I stood outside his door. I was tired, it had been the longest day of my life. I’d woken up in a cold stone prison, fought more demons that I dared to think about and still had a throbbing pain radiating from my left arm the whole way up my arm. Cassandra had told me to get some rest, but I had obligations, that I suspected she wouldn’t understand. I needed to build a marker, it was the least I could do. I wouldn’t be able to sleep until it was done. I had spent the dusk light searching for appropriate stones down by the lakeshore, smooth pebbles that could be stacked on top of each other. I knew I was being watched. I rubbed my eyes, trying to stay awake. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
I stood there for a long moment. I had seen the candlelit from his window, I had considered just walking past. I was unsure what to make of this strange mage. When I first saw him, I had though he was human as he was a head taller than me and barefaced. But the ears had gave him away. I was about to leave when he opened the door, ‘yes?’
I kept to common, unsure if he could speak any Elvish. ‘Solas. Sorry it is so late, I saw the candle,’ I gestured to the window, ‘I already asked Minaeve, she turned me down. And you’re the only other elf I’ve seen here. So, I thought I should at least offer’ I could feel myself rambling but was unable to stop. ‘It’s for a marker’. I held up the bag of pebbles apologetically.
He turned his head slightly and raised an eyebrow. And waited for me to continue.
I blushed, ‘For the ones who got caught in the explosion. Do you want to tag along? I could use a mage... But don’t come if you don’t want to.’ I suddenly had a horrible thought, ‘do you not make markers in cities?’
‘I am not from an alienage.’ He replied curtly.
It was then my turn to look at him curiously but decided now was probably not the time to ask. ‘I’m sorry… never mind, forget I asked’. I felt my shoulders drop and I turned away. Well that didn’t go well at all.
‘Wait, I will join you’. He said from behind me, pulling on a cloak. ‘In the Fade, I have seen markers being made. It would be interesting to see one done properly.’ The sides of his mouth curled into a smirk.
I blushed again, feeling foolish, ‘I don’t know the right words’. I confessed.
‘Then why are you attempting this?’ His voice turned cold.
I looked at the green tear in the sky, what had Cassandra called it? The breach. So many people gone in a second. ‘I don’t want anyone to be lost’. I said softly, I glanced across and he was looking like I’d gone mad. Maybe I had, it had been so long since I’d sleep. But I had been surrounded by markers my whole life. My people built them when people passed into the Fade, so they would remember us and so we could remember them.
I saw his expression soften, and he nodded.
I pointed to a patch of grass on the right of the imposing building. ‘I thought I would set it up by the side of the chantry, they already did a service, but I was, you know,’ I awkwardly tapped my wrists together, imprisoned. I left the word unspoken, hanging in the air.
We approached the spot, and I knelt. I felt his presence behind me, and I forced myself to focus. I cleared the snow out of the way with my hands, my hands stung with the cold and protested the action. I pulled the bag of pebbles out and sorted them into a rough order. Then I stacked them carefully, until they formed a rough triangular shape. Then a long piece, to form the arms. With some difficulty I managed to add the head-stone, it threatened to fall twice before I balanced it correctly. I moved back slowly, worried it might all fall, but also proud of my handiwork. I had a single pebble left, which I placed in front to form an offering plate.
‘Hellana, will you step back?’ I looked back and flushed with guilt, suddenly remembered he was there. He must be frozen. But I did as asked and stood carefully, not wanting to so much as touch the marker. He a muttered word I didn’t catch, and the marker glowed with a pale blue light. And I felt my eyes widen in surprise. I had seen Keeper Deshanna do the same thing many times, I knew the pebbles had fused together. I wanted to ask how he knew that, or where he could have learnt that, but I didn’t. Instead, I knelt again before the marker. I placed my palms on my face, fingertips touching my vallaslin. It took me a little while to focus, I was conscious of his presence and I felt his scrutinising gaze on my back. I closed my eyes, pushing everything else away, seeing only the marker in my mind’s eye. Using words, I’d spent the evening constructing, I spoke;
‘May you walk the path with certainty, may ravens scatter before your feet, may you remember your names, may you leave this realm in peace’.
When I opened my eyes, a sprawling, beautiful mural of a tree was spreading across the grey stone of the chantry wall. I looked back at Solas and could only watch in awe as he manipulated paint from nothing. He had his staff in hand and was lightly guiding it, adding leaves in greens and browns. He was moving his mouth in a silence spell. The man was full of surprises. I watched as the canopy was completed, then he turned to me and offered his hands. I took them, and he helped me stand. He was so warm, and I shivered, he pulled away. ‘You should get you back before you freeze,’ and he started to leave.
I reached out for his hand, turning him back round to face me. ‘Ma serannas, thank you’.
He looked stricken and pulled again from my grasp, ‘Dareth shiral’ he said quickly, and he was gone, without looking back.
I stood, staring after him for a long time, unable to wipe the smile off my face. Every time I met him I had more questions than answers. And his actions were constantly at odds with his words. I shook my head, trying to clear it and retreated to my temporary lodging. I all by collapsed on my bed roll, asleep as I touched the pillow. That night I dreamt of Solas’ tree.