Ellana was smart. She may not have been wise like Solas, or academic like Dorian, or even cultured like Vivienne, but she wasn’t stupid. She was her clan’s first, and the Dalish didn’t raise fools. But that didn’t mean she didn’t make mistakes.
She had to make a lot of decisions as Inquisitor. Some turned out well, others didn’t. She liked to live and learn, though, and didn’t dwell much on her past mistakes. She was aware of them though. Everything is a lesson, she was taught. If it goes right or wrong the first time, it shows you how to deal with it the next. For the most part, this concept worked. If she brought a poor selection of party members with her (like when she brought the three mages with her), they may have come out of battle with more injuries than usual, but a few elfroot potions later they were good as new and Ellana knew not to make the same mistake again. No one was seriously hurt, and they all moved on. (She would even have thought they’d forgotten it if it weren’t for Dorian’s endless teasing, not that she’d change him for the world either way.)
Experiences made people smart. Ellana had quite a few by now.
Somehow that wasn’t enough.
The rift crackled not high above them, green edges flaring and snapping at reality. Ellana was grinning already, calling down storms around them, shocking them just enough for Cole to get in close.
“It seems we have some demons to kill,” the Inquistor yelled over the roiling of the rift and the screeches of the demons pouring out of it.
“Hurumph,” Bull said in reply, tightening his grip on the large axe he held between his hands and charging towards them. Ellana couldn’t help thinking that he was living up to his name, “Yes boss!”
The rift was hovering just above the ground, in the middle of what looked like a small ditch, but had a small river running through it, slightly too large to be called a stream. Ellana stepped into it and reeled back in surprise when the cold water came up to her ankles. She stepped back onto the bank and continued her assault. Cole, Bull and Solas, however, didn’t seem to notice the water itself, more preoccupied with the Pride demon that had suddenly appeared, monstrous claws extended as it let out a deep throaty chuckle.
The rogue and the warrior surrounded it, Cole’s eyes trained on the demon’s back, and the Iron Bull on its front. They lunged at the same time, almost as one practiced, synchronised movement. The demon was wily, blocking Bull’s swing with its thickly covered hand and knocking the qunari over.
Ellana was focusing on the other demons for the time being. Her magic would be less effective on the pride demon, given her specialty as a storm mage, and instead directed her attacks to the floating despair demons screeching and throwing icy spells in her direction. She cast a bolt of lightning that arced between her opponents until they managed to get far enough away that the bolt couldn’t reach. Ellana dodged an incoming beam of frost and brought down another bolt on one of the demon’s heads, killing it, before turning onto the next.
Solas span around and directed his staff in the pride demon’s direction with a flourish, freezing the water around the monster’s ankles. It was mid-step and overbalanced, and it toppled forwards, a sickening crack in one of its legs as it did so. The Iron Bull jumped up, grabbing his axe again and started hacking at its neck while it was down, trying to get through the strong stony armour and actually start doing some real damage. Cole jumped on top of the demon and started stabbing his small blades between the plates in its armour, the demon shrieking out. The huge claws of the beast scrabbled around it, trying to free itself, to grab one of them, to do something, but there was nothing. After many heavy swings, Bull got through the plating on the demon’s neck and his thickened axe crunched through its spine. There was a cut-off gurgling sound, but then nothing.
There was no time to celebrate: more demons were already appearing from around them, green light shimmering off of the water beneath them. Bull ran one way, wading out of the river to chase a terror demon that appeared from the ground not far away. Cole ran another, hunting down one of the despair demons that had escaped Ellana’s attacks thus far.
This left the space in front of Solas in the stream open, undefended, and that was just where the next demon crawled out of the ground from: a fear demon. The elf backstepped a bit in the stream, ripples spreading from his ankles, and shot a cone of ice at it.
That was when Ellana made the mistake that she couldn’t make up for.
She saw Solas facing down the fear demon alone, sensing her loved one’s danger, she faced them. Ellana brought down a lightning bolt that struck the demon right on its forehead, spreading through its body, arcing from limb to limb as sparks. It stood there, body wracked with shocks as the electricity worked its way down the demon’s body…
And into the stream.
Solas yelped, muscles seizing up as the water beneath him became charged. That very same lightning bolt coursed through him, causing him to fit, muscles locking up and spasming. Before Ellana could even react he was falling, collapsing into the stream face-first, hitting the ground with an audible thud. The elf’s body was still trembling in the water, the sparks beginning to dissipate.
“Solas!” Ellana cried, about to take a step towards him but the Iron Bull stopped her. He’d run over the second he’d decapitated his own foe just in time to stop her meeting the same fate. The terror demon in the stream was still spasming, until suddenly it cried out, its body melting into ashes and fluttering on the wind.
The Inquisitor was struggling against the Bull’s strong hold but he was watching the water, watching for any more sparks that would hurt her too. When after a moment there was nothing, he took the first step in. He was fine, and he let go of Ellana, allowing her to rush to her vhenan’s side. Bull hesitated for a moment, before going to join Cole in defeating the rest of the rift demons.
“Solas!” She cried, turning the elf over and dragging him, with some effort, to one of the banks so his head was out of the water, “Creators, Solas, answer me!”
Solas’ face was void of any sign of life, no movement of his eyes, no expression, nothing. His clothes were damp but singed and smoking, dark patches where the lightning had arced over him.
“By the Dread Wolf,” Ellana sobbed, “What have I done?” Her hands went to his chest, pressing gently against where his heart should be, beating steadily away. She paused for a second, trying to concentrate through her panicking thoughts. She thought she may have felt something, faint, distant, but enough to make her hope. “Come on, Solas.”
She gripped his hands tightly and squeezed, waiting for some kind of a response. His hands were cold, but they always were. He was pale, but he always was. She couldn’t tell, she couldn’t tell and it was killing her. He’s still alive, he’s okay, he’s still alive, she told herself, pressing kisses into his knuckles. She couldn’t lose him. It was Solas, for Creators’ sake.
“Boss-” Bull said, coming back with the rogue, voice hesitant and eyes on Solas but mind on the rift, “We need this closed.”
“We’re going to be in a lot more trouble if you don’t,” he reasoned, coming to kneel down next to Solas’ limp form and making sincere eye contact.
Ellana was desperate, but did as he said, dragging her eyes away from Solas for a moment to look at the shuddering rift above them. The Anchor latched onto it, and she felt the energy swell within her hand, bound to the rift. The sensation built and built until the rift exploded into nothingness and disappeared.
The elf didn’t even react, she just turned her head back to Solas.
The Iron Bull had his finger on the mage’s neck, feeling for a pulse point. Ellana had felt one. She knew she felt one. But then Bull gave her that look.
“No,” her voice cracked, “No it can’t- it’s Solas, no- no!” She shoved the qunari’s hand away and clung onto Solas in a despairing hug, “Don’t leave me! Vhenan, please!”
It wasn’t the first time Ellana had made a mistake. It was the first one she regretted. The one she wished she could take back.