Though the mountain air chilled her to the bone, Venara chose to walk the battlements again that night.
It had become her custom of late. Ever since she had returned from Halamshiral, sleep did not come to her easily. Whenever she closed her eyes, she walked the Fade unwillingly, drawn to it by the strength of a connection she could not fully understand. Before she left, Vivienne had given her potions with the hopes of inducing a dreamless sleep, but they had made Venara violently ill. So instead, she forced herself to stay awake, sleeping as little as she could.
When she walked the Fade, she saw the traces Fen’Harel left in his wake, heard the echoes of his commands. The entire realm vibrated with his power, pushing against her, buffeting her with its raw strength, growing with each passing day. He had been a man when he had re-awakened into his powers all those years ago. He was now, undeniably, a god. Even if he wanted to remain hidden, he could not—no single being could wield that much power and go unnoticed.
Venara could never pinpoint his location exactly, but she knew he was there, just as he surely knew she was there. She did all she could to keep herself hidden, fearing the worst if he came for her. She would never find rest in the Fade again.
It was strange to think that once the Fade had held so much joy for her. A place to roam, free of constraints, free of responsibility. A place to learn, to question, to explore, filled with magic and energy unlike anything she had witnessed in the physical realm.
It was in the Fade he had first kissed her, impulsively responding to a playful remark.
It was in the Fade he had declared his love for her, making that first, effortless promise.
It was in the Fade he had broken her heart, shattering the promise she knew he couldn’t keep.
And it was in the Fade he had found her again—or perhaps she had found him—desperately seeking to recreate a moment that could no longer exist, reaching for a passion and a desire that could not withstand the changing world. When she thought of it, Venara could still feel the touch of his hands, the taste of his lips, the strength of his magic merged with hers.
That time was over. They had been lovers once, yes, but now they were enemies. She had tried to reason with him, even after he had abandoned her, even after he had made his plans known, declaring his war against the rest of Thedas. But her attempts had been futile. The madness of godhood had taken him, and he was far too gone now.
Venara shivered and pulled her cloak tight. It was a thick and heavy thing, fur-lined and well-worn, the threads of its embroidered hem coming lose. A gift from Svarah Sun-Hair, it was Venara’s favourite cloak. No one made practical, warm gear quite like the Avaar.
It also had the benefit of being so large on her small frame that she could simply disappear inside it. She would give up Skyhold before she gave up this cloak. It protected her. It made her feel safe.
Venara absently clasped a hand around her stomach, her fingers pressing into the cloak’s worn fur.
“I suspected this was the place to find you.”
Venara glanced over her shoulder to see a tall figure draped in blacks and purples, nearly invisible against the night sky. “Morrigan.”
Morrigan chuckled and stepped into the flickering torchlight. The light of the flames danced across her pale face, glinting in her golden eyes. “Is that a note of suspicion I detect, Inquisitor?”
“Caution, Morrigan, not suspicion,” Venara replied. “I have every right to be cautious.”
“And I reiterate, once again, Inquisitor, that you have nothing to fear from me,” Morrigan said.
“And yet you appear on my battlements in the dead of night without so much as an announcement.”
“Tis no fault of mine that your guards remain uniquely unaware,” Morrigan interrupted. “I would have a word with Leliana. Clearly, she is slipping in her duties. Considering the enemy you now face, I suspected the entire castle to be warded against magic, and yet here I am, perfectly capable of infiltrating your defences without disturbance.”
Venara exhaled, watching her breath rise in the cold like a puff of smoke. “Because there are no defences.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“There are no defences,” Venara repeated. “Our enemy knows where we are, he knows this castle better than we do. His magic alone is stronger than the sum of every mage who swore their services to this organization. Fighting him here is futile. Why waste resources on Skyhold when he could take it any time he wants?”
Morrigan blinked. “I… see.” She paused, walking to the edge of the battlements and resting her hand against the worn stone, golden eyes surveying the dark outline of the mountains beyond. “How long ago did you abandon this place?”
“A year ago, officially,” Venara said. “Long before Fen’Harel’s agents began making themselves known. The decision was made soon after the Exalted Council. It has been a slow exodus, but most of the organization is gone now.”
“Then why do you linger?”
Venara frowned, her jaw clenching. “What concern is it of yours?” she snapped, turning on a heel and striding down the battlements. Her cloak trailed on the pavement as she moved, the material whispering against the stone.
“I am concerned with all things regarding the fate of the world,” Morrigan replied, her long stride closing the distance between them. She caught Venara’s arm, halting her. “Do not pretend we are two strangers who know nothing of each other’s deeds, Inquisitor. I witnessed you drink from the Well of Sorrows, electing to put yourself into Mythal’s grasp. You witnessed my mother, an embodiment of Mythal herself, extract the soul of an Old God from my son. And now, despite the power she possessed, all traces of her spirit are lost to me and another ancient elvhen god rises in her place.”
Venara ripped her arm free from Morrigan’s grasp and continued her prowl down the battlements.
Morrigan watched her go. “You need allies in the coming fight, Inquisitor,” she called. “Let me help you.”
Venara stopped. “At what price?” she said, her back to Morrigan. “Do you really think me so naïve to believe that your aid comes without a cost?”
“You have experienced much loss, Inquisitor,” Morrigan said. “I cannot blame you for your guardedness. But I promise you that my offer is genuine. For my child’s sake. And for yours.”
The cold night wind blew, biting at Venara’s cheeks. She looked over her shoulder. “How did you know?”
Morrigan chuckled. “I, too, have born a child who should not exist. A child conceived with magic. It bears a mark on the mother, a vibration in the Fade, invisible to most, for they do not know what to look for. But I would recognize it anywhere.”
“You conceived your son during a ritual to bypass effective immortality in an archdemon,” Venara said. “Our situations are nothing alike.”
“Oh? And is your pregnancy not an attempt to thwart part of Fen’Harel’s magic?”
“No.” The words were little more than a hiss. Venara turned sharply to regard Morrigan, jaw clenched, teeth grinding against each other. “It isn’t part of any plan! I didn’t expect this child, I don’t want this child, I…” She fell silent, the words dead in her mouth. She pressed a hand against her growing stomach, her fingers clenching the worn furs of her cloak.
She didn’t want this child.
She had never admitted it to herself before, but now she had spoken, the weight of her realization fell heavy upon her.
Venara had never thought about children. For most of her adult life, she neither wanted nor didn’t want them. Rather, children were never in her future. Her life was reckless, dangerous, with the possibility of death haunting her every move. She could never see a time where she could see herself bringing another life into this world because she could not imagine a time where she was not in danger.
She remembered distinctly the first Arlathvhen after the Lavellan massacre. She and Eledin were the only last remaining Dalish who born the Lavellan name and heritage. The High Keepers had, quite firmly, spoke of their desire for them to continue the line. Both Venara and Eledin had, also quite firmly and very vocally, rejected them. There were more ways to pass along their heritage than through the birth of children.
That had been the first and last time Venara had ever explicitly spoken about the possibility of children.
But now she was far beyond the possibility.
It was a reality.
She had never felt so lost. So alone.
Morrigan observed her, her yellow gaze direct. “If I may ask, Inquisitor… If you did not want this, why did you not take the appropriate steps? You could have avoided these circumstances entirely. You have never struck me as the kind of woman who would let passion trump caution.”
Venara looked away. “I did not take precautions because there should not have been any reason for precautions,” she said. “How do you take precautions for a dream?”
Morrigan raised her eyebrows. Venara was not accustomed to seeing her shocked, but her astonishment was tangible. “I beg your pardon?”
“I haven’t seen the man I knew as Solas in person since the Exalted Council,” Venara said. “But I did meet his spirit once. In the Fade. What happened there between us… I would never have guessed that it would lead to this.”
“Your child was conceived in the Fade?”
Venara nodded. “In the Fade, from the Fade… We were never there physically, and yet…” She gestured to her stomach. “Magic. Powerful, unexplainable magic. Even Vivienne and Dorian did not have an answer for it.”
“I… I admit, I am perplexed,” Morrigan said. “Tis no wonder you burn so brightly in the Fade. You carry something of it within you.” She paused and clasped her hands together. “Is he aware?”
“Not that I know of,” Venara said. “Not yet, anyway.”
“Will you tell him?”
“No,” Venara said quietly. “He will know eventually. I cannot keep it hidden forever. Maybe he will even seek me out. This is why I remain here, at Skyhold, even though the rest of my people are gone. If he comes for me, there is little damage he can do so far out here, in the mountains.”
“I see,” Morrigan said. “And if he does not? What will you do when your child is born?”
“I will fight,” Venara said. “He wants to destroy the world. I can’t let that happen. He is my enemy now.”
Morrigan touched her shoulder. “You do have not have to bear this burden alone, Venara,” she said gently. “I, too, know what it is like to be a mother, alone in the wilderness. I suffered in those early years, raising Kieran on my own, hunted by those who suspected he was something more than a babe. I do not wish you to suffer the way I did. Please. Let me help you.”
If there were tears in Venara’s eyes, the wind had frozen them there. Regardless, she could not weep now, even if she wanted to. “Why?” she asked, her voice cracking.
“Because I can. And more importantly, because I wish to.”
A wolf’s howl echoed through the mountain valley below. Morrigan raised a hand, murmuring a string of strange words. A yellow-tinged light burst outwards from her palm, enveloping herself and Venara in a bubble of light that soon dissipated into darkness.
“What did you do?” Venara asked.
“I protected us from those who are watching,” Morrigan replied. “He can look as much as he wants, but he cannot see you now, not as long as I am here. You should rest while you can, Inquisitor.”
Venara exhaled, her breath misting. She looked at Morrigan, who loomed over her in the flickering torchlight, her profile partially cast in shadow. Despite her sinister look, despite everything Leliana had ever said about her, Venara felt she was being genuine. Even if she was wrong and Morrigan had some ulterior motive, she was tired of being on her own, without help, without guidance.
She would choose to trust her. She had to. It was the only way she could find relief and lift the weight from her shoulders. It was the only way she could breathe freely again.
Venara caught Morrigan’s eye and nodded. Her fingers clenched the fabric over her stomach. “Thank you,” she said quietly, her words no more than a whisper on the cold air.