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Tired footsteps pace the atrium floor. The weight of an entire civilization resting upon his shoulders. Lost and forgotten are they, turned to dust and scattered to the wind. Too long had Fen’Harel slept, now a quiet observer in a world no longer meant for him, nor his ancient brethren. For whom would call upon uthenera? The feared and misunderstood hears the pleas beyond the veil. Wisps of spirits who call to him in the night, each with a different tale or tragedy. With time, he would hear them all. Patient and resolute, a silent vow to make things right.

Now only vague clues remain; crumbling in ancient ruins, carved in way of elvish relics, diluted in the veins of those elves whom remain. With all lost between this world and the fade, they may never be recovered. Solas’ mistakes tower so high, they could fill the entirety of Skyhold. The most recent which he vows to make right, deep in thought as he leans his stave against his centrally located desk. The murals have been an invaluable outlet, obscure and abstract enough that not a soul arch a brow at his peculiar ways. A white lie here, a fib there, deep and profound explanations that he ties to his explorations within the fade.

Brows knit together, deep ridges of thousand-year old worries as he regards his brushwork. Soon he would begin his next piece, vivid memories of Celene’s steadfast rule in Halamshiral. With papers scattered across his desk, he begins to shuffle them to the side, finding a blank vellum to sketch ideas upon. It is then he hears faint steps. The mage’s senses immediately hone, keen to the woman’s gait.

He stills, keeping his gaze hard pressed upon the parchment. His expression as hardened as his emotions, knowing their time draws to a close.

“I thought I’d find you in here.” Lavellen speaks, voice as sweet as honey, liquid silk as it drenches his workspace. “I see there is no rest for you. How soon before we may admire your next masterpiece?"

His smile is barely discernible, but there no less. An outward pull at the corner of lips, he straightens and stands tall, stormy eyes softening along the edges at her approach. A beauty and a marvel, selfless and noble. He wishes to know everything about her; from what tastes sweetest upon her lips, if she is partial to certain spring blossoms, or if she has a fondness for constellations such as himself… Yet he remains quiet. For every word would only strengthen his attachment, a growing fondness that has changed him.

"I never thought them masterpieces, but it flatters me you would think them as such,” he says. “With what the Inquisition has accomplished… I only hope these murals will withstand days ahead, as artistic documentation of our feats.”

She saunters closer, grinning playfully as she peers up at him with emerald eyes. Solas’ first reaction is to step back, perhaps now an opportune time to severe their ties. Instead, bare heels root themselves to the ground, a desperate aching for her proximity, her smell, her touch.

Solid as an ancient fortress, he does not waver as he leans in to meet her. Delicate feminine hands reach to rest themselves upon his forearms. He shifts stance side to side with a weary smile, pulling her closer. Her fingers spread a blossoming warmth, and he exhales as eyes lid in a brief moment of inner peace. He wishes to tell her, sever their ties and break free of the anguish, yet his lips do not move. Luckily, Lethallan speaks first.

“I would like to find somewhere a bit more… private,” she says. He watches as Lavellan’s gaze stretches to the high ceiling, voices pouring down in echoes where they stood. Although he understands her wish for privacy, he thinks of an any excuse to stay. The shadow of Fen'Harel tears at him from the inside, as selfish desire trumps duty. There would be no easy solution for the mess he’s created, and still creates…

Solas hesitates, glancing to the blank stucco wall, then back to her. His entire being longs for these fleeting moments, for the only soul that has stirred his faintly beating heart in many years. “Of course, Ma Vhenan. You seem to have something in mind? Perhaps I could show you more of the veil-“

“No,” she interjects, as Solas passes her a curious downward glance. “I would prefer if we stayed in this world… I- I don’t want to question my memories-”

Of course. She wants something real, something she would be able to grasp and feel rather than distorted memories of memories. He doesn’t fault her for it, only silently curses himself as an aching settles in his gut. It wouldn’t be much longer, they would depart to the Temple of Mythal in only a few days. But perhaps he owes her this, for he deserves none of the pleasure she brings him.

“You do not need to explain, I understand. Come, I will show you where I often dream, I special place I go to clear my head and visit the spirits while I sleep.”

————-

They arrive hand in hand in a hidden glen, at the foot of a great and marvelous tree. The thick and wide trunk is fastened within the earth, roots spread outward like the northern star. A maze of a thousand ironbark branches twist and wind in chaotic drapery, as the low afternoon sun filters between a million golden leaves. For any elf, this is a sight to behold. For trees of this type had long been harvested for their wood; to create unbreakable and elegant weaponry.

“Vhenadahl,” Lavellan exclaims in an enthusiastic whisper, astonishment wide in her eyes.

“So you recognize it,” Solas says, wearing a content expression. “Not any of its kind remain. Long ago, our people lived within forests covered in these. The trees were said to protect them, shattering arrows and dispelling magic of rival clans, or worse, humans."

Graceful, light steps lead her away from him, the grasp on his hand slipping as she reaches to touch the silver trunk. “I have read about them in our literature, seen them depicted in our drawings, but I did not know any like this still remain…”

And how correct she is. For this is the last, shielded in illusions from the mortal eye, draped in the dread wolf’s magic. He had allowed her to see it, unveiling it for the short time they linger in this place. Only a few weeks ago he had retreated this place, distraught by the loss of his dear friend, the Spirit of Wisdom.

With a small pause, Lavellan turns to meet his eyes. “How did you find it?”

Solas is well aware of her inquisitive nature, replying almost poetically, calm and smooth with his words

"How do you think?” he grins, canting his head in somewhat of a mischievous gesture. “I sought a sanctuary, a safe place were I could retreat for the perils around me, a place to close my eyes, and simply dream.”

She scrunches her nose, seeming frustrated by his words. “Is that all you ever do, dream?” Auburn hair frames the edges of her jaw as she shakes her head. “It isn’t right, this life is fleeting, time continues whether you dream or not. Why pass it by in such a way?”

If she only knew, he thinks, now gripping his stave with both hands, leaning his weight upon it. Immortality has a way of weakening the soul, watching as history seems to repeat over and over. Sleep had been a safe passage of time, an escape from wicked and cruel hearts who sought nothing but to further their own agendas and cause paranoia in all that is misunderstood.

"Perhaps you are right. Perhaps I have taken my studies too seriously. But if not me, then who? I do not know any others who willingly study the Fade.” He watches her, and sees that the answer he gives is unsatisfactory.

“But life is so short. We aren’t as fortunate as our ancestors, our lives pass by us in an instant. Why spend it in an alter reality?"

Solas can’t help but to chuckle at this, eyes crinkling in amusement as he admires the bright blue sky contrasted by shimmering branches.

"What’s so funny?” Lavellan pouts, obviously offended by his laughter.

“You say that as if I had cared to spend my waking hours with one of any importance. The spirits I’ve met in the fade, they are as real as you and I. The knowledge and stories they have shared with me, it is unlike any waking relationship…” He can see the mistakes in his words after he’s said them. Lavellan’s eyes fall from him, her soft lips turning downward as she idly traces the trunk with a fingertip.

“I did not mean-” He sets his stave to the side, closing the space between them. Cautiously, Solas raises a hand, tenderly stroking the side of her face. He eyes the vallaslin, causing a tightness within his chest, pained at what the marks once stood for. “Things have changed. I have changed. You have showed me that there is hope left in this world and for our people. You are the first person I’ve trusted since-"

"You’ve said these things already, I want you to show me…”

Dainty hands now curl into the fabric of his humble tunic, yanking him in hard and close. As much as he wants to deny her, he cannot. For his entire spirit craves the life she drips into him. And so he wraps hands around her waist, pulling tight against him, gentle yet eager as his full lips press into hers.

Their tongues dance in a wild, untamed rhythm, hungrily nibbling a lip, and subtly pressing his hips into hers. It is almost too much to bear, overthrown by his mortal desires. Lavellan’s back is now pressed firmly against the ancient tree, a slight tingle rolls across their skin from the tree’s connection with the veil. It elates the senses, emboldening him for a brief moment. Fingers slip beneath her shirt, the warmth of her skin guiding fingertips as they trace ribs up her torso.

Dipping his head down, lips trail down her neck.

It is too much. Soon, she would be bare beneath him, blossoms spread in an act of passion and love. He cannot. He will not take her, spoil her beauty with his poison and selfish desires. The dread wolf destroys everything he touches, and to take her purity with his Millenia of broken promises and shattered dreams, to taint her beauty with his tattered ideals…

"Ma Vhenan…” he gasps, opening his eyes and forces her back from him. Frustration courses within his veins, painfully aware of Lavellan’s disappointment.

“No… You’re not doing this to me again, Solas. I want you, I want this,” she explains. “We don’t know what the end will bring, I wish to become one with you, to experience a closeness that I’ve never known…"

Had she never had another?He half expected this, even more reason to severe their ties. She should have her moment with a more deserving of her kin, he muses. And at by that thought, he is sickened, crazed by the thought of her with another. For they belong together. Pained confusion, torn in a million different directions with no clear answers.

"I… I do not think this is the best idea…” Solas wears a look of concern, his breathing still quickened.

How cold of him, and he can tell her iron spirit is shaken, causing her to feel shame at her lustful actions. She vigorously shakes her head, palms fiercely pushing him away . Everything he has said and done up to this point has been mixed messages and false truths. Lavellan brings both hands to shield her face, most likely stifling tears.

“You tell me you love me, yet you push me away… You always try to walk away, Solas. Why do brush my feelings aside as you reside in a quiet state of solitude? Tell me this isn’t what you want either, tell me!”

"Lethallan…” he pleads.

His love for her would not release the old gods from their chains. His love for her would not rewrite history. His love for her would not fix all the wrong he has done… This is his doing, his battle alone.

“Oh, so now I’m Lethallan? Can’t stand being wrong? Too prideful to admit to me what’s really happening between us?”

The insult stings, his jaw tense and eyes narrow, softly shaking his head. A temper still boils beneath the surface, but none which he would ever release on her. He tries once more to go to her side, to weave fingers within soft hair, to catch the scent of rosin and arbor blessing.

"With time, please, give me time…” All the confidence of the Winter Ball has vanished. He is noting but a shadow of himself, weak and unsure.

“You can have your time,” she bites, tearing herself from his grasp and marching away from him.

Solas does not follow. The lone wolf only watches, left alone with misery and consequence. Lavellan does not turn back. For if she were to peer over her shoulder, she would not find Vhenadahl or Uthenera, only pastel blossoms blooming around a dead patch of earth. Perhaps that would have been the last time Lavellan questioned what is real, and what was a dream.