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The Rituals of the Dalish

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

I knew the explosion had destroyed everything in the area of the Temple of Sacred Ashes, only ruins and well, ashes remained. I had seen the devastation for myself. And yet, I still approached Cassandra, ‘was there any chance a bow was brought back with me?’

‘I am sorry, Herald,’ I flinched slightly at the title, she noticed and stiffened ‘you were the only thing to come back’. The giant eye on her chest plate staring into my soul. Cassandra, with her scarred face and dragon-like rage. I closed my eyes and still saw the symbol and then I knew Andruil’s eye was upon me. ‘Was it valuable?’

I sighed, how could I explain what the bow had meant to me. ‘It was given to me by my clan’, I said tactfully.

She nodded, ‘You could ask Threnn for another.’

I thanked her and left, I felt a little sick, I couldn’t just replace one bow for another. Or at least, I couldn't’ just replace that bow for any other. Keeper Dashanna had presented it to me when I had taken my vallashin, the day I had rejoined my clan as an adult. The day I had been taught the Vir Tanadhal and taken my place as a hunter. I loved that bow, dedicated to the mighty huntress Andruil, it was an extension of my arm, I knew it intimately. I had cared for it for years and replaced parts when they were damaged. I spent a summer trading with the shem to buy a fire rune. I loved the crack it made as it set my arrows on fire. And it was gone, gone in a puff of green smoke. I would have to make a new one.

I walked through the double door gates, of Haven, paused to collect a stem of elfroot, and walked into the forested area. It took me half of the morning to find a suitable branch that was sturdy enough to become a bow. I took the staff and placed down the elfroot stem as an offering to the forest. I then made my way back to Haven. I stopped outside the wall, and approached the blacksmith, Harritt. The imposing man with an impressive moustache. He saw me coming and bowed slightly ‘Do you mind if I work here?’ I asked him.

He gave me another awkward half bow, ‘Of course Herald’.

‘I am…’ not the herald, ‘grateful’. I settled myself down and began the slow process of stripping the bark off the stick and forming it into a bow.


 It was early afternoon by the time the bow was completed. I stretched, my fingers were raw, and my muscles were tight. I thanked Harritt for the use of his workshop. There was still enough time to dedicate the bow today, I looked around and realised I would have to do so out of sight. And then an idea came to me.

I crept away back into the forest until the town was out of sight. I continued until the forest grew thick, but for the snow on the ground I could have been back home. I closed my eyes, imagining my clan were just over the ridge, if I looked hard enough maybe I would see the sails of our aravel peaking above the trees. I opened my eyes and realised I was stood between three trees. I smiled at the sky, this was exactly what I was looking for. I slipped out the small dagger I kept in my boot and etched a small symbol into each of the trees.

I sat back against one of the trees and set the bow down in front of me. As I did so, my woven bracelet fell out of my sleeve. I touched it and smiled sadly. It had been woven for me the night I left for the Temple of the Sacred Ashes. Keeper Dashanna had needed one of the hunters to go but allowed us to call our own election. We had each cut a length of thread and mine was the shortest. While I had been briefed on the mission, my friends had woven the remaining threads together for me. It was an old tradition, I would keep them close and could draw from their strength. No matter how far I travelled, the clan would come with me. I shivered suddenly and became aware of how much the cold had crept into my skin.

‘Great Andruil, I call you to this place.’ I lifted the bow reverently in my hands, bowing my body and recited the hunter’s prayer. ‘Grant your eye may not fall upon us, Spare us in the moment we become your prey.’

I heard the crackle of footprints of footprints in the snow but didn’t look across. It was probably a deer, though for a split second, I expected it to be Andruil.

‘Maker’s mercy, what are you doing?’

I found the bow in my hands aimed at the intruder, but with no arrow, it was a futile gesture. I saw the great eye on her chest. ‘Cassandra’. My voice was harsher than I had intended. ‘I am making a new bow’.

‘In the middle of the forest’. She said coldly.

I looked around at the trees, why did the Seeker have to be here? ‘I needed to… dedicate it’. I said truthfully. ‘May I finish?’

Her mouth twisted in disdain, ‘alone, with no weapon?’ She huffed, ‘There are bears here and worse...’

I looked away from her and tried to ground myself again, but it was pointless as my heart was going too fast. I touched my fingertips to the tops of my cheeks, brushing the vallaslin there. Mother Mythal tests me. I looked at Cassandra and tried to smile pleasantly. ‘If you would like, you can stay while I finish up’.

Cassandra didn’t look happy, but silently lent up against a nearby tree.

‘Great Andruil,’ I repeated, ‘Let my weapon serve you, as I walk along the Vir Tanadhal’ I raised the bow above my head, then drew pointed at the sky ‘let me be your weapon’ and I let the bow go, which made a satisfactory twang. I smiled at the bow and felt its weight in my hands. It was a much shorter dedication that I would have liked, but I felt complete again.

I stood and brushed the snow of my leggings and slung my bow on my shoulder.

‘Do you even believe in the maker?’ Cassandra demanded.  

I stared at her, ‘I believe in the elven gods’ I said slowly.

‘And yet, the Maker sent you to us in our darkest hour.’ I felt a sting of guilt at her words and I saw her pain, the Right Hand of the Divine, questioning her faith. But I didn’t respond, I toyed the bracelet on my wrist. Then I dug my fingers into my wrist to steady myself, I couldn't react, couldn’t comfort her. There was a single good reason why the Dalish kept away from the Chantry, Shartan. I could see my future laid out before me, if I failed them, and they would burn me. 

She laughed then, a sad, bitter laugh.  ‘One day, they may write about me as a traitor, a madwoman, a fool. And they may be right.’

‘It’s too late to turn back.’ I said softly. I glanced at the big white eye painted on her chest, and I thought of Andruil's gaze, I couldn't tell if I was protected or prey.

We walked together back to Haven in silence and she left me at the gates. I let go of my wrist, leaving indentations in my skin.

Chapter Text

Cassandra, Varric, Solas and I arrived in the Hinterlands in the early morning, coming to an Inquisition held camp. From there we had heard a fight taking place at the bottom of the cliff. Scout Harding had warned us that the templars and rebel mages were hacking at each other in the middle of a village. Cassandra led the way and soon enough we were slap bang in the middle of the fighting, being attacked by both sides. Seeing Cassandra in battle made me grateful that we were, at least nominally, on the same side. She was fierce, and dove right into the centre of the combat, hacking and slashing. Varric, Solas and I had the sense to keep back. The sound of Varric’s great crossbow echoed back and forth across the nearby hills and I suspected that I would hear that sound ringing in my ears all day. As the sun drew to the highest point of the sky, we found ourselves alone, bloodstained but alive.

‘You fight hard, Seeker’, I heard Solas say to Cassandra. And I felt a pang of jealousy stab at me. I pushed the feeling aside and without waiting for her to reply, I stalked off to see if I could salvage any arrows from the battlefield.


We stopped for lunch by a lake, and the inquisition set up a camp for us. It was a little alarming to see the efficiency with which they worked. It felt like one moment we were just by a patch of grass and a couple hundred heartbeats later there was a camp. I unpacked my belongings into the small tent which was reserved for me. I checked my bow, which was holding up well, but my quiver was sadly short of arrows. I sighed, there never enough arrows. I took some from my reserve supply and made a mental note to ask our requisition office to try to source more. I shouldered my bow and exited the tent.

I made my way up the steep hill to the lake side, I crouched by the bank and washed my hands in the cool waters. Clean, I had almost forgotten what it felt like to be clean. I scoped up a handful of water and splashed my face.

‘This is Lake Luthias,’ Solas’ smooth voice said behind me, ‘they say there is a spirit of valour that lives in the lake’.

I stood, wiping my hands on my trousers, ‘A spirit of valour?’ I asked when I couldn’t picture it.

‘Such fables are common in places of beauty like this’. He was studying the view intensely. The mountains framed the edge of the lake and, I had to agree, it was beautiful here.

I looked out across the lake, imagining something living under the water, it was an interesting concept. I considered for a moment, then asked, ‘Can spirits exist for so long outside the fade?’

He looked at me like he was seeing me for the first time and his face lit up. ‘You are interested in the fade?’

I laughed and gave him a challenging look ‘it depends on what you know. What can you tell me?’

It was his turn to laugh, ‘I have studied it for many years, and travelled extensively in the fade’.

I felt my eyes widen, ‘that’s impressive.’ Then something clicked, ‘is that why you’re here?’ I saw a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. I wanted to make him smile.

He nodded and glanced at my hand, it glowed faintly green as if in response. He raised an eyebrow, and looked at my forehead, his eyes tracing my vallaslin ‘you are Dalish, are you not?’

I smiled, ‘proudly’.

He flinched and tried to hide the motion, but I saw and felt the smile drop off my face. ‘You should be careful, Herald,’ His tone grew cold, ‘I’ve heard about the stunt you pulled in the forest.’ He lowered his voice, till I had to stain to hear him, ‘Cassandra has been accommodating so far. But you understand my concern’.

I felt his words like a slap in the face, I turned and surveyed the hills in the distance trying to control my emotions. ‘It wasn’t a stunt’. I hissed. ‘I did what I needed to do’.

‘Of course, your patchwork Dalish interpretation…’

A blush rose on my cheeks and I could feel my heart beating loudly in my ears. I laughed nervously, this conversation was getting out of control quickly. I rubbed my eyes. ‘Patchwork interpretation?’ I repeated. He started to answer, but I cut him off, my temper flaring, ‘let me guess. You’ve read one or two books and think you can contradict me. I’m not a fool. It isn’t going to be like it was, we’ve lost more than we ever knew. We have to fill in the gaps. We have to adapt and survive.’  

‘Even if it’s wrong?’ He looked incredulous.

I sighed, and let the great loss drown me. It washed away all my anger, ‘even if it’s wrong.’ I confirmed though I knew deep in my soul that it wasn’t wrong, merely different. I breathed in, ‘now, there is a hole in the sky and speaking of survival, well, I need allies. Are you on my side or not?’

He didn’t get a chance to answer. ‘Are you two coming?’ Varric shouted. ‘Apostates aren’t going to hunt themselves… present company excluded of course!’

I laughed to myself, ‘I’m not the only one who should be careful.’ I raised my eyebrows at him, but he didn’t look impressed.

Chapter Text

The wolf was following me. I walked through an unfamiliar forest and the howls were getting closer. The trees bent into my way, slowing my progress. I started running, but it was like running through sludge. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t cry out. I pulled out my bow, but there were no arrows in my quiver. The empty twang echoed. The wolf lunged at me, too many eyes...

I woke panting in my bed at Haven. I sat up and looked around. I was alone. The dawn light was streaming through the window. I looked over at my pack, my quiver was empty. I washed my hands and face in a small bowl I kept on the windowsill and pulled on my clothes.

I left the little cabin and shuddered, the weather was colder today, and the wind was biting. I looked up and the sky was dark, I suspected it would rain before long. I made my way across town to talk to Threnn. She didn’t look up as I approached.

‘Threnn?’

She spun around, she didn’t look impressed. ‘Herald’.

‘Is there any chance I can get more arrows?’ I asked.

She scoffed and pointed at three boxes, ‘if you want to make them yourself, bloody shipment came in and we’ve got a box of sticks and feathers.’

I walked over to the boxes she indicated to, I held up a stick. It wasn’t terrible, the wood was straight and dry and could be easily carved into arrows. I made all my own arrows when I was with the clan and enjoyed the therapeutic task. I pulled my blade out of my boot and settled down on the ground.

‘I wasn’t serious’. Threnn said, and walked away muttering to herself. 

I just smiled at her back and got to work.

After a short while Leliana approached me, ‘you don’t have to do that’. She said.

I looked up from my work, I had carved a handful of sticks into arrow shafts. ‘I enjoy it, plus the high and mighty Herald doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty’.

She cocked her head at me and looked a little ashamed. To my surprise she settled down next to me and started trimming feathers into fletching. Her first few were very rough, but she soon improved. ‘I have not done this in many years.’ She said, by way of apology.

As her job was quicker, she started attaching the fletching onto the arrow shafts I made. She weighed the first one in her hands, it balanced well. We both smiled at each other. She set it down and began work on the next one. I noticed the eye above her breasts, it was different from Cassandra’s, this one had a sword behind the eye. I looked up and realised it was the same symbol as the ones on the Inquisition's flags that hung from the Chantry. I was about to ask her about the significance, when an agent approached her.

Leliana and the agent exchanged urgent whispers, I caught the tail end. ‘You know what must be done, make it clean. Painless if you can’.

‘Wait, you’re going to kill someone?’ I asked before I could stop myself.

Leliana gave me a dirty look. ‘He is a traitor, it is a difficult decision, but someone must do it.’

I chose my next words carefully, ‘is there no other way?’

‘Are you questioning my decisions?’

I looked at her, the dangerous and mysterious Left Hand of the Divine. I scrutinised her pale face, wondering what had made her so callous. ‘Just this one’.

‘Very well,’ she snapped, but turned back to her agent. ‘Apprehend Butler but see that he lives.’

The agent bowed and left. His eyes flicked between me and Leliana. I realised I may have massively overstepped.

‘I am sorry to have contradicted you in like that’.

Leliana nodded and stabbed at feather a little too hard, shredding it rather than cutting. She pushed it away. ‘Now is not the time to be idealistic’.

I shook my head, ‘surely, now more than every it is necessary to stick to our ideals.’

She played with the dagger in her hand, and for a split second I thought she might stab me. But the moment passed. ‘You are right’. She admitted reluctantly.

We sat for a long moment in awkward silence. I vaguely recalled that she was trained as a Bard, ‘Do you know any good stories?’ I ventured.

She turned to me with a brilliant smile, her whole face lit up ‘Many’.


By the end of the morning we had made sixty arrows between us, and word had got out around Haven that if anyone wanted to speak to either of us, they could come and make arrows with us in exchange for an ear.

‘You seem to have a knack for leadership.’ Leliana smiled at me.

I returned her smile, ‘And you have a wonderful way with words.’

Then we parted and agreed to do the same again in a week.

 

I walked down Haven’s main street, intending to test out some of the arrows at the temporary training ground just outside the gates of Haven. But, as I passed Seggrit’s stall, something caught my eye. I walked up and picked up the red battlemage cowl, I weighted it in my hands. The merchant didn’t have a mirror for me, but I bought it anyway. I put it on my head and wondered if the hood made me look as mysterious and dangerous as Leliana.

I left Haven through the heavy wood and iron doors and passed Cullen. He stopped and he bowed slightly, ‘nice hat, Herald’.

I gave him my best mock curtsy and continued to the archery range.

Chapter Text

I wandered back from the archery range. I had hit most of my targets and the new arrows had held up well, I knew I could confidently take them into battle with me. Take that bad dreams. And I smiled, Leliana and I had made a good team. I was checking the bowstring for wear, when I heard a voice.

‘Herald.’ Solas was close behind me,

‘Please don’t call me that.’ I said, cocking my head to the side to look at him.

He looked down, ‘what would you like me to call you?’

I shrugged, ‘my name?’

He coughed a little, ‘may we have a word’.

I rolled my eyes. Then nodded and indicated towards Haven. ‘Walk with me. What is on your mind?’

‘While closing the breach should be our primary concern, I hope we might discover what was used to create it. Any artefact of such power is dangerous.’

An uneasy feeling settled in my stomach, ‘Wouldn’t it have been destroyed in the explosion?’

A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, ‘you survived, did you not?’ I looked at my hands and gently closed my fists. Did I survive? ‘The artefact is unlike anything seen in this age. I will not believe it destroyed until I see the shattered fragments with my own eyes’.

I nodded. We passed Seggrit’s stall and I glanced up the steps to see Varric watching us. ‘Then we will try to recover whatever created the breach.’

‘Leliana’s people have scoured the area and found nothing.’

‘It’s a priority.’ I confirmed, then considered that it was odd, we had spent the morning together and Leliana hadn’t told me anything about searching for a mysterious object. I felt my curiosity stir, ‘tell me more about yourself Solas’.

He froze for a second, but recovered, I pretended not to notice. ‘Why?’

I glanced out over Haven’s log walls, to the forest beyond. The sky was illuminated green, it was difficult to ignore. I looked back to him and shrugged slightly, ‘you’re an apostate, and yet you risked your freedom to help the inquisition’. To help me.

He clashed his hands behind his back, ‘not the wisest course of action when framed that way…’

I smiled, ‘I…’ I lifted my left hand slightly, ‘appreciate, what you’re doing.’ I looked at him, ‘Solas, I…’ I shrugged again, ‘guess I’m just curious about you.’

He met my eyes, ‘I am sorry. There is just so much fear in the air’. I looked down and felt ashamed of prying, of course I understood. He touched my arm lightly, ‘what would you like to know?’

‘What got you interested in the fade?’

He straighten as we walked, ‘I grew up in a village to the north, there was little there to interest a young man, particularly one gifted with magic. But as I slept the fade showed me glimpses of wonder. I had never imagined…’

As he spoke, I noticed his necklace for the first time. Was it a jawbone of some kind? How macabre? Why would anyone wear that?  I looked up and he was waiting for a reaction. Fenedhis, what was the last thing he had said, I couldn’t remember. ‘That sounds…’ I picked a word at random, ‘dangerous’.

He smiled, and I flushed with relief, though I felt a stab of guilt at tricking him. ‘Not as dangerous as the chantry would have us belief. Spirits try to tempt as much a colourful piece of fruit invites you to eat it, I learned how to control my dreams. There was much I wanted to explore’.

I enjoyed his passion, and I wanted to hear him speak more, ‘So I gather you didn’t spend your life dreaming?’ I smiled slightly, coyly, mother Mythal what was I doing?

He looked at me intently, and I felt almost naked in his presence. ‘No,’ I saw once again his eyes trace across my vallaslin, ‘eventually I was unable to find new areas in the fade. You see the fade reflects the area around it. Unless I travelled, I was unable to find new places.’ What a place to travel to, I felt a sudden pity for him. He had travelled so far and was caught up in this mess. Though, I reminded myself, unlike me, Solas had volunteered. Unconsciously, I pulled my hood down to cover my forehead, and he retreated from me. ‘And the fade reflects and is limited by our imagination. To find interesting areas, you have to be interesting.’

I swallowed hard, feeling like it was a chastisement. We walked a few paces in silence, he looked at me with the same curious gaze I had now received from him many times, as if I was a puzzle he could not master. ‘In truth, I have enjoyed more of life to experience more of the fade.’

His words were silky, for a heartbeat, I knew for certain I was prey caught in a trap. I was the quarry. Then the moment passed, and I didn’t know anything for certain. ‘How so?’ I breathed.

‘You train to send an arrow to its target.’ He gestured to my bow, ‘the grace with which you move is a pleasing side benefit. You have chosen a path whose steps you do not dislike because it leads to a destination you enjoy. As have I.

I laughed, shaking my head, ‘So you're suggesting I'm graceful?’

‘No, I am declaring it. It was not a subject for debate.’

The smile dropped off my face, and my breath caught in my throat. A heartbeat later and I was just staring at him with an open mouth, feeling the blush rising in my cheeks. Once again, he surprised me. I licked my lips and managed an eloquent ‘hmm’ in a tiny voice. Oh, mother Mythal, I was making a fool of myself! I bowed my head and backed away from him. I pulled my hood down self consciously as I walked back through Haven, hidden under the hood I was grinning like a jester. I needed to sort this out, I was acting like a newly-tattooed in love for the first time.

‘Herald’. I turned annoyed and came face to face with Cassandra, and I sobered immediately.

She looked me up and down with a barely concealed panic, ‘there is a mob. Outside the chantry.’

Fenedhis. I ran alongside her, and as she said there was a mob in front of the chanty. Screaming voices, echoed around the square. Instinctively I recoiled, but Cassandra pulled me forward. Just as we got there Cullen was breaking up a fight between a templar and mage.

‘That is not my title. We are not templars any more, we are all the inquisition’. Cassandra stiffened slightly beside me, I wondered if she was as prepared to drop her title of seeker. I backed away and couldn’t hear anymore, I had seen the bloodshed in the Hinterlands and double checked my bow was on back. I didn’t know if I would have to fight my way out. I glanced around, but most people were watching in, and then it was like a pebble dropping into a pond. They all turned to face me, I looked up and the man in chantry robes was holding his arm out to me. I fumbled for words to say, but Cullen regained their attention.

‘Back to your duties, all of you’. He bellowed. The crowd began to move away. I did not know him well, but I was grateful to him.

I turned to Cassandra, ‘what is this about?’

She looked grim, ‘they want to put you on trial in Val Royeaux’.

Whatever happiness I had, drained away. I struggled to stay upright. This was it. I reached for the bracelet at my wrist. I faced Cassandra. ‘So, we go to Val Royeaux.’ I said with a certainty I did not feel.

Chapter Text

‘Well that was dramatic.’ Varric stated to the group.

I had found myself in Val Royeaux after a night of restless sleeping, I had been so worried and then the unexpected happened. I turned to Varric, laughing, ‘you’d better not put this in your next book!’

He put his hand on his chest, and pulling in a deep dramatic breath, ‘Mistress Lavellan, why ever not?’ he grinned. ‘We travel all this way expecting the chantry to put us on trial, I thought we were doomed. And yet we are free and have an invitation to Redcliffe from Grand Enchanter Fiona, who is looking particularly not-exploded. And speaking of the not-exploded, the Lord Seeker is look well, feisty, punching a Reverent Mother in the face no less. I mean we have been declared heretics, but win, loss, win, loss.’

I grinned at him.

‘The Lord Seeker shamed himself’. Cassandra snapped, cutting through our frivolity.

I looked back at her, she was no longer wearing the eye chestplate that unsettled me so much. I looked at her face, she seemed older than this morning. A fool, a traitor and a madwoman… she was as scared as the rest of us I realised with a slight shock. I glanced around, what were we doing. This inquisition was madness, we had no support. I considered the horses we had tied up outside the Sun Gate. I could slip away and get a good head start. At that exact moment, pain flared in my hand and I realised I couldn’t. I was tied to the green rifts that covered the land, I was the only one who could remove them. If I didn’t then home would be overrun before long. I looked down at my hand and flexed my fingers, it was my duty to stay.


Our little group made our way slowly around the little courtyard, the crowds were dispersing. They edged away from us like we were carrying the plague. I pulled my hood down to cover my ears and forehead.

I decided to ignore the crowds and focused instead on the market stalls. Brightly coloured knick-knacks from all over Thedas were on display. A yellow-pink blob caught my eye and I stepped closer for a look. I felt a grin spread across my face, it was a little statue, no bigger than my hand. It was a woman, her feet were surrounded by waves, reptilian wings sprouted from her back and she held a pale-yellow orb in one hand. It was the wonkiest, gaudiest statue of Mythal I had ever seen, and I fell in love. I looked back to Solas and Cassandra who were behind me. ‘Look!’ I said excitedly.

Solas and Cassandra exchanged a tired glance. I gave them each a look, ‘How much?’ I questioned turning back to the stall.

‘We do not trade with the inquisition’. Came the unimpressed Orlais accent.

I looked up at the merchant, and I was surprised to find the accent belonged to an elf. Only a few years older than me, and Dalish too. But, the vallaslin were unlike anything I had ever seen. Patterns I didn’t recognise and a smudge mark under the eye. I felt a burst of anger, I had heard of elves painting their faces and trying to pass their statues off as genuine Dalish.

‘It is a waste of our resources, Herald…’ Cassandra said.

I smiled sweetly to Cassandra and she turned away from me, I looked back at the merchant. ‘Wash your face. If you change your mind send me a message. I’ll pay double what…’ An arrow flew by my head.

I heard it clatter harmlessly off the stone, as I ducked. Cassandra grabbed me, yanking me by the arm and under cover. In a sort of slow motion, as I twisted to see the attacker, I saw Varric loading a bolt onto Bianca and Solas reaching for my hand. I reached back, and the world exploded into green, he half dragged me and I half ran forward, exploding back into technicolour reality in a shadowy alcove the other side of the market square. I drew an arrow, ‘can you see them?’ I asked, my eyes were alert washing the rooftops.

His staff was in his hand and he was poised, he soften and tapped his staff on the ground and stepped back into the shadows with me. ‘I don’t see them, but they shouldn't be able to see us.’

I nodded and leaned back against the back of the alcove, I had thought it was overkill to plan for an assassination attempt.

‘Are you hurt?’ Solas asked.

I shook my head, ‘no, I’m fine,’ I glanced out at the marketsquare. Few people seems to have even noticed. ‘I didn’t think I would actually be a target.’

‘You represent a very dangerous idea, Heral…’ he coughed, ‘Hellana’.

I leaned my head back against the cool wall, ‘it’s just another thing to add to the list, I guess.’ I ticked them off on my fingers, ‘Hole in the sky, demons jumping out of rifts and now someone’s trying to murder me’. I rubbed my eyes and let my fingertips linger under my eyes for a second. Ghilan'nain, please, guide me .

‘Assassinate, not murder, they don’t care about you as a person’.

‘Right’. I sighed and suddenly became very aware that we were stood very close in a dark corner. I pulled my hood down nervously.

‘Solas? Herald?’ I heard Cassandra from around the corner. She appeared, barely concealing her annoyance. Varric trailed behind her, he turned so his back was too us and could surveying the area. Cassandra held out the arrow to the us, ‘it appears to be a message’. The arrow was long, with a big red ribbon tied around the tip.

I reached out to the ribbon and looked around the marketplace. I had seen these arrows before in the Free Marches. ‘Red Jenny…’ I exclaimed quietly, then I turned it over, and in black ink on the ribbon was scrawled in a flowing hand was the message.  

People say you’re special. I want to help, and I can bring everyone.

Meet me at the docks. I’ll be red-y . Don’t be followed.

Friends of Red Jenny.

‘Two invitations in one day, my we are popular!’. Varric laughed turning to face the three of us.

I slung my bow back on my shoulder, ‘We should go and see.’

‘It might be a trap,’ Cassandra cautioned, ‘though an obvious one’, she added, unimpressed.

Chapter Text

We spent the rest of the day traipsing around Val Royeaux. After much debate, we’d eventually gone to the docks. I’d been sat on a wooden crate, watching Cassandra bluster about me being constantly in danger. Cassandra paced back and forth, while Varric skimmed stones out onto the harbour. Solas was stood to the side, merely watching us, his arms crossed over his chest. I let Cassandra rage, and I tucked my legs under me to get more comfortable. She going to be angry for a while. Eventually, I leant back, and my hand came into contact with something cold. I looked behind me to find a small metal box, it has a streak of red paint on the top. Redy. I picked it up, examining it. Ignoring Cassandra’s words of protest, I gingerly opened it to find a scroll of parchment with our next clue. It directed us to a secluded courtyard. The only problem was that none of our company knew exactly where this courtyard was supposed to be.


The sun had long since set when we found ourselves in the right place. We were stood in a dark lane, the tall buildings of Val Royeaux towered above us, and the moonlight filtered down. In the daylight I imagined the place as painted in bright golds and royal blues. Faint music leaked onto the streets from a tavern that was nearby.

The group was tired, and Cassandra was still deeply upset that we hadn’t already left the capital of Orlais. My heart was beating excitedly in my chest, I was excited and nervous to meet one of the fabled Friends of Red Jenny. I had heard tales of their adventures when we traded with the shemlen and the younger children in our clan played ‘Red Jenny’s and Nobles’. I smiled to think of their shrieks of joy, racing around the camp site. It was nothing more than a standard of tag, that had been glorified with the addition of a single red ribbon. It had been too long since I'd seen them all. 

‘I think this is the place’, Varric said as he pulled Bianca off his shoulder and began the process of loading his first bolt.

There was a great arch before us, it was gated with an intricate iron gate. I pushed my hood back so that my sight was unobstructed. I looked at the little group, ‘ready?’ I asked and in turn they nodded determined. Cassandra unsheathed her sword and the sound of metal echoed around us. I looked over to Solas, his mouth was set in a grim line. His face was illuminated from the side, showing off his sharp features. If I licked his cheekbone, would I cut my tongue?

‘Herald?’ Varric queried making me jump out of my musing.

I flushed and moved forward, pushing the gate open with my unmarked hand. Through the arch, a serving man dressed finely stopped dead when he saw us. He dropped a platter, which clattered noisily to the ground. ‘The inquisition!’ His faced was pale with fear, ‘how did you know?’ Before any of us could react, he sprinted off into a building.

‘I guess this was the right place,’ I muttered into the silence. Within minutes we were being attacked by two splendidly dressed personal guards.

Once they were dead, I glanced around the courtyard, there were heavy shipping boxes lined up again one wall. I notched an arrow and let it fly towards one, the arrow broke through the wood to reveal a glowing red mineral. I walked closer to examine it, but Varric held his arm out to stop me. ‘Don’t touch it.’ He hissed. ‘If it’s what I think it is, that’s bad new’.

I was about to ask what it could be when two elegantly carved blue garden doors opened, revealing a masked noble. He looked between the four of us and sent a fire ball towards me. I jumped back to avoid it. ‘Herald of Andraste. How much did you expend to find me?’ He sent another fire ball which soared towards Cassandra. It burst across her shield, the embers dropped to the ground harmlessly by her feet. The light was reflected in the gold mask that he wore. He held his hands up, as though to ask for a cease fire. I held a hand out, signalling to stop the attack.

‘Who are you?’ I demanded, notching an arrow but aiming it at the ground.

He laughed dramatically, ‘You don’t fool me. I’m too important for this to be an accident.’

At that moment a woman stepped out from the shadows, with an arrow trained at his neck. ‘Just say what!’

He smirked, ‘What is…’ the woman drew her bow and shot an arrow into his throat. He dropped to the ground.

The woman turned to me, she was bright. Wearing yellow and red. She looked at the corpse, ‘squishie one. You heard me say what, right?’ She laughter and bend down to grab the arrow, ‘bla bla, arrow in my face’.

She turned back to me. It was difficult to see her in dark courtyard. ‘Looks like you got my notes well enough. Ew, an elf, all that talk and you’re an elf. You’d better not be too elfy.’

I frowned at her, uncertain of who she was.

Instead she pointed at more of the boxes ‘There’s cover, get behind it. I found their equipment storage, so they don’t have any breeches.’ I glanced at her uncertain of what to make, and before I could think wooden doors that I hadn’t noticed to the right burst open and a small handful of trouser-less men came running in, swords waving. Between the five of us, we made quick work of the half-naked guards.

When quiet returned to the courtyard the woman turned to me. ‘I’m Sera, my people said the inquisition should look at this one’.

I glanced across at the corpse, leaking blood on the stone cobbles and shuddered a little. Who was he and what kind of enemy did I not know about. I looked back at her and suddenly noticed the ears, ‘your people? Elves?’

She made a rude noise, ‘no, the Friends of Red Jenny’.

I make an excited noise and clapped my hands together, completely forgetting her remarks about elves, ‘you’re a Friend of Red Jenny?’.

She looked me up and down, the trace of disgust was washing away from her face. ‘We want to help you, well, I want to help you’.

I took her hand in the shem way and shook it, ‘welcome to the inquisition.’

She smiled, then noticed Solas and her face dropped, ‘oh, balls, there are more of you’.

Chapter Text

The sky was darkening, and I sat by the light of the campfire, adding sticks and logs slowly, whispering prayers to Sylaise as I did so. I had almost ended up as a hearthmistress, I had learned the correct prayers just in case. We were camped two days ride away from Val Royeaux. I was grateful to get away from the gilded city and back into the forest. Sera handed me a cup. I brushed my hands clean on my trousers and took the cup from her, smiling at her before standing up and taking a place next to her in the circle around the camp fire. In the two days since I had met her, I had fallen a little in love with Sera. She was daring, wicked quick with a bow and never failed to speak her mind. I was in awe of her as a Friend of Red Jenny, and we had slipped into an easy friendship.

I took a sip of drink that Sera had poured a coughed a little, it was strong brandy. ‘Are you trying to get me drunk?’ I asked playfully.

‘Sure thing, your lady bits’. Sera grinned, slipping the bottle back into her pack.

I saluted her with my cup and stared at the fire. I took a swig but put it down quicklyOn the other side of the fire I watched Solas reading an old tome, I couldn’t even read the script that it was written in and much to my chagrin I was realising slowly that his grasp of elfish was much better than mine. I lent against Sera, watching Solas’ fire-lit hands turning the pages. I took another sip of the drink and felt the smooth liquid warm me from within, I'd better not drink too much or I'll be crawling to bed. I looked up at the stars that were just appearing overhead and for a split second I felt like I was back home. 

‘Anyone for a game of Wicked Grace?’ Varric asked pulling a deck of cards out of the inside pocket of his jacket. Solas glanced up but shook his head.

‘I think that is my que to sleep’. Cassandra said. I looked across at her, she had been cleaning her sword. She sheathed it and stood.

I dragged myself to my feet and went over to her, ‘before you do, I just wanted to thank you’. She looked at me suspiciously, but she led me slightly away from the fire to talk more privately.

‘I do not agree with all of your actions, Herald’. She looked a little grim.

I nodded but took her hand. ‘Keep disagreeing with me. I’ve been lucky so far. You’ve kept me alive and don’t for a second think that I don’t know that’.

Her stance relaxed, and she squeezed my hand a little in return. ‘I will’. She promised before retreating for the evening.

I turned back to the camp, ‘deal me a hand!’ I called to Varric as I made my way back over.


Two games of Wicked Grace later, and quite a few drinks after, Varric turned to me. ‘So how did a Dalish girl get to be herald of Andraste?’

I laughed. ‘Beats me’.

He laughed as well, ‘so what is the Maker to you?’

Oppression. But I didn’t dare say that to him, I knew some dwarves worshipped stone, but I didn't want to guess his beliefs. I considered my words, taking another sip, but found my cup was empty. I waved it at Sera. She rolled her eyes but poured me another. ‘The Maker… is complicated.’

Sera made a rude noise at my remark. So, I made a face back in return, but turned back to Varric to give more information. ‘I don’t necessarily believe he doesn’t exist. He just isn’t one of my Nine.’

‘How do you deal with so many gods?’ Varric asked.

I laughed, ‘how do you deal with just one?’ I countered.

Varric shuffled the cards in his hands, ‘But how do you know how to pray to?’

‘They each have roles and jobs, you just know. Like you wouldn’t go to a blacksmith to get a loaf of bread. You wouldn’t go to June for a fair sea crossing.’ I shrugged.

Sera shuddered, ‘it’s all just crap, to keep the people working and not questioning’.

‘Maybe,’ I agreed half-heartedly, not really agreeing, but hardly wanting to get deeper into a debate with her about it. ‘But if you strip all the…’ I waved my hands, ‘stuff away, you’re still left with all the things that the gods represent, like love, death, secrets’ I ticked them off on my fingers, I lowered my voice slightly ‘even chaos.’ I took a sip of my drink, a little unsettled. I have expected to hear a wolf howl in the distance, but nothing happened.

Sera laughed raucously, ‘ugg that makes no sense. Chaos? Confusing, yeah?’ She exchanged a look with Varric, tapped her hands impatiently on her legs and pulled out the now practically empty bottle of brandy and dumped what was left into her own cup.

I shook my head laughing, ‘isn’t that what you do though? Shake things up a bit?’

Sera crossed her arms defensively. ‘Rich tits get what they deserve.’

‘Exactly, so you see my point. Chaos isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes we need someone to shake things up’.

‘Is your view common among the Dalish?’ It was Solas’ voice. I had forgotten he was still awake. His tone was curious. I looked over to him. His book was closed around a finger, keeping his place. He was watching us intently.

I met his eyes, but then glanced up at the open sky. ‘I couldn’t say, I know what I know and what my Keeper taught me’. I answered as honestly as I could.

He didn’t seem satisfied with the answer, although he made a point of opening his book and studying the page.

‘It certainly is interesting,’ Varric said as he laid out a new hand. ‘But I’ll stick with the one god’. 

Chapter Text

I was grateful to be back in Haven again. I touched my cheeks with my fingertips, and thanked Ghilan’nain for getting me back safely. It was late, and I dumped my belonging in my little cabin, not even bothering to unpack and went down to the tavern. I had promised Sera I would have a drink with her. When I met her, she was looking a little uncertain, she still had her belonging with her. I raised an eyebrow but didn’t question it.

The tavern was mostly empty, two tables were taken up with some of Cullen’s soldiers and I noticed that Maryden was sitting on her own at a table restringing her instrument. I bought Sera a drink from Flissa and we settled down at a rough-cut wooden table in the far back corner of the Singing Maiden, ‘so welcome to Haven, I guess.’

‘So, this is it, huh?’ she glanced around, ‘I expected it to be bigger’ she laughed nervously, moving the cup back and forth between her hands, ‘that would have been hilarious if you were a man, right?’ I smiled with her, but her laughter turned sour, ‘What everyone needs is to get everything back to normal and proper. Because here is stupid, and smells of horse.’

Unconsciously I sniffed the air, I had to agree with her, it did smell like horse. ‘I wish it were that simple.’ I said with a sigh.

She looked at me stubbornly, crossing her arms over her chest. ‘Yes, it is.’

I looked at her curiously, ‘why?’

‘Just because someone yelled it really loud, make them prove it. They’re too busy to look up to where the real questions are.’ She sat back in her chair, drink forgotten.

‘The real questions?’ I asked taking a sip of my drink and expecting a long debate.

She looked at me, and then deflated a little ‘are you just going to repeat everything I say all night. It’s not a problem, yeah, so long as you’re buying. Saving the world doesn’t bring in as many sovereigns as it should.’

I had to agree with her. But I held my hands up instead and decided not to argue. I enjoyed her company, ‘Fine, fine. Three drinks and that’s it.’

She smiled broadly and sat back satisfied, she put her yellow-clad legs up on the table.

I glanced over at her stuff, piled in a messy heap on the floor. ‘Where are you staying?’

‘I guess here.’ She looked a little ashamed.

I looked around at the tavern. Although it wasn’t packed, and I was certain she could defend herself, I didn’t like the idea of her staying here. I shook my head, ‘Don’t be silly. I have a cabin, you can stay with me. If you like?’

She nodded, ‘sounds fun.’ Then she looked at me curiously, I watched her eyes work their way across my figure, and then she looked at my vallaslin and frowned, ‘are you going to try anything? Because I could be into that, maybe.’ She waggled her eyebrows at me.

I blushed a little and shook my head, ‘no, no. I mean you’re lovely, really.’

She tipped her head back and laughed out loud. ‘I know,’ she confirmed, ‘but I’ve seen you looking at Solas, though he looks like he’d shout elven glory when he does it.’ She crinkled her nose up a little at her own comment.

I breathed in my drink and spluttered, coughing beer across the table. I could do nothing but stare at her, wide eyed. I felt my mouth open and close unable to make a response. I could feel the heat rising so fast in my face it reached the tips of my ears. ‘Shhhhhh’. I eventually managed and glanced around, praying to all the gods that no one had heard. ‘How the hell did you know?’ I hissed, rubbing my eyes.

She looked incredibly smug with herself and gave me a shrug. ‘Didn’t, but bet Varric ten gold you did.’ She leaned back in her chair, taking her drink in both hands and draining it. She put the cup down on the table with a thud and she looked at me expectantly, fluttering her eyelashes.

I glared but got up with a smile. I was about to go to the bar, but I turned back to her. ‘You should really tell me something embarrassing about you, to be fair.’

She narrowed her eyes at me. I left to get another round of drinks. I sat down and looked at her expectantly. She took the offered drink and then laughed, ‘fat chance.’

I sighed and then put my head on the table. ‘Please don’t say anything.’ I mumbled pitifully.

She laughed but put her hand on mine to reassure me. ‘Of course, I wont,’ She waved her cup at me, ‘anyway, it’s typical. Elves and elves, trousers down to rebuild the empire.’

My insides turned cold and I looked at her hard, I felt like she’d stabbed me. ‘Don’t say that.’

‘You know it’s true.’ She smirked.

I crossed my arms. ‘I can’t have children. It isn’t about that.’

Her face fell, and it was her turn to stare at me in wide-eyed shock. ‘I’m sorry.’ She whispered, taking my hand again and giving it a little squeeze. I was grateful she didn’t ask anything further.

I shook my head, ‘you didn’t know.’ I paused for a long minute, feeling sick. When the feeling passed, I looked up again and smiled lightly trying to move on from this unfortunate conversation. ‘Do you want me to show you the cabin?’

She smiled meekly, and I helped her carry her things.

Chapter Text

I walked through the streets of Haven, I had been summoned to a meeting in the Chantry with Josephine. My head pounded and I only slightly regretted drinking so much with Sera the night before. I had helped her move into my cabin and we’d headed back to the tavern. I hoped it was too early for a serious meeting and that it wasn’t going to be another war council. We can’t all be like Cullen who goes to bed at dusk and wakes at dawn.

Entering the chantry was still an unusual experience for me. Faintly echoing words of prayer resonated across the grey stone walls. Candles flickered, casting strange shadows over the faces of gods and prophets that I did not know. Since the Elven gods had been locked away, the Dalish only worshipped under the open sky so there would be no barriers between us. Worship under the high vaulted building felt uncomfortable to me. I stopped before a great carved statue of Andraste, I looked at her face. Wondering what she could think of me being named as her herald. I wondered if she felt as uneasy with me as I did with her.

‘Herald?’

I turned away from the statue to turn to Lady Josephine. She was covered in gold and purple flowing fabrics and she was a wonder to look at. I had no idea how much her outfit cost but suspected it could feed our clan for a good month. She looked unsure, ‘did I disturb your devotion?’ She asked carefully.

I looked between her and the statue of Andraste, ‘no. What can I do for you?’

‘I have an interesting one for you, if you have a moment’ she led me towards her little office. It was in one of the rooms off the main hallway of the Chantry. Her desk was piled with papers and documents. She had a small library of books around her and I saw many candle stubs burnt down. I suspected she had spent many late nights in this room. She reached behind her desk and pulled out a small box. ‘A merchant approached us this morning. They were from Val Royeaux and wanted a job.’

I looked at the box, it was a small roughly made wooden crate. I gave Josephine a curious look, ‘why are you telling me?’

Josephine clicked her tongue and waved her hand at the box, ‘the merchant says that his master kicked him out after he talked to you. He gives this as a gift to you and asks you to help him.’

‘Me?’

‘I have not opened the box, I thought you might know more.’

I looked at her, ‘I don’t know...’ I look the little dagger out of my boot and carefully wedged the top slat off the crate. Inside was filled with sawdust and I glanced over apologetically at Josephine as sawdust spilled out onto the floor. I brushed the wood chips away with the hilt of my dagger until I saw the top of a painted statue. ‘Oh.’

I pulled the gaudy statue of Mythal out of the box. ‘I had forgotten,’ I glanced at Josephine, ‘I spoke to a merchant and asked to buy this, then someone fired an arrow at my head. In the chaos I forgot’.

Josephine looked at the little statue in my hands, ‘why would you want this?’

I held the statue protectively in my arms. ‘I liked it’. I said sheepishly. ‘Can we help the merchant?’

Josephine nodded, ‘it would be useful to begin building trade connections. Having contacts in Val Royeaux would be extremely useful. I will ensure this man is well looked after.’ She then busied herself with a stack of documents. She didn’t seem to want to look at me or the statue.

‘Thank you, Josephine.’

She nodded, and I felt that I was dismissed.


I cradled the statue and walked back to the cabin that I now shared with Sera. I opened the door and snuck in quickly to ensure that I didn’t let the cold air get in. Sera was still asleep, as it was late, we had been unable to find an extra cot, so she had piled blankets up into a corner and curled herself into a ball. She gave me a dirty look as I closed the door and make an annoyed growl.

‘Sorry!’ I whispered, and tip toed over to my own bed. I sat down and put the little statue on top of a cabinet. 

‘What is it?’ Sera asked sitting up, she stretched out and then looked at me expectantly.

I was looking around for objects to set up a little shrine, I wanted an offering bowl, ‘it’s Mythal.’ I found a wooden cup and took the sleeve of my shirt to make sure the inside was clean.

Sera made a rude noise and I looked across, her arms were folded across her chest. ‘You’re not putting it there’.

I scowled and opened the cupboard up. I pulled out the various items of clothing and tucked them under my bed. I put the statue inside, with a little cup in front of it. I reached into my pack and pulled out a water canteen, I pulled the cork out of the top and poured in a little to the cup. I bowed at the statue. I could not formally worship here, because it was indoor, but I loved the idea of having the goddess of my vallaslin so close. I had to smirk at myself, maybe these Andrastians were rubbing off on me. I turned back to Sera ‘Is it better? Look,’ I closed the cabinet door, ‘gone.’

She glared at me but nodded slowly. ‘Fine.’

Chapter Text

The next few days in Haven passed uneventfully. To my great delight, the previous night, Maryden began to play a song I had not heard before, Sera recognised it wide eyed and banged her head on the table in frustration. I watched her as I heard the lyrics and a wicked smile grew on my face. ‘I guess this is fair.’ I had asked Maryden to repeat the song all through the night.


Which meant that the next morning I had the song in my head. I hummed it as I worked outside in the cold morning air checking over my equipment, so I wouldn’t wake Sera.

‘Please stop.’ I looked up and it was Solas standing over me, looking unimpressed. He was frowning, and I considered kissing him then, just to see if I could cheer him up.

I laughed at his annoyance, ‘don’t you like the tune?’ I teased and stood, leaving back against the little wall. ‘I mean, I don’t know any other songs about elves, do you?’

‘Many,’ he said, though his brow furrowed, ‘though they would not translate well.’

I smiled, once I would have been surprised when he said something like that. ‘Let me guess, you found them in the fade? I wish I could hear them.’ I said wistfully, thinking of the wonders he must see dreaming in the fade.

'You have a love for all things elven?' He asked.

I nodded, 'of course. It is difficult to be so far away from my people.' I closed my eyes to the tug of homesickness that threatened to flare in me. 

He gave me a knowing look. ‘Then I am not surprised. I mean,' he paused, seeming to chose his words, 'it seems natural that you would desire another elf.’ The way he said desire made my heart twist, and my breath skip.

Then his words settled into placed I flushed completely, guessing at his meaning. ‘Did she tell you? Fenedhis!’ I hissed. Clearly, I shouldn’t have baited Sera last night, I buried my head in my hands. I felt my face burn hot, even my ears were red.  

Solas smiled a little at my distress, but it didn’t reach his eyes. ‘It was completely obvious.’

I started at him in shock, it was not exactly how I’d planned this conversation going. Oh Mythal, how had I let this crush get so out of hand?

‘I admit, I do not approve.’ I glanced at him, his jaw was tight.

My heart hurt, all the breath left my chest. ‘Ir abelas’. I whispered, using the Elven to add formality.

‘Don’t be sorry. We cannot help who we love’. He said, with an almost sorrowful tone.

‘I so ashamed, I should have told you before. I thought I was subtle, I didn’t think you knew... It’s not that I didn’t want you to know.’ I could hear my own voice raising in pitch. I tried to calm myself down. I could see the tree he had painted on the grey stone wall of the Chantry, it hadn’t been so long again, but I found myself entangled in those leaves. I was still entangled I realised cursing myself, despite his disapproval. ‘You must realise this isn’t ideal.’

His eyebrow raised, ‘You realise that everyone knows now you moved in with her?’

His words stopped me in my tracks and the full horror of the situation dawned on me. I left out a hysterical laugh, I felt like the gods were laughing at me. Setting me up for this comedy of errors. I just hoped it would have a happy ending. I held up a finger, ‘Wait what?’ I asked slowly. ‘What… what do you think we’re talking about?’ I demanded.

He inclined his head, ‘your relationship with Sera.’

I shook my head, ‘No, no.’ I waved my hands and laughed. ‘Sera is not, was never.’ I felt my legs wobbling beneath me. ‘We’re very good friends. She’s in the cabin with me, because she was going to sleep in the tavern!’ I exclaimed.

Solas’ piercing eyes examined my face, searching for meaning. In a second, I saw his face change, like a hunter spying their prey. He understood. ‘So, what were you talking about?’ A slight smile played on his lips and his eyes were hungry now.

I put on a big fake smile and shook my head. ‘It doesn’t matter. I should… go’. I needed time to think, I thought desperately. ‘But, we should… talk’. My throat was dry, I licked my lips. ‘Dareth shiral,’ I said formally, with a little more severity than I meant to.

He nodded, ‘I have misjudged you.’ He said simply.

 

I walked away and ran my hands through my hair. I realised I was shaking. I didn’t know where my feet took me, but eventually I lent back against a grey stone wall outside of Haven. I could feel my heart thumping in my chest and I was leaned my head back against the cold stone.

‘Excuse me?’ A voice asked. My head came up and I looked over, ‘I have a message for the inquisition, but I’m having a hard time getting anyone to speak to me.’

‘Give me the message.’

He gave me a look, as though he was uncertain if I was the right person to be speaking to but introduced himself anyway. ‘Cremisius Aclassi, I’m with the Bull’s Chargers. We’re a mercenary Company. We got word of some Tevinter mercenaries gathering out on the Storm Coast. My company commander Iron Bull offers the information free of charge.’

I rubbed my forehead with my hand, my head was pounding, so I thought it was best to pass the problem on to someone else. ‘Come see Josie.’ I said and lead the mercenary to the Chantry.

Chapter Text

The black bear swung it’s claws at Cassandra, and she blocked the attack with her arm. The beast had caught us unaware, and I stumbled up the side of a hill to get a better point to rain down arrows from. The gravelled hillside was wet from the constant rain and the pebbles resisted my weight and I fell forwards. I scraped my hands and rolled over to see what was happening. The bear slammed into Cassandra again and I could see she was faltering. I watched her stagger, to the side as Solas appeared by her side casting freezing spells.

I pushed myself to my feet, the situation was dire, and we had to retreat.

For a second the bear was magically frozen solid, and I shouted to my companions to run. I pushed myself to my feet and drew closer. Cassandra looked like she didn’t hear me and continued attacking, on instinct I ran to her and grabbed her sleeve pulling her away. In the chaos of battle, she almost swung at me but stopped just in time. We started running. The bear unfroze, and I saw Sera following behind us sending arrows to convince it we were not worth following.

Once away I saw Cassandra hugging her arm to her chest, she grimaced.

‘Are you hurt?’ I asked softly.

She glared at me, although she took a misstep which jarred her, and she had to reluctantly nod. ‘We could have taken the bear.’ She demanded.

I sighed, ‘we need to stay alive. Learn from Andruil.’ I hissed, swearing the hunter’s curse.

Cassandra raised an andrastian eyebrow at me, I noticed even Solas was looking at me expectantly. ‘Even mad gods give gifts.’ I muttered by way of explanation. I thought of the stories my mother had taught me; Andruil has created hares that dart and hide. The hunter should have known when it was not the time to fight, but she didn’t and she went mad. Little hare, little hunter, my mother had said to me, you will be sworn to Andruil, learn from her.

Sera made a rude noise and complained loudly about my elfy ways. I shrugged, feeling a wave of homesickness, and I pushed past the group to lead the way through the muddy valley. We were supposed to be meeting the Bull’s Chargers, but so far all we’d found was rain, bears and mud.

 

‘We’re here, so, where are they?’ Sera asked when we arrived on the cliff overlooking the Storm Coast. I glanced around, seeing no one.

‘Are we sure this is the right place?’ Cassandra asked, I noticed her voice was strained and I glanced over. She needed rest.

‘We should make camp here and wait for them.’ I suggested. I dumped my pack on the group, and grimaced as it landed with a wet plop. I was starting to really hate the Storm Coast, the rain and mud and… I heard a cry. I glanced around at the little group. Leaving my pack on the ground we rushed down the hill to see a fight going on. I recognised one of them as Krem, these must be the Chargers. They were being attacked by a group dressed in rich fabrics drawn over mail, Tevinters? I fired an arrow from above and began the attack.


The battle was over almost as quickly as it had started. The waves roared around us and I glanced around the group that was still gathered. A little cheer rang up among the mercenary group. Cassandra came to stand next to me, she struck her sword into the sand and rested on it lightly.

I looked around at the group, Krem approached me with the largest person I’d ever seen. Grey skin and twisted dark horns, I recognised them as a qunari, but their belt alone must have been wider than my shoulders. I had been one of the tallest in my clan, I was starting to get a little sick of looking up to people.

‘Break out the casts.’ I heard him call. A little nervous, I approached.

He turned to face me, ‘you must be with the inquisition.’

I nodded and held my left hand up. The green mark flared. ‘Iron Bull?’ I guessed.

‘The Iron Bull,’ he corrected with a smile, ‘the horns usually give it away. Grab a seat the drinks are coming.’

I glanced around the rainy shore, it was hardly the occasion to have a party. The barrels were cracked open and someone pressed a wooden cup into my hands, I looked up and saw vallaslin on a pale woman with straw-coloured hair. I smiled at her, finally someone who was shorter than me. Someone who wasn't Varric that was. Then glanced around at the group, it was a varied crew. The Iron Bull sat down next to me, I noticed he was missing an eye as we briefly knocked our cups together, I glanced up to see Solas politely refuse a drink and I rolled my eyes inwardly. I turned my attention back to the qunari. ‘So, you’ve seen us fight. We’re expensive, but I’m sure the inquisition can afford us.’

I took a sip and surveyed the group, ‘you seem useful, and I have a job for you, to prove yourself if you will.’

The Iron Bull tipped his head forward, ‘what kind of job.’

I pointed towards Cassandra who was looking uneasy but had remained standing by her sword. She also hadn’t touched the offered drink, ‘that’s Cassandra. She important. She got injured on the way down. Can you get her safely back to Haven?’

‘I see.’ He considered for a moment, ‘we can take her.’

I smiled, ‘good, when you get there talk to Josephine, can’t miss her she’s all gold and frills and purple, she will sort the gold out.’

The corner of his mouth tilted up, ‘one more thing, might piss you off. I’m Ben-Hassrath.’

Qunari spy, I nodded, considering. I glanced over him, half his chest was exposed and covered in white scars. He definitely looked like he could handle himself in a fight, with Cassandra down I didn’t like the look of our chances if I refused him.

‘I will be sending reports back,’ The Iron Bull continues, ‘I was sent to join the inquisition and get close to the people in charge. But I get reports back, we have people all over Orlais and anything I get I will share.’

I smiled at my hands, thinking of my old life. In comparison, he was a terrible spy. Maybe it was a bluff, or even a double bluff. Leliana could have him if he betrayed us, I thought with a smirk, she would enjoy that. So, I raised my glass to him, ‘welcome aboard.’

 

I should have told Cassandra about the arrangement before I sent her away, she was furious. Raging across the beach, and then wincing in pain whenever she moved her arm too much. It was beginning to swell, but she wouldn’t let the charger’s healer look. ‘I will not go.’ She spat at me.

I raised my eyebrow, ‘I might as well close a couple rifts while I’m here, I will follow you in a day or two.’ I reasoned.

‘I will not leave you three here, running a mockery of the inquisition.’ She spat.

I crossed my arms, ‘us three?’ I glanced at Solas and Sera, guess what we had in common? I narrowed my eyes at the shem with the eye on her chest.

‘Yes, how can I trust…’ Cassandra stopped, then looked a little uncertain and I saw the steady realisation that she was not surrounded by shem and I strongly suspected she was the only one about with a title. I begrudgingly liked Cassandra, but sometimes she really didn’t have a clue. I was about to tell her as much, when I was interrupted.

‘If you’re worried about them getting injured, I will stay with you, boss.’ The Iron Bull interjected, and I was amused to find that he was looking at me when he said boss. ‘Throw me at demons, dragons, the bigger the better.’

Cassandra made a disgusted noise but went with the Chargers without any further protest. When they were gone, I let out a shaky breath, and the tension that I hadn’t realised I’d kept dissipated.

Chapter Text

I disliked the Storm Coast. I had thought that I would like it, being so close to home again that I thought I might be able to see it. Except that it wasn’t called the Storm Coast for no reason. My pack was soaked through, making it twice as heavy to carry. The ground was covered in tiny smooth pebbles that happily fell away underfoot, threatening twisted ankles with every step. I tried to keep positive, but there really wasn’t anything to be positive about here. We had discovered an abandoned Grey Warden campsite in the morning, which had given us a single bottle of disgusting mixed spirits which Sera had immediately liberated. I had closed another two rifts by lunch time. We stopped to eat on a cliff overlooking the sea. The white horses jumped and smashed into the waters, and the roar of the waves echoed loudly.

Then I heard it, a scream then erupted through the air, high and lonely, piercing and cruel. The Iron Bull roared and ran forward to get a better look. And sure enough, down on the beach was a purple and yellow dragon breathing lightning bolts onto a troll.

‘I hate the Storm Coast,’ I said cheerfully to the Iron Bull,

The qunari turned to me and grinned, ‘I love this job, boss.’

‘Nope,’ I heard Sera call from behind me.

I took a step forward and walked into a warm barrier, I realised Solas had his arm in front of me, I looked at him and he made a motion with his hand to stay back and then another to stay quiet.

I glanced over at Bull, he looked like a sad puppy that we were not running in to slay a dragon.

We waited, silence and patient on top of the cliff. Until the dragon defeated the troll and then it launched itself on great reptilian wings, screeching again into the sky. It sent a brilliant ball of purple lightning towards us, hitting above us. The lightning snaked black down the old trunk, and with a sickening creak, it turned in slow motion towards us. I was pulled physically from my feet, I closed my eyes and felt a weight on top of me. After a moment I realised I was not in pain as I was expecting to me and opened my eyes, the weight was Solas.

I made a small noise in the back of my throat and he jumped away from me guilty.

I pushed myself to my feet, ‘anyone hurt?’ I asked. We were unharmed, ‘ma seranna,’ I said to Solas, but he was already walking away. I shook myself off and we continued on.

A little while later, I heard my name and looked over to see Sera and Iron Bull deep in conversation, as I turned, they shook their hands in the shem fashion. Sera met my eyes and a grin spread across her face. I didn’t want to know what she was up to.

 

After closing our third rift of the day, we stopped to make camp in early evening. Only half a handful of Inquisition Agents had joined us, and I could hear the small sounds of bustle around me as I set up my tent. In order to give everyone enough space, I had set up slightly closer to the edge of the cliff than I normally would have done. I was leaving my tent in order to grab my sodden belongings and I heard and odd sound. It was the sound of a pebble dropping down the cliff, I briefly though as I heard it again, and then again. Fenedhis! Gods help me, I thought as the landslide began.

My tent was dragged first off the cliff, and I scrambled to get away, but my foot was caught. I twisted on myself and desperately tried to free my foot from the opening of the tent. Then I realised dumbly I was moving. Rocks tore into my right arm and I could feel myself being battered as I tumbled. I needed someone to return my woven bracelet, I thought as I was being dragged backward. The sound was intense, rumbling and roaring like the earth was trying to swallow me up. Would they plant a tree here? I considered as the rocks and pebbles came bouncing off my back. Then I wasn’t being dragged anymore and I was slowing down. I came to a skidding holt half way up the cliff.

‘Boss?’ I heard Iron Bull shout, and I raised my hand to signal them. My arm was peppered with small stones that had embedded themselves through my jacket while I fell. I winced at the pain of taking my jacket off, but everything considered I was extremely lucky. No broken bones. I looked up at where I had fallen from and saw worried faces peaking over the side of the cliff. I heard someone call ‘herald’. I closed my eyes and rubbed them with my uninjured hand and pushed myself unsteadily to my feet. Keeping my arm close by my body I made my way back up in slope.

Nearly to the top and I saw Iron Bull was a couple of steps down, he reached down and pulled me the rest of the way up. I nodded my thanks as an elfroot potion was pushed into my hands by a green and brown clad inquisition agent. I drained it and handed her back the glass thankfully. I glanced around at the missing spot and realised I was doubly lucky as my pack was still where I had left it. And no one else had been caught in the landslide. I peeked back over the cliff and saw the remains of my tent mostly buried in rubble. I let out a breath, now I didn’t have anywhere to stay. I glanced around, the smaller number of inquisition agents meant there would be no free tents. The gods only keep me around to laugh at me.

‘Can I stay with you Sera?’ Almost congratulating myself with the idea.

‘Sorry, I’m already doubled up’. She seemed genuinely apologetic, until I saw her eyes light up with glee.

‘Is anyone not?’ I asked slowly, I suspected, please anything but... I prayed. Ugg that explains why Sera was so happy.

‘Take my tent’ Solas said, ‘I will stay up’.

‘Don’t be silly, sleep with me’. I said without thinking. I heard Sera cackle loudly and without looking at her I put up my hand in a rude shem gesture, only making her laugh more. ‘In the tent, with me,’ I clarified. ‘You can’t stay up, and there should be space for two bedrolls’. I didn’t wait for an answer and instead slumped down by the dying fire and used the remaining light to start treating my arm. I looked up at Sera, ‘if you have any white spirit, I’ll take it now’.

She mock curtsied at me and skipped away happily, I suspected more gold would be exchanged between her and Varric on their little bet once we got back to Haven. Sera dropped off a half empty bottle of something that gave off a strong alcoholic smell even with the cork in, and then she retreated away. I looked down to examine the bottle she gave me, it would do. And I glanced up to catch Sera’s figure sneak into the tent of the requisition officer, whose name I didn’t know. I took a moment to smile for my friend, already doubled up indeed.

I uncorked the bottle she had given me with my teeth and took a slip. It burned all the way down my throat. I waved it vaguely in the direction of home and poured it over the wounds on the arm. I hissed around the cork, it stung. Fenedhis. I had also managed to soak the woven bracelet, I grimaced and swapped it over to my left hand. I knocked the rock dust off my arm and waiting a moment for the rain to wash away the excess. Then I pulled out a couple of bandaged and tried to unsuccessfully tie them one handed.  

‘Let me help’. He knelt and began tending to my injury before I could stop him. As he worked, I watching his face. High cheekbones illuminated by the drying fire, a stark expression on his lips and a faint blush revealing that he had freckles. And suddenly, like lightning on a humid day, I saw everything clearly. The blush as he touched my arm however chastely, I could have him if I wanted. My clarity snapped into place and my emotions were finally contained, I was not Andruil’s hare running for cover in his presence anymore. I was a winged dragon and I would stand my ground. I was a little dizzy from my new-found power, or maybe it was the fumes of the White spirit...

‘I am sorry for what I said, before.’

His words cut through my epiphany, and I smiled gently. ‘It’s funny, you know. Sera said almost the said thing when I told her, about you, I mean. Though she was much cruder’. I couldn’t help but smile to myself at the memory and pushed away the dreadful thought that all these elves seemed to despise each other.

He glanced up, and I noticed he was uncertain, torn. ‘I did not except myself to have anything in common with Sera’. He tied the bandage a little too firmly.

If it was supposed to be a chastisement I couldn’t help laughing, ‘forgive me then, because I think you are very similar.’

He sat back on his heels. Waiting.

Before that look would have stopped me, but now. ‘You are both here, at incredible risk. You are both kind and idealistic, and I need you both’. I took Solas hand in mine but looked down to the ground ‘I don’t want anything you’re not prepared to give. But I do need you to promise me something’.

I looked at his hand, a mage’s hand, a painter’s hand. ‘When the inquisition lose faith in me, when they come for me. Get out, don’t wait. Just leave. Don’t look back’.

In the silence all I could hear was the fire crackle and the sea far below us relentlessly wash against the shore. He squeezed my hand back lightly and nodded. And then he stood taking his hand and pulling me to my feet. For all his beautiful words, his actions spoke the clearest.

‘Thank you’, I said holding aloft my bandaged arm, and went away from him to find my pack. It was Near the cliff edge where I had fallen, standing tall like the Fen’Harel statues that guarded our camps. For a second, I considered leaving it to guard for the night, and then shook my head feeling foolish. Danger is coming, the shem has raised me high, all I could do was limit the damage. I felt an odd sort of calm, I knew the ending and I was already preparing for it. A fool, a madwoman and traitor, the words had rattled around my head for weeks now. I looked at the pack and picked it up I could take all the help I could get, may the wolf watch, I silently challenged the night sky.


I lay on my back in the tent, watching the light emerge. I had woken early but didn’t move. I was listening to Solas’ breathing beside me. It was sure and steady, he was asleep. I dared to look across and his face was relaxed, looking younger than it normally did. I looked back up at the fabric above me and sighed and sat up. I should pray, maybe see if I could hunt anything for breakfast. I pulled on my jacket and slipped the dagger out from under my pillow where I had hidden it before I slept.

‘For me?’ The sleepy voice asked, I jumped out of my skin. I looked over and it was as if Solas had pulled his age down like a mask. Though his voice was sleepy, his eyes were alert and watching the knife in my hands clearly.

‘No, not for you.’ I could hear my heart ringing in my ears, I slipped the dagger into my boot, ‘just for the wolf’. I said piously, and I couldn’t help glancing to entrance to the tent as if at that moment great jaws would peak through the flaps.

Solas just made an unimpressed noise in response and threw his arm over his eyes.

I gave him a sharp look and left the tent.

 

The morning was bright and clear, although the air was thick with dew and the scent of mud. A fire was going and I saw the qunari gutting an animal. He looked up at me, ‘morning boss’.

I indicated towards the ram, ‘you got there before me’.

Iron Bull grinned, ‘did you... have a good night?’

I raised my eyebrows, ‘excuse me?’

‘I have some money riding on the outcome’. He said completely unabashed.

My eyes widened, and I felt my blush reach the tips of my ears. I felt my rage flare and the green mark on my hand flared in sympathy sending shooting pains up my bones. ‘What do you mean?’ I snarled through clenched teeth.

‘It’s nothing to be ashamed of’.

Then I heard Sera’s laughter from the camp and all the pieces snapped together in my mind and I narrowed my eyes again. ‘Please, please, tell me Sera hasn’t continued that bet?’

Iron Bull pulled up one side of his mouth in a cheeky smile, ‘what bet would that be, boss?’

I gave him a hard smile, ‘nothing happened.’ His face lit up and I knew gold would be changing hands, ‘I’m going to kill her’. I marched over to the tents, ‘Sera!!’ I shouted.

Cursing came from the tent she had entered the night before, then a sound of pots clanging together and then a heavy thump.

I stared at the outside of the tent in disbelief and crossed my arms.

The elf appeared, with her yellow trousers on back to front, and her hair was significantly in more disarray than usual. She crawled out of the tent, and her boots on, she yawned and then froze when she saw the expression on my face. She wheeled around, ‘You tattle!’ She shouted over to Iron Bull.

He shrugged, ‘you lost!’ He shouted back.

‘What!’ She turned to me, and threw her hands up into the air, ‘Come on, that doesn’t make any sense’.

‘It doesn’t make any sense to me, why would you invite, someone we met yesterday’ I hissed, ‘to bet with you about my life’.

‘You’re the herald’, She shrugged, ‘you’re all up there. I’m making you real’.

I clenched my fists, ‘you’re what?’

‘Making you real, a real person. Not so high and mighty’. She said, ‘plus, I thought I would win’. She pouted.

I closed my eyes and rubbed the vallaslin below my eyes with my fingertips, Elgar’nan, give me revenge.

At that moment, a sleepy woman appeared in the tent opening, ‘come back to… Herald?’ Her eyes widened.

Revenge, thank you Elgar’nan. ‘Good morning,’ I smiled warmly with what I hoped was a wicked glint in my eye, ‘anything to report?’

She gulped, and looked guilty between me and Sera, ‘nothing…’ she swallowed, ‘to report, Ser’.

I laughed and clapped Sera on the shoulder, but my voice was serious, ‘you don’t need to live vicariously through me.’ I walked away, but then stopped, making me real. I trusted Sera, I knew she did good work, I turned back, ‘you’d better pay the man his money, and next time include me in your gambling’.

Chapter Text

It’s like the world has turned inside out, and I’m on the inside. The breach is the earth and the sky, and the emerald green is spreading. The globe is closing in, turning twisting, I’m trapped and claustrophobic. I can’t breathe, everything is green carving lightning lines across my vision. I’m in an eye, I think, a great green eye. A ball that is being thrown between two children and I’m tossed and trapped, tumbling through nothingness. I cry out, but no sound comes. Then my prison changes, the lines become self-assured, no longer lightning but fingerprints, carefully carved. I’m trapped in an iron sphere, and the eyes are watching me. Too many eyes…

 

I am in a room, illuminated by the green glow of my left hand, I recognise it as Haven. I move to sit up, but I can’t. It’s like something is crushing my chest. I take shuddering breathes and look around trying to work out why I cannot move, cannot get up. I can see Sera’s sleeping form, but I cannot call out to her. I can feel the panic rising, I try to move again, but I can’t. The pain from my wrist is radiated up through my bones but I am powerless to do anything. Then slowly the feeling returns, like pushing through tar, and I am fully in control of my body once more.

With my unmarked wrist I make a warding gesture into the air, ‘leave me be and let me sleep.’ I hissed at the room, hoping my dreams will take note.

Grumpily, I look over at Sera who is still fast asleep, thanks for all your help! I turn over in my bed and massage my marked hand. I move my woven bracelet back over to my right hand, thanking the creators that it was me, here and now, and not one of my fellow hunters in my place. This is my bad luck, and I would shoulder it, but at least I knew they were safe.

I pulled the covers up and settled back into a restless sleep.

 

The next morning, I rose at dawn and dressed quickly and quietly. I worried the woven bracelet on my wrist and knew I needed to see the woman in gold and purple. I didn’t want to have this conversation, but I knew that I needed to. At the very least it might stop the bad dreams. Josephine was well-spoken and intelligent and a perfect diplomat, I reminded myself. There really was no reason to be intimidated. Be brave, little hare, I thought, as I pushed my hand through my sleep-tussled hair. I glanced across at Sera, she would sleep to midday at least. I slipped through the front door, shutting it quickly to ensure that I didn’t let too much cold in.

 

I stepped through the front doors of the Chantry once again and felt unsettled. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever feel comfortable in this building. I walked down the corridor and knocked on the door of Josephine’s office.

‘Come in.’ The clear Antivan ascent called.

I opened the door carefully, and Josephine looked up and smiled. There, I told myself, nothing to be afraid of. ‘What can I do for your Herald?’

The title bounced off me, like I didn’t hear it, ‘I had a favour to ask, something that would require some diplomacy, Ambassador.’ I added, following her fashion of using titles.

Josephine smiled, flashing her teeth, she motioned towards a chair on the other side of her eternally cluttered desk. ‘What can I do.’

I weighed my words, ‘if something happens to me, I need you to send me back to my clan.’

Josephine’s eyes widened a little, but she schooled her expression, ‘that might not be possible,’ she allowed. ‘But What has brought this line of thinking on?’

I allowed myself a grim smile, ‘I fell down the side of a cliff,’ she gasped, ‘I’m alright. But I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if I wouldn’t be. I’m guessing the Chantry would want…’ to claim my body. I left the rest unspoken, I guessed she would know exactly what I was speaking of, the Andrastians loved a martyr.

Josephine picked up a pile of papers, shuffled then together and put them back down. The smiles were gone, ‘it might benefit our cause if…’ it seemed like she didn’t have the words either. To say it might be to ask for it.

I nodded solemnly, ‘if you cannot,’ I held up my right arm, showing her the bracelet, ‘you must send this back to my clan.’ I looked her in the eyes, they were fearful, ‘if nothing else. Promise my this.’

She inclined her head to me, ‘you have done so much for the inquisition, I will do everything in my power to ensure you wishes are carried out.’ She paused, ‘all of them.’

I stood, ‘thank you’ I paused for a moment, grateful that it was done, ‘I am sorry to have burdened you on this morning.’

Josephine stood as well, ‘your burden is our burden, Her… Hellana.’

I smiled. And left. I realised as I was walking out of the chantry, she had not questioned why I wanted this, she simply agreed. I realised I was shaking, I had been expecting a fight. But, I guessed it had gone suprisingly well. I hoped this conversation would stop my terrible dreams. As the adrenaline wore off, I realised I was exhausted. I stopped to sit by one of the stone seats and rested my head back against the grey stone building.

 

‘Herald!’ An unfamiliar male voice called, and I looked up, an elven man I barely recognised was approaching. He was bare-faced but seemed friendly. He sat down next to me, companionably. ‘I haven’t seen you since Val Royeaux, I haven’t had the chance to thank you.’

I stared at this man blankly, desperately trying to work out who he was. My head was still reeling from the previous conversation.

He smiled, ‘you don’t know my name?’ He questioned with a smile, ‘call me Mice.’

My eyes widened, ‘Mice?’ I questioned.

He laughed, ‘I um… was found as a stowaway, hiding ‘like mice’.’ He moved his hands like quote makes. I suddenly clicked that he was the merchant I had bought the statue of Mythal from.

‘I see, you look different without the…’ I waved my hands towards my face.

He nodded towards me, ‘I didn’t mean to cause any offence.’

‘It’s fine,’ I paused, ‘where did you find the statue?’ I realised in that moment that I wanted more statues. I hoped at the very least he could put me in contact with a clan.

He looked a little put out, ‘I made it?.’

I smiled, that was good workmanship. 'You made it?’ I clarified a plan forming in my head.

‘Of course.’

‘Do you take commissions?’ The morning was getting better.

A shocked expression filtered down onto his face, ‘what do you need.’

I laughed, ‘the other eight.’

He raised an eyebrow, but nodded and didn't question me further, ‘consider it done. Thank you Herald.’

He got up to leave, but I held up my hand curious, ‘wait...what have I done?’

He looked at me incredulous, 'you... got me out of Val Royeaux.’ He searched my face looking for something, he didn’t find what he was looking for. He bowed ‘I will start work on them today’ and he retreated. I watched him leave, grateful I was doing some good at the very least. I closed my eyes, uncertain of what the conversation meant exactly. I made my slow way back to my cabin and collapsed on my bed.


‘Hey, Hellana.’ I woke up, and Sera was prodding me in the ribs with a bony finger.

‘What you want?’ I asked with a rough voice.

She looked behind her, ‘it’s just past midday and Leliana’s looking for you?’ She said it liked a question.

Fenedhis,’ I swore, and stood. Then I turned to Sera, ‘we make arrows, once a week. You can join us if you want?’

She raised an eyebrow.

I didn’t wait for her answer instead, I grabbed my jacket and left my cabin still pulling it on as I walked back toward the Chantry.

Once I got to the little courtyard, I noticed that our equipment was all laid out. I looked around, no one was looking at me. So, I simply sat down and started whittling the rough sticks into arrow shafts.

‘There you are,’ came Leliana’s honey voice.

I looked up from my work, ‘it’s been an odd morning.’

‘Yes,’ she sat next to me, ‘I’ve spent the morning going over Ben-Hassrath reports.’ She produced a knife and this time joined me in producing arrow shafts.

I smiled, I looked like Iron Bull had been honest for a spy. ‘Anything interesting?’ I asked.

She laughed, and smiled at me, ‘many things I will send my agents to investigate, nothing you need to worry about… so far.’

I raised an eyebrow, ‘you will tell me if there is.’

She nodded. And we fell into silence as we worked. After a few hundred heartbeats, I looked across at her, ‘I have a favour.’

She put down her tools, waiting.

‘Can you get a message to my clan?’ I glanced around, ‘with no one else knowing, it’s a… an odd situation.’

She looked towards the Chantry building and then back to me, ‘I can.’ She sounded apprehensive.

‘Thank you, I will write in elvish,’ I warned, ‘but I’ll give you a translation of course, I understand you need to read it. But please keep it private.’

Leliana looked at me curiously, ‘May I ask what the matter is concerning?’

I looked down at my hands, ‘information.’ I daren’t say more.

‘Of course.’ And we continued in silence.

 

The sun was moving into the late afternoon when I saw a pair of yellow trousers come into view, I looked up, ‘Sera?’

She dropped down, so she was stood one moment and sat cross legged the next. She picked up a feather and passed it between her hands. ‘Ugh,’ she offered, ‘Want to come to the tavern after this?’ I could tell she was getting bored at tetchy.

I straightened my back, stretching out the tightness in my muscles. ‘Leliana?’

‘Please, go.’ She said not looking up.

I laughed a little, ‘you don’t want to join us?’

Leliana looked up in surprise, ‘you want me there?’ She flushed.

‘Of course,’ I said mimicking her solemn tone from earlier.

She seemed tense but agreed.

 

The sun was low in the sky and I walked towards the tavern with Sera and Leliana, without meaning to I found myself humming to Sera was Never,

Sera hit my shoulder, ‘piss it. Creepy song is creepy.’

I laughed, head back, ‘at least it is catchier than Leliana’s tune?’

‘What?’ Leliana hissed.

I rubbed my eyes with my hands, ‘seriously?’ I asked back. ‘The Nightingale?’

Leliana looked between the two of us. A frown fell over her face, ‘Maryden.’ She hissed.

‘Ants in her bedroll?’ Sera announced with a glee.

‘No,’ I snapped and grabbed Sera, spinning her to face me, ‘promise me, promise me, you will not put ants in anyone’s bedroll.’

Sera frowned and pulled away from me, she looked me up and down. ‘Fine no ants.’

I rolled my eyes, ‘or insects of any kind!’

‘Fine.’

‘I don’t know what the two of you are complaining about, I am the only one without a song!’

Sera and Leliana looked at each other and speed off, ‘no! Don’t be mean to Maryden!’ I shouted into the night running after my fellow archers.

Chapter Text

That night we drank, Leliana shared stories of her days working as a bard, Sera recounted tales of the Friends of Red Jennies adventures and I gave up some of the secrets of my childhood. We were quite a few drinks down when Leliana turned to me, ‘I see you’re copying my hood now?’ She said, barely slurring at all.

‘Of course!’ I replied sweeping my red hood back in one gesture, ‘don’t you think it makes me look mysterious?’

Sera make a rude noise and started laughing.

I pouted at her, but our conversation was cut short by fists being pounded on tables. I looked over at the racket to see the Iron Bull drinking with a handful of his chargers, I suspected someone has said something amazingly funny as they were falling about laughing, and Grim managed to knock Dalish’s drink on the floor and in the centre of it all Krem was as red as highever weave.

Sera perked up, half standing, half wobbling to her feet, ‘let’s go join them!’ She announced and Leliana and I exchanged an apprehensive look.

‘Boss, Red,’ he paused, ‘Sera.’ He said it a little like a question and I laughed into my cup despite myself. ‘Sit, drink with us!’

The three of us crammed onto the edge of the bench as the chargers shuffled up. ‘We just talking about Maryden,’ Dalish offered.

‘Did she write a song about you too?’ Sera demanded, as Krem begged, ‘please stop.’

Sera took in a deep breath and her eyes filled with glee, I rolled my eyes, girl needed to stop meddling in other people’s love lives. I was struck by inspiration, so I tried to interrupt, ‘so Sera, how is what’s her name?’

‘Aurora? She’s good, I mean was really good, it’s not serious. It’s over. Just some end the world getting to know you.’ She waggled her eyebrows, then she laughed a little too loud. She turned to Krem as though I’d never spoken, ‘So I guess it would be not be a problem if I...’ she paused dramatically, ‘dared you to go ask Maryden to join us?’

Krem looked back uncertain and drained his cup.  

She turned to Bull, ‘I’ll bet you ten gold they do it by the end of the month.’ I suspected if Krem had any drink left he would have spat it across the table. I laughed, lending on Dalish’s shoulder to keep my balance on the bench.

Bull raised an eyebrow, ‘I would not bet against one of my men.’

‘Fine, I bet you they don’t.’ Sera said barely pausing for breath, ‘Krem don’t ask her to join us.’

Krem opened his mouth a couple of times, and I enjoyed that his usual eloquence had disappeared.

‘Ten gold, that’s a hefty sum, how do I know you’re good for it?’ Iron Bull asked Sera suspiciously.

Sera took off her boot and slammed it on the table, it jingled. She upended it spilling coins, feathers, fluff and scrunched up bit of parchment into the table, she reached over and counted the coins out.

Grim got up, grunted, then left.

‘I’m good for it’ Sera said pushing all the junk back into her boot.

Iron Bull considered, and then pulled his own money purse up from his belt. Pulled out the same amount and shook hands with Sera across the table.

‘Is this another one of your bad jokes?’ Krem demanded unimpressed, but still extremely red.

An idea hit me, ‘here,’ I pushed one of the coins towards him, ‘go get some liquid courage.’

He begrudgingly took the coin, and got up, then a little smile crossed his face, ‘I’m keeping the change!’

Sera grabbed his hand, she narrowed her eyes at him, looking menacing, well as menacing as an elf in plaidweave trousers could look, she glanced down at the coin in his hand, ‘we’ve bought details, you have to tell us, right?’

He pulled his hand away, and looked to Iron Bull for back up, but Bull just shrugged.

Krem looked a little pale but left to get a drink.

I couldn’t help it, I just burst out laughing, I lay my head down on my arms. ‘This is fun, I can see why you all bet.’

Sera and Bull looked at each other, and back to me. ‘New bet?’ Bull asked with a very large smile.

‘Save me!’ I said turning to Dalish, she just held her hands up to say keep her out of it.

‘Who are we speaking of?’ Leliana inquired.

Sera turned on her, eyes wide. ‘Hellana’s got a thing for baldy.’

Dalish squirmed in her seat, ‘I don’t like the look of that one, something’s just…’ she shrugged, seemingly unable to put her feelings into words.

I looked around at the faces, Leliana was a picture of despair and disgust, while Bull looked back steadily and unjudgingly, Sera on the other hand had gold coins glittering in her eyes. I felt my cheeks burn and I felt my stomach drop. I rounded on Sera, ‘I did ask you to stop betting on me.’

She shrugged carelessly, ‘you said to not do it behind your back, so we’re going it in front of you.’

Iron Bull sat forward and put his head in his hands to survey me, ‘by the end of the moon, I’ll bet, Hellana will make a move.’ He pushed a pile of coins towards the centre of the table.

Sera sat back, and started laughing, ‘look at her, all serious. She’s got it bad,’ she turned to Iron Bull and raised her glass an inch, ‘she will, but next month.’

I looked between the two, and then rubbed my eyes touching my vallaslin as I did. Expecting salvation, I was disappointed when Leliana added her own small stack of coins. She considered carefully, ‘I bet against you both, Hellana will not.’

I followed my arms, and then smiled. I reached down into my pocket and slammed my own bet, ‘I won’t.’  

‘That’s cheating!’ Sera declared and looked around, ‘it is, right?’

I did my best impression of her careless shrug in response, and then I made a face at her, ‘don’t worry’, I winked at her, and placed my hand over my head in mock sincerity ‘you’ll be the first to know.’  

‘You’re missing it.’ Dalish hissed, and we looked up in unison to see Krem approaching Maryden.

The spoke quietly, and I strained to here. Sera hushed us, even though none of us were speaking. He handed her a drink, which she took with a nod and set it by her feet. Then Maryden laughed, and then kissed his cheek. Krem returned in triumph to our table, he turned to Sera, ‘Maryden was very accommodating…’

‘Details.’ Sera demanded.

‘I told her you loved the song and she agreed to play it every hour from now own.’

In the background I heard Maryden began, ‘Sera was never an agreeable girl…’

Sera slammed her cup on the table, ‘shitballs, crap… arse.’


The next morning, my head was utterly pounding. I groaned as I sat up, I vaguely remembered the night before, but no real details. I looked up and Sera’s bed was empty.

I lay back and closed my eyes, cursing myself because I knew I should get up and find water.

I woke up a little while later as a bedraggled Sera crashes through the door. She lay on her back with the door open giggling. I shivered at the draft, and Sera rolled onto her front, holding up her head on her hands. ‘You’re fun, last night was fun. We should do it again.’

‘What time is it?’ I grumbled.

‘Mid-afternoon.’ She kicked the door closed with her foot and pulled herself onto the bed. ‘Varric got back this morning and is pissy that he missed it.’

‘Wish I had’ I mumbled under my breath, ‘any water?’ I asked hopefully. A second later a waterskin hit me on the head, the cork fell out and mostly freezing water drenched me. I shrieked and sat up.

Sera rolled around the floor laughing.

Elgar’nan give me strength, I stood and stripped off my sodden night clothes. And then looked around to find where I had discarded my clothes the night before. I noticed Sera was watching me intently, so I threw the damp shirt at her.

‘Piss,’ she swore, rolling onto her front and throwing my shirt on the floor.

I grabbed it up in one motion and folded it over the back of a chair to dry, ‘you’re feral, you know that.’

She gave me a toothy grin.

I rolled my eyes, gave up searching and pulled on new clothes.

 

Haven was sleepy this mid-afternoon. I rubbed my eyes, had everyone been drinking the night before. I trudged through the town to get to the frozen lake by the outside of town. On the banks of the frozen lake, I sat down crossed legged and pulled the little dagger out of my boot, I stabbed at the ice until I could get to the fresh water beneath. I cupped a handful up to my face and made a squeak as the cold water hit me.

Someone approached, ‘herald?

My head pounded even more as I heart Solas’ voice. Fen’heral take him, I thought unkindly, he certainly had a knack of appearing at the most opportune moments. ‘Apostate,’ I greeted in return, earning me a smirk.

‘Did you have a good night?’

‘It was… a night.’ I answered, cupping more water to my wash my face. This time I felt more awake, I just needed food and I would be a person again.

‘I see, your rendition of Mir Da’len Somniar, was… creative.’ He looked amused.

I rubbed my eyes, ‘what are you talking about?’

He laughed, ‘last night, you are Sera were singing loudly on the steps of the Chantry.’

‘Oh creators!’ I buried my head in my hands.

He sat down next to me, ‘Sera was singing dirty drinking songs, Mother Giselle and Cassandra were most impressed.’ He added sarcastically.

‘Stop.’ I moaned into my hands.

‘It is a beautiful song, though sung with a quicker tune that most would put it to. I haven’t heard that song for many years.’

I looked across curiously, surprised by his openness. I responded in kind, ‘my mother taught me it, we don’t know what it means.’

He nodded, I noticed his ears twitch, ‘it is difficult to translate.’

‘You can translate it?’

He glanced away, ‘of course.’

‘Will you show me?’ I asked elated.

He nodded, ‘if you will tell me why Sera kept shouting, ‘come back in a month’ at me last night?’

‘I… um… couldn’t say.’ I lied. Fenedhis.

Chapter Text

My quill made an ugly little scratching sound on the parchment as I frantically wrote. I imagined Keeper Deshanna reading it and tutting at my poor handwriting, but it was difficult to write when my hand flared with green pain every few minutes. My candle was burning down, and I knew I left for the Hinterlands in the morning, I scribbled quicker to make sure it would be ready. When I was done, I sat back and read what I had written,

 

‘I survived the explosion at the Temple, but there is a great tear in the sky. It was very bad. I was captured by the shem but they let me go and gave me a title ‘Herald of Andraste’.

I am scared and unsure, but physically well. I dream that I will be back home soon. I long to be away from the green breach. Pray for me. Please would you send me a prayer cloth, unless it is forbidden? Do send me news of the clan.

Your faithful hunter, Hellana.

 

I went back through, and added little accent marks over the words, bad - dreams - green - orb - send - news. It was a simple code that would hopefully go unnoticed, until it got into my Keeper’s hands. Solas had mentioned that the mark might be related to an object of some kind and the dream where I was trapped in an orb had brought back a memory from many years ago. Hunter Dehnan had come back from scouting mission to an ancient elvhen ruin, the bones in his arm had been shattered and he had run for two days and nights. He had a wild look in his eyes and he moved like a feral animal, he had been whispering about a purple orb. He saw eyes watching him in the darkness and awoke in the middle of the night for months afterwards. Then one day, he dropped everything he was doing, dropped to the floor and begged forgiveness for ever touching the orb. He left the next day and I haven’t seen him since. I knew that Keeper Deshanna had looked for information about the orb, but I didn’t know if she’d found anything.

If they were the same orb, I knew that the Breach would lead back to the elves, and suspicion would once again fall upon me, so I daren’t say anything until I had more information.

I was copying the note out in common for Leliana when there was a knock at the door, it made me jump out of my skin and it took me a moment before I was calm enough to say, ‘come in’.

Solas appeared, and I smiled, ‘Aneth ara’ I greeted but he seemed distracted.

‘I have the translation for you.’ Solas announced without preamble.

I stood, ‘you do?’ I breathed, excitement bubbled up in me. I took the page he held out to me and scanned the page. The words I knew swam together with words I didn’t, and it became clear. ‘This is perfect,’ without thinking I hugged him. He was still for a moment before pulling me tight. I was struck once again by how much taller he was than me, and that he smelt of firewood and forest. I pulled away slightly, though still close enough to touch to read the words he had written again, his script was elegant and flowing, as if he had painted the words rather than written them. The translation made too much sense, ‘it is as if... I always knew what it meant, the words click, but I know I didn’t know it before’.

‘It seems you can feel the rhythm of the language, without having the vocabulary’. He said looked down at me curiously, his arm was still around my waist.

I smiled, ‘ma serannas… do you mind if I send a copy to my clan?’

His arm withdrew from my waist and I felt the distance between us again, ‘why?’

I shrugged, ‘they should know.’ I said firmly, ‘and I’m writing home now. Might as well have one good thing to come of all this’, I spread out my hands in front of me.

He glanced over at the letter that was by the candle stub and I had to resist snatching it up, I cursed myself to mentioning it, he might be the only person in this town who could work out the code. But his eyes didn’t linger, and I silently thanked Dirthamen.

‘... one good thing?’ He queried instead, looking smug.

I looked at him steadily, ‘hunters spend their whole lives searching for treasures like this, and you just hand it to me. I don’t know if I can ever repay you… where ever did you find this?’ But before he had time to form an answer I laughed at my own stupid question, ‘let me guess, you found it in the fade’.

‘You can see many things exploring the fade.’ He replied steadily.

‘This is…’ I shook my head unable to find a good enough word. ‘Thank you’.

Ara melava son’ganem’.

The archaic phrasing made me pause for a moment, but of course, I reasoned, if he’d learned elven from the fade it would be Elvhen not Dalish. I looked up at him, a coy smile lingering on my lips. I made to step closer…

The door was thrown open, and I froze, ‘Pissing Reverend Mother just gave me a lect…’ Sera looked between us. ‘Pffffft, get a room.’ She threw herself on her bed.

Fenedhis lasa’ Solas practically growled.

I covered my face with my hands, a nervous laugh erupted from my chest, half at the situation and at Solas’ unexpected words.

‘Of course, you would be fluent in profanity.’ I peeked through my fingers and he was watching me, eyes racking up across my body. I made a tiny noise, between a squeak and a moan. A smug smile played on his face ‘I should go and get ready for tomorrow,’ he inclined his head to me, and sent a scratching look towards Sera, before he left.

The door shut, and Sera let out a long whistle, ‘Well, that was the worst thing I ever saw.’

‘Shut up.’ I snapped, though I didn’t dare to look at her. I sighed wistfully and sat down to finish my letter in the dying light.

Chapter Text

The skeletal creature appeared out of a gap in the very air, it yawned sluggishly at me and it’s wide gaping mouth blew rancid breath on my face. I let off and arrow aiming for its brow, but no arrow appeared. I looked down at my hand, but my vision didn’t change. I only saw the terror demon crawling out of the fade like it was emerging from syrup. Then the arrow was between its many eyes and I was on my knees on the ground, my shoulders in agony. My body moved without any conscious thought and I was thrown across the ground, I saw the gates of Redcliffe pass by in a blur. I braced myself for the pain, but it didn’t come. Heartbeats trickled by and I realised I still hadn’t hit the ground. I saw a blast of blue go past my vision, each brilliant bright blue tendril creep forward, like snowflakes forming in the air, angular and sharp. Solas has cast some kind of freezing magic, and the cold spread from his staff in little jumps hopping across the air in a jaggard criss cross pattern. It caressed its target, and then jumped under its skin and exploded, the tendrils spread into the body of the demon before us and then another heartbeat passed and it turned into a white blur and I smashed into the ground.

My ears rung and my head was turning in circles. The fade rift was pulsing oddly, but I couldn’t work out why I was so dizzy. Bull was over and pulling me to my feet, I tasted copper. I closed my eyes for a second and stepped forward raising my left hand. Pain radiated through my arm, but the green magic that should have jumped from my arm simply didn’t. It was like an electric shock up my arm, my muscles screamed. The usual brief spark was a lightning storm in slow motion. I pulled my hand back to my side, which lagged in the air resistant to return to me.

I felt the fear creep up my spine, I couldn’t work out what was going on. But the rift needed to be closed so I shook my hand and tried again this time a bolt shot so quickly that it knocked me off my feet. The rift exploded into the air around me with a satisfying pop.

‘That was weird, right?’ Sera announced, rubbing her eye as a dark angry bruise formed. I winced in sympathy.

‘It was,’ I agreed.

‘Are all the rifts like that?’ the unfamiliar voice asked. It belonged to a grey warden named Blackwall who we had found being abused the morning before on the other side of Lake Luthias. He didn’t overly looked like a grey warden to me, as he wasn’t wearing the uniform. But he seems pleasant enough, and him and Sera got on like a aravel on fire.

‘Demons sure, the mushy time is new.’ Sera answered him.

‘Solas, what do you make of it?’

He was looking around, eyes narrowed, ‘the veil is weak here, but not weak. Altered in some way I have not seen before.’

I nodded, despite his words being as helpful as whatever ‘mushy time' meant.

The iron portcullis rattled upwards and an elf approached us, ‘Herald,’ he greeted in a strange accent that I didn’t recognise. ‘We were not informed that the inquisition would be coming.’

I glanced at my companions, unsure of what to make of these new events. ‘Grand enchanter Fiona invited us…’ I said slowly.

The man gave me an odd look, ‘well, Magister Alexius can be with you shortly, if you’re looking to negotiate, the tavern would be the best place. He will meet you there. I will also ask the former grand enchanter Fiona to see you there as well.’ He gave me a slight bow and retreated.

‘Strange. It was Fiona we meet in Val Royeaux, right?’ And I realised only Solas had been there before. But he agreed with me that it had definitely been her. I felt uneasy, something was odd in the air of Redcliffe. Although the day was bright and clear and scent of the lake was heavy in the air.

As we walked through the imposing stone gates, I paused for a moment pretending to adjust my boot. With my other hand, I sketched a quick glyph on the stone. Ghilan'nain, I beg you, guide me back out .

Blackwall waited for me, ‘I have to ask… are you sure we shouldn’t leave right now?’

I puffed my cheeks and let out a slow breath, ‘no.’

He sucked in his lip, ‘least you’re honest.’ He gave me a grim smile and we headed towards the tavern.


‘Well Sera’s note was ‘an obvious trap’ which turned out fine.’ Solas argued,

While Blackwall spat back, ‘Well I wouldn’t have gone.’

‘We have to do something,’ Sera whined.

I sat between the two of them on the grass facing out at the docks. The crumpled note in my hands. The tavern had turned out to be an extremely odd encounter, the grand enchanter, former grand enchanter, I corrected myself, appeared to have no recollection of ever meeting me. Either she had a twin sister or she was an extremely good actress. I couldn’t work out what she would gain by pretending that we hadn’t met. Maybe she was ashamed, an elf willingly swearing her people to be slaves to Tevinter . The very thought made me sick to my stomach. The Magister himself was a different matter, he seemed cocky and arrogant, happy to gamble with other people’s lives. I wanted to stab him in the eye, I did not want to negotiate with him, maybe I could send Josephine to play diplomat?  

I sighed and rubbed my eyes, then I looked down at the paper again, ‘why is it always, go to the chantry? ’ I muttered, unheard by my companions who were still arguing pros and cons. I stood then, ‘well I’m going to see,’ I looked towards Blackwall, ‘you don’t have to come if you don’t want to.’

Poor man, his face dropped. I realised I had damaged his pride. But he puffed out his chest and said steadily, ‘I will go with you, my lady.’

We began to make our way towards through the town of Redcliffe, Blackwall and Sera dropped behind a little way and I heard Sera say to Blackwall, ‘Tevinters everywhere. Uggg, Tevinter must be rubbish.’

Blackwall seemed to cheer up, and by the time we arrived the steps to chantry, the two had decided that everyone had left Tevinter because it smelt of rotten fruit and damp socks. I rolled my eyes, but wished I felt so calm.

The chantry building itself was smaller than I expected, more like a little house with a high roof. Though it wasn’t like I was any expert of what chantries were supposed to look like. We pushed open the doors and were greeted by a tall Tevinter beating a demon on the head with a staff, with a rift pulsing green in the background. I stood frozen for a second, whatever I had been expecting this wasn’t it.

‘Good, you’re here. Help me close this?’ The man asked.

 

Once the demons were arrowed and the rift had been closed the man turned to me. He had a curled little moustache a coiffed hair that I suspected he spent far too long in the morning perfecting, but in response I couldn’t help feeling a little self conscious. We’d spent the week camping and it had been months since I’d been properly clean and longer still since I’d seen a mirror.

Though it didn’t appear that I had anything to worry about as a smile spread across his face, revealing sharp white teeth, ‘how did you do that?’ He asked.  

‘Well, I think of bunnies…’ I started solemnly.

He laughed, ‘you have no idea do you?’ He cut me off and I raised my eyebrows. ‘You just waggle your fingers and the green just shoots out.’ His tone was incredulous, but his eyes were serious. He gave me a deep bow, ‘Dorian Pavus, recently of the Minrathous.’

I ground my teeth together to stop me from saying something rude. I was meeting far too many Tevinters today. ‘And what about, um,’ I rolled my hands, ‘Felix?’

‘Ahhh, yes, he will be arriving shortly.’

We stood in silence for a second. ‘So, why are you…’ I let the rest of the sentence hang in the air.

‘Alexius used to by my mentor, so my assistance should be valuable.’ He tilted his head, and then glanced around at my companions.

I held up my hands, ‘wait, wait, so why would a magister…’

He sighed dramatically, ‘I will only say this once, I’m a mage from Tevinter, but not a member of the magisterium. Honestly, you Southerners use the terms interchangeably. Makes you sounds like barbarians.’

My hand tightened into a fist at my side at the term barbarian, but the moment passed and I knew what to do, I simply scoffed at him. ‘Southerner? Hardly, I’m from the east. Can’t you tell by my accent,’ I gave him my best smile, and with a horrible approximation of his accent I finished, ‘honestly, it makes you sound like a moron.’

For a split second, I could feel the air get tense, and then Dorian bent over laughing and leaned lightly on his staff. The sound echoed off the chantry walls.

I smiled too and reached out a hand in the shem fashion, ‘Hellana Lavellan,’ I said as he took my hand, then I pointed back, ‘Sera, Solas, Blackwall. Agents of the Inquisition,’ I finished grandly.  

‘Well, Hellana Lavellan,’ he stumbled slightly over the multitude of ‘a’s and ‘e’s, ‘you must know you’re in terrible danger. Alexius has stolen the rebel mages out from under you, as if by magic? Well, it is magic. To reach Redcliffe before you, he distorted time.’

I turned around and nodded to Sera, ‘mushy time, good shout.’ I congratulated. She stood taller and stuck out her tongue at Solas, who ignored her.

‘Fascinating. And if that is true, it is certainly dangerous.’ Solas commented.

Sera snorted, ‘sometimes you’re so helpful.’

Dorian gave a little cough, to bring the attention back to himself, ‘the magic that Alexius is using is wildly unstable, it could unravel the world.’

I was attempting to form a reply to that piece of news, but I was saved as a door behind us swung over and an out of breath Felix stumbled through. He held up his hand in greeting to us.

Dorian moved over to help the other man, his face was full of concern, ‘took you long enough.’

Felix shook him off gently, ‘I shouldn’t have played the illness card, I thought he’d be fussing all day,’ he gave to Dorian by way of explanation. ‘My father’s joined a cult. Called the Venatori, they’re Tevinter supremacists. He’s messed with time to get to you, wanted to make sure you didn't fix the hole in the sky. With it open, this time magic is possible.’

‘Which is just what we need,’ Dorian’s voice was droll, ‘a hole in the sky and a hole in time. Matching pair, very fashionable.’ Then he surveyed us, ‘not that you lot would know anything about that.’

Chapter Text

I reached over to my pack and pulled out a couple Crystal Grace flowers, their perfume filled the air and I laid them gently on the fire. The incense filled the air and I silently thanked Ghilan'nain for getting me out of Redcliffe. Solas glanced up from his work, his mouth in a thin line as he watched the flowers become consumed by flames. Then he shook his head and returned to marking little symbols on a map of the Hinterlands.

I looked around at my companions, Sera was dosing on her back, her head resting on a log with a poultice of elfroot covering her bruised eye and Blackwall was polishing his sword with a whetstone.

I needed to be busy, I could feel the panic of the day rising up in my chest and I knew I had to distract myself. I felt distinctly uneasy, the waterfall by the camp was usually soothing, but tonight the loud roar from a half a hundred paces away made me keenly aware I couldn’t hear well enough. We could be ambushed. At any moment, masked mercenaries would jump off the cliff above us. If they failed, they could just go back any try again. I felt sick. Don’t look at the cliff. I commanded myself. Get busy. Don’t think about it. I commanded myself. I had already considered that we should leave this particularly camp, but I had asked Dorian to meet us here tonight. You shouldn’t have done that. What if you just gave your location to the enemy. I pushed my hands together trying to ground myself. Controlling my breathing, slow and steady.

Blackwall swore loudly, which pulled me out of my internal panic. He dropped his sword and whetstone. There was blood running down his hand. He stormed off towards the stream to clean his cut. This was going to be a long afternoon.


‘Herald’, In the darkness an inquisition agent pulled a struggling man forward, I could barely make out the silhouettes. ‘Found this one sneaking around.’

‘Really take your hands off me.’ A clipped Tevinter accent pierced the night air.

‘Dorian?’

He sighed slightly, ‘what suspicious friends you have.’

‘Let him go.’ I commanded.

The agent unhanded him, and gave him back his staff. Dorian huffed, but took it and moved towards me. l I could see him in the stark light of the embers, his hair was a mess and he looked decidedly unimpressed.

‘You made it here alright?’ I asked, passing him a waterskin.

He dropped himself heavily crossed legged next to me and dropped his staff on the ground next to him, ‘only a little scorched.’ He pulled the cork out of the waterskin, took a swig and spat the water back out on the ground. ‘Anything stronger.’

I rose to my feet and headed over to Sera’s pack, which was discarded on the ground outside her tent and pulled the bottle out from the side. I replaced it simply with three gold coins. ‘Scorched?’ I queried settling back down and handing him the bottle, ‘I can’t promise it is any good.’ I cautioned.

He smirked but took a sip. And then scowled, but continued drinking. ‘Ran into a dragon nest. Perfect end to a perfect day.’

I let out a little gasp of disbelief. I looked into the burning embers and piled a few more twigs on. The fire burst back into life and illuminated us both. Turned back to see that Dorian’s sips were more swigs. I tutted at him, ‘share.’

He froze, mid swig and looked at me for a long moment, as though I was a particularly difficult word puzzle. He pulled a hand through his hair. Finally, he had the decency to look guilty and he passed me the bottle. ‘What next.’ He asked, but it didn’t sound like a question.

I raised the bottle slightly, ‘we stitch up the sky.’ The spirit burned as I drunk it, but at least it took the edge off the chill.  I passed the bottle back to him.

‘To stitching up the sky.’

We drank in companionable silence for a long time. Eventually I yawned, stretching my arms over my head. I caught him eyeing up my vallaslin.

‘So…’ He started a little unsure and took another sip, ‘you’re Dalish?’

I laughed a little and pulled my hair out of my face, ‘yes. As opposed to what?’

He looked a little uncomfortable. ‘We don’t have clans coming up northwards, for obvious reasons.’ Oh, yes. I had forgotten he was from Tevinter, and I shifted a little nervously, I took the bottle, but it was empty. Grand. ‘I’ve never meet one of your people before, though I’ve heard…’

I groaned internally, I definitely didn’t want to have this conversation right now. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold my tongue on the treatment of elves in Tevinter and I needed all the allies I could get. ‘Dorian.’ I cut him off, I pointed towards one of the tents, ‘that one is yours. There’s bedrolls and basic kit in there. Let me know if there’s anything else you need. We didn’t know how much stuff you would bring.’ I congratulated myself on my civility.

‘It’s a bit small,’ he mumbled.

I rolled my eyes, ‘sorry it isn’t a mansion in Minrathous.’ I snapped before I could help myself. Then I took a breath, ‘forgive me. That was uncalled for.’

‘Was it?’ He wasn’t looking at me. ‘I must be the big scary mage from Tevinter.’

I chuckled, ‘a little dramatic. I thought you were here to help us against the ‘big scary mages from Tevinters?’’

‘The Venatori’, he corrected lightly walking back over to the fire and warming his hands.

‘Thank you,’ I said honestly, ‘for helping us. It’s very brave of you to stand against your own countrymen.’

‘Or very foolish.’ He said in a tight, low voice. I saw Cassandra’s words flash before my eyes, a fool, a traitor and a madwoman. Dorian placed his hand lightly on my shoulder. ‘Goodnight.’ He turned and left for his tent and disappeared.

I rubbed my eyes and briefly touched the vallaslin on the top of my cheeks. Shem were difficult, I considered, all that power and politicking makes men face make difficult choices. I considered my own clan, and concluded that people needed to be well feed and feel safe before they turned on each other. The fire was burning low again, and I lay back to look at the stars. I traced the constellations with my finger and for a split second I was back with them. The roar of the waterfall was just the chatter coming from the aravel and I was in a different forest very far to the north.


The night crept on and when it seemed about time, I stood and walked over to Blackwall’s tent. He was snoring loudly. I shook the canvas lightly, ‘time for you watch.’ I called as quietly as I could, but I heard the rugged grey warden wake with a start. I left and sat by the fire.

Blackwall emerged pulling on his dark armour and crouched next to me lacing up his boots. ‘Any sign of the perfumed magister?’ He asked in a rough voice.

‘Arrived a while ago’. I said nodding at the tent.

He spat on the ground and grabbed the waterskin that was on the ground near me ‘I don’t trust him.’

I nodded, crinkling up my nose ‘you don’t have to.’  Although I wasn’t entirely sure that I didn’t agree with Blackwall’s sentiment.

Chapter Text

‘Sister Leliana sends her regrets, she didn’t realise this was personal correspondence.’ An agent said as he handed me a little parcel. The seal has been broken, but it had been tied back together with string. I was completely sure that Leliana would have opened it regardless and I was about to give the agent a piece of my mind when I spotted the hand it was written in, ‘it’s alright,’ I mumbled. I made my way back to my cabin. I wasn’t expecting a response so quickly, it had taken me months to get from home and yet I had got a reply in less than a fortnight. I clutched the package to my chest and it smelt faintly of good earth and wood-smoke. I felt my heart clench in homesickness. I raced back along the frosty path to see what had been written.

Hellana,

It is good to see your words. We had heard reports of the green hole in the sky but hadn’t been able to gather any more information than that the Temple had been blown up. We feared the worst and a marker was created for you, it has been taken down now of course. The clan is well, and better now we know that you are safe.

Be brave, little hare; only Ghilan’nain knows the path you will tread. I have sent you a prayer cloth, it is not forbidden. Please know that I pray for you every day.

Thank your friend for the translation, I will submit it at the Arlathvhen at the start of spring.

Dashanna.

My mind reeled, Solas’ translation was important enough to be submitted at the Arlathvhen. They were the great gatherings of the clans that happened once every ten years. The Keepers shared any knowledge that the Hunters brought them, and clan-wide laws were decided upon. I had never been important enough to attend. I tried to picture what it would look like, but my mind couldn’t conjure that many elves in one place. I tried to contain my excitement, but the Hunters that brought back important knowledge were honoured at the meetings, maybe I could go. I had to stop myself from spinning around, I had recognised that the translation was important, but I would never have guessed it was important enough that Deshanna would want to take it. The one good thing to come out of this mess, maybe the shem would burn me, but the clans would remember my name. I looked into the rest of the package and a large frayed cloth was folded in the paper envelope. I went cold and remembered why I had messaged my Keeper in the first place. I scanned back through the letter checking for any code;

information-fear-mark-created-for-Ghilan’nain-orb

I sat down slowly at my deck. The memory hitting my like an avalanche. The pulsing lavender mark spreading up Dehnan’s leg. He’d screamed that it was his punishment for breaking into the sacred space, for breaking into the temple of Ghilan’nain. I stood staring at the words in horror, then my mark flared at that moment as if I could forget it. He had touched an artifact of the gods and gone mad. I felt sane, I considered, but then how would I know. Though it did seem like I touched an orb and the world went mad. I breathed deeply, and flexed my left hand, wondering how I could possibly survive this.

‘What are you doing?’

I jumped, Sera was behind me with her hand on her hip. She craned her head to see the letters but rolled her eyes when she saw they were not written in common.

I lifted the letter for her inspection, ‘from home.’ I said by way of explanation.

Sera looked unsure for a second, ‘you look sad’, she announced and then took my hand, ‘let me buy you a drink.’

‘Please, but just don’t let me sing.’

‘Pffft.’

I looked down at the letter in my hand, ‘actually can I meet you there? There are a couple of things that I need to do first.’

She raises her hands to, ‘your loss!’ And she bounced off in the direction of the Singing Maiden. I pulled the cloth out properly and laid it out on the table. It was a frayed piece of stripped red cloth which I imagined would have once been an aravel sail. It had been embroidered with little sigils belonging to the nine gods. I traced my finger over Mythal’s and touched my vallaslin at the same time, get me home great mother .

I tied up the cloth and hung it over my headboard. I glanced over at Sera’s bed and smiled to myself, she would throw a fit, that is, if she knew what it was. Maybe I just wouldn’t tell her. I smiled at my own cunning. I tucked the letter under my pillow for safekeeping and considered my next move. I reached under my bed and pulled out a little wooden box and I thanked the creators for my foresight.

Snow was lightly falling, and I shook my red hood to stop it melting on me. Once again, I was stood outside of his door in the cold. Be brave little hare , I heard in Dashanna’s voice and I knocked on the door. Solas greeted me at the door, he smiled warmly and placed his arm around my waist guiding me inside. ‘What can I do for you?’

I pushed my hood down, ‘I brought you this, I just wanted to thank you again, I heard back from my clan, the translation you did for me...’ I shook my head in disbelief and stopped rambling. I handed him a little box and he took it from with a little bow of his head. ‘It’s the least I could do’.

He glanced up and opened with little wooden box with careful fingers, he lowered his finger gently inside and it came away with a streak of orange on his fingertip. He rubbed the pigment with his thumb, the colour waved between pale yellow and deep ochre as he turned his hand in the light.

‘Drakestone orange… it’s paint.’ I bit my cheek, nervously waiting for his reaction.

A slow smile crept across his lips, his eyes lit up, ‘thank you.’ I had to smile, for someone who could translate from elvhen he certainly felt no need to prove his skills. ‘Your clan was happy, then?’

I nodded, ‘overjoyed. Its going to be submitted at the Arlathvhen , it’s like a meeting where the clans share knowledge,’ I shook my head, ‘I probably don’t need to translate for you.’ I looked up at him and suddenly became very aware that the last time we had been alone I would have kissed him but for Sera’s timely interruption.

‘You don’t’ he breathed.

‘With any luck, the clans will probably be talking about this for a thousand years.’ I added proudly.

He flinched away from me like I’d burnt him. My heart lurched in my chest. ‘I am afraid I have work to do.’ He pointed at the door.

I opened and closed my mouth wordlessly, ‘I’m sorry,’ I stammered, unsure how what I said could have caused offend. But I took a step towards the door anyway. ‘We’re meeting in the tavern tonight, you’re welcome to join us.’

‘Try not to embarrass yourself again.’

I rubbed my eyes, he was unnervingly changeable. ‘I’ll do my best’.

Chapter Text

We left Haven at dawn for Redcliffe Castle. I kept my eyes on my reigns, still not feeling completely confident on a horse. I had always trusted harts to get me where I wanted to be, but horses, I had no idea what would happen if I let my mind wander. In front of me Dorian was having a heated conversation with Iron Bull about the conflict on Seheron. Behind me Cassandra and Solas were discussing Andrastian politics and the economics of the chantries. I slumped in the saddle, bored out of my mind. I wished Sera had been able to come, but she was allegedly still recovering from the outing in the Hinterlands. I even would have happily traded my left arm for Varric’s comforting charm and easy wit. But, no, I was stuck with this lot, and it didn’t help that Solas hadn’t spoken more than half a handful of words to me in the two days since I’d left his cabin. I sighed heavily and patted the neck of my horse, Betsie, hoping that we’d get to the castle soon.

 

I was in a foul mood by the time we arrived at the Castle. Cullen had warned us that it was the most heavily defensible fortresses in Ferelden, and now I saw it I could see why. The building teetered on a cliff and could only be approached by the one direction, over a thin grey stone bridge. I took a deep breath, at least I was good for a distraction.

Dorian gave us a quick bow and left to find Leliana’s agents. I turned to Bull, ‘good chat?’

Bull cracked his knuckles, ‘he’s good with his tongue, but he talks a lot of crap.’

‘I see’, I laughed and dismounted.

Our little group dismounted and headed across the great grey stone bridge and up the winding path.


Great wooden doors swung open to allow us entrance to the keep, masked guarded lines the courtyard.

‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this, boss.’ Bull mumbled.

I nodded at him but didn’t risk saying anything. A man in gold and while approached silently and indicated for us to follow him. He was one of many dressed in the same way, guards, I concluded. I looked around, the castle complex was much bigger than it had appeared as we had approached. The smell of leather and ash in the air was oppressive. It was made of local red stone and combination with the grey dusty ground and the effect was eerily like being trapped on a candle wick. Only the vast blue sky above convinced me not to turn a run. I clasped my wrist, toying with my woven bracelet, be brave, do what needs doing, get out. I told myself. Cassandra drew up close on my right-hand side, I saw her fingers twitch twice towards her swords as we crossed the courtyard.

By the doors to the castle proper, a new man approached us, ‘Herald of Andraste.’ He sneered at me, and it was oddly comforting to find another person who did not believe I was the herald. ‘The invitation was for you alone,’ he gave my companions a dirty look, ‘the rest will wait here.’

I was about to tell him that there was no chance that I would continue alone, when the man glanced behind me and gulped audibly, he gave me a look that I could only interpret as please don’t let the qunari eat me. ‘Right this way,’ he said cowed.

I glanced back to see Cassandra and Solas share a smirk, and Bull looking a little too pleased with himself. I gave him a little smile and turned to follow the man.

We entered the audience chamber, it was a large room with pillars lining a central walkway. In front of us Magister Alexius was lounging on a chair in front of a great lit fireplace, with Felix at his side looking a little nervous. The walls were lines with more white and gold clad guards, and I knew we were heavily outnumbered, I just had to hope that Leliana’s plan would work. I suddenly spotted Grand Enchanter Fiona, she was almost hidden in the shadows of the one of the pillars. Her face was drawn and grave.

‘My lord Magister, the agents’ he spat the word, ‘of the inquisition have arrived.’

Magister Alexius tented his fingers, surveying us. ‘My friend.’ He drawled, ‘it is good to see you again. And your… associates.’ He slid his hands apart, and grasped the arms of his throne, ‘so you’re here for the mages. I’m sure we can reach an equitable agreement.’ He pushed himself to his feet.

‘Are we to have no say on our futures?’ Fiona demanded from the shadows.

I turned to her voice as she stepped into the light, she looked thinner than when I had seen her the week before, her cheeks hollow, eyes dark. ‘If the Grand Enchanter would like a place at these discussions, she is welcome. As a guest of the inquisition.’

Fiona bowed her head to me and gave me a little smile. Alexius, though looked murderous, I stepped slightly to my right, indicating that I was extended my protection to Fiona.

Alexius schooled his face, ‘Fiona, you turned your followers over to me, because you trusted me. We can hardly go back now.’

Fiona stiffened and I pitied her.

‘So,’ Alexius asked, sitting back on his raised throne, ‘what do you have to offer for the service of the mages?’

I laughed a little, ‘surely you’ve noticed the hole in the sky?’ I asked pointedly.

Alexius shrugged, but Fiona added, ‘we would like to help.’ Alexius glared at her, his lip twitched.

Alexius sighed, ‘Fiona, your mages belong to me. Herald, you do understand there must be an exchange.’ He idly picked at his nail.

Felix moved towards the throne dropped to his knee, his hands on the arm of the chair, ‘father they know.’

Alexius’ eyes darted towards his son, his eyes wide in disbelief, ‘what have you done, Felix?’ He began to rise.

‘Your son is concerned you are involved in something terrible.’ I said stepping forward.

The magister stood and took a step forward, ‘so speaks the thief,’ he spat. ‘You come here, with your stolen mark, a gift you barely understand and seek to turn my son against me!?’ He took two steps down from the dais, ‘you are nothing but a mistake.’

I sucked in a breath, and I felt Cassandra shift her weight besides me. I raised my hand, showing off the green tear in my skin ‘if you know so much why don’t you enlighten me?’

‘It belongs to your betters.’ He practically snarled.

Felix stood, ‘don’t you know what you sound like?’

‘Like one of those villainous clichés, everyone expects us to me,’ Dorian added as he strode into the room. I closed my eyes, why were these Tevinter’s so damn dramatic? Though it seems to have the desired effect as Magister Alexius looked physically wounded, he retreated up the dais, ‘Dorian?’ He gasped, but then his features hardened, ‘I gave you a chance to be a part of this, you turned me down. The Elder One has great powers, soon he will become a god.’

I snorted, that was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. Alexius gave me a withering look, but continued, ‘soon, he will make the world bow to mages once more. We will rule all of Thedas.’

‘You can’t involve my people in this.’ Fiona shouted in outrage.

‘Why would you want this, father?’ Felix asked in horror.

Dorian stepped forward, ‘this is exactly what we talked about not wanting to happen.’

‘Please, give up the Venatori,’ Felix stepped forward, talking his father’s hand. ‘Leave the Southern mages to fight the breach, we can go home’.

Alexius softened, and took Felix’s hands, ‘this is the only way I can save you.’

Felix shook his head violently, ‘save me? I’m going to die and there is nothing you can do.’

‘No, the elder one promised, if I undo the mistake at the temple… seize them.’ He commanded.

I spun expecting a fight, but the Venatori guards fell to the ground, each of them had been given a dagger in the back by an inquisition agent. I turned away from the bloody mess, ‘surrender, Alexius.’

Instead, he pulled a pendant from his neck, ‘you should never have interfered.’ He snarled, as the pendant glowed blue-white and began spinning in the air.

‘No!’ Dorian called, sending a pulse of purple lightning at his former teacher. The pendant exploded and Dorian turned sheltering me from the explosion.


My boots filled with ice cold water and I squeaked in alarm.

‘Who is down there!’ A man’s voice called roughly.

I was blind, but looked around anyway, I tried to access the damage, but it didn’t appear that I was wounded. I pulled my bow off my back and tried to aim towards where the voice had come from. I heard a splash to my left and I spun around, hitting something.

‘Ouch.’

I wrenched my bow away, I’d almost shot him, ‘Dorian?’ I queried the inky blackness.

‘Lavellan?’

‘Yes, who else is here?’ Silence.

My eyes were beginning to adjust to the darkness, it was some kind of sewer perhaps. ‘What do you think happened?’ Dorian asked.

‘Alexius’ pendant.’

Dorian hissed, ‘the amulet. It’s probably not what Alexius was intending, he appears to have moved us.’

‘Blood of the elder one!’ A guard hissed, illuminating the room with a touch. Not a sewer, a dungeon. I thought grimly as I struck him with an arrow. He fell back into the ankle high water, extinguishing the touch and pitching us both into darkness again.

‘Are we still in the castle?’ I asked.

I heard Dorian crouch and dip his fingers in the water, ‘if we are, we may have moved through time.’

‘Time?’ I croaked.

Chapter Text

‘Time?’ I croaked. I thought about praying, but I was deep underground. They gods were too far away to hear. I touched my vallaslin anyway.

‘The only question,’ Dorian continued, ‘is if we have been sent forward or backwards in time.’

‘Good question.’ I muttered and we started moving forward. The water was getting deeper, and the cold was creeping up my legs.

‘I don’t want to know what this has done to the fabric of the world, we haven’t just been sent through time, but rather punched a hole in it.’

I stopped and lent up against one of the stone walls, this wasn’t happening, I was struggling to catch my breath. I was too far underground for a start.

Dorian came over and put his hand on my shoulder, ‘hey, hey. You’re okay. We’re okay.’

I took a few more shuddering breaths, ‘we’ll get back right?’

He gave me a worried look and he fiddled with a buckle on his shirt, ‘of course.’

I stood straight, and stretched my spine, ‘you’re very convincing. It just seems insane.’  

‘Yes,’ he said grimly, but perked up almost immediately, ‘of course, he threw us into the rift before he was ready. He charged up the amulet and I countered it, landing us here. He won’t know we are here, giving us the element of…?’

‘Surprise.’

He laughed, ‘exactly. Come on, let’s get out of this water before we freeze.’

We made our way through the little room and turned a corner to find a pulsing red mineral growing out of the wall, I reached out to touch it, but Dorian used his staff to knock my hand away. ‘Better not touch the glowing things growing out of the walls.’

I flushed but nodded. At least the red stuff was giving off some light. I gasped in realisation, ‘what about the others in the hall, do you think they are alright?’

Dorian stood back, ‘I doubt the rift was big enough…’

I doubled over, with my hands on my knees, this was far too much. My chest was tight, I couldn’t breathe, I needed to get outside.

‘Hey, hey’, Dorian said again, he pulled my shoulders back making me stand. ‘Breathe.’ He audibly gulped in air and I raised an eyebrow at his patronising tone. ‘You try.’

I scowled at him but did as commanded.

He moved his hand slowly back and forth to let me know when to breath, it worked surprisingly well. He gave me a dashing smile, ‘I’m here, I’ll protect you.’

I answered with a high-pitched whine.

His smile faltered for a second, and then he took my hand and led me down a corridor until the floor sloped up and we were finally out of the water.

We turned a corner to move into a little room with two doors either side. ‘Do you have a coin?’ Dorian asked.

‘Right, I have a less bad feeling about that direction’.

Dorian snorted, but we went right. The door opened up into iron barred cells. The red mineral was in all of the cages, we walked along. ‘There are no guards.’ Dorian mumbled.

As soon as he said that were heard a voice and both froze. I strained to hear, it appeared to be someone reciting an Andrastrian prayer, I nodded to Dorian, and we crept closer. With my bow in my hand and a ‘prey’ to find, I was feeling a little better, but I had to actively stop myself thinking about why we were here.

There was a man, in one of the cages, illuminated by red. He didn’t see us or notice us and didn’t break from his prayer even when we questioned him. I sighed and turned around to see another empty cell. Wait. It wasn’t empty. I rushed forward, ‘Fiona?’

Her body was forced up against the wall with one leg off the ground, the red material had grown through her. I clapped my hand to my mouth.

She turned her head slowly towards us, grimacing while she moved. ‘How are you here?’ Her voice was quiet, but it had an echo to it. Like nothing I had ever heard. ‘I saw you die in the explosion.’

I glanced at Dorian, he took a step forward. ‘It’s very important, what is the date.’

She looked confused, ‘it is dark down here, but I believe it is around Harvestmere, 9.42. Dragon.’

Dorian looked back to me stricken, ‘we’ve missed a whole year.’

I didn’t want to hear that, so instead, I turned back to Fiona, ‘how can we get you out.’

She smiled sadly, ‘you cannot. It is red lyrium. When you are around it long enough, this happens to you. When you die, they mine your corpse.’

I gasped horrified, my hands flailed uselessly in front of me, trying to find something I could do, anything to correct this. ‘We’ll stop this, lethanllan.’ I called her kinswoman as a promise, there was nothing I wouldn’t do for my clan.

Lethanllan?’ She tasted the unfamiliar word and the smiled, her eyes closed, ‘lethanllan, help me save my people.’ She slumped down as if her body was heavy, ‘Alexius is powerful, his master, the elder one, he’s more powerful than the maker. No one who can gone up against him had lived…’

‘First time for everything,’ Dorian said to me.

‘Your spymaster, Leliana, she’s here.’ Fiona voice was cracked and weakening, the unworldly echo growing stronger. ‘Find her.’ She gasped.

‘Thank you, Grand Enchanter.’ I said, wrapping my hands around the bars.

She nodded. ‘It has been too long since anyone called me that…’

 

The rest of the cells turned out to be a dead end. So we went back to the little room with two doors, ‘I have a bad feeling about this.’ I said.

Dorian snorted, ‘a bad feeling. Goodie.’

I gave him a scowl and opened the door. Six guards looked up, ‘Fenedhis’ I swore as I nocked an arrow onto my bow.

Dorian’s was shooting purple lightning at the guards, it races along the wet door electrifying all six at the same time. I had to admit, I was impressed.

Once the guards had been dispatched, Dorian reached down and grabbed a large metal loop with keys hanging from it, ‘what do you reckon these open?’

I sighed, ‘we’re going to find out, aren’t we?’

‘Where is your sense of adventure, Herald?’

I shuddered, ‘ugg, don’t call me that.’

He sobered a little, ‘if you wish. Come along, not-Herald.’

I smiled, it would do.

 

We ventured down another corridor in the maze of a dungeon. I held my hand out, ‘what’s that.’

‘I don’t hear anything.’ Dorian whispered back.

I held up a hand, ‘singing?’ I queried and ventured towards the sound.  

‘…The light shall lead us safely through the paths of this world and into the next. For she who trusts in the maker, fire is her water...’ Came the sweet voice through another wooden door.

‘Cassandra,’ I hissed and kicked the door, expecting it to break down. It didn’t. I bounced off the door ending up on the floor.

I heard Dorian swallow a laugh and simply get the keys he had looted out. He tried them until one fit, turned the lock and reached down to help me to my feet. I scowled at the door but was distracted the moment I saw Cassandra.

She looked bad, she was sat in a cell. She was thinner were she had lost muscle, and her eyes were covered in a red fog. I dropped to my knees. ‘Cassandra?’ I gasped.

She titled her head looking at my curiously, as if I might be a figment of a dream. When I did not disappear, she moved closer wrapping her hands around the bars. ‘The end is truly upon us if the Maker is bringing people back to life.’

I glanced back at Dorian, ‘we’re not dead. Not yet at least. Thrown through time.’ He explained.

‘I am sorry, I have failed you, Andraste forgive me. I have failed all of you.’ Cassandra was covered in tiny red pulses, it was like watching fish darting to the surface of a pond, except there was no water and no fish, only red streaks making themselves known for a moment. She was infected with the red lyrium.

I took the keys off Dorian and started finding one that fit the lock. My fingers shook, but as I worked, I noticed my woven bracelet. I touched it with my marked hand. I couldn’t reach the gods, but my clan was with me. I found the key and the door swung open. ‘We’re not dead, we’re going to try to go back and stop this.’

Cassandra stood invigorated, ‘then there are some things you will need to know so that we can make sure that none of this will ever take place. The elder one, he assassinated Empress Celene. In the chaos that followed a demon army swept through Orlais. Nothing stopped them, nothing.’

‘We will stop them.’ I swore.  


‘I think they are keeping Leliana down here,’ Cassandra said directing us down another winding corridor, Dorian gave me a look. I felt like we were going around in circles. But we followed anyway, until we came to a new door. Cassandra scrunched up her face, ‘I, I can’t remember.’ She smacked the wall with her palm.

Dorian moved to comfort her, as I unlocked the door. I glanced in, no guards.

‘Don’t touch me.’ Cassandra hissed.

Dorian jumped back, ‘forgive me.’ He said, hands in the air.

‘I’m infected.’ She said by way of apology. ‘If you’re going back in time, I cannot risk infecting you.’

Dorian nodded.

‘Solas!’ I called, spotting him and rushing towards a cell. I heard Dorian and Cassandra running after me. I gasped in horror, when I saw him. He looked worse than Cassandra, his eyes were practically glowing with the red mist and he had a large crystal of red lyrium growing out of his side which had torn through his clothing.  

He turned at once in alarm, ‘you’re alive.’

I nodded, ‘I am.’

‘We saw you die.’ He insisted.

He reached for me and I reached back, Cassandra smacked his hands, while Dorian pulled me back. ‘She isn’t infected.’ Cassandra hissed at him.

Dorian gave a little cough, then explained ‘Alexius’ amulet, he displaced us in time. We just got here so to speak.’

‘And can you reverse the process.’ Solas demanded without even looking at Dorian. ‘You could return and obviate the events of the last year…’ His voice echoed as he spoke, and my heart cracked to hear it.

‘Boss?’ an echoed voice asked from behind me. I spun around, not seeing anyone… and then. I grasped Dorian’s arm to stop me from swaying. I sucked in an unsteady breath.

‘Bull?’ I gasped. He was more red lyrium than man.

The qunari, was attached to the wall, red lyrium spikes had formed out of his left knee, had ripped holes in his back and a large shard was in place of his damaged eye. He roared and ripped his body away from the wall. I took a step back in fear.

‘Let’s get the ‘Vint bastards who did this.’

Chapter Text

Bull’s lip twitched as he stood in the doorway of his cell. ‘Let’s get the ‘Vint bastards who did this.’

Dorian huffed a little and said ‘venatori’ under his breath. ‘We’re plan to find Alexius and go back in time to stop this from happening.’

Bull turned to Dorian, ‘isn’t not Alexius you need to worry about, he works for this Elder One. He murdered the empress and sent out a demon army, have you ever fought a demon army.’

‘I haven’t.’ Dorian acknowledged.

‘Wish I hadn’t.’

‘I already told them,’ Cassandra added.

‘The guards talk about Alexius barricading himself in the throne room.’ Solas said, returning the topic to the problem at hand.

‘So we will go to the throne room’, Cassandra confirmed and then considered, ‘but we don’t have any weapons.’

I took a deep breath, ‘Fiona told us to find Leliana.’

Bull and Solas exchanged a glance and then looked to the direct we had not come from. ‘She is,’ Bull began, ‘she had been…’

‘Mistreated.’ Solas finished for him grimly.

‘Let’s go get her then.’


‘There’s no use for this defiance little bird, there’s no one left for you to protect.’ A man’s voice from behind a door at the end of the long corridor. I felt sick at the sound.

Iron Bull cracked his knuckles and glared darkly at the door, I unslung my bow from my shoulder.

‘You’re wasting your breath.’ The voice continued.

I pulled the keys out and went to unlock the door, but it swung open in my hands. I looked along the wall, horrible metal instruments were lined up, some were clean… and some were not. Then I saw her, Leliana looked ages, but I realised her wrinkles were thousands of tiny scars, scars upon scars. She locked eyes with me.

The in front of her turned around and gave a little cry of alarm to see us. He took a step back and Leliana lifted herself up, locking her thighs around the man’s neck. Two heartbeats later, he was on the floor.

‘You’re alive.’ She gasped and I ran to her.

Stepping over the torturer, I uncuffed the Nightingale carefully so that I wouldn’t touch her. ‘We are, we were thrown forward in time.’

She looked me up and down, and then over to the rest of our group. ‘Do you have weapons?’ Leliana went over to a chest, took a bow and quiver for herself and began handing out weapons to the rest of the group.

‘We plan to get back, so this never happens, never happened.’ Dorian was explaining.

The Left Hand stood and cut him off with a sharp gesture, ‘enough, this is all pretend to you, some future you hope will never exist. I suffered, the whole world suffered. It is real.’ She stood fierce and unapologetic.

‘So what’s been happening since we’ve been gone.’

‘No,’ Leliana snapped, ‘you don’t want to know. You’re only talking to fill the silence.’

Leliana had none of the signs of red lyrium poisoning, but they’d had broken her in a different way, she was hard and cruel now in this future. I wanted to hug her and tell her that it would all be alright, but I expected if I did, I would find a dagger in my side. The only way to make this right was to go back. ‘So how do we find Alexius?’

Leliana gave me a little nod, ‘this way.’

 

Leliana directed us through corridor after corridor, until we arrived at the audience chamber. As we burst through the door, Alexius barely looked up. ‘I expected you would turn up.’

There was a twisted man at his feet, breathing heavily and looking thin.

‘Was it worth it?’ Dorian demanded, stepping forward to face his former mentor. ‘What you did to the world, was it all worth it?’

Alexius looked to the man at his feet, then to Dorian, ‘you wouldn’t understand, I did it for my country. I did it for my son. But it doesn’t matter anymore.’

Dorian scoffed, ‘it does matter.’

The Magister titled his head, as if he couldn’t understand Dorian’s words. ‘All we can do is wait for the end.’

‘No, father.’ The man at Alexius feet croaked weakly.

‘Felix.’ Dorian gasped.

And in that moment, Leliana was behind Felix dragging him to his feet. Her dagger was at his throat. Felix sagged in her arms, alive but not really.

‘No, not my son, I will give you anything.’

I stepped up to the dais, ‘give us the amulet in exchange for Felix.’

Alexius turned to me, a piteous creature, all fear and despite. ‘Give me Felix and I’ll give you what you want.’

I turned to Leliana, but her eyes were on Alexius. ‘I want the world back’. She drew the dagger across Felix’ throat and he dropped to the ground.

Alexius screamed and slammed his staff into the ground, the pulse of energy threw me back down the steps. I stumbled to my feet to see that Leliana had been thrown into a wall.

‘Leliana,’ I heard Cassandra cry behind me, and she was rushing to help her.

Bull’s roars filled the air. Metal clashed against armour.

Lightning and ice were thrown back and forth across the room.

Leliana and I rained down arrows.

It was six against one and the battle didn’t last long.


I reached down and pulled the amulet from Alexius’ neck. I moved over to Dorian, I put my hand on his upper arm, and Dorian looked at me. ‘He wanted to die, all the lies and justifications.’ Dorian turned to look at Felix then closed his eyes tightly. ‘He lost Felix long ago and he didn’t even notice.’

Silently, I handed him the amulet, and he nodded. ‘Give me an hour or so.’

‘They are coming,’ Leliana shouted. I looked up in alarm, and I could hear a dull rumbling in the distant. ‘You have as much time as I have arrows.’

Cassandra set her face in grim determination and went forward. Bull almost looked happy, he ran forward the red crystals shuddering with every step, leading the charge.

‘Wait, Hellana, there is something you need to know.’ Solas said grimly, he was only a pace away from me. He was breathing heavily, and his shoulders were shaking.

Leliana grapped his arm, ‘there is no time.’ She snarled. Dropped him and went forward towards the building tumult.

Solas look stricken, he stared at me for a long moment. Then pulled his pendent off his neck, snapping the leather and held it out. I reached for it and he dropped it into my hands. He looked at me, and then his jaw set and he bowed his head. He took a breath and turned.

I reach out for him, but Dorian had seen and pulled me away, ‘no, no!’ I cried.

Solas looked back, and I could see he know what was going to happen. The breath left my lungs in a rush and pain twisted in my stomach. Come back, don’t go!

I fought against Dorian to let me go, but the human was stronger. He turned me round so I was looking at him, ‘we’ll save him, but stopping this.’

I bit my lip, and supressed a sob, I nodded. Then turned to see Solas leave. I stood, numbly, waiting, unable to process what was happening. The heartbeats ticked by and I didn’t move, then the mob had reached us, metal on stone and howls echoed around the throne room.

And then it all disappeared in a flash of blue-white light.

Chapter Text

My mark flared up, screaming, scorching pain that trailed up through my bones. I hissed and dropped to my knees cradling my arm against my body. Our arrival was greeted with an audible gasp.

‘Inquisitor!’

‘It’s her.’

‘Is it?’

‘Is that Dorian Pavus?’

An echo of overlapping voices sounded around me. I looked up to see a woman approaching, she was tall, with dark eyes and an Orlesian mask covering her face. ‘Inquisitor?’ She asked gently, I didn’t recognise her. I glanced up and she was definitely talking to me, I looked across at Dorian who gave me a go with it look. ‘Yes?’ I answered more of a question than anything.

She curtsied low to me, ‘forgive me my lady, we were not expecting you this evening.’

My lady? I twisted my neck to see if there was anyone behind me, there wasn’t. I had a horrible feeling she was talking to me. I dug my nails into my wrist willing the pain to go away, but it was like there was a rift here somewhere and my mark was reacting to it. ‘Where are we?’

‘When are we?’ Dorian asked.

The woman stood, and looked between the two of us, ‘you are in Redcliffe Castle. It’s Wednesday, the 14th Harvestmere, 9.45’.

I looked to Dorian, ‘we went the wrong way.’ I hissed. He nodded.

‘My lady,’ the masked woman asked, ‘will you be joining us for dinner?’

I noticed we were surrounded by dinners, almost fifty people, mostly humans, some elves and a handful of dwarfs, were looking up from half eaten meals. The audience chamber had been filled with two long tables on each side of the pillared walk way and the dais was filled instead with some kind of shrine, flowers and fruits were piled up before an icon of a deity I didn’t recognise. ‘We really should be going.’ I stammered.

‘Please,’ she urged, her hands were clenched tightly by her side, ‘to say I have dined with the inquisitor is something I can tell my grandchildren about.’

I looked to Dorian, who shrugged. ‘Then yes.’

The woman snapped her fingers, and two serving girls came running. ‘Set two places, by me.’

She led us over to a grand dining table, a magnificent place setting was laid in front of both of us. I was sat with the lady on my right, and Dorian on my left, opposite me was a portly man with little beady eyes. His face was flushed and his eyes raked over my vallaslin, ‘I thought you got rid of them’. He slurred in my general direction.

‘Father.’ The woman chastised, ‘forgive him.’ From his pained expressed, I expected that she kicked him under the table.

‘Lord Pavus,’ she turned to Dorian, ‘I do believe we have never had the pleasure, I am Thedore, the current Mistress of this Castle, my wife is currently away.’

‘Ahh, Thedore,’ Dorian took a wine glass and raised it to her, ‘it is good to meet you at last.’

She gave him a winning smile, and then turned back to me. ‘And better still to meet you again.’

‘Is it true?’ Thedore’s father blurted, he was watching me with his wine glass in his hand. He looked away for a second to snap his fingers. A woman ran over to fill up his cup.

I tilted my head, ‘yes?’ I guessed.

The man bellowed and slapped a hand down on the table, ‘I told you Thedore. I told you.’

The mistress of the castle looked uncomfortable, and shifted in her seat.

Her father picked up some kind of bone off his plate and jabbed it at me, ‘that’s why they call you the whore of the gods, first Andraste, then…’

Thedore stood, ‘enough.’ She took the bone from him and dropped it heavily on the plate. The room went silent and I could feel the eyes on me. ‘Don’t you think it is time to go to sleep father?’ She wiped her fingers angrily on a napkin.

The old man grumbled but left the table.

Dorian was smirking at me, I buried a sigh, I wasn’t going to live that one down any time soon.

Thedore, laid her napkin on the table and turned to us. ‘I am sorry. He’s not adjusted well.’

I had no idea what that was supposed to mean, so I nodded. I took a breath, ‘I am feeling a little, lightheaded. May I take a walk in the open?’

The masked woman’s eyes flashed with fear through her mask, ‘Again, my apologies inquisitor, that won’t be possible.’

‘Why not?’ Dorian asked.

‘I told him you were here. He’s on his way.’ She straightened her shoulders, ‘enjoy the meal. Please don’t try to escape.’

I could only stare at her, then I rubbed my eyes.

Dorian played with a fork, ‘if he’s coming, may we have a room to prepare?’

Thedore nodded, and clicked her fingers. Three armed guards appeared. ‘Please escort our guests to their chamber.’


We were shoved roughly into a small threadbare room, the heavy door slammed shut behind us. I turned to Dorian, ‘how did you know her?’

He shrugged, ‘didn’t.’

‘Well then that was some quick thinking,’

‘Wouldn’t be the first time someone's tried to imprison me during a party, the trick is to let them think it’s your idea.’

‘What?’

‘Doesn’t matter,’ he said waving a dismissive hand at me, ‘the question is, do you want to stay and try to find out more about this ‘he’ or try to get back?’

I slumped down onto a bench, ‘we have no idea if its the elder one or something else and we can’t just keep bouncing through time. But, that woman was scared out of her mind. If we can, let’s leave.’

‘Agree,’ Dorian pulled the amulet out of his pocket. ‘If we can,’ he scoffed under his breath.

I racked my hands nervously through my hair, watching his experiments. My mark had toned down to a dull throbbing ache. I dropped my hands, and something jabbed me from my pocket. I pulled out Solas’ pendant. I felt my heart lurch, my friends were gone. I wrapped the leather strap around the bone and clutched it tightly.

Dorian looked up, ‘no, no.’ He sat down next to me, ‘come on, we’re going to get out of here. It didn't happen.’

‘I remember it.’

‘A bad dream and nothing more… wait… dream...’ He twisted his hand in the air and it erupted in flame, he turned to me open mouthed, ‘I didn’t used to be able to do that. Something is wrong here.’

I packed the pendant safely into the bottom of my quiver, so that it wouldn’t jab me anymore. And tried to push the scenes from my mind. I looked up, another stone ceiling.

‘The veil is gone.’ Dorian stated shocked.

‘What? How can it be gone?’

He shook his head, ‘just is… but it might just give us the power boost we need…’ The amulet began spinning in the air. ‘Let’s go home.’ He said confidently.

I nodded, then remembered Thedore’s fear. It is real. I heard Leliana’s voice say. ‘Wait, give me your handkerchief’.

Dorian pulled a face, but handed me the clean strip of linen. ‘You’re the only person I know who has their name embroidered on these.’ I folded it, and placed it on the bench next to me, I pulled the knife out of my boot and cut a lock of hair from the back of my head. I knotted it and placed it on the bench. That way, Thedore wouldn’t be accused of helping us escape. ‘Just in case.’ I shrugged. ‘Let’s go home.’

Dorian pouted, ‘that’s my favourite…’

‘I’ll buy you another one.’ I promised and Dorian caused the amulet to spin again.

He smirked at me, ‘whore of the gods?’ He reached out his hand.

I gave him a withering look, but took his hand.

The amulet exploded in a flash of white-blue light, and I saw the door to the little room begin to open.

Iseshena!

I turned towards the sound. But the room was gone, blinked out of existence.

Chapter Text

We were back once again, in the throne room, I looked around. Everyone’s alive again. Alexius just stared in horror, we appeared to have jumped a couple of paces across the room moving onto the dais with him.

‘How did you…’ He stammered.

‘Your plan didn’t work.’ Dorian said coldly, and surprisingly calmly.

It took me another moment to readjust, ‘surrender.’ I managed to croak out. Although it seemed to do the job as Alexius fell to his knees.

I glanced at Dorian, I couldn’t believe that worked. At least we wouldn’t have to fight him again. Inquisition agents moved forwards to arrest him. ‘I did it for you, Felix, to save you.’

‘Everyone dies, father.’ Felix replied simply.

I swayed a little on my feet, the adrenaline was starting to wear off.

‘Well, I’m glad that that’s over,’ Dorian announced, and no sooner had he finished speaking the doors to the audience chamber were thrown open. ‘Or not,’ Dorian grumbled.


I covered my mouth with my hand to hide my yawn, it was barely late afternoon, but in reality, I’d been awake for what felt like three days. It was difficult to tell with all the time jumping. The Feraldan King had arrived to ensure that Grand Enchanter Fiona had no choice but to accept an alliance with the inquisition. He had invited us to stay the night, but I had refused him, much to Dorian’s disappointment. I knew I couldn’t spend another moment in Redcliffe Castle. We were halfway back across the grey stone bridge when Cassandra accosted me.

‘You shouldn’t have given them an alliance.’ She demanded.

I rubbed my eyes, ‘So we save the rebel mages from indentured servitude to Tevinter to… what?’

She huffed, ‘that isn’t what I meant.’

I nodded, ‘what did you mean?’

Cassandra turned away from me to gaze back up at the castle, ‘it’s difficult. The circles are there for a reason.’

I glanced around, and the others gave us some space. I stepped up next to her, ‘but they were unjust.’  

‘So we should just fix the whole world?’

‘If you didn’t want to change anything, you should have let the chantry take me.’ I said, my words sounding far more defiant that I actually felt.

To my great surprise Cassandra nodded, ‘you’re right. I should not doubt you, you did well. You made a decision when it needed to be made.’

I didn’t have anything to say to that, nor for her to come around quickly. I gave her a quick smile which she returned and then she returned to the group. As she did Dorian gave me a look, I approached and sighed. ‘I know we need to tell them.’

‘When we get to camp?’ He suggested.

‘Good plan.’


By the time we got to camp I was ready to drop, though I had managed to overcome my mistrust of horses as I didn’t have the energy spare to worry about what Betsie was doing. I sighed, there was a lot to get done before I could sleep.  

I built a campfire and Bull busied around me fetching logs to make rudimentary seating. I paused for a moment with my flint in my hand and had to steady myself. When I saw Bull, the image of his body covered in red lyrium made me feel sick. We had to stop that future. It took me a few heartbeats, but I pushed the image from my mind. I knocked the flint against a rock, sending sparks onto the dry kindling. Once the fire started burning, I settled down into a routine I had maintained since childhood. With each stick I added, I recited another line of the campfire prayer;

O, crowned Sylaise, guardian of the hearth, whose light rivals Elgar’nan’s light.

May your light give me sight.

O, crowned Sylaise, mistress of fire, whose breath rivals Andruil’s spear,

May you guide me through darkness.

O, crowned Sylaise, she who burns brightly, whose fire cannot be quenched.

May your fire warm me.

I looked up at the night sky, sparkling constellations dotted the inky abyss. It felt good to be out in the open again, with the air on my skin and the gods watching from above. Once the fire was burning well, I sat back on the one of the logs. I waited for my companions to finish their duties and settle down by the fire. I looked to Dorian, ‘there’s something we need to tell you.’ I began steadily. ‘The amulet didn’t just move us across the room, it moved us in time. We know what’s going to happen.’

There was uproar. Dorian held out his hands calling for quiet.

‘You are certain you experienced time travel?’ Solas asked first. I couldn’t look at him, I didn’t dare. I didn’t want my mind to remember the horrible image of him infected with red lyrium.

‘Pretty sure.’ I mumbled at the ground.

‘Confident.’ Dorian confirmed.

Cassandra sat forward, ever the tactician ‘so did you find out anything useful?’

‘Yes, so we have a big bad. ‘The elder one’. He’s trying to become a… god.’ I said with thinly veiled disgust. I pulled off my woven bracelet and twisted it between my fingers.

Bull laughed, ‘Alexius mentioned this.’

I looked at him, he ripped his red lyrium body away from the wall, I dropped my eyes to the floor, feeling light headed. ‘Sorry.’ I muttered, my mind was already blending the two throne rooms.

‘The elder one is going to have empress Celene assassinated, which will throw Orlais into chaos,’ Dorian picked up for me, ‘once everything is nice and chaotic, he’s going to send a demon army to ravage what’s left.’

Bull clicked his knuckled, ‘not fond of demons.’

Cassandra laughed so hard her head tipped back, ‘who is?’

‘We got sent forward again, it was like the breach was everything. It was like the air itself was a rift. It was as if the veil had been torn down.’ I said looking at my hand, which gave off wisps of green light.

Silence.

‘At least, pulling from the fade was easier, I used it to get us back.’ Dorian added, he twisted his hand in the air, no fire. He looked a little disappointed.

‘Maybe, if the breach spreads it will tear through the veil itself.’ Cassandra suggested.

Dorian nodded, ‘that was my thought.’

‘So if we close the rifts and stop empress Celene from getting assassinated we can change the future?’ Cassandra said hopefully.

I nodded, ‘I guess that’s the plan.’

‘What if the new future is worse?’ Solas asked carefully.

‘In the future we went to, you said yourself that that future was an abomination and needed to be stopped. It was bad, really bad. I think we should take our chances.’ I said without looking at him.

‘I would not have used the word lightly, then I agree.’

I looked at Dorian and shook my head slightly, he nodded. We silently agreed, would say no more about the future. They didn’t need to know about the horrible deaths that awaited them if we failed.

We lapsed into silence again, I rubbed my eyes. I stood, ‘excuse me.’ I mumbled pulling my bow and quiver onto my shoulder. I needed to pray. I found a small clearing, just outside of camp. Close enough that I could get back safely, but just far enough away to not be overheard. I lay my weapons on the ground and took out three arrows, I raise them in the air and then place them on the ground, ‘Great Andruil, accept my offering, let me not waiver on this path, let me…’ I heard a twig snap and I froze. I turned and I recognised the legs, I flushed angrily. ‘Seriously Solas, I am trying to speak to the gods right now. Can you not interrupt me?’

He didn’t move.

I turned back and squared my shoulders. But I couldn’t focus, I just kept seeing his red lyrium eyes. I picked up the arrows, I would try again later. ‘I didn’t mean to snap, what do you need?’

‘I just wanted to know why you are avoiding me.’ He said calmly and sat down next to me.

I took a breath, still not looking at him, ‘I’m not.’

He didn’t say anything.

Fenedhis. I was. ‘Maybe a little bit.’ I twisted my hands together, be brave little hare. I looked at him, blue eyes with no trace of red lyrium mist. My heart hurt at the sight. I let out a shaky breath. ‘I guess… I know something I shouldn’t.’

‘Was it something I said,’ his jaw was tight, I recognised that expression.

‘You were going to tell me something, but…’ I paused, shutting my eyes trying to stop myself remembering. ‘… Leliana cut you off.’

The tension drained out of his face, whatever his secret was, it was safe. ‘Are you sure it was real?’

I pulled my hair out of my face nervously, and then my hand touched the short strand at the back of my head, I gasped and pulled my quiver over, I upended it. And among the clutter of arrows his pendent fell out. I picked it up and handed it to him, ‘pretty sure.’

He examined the pendent, compared it against the one around his neck. I suspected he was looking for some evidence of a forgery. He couldn’t find it. I heard him swallow hard. He handed it back to me, ‘keep it, I have no use for two.’ I could hear the strain under his light-hearted words. ‘Why…’ He began, but then seemed to think better of it.

‘Why what?’ I asked so softly I could barely hear my own voice.

‘Why did I give this to you?’

I put my hand to my throat, and closed my eyes tightly, don’t think about it, I commanded myself. I looked at the ground, ‘there was no time, we were being attacked, Dorian needed more time to fix the amulet, you…’ My eyes stung and I wasn’t sure when I’d started crying. He pulls me into a tight hug, warm and real and alive.

I pulled back, embarrassed, rubbing my eyes with the backs of my hands. ‘I’m sorry,’ I mumbled, keeping to common in imitation.

‘You have nothing to apologise for, thank you for telling me,’ He fiddled with his pendent for a moment, before dropping it and squeezing my hand. ‘anyway, it is good to know that I can die, at least I never have before.’

I looked at him, mouth open, that he could say something so blasé, but then I drop[ed my head into my hands and laughed. I laughed till my face ached. I gave him a warm smile, ‘thank you, for cheering me up.’

He smiled, but then replaced it quickly with a sigh, ‘we should get back. You look exhausted.’

I nodded, his evaluation is correct. I glanced for a second at the abandoned offering. I left them there, prayer unfinished, and hoped that Andruil would understand.

Chapter Text

As we arrived back to Haven, I felt nervous. I jumped off Betsie and handed her reigns to Dennet without so much as a second glance and I ran into the village. I didn’t stop until I found Leliana. She was speaking with one of her ravens, so I waited impatiently. She glanced up, noticed me and dismissed the spy. ‘Herald you’re…’

I wrapped my arms around her neck and hugged her tight. ‘Rough trip, time travel, don’t ask’.

She squeezed me back but pulled away, adjusting her hood. ‘What is this about?’ She questions, looking at me like I’d gone quite mad.

I smiled, just grateful to see she was unharmed. My dreams had been haunted with the image of her from the first future and I hadn’t been able to shake the dread until now. ‘Dorian can explain better than I can, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to scare you.’

She pointed towards the chantry, ‘come, tell us what happened.’


The debriefing took longer than expected, and Cullen shouted at me twice. I left the meeting in a foul mood, expecting to go to bed… or the Singing Maiden If Sera could be persuaded. I laughed to myself, if Sera wasn’t already there!

‘Mistress Lavellan,’ I turned back to see Josephine. ‘I have a letter for you.’

I nodded and followed her into her office, she started digging through piles of assorted documents and finally, victoriously, produced an elegant letter. I took it from her, the seal was already broken. The script was beautiful;

 

Herald of Andraste,

 

You are cordially invited to attend my salon held at the Chateau of Duke Bastian de Ghislain.

 

Yours,

Vivienne de Fer,

First Enchanter of Montsimmard,

Enchanter to the Imperial Court.

 

I looked up at Josephine, ‘the Vivienne de Fer?’ I asked surprised.

‘Apparently.’

‘I have nothing to wear to a party.’

Josephine’s eyes lit up and she clapped her hands together . Oh no.


I had been corseted, perfumed, pulled, prodded and shoved in a pair of heeled shoes. I felt like an idiot, but an shem idiot, and that was the point of the game. Josephine had done her job admirably, and I looked the part. I had been forced to leave my bow behind, but had no less that six daggers secreted on my person in case things went south. Dorian, Cassandra and Blackwall were accompanying me, as ‘they scrubbed up best’ according to Josephine’s critical eye. But I was half convinced the human element of the inquisition was simply being put forward. I had asked Josephine to come herself, and she’d looked longing at me before resigning herself to finish more of the ever growing pile of paperwork. Blackwall at least had the decency to look as uncomfortable as I felt. He was wearing some sort of blue and grey tunic, emblazoned with the symbol of the grey wardens. His hair had been combed and beard trimmed, and after much cajoling bullied into a bath. Dorian, was very well turned out, for a man that had joined the inquisition with only the clothes on his back, he’d gathered a fine wardrobe rather quickly. He had an easy smile on his face and actually seemed excited. Cassandra on the other hand was wearing her Seeker armour, immaculately kept and shining, but her face was grim as though she was going into battle.

As we got to the gates of the chateau, I tripped over my heels, luckily Cassandra had my arm before I fell. ‘I hate these shoes.’ I grumbled. ‘Dress is too long to see them anyway…’ I reached down pulled them off and tucked them behind a particularly large rose bush. ‘There’.

Blackwall laughed, and Dorian tutted. The only problem with my quick thinking was I was now three inches shorter again. I was the tallest in my clan. I thought to myself bitterly.

As we entered the lavish atrium, we were announced. A silence spread out across the room, to be replaced a few moments later by whispers.

‘So tell me,’ a woman approached wearing a mask and a collar wider than her head, ‘are all of the rumours true?’

I glanced and Dorian, I could tell he was thinking of the second future and was trying not to laugh. ‘Depends on what you’ve heard?’ I replied, knowing better this time.

She took out a fan from her sleeve and drew it across her face, ‘they say you’re the herald of Andraste. Send here by she, to save us all from the tear in the sky.’

I glanced to Cassandra, her mouth was clenched in a thin line.

‘Do you think Andraste would send a Dalish elf?’ I countered, trying not to laugh.

‘I do not question the Maker’s will’. She replied modestly, then she bowed a little and exited away from me.

‘You’re learning,’ Dorian whispered, ‘never give them a straight answer.’

‘You won’t get any straight answers here,’ Blackwall added.

I smiled at them both and we continued into the party.

After a few minutes, I felt myself relaxing. The music was good, and the building oozed warmth and comfort. I hadn’t ever been properly warm in frozen Haven. Then it all had to be ruined, a masked man turned and handed me an empty glass, ‘get us another.’

‘I’m not…’

He grabbed my ear and shook me, ‘how dare you…’

I heard a whoosh of magic, and he was frozen solid. I have expected to see Solas, but a tall delicate woman in a horned headdress approached. ‘My dear, that wasn’t any way to treat our distinguished guests’.

I pulled my ear from his frozen grasp.

‘I am Vivienne de Fey, what would you have me do with him?’

I glanced at the frozen man, and rubbed my ear. I was very conscious I was surrounded by shem . ‘It’s fine, let him go.’

‘You are sure?’ She asked again.

I nodded.

The man unfroze with a click, ‘Marquis. It appears the Herald is a more forgiving woman than I am.’

‘Heretic,’ he spat at me.

Vivienne took his arm, ‘Alphonse,’ a flame licked up his sleeve and he twisted in panic, ‘you will not speak to one of my guests like that again. Consider this your final warning, if you wish to leave tonight.’ The fire died.

Marquis Alphonse gave a hopeless look and left the building with all the dignity he could muster.

Before I had a chance to say anything, ‘may we speak in private?’

Cassandra made a sound to protest, but I nodded and was lead away from the party.

 

She brought me to a secluded balcony that was bathed in moonlight. ‘Though, tell me my dear, why I should join you. I’ve heard you’ve recruited Fiona and her rebels. A full alliance no less’.

I took two breathes, ‘Madame de Fer, may I be blunt?’

She looked at me as if she was decided whether fire or ice would be my fate.

‘Fiona tried to protect her people and ended up trading away the lives of her followers to Tevinter. But for the alliance, her people would be subjected still, but to us instead. Maybe an inquisition master is better than a Tevinter one. I couldn’t honestly say.’ Her face was a mask, an impenetrable iron mask, ‘Madame Vivienne, I know of you and I know of your reputation. I also know that we need mages to help me seal the breach. Since the mage rebellion, you’ve kept the loyalists safe, and I need people who can keep my people safe.’

‘You’re passionate,’ she paused, a smile spread across her face, ‘I’m sure we can come to an arrangement.’

Chapter Text

I walked through a thickly canopied forest, the loamy ground sank below my feet. The scents of cool damp earth filled my nose. I passed a great old tree and touched the cushiony moss that grew from its trunk with my left hand. Unmarked. I took my bow off my shoulder, I made my careful way through the foliage. Drip drop, raindrops. A leaf floated down to my right, and I heard a snuffling in the bushes. I nocked an arrow, a fluffy white bunny hopped out, I shriek and fell over a gnarled tree root. I kept falling.  


I jerked awake. I looked around the large room, the morning sun was streaming through sheer golden curtains. I rubbed my eyes, trying to work out where I was, then I remembered we had stayed the night at the Ghislain Estate, Vivienne had wanted a day or two to make sure she was leaving no loose ends before accompanying us to Haven. Her lover’s chateau was an extravagant display of wealth, surfaces shone gold. Opulent and ostentatious, designed to impress. It certainly did. My head spun slightly as I got up, too much good wine the night before. I found a saddlebag discarded on a small puffy chair by a mirrored wall. I opened it to find the supplies that Josephine had picked out for me. I pulled some clothes out, examining the ‘Orlesian day fashion.’ There was a floor length skirt in red and white which I pulled on. Under that was a sort of top that I couldn’t work out how to put on, inside the material was nested a little silver mask and a folded scrap of parchment. I opened it up, there was a sort of squiggle and three women drawn… I realised it was instructions for putting on the wrap shirt. Silently thanking Josephine for her forethought, I tried to properly attire myself. Ties wrapped back and forth across my waist, I took a few steps, and nothing fell off, so I guessed it must be right. I looked at myself in the full-length mirror, but it wasn’t a woman I recognised looking back at me.

Everite eyes looked back at me, polished rich-brown curls framed my face almost hiding the tips of my ears. But for the pale pink-white vallaslin framing my eyes, I could have passed for a city elf of good fortune. I picked up the mask and even the vallaslin was gone. I put the mask away.

 

Breakfast was an odd affair, as Dorian wasn’t up yet and Cassandra had excused herself almost as soon as she appeared. Blackwall was stony silent, and I found I didn’t have much to say. I was introduced to the Duke de Ghislain, he was a charming man, older than Vivienne, but kind and witty. The two danced around each other like butterflies in the spring, each anticipating the other’s need, perfectly choreographed. Simple, and oddly beautiful, she poured him juice, as he passed her toast. I felt a sting of guilt at tearing the two apart. After breakfast, Vivienne had retreated to her office, sending messages to all parts of Thedas and I was left to entertain myself.  

 

So, by midday I found myself in the gardens. The warm sun was beating down on my face, I sighed, contentedly. It was nice to take some time to myself. The gardens were full of exotic flowers that I had never seen before, the perfume was heady. I stopped by a little fountain, the trickling water was a pleasant backdrop. I sat in the shade, my back to the fountain.

And that was where I was when Cassandra found me. She was still in full armour; her face was a little flushed and I could only assume she was boiling in the heat. She looked ill at ease, ‘herald.’ She greeted when she saw me.

‘How are you, Cassandra?’

She huffed, ‘I am ill-suited to finery. I will be happy to leave.’

I glanced around, ‘considered it a day off,’ I leaned back against the cool stone, ‘I imagine it will be a long time before we have another.’

She nodded and sat on a bench opposite me, ‘I am glad that Enchanter Vivienne is joining the inquisition.’

‘As am I.’

Cassandra looked over me with a considered eye, ‘she has always shown sense in her dealings with the chantry, I didn’t expect you to value such things.’

I looked down and chuckled, ‘you caught me, I don’t.’

‘Maker preserve us.’

‘I’m sorry, I’m not what you expected.’

She stood, ‘I have no expectations.’ And she left me alone. I considered her words, momentarily unsure of the ally that I had made in Vivienne.

I got up, no longer enjoying the fountain as the sound was putting me on edge. I walked back towards the chateau. Passing through the courtyard at the back of the sprawling building, I saw Dorian. He was sprawled out over two chairs, feet up with a wine glass in hand.

He raised his glass to me, I walked over. ‘I see you’ve already raided Madame de Fey’s wine cellar.’

He scrunched up his face, ‘raided, such a cruel word. I liberated this rather fine bottle from 9.16, a particularly good vintage.’ He slanted his head, ‘plus a decanter… and two glasses?’ He said holding an empty glass at me.

‘It’s mid-afternoon, Dorian.’ I said chastising, while taking the glass and settling down next to him. ‘Enjoying yourself then?’

He poured me a glass of the ruby liquid. ‘Very much, Madame Vivienne may be a circle mage, but you cannot deny, she has style.’

‘And plenty of wine to raid.’ I added.

He laughed, ‘of course. What more could you want in a friend?’

‘Indeed.’

‘Well, speaking of friends…’ he drawled the last word, ‘what is going on between you and the hobo apostate?’

I set the wine glass down, ‘Dread wolf take you,’ I hissed and got to stand up. Awful man, luring me in with wine.

‘Ohh, Dalish curses, I’ve hit a nerve.’ He tapped his fingers against his glass and motioned with his head for me to sit.

I sat back with a sigh, ‘why do you want to know?’

He poured himself another glass, ‘just verifying certain rumours.’

I gave him a withering look, ‘for Sera I take it?’

‘Hardly.’ He scoffed, ‘my own morbid interest. Just curious what would make you want to stay in future one, surely, it’s more than the sad eyes.’ He fluttered his eyelashes at me.  

I drank my wine a little fast, ‘future one?’ I questioned, although I already knew what he was talking about.

He gave me a disapproving look, ‘I had the amulet, I could have got us back, but I had to stop you running after him.’

‘I know.’ But I didn’t know how to answer him. ‘Thank you for getting me back.’

He nodded, then his eyebrows furrow, ‘is it an elf thing?’

‘No.’ I replied a little too curtly. I tucked my legs up on the seat and smoothed my skirt out.

He raised an eyebrow, ‘so do tell.’

I passed the wine glass between my hands, ‘not too much to tell,’ the tree, the translation, the sacrifice, his actions speak louder than words, ‘I’m just being ridiculous, I’m putting everyone in danger for what, a man that doesn’t even like me.’

Dorian laughed, and set his glass down with a clatter, ‘you should see the way he looks at you, like he’d ravish you, if only you let him.’

I choked on my wine, ‘don’t.’ I cleared my throat and drained my glass ‘so anyone taken your fancy?’

He laughed and poured us each another glass. The decanter was starting to get empty. ‘There is hardly a queue for the Tevinter necromancer.’

‘Necromancer?’ I didn’t know that.

‘It’s quite common in the imperium.’ He said playfully defensive.

Chapter Text

I slumped off Betsie in a foul mood. Dorian and Vivienne had argued the whole way back from her Chateau, it had started as a chastisement over stealing the bottle of wine, which quickly escalated into a furious back and forth over. Cassandra had tried to calm them down, which ended in the two forming a temporary truce to put the Seeker in her place. Blackwall and I had exchanged a glance and remained silent. We rode up to Haven to find the town in chaos; agents, soldiers and mages were running about.

 

I was tying up Betsie in the stable, when Cullen approached, followed by Grand Enchanter Fiona.

‘Herald,’ Cullen greeted, ‘the best of the mages are assembled, we’re ready to close the breach.’

‘Now?’ I gasped, I’d just gotten back.

‘Now. We’ve already sent two groups up the mountain, they’re waiting for us there.’ He confirmed, with a quick smile.

‘First Enchanter Vivienne,’ Fiona said dismissively.

Vivienne stepped forward and looked over Fiona, ‘My dear Fiona, it’s been so long since we last spoke. You look dreadful? How is your little rebellion going?’

Fiona brushed her words off, ‘we are free agents of the inquisition now.’

‘But you almost weren’t, I heard about your plans, what were you thinking?’ Vivienne’s tone was light, as though she was commenting on a badly chosen pair of earrings.

‘I would do anything to protect my people.’ Fiona snapped.

‘And the assumption is that I wouldn’t protect mine?’

‘I did what I had to do.’

‘Keep telling yourself that, my dear.’

I sighed lowly, stepping between them ‘play nice, we’re going to go try to fix that.’ I pointed at our destination, the breach. Without waiting for their responses, I climbed back onto Betsie and took off up the mountain.

 

Shocked at the sheer number of mages that had gathered to help, our allies, marching together towards the crater that used to be the Temple of Sacred Ashes. I rode past the sea of excited and apprehensive faces. I spotted the purple hood and rode up to Leliana who was at the head of the mage army. She glanced at me, ‘I am sorry you did not have time to rest, we expected you back yesterday.’

‘We stayed with..’

‘I know,’ she smiled, but it was weary, and we pressed on up the mountainside. ‘Only one thing to report, before we left, one of my agents did not report in this morning.’

I nodded, ‘we will worry about it when we get back, could be a bear attack.’

She gave me a weak smile.

 

The advantage to not knowing that I was going to be closing the breach so soon was that I only had the ride up the mountain to worry about it. I soon found myself back in the blacken ruins with barely a thought about what would happen if the mages were not enough to close the breach. If you can close the breach, future one is different. That little burst of hope was enough to get me through the soot-stained doors. I looked down at my hand, just one more rift.

 

I walked alone towards the green tear in the sky, certainly looking braver than I felt. Green pain exploded in my hand. I heard voices behind me but didn’t hear the words. I was focused in front of me. The air lit up, with tiny green tears, almost like red lyrium. I pushed the thought away, be brave little hare. I kept going until the breach surrounded me like a woollen blanket on a cold day. I could feel the itch of the fade scratching at my skin, I could feel the wave of potential behind me. My left hand outstretched, crackling with energy. I lifted it into the air, and everything went white. White rabbit. I fell to my knees, but the energy kept flowing through me, I was slowing it, channelling it. I was the cataract in the mighty river, bending the current to my will. And I willed the breach to close. I willed the breach to close.

The breach exploded.

I found myself alive and unharmed. My ears rang and my eyes were blotchy, I stretched out carefully and found Cassandra behind me. She was beaming. ‘You did it.’ She congratulated. She reached out her hands and helped me to my feet. We stood awkwardly for a second, I thought she was going to hug me, but she seemed to think better of it and pulled back. I turned towards the mages, unsure of what to do. Cassandra grabbed my hand and raise it in the air, the cheer that came forth was deafening.


We returned to Haven, joyful for once. The tension that had overhung the little down was finally gone. Even Cullen seemed happy. I couldn’t believe I’d actually survived. I’ll see my clan again. The ale was flowing, and more than one cup was pressed into my hands. I walked through Haven, Sera had given me a tight hug and promised me a drink, only to return with one of the good bottles form he top shelf of the Singing Maiden. Varric had insisted on making a slurred toast to my honour. Red in the face, I tried to sneak away and was caught by Leliana, who told me that this sort of victory was one to be celebrated and I allowed her to drag me back to the party.

Maryden had set herself up outside the Singing Maiden, playing jaunty songs. Bonfires were lit in the streets of Haven, and everyone who could was dancing. As the dusk was settling Krem challenged Maryden and suddenly the Chargers were signing. When it was over Dalish found me, she took both of my hands brought them up and we rested our foreheads against our hands. Finally, I thought, a proper Dalish greeting.

I found myself sitting on the little wall in front of the chantry overlooking the main gates, which is where Cassandra found me. ‘Solas has confirmed, the sky is scarred, but the breach is gone. The rifts remain.’

The sound of his name struck me, but I hadn't seen him since I’d been atop the mountain, maybe now the breach was fixed he's disappeared again. I had told him to leave. I cursed my stupidity. Cassandra was still looking at me expectantly. I leaned back on my hands, ‘not bad for your prisoner?’

She laughed, ‘you are hardly…’

She was interrupted by a banging on the gate, and we looked at each other. Cassandra narrowed her eyes, and set her hand one her sword. I set down my cup. We pushed through the crowd. The mountains echoed with strangled yells.

We got to the gates, Cullen was looking worried.

‘I cannot get in, if you do not open the doors!’ A young man's voice shouted. I rushed to the door, ignoring the ‘no’ behind me.

An armed Templar greeted me on the other side of the door, only to fall to his knees. Revealing a boy behind him with bloody daggers in his hands. My eyes went wide, I wanted to scream at Cullen for not letting this child in.

‘He is coming, the Elder one.’ The boy wearing a large hat said. I was shorter than him, his rough blond hair fell over his eyes. A blind saviour, I thought briefly, how useful.

‘I am Cole,’ the boy continued, ‘he is mad, he is mad you stole his mages. He’s coming.’ He turned and pointed towards the mountain.

I looked between Cullen and Cassandra in horror, I guess I wasn’t going home anytime soon.  

Chapter Text

Cole pointed back at a tall twisted man on the mountain, his face was scared with red shards. I knew the face from a dream, or a dream of a dream. It came then, screeching and screaming against the moonlight. I looked at Cullen. They had a dragon.

 

I ran to my little cabin, grabbed my good boots. I threw them on in a panic. I threw myself at the little cupboard, grabbing the statue of Mythal, I turned and tore down my prayer cloth. It ripped, I folded it around the statue and threw it into my quiver. I glanced around, nothing else. I ran back into burning Haven. The letters, I cursed, they were gone now.

 

Vivienne flanked me, casting cold into the burning building. I put my sleeve to my face, Flissa was trapped under a fallen roof timber. I burned my hands but dug her free. ‘Get to the chantry.’ I hissed. Vivienne had gone with her.  

 

I stood by the trebuchet, my palms were cracked, I didn’t feel the pain. I watched the projectile saw through the clear evening air. Crack. Crash. The mountain was falling. White slide down, blanketing trees and men alike. ‘We need to go’, Dorian called pulling me from the battlements.

 

The summer pilgrimage They could get out. They just needed a distraction. ‘If we are going to have a change…’ Cullen said. ‘I cannot ask you to do this.’

I nodded, I would anyway.

 

I fell, a sharp pain in the back of my head. I was tired, too tired. I had to get up. Fire burned around me. Someone approached. I had to get up. The Elder One approached, with clawed hands and red shards tearing across his flesh. The earth shook. The dragon landed, sleek and black and beautiful. I roared at me, I thought of the dragon-faced lady. Mythal.

‘Pretender.’ The man turned monster called. A new title, I thought dimly. I tried to form words, but they didn’t come. ‘You want what you cannot have, you stole what is not yours, you toy with forces beyond your control. Know me, know what you have pretended to be. Exalt the Elder One, the will that is Corypheus.’ He raised a clawed hand to me, pointing. ‘You will kneel.’ He drew his hand back, pulling an orb from the air, its glowed red. Dancing lines of lyrium. The pattern on the surface, the one I had seen from my dreams… I squinted at it. ‘The process of removing the anchor begins now.’ Green pain exploded in my hand, radiating through my bones. I cried out and dug my nails into my wrist. ‘It is your fault, you interrupted a ritual, years in the planning, and instead of dying you stole its purpose.’ I though my hand was going to crack, the bones would break and splinter like shards of glass. ‘I do not know how you survived, but the power I you use to close the rifts, I crafted to assault the very heavens.’

I drop to the ground, my right hand fumbled for my knife. If only I could grab it, if only. ‘I have walked in the black city, I have seen this blighted world, for a thousand years I was confused. And now I have returned under my own name.’ I found my knife, pushed myself forward and tried to stab him in the chest. He threw me aside like I was a rag doll, I could taste copper in my mouth. ‘I will be a new god, pray that I succeed. For I have seen the throne of the gods.’ He paced closed to me, so close I could hear the red lyrium shards sing. ‘And they were empty.’

The dragon padded closer, I saw it gulp in a breath. ‘I will not suffer even an imperfect rival. You must…’ I lunged for the trebuchet’s crank. ‘…die.’ The mechanism screeched in protest, the wood protested, and the ropes snapped taut with a crack. A projectile was launched. I didn’t watch it, I just willed my feet to move me. White. Cold. Falling.


‘The gods do not require worship, da’len. Worship is an act, like singing or cooking. It can be a kindness, a gift, or an exchange. Do you understand?’ My mother held me tightly on her knee. Her arms were round me. I looked up to her, her wise brown eyes looked down.

‘I think so.’ I replied as honestly as I could.

‘If I bring you a sweet cake, why would I do that?’ She asked softly, twisting the ring on her finger as was her habit.

‘Because…’ I screwed up my face, ‘I was hungry?’ I guessed.

‘Maybe, Hellana, or because I know they’re your favourite, or because I love you.’ She planted a kiss on top of my curls.

‘And if I brought your Aunt a sweet cake, why might I do that?’

I looked over at my aunt Dirthanna, she stuck her tongue out at me. I giggled, ‘she doesn’t like sweet cakes, silly.’

My mother rocked me softly, she raised an eyebrow at her sister, pulling one side of her bow and arrow vallaslin up. Her vallaslin was lighter than her face, making it look more like a sprawling perfect scar than a tattoo. I would choose the same when I was older, although dedicated to Mythal instead.

‘No little hare, she doesn’t. But might want to trade the cake for something. Can you see da’len? One action many reasons. We give gifts to the gods out of love, and sometimes we ask them for something in return.’

‘Like what?’

Dirthanna and my mother exchanged a glance, ‘they are old and wise, if you are wise you ask for wisdom, little one.’ Dirthanna answered.

My mother laughed, her curls bounced as she did, ‘ask them for what you like.’

I was getting restless and I pulled away from her, ‘can I ride on the halla tomorrow?’

She smiled, ‘if you like.’


 

I woke in a cave, cold water was dripped next to my face, splashing me. The relentless dripping pulled me from my memories. I looked around, tiny pinpricks of light allowed my eyes to adjust to the near blackness. I tried to push myself to my feet and fell back down. My hands were raw and bleeding. I found my knife only a few paces away, I clutched it to my chest, my mother would never forgive me if I lost it. I cut two thin strips from the bottom of my jacket and wrapped the fabric around my hands. I found my bow and quiver nearby unharmed, Andruil must be looking over me. I shivered suddenly, I was tired, I could just lie back down. I ignored that voice in my head and started walking.

I found my way blindly out of the cave and picked a direction at random. I murmured a quick invocation of Ghilan’nain asking for her direction. Show me the way, great lady. The sun was properly rising when I found a burnt-out campfire. The snow had been compressed recently. Thank you Ghilan’nain. The way forward was laid out before me. I took a moment and pulled the prayer cloth out of the bottom of my quiver, I had forgotten it had been torn. I looked down in horror, it went right down the centre of one of the sigils. I tucked it away quickly, and glanced nervously up at the sky, hoping the gods would not see and be offended. I couldn’t afford to lose any luck.

I trudged on uphill. The cold stung my skin, the freezing damp clung to my legs, my hands were numb and raw. I lifted my arm to protect my eyes, but soon found I didn’t have the energy to keep my arm up. I saw a light in front of me and I fell forward into the snow. It was soft, pillowy, it wasn’t so bad.

Chapter Text

‘Dirthanna?’ I questioned as I woke up. My mind didn’t make a lot of sense, I couldn’t understand how Dirthanna was here or why my aunt was wearing such a funny hat.

‘Shhh, you need rest.’ She said soothingly.

I rubbed my eyes; my fingers were numb blocks, I couldn’t close my fist. I tried to sit up, but Dirthanna pushed me back down. ‘That’s a silly hat.’ I blinked hard, my voice didn’t sound like my voice, but I couldn’t work out what was wrong. My aunt laughed. Her laugh was wrong. Dirthanna had died a few years ago. That wasn’t my aunt. My-not-aunt shook her head and piled another blanket on me, ‘sleep, Herald, you’ve had a long day.’


I could hear the arguing voices, back and forth. I knew they were important, I pulled myself upright. Mother Giselle was fussing next to me, I glanced across sheepishly unsure why I’d thought Dirthanna would ever have been caught dead in those red and white robes. I flexed my fingers, the feeling was back. Mother Giselle noticed me and sat down next to me. ‘You’re awake again.’

I nodded, ‘I think I’m back.’

She touched the back of her hand against my forehead. ‘You were delirious when we found you in the snow. Apparently,’ she smiled lightly, ‘the bunnies were after you.’

A stone settled in my stomach. I laughed a little, ‘the cold will do that to you.’

She nodded.

I caught Cassandra shout, ‘enough, this is getting us nowhere.’

‘We have gone where the enemy could not follow, we are safe for now. With time, there is time to doubt, thanks to you we have the luxury.’ She folded her hands neatly in her lap. I suspected she wanted to talk, which I didn’t. I tried to push myself up.

‘No,’ she cautioned, ‘another voice will not help, especially not yours.’

I looked away, grateful that she had misunderstood my intention, but now I was trapped. She turned to me, eyes intense. ‘Our leaders struggle…’ she paused, finding her words, ‘because of what they witnessed. What we all witnessed. We saw our defender stand… and fall… and come back again.’

I shook my head, ‘but it didn’t happen…’

She raised a delicate hand to stop me. ‘Sometimes the Maker works in the moment, and sometimes in how the moment is remembered.’

‘So the truth doesn’t matter?’ I snapped.

She lowered her head briefly, as though she considered what I said. ‘What matters is that the further the enemy is behind us, the more our trials seem divinely ordained.’

I clenched my teeth together, not by my gods.

She smiled lightly, ‘that is hard to accept, no?’

‘I do not accept it.’

We have been called to endure this,’ she placed her hand lightly on mine, I looked down at it and softly pulled my hand back. She ignored it and sat forward, eyes locked on mine, ‘can we truly know that the heavens are not with us?’

I took a breath, ‘so my gods up there, in your heavens?’ I asked almost sincerely, in that moment I was curious what she thought. But she said nothing. I pulled back and lowered my legs from the cot. I carefully got to my feet, I didn’t want her to see me stumble. I wrapped one of the blankets from the bed around my shoulder like a make-shift cloak. I could see Leliana and Josephine sat by some crates, I wanted to speak to Leliana, someone who would speak sense… I felt weak, I stopped. I closed my eyes, everything ached. Maybe I could just go back, go back and sleep until this was over. I felt Mother Giselle approach, probably to goad me back to bed. Instead she just stood next to me… and started singing. I didn’t know the words, or the tune. From the words that I caught I suspected it was a hymn of some kind. I looked up, and smiled, because I was under the open sky. Creators save me from the singing.

I huffed out a breath, but Mother Giselle had caught the attention of the camp. I noticed Leliana looked up, she gave me a guarded smile. I stood awkwardly, unsure of what to do. Leliana joined in with her sweet pure voice. I maintained a neutral expression, but I was screaming inside. I saw Cullen come to the entrance of a tent, his eyes were wide. He surveyed the scene, good, he would stop this nonsense. He added his voice.

A crowd was starting to gather around me, I thought with alarm, would they expect me to know the words? A man approached me and knelt before me. I stared at him, not comprehending. Get up! I thought furiously at him. Then another joined him, and another. Rows of shem knelling to me. This is going to end well.

It was at that moment I saw Solas, leaning on his staff in between two tents. Help me. I tried to communicate silently. He seemed to understand as he shook his head slightly and smirked at me. Fenedhis. Maybe if I only look at him, the humans will get bored and go away. But he disappeared and I was alone.

The song ended, and a hopeful silence spread across the camp. ‘The inquisition doesn’t just need an enemy, it needs a purpose.’ Mother Giselle said quietly.

‘A word?’ Sneaky elf was behind me.

I bowed my head to Mother Giselle, ‘if you say so.’ I agreed, turned and followed Solas away from the shem.

 

My skin was crawling, and I had to actively stop myself from sprinting away. ‘Where are we going?’ I queries as I realised, we were leaving the camp.

‘Somewhere we will not be overheard.’ He said without looking back.

The snow was getting more difficult to trudge through, and I pulled the blanket around me tighter. This better be worth it.

Once we stopped, he stopped to create veilfire, I moved closer warming my hands on the green heat. The light illuminated his face from below, making him look almost menacing, I laughed at little at the idea of him being dangerous.

He raised an eyebrow curiously, ‘it doesn’t take much for the shem to start singnig.’ I said, giving an alternative explanation.

He didn’t look impressed, ‘the humans, have no raised one of our people so high for ages beyond counting.’

I could count, a thousand years, since they’d burnt Andraste, since Shartan had willingly waded into the fire. I felt a stone settle in my stomach, I let out a shaky breath, my good humour wiped away instantly. I closed my eyes, how could he so simply put my fear into words. I nodded.

‘Their faith is hard won, lethallin…’

I didn’t hear the rest of his sentence, lethallin, kinswoman, a promise. I will protect you as if you were kin.

‘… the orb he carries. It is ours.’

‘I know.’ I said, before I could stop myself.

Solas turned his full attention to me, like he could see through to my very bones, ‘how do you know?’

A little smile tugged at my lips, ‘dreams and coded message.’ I began cryptically. ‘My clan, we found one of these orbs before, Ghilan’nain’s. A hunter touched it, it did this.’ I held up my left hand, ‘but purple. He found it in a temple, drove him mad.’

He weighed my words for a moment, ‘you didn’t tell me.’

‘I was worried, I didn't know...’ if you'd tell the shem.

He nodded simply. ‘We should prepare for their reaction, when they learn that the orb is of our people.’

‘What else do you know?’ I asked.

He smiled lightly, ‘there are foci, used to channel powers from our gods. All that remains are references in ruins, faint visions in the fade, echoes of a dead empire.’

My eyes flicked to his lips at that, our gods. ‘I know who…’

He barely moved, ‘who?’ He spoke so quietly, I wasn’t sure I’d heard it at all.

‘I think…’ I took a breath and glanced up at the sky, ‘at least all the clues point…’

‘Who?’

‘Corypheus said that he wanted the orb to assault the heavens. I wasn’t certain until he said that.... And I’m not certain. But I’ve had dreams. A being with too many eyes is following my sleep-steps. If you’re right, we just need to find the temple… finding a lost temple is not going to be easy…’ I trailed off, but at least we had a plan.

‘Who?’

‘Who do we know that was desperate to get back into the abyss?’ I shrugged lightly. ‘Andruil.’

Chapter Text

‘Andruil.’ I said firmly, it had to be. Who else?

Solas began to say something but cut himself off. He frowned at his strangled words. He took a step back and then forward again. He looked into the veilfire, his face was calm, but I could see his eyes flickering back and forth, almost like words were written on the flames. Did I just break Solas?

‘Are you alright?’ I asked softly, my hand on his arm.

He looked down at my touch, he nodded and cleared his throat. ‘You say something is following you in your dreams?’

I looked away, guess we’re not talking about the orb anymore. ‘Nothing I can’t handle.’

He nodded, not looking at me, he was still on edge. ‘It seems strange, could it be a coincidence?’

‘Possibly, there is something else, another coincidence, if you will. Something I divined. But I can’t reveal it here.’ I glanced up at the sky nervously, something blasphemous.

He raised an eyebrow at that, ‘what it is?’

I grimaced, and put my hand on my woven bracelet, ‘a torn prayer cloth.’ My words barely louder than a whisper.

The corner of his mouth twitched up.

Purist, I realised, the purists were the school of thought that was only interested in recreating exactly the worship of Arlathan. Then I glanced back towards the camp. Change the subject. ‘I think that we should tell them about the orb, what we’ve found out... Save them finding out from anyone else.’ My words sounding braver than I felt.

‘Perhaps you are right, we must be above suspicion to be seen as valued allies.’

‘Valued allies,’ I repeated with a sad sigh, I touched my vallaslin. ‘I don’t think I can do this…’ I hissed.

‘We have to.’ He said grimly. ‘There is something else, I found something in my journeys in the fade. Something that will help you. He pointed at the distant mountain, scout to the north. There is a place that waits for a force to hold it. Tarasyl'an Te'las.’

I gasped, ‘it’s not real.’ I shook my head, ‘if it is real, then it’s lost.’ I said dumbly.

‘It is real, but it was built over by humans. There is place for the inquisition to grow there. Faith in you is shaping at the moment, but it needs room to grow.’

I shook my head, I walked to walk straight down the damned mountain and away from the lot of them. ‘I don’t think I want their faith.’ I spat. ‘This is madness, I can’t just walk into myths, I…’ I ran my hands through my hair, ‘as though I am somehow entitled to take up a place among them.’ I looked down at my marked hand, the anchor. The anchor that fixes the veil. I put my head in my hands, ‘the gods are laughing at me.’

Solas’ hand touched my cheek, guiding my head up to look at him. ‘I do not think they are.’

I took a steady breath, ‘then… show me the way to Skyhold.’

‘Skyhold,’ he repeated, tasting my imperfect translation.

 

We went back to the camp, Leliana was in a heated debate with Cullen about our next move. I stepped up to them but faltered and looked back. Solas nodded his approval. I straightened my back, ‘I know where to go.’

The both turned to me, Cullen’s face was the perfect picture of surprise, while Leliana remained composed. ‘A fortress.’

They looked at each other, ‘where it is?’ Cullen asked.

‘I’m not sure yet.’ I said honestly.

Leliana took me by my shoulders, she held a hand up to my forehead. I shifted uncomfortable by her touching my vallaslin. ‘Are you sure you are recovered?’

I smiled at her, hoping that it was reassuring. ‘I have a guide.’

Leliana glanced behind me, I could see her assessing Solas behind me. Then I saw her mind assessing the situation, the pieces moving into place in her mind. She nodded. ‘I will inform the others, and you will lead the way.’

 

I retreated to my designated tent. It was a spacious place, I could stand upright in the tent and stretch both arms out comfortably. It was sparsely furnished, with a camp bed and a small table. My bow and quiver were lying on the table along with a new pack, I touched it briefly, but decided to check out the supplies in the morning.

‘Hellana?’ Solas voice called quietly from outside the canvas. I lifted the tent flap for him to enter. ‘Forgive me for disturbing you, I hoped to see the prayer cloth you spoke of?’ His voice was smooth, and he was close. The spacious tent suddenly felt small. I could feel the blush rising in my cheek, but I pushed such thoughts away and grabbed my quiver, I pulled the little statue out of the bottom and unrolled the prayer cloth. Settling Mythal on the table. ‘I grabbed it, as Haven burned, it got ripped. See where it tore.’

I lay the cloth out on the table, nine sigils, the rip went right down the centre of Andruil’s marking. I would have to repair it or burn it, it would be a great sacrilege to show this to the open sky. Andruil would take it as a challenge.

He traced a hand across the markings, ‘nine.’ He muttered, standing back.

I glanced at him, my eyebrows raised in surprise, ‘there are nine gods.’

He shifted uneasy.

‘Purist,’ I muttered under my breath, and gave him a sly smile.

Solas frowned, ‘and this led you to Andruil?’

I closed my eyes, tongues of flame licked the walls. ‘I was in Haven, I thought ‘why is this happening to me’, I grabbed the cloth, it ripped, and it gave me the answer.’ I leaned on the table, ‘it’s basic divination. You know, talking to the gods. It’s not like I can just go up and ask.’

He made a dismissive noise. ‘I see. But thank you for showing me.’

I began folding the cloth up and he turned to leave. ‘Stay.’ I said and reached for him.

Solas glanced at me, to the single bed, and back to my face. His eyes were narrow. ‘Is that a command, Herald?’ He asked carefully.

I took a little step back, looking down. ‘No.’

He bowed his head to me and left. I slumped down on the bed. ‘Piss,’ I swore employing Sera’s favourite curse. Then sank head down onto the pillow, wondering if it would be possible to smother myself.

Chapter Text

It took us another week to get to Skyhold, the route was dangerous, and we moved at the pace of the slowest. The castle was eerily beautiful. A mountain had been levelled, and a great sprawling grey stone castle plonked on top. It was very old, not quite ancient, and built in Ferelden style. Parts of it were crumbling, June, help us rebuild this place. The access to the castle was up a steep mountain path, the druffalos had some difficulty lugging our supplies up, even my thighs burned as I made my way uphill. The only advantage is that it would be equally as difficult for an invading army. There would be no repeat of Haven.

 

We had arrived in the morning, and by the mid-afternoon I had helped people to unload crates from druffalos and was working with Josephine to assign rooms when Leliana appeared. She gave a nod to Josephine, who smiled quickly and scurried off.

‘It appears that we will be safe here, for a time. It is good that you found this place.’ Her words were sober.

‘Yes.’ I agreed simply. I looked around, the patchy grass poking from the grey stone cobbles. Maybe the inquisition was like that grass, stubborn, refusing to yield to the cold.

She led me up a stone staircase, which looked like it had been carved into the living rock. ‘We know what the Elder One is after now, and we know his next move. In that future you saw.’

I nodded and looked down at my hand, ‘he’s after the mark. If he can’t have it, he’s after me.’ No chance to get home anytime soon then.

She clasped her hands in front of her, ‘it seems all we need is a leader, and the elder one will not stop until he had you.’

I looked to her, oh no. ‘A leader?’ I croaked.

She smiled, ‘the one who has been leading us all along.’

I shook my head, ‘you can’t be serious?’

‘You got the mages, you sealed the breach. You are the one who gave us time to get out of Haven, and you are the one who brought us here.’ She led me around a corner, I could see people gathered. I could feel my heart beating in my ears. Oh no.

She held out her hand, showing me up a different staircase. I saw Cassandra at the top of the staircase with a huge sword. I faltered for a second. The white eye painted on her chest plate stared down at me. The sword in her hand. Executioner. Get rid of me, these people will be safe here.

‘Will you lead us?’ Leliana asked.

I turned back, I thought I was going to faint, I took another step. ‘But… I’m an elf.’ I stammered.

‘Yes,’ Cassandra said softly, I turned to look up at her, and took another step. ‘Even more evidence of how far you have risen. How it must have been by Andraste’s hand.’

No. I am not her Herald. I am not your puppet. I took another step so that I was facing Cassandra. ‘Are you quite sure you want me?’

‘I do not feel comfortable handing this power to anyone, but I believe it is the only way.’ She replied.

I felt Leliana behind me. And there I stood, trapped between the two hands of the divine. ‘They will follow you.’

Cassandra drew the sword up, so that it was lying flat in her open palms, she offered it to me. The sword was taller than I was, the hilt was almost as wide as my wrist. Then I saw the curved dragon head at the top, the dragon-headed woman. I would do this, it wasn’t like I had any other choice.

‘How you lead is up to you, you alone can determine our fate,’ Cassandra said quietly. And if you fail…

I tried to take the sword from her with one hand, but I could barely lift it. I took the hilt with both hands. An elf standing for Thedas. I thought grimly.

‘Have our people been told?’ Cassandra yelled down to crowd, and I almost dropped the sword in shock.

Josephine stepped forward, ‘they have!’ She replied. ‘And soon the world!’

‘Commander, will they follow?’

Cullen stepped forward and turned his back to me. Oh no. He drew his sword, oh no. ‘Inquisition, will you follow?’ He called to the crowd. A cheer rang up, it echoed off the stone walls. It was deafening. Oh. ‘Will you fight?’ The cry was louder this time, and he paused for a long moment waiting for the cheers to die down. ‘Will we win?’ He raised his sword in the air. He turned and pointed it at me, ‘Your Leader, your Herald, your Inquisitor!’

I stood dumbfounded.

‘Now, raise the sword.’ Leliana hissed at me.

I did as I was told and hoisted the sword two handed above my head. I tried not to stumble under its weight and my arms trembled with the effort. ‘You couldn’t have gotten a smaller sword.’ I muttered without moving my lips to Leliana.

Cassandra gave me a grunt of disapproval.

I had to bring the sword down early for fear of dropping it on the crowd below.

 

Cullen bounded up the steps to join me, and Josephine was following behind. They lead me up the steps to the keep proper. Cullen kicked open the door. The smell of dust and rotting wood hit me all at once. I crinkled up my nose so that I wouldn’t sneeze.

Rotting lumber and broken masonry littered the ground. There was a crashed chandelier on the ground. At the very end was a grand stained-glass window, in front of which sat a throne.

Cullen turned back to me, sweeping his hand across the air as though presenting the room to me, ‘Inquisitor, Skyhold is yours.’

I took a gulp and stepped forward. I rested the sword against the ground. Now what.

Leliana seemed to hear my question, ‘out there was a promise, in here in is where we turn that promise into action.’

‘But we know nothing about this Corypheus, except that he wanted the mark.’ Josephine added.

I looked down at the green glow of my hand, ‘we know he wants to enter the fade, we know he wants to come a god.’ I shuddered at the very thought.

‘It doesn’t matter if he has to destroy all of this world to reach the next.’ Leliana commented, ‘we must stop him.’

I nodded, ‘someone must know something.’ I knew something, I took a breath, now or never. ‘The orb he carries, the object that did this,’ I raise my hand to them. ‘He thinks it is Tevintan. It isn’t, it’s older.’ Josephine narrowed her eyes. ‘It’s Elvhen. Can we send a message to my clan? Asking Keeper Deshanna can help us.’  

Cullen raised an eyebrow, ‘how do you know?’

‘We’ve seen one before.’

There was a moment of tense silence, as the knowledge broke over them. ‘Good idea, and we know that Corypheus’ first move is to assassinate Empress Celene.’ Leliana said cutting through the tension.

Josephine nodded, ‘I will try to get us an invitation to the Winter Palace.’

‘Let’s get to work.’

Chapter Text

I was alone in the highest room in the tower above the main keep. They had given the little suite of rooms over to me for my personal usage. I appreciated the balcony but suspected that the kindness of my advisers was partly because I could not leave my rooms without going through the main hallway. My whereabouts would constantly be known. There was a bed in the centre of the room, a little desk, a dresser and sofa. I have left the unwieldy sword downstairs, with an instruction to attach it to the throne. At least that way I wouldn’t have to lift it again, Josephine had given me an approving nod.  

I sat alone, on the corner of the bed. The room was quiet, and far too large for me. I could have fitted by entire clan in the one room. An agent had brought me my bow, quiver and pack. They were left abandoned on the sofa. I was alive. I couldn’t quite believe it. I took my knife out of my boot and played with it, twisting it between my fingers. Inquisitor. Where had I heard that title before? I couldn’t remember. I lay back, staring at the ceiling. Leader. A kind of keeper, I thought. I cannot fuck this up.

I pushed the knife under my pillow, and I stood, suddenly restless and went to explore the two little side rooms. One of them had another small table on it. I dragged it out onto the balcony. I went back inside and emptied out the quiver, ignoring Solas’ pendant and the ripped prayer cloth, I picked up the statue of Mythal. Miraculously unbroken. I took out the statue of Mythal and went to put it on the table outside. I smiled, finally she could be outside. A proper Dalish shrine. Out there I could be the Herald of Andraste, but in here I was myself. I knelt before the table, touching my vallaslin. I prayed my thanks until the sun began to set.

I got up slowly, my knees were numb, and my back was stiff. I went back inside to find a crate on the floor. I hadn’t heard anyone come in. There was a scrawled note on top.

 

I was in Val Royeaux during the attack. Hope these are what you wanted. Mice.

 

The statues, I thought with delight. I pulled the lid off and the box was filled with sawdust. A rueful smile spread across my face, ‘what do I need to know?’ I asked the box and fished inside the box for the divined answer. I pulled out a statue. It was a man holding an arrow. His head was a skull, a wolf skull. I frowned, put the statue back in the box. Closed the lid and pushed it under the bed. Deal with that tomorrow. I rubbed my eyes, time to find the tavern. I was about to leave when I reconsidered, grabbed my knife from under the pillow raised it in a salute in the direction of the box and slipped it into my boot. Try me.


I found the tavern at the middle level of the keep. There was a sign hanging already, it looked like an image of Andraste, her hand held out in a blessing. Someone had slapped a splatter of green paint over the hand. I looked at the painted blonde woman for a long moment, ugg. Just looking at it made me want a drink.

I walked inside, there was a low-level cheer. I found Sera already passed out under a table.

‘She started the moment we got here,’ Varric explained.

I grinned at the idea and went to get myself a drink. I passed the Chargers, many drinks down. A lonely Dorian, who raised his cup to me, a number of agents, chantry women and Cullen’s soldiers. I finally made my way through the bar and instead of Flissa, a grumpy looking dwarf greeted me. While Cabot’s small talk was lacking, his ability to produce a bottle of wine on request was not.

Attempting to get back to Varric’s table was a minefield in an of itself. The news that the newly-titled inquisitor was here had spread like wildfire. I was toasted, handed cups of drinks and one agent rather worse for wear, kissed me squarely on the cheek and told me she would marry me. I thanked her, and her kind offer, but wouldn’t be taking her up on it any time soon.

I slumped down in the seat, with a puff of exhaustion.

‘Tough day?’ Varric asked.

I nodded and poured myself a cup. ‘And that was just getting back from the bar. Why is Dorian drinking by himself?’

Varric twisted in his chair, trying to spot the mage in the crowd, he turned back and shrugged, ‘didn’t know he was here.’

I laughed, ‘there’s barely enough tables as it is… actually. I’d better not get up again.’

‘Your wish, Inquisitor.’ He got up.

‘Wait…’ but he was gone. I let out another sigh. I could faintly hear Sera snoring under the table and shook my head.

I looked up when someone took Varric’s seat. It was Cole. ‘Lost and forgotten, he wanted you to have it. Old hurts, I can’t heal them.’

‘Cole?’ I questioned, ‘are you alright?’

He looked up, almost surprised at his surroundings. He titled his head looking at me, so that I could see his eyes peeking out from under his hair. ‘You remember me?’

I let out an awkward laugh, ‘of course I do, you warned us at Haven.’

‘Most people forget.’ He said dreamily, letting his blond hair fall back over his eyes.

I looked at him curiously, he was younger than I had previously thought. Young enough that he might not have been tattooed yet - if he was Dalish, that is. Varric reappeared with Dorian in toe, I looked across to them.

‘Really, Hellana, you don’t need to summon me.’ Dorian was disgruntled.

I looked back to Cole, but he was gone. I blinded twice, and Varric took his seat.

‘I… didn’t… Varric?’

Varric shrugged, ‘I asked him to join, he said no. What did you want me to do?’

I shook my head laughing, ‘I didn’t summon you. But, now that you’re here.’ I grinned wicked. ‘Anyone fancy helping me find the bottom of this bottle?’

‘Like you need any help!’ Sera’s slurred voice came from below the table.

Chapter Text

I awoke mid-morning in a room I didn’t recognise. The sunlight streamed in through the stained-glass windows onto a curved seat. There were tapestries and scarves and all manner of junk pined to the walls. My back ached as I sat up and I realised I was one the floor. There was a raised bench, and I saw Sera’s sleeping form. I rubbed my head, the space between my eyes ached. I out see the main keep of Skyhold out of the window, was I still in the tavern? I stumbled to my feet and left.

 

There were far too many stairs between me and a change of clothes. I could see why I hadn’t attempted the trip the night before. The room started spinning so I lay on the bed. I couldn’t remember much after I had entered the tavern. I had hoped to speak to Dorian, future two, had someone called me inquisitor there? I couldn’t remember. There was a knock at the door which pulled me from my daydream. I looked around and realised that the door was at the bottom of the stairs, I paced over to the banister. ‘Come up,’ I called. Then realised with a panic that the jawbone pendant was lying on the bed where I had left it yesterday, with a glance towards the staircase I shoved it under the pillow. Didn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea.

After a few moments and a clicking of heels, Josephine appeared at the top with a stack of papers. Typical, I knew that they would be keeping an eye on me.

‘There you are.’ She smiled, ‘do you mind if we discuss some things?’

I nodded, ‘sure, of course…’ I glanced around the little room and gave her the sofa. I sat back cross-legged on the bed, which had been untouched during the night. She raised a slight eyebrow but didn’t question it.

‘So, first thing, we were wondering what to do about this orb?’

‘Good, I’ve been thinking on it. Ideally, we’d find the temple and see if there are any texts lying about.’

Josephine made a quick scribble drop on a piece of paper. ‘And if we cannot find the temple?’

I leaned forward, my elbows resting on my knees. ‘It’s more than possible that it’s been destroyed or built over. We might find more answer in a library than the field. That’s why I would like to bring my Keeper here. She can help with research efforts.’

She nodded, making meticulous notes. ‘And if we find nothing?’ She looked up.

My blood chilled. I held out my hand, ‘we already know what the orb does. It’s just a lead.’

‘… a lead.’ She repeated softly. She popped her clipboard down on the seat. ‘And you just want your Keeper? What about the rest of your clan?’

I laughed bitterly, ‘I can’t deny I want to see them again. But…’ I considered, the aravel, the halla, the hunting grounds. They wouldn’t just leave it all behind. ‘What is your question?’

Josephine smiled lightly, ‘I… we’ she paused, twisting a ring on her finger. ‘We worry that…’ She sighed shaking her head, I had never seen the ambassador speechless, she kept her eyes on the floor. ‘I am concerned that bringing your Keeper will ask too many questions, questions that may reflect poorly on the inquisition.’

‘You think they’ll blame us?’

Josephine nodded, then looked up to me, ‘...we want to protect you from that.’

And yourselves. Fools, madwomen and traitors. Cassandra’s words floated through my head.

‘There is another option.’ Josephine said more steadily, ‘Corypheus appears to be a darkspawn magister with a dragon, he may have found the orb, perhaps corrupted it in ancient Tevinter.’

I stood, ‘so we call this a blight and blame Tevinter?’ I asked incredulously.

‘The only darkspawn that we have seen is Corypheus, himself. It doesn’t appear to be a blight.’

‘So, it isn’t a blight, just… what chaos?’ I asked pacing back and forth in front of the bed.  

She chuckled a little grimly, ‘the Imperium would shed no tears if the south fell to chaos.’

I raised my hands slightly, frustrated, ‘so we just blame Tevinter…’ I considered for a moment, I didn’t like the Imperium, what Dalish did? ‘Dorian is going to love that.’

Josephine cleared her throat.

I turned, ‘… we wouldn’t tell him.’ I said barely louder than a whisper. I sat down heavily on the side of the bed. Mind racing. ‘I shouldn’t decide this.’ I whispered horrified.

‘You are our inquisitor.’

The title rattled around my head like a curse. They would let me decide, then when things went wrong… I didn’t know why I hadn’t realised that before. Raise me up. I looked to the window. I was literally given the highest room. I had glanced over the side of the thick balcony railing, I knew how far it was to fall. ‘I cannot decide yet.’ I said, hoping that I was striking a diplomatic tone. ‘We need more information.’

Josephine nodded, ‘we will put together a research team.’

I nodded, ‘put Dorian on the team. Whatever the truth was, he deserved to know it.’

She raised an eyebrow but picked up her notes and made a few scratchy notes. It appeared our conversation had been off the record. She pulled out another scrap of paper, ‘I was also asked to let you know, there will be an ‘elven marker raising’, she pronounced the words carefully and glanced up to see if I understood, I nodded. ‘At dusk, in the garden.’

I took an unsteady breath, of course there would be. I cursed my own selfishness, I should have risen a marker the night before. Then I looked up, ‘where is the garden?’

Josephine smiled, ‘that, I can help you with.’

Chapter Text

The marker making was the exact opposite of the one I had performed in Haven. For a start I was simply taking part. I was given a touch as I entered the garden and made my way around the back of a small group. There must have been about twenty, twenty-five people there. I found Dalish and stood next to her, she looked across and gave me a grim nod. There were far more elves in the castle than I had realised, but I barely recognised anyone. I glanced at the clothing, servants, maids and cooks mostly, the smallest handful of agents. The elves that were here were not in high positions. I looked up at the open sky, I will change this, if I can, I promised the gods. I glanced around again, only half had vallaslin, I frowned, maybe they were curious. 

The ritual was simple, the marker was made, and a prayer was said to Falon’din. The disparate little group answered together as one. I was struck suddenly my how easy it could be, the clans were weak because they each kept their own traditions and schools of thought. We looked to our differences, when really, we should be looking to our similarities. I was considering this as the ritual ended. We put out our touches, blanketing the little garden in darkness. Food and spirits were passed around, and I enjoyed it. No one was looking to me for answers, no one cared what I thought, no one called me the Herald of Andraste. Under the light of the star-studded sky, I was with my people, I was home.

I left the garden that night, almost hopeful.


Dreams didn’t bother my sleep that night, and I woke refreshed. I scribbled a quick letter off to Keeper Deshanna. To tell her that we had found Skyhold and that I had asked if she would join us, I didn’t add any code. I optimistically hoped that I would see her again soon. I sealed the letter and left my quarters intending to find the rookery. I ventured down into the main hall, I spotted Varric and went over. ‘Admiring the dwarf?’ He asked smirking.

I rolled my eyes, ‘of course. Any chance you know where the rookery is?’

He nodded, then turned and pointed at two doors, ‘either will get you there, I’d go through that one.’ He said with a wink.

I blinked, uncertain what to make of his. ‘Is it quicker?’

‘You’ll see.’

‘Thanks…’

 

Uncertain I went through the door he advised. It was a large circular room, I heard the sound of rustled feathers and the cawing of ravens. I looked up, the rookery. I smiled. I just needed to get up, there were two doors out of the room, and I paused unsure. In that moment I noticed the murals on the wall, ‘June’s mercy.’ I swore, stepping closer to get a better look. I reached out.

‘Don’t!’

I froze and looked around sheepishly. ‘You have a habit of hiding in shadows.’

‘I am hardly hiding, because you are not paying attention.’ Solas was stood by the door, his arms loosely folded. I must have walked straight past him. He was wearing a loose shirt, rolled up at the sleeves, which was splatted with paint.

That was fair, and I admitted to myself he looked good in the shadows. I shook my head. ‘how do I get up there?’ I asked pointed upwards.

There was a desk in the centre of the room, he walked towards it and placed some brushes down. He tilted his head to my right-hand door. ‘You have paint on your face.’ I say by way of thank you.

He frowned and brushed at his face with the back of his hand, completely missing the streak above his lip.

I indicated on myself and saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked up to see Dorian poised over a railing watching. I should have left that man in Redcliffe. I thought furiously. I dropped my hand and turned back to the paintings, ‘they’re very good.’ I said almost too quietly, not quite trusting my voice.

Solas came besides me to view the murals with me. Butterflies appeared in my stomach, making havoc. ‘Just a record of what you’ve done…’ he paused, ‘what the inquisition has done.’ He corrected.

They were beautiful, in their own stylistic way. Oddly, they reminded me of the ancient wall painting, flaked and fading, that dotted Thedas. I tilted my head, ‘the breach was green?’ The statement coming out like a question, indicating towards the first part.

Solas sucked in a little breath, ‘it was.’ He looked at me, he licked his bottom lip, ‘but I had some drakestone orange that I thought could be put to good use.’

I smiled despite myself, ‘a very good use.’ I confirmed. I paused trying to find the right words, then I glanced up at the balcony overlooking the rotunda. Dorian stuck both his thumbs up at me. I rubbed my eyes and gave Solas a weary smile. ‘Perhaps another time?’

His eyes were bright, ‘somewhere more interesting?’

I nodded, gave him a little smile and took the righthand door. There was a curved staircase, I stopped for a moment halfway up and lent against the wall. If only we’d been alone, I could have helped him get the paint off, I could have tried to get that shirt off. We’d been running around half of Thedas for weeks… I wonder what he’d look like with that shirt off. I clapped my hand over my mouth and giggled silently to myself. I bit my finger lightly, to bring myself back to the present. I shook my head and continued up the stairs.

‘You’re looking flushed,’ Dorian commented as I passed him.

‘Too many stairs,’ I replied without looking at him.

He made a noise that said he didn’t believe me, I stuck up a rude shem hand gesture for good measure and continued on.

 

Round and round, more stairs and I finally found Leliana, she smiled grimly when she saw me, ‘Inquisitor.’

I ignored the title, ‘I have something to send.’

She nodded, and looked down, ‘there is no translation…’

I smiled, ‘it’s in common. I didn’t feel up to practising the old scripts.’

Her eyes were piercing, and I tried to shrug off their power. I shouldn’t have written in common, now she suspected there was a code. She gave me a look then relaxed into a gentle smile, ‘I will send it for you this afternoon.’

I thanked her and turned to leave, but she called me back. ‘One moment, I have something for you.’

Oh no, I was weary of Leliana bringing gifts, it would either be a title or a traitor.

She put a small bag of coins down on the table.

‘What is…?’

‘For Sera,’ she eyed me up and down, ‘for when we lose that bet.’

I inhaled sharply, flushed. Babbled a couple of nonsensical words. Tried to protest but found I didn’t have the heart for it. I took the coins. Fen’heral take them all. I thought pitifully as I left.

Chapter Text

I was waiting for Josephine, she had asked to meet with me, but was delayed. I had been waiting patiently, but I found myself fiddling. I looked up at the looming woman standing over me, wearing the spiked crown. I didn’t think I’d seen this particular statue, it reminded me of one that I’d seen to back in my home country. The deep-set eyes chiselled far into the stone made it seem like Andraste was watching me. I shifted slightly and the shadowy eyes followed.

‘Did I disturb your devotion?’ Josephine asked, I spun around, but couldn’t see her.

I looked up nervously at the statue of Andraste, had she always held a sword. Great dark eyes blinked. ‘Traitor.’ The statue barked at me, in a gravelly voice.

I took a step back.

‘Fool.’ She shouted so loud that the ceiling beams shook.

‘Madwoman.’ She pronounced and I felt the floor wobble beneath me, ‘you will burn.’

The statue knelt, pieces of rock flying off as the stone limbs moved into new positions. Her voice was close, confidential, ‘you will burn.’ She predicted and smiled, an ugly line drawing deep in the rock of her face. She laughed, standing, raising the sword over her head. ‘Run, little hare.’

My legs resisted for a second, and then I was running. How far was it to the double doors and out of this place. I ran and ran, heart pounding in my ears. Chest burning. I desperately dart to the left, and the huge stone sword swung down at the place that I had been moments ago.

‘Why are you doing this?’ I called, breathless.

She pulled her sword out of the chantry floor, leaving a broken pebbled pit, ‘pretender!’ She screamed in a voice that echoed thick with red lyrium, ‘you stole what is not yours!’

‘Please,’ I begged, frantic, backed away from her, ‘I didn’t want this.’

‘But you didn’t stop this.’

She gave a war-cry and began running towards me, I could only back away. I fell backwards out of the chantry doors and down the steps. I crawled backwards, as fast as I could scurry away. ‘I don’t want to be your damn herald!’

Solas appeared on my left, he skidded into a knee next to me, ‘quickly,’ he hissed grabbing my left hand and directing a bolt of green light at the statue of Andraste.

The statue screeched like a dragon, the sound screaming across the sky, she was pieced with green shards and then blinded out of existence. The air became calm, empty, clean.

I let out a shaky breath and glanced across. ‘Thank you.’

‘Ahh, the chosen of Andraste,’ He stood, and held out a hand.

I shuddered at the thought, I clenched my hands into a fist. I looked up, he was laughing at me. I shot him a scowl but took his hand and let him help me up. ‘Are you going to turn red?’

He blinked, the laugh died, confusion flicked across his eyes.

I looked him over suspiciously, his eyes were clear of the red mist. I reached out cautiously, he pulled back a little, but froze when my hand touched his side. He was warm and firm. I closed my eyes tightly, imagining the red shard that would spring out and go through my hand, nothing happened. I opened one eye slowly and then the other. I let out a little breath of relief, I nodded, ‘good.’  

He raised an eyebrow and I realised I still had my hand just above his hip. I pulled my hand back. I sighed and moved intending to sit on the little grey wall, ‘if I say I’m sorry, do you promise not to go red?’

I heard the stones crunch as he followed behind me. I stopped before the little wall and leaned on it gently, the breach was swirling up in the sky, had it always been golden orange? I shook the thought out of my head.

Solas stood next to me. ‘What are you sorry for?’

I laughed bitterly, ‘for leaving, for not leaving quick enough, for the mess I made in the future.’ I put my head in my hands, brimming with regret and shame.

‘Forget it,’ he said lightly.

I smiled, but doubted that it reached my eyes, ‘Unlikely. Wait why are you here? I mean, besides,’ helping me again. I waved my hand at the chantry, hoping that the action would do instead of words.

He looked over to the chantry as though studying it, ‘you fear that Andraste will strike you down?’

I nodded, crossed my arms together and slouched, dropping my chin onto my arms, ‘wouldn’t you?’

‘Worry or strike you down?’ He said with a chuckle.

I gave him my best disapproving Cassandra look. Like he could strike me down. ‘Why are you here?’ I asked again.

‘It’s an interesting place.’

I rolled my eyes, that wasn’t an answer. But I glanced up half expect to see Dorian waving at me. Then I looked around, Haven was empty, we were completely alone. I felt dizzy. I took his shoulders and pulled him down to me, kissing him. Light and chaste and perfect.

I pulled back, looked away. What was I thinking, what wasn’t I thinking?

His eyes were on my lips, and then his teeth with on my lower lip, a gentle bite. I gasped and his tongue was in my mouth. His hands on my hips, walked me back a pace till I was pressed against the wall, he stepped between my legs, a hint of hardness against my thigh. I moaned, a quiet sound in the back of my throat. He felt good. I crunched the back of his shirt, pulling him closer, I wanted to run my nails down his back.

I leaned back to see his face, he growled and took me back, fierce and animalistic. A hand snaked up into my hair, pulling in a good way I shuddered with pleasure, thinking of the painter’s hands, begging, asking, taking. I felt my hands find his waist, even now, I needed to check. His skin was smooth, taut and firm. I needed to get him out of those clothes.

I gasped for air, laughing, this was impossible, impossible, and he felt so good. I let a smug smile settle on my face, ‘this is going to be a good dream.’

Solas set his hands squarely on my waist and stepped back, his mouth was tight, he shook his head, ‘we cannot. Not even here.’

‘Wait, what?’

‘It’s time to wake up.’

Chapter Text

I woke up, breathing hard. I rubbed my eyes, and then sat up letting them adjust to the light. It was night time, but the pale yellowy moonlight streamed through the large stained windows of the large room at the top of the tallest tower of Skyhold. I shrugged myself into some clothes, trying to stop my mind racing. I ventured around the room lighting touches to chase away the night. For a room without a fireplace, it was always surprisingly warm, but I tugged at my collar, I was too warm. I walked onto the little balcony. The night air was cold and sharp, but it felt good to under the open sky. I felt a little shaken from the dream but tried to forget it. My brain was obviously trying to kill me. I rubbed my eyes again, I was getting nightmares most nights now. I needed to do something about that. Maybe if I could just remain awake forever. I noticed that the lights in the courtyard were still bright. I could probably fit in a few rounds at the Tavern, which had been named Herald’s Rest, much to my annoyance. Maybe if I drank enough to pass out dreams wouldn’t haunt me. I grabbed my coin purse and set off down the stairs, intending to find Sera, or Dorian, or anyone really.

In the dark I walked right into someone coming up the stairs.

‘Have I caught you at a bad time?’ Solas, of course it was. He had an unfailing ability to turn up at exactly the worst times.

I took a moment to attempt to compose myself, ‘just going to drink myself into oblivion…’ I waved my hand, ‘never mind, it isn’t a bad time. Please, come up.’

He shifted awkwardly on the stairs, pausing for a moment too long.

‘I, uh, have bad dreams. I’m… self-medicating.’ I said by way of explanation and returned the way I’d came without waiting for a response.

‘Thought it was a good dream’. He said under his breath, low enough I could barely hear it.

I froze, heart beating too quickly, he walked into me, I span around to face him. I was at the top of the stairs, he was a step down, for that moment we were the same height. ‘What did you say?’ I hissed.

He looked unsure and didn’t look at me.

‘Were you… in my dream?’ I said horrified.

‘I should apologise, it got out of hand. I didn’t expect for that,’ he paused finding the right words. ‘The kiss was impulsive, I should not have encouraged it.’

Fenedhis. I backed away a little, unsure, ashamed. Then laughed, the sound was sharp and almost hysterical. I couldn’t help myself, this is absurd. Who the hell are you? I thought, but decided instead to ask a safer question, ‘would you like a drink?’

 ‘No, thank you’.

I walked over to the bookcase, tossed a large tome aside. Behind it was a good bottle of Orlesian spirits, hidden from Sera’s prying eyes and grabby hands. I nodded left the glasses on the shelf and drank a large sip of the amber liquid directly from the bottle. ‘Are you a dream-walker?’

Somniari

Somniari,’ I tasted the unfamiliar word, I’d heard stories of the rare ability but never believed such an ability was possible. Let alone that I would meet one… or have my dreams invaded by one. I smiled to myself, impossible things always happened around Solas. ‘How does it work?’ I queried, allowing my curiosity to engulf my initial unease.

‘Walking in a dream? Is just like moving in the fade. You dream in the fade.’ He said easily, like I was asking for a recipe.

‘But, I’m not a mage’. I laughed, then I looked down at my left hand. I scowled at my hand and took another sip.

‘You wield powerful magic’. Stolen magic the red lyrium voice echoed in my head. ‘It was easy to find you once I thought of looking, the mark is raw and new.’

‘And… have you seen my dreams before?’

‘No, only tonight.’

‘Good’, I felt myself flush.

‘Do you dream about me often?’ He asked playfully, a careless question.

I didn’t trust myself to speak. Silence. It stretched on and answered his question for me.

I moved over to the bed, I sat cross legged and indicated for him to take the sofa. He considered for a moment and sat next to me instead, he took the bottle from my hands touching for a heartbeat. ‘It’s easier in the fade,’ he said, taking a swig and his face scrunched up in disgust.

I put my hand to my mouth to cover my giggle. ‘It’s strong stuff.’

He gave me a concerned look and handed back the bottle.

‘What now?’ I asked softly.

He shook his head, ‘we should not, it could be dangerous.’

I laughed, ‘dangerous? Of course, this whole thing is dangerous.’ He didn’t look happy with that. It clicked, I was dangerous. I felt my shoulders slump, I did command a stupid army. He was under my command, did he feel duty bound?  ‘I’m so sorry, of course, I didn’t mean to abuse my position.’ I wanted to scream, I put my head in my hands, this was going so badly. I found the bottle and drank.

Solas chuckled, took my cheek in his hand, forcing me to look at him, ‘no, that is not what this is about. You are surprising, from the moment you closed the first rift the whole world changed.’

His hand was warm, I licked my lower lip and looked down, ‘sweet talker.’ I mumbled, a sly smile. He kissed me then, a simple act of adoration, an offering, a silver plate of ripe fruit placed at the feet of some distant deity. Except I was no god shirking my duties, I responded, full of delight and wonder at such an unassuming gift. My hand snaked out to his hip, unconsciously checking that he was real.

He pulled back, eyebrows tight together, ‘may I take a little time, there are… considerations.’

‘Take all the time you need.’

He stood, smoothed out his shirt, ‘I should…’ He moved towards the stairs.

‘Solas?’ He turned back.

‘Stay out of my dreams.’ I added playfully, not really minding if he did or not.

He smirked, the little smile reached his sky-blue eyes ‘of course,’ and left.

I heard the click of the door, and I was alone again. I lay back on the bed and grabbed my pillow holding it close, what a night.

Chapter Text

The next morning, I found myself still clothed on the bed. I sat up, hearing birdsong. I had not intended to sleep. I closed my eyes again rolling onto my back and let myself remember the night. It was going to be a good day. I decided.

When I eventually decided it was about time to get up, I swung my legs down to discover where I had left the bottle of Orlaisian brandy, it knocked over, glugging across the floor. ‘Piss.’ I swore, desperately grabbing at the bottle before I lost more of it. Good start. I wrinkled my nose is disgust; the whole room was going to smell like a brewery. I moved over to open the balcony doors and noticed the wooden crate that I had left abandoned a couple of days before. I pulled the lid off, carefully lying it against the wall. Then I fished into the sawdust and packing paper to find the statues. Each were as delicately carved as Mythal’s and painted in exquisite colours. They were each roughly the same height and I smiled broadly. I would have to give Mice a tip for these.

I picked them up gently and ventured outside to add them to the little table. They were stunning all together, and I moved back inside to get a bowl of water. I knelt and I placed the bowl before the nine gods and lightly sprinkled each with the cool water. ‘I give you sight.’ I whispered to each one. Purifying them as vessels, eyes for which the gods could look through. I sat back on my heels, satisfied. I put my fingers to my vallaslin and prayed.

 

I paused by the staircase, I was planning on seeing Sera as we’d barely spoken since arriving at Skyhold. I wasn’t sure if I should give her the money that she won on the bet we’d made in Haven. While, I had promised her I would tell her, I also felt like it might violate whatever trust Solas and I had established the night before. I was brooding on the situation when I ran into Josephine, she smiled broadly and ushered me into her little office room.

She handed me a little document triumphantly, I turned it over in my hands. I didn’t recognise the language, but it was wrapped in a gold trimmed envelope and emblazoned with a sun seal. I looked up questioningly.

‘An invitation, to the Winter Palace. We are to be guests of Grand Duke Gaspard.’

I raised an eyebrow, placing the little packet on her desk and sitting down on the arm of a large armchair a couple paces away. ‘The Winter Palace?’

‘In Halamshiral, Leliana’s intelligence suggests it is likely it will be where Empress Celene is assassinated.’

I raised a hand asking her to stop for a moment, ‘you want me to go to Halamshiral?’ I gazed into the broad fireplace and worried the woven bracelet on my wrist. It should have been an important site to our people, but like everything important to us, it had been stolen and build over by the shem. How could I stroll in like I belonged, how could I play the game of politics in a desecrated sanctuary?

‘The ball is a month away,’ Josie continued smoothly. ‘Grand Duke Gaspard and the Empress have been locked in a civil war for too long, fighting over the throne.’

‘And I have to go?’ I repeated dumbly.

Josephine sighed, and looked concerned, ‘ideally.’

I nodded and walked away from the conversation. I felt numb. But I knew what I needed to do.

 

I paused on the way to Herald’s Rest to visit Vivienne, she had set up her belongings on a small balcony that overlooked the main hall. Opposite from the dais, she literally looked down on the seat of power. Madame der Fey looked particularly well, she was taking tea with an Orlais noble when I approached, though she quickly shooed the masked man away when I approached. I gave him a moment to gather himself and I considered the quest before me. I felt uneasy, however much I didn’t want to go to Halamshiral, I knew I had to. I knew I would need Vivienne’s help, but I didn’t want her to know how terrified of the Winter Palace I was. I felt an odd kinship to her, I recognised her Free Marches accent, but knew she was still a shem. I had no idea how this was going to go. The man bowed to me and retreated, now or never.

‘My dear,’ she smiled warmly and handed me a new cup of something that smelt of aniseed and honey. ‘What can I do for you?’

I sat down gently, and took a little sip, it was very good. ‘I…’ I considered my words. ‘We’re going to the Winter Palace…’

She clapped her hands, cutting me off, ‘wonderful, Josie got an invitation.’

I nodded and licked my lips, ‘you are familiar with the Orlaisan court?’  

Vivienne sat forward, a fire burned behind her eyes, ‘very familiar.’

‘Help me.’

‘Of course, my dear.’

‘Tell me more about the Empress.’

‘Ah.’ Vivienne paused, taking a little elegant sip of her tea, ‘you will not like it.’

I blinked, ‘tell me.’

The mage’s long fingers strummed lightly on the chaise longue, ‘the Empress is a shrewd woman, witty and wicked. But she is not as assured in her position as she likes to believe. She had done things you would not approve of.’

I gave her a look, I didn’t want to play the delicate game.

‘She burnt down Halamshiral to maintain her position… the slums.’ She added, with a little grimace.

A bitter taste rose in my mouth that even the pleasant tea could not wash away. ‘And this is the woman I must save to protect the future.’

‘So, it would seem.’

I glanced up her, raising an eyebrow.

‘While Celene is cruel, Gaspard is hardly any better. He is militaristic and I suspect that if he was allowed the throne Ferelden would be under attack.’

Orlaisan masks in Redcliffe Castle. In the future were the veil is gone. Was I supposed to prevent that future as well? ‘Is there anyone you’d recommend for the throne?’

Vivienne allowed herself a delicate peal of laughter, ‘well I would look good in a crown.’

I grinned, nodded, ‘you would.’

She sobered, ‘The Winter Palace is a cruel place, both sides will have spies here collecting information on you. You are a new faction, they will try to hurt you. They will try to destroy you.’

I couldn’t help myself, I glanced at the way the man in the mask had left.

Vivienne smiled, ‘very good. I told him that you particularly hated oranges and couldn’t dance.’

I shrugged, ‘I like orange?’

‘And when they are served to you at the Winter Palace, you’ll know you can trust me.’

Chapter Text

I left Vivienne feeling better about the whole situation, and she’d even promised to teach me to dance. As I returned to the main hall, I saw Varric. I waved to him, and made a motion with my hand that said drink? A slow smile spread across his face and we made our way out of the keep.

‘There is someone that I’d like you to meet.’ He said quietly.

I glanced down, ‘who?’

‘Someone who can help.’ He answered cryptically.


We found Sera sat with her feet up on a table, laughing raucously at something Blackwall was saying. She raised her hand when she saw me and beckoned us over.

‘Herald,’ Blackwall greeted, his shoulders straight, his tone overly formal, ‘I have a request.’

‘Let Inky sit first, broody beardy man!’ Sera complained, cutting through the formality as easily as a knife through butter.

Blackwall and I exchanged a confused glanced. ‘Inky?’ He queried.

Sera waved vaguely at me and then at her own forehead.

I smirked, ‘you know they’re called blood writing.’

Her eyes widened and she gulped back almost falling off her stool. Blackwall was quick enough to get a hand behind her, ‘Maker, Sera.’ He swore, as he saved her from going arse over tit.

‘Buttercup’s feisty today, I’ll have whatever she’s having.’ Varric commented, indicating to Cabot to bring a round of drinks.

Sera grimaced, ‘weird day.’

Blackwall scowled, but looked back to me, ‘I’ve had some correspondence. Grey Warden camps are being found abandoned. Might have something to do with them going missing.’

‘Ugggg,’ Sera groaned. ‘Maybe it’s good that they’ve gone, means no blight.’

I ignored Sera’s comment, ‘you want to track these camps down?’

Blackwall nodded, his eyes were on the table.

‘Where?’

‘Ferelden.’

‘Piss.’ I couldn’t help tracking down the grey wardens and make my appearance in Halamshiral. If only I’d come here first.

Blackwall raised and eyebrow, while Sera smirked in the knowledge that she’s corrupted my language.

‘Go,’ I concluded.

Sera perked up, ‘I’ll go!’ She said cheerfully.

Varric glanced between the two, ‘if we can make a stop, I’ll come. I want to pick up a … friend.’

I sighed and let my face slip into a frown, ‘take Bull, have fun. Don’t die.’

‘Thank you, Inquisitor,’ Blackwall started, but I shook my hands at him.

‘None of that Inquisitor nonsense when I’m drinking.’ I said playfully, but firmly.

Varric cracked his knuckles, breaking through the moments tension, ‘Bianca was hoping for an adventure.’

Sera made a rude noise. ‘Who names their crossbow? That’s stupid, it’s just a thing.’

‘Someone’s jealous,’ Varric taunted.

I laughed, ‘maybe I should name my bow?’ I glanced around welcoming suggestions.

‘Heral…arrow?’ Sera frowned trying to make a portmanteau. She scrunched up her nose.

Varric shook his head, while Blackwall just patted Sera’s hand affectionately. ‘Do you have a name for your sword?’ Varric asked Blackwall.

He pondered for a moment, scratching his beard with his thumb and forefinger. ‘Slasher? Stabby? Pokey?’

Sera snorted, ‘shite, you can’t call a sword stabby.’

I nodded in mock solemnity, spreading my hands on the table, ‘it’s obviously a better name for a dagger.’

Varric considered, ‘go with pokey,’ he eyed Blackwall, ‘you seem like a pokey.’

Blackwall crossed his arms, unsure whether to take it as a compliment or not.

Sera sighed and glanced over to Blackwall. ‘So, you going to squeeze her or not?’

‘Sera, stay out of it.’ Blackwall growled at her, but he tugged at his sleeves nervously.

Varric and I exchanged a confused glance.

Sera shrugged, and huffed out a breath, and then turned her full attention to me. ‘So,’ she drawled, ‘any luck Inky?’

I sighed, ‘I had hoped you wouldn’t bring that up…’

She rolled her eyes, ‘pathetic, the lot of you…’ Her eyes widened in perfect shock and I slide the twocoin purses across the table at her. ‘I… I won?’ She stammered.

I blushed but nodded, expecting her to turn inquisitor.

She rubbed her hands together, ‘drinks on me, bitches!’ She jumped to her feet, swiping the coins off the table.

‘What was that about?’ Varric asked.

I crossed my arms and lay my head on the table, ‘I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough.’


The next morning, I sat bolt upright, I’d fallen asleep in Sera’s room again. She was sat crossed legged on her window seat.

‘Morning!’

I rubbed my eyes, then looked back to her, I tilted my head. Sera was… knitting?

She looked down at her craft, ‘it’s stabby sewing.’ She said by way of explanation and then folded the square of cloth up and packed the needles away.

I blinked at the unexpected turn of events and rubbed my eyes.

She patted on the seat next to her and I climbed up to sit beside her, ‘now.’ She demanded.

‘What time is it?’ I asked but did as she commanded.

She shrugged, ‘morning, afternoon,’ then glanced out of the window, ‘lunch? Doesn’t matter.’ She sighed and found a bottle of something and handed it to me.

I eyed the bottle carefully. The green glass meant that I wasn’t able to work out what the liquid was.

‘Juice.’

‘What happened last night?’ Bits and pieces were coming back to me, but I couldn’t keep track of the events.

Sera laughed, ‘you were nervous. Drank half a bottle of wine before Blackwall and I dragged you up here.’ She bit her lip, ‘it’s no fun if you’re upset.’  

I twisted my fingers together. Not looking at her.

She grabbed my hands, ‘all your secrets are safe.’

I relaxed a little, ‘all of them?’ I queried.

She nodded, and snorted, ‘Beardy’s best guess is that…’ she lowered her voice conspiratorially, ‘you’re not really an Andrastian.’  

I sat back, ‘you didn’t tell him?’

She shook her head. And put an arm around my shoulders. ‘I won’t even collect from Bull, if you don’t want me to.’

‘Thank you.’ I said sincerely, feeling a weight lifting off my shoulders.

‘Did it go bad?’ She asked quietly.

I paused, unsure how to answer her. Instead I studied the piles of clothing, books and vials piled up against the wall to the right of us. I didn’t know how Sera managed to collect so much junk.

‘You don’t have to tell me.’ She added.

I let out a breath, ‘it wasn’t bad.’

‘… but?’

I lent on her shoulder and put my hand in the air making little quote marks, ‘he needs time. I’m not sure what it means.’

Sera said something under her breath, I turned to her, ‘blizzards?’

She smirked and gave me a wink, ‘forget it.’

Chapter Text

I stabbed my Sylvanwood-handed knife into the rough table, rocking the tip back and forth slightly. The handle creaked slightly as I pulled it out of the dent that I’d made. I pulled my hood down again, conscious of the lines on my face. The tavern was hidden away in a back-alley in the slums of Halamshiral. Just getting here had stained my boots with a thick heavy mud, and I had caught my ankle twice on broken paving slabs. The stench of the place seared its way into my bones, the stale rot combined with sweet decay, all set against a background of copper and clay. I had grown up with the stories of Halamshiral, as a child I had imagined the place where the now-freed elves had been granted the Dales. I was Dalish because of this place, I wanted to soak in the walls and wander the halls of history. But whatever I had thought to find at the Journey’s End, I now knew was simply a romantic notion.


'She’s a child, Vivienne.’ I hissed.

‘She looks sort of like you, if you look through the eyes of a sun-blind dwarf.’ Dorian added, smirking into a cup of wine.

The girl didn’t raise her eyes from the floor, she must have been around fifteen years. While her hair was dark and curled in the same way as mine, she was a good hand shorter and her skin was too light. She held herself as small as possible, this was a girl who wanted to be unobserved. There is no way that anyone would have mistaken us. She was wearing a gold filigree half-mask, as I had crossed my arms in annoyance at the suggestion that we paint vallaslin onto her face.

‘She just needs to sit in the box and watch the play. No one will get close.’ Vivienne insisted.

I stood back, a hand on my hip, frustration washed off me in waves, ‘and, you are sure your contact is worth this much risk?’

Vivienne gave me her best smile.


A commotion sounded from the other end of the little tavern, I suppressed the urge to glance around. But I did sneak my dagger back into my boot. It would not do to get caught in a brawl. I weighed the ceramic cup in my hands, thick gloves covered my hands and my mark. I had left my coin purse at Vivienne’s apartments, no wanting to be mugged on the way here. It had been remarkably easy to sneak down from the High Quarter, into the alienage. It wasn’t technically an alienage, I corrected myself. The cruel history of the place was etched into the streets, charred remains of timbers and roof tiles still littered the alleyways. Young children scavenged the blackened parts of the slum, picking over the remains like carrion. Leliana had told that the sun-empress had done it to quell rebellion, she was weak, so she kicked down. I schooled my features and did not let the snarl of disgust pass my face.   


‘The Inquisitor should not go by herself.’ Cullen had demanded, his hands pressing down too hard on the delicate side table, making the legs squeak in protest.

Solas nodded, putting down a document that he had been reading, ‘it is too dangerous.’

‘Let me go with her,’ Leliana insisted.

I glanced around the opulent parlour, Cassandra sat in stony silence staring at a cup of tea she hadn’t touched. ‘Leliana, you will be noticed.’

Leliana took a little offence at that, ‘I am very well trained.’

Cassandra nodded, a small smile passing from the Right hand to the Left. ‘You have been invited to the theatre, to not attend would be to give away that something is amiss.’

Leliana barely reacted, but I caught her jaw tighten slightly.


I waited, patiently sipping my watered-down beer. All this fuss over a play. I was almost grateful to get out of it. A man approached the table, a slim elf with a blue-grey cloak. He sat down on the little stool opposite me and gave me a warm smile. ‘It is good to see you again old friend.’ He said a little loudly for the benefit of anyone listening in.

I gave him a careful nod.

He took my right hand, and pulled me across the table, a greeting. ‘Green-hand?’ He whispered.

‘Yes.’

He let go and sat back with a smirk, he titled his head. ‘Back room.’


‘And why do you want me to meet this woman?’ I asked Vivienne.

‘She knows the empress…’ Vivienne paused, considering her next word, ‘intimately. She is also an experienced player of the Game.’

I almost sighed, but Vivienne had been teaching me to school my emotions. Vivienne graced me with the upturned corner of her lip for my efforts. ‘So, a potential ally?’


I followed the man in the blue-grey cloak through a doorway, the lock on the door had been smashed off. I eyed it apprehensively. Through the doorway led to a corridor, at the end of which was a small room. The man eyed me for a moment. I put a hand to a hidden dagger in my sleeve. ‘Pull back your hood.’

I did as he asked, revealing my vallaslin.

He nodded and pulled back a rug to reveal a trap door. He lifted up the heavy wooden slates. ‘Follow it, turn right at the end.’  

Be brave, little hare. I stepped forward and he gave me a hand to help me drop down through the trapdoor. The underground corridor smelt of damp earth and it was dark. He handed me a little lantern. I felt a sense of panic as he shut the trap drop down over my head. Trapped underground. There was nothing for it, I started walking. It had been three weeks since I’d left Skyhold and I almost missed it. The sounds of my heels echoed dully around the little tunnel, which drummed in tune to my heartbeat pounding in my ears. I almost prayed and remembered that the gods wouldn’t be able to hear. I should have given an offering before I left, I cursed my stupidity. The tunnel appeared to end, but as I approached, it branched into two directions. Go right.

I followed it until light shone. There were some packed earthen steps. I ascended lightly.

‘Inquisitor.’ The masked woman said with delight, ‘I am so glad that you would join me’.

Chapter Text

‘Inquisitor. I am so glad that you would join me’. The masked woman said. She was sat on a large, comfy chair with a crackling fire to the left of her. The room was clean and smelt vaguely of fresh cut wood and crystal grace. She motioned to a seat in front of her, but off at a slight angle, and then she clicked at a slight woman I had not seen by the doorway that I had entered.

I nodded, ‘Ambassador.’ I took the seat.

‘Forgive me,’ the woman said, as the serving girl placed a bowl of water down in front of me with a cloth. ‘You understand, that I need to check that it is you.’

I took a breath and pulled back my hood, I took the cloth that was offered. Gently dipping it into the water and then I rubbed my forehead. I tossed the cloth back into the bowl. The ambassador leaned closer for a second to see that my vallaslin had not washed off. She settled back into her chair, ‘and may I see your hand.’

Without showing a hint of annoyance, I pulled my left glove off. The green light flared, and the serving girl gasped. The ambassador dismissed her without a word. ‘And do you have any reassurances for me?’ I queried lightly.

She handed me a mask, gilded with opals and gold. I didn’t recognise it, but Vivienne had described it to me. I returned it to her, as satisfied as I could be.

‘So Inquisitor,’

‘Hellana, please.’ I interrupted.

She gave me an exaggerated nod, as though she was humouring me. ‘May I get you anything to drink before we begin.’

I gave her a genuine smile, ‘wine, red, if you have it.’

The ambassador’s peal of laughter rang out, ‘I do.’ She stood gracefully and busied herself behind me for a few moments. I watched the firelight, and I noticed on the top of the mantlepiece a little statue of a woman holding a bow, not a woman, Andruil. Caught up with my curiously, I forgot to watch her pour the wine. Stupidity, or trusting. She might poison my wine or bring a dagger to my throat. She handed me a finely cut glass and took one herself. I tilted the glass slightly, checking the quality and for tell-tale undissolved grains. She raised her glass with me and we each took a sip.

Ma serannas, lethallan,’ I said testing her.

The elven woman laughed bitterly, ‘are you trying to trick me into friendship, by calling me kin?’

I almost laughed, she’d seen right through me. Instead, I shook my head, and placed down my glass on the tiled floor, which gave out a satisfying ring. I considered for a moment, I was about to go off-script. ‘Not trick you, just remind you we have a common enemy.’

She cast a wary eye over me, perhaps I was not what she was expecting. ‘do we?’

I splayed my hands, ‘the shem that took our birth right.’

‘What do you know of it, Dalish.’ She used the word like a curse, but there was a hint, a hint of recognition in her eyes that powder and mask couldn’t conceal. Why would she keep a statue, unless she believed, or wanted to believe?

‘Truly? Nothing. I had heard stories, but nothing could have prepared me for what I’ve seen since I arrived.’

She took a sip of her wine, ‘not as good as living in a forest?’ The distain was clear in her tone.

I laughed then, ‘I’m sure each has its disadvantages.’ Diplomatic, although I couldn’t see any advantages of remaining in Halamshiral, but stubborn refusal to be bullied into leaving. ‘But so long as each think they have it better than the other, change will not come.’

She glanced down at her wine glass, ‘did Mihris send you?’

‘Who?’ I asked honestly.

She squinted, studying my face. ‘Felassan then?’

I shook my head, ‘I know no one by that name, Vivienne arranged our meeting.’

The ambassador nodded carefully, lost in thought for a moment. ‘I can see why Vivienne likes you.’

I gave her a weak smile.

She smiled, then frowned. ‘Why should I trust a Dalish? You can be fickle in your friendship, I thought your people didn’t see the point of helping us knife-ears.’ She gave me no expression, but her words were bitter, and they made me wonder if she’d had dealings with the clans before.

I gave her a hundred expressions, she’s reading me like a book, ‘then don’t trust me,’ I raised my hands simply, honestly, ‘I have no interest in playing this game, I am not going to hide my face or my motive. I’m here for two reasons.’

‘Which are?’

‘I would like to be your ally. And I want you to answer a question for me.’ I picked up the glass of wine, took a sip, very drinkable.

The ambassador gave me a scrutinising look, she took her mask off, which I had not expected. Her face with thin, tan lines circled her eyes where the sun had leaked through the holes in her mask. We must have been of a similar age. ‘You want my network.’ She stated, laying the mask on her lap.

I shook my head, ‘keep it.’

She raised a careful eyebrow, portraying only the emotion she wanted. Her natural face was just another mask. ‘How generous.’ She sat back. ‘And what is the question?’

I sat forward, elbows on my knees. ‘We have intelligence that the empress will be assassinated the night of the Winter Ball.’

Her face remained impassive, but her pretty leaf-ears twitched. Which confirmed Vivienne’s suspicions.

‘Would you like me to act on this information?’ I asked steadily.

She tapped her fingers lightly on the edge of the glass, considering. I understood why Vivienne liked her and why she had wanted us to meet. ‘Ask me on the night of the Ball.’

I nodded, I would do that. I glanced back at the fireplace. I had been supposed to blackmail her into helping the inquisition, see if I could recruit her and her spy network. I stood, and paced over to the little statue of Andruil, I placed my glass by the side of her and touched my vallaslin. Andruil stood as the common ground between us. The ambassador stood and joined me. I glanced at her, with no vallaslin, I would have asked how she thought she could dare approach the gods or ask why she thought they would hear her underground. But I held my tongue, I wasn’t a purist after all.

‘Ambassador,’ I began.

‘Briala.’ She interrupted.

‘Briala,’ I confirmed, ‘it appears that the shem have risen me up in this moment, what can the Inquisition for you?’

‘The people in power are used to ignoring us. Make sure they can’t.’

I gave her a sly smile, ‘I will do my best.’

Chapter Text

Briala had escorted me back to the High Quarter. She guided me with ease through the twisting maze of roads and walkways, skilfully avoiding guards. We slipped unnoticed through the shadows. Her mask was back on her face, and a cloak around her head, she guided me up a broad stone staircase, we snuck around a high wall and I recognised the back of Vivienne’s apartments.

‘I am sorry that you had to miss the play,’ she said, although she didn’t sound regretful at all. ‘Until the Ball,’ and disappeared. Melting away into the sleeping night air.

Once I was alone, I found my hands trembling. I took a steadying breath and snuck into through the back gate that had been left open for me. I locked it behind me. A guard came rushing towards, but I lowered my hood and she nodded. ‘Welcome back, your worship.’

I stood frozen for a second, the title rattling around me brain. I didn’t like it at all. I moved past the guard, and I heard her turn to bolt the gate. I walked along the little terrace and came to a large blue double door. I opened it tentatively and peaked inside, I could hear raised voices and it sounds like they had gotten back from the play. Taking my cloak off and folding it over my arm, I followed the sound of the voices. Light spilled into the little corridor from what I knew to be a large parlour room, the door was creaked open.

‘…absolute shambles.’

‘…don’t know what Celene is playing at!’

‘You think this was Celene’s doing?’ Vivienne contested.

‘Who else?’ Josephine replied. ‘We were invited by the Grand Duke. She would assume we are on his side.’

‘Are we not?’ Leliana asked.

I pushed through the door, and the argument stopped. A sea of seeming nobility turned to face me, resplendent all in their evening’s finery.

‘Oh goodie, you survived.’ Dorian greeted, he had dark purple eyeliner on making his eyes seem impossibly big. He was also drinking, but that would mean anything. Solas was stood behind him, leaning against the wall arms crossed with a frown on his face.

I placed the folded cloak over the back of a Josephine’s chair, ‘how was the play?’

The moment’s silence gave me the answer I was looking for, ‘not ideal.’ Cullen said, almost immaculate in his red and gold uniform. Though his fur collar was sticking up oddly, giving him the look of a disturbed lion.

‘It was poorly done.’ Cassandra added, she was slumped down in a chair, head in her hands. I gave her a double take, she was wearing a dress. Well, a long armoured tunic, still emblazoned with that unblinking eye.

‘Oh, goodie.’ I said, repeating Dorian’s words, which earned me a scowl from Cassandra and a heavy sigh from Cullen. Dorian though raised a cup to me with a little smirk. ‘Anyone want to tell me what happened?’

Dorian drained his cup, and placed it a little hard on the table, ‘a play about the corruption of the golden city, lessons to be learned about hubris and causing a blight and all that.’  

I shrugged, ‘that doesn’t sound too bad.’ But my sure voice failed, and my statement turned into a question.

‘One,’ Cullen started looking at me, and then looking down, ‘… one of the magisters had a green burn… on their hand.’

I blinked at him.

‘Played by a woman,’ Solas added, watching me intensively with his hungry sky-blue eyes, ‘an elf.’ He clarified.

My mouth dropped into an o, then I laughed and couldn’t stop. ‘Me?’ I spluttered. That was a new one. I felt like jumping up and down at the Winter Palace and pointing at my face, why can none of you idiots get my religion right? The answer is literally on my face. I imagined all the scandalised faces behind the painted masks. The idea was so funny that I doubled over.  

‘This is serious.’ Cassandra chastised, her whole body was practically rippling with anxiety. ‘Connecting the Inquisition to the Imperium. Connecting you to the Magisters.’ Dorian huffed at that. ‘Distancing you from the chantry.’

I didn’t allow myself to smile, distancing me from the chantry could only be a good thing. I paused, considering, ‘did anyone find out that I wasn’t there?’ I asked, remembering that little girl dressed up as me, had gone in my place.

It was Vivienne who answered, her headdress was sitting dejectedly on the empty seat next to her. ‘No, we left early in protest.’

Still lightly chuckling to myself, I relaxed, I went to pour myself a glass of wine, ‘a good night’s work then.’ I sat down, crossed my legs. But the stony silence was deafening. I looked around the grim faces, ‘what?’

Red splotched crept up Cullen’s neck, he made a sort of strangled sound.

‘The question is how to respond,’ Josephine finished with a sharp tone. I suspected there was more, but they had seemed to agree to not tell me. ‘I could pull in some favours to denounce the play.’

Leliana sat back, her eyes dark and dangerous, ‘Let me send agents to work out who gave them the funds.’

Vivienne nodded slowly, ‘we should find out before the Ball. I can ask the Empress to arrest those responsible.’

‘Unless, she commissioned it,’ Josephine supplied with a grimace, the jewels around her neck dazzling in the candlelight.

I sat back with a sigh, ‘does it matter, it’s just a play. Is it worth responding?’

‘If you do not respond, the inquisition will look weak.’ Leliana whispered quietly, like she didn’t want to put the words into the air.

The tension weighed on me like a pile of bricks. I wished Sera was there, she’d make a rude noise and she’s reason that the whole thing was silly and nothing to get so worked up over. But she was in Feralden.

Vivienne sat forward, she twinned her fingers together, a pretty smile played on her face, ‘silent dignity? Weak or self-assured. All the better to underestimate us, my dear.’

Josephine looked between Vivienne and me, ‘so… we don’t respond.’

I held up a finger, thinking, ‘Leliana, can you find out who commissioned the play. It would be good to know, once we have more information. We can decide.’

She nodded.

‘How was Ambassador Briala, my dear?’ Vivienne asked after the heartbeats had trickled past.

I smiled, ‘I like her, I think we can work together.’ I shuffled, the room was looking at me. I had gone in order to recruit her to the Inquisition. I cleared my throat, ‘I believe the she is on side.’ I glanced to Leliana and then to Josephine, ‘I think if we support her, we will have a stable ally in Orlais.’

Josephine nodded. But Vivienne frowned, her fingers lightly strumming on the arm of her chair, ‘so you have no use for her spy network?’

I tried to give her a reassuring smile, ‘I wanted to offer assistance, before I took anything.’

‘A wise strategy.’ Solas congratulated.

I gave him a nod and a little smile. Then I remembered, ‘Oh, Vivienne, do the names’ I desperately tried to remember what Briala had asked. ‘ugh, Menhis, Minres,’ I clicked my fingers, as if it would help me recall the name, ‘Mihris? And Felassan mean anything to you?’

Her eyebrows furrowed together, then she shook her head, ‘I don’t think I’ve heard of them, why do you ask?’

‘Briala asked if I’d been sent by either of them,’ I made an exaggerated frown, and shrugged my fingers, silently asking if anyone knew anymore. ‘Leliana, can we find out who they are? Might be nothing, or it could be a lead.’

She stood and gave me a little nod, no doubt leaving to send some ravens.

Chapter Text

Felassan?’ Solas queried, knuckles tight on the back of Dorian’s chair.

I nodded, ‘not the sort of the name I’d forget,’ slow arrow, ‘not the sort of sort of name a mother would give either. Might be a code….’

‘Will you stop lurking back there.’ Dorian snapped cutting me off, his shoulders raised against the figure behind him. He turned to Vivienne, ‘move your hat.’

She gave him a withering look, and then slowly picked up her headdress from the empty seat, placing it in her lap gently. Solas only stood back, talking a step back almost into the shadows.

Cassandra looked up abruptly, ‘Mihris, she was in the Hinterlands. That cave, with the veil artefact.’

‘Good memory,’ I commented, trying to remember, but I couldn’t place the woman. I nodded, ‘Let Leliana know’.

Cassandra gave me a small strained smile, ‘and after that, I believe a good book is calling me.’

I stared at her for a moment, what an odd thing to say. Why was everyone looking at me? I realised with a sinking feeling that she was asking for permission to be dismissed. ‘Go, go, enjoy.’ I said quickly with a flush.

She gave me a stiff nod and left the room. On her way out, she held the door open for the Duke. He popped his head uncertainly around the doorway, ‘may I steal my dearest away?’ He asked the room, but his eyes were only for Vivienne. I briefly wondered if he’d been waiting outside.

Vivienne gave me a little glance and I nodded. Vivienne clapped her hands together. ‘Tonight, went as well as it could. Do not stay up too late, we have costume fittings, bright and early.’ She reminded. She picked her headdress up with a flick of her wrist and sauntered over to her lover. Her arms around his neck before they disappeared from view.

‘They’re sweet,’ Josephine said longingly, watching them as they disappeared. Then she seemed to hear herself and made a little show of gathering together her papers, her words becoming lost among the shuffle towards the door. I didn’t bother watching them file out of the room instead, I refilled my glass. Dorian handed his over and I filled his as well. The door closed with a final click, leaving us alone. What a night.

‘So, was magister-me cute?’ I asked, handing him back his glass.

He snorted, ‘nothing on the real thing.’

‘Do think I’d make a good magister?’ I sat back with my eyes closed, waving my hand in what I assumed was a fancy gesture.

Dorian spluttered, ‘absolutely not’. He dabbed at his mouth with a handkerchief he fished out of a picket. ‘Fake you wouldn’t make a very fine magister.’ He waved his hand under his chin, ‘terrible bone structure.’

I put my hand to my chest, giving him a look of mock dismay. ‘And the real me?’ I asked curiously.

He tilted his head slightly, ‘ah,’ he took a large swallow of wine and didn’t look me in the eye, ‘maybe not.’

‘Least there is a replacement.’ I said quickly to cover the awkwardness in the room. ‘Two in fact, if you ever misplace me.’

‘There would be no replacing you.’

I jumped, I hadn’t realised that Solas was still in the room. He dropped gracefully into the chair that Vivienne had occupied, sitting with his legs up. I could feel Dorian’s eyes on me, but I didn’t look across at him. I couldn’t find the words.

‘Of course not,’ Dorian added raising a glass to me, ‘though I adore the image of you in the middle of the senate floor.’

I gave him a mock bow for his effort, forming words, but Solas replied before I could, ‘it would hardly be a safe place for her.’

Dorian inclined his head, conceding the point, ‘no, but I would be amusing.’

‘Do you consider your enjoyment paramount over the Inquisitor’s safety?’ Solas asked pointedly, sitting up to glare daggers at the Tevinter.

I sighed and closed my eyes. Creators why wouldn’t these two get along. In the three weeks since we’d left Skyhold, they’d come to cruel words at every available opportunity. It appeared that some part of Solas couldn’t forgive Dorian’s birthplace.

‘Oh yes, please do take my words out of context.’ Dorian drawled, and looked down at his nails, picking at them absent-mindedly. All the time avoiding Solas’ eyes. 

‘Slavery is…’

‘Gentlemen!’ I snapped, cutting Solas off. He gave me a disappointed look that I felt in my bones. But whatever point he thought to throw at Dorian’s feet wouldn’t actually help. ‘Stop. None of us were there, we can’t go back, we just have to move forward.’

‘You sound remarkably like Sera,’ Dorian noted dryly.

‘Thank you,’ I said proudly, sitting taller. ‘I’ll take it as a compliment.’

Solas sighed, ‘you shouldn’t.’

Then the two looked at each other, a quick smile passed between them. Wonderful. ‘I like Sera.’ I said stubbornly. ‘The Friends of Red Jenny are heroes...’ but my words were ignored.

‘I did try to explain that her strategy was somewhat lacking, the day before we left Skyhold. She put lizards in my bed roll.’ Solas commented to Dorian.

I took another drink, keeping my expression carefully neutral. Yep that was the reason.  

‘Lizards?’ The moustachioed mage queried, after stifling a laugh or two.

‘Lizards.’ He confirmed.

Dorian drained his glass, rolled himself to his feet and popped his glass on the side, ‘well, that’s enough fun for one evening.’

I glanced across, ‘night.’

He paused by the door, ‘bright and early,’ he said with a wagging finger, mimicking Vivienne.

Once the door was closed, and the footsteps had disappeared, I turned to Solas, ‘why do you always have to fight?’

‘Thirty-six.’ He said without looking at me.

‘What?’

Solas looked at the closed door, his lip curled in distaste, ‘that’s how many people are employed on by the Pavus estates.’ The way he said employed meant it was not a willing arrangement.

I felt my blood run cold, and I let out an unsteady breath. That’s more than my clan. I put my fingers to the lines inscribed under my cheeks. ‘I didn’t know.’

His eyes turned to my face, ‘you did not ask.’ Simple words that picked my skin with guilt. ‘I am curious, in spite of that you seem to trust him.’

Stupid and naïve, that must be what he thought of me.  I curled my legs up onto the chair, but I was unable to get comfortable, ‘you weren’t there.’ I said simply.

‘The future?’ He queried, blue eyes on me.

I nodded.

‘Will you show me?’

I shifted again, I could feel by heart pounding. He was asking to be in my dreams. My skin pricked raw under his scrutiny.

‘I am sorry that I asked.’ He stood to leave.

‘No,’ I said instinctively, fenedhis, why wouldn’t I have just let him leave? I nodded slowly. ‘Okay, I will try to show you.’

Chapter Text

I stood with my hands on the stone balcony, the bitter wind stung my face, tiny pinpricks of cold cleansing away any fear I had. I knew I would have to go back to Redcliffe at some point, but for now I was safe. I pulled my dagger out of my boot, twisting it in my hands, lost in thought.  

‘Hellana?’

The knife slipped, cutting into the pad of my thumb. The tiniest of cuts, but a tiny line of blood leaked out. I hissed and shook my hand.

Solas stepped up next to me and took my hand, surveying the wound. He pulled my hand up to his mouth and blew on the wound gently, I pulled back, but it was healed. ‘Dreams,’ he answered to my look of bewilderment.

I pulled at the pad of my thumb, but it was unmarked. I could still feel the slight sting where the cut had been. I glanced across, a thank you on my tongue, but it froze as cold as the ice on the wind. My blood ran cold. While I had been distracted, he’d picked up my knife. I wanted to snatch it from him and run, but I held my ground and simply raised an eyebrow with a silent hand out asking for it back.

He tested the knife, balancing it in his hand. Then he put it down firmly and slid it to me across the smooth stone balustrade.

‘Sylvan wood?’ He asked, almost with a sigh.

I nodded and looked into the mountains. ‘It’s unorthodox,’ I acknowledge, ‘when I was young,’

‘Take me.’ He interrupted, spreading his arm like a challenge.

I glanced across, unsure. How was I supposed to do that? I looked out at the mountains, a solitary bird flew across the clear unclouded sky. Nothing happened.

‘It’s a dream, you just have remember.’ He guided.  

I closed my eyes, the smell of woodsmoke and damp forest assaulted my scenes. The sun was warm on my skins in patches as it filtered down through the thick canopy. I opened my eyes, a smile spread over my face, home. The patchwork red sail snapped in the wind, and I could only stare at the araval in amazement. I recognise that araval, it had been lost in a fire many years ago.

In front of me, sat cross legged, was my mother. She looked a few years older than I was now. She was imposing in her own kind of way, a small petite woman who commanded kindness. When I thought of Mythal, this was the image I found more often than not. Curiously, I found myself in two places at once, I was both the young girl, barefaced, sat with a penchant frown on my face and the audience. Watching the events unfold as if my memories were portrayed by actors on a stage.

Da’len,’ she said soothingly, and pressed her forehead to mine. The bow shaped vallaslin pulling slightly as she gave me a small smile.

‘There is nothing to be done,’ Dirthanna snapped, the lines of Falon’Din on her face. She was a harsher version of her sister. Her temper was shorter, and she was slow to forgive slights. She was tapping her staff impatiently with unimpressed hand. Wait, no. Not this day.

My mother dismissed her with the wave of her hand. And moved to wipe away the tears that were falling down my face. ‘Little hare, be brave.’

‘I don’t want ---- to be a hunter’  ‘----to be here’ I said in unison with the younger me.

‘I need ----to be like you’ ‘----to leave’ We said, my echoes a dull protestation of the fiery fury of my adolescent self.   

My mother took my hands, placing a heavy object in them, closing my fingers around it, ‘it isn’t your destiny.’ She said sadly. I knew it was the hunk of wood that should have become my Keepers Ring. But my talent had faded like the untended fire. I should have burned the wood, but I had carved into a hilt out of spite.

Skyhold. The cold wind stung my face and I knew I was back. ‘I’d half forgotten why.’ I said numbly, staring down at the knife. I rubbed at my face making sure I had carried the tears of my younger self. I was happy with my life, or at least I had been before the temple had blown up.

I glanced at Solas, ‘that was a bad idea.’ I started to step back, wondering if I was able to wake myself up.

He put a steadying hand on my arm. ‘That was good, you moved twice. Try again.’

I gave him an unhappy look, I didn’t want to drag up all my ancient memories for him to shift through. Then rested my hands on the grey stone barrier, resolved to go directly to Redcliffe instead. I tucked my dagger back in my boot.

‘So we should just fix the whole world?’ Cassandra snapped. I looked up surprised, my hand remained on grey stone, but the railing had shifted and I was stood on the grey stone bridge outside Redcliffe.

‘If you didn’t want to change anything, you should have let the chantry take me.’ I spat back, my posture was fierce and defiant. I cringed a little at the harsh words, spoken too quick and I briefly considered if I could take them back. But then the castle caught my eye.

I turned, stepping away from the memory and the rest of the fractious conversation. The castle was taller and more imposing than I remembered. The towering monstrosity hung menacingly over the cliff, threatening to fall and take everyone with it. Redcliffe. Redcliffe. Red.

The dank darkness of the dungeon was oppressive after the open skies. I let out a gasp of shock at the sudden transition and glanced to see Solas was still behind me. I paused for a moment, the time line was getting all over the place and I couldn’t quite work out where I was. Drips echoes on the uncaring stone tiles, and I glanced around the damp underground maze. Cassandra was in front of me, with a broken look and red fog covering her eyes. Dorian was looking worried, and I daren’t look to my right.

‘Boss?’ Bull’s voice asked, wrapped up with an unearthly echo.

I watched myself stepped forward, ‘Bull?’ The cracked whisper send a shudder of fear through my spine. Wide eyed, Bull’s scream of outrage tore from his chest as he tore himself physically from the wall. The splintered scarlet shards rolling to a sickened stop before my feet. The red lyrium pulsed across his body in cruel mocking, red fog over his one good eye.

Hands over my eyes, the image that I was dreading came into view, but I let out a grateful breath. White mist covered the cage were the future-Solas had been kept. Had I blocked the image in my mind so often, that I couldn’t remember? I felt a hand on my shoulder, I turned. Pale and perfect, unmolested by crimson crystals. ‘Let me see.’ He said softly, coaxingly.

I shook my head and felt myself trembling. No. I knew in my soul, that I would never forget that image. My mind was simply protecting myself from it.

‘Do you want to stop?’ A gentle question to let me know there would be no shame in giving up.

I considered, and the conjured companions froze in place as I debated with myself. ‘Yes.’ I whispered and gave a little wave of my hand. Behind me the mist dissipated, I didn’t have to look to know what my memory had revealed, I could read it on his inviolate face.  

‘It’s time to wake up.’ He said dimly, looking behind me horror stuck.

Chapter Text

I was curled up on the sofa where I had been sat the evening before. Moonlight crept through the open curtains and my eyes slowly adjusted. My mouth was full of bitterness, and when I reached out for the half-drunk glass of wine my hand trembled so much, I didn’t dare to pick it up. A splash of wine was on my thumb, I stuck it in my mouth, copper. I pulled my hand back, there was a cut on my thumb. That didn’t make any sense. I closed my eyes, putting my face in my hands, but couldn’t feel my fingers. I tried to get to my feet, but I was unsteady I sat down immediately. My heart was beating in my chest so quickly, it was painful. I tried to slow my breathing, I felt light headed. I leaned back in the chair. This had been a bad idea.

I looked up, and Solas was still asleep on the chair opposite. His face was tight and twitching from bad dreams. My bad dreams. I watched as he stirred from his sleep on the chair opposite. Blinking until he became accustomed to the light. He saw that I was awake. ‘Reading your report and seeing are two completely different experiences,’ he said simply.

‘Yes,’ I agreed breathlessly, ‘and we didn’t even get to the good bit!’ My bitter words bringing up a memory that I pushed away quickly.

‘Inquisitor?’ He asked, a tight worried look on his face.

I wanted to grimace at the title, but my chest was tight, and it was difficult to breathe. Did the room always spin?

 

My ear hurt, a numb radiating pain. I shifted my head and it felt a little better. I heard my name spoken in a faraway voice. I blinked but couldn’t place were I was. I closed my eyes again. Throbbing pain bubbled up on the side of my face. I blinked again, it was dark and there was a figure nearby. Where was I? Something was digging in sharply to my leg. I pushed myself into a sitting position. I was awake, and the dream wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. I repeated it until I almost believed it. My throat burned, but I could find breath easily. ‘What happened?’ I asked croakily.

‘You forgot to breath.’ Solas chastised softly. He touched the back of his hand to me forehead, and I was too far gone to care that he was touching my vallaslin. ‘How do you feel?’

‘Dizzy,’ then considered, ‘tired.’

He watched me for a moment, then his strong arms squeezed me, and I clung back. ‘I apologise, I didn’t think that it would be so,’ he trailed off, lost for the words to describe the horror that he had just witnessed.

I clung to him, but my hand hovered about the place where the red lyrium had jutted out of his waist. I took a quick breath and touched the spot. No scarlet shards to break my skin.   

He pulled back a little, a tired smile on his face, ‘checking that I’m real?’

I nodded, then squinted at him, ‘you are, aren’t you?’

‘I believe so,’ he chuckled.

I didn’t say anything for a moment, ‘at least we know what we’re trying to avoid.’ I muttered darkly. I ran my hands through my hair, stretched a little as I did. I was exhausted, a heavy weight rests on my shoulders and I wanted nothing more than to shrug it off. ‘I need to sleep. And not dream.’

He stood then, and his hands on mine and pulled me to my feet. Watching to see if I was steady on my feet and then he placed his arm around my back guided me towards the door, ‘I can’t help there.’ He said simply.

I nodded, not that I’d expected anything. ‘Next time ask Dorian, he coped better with the whole thing.’

His arm dropped for a moment and then he replaced it stiffly. ‘Hmm.’ A quick, non-committal sound.  

Why had I said that? I chastised myself, trusting Dorian was the reason for this whole stupid endeavour. I glanced over, but his expression was weary rather than annoyed. ‘Does anyone else know?’ I asked quietly.

He shook his head, ‘no, and I would prefer if no one found out.’

I tapped my finger to my lips twice, ‘I won’t tell.’ Who would believe me? I thought wildly, this is madness. We walked in silence for down the first corridor towards my room, ‘you should try to get on with him.’ I commented.

He didn’t speak for a moment, his jaw worked as he considered his words. ‘Is it essential that I should trust him?’ He asked eventually.  

‘I guess not.’ I almost laughed, I should have come to this conclusion and saved myself a trip to Redcliffe. I shuddered at the thought.

Solas stopped, looking me over.

‘I’m fine.’ I whispered, a little unsettled at his concern.

‘You surprise me,’ he commented, ‘the lengths that you’d go to prove Dorian’s trustworthiness. You must have known I was asking too much.’

I didn’t say anything, I had known it was asking too much. Why had I done it? I pushed away the frustration that they couldn’t see that they were supposed to be on the same side. Then the little voice echoed, thirty six. I couldn’t justify that and neither did I have to forgive it for me to work with the Tevinter.

‘Who were the women?’ Solas asked instead, moving around the topic that I was ignoring.

I glanced across, ‘my mother and my aunt.’ My words were unsteady, I didn’t want to speak of the past either.

So, he walked me without another word to my room, I opened the door without a word. The darkness of the unnecessary large space was not inviting. I realised I did not want to sleep. My eyes were heavy, but the thought of dreaming kept me alert. ‘Stay with me?’ I asked, turning back to face him.

Solas raised an eyebrow at me, his voice sour, ‘is that a command?’

I inhaled sharply, ‘silly man, I would not command that.’ I said as lightly as I could, although the idea hurt me deeply. What a thing to say. What a thing to imply. Did he think I would command him to my bed? Though I had my answer, I turned away from him, wondering where I’d left matches. ‘I don’t want to be alone.’ I admitted, feeling the need to explain my words. Then, I waved my hand impatiently, ‘go, I’m sure I can find someone who’s awake.’ I began a catalogue, Leliana was my first choice she might still be writing letters; if not Cullen was a notorious light sleeper, I could probably find him for a game of chess; even Cassandra would be unimpressed but wouldn’t ask any questions…

‘I’ll stay.’

Chapter Text

‘I’ll stay,’ he said.

I could help the little smile that spread across my face, creators, I was blushed like a newly-tattooed. To cover my flush, I stopped by the table inside the door, I picked up the little packet of matches. While I was fumbling with them, Solas reached over twisted his hand and the candle burst into flame. I gave him a look, ‘showoff.’ I muttered under my breath.

‘Your room is larger than mine,’ he commented without malice.

‘Are you suggesting Madame de Fey is biased?’

‘Perhaps.’

I laughed, of course she was. I didn’t doubt for a moment everything Vivienne did was scrupulously planned out.  

I watched him without meaning to, as he traced the edges of the room, candles flickering to life. I sat down heavily on a chair underneath a set of tall arched windows. Then I felt an odd scene of panic come over me, and I reached into my boot. My knife was still there, I pulled it out, the metal glinted in the moonlight.

‘Your knife.’ His statement that was more of a question.

I looked up guilty, ‘thought I might have lost it.’ I held up my thumb to the moonlight, ‘odd.’ I commented.

He glanced over to see the cut on my thumb, a flicker of concern passed before he smoothed the emotion off his face, ‘an unusual dagger that creates a cut from the Fade. Where did you come by it?’

I shrugged, slipping it back in my boot where it was safe. ‘I made.’

‘You made it?’ He repeated back, his voice almost uncertain.

‘I doubt it’s special.’ I shrugged off the question, I didn’t want to talk about the past. Bringing up past misfortunes and failures what not exactly what I’d been planning.

'It appears to be.’ He reasoned.

‘It’s a long story.’ I shrugged off the question.

‘We have time.’

Actually, a good point, ugg. ‘I was meant to be a Keeper, for a time anyway.’ I paused, in case he didn’t know what I was talking about, but no questions came so I carried on. I raised my hand out, around three foot off the ground, ‘I would have been about that high, one night,’ I my hand curled in the air, used magic, ‘I accidentally set fire to an araval. Dirthanna was overjoyed,’ I looked up, ‘my aunt, the woman standing with the staff, our Keeper at the time,’ I added to explain. I still couldn’t believe I hadn’t gotten in trouble. My clan had been so happy, grateful that the future Keeper wouldn’t be a traded mage from another clan. I looked away from him, looking out into the garden, ‘So they trained me, and no one bothered to test me for magic. So eventually, I am this high’ I raised my hand to the top of my head, I smiled at my own joke. ‘Dirthanna and I had hunted sylvan, everything is ready. I’m about to be tattooed, and some bright spark thinks I should probably proof I can do magic.’

He gave me a raised eyebrow.

‘Exactly, I don’t have magic.’ I looked down at my left hand, ‘I didn’t anyway. I failed. Utterly failed. Dirthanna was furious,’ I rubbed my eyes. ‘Told me she’d give me to Sylaise, told me I’d be a hearth-mistress.’ I shuddered at the thought, then looked over and began backtracking, ‘a noble path, I’m sure. Just not for me.’

He nodded, seemingly unconcerned with my blasphemy.

I licked my lips, ‘Mother defended me, wanted to give me to Andruil instead,’ I sighed. ‘I didn’t really have a choice. But,’ I shrugged, ‘mother won. Dirthanna wanted me to burn the wood, I was young and angry, I made it into a knife in secret. It’s funny really,’

‘Yes?’

‘Inquisitor is kind of like a Keeper, almost lucky I kept it. I’m rambling, none of this would explain why the knife is special. I don’t think it is, just sentimental.’

‘And the blade?’ He queried.

I shrugged, ‘traded some shem for it. I don’t know what it is.’

‘May I see it?’

I took a breath, no. Then I reconsidered, I had just said it wasn't magic knife, there was no reason to be so protective. I pulled it out of my boot, gave him a look, I’m trust you. And handed it over.

Slim fingers turned it over in the moonlight and he handed it back, ‘silverite.’

I took it from him.

‘Most Keepers have a ring, not a dagger. Is it not it a little unfair?’ He ask quietly, a smirk playing on his features.

I looked down at the knife, shaking my head. The Dread Wolf’s comes for tyrants, the gods ran from Arlathan, terrified they would lose their immortality, they left their people, so he tricked them, my mother had whispered under the deck of an aravel, words so true they had to be hidden from the other gods. And now I was a Keeper of sorts, even the greatest Keepers could become corrupt, ‘It’s a reminder not to fuck up.’  


When I woke, I was pressed up against another person. For a split second I thought I might be home, back crammed in the back of an aravel. But I realised quickly that I was cuddled up against a sleeping Solas. I quite forgot to be alarmed at this turn of events.

 We were both on our sides, his back against me. My arm had tucked under his, clenched fist against his sternum, locking him close to me. Legs entwined. I didn’t remember falling asleep, or even getting to the bed. But there we were. I glanced down quickly, both fully dressed on top of the covers. I drew back closely, desperate not to wake him. I didn’t want that conversation, at least not yet. He stirred a little and made a small sad grumble, I froze. He shuffled in his sleep, trapping my arm firmly. I could have pulled away if I really wished it, but decided it wasn’t necessary. I felt back into sleep.

I was half awake when I felt him stir, creeping away from me. The sudden cold made my groggily reach out for a pillow, which was a pitiful replacement.

‘Sleep,’ he said, ‘I will tell them to start without you.’ The words floated in the air, but I didn’t fully comprehend as I drifted back out of consciousness.

 

When I woke again, the midmorning sun was streaming through the twin windows. I blinked groggily, after a night of disturbed sleep I hadn’t felt rejuvenated. Though, I did allow myself a smile at the night’s events. It felt like progress, but I wasn’t sure which direction I’d gone in. I shook my head, to shake the brooding thoughts away. Bright and early. I sat up, momentary wonder flicked across my mind as to where the thick blanket had come from.

Chapter Text

I looked at myself in the great copper mirror. Bright and bold red, red to remind me of our purpose, I thought with a shiver. Embroidered with yellow details. Made of thick satin and soft to the touch, heavier than I’d expected with a tight boning running up the sides. On top, a belt of navy-blue silk that slipped round my waist and over my shoulder. I certainly didn’t look like me anymore.

‘What do you think?’ Josephine asked, her eyes on all of the details. Holding out her customary clipboard, checking off all the details.

‘A uniform to unite us in purpose,’ Vivienne praised.

‘I hate it.’ Dorian muttered, pulling at a sleeve with a look of disgust on his face.

I stretched a little seeing if I could move in the jacket, it felt more like armour than an outfit. I took the yellow gloves that were offered to me. There would be no fading into the background wearing these. A small woman appeared behind me, pinning the back of my jacket a little tighter. A pin pricked me, and I pulled away. The lady apologised profusely but continue to manhandle me until the alterations were complete. She backed off and I tried to move again, the jacket was now too restrictive, and one of the bones dug into my shoulder blade. ‘Does it need to be so tight?’ I queried.

Josephine came behind me, took my hand and guided me to the small of my back, under the flap of fabric I was able to pull the bones out. Twin daggers, I gave her a rueful smile. ‘I see.’

‘I am sure that you will not need them,’ Josephine began, ‘but we decided that it was necessary. There are also two hidden sheathes in the boots. And,’ she walked over to a little table and picked something up. She handed it to me, a little smile playing on her lips. A hip flask.

Vivienne tutted, ‘My dears, I am sure the Winter Palace will not run out of wine.’

‘Are there more of those?’ Dorian asked, ignoring Vivienne.

There was a little knock at the door, a maid approached Vivienne and gave her a light dip. Almost a curtsy, but not quite. ‘There is a man at the door for you, Madame.’

Vivienne gave a graceful nod and followed her out of the room.


Leliana appeared about twenty minutes later, her hood was pushed back, and her face was paler than usual. ‘You’d better come quickly, Cullen’s been attacked.’

‘What?’ I gasped as Josephine dropped her quill, it clattered to the floor and droplets of ink splattered onto the mirror.

‘Alive?’ Dorian asked darkly.

Leliana looked at him and nodded tightly. She then ushered us down a corridor, but pulled Josephine aside, pushing a letter into her hands. I lingered a moment to catch the exchange of words. ‘Celene’s hand is behind this.’ She hissed.

Josephine swore under her breath, ‘I had hoped,’ She trailed off.

‘What did you expect?’ Leliana chastised. And then noticed me waiting. She began to explain, but I cut her off and I understood. The attack on Cullen was just the next round of the Game, she wanted me to know that she could hurt my companions, the Empress of Orlais wanted me to know that Halamshiral was her territory. I was grateful then at Josephine’s forethought, the daggers in my dress, I would not go before her unarmed.


Despite the rush and panic, Cullen was looking surprisingly cheerful. He was sat up in a chair, with Vivienne was worrying over him, flashes of green and gold shot from her healing hands knitting his flesh back together. Within a few minutes the only signs of left were a split lip and a bandage wrapped around his waist.

Cassandra stood back, fury painted across her features. She looked up when she saw us approached, ‘I should have gone with him.’

Josephine put her hand carefully on Cassandra’s arm, ‘you couldn’t have known.’ She reassured, which Cassandra returned with a dark look and she left, sword clinking lightly against her leg as she walked away.  

‘What happened?’ I asked.

‘Bastard stabbed me, shouted that I was templar scum and stabbed me.’ He said with an odd expression. ‘Knew where to hit, slipped the knife under my chestplate. City guard pulled him off me.’

‘Good, at least the assailant has been arrested, we can question...’ Josephine began.  

‘No,’ Cullen shook his head. ‘Guard killed him.’

Josephine huffed, ‘so we have no leads.’

Leliana glanced at her but didn’t speak. I knew exactly who she thought was behind it.

I stared past Cullen, so either I save the woman who’s trying to kill us and killed thousands of my people, or the world is overrun with a demon army. Then I realised with a sting of dread and guilt, it wasn’t my choice. I’d given the choice to Briala. Fenedhis. I had no idea which way she would go. I rubbed my eyes, in a desperate attempt to see clearly.

‘No one leaves until tomorrow evening,’ Leliana stated firmly, ‘we cannot risk this happening again.’

I nodded in agreement, although Vivienne gave me a disappointed glance.

‘Oh,’ Cullen said suddenly, pointing over at his discarded red jacket. Vivienne passed it over wordlessly. Cullen took out a rough sheet of paper, which had been folded many times. He handed it to me. ‘Sticking out of the dead man’s pocket.’

I shuddered at his words, then l looked it over, and then looked up at him, ‘a letter from my clan?’ It had already been torn open, it was written in Deshanna’s hand, in common using elvish letters. There were notes on the text in another hand with a transliteration.

 

Hellana,

I wish I could come to you at Skyhold, it would be a wonder to see. I must remain for the time being.

Bandits attack, the raiders are well armed and heavily armoured. They come in numbers that we cannot match. We’ve moved to a small unclaimed valley not far from Wycome. If you can help, please do. You carry clan Lavellan with you.

Istimaethoriel Lavellan.

 

I traced her name, Istimaethoriel, Deshanna’s formal name. Why would she use that for me, what did it mean? I read it over and read it over again. It didn’t make any sense. I checked back again for accent marks, skyhold-come-clan-lavellan. I closed my eyes, I imagined them on a boat halfway across the Waking Sea. A little joy rose in my heart, maybe they were already there, I almost laughed at the idea of our araval hauled up the mountain, and the halla grazing in Skyhold’s courtyard. Then like being thrown into icy water, I wrapped my arms around myself. I realised my letter had been intercepted, it must have been written a while back for the transliteration to have been done. ‘Someone stole my letter.’ Was all I was able to say.

Josephine finished reading the note and handed it to Leliana, ‘The Duke of Wycome is an Inquisition ally. Let me write to him, he can tell us more about these bandits and perhaps he could help the Dalish.’

I nodded, ‘do it.’ Josephine nodded and left the room.

Leliana handed me the note back, a murderous look in her eyes, ‘we have a spy at Skyhold.’  

Chapter Text

I had managed to convince Leliana not to jump on a horse and head to Skyhold, whatever leak could wait a day and then we’d return together. As much as I wanted to get to the bottom of it, she had been brought up Orlesian, I would need her at the Winter Ball. Cullen had said he could go, at which point Vivienne had given him a playful smack and told him even getting stabbed wouldn’t get him out of it. I’d left shortly after that, as there was nothing more I could do.

I hadn’t seen Solas since the morning and I desperately hoped that he’d not left. I ran my hands through my hair as I retreated to my room. Maybe I could get in an hour of so nap before I was needed again. I should probably practise with the dress-daggers, I thought at I opened the carved wooden bedroom door. I blinked in surprise as I found Solas sat on the chair under the arched window reading.

He looked up and folded the book around his finger to mark his page. ‘The light is better in here.’ He said by way of explanation.

I just nodded and sat crossed-legged on the side of the bed. I toyed with the woven bracelet on my wrist. ‘Cullen got stabbed.’ I said without preamble. ‘Vivienne healed him, he found one of my mother’s letters here.’

Solas lay the book out, so the pages were face down to keep his page and he moved over to me. ‘Are you feeling alright?’

I laughed, a harsh, bitter sound. ‘No, of course not.’ Then I gave him a little smile, to tell him not to worry. ‘I will be fine.’ I rubbed my eye with the back of my hand, the mark flared, and I bit the inside of my cheek to ignore the pain that rippled up through my arm. ‘Fenedhis,’ I muttered under my breath.

He took my hand gently rubbing the emerald anchor, dissipating the pain till it was an easily contained ache.

‘What are you reading?’ I asked to distract myself.

He shifted a little, sitting back straighter, ‘I was trying to find another instance of someone losing magic, besides the tranquil of course,’ he looked a little guilty.

I clapped my hand over my mouth, giggles escaping without my consent. ‘Silly man, you won’t find it in a shem book.’ His face turned to me, sad eyes. ‘The clans have just been like this for as long as anyone can remember.’

‘This is common among the Dalish?’ He queried, giving me a look that I hadn’t seen before.

I shrugged, ‘hardly common, but not unusual.’

Solas stood and picked the book up. Smoothing it out so the spine would not be damaged. ‘I did not know.’ He stood, hands clasped behind his back looking out of the window.

‘It’s fine.’ I repeated and lay back on the bed. I close my eyes and when I open them again, he’s gone.

 

I must have slept as the sun is lower in the sky. I rub my eyes and pull myself from the bed, grateful that I was not plagued with dreams. As I step out of my room, I walk into Cassandra. ‘I’m sorry,’ I whisper under my breath.

She gives me a look and a nod and begins to move away.

‘Cassandra?’ I say before my courage fails me.

The warrior turns back to me. Eying me with barely concealed distain, ‘inquisitor.’

‘Would you help me train, with the new daggers? I want to make sure I’m not completely useless.’ I admit.

A slow smile spreads across her face, ‘of course.’

 

She leads me to a small fenced off terrace on the roof. Up here we are hidden from view and there are not higher ledges for an opportunistic archer to send arrows our directions. ‘I have trained with Cullen here.’ Cassandra gives me by way of explanation. ‘Have you fought with daggers before?’

I nodded, ‘years ago. I prefer my bow.’ I weight the twin daggers in my hand. They are thin, and I don’t know how much stress they can hold. Although they are lighter than my sylvan-handled knife, so I hope I can make up any lack of skill with speed. I take a dagger in each hand, decided to point them back rather than forward.

Cassandra arms herself with a sword and shield, it is not her usual sword but a blunted one. It will still sting if she hits me but won’t chop a limb off. ‘Ready?’ She asked.

I don’t respond, instead I step forward, circling around her.

She gives me a grunt of disapproval, but the fight had begun. She knocked her sword against her shield challengingly. She swings forward, and I try to catch her sword with the blades, but they are the wrong way and she smacks me square above the knee with the flat of her sword. I hiss out a breath and take a step back. I twist the daggers round in my hand, moving them in unison to block her next two attacks.

‘Use them independently,’ Cassandra advices with a huff and I dart under her sword arm, dagger poised above her belly. ‘Good.’ She congratulates, but before I can celebrate her shield is on my chest, pushing me back. I stagger back a few steps, regain my balance and block her next blow.

I enjoy the spar, feeling like I can let loose some of my frustration on Cassandra. She definitely doesn’t hold back in return. My movements are becoming second nature again, and I have to think less about exactly where to be. My body just knows what to do and where to go.

We continue in this manner until the sun begins to dip. Cassandra pulls back, wipes her forehead with the back of her sleeve. She shrugs off her shield and drops her sword to the ground, ‘enough.’

I nod, sheathing my daggers.

‘You’re good, though you need to raise your left arm more. It’s too easy to hit your shoulder.’

I give her a breathless smile, taking the advice.

She leans on the railing, overlooking the city, and glanced over to me, ‘it occurs to me that I don’t actually know much about you.’

I smile, and lean along side her, ‘what do you want to know?’

 ‘I’m not sure,’ she pauses, ‘your clan, would you go back?’

I sighed, ‘being here, seems to have put them in danger.’

She nodded but seemed uncertain. ‘When this is over,’ she slumped a little, ‘will you go back?’

My throat tightens, if there is a clan to go back to, please Mythal protect them. ‘I think I will.’

She pushes back from the railing and places a hand lightly on my shoulder. ‘It will not be the same when you do.’ Cassandra doesn’t wait for an answer, she picks up her discarded gear and leaves me to pounder her words. I also consider Cassandra, returning home to find a world changed, but I cannot imagine Cassandra as a child or even younger. What hurts does she conceal under the armoured white eye?

Chapter Text

It was the night before the Ball, and I couldn’t sleep. I lay in the borrowed bed tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable. My mind was swimming with nerves, the great weight of powerless anticipation hung over me. The night was clear, with a sliver of a waxing moon in the sky. I pulled on a robe de chambre over my sleep shift, it was pointless waiting for sleep that wouldn’t come. I pace the room, wondering if I was going to leave a dent where my steps wear away the floor. So much is riding on the events of the next day, and I wonder why the gods gave this task to me.


‘No,’ I said firmly as Josephine offered me powder for my face. I will not be covering up my vallaslin. She shook her head to bury her annoyance, accepting my decision for what it is and turns to the mirror. With a practised hand she applies a thin line of gold paint to her eyelids, framing them. ‘Actually,’ I said and she pauses looking at me via the reflection. ‘May I?’ I ask, taking the little brush from her.

I steady myself in front of the mirror, my hand shook, I left a streak in the wrong place and rub at it angrily with the back of my hand. Josephine understood what I am trying to do and takes the brush back off me. She finished painting my face for me. I looked into the mirror, my vallaslin had become gold and shining. The light catches on the shimmer with each turn my head, giving the lines the illusion of being made of precious metal. Josephine gave me an approving smile. I hugged her gently, a silent thank you.


Dorian pulled me aside, ‘be careful tonight.’ His thumb is under his chin and he studies me. ‘The court is a viper nest, going in will get you bitten. The trick is to not let them see fear, not let them know if when it stings.’

I gave him a small smile, ‘if must be bad if you’re worried.’

His hand dropped, ‘I’ve been to too many soirees in Tevinter, it is as brutal as stepping into the gladiatorial arena. Put on a good show and the crowd will be chanting your name.’

I blinked at him, ‘a good show?’

‘It’s why they call it the Game.’ He turned to leave, then returned with a smirk. ‘I’ll give you five gold if you can get the awful hat off Solas. He needs to be saved from himself,’ he left, muttering darkly about fashion disasters.


I smoothed down the front of my jacket, patting the wrinkles out and checking that the silky navy belt is in place. I have six separate daggers secreted on me and two hip flasks. Josephine took me by the arm, we are flanked by inquisition agents in their green and brown, the image of a shard of red lyrium in the midst of a forest makes me faulter for a moment. Mother Mythal let my clan be alright, I begged to the empty sky.

Josephine tugged at my arm lightly, we are on show, she silently reminds me. We approached the Winter Palace, which is a towering symmetrical monstrosity of blue and white. Gilt and gold cover ever corner and I felt a stone settle in my stomach. The shameful spires tower over us, mocking me, daring me to run from the shem stronghold. I pray the whole thing will sink into the ground, the foundations rotted by all the spilled elvish blood.  

‘Needs more arches.’ One of the agents to my right whispered. Which elicits a sharp look from Josephine.

We entered the Winter Palace, I had Josephine on my arm, steading me and whispering names and titles. I tried my best to not look around, not wanting to look like exactly what I was, a girl from the forest who had never stepped foot in a palace before. The closest I had come was to Vivienne’s party, but it was a dull affair in comparison – not that I’d ever confess that to Vivienne. I had thought our choice of outfit to be bold and garish, but in comparison to the theatre loving Orlesians, we were almost underdressed. A sea of colour and costume, glittering jewels sparkled in flickering candle light. I felt sick to my skin looking at the treasures, the imposing majesty. This was Orlais’ mask, take it off and what would I find.

‘Grand duke Gaspard,’ Josephine murmured to me, bringing me out of my brooding.

A tall man, he was almost subtle dressed in bronze and blue, a half mask across his face. Rough shaved stubble covered his exposed chin. I almost laughed, in this battleground he was the only one wise enough to be wearing armour. ‘It is my great pleasure to meet you, Inquisitor Lavellan. My Lady, are you prepared to shock the court by walking into the Grand Ball with a hateful usurper?’ He queried, a slight smile playing on his lips. ‘They will be telling stories of this into the next age.’ He spread his arms grandly.

I gave him a little nod and followed him towards a fountain in the middle of the courtyard, ‘I daresay, I’m not here just for the party. There is an assassin loose, Grand Duke, finding him is my priority.’

Gaspard took a little step back, his hand unconsciously touching his hip to an imagined sword hilt. ‘That is a grave accusation, my friend, of all of the nights…’ He trailed off, sighing. ‘I suspect you will find this would be assassin within the elven delegation.’ He spat the words like they left a bad taste in his mouth.

Josephine next to me, pinched the inside of my arm, reminding me to keep my temper. ‘Elven delegation?’ I questioned softly.

‘My people have found their ‘ambassadors’ all over the place, sabotage seems the least of their crimes.’ His lips curled into a snarl.

‘Tell me there is more to your suspicious than, ‘the elves are acting funny’?’ Josephine said briskly, and I wanted to hug her.

Gaspard gave her a look over, ‘Lady Montilyet, the court has suffered without your charming presence. Maybe you remember Briala?’

Josephine shook her head, ‘Briala?’ she queried, perfectly portraying confusion.  

Gaspard turned back to me, ‘she used to be Celene’s maid, until my cousin arrested her for crimes against the empire to cover up a little indiscretion. And now she’s parading around as ‘Ambassador.’ If anyone in this palace, wishes Celene harm, it would be her.’

I turned to Josephine, ‘perhaps I should meet this, ‘ambassador.’ I said the word like I was tasting it for the first time.

‘Be as discreet as possible. I detest the Game, but if we do not play, our enemies will have us looking like villains.’

I nodded and gave him a small smile, thinking of the disastrous play, ‘I know.’    

He seemed to know what I was speaking of, but held his arm out to me, ‘it appears we are keeping the court waiting.’

Josephine took a step back and I took his arm.

‘Shall we?’

Chapter Text

‘Shall we?’ Grand Duke Gaspard asked as I took his arm, he lead me through the courtyard. I hear the twitters around me, people stopped speaking and turned to watch. Every word, every gesture is measures and evaluated for weakness. Josephine had told me. It is no simple matter of etiquette and protocol, it is a game of wicked grace played to the death. Never reveal your cards.

‘Will you tell more about the Ambassador?’ I asked conversationally.

‘It is a disgrace,’ Gaspard said with a smile, so that onlookers would only see a pleasant conversation. ‘She is a citizen of Orlais and yet is dressed like a foreign dignitary.’ We approached a grand curved staircase and we made our way up leisurely, I felt as though I was walking to the gallows. ‘She has,’ He paused, finding his words, ‘a weapon. Something that would alter the outcome not only of this war, but every war. Celene wants to keep her sweet, but she cannot be negotiated with.’

‘A weapon?’ I queried.

‘Of sorts.’ He replied annoyingly cryptic. ‘Bring her to my side and you will have the support of the rightful emperor of Orlais.’

‘I see,’ I said softly, understanding his arrangement.

He gave me a winning smile, although I wasn’t sure I deserved it. I stood for a moment, to look at the gilded double doors. That room holds the fate of Thedas. I though and smiled. ‘Do you like the palace, inquisitor?’ Gaspard asked when I looked back to him.

‘It is,’ I considered my next word carefully, ‘impressive.’ I went for.

He flushed with pleasure and began to tell me the detailed and sordid history of the building and the events that had taken place within the walls. He guided me through the double doors and along a corridor, and yet up more stairs. I felt his passion radiating from his words, but too many intrusive thoughts fought for superiority in my mind that I didn’t hear his history lecture.

Gaspard brought me to sort of railing, overlooking a sunken ballroom floor. A gentleman approached who gave me an almost mocking bow. Gaspard removed his arm from my hold and disappeared from my view, descending into the pit.

I looked down at the sapphire polished floor below, the sunken pit which I would cross. I was to be seen and judged by the mocking unmoving masked faces. I took the stairs, mother Mythal be with me, great lady who rose from the sea to save the sun, be with me. I keep my arms at my sides, and I could feel my hands itch to reach up and touch my vallaslin. My feet touched the blue and I half expected to be swallowed by it. Even the walls of the pit were draped with great swaths of dark blue cloth, like waves of a great ocean, threatening to drag me under if I wasn’t careful. I heard voices around me but blocked them out. I walked slowly, carefully, one foot in front of the other. Do not faulter, do not let them smell fear. I could only hear the drumming in my ears, the tightness of my chest. How many years had I been walking? I saw the Empress then, or at least the woman I assumed was the Empress. Stood with her head raised, dressed almost modestly in matching sapphire blue, behind her glittered a golden sun. What irony, Mythal, that I must emerge from this sea to meet this sun-queen?  I gave her a practised bow, she inclined her head just.

Finally, I was the other stairs, I noticed Leliana had move to flank my left and Josephine on my right, I didn’t look back, I just hoped the others were behind me.

‘Lady Inquisitor,’ the Empress said, her voice softer than I had been expecting. ‘We welcome you to the Winter Palace.’ She turned slightly with her hand out, and a lady in gold stepped forward. ‘Allow us to present our cousin, The Grand Duchess of Lydes, without whom this gather would never have been possible.’

The Grand Duchess bowed deeply at the compliment, but turned to me, ‘What an unexpected pleasure, I was not aware the inquisition would be a part of our festivities.’ She titled her head, I suspected without the mask she would have given me a disapproving look.

The Empress spoke again, her hand moving softly as she spoke almost like a metronome, keeping her words in time. ‘Your arrival at court is like a cool wind on a summer’s day.’ Then she paused allowing me to speak.

‘Let us hope,’ I give up a silent prayer of thanks that my voice did not faulter, ‘that the soft breeze does not herald a tempest.’  

‘Even the wisest mistake fair winds for a foul, we are at the mercy of the skies.’ Her words surprise me, almost pious. I realise with a jolt that she will have briefed on me, as much as I have on her. I wonder what she thinks she knows of me. ‘Inquisitor, how do you find Halamshiral?’

The word rips through me like she’s stabbed me, I fight to keep my emotions from my face. ‘My words will not be able to do it justice,’ I say, hoping that it will suffice.

She gives me a smile from under her half-mask. ‘Your modesty does you credit and speaks well for the Inquisition. Please, feel free to enjoy the pleasures of the ballroom,’ she gives another graceful wave of her hand. ‘We look forward to watching you dance.’

I give her another practised bow, to hide my face for a moment. I understand now why the Orlesians wear masks, I wish I could spit at the lot of the them. The Empress steps back, and I know I am dismissed. Leliana steps forward to accompany me up the stairs and out of the pit. ‘A word when you have a moment,’ she whispers so quiet I almost do not catch it.  

As I leave the pit, I sneak another glance at the Empress. Celene is almost milky pale, I doubt the sun-queen spends much time in the sun. She is tall, refined and delicate, she is the beautiful kind of monster.  

Chapter Text

Leliana keeps her arm around mine as we walk back on long the path above the pit, I glance down watching the next victims make their way across the dancefloor. A look behind me reveals that Cullen has already been waylaid by a small following of masked women, red splotches are climbing up his neck. I also noted that Dorian and Solas are absent, where did those two go?

‘What did Gaspard say?’ Leliana muttered to me, once were away from prying eyes and listening ears.

I gave her an unimpressed look, ‘blamed Briala for the whole thing.’

She nodded, but her jaw was tight, ‘the best place to strike Celene would be from her side.’ She takes a moment and her face becomes as mask again, smooth and emotionless. She is a bard again, ready to sing her song. ‘Celene’s new, ‘occult advisor,’ is a woman who I’ve had dealings with in the past. She is ruthless and capable of anything,’ she gave me a small sigh, ‘she appears to have charmed the court and Celene as if by magic. Impressive in the little time she has had since replacing Vivienne.’

‘She replaced Vivienne?’ I spluttered, wondering what kind of woman would dare take up Vivienne’s discarded shoes.

Leliana nodded and glanced around again. ‘Last time I was at Court, she was Celene’s pet and nothing more. No one cared for her, and now she has secured powerful friends.’

‘A suspect?’ I asked.

Leliana gave me a wink, of course. ‘You did well in there,’ she added indicating back with her head towards the ballroom. She put a gentle hand on my shoulder, and she returned to the Ballroom.

 

I stood for a few moments considering my next move, I should go back into the Ballroom and to find Vivienne and find out as much about this mysterious occult advisor who had unnerved Leliana so much. Though, I cannot make my feet take me back into the room with the Empress. I make my decision when I see Dorian at the bottom of the staircase. He looks up at the moment I see him and he gives me a broad smile.

‘Ah, Hellana, how was the Empress?’ He asked when I had made my way down the stairs.

‘Where did you go?’ I hissed, while holding a smile on my face. For the masked onlookers.

He laughed, ‘where else?’ Showing me a mostly full wine glass.

I gave him my first genuine smile of the evening, ‘hipflask.’ The word is formed like a prayer, my hand moves instinctively.

I am stopped as Dorian’s arm is linked through mine, and he moved me through gilded doors into a new room, as splendid as the one before. ‘Seems a little rude, there’s an open bar.’ He sounded practically giddy, I didn’t understand the term, but allowed him to drag me forward anyway.

I caught a glimpse of Solas and paused, pulling away from Dorian for a heartbeat. I was about to go over but noticed that he was speaking with an elven maid. I know I’ve been spending too much time around Vivienne and Josephine as I immediately think her dress is wrong. Odder still, he pulled a folded note from his pocket. She took it with a cutesy and backed away as though he’s some sort of lord. Dorian gives me a huff of impatience and tugged me onwards. Though she walked past me I give her another glance, I know her mask is wrong, the goldwork is poor and the lace embellishment had been stuck on with paste.

Within a few hundred heartbeats a glass of red wine is passed into my hands, and I forget the oddness. I take a sip and I feel something resembling normal. Maybe I am drinking too much, I pushed the thought away angrily, I will consider my drinking when the weight of Thedas is not on my shoulders.

‘This reminds me of home,’ Dorian says suddenly, breaking me away from my thoughts, ‘all this dancing, politics and murder. I am almost homesick.’

‘Murder?’ I query.

He takes a breath and spreads his arms grandly, sloshing wine on the floor. ‘The night is still young.’

‘I knew I would find you here.’ Vivienne’s words cut through the air. ‘Do try to not to ruin the rug.’ She added with a flick of annoyance at Dorian.

‘It appears that I been replaced. By an apostate, no less.’ Her tone is almost jovial, but I worried for her wine glass, it might snap in her hands.

‘Official mage to the Orlesian Imperial Court? That sounds terribly dull.’ Dorian said, by way of placating her.

‘It is an esteemed position, darling.’ She straightened her neck, her eyes screaming murder. ‘At least it was.’ Vivienne turned to me, watching me closely, ‘My dear, Ambassador Briala has asked if she may make your acquaintance.’ Then her eyes drifted over my posture, ‘stand up straight, don’t sulk like a child. You did well, you will do well.’ Her glance flicked to Dorian. He gave her a warning glare, challenging her to make a comment.

‘You’ll do.’

‘Always a pleasure Madame.’ He said with a twisted smirk. He raised a glass to us as we left.

 

We walked past a small group speaking in hushed voices together, they stopped speaking the moment that they saw me. But continued as we passed, not even bothering to keep their voices unheard, ‘that’s her.’

‘Did you see the play? The Seven Magisters?’

‘Shocking,’ another gasped.

‘I cannot believe Celene allowed it.’

‘Please, Company de Chalons performed it.’

Vivienne looked to me, her mouth is closed tightly in worry. ‘Hmm, I will let Leliana know.’

‘What does it mean?’ I asked.

She only shook her head in response.

 

From the raised walkway overlook the Pit, I found Cassandra, who pointed me through an open doorway to find Ambassador Briala waiting on a balcony. I took a breath of the night air, I let the moonlight dance on my skin, and felt the presence of the open sky recharging me.

‘Ambassador Briala?’ I asked a few paces back as she had yet to look up.

She tapped a folded note a couple of times on the railing and turned to me, her eyes lighting up behind her half mask. ‘Ah, ‘Ellana, I was hoping to catch you.’

I nodded my head to her, ‘enjoying the evening?’

‘Not as much as I was expecting, something is happening in the servant’s quarters and I have yet to hear word. I fear the worst, but my absence would be noted. Would you consider investigating?’

‘Of course.’ I look at the note in her hands, ‘any news?’

She tucked the note out of side, ‘a message that doesn’t make sense. News from an old friend, but the code is wrong.’ She shakes her head and gives me a smile, ‘nothing for you to worry about.’

‘Oh, talking of worry. Gaspard is worried you have some kind of weapon that will bring down Orlais.’ I tried to strike a conversational tone, but she gives me a glance that makes me question whether it was simply hyperbole.

She gives me a searching look. ‘What have you heard?’

‘He didn’t say anymore,’ I reply honestly, ‘is it the spy network?’

She laughs, a sweet sound, ‘a network of sorts.’

I nodded, let her keep her weapon. The elves needed all the power they could get. I bit the top of my lip. ‘Have you got an answer for me?’ Do you want me to allow the assassination of Empress Celene?

‘Let the bitch die.’

Chapter Text

I wiped the blood off my face with the back of my hand. I glanced down and understood why the jackets were red. ‘Go check out the servant’s quarters, she said, go investigate.’ I muttered under my breath, giving the illusion that I was annoyed. In reality I was almost grateful that we’d been attacked by Venatori, at least no one was making me dance. The servant’s quarters had been a twisting maze of rooms and corridors and I had quickly lost all sense of direction. I was grateful for the momentary respite, in the open air. It was quiet, and we had regrouped on a balcony and I pulled a stolen locket out of my pocket. I recognised the workmanship as elvish, although not Dalish. I turned it over in my hands, why would Celene have stored this in her vault? And why had I taken it? I couldn’t explain my sudden theft, I would return it to Briala. She could have one of her people smuggle it back. I gazed up at the open sky, the moonlight dripped down, but the stars were hidden by the illuminating glow of the Palace.  

 

‘Now it feels like a real party,’ Dorian said wiping blood and grim off his hands and storing a looted staff behind a tall bush. He took Solas’ staff and did the same. It would be too suspicious to return to the party with weapons.

Cassandra handed me a hipflask and I could help giving her an appreciative glance. She huffed, ‘it’s water. Your face has run,’

‘My face,’ what?

‘Your lines.’

Of course, the gold paint covering my vallaslin must have smudged. I gave my best attempt at washing my face off, I noted that the water faintly smelt of lemon, ‘better?’

‘Hmmm.’ Cassandra replied, not looking overly happy with my work.

Solas shook his head, removed the silver hat he was wearing and tore the red fabric from it. He discarded the hat in the same pile as the staffs and took the hipflask from me. Pouring water on the fabric he held it out to me. ‘Here,’ He said simply, I took it gratefully, and scrubbed at my face.

In the distance a bell chimed clear and sweet into the night, I glanced around ‘what does that mean?’

‘We’d better get back.’ Cassandra hissed.

 

Cassandra and I raced back to the Ballroom, before we would be locked out. We stopped just sort of the great doors to catch our breath. Cassandra gave me a look, ‘I joined the Seekers to get away from this.’

I gave her a nod, grateful to share the feeling with someone. ‘I understand why.’

‘Dancing,’ she smiled, ‘Andraste protect us.’

We stepped into the Ballroom again, need to find Briala. Seemingly purposelessly, I walked around the edge of the pit, swirling figures below in reds and golds gave me the impression that the sea had burst into flame. I shivered and kept going. Three matching figures approached me, women wearing the gilded mask of House Valmont.

‘Inquisitor Lavellan,’ the one on the right said, making a little cutesy, which the other two followed a moment later.

I gave them an incline of my head in response. The lady on the right glanced to the one in the middle, who took over, ‘We are here to deliver a message to you from the Empress.’

‘Of course,’ I said as smoothly as I could.

The lady on the left spoke up, ‘oh! This is so exciting.’

The middle woman gave her an ill-concealed glance of distain, ‘Empress Celene is eager to help the Herald of Andraste in her holy endeavour.’ Her lips twisted into a sneer, ‘and wishes to pledge full support to the Inquisition, once the usurper Gaspard is disposed.’  

‘She will also punish those responsible for the insult given at the theatre.’ The lady on the right said, turning slightly to indicate she believed the Grand Duke was responsible.

The three then curtsied in a perfect syncretised motion and retreated.

I watched them go, scuttling off to report back I imagined.

 

‘Fancy meeting you here?’ Briala’s voice drifted over to me. ‘Shouldn’t you be dancing inquisitor?’

I kept my face emotionless, ‘there are more important things for the moment.’ I said, a little smile breaking the mask.

‘What have you found?’ She asked.

‘You were right, there was trouble in the Servant’s quarters.’

She nodded, ‘taken care of?’

It was my turn to nod.

She sighed, ‘we’ll be scrubbing blood out of the marble for a month.’

‘Oh,’ I pulled the locket out of my pocket, ‘I found this,’

She cut me off by snatching the locket out of my hands, ‘where did you find this?’

‘Celene’s vault.’

‘Foolish woman,’ she inhaled sharply.

‘What is it?’

‘It’s mine.’ She said, turning away from me slightly. ‘It was mine.’ She corrected.

I looked her over, her shoulders are tightly drawn together. ‘You can learn from Andruil,’ I said soothingly. Softening the typical phrase, giving her the option to retreat, rather than demanding retreat.

I saw her glance up at the sky, and I know that she understood. ‘Learn from Andruil,’ she vocalised so quietly, I think I might not have heard her correctly.

‘Would you like to change your answer?’

She looked down at the locket, then back to me. And finally, she clutched the locket tightly in her hand, giving it back to me. ‘Yes. Show this to Celene.’  

 

On my way to the Empress, I was caught by the Grand Duchess. Of what I could see of her face, she seemed to share more similarities to Celene than Gaspard. ‘Inquisitor Lavellan?’ She asked.

I was unable to prevent a flash of irritation colouring my features, and I saw the Grand Duchess smile, smile like a hunter smiled when they spotted an easy target. ‘Are you any relation to the Lavellans of the Free Marches?’

I gave her a wiry nod, ‘that is my clan.’

‘Interesting,’ she said, in a way that ricocheted through my bones. ‘We met briefly, I am Grand Duchess Florianne.’

I bow my head to her, I know.

‘Welcome to my party.’ She said with an indulgent sigh. Her high collar reminds me of a butterfly’s wing, and an image of her plucking the wings of helpless bugs comes to mind. I push the thought away. ‘It appears that you’ve been very busy this evening.’ She looks me up and down, no doubt noting my ruffled sash and bloodstained jacket. ‘Come, dance with me. No one shall overhear us on the dancefloor.’

She took my hand, and half-lead, half-dragged me to the pit. At the bottom she turned to me, ‘since when have the Dalish developed an interest in politics.’

I take her other hand as the music begins, ‘since we’ve been thrown into the centre of it.’

A coy smile graces the Grand Duchess’ lips. ‘You are a curiosity to many, inquisitor, a concern to others. Do you even know who is a friend and who is a foe?’

I blink, I know my feet are moving, but I didn’t have the Duchess’ long skirts to hide my stumbling steps, I heard the titters from above. I gritted my teeth and tried to focus on seeming graceful.

‘How did you enjoy the play?’

‘What?’ I hissed, accidentally stepping on the hem of her gown.

‘Shame, you didn’t stay until the end.’ She whispered spitefully, she pushed me back to get me off her dress. ‘Do you want to know how it ends?’ She spun me then without warning.

‘No.’ I breath, dizzy and unable to find my footing.

‘You’re kicked out of the city.’ She snarled, tripping me. I fell backward, my head slamming into the polished ballroom floor. I watched, numb as she stepped over me, leaving me there on the floor.

Chapter Text

My head is ringing. I touched my hand to the side of my head, and it exploded under the pressure. The colours are all bleeding into one, and the world looks like the reflections on a pond after someone has thrown a pebble in.

 

Masked gods ask questions. I’m in the forest, the night before they carve the vallaslin onto my face. Eight gods, each a Keeper in disguise. Each ask too many questions, probing and personal. Together they will help me make my choice. The Keeper with the dragon mask embraces me, the choice has been made. I will be given to Mythal, who rose from the sea to save the sun.

 

The image disappears, as callused hand pulled me to my feet. Cullen. He looks worn, dark circles under his eyes and jaw tight in worry. ‘What happened?’ He asked quickly.

I glanced around, the shapes are becoming clearer with each heartbeat. The Empress is watching, the sun piece radiating out from her shoulders. But she wears a frown on her face. I rubbed my eyes, ‘Florianne pushed me,’ I saw with my hand across my mouth to muffle the sound.

‘What?’ He asked, looking behind him. Florianne is halfway out of the pit. ‘Maker’s breath.’ He cursed, turning rough to signal something to the others on the walkway. But as he turned, a masked dancer elbows Cullen in the stomach. He folded in half, eyes tight with the pain.

I stared at the man, wondering why he would do such a thing, who dances away as though he is perfectly innocent. Then I turned, Florianne was making her way to the Empress. I ran, leaving Cullen in the pit. I don’t know how I made my legs move. They run on instinct, some deep primal part of me. Up the steps. I catch Florianne glance back, she walks quicker. Palace guards appear before me to block my path. A guard makes a grab for me, but I ducked, stumbling forward.

I see Florianne approach the Empress, they exchange a whispered word and I see Florianne slide a dagger out of her sleeve. The slim knife shimmers in the candle light.

In a blur I reach Florianne as she is drawn to stab Celene. I push her with all my weight, the knife shoots out across the floor, the tip is red, leaving a sickening splatter of blood.

There is a hand in my hair, trying to rip it out. The Grand Duchess is stronger than me, I reach out for the knife in my boot, but I cannot move my arms. Her nails drag across my neck and I gasp in pain, then she’s hovering above me. I realise she’s been pulled back by two guards. Wretched from the ground her feet kick in the air.

I roll onto my front, pull myself into a crawl and find I am being pulled up, restrained as well. A dangerous silence falls, I cannot look behind me to see if the Empress is dead or alive. Briala pushed past me, a sob in her throat. Despite everything, I must have failed her. I do not resist the restraints placed upon me, I stand still and silent, listening to Florianne’s desperate pleas and promises in exchange for her freedom.

I beg forgiveness of the future, even with forewarning, I was unable to stop this. The heartbeats beat by, and I think of the Last Duties, the final actions that one can perform for their clan. I do not know what my last duty will be, I do not know what last action I will be honoured with. What my clan will think when they plant a tree for me, when they build my marker. I could not protect them. I think bitterly. I wish that my arm was free so that I could touch the woven bracelet on my wrist, or so I could touch my vallaslin again and know somewhere above me the gods know who I am. I will meet them soon-

Celene comes into view, her hand is clasped on her side, but there is less blood that I was expecting. Vivienne is on her right rapidly casting spells knitting her torn flesh back together. Briala is on her left, helping the Empress remain standing. She moves forcefully over to us, and the two women flit around her like butterflies. Celene pulls Florianne’s mask of her face, she throws it skidding across the floor with a clatter. The little sound echos around the room. ‘Why did you do this?’ She asked the Grand Duchess.

Florianne snarls in response, ‘I did it for you, brother.’

Celene slaps her with a bloody hand, a wet smack that I imagine can be heard from the back of the Ballroom. A red print is smeared across Florianne’s face. ‘Arrest the Grand Duke.’ Celene says wearily to the guard next to me.   

‘I did not want this,’ Gaspard protested, loudly from the pit. He does not fight them, only resigns himself to the fact that he has played the Game and lost.

‘Let the Inquisitor go,’ Empress Celene’s firm voice commands. And I am let go so suddenly that I drop to the ground. ‘Take her away,’ Celene gestures to Florianne.

‘You are a thief!’ Florianne’s voice rings out as she is dragged away, ‘you will kneel before Corypheus.’

I can only stare at her dumbfounded. What?

 

Josephine handed me a glass of wine, the Empress was taken into a private room to be patched up and change her torn dress. I can sense the tension in the room as the Court apprehensively waits for their lioness to return.  

‘That sound have gone worst,’ she said with a weak smile. ‘I thought you were doomed when you started dancing.’

‘It isn’t my strong suit,’ I said with a smile that didn’t quite reach my eyes.

Vivienne approached us, her hands still bloody, ‘Inquisitor, the Empress would like to see you.’

I nodded to Josephine and followed her to a private room. Vivienne backs away at the door.

When I approach, the Empress is sitting sipping a cup of tea, her side is bandaged up. She still looked pale, but I couldn’t tell if that was her normal colour or not. Her mask is laid across her lap. She looked a lot younger than I expect, younger than me. Her eyes are pale blue, like the colour of the sky before dusk.

‘Empress,’ I give her by best practised bow.

‘How did you know?’ She asked, looking up her eyes bright and alert.

I looked down, I didn’t, until I saw the knife. ‘Ambassador Briala helped me to uncover the plot.’ My cheeks flushed, but I hoped it would come across as humility rather than the consequences of a bold-faced lie. To cover it, I pull the locket out of my pocket and place it gently down in front of her.

The Empress closed her eyes, then looked up at me sharper than ever, ‘I don’t know why I kept it, it was a foolish thing to do.’

I smile, ‘that is what Ambassador Briala said as well.’

Celene looked me over, ‘she gave it to me for my coronation. It appears that I have let the theatre dictate my policy. I should have dared more, I failed her.’

‘Maybe, you kept it because you still care for her.’ The words are soft and seem to drift across the room slowly.

Celene closed her eyes again, ‘can I put her above all of the people of my empire?’

I stay silent, allowing her question to become rhetorical. I keep my eyes to the ground, but I notice she tucked the locket into her bodice.

‘And you were working together, you said?’

‘Yes,’ I replied as simply as I could. ‘I could not have caught Florianne in time, without her help.’

She took a sip of tea and placed the cup on a little table next to her, ‘the Inquisition has my support.’ She picked up her mask.

‘Will you reward the Ambassador?’ I ask as the mask covers her features.

Her response is covered, and I have no clue as to what she plans. ‘Please enjoy the rest of the ball. You have done so much for me, for Orlais.’

 

As I left the room, Briala passed me, ushered inside in my place, ‘Ambassador?’

She turned to me, pausing for only the moment I needed to pass on the developments. ‘Thank you for helping me uncover the plot.’

‘Of course.’

Chapter Text

A hundred or more masked Orlesians crowded me to find out how the Empress is as I left the private room. I pushed past them, my mind in too much of a blur to consider giving anyone a diplomatic answer. I find Leliana in the throng, and I note that her face is a little flushed.

‘What did Celene have to say?’ She asked as I approached.

I checked around, and at least six people stopped their conversations to listen in. Leliana chuckled and lead me through a double door to an abandoned balcony. The night air was sweet and cool on my face. I reached up to my neck, the scratches stinging slightly. ‘It appears that the Empress will be supporting the inquisition.’

‘That was well played then, no?’

I laughed bitted and pulled the hipflask out. ‘More like a lucky accident.’

‘Even so, it is a cause for celebration.’

I puffed out a breath, too much had happened this evening. Too much. ‘I cannot wait to get back home.’

‘Back to your clan?’ She queried, I am not sure if hear sadness in her voice.

I turned to her, surprising myself. ‘I was actually thinking of Skyhold. What have you done to me?’ I placed my hand across my chest signalling my mock protestations. I rubbed my eyes, ‘I need ten minutes, away from,’ I waved my hand back.

Leliana squeezed my hand gently, ‘of course.’ She shut the glass door behind her.

I looked up at the vast night sky, it appeared that someone was watching after me. I stand straighter, my fingertips gently touching the vallaslin beneath my eyes. I breathed steadily, letting the tension drain away. I think of the dragon-goddess, Mythal, whose actions I instinctively followed tonight. ‘Mythal, all-mother, watching over me. Save me from darkness and I will sing your name to the heavens.’ I repeat the prayer that should be said at dawn. The wind whipped up slightly and I imagine my words are carried to the feet of the goddess, watching from above, imprisoned by not powerless.

I dropped my hands, letting the feeling of numinous wash over me. Wondering briefly what offering could ever be enough to thank her.

I heard the balcony door open, ‘Leliana, give me a little longer.’ I lean down on the balcony, taking another sip from the hipflask.

‘I am not Leliana,’ Solas voice drifted over to me.

I laughed, but I didn’t turn, I wasn’t even really surprised anymore. He did have a habit of turning up in these moments. Instead I gestured for him to come over. ‘I’m only praying.’

He leaned, his back to the railing. ‘You do that a lot.’

I laughed, ‘I never used to be overly devout, but chaos seems to kindle belief.’ I offered him the hipflask. He took it. I briefly consider that I’ve never seen him drink before, I cannot help but turn, wondering what he would be like. I find that I am unable to stop myself watching as he parts his lips to take a sip. Fuck, will he taste of Antivan brandy? I cleared my throat, and he looked over. Blue eyes watching every move.

‘I do adore the heady blend of power, intrigue, danger and sex that permeates these events.’

Creators save me. I looked over to see a slight smile tugging on the corner of his mouth. I’m dizzy, deliciously dizzy, and not really dizzy at all. He knows exactly what he’s doing. I laughed, louder than I meant to, an almost hysterical sound. I feel the blush rising in chest, till it reached the tips of my ears. ‘You’re actually enjoying this place.’ I managed to say, look at the garden.

He takes a deep breath, sucking in the air through his teeth, ‘I had forgotten how much I loved this.’

I glance across again, ‘you’ve been at court before?’ Stop being coy, I told myself sternly.

‘Ah,’ I noted that his expression flickered for a moment, like a candle touched for a moment by the wind. ‘Never directly, of course,’ he takes my hand and pulled me to face him. ‘Dance with me?’

With my free hand, I pulled my hair back from my neck, ‘I still have scars from the last dance.’

Solas ignores me and put his hand on my waist, pulling me so close we were pressed together. ‘Come now, before the music ends.’ His breath is hot on my ear.

‘I can’t dance,’ I laughed breathlessly as he tries to lead me with small steps. I look down, trying to see the movements and where to go.

‘I can, look up.’ He commanded. And I did, ‘see.’ He said, a grin on his face.

He dips me suddenly and I squeal in delight and grip onto him. He lightly kissed the scratches on my neck, and I hiss at the sudden sparks that trail down my skin. When I’m righted again, I pulled away from his grasp and wrapped my hands around his neck. I reached up on tip-toes to kiss him. He does taste of brandy. Sweet and smoky. His arms wrapped around me in return, pulling me ever closer. I moaned into his mouth and he pulled back. ‘Scandalous, Inquisitor.’

I laughed, he’s probably right, and bit my bottom lip gently, ‘let them talk.’ I let a hand fall, till it rests on his chest, ‘I’m sure there are plenty of dark corners, let them really talk.’

It took him a heartbeat to understand exactly what I was implying, but a smirk spread across his face when it did, ‘what an interesting proposal,’ his voice was husky. His fingers gripped my hips tightly, then they loosen all at once and my body protests the sudden loss of his touch.

The door glass door opened with a scrap across the tilted floor. I don’t try to stop the huff of annoyance that leaves me. I think briefly that I am going to strangle whoever comes through that door.

‘Morrigan please.’ I heard Leliana’s frustrated voice snap behind me.

‘Well, well, what have we here.’ An unfamiliar mocking voice says.

I dropped my hands and step back from Solas, I hope that my face matches his as his features are dripped with fury. He takes a step back, ‘the offer still stands.’ I said to him.

He looked back at me, his eyes dark dip down to look at my lips and then back to my eyes. He nodded and retreated back into the Ballroom, a look passing between him and Leliana as he does so.

I crossed my arms, and grumpily turn to the intruder. I give her a disinterested look. Her bodice is too tight and forces her breasts upwards, that combined with a large necklace seems to act as an arrow straight towards her cleavage. Though I realise, that might be the point.

‘Who are you?’

Chapter Text

‘Who are you?’ I asked the woman, my armed across my chest. My annoyance was barely concealed, and yet she seemed to take it in good humour.

‘I appear to have disturbed you.’

Leliana gave me a warning look from behind her, and I had a sneaking suspicion who this woman would turn out to be. What had Leliana called her? The arcane advisor? The occult advisor? ‘It’s fine.’ I said.

‘The Leader of the new Inquisition,’ her voice was smoky and seemed to fill up the space between us. ‘fabled herald of the faithful.’ Though from her lips it sounded like a criticism. ‘They are making drunken toasts to your victory, do you tire of them so quickly, Inquisitor? Tis fickle, after all of your efforts.’

‘Fickle?’ I chuckled, ‘hardly. I came out for air.’ A blush stained my cheek and I hated myself for it, it had been true.

She gave me a sharp look, matched with a coy smile that made me very aware of exactly what she’d walked in on. ‘Air? Well, don’t let me interrupt your… breathing.’

I closed my eyes for a moment. Mother Mythal get me through this madness! I turned from her resting my arms on the railings too look over the gardens. The stone was cold and soft against my skin. ‘You already have.’ My words were quiet, but not cruel.

Morrigan laughed, ‘indeed.’ She conceded. ‘Tis a sorry reward for such an exulted creature.’ She moved her hands to her hips and tilted her head in a way to chastise me, her eyes raked across me.

I frowned at her use of the word ‘exalted’. I didn’t know if it was simply an Andrastian honorific or a disdainful reference to my Dalish heritage? I spun back to face her, but she didn’t eye my vallaslin as I expected. ‘I know who I am, I asked who you were.’ I supressed a scowl, ‘I take it you are the Occult Advisor?’  

Her foot tapped lightly, impatiently on the ground. ‘Some do call me that.’ She paused, ‘I am Morrigan.’ She announced proudly, and I exchanged a glance with Leliana.

Was I supposed to know who she was? I gave her a nod as though I did, ‘and, so do you have any occult wisdom to impart?’ I asked, trying to sound genuinely curious.

A cunning smile split across Morrigan’s face, ‘I know many things.’

‘I see.’ I said softly, sharing another look with Leliana behind me. How useful. Leliana seemed to be having trouble keeping her face straight.

‘Celene wishes to give you all and any aid including mine.’ Morrigan said grandly, her arms spread as she spoke.

Leliana interrupted with a quick bitter laugh, ‘you would wish to join the inquisition?’

Morrigan rounded on her, the feathers on her shoulder fluttered helplessly and I had the image of a bird flapping desperately to escape the jaws of a hungry cat, ‘My personal interest is irrelevant, an assignment has been given to me.’ She turned back to me, ‘your opponent wields great magical power, you will require my knowledge to defeat such magic.’ Her spine stretched as she spoke, making herself taller. I was completely unsure what to make of this woman.

‘Fortune telling?’ That sort of rubbish?’ Leliana scoffed stepping forward to be more involved in the conversation, ‘Morrigan, you cannot be serious.’

‘I know many obscure, forgotten and forbidden arts. Surely, it behoves you to add to your arcane arsenal.’ Morrigan spoke, her voice suddenly a whisper. Her eyes never left my face. She held the pose for a long moment and then glanced to Leliana her eyes squinting slightly. ‘Beyond that, it is Celene’s wish.’

Leliana glanced at me, then smoothed her face beneath her invisible mask to acknowledge the defeat of the verbal battle I’d only just that moment realised we’d been having. ‘Very well, meet us at Skyhold within the month.’

‘A most gracious response,’ Morrigan declared giving Leliana a wink, ‘tis good to see you again, Leliana.’ She raised a hand to lightly brush Leliana’s cheek.

‘I am glad that you’ve finally learned how to dress.’ Leliana retorted pulling away sharply from her touch.

Morrigan opened the door, letting the music and voices spill into the night. The glass door slammed such and silence reigned again.  

‘Cruel, cruel bitch.’ Leliana snarled under her breath.

‘How do you know her?’ I asked, curiously.

‘We,’ she paused finding the right words, ‘worked together during the fifth blight. She was just as charming back then.’ Leliana’s mask fell down with a mighty silent crash and the full force of her distain for Morrigan became clear, ‘Her motivation is greed, that she believes to be a thirst for knowledge. She will mine you till all that remains is ash. She’s a monster, Andraste forgive us, she had us kill her mother.’

‘What?’ I gasped blinking at her in horror.

Leliana looked up but did not meet my eyes. She then shook her head. ‘I am led to believe that her mother survived, yet, the sorry affair was all so that Morrigan could steal a book from her. Do not under estimate Morrigan’s ruthlessness.’

I nodded, absorbing the new information. And then I considered her barely concealed hostility to me, ‘do you think I did something to offend her?’ I asked after a couple hundred heartbeats.

‘She is faithless, it must be difficult for her to see the herald raised so high,’ Leliana smiled, ‘that and you have taken her from her treasured place at court.’

I shook my head, to deny both accusations. And Leliana raised her hand to show me I didn’t need to protest, and she understood. ‘I will keep her closely watched at Skyhold.’

I nodded grateful, then I shook my head, ‘I’d better get back to the toasts in my honour.’ I stood, steeling myself to return to the golden room with the pit in the centre.

‘Hellana,’ Leliana gave me a measured look, and then gave me a sly smile, ‘I believe that the library would be disserted.’

Chapter Text

I snuck through the heavy door to the library. It was dark, and clearly off limits. What am I doing? I thought desperately as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw just how large the room was, bookcases lined every wall and full of desks. I suspected that it could comfortably fit two ballrooms in. I took a breath to steady the nervousness that threatened to bubble up in my chest. Be brave, little hare.

The brandy still burned in the throat and I was deliciously warm. I chastised myself lightly at the foolhardiness of my question, but couldn’t help the rush of giddy excitement that coursed through my veins. It was dangerous, but dangerous on my terms. My footsteps echoed lightly against the shelves of leather-bound tomes as I moved further into the room. I was definitely alone, I lend against one of the heavy wooden desks to wait, and then jumped up, swinging my legs impatiently. A few whispered words with Leliana was apparently all it took to arrange this madness. She had been surprisingly unfazed by helping me set up a tryst. Time ticked by achingly slowly until at last the door cracked opened.

A sliver of light darted across the polished floor and was gone a heartbeat later. A heartbeat of blinding darkness, and for a split second had a horrible thought that Leliana might have betrayed me. Yet, I could make out a figure that I knew intimately. ‘Solas.’

‘Hellana?’ He asked, drawing nearer.

I felt utterly intoxicated, and I was almost completely sure it had nothing to do with anything I’d drunk. Creators preserve me, this was going to happen.

‘Our spymaster gave me quite a garbled message,’ he paused, worried eyes raking across me, ‘are you hurt?’

I waved a flippant hand, lighthearted brushing off his concern, ‘I believe she was just correcting a past mistake.’ Be brave, I spread my arms grandly indicating to the library, ‘a little better than a dark corner, you think?’ My words sounded husky to me, and I drew upon the confidence acquired by brandy.

‘Ah,’ he stopped in front of me,his hands on my knees. He gave me a searching look, his eyebrows knitted together uncertainty, ‘you want this?’

Gods, yes. I had to laugh at the incredulous look on his face, and I moved my knees apart. ‘Sweet man, I want you.’ I clarified. I cursed the darkness, I wanted to trace the constellations in his freckles.

It took him a moment to respond, but then the sense of urgency became apparent, his hands moved to my hips and my legs crossed behind him pulling him closer. His fingers tightened, sliding me forward on the table. I clenched my fists into his jacket. I could feel his heart frantically beating under the velvet, Good gods, he smells of copper. I realised with a little shock that he was still splattered with the blood of my enemies. I closed my eyes, a little moan in the back of my throat.

Hips together, although clothed, I could feel his cock straining against his trousers. It had been over a month of lingering glances and stolen kisses, I let my impatience ripple through me, not sure I could be persuaded to wait another moment. My arms wrapped around his neck, pulling his down to kiss him fiercely.

I broke away, panting, then leaned back, so my mouth traced the line of his jaw. ‘Do you want this?’ I echoed his words.

Incoherent, but positive sounds drifted down from above, which I took as consent and began fumbling at our clothes. Despite my bravado on to the topic, the thought of being discovered prevented us from taking much off. My trousers ended up pulled tight against my thighs, pushed only as far down as the high boots would allow. I giggled at the ridiculousness of the situation as we had to stop to pull the hidden daggers out of my clothes.

Solas bit my neck and licked the mark, the hot breath on my skin making my back arch.

I pulled back, both arms around his neck, I licked my lower lip, ‘it feel like I’ve just come of age, sneaking out for the first time.’

He grinned, ‘Hellena,’ he whispered like he was sharing a secret with me, ‘we are sneaking about.’

I rolled my eyes, then tried to push myself onto him, but the angle was wrong, ‘what are you waiting for?’ I demanded playfully, ‘take me already.’

His eyes went dark for a moment but thankfully he did as he was bid. He sank into me and my hands could only flutter uselessly behind his back. ‘Good gods,’ I hissed. I rocked forward, desperately trying to increase the friction.

Solas fingers dug into my hips, I was sure I would find my hips speckled with fingerprint bruises in the morning. A stream of elvish dripped from his lips and I maybe understood every tenth word. I cursed how little I knew, but the music of his words sang across my skin. I shivered with pleasure.

My hands flew behind my head, sending books and papers clattering to the floor. I pushed roughly against the smooth wood of the desk, wanting, needing to respond in kind. I reached up, grabbing his collar pulling him down to bite at his lip. He hissed into my mouth, and jumped his hands up from my hips to keep his balance. Flames burned in my belly and if I hadn’t know any better, I would have thought he was casting fire.

Please,’ I begged, clawing at his hips, his back everything I could reach. Then he stilled, and it took me a moment to work out why. I clung to him not wanting it to be over, I gasped in horror as he pulled out of me. Within a heartbeat, he was lying on my side, and his fingers softly stroking my clit. It was not over.

Painter’s hands, the errant thought fluttering across my mind and I felt my skin burn more than I had when he was in me. I knew that I will not last long. Good gods, I thought again, unable to come up with a more suitable prayer. I clutched at his skin, unable to control my trembling motions. It feels as though every muscle in my body becomes taught, ‘ good gods’ I whispered again, utterly too far gone to think of anything new. I held onto Solas like a woman drowning, and I do not let go.

Even once the waves have dissipated, I am unprepared to let go. I don’t know at what point I closed my eyes, but I open them again to see him watching me with dark eyes.

‘We should get back.’ He said reasonably after a long moment.

‘Absolutely not,’ I retort, the very idea was abhorrent to me.

He begins to pull back, but I only cling. ‘Hellana,’ he smirks.

I blinked, desperate to find any way to make him stay, at least for another moment. I nuzzled into his chest. ‘Consider it a command,’ I murmured into the thick fabric still covering his chest.

He chuckles but allows me to soak in the moment.

Chapter Text

I woke with a bolt, panic drenched through my bones. I tried to sit up, but found I was being held down my sleepily, clingy arms. It’s dark, pitch black and I realise I might have fucked up. I feel the looming bookcases mocking me. How long have we been here?

‘Hellana?’ Solas’ groggy voice asked from somewhere to the right of me.

‘We need to go,’ I hissed.

He sighed, ‘go where?’ And tried to pull me back to the bed. Bed? I didn’t remember leaving the Winter Palace, but I silently thanked the gods I was no longer there. The memory was starting to come back to me, we had returned separately. I had been forced to make painful small talk with a number of costumed Orlesians. I rubbed my eyes, I had survived the Winter Palace.

From the sunbeams floating carelessly through the double windows, I guessed that it was mid-afternoon when I woke again.

‘You’re not in the Winter Palace.’ A slightly groggy voice said from besides me.

I turned to find Solas, watching me with one eye open. We were wrapped up together in the borrowed bed in Vivienne’s apartment. ‘I realise that,’ I began.

‘You’ve woken me up four times to tell we have to leave.’ His voice betrayed only the slight hint of annoyance.

‘Ah, I’m sorry.’ I whispered, feeling guilty.

‘We should have been more careful.’ He said sharply, not quite meeting my eyes.

So that’s how we’re going to talk about it . ‘More careful?’ I repeated, tasting the words, feigning ignorance.

‘Yes.’ A quick, snapped word and I wonder where this change in temperament has come from. ‘It was dangerous, and I should not have indulged you.’

I ran my tongue over my teeth, ‘what?’

‘Do you know if you need blood lotus infusion, I realise that there is a time period.’

‘What?’ I repeated, this time utterly confused.

He growled lightly and threw an arm over his eyes, ‘I will try to speak to you again when you’re actually awake.’

I could only stare, blood lotus infusion , I’d heard of such a thing of course, a particularly bitter drink with a fortunate side effect of curing mistakes of passion I heard echo from the depths of my memory in Dirthanna’s preachy voice. It had never mattered, I’d never drunk it. I’d never needed it.

‘Why would I need,’ I broke off suddenly, he didn’t know. I laughed without meaning too, earning a scowl. What a situation to find myself in , the gods really must be laughing at me! ‘It isn’t necessary.’ I tried for lighthearted, from his look it was definitely the wrong tone to have struck. I sobered and tried again, ‘it is never necessary.’

He huffed the disapproval practically dripping off him. ‘So you wish to be careless, and,’

I cut him off, ‘I cannot have children.’ I snapped angrily. Angry that the conversation had spiralled out of control rather than angry that the conversation was happening at all.

He froze, surprised. ‘I apologise,’ he said eventually. I could see the revelation settling in his mind. I watched him come to terms with it. Surprisingly easily. I had made my peace with childlessness years ago. There had been some in my clan who whispered mocking about the misfortunes that had befallen me, but Dirthanna has silenced them and they had not begun again once Deshanna became Keeper. I had told some previous partners, and others I had no reason to tell, but most of those I had told had not reacted well.

‘Is it common among the Dalish?’ Solas queried, sounding calm.

‘Not uncommon,’ I replied as honestly as I could, though in truth I couldn’t speak for any other clan.

His jaw tightened. Maybe not that easily.

Don’t worry about it, it’s not your fault. Just something that happens.’

He took an unshaky breath. ‘I did not know.’ He looked hurt, reminding me of an injured halla.

‘What do you mean?’ I scoffed playfully, desperately trying to lighten the tone. ‘There was hardly a reason to discuss it before now, and it’s like I enjoy talking about the decay and death of our people!’

‘Our people? I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

I smiled, watching for a punchline that didn’t come.

‘Oh yes, the elves .’ He sneered the word like a curse and I felt the smile drop off my face. Fury rose in my gut and for a heartbeat I considered hitting him. I did not.

‘Get out.’ I whispered instead, letting all my fury poison my words.

He glanced surprised at my sudden change of mood. ‘Wh.’

‘You heard me.’ I repeated, cupping his cheek for bittersweet emphasis. ‘I said get out lethallin.’ I used the archaic pronunciation, the one he used on that damned mountain. His face tightens, I don’t know if it’s because I’ve thrown his words of kinship back at him, or if it’s because it’s not a term that anyone would use for their lover.

He nods. Eyes dark, a twisted expression of too many emotions fighting on his face.

I closed my eyes, I don’t want to watch him leave. I feel sick in my stomach that I might have just ended everything, but I knew in my soul I could never have accepted myself if I had let those words go unanswered.

The moments trickle by, and he growled lightly causing me to look across. He racked a hand across his scalp. ‘Forgive me, Hellana. It has been too long since I cared for anyone.’

I rubbed at my eyes, Cared, the word ripped through me like an arrow. I took a moment to collect myself, it’s hardly romantic, I scolded myself. ‘You have a funny way of showing it.’

He nodded again, like he was accepting this defeat. I looked to the uncurtained window. The sun was making its way out from behind a cloud, spilling sunlight down. Save the sun, beautiful things should be fought for. ‘Solas,’ I said as his hand was on the door handle, be brave, ‘You’re forgiven.’

He tilted his head, then nodded for the third time and left me.

I lay back in the bed, creators preserve me! I rolled over, feeling a sob wretch up in my throat and hugged a pillow tight. It smelt of him. I threw the pillow across the room.

I stood, snatching up the robe de chambre and wrapped it tightly around me. I didn’t want to see the faint fingerprint bruises that dotted my hips. I didn’t want to think about how good I’d felt only a few minutes before. The gods are laughing at you Hellana!

I sat in the large chair by the window, tucking my legs underneath me. I had to consider the next course of action. By rights, I should be dressing and going down to the garden to give offerings of thanks to Mythal for getting me back out through the gilded doors. Although, I couldn’t quite bring myself to leave, if I left whatever had been between Solas and I was over. Gone like the leaves in Winter. Could I risk it?

I glanced back to the window and down, my left hand clutching hard at my wrist where my woven bracelet would normally be. I pulled my hand away and it pulses green gently, and I drop it. I note that the mark has stopped shooting pain through my bones, within the last week, as though whatever stolen magic it is that has taken up residence is becoming familiar with me. Be brave, the ever constant voice reminded me. I stood, and dressed. The gods would wait for no woman.

Chapter Text

When I got the roof terrace, I wanted to hit something or scream. Maybe cry. I put down the little cup of water that I had brought and leaned against the railing looking over the roof-tops of Halamshiral. I am Dalish, I thought furiously, I will not submit, not to the shem and not to your damned taunts. The sun was bright, and the sky unclouded. I could see over the low part of the city, they submitted. The cruel part of my mind reminds me, back when the Dales were independent.

I rubbed my eyes. Kinship. Such a little word, such a complicated concept. One I always used as a promise, I had spoken such to Fiona and done everything in my power to keep her people safe. I even said the same to Briala and helped her up the Orlesian ladder of power. And yet, when Solas had gone back on it. Maybe the Inquisitor was kin, but not me? Whatever his aims the inquisition had been saved by his actions. I sighed, the mess of motives was starting to make my head hurt. I rubbed my eyes, I could only move forward.

 

I went through the motions that I have done since I was a child, the old motions calmed the raging tempest of thoughts. I raised the small cup of water upward into the air, ensuring that I did not spill any of the cool water. Then I brought it back down again. I placed it gently on the ground in front of me and touch my fingertips to the lines under my cheeks. I said the words that must be spoken, to placate Mythal, the dragon-faced lady, and to offer my thanks for her help getting me out of the Winter Palace. I sat for a long moment, soaking in the sun. It was good to be back, to be outside again. I would have giving my right arm for a tree to sit under, to feel the twisted bark behind my back, for the grounding reassurance that life continued. It left like a half a lifetime had passed since I was in this spot sparring with Cassandra.

I straightened my back, about to get up when I noticed my woven bracelet was slightly frayed. I tucked the offending thread back to its correct place, it had been a beautiful day like this when I had been given it by the Hunters, the day before I had left the clan.

My finger touching the longest thread, the thread given by Jilna. Little, sweet Jilna. I smiled at the thought. She was the newest of our little group and the night I left she had tears in her eyes. It was the first time Jilna had taken a part in the Weaving Ritual, where each of the Hunters each blindly pulled a thread, the shortest one would take on the quest set by the Keeper. The longest threads were woven together as a charm, to hand over their ‘better luck’ and as an insurance that the hunters would be reunited. Jilna had been first to pick her thread, with the marks of Ghilan’nain still fresh on her face, she had hesitated before pulling a thread. I remember glancing at Sil and I silently knew in that moment that if she had picked the shortest one then one of us would have taken her place. She pulled the longest thread and we shared a breathed a sigh of relief.

I smiled to myself, I missed Sil, though I’d never let him know. My finger hovered over the middle thread. We had always been close. He was reckless, quick with a joke and destructively loyal. The shock of brilliant white hair had given him the name Silver, ever shortened to Sil so much that his birth name had become long forgotten. He had taken the asymmetrical twisted flame vallaslin of Sylaise, in honour of the grandmother we’d shared.

The last thread belonged to Vael, easily the wisest of our clan. Aloof and independent, she had a knack for climbing and could often be found in the trees over our camp. Watching down from above with bright eyes. She had taken on the task of weaving the bracelet for me, and she was the one who gave it to me. ‘Come back to us.’ She’d whispered to me under the open sky, a request for me and a prayer at the same time.

I missed them deeply, the separation ached liked I’d lost a limb. I blinked and picked up the little offering cup and poured the contents into the nearest flower pot, disposing of the offering before it could become spoiled. As I did so I noticed that Josephine had been patiently waiting for me to finish. I flushed, a little embarrassed that I’d forced her to wait. ‘I didn’t realise you were there.’ I said quickly.

She shook her head, ‘I did not wish to disturb your devotions.’

Devotions and reminiscences. I gave her a smile to acknowledge how far we’d come, Josephine never questioned my rituals, but also didn’t disrespect them. Which only made me like her more. This afternoon she was wearing her hair piled up on top of her head, and I noticed the slightest shadow under her eyes to mark the lateness of the hour that she’d gone to bed at. She straightened her clipboard, a signal that this wasn’t an informal meeting. ‘There are reports of unrest in the Exalted Plains,’

My heart beat in my ears and I interrupted her without meaning to. ‘I have always wanted to see Dirthavaren.’

Her eyes flicked to my face from her notes, ‘yes, the Promise, it has been the backdrop of the fighting during the civil war, but it appears that the news of Gaspard’s defeat has done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of those fighting there. Celene has asked us to send a delegation to see if we can smooth over any tensions.’

‘How long will it delay us getting back to Skyhold?’ I queried.

‘A quick detour not longer than a week or so.’

I nodded. ‘Have you heard anything back from Wycome?’ I asked distracted.

Josephine shook her head, ‘nothing yet unfortunately.’

I frowned, ‘so when do we leave?’

Josephine shuffled some papers, ‘tomorrow or the day after?’

‘The day after,’ I decided. Undisturbed sleep would be good.

Once we had worked out the rest of the details she left me again.

 

I sat in the afternoon sun, hopeful of what the future was going to bring. I could barely contain my excitement that I would be going to Dirthavaren. As far as I knew, no one from our clan had visited Dirthavaren in three generations, or the Promise as Josephine had translated. The land that was the birthplace of the Dalish. I knew that after the escape from Tevinter, the land had been gifted to the elves by the grateful Andrastrians. It was a land where the idea of the Dalish developed, where my ancestors had tried to reclaim the lost knowledge of Elvhenan. The dream of a place where we could once again be free from shem interference. Yet in just three hundred years, the shem had stolen it back. The elves would not submit to the shem again, became scattered across Thedas, becoming the Dalish.  

I knew logically that all that was left in the Promise was scattered bones and dreams. But my forebear, Lavellan, the Emerald Knight who had given their name to our clan had once stood there. Maybe one of the trees would belong to them. I wanted nothing more than anything to see the land for myself, and I smiled, Sil would foam at the mouth with jealousy when I told him I’d been there.

Chapter Text

The departure from Vivienne’s apartment in Val Royeaux was not at all the happy, victorious departure I’d been expecting. It was a solemn march out of the city as we resumed our duties. We had divided into two groups as Leliana had wanted to rush back to sort out the situation with the spy, and so Josephine and Cullen had gone with her directly back to Skyhold. Josephine had argued that her talents would serve us better in her office than on the field and Cullen although the stab wound had been magically knitted together, he need a real rest to recuperate. I had wanted to properly speak to Leliana before she left, but she was a silent mess of guilt and worry, and I was unable to get more than a few words through to her. So, they parted from us at the city gates.

Leaving the five of us to continue onto the Promise. A few weeks ago, I had never though that I would actually be happy to see Betsie again, but as I climbed into the saddle, I felt a sense of lightness. My bow was back across my shoulders where it belonged and wearing my cut out Dalish armour, I almost felt like myself. Yet, whatever joy I felt was damped by my companions.

I was hardly speaking more to Solas, we had become painfully, perfectly careful. No more careless touches or lingering glances. The emptiness stretched between us. I still felt the sting of his words acutely, the sudden, unexpected betrayal. When I looked at him, my insides turned icy as his cold blue eyes. I’d had a thousand clues of his disdain for the Dalish and yet. What had I expected? I didn’t listen and then had been shocked by his words. And Dorian and Cassandra were hardly any better, something had upset Dorian the night of the Ball and he snapped and snarled whenever I tried to speak to him. Cassandra was her usual cheerful self, she rode with a scowl carved on her face. I almost wondered if it would have been better to have sent her with the other group. She acknowledged me when necessary and I wondered what I could have done to offend her so badly.

 

So, I found myself riding next to Vivienne in the early afternoon, when we were far away from Halamshiral. The group had broken apart as soon as we were away from the city, just close enough to keep in sight in case of trouble, but each allowed their mounts to find their own paths. Vivienne had broken the unspoken agreement and had pulled alongside me.

‘Darling, are you still brooding?’ She asked.

I flicked her a playful annoyed glance, ‘I am not brooding.’ I was brooding.

‘Come along, your dancing was not that bad.’ She paused, adjusting the horned headdress she insisted on wearing even into battle. ‘I can teach you if you like?’

I smiled, but shook my head, ‘A most kind offer, but,’ I sighed, ‘if you ever find me on a ballroom floor it will be too soon.’

‘My dear, I had no idea you would be that terrible!’ She laughed, knocking back her head, ‘though it did appear to all work out in the end.’

I nodded and wrapped the reigns around one hand so my free hand could briefly touch the lines beneath my eyes. Thank the creators, it did work out well in the end. I remembered the day I’d inadvertently interrupted her speaking with her contract. ‘No one offered me oranges in the end.’ I commented.

She nodded, her eyes dazzling, a smile tugging at her lips, ‘shame. You could have dazzled with politeness.’

I was extremely grateful that Vivienne was still speaking to me, ever graceful, ever constant Vivienne. I knew exactly why they called her the Lady of Iron, and yet she was unfailingly kind to me. I hope that I don’t disappoint her. ‘Will you miss the court?’ I asked after a few heartbeats.

I noticed her hands tighten on her own reigns, ‘I shall miss Bastien,’ her voice was wistful.

‘He’s more than welcome at Skyhold.’

She gave me a sad smile, ‘he’s unwell my dear, I fear the cold would make him worse.’

Ir abelas,’ I said quickly, ‘I am sorry,’ I repeated, translating instinctively. ‘I didn’t know.’

She straightened on her mount and gave me a quick smile. ‘The Maker will watch over him while I am gone.’

I gave her a nod and a glance at the open sky. Creators watch over him too. The Duke had quite a few years on Vivienne, but they were so perfectly matched that it was barely noticeable. I felt a stab of guilt at tearing them apart. ‘If you’d rather be with him,’ I began.

She laughed, ‘of course I would, but I believe you need me, my dear.’

I gave her a grateful smile, I did need her.

‘Where did you disappear off to the other night? Some nasty little gossip was suggesting you were getting off with a servant, I had to,’

‘Not a servant.’ I interrupted, instinctively and she snapped her gaze to me.

I saw her tasting my words, and watched the pieces fall into place. She raised her eyebrows at me, and I looked away. Focus on looking forward. I told myself.

She tutted, ‘well, I suspect it was bound to happen, all those lingering looks between you and our Solas.’

I clenched my jaw. Flashed her a little glare.

‘You don’t seem happy about it.’ She added slowly, carefully.

I shifted in the saddle, ‘some things were said, things that shouldn’t have been said.’

She didn’t reply for a long moment. Her horse whinnied and she gently patted the side of the horse’s face, ‘it’s alright, girl.’ She said softly. After a few minutes in companionable silence, Vivienne turned back to me. ‘My dear, the are still quite a few Circles that are willing to take on apostates.’

I gave her a blank look.

‘I could write, if you wish to simply get rid of the problem.’

My eyes widened in shock, and I realised she was perfectly sincere. ‘No,’ I said quickly. Only Vivienne would suggest such a thing. I appreciated that Vivienne believed she was being kind to me, giving me an easy way out of any trouble. But, I would not subject Solas to that life, no matter what heartless words he threw at me. I would not answer betrayal with betrayed. I tried to smile, keep my words clear, ‘that wouldn’t do at all.’ I answered.

She gave me a knowing look, and I realised it was a test. I wasn’t sure if I’d passed or not until she laughed breathlessly. ‘Of course not, darling, we have no idea when we shall require another dull lecture on the fade.’ She raised an eyebrow at me.   

I covered my laugh with my hand and glanced around nervously. Solas was well out of earshot, thank the gods. I licked my lip, unsure what to say.

She tilted her head to me conspiratorially, ‘a peculiar one, so much knowledge and so little personal history.’

I nodded and sighed, once again I asked myself what I really knew about the man. I knew what he’d done for me, the traitorous part of my mind argued back. ‘His actions speak loudest.’ I said with a slight smile, feeling a little warm.

She gave me a nod, as though she didn’t quite agree.  

His actions speak loudest, piss! I was a damned fool.

Chapter Text

I took my first steps into the Exalted Plains, stepping carefully over the ancient broken tiles. My hand ran along the crumbling soft stone, it was faintly cool to the touch. We followed an ancient path through a rocky tunnel, in places it was so low that we’d been forced to dismount. I walked leading Betsie behind me. Following the ancient path had set a stone in my stomach. I desperately wished that Sil was with me. He would have laughed at my apprehension and raced ahead, calling out all the wonders that he’d found and that I was missing.

‘Camp should be ahead.’ Cassandra said, making me jump and bringing me back to the moment, ‘Scout Harding said she would set up a camp for us on the Path of Flame.’

Her words sent a shudder through me and I looked down at the broken tiles. The Path of Flame. I imagined them getting hotter, I imagined the echoing footfalls of the Andrastian army storming through to reclaim the Promise, swords out, touches lit. On the other side, the ancient Dalish making their last stand before they were scattered. I touched the woven bracelet on my wrist, calling the Hunters to me in spirit. The rock began to raise sharply away, and for a moment I was blinded by the bright sunlight. In the glare, I heard a shuffling in front of me, and as my eyes adjusted, I saw two inquisition agents lowering their weapons.

A couple of heartbeats later, I took my first sight of the Promise and my heart sunk. The stench of acrid smoke told me I was stepping into a warzone. I glanced around to me to spot arched ruins dot the landscape and my heart hurt. The birthplace of the Dalish. This could have been my home. The grass was a pale, anaemic green and even the rocks themselves look tortured. The home that was foreign to me. I saw Scout Harding approaching, ‘long bloody history this place.’ She grunted, seeing me glancing around. I gave her a dark look, which she took with a sigh as though to say tell me about it. ‘There are rebels, they call themselves the Freemen of the Dales. Recently emerged and adding to the chaos.’

‘Freeman of the Dales?’ I query, tasting the words.

She gives me a look that tells me in some part she shares my distaste, ‘they seem to be simple deserters, tired of fighting and dying. But now,’ her eyes flicked away from my face, ‘they want the Dales for their own.’

Freeman of the Dales, men of the Dales. Shem trying to take what belonged to the Dalish. The taste is bitter in my mouth. I rolled my head back, looking up at the open sky, ‘course some shem want to claim this place.’

Harding nodded with a flash of sympathy in her eyes, ‘they are more organised than we anticipated, be wary.’ 

‘Good luck to them.’ I laughed bitterly, ‘no one keeps this place for long.’ I looked across and was instantly distracted by a large mural painted across one of the rocks. Stylised elves chained together, the paint was flaking away, and I thanked Harding before going over to look closer. I touched the rock beneath, a record of the time in Tevinter perhaps. I looked up at the chained figures, ‘We are the Dalish, the keepers of the lost lore, the walkers of the lonely path, we are the last elvhen and never again shall we submit’. I swore the oath under my breath, before pushing myself away from the image.

 

A little way away from the campsite, I could see sprawling battlements. A wooden structure emerging from the rock. It was complete with raised stakes and monstrous trebuchets. I wonder what they could possibly be aimed at, as currently they were aimed at more scattered ruins in the hills. I spotted a man pacing back and forth on a bridge towards the entrance. I exchanged a glance with Cassandra who nodded, before approaching. I pulled my red hood back and strode forward.

The man dressed in brilliant bronze and blue Orlesian armour saw me, his eyes raked over my vallaslin and he shooed at me.

I tilted my head confused and took a couple steps closer.

‘Piss off,’ he called. ‘Your camp is over there!’ Pointing towards the hills.

I couldn’t help looking the direction he had indicated, what kind of camp could he have meant. I didn’t have time to worry about it at the man had noticed my companions.

‘Madame de Fey! What are you doing in this Maker forgotten place?’ He shouted, walking straight past me.

Vivienne stepped forward, her eyes narrowed ‘Corporal,’ she acknowledged with the barest level of interest.

He took his helmet off focused entirely on her, ‘praise the Maker you’re here, the undead have taken the ramparts.’ He waved a hand behind him.

Vivienne simply examined her nailbeds. But I followed his gesture and spotted a twisted skeletal figure stepping across one of the raised platforms. The sight of it made my skin crawl. It was dragging a sword behind it, which scrapped mockingly along the ground. I took my bow off my shoulder and fired an arrow at it. The arrow lodged squarely into its neck. And it didn’t even flinch, just continued its undead patrol. I turned back, wide eyed, to my companions. Cassandra gritted her teeth and readied her sword. While Vivienne  held her arm out, holding Cassandra back.

‘And why should we help, Corporal?’ She gave him a devastating look, which caused him to wither for a moment before he regained whatever courage he had.

‘Madame?’ He asked quietly.

She tilted her head to me, ‘you have insulted the Inquisitor. So why should the Inquisition help you?’

The poor man stared at me, racking in the Dalish-ness of my appearance. He noted the cut out patched at my knees and elbows, and once again made a note of the lines across my face. He blinked in confusion and turned to look at each member of the group, splotchy red marks crawled up his neck. ‘You are the Inquisition.’ He said eventually, half a question, half a statement.  

Vivienne gave him a winning smile, while Dorian winked.

The Corporal tore at a little bronze badge on his chest, ‘No, I am too old,’ he blustered.

‘Going to join the Freeman?’ I asked quickly, cutting off whatever tirade he was about to go on.

He turned to me, his mouth curled up into a snarl and gave me a glare so dark and I almost took a step back. ‘Andraste’s tits.’ He cursed, extracting a grunt of disproval from Cassandra. ‘The Herald of Andraste is a, is a,’ he waved a hand at me.

I gave him my best mock curtsy.

His hand fell limply to his side and he swallowed whatever he was going to say. He stubbornly repined the badge to his chest. He saluted to me and stamped a foot, causing the wooden bridge he was stood on to shake a little. ‘Corporal Rosselin, your Worship.’ His eyes flicked darkly to Vivienne, ‘at your service.’ He licked at his lip, ‘I hear we have you to thank for the resolution of the war.’

‘Yes,’ I spoke quietly.

He sighed, ‘the war was bloody, and the dead are restless, we just want to go home.’

I bit back the comment about the shem taking our home, it was surely bloodier? But I told myself it wasn’t the time. Instead I looked at the ramparts, then back to the group. ‘Dorian, any ideas?’

The necromancer smiled for the first time in days, and he absent mindedly twiddled his staff between his hands. ‘And would there be a pit of the fallen anywhere in that mess?’ He queried to Rosselin.

The Corporal’s mouth dropped a little. ‘How did you know?’

Dorian rolled his eyes and pulled an unimpressed face to the Corporal. ‘Show me.’ He commanded.

Chapter Text

I stood as the pit burned. Flames licked upwards as though it was simply a campfire and dead were mundane firewood. Though, Dorian looked rather excited as the fire popped, the magic that I could just about sense in the area was dispersing. Sensing magic was like seeing something from the corner of your eye, if you looked for it directly it would remain stubbornly unseen. The Corporal rubbed his hands together, happy that the problem had been dealt with, I had not noted how raggedly tired he looked. Dark circles under his eyes and his armour had taken quite a few hits. He had a scrape down the back of his right arm as he’d gotten a little too close to one of the undead during the fight.

 

‘Corporal?’ I leant over to him, ‘what did you mean earlier about a camp?’

He gave me a look, ‘Dalish camp, your Worship,’ he points West, ‘beyond those hills.’

I glanced around at companions, who all look varying shades of unhappy with the idea. I was sure I was beaming, I had a lightness in my chest that I had not felt for a long time. I wiped my hands down on my trousers and set off without consultation towards the hills. Dread wolf himself couldn’t stop me. As I made my way back through the ramparts, I pulled arrows out of the fallen, replenishing my quiver.

I was almost out of the ramparts before I realised that they were following me, asI catch pieces of a whispered debate between Cassandra and Dorian about whether or not the diversion is strictly necessary. Dorian seemed to be arguing for the diversion while Cassandra was firmly against it. I ignored them all and made my way up a worn dirt track, I was almost giddy at the idea of seeing a clan again, any clan. I can picture the red sails flapping in the breeze and the thick heady smell of good stew.

The track lead through a little grove, strewn with ruins and ancient trees. I would have to come back to investigate at some point, but i didn’t want to stop. I passed a small herd of halla delicately nibbling at the grass and I felt more at home than I had since I left my clan. In the centre of the grove was a great ancient tree, probably older than all of my companions combined and I ran my fingers across the tree as I past, grounding myself, I am here. I will be safe soon.

I saw two ancient statues of elvhen archers, and I nodded to them as I passed, their ancient bows guiding me onwards. Soon I find myself before two great owls flanking an archway, Andruil’s messages pointing the way. I raised my arms to the sky before them, ignoring that my companions probably through I’d gone mad. It was all I could do not to skip. My people, my people. I repeated over and over in my head. Marked and mine.

 

When I glimpsed the flash of red peeking through the trees, I stopped in my tracks. I turned to the disgruntled group following me, ‘I should probably,’ I paused, Cassandra would not like it. ‘Wait here?’

Cassandra ground her teeth. ‘Inquisitor,’ she began, and I held up a hand for her to stop.

‘I know, but I will be safe. There is no safer place in Thedas for me than with,’ I gave Solas a pointed look, ‘my people.’

He folded his arms across his chest in response but didn’t try to correct me.

‘Just stay back, I don’t want to spook anyone.’ I insisted and jumped down half a step into the river and strode purposely towards the camp.

It was beautiful, I felt my heart rise to my throat, they had camped by a hillside with a magnificent Ghilan’nain statue resting upon it. The three aravels were clustered around, giving the impression of a boundary, and then I saw the Keeper. His robes and a flash of brilliant white hair gave him away.

I raised my arm and called to him, ‘Aneth ara, Keeper!’ I greeted.

The man dusted off his hands. ‘Aneth ara da’len.’ He answered kindly.

At nearly thirty-two summers, I wasn’t entirely sure it was proper to call me a little one anymore, but his wizened features placed him as a man of far greater years so I took no offence. I blinked, his features were very familiar, but I couldn’t quite place him. I was almost sure I knew those eyes.

I took his hands, and we placed them between our foreheads, through our hands we connected vallaslin. ‘Hunter Hellana Deshanna Lavellan.’ I said as I pulled from his greeting.

‘You are far from home Hunter.’ He smiled.

‘I am.’ I laughed.

‘Lavellan?’ He queried, ‘how is Keeper Dirthanna?’

He called her by her personal name and I suddenly placed his features. They were a light skinned version of Sil’s. I remembered that Dirthanna had found a lover at the Arlathvhen. And I had walked this path to bring him terrible news. ‘Ir abelas,’ I breathed in rush, ‘she is on the road to Falon’Din.’

He raised his head to the sky and took an unshaky breath, ‘I had hoped to see her again this spring.’ He twisted his handed together, his bright eyes clouded for a moment. Then he looked up again. ‘Who is Keeper Lavellan now?’

‘Her twin, Deshanna.’

He nodded, then looked down at me. He placed a light hand under my chin, examining my face for the trace of resemblance, he smiled when he found it and his eyes crinkled. ‘You are Deshanna’s girl?’ He clarified.

I nodded. It seemed my luck was turning as I’d walked directly to my uncle. I dug deep into my memory, ‘Keeper Hawen?’

He smiled broadly, ‘that is me.’ But then the smile dropped a little as he noticed my companions behind me. ‘Are they with you?’

‘Yes,’ I said quickly.

He scrutinised them, ‘odd fellows.’ He commented. ‘What are you doing with them da’len?’

I laughed a little, ‘ah, they’ve taken to calling me inquisitor.’

He took a step back. his face turned cold in an instant. ‘Are you the one they call Herald of Andraste?’

I nodded slowly, uncertain where the sudden hostile had come from.

Keeper Hawen took a step back from me, he spat at me in elvish, curses and accusations so quickly that I could barely catch the meaning. He pointed away from the clan, ‘you’re not welcome here. You must go.’

‘Keeper?’ I gasped, wide eyed, unable to process the sudden turn of events. ‘What do you mean?’

He shook his head, ‘I must protect my clan. Leave.’

I took a step back, going slightly downhill meaning the Keeper was now practically towering over me. His eyes were hard, and he no longer looked a damned thing like Sil. He spat at the ground by my feet.

I stared at the glob on the ground as I felt hands were on my shoulders, ‘Hellana, we should leave, now.’ Solas must had fade shifted to me, I was vaguely aware of the specks of green magic in the air, he was pulling me away.

The Keeper’s eyes widened at the sudden appearance, ‘you,’ he snarled, and then pointed at bony finger at the two of us and spat something in elvish. Of which I only recognised the word ‘Andraste’.

Solas calmly replied, with more words I didn’t understand.

Chapter Text

I was sat against a rock a couple hundred paces away from the camp. I stared out across the wide Enavuris. It had taken most of an hour for my hands to stop shaking. I lay my head back against the crumbly rock. I found a little pebble and held it tightly into my hands, hoping I could pour all of my disappointment into it. The gods are laughing at me, what had I done to deserve such misfortune? I tossed it as hard as I could into the river, it skimmed twice across the surface before disappearing with a plop. It didn’t make a bit of difference.

Vivienne was pacing by the edge of the water, a habit I noticed she did when she was concerned. She stopped when Cassandra spoke to her, something too quiet for me to hear, but they both looked across to me. I blinked and went back to watching the river.

After a few more moment, Cassandra strode over to me, standing in such a way to block out the sun. ‘Inquisitor, we should leave,’

I looked at her, my covering my eyes from the glare. I knew my face was a stubborn scowl, despite the horrible welcome, I had no intention of leaving this place today. I was going to reason with her, Herald of Andraste, the reason I am no longer welcome. I snapped. ‘It’s all your fault.’ I spat, letting my foul mood wash over my words. And I stood, although she was a head and a half taller than me, I had rage enough that she could not intimidate me.

She blinked at me, her hand automatically going to her sword, ‘but we stayed back,’

I pointed at her, ‘You named me Herald of Andraste, you didn’t care what it would do to me.’ I hated her and that stupid white eye that stared unblinkingly at me.

‘I hardly,’

I cut her off again, ‘look at my face!’ I shouted, somehow, I had pulled the dagger out of my boot. I waved it towards my own forehead and then towards the clan. ‘My own kin will not look at me.’

Her jaw was tight as she was looking past me, purposely ignoring my outburst.

‘Look. At. My. Face.’ I repeated and Cassandra did, but I saw no recognition in her eyes. I sat down heavily and stabbed the dagger deep into the grass. ‘You have no idea what you’ve done.’ I snarled, not looking at her. I rubbed at the lines under my eyes, furious and ashamed. ‘I do not want to be your damned Herald, your damned puppet.’ I picked the knife out of the grass and spun it between my fingers, shaking my head as I did so.

‘I did tell you that home would change while you were gone.’ She added with a slightly smugness.  

‘Thank you so much for your forewarning.’ I said, the sarcasm dripping from my voice. ‘I shall make sure I make offerings in your honour, great wise prophet.’

‘So many gods,’ Cassandra commented conversationally, ‘and no room for one more.’

I stared at her dumbfounded for a moment, how could she be so completely oblivious. ‘That bridge was burned a long time ago.’ I snapped.

She scoffed at me, and I saw red. I tightened my hand around my dagger, I lunged at her and the next thing I knew I had Cassandra’s sword hilt striking down hard on my left shoulder and the whole arm felt numb. I remembered her telling me to keep my arm raised. She tried to disarm me but missed.

I was ready to strike at her again when I was pulled off the ground, being dragged away legs kicking in the air, by Dorian. ‘Hey, hey. It’s okay, Hellana, Cassandra is on our side.’

Vivienne standing between us, cold crackling at her fingertips to calm Cassandra into a cease fire. ‘Stand down Seeker,’ She hissed.

A moment later Dorian dumped me on the ground unceremoniously, and snatched my dagger from me, raising it above my head. ‘You can have it back when you calm down.’ He replied to my grabbing hand, fruitlessly trying to take it back.

I backed away, and clutched at my left shoulder, it was darkening with a fine purple bruise. My fingertips were tingling as the sensations returned. I breathed deeply, wondering how to explain to Dorian that I needed the knife back. And then I noticed then that Solas was chuckling to himself.

I rounded on him, perched against an outcrop with his arms crossed over his chest. His eyes flicked to me, but he didn’t stop laughing. ‘Tell me what the Keeper said,’ I demanded.

He glanced away, and licked his lip, ‘it was not worthy, not worth repeating.’

‘Do not mess with me.’ I snapped.

He bowed a head, almost mockingly, ‘the Keeper strongly implied that you had performed certain favours for the Maker.’

I closed my eyes, grounded my self and looked at Solas again, ‘certain favours.’

He performed a hand gesture that I was sure that he had stolen from Sera. Somewhere behind me Dorian snorted. I put my hand across my mouth in shock. Letting the words sink in, I felt sick to my stomach, and the uncomfortable blush rose up across my cheeks. ‘And what did you say?’ I asked through clenched teeth.

He shrugged with a smirk, ‘that he wouldn’t believe such a thing if he’d ever heard you sing.’

A hysterical laugh broke free from my lips, I shook my head. ‘Grand.’ I barely recognised my voice, it cracked and crumbled. I felt the rush of anger ebb away and I was tired. Tried to the bones and everything felt heavy. I sat down, ‘thank you,’ I said a little stiffly, ‘for getting me out of here.’

He smirked again, ‘typical Dalish hospitality.’

I glared, but the fight had gone out of me. I lay back on the ground, tracing patterns on the wispy clouds above. ‘This day could not get any worse.’ I muttered darkly beneath my breath. ‘Try me.’ I added, wishing I could wave my knife as well. It was probably unwise to openly challenge the creators, but my mood was dark enough that I did not care. I sat up, 'well stay her for the night.' I announced as I didn't have the energy to move. 

Chapter Text

‘Are you sure this is wise, my dear?’ Vivienne had asked, after I’d begun setting up camp along the river bank.

I nodded. My jaw was tight, and I couldn’t quite meet her eye and she noticed.

‘You’re a mess, let me look at you.’ She said in a voice that allowed no disagreement.

‘I am fine.’ I replied, trying to sound reassuring.

Her eyes grazed over my face and glanced to the protective way I held my bruised arm, ‘you’re angry.’ She said finally. ‘Good, Anger can save you when everything else is gone.’

I blinked and then smiled, pleasantly surprised by her words, ‘I thought you would tell me to stop starting fights?’

She laughed tilting her head back so that the horns of her headdress pointed backwards, ‘get revenge or make amends.’ And she nodded pointedly towards Cassandra. Who was sat by the bank, with her back to the group, ignoring us as best as she could. ‘My darling, if people believe they can cross you, they will.’

I shocked Vivienne by wrapped my arms around her waist, pulling her into a tight hug. I knew she was on side, and I adored her for it. ‘Thank you, Viv.’

She was stood frozen stiff and then carefully patted my on the head, telling me to let her go.

When I pulled back, she shook her head disapprovingly at me. Although her eyes crinkled with a smile. ‘I think that it is Enchanter Vivienne, Court Mage to the Empire of Orlais, or Madame de Fer to you.’

I laughed, gave her a very serious nod, ‘of course, my apologies, it shall not happen again,’ then a grin split across myself, ‘Viv.’

She swatted me lightly with the back of her hand, gave me a tut and left me to help setting up camp.

 

The sun had set and I had run out of excuses. I left the little group sat around the campfire, and I made my way over to Cassandra, I was unarmed and a little unsure. She turned as I approached, ‘ah, here comes the hero of our age, once lowly prisoner and now, pfff,’ she waved a dark bottle vaguely in my direction.

‘You’re drinking?’ I asked surprised, I’d never seen her drink. I shivered a little, the wind was whipping across the river and it seemed to tear through my clothing to chill me to the core.

‘Yes, what else would you have me do?’ She snapped, the slightest slur in her voice gave away that she had been drinking for a long time.

I slumped on the ground next to here and snatched the bottle from her, it was mostly empty. She snarled at me and tried to wrestle it back. ‘I would have you share.’ I retorted, which stopped her in her tracks, she looked down the barest hint of guilt in her expression. I took a deep swig from the bottle and I gave her a look, the wine was new, sweet and terrible. I drank it anyway. I handed her bottle back.

She took it quickly, cradled it in her arms, and then sighed. ‘So, you do not believe you are the Herald of Andraste.’ It wasn’t a question, but rather a resigned admission.

‘I know I am not, I cannot be.’ I answered simply, pulling my leg up and wrapping my arms around them. How could I be? I opened my mouth, to tell her what the Keeper had told Solas, and yet I didn’t say anything. However much the accusation has hurt me, I suspected she would take it badly. I realised that I did not want to hurt her, I just didn’t want to be hurt by her anymore. Maybe that was what Vivienne was getting at?

Cassandra glanced at me, ‘I raised you up, even exalted you as,’

‘Stop,’ I cut across her, ‘you cannot call me exalted.’

She gave me a confused glance, ‘why?’

I almost felt like just point at my face again. But I’d already learned that wasn’t an effective way of putting across my point to this woman. ‘I’m Dalish, exaltation is not a good thing, it’s a threat.’ I spread my arms, exalted plains, as though to prove my point.

‘But, that is ancient history.’ She took the bottle back, but the bottle was paused beneath her lip. She was genuinely curious.

‘Ancient history is kinda the point.’ I stretched out and look at her pointedly.

Cassandra blinked at me, ‘but you could,’ she paused, and her eyebrows knitted together, she stared out across the fast flowing waters. I could see her mind working and her mouth moved with whatever ideas she was considering. I said nothing. Eventually she signed as she seemed to have failed at coming up with any viable strategies, ‘ahh, I see.’ She again sighed more deeply this time and her shoulders slumped forward, ‘forgive me.’

I nodded, acknowledging her words. ‘I am also sorry, I was upset, and I shouldn’t have tried to, um,’ I twisted my hands together, ‘stab you.’ I whispered.

‘You were trying to stab me?’ She puts the bottle down firmly on the ground and shrugged, ‘We have fought, if you were trying to stab me you wouldn’t have been so easy to disarm.’’

I laughed, because I couldn’t help it. Cassandra gave me a rueful look. She was right, I knew she was a better hand to hand fighter than me and I had engaged anyway, I rubbed my shoulder which still ached. Creators let her be right. ‘Grand.’ I said, and lay back on the cool grass, I shifted uncomfortably as the dew began to soak into my tunic. ‘I’m better with my bow.’ I muttered at the open sky.

‘Yes, you are.’ She gave me a weary look, ‘that ritual of yours at Haven seems to have worked.’

I gave her a look, did she really think dedicating a bow made me a better archer? I gave myself a secret smile as I chose a different question to mirror her earlier words, ‘would you consider adopting Andruil?’

She pulled a face, ‘the thought is abhorrent.’ She admitted.

The grass was cold and damp, I sat up and then stood. I clapped her on the shoulder, ‘you’re starting to get it.’

‘Ahh,’ I heard her acknowledge as I turned back to the fire.

‘Come join us,’ I invited, but she shrugged. So, I left her alone with her dregs of sweet wine. And walked back towards the little camp we’d established I glanced at Vivienne, I hope that counted as making amends.

Chapter Text

The next morning when I awoke, it was early. The barest hint of pink had touched the dawn. I crept out of my tent, and I found myself alone. The wind was still strong, and my hair whipped around my face. I pulled my hood down, tucking my hair in to keep it out of my eyes. I crouched by the embers of the fire and roused it, muttering half-awake prayers under my breath as I did.

As the fire caught, I stood and glanced around the Plains, the land had a scared, jagged quality to it, as though a titan had stabbed at the ground. I shuddered at the thought and returned my attentions to the fire. As quietly as I could I found out Vivienne’s little travel kettle from the pack near her bag and set off towards that river to fill it with water.

 

The kettle hissed at me and I blinked awake. My back was against a crumbly outcrop and I must have dozed off. I sat up and found a halla in front of me. He was an odd shade for a halla, not the pure white I expected, but there a more off-yellow colour.

Aneth ara,’ I said to the sweet creature, and I held out my hand.

The halla stepped forward to me and nudged his head against my offered hand, light brown twisted horns ripples behind him like gnarled branches with every move. I smiled, thinking of the story where Andruil had commanded Ghilan’nain to destroy her creations in return for divinity, I could see why Ghilan’nain had been unable to hurt these graceful beasts. I reached over carefully to my pack and pulled out something for him to eat, and handful of dried berries and oaks. I lay it on the ground before the halla, who looked a little unimpressed at the merger offering. Then he seemed to give me a pointed look at my left hand, nudging the mark on my hand with his cold nose. He then turned around and appeared to present his back leg. Poor thing must have stumbled through a berry bush as his leg was covered in twisting purple pattern.

I scratched the halla on the top of his head, between his horns. He pulled away with a snort and began pawing at the dirt.

I poured myself a little cup of tea and looked up to see two Dalish hunters standing nervously, a respectful distance from camp. I almost dropped the tea but kept a hold of it and pushed back my hood.

Aneth ara!’ I called and I noticed they visibly relaxed. One of them elbowed the other and they approached.

Ghilan’nain enansal,’ one of the elves said, an older man with dark grey hair and the lines of Falon’Din across his face. He looked visibly relieved to see me. ‘Thought you were shem.’

I gave him a reproachful look, but it was playful, ‘some of my companions are.’ I gestured at the tents.

The one who had spoken was elbowed again by a younger man, and he gave me a nod, ‘Ithiren,’ he stated a little coldly.

‘Hellana,’ I replied, matching his unusual introduction without title or clan.

The elbower grinned, ‘Loranil,’ he added the twisting lines of Ghilan’nain above his face rose as his face broke into a broad grin. ‘We’ve been tracking the golden halla for six days.’

I turned back to the little halla still scratching in the dirt. It looked yellow to me, not golden, but I smiled away. Let them have hope. ‘Your clan is in great distress then?’ The words were supposed to be light, but the two elves exchanged a worried look.

After a moment, Loranil shrugged noncommittally.

I cleared my throat, fool, I chastised myself, and if their clan were in distress, they wouldn’t talk about it to me about it. ‘Tea?’ I asked, to cover the awkwardness.

‘We should not-‘

‘Please-‘

They two looked at each other and Loranil begged Ithiren with large eyes. I almost laughed, I suspected Ithiren was teaching Loranil the Way of the Hunter, and I guessed Loranil was a bit of a wayward student. I carefully placed my own cup down, making sure the halla wouldn’t accidentally kick it over.

As I worked, I caught glimpses of a whispered conversation. Ithiren was worried about something, but Loranil brushed his concerns off.

‘What are you doing out here?’ Ithiren asked as I handed him a cup.

‘Ahh,’ I glanced up at the open sky, gods above watch over me. ‘I am here with the inquisition,’ I began tentatively.

Loranil practically jumped up and down with excitement. ‘How can I join?’ He blurted.

Ithiren grabbed his arm, spinning him to look at the older elf. ‘Keeper Hawen would never allow it.’

Ir abelas,’ I said quickly, ‘I did not realise you were under the care of Keeper Hawen,’ I glanced in the direction of his camp. ‘He banished me from his camp yesterday. I would not have you getting in trouble on my account.’

Loranil blinked and then laughed so loudly that I thought he would wake my companions. ‘That’s hart-shit, miserable old man, forbids anything and everything. He's lost his mind.'

Ithiren smacked his arm with the back of his hand, and Loranil shut his mouth with a gulp. Ithiren glanced up the sky, and then lent over to me so close that his ear brushed against my cheek, his voice no louder than a whisper, ‘Hawen has the dread.’

Ice trickled into my bones. I opened my mouth, wordlessly. I nodded, dumbly. My feet felt unsteady, I dropped my tea onto the ground. The hot liquid soaking into the ground leaving only tendrils of steam to mark the place.

Ithiren swore under his breath and helped me sit down, ‘you’ve seen it before,’ he said simply.

‘Yes.’ Yes I had. 

Keeper Dirthanna had suffered with the dread-sickness for the last four months of her keepership, her mind warped, jumping at shadows that were not there. Forever glancing in fear for an advisory that did not have the decency to appear. In a moment of lucidity, she had begged Deshanna to help her. And a week later we planted a tree for Dirthanna and her sister took her place.

I glanced back to the camp, my hand over my mouth, it was an explanation. Heartlessly, I clung to that, as a man overboard clings to driftwood. Please, let me have not lost the trust of the Dalish. My driftwood was the cruel hope that I had simply come afoul of a dread-sick man.

The ‘golden halla’ snorted again and pushed at my hand with his cold nose. I pulled away, and felt a little uneasy, he would become an offering to Ghilan’nain. He would be the perfect offering, but it would be a pointless sacrifice. I knew in my soul that the Lady of Beasts didn’t have the power to cure their Keeper. I doubted that the Mistress of Halla even knew what the dread-sickness was. It was so terrible that the clans did not speak about it under the open sky, how could she know what it was?

‘Inquisitor!’ Cassandra called, a slight panic to her voice, she had been woken. She was armoured and striding towards us her hand on her hilt. I could only imagine her concern at seeing two unfamiliar people standing over me.

‘Stand down,’ I whispered quickly. And she froze.

The two elves exchanged a glance. Loranil’s grin got impossibly wide, and I imagined he had never seen an elf give a commend to a human and they actually obey. ‘Inquisitor?’ he queried me.

‘In the flesh.’ I replied.

He raised his hands to the sky in praise, ‘the inquisitor’s one of us!’

One of us. I felt my heart swell at his words, but the moment was over as Cassandra appeared by Loranil’s shoulder. ‘Inquisitor? Have you been hurt?’

I shook my head, ‘just shaken.’

Ithiren held his hand to me, offering to help me up. I took it gratefully. I pulled my hands through my hair, ‘nothing to worry about Cassandra.’

Cassandra relaxed a little, but now she knew I was physically safe, she returned to her stony self. She backed away a little, to give us privacy but not far enough to let us think we were unwatched.

Cassandra gave me a look which said, I don’t trust them. As Ithiren glanced behind him, jaw tight as though to say, I don’t trust her.

Chapter Text

‘So tell me, why is your clan here, in this place?’ I asked to the two elves that had taken seats on the opposite side of the little fire.

Ithiren rubbed his hands together and pushed them towards the fire as though to warm them, as though the sun had not already burnt off the chill of the morning. ‘Var Bellanaris.’

I looked up, my heart beating face in my chest, ‘it is so close?’ I gasped. He had named one of the ancestral Dalish burial grounds, I had known that one was somewhere in the Dales, but I couldn’t have guessed that it would be so close. I couldn’t stop myself from craning my neck around, fruitlessly attempting to spot it.

Loranil laughed slight, and pointed upriver, ‘four hundred paces that way.’

A broad smile crossed my face, Sil would be very jealous indeed. ‘I had no idea.’

Loranil gave Ithiren a look, almost as though asking permission. Ithiren gave the barely nod and Loranil draws closer to me, his words quiet. ‘Something is odd there, a great green tear in the air, it’s leaking demons.’

I sighed but nodded and held up my left hand. ‘They’re called rifts, I can fix it.’ I gave them a smile, ‘the only advantage.’ I muttered darkly to myself.

‘Please, protect the Var Bellanaris. Clan Hawen would be deeply indebted to you and the inquisition’. Ithiren placed his fingertips to his vallaslin, the lines of Falon’Din are pale and periwinkle against his skin.

‘Of course,’ I said quickly, but then looked away from him. I was shocked at the gesture, I was unworthy of such a gesture.

I didn’t have a moment to say anymore as Dorian approached, sat down at the campfire without glancing up, he yawned, stretched and then poured himself a cup of tea. Looked up at the two Dalish men who were watching with identical confused expressions. ‘Kaffas,’ He hissed, sloshing tea on himself. I giggled, and his head snapped towards me. ‘Friends of yours?’ He asked resigned.

I glanced down at the new damp patch on the ground, the way this morning was going we would water the whole of the Dales with our spilt tea. ‘This is Ithiren and Loranil from clan Hawen, and this is Dorian from,’ I paused for a second too long, ‘Minrathous.’

Ithiren racked his eyes across Dorian and gave me an icy look. I mouthed, ‘he’s harmless,’ with a calming hand gesture which I made sure that Dorian wouldn’t see.

I turned to the Tevinter, ‘you're up early.’

‘It happens occasionally.’

I snorted, and today would have to be the day.

‘We’d better be getting back,’ Ithiren said firmly, and stood.

I couldn’t help a glance at Dorian, I was convinced they were leaving before they become outnumbered by shem.

‘So, four hundred paces that direction?’ I quickly clarified.

Loranil traced a rough map in the dirt, showing me where we were and how to get there. As he was going so Ithiren moved over to the halla.

The halla bleated in panic and darted away from him. I turned, the halla was shaking its head as though trying to stab the white-haired elf with his twisted horns.

Ithiren lunged towards it and the halla spring under his arms and over to me, barrelling Loranil over in the process. Which resulted in a game of chase around the campfire. Until Ithiren eventually caught the creature by the legs and slung it, still wriggling, over his shoulder. I noticed the twisted marks along the halla’s back leg again, I was no longer sure that I was some kind of berry stain, instead it had the look of a lavender scar. It stirred a memory, but then it was lost and I was left trying to grab tendrils of thought.

Dorian has been cackling throughout the antics, offering no more than his laugh as assistance. With the halla strung over his shoulders, Ithiren only nodded to me, but Loranil took me by the hands and we touch our foreheads to each side of the knotted fists. ‘Dareth shiral, Hellana,’ he said. Pulled back and grinned, ‘we’ll be seeing you soon?’ He asked.

I smiled, ‘hopefully, dareth shiral.’

Dorian gave a half wave, which Ithiren ignores, but the corner of Loranil’s mouth twitched up and he nodded to the Tevinter.

 

‘You know, that was like a scene from Tevene theatre?’ Dorian said amused when the Dalish men had disappeared from view.

‘I hate the theatre.’ I replied, distracted.

‘How would you know, you’ve never been.’ He snapped pointedly.

I shook my head, and looked at Dorian, he didn’t look overly well rested. For a start his jacket was buttoned up wrong, which I was half convinced from the way he usually carried on was a kind of sin in Tevinter. Between him and Vivienne, there must be some deity of impractical fashion to which they both have homage. I smirked at the thought.

‘Do tell, Hellana,’ then he huffed, ‘do tell. I’ve had to get all my gossip from Vivienne lately.’

Gossip? I crossed my arms, ‘I’ve hardly been keeping anything from you, you’ve been in a bad mood for days.’

Dorian snorted as if he didn’t believe a word of it. But he looked down at his hands, tiny purple sparks jumped between his forefingers. He flicked his fingers, sending the sparks into the fire, where they crackled and popped across the firewood.

‘Do tell,’ I say as I raised an eyebrow.

He draws back his teeth as though he has a bad taste in his mouth, ‘did you know our dear Commander has a thing for mages?’

I coughed, ‘nothing wrong with that,’ my voice tight and a hint too defensive.

Dorian narrows his eyes at me, but continues, ‘well Rutherford doesn’t mind a drunken fumble in the dark, but he prefers,’ he draws his hand down, creating an curved line in the air, a female form, ‘other things, for the daylight.’ He sucked at his bottom lip, a disappointed frown replacing his expression. He muttered something about ‘the south’ that I didn’t quite catch.

Ir abelas,’ I said without realising it wasn’t in common, the topic is a little too close to home and I shifted uncomfortably.

He laughed bitterly, ‘more Dalish curses?’

I looked up and blinked, ‘it means, I’m sorry.’

He looked down and then met my eyes and smiled. ‘As am I.’ We say nothing for a long moment, ‘and you?’

‘And me?’ I repeated back to Dorian.

He waggled his eyebrows at me, ‘pray tell, that you had a better evening that me?’

I put my hand to my throat, ‘it was,’ I looked into the fire and swallowed hard. ‘Nothing.’ I pulled the facade I’d been wearing for the last two days down and give him my best impression of a careless smile.

He squinted at me, but thankfully did not question me further. And I tried not to think about the fading mauve marks on my hips, and everything it should have meant.

Chapter Text

By mid-morning the camp had been packed away, water skins refilled, and we were on our way to Var Bellanaris. It was a warm day, but a cloak of mist hung in the air, the wispy white that even the hottest sun could not burn away.

I found myself grateful for Solas’ cartography skills, as he had dutifully copied across the map which Loranil had sketched into the dirt. Although my patience was fraying as he was currently telling Cassandra an extremely long-winded account of the Dales. She was listening in rapt interest, asking the right questions in all of the right places. I didn’t know how he had cobbled together the story, but there were so many details that he couldn’t possibly know and didn’t make any sense. I suspected he was embellishing the tale and I rolled my eyes at each new fanciful twist. When he got to the start of the Exalted March, Cassandra gave me a guilty side glance. I kept my eyes down and I pretended I didn’t notice her.

Dorian elbowed me lightly, and when I glanced over he gave me a bored look and directed a yawn in Solas’ direction.

I smiled, biting my lower lip.

Then he clapped his fingers to his thumb, mimicking a mouth that will not stop talking.

I badly stifled my laugh, which earned me a dirty look from Cassandra, which meant I didn’t see the little stream that I walked straight into. ‘Piss,’ I swore, employing Sera’s favourite curse. I glanced around, I recognised as the stream as one we had crossed to get to Hawen’s camp. ‘we’re going the wrong way.’

Solas handed over the map to me without a word. I twisted the map around in my hands to orientated it. I pointed to our right, ‘it is that way.’ I snapped as I stepped out of the steam, a trickle of cold water drained out of my boot as I did so. I sighed, now I need new boots.

Setting out on our new course, Solas continued up his account of the history of the Dales. I hung back for the moment, so I didn’t have to hear it, but the words drifted down to me anyway, ‘the Emerald Knights --- romantic heroes --- ruthless butchers.’

I rolled my eyes and pulled the map out again to double check we were going the correct direction.

‘--- called the Knight’s Guardians --- like up there.’

I glanced up at Solas’ words and dropped the map, it fluttered to the ground with all the grace of a butterfly landing. ‘Hush,’ I hissed at him, stepping forward to make sure that he understood me. In front of us, was a waterfall the height of a man, and atop it was a lounging statue of a wolf. The water from the stream was diverted to flow continually over the feet of the wolf.

Solas looked at me, eyebrow raised.

‘That isn’t a Knight’s Guardian.’ I said distainfully. How could he make such an obvious mistake? My eyes racking over the statue. I glanced around wondering if there was a way to get close and examine it closer.  

‘What makes you say that?’ A laughing scorn was clear in Solas’ voice.

I held my hand out, ‘look at him,’ I turned to the statue, faint smile spreading on my face, ‘the water washing over him, continually purifying, continually appeasing, what better placement for a fickle god.’  

Solas’ arms crossed in front of his chest, and I realised my mistake.

I turned back to the statue of Fen’Heral, ‘ir abelas,’ I whispered to the god, and closed my eyes and rubbed at the lines against my cheeks. Don’t insult the gods to their faces. ‘What I mean to say,’ I said, turning back to Solas, ‘it that it is an honour wasted on a Knight’s Guardian.’

‘And if the steam simply changed course?’ He frowned at me.

I looked back to the statue, the stone angles were sharp and perfect as the day he’d had been carved, ‘there is no wear on the statue.’ I explained. ‘The water should have eroded the stone, and it has not. Which means,’ I looked back into the wolf’s face, ‘he was designed to be in the water.’ I snatched the map up from the ground and folded it into my pocket. ‘He isn’t just any wolf.’

Solas laughed at me, and I felt a blush raise in my cheeks. I spun around to him, ‘do you think I wouldn’t recognise my own god standing in front of me?’ I spat, left hand pointing at the statue atop the waterfall.

His eyes racked over me, his gaze traced a line down my arm and paused for a heartbeat on the pulsing green mark. Then he narrowed his eyes, the smile dropped away from his face and he looked at me. ‘No, I do not believe you would.’

I opened my mouth to spit some hurtful words or curse at him.

‘It isn’t your fault, the Dalish only remember fragments of fragments.’ His voice was devoid of contempt, instead it was quiet, almost sad. I didn’t have a moment to react before he turned away from me. Leaving me to bite down on the venomous words that had filled my mouth. I swallowed the insults. And instead glared daggers into his back.

‘Fine,’ I said after a long moment, noticing that Dorian was watching intently perched on a rock, eating a handful of nuts. ‘there is only one way to know for certain.’ I smiled at Dorian, ‘if I’m right, there is will be a shrine nearby.’

He shrugged but tilted his head to me, ‘if you say so.’ He stood and dusted the crumbs of his hands.

 

We were barely up the hill to the side of the waterfall when I spotted two large archer statues, pointing to an intricately carved door, a shrine. I stuck my tongue out at Solas, who ignored me. I smirked at Dorian triumphantly, who raised his hands to me, as though he wanted no part of our little spat.

I strode forward, the excitement bubbling up under my skin. Leading the group, I descended down the worn-smooth stone slope. The entrance was painted with stark flaking murals and I kept my hands close to ensure that I didn’t accidentally touch them. It would be a cruel fate, to have survived the ages to be torn down by careless hands.   

I touched the door and glanced back. I shook my head and turned back to the door. Please open. It did, the door opened on a small room with a large fire pit in the middle. I stepped into the gloom, and glanced around the tight stone walls, it was almost claustrophobic. There was a sort of chimney in the ceiling to allow the smoke to escape. To the left of the door there was a more traditional altar than our clan used. 'Sylaise,' I whispered. 

‘We do not have time to stop,’ Cassandra said. I glanced at her, she was scowling again.

‘It will not take long,’ I responded quickly, ‘I was named for Sylaise, I would like to offer my respects.’

Cassandra tapped her foot impatiently twice on the stone floor.

‘How are you named for Sylaise?’ Solas queried.

I felt my shoulders pull back in annoyance, ‘Hellana means torch.’

He gave me a look, a mocking smirk pulling at the corners of his mouth ‘no it doesn’t.’

I ground my teeth together and sighed deeply. ‘Yes, it does.’ I snapped sulkily, ‘and I think I’d like to be alone.’

 

I sat back on my heels, and shivered in the damp darkness, wondering if my prayers would be enough.

‘What did you pray for?’

I spun at the sound, of course Solas had ignored my request to be alone. When I stood, he was close, and I had to crane my head back to look at him. I smirked, ‘why should I tell you?’ I tried to point but ended up with my left palm flat against his chest. Warm and solid and real. I looked down and blinked at the hand that betrayed me. I pulled back and clutched my hand to myself as though I’d been burnt. We had been so careful.

His eyes narrowed and he took a step closer, ‘I’m curious. I thought the Dalish did not worship underground.’

‘You’re correct.’

‘So, it must be something important,’ he added.

I nodded, his eyes were intense, lingering on my lower lip. He steps closer still, pushing me back up against the altar. ‘It is important.’ I breathed against his neck.

Solas’ hands were tight on my thighs and a second later I am sat up on the altar, something smashed to my left. I turned to look, but my chin is caught by his slim fingers. His lips are parted and his eyes dark and intense, a stare like that could surely see my bones. ‘You were right,’ he says, ‘about the statue,’ words heavy in the damp air. Sylaise’s fire burns under my skin. For a second, I think he will take me right there on the altar. What an offering.

I sucked in a breath, and leaned my head into his hand, and I become uncomfortably aware that the other three are probably just outside the door. ‘We should not linger here, ma lath.’

He drew back from me, his mouth tight, ‘ma lath,’ he shook his head, like there was a bad taste in his mouth, ‘no, I am unworthy of the title.’ He straightened and left me there on the altar.

I blinked at the sudden change in direction, creators preserve me. It had been intended as playful but taken as serious. I pulled my fingers through my hair and sighed, fickle man

Chapter Text

The warped and twisted face of the skeletal demon appeared before me, its terrible mouth gaped opened in a feral snarl, a short screech whistled over cracked yellow teeth. I jumped back instinctively, aiming and arrow at the back of its throat. As I loosed my bow, a flash of green covered my vision, I knew one of the mages has given me a ward in case I missed my target. The demon fell back to the ground, howling in pain and sunk into the pebbled ground. I rushed forward, left hand in the air.

When is a white rabbit not a white rabbit? When it is a sacrifice. It was always a crap joke, told over and over by the Hunters till it had mostly lost all amusement. But it was what I thought of when I saw the rifts, one thing that was two things, one thing that could be both things at once. The rift that was air and fade at the same time. Only Andruil could decide that a rabbit was hers and not fair game, only the green mark on my hand could separate the tendrils of each realm and put them back in their place. Green light erupted from the anchor on my palm and I expected the usual pain. It didn’t come. The rift popped closed. I glanced down at my hand, still waiting for the bone-splitting green numbness. Nothing happened. I scowled at my hand but dropped it. I wasn’t complaining.

I looked over to see Cassandra sat on the floor, looking completely dazed. Her eye was swollen, and it looked like she’d split her lip. I nodded to Vivienne who went over to access the damaged. Her fingers worked in the air created a ball of ice, which she pressed into Cassandra’s hands.

Cassandra took the frozen orb gratefully.

Var Bellanaris was a lot smaller than I had expected it to be, and significantly more ruin that I had hoped. It was really little more than a large courtyard with six or so large burial mounds with trees growing in the centre of them. I bit my lip as I considered, the rift had been closed and there really was no reason to stay. I tapped my hand impatiently against my leg as Vivienne helped Cassandra to her feet. She dropped the ball of ice on the ground and I starred for a moment, I was about to pick it up when I stopped myself. Don’t. I tore my eyes away and tried to ignore the knot that formed in my stomach.

I looked over to Cassandra, who was testing all of her limbs were unbroken. ‘Are you alright?’ I called.

‘Caught a claw with my face,’ Cassandra admitted ruefully.

I laughed, pointing to the large metal disk resting against her leg, ‘you have a shield.’

She nodded solemnly, but a quick smile ruined the illusion, ‘I will try to remember that, Inquisitor. We should return to camp.’

I nodded, finally happy to oblige her.  

 

‘Huh?’ I looked up after hearing my name to see the twin faces of Dorian and Vivienne looking at me concerned. Cassandra and Solas were nowhere to be seen, thank the gods. I didn’t think that I wanted to see either of them at the moment. I hadn’t realising that I’d been stabbing at the ground with a stick. I threw the stick on the fire self-consciously and dusted off my hands. I picked up my wine glass, but it was empty. I didn’t remember drinking it. I looked down, I’d drawn the outline of the thumbprint orb that had haunted my dream so many weeks back. The Orb of Andruil. I glanced at my hand, and up at the night sky, what is your plan Andruil? What am I missing?

I was brought back to earth as Dorian shook a half empty bottle at me, and I nodded, passing him my glass. ‘You’re very distracted this evening.’ He said, his free hand running across his moustache.

I sighed, sitting forward with my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands, ‘do you ever feel like you’re missing something obvious. It’s like there is something directly in front of me, something I know, a piece of the puzzle, but I just can’t,’ I reached out, grabbing at the empty air.

Dorian exchanged a worried look with Vivienne.

‘My dear, what puzzle?’ Vivienne asked, a plunked eyebrow raised in curiosity.  

I laughed bitterly, and wrung my hands together ‘if I knew, I would say.’

‘I see,’ said Dorian reasonably, glanced at Vivienne again, ‘you’re going quite mad.’

I blinked at him, my eyes going wide. That made and odd kind of sense. For a split second, I had perfect clarity, I had Andruil’s dread? Then I realised he was joking and looked around to find the right projectile to throw at him. ‘Not funny.’ Of course, I didn’t have any dread-sickness.

The two mages laughed, and I glared. I sighed and lay back on the grass, gazing into the inky above. I as my eyes adjusted to the light, I realised I could make out a handful of constellations. I raised my right hand above my head, tracing out the lines that made up the Oak.

‘I wonder what this place used to look like,’ Dorian said in a quiet voice that I was sure was only meant for Vivienne.

She snorted, ‘it used to be beautiful here.’ Her voice was almost wistful, and I almost sat up to ask when Vivienne had visited the Promise.

‘It figures that most of the fighting happened here and not in Orlais.’ Dorian commented before I had a change to interrupt.

Vivienne’s nailed tapped on her cup, ‘the cost of the war is staggering, my darling, I wonder if it will ever be what it was.’

I closed my eyes for a moment, letting Vivienne’s words sink in. Then I opened them again and found the stars that made up Sacrifice. I traced them with the tip of my finger, and then dropped my hand frustrated. I sat up with a bolt. If I could have aimed my bow at the moons and popped them, I would have. Two moons. It was rather superfluous. Two orbs.

I turned to the two mages, ‘I think I’ve gone mad.’ I said, with my hand to my throat.

‘My dear?’ Vivienne queried, her tone light. But her fingertips were pressed tightly together.

I turned horror stuck to the Orlesian, ‘I,’ I paused, mouth open unsure what I could say, I looked directly at Dorian, ‘I, think I need to speak to that halla.’

Vivienne gave me a short gasp of disbelief, ‘you want to speak to halla, my dear?’

‘The yellowish one, that you were chasing round the campfire this morning?’ Dorian asked, and then shrugged to Vivienne when she flashed him a warning glance.

‘I don’t think it’s a halla.’ I clarified. I flushed, feeling utterly foolish.

Vivienne laughed, rocking her head back as she did so, ‘and what makes you say that?’

I held up my left hand, pulling the sleeve down to show off the green scars, ‘it had marks on its back leg, like these, but purple.’

Vivienne stopped laughing and looked at Dorian. His eyes were wide, a mouth ajar, he struggled to form words.

I pulled the two closer to confer, and looked over my shoulder to make doubly sure we were alone, ‘my hand was marked by an orb, an,’ I waved my hands, ‘ancient artefact of some sort.’ My voice dropped quieter still and Vivienne leaned in more. ‘And, a few years ago, a hunter from my clan found another orb. It touched his leg and spread a purple mark.’

‘You think the orbs are connected?’ Dorian asked.

Vivienne shook her head, ‘but what does it have to do with this halla?’

I took a breath and sat up straighter, ‘the orbs are… Elvhen.’ Dorian let out a snort of disbelief but saw the seriousness of my expression and silenced. ‘I believe that I have Andruil’s power, which allows me to tap into the Abyss. And the purple one, I think it belonged to Ghilan’nain, it is said that she created the halla. Maybe it has the powers of transfiguration?’ I sat back, my companions looked dazed. ‘I know, it sounds mad, but I need to investigate.’

After the longest heartbeats, waiting for their response. Vivienne sat back, took a little sip of her wine, ‘and how do you plan to talk to a halla?’

I laughed, it was a twisted hysterical sounds, and put my head in my hands, ‘I have no idea.’ I confessed to the ground. 

Chapter Text

‘I don’t like this plan,’ Dorian grumbled as he sat by the drying light of the campfire.

‘Please, I don’t want to have to explain to Cassandra why I’ve wasted another day doing elfy stuff.’ I begged.

Vivienne nodded at me, her lips pressed together into a line. She eyed Dorian, ‘well darling, you do look like you could do with some beauty sleep.’

He huffed at her, and then waved a hand of dismissal, ‘just bring her back safe.’

‘I will-‘

‘Of course-‘

We said at the same time.

Dorian sighed and straightened his sleeve, not clarifying which one of us he meant, ‘both of you get back safe and quickly. I will not be able to hold Cassandra off for long.’

I gave him a reassuring smile, I wanted to say more but the sun’s first light spilt over the horizon and I realised I was running low on time. And so Vivienne and I set off on our secret mission to try to talk to the halla, uggg, it even sounded ridiculous. I had wanted to go by myself, but Vivienne had insisted that either her or Dorian accompany me or to wait until morning. But I feared that it might have been too late by then, as I didn’t know what Clan Hawen planned to do with the ‘golden halla.’  

‘You’re not afraid of mages,’ Vivienne noted in a curious tone, when we were alone.

I gave her a quick look, she had her staff strapped to her a back and grim determined expression on her face, ‘why, for the love of all the gods, should I be afraid of mages?’

‘Most non-mages are,’ she said matter-of-factly, stepping over an exposed root with care, ‘watch Sera next time, she might have all the personality of a dung beetle with none of the manners. But check her eyes next time there is rift in the sky or a spell is cast. She’s doing everything she can to not bolt away.’

I frowned, I hadn’t noticed Sera’s aversion to all things magical, but I generally had other things to do when we approached a fade rift. ‘I will,’ I promised.

We did not say anything for half a hundred heartbeats, ‘my mother’s a mage.’ I offered. ‘I don’t know if they’re all that dangerous.’

She laughed bitterly, ‘And yet I’ve heard that the Dalish do not keep more than three per clan.’

‘You’ve heard more of less correctly,’ I say, ‘there are three official positions for mages. But keeping such a strict number is redundant, some small clans, have only a handful of people, the bigger ones could have a couple hundred elves, limiting it to only three mages would be,’ I trailed off uncertain. I didn’t want to give her the wrong information, but I didn’t know what they did in the big clans.  

‘So, what happens to a child that is not appointed First or Second?’

I gave her a nod of approval and a quick smile as she knew the correct terms. I would have hugged her, but I knew she hated being touched. ‘They usually get moved around to a clan that needs them. My mother and aunt came to Clan Lavellan when they were young. Actually, making four mages in total, at the time,’ I laughed, ‘they were twins and did not want to be separated.’

She smiled for a moment but frowned. ‘Were?’ She queried.

‘My aunt passed.’

‘I’m sorry.’

The silence rippled onwards, ‘Why do you bring it up?’ I said when I could bare the quiet no more.

She sighed, ‘I wanted to speak to you about restoring the circles.’

‘Ah,’ I replied, ‘I don’t know enough about them,’ I began, hoping I could delay her. I knew she felt strongly about the circles.  

She flashed a grimace at me, her dark eyes sizing me up. ‘Circles don’t just protect the mages from becoming abominations, they protect the people from things they’d rather not think about.’

‘What do you mean? People think about mages all the time, you lot are everywhere.’ I tried to keep my tone light.

‘You lot?’ She replied with a mock-outraged tone and gave me a gentle scoff. Then her voice turned deadly serious, ‘my dear, if they think too hard about mages, they might find their pitchforks.’

I nodded, carefully unpacking what she had just told me. ‘You’re worried everyone is secretly afraid of mages?’

She paused, delicately stepping down onto an exposed piece of ancient tiling. ‘How do you think mages are discovered? A little girl burns down her house-‘

‘Who told you?’ I snapped interrupted, Solas, damn him, he was the only one I’d told about the araval. It wasn’t exactly a story I wanted passed around, I’d wring his neck if-

‘Told me what, my darling?’ She had stopped and was looking at me curiously, a worry spread across her brow. She held herself still, taut, seemingly ready for a fight.

I blinked back, my murderous angry dissipating with a pop, and I gave her a curious look, ‘Did you know I burnt down an araval?

She laughed, the tension disappearing from her face for a moment, ‘no, I did not.’

I shook my head and rubbed at my eyes as though it would remove my interruption, ‘sorry, sorry, you were saying something about mages being found?’

She tapped her nails lightly against her staff, ‘I merely was trying to describe that uncontrolled and untrained mages make people afraid of mages. Even without the risk of abominations. Magic is dangerous, as dangerous as fire and anyone who forgets gets burnt. The circles protect the common man as much as they protect the mages.’

I gave her a thoughtful look, ‘you want to protect your people.’ I said simply.

She nodded, ‘Of course. From everyone else as much as from themselves.’

Then the thought hit me, like lightning. ‘You want to protect everyone?’ It came out as a question, rather than a statement. Could it be?

Vivienne looked at me like she was seeing me for the first time, ‘I will not apologise for it,’ her tone was defensive.

‘There is nothing to apologise for,’ I whispered. I glanced at the open sky, silently thanking the creators for sending me such an ally.

Chapter Text

As we approached the camp, I noticed a tiny bright orange light that flashed on the hill. I gave Vivienne a quick look and we both stopped, I could just about make out a faint silhouette. The light flashed again and then was gone. Someone was smoking on the hill, they stood. They paused for a moment, I couldn’t make them out in the dusk light. Gracious Ghilan’nain, protect me. I waved at the figure.

I heard the scrambling of footsteps and the person bounded towards me, ‘Hellana? Why did you come back?’ A male voice I recognised asked in a frantic whisper. ‘Did you clear our Var Bellanaris?’

‘Loranil,’ I breathed with a sigh of relief as I made out his outline. ‘Yes it’s clear, but I’m here about the halla.’

‘The halla?’ He asked, a little too loud, his nose crinkling in confusion.

‘Valorin?’ A female voice called from the araval closest. ‘Is that you?’ Her voice was clipped and close.

Loranil’s mouth dropped open into an o, he pushed me backwards, shooing me with both of his hands. He turned but relaxed a little as the woman had not yet left the araval, ‘No, Emalien, it’s Loranil.’

‘Well, hush! We’re trying to sleep!’ The elf I guessed was Emalien shouted back, unimpressed.

Ir abelas!’ Loranil called, and then turned to us.

Behind him the sound of Emalien’s muttered curses came spilling out from the land-ship and I risked a glance at Vivienne. She gave me a dark look that told me it had been too close for comfort.

Loranil glanced around, wringing his hands together. I guessed from his expression that he was supposed to be on watch. ‘Wait, what are you doing here?’ He asked again. His voice had risen in pitch.  

‘It sounds mad, but please, believe me. I need to see the halla.’ I explained as quietly as I could.

‘You want to see all the halla?’ He hissed back, scratching his head. His nose crinkled again.

‘No, the golden one.’

Loranil took a sharp intake of breath, he looked behind him, jumping at a noise I didn’t hear. He looked back, ‘why?’

I looked down at the ground, I’m going to have to say it out loud. ‘I believe that he might be an elf I used to know.’ A laugh twitched across Loranil’s face, my hand went to his shoulder, ‘Elgar’nan strike me down if I lie,’ I swore upon the leader of the gods, he whose vengeance at being improperly invoked was legendary. Loranil’s face contorted, and I had the oddest thought that he’s be a terrible player of the Game as every emotion he felt was clearly displayed on his features.

‘By Elgar’nan?’ He confirmed. It was not something to be said lightly. Whatever doubts he harboured were overshadowed by my words.

‘Yes.’

Fire of Sylaise,’ Loranil swore, and then he glanced up at the sky and touched a hand to his vallaslin. ‘Hawen will un-name me if he discovers that you are here.’

I froze, to be un-named. I couldn’t risk that for this young Hunter, this was madness. I told myself. I couldn’t find the words for a long moment and my mouth opened and closed useless. Then an idea struck me, ‘Will you go to the halla, and’ I paused again, ‘ask it if it is Dehnan?’

‘Dehnan?’ Loranil repeated back to me, tasting the name. He shook his head at me, speechless. Then he shrugged, ‘I can try,’ and left Vivienne and I alone.

In my head I drew an imaginary line around the aravals, and I drew us back four more steps. And now Hawen could not claim we were encroaching onto his camp.

‘What is a Dehnan?’ Vivienne asked me, her voice barely audible.

‘He was the Hunter that I knew. Last time I saw him, he had scars like these along his leg. Then he ran into the forest.’

‘Of course,’ she said, as though it wasn’t the craziest thing that I’d ever said.

We waited silently, the sun steadily rising. Please let this clan not be the kind that arose at dawn. In the rest moments the rush of action faded for a second and I felt the heaviness behind my eyes. The pounding ache in my limbs that begged for rest. I stifled a yawn behind my hand.

Loranil returned to us, slowly, taking careful steps, looking white as a sheet.

I touched his arm to steady him. ‘What is it?’

‘You’d better come with me,’ he said simply. He was wide-eyed and I was worried that he might pass out.

He guided Vivienne and I through camp and into a little cave in the hillside. At the bottom of the cave the golden halla was stood, illuminated by a beam of sunlight that washed down into the cave. His head cocked to the side so that his dark unblinking eye could was us approach. He trotted over, and nudged his cold nose against my left hand and lifted up the scared purpled back leg again.

I crouched before the creature, ‘Dehnan?’ I asked, barely louder than a whisper.

The halla nodded and I put out a hand to the ground in shook to stop myself falling over. It was mad, complete mad, and yet - I looked at Vivienne, ‘did you see that?’ I said breathlessly.

Her eyes narrowed at the creature. ‘Do you understand us?’ Vivienne asked in a clipped tone.

Again the halla nodded. And Vivienne hissed, ‘how do we know it isn’t a demon?’

The halla gave her what can only be described as a withering look. And then shook his head, sending his horns knocking together.

I held up my hands, ‘sorry,’ Then I considered, ‘how did you get here?’ I asked.

The halla looked at me for a long moment and then rolled his dark eyes at me.

‘Right, right, yes and no questions.’ I said, a flush crawling up the sides of my face. I paused trying to think of something to ask, ‘did you touch a purple orb?’

The halla, or should I be calling him Dehnan, nodded again and lifted his back leg. This time stamping it down onto the ground with a little thump.

‘I have a matching one,’ I said showing him my left hand.

Dehnan tilted his head and licked my hand, and I pulled it away quickly. Wiping the halla spit off on my leggings.

Behind me, I hear the tell-tale crackle of the morning fire being lit, and the fire-lighting hymns to Sylaise beginning. We were out of time. I turned to Loranil panic stricken. ‘What do we do?’ I hissed.

Loranil stretched his neck out to see who was awake, ‘quickly,’ he hissed.

‘Stay here?’ I said to the halla who looked more than unimpressed. But Dehnan lay on the ground with an unimpressed sigh.

I shot him an apologetic look.

Loranil lead us back out of the cave. ‘They were not here,’ he spoke to an elf I didn’t recognise.

The hearthmistress looked up from her duties and smirked, ‘who?’

Loranil nodded and gave her shoulder a squeeze and he passed. She smiled to me but was less convinced when she saw Vivienne.  We hurried past before she had time to doubt it.

We were past the stream before he stopped, ‘I will keep the halla safe for you.’

Ma serannas, lethallin’ I whispered, pulling Loranil into a tight hug. ‘I will be back as soon as I can.’

Loranil was beaming proudly at my use of lethallin, and I felt a little stab of guilt. I had meant it of course, but I had meant it because I needed something from him. He took a hold of my hands and pulled our entwined fists together. ‘Go, quickly, before the Keeper sees you.’ We touched our foreheads on either side of our hands, and then broke apart.

Chapter Text

Vivienne had nothing to say on the way back, and I didn’t feel like talking either. I felt the exhaustion of not sleeping combined with a terrifying giddiness that I might have stumbled accidentally across a member of my clan thought lost years ago. I prayed I could trust Loranil and he would keep the halla safe. I hoped Cassandra would not have noticed our little dawn escapade.

Though as we approached I realised one was wishful thinking. Cassandra’s angry shouting echoing around the ancient ruins, which was sparsely interrupted by Dorian’s mild protests. Vivienne gave me a look, steeling herself as she did so, ‘if only she had a little charm, she could be a remarkable leader.’

I sighed, with no words to reply, I took a breath and stepped forward to face the music. I saw Dorian sitting where he had been on the other side of the fire. His head was pressed back as far as it would go, dismay written across his lovely features. He was watching Cassandra in stunned silence as she passed back and forth shouting at him. ‘Why would you let them go? What is the matter with you?’ She huffed, and threw her hands to her thighs, then turned raising a hard to point at his chest, ‘if I were still a Seeker,’ she threatened.

That gave me pause, I thought Cassandra was still a Seeker?

Dorian seemed to find himself in the threat, ‘you’d what? Drag me to one of your Circles?’ The sneer in his tone was evident from twenty paces. I didn’t dare look at Vivienne to see her reaction. Dorian’s eyes flicked from Cassandra to focus on my for the barest heartbeat.

‘I would absolutely-‘ Cassandra spun, ‘Inquisitor.’

I froze and I let out the tiniest whimper in the face of her fury.

‘Where have you been?’ She yelled at me.

‘Chasing a lead,’ I replied quickly. I was about to explain more when I noticed Solas was awake, watching with a concerned interest, which made me lose my words.

‘So help me-‘

‘My dear, do calm yourself. It’s unseemly.’ Vivienne snapped at Cassandra, drawing her ire.

Cassandra flashed the horned woman a murderous glance. But then she clipped the bridge of her nose with thumb and forefinger and sighed. Dorian and I exchanged a glance, it was that easy? ‘Why did you not tell me you were leaving?’ She asked me in a decidedly softer tone.

I wrapped my arms around me chest, ‘I didn’t want you to shout at me.’ Gods, my voice sounded pitiful.

Cassandra’s eyebrows went up, she blinked. Her hand rested on the hilt of her sword for the merest moment. ‘Maker’s mercy.’ She swore and sat down heavily.

Vivienne took over for me, ‘we seem to have found something-’ she began and recounted what had happened for the other three while I sat down heavily watching the flames lick up from the fire.

 

‘Have you ever seen anything like it, in the fade?’ Cassandra asked Solas.

Solas considered Cassandra’s question thoughtfully, ‘in the fade? No I haven’t.’

‘Piss,’ I hissed under my breath, there goes our best lead. ‘So what are we going to do?’ I asked the little group.

Cassandra turned to Vivienne, ‘and you’re sure it wasn’t a demon?’

Vivienne inclined her head in the direction of Cassandra, lips pursed.

At that moment we were interrupted by an agent stepping forward, ‘sorry to interrupt, Inquisitor,’ she said in a cowed voice, she dropped me a quick bow which I pretended to ignore. ‘There is an elf to see you, Dalish.’

‘Bring them then,’ I said, and glanced across at the little group, an apprehension forming in my throat. I played with the woven bracelet on my wrist, if Dehnan hadn’t touched the orb his thread would be wrapped around my wrist now.

‘Hunter?’ A familiar voice asked and I looked up to see Ithiren.

‘Hunter,’ I greeted in response and we shared a smile while Dorian groaned.

Ithiren gave a quick glance around my companions, but then turned back with a worried glance, ‘Hawen wants to see you.’

‘He changed his mind?’

Ithiren grimaced, ‘Loranil invoked vir sulevanan.’

I stood alarmed, ‘what?’ I gasped at the man before me. ‘How can he do that?’

‘The halla belonged to Clan Hawen, and he’s taking it. Claims it’s magic or some hart-crap.’ Ithiren rolled his eyes.

‘Ahh,’ fenedhis, I rubbed my eyes, ‘he isn’t magic, he,’ I glanced around and changed tack ‘I can talk to the halla.’

‘It would be useful to see this halla for ourselves,’ Solas interrupted. At first glance he unfazed by the events, but his hand was clasped too tightly on his staff. He was uncertain.

I looked towards Cassandra, with an expectant look, well are we going?

She huffed, and head out an arm as though to say, lead the way.

 

‘Back again,’ Vivienne commented as we returned through the ruined glade with the ancient tree in the centre. I did not ask the ancient archers for blessing nor did I acknowledge the owl messengers of Andruil. My very bones were tired, and I trudged forward.

When we got to the stream, I stopped for a moment to splash the water on my face, I felt a little better. I was careful to ensure my gaze did not drift upstream, I didn’t know if it would be possibly to see the wolf statue at the top of the waterfall from this position, but I didn’t dare look. I tapped the woven bracelet again, silently begging for any luck the gods wished to give me.

As I approached the camp for the third time, the Dalish there fell silent. I saw the woman I had passed this morning freeze by the fire. Her eyes were sharp but watching ever move that the Keeper made. She didn’t even acknowledge that I was there. Keeper Hawen did acknowledge me, although barely.

‘Loranil had told me you came into my camp uninvited this morning.’ He snapped without preamble.

I lowered my eyes to the ground and stepped a couple steps away from my companions, to spare them the wrath of the Keeper, ‘I came alone, but yes.’

He huffed, and I noticed his staff was laid on the ground next to him. The Hearthmistress noticed it too and nudged it away from him with her foot. ‘He tells me you can speak to this creature?’

I couldn't spot Loranil, ‘where is he?’ I asked quickly.

Hawen jerked his head to the side, I spotted Loranil up on the side of the hill by the ancient halla statue which perched their precariously. ‘Answer my question, hunter.’

I almost smiled at just being a hunter again but kept my face impassive. ‘I don’t believe it is a halla, Keeper, I think it might be someone I knew.’

‘Someone?’

‘It might be easier to show you,’ I said, spreading a hand to ask permission to enter the little cave.

Hawen gave me a dark look, eyes full of mistrust and he jerked his head in the direction of Loranil. ‘Da’len claimed it.’ He said the term like a curse.

I nodded and making careful steps around the edge of his camp, ensuring that I did not step over into the Keeper’s territory.

And so, I found myself at the bottom of the hill, with Solas on my right and Keeper Hawen on my right. Loranil in front of me with a bored yellow halla on his lap.

‘Hellana,’ Loranil said cheerful, then his face darkened, ‘Keeper.’

I approached, the halla stood. And pawed the ground in front of him impatiently.

‘Dehnan,’ I said softly, ‘I’m so sorry, please bear with us, would you step left for yes and right for no.’

The halla rolled its eyes and me and took a step to the left and then back to the centre.

‘And your name is Dehnan Lavellan?’ I queried. Again the halla stepped left.

‘It’s fascinating,’ Solas began, watching the halla intently, but as he spoke he drew the attention of Hawen.

Hawen looked the taller man up and down, ‘do I know you?’ He asked abruptly.

Solas barely turned his attention, flicking an uninterested glance at the Keeper, ‘we met briefly the day before yesterday.’

‘I know you,’ the Keeper repeated, eyes narrowing.

I looked back at the Loranil who was pushing himself to his feet, wide eyed and worried. ‘Emalien!’ He called panicked.

I turned back to find Hawen advancing on Solas, who was utterly unaware of the danger that he was in. I darted between them, pushing Hawen away. I could see the fury in his eyes, snarling teeth, ‘calm Keeper,’ I begged, ‘he’s with me.’

I saw the Hearthmistress, Emalien, appear with a paper full of powers which she was dumping into a waterskin. She had the cork back in and was shaking the mixture together. And then Hawen took hold of my shoulders, shaking me, ‘what have you brought?’ He shouted at me, with a wild panicked look in his eyes, before shoving me to the ground. I fell, landing heavily on my right side, knocking my head hard. My ears where ringing as I looked up. I tried to sit up but found a halla body blocking me. ‘Dehnan,’ I whispered confused, then I felt something strange. There was a tendril of magic floating from his halla body, floating, but frightened and confused. Without intending to, I pushed it towards the fade.

The next moments happened very quickly. Hawen was screaming a Dalish-dog curse at Solas. Solas had his hands up looking perplexed but his knuckles were white around his staff and he was preparing for an attack. Emalien had grabbed Hawen’s shoulder, pushing the concocting into his hands and was forcing him to drink it. And then everyone had frozen, distracted by a slow, ugly popping sound. Creating an odd sort of horrified tableau.

I looked over to the halla next to me, to find it was no halla shaped any longer. The tanned elf, with sprawling purple scars up his leg chewed the air in unhappy bites, ‘teeth are weird,’ he stated. 'Hands,' he said delighted running a hand through his hair, 'no more horns,' his voice was cracked from years of not being used. And then he turned to me, ‘Els, you did it.’ 

Oh gods above! I clapped my hands over my eyes, feeling the flush colour my cheeks, ‘Den, you’re naked.’

Chapter Text

I shrugged my pack off and pulled out a blanket to pass to the naked Dehnan, I was about to ask what had happened to him, but the Keeper rounded on me.

‘What is Clan Lavellan up to?’ Hawen spat at me, all while Emalien was trying to pull him back.

I blinked at him not comprehending. But Loranil spoke for me, ‘it’s hardly another conspiracy is it?’ His tone was frustrated and filled with penchant anger.

‘I have a task for you, Da’len,’ Hawen spoke coldly to the younger elf.

Loranil narrowed his eyes, ‘still going to hold me to that?’ He swept an arm over Dehnan, ‘he’s a person, under the rules of vir sulevanan he can’t be traded. He only belongs to himself.’ And Loranil smirked, crossing his arms over his chest.

The atmosphere turned cold, and the smile dripped off Loranil’s face.

‘Go with the inquisition, as you wish, don’t come back.’ Hawen said quietly, Emalien gasped, her hands going over her mouth in horror, he flashed her an angry look, ‘throw your lot in with the cursed Lavellans.’ 

Dehnan’s eyebrows lowered and he started to defend us, but I smacked his hands and whispered, ‘leave it.’ He nodded reluctantly, confusion spread across his face.

Loranil huffed, ‘fine.’ And he threw an unflattering hand gesture at his Keeper.

I bit my lip and pretended not to see it.

‘What’s his problem?’ Dehnan asked me in a hushed tone.

‘Got the dread,’ I replied. Earning me a raised eyebrow from Solas.

‘What’s the dread?’ Dehnan queried.

I looked into his emerald green eyes and froze, he’d left before Dirthanna had come down with the sickness. Loranil caught my attention with a gesture, ‘open sky!’ he hissed in warning.

I nodded, and Dehnan had understood Loranil’s warning. I gave a worried glance to the open sky, it was not something to be spoken of in the presence of the gods, they did not cause it and could not help.

Hawen threw a quick curse at us and staggered off, down the hill and back into his camp. His feet were unsteady. Emalien watched him go, and I could see she was torn between helping her Keeper and remaining with us. She stayed for a moment, pulling Loranil into a tight hug. ‘Be safe, and keep an eye out for my brother.’

He nodded and gave her a broad smile, and as they broke apart he pulled a pack which had been hidden behind the ancient halla statue.

‘You planned this,’ she chastised the younger elf lightly and he grinned.

She turned to leave, but I caught her arm, ‘where is your First?’

Emalien gave me a grim look, and she adjusted the brilliant red scarf around her neck, ‘Taven’s in the Emerald Graves, on a fool’s errand.’

‘Send word,’ I said solemnly, ‘he needs to come back and end this.’

She shook her head, ‘he could get better-‘

‘Believe me, it doesn’t get better.’ I said softly.

Emalien’s eyes were wide, but she nodded. She took my hands but did not pull them to her forehead. We nodded at each other and she ran off after the Keeper.

I turned back to Solas, ‘how are you?’

He gave me a tight, quick smile and turned his attention to the newly remade man. He knelt down next to Dehnan. ‘How did this happen?’

Dehnan squinted and I could see he would need to rest rather than answer a million questions.

‘I showed his magic where the fade was,’ I answered a different question. ‘I didn’t mean to,’ I added, after I saw the concerned looked on Loranil’s face. Then I looked to Solas, ‘like you showed me,’ on the mountain, on the way to the Temple of Sacred Ashes. I touched my marked hand instinctively, feeling the ghost of Solas’ hand from months ago.

‘Els,’ Dehnan snapped, catching my attention, ‘can we go?’ He lowered his voice, ‘the Keeper gives me the creeps.’

‘Sure Den,’ I smiled.

Loranil helped Dehnan up, introducing himself as he did so.

‘If there are to be introductions, I am Solas,’ Solas said. I smiled, almost exactly the same thing he’d said to me. At least this time the mountain was just a hill and it wasn’t covered in rifts and demons. Just dread-sick Keepers.

 

As Dorian, Vivienne and Cassandra came into view, Dehnan hissed with the edge of his voice covered in panic, ‘just our luck, shem, over other side of the stream.’

I laughed without meaning too, and I stepped in front of him, ‘don’t freak.’ I said holding my palms up to him.

‘Els?’ He sighed concerned.

‘They’re… um… my shem?’ It felt a little odd to be claiming the three were mine, but I didn’t have a clue how to tell him about the Inquisition.

Dehnan was shaking his head at me, ‘you’ve gone mad.’

‘Actually, that would be the world.’ I said quickly.

‘What?’

‘You’ve been gone, what, six years?’ I said, ‘maybe you should sit down.’ I said quickly and lowered my hands. Dehnan just gave me a get on with it look. ‘Deshanna’s Keeper now, Jilna’s become a Hunter,’ he looked a little sad, but nodded, ‘the Inquisition has been reformed.’

‘What?’

‘And I got named Inquisitor?’

‘Els?’

‘Actually, it’s your worship now,’ I said with a scowl and a half playful curtsy.

‘Well I bet you just love that.’ He drawled sarcastically.

We stared at each other in shocked silence for two heartbeats before, Dehnan doubled over laughing, and I ugly cackled with him. Finally, someone who realised the situation was utterly ridiculous. He shook Loranil’s arm away, which was holding him up, to go lean against a tree. Desperately trying to catch his breath through body shaking hysterical laughter. ‘You’re, you’re telling me,’ he gasped pointing at himself, ‘that I got turned into a halla, and you became your worship.’ He pushed himself up from the tree, ‘you always were lucky, Els.’

I took a shuddering breath, ‘don’t know about that,’ I looked away for a moment. ‘There’s also a tear in the sky, and a magister trying to raise a demon army.’ I added, sobered a little. 

‘And you started with Jilna’s a Hunter?’ He shook his head, and re-adjusted the blanket fashioned into clothing. Then he took a step back, ‘no, no, not going to play. I’m going back to being a halla.’

I made a sad noise without meaning to. He looked up and smirked, ‘course not, Els.’ Then he looked up at the sky, ‘mother Mythal,’ he touched his fingertips to the lines on his chin, but froze and turned back to me with a wild look. ‘I can,’ he waved at his face, pray again. He sighed happily and pulled me into tight hug. 

Chapter Text

Dorian was watching Loranil as one might watch a cat on a high shelf next to a vase, with intense suspicion. Though, Loranil was sneaking glances at every possible moment back at him. And to my great amusement Cassandra kept disappearing on various errands, she could come back settle for a moment or two and then think of something else to busy herself with. While the introductions had gone well, Cassandra has almost immediately arranged for Loranil and Dehnan to take two horses and go straight onto Skyhold in the morning. I was almost bitter that I would be alone again so quickly, but I knew they would both be much safer back at Skyhold.

Of my human companions it seemed that Vivienne was most at ease, being outnumbered by elves, she was reclining in the awning of her tent reading through a small packet of Circle documents.

I had spent the later part of the morning fighting my exhaustion, but after lunch I gave up and pulled my bed roll out of the too-hot tent and collapsed into the rocky grass. As much as I wanted to speak to Dehnan, he’d been immediately ushered away by a fretting Solas. It seemed that whatever experience he had gained looking after my hand would be employed to find the extent of Dehnan’s injuries.

Sometime later, I sat up with a bolt. A half-remembered dream of Dehnan’s bone cracking transformation playing in front of my vision. And a terrible thought crossed my mind, ‘if Den turned into a halla, you don’t think all the halla were once-?’

‘Open sky,’ Loranil hissed at me, cutting me off.

I glanced upwards and nodded, but making eye contact with the younger elf, I could see that he was considered it. Did Ghilan’nain make her creatures from elves?

‘Mother of Monsters,’ he intoned, the spoken epithet sounding like a prayer, giving me more information while not offending any gods watching from above.

‘It appears that the mark is not spreading,’ Solas stated, dusting off his hands and taking a seat by the campfire. I gave him a small smile, which caused his eyes to flash to my face. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the halla. There was silence for a long moment, then Solas asked, ‘have I interrupted you, forgive me.’  

Dorian broke in, ‘they were just being annoying cryptic, something about halla and the open sky.’

I couldn’t help the smirk, ‘what?’ No, we,’ I twisted my hands in front of me, and tilted my head to Dorian, ‘it’s a Dalish thing, difficult to explain.’

Lornail twisted round, wagging and mock finger, ‘ no sacrilege under the open sky ,’ he said in a voice that made me sure he was mimicking Hawen, then he pointed upwards, ‘the gods are up there, so we just don’t say anything that could case offense.’

‘Caves are fine,’ I added laughing and waving a hand over my head to mimic a shield, ‘stone is always good, but wood and canvas tend to vary clan to clan.’

‘We don’t trust the wood not to tell the trees,’ Loranil added with a sudden solemnity, ‘ stone above your head or leave the words abed .’

I smiled at the adage that I had not heard for years, ‘which would make our clan lax in comparison.’

Dorian squinted a little in confusion.

‘How very arbitrary,’ Solas noted softly, not looking at me.

I gave him my best shrug. Then closed my eyes for a moment forming a sentence that could not be misinterpreted by the gods above. ‘I simply asked, considering what happened to Den, what the origin of the halla might be.’

Dorian started to speak, but Loranil cut him off, ‘open sky,’ he hissed.

Dorian did not look impressed. ‘How very annoying,’ he drawled.

‘Think of it like the Game, my dear,’ Vivienne admonished, not even looking up from her documents. ‘There are plenty of things we may say behind some fools back, but not to his face.’

‘She gets it,’ Loranil smiled, but his face dropped as Vivienne gave him a withering look.

‘She?’ Vivienne muttered darkly under her breath.

The day passed by all to quickly, and soon the night air was cold and thick on my skin. I glanced up at the two moons and sent up a silent prayer of thanks to Ghilan’nain for guiding Dahnan back to us.

When I returned to the conversation, I noted with some delight that Dorian and Loranil were heavily debating the finer points of Dalish ales, putting aside whatever misgivings the two had had about each other had disappeared as soon as the drinks began flowing. And on the other side, Cassandra and Dehnan were conversing over the merits of longswords against daggers. I moved over to sit by Solas, interrupting his thoughtfulness. My knee touched his and he looked up to me, ‘thank you, for helping Den.’ I said quickly. ‘He seems to have recovered remarkably well,’ I nodded over to see him prattling on about the proper balance for a good hilt.

‘He appears to be making up for the years he was unable to speak,’ Solas replied softly. ‘His mark is not like yours,’ he continued taking my left hand in his, the faint green glow appearing to slightly distort his sharp features. He traced along the cut in the centre of my palm, making me shiver deliciously, ‘he has no anchor, Ghilan’nain’s power does not reside within him, Dehnan just the scars from touching a powerful artefact,’ blue eyes looked up to mine.

‘So how did he change shape?’

Solas smirked, placing my hand down gently on my knee, ‘residual energy I suspect. He may be able to alter the shapes of other creatures for a short period of time. But eventually it will burn out, it is unlikely that he will transform again.’

I leaned against him, head against his shoulder. ‘Good, can’t lose him again.’

‘You are close?’ The question hung in the air and I glanced up. Solas was looking directly into the fire.

I wobbled my hand in front of me, ‘kinda, he was,’ I cleared my throat, ‘is, one of the hunters. Though we didn’t work together much, he was always following Vael around with big puppy-dog eyes.’ I vividly remembered that she’d been distraught when he’d gone missing.

Puppy-dog ,’ Solas repeated stiffly, ‘what was it the Keeper was shouting at me this morning?’

I closed my eyes, the old dog-curses were rarely spoken of these days but had been passed down to us as a warning and a warding against Fen’Heral himself. ‘It was not worthy,’ I say simply, repeating his own words back to him. But I feel cold in my bones.

He chuckled to himself, ‘are you messing with me?’ Now he was repeating my words back to me.

I glanced across with a sad smile, ‘just protecting you.’ He’d called me lethallin , he might have gone back on it, but I wasn’t that fickle.

Solas gave me an odd look, like he was searching for something that he couldn’t find.

‘Don’t pay it any mind, the Keeper’s sick.’ I said desperately, calming trying to get away from this sudden twist in the conversation.

He paused for a long moment, ‘sick in what way?’

I laughed, but then looked up confused. ‘Wait you don’t know?’

‘What should I know?’ Solas repeated patiently, although I felt a tautness appear his in the shoulder under my head.

I lifted my head for the smallest moment and gave up on the conversation. ‘Open skies,’ I smiled with a weary look upwards, ‘can I tell you tonight?’

‘Tonight?’ He licked his lip as he realised what I meant. ‘If you like.’

My arm curled around the back of his waist and I was delighted to find that he didn’t pull away from me, be seeing you in my dreams ma lath. I thought with a wicked smirk.

Chapter Text

I woke slowly, in the curtained bed. Soft blue sheets beneath me, and pale grey stone around me. The balcony door was open, and I could feel the gentle cool air billowing into the room. Skyhold? I couldn’t remember the last time I had physically stepped foot into the room. Was it a month, two? Why did my dreams keep bringing me here? The place was different from the real room, it was a small comforting space, constrained with strong stable walls. Not like the too large room in the waking world that I avoided as often as not.

A shape appeared beside me, to my right, Solas. ‘You found me,’ I noted, by way of greeting.

He shifted so we were lying in parallel, a carefully measured distance between us. Arm tucked under his head. ‘Hellana.’ His words were soft, quiet in the dreamy atmosphere. Without an ill-intent, the words cut me, and just like that I was Hellana again.

I sighed heavily, and then gave him a weak smile in reassurance. I had been Els again for a single afternoon. ‘Yes, I am Hellana.’ I sighed wistfully. He raised an eyebrow, I flushed, ‘it’s just odd to hear.’ I said by way of explanation. Being Els made me a hunter again, just a member of a little clan, without the weight of the world on my shoulders.

‘Odd to hear your own name?’ He chuckled.

‘It’s just, Hellana is the Herald, Hellana is the Inquisitor. Els was neither.’ My voice bent a little over the last word.

Solas gave me a nod, and a stray hand brushed against the top of my thigh for just a split second. A reassurance or a mistake? ‘You would prefer to be called Els?’

The way he said the familial form of my name made me laugh, I clapped a hand over my mouth to stifle the giggles. Then I shook my head, ‘no, no, it isn’t right at all.’ My hands waved in front of my face. ‘I can’t take you seriously if you call me by my clan name.’

‘Hmm, I am not allowed to call you Els.’ The question came across as more of a statement, accompanied by a smirk. His eyes narrowed with the challenge and his hand reached back out for my hip, his thumb in the line between my thigh and belly. What was this man’s obsession with my hips?

I shook my head, ‘you cannot have it both ways,’ I bit my lip before I called him ma lath again, as he didn’t seem to like the term of endearment. ‘You cannot be like me and not like, be my kin and not my kin, you cannot call me by my clan name and be my lover.’

The smile died on his face for the merest of moment as was replaced, he opened his mouth and then closed it again. I had an odd sense of panic flare up for a heartbeat as he stared speechless. ‘Ahh, your lover?’

Be brave, ‘and how would you define this?’ I waved a hand between the two of us.

‘An impulsiveness that will end with pain.’ His words seemed cold. I might even have taken them seriously if his hand wasn’t still pawing at my hip.

I glanced down, and looked up at him with deliberate certainty, ‘just impulsiveness. I see.’ My words were sweet, but I’d spent long enough around Vivienne and Josephine to lace my meaning with venom. ‘Fancy joining me for another round of impulsiveness then?’

He drew his teeth back across his bottom lip, ‘not here,’ he growled, ‘it is taking most of my concentration to keep the wards up.’

‘Wards?’ I asked looking around, through the window, to me it only looked like blue sky. ‘Oh,’ mages drew demons in their sleep, I knew this as much as I knew that objects dropped fell down. But I hadn’t considered it before. It wasn’t safe here. I shuddered to think there might be demons on the other side.  

‘What is the sickness that Keeper Hawen has?’ Solas asked distracting me from my thoughts, with all of the efficiency of if he’d thrown a cup of cold water at my face.

‘It’s,’ I paused considering the room, ‘do you think that it counts?’ I asked looking up at the wooden beams that held up the roof and spreading my hands out.

‘What counts?’ Solas asked, his voice was patient, but the hand on my hip tightened, edging me a little closer into the uncharted territory between us.

‘If the ceiling sounds as stone,’ I added weakly. I wished I could speak to Deshanna, she would know, wouldn’t she? Then I gave Solas a sharp look, ‘it might be dangerous.’ I gave him a little smile, ‘look, Hawen isn’t worth your concern.’ And I noted with a smirk, ‘and he hardly drew your ire when he was simply insulting me.’ I queried and reached down to find the woven bracelet on my wrist, but it was missing. The silence stretched on. I took a deep breath, ‘fine,’ I agreed. ‘We call it the Dread, it’s a kind of paranoia.’

‘Is the name any relation to-‘

‘No,’ I cut him off quickly, and rubbed at my eyes, ‘and he shouldn’t know a damn thing about to either,’ I paused, looking down, his fingers were now digging in. ‘Ouch.’

He blinked and dropped his hand. ‘Sorry.’

‘It’s fine. I think they only called it that because it started among the Keepers, like four hundred years ago.’ I stopped, I wanted his hand back, ‘ugg, words.’ I said quickly to cover my thought.

‘Show me instead?’ He promoted.

I let myself remember the time that Deshanna had half dragged me under the floorboards of an aravel to explain it to me. Her words did a much better job that what I could have done. I was almost proud of myself, but when I turned to Solas he seemed unimpressed.

‘So, the Dalish have frightened themselves to madness?’ Solas’ crisp tone asked. He was gazing at something directly past me, as though I was not longer there.

I frowned, ‘that isn’t fair.’ Without meaning to I remembered the fateful day I had been sat by the campfire in my clan. ‘First, you’re just jumping at shadows, but eventually you become a danger to your clan.’ My voice had become barely louder than a whisper. I glanced up at him, inexplicably nervous.

 

‘-and then we burn the whole forest down,’ Dirthanna’s voice spread across me, and I closed my eyes with a shudder. No, please, not this memory. Not like this, I didn’t want to remember this. I wanted to scream but no words came out, I was not just myself anymore. I could only move with my past-self, glancing over with vague interest. And then looking down to the arrows I was carving. Where the sofa should have been, now stood the bottom half of an araval. In front of the wooden hull stood the twins, mirrored. Dirthanna had always been the prim one, always erring on the side of formality, but today she had dark circles under her eyes and her hands jittered in front of her.

Deshanna’s voice floated over with words I hadn’t caught the first time. She was stood before her sister, trying to sooth her Keeper.

Dirthanna seemed to snap to attention, and gripped Deshanna’s hands. Deshanna tried to pull away. ‘No,’ I heard her hiss.

‘You must.’ Dirthanna said steadily, for a split second the beacon of her former self shining through the madness that had invaded her mind.

They retreated to the araval, and only Deshanna emerged. She threw a small wooden hoop onto the fire that burned at what was dissolving into the foot of the bed, ‘the Keeper is dead.’

 

The Keeper is dead, rang in my head and I swallowed hard. ‘It isn’t just madness.’ I snapped.

Solas’ eyes had become dark and his jaw tight and I looked down. Unable to be the target of his intense gaze.

‘And it isn’t just keepers,’ I confessed, ‘the hunters get a variation, Andruil’s dread. When her eye falls on you, when you change from hunter to prey.’

The silence wrapped around me, and I had the odd impression that all I had done something terribly wrong. I frowned, suddenly uncertain. Say something, say anything. But my mind had become blank. You asked. I felt like snapping.

Dark stormy eyes watched me intently, but it was somehow worse. ‘And you worry that you have this.’ Solas asked in such a way that it didn’t come across as a question.

I gasped a laugh, as the tension fell away from me, ‘no, of course not. I know I don’t have it. What does worry me, and might worry you, is if Hawen starts writing to other clans.’

‘Hmm?’

I mimicked a quill scratching into the air, ‘oh yes, Herald of Andraste, you know the one that sucked off the Maker?’  I drawled, sarcasm dripping from my voice, ‘she’s running around the plains, with an agent of Fen’Heral, turning hallas into elves and corrupting innocents into joining her cause.’ I laughed, but it was almost a hysterical sound. ‘If even one clan believes him,’ I sighed and rubbed at my eyes. ‘I doubt even Josie could contain that much fallout.’ I looked back then, ‘I am so sorry, that I got you caught up in this.’

‘It does not concern me what the Dalish say about me,’ and in a swift movement, his hand caught my thigh and I was pulled close against the firm line of his body. I gasped. ‘there is no place else that I would wish to be,’ and then carefully, he lent across and kissed me lightly on the forehead.

I shivered, his lips had touched my vallaslin. ‘Another impulsiveness?’ I breathed. It was the most intimate thing he had done.

‘You seem to be worth the risk.’

Chapter Text

I sat up with a bolt, and scrubbed at my forehead. ‘Worth the risk?’ I muttered under my breath, and scrubbed at my forehead, trying to rub the dream away. Impossible, infuriating man. Uggh , what the fuck was that supposed to mean? His motives were impossible to pin down. I shifted uneasily and I lay back down and adjusted the folded tunic I was using as a pillow.

‘What’s wrong Els?’ The sleepy voice of Dehnan sounded from besides me. I could barely make out his figure in the gloom. Fenedhis , I’d remembered that I’d agreed to him sharing my tent the night before. It had made sense of course, he was my clan.

I paused, see the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. When I didn’t respond he sat up, reaching for me. He found my hand, clammy and cold.

I knew that I couldn’t tell him the truth, I had promised Solas that I wouldn’t reveal his status as a dream walker. ‘An odd dream.’ I said quickly, and rubbed at my forehead again.

Dehnan’s band withdrew, ‘just an odd dream?’ He asked again, and I could almost picture his expression, eyebrows furrowed together, lip pouted. Dehnan was not the sort to let things drop, he wouldn’t go back to sleep until I explained.

‘I,’ I paused again desperately fumbling for words that wouldn’t come, but what really was there to say? Solas had touched my vallaslin, but in a dream . I felt an indignant fury raise in my chest, and I wanted to claw the lines on my face off, ‘I feel as though,’ I waved my hand over my face, not wanting to finish the sentence.

Thankfully, Dehnan nodded as though he understood perfectly. ‘Someone’s been touching your face?’

I nodded, he shuddered in a solidarity. And I was thankful that I didn’t need to explain to Dehnan what it felt like when the blood magic that resided within my skin was disturbed. Fenedhis, it would be impossible to sleep again. I shrugged a cloak over my shoulders and left the tent.

‘Want me to come?’ Dehnan asked.

‘No, try to get some sleep.’

 

The dark sky was tinted with the first light of dawn and I met Loranil already sat reigniting the dying fire. He glanced up to me and I approached, looking relieved.

He waved a hand to the embers, ‘I have no idea how to do this.’

I sat down beside him, ‘the fire or the prayers?’

He barked a little laugh, ‘the prayers, Emalien always does them.’

It took a little while, but I taught him the prayers that I knew. Feeding him a line at a time, until he had them memoried. He had a lovely voice. ‘It’s a rough translation.’ I confessed, once we were done.

‘Emalein’s was always in elvish.’ Loranil said looking away from me, it wasn’t supposed to be a jab, but it stung anyway.

I pushed the hurt away and sighed. Taking a moment to toss more sticks on the fire, ‘our clan’s lost the language. We’ve got a lexicon, but it’s only used for names, actually I think was made from the copy your clan keeps.’

Loranil gave me an odd look, ‘why do the Lavellans have a copy of the lexicon?’

I gave him a bit of a grimace, ‘my aunt traded it with Hawen for an enchantment if memory serves me correctly.’

‘Dirthanna?’ He asked after a long moment.

I gave him a quick nod, and Loranil smiled, ‘I remember her, she was strict but nice enough.’

I smiled, but felt my heart heavy in my chest. It was good to hear that someone outside our clan still remembered her. Dirthanna, strict and kind enough , a shining Keeper that had led Lavellan well. ‘Actually, there is something that you could do for me,’ I said quickly, suddenly inspired. Loranil, I need your voice.

‘What do you need?’

‘When you get to Skyhold, find Josephine. Big hall, second door on the left. You can’t miss her, she isn’t a subtle dresser.’ I buried a smile at Josie’s choice of clothing. She was always swathed in brillant golds, rich blues and royal purples. She put the forest birds to shame. I risked a glance in the direction of the Hawen campsite. ‘Josie is our diplomate, she’s good, but she’s a shem . I need a Dalish voice to speak for me, to put some of these awful rumours to bed.’

Loranil picked up another stick and broke it in his hands, and tosses the broken twigs onto the fire.  ‘You think anyone would care what I have to say? Hawen kicked me out of the clan.’

I shook my head, he hadn’t been unnamed, so technically he was still a member of Clan Hawen. ‘I wouldn’t offer unless I thought you could do it.’

He nodded seriously, considering the responsibility I was asking him to take on. Then he leaned back on his heels and racked his gaze over me, his eyes sparked, ‘I can try.’

I smiled, ‘I cannot ask for anything more.’ I touched him shoulder, thanking him.

The lines of my face had settled, the magic no longer throbbing under my skin. That’s my first problem solved and I haven’t even had breakfast yet, I thought with elation. June craft the rest of the day like this. I prayed towards the open sky.

 

Returning to my tent to pack for the day, my hand was on the thick woven fabric of the canvas when I felt a touch against my skin and jumped. Solas . ‘I did not mean to startled you, it was not my intention to.’

I waved his concern away with my hand. But narrowed my eyes for a moment, I was secretly sure he enjoyed sneaking up on me. Problem two? ‘Ahh, let me get one thing clear, I like this,’ I moved my hand between my chest and his, ‘but not this.’ I raised my hand to move from my face to his. ‘Please, don’t touch my vallaslin ,’ then I broke off, I had been meaning to give him the reasons. Simple courtesy, would suffice as a reason, but it was deeper than that in truth.

He tilted his head and dark eyes flicked to the tree branches that twisted around my eyes, I could see the curiosity there. And it was a part of what made me so afraid, I didn’t want to be anyone’s mere curiosity. ‘You think I don’t know what you think they mean.’ He said, the question twisted into a statement daring me to disagree.

I looked down, but nodded.

He studied me for a moment, ‘that explains why you woke up, the magic sings even from the dream.’

Whatever I had been expecting, this wasn’t it. My breath caught in my throat, ‘sings is not the word I’d use.’ I snapped, but my words fell on deaf ears.

He seemed captivated by whatever train of thought he was following and raised his hand experimentally to my face, and I caught his wrist. ‘ Try me .’ I hissed in annoyance. The twitch of a smile played across his lips as I pushed his hand away from me. ‘I said, don’t touch my vallaslin.’

Solas blinked, about to say something, but I twisted away from him. Infuriating, impossible man. I thought for the second time that morning. I entered the tent, only to see Dehnan sat cross legged. The expression on his face told me he had heard everything. Fenedhis.

‘It seems you’re keeping things from me, Els.’ He said steadily.

My mood soured, I snapped at him, ‘you’re not my Keeper, Den, I don’t have to explain myself to you.’ My hand perched on my hip.

He looked at me like I’d grown a second head, a flicker of uncertainty flashed across his eyes, ‘you’re right.’ He agreed after a couple heartbeats. Then gave me a pointed look, ‘but the Keeper will want to know you’ve stumbled across a dream-walker?’

‘No,’ I narrowed my eyes at him and I hissed in a breath, ‘promise me you will not.’

‘Why?’

My stomach sank. The question hung in the air, because I’d promised not to tell . I thought frantically. I dropped to the floor, sitting down heavily. I stared at him blankly for a long moment and then down at my hands twisting together nervously in my lap. ‘So this is how you repay me?’

‘Els?’ Dehnan’s features twisted from control to concern. He leaned forward hands flapping in the air as he realised he had as little idea of what to do as I did. He swore under his breath, ‘fine.’

‘Promise me. Not a word to anyone.’ I breathed.

‘Mythal strike me down if I do,’ he said solemnly, his fingertips touching the lines carved onto his face.

I nodded, I would make him repeat it under the open sky before we left.

Chapter Text

I knelt in front of the large stone owl, I could feel Cassandra’s eyes glaring daggers into my back. I pulled an arrow from my quiver and raised it above my head. The air stung with the stench of burning wood and bodies. As difficult as saying goodbye to Loranil and Dehnan had been this morning, I was almost grateful that they were saved from the mornings activities. We’d picked our way through another shem fortification. It had been a maze of mud and wood, and every corner had revealed more undead. The Eastern rampart, I believed Cassandra had named it. Like it’s Western counterpart, it had been one of Gaspard’s strongholds that had become overrun with necromantic magic. At least Dorian seemed happy, his chest has puffed up once he’d worked the complicated magic to dispel the curses placed upon the structure. He had proven himself a valuable member of the team, not only being a particularly proficient mage, but the only mage we had who knew how to untangle the cursed pits. The moment he was finished unworking the magic, the corpses had dropped to the ground around us rippling out from him. Earning him the cat-like nod of Vivienne’s approval.

‘It’s some kind of bird god, I think?’ I heard Dorian say behind me.

I rolled my eyes at Andruil’s messenger, and carved stone eyes gaze unblinking back.. Shem, I silently communicated with the stone before me. I placed the arrow reverently on the ground, as I heard Cassandra tut her disapproval.

‘And if you need that arrow?’ She muttered.

I closed my eyes, trying to push her from my mind and touched my fingers to my vallaslin. I would always happily be a single arrow short to ensure that the gods were placated. Andruil had guided my arm through the shem maze and I needed to offer my thanks. To do anything less would be to invite her wrath, to turn her eye to me. Though I was conscious enough of my worship that I kept the offering as short as I could.

I stood, and turned back to the little group. ‘It isn’t a bird god, Dorian,’ I mocked playfully. ‘It’s a messenger.’

He flashed me a quick smile, ‘oh yes, that explains everything.’

 

Later in the afternoon, we had stumbled across yet another shem stronghold. Again crawling with demons and undead. I could see why Celene had wanted someone to deal with this mess, typical shem. I thought unkindly, break the Dales and make an elf clear up her mess. It broke my heart to see what the Empress’ war had done to my ancestral homeland. It had been once week since I’d saved her life at the Winter Palace. The foul air stunk of smoke, and I gritted my teeth and approached the wooden fortress. I gave a glance up to the sky, Andruil, I need you to be with me again.

 

After a few minutes we had fought our way to another broken and rotting pit of bodies. I crinkled my nose at the sight, if I never saw another pit like that it would be too soon. I nodded to Dorian who stepped forward to begin his complicated spell work, trusting us to guard his back as he did so. His staff moved in complicated designs, tracing unseen tunes into the air. One of the runes flashed blue and I was suddenly reminded of the pit in the Winter Palace, the burnt faces could be masks. I needed to get out of Orlais.

A hunger demon tried to strike Dorian from his side, which snapped me out of my musing and I loosed a series of arrows at it. One of my arrows had an explosive tip, which burst a fireball over the demon's head, showering sparks onto Dorian’s shoulder. He flicked an annoyed glance at me, but didn’t hesitate in his work.

‘Sorry!’ I called and reached behind me for another arrow. Fenedhis, my quiver was empty. Pausing for a second too long I considered my options. It would have to be my dagger . Without any other choice, I dropped my bow and grabbed the dagger from my boot, this was not meant for you, I thought venomously at the demon, before launching myself at the demon and slashing at its exposed neck. It screeched as the attack hit, black ooze bubbling out of the cut that I created. It’s hollow eyes flick to me.

It flailed it’s overlong arms and managed to scrap a claw along the top of my bicep. I cursed and pulled back, splatting it’s tar-like blood as I did so. I flicked the knife in the air to get more of the goo off, although the extra seconds allowed it to step around me. Taller than me the demon towered around my body, I turned and struck it hard. As I did so I dodged back from the jagged claws it had for hands. My dagger stuck in the demon and it finally fell backwards, landing to the ground with a thud. It’s cold stone eyes fixed upon me, even after defeat.

It had been enough time for Dorian’s spell to be completed and I saw the ripple of magic radiate dropping our enemies.

I let out a breath of relief, and picked my dagger out of my fallen foe, And wiping the ooze off on a little tuft of grass nearby. Uggg. When I righted myself again Dorian was passing his staff between his hands. ‘Be careful with those fireballs, I’m too pretty to die.’ He drawled.

I rolled my eyes, ‘I know.’

His eyes flicked to my arm, which is bleeding a little. ‘You ran out of arrows.’ He added, running a hand through his hair, in an unnecessary attempt to smooth down his already immaculate hair.

I smirked, ‘I got the job done,’ I picked up my discarded bow and slung it over my shoulder. ‘Don’t tell Cassandra.’

He winked at me.

‘You’re hurt,’ Vivienne chastised, stepping over a new re-dead body to come to my side. She raised her hands over the wound, and I felt the twisting tendrils of magic stitch my flesh back together.

 

We set up camp for the evening by the Riverside. Cassandra had hurt herself during the afternoon and Vivienne was using all of her healing knowledge to try to undo the damage.

‘You fight hard, Seeker,’ Solas said approvingly, as he watched Vivienne work from across the campfire.

Dorian nudged me with his knee and gave me a waggle of his eyebrows. I ignored him.

‘We would be dead if it did not,’ Cassandra replied smartly, although she ended her sentence with a wince and scowled up at Vivienne.

Vivienne let the look roll off her like water off a duck's back. ‘If it hurts it means it working,’ she said without stopping in her spellwork. Golden light emanating from one hand, and her other creating cooling ice to soothe the cuts and bruises.

‘Well,’ I begin, fishing around in my pack for my last bottle of red wine. ‘Good work today,’ I pull the bottle out triumphantly, ‘small celebration?’ I asked, although I think I already know the answer.

Dorian took my hand, ‘you are magnificent, Hellana.’ He tried to kiss my hand, a noble gesture I was sure, but his whiskers felt like beetles on my skin and I ripped my hand away. ‘Get off, you lech.’ I smirked and I received a wink in response.

‘Celebration?’ Cassandra asked, dismayed.

‘Liberating two fortifications, in one day is a noteworthy achievement.’ Solas replied to her reasonably, and glanced over to me with a knowing look.

I nod and I pull the cork out with my teeth and pass the bottle around. Most of the bottle is gone before I notice the peak of a mountain on the other side of the river has an odd shape to it, too sharp, too curved. I can only make out an outline against the limited starlight, but I know in my bones exactly what is carved there. A wolf.

Chapter Text

I didn’t sleep wonderfully well, as the thought of Fen’Heral looming over the valley, watching, wasn’t the most reassuring thought. The dawn came, as dawn usually did, and I pushed myself from my bedroll. Rubbing at my eyes as I exited the tent, how had I become the kind of person to rise at dawn? There was always too much to do and never enough time. And even if there was enough time, I hadn’t learned to stop worrying. I vaguely considered Cullen, who was the only person I knew who regularly did, I wondered if he carried a weight that stopped him from sleeping like me?

I sat down by the fire and began my usual morning routine of bringing the fire back to life. But the hymn to Sylaise caught in my throat, the embers were cold and dead, I poked at the pile of ash with a tentative finger, completely cold. My touch disturbed the pile and a cloud of ash drifted into the air. I frowned at the fire pit and went to fetch my pocket flint. When I returned, I created a little mound of sticks and hit the flint, but try as I might the sparks wouldn’t catch. I cursed under my breath. I sat back, annoyed that the fire wouldn’t do my bidding. I sighed and tried again with no luck. Cold ashes. Then the fire burst to life, blue and white. I looked up with surprise to see Solas had conjured veilfire to save me from my frustration.

I smiled, but my thanks died in my mouth as I saw his expression, ‘what’s wrong?’

He looked over to me, but it was like I was made of morning mist and his gaze passed through me. He racked a hand over his scalp. ‘I may need to ask a favour,’ he began unsteadily. ‘One of my oldest friends has been captured by mages,’ he paused to look back upstream and then he turned back to me, eyebrows knitted together and dark circles under his eyes, ‘I heard the cry for help as I slept.’

‘Right,’ I said, jumping to action. Not bothering to ask anymore questions.

 

Within a few minutes, Cassandra was awake and pulling on her sword belt, ‘I thought all your friends were spirits?’ She asked Solas, Stirling a yawn.

He nodded to her, ‘it is, my friend is a spirit of wisdom.’

Vivienne stopped her preparations and gave me a dark look, ‘spirit of demon, neither can be trusted.’

‘Viv,’ I cautioned, but was cut off by Solas.

‘It was summoned against its will and wants my help to gain its freedom and return to the fade,’ his words were quick and impatient, and the chastisement had no sting.

I glanced towards Dorian’s tent, but there were no signs of movement. I waited a heartbeat, ‘let’s go.’ I commanded with a stone in my stomach, he would be annoyed that we’d left without him.

Solas looked at me, as though seeing me for the first time that morning. ‘Thank you, Inquisitor.’ Then he turned and set off, so I buried my questions and followed.

 

I stared in horror as the pride demon flashed out of existence, to be replaced with a woman with eyes burning as green as my hand. We had stumbled across a group of three mages, lead by the most arrogant shem, I had ever had the misfortune to meet. They had set up a summoning circle near the river. And trapped in the centre was a very unhappy pride demon. Vivienne had cautioned me that we probably shouldn’t be helping demons, but when I commanded the group to smash the stones she did as I bid without reservation. I had expected the demon to fade away, to blink out of existence like the rifts did when I closed them, but instead, a woman took its place.

Solas went to her, they exchanged a few elvish words that although I caught, I didn’t understand. I saw his shoulders sag, and his head shake. Then he raised his hands and she dissolved into ash. The flecks carried away on the wind.

I looked down, uncertain if I should be watching such a deeply private moment. Vivienne was stood away from the group examining her nails, seemingly bored by the entire encounter. Cassandra on the other hand had stuck her sword into the ground and was watching with rapt interest. Her eyes flicking to the mages who had summoned and bound the spirit a couple of times to ensure that they did not intend to run away.  

After a long moment, Solas squared his shoulders, he stood and turned to me. He was looking past me again, he spoke something to himself, whispered words of Elvish, the only word I made out was endure.

 

I wanted to reach for him, let him know I was here, but he seemed distant in a way that was not simply about the space between. ‘All that remains now, is them.’ He said, surprising me with the abrupt switch to common, which sounded rough in comparison. Solas’ eyes became impossibly dark, like falling into pits and he turned that gaze on the three frightened mages.

‘Thank you,’ the arrogant shem mage began, ‘we should not have risked a summoning, but the roads are too dangerous to travel unprotected…’ he audibly gulped as Solas strode towards him.

‘You tortured and killed my friend,’ Solas snapped, he raised a hand.

And from the side of one of the broken binding stones, one of my arrows had missed and lodged in the ground. It stuck up at an angle, but as he twisted his hand, the arrow jumped back from the ground and flew to his command. Sickening slowly, the arrow swum through the air. Solas twitched his fingers and the arrow slipped through the neck of the

dark haired man. I had never seen magic like it. I saw Vivienne looked up suddenly, her hand dropping to her side.

The mage behind him gasped in horror, but the sound turned into a gurgle as the arrow perforated her neck. The last man standing took two paces backwards before he too succumbed to Solas’ arrow.

I took a step back myself, a twisting knot in my stomach at what I had just witnessed. And a heartbeat later, the three bodies were consumed in veilfire till there was nothing, but ash left. More ash, scattering to the wind.

He turned back to me, ‘I need some time alone,’ he whispered. I nodded and was gone. Fade stepping away in a flash of green.

My hand reached out instinctively to the spot where he’d been, but he was gone. Just like that.  

 

Without a word to Vivienne and Cassandra I trudged, numbly, back to camp. Vivienne kept glancing backward, she was unsettled. And I couldn’t say I felt any better. Back to the camp, my eyes flicked up to the Wolf overlooking the valley. Solas’s friend had been betrayed, we needed to leave.

Dorian greeted us, a little put out that we’d left him. He frowned, eyes flicking between us making a mental count. ‘Where did you leave Solas?’ When no one spoke for a moment, he added, ‘not that I object.’

I sat down by the extinguished firepit, cold and empty. Uncertain what to say, how I could explain. Vivienne took my side and tapped my hand reassuringly. It was the closest she got to a hug.

Cassandra however shrugged off her sword belt, laying the blade down at the entrance of her tent and she began pacing back and forwards. ‘He left,’ she threw her hands up in the air, ‘just left.’ Within a minute an entire tirade of anger had fallen from her lips, questioning everything from Solas’ loyalty to her own judge of character. I took a breath to interpret her, to defend him somehow, but Vivienne shook her head at me. It was never a good idea to draw Cassandra’s ire.

Dorian glanced back at Vivienne and I, wide-eyed at the unexpected turn of events. ‘She’s taking it very well,’ he muttered under his breath.

‘What was that?’ Cassandra demanded spinning on her heels to face the mage.

Dorian raised his hands, and Cassandra made a disgusted noise. ‘Traitor,’ she spat onto the ground.

‘Cassandra,’ I snapped, unable to keep silent. ‘I let him go, he’ll be back.’ I said with more confidence than I felt. I didn’t know if he would be back. It wasn’t like we’d had a long conversation about it.

‘And if he does not?’

I didn’t answer her. I shifted uncomfortably in my place, I didn’t know what he would do. The deaths of the mages at his hands had shocked me, the deadly efficiently used against vastly inferior opponents was not what I would have predicted. He was always so uncompromisingly desperate to prevent wasted life, and yet he’d snuffed three mages out because of their stupidity. I rubbed at my eyes, maybe I really didn’t know him that well at all.

Vivienne tapped my hand again, and had opened her mouth to speak. But never got the chance, a green and brown clothed Inquisition Agent came running into view. Red-faced and hair plastered to her face with sweat. Vivienne gave her an unimpressed glance, but didn’t comment further.

‘Your Worship,’ the woman called. She dropped to her knees before me and held out a small envelope. ‘News,’ she gasped, ‘Josephine.’

‘Rest, rest,’ Dorian cooed, on his feet and guiding her to sit and he passed her a waterskin which she took thankfully.

I turned the little note over in my hands, it had Josephine’s seal. I cracked it open and there was another note wrapped inside the first one. I scanned the page,

 

Hellana,

I am so sorry,

Josephine.

 

My mouth went dry. The second note had a damaged seal on it that I didn’t recognise. Red wax that had already been broken. I unfolded it,

 

Ambassador Montilyet,

I regret that my help for your Dalish allies came too late to be of use. By the time my forces arrived in the area, the Dalish had been scattered or killed, all that remains of their camp is ash.  I understand your Inquisitor must be feeling the loss of her clan. Please accept these gifts and my promise of future help whenever it is necessary.

Yours,
Duke Antoine of Wycome

I stared at the page blankly and re-read the words. And then again. They didn’t make any sense. Loss of her clan, what in Sylaise’s sweet name was that supposed to mean?

I stared at the firepit in utter horror. Sylaise, sweet Sylaise, I had desecrated her shrine and now she had taken my hearth from me. I could almost picture the goddess, in a fit of vengeance turning Wisdom to ash and burning my clan to the ground. I glanced warily up at the open sky. Fuck. They were meant to be coming to Skyhold, Deshanna had written to me. Hadn’t she-

I passed the notes to Vivienne and walked over to the wide river, flowing cool and crisp. I splashed the water on my face, to wake myself up from this dream. I would wake up, any minute and I would have found that I’d slept in, I would have finally slept in for one. This was a nightmare. Behind me I heard Vivienne gasp and the rustle of paper as the note was passed between them. Quiet whispers echoed dully behind me as they discussed the news.  

Vivienne approached, ‘there is a chance,’ she began.

‘Do not fill her head with false hope,’ Cassandra snapped.

Vivienne retorted, but the words were foggy. Everything was smoke and ash. The air in the Dales was thick with the stentch of burning buildings, in my Dalish pride, I had considered it a good thing. A punishment for the shem that dared to take our land. I hadn’t realised I was on my knees retching up bile. Until I sat back, with a hand to my mouth, and my eyes found the Wolf on the mountain side. I raised my open palms to the mountain.

Fen’Heral, I have been betrayed, Fen’Heral, I invoke you, I call you. Fen’Heral, hear me, avenge me.

Chapter Text

My cousin Sil sat cross legged in front of me on a woven red mat, in the shade of a great painted tree. His shock of bright white was pushed out of his face with a careless hand. He held up a deck of cards to me, ‘sure you want to know.’

I nodded.

‘Knock,’ he commanded, holding the deck out between us. Playing side down, except these were no ordinary deck.

I reached out an uncertain hand, normally I found his foresight was half blind. But I had been selected to leave the clan and travel halfway across the continent, forewarned was forearmed. I knocked four times on the top of the deck.

He pulled the deck back to his body, and began shuffling, ‘tell me when to stop.’ He said quietly, his words twisted the pale turquoise flame that marked his left eye.

I waited a few heartbeats and then nodded.

He met my eyes and winked, ‘don’t look so grim, Els.’ Then he pulled the first card from the top and laid it between us. He frowned, which filled me with confidence.

The Hanged Hare, was written on top of a black-bordered card, with a crude sketch of a white hare hung by the back paw. Its eyes were glazed over, and I couldn’t stop staring at the dead white eyes. ‘Interesting,’ Sil muttered under his breath and drew another card. But I put my hand over it before I could see.

‘Stop.’

Sil looked at me, ‘it’s good card, he shrugged. Wisdom, knowledge, since that is your mission-‘

‘Wisdom and knowledge in exchange for a sacrifice. Sacrifice to Andruil, Sil.’

He shrugged as though the idea didn’t bother him in the slightest. ‘Sure that you don’t want the next card?’

I paused for a second, be brave little hare, I thought silently praying the Hanged Hare was metaphorical rather than a literal depiction of my future, ‘show me.’

Sil flicked the card over with a careless gesture. Nine of swords, the card showed a man sat up in bed with nine swords hung over his head. I raised an eyebrow. ‘It means Nightmare.’

‘What?’ I gasped. That wasn’t good at all.

He shook his head, ‘waking up from a Nightmare, not as bad as you think.’ He smirked and wagged a finger between the two cards, ‘not as bad as you think.’ He repeated as though he was a sort of mystic. Then he drew a third card, which I glanced down at apprehensively. Ace of Arrows. Sil snorted at that, and he rapped his own knuckles on the deck, ‘they’re being cheeky tonight,’ he said a touch displeased. He sat back, placing a hand on his knee, elbow stuck out as though he was trying to sass the cards back.  

‘Ace of Arrows?’

He set the deck down to his right and waggled his hands in the air, a broad cat-like grin spread across his face, ‘it appears you’re going on a journey. Straight and true, you couldn’t avoid it even if you wanted.’

‘Oh,’ I picked up the card, which was decorated with the sketch of a single wooden arrow. ‘Useful.’


 

It had been two weeks. Two weeks since the damned letter hand been placed in my hand to tell me my clan was scattered. It had been two weeks since Madame de Fer had pulled me aside and told me that the night she’d been recruited to the Inquisitor, she’d called in all her favours from the various Free Marches circles, including Wycome with a single objective. To protect my clan. Her words were driftwood, but I was drowning, and I took anything to keep myself afloat. That evening I had sat vigil all evening by the fire, feeding the flame and praying, begging forgiveness of Sylaise.

Each night since, I had been foolishly expecting Solas to appear in a dream, but I knew realistically that he wouldn’t. I was the one who had asked him not to turn up without permission. I wished I could see him again, apologise, since I had no desecrated Sylaise’s shrine by myself, I had known that I needed to fix the breakage. I had known better, I had let him tempt me, and now the goddess turned her wrath to the both of us.

The uncertainty picked at me like a mason working she way around a block of limestone, I knew nothing for certain, my only option was to pack up all my pain and bury it. I decided I would not build a marker until I knew for certain what had happened to my clan. Which meant, I would not break down till I knew.

If they were safe then I would bring them to Skyhold, protect them behind my shem castle walls. If they were not, I’d take the Inquisitions gold, I’d buy a ship and sail into the Amaranthine Ocean. We divide into Clans, so one great calamity cannot destroy us once and for all, Dirthanna had told me once, but they wrong empty in my memory. The Dalish would endure, but the Dalish didn’t need me – a lost hunter with embroiled in the shem world.

Dehnan, I thought with a jolt, he didn’t know. I rubbed at my eyes in frustration, I couldn’t leave. Not if there were two of us. It would take both of us to face the Arlathvhen, to stand before the gathering of Keepers from every clan and ask for Lavellan to be kept alive. If my clan was gone, the name would endure with new faces and new mages to bolster the ranks. We would be remade, we would endure, but we wouldn’t be same. I tugged at the woven bracelet at my wrist, I knew it my bones it was no longer the rope to bring me back home. Whatever had happened home was gone, the aravals burned, the halla butchered under shem swords. It was my fault. I had taken the Hunter’s luck, woven and wrapped around my wrist. It had been meant to bring me victories while I was away, but I had brought the clan only suffering and loss.  

I rolled from my bedroll and pushed myself into a crawl. No use brooding all day. I tugged my armour. With any luck, and if the weather held, we would be back to Skyhold before nightfall. I glanced at the bracelet again, I had been ridiculously lucky, I thought bitterly.

 

When I exited the tent, Cassandra gave me a kindly smile and pressed a streaming cup of elfroot into my hands as she had begun to do in the mornings. It numbed some of the pain and I was grateful for it. The last two weeks had changed her reaction to me. And I saw the shift in her eyes, I was finally breaking out from her prisoner, the woman who had to be forced to take every step along a path she didn’t want to tread; to become someone who had a stake in the outcomes of the Inquisition, someone who had something to loose, to truly become her Inquisitor. I had seemingly transformed in front of her, to become more of who she wanted me to be. Although I found the reaction wasn’t entirely one sided, the stake white eye on her armour still watched me, but I found an odd sort of comfort in being in Andruil’s sight. Andruil’s orb had touched me, and I was her arrow, being thrown blindly forward.

Chapter Text

Skyhold was unnaturally quiet, the tavern doubly so. Sera, Blackwall, Varric and Bull had yet to return from their mission in search of the Grey Wardens and the Chargers had been dispatched to try to track any survivors of my clan, and to investigate what had happened. I left the building and took the little hipflask out of my jacket pocket, it was filled with elfroot potion. I took a drag, it helped. The cold liquid spread down my throat, leaving a trail of numbness in its path. In the courtyard I could see Vivienne through her balcony window, she was writing at her desk and didn’t want to disturb her.

‘You’re too bright, like counting birds against the sun. When you drink it, you fade.’ Said a soft voice behind me.

I turned around to see the lanky youth, face hidden with a broad hat, ‘Cole.’ I said a little uncertain and took another sip of the elfroot.

‘No, no, being numb won’t bring them back.’ He added, voice going higher in desperation.

I looked away, ‘I know.’ My hand tightened on the little hipflask, I gritted my teeth together. I wanted the numbness, but he was right. I put the lid back on a slid it back into my pocket. When I looked up Cole had gone. I sighed, and pulled a hand through my hair, twisting it together and pulling it over one shoulder. I wanted to hit something. I turned away from the main building and ventured over to the area of the courtyard given over to practise dummies. It was Cassandra’s usual haunt, yet when I got there she was nowhere to be found. I frowned, but approached the door where her quarters were, maybe I could coax her out with the promise of giving me a few bruises.  

I pushed through the wooden door, to find that I was not in the right place at all, but I kept going anyway. If I hadn’t been so numb, I would have considered it curiosity that drove me forward, but in all honestly I couldn’t say why I didn’t turn on my heel and leave the dark corridor’s secrets alone.

Steps lead down into the mountain and the walls became chilled as I took each careful step down, I glanced behind me. The echo on the stone may it sound like someone was behind me, but there was no one. I could hear a dull roar at the bottom of the staircase which I couldn't place. I continued with my descent.

Eventually I came to another wooden door, I pushed through to find the chill of the mountain air hit me. The room was lit with touchlight and curved around in a horseshoe shape, leaving a gaping hole in the side. I blinked at the oddness of the room but was distracted when I heard a noise from my left.

I turned, and a woman sat with her knees up ushered me over. She was an elf, wrapped in the typical green and oranges of a Dalish scout. I stepped closer and I could see her maroon vallaslin. She eyed me and I saw her eyes flick to my own forehead and her face relaxed. ‘Thank the Creators, spring me, would you?’ She pulled herself around onto her knees and I realised with a jolt she was behind metal bars.

I glanced around, I was in some kind of dungeon. ‘How did you get here?’ I asked.

‘No time, the guard will be back any minute.’ She hissed, beckoning me closer again.

I stepped up to the bars but couldn’t seem to find anyway to unlock the door without a key. She sighed in frustration at my failed efforts and dropped herself back down onto the floor with a clunk.

‘Hey, get away from there!’ Another woman shouted from behind me. Without meaning to, I took a step back. ‘That one’s dangerous, bit the ear off the sorry bastard who brought her in.’

I gave the Dalish a woman a look and she grinned at me with wild smile of confirmation. I turned to the guard, who saw my vallaslin, and her hand immediately went to the blade at her hip, ‘what are you doing here?’ She hissed.

I looked at her curiously, ‘why is she locked up?’ I asked, numb to the danger I was in.

The guard spat on the ground, ‘Andraste’s arse, who do you think you are?’

I raised my left hand, which glowed green in response, the guard paled. ‘Your worship,’ she stammered, her hand dropping away from her weapon. At the same time, the woman behind bars swore.

‘Why is she locked up?’ I repeated far more calmly than I felt. Something burned deep i the pit of my stomach, fighting trying to get out, something that the elfroot had stifled.

The guard backed up a little and groped at a collection of papers on a desk in a little nock. She glanced at them, finding the right forms and handed them to me.

I took them, skim reading the document. ‘This says she was captured on my orders,’ I said, ‘I do not recall giving these orders, bring me the key.’

The guard stood, flummoxed for a second, ‘but your worship,’ she began.

I gave her a look and continued reading. Then I found her name, Mihris, one of Briala’s people. I spun around to the Dalish woman, ‘Mihris?’

She gave me a cold stare, but the slight tilt of her head confirmed her identity. I glanced down at the paperwork again, then turned to guard. ‘Bring me key, then bring me Leliana.’ I snapped.

Two heartbeats passed before the woman snapped her heels and did as she was bid.

Mihris gave me a scrutinising look. Then raised her chin to me, ‘what do you want?’

I knelt to her, so we were level, ‘ir abalas, lethallan, please forgive me. I wanted to speak with you, not have you captured.’

Tight lipped, Mihris, tilted her hand again just so slightly. ‘Captured as funny word for it, dragged from the Hinterlands by two of the Nightingale’s little birds more like.’

I closed my eyes, Leliana what have you done? I looked up as a large wrought iron key was placed into my hands. ‘I have sent a runner for Mistress Leliana.’

I unlocked the door for Mihris, who glanced me over for a second, and I thought she was about to bolt. ‘Please, I said with a hand in front of her. You are not my prisoner, and you’re free to go if you wish. I had a few questions about Briala, but I understand-.’

‘Briala?’ She asked, drawing herself up and crossed her arms across her chest, she narrowed her eyes, ‘the thief?’

I blinked. ‘Thief?’

‘She took the eluvian network for herself, for the flat-ears.’

I stood dumbfounded, ‘eluvians are myths-.’

Mihris shook her head, ‘no they’re not, and Briala had a network to herself.’

I put a hand across my mouth, I rubbed at my eyes, wishing I could scrub away the elfroot that clouded my mind. Had Briala mentioned a network, I couldn’t remember.

‘Will you let me go now?’ She asked stiffly.

I nodded, ‘what do you need, a mount? Food, coin? Do you know where your clan is?’

Mihris gave me a cold look, ‘I carry clan Virnehn with me. And I don’t want your gold.’

Her words cut through me, she was alone. My bones turned cold. ‘You’re welcome to stay, as my honoured guest.’

‘I have no interest in your shem walls.’ She retorted, though she softened a little. ‘I’ll take your bread.’

I nodded.

‘Inquisitor?’

I spun around to find Leliana at the bottom of the stairs, she glanced behind me at Mihris wouldn’t a hint of recognition and I felt a spark of fury burn through the numbness. ‘Leliana, let me make something abundantly clear.’

Leliana raised an eyebrow at my tone of voice.

‘The Dalish are my allies, if I ever find you have imprisoned one again-,’ I broke off, not sure what I could threaten her with. I doubted I had anything, anything but me, ‘I’ll leave.’ I said simply after a heartbeat.

Leliana’s face remained a mask, but her eyes flicked to Mihris again. ‘This one injured one of my men.’ She replied softly.

I shrugged, ‘she was a guest, not a prisoner. You man should not have tried to take her.’

Leliana blinked unhappily, ‘we needed more information.’

‘Not at any cost.’ I replied simply. Holding Leliana’s gaze for a long moment, when she didn’t blink, I kept my gaze steady. I held it until my eyes ached, but then finally she accepted defeat and nodded.

‘It will not happen again,’ she said softly.

I gave Leliana a grim smile and turned back to Mihris, who was watching me like a falcon watches a mouse. I tilted my head towards the stairs and lead her up and out into the open air.

 

It took about twenty minutes to get Mihris all the supplies that she needed for at least three weeks travel, which she slung onto Betsie. Giving her my horse seemed like the least I could do to make recompense, that and an inquisitorial writ enduring the she would get no further trouble from any inquisition agents.

Mihris took my hands in hers and pulled us together so that our hands rested between our vallaslin. ‘I will remember this,’ she said evenly in a tone that had me doubting if that was a good thing or not. Then she dropped my hands like they burnt her, swung onto Betsie’s back and rode away into the night. As I watched her go, my hands drifted to the hipflask with elfroot. I brought it up to my lips but reconsidered and poured the contents on the ground.

Chapter Text

Standing in the main room of the keep was an odd experience in and of itself. On my way from my room to Josephine’s office, I overheard a conversation between two men, Fereldan nobles I guessed from their dress.

‘But did you see her dress?’ The first one asked, he was shorter and thinner than his companion. ‘Her,’ he waved his hand over his chest, ‘spilling out,’ he raised an eyebrow.

The second man pulled a face, ‘I did, apparently the Empress sent her, can you imagine if all the women of court dressed like that?’

‘It would certainly be a sight,’ the first replied with a snort. ‘I heard she brought a mirror with her, about the size of that window,’ he said pointed at the great glazed window behind the throne.

The second man scratched the back of his neck, ‘Orlesian vanity.’ He scoffed and his eyes flicked to me for a moment, but then passed over me as though I was hardly worth any notice.

 

I continued to Josephine’s office, a slight smile on my face at everyone’s seeming inability to recognise their own inquisitor. I wondered if anyone would be able to tell the difference if I was replaced by a Qunari. I would have to do something about that.

I pushed through the first door and paused in the archway leading to her office. Mother Giselle was settled on the sofa in front of the fire and Josephine was at her desk, half buried in an unending pile of paperwork. I noticed a third figure almost hidden in shadow in the corner of the room. As the door closed behind me, Mother Giselle twisted her head to see me. Maybe her hat was glued on? She gave me a small smile and beckoned me over. ‘Herald, it is good to see you.’

The figure in the shadow, stepped into the light, Loranil. My mouth went dry at the sight of him, he gave me a nod. His eyes flicked to Josephine and then to Mother Giselle. He did not look happy. Something was wrong.

‘Mother Giselle,’ I smiled, as pleasantly as I could.

Josephine laid her quill down and looked up from her work, ‘it would appear that every faction in Thedas is spreading rumours about you. Some less tasteful than others.’

That was putting it lightly. I nodded, taking the free seat by Mother Giselle.

‘I think we should install a chantry within these walls, a beacon for the faithful.’ Giselle said, shifting slightly to face me directly.

I coughed, ‘absolutely not.’ I replied without thinking.

Mother Giselle straightened a tight look on her face, but I noticed Loranil bury a smirk. ‘The Herald of Andraste should hardly-,’ Giselle began.

‘Ghilan’nain,’ Loranil interrupted, but it was more as though the words broke out of him, and then his eyes went wide as he realised what he’d said, and he bit his lip.

My eyes flicked to him, ‘no, don’t do that either.’ Last thing I needed was being given to more gods without my consent.

Mother Giselle looked to the elf, hidden behind her hat I couldn’t see her expression, but Loranil looked away quickly. Then she turned back to me, ‘building a chantry would placate any rumours of you being a heretic.’ She snapped.

I looked to Josephine, ‘Josie?’ I asked, looking for some kind of rational view, any other option.

Josephine looked down and shuffled some papers, then looked up at me, ‘a chantry wouldn’t hurt.’ Coward.

I rubbed my eyes, it appeared that Giselle had bullied everyone in the room to her point of view and asking me was more of a formality. But then I realised of course, Giselle was right. I sat up, ‘yes. Build a chantry on the grounds, Mother Giselle, I will leave it in your care. Josephine, will you organise a suitable budget?’

Mother Giselle stood a victorious smile playing across her face and smoothed out her skirts. Her hat tipped back at a precarious angle and I was quite sure it was going to fall. It appeared the Maker moved in mysterious ways, as it did not fall. She dipped her head to me, about to leave the room.

‘Oh, Mother Giselle,’ I said, catching her just before left. She stopped, to turn back to me, ‘I do expect when I build a shrine to my gods, I will hear no complaint from you?’ A shrine would placate the Dalish equally as well.

It was as though I’d thrown a bucket of ice water over her, the victorious smile washed off her face and she opened her mouth to protest.

‘That does seem fair,’ Josephine acknowledged, but didn’t meet Giselle’s eyes.

She flashed a murderous look to Josephine but turned her gaze back on me. Try me, I have nothing to lose. After a long heartbeat, she gave me a curt nod and swept from the room.

Loranil twisted his hands in front of him and looked almost fit to burst with excitement.

Josephine however looked less than impressed with my skilful mastery of the game. ‘It probably isn’t wise to provoke her,’ she began.

I shrugged and toyed with the bracelet on my wrist, I’d make a shrine the match of her chantry. ‘There are at least thirty, maybe forty elves who keep to the old faith, I am simply being fair.’

Josephine considered for a moment, then nodded. ‘Speaking of elves, I heard from Leliana what happened last night.’

I twisted my fingers together, ‘if there are any more Dalish prisoners hidden around, you should probably tell me now, I’m out of horses.’

Josephine pursed her lips together, ‘there are not, but you shouldn’t have been so generous.’

I laughed and shrugged as though the entire affair was of no consequence. ‘We falsely imprisoned Briala’s ally, it is hardly the impression we want to send. What if it got back to Briala, what if it got back to Celene?’ It was technically a lie, Mihris had hardly seemed enamoured by Briala, but it might be easier for the shem to accept my actions, if they thought I was merely playing the game. ‘I am sorry if Leliana’s pride was wounded, but I couldn’t let the woman leave thinking that was how we treated our allies.’

She blinked at me and then scribbled something down on a piece of paper, ‘I understand,’ she smiled broadly. ‘I will explain to Leliana.’ And then she looked back down as though I was dismissed. I glanced to Loranil, he was watching rapt.

‘If we can go back to the topic of being fair,’ I continued and Josephine looked back up, regarding me curiously. ‘How much are the elves here being paid?’

Josephine squinted at me for a second, and then fished through her piles of papers, ‘Orlesian standard, three fifths normal wages.’

I steeled my gaze, ‘normal wages?’

She cleared her throat, but didn’t look at me, ‘human wages,’ she corrected.

‘Does that sound fair?’ I asked. The second night in Skyhold I had sworn to Falon’Din I would help the elves here, I was going to damn well try.

She opened her mouth, and then closed it again. ‘What do you propose?’

‘Equal to human wages, dwarves as well.’

She shook her head as though I’d proposed giving the elves one of the moons. ‘We don’t have the gold.’

I tilted my head, ‘and yet we paid for those lavish outfits for the Winter Palace. Write to whoever you usually write to. Cut my wages, I don’t care, make it happen.’

‘Hellana, this is unheard of,’ Josephine began, then she paused, and a sweet smile spread across her face, ‘Maker’s mercy,’ she breathed as though struck by divine inspiration. ‘I will get it done.’ She promised me. Loranil exchanged a glance with me. Remarkably easy.

‘Thank you, Josephine.’

I stood about to leave when she looked up again, ‘ah, and the Lady Morrigan arrived this morning.’

I grimaced, wonderful.

Chapter Text

I retreated back to my quarters around midday, the morning too full of excitement and I found myself doubting every one of my actions. I sat on the edge of my bed, feeling like a coil of rope was wrapped around my waist. I wanted to pull it tighter, tighter to get myself back into control. I swallowed hard, feeling sick. Unwelcome panic bubbling up under my skin, I lay back. They would definitely burn me, after that stunt. I worried the woven bracelet around my wrist, in a castle surrounded by people and so utterly alone. I glanced to the balcony door but didn’t dare approach. The gods didn’t need to see me like this, I thought.

 

Be brave, little hare, Deshanna’s voice told voice me from what seemed like the previous age. I rubbed at my eyes and tried to picture my mother. A short woman, with thick tightly curled black hair, fading to grey the last time I’d seen her. I could almost picture her staff strung with turquoise beads around the top, the teal patched Keeper’s robes she wore and the sylvan-wood ring she twisted on her finger when she thought. Would I ever see her again?

 

I looked up as a person appeared at the top of the stairs, I rubbed at my eyes not quite believing they were real. Honey-brown eyes under cropped blonde hair, ‘Sera?’ I breathed.

‘Your ladybits,’ she mock curtsied to me, pulling out her red tunic as though it was an Orlesian gown. And seemingly skipped over, ‘we got good news and bad new, right?’ She dropped down onto the bed beside me, looked me over twice and pulled me into a lung-crushingly tight hug, ‘rough day?’

I tried to smile, but it felt like a cracked lie spreading across my face, ‘rough month.’ I replied.

‘I heard some things,’ she winked at me. ‘Saucy things.’

Creators,’ I breathed, rubbing my eyes.

She wrinkled her nose at that, but thankfully didn’t say anything more on the topic. She paused tapping her tongue, making a clicking noise, ‘the good news then?’ she offered.

I nodded welcoming the distraction, anything to get me out of my own head.

Sera eyed me, and pulled her leg up onto the bed wrapping her arms around it, tapping it a little impatiently as she did so, ‘I’m dry, you look dry, tavern?’

I leant back and pointed my arm out to my bookcase, ‘large green tome.’ I was almost proud I’d managed to keep my secret supply from her for over a month.

She narrowed her eyes at me, then jumped up and bounded off towards the bookcase. She managed to pull two handful of books before she found the one which hid my secret brandy supply. Her little exclamation of joy was worth sacrificing my brandy.  ‘Inky,’ she began bounding back over and planting a kiss on the top of my hair and looking at the bottle like it was her first-born child. ‘I could kiss you!’

‘You already did!’ I exclaimed, ‘give me that,’ I laughed and snatched the bottle from her and then froze, I laughed.

‘What?’ She eyed me curiously, before bending over at the waist to get a better look at my face. Then she waved a hand in front of my face, leaving me to pull my neck back away from her, ‘pissing ponces broke my inky.’ She snarled into the air.

I glanced up, but I found my mouth dry. I didn’t want to put the words into the air. I bit my lip, took a steading breath, ‘my clan got attacked.’ I said eventually.

Sera whistled out a breath and plopped down next to me again, she wrapped an arm around my shoulder, nudging against my neck with her head, ‘who did it?’

I shrugged, and my eyes went blurry. Great, now the gods have blinded me, I thought venomously before realised with a stunned shock that I was just crying. Fenedhis. ‘All I know is the camp was burnt, I don’t know if anyone survived.’

‘Fuck,’ Sera muttered.

‘Fuck, indeed.’ I agreed. Then I pulled the cork off the bottle and took a swig. It was better than the elfroot potion. The fire burned down my throat. I passed the bottle to her.

She took it with a small salute. And then she sighed, ‘good news we got you a proper elfy friend.’

I turned to her and raised an eyebrow. ‘Elfy friend?’ I queried, about to remind her that she was in fact an elf but bit the words back.

‘Varric brought his friend back,’ she waved her arms as though to illustrate her point, ‘the one from Kirkwall that did all that stuff. Her girlfriend wouldn’t stay put, she’s all face-y, talks weird too.’

I blinked at not really understand what she was saying. ‘Varric’s friend?’ I squinted at her, I thought they gone to track down the Grey Wardens?

‘The bird girl, falcon or hawk or whatever, she fought Cor-iffy-tits before. Thinks she has a lead on where the Wardens pissed off to.’

‘Wait, bird girl?’ I clarified, completely lost in the sea of Sera’s half useless explanations.

‘The, like, champion lady, Varric ripped off her life in his book.’ Sera shrugged picking at a speck of dirt on the back of her hand.

I rubbed at my eyes, ‘are you telling me that Varric’s brought Hawke, the champion of Kirkwall to Skyhold?’

Sera nodded, ‘yes,’ but very dramatically she put a finger over her mouth and shhh-ed me, doing her best to look conspiratorial, ‘but we can’t tell Cassandra.’

‘Why?’

Sera shrugged again, ‘Fancy-pants Cass hates her or something. They’re up in that broken-down tower on the battlements, I was sent over to get you.’

I sighed and pulled myself to my feet, no rest for the wicked. Then I paused, ‘what’s the bad news?’

Sera screwed up her nose, ‘she wants to meet up with a warden buddy up in Crestwood, have you ever been?’

I shook my head, ‘can’t say I’ve had the pleasure.’

‘It’s shite.’

Chapter Text

I let Sera lead me down the stairs and through the main hall of the keep, cutting through the Rotunda to get to the battlements in an attempt to avoid Cassandra. Sera threw me a look when she found the room empty, ‘where’s he pissed off to?’

The answer caught in my throat, but I was saved from answering when I heard a creak on the wooden railing. I glanced up to see Dorian was peering over, ‘when did you get back?’ He called.

And from the floor above I saw the purple-hooded Leliana lean over the railing in the rookery.

Sera glanced at me, ‘piss,’ she swore, ‘we’re supposed to be being subtle.’

‘There’s nothing subtle about you, Sera, my dear.’ Vivienne said, appearing from the doorway that led to her balcony.

Sera screwed up her face, blushed red, ‘arse-balls.’ She hissed and grabbed my hand, dragging me off towards the battlements.

I tried to stop her, to remind her that the pathway she’d chosen would lead her directly into Cullen’s office, but when I spoke she cut me off. ‘No time,’ she hissed.

She rocked through the wooden door, and drew up short so I tumbled into the back of her. The momentum had both of us stumbling forward and Sera only just managed to stop herself before she was barrelled straight into Cullen’s desk. ‘Shit!’ She exclaimed as she stood up to face the blond man. Blinking at him as though the action might make his disappear.

Cullen grunted half in surprise and half in frustration, ‘Sera? What are you- Inquisitor?’ He asked peering behind her.

‘We’re passing through,’ I said apologetically, nodding to the door to the right.

He looked the two of us up and down. But we were interrupted by a breathless Dorian appearing behind us in the doorway. ‘What’s going on?’ He asked.

Sera looked between the two men helplessly and scowled, ‘come on.’

‘Give me a minute,’ Cullen said quickly as he pulled his fur lined cape around his shoulders. Dorian shot him a scathing look, which Cullen appeared to ignore, but tell-tale red splotchs began to crawl up Cullen’s neck.

Sera however had no desire to wait on the whims of the Commander of the Inquisition’s forces and barged through the door to the right, with all of the force of a tempest in a bottle, dragging me along behind her.

We stopped just short of the door to the broken down tower, Sera released me from her grip and used her arms to present the door to me. I nodded, rubbing the ache from my knuckles after begin dragged halfway across the castle by then.

I pushed opened the door cautiously. Entering the broken-down tower. I saw Varric stood leaning on the back of a chair, Bianca resting across the seat. He looked up and a broad smile, ‘good you got her- Maker’s balls Sera! You weren’t supposed to bring the whole Inquisition.’ He chastised seeing Cullen and Dorian behind us.

Sera thrust her hands in the air, ‘blurgggg,’ she gave my way of response.

Bull chucked to his right, half sitting half crouching on an upturned barrel. He seemed larger than I remembered. He looked up to me with his one eyes, ‘Krem sent me a message, I’m sorry.’ I pursued my lips together and nodded my thanks.

Next to him, stood sharp as a sword was Blackwall, looking a lot rougher than the last time I’d seen him. His eyes were dark lined, and I wondered if he’d been sleeping at all. He scratched at his beard and nodded to me.

To the side of him stood a dark-haired woman that I didn’t know, she had sparkling blue eyes and braided hair wrapped up in a tight bun. I thought she might have cut her face as there was a streak of blood over her nose. Tucked behind her was elven woman, dressed in some mismatch of old Dalish scout armour and a human-sized tunic, belted around her waist. My eyes dropped to see her arm linked through the dark-haired woman’s. Her eyes looked me up and down and I noticed that even for an elf, her eyes were round and large giving her a soft childlike look. I schooled my features as I didn’t immediately recognise her vallaslin, to stop myself from staring to try to work it out.

‘This is Birdie and Daisy,’ Varric introduced though in such a way that I couldn’t quite tell which was supposed to be which. Neither was a Dalish name that was for certain.

'Mythal enaste,' She smiled, 'your introductions are terrible,' The Dalish woman scoffed playfully at Varric and stepped towards me, offering me her hands. I noticed her fingernails were crusted with dried blood, ‘Aneth ara,’ the greeting I caught, but then she spoke a few more sentences in elvish. with practised ease.  Sentences what passed over my like a waterfall passes over rocks.

I gave her a nervous laugh, with my eyes wide and cheeks coloured with shame, I took her hands, ‘ir abelas, our clan has lost most of our remember of the old tongue.’ I confessed.

Her smile faultered for the barest of moments, but her eyes remained tight, ‘I’m Merrill. It’s good to meet you.’ I noted that she didn’t give her clan name, maybe she’d been warned by Bull. She also hadn’t translated everything she had said. Around her neck, on a chain was a slyvanwood ring. Was she a Keeper?

‘Hellana,’ I replied in kind, a heartbeat later and stepped forward to take her hands. As I did so I heard Sera make a rude noise behind us, which made me smile and shake my head. Then I drew up Merrill's hand between our foreheads, ‘you too.’

The human woman stepped forward and Merrill drew back, ‘Marina Hawke,’ she held out a hand in the shem way. ‘You might have heard of me,’ she said with a wink.

I nodded, ‘it’s good to meet you,’ I twisted back, ‘this is Dorian and Cull-.’

‘We’ve met,’ Cullen said sulkily, and crossed his arms across his chest, puffing himself a little. I couldn’t tell if he was intimated or trying to impress.

Marina's eyes flashed back to Cullen, leisurely examining him, ‘ahh, I remember you, Knight-Captain,’ Marina said with a smirk.

‘It’s Commander now, I’m not with the Templars anymore.’ His words were icy.

‘Good,’ she nodded, smirk still in place. ‘Maybe you’ll finally be some fun.’

Dorian chortled at her words, but Cullen merely gritted his teeth. He nodded back but twisted away, stalking back to his office. When he was gone, Marina laughed, ‘kept trying to arrest me, didn’t go too well.’

Varric laughed, giving the woman a rueful smile. ‘He also saved your head, if I’m not mistaken.’

Marina pulled a face in response.

‘Your head’s very good, don't want to lose it,’ Merrill added.

The odd wording of her statement meant that there was an awkward silence for a couple heartbeats, Merrill squinted her eyes as though she couldn’t work it out. While Sera barked out a laugh and bent over at the waist. She drew herself up, wiping an invisible tear from her eye. 

‘Did I say something wrong ma vehnan?’ Merrill asked Marina, who only smiled and pulled her close dropping a kiss on her.

After a couple more heartbeats, Dorian cleared his throat, ‘we haven’t met,’ he stepped forward reaching out a hand for Marina, who shook it firmly. ‘Dorian Parvus.’ He introduced.

As they pulled back, Marina widened her eyes slightly, ‘necromancer?’

Dorian chuckled, ‘good spot,’ he bowed a little with a little flourish, ‘blood mage?’ He queried back.

She winked.

‘Wait,’ I muttered rubbing my eyes, ‘so who’s Daisy?’

‘Oh Inky!’ Sera snorted, placing a hand on my back. She shook her head and pretending to wipe away tears again. Which both didn't answer my question at all. 

Chapter Text

‘So, Sera said something about Crestwood?’ I asked Marina Hawke.

She lounged under a broken window, one leg tucked under her and the other stretched out. She nodded, her bright eyes on me. ‘That’s where Stroud’s holed up.’

I frowned for a moment trying to place the name, ‘the warden?’ I guessed.

She nodded in response, quick smile as though I’d impressed her

‘Tell me more about this Stroud,’ I asked, trying to sound as serious as I could. I moved across the room, perching on a chair with its back broke off.

Marina shrugged and cracked the knuckles of both hands, ‘not much to tell. He’s a Warden, recruited my sister a few years back.’ A grimace passed over her face for a split second before she schooled it back to the lazy confidence that she’d been wearing. ‘When Varric told me red lyrium was back I wrote to Stroud hoping he could help.’ She glanced over at Varric with a smile, ‘how do you always end up in the middle of these things?’

The dwarf laughed, tapping his fingers lightly against the back of the chair he was stood behind, ‘always need more material.’ He said with a sly glance towards me.

Marina narrowed her eyes playfully, ‘still haven’t got my royalties on that last one.’

‘Ahh,’ Varric raised his hands defensively, ‘my publisher is an arse.’

‘He’s been an arse for six years, get a new one.’ Marina retorted. And Varric replied with a shake of the head and something non-committal. She shook her head and turned back to me. ‘Make sure you get his coin before he steals your story.’

Wait. ‘You’re going to write about me?’ I turned around to Varric, who sort of shrugged as if he wasn’t even a little bit sorry. I breathed out a little, ‘make me taller?’ I suggested.

Marina laughed loudly and slapped her thigh, she shook her head and sombred, ‘Anyway, the Wardens are hearing the calling, all of them.’ She flicked a glance over to Blackwall.

At her words, he closed his eyes and barely nodded. Falon’Din’s mercy he looked ready to drop. ‘Blackwall, is there anything we can do to help?’ I asked softly.

His jaw tightened, ‘no, thank you.’ He said gruffly. I’d heard of the calling, I couldn’t imagine what it was doing to him. The kind of dedication he needed to simply stay with us. For a second, I considered asking to keep a watch on him, but I would check with him first.

Ahhh, so Cory-tit-shits is a bloody archdemon isn’t it?’ Sera muttered from behind me. Even from behind me I could almost see her shiver. Blackwall flashed her a look, and a tight smile.

Marina tapped her fingers on her outstretched leg and then looked up to Sera, and bit the corner of her lip, ‘the calling would mean that usually, yes.’ Her voice was grimmer than it had been only a few moments before. ‘Stroud has another theory but doesn’t trust it to paper.’ Her hands knotted together, ‘apparently there’s some corruption in the Wardens,’ at her words I watched Blackwall sagged his shoulders for a split second, thinking no one was watching him before straightening again, as though his exhausted vigil could restore his order. Marina once again interrupted my thoughts, ‘something scared him, he’s hiding in Crestwood.’

Sera shuddered, ‘why can’t he meet us in a city? With bed and markets?’

‘I think he’s trying not to get caught Buttercup.’ Varric replied to Sera with an easy smile.

Buttercup? I realised with a jolt I’d been apart from these people for almost two months. Then I glanced to Merrill, another flower. Does Sera remind him of her?

‘And pray tell what you call me?’ Dorian asked from behind my shoulder.

Varric considered him for a minute, a finger wagging in circles vaguely in Dorian’s directly. Then he grinned, ‘Sparkler.’ He announced.

Dorian sighed, and Marina glanced at Merrill, ‘he’s getting worse.’ She laughed.

Merrill looked up, suddenly alert, as though she’d been daydreaming, and smiled anyway. She tilted her head when she thought no one was looking, and I realised she was staring with interest at the woven bracelet on my wrist.

‘Actually-‘ Varric began, but was cut off.

The door burst open and a red faced Cassandra stood in the doorway.

‘Easy, Seeker,’ Bull said, already on his feet, ready to intercept at a moment’s notice.

Cassandra took a moment to survey the room, noting with a deadly exactly who was present. Then her eyes locked on Varric, ‘you told me you did not know where she was!’ Her words were quiet, but furious.

Varric opened his mouth, but Marina cut across him, ‘I’m right here!’ She exclaimed.

Cassandra gave her a glance, but returned her focus to Varric, ‘you lied, we needed her. Needed an Inquisitor.’

Marina shrugged out her arms and pointed across at me. ‘Your girl’s right there.’

I glared at her, way to throw me in the deep end.

Cassandra huffed, but did turn to me. Faltering in her fury, ‘yes, yes, you have grown into the role, but we needed a champion.’ She said to me, a moment of sincerity throughout the madness. Then Cassandra huffed and pinched her nose, turning to the human woman, ‘it is good that you’re here.’

Marina smiled, but it didn’t meet her eyes. ‘Hawke this, Hawke that, why does everything always have to fall to me?’ She muttered sarcastically. Then rounded on Cassandra, ‘so speaks the Hero of Orlais, why didn’t you do it?’

Cassandra blinked as though the thought had honestly never occurred to her.

I turned to Sera and whispered, ‘hero of Orlais?’

Sera leaned back over, not bothering to drop her voice, ‘Cass single handedly saved Val Royeaux from a dragon-’

‘The rumours are much exaggerated,’ Cassandra said through gritted teeth.

‘-in an armoured miniskirt.’ Sera finished, looking particularly pleased with herself.

Cassandra let out a disgusted sigh, shaking her head as she did so. Bull clicked his tongue, admiring Cassandra with a new interest.

‘Do not look at me like that.’ She snapped. 

Sera was practically rolling on the floor laughing, but Marina turned seriously to me, and sighed wistfully, ‘but that’s all your job now, try not to start an exalted march on anything.’

My eyes widened and I chuckled nervously. I saw Merrill lay a warning hand on Marina, and spoke a rapid line of elvish, the only part I caught my ma vhenan - her house?

Marina blinked, glanced at her partner and then shrugged back to me, ‘sorry, bad joke.’ She whispered apologetically.

I nodded. Pushing down my annoyance that this shemlen knew more elvish than me.

‘Can we leave? The tower’s cold, and the pub is warm!’ Sera remarked, her foot tapping on the floor.

‘Right,’ I said, feeling like I should take charge, ‘shall we get you some rooms?’

Merrill glanced across at Marina, who gave her a reassuring smile back.

‘Then tavern?’ Sera asked, her voice raising in pitch as she spoke.

‘What a bunch of drunks,’ Marina laughed.

I was about to retort when Varric asked, ‘remind you of old times?’

She sighed, breathing deeply with a reminiscing smile, ‘maker, yes.’

Chapter Text

‘No, no, no.’ I laughed, putting my drink down heavily, I tapped the table, ‘this is us,’ I raised a hand over it, ‘the sky and the veil is here, and,’ I raised another hand over the top, ‘here’s the fade, where the gods are and the breach and all that stuff.’

Merrill was half bent over the table, she snorted with laughter ‘is that what your Keeper told you?’ One hand was curled around her cup and the other lazily resting in Hawke’s lap.

I paused, and squinted into the distance trying to remember when anyone had told me that, ‘I don’t think so…’ I ended with, ‘it just makes sense to me.’ I said, had I just made it all up? I took a drink to half hide behind my mug. ‘Well, I’m just a hunter, I find stuff, it’s your job to work out what it means.’ I added a little defensively. I glanced up as Marina left the table.

Merrill’s eyes followed her, but then flicked down to my woven bracelet, and then back to my face, ‘what is my job?’ Her voice was soft and quiet.

I gave her a look, I’d seen her staff. She’d tucked it away under a travelling cloak, as though she was trying to be subtle. So instead I nodded to her chest and the ring she wore on a loose chain around her neck. Merrill’s unfamiliar lines across her face pulled tightly as she frowned. Her hand tightened around her cup, ‘it’s tricky… I had to leave my clan.’ She looked directly at me, as though challenging me to comment, ‘I would have made a terrible Keeper.’

I shut my lips tightly together, feeling like I’d absolutely put my foot in it. I should have realised that relationships may be strained from the moment she hadn’t given me her clan name. ‘ Ir abelas.’ I whispered.

She waved a dismissive hand, but I could feel the tension between us. It was broken when Marina came back holding six cups pressed together between her hands, Cabot following behind her with his permanent scowl across his face.

‘Thank you, ma vhenan ,’ Merrill said as she took the cup from her partner, a brief smile passing across her face.

The wine encouraged the question from my lips, ‘your house?’ I asked Merrill.

Her eyes widened for a moment, ‘ohhh, ohhh, vhenan , not vhenas. It’s literally the place of home , the place I can reside,’ she gazed at Marina adoringly, a blush placed across her cheeks, ‘my heart.’

I wrapped my hands around my cup but couldn’t help the ‘ aww’ that dropped from my lips. ‘That’s lovely.’

Marina looked back, her eyes dips to Merrill’s lips, but then she pulled herself back as though remembering she was in public. ‘I just call her my wife .’

Sera who had been sat next to me, ignoring the entire conversation up until that point, stuck two fingers in her mouth and whistled, and then rocked back on her chair kicking her feet with delight.

I glanced across at her, throwing Merrill and Marina an apologetic glance, but Marina seemed utterly unphased and wrapped and arm around Merrill pulling her close and planting a kiss on the side of her face. My stomach twisted as I saw the human touch Merrill’s vallaslin, in anticipation of a reaction. None came. I glanced between the two, suddenly confused as to how it was possible, ‘so how does it work between-‘ I paused, wondering if there was a more polite term for Andrastian.

In the gap, Sera cut in, ‘I’ll show you, get me a ripe peach and-‘

I grimaced, and tapped Sera’s arm affectionately, ‘absolutely not what I was asking. Only that you’re Dalish and you’re Andrastian, doesn’t it… clash?’ I said awkwardly tapping my hands together.

Marina laughed at my discomfort and clapped a hand against the table, then she leaned over the table as though about to confer a great secret upon me. ‘You know…’ she glanced around and dropped her voice, ‘you're mighty Dalish for the Herald of Andraste .’

I nodded, and gave her a tut of approval, ‘thank you.’ I said raising a cup to her words and puffing out my chest a little as I did so. It was meant as a jibe, but it was the nicest thing the human had said to me so far.

Merrill looked up then at Marina. ‘What am I missing?’

Marina leaned back in her chair and considered for a minute, ‘Hellana wants to know if you care I follow the Maker?’ She glanced at me, raising an eyebrow to check she was correct. I blinked at her for a moment, utterly grateful that she’d used my name. But I flushed, and nodded to respond to her question, feeling foolish for asking. I eyed my wine, mentally cutting myself off.

Merrill considered for a moment, before glancing again at my vallaslin, ‘well our gods abandoned us, and they haven’t answered any prayers since the fall of Arlathan.’

‘That isn’t true,’ I replied stubbornly. I’d witnessed their actions first hand, Ghilan’nain had gotten me out of Redcliffe, Mythal had saved me from the Winter Palace, and Sylaise… I shuddered at the thought.

She continued as though I hadn’t interrupted her, ‘when we’ve proven ourselves as elves, they’ll come back.’

I blinked, she’d twisted the gods to form the Andrastian mould. I wondered if that was why they matched so easily. ‘The gods haven’t abandoned us, they were just locked away.’ I glanced up then, checking the ceiling was solid above me and I couldn’t be overheard. ‘What even is there to prove?’

‘That we can go back, remember what was lost.’ Merrill said quietly, eyes wide.

I shook my head so violently that my hair fell into my face, I racked it back with an impatient hand, ‘we can’t go back. We can only go forward, and-‘

‘Revivalist?’ She asked, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. She used the term as a question, but had named the school of thought to which my clan belonged.

I nodded enthusiastically, ‘Yep, we make it up and if it works, we keep it!’ I said, claiming the criticism most often levelled at us by purists as a positive rather than negative. ‘Are you a purist?’ I asked.

She blinked her large hazel eyes slowly at my, conforming my suspicion.

We paused for a moment, silently unsure where to go from this point. Thought Merrill was saved from the awkwardness when Maryden began a new song, with a fast beat, and Marina pulled Merrill up by the hand, ‘dance with me baby dragon.’ She purred. Merrill blushed and followed her. Throwing a shaking hand back, in a wave goodbye.

I drained the rest of my cup with a sigh, surrounded by purists. Though I didn’t really mind.

‘Is your elfy friend no good?’ Sera asked, a few minutes later when she realised I was alone on the end of the table.

I smiled, ‘we just disagree about some things. Anyway,’ I tapped her arm softly, ‘there will be no replacing you, as my elfy friend .’

‘Pffffft.’ She responded, sticking her tongue out at me as she did so.

‘Hey, can I crash with you upstairs tonight? I can’t face the three hundred thousand stairs to get to bed.’

Sera smiled and readily agreed. ‘Next round?’ I asked.

Sera stood, pushing me back into my seat before I could rise. ‘It’s on me, since you’ve got me a tasty pay rise.’ She took two steps and turn turned back, ‘you’d make a good Jenny, Inky.’

I laughed and shooed her away, then laid both of my arms on the table and tucked my head into the crook of my elbow. Watching the rest of the table. Cassandra was still talking the logistical of dragon-slaying to an enamored Bull, and Dorian, Blackwall and Varric we’re swapping tales of their adventures over the last two months. In that moment, I could almost believe Skyhold was home.

Chapter Text

Uggg ,’ I moaned as I woke up on the hard floor of Sera’s room. Whatever hardships I’d saved myself by avoiding the stairs to my own room, I was surely suffering now from sleeping on the wooden floorboards . The light streamed in through the diamond patterned windows, and above my head ivy hung down from two hanging flower pots bolted into the ceiling. On the raised padded platform Sera was breathing softly, still asleep , behind me . As quietly as I could I pulled the borrowed blanket and fur off, folded them neatly and then looked around for somewhere to leave them. Every inch of Sera’s room was filled with some nick-nack or another, the bookcase overflowing with an eclectic mix of saucy novels, unreturned mugs and even a skull. Even the walls were covered in banners, scarfs and the odd nail hammered into the stone with pendants and ribbons hanging from them. I gave up looking from an appropriate place to leave the blankets and placed them gently in a pile next to the door. I picked up some of the empty mugs to return them to Cabot.

Leaving her room, I pushed the door closed with my foot and I noticed the blood red scarf tied around her door knob, the only indication she gave that she was a Red Jenny. At the table next to her room, was a sleeping Blackwall. I smiled to see him, asleep but still sitting mostly upright, legs outstretched under the table and head back and mouth open, snoring. His head tipped up like some kind of howl, reminded me of the wolf statue that had guarded the camps that I’d grown up in, not that I would ever have breathed a word to either of them about the resemblance. Blackwall would have been confused and Sera would not have appreciated the idea of being protected from anything. I shook my head at the though with a smile and tip-toed past the Warden to avoid waking him from his well deserved rest. I peeked over the balcony to see Krem’s usual seat had been taken by Maryden who was restringing her instrument. On the way down the stairs we exchanged greetings.

Cabot emerged from the back room as I was placing the last one down, and I pointed upward, ‘mug amnesty,’ I said with a little smile.

He shook his head and scowled upwards towards Sera’s room.

It was still early morning when I crossed the courtyard, surveying the area with a new found technical eye. I would need to find somewhere to build my shrine, I shivered with the pleasure of seeing Mother Giselle’s reaction to that. I would need to match whatever she did, it was only fair.

The shrine would have to be open to the sky, of course. Accessible, but out of the way. It was a shame that Mother Giselle had worked so quickly, I had already heard reports that she was converting the little garden on the left of the main keep. Despite our Marker standing prominent in the space, we had already been removed from it. Typical shem, I thought, although without too much malice, it was a logical space. Closed off, but easily found by those devoted enough to want to find it.

Hawke’s words of warning of accidentally starting an exalted march were still ringing in my ears from the night before, and I didn’t need telling that tensions could quickly escalate if the Andrastrians thought they were being overshadowed.

I turned my eye to the battlements. There were quite a few abandoned towers up there. I would have to investigate.

 

I would need help, but who? I sat on the wide stone stairs, onto a few paces from where Leliana had given me the Inquisition’s sword. An elf standing for Thedas, and a Dalish one at that . I worried the bracelet on my wrist, twisting it round my wrist. I was surrounded by purists, I thought with a jolt. Should I build the shrine for me or for them? Each clan had slightly different practises, each clan argued with everyone else, back and forth, over every little detail. Did the icons have to be ancient or would copies do? Cleansing with fire or water? Were Dirthamen and Falon’Din lovers or brothers? I laughed bitterly, June scowls at a cracked foundation, we couldn’t even agree on the number of creators to venerate! What a foundation to build on! I rubbed my eyes, I needed help, I needed an elf council .

A figure in the distance, crossing the bridge to Skyhold caught my eye for a moment, and then I dismissed it, another refugee to be fed. Speaking of which, breakfast.

 

I stood, and turned up to the Keep. In the main hall, I spotted Varric sat by one of the fires on the right hand side. Marina was sat with him, picking their way through a basket of fruit between them and scouring over a map. Varric raised a hand when he saw me.

‘How’s your head this morning?’ He asked with a smirk.

‘Saw-dusty,’ I replied after a moment. ‘What’s this?’ I asked, realising before he spoke that it was a map of Crestwood.

‘Town’s in a sorry state,’ said Marina, peeling an orange. ‘Most of it got flooded during the last Blight.’ She broke the peeled fruit in two and rocked her hands as though they were scales weighing the two, ‘death by blight or drowning, not sure which I’d pick.’ Then offered me half the orange.

I grimaced, ‘water. I think.’ And took half of the orange that she offered. I popped a piece in my mouth, crewing thoughtfully. What a morbid start to the morning, I put a hand to my throat sympathetically.

Marina cocked an eyebrow but nodded after a moment, silently agreeing.

Varric looked up and frowned, and I turned to see what he was looking at.

A figure behind me. ‘Inquisitor,’ Morrigan drawled, her voice thick as honey. ‘Tis good to find you here.’

I had to pause for a moment to truly appreciate her costume, about her neck was broad collar, and below, the thinnest trails of fabric crossed her chest leaving very little to the imagination. ‘Lady Morrigan,’ I spluttered after a second, remembering my shem manners.

She gave me a wry smile, as though her exact intention was to put everyone on the back foot with that outfit. Feathers covered her left shoulder.

‘Magpie,’ Hawke said coldly, popping a piece of orange in her mouth and crunching down hard.

I glanced back, as did Morrigan, ‘well, well, well, you’re collecting all the heroes to your cause.’ Morrigan said to me, the faintest hint of sarcasm passed across her features as though it was a sweet perfume.

I school my face to a mask, ‘do you count yourself among these heroic ranks?’ I asked.

I heard Marina snort to the side of me but I didn’t look at her.

Morrigan merely nodded as though the conversation bored her, ‘you were kind to welcome my aid,’ sharp eyes flicked to Marina and then back to me, ‘I will do my best to aid your cause with all the knowledge at my disposal, this I swear to you.’ Then she placed a light hand on my cheek and swept away as though drawn like driftwood by a current.

My hand went to my face, and I blinked. Cryptic and useful as ever. I looked back to Marina and Varric. Varric looked overjoyed, and I saw his hand itching for something, probably quill and paper to ensure the event was recorded. Marina however looked sour, ‘enjoy all her stolen knowledge.’ She said, shaking a piece of peel at the witch.

I glanced, but Morrigan was gone. ‘Stolen knowledge?’ I asked barely louder than a whisper.

‘The magpie takes,’ she said, throwing her last piece of orange into the air and catching it with her teeth. She wiped her hands briskly on her thighs and glanced at Varric, ‘she got Merrill’s mirror.’

Varric noticeably paled. ‘Daisy just let it go?’

‘She didn’t have a choice.’ Marina said, voice like stone.

‘A mirror?’ I asked, glancing between the two. Completely confused by the turn of events.

‘An ancient elven thing-y,’ Marina said with a shrug, ‘she fixed it and-‘

‘Daisy actually fix it, huh?’ Varric interrupted, looking off into the distance.

Marina gave him and impatient look, ‘it roared to life and knock knock.’ She rapped her knuckles in the air, ‘letters from Empress Celene, I’ll be taking that.’ She crosses her arms over her chest in a huff. Then she closed her eyes and tapped at her forehead with a thin finger, face wrinkled up in concentration. ‘Eluvian!’ She said a little loudly after a couple heartbeats, ‘that’s what she calls it.’

‘Chuckles,’ Varric said suddenly, almost warningly. Marina looked at him expectantly. But Varric was not looking at her, rather directly above my head.

Marina followed his eyeline, and frowned.

‘Inquisitor,’ came a cool voice I knew intimately. Solas.

I was on my feet before I could think and threw my arms around his neck, pulling him close. ‘You came back!’ I gasped.

He pulled out of my grasp and gave me a stern look, so stern I took a little step back. My mouth went dry. I glanced to Varric and Marina, ‘excuse us.’ I muttered, feeling the blush reach my ears.

Chapter Text

‘I said that I would meet you back at Skyhold,’ Solas said a little impatiently as I pushed through the door at the far end of the main keep. He’d only been back a few minutes, pack still on his shoulders and footwraps splattered with mud, but he’d asked to speak to me. And now he was silently accusing me of something. I could hear it in his tone, see it in the subtle movements.

I turned in the doorway, propping it open with my foot. ‘No you didn’t.’ I retort.

He narrowed his eyes at me, and then he tilted his head as though it was of no consequence either way, as though I hadn’t spent the last couple of weeks worried sick.

‘Cass wasn’t happy that you left.’ I respond instead. The door closed behind us with a thud, shutting out the chatter of the main hall.

He raised an eyebrow and looked along the corridor, leading to my room, questioning the direction I am taking him.

I stood my ground, and cleared my throat a little, ‘I’m avoiding Leliana at the moment, so my office will have to do.’ There, I tell myself proudly , very proper.

He waits a heartbeat, letting my words sink in. ‘I cannot imagine the Seeker being choked up at my absence.’

I chuckled to myself, ‘wrong kind of not happy, she was ready to send the army after you. I paused, and licked my lip, unsure how much of this I should be revealing. ‘I didn’t let her, of course, told her I knew you’d be back. So thank you, I guess, for coming back.’

Solas’ sharp look softened, the hint of a smile gracing his features. ‘I could hardly abandon you now, Inquisitor.’

I took a breath, formal and impossible , I am Inquisitor again. ‘How are you?’ I asked after a few moments.

He looked a little surprised, a nervous hand shifting on his staff. ‘It hurts, it always does. But I will survive.’ I nod, set on the back foot but his heartbreaking honesty. He sighed, and dropped his pack by the door and propped his staff next to it. A disarming gestured . Then he closed the door, and turned back to me, ‘I went to sleep, found the place my friend used to be, there was nothing.’ He offered, shoulders slumped and I see the weight of it physically on him. ‘ She was gone.’ The agony in his voice, made my stomach drop. He looked almost younger, paler, the freckles splayed across his cheeks are more apparent, sweet man, I think, he didn’t deserve this.

I stepped a little closer, the chill in the room means that I have both forgotten to close my balcony doors and that I can feel the heat radiating off him, a shrine desecrated and we shared the blame. ‘I am sorry,’ I said, ‘I tried to make amends to Sylaise.’ My voice was a whisper and I could feel my heartbeat thundering in my neck.

The change is as sudden as thundered on a sunny day. His eyes narrowed, dark and darting across my face, ‘tell me what Sweet Sylaise had to do with any of this.’ He spoke her name like a curse, cold enough that I can feel it creeping up my skin.

‘The shrine,’ my right hand is at my throat. ‘I knew better, and I did nothing to stop this, now everything is ash.’ I confess.

He draws back, his eyes flashing across my face as though I’m a difficult piece of text. Then it clicked and he’s shaking his head, laughing as though it’s a simple game and I don’t understand the rules, ‘one shattered pot is not enough to bring down the wrath of a god.’

‘And how would you know?’ I spit, suddenly angry, I pull my hands up, palms on his chest and I shoved him away from me, hard. But he stepped with my action. As though he expected it, as though it was a choreographed dance.

A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, but his eyes got immeasurably darker. ‘Your false piety will do you no good.’

My mouth opened forming a response, and closed again with a snap. ‘False piety?’ I said quietly, ‘I understand that you’re upset-‘

‘So you’ve taken the opportunity to school me in Dalish superstition.’

‘I only wanted to-‘

‘I know exactly what you want.’

‘What is that supposed to mean?’

‘You think if your fault you can claim this as your action, however terrible the consequences, at least you’re in control.’

I didn’t look up at him, for a moment his words flashed before me unblinkingly as the truth. Cutting straight to the quick of my faith, I had no response, no rebuttal. Was that really what I was doing? What I had done? But, then my faith wrapped back around me like a blanket, that the odd little thing about faith, two contradictory things could be true at the same time.

‘When really,’ he continued leaning back against the cold stone walls, arms crossed loosely over his chest, completely oblivious to my internal crisis, ‘it was only some humans casting spells they could not comprehend. Ignorance killed my friend.’

How far did his cause and effect philosophy go back? If the mages hadn’t found that particular spellbook? If the civil war had never happened? If Celene had never stolen the throne out from under Gaspard? If we’d just gotten out to Wisdom five minutes earlier, ‘I should have-‘ I blurted out, ready to spill all of my concerns. But, I froze as Solas stepped closer, hovered a thumb agonisingly slowly above the vallaslin branches under my right eye. Technically he wasn’t touching the lines, so my rules had not been broken, but the blood magic in my skin crackled to attention. And I grimaced as the magic burns through the vallaslin , then after a couple of heartbeats something utterly unexpected happened. The magic settled intimate and exacting; I almost laughed, my face was on fire and I didn’t overly mind . Then his thumb swiped across my lip, smoothing away the grimace, fuck…

I killed everyone responsible, Hellana,’ he said with an air of finality. His words were both reassuring and deeply unsettling. I glanced to his staff, discarded in the doorway, he was never unarmed, I realised with a jolt.

I didn’t have anything to say in response. But it turned out that I didn’t need to as someone knocked on the door. Solas closed his eyes slowly. I glanced to my right, wondering for a split second if I could pretend that we weren’t here. Seriously, would it kill everyone to just not interrupt for half a day?

‘Boss, Varric told me you were up here, you’re going to want to see this.’ The Iron Bull’s voice called from behind the wooden door.

Chapter Text

‘Boss, Varric told me you were up here, you’re going to want to see this.’ The Iron Bull’s voice called from behind the wooden door, and he rapped on the door three more times.

I glanced at Solas, simply tilted his head towards in the door, almost as though he was giving me permission. I frowned and I opened the door slowly, peeking my head around the door.  Bull wasn’t facing the door.

‘Are you decent?’ He asked with a laugh, not looking back.

I scowled at his back, ‘yes.’ I snapped.

‘Damn Boss, you move slower than-’ I never learned to what I would be compared to as his single eye spotted Solas next to me, and I see his gaze pass over the abandoned pack on the floor. ‘Solas.’ He said, and smiled in a such a way that his nose scrunched up. Then he straightened and turned back to me, business.  

I sighed, ‘come up.’ I flicked a hand to guide the way up the stairs.

At the top of the stairs they both paused. I ignored them both and moved over to my desk, standing just in front of it.  

In a couple of heartbeats, Solas had noted the changes to my room since he had last stepped foot here. In the long hours since I’d been back in Skyhold I had reorganised to better make use of the space. The bed had been moved to the top landing, and in its place are eight comfortable chairs arranged in a circle, making a meeting space. Solas came to stand beside me and I felt the warmth of his hand on the small of back. Oddly comforting .

Bull glanced at Solas, before handing me a scrap of paper, ‘this just came in.’

I looked down at the crumpled note that Bull handed me, black angular runes criss crossed back and forth. The hand was neat, but utterly incomprehensible. It must be in some kind of code, then I glanced up at the qunari and took a stab in the dark, ‘this is in qunlat, I think’ I say slowly. Looking up uncertainty.

Bull cursed in a language that I don’t know, and reached for the paper.

And I felt Solas move, shifting to take a single glance over the paper, ‘We found Clan Lavellan on the Imperial Highway, three days from Skyhold, Krem.’ He translated into common for us.

I blinked at the paper and then up at Bull, who is frowning looking at Solas with a barely concealed dislike.

‘Is that right?’ I asked quietly to Bull, not even daring to hope.

Bull glanced down at me, and gave me a single sharp nod. But then schooled himself and spread it into a quick smile, but I knew his attention was fully on the elf beside me. A couple of tense heartbeats pass. Then Bull barked something in a language that I’d never heard before, it was rough and guttural. Solas replied in the same tongue, and I saw Bull narrow his eyes,

‘You tel’vashoth?’ Bull asked in tight tone.

I glanced at Solas, for a split second I think Bull might be right, after all he had said that he was from the north.

Solas glanced between us with an almost bored expression, he closed his eyes slowly and pinched the bridge of his nose with one hand and raised his other hand into the air conjuring a sputtering spark of veilfire that grew into a flame lazily sitting in his hand.

‘Urmph.’ Bull said, frowning at the magic that was flaring in the other man’s palm. ‘Guess not.’ I didn’t need to be told about how the qunari treated mages. ‘Where did you learn it?’ Bull asked, and I saw him visibly relax. He flashed Solas an apologetic glance.

‘I read.’ Solas replied with a snap, and the blue fire died in his hand.

I glanced between the two of them, and it hit me. My clan were safe and coming to Skyhold. ‘I…’ Then I turned back to Bull, ‘the Chargers are bringing them here?’ I confirmed.

Bull nodded, and raised half his mouth in a tight smile, ‘my boys are bringing them home, Boss.’

I let out a breath and I felt light. ‘Thank you, thank you,’ the words tumbled out of my mouth. I left like I could float off the floor, I would not be alone . I glanced to the balcony. ‘I need to…’ I needed to pray, but I also needed to find Dehnan, let him know.

‘Hellana?’ Solas spoke my name carefully, pulling me back to the present with an alarming precision.

I rubbed at my eyes, there would so much to do. I indicated to Bull, ‘will you let Leliana and Josie know.’ I threw my hands into the air. Deshanna was coming to Skyhold, she would know what to do. Everything just got easier. Then I gasped as the full weight of the situation slowly unfolded. ‘oh and if you see Varric, we’re going to have to delay Crestwood.’ I spun around, a thousand things to do and my brain unable to decide which was most important. My hands flying over my desk, laughing in a shocked astonishment. Then I turned back to Bull, ‘can I keep this?’ I asked holding up the note.

Bull shrugged, ‘sure.’

‘You can’t read it,’ Solas noted.

‘Not the point,’ I returned without looking at him. I would offer it.

Bull smiled, and the scarred lines across his face pulled taut, ‘thought you wouldn’t mind me interrupting for that news.’ He passed an amused look to Solas, and left us, with nothing but Bull’s steps echoing down the stone stairs.

I clutched the note to my chest, and closed my eyes. ‘ Sylaise enaste,’   I whispered at the paper, quietly enough that I wouldn’t be overheard. I glanced at Solas, then looped two fingers under his belt and pulled him across, planting a kiss on his cheek. ‘I’ll be five minutes or so,’ I didn’t care if he thought my prayers were pointless, I’d prayed for my clan to be safe, an entire night of whispering prayers to Sylaise . If there was the barest chance that her hand had played a role in the survival of my clan, I would ensure she knew I was grateful. I pointed to the desk, ‘bottom drawer,’ I added. I stowed some candied fruits, and I hoped they would keep him and his sweet tooth busy for a few minutes.

And then I walked out onto the balcony. The two doors framing my shrine.

I knelt before my gods, and pulled the little statue of Sylaise into the middle. She was designed as a lady holding out a hand engulfed in fire, her head crowned with flowers. Her other hand held out her skirt to give the effect that she was spinning around. Painted in brilliant reds and golds, she was every bit as gaudy as the rest of them. It was an obvious depiction, but I didn’t care, it actually made me love the statues all the more. I smiled at her and nodded my head and then glanced up at the sky. From under the desk I brought out a little candle and some matches, and lit the candle before her. Then I raised the note in qunlat above my head, and brought it back down. I folded it in half and tucked it under her statue, then my fingertips touched my vallaslin. I closed my eyes.  

A click at the door made me flash my eyes open, to find Solas perched against the open door, licking the sugar off a finger. His eyebrowed raised as he examined my modest set up.

‘What is this supposed to be?’ He asked, taking a little set closer, picking up the statue on the end before I could stop him. He weighted it in his hand, and then looked down at the statue with the wolf-skull for a head.

I crossed my arms, annoyed. ‘Give him back.’ I demanded, and then glanced down to see an older note that had resided under the statute fly up into the air, caught on a breeze. In a panic I snatched it from the air. And then I held out a hand to him, and huffed. Give him back.

‘Where did you find these?’ He asked incredulous.

I dropped my hand, and pushed my lips together in annoyance. ‘Mice made them for me.’

He laughed, chucking under his breath, ‘you wasted Inquisition funds on these ugly little dolls?’ Looking down again at the figure in his hand.

‘I commissioned them myself, actually’ I snapped, ‘I like them.’ Then I looked back at the shrine, ‘they’re not dolls.’ I said coldly.

His laughter caught in his throat, and I watched as his gaze passed over each of the figures again. Putting a name to each one, and then with an amused horror he looked down at the one he was holding. ‘This is completely,’ he begins and then shakes his head. His jaw clenched and when he looked down on me kneeling before my gods, his eyes are dark. ‘These are useless.’ He said finally.

I give him my best indignant snort, one that I suspect Vivienne may be proud of. ‘Useless?’ I repeated back.

‘If you had a doll of Celene, would you be able to speak to her through it?’

I rolled my eyes, about to argue that they were of course not dolls, but I changed tactics suddenly. ‘Can you prove it?’

He narrowed his eyes, suspecting a trap and didn’t say anything.

‘Prove it, and I’ll burn the lot of them.’ I challenged.

‘Ahh, that may not be so easy.’

‘Then, give him back,’ I smiled smugly stretching my hand out again, I let a hand fall to my hip impatiently.

Solas considered for a second, and then eyed the scrap of paper, ‘show me the paper.’

I snorted, ‘no.’ Why did he think he was in a position to negotiate terms?

‘Why not?’ He asked, giving me a testing smile.

I shifted a little, moving so that I was facing him more directly. ‘You’ll laugh.’ I said, giving voice to the least of my concerns.

He weighed the statue in his hand, and considered. ‘A trade?’ He suggested.

I looked down at the little piece of paper, he was asking me to hand over a prayer. But he was holding a god ransom, so I guessed I had no choice. ‘Fine.’

I held the paper out, but did not let it out of my grip until the Wolf god was safely back in my hands. I clutched him to my chest, and set him down on the counter carefully. Throwing a scowl at Solas in the process, who completely ignored me. He unfolded the note, and laughed so hard that he ended up leaning on the stone railing.

I stood then, ‘very funny.’ I snapped.

‘Cassandra Pentaghast?’ He spluttered, waving the paper in my direction.

I don’t look at him, but I lent on the balcony railing next to him, ‘that’s been there for months, she kept trying to convert me.’ I muttered stubbornly.

Solas considered for a moment and then moved over to the shrine, touching the corner of the paper to the candle flame. ‘So you thought you would ask for divine intervention.’ He lets the paper go and it flies up into the air turning to ash.

‘Purist,’ I hissed disdainfully.

‘Dalish,’ he repeated back to me in the same tone.

I laughed then, and my solemnity crashed around me, ‘oh, shut up,’ I said playfully. ‘Like you’re any better,’ I drop my voice low in a poor imitation of him, ‘oh Seeker so fight so well, oh Seeker I hope your maker is worthy of you.’ I grinned at him, ‘least I’m not a suck up.’

He scowled, but then something shifted. He gave me a curt nod, and turned walking quickly away.

I blinked, surprised at his reaction and went after him. ‘Wait, don’t go.’

‘Are there more criticisms you would like to voice?’ He asked, his head tilted slightly, examining me.

‘Solas-’

‘Was the Winter Palace simply a drunken mistake?’ He queried, with no more emotion that he would ask the time. But it struck me as though he’d hit me.

‘No of course not,’ I replied.

Solas was looking past me, ‘it would be easier in the end.’ He said convincing himself of the course of action.

‘Don’t’ I said, catching him arm and reaching up to kiss him properly. Within a heartbeat his arm had snaked around my waist.

Chapter Text

I kissed him, desperate for him to know there were no mistakes between us, none at all. And he responded in kind, fierce and needy. He tastes like sweet fruit, and I cannot help but smile asthe kiss is deepened. He dipped me only a little, one hand already finding my hip, it pushing me slightly off balance so that I gasped. Solas took the opportunity to push his tongue into my mouth. I wrapped and encouraging arm around his neck and try to get even closer to him. Warm and firm, and fuck-

Stumbling back a few steps, I crashed us both into my desk, spilling a pile of papers onto the floor in the process. I turned, to witness the damage, and decided in a instance that it was better on the floor.

‘Will that cause the whole of Halamshiral to come crashing down?’ He growled against my ear, hot breath raising a shudder across my skin.

‘I wish,’ I responded, and I bring my fingers down to fumble with his belt buckle. ‘I didn’t have enough information, so I made the wrong conclusion.’ I breathed, gasping as the leather hit the floor with a satisfying slap.

He paused for a moment to look up from unbuttoning my jacket. ‘You were wrong?’

I laughed, ‘it happens.’ The cold hits my chest as my jacket is flung open with surprising ease. I glance down at the desk, the corner of the wood digging into the back of my thighs and frowned, ‘there is a bed right there.’

‘Ahh,’ he said, and pulled me right against him and with a flash of green and disorientation I found us on the upper level. Stood next to the bed. I shrugged my open jacket onto the floor, and slip my hands underneath his tunic, tugging it upwards.

He trailed kisses along my neck, warm and wet.  

‘Yes, you’re right.’ I acknowledged and he paused in his work to wait for what I had to say. ‘We did make a terrible mistake at the winter palace, too many clothes.’

He growled in response to my horrible tease and bit down gently as punishment. I moaned as his teeth graze my skin I dropped his shirt to the ground, and run my hands along the firm plains of his chest. There are a small handful of scars there, all tiny, and I want to draw constellation across his skin. My fingers found an obvious old arrow wound just below his ribs, ‘what happened?’ I asked, before I could think better of it.

Solas took my hand and moved it upwards, ‘an old battle.’ He said with a small smile.

I snorted, cryptic as ever. So I focused my attention on his ridiculous tight trousers, which I’m half sure are as practical as they are distracting. My back arches as his hands tighten on my hips, grinding me close. He smells of three weeks on the road, woodsmoke and horse and verdant mud and I don’t care in the slightest.

I leaned back with my hands around his waist, examining the sharp lines of his face, his blue eyes looking down at me. I leaned a shoulder forward, showing off my own scars, ‘you were there when this happened.’ I said, look down at the marks caused by my tumble off a cliff in the Storm Coast.

It’s nowhere near as impressive, but he smiled and traced a finger across my speckled skin, ‘one moment you were there and the next gone, we all thought we’d lost you.’

I bit my lip to see his eyes dark. I am suddenly impatient, I twisted my foot around his leg, pulling him off balance, and we both go crashing, laughing, onto the bouncing shem bed.


 

Slick with sweat and come, I dropped my head onto his chest and he wrapped his arms around me. ‘Fuck,’ I say, pulling my marked hand through my hair, to keep it out of my face, and then I drop my hand curling my fingers around the side of his waist. My leg is thrown causally across his hip.

‘Hmm,’ Solas agreed, his head back, swollen lips slightly apart. ‘ Ar lath ma ,’ he breathed leisurely, and traced a line down my spine. I love you.

I raised my head surprised, and he met my gaze. He was all lazy confidence and I was bubbling up again with desire, if it meant what I thought it meant . ‘Solas?’ I ask softly.

He chuckled, and spoke lightly, ‘it means what you think it does.’

I rest my head back, just listening to his heart beating. I never want to leave this bed . ‘Good,’ I say reluctantly, ‘I was always bad at tongues.’

‘I beg to disagree, vhenan,’ he replied with a coy smile, .

I slapped him playfully, with the back of my free hand. ‘Hush,’ I sat and then I snapped back up, as the missing piece slotted into place, ‘vhenan ?’ I gasped.

He grinned at this, ‘it means-‘

I place a finger across his lips, and he kissed the digit. ‘I know what it means.’ And I earned a momentary frown for stealing an explanation from him.

He folded an arm behind his head, and then fumbled behind him for a moment, giving me a curious glance as he did so. Pulling something out from the folds in the pillowcase. He raised an eyebrow at me, as he presented me with the delicate pendant that I’d brought back from the future.

I blinked at it, ‘I’d forgotten that was there.’ I said honestly, trying to remember when I’d put it there.

‘I’m flattered.’ Solas’ voice was a little stiff.

I blushed at his implications, ‘I,’ I didn’t have anything to respond. ‘May I?’ I asked instead, taking the pendant from him and knotting the leather cord twice in the middle. ‘There, can’t get them confused now.’ I said, reached over the side of bed, tucking it out of sight.

He didn’t seem to have anymore to say on the matter, so I hid my face against his chest.

We lie together for a while, until Solas took my left hand in his, tracing across the anchor mark with slim fingers. ‘Does it pain you?’

I shook my head, ‘hardly at all anymore, it seems to have settled.’

He considered what I told him and then moved slightly so that he could see me better, ‘do you think that it had changed you in any way?’

I blinked at him and then took my hand back to flex my fingers in the air, ‘how would I know?’ I replaced my hand in his.

Solas closed my hand into a fist, his own around it, sheltering me from the green light.

‘Ask my clan,’ I say, looking down at our hands, ‘they would know.’ Then I consider it, I cannot picture Solas in the same room as any of them. I laughed and couldn’t stop, an ugly laugh that pulled me from his grip. I have to sit up to catch my breath, ‘oh gods,’ I spluttered, wiping away unreal tears from my eyes, ‘you’re going to hate them.’

‘Hellana?’ A tug of worry pulls down his lips.

I pushed myself so I’m straddling his hips, and I lean down, so my hair curtains around our faces. ‘You think Sera is loud.’ I grinned, almost giddy with excitement, his eyes go wide for a moment and his hands drop to my hips, tightening with a new found urgency.

‘I’ll protect you from the Dalish horde.’ I say with mock solemnity.

‘I will hold you to that.’

Chapter Text

I was sat on the chair on the raised dias, throne, I supposed although he word sounded too shem. My fingers tapped impatiently against my thigh. I could see Josephine to my right, clipboard at the ready. She glanced up occasionally, but proceeded with her work in silence.

There were more people in the main hall than normal, crowds of people had turned up to see the spectacle of seeing the arrival of the Dalish clan.

At some point this morning, my clan would arrive. I had spent a fraught previous afternoon debating with Josie on how best to welcome my clan to Skyhold. Was my Keeper equal to a shem duchess, a marquise, or just a lady of note? Josie had impressed upon me the importance of setting a precedent, but no one could agree on what the precedent should be. I’d spent a sleepless night, worrying, because without a means to communicate with Deshanna, it really didn’t matter what we decided. The only benefit to a sleepless night was watching Solas sleep, his dreaming eyes darting across closed eyelids. I couldn’t help wondering how he would cope with my clan. He hardly hid his disdain for the Dalish, and clan Hawen had done nothing to convince him otherwise. Maybe clan Lavellan would do better.

Above me, on the raised balcony, I could see Vivienne waiting, she looked as restless as I felt. Although it might have been Sera’s presence next to her that was causing her unease. Sera had created a game in which she threw something off the balcony onto the hall below and ducked out of the way, trying to make it appear as though Vivienne was the one doing the dropping. Every few minutes Sera would lob something over and Vivienne would flick her staff, causing green sparks to return Sera’s projectiles. The two had an odd relationship, I saw Sera as someone who Vivienne had taken under her wing, much to Sera’s chagrin. Vivienne wanted to be Sera’s mentor, while Sera was happy to be Vivienne’s tormentor.

The morning had faded to afternoon and the crowd was becoming a little restless, I’d heard muttering that my clan wasn’t even coming. Josephine gave me a smile to try to reassure me.

Then without warning, I looked down at the hall, as I heard some sort of chaos from outside the main hall, and I glanced at Josie, she nodded. It was show time. Sweet Sylaise, I will burn a hundred fires in your honour. Sweet Sylaise, lady who had brought my hearth back to me.

I glanced down at the woven bracelet around my wrist, I was supposed to return to my clan. That was its purpose, I could see the twisted rope of nervousness unwrap from my waist and draw across the keep, across Skyhold and across Thedas dragging my clan back to me. We would reunite no matter what,

I heard some gasps from the other end of the hall, and I felt my heart pound in my chest. I stood, Sylaise save me, what was happening?

I saw twisted horns in the double doorway. I almost laughed. Deshanna was riding in on a hart! Nothing Josie had would prepare have for this. I couldn’t blame my mother of course, she was five foot nothing - and surrounded by shem - a mount would be the best way to make an impression.

I saw her then, and my heart lurched, dressed in her usual turquoise Keeper’s robes, a staff strapped to the back of her saddle. I could almost hear the familiar rattle from her charms tied to the staff tip. In the year since I’d last seen her, her hair had turned grey, a line at her shoulder retaining the black gloss that I remembered, it had been tamed back with twisting teal ribbons, braided through creating a crowned effect. She looked like a queen.

The crowd in that had gathered to see the Dalish appear, split into two, stumbling to get out of her way. The great antlered beast tall and foreboding, coloured gold and white. A beautiful creature, well trained, but one I didn’t recognise.

Flanking my Keeper on her left was her First, a lanky blond by the name of Moherinal. He’d moved to our clan nine years ago during the last arlathvhen from a clan with too many mages. On Deshanna’s right was a man that I didn’t initially recognise, by rights it should have been Vael, the highest ranking Hunter. After another heartbeat, and another pace closer I realised. The shock of white hair gave him away, my cousin Sil. I hadn’t recognised as he’d added to his vallaslin, so now he had two flames of Sylaise, one over each eye creating a sort of dark blue mask. He glanced around the building and I could almost imagine him whistling, impressed. He was carrying something with him, a large flat box, covered with red sail.

It took every tendril of willpower I could summon to not run to them, drop to my knees before them and sob. They were alive, and before me. Thank the gods! Josephine was on my right, an anchor to keep me grounded.

Deshanna stopped the hart, and with Moherinal’s assistance she lowered gently to the ground. She handed the reins to her First and strode purposefully towards me. With a broad smile, she dropped into a shem cutsie. I froze, wanting to run forward and raise her up, and utterly surprised by her action. ‘Inquisitor, I am Keeper Istimaethoriel, of clan Lavellan.’

My mouth went dry, Mother Mythal, what was my mother doing? She introduced herself in the most formal way.

I saw Josie give me a pointed glance.

‘Keeper you are welcome here.’ I spluttered, ‘our honoured guests.’ I added. ‘As our honoured guests.’ I corrected, louder and clearer, allowing my voice to ring across the hall.  

‘Your worship,’ Deshanna bowed her head again, and I saw Sil pass an amused look to Moherinal. The First only stared seriously straight ahead. ‘Our clan was chased from our homeland, our aravals burnt, we seek sanctuary.’

‘Granted,’ I half shouted, not even needing a moment to consider. ‘Clan Lavellan will always be welcome in the Inquisitor, as our most valued allies.’ I added, Josie had impressed upon me the importance of establishing the clan as allies. There was a little discussion in the hall, as the crowd realised what I had planned.

Deshanna nodded, and extended a hand to Sil. Who stepped forward with his package. ‘Your worship, is most kind. On our way, we meet a woman who boasted of taking your worship’s horse. So I bring you these gifts.’

I blinked at her, so she’d met Mihris. Moherinal stepped forward, leading the hart a few steps, and gave me a curt nod, and handed me the reins of Deshanna’s hart. I took them without thinking, ‘I…’ I started.

Moherinal smiled, but it didn’t quite meet his eyes, ‘you always did have the Keeper’s hart.’

I looked at the gold and white creature. The Keeper gave her hart to her successor. I was not a mage, I was not worthy of her gift. No wonder Moherinal was annoyed, I’d robbed him of his right.

Sil stepped forward, with a look at the first as though he was dismissed, ‘Els,’ he whispered and I snapped to look at him, I could barely see him as tears had formed in my eyes. He opened the package, ‘new reins, made them myself.’ He said proudly. With him so close I could see that his newly done blood writing was red and raw against his skin, an extremely recent addition then. 

With my free hand I ran my finger on the embroidered cloth, there were elvish characters stitched into the fabric. I looked up to Sil, ‘this is Torchbearer.’ He said introducing my to my new hart. I dropped the reins and pulled Sil into my arms. Pulling my cousin as close as possible. He laughed and I could tell he trying not to drop the box.

I heard a gasp of the crowd, I was sure I’d broken more than a few protocols but ignored it. ‘Thank Sylaise you’re alive.’ I whispered to him.

‘Course I’m alive,’ he muttered back, ‘your Lady of Iron saw to that.’

When I pulled back from him I looked onto the upper balcony, I saw Vivienne give me a nod and a sad little smile.

Chapter Text

The drinks are pouring freely and my clan has seemingly set up in the little courtyard outside of the tavern, surrounded and soldiers and agents and anyone really who is taking the occasion to drink Cabot’s cellars dry. A fire pit had been erected in the centre of the little courtyard, pushing out the winter chill and perfuming the air with the sweet herbs and spices that had been burning since dusk.

I had spent a short time greeting each member of my clan at dusk, before the drinking had begun in earnest. Reuniting had been more taxing that I’d expected. I had touched vallaslin with each of them, foreheads pressed together, each touch burned across my face, and even now I ached. Sweet Sylaise, it was better than the alternative. And I knew I would gladly burn for them all, a willing sacrifice on the pyre.

A small nervous part of me was reminded of the evening before Haven fell, the sweet, brief celebration before the red Templars attacked. I cannot help the odd glance to the sky. Yet for now it appears that no army is descending, and if it did I prayed that Skyhold’s walls would protect us.

I stepped from the relative warmth of the tavern into the smoke-stained air, I had struggled my way through the tavern and back out again, a monumental task that I congratulated myself for. ‘Keeper!’ I called, three bottles of spirits clutched in my arms.

Deshanna turned and I handed one to her, then Sil appeared at her shoulder a cheeky smile and a hand outstretched. I could not help but laugh and hand my last bottle over. I had found a figure hiding in the dark corners of the Herald’s Rest and pulled him into the night behind me, ‘you remember Den?’ I asked, half dragging Hunter Dehnan to reunite with his clan. He’d been nervous for the last three days, fretting about what they would think of his six years absence. Would Vael, his darling Vaelatine remember him? Still want him? I’d done my best to reassuring him, but it seemed brute force was needed to overcome the last hurdle.

Keeper Deshanna without missing a beat pulled him into a tight hug, ‘we are blessed that you have come back to us.’ She said, with a pious look towards the sky. Dehnan nodded and brushed the lines on his chin in response.

As he pulled out of the hug Sil gave him a broad smile, surveying him with a critical eye. ‘Well look what the wolf dragged in, where have you been hiding?’

Dehnan passed a silence glance to me, which Deshanna noticed but her expression didn’t change. ‘I’ve been with Clan Hawen?’ His words came out as more of a question, and I nodded. It was technically a little bit true, better to leave the magic-orb-halla-transformation stuff out of the tale for the moment.

Sil’s eyes widened and he grabbed Dehnan’s hands, ‘did you meet him? What’s he like?’ And the three of us instinctively knew he’s talking of his father Keeper Hawen.

‘Umm,’ Dehnan begins, but is cut off but a shrill scream and an elven woman running at him at full force. Vael knocked him off his feet with a running jump, on the floor she pounded at his chest with both hands. ‘You left me, you…’ then she stopped, sobbed and fiercely kissed him.

I looked between my mother and cousin and the three of us side stepped ten or paces away to leave them to catch up in the relative privacy of a courtyard full of people drinking.

Sil coughed, ‘so what’s he like?’ He insisted again, this time turning to me.  

I glance up at the sky, ‘he’s,’ I frowned, and tried again, ‘he’s sick.’

‘Sick?’ Deshanna asked, and I gave her a look that told them exactly what I was talking about. Her expression changed so that her bow vallaslin appeared taut and ready to fire. Then she relaxed and she scoffed at the ground, ‘Hawen Hawen,’ and rolled her eyes towards the sky. She had never overly approved of her sister’s lover, and it was only another damning stroke on the scoreboard of her disdain for her fellow Keeper.

Though it didn’t seem to have the desired effect as I could see that Sil was taking the revelation to heart. ‘Cremators will burn us all.’ Sil hissed, mispronouncing creators to create the curse that he desired.

Deshanna hissed a warning about the open sky to him, but it was habit rather than a serious chastisement. She wrapped an arm around his shoulder and pulled him towards her. ‘ Ir abalas .’ She whispered.

‘He’s nothing like you at all,’ I tried with a reassuring arm pat, ‘he was pretty rude to me-’ I paused as I saw Sil sway on his feet for the bearest of moments.

Then took a swig from his bottle and looked up at me dryly. ‘Fuck the gods.’ He cursed.

I didn’t say anything, only exchanged a concerned glance with Deshanna, and then looked down at my hand.

A moment later I feel a hand on the small of my back and I turn to see Solas. ‘Ohh, Solas, this is Keeper Deshanna and my cousin Silver.’

‘Call me, Sil, everyone else does.’ Sil said with a warm smile, and after an awkward moment they shook hands in the shem way.

Solas nodded at him, his blue eyes taking in the vallaslin mask, ‘Hellana talks about you.’ Sil took it as the highest compliment.

I smiled at my cousin and his easy charm. ‘And this is Solas,’ I glanced at my mother, ‘he’s the one who made the translation.’

‘Yes, thank you for the translations,’ she paused as though finding the right words, then I noticed she was fiddling with her ring. Twisting it round and round on her finger. Something she only did when she was very nervous. ‘You’re-‘ she broke off. She was never lost for words.

‘He’s my-‘ I glanced at Solas, who looked back at me, his face expressionless, but I felt his hand tighten around the fabric on my back.

‘Friend-‘ I decided on, sticking to the most innocent connection.

‘Lover-‘ Solas said at the same time.

I flushed so red the tips of my ears were coloured. I am torn between fury, embarrassment and pride. But I cannot help the flush of annoyance thrown into the mix. Mother Mythal give me strength. I waved a hand as though to say, tell everyone.

Sil whistled, two fingers in his mouth, loud and clear. ‘And Els made no mention of her new quarry before now.’

‘It would appear that I am unimportant.’ Solas said, the hint of a smile on the corner of his lips as he surveyed Sil.

Sil raised his hands, ‘not if you’ve turned Els’ head.’ Then he frowned and glanced at Solas with a scrutinising look, ‘you like her?’ He asked.

‘She is magnificent.’ Solas replied without a heartbeat’s pause.

If it was possible to blush more, I did. So I covered it my punching Sil lightly on the arm, ‘can you not talk about me like I’m not here.’ I snapped.  

I glanced to Deshanna for backup, and froze. ‘Mamae , what is it?’

Deshanna was still worrying the ring on her finger, and then she looked up at me as though seeing me for the first time. Then she clicked her teeth. She sighed, and did something utterly unexpected. She took her Keeper’s ring off her finger, placed it in her pocket and tapped it lightly. Then she looked up at Solas and smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. ‘Any… friend of Hellana’s is welcome with my clan.’ She said carefully, choosing my word.

Solas nodded, pleased, as though it was the most formal of invitations. And not the oddest thing she could have said.

I glanced to Sil, utterly confused by her behaviour and Sil only shrugged at me, equally baffled. So after a tense moment Sil responded by flicking me on the ear. ‘Ouch!’ I said smartly, smacking his hand.

‘You going to protect her?’ Sil queried Solas as though nothing odd at all had happened.

‘Impossible,’ Solas replied with a coy smile sent in my direction, ‘she does rather find trouble.’

Sil grinned, laughed and turned to me. ‘He’s got you there.’ Then he turned back to Solas. ‘Let me introduce you.’

Before Solas could protest, Sil had grabbed his wrist and was half marching him towards the rest of the clan, no doubt for further interrogation.

I smiled, ‘I should probably go save him.’ I said.

Deshanna caught my wrist as I stepped forward, and she pulled me back to her, ‘do you,’ she sighed, ‘gods, tell me you still have your knife?’ She asked quietly.

I nodded, ‘I do.’ I said and stuck my leg out a little showing the hilt of the knife that lived in my boot. And I realised it must be the castle, built on the ancient site where the veil had been erected by Fen'Harel, perhaps the weight of this sacred site was affecting her ring or something. ‘The castle’s safe.’ I added trying to placate her unease.

‘Hmm.’ She smiled again, a worried smile, but she let me go to save Solas from the Dalish horde.

Chapter Text

It had taken about half an hour for the novelty of Solas to have worn off, his polite but evasive answers to the seemingly unending questions posed by different members of my clan soon robbed them of any interest. I could see that Sera and Blackwall had climbed through Sera’s little room to sit on the overhanging roof, and they had been watching with some amusement, until I’d let slip there was a real-life Red Jenny in the vicinity. Sera had given me half a handful of rude gestures before trudding back inside and slamming the window behind her. So that was how I found myself, sat between the firepit and the tavern with Sil and Solas, largely ignored by the rest of my clan.

‘So then I wake up, bloody shem sword to my throat, and the sodding Nightingale herself is accusing me of blowing up the Temple of Sacred Ashes as though I’m an explosive’s expert and my sodding hand is bluuuur.’ I recounted to Sil, waving my hand in the air as though to prove my point. ‘Actually, Leliana is really lovely.’ I corrected.

Sil laughed, rocking back a little in his perch, ‘you survived though,’ he grabbed my hand and plucked at my bracelet, ‘guess I’ll be getting my luck back now?’

I snatched my hand back and cradled it, ‘get off.’

‘Queen of the shem castle.’ Sil whistled, with a bit of a sigh, ‘could have been me, I’d have painted the whole thing silver.’ he said wistfully and then screwed up his face as though he couldn’t imagine anything worse. ‘Els must be completely unbearable now.’ He said as an aside to Solas.

Solas had been considering Sil, silently taking him in and judging the merits of my cousin. Noting the ways we were similar and the ways in which we were different. I’d seen him note the red welts risen up under his new vallaslin. ‘Unbearable?’ He asked with a flicker of amusement, ‘quite the opposite.’

Sil made a dismissing hand gesture, while I gave Solas a sly smile.

‘Though, I am curious to hear what Hellana was like before she gained the anchor.’ Solas said, leaning slightly forward.

Sil laughed and the sound was a little ominous, he gave me a wicked grim and I sighed and put my head in my hands. He’d been handed the perfect opportunity to embarrass me. Sil lent forward, on his head propped up on his arm as though he was dutifully thinking, ‘what is there to tell?’ He asked, ‘well, she would have made a damn fine Keeper that’s for certain-’

‘Aww thanks Sil-’

‘But.’ Piss. ‘she’s got a temper on her, you’ve got to watch for.’ Sil said, wagging a finger at Solas, ‘she will throw things and she does have a good aim.’ He continued as serious as anything. ‘You can tell because her hand will twitch, and that’s when she’s about to stab you. She worries too much, gets all in her own head.’ He tapped his fingers against his skull for a moment, ‘Oh, and have you seen her knife?’

Solas merely nodded.

Sil poked me square in the chest, and smiled knowingly, ‘she’s got a bit of rebel in her, if you know what I mean.’ Sil had gone too far, my hand darted down for me knife, a warning among friends. But before I could reach, Sil had grabbed my hand and was showing Solas, ‘what did I tell you, temper.’

I huffed at that. Sil ignored me, while Solas raised an eyebrow in my direction.

‘Els’ sickeningly pious, it’s actually really annoying. How many shrines have you set up so far?’

I crossed my arms, not looking at either of them, ‘one.’ I muttered utterly disliking the turn of this conversation.

‘Only one! You’re getting complacent da’len.’

‘I am three years old than you.’ I snapped, but of course Sil knew there was nothing I hated more than being called child and he was trying to wind me up.

Sil laughed, ‘next you’re going to be telling me you’re taller as well.’

I tried to let it wash over me, it didn’t work. ‘I’m going to kill you,’ I said playfully.

‘Hellana.’ Moherinal’s cold voice dropped over me.

‘Ugg,’ I muttered under my breath. I plastered a fake smile over my face and turned around to see the younger man, ‘First?’ I questioned as innocently as I could.

‘Hunter, I realise that you have been away for a long time, but we do not threaten our clan.’ Moherinal hissed at me, low enough to try to be threatening. Although somehow after facing off against Corypheus, I didn’t have it in me to be intimidated by the man.  

‘No harm, no harm,’ Sil said quickly.

Moherinal flashed him a deeply unhappy look, and then turned his annoyance back to me, ‘just because you are walking around as thought you own the place-’

‘She does, actually.’ Solas interrupted smoothly.

The First’s jaw worked behind clenched teeth. ‘What?’

Solas straightened, his hands knitted together in his lap. His eyes dark and set on Moherinal. ‘The Inquisitor owns the castle,and it’s army of course.’

Moherinal’s spluttered like a fish out of water, ‘how dare… are you… uggg… I’m going to tell Deshanna.’ He said deadly seriously.

I looked at Sil, which was a mistake and we both burst out laughing. ‘Go, tell.’ Sil shooed.

Tears were leaking down my face, and as soon as the First was out of earshot, ‘I didn’t miss him.’

‘Such an arsehole,’ Sil agreed, shaking his head.

‘I apologise, I appear to be making trouble for you.’ Solas said, the barest hint of smile across his features.

‘No, thank you, for standing up for me.’ I replied with an easy smile.

Solas drained his cup and tucked it neatly away before standing. ‘I should get some sleep.’

‘I’ll see you up there?’ I asked, catching his hand as he moved past me. He nodded and dropped a quick kiss to my cheek before he was gone.

I sighed contentedly.

‘Where’d you find him, then?’ Sil asked me

I lay back on the grass to peer up star-studded sky, ‘he saved my life, just turned up.’ I said.

Sil looked at me on the ground and lay back with me, it was almost like old times. ‘He’s from Tevinter, I’d bet gold on it.’

I glanced across, ‘what?’

‘Solas is the name of a city up Tevinter way, up north.’ Sil stretched his legs out so they were propped up against the battlements wall. ‘Didn’t you work it out?’

I laughed, a quick sound, more embarrassed than anything. ‘Didn’t think to ask.’ I replied honestly. Though that would perfectly explain his extreme animosity with Dorian .

‘Didn’t - think - to - ask.’ Sil repeated back to me, ‘ da’len you are naive.’

I thumped him hard on the leg, ‘don’t call me da’len .’

Sil stuck his tongue out at me. 

I ignored him, but spotting Andruil’s tree in the sky. I raised my hand above my head to trace it, ‘any chance you want to come to Crestwood?’ I asked after a little while.

Sil was watching me, but he shook his head, ‘we only just got here. I’m going to sleep for a week.’ 

I laughed, it was more than fair. ‘When you’re done sleeping, can you do something for me?’

’What?’

I raised my left hand, the green mark pulsed in response and I chuckled at the way it seemed to know when it was being thought about. ‘The orb of Andruil did this, go through the library.’ I pointed up the stairs, ‘double check everything, everything we think we know, find me sources.’

Sil raised an eyebrow, ‘you want me to go hunting?’ 

I nodded. 

‘Can I tell Deshanna?’ He asked a little suspiciously.

The laugh bubbled from my lips, and then I frowned, wondering why he could think it was a secret. ‘Obviously tell her, make copies of anything interesting for the clan.’ I paused, he grinned accepting my request. So I held out my little finger, ‘forewarned.’ 

He took my pinkie with his, and we twisted our fingers together in a promise, ‘forearmed.’ He swore seriously. And then we ducked our foreheads together. The aching burn ripples out to steal the deal. 

‘Happy hunting,’ I told him as I stood and took a step up the stairs to leave for the evening.

‘Hey, Els!’ He called, and I twisted back. ‘You going to leave me to deal with the wrath of the First?’ Sil huffed.

I gave him my best shrug, ‘yep.’  Then winked and waved a hand goodnight. 

 

Chapter Text

The next morning, I tucked a small document of papers under my arm, hoisted my bow and quiver onto my shoulder and picked up a good sized wooden box tied up with a yellow ribbon. We were going to Crestwood, but I had a few tasks first.

 

I stood slightly back from Leliana as she spoke quietly to one of her agents. The rookery was still dark this early in the morning, but I could see the candles glowing behind her illuminating her shrine to Andraste. Although the symbolism was lost on me, I didn’t mind admitting that the shrine was beautiful. It was set into the wall with a mirror behind, which cast imposing shadows across the wooden figure. After a few moments Leliana coughed, and I realised it was my turn.

She clapped her hands together in front of her, ‘inquisitor.’ Her voice was tight and a little formal. It was the first time I had seen her since I’d given her the dressing down in front of Mihris.

I smiled, but it was lopsided and a little unsure. ‘Morning, I just wanted this delivered to a good friend.’ I say, popping down the wooden box.

Leliana barely looked down at it. She nodded and glanced at a large black crow that was sat on her desk, or was it a raven, I was never entirely sure on the differences. She frowned. ‘About the other day-.’

‘I’m sorry,’ I said quickly, ‘I shouldn’t have-’

‘No, I was careless-.’ Leliana interrupted back.

I smiled and looked down, ‘well I was angry and I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.’

Leliana nodded slowly, ‘Josephine explained, it was well played.’ Her voice was soft, and she glanced at the box again. And gave me a curious look.

The bird on her desk croaked loudly, almost sarcastically?

Leliana gave it a dark look, ‘oh hush.’ She snapped, before turning back to me. ‘Did you say who the package was for?’

‘It’s already been delivered.’ I said carelessly, with a little shrug.

‘Ohh.’ She gasped, and pointed a single finger to her chest, ‘for me?’

I watched with some amusement as Leliana carefully untied the ribbon, and then had to forcibly scoot the crow over to look inside the box. Her mouth dropped into an ‘o’, and her eyebrows knitted together when she pulled the pale pink object out of the box. ‘It’s a…’ she laughed. It was a stuffed nug, complete with pale blue wings and matching blue satin shoes. I’d seem Krem making one in the tavern, and knew I had to buy her one. ‘Look at his little feet!’ She exclaimed, she propped the little stuffed toy up adoringly on the side of her desk.

‘It’s cute,’ said a male voice behind me, I twisted round to see Mice, the Orlaisan merchant.

‘Oh, Mice, perfect. I was hoping to catch you, would you be interested in another commission?’ I asked and turned back to fish through the little packet of document to find the details for him.

The bird, gave an alarmed sound and flapped its wings. Leliana looked a little frustrated with the thing, and pointed a finger in its direction warningly.

Then suddenly the bird wasn’t a bird. The Lady Morrigan was sat in the birds place, I jumped back in shock, the pile of papers dropping to the ground. Morrigan snatched into the air, behind me. Leliana’s expression hardened.

‘Here is your little thief, Leliana.’ Morrigan intoned in a bored voice. ‘Now give me my letters.’

I spun to see Mice, wide eyed. One hand caught by Morrigan’s and the other halfway in his pocket with a bundle of Leliana’s confidential letters.

I picked up my fallen documents, and folded them back together. The spy in our midst, the one who had stolen my correspondence with my clan. I sighed heavily. ‘You’ve just lost yourself a commission.’ I said darkly. I didn’t know if I was more annoyed that he’d stolen the letters from my clan, or that I didn’t know any other carpenters. I glanced at Leliana, I trusted her, and I would show her that I trusted her. ‘Deal him how you see fit.’

Her eyes squinted at Mice for a long moment, ‘as you wish inquisitor.’ It was probably a better gift than the winged nug.

I saw the sudden terror in Mice’s eyes, he squirmed to get away from Morrigan. But she held fast. Leliana handed her two thick letters on thick parchment which she tucked away into the side of her breast band.

I nodded at the two women and walked away, the sting of betrayal turning into a heavy stone at the bottom of my stomach.


 

Taking the long way around to the stables, I managed to find Keeper Deshanna.

‘Little hare,’ she greeted me, her hair was twisted into a knot on the top of her head, ‘you look sad this morning.’ She said cupping my cheek in her palm.

I let out a breath, ‘I wasn’t expecting to be betrayed before breakfast.’ I said a little sullenly.

She rubbed the top of her lip, waiting for me to explain.

I tossed a hand through the air in front of me, ‘nevermind.’ I handed her the little parcel of documents, ‘if you don’t mind, there’s something I’d like you to have a look at for me.’

Deshanna’s whistened fingers opened up the documents and her eyes scanned across the plans that I’d drawn up. And then she gave me a curious glance.

I turned, and pointed toward the tower that I’d picked out as the location for the shrine, ‘over there, I was thinking.’ I said, and turned back to the plans, with a sheepish smile. ‘I traded it for a chantry. Can you go through and check there’s nothing too blasphemous in there.’

She looked over to the tower, and I could her building the structure I’d designed in her mind and erecting it in place. ‘Is it for everyone, or just us?’ She asked after a moment, her fingertips tracing across my plans.

‘Everyone, ideally.’ I said quickly.

‘Oh, well little hare, I doubt the purists would be overly happy.’ Her fingers tracing across some of the more radical elements of my design.

I nod, ‘there is a list in the back, of all the Dalish that are here.’

She pulled the list forward, ‘except, Merrill who will be coming with us. And Mice. He…’ I took a breath and glared at the paper.

Deshanna took a nail, and simply draws a line across Mice’s name, indenting the paper to remove it. ‘Would you mind if I gave the project to Moherinal?’ She asked.

I blinked at her, why? I think venomously.

My mother smiled at me knowingly, ‘Moherinal is feeling a little overlooked at the moment. I think it would be good to give him something to get stuck into.’

I crossed my arms over my chest, ‘it’s my project.’ I snapped sulkily.

Deshanna cleared her throat and gave me a look, that told me to stop being so childish.

I flushed, ‘it’s a great idea, Mamae.’ I said looking at the ground.

‘I will keep an eye on him, of course.’


 

Eventually at the stables, I find Torchbearer. The golden a white hart, it gives me a look an evaluating look. I pause for a moment and raised out my hand, allowing Torchbearer to get used to me. Once it is done, I pulled out the green and gold reins that Sil made me. As I am strapping them on, I hear someone approach.

‘Pretty.’

I turned to the unfamiliar voice, it’s Merrill, ‘ ma serannas.’ I intoned, thanking her.

She traced a finger with a dirty nail across the golden embroidery, ‘what does it say?’

‘It’s a transcription, not translation.’ I said quickly, a little ashamed of my clan’s lack of language.

Her large eyes glaze over the characters, ‘why Torchbearer?’ She asked.

I laughed, stroking the front of the hart’s face, ‘it’s a pun, Hellana means touch.’

Merrill gave me an odd look, ‘I’m sorry, what?’

I falter for a moment, didn’t Solas say the same thing. ‘We have an ancient lexicon, it came from there.’

‘Can I see it?’ Merrill asked, hazel eyes looked across at me.

I paused for a moment, only to be interpreted as Blackwall walked into the stable, dropping his kit heavily on the ground. ‘Ready to move out?’

I took Merrill’s arm, ‘when we get back,’ I promised. And turned to Blackwall. ‘Let’s go.’

Chapter Text

Dread wolf take this place . I thought miserably as I lead our little group into the outskirts of Crestwood town. It was raining. Was it always raining in this gods forsaken part of the world? Damp and utterly miserable, I found a good place to tie up Torchbearer so that we could continue on foot through the little village. The journey had been surprisingly quiet, not even bandits had bothered us. The damp stink of sea and salt, washed over my flesh. My scout armour had chafed against the back of my knees, for my clothes just wouldn’t dry out no matter what I did.

‘This wet cold just seeps into your bones doesn’t it?’ I heard Blackwall grumble behind me. I completely agreed, and glanced around to see Marina gave him a half smile, before she turned to help Merrill down from her horse. I wasn’t entirely sure we should have brought Merrill with us, she’d flashed me a smile and told me that her Keeper had trained her well, but I couldn’t see how coaxing aravalas across difficult terrain or setting up wards to defend against shem around camp would overly help us.

‘Hey, Poppy, take a look at this,’ Varric called. Who the fuck was Poppy?

I realised that everyone but Solas was looking at me expectantly, I scowled, but stepped over to the dwarf, ‘do you name all the elven women you know after flowers?’

Varric considered for a second, readjusting Bianca on his back. ‘Are you accusing me of unoriginality?’

‘Yes, I do believe that I am- oh!’ And then I saw why he had called me over. The tendril tops of a fade rift, peeked green and menasing out from the middle of Lake Crestwood.

‘Does that mean water is draining into the fade?’ Blackwall asked as he righted himself from tying up his horse. He looked grim, dark circles under his eyes and he’d developed a couple small patches in his beard from the stress.

‘It is unlikely, unless there is a river feeding water into the lake at the same rate,’ Solas answered, looking thoughtful out across the lake that looked black as ink under the heavy grey storm clouds.

Varric did not look happy at all, ‘so we have to get a boat and row out to it?’

‘No, the current will be too strong, we would be pulled into the rift... if we didn’t drown first.’ Merrill countered softly.

‘Cheery thought,’ Marina added and slung a causal arm around her lover’s waist.

‘Excuse me, who are you?’ asked a tight authoritative voice.

We turned, and I saw a mid-sized man , with little beady eyes and shem ears too large for his face. I stepped forward and introduced myself. And after a little coaxing it turned out that he was the Mayor of the town, although town might have been overstating the matter. Crestwood village was simply six small shacks clustered together on a damp hill. The man was clearly uncomfortable and kept eyeing Blackwall nervously, his eyes lingering for far too long on the griffon logo that betrayed Blackwall as a Grey Warden. Although the town had survived the blight, so I couldn’t even begin to imagine the kind of horrible memories the man was suffering through.

After what felt like hours of painful prodding, Mayor Dedrick eventually told us that there was a dam flooding the Lake, but that Caer Bronach had been captured by Highwaymen so the controls for the dam were impossible to get to.

Varric had laughed at this, and told the man in no uncertain terms that there was nothing impossible about the situation. He’s tried to be reassuring, but the Mayor seemed even more unsettled by the idea.

 

‘We should go to the controls now, drain the lake and close the rift first. Your friend can wait,’ Blackwall argued, his face a little flushed under his patchy beard.

‘Stroud can help us take the castle,’ Marina defended back, she waved a hand towards the fortress we could see in the distance, ‘we’re probably outnumbered as it is.’

Blackwall made an angry little hand gesture at her and turned to me, obviously frustrated, ‘inquisitor,’ he demanded. Gods he looked exhausted, we were already one man down .

Marina spun to me, ‘Hellana, please.’ She said, knowing that I prefered to be called by my name.

I considered, twisting the little woven bracelet on my wrist as I did so. ‘Let’s go get the Grey Warden then.’

 

‘The cave, just up there,’ Marina indicated and glanced around, she was on edge. ‘We’re being watched.’ She added.

I turned as well, and felt a shiver creep up my back, I couldn’t see anyone. I pulled my bow off my back, and saw Varric instinctively do the same.

Blackwall paused, ‘what is it?’

No one answered him, I saw Solas stood, staring across the a small lake. ‘Do you see anything?’ I hissed at him as I took his side.

He shook his head, ‘I know this place.’ He told me faintly, ‘so long ago it feels like a dream.’ He twisted as though trying to look for something, but instead pointed at one of the hills, he clawed behind his back for his staff with his free hand, ‘up there!’ He called.

‘Highwaymen!’ Came a call, and a group of around twenty armoured shem came rushing down the hill. I scrambled up onto a boulder, to better allow my arrows to rain down. I felt the familiar flash of green, and knew that Solas’ had cast a ward across our skin.

‘Boil, trap and poof?’ Marina shouted to Merrill, who nodded racking her nails down the exposed skin on the back of her leg. Lines of red splashed to the surface.

Blackwall went running, roaring towards the oncoming foes. Bashing his sword against his shield as he did so.

I heard a stream of curses in common and elvish fell out of Merrill’s mouth, which made me pause for a second. I’ve never even heard half of them, an awful grin spreading across my face as I watched her utterly destroy her targets. Her motions were set to the metronomic regular snapping bolts of Varric’s bianca.

Blackwalls sword cut the head of the first man he encountered clean off. But then the remaining shem seemed to writhe as they stumbled forward, some of them crying streams of bloody tears. Which gave Blackwall pause.

Varric shouted, ‘shit! Blackwall get out of there!’

Blackwall heard, slung his shield at the closest attacker, the piece of metal cutting deep into the attacker’s neck. Now less encumbered, Blackwall dove across the ground to get away from the Highwaymen, and rolled a little down the hill, becuase coming to a sickening stop against an exposed boulder.

Merrill rose her staff into the air, and then slammed it down into the ground with surprising force, ‘Dread Wolf take you!’ she screamed and the earth below the feet of the highwaymen cracked and broke into pieces, breaking ankles and trapping the shem together. Twisted roots emerged, snapping limbs and tears them apart. A moment later, Marina’s staff slammed down next to hers and three of them exploded, splattered blood and guts across the field with enough force that it knocked out the last half handful of men.

Merrill smiled and clapped her hands excitedly, and Marina gave her a smirk and dropped a kiss on her head.

Blackwall however, was nowhere near as cheerful, he’d taken a face of blood and guts. He stood up, flinging his sword to the ground and wiping the goo off his eyes and mouth with the back of his sleeve. ‘You could have warned me!’ He bellowed back down the hill.  

‘Wow,’ I said a little dazed, my fifth arrow still poised on my bow. I guess Merrill could definitely handle herself, the two of them were battle ready and working in perfect synchronisation. ‘Where did you learn that?’ I asked utterly bewildered at how she’d adapted the spells to smooth the earth to allow the aravals easy travel into offensive magics.

Merrill sort of shrugged at me noncommittally.

Blood magic, I thought with a moment of concern and glanced to Solas to see what he had to say, but he was glaring daggers at Merrill and Marina.

Marina seemed to notice and winked at him, ‘think we upstaged him,’ she whispered loudly enough to Merrill that even Blackwall forty paces away could hear.

Merrill looked back, ‘ ir abalas,’ she called in a way, that made it clear she wasn’t even a little bit sorry.

I heard Solas sigh heavily, he turned to me, ‘forgive me. I was distracted, it will not happen again.’

‘No harm,’ I said with a smile, tapping his arm reassuringly.

Chapter Text

I was sat on a crenel in the wall overlooking the courtyard into Caer Bronach, chewing my way through a piece of jerky. Below Blackwall was single handledly dragging the corpses of the Highwaymen out of the Keep. ‘Why’s he doing that?’ I asked Marina who was perched next to me. The rain was helping him, washing the flagstones clean.

‘Man’s got heavy shoulders, some real or imagined penance, I’d bet.’ She said without looking over at me. She was flexing her fingers and jumping a tiny ball of magic light between her fingertips. She’d taken the news that Corypheus could be controlling the calling particularly hard.

Our siege had been a roaring success, and barely five minutes after we’d battered the gates down, the little fortress in the arse end of nowhere belonged to the Inquisition. Though it had taken a few more hours to find and activate the controls that would drain what remained of Old Crestwood. And probably a day for the Lake to drain, so we’d decided to stay the night.

Varric appeared, lending his arms on the merlon two down from me. ‘Harding knows we’re here and we’ll have backup before nightfall.’

I squinted over at the late afternoon sun, but was distracted by Blackwall’s roar as he hacked through one of the heavy Highwaymen banners. It fell to the floor with a whoosh and clatter and he stood back hands on his hips surveying his progress. He noticed his watchers then, and shouted up ‘are you admiring the view?’

 

As the sunset, we were joined by a large band of inquisition agents and we were not longer the front line to holding the castle. Relieved of our duties we moved indoors, finding a large room. With a fireplace. I groaned with pleasure at finally, feeling a soothing blanket of warmth. The damp and drizzle had made it impossible to light a fire in just over a week, I gave a quick glance around the room and decided to leave my replenished stock of Sylaise’s herbs tucked within my pack. The precious offerings would be wasted on all but Merrill, and considering the chimney, they’d be wasted on the two of us as well. I merely nodded my head towards the fire and hoped it would serve as a suitable replacement.

I’d dropped my pack in an empty room a few doors down, about twenty minutes earlier. Solas had found me there, but once I’d begun changing into dry clothes, he’d excused himself with a sweet little blush. I’d rolled my eyes to the ceiling and fished out half empty bottles of spirits that I’d brought with me and one questionable bottle we’d found during the morning, it would serve as a suitable offering to my community.

So that was how I found the common room when I’d returned. Solas looking a little uncomfortable, his eyes darting to the window as though to glare the rain away. But on the side of the room, a little table had been set up. Where Varric was holding court, in his usual fashion. I dropped my bottles in the middle and grabbed an abandoned cup, without the tell-tale blood splatter to mark our invasion on the wall, it would seem as those we were in a perfectly usual tavern. I’d walked straight into the middle of a conversation.

‘So how will this one end, Varric?’ Merrill asked. She sat her back to the corner of the wall, and her legs knotted in front of her with a sort of patchwork blanket across her lap.

Varric gave her an odd look, ‘which one?’

‘Story of the Inquisitor,’ she said rather grandly, and then corrected, ‘or whatever you’ll call this one.’ She answered, with a look towards me.

And I found myself the object of a multitude of gazes. Marina glanced at me, with a sting of pity like I was simply a pawn, to be pushed around the board without agency. Even Solas’ gaze was diverted from the dark glass for the flicker of a heartbeat.

‘It’s simple,’ I said, with far more confidence than I felt, ‘we defeat the big bad guy.’

Varric smiled reassuringly at me, ‘it’s a shame. I do prefer the stories where the villain is the man beside you all along.’

Blackwell seemed to inhale his drink and coughed profusely. Marina looked dark, ‘don’t’ she muttered and slapped Blackwall on the back.

‘Why would you want that?’ I asked, stepped over and taking a place at the table.

Varric leaned back, chest hair on proud display, ‘the best villains don’t see themselves as evil, they’re just fighting the good cause and willing to get their hands dirty.’

‘Who was the villain in Swords and Shields?’ Merrill asked innocent as anything.

Varric flashed her a glance and then looked Marina, ‘ugh you let her read that tripe.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about?’ Marina snapped back.

I pulled an unused deck towards me and began shuffling, ‘what’s Swords and Shields?’

‘It was my badly thought through romantic series.’ Varric said quietly, looking a little chagrined. ‘Where’d you find them Daisy?’

‘Cassandra’s room.’ She replied.

‘What.’ At least three of us said in unison.

Merrill shrugged, in what I could only describe as a Hawke-like gesture, ‘I got lost.’

There was a long moment, before I burst out laughing, quickly followed by Varric who found the entire thing hysterical. Marina was trying to hold her nerve and playfully chastised Merrill about wandering into other people’s room before joining us in our humour.

I dealt out the cards as we each agreed to not mention it to Cassandra, which was probably the best strategy for keeping our heads.

 

It was much later into the evening, and Solas had been coaxed into joining us, although he refused to play cards. Simply watching, with a calculating look as though he was paying a game with himself to predict the cards that everyone would use. ‘What does the calling actually feel like?’ I asked Blackwall, softly, trying to understand more of what he was going through.

He only looked down at the table and ran a hand through his beard, tucking at the hair there. So, it was left to Stroud to answer my question, ‘he starts with dreams,’ Stroud was oddly stoic as though he was describing an experience that happened to someone else, ‘then the whispers start in your head. It’s relentless, it lurks like a wolf in the shadows around a campfire.’

And then three things happened at once, Marina reached out to take the bottle of wine, but it fell from her grasp spilling thick red wine across the table, Varric made a grab for it knocking the candle over, which flickered and went out pitching the room into darkness. And something clawed at my wrist.

Chapter Text

And something clawed at my wrist . I felt a sting on my wrist and then an odd tug under my skin, as though there was a tendril of magic reaching out through my marked hand to grip ahold of my insides. It was the strangest sensation, as I felt the foreign magic invade my flesh. And I knew that it was an instinct, a primal urgent reaction to an threat, something as simple as a snatched hand being taken away from the fire that burnt it. But then a heartbeat later it’s gone.

 

As all of this happened inside me, I watched a little glowing ball of veilfire flow carelessly from the tips of Solas’ fingertips into the centre of the table, showering light over the area where the candle had stood only moments before. He was watching expressionless, but I noted that there was a tightness in his neck.

With the burst of light I realised it was Merrill who had scratched at my wrist when the candle had gone out. And I understood, she was a First, the ring around her neck marked her as such.  Stroud’s description of the wolf waiting in the shadows of the campfire had created her innate reaction. I couldn’t even find it in me to call it an overreaction, the logical part of me was grateful that she had reacted when I hadn’t.

I was about to chastise her for using me as a mana drain, but then I almost laughed at her serious, puzzled expression, ‘What?’ I asked curiously.

In the blue veilfire light her large hazel eyes were flicking between my marked hand and then down at her fingernails, ever so slightly stained black with my blood. Then she fixed a careful look on me,  ‘your blood tastes like my mirror did’ she said softly.

Dirthamen, Lord of Secrets, want to help untangle that one? I thought as I pushed my lips together, whatever I’d been expecting to come out of her mouth, those words were not it. In the following uncomfortable silence, I noted that Stroud shifted in his seat, while Blackwall busied himself trying to mop up the spill on the table, doing anything to avoid looking at Merrill.

‘Merrill?’ Marina asked slowly after a moment, with a deeply concerned look, her eyebrows twisted together.

I looked down at the tiny marks on my wrist, the cuts were hardly deep, only four thin red lines, with three or four pin pricks of blood bubbling up. It was such a superficial cut.

Varric frowned, and in a rush of sudden movement he was on his feet, stepping around the room lighting torches on the wall to cast the darkness away. He was muttering under his breath about blood magic and daisies, but it was mostly lighthearted.

‘May I see your hand?’ Merrill asked me, shaking off Marina’s worried hand and utterly ignoring the two Grey Warden’s utterly baffled looks. Marina is breathing something about being careful with her magic in public, but calmed down when it was clear that I was mostly unconcerned by it.

Merrill was looking at me like I’d seen Sera look at pots of honey, I opened my mouth to protest, but then I sighed. Anything she could tell me might be useful. And so I placed the shuffled deck of cards I was holding onto the table, neatly avoid the remnants of the puddle of split wine, and gave her my left hand.

Merrill held my hand up to the magical lights still floating over the table, and traced a finger over my palm, and I flinched back.

I shook my hand in the air and gave her a shrug of apology, ‘tickled.’ I muttered, before returning my hand to her grip. I threw a look to Solas, he was leaning forward on the table, hand knitted together and eyes narrowed at the other elf.

Merrill for her part was utterly obvious to everyone else, she tilted her head to examine my hand and then I felt a new exploratory tendril of magic pushing against the mark. She continued until the mark glared green and she closed her eyes. Then she sat back, and the puzzled look was back. ‘It’s connected to something ,’ she tapped her hand on the wooden table, squinted at the mark as though it would reveal all of it’s secrets. ‘Since it closes rifts, I can assume it’s like the fade, but it’s constructed, like my mirror. It isn’t natural. It’s trying to go somewhere, but it can’t, it’s in your hand.’ She suddenly sat up, a flush appeared across her face, ‘I’m rambling.’

‘Go on,’ I whispered, as nothing less than a ten thousand gold pieces would have convinced me to stop her speaking.

She met my eyes and nodded briefly, ‘it’s there, but it isn’t ‘Rina, it’s all wrong,’ Merrill grumbled flashing her eyes backwards to Marina Hawke, but then in a flash of inspiration she grabbed my hand again and I felt a more forceful prod of magic from her, and her eyes narrowed. ‘Can it be? It’s Elvhen!’ She announced with a bolt.

‘Yep,’ I confirmed, ‘Orb of Andruil did this.’

‘I didn’t know that,’ Merrill said a little perturbed, but then she frowned, ‘no, not Andruil.’

I let out a little scoff, and I raised an eyebrow, ‘and how do you-’

‘I’m an expert.’ Merrill said puffing up her chest, and giving me a sheepish smile, her eyes dazzling in the orange firelight.

‘On Andruil?’ I queried slowly. Gods are finally looking down on me!

‘On all things Elvhen.’ Marina corrected for Merrill, leaning forward to wink at me.

The pieces clicked into place and I couldn’t believe that I’d missed it. I pulled my hand back too excited for real words, ‘Merrill Sabrae!’ I whispered utterly starstruck. I’d heard of her, and of course I knew her by reputation. But my giddly little smile was wiped off my face by her crushing reaction.

Merrill shook her head violently, pulling away from me as though I had became possessed by a demon, ‘No… yes… well no, not anymore. I left.’ She stood up and swept away from the table and then paused at the door. Hands clenched into fists at her sides, shoulders visibly shaking from the other side of the room. ‘I gave up my name, I wasn’t unnamed .’ She said grimmly, before flinging the door open and leaving.

I sat like I’d been struck by lightning, eyes wide, as Marina ran after her. It was only after what felt like year of shocked silence did Varric helpfully venture, ‘she doesn’t like talking about her old clan.’

‘I can see that,’ I said shaken and I glancing at the door where she’d left. ‘What happened?’

Varric took up the deck of cards that I’d abandoned, ‘honestly, it’s all in Tale of the Champion .’

I gave him a rueful smile, ‘I never read it.’ I confessed.

Varric flicked a hand towards the door, ‘so you didn’t know who Merrill was then?’

I shrugged, ‘Merrill is a common name.’

He sighed wearily and simply began dealing the cards out to the five of us that remained, starting an impromptu game of Wicked Grace.

‘No,’ Solas muttered, handing his cards back to Varric with a swift sharp look.

Varric shuffled his cards back into the deck. ‘If you need me to teach you how to play-’

‘Is it always like this?’ I heard Stroud whisper to Blackwall. Blackwall only shrugged swiping up his cards.

Varric took a long swig of his drink, ‘so one day on Sundermount…’