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What It Feels Like To Be Human

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Minuial Lavellan never liked writing letters, let alone write them in a language that is not her own. The past several days she had to write several of them with the help of Lady Josephine—to Chantry Sisters, Teyrns, Arls and to many other human titles she could not remember. One letter in particular though, she had to write on her own. Even though it was one that she wrote in her own language, it did not make writing any easier.

Dearest Sister,

I am well. As you may have heard from Keeper Deshanna, the humans have been nothing but kindness to me, and I am slowly adapting to their ways.

I am sorry I missed your ceremony. But one comfort from this is that you do not have to hide anymore, and while bring First may be daunting, in time, you will learn as I have. I have faith in you.

She used the bulk of the letter describing some things that she found amusing—like those little bowls that's changed in her room every morning, which she later learned were things that humans used to relieve themselves, or the enormous number of books—which were kept in wooden slits fixed to the walls of the Chantry. Books were a rarity for her clan, and the only book they had was the one that Keeper Deshanna had of stories passed down from Keeper to Keeper. To have so much knowledge was overwhelming. Those little things at least can give a sense that she was somewhat comfortable and safe.

Of course, that is not completely true. At first, the humans did keep her as prisoner, but only because they thought she blew up their place of worship and many people inside it, including what it looks like their Keeper—the Divine. And there was the matter of her left hand, which always glowed with a bright green hew whenever it was near those portals to the Fade they called rifts, and shot an intense pain through her veins every time she wielded it against those rifts. Still, after that incident, she marveled at how the villagers treated her with utmost respect—almost to the point of worship—the Herald of Andraste, so they called her.

Yet despite their reverence, everything still felt strange—the sound of the language spoken around her was different, and though they knew that she was Dalish, she got the sense that nobody knew from where she really was, because every time she explained something, people tended to give her a certain curious look as if she was describing something foreign. She was the First of her Clan, so she was well studied in the human language to the point of near fluency. Her clan traded often with humans, and she knew more than enough of the language to be able to sneak herself inside that very important human meeting that got her into this fiasco in the first place. Nonetheless, every time she used it, it always reminded her that that language was not her own.

Minuial closed her letter with greetings to friends and other family members, and well wishes for her sister, Samahl's new appointment as the new First. Her sister becoming the First is the one of the good things that came out of this unexpected turn of events. Samahl's magical capabilities was an open secret in the clan. They knew she had it but she was never allowed to use it, for fear that the other clans find out, and having her sister sent away alone. It was something she could not bear. Both of them never knew their parents, so Samahl was the world to her. And now, that world has drifted far away. The best thing she could do is to send some words that would let her imagine her sister smiling.

As soon as she dispatched her letter to one of Leliana's messengers, she found her feet moving through the snow towards the outside of Haven's gates, and towards the trees beyond it. On one low tree, her arms moved to pull herself up its branches, towards a semblance of some familiarity. Even though she's been living in Haven for some time, she's still not used to its cold stone walls where people live in. Trees to her felt closer to home, and she found herself, on a few occasions dreaming on its branches.

It was her natural curiosity that made her volunteer for the spying mission. Growing up, shemlens always fascinated her with their power, knowledge and technology. She knew that elves who lived among humans clustered around alienages, and she knew about human armies raiding other clans, so she was always careful around them, particularly those heavily armored ones who hunted people with magic. They were different but fascinating. While many in her clan always looked backwards to those times when elves ruled the land and those times when their own gods walked alongside them, at least the shemlens looked to the future. Volunteering gave her a chance to learn more about them, and what it may feel like to be human. Nowadays, she if she ever had that opportunity to caution her past self, she would have told herself to be careful of what she wished for.

Haven has many dreams, so she has seen. Solas told her about a lot of them. Among all her new companions, he at least spoke her language. He was an elf who is quite vocal in his dislike for her people, yet he always spoke of beautiful dreams. Through him, she learned how to make herself dream, and to see the dreams around her. One time, she dreamt of a large group violent men killed anyone who visited this little town and sacrificed them to the dragon they worshipped. She saw Rosamond Cousland, hero of Ferelden, charge the beast with her flaming red hair flailing in the wind, and her companions—the king of Ferelden, two female mages, a qunari, an elven assassin, a dwarf, and a familiar red headed bard, follow after her. The bard, Minuilal recognized as Leliana. And when she asked Leliana about it, the latter was surprised at how accurately this precocious elf described that old battle. In a lot of ways, Minuial found that dreams do help her understand her new reality, and all it took was a little bit of lyrium to make these dreams happen.

Minuial was about to take a sip of lyrium, when heard hard footsteps below her.

"Your Worship?"

Her feet moved to flee by reflex, but ice on the tree caused her hand to slip sending her falling down the pile of snow below.

"Your Worship!" the voice repeated in alarm.

When her eyes adjusted, she found herself staring above towards a pair of brown eyes that belonged to Commander Cullen. "Are you alright?" he asked gently. His voice sounded different compared to his usual forceful commanding tone. This time, it was a lot softer, more undecided.

"Commander…I'm fine. You just startled me, that's all."

"I'm sorry."

After he helped her up on her feet, she found herself explaining. "I wasn't running away. I do intend to keep my promise to the Inquisition." The man before her used to hunt people like her, and he probably followed her to keep her from escaping.

"Whatever made you think that I was…oh! I did not mean to make you think that…" His voiced trailed off. Minuial found herself equally dumbfounded by this version of the Commander who was awkward, and a lot less in control.

"I'm sorry I misjudged your intentions."

"It is not entirely your fault. I, after all, was the one who startled you."

It suddenly occurred to her that she knew nothing of the Commander, or any of the ex-templars who fought with her some weeks ago. This man in particular, she knew, gave up his post in Kirkwall to fight for her. Maybe he wasn't as cold as she originally thought.

"If you don't mind my asking, what were you doing up there?"

"I wanted to dream, that's all."

"Dream?" he asked incredulously. "On a tree?"

A moment of realization came: adult humans don't climb trees. To him, she probably seemed very much like a child. And she was tired of explaining herself. "You humans have no imagination at all."

"I'm sorry I didn't mean to offend. You are, after all, very far away from home. You must miss it."

There was genuine fluster and concern in his voice. If he did not follow her, why was he at the edge of the forest? "If you weren't following me, why were you here, Commander?"

"I was just…trying to catch some air."

Upon closer examination, Minuial did realize that he did look pale, a lot paler than most humans, almost as if he was ill. "Are you feeling unwell?"

"Just a headache. It will pass as it always does."

At that moment, the Commander and ex-templar, suddenly became vulnerable, almost like any normal person. "Let me." Drawing closer towards him, her hands touched his forehead.

"What are you doing?"

"Quiet! I'm trying something."

Her fingers glowed as she silently uttered a spell. There was no assurance that it would work, but after a minute some color was restored to his cheeks. She quickly pulled away after realizing that their faces were dangerously close.

The ex-templar, as flustered as she was, muttered, "What did you just do?"

"A healing spell. Did it work?"

"Maybe." She could swear she saw his cheeks redden. That was a good sign.

"I'm glad."

They were silent for a while. The awkwardness was still there, but at least there was no fear. Not anymore.

"Well, if you don't mind…" the Commander started, "I'll get back to my soldiers, so you can get back to your…dreaming. Good day to you, Herald."

"Minuial." Her voice stopped him for a second. "I would like you to call me by my name, since we are working together."

"Of course…Minuial."

"Good day…Cullen."

Both paused after each said the other's name. Minuial found the exchange interesting to say the least. Instead of climbing back up the tree, she found herself walking back to Haven. The dreams will have to wait.