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The Guardian

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"I can't watch as he tears this world down." Yrja cast her hood down as she stepped back into the sanctuary. "He may be wise, but he is not thinking past his current motives." Thenon, who had been waiting for her to return, stood up from his crouch.

"Has he let on anything?"They walked down a dimly lit hall and emerged into the study.

"He knows he wants to bring down the Veil, return the world to our people. I overheard his plans regarding the Evanuris. But he has said nothing of his plans regarding the rest of the world." Yrja chewed her lip angrily while she went over some of her notes. "It's going to be all out war. I won't believe that the Inquisitor is going down so easily. He may have lost his arm, but I have a feeling that won't be an obstacle for very long."

"You think the Inquisitor will rise against Fen'harel? They are friends." Thenon frowned, casting a glance around the area.

"Depends on how pissed the Inquisitor is. I wasn't there in the Crossroads with them a year ago. Either way, I've finally arranged something with the Tevinter, Dorian Pavus." She glanced over at the time candle in the corner. Such primitive measures this world had been weathered to. "I need to go. My time has come." Thenon blinked and reached out to stop her, looking confused.

"What madness is this? We were in this together, what is going on Yrja?" She smiled sadly.

"I'm afraid this is where our paths part. My apprentice will assume my place once I am gone. I believe she will lead you and the others to a more favourable future. May we meet in another life, Thenon." The other elf looked as though he wanted to argue, but then he resigned to a solemn nod.

"You've figured it out then. You're going to stop Fen'harel." It was a whisper that barely reached her as she raised her hood and activated the Eluvian in their hold.

"I am going to try." Then she stepped through the mirror.


 

On the other side, night had fallen. The arid coolness of a desert greeted her. Yrja turned to the Eluvian as the surface stilled. She could see Thenon on the other side moving around, though it was blurred. Ir abelas, old friend. She raised her hand and clenched it into a fist, shattering the Eluvian. Thenon would burn down the sanctuary on the other side and her job was to destroy the gateway. Fen'harel had trusted his closest, but he in turn had broken her trust. They had followed him for so long, rebelled against the Evanuris at his side. His followers had known that his plan to rebuild the world was extreme and that there would be casualties along the way. But then the Inquisition happened and it was better than his scheme. Yin Lavellan was kind and intelligent and his inner circle had proved to be some of the most respectable people she had seen in all her years living in this world. She thought that Solas would see them and their potential and ask for their help.

He never did and now she was taking it into her own hands. Her people were a minority, but they were strong.

The single bridge into Minrathous was daunting, but she'd seen more secluded places in the time of Arlathan. Sneaking across the bridge and through its gates under guise of feather was a breeze. Then, she cast off feather for a cloak woven of magic that rendered her invisible only to those that knew what to look for. And then she followed the directions Dorian had given her to the place they were to meet.

The massive metropolis was...still uncomparable to Arlathan or any cities in existence during the Elvhen Empire, but for being human built, it was impressive. These quicklings had come a ways from when they had been nothing but barbaric tribes.

She did not waste time ogling the architecture and found her destination in a splendid estate surrounded by tall white walls. Immediately, she felt uneasy. If Dorian had been experimenting from here, she hoped he had remained undetected.

Yrja slipped on through past the guards at the gate, reminding herself to tell Dorian he needed to set wards around his place if he wanted to keep spies out. She quickly slipped into the white-stoned halls and immediately picked up on conversation, though it was faint and far away. She followed the voices through extravagant corridors and chambers, glad that the place was utterly dead at night. She was also glad to see no signs of slaves, though that was probably too good to be true for a Magister.

Finally, the elf rounded a corner to see a large open balcony whose view was to die for. A massive moon illuminated the marble, giving it the image of standing on the surface of the moon itself. Long sheer curtains decorated the entrance of the balcony and exotic plants in expensive pots dotted every corner. At the other side of the balcony, two men stood—the source of the noise. One, she recognised as Dorian Pavus himself, dressed in finery to match the small palace, and the other was a man whose face she could not see as it was obscured by a hood.

"I believe our guest has arrived safe and sound," Dorian suddenly said, voice rising. Yrja stepped through the drapes to join them in the moonlight, letting her spell unravel.

"I see you've been practicing the detection spell?" she said, casting her hood down.

"Indeed! I imagine you think me an imbecile having not placed a ward or more competent guards at the gate?" She raised an eyebrow.

"I see your point, but if I had been an assassin—" she gestured from herself to him, indicating the short distance. He waved her off.

"I detected you as soon as you reached the inside. I'd plenty of time to figuratively arm myself against figurative intruders." The man in the dark cloak made a noise in his throat and shook his head.

"Bloody cocky, this one." Dorian smiled crookedly. "You've yet to introduce us, vhenan." Yrja's eyebrows shot up into her hair.

"Judging by her expression, she needs none now," the Magister mused.

"Perhaps, but I still have no idea who she is," the Inquisitor sighed. Dorian snapped his fingers.

"This is Yrja. She's an agent of our dear Apostate-turned-God." The Inquisitor straightened to his full height and raised a hand, slowing removing his hood so that he could look at her. He was a handsome elf, strong and broad and tall. There was a single scar that stemmed from the corner of his mouth nearly up to his cheekbone and another across his nose. The Inquisitor was as handsome as he was fierce.

"It is good to finally meet you, Inquisitor," she said, inclining her head.

"Funny, because until the other day, I didn't know you existed. And yet it seems you and Dorian have been in contact for quite some time," he said, not bothering to mask irritation. Dorian shuffled, looking guilty.

"She contacted me," he argued.

"How much does he know?" she asked the Tevinter.

"Who are you, really? Dorian says you're as old as Sol—Fen'harel himself," Yin said, eyes flashing. Yrja glanced at Dorian, who she had never really explained her background to in detail. "Do you know Abelas? Are you one of the sentinels who guarded the Temple of Mythal?" Dorian tsked.

"If you keep asking questions, she will never be able to answer," he quipped. Yin glared at her, waiting. She found a pit of ice had formed in her stomach.

"I was one of few who watched over Solas as he slept." She walked over to the balustrade to mask her nervousness. "No, I was not one of Abelas' sentinels. Did Solas mention any of his agents, ever?"

"He mentioned spies in the Inquisition...and those involved in leading Corypheus to the orb." She nodded. Yin gasped.

"No. You? You're responsible for letting that monster get his hands on that relic?" Even Dorian remained silent, as this was a revelation to him as well. "Then...then..."

"In a way, it's all my fault. Granted, if not me, someone else would have done it." She looked over at the two men. "But I still could have taken the orb somewhere safe, away from him. I would have been hunted, but I could have prevented—" she broke off, then turned to face them again, determination rising in her gut. "We are doomed in this time. Solas will release the Evanuris. He has not taken into account the hundreds of elves that wear their vallaslin and will flock to them without question. He may have them now, but there will be a fissure that he does not see--at least not until it's too late. There will be war driven by vengeance of the Evanuris and blood will flow thicker than when Falon'din went mad. And Solas believes he can stop them alone." Yin's eyes had closed and hard lines had formed on his face.

"Alone. As he thinks he must do with everything," Yin remarked bitterly. "Oh, Solas..."

"Which is why Yrja is going to sabotage him and return to the past," Dorian chimed in. Yin stared agape at them both. He stuck a finger in his ear, twisted it around, and then blinked.

"What? What good would that do? She goes back but we'll still be here! Remember that one time we time travelled in Redcliffe? Leliana said it was real for her--it will be real for us!" Dorian looked affronted.

"I've done copious amounts of research on time travel since then. I even recovered some old notes from my time with Alexius! I have this figured out, amatus. Go on, tell me I'm the best." Yin swore and pinched the bridge of his nose. Yrja rolled her shoulders, turning to face them.

"What Solas plans to do regarding the Veil will weaken him," she said, "If I interfere, his spell will fail, he will be weakened, and perhaps then he will listen. But if Dorian's new time spell works correctly, this timeline will cease to exist and it will be like hitting reset on everything." Yin looked at his lover who gave him a reassuring smile.

"And what do you plan to do once you've...gone back?" Yrja gave him a wry grin.

"I'm going to steal Solas' orb, of course. And then naturally I'm going to need to flee. I will find Dorian in the other timeline, recruit his help, and with the orb I plan on preventing him from coming into the power that he stole."

"Stole?" Yin asked. Well, forgot about that.

"He...absorbed Mythal. Potentially also Urthemiel, but it's possible that Mythal put the soul somewhere safe before that happened," she decided to admit. "Which is another matter I will tend to when I go back. When he wakes up, he will have nothing but his own cunning...which is dangerous on its own, but...I have plans." Yin nodded thoughtfully and she knew she was slowly winning him over.

"Do you know him? Solas? Were you friends, ever?" That was an odd turn in topic. Her shoulders dropped and she felt her cheeks warm slightly.

"There is a possibility he may know my face, but he does not know my name."

"That doesn't seem possible for someone that watched over him for hundreds of years," Yin said.

"There were followers, and then there were his friends. Fen'harel fell unconscious after he constructed the Veil but he did not hand pick who would watch him. He trusted us."

"Then are you a spy? What purpose do you serve in his ranks?" Yin asked.

"I serve no purpose to anyone but myself. I joined him during the rebellion against the Evanuris because I agreed they needed to be taken down. It is no more than that," she sighed. "And now, he must be stopped." A grim silence weighed with sorrow hung in the air.

"You won't hurt him, will you?" Yrja and Dorian both looked at him. Yin's eyes were filled with worry, which was not what she had expected from the man whose entire life had been turned upside down. "His plans may be terrible, but Solas is my friend. My brother. He's...lost. I want to help him see, not to further drive into his head that our world is not worth saving." Yrja's face softened at the young elf.

"I promise I won't hurt him." And that was a promise she would have kept on her own, regardless.

-----------------------------

Days later, Dorian emerged from his massive study bearing a smile that stretched ear to ear. After some gloating and stroking of his ego, he finally explained that he had perfected the spell and had managed to confine it to a disc the size of her hand. It was made of a strange black stone that reflected everything in it and yet made it feel as though she were looking into oblivion—which was fitting, considering its purpose.

"You, with this, will need to hold it near...let's just say wherever Solas is concentrating. The closer the better, as it needs to be super-charged by magic. The disc will do the rest," he'd told her before running off to find Yin. She stayed in the gardens, probing the precious artefact that would change everything. The morning after she'd arrived, others had too and she had not been determined to meet any of them. All were former Inquisition members. She did not trust any of them, but she did trust Dorian and so she left him to describe the plan to the others. She was not sure how much any of them could help, but perhaps he was simply warning them—preparing them for what was to come. She would not fail. Could not fail.

Come that next evening, she would journey to a temple hidden in the desert of Tevinter where Solas would tear down the Veil. Until then, she had only a few hours to steel herself for the monumental task of crossing the Dread Wolf himself. She didn't want to think about what would happen if she was caught.

Her privacy was shortlived, as a servant summoned her to meet with Yin again. He and everyone else had gathered to recall as much detail as they could of things that had happened during the time of the Inquisition. The dwarf from Kirkwall, Varric Tethras was his name, sat nearby creating a transcript for her. She noticed a woman, beautiful and dark skinned, sitting on a chaise nearby observing her openly. When Yrja engaged her with her eyes, the woman opened her mouth.

"My dear, let us say you are successful and Dorian's magic doesn't turn you to vapour—when Solas in the past sees you, as I imagine he might, will he recognise you? Aside from your armour, your kind seems to be...distinct." Yrja remained stony-faced.

"Physique is easily masked by proper attire," Dorian interjected. Yrja shrugged.

"I have not seen him in months, either way," she said, forcing one of the companions to stop their account of things. "But, as long as I have known him, I have shorn my hair—and my eyebrows. To avoid problems in battle. Recently, I allowed it to grow back, more specifically for this purpose." She turned her attention back to Warden Rainier and nodded for him to resume his story.

She sat through hours of stories, but it was necessary. Especially when it came time to hear out Yin's account. She hung onto every word as though Master Tethras wasn't writing it all down for her.

Something particularly interesting that she'd never heard had her holding her hand up at one point.
"—The foci. Its destruction may be why he sought out Mythal," she realised. Everyone was silent.

"Do you think that if you steal it, he will go after her anyway?" Yin asked, following a different line of thought.

"I...I don't know. But that is why I plan on reaching her before he does." Varric leaned back in his chair with a groan.

"Why did I ever agree to this," he mumbled. "The more you all go on about the past and what's yet to happen, the more it seems insane and impossible."

"Yet we lived through the insane and the impossible before, old friend," Yin said with a smile. "'Sides, if this fails, we will continue to search for a way to change Solas' mind."

"Last I heard, he was bringing the Veil down tomorrow." A heavy silence fell over them all.

"The Veil is already threadbare. He is only speeding up the inevitable because he knows there are armies out to get him," Yrja said.

"Do you think that's why he had us activate those artefacts all those years ago? To buy us more time before it all...comes crashing down?" Yin asked, eyes widening in realisation. Yrja nodded.

"But instead of finding a gentler way of dissolving it, it seems he wants to yank it down. He's been pushed into desperation. I believe he wants to reach the other Evanuris before they are freed by other causes," she said. Yin shook his head sorrowfully.

"When you return to the past...we must all help him see the folly of his ways," he said. The others, surprisingly, nodded their determination.

"I will not fail," Yrja said. "There is no room for it. I will die before I lose hope." Most of them seemed reassured, except for Vivienne, the Spymaster, and the ex-Commander of the Inquisition.

"Is there anything else?" Yin asked, eager to supply her with any information. He had quickly warmed up to her, which had been a surprise. She had always imagined him as a grim, humourless leader. But surrounded by his friends she could see that she had been completely wrong. The grim face was the mask he wore as the Inquisitor.

"Briala," she suddenly remembered. "She had control of the Eluvians before?" Yin nodded. "And you met her?"

"At the Winter Palace, yes," he said. "Why?"

"I'm considering all options. I'll need to reach her before Fen'harel overrides the network." Yrja looked at Varric and nodded for him to add that to the transcript.

"D'ya think it'll hurt?" Everyone turned their heads to the young elf sitting perched in a chair. Sera, she recalled. "You said it'd be like closin' our eyes, Inky."

"There is nothing to fear," Dorian pitched in. "It will be like waking up from a dream and none of us will remember anything that happened. Except, you know, for Yrja."

"But...will I still be me?" There was real fear in the young girl's eyes. Just as there was weariness written in all of their features. They had been fighting hard for the last few years.

"If the Evanuris get out, no one will be the same," Yrja said, drawing their attention. "Trust us when we say tampering with time is the better option." Sera didn't look appeased, but she fell silent, avoiding eye contact with everyone. If anything, their doubt became Yrja's strength. She would not fail them.

Chapter Text

Armed with the past and the tool that would take her back, Yrja finally arrived at the temple where Solas would go through with his foolish plan. The place—in fact, the entire area around the sandstone-coloured temple was thick with magic. The Veil was so thin she found that she could sense spirits gathering just on the edge, curious. She pressed her hand to her waist where Dorian's tool was hidden safely. Inert until exposed to raw, powerful magic.

Sentinels, of course, had been stationed all over the place. She was glad to see that her spy, of sorts, had posted himself in the place they had planned. Yrja walked on through without being questioned. She steeled herself as she passed through sandy halls, feeling the Fade pressing through the Veil like cobwebs the deeper she went. The temple once belonged to Elgar'nan. She had never liked the man. Then again, none of the Evanuris had been particularly likeable. Cunning and often clever with words, but out of the view of the public they had proved to be power hungry and greedy.

"Yrja?" She spun at the voice, already paranoid. Her hand had instinctively flown to the dagger sheathed at the small of her back. She removed it at once, feeling foolish as Hurian approached her. He was one of Fen'harel's most loyal and not at all a part of her plan. "I haven't seen you in months! I thought you'd miss this."

"Of course I'd be here." She'd nearly spoken in Common, having gotten so used to it recently. "My mission simply took a slightly longer time than expected." Hurian nodded and smiled.

"Well, Fen'harel is nearly ready. We should get to the Atrium. It won't be long now." He beckoned to her and she followed him back the way he had come, realising she'd really forgotten the layout of this place.

Time had stripped the grounds bare. It was surprisingly less looted than other temples and shrines she had visited the times she had been permitted to venture away from Fen'harel's resting place. Statues, weathered as they were, still stood, as did murals, though many tiles that had once comprised them had either crumbled or fallen off, the magic holding them together faded. It seemed no one had really bothered to clean the place up. Hills of sand had formed in most chambers, and in some places it had piled up until the roof had collapsed.

Finally, they'd arrived in the Atrium, which had been cleaned up. Not a speck of sand remained on the floor, which revealed an old mosaic that had been made in the image of a particular constellation. Above, there had once been a massive crystal window that looked into the heavens and amplified the stars so that one could see what they were composed of. June's handiwork, if she remembered correctly. But now she saw that whatever had remained of the crystal had been repurposed as a giant, jagged mass in the centre of the Atrium. I'll bet that's where they'll be concentrating the magic, she realised.

Doors on the opposite side of the chamber creaked open, the sound echoing through the vast emptiness. It was then that she laid eyes upon the ancient rebel himself for the first time in many months. He was glorious, of course, as he had always been. He wore armour as though he fully expected to be attacked—which, she knew there to be armies marching to stop him right now—and there was a grim set to his noble face.

Elves began filing in, positioning themselves all around the atrium. Yrja took up a spot next to one of her elves. She knew that as soon as she acted, Fen'harel's people would be quick to react. But her own people would die for her to ensure that she was successful. A cold sweat began to form along her spine.

Fen'harel spoke quietly to those that had followed closely behind him before approaching the focusing crystal at the centre. He addressed them all with a speech that was supposed to be encouraging, but Yrja had tuned everything out except for his movements, the energy around them, and the disc that seemed to emanate heat at her waist.

Then they began. Every being began focusing their will into the single elf standing at the crystal. As if he needs any more power, she thought bitterly. The crystal began glowing, and then pulsating. And then finally, humming. Dust shook free of cracks in the ceiling and the floor vibrated as though it wanted to fall away into an abyss below.

Then, with a gesture of his hands, a beam of green light concentrated in the single pointed tip of the crystal before it exploded upwards through the roof and into the sky.

It was happening.

For a moment, she watched, awed. The sky rippled like a disturbed pond. Her heart was pounding as she removed Dorian's disc from her pocket, feeling it in her sweat-slicked hand. She had removed her gauntlet—she wanted to feel the power that would rend apart time.

Her ally beside her removed his eyes from Fen'harel's form to look at her. He nodded once and smiled. It was all the encouragement she needed.

Yrja charged forward, footsteps masked by the roaring noise around them. Shouts arose just as she reached the crystal and thrust her hand into the centre of the beam. Her hand seared, by fire or ice, she could not tell. Nothing happened and for a moment she feared that she had failed, utterly and miserably. But then Fen'harel's eyes widened from the other side of the crystal. Those blue, ancient eyes staring in horror. He would know her face now, but it did not matter. The disc came to life in her hand, nearly vibrating itself out of her grip.

"NO!" he shouted, but it was too late. The beam of pure, verdant magic suddenly turned a glacial blue. But it was taking too long. Chaos was wreaking havoc on everyone around her, the ground was heaving as though a titan were waking below, sending men and women sprawling. She imagined he would have turned her to stone by now if he had been able to keep his balance.

A bright blue light flashed from the crystal. Then another, and another with brief pauses in between. She realised it was mimicking her panicked heartbeat. She steeled herself against the agony and kept her balance against the crystal.

The floor rolled again and she saw Fen'harel fall to his knees. Her heart dropped when she saw something behind him. A sentinel was steadying himself against a pillar clutching a bow. His eyes glowed with hatred and betrayal. With some difficulty, he drew the arrow back. Yrja closed her eyes, knowing she had gravely miscalculated this. He had too many loyal.

The arrow loosed, and the world went white.

Chapter Text

The world was green, not white. It was also filled with pain. Her lungs burned, and she remembered to breathe. She gasped for air, but it was greasy, tainted. Her eyes didn't want to focus. Something was very wrong. She hissed as something cut into her palm and realised that the disc had broken and the shards had embedded themselves into her flesh. Her entire hand had been burned by the magic, leaving it raw and parts of it burned to the muscle. On top of that, her head ached, but her chest ached more.

Oh. There was a thick arrow shaft protruding from it. Any lower and it would have been in her heart. She supposed she had the chaos of the chamber to thank for the sentinel's inaccuracy.

With her good arm, Yrja pushed herself unsteadily to her feet. With a bit of ice magic, she numbed the pain in her hand and wrapped it with a strip of her cloak.

The Fade. She was in the Fade.

Which means—

“—demons! Stand ready!"

The greenness rippled and suddenly she felt like she had been caught in a riptide in the ocean. She went stumbling, overwhelmed by whatever had just joined her nearby. A roar echoed through the Fade. Other voices stuttered around it, but they sounded tinny and thin.

Then there was a crackling sound. Something roared directly behind her. Yrja turned slowly only to see a Pride demon emerging from the green fog. She called a spell beneath her skin, but then there was a louder crackle, a tearing sound, and then the Fade twisted around her. She was flying through the air, and then she impacted on something hard enough that spots appeared before her eyes and her ears rang. Wetness rolled down her forehead and pain exploded from her wounded shoulder. The ravaged hand ripped a scream from her throat. When the ringing finally subsided and she fought to catch her breath, she heard fighting. Someone was challenging the Pride demon.

Yrja probed around for something to help her stand and found a wall that she used to climb to her feet. Then she limped around, vision wavering.

"More coming through the rift!" It was the same voice from earlier—a woman. Yrja stumbled out into the open from where she had landed and was overwhelmed by what she saw. A massive gaping hole yawned in the sky, green and sickly. A breach. No, it is the first one. There was a sinking feeling in her chest. I didn't go back far enough.

But she didn't have time to think as she heard a gurgling noise behind her. A shade, much larger than her, lunged with viscious obsidian claws. She barely tripped out of the way, but the demon tore through her cloak, across her back. It screeched, holding the remnants of the cloth in its crooked fingers before advancing on her. Yrja scrambled, but then the demon jerked violently. Three crossbow bolts penetrated its wrinkled black skin, a fourth finding itself in its head. The shade melted into a puddle.

"Are you all right?" a familiar voice asked. She recognised him—the dwarf, Varric Tethras. Her hand sprung up unconsciously to the book secured at her side. Varric fired a few more shots at another demon advancing on a nearby scout. "Can you get up?" She clenched her jaw and got to her feet for the hundredth time, hoping she could keep to them.

"Watch out," she rasped. Varric gave her a funny look. "I said, watch out!" She pushed the dwarf out of the way with her
bad arm and froze a rage demon in a thick casing of ice. A thick bolt penetrated it without missing a beat. The ice crumbled into small demon bits.

"Nice one," Varric remarked.

"We should help them," she said, eyes latching onto the Pride demon lashing out with lightning, the others barely dodging the attack in time. Varric nodded and rejoined the fray. The group of fighters were having a difficult time taking the demon down with the smaller ones wandering about, keeping primary fire away from Pride. Gritting her teeth, Yrja reached for her magic, willing it into being and refining it into the shape of an ethereal spear. A man she recognised as Yin reached up with his marked hand and disrupted the rift just above the demon's head. The brief interruption stunned all of the hostiles in the area, long enough that the warriors, archers, and mages were able to dispatch them. With a yell of exertion, Yrja took a single, powerful step and launched her arcane spear at the lightning-wielding demon that was beginning to recover. The spear struck true, embedding itself into its plated skull. The demon roared, and at first, she thought it was going to keep fighting, but then bits of it began to dissipate back into the fade.

"Now! Seal the rift!" the Nevarran shouted. "Do it!" And then yet another explosion rocked them where they stood. A bulge of green light shot upward into the sky and soon into the centre of the Breach. Everyone shielded their faces at the shockwave that ensued, and beneath her arm she saw Yin Lavellan fall unconscious to the ground.

She thought to approach, but realised she had problems of her own as the adrenaline subsided. The elf's arrow from the other timeline was still lodged in her chest. She wrapped a hand around the end and snapped it, then burned the evidence.

"Did you see the person who threw that spear?" someone with an Orlesian accent asked. Yrja limped into view and saw a group of people departing with Lavellan on a makeshift litter. Unfortunately, most of the knowledge imparted onto her of the past had not included much of the events in Haven, other than what she had personally learned through rumours in her own time. Until Skyhold, she was walking mostly blind.

"Oh shit, that was her?" Varric asked, just now realising it. Those that remained behind turned to look at her. She scanned their faces—Varric, Spymaster Leliana, Commander Cullen, a handful of soldiers...and him. Archers levelled bows at her and her eyes met them tiredly. She raised her hands slowly in surrender, though the action was agony. Hot blood dribbled from the arrow wound and the cold mountain air stung her burned hand.

"I am no demon," she said, then cringed, realising how stupid and unconvincing that sounded. She licked her lip, tasting blood. She probably looked half dead; like a darkspawn. She shifted her weight onto her good leg. "I...I've been trapped in the Fade since the explosion at the Conclave."

"How do we know you aren't possessed?" Cullen demanded, gesturing with his sword. Yrja met his eyes, hands still raised.

"I'm sure you have ways of checking, Templar," she hissed, noting a minute flinch in his face.

"If it lends credibility to her claims, I sense no possession." Solas' voice was calm and collected, perhaps even friendly. His tone was vastly different from the powerful, demanding one of Fen'harel. However, he was scrutinising her and she knew that to be a bad thing.

"May I lower my hands?" she panted. Cullen looked to Leliana who nodded. She dropped her arms with a gasp.

"We should get away from this place. There is no reason to stay," Cullen said. "We can take care of this matter in Haven." The others nodded. "I won't shackle you because of your wound, but my men will escort you."

"I can walk with her, if you like," the Dread Wolf offered. Cullen eyed him uncertainly, but then nodded. Yrja didn't move. She couldn't. The elf approached her.

"Can you walk?" he asked, and then he noted the amount of blood all down her front. "I believe she needs assistance," he called out to the others. A single soldier joined them and offered his shoulder to her.

"Ma serannas," she said to the human. Then they joined the procession down the mountain. She was grateful that Solas did not ask her any questions, but she figured everyone was saving them for when they returned to Haven.

Meanwhile, all she could think of was how she now needed to adapt her plans.

When they reached Haven, she was, to her chagrin, escorted to a cell and told that a healer would tend to her soon. By now, she was finding it hard to stay awake. If they didn't come to her soon, she'd die of blood loss, or an infection. And unfortunately, she could not heal herself.

The clanging of metal against her cell jolted her awake, not realising that she had dozed off. She was not surprised to see Solas on the other side. Of course. They unlocked her cell and the other elf joined her.

"Will you allow me to look at your wound?" he asked. He seemed so kind and unassuming. He was a master of disguise. She studied him a moment but nodded. She was glad that she had removed her telling armour before the Temple of Elgar'nan. That would have ruined everything. But it would have easily deflected that bloody arrow and most of the damage she had sustained in her travel through the Fade. Solas didn't have her remove her shirt, as the fabric was torn enough that he simply moved the pieces out of the way. The wound underneath was hot and angry. His lips pressed into a thin line.

"This is going to require better tools than I have. And a cleaner environment." He sighed, but then he took in her ragged appearance and labored breathing. "But I suppose this will have to do." He offered her a potion. "Drink this, then I'll remove the arrow." He helped her lean forward and she gulped down a potion that tasted of dirt and herbs. Then, he washed his hands in a bowl that had been brought by one of the soldiers and braced one hand on the back of her shoulder. "Are you ready?" She nodded, feeling warm from the potion. Then he dug his fingers into the wound, pinched the arrowhead, and pulled it out slowly to avoid damaging anything else. She'd managed to avoid screaming, but a yell did escape between her teeth. Solas threw the arrowhead aside and then set to cleaning the wound while she cast her gaze to the ceiling.

"The circumstances are...less than optimal, but I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Solas," he said as he worked. Yrja froze up, but to him it probably looked like a spasm. The one thing I did not plan...

"Maordrid," she blurted, "Call me Maordrid." He raised an eyebrow.

"I gather that is not your real name." His voice lacked any inflection. She smiled weakly.

"Does it matter?" she murmured.

"For now, I suppose not." A familiar green glow surrounded his hands and an itchy feeling enveloped her shoulder as the muscles knit back together. She watched him from beneath closed lids as he wiped his hands off before he began tending to her scorched hand with a salve. "I’m afraid my magic has reached its limits for today. Your hand's wound is serious, but I will return to heal it once I've recovered my strength." She opened her eyes as he finished wrapping her mangled hand. "I am surprised you aren't concussed." He dabbed at a sizeable gash over her brow and moved to retrieve a needle and thread. She held back a hiss when the needle punctured her skin.

"Thick skull, perhaps." He smiled slightly but his eyes were tight with concentration as he stitched her. "Ma serannas." He nodded and gathered his things, then stood.

“Your method of arrival will likely have sparked question and conflict. I imagine we will speak again soon,” he said. “I’ve questions of my own.” He walked out of the cell and the guard closed the cell with a clang.

"Of course," she murmured, and then her eyes shut, done with the mortal realm for that day.

Chapter Text

Several days passed and Maordrid felt they had forgotten about her. Any time a guard remembered to bring her food, she begged him for information on what was occurring. He seemed reluctant, or perhaps intimidated by her and only mentioned that the elf that had closed the rift had been named Herald of Andraste and that he and a small party had travelled to the Hinterlands for some matter or other. Her heart dropped upon hearing the news and wondered if they ever planned on letting her out. After all, she was a trespasser upon this timeline. She could be left down there, forgotten until Haven was buried beneath the avalanche.

To keep her mind off of the bone-deep pain in her hand and the block of ice in her heart, she busied herself with reading Varric's transcript. Whenever anyone came to her cell, she hid it under a pile of hay on the floor. Hopefully, it would only be mistaken as a journal if seen. She would have burned it if she didn't need it. But there were small details that had been written within its pages that were crucial to her now more than ever and she could not remember them all. She needed them to survive in the new Inquisition, if they allowed her to live.

A week and a few days went by. It was now that she truly worried. She hadn't bathed properly either, besides in the water they had provided her to drink. Her long black hair grew oily in its braid and her teeth felt coated in velvet. But those were the least of her worries, because the angry burn that gloved her hand was not getting any better. She washed it with water as best she could, and occasionally the guard brought her elfroot to rub on it. He was young, and conversing with him had been easy when he was on shift. He seemed to have decided she was not a threat and brought her not just elfroot, but the occasional day-old sweetroll as well.

Despite his kindness, she still considered lockpicking her way out, because melting the lock would likely draw Templar attention. But even if she escaped, the places she could go were too far without supplies.

So, she waited.

And waited.

She stopped counting the days to keep herself from going mad. And it worked. Someone finally came.
But it seemed unintentional. He wandered down during the night, rousing her from a half-nap. Sleep, she found, had not come easy of late. She couldn't see his face in the dark, but he ventured into an open cell where they'd been storing books for some reason.

"Hello?" she called, stepping up to the bars. There was a clatter, a curse, and then tentative footsteps.

"There's someone down here?" a familiar Antivan voice called.

"Been down here a while." She couldn't keep the derision out of her voice as the man came into sight. A glow, green and bright illuminated the old stone walls around them. The Herald. Yin Lavellan. He looked so much younger. He didn't have the mouth scar or the one across the bridge of his nose, which meant they had been acquired during his time in the Inquisition. There was stubble on his cheeks and chin. She'd heard the Herald was an elf with an envious beard in the beginning days of Skyhold.

"So this is the prison!" he exclaimed, then squinting, "Wait, do I know you?" She wrapped her hands around the bars. In another world, yes. The reply went unspoken.

"I fell out of the Fade when you opened that rift. I think they believed me a demon. Then they forgot about me," she said. His eyes widened with every word.

"So I do remember you, I'm not all at loss for memory. You threw that spear...made of magic! I've never seen anyone do anything like it. That was fantastic." She found her lips threatening to smile. He scratched his cheek. "And...no one forgot about you. We just...Creators, we've been scurrying all over. I don't think Cullen wanted to decide what to do with you until Cassandra and I got back. Which...was only a day ago. She mentioned you though. Solas did too. Said he healed your wounds."

"Did he suggest I might be a demon?" she asked. He laughed.

"Nothing of the sort. In fact, he seemed rather upset that you were being kept down here. I was too. I mean, I fell out of the Fade but no one accused me of being a demon. Just...killing the Divine." She snorted.

"Yes, just that." He smiled and bowed. She returned it with a slight smile of her own.

"I'm Yin. Most recently of clan Lavellan," he paused, and leaned closer, holding the Mark up so that it illuminated both their faces. "Are you Dalish?"

"No, I'm not. You may call me Maordrid." He blinked.

"Are you from an alienage?"

"No."

"Do you have a human parent?" She frowned.

"No."

"Sorry, I...that's such a strange name." She rolled her eyes. "Then, you're a wanderer or some such like Solas?" She nodded.

"Yes." He accepted the answer. "Judging by your accent, you're a long way from home." His face took on a wistful expression.

"My beloved Antiva, yes. Not sure I'll ever get used to this cursed cold." She chuckled. "Where are you from? Your accent is...unfamiliar. A bit stronger than Solas'." Indeed, because my people no longer exist.

"A village by the water. You wouldn't know the place. It is far removed from here." His face wrinkled.

"Funny, he gave a similar answer." She felt her face pale, but was glad for the darkness.

"Is there any chance I'm getting out of here?" she asked. He started, eyes widening again.

"Oh, yes, of course," he paused again, "You know what? Fuck it, it's cold tonight and this place is miserable. I can't believe they've been keeping you down here." He dug into a pouch at his waist and procured a set of lockpicks that he used to make quick work of the lock.

"You're a mage aren't you? Where did you learn to pick locks?" Lavellan only chuckled. "Are you sure about this?" she asked as the door swung outward. He motioned for her animatedly.

"You're now officially my guest. I won't let anything happen to you," he said. She was startled by the finality in his voice. The Inquisitor pokes through.

"Ma serannas." He smiled and took the lead. "If you don't mind my asking, what were you doing down here?"

"Honestly? I can barely sleep these days. Nightmares and whatnot."

"Ir abelas, I did not mean to pry." He waved her off as they emerged into the Chantry. It was utterly dead, even outside. The chill was just as biting as it was inside the cells, with the addition of a mountainous wind. She shivered violently. Yin turned and took in her appearance. He whistled lowly.

"Damn, let's get you a bath. C'mon, you can come to my hut." She froze up.

"I...don't think that's wise." He made an obscene, childish noise with his lips.

"You think I care? I'm an Antivan Dalish, none of us care for bloody modesty." He laughed and continued on. Well, it's either a bath and rumours if we're caught...or go back to the cell.She said nothing and caught up with him.

Yin was unbelievably accommodating and his healing skills were surprisingly good. But even with a good healer, growing skin back over muscle was something only time and care could fix. Nonetheless, he pushed out the infection in her hand and imbued it with a healing spell with haste attached. She was surprised by his cleverness. But she saw his kindness as being a potential weakness for him. She only hoped that the Yin she had met before had not lost his compassion. The world had bruised and battered the poor elf, taking from him and never giving back. How could Solas ever see these people as lesser? she wondered as she re-braided her hair. He had even given her one of his shirts, despite it being a bit too large for her, but she'd had little choice since hers was half of one. Fortunately, her leathers were still intact, their enchantments holding up. Yin popped back into the cottage and graced her with a brilliant smile.

"I knew a pretty elf lurked beneath that filth," he said. She sniffed, clutching the end of her braid. "You can sleep here tonight. It's snowing outside and the tavern is stuffed full of people since there's been a nonstop flow of refugees." He held up a hand, silencing her protest. "Stop worrying already. You're my guest." She closed her mouth slowly but levelled a stare at him. "Creators! Don't look at me like that. Did you take a thousand years of practice to get that down? It's quite effective." You're more right than you know. Yin threw himself onto his bed and crossed his hands behind his head. "You know, it's...nice, really, knowing I'm not alone in this Fade thing." She didn't answer, holding her hands up to the fire in the little hearth. "And you haven't treated me like I'm some bloody prophet of Andraste." She looked at him, having nearly forgotten that people had called him that.

"Apologies, I...had heard about that. Should I refer to you as Herald?" An old spark of fear from ages past jumped up. She remembered how if a lowly elf did not address an Evanuris properly, they risked losing limbs. Maybe even their life. Or spirit, depending on the so-called God. Yin's voice pulled her out of her thoughts.

"No. Don't even go there. Yin. Just Yin." He averted his eyes.

"Yin, then." She adjusted herself in her chair. "Are you tired?" He looked at her, eyes glinting by the firelight.

"No, not particularly."

"Why don't you tell me some stories?" He sat up in a smooth movement, draping his arms across his knees.

"All right, like what?" She shrugged.

"Anything you feel you need to get off your chest." At first, he seemed suspicious, but when she crossed her legs on the chair and allowed herself to smile at him he returned it and then settled back and began weaving together tales from his life. In the warmth of the fire and Yin's lovely rolling accent, she was able to let go of the past future's worries and the new present's future and enjoy the simple tales of a man hundreds of years younger.

Maordrid had listened to Yin's stories until a grey light had filled the cottage. Dawn was upon them, and so was her new future. In waxing poetic, Yin had worked his way to describing what the Inquisition had been busy with while she'd been locked away, and what they'd planned to do quite soon. Apparently, they hadn't just visited the Hinterlands—they had travelled all the way to Val Royeaux where a group of Templars had demonstrated intimidating force on a Chantry sister and shortly after they'd met Grand Enchanter Fiona who invited them to Redcliffe. Being a mage himself, Yin had shown interest in travelling to meet her.

Then he asked if Maordrid would join them on the journey there. At first she said no. Already, she was unsure how much her presence was changing the future. Yin gave her a challenging smile and told her to think on it while he went out and retrieved breakfast for them.

It didn't take her long to decide. Especially after leafing through Varric's journal and searching frantically for entries about the early days. That was when she came across Redcliffe and the events that transpired there. Dorian. That's where they meet him for the first time. Hope, that dangerous, treacherous feeling spread through her belly. The Magister she'd known had given her a small trinket to help convince his other self when it came time to recruit him—or rather, to convince him of her purpose. She knew she had to go.

Yin was absurdly smug when she voiced her final decision. Insufferable.

Their companionable silence was shortlived, however, as someone knocked on the door. Maordrid slowly lowered her bowl and looked at Yin. He didn't seem to have a care in the world that he was, essentially harbouring a prisoner yet to be released.

It was the Seeker, Cassandra. As soon as the door opened, the women locked eyes. Cassandra's dark-rimmed eyes narrowed.

"What is she doing here?" she demanded. Yin stood in the Seeker's way.

"She was being kept in cruel conditions, practically forgotten, under no other reason than not having a mark on her hand." Cassandra's stare was smouldering. "If she was possessed, she could have killed me quite easily last night and fled in the darkness." Cassandra gaped in astonishment.

"You let her stay here? In your quarters?"

"You act as though I shared my bed with Fen'harel himself, Seeker." Maordrid couldn't help herself, she snorted with poorly repressed laughter at the imagery. The other woman clearly didn't understand Yin's analogy, but her animosity died down almost immediately. "In fact, she's joining the Inquisition. I think she'd be a very valuable asset to our party." Didn't see that coming, she thought wryly. The warrior's eyes didn't move from Yin's face.

"Fine," she finally said. "If you trust her...then I will trust your judgement." Yin nodded in satisfaction and moved sideways.

"Now that we've cleared that up, let me introduce you. This is Maordrid. Maordrid, this is Cassandra." Maordrid rose from her chair and bowed graciously to the warrior. She had heard much about the woman and respected her deeply. Varric's notes seemed to say the same.

"We'll be leaving today, Herald," Cassandra announced.

"Of course. Maordrid will be accompanying us." The Seeker gave a shallow nod, bade them farewell, and then departed. Yin closed the door slowly and then melted against it. "Why does everyone glare so much? Is it a southern thing?" Maordrid shrugged. Yin regarded her thoughtfully for a moment before snapping his fingers. "You need some proper clothes. I've scrounged some coin together. I'm sure we can find you some basic armour until we can get you properly fitted." How she yearned for armour. Good Elvhen armour. She'd always preferred it to soft clothes. But she knew it'd be a long time before she found good armour again.

The two of them left the cottage soon after, Yin smiling and Maordrid his sombre shadow.
The sun was barely above the distant mountains by the time a runner found them outside the walls at the blacksmith's workshop. Apparently it was time to go. Yin and Harrett the blacksmith had managed to scrap together some crude leather armour for Maordrid—an archer's spaulder, half a breastplate, and a pair of bracers, of which she'd forego the left one until her hand healed properly. She was small for an ancient elf, and lean, and unfortunately the armour that they did have didn't fit her. Which meant that she would be widely exposed. That also meant that during a fight, she would fill the role of support in their group. Part of her cringed, as that meant not keeping up on her skills as a fighter. And that means being careful with what magic I display. What have I done?

As the two of them approached the gates of Haven, the rest of the party was descending the steps. Cassandra, Varric, Solas, and the young female rogue she had met briefly at Dorian's estate. According to Yin, the Lady Vivienne had also recently arrived but would not be accompanying them. Varric and Solas—of all people, it was most difficult for her to maintain a mask around him—had expressions of surprise on their faces when they saw her. Cassandra acknowledged her with a slight nod.

"Who's that?" the young dirty-blonde asked in a tone Maordrid did not like one bit. To cap it all off, the girl whistled. That was until she looked at the sides of her head and Maordrid had never seen someone go from leering and lustful to repulsion so quickly. She almost laughed. "Piss. Too many elves. Ugh. Yinny, let's recruit some horned ladies next, yeah?" Yin rolled his eyes, ignoring her.

"This is Maordrid. She's joining us from now on. Maordrid, this is Varric, Solas you've already met, and Sera." Maordrid bowed. Yin turned to Cassandra. "Are we all ready?" The Seeker nodded wordlessly and led the way to the horses. The general atmosphere of the group was somewhat tense as they mounted up and set on their way. It seemed they were all either unused to her presence so spontaneously and without warning, or, they had not gotten to know one another over the last couple of weeks.

Maordrid took to the tail of the group. Just as she did, conversation finally sprung up between a few of them. She was relieved it wasn't because of her.

Her eyes wandered over to Solas. Seated upon his horse, the man rode like a noble, yet seemed completely at ease at the same time. I can see how no one ever suspected him. Save for the jawbone. Fade-expert. She felt her lip twitch. I see you, Fen'harel. As if hearing her thoughts, he turned his head. She quickly looked away, pretending to be transfixed on something in the distance just past him. Then, she pretended to catch his gaze and raised a hand in apology. What she hadn't planned for was him to take it as an invitation to ride beside her. He came close enough that she could have reached out and touched his mare—or his knee. She burned the thought immediately.

"Greetings, Solas," she said, more pleasantly than she felt.

"Greetings, Maordrid," he returned in kind. They rode for a moment in palpably uncomfortable silence. Then again, out of the corner of her eye he was wearing a lazy smile in face of the morning sun. She was the only one permeable to this paranoia. "You seemed deep in thought. How have you been faring?" She faced forward, gathering her thoughts.

"I'm...doing considerably better now that I'm not confined to the company of cold stone and rats," she said. She saw him look at her. "And I did not lose my hand."

"I'm sorry. I should have visited you." His response took her off guard. She looked at him in his blue, fathomless eyes.

"Why? We are barely more than acquainted. You have far more important obligations." Her words came out with a bit of an edge, which she hoped he didn't hear. Foolish woman. Getting snippy with the Dread Wolf.

"Perhaps, but we are not unlike one another," her heart sank. No. He can't recognise me, that's impossible. "After all, we are apostates to the world. I could have come for conversation, checked on you," he said. "But, as you said, I was otherwise occupied. And I apologise for your suffering." She blinked. Grey eyes met blue. Maordrid quickly inclined her head.

"There's no need to apologise." He hummed pleasantly.

"If you like, I see plenty of opportunity now and in the future to converse. If you find that agreeable," he said. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She had never actually had an amiable conversation with Fen—Solas. They were never friends. Barely acquaintances. And yet she'd watched over him for years. She knew him, and yet she didn't. Maordrid swallowed thickly.

"I'd...like that," her traitorous tongue decided for her. It can't be all bad, can it? Getting to know the man you've followed for so long? It can only help for what's to come. The thought calmed her some. But it can also make some things more difficult. a treacherous voice whispered.

"I saw the spear you conjured the day the Herald mended the Breach." His voice latched onto her mind like velvet hooks, pulling her back from pessimistic depths. "In my journeys through the Fade, there were ancient mages that trained to weaponize the arcane. They used their very will to bring a weapon into being. Formidable as they were, their techniques have...somewhat survived the trials of time." His voice took on a curious tone, "Yet, I've not seen anyone destroy a powerful foe such as Pride with a single stroke of a spirit spear." Maordrid fiddled with her reins. "If you don't mind me asking, where did you train?" She smiled slightly.

"In the Fade itself," she returned. "From spirits willing to impart their knowledge of the ancient warriors." Two could play at this game. They were equals in this. So, you used the Fade as a way out? And they believed you. Clever. Solas' eyes widened. Enthusiasm glittered in his eyes. She shifted in her saddle, feeling both uncomfortable and giddy, an unpleasant mix.

"You are Somniari as well, then?" he asked. Not even closely as powerful as the infamous Fen'harel, if that's what you're worried about. But I have skill in other avenues.

"I...suppose you could say that," she answered reluctantly. That opened up the flood gates, but not in the way she'd been expecting—once again. In fact, he barely asked her any questions after that. He just seemed happy to talk to someone about the Fade and things he had discovered—and things she knew he was flat out lying about—and to have someone reply in kind with experience. She found herself feeling...sad. He was clearly lonely. Then again, she could not remember the last time she had held a conversation that hadn't been about sabotage, war, or something else of the nature. Even with Dorian, the closest she'd had to a friend in over a thousand years had been kind, but they'd never had conversations that friends would have.

She was enjoying herself. But guilt weighed upon her shoulders, digging talons into her spirit like a fat gargoyle. I hope Dorian's spell didn't leave them all trapped in a burning world.

Maordrid was relieved when their leaders decided to stop for the night. The tension she had felt in the air before leaving Haven had all but dissipated when they sat around a blazing campfire for supper. Everyone was engaged in talk around the fire. Varric with Sera, and Yin with Cassandra. As she took slow bites from her stew, a shadow passed in front of her and she looked up to see Solas standing to the side. She scooted over on her log and he sat beside her. They ate in companionable silence, listening to the others talk. Her left side was warm from their proximity, which was quite welcome in face of the chilly night. After she'd cleaned her bowl of food, exhaustion finally found itself an unwelcome guest to her already burdened mind. She'd nearly forgotten that her and Yin had passed the previous night with stories, and now it was catching up to her. It felt like the last month was.

Her ears caught onto a few select words, "tents," and "arrangements". Sera was quick to claim Cassandra as a tent-mate, in which the latter did not appear entirely thrilled. Varric and Yin agreed on a tent together, which left Maordrid short of breath.

"I'll take first watch," she offered before anyone else could. She hoped it didn't come out sounding desperate. Solas seemed none the wiser. Cassandra hesitated—understandable, given her previous reputation—but she caught Yin glance between her and Solas before reading her face. She saw in his eyes as his folly dawned upon him.

"Great! Solas, will you take the next one?" he asked the apostate in a sickly sweet voice. The other man assented without issue, not even catching onto the silent exchange of emotions. Yin winked at her. She finally breathed normally again, forcing herself to stand. Solas bade everyone a quiet good night and retired to bed quickly. The others followed soon after. Yin approached her, the last one standing.

"Sorry, I should have spoken sooner. Wasn't thinking, as usual. You gonna be all right? Solas is very nice." She glanced at him as she idly picked bark off a twig. "You've got to be exhausted."

"I've gone through worse. I'll be fine." The Herald yawned and patted her on the shoulder.

"Just remember, cluck twice like a chicken and bark once like a toad if you see anything out there," he said as he sauntered toward his tent. Maordrid froze.

"Wait, really?" The dread in her voice elicited uproarious laughter from the mage. "Yin, are you serious?"

"I don't know, am I?" And then he disappeared into the tent. She suddenly became very aware of how anachronistic she was. I'll show him serious she vowed, grinning at the thought.

Chapter Text

Three hours later, Maordrid shuffled from her post outside of the camp feeling like the undead and stumbled into the tent. For a moment, she observed the slumbering form before her. Wolf. That's a sleeping wolf. She reached out, like she was sticking her hand into a viper's nest. Her hand trembled, with fear or exhaustion, she couldn't tell. It landed on his arm. She shook him lightly, withdrawing her hand quickly. But he didn't stir.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me. Millennia and he still sleeps like a mountain." She shook him a little bit more firmly, this time because she apparently didn't mind the prospect of losing a hand. Finally, he shifted and sat up, rubbing his eyes. He was just inches from her face. She could feel his breath. Her mind went blank. His eyes flicked along her features blearily.

"Did I oversleep?" he mumbled. She shook her head. He blinked slowly and then leaned back. "You should get some rest." She nodded in agreement as he shuffled out of the way, pulling on layers of robes she had not seen folded neatly by the entrance. He paused at the entrance, grabbing his staff. "Sleep well." And then he was out.

Maordrid collapsed, half on his bedroll, half on hers, her eyes closed before her head hit the pillow.





-----------------------------------

A black-haired elf wandered through the dreamscape listening and looking. Here, she wore her old armour—the black Veil Quartz infused with Fade-touched Nevarrite, something her blacksmith thought hilarious to add. She remembered the first time wearing it to fight a rogue varterral close to Ghilan'nain's lands. At the time, she hadn't fought many battles and a group of elves had dragged her into the mission. More out of sheer luck—or perhaps misfortune—she'd delivered the killing blow and was promptly landed in the infirmary when the valterral exploded on her. The elves with her had found it a riot, telling the story to anyone who'd listen.

Maordrid, the name she was...still getting used to, smiled at the memory. It had formed in the emptiness of the Fade upon her recollection of it. Upon watching the battle, she hadn't realised how close she'd come to being cut in half by one of the varterral's legs after it had exploded. How you've managed to survive all this time is worthy of its own small myth.

She continued on, letting the Fade take her wherever it felt. The ground suddenly hardened beneath her feet, but the stone gave way like freshly cooled magma. Cavelike walls sprung up around her and the smell of fire and soot filled the air. She heard voices, muted, but more distinctly, angry.

She found herself slipping into a prowl, creeping around twisted corners and ducking beneath drooping archways of dead magma. She caught sight of a grey light shining through a hole, just barely big enough for a full-grown man to fit through abreast.

The voices issued from there.

Something told her to leave this dream. Her instincts tried to drag her out of the crumbling stone. But curiosity reigned superior.

She inched her head around the bend and finally saw the source of the voice.

Dorian Pavus. He was standing at an opening in the rock, speaking into a voice crystal. Suddenly he spun, a haunted look on his once-beautiful face. His cheeks were sunken now and more grey threaded his hair than black. An injury had taken the vision of his right eye.

"Yrja?" he whispered. She stepped into the cave fully, feeling a surge of emotions.

"Dorian," she managed through a constricted throat. "What happened?" The mage laughed bitterly, shoulders dropping in sheer resignation.

"We failed. Well. That's an understatement." He turned back to the opening, the ashen light making him look like a corpse. She was afraid to follow his gaze. "The spell didn't work. In fact, it seemed to make whatever Solas was attempting to accomplish even worse." She shook her head slowly, trying to register what he was saying.

"N-No, what does that even mean? Worse?" She knew she sounded like a child, frustrated and defiant, but her head was buzzing; the world spun and tilted.

"Solas successfully tore down the Veil. But our magic somehow...tore holes in time. Remember the rifts all across Thedas all those years ago?" She didn't like the tone in his voice. It was disgustingly pleasant, as if he were discussing the weather. She would have preferred him to be anything but calm. She wasn't sure why.

"Yes." She didn't want to know what he was leading up to. She wanted to leave this place, go anywhere but here.

"Now, imagine rifts like those, but each one leads back in time. It's chaos, just as Solas talked about." She swallowed, and asked the next difficult question.

"And...everyone else? Where are they?" This time, Dorian's face twisted with grief. He looked down at his feet, hands clasped behind his back. That was answer enough.

"Those strong in magic. They—some made it. Others went mad," he paused to gather himself. "Non-mages perished immediately." Suddenly she found it hard to stand. She approached the gaping hole in the cave and leaned against it, closing her eyes, still not looking out. "With the rifts, things have come through worse than demons. Creatures from the distant past, and untold horrors of a somehow grimmer future. Coupled with the return of the elven Gods? No one stood a chance."

"And Fen'harel?" she was hesitant to ask. Dorian went silent.

"He was closest to the epicentre—he was the first to lose his mind. I was told the other Gods made quick work of him." Maordrid couldn't believe her ears. For the first time in her life, she wanted to die. This was all her fault. If she hadn't come to Dorian in the first place, the Inquisitor would have had a plan. A much better plan than fucking time travel. Why had they agreed to listen to her? Why had they followed an elf that had never led anyone?

She opened her eyes to the world she had left behind.

A scorched, seemingly endless landscape sprawled beneath them. Blackened, as if hit by a storm of fire and lightning. Smoke billowed from holes in the earth. It wasn't entirely flat, much like the stone she stood on now. Squinting, she realised that the earth...wasn't entirely earth. Misshapen lumps that she had mistaken for cooled magma—they were bodies. Twisted, deformed corpses. She was looking upon a battlefield.

"That is the last army of Ferelden. They tried to take down...Elgar'nan, I believe is his name," Dorian whispered. "We were never meant for this world, Yrja."

"Don't say that," she snapped. "They were once elves. They can be stopped."

"How?" he asked, nearly begged her. She couldn't meet his eyes. "How can we when the only man that stopped them before was...swept away? Turned to little more than ash?" Raw fury wrapped barbed, hot talons around her insides.

"The same way that he managed before," she said, meeting his gaze. "The Veil." Dorian shook his head and laughed at her as if she were a child.

"And tell me, deary, how would we manage to lock away these wrathful elves a second time? Shall we try asking them to go back to their rooms, like reprimanded children?"

"What other choice do we have but to try?" Dorian laughed his bitter laugh.

"We could give up. Perish. Let someone else try for once." It took all of her strength not to shake him. This was not Dorian. He'd never given up—nor had she. She never would. No, let her die fighting for this world. "There is no one left to save, my friend. It's their world now. We failed." She refused to take his poison. Yrja turned to him. Her friend. He stared sadly at her through his one good eye. She cupped his cheek in her hand.

"Ir abelas, Dorian. I'm so sorry," she said, and tears fell from her eyes. He caught her wrist in his hand.

"I am too."

Then the cave shook. Fine fibers of black stone rained down on them. A terrible, head-splitting screech filled the cave. Dorian took a few fearful steps back, casting his eyes to the sky outside.

"Elgar'nan. He's back." The cave shook again and the way she had come through collapsed like glass, trapping them. Bigger chunks of old magma began to fall around them. She looked above and saw a sizeable piece shaking loose, just above Dorian.

"Move!" she screamed, and threw herself at him, closing her eyes—

Chapter Text

—and opened them to Yin crouched above her, shaking her. His eyes were wide with worry.

"—Lethallin, please," he was saying. She shook his hands off of her and sat up, holding back tears while embarrassment overwhelmed her in a wave. "Solas said you were shouting when he got off shift. He couldn't wake you and got worried." She needed air. Her mind was a tempest of images and voices.

She stumbled out of her tent, ignoring that Solas was standing just outside. He called after her, but she hurried off into the darkness to seek some quiet. Dawn would be there soon anyway.

Maordrid slipped into a thicket and pushed her way through undergrowth, breathing hard and on the verge of tears until she heard the susurrus of a stream and followed it to the source. She landed on her knees at its bank and let out a ragged howl of pent up pain and loss. Her cries, muffled by the forest around her, were her only company.

She stayed there until dawn came, staring at the reflection of failure in the silver waters. No, I have to believe it wasn't real. It was the Fade...but why had it felt so real? She clenched her wounded hand, digging her nails into her palm, grounding herself with the pain. Then she rose.

When she finally emerged from the woods, the others were just beginning to strike camp. Cassandra noticed her first and opened her mouth to say something, but something stilled her tongue.

Maordrid said nothing and stepped into line helping Solas take down their tent. Her sudden appearance startled him, he murmured her name, but no other words.

She went without breakfast too. The others bantered around her, for which she was glad, but she noticed Yin was casting her strange looks every now and then. So was Solas. Did I say something in my sleep? I was shouting, he said.

They resumed their journey soon after. Maordrid, again, filtered to the back in silence, wondering if soon she would need to flee the Inquisition.





------------------------

While they rode, Yin tried thinking of ways to broach the subject of Maordrid's fit last night. She had been upset, waking up, but rushed out of camp like the wind before anything could be said. Solas had told him that when he'd come to her, she'd been speaking Elvhen, but it had been jumbled nonsense. It hadn't been that way when he'd interfered. Help them, halani is'an, she'd whispered in her sleep. Ar felasil. Then she had apologised to someone named Dorian, then to the world. And then her shapeless shouting had resumed.

The woman hadn't eaten breakfast, and now as they stopped for a brief mid-day meal, she avoided everyone, rubbing down the horses and seeing them watered instead.

Yin set his jaw determinedly and approached her with food. She didn't stop even when he offered her rations.

"Maordrid." A quiet sigh escaped her as she straightened and placed her hands on the withers of Cassandra's charger. "You don't have to talk to me about what happened. I just want to know if you're going to be all right. Solas is concerned too." She didn't say anything for a long moment, instead running a hand along the charger's black coat.

"It was a nightmare," she finally relented. "No different than any nightmare I'm sure everyone has been enduring since the Breach appeared. I don't need pity." Yin put a hand on her shoulder. She stiffened, but then turned to look at him. A depthless sadness filled those dark grey eyes. He couldn't help but wonder at what had caused her such immense sorrow.

"No, I think you need a friend," he said. "Creators know we all need companionship right now. I just want you to know, if you want to talk, ever, I'm here." Maordrid gave him a weak smile and nodded.

"Ma serannas." He offered her a bit of bread and cheese, but she shook her head.

"You need to eat. Sleep isn't coming easy for either of us, but we need our bloody strength," he said, shoving the food into her hands. She sighed and inclined her head wordlessly. Yin smiled and walked over to his mount as everyone prepared to depart. He passed Solas on his way to his horse, but then stopped him. "Would you...do me a favour, Solas?" The man turned to face him, eyebrows raised.

"Yes, of course," he said.

"Keep my friend company. Y'know, the pretty one. She seemed more relaxed yesterday, when you two were speaking." Yin threw his pack onto the back of his horse, Terror. "You did speak much of the ride, didn't you?" he added, noting Solas' hesitation.

"We did. But I do not think she is any more at ease with me than she is with you," the apostate replied, guiding his mount over. Yin sighed.

"Would it hurt to become more acquainted? Perhaps even friends?" The question gave Solas pause again as Yin hauled himself into the saddle.

"No, I suppose not." Yin scratched his head, glancing across the horses to Maordrid who was also climbing into her saddle.

"I apologise, Solas. I didn't mean to be pushy. I just...hate to see others troubled," he said. Solas smiled slightly, running a hand down his horse's muzzle.

"You do not need to apologise for your compassion, Herald." Yin made a disgusted noise.

"Well, it appears you do." Solas darted a surprised glance at him.

"For what?"

"We talked about this. It's Yin, not Herald. What if I called you something formal? Lord Fade-Expert or Lord Dreamer?" Solas smirked. "I'm not heralding anything and I dislike formalities."

"Point taken. Will you accept the most sincerest apology I can muster for this slight?" Yin grinned but then cursed when his horse, Terror, decided he wanted to taste everything in a wide radius with his teeth.

"There's the sassy mage I know. Get on your horse already or I'll take yours and you'll be stuck with Terror."

"Please no."

Chapter Text

They reached a checkpoint camp just an hour's ride away from Redcliffe village where messages from the Spymaster were waiting for Cassandra. It'd taken all day to get to this camp and Yin was not of the mindset to handle any serious business for the remainder of the day. Come the morning, he would be ready to face anything.

When they dismounted, Yin was quick to take the duty of caring for the horses before Maordrid could. Varric took dinner-duty and Sera darted off to go shoot nugs. Yin noted Maordrid's shoulders were set, which was perhaps the only tell she gave of her inner frustrations. She wanted to be useful, but today he wanted her to relax. He'd seen shadows forming under her eyes.

He cursed when she slipped off to pick herbs for Varric's stew and was just about finished brushing down the horses when he saw Solas walking after her with a satchel slung over his shoulder. They didn't go far, and Yin had no shame in observing. Perhaps it was a bit creepy, but he was Antivan...and they got into everyone's business. He saw Maordrid crouching and gathering wild garlic at the base of a hill. Solas approached and she looked over her shoulder at him. He knelt beside her and set to work. There was something soothing about seeing those two graceful elves working together. Yin on the other hand sometimes swore he was part Avvar-part druffalo and lacked the grace known to elves. Not that he minded. He could grow a fantastic beard that would make an Avvar jealous, but in Antiva lovers and the like seemed to prefer clean shaven. He rubbed the stubble forming along his cheeks, grinning. He supposed that was an upside in the south--lots of people had beards.

Maordrid and Solas returned to camp and Yin smiled when he saw Maordrid smiling. Solas was too, for all that he was serious. Everyone else returned shortly afterwards and soon the stew was cooking away. Varric bantered with Cassandra, the latter of which looked like she was on the cusp of cuffing the dwarf. Maordrid was reading a book of some kind when Sera opened her mouth.

"Yer a mage, aren't ya?" All the mages in camp looked at the scrawny archer elf, except for Maordrid, who unfortunately was the target of Sera's musings. The rogue whistled sharply, drawing her attention. "Yeah, you. Dark elfy braid."

"Yes." Maordrid closed her book slowly and put it away.

"Then where's yer staff? Don't all mages have one?" Maordrid was unblinking, but something like vague confusion cross her features and Yin wondered about it.

"She probably lost it. Or perhaps it was confiscated when she arrived in Haven," Yin said, not sure why Sera was targeting her.

"I don't recall seeing a staff when she fell out of the rift," Varric said, and Yin shot him a glance. "She didn't seem to have a problem conjuring a spear from the air though."

"It was destroyed," Maordrid finally said. "And I've no coin to buy another." Sera's lip twitched, but she made a dismissive gesture and sauntered away.

"Have you ever made one?" Solas asked, leaning on his own. No, he was not mistaken, that was definitely confusion on her face. Yin looked down at his own staff—smooth walnut with stormheart worked into the core. He'd carved some runes into it and wrapped enchanted cloth around the top, but other than that it wasn't pretty. Perhaps Josephine would get him a pretty staff.

When he emerged from his thoughts, Solas was sitting beside her again with his staff drawn across his knees. He was explaining in that soothing voice of his how he'd constructed it. Yin decided he needed to get to know Maordrid better to be able to tell when she was confused, angry, or upset. Her face looked...what was it? Disgusted? Confused? Morbidly interested?

Yin moved to sit on the other side of her, curious.

"Maordrid, have you ever used a staff?" he whispered. Solas was still explaining away on her other side, but her head turned slightly and her mouth opened slightly.

"Yes. Have you ever not used one?" He sat back, sputtering while she looked at him placidly and Solas cut off to observe.

"No, of course not! I mean, maybe once but it's like surprise confetti, except it's deadly. You try to fight like that in battle and could end up lighting yourself on fire...or ice-spiking your own foot." A small smile tugged at her lips as she held her hand out, just barely leaning forward between him and Solas and they watched in awe as the air glittered and a spear materialised smoothly. Then it vanished, quickly, and he wondered if he'd just imagined it. He blinked furiously.

"Arcane Warriors do not make mistakes like that." Yin tapped his chin.

"Where have I heard of those be—oh! Wasn't the Hero of Ferelden an Arcane Warrior?"

"Yes, I believe she was, amongst other things," Solas said mildly.

"Think she dabbled in a bit of blood magic too," Yin added, then snapped his fingers. "Could you do a battle axe instead of a spear?" Again, she held out her hand and an ornate double-headed axe with a vicious head-spike shimmered into existence. Yin reached out and fingered the edge, immediately cutting himself. Solas laughed.

"What did you expect? Your hand to fall through?" he said, still chuckling.

"I don't know, a zap or tingly feelings? Maybe it'd turn me into a frog?"

"And you touched it anyway?" Solas shook his head and Maordrid let the axe dissipate.

"I should probably quell my inner curious child," he admitted. "Going around touching magical things. You think that's what I did when I got this?" They all shared a small laugh. "I know, don't give me that look Solas. I shouldn't joke about it."

"Why don't you train as a...what'd you call it? Mage Warrior?" Varric asked from over the fire. Sera groaned, muttering something about mages not needing magical swords and bows on top of magic.

"I think that would fit you well, Yin. You already attempt to use your staff as a halberd in fights," Solas said, earning a playful glare from him. "And you've a formidable mentor right beside you." Maordrid hadn't yet spoken and was looking distantly into the campfire.

"What about Rift magic? Shouldn't I learn to harness this power if I'm stuck with it?" Yin asked, and Solas shrugged. A devious plan formed in his mind. "Why don't you both teach me and I'll become the world's first Rift Warrior! You can't keep Firestorm to yourself, Solas. As a Rift Warrior I could make it rain swords!" Varric chuckled nervously.

"The kid is nuts, but I like where his mind's at. Dream big!" the dwarf said. Solas pinched the bridge of his nose.

"I can teach you some things, but I don't know how to make it storm swords," he said with a sigh.

"Maordrid?" She finally looked at him, solemnly at first, and then something strange passed over her eyes that he couldn't parse.

"I will try." Yin couldn't help it, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and cheered. At that moment, Varric declared the stew ready and everyone took their turn filling bowls and finding the perfect spot to nest for the next few minutes. Yin excitedly explained to Cassandra—who had been writing missives until then—what the other two elves had agreed to do for him. She was not impressed. The Seeker then announced to everyone that they'd best get a good night's rest before Redcliffe the following day. Maordrid volunteered for first shift, although Yin was suspicious that she was trying to ensure it was the only shift for that night. Well, they were going into a village, which was where they'd be meeting, not fighting anyone. Maybe he'd stay up with her again, tomorrow's dealings wouldn't be that bad without sleep.

He couldn't have been more wrong.

Chapter Text

That morning during breakfast, Cassandra delivered a furious scolding for having not woken anyone up for watch. Solas was also less than pleased as well, but said nothing. Varric shrugged, said "Wake us up next time" and that was it. Sera didn't seem to care. Maordrid felt terrible, but Yin assured her that he didn't regret it. If only he knew why.

They struck camp and travelled the rest of the way to Redcliffe in relative silence.

She'd been told that the warping at Redcliffe had been strange, but seeing it? Even during Arlathan she wasn't sure she'd ever run into this magic. The rift before the gates hung in the air perfectly frozen when they approached, but then when the warping happened, it writhed and bubbled. It continued like that until Yin was close enough that the rift seemed to sense the anchor and spat the telltale puddles onto the ground where the poor corrupted spirits would appear.

Everyone danced around the area when they found out that there were patches of air that seemed to slow one down to a crawling pace and others that hastened casting spells and movement so that more than once, Maordrid tripped over herself at the sudden speed. During the last wave, the rift gave birth to a handful of shades and a few wisps. Everyone let their guard down too soon, thinking to make quick work of the sluggish demons.

Cassandra and Yin were too far off, fighting three of the shades while Varric and Sera darted around trying to avoid the spells thrown by the wisps. Maordrid turned after dispatching a shade to see a familiar bubbling appear in the ground behind Solas. The skeletal arm of a terror shot out, and at that moment, Solas got trapped in a slow bubble. Maordrid watched in horror, at the same time breaking into a run when she saw Solas' expression of surprise and fear.

Terror raised a claw, aiming for his throat and Maordrid did the only thing she could think of, throwing her entire body at Solas, casting a force spell at the same time to shove him out of the bubble. The elf rolled out of the congealed air, leaving her trapped with terror whose claw ripped into her shoulder. Then, the slowing was gone and terror was free to gouge her again. Maordrid rolled over on her back, trying to fend the thing off with her conjured spear and arm that was now coated in blood. She tried to kick at its legs when it bent to finish her off, but it grabbed one of her feet, digging razor claws into her calf. Then, suddenly it was encased in ice. The screech it released dazed her and made her ears ring painfully. More ice encased it and then Cassandra came barrelling into it with her shield, shattering it into green chunks.

Maordrid got to her feet with a small gasp, shaking her head to rid herself of the ringing. When she looked up, Yin was finally closing the cursed rift.

"That was brave," Cassandra murmured as the others approached. "I saw you take the blow for Solas." The man himself had his eyes trained on her and opened his mouth to presumably say something to her, but Yin beat him to it.

"You had no barrier! Was that your best plan? Jump and hope it doesn't eviscerate you?" he shouted, red-faced. "Damn it, be more mindful!"

"In the heat of the moment, it was my best plan," she said. "But I admit, it was a terrible one." She winced, moving her arm. Just at that moment, the portcullis behind them whined and began clanking upward. Someone ran out, shouting.

"We'll get that looked at inside the village," Cassandra said, and then turned to regard the scout. Yin spoke with him too and then turned to beckon the rest of the group forward. She glanced at Solas, who looked like he had something to say but Varric and Sera muttering together about weird shit promptly cut that short. They followed through the gate and were informed that the Inquisition was not at all expected and since that was the case, a Magister Alexius had not arrived. But they could speak to the Grand Enchanter while they waited. Cassandra and Yin wondered why not, since they had come all this way to speak with her.

Maordrid hung near the back, limping and trying to remember everything Past-Varric had written while simultaneously trying to take in details and not pass out.

They were led to an inn called the Gull and Lantern and on the way, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Maordrid spotted a bench outside beneath a tree and sighed with relief, limping over and sagging heavily onto it. Yin and the others peered on with concern. She waved them away.

"I'll be fine, meet with...whoever," she said. Cassandra nodded to Yin who cast her an apologetic look and hurried inside. Sera and Varric accompanied her but Solas approached with his eyebrows drooping. "Shouldn't you go in with them?" she panted.

"You need help. The Seeker and Yin are there, which is most important," he said, then his eyes went to her wounds. She shifted uncomfortably when he knelt before her to examine her leg. "And fortunately this time there are no Templars or quests across the continent barring me from healing you." Maordrid winced, sitting back to stretch out her spine.

"Are you hurt?" she asked and she heard him laugh.

"You're the one who was gouged, and you're asking if I'm hurt?" he said.

"I forcefully pushed you. With magic and my body," she said in a flat voice. He shrugged.

"Perhaps a bruise or two, but I would take that over my throat being torn out."

"Touché ." She felt his fingers begin to roll up her pant leg and immediately sat up. "I'll do that. You don't need to troubl—"

"I can assure you, this is no trouble to me. It's the least I could do." Then he promptly, but gingerly rolled her pant leg up. She watched as he poured a vialed tincture over the puncture wounds—where it foamed a rusty colour—then lightly placed his hands over them. Green magic surrounded her calf and the itching-burning feeling of tissue knitting itself followed. When he was done, he looked up at her, then her shoulder and winced.

"It's just a scratch," she said quickly. He shook his head and dug into his pack, pulling out a healing potion and a ball of bandages.

"This will start the healing process, but I suggest we see to it as soon as Yin and the others are done. No later, or you risk losing too much blood," he said with an air of authority. This bunch is oddly concerned with my health.

He handed her the bandages.

"Ma serannas, Solas. Truly," she said as he rose to his feet. He nodded and turned to look at the Gull and Lantern.

"I suppose I will go in and learn the situation of Redcliffe with the others. Will you come?" he said. She shook her head.

"Perhaps in a bit. I'll be out here." He nodded again and disappeared inside. As soon as the door shut, Maordrid downed the potion, did a haphazard wrapping of her shoulder, and hastily pulled out Varric's transcript and leafed through it until she found an entry on Redcliffe.

Alexius controls Redcliffe, having altered time to reach the mages before the Inquisition. Felix, Alexius' son, is trying to stop him. Dorian sends note to Yin in Gull and Lantern. He is in the Chantry thing. Dorian will not join the Inquisition until it is certain that we ally with the mages...

So the time-travel wasn't until much later? she wondered as she rose to her feet. People steered clear of her and she realised it was because she was covered in her own blood. Her eyes skimmed over the buildings, searching for the Chantry and saw a small camp down an incline where a few Andrastian sisters milled about. Maordrid jumped off the ledge by the tavern and into an old garden and ambled around just eavesdropping on everything. One of the sisters eyed her uncertainly as she passed by, but said nothing. By the chapel doors, she felt a strong pull from inside, which she was becoming familiar with. Pulling up her hood, she pushed the door open and slipped inside. Within was a rift—the source of the pull—from which a few shades had emerged and were trying desperately to reach the man who was hurling flashy magic at them. The shades were failing miserably.

Maordrid tossed a few fireballs encased in a cage of lightning and watched with amusement as they collided with their targets. The cages came undone neatly and chain-lightning erupted at the same time the flames did. Dorian Pavus straightened, watching the shades shake and burn with his eyebrows raised.

"That was a neat trick," he remarked once she joined him. "Somewhat wasted, since there will be more. I'd have closed it, but it seems to just absorb magic. Sorry, where are my manners? Dorian of House Pavus, most recently of Minrathous—how do you do?" She bowed slightly at the waist, staring from beneath her hood.

"Maordrid. I arrived with the Inquisition," she said. His eyes flicked between her hands, then back to her face.

"I'd heard the Herald was an elf with a green scar in his hand. Perhaps the rumours were wrong? Can you summon it on command? Does it simply appear when you close the rifts?" It took her a moment to understand what he was even suggesting before she chuckled.

"I'm not the Herald. He's meeting with Alexius as we speak," she said, stepping back as the rift began sputtering again. Dorian levelled his staff and languidly dispelled the green tendrils that had seeped into the floor, buying them more time.

"Then...he sent you ahead?"

"I felt the disturbance in the Veil and came to investigate," she said. "Something is very off here. As if the fabric of time itself—"

"Is being altered? Twisted? Shaken about a bit?" She nodded, fighting a grin at his familiar mannerisms. "Your assumption is correct. Someone has fiddled with some very naughty magic."

"Before the others get here I need to—" She was cut off as both doors banged open and the dashing elf Yin Lavellan came marching in, face bathed green by the light of the rift. As if to herald the Herald, several enemies sprouted from the Fade and a battle commenced. Two terrors had emerged with three wisps.

"I hate terrors," she said, jumping over one's thrashing tail. Transforming her spear into a sword, Maordrid separated the impalement hazard from the spastic terror. The terror turned its focus on her, cold and tremors instantly threatening to infect her limbs. From behind it, Dorian delivered a final blow, engulfing it in flames.

"Does it make you sweat? Or speak to you in your mother's voice sometimes?" he asked. Maordrid's face transitioned through three different expressions.

"No?" The Tevinter cleared his throat and cast a few weak spells at the wisps.

"Me neither, funny. Heard that it happens to some people!" She shook her head and laughed. The other enemies were quickly dispatched, Yin closing the rift before the last was finished off. When it sputtered out of existence, Dorian moved closer to the elf, asking him several questions about the Mark. Lavellan turned enough that Maordrid could see his face as he spoke to Dorian who was still chattering. Yin's gaze found hers briefly before settling on the Tevinter again.

"I'm sorry, but who are you? Where's Felix?" the elf asked.

"Ah, I see I'm getting ahead of myself again. Let me introduce myself—I am Dorian of House Pavus. Perhaps more accurately Dorian of Minrathous." Yin's eyebrows knit and his face went stony.

"Another Tevinter. Be cautious with this one," Cassandra said, stepping up beside Yin. Dorian looked on with amusement.

"Suspicious friends you have," he said, turning to her.

"I've experienced it firsthand," she said in a flat tone.

"Would you kindly explain what is going on here? We're a bit pressed for time and I've about had it with grandstanding for today," Yin said. Dorian bowed slightly at the waist, clasping his hands and quickly launched into an explanation, always happy to talk. She was glad he wasn't much different than his future self.

The others learned of Alexius' tampering with time, of Dorian's association with the magister and how the magic was wildly dangerous.

"We have to stop this. Whether it's time magic or not, we can't have it spreading beyond Redcliffe," Yin said.

"It is time magic!" Dorian insisted.

"I need more proof than that. I've barely got a grasp on the subject, but I'm pretty sure that altering time would require a lot more magic than either of us have," Yin said. The two men looked like they were about to square off against one another, but Maordrid cleared her throat.

"Is it not possible that with the Breach, the giant gaping hole of magic in the sky, may have allowed him to accomplish such a feat?" Dorian mouthed thank you to her.

"That is my thinking as well," Solas agreed.

"But the real question is why? Why would he turn back time? Just to gain a few hundred lackeys?" Dorian said.

"He didn't do it for them. He did it to get to you," a voice said, and Maordrid watched as a sickly fellow with sunken cheeks walked in.

"But why?" Yin asked, clearly recognising him. This must have been Felix. In the other timeline, Dorian had only briefly mentioned him as he had apparently died of his sickness early on.

"My father is part of a cult that has become obsessed with you. I don't know why, though perhaps it's because you survived the Temple of Sacred Ashes," he said.

"So there's a cult. They either want me dead or captive...they've potentially got the means to alter time. Am I missing anything?" Yin said, counting on his fingers.

"Yes. We need to stop him, for his own sake and the world's," Felix said. Dorian nodded.

"The first step we've got covered—expect a trap. The second? Turn that to your advantage. And when you're ready to face him, you've an ally. I want to be there."

"You should leave, Dorian. If he learns you're here..." The mage nodded and began making his way toward a back door.

"I'll be in touch," he said over his shoulder. "And Felix, try not to die?" The other Tevinter sighed and looked at the others once he was gone.

"Will you be heading back to your headquarters then?" he asked.

"I think we have a lot to discuss," Yin said.

"Then I should return to my father. I hope you'll consider our words," Felix said and then walked back the way he had come.

"Do you think it's safe to stay in the village tonight?" Yin asked after the door sounded shut. Cassandra was still staring after Felix with a hand resting on her pommel.

"If what they said was true and Alexius is after you, then no. We should find an Inquisition camp and discuss things there," she said, then noting Yin's stormy expression added, "Though, I doubt it would hurt to explore a little bit." The others agreed and they began the walk out of the Chantry.

Yin was terribly quiet. Or at least, he wasn't speaking to anyone in the group. He did somehow sniff out a woman posing as a Chantry sister and managed to get her recruited as a smuggler—with Varric's help—then did a complete about face and agreed to lay flowers on the grave of an old man's wife. After that, Maordrid decided to do a little of her own snooping. She murmured to Varric vaguely about needing to go...somewhere...and slipped away, content that he would only say something to the others if it was noticed that she'd gone.

In the other timeline, she had been many things since the time of Arlathan. During the rebellion, she'd been a spy, a warrior, and then finally a guardian of the freed slaves. Then she'd played guardian to the fallen Fen'harel himself and the occasional ears and eyes of the remaining sentinels. She'd been a traitor and a liar.

In this timeline, she was to be something else entirely. A combination of those things—a guide who'd use strings for some, blades for others, and poison for a few, steering the world into a more favourable future.

The elf vanished. Above, a hawk soared, searching, hunting, and observing.

Chapter Text

Felix sat his saddle a moment above the village along a promontory dreading returning to the keep. He'd adopted a bleak outlook on the world recently, since the Blight in his blood hadn't receded. He could feel it growing even now though it was stunted by the powders his father prepared. He was going to die, there was no doubt about it. He felt dread, but it wasn't toward death. No, he did not wish to return to the keep so soon.

His horse turned down the road as if it knew it was futile to delay. He entered a brief expanse of forest right before the keep, breathing through his nose. Dorian hated the cold and the smells of the south, but Felix found he enjoyed the smell of the forests after rainfall.

He heard the beating of wings above him and looked up to see a large bird take perch in an oak. It called at him, keen steel grey eyes unblinking.

Then he realised, he'd never seen a hawk with grey eyes.

He reined his horse in, eyebrows drawing down as the bird of prey swooped down and landed before his horse in a cloud of black billowing smoke. His horse nearly reared on him, but the mare calmed some when a figure emerged from the black. The hood was drawn, hiding the face. He felt like he had seen someone dressed like them recently, but then again he had just come from a village full of people.

"Where is Master Pavus?" He scoffed at the question.

"I don't know a Pavus." The stranger clicked her tongue. He noticed she stood inordinately still. It raised his hackles.

"Felix Alexius, son of a magister of Tevinter to whom Dorian Pavus was apprenticed to—a man your age—is telling me that he doesn't know his closest childhood friend?" Felix's hand closed around his sword. "Don't draw. I wouldn't want to see what precious little time you already have cut short. Now please, will you tell me where he went?"

"If I die before I reach that keep, nothing good will come of it. That village will likely be blamed and punished for my murder. I don't want that to happen," he said. The shapeshifter bowed slightly.

"Neither do I. We've a common goal and that is to save Thedas from whoever is responsible for the catastrophe here. I don't want to hurt Dorian, I want to help him. I've very important information for him." He wracked his brain for something, a plan, anything.

"Are you with the Inquisition then?" he asked.

"I am not with them, but this information will help them," she said. "They are good people and they will save the world. That is for certain." Felix fingered the leather reins in his grip, eyes trained on her.

"He's heading toward Haven. He didn't tell me much else, but he couldn't have gotten far." The hood dipped in a shallow nod. "If you're lying, you'll regret it. He's a powerful mage with tricks up his sleeve." The woman laughed.

"I know. I taught him, once." The magical smoke billowed out from her again, this time a deep stormy blue. A solid black hawk, this time. "And Felix, I'm sorry for your sickness. Perhaps something can be done. Unless you're fully committed to dying. We will meet again." Before he could wrap his head around her words, the hawk was already gone.

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The Hinterlands were too cold. Perhaps they had meant to call it Winterlands instead but confused the letters? And why were there puddles absolutely everywhere? His right foot was already wet from an inconspicuous patch of leaves on the ground. He could have sworn he'd heard a bear in the woods on the other side of the hill.

Dorian cursed himself, wishing he had saved a little gold to buy a horse. If he had a horse, he would have spurred it into a gallop as soon as he heard the strange clucking-purring noise. He'd never heard anything like it. It made him stall, then stop as he looked around the area while carefully unstrapping his staff. The noise came again from behind him—which he spun to face—but nothing was there. He cast a barrier and summoned lightning to his fingertips as he slowly faced forward again.

He immediately released the spell with a shout of surprise at the massive creature before him, but the spell fizzled out before it reached the target. He began to draw a fire glyph but then realised that the feathered creature wasn't attacking...and stopped.

"Vishante kaffas, is that a bloody griffin?" He was disgusted by how squeaky his voice came out. A strange chittering noise came from it, sounding too much like a—"Did you just chuckle?"

"Perhaps." He took an involuntary step back.

"A talking griffon. I am now entirely convinced that I've passed out in a tavern somewhere and am now wandering the Fade." The griffon chuffed.

"You're not."

"I didn't hear you move, so either you are a construct of the Fade or...you're a very sneaky griffon."

"It's likely the latter. Will you put the fire out? I'm not here to hurt you." He let the spell dissipate, but kept his barrier up just in case. "Good. I need your help."

"Aren't griffons extinct? I didn't know they could talk either." A very irritated noise came from it and he watched in amazement as feather and fur ruffled. "Sorry. Wait, a griffon needs help. With what, exactly? Grooming?"

"The future." Dorian just about threw his hands up in the air out of sheer disbelief, but didn't want to frustrate it further. "You are heading to Haven where you plan on joining the Inquisition." Dorian sat on a nearby rock, leaning his shoulder against his staff. "While everyone that is part of it wants to restore order, there are already some within that aren't quite on the same page. I will need help in the future regarding these people." He breathed in, not relishing the biting cold that invaded his lungs. "I know who caused the Breach, how to stop them, and potentially how to stop the others that will come after their downfall." At this, Dorian felt doubt.

"Sounds like you've got it all figured out then! You've no need for me," he said.

"I can't do it alone. The Inquisition is the best hope that Thedas has and I wish only to help," it said. There was desperation in its voice. "Please, Dorian."

"How do you know my name?" he said.

"It's a long story. One you're not quite ready for," it said. He submitted.

"Then tell me what you can."

"Alexius works beneath an ancient magister, the Elder One. His real name is Corypheus. You and Yin Lavellan will visit the future soon and see what will become of the world if we all fail. In a week or so, Haven will be evacuated and you will go to a place called Skyhold. It is there that we may meet again." Dorian's head spun. The griffon moved as if to go and Dorian found himself scrambling.

"Wait, wait! What will happen to Haven? Why can't you stop it?" he asked. "How can you swoop in, heap a quite frankly heavy bit of information on me then expect so much? Can we stop...whatever it is that's going to happen? What about getting others involved?" The massive creature turned its great head to look at him, eyes unblinking.

"If I knew how, I would stop it. We can only brace for what is to come. And though what happens is horrific, the future will make Haven pale in comparison. That is what I need your help with." Dorian wanted to tear at his hair in frustration but settled with drawing his cloak tighter about him.

"This is going to eat at me, you know. But fine, go on, fly away dramatically."

"I'll be in contact, don't worry Dorian." He mumbled under his breath and watched as arcane black smoke engulfed the griffon. When it cleared, the creature was gone. The only thing he could do was shake his head and resume the path toward Haven.

Chapter Text

Holy crap for anyone watching the Game Awards, Dragon Age 4 was just announced. I'm not sure I'll finish writing this fic since it will be completely buried once it's released, or even before then. I'm pretty hyped...and overwhelmed.

I'll probably still write, but it's unlikely I will post it unless explicitly asked.
Cheers!

edit as of 14/02/2019 (February 14th):
Definitely still writing! I very much like this story and hope others enjoy it as well.
It's hard to say what the future may bring in terms of adjustments/additions to the lore, but I'll do my best and continue this story :>

Chapter Text

Yin threw the last of his supplies into his saddlebags when Maordrid finally arrived carrying something that looked like a branch over a shoulder. After speaking with Senna's widower they had set out to the nearest camp. Solas had noticed Maordrid's absence once they'd left Redcliffe only for Varric to tell them she'd gone off on her own.

He put on his best fake-smile and approached her.

"Where'd you run off to? Have all the fun without me?" She planted her branch down in the soil and looked at him.

"Thought I'd make myself a staff. If someone would help me," she said. Yin looked back at the others who were in various states of packing.

"Maybe later. Cassandra received a missive about some Grey Warden in the area. Thought we should recruit him," he said. "If you're coming with us, you should get ready. We're leaving soon." Maordrid nodded and walked off. Yin watched her, wondering. He'd had a nagging feeling about her in the back of his mind since Redcliffe, but he wanted desperately to prove it wrong because he liked her. She knew something that he didn't, that much was clear.

The others finished strapping down their horses and were off back into the wild. Yin had expected there to be mostly silence after what they had seen and learned in Redcliffe, but somehow Varric and Sera managed to keep their minds off of most of it with banter about bows vs. crossbows, and when that grew stale Varric regaled them with stories about the Champion of Kirkwall. Yin had placed his horse in the centre of the group, with Solas and Varric riding vanguard, Sera and Cassandra to his sides and Maordrid behind as usual. That made it easy for him to eavesdrop when Cassandra decided to rein in beside Maordrid.

"May I ask you a question, Maordrid?" the Seeker said. Yin adored the lady for her straightforwardness.

"Of course," the elf said.

"Were you not tending to your wounds when we went into the Gull and Lantern?" Cassandra asked.

"Yes, I was."

"Why didn't you join us when you were done? How did you know to go to the Chantry?" Yin held his breath. Clearly this had been bothering the Seeker as well.

"I was covered in my own blood and didn't want to detract from the meeting," Maordrid said, every word clear as if she knew it was an interrogation. "And after I was bandaged, I went wandering and that was when I sensed the magical efflux from the Chantry." Yin tightened his grip on his reins. Perhaps she could lie to Cassandra who couldn't sense magic, but he hadn't been able to feel the rift until they'd been pushing on the door to the Chantry. It was that, or she was a much more powerful mage than him and Solas and was hiding it. Either way, why was she lying?

"I see. And what are your thoughts on the Tevinter mage?" Cassandra continued.

"I don't have any. We just met him, after all. Although, I do think we should go into every situation with our eyes and ears honed," she said.

"I find myself agreeing. Thank you," Cassandra said and then switched to a more conversational topic regarding blades and if Maordrid used them despite being a mage.

Yin tuned them out and instead focused on reading the map.

It seemed like hours had passed by the time they found the Grey Warden by the lake. The man didn't even acknowledge the large party approaching and seemed wholly engrossed in training the poor fools before him. When no one else mounted to approach the fellow—it had been Cassandra's idea to find him in the first place—Yin exaggerated his sigh and melted off of his horse, making sure Cassandra saw his glare as he passed. She only smirked.

"Blackwall? Warden Blackwall?" Yin called. The man broke from his men and came up to him.

"You're not—wait, how do you know my name? Who sent—" With amazing reflexes, Blackwall raised his shield as something thudded into it where Yin's shoulder would have been.

"Oh for fuck's sake. Let's clear the area and then talk, yes?" Yin said. Blackwall grimaced as if displeased to be taking orders but charged into battle just as the other Inquisition members joined the fray. Yin was hesitant when he saw that the men were little more than the bedraggled commoners that Blackwall had been barking at, but quickly launched ice and flame when they showed no mercy toward the others. They weren't very well trained and fell quickly. Blackwall seemed remorseful after, taking a moment to look at the bodies in silence before he dismissed his conscripts with what Yin considered a shitty few words of encouragement.

"So, who are you and how do you know my name?" he demanded once the farmers were gone.

"We're agents of the Inquisition and we're investigating whether the disappearance of Wardens has anything to do with the Divine's murder," Cassandra said. Yin gave her a smug side-glance.

"Maker's balls, the Wardens and the Divine? That can't—no, you're asking so you don't really know. Look, I didn't know they disappeared. Funny how we end the Blight and we're the first thing forgotten. Now we're to blame?" Blackwall said. Cassandra sighed.

"You've nothing to offer us?" Yin asked.

"Look, no Warden killed the Divine. Our purpose isn't political."

"We're not here to accuse. Just looking for information and happened upon you," Yin said.

"I travel alone--haven't seen any Wardens for months. I've been recruiting, but since there's no Blight or Archdemon, I saw victims of the war and conscripted them. These people need inspiration and I can give them just that."

"Admirable. But, with all due respect, Warden, unless you've got something useful for us...we'll just leave you be," Yin said. Cassandra nodded and they began to walk away.

"Inquisition—agent? Hang on, a moment, will ya?" He caught up and stopped a few paces away. "The Divine is dead, and the sky is torn. Events like these, thinking we're absent is almost as bad as thinking we're involved."

"Indeed," Yin said dryly.

"Look, if you're trying to put things right...maybe you need a Warden. Maybe you need me," Blackwall said with determination in his eyes.

"Well, we can use any help we can get. But...what can one Grey Warden do?" Yin said and Blackwall grinned.

"Save the fucking world, if pressed." Yin shared the smile. Maybe he wasn't so bad after all. He offered his hand and the Warden shook it. "Maybe fighting demons from the sky isn't something I'm versed in, but show me someone who is. It isn't a Blight, but it is a fucking disaster and if the gaping green hole in the sky isn't persuasion enough, the treaties have power. Being a Warden means something to a lot of people. And...I've been keeping to myself too long. We need to know what's going on in this world." Yin nodded enthusiastically and the three of them rejoined the others by the horses. Introductions went around with handshakes and polite bows, but then they were on their way to another camp to fetch a horse for Blackwall. It took less than an hour to get to the one where they'd first met Scout Harding weeks ago.

"I think we're going to need to split up," Yin said to Cassandra as he rifled through journal notes. "I need to go put flowers on that grave. And who knows what I might encounter on the way."

"Who will you take with you?" He tapped his fingers on the small war table, eyeing the makeshift markers they had made for each person on the team.

"Solas since he might sense more of those artefacts. Maordrid since she's efficient in battle...and Blackwall. Just to get to know him better. But I think you should take the others and get on your way back to Haven. Whatever Cullen thinks, I am not going to the Templars. But hold on a decision until I'm back." Cassandra pursed her lips, mulling over his decision before ultimately nodding. Yin gave her a smile and went to inform the others, but she caught him by the elbow.

"Be careful out there, Herald," she said, quiet so only they could hear. "I know you trust Maordrid but—" Yin patted her hand, and she cut off with a blush.

"I'm aware. I may or may not have heard a certain Seeker's words with a certain elf. Or maybe it was ghosts on the wind, I don't know." Cassandra smirked and pulled away as Yin turned to round up the others. "Warden Blackwall! It's your lucky day!"

-----------------

Without their large group, Maordrid had nowhere to hide and Yin was like a fox waiting outside of a mouse's burrow for it to emerge. She had no choice but to engage with the others. Solas was an easy conversationalist and with the newcomer in their midst, Blackwall made for equally easy conversation. The Warden seemed to have taken an interest in the quiet elf. Then again, Yin didn't know anyone who wasn't at least a little piqued by her—even Sera's abrasive nature had been smoothed over some when Maordrid had offered to give her pointers for future pranks.

"So neither of you are Dalish, then?" Blackwall was asking the other two elves.

"No," Solas replied with a little more emphasis than necessary. Maordrid just shook her head.

"But you're not city elves either?" he continued. This time Solas repeated her action.

"I travelled a lot before the Breach happened," Maordrid relented. "I've visited many cities, but never stopped to live in one."

"And you, Herald? You're Dalish, you've got the hm, markings," Blackwall said.

"I wasn't always. Born in Antiva to an elf and a magic dwarf." Yin hid his smile at their outburst of dwarves can't be mages. "Don't judge. Love is a versatile thing. I never said he was a mage, I said he was magic." He managed to keep his laughter contained while Solas and Maordrid huffed and muttered under their breaths. But finally he released an uproarious laugh that Blackwall joined in on.

"Is your father really a dwarf?" Maordrid asked.

"He is rather muscular for an elf. But that doesn't explain his height," Solas remarked.

"Anyway, dear Blackwall, I was born Antivan and later became Dalish. That is all," Yin said, bowing from his horse.

"I figured somethin' along those lines, what with your accent and all," Blackwall said with a chuckle.

They quieted as they began passing through the corridor where Yin remembered fighting mercenaries a while back.

"Judging by the staves at your backs, you fellows are mages?" Blackwall asked, guiding his horse between the large boulders.

"You assume correct," Solas said from behind him.

"And you, my Lady?" he asked, turning his horse to look at Maordrid as she manoeuvred by.

"I've a sword. Would you like to spar, Warden?" she said with a small grin. Blackwall leaned back in his saddle, eyebrows rising beneath his helm.

"It may be a trap," Solas called from the other side of the passage already.

"I'm thinking this quiet veneer of yours is just a construct," Blackwall said.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Blackwall?" Yin said, reaching inside his coat. The older man caught the glint of silver in Yin's grip, a mischievous light growing in his own eyes.

"What is this? Drinking?" Maordrid looked aghast. "There could be bandits! Or bears and you two want to drink?" Blackwall caught the flask in one hand.

"Makes the fear less potent before the fight," he said, taking a sip.

"And your senses more dulled," Maordrid said, tossing a hand.

"Por Dios," Yin sighed. "We're not getting drunk, Maori. The time to...hm, beber como una esponja comes later." She blinked at him. He opened his mouth to translate, but she cut him off.

"Entiendo," she said, then held her hand out to Blackwall. He grinned through his beard and tossed the flask. She tilted her head back and the two men watched in boyish amusement as she drank and then pulled a face. "We aren't getting drunk. We are drinking for Senna, no?"

"Knew it. Just gotta get beneath that armour somehow," Blackwall said. Perhaps the Warden meant it in a purely get-to-know-you innocent sort of way, but Yin saw a new means of getting truths and answers from her.

Solas was waiting for them on the other side of the rocks and eyed them critically as they emerged. Yin hastily tucked the flask away.

"Is that entirely appropriate?" Solas asked. Yin groaned. Nothing got past the apostate.

"Of course it is, it's for Senna," Maordrid said quite cheerfully.

"We haven't even reached the grave," Solas said.

"Well, it's a rather grave matter. Sad, tearful business, you see," Blackwall said.

"I mean, according to the map it should be getting close. Maybe up on that hill?" Yin tossed the flask to Solas who caught it smoothly but not without a flat stare. "C'mon, take your medicine." Blackwall clapped Solas on the shoulder as he rode by, jostling the elf.

"Did you?" Yin heard him ask Maordrid. She didn't answer, but Yin's sharp ears would recognise the sound of the flask opening anywhere.

They found Senna's grave not long after that and each of them picked wildflowers across the hilltop before meeting together at the headstone. Everyone took a turn at the flask this time and set a flower down. Yin read the inscription on the stone aloud and then they all lapsed into silence, though he speculated it might be more due to the alcohol at that point. His flask, while larger than the common container, was only about a quarter full by then.

"Yin," Solas said while still staring at the flowers.

"Yes, my most favourite bald elf mage?"

"What is the cursed liquid in this container? It's vile."

"This and that. Liquid punishment? Found a few dusty bottles on our first trip through here and just kept topping myself off." Solas paled slightly, Blackwall guffawed, and surprisingly Maordrid, who had the flask, sipped it again, swishing it around.

"Genius, really. Wonder why I never thought to do that myself," she said, tossing it to him.

"You'd fit in just fine with the Grey Wardens," Blackwall said to him.

"Now that you say it, I'm pretty sure all the bottles I found did belong to them," he said as they made their way to their horses. When they went to mount, Yin noticed the others hadn't yet made their way back. "Are you two lightweights? Looks like we're gonna have to tie them to the backs of our horses." Yin saw the minute movement of Solas' hand and before realising what it meant, screeched at the sudden sensation of a river of ice running down his back. By the time he recovered, Solas and Maordrid were already disappearing down the hill on their horses.

He looked at Blackwall who was sitting his saddle, face perfectly composed.

"You can be my new best friend," he said loudly to the Warden.

"Uncalled for!" Solas shouted over the edge. Yin put a hand to his chest.

"I didn't know he cared," he sniffed. They heeled their horses after the others. "I tell him constantly, but he always brushes me off." He put on a smug face when he saw them waiting at the bottom. Initially upon meeting Solas, he'd thought the man wasn't the type capable of smiling or good humour. He'd spent weeks tailoring his jokes and stories to gauge what amused and annoyed Solas the most. At the same time, he knew Solas had also grown used to him...and somewhere they'd met in the middle.

Which was why now, he was growing more concerned about the liar in their midst and how it was affecting them.

"After we get word to that old man about his wife, how about some real drinks and a card game?" he said. Blackwall was agreeable, predictably. "And then we can worry about getting back to Haven." Maordrid shrugged; Solas sighed. And at that moment, the Mark crackled painfully to life. Yin shouted, gritting his teeth. "Oh, I'm definitely getting a drink after this, with or without you all."

Chapter Text

Hours later, they trudged wearily back into Redcliffe as the sun was setting, covered in demon blood, mud, and what smelled like bat shit. Yin tracked down the widower, which seeing the gratitude on the man's face was warming, but did not soothe the terrible ache in his palm. He thought he had closed all the rifts in the Hinterlands, but one had been hidden in a cave. They'd barely pulled through. Closing that rift had been akin to closing a jammed door that was also on fire and left his entire arm aching. He'd decided Despair demons were his new most hated thing. However, it had been great initiation for Blackwall.

Suffice to say, he had definitely earned himself a drink or two. And so he bought a keg small enough to hike it back out of Redcliffe and to their camp.

Once he'd settled at the campfire, Solas sat beside him poking and prodding at the Mark with magic. Maordrid had gone off in search of a stream to bathe in and Blackwall was dozing off against a log after sharpening his greatsword.

"Can I ask something of you?" he asked, voice low.

"If it's a reasonable request," Solas said.

"It may be unethical." He hummed.

"Very well, let's hear it." Solas released his hand finally and put distance between them.

"It's Maordrid..." He paused, finding it a lot harder to form the words than he'd imagined. He'd thought about it all day, but it was no easier. "I'm not sure I trust her." Solas remained silent. "Would you keep an eye on her?" The apostate frowned.

"I—"

"Just trust me on this. Please," he said, massaging the flesh around the Mark. "Once we get back to Haven I know I'll be too busy to do it myself. You just talk so easily to each other...and I trust you entirely." Solas dropped his head, a sad expression on his face.

"Of course, Herald." Yin didn't even bother to correct him this time. His heart was unexpectedly heavy.

His ears pricked up at light footsteps and saw Maordrid materialise from the night with a towel over her shoulder and her wet hair already braided. She smiled, then noted the unopened keg on a stump.

"No medicine before bed?" she teased, draping her towel over a branch to dry. Yin laughed, staring into the fire.

"Blackwall looks how I feel. I think I'll do just fine without it tonight. Maybe back in Haven," Yin said.

"The Mark—it takes a lot out of you then?" she said, eyebrows drooping. He nodded, honest.

"I'll see you two tomorrow." He left them in silence after that, seeking the peace of the Fade and hoping that it would bring clarity of mind for what was to come.

------------------------------

She found herself sitting nervously before the Dread Wolf after Yin turned in. Even with the small, nothing-conversations she often found herself in with him...she wasn't sure she'd ever shake that feeling of knowing. She considered attempting to work on carving a staff from the wood she'd acquired, but she was too tired. Instead, she tried focusing on her injured hand which had been chapped and cracked during their earlier fight. To avoid interaction, she took a knife to a nearby elfroot and squeezed its juice onto her wounds.

"I could help with that." She smirked, but didn't look up.

"You help with everything already. Don't you need a break sometime?" Her gentle refusal had no effect on him as he joined her and took her hand.

"I think you forget that you saved my life," he said. "I've thought about it all day. I wished to thank you properly." Her cheeks warmed and she tried to hide it by looking elsewhere as he healed it.

"Solas, you don't need to thank me," she said. I'll never get used to using his name. "I'd do it again in a heartbeat." I've never seen him smile so openly either. It was his turn to blush.

"Done. The elfroot should help with the scars," he said, giving her hand a squeeze before letting go. She felt his gaze on her face as she looked at the new scars and fresh skin. "You should rest. You've been worse than Yin avoiding sleep." Her eyes snapped up to his.

"I'm not avoiding anything," she said. He arched a brow.

"Yin suffered, you know. He'd volunteer for every shift and I rarely saw or sensed him in the Fade. I've since intervened and shielded his dreams. We must take care of ourselves, if not for ourselves then for the others around us. We must help one another," he said. She felt something visceral well up in her at his words.

"Do you need help, Solas?" her foolish mouth blurted before her brain caught up. For being ages old, she found it didn't make her immune to making stupid mistakes. She was older than many of the trees in the area and they could keep silent for years. She envied that. Solas' lips may have curved upward for a brief moment, but the flickering firelight made micro-expressions difficult to catch.

"It seems your instinct knows when I need help most. What does it feel now?" He was leaning a little closer now and his voice had dropped in volume. She felt sweat on the pads of her fingers, yet a feral thing within her bared its teeth at him, eager to meet his challenge.

"It senses turmoil deep within you," she said, meeting his icy blue stare. "And I have a feeling that wasn't the last time you'll be needing a guardian." This time, she saw the secret smile, tucked out of sight in the corner of his lips.

"Oh? Am I fated to a future of misfortune, then?" he said.

"Only if you allow the turmoil within you to govern your choices." She watched his face, but he gave nothing away. It was like gazing upon an ice statue.

"I could say the same thing about you, Maordrid," he said, and this time his voice was all soft edges. She knew she couldn't say more without making him suspicious—if he wasn't already. She slowly rose from the log, pausing a moment to look into the fire.

"I'll take second watch. Good night, Solas," she said.

"Good night Maordrid."

Inside the tent, she sat on her bedroll with her legs crossed and focused on meditating to stave off sleep. The crackling of fire soothed her nerves and she slipped just beneath the surface, one foot in both worlds.

-----------------------------

There was red beneath her eyelids, and she was blinking furiously. It was like never-ending sea water in her eyes; a stinging that wouldn't clear. She wiped a hand across her face and managed to alleviate it a bit, though it still felt like she was standing directly in the smoke of a campfire.

"Oh, no, no!" The source of red hadn't just been the back of her eyelids. No, it was a million times worse. From her vantage point, she couldn't even tell where she was, except that there was red lyrium everywhere. The sky was dark, but from the way sound travelled it may have been a massive cave.

There were filaments of red lyrium coating her arms like ashes. She was afraid to breathe, but it was likely too late. She took off toward an opening in the red crystals, hearing the sounds of raging fires, battle, and shattering rock. But below it all, there were whispers. They sang, dissonant and sweet and dug beneath her skin, reaching a place she didn't think existed. It burned and soothed, like ripping skin off only to heal it quickly. The noises grew in her ears to a deafening clamour, causing her to clamp her hands over her ears.

"NO!" she screamed, sprinting away. It was in her. She could feel it in her throat. There was little time.

I know this place. We were here long ago, when things were bad.

Her heart dropped. If this was the place she thought it was, then...fuck. She recognised what little architecture had been hastily built in this place. The opening had led to an old watchtower with a small courtyard, but it was all overgrown with corrupted lyrium.

Why are we here...again?

A hand grabbed her wrist and she spun to see an old accomplice of hers, Miradal.

"What are you doing here, Yrja?" Mira demanded.

"I-I don't know. I don't know how I got here," she sputtered. Miradal shook her head angrily.

"The vault is under assault," the sentinel said with urgency.

"Since when?" she asked, holding Mira by her shoulders. The sentinel laughed bitterly.

"Technically since the first Blight, from different enemies. We've managed to hold off the infection, but...it's spreading with help. The last vault remains untouched by corruption, but...it won't stay that way if we lose here." Mira tugged at her. "Come on, it's not safe in the open." Miradal pulled a helm over her face and grabbed her hand tightly before leading her through a maze of glowing red. They passed by a gaping hole in the wall of lyrium at one point and Yrja caught a view of a wide bridge far below and a surging battle taking place upon it.

"They're nearly at the doors," Yrja said. "But who are they?"

"The same people that helped seal it to begin with." The answer she dreaded.

"But why?" She ducked, running through a tunnel that had been blasted through the rock. They were getting closer to the bottom. "If it gets out...the world is doomed. There's a chance people would survive the Veil coming down, but not this."

"We know, lethallin. But we were taken by surprise. We expected anything but this."

Finally they emerged from the singing tunnel where they were level with the bridge, the battle, and the colossal doors that loomed on the other side.

"I'm prepared to die. We all are. We have a fighting chance with you, sister," Miradal said, laying a hand on her shoulder.

"This can't be real," she said. Miradal laughed again.

"Dareth shiral, it was an honour fighting by your side." Then she was gone. The remaining elf cursed, watching as Miradal joined the fray. She saw a familiar shadow above the armies that kept diving and swiping, occasionally sending the bodies of elves flying over the edge of the bridge to their deaths. Red orbs floated in the shadow like motes of flame. She narrowed her eyes at them, rage and magic filling her. She cast off her form in favour of something that could rip and tear. Talons and beak and claws—she dove at the shadow with a shriek.

Tendrils of darkness snapped at her when she drew near, but her frenzied ripping and tearing ensured they never pulled her from the air. She rolled and darted and dodged until she found herself before the floating red orbs. How far we've fallen, that it comes to this.

Jaws dripping with black and red ichor snapped at her, nearly taking her left leg. She snarled and raked back with a foot, gouging into the snout. She opened her maw and released a torrent of corrupted ice at its face, hearing it howl in pain. Below, there was a cry of triumph as her people saw her fighting back. But her pause was her undoing—the jaws came once again and this time, they clamped around her middle. She screamed as its fangs severed a wing and pierced all the way through her body. Her magic escaped her. It shook once and then released her, sending her hurling through the air. She crashed through a forest of red pillars, breaking several and losing her form in the process. She rolled to a stop on her stomach, missing her left hand and feeling several broken bones in her right. Breathing came in short, laboured puffs. Blood poured from her mouth.

Through the singing in her head and the roaring blood in her ears, she heard footsteps.

"Fenedhis! Maordrid!" She thought she recognised the voice...from another life, another world. Gentle hands turned her onto her back and her head was cradled softly. She blinked through tears, moved her broken jaw. "No, don't speak. You're..." He cursed again. "This is not good. I need you to wake up."

And she did--to another nightmare.

Chapter Text

Maordrid woke with a gasp that quickly devolved into violent wet coughs. She was holding onto something, but through the black spots in her vision, couldn't see what it was. The world tilted and then she was vomiting something black in the darkness. A magelight appeared and she realised Solas was beside her, holding her up. His face was pale with fear.

"You've internal bleeding," he said, setting her down. An aura of green surrounded her entire body. She tried to speak, but flexing the muscles in her throat told her there was damage there too. That was no normal dream. I shouldn't be injured. Fenedhis, I can't even bloody meditate!

A sudden gust of crisp air flooded into the tent as Yin appeared inside, looking to Solas, then her.

"Oh gods, Solas, what happened?" he said.

"I need help," Solas said through gritted teeth. Immediately Yin fed him his will and Maordrid felt things inside of her mending. "She's going to vomit more blood, but clots this time. Get a rag." As if on cue, she felt it rising up her throat. Solas helped her up quickly as chunky red liquid poured out. A damp rag was drawn across her mouth, wiping it all away. Finally, the spots cleared from her vision and she could move—well, mostly. Solas handed her a waterskin, which she took gratefully and used to clean out her mouth. She was glad her jaw and hand were intact in this world.

"I...I think I need..." Her throat grated, but she pointed in direction of the river.

"You're not going alone," Yin said, and though she could not see his face, his voice was dark. "And don't even think about running off into the forest like last time." She rose unstably to her feet and emerged from the tent. Her green cotton tunic was drenched in blood, now that it was lit by the fire. Yin dragged a hand across his face at the sight and Solas was silent, face plastered with worry.

"I'll go," the latter said and stepped forward, offering his arm. Heavy with shame and residual fear, she took it, leaning into him as they walked.

"What did you see?" she asked, finding it easier to speak in a whisper.

"Nothing," he replied, sounding deeply troubled, "It was as though whatever you were dreaming literally threw you from it, then destroyed itself." She remained silent and approached the babbling brook on her own when they arrived.

"You were on watch," she said, as she worked to remove her shirt. Solas cleared his throat and a glance told her he had turned his back.

"I only realised you were in trouble when I heard you coughing, and then choking." She took the rag Yin had given her and drew a fire rune on a rock before setting it into the brook. Then she began washing the blood away. Her inner thoughts were...subdued. She was numb. It was better answering his questions than trying to understand what she had seen.

"And when you realised it wasn't an assassin, you went into the Fade to confront it." Solas made a strangled noise.

"That is when I found you."

"So you were there," her voice was thick and her face was burning. "I'm sorry you had to see me like that." Her hands shook as she tried scrubbing the blood from her tunic. "It seems we are even now."

"Don't be crass," he snapped. She looked at him and his sudden anger, but he still wasn't looking at her. "All else aside, you were seconds from death, Maordrid. It is never easy to see someone in that state, nonetheless someone you care for." She pulled her stupid shirt from the water and with a careful fire spell, began to dry it. Neither of you are not supposed to care, she thought to him. It makes it too difficult for what's to come. She pulled her shirt on, still slightly damp, and rose to her feet slowly, finally turning her eyes to him. His posture was rigid, shoulders hunched, and he seemed to be looking down at his hands when she touched his shoulder. He turned slowly.

"Ma melava halani," she said, bowing deeply. His hand shot out and eased her back up.

"Ara melava son'ganem," he said. "There is no need for bowing." Maordrid offered a weak smile and rubbed her forehead. "Although, now I think I understand why you avoid sleeping. Has that happened before? Waking up injured?" Unless you count the times I fought Dreamers in Arlathan during your rebellion...

"No. I usually have full control over my dreams," she said instead. "We should return. I think I need a drink off Yin's flask." Solas offered his arm again, and she tried not to think about how she enjoyed his warmth.

"When we return to Haven, you should visit me and we can try to figure out what caused this to happen," he said as they walked. His offer was tempting, because as Fen'harel, she knew he could easily end her problems by shielding her dreams. But that wouldn't be an option if her dreams continued to be about him or related in some way to his ancient identity. There were a few alternative options to accepting his help—all of them terrible, but risk-free. Well, save for potentially dying if none worked.

She pretended to think about it all the way back to camp where Yin was sitting wide awake before the fire. It looked like Blackwall hadn't even emerged from his tent during the scramble.

"Yin, your dreams are secure, right?" she said as soon as they were within earshot.

"Yes, thanks to Solas," he said. She smiled.

"Well then, that's all that matters. I'll be fine," she told Solas and before either of them could protest, she continued, "It's the Herald that matters. It's likely I was attacked by a demon...and next time I'll be more careful." Yin looked torn, but didn't seem to know what to say. A stormy expression was on Solas' face.

"You suffer needlessly," he said.

"No, if you're busy guarding Yin's dreams then that's where your concentration should be," she offered him a smile, but it didn't ease his mood, "Your kindness won't go forgotten, Solas." Something unspoken passed between Solas and Yin over her head, but she figured it was a mutual frustration over the situation.

"Get some rest, Solas. Gods know you've earned it," Yin said. Solas gave her one more worried expression and then disappeared into one of the tents. Yin gestured for her to sit and offered her the flask without her having to ask. She finished off whatever was left. He was watching her when she handed it back to him. "I've seen the capable mage you are. There's no way you don't know how to guard your dreams." Maordrid sighed.

"I was already exhausted. Whatever it was must have taken advantage of my weakness," she said, and meant it. It was the only explanation to how she'd been drawn into thinking it was real—it had to have preyed on a deep seated fear of hers, one that she prayed to the Void would never see the material world.

Yin poked at the logs with a stick sombrely.

"Just...if it continues...I don't want someone to get a Templar involved," he said. Her heart sank.

"If you think I'm possessed—"

"No, I don't think you are. But Haven has a lot of superstitious people and I don't want something bad to happen to you." She shut her mouth with a click. "And judging by Solas' reaction and the way he volunteered himself tonight...he cares. A lot." She wished there was more booze or that she had the strength to take a walk until dawn...or maybe a rift could swallow her again? No, instead her and Yin sat in uncomfortable silence for a long while. Neither of them could or would sleep.

That night, she vowed she would get herself a lute to avoid this again. She spent the last few hours tweaking the melody to an ancient song in the margins of past-Varric's transcript.

When the sky began blushing, Yin went to wake the others and Maordrid took to readying the horses so they could get out of there after breakfast. Which, once it was done, if she hadn't been so intimidated by Solas she might have thought his checkup on her was sweet. He'd given her hastily prepared elfroot tea, although slightly watery.

The ride back to base was more the mood she had expected on the way to Senna's grave. What little was said had to do with pointing out road hazards or animal tracks in the snow once they reached higher altitude.

The party reached Haven just after midday. Cassandra joined them from the practice yard and looked like she had every intention of whisking Yin away. Before disappearing with her, the Herald turned to Maordrid.

"You should probably find your own lodgings from here on out," he said. He avoided her eyes, even when she nodded. He glanced at her, inclined his head, and set off at a brisk walk, leaving her alone. No one seemed to have heard the exchange—Blackwall ambled off in the direction of the blacksmith and Solas had gone shortly after Yin into the town.

Maordrid walked up the steps, wondering why Yin had been so cold and distant to her recently. She couldn't remember when it had started, as he had seemed fine on the ride to the grave. Everything after the events of the previous night had been the opposite.

To keep her mind off of the implications, the lost elf made her way through Haven for the first time, looking for someone who could point her in the direction of lodgings, whether it was sharing another cabin with people or a tent on the frozen ground.

The Quartermaster, it occurred, was less than accommodating. She didn't have time to help a knife ear like her, even when Maordrid told her she'd just come off a mission with the Herald. Apparently a lot of elves claimed that.

That encounter only reminded her of how flawed this world was. It would have to change, but not in the way that others intended.

After hours of walking aimlessly with her boots beginning to let the cold in, she stopped in the middle of the bustling pathway and considered barging into the Chantry for help.

Deep in thought, her heart shot into her mouth when a hand fell on her shoulder.

"Oh good! It is you!" a cheerful voice said. When she turned, she was utterly relieved to see Dorian, hooded and hunched against the cold. "Are you busy?" Her laugh came from deep in her chest.

"I just spent a pathetic amount of time looking for a place to stay. We just arrived," she said. Dorian rubbed his hands together and breathed into them.

"Fantastic, we can look together," he said. "But first, wine. I need lots of it. Where's the tavern?" She knew, she'd just passed it not long ago. With a jerk of her head, they set off side-by-side.

At the Singing Maiden, Dorian directed her to take a small table for them and glided away in search of a bottle of wine. Maordrid spotted Sera sitting at a table by another door tucking into a bowl of stew, but the young elf didn't seem to see her. It was probably better if she found a solitary table anyway.

She found one with a view out of the tavern—one that looked straight up into the Breach. Dorian joined her not long after, landing heavily in his chair across from her. He flashed her a charming smile and poured a cup for each of them, drinking heavily before any words were spoken.

"How was your journey?" she asked. He lowered his cup just enough to fill it up again like a man dying of thirst, then giggled with a hint of hysteria.

"Lovely. Definitely enjoyed the cold and soggy charm of the south. And the wildlife! Aren't griffons extinct, by the way?" She disguised a laugh through her wine as clearing her throat.

"So they say, but we should doubt everything," she said.

"Ah, my thoughts as well," he said. "So, you say you all just returned? Where are they at?" Flissa appeared holding a bowl of stew and a cutting board with a loaf of bread on top.

"Hungry, are we?" Maordrid said, rather amused.

"I was not prepared for this place. A fucking fennec robbed me. Took all my food. He even waited until I woke up, as if to say ''Twas me that ate your only food!' and defecated on a rock before leaving," Dorian took a bite of the stew and shook his head. "I should have eaten him." He glanced at her a moment and then cut the butt off his bread, tossing it to her. "Please eat so I don't look like an evil Magister holding food from a...well, slave."

"And here I thought you were all selfish bastards," she smirked.

"Don't make me take it back. I do have appearances to keep up. If you weren't the charming elf I met back in Redcliffe I might have rolled with it, maybe boss you around a bit."

"Flattered." He dunked his bread into the stew and popped it into his mouth.

"It's Maordrid, right?" She nodded. "Mind if I call you Maori? No? Good. Well, Maori, how about the two of us waltz up to the Chantry after this and make a grand entrance?" With half a bottle of wine in her and a friendly face in a rather hostile place, she couldn't say no.

Minutes later, they left the Singing Maiden together and made their way up to the Chantry.

Chapter Text

Yin leaned against the wall, rubbing his chin in distant thought as he listened to Cullen argue for the Templars and Leliana countering him for why they shouldn't. Cassandra's voice rose above them every now and then, but for the most part had already announced her concern about the danger in Redcliffe.

"I'm far beyond this argument," Yin whispered to Josephine. Cassandra caught his eye and called for silence, which blessedly fell. "We're going to Redcliffe. That's all, Cullen." The other man rubbed the back of his neck in frustration, but finally gave up. "We've already determined Alexius' invitation to be a trap. How about ways to spring it without killing everyone?"

"Considering that Redcliffe Castle is one of the most defensible fortresses in Ferelden, it's futile to think we'll be able to take it by force," Cullen said.

"That's why we won't take it by force. We don't have the man power anyway," Yin said.

"So you're just going to walk in there? You'll die and we'll lose the only means we have of closing these rifts. I won't allow it and neither should anyone else in this room!" Cullen said.

"If we don't try, then we lose the mages and leave a hostile foreign power unchecked," Leliana said, narrowing her eyes at the ex-Templar.

"The Magister—"

"Has outplayed us," Cullen interjected on Cassandra.

"No, nope, there is definitely a way and we're overlooking it. Do we know of literally any other paths in? Sewer tunnels? Underground caves? Secret entrances?" Yin said, stepping away from the wall to glare at the map. Cullen opened his mouth to likely spew something else of opposition, but Leliana's face lit up and Yin held his hand up, gesturing to her.

"Wait, I do remember a secret passage the Hero of Ferelden took during the Fifth Blight. It's an escape route for the family," she said. "It's too narrow for our troops, but we could easily send agents through."

"No! Those agents will be discovered well before they reach the Magister," Cullen said. Leliana smirked victoriously.

"That's why we need a distraction," she looked to Yin, "Perhaps the envoy Alexius wants so badly?" Yin shared her grin.

"I make a very handsome distraction. And Leliana's sneaky little sneaks can dismantle Alexius' entire operation before the trap springs. That's what I'm talking about," he said. Cullen rolled his eyes.

"It's a gamble, but it might work," he said. They all stopped at the sound of voices on the other side of the door, and then the door itself flinging wide open to admit a familiar man.

"Fortunately, you'll have help," Dorian said. One of Cullen's men appeared behind him looking flustered.

"This man says he has information about the Magister and his methods, Commander," the soldier said. Dorian came to stand right beside Yin with a wink.

"Disabling Alexius's magic won't be possible without my help, and thus, no spies to stop him. So if you're going after him, I'm coming along," the Altus said. The room was taut as a drum head as they all looked to Yin.

"Are you sure you want to do this, Herald? The plan ultimately puts you in the most danger," Cullen said. Yin was giddy, though he couldn't explain why.

"Send dear Alexius a perfumed letter of acceptance attached to a fruit basket," he said, which Dorian seemed to find amusing. "Also, how long would it take to get to the Storm Coast?"

"A week?" Leliana said, eyeing the map. "Why?"

"Some mercenary stopped me out front earlier. It's another potential recruit for us," he said. "I'm thinking after our business in Redcliffe is concluded, we make a trip out there before circling back. That way by the time we're back most of the mages should arrive, no?"

"That's if everything goes smoothly with the Magister."

"Hey! Enough of that sullen shit, Cullen. Or I'm gonna start calling you Sully Cully." Leliana may have giggled, but when Yin looked she was straight faced. Josephine pursed her lips against a smile. "All right, I think it's all settled. Redcliffe, then Coast. We leave when Leliana's agents are ready." As the war council adjourned, Cassandra stopped him.

"Who will you be taking to Redcliffe? And the Coast after?" she asked. Yin looked at Dorian, who until now had been examining the map quietly. He didn't realise how long he'd been looking until the mage felt his gaze and glanced up. Yin raised an eyebrow unabashed.

"Him, clearly. He's too pretty, I think he needs a fine layer of dirt to cover the sparkle. It hurts my eyes." Dorian snorted.

"And I think you need a bath. You hurt my nose." Yin bit back a smile and looked back at Cassandra when she made a noise.

"Solas, of course. His healing is outstanding lately," he said.

"You know, Lady Vivienne I hear has refined abilities," Cassandra said. Yin grimaced.

"She doesn't like me."

"You outright told her you'd sleep with her, Yin," Cassandra said. Dorian laughed off to the side.

"Bold, I like it," he said.

"It was a complement. I mean, I'll sleep with you, Cassandra. And Dorian."

"Don't threaten me with a good time," Dorian said. Cassandra made a disgusted noise.

"Forget it, I don't want to come anywhere with you," she said, though she was smiling.

"All right, Cassandra is coming. That makes four?" he tapped the map.

"What about Maori?" Dorian asked. "She seems...capable." Yin looked sharply at him.

"Maordrid?" Cassandra said. "Yes, I think that would be good." Yin waved vaguely.

"If you think so. I'm done here, I need a bloody bath," he said. Dorian hummed thoughtfully.

"Would you know if there are lodgings available? I just arrived," he said.

"Yeah, there's a cottage near the apothecary. Knock yourself out," Yin said and, although he had conflicting feelings about trusting the Tevinter mage, he didn't pull his eyes away from the man's backside as he walked out. If he hadn't done that, then he wouldn't have caught Dorian meeting up with Maordrid herself who had been patiently waiting just outside.

"Something wrong, Herald?" Cassandra asked, seeing something on his face.

"I'm not sure yet, but I think those two know each other," Yin said, lowering his voice. Cassandra followed his gaze to the two mages disappearing out the Chantry doors. "Am I being too suspicious?"

"No, but...I do not think you should treat her as such. If you suspect duplicity the last thing you want to do is act suspicious around her, or him," Cassandra said. "We'll be travelling together soon. We will have plenty of time to gauge such things." Yin nodded in agreement and thanked her. She really was a gem of a human.

"What would I do without you, Cassandra?" he said as they left the war room.

"Die, most likely," she said and while she didn't laugh right away, she did after he belted raucously up at the sky. Just then, he realised what the giddy feeling meant when his eyes naturally found the Breach in the sky. He was giddy because his brain wasn't comprehending the amount of danger he was about to walk into.

But that was Yin Lavellan, headfirst into everything.

Chapter Text

The door swung wide open on creaky hinges, and while she half expected a fine misting of dust to fall upon them she was pleasantly surprised to see that the interior of the cabin was tidy. This place hadn't been long vacated. It was likely the prior residents had died in the blast at the Conclave. The thought made her swallow. Hard.

"It's no marble palace, but..."

"It's not freezing wet snow either," Maordrid said, setting her meagre belongings down on a bed and propping up her un-carved staff. Dorian perused the bookshelf as she threw a few logs into the fireplace and lit it with a gesture. "Thanks, by the way."

"For what?" he asked, pulling a tome from the top shelf.

"I wasn't sure where I was going to stay tonight," she admitted.

"Well, I suppose it's the least I could do. You're one of the only people that hasn't treated me like I've grown four heads when I tell them where I'm from. I can only imagine how bad elves must have it." She sighed, turning her palms toward the fire.

"I find it unfair to play the who has it worst game. Telling someone their problems are invalid or they're weak because someone else endured torture and starvation. Where's the compassion?" she said. When he didn't reply right away, she turned to see him staring thoughtfully at her. "What?"

"Nothing. It's...hm, you're interesting," he said, and left it at that when there was a rapping at the door. Dorian opened it. "Ah, I recognise you! But I'm afraid I don't know your name."

"Solas," she heard and her brows furrowed, wondering what he was doing. "I wasn't aware you were here."

"According to Maori, we arrived only minutes apart. May I help you? Kaffas, I think we just ran out of wine or else I'd offer." Dorian stepped to the side and signalled her with his eyes. Warily, she rose and walked to the door.

"Hello, Solas," she said. The elf offered a tentative smile.

"I was wondering if we could speak," he said. Dammit. What is this?

"I—yes, one moment." She hurriedly grabbed her cloak and swung it on. Dorian thrust a few coins into her hand with a wink.

"Grab a bottle on your way back. Maybe two." She laughed under her breath and joined Solas outside. Dorian waved and shut the door.

"Two bottles of wine?" Solas said, sounding surprised. "We can walk there together, if you're agreeable." She took the lead with him keeping up easily on his long legs. "I see you two are getting along...well."

"Happenstance, I think. Yin thought it best that I find my own lodgings. If it weren't for Dorian, I'd likely be sleeping in a tent with handsy soldiers."

"And you didn't think to ask one of us?" he said as they came once more upon the tavern. She didn't know what to think about this line of questioning.

"If I recall correctly, you practically vanished after we got here. And I'm pretty sure Blackwall is sleeping in the ranks. Sera definitely sleeps under a table and Varric's tent is ridiculously small." They walked inside and Maordrid immediately made her way toward Flissa. "Also, aren't you bloody sick of me? Two of whatever wine this can get me." She handed the coins to the proprietress and turned back to Solas.

"No, on the contrary, actually. I find you troublesome. And fascinating," he said. She choked on her own spit. He's flirting. Void swallow me.

"Troublesome—wouldn't spending less time with me, you know, solve that issue?" Flissa returned with two green bottles that Maordrid thanked her for, but she didn't quite want to leave the warmth of the place so fast. The increasingly acrid smell of a populating tavern, however, was enough to push her toward the door after a minute.

"Not like that. You must realise how concerning your dream was. I have a feeling that Dorian isn't a Dreamer...or a healer," he said once they were out in the snow again. He clasped his hands together before his face and blew, the glow of a warming spell lighting his face up.

"You're probably right about him. And yes, the dream was concerning. Your point?" she said.

"I was hoping you'd allow me to help you." He looked at the wine bottles clutched in her arms. "I'm sure Master Pavus would believe it if you told him his coin only afforded him one bottle." Her jaw just about broke again and fell into the snow. He smirked and began walking back toward the snow-covered steps. She followed him, telling herself that what she did was for those she left behind. After all, she was here for one reason—to gather information and put a stop to this.

It turned out, Solas was staying in a cabin right across from the one her and Dorian had commandeered. His was much better settled, with hanging herbs he must have gathered along their journeys, more books than in their cabin, and other miscellaneous things. And there's a lute! She carefully set down the bottles and walked over to the lonely instrument.

"Is this yours?" she asked as he removed his coat and gloves.

"It was here before me," he said. "Do you play?" She held the sad lute in her arms and looked it over for damage. Surprisingly, it appeared to be a well-loved instrument. The wood was polished and the strings weren't terribly worn. It was out of tune though. She brought it over to a chair and sat with it as Solas innocently inspected one of the bottles.

"A long time ago. Long enough that it might not matter now," she said, turning the pegs and plucking accordingly. "So. What's on your mind, Master Solas?" A cork popped and liquid poured.

"Have you speculated on what nature of spirit you encountered last night?" he asked. "It was powerful, that much is clear."

"Rage or fear, maybe," she said. She hadn't yet looked over Varric's transcript for possible hints. She remembered them saying something about having faced a massive demon in the Fade at one point. They'd lost Hawke in that battle. But what had it been? The book was secured to her belt like a spellbook, but looking now would only draw attention.

"We could look for it," he said, handing her a tin cup of wine. "I know how to keep us hidden, if we find it. And it's likely it won't be far from you, as those spirits often stay close to their prey until banished or they succeed in acquiring what they came for."

"You haven't had any wine and that's your grand idea? What is it like when you're actually drunk?" she said.

"You do realise that any solution for your plight isn't going to be pleasant? Or easy?" he said, looking at her over the rim of his cup.

"Point taken, but still. Should we be trying that right before going on a massively important mission?" She decided to try the wine herself and found it much too sweet, but couldn't bear to waste it.

"And what do you propose to do until then? Not sleep?" She looked into the red liquid, one of her more destructive plans, then back at him as she tossed the wine back and held her cup out for more.

"Drink myself into blackness every night until we're clear," she said. His glare should have burnt her to cinders. When he didn't refill, she snatched the bottle and did it herself. "Or ask the potion master to mix me something potent."

"The potion is probably a wiser idea, although Adan may just as likely ruin your liver," he said, nose wrinkling at his drink. "As much as it displeases me, I think it is better suited to our time frame." He watched her with shining eyes as she strummed absently on the lute. "You will tell me if it doesn't work? Or will I have to hunt for your body should you not appear one day?" She snorted.

"Do you want to help me with something?" she said, strumming the first chord to the old song. His ears twitched slightly at the notes.

"Yes."

"I'll be right back then." She set the lute down, grabbed the other bottle, and slipped out the door. Dorian had settled on a bed near the fire, looking up from a book when she burst in. "Probably be back late? Don't wait for me." She tossed him the wine and grabbed the branch she'd been carrying around.

"Oh! Are you elves off to play with the trees? Hang on a moment, that should have bought two bottles. Gasp! You're drinking the other one in secret like naughty children, aren't you?" She was out the door before he could say anything else. When she returned to Solas' cabin, he eyed the wood and leaned against the table with his wine.

"I've never carved my own from scratch," she said. "I'll pay you to help me." His reaction was just to scoff.

"I'm not concerned for gold, lethallin." He set his cup down and moved to his bed, bending to drag a rug in front of the fire. Then he grabbed a roll of hide off a shelf and knelt on the plush surface, gesturing her over. He unrolled the material to reveal a select few tools secured in loops, removing a carving knife from it. Then he hovered a hand over the branch.

"I sense an essence of ice in this. Do you feel it?" She passed a hand along its length, spreading her aura along it. Frost gathered where her aura passed. "It doesn't oppose your natural inclination, does it? That is, when you're not using a spirit weapon."

"Winter and storm," she said. "And you're spirit?"

"Winter and spirit," he smiled. "Now, the best way I have discovered to draw the utmost potential from an object without proper enchanting tools is to ask the aid of a spirit. Oh." He froze, hands planting in the rug.

"What?"

"To do that, we'd have to go into the Fade." She just stared at him. "Or...I may have some spare materials lying about." He rose in a liquid movement and walked over to a chest at the foot of his bed that he dug into. He removed two strips of leather—one red, one brown—a few small stones bound by wire and string, and then two strips of cloth that he held in his hands. "Fade touched lustrious cotton or ring velvet?" She grinned.

"Does the cotton have a walking bomb enchantment woven between its threads?" He looked down at the red cloth.

"Yes?"

"Then that one." He quirked an eyebrow but said no more, gathering the materials and setting them down on the rug.

"Casting won't be as refined without the touch of a spirit, but with two mages working together it should turn out fine," he said, taking up the knife again. He began showing her how to carve away imperfections, how to correct a cut made too deep, and helped her figured out where to place her grip. All while drinking their way through Dorian's complementary bottle.

On a mostly empty stomach, it hit her faster than it did Solas. Her hand slipped a few times, making shallow cuts into her thumbs or palm mostly due to the wine. Solas decided to call it quits after he cut himself trying to show her how not to cut herself.

Unfortunately by then it was too late to go ask the apothecary to prepare a sleeping tonic and she didn't have anything left to barter for more wine. Studying past-Varric's transcript was out of the question since things had begun to blur a bit.

Solas noticed after her stomach growled audibly.

"You drank on an empty stomach?" he said, hastily corking the bottle. There was less than a quarter left in it anyway.

"Why do you act surprised anymore?" she drawled, only a little.

"Yin was right. You are a lightweight," he said, only mildly amused.

"Not a fair judgement. Before all this, I'd drink loads of mead—gin too, ugh, I'd kill for a proper gin. But on the road, I can't—too dangerous," she paused to work some moisture into her mouth, "There was a time when y'didn't have to worry about being robbed blind on the road. Or even in a fucking tavern." She swore in three different languages. "Even slaves could indulge a bit—now most are barely afforded puddle water to drink." Solas set the bottle down slowly, turning his head to look at her over his shoulder.

"I think it has been like that for centuries now," he said.

"It has, I know," she said, wondering why there were bells in her head.

"Then what is this carefree time you speak of?" he said. She rolled her eyes.

"Arlathan, of course. And depending on the noble, slaves could feast and have their own parties," she said. The bells were so loud now that she closed her mouth to rub her head. They dimmed some, but not by much.

"Unless you're a few millennia old and lived there yourself, how can you know that for certain?" he asked. Maordrid pushed herself to her feet and waited until he faced her fully to speak.

"Because if you know where to look in the Fade, you can find some very interesting things," she said. His shoulders did something. Was he tensed up? Oh no. You need to leave, you idiot.

"I forget that you have walked the Fade and gathered many stories," he said. "Although I was not aware you had dreamt of Arlathan. Perhaps some time we may share stories. I've told Yin very few...it'd be nice to speak to someone who has actually seen." She swallowed, but realised how easy it would be to tweak her memories a little to sound like a vision seen in the Fade. But...the thought of recounting memories of the heartland? Of a time before she'd donned armour permanently and friends had become brothers in arms? Remembering a time before any corruption?

Could she even remember? She had locked that away, to avoid grief from clouding her judgment. To avoid becoming what Solas had been twisted into.

Yrja, not Maordrid.

Her sigh bore the weight of a thousand years of wistful thoughts, kept back by discipline and duty. It was naive to think she'd ever be free of that burden.

"Maori?" She looked up at him, not realising how far she'd withdrawn.

"Yes. I'd very much like to," she said. His smile was...soothing. "I know you'd like to rest. I'll leave you be now." She went to gather her staff, but Solas intervened, neatly piling it up with a gesture of his hand.

"We can finish it tomorrow," he said. She nodded and walked to the door, shrugging on her travel-worn cloak. As she stepped outside, Solas held the door. "And...Maori—" she looked at him, "Be wary of Master Pavus."

"Don't worry, I have a knife I'll use on his moustaches," she said. "Fade well, Solas." He smiled and shook his head, shutting the door.

When she returned to the other cabin, she slumped against the door. Dorian was still in the same spot she left him, though his bottle was only half-empty.

"Back so soon?"

"The moon is already hidden by the mountains. It's past midnight," she said.

"Exactly. I expected you in the morning...and your clothes to be more, oh, ravished I suppose. Maybe more rips and tears? Hair pulled from its impeccable braid?" She blanched, but was not about to feed this troll.

"We were too busy dancing naked in the moonlight," she said. "You should have joined us." Dorian didn't bat a lash.

"With him? Sorry, he's not my type," he said. She scooped up his bottle, pointing the mouth at him.

"But Yin is."

"Aiming for the top, I see," he said, not amused.

"Talk to him more. He'll have you know he hates being a religious figurehead. He's Antivan, too," she said. Dorian tapped the spine of his book.

"He is dashing. Built like an ox, but about as suspicious as a cat. You know that look they give you before gouging your hand? He's worn it every time I've seen him." Maori drank from the wine before he noticed. "It probably doesn't help that he has seen one of his inner circle in my company, either." That gave her pause.

"What do you mean?"

"Do I really need to spell it out? You—me. Just speaking together amiably has likely raised suspicions. Maker, I'm suspicious! Have we met before?"

"In another life, likely," she muttered, going for another sip but he snatched it from her grasp. "Stranger things have happened. I can find another place to sleep, if it bothers you."

"No!" he said, swinging his legs off the bed. "I mean, no. It's fine, you're fine. What matters is that they've agreed to go to Redcliffe, so it means they've looked past it for the time being. If it was a concern at all, but that's highly unlikely. Ugh. Listen to me ramble. Cheap wine."

"You have a nice voice," she said, earning a cocky smile from him.

"Like silk spun of gold, I know. Either way, it's been...a bizarre day and I need my beauty sleep." With Dorian turning in, Maori decided to take the opportunity to do some spywork with their short down time. If the other Dorian's spell had worked right, the Yrja in this timeline should have ceased existence as soon as she entered this one. That may have thrown her people into disarray, even though they had backup plans in place should she fall in battle. She'd delayed long enough.

It was time to pay someone a surprise visit.

Once she sensed that Dorian was fully in the Fade, she removed her boots and slipped outside through the window by her cot to avoid letting too much air in. Outside, she carefully doused the area with her aura making sure Solas was asleep as well. Clear.

Wrapping herself in her cloak, Maori set off down the path toward the tavern where a bard's music seeped into the night. Still dousing, she searched for a black spot—an area clean of conscious minds. It was by the merchant's table near the wall that she found it. There were nightwatch out, but they were either on the other side of the wall or walking the other direction.

Careful to keep her casting aura as close to her as possible, she shed the elf in favour of a snowy owl and set off toward the depths of the Frostbacks.

Chapter Text

They had sanctuaries far and wide across Thedas. Many had been constructed hastily and in secret with the expectation that they would inevitably need to be destroyed should their operation be discovered. In fact, several hideouts they had were chock-full of destructive enchantments, lyrium bombs, and whatever else their people could bring to the table. Back when she had been Yrja in the time of the Great Rebellion, it had not been solely her idea to have a back up plan should Fen'harel turn on his own people, but several elves that were sick of corrupt figureheads. They went on to spread across the known and unknown world to build such strongholds with the most fortified, more permanent ones having been built in severely remote places, much like the location of Tarasyl'an Te'las. In many cases, it was impossible to access those places without the ability to shapeshift or a flying mount. They'd a very limited Eluvian network as well, but in her other timeline they had used them sparingly once Fen'harel had retaken nearly the entire network.

That was not to say they were all exclusively accessible by air, underground holds were just as preferred as they were far easier to hide than a surface keep.

There had been times where a branch of their organisation had nearly been uncovered, but they had learned from Fen'harel himself how to cover themselves cleanly. Very few of her people would likely be at any of the holds—most would be re-assuming their roles as double agents, gathering information within Fen'harel's ranks and carefully relaying it back.

And she had the ultimate task of connecting everyone together to tell them what she had seen in the future. No pressure, they had told her.

Hours later, she all but tumbled into the cradle of mountains. She was tired and the nice haze of drink had worn off in the cold. Taking shelter beneath a rocky overhang, she used her sharp vision as an owl to search the area for the entrance to the Frostback safe house. She knew there was an illusion covering it that subtly pushed one's eyes away from its location.

She shed her feathers and straightened to her full height, casting a domed barrier to stave off the winds of the high mountains and a small flame to light her way. She climbed up and down, eyes scanning everything until something caught her eye. A small section in a massive crag wasn't reflecting the light of the flame, which she'd caught in her peripheral view. Excited, she bounded toward it and passed right through what had looked to be just an icy bulge in the mountain. Within the illusion was another obstacle—a roughly hewn stone arch that looked to lead to nothing but rock.

"Manaan ea alastarasyl, emma gara. Emma enasalin'amelan. Ar nisathe ea Elvhenan." The stone hummed beneath her palm and a presence reached out, intermingling with her offered magical aura before withdrawing with a sense of satisfaction. The stone vanished, revealing a lit passageway deep within. A blue spirit in shape of a dwarf stood on the other side. "It is good to see you, Pietas." Duty.

"Ah! You remember my name!"the spirit said.

"How could I not? You've guarded our doors for an aeon," she said. Pietas chuckled.

"Been that long?" Duty shook his head. "You ought to change the passphrase to something more befitting. You've shown that you're as bound to your duty and your cause as much as someone bound to a geas.You aren't dust—you're a paragon to your people. I have been honoured to serve you and yours." She smiled at Pietas and bowed reverently.

"As am I, Pietas." The spirit-dwarf flapped a hand and glanced down the stairs.

"I won't hold you. The path is lit. Farewell, falon." With that, Pietas vanished and Maori headed down the steps and through a few more tunnels with illusions before she finally reached the main chamber.

It was empty.

Except it's not...

She spun, a summoned dagger in her hand. The tip stopped at their jugular, but there had already been a wicked looking crossbow aimed at her stomach.

"By the Stone! So it is the fucking Commander of the Elu'bel!" The dwarf planted the crossbow on its butt wearing a smile that spanned ear to ear. "You're not dead!"

"Good to see you too, Firra," she said. "I'd feared they thought me dead." Firra carelessly tossed the crossbow onto a table and grabbed two tankards that she ran to fill at a massive keg against a wall.

"Aye, most don't believe it, but those that do think you were at that Conclave. Thought the Commander finally got too close. But you didn't!" Firra thrust the tankard into her hands and gestured Maori to follow. They walked down a set of stairs and into another stone room, though this one was more outfitted with furniture and research materials. There was an inactive Eluvian shimmering at the end of a dark tunnel and another that led to a small bathing chamber. The place was outfitted to be a permanent post for those staying there. As far as she knew, Firra's ancestors had all served in these mountains for as long as she could remember.

"Did anyone ever tell you in detail the counter-plans regarding Fen'harel's movements?" Maori asked after taking a long draw from her beer. "Including the most extreme ones, should we fall into dire straits."

"There were a ton of plans. You elves like to complicate things," Firra said. Maori sighed.

"Did they think I died or...just disappeared?" she asked. Firra sighed and played with the end of one her four braids.

"Y'disappeared. The idea that you died at the Conclave only surface when they couldn't find a body. Thing is, I never thought you died 'cause you disappeared before that disastrophe went down. But that fact is known to few an' it's been hard getting that information to the others."

"If I recall correctly, I should have been following Corypheus." Firra nodded.

"You talk as though you weren't there," the dwarf said, one eye narrowing. Maordrid smiled bitterly.

"Because I wasn't. I'm from another timeline." There, she said it. Firra sat back and immediately took a drink from her tankard.

"That's the dire straits thing you were talkin' about. But how?"

"In my timeline, it was our first time enacting any of our plans against Fen'harel. We did our best to point the Inquisition in the right direction, fed them information. But they were too slow to pick up the pieces, so I was forced to step out and contact one of their own. By then, Fen'harel was too far ahead and we were forced to cut corners. We tried to tailor the spell to take me back a year before this all happened—before Fen'harel's awakening...but it seems the Breach's pull was too strong. Now I'm here." Firra whistled loud and long.

"That means things got real bad then, in the future," the dwarf said, eyes distant. "We failed?" Maordrid thought back to the terrible first dream she'd had upon arriving in the current timeline. It wasn't real. Dorian erased that timeline. There is only one now and that's what I have to believe.

"I wouldn't say that we failed, because I'm here and we have time we didn't have before. I know things that I didn't back then that will give us an edge," she said, picking her words carefully. "It will only be a failure if we gave up entirely. When I took up this mantle, I vowed that I would see all of Thedas safe from the Evanuris and the others. Even if it costs me my life." Firra looked her in the eyes, a fire of defiance in her own.

"You know your return will spark a wildfire of hope when we get word out," Firra said. "They'll be eager to get you whatever you need to stay ahead. We'd best get this information to Elgalas and Shiveren." Those named being her brother and sister in arms. There had been another, long ago named Ghimyean but he had gone missing before the Great Slumber. Solas would most definitely recognise them by face. Elgalas was a spy for Solas in Orlais and Shiveren was all over the continent constantly on missions gathering information—and then spreading it to their people. Now that they had a seed in the Inquisition, she knew they had a chance unlike last time.

"I have a few things in mind," she said. Firra nodded enthusiastically and sat on the edge of her seat. "First, I need you to get a message to Elgalas. She needs to set to work finding a way into the Eluvian network before Fen'harel overrides it. Briala would be a good place to start. She's some kind of spy in Empress Celene's court. They were lovers, I think," Maori unclasped the transcript from her belt and displayed it before Firra. "Here's what we learned last time. At some point I will likely see Briala myself, but acquiring the Eluvians will take some time." She allowed Firra to take a few notes on the pages allotted to the Eluvians then moved on to Shiveren's assignment. "I want Shiv to send some of our agents to seed into the Inquisition. The Circle mages will be joining us from Redcliffe soon, so that will be a good time to sneak in any of our mages." Maordrid fell silent as the next page she turned had a drawing of red lyrium. Firra glanced at it and then her.

"What?" the dwarf asked.

"Red lyrium. I...I think you should write your contacts in Orzammar to send someone down to Keeper Miradal. I want a full report from her." The dwarf paused in her notes.

"You think they're at risk?" she asked. Maordrid tapped her fingernails on the table.

"I don't know. But I think something is going to happen...or is in the process of doing so. It didn't happen in my timeline but I saw something that indicated that it might," Maori sighed, "There was a reason why we sealed the tunnels all those years ago. I wasn't there...but I heard enough. It's not just the ones you call the Old Gods we have to worry about." Firra stared into space turning her words over but eventually wrote it down.

"Anything else?" the dwarf asked.

"No, I think that will keep you busy for a time. When I travel closer to the other bases I will get in touch with them myself. Just...get those messages out and tell everyone I'm still alive," she said. The two of them finished their beer in silence. As the dwarf refilled their tankards, Firra perked up.

"Hey, I remembered something Inaean was talking about a long while ago. She said you and a few others have been trying to shapeshift into dragons for millennia?" Maordrid laughed.

"Yes, it started as a petty competition...but during the Rebellion we realised how beneficial it could be for us in the long run," she said.

"Why didn't every ancient elf learn how to turn into a dragon? If I could do it, you could bet your sweet arse I'd do it in a heartbeat!" Firra chortled and swallowed some beer, still laughing.

"It's because that form was reserved for only the highest ranking of my kind. The Evanuris, the Forgotten Ones, and anyone else that gained favour with them. It became forbidden once the Evanuris took to calling themselves gods...and anyone that tried to learn the form was perceived as a threat," Maordrid smiled, tilting her head back as she remembered those days. "It didn't stop us. It became a childish thrill to engage in something that could get us utterly destroyed."

"But did you? Turn into a dragon? What about the others? Did they?" Firra asked, sitting on the edge of her seat. Maordrid sighed.

"Two of us, myself and Inaean's older brother Ghimyean made it further than the others. I can shift into one without wings and I can't breathe magic. Ghimyean could shift perfectly into a Sandy Howler and was figuring out how to breathe fire and storm. Leave it to him to go beyond. He was the leader we needed." Firra cast her a concerned look.

"And what? Why did you stop? What happened?" Maordrid bit her lip. Oh, Ghimyean.

"We don't know. Ghimyean was going to teach me how to finish the form...but he disappeared before he could. This was during Fen'harel's rebellion. Some think he was captured and killed, others believe Fen'harel killed him for other reasons," she said.

"What do you think?" Firra asked, her voice soft. Maordrid couldn't hold back the watery smile.

"That wherever he is, he is laughing that I still can't fly or breathe ice." Firra snorted but then covered her mouth, embarrassed.

"Well, I didn't mean to dredge up those feelings, but Inaean told me before Ghimyean disappeared that he told her about some old statue in the Frostback Basin that taught him how to shift," Firra leaned closer, dropping her voice to an excited whisper, "Inaean's been searchin' for years, she said. Finally found it but the statue won't teach her. Said it knew she was the sister of Ghimyean but it asked for you in perfect description." Maordrid sat back in her chair, bewildered. Ghimyean had never mentioned a statue. But then again, he had never told her how he had learned. Had he known something was going to happen to him? "She thinks it'll teach you! And I'll bet once she finds out you're alive, she'll take you right to it." Maordrid nodded, deep in thought. She couldn't shake the suspicion that Ghimyean was possibly alive and had been all these years. Or perhaps he really was dead and only the statue knew what had happened to him. Or maybe it didn't. Her mind was racing.

"Yes. I—get word to Inaean. We need dragons," she said. Firra nodded, scratching in another note. "Anything else to report? Do you need me to do anything?" Firra tapped her lower lip, thinking.

"Nope! Just eager to get on some of this stuff. It'll be tough, but I've been bored in these mountains. I imagine with the Commander back, some will flock back here though," the dwarf said. Maordrid only half-finished her mug. It would only make it more difficult to return to Haven. Firra had some fresh bread and soup she'd been making before Maori had arrived that she offered to the elf. While she gratefully spooned hot soup into her gullet, Firra disappeared for a bit only to return with a bulging satchel that she threw onto the table. She proceeded to point out a few small pouches of currencies for Orlais and Ferelden and then pulled out a set of light armour that had likely belonged to another elf. Chest leathers set with mail, silverite-backed gauntlets, ancient style greaves, and a leather gorget with a barrier enchantment. It wasn't ideal, but it would tide her over until she could find a good blacksmith in these lands. Maori thanked the dwarf profusely after she'd outfitted herself and then her host walked her back to the hidden entrance to see her off. Light was already returning to the skies when they surfaced so Maori shifted into a large raven and flew off back toward Haven.

And the raven dreamed of being a dragon.

Chapter Text

When Haven came into sight over the ridge of the mountains, Maori kited all the way down, flapping her wings only when she passed over Haven itself. She alighted upon a tree just outside of Haven's gates, to the right of the training yard and just before what appeared to be an abandoned cabin. Seeing the area clear of mages or people in general, except for the stray nug, she landed in the snow and shifted, unfolding with a groan as she stretched toward the sky.

Then she trudged across the frozen ground toward the training dummies. The village was just beginning to stir from its rest, but several soldiers were already out and about performing exercises. Maori weaved her way through silently, snatching a stray practice sword propped against a barrel before approaching a lonely dummy.

It had been far too long since she'd held a material sword and even longer since she actually fought with one. Her old mentors would be appalled. Back in Elvhenan, most people had fought entirely with magic while very few used weapons, but even those had never been without enchantments. Some forged ridiculous ornamental weapons meant to be shown off at balls and soirees—forgotten the moment it was over—and others were so unwieldy the only sense was to put them on display. Those that didn't serve as guards or temple sentinels but carried weapons had often been made fun of. Because why would a powerful elf use a sharp piece of metal unless he was utterly abysmal with magic?

Such had been her mindset in the early days, until she'd been set right by a proper mentor. One day, you may find yourself without your magic and then where will you be? They mock because they are afraid. Whether that is because they fear their beloved magic might not be enough or because they are paranoid that someone carrying a sword at their waist does not need magic to succeed. The only other reason available is that they're idiots. It hadn't convinced her outright, but the idea of adding another skillset to her arsenal had appealed to her frightfully delicate ego back then. But even to this day, she found swords to be untrustworthy if they were not weighted and balanced precisely. Her spirit weapons were always perfectly balanced and if she was careful, they wouldn’t shatter during battle. It was likely she would never grow out of her discomfort for plain steel, but she had promised her deceased mentor she would never stop.

As soon as she swung the sword, it flew from her grip and bounced off of the dummy. Flushing red, she hoped no one had seen and stooped to recover it quickly. She readjusted into a hammer-grip with her thumb just over the crossguard. Then, she began practising her point control as well as flourishes, spins, and thrusts. The blunt steel went flying yet again, this time over the dummy's shoulder when a voice from behind startled her from her concentration.

"Sorry!" A man with a black and red fur mantle hurried past her and hastily scooped up the sword to hand back to her.

"Ah, Commander Cullen, I didn't realise you were watching me," she said in a bleak tone. The man's already cold-flushed cheeks turned redder.

"Not like that, I just noticed an unfamiliar figure in the yard," he said, then rubbed his wrist in a manner entirely too meekly for a man of his rank. She almost laughed, but then that would make her a hypocrite. Well, more than she was already. Too much inner dialogue. You're starting to tire!

"Well then, is there something you need?" she said. He stared at her blankly for a moment but then sighed.

"I know we got off on the wrong foot, but I wanted to set things right." She looked at him without tilting her head, mouth a thin line. Her and Templars did not get along. She distinctly remembered Past-Cullen at the gathering at Dorian's estate doubting her and her plan. He hadn't trusted her at all. That wasn't even touching on the reasons why she didn't like Chantry Templars.

"You were content to ignore me until now," she said, the fog that appeared before her face clipped with her words.

"Ignore? That's not the truth at all! You're actually quite difficult to track down," he said. "I heard you'd gone on a mission with the Herald and Cassandra and when you all returned you were nowhere to be seen." She nodded, turning the sword in her hand idly.

"And if I was but another body in the ranks you wouldn't have bothered. But because I have accompanied them, I am suddenly worth talking to." It was petulant to act this way. So childish. But she despised his kind.

"I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you. I take the time to learn the names of every soldier serving beneath the Inquisition. I would have come to you at some point," he said. "Please, we can't have this...whatever this is. The world needs us and to be there for it we need to get along. Don't you agree?" She nodded begrudgingly, but some of the anger bled from her. She was judging him based on a different life and a few words that had been said. Then again, she had never claimed to be beyond petty emotions.

"What would you have of me?" she finally said. He visibly relaxed, then half bowed.

"I have heard your name from others, but a formal introduction would be nice," he said.

"Maordrid," she said, returning an even slighter bow. "And you are Cullen." He laughed.

"Indeed, I am," he said. "And...I've heard a lot about your skill, much of it seems to have gotten muddled. The rumour, that is, not your skill." He blushed again and averted his eyes to the sword. "You're a mage...but I've heard you fight with a sword and seeing you here now, I don't think I've ever seen a battle-mage."

"Have you ever heard of an Arcane Warrior?" she said, wondering if the Commander was always this dizzying with his words.

"Ah—yes, I think the Hero of Ferelden may have been one. But that's the only time I've ever heard that title," he said. "So...do they fight with enchanted swords?" She laughed, digging the blunt weapon into the dirt.

"No. But I have heard of some doing just that." She summoned her favourite spear in her other hand, watching with pride as it shimmered into existence. "This is my weapon of choice." Amazed, Cullen reached out, but then stopped until she nodded. He touched the spear as though his hand would pass right through, so his fingers jammed into the shaft. She chuckled, he laughed in embarrassment.

"I don't understand, doesn't this take willpower to maintain? Do you tire faster than say a normal soldier during a fight?" he said.

"With the wrong technique, yes, it could weigh on you. But there are ways of tying off a conjuration or severing it from the caster so that it doesn't. That allows me to cast while I fight," she said, "Although doing that makes it vulnerable to shattering like a normal weapon."

"Maker's Breath, that's...a lot of power for a single mage," he said, and she sensed his fear. That same old Templar fear that got so many killed.

"Don't misconstrue what I am saying. This takes decades of practice and severe discipline. I've spent my life mastering my skill," she said. Cullen seemed to accept the answer with grace, much to her surprise.

"Besides the time it takes, why aren't there more...Arcane Warriors?" he asked. She gave him a bitter smile.

"Because the way is largely extinct. What little knowledge of it remains has been bastardised by those calling themselves Knight Enchanters," she said.

"Lady Vivienne is a Knight Enchanter."

"So I've heard." Cullen reached out and touched the spear again. She huffed and pushed it into his hands. It was funny, as he seemed to think it would simply dissipate despite what she said earlier. After a moment of him looking it over in awe, she untied the enchantment slyly and changed it into a straightsword. He yelped at the sudden change and nearly dropped it.

"It's very well balanced for something that isn't real," he said, lifting it so that it was level with his eyes.

"Why don't you swing it at the dummy and see how real it is," she said flatly. And he did. The very fake blade left a very fake deep cut in the side of the burlap.

"Sometimes I say stupid things and regret them immediately after," he said, running a hand through his hair. "I am suddenly very glad we are on the same side. I imagine your enemies would rather face darkspawn." She waved her hand and let the sword vanish. "I would like to see what you're fully capable of, sometime. Perhaps not in a life threatening situation, but...I think you could teach me—and the soldiers—some techniques." She hesitated.

"I've already agreed to teach Yin," she said. Cullen grinned.

"Good," he said, then cast a glance behind him, "Well, I've taken up enough of your time. I'll see you around, Maordrid." She bowed and he inclined his head, hurrying off to meet a runner with a stack of papers.

For only an hour more did she practice before exhaustion crept up through her limbs. She eventually conceded to it and dragged herself up the steps and toward her and Dorian's shared cabin. As she opened the door of the cabin, she heard a door behind closing and glanced to see Solas leaving his. Their eyes locked. He must have seen the exhaustion on her face because his lips parted as if to say something, but he decided against it and merely nodded at her. She returned it and slipped inside, removing armour and letting it drop to the ground before crawling into bed and welcoming the blanket of encroaching darkness.


-------------------------


A soft rapping drew her consciousness just beneath her eyelids, but she didn’t stir. It had taken too long to get to this level of warmth. Her feet were still cold but she was too far gone to draw a warmth glyph.

TK-TK-TK. She groaned, settling farther into the itchy blankets. A sudden blast of evil cold air raced through the cabin, chilling her nose.

“Do you determine to sleep until we return from Redcliffe?” a velvet voice asked from nearby. Maori shot up, clutching her blankets and squinting.

“What time is it? What is today?” she mumbled, throwing the blanket off and sliding from bed.

“It is before dawn of the next day and your cabin mate is currently getting his breakfast and couldn’t be bothered to walk back in the cold to rouse you,” Solas said. Maori blearily eyed the armour she had shucked off, trying to form a plan of action. It had sat on the ground all night, which meant it would be freezing against her body.

“They’re leaving today?” she said, clenching her jaw as she slid into the cool armour.

“Leliana’s people have proved resourceful and quick, so yes,” he said, watching her with mild amusement as she struggled. He cleared his throat, watching her trying to grab a strap to buckle. She rolled her eyes and he stepped up, grabbing the leather and feeding it through its buckle at her shoulder. “How was your sleep?

“Black, as I meant for it to be,” she said with relief.

“You didn’t resort to drinking yourself into unconsciousness?” he mused, stepping away as she handled the rest.

“No, I exercised my way into it,” she said, swinging on her cloak and her pack. They left the cabin, walking together toward the tavern. Inside, Maori settled with snatching herself a half loaf of warm bread and honey, noting that Dorian was already gone. Solas rejoined her outside as she was biting into her bread. They approached the gates in silence to see the group of spies that would be accompanying them to Redcliffe and the rest of the party already standing outside with their mounts.

They left Haven with the core group riding together while Leliana’s spies went on ahead to avoid being seen in company of the Herald.

Maordrid assumed her usual position at the back and was surprised when Dorian joined her, looking rather uncomfortable on his horse.

“Thanks for waking me up,” she said after a moment.

“Ah yes, I thought you owed me a thank you for sending your elf to rouse you,” he said, a smug grin on his face.

My elf? I’m sorry, last I checked we weren’t in Tevinter.” With a thread of magic, she pulled a small handful of snow from an embankment, hiding it in her palm out of sight. “But speaking of elves, why aren’t you up there getting to know Yin? Does he not wish to discuss sneaking tactics with you?”

“We did all of that this morning before you were awake, darling. Do catch up,” he said, shifting in his saddle. “And don’t you think about tossing that snow at me, I felt you casting.” She threw it at his shoulder anyway, but it hit a small shield. “I told you.”

“I’ll have other opportunities.” He hummed, but said nothing more.

“Where did you go last night?” The question took her off guard. How?

“Out?” she said. “I’m having trouble sleeping.” Dorian looked at her and frowned.

“Should drink more wine,” he said. She nodded.

“I likely will now that we’re out here.”

“Don’t encourage her,” Solas said from ahead.

“We already discussed this. We secure our safety and then worry about what’s going on in the Fade,” Maori said, glaring at the back of his head

“That does not mean I have to like it,” Solas shot back.

“What in the name of Andraste’s flaming knickers are you two on about?” Dorian said.

“It seems a spirit of some kind has taken to trying to kill me every time I sleep,” she finally said.

“So…a demon? Are you possessed?” he asked. Maori sighed. She’d forgotten about the prejudices and misconceptions so many people had.

“Do I seem possessed?’ she deadpanned. Dorian eyed her critically.

“A bit, yes,” he said. She snorted.

“Spirits have been thrown into chaos with the Breach. It is no surprise that one has become confused and attached itself to you,” Solas interjected.

“Sounds like a demon to me,” Dorian said, hugging his cloak closer to his body.

“It’s too early to argue about the nature of spirits,” Maori said before Solas could explode. She saw his jaw move as he shut his mouth. “But I can assure you, Master Pavus, demons are just another misunderstanding of the Chantry.”

“And I can assure you that I know exactly what I’m talking about and know what demons are. I’ve firsthand experience too, you know,” Dorian said. “Tell me, have you trained anywhere? A Circle?”

“Going to pull the I’m the privileged, educated Tevinter card on me?” she said. She really didn’t want to get on Dorian’s bad side, but she also didn’t want him to be misinformed when she had seen how far he had come in the alternate timeline. Maybe it would take Yin’s open mind to convince Dorian of certain things.

“I’m just saying that I have quite a bit of experience and knowledge under my belt. I’m a very good mage,” he said.

“And I am saying that Tevinter does not know the absolute truths of the world. No one does,” she said. “But there are other ideas and we should all take them into account, adding onto our own arsenals of knowledge and wisdom.”

“Well said,” Solas said.

“So you’ll listen, even though I’m the privileged Tevinter?” Dorian said, obviously still wounded. She rubbed her eyelids, exasperated.

“I already know what Tevinter and the rest of the world thinks about magic and spirits. But yes, I will listen to you,” she said. “I am not here to wound your ego or tell you everything you know is false. Please, hear me.” Although most of what you know of the past really is wrong. I’m sorry.

“I do, Maori,” he said, and then was silent.

“Thank you,” she said. The quiet after was more thoughtful than awkward, surprisingly. She noticed Dorian had been staring at Yin’s profile for a long time and was relieved when he finally heeled his horse to join the Antivan-Dalish. Yin was rigid when Dorian initiated conversation, but eventually his posture relaxed some and a smile fixed itself to his mouth.

The group made good time getting down from the Frostbacks and into the Hinterlands before sundown, but unfortunately, it was black out before Cassandra finally called a stop for the night. They couldn’t be more than three hours from Redcliffe, but she supposed the next day they would be going straight to the Keep.

Under light of torches and magelights, they set up camp and the first watch, as usual, was Maori and Yin.

Yin sat before the fire practising glyphs in the dirt when she approached, crossing her arms and gazing into the fire. Something had been gnawing at her for the past few days, but she wasn’t sure how to go about confronting him with it.

“You look like you have something in your mouth. Spit it out,” Yin said without looking up.

“Is something bothering you?” she decided on.

“There’s always something bothering me. I think that’s the general theme these days,” he said.

“You know what I mean.” He kicked dirt over his latest glyph, still avoiding her gaze.

“I’m afraid I don’t,” he said.

“Yin, please. You’ve been avoiding me.” He finally looked up, eyes unreadable. He gestured over to the tent that Dorian had disappeared into and her heart sank.

“You can’t blame me for that,” he whispered. “After Redcliffe, I just couldn’t shake that feeling you were—are up to something. Do you know each other?” Maori slowly lowered herself onto a log across from him, considering her words carefully.

“No, we don’t. I know how it looks—”

“You talk to each other like friends. And now you’re staying in the same cabin!” Her temper flared.

“And whose fault is that? He’s from Tevinter and no one wants anything to do with him. You told me to find somewhere else and Dorian asked me,” she said, leaning forward. “Something in you believes that he’s genuine, otherwise you wouldn’t have decided to listen to him.” The shadow of a sneer sat on the Herald’s face as he stared at the dirt. She tossed a log into the fire angrily. How was I so blind to this before? I should have seen this coming.

“Why didn’t you go to Solas? Cassandra? Literally anyone else?” he asked. “Now that you’re buddied with him—”

“I did. I asked around and people were less than helpful. It’s easy for you because you’ve a nice green light in your hand to help you along. Everyone else sees the ears and looks elsewhere,” she snapped. “Dorian found me first. By the time Solas came around it was too late. Yin, please, you can’t believe me to have ill intentions?” His glance only lasted a heartbeat.

“At heart, I don’t,” he finally said, “but my interest lies in protecting innocent people…and I can’t just not suspect you because…”

“Then why did you bring me along?” she asked.

“To keep an eye on you,” he said. She noticed now he was sitting up straight. He was treating her like a threat.

“So you tell me you think I’m a spy and now that I know, don’t you think I could tailor my behaviour to disprove that?” she said with half a laugh.

“I don’t want to believe it,” he snapped, though his voice was little more than a whisper. “That is why I am telling you. I trust you. It’s good faith.” She sat back, the shadows obscuring her face.

“I am not working with Tevinter. I am not anyone’s agent. Like everyone else, I am here to help,” she said, “You may lock me up until the Breach is closed and the perpetrator is found, if you so wish.” The Herald laughed bitterly.

“What good would that do? Spies have ways of getting information to their people even when behind bars.”

“Then turn me over to the Templars and be done with it,” she said. “They’ll pull the truth from me, the same truth I am telling you now.” Yin looked like he had been slapped.

“I would not do that to you,” he said, sounding stricken. The lie burned on her own tongue, but she held strong. “I’m sorry, Maori. You’re right.”

“Don’t be sorry. You have every right to feel as you do—it was me. I could not bear to have this…thing looming above us,” she said. Yin looked at her and smiled genuinely for the first time in days.

“Me neither, lethallin. I am glad you spoke up. I likely would have let it fester,” he said with shame in his voice. She said nothing, chewing her lip and staring into the forest in thought. There was a perfectly flat spot not far from the camp and a plan formed in her mind.

“Since we are sleepless, would you like to learn some basics of…what are you calling it? Rift Warrior?” Yin’s entire face lit up, moving from the log to follow her into the darkness. She let fly a dozen magelights to float above her chosen area and cleared the ground of stones before facing him.

“Where do we start?” he asked, as she paced the ground.

“It will be difficult, in the beginning. The Arcane Warrior is different than the Knight-Enchanters of this age,” she said. “You will exhaust easily until you figure out how to manage your mana properly. And there is no one way to do it.” She slowly summoned what was called the Aegis and a shimmering purple dome swirled into existence around her. “I want you to start with this. It will be exhausting to maintain, like trying to hold a door shut against a flood. But once it comes time to learn the Spirit Blade, it will be as easy as opening that same door and letting it flood in. Think of it as conditioning muscles.” Yin nodded, eyes flicking this way and that across the shield. Suddenly, a brilliant burst of sunset colours erupted from Yin in half a dome. She stopped casting and gawked at him.

“Well, I think that’s part of one,” he said, stepping back to look at his. He clenched his hands and brought them together, closing his eyes. “I think…it’s almost like blowing bubbles. You’ve gotta get the right viscosity for a good, complete one. Mine feels…brittle, too watery.” She smiled. Perhaps there was a prodigy in him. She’d heard in the other timeline of his magical prowess, but had never seen it for herself. It had taken her years to maintain an Aegis that kept out simple magical attacks, or even just a tossed spoon. Maori knelt down, snatching a rock up off the ground and tossing it at his shield. It hit the barrier and slowed as if passing through jelly before dropping through to the other side.

“At least it is thick, like a good gambeson,” she said, “But you will make it stronger than steel in time and perhaps even modify it to deflect attacks back at them.” Yin gritted his teeth, still holding on. The Aegis curved just over his head and widened some, but faltered and then burst, vanishing in a flash of sunset. “Good.”

“Really?” His excitement was almost palpable.

“For a child, perhaps,” she said with a snort. He immediately began casting it again, taking the challenge. “You will exhaust yourself like that and managing even a flame will be difficult tomorrow.” He sighed and let it dissipate again. “I want you to feel the Veil. There are many textures, even sounds it makes and you must learn how to find individual threads through the thick and blurry ones to pull magic from the other side. In places it is thin, we are at our best. We fold the silk to travel across the battlefield, taking down targets without expending energy. We expand an Aegis to protect riders against volleys of arrows, never sacrificing a life, fighting beside warriors while hardly breaking a sweat.” Here, the Veil was like fine linen—not thick and threads were easily found—and with well-practised invisible hands, she parted the weave and pulled the Fade around her, cloaking her body from view. Yin gasped. “And if we make ourselves indispensable to our allies, we can do wonders.” When she reappeared, she put herself almost toe to toe with him.

“You have to teach me to do that. Is that like…Fade stepping…except it’s like the step never ends?” Maordrid tried to hold in her laughter, but it crept up until it burst out in a few quick puffs.

“Yes, it is a bit. Except stepping is with less finesse than the cloak. But let’s focus on the Aegis?” Yin nodded and she resumed talking him through trying to perform a proper shield, and then added in teaching him the clarity of combat to try and lessen the wear of maintaining the Aegis. Doing both at the same time required learning how to split one’s mind into sections. A good warrior could fight, cast, shield, and cloak, but only all of that in bursts. A master could prove a challenge to an Evanuris, face to face…and then there were the Evanuris themselves.

Yin lasted longer than she’d expected and even formed a full dome. The man was formidable, she thought, and determined. She wondered what he would have been like in Arlathan with an unlimited lifespan.

When she concluded the lesson it was when the Herald was swaying on his feet and unable to keep his eyes open like a child. She ushered him to a tent and resumed her watch, content with remaining awake until it was time to march on, but that was short-lived when Solas emerged from his tent with a stern expression. She was seeing a lot of him lately, and the nervousness that settled in her stomach each time was like a ball of startled moths. He rushed into the shadows looking frantic, and at first she was suspicious until she realised he was likely relieving himself. He came back moments later adjusting his vest with a frown.

“How long have you been on watch?” he asked, voice still husky with sleep. “Yin was asleep before his head hit the pillow.” She tried gauging the time by sky, but the night was overcast with thick clouds.

“Not long, I don’t think,” she said.

“I’ve been feeling surges of magic for at least three hours. What were you two doing?” he asked, throwing a log onto the dying fire. With an undulating motion of his hand, it caught flame.

“Lessons.” Solas looked toward his and Yin’s shared tent, blinking.

“I gather they went well?”

“Yes. He’s quite skilled. He surprised me,” she said, splaying her fingers at the fire.

“He is full of many surprises. A rare spirit, I think,” he said with fondness. He was silent for a moment as he took a seat on Yin’s vacated log. “You, on the other hand, are a stubborn one. I’m relieving you of your watch.” She scoffed.

“I can’t do that,” she said, “And you know why.”

“I’ll guard your dreams.” She shook her head. It’s an impending disaster, trusting him with anything.

“No.” He gave a heavy sigh, rubbing an eye with the heel of his hand.

“Can you at least meditate? Draw strength from the Fade?” he asked. She pondered the idea, then shrugged. Her mind was weary but after the lesson, she’d found herself stirred up and wanting to practice more. Maori settled flat on the ground, crossing her legs and twisting her fingers into a meditational position in her lap. “You’re going to do it out here?” She cracked an eye open at him.

“Problem?” He pursed his lips then shook his head.

“Carry on. Who am I to stop you?” She smiled and then settled into Fade Stillness which was akin to Winter Stillness, but for her mind and body. The world and its complications fell away, leaving her within a void of simplicity.

By the time her heart slowed and her breathing rate had lessened to that of a turtle’s, she was tapped on the shoulder. Slowly, she emerged from the depths, opening her eyes to a greying world. Dorian crouched before her holding two bowls of porridge.

“You elves and your mysteries,” he said, shoving one in her hand. “But you’re a strange one.” She took a bite and swallowed. Dorian shifted to sit beside her and the two of them watched as camp was struck. “Were you up all night again?” She nodded once, shovelling food into her mouth. “How does your performance not suffer from lack of sleep? If I go two nights, I start to worry about misfired spells.”

“In my past experiences, I’ve had no choice. Life or death. If I go to sleep, there’s no telling if I’ll wake up, especially with what happened last time,” she said. Dorian chewed in thought, staring at the others packing up.

“And what exactly happened?” She stared at him until he met her gaze. “You haven’t told anyone?” She shook her head.

“It doesn’t matter right now anyway. We’re on a far more important mission. Let’s help the others so we can get going.” Dorian looked like he wanted to press for more details but fortunately, the mage seemed concerned enough with their impending situation to let it go.

The group mounted up and set on the road by the time the sun was rising, making excellent time to Redcliffe.

All that while, Maordrid, in terms she’d heard used by various foul-mouthed dwarves, was shitting herself. Varric’s transcript lay open propped between the horn of her saddle and her legs. The events surrounding Redcliffe were murky. Dorian and the Herald were thrust into the future because Dorian countered Alexius’s spell and had barely managed to return with their lives. Inquisitor Yin had spoken in detail of what he had seen and how his friends had acted in the future. Addled and weakened by red lyrium. If present-Yin met alternate-future-her, there was no telling what she would say under the influence of its corruption. She would have to risk going with Yin to the future and hope Dorian could get them all back safely.

Fenedhis, what am I doing?

Her brain was numb when they met up with Leliana’s spies. It was all happening too quickly. Maybe she could make an excuse to leave—no, too late, they were already riding toward the Keep and leaving Dorian behind with the agents. Too many had already seen her face. No matter if she ran now, she might be captured in the dark future and her secrets spilt anyway.

The portcullis opened before them and their mounts were escorted away. Maordrid stared up at the Keep—not with fear or determination, but with duty.

And so it begins.


Chapter Text

Redcliffe castle was too quiet for a place of its size. None of the arl’s servants were present, but all of Alexius’s were. Each man wore the draconian-like garb of the Venatori and everyone that they passed stared them down. The mages of their group gripped their staves and Cassandra was practically part of Yin for how close she stuck to him. Maordrid kept her magic in a charged ball within her core, ready to strike even though she knew they would face no fight. Solas dropped back to walk nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with her, his sharp eyes taking in every detail.

“I do not like this,” he whispered to her. She didn’t say anything, listening instead as a crier approached Yin and Cassandra before the throne room.

“The magister’s invitation was for Master Lavellan alone. The rest will wait here,” the pompous lout sneered. Yin leaned against his staff, but somehow managed to make it project an air of intimidation. He was a tall, muscular elf that towered over the human. She saw the man swallow at Yin’s roguish smile.

“You’d deny the council of the Inquisition? We came to negotiate and I’m not authorised to make decisions by myself,” he said. “So, would you kindly, my friend—announce us?” The man raised his chin, glaring at Yin before turning on his heel and leading the way. Two horn-masked guards flanked their group as they passed into the throne room and up the stairs.

“My lord magister, the agents of the Inquisition have arrived,” the man said, stepping to the side of the dais. Alexius rose from the throne with a smile fixed to his face, eyes surveying Yin’s company before settling on the Herald himself. Maordrid caught sight of Felix standing off to the side behind his father. The young man felt her gaze and looked at her, eyebrows drawing down in thought. She quickly looked away.

“My friend! It’s so good to see you again,” he said, “And your associates, of course. I”m sure we can work out some arrangement that is equitable to all parties.”

“Are we mages to have no voice in deciding our fate?” The Grand Enchanter seemed to materialise out of nowhere, approaching the gathering with a fire in her eyes. Alexius turned his greasy smile to her, radiating condescension.

“Fiona, you would not have turned your followers over to my care if you did not trust me with their lives.” The slight elf did not back down, nor did she show any signs of doing so. Alexius’s face grew darker until Yin cleared his throat.

“If the Grand Enchanter wants to be part of these talks, then I welcome her as a guest of the Inquisition,” Yin said, his voice brooking no room for argument. Again, he seemed to loom over everyone in the room. She wondered if he was casting some kind of charm or illusion over the room. Alexius disguised his displeasure by turning around and slithering back over to his stolen throne.

“So, you came to me because the Inquisition needs mages to close the Breach. What shall you offer in exchange?” Yin and Varric of the past had done a phenomenal job of recounting almost everything that had been said in their meeting with Alexius. She could only hope that everything was this detailed for all of the major events.

“My powerful friend, you are so quick to get down to business. Can we not open with something else? Get to know each other first? I’d love to know more about your time magic. That is fascinating to me, as a mage,” Yin said. Alexius smiled, eyes glinting in the light.

“I’m afraid I have no idea what you mean,” the magister said and Maori almost scoffed.

“He knows everything, father,” Felix said, stepping around the throne to face his father. Alexius’s face crumpled.

“Felix, what have you done?”

“What any concerned son would do. He has reason to believe you’ve become entangled in something terrible,” Yin continued, again leaning on his staff and crossing one leg over the other.

“So speaks the thief. Do you think you can turn my son against me?” Alexius said, and Maori could almost see the snake’s tongue flicking between his teeth. He began to rise from his seat again and the flames of the hearth behind him seemed to brighten. “You walk into my stronghold with your stolen mark—a gift you don’t even understand—and you think you’re in control? You’re nothing but a mistake.” He spat the last line, but Yin didn’t flinch.

“Oh? You know what the Mark is? What do you know about it?”

“It belongs to your betters! You wouldn’t even begin to understand its purpose!” Felix stared at his father aghast.

“Father, listen to yourself! Do you know what you sound like?” Maordrid had to refrain from turning to look at Dorian, who she knew to be entering next.

“He sounds exactly like the sort of villainous cliche everyone expects us to be.”

“Dorian,” Alexius said, eyes narrowing. “I gave you a chance to be part of this and you turned me down. The Elder One has power you would not believe. He will raise the Imperium from its own ashes.”

“What could be better than turning back time? And who is this Elder One?” Yin asked, slowly standing on both feet again. Maori knew the time was coming and her hands sweat, despite the calm void she had forced herself into.

“—You can’t involve my people in this!” Fiona said after Alexius’s praise of Corypheus. Dorian smoothly put himself between their group and Alexius.

“This is exactly what you and I talked about never wanting to happen! Why would you support this?” he asked, sounding truly anguished.

“Stop it, Father. Give up the Venatori and let the southern mages fight the Breach. Let’s go home.” A feverish look came across the older man’s face as he turned to his son.

“No, Felix—he can save you! It’s the only way!”

“Save me?” Felix’s shoulders dropped.

“There is a way. The Elder One promised. If I undo the mistake at the Temple…” Felix shook his head.

“I’m going to die. You need to accept that,” he said, but Alexius was too far gone. He ordered the Venatori to apprehend Yin, but the sound of dying men answered instead. Maordrid looked for sign of Alexius preparing his time spell, but too many people were blocking her view. Yin spread his hands.

“Your men are dead, Alexius!”

“You…are a mistake! You never should have existed!” the magister roared. Maordrid felt the crackling of the spell and shoved forward just as Dorian shouted, “No!” She reached the green portal just in time to see Yin and Dorian disappearing. His wide eyes found hers—her fingers nearly brushed his—

—and the rift slammed shut.

She stared at the empty air—the carpet where they had just been. The world shrank to a pinprick in her eyes. She was distantly aware of Solas appearing beside her and Cassandra bellowing a threat to Alexius. No. No. No. It’s all over. You have to flee.

The end began as the air just paces away from where they stood hummed and exploded with the return-rift. Only moments passed before they returned, Varric’s book had said. She was not prepared.

Dorian and Yin stumbled from the alternate timeline, bloodied and battered with harrowed looks on their faces. Yin’s eyes glazed over them all, but paused on Solas and her before he turned his attention to Alexius.

“You’ll have to do better than that,” Dorian said. Alexius went to his knees, defeated.

“I’ll say. Any other tricks up your sleeve?” Yin asked. His knuckles were white around his staff, unlike the Altus who was maintaining perfect composure. Maori felt sweat trickling down her back, desperate to know what they had seen…and was terrified, void of calm utterly forgotten.

“You won. There is no point extending this charade,” Alexius said. “Felix…” He crouched before his father, his face softening.

“It’s going to be all right, Father,” he said.

“You’ll die…” For a moment, she almost pitied the man. He sounded so broken.

“Everyone dies,” Felix said, and then the guards approached, shackling the magister. Maori remained where she was as Queen Anora’s troops marched in loudly. She caught Yin’s haunted stare burning into her that he immediately turned away as Anora addressed Fiona. The woman was quick to rescind her invitation to the mages, leaving them alone and defenseless until Yin swooped in to save them, with Solas supporting his decision to have them as allies to the Inquisition.

Then, the hall was milling as people moved to leave. Maordrid made for the exit, as that was where everyone was heading and once she emerged from the castle she stood to the side and waited for the others. Solas was first to join her, looking pleased. Then Dorian, Yin, and Cassandra appeared. The latter two kept looking at her and Solas. They had seen something, she could feel it. Yin’s eyes slid away as he walked past her, not saying a word.

They left the castle in silence, heading to the Gull and Lantern where they would figure out their immediate plans. Dorian and Yin stuck together, speaking only to one another—occasionally to Cassandra—until they reached the inn. Maordrid took her time unsaddling her horse at the stable, then moved onto the other mounts. She was glad when she was left alone to gather her thoughts. The coward in her wanted to run. But…she realised it wasn’t because she was worried about being discovered—she found she didn’t want to know what Yin and Dorian thought of her because she had grown fond of them. The fighter in her wanted to march up to Yin and tell him everything. And in time, she would. But right now, she wanted to put off the truth until after Haven to ensure Yin’s survival.

She just had to think of a cover until then.

Maordrid finished rubbing down the horses and left the stable, brushing dirt and hair from her body. As she rounded the corner of the inn, she ran square into the chest of someone.

“Yin.”

“Maordrid.” They stared at each other in silence before Yin took a deep breath. “We need to talk.”

Chapter Text

Yin walked ahead of her, guiding them to the village harbour where he stood at the end of the dock, fingering something held between his hands. She kept her distance from him, facing the open water to quell her nerves.

“We went into the future. A year, to be exact,” he said, voice distant. “It was terrible. The Veil was torn—gone, really, destroyed by that…Elder One. And there was red lyrium everywhere.” She closed her eyes. “Gods, Maori, I’ve never felt fear so strongly before. If Dorian hadn’t been there to snap me out of it, I would have died there.”

“He knows what he’s doing, he’s proved that much,” she said. He chuckled once.

“If I didn’t believe you before, I believe you now when you said you didn’t know each other. But…” Her heart dropped.

“But what?” her mouth asked on its own. She felt him looking at her, but she didn’t turn her head.

“I have so many questions, but I don’t think you’ll be able to answer.” Her skin went icy cold.

“What happened, Yin?” she asked.

“Everyone was infected by that stuff. The red. They were all thrown into cells—except you and Leliana. The Elder One broke you, Maori. You forgot how to speak common and had lapsed into Elven, as if that was all you had ever known. Creators, I didn’t know you were fluent! I couldn’t understand half of what you were saying, but you were angry. At Solas. He said you weren’t yourself, but didn’t explain.” He inhaled sharply, as if wounded. “Something must have happened between you two in that future. Something bad. Ir abelas, I don’t know why I brought you out here. Maybe I thought it would answer something if I said it all out loud. Maybe I’m afraid it will happen. I couldn’t bear to see that again. I’d talk to Solas, but I just get the feeling he’ll tell me to look ahead or something.” She finally gathered the bravery to look at him again.

“I’m glad you told me,” she said. He shrugged.

“It’s hard to apologise for something that never happened to you, but I feel like I owe it to you all. You suffered, and so did everyone else,” he laughed, bitterly, “For the record, I hope you never turn against us. You or Solas.” Those words chilled her to the marrow, and she wanted to ask but Yin began walking again. Had things been said that Yin hadn’t caught? Had anything actually happened? She had too many questions and it would be only a matter of time before someone put the pieces together. Dorian and Yin made a formidable team—she could feel the axe hanging above her neck.

The two of them walked back to the Gull and Lantern, largely in silence. Yin only asked her if she still wanted to accompany them to the Storm Coast—to which she reluctantly agreed, but it was worth seeing some of the worry bleed away from his face.

Yin parted with her in favour of a hot bath. He had unloaded his worry onto her and that alone was keeping her eyes open. At least one of them would be getting some sleep. Hopefully.

Maori ordered two tankards filled to the brim with mead and situated herself in the darkest corner of the Gull and Lantern where she could watch the rest of the commons. With an empty stomach, the mead hit hard and fast. At some point, she heard her name but cloaked herself to avoid interaction. She wasn’t quite ready to be drunk out of her mind around them. And she wasn’t drunk enough, which led her to making the foolhardy decision to sneak into the cellar and crack into a good bottle of wine that she sat drinking in the shadows, invisible to all.

And she stayed like that, perched on top of a barrel in the dark corner, surrounded by wines older than all her present company. Except Solas, of course. She giggled herself into unconsciousness.


--------------------


She had to hurry or screw up the entire collusion. The focus hummed with power in the satchel at her waist. To say it wasn’t tempting to take it for herself was an understatement. Resisting its seduction was the hardest thing she’d ever done. And it was because of this struggle that failure loomed behind her like a widening chasm. Both paths led to unfavourable outcomes. Although, succumbing and taking it for herself was possibly more dangerous.

The priest of Dumat would be following her bread crumbs. He wouldn’t be far behind.

She was somewhere in the deepest reaches of Arlathan Forest, far from the sleeping place of Fen’harel. There was an abandoned temple somewhere, she just had to remember where. But the damn forest had changed so much that it was hard to find anything familiar through the growth. She wished she had time to walk in the ancient place where her people had once gathered.

Yrja scampered agilely up a massive, twisting tree and onto what had once been a battlement. She couldn’t determine whether it was Imperium or Elvhen masonry with how worn the stone was. Thick vines writhed along the massive blocks, digging into it as if determined to break it down into rubble.

The elf practically flew up the vines, climbing higher and higher. She recognised the architecture once she pulled herself into the opening of a window. This was her people’s work—the temple Fen’harel had told her to find. It had taken far too long to find the bloody thing and she’d gotten lost far more times than she wanted to admit.

The halls of the old place had held up through the ages, if barely. The enchantments in the walls had long faded and all that protected the stone was the handiwork of elven masons.

She wandered the gilded halls, unseeing of wonders lost to the world. Those Dalish would kill—fenedhis, they had killed—to get their hands on the little bit of the history still present. It was common knowledge amongst her kind; pathetic, if she thought about it.

The Mirror room echoed her footsteps dully. The rows of Eluvians for which the chamber was named stood shattered, their frames the only testament to what they had once been. With a simple levitation spell, she cleared the fragments of Eluvian where she walked until she reached the centre of the chamber where a worn statue of a dragon sat, its maw turned to the heavens in an eternal snarl. Yrja summoned the Orb to her hand without taking her eyes from the statue, loving the way that it felt hovering above her palm. As she positioned it in the mouth of the dragon, she questioned everything her people had been through. This was their best plan: lead a Blighted ancient priest of Dumat into this ancient sanctum and hope he unlocked the Orb, dying in the process.

Fen’harel wouldn’t listen to anyone. Anger, fear, and grief led people to do irrational things.

She regretted letting go of that orb as soon as she stepped down from the statue. The Veil suddenly rippled and she knew she was no longer alone. Her eyes went back to the Orb, heart and mind torn between taking it now—

“There it is,” a deep, resonating voice said from behind her. “And it seems a rattus has been leading us all along. You will make a fine sacrifice to Dumat.” Yrja turned slowly to face him. A roiling shadow occupied the space where she expected to find the ancient magister. It vaguely resembled a humanoid figure, but where the head should have been were several red diamonds that emanated a sickly light. They shifted and blinked in an out of existence—but their gleam seemed focused on her. And the Blighted thing was not alone. She was surrounded by what looked to be Grey Wardens. She sensed a few Templars in their midst as well.

Yrja took a step back toward the statue, considering her escape options. A mocking laugh rasped from the darkness.

“Or is this lowly creature meaning to take the power from its betters? A thief? Capture her before she can escape again.” Yrja dropped her elven form, bursting into a raven and taking flight. Arrows and spells flew around her as she rolled in the air to avoid them and the Eluvian frames. She shot down a long corridor, trying to remember the layout of the temple while making dives and turns around corners, down stairs, and through collapsed floors. She sensed something behind her and realised she wasn’t the only shapeshifter. Someone had followed her, but was having trouble navigating the bowels of the crumbling temple. Yrja flapped faster, spotting a weak spot in the infrastructure ahead. As soon as she crossed it, she rolled out of her form and spun, yanking the ceiling down with a web of magic. The entire area was flooded with dust and debris, forcing her to cover her mouth and eyes. When it began to clear some, she turned back just in time to see a figure flying at her. The mage delivered a kick to her sternum, sending her tumbling backward off a broken balcony and into a puddle below, knocking the breath from her lungs. She narrowly summoned half a barrier to deflect a spear of ice, firing back with a bolt of lightning that exploded the wall next to her enemy. They dropped down in front of her, fully shielded and proceeded to exchange blow for blow with her. What had once been an enclosed courtyard became littered with blasted stone and gained a new open skylight during the fight. She quickly recognised that her opponent was trying to wear her mana down by tempting her with perfect shots, so she adjusted her tactics by throwing up a cloud of dust for cover, summoning her spear, and charging him before he could recover.

His fear permeated the thick air as he tried avoiding her weapon with reinforced shields—but she was gaining, throwing rocks beneath his feet and Fade Stepping far and then close to throw off his balance. The final blow was dealt when she integrated his own tactic, opening herself up to a potentially fatal strike. He dove for it desperately, casting a frostbolt at her neck; she erected a barrier of her own at the last possible second. In that fraction of a heartbeat, she threw him off balance with a stone to his shoulder, then froze both his legs to the ground while Fade Stepping behind him, using his backward momentum to propel her spear through his back and into his heart. The Grey Warden choked, laughed, and died when she wrenched the spear from his body.

Battered and filthy, Yrja took a few stumbling steps back trying to orient herself. His last cast had bruised her chest instead of impaling, due to her urgent and incomplete barrier. The courtyard grew dark as if a cloud had passed over while she was inspecting herself for wounds—and then suddenly she was gripped by something around her ankles, wrists, and neck. The source of the darkness flooded in from the openings of the courtyard as tendrils of smoke, accumulating before her in a pillar.

“Such insolence you display,” he said, voice vibrating through her skull. “Yet I do not smell fear, unlike the Warden you killed. You’ve proved your usefulness and so I shall keep you. Like a hound, you will bring me to Fen’harel and after he is sent to the Void you will take me to the others like him.” The smoke drifted closer to her face, the red diamonds filling her vision. “Then, when I have come into my power I shall watch you destroy yourself.” A single finger of blackness swirled up between her and the eyes. “I will make you mine now.” The tendril split and suddenly her mouth, nose, and eyes were assaulted as it sought her very spirit. Yrja fought back, shoving and burning with her aura. The voice laughed in her head, gloating and taunting as it gained. But it, like the Warden, was trying to wear her down. She had already defeated one of them.

With an internal intake of breath, she let go, feeling the entity’s surprise within her mind. With that minute pause, she purged herself of magic in a blast that disturbed even the seemingly depthless smoke, blowing it back. The invisible bindings evaporated and she was running, lungs and eyes burning. She heard Wardens and Templars around the courtyard readying spells to entrap her, but the attacks never came.

“You will not be free of me, little knife,” the voice called after her. “Not until I am done with you!” Yrja howled in pain as what felt like a whip seared across her back and wrapped around her neck. She collapsed to the ground screaming and panting, tearing at the hot wires and finding only her skin. “I will hound you across the Fade until your mind is mine. But now, your spirit fades from this realm and you will return to your people. I will be waiting. Be gone.”

------------------------

She woke, coughing so violently she wasn’t certain her ribs were still intact with her spine. A cloud of smoke surrounded her, but it wasn’t black. Her clothes were streaming as though she’d just rolled in a campfire. As soon as she moved her arms, she felt the agony of the creature’s grip across her back, made worse by her binding armour. Her neck was sticky and from the smell of burned flesh and copper knew it was blood.

Breathing quick and shallow, Maordrid blinked rapidly and got to her feet from the ground where she had fallen, grabbing the half empty bottle and downing it. She ascended the stairs to an empty commons, grimacing with every laboured step. Ascended another set to a hall set with doors. Fourth door on the right. She knocked, slumping against the frame on her forearm. Movement from within. The door crept open, then swung wide.

“Maordrid!”

“I need your help,” she said, looking at the flagstones by his feet. Solas ushered her in, sitting her on his bed before looking her over.

“Your neck,” he murmured. “What happened?”

“He—it was waiting for me. Tricked me again,” she said, hissing as he pressed a wet cloth to the wound around her neck.

“You reek of alcohol,” he said, measuring a strip of white cloth. Her hand snapped out around his wrist as he put it against her neck. A noise died in her throat.

“Sorry. Go ahead.” She released him. He dabbed healing potion on the bandages and gingerly wrapped it around her neck again before sending a delicate spell of healing into her muscles. It mended the flesh near her vocal chords first, eliciting a relieved sigh.

“You’re lucky an artery wasn’t cut--there's more blood! Where else are you injured?” he said, voice alarmed. “How did you escape with your life?”

“It let me go,” she said, allowing him to help her unbuckle her armour and pull up her shirt. He hissed through his teeth as he got his first full look at her back. It was a mosaic of scars, she knew. Solas set to work quickly, downing a lyrium potion after he had cleaned the wound. When the healing spell began, she could feel the depth of the lash. It had gone past muscle and sinew, possibly narrowly missing her spine.

“It is a wonder you walked up here with such damage,” he muttered.

“I downed half a bottle so that I could,” she said.

“There, it is done, but…” Solas fell silent, struggling with words.

“Is it that bad?” She pulled her shirt back on slowly and faced him. His eyes moved slowly to hers, a frown in his forehead and on his lips.

“You’re going to get yourself killed,” he said. “I can’t heal that.”

“And I don’t even know what I am facing. If it is a spirit, it is stronger than anything I have ever seen. What if it’s another Dreamer?” she asked. “Whatever it is, I can’t ask you to step in harm’s way.”

“What’s to say it won’t come after someone else in the Inquisition?” She flinched, remembering its words. It planned on coming after him next. His face did something, as if enlightened suddenly. He leaned back, searching her face. “Once it gets what it wants from you, that is exactly what it’s going to do, isn’t it?”

“It’s not going to get that far. I’m going to stop it,” she said with fierceness. Solas didn’t back down.

“How are you going to stop it when you yourself have admitted it’s tricked you every time? Tell me, have you even come close to figuring out what you are dealing with?” he said. “Clearly you aren’t going to accept help, so that leaves me no choice but to investigate alone. Denial does not suit you, Maori.” Her fingernails dug into her palms.

“Fine.”

“Fine, what?” he said.

“We need a plan of action. It has been unpredictable in its ways and I have no way of telling whether it will prey on us both once we are there. It could pose as me or you and try to kill us that way!” Solas folded his hands in his lap, thinking.

“At the first sign of danger, I’ll move us to a different part of the Fade. Or wake us up immediately,” he said.

“Are you sure we can’t wait until after we close the Breach? What if that is lending to its power?” Solas made a thoughtful noise.

“It is certainly possible, but could you wait that long? It will take us at least two weeks to get back to Haven with the Storm Coast detour,” he said. She wasn’t sure, but he didn’t need to know that.

“Somehow, I was able to meditate yesterday without being drawn into the Fade like the first time I tried,” she said. “Or maybe I could take a modified magebane potion. It’ll sap my ability to cast and temporarily sever me from the Fade.” The blood drained from Solas’s face.

“You’d be useless in a fight. You’ll feel terrible,” he said. She nodded sadly.

“But is that not the best course of action? I can handle a regular sword until then,” she said. “If you want to help me then make sure I can’t go into the Fade.” She could feel the disapproval rolling off of him. If she was honest with herself, she wasn’t too sure about this idea either. Going without magic for two weeks, followed by the events of Haven was…risky.

“If I agree to postpone yet again…”

“Name your price.” The Dread Wolf’s mouth curled.

“You’ll give me full rein of the situation.” She matched his expression, but within, her insides were melting into acid.

“Agreed.” He offered his hand and they shook. Then he assessed the light through the small window of his room.

“It is still a ways off until morning. I’ll find the magebane if you want to get a bath drawn,” he said, offering his hand to help her stand. She went to pull her armour back over her chest but he stopped her. "At least allow your wounds to heal, warrior." She grumbled, but let it hang.

“You’re too kind, Solas,” she said as she crossed the threshold. “The Inquisition is lucky to have you. And I am glad to know you.” As he closed his door, he turned to smile at her. His cheeks looked as though someone had taken delicate paintbrushes across them with red.

“Perhaps one day when neither of our lives are in immediate danger, we will have time to enjoy each other’s company.” Her lips formed a tentative smile.

“One day, I hope.”

Chapter Text

Yin and Dorian plummeted into a flooded undercroft, rife with red lyrium. The portal snapped shut before either of them could make a jump for it, leaving them alone with two shell-shocked guards that promptly attacked. After dispatching them in a storm of fire and Stone Fists, the two took a moment to gather their bearings.

“Displacement? Interesting,” Dorian said as Yin looted the guards. “It’s probably not what Alexius intended. The rift must have moved us…to what? The closest confluence of arcane energy?”

“I don’t think we’ve even left the castle,” Yin grunted, removing a key that looked to match the cell in which they’d landed. Dorian snapped his fingers.

“If we’re still here…it isn’t—oh! Of course! It’s not simply where—it’s when!” Yin slow clapped, but the other mage ignored him, speedily talking on, “Alexius used the amulet as a focus. It moved us through time!” Yin didn’t think it was funny anymore.

“Huh. Time magic. Still not sure that’s even real,” he said, making the key dance across his knuckles before inserting it into the door.

“I’d agree with you under almost any other circumstance, but obviously Alexius has taken his research to exciting new heights,” he said as they pulled the grated door open against the water. “We’ve seen his temporal rifts before. This time we simply…passed through one. I say we look around, see where the rift took us. Then we can figure out how to get back…if we can.” They walked from the cell, looking around at the decimation.

“What do you think he was trying to do?” Yin asked as he searched for a way out.

“Probably trying to remove you from time completely. Pleasant thought,” Dorian remarked behind him. “And if that happened, you would never have been at the Temple of Sacred Ashes or mangled his Elder One’s plan. Your surprise in the hall made him reckless, so he tossed us into the rift before he was ready. I countered it, the magic went wild…and here we are. Make sense?”

“I send him a fruit basket, he sends me back in time to ensure he never gets it. I’ve never met someone so violently against them.” He was glad Dorian snickered, because Gods, he needed a little bit of reinforcement.

“I don’t even want to think about what this will do to the fabric of the world. We didn’t ‘travel’ through time so much as punch a hole through it and toss it in the privy. But don’t worry, I’m here. I’ll protect you.” Yin flashed him a smile, his words hitting him somewhere he didn’t expect. He found himself standing a little straighter. But then slumped again when a thought occurred to him.

“What about the others? Do you think they’re here somewhere, drawn through like us?” They mounted some stairs and began drying their clothes with fire spells as they talked.

“The rift didn’t seem large enough to bring the whole room through. Alexius wouldn’t risk catching himself or Felix in it. They’re probably still when, and where, we left them. In some sense, anyway.” Yin finished up before Dorian did and looked at him.

“Well, I hope that pretty head of yours has a plan,” he said.

“I have some thoughts on that. They’re lovely thoughts, like little jewels!”

“Adorable.”

They proceeded up the stairs quietly, listening for more enemies or signs of the others. There was a lot of red lyrium that Yin had to pull Dorian away from when he went to inspect it, shaking his head. They nearly got lost, walking through so many rooms. Yin collected a few little treasures, but then gave up when he realised he was going to run out of pockets. Dorian took the lead once and immediately led them into some kind of massive chamber with grated floors, more red lyrium, and the next group of guards. Fortunately, they were non-mages and Yin tossed one over the side of the platform with a well-aimed stone fist. Dorian zapped the other, frying him in his armour. Yin blasted him over the edge while he was still seizing.

“Left or right?” Dorian asked, indicating the doors on either side.

“Always left,” Yin said. The other man laughed.

“Why?”

“Because I’m left handed.” Yin opened the door and followed him through. They proceeded down a staircase, which seemed opposite of where they wanted to go, since this seemed to be the lower levels of the castle. That was until Yin heard breathing that wasn’t his or Dorian’s. They tentatively ventured in with magic glowing around their hands until they came upon a cell that seemed entirely filled with red lyrium.

Except, the Grand Enchanter was in there, trapped between two huge spears of it.

“You’re…alive? How?” she asked. Her voice was…unnerving. “I saw you…disappear…into the rift.” Yin stepped closer, looking for a way to free her but it seemed…she was part of the lyrium.

“I don’t understand. What’s happened to you?” he asked.

“Red lyrium,” Fiona wheezed, “it’s a disease. The longer you’re near it…eventually…you become this. Then they mine your corpse for more.” Dorian stepped up beside him.

“Can you tell us the date? It’s very important.” Fiona gritted her teeth, clearly struggling. Yin hated every second he was near this stuff. It radiated a sickly heat that made him sweat as if in fever.

“Harvestmere…9:42 Dragon.”

“Nine forty-two? Then we’ve missed an entire year!” Dorian said. If Yin’s heart dropped any further it was going to fall out of his pants.

“We have to get out of here, go back in time,” he said, turning to Dorian.

“Please, stop this from happening,” Fiona begged. “Alexius…serves the Elder One. More powerful…than the Maker. No one challenges him…and lives.”

“I promise I will do everything in my power to set things right,” Yin said. More powerful than the Maker? I don’t believe it.

“Our only hope is to find the amulet that Alexius used to send us here. If it still exists, I can use it to reopen the rift at the exact spot we left. Maybe,” Dorian said.

“Good,” Fiona wheezed.

“I said maybe. It might also turn us into paste.”

“You must try,” she said, turning her head to rest it back on the stone wall of her cell. “Your spymaster, Leliana…she is here. Find her.” Yin began backing away from the cell, but Fiona’s voice followed, “Quickly, before the Elder One…learns you’re here.”

“Lovely little jewels. Glittering in the light,” Yin said once Dorian rejoined him. They proceeded back the way they’d come, checking what rooms and cells that they could and finding no one else on that side of the castle. Then they moved back across the platform to the right wing.

A haunted voice rang out in the trickling darkness, reciting words meant to bring light. Yin closed his eyes for a moment, bracing himself once they found the door. On the other side they found Cassandra, thankfully free of any massive crystals, but emanating telltale signs of infection. The Seeker didn’t even stand when she saw them.

“You’ve returned…can it be? Has Andraste given us another chance? Maker forgive me, I failed! I failed everyone. The end must truly be upon us if the dead return to life.” Yin wanted to grab her hands, she looked so broken. His own were shaking as he opened her cell. Dorian patted his shoulder discretely when he stepped away.

“I was never dead. I’m not dead now, Cass. We just got—damn, this is actually a bit hard to explain,” he said. She didn’t laugh or even smirk at him as she used to. That hurt a lot more than it should have.

“I was there! The Magister obliterated you with a gesture!” she insisted, getting slowly to her feet.

“Alexius sent us forward in time. If we can find him, we may be able to return to the present,” Dorian said.

“Go back in time?” Finally, some spirit returned to her eyes. “Then you can make it so none of this ever took place!” Not this again. So much hinges on our success.

“If Dorian is right and reverses the spell, then yes—”

“None of this will happen. Andraste, please let that be true.”

“Do you know where the others are at?” Yin asked, handing her a sword they’d found.

“Solas is here. Maordrid and Leliana are being kept somewhere else, but I don’t believe they’re far,” Cass said.

“They’re alive then? Thank Mythal,” Yin breathed.

“Alive, but suffering,” she said as she led the way. When they entered Solas’s hold, he was facing the opposite wall, muttering under his breath. His ears twitched at the sound of their armour and he turned, tensed as if ready to fight. Then a look of awe crossed his face, his body jerking back. He looked just as bad as Cassandra.

“You’re alive! We saw you die!”

“My friend…” Yin fumbled with the lock, cursing his stupid hands before just melting it open with fire.

“The spell Alexius cast displaced us in time. We just got here, so to speak,” Dorian said, watching Yin with concern.

“Can you reverse the process? You could return and obviate events of the last year, it may not be too late!”

“You look bad, falon. Is there anything I can do to help?” Yin asked, reaching forward, but Solas stepped out of reach.

“I am dying, but no matter. If you can undo this, they could all be saved, but you know nothing of this world. It is far worse than you understand.” Solas rubbed his throat as if it pained him. “Alexius served a master and now he reigns, unchallenged. His minions assassinated Empress Celene and used the chaos to invade the south. This Elder One commands an army of demons. After you stop Alexius, you must be prepared.” Dorian and Yin exchanged dumbfounded looks.

“We can’t do this without you, Solas,” Yin said.

“If there is any hope, any way to save them, my life is yours. This world is an abomination, it must never come to pass.” Yin busied himself with finding Solas a staff to use so he could not focus on the gravity of the other elf’s words. There was a roughly hewn one lying behind a barrel in the corner of the room. It’d give him splinters, but it was better than nothing. As they filtered out of the chamber to find Leliana and Maori, Solas whispered his name, reaching out to grab his arm before thinking better of it.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, motioning for the others to go ahead.

“If we find her…her mind has been twisted. She isn’t herself,” Solas said, seeming genuinely shaken.

“Who?”

“Y—Maordrid. You should harden yourself for what you might see,” he said, then moved to pass him, leaving Yin bewildered and worried. Had they turned her into something? A red lyrium abomination like Fiona? Something worse?

They heard the drawbridge dropping as they ascended the stairs and back toward the platform chamber. Four men advanced, this time with a spellcaster in tow. Cassandra easily taunted them into attacking her while Dorian and Solas focused the caster. Yin helped Cass by freezing the warriors and archers in place, making it easier to run them through. When they were dead, they proceeded through the newly opened way.

“I think Maordrid is being kept in the room just above,” Cassandra said.

“She was in a cell beside mine, but they moved her,” Solas said.

“Why?” Dorian asked.

“You will see, soon enough.” Dorian dropped back to walk with Yin looking troubled.

“Why do I get the feeling what happened to her is worse than them?” Dorian whispered.

“Because they aren’t giving a straight answer,” Yin replied, glaring ahead.

“I don’t think I want to know.”

“Yeah. Me neither. But I can’t leave her behind.” They walked together, lightly searching the vacant dining room for notes, but finding nothing. There were screams up ahead that sounded too familiar. Hurrying, they approached an iron-strapped door and agreed that Cassandra would go first with a barrier from Solas. Then they would attack.

Cassandra smashed the door down, revealing some sort of deranged torture chamber. It was utterly black, save for the light of one medium-sized head of lyrium protruding from the wall. A man stood before the prisoner at the other end, turning at the intrusion and falling quickly beneath their casting as he was the only guard present.

When he fell, Maordrid remained, standing shackled against the wall. Yin was surprised to see her visibly clean of corruption, but when she looked up he could see the blood vessels around her eyes were blackened. They had made long, deep cuts into the flesh of her arms, legs, and torso that had gone past the subcutaneous layer. The scars were…horrific. Clearly they had made her heal without magic. She stared at them with soulless eyes, her long black hair hanging in greasy curtains about her gaunt face. She looked as though she had been dead for a year.

“Maori?” Yin asked, stepping forward. Dorian rushed forward with a key found on the torturer’s corpse, but Solas stepped between them.

“I would not advise that,” the elf said ominously, holding out his arm. The shackled mage behind him chuckled darkly and said something in elven that Yin’s brain was sluggish to catch. Hello, shadow of the past. Or at least that’s what he thought she said.

You freed him but not me?” she asked slower, but still in Elven.

“You are not yourself,” Solas told her.

“Step out of the way, Solas,” Dorian said. Solas didn’t move, glancing back at Maordrid. Suddenly, the wraith that was Maordrid let out a howl, vocal chords straining. She curled in on herself as much as her shackles would allow. Dorian shoved past Solas and inserted the key, removing the heavy manacles. Yin saw Solas take a few steps back. She spoke rapidly again, too fast this time for Yin to translate. An aura of magic surrounded Solas’s fists as he replied.

“Ma shivasem. Var rosem’suledin! Ar dhrua, yrja. I’tel ma, var laimasha. Mala, ir nulam ma.” Maordrid, again, laughed bitterly, rubbing her wrists once Dorian freed her. She stood on her own, looking stronger than she appeared.

Nulam mar’lin,” she said, spitting, then spoke another string of angry Elven.

“All of you should leave this room. This is between us,” Solas said, suddenly switching tongues. Dorian again stepped between them, face a grimace.

“Why? So you can kill each other?” Dorian hissed. Solas didn’t answer, but he didn’t have to as Maordrid attacked him with a blast of black magic, narrowly missing Dorian.

“She is gone! Get out!” Solas shouted at them, and the others dropped back as he threw up a wall of ice. Yin grabbed Dorian who had fallen and they ran together to the door. Yin turned back as soon as Cassandra was out. Solas dropped the wall and let loose a barrage of ice and fire, then surrounded himself in glyphs while Maordrid vaulted over with a glowing red spear, activating an exploding fire rune on her way over. They clashed in the middle, spear against staff. A vortex of ice and corrupted storm magic whipped around the two of them. Solas, being bigger than her, managed to push her into an ice glyph that froze one of her feet.

Ga’lin dinem, Solas! Ar’an dinemah—Em, ma,” she howled, yanking on his arm, which pulled him into her. She rolled into the glyph, forcing Solas to dispel it or be caught with her.

Yin,” Dorian said. “They’re going to kill each other! We should do something!” Yin looked back at them. In that split second that he had looked away, they had wounded one another. Blood streamed from a wound in Maordrid’s thigh and Solas had a cut on his head. The room was wrecked, parts of it frozen, on fire, or warping. Yin cast his Aegis, planning on grabbing one of them and wresting them away from each other. Dorian swore and jumped beneath the Aegis with him and together they moved cautiously back through the chaos. Ahead, Solas desperately parried the corrupted straightsword Maori was now brandishing and winning with.

“Stop!” Yin shouted, but Maordrid brought her sword down in an arc, snapping Solas’ staff in two. With a wild laugh, she drew her arm back and thrust it home—at the same time that Solas drove the broken end of his staff through her body. The wild magic stuttered, then stopped. Yin dropped his shield out of disbelief, running over to them as they collapsed. Solas gripped the sword in his chest, labouring for breath, looking up through glazed eyes when Yin landed beside him.

“We need you, you can’t die,” Yin pleaded, reaching out to his friend.

“I failed…this world. It—she was…right,” Solas gasped, looking over at Maordrid who Dorian was tending to. “What hope—” gasp “—remains lies with you, Herald.”

“Why? Why did you have to kill each other? You were friends!” Yin cried, frustrated tears falling. Solas steadied himself on one hand, slumping forward, wheezing wetly.

Ar’an himem,” Solas said, his voice becoming faint. “Neither could. We can't.”

“I’m losing him, Dorian!” Yin shouted, pouring healing magic into Solas before pulling the blade out. “Solas, don’t you dare.”

“We could have…” Solas stilled, as did Yin. He shook his friend, but his eyes had closed.

“Yin,” Dorian called. Yin scrambled over to the other two, only to see Maordrid in quickly diminishing shape. “I can’t understand her. She won’t speak common.” Yin gripped one of her hands. She squeezed his. He froze—her eyes had cleared of the shadow and looking back at him was an elf in pain.

Shivana ish. Dirth’asha, sathan. Tel’laimasha.” Then, she stilled. Yin cursed, rising to his feet and kicking at debris.

Fuuuuck!”

“What did she say?” Dorian asked.

“Duty to him? Please tell? I don’t know, I can’t think,” Yin snapped, blood roaring in his ears.

“Yin, Herald, I know it is difficult but we need to move,” Cassandra said softly from behind them. Yin couldn’t break his gaze from the bodies on the floor. It was Dorian that guided him from the room by the shoulder. No burial, no honour. His world was spinning. How would they return without their help?

Chapter Text


It wasn’t easy. Even with Leliana, the fight onward was filled with impossible horrors. The Veil was gone and chaos had enveloped the entire world. Demons roamed freely and red lyrium was as plentiful as trees had once been.

When they struck down Alexius, it was Dorian’s turn to grieve, but Yin tried to console him as the mage had done for him.

Then the Elder One came. Leliana had been cold and detached at the news of Solas’ and Maori’s demise, but the woman despite all she had suffered, held the doors with Cassandra like a warrior out of legend.

And then, against all odds, Dorian brought them back. Yin was still reeling, repressing a cry when he saw everyone standing, whole and hale before him in the hall. Cass in disbelief and relief, and his two elven companions in similar states. He turned his ire on Alexius, to which it promptly turned to ash. He pitied the man—he loved his son so much that he’d throw the world away for him. Yin felt nothing else for him, however. Like staring upon a rock, inert and grey. He wanted to be there for his sentencing, he decided.

Fortunately, one thing he had a choice in was the fate of the mages. Anora—who was…less than pleasant and understanding than they deserved—came in after the hard work was done and declared the mages unwelcome to her country. With a smile showing teeth, Yin offered to take the mages in. Fiona was reasonably paranoid of more potential abuse, but after offering them an alliance, she caved. They would meet in Haven and finally close the Breach. Yin almost considered just putting off the Storm Coast, but he needed time to clear his head of Redcliffe before taking the plunge.

As they departed from the hall, he felt a presence join him and looked to his left to see Dorian.

“Don’t mind me, you’re walking quite slow. You might get in someone’s way,” the Altus said. Yin moved to the side, but Dorian followed. “Are you okay?”

“I have to be,” the Herald replied. “Where else will they get someone with a magical mark in their hand? I can’t just…”

“Give in to your sorrows? Elope with a stranger and flee across the countryside to escape the haunting past?”

“Your ideas of dealing with stress are so detailed. Do you premeditate these things?” Yin said with little enthusiasm.

“It’s all part of the fine breeding, I can assure you.” Dorian matched his pace, showing no signs of leaving. “I understand what we saw, but I’m not going to pretend I understand what was going on with your friends. It…didn’t leave a good taste in my mouth, I’ll admit.” Yin sighed.

“Yeah, me neither,” he said.

“You know, I did commit to memory some of the things they said. I was thinking, what if they said something important that could help us in this timeline? You know, besides the whole assassination, demon army, and all that.” Yin stopped walking and faced him.

“You remember the Elven they were speaking,” he said dubiously. Dorian nodded, eyes lighting up.

Shivana ish. Dir…asha, sathin? Tel’lai masha . That was the last thing she said to us,” Dorian said, looking pleased with himself. Yin shook his head.

“Barely,” he said, laughing. “Don’t let Solas hear that butchery you call Elven.” He continued to walk, leaving Dorian who jogged to keep up. “ Shiv…ish… his duty? Or duty of—to him? It seems incomplete.” With time he could figure it out, but his mind was still bogged with images and stress.

“What did I get wrong? I thought I did quite well! What about… Aron dinema? Or how about ir nulam ma? ” Yin again slowed his pace, but only because the translation for the last few words registered in his mind.

“I regret you,” he said automatically. “Who said that?”

“Solas did,” Dorian replied. “ Kaffas , he said that to her? Never go to him for relationship advice, I suppose.”

“Is that all you remember? We’re running out of hallway. They’re all waiting outside,” Yin said. Dorian tapped his chin.

“Off the top of my head, that’s it. I’m sure I’ll remember more in the middle of the night,” he said. “Perhaps it won’t make sense, Yin. They had a whole year of history—context we will never know.” Yin slumped and went to join the others. He tried to look at Maordrid, then Solas, but couldn’t. Cold words, Solas.

Dorian decided to go with them back to the village and paid for a room at the inn for the night. It seemed he was undecided about joining the Inquisition, but after Yin made not-so-subtle suggestions that he wanted him to, Dorian retired to his rooms in a saunter with a secret smile on his face.

After, Yin found himself standing outside Solas’ room, but found he didn’t really know what to say to him. His feet took him outside where he knew he would find the other odd elf. Odd, but somehow easy to talk to. He’d barely walked around the corner when she ran into him. The moonlight illuminated her eyes when she looked at him. He had see many a maiden and lad in moonlight, and in books it was always that some secret inner beauty was revealed by light of the magical silver sky-egg. That wasn’t the case with Maordrid. Silver scars that he hadn’t noticed in daylight became apparent—she’d one or two across her nose, one through her right eyebrow, and just beneath the apple of her cheek was a sliver of silver that spanned from temple to her mid-nose. By the shadows cast across the ridges of her face, he realised her nose must have been broken at some point too.

“Yin,” she breathed, snapping him from his revelry.

“Maordrid,” he said, then paused, suddenly nervous. “We need to talk.” She nodded graciously and together they walked toward the harbour where he knew they’d be alone. It was far enough from the inn that he was able to gather his thoughts, but long enough that he had time to over-think some of them.

He started by describing to her the dark future. Red lyrium, the sickness, the damaged Veil. That she lost her mind. When he was about to tell her what had transpired between her and Solas, he faltered. Something real bad. What an understatement.

“Oh yeah, and then you and Solas killed each other,” he muttered long after they returned to the Gull and Lantern. He had replayed that scene in his head at least twenty times since it had happened. He rewatched Cassandra’s body being torn to shreds, closely followed by Leliana. Yeah, you’re not sleeping tonight. He’d half a mind to seek out Dorian again, to drink wine and forget like Maori had once said, but he knew the Tevinter likely needed some time alone. Even when he found the courage to seek Maordrid out again, she was not in her room. So, he went outside again wrapped in his cloak and sat with the horses. The smell of the stables reminded him of his Dalish family. Dozing with the halla had been a past-time of his in his younger days. His siblings, the twins Raj and Dhrui, would never let him rest in peace. But once they had all passed through adolescence and into their second decade, the unruly duo had finally come to understand why he had always tried to sneak naps throughout the day. The Dalish way of life was exhausting.

He missed Dhrui the most. She should have been his twin, not Raj’s. And right then, in the stable she would have sat with him against Solas’ white mare, Rosal, in silence. She would have brought food, too. Maybe told a joke, since he got his sense of humour from her. A few tears rolled down his cheeks at her memory. If he hadn’t gone to the Conclave, she would have and she would be in his position now—or dead. Would she have done a better job than he was? She had always seemed to know the answers to everything. He would send a letter to her before they left Redcliffe. Maybe in two weeks when they returned to Haven there would be a letter waiting for him. It was a comforting thought.

Yin stayed there for hours, listening to the horses and the night birds until the first signs of life began to return to the world. He rose and shook the stiffness from his joints and muscles when he saw Solas emerge from the inn, which was uncharacteristic for the Dreamer. He nearly sprained something trying to catch up and then startled the other elf from his beeline to…wherever it was he was headed.

“You smell like a stable,” Solas said. Yin leaned over and sniffed Solas’ shoulder.

“And you smell like smoke for some reason,” he said, puzzled. “Blood and smoke. I know a few Dalish warrior girls that’d love to get you alone in an aravel. A few men as well.” When he didn’t get a rise out of him, Yin pursed his lips. “Seriously, what are you doing out here so early?” They stopped outside of a hut with a sign that read apothecary. He wouldn’t get up to restock on potions or herbs—they generally did that when they reached an Inquisition camp.

“Maori had another dream. I’m getting her magebane, per her request,” Solas replied, then knocked on the door. Yin digested the words for a moment, then waited as Solas conducted his business with a rather chipper old woman. She had three bottles in stock—Solas bought them all. He also purchased powdered dragonthorn.

“Magebane, huh?” Yin said as they left the hut. Solas handed two of the bottles to him and proceeded to mix some of the powder in with the magebane potion in his hand. He repeated the same with the others, then retrieved them.

“We decided it’s for the best. At least until the Breach is sealed,” Solas said as they walked the opposite direction of the inn. Yin laughed. “I fail to see what’s funny about this.”

“She’s headstrong. You know she’s just going to keep finding excuses for you not to help her?”

“I think she has seen reason,” Solas replied. “Even if she retracts her agreement, I told her I’ll be intervening regardless of her wishes.” I regret you. Yin shook his head wildly.

“Solas,” he started. The Fade walker looked at him, sensing the unease in his voice. “Remember when I said I wanted you to keep an eye on her?” He nodded suspiciously. “You don’t have to anymore. She’s innocent.” Solas bowed, then kept walking. Clearly, the man was on a mission. He cares for her. They’re nowhere near the point they had reached in the other place.

And he prayed that it would stay that way.


————————



An elf with long, black braided hair sat on a bench overlooking Lake Calenhad, worn forest-green cloak held shut against the brisk air that rushed across the waters. Beside the elf was an empty glass bottle sitting on its side with less than a fingernail’s worth of a strange red substance pooling within it. Another elf climbed up the silent promontory and offered his hand to the other. Together, one supported the other as they joined a larger group waiting with horses.

As one, they moved north, a long and reluctant journey to a storming coast.

Chapter Text

A week later, they were all ready for the journey to be over. The weather going north had worsened with each league covered and the phrase ‘I hope these Chargers are worth it ’ was as constant as the grumbling. Yin wanted to run down the hill and into the ocean away from all the world when they finally reached the Storm Coast.

Despite Dorian constantly bemoaning his soggy state of dress, Yin couldn’t imagine how difficult the road would have been without him. The Tevinter was a smart-ass over three-quarters of the time, but the other fraction he proved to be an attentive listener. However, he didn’t offer any of that to the others. Well, maybe except for Maori, but with Solas it was a constant pissing contest. The Imperium did this, the Imperium did that, they came up with this magic or invented that method—Yin wanted to bash his own head in with a rock, but he was pretty sure that was something the Magisters had come up with as well. Solas wasn’t much better, arguing for the ancient Elves and whatever else. Occasionally, Maori chimed in but for the most part she was withdrawn in her magebane-induced misery.

Fortunately, when they spotted a skirmish at the bottom of an escarpment, all debates came to a halt and Yin all but propelled himself down the incline, eager to let out some of his pent-up frustrations. A massive Qunari nearly took his head off as he whirlwinded a double-headed axe through a clump of enemies. Arrows and magic flew through the air in a dizzying flurry. In one instance, Yin spun to see a mercenary raising a sword to cut him in two, but then choked and collapsed to reveal a haggard looking Maordrid bearing a simple iron sword. She nodded and dashed off into the fray.

The battle ended soon after they had arrived and the Qunari addressed his Chargers in a jolly voice. Yin had seen a handful of Qunari present in Antiva, but none so large as The Iron Bull. He wasn’t sure what to make of the grey-skinned giant other than his forwardness about being a spy. Even when Yin threatened Leliana against him, the Qunari was understanding. They accepted him into the Inquisition and then promptly turned on their heels and hiked back to the nearest camp once Dorian struck up his complaining again. The Chargers tailed along, happily making conversation with the rest of the group. Iron Bull joined Yin at the front asking him what all the Inquisition had planned for the Breach. Since they were part of the organisation now, he told him about the mages and the idiocy of Tevinter, taking care to mention the Elder One in hopes that perhaps the well-travelled mercenary might know something. Nope, he was just as scared of magic as Sera.

At camp, two large fires were made—one for warmth and the other for cooking. Yin sulkily joined Dorian at the one absent of Chargers.

“Brutish…smelly… loud ,” Dorian muttered under his breath. The other man had his hands tucked under his armpits, normally-impeccable hair now sticking up in random directions from the rain. He was glaring over at the new group who had gathered around the cooking fire where Lace Harding was making a large vat of stew.

“Careful, he doesn’t seem fond of Tevinter,” Yin whispered, grinning slightly. Dorian glanced at him, then narrowed his eyes again at the laughing mercenaries.

“Ben-Hassrath. A spy. An actual Qunari spy,” Dorian said, “That…didn’t strike you, you know, as a bad thing? At all? Even just a little?” Yin shrugged.

“I mean, did you see the way he was swinging that axe?” Yin asked.

“Yes! And any moment he could decide to do so at us ,” Dorian exclaimed, then lowered his voice. “He’d go for you first—the Herald of the faithful. I’d hate to see such a fine specimen in bloodied little pieces about the ground.” Yin raised an eyebrow, a grin tugging at a corner of his lips.

“I’m a fine specimen?” he said. Dorian’s eyes cut back and forth at him twice before he huffed and stared into the fire.

“Don’t let it go to your head.” Yin laughed, casting his head back.

“Oh, like someone I know,” he said. There was a smirk on the Altus’s face. For a short time after, they sat as close to the fire as they dared, alone. When Harding shouted for dinner, Yin brushed Dorian’s knee getting up. He sensed eyes on him, but wandered off shamelessly. When he joined the larger group someone handed him a bowl that he retreated with back to the other fire where people were beginning to settle. He saw Maori tucked up against a stack of firewood quite clearly trying to stay out of sight. She’d her hood pulled up against the cold but he could see the dark rings under her eyes from there. He crouched before her for a moment and offered her an apple that she took slowly.

“How are you doing, love?” he asked, digging around the stew with his spoon. The other elf carved the apple in half with a knife from her boot.

“Just…keeping an eye out for spies,” she said, flashing a half-smile. Yin left his spoon in the bowl.

“Is everyone upset about that?” he asked. She let out a low chuckle as she bit into an apple slice.

“Heard Dorian express concern over seeing you turned into hors d’oeuvres for a dragon , ” she mused. Yin reddened. “I quite agree with him. Do what you think is best—I will protect you so long as you’ll have me.” He blinked owlishly as his stomach did peculiar little flips.

“You did save me earlier,” he finally said as she took another bite.

“Three times, actually,” she said nonchalantly.

“What? When? There weren’t that many of them!” She swallowed, then looked at him.

“Archers. They weren’t part of the group the Qunari was fighting,” she said. “They came from the west if you’re facing the sea. I’ll wager they’re the reason Harding’s scouts have disappeared.” Yin squeezed her shoulder.

“Sometimes I forget that you’re a terror when you need to be. A lovely little elf that could simultaneously cook your brain in its bowl and slice your tendons. Ma serannas. ” She took another bite of apple and he took that as his cue to leave her alone. When he went to sit where he’d been earlier, he found the entire spot occupied by Iron Bull’s people.

“Herald! Join me!” Yin turned and saw the leader himself clearing a spot for him on one of the many logs. When he finally sat, the first thing he did was shovel a spoon of stew into his mouth. It was a little too salty. As if Harding had decided to cook everything in salt water from the sea. He swallowed thickly.

“It’s Yin,” he said after chasing the salt down with a sip from his flask.

“Yin? Whatever you say, Boss,” Iron Bull said. “So, tried speaking to some of your friends.”

“How’d that go?” he laughed.

“Well, everyone is suspicious. Can’t say I wasn’t expecting that,” Bull rumbled. “And, y’know, that’s fine. Some of ‘em will come around, I’m sure. We can get to the real fun when they do.”

“And what’s real fun to you?”

“Getting paid to kill things,” he said. “You know, I think I heard a dragon roaring down the coastline. We should go get it!” Yin swallowed another bite with more alcohol, looking at him over his flask.

“We’re a bit pressed for time, but that sounds promising,” he said. Bull clapped him on the back, nearly jarring his skull out of his skin.

“Yin the Dragon Slayer! Sounds a lot better than Herald, yeah?” They sat in silence for a little bit. Yin watched Bull surveying the large group with his single eye. “Hey, is that elf okay? Everyone was a bit standoffish, but she just seemed out of sorts when I tried talking to her.” He was talking about Maori who seemed mostly unconscious with her head cast back against the wood.

“Yeah, she’s just a little sick.” Solas approached her with her dose of magebane, touching her shoulder to rouse her. She tossed it back with a grimace, then slumped. Solas said something to her and then he was helping her up. They disappeared from the view of Chargers and Inquisition members silently.

“That guy is pretty sweet on her. They together?” Bull remarked. Yin wasn’t sure why he felt a surge of an acid emotion at that.

“No,” he said, but he did so with uncertainty. Bull hummed in his throat.

“Wanna make a bet?”

“On…?”

“Them. Hooking up. If we’re gonna be doing a lot of travelling, it’s just something that happens,” Bull elbowed him in the ribs with a grin. “I’ll bet two months. Three, tops.”

“Will it be two or three? One or the other,” the refined Tevinter voice asked. Dorian sat on the other side of him, eyes shining mischievously. Bull growled.

“Three,” he said.

“Good, because I bet two.”

“Slimy Vint.”

“He’s not slimy, he’s just a bit wet,” Yin said, sharply aware of Dorian’s rather close proximity to him. Their shoulders and thighs were brushing. Oh, I like games like this.

“Your bet, Yin,” Bull said.

“Nah. It’s not what you think it is,” Yin said, smacking his lips as he took another sip. “Maori’s that kinda person that’s married to their duty.”

“Saving the world?” Dorian said, “Yes, but what was she like before this? Maybe she has a lover already. A family, perhaps?” Yin almost spurt alcohol out of his nose. “Solas most definitely has a Fade wife.” They all laughed, but Yin cut his short.

“I never asked her. Or Solas,” he said, curious. But he had a feeling the answer was no for both of them. “I can’t bet. Not after Redcliffe.” Dorian stiffened beside him.

“Ah. Nearly had stopped thinking about that for ten minutes,” he said. Yin offered the flask to him, which he accepted. “Dear mother of—what vile substance is this? Demon piss?” That had the Iron Bull laughing uproariously. “I think…there’s a hole in my throat.”

“Sounds like Maraas-Lok! Can I have some?” Yin handed it to the Qunari who barely flinched. “Alright, that’s…pretty damn close.” He cleared his throat. “Wait till you try some Qun stuff.”

“Seeing as I’ve already had some back in Antiva, I’d say the next level is who can drink the most of it,” Yin smirked. There were some ooh s about the fire from those who overheard the challenge.

“The Iron Bull is undefeated! He can hold his drink better than a dragon!” the dwarf named Rocky said.

“That’s funny, ‘cause last time I checked dragons didn’t drink,” Yin said. “Therefore no tolerance, therefore…what does that say about your Boss?” Dorian chuckled.

“Pretty sure that’s not how physics work, but it seems they are entertained,” he whispered.

“He’s pretty big for an elf. He might even be able to match me longer than most, but in the end he’ll drop like the others,” Bull said. Yin took another drink.

“Never again shall we submit,” he recited, eliciting laughter around the fire. The elf named Dalish wasn’t amused. “After we close the Breach we will see who has a liver of steel!”

The ice was broken some after that. Iron Bull continued to talk to him and Dorian for an hour or two until Solas reappeared without Maordrid, then he excused himself to be with his Chargers. The older elf had a bowl of stew in his hand, though it looked to be cold by then. Dorian decided to retire, leaving Yin and Cassandra the only ones awake in camp.

“How is Maordrid doing?” Cassandra was the first to ask. Solas hovered a hand over his stew, heating it up and then sitting down with a sigh.

“Exhausted, I think. She sits somewhere between the waking world and some kind of nightmare, even with the magebane,” Solas said. Cassandra thumbed the pommel of her sword in thought.

“She fought beside us today, despite her current state. She is not great with a steel sword, but her improvisation made her quite formidable,” Cassandra remarked. “She is a fan of throwing dust in the eyes of her foes.”

“I’d almost say you were fond of her, Cassandra,” Yin said. The Seeker’s eyes narrowed at him.

“I respect her skill. Yet her current predicament has me worried.” Solas looked at her, face smooth.

“She cannot be possessed while taking magebane, if that is what has raised your concern,” he said.

“What worries me is when she comes off of it—”

“I can assure you that we know what we are doing,” Solas said, words clipped. “I have been actively searching the Fade each night and have determined that the Breach is likely aiding to this entity’s strange abilities.”

“You no longer think it’s a Dreamer?” Yin asked. Solas sighed.

“I don’t think so. We are rare as it is. Why would a Dreamer be after her?” Cassandra and Yin shared a look.

“Did it ever cross your mind that she may have her own secrets? We may have ruled out Tevinter spy, but that leaves plenty other things to be imagined,” Cassandra said. “Leliana has still not verified anything of her past.”

“Is it not enough that she is here to help? She has said multiple times that she would undergo Templar questioning,” Solas said. “Yin, you cannot seriously still be suspicious?” Yin rubbed his knees with open palms, avoiding looking at the two of them.

“I’ll say I’m no longer convinced she is a threat. I’ll say I’m less suspicious, but…yeah, that’s all I’ll say on the subject.” He hadn’t admitted it to Maori that he still clung to a few small but solid bits of odd detail. Her first nightmare when she had called out the name Dorian—then they met a Dorian. The ease with which she’d gotten along with him hadn’t helped her case. Forward to the future of Redcliffe, her exchange with Solas. He’d yet to try translating everything that had been said, but that they spoke so fluently was alarming to him. His clan certainly didn’t know enough to speak it exclusively and Solas had taken to subtly correcting his pronunciations. Shit, should I be suspicious of Solas too? Next I’ll be accusing Cassandra and Leliana and—gods, maybe this has gone too far.

“—not resolved after we close the Breach, I will consider approaching Cullen,” Cassandra was saying.

“You would make her Tranquil, Seeker?” Solas asked coolly. Yin’s blood pressure spiked.

“Surely not…” Yin said, but Cassandra’s eyes were steely.

“This is no laughing matter,” she said. “I understand that you have an intricate knowledge of the Fade and demons, Solas, but something that can injure and potentially kill from it is where I would normally involve Templars. I am trusting your judgement and expertise for now, but you must know what looms behind you.” Solas bowed his head, dinner forsaken. His eyes looked like blue lightning from across the fire. “I am sorry, Solas.”

“I will do what I must. Good night, Seeker. Yin.” With that, Solas dumped his food into the fire and retreated to his tent. Cassandra remained standing, staring off into the damp dark.

“Did I do the right thing?” she wondered aloud. Yin’s heart was still pounding. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself, mulling over everything.

“You’ve said some very difficult things. I wouldn’t have the stomach to say it, but it’s for the greater good, I think,” he finally said. “Though, we should have some faith in our friends. We’re some of Thedas’s best and brightest.” Cassandra finally sighed.

“You’re right. Thank you, Herald.” He offered her a smile.

“Get some rest, Cass. We march back first light.” She nodded and left him in silence. Despite Cassandra’s scathing words, Yin found himself feeling a fool. He should be helping Maordrid with her plight. He promised her silently that he would, as soon as they got done with the wound in the sky. She had protected him and it was time for him to pay it forward.


-----------------------------------------------------


Maori shut the book as soon as Solas reentered the tent. He’d a stormy expression on his face as he took a seat, then stared at her hard.

“What? she asked. He looked away, lip curled in a silent snarl, nose wrinkling slightly, then he shook his head.

At the first sign of trouble with mages, they panic.” He looked at her then. It seems that if we fail to cleanse you of the presence they will consider making you Tranquil.” In the last two weeks she had endured nothing but cold sweats, headaches, and fever. But the sweat that beaded on her skin now were accompanied by a bone-deep chill and gooseflesh. She was stunned. I will help you escape before I let that happen.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, but you are needed here,” she said. Solas chuckled sourly.

“Perhaps, but the idea that no mage is safe from that fate does not sit well with me,” he said. “They may rattle the bars all they like, but I chose to walk into this cage. I won’t allow it.” She leaned back, looking up at the canvas and listening to the soft pattering of rain against it.

“And I won’t abandon you here,” she said softly. “Plus, the Inquisition is likely my best chance of surviving this.” I swore to stand beside you. I’ve a duty to protect you against yourself now. Solas moved away from the entrance to sit across from her.

“You are probably correct,” he said as he crossed his legs. “Then we must try. I will search the Fade again, if you are ready.” She watched his eyes slip shut and the rise of his shoulders with each breath began to slow.

“Solas?” He hummed in answer. Her brain seemed unable to connect this man to the Rebel of Arlathan. They had all employed tactics of dressing simply to gain the trust of the low-born, but to this day she marvelled over him. His humble posture, the rain-dampened threads that he wore, his quiet nature…she could only dream of truly mastering the essence of what had drawn so many to his cause. She had always been too selfish and egotistical.

Maori had been staring for a long time without saying anything and now Solas was looking at her curiously. His eyes wandered along her face. Heat crept up her neck from embarrassment.

“I seem to have forgotten my words,” she said, “Likely an untoward effect of the potion. I’m sorry.”

“I am sorry as well. I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to be without my magic. I suppose in a way I am here with you out of selfish reasons. One of many.” He looked off to the side distantly.

“But not because you want to,” she said. He looked at her sharply. “It’s a threat that could involve more than myself. I understand.” Solas sighed, appearing exasperated though she wasn’t sure why.

“No, I do not think you do, but perhaps you are right in that the magebane is interfering with your mind more than I thought.” He settled back again with his eyes closed, but peeked one open. “Sleep, now. I will be here.” This time she didn’t watch him out of some sick, deep-seated curiosity and lay back on her bedroll, quickly succumbing to sleep.

Chapter Text

The next morning everyone woke up earlier than usual because rain had begun coming down in buckets, flooding tents and supplies. Suffice to say, the group packed up and left quickly. The eagerness to escape the rain had them making good time, perhaps two days’ distance in one.

Yin had decided on one thing—Solas and Iron Bull would never be brought together in the same party anywhere else. The same went with Bull and Dorian even though they barely spoke, Yin could not stand the bickering. He could see Bull, Sera, Blackwall in a group—with Vivienne to mediate—but trying to imagine the conversations there gave him symptoms of a headache.

If Yin hadn’t been battling his own small cold nearly a week later, he would have turned around and snapped at Bull when he decided to engage Maordrid. But as he was wont to do in potentially gossipy situations—in addition to his cold—Yin sat and eavesdropped.

“We’ve barely been introduced and it’s been a week!” Bull boomed. “Heard a bit about you from the others.”

“Let me guess, you want to know more,” came her raspy reply. Yin covered his laugh by coughing, though with it came a fit. He drank some more elfroot and ginger tonic, cursing under his breath.

“Yeah! How could I not? Is it true you took down a massive demon with just a spear?” He had to admit, he’d never met anyone with Bull’s enthusiasm when it came to killing things.

“Yes.” Bull crowed with laughter.

“I’ll bet you’re handy in a dragon fight,” he said.

“Yes, but I like dragons.” Yin turned in his saddle, unable to not say anything.

“Maori, have you killed a dragon before?” She held his gaze, unwavering.

“I don’t know, have I?” Yin facepalmed, snickering.

“That’s not how the line works,” he said. He almost felt bad for her, but then remember how sassy she could be when she wasn’t under the weather. “Try it again—have you killed a dragon?”

“Maybe.”

“Alone?” Iron Bull asked, leaning closer. She paused, sitting back in her saddle. Yin wished he could tell if she was in a playful mood, but her Wicked Grace-face was too good.

“My memory isn’t what it used to be,” she sighed.

“Bullshit,” Yin said, then apologised to Bull who was scrutinising her.

“All right, so we may or may not have a dragon slayer in our midst. Whatever, we’ll all be dragon killers soon,” Bull said. He was silent for all but a minute. “Where did you say you were from?”

“I didn’t.”

“So, you from somewhere north? ‘Cross the Waking Sea like our Herald here?”

“You wouldn’t know it,” she said.

“Eh, I’ve been a lot of places because of my work. Try me!” he said, all smiles.

“Why don’t you tell me of your Tamassran? Are you considered Tal-Vashoth yet? How does she feel about that?” She spoke with the pleasantness of ice going down one’s back. Bull hesitated, but she dove for the kill, “It is not pleasant to recall such things, is it?”

“Seems like you’ve got a lot pent up. It might help to talk about it,” Bull continued to press. Maori actually laughed.

Maraas imekari ,” she cooed and Bull grunted uncomfortably. “I have made peace with my past. Many years before this moment—and you think you will be the one to banish my ghosts? To talk me through it? Such short-sighted thinking, but I should not have expected so much of you.” Yin heard her click her tongue and move away down the line. Bull whistled through his teeth.

“Don’t think you’ve gotten a whipping like that since you saved my arse,” Krem said, filling Maori’s place.

“Eh, she’s got spirit. I like her,” Iron Bull said. Yin shook his head and continued riding.


---------------------------------------------


The day they reached the little lake above Gherlen’s Pass, the weather was fair and warm enough that most of them elected to stopping for the day to resupply and bathe. After bartering and haggling for food at a nearby village the large party set up camp on the shores of the lake and breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Dorian sat with Maori watching Solas attempting to teach Yin techniques to Rift magic while they shouted tips and critiques from the sidelines.

“I swear, Maori, don’t think you’re out of the frying pan! You’re next!” Yin shouted back at them as he struggled against Solas’ Pull of the Abyss. “You’re gonna take up a sword and we’re gonna have at it. Even Cassandra said you needed practice with a real one.”

“Ah, yes, because Spirit swords aren’t real,” Maordrid deadpanned.

“Yin, why don’t you cast Veilstrike on Solas?” Dorian asked, getting tired of watching him lose.

“Because he’s cheating and literally sucking all the stray magic out of the air somehow? It’s like he made the Veil all slippery!” Yin shouted, walking in place. Solas laughed.

“You could easily counter me if you had been paying attention. But instead you’ve been making eyes at Dorian and letting them distract you,” the elf said, creating a small ice storm above Yin. Dorian leaned over to Maori who, he noticed, had a small smirk on her lips.

“He was looking at me?” he asked innocently. Maordrid tore her eyes away from them for a moment to glance at him.

“Quite a lot, actually. That’s why it’s so funny,” she said, “But don’t worry, you are just as bad.” Dorian was glad his complexion hid most reddening of his cheeks. When he turned his attention back to the duellers, Yin had thankfully broken free and was now advancing on Solas with a series of small stonefists.

“Try casting small Pulls, Yin! Throw him off balance!” Maori cheered. Yin immediately took her advice and Dorian saw little explosions of light where the tiny rifts were appearing. Solas was driven back and for a brief moment it looked as though Yin was going to win until the bald elf Fade Stepped past Yin and blasted him with funnelled air that made the Herald stumble into the lake.

Solas hefted his staff over his shoulder and trudged back toward them with a glint in his eye.

“That was clever advice, Maordrid,” he said once he’d reached them, sitting beside her.

“Don’t pretend he didn’t have you for a moment. That’s why you Fade Stepped,” she teased. Solas chuckled.

“He did not say we couldn’t use other schools of magic,” he said. Maori rolled her eyes.

“It was implied, trickster,” she said, bumping him.

“To be fair, it was a duel to see how much he has learned,” Dorian interjected.

“For once we can agree,” Solas said. Yin finally rejoined them in squelching boots, glaring at Solas.

“Wipe that smug look on your face, cheater. One day, I will outsmart you,” Yin declared, then he shot looks at Dorian and Maori. “C’mon, you’re next.” Maordrid blinked.

“I’m not bad with a sword,” she protested. “Not fair to judge that with my current condition.” Yin grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her away, leaving Dorian with Solas.

“Can Yin even sword fight?” Dorian asked him. Solas was watching them with amusement as they acquired swords from the camp.

“He claims he has experience and that Commander Cullen gave him a few pointers, though I’m not sure when he found the time,” Solas said. “I suppose we shall see if he has been bluffing or not.” Dorian repressed a grin and focused on them as the two returned to the bloodletting grounds armed with swords.

“Just so you know, these swords aren’t blunted,” Maori called over to them on the sidelines. Solas waved his hand and barriers shimmered over the blades. Dorian was surprised to see Yin grip the sword in a way he’d seen actual warriors do it. Even his stance seemed stable.

“I’m not going easy,” Yin said. Maori’s exaggerated huff was audible even from their spot. Then he charged. Maori spun her sword and gripped it behind her back, blade between her shoulders as she ducked away from his swipe. In fact, she bobbed and weaved away from all of his attacks—though to be fair, they were mostly thrusts and slow moving slices—which made her look like a master swordsman and Yin like a drunkard. Dorian made sure to vocalise that thought immediately, much to her amusement.

“Yin, perhaps you should close the distance instead of fighting two sword-lengths away? You might actually land a hit,” Solas said. The Herald growled and followed his advice. With his height against her short stature, Maordrid had no choice but to engage him with her sword now. The two exchanged a few ringing blows, with Yin initiating each attack. His strikes were almost always at head level and for a time it seemed to Dorian that he had the upperhand. Except, only physically. Maordrid stopped playing and eventually began throwing in strikes aimed at his legs and torso, putting Yin on the defensive. He was much better at parrying and blocking than going on the offensive, but that seemed to be Maori’s forte. She was quick and aggressive, turning her blade and adjusting her grip constantly to try different techniques.

“Do you enjoy low guard because you’re so close to the ground?” Yin said, huffing out a laugh as he parried her again. None of them expected Maordrid to abruptly stop in her attacks and clutch her middle. Dorian got to his feet quickly, thinking she’d been hurt—Solas was almost halfway across shore to her when suddenly Maori let out a roaring laugh. Even Yin was taken aback. She laughed until there were tears in her eyes. Dorian cursed under his breath and sat back down. Solas rejoined him, crossing his arms and shaking his head.

“I didn’t think it was that funny,” Dorian said. “Is it an elf thing?”

“No, I think that is just Maordrid,” he said as the two resumed duelling. This time, she employed reverse flowering to her attacks which clearly befuddled Yin. He couldn’t seem to figure out where to put his sword and kept yelping and back-peddling toward the water.

“Concede! I concede!” he shouted, Fade Stepping to get away from her.

“You are intimidated by a bit of flourishing?” she laughed. He threw his hands up. “Fair enough. I will teach you how to disrupt such tactics.” They began again, but Dorian noticed Cassandra had come down to watch.

“She is teaching him?” she asked. Dorian raised an eyebrow, detecting what sounded like delicious jealousy in her voice.

“It has been less teaching than it is a weathering of his pride,” Solas said with amusement.

“Perhaps it should be the reverse,” the Seeker said. “He needs true training so as not to instill poor habits or the wrong techniques. Flourishes are entirely unnecessary.”

“Then perhaps you should offer yourself up?” Dorian said, humour properly dampened. “I thought Maordrid was doing fine. She is, after all, an Arcane Warrior.”

“But her skill is lacking with a material sword. “He should learn the fundamentals of swordplay until he can summon and maintain a weapon like her. But even she relies too much on magic to secure victories for her,” Cassandra said. Dorian cleared his throat.

“Then I suppose Solas and I should pack up and go home?” he said. Cassandra turned to face him.

“That is not what I mean,” she said, “I have the Herald’s best interests at heart.”

“As do we all, Seeker,” Dorian replied and left it at that. The woman seemed to sense the prickly atmosphere she had brought upon them and excused herself after a minute more of watching. Solas chuckling brought him back to the presence and looking to the sparring elves he found it was impossible to repress laughter. Yin had lifted Maori over his shoulders and was marching toward the lake with Maordrid screaming profanities and threats. They were quickly swallowed by the water, but the woman surfaced like some kind of terror from the depths and wrapped around Yin before he could escape, pulling him into the undoubtedly chilly lake. His screech was no less undignified than hers.

They returned from the water sopping wet but with childish grins on their faces.

“I think my elf-dunking techniques are quite refined,” Yin said, shaking his hair out. Dorian flicked flecks of water from his clothes.

“You smell of wet dog,” he said. “Although I am convinced all bodies of water in the south smell of such.”

“I agree. But you must admit, the wet Antivan looks good on me.” Yin flexed his muscles through his white shirt.

“Yin thinks he looks attractive no matter what he is doing,” Maordrid said.

“It’s an Antivan thing,” he said, winking.

“I won’t disagree. They also make excellent wine,” Dorian said.

“Well, gentlemen. I am not Antivan and I’m certain wet is not a good look on me. I’m going to get warm,” Maori announced, teeth gritted against the cold. Solas joined her on the walk back, leaving them on the shore.

“I’m sure a particular someone disagrees with her statement,” Dorian said after they were gone.

“What’s that look?” Yin asked him, taking off his shirt and wringing it out.

“Oh, I just really want to win that bet. Iron Bull fancies himself skilled at judging character,” Dorian mused, “Unfortunately for him, I am as well.” Yin straightened, staring out after Solas and Maordrid.

“So?” he said.

“His eyes barely left her. Oh, and when we all thought she was spontaneously dying? He reacted faster than I did. Those signs bode well for my bet!” Dorian twiddled his fingers together excitedly. He was somewhat put out to see Yin’s face as plain as the white cotton on his chest. “I know you don’t like it. But a thousand gold to be right? I love being right and I hate losing.” Yin shrugged.

“He’s watching her because she’s taking magebane. Dunno what the effects could be after a week of that poison. I thought she was going to drop dead back there, so I don’t blame him.” Yin scrubbed a hand through his hair uneasily. “You already know why I don’t even want to think about it. I’ve had nightmares every time I’ve gone to sleep since Redcliffe.”

“Do you want me to read you bedtime stories and sing lullabies? I don’t know any Dalish folktales, unfortunately,” Dorian said. Yin finished drying his shirt with a fire spell.

“We Dalish would strip down to our smalls and hide under a blanket to tell stories. It’s the only way to stave off nightmares, Dorian,” Yin said very seriously. “Otherwise the fear will scare your pants off and you’ll never find them. It’s said the Bringer of Nightmares curses them so you can never find another pair.”

“You know, that’s so absurd I’d almost believe it.” Dorian conjured a bit of water from the ground to put out the small flames Yin hadn’t seen on the back of his shirt. “However, in Tevinter , we do something far more scandalous to ward off nightmares…”

Chapter Text

Days later, they arrived. She didn’t want to say she was glad to be back in Haven, but that was exactly what she felt when the crude wooden walls came into sight. Her bottom was sore and her vertebrae felt jarred out of place from the awful roads. She had stopped taking the magebane a day before since they planned on closing the Breach either the next day or the day after. She would need her magic, no excuses.

The withdrawal from using magebane for two weeks was unpleasant, however. Perhaps the prolonged side effects would be useful to a scholar or an herbalist somewhere. Sweats, fever, and the occasional hallucination. All aches and pains aside, her wounds had healed to scars thanks to Solas’ skill.

As they were all removing packs and things from the horses, she felt a slight tug at her side and looked around, expecting yet another hallucination. There were too many people milling about but when she checked her purse to see if it had been cut, it was still intact. Something crunched in her pocket when she patted it down. Maori hurriedly gathered what little she had and wandered away from the clump, pulling the note from her pocket and hiding it in her palm. The note was written in cipher, but she recognised it immediately and translated thatch, out, wall. She crumpled it and placed it back in her pocket before joining the others where they were accumulating near the gates.

“We’re going to hold a council in two hours to discuss the plans. I’d like everyone to be there,” Yin announced to everyone, and then they dispersed. Once she was certain no one was going to approach her again for conversation, she slipped away toward the little thatched hut outside of the wall. At only a few paces from the door, she checked the area for prints and signs of others but found it clear. Her magic had not yet recovered fully from the magebane, which made her uneasy about going in blind. She could not remember the last time she’d been so helpless.

Maori pushed the door open and slipped inside. It was dark and dusty and cold, but across from the door was a brazier with a little fire inside. Standing before it warming their hands was someone in a winter cloak with a fur-lined hood pulled up. They turned at her entrance and removed the hood.

“Inaean?” Maori gasped, dropping her things and rushing forward. The women embraced in the middle of the room, laughing joyously. Inaean cupped her face between her hands, copper eyes taking in her appearance. “ What are you doing here?

Word came from Firra. I had to see for myself,” Inaean said. What have they done to you, Yrja?

Not them. Me. Something hunts me in the Fade, ” she laughed, I elected to taking magebane until the chaos dies down enough for me to investigate. Maordrid pushed a strand of dark hair over Inaean’s ear with a smile. You thought I was dead, then?

You were getting so close to the magister. And then the explosion happened. One survivor. You cannot blame us for thinking something terrible,” she said. Even so, you should not have survived. What happened? I do not know if I believe Firra’s explanation. And so Maordrid explained in more detail than she had allotted Firra, as she was talking to Ghimyean’s younger brilliant sister. At the end, the elf was pensive, but nodded. Dorian Pavus sounds like a genius. Maordrid laughed.

If he heard you say that, it would go straight to his head.

Ah, right, Tevinter?” She nodded. “ I take it back then.

I should tell you, I go by Maordrid in this timeline,” she said. Inaean raised an eyebrow.

Wasn’t Maordrid the name of that old wandering knight we encountered north of the Donnarks? Maordrid laughed.

Solas was the first to ask my name and that’s what I thought of. It isn’t a name he will know, ” she said.

I’m sure that knight would be pleased that his name lives on several thousand years later. They lapsed into momentary silence, remembering old lives.

Do we have people in Haven? Maori asked. Inaean nodded.

They came with me through the ranks of the Circle mages. They all have ways of getting messages to the rest of our network,” Inaean gave pause, “How’s it like being so close to Fen’harel? You know, now that he’s awake? The question threw her off. She wasn’t sure how to answer, but not giving one was perhaps the worst.

He is different than he once was. Burdened and sorrowful. A...little shortsighted. He sees the elves of today as lesser,” she said slowly. I see a man in need of guidance. Where he passed ages in slumber, you and I have lived each day awake and adapting. This world is flawed, but so was ours. It is up to the Elu’bel to stitch together the best of both worlds. Inaean gave a gentle smile, resting a hand on her shoulder.

This is why you are a better leader than Ghimyean could have been. I know, I know, you hate the word leader or Commander, but you know everyone except a few see you as such. See, Ghimyean would have seen Solas killed soon after the Veil was lifted. You chose to watch and wait before making a call. And you still are! They will all see reason, Maordrid.

You think me soft. I am flawed in my ways and that is why I need the Elu’bel to balance me out,” Maori said. Inaean let out silvery laughter.

You admit it, though. That is more than what many of our own can say for themselves,” she said, “Fortunately, you will not have to rely on us ancients. You have these quicklings, no? When will you reveal yourself to them? Maordrid had been mulling over it almost all day and decided not too long after entering the thatched hut.

Today, tomorrow, soon? If something happens to me during the fight, I have faith in Dorian, she said. Inaean looked askance at her.

That’s quite a lot. You’d hand operations over to him?

Guided by the Elu’bel, Dorian and Yin coupled with those they trust will save the world. They did before. Inaean bowed at the waist.

Then you have my support. I will do what I can. When she straightened there was a glint in her eye. I must ask though—when will you have time to slip away? Maordrid shrugged. Firra wasn’t lying when she said I found someone that can teach you how to dragon. Send word to me once you’re certain you can slip away for a week.

You will hear from me. Inaean pulled her hood up again.

I would stay longer, but Firra gave an in-depth report about what you have in that little book of yours. Everyone is scrambling, calling favours and pulling strings all across the map. I’ve been tasked with infiltrating the Vir Dirthara.

And I must figure a way to convince a mortal that I am a time traveller. Inaean laughed loudly.

Don’t break the poor boy’s mind, friend,” she said. Dareth shiral, Maordrid. Then she was gone.

Maordrid sighed and knelt beside her pack, pulling out the amulet that past-Dorian had given her as well as the perfected voice-crystal that he had made. Magister Dorian had said there was a chance the two objects wouldn’t be enough to convince his other self, but had said that if she could bring him into the Fade and replay some memories, that would likely do the trick. Inquisitor Yin had nearly had a fit when he saw the amulet in her possession. Apparently Yin had gone through quite a bit of trouble to retrieve it for Dorian and the object in itself had won Dorian’s affections.

In the end they agreed that their relationship was less important than the fate of the world.

Tucking the pendants into her pockets, Maordrid set off toward Haven.




Everyone gathered within the hall of the Chantry two hours later. While they had been travelling the week after Redcliffe, Josephine reported that a large chunk of the mages had arrived in Haven. Solas confirmed that the numbers would be enough to close the Breach and that they could do it as soon as the Herald was ready. Cullen’s troops were prepared as well, should they need them.

“I just want to get it over with,” Yin said when they asked his opinion. “Tomorrow, noon.” Maodrid’s stomach dropped. So little time.

Tomorrow, we triumph,” Cassandra repeated, sounding pleased. The council was quickly adjourned for everyone but the inner council and the Herald, so Maordrid set off quickly to retrieve her staff from Solas’ cabin. He was not yet there, likely still lagging behind, but that was fine. She brought the material back to hers and set to work, carving away imperfections the way Solas had shown her. While it would be lacking the enchantment of the two mages working together, she figured she could add it later when her magic had fully returned. After she’d cut it into the shape she wanted, Maordrid took her supplies to the blacksmith where she met the perpetually disgruntled smith. He didn’t seem to care what she did, so long as she stayed out of the way and didn’t break his tools. He even told her she could use whatever materials were leftover from other projects. Maordrid grabbed a hammer, some small iron stakes the size of her little finger, and a fine-tipped chisel. She started with the engraving first, taking the chisel and slowly cutting the words to an ancient elven spell into the wood. Soun to convince the wood it was strong, sou’eireth to fortify the winter spirit within it. When the words were inlaid, she took the iron stakes and had Harritt smelt them down. At that point, he decided to hover over her curiously.

“Aren’t you a mage?” he asked as he stoked the smelting fire.

“Yes,” she said.

“But a blacksmithing mage?” he grunted.

“I had a friend. Refused to give me armour or weapons until I understood the process, at least on a superficial level,” she said. Harritt laughed.

“Bet he didn’t have many customers,” he said.

“No, but the ones he did have paid a king’s ransom for his work. He knew what he was doing,” she said. The old man hawked and spat into the embers, showing her what he thought of that.

“So whaddya want to do with this stuff?” he said, grabbing the tongs. She put on a glove and took them from him. “Roight. If ya burn your hands off, don’t come cryin’.”

“Do you have any lyrium potions?” she asked.

“Five gold,” he said. She was relieved that Lady Montilyet had paid her that day. Everyone got a decent sum of gold. Harritt pocketed the payment and tossed her a vial which she promptly downed. She had conflicting feelings on lyrium, but she was tired of not having her magic. As the substance absorbed into her body, she felt the well begin to refill and immediately tapped into it, using a stream of magic to manipulate a thread of liquid iron into the grooves of the staff. With a dose of winter and air, she fed it into the wood around the hot metal, simultaneously cooling it and sucking the air from the spot to prevent the wood from burning. Before long, she was looking upon a shimmering script of elven along the grip of the staff. With a touch, she imbued the words with power and watched with pleasure as the grains in the wood glowed white and then dulled again.

“You just enchanted that yourself?” Harritt exclaimed from behind her.

“I wasn’t expecting it to work. Wild experiment,” she said. “I was a terrible student to my blacksmith.”

“Still might not work. Could explode on you soon as you go to cast.” She laughed.

“You’re probably right. Thank you for your help, Master Harritt.” The human grunted something and walked away, shouting at an apprentice for hammering with the wrong end of the tool. Meanwhile, Maordrid applied the finishing touches to the staff with the lustrious cotton and little wired stones.

Then she set off toward the practice yard, carefully spinning the staff to find its balance. Just as she passed in front of Haven’s gates, Yin appeared alone.

“Oh, look at you with your Solas-approved staff!” he said, holding his hand out. She passed it to him and sensed him inspecting it with magic. “Where is he? I’d think he’d want to test out your creation.” She felt her cheeks threatening to blush, which was…strange.

“He only helped me carve it. I did the rest.” Yin raised an eyebrow.

“Pretty good for your first staff,” he said handing it back. “Let’s go test it out on the lake. Dummies don’t like fire very much.”

On the lake, she experimented with the different schools of magic. The staff pulled ice from the Fade like a man desperate for water and the strength of its winter glyphs were impressive, withstanding Yin’s attempt with fire to erase part of the writing. Fire, obviously, was almost impossible to cast with the staff. At most, she could cast a feeble fireball.

“Remember, you’re recovering from magebane still so your spells might not be as powerful as they could be,” Yin said some way across the lake as he shot a torrent of billowing flame from the end of his staff. Maordrid tried a barrier with the staff, casting it from the tip to see if it could create an Aegis of some sort. The most she could get was a half dome that would function well against a Meteor Strike or a volley of arrows, but no direct attacks.

Their session lasted all of ten minutes before they were interrupted by a surprise guest. Cullen stood at the shore in the snow and waved at them.

“You’re quite the popular one,” Yin whispered when Cullen called her name.

“Doesn’t Scout Harding refer to you as your Worship ?” she teased back. Yin scoffed.

“Gimme your staff, I want to play with it,” he said.

“Whatever your Worship says,” she said, bowing and presenting it with both hands.

“You know how easy it would be to crack open the ice with this staff and drop you into the water?” Yin grabbed the staff and Fade Stepped away as Cullen decided to join her instead.

“May I have a word?” he asked. She nodded warily, but followed him toward a more private part of the lake, away from the noise. When both Haven and the Herald were in field of view, Cullen stopped and crossed his arms. “Cassandra approached me with some troubling news.” Maordrid’s heart dropped and it must have shown on her face, for Cullen waved his hands to placate her. “I just wanted to tell you myself that I wouldn’t put that upon you. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.” For a moment she was suspended in disbelief, but quickly snapped back into suspicion.

“I—thank you,” she said. “But if there is a chance that I may impose a danger to others, I will leave the Inquisition on my own.”

“That is why I won’t agree to what Cassandra suggested. It’s just a feeling, but from the way you hold yourself I can see you’re no stranger to duty. You’ve seen war and you’ve proved to be a guardian of the innocent,” he said. “The reports that I’ve seen aren’t lacking in praise of you.” Maordrid huffed.

“I haven’t done much in the last two weeks. The magebane took a toll on me,” she said.

“You’ve thrown yourself into danger a few times to protect someone else. I can’t say that some of my own men would do that,” he said. “Look, just know that I’ll advocate for you if the subject comes up again. And…Solas seems determined to resolve whatever it is that is going on. I’m not sure how much I trust him, but he’s good at what he does.”

“May I ask what brought this on? Why are you…doing this?” she asked, perhaps a bit too harshly. Cullen sighed, a cloud appearing before his lips as his burnished amber eyes wandered the landscape.

“I feel awful about how you were treated when you arrived here. Wounded, thrown into the cells. You could have died from infection. Then we all but forgot about you, really. The others seem content to forget it ever happened, but it guilts me,” he said. Something in her softened and she found herself reaching out, resting a hand on his arm.

“All is forgiven, Commander,” she said, withdrawing awkwardly. “And…should you ever need anything, my strength is yours.” Cullen smiled, an endearing thing, and turned to watch the lake where Yin was now with Varric…doing something.

“Keep an eye on that dwarf and elf. Every time I’ve heard them talking they’ve been discussing explosives or poisons,” Cullen said. He winked at her. “Drink, later?”

“Certainly,” she said with a bow. He nodded and departed silently. Then she walked down to reclaim her staff from the Herald.

“So I hear you’re a fan of explosions,” was the first thing out of Varric’s mouth. She eyed them both.

“I was just warned about this,” she said, to Varric’s amusement.

“Yeah, Curly hasn’t quite come around to trusting me since Blondie blew up the Chantry,” he said. “And now that he knows I was in town when the sky exploded, he just thinks I’m a bad luck dwarf.”

“We’re the bad luck duo, you understand,” Yin said. Varric patted him on the back.

“But together, we’re genius,” Varric said. “So. You’ve got some…explosive components to that staff of yours, our glowbug friend tells me?” Maordrid wasn’t sure if she should tell them she was more than a fan of explosives. She had a slight obsession. Gaatlok and lyrium made for devastating bombs. And while she didn't have access to Gaatlok, there were other reagents out there that she knew of.

“Ever heard of a virulent bomb?” she said, lowering her voice. They nodded. “I’ve a modified spell that incorporates a lingering flammable miasma. But I didn’t tell you that.” Varric whistled and Yin paled.

“So…is there a way to translate that into crossbow bolts?” Varric asked. Maordrid grinned. Andruil would not be pleased to know what secrets of hers were about to be revealed.


They swarmed the snowy hills like a plague. Thousands of crystals blinking like red eyes. Infectious, deadly, merciless. Templars, abominations, a nightmare such as no one has ever seen. Leading the charge is Corypheus himself and Raleigh Samson serving as his left hand. Watch out for the blighted dragon, too. Took out a trebuchet like it was made of straw. Lot of people in trouble in the village, I’ll list the areas we found ‘em in. -Varric

Yrja, this is the first time we see Corypheus with the orb. With the dragon present it may be impossible to take it from his hands…but if you are fast, well, I might bring the mountain down on his head to buy you some time to escape. It’s high risk though. Your plan to acquire it later is probably the safer route anyway. Hey, but you won’t need any of this if you go far enough back in time, right? Godspeed, lethallin. —Yin

If my spell failed and you’ve made it this far, I can’t say there’s much you can do to improve Haven’s outcome, I’m afraid. I see Yin suggested attempting to steal the forbidden black egg from Corypheus’ grip. Not a bad idea, really, but keep in mind that he’s quite powerful. I’m sure you already knew that. Good luck. -Dorian

[Below is a list of names, locations. Another list is below that of red-lyrium infused enemies and their weaknesses.]


It was noon of the next day. Maordrid closed the book and tucked it away with Dorian’s pendants in a satchel, securing it with a length of leather.

Ahead loomed the shattered Temple of Sacred Ashes, bathed in the verdant light of the Fade. Directly in front of her rode Yin flanked by Cassandra and Solas. To her right was Dorian who had officially been welcomed into the Inquisition and on her left was Varric who was stroking Bianca with a single finger as he gazed distrusting at the Breach like it was some shifty ruffian. Iron Bull, Sera, Vivienne, Blackwall were scattered in the other directions. And behind them was the growing Inquisition—mages and soldiers together.

At the top, they all took positions around the epicentre of the explosion, though Dorian, Vivienne, Solas, and herself all joined Yin at the bottom.

“What an anomaly,” Dorian said beside her, still looking up. “I can’t imagine what created this.”

“Would you be surprised to learn that the answer is closer to you than you think?” she murmured. Dorian’s head lowered slowly, eyes wide.

“What do you me—”

“Mages!” Cassandra bellowed, stepping forward. Maordrid gave Dorian a knowing look and stepped away, preparing her magic for the call.

“Focus past the Herald, let his will draw from you!” Solas shouted, raising his staff above his head. The air thickened like layered spider’s silk as a hundred mages opened themselves to Lavellan. The Herald walked forward into a stream of green, pushing through it with great effort. The Mark in his hand sputtered to life and glowed like an angry green diamond. She watched with utter amazement as the future Inquisitor thrust his hand into the air and a column of green magic exploded forward, shooting into the heart of the Breach like a spear.

For a moment, the gaping maw bulged and pulsed as if fighting back…and then with an earth-shaking boom, it closed, an invisible shockwave throwing every standing person onto their backs. A mushroom cloud of dust, coughs, and groans rose throughout the ruins. Maordrid got to her feet and saw Cassandra pushing her way through people to Yin who was kneeling where he had previously been obscured by the tongue of the Fade.

“You did it,” she breathed as he rose to his feet. He smiled, and the Temple was filled with sounds of elation.

Chapter Text

Maordrid wandered through Haven an hour after Yin Lavellan’s great feat, watching the celebration with numbness. She had retrieved the lute from Solas’ cabin while he was out and was slowly making her way through the village checking and removing hazards that the book had detailed, hoping it would save some lives. With carefully chosen words, she convinced one or two of those people to join the revelry closer to the centre of the village where they would be safe.

Another hour had passed and she had checked the trebuchets and dropped two healing potions padded in thick cotton into the mining shaft.

She found herself sitting on the dock at the frozen lake, strumming the melody to Ara Ean’elgara, an old song about a wisp’s journey across Thedas in the days before the Veil. A group of villagers were sliding around the ice below her, giggling and sloshing ale as they celebrated.

“You are missing from the party,” a voice said, approaching from behind.

“As are you,” she replied as Solas sat beside her, dangling his feet off of the dock. She switched the song to something more modern but with similar chords.

“What occupies your mind such that you prefer to be alone, lethallin?” he asked. The satchel at her side felt like it had been emanating heat all day, but she found her heart’s trouble lay elsewhere. Slowly, her fingers stopped moving along the strings.

“Being at the Temple reminded me of things lost,” she said. “I was simply remembering a memory I had seen in the Fade, one that I have revisited many times over the years.” He looked at her thoughtfully.

“Share it with me,” he said. The gentle earnestness of his voice was not something she could refuse.

So she went on, “It was a recollection of a man’s life that a spirit helped me piece together. This man…he was a good person with a strong heart. Helped countless people and changed his surroundings more than I could ever hope to.” She paused, taking a deep breath, but never looked at him though she could feel his eyes. “But it wasn’t enough. The world was too big to be molded by a single man. Somewhere, sometime, it broke him.”

“What happened to him?” Solas asked. Maori set the lute down between them.

“He fought back, of course. But by that time he was on the wrong side. His friends tried to help him see his errors, but eventually they fell or fled. The memories ended before I could find out how his story ended.” Solas was pensive—silent. “The person—or people that created the Breach…they wish to change the world somehow. Somehow, they think the world they envision will be better for an obscure group of people. And lives will be lost.”

“Do you think the world is fine as it is?” he asked, and what a loaded question it was.

“As opposed to the days of Elvhenan? Or do you refer to the people of the world?” she said. Solas paused.

“You said you have seen memories of Arlathan. You have seen what it once was,” he said. She nodded.

“A world once permeated with magic. Peoples that lived forever,” she said. “But even it was not without flaws, Solas. No matter what age you look at, people struggled. That is reality. The man in my dream—there have been hundreds of men just like him. There will be a thousand more. And that is the beauty of it.” She sighed, knowing nothing would be changed in one sitting. “I don’t know why I am telling you any of this. Perhaps I am afraid.”

She never did get to hear his thoughts. A single bell resounded through the air, echoing across the ice—a herald of doom. She closed her eyes as more bells followed.

“What is going on?” Solas said, standing up. She rose with him, eyes turned toward the horizon. Cullen’s voice rose above the clamour, crying out the warning. An army was coming over the ridge. Without a word, Solas grabbed her hand and then they were running, joining the villagers from the lake. The lute would be buried beneath the mountain, forgotten forever.

At the gates, most of the Inquisition had gathered around Cullen.

“One watch guard reporting. It’s a massive force—the bulk of it over the mountain,” he was saying.

“Under what banner?” Josephine asked.

“None.”

“None?” Her surprise was echoed across all faces. Yin pushed past them, eyes pinned to the closed gates. Maordrid jumped back when they banged, fire flashing through the cracks.

“I can’t come in unless you open!” a young man cried from outside. Hearing the distress in the voice, Yin ran down the rest of the steps and opened the gates. A behemoth of a man in Tevinter armour awaited on the other side and advanced as soon as the doors opened.

“Clos—” Yin began to order but then stopped when a silver point pierced through the grey flesh of the berserker. The corpse fell and in its stead stood a gangly young boy wearing some kind of helm over a floppy hat. Compassion, she thought, and she saw the spirit’s head turn toward her as though he had heard her thoughts. They all ran outside, observing the carnage that the lone boy had wrought.

“I’m Cole! I came to warn you—to help! People are coming to hurt you…you probably already know—”

“What is this? What is going on?” Yin demanded.

“The Templars come to kill you,” the boy in rags said. Cullen shook his head.

“Templars! Is this the Order’s response to our talks with the mages? Attacking blindly?” he asked, though it seemed rhetorical. Cole danced back, face grim.

“The Templars went to the Elder One. You know him? He knows you,” he said, pointing to Yin, “You took his mages. There…” He turned and with his other hand pointed off into the distance, a hill protruding above the trees. Figures crested it, but even from there Maordrid could see the impossibly large Tevinter magister and his cronies. The Conductor of Silence. “Yes,” Cole whispered, hearing her. “He is very angry that you took his mages.”

“Cullen…a plan here? Anything!” Yin spun, looking at his Commander, but even he looked uncertain.

“Haven is no fortress. If we are to withstand this monster, we must control the battle. Get out there and hit that force. Use everything you can.” He drew his sword and rotated, taking them all in. “Mages! You have sanction to engage them! That is Samson and he will not make it easy! Inquisition, with the Herald!” A battlecry rose from the ranks and then they were moving. Yin called her, Dorian, Solas, and Bull to his side and the five of them rushed down to the trebuchets. Much earlier, Maordrid had discreetly positioned them where they needed to be and made sure they were loaded—she’d drawn glyphs on the ammunition to ensure maximum damage as well. A few stray red templars trickled in, but recognising them as knights struck them with fire and lightning. Solas and Dorian caught on quickly, stunning them for Bull to cut down. Once they ensured the soldiers were safe, they ran down the path to the trebuchet past the blacksmith’s forge where the trebuchet was surrounded by advancing Venatori soldiers. With a roar, Bull charged, forcing their attention to him. The mages sent a barrage of fire, ice, and spirit onto the enemy. Archers spread about the field looking to get an in on them, but Maordrid chased after them, spinning her staff and summoning a short sword that threw her first opponent offguard but to which her second was savvy to. As she ducked beneath a blow from his bladed bow, she came up only to see him stiffen from a bolt of ice thrust through his helm. Turning, she saw Solas nod and engage another enemy that died beneath Bull’s great axe.

“It’s clear!” she shouted to Yin who gave the order to release. They all watched, sweaty and nervous as the trebuchet launched the missiles into the mountainside, unleashing a wave of white death upon the sea of Venatori. For a moment, she saw how they thought they’d won in the past. Even Solas cheered with the others.

But she heard the wings of the dragon above the revelry, screaming at them to get away from the trebuchet. Yin was standing too close. Maordrid launched herself at him, tackling him out of the way just as the dragon came swooping in and blasting it to splinters with a torrent of red lyrium fire and flying off.

“Today is now well beyond making sense!” Dorian shouted.

“Everyone to the gates!” Yin shouted after they’d gotten to their feet.

“Don’t need prompting for me, Boss!” Bull said, hauling off. They all ran for the gates, but Maordrid spotted the first man on the list. Harritt was foolishly trying to bust down the door to his hut. Mindblasting it open, Harritt thanked her and rushed in. She shouted at him to hurry and made sure he’d gotten his things, shoving him out when he took too long. Then they ran.

“Move it! Move it!” Cullen was pulling people through the gates when they arrived, shutting it when no one else came immediately. “We need everyone back to the Chantry! It’s the only building that might hold against that beast! At this point…just make them work for it.” Yin turned to the others.

“Let’s grab people on the way,” he said.

Slowly, but surely they rounded folk up, sending them on their way while fighting off invaders. When they finally reached the Chantry, an old man in robes was ushering people in, clutching his middle as though he’d been wounded. Compassion stood behind him, a silent figure.

“Move! Keep going! The Chantry is your shelter!” the man named Roderick called. Inside, Maordrid scanned the faces of the refugees and recognised a few of her own. She broke away from the group and approached the Elu’bel spy who immediately straightened at her approach.

“My Lady?” For all that she appeared meek and shaken, her eyes were fearless and eager.

“If I don’t return, you are to stay with the Inquisition. Report to Inaean. Tell her to approach our allies,” she whispered. The spy bowed.

“What strength of lyrium potion, my Lady?” she asked as someone passed by. How long until I send out?

“A two to one dose,” Maordrid decided. Two months. Worst case scenario. The servant bowed again and melded in with the crowd.

“Maori! Let’s go!” She took a shallow breath and jogged out after Yin and the others as they went off to hold the front line.

“I understand the strategy, but I usually avoid drawing this much attention,” Solas was saying outside the building.

“We don’t have much of a choice,” Yin said, slipping into a battle stance as they were immediately attacked. They fought, grimly pushing through their enemies. With five of them pushing the offense, Bull and Maordrid pushed the offence while the other mages watched their flanks, always maintaining a barrier on the two.

Once they reached Haven’s inner wall, enemies were jumping over to attack.

“We’ve got to get to that trebuchet!” Yin shouted, launching a Stonefist at an archer’s head. With the help of Dorian and Solas, three of them raised a wall of ice to stave off anymore intruders from jumping over the gaps in the wall.

At the clearing with the siege machine, they were swarmed despite erecting their ice barrier. Maordrid went toe-to-toe with a spellcaster that had appeared, vaulting over a glyph with her staff, triggering it to explode. It completely deteriorated her barrier, but in trade she kicked the man into a fire rune set by Dorian just behind him. Another explosion shook the ground near the wall, sending a plume of dust and snow into the air.

“What is that?” Yin shrieked as a mountain of red emerged.

“I dunno, but I don’t care to ask it!” Bull charged at it with his axe and nearly had his head lopped off by a massive swinging crab-claw. “Mao, jump!” The Qunari knelt and she saw an opening, sprinting and using him as a ramp. Bull stood up swiftly, launching her into the air. Conjuring spear, she pointed her staff down at the monstrosity below and unleashed a storm of ice on the creature. Some of the lyrium cracked, but the attack only seemed to enrage him. The claw swiped blindly in the air before she could change trajectory and knocked her to the side like a fly. She tumbled into the snow, air knocked out of her lungs.

“Get up!” Dorian shouted at her from behind a flurry of spells. She immediately saw why—a geyser of red crystals were coming straight at her. With a push of air, she rolled to her feet, grabbed her staff and upon casting, was immediately thrown back again. This time, she was flung into the side of a rock face.

“Maordrid!” Consciousness threatened to leave, but some feral little thing inside of her made her muscles contract, pushing her to all fours. Laying in the snow before her were the broken halves of her freshly made staff. It had clearly malfunctioned, just as the blacksmith had predicted. With a groan, she got to her feet, pissed off. In her brief fight for consciousness, the others had beaten back the monster that was letting out screeches of agony. Bull jabbed his axe into the the thing’s chest, knocking loose a chunk of lyrium. Her opening.

Maordrid took a running start for a familiar finish, launching her spear across the clearing. With the sound of shattering glass, it lodged itself in the creature’s chest.

“Shit yeah!” Bull cheered as it finally died. Maordrid limped back into the area as Yin finished positioning the last and largest trebuchet. Her aching brain knew something else was about to happen, but the knowledge slipped away like an oily shadow.

She was swiftly reminded when that shadow flew over them with a screech.

“Move. MOVE!” Yin cried, backing away. “NOW!” It was Dorian that grabbed her this time, sprinting almost too quickly for her legs to keep up. Behind, something exploded and she stopped, remembering.

“Dorian, wait!” she cried. She had to dig her heels into the dirt, but he stopped and looked back, terrified.

“What? Oh no, Yin!”

“I’m going back,” she said, unbuckling the satchel from her waist. She shoved it into his hands. “This is a book. There are pages marked for you. Don’t look at the others—I’ll explain why next we meet.” His hand snapped out, grabbing her before she could go.

“Are you insane? You’re going to die!” he said.

“You’ll understand later. Go. Tell the others I’ve gone for Yin.” Then, she turned and shifted into a black hawk, launching into the air. Dorian’s gasp was enough to tell her something had finally clicked.

She circled higher and higher, looking down on the scene below. Yin was standing before the ancient magister and his dragon, a Dalish elf defiant before death. She heard the voice that had haunted her dreams, clear and commanding of that which the magister deemed lesser than dirt. The Herald spoke, asking him to help him understand and being refused.

And then it was revealed—the orb, black as obsidian and humming with power even from her height.

She dove, growing in size and velocity.

Her wings spread, catching the air, slowing her down just enough that her talons closed around the focus. And then she was beating her wings as hard as she could make her muscles go. Below, the magister bellowed a command—it all happened so fast.

A flare in the sky.

A trebuchet firing.

The warping of the air as a powerful spell wrapped around her wings. She screamed as the focus fell from her grip. Another spell slammed into her, throwing her from the air

The world roared around her…

And then there was darkness.

Chapter Text

Dorian was the last to reach the doors of the Chantry, helping Solas and Bull to close them. Once they were safe, he looked at the parcel that Maordrid had thrust into his hands before turning into a bird.

“Wait, where is Yin?” Solas asked. “Maordrid?” Dorian looked up.

“Ah, shit,” Bull said.

“She went back for Yin,” Dorian told him. Solas made a strangled noise and lurched toward the doors as if he was going to save them himself, but Iron Bull grabbed both his arms.

“No! NO!” he begged. A field of magic sprung around him, but Dorian stepped around Solas, dispelling it.

“Solas, you can’t. If you go, then…we can’t lose everyone. There’s been enough loss,” he said. He’d not seen the elf display too much emotion since he’d met him. But seeing him now was chilling. His eyes seemed to glow with fury. Dorian held his gaze and his ground until the other man’s eyes dimmed and an invisible weight fell onto his shoulders. Bull carefully released Solas but remained tensed, ready to spring again. The elf slumped and bowed his head in resignation. But then he inhaled sharply, turned on his heel and stalked away.

Bull let out a blustering breath.

“We should join the others. Yin will be waiting for the signal,” Dorian said in a tight voice. Bull nodded and lumbered off. He waited until the Qunari was gone before turning one more time, hoping the doors would bang open to reveal two battered but alive elves.

Even when the mountain fell, Dorian kept looking back. Each time he did, he saw the lone elf doing the same, lingering at the back of the procession. But soon a storm swept in and they were forced to look forward.

I’ll explain why next we meet.

“I hope there will be a next time, Maori,” Dorian whispered as he opened the book to the first marked page once they had finally stopped to rest. Sitting pressed between them were two things that shook him to his core.

He had never shut a book so fast in his life.


---------------------------------------------



It was pain that jarred him awake. Without it, he imagined he would have frozen to death. Yin pulled himself to a sitting position against the wall of the strange tunnel—a mine shaft?—and conjured a small flame, teeth chattering and body shivering violently in presence of its little heat. The movement pulled an involuntary shout from him as the worst of the pain ignited in his side. Pulling aside the remnants of his tattered leather armour revealed darkly bruised ribs. Something in his leg felt off, too, but he was too afraid to look.

He glanced around the tunnel, trying to assess his situation when his eye caught onto something glinting in light of his flame.

“Potions?” he muttered, dragging himself on one arm. They were wrapped in cotton, but they weren’t yet frozen. That meant they hadn’t been there for very long. The situation couldn’t get stranger than it already was. Healing potions, too nonetheless. He downed the first one, sighing in relief as the pain subsided a little in his chest. He tied the second to his waist. It was time to get moving. He wouldn’t be able to maintain a flame for long, or else he’d tire out and likely die faster. It came as no surprise that he had lost his staff, but the sword he’d grabbed before releasing the final shot lay nearby. It was no walking stick, but it was better than nothing. Gods knew he’d need it with the way his leg was paining him.

A faint whistle was blowing through the old tunnels, giving him something to follow. The ice caking the walls made the place eerily silent, muffling every sound he made. His ears felt stuffed with cotton.

Yin rounded a curve in the tunnel and saw swirling snow through an opening straight ahead.

“There!” he wheezed, laughing with relief and quickly regretting it. As if things couldn’t get any worse, the Mark awakened and sent electrified flames up the nerves in his arm and taking the strength from his legs. He collapsed with a gasp, the air wavering in the centre of the cavern he’d entered. He recognised the Veil reacting to the Mark through the pain. The air exploded before he knew what was happening and several wisps accompanied by two despair demons materialised around him. The pain in his arm intensified, building up pressure as if wanting to be released. He did the only thing that made sense and pushed his will through his hand as he would with magic—the Mark sputtered and suddenly a rift shouted into existence, obliterating the demons around him.

Cold sweat dripped from the tip of his nose, but a hysterical laugh escaped from his throat as he pushed to his feet with the sword. He moved on, a remark dying in his mouth since no one was there to hear but himself. Before moving on, he cut a strip of cloth from his coat and wrapped it tightly around the terrible wound in his leg, hoping he wouldn’t lose it to frostbite.

He barely hesitated to observe the blizzard outside. If he spent too much time thinking about it he knew he’d stop moving. So he pushed forward, leaning heavily against the sword and trying not to think too much about the wound and the pain he felt.

Drifts of snow stretched as far as he could see—which wasn’t much. And he was glad of it because it made finding his first lead to catching up with the others easier. A burning wagon and trails of debris—some belongings that looked to have been abandoned.

Yin trudged on, thinking about his friends. His sister who had wrote him back. Against his—and likely their Keeper’s—judgement, Dhrui had reportedly set out to come see him, but now he had no idea where that would be. Then there was Dorian who had against all odds grown on him. Perhaps there was something to look forward to there. There was Solas, a friend of a calibre he had not known since childhood, a man so flawed and wise at the same time who had risked his freedom to help him—and the world. Maordrid, who had done much the same for him and asked for nothing in return. Varric, the friend he could cut loose with and lower all walls. And then there were the others that he swore to himself that he would get to know, if he survived.

He slipped while climbing an especially precarious incline, losing his footing and tumbling to the bottom. His scream was swallowed by the howling storm. Breaths coming deep and rapid, he brought shaking hands to his leg and saw the white of his kneecap poking through his pant leg. Near hyperventilating, Yin tore more of his coat apart and wrapped it, downing the second bottle afterwards. In rage, he threw the bottle, and as he did his eyes landed on an easier route up. And above that were cinders from a fire. He scrambled to his feet, using the sword against the solid stone of the incline to balance.

He thought back to the cursed creature that had invaded Haven. Corypheus, he had called himself. His words had been so formal and oddly poetic as he declared war upon him. It was so much to dissect, but he figured there had to be some truth to his words. Entering the Throne of the Maker? That he couldn’t make sense of. Then there was that black orb with the fingerprint on its surface. Had he imagined a huge bird swooping down to steal it from his grasp? Some stray magpie looking to add a treasure to its nest? The thought made him laugh as he crested the hill into a forest. It hadn’t been a magpie, since the thing had to have been the size of an eagle, perhaps slightly larger. Stupid Corypheus hadn’t accounted for greedy birds in the area, had he? Delirious, Yin hunched over the pommel of the sword, wheezing with laughter.

He dragged on through the snow until he realised the pain in part of his leg had gone considerably numb. Unwrapping his leg hastily revealed a bad sign. The tissues around the wound were…not good.

“No. No, no,” he whispered to himself, grabbing the sword with both hands. Biting his lip, he dug the tip into the wound and began carefully removing clotted blood, praying that his frozen hands wouldn’t slip. When it began to bleed again, he wrapped it back up again and drew a small glyph of warmth on his leg. He would tire in time, and though his hope of salvation was beginning to crack like ice, it had not yet shattered.

Wolves howled the way he had just come, making his heart sink. The servants of Fen’harel, come to finish him off? Yin struggled to his feet once again, wondering how many more times he could do it before his body gave out. He kept moving up—away from the wolves.

“Why am I doing this?” Yin said aloud. “I’m done with the Breach—I did what they wanted. Why am I following their path? I’m sick of dancing to the Chantry’s tune.”

“If you were, wouldn’t you have left the day they asked you to join the Inquisition?” he said in an Orlesian accent. Raj had always like Orlais and their dumb accents. He’d be so jealous that he had visited first. “You stayed because you like being at the centre of the world’s politics. The Dalish are the opposite.”

“You’d be right if the Keeper hadn’t sent me to begin with,” he said.

“Hon-hon! But only on behalf of the Dalish. She only cares how it will impact us,” the Orlesian said. Yin swallowed, but his spit was viscous. Creators, he was thirsty.

“Whose side are you on?” Yin rested briefly on a frozen tree, waiting for the other voice’s response before realising his madness. “I stay because I’ve seen the corruption and the festering wound it has exacted upon the world. Mages, elves, humans, and dwarves. It can change.”

The wolves howled again, this time sounding closer. Yin hurried, slogging through the snow. It wasn’t so bad through the trees, but—was that a light ahead? Too long. Too far.

He tripped and fell before the blackened spot on the ground. His muscles trembled, completely exhausted. With an outstretched hand, he placed it into the heart of the fire’s remains. Cold. No, wait, there was pain. He turned his palm to face him and saw a small red coal lodged between his fingers.

“They were just here,” he whispered. Yin reached both arms above his head and draaagged his body. In small increments, he edged up, between boulders. “There’s light. Sound. Voices.” His leg caught on a jagged stone, tearing away his crude bandage and digging into the flesh. His scream ricocheted off the crags of the mountains. White spots obscured his vision.

“I tried, dammit, I tried,” he whispered, tears escaping and crystallising before they could drop.

“I heard it over here!” It sounded like his own voice. Yin’s eyelids fluttered as he struggled to stay awake. “It’s him!”

“That isn’t me…” he said. With the last of his strength, he craned his neck backward and saw Cullen, Cassandra, Dorian, Bull, and even Solas all walking upside down. His brain felt like the jelly-blood in his leg.

“Yin! Thank the Maker!” Cassandra cried as they surrounded him. They looked ready for a fight, surrounding him protectively.

“Sorry, Boss,” Bull rumbled as he knelt and easily lifted him into his arms.

“Nvvvmmm,” was what came out of his mouth. Looking behind, he saw Dorian and Solas lingering behind looking back down the mountainside as if searching for something. It was the last thing he saw before exhaustion took him.



Chapter Text

Yin sat on a curve of driftwood amongst drifts of sand as fine as flour, relishing the briny breeze that ebbed and flowed with the ocean waves.

He watched phantoms of people in the waking realm appear before his eyes, checking on his sleeping body. They came and went, some bickering, others taking time to talk gently to him about what was going on or about their own troubles. But mostly they were well-wishes. Someone had healed all of his aches and pains, except for his leg that bothered him even in the Fade. Even so, he lingered, clinging to the spell of tranquillity before he would inevitably have to leave.

“Reluctant, relishing, but wanting to return. Why don’t you?” a dreamy voice asked. Yin looked over his shoulder to see the strange boy that had appeared before Haven’s downfall.

“Cole,” he said with a smile, patting the driftwood. The young man walked over tentatively and crouched beside him. “Isn’t the beach nice?”

“It reminds you of Antiva, warm and whispering,” he said. “What is…chocolate?” Yin laughed.

“Better than dreams,” he said. Cole grabbed a handful of sand and let it sift through his fingers.

“They’re worried for you. They’ve helped though they hurt, wondering when you’ll wake,” Cole said. Yin sighed, pushing his feet into the sand.

“I suppose I should go back then?” he said, gazing wistfully out at the sea.

“Yes. They have many questions.” Then he was gone. Yin closed his eyes and woke up. The cold stung his face and exposed skin, but he was glad to see that his leg was bandaged, reeking of healing salve. They had stripped him to his breeches and white tunic, which explained why he was so cold. Yin sat up slowly, wincing when his sore muscles protested. Outside the healing tent the inner council was arguing amongst themselves about what to do. It wasn’t a good sign.

“Shh, you should be resting,” Mother Giselle said, surprising him. He hadn’t seen her keeping vigil at his side.

“They’ve been arguing since they brought me back down here,” he said. “It’s been hard to sleep.”

“They have that luxury, thanks to you. The enemy could not follow, and with time to doubt, we turn to blame,” she said sagely. “Infighting may threaten as much as this…Corypheus.” Yin swung his legs over the side of the cot.

“Speaking of which, how do we know we’re safe here? Do we know where he is?”

“We are not sure where we are. Which may be why, despite the numbers he still commands, there is no sign of him.” Yin rose slowly to his feet, grabbing a rough-spun cloth hanging off a post that looked light enough to wear. “It is that, or you are believed dead. Without Haven, we are thought helpless. Or he girds for another attack. I cannot claim to know the mind of that creature, only his effect on us.” Yin faced her as he swung the wrap around his shoulders.

“I’m going out there. Otherwise they’re going to argue until they turn into ice statues.”

“Another heated voice won’t help. Even yours. Perhaps especially yours. Our leaders struggle because of what we survivors witnessed. We saw our defender stand…and fall. And now, we have seen him return.” Yin gave pause as a sickening feeling formed in his stomach. They were going to turn this into more of a religious thing. “The more the enemy is beyond us, the more miraculous your actions appear. And the more our trials seem ordained.” Yin shook his head, and Giselle, the sly mother, smiled. “That is hard to accept, no? What we have been called to endure? What we, perhaps, must come to believe?” Yin held up a hand to keep her from going any further.

“I escaped the avalanche. Barely, perhaps, but I didn’t die. I literally saw a hole and jumped in it before it hit.” But the woman’s face didn’t change from that expression of what he had begun to call the Andrastian Glaze. Thinking everything was planned. The Maker placed that hole in the ground for you!

“Of course, and the dead cannot return from across the Veil. But the people know what they saw—” Yin opened his mouth again to argue, but she ploughed on, “—or, perhaps, what they needed to see. The Maker works both in the moment, and how it is remembered.” There it is. The holy cherry on top of it all. You’re not in control of your fate, silly elf! Oh, and did we mention we don’t care that you have different gods? “Can we truly know the heavens are not with us?” His patience had been as worn away as the skin of his knee.

“I don’t see how what I believe matters. I’m not Andrastian—I’m Dalish. But even with our religious differences none of that will protect us from the real, physical threat that is Corypheus. Passive hoping will not defeat him or save the world.” He bade her farewell and snatching a wooden bowstaff nearby, limped away from the recovery tents. The scene he faced outside was…dismal. Cullen, Leliana, Josie, and Cassandra had ceased their arguing, but now all the passion of hope and fight seemed to have fled them.

And that’s when the Mother began to sing. Yin had every intention of escaping before he got entangled in midnight mass of the Andrastians, but saw it was too late as one by one, people began to join in on the song. Including the inner council. They seemed to be singing at him.

Yin slowly backed away as some of the people began kneeling to him—everything that he had come to fear.

“No, get up. Stop it,” he said, trying to pull a man to his feet. But they just. Kept. Singing. And gathering, like he was some sort of messiah. “Please!” It fell on deaf, pious ears. He turned to leave, but Giselle was there.

“An army needs more than an enemy. It needs a cause,” she said. He sneered and threaded his way between some tents. It was a double edged sword—the people needed hope, that much was true, but nothing in his life had prepared him for that. He didn’t know how to react. Yin stopped in the darkness between two tents, covering his face with his hand as he was overwhelmed. Everything was just…hitting him. He didn’t turn when a hand closed on his shoulder.

“I saw a nice little rock not far from here,” a most welcome voice said, “and I happened upon an unfortunate fallen flask during the fight. Say that ten times fast.” Yin gave a watery smile, looking at the old leather-wrapped flask in Dorian’s hand. As he accepted it back, Dorian clasped his hand tightly over Yin’s before jerking his head. “Follow me.” The mage went slowly for Yin, as he was still struggling to walk without too much pain. And really, it wasn’t far. A boulder jutted out of the snow, overlooking a bowl in the mountains. The two of them sat in silence on the rock, Yin groaning as he adjusted his leg. Then he shared drink with his friend, staring across the untouched mountains beyond.

“Is this something I’m going to have to live with? A title I don’t want?” Yin asked.

“Would you feel the same if you were Herald of an Elven god?” Dorian asked, which was…a good question.

“Yes. And no.” He dug the butt of the staff into the snow, thinking. “I don’t want to be anyone’s pawn. But it’s also true that being the chosen of one of my gods wouldn’t be so bad. It would mean something for my people. It probably does to some Dalish out there.”

“But you must think—that thing in your hand is a symbol of literal power. It has exposed you to the machinations of others and they will seek to use you,” Dorian said, taking a sip off the flask with a hiss. “You are a changed man, Yin. Whatever you once were, you will likely never go back. Though, I am quite sure that in your position you can choose do to whatever you damn well please.” The edge was slowly eroding with the effects of the drink. “I, for one, look forward to seeing how you will shape the world. So far, well…I don’t think I have to say it. I’ve followed you this far and I’ll follow you until the end, as long as you’ll have me.” His stomach twisted into knots with butterflies caught in between.

“I’m glad you’re here, Dorian,” he said, looking at his hands.

“Of course you are. Who wouldn’t be?” The Altus went silent, which was unusual after such a comment.

“Something wrong?” he asked. Dorian cleared his throat.

“Everyone is here,” he started slowly, and then raised his eyes to Yin’s, “except for Maordrid.” He went numb all over.

“What do you mean…she escaped with you! She did!” He clutched at Dorian’s cloak, knuckles going white.

“She went back. For you. Solas would have too if he had turned around. I’ve never seen him lose his cool. Haven’t seen much of him since.” Dorian grimaced. “But even when he’s appeared I don’t know what to say to him.” Yin slammed a fist against the rock, feeling the skin at his knuckles split. Dorian started, staring down at his hand in horror.

“And no one is out there looking? They wait for their fucking Herald—search for him. And once he appears, oh! That’s it, who cares about other survivors? If my damn leg wasn’t…gah. I’d be out there right now looking myself. She can’t be dead.” He looked away angrily to hide his watering eyes from Dorian.

“The Qunar—Iron Bull and I have taken turns searching while sitting by your side. I’ll bet Solas has been too. My point is, you slept for two days while we’ve searched, Yin. There’ve been no signs of her.”

“And what about in the Fade? Gods, if she’s not dead, she might be soon,” Yin cursed. “As if this couldn’t get any worse.”

“Well, it seems someone else wants your attention now,” Dorian interjected, eyes locked on someone. Yin followed his gaze to see Solas himself approaching from the camp.

“Yin,” the elf said when he was closer, “a word?” Dorian touched his shoulder once more before leaving their company. Once he was gone, Solas considered him. “Can you walk?” Yin nodded with a shrug and pushed himself to his feet with his staff. He ignored the ache in his hand and focused on following Solas who led him over to a solitary iron flambeau stuck in the ground that he promptly lit with veilfire.

“The humans have not raised on of our people so high for ages beyond counting,” he said, staring into the blue flame. Ah, he must have seen the singing, Yin thought. “Her faith is hard-won, lethallan, worthy of pride…save one detail.” Solas tucked his hands behind his back and looked at him. “The threat Corypheus wields? The orb he carried? It is ours.” A hundred questions all piled up on the tip of Yin’s tongue, but something made him hold back. “Corypheus used the orb to open the Breach. Unlocking it must have caused the explosion that destroyed the Conclave. We must find out how he survived…and we must prepare for their reaction, when they learn the orb is of our people.”

“How do you know about this? What is it?” Yin finally asked. Solas gave him a brief smile but his face settled back into cool composure.

“Such things were foci, said to channel power from our gods. Some were dedicated to specific members of our pantheon. All that remain are referenced in ruins, and faint visions of memory in the fade, echoes of a dead empire. But however Corypheus came to it, the orb is elven, and with it, he threatens the heart of human faith.”

“I believe you,” Yin said, feeling bitter, “But even if we defeat Corypheus, they’ll find a way to blame elves sooner or later. It’s their favourite thing to do besides blaming mages.”

“I suspect you are correct. It is unfortunate, but we must be above suspicion to be seen as valued allies. Faith in you is shaping this moment, but it needs room to grow.” Yin gestured out to the camp.

“Do you see this? We’ve been cast out. Where are we supposed to go, Solas?” he asked, becoming frustrated. “Fenedhis, man, I just found out we lost Maordrid and I don’t even have time to mourn or think about her. I can’t give in to grief because now all these people are depending on us. On me, apparently.” Solas was silent, hands tightening behind his back as he looked at the snow between his feet. “I need to get back to the others and formulate a plan. But I swear to you, we will get that orb and take Corypheus’ power from him.” Yin began to walk away, but Solas called out his name.

“There is a place we can go. Scout to the north and you will find a place where the Inquisition can rebuild and grow,” he said, “And perhaps…there, when we have time to breathe, we may search for her. Or if she is still alive she will find her way to us.”

“Does this place have a name?” Yin asked.

“Skyhold,” Solas said, “It is called Skyhold.”

------------------------------------------

Over the next cold and trying days travelling across the Frostbacks, Yin slipped in and out of depression. He managed to maintain a mask for the people who needed it, including Cassandra, Cullen, Josephine, and Leliana whenever he spoke to them but when he was walking or by himself his mind drove him into darkness. According to Josephine, two lives had been lost and the evacuation had been largely successful. Chancellor Roderick and Maordrid. But he denied it. Every night he ventured into the Fade and sat there trying to figure out how he could go about searching for signs or clues that she might be alive. But he was not Somniari and all he encountered were memories of Maordrid, and sometimes spirits that pretended to be her. They were convincing, but there was always one thing that gave away their charade. He had realised some time ago that he had unwisely begun to harbour feelings for her. These spirits always caught onto it and blew their cover when they attempted to act how he had imagined her to. How he wanted her to.

But come the waking world, he struggled with other feelings of attraction toward the mage he had become fast friends with. Dorian was sarcastic, arrogant, and deeply proud of his intelligence—but he was also a good friend away from the public eye. Every day, at least once, he would make a point to check on his health, both mental and physical. Yin was a social person at heart and being alone took a toll on his wellbeing. Dorian became the rock to which he held onto, when before Solas had been his confidante. But Solas was distant these days, just as Yin was. Or maybe it was just him, he couldn’t tell. Solas always spoke to him when approached but their conversations lacked something that they had previously had. He came to the conclusion that it was just his overactive mind.

He was stretching his legs after receiving more healing one day and came around a couple of horses to see Dorian sitting on the edge of a wagon reading a book. He felt like he had seen its binding before, but he discarded the thought when Dorian began speaking.

“This is what we get for trying to restore order from chaos,” he said, not looking up, “Should be enough for anyone to handle, yes? Oh, but out of nowhere, and archdemon appears and kicks you in the head! ‘What? You thought this would be easy?’ ‘Nooo, I was just hoping you wouldn’t crush our village like an anthill!’ ‘Sorry about that! Archdemons like to crush, you know. Can’t be helped.” Dorian looked him straight in the eyes with a smirk, snapping the book shut.

“When you talk like that it’s my favourite thing,” Yin said, keeping pace with the wagon.

“You’re not the first one to say that. My wit and charm are in no small shortage,” he said, crossing one leg over the other.

“And I hope it never runs out,” Yin said. Dorian chuckled.

“You know, I was thinking,” he said, pulling a page of notes from his pocket. “I always assumed the ‘Elder One’ behind the Venatori was a magister, but this…is something else completely. In Tevinter, they say the Chantry’s tales of magisters starting the Blight are just that: tales. But here we are. One of those very magisters—a darkspawn.”

“Curious. Then who do they say started the Blight?” Yin asked. Dorian rolled his eyes.

“You know how it is. Not us. They say darkspawn were always there; magisters and the Blight aren’t even related. Is that a surprise? No one wants to admit they shit the bed. But if Corpheus is one of the magisters who entered the Black City and he’s darkspawn…what other explanation is there?” Yin focused on pushing the snow out of his path while he considered it.

“Corypheus said a lot of rather far-fetched things. He could be lying, despite all,” he said.

“True,” Dorian said, looking down at the book in his hands. “He might be a convincing liar. Or delusional. Or insane. But how many delusional maniacs are going to have that knowledge? He broke open the Fade. I always took what I learned with a grain of salt. So much has been lost to time. I would not write off everything he said to be rubbish.” Dorian sighed. “But no, it was us all along. We destroyed the world.”

“You didn’t do anything. Those men did—a thousand years ago, Dorian.”

“True, except that one of them is up and walking around right now. And I hate that I can say with confidence that if any of my countrymen catch ear of this, there are some that would happily follow him down that path again. No one will thank me, whatever happens. No one will thank you, either. You know that, yes?” Yin cast his gaze to the blue-bird sky, blinking at its brightness.

“That’s not why I’m doing this,” he said, and he meant it. His friend hummed thoughtfully.

“I knew there was something clever about you,” he said, and left it at that. After a minute or two, the Tevinter scooted over and patted the space beside him. For the next few hours, they spoke less of Corypheus and more about Dorian’s homeland, Yin’s clan, and then finally at length about Dalish beliefs of which Dorian knew very little. It was almost enough to take his mind off of the worst things.

-----------------------------------------------—

Yin and Solas scouted ahead of the procession many days later, searching for obscure landmarks that would tell them how far they were from Skyhold. Yin shivered despite his little warming runes on his skin. With what little had been salvaged in the escape, no one had winter clothes to spare. The weak, ill, and injured came first and foremost. Solas had even wrapped his feet up completely at this point.

During a pause to catch their breath in the high altitude, Yin looked closely at Solas who was busy gauging direction and surroundings.

“Any sign of Maordrid in the Fade?” Yin asked, noticing circles beneath the man’s eyes.

“If I had sensed anything, you would be the first to know anything,” Solas said, finding what he was looking for and jumping off the rock they’d climbed. Yin followed in apprehensive silence, long enough to clamber over some more rocks and through knee-high snow.

“I keep having dreams about her,” he said as Solas turned to help him up yet another boulder. “She’s always in trouble and it’s always after she tries to save me. Goes to attack Corypheus—dragon chases her and I can’t keep up. I get surrounded by red templars—she does that vaulting thing she’s good at and draws them away from me. And then…” Yin paused.

“And what?” Solas asked, though it sounded more like he was humouring him than listening. They stood now just before two massive rocks that jutted from the landscape, forming a passage. They stood across from each other on their own two rocks.

“The only time she didn’t exactly…well, die, was when Corypheus tried to take the Mark from me in one dream. She cuts his hand off, takes the orb, and kills him with it. Then she turns. Like the orb corrupted her, and she looks like she did in Redcliffe—the future you didn’t see. It’s terrible.” Solas was watching him inscrutably.

“Did she do anything with the orb?” he asked as he walked to the edge of his rock which was between the two large stones and peered over the other side.

“No. She said 'I’m going to help them' and the dream ended,” Yin said.

“Even in nightmares she tries to help others,” Solas said, beckoning him over. Yin joined him and gaped in awe at the sight beholden to them. “Welcome to Tarasyl’an Te’las.”

Chapter Text


Some hours later, Yin was finishing storing his belongings in an old trunk. The room he’d taken was drafty and located along the battlements right next to the front gates. Skyhold was massive up close and would easily fit their numbers. He grabbed his plain staff on his way out of the room, determined to do some exploring before Josephine or someone else called a meeting.

He headed toward what appeared to be stables to the right of the gates, seeing Master Denet and Blackwall guiding various horses and animals into stalls with feed and water. Sera was nearby as well, chasing a few children around with glee. Yin passed through a door up a set of stairs, curious. Inside, the air was much warmer. In fact, he found that Skyhold seemed to have its own climate. Things technically shouldn’t have been able to grow in the cold, but he had seen trees and lush grass growing as if they were in the fertile lands in the north. The keep almost seemed alive. He couldn’t wait to start a garden there.

Yin stood inside of what looked to have once been the kitchen. There wasn’t much to see, so he continued on. There was tons of space inside—including a secret library alcove that he was excited to explore. He took a moment to sit down in the lonely chair before the desk, wondering about those who had been there before them. He moved on, eager to see the rest but making note to return soon.

Stairs and old doors led to more rooms and little secrets. The grand hall was marvellous with windows that gave view of massive snow-capped mountains just beyond. The undercroft, though open to the air with a raging waterfall outside, felt like a forge. The Veil felt strange there. Yin ended up in a tower just across the way from the undercroft after that. It appeared to have once functioned as personal quarters for someone important. A rotting bed frame squatted in the centre of the chambers up against a wall. There was a very fine hearth, large windows that gave almost a full view of the basin around them, and even a personal bath just behind the wall of the bed.

Yin passed out onto the balcony, pleased with Solas’ suggestion. The man was full of surprises. As he looked down on the tiered courtyards he spotted Cullen, Cassandra, Leliana, and Josephine gathered together in a meeting. Leliana was holding some kind of ridiculous ornamental sword as they spoke. If he saw anyone wielding that on a battlefield they could count on him stopping a fight just to shame and laugh at them. Cullen was the one who spotted him way above, gesturing to the others who raised their gazes. Cassandra seemed to beckon him and even from there he could see a smile on her face. He was reluctant to leave the isolated quarters, but did so to appease the needy council.

At the bottom of the stairs, Cassandra waited for him.

“Have you seen this place?” he exclaimed to her. “We owe it big to Solas.”

“You will have to give me the grand tour later. We’ve been talking,” she said, ever the serious one.

“You sure you don’t want to go see the view up there? It’s worth it,” he said, nudging her shoulder. The warrior blushed but batted him away.

“The others wish me to talk to you about something first,” she said as they began to walk toward the entry.

“What is it?” he asked.

“We’ve the walls and means to support a lot of people here, Yin. And the numbers will only grow. As of now, we have everything we need to put up a fight here, but the threat is far beyond the war we anticipated,” she said. Straight to business, never a moment to breathe, he thought, wishing he hadn’t come down.

“Corypheus brought a lot to the table. My mind’s been reeling over that dragon,” he said and she nodded.

“But now we know what allowed you to stand against him; what drew him to you,” she said, her eyes drifting to the anchor.

“Next time I won’t be so lucky. He said the Mark is permanent and if he hadn’t been distracted by my antics, he would have killed me,” Yin said, tossing his glowing hand.

“The anchor has power, but it’s not why you’re still standing here,” she said.

“Did you ignore everything I just said?” he muttered under his breath as she continued walking.

“Your decisions let us heal the sky. Your determination brought us out of Haven. You are that creature’s rival because of what you did, Herald. And we know it. All of us.” They emerged at the top of the steps and saw Leliana still there on the landing holding the big ass sword. “The Inquisition requires a leader: the one who has already been leading it.” Yin stopped on the stairs midway.

“You mean all of us, don’t you?” he asked, hoping desperately that it wasn’t what he thought this to be. Did he fall asleep in the little study? Perhaps she was just…asking for his opinion on a good leader?

“No. It’s you, Yin,” she said, her voice softer than he’d ever heard it. He actually gaped out of shock.

“You’re offering this to an elf? And not just any elf, but a Dalish mage? Gods, Cass, I can’t accept this!” He was beginning to realise that there might be irony attached to the sword in the Spymaster’s hands.

“I would be terrified handing this power to anyone, but I believe it is the only way,” Cassandra continued, finally presenting the sword, “They’ll follow you. To them, being an elven mage shows how far you’ve risen, how it must have been by Andraste’s hand. What it means to you, how you lead us: that is for you alone to determine.” Yin felt like someone was holding a hot iron poker to his back as he reached out and grabbed the sword that was as unbalanced as he’d imagined. The people in all the courtyards were now gathering, likely awaiting some inspirational words from him.

“I’ll lead us against Corypheus, and I will be an ambassador for elves and mages, standing for what is right. I’ll defeat Corypheus standing with them, not over them. The Inquisition is for all,” he finally said, glad words had not completely escaped him. Cassandra gave him an encouraging, brilliant smile.

“Wherever you lead us,” she said, coming to stand beside him, then shouted down to Josephine, “Have our people been told?”

“They have. And soon, the world!” she called up to them. Cassandra nodded, satisfied.

“Commander, will they follow?” she shouted. Cullen bared his sword, walking down the length of the crowd with it raised.

“Inquisition! Will you follow?” The crowd roared their approval, “Will we triumph? Your leader! Your Herald! Your Inquisitor!” Yin didn’t think he could lift the sword without losing his mind—or accidentally tossing it into the crowd—so he planted it in the stone and stood up straight, letting the cries of the faithful wash over him. He was glad when Leliana finally coaxed him away from the edge and took the sword from him. He was too glad to be free of it.

The others joined them above in the grand hall where they took stock of their new home.

“So this is where it begins,” Cullen said behind him.

“It began in the courtyard,” Leliana said, “This is where we turn that promise into action.”

“But what do we do? We know nothing about this Corypheus except that he wanted the Inquisitor’s Mark,” Josephine interjected.

“The dragon,” Yin said, slowly turning, his gaze on the scar in his hand. The others were looking at it too. “It looked like an archdemon, but is it? What would it mean?”

“It would mean the beginning of another Blight,” Leliana said grimly.

“We have seen no darkspawn other than Corypheus himself. There are no reports of sightings elsewhere either,” Josephine said. “Perhaps it isn’t an archdemon at all, but something different instead?”

“Whatever it is, it’s dangerous,” Cullen told him. “Commanding such a creature gives him an advantage we can’t ignore.”

“That and he said he intends to enter the Black City to become a god. I’d say he isn’t far from achieving that goal,” Yin said.

“He is willing to tear this world apart to reach the next—it won’t matter if he’s wrong,” Leliana said.

“What if he’s not wrong?” Cullen said, looking at her, “He could find another way into the Fade.”

“Then he gains the power he seeks or unleashes catastrophe on us all,” she said.

“Someone out there must know something about Corypheus,” Yin said, hoping one of them had contacts or strings they could pull. He didn’t know where to start with this Inquisitor business.

“Unless they saw him on the field, most will not believe he even exists,” Cullen said, bringing a point that Yin had not even considered. It stirred an anger in him, knowing some pompous Orlesians would be thinking that once rumours spread far enough.

“We do have one advantage. We know what Corypheus intends to do next. In that strange future you experienced, Empress Celene had been assassinated,” Leliana said.

“Imagine the chaos her death would cause,” Josephine said, with an impending sense of dread, “With his army…”

“—An army he’ll bolster with a massive force of demons. Or so the future tells us.” The others fell silent briefly, likely imagining what could happen should they fail. Yin didn’t have to—he had already seen it.

“He could conquer the entire south of Thedas, god or no god,” Josephine finished.

“I know someone who could help with that.” Yin had seen the dwarf approaching, silent on his feet. There was a very uncomfortable set to Varric’s face. “Everyone acting all inspirational jogged my memory, so I sent a message to an old friend. She’s crossed paths with Corypheus before and may know more about what he’s doing. She can help.” Yin grinned devilishly.

“Well stop holding out on me and introduce us!” Yin said, earning an uneasy chuckle from his friend. It was so unlike him. Then again, Varric had told him more or less why he was reluctant to get Hawke involved.

“Parading around might cause a fuss when she gets here. We’ll meet privately. Trust me, it’s complicated.” Varric gave him a knowing look and then turned to leave. Josephine cleared her throat daintily.

“Well then, we stand ready to move on both of these concerns,” she said, marking something down on her note-board.

“On your order, Inquisitor,” Cullen said, causing Yin to physically wince.

“I know one thing,” Leliana said, smirking at his reaction. “If Varric is bringing who I think he is, Cassandra is going to kill him.”

“Well. He said she is on her way, so that gives us all time to get settled here,” Yin said eager to escape.

“I can arrange for the main tower to be furnished for you, Inquisitor,” Josephine piped up. Yin went to protest, but she was already scribbling away. “What kind of decorations would you like? Oh, how about something Antivan? Or Dalish? Orlesian decor is quite resplendent as well.”

“I don’t know!” he said, throwing his hands up, then apologising. “Sorry, I’m just…you know. Or maybe you don’t. I’d just like a bed and something to sit on, I suppose.” Josephine nodded, already in her own head. “Am I free to go?” Leliana winked at him and nodded. Yin felt like a child all over again, getting permission to go play in the forest.


----------------------------------------


Several days passed and each one Yin watched as more and more people arrived. He spent perhaps four hours total each day scanning those faces for signs of Maordrid. But eventually his friends caught onto his ways. He’d been sitting on a precarious ledge above the gates when Sera appeared, looking rather puzzled. He glimpsed Cole behind her and realised that the spirit must have manipulated her some.

She convinced him to shoot arrows with her. His skills were rusty since leaving his clan, but he was at least able to hit the target. Sera ran circles around him, telling him how shite he was at archery, so much that he used a touch of magic to guide his arrows. She seemed suspicious of him after that, but her mood wasn’t dampened. In fact, she threatened him with pranks if she didn’t see him at the tavern later.

Thinking about his training with Solas and Maordrid brought him to finding a sword and practising what he knew about fighting. That drew the attentions of Blackwall and Cullen, surprisingly. The two men took turns giving Yin pointers for a long time in much more helpful ways than Sera’s teachings. He even had a chance to spar with each man who seemed reluctant to actually try until Yin ordered them to. After, he lost count how many times his arse kissed the mud. He was happy to see Cullen unwind for once, but he was eventually called away on duty. Yin and Blackwall instead walked to the stables where they played dice until nightfall. He wondered why he hadn’t brought the Warden on their more recent missions—the man was a quiet riot with a raunchy sense of humour.

At the tavern later that night, just about everyone was present except for Solas, Vivienne, and his advisors. Yin lapsed in and out of the revelry. Each time he swept his gaze across the commons, he was always searching. Once or twice his eyes snagged on someone with black hair, thinking it was her.

It never was.

Yin had never been good at hiding his emotions, and Iron Bull caught on quickly.

“You’re lookin’ for your elf, aren’t you?” he asked, sliding into a chair beside him. “I thought for sure you had eyes for that fancy little Vint.” Yin blushed. “Alright, I didn’t expect that. Hots for ‘em both?” Bull tossed his head back and laughed. “Don’t worry Boss, I take at least one to bed every other night. Sometimes two or three!” Yin’s eyes fell on Dorian who was on the other side of the tavern conversing with Varric of all people. Bull nudged him. “Go get him, Yin. Then come back here and tell me all about it!” Yin took a draw from his flagon and rose from his seat, the spirits bolstering his confidence. He heard Bull’s booming laugh behind him and for a moment, he faltered, but Dorian was casting glances his way as he approached. There was no stopping it now. Varric’s gaze also broke away from ‘Sparkler’ when he realised his conversation partner wasn’t exactly paying attention anymore.

“—Pssht, I can’t believe you’re asking me to give odds on our beloved Inquisitor’s success, Sparkler!” Varric said with a grin, side-eyeing Yin.

“Well, what would it look like? Three to one?” Dorian said without missing a beat, breaking eye contact with Yin.

“In his favour?” Varric laughed, glancing at him.

“After Corypheus pulled an archdemon out of his arse, are you joking?” Yin stared at him, aghast.

“You would actually bet against me?”

“Now, now, if I weren’t here, it’d be six to one at least. I’m a very valuable asset,” Dorian said, ignoring him. Yin scoffed.

“Whatever. I’ll take those odds,” he said. “Thousand crown?”

“This is why I adore him so!” Dorian said. Varric shook his head.

“We’ll talk later,” Varric said, then melded in with the crowd of the tavern.

“Adore is a pretty strong word,” Yin said as Dorian faced him.

“Did I say that? It must be the drink talking,” the mage said, glaring into his cup. Yin’s nerves were beginning to catch up, even through his own drink-induced brain fog.

“I’d offer you a drink but you already have one,” he said. He thought maybe he was slurring his words already. Dorian probably thought he was an oaf anyway. Panic set into his chest and he began to back away slowly.

“We could…go elsewhere, you know,” the mage suggested. Yin blinked sluggishly, but hastily gestured toward the door. Dorian downed the rest of his drink and took his leave. Yin paused at the door and looked back at Bull who gave him two thumbs up. He swallowed and followed him outside.

He was frustrated with himself, acting like an adolescent all over again. He was far past those days, in his thirties! He was losing his collective shit around Dorian. Yin Lavellan, who had had his fair share of men and women in his day. Perhaps it was due to his new title. If he were just himself, he could be himself. But now, Josie had told him the Inquisitor had an appearance to keep up. He wasn’t sure why he let that get to him.

“Congratulations on the whole…leading the Inquisition bit,” his friend said as they walked. Yin was still unsure how to feel about it. People had gotten worse with the bowing and scraping since his promotion. It made him feel lower than dirt, having come from humble beginnings himself.

“Thanks, I guess,” Yin mumbled as Dorian led them up some stairs along the battlements. Dorian laughed.

“You are uncertain? It’s a great thing, my friend. I knew it was only a matter of time before they acknowledged your deeds officially,” he said.

“How do you feel about it? Am I different now, in your eyes?” Yin asked.

“If I’m honest, you…hm. Perhaps you are unreachable, now,” he replied. It was the answer he didn’t want to hear. “Our friendship will likely raise concern and distasteful rumours amongst those with nothing better to do.”

“Because you’re from Tevinter?” Yin spun around which put him in Dorian’s space. The man didn’t back away, instead he crossed his arms while his steely-grey eyes followed him. A small smile played on his lips. “That’s rubbish. We’ve people from all across the continent, so no matter who I choose to be friends with or take to bed or, shit, talk to even, is going to end up in some rumour! You won’t treat me any differently, will you?”

“Only if you want me to.” Yin gripped him by the lapels, staring him square in the eyes.

“I want you to be you,” he said, and then released him slowly, apologising quietly. “I just don’t want to be isolated because of what they made me.” Yin went and leaned over the battlements, hoping an updraft would hit him in the face to clear his head. “I’m sorry for bringing you out here, lethallan. I suppose I’ve been drawn to you lately. Since Redcliffe, really. That’s been on my mind constantly—and now Haven. Maordrid as well. I want you to know how much I appreciate you.” He was taken by surprise when Dorian covered his left hand with one of his own.

“I value you as well,” he said. Yin saw the opening he needed. Dorian’s eyes kept twitching to his lips. But something kept him from acting. He dropped his gaze past their feet with a sigh, his breath coming out visible.

“I’ve had too much to drink. I’ll see you later,” Yin finally said, though every muscle in his body screamed at him to go back. There was visible disappointment in the other man’s face, though he imagined Dorian didn’t think it was visible in the night. Thanks to his elven eyesight, he gauged his reaction quite easily.

“Of course, Inquisitor. Rest well,” the Altus said. He squeezed his shoulder, lingering at the top step before descending, leaving Yin alone.

“Fen’harel eat me, I’m an idiot,” he muttered, striding back to the main keep. In the grand hall, debris had been cleared and long tables had since been set. Chandeliers hung from the vaulted ceilings, laden with candles to light the way. He was surprised—and mildly annoyed—when he saw Mother Giselle standing before the dais looking up at the windows. He walked right past her, hoping she wouldn’t acknowledge him.

“My Lord Inquisitor,” she called out just as his hand landed on the door. Yin put on his best smile and turned to regard her.

“Mother Giselle. It’s late! What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I…have news regarding one of your, hm, companions,” she said. Why was it that Chantry sisters and mothers acted shadier than most nobles he had met? “The Tevinter.” What are the odds?

“Do I detect a note of disdain, Mother?” he asked, none too friendly. The woman tucked her hands into her sleeves slowly.

“I admit his presence here makes me uncomfortable, Inquisitor,” she said, “But my feelings are of no importance. I have been in contact with his family. House Pavus out of Qarinus. Are you familiar with them?” Yin’s brow furrowed.

“He has told me of them, but we have never met, if that is what you are suggesting,” he answered truthfully, wondering where the fuck this line of questioning was going. He was glad he wasn’t a belligerent drunk, at least. She chuckled amiably.

“I am suggesting nothing, I am only curious whether you knew of his, ah, situation. His family sent a letter describing the estrangement from their son and pleading for my aid. They want to arrange a meeting quietly, without telling him. They fear it is the only way he will come. Since you seem to be on good terms with the young man, I’d hoped—” Anger bubbled over, despite how hard he tried to hold it back.

“If you think I’m going to agree to tricking Dorian, to deceive my friend—” Giselle shook her head, sighing.

“I was afraid you would say that. The family is going to send a retainer to meet the young man at the Redcliffe tavern, to take him onward. If he truly does not wish this reunion, he can always end matters there. I pray you change your mind, Inquisitor, perhaps their letter will persuade you. If there is any chance of success in this, it behooves us to act.” She removed the letter from within her sleeve and handed it to him. “Good evening, Inquisitor.” The woman bowed away, slinking into the shadows. He shivered, despite himself. On his way up to his quarters, he tried reading the letter but found the words kept rearranging themselves on the page. He set it on the desk nearby and threw himself onto his makeshift bed, promptly passing out.

Chapter Text

Rays of silvery sunlight pierced his eyelids, rousing him from the depths of a drunken slumber and into sweaty, sticky awareness. His beard felt coated in drool and beer from last night. He was afraid to touch it.

He groaned as he sat up, running his tongue along his fuzzy teeth and feeling a layer of oil on his cheeks, nose, and brow. He couldn’t go downstairs like that. Yin struggled and stumbled out of his clothes, walking naked into the bathing chamber that he had yet to use. He’d been using the public bathing house when others weren’t around, as he’d felt strange in his tall and lonely tower. He didn’t want to be viewed as different from anyone else…but in that moment, he was not about to walk in all his glory and grime through the halls to the bathhouse. So he walked over to the round stone tub set in the floor and pulled on the chain hanging from the ceiling. A trap door opened in the wall and water flooded in. Yin inscribed a fire rune along the aqueduct and at the bottom of the tub. Then he stepped in and let the water slosh in around him, feeling like the swirling water was analogy to his life.


—————————————————

The Inquisitor shut the tower door with a soft click and made sure his hair was smoothed back. A lock of hair slipped loose as he looked down at the letter clutched in his hand, but he paid no mind. Dorian hadn’t told him everything about his family, but he had a hunch it wasn’t good.

When he emerged from the stairwell into the library for the first time since they’d arrived, he walked over to the railing to peer over into the rotunda. He’d heard that Solas had started painting some murals, but due to his recent appointment, had not had a chance to speak to him nor admire his friend’s work. He was rendered speechless at what the man had accomplished in a week.

“Imagine my surprise when I learned that a man so nondescript and colourless was actually a master of artistic expression.” Dorian leaned on the banister beside him, looking down at the murals.

“Aw, c’mon, maybe his dress is a bit plain, but I think he’s quite attractive. He pulls off the bald well and that jaw? Woof,” he said. Dorian guffawed.

“You’ve questionable taste in looks, my friend,” he chided, pushing away from the rail.

“Questionable? What if I say you’re at the top of my list?” Yin mused, turning to face him. That gave Dorian pause.

“How cute, Lavellan has a list of people he finds attractive? Do you draw little smiling faces and butterflies next to those you like best?” Yin blushed furiously, but wouldn’t cave.

“You’d have butterflies with gold leafing in the wings,” he grinned. Dorian threw his hands up.

“Did you eat a whole wheel of cheese this morning?” Yin laughed and finally held the letter between his fingers.

“No, but I figured you would need a bit of a primer before reading this,” he said, handing it over. Dorian cast him a wary gaze before meandering back into his little reading alcove.

“Is it a naughty letter? A humorous proposal from some Antivan dowager?” Yin thought the Antivan part funny, because it was so true, but…he wasn’t sure what to think about the letter.

“Not quite,” he paused, “It’s from your father.” Dorian’s stare went briefly unfocused before he breathed out.

“I see.” And then he read it. Yin watched as he became increasingly more agitated, pacing a groove into the stone and biting the tip of this thumb. Then, finally he shook the paper.

I know my son?” he said with disbelief. “What my father knows of me would barely fill a thimble! This is so typical! I’m willing to bet this retainer—a henchman hired to knock me on the head and drag me back to Tevinter.”

“With me standing there? I think not,” Yin said. He’d already made up his mind after reading the note. He would be there for Dorian, no questions asked. He had not realised that his friend had struggles of his own, as Dorian had always seemed…well, beyond worry or stress. He supposed he should have caught onto the drinking and deflection humour. Does that make me a bad friend? he wondered worriedly.

“He expects me to travel with Mother Giselle, although Maker knows why he thinks I would. Let’s go. Let’s meet this so-called family retainer. If it’s a trap, we escape and kill everyone! You’re good at that! If it’s not, I send the man back to my father with the message that he can stick his alarm in his ‘wit’s end’.” Dorian spun on his heel, still muttering about the contents of the letter.

“Dorian, are you going to tell me what’s going on with you and your family?” he asked and regretted it when the Altus stopped in his footsteps to give a very forced laugh.

“Interesting turn of phrase, my friend,” he said. “I suppose I shall, but it’s simple: they don’t care for my choices, nor I for theirs.” He knew Dorian was omitting something, but he supposed it would come out soon.

“Let’s go meet this retainer, then. Whenever you’re ready,” Yin said.

“I’ll let you know soon,” Dorian said, and then turned away, thinking. Yin bowed out of habit and hurried off to find Josephine. The woman as of late was practically chained to her desk in the chamber just outside the war room. When Yin entered, she regarded him with a charming smile and a greeting in their shared tongue.

“I plan on accompanying Dorian to Redcliffe quite soon,” he announced. Her eyebrows raised in surprise.

“Again?”

“I know, I know. I’m quite sick of the place,” he said, “But it’s important.” She nodded and then sifted through the pile of papers on her desk until she found a folder that she flipped open.

“Ah, I suggest we call a council meeting then. Already matters are piling up for the Inquisition. Leads on Corypheus that we weren’t aware of not that long ago…but I’ll save that for the meeting.” Yin nodded and headed off to the war room as Josephine went to gather the others. He didn’t have to wait long for her to return, which had him wondering what magical powers she had that allowed her to work so efficiently.

“You’re leaving?” Cullen asked. “I was just arranging for a team of men to return to the site of Haven to…well.” He rubbed the back of his neck, trailing off. Yin felt a stone drop into his stomach. He cleared his throat. Could she still be out there after all this time?

“I’d love to be leading that search myself, but…Josephine said I’m needed elsewhere. The world isn’t waiting,” he said, though the words hurt to say.

“I understand, Inquisitor,” Cullen said stiffly, but let the matter drop. Josephine stepped forward, spreading several papers across the table at the bottom of the map.

“This is a large undertaking, gentlemen. Leliana has already sent a barrage of Inquisition agents to the majority of these areas to better triage the situations at hand. It seems Corypheus has extended tendrils across the entire continent.” Josephine and Leliana began setting markers everywhere. The Emerald Graves, Emprise du Lion, the Exalted Plains, the Fallow Mire, a place in the western Orlais called the Forbidden Oasis, the Hissing Wastes—although Yin was wondering what in the name of unholy things the creature could want there of all places—the Storm Coast— fuck that soggy pisshole,he thought—the Western Approach…

“So pretty much every fucking place known to Thedas?” Yin said as he studied the map with a growing amount of stress.

“Pretty much,” Josie said, eyes widening as she took in their work. “But, if we play our cards carefully, Leliana and I have faith we can outsmart Corypheus.”

“I have spent the last few days corresponding with my agents to hopefully make your path easier, Inquisitor,” Leliana said. “We have determine two places of considerable activity on Corypheus’ part. Emprise and and the Approach. We’ve reports that he is mining red lyrium in the former and has a high concentration of Venatori in the desert.”

“He seems interested in some temple in the Forbidden Oasis as well,” Cullen said. “And it seems no matter where you go, my soldiers have been reporting rifts everywhere.” Yin picked up a small worn journal sitting just above the marker where the Storm Coast sat.

“What’s this?” he asked, flipping it open.

“Oh, I forgot about that. One of the Chargers picked it up while they were waiting for you at the Storm Coast. I meant to put in the requisition for you, but there’s a group called the Blades of Hessarian that may prove to be…useful, murderous as they are,” Josephine said.

“It says if I go into their hold wearing an amulet—”

“—you can challenge their leader and essentially gain them as allies,” Josephine finished for him. Yin shook his head and tossed it back on the table.

“I’m thinking we’ll head toward the Western Approach and investigate there first. If we have time, we’ll push into the Oasis and loop back, drop into the Exalted Plains and head to Emprise…maybe the Graves, depending on how we’re holding up. I’ve always wanted to visit there,” Yin said, tracing the path with his finger.

“You’re looking at several months of travel,” Josephine said, “I’ve heard rumours of peace talks being held at the Winter Palace—that may be when and where Corypheus plans to strike down Celene. Depending on where you are at in your travels by the time I confirm when it is happening, you may have to rendezvous to Halamshiral.” Yin stroked his beard, thinking.

“We can only try our best. Any word from Varric’s friend before we go traipsing across the world looking for clues?” Leliana giggled.

“Yes, I am aware that his friend arrived in the night and he is currently busy hiding her from Cassandra. I can’t imagine how difficult that must be. She isn’t known to be….subtle, exactly.”

“Sounds like we’ll get on famously,” Yin said and the others shared a laugh. “I suppose I’ll go meet her now. The plan stands, though—we go west once I return from Redcliffe.” The others voiced their agreement and stayed to talk as Yin went to the room he had originally occupied in the first days along the wall where Leliana said Varric had stowed away the woman they all refused to name.

When he approached the the door, he heard voices hushing each other back and forth.

“I’m coming in Varric,” he announced, opening the door and stepping through. He was immediately assailed by someone hiding behind the door which caused him to go toppling toward the bed. He narrowly missed it and landed on the floor.

“Hawke!” Varric yelled, half laughing, half worried. “You damn maniac, you just tackled the Inquisitor!” Yin’s head had somehow ended up beneath the dusty bed. The sheet covering his face moved to the side, revealing the pale face of a blue-eyed she-devil.

“The fuck? You didn’t tell me he had a beard?” Hawke reached down and stroked his beard, which was both unexpected and strangely nice. “Elves can grow beards?”

“I told everyone I was part dwarf, but they won’t believe me,” he said. Hawke remained crouched over his chest.

“Magic dwarf parent?”

“What the shit, Hawke, how do you know about that?” Varric asked from behind her.

“Shush!” she commanded, holding a finger up to him, then brought it around to offer Yin her hand. With surprising strength she lifted him to his feet. “Don’t you remember Sandal, Varric?” He laughed with his hand planted at his forehead.

“Your enchanter kid-dwarf? You think he sired Yin here?” Varric laughed even harder. Hawke rolled her eyes, looking at Yin.

“’Course not, you goof,” she said. “That would make Yin here like what, a toddler?”

“Who is Sandal?” Yin asked. Hawke’s eyes went wide as saucers and Varric groaned.

“Don’t get her started,” he begged, but Hawke took Yin by the shoulders and sat him down on the bed.

“I’ve got a theory—”

“Watch out, Charmer, her foil hat is on a bit too tight—”

“—that this dwarf I know is actually a mage or something. He spouted a prophecy or some nonsense at me once. It was freaky. Remember the way he killed that ogre in the Deep Roads, Varric?”

“I remember, Hawke.”

“Yeah, well, either that kid’s a mage or he’s got some kind of spirit guardian following him around. Thus I am convinced there are magic dwarves in Thedas. Maybe you and Sandal are related!” Yin gasped.

“A long lost brother?” Hawke nodded, grinning. He wasn’t sure whether to humour her or not, judging by Varric’s frantic gesturing behind her. “Well. Um. It’s good to meet you, Hawke.” The woman laughed and shook his head.

“Y’know I’m just fucking with you,” she said. Varric shook his head behind her and mouthed, She’s not .

“You wanna take a walk somewhere? This room is stuffy.” Hawke glared at Varric.

“Yah, I do. This guy insisted I needed to hide. Sorry, Shortcakes, you can’t hide a face like this. Cassandra’s gonna find out,” she said, patting her friend on the shoulder as she swung the door open.

“She’s all yours,” Varric muttered as Yin passed him.

“So! It’s Yin, right? Y’know, I met an Antivan elf some years ago,” she cat-called, earning some looks as they walked toward the stairs along the wall, “And I gotta say, you’re easier on the eyes than he was, Inky. I love me a beard and some muscles.” She reached back and squeezed his bicep.

“Finally, someone says it!” he said. Hawke laughed with her head tossed back, clutching her middle.

“Damn, I love me an ego in a man, too,” she said. “Anyway, my name’s something ridiculous, like an elven bard fucked a dragon and couldn’t agree on a name or some shit, so just call me Vyr.” As they came to a stop close to where he had been with Dorian the night before, Vyr lifted herself on top of the battlement and sat down, facing him. “Well then. Came all this way because Varric insisted I should. Don’t know how much I can help you with Corypheus, seeing as you dropped a bloody mountain on his head.”

“And you stopped a horde of Qunari…killed a dragon— rode a dragon that happened to be Asha’bellanar herself—am I missing anything?” Yin asked.

“Inadvertently helped blow up a Chantry,” she said. “You read Varric’s book though, didn’t you.”

“Used it as a guideline more or less to become Inquisitor,” he joked.

“Ha! Can I take credit for your trebuchet-avalanche incident, then? Eh, but in all seriousness, what can I even tell you?” she asked. “We gotta at least pretend we’re getting some adult things done here.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, amiga . You did what you could in an impossible situation with the few tools you were given,” he said. “First thing’s first—Varric said you fought Corypheus.” She nodded.

“Fought and killed him. The Grey Wardens were holding him and somehow he got into their heads. Think it had something to do with his connection to the darkspawn. Turned them against each other—and voilà, he’s free. Now, the Wardens have disappeared—dunno if you heard anything about that, but I’m willing to bet there’s some Tevinter magic fuckery happening there.” Yin joined her at the edge, looking beyond while she looked back at Skyhold.

“He’s got the Venatori, Red Templars, possible the Wardens…and maybe a demon army on the way?” he said, counting on his fingers.

“Yeah, see, a bunch of Qunari ain’t shit. You fixed a hole in the sky—seriously impressed by that—and now you’re facing a mistake I made with a few little additions. Good luck, Inkspot, I don’t envy you.” She sighed. “Sorry. I know I’m abrasive, Varric tells me all the time. But look, I might be able to help you. I’ve got a friend in the Wardens. He was investigating something unrelated for me. You’ve probably heard of him, and if you haven’t, shame on you. Name’s Alistair? Yeah, the guy that turned down a crown—again, not envious, but think of the endless cheese and wine. Anyway, last time we spoke, he was worried about corruption in the Warden ranks. Since then, nothing.”

“I’d say Corypheus counts as corruption,” Yin said. “But what about Alistair? You think he’s gone with the others too?” She shook her head, thumbing her lip.

“No. He told me he’d be hiding in a hole near Crestwood.” Yin cursed, fiddling with a thread on his sleeve. “What?”

“We have to go the opposite direction soon, we don’t have time to investigate so far out with the possibility that he might not be there,” he told her. She hummed pensively.

“I might be able to do something about that. Where are you headed?” she asked.

“The Western Approach.” She nodded.

“Maybe I can convince him to meet you somewhere closer.”

“Hang on,” Yin said, “If you didn’t know about Corypheus, what were you doing with the Wardens?” Hawke’s gaze sharpened as she looked at him.

“The templars in Kirkwall were using a strange form of lyrium. It was red,” she said and he snapped the thread, leaving a bit to unravel. “I thought maybe they might know something about it. It’s like a game of tag: do you know something? No, but this guy might! Hey guy, this man says you know—oh, you don’t know anything but this other guy does but he wants you to go fetch something? Okay, done, but…gotta go over here—it’s ridiculous and I’m going mad over it. It was so much easier when my friends were around. At least you seem to have help. Hey, why are you pacing?” Yin faltered in his footsteps, glancing at the Champion.

“Corypheus had templars that were infused with that stuff. And before that there was this…incident in Redcliffe…”

“So you know what I’m talking about it. Good,” she said. “But you seem to know about as much as I do. Well, hopefully Alistair will know more.”

“We need any information we can get right now,” he said. Vyr nodded and hopped down from the wall.

“Then I’ll be travelling to find our Warden,” she said, walking toward the other side of the wall.

“Do you need a horse?” he asked. Hawke laughed.

“You’re as kind as they say, Inky. But no, I’m fine. I just can’t get over this view! Reminds me of my home in Kirkwall. Had a balcony that overlooked the city, you know.” She sighed and turned her face away from it. “Makes me sick thinking about it. Not saying that your castle makes me sick. I just…ugh. Too much responsibility.”

“I can see how that would wear on you,” Yin said and she laughed, though he couldn’t see why.

“It doesn’t bother you? All these people looking to you to save them?” she asked. “How do you deal?”

“Before Haven fell, I’d just step outside the walls and find something that wants to kill me. Now it seems like half of Thedas shares that goal.”

“Aw, and you’re such a nice elf, too. But heads up, people still want to kill me,” Vyr said with a tittering laugh. “Well, it’s been a pleasure, Inquisitor, but I should probably hunt down my dwarf and tell him I’m leaving. Again.” She saluted with two fingers and left him alone. He noticed several people pointing up at him and toward Hawke and made an escape toward Cullen’s office to avoid their adoration.

Chapter Text



The sound of metal clinking echoed in the cold dark, always followed by a gasp of pain. Blood both old and new stained the prisoner’s arms, the newer wounds only allowed to heal far enough that they wouldn’t lead to death but kept raw enough that pain was felt without relief. The chains on the shackles had been fed through hoops at different parts of the dark cell, keeping the prisoner’s hands elevated in a stress position level with their heart, taut enough to prevent them from sitting down or resting comfortably in any way. The wrist shackles themselves were infused with lyrium to keep their mage captive from casting—or entering the Fade. The chains around the ankles were on short leashes, allowing for very limited stance adjustment.

A metal mechanism clicked and whined in the dark and then a square of pale light illuminated the broken body hanging in the centre of the cell.

“Bad news, elfy. Corypheus wants you alive,” the visitor said as he entered the prison. “Which means you and I are gonna spend a lot more time together until you start talking.” Silence answered. “You know, I’m going to be honest with you. All the leverage we have against you is what we can do to you physically—ha, for now. We know you’re with the Inquisition, so that’s a start. But once we capture one of your people, you can bet I’ll be bringing them in here. Then I’ll flay them before your eyes. You don’t want that, do you?” The mage didn’t move, didn’t speak. The interrogator approached his prisoner and grabbed a fistful of hair to force their gaze on him. “I can’t tell if you went back for the Herald or for Corypheus’ orb. Either way, I’ll get you to talk. We’ve got people tailing a particular elf. Foolish thing is travelling alone. Turns out, she’s related to the Herald.” The prisoner still did not react. “Did I mention they’re blood mages? The same ones that will be torturing her and pulling the truth from your tongue, should you refuse to open to me. What’s that? You saying something now, woman?” She licked her teeth, trying to work moisture into her mouth. He gestured behind him and a bowl was put in his hand that he promptly upended over her head. She gasped, but managed to get some water in her mouth.

“Raleigh…Samson,” she rasped and spat, “I know you.”

“Oh yeah? Is that supposed to intimidate me? It’s not like it’s impossible for you to have learned that from your guards,” he laughed.

“Your…armour…” she coughed, “will break. He… cares not…for you. Forgotten. Poor Raleigh Samson.” She laughed and then hung limply when he released her from his hold.

“I’ll give you another chance to answer, now that I know you can talk,” he said, pulling a gauntlet on. “Where did the Inquisition go?” When she didn’t answer within a few seconds, he nodded to one of his assistants who stepped forward with a handful of thin wooden stakes. The guard knelt and inserted one beneath the nail of her big toe. The elf screamed, but did not break.

“Don’t…waste…your time.” Samson backhanded her across the face as another wooden stake was placed. Then another, and another. And though she howled in agony, she did not break.

“Very well. We’ll be back,” he sneered. They left without removing the splinters. When he was gone, she let herself breathe heavily. Torture was never something someone could harden themselves to. Even as a prisoner beneath Falon’din, which made Samson’s tactics seem mild, she had escaped and in no small amount of time had largely healed from the psychological wounds.

But one thing Samson had done that Falon’din hadn’t was using others against her. She couldn’t let him get his hands on Yin’s relative. Seething hatred pulsated for this Samson and his master.

Maordrid twisted her hands in the manacles, feeling the length of them, gauging the pain. With a sharp inhale, she tucked her thumb in and pulled as hard as she could, biting into her lip so hard it drew blood. The metal dug into her skin, cutting, cutting…there was a pop as her thumb dislocated and a sickening splat as she degloved part of her hand. But then she was free of the right manacle. For a moment she hung in the darkness, curled over her mangled hand, trying desperately not to cry out. With her right hand, she reached over to her left and displaced that thumb as well, pulling it free without damaging her left as she had to the first hand. Exhausted and on the verge of passing out, Maordrid fell back on her arse and carefully removed the splinters in her feet. That was harder, with the wood catching in the inflamed flesh. Slow and brutal, but she told herself that they wouldn’t let her go septic. They needed her, so they would heal her.

Maordrid lay back on the ground, resting her pounding head on the cold stone.

Then she slipped into the Fade.


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The dreamscape was hard to navigate in her current state. Her emotions were ragged, like moth-eaten silk. She tried her damnedest to suppress her desperation, but spirits avoided her like the plague. Demons hovered at the edges of her vision, unable to catch her as she skimmed away to a different part of the Fade. There was no sign of the strange demon that had hounded her before, which made her wonder whether it had lost her trail after the Breach closed. She decided she would ponder it later as she stopped near a partially standing village that appeared to be on fire. A red spirit floated nearby watching the conflagration.

“Have you seen the one with a mark in his hand? Or the one called Wolf?” she asked, pushing images of them from her mind. The spirit regarded her for a moment before fading into the fire. “Dammit!” She moved on, heart pounding. Samson’s people never left her alone for long. They tried to deprive her from sleep as much as possible to try and wear down her walls. She moved on along a glittering white road and encountered a memory of some Tevinter slaves carving a statue. Half of the slaves turned to demons—the rest melted into spirits that promptly fled. Maordrid chased after the spirits, shifting into a panther to better escape the demons on her tail.

She began to lose hope of finding any sign of Yin in the Fade. Or Solas, for that matter. It was likely they were not asleep and her plan had failed. Another clever tactic of Samson, putting her in a cell where she could not watch time pass. Maordrid walked along a bridge, looking into silver streams that flowed below. Twisting white trees materialised as she went, though she paused when a school of ethereal fish passed over head, chased along by dragons the size of her forearm.

Something seemed familiar about it. Maordrid emerged from her bestial form and turned in a full circle, taking it all in. White stone arches, flourishing gardens, and a ridiculous amount of bridges had all appeared too fast for it to have been from her sluggish mind.

A statue of a dragon at the end of the bridge told her where she was. She felt a pull to the south, like a gentle current in a quiet sea. But at the same time, she felt herself weakening. Pain was bleeding through from the other side, through her control.

Maordrid dashed through halls and across more bridges, trampling gardens as she followed the familiar current. At the opening of a crystalline arch, she heard voices. One was masculine—the other female.

As she emerged, she saw a spirit in form of a woman speaking with an elf. Her mouth fell open as Solas took his eyes off of the other woman to see who had entered his dream. A look of shock and disbelief spilled over his features as he jumped to his feet.

“Maordrid?” he whispered. The spirit woman disappeared as he ran to meet her. She let him take her hands tightly, looking her over. “It’s you. You’re alive!” He laughed, framing her face with both his hands, relief and hope in his eyes. Her legs weakened as aches and then pain began to creep up her body.

“I’m fighting for my life,” she said. “Corypheus captured me. Samson. I can feel myself waking up. I…I think they are after a family member of Yin’s.” Solas gripped her tighter as though that alone would keep her there. They were kneeling on the grass now. Blood started to appear on her hands, arms, and dripped from her cheek from unseen wounds.

“Tell me where you are,” he said, chasing her eyes with his, trying to keep her focus. “I will come for you. I will find you. Be strong until I reach you.” She smiled, touching his cheek with her fingertips.

“Perhaps I can save her. I’m sorry.”

“No! Hold on! You must!”

“Dammit, she’s in the Fade! Get her out of there!” a voice echoed. Maordrid smiled through the pain at him, then opened her eyes. “Oh, you sneaky bitch. You’re in trouble now. Salt her and leave her to hang.”

For once, she laughed through the agony that followed.



Chapter Text

The door slammed open to his office and a gust of chilly wind assailed every part of him that wasn’t covered. Cullen looked up from his work to see Solas looking stormier than he’d ever seen him. He got to his feet, mildly alarmed.

“Solas? What’s happened?” he asked as the mage stopped just paces from his desk.

“Do we know anything about Corypheus’ whereabouts—the location of Samson? Where his people are hiding out. They must have a stronghold somewhere,” he demanded, then took a shaky breath, backpedaling. “Maordrid is alive, but barely.” Cullen’s heart dropped.

“We don’t know anything yet, though we’re trying. But, wait, how do you know this?” he asked, seeing the frustration on Solas’ face.

“She found me in the Fade somehow,” he looked away into a corner, “They’re hurting her. I tried to find her—follow her spirit, but she’s been cut off.” Solas shuddered visibly. “I fear that she is close to death. Or worse.”

“Death would be a mercy and Samson has none. They will make her Tranquil to pull what they want from her first. They may keep her alive as a gambit,” Cullen said.

“You know this from experience, Commander?” Solas hissed and Cullen bristled at the accusation.

“I want to help Maordrid just as much as you do,” he said, fighting to maintain a level tone. They glared at each other in a silence that was shortlived. Solas deflated, looking worn.

“She mentioned that they may be after one of the Inquisitor’s family members,” he said. “That is all she was able to tell me.” Cullen nodded, hope blossoming.

“His sister. Yin told us she was coming to Skyhold from Wycome. She had been travelling this way since she heard her brother was revealed to have survived the Conclave. Last we heard, she had touched down in Denerim.” Cullen moved to comb over his personal map of Thedas, though Solas stayed where he was.

“That is a generalised area, Commander. It still does not tell us where they may go once they have her,” Solas said.

“Perhaps, but we can speculate. What we know is that Corypheus was operating out of one place and may have had a hand in another: Redcliffe…and a stronghold called Therinfal Redoubt.” Cullen turned to look at him at the same time that realisation seemed to hit the other man.

“That is where the Lord Seeker recalled the templars,” Solas said, coming to look at the map.

“It is possible the place was abandoned when the templars were called to the attack on Haven,” Cullen said, “Or, it is crawling with them. It would be a very stupid move for Corypheus to have kept any of his forces stationed there.” Solas’ lips pressed into a thin line.

“We could send a raven after the Inquisitor and Dorian. With a small force—fifteen, maybe—we could meet them near Therinfal, scout it out and strike,” Solas said. Cullen raised an eyebrow, surprised at this show of character.

“Even if you rode hard—Maordrid might not be alive when you get there,” he said, though he hated himself for it. The determination did not fade from the mage’s blue eyes, though.

“No, but we may save our Inquisitor’s sister,” he said, walking away from the map, pausing before continuing in a lower voice, “At the very least we find Maordrid’s body and closure.” Cullen’s fingers curled into a fist as he imagined her suffering at the hands of his ex-colleague. Samson would pay.

“How soon can you be ready to depart?” Solas looked over his shoulder at the question.

“Quickly,” he replied.

“Good. Gather some of the companions to take with you. Recruiting that…boy may be a good idea. He came from there, he may be of some use,” Cullen said. “Take our warriors as well. Cassandra may not be willing to go, but Blackwall and Iron Bull I know hold her in high regard.” Solas nodded and opened the door, then stopped, halfway out.

“Thank you, Commander,” he said. Cullen looked up at him, meeting his eyes.

“I’m not doing this for you. It’s for Maordrid and the Lavellans,” he said. Solas inclined his head and was gone.



Chapter Text

They stood outside of the Gull and Lantern, calculating it as though it were a stronghold they were about to storm.

“We’ve weathered harsher storms,” Yin remarked. “You can do this.”

“This isn’t a storm. This is a demon that has been growing fat on my life’s troubles and has gotten too heavy to carry. It’s time to kill it,” Dorian said, then charged the door with Yin following on his heels. He nearly slammed into the Tevinter as he stopped abruptly on the other side. Yin saw why—the commons were utterly empty. “Uh-oh. Nobody’s here. This doesn’t bode well.”

“No shit. Ojo!” Yin said, reaching for his staff as a shadow to their left moved along the wall. A dark skinned man emerged, drawing Dorian’s attention. Yin was about to remove his staff when the man spoke.

“Dorian.”

“Father,” he said, voice darkening. Yin slowly removed his hand, but did not relax. “So the whole story about the ‘family retainer’ was just…what? A smoke screen?”

“Then you were told,” his father said. Dorian turned to him, looking hurt.

“I’m as surprised as you are!” he exclaimed.

“He didn’t know I would be here, Dorian,” Magister Pavus said, “I apologise for the deception, Inquisitor. I never intended for you to be involved.” Seething, Dorian rounded on his father.

“Of course not. Magister Pavus couldn’t come to Skyhold and be seen with the dread Inquisitor. What would people think? What is ‘this’ exactly, Father? Ambush? Kidnapping? Warm family reunion?” The magister gave a long-suffering sigh.

“This is how it has always been,” he said.

“Elaborate planning just to get Dorian here,” Yin remarked, “Now talk.”

“Yes, Father. Talk to me! Let me hear how mystified you are by my anger,” Dorian said with acid.

“Shall I leave? Or may I stay for the showdown?” Yin asked.

“You’re going nowhere, I want a witness. Someone to hear the truth,” Dorian said and Yin smirked, leaning comfortably against the wall.

“Dorian, there’s no need to—”

“I prefer the company of men. My father disapproves,” Dorian said to him. Yin raised an eyebrow.

No jodas mas,” Yin said, shocked, “That’s what all of this is about? Who you sleep with?”

“That’s not all it’s about,” Dorian said.

“Dorian, please, if you’ll only listen to me,” Halward said, wringing his hands.

“What, so you can spout more convenient lies?” Dorian said, now shaking with fury, pacing before his father. “He taught me to hate blood magic. ‘The resort of the weak mind.’ Those are his words. But what was the first thing you did when your precious heir refused to play pretend for the rest of his life?” He turned, pain writ across his features. “You tried to change me!” Yin’s heart sank at the same time that a newfound dislike surfaced for Halward Pavus.

“I only wanted what was best for you!” his father cried. Dorian gave a bitter laugh.

“You wanted what was best for you! For your fucking legacy! Anything for that!” he said, then stalked away across the tavern. Yin glanced at his father who was staring wounded after his son. Looking at him he saw a man full of regret, but Yin knew it ran deeper than that. Yin approached Dorian.

“I want more than anything to get you out of here, lethallan ,” Yin said, lowering his voice so only he could hear. “But you deserve an apology. It won’t hurt to hear him out. If he starts saying something you don’t like, you can leave.” He saw the inner struggle, as pride warred with hurt and loss. His sharp ears picked up a quick inhale before Dorian turned and walked back toward his father.

“Tell me why you came,” he said.

“If I knew I would drive you to the Inquisition…” Halward began. Not a good start, father, Yin thought.

“You didn’t. I joined the Inquisition because it’s the right thing to do.” He felt a swell of pride and affection for Dorian. It was a shame that his father seemed blind to the gift before him. “Once, I had a father who would have known that.” Dorian jerked his head at Yin, ready to leave.

“Once I had a son who trusted me. A trust I betrayed,” the man said. “I only wanted to talk to him. To hear his voice again. To ask him to forgive me.” The look Dorian gave him wasn’t something Yin was prepared for. He was lost—looking for guidance. Something Yin was all too familiar with. He gave him a gentle smile and nodded, moving toward the door to give them some privacy.


Chapter Text

She had to hand it to the humans. Their cruelty knew no bounds. Though she was barely conscious as they lowered her into the well, she made eye contact with every person present.

“Maybe a dunk in the cold water will wake you up, elf,” one of the guards said. Samson wasn’t present, much to her relief, but she wasn’t sure how much better his lackeys would be. Regardless, the water did wake her up. It soothed the wounds they had recently inflicted after partially healing those dealt from the wooden stakes. The skin on her hand had been all but healed save for a bit around her wrist that would be aggravated by the manacles as she hung in the well. Once she was up to her shoulders, they released her. She hadn’t expected them to drop the links entirely, so she sank some before frantically kicking her feet, barely breaking the surface in time. Mirthful laughter echoed down the walls of the well as she struggled to stay above, gasping for breath. If she hadn’t known they were torturers, she would have thought them normal men laughing at a good joke. Maordrid scrabbled along the wall searching for a handhold or something to put her feet on.

“Just tell us when you’re ready to talk and we’ll fish you out! Otherwise you can drown for all we care. Your new blood mage friends will be here soon, so think about that. Drowning is probably better!” one of them shouted down. She finally found a stone just wide enough for the tips of her toes to fit or her heel. Fortunately the well was narrow enough that she was able to brace a leg against its curvature. At least she wouldn’t be sinking.

While she shivered and tried to preserve her energy, she thought about her meeting with Solas. It wasn’t the hope that he might know how to find her that came to mind first, but rather how he had looked at her. The way he had held her hands, gentle yet firm—his touch at her face. She had never seen him display affection to anyone in all her time knowing him. But perhaps this Solas was different, even if it was supposed to be the same timeline. He seemed different from the self-assured leader he had become. The way he acted and spoke around everyone didn’t even appear to her as part of the facade. He had been genuine and honest, forming friendships without ulterior motives. And it was working on her. Perhaps too well.

Maordrid shivered violently, leaning her head against the stone. There was not much hope for her path. She had set upon it knowing fully that she would likely die. She could die now , but for some reason she felt indifferent to it. All that she knew was that she had to rescue Yin’s relative before she did.

The foot in the water was beginning to go numb and a bone-deep pain radiated through her leg. Hypothermia did not have a slow onset. With her stature, it would be much shorter. She shifted from one foot to the other to give it time to warm up again. Over and over she alternated, watching as the sky grew dark above. It was the first time since being captured that she had seen the open world. She began to think it would have been better if they’d just kept her locked up—seeing time go by only reminded her that she didn’t yet have a plan of escape.


Chapter Text


Yin sat on the bench some way from the tavern, rubbing his hands together and staring at the door. He was beginning to think he would need to stage a rescue mission if his friend didn’t come out soon, but quickly scrapped the idea when the door opened to admit a rather despondent looking Dorian. Yin immediately got up and walked over.

“He says we’re alike. Too much pride,” Dorian said first. “Once I would have been overjoyed to hear that. Now I’m not certain. I don’t know if I can forgive him.” Dorian walked slowly away from him and sat in his unoccupied spot.

“Are you all right?” he asked, sitting beside him. He wouldn’t look at him.

“No. Not really,” Dorian said. Yin placed a hand on his knee for a breath, wanting to hug him—to show him that he had his support. But he didn’t know what Dorian wanted or needed and he didn’t want to smother him. Since when did you start analysing that type of body language? It did worry him. He had never been the one to dig deep into the personal lives of people he was attracted to. It was always…temporary.

“Maybe if you keep working at it, keep talking…” he said, wishing he had the solution for all his friends’ hurts.

“It was a start, at least,” Dorian said, staring back at the door. “He’s a good man, my father. Deep down. He taught me principle is important. And…he cares for me, in his own way. But he won’t ever change. I can’t forgive him for what he did. I won’t.” They sat in silence, just thinking. Yin sat back on the bench, watching his face.

“Maybe one day you’ll be able to talk. See eye to eye,” he said. Dorian’s chuckle was short and sweet.

“You’re very optimistic. It’s a charming trait,” he said. “Maker knows what you must think of me now, after that whole display.” There was a tinge of nervousness to his voice that didn’t slip past Yin.

“Dorian, we’ve travelled weeks together. You suffered through me when we time travelled—I suffered through the Storm Coast. Then Haven. I’m still here and…if anything, I think even more of you than before,” he said, frustrated.

“The things you say,” Dorian said. Yin leaned forward again, grinning.

“I know you can’t usually take Antivans seriously, but I mean it, Dorian.”

“My father never understood. Living a lie…it festers inside of you, like poison. You have to fight for what’s in your heart,” he said, looking at him.

“I agree,” Yin said, leaning forward.

“Inquisitor!” He stopped just shy of Dorian’s lips, his own twisting in a snarl.

“Yes?” he demanded, standing up. The Inquisition agent was utterly oblivious to the moment he’d interrupted, standing at attention.

“Urgent news, Ser,” he said, saluting. Yin gestured irritably for him to continue. “From Skyhold. Commander Cullen sent word that…” the scout trailed off uncertainly. “Sorry, Inquisitor. It’s…”

“Go on, I can handle it,” Yin said as patiently as he could. The scout took a deep breath.

“Your sister has been reported captured by Samson and possibly taken to Therinfal Redoubt. They have reason to believe that Lady Maordrid might already be a captive there,” the blood drained from his face, “A small force has set out in that direction. They will meet you nearby the stronghold to discuss a plan of attack. He said Messere Solas will be there with Warden Blackwall, Messere Cole, the Iron Bull, and…a Ser Tess Tickle?”

“Okay,” was all he could manage. The scout saluted more hesitantly this time and slowly backed away. Yin’s feet took him forward but his mind refused to tread anywhere but in the panicked circle it was now running. He saw their horses around the corner of the inn—his body lurched toward them methodically. Nearly there, he was wrenched around by his wrist and suddenly his lips were pressed up against something. For one stunned moment, he froze up, forgetting what and where he was. But then he slammed back into his body and kissed Dorian back, gripping the other man tightly with one hand at his hip. When they broke away, both gave small laughs.

“Okay,” he repeated, his hand tangling in his own hair. Dorian chortled.

“Just okay?” he mused. Yin shook his head.

No! You’re…amazing,” he said, still reeling. “I…” Dorian’s hands cradled the sides of his neck, stilling his mind.

“We’re both caught in a whirlwind right now. But we’ve taken care of me—now let’s go take back the girls,” Dorian said. “I do propose that we drink ourselves into oblivion after this, however.” Yin nodded happily and climbed onto his horse. Together, they sped out of Redcliffe.

Chapter Text


She jerked violently awake in the water at the sound of irate voices. Everything hurt. She had narrowly survived the earlier stoning they had by diving beneath the surface. The skin above her left brow had sustained a laceration and another on her forearm, both of which had been bleeding sluggishly since then. She had kept above the water by telling herself over and over that suffering wasn’t for fear of death—it was for another’s.

“You kept her in there that long? You idiots! Is she even alive?” Peering up, she saw the outline of Samson poke his head over the edge of the well. “Get her out of there! And you—heal whatever damage has been done. You best pray to the Elder One that she doesn’t lose a limb.” They lowered a chain with a hook on the end into the well. She watched emotionless as the metal banged and scraped against the stone until finally plopping into the water. “Hook yourself onto that, elf.” She was too afraid to move. If she did, she would sink and that would be the end of it. Her limbs were too stiff with cold at this point to do anything. The hook slid along the wall until it bumped her shoulder. Maordrid slowly lowered the chain links onto the hook and then they were pulling her up. A weak gasp of pain escaped from her as ligaments and tendons and muscles moved for the first time in too long. When she emerged, she was dropped unceremoniously onto the hard ground. A mage knelt before her legs and examined them with magic.

“Eh, she’s got some nerve damage in her feet. If it were any of us, we’d pro’ly be losin’ a toe,” the mage grunted. “Probably some more elf crap.” Jagged, unrefined healing magic shot through her legs, possibly doing more damage than repair. But her mind was too exhausted to care.

“The other mages are here. Get her into the cell and give her something to wake her up. She needs to be conscious for the blood magic to work,” Samson said. They hauled her up by her arms and dragged her back into the cell where they wordlessly fettered and fed her a foul mixture that grabbed her mind with molten talons, pulling her back to the surface. She screamed as the feeling of fiery ants crawled under her skin. She tried to claw at herself, to itch and bleed it out of her, but the mages drew her bonds taut, laughing sinisterly.

“You won’t get what you want from me,” she panted, “Make me Tranquil and be done with it!”

“Oh, that can certainly be arranged,” Samson said, coming into the room with a metal rod in his hand. “Once the blood mages have pulled every answer from you, we’ll make you Tranquil. Then you’ll serve beneath Corypheus as his own personal pet.” Maordrid recoiled in horror.

“You don’t know what you’re doing,” she said.

“No, I know exactly what I’m doing. It’s called interrogation and this is how we do it,” he sneered. Just then, two men came into the room in Venatori regalia. “While I’m preparing the lyrium brand, they’re going to begin and I’ll ask questions. If by some ridiculous reason you resist that, we’ll bring in a little something that will quickly change your mind.” He nodded to the Venatori mages who then took up positions on her flanks. They made cuts on their palms in combination with two slashes on her legs. Then they began chanting in Tevinter, low and sombre. She felt the magic infiltrate through the cuts in her skin and take hold like a vice. At full strength, resisting two mages would be difficult, but possible. She was a strong mage. But sapped of magic, tortured, and exhausted…she didn’t stand much of a chance.

“You should thank me, really. I’m giving you one more chance to make your own choice to tell us…before I take that ability away altogether,” he said, brandishing the brand. “Now, let’s start with yourself. Who are you?” Images flashed through her head, truth and lies mingling, knotting together…then slowly coming undone. Hundreds of years of meticulously constructed identities. Memories of people and places. Somewhere called home, swept away by the tide of empowered blood.

“I’m…” she clenched her jaw, trying to keep it closed. You’re no one. No one. Don’t say anyth—Ame Elvhen!” she gasped.

“Was that elven?” Samson asked, looking to the two mages. “Shit, do we need a translator in here?”

“I believe all she said was that she is Elvhen, Ser,” one of the Venatori said, mid-incantation. The spell lessened for a moment as he spoke, giving her time to gather herself again.

“Obviously she’s an elf. She playing smart with us?” Samson said.

“An ancient elf, I think is what she means,” the mage said. “Isn’t that right, sweetheart?” He took hold of his end of the spell again and she felt something like a band of pressure around her skull. She nodded against her will, only because she thought it. “See? You’ll speak to him in our tongue from now on.”

“Well I’ll be damned,” the ex-templar said, a hunger in his eyes. He stepped closer to her face with a greasy grin. “You’re from the ancient times? Pre-Imperium?” This time, her nod was limited to a dip of her chin, but resisting seemed to make the pain worse. “Interesting. Are there others out there like you?” She bit down on her tongue to keep from answering. Blood welled up and around her lips. Samson’s eyes widened as he realised what was going on and ordered them to stop. Maordrid slumped in her bonds.

“You’ll regret this. I swear, by the blood in my heart,” she panted, trying to get to her feet. Samson laughed.

“No, you’ll regret me if you bite your tongue out. Since you’re being a mule about it, I’d like to show you what will happen if you don’t cooperate.” Samson whistled through his teeth and at his signal there was commotion outside of her cell. The door swung open and three guards came in with another prisoner. Maordrid hung from the chains, mouth going slack.

“No,” she breathed. It was another elf, a young woman by the looks of it. Her eyes were blindfolded and there were wax plugs stuffed into her ears. Her ashen hair was mussed up from her undoubtedly rough capture and a thin braid trailed down her back swung loosely. She still wore her Dalish garb as if she’d only been outside hunting mere moments ago.

“This, you see, isn’t just any old relative of the Herald. This is his bloody sister!” Samson laughed, raising the woman’s chin with the end of the lyrium brand. “Do you want to see her hurt? I’ll make her Tranquil too, if you like. Seems magic runs in the Lavellan bloodline.” Maordrid stared at Yin’s sister, but then met Samson’s gaze. The man took a knife and made a clean cut across Lavellan’s palm. She yelped, trying to bring her injured limb to her body but the ruffians held her still. With a nod at the mages, the spell resumed and Maordrid’s back arched involuntarily as they used the combined blood to make a stronger effect. “Now, where were we? Ah, you’re ancient. You went for Corypheus’ orb, and I know that in itself has to be ancient. It’d be nice to know if there were more out there just waiting to be claimed. How about it? Do you know where they are?”

“YES,” she grunted out, “I-I-I know…h-OW to…find, but not where.”

“Good, see, it’s getting easier,” he said. The smugness in his voice boiled her blood. Everything was boiling, but she drifted to the back of her mind as the mages took control. “Now, what about who owned these orbs? They were gods, right? Don’t matter if they were Old Gods, Elvhen Gods, or whatever. Do you know where the god is that owned my master’s orb?” Maordrid slowly looked up at him, mind enthralled.

“Yes.” Samson hefted the now-glowing brand in his hands, holding it close to her face.

“You will show me everything,” he said, and then spun at the sound of shouts in the corridor outside. The door flung wide open to reveal a soldier with his sword bared.

“Ser, we’re under attack!” Samson cursed and surveyed the room.

“Keep them in here and hidden until I get back,” he ordered and then followed the man. Lavellan must have sensed the commotion and tried to yank at her bonds which earned her a kick between the shoulder blades and a blow to the face with the back of a gauntlet. Maordrid surged forward with a snarl.

“Don’t fucking touch her,” she hissed. “Or I’ll free your hands from your miserable body.” The mercenary laughed.

“And how are you gonna do that?” he taunted, stepping over Lavellan to get to her. He raised his hand, still speckled with the other elf’s blood. Maordrid braced for it, but then suddenly there was a flash of colourful light and a fight broke out. Ears ringing, she sat helpless as shadows invaded the cell and the Venatori blood mages attempted to stop them in their tracks. But then they fell, a sliver of silver darting here and there across throats and through chests. Then, it was silent, except for the shouting outside and the sound of magic humming through the air.

Do my eyes deceive me?” a heavily accented voice asked. One of the shadows took form, a magelight banishing the darkness from a familiar face.

Shiveren?” she croaked. The other elf glanced behind him at Lavellan still sitting blind and deaf beneath a table.

Let’s get you out of here,” he said, taking his enchanted sword to one of the chains at her feet. “We’ll remove the lyrium ones outside.”

“Unbind her,” she said, indicating Lavellan. Shiveren looked askance at her, but did as she said, kneeling before the other woman and carefully removing blind and wax. “She’s the Herald’s sister. If you can’t get me out, you must help her.”

Creators,” Lavellan gasped when she saw her. “You know my brother?” Shiv was able to easily lockpick open her manacles, after which she helped Shiveren break the remaining chains binding Maordrid.

“I do. We’ll get you to him,” she said, attempting to take a step, but her knees gave out. Shiveren caught her.

Lethallin, can you help my friend walk? I can protect you if you keep close to me,” he said. Lavellan nodded and drew Maordrid’s arm across her shoulders. Shiv pressed his forehead to Maori’s briefly and then swathed himself in shadow again, slipping out the door. “It’s clear! Let’s go!” Maordrid gritted her teeth against the agony of moving her legs, but caught sight of something as they were leaving the cell.

“The key,” she rasped, pointing to the wall where they hung. Lavellan grabbed them, then stooped to snatch a dagger from a dead guard’s waist, tucking it into her belt. Then she hurriedly inserted the keys into the cuffs. A laugh of relief slipped from her when they finally fell free of her raw wrists and she could once again reach across the Veil. Then they were hobbling off after Shiveren. Shadows dashed through the halls and across courtyards, slaying men everywhere. She didn’t see a single elf dead amongst them.

“Where is Samson?” she asked him when they caught up.

“Coward ran off as soon as he saw us,” he said, grimacing. “Or rather, he jumped at shadows and decided he didn’t want to take his chances.” He motioned for them to move down a set of stairs, coming to Maordrid’s other side to help tackle the task.

What are you doing here?” she asked. Shiv sighed.

They stole a schematic from a temple of June. As a matter of fact, it’s what allowed us to infiltrate this place today,” he said. “But during the attack, I think something else was happening. The first man we took out was possessed by a demon. Some of the hallways seemed…I don’t know, warped?”

“You attacked using exactly what they wanted to make for themselves?” she said.

“We just wanted them to know what sort of power they were messing with and to teach them not to steal from us,” he said. “You just happened to be here. I had no idea you’d been captured.”

“You two speak Elvhen fluently,” Lavellan commented. Shiv gave her a sidelong glance.

“You can understand us?” he asked carefully. Lavellan cackled.

“I don’t think even my Keeper could have kept up with that,” she said. “Although…your dialect sounds pretty outdated. You from another country?”

“You could say that,” Maori answered. They descended the rest of the way in silence and seemed to have escaped the din of battle as they emerged onto a stone bridge outside. That was until something whistled through the air behind them.

Shit! Take her and run to the forest!” Shiv yelled as the arrow clanked into the stone by their feet. He shoved Maordrid into Lavellan’s hands and bared his sword, shadow swirling around him as he went to engage their pursuers. The two of them limped off, hearing an order to follow the escaped elves.

“Will he come back for us?” Lavellan asked.

“I’ve never known him to say anything he didn’t mean,” Maordrid mumbled as the forest-line came into sight. Nearly a quarter of the way there, the hair on the back of her neck pricked up and she turned her head achingly to look behind them. With all the strength she had left, she pushed the Dalish woman away and erected half her Aegis just in time to slow a blow meant to cleave one of them in half. The sword hovered in midair, the attacker fighting with all his might to follow through—and then he was choking on his own blood as Yin’s sister thrust a dagger through his middle. Maordrid released the shield and staggered backward as the sword toppled harmlessly to the ground.

“I’m sorry,” the girl said, staring at his corpse. Maori looked at her while she tried to catch her breath.

“For what?” she asked.

“They smited me when they first captured me. Normally I would have sensed him but…”

“We’re alive. That’s what matters,” Maori said and then they both looked back to see Shiveren materialise seemingly from nothing, followed by six other elves. Lavellan blinked in surprise at them all.

“Damn,” the girl gushed. Shiv nudged the dead man with his foot before coming to help Maori to her feet. One of the others helped Lavellan.

“We couldn’t get them all. Something started attacking both parties, so we disengaged. Either way, I believe they’re rallying to come after us,” Shiveren said as they melded with the forest. “We’ve just enough time to get you some healing but…”

“I have so much to ask you,” she said but Shiveren shook his head.

“And I, you, little traveller,” he smirked. “There is not enough time.”

“There never has been,” she said sadly. He barked an order to one of his elves. She recognised the one that approached as another ancient—Ithellin who had been a youngster when he’d joined the cause. Her and a few others had teased him relentlessly for years about being a ‘young ancient’. He knelt now and healed her, bearing a smirk and she knew he was likely remembering the same thing.

What were you doing that got you captured?” Shiveren said, emphasising the last word. “Unless that was on purpose.

Not this time. Corypheus attacked Haven. He had—” she glanced over at Lavellan and lowered her voice—”Fen’harel’s orb. I tried to take it from him and gravely underestimated his power.” Shiveren gave her a smoldering glare, eyes narrowed. Ithellin snorted, moving on to heal her feet.

“I personally have always held you in high regards, Yrja. I admire your dedication and determination to do things yourself and alone, but it’s foolish.” She sighed and looked away from him. It was a lesson of the ages. He continued, “You should have your own agents. A team that you can keep close to you.” He glanced at Lavellan who was being dutifully distracted by one of the others. “Without my own team I can say with certainty I would have perished many times over.” He gripped one of her hands between his own, drawing her attention back to him. “Please tell me you will consider it. For me and for others. We all care about our duty…but there are many that would be devastated by your death.” Maordrid looked over at Yin’s sister, considering. She was young, lean. Uneven locks cut just above her shoulders with a braid or two, including the single long one that she was fiddling with in her lap. She’d a narrow face speckled with freckles, mischievous lips, and eyes of oxblood, a testament to her elven lineage. She had blood writing on her face, but Maori had never seen the markings before. She was pretty, just like her brother, but Yin certainly looked more the exotic Antivan than this pale thing that looked to have come from the snowy lands. Shiveren followed her gaze. “There is something to be said of the mortals,” he said thoughtfully, “They are forced to master skills in their short time alive. The heights they climb to.”

“What are you saying?” she asked. He gave her a secretive smile.

Da’len, what is your name?” he asked Lavellan. The young woman started and looked over at them.

“Dhrui of Clan Lavellan,” she replied. Maori slapped his arm and recoiled in pain with a hiss, forgetting her injuries.

“What are you doing?” she asked him as Dhrui joined them eagerly.

“Dhrui is a lovely name,” he said, ignoring her. “How good are you at keeping secrets?”

“Depends on who it’s for,” Dhrui said.

“What about for someone who saved your life?” he said, picking his fingernails.

“Oh, you mean you? Of course. But only if I can ask questions,” she said. Maordrid wasn’t liking where this was going.

“You’re every bit your brother’s sister,” she said.

“Don’t mind my friend. I would ask that when you are in the safe harbour of the Inquisition that you do not bring us up, if asked how you escaped,” Shiv said. “Tell them that our friend here broke you both out during the night and discovered that the blood mages had accidentally attracted a demon. The two of you used the chaos to escape.” Dhrui looked between them, clearly trying to piece it all together.

“All right. I can do that. But once we’re safe, I want answers. You’ve piqued me,” she said. Shiv nodded, satisfied. “I probably need to know your name if this is going to work out.” Maordrid sighed. Shiveren was right on so many levels. Dhrui was a loose end—one she had almost overlooked in her exhaustion.

“You may call me Maordrid,” she said. Dhrui half-bowed. Ithellin, mostly ignored until then, sat up with a worried expression.

“We’re going to have to rip your toenails out if the tissue is to heal all the way,” he said. “I’m sorry, lethallin.” Maordrid nodded and lay back on the ground. Shiveren carefully covered her mouth with his hand while motioning Dhrui to hold one of her arms down.

“One…two…” With a snap in the Veil, Ithellin yanked all ten out at once. Maordrid’s yell was stifled against her friend’s hand while painful tears leaked from her eyes. Ithellin poured liquid on her bleeding toes and wrapped them with linen strips. “That should be it. We’ll let your body heal the rest so we don’t weaken your immune system.” Maordrid went to speak, but then there was a massive explosion that shook the earth around them. The elves all stood up, baring swords and warhammers as fields of defensive magic sprung up.

“Let’s get moving!” Shiv ordered, but then was cut off as a wall of flame came roaring through the trees. The force of it tossed several of them into the air. When Maordrid climbed unsteadily to her feet with help of a boulder she saw that she had been separated from the others. To her right she felt a massive pull where their attackers were advancing. A flash of emerald between the trees told her that a rift had just appeared. More attacks came in form of flaming rocks and lightning.

“Maordrid!” Shiv shouted. “Get out of here! We’ll get Dhrui to safety!” She saw him waving at her from the other side of the wall of flame. She gave him a nod and began pulling magic around her to shift. She wouldn’t just run—they needed something to give them a head start. It was dangerous with how thin the Veil was in these woods. She could sense things gathering just on the other side as she cast her spell, shifting into a griffon. Casting anything else would likely kill her if she tried in her state of exhaustion, but being in this form lent some strength she didn’t have as an elf. With a powerful leap, she flew above the trees and instantly spotted the advancing line of enemies. She dove down and presented her talons, ripping into several men and sending them barrelling into their comrades. Many shrieked when they realised a griffon was tearing their ranks apart. She proved too quick for those without magic, and those with it were doing too much damage to the forest around them trying to hit her. Maordrid fled to the skies before they could cause a wildfire, hoping the distraction had been enough for Shiveren and the others.

She flew over a stretch of forest and hills until darkness fell, venturing toward some farmlands she’d spotted from the air. She chose a farmstead at random and melted from her griffon form, sneaking into the barn. Inside were a few livestock and a single horse, all slumbering happily in their stalls. Whatever strange drug they had force-fed her earlier had given her a migraine and sweats. Maordrid didn’t have the strength to climb the ladder into the loft, opting instead to flop into a stack of hay near the horse where sleep welcomed her like an old friend.

Chapter Text

Yin and Dorian rode hard for two days through forest until they reached a neglected road that would supposedly lead to Therinfal Redoubt, according to their poorly drawn map. While they stood with hoods drawn up against a light rain trying to gauge their position, the thundering of hooves rose up behind them on the road. They instantly threw up barriers and turned to meet whoever was coming, only to see horses bearing the Inquisition insignia.

“The chances,” Dorian said over the rain. Yin waved them down. The others stopped several paces from where they stood and dismounted, leading their horses over. Solas, Blackwall, Bull, and surprisingly Sera were all present. Yin caught a glimpse of Cole lingering in the background but the boy was staring off into the trees.

“Tess Tickle, of fucking course,” Yin realised when they were within earshot. Sera giggled.

“Yeah, Maori’s gonna owe me that arrow shootin’ contest after this. Only reason I’m here,” she said. Solas stepped forward, shoulders hunched against the rain despite his cloak.

“You saw her?” Yin asked him. His hood dipped as he nodded.

“She came to me in the Fade in poor shape. There was not much to go off of in means of determining her location but I believe Commander Cullen wrote you…?”

“Have you seen her since? In your dreams?” Yin asked. Solas shook his head, the hood moving just enough that he could see bruises beneath the other man’s eyes. It must have been tearing him up inside. Solas sighed irritably. “Not a trace, despite my best efforts,” he said.

“Do you think…” Yin swallowed, “Do you think that the demon or—thing, whatever it is, caught up to her?”

“I’m afraid only she will be able to answer that. Regardless, the longer we stand here the longer your sister and Maordrid must endure our enemy’s company,” he said. He did not fail to notice that Solas only spoke in present tense. He refused to acknowledge the possibility that she may be dead. Solas’ hope gave him hope.

“I’m going to crush that little bastard in his armour like a snail,” Bull growled. They handed their reins off to a few of the soldiers accompanying them and walked into the forest with Solas, Yin, and Dorian at the forefront.

“The keep should not be far from this road,” Solas said as they weaved through the trees.

“That’s funny. Do I smell smoke?” Dorian said.

“It’s coming from ahead,” Yin said, picking up his pace. The others prepared their weapons as they followed the scent and soon they came upon a glade. “Leave the horses.” They left one of their men in charge of the mounts and began marching forward where the strongest of the smoke was coming from.

“Stop!” Blackwall whisper-shouted. “I think I saw something at the edge there.” They all stopped at the same time in an arrow-formation and watched warily as someone emerged from the trees. For a moment, it seemed the shadows beyond were alive, but as soon as the figure left the protection of the forest they stilled. The stranger was a woman, by the looks of it.

“Tell me when to shoot, Inky,” Sera said with an arrow drawn to her cheek. But Yin wasn’t listening. The Inquisitor took one hesitant step and then burst into a run when he recognised the tired face.

“Dhrui!” When he reached her, he hugged her tightly, spinning her around in a circle. One thing goes right for once. “Gods, what the fuck are you doing alone?” He released her, checking her over and seeing cuts and bruises everywhere. The others quickly caught up, staring worriedly off into the forest. Solas handed her a healing potion and some water that she gratefully accepted. “What happened? We heard you were taken captive,” Yin asked again once she had drank. Dhrui cast a look back toward the trees, then at him.

“A woman helped me, but we were attacked as we escaped,” she said, giving the ground a thousand-league stare. “She told me to keep running west and I’d find an Inquisition camp, eventually. The forest all looks the same here, I think I’ve been running circles. Some Dalish I am.”

“Did she give a name?” Solas asked.

“It was something funny for an elf. Mor…Maordrid, I think?” Solas gave him an urgent look.

“Mao went back to fight?” Sera exclaimed. “That woman is frigging nuts.”

“A shield that shimmers, shaping spirit, she’s unbound, I’m so tired, but I can’t rest until she’s safe,” Cole said, popping into existence beside Sera. The rogue made a disgusted sound and slid away from him. “I can’t hear her anymore.”

“We should press forward if there’s a chance she may still be alive. How many could you say were in the keep?” Solas asked. Dhrui shook her head slowly, thinking.

“More than us, that’s for sure. She took out a lot, but she’s hurt. I think it’s safe enough to take the horses,” she said. “C’mon, I can show you the way. I think.” They needed no prodding, returning to the horses and heading into the forest at Dhrui Lavellan’s direction. They rode for a long time in wary silence. Yin was increasingly surprised by the distance his sister had come on foot until finally some structural grey began to poke between the trees.

“What’s that over there?” Blackwall asked, pointing to a disturbance in the forest to their right some ways away. His heart sunk at the sight of glinting green in that direction. Dhrui slid from her place behind Yin and walked over with her brother close behind. Yin had them stay behind as he and Solas approached the rift several paces away—no demons except for some wraiths—and carefully closed it as Solas dispatched the enemies. When they returned, the others were still staring at the wreckage.

“This is where we were attacked and separated,” she said. There were massive marks on the trees, some of which appeared to have been on fire long enough to burn to their tops. In the ground were several deep fissures that almost looked to have been carved out by molten lava. Corpses were strewn about in varying states of disfigurement.

“Not a single survivor,” Solas whispered. “This was all her?” Dhrui shook her head.

“There were blood mages and normal mages. They nearly set the forest on fire,” she said. “But…yeah, she did the rest.” The others spread about looking amongst the dead for their friend but finding nothing.

“Seriously looks like a beast tore its way through these guys. Remind me to never ever get on her bad side,” Iron Bull muttered as they pressed on once they’d determined the area clear of Maordrid’s corpse.

“If she’s even still alive,” Sera added, whining when Blackwall chastised her. “Wot? Just bein’ realistic. She had to’ve gotten tired sometime.”

“I agree, Sera. This isn’t looking good,” Dorian said as they emerged onto a green. Above, the land curved up and turned into an elevated plateau upon which sat Therinfal Redoubt. Streams of smoke issued from somewhere within it. In the centre of the green, a single man lay in a circle of bloodstained grass.

“Her doing as well?” Yin asked, stopping beside the corpse whose face was frozen in a permanent grimace of rage.

“The first to attack us once we were out,” Dhrui said. “I…was smited when I was captured. She put herself between me and him without hesitation. Fenedhis, if it hadn’t been for her at all we wouldn’t have survived.” They continued on without another word. When they came to crossing the bridge leading to the keep itself, the world remained silent.

“Something feels off about this place,” Solas said.

“I agree. Like a taint lies upon it,” Dorian said.

“It was Envy,” Cole said, appearing beside Solas. “When the Templars came, it twisted the commanders, forced their fury, their fight, they’re red inside. They fought at Haven.”

“Great, so there’s a demon here?” Yin said as they ascended some steps. Streaks of soot marred the stone walls around the area. Bodies lay helter-skelter throughout the way as well.

“No, I don’t think so,” Solas said. “Whatever happened here, I believe the demon was banished. What remains is the stain it left on the Veil.” He looked warily at Dhrui, “You mentioned there were blood mages?” Her face was bloodless as she looked around.

“Y-Yes, they…gods, they used blood magic to interrogate her. I couldn’t hear what they were asking but they were probably trying to get information about you,” her voice cracked, “One of them had a lyrium brand.” They all stopped before going in any farther.

“You don’t think Samson would do that, do you?” Yin said, though he wasn’t sure who he was asking. The others were uncomfortably quiet. “I want someone to take Dhrui back out. There’s no reason for her to go through all of this again.”

“I’ll go with her,” Blackwall said.

“I’m with Beardy. And with Girl Yin, I guess. We deal with ‘nuff demons already,” Sera added with a glare at Cole. Yin hugged his sister one more time. He ordered the rest of the force brought from Skyhold to stay with those three while his party ventured forward.

“If things turn sour, go back to where we first met on the road,” he said. Then the others departed. As they progressed into a courtyard, the metallic smell of blood and bile grew stronger. The Veil was warped in places, like a transparent silk twisted too many times on itself.

The sound of muttering drew them around a corner. Standing with his face to the wall was a soldier in damaged armour.

“Who are you?” Yin called, loud and clear. The soldier flinched, but continued talking into the wall. Solas dared venture closer, head cocked as he listened. Bull hefted his axe uncomfortably.

“Sounds like demon shit to me,” he said. Solas nodded curtly.

“I believe his mind was touched by one,” he said. As if to punctuate his statement, the man burst into flame. “That is probably for the best.” They quickly made their way away from the man.

“Those look like cells up ahead,” Dorian said, nodding toward a line of heavy doors in an open corridor. Most were wide open. “Shall we split up? Perhaps we’ll find something of use.” They all spread out, but Dorian lingered at Yin’s side.

“I don’t think she’s here,” Yin said, watching the others draw away.

“And I don’t want to think about what may have happened to her,” Dorian said. Yin looked at him, hoping to draw some strength from his face. It helped, a little, especially when Dorian’s hand brushed lightly along his own as he went off in his own direction. Yin sighed and entered one of the cells. There were various tools inside. Mostly what looked like Templar lyrium kits, though none of the vials were filled with blue liquid. It was all red. He shivered and went back outside.

They searched the massive keep for a while, occasionally discovering a stray man driven mad by whatever had happened there. The farther they went, the less optimistic they became of finding Maordrid unscathed.

“Hey, fellas, I think I found something!” Bull called, voice echoing from inside a room. They all rushed toward his voice, stopping at the entrance of a particularly foul-smelling cell. The Qunari emerged carrying a piece of canvas bearing what appeared to be armour. Solas stepped forward and lifted up a pair of greaves. His eyebrows furrowed in worry.

“These are hers,” he confirmed, setting them down and picking up the silverite-backed gauntlets.

Yin noticed blood on the inside of the greaves and cloak. “She fought her way out without putting any of it on,” Yin realised.

“There’s no way she didn’t get out of here unwounded. Did you see how many dead men there are?” Dorian was right, but no one wanted to agree aloud. “If she was captured again there’s no way of knowing where they’ll be taking her next.”

“Or if they’ll even keep her alive,” Bull said. “She may be part of the inner circle with a lotta valuable information, but I think after a slaughter like this they won’t risk it happening again.”

“Your call, Yin,” Dorian said. He didn’t know what to do. It was her life they were talking about, but Yin hadn’t even thought about the mess there at Therinfal. Half of him wanted to search for the woman that had put her life on the line for his sister, a woman Maori didn’t even know. The other half was looking at the graveyard around them and whispering no.

“We’ll send the agents that came with you from Skyhold to search the area around the keep. But I think we should move somewhere safe, away from this place. It’s clearly unstable and I don’t want to risk anyone getting possessed or hurt staying too long here,” he decided. “Cole?” The spirit boy appeared suddenly. “Could you be on the lookout as well? Do…whatever it is you can with your abilities?” He nodded solemnly, but didn’t vanish. The others began to file out slowly, disheartened. Solas remained, eyes flitting across doorways as if expecting her to emerge any second. Yin let his hand drop on his friend’s shoulder. “I promise I won’t lose hope, even if we have to move on for the better of the world.” Solas’ blue eyes wavered before he dropped his gaze.

“Of course, Inquisitor,” he murmured. “I will try to keep hope as well. It is all we can do. At least...not all was lost.” Yin lightly touched the remains of her amour held in Solas’ hands.

“Perhaps…if our people yield nothing in their search, we can hold a memorial somewhere,” he said. When Solas didn’t reply, he squeezed his shoulder and walked on. Solas joined him not long after, gently sliding her meagre belongings into his bag. Together they departed the keep and returned to the glade beyond. It was there that they set up camp for one night, staking out with dwindling hope. Come morning they would return to Skyhold, for the call of duty to the rest of the world could not be delayed much longer.


Chapter Text

“What in Andraste’s name is this knife ear doin’ in my barn?” Maordrid peeked an eye open at the disturbance. “Gilna, call the guardsman!” The farmer’s grating voice was enough to rouse her from the shit sleep she’d gotten anyway. Groaning, she surged to her feet and escaped past the farmer as he was looking for the guard. When he realised she’d slipped out, he cursed after her, but fortunately didn’t try to give chase. There, across a field of barley was a small village. The shouts of the farmer and the guardsman faded into the distance as she melded in with the village.

Unfortunately, blending proved to be difficult with her current soiled and ruined garb. She quickly dropped behind the buildings and scoped out the area. From a nearby clothesline she acquired a well-loved grey woollen cloak, this time avoiding detection from the woman busy hanging her laundry. She undid her braid as well and let her hair fall loosely over her ears. Maori came upon a crude village square set with a few wagons displaying limited wares. Of the four available, only one had a crowd that she took full advantage of.

A very fat human stood behind a lopsided table bartering with a couple over several misshapen pies. Maordrid allowed the edge of her cloak to fall over a plain loaf of bread. As she ‘observed’ the miscellaneous sad pastries, her left hand darted out and snatched the bread, tucking it into her waistband. Then she backed away, nodding to the vendor and wandering off quickly. It would only be a matter of time before someone took notice of her ears.

Maordrid was on her way over to a merchant selling bundles of herbs and tonics when something snagged her eye sitting displayed at a covered booth. A whole collection of carved pipes, stone and wood, and even a couple glass ones. She was drawn to them like a helpless moth, eyes wide. The nostalgia sitting on the old carver’s bench was overwhelming as she picked up a wooden pipe with a stem in the shape of a dragon’s head. Its sinewy body formed the rest of the pipe with a tail curling around the rim of the bowl. The piece was lacquered a beautiful garnet colour.

“You know a good pipe when you see one, don’t you, lass.” Her eyes found the vendor, an old wrinkly dwarf sitting off to the side, bundled up in layers against the cold of the morning. He was busy carving away at another piece, a fleur pipe by the looks of it. And just as it was called, he seemed to be making it into a lily. Maordrid chuckled as she picked up one that had an entire scene carved into it depicting a series of dwarves drinking and dancing. It was worse that the carver was a dwarf himself, as the last company she had smoked with had been dwarves.

“When I was young I was more or less adopted for a few decades by a band of dwarves,” she laughed. Something like an emotional knot worked its way into her throat. Durol, Vardra, Dairand, Adewern, and Grandda had been their names. “We all hated each other at first. Me, an elf, and them a bunch of grumpy dwarves. Especially Grandda—he hissed and spat at me as much as a cat. To be fair, I was insufferable as a youth. They set me right, though. The one thing we bonded over was Grandda’s love for smoking Fade-touched elfroot. Claimed it made him dream. We would smoke and talk through the night about our dreams. In the end, it didn’t matter if he was lying about having them.” The old carver leaned forward, eyeing her critically.

“You just pullin’ my hearstrings, lass? A pretty thing like you hangin’ ‘round my kin?” He thumbed the side of his nose and sat back, still eyeing her from beneath a bushy brow. “How old are you, if ya don’t mind me asking?” She smiled and set the pipe down.

“Those dwarves died millennia ago. I miss them like it was yesterday,” she said, not caring to hide the truth this time. The dwarf stuck a finger in his ear and twisted it around.

“Y’know, a year ago I woulda called complete bullshit on your story. But an elf came through here once—a bald fellow travelling alone. Seemed a bit confused, really. But he spoke like yas, all wistful of the past. Whatsit with me attractin’ the type?” the dwarf grumbled something and reached underneath the table, digging around. The timeline and the description fit a certain someone she knew. Small world, she thought as the dwarf carefully set a case on top of the table.

“Did he buy anything?” she asked but the fellow shook his head.

“We swapped a few stories. He mostly told me things I didn’t know ‘bout the Stone…I told him about the time I fought in the Fifth Blight. I met the Hero of Ferelden, I did. Scary lady, that one. She was an elf, too,” he said. “I ended up sending him on his way with a little carved wolf he took a liking to.” Maordrid smiled. She adored the little man already. There was something about dwarves that had always endeared her to them. Her refusal to go into the Deep Roads to kill and steal from the Children of the Stone during the reign of the Evanuris had gotten her exiled from several of their lands.

The carver hemmed and hawed as he sifted through the case’s contents until finally he removed a white pipe. The piece was the most intricate she’d seen of his work, with flowing interlapping designs that appeared to mimic a stormy sea. Like the first one she’d seen, a water serpent—or perhaps a water dragon of some kind—formed the stem.

“This one I made on my way through the Boeric Ocean. Inspiration took hold and…well, the longer you look at it the more you see. The way I was possessed to make it ‘minds me a lotta how people describe dreamin’,” he said as he handed it over to her. “’Tis yours, lass. You remind me of them sirens up north in those waters.” She took it reverently, eyes threatening tears. “Don’t you cry, girl. You don’t seem like the type to do that. Stop it.”

“I told you I had a way with dwarves,” she said, sniffing back her emotions. The dwarf finally cracked a smile and chuckled.

“Bah, and I suppose I fell for it. I hope you make some more dwarf friends, lass,” he said, leaning back into his chair.

“And I hope you meet more elves with better stories,” she said with a deep bow. The old man bah’d at her again and waved her off, content to leave it at that.

When the the town guards finally caught up with her and chased her out of town, her spirit remained undamped, whisking off into the safety of some trees where she smoked and ate her bread in peace.

---------------------------------------------

A day passed before Maordrid found herself in the next town and figured out where she was in relation to Skyhold. It seemed to have been spit onto the map out of nowhere, south of where Lothering used to be and just shy of where the Blight had tainted the lands. Its primary source of wealth came from hunters and truffle-seekers. The people didn’t seem to mind her being there, despite the town being comprised of perhaps only fifty people. She’d seen Dalish clans larger than Little Lothering, as they proudly called it.

In the town’s shabby tavern-inn hybrid, she learned that Skyhold was nearly a month’s travel by foot from there—perhaps two or three days if she flew hard. But even knowing that, she hesitated, wondering if she should return to the others or try to get in contact with another node of the Elu’bel network. Maordrid bartered for one night in the inn after going out and foraging in the forest for some truffles. The innkeeper took the payment and left her alone but didn’t offer her a warm meal.

She set out early the next morning in form of a raven, seeking out an Inquisition camp. Fortunately, the organisation was growing bigger and bases were popping up everywhere. Spying in form of an animal gave one a massive advantage over a world ignorant of magic. Back in the height of the Elven Empire, everyone had been wary of animals. Today, Maordrid simply perched upon the post of a tent and honed in on the conversation around her. It was not long that talk of the new Inquisitor came up. She learned that Yin and several others had gone riding to a place called Therinfal Redoubt—the name of the keep where she’d been imprisoned, she realised—and apparently had fought off several hundred red templars, which was clearly an embellishment. Rumour had it that they were returning to Skyhold and then setting out again, this time to the far west. Someone mentioned the Champion of Kirkwall had been spotted somewhere. For her, that was enough of a heading. She had an idea of what part of the timeline they had entered. Every fibre in her wanted desperately to go to them and let them know she was alive, but there were things she could take care of in the false cloak of death.

And so Maordrid stuck around long enough as a bird until an unwitting scout set down his lunch. She hopped down and took a few bites of cheese, stealing the hunk of bread when he returned and realised she was in his food. Then she was off on a journey to the western reaches of southern Thedas.

Chapter Text


When they returned to Skyhold, a warm welcome awaited them. Josephine had prepared a lovely feast to honour the arrival of the other Lavellan. Yin was ecstatic to have his sister meet everyone else. Dhrui was much more Dalish than he was, but just as shameless in her ways. She had learned quickly of Solas’ dislike of the Dalish and loved to antagonise him despite Yin’s constant protests that she refrain. Especially since the last two weeks had been tough with no sign of Maordrid. He became concerned with how easily she’d gotten on with Blackwall and Sera within those early days, and even when he tried introducing her to Leliana, Vivienne, and Josephine it had been like pulling teeth to get her to hold still. She had wandered off in the middle of Leliana’s introduction toward the Warden and the rogue. When she met Cullen she tried to kiss his hand, much to his blushing horror. When Varric told her that Curly was a chaste, proper Chantry gentleman, she backed off and went hunting Blackwall for his beard.

In short, Dhrui was a handful, but eventually calmed down after the massive over-stimulus of being in a castle wore off some.

“I wonder what Maori would think of her right now,” Dorian said as he and Yin leaned over the banister in the library. Below, Dhrui was sitting on the edge of Solas’ desk while the poor mage was attempting to organise things he was going to take on their journey to the Western Approach.

“Dhrui’s not always like this. It’s just her way of seeing where everyone’s boundaries are,” Yin said.

“At least she doesn’t go around offering to sleep with everyone like her brother,” Dorian chuckled. Yin raised his eyebrows, still watching his sister.

“She’s a little pickier than I am, but I think she’s already tried going after a few targets. Poor Cullen didn’t know how to react,” he said, “And in my defense, I haven’t done that in a while!”

“Probably because you ran out of people to ask,” Dorian teased. Yin rolled his eyes.

“No, it’s because you never gave me an answer!” Dorian blushed and hastily looked away. “Yeah, I thought so.” Part of him was a little disappointed that Dorian refrained from answering, but the other part was thrilled at the prospect of a chase. There hadn’t been another kiss like the one in Redcliffe, but Yin was determined.

“Is there quite literally anyone else in this sprawling keep that you could bother? Sera, perhaps?” They looked in unison at the duo below. Solas was calm, but Yin could see a tension to his shoulders as Dhrui wound him tighter and tighter.

“I was just drawn to your mysterious veneer, Messere Solas,” Dhrui said, leaning frighteningly close to his face. Solas, wisely, did not react. “I want to hear you speak Elvhen in that sultry voice of yours.”

“Sultry—? What—?” He slammed a journal shut and shoved it into his bag. Then he glared up at Dorian and Yin who quickly ducked out of view. “If I do, will you leave me in peace? We have very little time to pack before we leave again.”

“I swear on all that is good that I’ll stop being annoying,” Dhrui said. Solas took a deep breath.

“What do you want to hear?”

“Oooh, I get to choose?” There was a long, painful pause. “Okay! Well, I heard the bard in the tavern singing a song when we first got here. I Am the One, but she was singing it in common. Isn’t it an elven song?”

“…Yes,” came the flat reply.

“You don’t have to sing it. I just want to hear your pretty voice! Do you know Elvhen well?” Yin could feel Solas’ eyes roll. “C’mon, please? You told me on the way here that the Dalish are ignorant—so teach me!”

“Ouch, got him there,” Dorian whispered, sharing a childish giggle with Yin.

“Very well. Can you write the lyrics down? I’m afraid I don’t know them by heart.” The faint scritch-scratching of a quill reached their ears and during that time, Dorian and Yin crept back up to the edge. Solas was picking the parchment up and looking it over. “Heruamin lotirien, alai uethri maeria. Halurocon yalei nam bahna. Dolin nereba maome.” He paused and looked at Dhrui who gestured expectantly for him to continue. “Ame amin, halai lothi amin. Aloamin Heruamin…” Solas stopped and dropped the paper back on the desk, clearly fed up.

“That was lovely,” Dhrui said with a charming smile, but Yin knew it was the evil-schemer grin. “You’re lovely.” The saucy Lavellan hopped down off his desk, bowed respectfully, and then traipsed out of the rotunda as if nothing had happened. Solas planted a hand on his forehead and this time when he looked up at them, they didn’t move.

“Please tell me she won’t be this insufferable on the journey?” he asked. Yin applauded him.

“Nope! You just passed her test, I think. I told her a lot about you in our letters back and forth. She probably wanted to see if you were the illustrious mage I bragged about,” Yin said.

“Did I tell you I both loathe and respect you, Inquisitor?”

“I love you too, Solas.” The apostate shook his head and gathered his things before padding out of the room without a backward glance. When he turned to Dorian, the mage’s lips were pressed together as if he were trying hard not to laugh. The hair on the back of Yin’s neck rose and before he could react, a mass of powdery, freezing snow dropped onto his head.

“Traitor,” Yin hissed to Dorian.

“Mmkay, now I’m done,” Dhrui said from behind him. She leaned up against the rail with her arms crossed, looking between them. “You think I pushed them all too far?”

“It was probably a little poorly timed,” Yin said with a wince. “We still haven’t even decided what to do as a memorial. She wasn’t Dalish, so that’s out of the question.”

“You know, besides saving my skin, how was she?” Dhrui asked. Yin and Dorian exchanged a look.

“Intense at times. You could never really tell if she was about to call you a child or partake in shenanigans. We never really had time to cut loose together, though,” Yin said. “And that whole…protecting everyone? Gods, she was more effective than an actual shield. A few of us owe her.”

“I almost got her to drink wine with me back in Haven,” Dorian remarked. “I hope that if she’s alive she comes back before I drink all of the Orlesian Peach that’s there in the basement.”

“You know, Solas told me she played the lute. Decently, too. Did you know that?” Yin said to him.

“That little shit. See, I knew there was more to her,” Dorian said. Yin sighed. He had been doing better lately, avoiding her memory. In a way it wracked him with guilt, since everyone else was so obviously still mourning.

“I don’t know who’s going to teach me anymore. I suppose I could just train with Solas from now on,” he said. “Thanks, sister.” Dhrui blinked with an innocent smile.

“For what?” she asked.

“It’s nice to remember the good things. How easy it is to get stuck in that bog of hoping she didn’t suffer or…” Yin cut off, not wanting to say dying alone and scared.

“Exactly, so don’t think about it,” Dorian said, putting his hands on his shoulders. Yin nodded.

“Let’s face the world with the mind that she’s still out there,” Dhrui said. “And if she comes back to us we can celebrate, no?”

“Hopefully it won’t be during another bloody catastrophe,” Yin said. Dhrui smacked him on the back.

“So optimistic, my brother,” she said, nodding appreciatively at Dorian. “Well. Dear Solas was right. We should be packing. Damn, Raj is going to be so furious. Both his siblings are travelling and he’s not!” Dhrui saluted them both and disappeared back down the side passage, leaving them the only ones in the rotunda. After a moment of defusing their brains, the two parted ways.

Chapter Text

Days passed quickly to Maordrid. Each day she touched down in an Inquisition camp to gather information, keeping tabs on the Inquisitor’s movements. They seemed to be going fast enough that she would be crossing the Dales at the same time as they were reaching them. She planned on visiting yet another Elu’bel hideout where she hoped an old sentinel colleague would be. If Yin was going to meet the Champion in the Western Approach, that meant Adamant would be the next major event. She firmly believed that the Nightmare demon had somehow been responsible for her deadly dreams. And for which, she had plans.

The first night on the Dales, Maordrid caught up with them. They’d made camp in the safety of a copse of trees and were sitting around talking about the history of the Dales. She was happy to see that Dhrui had tagged along with them and seemed to have found her place comfortably. Both her and Yin were enraptured in some epic retelling of a battle Solas had seen—in the Fade—while Blackwall sat next to Dhrui sharpening his sword. Varric was writing in a notebook. They looked…healthy and content. What caught her eye was Dorian lounging on the outside of the circle reading her transcript. She wondered if he believed anything in the pages she had marked, and if he did, what was on his mind. It scared her, a little.

“Hidden high in trembling trees. Listening wistfully, lingering near. No one sees and sometimes it hurts.” She saw Cole appear next to Dhrui, staring into the fire with his hands on his knees.

“What are you listening to now, falon?” she asked as Solas paused to Cole’s interruption.

“The birds of the Dales,” the spirit said, sounding confused. “They’re very lonely. You can join us if you like, we won’t hurt you.” Maordrid panicked, realising he was talking to her. To her surprise, no one was looking around. They likely didn’t take him seriously.

Except Dorian. He looked up, straight at her. She turned and stepped off her branch, gliding away from the camp.

Idiot. You’re going to have to talk to Cole about that, she thought as she left the copse.

The next time she stopped, it was in Verchiel. It was in the wee hours of the morning that she crested over its walls and walked as an elf for the first time in far too long. Her balance was quite off when she took her first step and she was sure to the few early-risers that she looked intoxicated. She raised her hood against curious eyes and made her way through the clean streets, trying to remember the way to Tahiel’s villa. After getting lost and running into several dead ends, she ended up at a small plaza with a pleasure garden in the middle. The place was familiar, and as her eyes tiredly wandered the scene, she recognised a symbol on the breast of an owl statue sitting outside of the doors to a villa. Of the two flanking the door, only one bore an etched amulet around its neck of a little flame. Veilfire.

Maordrid walked into the cover of the garden where she shifted back into a bird and flapped up to third level window. All of the windows were higher up so that the only ones able to see in would be those with intention. She tapped on the window with her beak three times and then waited, listening. No movement. She did it again and again, then moved on to another window on the other side of the villa. Inside, she saw a familiar golden-haired man sitting at a desk. She tapped at the window inconsistently until the elf on the other side of the glass looked up with murder in his eyes. He rose from his desk and strode over, throwing the window open.

“Bloody bird,” he said, shooing at her. Maordrid hopped off the sill, dropping down only to circle back up and dart through the window as he was closing it. Tahiel shouted in surprise as she passed through and landed on a chaise, dispelling her form. “I should have known. Could you have gotten my attention in a less disruptive way, Yrja?” She picked up one of her feet and rubbed it gingerly. The toenails were growing back but the tissue was still tender.

“I considered knocking on the door but I didn’t think that it would be wise for witnesses to see a grubby elf entering an upstanding abode,” she said.

“I suppose. You reek,” he said. “Bathe first, then we will speak.” She rose and followed him out of his office where he directed her to the bathing chamber. There was a copper tub and a small water pump installed in a corner. “Every day I miss the luxuries of Elvhenan,” he said, sighing. “If there was anything good that came of the Evanuris it was June’s tuneable baths.” With that, he shut the door. Maordrid spent the next several minutes pumping water into a bucket and relaying it back and forth to the tub. She inscribed a heating rune on the inside and waited until it was visibly steaming to slip into it. The pure euphoria she experienced being submerged in the water was one she wished she could relish in all day. But that ever-present weight of guilt hastened her bath to a quick washing of her hair and sensitive parts. She wrapped up in a towel and went for her clothes, only to find them missing. Someone must have come in while she was underwater. When she opened the door a folded pile of clothes were sitting in front of it. They were a simple white shirt and archer’s pants that were loose in all but the calves and ankles, rendering them rather comfortable. The shirt hung a little too loosely on her frame but which Tahiel had thoughtfully provided a harness to secure it with.

Maordrid returned to his study where he awaited her reading reports.

“I always thought our organisation immune to confusion and hiccups in communication,” he said without looking up, “but here it has finally happened. It seems as though no one can truly confirm if you are living or dead.” He finally looked at her. Half of his face was scarred from where Falon’din—his former master—had tried to remove June’s vallaslin from his skin after winning him. Tahiel had championed in an arena for June for some petty matter and ended up a slave to Falon’din as his failure. “An agent at Skyhold sent a letter of concern out recently. She worried that after the destruction of Haven you had perished.” She knew exactly who it was.

“We will need to have her replaced. I told her to wait two months and her worry won over? She could have upset my entire operation!” Maordrid fumed. Tahiel made a calming motion with his palm.

“Do not be so hasty. Her letter only asked that someone send an Elu’bel out into the field to search for you. She was the only one who knew of your whereabouts,” he raised the piece of paper, “The Inquisitor believes you dead. She said some time ago they sent out to a place where Fen’harel had apparently thought you were being held and found nothing. They plan on holding some sort of memorial for you at some point.” Maordrid sat slowly on a chair. “Interesting that he would be so concerned for your wellbeing to convince the Inquisition to diverge from their quest.”

“I’ve ensconced in the upper circle,” she said. “They’ve come to trust and…apparently like me.” She wasn’t about to tell Tahiel that her and Solas had become…closer than was necessary.

“And still he believes himself a step ahead of all others?” Tahiel mused.

“I’ve given him no reason to suspect me. I’m just another apostate who learned her skills through the Fade. Just like him.” He nodded thoughtfully.

“I doubt he will ever guess that you travelled through time to stop him,” he said as if to test the truth. She rolled her eyes. “I apologise, Commander. I did not mean for this to come across as some kind of interrogation. You have come to me because you are in need of aid or else you would not have come here.” It was her turn to make a soothing motion.

“You are right to voice your concerns, considering how much is on the line,” she offered, in an appeal to his ego. “I have flown a long way from eastern Ferelden. I spent some time under the interrogation of Raleigh Samson, ex-templar and now General to Corypheus.” Tahiel paled and straightened in an attempt to retain his stoic mask. “The Inquisitor rides to the west of Orlais where he will learn of Grey Warden schemes to raise a demon army. They will physically enter the Fade and be forced to confront a powerful demon there. I come to you seeking knowledge or otherwise to help me destroy that creature.”

“My report failed to mention the Wardens or a demon army,” he said. “Again, perhaps my fault for not pressing for more information. I could have prepared something for you, but as of now, I fear I have nothing here. But if you can make a detour to Val Royeaux, Elgalas has most of my more powerful contraptions.” Her heart dropped considerably. If she took that journey she would miss the meeting at the Western Approach, but if she didn’t go to Val Royeaux, there would be losses later on that she could have prevented. “I may have some spare armour your size lying around. Please take some, I am not used to seeing you without it. It is making me uncomfortable.”

“I feel naked without it,” she said and Tahiel, prudish, golden-haired Tahiel blushed.

“Follow me.” He swept out of the study and led her down elaborately carved marble stairs. She’d quite forgotten the layout of this place. It had been in the Elu’bel’s possession for many years now and yet due to its location no one was ever willing to stay there. Tahiel had always been a private person, so she was not surprised that he had taken up residence there instead of in Val Royeaux. The only issue with the place that she saw was that the decor was severely outdated. If any real Orlesian stepped inside, they’d gossip about how out of style it was, turn it into a rumour, and quite possibly expose them through that. She made note to remind someone to take care of that, filing it away as they came upon the vault that gave the place value. The initial owner had been a wealthy dwarf in the banking business that had built his vault with the exact schematics used in the Orlesian Bank. Which, of course, was illegal. Tahiel opened it through solving a series of runic puzzles that randomised each time it was locked. Fortunately, with a patron such as June came the benefits of seeing patterns and the smallest utmost components of the world around them as well as the ability to craft things that had been lost to the ages. It made Tahiel an invaluable asset.

Inside he gestured indifferently to the contents within.

“The gear here is the bare minimum enchanted. Projects I never quite finished, so you may want to commission a full set later. I will be able to provide you with a better set once I return to Val Royeaux some weeks from now, if it is to your liking,” he sniffed, turning his head away from her, “I know you favoured your arcanist blacksmith Phaestus. You can’t get much pickier than that.”

“Yes, but he’s gone now. You’ve provided me with beautiful sets too, Tahiel,” she said as she perused a low-profile set of leather armour.

“Since when did you even consider leather?” Tahiel scoffed. “There’s plenty of good light-plate over there—”

“You know I want to. But if I show up to the Inquisition in full ancient Elvhen regalia, they’ll question it. Remember when we all followed Solas’ lead dressing as commoners? They believed and trusted us. That same tactic works well even today,” she said as she removed a leather pteruges and began putting it on. Tahiel walked over with a couple of spaulders and simple leather breastplate, shoving them into her hands. She rolled her eyes and slid into the chest, allowing him to help her with the shoulders. He gave her a belt with a few utility pouches attached and fitted her with another gorget.

“Helm?” he asked, procuring one with a face like a demon’s. She laughed and shook her head.

“There will be an event, I think in the future. Perhaps I will commission you then for something and you can go wild,” she said. His eyes lit up excitedly, but he cleared his throat and his face of any emotion.

“Void, you look like a highwayman from Tevinter,” he said, looking somehow disgusted and impressed as she wrapped her shoulders in the old woolen cloak she had stolen. “Shall we rough you up a bit? Tear the cloak, rub some dirt into the threads. Perhaps add some scuff to the leather, too.” She just nodded and allowed him to work, positioning herself near his worktable.

“I’ve just thought of something,” she said as he made small incinerations in the leather. “Perhaps more important than any sort of armour.”

“Yes?” he pressed.

“The Mark that Yin Lavellan possesses is killing him slowly. Eventually he will lose that arm—”

“So build him a prosthetic,” Tahiel finished.

“Experiment. I am not entirely sure when I will tell the Inquisitor the truth of my mission, but if all goes well, I will likely request that you join me at Skyhold so that you may take direct measurements and whatnot. It may still be a ways off, but keep it in mind,” she said.

“Does the Inquisition not have their own enchanters or arcanists? Are they not a great organisation?” he asked. She mulled it over, feeling like there had been someone, but without her notes she couldn’t remember.

“Regardless of who they have, they do not have ancient Elvhen technology—nonetheless a man who was trained by June in the height of Arlathan,” she said. He shrugged.

“But is it wise to give something so powerful to the Inquisition?” he asked. She knew most of the agents had not received the detailed report, which was exactly how she wanted it. There was always that possibility that nothing worked out and keeping some information to herself was necessary.

“It is hard to say until we know for certain what direction the Inquisitor chooses to take. If I cannot attain the focus before the time that Solas reportedly left the Inquisition in the other timeline, then it may force my hand and potentially paint me as the enemy. If we can gain access to the Eluvians then many of our problems will be solved.” Tahiel nodded as he frayed the ends of the wool cloak she wore. “Regardless, I cannot see Inquisitor Lavellan taking an unfavourable path; a prosthetic won’t hurt.” Tahiel hummed, having her turn this way and that as he examined her armour.

“You said that Fen’harel has come to trust you. Do you think he might turn against you should you escape with his focus?” he asked.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” she said. “He killed Felassan—who is to say he won’t kill me, despite all that we’ve gone through?”

“Fair point. You tread dark waters, Yrja. Be careful not to lose sight of the shore.” He scooted away to observe his work, then nodded. “That should do. You look like you’ve been on the road. Will you be flying to Val Royeaux—that is, if you are going?” She rolled her shoulders and kneaded the muscle at the junction of her neck.

“My arms are quite sore. That’s the farthest I’ve flown in a long time,” she said. “I don’t know if I could make it across the water.” Tahiel pretended to think, tapping his chin.

“I could ride with you to the nearest port and arrange passage across. I know a captain that owes me a favour,” he said and at her questioning look, his face became defensive, “Very well, I built him something for his ship to protect it against pirates. In exchange, he smuggles materials for me without charge.”

“You worry about a prosthetic while giving a random mortal a weapon for his ship? Tahiel!” she admonished.

“He was a slave from Tevinter that clawed his way to freedom,” he muttered. She backed off, feeling a fool and Tahiel relaxed some. She should have been happy. The sentinel had been one of the last to warm up to the people born after the Veil. He’d even often times been cruel, using them to augment projects or to experiment. That was, of course, until he fell in love with one of them and realised they could be people, too. His wife had been Rivaini—this being hundreds of years ago—taken slave in Tevinter, hence his soft spot for slaves. She thought that Tahiel had never quite gotten over Esedra’s death, or their child’s. Perhaps he lived in a constant state of denial, as death had been such a rarity in Elvhenan. Its permanence was a concept many of her kind had had a hard time comprehending. She was no stranger to grief, but she wouldn’t try to pretend she knew his.

She realised they both had withdrawn into their own heads. Maordrid adjusted her new gear awkwardly in the silence which seemed to jar him from his thoughts.

“Give me some time to gather a few things and then we’ll go,” he said quietly, then got up and left quickly. She took his spot on the stool with a lengthy exhale, contemplating many things, chuckling to herself and staring up at the ceiling as she did. We had all the time and now it seems we cannot get enough. The elf tapped her fingers on the surface of the workbench, then with a weary sigh, lifted herself back to her feet to venture once more into the world above.


Chapter Text


It was just outside of the Dales that a messenger found them with news that Hawke would be waiting with the Warden just a day north of Val Firmin. How the crafty woman had managed to get ahead of them, Yin would have to ask, because by his estimations she should only have been just reaching the Dales from Crestwood. Either way, he was relieved that she had been successful in convincing him to meet them in the west.

However, when they did meet up with Hawke, she was alone. She seemed slightly miffed when they joined her to boot.

“Where is he?” Yin asked, scanning the surrounding wilds for her company.

“Hiding, because he seems to think they’ll find him all the way out here in quite frankly, fucking nowhere,” she said as she snagged his sleeve and pulled him into the awaiting forest. The others followed at a distance, either too starstruck by the Champion or afraid she might tackle them as she had to him. Apparently word had gotten around of their first meeting.

“Who is ‘they’?” he asked as she pulled open a compass and took a sharp right through a wall of vines—burning them out of the way, of course.

“Other Wardens, I guess. Think it has to do with whatever’s going on with Corypheus,” she said as they continued through the thicket.

“Has he told you anything?” he asked. She glanced back at him long enough for him to see her deadpan expression.

“No, we travelled separately, if you can believe that! He ensured we were at least two hours apart the entire way here. You know how awful it is to travel alone?”

“Yeah. I travelled alone to the Conclave,” he said. She guffawed.

“Bet if you had someone to go with you wouldn’t have ended up with that thing in your hand, huh?” she said. “Friends are usually pretty good at warning you against your own stupidity. Except Varric, he always just wanted ideas for a book.” Yin agreed silently as they emerged into a small clearing with what looked to be the remains of an old fort in the middle. There wasn’t much left, save for a couple of broken columns and half a wall with a faded mural on it. “Alistair, it’s us! Come out…! You grumpy mabari,” she said, the last part growl-mumbled. A crow called somewhere in the forest, but then Yin’s ears picked up the sound of boots treading across detritus. A golden-haired man appeared around the wall looking wary.

Aneth ara, Warden Alistair,” Yin said, bowing, but keeping his eyes on the Warden. Something like sadness wrinkled the corners of his eyes, but he returned the bow slightly.

Andaran atishan, Inquisitor. I’m glad you made it soundly,” he said. Yin blinked.

“You speak Elvhen?” he asked.

“What little I do know is thanks to Novferen,” Alistair said.

“I hear you know a bit about Corypheus, my current problem,” Yin said, deciding to cut niceties short. Alistair didn’t seem to mind. “All the Wardens seem to be disappearing. Even my friend Blackwall wasn’t aware.” Alistair turned to the black-bearded Warden in their midst, looking surprised.

“Blackwall? My friend Duncan spoke of you,” he said. Blackwall looked equally surprised, perhaps a little shocked.

“Oh yeah, Duncan? Good man,” he said curtly, then engaged Solas in some small talk as if intimidated by Alistair. Yin exchanged confused glances with Alistair before shrugging and turning away from them again.

“So, do you think Corypheus appearing has anything to do with your, uh, people going missing?” Yin asked, wanting to get out of the gnat-infested forest quickly.

“I think so,” Alistair said. “When Hawke killed him, the Wardens thought the matter resolved. But Archdemons don’t die from simple injury, so I thought maybe Corypheus might have the same power. My investigation into it has been less than satisfying. All hints, no proof. Then everyone started hearing the Calling.”

“Sooo…you failed to mention that part. Bad, right?” Hawke said, looking irritated. Alistair avoided looking at her. Clearly they hadn’t been getting along.

“Wardens like their secrets. Although this one is dangerous. Novferen never cared to keep our secrets from our friends, but I try to hold some of the oaths I swore,” he said. “In short, the Calling is what alerts us Wardens to the start of another Blight. We have bad dreams, hear a very unpleasant song, then…we disappear into the Deep Roads. In death, in sacrifice.

“Great, so all the Wardens think they’re dying,” Hawke said and Alistair nodded, much to their horror.

“And I think Corypheus is at the heart of it,” he said. “If we all die, then who will stop the next Blight? Is that Corypheus’ goal—to somehow start another Blight? It’s hard to tell what he intends.”

“They’re desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Perhaps them dying isn’t what he wants immediately—he wants them. Just as he wanted the mages and how he now has the templars,” Hawke realised. Yin was rather impressed, as he certainly hadn’t put that all together quickly.

“Which means that they’re making one last, desperate attack…on something. Darkspawn?” Yin wondered. Alistair’s face became grim as he nodded.

“Warden-Commander Clarel doesn’t want another Blight like the last. None of us do, but she proposed some drastic preemptive moves—blood magic and such—before we all die. I protested loudly and Clarel sent guards,” he spread his hands, “and here I am. The Wardens are gathering in the Western Approach, which is why I agreed to meet you on your way there. They’re going to some old Tevinter ritual tower—I’m going to investigate. I could use your help.”

“We’re definitely of similar thinking,” Yin said, “But first, we should get out of this bloody forest.” They all agreed and returned to their horses just off the road. Alistair emerged minutes later with his own black horse that he reined up to join Yin and Hawke at the front.

For some time, they all talked more about Clarel, the Calling, and Corypheus. At first, Alistair seemed to hold to his principle of keeping those oaths of his, but after some careful goading, he opened up a little, remarking that Novferen, wherever she was, was laughing at him. Normally she was the quiet one and he was the loud one. Eventually, Yin’s curiosity of the famed Hero of Ferelden got the better of him and he asked where she was at present, fully intending for the conversation to take on a lighter tone. Unfortunately, the question seemed to be a touchy subject. Alistair didn’t answer for a good while but Yin realised he must have been searching for the right words. Yin had heard stories of Alistair’s goofy nature and had thought they might be similar in that regard, but the man seemed world-worn. Stories didn’t age like the people that comprised them.

“Nov left before all of this. Personal mission,” he said with some visible pain.

“The stories are never clear,” Yin said at another one of his pauses. “Some said she was heartless and independent while others said she…well, that she loved you.” Alistair laughed bitterly. “Sorry, I’m a sucker for a love story. I’m Antivan.”

“You don’t have to explain that to anyone, Charmer, it’s pretty obvious,” Varric said to his diagonal-right. Yin flicked a pebble at him.

“It’s fine, I knew an Antivan myself. Novferen is an unpredictable creature,” Alistair said once he had mustered the right words. “Some days she seemed like the most untouchable thing in the world. Really, she was. She’s a brilliant fighter, a strategist…a leader. But Maker, could she be cruel. Her and Morrigan seemed cut from the same cloth. I think she brought the Witch of the Wilds herself near tears once or twice. I definitely considered breaking off a couple of times, but…” He trailed off, almost realising where he was.

“You don’t have to talk about it,” Yin cut in, although the Antivan part of him screamed for details. Alistair gave him a half-smile.

“I enjoy talking about her, if you can believe it,” he chuckled. “She taught me a lot. Not to trust steadfastly, how to depend on oneself, not to take anything for truth even if you’ve seen it with your own eyes. We were both young and foolish, but she seemed at least a decade ahead. Maybe that was part of her background, being Dalish and all, then her people trying to cart her off to a Circle.” The Warden’s grim mask cracked momentarily and Yin could see something like mirth peeking through the cracks. “But there were times where she’d disappear from camp and no one could find her. Morrigan knew her best, but even she couldn’t find her. Turns out, she went hunting for nugs any time she got stressed. First time I found her, she was feeding a horde of them.” Yin, Hawke, and Varric laughed, and after a second even Alistair cracked a smile.

“Leliana would love that,” Yin said, still laughing.

“She would, if she knew. Nov threatened to cut my throat if I told anyone and would blame it on a rogue darkspawn. Definitely top-secret Grey Warden business,” he said, smiling fondly. “You know, she carried a baby nug in her coat pocket for six months before any of us noticed? Even then she somehow convinced everyone else it was just a wild one that somehow got into her clothes while she was sleeping. It was then that I knew she had a heart, she just didn’t know how open up.”

“Sounds like someone I knew,” Yin said, thinking of Maori. He heard Solas laugh behind him, though he wasn’t sure if it was from his comment or something Blackwall said. “You two became friends though?” Alistair continued to smile, a little brighter and Yin could tell that despite his serious demeanour that he cared for her.

“The best,” he said distantly. “That’s why she’s gone today, searching for a cure to our plight.” He laughed again and looked away. Yin knew what that meant, but said nothing. He felt sad for him.

“She’s not one to ask for help, is she?” Alistair looked at him, but he found his expression indecipherable.

“Exactly. I’d have gone with her, but…her threats are believable.”

“She cares, then,” Yin said, “Enough to put herself in danger but not someone she values.” Alistair smiled.

“Thank you, Inquisitor,” he said, relaxing in his saddle. “It’s been such a long time since I’ve talked about anything other than doom and gloom.” Yin looked over at Hawke who hadn’t said anything the entire time. The wild woman, for once, looked rather tame.

“What about you, Vyr?” The Champion started from her thoughts, staring ahead.

“What about me, Inkspot?” she said dryly. “The love, the life, the friends?”

“I’m not here to gossip. I just…only if you want to talk,” he amended, sensing reluctance on her part. For a while she didn’t talk—she just rode. Out of all of Varric’s tales, her relationships with the party in Kirkwall seemed…a mess, to put it lightly. Finally, she sighed, looking first to Alistair and then to him. Varric excused himself and dropped to the back of the group, giving them some privacy.

“Well, when Anders blew up the Chantry it was a bit of a surprise,” she started. “At that time, I was more upset that he hadn’t trusted me to help him. He had good motivations, but that poor fool approached it the wrong way. And now he’s in hiding somewhere. I think my friends were more upset with my admission of supporting Anders than they were that I let him go.”

“Do you regret it?” Yin asked. She shrugged.

“He was right—something had to change and it was taking too long. I don’t know, my stance on it shifts too much,” she said, sounding frustrated.

“What about the others? Where are they?” Yin said, attempting to salvage the conversation.

“Spread to the wind, really. I was on and off friends with Fenris, so colour me surprised when he offered to come here with me. Told him no, ‘cause I didn’t want him to get hurt. I have a bad habit of that, getting loved ones killed. So, I don’t know where he went. Said he’d be off killing slavers, but he could very easily be following me.” She ruffled her hair, seeming quite uncomfortable.

“Sounds like you’ve got an admirer,” Alistair mused.

“It’s not like that,” she said quickly, “Really. I think he just feels bad that my entire family is dead and that I’m going to off myself if he doesn’t watch close. I mean, the others sure as shit weren’t interested in joining me. Merrill is off helping refugees, which is…honestly quite good, I’m proud of her. Aveline is still holding up Kirkwall herself. You know, and I thought my friendship with Fenris was rocky—it was worse with Isabela. She seemed to like me, we had similar minds, except I never really liked her. I saved her arse from the Arishok and that was that. Did I forget anyone? Questions? Comments?” Yin and Alistair exchanged harried glances, unsure of what to say.

“I’m sorry,” Yin settled on saying. Hawke’s gaze held a tempest of emotions that dulled and sputtered out after a moment, leaving behind a softened face of scars and lines.

“Y’know, you shouldn’t be. You’re a good man. I’ve just got a lot pent up,” she flashed him a winning smile, then tipped her chin at him, “What about you, Yin? Leave behind any sweeties in your clan? Friends, family?” Yin nodded, but then looked back at Dhrui who was in a discussion with Blackwall and Dorian that Solas was clearly trying to ignore, considering the lewdness of it. Varric was taking notes again, clearly amused by her antics.

“My sister’s back there,” he said. “She has a twin brother, Raj, but he’s dedicated to being full-time Dalish. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s off to be the Clan’s next First.”

“I’d thought you were Dalish, but I noticed your tattoos are…different than what I’ve seen,” Alistair said. Yin snickered, admiring the shimmering gold ink on the back of his right hand. At night, it glowed faintly, which was—shallowly—his favourite thing about them.

“Dhrui and I always thought since we were the only elves that hadn’t been born and bred in the Lavellan clan that we should have our own vallaslin. We took a full year designing something that encompassed all of our gods with a tribute or two to our heritage as Antivan,” he said. “Then we had to convince our Keeper to let us not be traditional. We’re fortunate with how open our clan is. Probably explains why we pick up a couple of elves every Arlathvhen—we’re just too fun!”

“Yin’s clan is…unique, to say the least,” Solas remarked from behind them. “Very few Dalish are as open-minded.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry for that, my friend,” Yin said.

“You’ve already apologised, Yin,” Solas said with pride in his voice. “And I am working on overcoming my own prejudices.”

“The world is fortunate to have a compassionate leader,” Vyr said. “Can’t even imagine what would have happened had Seeker Pentaghast had her way. Say what you will, I am not a good leader.”

“What about the Hero? Do you think she would have taken this position?” Yin wondered.

“Hard to say. She cares more right now about surviving the taint. But on any other day, maybe. She likes that sort of stuff,” Alistair said.”I don’t have the stomach for it.”

“Don’t be deceived by this bearded lummox. His leadership is better than anything I’ve ever known,” Dorian said, riding up beside him.

“Don’t believe this man, he’s Tevinter,” Yin said, shoving Dorian playfully. Hawke looked at the Altus amusedly.

“Maybe it’s a good thing Fenris isn’t here. I’d have to banish him from Southern Thedas,” she said. Dorian regarded her innocently. “Friend-ish of mine. Hates Magisters. He has a history as a slave.”

“Ah, of course. Well, we’re not all cliche evil Tevinters, although it may seem like it at times. Applies to most of them, sadly,” Dorian said.

“Says the man that doesn’t see spirits as anything more than tools without free will,” Solas shot out. Yin groaned internally and put his face into his hands as an argument broke out between the two.

“Ahhh, reminds me of the old days,” Hawke smirked, leaning back in her saddle to listen. The three of them subsided into silence, listening to the bickering of the other mages. Yin couldn’t wait to get to the desert now. At least then he knew they would all be too hot to argue and would lapse into complaints instead. There had to be a way to get those two to get along. Well, three, if he counted Blackwall. But Solas and Dorian getting along meant more to him than anything else. He wished Maordrid was there. She had been a sort of bridge between worlds, it seemed. He figured now that she was gone, he would have to step up his game and stop playing the helpless, reluctant Inquisitor. The world wanted someone to shepherd them into an era of peace and safety and they were looking to him for guidance. And here he was, riding in the company of a couple of heroes that were also expecting that of him. He tried not to think about that too deeply or else begin pondering ways to open a rift into the sun.

Chapter Text


You want to fight and kill a nightmare demon,” the pale-haired elf said, pacing back and forth, “A bold and arduous undertaking, but also incredibly risky.” The woman stopped before the roaring hearth, gloved hands tucked dutifully behind her back. “Can you say how much this could alter the future, should you succeed?” The other elf in the room drummed her fingers on the chessboard beside her chair, sucking in her lower lip as she thought.

“So far my actions have had little sway on the future,” the second elf said. “Redcliffe was testament to that. If anything could have gone wrong at any point, it would have been my presence there.” The blonde elf did an about face, eyes falling on the other sharp as shattered obsidian.

“Why not influence the Warden to stay behind? Fools, the lot of them. Their order was a mistake,” she said with a sneer. The other shook her head slowly, staring at the queen piece balanced beneath her finger.

“Because he is the least senseless of them. He could be a valuable game piece should we need him later,” she said. “Help me do this, Elgalas. I have reason to believe this thing has been hounding me since I got to this timeline. I have some…questions for it. Preventing the other deaths is only a bonus.” Elgalas sighed and took the chair across from her, still facing the fire. Even seated, her impeccable white and black uniform seemed impossibly straight.

“You’ve been having dreams, you said?” Elgalas asked. Maordrid nodded once, a slow dip of her head.

“Before they closed the Breach there was no way for me to tell whether I was dreaming or not. It was as if I wasn’t Somniari at all. I’m not a strong one to start, but I’m not weak either,” Maordrid took a sip from her tea, pausing to warm it slightly with a spell. “Solas and I theorised that the reason was that the Breach was lending to its abilities to influence me. On the voyage one night I had a dream of placid seas. There was nothing around as far as the eye could see—and yet I could sense something powerful, still lurking at the edges. It is as if it knows it cannot take me directly. It is waiting.” Elgalas leaned forward, putting her elbows on her knees.

You already ruled out another Dreamer?” she asked. Maordrid shrugged.

Who else would it be?” Elgalas frowned.

“Someone from the deep Fade. Those best forgotten,” she murmured. It was Maordrid’s turn to shoot forward, edging on her seat, but this time in ardent disagreement.

“What you’re saying is impossible—”

“Not unless your intrusion on this timeline somehow…I don’t know, disturbed the waters of the Fade. You may have stirred the bottom and continue to do so every time you fall asleep,” Elgalas waved a hand, a quick, short motion. “It is only another possibility, even though it is…highly unlikely.” The woman moved a pawn on the board in an illegal move, clearly deep in thought. “Either way, I understand that you are in danger. Perhaps you should enlist the help of the Inquisitor and therefore indirectly you would receive none other than Fen’harel’s help himself—the master of dreaming.”

“I may as well tell Solas who and what I am, in that case,” Maordrid said, pushing to her feet to take Elgalas’ place before the fire. The short-haired elf behind her tsked.

“You are the great Yrja, Traverser of Time and Dreams and you cannot guard your mind long enough for the two of you to look for answers?” Elgalas scoffed. “I don’t believe you.”

“Against Solas, I might because he isn’t looking for anything—he doesn’t suspect anything of me to go digging. However, that creature, whatever it is, knows things about me somehow—it can pull memories from me like plucking ripe fruit from a tree. What is out there with that power besides some kind of spirit?” The two of them were silent, unable to come up with an answer. “Furthermore, what does it want from me?” Elgalas hummed, moving another chess piece, the marble clicking on the board as it settled.

Let us say it is a spirit—it seeks to become you, perhaps? As Envy desires to know your heart so that it may take over, or Rage or Desire,” Maordrid nodded to let her know she was following, “I am not even considering that a mortal would have such ability or sway over you, so perish the thought. No, let us consider another ancient, a Forgotten One, or a Forbidden One?” She paused, jet eyes meeting steel, “Perhaps even an Old God.” Maordrid's laugh was cold and mocking.

Yes, because they can reach—” Elgalas cut her off with her hand again.

“Hypothetically, Yrja.” She let out a breath slowly, but motioned for her colleague to continue. “If any of them were aware of your arrival here or what you accomplished—especially in this world where magic is dampened—what do you think you look like to them?”

Like I have come upon an immense amount of power,” she relented. Elgalas nodded.

“I was thinking even broader—if any of them were aware that you had torn through time itself, don’t you think they might theorise that you may still have a connection to the plane that you came from? That somehow you may be able to draw even more power should you choose to try?” Maordrid cracked her neck irritably. Inside, she balked at the thought.

“The device Dorian created ensured that their world would cease to exist—that timeline ends abruptly. I am certain he thought of that when he was working on it,” she said.

“Are there not theories about timelines potentially splitting infinitely? Perhaps it ended, but there may be a branch where it didn’t?” Maordrid forced herself to remain still, although her fist wanted to connect with the mantle. That would only break her hand. Instead, her breath came out in steam. “Peace, my friend. I am with you, not against you.”

“You have no idea what I left behind,” she whispered. “I do not know if I could live with myself if I escaped that world and they were left to suffer.”

“You may have to come to terms with the idea that that is exactly what you may have done,” Elgalas carried on, “Either way, you are different than the Yrja I knew. You’re more…powerful. It comes as no surprise to me that you have run into the problem that you have. It also makes me wonder how many others may have sensed you as I have.” Maordrid looked down at her calloused hands in silence. “You have always been skilled in things you chose to pursue, Yrja. But your journey has altered you and now you are facing unforeseen consequences.”

“I am not unaware of the changes,” she admitted. “But they are not new. We did a lot of things in the other timeline to give ourselves an edge. None of it mattered in the end.” Elgalas shrugged uneasily.

“Perhaps things were too far advanced for it to have made any difference,” Elgalas’ eyes seemed to stare right through her very being as she spoke. “But now…if you could master your dragon’s form, I am both inspired and…a fair bit intimidated by what you could accomplish.” She knew that they would see her strength as a potential weakness. Power had always meant corruption to her people. But at what point would power ever be a good thing to them? To her, it meant she could provide protection as she never could before. “Yrja, you are potentially one of the most powerful mages of the modern age.”

“She wouldn’t believe me when I said it on the trip over and she likely won’t believe you now,” a male voice said from the other room. Tahiel glided in and took post up against a window where he had view of the city outside. “Ghimyean was the most powerful in our organisation. We remember him well enough to confidently say you have certainly surpassed even his skill. You know more shapeshifting forms than anyone in the Elu’bel, you are a bloody Dreamer—somewhat of a rarity in Elvhenan and certainly even scarcer an occurrence today…”

“Don’t forget the Arcane Warrior bit,” Elgalas drawled. “So illustrious that she was requested as a Fade Hunter and an Emerald Knight.” Maordrid clenched a fist although the fight had gone from her. These were things she never gave thought. She did things and moved on, trying to stay out of the light at all times.

Except I never was what anyone wanted. You know this. They cast me out before I was ever given the title,” she said. “I have failed far more than I have succeeded.” The other two were silent, exchanging some kind of expression that only irked Maordrid.

You defected to live with fucking dragons—the Knights didn’t cast you out,” Elgalas said. Maordrid flinched.

“Remember when she was Naèv Enso, friend of the Stone?” Tahiel snorted. “Your names always amused me. A woman with enough secrets to make Dirthamen flush with envy, I’d say.”

“Not really,” she said petulantly. “Will you give me the means to fight the nightmare demon or not, Elgalas?” The stiff elf dropped her smug grin and rubbed the skin between her brows.

“Tahiel? Is the amplifier crystal you built still here?” Elgalas asked. He nodded, raising an eyebrow curiously. “Dear Naèv Enso has need of it.” Tahiel left the room wordlessly, presumably to go search for the object.

“So you have something after all?” Maordrid frowned. Earlier, she had asked for such a tool and Elgalas had assured her there was nothing in her vault that would help her. She was beginning to wonder if their trust in her was wavering. She should have kept her bloody mouth shut about dragon forms and dreams. She would have to be careful from now on, they would be scrutinising her every action within the Inquisition. Any sign of power abuse and they would potentially order her termination. She hoped her own organisation wouldn’t turn against her.

“I only just thought of it,” Elgalas said, but Maordrid didn’t believe her. “It isn’t the most convenient, but building something from scratch will take time you don’t have. The crystal is a spike that you drive into the ground and activate with a spell which then sends out a visible force field. Any spells cast from the inside will be amplified exponentially. Should be enough to blow chunks off of the monster.”

That means ranged spells and limited mobility,” Maordrid cursed. Elgalas rolled her eyes.

“You’ll thank me later.” At that moment, Tahiel returned carrying a shimmering white spear of crystal half the size of her forearm and encased in a cage of metal unidentifiable to her. He slipped it into an old quiver and held it out to her.

While I am still here, is there anything you two need of me?” she asked, slipping the strap over her torso.

Knowing that you’re alive is enough for me,” Elgalas said. “We are making good progress with the Eluvians. From what you gave us regarding Solas overriding the network in the other timeline, I have reason to believe we can do it ourselves, should we fail to retrieve the pass phrase from Briala. It may be easier to simply find the control room than pull it from a stubborn girl.”

“I have no doubts that we will acquire the network—it’s holding them that will be the most difficult,” Maordrid said. Tahiel made a noise in his throat, something between an exclamation and a cough. “Thoughts?”

My place is to build things, not strategise. However, you’re right: holding the entire network will be incredibly difficult. So why don’t we work it to our advantage? We still have people working for Fen’harel, which means we will always have access so long as our people don’t blow their cover,” he said. “Why not gain access, take the pathways we need, and then have someone get the phrase for him?” Elgalas looked about to protest, but Maordrid nodded slowly. “Yrja, he doesn’t even suspect you. If you continue to earn his trust and respect…you could be the one to slip that information to him.” Tahiel spread his hands, the scars on his face contorting his sly grin into more of a grimace. “Who knows, it might even be enough that he’d 'recruit' you officially.” Elgalas laughed in disbelief.

“She’s in with the Inquisitor, you think he would risk asking her to turn against him?” she said.

“If she plays her cards right, yes,” Tahiel’s eyes held a shine to them that Maordrid didn’t like. “Imagine that, the Dread Wolf’s Commander.” Commander was not what he meant and she knew it. He expected her to abuse her friendship with him, or worse. She felt sick to her stomach just thinking about it. “We were able to navigate with little difficulty when the Evanuris controlled portions—what makes it any different with him?”

Your point is sound, but I still do not like it,” Elgalas said and Maordrid definitely agreed.

Think on it, Yrja. It would allow us to keep an eye on his movements if we had someone at the top,” Tahiel continued.

I don’t even know how I would work that into conversation,” she mused.

You’ll think of a way. You always do. We haven’t gotten that far, so you’ll have time to think on it,” he said. Maordrid just waved him off, but nodded.

“Anything else?” she deigned to ask. When neither of them said anything, she turned toward the door. “If you think of anything, you know how to get in contact. I am leaving in the morning. I think I need some rest.” With that, she retired to the guest rooms of Elgalas’ house

Chapter Text


Yin stared bleakly at the bodies of Grey Wardens piled carelessly to the side of the tower. Erimond had run off during the fight, leaving them no chance to pursue. Everyone else was busy looking stunned and fearful of what they had just learned of the Wardens. He couldn’t even look at Alistair for fear of throttling the man. Solas had looked like he wanted to do the same but was also standing off to the side of the tower by himself, stiff with fury. Dhrui was off consoling Blackwall who had gone to sit down, looking awfully pale.

“That went well.” Yin turned as Hawke joined them from outside, observing the carnage around them. She whistled lowly. “Mind ‘splaining?” Yin gestured to Alistair who looked paler than usual.

“You were right. Thanks to the ritual, the Warden mages are enslaved to Corypheus,” Yin said.

“What about the warriors?” Alistair said nothing to her, but Yin’s eyes went to the corpses. Hawke followed his gaze and cursed. “Gah! Dammit, abusing blood magic. Those poor bastards.”

“They were tricked through fear of future Blights,” Yin said. “Not that that excuses them.”

“They’ve gone too far. Blood magic isn’t inherently bad, but sacrificing people? I once thought highly of the Wardens,” she said with vitriol. Alistair rounded on her.

“Hawke, they made a mistake. One they thought was necessary,” he said.

“Everyone has a story they tell themselves to justify bad decisions…and it never matters,” she retorted. “In the end, we are always alone with our actions.” Alistair slumped but let the matter go, much to Yin’s relief. He wasn’t about to take sides, although he was certainly more furious with the Wardens. Preventing the Blight was a nice thought, but not in the incredibly foolish way that Erimond had so kindly described.

“—may know where the Wardens are. Erimond fled that way…” Alistair was saying, pointing in a direction that meant nothing to Yin. “There’s an abandoned Warden fortress in that direction. Adamant.”

“Oh, fantastic. A fortress to keep them safe while they summon their demons,” Yin said. Hawke scowled.

“Looks like Alistair and I have a job to do. We’ll scout out Adamant and confirm that the other Wardens are there. We’ll meet you back at Skyhold?” Yin scanned the desert quickly, wondering how long it would take them to investigate the Approach and then make their way back home.

“We’ve some business to conclude as well, but sí, we will meet there,” Yin said. They quickly said their farewells once they had departed from the grim tower and went their separate ways. “Un-fucking-believable.”

“We must stop the Wardens from carrying out this insane plan, Inquisitor!” Solas said, as they mounted up and reined toward the west. There was some scholar reportedly out that way that Yin wanted to meet before leaving. And then there was Griffon Wing Keep that he wanted to visit and perhaps claim for the Inquisition. He was certainly in the mood to do so now. “To seek out these Old Gods deliberately in some bizarre attempt to preempt the Blight…”

“They won’t succeed. We’re going to stop them. I’m not a Warden and I’m certainly not all-knowing, but there has to be another way to accomplish what they’re trying to do,” Yin said. Solas calmed and a strange look came over his face, as though some great realisation had dawned on him.

“I wasn’t aware you felt the same way,” he said, causing Yin to roll his eyes.

“My friend, you and I have our differences but I can assure you we also have more similarities. In this instance, I absolutely agree that this entire group of people are behaving stupidly,” Yin said. Solas shook his head, still upset.

“Those fools and duty,” he muttered, “Responsibility is not expertise. Action is not inherently superior to inaction. Forgive me, the entire idea is…unnerving.”

“That it is,” the Inquisitor agreed grimly.

The group went on to meet Professor Frederic and promised to get his belongings back from the White Claw Raiders as they made their way the opposite way to Griffon Wing Keep.

“We’re going to take a keep, brother?” Dhrui asked as they passed into the growing shade of its walls. They all hopped down off their mounts to discuss a plan of action.

“Just another day in the Inquisition,” Dorian said, stretching his legs and unstrapping his staff. “Y’know, stopping cultists, capturing castles, killing things, and looting—all perfectly legal, too, if you can believe that.” Dhrui giggled.

“Here’s how it goes, Dhru,” Yin said, putting an arm across her shoulders. “Solas provides barriers, Rift magic, and the occasional ice wall to protect from oncoming missiles. Dorian does some interesting counters to that with fire and…well, apparently he’s also a fucking necromancer, so don’t be startled when enemies you killed suddenly get back up. Blackwall is our bulwark and rams people like the hull of a ship, so if you’re getting chased run to him for protection. Stay out of Bianca’s way and watch out for Varric’s impromptu traps. You won’t see much of Cole, but he seems to know exactly when to come in with his knives.”

“And what do you do, Inquisitor?” she said in a teasing tone.

“Me? Oh, I sit back in safety and stab flags in things when everyone else has killed everything.” Dorian made a flubbing sound with his lips

“He’s quite invaluable. Yin’s Mark allows him to open rifts, sometimes. He’s becoming quite skilled at his Rift-Warrior combination as well. Maori used to fight up alongside our warriors when she wasn’t, oh, recovering from being near-maimed after saving someone. Yin thinks he can do the same thing and surprisingly he’s doing well enough,” he said.

“Am I doing her memory proud?” Yin asked. The response was mixed from the others. “Ugh, I know. Until I can summon a Sword Storm I know it won’t be good enough.”

“Don’t forget fighting on no sleep and vaulting over live glyphs,” Solas said.

"Or the shots of that Liquid Punishment before most fights," Blackwall added. Dhrui laughed, looking shocked.

“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised considering what I’ve heard, but here I am. A woman after my own heart!” The others laughed and began following Yin around the stronghold to begin their mini-assault. “Could she cast spells while fighting with her sword?”

“She fought with a spear, but yes,” Yin answered.

“Wicked,” Dhrui whispered as they laid eyes on a couple of guards stationed outside the portcullis. Yin and Solas carefully took aim at them with their staves and on verbalised count, released two stone fists followed closely by a barrage of searing fireballs and crossbow bolts from Dorian and Varric. Blackwall and Cole dashed ahead to finish them off and led their group into the following attack. Together, they fought up into the courtyard with Solas and Yin providing barriers—and a partial Aegis—while Dorian slowly accumulated a small army of undead. Varric nailed archers accumulating on the walls around them. Dhrui accidentally spiked a few of Dorian’s undead with her Keeper magic, despite the earlier warning. She resorted to using just winter in combination with storm, creating puddles of water around enemies that she then charged with electricity. Meanwhile, Yin tried a few tricks of his own that he and Solas had been practising. Veilstrike in combination with fire was one of his favourites at the moment, as the heat trapped within the bubble of the strike leeched all of the air out of the area while throwing anyone trapped inside to the ground. Without air to breathe, their enemies were often left gasping and vulnerable on the ground.

Perhaps an hour later, the fight was over. Dorian waved a hand and watched with morbid amusement as his minions collapsed to the ground. Solas shook his head, panting and glaring at the sun which had begun to bake his skin once his protective spell had worn off. Varric got busy looting bodies. Dhrui leaned lazily against her staff as Yin and Blackwall hung an Inquisition banner from the ramparts.

“You weren’t joking about planting flags,” she remarked. “Deshanna thinks you’re out claiming land for the Dalish.” Yin groaned and sagged against the wall tiredly.

“I’m not a conqueror,” he said. “Does she expect me to cast out all the humans as well? Build New Arlathan somewhere?” Dhrui snorted and joined him on the ground.

“I think she said something along the lines of marrying you off to a fair maiden and conceiving the next generation of Lavellans. Who knows what she thinks now that you’re Inquisitor.” Dhrui leaned her head against the warm stone and closed her eyes with a smirk.

“If you go back, you know that’s what awaits you,” Yin teased and it was her turn to groan.

“You think after seeing what you’ve been doin’ here that I’m going back to blissful domesticity?” she cried. “Ha, ha--no. I’m putting that responsibility on Raj. Not that he minds it. I thought twin life was supposed to be this magical thing, but honestly it’s good to be away from him. He was beginning to get suffocating.” Yin stared at her until she noticed him. “What? Big brudder don’t approve?”

“Don’t get me wrong…I just…worry.” Dhrui leaned over and pinched his cheek, cooing.

“Aw, he’s protective! Don’t worry, Yin. I came here to make sure someone had your back. I’m not out to rebel,” she said. “Unlike you, Ser Vint-Seducer!” Yin blushed and swatted at her. “You think I didn’t notice? At least he’s nice. I mean, he doesn’t have any elf slaves back home, does he?” Yin blanched. He hadn’t thought to ask. “Well, if he does, maybe he’ll change his mind. Are you two…official, then?”

“Dhrui, please shut up,” he whispered, watching Dorian as he sifted through what supplies the previous occupants had left behind. His sister snickered.

“This is just adorable,” she said, way too excited. “You’re smitten! I thought I’d never see the day!” Yin buried his face in his knees. “Gods, and I thought you were all lovesick over Maordrid!”

“I was. I…please, I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t even know how to approach him about it,” Yin pleaded. Dhrui rolled onto her knees before him, demanding his attention.

“Talking about it is exactly what you need, silly,” she said. “Look, that guy is probably nervous as fuck about approaching the mighty Inquisitor—you’re gonna have to do all the wooing. You kiss him already?” Yin was glancing between her and Dorian frantically—Creators, and sweating too much!

“He kissed me!” he whispered quickly.

“Good! Do it again! Bet he likes wine, too. Look at that fancy boy. If it helps, every time he looks at you his whole face goes all soft and sweet, I love it.” Dhrui poked his shoulder with a finger, drawing his attention again.

“Sometimes I hate being this…leader thing,” he muttered, crossing his arms.

“It’s what you make of it, brother. Eventually it’ll get through his head that you want to be treated like everyone else,” she said. “For what it’s worth, I think you’re doing great. I know I pissed Solas off initially, but I’ve gotten to talking to him and he’s very fond of you.” Yin smiled. “Oh, and if none of that worked to inflate your ego, that beard of yours is probably the best thing you’ve ever done.” It worked. Yin guffawed heartily, loud and echoing across the top. And of course, to top it off, Dhrui procured a bundle of wrapped fruit from her pack.

“You’re a blessing from the gods themselves, little sister,” he said, accepting the mango. He had no idea where she’d gotten the tropical fruit from, but if anyone had it this far south, she would. She shook her own slice at him while chewing.

“You think so now,” she chuckled, “I didn’t give you that fruit to be nice. It’ll freshen your breath up for when you go kiss Dorian. Trust me, it works.”

“I don’t want to know how many times you’ve done that,” he said, and she winked.

“Well, now’s a good time than ever. You’ve just conquered a keep. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be turned on by that,” she said.

“Gods, you’re insufferable!” Yin got to his feet to escape her, red faced and laughing.

“Learned from the worst of them!” she called after him. When he joined Dorian before a well where the mage was fishing out a bucket of cool water, he had half a mind to throw himself into it. Yin opened his mouth to say something, but Dorian beat him to it, “You and your sister aren’t as subtle as you think you are.”

“Uh,” he croaked, mind going blank.

“She has some great pointers, though,” Dorian continued, then leaned over and sniffed the water before promptly throwing it back in. Come to think of it, the well did smell funny. Dorian pulled his own waterskin from his belt, uncorking it. He tilted his head back and drank, eyes closing slightly against the sun. Yin very quietly lost his mind at the sight of Dorian’s bared throat. Smooth, caramel skin. A delicate sheen of sweat made him quite literally sparkle. He wondered if the heat was cooking his brain and he had just imagined Varric's laugh or if the dwarf merely had uncanny timing with laughter.

“Like?”

“Eating mango before kissing someone,” he said. As if discussing the weather. “We employ a similar tactic back in Tevinter. With sweets and flavoured oils in a wide variety as well.” Dorian held the water out, to which Yin accepted.

“I’ll bet they stole that from Antiva,” he said before he drank.

“That may be, but we do it better,” Dorian smirked.

“I’ll need some proof of that,” Yin said. Dorian glanced back up the steps where the voices of the others were carried on the wind.

“Do you have any of that mango left?” he asked, turning back to him. Yin procured his last slice suspiciously, which the man took delicately between his index and middle finger. With his other hand, he reached into his own pocket and removed a fancy flask.

“Brought some of that Vanilla Pear spirit with you from Skyhold?” Yin said with a feigned gasp as Dorian unscrewed the top and the smell of sugared pears issued out.

“You can’t very well expect me to drink that demon’s piss you carry around, do you?” Dorian scoffed, taking a swift sip. He glanced one more time up the stairs before placing the mango between his lips. Then, he drew Yin forward by his lapels, slating his lips against his much gentler and less urgent than the first time. The taste of mango and pear alcohol on Dorian’s tongue coupled with the explosion of butterflies in his stomach was almost too much to take, but this time he had been semi-prepared. Dorian pulled him behind cover of a shed where he pushed Yin up against the wall and trapped him beneath his body. He took his time, sipping his lips slowly to spread the taste and smell of vanilla, pear, and mango across his senses. Yin’s heart hammered against his ribcage as he in turn deepened the kiss, then broke away to give attention to the spot on Dorian’s neck that had caught his eye earlier. The other man hummed softly, entangling a hand in Yin’s locks.

“It is a crying shame that we aren’t back at Skyhold,” Yin whispered into his ear, “I think you’d like my private quarters.” A sultry chuckle came from deep in Dorian's throat. Yin kissed it one more time before releasing the other man slowly.

“Do you remember when I suggested we get piss-drunk back in Redcliffe?” Dorian breathed against him. Yin nodded, inhaling slowly when he took his turn planting a lingering kiss against his neck. “The shame lies in that we haven’t.”

“And we shall. I just want to get you alone when there’s time.” Yin pulled away from him reluctantly, meeting his eyes. Dorian’s pupils were blown wide and he could only imagine he was in a similar state. His hair was likely a mess, but he didn’t care. Yin reached out, carefully running his thumb across Dorian’s lower lip before dropping his hand. I’m completely ensnared—how has this come to be? “If you’ve a mind, of course.” The other man backed away with a lovely little smile playing on his lips. He winked and left Yin there against the wall of the shed, head spinning and pants uncomfortably tight in places. He swore loudly to himself in Antivan. Dorian’s giggle halfway up the steps had him both frustrated and melting at his elusiveness. But, as he thought on it, he found that it was a frustration he did not mind having. In fact, he wanted it. And when he crested the top of the stairs minutes later, it was as though big truths kept hitting him one after the other. Because at that moment, when he looked at each of his companions, Dorian didn’t fail to meet his gaze this time. And on his face was that fabled look he’d been told so much about but had not yet seen. He was loathe to acknowledge his feelings at all, but Dhrui had been wrong about being smitten. No, it was beyond that, and it scared him because despite everything, he knew Dorian might not feel as he did. He had been too careless with their relationship, treating it like another shallow tryst of his twenties. Right there he swore to tell Dorian how he felt, but next time it would be in a better setting. One where he could corner the man…and himself, for he’d been a coward thus far. I want to know you—as much as I can. To show that I care about you in every way.

The word sat just behind his lips on his tongue, lingering with the mango and pear. It was heavy and filled with hesitance, but the truth resonated through his body like a struck bell.

Yin returned the secret smile and held his hand just above his heart as he turned away. Yes, this is right, he thought. It has never been so right.

Chapter Text

The next several days came and went and the companions swept across the land accomplishing as much as they could on the way back to Skyhold. When they left the desert and came upon the Deauvin Flats, they were given their first break from questing and immediate responsibilities in several weeks. With no trouble in sight and rippling grass and swaying trees as far as they could see, it seemed they would be able to relax just a little bit until they reached the Dales. Unfortunately, Yin’s original plan of Sahrnia, the Forbidden Oasis, and whatever else had to be put on hold until they found out the situation at Adamant. They were heading straight back to Skyhold.

On their second morning camping on the Flats, Yin emerged from his tent to see Solas sitting by the fire with his head in one hand, nursing a cup of tea. The man grimaced as he swallowed some and Yin couldn’t repress the snicker that escaped him.

“Bad tea?” he asked, joining his friend. Those damned rings had appeared beneath Solas’ eyes once again and he knew those to be a bad sign. Solas’ nose wrinkled as he glared into the cup.

“It’s tea. I detest the stuff,” he muttered, quickly downing some more. “But this morning, I need to shake the dreams from my mind. I may also need a favour.” Yin immediately straightened, now recognising the distress in Solas’ posture. Even his aura seemed off that morning, sharp and jagged. He had been riding the afterglow of Dorian’s affections since Griffon Wing Keep and had failed to focus on much since. He felt terrible.

“Anything for you, falon,” Yin said. Solas turned the cup in his hands as he cast his gaze into the ashes of their campfire.

“One of my oldest friends has been captured by mages, forced into slavery. I heard the cry for help as I slept,” he said. Yin’s stomach sank.

“First Maori, now another?” Yin cursed aloud. “Please tell me we can help them? What did they use to capture your friend? Blood magic?” Solas looked at him, ears twitching.

“A summoning circle, I would imagine,” he said, and it clicked in his mind.

“A spirit, then? What kind?” he asked worriedly.

“A spirit of Wisdom,” Solas replied, “And it was dwelling quite happily in the Fade. It was summoned against its will, and wants my help to gain its freedom and return to the Fade.” Yin got to his feet and brushed himself off.

“Then we should get going. I’ll tell the others what’s going on and we’ll ride ahead,” he said, offering Solas his hand.

“Thank you,” Solas said with utter relief once he was standing. “I got a sense of my friend’s location before I awoke. It is in the Exalted Plains of the Dales, not far from where we are now.” Yin nodded and hurriedly grabbed his staff, strapping it to Terror. Then he slipped into Dorian’s tent where the mage shifted and rolled over, eyes opening in surprise.

“Well, this is awfully forward,” Dorian mused as Yin crouched beside him.

“I have an emergency. Solas and I have to race to the Exalted Plains—I’ll mark a map where we’ll be, but we’re leaving now. Meet us there,” Yin said. Dorian nodded groggily, working to sit up. Yin paused as he went to leave, then spun back and planted a kiss against Dorian’s lips. “For luck.”

“Be careful, you ox,” the man whispered as Yin departed with a laugh. Solas had already left their map marked and in the open for the others. He waited outside the camp on his horse, and as soon as Yin was mounted, the two galloped off.

For the next couple of hours, they alternated between resting their horses, talking sparsely, then resuming their flight. Although Maordrid’s death had hit them both hard, Yin didn’t want to think about how it would affect Solas should they fail to save Wisdom. Not that he wasn’t still aching at her loss, but he had more distractions and responsibilities than Solas to really stop and think on it. He tried and failed to think of anything else as they entered the Dales and dismounted. The other elf immediately set off on foot, eyes picking along the landscape frantically.

“Solas, wait,” Yin said, catching up to him. The man slowed some, but stress was writ across his face. “I just want you to know…whatever we may find out there, I swear to you I’m going to do everything in my power to fix it.” Solas managed a weak smile that quickly faded, but said nothing. The two of them continued on, searching the rocky land for signs, although Yin wasn’t particularly sure what he was supposed to be looking for. In the war-torn lands of the Dales, it was already difficult distinguishing new wreckage from old at a distance. They walked at a distance, not too far from one another in hopes to cover more ground quickly.

Yin clambered on top of a rock stack some hours later to drink from his water, peering around. He hoped the others weren’t far behind or ran into bandits on the way. Without their map, he and Solas were making poor time trying to remember landmarks and gauging distance of where they should be. Yin was tying his waterskin back on his belt when something white caught his eye, tucked just beneath a rock on the other side of his perch. When he climbed down, he realised it was a body, which was somewhat disturbing but also not an uncommon occurrence where they were. But this one was…fresh. The blood was still wet around a couple of arrows that had quite obviously ended the woman’s life.

“Solas?” he shouted and heard the elf curse as he likely hurt himself trying to get to him. The rocks were treacherous there. “This looks like a mage to me,” he said when Solas landed beside him off the stone. He gave the body a cursory glance and then studied the expanse of dirt around them. Yin realised that it was an old neglected road.

“Bandits?” Solas murmured. They each rotated, looking north and south of the body.

“Mages summoning against bandits as a desperate act of defence,” Yin said with dread. Solas paled. “I think I recognise this from the map. Let’s go south.” They moved farther down the overgrown path, coming over a curve when they saw the next set of bodies. They were almost completely destroyed compared to the last one.

“These aren’t mages,” Solas said with growing desperation, “The bodies are burned. Look, there are…claw marks…no. No. No. No…!” He took off at a trot with Yin following close at his heels looking for danger. Just around the bed, he caught sight of strange white points jutting out of the landscape ahead. He realised what they were as soon as they heard the roar of anguish. The massive demon came into sight as they rounded the rocks and Solas skidded to a stop. “My friend…” Yin tried not to let Solas’ despair shake him.

“They turned it into a demon,” Yin breathed. Solas nodded, eyes still pinned to what had been his friend. “But you said your friend was a spirit of Wisdom, not a fighter.”

“A spirit becomes a demon when denied its original purpose,” Solas said, clenching his hands.

“The bodies we saw…they summoned it to fight. Which was something so opposed to its nature that it…turned?” Yin realised. Solas paced back and forth like a cornered wolf, repeating what have they done, what did they do? under his breath. Yin reached out and stilled his friend when a robed mage suddenly appeared from hiding behind a rock nearby.

“Let us ask them,” the apostate hissed, taut with rage.

“Mages! You’re not with the bandits?” the pasty human asked, approaching cautiously. “Thank the Maker! Do you have any lyrium potions? Most of us are exhausted. We’ve been fighting that demon…” Solas growled.

“You summoned that demon! Except it was a spirit of Wisdom at the time.” The man hung his head as though peeved for being admonished by an apostate. “You made it kill. You twisted it against its purpose.”

“I…I…I understand how it might be confusing to someone who has not studied demons, but after you help us, I can…” Solas cut him off, voice low and threatening, “We’re not here to help you.” Yin turned his attention to the sputtering mage.

“Did you intend to summon a demon in hopes that it would ravage your enemies? See what good that did,” Yin said, gesturing back toward the bodies along the path. The robed man gasped.

“Pah! Intentionally? Do you think me mad?” he asked, and Yin shrugged.

“I think you stupid,” Solas bit back, “That’s far worse.”

“Listen to me! I was one of the foremost experts in the Kirkwall Circle—”

Shut. Up.” And the mage, thankfully, did when Solas took a step toward him. “You summoned it to protect you from the bandits.” The mage wrung his hands, but then admitted quietly to his accusal. “You bound it to obedience, then commanded it to kill. That is when it turned.” Solas turned to Yin then, who was still glaring at the human. “The summoning circle. We break it, we break the binding. No orders to kill, no conflict with its nature, no demon.” The Kirkwall milksop nearly leapt out of his robes at his words, lifting his hands as if to beg.

“What? The binding is the only thing keeping the demon from killing us! Whatever it was before, it is a monster now!”

“Inquisitor, please,” Solas begged, but he didn’t need to.

“Rifts are gateways to the Fade. We can use that magic to overload the bindings more quickly, no?” Yin suggested, removing his staff from his back. A shrill whistle had them both turning. Not far down the path they saw Blackwall, Cole, Dorian, Varric, and Dhrui leaving their mounts to come join them.

“Yes, brilliant. It should go faster with the others as well,” Solas said. “We must go, quickly!” Yin nodded and the two of them Fade-stepped toward the summoning circle. Blackwall charged into the middle about to attack until Yin ordered him not to. The man immediately corrected, merely shouting and waving his shield at Wisdom to distract it away from them as they crushed the tall stones. Dhrui crumbled them with roots called from the ground while Yin worked his Rift magic. Dorian threw barriers over them all and helped to keep Blackwall from being crushed beneath its feet.

“Solas, look out!” Cole shouted. Yin turned to see the demon swiping at him after Blackwall had failed to keep its attention, but Dhrui was quick to react, dropping her staff and throwing up her hands. With the motion, massive roots erupted from the ground and wrapped around the demon’s thick limbs, keeping it from cutting their Dreamer in half.

“Destroy the last one, dammit!” Dhrui shrieked as she strained to hold onto the roots. With a well aimed stone from Yin and an explosive-rigged bolt from Varric, they blasted the last binding pillar into dust. The demon roared into the air and collapsed to its knees where its form began to falter. Flakes of purple, white, and grey fell away, returning to the Fade. Dhrui released her hold on the roots but stayed at a distance as Solas approached the delicate figure that had been left in place of the massive demon. Yin stood closest in awe of the spirit, but quickly realised it was in poor shape as it coughed weakly.

Lethallin, ir abelas.” Solas went to his knees before her, voice quavering with sorrow.

Tel’abelas. Enasal. Ir tel’him,” she replied softly. “Ma melava halani. Mala suledin nadas. Ma ghilana mir din’an.” Yin heard Solas take a breath, looking away down the river as he steeled himself.

Ma nuvenin,” he said, then with a gentle undulation of his hands, he guided the spirit into the Beyond. She smiled as she went and it was hard even for Yin to repress his emotions. “Dareth shiral.” Solas remained on his heels, head bowed. Varric nudged Yin, nodding toward him.

“It was right. You did help it,” Yin said, coming to stand beside him. Solas rose, still staring where his friend had been. “I’m so sorry, Solas.” The man finally looked at him wearing a sad smile.

“Don’t be,” he said, “We gave it a moments peace before the end. That’s more than it might’ve had.” Tentative footsteps in the gravel drew their attention to the small group of mages that had hid during the fight. “All that remains now is them.”

“Thank you. We would not have risked a summoning, but the roads are too dangerous to travel unprotected,” the lead mage said. Yin prepared to deliver a proper lashing, but Solas advanced on them, his aura crackling with the static of rage.

You tortured and killed my friend!” The mages backed away, suddenly seeing Solas for what he was: the true threat.

“We didn’t know! It was just a spirit—the book said it could help us!” the mage tried for one last attempt to reason, but it was futile as Solas unleashed a tempest of fire so hot that Yin’s eyes dried out painfully, forcing him to look away. When it died down, twisted and blackened corpses were all that remained. Yin thought perhaps maybe he should have stopped him, but knew that if it had been him in his place he would absolutely have done the same thing.

“Damn them all,” Solas said, not facing him. “I need some time alone. I will meet you back at Skyhold.” Yin watched him go until he was swallowed by rocks and trees. The others finally joined him in a semi-circle before the bodies.

“Ah, poor Chuckles,” Varric said under his breath.

“Are you okay?” Dhrui asked, reaching out to Yin. The fire in his blood was beginning to die down, leaving him weary and weighed with emotion.

“I will be. But I’d like to rest,” he said, rubbing his eyes. Dhrui rubbed his arm.

“There’s that old elven bathhouse on the other side of the river. We could go there,” she said. “That or reach out to that Clan nearby.”

“I don’t think I’m of the mind to put on niceties for others,” Yin mumbled.

“I could do for a bath,” Dorian piped up. “We could draw a bunch of runes in the water and make it into a sauna?” Dhrui made her approval clear with a grin.

“That poor man. I know he said he’d see us at Skyhold, but if I were him I’m not sure I’d come back,” Blackwall said, looking off where Solas had vanished.

“I wouldn’t blame him. But I hope he doesn’t leave,” Yin said.

“The hurt is raw, ragged, bleeding like it was when the warrior went,” Cole said. “There was hope but now he feels lost.”

“I don’t think you should talk about Solas without him being here, Cole,” Yin said as they waded across the river toward the ruins. The first time they had been across the plains their group had stopped to clear the place of bandits and a particularly tough rift. The others were being overly helpful, erecting his tent and offering to make dinner and tend to the horses that evening. Yin threw his hands up after being shut down a sixth time, taking a bottle from Dorian’s pack to nurse at the banks of the Enavuris. He pulled his sweaty boots off once he was there and removed his greaves so that he could roll up his pants. Then he simply sat in the river and peered up at the giant wolf statue on the other side, watching regally over the rest of the Dales. Partway through the bottle of wine, he began to sink into that dark depression he had avoided for so long. Fortunately someone came looking for him before he was too deep.

“You dwelling on things that can’t be helped?” Dhrui plopped down beside him, eyeing the bottle dangling in his hand. He gave a small laugh.

“You know me too well,” he said, taking another drink.

“You’re my brother. We do similar things,” she said. “Don’t punish yourself. Those mages were idiots and you couldn’t have done anything to prevent what happened.” She yanked the bottle from his hand and took a drink herself. “What you did for Solas wasn’t just some light favour. How many people do you know that would stop to help an elven apostate save his spirit friend? Hm?” Yin glanced at her out of the corner of his eye to see her boring a hole into his temple. “You didn’t ridicule him, you didn’t ask questions—you just knew your friend needed help and you went. See, my stupid ass might’ve cracked a joke or two and I know everyone else in the damned group would’ve hesitated in your position, if not outright killed her out of fear or something.” Yin picked through the stones at his side until he found sand underneath, sifting it in his hand as he mulled over her words.

“That was my one chance to help him. To prove to him what I’m worth. Solas never asks for help—for anything,” he said. “He has such a low opinion of our people, doesn’t even associate with us. Mierde, even I have begun to question it all. Maordrid wasn’t Dalish and she seemed to have just as much knowledge as him in some ways. Seems like apostates might have figured something out that we Dalish haven’t.” Dhrui laughed.

“Yeah, maybe, but it still didn’t help in the end. He’ll be all right. Death is part of this world,” she said. “But we can help him endure as his friends.” Yin felt his lips threatening to smile. “C’mon, I have an idea. When was the last time you hunted?”

“Probably a year before all of this,” Yin admitted.

“Well, whatever. I just remembered that Ithiren fellow at that camp mentioned something about Hanal’ghilan roaming about the fields here. Let’s go find her,” she said, tugging at his sleeve. “Bring the wine, it’ll be fun!” Yin groaned and allowed her to pull him to his feet. She was much slighter than he was—a hulking bear leaning against a sapling—but she’d a couple of decades practice mastering her centre of balance up against two larger siblings. Yin left his boots on the shore, feeling the grass and earth beneath his feet for the first time since leaving his Clan. Dhrui padded ahead of him silently, long braid swaying with each step and uneven hair fluttering in the night breeze.

Hunting the golden halla turned out to be ridiculously fun, but also rather mortifying to him as he realised just how out of practice he was. He had never been good at sneaking like the other elves in the clan, but shooting things with a bow or magic had been what made him competent. In either case, they weren’t there to kill anything. Dhrui just wanted to see if they could sneak up on the halla. There were a few wolves lurking nearby, watching a small herd but the two of them scared the predators off with small zaps of electricity at their tails.

They ran across the plains laughing wildly with wine in their empty bellies like two troublesome Dalish children during a festival. Even as it grew later and the sun set behind the mountains in the distance, they stayed out, crawling, leaping, rolling, tripping, and chasing, not always after the halla but after anything that moved. And Yin couldn’t be happier.

Chapter Text

After a few days at sea and a couple more spent sitting at the captain’s humble abode with Tahiel, Maordrid finally departed having made a new friend of the ex-slave. The captain sent her off with a small bundle of freshly baked dumplings and a little pouch full of his favourite mixture of smoking herbs. They had bonded over a shared love for the sea and Yuko, the captain, had taught her a few fishing techniques. His simple life had made her aware of how out of touch she had become and how badly she needed to revisit some of the simpler things in life. By the time she left, several days had come to pass since she had last seen her friends in her flight over the Dales. As she was getting closer, she kept her eyes peeled for Inquisition ravens. Several came and went in one particular area and she’d difficulties deciding which to go after for information. It took bringing down seven ravens—mind, without killing them—to find anything meaningful regarding the state of the Inquisition. Apparently, they were returning from the Approach and were slowly making their way back to Skyhold. The raven was marked number four in a relay, which she realised meant it was travelling as the Inquisitor reached different areas. The very last raven would likely reach Skyhold just a day ahead of his party.

Maordrid flew south after resealing the last message and releasing the distressed raven, searching the land for signs of them. She was eager to return at last—things were finally falling into place for her people, which had given her hope. She had never been one to fall prey to that emotion, as things never quite went perfect for her, but having the reassurances of Tahiel, Elgalas, and even Shiveren had reminded her of how organised they could be when they had hope.

She was glad her biggest problem at the moment was merely how she should go about revealing herself to the others.

Even after a day surveying the Exalted Plains from above, she hadn’t thought of a way to do it. Maordrid eventually descended to take perch not far from Var Bellanaris upon the statue of a wolf. A few other ravens joined her on the wolf’s back but seemed wary of her. Keener animals were always harder to fool and birds could be particularly brutal if they decided they didn’t like you. Maordrid cawed and flapped at them before they could attack, scaring them off. When she settled down, ruffling her feathers, she caught sight of a herd of halla moving across the rolling hills. There were always wolves on the plains, so she figured it was a wild hunt, but then she saw someone poke their head up from behind a boulder and leap over, chasing after them. The elf reached out with a hand as the herd curved away from her, nearly brushing the last one’s flank. Another head appeared around the rocks, this one burly and broad like a blacksmith with a beard to go with it. The Lavellans! she thought excitedly. The halla came toward her statue where they milled about in a twitching, distressed crowd.

“There she is! Hanal’ghilan!” Dhrui exclaimed, pointing. Maordrid looked just to the right of the statue and saw a bizarre halla with golden fur cresting the hill. She wondered if it was some odd Dalish legend, but then remembered the weird things that Ghilan’nain had done. This must have been the descendant of one of her more graceful creations.

“Gods, I’m drunk and out of breath, Dhrui,” Yin said as they came within distance of a stone’s throw. “I definitely need a bath now.” His sister sighed, glancing wistfully at the golden halla that was looking back at them with liquid black eyes.

“’Course you do,” she finally said. “I hope you had fun, at least.” Yin laughed warmly, bending over so that he could tie his dark hair up in a bun.

“I had no idea how badly I needed that,” he said. Maordrid felt like she was intruding on something, but also didn’t want to leave.

“You’ve earned it, brother,” she said, beaming. “I’m gonna chase after Hanal’ghilan and see if I can’t lead her to Hawen’s clan. Meet you back at camp?” Yin laughed again, teeth showing.

“Be careful, Dhru. And don’t go too close to Var Bellanaris, we didn’t have a chance to clear it of demons last time,” he said. “Oh, and wolves and bandits. You know how to get back?” Maordrid had to repress a giggle at him. Fortunately, Dhrui laughed for her.

“You always say you wouldn’t have made a good Keeper, but you’re always worrying over others,” she teased. “Signs of a good Keeper!” Yin groaned.

“Don’t make me list just as many, if not more reasons why I wouldn’t,” Yin said, turning back the way they’d come.

“Right, like kissing a Vint!” she called after him. Yin made a rude gesture before he disappeared from sight, leaving Dhrui laughing to herself. When she looked back at the statue, the halla had wandered off. Dhrui sighed and instead looked up at her and the wolf. “You know, Fen, he would have stayed out all night once,” she said, talking to the statue…that Maordrid wasn’t entirely sure was actually a depiction of Fen’harel and not an Emerald Knight’s companion. “It’s okay though. He’s so busy now. So long as he doesn’t forget to actually live, right? Someone’s gotta remind him.” Dhrui walked up to the statue without any of the fear or hesitance Maordrid had come to expect of the Dalish and laid a hand on the wolf’s shoulder. The Lavellan looked up at her with curious eyes. “Wolves, ravens, halla. Are you a messenger of Dirthamen’s then? I’ve seen all the signs of the gods except for Mythal. Mother always said if I saw them all, I’d live a blessed life, but…the All-Mother eludes me. I always thought it might be because Yin and I made our vallaslin in honour of them all instead of just one. Maybe they’re jealous gods.” She looked down at her bared feet where the brand decorated her flesh in silver-blue sinuous lines, spirals, and knots. “I wonder what Mythal would appear as. A dragon, maybe?”

“I could do a dragon for you, but I would not take that as a sign of your god.” Dhrui yelped and stumbled backward onto her arse. Maordrid cackled in raven and fluttered down off the wolf, shifting back into an elf in a plume of arcane smoke. Dhrui’s eyes went so wide they looked about to come out of her skull.

“June’s cock, it’s you!” she exclaimed, bosom heaving. “Gods, they all thought you were dead! Fuck, I was convinced you’d gone out in glory!” Maordrid helped the girl up with a slight smirk, watching as she brushed herself off. “Oh, you’re creepy, you watched us that entire time, didn’t you?”

“You wouldn’t?” Maori retorted. Dhrui cracked a grin and then laughed.

“Definitely,” she winked. The elf seemed stunned, simply staring at her in awe for a moment. “I’ve…heard so much about you since…y’know. How…how did you survive?”

“You saw part of it now. I turned into a griffon and gave you time to escape,” she admitted. Dhrui put her hands to her head and sat back down slowly. Maordrid got on her level, sitting beside her with her legs crossed. She was in no hurry and she had a feeling they’d be there a while.

“What took you so long? Have you been following us?” she asked. Maordrid shook her head, grabbing a twig from off the ground.

“I got caught up in personal business. And when I was done, it wasn’t hard to find out where you all were. The Inquisition is diffuse and like a large net, information slips through,” she said. Dhrui squinted at her suspiciously, eyes glowing in the night.

“More business with your elf spies? Shiv or whatever?” she asked, taking Maordrid offguard. “I’m not stupid. My brother went to spy for our Keeper—I know you’re up to something like it. What’s your game?” Maordrid looked away from her, trying to think of a proper answer.

“I’m afraid it’s not so simple,” she settled with replying.

“You promised me answers. I’ll promise you secrecy. And if it’s real good, maybe I’ll help you,” Dhrui said, earning a doubtful look from Maordrid.

“You don’t know what you’re asking, child,” Maordrid said. Dhrui threw herself back on the ground with a frustrated noise.

“Let me make this real clear for you: you’re a shapeshifter—none of the others know that because none of them even mentioned it in talking about you, hence-bloody-forth, I didn’t even realise it until you pulled your raven antics. Two, you speak Elvhen like you were born in ancient Elvhenan. And three? Those fucking elves that saved us were not like anything I’ve ever seen. They were organised, deadly, and powerful. You, my friend, are obviously important to them.” Maordrid sighed and glanced around the area, casting her aura out to search for eavesdroppers. The closest thing was the Dalish camp, but she wasn’t worried about them. “See? And now you’re doing that—” Maordrid spun to face her, silencing the woman with a look.

“Even if I told you what I am, you wouldn’t believe me,” she hissed. “I’ve no proof other than what you’ve seen with your own eyes.”

“Try me, lethallin,” Dhrui said, emphasising the word as she sat back up. Maordrid pressed her lips together. She had not expected to have this conversation with anyone so soon, nonetheless a woman she barely knew.

“Shiveren, my old friend, is from Arlathan," she confessed in a whisper. She looked away with a resigned sigh, "And...so were all of the elves with him." Dhrui snapped her fingers.

“I knew it! Your dialect is old. That’s why I couldn’t translate it,” she said. “That means…shit, you’re old too, huh?” Maordrid avoided her gaze. “Gods, I may pass out. Why did I drink wine tonight?” Dhrui lay down again with a moan. “Then…you saw it. You know what happened to our people—to the elves? Arlathan?” Again, Maordrid didn’t answer, but it was enough. Dhrui was silent, but even from there Maordrid thought she could hear her heart beating rapidly.

“This isn’t something I can just…tell you over the course of a night. Over days, months, or even years. I’ve seen too much,” Maordrid said slowly.

“Oh, I can only imagine,” the young elf said. “An ancient from Elvhenan. What are you even doing hiding from us? You could help so many of my people!” Maordrid sighed, wondering if this had been a bad idea. She considered messing with the girl’s memory, or clocking her over the head with something and hoping she’d forget in the morning. “No, you couldn’t.”

“Pardon?” Maordrid asked, stirred from her murderous revelry.

“If you thought it was possible to help us, you would have a long time ago, wouldn’t you?” The lightning quick wit of the younger Lavellan was…impressive. Perhaps it was the Lavellan lineage.

“Yes,” she finally said, “The world isn’t what it used to be. My people operate in secrecy, watching and acting where they can. The web is intricate and dripping with venom. That is why I am reluctant to share—it could mean death or worse for you.” The fire in Dhrui’s eyes was not unlike the flames that kept her own self going. Maori could feel its heat, reaching out, desperate to join with hers, to make a bigger, more brighter burning fire.

“I want to help. Gods, I want to help!” she begged, then sat on her haunches, eyes widening as if in realisation, “It's fate! It brought me here not just for my brother, but to meet you!” Maordrid rubbed at her temples, studying the woman with one eye as she scooted closer. “Please, give me a chance. I’ll swear an oath—anything.”

“Your brother will kill me,” she muttered. “He loves you, Dhrui. If you were to walk the path that I do—”

“Shiveren mentioned your stubbornness to me. How you make excuses and deflect,” Dhrui suddenly interjected. Maordrid shut her mouth abruptly. “He told me you needed help but wouldn’t tell me how. Someone to watch your back, I think is what he meant. Am I right?”

“How can you say such things? Pledge yourself to a stranger? Never again shall we submit—is that not a Dalish motto?” Maordrid cut in a bit harshly. “Your people have always been too quick to kneel—too quick to bend to your so-called gods in hopes that they will send just a sign that they’re pleased with you. This isn’t what I fought for. It isn’t what any of us fought for.” Maordrid pushed to her feet and stalked away, willing herself to calm down. This was why even in the other timeline she had been reluctant to take on an apprentice—or even being Commander. She didn’t want to command anyone that viewed her as some kind of untouchable relic. She’d rather do it all herself, that way if she got herself killed, it would be her own damn fault.

A firm hand closed around her bicep, pulling her around to look into the vallaslin’d face of Dhrui.

“You fought with the Gods?” she asked, eyes wide and voice quiet. “Or…were you part of the Rebellion?” The tone of apprehension—disbelief. “Tell me, did you know Fen’harel? Did you know the other gods?” There it was. The question that spanned timelines.

“I knew them,” she whispered, pressing a hand against the cool stone of the wolf. “They were benevolent beings in the beginning…but that did not last. They were just people that came by too much power. Their cruelty knew no bounds and they near destroyed our world. We rose, a small, pitiful uprising compared to the forces they commanded. Given more time and better numbers, perhaps the world wouldn’t be as it is now.” Maordrid closed her eyes, envisioning the great last battle high in the Frostbacks. Where her and the other rebels fought to give Fen’harel a chance to raise his Veil. “It is difficult to say if the people of the world suffer more today than they did before.” She finally gained the courage to look back at Dhrui who had been listening intently.

“What do you fight for today?” she asked in a small voice. Maordrid half-smiled, lightly touching a hand to the girl’s hair. Looking at her made her feel her age. And somehow, it made her stronger.

“For your lives,” she said, dropping her hand. “Although I will likely perish in doing so.”

“See, that’s what Shiveren talked about. You’re fatalistic. That you’ve chosen not to get attached to anyone or anything other than this…suicidal drive to complete your duty,” Dhrui said in something just above a whisper. “Look, I can see it’s hard for you to even talk about this. But I want to hear everything—in time.” Maordrid chewed her lip uncertainly, wondering just how much Shiveren had told her. He’d seen something in the woman right away and had trusted her. Dhrui grasped her by the shoulders in an iron grip. “Forget my brother. Forget everyone but the two of us right now. You saved my life—I’m gonna do the same for you. This is my calling and don’t you dare shit on it, you angry old elf.”

“You believe me?” Maordrid realised. Dhrui laughed with her head tossed back.

“I don’t think it’s fully sunk in, all that you’ve said, and not all of it is stuff I was glad to hear. I’m thanking the wine for that,” Dhrui said, “But I do believe you. I wish that your people would have at least tried. Giving up is not how you’re going to change anything, especially in your case.” Maordrid found herself smiling. “Will you allow me to join you?”

“You still don’t even know what I’m fighting for,” Maordrid said, trying to put as much weight in her voice as she could muster.

“I think I have an idea. You know what is going on in the world—I’ll wager you know who is behind all the chaos here in the south, otherwise you wouldn’t be at the heart of the Inquisition,” she said, again demonstrating that quick thinking. “Whatever it is, I get the sense you’re not the bad guy.” Maordrid shook her head.

“There are no bad guys in this fight. The only one that must die is Corypheus—the others, I am myself doing all that I can to change their minds,” she said. “Some of my people believe this world to be an abomination that must be destroyed in order to bring back the old one.”

“And what do you believe?”

“I agree to an extent, as I believe there must be another way to change it without disastrous effects. We aren’t far from a solution.” Dhrui nodded enthusiastically.

“See, I knew you were brilliant,” she said, much to Maori’s flattery. “You don’t disappoint at all. The others only ever spoke highly of you.”

“Really?” she dared to ask. Dhrui grinned knowingly.

“Mhm. Speaking of which, we should go back. That’s going to be a whole ‘nother monster to tackle. But…we can continue this?” she asked. Maordrid saw no way out of it now. Shiveren had pulled the girl in close and Maordrid had all but sunk her. “Are you ever going to tell the others?” Maori felt a headache coming on and wished she had a drink. Or maybe she’d take her pipe somewhere once everything was over.

“Dorian knows…some,” she admitted. “Fenedhis, that’s going to be difficult.”

“Wait, the Vint? Of all people? Why?” Dhrui said, rather alarmed.

“If you want to prove your mettle to me, then show me how well you can spy,” she said, watching the puzzlement come over the other woman’s face. “You might get more than you bargained for, da’len.” Dhrui rolled her eyes.

“No, this is better than anything I could have bargained for. But I seriously want to know what the fuck Dorian has to do with any of this,” she muttered, then turned on her heel. She whistled, beckoning for Maordrid to follow her. “C’mon, let’s go introduce you back to society.”

The two of them made their way toward the bathhouse with Dhrui trying to find more creative ways to ask questions in an attempt to draw answers from Maordrid. The older elf decided that Dhrui would make a worthy spy. She would never admit to Shiveren that he’d been right, or that she was beginning to consider her as a potential apprentice—should she continue to impress. Maori could only hope that she wasn’t making too rash a decision.

“Wait, one more thing before we go in there,” Dhrui said, drawing her back by the shoulder once they’d reached the entry of the old bathhouse. Maordrid gave her a deadpan stare to try to convey her weariness. “Can you really turn into a dragon?” Maori’s laugh echoed down the stone and into the ruin. The sound of conversation below suddenly stopped. Maordrid arched her eyebrows—the only answer she was getting before descending the stairs. Dhrui said something in Antivan that she barely caught but promptly dropped as they came into sight of the camp. Blackwall, Dorian, Yin, Varric, and Cole were all looking up the stairwell, clearly having heard her laugh. When she emerged into the firelight beneath one of the arches, their faces filled with various expressions of shock.

“Shoulda stuck around, Yin. Hanal’ghilan was actually your friend all along,” Dhrui joked, coming to stand beside her. The humour fell flat as Yin stepped forward, his face a battlefield of hurt and grief.

“Inquisitor,” she said with a small smile, “I’m sorry I—” She was forcefully cut off as Yin engulfed her in a hug. After a moment, she hesitantly placed her hands on his back, staring up at the stars in surprise.

“You have no idea—” Yin gasped into her hair. “—how much I worried for you.” He pulled away and finally she got a good look at his face. He’d trimmed his beard close to his face and his hair had grown out some since she’d last seen him. He’d gained some wrinkles at his eyes that she hoped were more from laughing than stress.

“We all worried for you,” Dorian said from behind him. Yin moved to the side to allow the other mage to join. Dorian had carefully coaxed his face into an unreadable mask, but his eyes betrayed him. “You look terrible.” She cracked a smile as he drew her into a tight, but brief hug. Even Blackwall braced forearms with her and gave her a quick, awkward hug. Varric just eyed her like he’d gotten a hundred new ideas for his book.

“Feathers?” Cole asked and she nodded. He seemed content with her answer though that may have had to do with the warning she was projecting in her thoughts. She was quickly pulled away again by Yin who drew her to the fire and sat her down. The others joined as well, huddling close. Maordrid glanced around, realising something was off.

“Solas didn’t come this time?” she asked, then watched as their faces went grave.

“He did but…” Yin trailed off, pouring a cup full of wine and handing it to her. “We came here to save a friend of his. It didn’t go well. He’s mourning, I think.” Maordrid stared into the wine, beating herself up internally. If only she had kept her bloody transcript she could have done something. She vaguely remembered it being mentioned in the book.

“What happened?” she asked and she sat quietly as each and every one of them recounted the day’s events. She realised that she had beenon the Plains when they had likely been fighting for Wisdom’s freedom. She could have…well. It was done now.

“I can’t imagine what he’s feeling, thinking he lost two friends,” Dorian said, lounging against a log across from her. “You know, when you ran off after Yin at Haven, he nearly went after you. Bull had to hold him back.” Maordrid’s brow furrowed. “Phenomenal that you survived an avalanche, a Blighted dragon, and an ancient magister. Oh, and imprisonment.”

“Yeah, I survived the prison too. Problem?” Dhrui defended her. Maori gestured for peace. Dorian had a right to be angry, she just hoped he wouldn’t say anything foolish.

“I should be dead. I don’t know what happened. I woke up in chains in a dark cell,” she said. “Samson interrogated me and brought blood mages in with Dhrui…and together we managed to break free. The fools drugged me with something that made my magic lash out as a side effect—I managed to get Dhrui to relative safety before I fought them off, thinking I was going to die anyway. Fortunately, I lost them, then collapsed. I spent most of my time recovering and trying to find you.”

“Took out a small army, you did,” Blackwall rumbled. She shook her head.

“Only some of the men. They must have been messing with something else while they were interrogating me, because when we were escaping they were fighting off demons,” she said. Yin’s hand fell on her shoulder comfortably.

“I don’t really care what you did to escape. You’re safe and so is Dhrui and for that I’m indebted to you. But for future reference, don’t you dare come after me again,” Yin said. She smiled and raised her cup to toast against his. The others cheered and raised their own cups happily. Eventually, they lapsed into their old ways of exchanging stories and things, catching her up to all that had happened. But after a long day for them all, they collectively decided to retire. Maordrid ended up in Dhrui’s tent, reeling with wine and wonder. She hadn’t thought she’d miss staring up at the canvas ceiling, but when she laid down to rest, she found herself feeling safe for the first time in too long.


Chapter Text

~~Earlier~~


When Yin walked back into camp, he immediately grabbed his pack from his tent and sneaked off to the river, eager for some time alone. The walls of the bathhouse provided some privacy from the camp and eyes up and downriver. The first night they had stayed there, he had gone into the Fade in hopes of seeing what the bathhouse had looked like in the height of its glory, but had been disappointed to find that part of the Fade muddied by too many memories. Yin set his things down unceremoniously and got to peeling off armour and underclothes quickly, cursing in rapid Antivan when the brisk night air kissed his skin. He grabbed a few large rocks from nearby and drew glyphs on them then placed them in the water near where he wanted to bathe.

He spent the next few minutes scrubbing his soiled clothes in the water and then waded in himself after that was all done, relishing the pocket of warmth provided by the stones. There were many downsides to being an elven mage, but being able to heat his own water was something he would never take for granted. It was well worth the struggles that came with it. After scrubbing himself with a small rock, he sat staring up at the stars, taking a few deep breaths before plunging into the water beyond his glyphs. It immediately became cold and dark, yet thrilled his every sense. He grabbed a heavy rock at the bottom and sat anchored, surrounded by black water. The Mark illuminated the area eerily, which gave him the idea to summon different coloured magelights and sent them to bob and float around him. Little white river stones glowed in the light, making him feel as though he were amongst a field of stars. Something about it seemed lonely despite how tranquil the underwater world felt. After a minute had gone by, he decided to return to the surface out of a sense of sadness more than his need for air.

“Swimming naked in the moonlight, I see?” Yin spun in the water to see Dorian sitting quite poised on the shore with his flask in hand. “What was that? The trick with magelights?” Yin floated in the water, not sure whether he should emerge or stay there.

“I was just being silly,” he said. “Your timing is uncanny.” Dorian waved a hand languidly. Squinting, he saw a faint darkening—or lightening?—of Dorian’s cheeks.

“I just thought I’d enjoy the view,” he said. Yin laughed to cover his surprise and tried to find a way to best approach getting out of the water. Sensitive areas were getting cold. He decided going somewhat downstream would be best. Slowly he treaded his way to the shore, eyes occasionally flicking over to his company, unable to tell if Dorian was watching or not. On an internal count of three, he rose from the water, covering his glory bits and picking his way awkwardly back toward his belongings. “The Inquisitor swimming naked out in the wilderness? What would the world think?”

“They already think me a savage Dalish abomination,” Yin joked as he stooped to grab something to cover himself. Dorian was still peering out at the waters. “You came out here to look and yet you aren’t.” Dorian turned his head slowly. Yin kept the cloth covering himself, just enough to give him an idea. “Now, would they say that a naked Dalish savage attacked a human noble, had his way with him, then fled into the night?” He prowled closer, placing himself in front of Dorian who peered up at him with amusement. “Or would they say a ruthless but devilishly handsome Tevinter mage bewitched an unknowing elf into a night of carnal activities?”

“Depends on what part of the world you’re in,” Dorian said, dragging his eyes along his wet form. Yin smirked and rose, turning away to put his breeches on.

“Is there something on your mind, Dorian?” he asked as he tied the laces.

“Ah, yes. Something has been scratching at the back of my mind since Griffon Wing Keep,” he said, voice still light and airy.

“Go on,” Yin said, facing him.

“Maordrid—do you…or did you have feelings for her?” Yin’s heart dropped like a stone. “It’s fine, if you do. Did. Whatever.”

“I would be lying if I said I hadn’t,” he forced himself to say. Dorian looked up at him from the ground, eyes glassy in the moonlight.

“And pray tell, what do you want, Lord Inquisitor?” he asked softly, taking a draw off of his flask.

“I would hope that was obvious given our recent activities,” Yin said, losing the heat that had previously had him ignited. He snatched a shirt up from his bag and slipped it on.

“Would things be different—”

“What, if she was still alive?” Yin laughed. “I don’t think that’s a fair question to ask, Dorian.”

“Isn’t it?” The other man rose unsteadily. “That I shouldn’t worry that I may be stepping on someone else’s toes? Someone we both care for?” Yin turned on him, hurting.

Ar nuven ma,” he said, much to the other man’s confusion. He took a deep breath, grabbed his things, and started walking back. “I’ll leave the choice to you.”

This time, Dorian didn’t follow.

Back at camp, Blackwall was seated before the fire looking bored.

“You look doused,” the Warden said, bushy brows lifting. “And not in a good way.” Varric looked up from his journal, pen pausing above the paper.

“You could certainly say that,” Yin muttered, throwing his things into his tent and settling down across from him. “’Fraid I don’t have anything juicy for you yet, Varric. Probably won’t.” The dwarf gave a theatrical sigh and resumed writing. He noticed Blackwall was carving something that looked vaguely like a tiny nug with wings. “What’s that?” Yin laughed. The visible part of Blackwall’s cheeks turned pink, but to his credit he didn’t stop carving.

“Oh, nothin’. I get some weird ideas during these journeys,” Blackwall said. Yin knew that was a white lie, but he didn’t press him as Dorian came through one of the arches looking more drunk than he had seen him. The flask in his hand was uncapped and hanging upside down in his hand. Oh no.

“Dhrui isn’t back yet?” Yin quickly asked Varric who shook his head.

“Give her some time, Charmer. You’ve been a proper, smothering big brother since she’s been with us,” he said, fluttering a hand at him. Dorian came plopped down beside Blackwall as though he were not even there.

“I think this is the first time Dorian has smelled of anything other than expensive perfumes. Didja fall into a barrel of wine while you were out?” Blackwall smirked. The two of them had been at each other’s throats recently, but Yin had been hoping it was nothing but a bit of cutting banter.

“It’s my fault,” Yin said.

“You’re apologising for him being a drunkard?” Blackwall laughed.

Yess, you’re apologising?” Dorian slurred, sitting down. Yin’s fingers curled in on themselves. “I’m the one whoo’ss clearly mistaken.”

“I don’t think we should be having this conversation here, Dorian,” Yin said, keeping his eyes on the fire. Dorian leaned back, squinting drunkenly.

Oh, he’s putting on his Inquisitor face. Very well then, I shall put my thoughts and feelings on hold until it is convenient for him,” he said. Yin was about to snap back at him when suddenly a feminine laugh echoed down from the entryway of the bathhouse. They all turned their heads toward the noise. Impossible.

It’s been so long, will they accept me? Worn within, thin and threadbare, like a cloth forgotten in sun and sand,” Cole said, appearing beside him. “But for them I’m strong as steel.” Just as he said that, the shadows moved and a small ghost emerged. His sister came to stand beside it with a smug look on her face. Dhrui said something that he didn’t hear over the roar of blood in his ears.

“Inquisitor,” the ghost—no, Maori said, a smile faltering on her face. Yin got to his feet, mind spinning. “I’m sorry I—” He’d crossed the span of ground between them in the blink of an eye, pulling her into his arms, wondering if it were some cruel trick of the Fade. He buried his face in her hair, laughing softly, thanking Falon’din silently for letting her go.

“You have no idea how much I worried for you,” he gasped. She embraced him tightly with a small laugh of her own before he released her.

“We all worried for you,” Dorian said, casting a look at him. “You look terrible.” He couldn’t help but smile when Dorian, still drunk, pulled her into a hug, then even Blackwall. Yin quickly moved them to the campfire where they all indulged in what little wine they had left as Maori filled them in briefly on what had happened to her. Then they took their turns asking questions and describing important events that had happened in her absence. The woman looked understandably exhausted after a while and although Yin was far from satisfied talking to her, he was the one to call for rest. Maori gave him a grateful look and at Dhrui’s invitation, retired to her tent. Before she went, he caught Blackwall handing his sister the little nug he’d been working on all night. He couldn’t say whether he was happy or concerned for her, but Dhrui’s glee brought a smile to his face as she pecked the Warden on the cheek and then rushed into the tent to show Maordrid. Blackwall walked away standing a little taller with rosy cheeks and satisfaction on his face.

Yin sighed and crawled into his tent, feeling as though the events of that day hadn’t really happened. He wondered if living in a perpetual state of disbelief was bad for his health. It was some time before sleep finally came to him, but when it did he couldn’t wait for the morning to come.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Maordrid woke with a start to snoring and when she tried to move her limbs found that they were pinned beneath something soft and warm. In her sleep, Dhrui had wedged herself under her arm and entangled her legs and arms with her own. As soon as she tried to move, the other elf growled.

“Just a little longerrrr,” Dhrui mumbled. Maordrid sighed, glaring up at the tent, but couldn’t deny that it was…nice. It was that thought that made her cast an ice spell to wake the younger elf. Dhrui only grumbled and rolled over, taking the fur blankets with her as she went. “You’re no fun.” Then she was sound asleep again. Maordrid shook her head and quickly threw her mediocre armour on before emerging from the tent. Yin was outside already awake and sipping on tea by the morning fire. He smiled at her brightly.

“I was praying that last night hadn’t been a dream,” he said, quickly filling a mug for her.

“I have to remind myself that it isn’t,” she agreed, accepting it. Yin glanced back toward the tent at the sound of another irritated growl from his sister.

“I hope she didn’t near-strangle you in her sleep,” Yin laughed.

“Close. Do you speak from experience?” she asked.

“Her and my brother Raj used to share a bed. Limited space in the aravels,” he explained, “As soon as he was old enough he arranged to sleep in a different aravel with the hunters.” Maordrid laughed.

“She’s not that bad,” she said, rolling her shoulders. Yin was still smiling at her when the others in camp began to emerge from their dens. Surprisingly, Dorian was last to do so with an obvious hangover. But even he perked up when she approached and offered him a cup of tea.

After they all had breakfast and a cup to drink, they arranged for Maordrid to take turns riding behind each of them as they quickly found that Solas’ hart, Alas’nir, refused to let her on his back. So, she started with Yin when they departed the baths and made their way at a comfortable pace in the direction of Skyhold. Everyone was ecstatic to tell her about the glorious keep they had found after Haven and how more and more people had been arriving to join the cause.

“Damn, I just realised something,” Yin said, interrupting the rare moment of silence. “They’ll all want to throw a small celebration when we get back. You know, I’ll bet even Cullen will hug you.” Maordrid flushed with embarrassment, glad her face was hidden by his back.

“Why? What have I done other than complicate matters?” she asked in honesty.

“If it hadn’t been for you, my sister wouldn’t be here,” he said and Dhrui agreed aloud. “And…you’re considered a friend to most everyone.”

“I won’t forget what you’ve done for me,” Dhrui said, making eye contact with her. Maordrid couldn’t help but feel the guilt she had yesterday for failing Solas, though. She wondered just how much Wisdom’s death impacted his view of the world and of the future. Still, her heart ached for him. At midday, she rode on the back of Dorian’s horse and although they had passed beyond the Dales, she found herself scanning the land for other people. Well, a certain person. She was let down, though that shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Eventually they entered the mountains upon a hidden road whose secrecy had been kept by ancient enchantments laid within it. That meant Skyhold wasn’t far, since the Keep itself had been magically obscured in its early days to discourage invaders.

The closer they got, the more frayed her nerves became. Cole helped some in his curious way, telling her she would find a home there because no one remembered her from the last time. Fortunately, the boy seemed to be catching on to her need for secrecy and only spoke to her when she was at a distance from the others. His reassurance did soothe her.

As they rode up the path toward castle, a reedy horn was blown signalling their arrival. Maordrid must have stiffened behind Dhrui, as the woman chuckled quietly and glanced over her shoulder.

“Nervous, old woman?” she whispered as the horse began to cross the bridge.

“Is that a surprise?” she muttered, scouring the battlements where people had begun to accumulate. She didn’t see what she was looking for and brought her gaze back down to the back of Dhrui’s head.

“I just thought being so old emotions would have worn out their intensity,” the girl teased.

“You think your emotions are intense?” Maordrid said, finding herself grinning mischievously. “Remind me to show you how we once expressed our emotions in my time.”

“Trust me, I have a lot of things I want you to show me.” They ceased their conversation as they passed beneath the portcullis and into the lower courtyard. Maordrid slipped off of Dhrui’s horse in an attempt to avoid attention, but Yin was onto her like a hawk on a mouse, grabbing her by the arm and pulling her with him.

“Is that who I think it is?” a loud, jolly voice called from above. Maordrid tried not to hunch in on herself as Bull called to anyone who would listen. In the upper courtyard, most of the Inquisition members had come to gather. Yin held her close with a beaming smile.

“Guess I owe Varric, dammit,” Sera said with a flub of her lips. The rogue dwarf laughed and presented his palm. “But she owes me arrows.”

“Varric owes me!” Bull laughed, catching his small sack of payment. Several loud and protesting exchanges went around while she looked on in amusement. She was even surprised to see Varric toss a pouch up to Lady Vivienne who was standing at the top of the steps.

“What were the terms?” Maordrid asked Varric.

“Your survival, of course,” the dwarf grinned. Maori glanced back at Vivienne but the woman had already disappeared.

“She bet…for me?”

“Right? Can you believe it?” Varric laughed, catching another pouch from Blackwall.

“She’s never even seen me fight. I think we’ve spoken once?” She narrowed her eyes at the dwarf. “You’ve been spinning stories about me, haven’t you, Master Tethras?” He shrugged unapologetically.

“What do you expect us to do? We’re all stuck here safe in the castle when we’re not out with Charmer. Gets a bit boring, y’know?” Varric patted her arm. “Glad you’re back, Nightshade.” Iron Bull approached her next, looking awkward for all his girth.

“I know we weren’t on the best of terms, but…”

“You like a verbal beat down?” she mused, spirits too high to spit any venom at the Qunari. “We could try something more your style later. I see there’s a practice yard.” Bull’s eye widened and a grin crept across his face.

“Let’s see what you got, Mao,” Bull said, pounding a fist into his palm. She smiled and turned to greet the others—Sera of which giggled and punched her in the arm.

“Thought you didn’t like me,” Maori said.

“Eh, you’re all right. Better than Solas, yeah. I tried that trick with the rotten egg hidden in a bookshelf. Had everyone retching for a few days. Everyone is suspicious of eggs now!” The young elf laughed again and then melded in with the small crowd as Cullen appeared coming down the steps. Maordrid bowed to him, which he returned with a smile.

“It seems too good to be true,” Cullen said to Yin who chuckled.

“I know. And I think we should spend more time appreciating everyone. There’s no knowing if someone else might be taken from us prematurely,” Yin said.

“I agree, Inquisitor. Shall we all have drinks at the Herald’s Rest tonight?” the Commander asked. Dorian gasped behind them in the crowd.

“The Commander of the Inquisition doing something other than working? I thought I’d never see the day!” he said. Cullen’s golden eyes settled back on her, still smiling.

“I can afford the time for a friend,” he said.

“I think first, I’d like a proper bath,” she chimed in. Cullen bowed graciously and excused himself, but not before making her vow to be at the tavern later. Plenty more greetings went around, followed by a few delayed hugs from others—one surprisingly from Josie who was ecstatic to see her again.

“We shall find you a room! I believe there are several open overlooking the garden, if you like. We are also working on building a tower for the mages. Oh! And there is an abandoned tower just across from the mage’s…although it has not been cleaned up, I’m afraid—” Maordrid squeezed her arm gratefully.

“I will take the empty tower, if no one has any objections. I’ll fix it up myself, too,” she said. Josie smiled prettily and jotted something down.

“Is there anything you need the Inquisition to provide, Lady Maordrid?” she asked.

“Tools to fix it. Perhaps a blanket for tonight?” Josephine gasped as if personally affronted.

“You do not plan on sleeping in that tower tonight without a bed, do you?” she asked. “There is the Herald’s Rest—”

“It isn’t much of an inn, dear,” Yin told Josephine.

“Don’t worry about me,” Maordrid assured her. “I do not want to be in the way of your duties.”

“We’ll figure it out, Josie,” Yin said.

“Very well. I do have a dinner to arrange for our returned warrior!” Josephine said, all smiles. Yin clapped Maordrid on the back and continued pulling her up the stairs into the grand hall. At the entry, she had to stop and take it all in. She remembered what it had looked like in the olden days and her mind was trying to juxtapose the present day image with her memory of it. There didn’t seem to be just one overall theme, but many. She saw Dalish, Antivan, Orlesian, and Ferelden decorations. Even a few Qunari and Tevinter. He was trying to make everyone feel welcomed.

“Splendid, isn’t it?” Yin said, casting a proud gaze about the hall. “It’s our new home. All ours!” Maordrid offered a weak smile. “Well, I’m off to the war room. They’ll be awaiting a full report. We didn’t do half the things we said we would—Sahrnia, Forbidden Oasis. Next time we’re in the region, I suppose.” Yin waved to her and walked off with his bag over his shoulder, leaving her by the entryway. She decided to go have a look at the tower and see just what repairs it would need.

If she recalled correctly, there was a way to it through a door to the right of the main hall. As she walked through it, she came into a rotunda and was immediately stopped again at the sight of familiar murals sprawling across the round walls. They seemed to be detailing the recent events in beautiful symbolism—until she saw the wolves. It was as if he was leaving them bread crumbs to his identity. It was not enough to reveal him, but she found it curious.

She passed through the next door and came upon the bridge she had been looking for, progressing forward and opening a door on the other side to what appeared to be someone’s office. No one was present, so she moved on through to the right where Josephine had pointed and eventually came upon the squat little tower just up a flight of stairs from the tavern. From there, she had a view of nearly everything. She would have certainly liked a room above the garden, but the position of the tower provided more privacy for various reasons.

Inside, the place was riddled with debris, but there didn’t seem to be any damage she couldn’t handle herself. Just inside the door someone had already brought her a toolkit. She sighed, wondering where to start when she noticed a ladder in a corner and realise there was a small second level—a loft of sorts, and above that was a trapdoor to the top of the tower.

“This will certainly do,” she said to herself, pleased with her choice. Maordrid removed her armour by the door, rolling up her sleeves to begin her work. She spent the next hour removing heavy broken boards and rubble from the main area with magic, tossing it over the side of the mountain—making sure no one was below, first, of course—and when that was done, set to removing the old rotten structures that remained. Fortunately, the loft didn’t call for any repairs, as the wood held strong enchantments to protect it. All that was left was to furnish it and add some lighting, which she remedied by opening the trapdoor and allowing light and fresh air to flood the area.

She was busy cleaning the window and considering ways she could widen it when the door opened behind her.

“You give the Inquisition soldiers a run for their gold, I see,” a man coughed behind her. She turned to see Dorian in one of the doorways. She did not fail to see the familiar book clutched in his hand. “Is this where you’ve decided to roost?”

“It’s out of the way, it’s private…and if anyone needs me, they know where to find me easily,” she said. His gaze was something she was not unfamiliar with. He had not spoken much to her on their travel back to Skyhold. She knew wisely not to press the reason, as she very well knew why he’d avoided her. And now they were alone.

“It’s funny how certain truths can utterly change your view of the world,” he mused, stepping into the tower and closing the door. “They see your willingness to stay out of the way as part of your charm.”

“And what do you see?” she asked, failing to repress a sour smirk.

“A spy and a liar,” he said, lifting the book in his hand. She leaned against the window as he came to stand before her. “You were the griffon, weren’t you?”

“Yes,” she replied and he nodded, looking away as though that was the final piece to the puzzle he needed.

“Everything in here—it’s true then, isn’t ?” he said, thumbing through to one of the marked pages. “Some of this is in my handwriting. It has my seal, my voice, even. I tried to reason that somehow you found a very good impressionist—that you have some sick objective to manipulate me.” He turned the book to her and shook it, face contorting with emotion. “There are entries from all of them. How could you have faked that? Vivienne? And who the fuck is Thom Rainier?” She carefully removed the book from his grasp and very slowly warded the room against eavesdroppers.

“How much did you read, Dorian?” she asked calmly.

“A page or two more than what you marked,” he admitted. “They were written by…me.” He sighed and turned away, scrubbing his hands down his face. “This was much easier when I was rehearsing in my head.”

“Start with answering what you actually believe,” she said. He nodded and dug into a pocket, removing two objects.

“You acquired these, which is the only reason I teeter on the edge of belief and…calling you a madwoman,” he said. “This voice crystal has only been a thought in my mind. To see it built and perfected with my magical signature inside?” He shook his head. “When I asked rather jokingly if I knew you back in Redcliffe, you answered in another life. That was true, wasn’t it.”

“Yes,” she said.

“And he sent you back,” he said, turning again. “You conveniently left out any part that explained why. Was that on purpose?”

“Why didn’t you just read from the beginning? You had the means to. All of the answers are in there,” she said.

“Perhaps I should have,” he admitted. “I still want to. But I also know how much conflict those few pages brought me alone. I needed to hear it from you and after reading that you’ve travelled through time to get here, I knew a simple avalanche wasn’t going to stop you.”

“But what if it had?”

“I would have waited one more month before reading it all.” He glanced around the empty space of her new tower with a sigh. “I believe you owe me an explanation.” She nodded and prepared to do so, except her wards sang softly as someone approached. With a wave of her hand, she dispelled the magic and opened the door at the expected knock. On the other side was Dhrui Lavellan.

“Holding secret meetings without me?” the girl mused, stepping inside and closing the door. Dorian eyed them both.

“She knows?” he exclaimed.

“Would you like to hear the real story of how we escaped that dreadful keep?” Dhrui snorted, sitting down comfortably on the stone. “It’s not as badass as Maordrid taking out an entire force of enemies, but it was pretty close.” Dorian gaped. “Whoa, settle down loverboy. There’s a lot to unpack here. I’m here to help.” The remaining two took seats against the wall and Maordrid tried to decide what to keep to herself and what to give. She ended up describing to both of them that her organisation had watched the Inquisition from its birth until its death in her timeline. Upon learning of her time travelling origins, Dhrui looked like she wanted to burst but had patience enough to keep quiet. Maordrid explained what she had to Dhrui about ancient elves—of which she had to delve into the lore of the Elven gods to Dorian—and how they had failed the world with their greed. Dorian asked more questions than Dhrui had, mostly about his concern about history being wrong and how Tevinter would take it upon learning the truth. He was overwhelmed to learn that his ancestors hadn’t been responsible for the downfall of the elves—Dhrui was silent. It was our own people.

She told them that the Inquisition had been disbanded in her timeline for fear of corruption and infiltration of spies while they searched for a way to save the world from the threat. She had not yet told them about the Veil or Fen’harel in detail, but that would come soon.

“But what could possibly threaten the world more than Corypheus? An ancient magister literally trying to tear a hole into the next world?” Dorian demanded.

“Someone more ancient with more knowledge. And a lot of patience,” she said.

“Why avoid answering the question? Is that not the sole purpose of your return? To prevent the future from happening?” Dorian asked.

“Yes and no. I can’t tell you everything now. But I swear to you, in time I will,” she said, “I hadn’t exactly planned to reveal this so soon, but I acted foolishly in Haven and feared what would happen if I fell.” The two mortals exchanged wary glances.

“What exactly had you planned?” Dorian asked. “If not to save Yin?”

“That orb Corypheus carries belongs to the person that started this all,” she said. “They wanted Corypheus to rip open the Fade and to die in the process, leaving the orb to be reclaimed. I planned to take it somewhere safe, far from here where me and my people could plan the next steps to stopping a mass wipe out of most living things.” She peered down at her hands in shame. “I’m sorry I’m not the heroic defender you all believe me to be, going back to save Yin.”

“Oi, well, if any of this is true…you left your world to help ours. That’s admirable,” Dhrui said. “And it sounds like Yin survived without your intervention in the other timeline, so, I forgive you.”

“Everything she said is true.” Both the women looked at Dorian in surprise. “There was an entry addressed to me…from myself,” he seemed to struggled under their gazes, but continued with a shuddering breath, “It detailed several events that had already happened and some that would come to pass. I, of course, watched religiously for signs that they would happen.”

“And?” Dhrui asked.

“Every single one came to pass. Including meeting with my father,” he said. “Even some of the words he had said were written down.” They were all silent, stewing in their thoughts. “It happened with the others a few times. That’s when I knew. You need our help, don’t you? That book isn’t enough—you’re still only one person.” Maori nodded once.

“Without you, none of this would have been possible,” she said. “And with you now, I believe we can do this. There is time.”

“Literally. There’s a man sitting right in front of us that has successfully figured out how to turn back time,” Dhrui said. “Not half-bad, Vint.” Dorian shook his head.

“There’s no telling how your arrival may have affected the fabric of the world. For all we know, sending someone back again could make everything unstable.”

“Hopefully it would never come to that,” Maori cut in.

Kaffas. That means you know everything that is about to happen?” he asked.

“I know what I know in addition to the book,” she said, “So, yes.” Dorian nodded, then shook a finger in thought.

“When you came here…that means there should be another version of yourself somewhere,” he said. “Do you know what happened to her?” Maordrid shook her head.

“No, my Dorian had planned for that, but I’m not sure how. He didn’t explain much of the theory behind it,” she said. “My people seemed to think I had died at the Conclave, so maybe it did work.”

“Anything is possible, I suppose. Do you plan on telling anyone else?” Dorian asked. She shook her head.

“That means hiding this from Yin. He is Inquisitor—all eyes and ears are on him,” she warned both of them. “I know it is asking a lot from you, but can I ask for your trust and silence?”

“I already told you I’m with you,” Dhrui insisted stubbornly. “It’s my brother, but I understand the risks involved.” Only Dorian remained staring between them, looking numb.

“It’s a lot to take in, but I think it’s all making sense,” he finally said. “I suppose I’m simply uncomfortable with the prospect that the Inquisition is already crawling with other spies. No offence.”

“None taken, although one of the best things you can do is be yourself, silly as it sounds. These people believe this world is not worth saving—we have to show them that there is beauty within it,” she said. “I will continue my work.” Dorian was looking at her as if seeing her for the first time.

“Believe it or not, I am more in awe that I’m sitting before an ancient being. One that isn’t riddled with lyrium and completely mad,” he said.

“That’s what I thought too!” Dhrui exclaimed, pushing his shoulder. “You probably ran into the first of the Lavellans!” Dhrui gasped, “Could we even be related?”

“I don’t know. Doubtful,” she answered truthfully. Her past was…complicated. She wasn’t even exactly sure of her own origins. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know.

“Well, I’ll be your family,” Dhrui said. Dorian laughed.

“You are something else,” he told her, then looked out the window. “I imagine they will be expecting us all at dinner and then the tavern soon. Especially you, Maori.” Dorian gave her a once over as they got to their feet, dusting themselves off. “Woman, do you have any other clothes?” She shook her head abashed. “You can’t go to the gathering looking and smelling like that. You’ll lose all the friends you just made.”

“Oh, oh! Josephine gave me some clothes when I arrived. They might be a bit long for you, but it’s better than what you have,” Dhrui said, picking at her worn sleeve. “Was the armour any different in your day? What about the clothes?”

“The Orlesians pale in comparison to the Elvhen style…and the armour is incomparable. I wish I could wear a set without absolutely blowing my cover,” she said as they walked out as a group.

“If you ask me quite nicely, I could cover for you and say it was a gift I had commissioned and sent from Tevinter,” Dorian offered, but Maori declined.

“As I said, it would draw too much attention,” she said. “Elven armour was not exactly…subtle.”

“So, Dori, excited to get drunk and sneak off with my brother tonight?” Dhrui asked suddenly. Maordrid’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. Dorian’s face, however, grew stormy. “Oh come on, don’t pretend like I don’t know.”

“I’d rather not talk about it,” he said. “Actually. Maori, may I ask you something—alone?” Dhrui rolled her eyes and said she’d meet her at the bathhouse with clothes, leaving them alone on the battlements.

“Did something happen?” she asked. Dorian huffed.

“I had hoped there was something in the book that would illuminate…well, my future…uhm…” he trailed off, cheeks reddening in the sunset.

“You and Yin?” she finished, carefully composing her face. He nodded curtly, avoiding her eyes. “There’s a reason why there isn’t anything in it, my friend. There are parts of the future we wish to control, but who we choose to love and bond with was not something they decided should be dictated.”

“What does…ar nuven ma mean?” She smiled.

“Roughly, ‘I want you’.” Dorian blushed even deeper, but that sad look in his eyes faded away as he looked toward the grand hall of the castle. “I’ve no place in this but…go to him, Dorian.” He nodded and took a step forward, then paused and swung around, giving her a tight hug.

“You make me entirely too mushy inside,” he said, stepping back. “And while I’m not certain all your revelations have actually hit me in fullness…I am very glad you are back with us.” She smiled and pushed him away.

“Go. I will see you at dinner.” He nodded and they parted ways. She was quite overdue for a decent soak in hot water.

Chapter Text

Yin was impressed by how quick Josephine managed to pull together an impromptu feast for them. He was glad to see that she had closed it off to anyone that wasn’t one of his companions. Of course, the Chargers had been invited. It wasn’t a party without them anyway. He didn’t blame Vivienne for sitting up on her balcony away from the flying bits of food that several of them had taken to throwing playfully about the tables. Poor Josie was off to the side rubbing her temples, clearly regretting her decision to invite them into the halls while Leliana tried with poorly hidden amusement to console her.

And then there was Cassandra, his lovely, innocent warrior, who was trying to subtly talk to him about Varric’s books over a plate of rosemary-truffle roast. They shared a love over the smut he wrote. He’d caught her reading in a corner of the gardens a little earlier, hiding Swords and Shields behind another book cover titled Fade and Spirits Mysterious by Brother Genitivi. He’d taken too much delight in slowly torturing her about it. Even now, he laughed to himself. She had initially said she was reading reports from Cullen then when he pointed out the cover, immediately threatened his life. That was until he had quoted several lines from Swords and Shields, not stopping until she was blushing deeper than the roses in the garden. After that, they sat together and took turns reading aloud, although she ended up making him read more because she liked the way his accent sounded.

“Yin…I can’t stop thinking about the last chapter,” she gushed, eyes darting back and forth along the table in a paranoid fashion. Yin leaned back in his chair as he took a sip of wine. “Perhaps…you could get Varric drunk and threaten him into writing the rest of it!” He raised a brow, licking his lips. Cassandra seemed to run what she had just said back through her head and immediately sat back herself looking panicked. Yin just laughed. “You do want to know what happens to the Knight-Captain, right?”

“Yes! Of course I do!” he said.

“Then…then tell him you have to know!” she whispered. He couldn’t hold back his laughter, which only served to make her both angrier and desperate to make him stop. “I should have laced your drink with something to make you forget.”

“You could always tie me up, tear my clothes a little, then demand I retrieve the next instalment while slowly straddl—” Cassandra lunged forward, throwing her hand across his mouth to stop him.

“You’re insufferable!” she hissed, sitting back immediately when she drew stares. She threw a glare at Varric who was looking at her suspiciously from the other end of the table.

“No, my dear, I’m just Antivan,” he cooed. “I thought the interrogation techniques in that book were quite sound. If you ever want to test out their effectiveness in real life, I’m your man.” Cassandra threw her hands up and jumped out of the chair, leaving him giggling to himself. He would definitely be talking to Varric soon.

After she left, no one else filled her seat which left him without a conversation partner. Ordinarily, he’d sit and talk to Dorian about all sorts of things. But he had been avoiding him since the night on the Dales. And now Dorian was sitting at a separate table joking with Iron Bull, Sera, and even Blackwall. Jealousy was an ugly feeling, one he had avoided as much as possible in his lifetime. His mother had taught him long ago that people could not be controlled—but he could control himself and his feelings. Worry and jealousy get you nowhere, so why allow them to grow in your heart when we could have things like happiness and compassion, hijo? Learn from the bad and be grateful for the good. The bad was obvious. The good…? He was glad to have met all of the wonderful people he had. He was happy they were all alive.

He became acutely aware of how long he had been staring when Dorian suddenly broke eye contact with someone to look over. Then, he smiled at him. Yin glanced around, convinced he was smiling at someone else, but when he looked back Dorian was getting to his feet. People were beginning to finish their meals and announce a migration to the tavern. He found himself being pulled from his seat by an enthusiastic Varric and Dhrui at his flanks, both of who were insisting he needed to lighten up.

Ahead of them walked Cullen and Maordrid side by side.

“Since when did they get along?” Yin wondered aloud.

“Why wouldn’t they? Cullen’s as handsome as they come—she’s pretty and just on the edge of too serious?” Dhrui made kissing noises that Maordrid definitely heard but ignored.

“Maybe I’d misjudged her preferences,” Yin said mildly, thinking of Solas. Varric guffawed.

“Same! I was guessing she’d go for a brooder like Blackwall or Solas. I’d almost introduce her to my friend Fenris if he was around,” Varric said as they came into the tavern. “Anyway, I have bets on that too. Gotta go oversee a few of them now! Cheers, kids.” The dwarf took his leave and Dhrui seemed torn between staying with him and going her own way until Yin gestured for her to begone. She smiled and sauntered off in direction of the bar where a few of their friends were already antagonising Cabot.

“Time to get piss drunk,” he sighed and followed his sister to the bar.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Yin lost track of time after his second drink and at some point, Vyr Hawke showed up and kegs were pulled out. The Champion pulled nearly all of the attention to herself just by being present.

He was about to devour a ripe peach when someone slid onto the bench beside him and put a hand on his thigh. When he turned in alarm, he was shocked to see Dorian.

“What was it you said to me? Ar nuven ma?” he whispered into his ear. Yin instantly felt a rush of heat and all previous worries melted in its wake. Dorian’s cheeks were flushed considerably and his breath smelled of whatever ale he had been drinking. Yin sighed and leaned away.

“I think you’re drunk, Dorian,” he murmured but the Altus straightened in his seat and retracted his hand.

“Have I read you wrong? Should I desist?” Yin wondered if his own judgement was impaired or if they had really just been in a misunderstanding the entire time.

“No! Anything but!” An uneven smile spread across Dorian’s lips.

“Good!” he exclaimed. “Now, how about we take a bottle to ourselves and—”

“Get away? I know just the place.” Yin slid from the bench and helped Dorian to his feet, glancing around the crowd as he did so. They all seemed preoccupied with Hawke—Maordrid was nowhere to be found, so perhaps she had escaped as well—so slipping out unnoticed was no challenge. Yin’s skin felt electrified as he watched Dorian out of the corner of his eye. So many thoughts swirled through his mind, ones he thought he should give voice to but his tongue was thick in his mouth.

They climbed the steps of his tower like two giggling boys sneaking into a sweet-filled kitchen at night, making jokes that wouldn’t have been funny if they were sober. When they emerged into his chambers, Dorian spun in a wide circle, taking it all in.

“You know…we’ve flirted and kissed and all that,” he said, unbuckling his cloak and tossing it over the back of a chair. “Which, for a kissless virgin would be positively thrilling. And while I am thrilled...I'm weary of the taste of vanilla.” Yin leaned against his desk as he sauntered closer.

“I could go for some whisky and spiced chocolate. Perhaps involve some silken scarves?” Yin mused, relishing the devious grin on the Tevinter’s face. Dorian stroked his moustache as he stalked around him, light on his feet despite how heavily they’d been drinking.

“I do love the way you think," Dorian said. "Now, why don’t we dispense with this…dancing around one another and move onto something more primal?” Hot breath grazed the side of his neck, yet there was no contact between them. Yin felt about to burst out of his skin with want.

“I thought you’d never ask,” he said, spinning to capture Dorian’s hips with his hands.

“I like playing hard to get.” Yin pushed him up onto his desk, still holding him.

“And now?” he breathed, finally feeling like he could smile. Dorian lifted his Marked hand and kissed the centre, drawing a small gasp of pleasure from Yin.

“I’ve been gotten,” he said, and captured his lips. And primal it was. Dorian nipped at his lips and fought with his tongue while he tangled his hands in his hair. He quickly abandoned that in favour of undressing Yin. But Dorian gave no regards for his shirt, tearing it off at the neck so that he could dive at the skin beneath. Yin laughed, stumbling back as the man jumped off of his desk and steered him toward the bed with practised maneuvers of feet and hands. He let his lover push him playfully onto the silken sheets of his bed and climb over him, slowly releasing all of the straps and buckles at his chest. Yin helped him to speed up the process, flicking them away with bits of magic, earning a charming little laugh from Dorian. When it finally fell free, Yin admired the muscular body above him.

“You’re gorgeous,” Yin blurted, running his fingers along the planes of his stomach. Dorian planted a hand in the centre of his chest and pushed him back on his elbows.

“I know. Now shut up,” he said, and dove at him again, coaxing Yin’s legs around his waist. Dorian teased him through his pants, laughing into his mouth when Yin growled at him and flipped them in one motion with his arm around his waist.

“Why are there so many damn straps?” Yin demanded, giving up with loosening and went with pulling his pants free.

“Because watching you conquer challenges—” Dorian huffed, kicking the offending clothing away, “—is arousing.” Yin hovered above him for a moment, curiously.

“Really?” Dorian rolled his eyes and yanked at Yin’s much simpler pants, pulling them away much easier than his own. “I must say, I like this Dorian.”

“I’ve only just started. Let me show you,” Dorian said and pulled him down, Yin’s wild laugh punctuating his words and escaping into the night.

Chapter Text

If she had been told she’d make friends with a man who’d once been a templar prior to the Inquisition, she would have thought them childish or that they did not know her. And yet, as she and Cullen meandered their way around Skyhold, she learned about his past and found herself feeling the childish and sorry one. He had come to the Order with well-intentions only to run into corruption and betrayal at every turn. The man had made many poor choices in his life, of which if she had been told before, she likely would have hated him for it—but now? She had thought Templars to be subhuman tools, no better than the Qunari in their ways in that they were blinded by their religion and desired to imprison all mages. Perhaps she still felt that way toward most Templars…but they were still people. She had done many regrettable things in her life and Cullen had too. It seemed such a simple revelation, one that proved to her that even after living through countless ages, she was still learning. Everyone made mistakes and would have to live with them until the end of their days. And hopefully, one could learn from them.

He asked many questions about her own life and while she wanted to be honest to her new friend, the survivalist spy in her redirected the questions back at him. She wondered how Solas managed to avoid answering questions about his life, especially around someone as curious as Yin. Cullen was nothing like Yin.

When they finally moved onto subjects beyond the personal scope, Maordrid nearly sighed in relief.

“So. You’re staying in that little tower?” Cullen asked as they emerged from the main hall where they had stolen some bread rolls. He was the most relaxed she had seen him—eyes glowing, stride easy, and a smile perpetually present as they walked. Maordrid’s eyes wandered to her claimed corner of the battlements as she tore apart her roll.

“Yes,” she said, “It’s a bit empty, but it has potential. Did you know it has access to the top?”

“I didn’t! I suppose you could be our resident watch,” he jested and she rolled her eyes. “Jokes aside, do you have all that you need? I know that place is empty.”

“I’m fine, really, Commander. I feel bad that the Inquisition has allowed me such quarters. I would gladly stay in the barracks, if they Inquisition decides they have a better use for the tower,” she offered, but Cullen shook his head.

“The barracks are too full anyhow,” he said, “So I say we fix up that tower however you see fit. Josephine mentioned getting you a bed?” She nodded hesitantly as Cullen hummed in thought. “But it will take some time to arrive, so why don’t we build you a frame and…I don’t know, a straw mattress for now?” She laughed.

“I’m not a carpenter,” she said, but he jerked his head for her to follow him down the stairs to the lower courtyards where they aimed for the stables.

“I’m not either, but I have siblings that I’ve built stuff for before,” he said with an embarrassed smirk.

“How did you fail to mention you had siblings while you were telling me about yourself?” she asked as they stopped at the entry and looked around. Cullen quickly spotted what he was after—a pile of boards, a hammer, some nails, and a saw.

“You…want to hear about my family?” he said, sounding genuinely surprised as he lifted a few planks. She gestured for him to go on with a smile. “Well. I’m one of four children. Mia is the eldest, Branson and Rosalie are the young ones. Maker, I haven’t spoken to them in far too long.”

“Why don’t you write them?” she asked. “Surely you have a little time to now.” She took four planks and pulled them across her shoulders. Cullen stared at her with his eyebrows raised, eyes wide before he cleared his throat and gathered the tools and remaining planks.

“I suppose I should. Although Mia will be furious I didn’t write her sooner,” he laughed nervously as they mounted the stairs going up the wall. They climbed in silence as they struggled to keep their planks from falling as they went. At the top, Cullen paused outside of his office door, struggling to open it.

“Do you have any siblings, Maordrid?” he asked as they wedged themselves through to the other side. That gave her pause. A very uncomfortable one.

“No,” she finally answered, though it came out sounding uncertain. “Although…after I lost the band of dwarves that I considered family for a while, I was in a dark place. I went into solitude for years and…then I was found. Aki and Taras made themselves my adopted brother and sister. They built me up again and gave me purpose.” They set the materials down outside of the door to her tower. It was more or less true: at some point, she had parted ways with her dwarves to return to the Elvhen capital and assumed a position as a sentinel there. Eventually, her curiosity and bullheadedness had led her to her neck in conspiracies and corruption. She kept in contact with Grandda and Durol—since the others didn’t know how to read or write—until their letters came to an abrupt stop. It hadn’t taken long to find out that they had tried to return home beneath the earth and run across an expedition led by an Evanuris. They’d been slaughtered without mercy. In a black rage, she had fled her post in favour of destroying as much of the responsible Evanuris’ property as she could without getting caught. It drew attention regardless and assassins sought to end her. That was until Akivira and Lahtaras found her and talked her down from her suicidal mission. The two of them turned out to be involved with Solas at the time, with Lahtaras being directly related to Ghimyean and Inaean, leading to their introduction.

“They sound like good people. If you’ve lost contact with them, I’m sure Leliana could track them down,” Cullen said, pulling her from that dark hole. Maordrid began moving everything into the tower and onto the loft where she wanted the bed. She didn’t want to talk about herself anymore because that meant lying. And she did not like lying to people she considered friends.

“They’re…they’re dead,” she replied, “But I appreciate the sentiment.”

“Oh! Maker, I’m sorry, Maordrid,” he said. “If you ever want to talk about them, I’m happy to listen.” She smiled, but didn’t say anything. Cullen quickly began arranging the planks to begin assembling them.

“The Inquisition has brought me some happiness,” she said, trying to dispel the dark cloud she’d brought upon them. “I think I’ve been adopted by Dhrui, after all.” Cullen chuckled.

“I’m glad. You deserve kindness and peace,” he said, gesturing for her to hold a board while he hammered. He went quiet again, focusing on his work. Maordrid hovered uselessly as she tried to find something to do besides hold planks. But she didn’t own books and things to keep her busy. She wished she had a lute, at least. When the silence stretched on, she noticed there was a strange set to Cullen’s face. His eyes kept flicking over to her, his mouth twitched, and then he’d go back to positioning and hammering.

“You’ve something to say, so say it,” she said, startling him. Cullen sat back on his heels looking sheepish.

“Your words got me thinking,” he said, avoiding her eyes, “I haven’t known you long, but ever since you joined you’ve known more suffering than a lot of people.” She slowly uncrossed her arms, furrowing her brow. “If you would be willing, though…I’d like to know what Samson did while you were his captive. I would see justice for you.” Maordrid pressed her lips together, looking out the small window. No, she didn’t want to think about it again. Not when she could still imagine cold of the water and the blood magic in her veins.

“He kept me in a windowless room. Gave me enough water and broth to keep me alive. They barely let me sleep, thinking it would break me faster,” she breathed in, staring at the stone by her feet before continuing, “When that didn’t work, he got mad and tried everything—well, almost everything—he could physically to get me to talk. Then…he tried blood magic and very nearly succeeded.” Cullen put a little too much force behind a nail and bent it, looking up at her. She decided not to mention the well, the stonings, or the needles in her joints they had tried on her. Or that her feet had lasting nerve damage.

“Blood magic?” He growled, “He won’t get away with this. With any of it.”

“I know,” she said. “I want to be there when he is brought down.” Cullen nodded determinedly and from there on worked in silence until the frame was built. Then they decided to go find a small mattress hopefully in the barracks.

“You’ve been too kind,” she said as they left once again.

“It’s the least I can do,” he said, but his smile was tight at the corners. After they acquired a sad pad in a closet in the barracks, she noticed he was touching his temples frequently and his forehead was perspiring lightly. Her brain made an immediate connection.

“You’re not taking lyrium, are you?” she blurted. Cullen glanced uneasily at her, throwing the mattress down on the bed.

“No. You can tell, then,” he said irritably.

“You should rest,” she said as he climbed down the ladder.

“I will, thanks,” he said. She smiled and gathered her little satchel, planning to get a little time alone before sleeping. He wiped his face and smiled tiredly, then followed her out the door for the last time.

“I see an opportunity,” she said.

“Oh? What’s what?” he asked right before his exit. She tapped her chin thoughtfully.

“Your office is just on the other side of that unoccupied tower,” she said, “I know a few elven tonics that will help with your fevers and headaches.”

“What would you want for them in exchange?” he asked warily.

“Nothing. If you can’t sleep or you want to play chess ever…” she trailed off at his expression, “Or you know…just…I’ll make you potions.” He laughed pleasantly.

“Company without headaches sounds nice,” he said. “It’s been a good night, Maordrid. Thank you.” She bowed deeply, fist in palm.

Dareth shiral, Commander,” she said. He returned the bow and left her alone. When she was certain no one was within earshot, she let out a deep breath and counted to twenty before passing through the second tower. The battlements were empty at this time and so she climbed up onto the gatehouse above the bridge and settled down, pulling out her pipe and an embrium-elfroot mix that she packed into the bowl.

Sitting there with her feet and back propped up against two merlons, she smoked and stared up at the untroubled skies. She had lost track of time, but judging by the bard’s continuous playing, it wasn’t too late. Although she could only hear the lute, not the voice accompaniment, so maybe the girl was tiring. Maordrid stayed until the moon rose behind the mountains, casting its silver light across the stone keep. To her right, the sounds of owls and crickets echoed up from the valley below, and to her left, the sounds of the Inquisition in their revelry. Her eye caught onto a firefly at the beginning of Skyhold’s incline, which was strange because the fireflies in the garden never ventured beyond their little area, as it was too cold. It seemed to be moving slowly, bobbing and bouncing and swaying up the road. Her smoky brain thought it amusing until she realised, as it got closer, it was getting too big to be a firefly. Its warm light spilled across the front of a cloaked figure and she wondered if the Inquisition got refugees and agents coming and going at all times of day and night. The sounds of the bard’s music and the raucous laughter drowned out anything she might have been able to discern of the stranger as they reached the first gatehouse. They paused for a moment, likely catching their breath from the hike before continuing across the drawbridge. The firefly extinguished. Her sedated brain was slow to process anything. There was something about the posture and the languid gait that—she sat up straight suddenly, one leg hanging off the edge of the wall at the same time that the stranger noticed her. He also came to a full stop at the centre of the bridge.

Maordrid waved out of uncertainty, but he did not. The man began walking again, but his stride quickened and he disappeared from sight. She cursed and struggled to move her limbs, dragging them back across the stone to get down from her perch. She quickly tamped her pipe out and as she was tucking it into her satchel, a head an shoulders emerged above the edge of the wall. She froze as Solas wrenched back his hood, lips parted in silent disbelief as she had seen in the Fade weeks ago.

“I did not believe fate to be kind enough to allow me to see you again,” he whispered. Her heart flipped and her ears warmed.

“I hope you haven’t forgotten me,” she said with a wonky grin, feeling giddy and anxious. His smile was small as he glanced over his shoulder toward the tavern, still loud and bright before looking at her again.

“Despite all that has happened, I have thought of you every day,” he said, turning his head back to her. His words both thrilled and terrified her. She wondered if it was showing on her numb face.

“I am sorry about Wisdom. I wish I could have been there for you,” she blurted. “But I am now…and you don’t have to grieve alone.” Her smile felt lopsided, but his grew as he turned back toward the steps.

“Will you walk with me?” he asked. “The night is calm beyond the walls. I know of a trail behind the keep.” She nodded enthusiastically and together they slipped outside the gates. He guided her with familiar steps, ones he had likely taken a thousand times before. They followed a narrow goat trail just against the outside of the wall, turning one corner, then another until they were behind Skyhold. True to his word, a rocky trail zig-zagged and dropped down the jagged stone that bore Skyhold. Eventually, they came upon a thin stone bridge spanning from one side of a deep, icy ravine to the mountain on the other side. As she looked over the edge, her depth perception warped and shifted in presence of the embrium-elfroot she’d smoked. Her stomach lurched and she clamped a hand over her mouth. Solas paused at the start of the bridge and offered his hand.

“I’ve got you,” he said, and she took his hand hesitantly. His grip was strong and reassuring as they set across, though she ended up grabbing his forearm with her other hand out of fear of falling. She heard him chuckle when she did. On the other side, she released a breath. They continued walking along an ancient path hewn from the mountain, wide enough for them to walk side by side. She was keenly aware that he had not released her hand…but she made no move to retrieve hers. A stalemate, then. Eventually they came to a small tunnel in the mountain that opened up into a tiny oasis filled with flowers, clover, and a view of a frozen wonderland beyond. A handful of wisps drifted through the air like glowing balls of cotton.

The sight made her want to profess to him how he had changed her. How he made her feel about the hand they’d both been dealt in this life—that there was hope that it could change. That perhaps two damaged individuals could make a whole.

However, she said nothing. Too long had she viewed herself as lesser, a shadow in a memory to him—one face in a sea of countless others. He was the great Fen’harel; he would never have known her if not for this timeline.

But now he was Solas. Maordrid’s friend, not Yrja’s, not even Naèv Enso’s, the first she had been. Even introspectively she could not tell which was more true—the hardened, loveless, and determined weapon that was Yrja, or Maordrid who played lute, smoked a pipe, and drank whisky and didn’t hesitate to throw herself in front of her friends despite knowing what her death could cause. But still, she was not truly herself—not until she could stop lying to those she cared for. Including him.

“I missed you, Solas,” she ended up saying after an awkward moment. “I’m sorry it took so long to let you know….at least send a sign that I was alive. You needed a friend when you lost yours and I wasn’t there…” She laughed nervously, rubbing her cheek, “I am not good at this sort of thing…but I care for you immensely.” She was rambling, wanting to go on and tell him how she truly felt, but then there was a light touch at her shoulder. She turned to see him looking at her with hesitation and something else—something she perhaps didn’t want to know—but she forced herself to stop thinking. They stepped forward at the same time and embraced. She laughed, reaching peak giddiness.

“Thank you,” he whispered into her hair. “It’s been so long since I could trust someone.” I’m sorry that you can’t trust me. But I’m selfish—you’ve become more than a figurehead and a title to me. She gripped him tightly, fists balling in his cloak and eyes welling before she released him and walked to a patch of flowers where she yanked her braid and tried willing her emotions away.

“I think I heard something about leaving for Adamant in a few days. They’re preparing troops and building siege engines out in the Approach,” she said, voice thick, “It seems we will never have a chance to simply be ourselves without something interrupting.” She sat down, draping her arms over her knees. Solas joined her silently, but peered out at the night beyond the oasis.

“It may not be ideal, but at least we will be travelling there together,” he said. She smiled again, hiding it behind her knees. The therapeutic property of elfroot was creeping up on her, making her want to lie down in the bed of flowers. “Wisdom collected lore and history. I shared some of the stories you imparted upon me, for which it was happy and wanted to meet you.” He sighed wearily. “Even though my friend is gone…at least I still have one that seeks the mysteries lost to us and cherishes them as she once did.”

“Why don’t you tell me some of her favourite memories?” She lay back and looked at him. Solas smiled back and laid beside her so that they were both looking up at the stars. As he began to recount a tale set in the Emerald Graves, she let her hand rest upon his in the clover. Then, she let herself drift along in the song of his voice and the intricate story that Wisdom had carried for ages past.


Chapter Text

Light, warm and bright on the back of his eyelids had him shifting over onto his side. His brain registered a hangover of considerable strength. No one would miss him if he slept all day. Nevertheless, his eyes popped open when his arm landed on an empty space on the Orlesian sheets. He flipped back over and surveyed the bright room only to see Dorian standing before the double-doors of the balcony, admiring the morning view. Yin admired his bare arse.

“You’re up early,” he grumbled, placing pillows behind his back so he could sit up.

“It’s nearly noon, actually,” Dorian mused, stepping back inside. “I was admiring everything. I like it. The mountains, your quarters.”

“Do you now?” he refrained from chuckling, the simple pressure was enough to make him queasy. Dorian padded back toward the bed, giving him a full view of his Tevinter glory.

“Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting we venture into mutual domesticity. I just like your appointments.” Yin felt…disappointed. “Your taste in decor is not what I expected, however.” Yin smirked.

“And what did you expect?” he asked as Dorian sat on the edge of the bed.

“Something more…Antivan or Dalish, perhaps? But then again, you’re a large, bearded lumberjack. I didn’t take you for an admirer of Orlesian style.” There was an overwhelming amount of Orlesian stuff. He’d asked Vivienne for advice in decorating and she had said she would speak to Josephine. He’d had no idea that she taken full control of the entire theme. He was happy that Josephine had imported an Antivan-style desk and Dalish-woven rugs.

“I like pretty things,” he replied dumbly, then squinted, wondering why they were talking about stupid decorations. “Is…is there something on your mind, Dorian?” The mage’s face fell, looking away as he did.

“Distracted, is all,” he deflected, “because, you know, sex.” Yin gave him a look. Dorian sighed in an exaggerated manner. “Fiine, you’ve got me. I…was thinking and I’m…curious where this will go—you and I. I’m not sure what the right choice is—do we leave this behind and focus on saving the world? With how much you have on your plate I don’t want to complicate things.” Yin grunted as he pulled himself up and slid to the edge of the bed, head tight and spinning, although not because of the hangover.

“Such uncertainty is unlike you. What do you want?” Yin asked.

“All on me, then?” Dorian wouldn’t look at him, so Yin got onto his knees before the man, forcing him to meet his eyes.

“Should it be all on me?” he asked, putting his hands on Dorian’s calves. The man sighed longingly.

“I like you. More than I should. More than might be wise,” he said, which wasn’t at all what Yin wanted to hear. He already knew what he wanted, but Dorian had to say it. “…We end it here, I walk away. I won’t be pleased, but I’d rather now than later. Later might be…dangerous.” Yin’s lips quirked upward.

“Why dangerous? When has that ever deterred us?” he asked. He meant for it to be lighthearted and give hope, but Dorian wasn’t having it. He didn’t care—he would follow the man wherever he went after they won this fight.

“Walking away might be harder then,” he said in a nigh whisper. Yin grabbed his wrists firmly.

“Walking away? If I haven’t been clear about my feelings before, Dorian, let me be clear now,” he said earnestly. “I…care for you. More than you know.” He was speechless, staring at him with his keen grey eyes.

“I was…expecting something different,” he said with a nervous laugh. “Where I come from, anything between two men…it’s about pleasure. It’s accepted, but taken no further. You learn not to hope for more. You’d be foolish to.”

“You’re not in Tevinter anymore. And I’m not in Antiva or wandering with my Clan,” Yin said. “And even if you go back someday…you’ll bet I’ll be right behind you.”

“It’s easier said than done. These habits are…hard to break.”

“I’m good at breaking things,” Yin pressed and realised belatedly how badly that sounded. “But I’m also mending the world as I go.” Yin stroked his pulse points at his wrists and Dorian finally cracked a smile.

“Care to inquisit me again? I’ll be more specific in my directions this time,” he asked and fell back with a laugh when Yin claimed his mouth with his. It was worth the hangover.

Chapter Text

Maori stirred, feeling uncomfortably warm in all but her feet which were bare and freezing. When she opened her eyes, she found she was on the sofa in the rotunda, flush against Solas’ side, hands tucked between them in search of warmth. He’d thrown a blanket over them both, but her feet were uncovered on the other side of his lap. One of his arms lay across her shoulders and his head rested against the top of hers, still sound asleep, breathing softly. She realised that she must have fallen asleep at the oasis and he had carried her back but had faced the predicament of not knowing where she was staying and had been too tired to care.

When she shifted to bring her feet underneath the blanket, he stirred.

“Sleep well?” he murmured with a small smile, sitting up. She removed her legs and scooted back a little, but kept her frigid feet under the blanket.

She ran her tongue along her teeth before speaking. “I think so.” She didn’t feel particularly rested, but then again she’d long since gotten used to living in a perpetual state of weariness.

“And your dreams?” The worry in his voice reminded her of the demon stalking her. It had been quiet in the Fade, but the feeling of constantly being watched had replaced the nightmares. She sighed and threw her legs over the edge of the sofa, rubbing her face of sleep.

“I think you were right,” she said, “That the Breach was aiding to its abilities.” He nodded thoughtfully.

“It may be safer to investigate now. Two Somniari should have no issue.” At two her heart fluttered oddly.

“When do you propose we do that?” she asked, spreading her hands. Solas raised a brow.

“We could any time we sleep,” he said with a sly smile. She immediately stood, trying to obscure her suddenly flaming face. And now you’re acting like Yin, she admonished herself as she spotted her stockings and boots nearby. “You agreed that—”

“I know I did and so we shall,” she said perhaps a little too sharply, then turned back to him feeling a bit of remorse. “I…thank you. Last night was nice. And the blanket! You were warm—I mean, it was…but so are you? I liked—you know what, I’ll just shut up.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear suddenly feeling fidgety. He only watched her, eyes gleaming above an amused smile. “I’ll be…I have an appointment—in the training yard. Shall we meet again…later?” He finally broke his statue’s impression and nodded, still smiling.

“Yes, I’ll find you?” She nodded and waved, turning away. “I look forward to it,” he called after her, voice lilting in presence of mirth. She had to control her pace as she left the rotunda, heart hammering. She clutched her boots to her chest too flustered to stop and put them on. She didn’t get far—literally just a pace from the door when Dhrui stepped seemingly out of the walls and fell in stride with her, bearing a smug grin.

So!” The suggestive tone in her voice was not good. “I was wondering if you had a thing for anyone here.” The hall was beginning to fill with people coming in for breakfast. And of course Solas emerged as Dhrui said that, blinking at Lavellan, then her. Maori merely nodded at him and then pulled the younger elf by her bicep. Dhrui had the gall to blow a kiss at Solas, who actually smirked. Maordrid gaped at both of them and all but carried Dhrui out.

“I don’t have a thing for anyone,” she hissed once they were outside. Dhrui snorted, tossing her braid over her shoulder.

“And I’m actually Mythal—you think me daft? You were snug up against him like you’re touched starved, which, I bet you are and he is and it’s kind of perfect, right?”

“You spied on us?” Maordrid groaned in disbelief.

“Uh, no? You were sort of right in the middle of a common area.”

“You’re an impudent little pest.”

“And you’re in denial!” she said in a sing song voice as they arrived at the still-empty practice yard. Cullen’s recruits wouldn’t likely be there for her pointers until after breakfast. Maordrid noticed a weapon rack bearing practice staves, swords, and shields. She retrieved a staff for herself and then tossed one to Dhrui, set to teach her a lesson.

“You want to be my apprentice?” She put her sternest Commander face on, standing straight, shoulders back, stance wide. Dhrui’s own bright countenance faltered but wasn’t extinguished.

“Ooh, has Grannie Maori come out to beat some discipline into this young whippersnapper?” Dhrui yelped when Maordrid spun her staff, knocking her legs out from underneath her.

“Can you even fight?” Maordrid held the end of her staff against the girl’s sternum. “Or are you going to talk your enemies to death? With me, you’ll be getting your hands dirty. You should know how to use them.” A pool of ice formed lightning fast beneath Dhrui’s back, and the girl used its slickness to twist her legs and jump back to her feet. She swung her staff at Maordrid’s arm, but in two quick steps the older elf had already placed herself behind Dhrui, bringing them back to back. As Dhrui went to turn, Maordrid turned with her, feeling her shoulders and hips shifting as she attempted to bring them face to face again. After several seconds of the girl failing to counter her, Maordrid hooked her leg around Dhrui’s and grounded her again.

“All right, you’ve proved your damn point!” she sputtered, wiping dirt from her mouth. “You gonna teach me or just keep beating on me?”

“This is learning,” Maori said, helping her up. “But I suppose we can go through some drills first, then spar.” Dhrui huffed, blowing her hair out of her face before nodding.

“I want to learn. I’m…sorry,” she said, but Maordrid brushed her off.

“You keep me on my toes. Mind, I’ll knock you off yours.” Dhrui laughed and punched her in the arm. Then Maordrid began running them through drills, glad to be practising after so long.

Eventually however, they drew a crowd of recruits that were there for Cullen’s debriefing and testing. Apparently, she was to face off against each one while Cullen stood back and critiqued them. She wasn’t sure why he had asked her and not any of the other veteran warriors…or practised soldiers…but with Dhrui nearby, she figured the girl could stand to learn something.

The two women decided to conclude their session with a spar since Cullen hadn’t yet arrived. Dhrui was sweaty, filthy, and panting from their last drill spent dodging small rocks hurled by magic. The fight was hardly fair and without magic, Maordrid couldn’t properly gauge Dhrui’s utmost skill. But the potential was there and already she was showing a vast improvement, demonstrating that she had in fact been listening to her advice.

“Ser, are we going to be learning with bowstaffs?” a recruit asked from the sidelines. “Not sure what use a wooden staff would be in a close-quarters fight.” Maordrid almost delivered a snappy remark to the young man but was interrupted by Cullen himself arriving.

“It can be very useful if you’re skilled enough. Same goes for any weapon. But for this instance, you will be using a practice sword.” Maordrid handed her staff over to Dhrui who went to put them away and retrieve a sword. Cullen approached just as Dhrui handed her new weapon over. “I wasn’t aware you were also training Lady Lavellan? Have you resumed lessons with the Inquisitor?”

“You’re teaching my bloody brother too?” Dhrui asked.

“Our lessons were cut short after Haven, but yes.” Maordrid surveyed their onlookers and stepped back to swing the practice sword. “There’s no reason I cannot teach you both. Consider this part of your lessons. Who is first, Commander?” Cullen was smirking, but barked at the recruit that had spoken earlier. He paled and jumped the fence, looking sheepish.

“Emmet, is it?” The sandy-haired man nodded, standing up straight as Cullen addressed him. “Emmet, you’re going to fight Maordrid. It’s a fight for your life, so do your best. And use your shield!” He turned to the dozens of soldiers around the yard who were now all attentive. “We are marching to Adamant in a week. In that time, we’re going to drill you hard. Those that display competency will be with us when that time comes. Those that don’t will take up bow and arrow.” Several groaned, but didn’t protest. Cullen turned back to her with a grin. “And I want to see what you got.” Maordrid gave him a half bow, flourishing her sword.

“As you wish.” Immediately following, she fought with Emmet. He proved to put a lot of power behind his attacks, but he was too slow. Then again, they wouldn’t be fighting ancient elves one and a half times as fast as them. She used his momentum against him which brought their session to a quick end.

The next five were increasingly better, clearly because they’d been paying attention and learning from their comrades. Well, and she’d caught their whispers between one another about not wanting to be shown up by a knife ear. They were eager to expose her weaknesses. But Maordrid was aware of her own flaws and was even more wary of those that tried to exploit them. Close combat made her nervous but she tried not to let it show. Mid-range was her forte, even with a spear. Speed and agility were her strengths—power and constitution were not. Being small meant having to work harder and risking exhaustion quickly. Fortunately, the recruits were nowhere near tiring her even when Cullen called a break. Maordrid lounged against the fence, drinking from a waterskin when the man approached her.

“Your men—and women—fight well, Commander,” she said. Cullen laughed.

“Not one of them landed a hit past your defences. They’re all too green yet. Although, I had expected at least one slip from you near the end. Where did you get your training?” he asked. Dhrui was nearby, looking as though she also wanted to know the answer. Maori gave her a glance as she formulated an answer.

“The Fade is the short answer. Life as a wandering elf is the longer one,” she said, not striving to come up with something creative. He didn’t seem content, and she figured she wouldn’t be either with that weak-ass answer.

“Your style of fighting doesn’t seem like something one could learn on the road,” he said, crossing his arms.

On the road, no, but it led me to places like Tevinter with their bloodletting arenas, the Avvar holds, and to shady dwarves in need of a mage’s skill. I learned from a spirit of Valour and Protection as well, mind you.” She held his gaze unwavering, wondering where this suspicion had come from. Perhaps she should make up an excuse to leave the practice before she fell under the scrutiny of someone like Leliana—if she wasn’t already.

“You do realise mages can learn how to fight?” Dhrui butted in, coming to sit on the fence beside Maori. “In my clan, we all learned. Especially since Templars really enjoy making a sport of hunting elves when they’re bored.” Cullen realised the hot water he was in and shook his hands in defence.

“I wasn’t trying to insinuate anything,” he said, and to his credit, calmly.

“Oh, really? To me it sounded like you were. You still don’t trust her after all this time? Yeah, I know about your distrust of mages. Rumours are hot and lips are loose here.” Dhrui was fiery, nearly baring her teeth at the man. Maordrid thought she should maybe intervene, but she didn’t want to get burned. On a vain note, she was rather flattered at her defence. She went to put a hand on Dhrui’s shoulder, but the woman jumped off the fence and turned to her, looking angry. “You know he was put up to this?” Cullen attempted to speak, but Dhrui silenced him with a glare.

“What?” Maordrid said with half a laugh.

“Mhm. And last night? All a ruse to get you to talk. ‘Cause that Spymaster of theirs can’t find anything useful on you.”

“Enough!” Cullen finally shouted, then flinched at his own outburst. People nearby were staring in concern, but quickly went back to their own business at his look. Maordrid felt cold and hot with a dousing of acid. The familiar touch of betrayal.

“Is this true?” she asked. The Commander and Dhrui were glowering at each other.

“Yes,” he finally said, though it sounded as though it took massive effort to admit it. Maordrid cast her head back, trying to compose herself. I’ve been too trusting. You’ve gone soft, trusting Templars? How did you ever think such a friendship could work out?

“How long?” Cullen deflated, dropping his arms to his sides.

“She asked me back in Haven,” he said morosely, “But I swear, Maordrid, none of it was faked on my behalf—”

“I believe you were genuine, Commander,” she said, voice like frosted steel, “But that’s just low. I suppose my initial impression of you was right. Spineless and suspicious.” She gathered her woollen cloak off the fence and jerked her head at Dhrui who happily came to her side. “At least you’ve plenty of other warriors to help you train your soldiers. Excuse me while I mourn the man I considered a friend.” Maordrid took off, intending to clear her head somewhere else. They found a water barrel in the lower courtyard that they quickly cleaned their faces in before Dhrui followed her to the stables where they found Master Dennet busy with a few new mounts. Two were harts and another was—

“What. The. Fuck. Is that?” Dhrui exclaimed at the fat beast before them.

“Well put,” Maordrid muttered, eyes pinned to its fore…hands?

“This…is a Greater Nugalope,” Dennet grunted as he attempted to pull the thing into a stable. “Stubborn thing. It was nearly impossible to get him across the bridge. Think he smelled the breakfast from the keep; only reason we got him in here.”

Noooo, this big boy just needs incentive,” Dhrui cooed, walking up to the nugalope. She procured an apple from her pocket and immediately the creature’s ears pricked up attentively. While Dhrui loved on the great grey behemoth, Maordrid took a look at the harts.

“Tirashan Swiftwind?” she asked, observing one with a silvery-blue coat.

“Aye. Known for their uncanny cleverness,” Dennet said as he maneuvered the other one into a stable. “You’re welcome to take ‘em out.” Dhrui squealed behind them.

“Let’s do it! C’mon, just you and me,” Dhrui begged. Maordrid rolled her eyes.

“All right, but you’re saddling the fat one,” Dennet said. Dhrui gasped.

“This is why he won’t listen to you. You’re a beautiful boy!”

“Stop, before I vomit,” Maordrid deadpanned, helping the stablemaster to saddle the Swiftwind. Dhrui had the nugalope ready before them, which was truly disturbing.

When they finally rode out of the gates, Maordrid breathed a sigh.

“How did you find all of that out about Cullen? And so quickly?” she asked, reluctant. Dhrui was sprawled out on her belly across the nugalope’s back, scratching him behind the ear.

“Remember that night on the Plains? You told me to spy, but I’ve been doing that since I got to Skyhold. I was curious. Everyone in the Inquisition are open books, more or less, but you’re still closed to them—figured that out real quick—so it wasn’t difficult to find out some people were still concerned about your background.” Dhrui near glowed with pride as she spoke, “’Specially after we came back with you in tow. Leliana’s a cold one. Pentaghast rose up a stink about how you should have been dead and that you must be alive because you’re working for Corypheus. Or someone else.”

“Is this all behind Yin’s back?” Maordrid bristled and her hart snorted, sensing her ire. She patted his neck calmly, muttering to him in Elvhen.

“I think the Seeker has the hots for my brother. You took her spot, in her eyes,” Dhrui said. “Either way, I’m sorry if I overstepped.” Maordrid shook her head.

“You did exactly as I told you,” she said. “Sometimes the truth hurts, but it hurts more if it remains intentionally concealed.” They took a small path off the side of the main road that led into a frozen forest. “This was once a battlefield.” They slid from their mounts and led them from there, melting the snow gently with spells so as not to spook their animals.

“Wait, so you’ve been here before?” Dhrui asked.

“Tarasyl’an Tel’as. Do you know what that means?” Maordrid asked.

“The place where the sky was held back.” She nodded.

“The Veil was created here,” she said. Dhrui laughed hysterically, shouting What?! as they walked. “The truth has been diluted in Dalish lore, but it is in there.” Dhrui bit the nail of her thumb.

“When Fen’harel locked away the gods,” she said, then looked at her, oxblood eyes wide. “Maori, he used the Veil to trap our gods? Why?”

“Slow down,” Maordrid cautioned, but Dhrui shook her head.

“Enough of this…easing my way into it, give me some credit. You said the truth hurts—it does, and it’s been hidden too long from the Dalish.” Maordrid reeled, unused to such fervour. “Please.

“Very well, but let us walk farther.” In truth, she simply needed the time to gather her thoughts. She could feel Dhrui nearly vibrating the air with anticipation. Or perhaps that was the earth trembling as the Big One loped along.

“Look, I’m sorry about being so overbearing. I just revealed your friend betrayed you and here I am being an arsehole,” Dhrui sighed, “But you have no idea how much this means to me. I’m selfish.” Maordrid chuckled lowly.

“You know what you want and you persist until it’s yours. I admire it.”

“The elders in my clan called it impatience.” They both shared a chuckle. Eventually they arrived at a small frozen pond nestled in a circle of trees encased in ice. A single log lay fallen across the pond itself. Together they cleared a space in the snow for the nugalope and hart while they moved to sit on the log. It was then that it truly began to dawn on her the gravity of the information Dhrui sought.

“What I know would—will—crumble the foundation of human beliefs and that of the Dalish,” she said, taking her braid between her fingers. “What you know are truths that have been inevitably twisted by time.”

“You know, Solas kept saying the same thing on our trip to the Western Approach,” Dhrui said, touching her toes to the ice, “He was really upset about the Dalish. Said he tried sharing knowledge he’d gotten from the Fade and they…may have chased him off or maybe worse.” Maordrid didn’t say anything at first, but she likely knew what he had tried to share.

“Then you understand that whatever he attempted to impart upon them was something that challenged their beliefs. We are called flat ears and spat upon. Ar banalvara ma. Dirtha mar salhasine’syl vara, Banallen.” Dhrui looked at her aghast.

“Who said that to you?” she whispered.

“The elves that did not want to hear the terrible truth about their gods,” Maordrid replied. “And the truth is that they were never gods.”

“Solas said something like that too,” Dhrui said, sounding mournful. “I asked him what he believed in, more out of frustration at one point. He said he believed they existed, but that they weren’t gods. Not unless you expand the definition of the word to the point of absurdity, I think were his words. It was hard to come to terms with it because he was such an arse about anything I had to say…but hearing it from you now…” Dhrui adjusted herself so that she was sitting facing Maori on the log, one leg bent beneath her. “Something about you feels right. Call me crazy.” Maordrid laughed.

“You’ve known me only for a few days,” she said.

“See? Nutters.” They shared a laugh, but Maordrid confessed she felt the same. It had been a long time since she had felt she could trust anyone. That revelation alone was like being struck by lightning. “Are you okay?” The elf was watching her with concern.

“Shiveren saw something in you the day we escaped Therinfal,” Maori looked at her carefully—at her lips, her eyes, her vallaslin. “It took me some time, but I see it now. I don’t know how…perhaps it’s a gift of the Lavellans.” Dhrui sat up straighter with a grin.

“We’re nas’falon, friend,” Dhrui said and Maordrid laughed heartily. “I don’t care if you don’t believe in that either, but I feel it. Maybe that’s why I haven’t ripped your eyeballs out for challenging my beliefs and you haven’t killed me for knowing your secrets.” Maordrid didn’t argue. She had a strange way of saying it, but she was right. There was no denying that there was a bond. “If you don’t make me question my existence again, I’m not going to consider this a successful lesson. Look at it this way—you know the future, you know…one of the pasts. If you weren’t as intimidating as you are, I’d be stalking you like a shadow—pestering you every waking moment.”

“You must understand my caution.” She saw the argument in the younger elf’s eyes and the eagerness escaped her in a garbled noise from her throat. It was refreshing to have someone so hungry for knowledge, but Maordrid herself—or rather, Yrja—had never been a mentor like this. “There is a delicacy to knowledge. Given the right way, it has the potential to build beautiful things—”

“Or it can be twisted and corrupted,” Dhrui finished, nodding. “So tell me what you are ready to tell me, hahren.” Maordrid passed her gaze across the girl’s features, going down until her eyes came to a rest at her hands where the ink of her vallaslin swirled and curled around her fingers like ivy vines. She took Dhrui’s hands, sweeping her thumbs over the backs of her knuckles.

“I said before that the gods weren’t gods. They were called the Evanuris—honoured generals of wars they fought and won. They rose and declared themselves gods,” she said, wishing she had the Fade to help her explain. “But they were subjugators. They took slaves of their own people, marking them with symbols to show ownership. Falon’din only saw them as fuel for his spells—Ghilan’nain as subjects for her experiments. Andruil often used them as bait or hunted them for sport before she went mad…” She squeezed Dhrui’s hands and released them, looking back up at her. “It pains me that of all things to transcend time, the vallaslin somehow endured.” Dhrui reached up to the apple of her cheek, pressing at the curving lines of silver-blue framing them. She said something in Antivan and then swung her legs over the log, stepping down onto the ice below where she walked to the centre. “Dhrui, I didn’t want to hurt you.”

“You haven’t,” she answered, though it rushed from her in a breath. The girl’s hands tremored, though whether from the cold or the truth, Maordrid couldn’t tell. “But that was a good one. Got me first try.” The tremor became a full body shake. Maori was afraid to know if it was laughter or tears. “I loved believing in them. Thinking that there was a patron for everything in existence—where did fire come from? Sylaise gave it to us. Who gives us animals to eat and supply us with hide for clothes and shelter? Ghilan’nain and Andruil, of course. It was all fucking simple and there were answers!” Dhrui squatted, wrapping her arms around herself as she stared at her hazy reflection in the ice. “And I ate it all up without question. We all did.” Maordrid remained silent, just listening and not thinking. Part of her questioned bringing a mere child into this, but the alternative would have been leaving her in the dark with the others, only to find out years from now. “But…is that the truth anymore? About the vallaslin? My people claimed it for themselves, it means something different than enslavement to a false god. It means strength and endurance through time, bonds through struggle and oppression…” Her face was raw, unbidden emotion that brought Maordrid to her knees before the girl. “Can’t it be?” She brought their foreheads together, ancient and young—a bridging of worlds.

“I respect your beliefs. But you wanted a truth,” Maori said. Dhrui opened her eyes, dragging them down her features.

“You don’t have vallaslin.” Again, it was Maordrid who broke their contact to look away. “Did you ever have any?” She shivered and this time it wasn’t from the cold. She owed an answer to Dhrui as much as it pained her to part with secrets she held closer than her own skin.

“Yes,” she said, cringing inside at how small her voice sounded. I loved my god, more dearly than my own self. “Most of us did. Then we were freed by the very man your people have feared and loathed ever since then.”

“Fen’harel,” Dhrui breathed, then quickly looked back toward the direction of Skyhold. “That castle—it’s his, isn’t it?”

“You’re quick to catch on,” Maordrid said dryly. “Yes, it is. Or was.” Dhrui’s face became clouded with conflicted thought.

“I was told Solas led them here. Does he know its origins as well?”

“He walks the Fade and is well-travelled. He likely does,” she said, desperately wanting for the girl to stray away from the subject of Solas. She still needed to sort out her feelings before she explained anything to Dhrui or Dorian.

“Wait, doesn’t that make him a threat? What if he happens upon a memory of you?” she asked, snapping her from her thoughts.

“There may not be any memories of me in the time of Arlathan. Finding such things are difficult today,” she said. “And I did not always look as I do now. Either way, I want you to leave him to me.” Dhrui gave her a grin she was becoming accustomed to seeing between the Lavellan siblings. “Don’t start with that again.”

“I haven’t even said anything! See, I just gotta look at you and you know what I’m thinking. Gods, you’re adorable when you’re flustered!” Dhrui reached over and tweaked her cheek much to her horror.

“Dhrui, please,” she snapped, wanting to smack the smug look off her face when it remained. Eventually it faded as her friend seemed to sense her pain permeating the air around her.

“It’s hard, isn’t it?” Existence is, yes. “You can’t be yourself for sake of your mission, can you?”

“Yes and no,” she replied in a small voice. “At least to those in the Inquisition. It’d be easier if no one liked me. Or if I hadn’t become friends with your brother to begin with.” The two of them sat in silence, surrounded by the quiet of the frozen forest.

“So. Fen’harel’s castle,” Dhrui said, eyes roaming the ice. “He’s the only one you haven’t spoken ill of. I’m guessing you’re friends or at least…know one another?”

“Too clever,” she finally said. “I…in a way, yes.”

“I’m sensing reluctance. All right, how about this—is he alive?” Maordrid nodded. “Is he at all related to anything?” She nodded again.

“He has everything to do with it.” The confession felt like pulling off a scab. “He created the Veil and it has been decaying ever since. A perfect opportunity to pull it back down, end the Evanuris for good. He wants to return the world to our people.”

“Whoa, back up—he’s a good guy?” Maordrid huffed.

“Give that up—there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ players here. Just…bear with me? I know he’s the great adversary of Dalish legend, but Evanuris propaganda has muddied everything he ever did.” She was scrambling for a good way to explain it all. Her nerves were fraying and her tongue wanted to run away with the truth. She took a deep, calming breath and continued, “He has always meant well for the People. But now I’d say he has become out of touch with reality. Bringing down the Veil will end this world. It may restore the people of our time, but it could mean the end of yours.”

“What?” Dhrui whispered. “Wait, wouldn’t that free the Evanuris and the other pantheon in addition killing everyone? Does he want to die? Can we help somehow? I mean, like, help him to deal with the Evanuris and help our people, too.”

“That’s why I am here. He is set in his ways, but I am working on changing that. My people have plans,” she said. Dhrui nodded in thought, peering into the ice.

“Why doesn’t he care what happens to the world if he brings the Veil down again?” she asked.

“A good question. Grief, I believe,” Maori answered, shaking her head sadly. “Fen’harel fell into a deep sleep after the end of the war. He could do nothing from there and when he woke up, the world was changed for the worse in his eyes—he blamed himself and now thinks he must fix the world alone in a terrible way."

"Yet you're determined to help him find another solution. Outwit the Dread Wolf without getting bitten," Dhrui said. Maordrid nodded.

"I have endured the ages and I have changed with the world—he has not...yet. As I have said before, it has become my duty to save you all…and him from himself. In my timeline, it was your brother’s mission as well.”

“Yin knew who Fen’harel was?” Maordrid felt ill, wondering if she had gone too far.

“Don’t ask me anymore, lethallin. I…I can’t.” Surprisingly, she didn’t press the subject. She was just silent, contemplating. “There is so much to it that I can’t explain yet. The best I can offer is to show you what we have lost.” Dhrui’s breath came out in a cloud, but she nodded curtly.

“I swore that I would help you, and that means understanding, right? But that means you have to be honest too,” Dhrui said, face set with determination. “Even if it hurts.”

“Even if it hurts,” Maori agreed.

Chapter Text

After they had talked, Dhrui had insisted that they go hunting to burn off their frustrations. Maordrid had a feeling that the girl just used that as an excuse to get her to shapeshift. She wasn’t about to turn a good hunt down. Dhrui, it turned out, was a formidable huntress. Maori took shape as a panther and prowled through the forest on the ground while her Dalish elf climbed almost soundlessly through the branches above, searching for prey.

Together, they took down a massive elk drinking from a trickling spring from the mountains. Dhrui took it from above, landing on its back and clinging to its antlers trying to control it while Maordrid charged in and sank her jaws into its neck. The elk didn’t go down easily, running into snow drifts and shaking and bucking in an attempt to get Dhrui off its back. Maordrid had been forced to release it or be stamped to death beneath its hooves. In the end, she threw her spear and caught it in its neck. Dhrui stayed on its back until it collapsed with a lamenting wail. Then they set to skinning it for its hide, antlers, and meat. Normally, Maordrid would harvest its bones for weapons or runes for enchantments, but there was only so much they could heap on the back of the nugalope for the trip back. The two of them piled on the back of the Swiftwind instead and Dhrui coaxed the fat thing she had begun to called Shamun to follow with yet another apple.

They returned to Skyhold pining for a warm cup of cider after being out so long in the cold. When they finally arrived at the stables with their bounty, a few scouts appeared to take the elk’s remains to respective places throughout the keep. Blackwall was standing nearby during the scene and was giving her a very unnerved look before he cleared his throat and wiped at his mouth. It turned out, Dhrui had completely neglected to tell her about the massive amount of blood on her face. Blackwall seemed content to keep her little secret, choosing to believe that she was simply a savage. It wasn’t the worst anyone had thought of her.

Maordrid decided she didn’t want to think about her earlier troubles with Cullen or the numerous worries of the future and elected to stay in Dhrui’s company for a little longer. When they arrived in the main hall, a crowd was just beginning to disperse. Apparently, Yin had made his first judgement as Inquisitor for Gereon Alexius. He had been made to serve the Inquisition in the time that they’d been gone. Just like he had in the other timeline. She had utterly forgotten about the offer she had made to his son, Felix. A way to cleanse him of his sickness. She had gotten too ahead of herself—cleansing oneself of the Blight took…resources. Resources that she would not be quick enough to gather. The cowardly part of her hoped that Dorian would never ask her about him.

Dhrui pulled her into the kitchens before she could get wrapped up in another matter. The two women gathered their drinks and a small snack and slowly made their way back through the halls. Eventually, Maordrid decided to make her way back to her tower. There was still much for her to do in order for her to truly settle in the keep. Dhrui promised to meet up with her that night for an adventure in the Fade.

She was on her way to her quarters when she encountered Solas again, but this time he was coming from her tower holding something under his arm.

“I was just thinking of you,” she said, just to gauge his reaction. The tips of his ears reddened as he came to a stop on a step above her. “I’m afraid we will have to push back the Fade to another day. Tomorrow or something.” His face fell into disappointment.

“You can’t continue putting this off,” he said as she joined him on his step.

“Please. Today has been…”

“I know, I heard,” he sighed, then removed the bundle from beneath his arm. “Well, only that it was a spectacle. Do you want to talk about it?” She smiled at him.

“There isn’t much to talk about. I’d rather leave it,” she said. “What’s this?” He looked at the bundle in his hands then at the cup in hers, deciding to tuck it back under his arm.

“A blanket. I thought you might need one,” he said, a faint pink tinging his cheeks. “Your choice of lodgings is lacking in warmth.” She jerked her head in direction of the tower and looped her arm through his. What are you doing? a voice hissed in her head, but she stamped it out like an ashen wisp. They walked comfortably in step, hardly drawing a gaze from those they passed.

“It has an opening in the roof. I couldn’t resist,” she said. “I can watch the stars all night.” She extricated her arm once they arrived, pulling the door open and inviting him inside.

“It’s awfully…empty,” he said, voice echoing.

“We’ve been back, what, a day, Solas?” she said with a laugh, setting her cup down so she could climb up her ladder with the blanket. “Do you have any suggestions? I’m afraid I’m unused to having a space to personalise to my liking.” After throwing the blanket over the lumpy mattress of her cold bed, she climbed up the second ladder and threw the trapdoor open, pulling herself through. Solas appeared moments later and this time she helped him through, taking his hands. They stood together at the top, breathing in the crisp mountain air.

“Have you ever kept plants? Gardened?” he asked as she peered over the edge of the tower. “You could gather samples from our journeys and bring them back here. I always thought they made for soothing decoration—they’re also quite therapeutic to take care of. And…you seem quite proficient at keeping things alive.” She laughed, facing him.

“In the moment! I’ve never tried sustaining a life once it’s been saved,” she said. “I’m shite for heals. If you gave me a rock to care for I’d find a way to kill it.” He chuckled, but then immediately stopped when she tilted her head to the side, eyes narrowed. “Did you just snort, Solas?” He laughed again, but avoided her eyes, covering his mouth.

“Surely not as embarrassing as snoring.” Her mouth fell open.

“I do not! That was—I was impaired!”

“Ah, yes, that’s what it was. It is not as though I haven’t slept in the same camp as you before.” She huffed, coming up empty in her arsenal of comebacks. “Although, I must admit…I find it endearing.” She looked down as her face flamed red instantly and her hands flew to her braid.

Mar sil aria inas I’ve’an? I think you’ve lost your mind,” she said, meaning to sound lighthearted, “I’m easily the least pleasant person to be around in this company.” His bare feet came within her field of vision and fingertips brushed the bottom of her chin, directing her to look up. His eyes were clear as the skies above without a hint of storm or cloud of Fade.

“I beg to differ,” he said, “You’ve been nothing but selfless since you joined us, despite all that has happened to you. You had the chance to break away from the Inquisition after Haven…but you came back.” She could hardly breathe at their proximity to each other, yet she was powerless to his gaze, frozen in place. It was then that she realised that she had lost sight of the shore. If she didn’t do something soon, she'd be pulled under. But maybe if she let the tide take her...there were other shores to be found. She could adapt, as she always had. “I’ve not encountered a spirit such as yours since...my deepest journeys into the Fade. You appreciate the secrets it has to offer and walk its paths without fear. And somehow, you are able to connect such paths to those with a simpler understanding of the world, helping them to see.” His words stabbed at her spirit like swords. You can’t be yourself for sake of your mission, Dhrui’s words surfaced in her mind, driving the blade deeper. The truth hurts..."So, to answer your question: no, my mind is not in the Fade. You have drawn me from there."

“Solas…” His name was all she could utter. His words seemed to have sapped all the strength from her body like a powerful spell. And still he smiled, ever so gently. His face was too near—

“Maori?” She’d never reacted so quickly to the name, putting space between them. Her mind raced with inappropriate emotions. She felt like crying.

“I’ll be right down!” she called to Yin. Solas wasn’t looking at her when she sat at the edge of the hatchway. His fists were clenched loosely at his sides and he seemed to be in a similar state of mind. “Ma revas’em.” That got his attention, but now there was no sign of the raw emotion he had just shown her. She placed her hand over her heart, hoping to draw him back out. She was a stupid, stupid woman. His hand twitched, then slowly lifted to rest upon his own breast. She smiled and then dropped through the open door to answer Yin’s calling.

“Was I interrupting something?” he asked as she pulled him out of the tower to go anywhere else. He cast a look over his shoulder just before she shoved him through the door of the tavern’s attic. “Oh. My. Gods. Alone with Solas?”

“Shut up if you want to live. You interrupted nothing,” she hissed. He grinned through his beard, but wisely kept his silence.

“In that case, Dagna wants to meet you. She’s gonna make you some proper armour!” Then he whisked her off. Her mind, however, remained with Solas.

Chapter Text

That night, Maordrid and Dhrui did their best to make her tower cozy and warm enough for their venture into the Fade. With Cole’s help, they’d found a few abandoned—but not filthy—rugs to cover the freezing floor. Dhrui press-ganged Blackwall into building a couple of small tables, which he seemed happy to do and promised to have them finished before they left to Adamant. But as they worked, Dhrui tried to converse with her friend only to keep receiving one to two word taciturn replies.

“You gonna tell me why you’re being shorter than usual? And I’m not referring to your height,” Dhrui remarked as they put additional padding on the crunchy mattress in the loft.

“I fucked up.” Dhrui bent over, laughing. She was beginning to see what her brother had meant in that it was hard to determine Maordrid’s true mood.

“Sorry, what? Maordrid the Precise fucked up?” she asked. Maordrid nodded, laying down to test the bed and grimacing when the whole frame shook unsteadily and creaked like a broken shutter in a violent wind.

“Yes, in that I let Cullen build this thing,” she said, getting back up before it could collapse. “No, I…I’m not sure what happened. Solas and I were here earlier. Together. Alone. I might have acted stupidly, I don’t know.” Dhrui’s hands caught her by the shoulders and spun her around. “I can’t stop thinking about it!” The woman looked hysterical. It was difficult to take this seriously.

“This is good! You’re admitting you’ve been lying to yourself!” Maordrid looked less than amused, but Dhrui wasn’t cowed.

“No, this is the opposite of good. We went over this today,” she said, pulling from her grip. “He thinks I’m something I’m not, but everything he said was so sweet and—ugh!” She sat down on the bed again and even though she was light, the board came loose directly under her arse and fell, taking her with it. Dhrui laughed uproariously as her friend cursed up a storm in...Tevene?

“Calm down, you’re all over the place,” she said, pulling Maori out of the hole. “Breathe, hahren.” She lowered Maori down onto the floor of the loft, watching her closely. “Solas said something nice—that’s a first. But let me guess, you got spooked and ran or something?” The woman shrugged, running her hands along her braid, staring into the weaving of the rug beneath them.

“I care for him,” Obviously. “And I’m afraid that it runs deeper than that. I’m afraid that if I let it go, that if I don’t stop it…” Maordrid sighed, stilling her hands and dropping them in her lap. “Eventually he will find out who and what I am. I can’t say how that will go.”

“This is new for you in this timeline?” Dhrui said and she got a nod in answer. “Maybe you should decide who you are.” She saw the struggle on the ancient’s face, and then the surprise. “Are you Maordrid…or someone else? Who is going to survive in the end?” She knew Maordrid was prone to bouts of internal debate, and now was one of those moments. She wondered if it was an ancient elf thing, if they saw time differently, taking their thoughts long and slow.

“I feel closer to myself than I have since I was…very young,” Maordrid said, leaning her head against the edge of the bed. “I was Yrja during the height of the Empire. One of countless weapons in the hundred-hand titan that was the Evanuris’ dominion.” Dhrui tried to maintain a respectful expression, but every time her friend began telling stories she couldn’t help but feel like a da’len again before their Keeper. “Retrospectively, I do not like who I was then. But…part of who I was then still drives me forward today.”

“You were called Yrja?” Maordrid nodded.

“That name I held the longest.” The way she spoke reminded Dhrui of a person speaking of an old friend become enemy. “Yrja was cruel, she did what needed to be done. She survived. It is what my people still call me today.”

“What about your younger self?” Dhrui asked gently, earning in turn a small smile.

“I heard it for the first time in ages, just days before I returned to you in the Dales,” Maori said. “Naèv Enso...friend of the Stone. New eternity.”

“That isn’t Elvhen,” Dhrui said, but then again, it didn’t sound like any of her names were.

“It isn’t. Just an old dead language I encountered whispered by spirits,” she said. “But I am Maordrid now. The wiser version of Enso.”

“Then that’s all you need to be. Solas doesn’t need to know that you were Yrja or…anyone else,” Dhrui said. Maordrid smiled but it didn’t seem directed at her. Another secret. “You deserve happiness—everyone does. If you ever decide that he needs to know what you stand for, then hopefully he will care enough to understand.” She was surprised when a tear rolled down Maori’s cheek.

“Thank you,” she laughed, brushing it away. “Your words have more wisdom than you know.”

“Oh, I know all right. But I’ll take the praise,” Dhrui said with a smile. “Now tell me you’re going to be okay.”

“I’m going to sleep. And so are you,” she said, turning to fix the board that had defected. “Prepare for more emotions.” Dhrui smirked and helped her fix it, then set her own bedroll on the ground. There was no way the bed would support them both. Maordrid climbed beneath her blanket and closed her eyes. “I’ll find you. Be careful.”

Dhrui settled down, too excited to sleep. Every so often she glanced up at Maordrid to find her breaths already slowing. Damn ancient, living so slow. It took every bit of training in meditation to calm her body and mind, but eventually she managed and crossed into the Fade.

She had never been particularly good at controlling her dreams, even though Keeper Deshanna had tried to help her learn. And before they’d joined Clan Lavellan, they had lived apart from their Dalish father. He had been a very good Dreamer and had visited his children on a nightly basis, always creating lovely dreams for them until they were able to be together in person.

An imitation of him appeared before her then, grinning ear to ear as she remembered him. Yin had his curly black locks and burly stature, which perhaps was why her and her brother got along so well. He reminded her of Father. Her and Raj had gotten their mother’s fairer features and all of her quick wit.

“Who is this?” a familiar voice asked, and Dhrui turned to see Maori emerge from the forest she had conjured of her mind.

“My father,” she said, turning back to him. “Braern.” Maordrid smiled at him and bowed respectfully.

“I heard a tale that your father was a magical dwarf,” Maordrid said. Dhrui groaned internally.

“Yin,” she said, “Well. My father’s doing too, but that’s a story for another time.” She took full stock of Maori for the first time. She was wearing intricate dark red plate armour, holding a helmet in style of a demon’s face beneath her arm. Her normally braided hair was shorter, pulled and twisted into a topknot high on her head and her exotic tilted eyes were lined with kohl, complimenting the steel of her irises.

“Shall I show you a bit of Elvhenan now?” she asked, looking over with a sly grin. Dhrui noticed the woman also seemed brighter and sharper here. Maordrid reached out and touched her shoulder—around them the Fade swirled and shifted. Dhrui nearly hurled but managed to keep it inside when they came to a stop. They were suddenly seated in a gilded gondola, drifting along waters made of aether. On one side was a white forest that sang with harmonic music—halla grazed at its edge and multi-hued fish swam in the treetops. A serpent the length of four ships with scales made of opal passed below their tiny craft as though it were the most normal thing in the world. When Dhrui, overwhelmed, looked port side she saw that the river lacked a second bank. It faded into nothing and beyond were more landmasses floating above a verdant forest. In the distance she could see a shining city. It whispered to her, beckoning.

“Where are we?” she asked, noting that her voice sounded fuller and sonorous. Even Maordrid’s laugh sounded like its own song.

“That city you see is Arlathan. I figured up here you could get a decent view of part of our world,” she said. “But do you feel it? Close your eyes and describe it to me.” Dhrui didn’t want to close her eyes, but she did and let herself listen. There were strange little vibrations in the air in front of her where Maori was sitting. Curiously, she honed in on it and realised it had a…taste? Or a smell? Like a spring sun shining on a fruit tree. It made her feel uplifted when she drew close, but when she focused elsewhere it faded away. “There’s something around you. It reminds me of a magical aura, but it’s different because…is it magic?” Maori graced her with another chuckle and the strange aura shifted to something sharper and exhilarating, that filled her ribcage with a familiar feeling. She sat taller. Pride. “Are those your bloody emotions?” The woman’s eyes shined bright in a way Dhrui had never seen in anyone’s—it was like she was more, unconfined to the body before her.

“Emotions emphasised our speech and aided in communicating true meaning. You could imagine threats carried a lot more weight if they could be felt,” Maori said.

“Or love,” Dhrui added. Maordrid’s eyes—more silver than dark steel here—locked on hers.

“It was all connected to magic. When the Veil severed it from us, everything became internalised. An entire civilisation dependent on magic sundered as if built upon glass.” Their surroundings shifted again, less nauseating this time and they were standing upon a raging battlefield. Dhrui found herself clinging to Maordrid’s arm as the air filled with strong emotions that assaulted every sense. Her sight dimmed, her chest tightened to the point that it hurt and her heart galloped. Cold sweat sprang out of every pore and her legs went weak. She recognised anger—outrage, even—and something akin to betrayal, but blacker. With a wave of her hand, the air cleared of acrid emotions and Dhrui collapsed to her knees, suddenly able to breathe again. When she’d reclaimed her feet, she joined Maordrid at the top of a small rock and looked across the sea of flashing magic and weapons and armour.

“What is happening?” she asked, thoroughly bewildered.

“In short, this is one of many battles. This is a…relatively small war between the Evanuris and a pantheon—for lack of a better word—that was antithesis to them. The Forgotten Ones.” Maordrid paused as they watched some kind of spectral dragon swoop down from the skies, raking its claws along the ground, ripping apart all in its path before vanishing midair. “The Forgotten Ones refused to bow to the Evanuris.”

“And the Go—the Evanuris didn’t like that, did they?” Dhrui said. Maordrid shook her head.

“No. And they could not ignore the Forgotten Ones because of the power they wielded.” Even without the tangible emotions, Dhrui could see that her friend was deeply troubled by what she knew. She was afraid to ask. “There is still much that even I do not understand. But here before us is a battle against Geldauran before he vanished.”

“Were the Forgotten Ones not locked away by Fen’harel?”Dhrui asked.

“They were, though I have learned that anything is possible,” Maori said, squinting at something in the distance. Dhrui watched the battle continue in uneasy silence for a time until Maordrid turned her back to it, clasping her hands behind her. “The troubles of my time make those in the age of Dragon pale in comparison. Unfortunately, Fen’harel only drew a curtain over most of those issues.” Dhrui’s eyes went unfocused on Maordrid for a moment as she noticed something in the distance. The roiling sea of conflict was parting like silk, allowing something to pass through—and quickly. “Forgive me.”

“For what?” Dhrui asked, flicking her eyes back to the woman.

“I could have brought you somewhere more pleasant like a garden or a ball than some gruesome memory of mine.” The thing in the background was getting closer now, displacing the reenacting spirits. Maordrid sensed the alarm in her, eyebrows drawing down before turning slowly. Her eyes narrowed and her shoulders squared defensively.

“What is that thing?” Dhrui asked, attempting to get closer. Maordrid threw an arm out.

“Move! We need to get out of he—!” A shadowy, shapeless mass lurched from the middle of the field and collided with the elf, sweeping her clean off the rock and into the battle below. Dhrui panicked when Maordrid didn’t rise. The shadow swirled and pulsated like a black heart, obscuring any sign of her.

But suddenly a great blast of light pierced the creature and she saw the warrior struggling to hold the darkness at bay with a brilliantly glowing spear. The woman’s eyes burned like molten moonstones, emanating a light of untold power.

“Maori!” she screamed.

“WAKE UP!” Her words thrust her from the dream violently. Emerging from that world into the waking was devastating. The loss of so much feeling and magic—the sense of being more—instantly pulled a sob from her. She felt as though she had lost half of herself. And perhaps that was true. Dhrui scrambled up, tossing her blankets away and summoned a magelight, casting it over the bed at Maordrid. But the other elf was asleep and unresponsive to her attempts to rouse her. A light sheen of sweat began to appear on Maori’s skin.

Dhrui panicked, thinking fast. She all but leapt from the loft, sprinting out of the tower, down stairs—her surroundings blurred. The rotunda was empty and why she thought Solas might actually sleep in there was foolish in itself, but she didn’t stop.

“The rooms above the garden,” she panted, tripping up the stairs. She dashed past Vivienne’s little balcony and ripped through the door onto the walk above the gardens. What are the odds that we’d encounter trouble in a memory of Elvhenan? she thought as she stopped by the first door, casting her aura out. There was someone sleeping on the other side, but they weren’t a mage. She moved onto the second, then the third, and finally the fourth where she was prevented from seeing in by a ward at the door with a familiar magical signature. Dhrui grabbed the door handle and shouldered it open, setting the wards off. Solas flew from his bed in surprise, hands wreathed in ice.

“Dhrui? What are you doing here?” he demanded, dispelling his wards.

“Maordrid. She’s in trouble—we went into the Fade and something got her. She won't wake,” she cried. Solas paled in the dark and then looked back at his bed.

“Foolish woman,” he said with a curse, snatching up his shirt and pulling it on. “Where is her body?”

“The tower, but what…I don’t know if you can even do anything—what do we do?” she asked, following him out of his room.

“We find her.” His jaw was clenched and his eyes were like blue lightning captured in crystal as they ran back to the tower. She began to regret everything they had done. She felt like it was her fault that her friend was in trouble, but she didn’t know how.

They burst through the door, Solas hardly breaking stride to climb up the ladder to kneel at Maordrid’s side. Strange burn marks had formed around her wrists and neck and a little blood was leaking from her nose. Solas quickly lay down on Dhrui’s abandoned bedroll, glancing quickly at her.

“Don’t go back into the Fade. Watch over us. If I do not wake by the morning, fetch the Inquisitor,” he ordered, waiting for her to nod before closing his eyes. Tears flowed freely from her own. She sat herself at the foot of Maordrid’s wobbly bed and assumed her watch in silent grief.

Chapter Text

She did not remember how she had gotten here. Something felt off, like experiencing a reoccurring dream and trying to remember what came next.

But the chains around her wrists, ankles, and neck were not a dream. She was one elf in a line of many—prisoners of war. But whose prisoners? She could not really remember what they had been fighting for. At her lowly rank, she did not get to question the cause. That was how one got sacrificed to power weapons. Fighting in battle was a privilege.

Her feet shuffled forward, pulled into motion by the elf in front of her. They were joining another cause. Another master. That meant their old master had been defeated. The spoils of war changed hands yet again. A new life, an old custom.

Agonised wails shattered the air in front of her as the elf at the front of the line was initiated. Does our new master want to brand us? Or does master want a sacrifice?

She shook her head—that strange feeling of displacement would not go away. Like she did not belong. Why can’t I remember where I was just yesterday? Or even an hour ago?

There were marks on her wrists from the manacles. Her palms were burned as if she had gripped a molten spear—her vision went white suddenly with agony, causing her to stumble forward gripping her head and nearly slamming into the prisoner in front of her. Something in her told her to hold onto that pain, pull through it. She gritted her teeth and strained to focus on her hands as that seemed to evoke the—it happened again and suddenly she saw herself fighting a formless shadow. A spear gripped in her hands, glowing white with her true magic, and Aegis holding the thing away. She fled, changing forms, but it came after her, snaring her to the ground.

Foounnd youuu.”

Sharp, stinging pain brought her back to her place in the line of prisoners. Two phantoms bore down upon her with whips.

You will think only when He allows it. Your mind is no longer yours to control.” The command was not spoken—there was only silence. It came to her as a thought, but not her own, for she did not think, she did not think…she…the silence was deafening, but it was not quiet enough. It had never been quiet enough. But it would. She merely needed to understand. The People never had, they needed to shut up—to stop thinking—relish the silence and listen to the song.

Listen.

It is unlike anything they have ever known.

It existed before them and they disrupted it with their squabbling.

LISTEN.

It was beautiful. It was all she heard. Simple and powerful.

Yes, come to me. Let me sing upon your flesh—let it settle deep within for the new eternity.

Cold stone rose up to meet her soles. The chains grew taut, guiding her to the altar where she would conduct his symphony. He needed her help, he had been weak for far too long—your song, it is sweet, but it is too loud. I will show you, Traveller. I will bring us home.

The red will guide our way. Take it into your skin. Wear me proudly.

A tight, red hot pain exploded in her ears. Her focus was scattered, but she could hear herself faintly. Her hands gripped familiar tools—a bowl of beautiful, singing red dust in one hand and a runed knife in another.

Quiet your heart, there is nothing to fear. There is nothing to feel. Let them fade.

She screamed as her left hand dragged the edge of the blade down her right shoulder, through her bicep, forearm, and tip of her forefinger. Blood dripped along the altar. Take the red into yourself. Her left hand shook, reaching into the bowl.

“This is red lyrium.” She was not supposed to speak, he would punish her. The phantoms appeared again at the edges of her vision, silent wardens, waiting, should she...

Do not question him!” Her fingers pinched the dust, resisting the urge to grab a handful.

“I do not want this!” Her voice echoed loudly—deafening. She fought the need to move her hand gripping the lyrium. She could feel her pulse through the wound in her arm—hear it loudly in the air around her. Every agonised breath and heartbeat louder than the next. “QUIET!” She screamed as her voice caused an agony she had never known possible. Blood dripped from her nose from the building pressure in her sinuses. I yield, she thought, sprinkling the lyrium into the wound at the tip of her finger.

The silent cacophony stopped. She wept.

Her hand moved to gather a fistful of red lyrium, to sow it into her blood.

“Please!” she sobbed, “I will do anything! Just not this!”

All noise fled from the world, then converged at a single point just below the altar, exploding forward in a resounding BOOM. Maordrid fell backward, losing the knife and bowl, head striking stone. Dazed, the only thing she could make out of her surroundings was the presence of something powerful warping reality.

I am in the Fade, she suddenly realised when the air rippled before her. She struggled to sit up, hearing something like a wolf snarling. Somehow, she found her feet—but lost her sight. Something grabbed and lifted her, rendering her weightless.

Then, it was silent. Maordrid screamed, terrified that her master had won and clawed at the thing holding her. She fought even when her vision returned—she was blinded by absolute fear. A man yelped in pain and suddenly hands grabbed her wrists, pinning them into soft grass so that she could not move. Legs straddled her hips, away from her kicking legs.

“Maordrid!” the man shouted above her. “You are safe—I have you.” She could only stare, chest heaving in uncontrolled swells.

It is too late, I am dying, it’s over!” she sobbed, slamming her head against the ground. He cursed and pressed his forehead against hers, keeping her from moving entirely.

“Listen to me. Focus here, now,” he said. The tempest stuttered, slowing around her, but there was pain in her right arm. “Yes. There you are. What is my name?”

“You’re…” she tried to shake her head, but a hand came up and rested against her cheek. She stared into blue-grey eyes. “Solas.”

“What language am I speaking?” Her mouth moved silently, but nothing came out. “Maordrid.”

“Elvhen. You are speaking Elvhen!” Something in her hand was pulsating—her finger. Oh no. Her panic started to rise again, but Solas adjusted his grip on her, drawing her attention once more. She struggled to draw even breaths, but every second that passed she knew that poison was going to spread.

“You must calm yourself. That creature nearly bound you here—to it,” he said.

Do you know who I am?” she whispered in horror. Does he know? Does he see through me? Did he hear? But the confused expression on his face told her no. He sighed, face softening. Solas released her—she saw her own blood on his hands—and pulled her to a sitting position. She warily scanned their surroundings, calming some when she realised they were alone at the top of a grassy hillock facing a tranquil sea. There was nowhere the creature could be hiding, waiting to strike again.

Maori,” he said, drawing her attention. She noticed there was soot on his cheeks and forehead as if he had run through a fire. “The danger you are in is much more serious than I thought. It is not safe for you to be here.” She looked down at her middle finger and recoiled—a small red crystal was growing from its tip. She slowly hid it behind her back. “I sense that your connection is thinning with the Fade. That is good. When we wake up, we will talk more. Are you ready?” She nodded hesitantly as he leaned forward again with a tenuous, worried smile and pressed his forehead to hers one more time. “Wake up.”

She jarred the bed, nearly breaking it sitting up as fast as she did. Her arm was bandaged, but her back burned with the gashes left from the spectral whips. Dhrui appeared before her, but Maori ignored her as her eyes caught the gleam of the evil little crystal in her finger. She flew from the bed, jumping over Solas as he woke, and slid down the ladder. Sweat ran in rivulets down her temples as she set her hand flat against the stone floor and summoned a blade, raising it above her head.

“Maordrid?” Solas asked from above. “Fenedhis!” She brought the edge down upon the middle of her finger, severing it in one blow. She screamed as blood spurted from the wound, biting down on her braid to stifle her cries. Her friends scrambled behind her, Solas nearly tumbling over as he summoned a healing spell around her wound. She applied pressure, drawing ragged breaths through her teeth. Dhrui appeared with more bandages, pouring water over it before covering the wound.

“Red lyrium,” she panted, trying not to pass out. Solas’ lips pressed together in a thin line.

“What the fuck happened to you?” Dhrui demanded as she summoned her own healing magic. “One moment we’re having a conversation—the next you’re in a fight for your life?”

“It appears that a powerful entity has taken control of another spirit and has been manipulating it into hunting her,” Solas said, focusing on his spell. Maordrid was trying to make sense of the entire thing, not sure she should even begin to ask Solas what he had seen.

“Did you see it?” Maordrid closed her eyes, silently cursing Dhrui’s inquisitive nature. Solas growled his frustration.

“I managed to infiltrate its vision this time, but I failed to determine who or what is controlling the spirit. However, it appears to be a very powerful fear demon. Or perhaps a fear and a nightmare fused into one,” he said.

“She needs stitches and something for her back. Let’s go down to the infirmary,” Dhrui said and Solas agreed. Together, they helped Maori to her feet but stayed close to her.

“Do you remember anything?” Solas asked her. Maori kept her silence. She’d never had a more harrowing experience than that. She couldn’t make sense of it. Her mind kept telling her she had run into a Forgotten One or an Old God itself, just as Elgalas had said. But she had never encountered either of those things in person. The Old Gods were locked in vaults far beneath the earth, slumbering even deeper within a place in the Fade. The Forgotten Ones as well. Either way, whatever it had been, it had access to Blighted lyrium and had planned to give her vallaslin made of it. She knew the Forgotten Ones had played with the Blight—Void, they had been responsible for infecting Andruil—but the strange echoing silence? She didn’t have an answer for that.

“She’s in shock, just leave her be,” she heard Dhrui say.

Maori sat mute and distant even when the on-duty healer sewed the remainder of the skin on her finger closed and carefully helped her to remove her shirt so he could set to working on her back. Fortunately, he didn’t need her to remove her breastband.

“Someone should stay with her,” the healer suggested, looking between Solas and Dhrui. “It isn’t a big loss, but losing part of a limb is still upsetting.”

“Do you have any sleeping tonics?” Solas asked the human. The man nodded and retrieved a bottle, pressing into his hands. Solas came to crouch before Maori, forcing her eyes on him. He gently took her left hand in his, looking up at her solemnly. Maordrid bit back a hiss as the healer began sewing her back.

“I have never felt so powerless,” she whispered to him. “If you had not come, the red lyrium would have spread.” He scowled, hand tightening on hers briefly before releasing it so that he could sit beside her on the cot. Dhrui gave them some space, standing near the entrance of the infirmary with her arms crossed. “I owe my life to you.”

“Think nothing of it, lethallin,” he said. “My concern only lies in keeping you safe.” She chewed her lip, trying to think of a way to broach the subject of the Nightmare demon at Adamant without letting anything on. She couldn’t, so she let it drop. But now she knew for certain that the Nightmare demon was involved—it was just being controlled by something bigger, potentially without Corypheus' knowledge. Solas had confirmed that for her. The healer finished up his work and directed her to lift her arms so he could wrap her torso in bandages. When he was done, Solas draped a thin blanket around her shoulders.

“Will you guard my dreams?” she asked. He seemed taken aback at her request.

“I…yes, of course. I offered before, but you—”

“I know what I said and I was a fool,” she snapped, then groaned and rubbed behind her ears. They still hurt from the paradoxical silence. The very thought of being somewhere alone and quiet made her sweat. “I need help. Dammit, I do, but I do not want it.” He rested a hand on her shoulder comfortingly.

“You have me. But for now, you should take this tonic and rest. You have been through an ordeal,” he said, handing it over to her. She lifted it to her lips, but then paused just before drinking, “Do not tell anyone what happened. Not yet.” Solas nodded and she drank. After, the three of them returned to Maori’s tower, deciding that Dhrui would stay with her while Solas returned to his own room. He promised he would be waiting for her should she enter the Fade again. But fortunately, the dosage of her potion ensured a dreamless night.

Chapter Text

The next few days passed—blessedly—without event, but the tension in Skyhold began to rise as everyone prepared to march on Adamant. The Inquisition’s forces had begun mobilising and in three days, the population of the keep had greatly diminished. Yin finally called a meeting on that day to explain to the inner circle what Vyr and Alistair had found in their ride to Adamant. Simply, Erimond and the Wardens were working to gather their demon army quickly. They would be leaving in a day, just short of an entire week of rest. However, Lady Montilyet also announced during the meeting that after the battle—if everyone survived, of course—the Inquisition would be attending peace talks at the Winter Palace, though the date was still somewhat uncertain, perhaps even so far out as a month. Josephine had yet to secure the Inquisition an invitation anyway. It was there that Leliana and Josephine had determined that Corypheus was likely to make his attempt on Empress Celene’s life. That also meant that those going to the ball would be breaking off with the rest of their army to go to Val Royeaux to prepare—or more like Yin just wanted to go shopping for Satinalia gifts, which was apparently time they could afford. After, they would take a ship across the sea. Once there they would decide whether to travel south into Emprise Du Lion or head straight to Halamshiral. In case they ended up needing to reroute to Halamshiral, Yin chose Dorian, Dhrui—who had begged to come—Solas, Maordrid, and Cassandra to accompany him. Maordrid would have chosen Vivienne for her political position, but she knew that Yin tried to keep the peace amongst his party—Vivienne was haughty and quite the fire starter between Dorian and Solas. But, if they ended up going south she decided she trusted Cassandra’s sword arm over Vivienne whom she had never fought beside.

Meanwhile, Maordrid carefully communicated with her spies within the walls, making plans for the next few months. Most immediately, she sent a message to Elgalas regarding the Eluvians and then one to Inaean asking about Ghimyean’s statue. Both of those things would turn the tide for the Elu’bel, if successful. It made her sick with apprehension.

When that was done, she managed to steal Dorian and Dhrui away for her own meeting. She decided there was not much she would benefit from explaining the Eluvians to them, but she did mention the statue.

“So let me get this straight—you’re going to learn how to shapeshift into a dragon? Wouldn’t that be beneficial for the Inquisition to have going into Adamant? You could take out that demon army like nothing!” Dorian said, blowing dust from a tome. They had gathered underneath Skyhold in the alcove library where rarely anyone ventured, according to Dorian. Maordrid suspected by the smattering of footprints in the dust, Yin and Dorian had been visiting quite often. Dhrui stood nearer to its entrance, keeping an eye out should anyone come their way. Maordrid rolled her eyes.

“Of course it would be! But say I had the ability now, how would I go about bringing that up to everyone? ‘By the by, I am a shapeshifter that knows a dragon form!’” Dorian flipped open the book, manicured eyebrows arching.

“I mean, you wouldn’t have to even tell anyone—you could just slip away as you’re wont to do and swoop in, save the day,” he deadpanned. “Fine, I admit, that wouldn’t work.” Maordrid tapped the dusty desk in thought.

“On another note, Yin from my world said that they met with Mythal in the Arbor Wilds where she gave them the means to fight Corypheus’ dragon. It was another dragon,” she said.

“Um, excuse me, what? Mythal is alive?” Dhrui hissed, stalking into the alcove. Maori threw her hands up. “How did you fail to mention that, O Wise One?”

“She is and is not. Asha’bellanar holds a remnant of what Mythal was,” Maori said. “Fenedhis lasa. I will explain later, please?” Dhrui’s nostrils flared, but she dropped it and returned to guarding the entry.

“Anyhow,” Dorian continued, face amused, “If meeting with this Mythal gave us two dragons, shouldn't we go ahead and do that? Soon?” Maordrid pulled the transcript from her belt and turned through the pages, searching.

“Yes, but not solely because of dragons,” she said, concentrating. “Either way, I think my only opportunity is the end. The last battle. Corypheus had the focus, lifted them into the sky where they fought. Once he was killed, the magic suspending them in the air gave out and that’s when Yin suspected that the focus shattered last time.” Dorian looked at her.

“Sounds like you’d need to be very quick if you’re to snatch it away in time,” he said. “But a dragon seems a bit excessive if you’re trying to grab something so small. Why not your griffon form?” Maordrid closed her journal slowly, heart heavy.

“Because that is when I will be leaving the Inquisition if everything remains true to the book. It could be sooner, but I doubt that. Regardless, a dragon’s wings will carry me to the other side of the continent in mere hours.” Her companions looked at her in unison. Dorian slid his book back onto the shelf and came around the desk to stand before her.

“But I thought that we were going to study the orb—is that not the purpose? Solas stated interest in doing so,” he said. Maori pursed her lips hesitantly. “You’re withholding again, Maori.” She sighed, uncrossing her arms as she figured out a way around it.

“The truth is, I do not know yet. Things are…changing,” she said, thinking of Solas. “And it sounds like it is still a very long ways off. Varric wrote that they take an entire trip into the Deep Roads to fight a Titan and then to the Frostback Basin where they find the first Inquisitor—all before the final battle. The fight at Adamant and Corypheus’ defeat at the Winter Palace completely throws him off balance. It takes him a long time to recuperate.” Dorian looked over at Dhrui and mouthed, the fuck’s a Titan? The other elf shrugged.

“How long, exactly?” Dorian wondered aloud.

“Months,” she said, gesturing to the thick stack of pages they had yet to delve into. “The Inquisition of my timeline was active for a little over a year before Corypheus was defeated.”

“Maori, you will tell me what this is all about eventually, yes? I know you’re hiding something,” Dorian said, lowering his voice. “What is it you fear?” She met his eyes dolefully.

“That I will lose you…and everyone that I have come to care for,” she said.

“Aw, my dear,” he drew her into his arms unexpectedly, giving her a warm squeeze. “Have faith in me! I know you’re not out to stockpile power for yourself. You travelled through time to save us all, for fuck’s sake! Do you really think I doubt you?” She sighed and slumped as he held her at arms length, looking at her hopefully. “You won’t tell me, will you.”

“I…I cannot. It could change the future,” she said. It was a half-truth. Dorian sighed and patted her.

“I think I understand. I’m trying to see it from your perspective,” he said earnestly. “Just answer me one thing—you will tell me eventually, yes?”

“Soon, I promise,” she said looking into his eyes as she said it.

“Oh, don’t look at me like that. I don’t think differently of you. Well, not much,” he said, suddenly back to his normal self. “I just hate not knowing and I have to get over it.”

“We can form our own club, Dorian!” Dhrui said from her end of the room.

“You know, I think we should! We could hold secret meetings just to vent to one another how unfair it is not knowing the future!” he exclaimed, walking off to join the other elf. “Oh, is there anything else you needed from us, our gloomy Oracle of Doom?” Maordrid waved them off and the two of them wandered away, joking and laughing together.

That night Maordrid sat on the edge of her bed with another sleeping potion in hand, glaring into the faded rug beneath her feet. Dhrui was at the Herald’s Rest again, getting up to who-knew what. She was alone with her own poisonous thoughts.

She set the bottle on the floor by her bed and lay down, closing her eyes. It didn’t take long to cross into the Fade—she was exhausted. She woke up in the little world that Solas had created for her and sat watching the distant waves in the ocean from atop the hillock. On a whim, she asked the Fade for a lute and was given a beautiful instrument carved of a white wood inlaid with jade along the edge of its body and neck. She began to play, only to realise that with part of her middle finger missing, strumming was…difficult. Tears of frustration welled up in her eyes. Its loss hadn’t affected her ability to fight—she had tested that out almost immediately the day after—and now that she was trying to enjoy herself…

“I thought you might be avoiding the Fade since you have not come back.” Maordrid hastily wiped the tears from her face then glared into her lap, clenching the neck of the lute as Solas joined her.

“I came to clear my mind,” she said. “But I cannot do even that.” He observed her right hand and then the strings of the instrument, taking on a contemplative expression.

“There may be a simple solution to that,” he said, drawing her gaze. “I have seen bards wear rings on their fingers to help them pluck strings to avoid tiring quickly or developing callouses, although it may serve you well. I think they look like this…” He summoned a small ring-like object that looked more like a small talon. “May I?” She gave him her right hand and allowed him to slip it over her finger. He nodded encouragingly when she looked at him, then she strummed. The fake finger caught clumsily on the strings, but with practice she could see it working.

“I am not sure where or when I will get one of these or a lute in the waking world anyhow,” she said. “But thank you, Solas.” She knew she could just imagine her finger whole in the Fade, but she didn’t want to cheat herself out of the reality of not having it. She tried again, picking the beginning of Ame Amin in a minor key, having heard the human bard playing it in the tavern one night. Her false finger caught on the strings a few times but gradually it smoothed out. A chuckle from Solas made her fingers tangle over one another and then stop.

“Do not stop on my behalf,” he said, smiling.

“You are laughing,” she said, feeling self-conscious. “Did I do something?”

“I simply recalled that Dhrui attempted to get me to sing the lyrics to that song a while back,” he said. “And here you are, playing it.” A smile threatened her own lips as she took up the melody again. She was no singer, but she could hum it. So she did, shyly at first until she felt another vibration in her chest—Solas was humming with her. Heart fluttering, she focused on her rhythm and tempo, trying to keep time with her humming. When her confidence finally returned, she took her eyes from her fingers and followed the white tips of the waves in the distance, feeling Solas’ voice intermingling with hers.

When the song tapered off, swept away by the distant sound of waves crashing against land, she sat back trying to catch a glimpse of Solas. He was reclining on his elbows in the grass and flowers beside her looking content. At peace. Spirits help me, I am a weak woman.

She took a shallow breath and allowed her fingers to begin another song. Daughter of the Sea. Yes, a shanty he wouldn’t know. It was one of her earliest memories living: the ocean and a people that lived by it. Her conscious memory started there. Instead of singing, she projected it into the Fade, willing it to reenact the story as she played.

The song was more of a lamentation but with the sway of a shanty. The lyrics told the story of a heroine that braved untamed seas, crossing to the other side to find a cure for a sickness that was slowly claiming her people. Eventually, she made it to the fabled lands on the other side where she found medicine with another tribe, but at the price that she return to marry their leader’s son. She agreed, only to encounter a storm on the way back that destroyed her ship. The heroine was lost, but a spirit watching the tragedy take place guided the currents to carry the medicine to the shores of her village. Her people were saved for a time, mourning their lost heroine…until the son of the leader came during the next season when the seas had calmed, demanding his bride. They told him of her demise at sea, but he believed them to be hiding her. He slaughtered them all and returned to his homeland only for the wind to die halfway across, leaving his ship stranded. He began to lose men in the night to a strange, burning sickness that made them jump overboard desperate to quench their fever, only to drown. The son of the foreign leader eventually fell sick himself and it was then that the spirit of the young heroine appeared to him and revealed to him that his illness was punishment for killing her people. He swore vengeance on her for breaking her oath to him and for bringing witchcraft on his sailors. He eventually succumbed to the fever and rose as an angry spirit. The seas from then on were cursed with storms and turbulent waters as the two vengeful spirits fought for all of eternity.

When Maori ended the song and the images dissipated, Solas breathed out a single word, “Beautiful.” She shifted, suddenly finding the inlaid jade fascinating. “You continue to surprise me,” he said in a soft voice. She smiled, tapping her fingers on the lute. “Your control over the Fade is impressive.”

“That is quite the compliment from you,” she said.

“If I was more musically inclined, I would serenade you with them.” Maordrid’s laugh rang out across their hill. The Dread Wolf serenading?

“You have the voice for it. I could see all of Skyhold swooning over you,” she said, shoulders still shaking with laughter. His cheeks coloured lightly and he looked away toward the sea.

“I am not interested in Skyhold’s reaction,” he said. She felt as though she’d been struck by lightning, but forced composure, looking down at the lute in her hands and getting an idea.

“Very well, smooth talker,” she said. She turned, taking her instrument and putting it in his lap, startling him into sitting up. With a small grin, she pulled his hands around it into the proper position. He watched her face with amusement, long fingers resting lightly on the strings. “You will never learn if you keep looking at me.” He let out a breathy laugh and finally looked down as she moved his fingers into position for the beginning of a simple song called Syl, quite literally, ‘air’. For the next few minutes, she explained the fundamentals of playing chords, plucking patterns, and positioning fingers for optimal movement and sound. It turned out, he was absolutely terrible at it, but once she got him going, he wouldn’t stop playing terrible chords on purpose, laughing until they were both red in the face.

She didn’t want the dream to end. In the Fade, they were both…freer and more open with their emotions—he was different. She had never seen him laugh so much. Maordrid had never been good at flirting or recognising it even when it was blatantly in her face, but she was good at redirecting it when she suspected it. It became a sort of game the rest of the time they spent in the dream, with him making sly comments at her and Maori shutting him down. Her elusiveness only seemed to encourage his efforts to fluster her. In a way she was relieved when she sensed her body waking up on the other side. At the end, they had hiked down to a small beach and were sitting in the sand, letting the water lap up onto their bare feet as they theorised conducting music through the Fade. But as her connection thinned, they agreed to try it out next time. His hand had found hers at one point, curling delicately around her fingers.

When she woke up, she cradled her hand closely, clinging the fading sensation and fearing the one growing in her chest.

Maordrid had fought many battles, but this was not one she was very familiar with. She knew she was about to be standing in the middle of it, if she wasn’t already. The question her mind posed to her heart was both simple and complicated: what side was she on?


Chapter Text

He hadn’t slept so well since before leaving to the Conclave months ago. Bedrolls had never been particularly comfortable, but he had figured out how to pad them well enough. That hadn’t done anything to ward off the nightmares until Solas intervened—he still occasionally got strange dreams where he was running through the Fade being chased by something. There used to be flashes of pain from the Mark when it made itself part of him. They didn’t happen as often anymore, but his nightmares…well, despite Solas’ best attempts to staunch them they came as blood ignores even the finest of weaves, seeping and staining. Often, he went back with his clan only to have them disown him and run him out of camp, never stopping until he was back at Conclave where it all began again. More recently, he’d watch as a great emerald wave of magic ripped all of his loved ones into nothing. No matter the dream, it always ended the same: the Mark would spread farther up his arm like fiery brambles, crawling and creeping until it reached his heart. There, the brambles became vines that latched onto the muscle, ripping and tearing it like the wall of a ruin. By then, half his body would be a mass of unstable energy until a final rift opened in his heart, effectively killing him.

But now, Dorian woke him gently every time—before the rift ever took him. Amatus, he’d whisper, and stay awake with him until the pain in his hand subsided.

That morning, he woke in Dorian’s arms without pain or memory of night terrors. Pale sunlight filtered in through the cloth of his tent. Dorian shifted beside him, opening his eyes and yawning.

“Time already?” the mage asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Yin nodded grimly and stood up, pulling his shirt on and arranging his armour. Dorian quickly rose behind him and assisted with the new set made for him by Dagna. It had the Inquisition’s symbol hammered into the chestpiece, the silver eye ever-open to stare down his enemies. He’d even gotten a fine helm to go with it. When he was all suited up and every piece tucked in to Dorian’s liking, he turned to him before leaving the tent.

“I couldn’t imagine doing any of this without you at my side,” he said quickly. He knew Dorian hated syrupy speeches, but the man had chosen an Antivan Dalish romantic.

“It’s true, you wouldn’t be accomplishing nearly as much,” the Altus smirked, kissing him. Yin stopped him, gripping his arms before Dorian could pull him back into bed.

“I don’t know what awaits us at Adamant,” he said, taking a breath, then looking him in the eyes. “And I’ll admit, I’m terrified. Whatever happens…” Yin placed Dorian’s hand over his heart. “Ar lath ma, vhenan.”

“Your tongue never ceases to impress me,” Dorian sighed, leaning into him. Yin smiled widely, wrapping his arms around him, staring into the peak of the tent. It felt good to say those words at last. “Now let me get dressed.” Dorian pushed him out of the tent, but not before smacking him soundly on his arse. He couldn’t return the favour as now he was in full sight of the camp. It was strange having everyone there for once. Iron Bull and his Chargers had their own separate camp, inclusive of Sera and Blackwall. Cole never really needed a tent and Vivienne shared with Cassandra. Varric shared with Hawke this time around, his sister paired with Maori, leaving Solas in a tent by himself. However, he hadn’t failed to notice before they left Skyhold that Maordrid appeared in bad shape and had been frequently visiting Solas' tent like she had done during their trip to the Storm Coast. Upon asking—begging, more like—Solas had caved and explained to him that she’d been attacked again but was he was personally taking care of it. Whatever the Fadewalker was doing to remedy it looked like it was helping. She’d been smiling a lot despite the bruises under her eyes. He barely recognised her when she did.

He saw her then, emerging from her tent in Dagna’s armour. She wore a half-breast plate with scale mail guarding her abdomen and full plate along her arms with hands covered in fancy taloned gauntlets. She, too, had a helm, but it was far less fancy than his ‘Inquisitor’s helm. She even had a staff, all aerodynamic so as not to impede her close-combat fighting. He wondered who had talked her into that after her first one had exploded back in Haven. Dhrui emerged from the tent right behind her in enchanted Dalish mail and cloth looking every bit like a witch of the wilds, hair bound in a braided crown—with, as a final touch, a small white flower clipped above her ear. Even when Solas emerged from his tent he stalled as the girls walked by, eyes reserved for Maordrid. Yin was privately entertained by Solas’ poor attempt at ogling with discretion. But to be fair, Dagna and Harritt had a surprising knack for style in addition to their practicality.

“Shall we get a bit of training in before we get moving, Inquisitor?” Maori asked as she approached him. He saw her sneak a wink at Solas whose lips curved up ever so slightly. Yin pursed his lips against a grin, glancing behind her at his sister.

“Will Dhrui be joining?” he asked but she shook her head.

“No, she has another mission,” she said with a mischievous glint in her eye. He watched as his sister took off at a run out of the camp.

“I can’t believe she’s training with you too,” he laughed. “Are you raising an army of Lavellans?”

“Don’t blow my cover,” she said, laughing as they walked some ways from camp. “It has been a while since we practised. Do you still remember what I taught you?” Yin hid his smile and pretended to be woefully unprepared. He had done more than practice—he had come up with his own methods. Vivienne had given him a few pointers when he hadn’t been training with Solas.

Her surprise when he beat her in four moves during a warm up was a moment he was far too proud of.

“I think as Inquisitor I shall declare this a holiday!” he said, rubbing every bit of it in her face. Maordrid climbed slowly back to her feet from where he’d thrown her looking smug...which was not an expression he’d expected of her.

“You simply caught me off guard. You and Solas conspired together, didn’t you?” she asked, setting her staff aside and summoning her spear. “I think I will have to take him on one of these days.” Yin tried not to let the flashback of their bloodied bodies on cold stone dampen his good mood. Sparring or not, the idea of the two of them heading off against one another made him ill. Ir nulam ma. I regret you. Yin cracked his neck. To this day, he wondered what else had been said between those two in Redcliffe.

He decided to show her what else he had learned, setting aside his own staff and unstrapping the hollow hilt at his belt. He focused and willed his magic to take form. A shimmering green longsword flashed into existence. A wicked smile curved her lips.

“I will believe the threat when you bring me to my knees again,” she said. Yin charged her without hesitation.

The two of them got lost in their training for the next hour until Solas arrived and interrupted, come to fetch her. Yin hadn’t beat Maordrid again, but he had managed to get past her defences a handful of times. It was beyond satisfying, even if it wasn’t a victory. Even she seemed proud in her own way. It showed on her face when the two of them joined the rest and the warriors complimented his skill.

They had a small amount of time before their group needed to be at the rendezvous point for the assault, so Maori, Cole, and Solas were going out to collect the remainder of Professor Frederic’s belongings on Yin’s request. He had hopes that the man could tell them something about dragons before they had to fight Corypheus’ archdemon thing. Meanwhile, the larger part of the group would continue onto Griffon Wing Keep to stock up from the journey over.

Just before the others split off, Yin took a moment before mounting up to look at all of his friends. He had never seen anything more glorious than them. They shone in their sharp armour beneath the black and gold banners of the Inquisition flying amongst them. Their eyes were bright with purpose, backs and shoulders straight with the high morality of being amongst friends. Yin committed the image to memory, swearing he would remember forever the brave souls that accompanied him to the ends of the world.

He didn’t lose that sentiment even when they finally reached the desert where the reality began to set in. The Inquisitor would not be daunted so easily anymore.

Chapter Text

They watched Yin and company ride off while they figured out on their little map where they needed to go. A generalised area west of the keep, it seemed. Maordrid knew it would have been faster for her to simply shapeshift into a predator and go hunting for these White Claw Raiders they were after, but Yin had insisted that someone go with her. Their trust in her not go get hurt had diminished significantly, which absolutely warmed her heart to know that they cared, but was also frustrating in its own right.

They were strapping their staves to their saddlebags when Cole suddenly looked up at the sun, hands moving gently across the flanks of Yin’s former horse, Terror…who was no longer terrifying under the care of Compassion.

“To feel the heat of the desert under your wings, lifting, drifting light in the sky…let the White Claws turn red beneath my talons…” Maordrid went rigid as an icy horror over came her. She stayed where she was, hidden behind her hart, Rasanor, desperately sending Cole silent pleas to shut up. “I’m sorry, I only want to help but you never want it and I make it worse!”

“Cole?” Solas asked, walking around his Alas’nir. “Who are you trying to help?” Cole twisted his hands together uncertainly, tilting his head to one side.

“She doesn’t want me to say,” he murmured, “He won’t be mad! He’ll only like you more—listen! It runs deep, roots that reach, blossoming branches that’ve been bare so long…” Maordrid made a strangled noise in her throat as Solas turned his head slowly to look at her. She could see his mind working to untangle Cole’s words. He looked mildly embarrassed as well, but did nothing to deflect.

“He’s…talking about me,” she finally said, voice diminished. “I thought it might be easier to spot our targets. It is why I wanted to go alone initially—”

“Wings, talons? You can…shapeshift?” Solas asked, grabbing Alas’nir’s reins and leading him over.

“Yes! She’s very good. She can do—”

“Cole, please,” she said, hating the edge of desperation in her voice. Fortunately, the spirit stopped. When she hedged a look at Solas, she double-taked at the smug expression on his face.

“You were afraid of what I might think?” he asked. “Why?”

“It is not just you, I am afraid what the others might think, too,” she said, a fabrication forming. “I am an apostate that has never been to a Circle, nor have I ever been to a Dalish Clan. I am skilled in what I do because I am not afraid to walk the Fade. I have learned so much from it—as you have. If they knew I could shapeshift, Cassandra, Cullen…and whoever else originally suspected me of possession will go on another witch hunt.” It was a half truth, really. Solas’ face grew thoughtful, but there was a sort of shadow behind his eyes. “They would never understand. They shun any knowledge derived from the arcane. And it is already a rare ability…”

“Did you ever plan to tell me?” She looked up at him, conflicted.

“Yes,” she said, thinking quickly. “I thought to at Adamant where there will be too much chaos for anyone to realise it was me. But…I suppose now is most ideal. Ir abelas, it is an old paranoia.” She noticed he had dropped his reins and was…prowling closer to her. The armour he’d been given had light Elvhen touches to it—a leather chestpiece and spaulders of tiered chevrons, strapped over a robe of deep, silent blue. The way the ends of his robe swayed as he moved enthralled her. He stood only a pace away with eyes that would be inscrutable to anyone else. Except, she knew that the Dread Wolf was weighing his options.

“Clever thing,” he finally said. Not at all what she was expecting him to say and it likely showed on her face. There was something…else in his eyes. Something like hunger. It made her knees go weak. “I am curious about the other half of Cole’s words—the White Claws. You fight in form as well?” She swallowed a lump in her throat and nodded pathetically. He loomed above her and suddenly she was very aware of just how tall he was in respect to her. Her head barely grazed his chin. “I should like to see you in action.” Her eyebrows shot up and her lip twitched. “Perhaps I will join you.” Does he mean what I think…?

“You will not be able to catch up,” she said, eyes falling briefly on the blackened jawbone resting on his chest that he wore even with his armour.

“Is that a challenge?” She gave him an unimpressed smile to counter his own cocky one. A little spark of audacity ignited a fire in her, and she reached up, resting her hand on his chest, allowing her fingers to entangle with his amulet. His breath hitched, hands twitching at his sides. With a dexterous twist of her fingers, she twined the cords around them and yanked his head down to her level so that they were eye to eye.

“The sand will be claiming their bodies by the time you reach them and I have moved on,” she whispered. Then she released him, stepped back, and in a burst of black arcane smoke shot into the air as a massive hawk-owl hybrid. It was a form she favoured when she wanted to avoid attention but sought to hunt. The hybrid looked like any old bird of prey from below.

In seconds, she had soared high enough into the sky that she could see Griffon Wing Keep in its entirety. Below, she saw Solas handing his reins off to Cole. Her pulse spiked as she saw him take off at a sprint in the sand, then disappeared into a cloud of steely-grey smoke. Her hawk’s eyes widened when a black wolf emerged, racing over the dunes.

The hunt was on.

She caught sight of the first group of White Claws across a sandy ravine, moving in a group of four and easily distinguishable in their uniforms of red and white. Below, she saw Solas was following her shadow on the ground. Cheater, she thought as she dove straight down at the Raiders. She momentarily turned back into an elf once she touched the ground.

“You are the ones with the scholar’s property?” she asked, stalking up to them. Their leader, a tall but muscular fellow, sneered and wordlessly unsheathed a sword as his three friends fanned out with their weapons. Maori stepped back. "Very well. Have it your way," she said and called upon her panther aspect. She launched herself at the first man, locking her jaws around his throat while her hind legs disembowelled him. She snapped his neck then dragged his corpse down as an archer fired a shot. The arrow thunked into her meat shield harmlessly and she released him, rolling in the sand to avoid another arrow before she sprinted at him with a yowl. He swung at her with his bladed bow, screaming in terror when she skirted around him and swiped at his back, razorlike claws turning leather armour and flesh into ribbons. As he collapsed, she finished him off, stepping along his back and leaping to the next Raider, using the second one’s neck as a springboard. The others fell like reeds in tempest winds, dead before hitting the sand.

She paused above the last body of a man who had been in possession of a fine rucksack that upon examination proved to be full of tools that clearly didn’t belong to a mercenary. It was then that a large black wolf appeared above the edge of the ravine, finally having caught up. She bared her bloody teeth in what was meant to be a grin. He barely paused before taking off at another sprint to the south. She cursed, shedding the panther to shoulder the pack as an elf, then burst back into her raptor form. She caught up to him quickly and flew just two meters above him as a taunt, eyes scanning the landscape. Her enhanced eyes honed in on an encampment just before the desert turned into rust-coloured rock formations. A glimpse of red and white on the figures milling about told her all she needed to know.

She left the Dread Wolf behind in a blast from her powerful wings that lifted her once again to great heights as she prepared for another aerial assault. As she was coming down, she gave a mental curse as Solas caught up. This time, she landed in her panther form without turning into an elf first, attacking the nearest mercenary. Their angry shouts quickly changed to startled screams as Solas joined the fray. The cocky elf cast spells as he fought, which required a finesse and control over one’s mana reserves that few today had, if any at all. She wasn’t willing to reveal that she too could do that. Not this time. She stuck with tearing unarmoured throats out with her teeth.

At the end of that fight, she left Solas in charge of retrieving Frederic’s possessions as she took off to find the next targets. She stayed in her panther form, determined to beat him on four legs fairly. She didn’t know how sharp a sense of smell a wolf had, but as a great cat, she smelled the next set of sweating humans just over the edge of the dunes near a structure of Tevinter origin.

It turned out, Solas was much faster than she thought. He appeared right at the edge of her vision keeping pace easily. It was harder to run through sand as a panther, a problem that he didn’t seem to have. He made the first strike, much to her chagrin. She had always been competitive, even in their time when there had been elves with superior magical abilities. The old prideful drive to be better clawed its way to the surface as he took out two of the five men before she managed to take down just one. As she was facing off with another archer, the old wolf leapt over her with a snarl as he wreaked havoc on a warrior that had tried to skewer her in the back.

In seconds, they were standing in a haphazard circle of bodies. Maordrid finally released from her feral form and looked over at Solas who did the same. A streamer of bright red blood painted his mouth, down the front of his neck. She was sure she looked just as wild.

“I believe that was all of them,” he said, stooping to search a small chest one of them had been carrying strapped to their back. He added it to his own bag. “We dispatched two other groups the last time we were here.” She nodded and surveyed the desert, trying to guess where Frederic’s camp might be. She sensed Solas approaching her and turned to face him, squinting against the sun. “You hunt well, banvherassan.

“As do you, wolf,” she said, bowing elegantly. “I must say, I am pleased you joined me the way you did.” He smiled, shifting his burden of loot on his shoulder. “We share the same concerns regarding the others, no?” He nodded once.

“I figured it was a fitting way to tell you that you are not alone,” he said, sending her heart aflutter. “I will keep your secret, if you keep mine.”

“You never needed to ask.” Maori temporarily dropped her pack and for the second time that day, stepped within arm’s reach of him, removing a kerchief from her person. With one hand, she held his face still as she wiped the blood from his mouth and neck with her other. His brows arched in surprise and a small, embarrassed chuckle escaped him once she was done. As she turned to pick up Frederic’s things, Solas grabbed her by the waist and spun her around, resting his hand lightly on the crest of her hip. A small noise of surprise escaped her. “You very well cannot return the Professor’s belongings looking like that.” He then wiped at her face with his own kerchief, smirking openly. He made careful, even strokes across her lips then down her chin as though she were one of his frescoes. It took a prolonged second to rein her mind back in, after which she batted him away, laughing and wiping at the rest with her hand. She couldn’t handle him being that close to her mouth.

“Shall we rid ourselves of this burden and find Cole? I feel bad having taken off like that,” she said.

“You needn’t worry, I told him to meet us at the Professor’s camp,” he said as they began walking. “It is not far from here. Come.”

Part of their journey was made in silence. As the rush of hunting with the Dread Wolf wore off, she had begun to ponder whether admitting to Cole’s prying had been as harmless a confession as the spirit had seemed to think. Cole only ever did things that he knew would help and he definitely knew by now who and what she was. According to the transcript, the spirit boy had also known Solas’ true identity all along but had never appeared to betray his inner secrets to anyone. Then again, she was perhaps the foolish one in thinking that Solas might be suspicious of her—he had just ‘revealed’ to her that he, too, could shapeshift. He trusted her more implicitly than anyone else. The revelation was both thrilling and worrying. If anyone in the Elu’bel found out, they would press her to abuse that bond. She was surprised at the anger it evoked. Somehow, he seemed to sense something was off. The back of his hand brushed against hers as if asking are you okay? As she was fixing for words, his small finger ran along hers, testing. It was so simple a gesture, and yet it inflamed her ragged emotions.

She took his hand. Her inner voices of survival screamed warnings, bells, and all else at her, but when his fingers laced between hers firm and warm, they went quiet.

They walked the rest of the way like that, witnessed by nothing other than the stars of early twilight. Every so often, she sneaked small glances up at him in disbelief. All she saw was his sharp jawline to which she had grown so weak to, and weaker still at the contentedness upon his lips and eyes and brow. To think that she brought him such inner calm was a bizarre notion to her. She hadn’t thought herself capable of making anyone happy…and maybe she wasn’t. But for now it was enough.

Professor Frederic was happy to receive them and had been chatting away to Cole when they arrived. The human then promptly forgot that the boy existed when they handed over his beloved assets. Upon asking, Maordrid discovered that he was trying to study a dragon in the area. Eerily, it happened to be the type that she had been trying for so long to perfect as her form. The scholar, unfortunately still needed a few things done, such as finding some ancient Tevinter manuscript he suspected was located in a ruin to the northeast of his camp…and then something about finding out the dragon’s hunting patterns.

Maordrid was put out. Seeing an Abyssal in the wild would have made the ending of her day perhaps one of the best she’d had in years. Unfortunately, it was growing dark and they had to trek all the way out to the Keep to meet up with everyone.

“You seem disappointed,” Solas remarked as they walked to the harts that were happy to see them. Maordrid ran her hand along Rasanor’s nose in thought. The hart nuzzled into her palm and stepped, keen eyes eager for action.

“I had hoped to glimpse the dragon,” she professed. Solas chuckled.

“You were not joking when you told Iron Bull you liked dragons, were you?” he said, swinging up into his saddle. She followed suit and heeled her hart into motion as the other two followed at her flanks.

“They are majestic and untamed spirits. Remnants of an old, unforgiving world,” she said. “Like looking upon the sea, I am reminded of how insignificant my life is relative to the vastness of the world. It is…grounding.”

“You think something different when you say you’re insignificant,” Cole piped up again and Maori sighed. “You say it softer but you hear their voices, worthless, they whisper, witless, without purpose. But your purpose has always been the same.” Her hands gripped the reins in a white knuckled grip. “They don’t think that of you now, you know. You mean more.” She couldn’t see past the tears in her eyes.

“I am doing my best, Cole,” she replied. She felt Solas’ aura reach out to her softly, but she pulled away, heart aching. “It is hard to erase their hate.”

“I could help you forget, if you like,” he offered, but she shook her head.

“No,” she said, voice cracking like ice. “Don’t.” She clicked her tongue and rode at a slightly faster pace to put herself just ahead of them so they wouldn’t see her mask cracking. You don’t understand, Cole. Their hatred is mine now and I must carry it or I will not complete my duty. I cannot care for myself or I will fear the inevitable end.

She heard Cole give a painful gasp and knew she’d hurt him with her thoughts. Maordrid hurriedly warded her mind off so completely that she couldn’t even sense Solas’ mage aura.

“Leave her be, my friend. Some hurts run too deep to be healed,” she heard Solas say. She closed her eyes, then let Rasanor gallop his way to Griffon Wing Keep.

Chapter Text

Several hours passed by before Solas, Maordrid, and Cole returned from their quest. Everyone finally relaxed when they arrived, glad to see them safe. Except, Dhrui was the only one who seemed to think it was strange that Maordrid rode in ahead of Solas and Cole. The woman may have had everyone else fooled with that serene, impenetrable mask, but she had made the mistake of letting Dhrui Lavellan see beneath it. Maori’s eyes were too avoidant of faces, looking past them instead of meeting them confidently and her movements were even more calculated when she was upset. As if she were just going through the strokes of life with only the most necessary actions.

When they had stabled their mounts for the night and went to stow away their packs, Dhrui watched Maordrid from her cot in the barracks that had been rebuilt since they claimed it. The older elf’s eyes kept flicking to and from Solas who was staying on the opposite side of the open chamber. Dhrui busied herself with gathering the clothes she needed to go bathe in the pools beneath the keep soon. Just above the edge of her cot, Dhrui caught the two make eye contact. Maordrid quickly grabbed her things and rushed to the door, pausing as if she wanted to say something to him but then she decided against it and slipped out. Solas let out a breath that no human could have heard from her distance, throwing his stuff over his shoulder before departing as well.

“The angst is strong in those two, amirite?” a mirthful voice asked from behind her. Dhrui’d forgotten Sera was in the room. The other girl had stripped down to a ratty sleeveless top due to the lingering heat of the day.

“Enjoying the show?” Dhrui said, getting to her feet and kicking her things beneath her bed.

“Hard to enjoy anything that Solas is involved with. Mao hasn’t been much fun since she got back. Y’don’t think it’s cause of him, do you? I swear, I’ll put those spiny sand lizards in his bedroll if he’s done anything,” Sera said, hopping down off the table she’d been lounging on. Dhrui shrugged, not knowing what to say.

“You gonna go down to the waters with everyone else?” she asked to change the subject. Sera snorted.

“Nah, I don’t like deep water,” she said.

“It’s only waist-high!” Sera puckered her lips. “C’mon, it’s better than letting sweat cool you down. It gets all crusty and gross after a while.”

“’Kay, fine. Let’s go.”

The two of them made their way down into the caverns that had been discovered beneath the keep. There was the well where the drinking water was, but also a whole separate spot fed by an underground waterfall. Dhrui was glad that Yin had put in the requisition to have the water source cleaned out, for which everyone had rejoiced after a hot day spent beneath the desert sun. Earlier, the more modest women—Cass and Viv—had slipped away by themselves, not at all eager to participate in the ‘pool party’ Hawke decided to throw together once the others returned.

Upon arrival, Dhrui saw that the mages had gotten creative and had drawn fire glyphs in one corner of the cave, creating a sort of sauna while everyone else went to enjoy the coolness of the waterfall at the centre. Sera broke off to go join the rowdier bunch near the waterfall while Dhrui decided on the steam. Inside the cloud, Dorian was sitting on a smooth stone discussing the upcoming Satinalia holiday with Vyr Hawke. Solas sat nearby in his breeches, head leaning back in the steam clearly tuning out the other two.

“…I mean, what do you get a man with the ability to get whatever he wants, whenever he wants?” Dorian was asking Hawke.

“Some good wine and delicious cock to go with it. In no particular order,” Vyr replied, all the mirth in her eyes. Dhrui choked on her own laugh, earning an appreciative glance from the Champion.

Vishante kaffas, woman, a little discretion?”

“To be honest, you’re talking about a man who talks openly about everything. That’s pretty spot on,” Dhrui chimed in much to Dorian’s already-blushing embarrassment. Vyr gestured in satisfaction.

“See? I know my men. You’re a lucky one, I almost stole Yin for myself,” Vyr said. “I happen to know my ladies as well. Bet you’re into a nice lay on a bed of flowers followed by a feast for fucking kings.”

“You propositioning me, Lady Hawke? ‘Cause just give me some food and we’re good,” Dhrui said. The Champion waggled her eyebrows in answer, then turned her glacial gaze to Solas who had hardly stirred.

“No, because I still haven’t figured out what Solas’ weakness is—oh, I mean, what his figurative Satinalia gift would be,” she said. Dorian gave a high pitched laugh and smoothed his damp hair back.

“Easy. Long walks on Fade beaches and orgies with spirits. Done.” Solas lifted his head just far enough to glare at Dorian through lidded eyes. “Maker, I’m joking, Solas, it’s called a joke.” He just scowled.

“So…I take that as a no,” Hawke said.

“Solas, I swear if you lose me my bet we can never be friends,” Dorian said.

“Why am I not surprised you have a bet on me?” Solas muttered, folding his legs beneath him lazily. Dhrui had heard of the bet in the early days of her joining. Usually she was one to partake in wagers, but this time she found she didn’t have the heart. Dorian leaned forward on his stone, suddenly serious. Hawke took one look at him, then Solas, and decided to excuse herself to the pool.

“C’mon, Dhru, let’s go get busy,” Hawke said, pulling her up. She was reluctant to join as she wanted to hear what Dorian had to say. Outside of the steam, Vyr let her go with a sly grin and pointed subtly to a little hiding spot behind some large stalagmites just behind where Solas would be sitting. “Tell me all the juicy details later.” Hawke winked and sauntered off toward Varric who was sitting obliviously at the side of the pool. There was a shout that was immediately cut off by the sound of splashing water. Dhrui didn’t have to even look to know that Hawke had tackled him into it. She crouched and crept between the stalagmites where she had a perfect position to spy.

“—and honestly, I don’t even know if I want to win the bet anymore,” Dorian was saying, “You see, I have a very dear friend out there by the waterfall. I’m sure you have heard the small legends that have sprung up in her wake. Do you follow?” Solas had straightened on his own rock, back no longer even touching the stone of the cavern. “Yes, now, I’ve come to observe that she cares for you on a deeper level than I believe you’re capable of realising. I am also quite adept at recognising complete pricks. For her sake, I am trying to see the good in you. But as her friend, I am also looking out for her well being.” Dorian gestured between them. “If you hurt her, be assured that you and I will have real issues.” The fiery Altus reclined again and the steam obscured his face. There was a moment of silence that Dhrui quickly took as a cue to escape to the pool before she was discovered. Solas emerged from the steam looking completely composed, regal even, despite being half-clothed. His eyes swept the area until they landed on Maori. Dhrui followed his gaze to see her sitting cross-legged before Yin who was busy braiding her hair in a new style. She saw conflict on the apostate’s face and his body jerked as if to join them, but then he seemed to decide otherwise, walking to the waterfall where he disappeared beneath for a spell to wash off. When he re-emerged, he took his leave, gathering his shirt on the way out and throwing it over his shoulder.

Not one to miss much, Maordrid noticed immediately. Her face cracked and real disappointment shone through as he left. Dhrui had half a mind to return to Dorian and give him a tongue lashing. Obviously Solas had reservations of his own on the matter and little—if any—support. Yin noticed her then and waved her over excitedly. She shook her head at him and rolled her eyes slowly in the direction Solas had gone. Yin blinked, following her gaze, then looked back at her and nodded. That was all the approval she needed before she ran herself under the waterfall quickly and gathered her belongings near the opening of the cave. So much for a fun little party.

Outside, there was no sign of Solas. She hurriedly returned to her tent for fresh clothes, setting her wet ones out to dry by the fire, then cast her gaze about for the runaway elf. At first she thought maybe he had left the keep entirely but then realised he wasn’t far off at all, merely leaning against one of the merlons just outside the light of the campfire and behind the circle of tents themselves. Dhrui walked over and joined him looking out at the darkened desert.

“I heard everything he said to you.” Might as well start with the truth. At her confession, she saw him bow his head out of the corner of her eye.

“I know,” he said.

“Yeah, well, he wasn’t very tactful about it, but his heart is in the right place,” she said. “I didn’t come up here to defend him…or talk about that. That’s between you and her.” She felt him look at her.

“Thank you,” was all he said.

“I actually wanted to suggest something,” she said, making her voice gentle. “She’s not one to ask for favours or anything from anyone, and you’ve known her longer than I have, so maybe you already know that. Point is, I’ve seen her staring pretty wistfully at Maryden’s lute when she plays in the tavern. She mentioned she played, but I’ve yet to see. With Satinalia coming up, I was thinking it would be a perfect gift for her.” Solas turned to her halfway, one hand resting on the stone as he peered at her curiously.

“It sounds like that was your plan. It is very thoughtful, I would not want to take that from you,” he said. Dhrui cocked her head, laughing quietly.

“Don’t worry, I have other ideas,” she said. “But even if you don’t return those…deeper feelings, I know you two are close. It would be a good gift.” Solas gave her a small smile.

“Yes, it would be,” he said, looking back out at the sandy wasteland. “She plays beautifully.” Dhrui smiled fondly at him.

“Solas?” He hummed in answer. “Is there anything you might like? Or want?” He seemed thrown off by the queries. His reactions to such questions were almost identical to Maori’s, as if neither were used to having friends or people that cared. It broke her heart, really.

“I…I’m not sure,” he said. She smiled and patted his arm.

“Don’t worry, I think I have an idea for you.” Her ears perked at something on the wind and realised that the others were returning from the caverns. “One more thing…” He nodded, clearly picking up on the noises as well. “I hope you know I consider you a friend. And you’ll never not be. If you ever need someone to talk to…I’m here. I’m sorry for pissing you off when we first met.” With that, she scurried off, too embarrassed to wait for a response. He could figure it out.

Chapter Text

Maordrid sat at the top of a rock stack a day later, smoking her pipe in deep thought as she stared at the walls of Adamant just visible a league out. The quiver bearing Tahiel’s weapon lay beside her half-forgotten. She hadn’t told anyone what she planned to do—nor would she. It was another risk she had to take. Dhrui and Dorian had threatened that if she willingly walked into danger again, they would ‘treat her like the child she was’. She reminded them both that she was old enough to have witnessed the beginning of both their lineages, which then prompted several senility jokes.

She exhaled slowly, letting the silvery-blue smoke pour from her lips.

Ah, yes. Yin had declared his core group for Adamant just before noon, so it came as no surprise that he wanted her at his side. He’d almost refused Dorian—a sweet thought to protect his lover—but the Altus had given him an earful about special treatment. However, he had not chosen Dhrui, ordering her instead to stay back with Varric, Blackwall, Cassandra, and Iron Bull. Dhrui had of course argued vehemently but it hadn’t been even closely as effective as Dorian’s outcry. He was staunch in protecting his sister. Maordrid hadn’t told him that she agreed with having her stay back, but a small part of her wished for the comfort that she had begun to draw from Dhrui’s presence. Nevertheless, with Dorian, Yin, Solas, Cole, Hawke, and Alistair, she knew they could take on the challenge in the Fade. She promised Dhrui it would be the last time she acted without her, but the younger woman was sceptical. In all fairness, she would be too in her position.

The sound of feet scrabbling against coarse stone drew her from her revelry. Maordrid clenched her pipe between her teeth and went to the edge to help Dhrui up, trying not to laugh at the woman’s exasperation. The rock column was at least ten meters up with some difficult foot holds.

“Aha! I thought I smelled home on the wind!” Dhrui exclaimed, pointing to the pipe in her mouth. “My father used to smoke.” Maordrid smiled as she inhaled and then blew out a stream into the arid late noon air.

“My ritual before our fights,” she said, taking a sip from her flask. Dhrui watched her with amusement.

“I thought it was a ritual you had with Blackwall, Dorian, Yin, and…Solas?” she asked.

“I’ll have another drink with them before we march,” she said, then turned back to the outline of Adamant, rubbing her hands together. “We will be fighting demons and Grey Wardens in three hours. And in four we will have entered the Fade physically. Will you be all right with us gone?” Dhrui made a protesting noise.

“You’re going to be in the Fade where a demon has been trying to kill you for the last few months and you’re asking me if I’m going to be content as a halla on spring grass? Piss off.” Maordrid held out her pipe without looking and grinned when the girl snatched it away. “Stop trying to win me over with treats, it’s working.”

“I will give my pocket treats to Blackwall to keep you content. Or is it Hawke now, I can’t tell?” Dhrui smacked her on the arm, coughing after inhaling too sharply.

“How did you know about that? Vyr swore she was the queen of stealth!” Dhrui blew her smoke out at Maordrid who barely reacted save for a slow blink of her eyes.

“Because Hawke tripped over my cot when she was slipping out to meet you.” Dhrui swore.

“I hope Blackwall didn’t hear,” she muttered. Maordrid quirked an eyebrow.

“Who knows, he might be into that sort of thing,” Maori said in a wry tone. Dhrui scratched her head, looking uncomfortable. Maordrid had known about Blackwall’s attraction to Dhrui since arriving that night on the Exalted Plains. The elf had been carrying around his little nug carving ever since. She’d almost exposed his identity to her back at Skyhold recently, but had decided against it. She knew Dhrui would hate her for it when the truth came out. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t, she thought, digging a twig into her pipe to clean it out.

Someone shouted up at them from the ground. Dhrui poked her head over the edge. The others were gathered below just inside of a small canyon where they were setting up a temporary camp with supplies that they planned to leave behind for the return after the battle. Griffon Wing Keep was almost an entire day of travel on the other side of the canyon.

“Looks like it’s time,” she said. Maordrid joined her, waving down at Dorian squinting up at them beneath his hand. “Uh. I have no idea how I’m gonna get down. What was in your pipe? It seems…much higher up than it was earlier.” Maori’s chuckle was cruel as she grabbed her quiver, sliding it over her torso and stepping up to the very edge.

“I think I have heard a story like this—the Dalish princess, trapped at the top of a lonely tower, waiting for her Warden to rescue her. Or wait, is she looking to the skies for her valiant Hawke to swoop in—” Dhrui rolled her eyes and placed a hand in the centre of Maori’s chest, giving her a firm push over the edge. Maordrid laughed wildly, spinning in the air and shifting into a raven, gliding safely back to the ground beside Dorian whose face changed from horror to repulsion in a frame of a heartbeat. She stood beside him and looked back up at the tower where Dhrui was pacing about, cursing loudly in Antivan and bad elven.

“You two play some very stupid games,” he said, watching the Lavellan. “You’ll be the death of me yet.”

“I would rather not be,” she remarked, sighing.

“How is she going to get down?”

“She could step over the edge. Or, you know, stay up there forev—”

Fasta vass, Maori, go get your apprentice or Yin is going to skin us all. I’ll keep a lookout.” Dorian cursed under his breath and trudged back down toward the canyon. “All clear!” he called back. Maordrid laughed and shifted into a griffon, arcing up and over the tower before hovering at Dhrui’s level. The elf climbed unsteadily onto her back, grumbling.

“I hate you so much.”

At the bottom, Dhrui tackled her into the sand once she was back in her elf form.

It was Dorian who finally tore them apart, although Maordrid’s face was entirely caked with sand as she had been laughing far too hard to defend herself as Dhrui exacted her revenge.

When they reached the others at the small creek, no one looked surprised.

“I’m sure you’ll terrify the demons back into the Fade with your new face, darling,” Vivienne drawled as Maori washed her face clean of sand.

“She’ll just trick them into following her up into high places and they’ll be too scared to climb down,” Dhrui said, trying very hard to keep a straight face as she filled her waterskin beside her friend. Vivienne rolled her eyes and walked off. Maordrid had been anticipating a second attack, so when it came she spun on the balls of her feet still in a crouch and used Dhrui’s momentum to toss her into the creek.

After that, even the most reserved of their group laughed.


----------------------------------------------------


A few hours later, they joined with Commander Cullen and the Inquisition’s largest body of forces. Yin spoke briefly with Cullen about the overall plan, then came running down the bulbous stone cliffs to where Dorian, Maori, Solas, and Cole were waiting. Hawke had already joined the fray, being one of the first up the ladders on the walls.

“The trebuchets are going to fire and then we’re marching in as soon as that gate opens,” Yin said once he reached them. He put his helm on just as there was a shout from above and they all looked up to see Cullen giving the signal. The siege weapons whirred and launched their contents in coordinated attacks. The flaming projectiles arced through the air, colliding with the old walls. Even from that distance they could see the devastation it wreaked on the Grey Wardens. “Let’s go! They’ve got the battering ram—we’re in behind them!”

They all fell in with Yin as they charged down from their cover in the rocks, their group entirely shielded by the Inquisitor’s and Maori’s Aegis spells. Solas cast barriers on them as a precautionary measure as they reached the walls where rocks and arrows were hailing down. The battering ram in shape of a fist swung once, twice, and on the third time, the heavy gates buckled like foil at the bottom, big enough to let a swarm of Inquisition troops in. Yin led the way in, Maori joining him at the front with Cole to start the attack.

There weren’t many Wardens in the courtyard that stood against their deadly group and when the last man fell, Cullen and Alistair came running in behind them wearing their helmets. A shot from a trebuchet screamed through the air above, blasting a chunk of wall down. A Warden from above screamed a retreat inward.

“That’s your way in, Inquisitor. Best make use of it,” Cullen said. “We’ll keep the main host of demons occupied for as long as we can.”

“We’ll be fine. Keep our men safe,” Yin said, already turning away.

“We’ll do what we have to, Inquisitor,” Cullen said. “Hawke has been up there with our soldiers assisting them until you arrive.” His urgent report was punctuated by a man falling to his death off the walls, pushed by a demon. “There’s too much resistance. Our men on the ladders can’t get a foothold. If you can clear out the battlements, we’ll cover your advance.” Yin nodded his farewell to Cullen and Alistair joined him in the lead. Maori brought up the end to watch Solas and Dorian’s backs should they be attacked, with Cole watching all else.

They ascended to the next courtyard and were immediately assaulted by demons and their paired Wardens. Maori summoned her sword and spun her staff above her head, letting a whip of lightning erupt from either end. The magic lashed out at the shades attempting to breach their defence, but they were not prepared for her sword. They had barely finished off the last demon before Yin was running off to the next area, obviously trying to find a way up onto the walls where the fight was the most intense. It was not to be just yet, as the only open entryway was a bridge that led to the main bailey. Inside was another courtyard where a few Wardens were squaring off against their own, protesting some ritual. Yin wasted no time dashing down the stairs as a fight with more shades erupted. Alistair was right next to him this time. Maori chose to hang back with their ranged, keeping her eye on Yin. He was trying to fight as dirth’ena enasalin. He had not told her of his decision and she knew it was because he knew she would have advised him against it. His grip on the spirit sword was strong, but maintaining it took honing one’s willpower over more than just a few months. She searched for signs of flagging in case she needed to feed him her will or intervene.

“Brothers, can’t you see this is madness?” a young Warden screamed as their brethren engaged Yin and Alistair.

“It’s no use, their minds are not their own!” another cried. A spellbinder teleported to a corner of the courtyard where he aimed his attacks at the rebelling Wardens. Yin and the others had not yet seen him, but she had. The spellbinder locked eyes with her and quickly lay down a half-circle of icy glyphs before him, clearly not realising that she was a mage. Her lips twitched into a grin as she broke away to fight him.

He fired a barrage of frostbolts at her that she danced her way through without even calling for her magic. Invisible fire mines erupted near her feet, nearly melting her boots.

“Clever,” she whispered, spinning her staff in her left hand as she flung her right out, sending a path of ice straight through his glyphs that she hopped onto, using its slickness to propel herself toward him. The attack triggered his traps, sending up a wall of ice that he cowered behind. Boosted by an inverted Mind Blast beneath her feet, Maordrid launched herself over the ice wall and onto the other side where the spellbinder was waiting with levitating ice spikes. He very nearly succeeded in his trap, but she shattered the ice with her sword. One spike cut through the only unarmoured spot on her arm in consequence of her miscalculation, but her sword corrected for it as it cleaved through a hole in his armour at his neck. He gurgled, dropping his spellbook and collapsing. Maori let out the breath she’d been holding and let her sword dissipate.

Some kind of negotiation was happening on the other side of her icy prison, but then she heard her name called. The wall of ice was three times her height, but also a barrier just asking to be exploded. She scrawled a fire mine on the ice, then stepped back, calling her battle axe into being. Baring her teeth, she swung it with a roar and delighted in the way the ice exploded beneath spirit axe and fire. Dorian and Solas stood on the other side looking terrified of her.

“Save some for our actual enemies, would you?” Dorian said when he recovered. She just grinned.

“At least some of the Wardens still have their wits and reason,” Alistair said once they’d regrouped and headed out. “I think the access to the battlements is just up ahead. Let’s go.” So they did, running through two darkened areas before they finally found the stairs to the top. Yin fired a few different coloured balls of light in the air when they arrived, clearly some signal for Cullen. As they advanced down the walkway, a few Wardens at the end caught sight of them but were quickly vaporised by a hurling ball of stone. They continued on grimly in a block sort of formation, Maori and Cole at the back, Solas and Dorian in the middle, and Yin and Alistair pushing at the front. As they passed and cleaned house, ladders from the other side clanked into place and soldiers clambered up, eager to fight.

“I see Hawke!” Solas shouted over the din as they struggled to take down a particularly powerful Rage demon. “Past that tower!” Maori jumped up onto the walls to get a better look and quickly spotted the woman with her distinct casting. She was fighting what looked to be a Pride demon and doing quite well at avoiding its attacks, but hardly landing any of her own. The same could not be said for the other less experienced soldiers. They were scrambling to keep intact as Pride rained chaos upon them.

“Maori, Solas, go help Vyr!” Yin ordered, then shouted in pain as Rage raked a molten claw across his armour. Dorian swore in Tevene and began casting necromantic spells, reanimating three Grey Wardens.

Solas grabbed her hand and they went running to Hawke’s aid, ducking and dodging deadly missiles. Inside the tower, they found a few health and lyrium potions that they set out in plain sight for the Inquisitor and Dorian once they came through. Solas tossed her one of his lyrium vials that she downed with a grimace, feeling it turn her blood to fire.

“Bloody hate lyrium,” she growled as they emerged through the tower and quickly scanned the battleground.

“Can you replicate what you did with that Pride demon back at the Temple of Sacred Ashes?” Solas asked. She gave him a look.

“Is that a challenge, Fadewalker?” He quirked a grin and then Fade stepped to engage a Despair giving Hawke trouble from the sides. She clicked her tongue as she propped her staff up against some crates so that she could summon her spear.

“About time, you sexy elves!” Vyr called out as Maori joined the fight. Unfortunately, storm and winter was of hardly any use against Pride, which meant getting up close and personal with her spirit weapon. Vyr kept casting fire glyphs and trying to do something with blood magic, but it wasn’t much hindering the demon. It only laughed at her mockingly.

“Shield me!” she shouted at Vyr, who promptly cast one over her. Maordrid charged in, whipping her spear into a position horizontal to her waist. Pride saw her immediately and lashed out with two whips of lightning, following it with another laugh as she rolled to dodge the blows. She felt the ground charging with deadly energy, but leaped up onto one of its arms before it could recover, running onto its shoulders where she spun the spear again and stabbed into the plates at its neck, trying to dislodge them. The demon roared in pain and reached backward to swat her away, but she pushed off of its head, backflipping out of the way. She tumbled sloppily to the stone, losing her spear in the process.

“There’s a weak spot behind its horns!” Maori shouted over to Vyr as she rolled away from a swiping claw. As she took momentary cover behind a pile of rubble, her head swivelled back and forth looking for Solas. Her eyes latched onto him just as he took a blast of Despair’s ice to the chest. Somehow, he endured its attack and managed to stick his staff into the stream, unleashing a column of fire that evaporated the ice and took Despair in its own chest. The demon shrieked painfully as his fire engulfed it like dry straw. After it was gone, Solas doubled over, clutching his chest. He glanced up briefly, lips blue with cold as he tried to keep to his feet. His lips moved silently as he tried to say something, fear crossing his features. Magic sparked at his fingers and she realised she was the one in danger as her cover suddenly exploded under the weight of the Pride demon. She lost a vambrace in its attack, but managed to escape surprisingly unscathed for her record.

“Sorry! It really seems to like you!” Vyr shouted as she shot a Stonefist at the back of its skull. Pride roared and swiped backward blindly—a lucky hit that knocked the Champion off her feet. Hawke skid some way on the stone on her back, groaning, but staying down. Maori gritted her teeth, summoning another spear, but then cried out in relief as a myriad of deadly magic flew through the air behind her at Pride, heralding the arrival of the others. Cole flashed through the air toward the demon, daggers bared. She saw Yin Fade step to Solas’ side, helping the elf to stand as he simultaneously bombarded Pride with a flurry of magic. Dorian appeared at her side with a rejuvenation potion, hair perfect despite everything.

“You are a beautiful sight, lethallan,” she said, gratefully accepting his offer. He tweaked his moustache and helped her to her feet.

“And you’re a beautiful little disaster,” he replied in kind, waving his staff. A purple aura sprung up its length and a screaming spell erupted from it, seeking out the demon. It sank into Pride’s armour like a second skin. “Now’s the time to finish it off!”

As a whole, the five of them attacked as a single entity, overwhelming Pride. It stumbled back, no longer laughing. Maordrid took the opportunity to rush it head on, weapon in hand. She reeled her arms back and with all of her strength aided by magic, she thrust her spear up into its roaring maw. Its whole body convulsed and began to fall forward. Maordrid rolled backward into a crouch to avoid being crushed and saw Hawke standing in its stead, bladed end of her staff glowing red hot and smoking from where she had attacked it from behind. She rubbed the back of her head, staring at her in admiration.

“You’re wicked with that spear,” Hawke remarked. Yin and the others joined the Champion where Pride had fallen, but Maori went to Solas who was seated off to the side on a step, still recovering from the residual effects of Despair. He would be unable to cast any fire spells until it wore off. She knelt before him, taking his face into her hands.

“I’m fine,” he said, but he wasn’t shivering. She whispered a very gentle warming spell into him and watched as his blue-tinged lips slowly went back to normal.

“No, you are hypothermic. You need to rest for a second,” she said firmly, taking his hands in hers and repeating the same spell. He groaned in relief and shivered violently. “Where was your barrier?” He looked abashed.

“It was not Vyr’s shield that protected you,” he said to her surprise.

“You hasty fool,” she said, but squeezed his shoulder.

“I think I can stand now,” he said, pulling himself to his feet with use of his staff. She grimaced and yanked a potion from his belt, shoving it into his hands. “Ah. Yes. That would certainly help.” He drained the potion in one go with a gasp, then looked over at Yin who was discussing a new plan with Vyr who took off at a run to do whatever. Maordrid remained with Solas until she was sure he wasn’t about to keel over, then fell back with Cole in their previous formation as they moved on.

“The walls are cleared. Vyr is more of a beast in battle than I thought,” Yin explained when no enemies popped out within a few meters of walking.

“Yes, coupled with Commander Cullen, he will hold a path open for us,” Alistair said when they’d taken some stairs farther into the keep. Through a steel door, they ended up on the other side of a scaffolding barrier in the main bailey but spent no time lingering, quickly pushing through yet another door. On the other side, a group of Inquisition soldiers were finishing off a couple of demons, much to their relief. Unsurprisingly, Hawke was with them already.

“Try to keep up, Quizzy, I’m on fiyah,” Vyr said as she downed a lyrium potion.

“Hawke saved a lot of lives on the battlements, Inquisitor,” one of the soldiers said, gazing at the Champion with reverence.

“Not all the Wardens have stood against us,” Alistair said. “Hopefully that means Clarel will listen to reason.” Yin nodded and walked up to the last gate where a few men stood guard. Maori could feel powerful magic on the other side of it. Her hand strayed to the quiver at her side, ensuring that Tahiel’s weapon was still within.

“Ser! Our forces are ready when you are,” another man reported to Yin. He nodded his assent and Hawke tossed potions to everyone as they accumulated by the door. On a count of three, the soldiers opened it and their party slipped through into one last vestibule before emerging into the ritual area. The largest gathering of Grey Wardens yet had assembled in a courtyard below the entryway. Above them was a sort of raised area where Maori saw two people standing, talking amongst themselves as they watched a circle of Wardens feeding magic into a green slash in the air. That was where they planned to bring Nightmare through.

“Clarel and Erimond,” Alistair hissed. “Be careful.” Yin nodded and motioned for everyone to split into two groups—Cole, Maori, and Solas went down the right stair and the others went left.

“Wardens, we are betrayed by the very world we have sworn to protect!” the Orlesian voice of Clarel spoke out. She clearly planned to give an inspirational speech to her people, but then the greasy snake called Livius interrupted her, looking impatient. At the bottom of the stairs, Solas held his arm out, barring Maori from going any farther. Cole slipped into the shadows effortlessly, awaiting instruction.

“This is madness,” Solas whispered as they watched an older man in well-cared for Warden regalia stepped up to Clarel. They exchanged words before the man offered up his throat. The three of them watched as their leader slit his throat for a lie.

“That’s our signal,” Maori whispered, pointing to Alistair across the way who was flashing his sword at them. They burst from cover, watching their surroundings for danger as Yin and Alistair confronted the Order.

“Stop them! We must complete the ritual!” Erimond demanded, scurrying to the front of the dais. Yin held his hand up and walked closer to the ritual, unfazed by those that drew their weapons, ready to attack.

“Clarel, you can’t complete this ritual!” he shouted up to her, “Erimond is lying to you!”

“Lying? Is that what you think? They’re fighting the Blight! Keeping the world safe from darkspawn—who wouldn’t want that?” Erimond said in a mocking tone. “And yes, the ritual requires blood sacrifice. Hate me for that if you must, but do not hate the Wardens for doing their duty.” The man crossed his arms smugly, but Maori could see some damage had been done to Clarel’s faith as her face crumpled.

“We make the sacrifices no one else will. Our warriors die proudly for a world that will never thank them,” she said. Alistair stormed up beside Yin, face furious.

“And then he binds your mages to Corypheus!” he shouted. Clarel gasped, stumbling back.

“Corypheus?” she repeated. “But he’s dead!” Maordrid had the urge to throw her spear at Erimond as he whispered more lies into the woman’s ear. She could barely make out what he was saying, but she knew what happened next. Clarel closed her eyes, a frown creasing her aged brow.

“Bring it through!” she ordered. The Wardens at the rift wasted no time and the air crackled with magic. An image of a ghastly demon refracted in its green depths.

“Please, using blood magic like this isn’t worth what you think it is!” Hawke cried as the free Wardens began to advance.

“I helped fight the Archdemon in Ferelden! Could you consider listening to me?” Alistair tried fruitlessly. A piercing shriek escaped from the Fade, ricocheting eerily off the stone walls.

“Dammit, listen to these people!” Yin shouted, flinging his arm out. “Does their presence mean nothing? Their words? We have spared as many Wardens as we could! I don’t want to kill you, but you’re being used—many of you knew it and stopped fighting, I know there are some in here that agree.”

“The mages who’ve done the ritual? They’re not right. They were my friends, but now they’re like puppets on a string!” Maori didn’t see who said it, but it was enough to spark disquiet amongst their ranks.

“You cannot let fear sway your mind, Warden Chernoff!” Clarel said with reinforced vigour.

“He’s afraid? You truly are blind. You’re afraid you’ve ordered all your people to their deaths for nothing!” Vyr said.

“If this was a fight against future Blights, I would be at your side! But it’s a lie!” Alistair shouted and his voice nearly cracked with emotion. His words finally seemed to reach through, tearing down the last layer of uncertainty amongst the Grey Wardens. They all turned to look up at Clarel.

“Clarel, we have come so far!” Erimond said, finally seeing that his operation was in danger. “You’re the only one who can do this!” Maori didn’t see her face when the Warden-Commander looked at the Tevinter, but she heard the accusation in her voice. However, it wasn’t strong enough for she spoke as if she meant to bargain with him.

“Perhaps we can test the truth of these charges, to avoid more bloodshed.”

“Or perhaps I should bring in a more reliable ally!” Erimond growled, then began cracking the end of his staff on the stone by his feet. Each one shot a ripple of red magic across the stones. “My master thought you might come here, Inquisitor! He sent me this to welcome you!” Maordrid barely flinched as the dragon announced its arrival with a guttural cry. Its massive shadow eclipsed the courtyard entirely, and then suddenly a body slammed into her as a blast of fiery lyrium struck the ground where they’d been standing. Dorian helped her up from where she’d fallen.

“Don’t check out on me now, Maori. You know what happens next,” he whispered as his eyes followed the dragon that had perched itself on top of a tower. There was movement on the balcony where Clarel stood with Erimond and suddenly Corypheus’ dragon swung its great head to look there. A ball of lightning flew up and hit the dragon in the face, pissing it off.

“These Wardens aren’t bright,” she said as Erimond fled and Clarel ran after him. In the wake of the dragon’s arrival, another Pride demon had somehow stepped through the rift. But fortunately, the Wardens had turned to their side and were working to bring it down.

“We have to get after her!” Yin shouted, beckoning to them. They all ran after their Inquisitor who chased the flicker of Clarel’s coattails around the corner. Shades oozed across their path, but they proved to hardly be an obstacle as they took turns hitting them with blows on their way through—each time the seventh blow came, the demons were finished. Maordrid felt like she knew the layout of the keep even though she had never set foot in it before. She had studied the map that had been drawn in Varric’s transcript many times.

“That bloody thing is hunting us! We have to draw it away from our allies!” Alistair shouted ahead of her.

“Working on it!” Yin said. “Cover!” They all barely managed to scamper into cover of a wall as the dragon landed on the side of the keep, claws scrabbling for purchase as it unleashed an uncontrolled blast of breath. Yin fired his own magic at it, hitting it square in its infected eye with a fireball. The creature howled and flew off, preparing to come back for more.

They ran through a dangerous corridor, barely escaping up the stairs at the end of it when it returned. Maori had grabbed Cole and yanked him up the stairs just before the stream reached him. Not long after that, she saved Yin, and Vyr in turn saved them both when they thought they were in the clear. At last, they made it to the summit of Adamant where Clarel was facing off against Erimond who was out of path to run.

“You! You destroyed the Grey Wardens!” Clarel cried, her voice audible from there. Erimond skidded to the end of the bridge and attempted to form an offensive spell against her, but a perfectly aimed Stonefist to the gut knocked him flat. He laughed, struggling to sit up.

“You did that to yourself, you stupid bitch,” he croaked. As he spoke, Yin walked obliviously toward the end, followed closely by everyone else. Dorian and Maori lingered behind with trepidation.

“This is it, isn’t it?” Dorian asked her, his steps slowing. She didn’t answer, eyes staring ahead. Her heart was hammering, despite all that she had done to prepare herself. She managed a nod for him. “If I die—”

“You will not. On my life, I swear it, Dorian,” she said, looking at him. “Now duck.” They both crouched just as the dragon flew over and landed, snatching Clarel up in its jaws, then pushing off from the bridge. It flew around again only to land on another wall where it swung its head side to side before releasing the poor Warden. Her body flew like a ragdoll, landing just at the duo’s feet. The dragon shook the ground as it crashed down before them, snarling.

Fenedhis!” she uttered, staggering backward and gripping Dorian’s hand reflexively. The dragon’s eyes glinted like corrupted rubies as it prowled forward. Dorian’s hand clenched around hers. The dragon almost seemed to laugh as its great body coiled up, preparing to end them first, but suddenly there was a flash of light from Clarel beneath its belly and the dragon’s pounce was disrupted.

“Move!” Dorian screamed, throwing his body once more into hers. The dragon went skidding past them and the bridge quaked beneath its weight, beginning to shatter and break as it neared the end of the walk. The thing scraped at the stones with its claws before finally falling into the abyss below. Yin was at the end where the creature had disappeared, scrambling away as the stones fell, trying to help Alistair who clung on for dear life. “Amatus!” Dorian forsook her, running toward his lover. Maori went to follow, knowing the inevitable was coming, but then Solas was at her side, trying to pull her to safety.

“Run!” he begged, but then the bridge gave out beneath them. She lost him as they fell into the gaping chasm below. A flash of green lit up the darkness like the opening of a great eye and they plummeted into the Abyss.

Chapter Text

She curled into a ball instinctively as a sickly green landscape grew in size, revealing rocks and death below. She awaited the inevitable collision with her eyes closed…moments passed and she opened them again, confused. She was hovering inches above a stone column. Upon placing her feet back on solid ground, her brain tried to figure out where she was directionally until her eyes were drawn to a familiar silhouette in the air above her. The Black City.

There were numerous groans around her as her companions recovered. Hawke was on a rock pillar just across from her staggering about and below Yin was beginning to stir on the ground.

“Well, this is unexpected,” Alistair said from out of view.

“We were falling…and now I’m not falling but I’m sideways, oh balls, I’mgonnabesick—” Hawke said, then was promptly what she said she would be, her vomit thankfully flowing downward as it should. “Someone explain what’s going on?”

“This is the Fade,” she heard Solas say, and then he walked into view, appearing ahead of Yin. His gaze was riveted to the city in the distance. “The Inquisitor opened a rift…we came through and survived. I never thought I would ever find myself here physically.” He pointed at a sinister structure, really not that far from where they all stood. “And look, the Black City, almost close enough to touch.”

“Yes,” Yin said, sounding equally as distant. “Incredible.” There was startled noise from above Maori and she looked to see Cole stumbling around. The spirit ran past her, spinning in horrified circles.

“Cole, how does it feel to be back home?” Solas asked, seemingly oblivious. Cole finally landed beside them, stammering.

“I—I can’t be here! Not like this! Not like me!” he wailed, but Solas approached him calmly, putting his hands out to console him.

“It’s all right. We’ll make it right,” Solas said. Cole cast his gaze up to Maori, surprisingly.

“Maori knows this place is wrong, she understands! I made myself forget when I made myself real. But I know it wasn’t like this!” he cried. Maordrid walked carefully down her column and spotted Dorian rounding a boulder on the ground proper. He reached up to her with both hands and helped her down while the others continued to talk amongst themselves.

“This is much more disappointing than the first time I visited the Fade,” Dorian told her. “I can’t believe I agreed to come here, even after you described all the horrific details.” She didn’t answer. A seed of uncertainty had been planted in Adamant and had quickly taken root in her heart. Before she could move on, Dorian yanked her back, eyes fixed on the others. “There’s something you need to see.”

“What?” she whispered as he took her back the way he had just come. On the other side of the rock was a shadowed crevasse. He pointed into it, but it was unnecessary--her eyes found the problem.

The corpse of a thin, bald elf lay on her side at the bottom, right arm and leg trapped below. The woman wore badly damaged Elvhen armour. There were burns all over her body and face, but she recognised it immediately.

“You know her, don’t you? The armour stood out to me.” She nodded, feeling sick.

“That’s…that’s me,” she forced out.

“Well. If you were worried about someone recognising you in this timeline, I’d say you’ve nothing to worry about. What a sorry creature,” he remarked with a grim expression. “Do you remember what I said about said about the other version of yourself?”

“How can she be here? If my body was to be found anywhere in the Fade, wouldn’t it be in the Fade at the Temple of Sacred Ashes?” she asked.

“You said this is a powerful demon—it was present at the Temple, feeding off all of that fear, no? What’s to say it didn’t drag your body over here just to get into your head? To break you down?” They looked at each other, too many questions and feelings of uncertainty passing between them.

“Real or not…we can’t let it in,” she said, but even she didn’t believe her own words. “If my world perished, then that is something I will have to live with.” She tried not to break when he squeezed her arm.

“Let’s catch up with the others,” Dorian said and they hurried away from the grim sight, finding that the others had moved more toward the centre of the first area and were clearly looking for them.

“Maori, do you sense the same presence that has been in your dreams?” Solas asked when they joined the group. She needed only to look at him for him to derive her answer.

“Great. So that thing that’s nearly killed my friend is…nearby,” Yin deadpanned.

“Wait, so you knew about this?” Hawke asked her.

“Yes, did I forget to mention I have foreseen all of this—demons and all? It must have slipped my mind, terribly sorry,” Maordrid deadpanned. Hawke threw her hands up in defence. Maordrid turned her attention to the others, “The thing from my dreams is entirely different than the demon that controls this area. It may not even interfere with any of you. Regardless, we mustn’t allow ourselves to be separated.” Alistair jumped down from his spot, rubbing his chin.

“The rift where the Wardens were summoning the demons wasn’t far from where we fell. Is it possible we could get out the same way?” he asked Solas and Yin.

“We have to try. I have no desire to see what’s lurking in this part of the Fade,” Yin said. “Let’s go.” He started forward fearlessly—or at least made a good effort to appear so. Maordrid nudged Dorian, jerking her head toward Yin.

“Go, I’ll be fine,” she whispered. Dorian nodded gratefully and jogged up to him. Yin’s shoulders lost some of their tension immediately, but hers tightened as what felt like infinite eyes bore down upon her. Her feet caught on the uneven stone ground and she came to a stop, breaths coming out too loud, echoing in her ears. It was all too familiar.

“Walk with me.” She looked up to see that Solas had come back for her and was waiting. The others drew farther ahead. Carefully, she put one foot in front of the other, taking her gaze off him for a second to look down again.

“It’s close, Solas,” she whispered. “I can feel it.”

“How can you hope for success when you are so easily deceived? Your spirit will be dominated. Maordrid gasped and looked up, but Solas had vanished. It’s already hunting me. It knows I’m here. She swallowed her self-loathing and hurriedly caught up with the others already far ahead. Yin was just asking the real Solas what he thought of the Fade, completely unaware of her dallying.

“I would not have chosen this area, but…to be walking here physically?” he sighed, sounding exhilarated. Ignoring the immediate danger, she was too. It was the closest thing to home as she had been in a long time, twisted as this place was.

“Well, anything else of note?” Yin asked nervously.

“The Fade is shaped by intent and emotion. Remain focused, and it will lead you where you wish to go,” he said, voice ringing out confidently. “The demon that controls this area is extremely powerful. Some variety of fear, I would guess. I suggest you remain wary of its manipulations and prepare for what is certain to be a fascinating experience.”

“He sounds like a fucking tour guide,” Hawke sputtered beside Maori before trudging to the front with Alistair and Yin. Cole took her place, his shoulder nearly brushing hers as they walked.

“You feel it more than them, visceral, vying for control,” he whispered, voice quavering with his own fear.

“Yes. I am afraid. But my desire to kill it is stronger,” she said, keeping her eyes fixed ahead of them. “Stay with them and they will get you out. Do not worry about me anymore, Cole.” Compassion pulled at the end of his sleeve in distress, but kept walking with her. They didn’t immediately move on, as Yin wandered off the raised path of stone to investigate a strange worn statue, though he came to an abrupt stop as he saw something in the water at the foot of it. When they all gathered to see what he was looking at, she saw words though she had no time to read them as Yin approached another strange scene of a spirit seated at a table. He seemed to hear something that no one else did, breaking away from the group clearly searching for something. He came back seconds later with a candle that he placed carefully before the translucent being. It vanished with a pop.

“Dreamers,” she realised aloud.

“We should help them if we encounter any others,” he said. The others didn’t look so certain, but they didn’t voice their dissent. Yin walked on. He was acting strangely, as if drawn to points in the Fade by an invisible string. Dorian looked the most worried of them all, keeping close on Yin’s heels as he went. Around corner of some jagged rocks, they encountered a small group of hostile wraiths. Yin didn’t even look at them, eyes on a shimmering object just beyond their enemies. Solas was quick to react, shielding him as the others jumped into action, dispatching the denizens of the Fade. Maordrid realised what had drawn his gaze—it was a shattered Eluvian. His hand was pressed to its surface and his head was bowed as if he were listening to something.

“Inquisitor?” Alistair asked uneasily, but then Yin snapped out of his strange trance immediately.

“It was singing and now he’s stronger,” Cole said.

“That isn’t ominous at all,” Vyr said, looking at the elf as if he’d grown another appendage.

“I remember Novferen had a story about one of those mirrors. It didn’t have a happy ending,” Alistair said.

“Stop…stop touching foreboding objects! Remember what happened last time?” Dorian admonished. Yin ignored them all and went back the way they’d come. Dorian looked helplessly at her, waiting for the others to go on some before attempting to speak. “Is there anything here that will hurt him? Or any of us?”

“Just the demons, as far as I know,” she said. “But…be wary. I think my presence may have altered something.”

“Yes, that’s exactly what concerns me,” he muttered. “Justinia is next, correct?” She nodded, following him between the stones. The others were already nearing the top of a weathered walkway. Yin’s entire body stuttered to a stop, clearly spotting the spirit awaiting them. She stopped beside Solas as Yin and Alistair approached cautiously.

“What…? That can’t be,” Alistair said in a hushed voice. Justinia merely regarded them as if it were the most normal thing in the world for her to be there.

“I greet you, Warden,” she said, face too serene. “And you, Champion.”

“Divine Justinia?” Yin finally said, drawing a smile from the impostor. Maordrid must have been projecting her emotions too strongly, as the Divine’s gaze flicked to her momentarily, then back to the Inquisitor. “I saw you…I…this isn’t right. You aren’t her.”

“No, it isn’t,” Alistair agreed. “Things in the Fade have a tendency to show up like people you know. Demons, mostly.” He spoke with the conviction only experience could provide...but wasn't entirely right. She almost argued against him, but Justinia smiled secretively and spoke before her.

“You think my survival impossible, yet here you stand alive in the Fade yourselves,” she said. “In truth, proving my existence would require time that we do not have.”

Surely you can understand our concerns and explain. I’d hate to have to add your name to my list of dead reputable icons,” Hawke interjected, leaning into her staff.

“I am here to help you,” Justinia insisted, but Hawke didn’t look convinced. The Divine turned her attention to Yin, recognising the futility of arguing with her. “You do not remember what happened at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, Inquisitor.” Yin shook his head, a look of disappointment on his face as he addressed her.

“You’re right, I don’t. But you also shouldn’t know that I’d been made Inquisitor,” he said.

“I know because I have examined memories like yours, stolen by the demon that serves Corypheus,” she said wearily, “It is the nightmare you forget upon waking. It feeds off memories of fear and darkness, growing fat upon the terror. The false Calling that terrified the Wardens into making such grave mistakes? Its work.” She looked straight at Alistair who scowled at her.

“I’d like to have a few words with this nightmare about that,” he said, hand resting on his sword. Justinia’s pale eyes twinkled, pausing on the weapon at his waist.

“You will have your chance, brave Warden,” she said, but he didn’t loosen his grip. “This place of darkness is its lair.” Yin cursed.

“Corypheus seems to have a lot of demons at his disposal,” he said, a question Maordrid had as well. If Corypheus controls it, then what other thing is lurking in its domain, waiting? “How does he command so many?”

“I know not how he commands his army of demons. His power may come from the Blight itself but the Nightmare serves willingly. For Corypheus has brought much terror to this world. He was one of the Magisters who unleashed the first Blight upon the world, was he not? Every child’s cry as the archdemon circles; every dwarf’s whimper in the Deep Roads—the Nightmare has fed well.”

“This is the same demon Erimond was trying to bring through…” Yin said.

“Yes,” she answered.

“…you’re telling me it’s nearby.”

“Yes.” Yin looked behind him at them all, then back at Justinia.

“Ah. Hijo de puta,” he muttered, giving voice to all their thoughts.

“When you entered the Fade at Haven, the demon took a part of you. Before you do anything else, you must recover it.” She swept a wrinkled hand out at the path ahead and they watched as a handful of green wraiths with shifting faces flashed into existence. “These are your memories, Inquisitor.” The creatures didn’t wait for her to finish to begin attacking them. Maori threw up an ice wall formed of the puddle waters as she attacked the nearest one, blocking a fireball one cast at her. Fighting erupted in the small area across the group. Another fireball melted her wall, but she was waiting on the other side with her spirit blade, deflecting the spell back at the creature. It wailed hollowly when one of its arms were blown off, then its other as she closed the distance, bringing her sword down. With an upward slice, its head came off and the green aether shrank in on itself, forming a small golden orb. The others quickly concluded their own battles, and when the last golden orb formed, they all went flying toward Yin who stumbled back clutching his head. He wasn’t the only one affected—the memory shoved its way even into her head. The real Justinia appeared before her eyes in some kind of chamber suspended by blood magic being cast by Grey Wardens. Corypheus’ voice rang in her ears, then there were the Divine’s desperate pleas that fell on deaf ears. Maordrid reflexively reached out for the green orb when it appeared before her, then realised her foolishness. The orb fell into her palm and her nerves erupted with pain—Yin’s pain. Corypheus lunged for her with a bellow of denial, and then the orb exploded, forcing her out of the memory. She gasped, vaguely aware that everyone else was in varying states of pain.

“So that mark on your hand wasn’t sent by Andraste,” Alistair said, hands braced on his thighs. “It came from that orb Corypheus was using.” Well done, Warden, she thought irritably, ignoring what Justinia had to say about what Corypheus had intended to do. Her eyes were on Solas. His face was stricken as he gazed at Yin—the innocent in all of this. Yet, it was Yin who tried to take the blame anyhow, saying it was his fault, he failed to save the Divine and that he could have used the orb to kill Corypheus then. She saw Solas’ jaw twitch as if he wanted to tell him it wasn’t, not really, but the Wolf kept his secrets behind his teeth.

The others decided to press on, given a new objective that entailed finding all of Yin’s memories in order to escape. Of Justinia, there was no sign. They walked on warily, but she noticed Alistair staring at Hawke funny.

“What’s wrong, Hawke?” he asked.

“Those were Grey Wardens holding the Divine in that vision,” she said with a sneer. “Their actions led to her death.”

“I assumed Corypheus took their minds. You have seen it yourself,” he said, clearly not wanting her to turn on him. But it was too late. Everyone in there had likely lost all trust in the Greys by now.

“Do you think that was really Justinia?” Yin asked, changing the subject.

“She had a point,” Maordrid spoke up, “We survived the journey here—why wouldn’t she?”

“It could be a spirit that identifies strongly with Justinia,” Solas added, nodding to her. “And if it believes that it is her, then how can we say it is not?” Alistair turned around, walking backward as he spoke to address them all, “Whatever she is, she seems to want to help. I’m pressed to believe she does after she gave the Inquisitor his memories back.”

“What about the Nightmare?” Yin asked. “It’s still out there, but I sense something else. Maori, are you sure it wouldn’t try messing with any of us?”

“Like the Divine said, the Nightmare has fed off fears for a long time. Whatever has been present in my dreams could be colluding with it. I cannot be sure,” she said. “If it is anything like the creature I have encountered, things will only get worse. Be wary and keep your weapons up.” She wished she was lying.

Yin led them from the area down steps that were wet with blood in places, then up another staircase. Maordrid faltered at the middle of it when a flicker of movement at the top caught her eye. But as she tried to focus, something about it made her eyes slide off of it like water on oiled canvas.

At the top, they emerged onto a wide ledge overlooking a tilted monument in the shape of a fist protruding from dark mists, obscuring any ground below. A Claw of Dumat.

“Ah, we have a visitor,” a deep, imperative voice rang out through the air. Yin’s shoulders hunched as he recognised the voice, but kept pressing the advance down some stairs as if hoping to find the creature waiting below. “Some foolish little boy comes to steal the fear I kindly lifted from his shoulders. You should have thanked me and left your fear where it lay, forgotten.” Yin finally stopped, casting his green eyes about the area in defiance as he listened. “You think that pain will make you stronger? What fool filled your mind with such drivel? The only one who grows stronger from your fears is me.” Something shifted in the sea-green fog ahead. The others wisely readied their weapons. “But you are a guest here in my home, so by all means, let me return what you have forgotten.” Maordrid froze in horror as a group of sentinels charged out of the gloom. At the head was Elgalas, glaring up at her with hatred. Inaean stood right beside her.

Before she could even say anything, her companions unleashed their fury. Her hesitation nearly got her run through by one of the elves wielding a curved single-edged blade. She swept the attack aside with her staff, sending a shower of sparks cascading down her armour. She kicked the man in the stomach, sending him rolling down the stairs where Alistair impaled him with his sword. When she looked around for Elgalas, she saw Hawke sweep her head clean off her shoulders with a swing of her sickle-bladed staff. Inaean dodged spells aimed at her by Dorian, coming straight for her. Maordrid backed up, shaking her head. No, not her, please. Heart wrenching, she cast a stasis field, watching as Inaean slowed to a stop mere feet from her face, blue magic spitting angrily between her fingers.

Cole cut her down right before her eyes.

“It wasn’t her,” he said as she released the stasis out of shock. Inaean’s corpse splashed into the water. “She is alive, free of fetters in the other world.” Maordrid nodded too many times, tearing her gaze away to look at Cole. His ghostly lips offered her a lopsided smile.

“Thank you,” she said. Around them, the fight had ended nearly quick as it had started. Maordrid walked up to Elgalas’ corpse next, feeling queasy. Her head stared up at her, black eyes still shining with hatred even in death.

She turned, pressing her hand against her mouth in an attempt to ride out the nausea. Yin was the only other one who didn’t look so good. He hadn’t moved from one of the bodies since the end of the fight, eyes wide. Dorian pulled at him, whispering.

“You’re right,” Yin replied. “He…he isn’t alive anyway.”

“I was expecting far worse,” Hawke said from ahead. Maordrid tried not to show her repulsion, sniffing and walking away from the bodies.

“These are but minor servants of the Nightmare,” Solas said, then turned and saw her face. His lips and eyebrows twitched down in an expression of regret.

“Right. Minor,” she said, flicking water onto the edges of his robe that had caught fire. She wondered what he was seeing that had caused him to botch a spell like that.

“Pity. I want to see what it’s got,” Vyr mused. Maori almost told her to shut up, but held her tongue, moving on with the rest of the group up and out of the misty bowl. The path led them down another set of roughly hewn stairs, flanked high by basalt pillars. Her eyes slid along the stone until she saw the unforgettable glow of red lyrium growing in various places. She stalled yet again when they passed yet another broken Eluvian. Fragments of its mirror still stuck to its surface. A shadow moved through them.

She hadn’t realised how close she’d gotten until a wide, strong hand closed gently around her fingers that had been outstretched to touch it.

“Come on,” Yin said, eyes trained on the reflective parts, releasing her hand. “This one doesn’t feel right.” She nodded curtly and followed him to the last set of stairs where the others were waiting, trying to get a good look at their surroundings from that height.

They got about halfway down when they were attacked again, this time by two halla-sized varterrals. She hadn’t seen ones like those since the time her and a team of sentinels had been swarmed by them in a trap set by a priest of Dirthamen. She didn’t even have a chance to summon a spell, as Hawke took both creatures out on her own.

“What the fuck were those?” Vyr asked, spinning to look accusingly at them, as though it were their fault.

“Darkspawn?” Alistair offered unhelpfully.

“Wait, you saw darkspawn?” Dorian interjected. “I would have rather seen those than what I did.”

“The fears are getting stronger. You must not give the demon what it wants,” Solas said.

“Easy for you to say,” Yin muttered. “Let’s go.” More Claws of Dumat protruded along their path and each one had growths of red lyrium sprouting to their tops. They were given a large berth, but the Nightmare had long predicted their fears and had placed two massive heads of it as tall as the Claws on either side of their path. They simply fell in single file line to avoid coming close to the whispering crystal, climbing up the stairs into the next area. They were all startled near out of their skins when the demon’s voice shattered the silence like glass.

“Perhaps I should be afraid, facing the most powerful members of the Inquisition,” it said with a mocking laugh. “Ah, Dorian…it is Dorian, isn’t it? For a moment I mistook you for your father.”

“Rather uncalled for,” Dorian replied smoothly as they spread out around another Eluvian. This one’s surface was only half-broken. Maordrid stopped in her footsteps, heart pounding as she finally saw what was lurking in its shadows. A woman—no, she—emerged from the depths, crawling on her knees until she reached the glass, pressing her hands against it. Maordrid bit the inside of her cheek, forcing herself to continuing looking. Blood covered her reflection from head to toe and gleaming in her skin were shimmering lines of red vallaslin. Her reflection banged on the glass, screaming silently. Her blood roared in her ears, drowning out all else.

This is what you must become,” a voice whispered through the turbulence. A violent surge of anger suddenly possessed her to take up a slick stone and hurl it at its surface. Her lips twisted in an ugly grin when it shattered.

“I was about to do that myself,” Yin said, his face harrowed as he looked at the shards. She gripped her staff tightly and followed him away. She was beginning to understand how Hawke felt.

After that display, she had a feeling she’d drawn the demon’s attention.

She knew it when she strayed away again after a strange flashing light hitting the stone embankment in the next area. Her mind screamed at her to go back, but she had to know. In a corner tucked out of sight through a forest of Tevinter statues, she came upon an iridescent crystal that was the source of the flickering. She immediately recognised it as the artificial focus that Solas of her original timeline had used to bring down the Veil. Her hand flew to her chest, realising it was yet again mimicking the beat of her heart. She heard laughter behind her. As she spun expecting a blow, a shadowy figured merely passed through her body and merged with the crystal. Too late she was to react and the crystal exploded, sending shards flying everywhere. She yelped as glass-sharp shards cut at her face through her helm. She fled the area, removing it from her head to shake out the splinters. It was Yin and Solas that came to her cry of distress this time. Solas opened his mouth to say something, but his face went still as the demon spoke to him.

Dirth ma, Harellan. Ma banal enasalin. Mar solas ena mar din.” His eyes roved the sky above, hands clenching his staff.

Banal nadas,” he replied stiffly, then looked at her. She avoided looking at him, accepting the small health potion and dirty kerchief Yin offered her.

“Stick together,” Yin said. The stress was clear on his face when he turned and walked away. She glanced at Solas as she wiped the rest of the blood from her face, touching his hand as she passed. He gave her a tight smile and fell in behind her wordlessly.

The demon seemed to be enjoying itself, taunting them where it knew they could not bite back. It only got worse the farther they travelled and she realised that perhaps its prying into their minds was its reaction to the fear that they might escape its lair. She swore she heard its laughter at her thoughts.

It picked at Hawke next with its invisible talons while they were killing a group of Rage and Despair.

“Do you think you mattered, Vyr? Did you think anything you ever did mattered? You couldn’t even save your city. How could you expect to strike down a god?” Ahead, Hawke was shaking her head and laughing as she cast down a Despair. “The last of your friends are going to die, just like your family, and everyone you ever cared about.”

“Everyone dies, maggot,” she said, not sounding at all like she cared. She took up the front, holding her head high as she led them into a strange passage. It had the trappings of an old Elvhen temple, one she barely recognised as Dirthamen’s. A large, macabre statue of the Evanuris knelt upon the high wall to the right. Hexagonal pillars of red lyrium pierced the golden tiles scattered along their path, appearing in pairs that functioned as frames for Eluvians of varying sizes.

Naèv…! Naèv, wait!”