led the Seeker Cassandra to "recruited" him.

He offered to teach her how to read, if she wanted to learn and if they got the time. She thanked him and promised to consider it. 

She couldn't sleep.  

Though she had managed to keep Varric from asking any personal questions, their dinner meeting left her stressed and agitated. She didn't wan't anyone to start digging her life -not that they could find anything-she just preferred this anonymity she had in this world.

There was no change for Varric's help to actually help her get home, her best bet was the Breach and the magic that worked in the Fade, for that she was sure. The more she could learn about those, the better change she had to get back home. Varric too thought that magic was involved, but he was searching possible destination he couldn't ever find. The dwarf meant well, she could see he genuinely wanted to help her, there was no "quid pro quo" motivating him, not at the moment at least. Still, she had learned that in life, you didn't get help for free. People might feel sympathy for you, say they felt for you, but when asked for assistance, they would immediately tell you what they wanted or needed.

Quid pro quo.

But Varric had offered. He had mentioned the Herald, how he felt Lelou to be the reason the girl lived. She herself barely remembered the encounter, but perhaps that was what motivated him to involve her affairs?

Or he was one with sympathetic heart, unable to see others blight and do nothing.

Like she once was. 

"I would imagine, that there are people missing you back at home."

Yeah, that probably was it.

She shut her eyes tight. 

Doubt gripped her heart. 

She was the leader of both the Institute and the Minutemen. She had worked hard in the past two years, making the two organizations work together in the name of stabilizing the area and making it a better place to live for the future generations. She had planned the fusion of the two organisation carefully, and executed her plans to the letter. She'd done everything in her power, to make the dead world she lived in something more. 

It hadn't been easy. It hadn't been gentle. It hadn't been without a cost. 

I paid my due. They know my plans, they know they need me to finish it. They will look for me. They are looking for me. 

She breathed deep, inhaling the scent of smoke, horses and night moist, trying to shove the doubt away.

It's just the stretch of time. Separation from familiar things causes the mind to question their stability, nothing more. They are looking for me. 

...are they?

Yes!

...would I? Look for me? 

After all I did? 

She opened her eyes in the dark stable yard, her night vision allowing her to see the shape of the tall buildings, the lithe frames of rats running along the walls. 

I don't know. 

She didn't notice the shadow standing between the inn and the sable, watching her.

 

 

 

Solas was meditating in the Fade.

Or more like, analyzing the memories of the last nights dream. 

There was so much for him to examine in this memory, that he had to take extra measures in warding the area. There were detailed moments he wanted to see, so the extend he would have to use his magic was increased. That would send ripples to the Fade and he did not want to draw any attention to himself. He created a triple layered dome over the area he was. The outer layer was a hiding spell, it's sole purpose to distort the Fade in a way that looked like there wasn't anything of interest on the spot it was cast. The second one was an alarm ward to let him know if there was anyone or anything with magical abilities nearby. The last one was another hiding spell, one that rebelled Demons and Spirits alike, though he couldn't sense anything being near right now. That didn't mean some could wander there at some point.

When he was done, he started to rebuild the memory from his own mind, drawing much from the Fades raw magic, entwining it with his own.  

He carefully reconstructed the details he had experienced in the form of the dark beast and as always, the Fade sharpened his memories, drawing out all the unconscious details he had, but couldn't pick out on his own, but that were there in his mind. The figures of Lelou and Blitz appeared with the layout of the room. Every physical sensation, be it a sound or a visual thing, or a scent was carefully brought into the scene. The smell of dirt and blood, the trash on the wooden floor and the un-moving yellowish light. When he was ready, he let the memory start to play before him.

The first thing he wanted to see was right in the start and he crouched before the beast, searching the injury he had felt. He saw only one black hole in the scrawny tight that didn't bleed. He waited for Lelou to come over, wanting to see what she did to heal it. She crouched down to the other side of the creature and pressed its head against her chest. He knew it felt soft and lush under the rough fabric.

"I got you." 

His focus faltered momentarily, as the low growling hit his ears.

How do you do that?

Shiver run up to the tips of his ears and down his neck, spreading all over his back. Had he been in his wolf form, his fur would have stand on end. The low rumbling went on and on, turning to a purring sound that would have made him relax, smooth the raised fur flat on his back. 

Concentrate!

He forced his eyes to look any visible signs, that could explain how she could produce that sound. It was impossible for any human, or human like creature to growl like that naturally. Still she did it, and not even a corner of her mouth opened. She had something in her hand he hadn't seen when he experienced this memory. It was like a pen with needle stuck on the end of it. Two rings were in the middle of it and a little stub with flat end finished the object. Lelou slipped her fore and middle fingers to the rings and pressed her thump on the flat end. Then she struck the needle on the thigh of the creature, close to the wound. Solas watched in rapt attention, forgetting the growling still resonating all around him. The wound closed right before his eyes!

It's almost as fast as magic healing. But it's not magic. This is like alchemy no doubt, almost as fast as healing potions, but the way the medicine is administrated is different. 

Something was pushed out from the wound. It dropped to the floor with a small tap.

He stopped the scene. 

It was a tiny piece of metal. Solas stared at it for a while, feeling exited and restless the same time. 

Such a small thing and she even remembers how it sounded like, when it hit the ground. 

He shook his head in disbelief. The details of her memories are profound! 

Standing up, he let the scene continue.

There was something else that he needed to investigate, something that had bothered him the whole day. His attention was on the black object she held, crouched down on one knee. He pinpointed the moment, when the fire flashed, and saw nothing but a slight pull of her finger. Like when Varric used his crossbow.

He replayed the scene over and over again, watching how the nose of the weapon flashed rabidly three times, the holes appearing to the wall. Behind the wall he found a dead woman. She had a pale skin, covered in dirt. Her hair was so dirty you couldn't say if it was light or dark in color. There was two holes on her, similar to the one he had seen on the dogs leg. One was on her neck, the other on her head, right above her left ear. He stared at the dead woman and the small wounds that had end her life. 

Cold crept in his guts.  

He let the memory continue and followed Lelou, as she followed after the monstrous dog of hers through a dimly lit hallways. The walls were as ruined as in the room, the wallpaper peeling of. There were more  dead bodies. A bloodied foot peeking out from a dark room, the door hiding the rest of the body. One lifeless corpse of a man sprawled on stairs leading up to another floor. A hand tangled between the railing of the staircase, blood slowly dripping down. He watched how she stopped and lifted the black weapon of hers up. One brief flash from the nose of it and it was enough to explode the mans head. Right off of his shoulder, as she had said. 

Again and again, he watched, how she stood in the hallway, legs stopped in mid stride, the weapons nose pointing towards the man struggling with the beast, her eyes lined to run the length of the black contraption. 

Rifle. 

His eyes followed the limp hand of the now headless corpse. A crude, rusty object fell from the lifeless grip and clattered to the floor. It looked the same as the thing, that had been pointed at them in the rain memory. It look nothing like the "rifle" Lelou held, but the similarities were there. And so were the implications.

He remembered his talk with the dwarf. 

"That crossbow is remarkable, Varric. I am surprised the dwarves have not made more of them."

"The woman who made Bianca would rather that not happen, wars are bloody enough as it is.  A crossbow that fires this far and this quickly with so little training? Every battle would be a massacre."

He looked at the headless corpse and he looked behind him towards the staircase.

A massacre. 

There was no magic in her homeland, yet they had the skill and knowledge to create weapons, that out did any man made weapon he knew. 

The memory continued and he felt sick. Lelou pulled the dark, monstrous creature off from the corpse, not sparing a second glance to it. She knelt down before it, wiping blood from the monsters face and he remembered the feel of her touch, the affection she felt when her hands moved over the nose-less nose and the lip-less mouth, caressing the bare naked teeth. 

"Lets go find you your own pillow."

He dissolved the dream, breathing deep the air that tasted of magic. Too filled with questions and anxiety to sleep, he woke himself up. The nausea followed him to the waking world and the wooden walls of the inn were too solid. 

What kind of a place your home is, filled with dis-formed creatures and blood thirsty people? And weapons that need only a small effort to be used?

He thought, as he quietly slipped from the room he shared with Varric. He made his way to outside, not really paying attention to his surrounding, his mind too preoccupied of the new revelations. He had seen terrible things in his life, and he had witnessed incomprehensible horrors that magic could cause. 

But there was no magic in her memories, only horrors and marvels he couldn't explain.

He rounded the corner of the inn and stopped, his elven eyes fixing to the figure, sitting on the bench next to the stables back door. There was the familiar scent of tobacco. 

Lelou. 

He hesitated. He wanted to talk to her, and then again, he didn't. He moved, starting to turn away, when she lifted her head. 

Her eyes glowed in the dark.

Chapter Text

 

Lelou had the Court mage figured out pretty fast.

The dark skinned beauty carried herself with confidence, and what Lelou had seen in this world, she assumed this lady had what was needed to back it up. Brutal power wise, that is. 

In the agreeable person level, she didn't impress her. 

Madam de Fer was a woman, who was sure of herself and obviously convinced that she was better than anyone else in the group, which instantly reminded her of the Diamond City's snobby residents. The only difference was that Vivienne-as she graciously insisted the Herald to call her- was that type of a glow fish that wanted to be the center of attention more often than not, and there for, bothered to strike a conversation with the "peasants", unlike the snobby bitches in the rundown stadium. 

She was also adamant on being on the right in everything involving magic, because A) She was a trained mage, B) she was a highly trained mage, an Enchanter by rank, and C) because she was The Official Court Mage To The Orlasian Throne, a title she pointed out the moment Solas had been introduced to her.

She had a habit to keep reminding everyone of her title and excellency- not directly, of course- but be it in a conversation or a side comment, if she could, she would slip the words enchanter, official and train/training/trained, plus, educated, nearly every sentence she spoke. The Brotherhood of Steel members too had had an obsessive need to talk about their titles and training, and they had used those exact same words - minus the word "enchanter". 

So in Lelous eyes, Vivienne was the Upper Stands and the Brotherhood mixed up together and stuffed into a skin tight dress, high heels and a head piece that Lelou herself would wear only, if someone else's life depended on it.

Someone really dear and important to her.

Her own life excluded. 

After few hours on the road, it was also clear, that the Official Mage in the silly hat was out to get the elven man, and the first exchange between the two spelled the reason "why" in capitals. 

"So, an apostate?" her tone was condescending right from the start. They had exited the busy town, Cassandra taking a point with the Herald and the mages riding after them, while Varric and Lelou brought the rear, Lelou riding the viciously side stepping deathclaw on the side of the road. Bastard was fighting her with every step, biting down on the bit and trying to saw her fingers off. She still managed to listen the conversation going on between the mages. 

"That is correct, Enchanter. I did not train in your Circle." Solas replied, his tone smooth as polished marble and as cool as the stone would be in shadows. Vivienne looked at him from head to toe, clearly deciding he wasn't much, and turned away.

"Well, dear, I hope you can take care of yourself, should we encounter anything outside your experience."

Ugh..."dear". That's so rude.

Solas threw his own calculating look towards the woman, before fixing his eyes back to the road in front of him.

"I will try, in my own fumbling way, to learn from how you helped seal the rifts at Haven." then he stilled and tapped his chin, putting out a cute little show of looking bewildered.

"Ah, wait. My memory misleads me. You were not there." Madam de Fer, -or Vivienne- flashed a timid smile on his direction but wisely backed away, prompting her beautiful dabble palomino to trot faster, going to ride with the Herald.

Lelou shook her head amused. The "apostate" could be a bit sassy when he felt like it. It was rather entertaining. She had a feeling that these two would chew on each other on every opportunity, the Official Mage because she had something to prove to herself, and Solas....

Well. Solas was clearly unable to keep his mouth shut, when his experience and knowledge were so blatantly dismissed.

Pride indeed. 

"I think we need to make a chart for this snipping competition." Varric chuckled next to her. 

Chapter Text

The weather in Orlais coastal are was very warm and Lelou had discarded her long sleeved shirt before midday, wearing only her jumpsuit. it was a nice day on the road, far nicer weather than the day before, when they left the city. It had been a hot day, calm to the point the heat was almost unpleasant. Now there was sunny, clear sky and pleasant wind that cooled the sweat on her brow. The grass was deep green and tickled her bare arms, providing an excellent surface to lay on. Lelou sighed deep, her eyes staring forward.  

Yes, this was actually quite nice. The sun was hiding behind a tattered clouds and the sky looked like...

Looked like Varric Tethras.

"You alright there?" Varric asked, leaning over Lelou, as she laid on her back on the grass, her hands resting on her stomach.

"As good as last time." 

"You know, the way this is going, I'm tempted to name you Tumble." he smirked and offered her a hand. Lelou scoffed and let him pull her up. Her tights, knees, and midsection felt weird, thanks to the full body workout she was having with Bastard. She glanced at her hands covered in leather gloves. She didn't take them off, knowing they had shaved badly, but were already healing. The Satan's Little Helper had been particularly moody today, starting their morning by hitting her face with its own hard enough to brake her nose. Lelou had had to go and wake Solas up to reset the nose cartilage, before her fast healing could fix it in a wrong position. Since then, she'd been bucked off six times. Lelou glared at the ashen brown creature, grazing on the side of the road, acting like nothing had happened. The rest of the group continued along the road, having stopped on waiting for her after the fourth time she was tossed. Except Varric, who always came to check if she was still alive. 

"You might as well call me the idiot who doesn't know how to quit." 

"That's too long. And nobody would know who I'm referring to, half the people I know fit to that description." 

"My condolences." Lelou says solemnly, making Varric snort amused. 

"You don't know the half of it. But it has its perks, gives me endless source of inspirations and ideas for my books."

"And a constant feeling of doom and gloom, no doubt." 

"That's Chuckles specialty." the dwarf smirks and waits for her to mount up her horse. They ride on brisk trot to catch up the other, settling to walk after the mages, who aren't speaking at the moment. Or bickering, to be precise. Solas glances at her over his shoulder, one eyebrow lifting up in silent question. Lelou gives him thumbs up, to let him know she didn't need healing. Two days on the road and the healer seemed to think he needed to check on her every time when the deathclaw in disguise trashed her.

"So you know that kind of people yourself?" Varric props conversationally. Lelou likes it how he doesn't beat too much around the bush, when he wanted to know something about her, though she had no intention of giving him what he wanted. She peers at him from the corner of her eye. 

"Yeah, a bunch called the Inquisition comes to mind." her answer makes him throw his head back and laugh. 

"By Andraste, I really need to get you sloshed. You hold on to your secrets tighter than Chantry sister of her knickers " 

Now it's Lelou's turn to laugh. 

"You obviously haven't paid attention what's happening in that Chantry at Haven." 

 

***

 

Just how many times is she going to be bucked off. Seriously, that was probably the tenth time already! 

Evelyn bristled to herself, riding alongside Vivienne. The group kept riding forward, listening how the Handler cursed at the horse. 

"Tsk, tsk, what language." the Court mage clicked her tongue disapprovingly. 

Evelyn kept her eyes on the road and tried to ignore the commotion behind her. It was probably the only thing she could do now, ignore the troublesome woman with her hostile animal. This had been going on for three days now and it was a small wonder, that they hadn't lagged from the schedule. They were due to arrive to Lydes camp later in the afternoon. She really wanted to reach the camp so she could have some privacy in her tent and think in peace.

She was still embarrassed and mad about the rumors that were -of course- circling among the Orlasian nobles. They said Cassandara and Leliana went mad for power and started a cult, and that she was just nothing but an imbecile child, who believed everything they said to her. They said that the Inquisitions Commander was a Templar with a questioning past and immoral habits, who equally manipulated the so called Herald of Andraste, and made her recruit suspicious people in their heretic cult. Apostates, dwarfs with the connection to the Carta no doubt and even qunari mercenaries. And if that wasn't bad enough, they had heard that she kept with her a foreigner who didn't have any sense of appropriate behavior and who couldn't even do her job right, letting one of her charges trash the streets of the capital.

Of course they heard about that! Cassandra too mentioned, that she had heard something involving the woman, but she didn't tell her what, saying it wasn't important. 

Evelyn sighed. 

It wasn't that bad, truth to be told. Those were just the rumors some nobles had spouted at the party, when the drinks got better of them. Vivienne had swiftly brushed them of as childish gossips, invented by people who didn't actually know anything solid, just parroted what they had hear from other less informed people. No one mentioned them for the rest of the evening, which Evelyn was grateful, for even though they were just stupid gossips, she still didn't like how strangers talked about her friends. Though, she didn't think Lelou as her friend. 

And it wasn't all just mean rumors and pretentious pleasantries, there was also lot of younger nobles that were genuine interested of the Inquisition and its members. She had ended up answering a bombardment of questions of their adventures around Ferelden and about their companions and the Advisors.

Bull was a big center of questions.

Yes, he was big as a mountain. No, he didn't wear shirt, because of the horns. Yes, they were really impressive. No, I don't know his preferences, I've seen him use both greatsword and battlehammer...you didn't mean that? What did you mean then? 

Later she had realized that the man had meant the gender of his...preferred partners. 

She felt her face heat just by thinking of it. How stupid had she seem! And how immature! 

The Court mage had come to her rescue again, asking if the man was interested on buying the qunaris services himself, making the man change the subject pretty fast. 

Evelyn glanced at the woman riding next to her.

Vivienne had been very helpful so far, telling her about the nobles who she had heard were interested on supporting the Inquisition, as well as those that should be treated with caution. They also shared a goal, regarding the mages situation. Like Evelyn, Vivienne too wanted order to be restored and both mages and Templars returned to the Chantry. She also told her of a motion, she had intended to present in the Concleave, when the negotiations would have reached a certain stage. She would've proposed to the quarreling parties, that the mages should be allowed to have a real position in the Chantry itself. An ambitious goal, seeing how it has always been forbidden for mages to join the ranks of Chantry Brothers and Sisters. Obviously she hadn't been able to execute the plan since the Concleave was destroyed in the wake of the Breach, and now it too had to be dealt with, but afterwards, Vivienne intended to proceed in her plans. Evelyn had promised her full support to the Court mage in her endeavors, thinking the mages integration to the Chantry to be reasonable and peaceful solution to end the war between the Templars and mages. 

"So, about the motion you..."

A loud neigh cut her off and she snapped her mouth shut. She shot an irritated glare towards the Handler, who was, yet again, sprawled on the road. 

"This is getting rather tiresome." Vivienne sighed beside her. 

"Lets just continue." Evelyn muttered, turning away from the older woman, who stood up, spouting nonsense in that weird language of hers. She didn't know what she said, but by the tone, she guessed she was cursing vehemently to the horse. Few short moments later, she hear another neigh, a thumb and more cursing, then a thrum of hooves that quieted fast. She peeked over her shoulder,just in time to see the horse vanish behind a tree line. 

"Fine! Go! Better this way!! I'm not going to chase you, you piece of shit!!" Lelou bellowed after the horse and then stomped over Solas, who had stopped with Varric to watch her struggle with her horse. 

"Give me a hand." she grumbled and Evelyn glanced bewildered towards the Court mage. Vivienne raised one perfect eyebrow, when Solas - after a brief hesitation- pulled her behind him on the saddle. 

"He certainly is bold, or she lacks of common sense more than I thought." the Orlaisian mage commented. 

"Unfortunately she does." Evelyn said, not completely comfortable of the situation herself. She didn't want Vivienne to think badly of Solas, he was a friend and a wise man, and she was eternally grateful for his healer abilities and the help he gave her with the Mark. His politeness towards the pestering Handler could get him unwanted attention, a fact she was sure Lelou didn't realize.

That woman gets Solas in trouble. As if it wasn't hard enough for him already. Elven mage doesn't need that kind of attention.

"Awww, SHIT!!" Lelou suddenly yelled angrily and jumped off of the big draft. 

"Lelou, wait!" Solas called after her, but she didn't listen, just dashed towards the direction her own horse went few moments ago and vanished behind the tree line. The elven mage and Varric both turned their horses to go after her, but Cassandra ordered them to stop. 

"The camp isn't far. We press on. She'll caught up on us." the Seeker ordered. Evelyn silently thanked the Seeker. She had had enough of interruptions on this journey.

Solas and Varric shared a hesitant look, but followed along. 

"What was it she said, before she started to yell and run off?" she heard Varric ask. 

"Something about "Filissa" and "that damn lace," Solas said "Don't ask. I don't know how they relate to anything." 

Evelyn's brow furrowed. 

Filissa and lace?

 

Chapter Text

They arrived to the Inquisition camp head of schedule, making the journey in three days rather than four, for the latest addition to their crew proved to be experienced traveler, a fact that was slightly surprising to the most of them. The camp site wasn't big, merely a cooking fire and couple lean-to covers raised around it. It was mostly for scouts to use as a safe spot to rest and send ravens to headquarter, but there was room enough for the Heralds company to pitch up tents. Solas finished with his tent and tossed his saddlebags in. He made his way to the campfire where Evelyn was reading a message, handed to her by the head scout. Cassandra, Madam de Fer and Varric were all already with the Herald, waiting for her to share the news. 

"We have an urgent mission. Some of our scouts have been captured by Avvars and held hostage. Their leader want's to challenge me to a duel. All of the Advisors think we cannot leave our men to be held captive by these barbarians and I agree. They also write that the Chargers are in Lydes, joined by Sera and Blackwall. We are to regroup with them there and then decide who will continue back to Haven and who will go to Fellow Mires with me. There's also the matter of the Oasis far in the West, but Leliana says it is not a priority now." the young noble says, passing the letter to Cassandra, who briefly scanned through it, before stashing it into her coats pocket. 

"It's best if we leave as early as possible, I don't want to stall this rescue mission." Evelyn says and they all agree. The Advisors didn't mention anything about Magister Alexius, so they could safely assume the situation in Redcliff hadn't changed. It was unnerving to have a Tevinter Magister in Ferelden ground, holding hundreds of mages in servitude. He was a wild card at the moment and could prove to be a serious problem. Dorian was working with Leliana, providing all the information about the Venatori he knew, or could guess. What made that brewing disaster even worse, was that they hadn't heard anything from Therinfal Redoubt. Lord Esmeral Abernache, one of the Inquisitions ally among the Orlasian nobility, was gathering likely minded people to try to force the contact with Seeker Lucius, but hadn't had much success yet. Josephine and Cullen both advised them to keep trying to reach the Templars, but recognized that the mages were closer and needed to be at least met. Evelyn knew that the Commander wanted them to ally with the Templars, and she agreed, feeling more comfortable with the order herself, but the leader of the rebel mages had reached out for them, when the Order did the opposite, before the strange happenings in Redcliff. They had to count that in the mages favor, as Leliana crisply pointed out in the letter.

These two big and important objectives still out of their reach, made the Avvar challenge that more important. If they ever were to recruit the Templars, or the mages, the Inquisition needed to have solid reputation as an unified force themselves, and the challenge to fight for their own men could not be ignored any less than the silence of the Templars, or the foreign power inside Ferelden borders. Evelyn turned to look at her companions. 

"Lets get some food and rest. We'll leave at first light."  

"Herald. Our Handler hasn't come back yet. If it's alright, I would go look for her." Solas says, getting all eyes on himself. He notices the brief irritation flashing in her brown eyes, before she catches herself. 

"I believe she will be fine and on her way to us. The Commander assured me, that she is resourceful and knows how to take care of herself." there's a slight change in her tone when she says "Commander", a slightly icy tone. Solas doesn't comment on it, but is irritated from the knowledge, that the Orlasian mage obviously noticed it too. The senior members of Inquisition all were aware of the Heralds growing admiration towards Commander Cullen and in silent agreement, choose not to interfere in any way. If they encouraged it, it would only distract the young woman from more important things, and if they out right tried to defuse her attraction, it would have much the same result.

Nothing fanned the flames of young passion faster, than the act of others forbidding it. 

Though now it seemed there was something causing the young woman become distressed when thinking of the man. 

Solas didn't know what kind of a person the Court mage truly was, but he knew her to be manipulating and ruthless when it came to the game of power, she had to be, else she wouldn't be in her current position, so Solas wasn't at all comfortably of her knowing about the Heralds growing feelings towards their Commander. 

I'll keep my eyes on you, Enchanter.

He turned his attention back to the matter at hand. 

"She might be resourceful and capable of looking out for herself, but she's still a stranger in these lands. Getting lost is only one of the dangers she might encounter." he points out, refraining to mention how hypocrite her actions were now, when she was rushing to save the soldiers, but refused to search her own team member. 

"It's touching how concerned you are of the Handlers well being, apostate." Vivienne muses, looking at him. Her dark eyes look both intrigued and warning, the look obviously meant for him to intercept correctly. The Enchanter would -of course- keep her eyes open for every opportunity to get the upper hand and Solas himself was already a competitor in her eyes, being an apostate mage, who had a solid position among the Inquisition. She would use anything to weaken his position. Even those rumors that had started to seep into their ears, concerning his relationship with the Handler.

Solas wasn't worried about them, they were mostly caused by her exotic tattoos and the way she treated elves. Her lack of arrogance and superiority had been nearly aggressive the time he met her in Cullen's command tent, where she refused to mix the elf workers in the feud between her and the smiths. Since then, she had build a reputation for herself among the elves, and inevitable, the humans the elves worked for heard the whispers too. The latest addition to those gossips was his friendly interactions with her, mostly because they had been seen often, talking to each other. In general, the rumors were more about her than him, and they didn't bother him too much, so he didn't even bother to acknowledge the Enchanter's subtle warning.

"Of course I'm concerned of her well being. She is a friend and a member of the Inquisition." 

"We're not going to look for her." Evelyn snaps, surprising them all. "She can take care of herself, I'm sure, but if she isn't here by morning, then we leave without her. I have more important things to do than go after a mere servant." 

Uncomfortable silence follows her words, when her companions stare at her, each looking both surprised and rejecting of her words, even the Court mage looked slightly disapproving of her words. 

"A mere servant can easily bring down a nobles name, my dear, and they don't necessarily even need to say anything themselves." she comments and it irritates Solas more than he cares to admit, that she's the one who first reprimands the young woman's outburst.

But she is right.

The reputation Evelyn Trevelyan had build to herself thus far, was that of a caring, compassionate and driven believer, and her talking so condescending about the people working under her, could not be tolerated. There were always ears all around the young woman, and among the Inquisitions soldiers and scouts, gossips took wing fast. Evelyn grits her teeth, faint blush seeping to her cheeks, a tell tale sing she understood her slip.

"I will send scouts to look for her. If she isn't back by the morning, we'll go search for her, or send for the Chargers to check the place we separated." Cassandra says evenly, taking control of the subject. Solas admired the way the Seeker so effortlessly took matters to her own hand the moment it was needed, and she never made a fuss about it, silently shifting the decision making to herself and back to Evelyn, when the young woman had cooled off. Evelyn nodded her agreement and then curtly wished them all goodnight, leaving their company. Cassandra did the same as did Varric, the dwarf looking concerned as he went to the same direction the Herald had stormed off, leaving Solas alone with the Orlasian Enchanter. Madam de Fer leveled a calculating look towards him. 

"You know, she doesn't know about all  the rumors, concerning you, my dear apostate." 

Solas own look was nothing less, than completely uninterested. 

"Enchanter, those rumors aren't about me in the first place." 

The Orlasian mage lifts one perfect eyebrow and a faint smirk pulls her painted lips.

"Not yet, at least." 

In the time of mighty Arlathan, when he was one of the Gods, the look Solas threw her way would have seized entire battles. 

 

***

 

Running was something Lelou had become quite good in the past years. She could keep a good speed for a long time without tiring and burst into a sprint the moment she needed to. Being able to move quickly on uneven terrain had saved her life more than once and she had no trouble on running through the thick forests undergrowth, but as fast as she run, she couldn't catch the horse. Bastard didn't react to her calls, nor did it round back towards others, just kept running deeper and deeper into the woods.

I should have stashed Filissa's things in someone else bag.

She wasn't the best tracker, but good enough to follow the hoof print pressed on the soft ground and Bastard wasn't the most inconspicuous creature, so she wasn't too worried about losing the way back to the road. Cassandra had said that the campsite would be near the road, so it was only matter of following it until the Inquisition scouts, or someone from the Herald party would appear. She kept running of what felt like hours until she came to a small bond. And there Bastard was, drinking happily from the bond. 

It lifted its head and Lelou instinctively tensed, ready to bolt towards it.

The dark eyes stared at her. 

And then it snorted and dipped its head back down, loosing all interest towards her. 

Lelou could feel a vein popping in her head.

"You're unbeliavable! You ran miles like a fucking deathclaw was after you and now you're just having a nice little cold one?!" she shouted at the hell pony that blessedly ignored her. Cursing and gritting her teeth, Lelou stomped down to the waterline and dropped down to her hands and knees, dunking her head into the bond. The cold water helped to cool her head more ways than one, and when she was sure, she wasn't going to try to slaughter the irritating animal, she lifted her head of the water.

Bastard was still drinking, having moved right next to her. Lelou glared at it suspiciously. She took mouthfuls of water herself and filled her waterskin, then mounted the horse. Apparently, it was satisfied of the amount trouble it had caused and walked without a complain. Sighing deep, Lelou steered it on the tracks, still visible on the ground.  

"I don't understand you." she said to the beast in English "It's not like you are anything other than a horse, still you act like some goddamn overgrown lizard that tries to maul, maim and outright destroy everything in its way. No, correction. You are worse! Because sometimes my second voice box can actually calm them down, while you just roll your eyes and flare your nostrils."

This was something that bothered her to no end. One of the mutations F.E.V had caused to her, was the growth of the second set of vocal cords lower in her throat. They were closer to lungs, having a deeper echo base and the range variate from low and high tunes, so much so that human ear couldn't hear them, mostly feel them. It had been a troublesome to master those sounds, at first she could barely talk normally, when the mutation first made itself known. Later it had become useful tool when handling animals, for they seemed to react better to certain high pitched sounds and low growls and purrs. Especially carnivorous animals reacted well to the lower sounds. But not Bastard, no. 

This Pestilence is going to be the death of me. If nothing else manages to kill me, before I can get back home, this creature of nightmares surely will. 

She can't relax at all in the whole time they ride through the thick forest, even though the horse isn't doing anything. Before she knew it, it started to get dark. 

We ran farther than I thought. 

She followed the track as long as she could, dismounting and leading Bastard behind her. It got darker by the minute in the thick deciduous forest, and though her night vision activated, she wasn't a great tracker. 

I don't want to risk losing the track in the dark. 

She took a rope from saddlebags and tied the unpredictable horse to a tree, close to the tracks, then took of its saddle and bridles. It even let her brush itself without much fuss. 

Yeah, of course you behave now. 

She wasn't hungry, nor thirsty, but the running made her tired, so she took the blanket attached to the saddle and wrapped it around herself, then using the saddle as a pillow, she laid down on the ground. The dusk turned to night and she listened the sounds of the forest. Leaves quiet rustling when worms pushed them on their way to surface, the little squeaks of squirrels and the like. Somewhere, far away, she could hear a wolf howl and after a while, the pack answered. 

Aah, going to hunt.

They were miles away, so she wasn't worried. And even if they would cross her path, she was confident in her ability to convince them, that she was not a prey they wanted. Wolves here didn't seem to be any different than in Earth, perhaps a little bigger, but still wolves. She could handle the canines no problem. She looked at the darkening sky, and breathed deep. Though she couldn't smell, she could feel the air was pure and moist. She had always liked camping and hiking, ever since she was a kid. The Wild Life Sanctuary her grandparents managed, had been an ideal growing environment and her parents had send her there every summer and school holiday, so she had always been at ease in the outdoors and knew how to act around wild animals. In time, she had took Nate there too and they had visited her childhood forest every year. 

"Let's take Shaun to see the beavers damp next year." 

Her dead husbands voice comes without a warning, as it always does when something stirs the memories. She squeezed her eyes shut. 

Nate. Would you take me back, if you knew what I did? Would you come looking for me, if you were still alive? 

She opened her eyes, staring at the sky her mutated eyes saw with a green tint. 

Would anyone?

 

***

 

Cassandra had send the scouts to look for Lelou and very pointedly told him that he was not allowed to go search for her with them, or on his own. Solas knew it was because he was a mage and even though they had reached an understanding, the Seeker still wasn't too comfortable for him to move without supervision. He snorted at the mere idea of himself being supervised by anyone. 

If she ever knew the full extend of my magics capabilities, she would try to kill me on the spot. 

He had a quick meal by the fire in solitude. Varric had vanished somewhere with the Herald, no doubt giving her a gentle questioning about her resent behavior. They had noticed her growing resentment towards the Handler, and it baffled them. In the beginning of the journey, they seemed to get along fine, but when they got to Val Royeaux, her opinion seemed to change drastically. Solas guessed it had something to do with the rumors Lelou's foreign manners caused, but it seemed a bit excessive to be just that. There were rumors about all of them and Evelyn managed to handle them without any trouble. 

So what made Lelou stand out for her? 

He had a nagging inkling, it had to do something with the Commander, but as far as he knew, the Handler and Commander had had nothing but brief, strictly work related interactions. His agents followed the Advisors and would have reported to him, if Cullen had taken a liking to someone. When they returned to Haven, he would arrange agents to watch Lelou too. 

Truly? Aren't I already watching her myself? 

He frowned to his consciences, irritated. Yes, he was watching her, but he wouldn't always be in Haven, and she might not always be in the same party he was. 

She's different. Unique. Too unique to be ignored.

She appeared to be able to see in the dark. Her eyes glowed the same way as elves did, maybe even more, and she could not be oblivious of this trait of hers. It gave him reason to think, that she knew about the other anomalies that hid under her seemingly normal appearance, but choose to keep them hidden. 

A mystery after mystery. Riddles on top of riddles. 

So I'm just curious? Nosy?  

The dusk turned to night and the campsite grew quiet. Solas retreated to his tent. 

Why do I care? She's ultimately irrelevant to my plans. 

He laid down on his bedroll, eyes fixing to the dark canvas ceiling, and admitted to himself:

Because, she feels familiar, in the strangest way. 

Yes.

He found likeness in her. Her mind was curious and adaptive, far more than people this age usually had. She valued manners and equality, same as he, and couple nights ago, he felt that their relationship morphed from being acquaintances, to being friends.

Since the Orlasian Enchanter had joined their travels, they had had less opportunities to have long conversations. Lelou seemed to actively avoid the woman all together, while the Enchanter watched him like a hawk, resulting their talks to be mostly polite greetings. But in the second night on the road, when they made camp, Lelou had come to sit next to him by the fire, where he had been reading. She shook her head, when he had started to close his book, told him to carry on with his reading. He had and she had stayed, watching the flames of the campfire and smoked her pipe, passing it to him without a word.

It had been pleasant. 

Solas closed his eyes. There was another way, the Dreamer could look for the missing Handler. 

 

It took some time, before he felt the familiar whisper of Lelou's dreams. She wasn't very far in the physical world and alive obviously, which was a relief. He cast several wards around her, before he even started to examine her dream.

The moment he did, he knew something was different.

The feeling he got from it was muddle and twisted, constantly changing. It was at once brittle, like an old blanket that was in danger to disintegrate, and at the same time, incredible intense.

And it held powerful emotions.

Dangerous emotions. 

Familiar emotions. 

Anxiety and guilt. 

The depth of those feelings made him pause. 

There was always a certain danger for Dreamers to get lost in the dreams, if the dream held emotions they could relate to, or if they were something the Dreamer graved. Solas was no stranger to the emotions Lelou was experiencing. He would do well to avoid this particular dream, he knew that, but...

She is actually dreaming. A nightmare. 

Curiosity won. 

 

The feeling of agony wasn't physical, it was purely and completely emotional pain. It knocked him on his knees and blurred his vision, made him hug himself with arms heavy as stones. The guilt stabbed his heart over and over, birthing uncertainty, making her question every action she ever made. 

 

Her.

 

Solas ripped himself free from the emotional shackles she had wrapped herself into and left the dream. If he had marveled her memories solid and clean manifestations, her imagination shouldn't have come as a surprise. He was a powerful Dreamer, and even if the moment had been just a blink of an eye, it shouldn't have happened, not to him! 

It has happened plenty of times already, Pride.

He sarcastically reminded himself, as he moved to the edge of the warded zone he had created around her dream. Taking a few deep breaths, the Dreamer calmed himself, and admitted that he had -again- let his curiosity to go before caution.

I'm too receptive for this self blame and guilt she feels. 

Familiar in the strangest way.

And not so strange, it seems.

Yes, he was curious.

Calmed down, he prepared himself properly and re-entered the dream.

 

Her memories and the imagined images of her mind entwining together before him.

 

The room is white, so white he can't tell if it even is a room with four walls, ceiling and a floor, or a massive endless space. The only thing that made him intercept it as a room, was the claustrophobic feeling gnawing his back.

Before him stood a boy, glad in white clothes. His skin was pale, his hair dark as midnight.

His eyes held the colors of the sunset. 

The child's eyes stared right past him and the Dreamer looked to his right. 

Lelou stood there, just an arms reach away. She wore the green suit she always wore, her tattooed arms holding something. Something wrapped in a white cloth. 

 

A baby? 

 

No, not a baby. 

A bundle of strings. Red, blue, yellow and green all entwined together. She held it against her chest, like she was holding an infant.

The child with the sunset colored eyes smiled. 

"I'm a real boy."  

The boy took a step closer towards Lelou, stopped and stood still like a statue and reached his arms. 

"I'm a real boy" said Pinocchio." Lelou whispered, and it echoed loudly, like she had shouted. 

"Yes! I'm a real boy!"  Shouted the child as he flung himself towards her, and suddenly, the room was gone and the burned man in the red coat crashed against her, pinning her on the ground. A loud bang rang in the air and then a crack, when skin meets skin with force and with that blow, Solas was pulled into Lelou's body.

The air is dry and cold, her throat feels raw.

Like she had screamed until no voice could come.

Cried until there was no tears left to be shed.

 

She, not I.

 

He can't see anything, but the bottomless, pitch black eyes boring down on him, burning in fury. 

"It was your choice! " the burned man shouts,"You made the decision, you hear me!? You made a choice! You did! And you live with it! You chose this! You chose this and you sure as hell ain't getting a chance to opt out from this."

 

Somewhere, far away, someone breaths hard.

 

"You ain't getting it!" 

 

There's a hole in his chest.

 

" You will fucking live with this!!"

 

In the depth of the night, the Dreamer wakes, gasping for air, hands clutching his chest.