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Singer of Magic

Chapter Text

And the day pressed on like crushing weights
For no man does it ever wait
Like memories of dying days
That deafen us like hurricanes
Bathed in flames we held the brand
Uncurled the fingers in your hand
Pressed into the flesh like sand
Now do you understand?

-'Savior' by Rise Against

====================================

I hated using my given name, especially at a convention. There, I wanted to be able to be a little more myself. Of course, the "self" I made myself into was a mask to the real world.

I always preferred being Lashanna ne'Drak, cosplayer and propmaker. Everyone else wanted me to be Terra Terrinsin (could my parents have given me a worse first name to go with the last?), art school graduate with a degree that was practically useless on the east coast, and until recently, convenience store supervisor.

I'd quit my job last week, after getting passed up for promotion again. Third time in 5 years. I'd been working there since I was 16, and as soon as I turned 18 I'd been made a supervisor. It was great, until the owner passed away and left her store to her son, Mark. He didn't care that I worked my ass off, he'd rather leer at it. When I'd refused to date him, he'd gotten belligerent. Ever since then, whenever an assistant manager position opened up, it didn't matter that I practically ran circles around everyone else. The job inevitably went to one of Mark's college frat bros, who he had hired and promoted within months, even though it seemed like none of them had any inkling what a job was.

I shook the thoughts of Mark and his cronies out of my head, and checked my makeup once more in the hotel room mirror, singing along with the music blasting from my music player.

Prosthetic elf ears? No blend marks, check.

June Vallaslin, painstakingly applied with light purple alcohol makeup? Dry, no smudges, check.

With the two things people would notice most out of the way, I took a moment to pop in my contacts, a pair of "dollies," lenses with extra big irises to imitate my favorite video game characters. Most of the time, dollies looked a little strange, since they were only meant to make your eyes bigger, not change the colour entirely. I'd lucked out when I found these. They matched my own blue-violet eyes almost perfectly, making them even more striking than usual. Hell, half the time without any contacts in at all people still asked me where I got my pretty eyes.

With that done, I took my hair out of the braid I'd put it in to keep it out of the way, and brushed out the thick black waves. I pondered for a moment, thinking of rebraiding it, but decided against it. Loose, it almost reached my ass, and it lent me a slightly wild look, which I thought was all the better for a Dalish elf.

I hadn't had a chance to play much of Dragon Age: Inquisition myself. Every time I tried, Tia, my best friend and roommate, would inevitably create another (elven) character, and hog the tv until she had played through, exactly the same way she'd done every other playthrough. I've never made it past the tutorial, and the initial stabilizing of the Breach, but I've seen her romance the egghead apostate-god (another name for asshole, in my book) countless times. I knew all the lore of the first two games, having played the hell out of them. We even owned the books, though I tended to prefer playing to reading.

I ran one last critical eye over myself, trying to see myself as a customer-slash-con-goer might. I wanted to look like a top-tier cosplayer, without being too out of reach to the cosplayers I wanted to sell to. I had on a pair of jeans, a plain black tanktop, a pair of greave-sandals that I'd brought to show off my sewing skills, and a set of bracers to show my cosplay armory skills. The greaves and bracers were actually made for Tia, to go with her Lavellan keeper cosplay, but since I was trying to drum up business, she was letting me bring them to show. If I could get any interest, I might be able to do this full time instead of getting a "real job," as Tia's parents put it.

With a sigh, I figured it would have to do. Today was only the first day of the con anyway, with 4 more after it. I could use today as a sounding board to get a feel for the cosplay scene here, and adjust myself in the coming days to present better if need be.

I turned from the mirror, and noticed that the orb I'd made to bring to the table was glowing on the desk. Just great. I'd asked my hotel roommate not to touch it, not wanting to waste the batteries unless someone showed interest in my work, but it seemed Sarai couldn't help herself. I looked for her for a sec, before remembering Sarai had left early to get her own artwork set up at our table.

I paused, frowning. The orb looked.... wrong. Or rather, too right. Don't get me wrong, I do damn good work, but there's only so close you can get when you're making a physical version of a video game 3D rendering, especially without access to, or money for, a 3D printer. My orb, I knew, had all the right swirls, and I'd made sure the lights I'd installed to make it "glow" were hidden well enough to not be noticed. But this orb didn't just have lights, it seemed to actually be radiating light. "What's going on here?" I asked the empty room.

I crossed the room to the desk, and I reached for it. Just as my left hand closed on it, I saw my orb, sitting on my bags, the way I'd left it last night.

And for one second, everything stopped.

That was the good part.

Everything after that was hell.

Pain ripped up my arm, feeling like every molecule was at war with its neighbor. I opened my mouth,  thought I might have screamed, but I couldn't hear past the roar tearing through my head. A female figure wreathed in blue reached to me, and as she touched my hand lights began to flare in succession, red, blue, yellow, purple, green, over and over again. Each change accompanied by a twist, a pull. Finally, one last burst of green brighter than all of the rest exploded, and I tumbled to the ground in a jumble, rolling into a wall with a smack. Another flare of light, behind my eyes this time, and the pain made me retch.

Dimly, I heard shouting, and someone roughly grabbed my arms.

"What the hell is that?!" a voice muttered. I registered movement, someone trying to get me to stand? And then mercifully, everything disappeared into darkness.

Chapter Text

If this is to end in fire
Then we should all burn together
Watch the flames climb high into the night
Calling out father oh
Stand by and we will
Watch the flames burn auburn on
The mountain side

-'I See Fire' performed by Ed Sheeran


===================================

The darkness receded slowly, and as it did pain began to throb. Not the terrible, mind numbing pain, but a low, constant companion. It reminded me of going drinking with Tia, and the hangovers we'd both deal with the next day.

I tried to think past the pain. Is that what happened? Did we go out last night? The struggle to remember brought me fully conscious, and I cracked my eyes open with a groan.

I was laid out on a cold stone floor. What in the hell happened? Where am I?

I tried to reach up to my head, only to realize my hands were manacled together, with a three foot chain connecting them to the floor.

The sight of the heavy restraints replaced the last of my grogginess with panic.

I scrambled to my feet, trying to get away. The movement of a man in- is that armor?- at the edge of the room took my attention. He headed for a heavy door, keeping the sword in his hand pointed towards me. Yeah, because a filthy, trussed up prisoner is so scary. I rolled my eyes.

Voice thick from lack of water and the remains of pain, I asked, "Where am I?"

Without taking his eyes off of me, he used his free hand to pound on the door. A second man peered through the tiny window, and the first muttered to him, low enough that I couldn't make out more than a few words.

"Tell... Seeker...  -ghast.... priso......"

I blinked. I started to feel an icy dread crawl up my spine.

Not wanting to, and hating myself for it, I looked down at my left hand. I stare blankly at the glowing green thing in my palm.

Well. Shit

It didn't look like something on my palm, not the way the games implied. It seemed more like... I could see through the mark, into a limitless green space. It made me shiver to try to look.

I wracked my brain, trying to figure out if this is all real, or if it was a dream induced by too many video games and stress. I pinched my thigh, and sighed when I felt the small sharp pain through my jeans.

If this was real --and I was going with a very big if on this-- I was going to have a much better idea of what's going on than anyone else I met, at least for a short while. But I knew that if I spilled the beans about anything, from where I'm really from to what's going to happen, then most of the characters are more likely to kill me as a crazy abomination, and lose whatever chance this world would have to survive. I had to come up with something.

Would they believe amnesia? I vaguely remembered I hit my head. So if it wasn't a crazy delusion spawned from a head injury, I might be able to play it up and say I'd forgotten everything except my own name.

But would they buy it?

I wasn't sure I was a good enough actress to pull it off. Sure, I'd watched Tia play Inquisition, more than a few times, but it's one thing to watch a few game cutscenes and another to try to know the game well enough to bullshit through without any prompts at all.

Which brought me back to what was I going to do.

Letting out a low sigh, I decided that at least for the time being, amnesia was the only thing I thought for sure I could pull off.

I heard a commotion coming through the door, but didn't look up. I knew what was coming.

It didn't help me to not flinch when the door burst open. It barely missed the guard, poor guy. First he gets terrified by a helpless prisoner, then almost beaten by a door. It would've made me giggle if I wasn't terrified myself.

Cassandra Pentaghast swept in, her face twisted in a snarl. "Tell me why we shouldn't kill you now." Her voice thundered through the dungeon. "The Conclave is destroyed. Everyone who attended is dead. Except for you." She fixed me with a glare, her eyes looking like black chips of ice in the low light.

The game devs didn't do the Seeker justice. She had creamy pale skin, dark tilted eyes, and thick brown hair braided into a crown on her head the way the games depicted, but her face had much more character to it. A few lines traced around her mouth, which was currently snarling, and around her eyes. She was of average height, but her presence would have made her tower over me even if I were standing.

I stared up at Cassandra, the reality sinking in. I think I was in shock. I knew I needed to say something, but all I could do was gape like a fish.

"Explain this!" Cassandra pulled up my hand, pulling my attention back to the strange green glow.

I licked lips as dry as a desert. "I... I can't."

Cassandra looked incredulous. "What do you mean, you can't?"

Irritated, I snapped back, "I mean I can't. I don't know how it got there. I don't know how I got here." My anger petered out as quickly as it had flared, and I looked down. Time to play it up... let's hope I can make it believable. Softer, I continued "I don't know where I am, or what's going on."

"You're lying!" Cassandra spit out, pulling her hand back as if to hit me. I flinched back, half convinced she actually would.

A gloved hand stopped Cassandra. "We need her," a light, velvet voice said.

"All those people," I whispered. I didn't need to fake the tears threatening. It was too much to take in. If I could accept that this was real, and truly happening, then the thought that thousands would have died in that explosion was heartbreaking.

A firm hand lifted my chin, and I found myself looking into dark grey eyes. "Do you remember what happened?" I was asked. "How this began?"

I swallowed, and took a gamble. "I... I don't remember much of anything. There was a light..." I closed my eyes, trying to think of the last things I could remember. "I'm not sure. I touched something. And then, a woman? Then all I saw was light..."

"A woman?" The copper-haired woman, who had to be Leliana, shared a look with the Seeker.

I opened my eyes, my brow furrowed. "I think she reached for me... then... I don't know."

After a moment contemplating me, Cassandra turned. "Go to the forward camp, Leliana. I will take her to the rift."

Leliana stared one last, long moment at me before turning to leave. As she did, Cassandra pulled out the key and unlocked the manacles. Immediately she replaced them with thick, sturdy rope.

Wishing there was time to ask for water, I licked my lips again. "So... what did happen?"

With a level look, Cassandra replied, "It will be easier to show you." She led me out of a church-like building, a Chantry if I remembered correctly. When we made it outside, my eyes were drawn inexorably upwards.

It was mind numbingly huge. The game didn't-- couldn't-- do justice to the immensity. I felt my jaw drop when I looked up into the hole in the sky.

"We call it the Breach" Cassandra said, watching me closely. "It's a massive rift into the world of demons that grows larger with each passing hour. It's not the only such rift, just the largest. All were caused by the explosion at the conclave." She began leading me through the village.

"An explosion made that?" I asked.

"This one did. Unless we act, the breach may grow until it swallows the world."

Green light flared in my eyes, and an echo of the ripping pain flashed up my arm. At the same time, the Breach above rippled, and spread a little farther. Struggling to stifle my scream, my legs gave out beneath me.

Cassandra pulled me back to my feet. "Each time the Breach expands, your mark spreads... and it is killing you. It may be the key to stopping this but there isn't much time."

I struggled to make my knees obey, to get them to lock so I didn't fall over again, then looked at Cassandra. "I get it."

Surprise coloured the Seekers face. "Then...?"

"If there's anything I can do, I will."

A tiny smile lifted Cassandra's face. "Thank you." She began to lead me forward.

I heared mutterings, felt hostile stares on me. The Breach was so intense that I couldn't help my eyes going back to it. When I managed to drag my eyes down, I watched the anger in the faces around me, and knew that, if not for Cassandra and Leliana, these people would probably have already killed me.

Cassandra glanced at the people gathered along our path. "They have decided your guilt," she murmured. "They need it. The people of Haven mourn our Most Holy, Divine Justinia, head of the Chantry. The Conclave was hers. It was a chance for peace between mages and templars. She brought their leaders together. Now, they are dead."

When we reached the gates, a pair of soldiers pulled them open, and Cassandra paused. "We lash out, like the sky. But we must think beyond ourselves, as she did. Until the breach is sealed." She pulled out a knife, and even though I knew what would happen, I couldn't help but look at that knife warily. To be fair, it was a deadly looking knife.

"There will be a trial. I can promise no more." Cassandra pulled the knife through the ropes. I rubbed my wrists, hating the phantom weight left from the restraints. "Come, it's not far," she said in a low voice.

I hurried after the Seeker. I pulled up short when I saw the wounded and, worse, the ones already covered and ready for the pyre. I felt myself slow as we crossed the bridge, silently acknowledging the fallen, counting as I went. 

Cassandra raised an eyebrow when she noticed. "What are you doing?"

Not looking at the Seeker, I replied softly, "Grieving."

Looking back over the bridge, Cassandra seemed confused. "Did you know them?"

I paused. "Not that I remember," I finally said. "But whether I knew them or not, they're people that I will never get the chance to know better. That alone is worth grief." I raised her eyes to Cassandra's. "Every life lost is too many."

"And while you dally here, more lives are lost," Cassandra snapped. "We can grieve later, if we survive."

"Truth. Let's go," I acknowledged. I nodded to the Seeker to lead on.

We followed the path, with men screaming down past us. The Breach crackled, and I found myself on my knees again, trying not to vomit from the pain in my hand.

"The pulses are coming faster now. The larger the Breach grows, the more rifts appear, the more demons we face," Cassandra informed me.

"What happened? How did I get here?" I murmured, my face lifted up to the Breach.

Cassandra hesitated. "They said you... fell out of a rift, then fell unconscious. They say a woman was in the rift behind you. No one knows who she was." She pulled me to my feet again. "Everything farther in the valley was laid waste, including the Temple of Sacred Ashes. I suppose you'll see soon enough."

We continued in silence. When next I looked up, I saw we were at a third bridge, and my brain started tolling alarm bells. "Wait!" I pulled back the Seeker,  who nearly drew her sword.

"This again? The dead don't need our help, the living do!" Cassandra snarled.

I waved away the Seeker's objections,  then pointed. As she turned, a boulder, expelled from the massive hole far above, slammed into the bridge.

Cassandra stilled. "How did you...? If you hadn't stopped me, we..." she looked sharply at me. Her voice turned to steel. "How did you know," she demanded.

I mulled over how much I could give away without raising suspicions. "Ummmm I saw it in the sky? And saw that it would fall here. I didn't want to be anywhere near its path." Cassandra narrowed her eyes, then humphed. I could tell the Seeker didn't really believe me. I cleared my throat. "I thought we were in a hurry?"

After another long moment, Cassandra nodded once and went to the remains of the bridge. "We'll have to climb down. Thankfully, the river is frozen. I don't see any easy way back up to the path, so we'll have to follow the river until the path meets it again." With a glance at me, she started to make her way down. I looked down the side, and wished I'd kept up with the rock climbing after I'd finished college. Well, nothing else to be done. It's like riding a bike, right?

Except if you fall here, you break your legs. No biggie.

Thanks.

With a grimace, I started to make my own way down.

It was better than I thought. I didn't have the stamina to make it easy anymore, but my body remembered how to descend. My arms were shaking a little by the time I made it down the relatively short cliff. Cassandra was waiting for me impatiently at the bottom.

We started making our way down the ice, Cassandra with confident steps and me just trying not to end up on my ass.

We'd only gone about five steps when another Fade thrown boulder crashed into the ice ahead of us. It dissolved against the ice, turning into a puddle that matched the green of the Breach above. Out of the puddle, a creature pulled itself together.

I realized it was a Shade. It didn't look too much like how the game designed them. These looked like actual, moving shadows.

Cassandra cursed, then thrust a hand out to me, yelling, "Stay behind me!" She rushed the final distance, pulling her sword as she went.

I looked to my right, already seeing another glowing Fade puddle start to coalesce into a Shade.
Remembering, I ran back to the bridge, and started going through broken crates scattered through the remains, hoping that they would have weapons I could figure out how to use. Fairly quickly, I found a pair of daggers.

Better than nothing. Grabbing them, one in each hand, I turned to see the Shade was fast closing on me. Too fast, it came up with a swipe that caught me in the upper arm, its claws catching my skin. I found myself rolling with the blow, coming up and dancing around to put myself behind the demon. I struck in quick succession, one-two-three.

The blades bit into something, but it wasn't as solid as I'd hoped it would be. I couldn't be sure if the stabs had even wounded the thing. I find myself starting to get scared. What if I can't kill it?

A tingle ran up my spine, down my arms. My blades took on a whitish glaze. The next stab I made had the demon rearing back in pain, frost clinging to the edges of the wounds.

My eyes went wide. I didn't see any runes on the blades, which meant that the frost had to come from... me.

Ah hell. I'm a mage?

My distraction gave the Shade a chance to strike back, and I knew I was too close to get away. My arms crossed in front of my face, a reaction that I knew wouldn't do anything to save me. When nothing hit me, I looked up and saw a glittering blue barrier covering me, protecting me from the demon. It raged at me, trying to reach, and I quickly stabbed both blades directly into its' center. It started frosting over, moving slower and slower before stopping entirely, completely frozen through. I reached out, tipped it over, and watched it shatter into pieces across the over ice. I looked over to see Cassandra finish off her own shade, and flashed a smile at the Seeker. I recieved a glare in return.

"Drop your weapons!" she stated coldly, her sword pointed straight at me.

Surprised, I stopped. "Ok. I'm putting them down." I held my blades out, and slowly started to put them down.

Cassandra growled softly. "Wait." She lowered her sword. "I cannot protect you, and I cannot expect you to be defenseless." I raised an eyebrow. Cassandra sighed. "I should remember that you agreed to come willingly." She handed me a bag of potions. I hoped we wouldn't need them.

We continued on, fighting what demons fell in our path. The first time Cassandra was flanked, I flung out a hand and suddenly a glittering skin of magic was protecting the Seeker. Though startled, Cassandra didn't hesitate and made short work of the demons.

Once they were gone, she sent a disgruntled look at me. "I didn't realize you were a mage."

I shrugged. "Neither did I, till that first fight."

Cassandra paled. "You're untrained? Maker, you're an abomination waiting to happen!"

"No, I swear, I'm not!" I protested.

"And when you turn?"

I rolled my eyes. "If I turn, you can kill me immediately. Does that make you happy?"

"Hmph. Good enough." The Seeker stomped away.

Well, she's certainly grumpy. Though I suppose she does have reason. I had a feeling I'd be sighing a lot until everyone started trusting me.

If they started trusting me.

With a groan, I followed the Seeker up the hills towards the remnants of the Temple.

Chapter Text

Embraced by the darkness,
I'm losing the light, 
Encircled by demons, I fight

-'Judas' by Fozzy


=========================================
I caught up before Cassandra reached the top of the hill.

"We're getting close to the rift. You can hear them fighting," Cassandra said, pointing ahead.

"Hear who fighting?" I asked. I strained, and could just make out the sounds of yells and clashes.

"You'll see soon. We must help them." Cassandra hurried forward, and I followed close on her heels.

If I remembered correctly, this was where we'd find one of my favorite characters, Varric, and the Asshole, also known as Solas. Here goes. Time to meet one of the most dangerous people in the world, Fen'Harel, the Dread Wolf himself. Tia would faint if she were here.

And here I was, looking like I just woke up in a ditch. Walking behind Cassandra, I self-consciously pulled my hands through my hair, trying to untangle the mess. I got halfway when I felt something that made me pause. Carefully, I touched my ears.

My pointed, not prosthetic, elven ears.

My hands started to shake, and I felt like I might hyperventilate. What in the nine hells is going on?
Blinking rapidly, I realized I couldn't feel the dolly lenses in my eyes. I hadn't been near a mirror since before touching that damn orb, so I had no idea what else about me had changed.

My clothes didn't seem to be fitting any differently, so I could assume that either I was still 5'9", or my jeans and tanktop had shrunk with me. I didn't think I'd shrunk, since it seemed like I'd been able to look the Seeker in the eyes.

I guess I'm just a really tall elf then. This'll be fun, I thought with a mental eyeroll.

The sounds of fighting were very close. I readied my daggers.

As soon as I got close enough, I focused on fire in my hands. The daggers' blades began to have a heat aura, then burst into sapphire-coloured flames. They started writhing up, twisting around my wrists. At first, I panicked, but when all I felt was a pleasant warmth, I ignored the sensation. Dashing into the fray, my flaming daggers took out a Shade in the first few seconds. I realized I had a wide grin stretching across my face. It seemed that these flames were especially harmful to these demons. All the better.

Once the last demon was dead, an elf grabbed me. "Quickly! Before more come through!" Lifting my left hand, he thrust it at the rift. For one long moment I shifted through fears like wildfire, that it wouldn't work, that it would kill me, that it should suck me in...

With a strange, twisting sensation inside my head, the mark on my hand connected to the rift. Within seconds, it had collapsed on itself, leaving only a lingering smell to say that the demons had been there at all.

I stumbled back. "What did you just do to me?" I asked, rubbing the marked hand. It felt odd, like an itch in the back of my mind.

"I did nothing. The credit is yours," he replied.

I raised my eyes from the mark, and stared. This was Solas? He barely looked anything like his game representation!

He was taller than me by half a head, so if I was tall for an elf, what was he? He was gorgeous, though not in a stereotypical model way. At least he was still an egghead... my vision swam, and I winced. I was seeing long, dark, blood red braids, longer than my own midnight hair, even pulled back into a tail at the back of his head, with the sides shaved in an undercut... He wasn't bald?

I blinked, and they were gone. What the hell was that?

He frowned at me. "Are you all right?"

I swallowed. "Just a headache." I tried to dismiss the pit in my stomach as a lack of food. "Thank you, for whatever you just did."

With a small frown, he glanced away from me to Cassandra.

“Whatever magic opened the Breach in the sky also placed that mark upon her hand. I theorized the mark might be able to close the rifts that have opened in the Breach's wake – and it seems I was correct."

Cassandra looked thoughtful. “Meaning it could also close the Breach itself.”

"Possibly" Solas looked back at me. “It seems you hold the key to our salvation.” He sounded intrigued.

“Good to know! Here I thought we'd be ass-deep in demons forever.” Moving into my line of sight, a dwarf shouldered his massive crossbow. He was classically handsome, with a nose that looked like it had been broken and set improperly a few times, to somehow lend his smile even more charm. His gold yellow hair only helped to offset his tanned skin. “Varric Tethras: rogue, storyteller, and occasionally, unwelcome tagalong.” He gave Cassandra a sidelong wink, turning the charm on for her. The Seeker grunted in disgust, turning away.

I snickered a bit at that. I'd always loved that grunt, wishing I could perfect it on all the stupid college guys that tried to hit on me. "That's a gorgeous crossbow," I offered Varric with a smile.

“Ah, isn't she?" Varric patted the stock reverently. "Bianca and I have been through a lot together.”

"I can see that you're lifelong companions," I replied, my smile stretching into more of a smirk.

Varric's own grin grew even wider. “Of course we are. And she'll be great company in the valley.”

Cassandra cut in, “Absolutely not. Your help is appreciated, Varric, but-”

“Have you been in the valley lately, Seeker? Your soldiers aren't in control anymore. You need me," he cajoled.

"We could always use the extra help, Seeker Pentaghast," I ventured. Cassandra's only reply was another grunt, then she turned to look at the path ahead.

A light touch on my arm caught my attention. “My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions," he said with a slight nod. He held my eyes as if trying to read me, his face speculative. "I'm pleased to see you still live.”

“He means, 'I kept that mark from killing you while you slept.'” Varric cut in.

I hesitated, still rubbing the marked hand. It felt odd, tingly in my mind. "Thank you," I said to Solas. I don't want to get on his bad side. But hell, it is not a good idea to get involved with him, girl. You saw how heartbroken Tia was every time she played the game, it'll be ten times worse if you let yourself fall here and now.

“Thank me if we manage to close the Breach without killing you in the process.” he replied, with a slight upwards tilt to his lips showing his humor.

I nodded back absently, unable to keep a look of consternation from my face. I was still trying to figure out the strange duality I had seen. Did I see a past vision of Solas? Or maybe he was using magic to hide his braids? If so, why? Too soon to speculate.

With a sigh, I followed Cassandra down the next path. From the corner of my eye, I could see Solas had let the small smile slip away, to be replaced by a furrowed brow and narrowed eyes, as if he wasn't sure what to make of me.

As they began down the path, Solas spoke up. “Cassandra, you should know: the magic involved here is unlike any I have ever seen.” Cassandra paused. "Your prisoner is a mage, but I find it difficult to imagine any mage having such power." 

“Understood. We must get to the forward camp quickly," said Cassandra, and she continued down the path.

“Well, Bianca's excited!” Varric said, before following the Seeker.

"This way, down the bank. The road ahead is blocked," Cassandra called over her shoulder.

As we followed the path down, Solas strode beside me, and began quietly asking me questions. "May I ask, where did you learn how to wield Fadefire?

"What the hell is Fadefire?" I asked.

He looked at me sidelong. "The blue flames you used. It's a very old talent, one I thought lost. Whereas veilfire gives off light, but no heat, and does not actually burn, Fadefire is very dangerous to any but the wielder, and those she chooses to trust or spare. It burns hotter than any normal fire, and leaves nothing behind, no residue, no ash." He watched me, eyes running over my face as if searching for clues. "Did you not know?"

Steeling myself for another bad reaction to the news, I told him "I didn't even know I was a mage until an hour ago." I quickly recounted my first demon fight. "That was the first I remember using magic." I explained.

The look of shock on Solas' face was almost comical. "Do you mean to tell me that you're completely untrained, and in an hour you managed to learn not just one spell, but two common spells and one impossibly difficult one?" His steps faltered. "Who are you?"

"My name is Lashanna ne'Drak. Beyond that, I don't remember." I mentally crossed my fingers, hoping he believed my amnesia story.

He let out a sharp breath. "When I examined you, I'd noticed some head trauma, but I hadn't expected it to cause any trouble after I healed it." He resumed walking beside me, looking down in thought. "I suppose, you could have been a proficient mage, before, and you simply have no conscious recall of it, but still retain your skill." He nodded slowly to himself. "That must be it. Well. I can't say I'm not sorry. I was hoping you could tell me how you came across the fadefire technique, but no matter. Your memory should return, in time."

Don't count on it, buddy, I thought. I was going to milk the amnesia cover as long as I could.

We fought a few more small groups of demons. I was lagging a little. I was used to 8 hour work days on my feet, and using power tools for hours after that, but that was hardly the sort of conditioning to make a trek up a mountain with periodic battles seem easy. I had to call for rest a moment after one battle, just to try to catch my breath. Cassandra glowered, clearly not pleased, but allowed it. "Only a few minutes. I will check the path ahead." I sank down on a rock gratefully.

Solas squatted down beside my perch, and I knew I was in for more questions. "You are Dalish, but clearly away from the rest of your clan. Did they send you here?”

"I'm Dalish?" I asked, surprised. 

"Of course," he replied, "you wear June's marks on your face." His voice clipped a little on June's name. I brought my fingers up to my cheek. I guess either that alcohol based makeup was even better than I thought, or the same magic that had made my prosthetic elf ears into real elf ears had done the same to the vallaslin I'd applied. "Do you not even remember your clan?" he asked softly. I shook my head. "Ir abelas, da'len. To loose one's own history is terrible."

Tentatively, I asked, “What do you know of the Dalish?”

Another sidelong look. He must not fully believe my "amnesia" was real, and was trying to get me to reveal more than I should. “I have wandered many roads in my time, and crossed paths with your people on more than one occasion.”

I raised an eyebrow. "People are people, Solas, regardless of where they're from."

“The Dalish I met felt... differently on the subject.” He sounded like he wondered how I felt about it.

Varric cut in,  "Can't you elves just play nice for once?"

Just then, Cassandra came back to us. "It's not much farther," she said. Her tone implied that we'd had a long enough break, so why were we still sitting around?

I muffled a groan, not looking forward to moving. Solas stood in one fluid motion, then held his hand out to me. Startled, I squinted up at him. He raised an eyebrow, silently asking if I'd rebuff his help.

I hesitated, but grabbed the offered hand, and he pulled me up. I dropped it like a hot stone, rubbing it on my jeans.

It was worse than I thought. Just a touch, and I'd felt a jolt run through me. I was too inexperienced in this world to tell if it was magic, or simple sexual attraction, that had caused it. Solas, of course, looked amused by my reaction.

I blushed, and hurried after the Seeker. I could feel his eyes following me.

A few minutes up the path, the Breach crackled and my hand flared, dropping me to the ground like a sack of potatoes.

"Shit, are you alright?" Varric asked.

I grunted, biting my lip to help me focus.

Solas ran up, and grabbed my elbow, steadying me as I tried to stand. “My magic cannot stop the mark from growing further. For your sake, I suggest we hurry.” He looked worried.

I nodded, and we continued.

“I hope Leliana made it through all this," Cassandra murmured.

Varric tried to console her. "She's resourceful, Seeker."

“We will see for ourselves at the forward camp. We're almost there.” Solas pointed ahead.

As we rounded the next bend, we could see ahead another rift between us and the forward camp.

Solas grabbed my hand, pulling me forward at a run. “We must seal it, quickly!”

We could see the soldiers fighting, the fallen littering the ground. “They keep coming! Help us!” a soldier shouted to us. We all instantly joined to help, clearing out the demons as quickly as possible.

As soon as they were dealt with, I raised my left hand and concentrated on the rift before me. I felt it connect almost instantly, a chiming in my mind. Within seconds, it was closed.

Without missing a beat, Cassandra moved forward, shouting, “The rift is gone! Open the gate!” An acknowledgment was shouted back, and the doors began to press open.

"We are clear for the moment. Well done." Solas' voice murmured in my ear, and I jumped. I hadn't realized he was so close to me.

"Whatever that thing on your hand is, it's useful," Varric said. I got the feeling he could tell that Solas made me uncomfortable, and was trying to stay near to act as buffer.

I backed away from Solas a bit, eyeing him warily. He cocked his head to the side, clearly puzzled by my reaction. I cleared my throat, embarrassed, and said, "Whatever works, right?"

I moved to Varric's side, peppering him with questions about Bianca, and walked through the gates. I could still feel Solas' eyes following me as he trailed behind.

Very quickly, we could hear a heated argument. The velvet tones of Leliana, strained with impatience, rang out, “We must prepare the soldiers!” It sounded like this wasn't the first time she'd tried to make this point.

After a lengthy debate, it was decided that we'd head up the mountain path. I'd love to say that it hinged on my choice, like the game, and I did put in my two cents regarding trying to find the missing patrol. But the reality is that it was much more a group decision, after hearing the opinions of everyone and disregarding the skeezy Chancellor Roderick's completely.

We made our way up the mountain, and I was shivering uncontrollably. I wished I were wearing a pair of boots. I could barely feel my feet. And wearing just tanktop meant the only coverage on my arms were the bracers I'd made. My teeth were chattering before we made it halfway.

Solas noticed my discomfort. "If you wish, I could use a small fire rune to help you. Or, if you prefer, you could use your fadefire to do the same."

My ears perked at the thought of being warm again. "Fadefire can do that?" I gave him a mock suspicious look. "It won't burn all my clothes off, will it?"

He laughed, "No. It will not burn you, anything you're wearing, or those you choose to trust. But if you're using fadefire, even if it's only visible around your arms, it is still running through your blood, effectively warming you from the inside out."

"Wait, really?" I was so excited to try. Before I could, however, Solas was advising caution.

"You must not over use it, however. Not only does it burn through your mana at a prodigious rate, it also has the same affects on the body as a low fever."

I frowned. "Shit."

"Exactly. I see you understand how you might wish to limit your use to the absolutely necessary."

Thinking hard, I decided to try it. "Even short term warmth is better than freezing my ass off," I told him.

He raked his eyes down my form, a small smile appearing. "No, we certainly wouldn't want any damage to such a spectacular... person," he said in a low voice.

I gave him a sidelong glance. "You might want to back up," I told him.

"Do you not trust me?" he asked.

"Have you given me any reason to?" I shot back.

"We fought together," he said. "Does that count for nothing?"

I flicked my fingers dismissively. "That just means we're currently on the same side. That doesn't imply any deeper trust." I told him.

He inclined his head. "Point. Hopefully, in the future, you will come to trust me more fully." His eyes stayed riveted on mine.

Swallowing nervously, I tried to bring us back to the topic at hand. "So, if I wanted to use fadefire when not in a battle, what would I do?"

He pulled me to a stop, then ran his hand lightly over my eyes. "Close your eyes, and visualize the flames."

I took a breath, closed my eyes, and imagined the deep blue colour of the flames behind my lids. I imagined the warmth I'd felt, when it had twisted up my arms.

"Open your eyes," Solas whispered in my ear. When had he walked behind me?

I obeyed, and laughed in pleasure at the flames that curled up my arms like a pair of cats. I turned, a grin on my lips, to find Solas watching me closely. He had a look in his eyes, one I didn't want to face. I noticed I could see those braids again, not fully there but suggested, see through, as if he couldn't fully hide them from me. Maybe an effect of the fadefire?

I cleared my throat, said "Thank you for your help." I started to continue up the path, and heard him murmur, "You're welcome, da'len."

I quickened my pace, wanting the minor protection of other people around.

He scared me, a little.

Ok, maybe a lot.

And not just because of who he was, but who he seemed to be around me.

I caught up to the Seeker and Varric, and we wound our way up, into and through the caves. My flames cast dancing light over everything, almost as eery as the light from the wisps we found and dispatched.

As we left the caves, we found three corpses in soldiers gear.

Varric sighed. "Guess we found the soldiers.” he said morosely.

"This wouldn't be all of them," replied Cassandra.

“So the others could be holed up ahead?” I asked.

Solas tried to apply logic. “Our priority must be the Breach. Unless we seal it soon, no one is safe.”

Varric replied, " I'm going to leave that decision to our flaming friend here."

"If we have the opportunity to save them, we must try." I said. Cassandra nodded in approval.

In short order, we found the rest of the soldiers along our path, sorely pressed by demons coming from a rift.

After we helped them and I closed the rift, Solas turned to me, saying, “Sealed, as before. You are becoming quite proficient at this.”

Varric said, “Let's hope it works on the big one.”

I could kiss that dwarf for not leaving me alone with Solas. He was too confusing to try to deal with right now.

We continued on, after sending the soldiers back through the caves to the camp.

We were almost there.

Solas asked me, "How do you feel? Any fatigue?"

I blinked, then shook my head. "Not really, and after everything we've done today I should be."

"You're still using the fadefire, and yet not showing any signs of strain. Remarkable."

I shrugged uncomfortably. Jokingly, I said, "Maybe it likes me."

Solas hmmed in response.

Varric cut in, “So... holes in the fade don't just accidentally happen, right?”

Tearing his attention off of me, Solas replied, “If enough magic is brought to bear, it is possible.”

"But there are easier ways to make things explode," Varric pressed.

"That is true," Solas conceded.

"We can worry about how this happened once the immediate danger is past," Cassandra said.

Everyone nodded at that, and we hurried along the path.

When we finally reached the ruins, we paused a moment.

"The Temple of Sacred Ashes," Solas said quietly.

"Or what's left of it, anyway," replied Varric, just as quietly.

We started making our way through. I could see the bones of the fallen scattered throughout.

Cassandra lightly touched my arm, then pointed. “That is where you walked out the Fade, and our soldiers found you. They said a woman was in the rift behind you. No one knows who she was.”

I stared at the corner she indicated, trying to make sense of everything that had happened to me.

I could hear Leliana and her soldiers come up behind us. She and the Seeker started talking strategy. I knew I should pay attention, but my eyes caught on a glint in the ashes. I walked over and picked up the broken remains of my old music player and headphones. They'd been in my pocket when everything had happened. I guess they'd fallen out when the soldiers took me.

"Lashanna!" Cassandra's voice pulled me back to the present. I quickly stuffed the player and headphones into my back pocket and turned to her. “This is your chance to end this. Are you ready?”

I glanced up, at the jaw-droppingly huge hole above our heads. "I assume you have a plan for getting me closer?" I asked.

Solas indicated a point further in. "There is a rift in the center of the ruins. This rift was the first and is the key. Seal it, and perhaps we seal the Breach.”

I nodded. “Then let's find a way down. And be careful, who knows what's waiting for us."

As we continued our way through the ruins, we began to hear snippets of talking, echoing around us. "Now is the hour of our victory. Bring forth the sacrifice.”

Cassandra wondered, "What are we hearing?"

Solas glanced around, and replied grimly, "At a guess, the voice of the one who did this."

Continuing, we begin to pass red crystals scattered around the ruins. As we get closer, it became more prolific. I could hear Varric muttering to Cassandra, and her murmured replies. Not needing any warnings, I skirted around as much as I can.

“Keep the sacrifice still.” The voice echoed around us.

Then, a woman's voice,  “Someone help me!”

Cassandra flinched. "That was Divine Justinia's voice!"

After a moment, with nothing else ringing through the air, we moved forward, slowly.

Soon however...

It started again. "Someone help me!"

“What's going on here?” I heard my own voice echo through. I started in surprise.

Cassandra whirled around. “That was your voice. Most Holy called out to you. But...”

I knew I hadn't been there, in the room with them. So how did my voice get added to this macabre collection of memories?

Light flashed around us, and ahead, in the pit that lay in the center of the ruins, I could see a grisly scene being played out.

A tall, shadowy figure holding a glowing orb stood in front of an old woman being held in place with magic. She cried out for help, but no one came. In desperation, she fought her bonds and grabbed the orb, which flared with green light. An even more shadowed vision of... me? I appeared, reaching out for something in front of me, asking "What's going on here?"

Cassandra grabbed me by the shoulders. "You were here! What happened, who attacked?! The Divine, is she...? Is this vision true? What are we seeing?"

I jerked out of her grasp. "I don't know!" I insisted.

Solas interjected, "These are echoes of what happened here. The Fade bleeds into this place.” He gazed at the center. “This rift is not sealed, but it is closed… albeit temporarily. I believe with the mark, the rift can be opened and then sealed properly and safely. However, opening the rift will likely attract attention from the other side.”

"It's going to be a big one," I said. "We're going to need all the help we can get."

Cassandra waved Leliana over. "Our prisoner believes that when the rift opens, a large demon will come through." Leliana glanced sharply at me, but nodded. The two began to discuss troop placement and strategies.

I stared down into the pit, wondering how I fit into all of this.

Solas came next to me. I shifted over, to make sure he didn't brush the flames still writhing around my arms. He glanced at me, then without giving me a chance to evade, grabbed my hand.

I yelped, expecting him to scream from the burning, but he just stood there, holding my hand like it was nothing. A small smile curled his lips. "I guess you trust me more than you think," he said. Turning serious, he continued, "The fadefire should give you an edge against whatever comes out, but if it's as big as you say, then it can still do damage before you can put those blades of yours to use. Try gathering the fadefire into your palms, and tossing it like a fireball. This will give you some way to injure it without putting yourself in harms way."

Without giving me a chance to reply, he dropped my hand and walked back to the others.

I was so screwed.

Cassandra indicated that everything was ready, and we all prepared to dive headlong into danger.

Jumping down into the pit, seeing all the archers lining the sides and the soldiers scattered through the area gave me a little hope. I took a deep breath and looked up. I held my left hand out, getting a feel for the connection to the rift. I could hear it, like a grating chorus of sounds knotting around themselves. I mentally tugged at it, trying to smooth them out, and the rift began to reopen. I pulled, and suddenly I could hear a symphony beyond the rift. A discordant note came through, and when I opened my eyes a large demon was materializing.

Here we go, I thought.

We all fought hard, trying to keep it's attention jumping so that it couldn't focus too long on any one person. A few times it took down soldiers, but Solas and I erected barriers around them until someone was able to drag them away.

Solas' advice concerning the fadefireball was incredibly useful, since my daggers were no match for its reach. I tried to be sparing with it however, since after the first time I noticed myself feeling cold and tired.

Finally, the demon of pride went down.

I ran to the rift, lifted my hand, and concentrated. Feeling my mark connect to it, I mentally pulled a curtain on the beautiful music in my head. It took more effort than I expected, but it finally collapsed.

I opened my eyes to find myself on the ground, staring up at a flash of green headed directly for the center of the Breach. It collided, sending a ripple through.

Everything fell away after that.

Chapter Text

In this place it seems like such a shame
Though it all looks different now,
I know it's still the same
Everywhere I look you're all I see
Just a fading reminder of who I used to be

-'Something I Can Never Have' covered by Flyleaf


==========================================

I woke up slowly, not wanting to relinquish the comforting darkness quite yet. Eventually, I could feel I was coming to the surface of consciousness.

I groaned, feeling like every bone in my body was bruised. I lifted my head, looking around at an unfamiliar cabin. A clatter drew my attention to a slight elven girl, barely past her teens.

She covered her mouth in surprise. “Oh! I didn't know you were awake, I swear!” Her eyes were open wide, casting frightened glances over me.

Groggily, I asked, "Why are you frightened? There's no need to be." I brought my hands to my head, rubbing the sleep from my eyes

She was wringing her hands together. “That's wrong, isn't it? I said the wrong thing.”

I raised an eyebrow. "I don't think so...?"

She dropped to the floor, lowering her head to me. “I beg your forgiveness, and your blessing. I am but a humble servant.” She glanced up at me, then down again. “You're back in Haven, my lady. They say you saved us. The breach stopped growing, just like the mark on your hand. It's all anyone has talked about for the last three days!”

I shifted uncomfortably. "So... they're happy?" I could barely believe it.

The poor girl was practically shivering. “I'm only saying what I heard. I don't mean anything by it.” She started to stand. “I'm sure Lady Cassandra will want to know you've wakened. She said 'at once'!” I opened my mouth to ask more questions, and she squeaked, "At once!" before fleeing for the door.

I managed to get out one last question, "Where is she?"

She gave me one last glance. “In the Chantry with the Lord Chancellor.” she said, before bolting out the door.

I stared after her in chagrin, wondering what all that was about. I sniffed myself delicately. I didn't think I smelled that bad, so it must be something else.

I swung my legs off the bed, seeing that someone had changed me into more appropriate winter clothes. At least I won't have to walk around wreathed in fadefire. I could only imagine the sort of trouble I'd get into if I did that. I was a little concerned with being undressed by someone while I was unconscious, but I guessed I could hope that whomever had done it was as frightened of me as that poor girl.

I idly wondered what had happened to my music player. Did whomever had changed me take it? It was broken, and even if I could fix it the battery was probably dead by now, so it'd be just a chunk of metal and plastic to them.

I stood slowly, getting the aches stretched out of my muscles. I walked around the room, trying to get my legs under me before I had to face anyone.

Finally, I knew I couldn't stall any longer. With a sigh,  I headed for the door. I cracked it open and peered outside. And stared. It looked like everyone in town was outside the door. I quickly shut the door, and checked around for any convenient back windows I might have missed on my perusal earlier. While there were windows along the back, they were tiny. I'd never manage to wiggle my way through them.

I was going to have to face them all.

I groaned. I hated being the center of everyone's attention.

Nothing for it, I told myself.

I wiped sweaty palms on the thick woven pants, turned towards the door, and pulled it open.

Everyone was staring. I was tempted to shut the door again and let the Seeker come to me, but I knew that would only put her in a bad mood.

I slowly stepped out of the shadow of the cabin, into a cold, bright afternoon light. I lifted my hand to shield my eyes, and a murmur went through the crowd. I realized my mistake almost immediately when people pointed at my hand, the marked one. I dropped it, and my eyes, and started forward through the crowd.

I could hear the whispers in the crowd, some questioning, some bewildered, others awestruck. I could feel a blush starting to creep up my face. I felt silly hurrying, but I didn't want to be in the midst of that crowd any longer than I had to be.

By the time I made it to the Chantry doors, my face felt like a freaking Beacon of Gondor. I had to fight myself not to run through the doors at top speed. Once I was inside, I could see that the hall was empty and I slumped back against the wall. I took a moment to calm myself down. I've always been fine with small groups of people, but large ones... I always feel like there's more expected from me than I can possibly give.

This time that feeling might be right.

Well, the only thing I could do is move forward, right? It's what I've always done, even after my family died.

My thoughts shied away from those memories. I didn't need to break down crying here.

I took a deep breath, then pushed off of the wall to continue down the hall. Another door lay ahead, and as I approached I could hear the familiar strains of arguing, muffled by the heaviness. I put my hand to the door, then paused.

Roderick's pompous voice rang out, “Have you gone completely mad? She should be taken to Val Royeaux immediately, to be tried by whomever becomes Divine.”

I listened in, then pushed the door open. The arguing continued, barely registering my appearance beyond a back and forth about throwing me in chains. Finally, it seemed the Seeker had had enough.

Cassandra turned, grabbed a large, heavy tome, and slammed it onto the table in front of Roderick. He flinched back, almost seeming to expect her to hit him with it.

I watched silently as she officially declared the Inquisition reborn, and cowed Roderick in the same breath. He left, the sour look only deepening on his face.

After more discussion, and a promise to return in the morning, I was finally freed to wander Haven. Seeing as it was getting late, and I was still recovering from head injury, repeated over-exhaustion, and imprisonment, I just wanted to go back to bed.

Somehow, I got turned around in the village, which seemed only loosely related to the one seen in the game. I ended up going past the tavern, and decided to stop in for a bite to eat.

The noise died down as I walked in, and I ducked my head, self-conscious. I could hear the whispers as I walked over to the bar.

"Evening to ya," chirped the lady behind the bar. When she looked up from her cleaning, she started in surprise. "Oh. Oh Maker, it's you. Um,  I'm Flissa." Her eyes danced over the marks on my face She clapped her hands over her mouth. "That's why the Maker chose you, isn't it? To punish those who mistreated your people, the elves I mean, though I suppose we're all your people now," she babbled, "I- I just want to let you know that I always treat the elves what come here well. And I never let anyone in here mistreat an elf in my sight."

I couldn't help it, I giggled at how flustered she was getting. Her eyes wide, she stopped babbling long enough for me to cut in, "I don't know anything about a Maker choosing me or not, but don't worry." I leaned forward, "Could I maybe work for some food? I could clean, or serve drinks, whatever you need-"

She cut me off briskly, "I wouldn't dream of it. You're the Herald! Anything you need, you ask and it's yours."

"Oh but I couldn't! At least let me figure out a way to pay you," I protested.

"Never. I won't take a single coin from you, and that's final," she said, arms crossed.

I gave in, figuring I could ask Leliana if there was any work I could do to earn coin. If I could earn money, I could easily slip some into Flissa's coffers without her knowing.

She directed me to sit wherever I liked, "I'll be right over with all you could need, never you worry" she bubbled.

Chagrined, I sat on an unoccupied bench to wait. The minstrel started up a song, and my eyes lit up. One of my favorites from the game, the song 'Once We Were' was soft and heartfelt. I found myself quietly singing along as she performed, taking pleasure in the music.

"You have such a lovely speaking voice, it's nice to hear that it extends to your singing as well," a voice said in my ear. I jumped in my seat, finally noticing Solas close behind me. He smiled, and took a seat next to me. "I had noticed that you have a habit of humming to yourself, at almost anytime. Tell me, is this something you've always done?"

Without thinking, I replied, "Pretty much. My best friend thinks I should do something with my singing, but I hate performing in front of large crowds." As soon as I stopped speaking, I realized my mistake. My eyes flew to Solas', and I saw a look of triumph.

"So you do remember," he murmured to me. "But why would you pretend not to? A falling out with your clan? But you spoke of your friend in the present tense, so I doubt that." He peered at me closely. "You should learn to lie better. You might fool Cassandra, but I doubt you could convince Leliana."

"What do you want," I asked grumpily.

He looked surprised. "Simply for you to tell me the truth," he replied.

I eyed him. "And if I can't? If it's complicated?" I challenged.

"Then tell me what you can. But do not lie to me." He leaned in closer, his lips brushing my ear. I shivered. "I'll be able to tell. I'll come to you tonight, where none will be able to spy on us," he whispered.

I pursed my lips, but nodded once. He stood as Flissa came over with a bowl and a tankard. "I will see you later, lady Herald," he walked out of the tavern.

I wanted to bang my head on the table. I was so screwed.

Flissa looked concerned, asking, "Are you alright, my Lady? You don't look well. Would you rather take this back to your cabin?" I shook my head.

"No no, it's alright, don't worry. I'd rather stay here and listen to the music," I replied. Maybe if I kept him waiting long enough, he'd give up and go away. I snorted to myself. Fat chance of that, I thought.

"Well, here you are then. It's not much, but it'll fill you up right good." She stood expectantly.

I obediently took a mouthful of some sort of thick stew, and almost moaned. "This is amazing! Ok, you need to let me work here just so I can learn to cook like this," I joked.

Flissa giggled, her hands smoothing her apron and pride shining in her eyes. "Not a chance, my lady. I guess you'll just have to come here for it again."

"If I can get more of this, you've got a deal!" I raised my tankard and took a sip. Damn, she even had good beer!

My good mood mostly restored, I continued gossiping with Flissa, who gradually relaxed around me.

After an additional serving, I finally sighed and pushed away my empty bowl.

I was so ready to sleep, I could only hope Solas didn't keep me up too long.

After thanking Flissa yet again, I headed back out into the snow, happy that someone had given me boots to replace my sandals. This time, I managed to find my cabin with no trouble. I was happy to see no sign of any elven apostates hanging around, and quickly locked the door and readied myself for bed.  If he wants to talk to me, he can wait till morning, I thought, and promptly fell asleep.

==========================================

In my dream, I was walking along my favorite beach, barefoot, with Tia by my side and a summer breeze moving my hair. I was aware that I was dreaming, oddly enough, but didn't want to let it end yet.

I soaked in the sun, glorying in the heady heat. Only thing missing is some music.

And immediately, next to me appeared my music player, and I just knew it was already loaded with any music I could possibly want to hear. I turned it on, hit shuffle and play, then leaned back into the sand to bask in the wonderful day.

The first song to play was the same one that I'd been singing along with in Flissa's tavern. I shrugged, content to hear it again, and since no one was around, sang as loudly as I wanted. Tia's form disappeared,  and the air around me seemed to charge with energy. The song ended, and the next was the opening menu music from the game. Another I enjoyed humming to, even if there's no words. The scene shifted, and suddenly I was back on the path to the temple, looking up at a whole Temple on the mountain.

I could suddenly feel someone's eyes on me, and I turned to find Solas-with-the-red-braids walking silently behind me.

Ah hell, now I'm dreaming about him? I thought to myself. I turned away. Maybe if I ignore him, he'll disappear like Tia did.

No such luck. He was quickly next to me, regarding me curiously.

"How are you making that music?" he asked. Surprised, I looked around to find my music player was gone, but the music I knew so well still played around us.

I shrugged. "Guess it's just in my head," I said. I didn't feel like talking to Solas, real or not, so I started walking down the path, back towards Haven. Stubbornly, he walked beside me.

Exasperated, I stopped. "Look, I don't want to imagine anyone in my dream right now, so just... go away." I tried to shoo him, waving my hands vaguely in his direction.

He looked bemused. "I'm not a figment of your mind," he said.

I stared, somewhat dumbfounded. "What?" Paragon of words, I am not.

He smirked. "I did tell you I would come to you tonight, where none could spy. Did you not believe me?"

I rubbed my temples, feeling a sudden urge to drink, and found myself in Flissa's tavern with a shot of what could only be whiskey in front of me. I sat in front of the bar and tossed back the shot, then regarded Solas. Somehow, he was still with me, though looking around with interest.

"The fade is remarkably responsive to you," he said. He turned his eyes to me, and I shivered at the look in them. "Tell me who you are," he said softly.

"Well, that's a bit of a loaded question, isn't it?" I responded, trying to stall. My shotglass was full again, so I drank that one too. "No one is so easily defined as to be explained that quickly."

He sat on another bar stool next to me, humming to himself a bit, and a shot manifested in front of him as well. "How about we start with..." he tossed back the whiskey like a pro. "Family. Who is your clan, and where are they?"

I stilled. The tavern dissolved around us, replaced by a green expanse of grass dotted with gravestones. All sound ceased. Right in front of me, I looked down at two stones. The one to the left had my parents names. The one on the right, my baby brother's.

The names blurred, and I choked back a sob.

Suddenly a pair of arms enveloped me. "Ir abelas, da'len." I heard him whisper, "I'm sorry to have made you think of something so painful."

Any self control I had cracked like a dam, and the tears that had been threatening exploded forth. I sobbed into his chest, unable to stop.

"Even after-" I sobbed harder, "even after 9 years, it still hurts so much." I felt the air around us change, and he pulled me down onto a couch, still comforting me. I felt his hand run down my hair, petting me. It should have rankled, since I was neither child nor pet, but instead it helped me wash through my grief, and my tears began to subside.

When I was able to look up, I found myself in an unfamiliar room, filled with bookshelves, chairs, tables, couches... everything an avid reader could want to indulge. Solas let me go reluctantly, keeping one hand petting down my hair. There was sorrow in his eyes. "I have known that pain. It never fully goes away, but it becomes easier to push through, with time," he said quietly.

He looked away for a moment. "I lost my sister, a long time ago. She was murdered." His face hardened slightly. "If I can do anything...?"

I wiped my eyes, trying to erase the tears. "Can we... maybe talk about something else?" I said.

"Of course," he murmured, "whatever you wish."

I was quiet for a time, unsure. "Where are we?" I asked, finally.

Solas shifted uncomfortably. "This is... a place within the Fade that I created for myself. When you... lost yourself in grief, it allowed me to take control of the dreaming and bring you here." His lips twitched slightly. "I had been... unsuccessful trying to change it before that point. You have one of the strongest connections to the Fade I've ever seen." He seemed like he wanted to be upset over that, but couldn't bring himself to be.

"Do you mind if I..." I gestured at everything, indicating my wish to explore the room.

His eyes crinkled in pleasure, and he inclined his head, indicating I was welcome to it. "Be my guest," he said.

Immediately, strains of the song from 'Beauty and the Beast" began to play around me. I giggled. "Oh, gods, I'm so sorry." It did help dispel the last of my melancholy. I supposed I owed some of that to the confused elf in front of me, so I closed my eyes, and thought instead of the quiet chords of 'Fur Elise'. "There. That's better," I said with satisfaction, and began moving through the room, examining books and baubles on the shelves. Most of the titles were not in English, but I found that if I touched one and concentrated, I could understand the writing. I pulled out one that was filled with maps, laying it on a nearby table.

I felt Solas lean over my shoulder, and his heavy braids dropped onto the page I was perusing. I brushed them off of the page so I could see, but his hand closed on my wrist. I looked up at him in surprise.

He had a hard, closed look on his face. "You can see my braids?" he asked quietly. I nodded slowly, not sure if I was about to die or not. He let out a sharp breath. "You are full of surprises. I should think on everything I've learned tonight. I suppose I have more questions than before, not less, but they can wait for another night. I'll see you when you-

wake up"

==========================================

I shot out of bed, heart pounding. For one moment unsure of I were still dreaming or not, whether I was alone or not. I glanced around the one room cabin.

No one there, good.

When I had calmed my heart, I fell back onto the mattress. That was a roller coaster of emotion, ups and downs all over.

I couldn't help but remember the feeling of his arms around me, his hand on my hair.

I stuffed my face into my pillow, and groaned.

I'm so screwed.

After giving myself a stern talking to, I pulled myself out of bed, and saw through the tiny windows that it was only just after dawn. I wondered briefly if there was anything like coffee in Thedas. I was not the best morning person.

I pulled my hair back, finger combing the worst snarles out and braiding the mess out of my face.
I had a pitcher of water that someone must have refilled while I was with Cassandra and Leliana yesterday. I washed my face, wishing I had a mirror just to make sure my dream crying hadn't left any real evidence.

Once I felt ready, I took a breath, cringing a bit at the thought that I might have another reception waiting for me like yesterday. When I cracked the door, I was pleased to see that the only people outside were those who had actual business to get to. I started heading back to the Chantry, taking my time and taking in some of the sights I had missed in my rush before.

Cassandra met me as I reached the large doors, and fell in next to me.

She glanced at me, at my hand, and as we walked asked "Does it trouble you?"

I blinked, realizing I'd been rubbing it unconsciously.

"No, not really," I replied. "It feels more like an itch in my mind than a pain, so there's that at least."

Her lips twitched into a small smile. “We take our victories where we can.” She grew serious. “What's important is that your mark is now stable, as is the Breach. You've given us time, and Solas believes that a second attempt might succeed – provided the mark has more power. The same level of power used to open the Breach in the first place. That is not easy to come by.”

I raised an eyebrow. "What could possibly go wrong with pouring more power into something we barely understand?"

Her lips quirked again. "Hold on to that sense of humor," she said wryly.

We reached the war room, finding Leliana with two others, crowded around the maps on the table.

I had a mental flashback to my dream, of Solas standing close behind me, close enough to touch.

Feeling my cheeks redden, I cleared my throat a little.

Everyone looked up at the sound, stopping their discussion. Cassandra took the opportunity to introduce the newcomers. "May I present Commander Cullen,  leader of the Inquisitions forces?" She gestured to a tall man with sandy hair, whiskey hazel eyes, and not a few scars. He was fairly good looking, right about my type, normally.

“Such as they are," he muttered, distracted. "We lost many soldiers in the valley, and I fear many more before this is through.”

Cassandra was already moving on. "And this is Lady Josephine Montilyet, our ambassador." She had warm brown eyes, golden skin, and rich brown hair. In short, completely gorgeous.

"Andaran Atish'an," she said with a slight bow.

I was surprised. "You speak elven?" I asked.

She smiled wryly. "You just heard the extent of it, I'm afraid." She cocked her head to her side. "You're rather... taller, than I'd expected for an elf."

I shrugged, not really knowing how to reply to that.

Cassandra saved me, saying, "And of course you know Sister Leliana."

"My position requires a degree of-" she started.

"She's our spymaster.' Cassandra interrupted.

Leliana sighed quietly. “Yes. Tactfully put, Cassandra.”

"It's a pleasure to meet you all," I said. "So, what am I doing here again?" I asked.

A heated discussion broke between them, trying to decide whether it was better to approach mages or templars for assistance. Cullen was firmly in the templar camp, Leliana in the mages.

Josephine cut in with, “Unfortunately, neither group will even speak to us yet. The Chantry has denounced the Inquisition – and you, specifically.”

"That was quick," I muttered.

“Shouldn't they be busy arguing over who's going to become Divine?” Cullen asked.

Josephine tried to explain. “Some are calling you – a Dalish elf – the 'Herald of Andraste.' That frightens the Chantry.”

I shook my head. "I'm not some 'chosen one'. How could I possibly be the Herald of Andraste?"

“People saw what you did at the temple," the Seeker explained, "how you stopped the Breach from growing. They have also heard about the woman seen in the rift when we first found you." She paused. "They believe that was Andraste."

Leliana said, “Even if we tried to stop that view from spreading-”

"Which we have not," interrupted Cassandra.

With a glare at Cassandra, Leliana continued. “The point is, everyone is talking about you.”

Cullen grinned at my obvious discomfort. “It's quite the title, isn't it? How do you feel about that?”

"Honestly? I hate it," I said.

"I'm sure the Chantry would agree," he commiserated.

“But there is something you can do," Leliana said. "A Chantry Cleric by the name Mother Giselle has asked to speak to you. She is not far, and knows those involved far better than I. Her assistance could be invaluable.”

I nodded. We all agreed I would travel with Cassandra, Varric, and Solas, and leave later that morning. The four of them proceeded to ply me with advice and direction, until I wanted to tell them to go themselves.

I was being grumpy, I knew it.

I really need some coffee.

I make my way to Flissa's tavern, at that point not even caring about the stares following me. Once inside, there was only a bare handful of people, which suited me just fine. One of them happened to be Varric, who waved me over as soon as he saw me.

"Morning!" he said, "You seem like my kind of person."

I give him a halfhearted glare. "And what kind would that be?" I grumped.

"The kind that enjoys this." He slid a mug over, and I smelled the heavenly aroma of black coffee. I instantly snagged the cup, and proceeded to drink half of it.

Putting it down, I smile at Varric, who looked vaguely stunned at how quickly I drank it. "So, new best friend," I said. "What does a girl have to do to get another cup of this?" I tapped the mug.

After a moment of stunned staring, he started to laugh. "Ok, Sunshine, I'll admit, I'm impressed. I've never seen an elf drink more than a few sips of this. Yet here you are, chugging it like a dwarf." He stood. "I'll go get another couple mugs from Flissa. Don't go away," he said, and made his way to the bar. I busied myself with another few gulps of coffee. When I put the mug down, I found Solas sitting across from me, one eyebrow up and a bemused smile on his lips.

Trying to distract myself from thinking about his lips, I offered him the mug. He held up a hand, wrinkling his nose in disgust. "No, thank you," he said.

"More for me!" I replied, and finished off the last bit. With a contented sigh, I put the mug down on the table.

Varric returned bearing two steaming mugs, with Flissa in tow carrying plates. The wonderful smell of steak'n'eggs wafted over me, and I'm afraid I might have drooled.

"This might be heaven," I said, digging in.

Feeling vaguely more like a member of the living, I finally put down my utensils. Varric and Solas were both watching me, and I started to feel self-conscious. "What?" I asked, "never seen a girl eat before?"

"Oh, eating, is that what you call that? I thought you were inhaling your food. My mistake," Varric teased me.

"Oh ha ha," I said, a grin spreading across my face. "Come on, I've got a lot eating to catch up on! Considering I spent most of the past week either unconscious or fighting demons. And Flissa's cooking is amazing!" I defended myself.

Varric raised his hands in capitulation. "No arguments here. Especially when she's standing close enough to hear."

I sighed in contentment. "I'm gonna miss this," I said.

"Are you going somewhere?" Varric asked.

"Yep," I replied. Solas didn't look happy, so I gave in and told them, "You're both coming, with me and Cassandra. We're headed to the hinterlands around Redcliff, leaving today."

Varric rubbed his face a moment, then nodded. "Let me finish up a few letters, then I'll be ready," he agreed.

"Sure. I still need to visit the blacksmith about some armor, so if I'm not in my cabin you can probably find me there," I told him.

"I will accompany you," Solas said. His tone said he wouldn't take no for an answer.

I hesitated before agreeing. I didn't need to pick a fight with him here and now, though I was tempted.

We said farewell to Flissa, and Solas and I made our way towards the clanging sounds of the blacksmith.  I had my face turned towards the sun, soaking in the little bit of warmth.

"Are you aware that you're humming again?" Solas' voice was just loud enough that I could hear him, but low enough that no one would be able to eavesdrop without getting uncomfortably close.

I looked at him in surprise, a little embarrassed. "You don't have to stop on my account," he said. "But you should know, when you hum or sing, magic builds up around you. A mage will be able to see, though most will not know why the energy is there." He reached out, lightly touching my messy braid.

"Can I ask..." I started, but hesitated. He nodded for me to continue, so I swallowed my misgivings and bulled through. "The braids you have in the Fade. Why don't you have them here? I mean, they're amazing, and beautiful, and..." I stopped myself, realizing I was babbling.

He drew up short. I had continued a few paces before stopping, looking back in surprise. He had that closed off look on his face again. When he started moving again, he grasped my elbow, moving me along. "We must never speak of this outside the Fade," he said softly. "No one sees them, no one knows about them." I must have seemed like I was about to argue, because he glanced down at me and said, even more quietly, "Please."

I nodded slowly, and he released a long breath, relaxing slightly. "I will tell you. Tonight," he grinned at me, "but only if you answer questions in return. Does that appease your curiosity?"

I made a face. "There are things I simply can't tell you," I told him. "Things that are dangerous."

"That doesn't stop you from asking me about things better left unsaid," he retorted.

"Point," I conceded. Still I hesitated. "Some may not be believable," I cautioned him.

He inclined his head. "Ah, but you forget," he said, and brought his lips close to my ear, "I can tell when you're lying," he whispered.

My face was burning, I could feel it. Thankfully, we had reached the blacksmith. I gratefully dove into discussions with Harritt, explaining where we were going, and weighing the pros and cons of different armor types, materials, and techniques.

My experience making armor for cosplay came in handy for figuring out what sort of armor designs I could move best in, and he gave his best recommendations on materials. When we moved on to weapons, I mentioned I had the dual daggers I found by the Breach.

He scoffed, and handed me a pair of perfectly weighted, if plain, daggers. "Won't need to sharpen these till you get back from the hinterlands, and by then I'll have a brand new pair, special made for you, as well as your new armor."

Solas spoke up, then. "There are certain metals better suited for you to use, that will allow you to channel your magic through them more effectively."

Harritt looked surprised. "I didn't realize you would be using magic. Do you want a staff, instead?" he offered.

I vigorously shook my head. "Nah, I'd rather have the option to stab with a blade on fire, than try to beat a demon away with a staff."

Harritt rubbed his balding head a moment. "Well, I can look into making your daggers with materials I normally reserve for staves," he offered slowly. "It's usually best to use fade-touched materials, which can be hard to find. Might be easier now, what with the rifts everywhere, but they still won't be common."

I promised that anything that looked promising, I'd send back to him while we were in the hinterlands. In return, he sent me off with the daggers and a set of pliable leather armor, in my size (with a comment about how tall I was, compared to the elves in the village... was everyone going to mention it?) with a promise that he'd have the special armor and daggers finished by the time I made it back to Haven.

Harritt, politely, asked Solas if there was anything he needed, to which Solas declined.

As we walked back towards the main gate, I asked him, "Why did you come with me if you didn't need anything from Harritt?"

"Why, Lady Herald, do I need such an excuse to seek your company?" he mocked.

I groaned. "Please don't call me that. You of all people should know I'm not some chosen one." I poked him in the chest. "And for the record, I don't need a babysitter."

"I, 'of all people' should know?" he asked softly, the question plain in his tone.

Ah shit.

"Not outside the Fade. Remember?" I whispered back. He looked like he wanted to argue, his eyes narrowed, but he nodded.

"Well, don't you two look cozy," Varric said. He and Cassandra were waiting by the gates, four horses already saddled and waiting.

I looked up at the beasts, not quite sure I was ready for this.

"Is there a problem?" Solas asked.

"Ummmmm," I said.

"Don't know how to ride, do you Sunshine?" Varric said, a smile in his voice.

I shook my head. "Not in the slightest." I said.

"You'll have plenty of time to practice," Cassandra said dryly.

Internally, I quailed.

It took me four tries to get on the damn thing, amid snickers from Varric, and unhelpful advice from Cassandra. I'm sure my face was beet red by the time I managed to find my seat.

Cassandra grunted, then started her horse forward. Thankfully, mine seemed to know who was in charge (not me, certainly) and followed without hesitation. Solas kept his horse close to mine, and Varric pulled up the rear.

We were on our way.

What could possibly go wrong?

Don't answer that.

Chapter Text

You are beautiful on the inside
You are innocence personified
And I will drag you down and sell you out
Run away

-'Judas' by Fozzy

==========================================

The first time I saw her, I only cared that somehow, she had the mark. Who cared about anything else when I had to figure out how to take the mark from her? I nursed her, healed her cracked skull, and tried everything I could to separate the mark from her. It was already deeply entwined in both her flesh and her magic, and short of killing her I would not be able to take it by force.

Then, during the fight on the path to the temple, I noticed the fadefire clinging to her hands, and my heart almost stopped.

The last person I knew to ever gain the trust of fadefire had died thousands of years ago, murdered. Fadefire was sentient, in a way. It could not be forced, and it would kill any who tried to.

Mythal, my sister, had been able to wield it when no one else could, and after her death the fadefire had receded to far-flung corners of the Fade, unwilling to be mastered by anyone else. But it could be coaxed...

I knew that I needed to get close to her, to find out how she had not only stumbled across fadefire but managed to harness it. It seemed impossible to me that it would have come to this Dalish woman willingly.

And I had wanted to weep when she told me that she had no memories, for it meant that I wouldn't know how my sister's treasured companion had come to this tranquil world.

But some subtle hints, glances to the side, uncomfortable shifting, told me that this da'len was not being truthful.

But she seemed... wary of me, her violet eyes considering me with trepidation, avoiding being alone with me on the path. And for a moment, it seemed that she could see the braids I had so painstakingly hidden, but that was impossible. The spell I had used was one I had developed with my sister, and no quickling would be able to pierce that magic, especially someone who said she had never used magic before. That was one claim I was inclined to believe. She really was a terrible liar.

And as we went on, I heard her humming softly, absently, not even noticing the sounds escaping her throat. Unnoticed by those with no innate magic, the air shimmered around her, charging with her songs.

Mystery after mystery built around her.

The Seeker and the dwarf didn't seem to notice, but in the ruins of the temple, the vision of her showed hints of some place other, a place unlike anything this stunted world had to offer. She carefully hedged her words, and maintained her amnesia even though I had detected no such injury in her mind while healing the fracture to her skull.

Everything she does intrigues me further.

When, once she'd woken again from stabilizing the Breach, she had wandered past my abode into the tavern. I decided I would try again to get close to her. Without the durgen'len around, I might be able to actually get some answers from her.

When I entered the tavern, she was busy charming the human woman, and never noticed my presence. The minstrel began to play, and the da'mis I found myself hunting began to sing, albeit softly, and once again I could sense the magic gathering around her.
I managed to catch her unaware, and in a lie, and secured her promise to talk.

And then meeting her in the Fade... she was radiant.  The aura of her magic pulsed with the otherworldly music that surrounded her, taking the wild black tresses and pulling them everywhere.

When I tried to take control of the Fade from her, the threads slipped from my grasp, as eager to please her as a puppy.

The only good thing about that seemed to be that whatever she felt, whatever she thought, manifested in the Fade around her, making it impossible for her to really lie while dreaming.

But when I tried to use this against her, it blew up spectacularly, sending her spiraling into grief so deep, I felt the echoes pluck against my own memories. I immediately pulled her against me, but before I managed to wrest control of the Fade from her unknowing grasp I took a good look at the stones that inspired such tears.

The words were written in a strange script, which isn't a barrier in the Fade, but the names were human, and if the numbers were supposed to be dates, then she was from somewhere very far from the tranquil Thedas of today.

I whisked her away, meaning to take her to a neutral place, but the Fade had other ideas and deposited us in my sanctuary. Instead of wasting time trying to change it again, I pulled her onto a couch, still allowing her to let some of the pain out.

As her tears slowed, I found myself divulging a sliver of my own pain.

And when she showed interest in my study, my sanctuary, I felt a glow of pride.

She seemed able to read the obscure dialects most of my books were in, and pulled a book of maps through the ages off of a shelf. She was bending over, fascinated. I couldn't help but try to see what had her attention. My braids, which most people can never see, let alone touch, fell across her page and I felt no need to move them.

But she saw, and moved, them.

Too many new questions. Too many mysteries surrounded this strange Dalish woman.

This Lashanna.

Chapter Text

Though it's been a while now
I can still feel so much pain
Like a knife that cuts you the wound heals
But the scar, that scar remains

-'Every Rose has its Thorns' by Poison

==========================================

After the first twenty minutes of riding, my butt started to hurt.

By the time we stopped to camp for the evening, my everything was numb.

When I tried to get off of the horse, my legs just about gave out, and I could barely walk. It felt like my legs still had that giant beast between them.

Varric took pity on me, and helped me take off all of the saddle-everything --the tack, he told me-- from the horse, and showed me how to rub it down. Well, he explained it, and let me do the work, with barely restrained snickers at my pain.

By the time I was done, Cassandra and Solas had already taken care of their own horses and set up the rest of the camp. Cassandra was working on a campfire stew, but Solas was nowhere to be seen. I wasn't really curious at that point. All I wanted to do was curl up in bed and sleep for a week.

Cassandra cast a pitying glance at me, huddled in front of the fire, and sighed. "You need to move," she said.

"What?" I looked at her, thinking I was in her way.

"You need to move. To stretch. If you stay like that, you will be too stiff to ride in the morning." She gestured vaguely to her left. "You should go take a dip in the stream, it will clean you off and will help numb the soreness."

I stared at her. "... won't that be cold?" I asked.

"Are you sure you're Dalish, Sunshine?" Varric quiped. "No riding experience, squeamish about a cold bath. What's next? Don't like travel rations?"

I huffed. "I don't know whether I'm Dalish or not. No memory, remember?"

Varric eyed me. "Right," he said.

I stood stiffly. "I'm going to find that stream," I muttered, and limped off in the direction Cassandra had indicated.

I got lucky, and when I found the stream it had a small pool just to the side, a perfect spot to bathe. I looked around, didn't see anyone, and figured that I would be able to see anyone coming.

I slipped out of the leather armor, leaving it in a pile next to the pool, and gingerly stuck a foot in the water. Dammit. I knew it was going to be freezing.

I remembered Solas' advice about the fadefire, how it would warm me from the inside out. So, why not warm me while in the water, too?

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and felt for the place in my mind that I'd found the fadefire before. A chorus of sapphires bloomed behind my eyes, and when I opened them, I found that the fadefire had covered my whole body.

The heat soaked into my sore muscles, better than the hottest shower had ever managed. I dipped my foot again, and was delighted to feel that the water didn't seem cold to me at all. So I sank into the water gratefully, revelling in the chance to scrub the dirt from my skin and hair.

I unbraided my hair, and ducked under the water, letting my hair spread out before scrubbing it vigorously. When I surfaced, I could see a figure nearby leaning against a tree.

"Shit!" I exploded out of the water, trying to reach my daggers. When I reached them, the figure moved into the light cast by my fadefire.

It was Solas.

"Dude, what the shit?" I asked, lowering my daggers.

He stepped closer, his eyes hooded, raking up and down my form.

I stepped back, one foot going back into the water. He stopped. His expression closed, and he looked away. "You should be careful using fadefire like that," he said quietly. He glanced at my face once more, then turned back to camp.

"Wait! Solas..." he stopped, turned his face towards me but didn't turn around. "Umm... what were you doing out here?"

"Varric was concerned you might accidentally drown, being so unfamiliar with the hardships of travel." Amusement coloured his words. "I'll let him know you are fine." And he left.

I let out the breath I'd been holding. I tossed my daggers back down beside my clothes, and ran my hands through my hair.

I was surprised to find it was already dry. I suppose that was another plus of the fadefire... no need for a hairdryer when I was radiating heat like an oven.

I picked up my shirt, smelled it, and made a face. It smelled like sweat, and horse, and there was no way I was putting it back on without at least trying to get it clean.

After half an hour of scrubbing the under-armor, I was satisfied. And since I was still glowing like a blue lightning bug with fadefire, I simply pulled everything back on. If it could dry my hair within a minute, it would likely make short work of my clothes.

Then came my next problem.... which way took me back to camp?

After a moments hesitation, I moved into the tree line, and nearly screamed when Solas stepped out next to me.

"Holy gods, Solas, what the hell?" I sputtered. "I thought you went back to camp?"

"I did. But you should never leave camp without someone to watch your back." He moved forward, showing me the path towards camp. "You might have the aid of fadefire, but not even that is foolproof. You can still be surprised, and killed, before the fadefire could come to your defense."

"It sounds like you have experienced the trials and tribulations of fadefire before," I said absently.

He glanced sharply at me. "A discussion for the Fade... it seems we both will have much to ask." He murmured. "You may wish to let go of the fadefire before we reach camp."

"Umm... and supposing I don't know how to do that?" I said.

He sighed, stopped, and placed a hand over my eyes. "Imagine... imagine that the fadefire is music, and it fades to silence."

It almost seemed to me that I could actually hear music from that place the fadefire existed in my head. It wasn't any music I'd ever heard before, but it reminded me of Tia, like a friend so close they become family.

Sadly, I let the sound of it fade down to sleep.

When I opened my eyes again, the woods were dark.  I'd become used to the glow fadefire gave me, and found the night to be rather creepy without it.

Solas raised his hand, and teal veilfire rushed from his palm.

"Tonight, we will each answer the others questions. Then, following this, I will begin to teach you about your magic. We don't need you blindly groping for a spell and accidentally blowing up the battlefield with us on it." He said this all matter-of-factly.

I held up a hand. "Wait. Hold your horses, I didn't agree to a bare-all questions session." Solas let his eyes travel down my body, amusement tilting up the corners of his mouth.

"If you had, I'm sorely behind in the 'bare-all' portion of it," he said.

I snapped my fingers in his face. He blinked in surprise. "Eyes are here," I pointed, "and the point I was trying to make... I think there's a lot we're both going to have trouble talking about. It'll take more than one night."

"...and?" Solas  prompted.

"And, I think it would be better to limit our questions." He stared at me. "To one question each, per night." An eyebrow went up. "And work on teaching me while we talk," I finished.

"Say I agree to this... arrangement," he said. "Do you agree to tell only the truth?"

"Do you?" I challenged.

He watched me closely for a moment, then inclined his head. "We are in agreement then. One question each, per night, to be answered truthfully in the course of your lesson." He held out his hand, still lit with veilfire.

I hesitated, trying to think if there was anything I'd left out. But it had been a long day, and I was tired. Without the fadefire running through my blood, I was starting to lag. I shook his hand, and felt a shock run up my arm. "Ah shit, what in the nine hells was that?" I cursed, pulling my hand away. My fingers were tingling.

"Just a pact spell. A lesser known use of veilfire." He grinned like a wolf. "Now we are both bound, da'mis." He turned, and continued walking. "Good night, Lashanna," his voice floated back to me.

I growled under my breath.

I was so screwed.

Camp wasn't far from where Solas had left me, and since I could see the fire through the trees I didn't complain.

Cassandra waved me to my bedroll, which someone had spread out near the fire. "Since tonight is your first night on the road, we will take care of watches. But," she looked at me pointedly, "starting tomorrow night, you will join one of us on our watch, to become accustomed to it. For now, get some rest. Tomorrow will be just as long as today."

My eyes were already trying to shut, so I wasn't about to complain. I crawled over, absently noticed both Varric and Solas already in their own bedrolls, and was asleep almost immediately.

==========================================

I was in my bedroom, in the apartment I shared with Tia. I ran my hands over the dark blue bedspread, breathing in the smell of the scented candles Tia liked to burn, her current favorite song playing in the air.

I missed her.

On the desk, all of my cosplay materials were spread out, left that way after the rush to get everything ready for the convention.

In the corner, next to my bed, a picture frame, showing me at 14, holding my then four year old brother, Mike. It still hurt to look at, but I owed it to him. He'd died only a year later, and I'd never hold him again.

I turned away, to find Solas there, gazing around in avid curiosity.

"This is an... interesting place," he said. He eyed the various tools cluttered on my desk.

"I'd rather not stay here," I said. His gaze swung to me, a question clear in his eyes. I shrugged. "Too many memories to think about right now."

The room blurred, the carpet beneath my feet turning into sand. I breathed in the smell of the ocean, turning my face into the sun, my eyes closed.

My leather armor dissolved into my favorite bikini, black with white accents. I remember I'd bought it because it reminded me of one of my favorite game characters, from the Witcher series. Tia had been trying to convince me to cosplay her, since I wouldn't need a wig or contacts. This bikini was as close as I'd been able to bring myself.

Solas made a surprised sound. I sighed, and opened my eyes, turning towards him. His braids hung heavy, unmoving in the breeze that stirred my hair. He had that sexy undercut style, where the sides were shaved close, and the braids above were tied into a tail before falling down his back. He was staring, unblinking. I cleared my throat, suddenly self-conscious.

"Is this a good place to practice?" I asked, wanting just to get through the night without him killing me.

His eyes flew to mine. "Is that your question for me?" he responded, a smile on his lips.

"Don't be an ass," I retorted. "You know it's not."

His lips curled up more. "This place is fine to learn a few basics," he said. "Now, for your question..." he walked around me a moment, his eyes on the ground, contemplating.

I spoke up. "Before we start, can I clarify a few rules?"

He stopped. "I thought we had already done that," he said, one eyebrow raised.

"Well, yes, but there's still some wiggle room," I replied. I realized my fingers were twisting together anxiously, and I forced my hands to my sides. "First, the one question is an umbrella. While the answer is being given, additional questions may be asked in order to understand the answer." He nodded, his eyes still watching me closely. "Second, we can each veto two questions a night. The third must be answered, regardless of how uncomfortable it may make us." I bit my lip, then rushed to explain, "That's to make sure we still have some control over the questions, but we have a limit to how far we can push it."

He tilted his head to one side, considering. After a few moments, he said, "Agreed."

"Now. For your first lesson," he hummed a moment, "you will create fireballs - regular ones, mind. No fadefire. And you will aim to hit those targets." He pointed behind me.

I turned to see that some archer's targets from the training ground outside Haven had appeared.

"Ok... but how do I create fire that isn't fadefire? Especially since, you know, we're in the Fade?"

Solas proceeded to give me a lesson on basic elemental attacks, how to consciously create the effects that I'd instinctually used during the sojourn up to the ruins of the temple.

As he taught, he asked his question. "A broad one, first. Where are you from?"

Around us, the Fade morphed, settling into a street view of the house I'd lived in till I was 15. I found myself wearing my favorite t-shirt and a pair of shorts. Incongruously, the archer's targets were still in front of us.

"Remember when I said it would be complicated and hard to believe?" I responded slowly. I swallowed, suddenly feeling my mouth go dry. "I'm not from Thedas." I glanced at Solas' face. It was carefully blank. "I'm from a different world. We call it Earth."

"So how did you get here?" he asked.

"Uh no. That's a separate question, nothing to do with understanding the first." I poked him in the chest.

He looked annoyed, but acquiesced. "What is Earth?"

I blinked. How does one respond to that? "That... might be as difficult to answer as asking me who I am. It's not a simple world." I rubbed my nose, considering. "It's a world with no magic." I started. Solas looked almost horrified. "At least, not magic like you have in Thedas."

He was silent for a while, and I babbled on about technology, trying to explain things without overloading him with information.

"Do you have the Fade, in your world?" he asked.

"Umm I'm not sure," I answered cautiously. "We dream, but the people in my world consider it to be fantasies, things the sleeping mind pieces together to make sense of life." I tried to explain what I remembered of my high school psychology lessons on dreaming and the brain.

Finally, he raised a hand, stopping me. "Ask your question, then. I will have more questions about your world, but must think of how best to word them so you won't shy away from them." He looked around the street, at the houses lining it, at the cars in the driveways, curiousity plain to see on his face.

"Oookay," I replied. I didn't need much time to decide on a question. "What's with the braids, and why do you hide them?"

He gave me a wry look. "Technically, that is two questions. But I'll allow it, tonight."

He was quiet for some time, showing me a few tips to smooth out my casting.

"The braids are... difficult to explain," he started slowly.  "The magic I use, manifests itself as... a breeze. But this breeze isn't simple wind. It pulls and lifts the hair of the person who wields it. The braiding helps keep it under control, so it doesn't float around on my magic." He paused, thinking, a small furrow appearing between his brows.

"Wait," I interrupted. "Magic makes your hair... float?" I laughed at the idea. I tilted my head, tried to imagine Solas with his hair unbraided, and failed.

He looked grumpy. "Don't do that, da'mis. It is considered a very intimate act to see someone unbraided, and a very rude one to try to change things to see it." He narrowed his eyes. "Think of it, as if I tried to take your clothes from you, within the Fade, without your permission. You would surely not appreciate it."

My face burned. "Sorry," I murmured.

He flicked his fingers in dismissal. "You did not know. But, please, do not try again."

I stopped practicing, watching him, waiting.

"As for hiding them... to those who know what it means, the braids are like a signature." He hummed, and a pair of chairs appeared. Sitting in one, he  indicated I should take the other. "The style, colour, everything is unique per person. A person who knows how to read them can see the braids, and read what type of magic the person beneath them wields."

Tentatively, I asked, "So you hide the braids to, what, be incognito?"

As we talked, the street slowly dissolved, turning into the gorgeous study from the night before, the chairs becoming the couch he'd comforted me on. I shifted uncomfortably, remembering.

"Yes. It is unlikely that any would be able to read them, but I did not want to take the chance." he replied.

I drew my knees up onto the couch, thinking about everything he'd told me.

"So, two more clarifying questions," I said, watching him for permission. He nodded. "One, if in the Fade you can change your appearance, why not simply get rid of them?"

"It is... a mark of honor, and a badge of pride," he replied.

I nodded my understanding. "Ok then. And two, why can I see them when we're awake?"

He stilled, giving me a hard look. "You can?" Something in him seemed to grow more dangerous, predatory.

"Ummm... yes?" I said. "But only when I'm using the fadefire!" I hurriedly explained.

He relaxed marginally.

"Ah. For a moment, I worried that my magic was slipping," he said with a small smile. "As for why, it is a twofold reason. First, the fadefire acts as a bridge through the veil, bringing you more closely in tune with the Fade while you use it." I nodded my understanding. "And second... I still have the braids while awake. They are simply hidden. I would venture to guess that, while you use fadefire, illusions will not be able to be used against you, allowing you to see what is beneath."

I took a deep breath. "Now that could be very useful," I murmured.

"Yes," he agreed, "so long as you know that there is an illusion that you must see through."

"Point," I replied with a grin.

"One more thing, if I may?" he asked. I nodded, one eyebrow raised. "Your own hair, while within the Fade, floats on your magic the same way. With your permission, I could braid it for you, so that it doesn't get in the way while you practice."

"Do I need to?" I asked, looking at him sidelong.

"It's not absolutely necessary, but you should know, as your magic grows stronger, the effect it has on you will grow. The braids will allow you to practice your magic without worry. It also keeps it contained for battle, which can become strenuous."

I looked down, tracing the pattern on the couch, and considered it. I wasn't sure whether I should.

"You don't have to decide now," Solas said, watching me. "Think on it awhile. If you decide you want them, it would be my honor to do it for you."

I smiled, glad he wasn't pushing me into deciding this second.

He lifted his face, his eyes closed. After a moment, his eyes opened, and he said, "Unfortunately, I must go. Varric is about to wake me for my turn on watch." He stood, hummed a moment, and the study dissolved, returning us to the beach. The couch I had been sitting on turned into a throne made of sand, just like the one Tia and I had made when we were ten.

Solas gave me one last long look, before inclining his head in farewell. "Rest well, da'mis." He disappeared into wisps.

I spent the rest of the night staring into the ocean, not really seeing it. Considering the options. Wondering what else to ask.

Remembering the heat in his gaze as he looked me up and down, eyes turning from ice to summer sky.

I buried my face in my hands with a groan.

I'm screwed.

==========================================

When I woke, the sun was just clearing the horizon. I tried to sit up, feeling stiff from sleeping on the ground. A bowl and a mug appeared in front of my face, and I looked up to see Varric grinning down at me.

"Morning, Sunshine." He let me take the mug first, and I inhaled the coffee. "Don't forget to eat, too. The Seeker tells me you fell asleep without even asking for food." He took the emptied mug away, and pushed the bowl into my hands. "I'll go make you more coffee," he said with a wink.

As I ate, I realized I was the last one to wake up, and the camp was almost completely packed away, except my bedroll.

I blushed at being the one to hold us up, and ate quickly. By the time Varric returned with the second mug of coffee, I was scraping the last of the stew out of the bowl.

"No need to rush," Varric said, handing me the mug, "we've got all day."

"Yeah, right." I muttered. "Except it'll probably take me an hour to get on the horse." I sighed, and drank down the coffee.

Varric shook his head. "If Fenris could see you chugging down his special Tevinter blend, he'd have a heart attack."

"Oh? And how does he drink it?" I asked.

"About two thimblefulls at a time, sipped delicately. If you ever saw him, you'd know how weird that looks."

I couldn't help it. I started giggling at the mental image.

With a happy sigh, I finished the last gulp of the coffee, then stood. "Do I have time to wash these off before we go?"

He waved me off. "Go ahead, we'll get your horse ready for you."

I made a face. "Are you sure I can't just walk?" I asked plaintively.

"And deprive us of well earned entertainment?" Varric retorted. "Not on your life, Sunshine."

I rolled my eyes. "Thanks for that."

It took me seven tries to get on that monster today... my legs didn't want to cooperate. But once we were on the road, I was able to let my mind wander. My horse didn't need me for direction, after all.

A few hours into our travel, we stopped to stretch and eat some road rations. I was gingerly moving my legs, getting blood to flow again, when Varric spoke up.

"You've been humming that same song since we left this morning. Are you ever going to let us hear you sing it?"

I stared at him blankly, trying to think of what song I'd been humming.

"Come on. It went like this," he badly hummed a few notes. I looked at Solas, at a loss. A smirk was spreading on his face.

"Ok, that was terrible," I said. "How am I supposed to know what that was?"

"Well, how many songs could you possibly have bouncing around your head? Pick one." Varric replied.

"At last count, I can think of at least 300 songs, and that's just off the top of my head," I retorted.

"Bullshit," Varric disagreed, "there's no way you know that many songs." He sighed. "Well, just pick something then."

Cautiously, I asked, "What do you want to hear? Epics? Love songs? Lullabies? Hell, there's even a few that could be battle hymns. Give me a starting point"

Varric stared. "I don't know!" He turned. "Seeker, what do you think?"

"What sort of love songs do you mean?" Solas cut in, interrupting Cassandra.

"Well..." I started. Only one love song had been playing on repeat in my head, possibly inspired by the bikini I'd found myself in during our dreams. "There is one... the point of view of the song is a fighter, who is trying to find his lover. She happens to be lost in the world. It's not terribly long, but it's a bit sad..."

Everyone stopped, looking at me expectantly. I could feel the blush starting to creep up my face already.

"Well?" Varric prompted. "Let's hear it!"

I cleared my throat, cautioned, "I think it sounds best as a duet, but here goes." I then took deep breath, and closed my eyes. Behind my lids, I could hear the opening strains of the lute, see the main protagonist. His long white hair, swept back out of his face in a tie, his yellow eyes following longingly after his lover.

And I began to sing, sinking myself into the music.

"These scars long have yearned
for your tender caress.
To bind our fortunes,
damn what the stars own.
Rend my heart open,
then your love profess.
A winding weaving fate
to which we both atone.

I could see the Witch of Vengerberg, glancing back as she walked away from her lover.

You flee my dreams come the morning,
your scent, berries tart, lilac sweet.
To dream of raven locks, entwisted, stormy,
Of violet eyes, glistening as you weep.

She stopped, waiting, letting him gain ground. She watched him come closer, a question in her eyes.

"The Wolf, I will follow
Into the storm
To find your heart,
it's passion displaced
by ire ever growing,
hard'ning into stone
amidst the cold,
to hold you in a heated embrace

The White Wolf caught up to his lover, holding her close against a tempest.

You flee my dreams come the morning,
your scent, berries tart, lilac sweet.
To dream of raven locks, entwisted, stormy,
Of violet eyes, glistening as you weep.

This time, he walked away, the pain plain to see in his face.

I know not if fate
would have us live as one,
or if by loves blind chance
we've been bound?
The wish I whispered,
when it all began,
did it forge a love
we might never have found?

And she watched him leave, uncertainty in her eyes.

You flee my dreams come the morning,
your scent, berries tart, lilac sweet.
To dream of raven locks, entwisted, stormy,
Of violet eyes, glistening as you weep.

As I let the last note fade away, I opened my eyes. Everyone was stock still. Varric's jaw was hanging open. Cassandra was just as stunned, tears unshed in her eyes.

And Solas watched me, something indefinable in his eyes.

I blushed, not sure whether my singing had been recieved well.

Varric was the one to break the silence. "Well. That was..." He cleared his throat, glancing at Cassandra and Solas. "You guys saw that too, right?"

"Wait, what?" My brow furrowed, I looked between the three of them. "Saw what?" I pressed.

Solas was the one to answer me. "While you sang, we could see, in front of us, the lovers you described," he said slowly, as if he couldn't quite believe it.

I raised an eyebrow. "You're kidding." I looked around. "There's nothing here!" I said.

"Yes. They disappeared when you finished your song," Cassandra finally spoke up. "That was... beautiful. And tragic." She looked down, then said, "We must move along."

I was still confused. When we were remounted and on our way, I asked Solas, who was riding beside me again. "What could have caused what you saw?"

He scanned our surroundings, then murmured quietly, "That was a low-level Song-spell, of the type originally used by the elvhen. It is fairly difficult to master." He glanced at me. Even quieter, he said "It was quite beautiful."

"The singing, or the images?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied simply. I raised an eyebrow at him. "The song, and the images, both came from you. You cannot separate the skill of one from the other."

I didn't have anything I could say to that. We rode the rest of the day in silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts.

When we stopped again for the night, Cassandra pulled me aside. "I wanted to ask... and for the love of the Maker, don't tell Varric I did! But.." She wrung her hands, glanced around, then continued, "The lovers, in your song. Did they find each other? Did they get their happily ever after?"

I cocked my head to the side. "There's different endings, depending on who tells it," I replied.

"And how do you tell it?" she asked, watching me.

I gave her a small smile. "I'm a sucker for happy endings. The monster is defeated, the lovers go far away, together, and never let anyone pull them apart again."

She smiled back, seeming relieved. Then she mock glared at me. "Be sure you never tell anyone that I asked."

I held my hand up in the girl scout salute. "You've got my word," I agreed, a grin spreading across my face. She hmmphed at me, a small grin twitching at her lips.

Solas pulled me aside next, saying, "You will join me on my watch tonight, the final one before dawn."

"That way we can talk and learn in the Fade, then during watch practice?" I guessed.

"Precisely." He nodded, and moved back to the fire. I followed, and sat between Cassandra and Varric.

I grabbed a bowl of the nights dinner - campfire stew again- and asked a question around bites. "Hey Varric, are you taking the mid-shift watch tonight, again?"

"Why? Want to trade?" he asked.

"Not on your life," I replied with a grin. "But if I could get some of that coffee you've got stashed somewhere...?" I asked hopefully.

"Yeah, sure why not," he said. "But you owe me a song for it."

"A song?" I asked, "But why?"

"Because you've got a great voice, and it'd be a shame to hear it only once," he said. "Since I'll be heading to bed at that point, how about one of those lullabies you mentioned?"

"Ummm... sure? I guess?" I hedged. I wasn't sure I wanted to sing, especially at that hour, but if that was the price of a cup of coffee...

Chapter Text

In life, in love, this time I can't afford to lose
For one, for all, I'll do what I have to do
You can't understand, it's all part of the plan

-'Love and War' by Fleurie

==========================================

That first night, camped between the road and the stream, was the first we came to an agreement.

Seeing her in the water, skin glowing sapphire, hair floating freely and twisting amongst the flames... if the ancient elvhen could see her, they would have hailed her as a goddess immediately. The only thing that marred her beauty were the terrible markings on her skin, claiming her for June, the bastard.

She was even less native to this world than I, but she had the makings to be a truly great Singer, of a type so rarely seen since the banishment of the evanuris.

The last great Singer this world had seen, had reached even me in my slumber with her Songs. My memories of that time are disjointed, but I recall golden hair, and a voice so sweet. She had been a quiet mage, rarely using the magic that flocked to her.

She made the mistake of mentioning my Fade-borne visits to her companion, and was hailed as a prophet for a petulant god.

And when she tried to free the people, she was burned for her trouble.

I will not allow the same fate to befall ma'da'mis.

I left her in the Fade, sitting on a throne of sand, looking every bit as regal as any queen or goddess to ever walk this world.

When I took my watch, after Varric found his bedroll, I found myself watching her far more than the surrounding woods. Wishing I could trace her lips with my own. Taking her loose hair in my hand, letting the thick waves waterfall through my fingers.

Remembering the shape of her, lit with sapphire light, daggers in hand. A warrior goddess indeed.

When she held the fadefire in her blood, her eyes lit from within, turning from the blue violet of a bruised sky, to burning amethyst.

I had to force myself to tear my eyes away, to keep watch properly.

She was a fascination, a puzzle, a challenge.

I was still trying to find the answer to my very first question.

Who are you?

The next day, she stole my breath away.

When she sang, she poured her soul into her voice. While the Seeker and the durgen'len had been entranced by the images she unknowingly conjured, I found I could not look away from her face.

The wolf I will follow into the storm.

It felt like a punch to the gut. Surely, she can't know who --what-- I am? I thought. I determined I would ask her, that night, why she had chosen that song.

I had to know,  what sort of elf was Lashanna? Was it possible I could sway her to my side? After all, she was not from this world, therefore had no connection to it, and no desire to keep it in its tranquil state.

I wondered if her hair would still be unbound, floating free on the whims of her magic.

I wondered how her lips tasted, if she, like the woman in the song, tasted of berries and flowers.

I looked over to her, across the fire, to find she had finished bantering with the durgen'len, and was practically asleep sitting up. The Seeker had already taken up her post, the durgen'len already snoring in his bedroll. Silently, I moved to her side. She looked so innocent, in sleep.

I gingerly lifted her, arranged her bedroll, and carefully placed her in it. She sighed, curling up onto her side and sliding deeper into sleep, and I brushed her hair back from her face.

I needed to know more.

About her world, yes. Her gifts, most certainly.

But I found I needed to know her most of all. I placed my own bedroll close by, unwilling to stray far from her side, and slipped into the Fade, suddenly impatient to hear her voice again.

I needed...

I needed.

Chapter Text

There's no relief,
I see you in my sleep
And everybody's rushing me,
But I can feel you touching me
There's no release,
I feel you in my dreams
Telling me I'm fine

Every time I close my eyes
It's like a Dark Paradise
No one compares to you
I'm scared that you
Won't be waiting on the other side

-'Dark Paradise' by Lana del Rey

=========================================

I was back in my apartment, singing and dancing with Tia. Just being silly and having fun, the way we did in high school.

Tia was the only reason I'd made it through the deaths of my family in one piece. She'd pushed her parents to take me in, even though they didn't think much of me.

We'd met when we were 8, when she moved in three doors down from us, and we'd become best friends right away.

I'd been at her house, having a sleepover, when the drunk driver had swerved into my parents car, pushing them over the bridge into the river.

Mike had been asleep in his carseat. I hadn't been contacted for two days.

I pushed the thoughts of them away. It was easy, I'd had nine years of practice. And it was always easier when Tia and I were like this, letting go and being crazy.

A giant smile spread across my face, and we belted out the lyrics as loud as we could, dancing around each other.

A flicker of unease ran through me.

Tia had dark café-au-latte skin, brown frizzy hair, and hazel eyes.

But this Tia had blue eyes.

I pulled to a stop. Glanced around the apartment. It looked just like I remembered.

But I could tell, this was the Fade.

Which meant that the Tia in front of me had to be either a figment of my mind, or a demon.

"What's wrong, Lashanna?" she asked softly.

I smiled sadly. "You're not real." I replied.

"Of course I am." She seemed confused.

"You're not Tia," I clarified.

"Well, no," she admitted. "But I am real, and I am your friend."

"So you're a demon trying to trick me."

"Of course not!" she snapped. Took a breath. "I wasn't going to approach you yet, but you've been sad lately. I wanted to remind you of happier times." She twisted around, and as she did Tia's form disappeared.

She was living flame, the colour of sapphires.

"You're... the fadefire?" I guessed. She nodded. I blew out a breath, and sat on the couch. "But... you're a person," I said.

She shrugged, and replied, "Can't I be both?"

I was about to respond when she suddenly disappeared. I looked around, a bit flabbergasted. Solas appeared in her place. He looked surprised.

'I did not expect you to come back here," he said, looking around the living room.

Figuring there was a reason the fadefire had hidden from him, I hedged, "Yeah, well, I was feeling the need for the familiar."

He gave me a narrow look, and I remembered he could always seem to tell when I lied.

"Were you talking to someone before I arrived?" He asked, his voice silky.

"Is that your question for the night?" I responded. I knew that if he decided it was, I wouldn't be able to hide the presence of the fadefire from him.

He looked a little annoyed, but all he said was, "Be careful, da'mis. There are many things in the Fade that would find you to be a delectable meal." He moved in closer to me. "Now. Let us begin to teach you about different signs, wards, glyphs, and runes." He held out a hand to me. When I hesitated, he said in that silky voice, "Come, Lashanna, I will only bite if you ask very nicely." I gulped, feeling my knees go a bit weak at the heat in his eyes.

I'm so screwed, I thought, and took his hand.

The apartment blurred around us, twisting into the study he had brought me to every night so far.

"So. Wards. And things," I found myself babbling, pulling my hand out of his. I stood, walked around the back of the couch towards a desk. His face told me he knew I'd taken the circuitous route to avoid walking closer to him. It also told me he enjoyed making me flustered.

He walked over to the desk, and I tried to keep it between us.

A pair of chairs appeared, one nearly taking me off my feet. Solas was suddenly behind me, one hand on the small of my back. "Relax," he whispered in my ear.

My heart was pounding so hard I was sure he could hear it.

I sat, wary of him. He gave me a devilish smile, then took the seat next to me.

And began to explain the differences between wards, glyphs, and runes.

I slowly began to relax, hoping maybe he'd forget about asking anything in the midst of the lesson.

But my luck has never been that good.

Once he had me focused on copying the loops of the different glyph symbols, he quietly asked, "Why did you choose that song, today?"

I was concentrating on getting the designs right, so didn't register the question at first.

"Hmm? Oh, no reason," I said absently. Veilfire rolled up my arm, flashing once. "Uh, what the hell was that?" I asked, alarmed.

Solas was watching me with hooded eyes. "You tried to lie. I wonder why."

"What? Lie about what?" I demanded. Then the question, and my non-answer caught up with my conscious memory. "Oh for-- that's your question tonight?" I snapped.

"Are you refusing it?" he asked, his head tilted to one side speculatively.

I waved a hand in dismissal. "No, I'm just surprised that out of everything, that is what you choose to ask about."

I sat back. Watched him closely. "You really want to know that. Not anything else?"

"I know what I asked." He sat there, watching, waiting patiently.

I tapped the pen I was using on the desk, thinking.

I started slowly, thinking of how to articulate my thoughts. "The story of that song is a grand epic. I've loved it since I first heard it. But the song itself... has also always reminded me of... another character. From a different story." I looked down. "This different story is sometimes a tragic epic in it's own right, the character is someone who is... trying to do his best. He's misguided, but..." I rubbed my face.

"Can you tell me of this other story, this character that you seem to care for?"

"No." I said with a weak smile. When he opened his mouth to object, I held up a hand to stall him. "It's complicated. And there are other questions you need to figure out to ask first. Until you've asked, and learned, I can't tell you."

He didn't seem satisfied, so I gave him one last tidbit. "It's tied to what my world is like, and the very little that I know about how I got here," I said softly. "Those are the only hints I can give you."

He sighed.

I looked down at the half-drawn glyph in front of me.  "I'm sorry," I whispered.

"Do not be, da'mis," he said softly.

After a moment, I leaned forward, halfheartedly continuing the ward.

Solas laid his hand over mine. "You still have a question to ask me," he said, his eyes searching mine.

It took me a moment to remember what I'd wanted to ask him. "Solas, what happened today? With the images you say you all saw?"

"Ah. An easy question," he said, his voice dry.

I shrugged. "You could always veto it."

He stared at his hand over mine for a moment.  "You are a Singer," he started, then stopped himself. "Understand, I can't tell you everything,"" he cautioned.

"Granted. We both still have secrets to guard," I replied sadly.

"Quite." He was quiet for a long moment. "The ancient elvhen only ever cast magic the way mages do today, when they were children. In those times, the magic was more easily likened to a Song. When elvhen gathered to do great works, it was a chorus of voices, lifted together, that sometimes spanned years." He shook his head. "I had thought the talent gone from this world. It has been over nine centuries since the last Singer died, when she was given to flame to appease a tyrannical empire. The only good her death accomplished was the freeing of the people she led, and the fall of the empire she opposed."

I interrupted him. "Wait. That sounded like... are you saying Andraste was a mage? And not just a mage, but a Singer?" I looked down blindly, putting pieces together. "So, when she created and sang the Chant of Light, it was a manifestation of her power, wasn't it?"

He looked at me, surprised. "How did you guess that?" he asked suspiciously.

I gave him a small smile. "Just putting pieces together." I rushed to my next question, "But how does that relate to what happened today?"

His eyes narrowed in suspicion, he watched me. I was sure that the future would see an influx of questions about how I knew things.

Finally, he pursed his lips, then began to speak. "She spent many years using her abilities. But she was never able to create images as clear as you did without even trying."

"Ok. But what was it, how did it happen?" I pressed.

"Your impatience is showing, da'mis," he murmured with a smile.

I crossed my arms, one eyebrow raised, and waited. If my foot was tapping, well, I've never been very good at patience.

"The ancient elvhen lived and breathed their magic. When they wished to impart information, or sometimes to entertain, they would use their magic as you did today. It requires not only an intimate knowledge of the subject being Sung, but fierce concentration and a vivid imagination." He stood, paced around the chairs a bit. "It was not an easy skill to master," he said during his restless movement, "but those who could, could sometimes also take it a bit farther, and add sound to it. It was very hard to accomplish, as it required them to continue Singing, as well as being able to vividly imagine the sounds they wanted to project."

I idly played with the pen, considering what he had told me. I absently noticed he had come to a stop behind me. "Do you think you could teach me how to do that next step?" I asked.

The only warning I had was the weight of his braids settling over my shoulder, before I could feel his lips right next to my ear. "I think you could learn anything you put your mind to." His lips were close enough that his words caused them to brush my ears, as light as a butterfly. I shivered. "But I cannot teach it to you," he sounded disappointed.

I found myself turning my face towards him. His face was bare inches from mine.

Hunger flashed in his eyes. He leaned in the last tiny distance, covering my mouth with his. I let out a surprised grunt, but didn't pull away. His tongue ran over my lips, seeking entrance, and I obediently opened to him. His hand snaked up into my hair, cradling the back of my head, while he took his time exploring my mouth.

When the chair beneath me changed, turning into the satin of sheets on a plump mattress, he started pushing me back against it, lowering his body over mine.

I broke the kiss with a gasp. My hands, which had been twisted into his shirt and his hair, pulling him closer, stilled.

He buried his face into my neck, nipping and suckling, sending pleasure shooting down my body.

"Ng!" I gasped. I stiffened, pushing against his chest. "Wait," I managed to get out. Pushed harder. "Stop. I said stop!"

He stilled, then pulled back. He looked down on me, the hunger still in his eyes.

"Why do you stop me, da'mis?" His voice was soft,  as silky as the sheets beneath me. One hand was braced beside my head, the other traced down my face, followed the line down my neck, and lightly over my breast.

He captured my mouth in another kiss, then murmured against my lips, "I can tell you want this."

I could feel my will weakening. I knew I had to stop this, now, before it went any farther.

I twisted, pushing him over. But he kept hold of me, pulling me with him as he rolled, until I was on top. My knees were planted on either side of him, my hips pressed against his. He wrapped his hand around the back of my neck, pulled me down for another hungry kiss. At the same time, he lifted his hips, pushing his hard length against me. I couldn't help it, a low moan escaped my throat.

With the last remaining shreds of my willpower, I pulled away,  scrambling off the bed. Solas propped himself up on his elbows, his eyes hooded with desire.

"What's wrong, Lashanna?" he asked softly.

I shook my head, my hands over my swollen lips. "I can't do this. I won't." Still watching me, he rose from the bed. His long fingers lightly ran through my hair, tucking floating strands behind my ear.

"Tell me why?" he asked softly.

I stepped back, pulling my hair from his hands. "I can't... I refuse to be your distraction, when I know you don't feel shit-all for me."

"And why would you think that I feel nothing?"

Before I could respond, I felt a faint hand grab my shoulder, heard something behind me.

"Wake up, Sunshine." I gratefully followed the voice, the dream disappearing like a bubble. The last thing I saw, Solas' mouth was forming my name.

==========================================

I surfaced from the dream like a swimmer coming up for air. Well. There may have been a bit more flailing involved.

Varric ducked my flying hands, stifling an oath. "Andraste's ass, Sunshine! Watch where you punch, I'm on your side remember?"

I dropped back, breathing hard. I glanced around, and noticed that Solas had placed his bedroll very close to mine.

"I figured you'd want to wake up a little earlier than Chuckles. Get a bit of coffee, clear the cobwebs." He gave a short laugh, "Chuckles wakes up more aware than some people ever manage to be."

"Thanks, Varric," I said quietly.

He handed me a mug, then said, "You sounded like you were having a bad dream, anyway."

"Yeah." I took a sip of the coffee, letting the flavor dance over my tongue. Tried to let the taste of it erase the memory of Solas' tongue in my mouth. "It certainly was a difficult dream." I sighed, then tried to lighten the mood. "So. What type of lullaby do you want?" I smiled at him over the rim of the mug.

"Are you sure you're up for that?" he asked. "I know I asked, but really, you are welcome to as much coffee as you want," he said, seeming more worried about me.

"A deal's a deal," I said firmly. "So, I've got 'twinkle twinkle little star', 'you are my sunshine', 'bah bah black sheep'..." I rattled off a half a dozen more, before finishing with, "oh and an old elvish one, 'mir da'len somniar'."

Varric looked flabbergasted. "I didn't know there were that many lullabies in the world." He blinked a few times. "One day you're going to have to tell me where you're really from. And don't give me that amnesia speel. You're a terrible liar."

I shifted uncomfortably. "I don't know what you're talking about," I denied.

"Right." Varric sighed. "Well, if you have your little elfy heart set on singing this handsome dwarf a lullaby, how about the sunshine song, Sunshine?"

I smiled, and said, "You got it, Master Tethras."

We chatted about nothing for a little while longer, then he sighed and said, "It's time for me to turn in. 'Night, Chuckles." He moved over to his own bedroll, getting ready.

I didn't want to face Solas yet, so I got up to follow Varric.

When he got settled in, I nodded to him, then softly began to sing all the verses of 'You Are My Sunshine' that I knew, looping them a few times until I saw Varric's breathing deepen into true sleep.

I let the song fade away into the noise of the woods and the crackling of the campfire, reveling in the peace that lingered.

A touch on my arm pulled me from my contemplation, bringing my attention to Solas standing just behind me. He inclined his head, motioning that I should join him a small distance from the fire. Reluctantly, I followed him.

When he stopped, just a short distance into the trees, I kept a few paces away from him. My arms crossed in front of me, hands cupped around my elbows, and I kept my eyes down, ostensibly to watch my footing. Stay strong, I thought to myself.

Long fingers brushed errant curls back from my face, tracing my cheekbone. My eyes flew up to his, unbearably close, with banked desire lighting them. I felt myself begin to lean towards him, and forced myself to take a step back.

He let out a frustrated sigh. "Alright, da'mis. I won't push you if you're not ready," he said quietly.

He then moved past me, and began pointing out the best places and ways to set up watch.

I listened with half an ear, finding myself watching the way he moved, gracefully, almost like a dancer.

I shook myself. Now look here, stop that, I told myself angrily. You told him to stop. He did. Let it be done with that.

I forced myself to pay more attention to learning about keeping watch. It really wasn't that much, mostly how to keep your attention from straying, what to look and listen for, where, when, and how to patrol...

Once he had shown me the basics, he began to show me the practical applications of some of the wards and glyphs he'd been showing me in the Fade, before we'd become distracted.

Once we had set up warning wards, which he had me do more for practice than for actual need, we sat by the fire, not speaking. He kept shooting me glances. I steadfastly refused to return them.

"Watch goes much faster when you have someone to talk to," he hinted quietly.

I sighed. "What could we have to talk about, Solas?" I asked. "I'm lost and in over my head, and you're..." I stopped. I'd almost slipped that I knew his secret.

"And I'm what, da'mis?" he asked softly.

"An apostate mage with more secrets than could possibly be healthy," I managed with a weak smile.

He was quiet for a while, watching me. I went back to watching the stars, my head craning back. I suddenly, desperately wished that we were back at Haven, or already at the main camp in the hinterlands. At least there, I might get a moment's peace.

The night passed very, very slowly.

Finally, after an eternity, the eastern sky started to lighten. Solas quietly began putting together a quick breakfast. I lightly shook Cassandra awake, and between the three of us we began to strike camp, letting Varric sleep in a little later. I even found his coffee and percolator, out next to his bag, and brewed him a cup as a thank you.

In an attempt to avoid being alone with Solas, I asked Cassandra to show me how to ready the horses, but I could still feel him watching me.

By the time we continued on our way down the road,  I was as tense as a rabbit in a foxhole. Varric kept shooting glances between Solas and me, the concern plain on his face.

When we stopped for a quick stretch at midday, I made sure I kept my horse between me and Solas. Varric came up behind me and murmured, "If he did something to upset you, Sunshine, I can have a word with him for you. Or, if you just want to get it off your chest, I'm here to talk."

I gave him a smile, and said, "Thanks, Varric. I'm good for now, but maybe I'll join you on your watch tonight?" He raised an eyebrow. "You know, since it would be a good idea to learn from everyone, and it'll give me experience on the different watch shifts," I continued hurriedly.

"Ok, ok. I'd be happy to show you the ropes," he acquiesced, raising his hands in surrender.  He looked over his shoulder, saying, "Looks like the Seeker wants to get moving, but I'll be right behind you."

It only took three attempts to get on the horse, this time. I must be getting better. We were on the road, and I had turned my face to the sun, eyes closed, just basking in the heat. I didn't even notice when I fell asleep in the saddle.

==========================================

I was standing by the pool that I'd bathed in the first night on the road. Sapphire flames stood in human form next to me, and the quiet strings of "Adagio for Tron" played around us.

"Why do you deny what you want?" she was asking.

"Because he'll leave anyway," I replied softly.

"You don't know that, not for sure," she said.

"I do. That's how the story goes."

"Stories can be changed." She took my hands in hers, a heat sinking in to my skin. "You want to change his path, but the best way is to be true to your wants, and his."

I didn't want to hear it. "Why did you hide from him?" I asked instead.

"The last person I... inhabited was his sister. When she was killed, he never forgave me for not protecting her." She hung her head. "If I had done better, been more vigilant..."

"Hey, you can't do that." I pulled her into a hug. "You can't blame yourself for her death. Others struck the blow against her, the fault lies with them, not you." I don't know if living flame could cry, but she shook against me for a time. I wondered if anyone had comforted her for the death of her friend in all the long years since it happened.

After a time, she pulled away. "Thank you," she whispered, before dissipating.

I could feel Solas' presence behind me, his eyes on my back.

I rubbed my eyes, forcing away the tears I could feel in my eyes. "If you're going to stalk me in my dreams, could you at least be circumspect about it?" I asked.

"Ir abelas, da'mis," he replied. He sounded... like an echo. I turned towards him, and saw that his form was translucent.

I raised an eyebrow. "What's that about?" I gestured.

"I'm not fully here," he said. "Since we're still riding, I must keep a portion of my attention on my horse and the road."

"You can do that? Split your attention between the waking and the Fade?" In spite of myself, I was a little bit impressed.

"Yes. More than a few years of practice are required to learn this skill." His form flickered, and he had a ghost of a smile on his face. "Varric is betting on whether you'll fall from your horse when we stop to camp for the evening."

I laughed at the thought, then sighed. "I suppose I should wake up, then. Better to wake up now than to satisfy his morbid curiosity at the expense of my pride."

I looked around, wondering how to wake myself from within the dream.

Solas was suddenly next to me. "I can assist, if you wish," he said, holding his hand out to me.

I gazed at him a moment, wondering if this was a trap of some sort. Then I thought, At some point I need to decide whether to trust him or not. And I remembered the fadefire's advice, about being able to change stories.

So I placed my hand in his. He squeezed it a moment, a smile lighting up his eyes, and then the Fade dissolved around me.

==========================================

I woke up slumped forward on my horse, and winced at the ache in my lower back when I straightened.

Luckily, the sky was already darkening, signaling our stop for the night, so I didn't have to stay on my horse long after I woke.

After we all ate (campfire stew again. Yay.) Varric, Solas and I all turned in.

I hoped I could get a break from Solas. While I could sense him watching my dreams, he seemed to understand that I needed a night off. I spent my dreams running through mazes and trying to solve puzzles, over and over again, trying to get them right.

When I was shaken awake, I was almost glad to escape the dreams.

Varric shoved a mug of his delicious coffee in my hands, which I blearily accepted. Once I was coherent, he began to show me how he did things on the midnight watch.

When I offered to lay down alarm wards, he waved me off, explaining that he'd set traps before sleeping earlier.

Finally, we both settled in for the long stretch of watch.

"So. You wanna tell me what happened between you and Chuckles?" Varric asked me quietly, keeping his voice low to avoid disturbing the others.

I shrugged. "I dunno how much I can tell." I replied, just as quietly. I shot a glance at the sleeping forms by the fire. "He's... more dangerous than he seems."

"Are we talking about the same mage, here?" Varric asked with a laugh.

I smiled wryly. "Yeah, I know, he's the unassuming elven apostate. But Varric, you've said it yourself. I'm a terrible liar. What do you see when I tell you that he... he scares me, a little."

Varric watched me for a moment, then went back to staring at the embers of the campfire. "Ok. So you think Chuckles is dangerous. But you were fine with him till this morning. And then after your little mid-saddle nap, you... well, you still don't seem a hundred percent with him, but it's better than it was. So, what happened?"

"Everyone is pushing me for answers that I either don't know or can't answer," I grumped. "Look, I do know things, and yes, I remember more than I let on. But I can't tell you everything I know, or even how I do."

He was quiet for a while, contemplating my words. I could almost see him wonder if I was delusional.

I decided to gamble. "Question for you, Varric. Did Merrill destroy her Eluvian, or did Hawke side with keeping it intact?"

He stared. "I didn't put Daisy's mirror in the Tales of the Champion," he said slowly.

"I know," I replied. "Did Hawke let you keep Bartrand's red lyrium shard, or did you destroy it?"

He sat back a little, eyeing me warily. "Ok. So you know things that, by all rights, you shouldn't. Though not everything, or you wouldn't be asking. You'd be telling."

I shrugged. "Stories change depending on who tells them," is all I said. I grinned. "Want to fill in my blanks?"

"If I couldn't see you were sweet on Chuckles, I'd think that was a terrible pickup line," Varric laughed.

My eyes widened. "Who said what now? There's nothing between Solas and me beyond a teacher and his student!" I protested.

Varric winked. "Sure. We'll see how long that lasts," he said.

I buried my face in my hands with a groan.

"So does this not-relationship you've got with him have anything to do with the tiff you two had?" he asked.

"Not talking about it," I muttered.

"That's a yes," Varric says with a grin.

"So Varric. Tell me about Hawke," I countered.

"Why do you keep saying Hawke like there's only one?" he asked, confused.

"Ummm...?" was the only reply I could give.

"You don't actually know anything about them, do you?"

"I know enough!" I defended.

"Uh-huh," Varric said.

"Well then. We've still got time till it's Solas' turn for watch. Why don't you give me the basics?" I suggested.

"Alright, Sunshine, what do you want to know?" he gave in with a laugh.

That's how I learned that there wasn't just one set of twins in the Hawke family.

There were two.

Chapter Text

 

Another head hangs lowly
Child is slowly taken
And the violence caused such silence
Who are we mistaken

But you see it's not me
It's not my family
In your head, in your
Head they are fighting

-'Zombie' - by the Cranberries

==========================================

I need a drink, I thought. It was only a couple hours after dawn.

Varric had given me the details of the Hawke siblings.

Mariah and Garren Hawke were the elder twins. Both mages, Mariah tended to focus on healing and defending her friends and family, whereas Garren had gone down the darker path of blood magic.

Bethany and Carver were the younger twins.

Somehow, they both survived during the escape from the darkspawn horde attacking Lothering. Carver had been with his elder siblings in the deep roads. Luckily, Anders had been there as well, so he had survived as a Warden. Bethany had been taken away to the circle. She'd run, after the circles began rebelling, and was hiding... somewhere. Varric was deliberately vague on that.

I'd gone to bed with everything swimming in my mind, and dreamed that I was in a hall of mirrors. Instead of my reflection, each mirror showed a different version of Hawke, or the Warden Hero of Ferelden, even a few Inquisitors. I ran from mirror to mirror, trying to figure out which were real, and woke up exhausted.

Cassandra informed me that we were only a few hours away from the forward camp. I may have almost fallen off my horse doing a little dance.

After Varric finally stopped laughing, he asked, "Can we get another song from you, Sunshine?"

"What would you like to hear?" I asked in return.

"Well, you've done the love song, and I heard a lullaby... since there's a few hours left, why not one of those epics?"

"Umm, well..." I began

"What, can't remember any?" Varric asked innocently.

"I can... but you might not like it," I replied. I had one that I knew by heart, and the melody had been immortalized in a film a few years back. "It's about a clan of dwarves." Varric grimaced. "But not Orzamaar dwarves!" I made sure to tell him.

"Let's hear it. You've peaked my interest," Solas said.

Varric looked like he'd swallowed a lemon. "Alright, fine. I did ask for it, after all."

Making sure to keep my mind blank of images, I began to sing.

Far over the misty mountains cold,
To dungeons deep, and caverns old.
We must away, ere break of day,
To seek the pale enchanted gold

I continued through the whole song. I'd memorized it in middle school, as a poem, and when the movies came out I'd even gone to the midnight premieres. Full length, it only takes about 15 minutes or so.

As I finished, Varric had a thoughtful look on his face.

"That doesn't sound like any dwarven clan I've ever heard of," he murmured.

I shrugged. "It's just a song," I replied.

"There is no such thing as 'just a song'," Solas said.

I glanced at him. "Mine are. They may tell stories, but that's all they are."

"I agree with Solas," Cassandra said. "Every story has a purpose, whether it's to tell history, or teach a lesson, not simply for entertainment. That purpose depends on both the creator and the speaker- or in this case, singer."

Thinking about being here, inside a story, I looked down. "Perhaps you're right, and every story has some truth to it," I murmured softly.

"Well, now that we're all suitably thoughtful, how about some happier songs?" Varric suggested.

I laughed, and began to sing. I started with the nonsense of 'Supercalifragilicious expialidotious' which had everyone laughing, and moved on to 'We Are the Champions' from Queen. I sang so many songs I lost track after that.

By the time we saw the forward camp, my throat was starting to hurt. When we got down from the horses, Solas surprised me.

"I can hear you're going hoarse. You shouldn't push your voice before you're ready," he said, placing his hand on my throat. I could feel his magic sinking in, soothing the roughness I'd begun to feel.

I cleared my throat, then said, "Thank you."

His hand lingered. "It is my pleasure, da'mis," he replied.

I pulled away, feeling a blush creep up my face, and moved towards the scouts waiting patiently.

After speaking with Scout Harding --and hearing Varric's jokes about her name--  we continued on foot. The horses stayed at the camp for the moment. It felt good to stretch my legs and move under my own power again.

As soon as we came close to the crossroads, we could hear the clash and screams of fighting. We all readied our weapons, and ran the remaining distance through the tumbles of stone.

I felt fadefire creep through me, infusing my daggers with distinctive sapphire flames.

I did well enough holding against the mages, since my barriers seemed to work very well against their spells and they seemed surprised by my daggers. When the mages were either dead or had pulled back, we had only moments to catch our breath before the templars came down from the opposite road.

Solas passed me. "Stay back, and try to maintain your barriers on everyone if you can," he advised. I opened my mouth to argue. "You're not experienced enough to take on templars," he cut off my protest. I couldn't very well argue the point in the middle of a fight, so I set my jaw and nodded. I stayed to the edges, circling around and trying to keep barriers up. When I thought I could get away with it, I threw fireballs at the templars, or iced their paths, trying to give my companions an edge.

A scream drew my attention, where a templar had his sword raised against a shape on the ground. I threw a barrier up to protect them, and was about to call for Varric or Cassandra to help when I noticed that the person on the ground was a child.

I felt an instant rage, and screamed my way between the templar and the child, fadefire exploding from my skin.

Through the visor of his helmet, I could see the templar's eyes widen in alarm.

He swung his sword, perhaps hoping to finish me quickly. I dodged around, my daggers flashing, but he caught me in his back swing. My barrier helped keep it from doing any actual damage, but it did push me back towards the huddled child.

The templar charged, sword pointed right for me.

I didn't think, I only reacted, dropping my daggers, raising my hands before me and pushing with the fadefire still roaring through my blood.

It expanded outwards, becoming a sapphire bubble around me and the child. The templar's sword bounced off the barrier, throwing him off balance, and he crashed into the fadefire shoulder first. His armor began to flicker with blue flames, but he ignored them, slamming into the barrier with his sword again and again. The fadefire barrier was still up, so I did the only thing I could. I dropped to my knees, gathered the child -a boy, if I wasn't mistaken- into my arms and comforted him through his sobbing, my face turned up to keep an eye on our only protection against the raging templar.

Each time he slammed into the fadefire, the flames spread a little farther. Finally, something changed, and he went completely up in flames, screaming in rage and pain. He only lasted moments more before dropping, silent, to the ground.

I froze, mortified that I had caused his death in such a gruesome way.

It was only a short time later that the last of the templars were dead. Unlike the mages, they didn't pull back when the fight didn't go their way, so none had escaped.

My companions clustered around my bubble. Cassandra checked the still burning remains of the templar, though there wasn't much left. Varric looked concerned, checking the edges of the barrier for any way through.

Solas, however, held his hand out, as if testing it. After a moment, he pushed his way through the barrier and knelt beside me.

"It's alright, da'mis," he said softly. "You can let it go now. You're safe." He glanced at the child in my arms. "He is safe." He began running his hand down my hair, the way he had when he'd comforted me in the Fade. It wasn't till the bubble had disappeared, and he'd helped me stand with the boy in my arms, that I realized I'd had tears running down my face.

I looked down at the child, who'd fallen asleep. At the tear streaked dirt on his cheeks, his pointed ears. He felt too light, too thin, his bones sticking out too far, and I clutched him even closer. "We need to find his parents, his family," I said hoarsely.

"And we will," Solas reassured me. "But you must rest, da'mis." He began leading me towards the cabins, steering me clear of the bodies littering he ground.

I gently pulled away from him. "What about the Chantry contact? We need to meet-"

"It'll keep until tomorrow, Sunshine," Varric said.

"And the injured? I need to help-" I argued.

"We will take care of the survivors, da'mis, so please, rest," Solas interrupted, reaching for my arm again.

I was swaying on my feet. It had been too much, between the shock of killing and the expenditure of magic. I knew it, and they knew it.

So I gave in with a sigh, and let Solas take me to an empty cabin. He set out my bedroll and his own, then gently pulled the boy from my arms and laid him down.  When I protested, asking, "But where will you sleep?" he took me by the shoulders, guiding me down to my own bedroll and kneeling beside me.

"I will find somewhere else to sleep, when it is time. For now, I have no need of it." He brushed my hair back from my face. I couldn't help it, I turned my face into his palm, seeking comfort.

He drew me into a hug, and I could feel myself begin to shake.

"Ir abelas, da'mis," he whispered. "I should have been there to protect you."

All I could manage to do in response was shake my head.

He held me until, exhausted, I finally dropped into sleep.

==========================================

I was walking through the crossroads village, wandering from body to body, mourning. As I walked, it seemed like it went on forever.

After a time, I realized the fadefire's form was beside me.

"What am I doing here?" I asked softly. "I'm not cut out for this. I can't be the hero this story needs."

She pulled me to a stop. "You are exactly the hero this story needs." She gestured to the world. "There are warmongers and killers aplenty in this world. Another one would not be of any help at all." She touched my shoulder. "You have compassion and empathy, a desire to prevent the sort of pain that ravaged your own life, and a fierce protectiveness for those who cannot protect themselves."

She took my hand, leading me into a cabin that I recognized as the one Solas had put me in. I stopped, seeing the sleeping form of the boy I'd protected.

The fadefire knelt by the child. "Do you think you aren't a hero to this boy?"

I couldn't say much to that. I ended up spending the rest of my time in the Fade staring down, thinking hard.

==========================================

I woke up to the quiet stare of a ten year old boy. It took me a second to remember where I was, who he was, and all of the events of the afternoon before.

I stared back, not quite sure what to say. "Hi?" I ventured finally. He blinked, surprised, but didn't respond. I tried again. "So... how are you feeling?" Still just that disconcerting stare. "Ummm...."

Thankfully, the door opened, preventing me from getting even more awkward. Varric walked in, followed closely by Solas. The look of relief on Varric's face was plain to see. Solas was harder to read, but I could tell he was happy to see me awake by the slight lessening of tension in his shoulders.

"Andraste's sacred knickers, Sunshine, you gave us a helluva scare," Varric said. "It's good to see you awake," he grinned.

"Don't tell me I slept a week again," I said, wincing at how dry my throat felt.

"Only through the night, thankfully, but you slept like the dead," Solas said. "Your fadefire barrier only held as well as it did because you fed it almost all of your magic."

"Well, since you're awake, I'll let Cassandra know we can probably talk to that chantry mother now," Varric said, and left with a wave.

Solas stood a moment, before coming to sit on the bedroll beside me. He pulled me into a hug, his face buried into my hair. I stiffened, but when he made no other moves I slowly relaxed.

When he finally let go, I cleared my throat, and directed a question at the boy in front of me. "What's your name?" Still no reply, just a stare.

"He hasn't spoken at all that we've heard," Solas said quietly. I glanced at him. "The locals say he and his parents were refugees. They were killed in an earlier attack. Local mothers did what they could for him, but they have their own to care for."

I hung my head a little. "I'm sorry we didn't get here sooner," I said to the boy.

Pain flashed in his hazel eyes. "You should have let him kill me," he whispered. Solas became very still beside me. "If I died, I could see them. I could be with them." Barely disguised hatred crossed his features. "It's my fault they're dead," he said harshly.

"Why do you say that?" I asked. He seemed surprised I asked.

"Because... I'm cursed. I'm a mage." He dashed away tears. "They tried to protect me, to hide me."

"I didn't know your parents," I said. "I can't tell you why they decided to protect you, other than they were your parents, and the love a parent has for their child is unparalleled." I took a breath. "But I can tell you that blaming yourself is a useless and futile exercise. If you must blame someone, blame the ones who killed them."

He looked down, smoothing the wrinkles in his worn shirt. After a moment, he looked up. "What's going to happen to me?" he asked.

"Well..." I stalled, looking to Solas for help.

"The circles are disbanded, and no one will want to take in a young, untrained apostate," Solas said quietly.

I nodded. "That's what I figured," I murmured. When I looked back at him, the boy looked fearful. "I guess that just means you need to come back with us," I said with a small smile.

His brow furrowed in confusion. "Why?" he asked.

"Well, unless you want to stay here, if there's someone here who will take you in-" I began.

He shook his head. "No, I mean why would you? You don't know me, or my parents. I'm nothing to you, but you're the Herald. There's more important things for you to think about," he insisted.

Solas looked like he vaguely agreed with the child. I raised an eyebrow in his direction. "Nothing is more important than helping and protecting those who need it most," I said, partly to Solas, but mostly to the boy. "Sometimes that means hitting people who would use their power to hurt. Sometimes it means healing. And sometimes, it means making sure that those that have lost everything are taken care of."

"Didn't you hear what I said? I'm a mage!" he cried out. "I'll hurt you, or the templars will, to get to me!"

I shrugged. "So'm I," I replied. I jerked a thumb at Solas. "So is he." The boy's eyes widened, darting between us. I raised my hand, and concentrated on fire, igniting a small flame in my palm. When Solas didn't move, I jabbed my other elbow into his ribs. He sighed, looking put upon, but followed my lead and lit a small veilfire in his hand.

The boy blinked. Swallowed. Then nodded, once. I smiled and put out the flame in my hand. "Well then. I'm Lashanna. This is Solas. Since you'll be coming with us, may we know your name?"

Before he could answer, Cassandra burst in. He shrank back, away from her. Varric came in, more subdued, behind the Seeker.

"Thank the Maker," she said, "Solas wasn't sure how long it would take you to recover. How do you feel? Are you well enough to move?"

In response, I slowly stood, only wobbling a little. "I'm fine, Cassandra," I reassured her. "We can move on as soon as we're all ready." I held my hand out to the boy. "Can we find an extra horse? This young man will be coming with us."

Cassandra paused. "I do not think that is a good idea," she said at last.

I frowned. "Why not?" I asked.

"We will be traveling the hinterlands for some time, amidst rifts, demons, bandits, not to mention the remains of the apostates and renegade templars," she replied. "I'm afraid he must stay here."

Still frowning, I said, "I just told him he could come with us. There's nothing for him here, and no one to care for him." I glared at the Seeker. "I won't go back on my word."

"If I may," Solas said quietly. "He can stay here, with the Inquisition soldiers, until our business is done in the hinterlands. Before we leave, we come back here, and bring him back to Haven with us."

I glanced at Solas, then looked at the boy. "Is that ok with you? As much as I hate to admit it, Cassandra is right. It'll be dangerous traveling with us."

He looked down. "You'll forget about me," he mumbled.

I crossed to him, putting my hand under his chin and lifting his face. "I swear, on the names of the family I lost, I will come back for you," I said seriously. He searched my face.

After a moment, he said, "If you come back... I'll give you my name then. And I'll go back with you."

I nodded, smiling. "Then let's get you situated with the soldiers. The sooner we get out there and start trying to fix things, the sooner we'll be back."

We came across the chantry mother on our way, Mother Giselle. With her dark weathered face, deep brown eyes, and quiet assured faith, she reminded me of Tia's grandmother. I could only hope she wasn't as stubborn as Granmum Theresa.

"You are the one they call, 'the Herald of Andraste,' are you not?" she asked, looking straight at me.

"Not through any choice of mine," I muttered. "Solas, Cassandra, can you help get our young friend here set up with the soldiers?" Solas cast me a long look, then nodded, following Cassandra and speaking softly with the boy.

"I'll go find you breakfast," Varric offered, and made himself scarce.

"The tale of your actions protecting that boy have made their way to me," she said. "May I ask what your plans for him are?"

"To take care of him," I replied, "to teach him, or find him teachers if I can't myself." I paused, then continued softly, "To help him learn to live with the loss of his whole world."

Mother Giselle nodded, her eyes shrewd. "You care about people," she said. "That tells me more than any tale. I think, if you are not the Herald, that you are still what is needed." She nodded to herself. "When I heard of the denouncement, I knew it was mostly grandstanding on the parts of those who wish to gather power. The rest are simply afraid. Go to the Chantry in Val Royeaux. Show them who you are."

"I kinda doubt they'll listen to me," I said, raising an eyebrow.

"They have heard only the worst of you," she said. "Only by seeing you, speaking to you, will that change."

"So you want me to appeal to their better natures?" I asked.

"If I thought you incapable, I wouldn't have suggested it," she said with a quirk of her lips. She sighed. "You needn't convince them all, only some. Shatter their unified voice. Therein lies their power."

I nodded. "Thank you for your advice. I'll talk to the leaders about your suggestion."

"I will be going to Haven, to do what I can for the people there," she said. "If you wish, I can bring the boy with me?" she offered.

"Thank you, but no," I declined. "I'd rather he travel with me, when we return."

Mother Giselle inclined her head, and made her farewells.

Varric, bless him, came back with a mug of coffee and a small bowl. He handed them to me, and I dug in gratefully. We then walked towards the soldier's encampment beside the village.

"Are you sure you know what you're doing with that kid?" he asked.

"No," I admitted. "But he needs someone. And I was in his place, once. He'll need help getting through this. Not to mention he needs training." I shrugged. "'If not me, who? If not now, when?'" I quoted.

"If you're sure..." Varric said. "Something else I wanted to talk to you about." He stopped at the outskirts between the main crossroads and the inquisition camp. "If you're going to continue using those little daggers of yours, you need to learn how to use them." He shrugged at my look. "I can't teach you much about the daggers themselves, beyond the basics, but I can show you how to hide in plain sight."

I grinned at him. "You'll teach me how to stealth?" I hugged him. "That's awesome!"

He looked uncomfortable. "Yeah, well, you need all the help you can get. Not that I minded the barriers, during that fight," he added hurriedly, "but you barely know how to protect yourself without magic."

"Absolutely," I agreed. "When can we start?"

He ran his fingers through his hair. "I actually thought it would take more to convince you," he admitted. "I hadn't gotten around to the practical part yet."

"Well," I said, thinking. "I'm pretty sure we'll be heading farther into the hinterlands today. So while we're out there, start giving me lessons?" I suggested.

He nodded. "I think that could work," he agreed.

We found Cassandra by the unit leader, talking in a low voice. Solas was nearby, sitting with the boy. He looked up as Varric and I approached. His eyes flickered to Cassandra, then back to me. I nodded my understanding.

When Cassandra saw me, she looked upset. "Your new... charge... he doesn't like me." She frowned. "More than that, he seems frightened of me."

I wasn't really surprised. "He probably thinks you're a templar," I explained. "Templars killed his family, and tried to kill him. Give him time to come to grips," I suggested.

Still frowning, she nodded. "In any case," she said, "Corporal Vale has agreed to care for him until we pass through here again."

"It's a good thing, to want to care for him. I don't know what'll come of it, but I'll help if I can," Vale offered.

"Thank you, Corporal," I smiled in relief. "Is there anything we can do to help you and your men out while we're in the area?' I asked.

Once we'd gotten a good idea of what we needed to do, I approached Solas and the boy. "We're heading out now," I told him. He grew quiet. "We'll be back before you know it," I said gently. "If you need anything while you're here, just ask Corporal Vale there. He's a good man, and if you need him to, I'm sure he can send a messenger to find us." He nodded, gave Cassandra one last distrustful look, and went to stand by Vale.

==============================================

And so began our two weeks exploring the area. Varric gave me lessons on how to hide, and the best ways to hold my daggers so they wouldn't get ripped out of my hands. Solas continued my lessons in the waking world on basic magic, and thankfully didn't press me while in the Fade. He only asked general questions, things about Earth, as if giving me time. In return, I asked only easy questions, about his experiences in the Fade.

I took my first watch shift with Cassandra during this time, and found someone more then willing to listen to all the tales that a love of fantasy had left in my head. Varric liked them as well, but he always wanted to pick them apart. Cassandra liked to simply experience them.

It was hectic. The constant travel was hard, always needing to be alert making me tense. Any time we made camp near water, I dragged Cassandra out with me for a bath. At first she was wary of the fadefire I used to stay warm, but quickly realized that, in pools of water, if she stayed close to me, the water was always warm enough to be comfortable.

I gradually grew used to the shape of our days, and between the fighting, found I was enjoying myself. I started to take care of the armor repairs, having a small amount of experience from cosplaying at conventions. I couldn't do anything about metal, having no knowledge of smithing, but when a strap snapped, or leather tore, I found myself being the fastest to do field repairs.

It felt good to be useful beyond the mark on my hand.

We found the apostates first. I tried to reason with them, hoping that what was a battle only scenario in the game could be changed, and that maybe they could come back to Haven with us. No such luck. As soon as they realized we were with the Inquisition, they began to fight. Several took knives to their own skin, fueling blood magic. Thankfully, it seemed that the fadefire made me immune to the mind-altering effects.

When the apostates were dead, I couldn't help it. I broke down and cried. When asked, all I could say was, "It's such a waste. All these lives, because they were too stubborn!"

We made camp early that night. Killing was not necessarily easier for me, but I found I had no qualms against defending myself or my companions.

By the time we found the remaining templars a few days later, I knew there was little point trying to sway them from their chosen course. I still had to try, and ended up with an arrow in the thigh for my trouble.

Once the templars were dead, Solas had rushed to my side, using his magic to help stop the bleeding. There was a tightness in his face as he worked.

When we made it back to the closest Inquisition camp we had established, he was able to do a more thorough healing.

"You seem upset," I said to him quietly, watching him as he worked.

"It was an unnecessary risk, da'mis," he said, his face pinched in disapproval.

"Unnecessary?" I asked, not quite believing what I'd heard. "How is it unnecessary to try to spare lives if we can?"

"Because the possibility of losing you is a far greater concern than anything we might gain by swaying them," he snapped.

Angry, I retorted, "Ah yes. I forgot. The mark on my hand is the only way to affect the rifts. Not to mention your fascination with the fadefire. How inconsiderate of me to want to save lives in the face of that!"

He was quiet while he finished the healing. Before he left, he gave me one last look. "I was not speaking of losing the mark," he said quietly. "I was speaking of losing you." He left the tent before I could reply.

I sank back into the bedding, at a loss. That couldn't mean he was thinking of me as anything more than a means to an end... could it?

When I left the tent a short time later, Varric and Cassandra were bantering by the fire. It looked to me that the Seeker was beginning to enjoy speaking to the rogue.

I looked around, and found Solas laying in the grass a short distance away, gazing upwards towards the stars. I took a breath, trying to fortify myself, then moved to stand by him.

He didn't look at me, but he shifted to the side, making space for me in the grass. I sat next to him. It took me a moment to find the words. "I'm sorry," I said. His eyes shifted to mine. "I'm sorry that I assumed your concern was a purely practical one. But I won't apologize for trying to talk the templars down."

Solas sighed. "I would not ask you to go against your nature, da'mis," he said. "I am sorry as well. I should not have become angry with you."

We were both quiet for a time. After a while, he asked, "What do your people believe about the stars?"

I glanced at him, then at the sky above. "I guess that depends. There are as many tales as there are cultures in the world. And then there is what the scientists have discovered."

"And you? What do you believe?" he asked.

"In school, we're taught the science," I started, "that each star is a Sun in it's own right, so far away that that little light is all we can see of it. We're taught that each star could have worlds of their own." I glanced at Solas again. "And while they'd never say that there are people out there, everyone hopes that there is. No one wants to be alone in the universe."

He nodded. "To be alone is a terrible, wrenching feeling," he murmured.

I found myself touching his arm. "You're not alone here," I whispered.

"I'm more alone here than ever before in my life," he replied. The sadness in his eyes was heartbreaking.

"You don't need to be," I said. "You could find peace here."

He shook his head. "You are the closest to a kindred spirit that I have felt in this world for some time," he said. "But two do not a peoples make."

"It's a start," I replied. His lips quirked, and he inclined his head in acknowledgment.

He lifted his arm, pointing at the sky. "There, that cluster of stars there. They were associated with the goddess Mythal," he said. I laid back, my shoulder touching his, and sighted down his arm.

I raised my own arm, glanced at him, and asked, "This way?" while tracing out a shape. His hand grasped mine, and corrected me. I held my breath. His touch still sent small shockwaves through me. I cleared my throat. "Are there any other gods constellations visible this time of year?" I asked.

I could feel him hesitate. Then he pulled my hand to a different section of sky. "June, whose marks you wear," he said, tracing out the stars. Then moved again, to one side of Mythal. Began to trace a third. "Fen'Harel," he said, so quiet it was almost inaudible.

I found myself turning my hand in his and grasping it. He squeezed my hand, bringing both down between us. I could feel him watching me, but I didn't want to face what I might see. So I kept my eyes up, towards the stars. "I wish we could stay, just like this," I whispered.

"Nothing lasts forever," Solas whispered sadly back.

==============================================

I was standing on the very edge of a cliff, a white dress curling and twisting around my legs, swirling golden clouds beneath me. I had my arms outstretched, feeling like they were turning into wings.

"That is a very precarious place to find you, da'mis," a familiar voice rang from behind me.

Without turning, I whispered, "The world is on the precipice of change. You must leap. It is only in falling that you'll learn whether or not you can **fly**." I felt myself tipping forward, bare feet slipping off the stone, wings catching on the wind.

A hand, encircling my wrist, pulled me sideways, and I landed with an indelicate thump on a plush bed. The hand on my wrist didn't let go, and another snaked around my other side, cradling my stomach. Heavy, dark red braids fell across my shoulder.

I struggled, trying to wiggle away, my mind still trying to reconcile wings and arms.

I was pulled closer, my back pressed against a hard bare chest, my ass nestled into a lap. I could feel his erection pushing against me, straining against his pants.

"Be still, da'mis!" a voice hissed in my ear. It made me freeze, and my consciousness caught up with me. I let out a hard breath.

"You can let go now," I said in a low voice. A long moment passed, and reluctantly he released my wrist, allowing me to pull away and off of the bed. I faced him, wary. He was still on his side, looking entirely too enticing.

"Where are we?" I asked, looking around the room instead of at him. It was full of dark, vibrant colors, a very large four-poster bed, and a few other pieces of gorgeously carved furniture.

"This was --is-- a part of my sanctuary." He raised an eyebrow. "Did you think the study was the only room?" he asked, his voice silky.

I ignored the second part. "Ok, but why are we here, instead of in the study?"

"It was easier to stop your fall with a bed, rather than a couch," he replied.

I frowned. "But why did you feel the need to stop it at all?"

"Surely you know," he said, looking at me, "if you die within the Fade, your body perishes as well?"

"Not for me," I replied, shaking my head. "I've died in my dreams, with no effect. And anyway, I wasn't going to die. I was going to fly." I sighed, wistful. "It would have been amazing."

He frowned. "You were going to... fly?" he repeated. He shook his head. "What you said, before I... prevented your fall. Where did that come from?"

I blinked at him. "Huh?"

He closed his eyes, then recited, "It is only in falling that you learn whether you can fly."

"Oh. That," I said.

"Yes. That," he mocked.

I chewed my lip, wondering what to tell him. After a moment I settled on, "A woman that the Dalish call Asha'Bellanar once said it." A partial truth, at least.

His eyes narrowed, but all he said was, "Hmm."

I was growing increasingly uncomfortable under his gaze. I closed my eyes, and tried to shift the Fade, to bring us to somewhere less him. When I opened my eyes again, we were still in his bedroom.

"Why can't I change the Fade?" I asked, confused.

"Because this place is mine. No one can come in or out of this place without my permission, no one can change the Fade while within except me," he said simply. "Who is Asha'Bellanar?" he asked in return.

"No one," I said shortly. Veilfire flashed twice up my arm. "Oh for fuck's sake! Fine! The humans in the Kocari wilds call her Flemeth!" I snapped. "Now let me out."

He stood from the bed, closing in on me so quickly than I didn't see him move.

"Half-truths and evasions," he said, his face scant inches from me. "What aren't you telling me?" His voice was soft, dangerous. "Do not attempt to lie again. You would not enjoy the consequences."

I tried to back away, and found the wall just behind me. He brought his arms up, trapping me. "Why do you resist?" he whispered, his cheek against mine, his lips by my ear.

"Because I'd rather not die," I replied. I could smell him, smoke and heat, the spice of Male.

He nuzzled me, at the tender spot just below my ear.   "Why would answering mean your death?" He lightly licked my neck. I let out a small whimper.

"Because you might decide it's too risky to let me live," I whispered.

He pulled back at that, searching my face. "Tell me," he demanded.

I looked away, closed my eyes, and said, "She carries all that remains of the spirit of Mythal." I waited with bated breath.

"Impossible," he said. He cocked his head to the side, studying me. "But you believe this to be truth." One of his hands settled on my shoulder, the other cupped my chin, pulling my face back towards him. "How came you by this information, da'mis?"

"No," I said, yanking my chin from his grip. "You've had your question, and more than." I put my hand on his chest, tried to push him away. I'd have had better luck against a stone wall. His bare skin was hot beneath my palm.

His fingers wrapped around my wrist, holding my hand in place. His eyes searched mine, his body pressed against me. "Let. Go." I glared up at him, clenching my teeth together. He watched me for another moment, then stepped back. He loosened his grip, and I pulled out of his grasp.

"I do not wish to be your enemy." His gaze was intense. "But the fact that you know those words... did the fadefire tell you them?"

I shook my head. "I knew them long before I came here," I told him. "I'm done answering questions tonight." I raised my chin, trying not to let him see how much my heart was pounding.

After a pause, he nodded. "Perhaps it's best if you go." The room began to blur, and I found myself waking up. The last thing I could see were his piercing blue eyes, and the pain he didn't want to show.

Chapter Text

I only lie when I love you
I only crawl when I hit the ground
You only cry when I love you
I only lie when I make a sound

Go ahead muck about
I got my conscience twisted
Pull your hair
Make me shout
It's just that you insisted
I was good for nothing
Like you were onto something

'I Only Lie When I Love You' by Royal Blood

==========================================

The day after dealing with the renegade templars, we made it to a sprawling farmstead.

"This must belong to Master Dennett," Cassandra observed. "We must talk to him about his horses. Come." She led the way to the biggest house, beside the stables.

A woman saw us approaching, and ducked inside. Moments later, a tall man came out. He vaguely resembled a brick wall in size and stature. We drew to a halt just outside his gate.

"Inquisition, are you?" He nodded to himself. "Best come inside then." He disappeared back through the doorway. I shared a glance with my companions, then shrugged and followed him inside.

It was dimly lit, but cozy and well cared for. Dennett was by the fireplace, working on a piece of leather. He stared. "You're awfully tall for a halla-rider," he commented.

"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked, irritated.

"Nothing," he said, then hesitated. "Well. Just that you don't look like you'd fit on your average halla. You're going to need a taller mount to feel comfortable."

"And can you supply mounts?" I prompted.

He gave me a look. "Are you asking for you, or for the Inquisition?" he asked frankly.

"For the Inquisition," I freely admitted.

He rubbed his head. "Look. I know you cleaned up those mages and templars that were running loose, but my wife and son have both said they've still got concerns." He went back to his leather. "Talk to them. If you can help allay their fears, I'll send the horses on to Haven."

It was a clear dismissal, so we went back outside. The woman we'd seen go inside before was there, watching and waiting.

Once we'd heard her concerns, and their son's, we headed back out. It didn't take long to help them out, and soon enough we had their promise that as soon as workers had watchtowers built, the horses would be on their way.

"Shall we head back to Haven, then?" asked Varric

I nodded. "We'll swing by the crossroads, and pick up the child. It'll be easier going through there anyway." I reasoned. It took us the rest of the afternoon to reach the crossroads village, so we decided to spend one last night.

When we walked into the crossroads, I heard shouting, then something collided with me, holding tight. "You came back!" the boy said, his voice muffled. His face was pressed into my leather armor.

"Of course we did!" I told him. I wrapped an arm around him, held him for a moment. When he stepped back, I pretended I didn't see him scrubbing tears off his eyes. "I gave my word didn't I?" I said with a grin.

He nodded seriously, then grabbed my hand and pulled me along, chattering about all the things he'd helped the soldiers do for the village. I gave an apologetic smile and a helpless shrug to Solas, Cassandra, and Varric before turning my full attention to the boy.

When he had finished explaining everything, I said, "Well, that's all well and good, but it's hard to praise someone when you don't know their name."

He looked at me blankly for a moment, then smacked his forehead. "I forgot I didn't tell you." He paused, watching me closely. "Are you sure you're going to bring me with you?" he asked, worried.

"I gave my word," is all I said.

He nodded, content with that. He stuck his hand out, saying, "I'm Faelyn."

I took his hand, shaking it, and said, "Hello Faelyn, it's nice to meet you." I looked around, saw that it was almost full night. "Since you're such a big man around the camp, why don't you show me where we're going to be sleeping tonight?"

"Oh! It'll be right over here!" He pulled me over to a set of small cabins, each barely big enough to sleep in, but at least they wouldn't leak. Cassandra, Varric, and Solas were at the campfire that nestled between the cabins. "We get to use two of them," Faelyn explained.

I looked over my companions. "Two people per cabin. Not too bad, I guess," I said. "Cassandra, I take it we'll share one, Varric and Solas the other?"

Faelyn fidgeted next to me. "Um... Herald..." he started. When I looked at him, he ducked his head. "Would I, maybe, be able to stay with you?" he asked shyly.

I blinked, surprised. I looked askance at Cassandra, who kept her face carefully blank. "Well, sure, if you don't mind that it'll be cramped with the three of us," I said.

Faelyn looked at Cassandra, then tugged on my sleeve till I leaned over. "Can we have the other man? Solas?" he whispered. "I don't think I could sleep next to a... a templar," his voice dropped at the last bit.

I cleared my throat, embarrassed. "Cassandra, Varric, I'm sorry, would you two be willing to share a cabin tonight?" I tried to show my apology to them both. "And Solas," I felt my face turning red, "if it's ok with you, you're in with Faelyn and me."

Everyone just stared for a moment.

"Well, Seeker," Varric said, "I guess I'll have to put up with your snoring. I'd hoped I'd get a break for a night, but oh well."

Cassandra sputtered."My snoring?" She looked quite comical.  "You're the one that keeps me up at night!"

I couldn't help it, I started laughing. Cassandra looked grumpy, but she acquiesced. "Fine, just for tonight," she said.

We ate, a stew that had ram meat in it, something new to me. It was good to see some of the things we'd been doing had helped.

When I turned in, Faelyn followed on my heels. And when I put down my bedroll, he placed his own right beside it. Solas had come in behind us, and looked bemused at the little space left for him.

After a little finagling, we managed to fit all three bedrolls. It made the floor of the tiny cabin look like one big bed. The thought of being here with Solas, in a room that was all bed, made my cheeks burn. Thankfully, I knew he couldn't try anything with Faelyn between us.

We all of us piled into our bedding. Faelyn took one last look, first at Solas, then at me, before blowing out the lamp.

==========================================

It was a bright night, the moon full and heavy in the sky above. I was naked, worshipping the night in a wooded clearing. When I heard a twig snap behind me, I whirled around, daggers appearing in my hands.

Heavy braids swung around as Solas came into the clearing, watching me. "You seem to enjoy being unclothed," he noted, eyes lingering. I scowled. I was about to conjure a set of clothes from the Fade when he held up a hand, saying, "Don't feel the need to change on my account. Allow me to make you more comfortable." He hummed lightly, and his shirt disappeared, leaving him bare chested in the moonlight, low-slung pants clinging to his hips.

I raised an eyebrow. He shrugged. "You've been nude or nearly so in my presence a handful of times already. I begin to suspect your people have no nudity taboo."

It was my turn to shrug. "They do, but I've never seen much sense to it," I replied.

"Indeed," he said, with a smile tilting his lips.

I ran my hands through my unruly hair, suddenly wanting a drink. The scene around us changed to my favorite bar back home. I came here with Tia all the time. I looked down to find I was wearing my favorite black halter top, a leather piece that hugged my curves, as well as a pair of low-slung leather pants.

I sat at the bar, the familiar sounds of people filling the air even though the only ones here were Solas and myself. Solas gazed around, taking in the surroundings with interest. I gestured next to me, saying, "Relax, have a drink." As he complied, a shot appeared before each of us. I picked mine up, raised it, and drank it down.

"Too bad I can't actually get drunk in the Fade," I muttered. "Wait. Can I?" I asked, squinting at Solas.

"Not unless you try very, very hard," he replied, and drank down his own shot.

I shrugged. "Maybe I'll try one night. Just for shits'n'giggles."

I sighed. "So what do you want to know tonight?" I asked. I figured I'd get the Q and A out of the way.

He studied me a moment. "When we were in Haven," he began slowly, "you said that I of all people would know. What did you mean?"

I paused, thinking, then said, "Veto." I took another shot.

"Hmm." He was thoughtful. "I take it that's another of those that I need to ask the right questions before you'll answer?"

I raised an eyebrow at him. "Is that your question?"

He grimaced and shook his head. "How about..." he paused, his finger tapping lightly on his glass. "What is the question I most need to ask so that you'll answer those questions?"

I stopped, looked at him. "That's cheating," I said.

He just smiled and replied, "Nowhere in your rules did you disallow it."

I flicked my hand at him irritably. "Veto," I growled, getting grumpy. I knew the next question I would have to answer, per our agreement.

He sat back, watching me, studying me. Finally, he asked, "Why do you resist the attraction you feel towards me?"

I glared at him, hating being backed into a corner. I clenched my jaw, but I could already feel the pact working on me, pushing me to answer. I stood, drank another shot down, and snapped, "Because you scare the ever loving shit out of me." I turned and walked away, out of the bar, leaving him looking vaguely stunned.

As soon as I was out the door, I thought about the park that I liked to go to, to clear my head. In reality, it was only a couple miles from the bar, but hey, why not use the nifty Fade enhanced travel while I could.

I stepped forward into the sunshine of a perfect late spring day. My leather outfit changed to a light summer dress, that ended mid-calf.

I sat in the grass, leaning back and basking in the sun with my eyes closed until a shadow broke across my face. I sighed. "I answered your question." I said shortly.

"Yes. With a partial truth," he replied. He squatted down beside me. "Why do I scare you?" he asked softly.

I turned my face away, not opening my eyes. "I'm afraid of who, of what I'll become if I give in," I whispered, hoping he wouldn't pry further.

He was silent a moment. "I would never ask you to change who you are," he said softly. He stood, looking down at me. "I prize who you are too highly." He disappeared, leaving me to my sunshine and thoughts.

==========================================

When I woke, Faelyn was already awake and running around outside. From what I could hear, he was getting our horses ready, bossing around the soldiers as only a ten year old could.

"Helping him satisfies something in you," a voice said. I looked over and found Solas, still laying in his bedroll but watching me.

"If I can help him, the way Tia helped me, then I've already accomplished more than I'd hoped," I whispered in reply. I stretched, working a few kinks out of my shoulders. I could feel Solas' eyes travel down my body, but ignored it.

I left him in the little cabin, walking out into a dreary, cloudy morning. Varric and Cassandra were already up, light bickering and the smell of breakfast mingling in the air.

Faelyn was running past, and skidded to a halt when he saw me. "Herald!" he exclaimed. "Everything's almost ready to go, whenever you want to move out." He puffed his chest out, trying to sound like one of the soldiers.

"Very good," I said. "But you know, Faelyn, you can call me Lashanna," I told him.

His eyes went wide. "But... but you're the Herald of Andraste. Wouldn't that be too, you know, familiar?"

"It might be, if I hadn't told you it was alright," I replied.

He considered that for a moment, then nodded. "Alright... Lashanna," he said shyly. He ducked his head, embarrassed, and ran off again, shouting more instructions to soldiers nearby.

I realized I was grinning. He was surprisingly resilient. Maybe it had to do with this world, where pain and death were so commonplace that either you dealt with it, or you died yourself. I remember, when I was mourning my family, the worst thing anyone could do was offer condolences, or ask if I was ok. Every time, I'd wanted to scream and yell that no, of course I wasn't ok.

Tia had been the only one to push me to do things, anything, that could distract me. And when it didn't work, she held me while I sobbed, not saying a word, just being there.

It was during this time that I had realized how much I enjoyed building and creating, crafting with my hands.

I shook myself from my reverie, and helped myself to the eggs that had been cooked. Where they'd found a living chicken in the middle of a war, I'll never know, but I was grateful all the same.

After drinking a cup of Varric's delicious coffee and polishing off a second helping of eggs, I ducked back into the cabin to pack up the bedrolls, only to find Solas had already done it. He was just finishing up buckling the last strap, and looked up when I came in.

"Oh! Um. Thanks?" I stammered, and pulled my pack from his hands. He sat back on his heels, his hands resting lightly on his thighs.

"Lashanna, I wished to speak to you about Faelyn," he stated matter-of-factly, ignoring my discomfort. "I was able to give him some advice regarding how to avoid anything dangerous in the Fade when we left him here with the soldiers," he began. "However, on our journey back to Haven, I would suggest we both work with him in learning to control his magic."

I paused. "Why both of us?" I asked slowly. "He likes you, and you know much more about magic than I do."

"Perhaps so, but he looks up to you. If he realizes that it means more to you, it will, in turn, mean more to him," Solas responded.

"Hmm. Well, at the very least we can try, though I don't know how much he'll learn in the saddle," I said.

"Indeed. That is why you will not only be present, you will be continuing your own lessons." He gave me a wolfish grin.

"Wait, hold on a sec. My lessons?' I asked incredulously. 'I thought my lessons were done!"

"Within the Fade, yes," he said. "But you require constant practice in order to build your mana, and to hone your reactions. You rely too heavily on both your blades and the fadefire." He stood, graceful, and shouldered his own pack. "Your magic should become an instinctual response."

We left the cabin together, joining Varric and Cassandra with the horses. Faelyn came up, leading his own horse and shifting from foot to foot in nervous energy.

Once everyone was mounted and ready, Faelyn took one last long look at the crossroads village, a peculiar expression on his face.

"You can come back here, if you want," I said quietly, as our horses started down the road. "Once everything's settled down."

He shook his head. "We weren't from here," he said, his tone a far cry from the boisterous boy he'd been all morning. "This wasn't home. This is just where..." he paused, then forced himself to continue, "where they died." He was so quiet.

I nodded. "Well, if there's somewhere that meant 'home' to you, before, then whenever you're ready, I'll make sure you can go back."

"Nah," he said, a small smile on his face. "We never settled down. Not in our nature. Mamae and Papae used to be dalish, like you," he glanced at me, his eyes darting over the marks on my face. "When I was little, it was figured out I'd be a mage, but they already had a First and a Second, and no other clans needed one, so they were going to just leave me behind one day."  He swallowed at the memories. "Mamae wouldn't let them. Said if they'd leave me, they'd have to leave her too. Had a big row about it. I can remember the shouting, and Papae holding me. Then they packed up, and we left."

"They loved you very much, it seems," Solas said quietly.

Faelyn's look turned dark. "And I got them killed," he whispered.

"No,' I said sharply. "This stupid war got them killed." He just looked at me a moment. I sighed. It would take a lot more than a few words to convince him he wasn't to blame.

Varric cut in, "I think that's enough doom and gloom right now. How about teaching us a song we can all sing along with, Sunshine?"

"Alright, Varric," I agreed. I thought a moment, then proceeded to sing 'What a Wonderful World" from the music god, Luis Armstrong.

Once I'd sung it first, I started teaching them the fairly simple lyrics. Varric had the perfect range for the song, but was terrible at figuring out what key to sing in. Cassandra had a beautiful alto voice but didn't remember the words, only the melody. Solas didn't really join in, only lightly humming in his tenor range.

But Faelyn... he sang in that perfect soprano that a boy can only have before puberty. He squeezed his eyes shut and sang with his whole heart, like he really wanted to believe the words.

After singing through with the whole group twice more, everyone was feeling better. Solas cleared his throat, clearly trying to remind me of our earlier discussion. I sighed, and said, "Alright, alright, I got the hint. Faelyn, you and I are going to be learning magic.

He looked apprehensive, his fingers twisting into the reins in his hands. "I'm alright. I mean, Solas showed me how to avoid demons, and that's all I needed right?" he babbled.

I shook my head. "Nope. Because demons are only a small part of being a mage," I told him. "The bigger lesson is how to control your power, so that it doesn't get away from you, or alternatively so that you can use it when you do need it."

He chewed his lip a moment, then nodded with a sigh. "Ok. I guess being able to control it would be a good idea," he said glumly.

Solas took over, teaching him the basics. Once Faelyn was practicing, Solas turned to me. "Do not forget, you have lessons as well," he said with a smile.

"Yeah, I know," I grumped. And so Faelyn and I practiced until we stopped for lunch.

Sliding out of the saddle was a chore, and I was not looking forward to getting back up into it. I was eyeing the horse, wondering if there was anything I could do to not have to ride again, when I noticed Faelyn standing close by. He seemed to be hiding from Cassandra.

I glanced at the Seeker, who had her stony face on, then back at Faelyn. 'You know," I said quietly, "she's not actually a templar." Faelyn looked at me on surprise, and I gestured towards Cassandra. "She's a Seeker. Her order is different from the templars." He didn't look convinced. "The Seekers jobs are to watch the templars, to try to keep them from going too far or abusing their power," I explained.

"Then why didn't she stop them before they killed my parents?" he whispered.

I paused. "It's not an easy answer," I started. "Compared to the templars, there are few Seekers. And then when the templars rebelled, she was trying to stop them from the top of the order, not the bottom." I glanced at Cassandra over the back of my horse. "She's one of the people who founded the Inquisition, to try to help. It's why she's out here, with us. But there's only so much one person can do, sometimes."

Faelyn was quiet for a time, so when the signal went out to saddle up, I said one last thing. "She hates that she can't save everyone. And I know it hurts her, when you avoid her like this." Faelyn squinted up at me. I held my hands up, and said, "I'm not saying you have to be best friends with her. Just give her a chance."

We mounted up and moved on, Faelyn and I continuing our magic practice, Cassandra and Varric talking quietly ahead of us, Solas behind, watching our progress.

By the time we stopped to camp for the night, I was exhausted, and Faelyn looked wilted. It didn't stop him from helping prep dinner, and he even spoke to Cassandra a few times. He was only halfway through dinner when he fell asleep.

I gently pulled his bowl from his hands, and began laying him in his bedroll. Cassandra said, quietly, "Thank you." When I looked at her in confusion, she gave me a small smile and explained, "For speaking on my behalf to him. It was... more difficult than I thought it would be, to be painted as his villain."

I gave her a smile. "I just told him the truth as I saw it," I told her. "Hey, want to come with me for a bath? I could use one," I said, wrinkling my nose.

She laughed, but shook her head. "No, not tonight. But if you go, lay down some wards. There may still be bandits in the area, especially since we worked so hard to drive them away from the hinterlands."

I gave her my assurances, then gathered my things and went looking for a stream or pool deep enough that I could get clean in. I lucked out, and found a perfect little spring.

After I laid down alarm wards, I got undressed, and put my daggers close at hand. Then I took a breath, ignited fadefire on my skin, and sank into the water with a grateful sigh.

I let the heat soak into my skin for a bit before I started scrubbing myself clean. As I did, I found myself thinking of Solas, of how well he did with Faelyn. Of his eyes, lit with pride when his students grasped the essence of his lessons. Of his long fingers, gesturing gracefully as he explained a tricky point.

Of Solas' lips, curved up into a smile, and of his bare chest in moonlight.

My fingers found their way to my clit, and I gently thumbed it, thinking about him, wondering what his fingers would feel like. I was already wet, just from the thought. I closed my eyes, enjoying the sensation.

I stroked up and down, rolling my clit in my fingers, and gasped a little at the sensation. When I pushed my fingers into my entrance, I imagined it was him, and moaned quietly. I used my other hand, keeping up the stimulation on my clit while still fingering in and out of my pussy, faster and faster.

When I came, I found myself crying out Solas' name,  and sank my head beneath the water to stifle it. I held my breath while letting my orgasm wash over me.

When it was over, I popped my head back out of the water. I felt only partially sated, but I knew I needed to get back camp before the others became worried.

I opened my eyes and nearly screamed at the figure that stood by the water. It was Solas.

"Holy gods, Solas!" Embarrassed, I asked, "How long have you been standing there?"

He looked down at me, eyes hooded and filled with heat. "Long enough," he said, his voice husky. He slowly approached the pool, and lifted his tunic up, over his shoulders, letting it drop beside my clothes. He didn't take his breeches off, but I could see his erection straining against the fabric. He slipped into the pool beside me, one hand lightly touching my shoulder, the other coming up to cup my face. He traced my lips with his thumb.

When his hand drew down into the water, lightly tracing a line down from my collarbone, over my stomach, I found I couldn't look away from his eyes. When he reached the spot I had recently had my own hands, he paused. He leaned in, slowly, giving me the chance to back away if I wanted. I tilted my face up to him, and he kissed me.

When his fingers began playing with my clit, I moaned into his mouth. He pulled back, smiling at me. He put his hands on my hips and lifted me, pulling my ass up so I was floating in the water, then shifted so my legs were on his shoulders.

He watched me, gauging my reactions while he played with me, pulling and stroking my clit slowly. My hips bucked, need filling me. I covered my mouth, trying to silence the sounds coming from my throat.

He dipped his head, licked from my pussy up to my clit, tasting me, then sucked my clit into his mouth. My thighs squeezed, pulling him closer. My moans still escaped past my hands.

While lapping at my clit, gently tugging on it with his teeth, he began to tease my entrance with his fingers. I couldn't help it, I whispered "Please!"

He pushed a finger into me slowly, watching my reactions. My hips bucked up, wanting more. He pumped his finger in and out, slowly picking up speed, matching the tempo to his suckling on my clit. He curled his finger up as he went, hitting that sensitive spot I'm never able to reach on my own.

I could feel another orgasm building, as different from the one before as a hurricane was from a snowstorm. I was holding on to my sanity by the skin of my teeth.

He added another finger, pumping into my pussy faster, harder, lightly biting down on my clit at the same time. The combination hurtled me over the edge, and my legs clamped down, my heels digging into his back as I muffled a cry.

When I finally relaxed, he pulled away, letting my hips drift back into the water. He pulled me into the circle of his arms and kissed me. I could taste myself on his tongue.

The aftershocks of the amazing orgasm he'd just given me had my legs shaking, and I idly wondered how I'd make it back to camp, and then wondered if I really wanted to go back right away.

I reached into the water, sliding my hand down over his chest. I lightly flicked his nipple as I went past, and he gave me a sharp inhale in return. He stilled as my hand traveled down and settled on his hard length. I rubbed him through his breeches, and felt his twitch.

When I began untying his laces, his hand found my wrist, and he whispered, "Only if you're sure you want to, ma'da'mis."

I shook his hand off, and continued. When he sprang free from the confines of his breeches, I glided my fingers over the head, reveling in the hiss that escaped him. I continued my fingers down his length, through the short hairs curling around his base, and when I reached the bottom I gently cupped his sack.

"Da'mis," he moaned. I smiled at him, then took a deep breath and ducked my head under the water. It was easy to find his long cock in the dark water, especially since the fadefire still lit my skin. I licked the tip of him, enjoying the taste of him, and his hips bucked. I swirled my tongue around the head, and took him into my mouth for one hard suck before I surfaced.

"Wait," he whispered, then stood out of the water to sit on the edge of the spring. It put his cock at the perfect height for me to continue. I smiled my appreciation, and licked up the length of him. A low moan escaped him, and he laid back, resting on his elbows while he watched me with slitted eyes.

I took the head of his cock into my mouth, swirling my tongue around. At his moan I began to take him deeper, in and out, going a little farther with each pull. His hand twisted into my hair, not pushing but obviously not wanting me to stop.

I hummed around his cock, a long low note that I knew would make his cock vibrate. His hips bucked upwards, and I started bobbing faster, pressing my tongue against him as I went.

I could feel him tightening, getting closer to his release, and lightly pressed his sack, rubbing his balls with my thumb.

"Lashanna!" he cried out, and his cock throbbed, spilling his seed into my mouth. I sucked out every drop, which made him twitch and gasp. I looked up to find him still watching me, and swallowed his entire load. His eyes gleamed, and he pulled his hand out of my hair, fingers trailing along a few errant locks.

I finally let him fall from my lips, giving one last lick to the tip, then rose out of the water, leaning over him to kiss him. He snaked one hand around the back of my neck, deepening the kiss, and rested the other on my hip.

Before it could go any farther than it already had, I pulled away. "Goodnight, Solas," I whispered. I grabbed my things, and slipped into the night to dress before making my way back to camp.

I pretended to be asleep in my bedroll when he came back to camp, but couldn't help but smile when he placed his own by me and brushed my hair off my face.

"Good night, Lashanna," he said softly.

Chapter Text

I felt for sure last night
That once we said goodbye
No one else will know these lonely dreams
No one else will know that part of me
I'm still driving away
And I'm sorry every day
I won't always love these selfish things
I won't always live...
Not stopping...

-'23' by Jimmy Eat World

==========================================

I found myself distracted from my goals, thinking more about Lashanna, ma'da'mis, than I did about the Breach and my kin.

She had learned quickly within the Fade. Her lessons in basic magic were nearly complete. I almost hoped she'd ask me if I would teach her how to use her Song, if only to hear our magic rise up together.

She had a protective streak, a need to help ease the pain of those she met. When, during the fight at the crossroads, I looked over to find her huddled before a templar, her fadefire the only thing keeping his sword from her throat, I nearly panicked. I could not break away from my enemy to go to her aide without leaving him at my back, but I could barely think beyond the need to help her.

Afterwards, she was so pale, in her exhausted sleep. I tried not to worry, telling myself she was in less danger then she had been immediately after the Conclave explosion. The durgen'len laughed at me, calling me a mother hen.

The child wouldn't speak, but when we tried to lead him from the cabin where ma'da'mis was resting, he only shook his head and sat on the bedroll across from her, keeping watch. I could see he was in pain. Not from a physical injury, but an emotional pain that was twin to my own, the pain that accompanied the loss of one's entire family. I could no more walk away from him than I could my own shadow.

Later, when she had awoken, she defended him as fiercely as a mother wolf, refusing to back down. I was glad I offered a solution when she looked at me with thanks in her eyes and a smile on her lips.

The following weeks I swallowed my curiosity, didn't push for the answers to the questions I was becoming desperate to ask.

She grew into herself in that time. She never gave up the hope that she might save lives, even putting herself into danger attempting to talk to those who would have killed her without a second thought.

And the bitterness in her voice and eyes, when she said my only interest in her was for her mark and her partnership with the fadefire... it felt like a punch in the gut that she thought so little of me.

When we apologized to each other, as we lay beneath the stars... I showed her a piece of myself, of my past, even knowing she wouldn't understand what it meant to me, and studied the planes of her face, lit only by starlight.

Her wish that night created an echo within me, a desire that I could walk away from my path, if it meant she would walk beside me. But that can never happen.

She nearly took the divine form, in her dreams, and likely would have had I not interfered. I wonder if she even knows what she nearly accomplished. The others would have struck her down, had they witnessed it.

Her words, an echo of a conversation with my sister from so long ago... is it possible that she lingers in this world? How could it be that I could miss sensing her, or she me? Ma'da'mis was stubborn, refusing to divulge how she could possibly know the circumstances of Mythal's survival. If I wished to hear her answers, I'd have to tread carefully.

For someone who was so terrible at lying, she handled her companions with a masterful hand, easing some of Faelyn's fears of the Seeker and smoothing some of the jagged edges between them.

But it was when I followed her, our first night on the road back to Haven, that I truly began to lose myself to her.

I slipped between her wards with the ease of a predator through the trees, and found her as she gasped out lightly. I could see her hands beneath the water, her skin glowing with fadefire as she pleasured herself. I could feel myself growing hard, heavy with need as I watched her.

As she climaxed, she slipped under the water, and I could have sworn I heard my name on her lips before the spring swallowed her sounds. Then she surfaced and saw me, and I couldn't keep myself from going to her.

I made sure to move slowly, giving her plenty of time to say no, to turn away. But she didn't, she allowed me to pleasure her, to bring climax to her again. I held her, content with having been able to give her release. But then she turned the tables.

When her hot, wet mouth closed on me in the comparatively cool water, I almost climaxed right there. It took all my will to hold myself back. She began to hum, unknowingly bringing her magic out. Tendrils of it stroked against mine, heightening the sensations moving through me.

She took her time, enjoying herself as she brought me to my release, then teasing me by sucking up every drop and swallowing my seed.

I could taste myself on her lips, was more than willing to continue exploring her and learn her sounds, but she pulled away with a whispered goodnight. My name sounded like a prayer on her lips.

She wasn't asleep, when I made it back to camp, though she feigned it well. She had a glow to her, entirely different from the one fadefire had given her.

This glow, she recieved from me.

And I was determined that I would give it to her again, soon.

Chapter Text

I count the falling tears
They fall before my eyes
Seems like a thousand years
since we broke the ties

-"Nobody's Fool" by Cinderella

==========================================

The next few days, I made sure to not wander off where Solas would be able to get me alone. I wasn't ashamed, didn't regret what we'd done, but I also wasn't sure I wanted to take it any farther.

We made it back into Haven the fourth day, and I was silently rejoicing at the thought of not being in a saddle for a few days. Faelyn was looking around, curious but somewhat subdued. I stopped him as we walked, pulled him to the side.

"Alright," I started. "You've got a few choices, here. First, we could find you a family, with kids, for you to live with. Second, we could ask a few of the mages that have trickled in to care for you, since they'd be able to teach you." Faelyn looked down at his well worn shoes, a frown on his face.

"Or, your third option," I said, gently lifting his face towards me, "we could set a bunk up in my cabin, and you can stay there with me. I don't know how often I'll be here, but I'll make sure that you get what you need."

He looked at me, his eyes lighting up. "Could I keep traveling with you?" he asked hopefully.

I paused, thinking hard. "I don't think that's a good idea, Faelyn." His eyes dimmed, so I continued. "I'm going to be traveling a lot, to very dangerous places. More dangerous than the crossroads were."

He looked ready to object, so I held out my marked hand. "You know that people have been calling me the Herald of Andraste," I wrinkled my nose at the title, "and while I may not agree, or like it, I do still have this mark. Do you know what that means?" I asked. He shook his head slowly. "This is the only way we've found to close the rifts, to stop the demons from coming in to this world. I'm the only one that can, which means I have a responsibility to do as much as I can."

Understanding bloomed on his face. "You have to, because if you don't, and the rifts never close, more people could be hurt," he said quietly. He sighed, nodding. "I get it. But, if there's an area that won't be as dangerous, can I come with you?"

"I'll ask the leaders of the Inquisition. Then it's up to whether we all think the risk will be minimal enough that you can join me."

"Ok. Then that's what I want. I don't want to go to strangers. I'll stay with you," he said decisively.

I grinned at him. "I was hoping you'd say that. I'll get the extra bunk request set up, but we've got to go talk to the top dogs before that. Coming along?" I offered. He agreed eagerly.

We caught up with the rest of the group as they entered the Chantry. When we entered the room at the end, that they were using as a war room, the advisors seemed very focused, discussing matters over the map. At least till they noticed that a child had entered the room with us.

Josephine noticed first, a soft "oh!" escaping her, which pulled Leliana's attention up. She paused mid-sentence, her shrewd eyes narrowing on us. Cullen took the longest to notice, still talking on.

When Cassandra cleared her throat, Cullen looked up, saying, "Good, you've retur-" and froze when he noticed Faelyn next to me. He cleared his throat, then asked, "Herald? Who's this, then?" with his eyes trained on me.

I flushed a little under his intense gaze, saying, "This is Faelyn. He and his family were refugees in the hinterlands when they were killed." Leliana looked like she was going to say something, but I continued before she could. "When we reached the crossroads, the mages and templars were fighting. A templar was trying to kill him, so I stepped in."

"She saved me!' Faelyn piped up. Every eye in the room moved to him, and he shrank a little under the attention. I put my arm around his shoulders, giving him my support. "Uhmm, I mean, the Herald was kind enough to take me in," he said carefully.

When he glanced up at me, I nodded to him with an encouraging smile. He took a deep breath, and continued, "I'm going to stay with her. And if there's places that are not as dangerous, I want to travel with her, too," he finished.

The three advisors glanced at each other, obviously at a bit of a loss. Leliana spoke up first. "It will be dangerous, traveling with the Herald. If you want to stay with her in her cabin, well, we've already guards to keep watch here in Haven. But I would recommend you stay here, preferably under the care of one of the other refugee families that have come in."

Solas chimed in with, "He is a fledgling mage. I've already begun lessons with him, but I would say a refugee family would likely not be best to watch over him."

Cassandra also gave her input. "He was of great help during our journey back to Haven. He is no burden, and is welcome whenever he travels with us."

"He's a good kid, and he wants to stay with Lashanna. I say let him," Varric put in.

After a moment, Leliana raised her hands in surrender. Josephine said, "I'll arrange with the quartermaster to have an additional bed put in your cabin, Herald."

"If that's settled, may we return to the matters at hand?" asked Cullen, running his hand over the back of his neck uncomfortably.

"Mother Giselle has given us her list of contacts within Val Royeaux, but you will have to travel to the city to meet with them," Josephine said.

"And ignore the danger to the Herald?" Leliana interrupted.

I shrugged. "It's not like I haven't been in danger since I woke up here, so..." I trailed off. Cullen looked very unhappy with the idea.

"I will go with her," Cassandra said. "Our work in the hinterlands should have gained us the influence to call the clerics together to meet. Do it."

I sighed. "How long will it take to get there?" I asked.

"Two weeks, give or take weather and bandits," Cullen replied.

I groaned. "I was looking forward to not being in a saddle for a while," I muttered.

"Take a few days. I'm sure there are things here in Haven you'll wish to see to," Cullen said.

"But not too long. We need you to speak to the Chantry leaders," Josephine cautioned. "Say, perhaps, the day after tomorrow?"

"Can I go?" asked Faelyn. I looked at the advisors.

"The city itself should be safe enough," Josephine murmured. Leliana kept her face blank.

Cullen sighed. "Alright. Alright," he muttered.

The meeting was dismissed. "A word, Herald," Leliana called to me. Faelyn paused, but I gestured he should head out with the others.

When we were alone, Leliana fixed me with a glare. "I have looked into your history," she stated.

I blinked. "And...?" I asked.

"You do not exist," she said flatly. "Every dalish clan my agents have approached have said the same thing. There are no missing mages matching your name and description from any clan within a distance to have traveled to the Conclave."

I shrugged, trying to be nonchalant. "I told you I don't remember. It was Solas who first said I was Dalish, and everyone else just sort of went along with it."

Her glare did not falter. "I will be watching you. I do not have Cassandra's faith in your good intentions," she said, before gliding from the room.

I let out a heavy sigh. It was going to take a lot more to convince her that I was no threat to the Inquisition.

============================================

I showed Faelyn the cabin I slept in, and there was already someone there to put in the new bed. After we helped set it up, we stopped by Flissa's tavern. She greeted us enthusiastically. "I'd heard you were back" she said. "I made my beef stew just for you, since you liked it so much, Herald."

I grinned. "Flissa, you're a godsend. Is there enough for Faelyn here?"

"Of course!" she exclaimed. "Whenever you're feeling hungry, don't hesitate. Faelyn, was it? I'm Flissa." She brought over two bowls, and I dug in cheerfully.

"Flissa is the best cook," I told Faelyn around a mouthful of stew, to which he nodded his agreement.

I finished quickly, and since he was still eating I told him to take his time. I had a few people to see.

My first stop was to go back to the Chantry, to speak to Josephine. She was in her office, speaking to a snobbish noble, who she quickly put in his place.

Once he was gone, I knocked on her door, entering when I heard the muffled "Come in!"

"Hello again, Ambassador!" I made an effort to be cheerful.

"Ah, Mistress ne'Drak, good. I had some questions," she waved me to a seat. When I nervously sat, she steepled her fingers before her on the desk. "Everyone is curious to know about the Herald of Andraste. What can you tell me about where you come from?" She sounded so nice, but I was sure she was trying to fish for information for Leliana.

"Not a thing, I'm afraid," I told her. "I still don't know how I came to be here, or why I was in that rift." I tried to keep to evasive truths, rather than outright lies.

"That is unfortunate," she said. "It would be easier if you did tell us something, anything, that might give people a reason to sympathize with you." I hesitated. She tilted her head. "Is there anything you'd like to give me for that?"

I thought hard, wondering if giving a sob story would help. "All I can tell you,' I said slowly, "is that my entire family died, when I was fifteen." I could feel my jaw clench, the grief still there even if I didn't want to acknowledge it

"I'm sorry, Herald," she murmured, looking down at her desk. Her hands relaxed, clasped together. "It must be difficult, to face the world with no family to go back to." She looked back up to me. "Is that why you wish to take care of that boy, Faelyn?"

"Partly," I agreed. "Beyond my own history, he simply has nowhere else to go, and his magic makes him a target for any templar with a grudge." I shrugged. "It was the only thing I could do, and still be comfortable in my own skin."

"Indeed." She seemed disinclined to press for further answers, which I was grateful for. "Was there anything else I could do for you, Herald?" she asked, all business once again.

"Besides calling me Lashanna?" I laughed. "Yes. I was wondering if there was anything I could do to earn some coin, side jobs or something that I can do whenever I'm in Haven."

Josephine looked startled. "If you've need for coin, I can arrange for a stipend, say, weekly?"

"Actually, if it's ok, anything that you'd give me, could you instead use to pay Flissa, and care for Faelyn?" I asked. Josephine's eyebrows went up in surprise. "Flissa won't let me do anything to pay her, but she's feeding me and now Faelyn, so I want to make sure it's not a burden to do so." Josephine blinked. "And whenever I have to leave, and Faelyn has to stay here, he's going to need some taking care of."

She took a breath, obviously taken aback. "Of course," she said after a moment. "I'll make sure it's taken care of."

"You're a treasure, Lady Ambassador, thank you," I said with a grin, standing up.

She smiled back. "It's no trouble, but thank you. It is your hard work that is getting this Inquisition anywhere."

I waved, and headed out to my next destination, Harritt's forge. He was all smiles, presenting my new armor and blades with a flourish.

I'd designed a leather armor coat in the style of the highwayman's coat, long enough to brush the ground, but split up the front and back to make it easier to ride and fight. There were straps on the inside to keep each half attached to the leg, to prevent them from flapping wildly. I'd left off the traditional high collar, opting instead for a peacoat style opening in the front. Harritt had incorporated light chainmail into the torso, and small interlocking plates on the arms, all cleverly hidden within the leather itself. He'd dyed it mostly black, but left white accents and trim, and lined it with a thin fur to keep the heat in. I fell in love as soon as I saw it. He even made breeches with light armor plates on the thighs and shins, to go with the coat.

The daggers were works of art, as long as my forearm, and curved slightly so if I held them in a reverse grip, they'd follow the line of my arm down perfectly. They were a slightly bluish metal, which, Harritt explained, the colour came from the Fade-touched materials. There were four slots on each, places to install runestones. "Don't worry about that now, get used to them as they are before you start adding any extra oomph to them," Harritt advised. Then he showed me the slits he built into the armor coat, so that the daggers could be sheathed to my legs without making it difficult to get them out.

"This is amazing!" I knew I was gushing, but everything was gorgeous. I took advantage of his small cabin attached to the forge, changing into the new coat and breeches immediately. They fit like a second skin.

Harritt wasn't one to like too much praise, but I couldn't help giving him a quick hug. He was embarrassed, but pride lit his face. "Glad you like them,  Herald. Hope they keep you safe out there," he said gruffly.

With a grin and a wave, I went to my last stop, revelling in the feel of my coat as I went. It wasn't until I was in front of Cullen that I noticed the looks of awe and appreciation following me.

"Herald!" He rubbed his neck, clearing his throat. "That armor is... well made," he said awkwardly, glancing down my form.

"Thanks, Commander," I tried to brush away the embarrassment I felt at being the center of attention again, but I knew a blush was staining my cheeks.

"To what do I owe this visit," he asked politely.

"Well, Harritt made me a new pair of daggers to go with this coat," I explained. "I was hoping you could help train me in using them."

"Let's see what you've got to work with first," he hedged.

After examining the blades, then running me through a few short sparring sessions, he began to show me what I was doing wrong, what I should try instead, and set me to practice drills with them, over and over.

"You should ask Leliana to teach you more advanced techniques," he suggested.

I grimaced. "She doesn't like me much," I muttered.

"She's like that with most people. The surprise is that she let you know she doesn't like you," he explained as he adjusted my stance. "She is an accomplished player of the Orlesian pastime, the Great Game as she calls it. If she wanted you to believe she was your best friend, she would be able, with no trouble."

I promised to practice with the blades, and bid him farewell. I hadn't realized how long it had taken me to run all these 'little errands' so when I got back to Flissa's, Faelyn was nowhere to be seen.

Luckily, she saw me and explained that Solas had come by and taken Faelyn to continue their lessons. "He said they'd be outside the walls, to 'minimize damage' as he put it." Flissa giggled. "He's got a funny way about him, that apostate."

I thanked her and headed out, nervous for some reason. I refused to think that I was nervous about Solas, so I told myself it was because it was getting dark.

I'd barely left the gate when I saw the two trudging up, wet from snow. Faelyn was grinning, looking exhilarated, Solas, decidedly less so.

"Lashanna!" Faelyn called, and ran the last distance. "Solas had me working on my control! And then the fire got away from me a bit," he grimaced at that, "but all it did was hit the tree we were under, and then all the snow came down and it felt like an avalanche!" I raised an eyebrow at Solas, who simply shrugged. Faelyn kept up his excited ramble, and I reached out my arm and wrapped it around his shoulders, turning to walk back through the gates with him under my arm, with Solas bringing up the rear.

It wasn't far from the gate to the cabin. As we were about to enter, Solas laid a hand on my arm. I nodded and sent Faelyn in ahead of me.

"What's up?" I asked. I am not nervous, I told myself.

Solas stepped in closer, keeping his voice low. "Faelyn's lessons progress well. He is a capable and willing student." He fixed me with a slightly disgruntled look. "You, however, have been avoiding your lessons." He was quiet a moment, then continued, "I have wondered if it is the lessons you avoid, or the teacher?"

I drew in a deep breath. "A little of column A, a little of column B," I admitted.

He inclined his head, his eyes looking down, his expression distant. "Were you not pleased, that night?" he murmured.

"What?" I exclaimed, then looked to see if anyone had heard. "What are you talking about? That night was... you were amazing," I said quietly, trying not to draw attention.

"But...?" he pressed.

I let out a sigh. "But it's only been a few weeks since I woke up here. I'm still not sure why I'm here, or how it happened," I tried to explain. "There's been so much happening, and this... thing between you and me... it feels like it's moving so fast." Not to mention you're the Dread Wolf, bent on ripping down the Veil and killing thousands in the process, I thought.

He studied my face. "Another half-truth," he murmured. "When will you trust me with your secrets?"

It was a rhetorical question, but I answered anyway. "When you trust me with yours, Solas."

He blinked at that, surprised, perhaps, that I knew he was hiding anything. Then he inclined his head. "Point made, da'mis," he said, and turned away.

I stopped him, a hand on his arm. He looked at me, surprised. "Did you maybe want to come in, warm up a little?" I offered clumsily.

"I believe I would, thank you," he replied after a moment.

He followed me in, and I got the fire going- with a bit of help from Faelyn. I found a small chest by the foot of his bed, filled with clothes for him. While not new, they were in much better condition than what he had.

I took off my new coat, planning on hanging it by the fire. It hadn't gotten very wet, but I felt like babying it. Solas stopped me, saying "Hold, there's a better way," and showed both Faelyn and myself how to use a small glyph to dry and maintain cloth and armor. "Here, use this for practice," he said and pulled his own shirt over his head.

I gulped. Faelyn happily took the shirt and started to practice the glyph, but I was distracted with trying not to stare at Solas' bare chest. I swear I could see a smile ghost its way over his face while he helped Faelyn.

"Ok. Time for bed. Today was busy, tomorrow will no doubt be doubly so," I said briskly, once all of our clothes were clean and dry.

Faelyn reluctantly climbed in to his bunk. "Lashanna?" he asked hesitantly.

"Yep?"

"I'm not a baby or anything," he started, "but... do you maybe know any bedtime songs?" He seemed hopeful.

I glanced at Solas, who offered no help whatsoever. "I know a few," I says cautiously. "I may even know a couple Dalish songs."

Faelyn's face perked up at that, and Solas shifted almost imperceptibly.

"Could you sing one to me?" Faelyn asked.

I nodded, smoothing his blankets down a moment before beginning.

Elgara vallas, da'len
Melava somniar
Mala tara aravas
Ara ma'desen melar

Iras ma ghilas, da'len
Ara ma'nedan ashir
Dirthara lothlenen'as
Bal emma mala dir

Tel'enfanim, da'len
Irassal ma ghilas
Ma garas mir renan
Ara ma'athlan vhenas
Ara ma'athlan vhenas

I let the last note fade away. Faelyn wasn't asleep, but he smiled and snuggled into his blankets, murmuring a "thank you."

Solas slipped his shirt back over his head and headed towards the door. I followed him out, shivering a little in the cold, with only the thin shirt from under my armor to protect me.

"I was unaware you knew that lullaby," Solas said quietly.

I shrugged, saying, "I've always liked it," through my chattering teeth. Solas looked bemused, and stepped close, settling his arms around me and drawing me close. I stiffened a little, but couldn't deny it felt wonderful, and slowly relaxed into him.

After a moment, he pulled back, tilted my head back with his fingers, and gave me a long, slow kiss. Not a demanding kiss, not an expecting anything sort of kiss. He whispered, "On nydha, da'mis," against my lips, before slipping away through the night.

I stood there, shivering at the door, for a few moments before going back inside.

Faelyn was awake, laying on his side watching the door. "Are you going to get married?" he asked sleepily.

I blinked, surprised. "Ummm, what?"

"You and Solas," he clarified.

"We're not together." I finally decided on.

"You make each other happy," Faelyn said. "I think..." he swallowed. "I think Mamae and Papae would be happy, if you two became my new parents."

I sat heavily by the head of his bed. "Faelyn... I'm not trying to replace your parents," I told him.  He looked down, tracing patterns into his bed. "I wouldn't mind being a big sister though," I offered.

He looked up at me, smiling, and shyly said, "I'd like that."

I brushed a lock of hair off his forehead, leaned over to plant a light kiss, and whispered, "Good night, little brother."

He sighed, closed his eyes, and murmured, "On nydha, asa'ma'lin." He was fast asleep in minutes.

I followed suit, getting into bed, though it took me much longer to fall asleep. I kept thinking about families. I hoped that, wherever Mike was, he approved of me adopting Faelyn. Mom and Dad had always wanted more kids, though it had been very hard for Mom to get pregnant.

I fell asleep thinking they'd have welcomed Faelyn in with open arms, had they lived and been in the same world.

==========================================

I stood on the beach, ankle deep in the surf, in my bikini and an asymmetrical beach skirt. I loved the contrast of the heat of the sun from the cold of the water.

I was about to head deeper into the water when I heard Solas over the sounds of the waves breaking. "Da'mis, you must love this place to come back here so often."

I turned towards him, to find he was kneeling only feet behind me, running his hands through the waves as they rushed over his knees, bare chest bright in the sunlight.

"I grew up just a few hours away from here," I replied absently. "Must you always have your shirt off around me?" I asked irritably. "Never mind, that's not my question," I hastily added.

He grinned up at me. "Well then, da'mis, what did you want to ask me tonight?"

I walked over, and sat next to him in the surf, enjoying the feel of the waves against my skin. After a moment of thought, I said, "You want me to continue to learn magic." I looked at him for confirmation. He nodded at me. "Well... can you teach me how to use that singing magic you talked about before?"

He was quiet a while, watching the horizon. "What makes you think I know how to use the Song?" he asked finally.

I shrugged. "Because you've hummed before changing something in the Fade," I reasoned. "Seemed logical that you were using the same thing."

He glanced sharply at me. "And if I can't teach you?"

"Can't, or won't?" I shot back.

He gave a light sigh. "I'll teach you what I can," he finally said. "It would be better while you are awake. Since you have such a deep connection to the Fade, it may be difficult to tell if your Song is effective while here."

I grinned. "In the morning, then?" I pressed.

He nodded. "I will take you to the same clearing I took Faelyn this evening," he agreed.

"Perfect!" I cheered, a grin spreading on my face.

"I suppose we could choose music that you will practice with," Solas mused.

My eyes widened. "Does the song being sung affect the way the magic works?" I asked.

"Does music have the ability to change how people feel?" he countered. "Certain types of songs will be more useful to create certain effects."

"Ok... so for example?" I prompted.

He considered for a moment. "That song you sang, on the first day we traveled to the hinterlands. Something that is as much story as it is song, was often used to create images, emotions, and sounds that filled out the story that the song told." He played his fingers over the sand absently, watching the receding waves pull the sand away. "But a wordless song, that is sung only with notes, can be interpreted in many ways, is more versatile for high level Songs, and can affect more of the world." He picked up a small shell, held it up to examine. "The truly gifted singers could take any Song, and use it to do whatever they wished, regardless of the words and emotions, or lack thereof."

I thought about the music I knew, thought about the affects they might be able to have.

"What about when you have multiple Singers?" I asked. "Can they sing the same Song at the same time but each do something different with it?"

"They could, but the stronger Singer would usually lead the song, whether intentionally or not," he explained. "Think of it like a river. The strongest singer within a song is the path of least resistance for the magic." He stood, then held his hand out to me. I put my hand in his, letting him pull me to my feet. He didn't drop my hand, instead holding onto it and rubbing his thumb across my knuckles.

"The easiest way to teach you how to use your Song is actually through singing together," he said, glancing at my face. "The teacher would lead the song, and the pupil would feel the threads of the magic, learning how they were put together. It was considered very... personal, to teach one on one in such a fashion."

I took a deep breath, watched his face closely, then carefully asked, "Would you be willing to teach me in that way?"

A smile broke over his face. "I had hoped you would ask that of me, ma'da'mis." He twined his fingers through mine. "It would be my pleasure to teach you in this way."

"Well then. I guess we'd better pick a song to learn with," I said,  smiling back.

"Indeed. It might be easier for me to learn one of yours, rather than you learn mine," he said. "I have an excellent memory, so it won't take much to teach me the notes.

"Ok," I said, thinking over my music repertoire furiously. "With words or not?" I asked.

"How about one of each, so that you may learn the differences between them," he suggested. "The song about the two lovers seemed easy enough, so that will do nicely for that style of song." He pulled me out of the surf. "Would you sing it, teach me the words?" he asked.

The sounds of the lute's opening notes filled the air. Solas looked surprised, then pleased. "That will make things very easy," he murmured.

When the singing started,  he hummed along with it, eyes closed, learning the melody first. When it was over, he opened them, and asked, "Can you play it again? But this time, sing it yourself?" I nodded. Two more renditions, and Solas began to sing along. He sang each note perfectly, our voices blending in the air. I could see a shimmer around him, like the waves of heat rising from asphalt in the summer.

When we finished singing, I let the sounds of the lute fade away. Solas opened his eyes again with a satisfied sigh. "It has been so long since I joined my voice with anyone," he murmured. "That was wonderful."

"That was pretty nice," I agreed with a smile.

"'Pretty nice?'" he repeated, an eyebrow rising. "Pray tell, what else has ever exceeded the joy of a Song, sung with a partner in perfect harmony?"

"I can think of a few things," I replied, a grin spreading on my face. I stepped closer, trailed my fingers up his chest before resting my hand over his heart. I let my other hand alight on his hip, and I lifted my face to kiss him, lightly at first, then deepening it.

Desire sparked in his eyes, but he grabbed my hands. Regret laced his words as he said, "As much as it would please me to, da'mis, I believe that at this moment, you're feeling the effects of singing a love song in duet, when magic is flowing through the words." He stepped back, started to turn away. But I grabbed his arm, pulling him back and capturing his mouth in another kiss.

A growl came from his throat, and he kissed me back, hard, pulling me against him. I could feel his hard length against the bare skin of my belly, only his breeches between me and him.

He broke the kiss, breathing hard, and rested his forehead against mine. "This is not a good idea, da'mis," he warned, his voice husky.

"Why not?" I purred, rubbing myself against him. My hands wandered, trailing up his sides, then around to his back under his braids. I kissed him again, pressing as much of myself against him as I could. His arms found their way around me, encircling me. I took his bottom lip in between my teeth, gently biting down and pulling.

He moaned,  then pulled away again, his hands going to my shoulders, holding me apart from him. "Da'mis, please. Listen to me. You must think of another song, any song, so long as it isn't a love song," he said. I could hear desperation creeping into his voice.

I looked up at him, confused. "Don't you want me?" I asked.

He closed his eyes, whispering, "More than you realize, da'mis. But not like this, when you're under the influence of magic."

A pang of desolation rang through me, and I remembered the music that plays, the third and final time Solas leaves a romanced Lavellan. The high desperate violin and the deep, despondent cello began their conversation of loss.

By the time the song ended, I was huddled on the sand. My knees were pulled up to my chest, arms wrapped around them. Solas sat crosslegged a few feet away, a forlorn expression on his face.

"Ir abelas, da'mis," he said when the last note faded. "I did not anticipate that you would have such a strong reaction to singing that song in the Fade."

I just looked at him. All I could think was that, if nothing changed, then that ending would be my pain, not a nameless character's.

I cleared my throat, then said, "Thank you. For stopping me before I..." I couldn't finish. I looked away, over the water.

He was silent for a time, letting me regain some of my equanimity. After a while, he asked, quietly, "The second song, it was... beautiful. And so sad. I felt..." he stopped. I glanced at him. He was watching me closely. "That song means something very personal to you, doesn't it?"

I opened my mouth to reply, but wasn't sure what to say, so I just nodded, looking away again.

"Would it be wrong of me to ask what that something is?"

I considered for a moment, shifted my legs down into a crosslegged mirror of his. "I told you about that other story, with the misguided character who means well?" I started, bringing my eyes back to his. He nodded. "At the end of the story, he leaves his lover. She pleads with him to stay, but he refuses because of a duty he believes only he can fulfill. He believes it will kill him." That was as close as I could get to warning him, without telling him everything.

Understanding filled his face. "And I made you think of that, when I pulled away from you." He let out a long breath. "I see." He fell silent, and I went back to watching the waves.

"The first song-- what was it called?" he asked.

"The Wolven Storm," I supplied quietly.

He paused at that. "The Wolven Storm," he repeated to himself, before continuing in a louder tone. "It is a song about love, desire, and longing. If I may, there is no small amount of at least the second of these between us." He looked down, his thumb rubbing sand caught on his breeches. "It affected us both, but you, having no experience countering it, fell to it entirely." He looked back at me. "I did not wish to take advantage of it. If you decide you desire me, I would that your mind be clear, and your choice your own."

I nodded, silent, unsure of how to respond.

He stood, took one step towards me...

And was hurled back in a wave of sapphire flame. Solas landed about fifteen feet away on his back, but was on his feet in a flash, balanced on the balls of his feet, hands up, ready for a fight.

The form of the fadefire stood between Solas and me, one hand on her hip, the other raised, palm out. I scrambled to my feet behind her.

"What did you do to her?" The fadefire raged at him. At that, Solas stopped and dropped his hands to his sides, shame filling his face. "I felt her pain from across the Fade! What did you do?"

I placed a hand on the fadefire's shoulder. "It wasn't his fault," I told her. Solas opened his mouth to object, so I amended with, "or it was both our faults in equal measure." He closed his mouth, lips pursed.

"That doesn't change the fact that he hurt you!" she replied hotly, still glaring at Solas.

I shook my head. "It was a misunderstanding," I tried to explain. "I was teaching him a song, so that he could teach me how to Sing my magic." Her head whipped towards me, her glare softening. "It had an... unforeseen reaction on me," I found myself blushing. "He had to stop me from being stupid," I finished. "In the state I was in, it caused me to think about... other things. It worked to stop me, but..." I shrugged.

"It's almost refreshing to see you hedge your answers to someone else, da'mis," he said, amused, "but do not do so on my account." I blinked at him in surprise. He then explained, in detail, what had happened. My face was burning in mortification by the time he was done.

The fadefire was quiet while he spoke, eyeing him. When he was finished, she sighed, crossed her arms and studied the ground. "In that case, thank you for helping her," she said quietly. She glanced at me. "You should beware of strange magic, especially while within the Fade," she said gently. "If you wish to learn any other old, obscure things, please call to me for help." Then she sent a glare to Solas. "And you, old Wolf, you should know better," she said crossly.

An irritated look flitted across his face. 'I will endeavor to do better in the future," he said stiffly.

"Don't you always," the fadefire muttered to herself. I found myself giggling a little at the exchange. When she heard me, the fadefire turned, a smile lifting her face. "That's better," she said in satisfaction. "It's almost daylight," she said, taking my hand. "You might wish to wake up now." She passed her hand over my eyes,  and when I opened them...

I was looking up, at the sloped ceiling of the cabin, the comforting sound of Faelyn's even breathing nearby.

Chapter Text

Come into my life
Regress into a dream
We will hide
And build a new reality

- 'Hoodoo' by Muse

============================================

I laid in bed a few minutes, but a light knock on the door pulled me out into the cool air filling the cabin.

When I opened the door, freezing air hit me, and I wrapped my arms around myself to try to stay warm.

"Herald!" It was Cullen.

"Good morning, Commander," I said, teeth chattering a little.

"Good morning. I..." he stopped, blinked at me a moment, and blushed a little. "I recalled your wish to practice with your daggers, and wanted to offer time to practice with you this morning," he said.

"Oh!" I was surprised. "That's a wonderful idea," I started. A smile started to spread across Cullen's face. "But I've already agreed to join Solas for some magic lessons this morning," I finished. His face fell a little, and I felt like I'd just kicked a puppy. "But I could join you afterwards, if you're still free?" I offered.

A small smile tilted his lips. "Of course, Herald," he said, back to being polite. "I'll see you when you're finished with Solas, then." He gave a slight bow, and left. I closed the door, my brow furrowed. What was that about? I wondered.

I stirred the remains of the fire, adding a couple small pieces to help warm the room up a little. Faelyn stirred, stretching himself out from under the blankets he was huddled under.

"Morning, Lashanna," he said around a yawn.

"Morning, Faelyn," I replied, an answering yawn cracking my own jaw. "Want to get some breakfast over at Flissa's?" I asked. He nodded eagerly, so we both suited up for the cold. He found a nice, thick, quilted jacket in the chest of clothes that he put on, and I slipped back into my wonderful new armor coat.

I squinted a bit in the morning light, when we exited the cabin. I'd gotten more accustomed to the early wake ups, but I'd never be a true morning person.

Flissa took one look at the pair of us, and immediately scooped up two bowls of... something. It looked a bit like sausage gravy. She also brought a mug of coffee.

When I began to thank her profusely, she waved away the gratitude. "Varric told me you can't function without your morning brew," she explained. "So he brought me some supplies. Now I can serve coffee to everyone! Though no one else drinks as much as you manage!" she said with a laugh.

Solas walked in, and I suddenly had a hard time swallowing my food. I could feel my cheeks burning, I was still so embarrassed by my behavior in the Fade. He sat next to me, so close our thighs were nearly touching.

"On dhea, Solas!" chirped Faelyn. "Are we going to practice magic this morning?" he asked eagerly.

"On dhea, Faelyn. Not this morning, no," Solas replied. "I must practice with Lashanna. But perhaps when we've finished, you and I can continue your lessons?"

"Ok," Faelyn agreed readily.

I pushed my half finished bowl towards Faelyn. "Here, I'm not that hungry this morning," I told him. "Would you like the rest of it?" I offered.

His face lit up. "Sure!" He grabbed the bowl and dug in.

I drained my coffee, then stood and gave the mug back to Flissa with another thanks.

When I turned around, Solas was right there, and I bit back a curse. He was offering his arm with a small smile on his lips.

I pursed my lips, but took the offered arm and let him lead me out. Varric passed us on our way to the gate, and I quickly took the opportunity to ask him to keep an eye on Faelyn while we were gone, to which he agreed. "He's got a good head on his shoulders," Varric said by way of explanation.

Once we were out of the gates and headed towards the clearing, I pulled my arm from Solas'. "Listen, I'm so sorry about last night," I started.

"Da'mis, do not be," he interrupted. "The fault was mine. I should have been more aware of the effect it would have on you." He took my hand. "However, I did speak with your... friend, and I believe we found a solution."

I raised an eyebrow. "A solution...?"

"If, while we Sing together, you also hold the fadefire in your blood, it would render you immune to the emotional affects of the Song," he said with a smile.

"And it'll really work?" I asked. He nodded, still holding my hand. I let out a sigh of relief, and felt a small smile tilt my own lips. "Thank you." I squeezed his hand lightly, then pulled out of his grasp.

Disappointment flashed over his face, barely seen before he forced a smile back. "Come, this way," he said, leading me through the trees.

Soon, we came to a giant evergreen tree, the reach of its branches as big around as the cabin I slept in. Looking around, I could see piles of snow under the boughs. I glanced at Solas, asking, "Is this the tree that Faelyn hit yesterday?"

"Yes," he replied. "He hit it hard enough that the snow that had gathered on it fell on us all at once, though thankfully not enough to damage the tree itself." He sounded bemused. I walked to the tree, putting my hand on the scorch mark on the bark.

"He's learning so fast," I marveled.

"If I may, he has a good teacher, and a very good hero to look up to," Solas said.

I turned to find Solas standing close, eyes considering me.

"I believe we're here to teach you how to use your Song, da'mis," he said.

I blew out a breath. "Ok. What do I need to do?"

He held his hand out to me. I hesitated a moment before taking it.

He noticed my pause, and murmured, "I'm not leaving, da'mis. Please, do not fear me." Without giving me time to respond, he continued, louder, "Call the fadefire, please."

I closed my eyes, and in my mind heard the music I associated with the fadefire. I let it fill me, and felt delicious heat bloom across my skin.

I opened my eyes, seeing sapphire flames rising from my skin.

"Now. We will begin with something rather simpler than a true song. Sing a single note with me," he instructed, then started humming. When I hummed back, matching his tone, he took both my hands, lifting them till the palms faced him, then mirroring his own. He didn't touch his palms to mine, but hovered them less than half an inch away.

"Hold that note," he whispered. Then he guided me to feeling the buildup of magic gathering around me. "When I begin singing again, pay attention to that magic. Feel how I grab hold of it." I nodded my understanding, and closed my eyes to concentrate.

When he resumed his humming, the magic exploded in intensity around us. I kept my note going, but it was a heady feeling. Then, I could feel the magic being pulled towards Solas, turning from a myriad of individual threads into a rope.

He twisted them into shapes I couldn't grasp, then his hand touched my cheek, startling me into opening my eyes.

The area around us had changed, turned into a beautiful, spacious room made of marble and gold, with lights dancing in the air. It took my breath away, and I let the note falter.

The magic drifted to pieces, and the hall around us began to dissipate, turning back into snow covered trees and cold mountain air.

Solas let his own hum drift to a stop, watching me.

I could only gape for a moment. "That was glorious!" I finally said, breathlessly.

His lips quirked up in a smirk. "And that was only with a single note, sung for only a few minutes. Imagine the possibility of a full Song, sung in harmony, with not two elvhen but with two hundred," he whispered.

"It must have been amazing to see, to feel," I murmured. "Is that what you showed me, with the magic? That beautiful place..."

"Yes," Solas breathed, "I found a memory, long buried in the Fade. It was a hall, in the city of Arlathan."

I gazed around the clearing, remembering the vision that had surrounded us. I could feel my heart lifting at the memory.

"Are you ready to try Singing that Song now?" Solas asked mischievously, pulling my attention back to him.

"Yes!" I immediately exclaimed, with a smile so wide it felt like it was going to split my face in half. An answering smile lit up Solas' face.

He quickly schooled his expression to neutral. "Come, let us begin." He held his hands back up, palms toward me.

Eagerly, I mirrored his position, hovering my hands the way he had before. "We will recreate the lovers as you showed them, the first time you sang. But, unlike the hall I created, you will be the one to form the images within the magic, and I will then release it."

I cocked my head to the side, thinking over what he said. "Doing it this way... it allows there to be more people, each working on one part of the spell, doesn't it? And the more people, the more they can each focus all their attention on the details of that small piece?"

Solas grinned, pride filling his face. "Exactly. Then the lead Singer brings all of the pieces together into a whole," he agreed.

"Ok then," I said slowly. "But I don't know how I made them the first time. How do I do it now, when its not even me controlling the magic?"

"When you begin the song, it's sometimes helpful to begin with a hummed chorus, to allow the magic time to build, and any other Singers to come into tune with you," he explained. "When the magic has built, I will gather it. You felt it, before, when I held it?" I nodded. "Shape your will around it, as it flows to me, and feed your intent into it."

I took a deep breath, closed my eyes to concentrate, and began humming the chorus. When I felt Solas join in, I moved to the first verse of the song, letting the White Wolf and his lover, the Witch of Vengerberg build in my mind.

Solas started gathering the threads together, and when he had "hold" of it, I focused on the place where all the magic joined. I imagined my hands grasping that point, leading in to where Solas had control, and pushed the image of the two lovers into the growing rope.

When Solas grasped my hand, I opened my eyes, making sure I didn't stop singing. He turned me to my right, where perfect copies of the images in my mind stood.

We continued the song, and I noticed that any time I let my concentration lapse, let the images fade from my mind, the lovers in front of us likewise faded from view.

After we finished singing through once, Solas let the magic slip away. "Very well done!" he praised. "You show great promise. We will have to practice on your concentration, and begin to have you change the illusion so that they aren't still," he continued.

"But for now," he said, "let us try something else." He pulled on my hand, led me to sit on a rock already clear of snow. "We're going to Sing together, but you are going to gather the magic. You've already grasped the concept, fairly easily I might add, when you fed the lovers into the song."

I chewed my lip a little. "Let's say I can do this," I said. "What am I supposed to do with it?"

"That will be the culmination of this lesson. I want you to weave patterns of flame," he said. "Not the illusion of flame, but actual, real magical flame."

I gulped. "Are you sure?" I heard my voice squeak.

"I have every confidence you are capable of this, da'mis. Calling flame within the Song will feel similar to using regular magic fire," he said, resting his hand on my shoulder. "If you are still nervous, I can ward us," he offered.

"Please," I asked. "You might have confidence, but I feel like I'm about to walk a tightrope at three hundred feet."

Solas smiled, then walked around the clearing laying down wards. When he was done  he came back to me, and raised an eyebrow expectantly. "Well, da'mis?" he purred.

Reluctantly, I took a deep breath, then started humming again, setting up for the first verse. Solas joined in, and we began to Sing.

I closed my eyes, feeling around me for the magic blooming around us. I imagined myself gathering it, twisting it all together into a cohesive whole. It didn't fight me, but it felt like molasses. I could feel the magic trying to go to Solas. By the time I felt sure I had it in a firm grip, we were almost through the song, and I realized we were going to have to sing through again in order to accomplish the lesson.

So I stopped worrying, and simply began to imagine lines of fire growing like vines around us. A tap on my knee had me opening my eyes, so I could witness the fire expanding around us. I decided to take the vine look a bit further, adding leaves and small star-shaped fire flowers that began to bloom on the vines, sending up sparks as they opened.

At the end of the song, we were completely surrounded by a forest of blooming fire vines.

We let the last of the song disappear, but unlike the illusions we'd created, the fire lingered in the air after. I looked at them in awe, stood and reached a hand out to touch one of the flowers without thinking. It wasn't until I felt the heat on my fingers that I realized the fire didn't hurt me.

I looked at Solas, eyes wide. He looked proud and triumphant, with desire laced in his expression. One hand came up, cupped my cheek, the other trailed down my side to rest on my hip.

"You did splendidly. Better than I could have ever hoped," he said, voice husky. "You have a gift for creating, for Singing life."

"Wait, what?" I was sure I must have misheard. I turned, taking a closer look at the vines surrounding us. They had taken root, stems coming from the ground before branching into the weaving, flowering vines.

"This is no illusion," Solas said from behind me. "These vines are real, true plants made of fire, because you willed them to be. Such a thing has not occurred since Arlathan fell, millennia ago."

I started shaking my head, exhilaration warring with confusion and fear in my mind. "No, it couldn't have been me. They can't really be real, right?"

"It was you, and they are real," he assured me.

I felt my knees give out, and he let out a startled oath, struggling to catch me. We both hit the ground, his arms wrapped around me, my lap half on his. Panic began to set in. "These can't be here!" I cried out. "They aren't meant to be, what if they do something terrible? They're fire, for fucks sake!" I was shaking.

Solas tried to comfort me. "Hush, da'mis, it will be fine." He gestured, bringing my attention to the already wilting flowers, the stems turning dark. "While you were able to bring them to life, you are inexperienced, and did not give them any way to survive. They feed on Fade energy, on pure magic, and quickly run out of their food source." He held me close, whispering, "They will be gone within minutes. It will be like they never existed."

I had felt such panic at the thought that the vines might live and grow, but as I watched them darken and disappear, I was surprised to find I was a little upset to see them die. I stayed silent, witnessing their passing, trying to sort out my own feelings. My shivers slowed, then stopped.

When the last of them disappeared, I looked down at my hands. "What the hell just happened?" I whispered.

Solas lightly kissed the side of my neck, and shivers of a different sort traveled down my spine. My breath hitched. Slowly, he touched the side of my face, and turned it towards his. "You are coming into your magic, da'mis, and you are glorious to behold." He kissed me, languid at first, but soon it deepened, becoming more urgent.

I could feel him growing hard beneath me, even through my coat. He shifted, turning me in his lap. Slowly, he opened the panel of my coat, exposing the thin undershirt there. My bra had disappeared weeks ago, and I hadn't really missed it. But this meant that my nipples showed through the thin cloth, turning hard in the cold air.

He brought his hand to my breast, palming it, rubbing circles over my nipple, making me gasp and arch into him. The heat of his hand seeped through the cloth, and I suddenly felt I couldn't get enough.

I found my own hands had made their way up under his shirt, touching his skin. I lightly scraped my nails over his chest, making his muscles twitch just ever so slightly from the sensation.

He brought his other hand down, to the top of my pants, running his fingers over the edge against the skin of my belly. I broke our kiss just long enough to undo the buckles and shrug the coat off, heedlessly tossing it to the ground. He quickly reclaimed my mouth, demanding, his tongue on my lips seeking entrance. And I gave it to him, letting him explore my mouth as much as his hands explored my body.

He reached down, into my pants, and lightly rubbed my clit between his fingers. I gasped, my head tossing back at the touch. I turned, and suddenly I was straddling him, feeling his hard heat against me and his fingers on me. I started grinding on him, need gripping me.

He twisted, pulled me over and suddenly he was on top, hips still pressed against me, phantom braids falling over his shoulders. He lightly bit my neck, then traveled down, taking my nipple into his mouth through my shirt. His saliva soaked the fabric as his tongue played with the hardness there. A groan escaped my throat, and I brought one of my hands up to stifle it.

Without taking his mouth from my breast, he began pulling my pants down, over my knees, then off entirely, leaving them in a heap on the ground. He pulled my shirt up, lifting his mouth away. At his hooded look, I immediately lifted my arms, letting him pull the shirt over my head.

He paused, then, gazing down at me, long enough that I started to feel self-conscious. I was about to cover myself when he came back in for another ferocious kiss, his cock straining against his breeches to grind against me.

I could feel the need inside me, the growing wetness between my legs. I began pulling his shirt up, wanting to feel his skin against mine, then pulling at the laces on his breeches. He knelt back, slid them off, his cock bouncing up when he freed it from its confines. I sat up and brought my hands to him, sliding my fingers up from the dark red curls at his base, up his length, to lightly touch the head, glistening with his own fluids already.

He growled, a low sound in his throat, and pushed me onto my back, kneeling between my spread legs. He touched me, his hand grazing my clit, his fingers finding my entrance and dipping in. I moaned, my hips twitching upwards at his ministrations. He pulled his hand away, covered in my juices, and slowly licked his fingers before dropping over me to claim another kiss.

He slid the length of his cock along my pussy, coating himself in my wetness. I could feel the head of him slide against my entrance, but he paused, not pushing in but not pulling away.

He broke our kiss with a gasp, his heated eyes gazing down into mine. "Are you sure you want this, da'mis?" he asked, voice husky and low with need.

I didn't trust my voice to work, so instead of answering I reached down between us, feeling for him, and guided his tip into my entrance. With a moan, he slid slowly in, allowing me to adjust to his size. We fit together like puzzle pieces, perfectly matched.

I bit into his shoulder to stifle my sounds, and lifted my hips slightly, letting him slide just a little further in. He gasped, and suddenly his hands were on my ass, holding me. He slowly slid out, till only the head of him was inside me, then rammed home. And again.

He slowly picked up speed, his cock filling me over and over again. I moaned with every thrust, my hips rising to meet him.

I could feel myself getting close, so close, but my release was just out of reach. Then he lifted a hand off my ass, and pressed his fingers against my clit, rubbing it in time with his thrusts.

That was all I needed. Pleasure exploded over me, clenching my pussy down on him even as he continued to pound into me. I rode the wave of my orgasm, biting down hard on his shoulder to contain my cry.

When it ebbed, he took his hand away from my clit, pulled out of me, and in one swift motion flipped me onto my knees. I knelt there on all fours, nearly shaking from anticipation, and glanced back at him. He was watching me, his eyes gliding over every curve of me, spread before him. He ran his fingers down my spine, shivers rippling across my skin at his touch, but he didn't stop. He continued down, grazing his fingers against my asshole. I stilled, not sure, and he dipped his fingers down further, slipping into my pussy, coating them in my wetness before gliding back up. Slowly, he pushed a finger into my ass, stretching me. In and out he pushed. It was a new sensation to me, but soon I could feel the pleasure of it, different from the feeling of him in my pussy but just as good.

When I began rocking back against his hand, he reached around with the other to guide himself back into me, a swift thrust that had me crying out. He began pounding into me, a brutal pace that had me gasping for air, his finger a counter point rhythm in my ass to his cock in my pussy.

My arms gave out under me, which lifted my ass in a different angle, changing the feeling of him inside me, letting his cock reach deeper into me. I came hard, everything in me exploding and clenching on him.

He gasped, still thrusting hard and fast into my pussy, his finger pumping into my ass. Then his cock throbbed, and he came, spilling his seed into me.

He collapsed over me, his cock still buried deep in me. He pulled his finger from my ass, used a bit of magic to clean it off, then wrapped his arms around me, pulling my back flush against his chest, twisting us so we were both laying on our sides. He nuzzled the back of my neck, lightly biting it, then licking the same spot.

We were both breathing hard, coming down from the exhilaration. I was running my hands over his arms, just revelling in the feel of his skin, enjoying the feeling of him still filling me.

After a few minutes of just being, he sighed. "We should not stay like this, da'mis. You will be missed, at some point, and Faelyn will be looking for his lessons." Despite his words, he still held me close, not moving away. He buried his face in my hair, breathing deep.

"Not yet," I murmured. I turned slightly in his arms, pulled him into a kiss, a light one at first that started to grow in intensity. I could feel his cock twitch, still hard inside me.

He pulled his mouth away from mine. "Da'mis," he warned with a growl, "do not start anything you can't finish.

A smile curled my lips, and I countered, "Whoever said I couldn't finish?"

Desire lit his eyes, and his hard length twitched inside me.

"May I try something with you, da'mis?" he murmured.

"What did you have in mind?" I asked, curious.

He smiled, slipped his hand down between us and lightly pressed a finger back into my ass, making me gasp. "You are still so very wet," he murmured into my ear, gliding his finger in and out of my ass. "You seemed unsure, inexperienced in this before. But if you let me, I can give you pleasure here."

I bit my lip. It did feel very good, and I could feel my need for him growing again. "You're half right," I said, feeling my breath getting heavy. "I'd tried it once before, but he... it hurt, and I didn't want to do it again." Solas stilled, his finger stopping halfway in. "Our relationship didn't last long after that. He said I was a prude." I looked down at the ground beneath me, feeling, somehow, ashamed.

"Da'mis," Solas' voice pulled me back into the present. "If this person could not even do this right, could not make it as much about your pleasure as his, then the fault does not lie with you." He kissed me, sweet and hard, then said, "If you do not wish to do more than this," he flexed his finger, making me gasp, "then I understand. But if you choose to trust me, I will make sure it is as enjoyable as possible."

I laid there a few minutes, with his cock hard inside me and his finger slowly sliding in and out of my ass. "Could I, maybe, decide to try it with you later?" I asked, lowering my eyes in case he got mad.

"That you wish to do this again at another time fills me with joy," he said. "And of course, whenever you choose to try it, I will be willing." He pulled his finger out.

I looked at him, not quite believing. He smiled and flexed his hips, pushing his hard cock back deep inside me. I moaned, and twisted farther, keeping my ass to him but laying my shoulders flat against the ground.

He kept moving his cock in and out of my pussy. He brought his hand around, taking my breast and rolling my nipple in his fingers. He then dipped his head, taking my other nipple into his mouth, scraping his teeth over the sensitive areola.

I moaned, one hand reaching up to hold the back of his head, my fingers sliding through his braids. He let go of my breast long enough to grab my other hand and bring it down, between my legs, guiding my fingers onto my clit. When I began moving my fingers, rubbing and pulling on my own, he moved back to my breast.

The sensations built, everything coming together into almost mind-numbing pleasure. Dimly, I was aware of the sounds escaping my throat, but I was past caring. My orgasm rolled over me, clutching me in its inescapable grasp.

Solas twisted, cock never leaving me but somehow, suddenly he was on top of me, one of my legs pulled up over his shoulder. He kissed me, a question and demand in one. He began thrusting harder, faster, and when I was about to take my hand away from my clit he had his own there, pulling my fingers back, his fingers dancing with mine.

A growl escaped him, and he pulled my hips higher, pounding his cock deeper into me. I was already about to peak again, held there in place, unable and unwilling to move away.

As I came, I cried out, his name slipping past my lips. When he heard me, he growled, a deep sound rumbling in his chest. He joined me with one last throbbing thrust, spilling into me again.

We laid there for a while, not speaking, just touching and kissing. It felt wonderful, like the only things in the world were the two of us.

Suddenly Solas snapped his head up, looking into the woods. "Someone just crossed my alarm wards," he said, his hands frozen on me. It took me a moment to realize what that meant.

I cursed, rolling for my clothes, trying to pull everything on at once. Dimly I could hear voices headed our way. I scrambled, finally getting everything on. I ducked around the other side of the tree trying to finger comb my hair into some semblance of order before remembering the effect the fadefire had.

The voices came closer. It sounded like Faelyn, Varric, and Cullen. I was breathing hard, my heart racing, and I deliberately slowed my breathing, trying to take control.

I peeked around the tree, saw Solas standing there, fully clothed, looking like nothing had happened. I growled under my breath, still working the buckles on my coat. When I saw the three figures, I gave up. It was as good as it was going to get.

I walked back around as the trio reached Solas.

"Lashanna!" Faelyn called out. "You guys have been practicing forever!"

Varric took in my hastily reassembled state and smirked. "Yes,  Herald, I'm sure you've worked up quite an appetite, practicing."

I glared at him, a blush warming my cheeks.

"I got worried when Faelyn said he hadn't seen you since breakfast, and offered to join him in searching for you," Cullen said, turning towards me. He paused, eyes taking in my disheveled clothes. "Is everything all right, Herald?" he asked, glancing between me and Solas.

"Yes. The Herald fell while learning some new forms for her magic," Solas replied, deadpan.

I immediately leapt at the explanation. "Yep,  that's me, super clumsy, it's a wonder I can stand by myself," I found myself babbling. I started walking past, heading towards Haven, saying over my shoulder, "If it's ok Commander, I'm going to get a bite to eat before coming down to the training grounds."

"Hey, hold on there Sunshine, I'll walk you back," Varric said. "Wouldn't want you to trip into any apostates on the way and lose your clothes," he snickered quietly as he drew close to me.

"Hush, you," I muttered, walking as quickly as I could without breaking into a run. I could feel Solas' eyes on me as I left, and I couldn't help looking back before losing sight of the clearing. Solas was staring after me, but Cullen had a hand on his arm and was speaking quietly, looking distinctly unhappy.  As I watched, Solas' eyes slid to Cullen's, turning cold.

"So obviously things are getting better between you two," Varric observed. I couldn't say anything to that, so I just turned and continued on to Haven, cheeks still burning. "Hey Sunshine, did you realize you're covered in blue fire?"

I stopped, surprised out of my embarrassment. "No, I hadn't realized," I admitted.

"Understandable, you were probably very distracted," he replied. I stuck my tongue out at him rather than respond, and closed my eyes and letting the fadefire drain away.

I felt a wave of exhaustion wash over me, and heard Varric yell, "Ah hell!" My vision swam, spots exploding in my eyes, turning to darkness.

Chapter Text

Don't send me no angel
This city's too cold
Cause I need a man with a black heart of gold

Don't give me no lover
If he ain't got the stones
Cause I need a man who will fight for his own

-'Dark Nights' by Dorothy

============================================

I was sitting on the ground with my head between my knees. Cullen was nearby yelling, with retorts being thrown back by Solas. Faelyn was sitting crosslegged next to me, holding my hand. I blinked at him, feeling a headache in the back of my head.

"It's your fault she overextended herself!" Cullen was saying.

"It was a miscalculation! She was using a rare form of magic, and when she let it go, it took a portion of her energy with it," Solas snapped.

"I've been in circle towers, and I've never seen someone using anything like that magic. If it exhausts her that much, then you shouldn't be teaching it to her!" Cullen pressed.

"It is, and always will be, up to the Herald to decide what she will learn," Solas said, his voice cold.

"You're making a habit of scaring the shit out of us, Sunshine," Varric said. I turned my head, resting my cheek on my knee. He held a waterskin out to me. I stared at it a moment before getting my arm to move. "Just sips, first," he cautioned. I lifted it to my lips, tasted the cold water. The shock of it cleared my head of the cobwebs.

I took a deep breath and squeezed Faelyn's hand. His face was drawn. "Sorry for interrupting your lesson, little brother," I said. He gave me a weak smile.

The arguing ceased at my words, and both men moved into my view.

"How do you feel?" Cullen asked, sounding anxious.

Solas knelt in front of me, his fingers gently lifting my chin. He looked closely into my eyes, checking for... something. "Your connection to your magic was overwhelmed. Our lesson pulled more from you than was safe," he murmured. "The fadefire sustained you while you had it in your blood, but when you tried to let it go, it caused a... void, within your magic." He took a shuddering breath. "I watched you collapse, unable to get to you," he whispered. His fingers drifted from under my chin, up over my jaw and brushed over my cheekbone.

"I'm alright," I mumbled.

"You say that, but you haven't tried to stand yet," Varric muttered.

"No time like the present," I said, trying to sound cheerful. I put my hands down on the ground, preparing to push into a standing position.

"Are you sure that's a good idea, Herald?" Cullen asked, worry in his voice.

"It pains me to admit, but perhaps the templar has a point," Solas added.

I gritted my teeth. "I will not be coddled like a baby," I said. "Either help or get out of my way, both of you."

A pair of hands grasped my arm, and I looked over to see Varric giving me support. I smiled at him, appreciating that at least someone was taking my words to heart.

Solas and Cullen both hovered while Varric and Faelyn made sure I didn't fall over. Once I had my legs under me, I took a deep breath, mentally taking stock. I was a little dizzy, but I've had worse after a night of drinking, and it'd probably go away once I ate something. Other than that and a slight headache, everything else felt fine.

I forced a smile on my face, and said, "I'm fine, really, I just need to eat something and I'll be as good as new." I put my hand on Faelyn's shoulder. "You and Solas should go back, continue your lessons. I promise I'll be careful getting back to Haven.

Solas and Faelyn had identical expressions of concern. I looked at Solas over Faelyn's head, mouthed, "please." He wasn't happy, but he nodded at me.

"Come, Lashanna has Varric to watch over her. He will make sure she takes care of herself until your return," Solas said, putting his arm around Faelyn and guiding him back towards the clearing. Reluctantly, Faelyn let himself be led away, craning his head back to watch me as they went.

"I will accompany you, Herald," Cullen said.

I sighed. "You really don't need to fuss over me. Really, I'm fine," I insisted. "Once I eat I'll be able to join you for weapons practice."

"Don't push yourself so hard," he said, voice low.

"I know my limits," I snapped. He lifted an eyebrow, and I waved his objections away. "Except for that. That was new. But for anything outside of magic, I know how hard I can work myself." I started walking towards Haven. Varric fell in beside me.

With a sigh, Cullen joined us, walking on my other side.

I felt bad for my short temper, so I tried to explain myself, if only a little. "Commander, we're supposed to be leaving tomorrow morning. I need to learn and practice everything, whenever I can, wherever I find myself," I said softly. "I'd rather learn how to fight from those who already know. Otherwise I'll just keep muddling along on my own, and likely get hurt in the process."

We were all silent as we reached Haven's gate. Cullen peeled away with muted apologies, heading towards the sounds of swords clashing at the training grounds.

Varric and I sat by the little tent he stayed in while we were in Haven, after stopping by Flissa's to grab a bowl of stew. "Hey Varric," I asked, "why do you sleep here? Aren't you tired of sleeping in a tent all the time?"

"Yeah, well, we aren't all important enough to get our own cabin," he replied. "In a choice between a private tent, or sharing a cabin with five other people? I'll take the tent." I nodded, shoveling food in my face as fast as I could. "So. Are you going to talk to me about what's going on between you and Chuckles?"

I choked, coughing the mouthful of beef out of my throat. When I could breath again, I tried to be nonchalant. "Nothing's going on. He was teaching me about that magic that I accidentally used, when I sang for you the first time."

"You know, you're not really getting any better at lying," Varric said. I could feel another blush creeping into my cheeks. "Now, Maker knows I'm not the best person with relationships. And I'm not telling you not to go for it, but I think you should be careful, there." He stood, patted me on the shoulder, saying, "I'm going to go bother Cassandra. Unless you think you'll collapse between here and the Commander?" he said with a smirk.

"Asshole," I muttered at his retreating back. I finished the last of the stew, feeling almost normal again.

After I dropped the bowl off with Flissa, I went to the training grounds. Cullen frowned at me when he saw me, but thankfully he didn't start lecturing me.

Without preamble, he started me on drills, simple movements to start, and gradually growing them into full, coordinated moves designed to allow me to slip inside the guard of an enemy.

I managed to keep going for a couple hours, but much sooner than I'd have liked I could feel my energy flagging. Reluctantly, I came to a halt, wiping sweat from my forehead. The sun was beginning to set, so I figured it was time to call it.

"Alright, Commander, I think that should be it for today," I said regretfully.

Cullen let out a relieved sigh, giving me a smile. "Thank the Maker, I was afraid I'd have to knock you over the head to get you to rest, and then I'd never hear the end of it."

"Oh, like you could!" I laughed.

"Is that a wager, Lady Herald?" Cullen asked, a smile lifting his lips.

"You're on," I replied,  twirling my wrists. "Spar until first down?'

"Alright," he agreed. "Though if this is to be a proper wager, what will you forfeit when you lose?"

I shook my head. "Nope, doesn't work like that. When you wager, you have to say what you want, not what you're willing to lose." I thought a moment, watching him. "When I win," I said with a grin, "I want that fur thing you wear."

His hand came up, touching the fur. "My mantle?" he asked, not quite believing. He shook his head. "It was a gift from my sister. She'd kill me if I lost it in a wager." He hesitated. "But I'll have one made for you, if you win," he said.

"Done," I agreed happily. "Now, if I lose. What do you want?"

He gazed at me, then blushed and looked away. "I want you to be careful with your magic," he said.

"No good as a wager, since I'm careful already," I retorted. "You obviously were thinking of something, before trying to pass off that terrible suggestion. So. What do you want?"

He cleared his throat, a blush staining his cheeks. "It wouldn't be appropriate," he murmured, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.

I was amping myself up, bouncing from foot to foot, and replied with a cheeky grin, "Do I look like I care about appropriate?"

He quirked his lips in a half smile. "Not really, no." He still hesitated, clearly torn.

"Out with it already! We're supposed to be sparring by now!" I pushed.

He sighed. "Alright. If-- when you lose. I want..." his voice dropped to just over a whisper, "a kiss."

I froze. "A kiss?" I asked, not sure I'd heard correctly.

He gulped, looking uncomfortable. "It was a stupid idea. We should just forget it. You're probably not recovered enough for this anyway." He started turning away.

"No. I'll do it," I said before I could chicken out. I needed to prove, to him and myself, that I could fight and defend myself, with or without magic. His eyes widened, surprised that I'd agreed. "But I get to choose where I kiss, and how long," I stipulated.

He nodded, "Agreed." He readied his practice sword and shield, bringing the latter up to just under his eyes. "Are you ready?" he asked.

I took up my fighting stance, legs apart, knees bent, weight on the balls of my feet. My right dagger held reverse, with the blade along my forearm, the other forward, pointed towards Cullen. I gave him a wicked grin. "Well?" I asked.

I could see his eyes crinkle from his answering grin, then he charged forward. As he reached me, he threw his shield arm out and to the side. I danced back, moving to the left with the shield, staying out of reach of his sword. As he passed, I tapped the flat of my left dagger against his ass.

"First touch is mine, Commander," I taunted. He whipped around, his sword leading low. It surprised me, hitting me by the knees and forcing me to stumble to the side.

I barely caught myself before I fell, then when I had my balance back, I brought my daggers back up. "Second is mine, Lady Herald," Cullen said. He circled, keeping his shield between us.

I tried feinting left, and coming back to the right, but he anticipated me and caught me with a backhand blow from his shield. Before I could correct myself, he charged again, hitting me like a linebacker in a football game.

I landed on the ground, flat on my back, ears ringing from the impact. When my eyes uncrossed, I saw Cullen standing over me. He held his hand out, offering me help up.

I took his hand, letting him pull me to me feet. I winced, my back letting me know it didn't appreciate the mistreatment. "Alright, you win," I groaned, sheathing my blades and rubbing my back. "Is there anywhere a girl can get a hot bath in this town?" I asked jokingly.

"Herald, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have hit you so hard," Cullen started apologizing.

I cut him off. "And if you hadn't, we'd probably still be going now, beating each other up. Though I wouldn't have minded winning that fur hood from you," I said with a smile.

"Here, I'll walk you back to your cabin," he said. "If you'd like, I'll show you where the bathhouse is located." He sounded apologetic, so I figured why not, if it appeased his sense of fair play.

"Yeah, sure. Thanks Commander." We started heading back through the gates. "So, teacher, where did I go wrong?"

"Well, you had the right idea, with that feint," he explained, "but you telegraphed your intentions before you even moved.

I frowned. "Yeah. Varric tells me in a terrible liar," I said, grumpy. "Guess that extends to fighting too."

"It's not so terrible, to be an honest person," Cullen replied quietly. I glanced at him to find him watching me.

I fidgeted under his gaze, and was happy when we reached my cabin. I could hear Faelyn and Solas speaking through the door.

"Thanks, Commander, for teaching me," I said lightly. "I think Faelyn's back. I'm sure he's probably tripped over the bathhouse in the short time we've been here, I'll have him take me." I reached for the door. Cullen looked a little crestfallen. "Oh! Before I forget," I said. I went onto my tiptoes, and gave him a kiss on the cheek, his stubble brushing against my lips. "Your reward, for winning the bout," I explained with a smile as I pulled away.

I went through the door before he could respond, closing it quickly behind me. I let out a long breath, surveying the two disapproving elves watching me at the door.

"Your doing too much," Faelyn accused bluntly. "We could see you training when we walked back to Haven, as if you hadn't just used up all your magic."

"Yes sir," I said with a smile. "How about we relax for the rest of the evening. Say, in the local bathhouse?" I suggested.

He eyed me, trying to figure my game. "You need me to find it for you, don't you?" he asked, resigned.

"I figured you might know where it is," I admitted. "If not, I could always wander around on my own to look for it," I added mischievously.

"And get yourself in trouble again?" he asked incredulously. "I'll take you."

"If you don't mind, I will accompany you. A bath sounds good after the long day," Solas put in, watching me.

Faelyn pulled a face. "What's the point of all the baths, Lashanna?" he asked. "You'll just get dirty again tomorrow."

I laughed. "You'll understand as you get older," I said. "Nothing feels quite like a hot bath after a hard day."

Faelyn didn't look convinced. "If you say so," he said doubtfully. He led us out the door, taking a few turns, going down streets I'd never have guessed existed if I weren't walking down them. Finally, he stopped in front of a larger building, gesturing. "There it is. Should I come back, make sure you're able to find the cabin again?" he asked.

"Don't worry, I'll make sure she returns to you safely," Solas said. Faelyn gave him a grin, then waved and ran off.

We entered the bathhouse, the air smelling of steam and soap. There were only two rooms, one for changing and one for bathing.

I gulped. "It's a... communal bath?" I asked, nervously.

"Yes," Solas replied. He turned, pressed a hand to the door. A ward I didn't recognize flashed on the wood. Seeing my look, he explained, "A simple warning ward and lock spell, so that no one comes in. It's already empty. It seems a shame to share if we don't have to." His eyes, watching me, seemed almost predatory.

I was a little nervous, in here alone with him. Maybe the fadefire had given me more courage, but the thought of getting naked, with him just staring at me, was disconcerting.

"Relax, da'mis," he whispered, bringing his hand up to cup my cheek. His thumb brushed lightly over my lips, tracing the line of the vallaslin down my chin.

I closed my eyes and tried to call the fadefire in my mind. A spike of pain lanced through my head, and I hissed at the pain, bringing my hand up to my forehead.

Frowning, Solas guided me to a nearby seat. "You shouldn't try to call the fadefire, or use your magic, for a few days," he cautioned. "To be honest, I'm surprised you're still standing." He lightly touched his fingers into my hairline. "Hold still. This might tingle a little," he warned.

"What might tingle?" I asked. Instead of answering, Solas hummed under his breath, a series of notes that reminded me of Celtic music. I could feel the magic gathering, and could see the glow coming from his hands in the periphery of my vision. I felt a sensation like needles sinking into my scalp, and gasped.

The headache melted away. I sighed, thinking that he was done, but the needling began traveling down, over my back. Everywhere it passed, sore muscles eased. The twinge I'd felt after being felled by Cullen disappeared. It was awesome, and I slumped forward, rolling my shoulders.

When it reached the base of my spine, Solas let his humming fade away. "Come, da'mis. Let us get you into the hot water. It will help set the healing, and allow you to relax." He pulled me to my feet.

"That felt great," I sighed. Solas smiled, then began unfastening the buckles to my coat. I pulled a little away from him, embarrassed. I asked him why.

"Let me, please. I wish to take care of you," he murmured. "It was my carelessness that led to your mana withdrawal. Let me do what I can to make it right."

He waited for my answer, looking forlorn. "This is important to you?" I asked. He nodded. I took a deep breath, then said, "Alright. What should I do?"

A smile broke over his face. "Simply enjoy, and let me do everything," he said. He carefully took off all my clothes, which made me a little embarrassed, then led me into the second room. It was huge. A giant inset pool filled with steaming water took up a majority of it.

Solas quickly pulled off all his own clothes, but somehow being naked there, with him, at that time, didn't feel sexual. He helped me into the water, not carrying me in but holding my hand and helping me balance. In all honesty, it was probably a good thing he did. After all the exertion today, my legs were starting to feel like noodles. While standing, the water wasn't terribly deep, only coming up to the bottom of my ribs, but the smooth feeling beneath my feet told me that the bottom of the pool had been worn in by countless years of people bathing here, and would be easy to slip on.

Periodically along the edges of the mineral pool there were little ledges carved, perfect perches for resting in the hot water. Solas guided me to one of these perches, telling me to relax for a few minutes. Laying on that, the water was just under my chin, the perfect height.

As I reclined in the hot water, I watched him move around the room, gathering a few supplies. "How does a place like Haven have a bath like this?" I asked absently.

He came back over to my little ledge, a few towels and some bottles in hand. "This area is riddled with hot springs," he answered, laying the items close to the edge where I laid. "The easy access to both the river and this particular spring is what probably drew the original settlers to live here, rather than closer to the temple itself." He slipped into the water without a splash. "Wet your hair, please?" he asked.

I obliged, holding my breath and letting myself slip under the water. After a few moments of running my hands through my hair under the water, I surfaced.

"Now, just lean back," he murmured. As I leaned my head back, I realized that the perch had a built in spot to rest one's head without having to fear drowning. I slitted my eyes, not fully closing them so I could watch him.

Solas ran his long fingers through my hair, then plucked one of the bottles off the edge of the pool. He unstoppered it, poured some into his palm, then began to lather it through my hair, massaging my scalp and gently untangling my long unruly waves. It smelled heavenly, a light scent that reminded me of the little flowers that I'd seen on the mountainside.

I moaned at the sensation, then brought a hand to my mouth, embarrassed. I've always been a sucker for anyone doing anything to my hair, and this was perfect. "Sorry about that," I murmured.

"You apologize a lot for things you should not, da'mis," he said, his hands never stopping. "I admit, I enjoy hearing the sounds you make when you're being pleasured."

His frankness had me blushing, and I was happy when he asked me to rinse my hair again. After I obliged, and was back to resting on the rock pillow, he pulled open another bottle, this time some cream. He began at my roots, working it in and making sure every strand was covered.

After he washed it through and had me rinse it out, he walked around to the side and lifted my arm, beginning to wash me. "I can wash myself, you know," I said. My hair was one thing, but washing my body was different, somehow more personal.

He paused. "If you insist, da'mis, but I would prefer to... spoil you, if I may," he replied.

I let out a sigh. "Ok. But if you get kicked because you tickled me, don't say I didn't warn you."

He laughed. "So, you're ticklish?" he teased, hovering his hands over my ribs.

I was immediately on the defensive, elbows tucked into my sides, hands between me and him, knees drawing up towards my chest. "Don't you dare!" I said, glaring.

He brought his hand to my shoulder. "Atisha, da'mis," he said, still smiling. "The point of this is to help you relax, and heal. I will not take advantage of your ticklishness. Not now, at least," he added, his smile turning mischievous.

I groaned. "Great. Thanks for the warning. Now I'll be on my guard, all the time," I grumped.

Still smiling, he began to rub slow circles into my shoulder. I let out another moan, and blushed. "Turn around," he said. I obeyed, resting my upper arms on the rock pillow and kneeling on the perch, giving him full access to my back.

He opened a third bottle, an oil that smelled like elfroot, and poured some onto my back. He started massaging, working over my shoulders and down my back. I stifled any embarrassing sounds I made in my arm, burying my face into the crook of one elbow.

As he worked, he drifted onto the ledge, sitting just behind me. His hands made their way to my hips, just above my ass, his thumbs circling the indents there. I felt my hips slipping in the water, moving towards him and the sensation of his hands on me, my knees spreading a little as I went.

When I felt his hard cock brush against my ass, I looked back at him. His eyes were hooded with desire. "You are so beautiful," he whispered, trailing one hand back up my spine. The other followed the curve of my ass down. He went further, sliding his finger along the line of my pussy.

I shivered. He continued to ply his fingers to my pussy lips, watching me. My hips pushed back, trying to get his fingers to do more.

"I shouldn't," he murmured. "You have been through so much today." Despite his words, his fingers continued to stroke, getting a little bit closer to my clit.

"Please, Solas," I breathed out.

"Ma nuvenin, da'mis," he said. His fingers stroked deeper, pushing against my entrance. "You're already so wet," he marveled. He brushed a finger over my clit, and I buried my head in my arms to stifle my gasp.

He played like that for a little while, letting my need build. When he finally pushed a finger into me, I had to bite my lip to stop my cry. He slowly slid it in and out, stroking the inside of me. My knees spread further, feet splayed on either side of him.

He let the sensations build, but just before I came he pulled away. I keened, a wordless sound of pure need. "Please," I gasped out. My need was so great, I brought my own hand down into the water, finding my clit and pressing down. Solas reached around me and covered my hand with his, letting me be the guide. As I was about to orgasm, his fingers left mine to press back into my pussy.

I bit down on my arm as I came, my pussy squeezing on his fingers.

When it had passed, he pulled away and made as if to stand. I caught his hand, and pulled him towards me, his hips landing flush against my ass. His cock laid perfectly against the cleft of my pussy, and he grunted. "Da'mis?" he gasped. 'Are you sure?"

"Please," was all I could get out.

He groaned, then put his hands on my hips to steady me. He pulled back a little, his hand dipping down to touch me. They came out of the water, and he licked them. "You taste so delicious," he murmured, then pushed his cock against the lips of my pussy, coating himself in my juices. I twitched my hips against him, needing. I kept my face buried in my arm, still trying to stifle myself. I didn't want anyone outside hearing me and deciding to investigate.

Solas pushed in, filling me with aching slowness. I tried pushing my hips back, to get all of him in me faster, but his hands on my hips prevented me from moving.  "Savor it, da'mis," he whispered.

I gasped out, "I need..." I couldn't finish. He rammed the last bit home, a growl leaving his throat. I cried out at the feeling of him filling me, the sound echoing against the water,

His hips began slowly thrusting his cock into me over and over. His hands lifted my hips, and I wrapped my legs around him, my feet curling around his thighs.

He started pumping into me harder, and I could feel my orgasm hovering. I felt him drop his weight over my back, wrapping one arm around to take my breast into his hand.

He used his other hand to twine into my hair, pulling my head back and lifting my face away from my arm. He bit down on my shoulder, where it joins the neck, sucking on the skin, marking it. I cried out, my back arching. He squeezed my nipple between his fingers, and it sent me over the edge.

I came hard, panting, held there in place as he found his own throbbing release inside me.

When we both came down from the heights of our climaxes, we sat together on the ledge. Solas ran his fingers down my chest, lightly resting on my stomach. A glow sank from his hand into my stomach.

"There's no pain there," I murmured.

"I know, da'mis," he replied quietly. "I am merely checking, making sure my seed doesn't catch. It would not be a good idea for the Herald of Andraste to be with child in these tumultuous times."

"Oh," I said, blinking. "Um, you don't have to worry about that," I told him.

His hand stilled, and he looked down at my face, the question plain in his eyes. "Are you... unable...?" he started.

I almost laughed. "No no, nothing like that. I have a... thing, in my arm." I rubbed the spot on my arm, where I'd had the implant placed. "It works to keep me from getting pregnant. It should still work for another year or so."

"Ah, I see," he breathed out. "This thing is common, where you're from?" he asked.

"Contraception is fairly common, yes, if not always looked well on," I replied, remembering how Tia's parents had hated when I made the decision to start birth control. They'd claimed it was against the will of God.

"May I?" he hovered his hand over my arm. I nodded my permission. His hand glowed once more, his magic exploring the implant. "I find it fascinating that even without magic, the people in your world still manage to do so much," he said. "It would almost give me hope, that..." he stopped himself.

"Give you hope that... what?" I asked, looking up at him.

"Nothing, da'mis," he said, then quickly moved on. "We should finish your bath. I'm sure Faelyn is waiting for you in your abode."

I sighed, nodding. "Yeah, I suppose." I began shifting myself off of the ledge. Solas wrapped an arm around my waist, guiding me out of the water. When we stood out of the pool, he stooped and grabbed a towel he'd brought over earlier.

He settled it over my shoulders, rubbing the water off me gently, then bade me sit on the bench in the changing room. He followed me, carrying a second towel.

Once I'd sat, he knelt on front of me, using the towel to rub my legs dry. He ran his fingers over my thighs, settling them on my hips. "How do you feel, da'mis?" he asked.

"Amazing," I sighed contentedly.

He brought my head down, kissing me, his tongue teasing mine. "I'm glad," he whispered against my lips, then kissed me once more, a light touch of his lips to mine. He stood.

Regretfully, he said, "You should dress, da'mis. I will clean up in there, then join you." With one last touch of his fingers on my cheek, he disappeared back into the bathing room, giving me a glorious view of his ass.

As I walked to my clothes, I noticed a tall mirror in the corner. Nothing special to it, just something bathers could use to make sure everything was in order before they left. I hadn't seen myself clearly since before landing in this world, and I found myself drawn to it, wanting to see for myself what changes had come over me.

Besides the pointed ears, there were only a couple changes. My eyes were a bit bigger, and a bit more on the purple side of the blue-violet spectrum than the blue they had been before. The little bit of baby fat in my cheeks was gone, but that might have been because of weeks of hard travel and fighting.

In fact, I was a little leaner everywhere, the spare cut away. I'd never been considered fat, but modern living as a person trying to make ends meet usually meant eating what was affordable, not healthy, and I'd always had a light layer of fat over my muscles. It was all gone, now.

I still had the small wolf-print tattoo, on the back of my left hip. Tia and I had gotten matching ones, based off the one my favorite book character had, when we both turned eighteen. Seemed silly, now.

I had the June vallaslin, as Solas had told me, though it extended much further down my body than the games ever indicated, with some branches in the same type of pattern running under my breasts, down past my navel. I hadn't noticed during my baths on the road, probably because it was always dark, and I had been preoccupied.

I sighed, rubbing my towel over my hair, thinking over everything that had happened that day. Of learning magic and knife fighting. Of the fact that I'd had sex with Solas, the Dread Wolf, not once but three times in one day.

Tia would be jealous.

I wish I could tell her so she could be.

Solas found me in front of the mirror, tears dripping from my face.

"What happened, da'mis?" he asked, gathering me into his arms. I absently noticed that he'd dressed, how normal it all was.

I shook my head. "It's nothing," I tried to wipe the tears away, but he stopped me. At his insistence, I gave in and said, "I was just thinking of my best friend. And how I probably won't ever see her again." Tears started again. "She's probably been worried sick, since I disappeared, and there's no way for me to let her know I'm ok."

"You've lost your whole world," he said sadly. "Ir abelas. I... wish I could tell you I understand," he said, his hand brushing down my hair.

I laughed through my tears. "Yeah, I bet you do," I mumbled. I pulled myself away from him, pressing my palms to my eyes, stemming the tears. I took a deep breath and pushed the feelings into the same mental place I put my memories of my family.

When I had recovered a little of my equanimity, I opened my eyes to find Solas holding my clothes. I took them, dressing and trying to force a smile. His eyes watched me closely.

I fastened the last buckle on my coat, turning away from Solas. He caught my hand, stopping me. "If you could go home," he asked quietly, "leave this world and see your loved ones again, would you?"

I studied the floor, running my hand through my wet hair. "Honestly? I don't know. Right now this world needs me. If I could save this world and still be able to go at the end, maybe?" I shook my head. "It's a moot point. This is where we are now. We have to learn to live in this world, with these people."

I pulled my hand away from him without looking back, and left the bathhouse. The cold air stung my cheeks as I started making my way back to the little cabin I shared with Faelyn. It was long past dark, and I must have made a wrong turn because I somehow found myself in front of the Chantry.

Leliana was there, speaking to one of the servants that worked odd jobs around Haven. She stopped when she saw me, nodded farewell to the servant, and joined me.

"Herald," she said. "It has come to my attention that you lost your family," she started.

"Yeah, I figured Josephine would have told you that," I said, too tired to hide my thoughts from her.

She crossed her arms, studying me. "I understand you do not wish to bring up painful memories, but you may have to in order to succeed in the political maneuverings within Val Royeaux."

I'd had just about enough. "How about this, Sister Nightingale. You don't ask me about my family, and I won't ask you about Marjolaine or what she did to you."

She went completely still, her eyes glittering in the torchlight. "How do you know about Marjolaine?" she asked quietly.

"I know far more about the history of you and the Hero of Fereldan then you would believe possible," I replied.

She watched me, expressionless, for a moment. "Majin Surana was one person I have loved above all others, even when she loved elsewhere," she said quietly. "I will not allow anyone to drag her name through the mud." She had her hands clasped to her forearms.

"Please let go of your knives, Leliana," I said, just as quietly. "I don't tell you this to threaten you. I want you to trust me. I know a lot of things you might consider impossible, and I can't tell you how I know." I took a breath. "Like how Warden Surana gave you your first nug, that she found in the deep roads. You named him Shmooples." I spread my hands, showing them as empty. "But believe me when I tell you, I don't want to harm you, the Chantry, or this world. I'm trying to help."

"One day soon, you will have to tell me what you know, and how." She released her knives and a breath. "But I believe that you believe you are here to help. Really, you're a terrible liar. We'll have to work on that, after you get back from the capital." With that, she disappeared into the Chantry, walking silently in the snow.

I turned down the one path I knew for sure led to my cabin, wishing I was already in bed. Thankfully, I didn't pass anyone else on the way, and I was able to slip into the cabin quietly. Faelyn was asleep, curled up on top of the blanket on my bed. I didn't have the heart to move him, so I pulled the blanket off of his bed, laid down next to him, and covered us both, the way Tia and I used to when we were younger.

Solas' question hung in my mind. If given the option, right now, would I leave? Go home if it meant handing this world to the crazy bad guy?

I fell asleep, still chasing circular arguments around in my mind.

Chapter Text

There's a darkness down inside me
That I know we'll both enjoy
And it's screaming from within to set it free

I have left this bloody nightmare
In my wake but out of sight
All I want is deviation by design

-'Song #3' by Stone Sour

============================================

Ma'da'mis. She is passion, and life, a breath of fresh air in this stagnant world.

She can Sing, and has the talent to create. While using a Song that was not meant for creating, she managed to bring life to something that should be impossible in this world. Had she existed in my time, the world before, she could have replaced June as the greatest Creator to our people. It makes the marks on her body ironic in my mind.

But somehow, she doesn't want the adulation, is embarrassed by worship. She doesn't accept it as her due. One of my spies has even told me that she asked for money from the Inquisition, not to fund habits, curry favor, or buy trinkets. She asked for anything that would have been hers to instead be given to others, to ease the burden that ensuring her well being brings to those around her.

It makes her even better than the Evanuris, in my eyes. Even my sister had accepted the accolades as her due, though she strove to take care of those she claimed as her own.

So when we were by the great tree, after her first creation ran it's course, I claimed her. It soothed the primal side of me, the wolf that weighs the threat and promise of the beings around me. Feeling her from the inside, with her magic and Song still hanging in the air, made me feel complete in a way I never expected to find.

She is a host of contradictions, both experienced and innocent. When she told me of the one who hurt her instead of pleasuring her, I felt rage, that this one would be in her world and far away from anything I could do to him. I found myself jealous, that others might have tasted her, heard her sounds as she found her peak, especially since she tried so hard to suppress her cries.

The sight and feel of her, writhing from pleasure beneath me, had made me territorial. Seeing the wolf print, on her hip, had me wondering about fate.

I had felt like blasting those who interrupted us to smithereens, for stealing away the contentment from her face.

She had hurried away, embarrassed at being caught, but, I think, not regretful. She had looked back at me, a hint of desire still lingering. It was enough to make me want to claim her again.

"She is not for one such as you," the templar had tried to threaten me. I turned to him, intending to put him in his place, but Varric's voice rang out, infused with alarm. My eyes snapped back to her, just in time to see her crumple to the ground.

And I could not get to her quickly enough, could not stop her fall. It was like finding my sister's still form all over again, the cold panic that squeezed my heart until I couldn't breathe.

When I made it to her side, she was laying on the ground, thankfully still breathing. Her open eyes were showing blue flames, and I knew the fadefire was doing what it could to keep her alive.

I put my fingers to her chest, ostensibly checking that her heart was still beating, but in actuality to check her with my magic. I found that she might have the talent to Create with her songs, but not the magic, not yet. She had used so much of her magic, she had unintentionally dipped into her own lifeforce. There was a yawning nothingness in the center where her magic should have been strong, the fadefire stretching across it in my sight to stop its pull on her.

I gave it silent thanks, and began filling the edges of the void with a lattice of my own magic, giving her a buffer. It would only last a few days, but it should be long enough for her own magic to come back naturally.

The fadefire glow in her eyes died down, and I lifted her by her shoulders, sitting her upright. In all, barely a minute had passed since her collapse.

A hand grabbed my shoulder, yanking me back away from her. I turned with a snarl, magic at the ready to annihilate any who threatened ma'da'mis. The templar stood there, bristling with fury. "What are you doing? Get away from her!" he yelled.

I didn't want the headache that killing him would create, so I managed to grit my teeth and explain, "She has severe mana withdrawal. She will be fine soon, but until then she needs to sit, to regain her senses."

"You're her 'teacher'," he spat out. "It's your fault she overextended herself!" Rage and shame filled me at his words. He didn't know how right he was.

"It was a miscalculation! She was using a rare form of magic, and when she let it go, it took a portion of her energy with it." It was getting harder for me to hold myself in check. I wanted to rip him into shreds.

"I've been in circle towers, and I've never seen someone using anything like that magic. If it exhausts her that much, then you shouldn't be teaching it to her!" The templar would do and say anything to try to take her from me. I could see how he looked at her, like a dog following a bitch in heat.

"It is, and always will be, up to the Herald to decide what she will learn," I informed him. If she decided she didn't want me, it would be her choice, not his, I warned him with my eyes.

I heard her murmur a few words to the child, Faelyn, and my attention immediately left the human.

I determined that she had retained her senses, and that the fadefire was ebbing back. She then sent me away with Faelyn, asking me to watch and teach him. Always thinking of others. I gave in, wanting to please her if I could.

Faelyn was as happy about it as I. We didn't get much learning or practice done. He was distracted with his worry for her, while I could still smell her under the tree, her sex and her pleasure. I spent most of what little lesson we had trying to hide my growing desire and desperation for her.

We ended it after only a couple hours, an unspoken agreement between us to make a good show of it for her sake.

We could see her, on the training grounds, when we returned to the village proper. The templar-dog was showing her techniques for her weapons, his fingers lingering on her form too long for my comfort.

But ma'da'mis is not the sort who takes smothering well, and likely would not take kindly to anyone trying to scare a rival away from her. So Faelyn and I went to her cabin.

"Are you going to marry her?" he asked, his childish bluntness making him bold. I wasn't sure how to respond to him.

"Lashanna is a very special, and complicated, person," I stalled. "I would not presume to know what she feels in respect to me."

"If you don't ask her, you'll never know," he reasoned.

"But it may not always be that simple," I explained gently.

I could hear her footsteps approach the door, murmured comments pass between her and the templar. A pause, and the sound of a light kiss. I nearly saw red when I heard her words, "your reward for winning." But she didn't linger with him, which mollified my territorialness.

Her eyes had lit up when she saw us, and she bantered with Faelyn, convincing him to show her where the hot springs were converted into a bathhouse.

She hadn't seemed concerned when I invited myself, but when she saw it was a communal place, not individual, she grew nervous.

I let my shame and territorialness combine, convincing her to let me take care of her. She detested being seen as needy or weak, but acquiesced to my wish to pamper her.

She was uncomfortable, but let me be her servant in this with as much grace as she could muster. I couldn't stop my desire for her from making me rock hard, but this was about her, so I played with her, pleasured her, helped her find her release.

However, she was insatiable, wanting more, pulling me back against her. I couldn't deny her. I had planned on claiming her slowly, letting her build her pleasure again and again, but two little words undid me. "I need," she said, and the wolf inside me answered.

I could not stop myself from marking her, a bite to her neck to let any who saw it know that she had chosen, to match the wolf-print she already had.

I thought everything was going well. She had chosen me, let me wait on her hand and foot, let me pleasure and mark her. I left her side for a moment, simply so she wouldn't worry about our activities being discovered. When I came back, she had tears streaming down her face.

She told me she was homesick. Not in so many words, but she missed her loved ones, her world. When I asked her if she would go back, if she could, her words seemed like she was trying to convince me, as well as herself. "It's a moot point. This is where we are now. We have to learn to live in this world, with these people."

They felt like blows to my heart. She would willingly give up her life to try to make this one better. When she walked out, I let her go.

Her words had me wondering, was I on the right path? I needed to correct my mistakes, to set the world aright and restore my people. But what if this world had been inevitable? Was it right for me to rip everything these people knew away in order to restore mine?

She had given me much to consider.

Chapter Text

Hello again, friend of a friend
I knew you when
Our common goal was waiting for the world to end
Now that the truth
Is just a rule that you can bend
You crack the whip
Shape-shift and trick
The past again

-'Black Sheep' by Metric

============================================

We left for Val Royeaux the next morning. I tried to keep up a happy face for Faelyn, trying to make sure that the trip was fun for him.

I wasn't sure how to act to Solas, but he solved my dilemma by acting perfectly polite. It was a relief, at first, not having to worry about what he'd have to say. But as the days passed and he maintained his polite distance, I began to feel lonely.

He didn't find me in the Fade, avoiding me even there. It was a little disconcerting, to find myself with only my own memories. Even the fadefire seemed conspicuously absent.

As the days stretched on, loneliness turned into worry. I tried my best to hide it, with middling success. Faelyn took up much of our riding hours practicing his magic under Solas' supervision, and didn't notice my growing tension.

Varric's keen eyes noticed everything, but he kept his thoughts to himself. Even Cassandra noticed something odd was going on, though she only asked about it when we left our main camps to find places to bathe.

By the time we made it to Val Royeaux, I was resigned to the end of the idyllic relationship that I'd thought was blooming between us. It made me grumpy, and when the Chantry mothers tried to harass me I ended up getting a little... snippy with them.

The only thing that shocked me out of my mood was the peculiar aura around the Lord Seeker. I glanced at Solas, to see if he'd noticed it. He gave me a tiny nod, barely taking his eyes away.

Once all the drama was over, we'd followed a mysterious note delivered by arrow to clues that only barely made sense. Since the rendezvous implied in them wasn't going to be happening till late that night, as a group we opted to find a set of rooms and relax somewhere with actual beds.

I managed to snag a room for myself. Guess it was a perk of being "the Herald of Andraste." I plunked down on the plush mattress, arms spread, trying to not think about anything.

A light knock pulled me out of a doze. I jerked awake, mumbling something that was apparently just coherent enough to mean 'come in,' and sat up on the edge of the bed.

Solas came in, quietly closing the door behind him. "Herald, I wished to check on you, to see how your mana has been regenerating," he said softly at my look of surprise.

"Right. Yeah, sure," I replied, trying to hide my disappointment.

He stood in front of me, his fingers hovering over my collarbone, not touching. I felt myself begin to lean forward, and stopped myself. I cleared my throat. "So what's the verdict, doctor?" I tried to make my voice light.

He was silent for a moment. At last, he said, "Your mana has almost completely recovered. You should be able to resume using your regular magic without consequence." He pulled his hand away and turned towards the door.

"What about learning to Sing?" I asked. "And the fadefire?"

He hesitated. "Your continued use of fadefire will depend on you, and it, deciding to continue your symbiosis. As for your Song..." he sighed. "It was in your first lesson that you depleted yourself so much. It was only the actions of the fadefire that kept you from succumbing to the mana withdrawal."

I blinked. "Wait. Are you saying... did I almost die?" I stared at him. He nodded, his face guarded. "I..." my voice failed me. "Thank you," I whispered, looking away.

Long fingers touched my cheek. "You should not thank me, da'mis," he said. "It was my carelessness, remember? If anything, you should despise me for it." He looked conflicted.

I shook my head. "The fadefire threw you off, didn't it?" I argued. "If I hadn't been using it, you'd have been able to see when I reached my limits."

"And who told you to use it?" he countered.

"Only so that you could teach me, without me throwing myself at you under the influence," I shot back. "Not that that worked very well," I muttered.

He looked down at me, eyes unreadable. "Do you regret it? Being with me?" he asked.

"What? No, of course I don't!" I was shocked that he'd think that. "If anything, I figured you thought I was too high maintenance to want anything to do with me," I added, looking at the floor. I didn't want to see affirmation on his face, if I was right.

"Oh da'mis, no," he said, cupping my cheek in his palm. "If I have seemed distant, it was... mostly to enable you to regain your magic without hindrance."

"Only mostly?" I asked, peering up at him. "What about the rest of the reason?"

He was quiet, stroking his thumb over my cheekbone. I'd nearly given up on him answering when he finally opened his mouth. "When you said that you wouldn't leave, wouldn't go back home while this world needed you, I..." he stopped. Tried again. "There are many things I need to put right in this world and..." He growled under his breath. "I can't explain..." He pursed his lips, struggling with himself. His hand slipped to my shoulder.

"Solas," I pulled his attention to me. I had a feeling I knew what he couldn't explain, what made it so difficult to answer. "I want your promise, not to ask how I know certain things." I was taking a huge gamble. His brows drew together confused. "Please. It's important."

He watched me for a moment, then nodded. "Alright," he finally agreed. "I swear I won't press you for how you know 'things' until you're ready to divulge."

I took a deep breath, steadying myself. "I know you're one of the ancient Elvhen." He froze. "And that you want to bring back the world as it was before the creation of the Veil."

His hand on my shoulder became a vice grip. "How..." he choked. I watched him with bated breath. His face was closed, expressionless. "How long have you known?" His voice was low, dangerous, his eyes searching my face carefully.

I swallowed around the lump in my throat. "Since the beginning," I told him.

His hand dropped from my shoulder, eyes widening in surprise. "And you still laid with me, knowing?" he asked incredulously. I nodded. I could see him putting pieces together, the things I had said and done during the time since the explosion at the Conclave.

He took a deep, shuddering breath. "And what do you think, about my goal to remove the Veil?" he asked, face still not giving away his thoughts.

I blinked, surprised at the question. "I... think that you're right. It needs to come down," I told him. "I just don't think millions need to die to do it," I added quickly.

He blinked at that. "Ma'da'mis. You are a rare treasure," he breathed. "You would help me in achieving my goals?" he asked.

"Yes, if you can find a way to do it without the deaths of the people in this world," I said without hesitation.

He grabbed my hand, pulling me up from the bed, and swept me into an embrace, his face buried in my hair. "Ma serannas, ma'da'mis,' he whispered into my ear.

I wrapped my arms around him, holding him as close as I could. I could feel some of the tension drain from him. I hadn't realized how tightly he held himself in control, all the time.

After some time just holding each other, he pulled away. "Someone will be by your room shortly to wake you," he murmured.

"Wake me?" I asked surprised. I looked around the room, realizing that the details were fuzzy. I grinned wryly. "So much for knowing when I'm in the Fade," I remarked.

He laughed. "If you hadn't been distracted by our talk, you'd have noticed before this," he assured me.

"Well, since we're in the Fade, is it possible for me to call the fadefire?" I asked.

Solas glanced behind me. "I believe it was waiting for an invitation," he murmured with a smirk. I turned, saw her sapphire flames peaking around the banister of the bed.

I felt a grin break over my face, and rushed around the bed to her. I pulled her into a hug. She seemed surprised, hugging back after a moments hesitation.

"I understand I have you to thank for my life," I said. "Thank you," I whispered, squeezing her tight. "Why didn't you come to me sooner?" I asked, pulling away to sit with her on the bed.

"Well, when you wield me, in the waking world, I come to you through your magic," she said. "It was still healing, regenerating, and I didn't want to risk your recovery."

"And in the Fade?" I asked.

She hesitated. "I wasn't sure you'd want to continue our... relationship, after I inadvertently put you in danger," she said reluctantly.

"Why wouldn't I? You saved my life!" I held her hand.

"Because it's not a simple friendship," Solas said, coming to stand beside me.

The fadefire nodded. "It's more like a symbiosis," she explained. "I give you access to, well, me and my flame. In return, you give me... life?" She looked to Solas for confirmation. "A sense of being, of self. I have sentience alone, but it's not fully realized. I need a bonded partner to see and feel the world, to be whole."

I blinked at the revelation. "So... in a way, you become a part of my spirit?"

She considered. "That's one way to look at it, yes," she agreed. "The longer we associate, the more you use my essence, the closer our symbiosis will become."

I nodded slowly. "Ok then."

She seemed surprised. "You're ok with this?"

"Of course!" I said. "It helps you, right? And in return I wield you in the waking world?" I smiled. "Sounds like a good bargain to me."

She smiled back. "Well, now that we've discussed that..." she glanced at Solas. "You'll be woken soon. Enjoy yourself. Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" She evaporated into wisps, dissipating like smoke.

"One last thing, before you wake," Solas murmured. His fingers titled my chin up, raising my face to his, and then his mouth captured mine in a demanding kiss.

I squeaked in surprise, the sound devoured by him, then I was just as demanding back. I had missed the taste of him, the last couple of weeks. Even in the Fade, I could feel his reaction to me.

Far too quickly, he broke away. "Soon, ma'da'mis," he whispered against my lips. "For now, you must

wake up."

============================================

I opened my eyes to the sound of Varric pounding on the door, yelling about needing to leave. A quick glance out the window showed it was full dark.

I scrambled off the bed, running my fingers through my hair as I reached the door. "I'm up, I'm up," I said breathlessly, pulling open the door.

A small cup was pushed into my hands. "When I checked on you earlier, you were dead asleep," Varric said. "Try this stuff. House best, or so they say."

I took a sip. It was a dark roast, heady. There wasn't much more than a mouthful or two, which I quickly drained. "Pretty good," I agreed. "Maybe I'll have a full cup in the morning, instead of this little sample size."

Varric burst out laughing. "You make sure I'm there when you ask for that, Sunshine," he said with a grin. "Let's get a move on. I'm curious about these cryptic messages."

An hour and a half later....

"Aaand you're an elf," the short blonde whirlwind named Sera said. "Are all dalish as tall as you?" She cocked her head to the side. "Never mind. Don't care. The important bit is that you glow, and you're flamin'!" She seemed excited to recognize me based on that alone.

Bemused, I got some answers from her about the guy she'd skewered, then her promise to meet us back in Haven.

As we reentered the hotel, a messenger found us and handed over an ornate invitation, to a salon the following night. "First Enchanter Vivienne," I read.

I lamented the fact that outside of Solas, I knew virtually nothing about the companions of the Inquisition beyond their names. Tia's favorite subject had always been Solas, his motivations and expressions, effectively ignoring the rest of, well, everyone.

I had no idea what to expect from this Vivienne. I sighed. "I guess we're not leaving tomorrow morning after all," I said absently. "Unless you three want to leave with Faelyn in the morning, and I'll catch up with you once I've met with the First Enchanter?"

"Absolutely not," "You're joking," "I cannot allow it," three voices trampled over each other. I held up my hands in surrender. "Just a suggestion, no need to get your panties in a bunch," I said. "But it means we've got a day to explore Val Royeaux, right?" I smiled hopefully.

Cassandra eyed me. "I suppose, yes. Though it would be safer for you to remain here," she said dryly.

I laughed. "Yeah. Not going to happen," I replied. "I'm going to take advantage of the chance to see the famous capital of Orlais."

"I'll join you," Varric said. "I've been meaning to ask around the city about some things. Something's fishy at my publishers..."

"Fine. In the morning, then. We will all accompany you," Cassandra said. With that, we all departed for our respective rooms.

Half an hour later, after I'd taken off my coat and started getting ready for bed, a knock I recognized sounded on my door. I pulled it open to find Solas waiting there. I smiled, and let him in. He immediately wrapped his arms around me, burying his face in my wild hair and breathing deep.

I fervently hoped that the walls in my room were soundproof. I had a feeling it would be a long night.

============================================

The next morning I sat in the dining room of our little hotel, trying to explain to the matré dé that I didn't want a little thimblefull of their coffee, I wanted a full sized cup of it. He was at a loss, and Varric was trying -and failing- to contain his guffaws.

"But messere, it is very strong, you only need a very little," he was trying to explain.

"And maybe that's fine for everyone else," I said, trying to hold onto my patience. "But I'll take a full sized cup filled with it." The poor man was at a loss. I held up a hand. "How about this. You bring me a full sized cup, as I have asked for. And if I don't drink the entire thing, I'll wash every dish in this hotel for you."

He gaped at me. "Wha-- bu-- but you are a guest!" he sputtered.

"And I'm making a request that is, in your eyes, unreasonable," I replied. "This way, if you're right, you gain free labor for an afternoon." I smiled brightly at him, then pointed right at him. "But if I'm right, and I drink it all, then my and my companions meals are free." Varric sat up eagerly at this, a gleam in his eyes.

The matré dé sputtered a bit more, to which I just raised an eyebrow and waited, holding my smile with gritted teeth. Finally, he ran out of arguments, and left muttering to himself.

By the time he came back with my (full!) cup of coffee, Varric had proceeded to order a banquet for the five of us.

"You shouldn't," I admonished, grinning.

"He should have listened," Varric reasoned. "Now, he'll know. Besides, once he realizes who you are, you  can bet your ass he'll have a sign up saying 'Herald of Andraste slept here!' He'll more than make up for the loss of this, Sunshine, I guarentee it."

I smirked. I'd taken to wearing gloves, so that people wouldn't remark on my hand everywhere I went. Apparently the morning manager hadn't heard that the Herald was in the hotel, or he might have put two and two together.

I gave him a smile as he walked by again, seemingly checking to make sure I actually drank it and didn't chuck it in a plant. I finished off the last gulp, and my smile turned predatory. Without taking my eyes from him, I set the empty cup upside down on its saucer, and proceeded to strip off my gloves. He glanced at my hands as I did.

He went pale. "Lady Herald, I..." He gulped. "I humbly beg your forgiveness, your worship."

"It's quite alright," I replied lightly. "But maybe, in the future, when someone tries to tell you something, you should listen."

"Of course, my Lady," he murmured with a slight bow, then took his leave.

I started pulling my gloves back on, and watched as Solas, Faelyn and Cassandra walked into the dining room. Faelyn plopped into a seat to my right and proceeded to load a plate with some of everything. Solas and Cassandra approached more slowly.

"I really don't want to know," Cassandra stated, forestalling Varric's explanation. She took up the seat opposite me, pulling a plate with some eggs in front of her and staring at them grumpily.

Solas slid into the seat on my left. I glanced at him, feeling a small smile lift my lips. His hand found mine under the table.

"So what are your plans today, Sunshine?" Varric's voice pulled me away from reminiscing over the night before.

I dragged my eyes away from Solas, saying, "I was just thinking of doing some window shopping."

"Then I'll show you to some of my favorite spots," Varric replied.

We all bantered back and forth, enjoying the lavish meal. When we were all full, we'd eaten more than I'd thought we would, but there was still a huge amount of food left. As everyone gathered their things to leave, I saw Varric pull the proprietor aside.

"You want me to what?" He seemed aghast.

"Whatever is left of our food should be given to the poor," Varric was explaining. "If there's any orphanages, they have priority. Any soup kitchens? They're next."

The man looked positively sick. Varric sighed and pulled out his coinpurse. Took out a few gold pieces and tucked them into the man's hand. "That should cover the cost of it all. And I'll be checking. If this good food is thrown away, or resold to other patrons, you'll find yourself with the worst publicity you could ever imagine."

As he rejoined us, I murmured, "You're a softie."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," he muttered back.

I just smirked as we left.

============================================

We wandered the city, getting strange looks from those we passed. It was only at times like this that I remembered that I was an elf, a second class citizen to most of the people in this city. I learned very quickly that if I stopped into a shop, the proprietor usually followed me around. After the first few times of this, I decided to stick to looking in through the windows.

When we stopped at one of the many cafes around the city, Solas, Faelyn, and I were relegated to 'servants tables' near Cassandra and Varric, with other hungry looking elves. When Cassandra was about to argue I waved them quiet and said it was fine.

Our meal was ok, though served cold and of a lesser cut than what was served to the others. Once we were done, I waited for the host to walk by to flag him down. He looked annoyed, snapping "What did you want? You were fed, which is more than many knife-ears get when their employers dine here."

I looked at him, saying, "It seems like the people of this city need to learn some manners." As he turned red with rage, I pulled off my gloves and held my hand up. He immediately fell silent, looking horrified. "In the future," I told him quietly, "perhaps don't assume that the 'knife-ears' are the help, and make sure that any servants that come here with their bosses get food if they want it."

I stood and walked out, the rest of my companions following silently. Faelyn's eyes were shining.

"You're getting to do that an awful lot in this city, Sunshine," Varric muttered.

"I can't stand casual racism," I replied. "It used to happen to my best friend. She never wanted to make a fuss. I always did anyway."

He glanced at me. "Was she qunari?" he asked.

I paused, frowned. "Not that I remember," I said. I knew I needed to prevaricate, since they'd never believe that a human would face the same sort of discrimination as the elves and qunari of this world, regardless of skin colour.

"How often are you planning on doing this?" he asked.

"As often as it takes, until it doesn't happen anymore," I said flatly.

Varric didn't respond, looking thoughtful.

I turned to Faelyn, saying, "I will always do what I can to stand up to people like that. But I want you to be careful. I can get away with it, since I'm in a bit of a unique position, but if other elves did it..." I shook my head. "The people that rule these cities prefer that elves be silent sufferers. When someone without power tries what I just did, they're likely to get harassed by guards or chevaliers, and it won't end well."

Faelyn nodded, subdued. "But it's like the rifts, isn't it?" he asked. "You have the power to do something about it, so you feel it's your responsibility to do it."

I smiled and nodded, replying, "Exactly."

We spent the rest of the day exploring the sights, marveling at the fountains and statues, almost all of which were religious depictions. It felt a little like walking through the old cities in Europe, which I'd done on a school trip when I was younger.

When we made it back to our hotel, it was late afternoon. The evening manager was back, and almost overly gracious. I guess he'd heard about what had happened that morning. He informed me that whenever I was ready to depart, a carriage would be waiting to take me to the estate.

I didn't really need to get ready for the salon, since I wasn't planning on getting changed, but I excused myself to my room anyway. Solas watched me ascend the stairs, and I gave him a half smile before disappearing around the bend.

I got stopped by three women with imperious voices wearing ridiculous masks, who mistook me for a servant. I didn't even bother answering them, simply stared at them a moment and walked away. They followed me to my room, sounding more irate by the second, so before I opened the door I pulled off my gloves again, and waved my left hand at them. They stopped glaring at me, and started whispering to each other behind their hands, hurrying away.

I was grumpy when I slammed the door to my room behind me. I growled at my reflection in the ornate mirror, not wanting to deal with more bullshit like that at the party tonight, and knowing it was likely inevitable.

When a knock sounded at my door, I jumped up, hoping it was Solas.

No such luck. It was an elven girl, a servant going by her short black hair and the plain dress she wore. Her eyes widened when she saw me. "Oh. Oh Maker. They weren't kidding, were they," she said, her hand coming up to cover her mouth. She dropped into a low curtsey, bowing her head forward.

My irritation spiked. "Now look, stop that," I snapped. She looked up, surprised. "Come on, get up." When she didn't move, I grasped her arm and pulled her up. "Now then," I said, trying to reign in my temper. "Was there something you needed?"

She gaped for a moment. "Uh, um, well, I was summoned to assist you in getting ready for Enchanter Vivienne's salon tonight," she stammered. I stared at her blankly.

She shrank in on herself a little. "I'm sorry to have disturbed you, my lady Herald," she whispered and began to turn away.

"Wait," I found myself saying. She stopped, looking a little fearful. I tried to smile at her. "I apologize for my temper. It's been a long day." I invited her in, and she hesitantly entered the room. "What's your name?"

She gulped at the question. "Tamra, my Lady," she said.

"To be honest, Tamra, I'm not even sure what getting ready I should be doing," I told her. "This is the only thing I brought with me." I spread my arms to indicate my armor coat.

"Oh, well word spread around the city that the Herald of Andraste was here," the girl explained, and moved towards the wardrobe on the other side of the room. "So, many of the boutiques sent at least a sample of their wares for you." She pulled open the doors to the wardrobe, and clothes of every style, color and material peaked through.

It was my turn to gape. "But I don't own any of this," I protested.

"They were all gifts," she said plainly. "Each designer would love to be able to say that you chose their design for the gathering tonight."

I joined her in front of the wardrobe, running my hands over all the clothes. "And if I don't want them?" I asked. "I'm mostly on the road these days. There's no way I'd ever be able to bring a tenth of this with me." I pulled on one of the dresses, a gaudy thing that would feel right at home with every terrible prom dress I'd ever seen. "And I don't think I'd want to," I added, wrinkling my nose.

She grinned at me before remembering who I was. She quickly cleared her throat, looking away. "If I may, my Lady?" She pulled out a dark purple dress, somewhat slimmer in design than the ballgowns, with vines in silver embroidery creeping along the bottom edge and up the rather daring slit in the skirt. The top was modest in the front, high necked with long thin sleeves that would come to a point on my hands. The draw of it was a large keyhole cutout that would spread from above my shoulder blades, down to almost my buttcrack, exposing almost my entire back. The skirts were just full enough that I'd probably be able to hide one of my daggers, though it wouldn't be easy to get to.

I lifted my eyebrows at the choice. "It matches your eyes," she explained, "and with your height, it will be stunning."

I glanced between it and her doubtfully. "I guess I'll try it," I said, shrugging.

She smiled, a bright thing that transformed her face, and started helping me out of my armor. She had me in the dress, and half the tiny buttons fastened when another knock sounded on the door.

I called out for them to come in. Solas walked through the door and stopped, his eyes locked on me. "My Lady!" chided Tamra, "It's not proper!"

I smiled at Solas, who was staring. "It's ok," I assured her. "This is my..." I paused. "... my teacher." I finished. Tamra glanced between me and Solas, her fingers never stopping their work.

"As you say, my Lady," she murmured. "Would you like assistance with your hair or cosmetics?"

I looked at my reflection in the mirror. I barely recognized myself in this dress. "No, I think I'm good," I said slowly. I gave her a smile. "Thank you, Tamra. You've got an excellent eye." She blushed.

"If I may..." she started quietly, wringing her hands together. "Before I go, could I get your blessing?" she asked, ducking her head shyly.

I blinked at her. "My what?"

"Your blessing, my Lady. It would mean a great deal," she said softly.

I exhaled, not quite sure what to say. "I don't claim to be holy," I told her. She looked crestfallen. "But if you're sure..." I added.

"Oh, yes!" she said fervently, and knelt in front of me with her head bowed.

I shifted, uncomfortable, and glanced at Solas. His expression was unreadable. I took a deep breath, gently laid my hand on Tamra's head, and quoted a piece of the chant of light that I could remember. "In the long hours of the night, when hope has abandoned me, I will see the stars and know your Light remains." I was glad I'd looked up the chant, trying to piece it together in my spare time.

Tamra looked up at me, her eyes shining, and mouthed 'thank you' before rising and rushing out the door. She looked back once as she went, a smile stretching across her face.

"You did well," Solas said quietly.

I rubbed my neck, sitting at the table in front of the mirror. "It felt awkward," I muttered. "Saying the chant, giving my blessing, when I don't believe in their Maker. What's the point?"

I stared at the jars of cosmetics in front of me, absently opening and closing them. I took one of the tiny brushes and began putting on a tiny amount of makeup, a little eyeliner and concealer, just enough to accent my features. Makeup has always been a way to mask myself, and it gave me a little comfort to go through the familiar motions.

Solas came up behind me. "You gave her comfort, and hope," he said, picking up the hairbrush and beginning to run it through the heavy waves down my back. "You might not claim to be holy, but gods have been raised for less than what you've already accomplished."

I made a face. "I don't want to be worshipped," I muttered.

His fingers in my hair trailed down my exposed spine, causing my breath to hitch. My eyes met his in the mirror. "Isalan dera na aron tuelan," he murmured.

I blinked. "What does that mean?" I asked. It wasn't any of the phrases that Tia had always gone nuts for.

He brought his mouth down beside my ear. He licked the tip, which surprised a moan out of me. It felt incredible, sending a spear of pleasure straight to my core. "I lust to touch you like a goddess," he whispered.

My mouth opened, a surprised 'oh' in the mirror, my eyes wide. He looked at me through my reflection, his desire plain to see in his hooded expression. I felt an answering heat kindle in me.

He pulled away a little, and resumed brushing my hair. "Unfortunately," he said lightly, "you must leave soon to meet with Lady Vivienne."

"Can't you come with me?" I asked, a suggestive smile curling my lips.

"It would probably not be well recieved for you to walk in with an apostate by your side," he murmured with a wry smile.  His hands began deftly twisting my hair into complicated knots, creating a gorgeous updo that left some of my hair to fall in a frame above the keyhole back, and a few tendrils by my face, leaving my pointed ears accentuated. He used just a touch of magic, dotting a few places with sparkling light that looked like stars.

When he was done, he turned my face towards him and kissed me, a long lingering kiss that stole my breath and had me leaning into him. "I will await your return, ma'da'mis," he whispered, his thumb stroking my lips.

After another heated kiss, he broke away and turned to leave. "Thank you," I murmured, watching him leave with a sigh.

I sat there a few minutes, just reveling in the memory of his touch, then pushed myself to finish getting ready. The only thing left was to add just a hint of colour to my lips, not a bold statement but a subtle accent, and then to find shoes. In the wardrobe I found a pair of slippers that matched the dress, down to the silver vines crawling along the outside.

When I left the room to descend the stairs, Varric and Cassandra were seated with Faelyn at one of the tables, enjoying dinner. I was slightly disappointed not to see Solas there.

Cassandra noticed me first, and smiled, pride in me lighting her eyes. She quickly looked down again, embarrassed. Varric turned to see what she'd been staring at, and gave a low whistle. Faelyn just blinked at me, as if unsure who this prettied up woman was.

"You clean up well, Sunshine," Varric said when I passed by their table.

I blushed, feeling the eyes of everyone in the dining room resting on me. "Yeah, well, it's amazing what a nice dress and some makeup will accomplish," I replied before saying my goodbyes and heading towards the door.

The doorman bowed, and led me to a carriage waiting near the door. I murmured my thanks when he helped me in, and he flashed a surprised smile at me.

I took a deep, steadying breath, trying to prepare myself for the trial to come.

Like that ever works.

Chapter Text

You let me violate you,
You let me desecrate you
You let me penetrate you,
You let me complicate you

Help me- I broke apart my insides,
Help me- I've got no soul to sell
Help me- the only thing that works for me,
Help me get away from myself

-'Closer' by Nine Inch Nails

============================================

An hour into the party, I could feel the strain in my jaw as I gritted my teeth, trying to hold my smile against the little quips lobbed in my direction. I had five men and three women surrounding me, all trying to outdo each other in praising me. Their idea of compliments ranged from the odd to the obscene.

I'd already had to fend off the wandering hands of a few men, and was starting to seriously consider calling the fadefire to me in order to teach them not to grab. The women looked at me sidelong, running critical eyes over my body and sniffing.

I listened to the harassment of a noble asshole, and very nearly took him up on his offer of a fight in the courtyard, when Enchanter Vivienne finally showed up.

She froze him, lashed him with the edge of her tongue, and sent him crawling away before beckoning me to join her in one of the secluded hallways.

"It is an honor to meet you, Lady Herald," she said, dripping sweetness. She reminded me of Tia's mother, both physically and in temperament. They both had that wide smile and slimy politician feel to them, where they'll be your best friend so long as they get something out of it.

"Likewise," I replied. "It's been a lovely party," I offered. She looked amused. She could probably see the lie on my face.

"I invited you in the hopes of offering my services to the Inquisition," she went right to business. "I have many contacts within the court, and I'm a mage of no small talent."

"Of course, Lady Vivienne," I said. "We of the Inquisition would be honored by your presence." I bowed slightly to her. "I'll be honest," I told her. "I'm not much of one for pomp and circumstance." She raised an eyebrow at me, her amused smile still in place. "If you're going to help the Inquisition, then please, call me Lashanna."

"You are quite charming," Vivienne purred. "I have a few affairs to wrap up in the city, my dear, but I can leave for Haven in three days." She paused. "May I ask, I have heard rumors that you are a mage, and I have detected magic around you at odd times, but I see you don't carry a staff."

"I am a mage," I admitted, taking a step back from her and letting the fadefire rush over my skin. Her eyes widened at the sight. "But I prefer a pair of daggers to a staff."

She pursed her lips. "A proper staff would allow you to channel your magic properly," she began.

"And my daggers were specially made for me to do the same," I cut her off. One elegant eyebrow raised up, so I reached into my skirts and pulled out the dagger I'd hidden there.

She examined it critically, taking her time before nodding. "This will do. For now," she acquiesced. It was my turn to raise an eyebrow at her. "My dear, we should return, I must see to my guests." With that, she led me back into the ballroom.

It wasn't until everyone went silent, staring at us- at me- that I realized I had forgotten about the fadefire, and was still covered in sapphire flames. Vivienne looked liked the cat that had the cream.

I had hated it, but I had learned a thing or two from Mama Jocelyn, Tia's mother, about how to escape parties without offending anyone.

"Thank you for an excellent evening," I said, turning towards her. "I'm afraid I must be leaving, however. My companions and I are leaving quite early in the morning."

"Of course, my dear. I will see you in Haven soon." And she swept away, her attention on her guests.

I kept my head high, hoping that the fadefire would help hide my growing blush, and moved towards the front doors. The people around me were still staring, a few bowing their heads but watching me intently behind their masks, others whispering to each other behind their fans.

As the doors closed behind me, I let out a long breath, sagging back against the ornate wood. A pair of footmen stared, not wanting to get close to the flaming lady. I forced a small smile and pushed myself in the direction of my waiting carriage.

The driver stared, wide-eyed. "Please," I said quietly to him, "just take me back my hotel." He nodded, still staring.

I pulled open the carriage door and was about to step in when a hand reached out to help me. I looked up and saw a perfect sight. Solas had apparently followed me, waiting for me.

At my questioning look, he murmured quietly, "I found myself growing impatient, and couldn't wait for your return to see you again."

I smiled at him, grateful that he was here, and settled into the seat beside him with a sigh. The carriage began its rocking movement, starting the journey back to the hotel.

One hand danced down my spine, and Solas leaned in to kiss me. His other hand slid through the slit in my skirts, tracing patterns up the inside of my thigh. When he found that I didn't have any underwear on, he pulled back from our kiss, surprise and desire in his eyes. He claimed my lips again, and this time I could feel the curve of his smile as we kissed.

His fingers brushed the line of my pussy, and I moaned against his lips. His fingers began stroking up and down, playing with the wetness he found there. One finger dipped into my entrance, one quick thrust that had me gasping before continuing its stroke, up and down.

Every time his fingers went up, and he came close to my clit, my breath hitched in anticipation. But he didn't quite touch it, and I found myself whimpering every time he pulled away.

He broke away from my lips, kissing a line down my cheek to my ear. His tongue darted out and he lightly licked up from the bottom, slowly making his way along the edge to the tip. It was like a direct line of electricity from there to my core, driving my need higher.

One of my hands was digging into the upholstery of the seat beneath us, the other began scrabbling to join his beneath my skirts. He pulled away slightly, tsking me. "Don't do that, ma'da'mis, or I will make sure you don't find the release you crave," he murmured.

"Please, Solas," I whispered.

"Behave, and I will take care of you," he whispered back in my ear, and licked the tip once more.

I whimpered, and settled my hand on his thigh, high enough that I could feel his hardness pushing against the cloth of his breeches.

His fingers began their stroke once more, but this time every time he passed over my entrance he dipped one finger in before continuing its path. I was panting with need, digging in my fingers to stop myself from grabbing him, but I couldn't stop my hips from twitching forward with every thrust of his fingers.

"You're doing very well, ma'da'mis, and we're almost there," he crooned, and gently bit my ear.

He rubbed his thumb over my clit at the same time he thrust two fingers into me. I cried out, then pulled my hand away from the seat to cover my mouth, still digging into his thigh with the other.

He began pumping his fingers in and out, slowly, curling them up to hit that perfect spot. I could feel myself building, nearly reaching that peak. He seemed to sense how close I was, and his fingers began working faster.

I came hard, my pussy clenching on his fingers as I bit down on my own hand to stifle the cries coming from my throat. As the waves of it passed over me, he slowed, then stopped, fingers still inside me but unmoving, thumb just barely circling my clit, keeping up the stimulation and ensuring my arousal didn't dissipate.

"Very well done, ma'da'mis," he said, kissing me. "For your reward, I'll be returning to your room tonight, and," he grinned wickedly, whispering in my ear, "I put up silencing wards, so you can scream as loud as I can make you."

I stared at him, wide-eyed, already trying to imagine what else he could do to me, and getting wetter, if possible, at the thoughts.

With one last caressing stroke inside me, he pulled his fingers out. He slowly licked my juices off his hand, and I was breathless, already feeling empty, needing more of him.

The carriage came to a stop. Solas peaked through the curtain, saying, "We've arrived." He glanced at me. "I'll sneak out of here, and meet you in your room." He leaned in for another kiss, and I could taste myself on his tongue. "Behave, ma'da'mis. I want you to go straight to your room to meet me. I'll be watching," he murmured, and slipped out the opposite side.

I took a deep breath, smoothing my skirts over my shaking legs. I pushed open the door and stepped out. With every step, I could feel my swollen pussy lips brushing against my thighs, and wished I knew how to teleport.

It was fairly late, but in a city like Val Royeaux there are people up at all hours. So while it certainly wasn't crowded in the entry and dining hall, there were still more than enough people to see me walk in. I could only hope I was still presentable.

When I didn't see my companions, I bypassed the dining hall and went straight up the stairs to my room. On the way, I passed Tamra with a few other servants, who curtsied.

"My lady! You look stunning," she gushed. "Will you need any assistance tonight?" she asked.

I tried to act nonchalant, like I wasn't currently sex-crazed. "Oh no, Tamra, I'll be fine," I assured her. Her eyes lit up when I said her name. "But truly, thank you for everything," I added. "Your suggestion was perfect."

She beamed, and the other servants shot her shocked looks. "You're too kind, my Lady Herald," she responded. She hesitated. "You are leaving tomorrow, my Lady?" she asked tentatively.

"That's the plan," I agreed.

Another hesitation. "I hope your travels are uneventful, Lady," she finally said, ducking her head.

The only thing on my mind at that time was getting to my room so that Solas could do whatever he wanted to me, so I barely noticed her odd behavior. But before I left her, I pulled her into a quick hug, whispering a thank you once more. She squeaked, standing stiffly, and I let her go after only a second.

I hurried down the hall, pushing open the door to my room and walking in. Before I'd gone three steps a hand closed over my wrist, the door was kicked shut and I was pulled into a hard embrace. A mouth came down over mine, demanding.

When he finally broke the kiss, Solas looked at me with predatory eyes. I was panting with my need for him, my hands pulling on his clothes.

He captured my hands, saying, "You lingered in the hall, ma'da'mis, when I expressed my wish that you come straight here. It was not your fault, so while you will be punished, I promise it won't be harsh." My breath hitched at his words. He leaned in, his breath tickling my ear. "But to be clear, ma'da'mis, if at any point I cross into territory you are unwilling to explore, simply tell me, and we will stop." He bit my ear, eliciting a moan from me.

He backed me up to the bed, and pulled a long scarf out. He tied it to the top of one of the posts of the bed, then commanded me, "Lift your arms, ma'da'mis."

Obediently, I raised my arms over my head, and he deftly secured my wrists to the post, my back against it. He backed away a moment, running hooded eyes over me.

I wanted to touch him, to be touched, to feel his skin on mine and have his cock buried deep inside me. I realized I was straining against my bonds trying to reach him.

Solas drifted close, lightly trailing his hand down from my chin, brushing my hardened nipples through the fabric of my dress. I arched my back, trying to get him to touch me more. "Behave, ma'da'mis," he said, his other hand trailing up my thigh. "Or I will have to reconsider if you deserve a harsher punishment for making me wait."

"And if I don't behave?" I asked breathlessly, licking my lips, watching him.

He leaned in, nibbled on my ear. "If you don't, ma'da'mis, I will make sure it takes you a very long time to find your release," he purred.

I gulped. If he didn't let me cum... I didn't want to think about it, so I determined to 'behave' as he put it.

"Then tell me what you want," I replied. He smiled, satisfaction on his face.

"Spread your legs," he said. I shuffled them apart, letting them go as far as I could with my hands still bound above my head.

His hands dipped into my skirts, pushing them aside to expose my legs, and he began tracing his fingers up the insides of my thighs. My hips twitched, and my pussy ached to be touched.

He watched me, as his fingers alighted on my swollen lips, and I bit my lip to contain my whimper. He pulled back. "Ah ah, ma'da'mis. I want to hear every sound you are capable of making," he admonished. It went against everything I had ever tried to do during sex. My partners had always preferred quiet lovemaking, shushing me when I got too loud.

But I forced myself to let go of my lip, and when he brushed his fingers over my clit I let out a whimper, my breaths coming in pants. He smiled at the sound, murmuring, "Very good, ma'da'mis." He ran his fingers down the cleft of my pussy, parting the lips, and thrust two fingers into me. I cried out, my hips pushing forward to meet his hand. He only pumped his fingers a few times before withdrawing, and I nearly sobbed.

He lifted his hand between us, marveling, "You are so wet." He licked one finger, murmuring, "Mar rodhe ir’on."

"You know," I panted, "you should tell a girl what those things you say mean."

He tilted his head to the side, then placed his fingers between my lips. My tongue darted over them, and I could taste my own wetness and need. "You taste delicious," he said. I sucked on his fingers, circling my tongue around them to get every bit of my juices off. His breath hitched, and he pulled his fingers out of reach of my mouth.

I smiled. "I guess if you want to taste more, you'll have to keep going," I purred, twitching my hips in invitation.

He growled, then kissed me, his tongue demanding access. When I opened to him, he explored my mouth, searching for any hint of my taste. When he pulled away, he was breathing just as hard as I was. He thrust his fingers into me again, hard and fast, making me cry out. I could feel my legs about to give out, and was suddenly glad for the scarf tying me upright.

He continued working his fingers on me, and as I felt myself about to cum he pulled away. I sobbed, all I could feel was the need, the emptiness in my pussy that I was desperate to have filled. "Please, Solas," I begged.

Leisurely licking his fingers, he purred, "Please, what, ma'da'mis?" His other hand began teasing my clit, never putting enough pressure to help me over the edge.

I moaned, my hips bucking forward. "Help me, please, let me cum," I found myself pleading.

He smiled like a wolf, then he thrust his fingers back in again, pumping furiously as his other hand played with my clit.

With a cry, I came, waves of pleasure breaking over me. When my writhing had stopped, he pulled his fingers away and licked the taste of my cum off, still twisting and teasing my clit almost absently.

"Very well done," he crooned. "Are you ready for more?" I nodded, my breath coming in short gasps. He raised an eyebrow. "I want to hear you speak the words, ma'da'mis. What do you want?"

I let out a groan, my voice barely working. "Fuck me, please Solas. I need you to fuck me," I babbled.

He watched me for a moment, saying, "I'm going to let your arms down, now. Will you behave?"

I nodded, then remembered he wanted words. "Yes, I understand," I said breathlessly.

"Good," he murmured, and untied the scarf above my head. He helped me out of the dress, taking my dagger from its sheath at my thigh and slicing the buttons off, pulling the dress off of my sensitive body. He guided me onto the bed, and retied my hands so I was laying on my back in the center of the plushness, with my wrists secured at the top of the mattress.

He started pulling off his clothes, and when his cock bounced free of his breeches I could see the moisture beading at the tip already. I licked my lips, wishing I could taste him like he had tasted me.

Solas saw where my eyes were locked, and brought his cock in front of my face, just out of reach. I could smell him, his maleness and sex, a heady scent. I darted my tongue out, trying to taste that beading at his tip.

He smiled, and brought it just within reach of my tongue. I licked him, tasting his arousal, and circled my tongue along the tip. He hissed, his hips bucking forward a bit, and I took advantage of the opportunity to suck on him, just a moment before he pulled out of reach again.

He growled. "Be careful, da'mis, you're straying close to misbehavior," he warned.

I grinned like the Cheshire cat. "If you don't want me to suck you," I said, "I guess you should put it somewhere else."

His own need flashed in his eyes. "Nuvenan rosa’da’din in ma sule enan’ma," he growled, and shifted down, kneeling between my thighs and bringing his hips in line with mine.

"Wh-Nmm." He'd started teasing my pussy with the head of his cock. I tried speaking again. "What does that mean," I gasped out.

He eased the tip just inside my entrance, then brought his weight over me to look me in the eyes. "I want to cum inside of you until I spill out of you," he said, and thrust himself into me all at once. I cried out at the feeling of being filled so suddenly.

He immediately began pumping in and out hard, at a furious pace. I lifted my hips to meet his, the smack of our skin colliding echoing in the room with my own moans.

I felt myself tumble over the edge, crying out as I came. As my pussy clenched down on him, he gasped, and I felt his cock throb as he spilled into me.

His weight settled over me, his hands running up and down my sides between my hips and my breasts. He would thumb my nipples every time his hand came up, making my breathing hitch. He kissed me, and began moving his still hard cock inside me again, slowly. I moaned against his mouth, the sensation running into the last ebbing waves of my orgasm, drawing it back and building it higher.

He took his time, pounding his cock into me harder but slower than before, his hands cupping my breasts and playing with my nipples, sending little shocks straight down to my pussy.

He bit down on my neck, in the sensitive area just under my jaw, sucking and marking my skin. "Jutuan ma ir rosas’da’din, ma tel’aman melin," he murmured, lips against my skin. He came back up to claim my mouth in a kiss, then said, "I will make you cum so much that you won’t remember your name."

He didn't stop his pounding rhythm, but he reached up and untied my hands, lifting me up off the bed until I was above, straddling him. I met him thrust for thrust, my back arching. He tongued my breast, sucking in my nipple and playfully biting down. I moaned, bringing one of my own hands up to circle one of his nipples in return.

I lowered my other hand behind me to where he was thrusting up into me, and gently cupped his sack, rolling his balls in my fingers. He gasped, his head pulling away from my breast.

With a growl, he turned till he was on top again, but twisted me so that I was laying on my stomach in front of him. He grabbed my hands, pulling them above my head and using the scarf to tie them to one of the posts. He pushed my knees as far apart as they would go so I couldn't get leverage to rock back against him.

"That was cheating, ma'da'mis," he chided, and thrust himself into me, making me cry out. He stopped, filling me but not moving. I whimpered, trying to push my hips into him, to get him to move. "How should I punish you this time?" he asked. His hands trailed down my back, lingered for a second on my wolf-print tattoo before continuing, then stopped at my asshole. It was already wet, covered in both my juices, and his cum that had leaked out of my pussy from his thrusting. He pushed first one finger inside my ass, then two, twisting them around as he slowly pumped them in and out.

I gasped at the sudden invasion, but didn't tell him to stop. After a minute, he added a third finger, stretching me further. He reached over to the bedside table, pulling out a bottle of oil from the drawer, and poured a little on my asshole as he fingered me. It coated his fingers, spreading into my ass, easing some of the discomfort and numbing the stretching pain.

He withdrew from my pussy and I whined. He poured a bit more oil onto his cock, using his hand to stroke it and cover it completely. When he pushed the head of his cock against my asshole, I went still, nervous.

"Relax into it, ma'da'mis. And tell me if it hurts too much to continue," he murmured, then gently began pushing into me. I groaned at the feeling, but did as he said and tried to keep myself relaxed. He took his time, never going too far at once.

When he had sheathed his entire cock, he stayed like that, not moving, just letting me get used to him, though I could feel by his cock's twitches in my sensitive ass that he was eager to move in me. He brought his hands around, one kneading my breast, pulling on my nipple, the other finding my over-sensitized clit, playing with it.

Soon enough, I was gasping with need once again. With a low growl, he began pushing in and out of my ass, agonizingly slow at first, but soon enough he was picking up speed. He bit down on my shoulder blade, marking my skin once again. I could feel his breath coming in pants just like my own.

It built slower, this time, perhaps because of how unfamiliar the pleasure was. But it was pleasure, completely unlike the pain I'd felt in college, and I could feel my orgasm getting closer.

I moaned with every thrust, unable to get the leverage to rock back to meet his thrusts while my hands were bound above me and my knees spread so far apart.

His hand left my breast, plunging into my hair to pull my head back. "Scream for me," he whispered in my ear, nipping the point. He timed it with his fingers on my clit and a particularly hard thrust in my ass, and I came again. I cried out his name as I did, and I felt him shudder above me. His own orgasm overtook him, and he thrust once more, his cock throbbing as his seed spilled into me.

He collapsed on top of me, sliding himself carefully out of me. I could feel oil mixed with his hot cum dribble out after, spreading across the back of my thighs.

He nuzzled my neck as he reached up to untie my hands. Every bone in my body felt like overcooked noodles, but I managed to shift to face him, bringing one hand down to cup his face.

We kissed, a tender one this time. "Thank you for trusting me, Lashanna," he whispered. His hands ran over my back, lightly kneading the muscles.

I rested my forehead against his and rubbed noses, murmuring, "Of course, Solas. Always." We laid like that for a while, letting our heartrates come down.

Solas began pushing himself up, sliding off the bed. He held his hand out to me, inviting me to join him. As I took his hand, I considered briefly whether my legs would be able to hold me, but he wrapped an arm around my waist, steadying me.

He led me to a door I hadn't noticed, opening it into a huge bathing room, complete with hot and cold running water for the sunken bath that took up half the room. Solas turned the water on, and poured a generous amount of bath oil in.

When it was full, he stepped in, helping me over the edge into the hot water, then sinking in with me. "How do you feel?" he asked me, running his hands over my skin, massaging the oil into my muscles.

"A little sore," I admitted. "But a good sore." I nestled up against him, tucking the top of my head under his chin with a contented sigh. His arms wrapped around me, holding me close.

"And you weren't uncomfortable at all, with how I played with you?" He asked quietly, his hand glowing as he ran it down my spine to my ass.

"Not really," I murmured, feeling all the soreness ease under his fingers. "It was a surprise, but... I liked it," I finished.

"I'm glad," he pressed his lips to my temple and breathed deeply. "I admit," he said, "when I saw you getting dressed, before the party, I wanted to take you right then, and any alliance be damned." He turned me to face him, running his hands through my hair. As he did, the twists that had miraculously stayed through all our activities released, and my hair tumbled down into the water.

"You could have walked the halls of ancient Arlathan, and put every 'goddess' there to shame," he murmured. His hands drifted down to my shoulders, over my collarbones, and gently cupped my breasts. He ran his thumbs over my nipples, tweaking them gently, and I shivered. He kissed me, and his tongue drifted over my lips, a question and not a demand this time.

I parted my lips and met his tongue with my own, my hands coming out of the water to trace up the lines of his chest. I reached up higher, and ran a finger along the edge of his ear. He gasped, and I could feel his erection growing in the water between us.

"Ma'da'mis," he murmured, "you are insatiable." He kissed down my neck, nipping the skin there gently. "We were supposed to be cleaning you up, making sure you were alright after," his hands drifted down, around my ass, tracing the crack to my asshole. "I know you are new to the pleasure of this, and wanted to take care of you," he murmured, his lips against my skin, his fingers just touching the entrance to my ass.

I stretched, arching my back, pushing my breasts against his chest and my ass against his hands. His breathing hitched a little, and I felt his cock, pressed between us, twitch against my belly. "Well, if you don't want to..." I said lightly. I began moving away, and with a growl he pulled me back, holding me in place against him.

My lips curled up.

It was going to be another very long night.

 

Chapter Text

Seven times again when you are not awake
Seven times the flame, too much to take
The sky burns red against your skin
The world we know turns in the wind

Coming like a hurricane, I take it in real slow
The world is spinning like a weathervane
Fragile and composed
I am breaking down again
I am aching now to let you in

-'Hurricane' - Fleurie

============================================

It was just after dawn. Solas and I had been... busy with each other until just a couple hours ago, and normally, with such little sleep, even a gallon of coffee wouldn't make me a morning person. But today, I'd had a cup of coffee (without a word of complaint from the morning manager!) and was feeling better than I had in years.

Varric had raised an eyebrow when he saw me. "I guess that party agreed with you, Sunshine. You're practically purring," he commented.

"Really? I hadn't noticed," I replied, flashing him a smile before moving out the doors to our waiting horses.

Faelyn was already out there, checking to make sure all of our meager possessions were there. I smiled and ruffled his hair, telling him good morning. He ducked away, laughing. "On dhea, asa'ma'lin," he called out happily.

"You're not bothering the workers here, are you?" I asked in mock sternness, looking at the hustlers nearby.

"He has been a delight, a real help," one of them assured me with a broad smile.

"He has a gift with the horses," another added. "They never shy away from him, even the most skittish."

Faelyn blushed, rubbing his arm. "I just talk to 'em," he muttered.

I pulled him into a one armed hug. "Well, I know we're lucky to have you."

Cassandra walked out, her usual taciturn expression on her face. Varric followed her out, and stuffed something into his saddlebags. "Just a little something for when we get back to Haven," he said with a grin.

Solas was the last to come out, and I pretended to be busy getting onto the horse. I hoped the progress we'd made in our relationship didn't stall on the journey back to Haven.

With a last round of goodbyes, we set off. As we reached the city gates, however, a woman stepped into our path.

She introduced herself as former Grand Enchanter Fiona, and invited us to Redcliff to speak with the mage rebellion.

"If it's help with the Breach you seek, perhaps you should look among your fellow mages, " she'd pressed.

Once we'd agreed to at least discuss meeting with the mages, we were on our way.

============================================

A month and a half later, we finally made it back to Haven. A messenger scout had intercepted us three days out from Val Royeaux, with an urgent request that we detour to a place called the Fallow Mire.

It seemed that some Inquisition scouts in the area had been captured by an Avvar group, with the purpose of drawing out the Herald of Andraste for 'negotiations'.

I hope I never have to go back there again. All the undead, the rain, almost getting struck by lightning five times... no, thank you.

It was a terrible place to go, a worse one to take a child. Faelyn had stayed at the first camp we found, with a few soldiers that were still around. I hadn't wanted to risk bringing him in against the undead, especially once we learned that there had been a plague in the area.

At least we were able to rescue the scouts.

So when we rode up to Haven's main gate, we were all ready for a bath and a rest. Of course, before we could do that, we needed to meet with the leaders in the Chantry-turned-headquarters.

Which led to an hour long discussion about whether to approach the templars or the mages, and all the circular arguments involved. "At the least we can meet the mages, see what they have to say," Leliana pointed out.

"Whatever you decide," I interrupted, "I think we need to have contingency plans in place."

"What do you mean?" Josephine asked, confused.

I knew just enough of the story of Inquisition that I had to warn them about the attack on Haven somehow. "Whoever or whatever caused the explosion and the Breach is likely still out there, and I doubt they're going to sit back and wait for us," I explained. "I'm willing to bet that whichever side we choose, they're going to try to either recruit or force the other into helping them."

Everyone stopped, considering. "That seems... logical," Leliana murmured.

"And once we have our help, and close the Breach, I think it's going to paint a target on Haven," I continued. "We need to have plans in place, in case the worst happens and we come under attack."

Cullen nodded thoughtfully. "Even if nothing happens, it can never hurt to be prepared," he agreed, glancing at me before returning his eyes to the map. "What did you have in mind?"

"Is there any way to set up or find a tunnel from Haven, in case we need to evacuate in the middle of an attack?" I asked.

Leliana's eyes narrowed at me. After a moment, she replied, "The tunnels of the Temple extended very far." She glanced around the room. "I can have some of my people explore, others can ask if any of the those who were here in the Chantry remembers anything."

I nodded my thanks. I knew there was something, but I couldn't remember who it was that was supposed to guide the evacuation, or where it was located. But without it, the Inquisition would die at Haven, and never make it to Skyhold.

"In other news," Josephine said, "the people you've recruited arrived. The young woman, Sera, has been... difficult to approach." Her eyebrow twitched, and I had to stifle a giggle at the implication that if Josephine found her difficult, everyone else probably wanted to strangle her. "Lady Vivienne, however, has been a great help pointing us towards those in court who may sympathize with our cause," Josephine added.

"Or whom she has secrets over, and can leverage influence with," Leliana put in with a tiny smile.

"I guess I need to go say 'hi' then," I murmured. "If that's everything?" I glanced at everyone, and when no one said anything else, I sighed and muttered, "Good. I need a bath."

As everyone filed out, Leliana followed me. "Herald," she started.

"You know you can call me by my name, right?" I told her tiredly.

A smile flickered on her face before disappearing back into her blank facade. "There is something I'd like to ask your assistance with," she said quietly as we walked. "The Grey Wardens of Fereldan are gone. When I tried to contact those in Orlais, I found that they, too, have disappeared."

"Shit," I muttered.

"My thoughts exactly," Leliana agreed. "But my scouts have recently sent word of a Warden Blackwall being seen near Redcliff village. I was hoping you could look into him, and the disappearances, next time you are there."

"I'll check it out," I said, thinking furiously. "You haven't been able to contact Warden Commander Surana?" She shook her head mutely. "Hmm. What about the other Wardens from Vigil Keep? Oghren, or Nathaniel Howe? Since Oghren traveled with you, I'd think he'd at least answer a letter, even if he is grumpy about it, and Nathaniel feels indebted to Majin, right? He'd answer if you phrased it as worry for her."

Her brows furrowed. "How do you... hm. I suppose you know about that the same way you know other things, correct?" I tried to keep my face blank. "Never mind. And I can try to contact them directly, though I don't know if they'll respond. They could be gone just like the rest." Leliana sighed.

"We'll figure it out, I promise," I told her. She nodded, and went on her way.

As I left the Chantry doors, an annoyed looking man stopped me. "Message for the Inquisition. I'm having a helluva time getting anyone to listen."

I took the message, something about a mercenary leader that wanted to get hired. I figured that the next time we went out to Redcliff, we could detour and go north to the Storm Coast to meet him.

My companions were long gone, so I decided to head to the bathhouse, if I could find it. It was early afternoon, so I doubted I'd find it empty, but I wanted the chance to soak.

I wandered a little, but found the bathhouse without getting too lost. I could hear five or six voices in the main room, but no one I recognized from the changing room.

I stripped off my clothes, folding them up on one of the benches, and wrapped a towel around myself. When I entered the bathing room, I was barely noticed, which was perfect for me.

I started heading towards one of the unoccupied ledges when a voice rang out, "Herald!" Everyone stopped and turned. It came from a solitary figure in a corner. "It's good to see you're finally back," Vivienne said. "Come. Sit with me." I reluctantly slipped into the water beside her, letting the hot water soak into my tired muscles.

"I have heard that you have taken a young mage under your wing," she began. "I should like the opportunity to work with him, teach him some structure for his magic."

"Thank you, First Enchanter. I'll let him know about your offer," I said as politely as I could.

She raised an eyebrow, but continued, "As you also seemed new to your magic, perhaps you'd like to join him in his lessons."

"I'll consider it, thank you," I hedged.

"I hope you'll do more than consider, my dear," she said, her tone taking a sharp edge. "Ignorance is the bane of any young mage. You would do well to learn as much as you can, from those who already have the knowledge."

"Just because you learned it from a book does not mean you know best," I heard myself say. Vivienne's eyes widened. I raised a hand to stall her outrage. "I'm not disparaging the work you've put in. I'm just saying it's not the only way." Her eyes narrowed, considering. "If you have an artist that can paint the most beautiful, realistic pictures you've ever seen with only the barest of training, do you then force him to learn color theory and basic shapes?"

"That is hardly analogous," Vivienne protested.

"It's not perfect," I admitted, "but it's close. What I'm trying to get at is that, at least in my case, you can't teach me."

"And why would you assume that, my dear?" she asked, voice cold.

Instead of answering, I drew on the lessons I'd been having with Solas, quietly singing a single note and weaving a tiny illusion of a dragon, taking care to keep it out of sight of the other bathers.

Vivienne drew in a sharp breath, eyes fixated on the figure. After only a moment, I let the note and the magic go.

She was silent, watching me carefully. "You could teach me fireballs and lightning," I told her. "But the control I need to learn is tied to that."

"I have only seen references to singing magic in a few of the oldest tomes, in accounts second and third hand," she said wonderingly. "I had believed them hyperbole, wild tales told by those who didn't know better."

"I hadn't realized there were references at all," I admitted.

"If it would help, I can tell you what I remember of the accounts I read," Vivienne offered.

I recognized the olive branch when I heard it. "That would be great, thank you. And perhaps you can help me with my fighting magic. Solas says I still depend on my daggers way too much," I said with a half smile.

"I would be delighted, my dear," she agreed. "Now. I must be going. I've monopolized the bath and your company for far too long." With that, she took her leave.

As soon as she was gone, I sagged into the ledge, tired of trying to maneuver her into being less condescending.

Over the next few minutes, the other bathers drifted away. I sank further into the water, resting my head back and closing my eyes. I didn't want to give up the heat just yet. We'd be in the road again in just two days. I'd rather revel in the spring while I could.

I heard the door open, and sighed. My soak was over, it seemed. "Makers breath," I heard a voice swear. "Herald, I'm sorry, I'll leave you to the bath." I cracked an eye open to see a very red Commander Cullen holding a towel in front of himself, edging back towards the door.

"Don't be silly, I'm almost done anyway," I waved him in.

He wavered. "I-if you're sure," he said. "I'd hate to disturb you." He still hesitated.

"You're not," I assured him. "I just wanted to enjoy a hot bath while I could, before heading out again." I didn't wait for a reply, dipping my head under water to wet the rest of my hair. When I surfaced, Cullen was in the water, on the opposite side of the baths, watching me like a deer in headlights.

I started scrubbing the dirt out of my scalp, leaning back so my hair could spread through the water. Once I felt like most of the dirt was gone, I started rubbing a cloth over my skin, getting the ground in dirt out. It had been nearly two months since leaving Val Royeaux, the last time I'd felt really clean.

Cullen cleared his throat. "I, uh, hadn't realized that your tattoos extended quite so far," he said, nervously. I glanced at him, then down at myself, not sure how to respond to that. "Did it hurt overly much, getting them?" he asked.

"I don't remember recieving them," I responded. It wasn't really a lie, I told myself.

"Ah. Yes, I'd forgotten your amnesia," he said softly. I attempted a smile, but couldn't quite make it, so I turned, preparing to get out of the water. "Herald," he called out. I paused, looking at him, half in and half out of the bath. He swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing. "I'm... glad to see you're well," he said, blushing.

"Thank you," I replied, smiling. "And you know, you can call me Lashanna," I added.

"I would like that," he said, a shy smile spreading his lips.

With a last smile and a wave, I finished getting out and wrapped my towel around myself.

I walked into the changing room, feeling Cullen's eyes on me. I glanced back, meeting his eyes for a moment before closing the door.

I took my time getting dried off, and considered everything going on in my sexlife. I was still naked when I heard him come into the room.

"Lashanna..." I heard him whisper. I turned towards him. I could see his erection, though he tried to hide it with his towel. Slowly, he reached a hand out to me, touching my cheek.

He came in closer, his heat coming up against my skin. He lightly brushed his lips over mine, tentative, unsure, and I found myself kissing him back. The towel dropped, leaving nothing between us, and he pressed his hard cock against me.

The outside door opened, and I broke the kiss with Cullen to see Solas standing there, hooded eyes watching us.

I opened my mouth to try to explain, but he held a hand up to stall me. He looked over my shoulder to Cullen, nodded once, and pulled me into a kiss himself. I squeaked in surprise. After a long, hot kiss he pulled away and turned me around, holding my back against him. I could feel his hard length through his breeches, pushing against my ass.

In front of me was Cullen, hunger in his face. He kissed me again, pressing his cock against my stomach. His hands began exploring my front, fingers sliding down from my shoulders to cup my breasts, tweaking my nipples lightly. My back arched, pushing my breasts into his hands, and my ass to Solas. My breath was coming in gasps.

Solas pulled away, quickly pulling off his clothes, and immediately came back, holding me and running his fingers down my spine to my ass. He nipped my shoulder, his teeth scraping my skin.

Cullen let go of my breasts, hands exploring further down. He brushed his fingers into the curls on my pussy, lightly touching my clit. I moaned at the touch. At the same time, Solas lightly pushed a finger against the entrance to my asshole. Cullen thumbed my clit harder, and slid a finger down into the cleft of my pussy, discovering the wetness there.

By some unspoken agreement, they both pushed their fingers in at the same time, and I moaned at the feeling. Solas set the pace, in and out oh so slowly, and Cullen matched it, both of them fingering me. After a minute, Solas added a second finger and continued his leisurely thrusting of his fingers.

Cullen began picking up the pace, his fingers moving within me faster. I could feel the pleasure building, heard my moans echoing. Cullen took one breast in hand, and Solas reached around to take the other, both pulling and tweaking my nipples in time with their fingers in my holes.

With a cry, I came, everything in me clenching down on their fingers.

When my body relaxed, the orgasm passing, they began herding me back to the bathing room and into the water, kneeling me on a ledge. Cullen sat before me, his ass on the headrest and cock in front of my face. Solas was behind me, pressing his cock against the entrance to my pussy.

I licked the tip of Cullen's cock, and he gasped. Solas pushed in just a tiny bit and I moaned. I took the head of Cullen into my mouth, sucking gently, and he groaned, his hand cradling my head. When Solas pushed into me, I moaned around the cock in my mouth. Cullen sucked in a breath.

Solas pumped into me, slowly at first, but as I took more of Cullen into my mouth he began thrusting faster, harder. He reached around, cupping my breast, pounding into me, creating waves in the water.

My pleasure grew, and I bobbed my head, sucking hard on Cullen's cock. I used my tongue, tracing patterns on him. Solas pulled on my nipple, and my orgasm crested, a cry muffled by Cullen pushing it's way out of my throat. Cullen moaned, and he came, his hot cum hitting the back of my throat. Solas groaned at the feeling of my pussy squeezing him, and I felt him throb, then the heat of him spilling into me.

Solas pulled me off of Cullen, pushed me onto my back on the side of the baths with my ass on the edge, dangling my legs over the water. Cullen dropped into the water, sitting between my knees, and Solas straddled my chest, his cock bouncing in front of me.

I felt Cullen's tentative lick graze from down by my asshole, up the cleft of my pussy, and as he reached the top he sucked my clit into his mouth. I moaned, and Solas pushed his cock into my mouth. I sucked on him eagerly, taking as much of him in as I could, tasting myself on him. He began pumping his hips, thrusting his cock into my mouth over and over.

Cullen explored my pussy with his tongue, pushing into me, tasting me and licking up Solas' cum. He rubbed my clit, then pushed a finger into me while his tongue lapped around it. He stroked me from the inside, hitting my g-spot, and I moaned, throat closing on Solas's cock.

Cullen circled a finger around my asshole, then pumped a finger in as he licked my pussy. He played like that, adding another finger and alternating between my ass and my pussy, using his other hand to twist around my clit. Solas was bent over me, fucking my face, his braids falling next to me. I used my hands, stroking his cock as he thrust into my mouth over and over.

I crested again, and Cullen eagerly tasted my orgasm. When it ebbed, he stood between my knees, pushing his cock into my pussy, pumping hard and fast. One of his hands rested at the top of my mound, his thumb rubbing my clit. I moaned around Solas's length, feeling myself cum again.

Solas moaned as well, his cock throbbing in my throat, and I swallowed as he came.

He pulled out of my mouth, and got up. Cullen continued to fuck me, rubbing my clit between his fingers and keeping me on the edge, not letting me come back down. Solas found a bottle and brought it back with him.

He lightly tapped Cullen's shoulder, who pulled out of my pussy, prompting me to whine at the loss.

They pulled me out of the water, and Cullen stood in front of me, pulling my legs up to straddle his hips. He sank his hard cock back into my pussy with a groan, then put his hands on my hips to stop me from rocking back and forth on him.

Solas settled in behind me. He slowly pushed two oil covered fingers into my ass, and I moaned. He pumped a few times, making sure the numbing oil covered my asshole, adding another finger as he went. Between that and Cullen's cock in my pussy, I found I was trembling with need.

When he pulled his fingers from me, I was nearly sobbing with the need to move, whimpers coming out of my throat. He paused, taking a moment to lather the oil over his cock, then began pushing it into my ass bit by bit.

Solas sheathed himself entirely in me. I felt almost too full, and I found that regardless of my need, I couldn't move, sandwiched between them. I could feel them rubbing against each other, only the thin walls inside me separating them.

Cullen shifted his hips, pulling most of his cock out. When he slammed back into me, Solas pulled mostly out. They synchronized like that, pumping their cocks into me over and over, holding me still between them.

I shuddered, cumming hard on them both, but they didn't stop. They began thrusting faster, harder, their cocks beginning to go out of sync, until they were both thrusting in at the same time. All three of us were panting, moaning, hands and mouths closing on one another.

My orgasm didn't ebb, didn't stop, instead it built higher and higher. Solas bit down on my neck on one side, Cullen on the other, and I came again, my cries echoing in the large room

Cullen shuddered first, his cock throbbing in my pussy as he came, Solas following seconds later in my ass.

They gently set me on my feet, and when my legs gave out they both carried me into the water. Two sets of hands caressed me, touching and teasing. Two mouths captured mine in kisses, one after another, over and over, leaving me breathless and dizzy, the taste of my pussy spiced with Solas's cum lingering on my tongue.

I lost track of whose hand thumbed my breasts, of who traced the line of my vallaslin down my stomach to my pussy. I don't know whose tongue and teeth pulled on my nipple, or whose fingers played in my holes.

"Light your fadefire, ma'da'mis," I heard Solas whisper in my ear, and sapphire flames drifted up from my skin. "Isalan dera na aron tuelan," he breathed.

"You are divine," Cullen's voice next to my other ear.

I was boneless, completely at their mercy as they played with my body. A cock pushed into my pussy, and I opened my eyes to see blue eyes. Solas kissed me as Cullen gently pushed himself into my ass.

But I was impatient.

I put one hand by Solas's head, running my nails up his ear to the tip, and with the other reached down behind me to where Cullen's cock entered my ass. I began stroking him as he thrust in and out of me, breaking his rhythm with Solas.

Solas captured my hands, pulled them away with a tsking sound. His cock slid out of me and I whimpered.

"You're being a bad girl," Cullen's voice was ruff, thick with his own need, but he pulled his cock from me as well.

"Will you never learn to behave, ma'da'mis?" Solas asked, voice like silk.

He did... something, with his magic, creating a rope with the Fade that tied my wrists up. I was suspended, hanging in the water from the ceiling, my feet unable to touch the floor of the bath. He created more ropes from the walls of the bath that curled around my knees, pulling my thighs up and apart, and making me unable to move.

I felt empty, after being so filled for so long. I needed more, like an addict.

"Please, please, I'll be good, just please, fuck me. Please, Solas, I need to be fucked, Cullen I need you both inside me..." I babbled, pleading with them. Their hands touched me, their cocks rubbed against me, but neither of them penetrated me. Their hands glided over my nipples, making me gasp, but didn't stop to play with them. Fingers brushed my clit, but didn't touch for more than a second.

I was sobbing, my need consuming me until I was mindless. Then, as one, they thrust themselves into me, filling the voids.

They claimed me in the water, which took some of the numbing away but none of the pleasure. I could feel every inch of both their cocks filling me, over and over. My weight was buoyed by the water and the ropes, and their hands and mouths were free to play, following my vallaslin, biting my neck, tweaking nipples, tracing lines around my clit... I lost track of all the ways they pulled me higher.

They took their time, letting the pleasure build, then stilling themselves inside me to caress and touch, not letting me reach my peak. They did this several times, and I felt my need increasing into an ache.

Once again they built up my pleasure, the pressure like the water behind the dam. I almost held myself back, trying to stop the inexorable cresting of my orgasm only to feel it snatched away from me.

But this time, they let it crash over me, both of them thrusting into me hard and fast, gasping. As I reached the peak of my orgasm, I felt both their cocks throb inside me, at the same time, a twin sensation in both holes, their hot seed filling me.

They held onto me, shaking, and I was glad for the ropes holding me in place.

Cullen pulled away first, with a hiss, his hands clutching onto my hips. Solas pulled away after, caressing my skin at my waist. I could feel their cum dribbling out, mingling on my sex and in the water.

The ropes dissolved, dropping me into Solas's arms. The room was hazy, like a fever dream. He kissed me, and I realized Cullen had disappeared. "Where..." was all I managed to get out.

"It left," Solas said quietly.

I frowned. "It?"

His lips quirked into a half smile. "You attracted a lust spirit, ma'da'mis. And it was surprised at how voracious you were, especially with me here playing with you as well."

I looked around in surprise, finally recognizing the Fade. "A spirit?" I asked, dumbfounded. "But I thought it was Cullen."

"Yes. But did you really think a mortal could keep up with me?" He sounded amused.

"Shit," I breathed. I glanced at his face. "You're not mad?" I asked.

"Lust is healthy," he replied. "So long as you realize, this would never, ever happen in the waking, not with him." The contempt in his voice was plain to hear. "A spirit, attracted by your needs, is one thing. But I will tell you this only once: I will not share you with him."

I nodded, then rested my head on his chest, hearing his heart beating hard still.

"It's a good thing this is the Fade," I murmured. "Otherwise I don't think I'd be able to walk tomorrow."

Solas chuckled. "You have much to learn, ma'da'mis," he said, voice low. "If it had been just the two of us, you would be correct. But with the involvement of a spirit, the effects will carry into your physical form." He kissed me. "In other words, you have been well and thoroughly fucked, Lashanna."

I laughed. Nuzzled his chest. "Tell me I at least made it back to my cabin, after my bath?" I murmured.

"You did," Solas assured me, adding, "though the dog commander did walk in on you in the baths, you left alone shortly after he arrived."

I nodded, content with that. I realized Solas had brought me away from Haven's bathhouse, to his study, and I was sitting on his lap in one of the big chairs. We were both still naked, though dry.

I breathed in his scent, tracing my fingers over the muscles of his chest and abs. I felt him grow hard beneath me. With a smile, I teased, "Haven't you had enough?"

A low chuckle vibrated his chest. "The ancient elvhen would have orgies lasting years, ma'da'mis. Often with multiple spirits such as the one you attracted in attendance. Immortal stamina, remember? Though I may be a bit rusty in that regard." He kissed the top of my head. "But you are drained from the spirit, your lust ebbing. I will not act on my impulses right now."

"Hmm... is that why you had me call the fadefire?" I asked.

"Yes. With that, it could not take more from you. It's own personal code made it continue until your finish, but it lost interest once it could no longer taste the culmination of your lust."

I continued trailing my fingers over his skin, feeling his breath hitch when I came close to his nipples. I  smiled, pressing my lips to his skin. My tongue darted out, licking him. His cock twitched beneath me.

"Da'mis," Solas warned. I wiggled my ass in his lap, and I felt him get harder against me. "You should not," he had his hands on my shoulders, but didn't push me away.

I turned my head, licked his nipple. He inhaled sharply. His hands drifted down from my shoulders, skimming the skin on my back to rest on my hips. I felt my pussy lips were swollen, practically dripping wet, and I shifted until I could feel his cock pressed up against my cleft.

Solas growled, a low rumble in his chest, and twisted me so I straddled his hips. He held my waist, holding me up so my ass hovered above his lap. "I don't want to push you into more than you're comfortable with or capable of," he said, his breath coming in hard.

I reached a hand down between us, wrapping my fingers around his shaft. He felt like silk over steel, and I slid my fingers up and down. He groaned. "Do I seem uncomfortable or incapable?" I asked, my voice husky.

He looked up at me, eyes glittering, then pulled me down, plunging his cock into me with a moan. I cried out as he entered me, filling me completely. I put my hands on his shoulders, steadying myself, and began flexing my legs, sliding my pussy up and down his length.

The chair under us transformed, turning into silken sheets over a plush mattress. He leaned back, his hands grasping my hips, and thrust up into me. I trailed my fingers down his chest as I rode him, my breath coming in pants.

He brought a hand up, fingers twisting and teasing my nipple. I arched my back into his touch, changing the angle that he thrust into me. My pleasure built, my core tightening. I lifted my hand and stroked his ear up and down.

Solas moaned, thrusting harder, and as my orgasm exploded over me, he came, hot seed coating the inside of my pussy.

I collapsed on top of him, shaking. He wrapped his arms around me, pulling me close, his cock still inside me.

I sighed, cuddling on him, nuzzling his chest. He shifted, slipping out of me, his cum spilling out of me and smearing on both our thighs. I pouted a little when his cock left me. I liked the feeling of him there, filling me, after we had both cum hard.

His hands stroked up and down my back, pausing over the wolf print on my hip. His fingers traced the outline, tickling me a little. "Why do you have this?" he asked quietly.

"Tia and I got matching ones, about five years ago," I said.

"But why a wolf print?" he pressed, fingers rubbing over it.

"We both fell in love with a character," I started. His eyebrows raised at that. "Not like that," I said with a grin. "She's a really strong person, who can turn into a coyote at will, and she got a print tattoo in school. In the story, she marries a werewolf, and eventually meets her father, whom she gets the coyote shape from." I chuckled a little. "It's actually a joke in the story, she tells her husband that it's a coyote print, and her father that it's a wolf print. Only she knows which it really is."

"And you? Which is it, a coyote dog, or a wolf?" he asked.

"I've always preferred wolves," I whispered, kissing him. I could feel the curve of his smile on my lips, and he rested his palm against the tattoo.

Chapter Text

No Masters or Kings
When the Ritual begins
There is no sweeter innocence 
than our gentle sin

In the madness and soil 
of that sad earthly sin
Only then I am human
Only then I am clean

-'Take Me to Church' by Hozier

============================================

I had stolen more than a few glances at her in the baths, fascinated by the marks trailing their way down to her core. It both saddened and relieved me when she left the baths, giving me a tantalizing look at her curves.

I went to sleep wondering if, perhaps, I might ever know how it would feel to touch her, to trace the marks downward as I loved her.

That night, images invaded my mind, the feel of her, the taste of her sex, the scent of her skin. I woke up in a sweat, my cock throbbing, hard as a rock. I laid back, trying to go back to sleep, but the memory of my dream plagued me.

I realized I was stroking myself, reliving the memory of plunging deep inside her over and over again. Recalling the feeling of her hot mouth on my cock, the pressure of her tongue as she swallowed my seed. I heard the echo of her cries, as she repeatedly found the peak of her pleasure with me.

My release broke over me, a mess spilled onto my blankets. As it did the memories clarified, bringing into focus him, stroking and pleasing her beside me, both of us inside her, working together to tease and tantalize her. Sharing her pleasure between us.

Bile rose in my throat, acid that couldn't burn away the memory of tasting his seed inside her, of his mouth on her skin and his cock pumping into her in every way possible.

I cleaned myself up, disposing of the blanket discreetly. I was disgusted with myself, for dreaming of her in such a way, and enraged at the thought of his hands stroking her soft wetness, following her generous curves.

I only wished there was a way to scrub the dreams from my mind as easily as I scrubbed the sweat of desire from my skin.

Chapter Text

Feel the weight of your hand in mine
What's left if we're only stealing time
No, I won't stand to keep watching you stay
Ooh go, soon the sun will be turning away

-'Ashes' by Madi Diaz

============================================

I woke with a smile stretching my lips, my body sore beyond belief. I saw the marks on my wrists, felt the matching ones on my thighs where the ropes had held me in place.

I pulled myself out of bed, wondering how I'd be able to get anything done. My legs still felt shakey, the aftereffects of being thoroughly fucked and having... I thought back, counted... eight orgasms in such a short amount of time.

I was sitting on the edge of my bed when I heard the knock on my door. I made it to the door, opened it and leaned against the doorjam to maintain my balance.

"Herald! Er, Lashanna," Cullen stammered, looking bashfuly at me.

"Good morning, Commander," I replied with a smile.

He cleared his throat, a blush on his cheeks. His eyes briefly traveled down my body, and the blush deepened. He snapped his eyes back up to mine, rubbing his neck.

"Yes uh, I was hoping that I'd caught you early enough to see if you wanted to train, this morning?" he babbled through his explanation. "Since I'm sure you've been practicing, and then I can see how your skill is progressing and recommend what you should do next." He gulped, stopping the flood of words.

"I think I can do that." Cullen stared at my mouth, seeming like he was lost in thought. My smile faltered, and I said, "I'll just go grab my coat and daggers." He nodded, still staring.

I pushed away from the doorway, and my knees gave out. I tumbled to the floor. Cullen shouted a curse, pushing his way in to the cabin and startling Faelyn awake.

I waved Cullen away. "I'm fine, I'm fine," I assured him. "I'm just sore, my legs are having trouble remembering which way is up."

Cullen was staring down at my arms, and I realized my sleeves had slid up, exposing the marks on them. His nostrils flared, recognition in his eyes. I pulled down my sleeves, and accepted Faelyn's help in standing.

Cullen's eyes danced over me again, this time studying me. He looked at my throat, and I remembered how the spirit and Solas had both bitten me hard enough to mark.

I grabbed my coat, pulling it on. "I think it's best to get some breakfast before training, how about you Faelyn?"

Cullen looked a little pale. It couldn't be possible that he knew what I'd done in the Fade last night, right?

I needed to talk to Solas.

============================================

When we walked into the tavern, Solas was already there, sitting with Varric and Sera.

"Hey Sunshine, how're you feeling?" Varric greeted me.

"Good, just sore from riding," I replied. Or being ridden, anyway, I thought.

When all the greetings had been exchanged, and Flissa had brought over some breakfast, I saw an opportunity. Everyone was concentrating on their food, so I caught Solas's eye, glanced at the door and titled my head towards it. He narrowed his eyes, and gave the slightest nod in response.

I finished my plate quickly, drained my coffee, and stood. "Hey, Cullen," I said lightly, "I forgot my daggers in my cabin. I'll go grab them and meet you at the training grounds?"

He frowned, seeming concerned, but said, "Of course, Herald. I'll await you there."

I left, making my way back to the cabin, chewing on my lip as I thought.

Solas knocked on my door a few minutes later. "Is everything all right?" he asked. "You seem agitated."

"Damn right I'm agitated," I muttered. Solas's eyebrows came together in confusion. "Cullen somehow remembers," I explained.

"Calm down, da'mis. Did he tell you this?" Solas asked.

I shook my head. "But he recognized these," I showed him the marks on my wrists, "and this," I pulled away my collar to expose the bite marks on my neck.

He took a deep breath. "I think I know what happened. Let me inquire with the spirit. In the meantime..." he took my hands, and began to heal the bruises. "Your next lessons, we'll begin to teach you healing spells. It has been an oversight, I should have taught you this long before now. You should have been able to heal these immediately upon waking."

"I'll be honest," I murmured shyly, "I kind of didn't want them healed yet." Solas smiled, and brought his hand to my neck.

"I'll heal this one," he said, indicating the one the spirit-Cullen had made, "but I'll leave my marks on you," he whispered into my ear.

I grinned at him, satisfied with that. He leaned in, kissing me, and I wished I didn't need to go.

With a sigh, I pulled away from him and grabbed my daggers, strapping the sheaths to my thighs. "Will you meet me at the grounds so we can go practice Singing?" I asked. "Maybe at midday?"

"Ma nuvenin, ma'da'mis," he replied, stroking my cheek with his thumb.

I gave him a last lingering kiss, then went out the door.

============================================

Weapons practice with Cullen was awkward, to say the least. He kept glancing at my wrists and neck, confusion evident when he didn't find what he remembered seeing.

He did work with me to improve my techniques, honing the skills he'd already had me learning. By midday my legs felt like noodles, and I was panting.

"Herald..." he started.

"Didn't I ask you to call me Lashanna?" I teased him between breaths.

"Right." He hesitated. "...Lashanna," he practically whispered my name, bringing to mind the spirit-Cullen from the night before. He continued in a normal voice, "are you sure you should be out here? Perhaps you should be resting while you're in Haven, not pushing yourself harder."

"I'm fine," I dismissed his concern.

His mouth thinned, obviously not believing me but not wanting to argue with the Herald of his faith.

I noticed Solas approaching, and felt a smile spread across my face.

"Well, I think that's it for today, Commander," I said, putting my daggers away.  He glanced between me and Solas.

"Hera- Lashanna, please, take care of yourself," he said quietly, drawing close. He laid a hand on my arm and I looked up at him in surprise. "Not everyone will have your best interests in mind. Some people should not be trusted as much as you have been." He glanced back at Solas, his meaning clear.

"Thank you for your concern, Commander," I said, "but it's not needed. I know what I'm doing."

"Do you?" he murmured. "I'm not so sure of that."

I pulled away from his claiming hand. "Thank you for the training, Commander. It's been very useful to me," I said, trying to bring some formality back to him.

I joined Solas, and we walked together to the clearing by the tree where I'd had my first Singing lesson. I knew much better now how to control the affects and flow of my magic, though I still needed to build my mana up more.

We began the lesson, as always, with Singing a single note together, so that we would be in tune with each other. It was getting easier for me to feel the buildup of magic around us when we practiced, and I had noticed that the single note only created a small amount of magic.

When I asked about it, Solas smiled. "And now you begin to feel the essence of Singing," he said, proud. "It actually ties in perfectly with our lesson of healing magic. I can and will teach you how modern mages heal, though it is a little clumsy. But that can come at a later time."

"The notes that are sung affect the magic, yes?" he asked. I nodded. "When trying to accomplish complex magic, a single note will very rarely build the necessary force required. The magic will respond with every change, and build around you with those changes. Spells like healing magic become personal to each Singer. Ancient healers each had their own Song, built over time as they felt for themselves how each note raised their magic towards the goal."

"Could others learn and use someone else's Song?" I asked.

"Yes. It is often how new Singers would learn the basics of healing, before beginning to discover their own Song," he replied. "It would not be as effective for them as their own Song, but for the purposes of learning it sufficed. One could also tend to know who someone's teacher had been, since the learning of the Song left an impact on what the students final Song sounded like."

"Ok... so that means I'm going to be learning your Song, doesn't it?" I asked, a little nervous.

A smile tilted his lips. "Correct. Does that displease you?"

"Not at all! It's just..." I trailed off. How could I explain that to know I'd be learning the Dread Wolf's Song was nerve wracking and tantalizing at the same time? "It seems very personal," I finished lamely.

"It is," Solas agreed. "But we've already crossed that line, haven't we?"

"I suppose that's true," I conceded with a wry smile.

"Shall we begin?" he asked. I nodded. "Now. I want you to Sing with me. You likely won't be able to keep up with the changes in the Song, at first, but I want you to feel from within it how it builds, and how the magic can sometimes direct the way it changes."

He pulled a dagger out, and slashed his palm. I jumped, reaching to stop the welling blood. "What the hell!" I exclaimed.

Solas stopped me. "It is necessary for there to be a wound, in order to effectively teach you healing magic, ma'da'mis."

I gave him a mock glare, crossing my arms. "You could have warned me," I muttered.

"Come then. Let us heal it before you worry too much," he said, and started humming, a single note at first.

I took a deep breath, and matched his note. I could feel the magic blossoming around us. He changed tones, harmonizing, and it intensified. When he began changing notes, I realized I'd heard it before, the night in Haven's baths before we'd left for Val Royeaux.

It was difficult to anticipate how he would change the Song, but I found if I paid more attention to the flow of magic, I could feel when he would change notes, if not always what he changed it to.

The magic continued to spread as the Song went on, until it felt like my skin was itching from it. Solas noticed when I became uncomfortable, and gathered the magic to himself.

I paid attention to how he applied it, how he wove it into a glove on his uninjured hand. When he sank his weaving into the other hand, I saw the magic around us pull through the weaving, following the forms he'd made.

The cut on his hand had healed within seconds of coming in contact with the magic, but Solas kept it moving through for a few minutes. Then he changed the Song, and I felt  the magic slipping, dissipating.

"That was awesome," I breathed after the last note faded.

"You kept up better than I'd expected," he said approvingly.

"Yeah, I could feel it, when you were going to change it," I replied.

"That wasn't my intent you felt," he corrected. "It was the need of the magic requiring a change to be able to grow. I'm glad to hear that you could feel it. It saves me trying to explain some of the process of learning your own Song."

We repeated this a few times, though every time he cut himself, I winced. After about the fourth time, I had a pretty good idea of the song and was able to Sing it without misstep. Solas nodded his approval, his lips curling into a smile.

Since I grasped the vocal part, Solas began directing me to learn the way the magic was woven together. "I use a glove, because I prefer using my hands to feel the way the magic interacts with the wound," he explained, "but you could lay the magic directly onto the person being healed. That method is especially useful when they have multiple injuries, spanning large portions of the body, or when you need to monitor their condition over time."

We continued practicing until it was nearly dark, and when we walked in the gates the last of the sun was disappearing from the horizon. I decided to get some dinner. I was starving, after the physical training this morning and the magical right after with no break for lunch. Solas joined me, seeming reluctant to leave me yet. 

Faelyn was in the tavern, laughing with Sera over something she said. "Hey you," she said when she saw me. "So this is it, yeah?" she gestured vaguely. "Thought it'd be bigger." She giggled. "That would've been hilarious if you'd been a man right? Wasted." Faelyn looked confused.

I laughed, then gave her a shush look with a glance to Faelyn. "Right. Sorry." she said, not looking contrite at all. She rambled for a few minutes, then left for "laughs and fun. Someone's got to do it, right? See ya Herald." She paused. "Hm. 'Herald.' Gonna have to do something about that..." she murmured, then continued on out the door.

"I like her," Faelyn said. "She's fun." With a sigh, he opened a book that was in front of him.

"What's that?" I asked, curious.

"Lady Vivienne gave it to me," he said, grimacing. "Said it would help me learn magical theory."

"The First Enchanter is trying to help," I said. "But you don't have to learn from her if you don't want to."

He studied the book for a moment, then decided, "I'll give her a chance. But most of what she's given me to learn, you've already taught me, Solas." He glanced at Solas, gauging his reaction. For his part, Solas simply paged through the small book, looking thoughtful. 

I sighed. "That's what I was afraid of."

We didn't linger long, and left once we'd all finished eating. Solas walked Faelyn and me back to our cabin, saying, "It is a good thing to learn the way other people do things with their magic. It helps you to find the best way for you. Just because I taught you a certain way does not mean it will work for you."

We reached the cabin, Faelyn surprising Solas by giving him a quick hug, then disappearing through the door. "Well. That was. Hm." Solas didn't seem to know what to make of it.

I laughed at his chagrin. "He likes you," I said, smiling. I stepped closer to him, wrapping my arms around his waist. "So do I," I added. He embraced me, giving me a kiss that had me wishing I could go back to his cabin with him.

Finally, I pulled away. "Goodnight, Solas," I said softly at the door.

"On nydha, Lashanna," he replied before turning away towards his cabin.

============================================

I could tell I was dreaming right away this time. Tia was arguing with her mother, a Christmas CD playing in the background as she set the table.

"But she wouldn't have just left!" Tia insisted. "Especially not at a con, when she was hoping to get some business!"

"Hunny, that girl has always been bad news," Jocelyn responded. "We tried to do right by her, after her family was killed, but the damage was already done."

Tia's dad, Oscar, came in the door, brushing snow off his jacket, his cheeks bright red from the cold. He pulled his cap from his blonde hair, eyes moving between the two women, but made no move to intervene.

"The fact is, Tia my girl, there was no sign of a struggle in her hotel. She just disappeared from her room," Jocelyn pressed while checking her wig in the hall mirror. "I wouldn't be surprised if they found her in the river, just another junkie jumper," she muttered under her breath.

"Mom!" Tia protested, her hands stopping. She put down the plates, her face set in stone. "I won't listen to you talk bad about her again," she said, and walked out, grabbing her coat and her keys.

I tried to reach out to her, to let her know I was there, but my hands went right through her. I glared at Jocelyn, who, calm as you please, picked up the abandoned stack of plates, and finished setting the table as if her only daughter hadn't just walked out of their big social Christmas dinner, into the snow.

I followed Tia out, sliding into her car as she started it and pulled out of the driveway.

"I'll be careful, Terra, I promise," she whispered to the air.

The car and Tia started disintegrating, becoming nothingness. I sat there a while, my arms wrapped around my knees. I was thinking about what I'd just seen. The fadefire came up from behind, sitting beside me.

"It's already Christmas," I whispered. She nodded. I scrubbed my eyes, pressing my fingers into the sockets to help stem the flow of tears I could feel on my cheeks.

"I know you worry," she said sadly. "I can't send you back, but I thought if you could see what was happening, you'd feel better." She sighed. "I'm sorry."

I shook my head. "Don't be," I told her. "It was good to see Tia, even with the bullshit her mom spews. It's nothing new, really. She didn't like me because I didn't buy into her church crap, and I made sure Tia heard a different perspective." I let out a bitter laugh. "She's probably glad I'm gone, honestly."

We sat there in silence for a while. "Thank you, for trying to help," I said.

"You're welcome," she replied, and put her arm around my shoulders, pulling me into a half hug.

I stared out, seeing stars winking on in the distance. "You know, I just realized I have never asked for your name," I said thoughtfully.

She shifted, a little uncomfortably. "I don't have one, besides fadefire," she admitted.

I looked at her in surprise. "What, really?" She shook her head. "Well, do you want one?" I asked.

She considered it for a moment. "I think I'd like that," she said shyly.

I thought about it for a while. "It should be something that fits you," I murmured. "Most of the names from my world won't work." I watched the stars for a while, realized that there was grass beneath us. I picked a blade of grass, running it through my fingers.

"What about... Fifi?" I offered. "It's usually short for Felicia, but it could work in a pinch for fadefire."

"I like it," she said, smiling. "Fifi. Fiiii fiiii," she played with the sound, trying it out. She nodded, smiling. "Yeah. It's still me, but it's less like I'm just a thing, a power to be used." She looked at me. "Thank you. For seeing more than just the power," she whispered.

I put my arm around her waist, half-hugging her back.

"Ma'da'mis," I heard from behind me. I turned my head, seeing Solas not too far away. I gave him a small smile. He sat beside me, sandwiching me between him and the fa-- Fifi, and took my hand, twining his fingers in mine. I leaned into him, enjoying the simple comfort of touching him. It eased the pain I felt for Tia.

"I have news, about the spirit from the other night," he murmured. I nodded for him to continue. "It was not initially drawn to you, but to the commander. You were the object of his lust," Solas said, his expression darkening. "Additionally, it's code, the one that had it stick around even after it could no longer feed on you, made it decide that, since it took his form, he deserved to receive the memories of its time with you. I believe it also used those memories. It inflamed his lust, to feed more since we denied it a further meal from you."

I growled a little under my breath. "Great. So now the Commander has a whole host of inconvenient memories squatting in his head," I groused. With a sigh, I laid my head on Solas's shoulder, his braids mingling with my wavy hair.

We stayed like that for the rest of the night, not talking, just the three of us watching the stars spreading above us.

============================================

I woke feeling a weird mix of sadness, annoyance, and contentment. I turned onto my side, and watched Faelyn sprawled on his bed, arms and legs hanging every which way.

A knock on my door. I sighed, wishing there might be a single day that I could sleep in without interruption.

Cullen was there when I pulled open the door. "Herald. I was hoping..." he hesitated. "May I have a word, before you leave today?" he asked tentatively. He looked concerned, nervous.

"Sure," I said. "What is it?"

He glanced at the darkness of the cabin behind me. "Could we speak somewhere more private?"

My brow furrowed. "Alright?" I said slowly. "Shall we go to the war room?" I suggested.

Cullen looked relieved. "I was about to suggest that, yes," he said.

I turned, grabbed my coat, and followed him to the Chantry.

Leliana and Vivienne were there, as well as one of the templars that had been rescued from the Conclave. My unease deepened.

"So what's this about?" I asked.

They exchanged glances. "Herald, we're concerned that someone close to you might be trying to control you," Leliana said.

"What? Like who? And how?" I crossed my arms, upset.

"The apostate. Solas," Vivienne responded. "We are concerned that he might be using blood magic to influence your thoughts." She raised a hand, glowing with her magic, examining me. I could feel it tickling over me.

I let out an exasperated sigh. "He is not controlling me, nor is he a blood mage," I insisted.

"My agents visited the grove where you practice your magic with him, and reported finding blood in the snow," Leliana explained quietly. "That, coupled with Cullen's concerns, has us worried."

"You can stop that now," I snapped at Vivienne. She ignored me. "Yes, there was blood in the clearing, because he was teaching me healing magic and cut himself to give me something to practice on." Leliana looked startled. "Honestly!" I was so angry, I could barely formulate an argument.

"And you," I said to Cullen. "What concerns? That I spend only half my time training my dagger skills with you and not all of it?" He blushed. "I like using my daggers, but I'm still a mage. Which means I need to learn to use it."

"She's not wrong," Vivienne murmured. She put her hand down. "I can find nothing that would indicate she's being or has ever been controlled," she pronounced.

I raised an eyebrow. "Happy now?" I turned to leave.

"Herald, we were only trying to-" Leliana started.

I cut her off. "I know you don't trust Solas," I said. "I know it's too much to ask that you do. But I thought I made it clear the other night that you can trust me." I glanced between Cullen and Leliana. "Is that everything?" I asked, my voice stony.

With a sigh, Leliana nodded. I slammed the door behind me as I left, knowing it was childish but needing some outlet for my anger.

I made my way back to my cabin, to find Faelyn awake and about to run out without his coat on. "Hey, what's this?" I exclaimed.

He came to a halt, relief on his face. "I thought you'd left without saying goodbye," he explained.

"I wouldn't!" I said indignantly. "I just needed to speak with Leliana and the Commander for a moment." I deliberately kept the fact that it was not a happy conversation quiet. "So. While I'm gone, what're you going to do?"

He sighed. "Stay out of trouble," he muttered.

"Right. And we talked about using magic without supervision?" I pressed.

"Not to. Though Ellendra has offered to teach me some healing," he said excitedly.

"That's good," I said. "Just don't push to learn too fast," I cautioned. "And?"

"And I'm to check in with both Flissa and Commander Cullen twice a day each," he recited.

"Perfect," I said, satisfied. I ruffled his hair. "Are you going to see me off?" I asked.

"Of course!" It was his turn to be indignant. He ran into the cabin to grab his coat, and I my daggers. We walked together to the stables. Varric, Cassandra and Solas were already there. Vivienne was also in attendance, and I was surprised to see her in a riding outfit, preparing a horse.

"Are you going somewhere, Lady Vivienne?" I asked.

"I will be joining you, my dear," she replied.

I blinked. "What?"

She looked amused. "You need more formal training, correct?" she asked. "And it was a compromise Commander Cullen agreed to, since he is still not convinced all is well with you, my dear."

I took a deep breath, counted to ten, and said, "Fine. Welcome to the party."

Solas did not look pleased, his eyes narrowed as he watched the exchange.

We said our goodbyes, Faelyn looking more forlorn than he had since we'd initially left him with the Inquisition soldiers, in the hinterlands.

He stood by the gate, until a bend in the path took us out of sight. I made sure to wave one last time, reassuring both him and myself that I would be back.

Chapter Text

Seems the road less traveled
Show's happiness unraveled
And you got to take a little dirt
To keep what you love
That's what you gotta do
Sayin' you love but you don't
You give your love but you won't
You're stretching out your arms to something that's just not there

-'If You Could Only See' by Tonic

==============================================

Josephine and I were enjoying small drinks over information, which was our way of saying gossiping. She had been one of the few people I could relax around since Majin left years ago, so I took the small comfort when I could.

Cullen wandered past my office, his face drawn and haggard, and I knew he'd been having nightmares again. His path was not an easy one, but if anyone could shake his past and his addiction, it would be him.

Josie and I exchanged glances, and quietly she began to prepare tea. When next he passed the door, she called out for him to join us.

He hesitated at first, but sat heavily, tiredly staring at the cup Josie pushed into his hands.

Josie was a treasure, filling the quiet with small talk, pulling both Cullen and myself into easy conversation, until he had begun to relax and sip at his tea.

As she teased information from him, we learned of his misgivings. He worried over the mages within the Inquisition, especially of two in particular, the Herald and Solas. When he spoke of waking from odd dreams, hence his late wandering, I resolved to have the pair followed, if only to put his fears to rest.

The information that I recieved the following evening did little to ease any of us. I'd had a hunter track the pair, and though he didn't get too close while they were there, so as to avoid arousing suspicion, he did report finding blood under the tree where they practiced magic, after they had left.

I knew enough of magic from Majin to be worried, and brought my suspicions to Josie. After discussing the possibilities, we decided to approach the only mage we both knew to be beyond reproach, Madam de Fer.

Lady Vivienne was most concerned, and admitted that while there was no way to tell directly that a person was under the influence of blood magic, often there were signs that could be read, magical tells that would be left behind from repeated meddling. If she tried, she asserted, she would be able to definitely say whether Lashanna was being influenced.

We told Cullen, of course, and he offered to approach her for a discussion. She seemed so confused at first, her eyes darting between us, lingering suspiciously on Lady Vivienne and the young templar we asked to join us, just in case of the worst.

She was livid, when she left, and I cannot fault her for it. We dismissed the templar, and I fixed the commander with a sharp look.

"Was this all because you were jealous?" I asked Cullen.

"No! I..." his face fell, a blush forming on his cheeks. "I worry that an apostate, with no clear ties to anyone, has such influence over the Herald," he said stiffly. I raised an eyebrow, and his blush deepened. "And perhaps some of that worry stems from my own feelings for her," he admitted quietly, his shoulders slumping slightly.

"Lady Nightingale," Vivienne interrupted. "While I share your distaste for being brought here under false pretenses, he is not entirely wrong." Her brows were slightly drawn. "I did not find any evidence of long term control, but there were telltale signs that something, probably a demon, had been trying to exert influence at least once recently."

She shook her head. "It could be nothing. After all, she is still new to her magic, and while the likelihood of drawing a demon is not something to dismiss, an abomination would not have stood through my examination, angry or not, without trying to retaliate."

"But there was something?" Cullen pressed. Vivienne nodded. "Then it's possible he has tried to control her?"

"I doubt it," Vivienne said reproachfully. "However, since you are still concerned, may I offer my services once more? I will travel with them both, and moniter the situation. If it is as you think, he will not be able to hide the evidence." Cullen looked grateful. "I will not, however, be a chaperone." Her tone allowed for no argument in that.

I hid a smile at his stammering, staying silent as Vivienne swept from the room to prepare.

He sighed, rubbing his hands through his hair. "I understand your distress," I told him quietly. He eyed me warily. "It is not easy, to feel for someone who does not return your affections." I gave him a small smile, thinking of Majin, and her relationship with Alistair. Cullen gave me a sad one in return.

"However," I steeled my tone, "any affection you feel does not require her to reciprocate. If you truly love her, allow her heart to choose for itself."

Cullen let out a heavy breath. "And if I feel that she chooses wrong?" he asked quietly.

"It is still not your choice to make," I said firmly. I gently laid a hand on his shoulder. "If it is truly love you feel, and not simply lust, then the most important thing to you will be her happiness."

"I'm not sure I'm strong enough to back away," he said quietly, staring blindly at the maps on the table.

"You are." He looked up, surprised, and I flashed him a smile. "All you must do is remember her happiness. It won't be easy, but I have every confidence you can do it." I left him there, seeking my own office and locking the door, needing a moment of solitude.

I had been jealous of Alistair, until I saw the smile Majin had graced him with. It had made me realize, that regardless of my own feelings for her, he made her happy. Of course, it had taken Wynne to point it out to me, and a few nights drinking with her to come to terms with it, but I had been much younger then.

I still missed Majin. Still loved her. But it helped, knowing she was where she wanted to be.

Chapter Text

Seems the road less traveled
Show's happiness unraveled
And you got to take a little dirt
To keep what you love
That's what you gotta do
Sayin' you love but you don't
You give your love but you won't
You're stretching out your arms to something that's just not there

-'If You Could Only See' by Tonic

============================================

We went north to the Storm Coast after leaving the mountains, to see about the mercenary force that wanted to be hired. It was a long week of travel, dealing with Vivienne's sharp tongue. She insisted on being involved in our magic lessons.

In an effort to avoid outing Solas as an ancient Singer I was forced to listen to her lectures, given at great length, on her half remembered readings and what she thought this passage or that phrase meant.

She also pushed herself into my nightly bathing ritual. The first night I had gone by myself, using fadefire to warm myself and subsequently the water in the small pool I found. She followed me, and immediately invited herself to join me, speaking of everything from politics to fashion, and gushing about the usefulness of the the fadefire for traveling.

I began trying to avoid bathing while she was in our company, but she always asked and somehow I always gave in.

One night I recieved a lecture. "My dear," she said, disapproval on her face. "You show everything you feel, every thought. You must begin to hide it, to show a smiling face even when you wish to rage. The Orlesian court will not be easy to navigate, as I'm sure you will have to. Soon." She lounged in the water, watching me. "I believe I may be the only one suited to teaching you in this regard, except perhaps Sister Nightingale. But she is busy with her ravens. And I can see from your expression you believe there is someone better at hiding her emotions than I."

She leaned towards me. "Pray, who might that be," she asked. I put in the effort, trying to make sure I didn't show anything. "Hmmm, certainly not Cassandra, though she did learn the basics of the Grand Game in Nevarra." She peered at me. "Perhaps, Varric?" After a moment, she sighed. "No, not him either. No matter. I will be your teacher in this as well."

It made for a very long trip to the coast.

Thankfully, once we reached it, she decided to stay in relative comfort with the soldiers at the Inquisition camp, instead of wandering around in the constant rain. The rest of us, by unspoken agreement, stayed away from it as often as we could. She might be an accomplished player of the Grand Game, but among those much more straightforward she grated on nerves.

We found the mercenary band and their leader, The Iron Bull. He was massive, a qunari with horns that made him seem even taller, and a roguish eyepatch. His admission right off the bat about being a Ben-Hassrath spy had me nervous. If anyone could ferret out my secrets without me even knowing, it would be him.

He offered his band to the Inquisition, saying "the money will sort itself out." The big thing he was offering was that he wanted to join our merry little band, ostensibly as my bodyguard. I figured why not, especially since I knew Leliana would love to get access to his reports.

He initially went to the camp to wait for us, but within a couple hours he'd found us again. "I'd rather stay with you," he muttered. I giggled, knowing it was a certain someones' acid tongue that had pushed him into traveling with us.

We weren't able to fully explore the coast, but we did deal with a rogue group that had been threatening our soldiers. The members of the Blades of Hessarian seemed rather relieved when we killed their leader, and immediately swore to follow me. I was a little confused at that, but since I'd be using anything they gave me for the Inquisition anyway, I shrugged it away.

The first night we spent there, we broke out tents for the first time that I'd ever seen. Solas slipped into my tent, quietly laying a rune that would prevent any sound from escaping the oiled fabric.

I welcomed him with a smile, glad that we were able to find time with each other. He fell on me like a starving man, unable to get enough. His hands were at once gentle and possessive, and he marked my skin multiple times, as if to assure us both that we weren't going anywhere.

Every time I thought we'd both be spent, and we'd be laying together just touching, somehow I'd find him hard and ready to take me, myself gasping and wet for him again. Even when we did slip into dreams, he inevitably had me, in every way possible and many that would be considered impossible awake.

I don't think either of us slept much that night, or for the rest of our time on the coast.

We only lingered a few days before heading back south to Redcliff. Bull regaled us with stories about his escapades with the Chargers, his merc band, and was very upfront whenever anyone asked him anything about the Qun, though Solas got a disgruntled look on his face every time it was brought up.

Bull didn't like seeing us practicing our magic, though. Anytime Solas or Vivienne had me learning, Bull would get very quiet, and stay back with Varric and Cassandra. But he loved when I sang, even though he admitted he couldn't carry a tune for anything. He said that it was one of the things he felt the Qun lacked, since the only songs they had were children's teaching songs or soldier's battle hymns.

The first time I intentionally used my Song where others besides Solas could hear, it was after a bandit group attacked. There were some injuries, though thankfully nothing major, and I used it as an opportunity to practice the healing Song.

With every use, it got easier, though I was starting to feel tugs in the magic trying to get me to change how I Sang it. Solas was proud, though he didn't say anything outside the Fade. Vivienne gushed about how impressed she was that I had learned so much on my own. Everyone else shrugged, not really knowing the difference between that and regular healing magic.

Bull's presence helped a little to ease the tension between Vivienne and the rest of us. Mostly because this giant, hulking man seemed initially terrified of her, which had the rest of us laughing.

"You may call me Madam dé Fer, or Enchanter Vivienne," she said imperiously, "never 'Viv.'"

"Of course, ma'am. Right. Ma'am," Iron Bull stammered, hunching forward.

"'Ma'am?' Hmm. I like it," she smiled like a shark. "Yes, that will do nicely,"

============================================

We found Blackwall outside Redcliff village helping some local boys, teaching them to defend themselves against bandits. Unfortunately, he didn't know anything about the Wardens disappearing. Something about him seemed off to me, but I dismissed it as my imagination.

He offered to join the Inquisition, and I accepted. Another sword, especially one that was able to handle darkspawn, could only be more helpful.

After picking him up, we headed back to Haven to resupply, since it was only a few days away. Faelyn was ecstatic to see us, and fascinated by Bull's horns. Bull wasn't quite sure what to do about a ten year old, since children under the Qun were kept pretty separate from the adults.

Blackwall, however, took to him right away, laughing and playing games within minutes. They pulled Sera into a game of tag on the way to our debriefing, and she gleefully continued it while we filed into the war room.

The advisors in the Chantry still hadn't decided whether mages or templars would be the better group to approach, which was getting a little annoying. I mentioned the weird aura I'd seen around the Lord Seeker in Val Royeaux, which was met with disquiet and glances around the table. Leliana murmured that she had recieved reports of his strange behavior, and was worried about mind control, even though he should have been immune to it.

The entire time, Cullen refused to look at either Solas or me, keeping his gaze on either the maps or the others in the room, even when addressing me directly. He didn't acknowledge Solas at all. In all honesty, it was a bit of a relief, not having to deal with him right then.

The good news was that apparently Chancellor Roderick remembered something, a possible evacuation route that started within the Chantry itself, and led out through to the other side of the mountain.

"That's it!" I exclaimed. "We need to make sure everyone knows that at the first sign of an attack, all civilians must report to the Chantry," I insisted. "We also should set up emergency packs, rations and winter clothes, and have them ready by the entrance."

"You're expecting a heavy attack, Boss?" Bull asked.

We explained my misgivings, and he nodded. "It's a good idea to be prepared," he agreed. "Perhaps schedule drills, so everyone knows what to do, and it's not a hot mess if everyone runs for it at the same time," he suggested.

I nodded my agreement, and Cullen offered to begin setting up a rotation of drills for evacuation.

I sighed after leaving the meeting, needing a drink. As I made my way to the tavern, The Iron Bull fell in beside me.

"Hey Boss, I wanted to ask you something," he started.

"What's up? And you know, you can call me by my name," I told him.

"I'll keep that in mind," he said with a laugh. "But I've noticed Lady Vivienne has been trying to help you with your lying." We entered the tavern, and sat at the short bar. "If you'd like, I can give you some pointers, from a spy's perspective."

Flissa put tankards in front of us with a smile, and I gratefully saluted her before taking a big gulp. "What did you have in mind?" I asked cautiously.

"Just a few tips, things that we learn to either cover up to be better liars, or to see in others when they're lying," he offered, and took a long swig of his own beer. "Ahh, that hit the spot," he growled, then continued. "You didn't seem to be enjoying her lectures, so I figured I'd offer to help." He tipped his tankard to me. "The sooner you learn, the sooner you can get her off your back about it," he pointed out.

I sighed. "Alright, what've you got for me?" I gave in.

Bull finished off his beer, then motioned for me to do the same and follow him.

He led me out the main gates, to where his Chargers had set up camp. "It'll be harder for anyone to eavesdrop on us here," he said. We sat on a log, him straddling it to face me.

He explained, in a way that actually made sense, all the things Vivienne had been trying to pummel into my brain about tics and tells, about how to hide one's true expression behind the one everyone expected to see.

"Now, keeping that in mind," he said, "I want you to tell me three things about yourself, but at least one of them should be a lie. I'll tell you how you're doing, and what you need to improve."

I blinked. "Just like that?" I asked. He nodded, waiting patiently. "Ummm ok..." I thought for a minute. "My favorite colour is green, I'm from the Free Marches, and I'll never cut my hair again."

"Hmm. I see what Varric means," he murmured. "You're terrible at this. Did you even try? I mean, both those lies should have been easy."

I glared at him. "I'm sorry that I've never had to lie professionally," I snapped.

"Everyone lies," Bull said. "Sometimes it's to themselves, sometimes to a loved one, and sometimes," he fixed his green eye on me, "it's to keep dangerous secrets safe."

I gulped. "What secrets?" I tried to look innocent.

"You're trying too hard, there," he said. "You need to downplay it. Everyone has secrets. The trick is to hide the important ones behind things no one cares to dig through."

"As the figurehead prophet-thing of the Inquisition," he explained, "you will have secrets. It's expected. When you try that hard to deny it, everyone knows there's more than just a few harmless ones that you're trying to hide." He gestured at me to continue, saying, "Try again. Three more things, at least one lie."

I took a breath, closed my eyes, and forced my face and mind into stillness. "I love dogs, my best friend is named Tia, and rain is my favorite weather," I said after opening my eyes.

"Better," he grunted. "Though that last one I know is a lie after seeing you at the coast. The second trick to lying well is to hide a kernel of it within a bigger truth. Simple statements will be harder to do that with."

It continued in this way for a few hours. After a while, it became just the two of us talking, trying to catch each other in lies. He was almost impossible, so rarely giving any tells that I mostly had no idea whether what he was telling me was truth or not.

"I'm told you hit your head pretty hard, falling out of that rift," he said. "Messed with your memory?"

I nodded. "I don't remember anything that I can tell you," I said.

"Good! Nice evasion," Bull said, pleased. "Though since you already told me your friend's name, I know that you do remember, at least something. So, tell me about your family," he said, oblivious.

I stilled, staring at the floor, struggling to keep my face blank. "I don't have a family," I said. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was perversely proud that my voice stayed even, unhurried.

Bull took one look at my face and exhaled noisily, leaning back. "Shit. That bad, huh," he grunted. He pulled out a flask, handed it over to me.

I stared at it a moment before taking it. It smelled strong, whatever it was. I took a swig. It burned all the way down, searing my senses momentarily and hitting my stomach like a bomb. When I could think again, I was coughing, doubled over.

"Feels good, ah?" Bull said with a grin. I gave a weak one in return, then took another swig. It didn't burn quite as much the second time, but I could feel everything getting blurry already. The flask was plucked out of my hand. "Alright, that's enough," I heard. "I'm impressed. Not many people can take two shots of this and still be upright," he chuckled.

He pulled me to my feet, half carrying me. "Let's get you back to your cabin, before your ward decides to come looking for you," he muttered.

"And if it's not her ward who looks?" A soft, dangerous voice came from nearby.

"Solas! Just the man I wanted to see," Bull sounded sincere, but I felt the tiniest shift of his hand around my waist, telling me he was uncomfortable. I guess even he has tells, I thought, giggling to myself.

I looked in the direction of the voice, and a smile broke over my face. "Heeeey you," my tongue didn't want to cooperate. I squinted. "Since when're there three'v you," I mumbled, trying to decide which Solas to focus on.

Long fingers touched my chin, and I nuzzled my face into his hand, liking the feeling of his heat on my face. "Bull was trynin' to help me do better lies," I said.

Solas arched an eyebrow. "Out of the goodness of his heart, I suppose?" he asked, his eyes watching Bull closely. "And why would teaching you anything necessitate getting you drunk?" His voice was low, silky.

"Mmmm I like your voice," I sighed. My fingers came up to touch the base of his throat. He swallowed, making my fingers bob, and I giggled.

"I didn't ask anything sensitive. Well," Bull hesitated, "I may have asked one thing sensitive. But that was an accident. Most people love telling stories about their families."

Solas's nostrils flared. "You are an idiot," he told Bull. They began walking me back into Haven, Solas staying close enough that I could keep my fingers on his skin.

"I know," Bull growled. "I gave her a little of my personal stash of maaras-lok. She drank more than I thought she would." He shrugged. "But it seemed to help with the grief."

"Did she tell you about them? Her family?" Solas asked quietly.

"Only that she didn't have one," Bull murmured back. "But grief like that is nearly impossible to hide. They're all gone, aren't they?"

"It's not for me to tell," Solas said shortly.

"But she has told you, then." Bull grunted in satisfaction. "Good. She needs someone she can confide in. I'd hoped it was you, since you're knocking boots and all, but that's not always the case."

Solas was silent for a few minutes. Then, "Here, bring her to my cabin. It would be better if Faelyn didn't see her like this. I'll let him know where she is in a bit."

They steered me into an unfamiliar cabin, and laid me on a bed that smelled like Solas. I borrowed into the dark fur blanket he had covering it, running my hands down it like a pet and humming contentedly.

There was a bit more murmured conversation, but I found it too hard to concentrate on the words. Some time passed before I realized the voices had stopped, and I pushed myself up on the bed, the cabin whirling around me.

I tried standing. It took a few tries to get my legs under me, and then I found myself leaning on the wall so I wouldn't fall off the world. I was about to push off, determined to go find Solas, when the door opened and he walked in.

"Sooooolaas," I crooned. He quickly put his arms around me, helping me balance. "My big, bad wolf," I said, in singsong. He sucked in a sharp breath. "Are you goin' to gobble me up?" I asked, tapping my fingers on his lips.

Amusement coloured his features, and with a smile he gently nipped my finger. "I believe I've said on multiple occasions, ma'da'mis," he said playfully, "that you taste delicious." I laughed, my arm wrapped around his shoulder, and brought my face in for a kiss. "But perhaps for tonight," he said, stopping me, "it would be better if we abstained. I would not wish to take advantage of your state."

I pouted. "But I want you all the time, anyway," I whined. "What difference if I'm a lil' tipsy?"

He laughed, a full throated thing that rumbled his chest. I loved hearing him laugh. "If this is what you call tipsy, ma'da'mis..." he kissed me.

"Only had two lil' sips," I protested when he broke the kiss,  bringing my hand up, fingers close together to demonstrate just how small they'd been.

"Only two," he repeated, an eyebrow raised. "He gave you one of the strongest liquors I've ever smelled. And you had two sips?" He brought his forehead to mine. "He was right to be impressed with you, Lashanna."

I hummed in satisfaction. "I like my name on your lips," I whispered, rubbing my thumb over his bottom lip. Heat sparked in his eyes, and his arms around me tightened. I leaned into him, letting him be my balance, and I could feel his hardness pressed against me.

I trailed my hand down, over his chest, reaching his breeches. I lightly rubbed my palm on the head of his cock through the fabric, running my nails up and down his hard length. His breath hitched, desire darkening his eyes. I lifted my chin in invitation, and he captured my mouth in another kiss.

I realized I was humming, a low note that was almost as much a purr, and energy was building around us. "Don't stop," Solas whispered, and brought his hand down, brushing over my stomach, and rubbed my mound through my pants. I bucked my hips forward at his touch, wanting more.

He brought his lips back to mine, and I felt more than heard that he was humming his own note, a low growling thing deep in his chest. Phantom fingers began stroking my skin as his hands pulled at my coat, tossing it to the floor. The bed pushed into the back of my knees, and I fell backwards onto it, leaning back on my elbows to watch him.

Solas fell over me, kissing me, and lifted my shirt up over my head. As he pulled on the edge of my pants, I felt fingers touch lightly over my nipples, down my stomach, following as he pulled the leather down over my hips. "Ar isalan na," his voice whispered by my ear. I arched my back into the sensation, and the touches obliged me by playing with my nipples.

I reached up, under his shirt, his skin hot against my palm, tracing the muscles I found there. His mouth left mine, and he began kissing down, nipping down my chest. He pulled my breast into his mouth for a moment, teasing the nipple with his tongue, then continued his path downwards. He pulled my pants off completely as he reached my mound, discarding them.

He kissed and nipped the insides of my thighs, and my breath hitched in anticipation, disrupting the purring note that was still coming from my throat. He didn't lift his head, but I heard by my ear his voice, telling me, "Keep Singing, don't stop."

His tongue slid up my cleft, his hands holding my hips in place. Up and down my body, touches borne of magic traced my curves, teasing my nipples, tangling into my hair. I could feel the way he used his magic, and fumbled to copy it. I wanted to please him the way he pleased me.

His tongue was pushing against my entrance, his eyes slitted closed as he tasted me. When I tentatively pushed my own magic, stroking up his spine, his eyes flew open in surprise. I felt his lips curve into a smile against me, and I could feel his approval shiver through the magic around us. I did it again, adding a phantom hand to wrap around his cock, still straining against his breeches.

He pulled back, letting phantom fingers take over stroking and teasing my pussy lips. His shirt joined mine on the floor, leaving only his jawbone charm hanging from him. I grasped the leather thong wrapping it, and pulled him down for a kiss, loving the taste of my own juices on his tongue.

I pulled on his breeches, trying to get him just as naked as I was. I brought my lips to his chest, above his nipple, and bit lightly, drawing a gasp from him. The phantom touches gripped my hair, pulling my head back, and Solas swept in, closing his teeth on my neck.

It was getting harder for me to keep up my hum, and I wanted to feel him, all of him. My need pushed into my Song, and my voice echoed around us, "I need you, please, Solas."

He pulled his breeches the rest of the way off, freeing his cock from its confines. I added to my touch of magic, stroking him with phantom fingers, cupping his sack gently. He brought a hand to my pussy, playing in my wetness, and pushed the head of his cock into my entrance.

He watched me, his fingers tracing my lips, and I sucked one in, swirling my tongue around it as he slowly pushed his cock into me. My back arched, and my hips tried to buck up, to take him in faster, but ghostly hands held me in place, impossibly strong. I wrapped my legs around his hips, digging my heels into his thighs.

My humming note was beginning to sound more like a  keen, desperate and high. He fully sheathed himself, panting a little around his growling hum. He planted his fists in the bedding, caging me in with his arms. He was shaking a little, and his eyes gazing into mine were dark, dangerous, and predatory.

Slowly, deliberately, he began thrusting into me, slamming himself home with every push. His hand came up, cupping under my chin, not letting me look away.

I could feel the magic building around us, every pant acting like a new note in a primal Song. He pulled on it, guided it, and on my chest, above my heart, he drew a rune. As soon as he finished, every sensation, every pleasure I felt, increased.

Not only could I feel him pumping his cock into me, filling me over and over, I could also feel a slick wet heat covering me, a pulling pressure that only increased my pleasure. Everything he felt, I could feel, and I could only imagine that it was the same for him.

I could feel his hand on my neck, and a vulnerable throat covered in silky skin beneath my fingers. I could feel the sensation of our magic mingling in the air, stroking and caressing much the way our bodies were. His need and territorialness pushed against me, and I instinctively opened myself, letting him feel everything I felt for him.

The sensations built, and he started thrusting faster, his mouth coming down over mine, then moving down to replace his hand. He bit down on my throat, his teeth marking my skin, his growl vibrating against me.

My orgasm hovered, and through our link I felt the walls surrounding him twitch closer. It pushed me over, and I came hard, my pussy clenching down on him. I felt his own pleasure pulse, releasing his hot cum into me.

The pleasure ricocheted between us, extending the waves washing over us both, until a with a gasp the magic shattered around us like glass. The rune on my chest flared, then disappeared, and I was alone in my feelings again. My humming ceased, unable to find the breath to continue.

Solas bit down on my neck once more, gently, his tongue soothing over the marks his teeth had left. He nuzzled me, breathing in my scent. His weight settled over me, and his own hum faded to nothing.

Most of the alcohol seemed to have burned away, leaving me with just a light buzz. "That was... wow, what was that?" I asked, breathless.

"That," he murmured, propping his head up on his hand and watching me with hooded eyes, "was the way ancient elvhen enjoyed each other. Mingling magic as well as bodies."

"They used that rune you put on me?" I touched my fingers to my chest, where he'd placed his magic.

He paused, then shook his head. "Not that. Not often," he said watching my hand. "It makes one vulnerable, in a more emotional way. Most elvhen didn't trust one another enough for that."

I brought my hand to his cheek, brushing my fingers over his skin. "Thank you for trusting me, Solas," I said.

He brushed a few tangled locks off my hair away from my face, pressed a light kiss to my lips, and murmured, "You should rest, Lashanna."

He was about to pull away, but I laid a hand in his arm. "Could you stay here? With me?" I asked, shyly.

A hint of a smile passed over his lips. "Of course, ma'da'mis," he murmured, and settled himself next to me.

I cuddled up to him, laying my head on his chest to hear his heart beating. Idly, I fingered the jawbone charm he wore. "I've always wondered..." I murmured. "What is this? What's it for?"

His hand came up, wrapping around the charm and stilling my wandering fingers. He was quiet for a time, eyes distant. Finally, his lips parted. "Ir abelas, ma'da'mis, but that is one question I must Veto." His voice sounded resigned.

I glanced up at him, surprised. "I wasn't... I didn't mean for that to be one of our pact questions," I said apologetically.

"Regardless, I'd prefer not to lie to you when I can help it," he replied. He let go of the charm, resting his fingers on my chest instead, his fingers following the lines of the vallaslin.

"Thank you," I murmured, my eyes drifting shut. "G'night, Solas."

His lips touched my temple. "On nydha, Lashanna," he whispered back.

Chapter Text

Angel, angel, what have I done?
I've faced the quakes, the wind, the fire
I've conquered country, crown, and throne
Why can't I cross this river?

'Humbling River' - by Puscifer

============================================

I walked into her dream, to find a spirit with her. It had taken the dog Commander's form, and was kissing her in a facsimile of the bathhouse, both of them nude. He was pressed against her, his arms coming up to circle her. When she heard me enter, she pulled away, the glazing in her eyes telling me she was only partly in control of herself.

The spirit that had found her was one of lust, and was pushing against her mind. It was an innocent enough spirit, for all that it was trying to feed on the one I claimed. I communicated with it, in the silent way that ma'da'mis has not learned, and it agreed not to hound her in exchange for one dream, to which I made sure to postulate I must be involved in.

We both took her, pleasured her, and in our hands she was pliant and willing.

When I could feel the spirit trying to feed more than would be safe for her, I bade her to light her fadefire, otherwise the one dream agreed upon would be terminal.

It was not happy, but it helped me bring her to a final conclusion, curious as to how to pleasure a mortal without access to their mind. I enjoyed having her suspended, ripe for the taking, at the perfect height to take my cock but leaving my hands free to explore her.

After, I brought her to my sanctuary, wishing to give her a place to rest and recuperate before waking. But I had underestimated her, and she wanted more. Wanted me. I felt a satisfaction in that, knowing that she'd still choose me even after having felt the attentions of a lust spirit.

When I found out the lust spirit had given the memories of our activities to him, I was enraged, though I kept it from her as well as I could.

I did not like the thought that he knew, intimately, the taste of her sex, the 'o' shape her mouth takes as she reaches her peak, the little hitch in her breath when a sensitive area was stroked just right.

So I sought it out that next night, demanding answers. What I learned was unsettling. It had targeted her, not because it sensed lust in her for him, but because of his for her.

I had known he was sniffing after her, but for it to attract a spirit such as that? I would need to keep a careful eye on him.

I found her, visibly upset but calm, on an edge of the Fade with the fadefire, sad instrumental music playing around them. They were watching the stars.

I gave her my news, and then my company. I didn't want to leave her without trying to help, but without knowing what upset her I could do little beyond give her comfort. I didn't pry, and she didn't offer, but from the fadefire I gathered that she had seen her loved ones, and not enjoyed it the way anticipated.

The following weeks I had planned on working with her more fully, to help her realize her own Song, but the addition of the human First Enchanter to our travels put a stop to that. The 'references' she spoke of were laughable, and her fumbling attempts to understand magic she could not use were insulting.

I was able to help correct some of the assumptions the human made to ma'da'mis when we met in the Fade. She soaked up my lessons like a sponge, asking questions and, at times, understanding intuitively how something would be accomplished.

We were not sparing in our carnal relations in this time, but they were limited to the Fade. I found that, as varied as the Fade could be, I missed touching her in the waking. I began considering ways to whisk her away for a day, or even a single night, but could not pull her out of the clutches of those we traveled with.

The addition of the qunari spy did not help my temper. He was blind to his own lack of will, all too ready to walk to the slaughter at a single word from his superiors. He has more autonomy than many others of his ilk I've encountered, but is still unwilling to rebel against his shackles.

Being on the coast did afford us some privacy, however, and I quietly spelled the tents so that we could enjoy each other without disturbing the others. It eased the wolf, being able to taste her, smell her, claim her.

It was a long trip back to Haven, with a detour through Redcliff to question a Warden, one of those mistaken few who believe they hold the answers to the world's ills. He offered his blade to her, and she accepted, not willing to turn away any help, regardless of the source.

I was glad to see the dog commander was subdued, not gazing at her in undisguised lust the way he had before. He still did his job, but maintained a more professional distance with her. For her part, ma'da'mis seemed relieved, which made me perversely happy. It felt like a victory, to know she didn't feel for him what he did for her.

The qunari pulled her away, after the meeting, and I discreetly followed them. I was unable to stay close enough to listen when they entered the mercenary camp. After a long time, I saw him helping her towards Haven. She was obviously intoxicated, and I had to wonder what secrets he'd pried from her in her state.

I did not trust that he was helping her altruistically, but after speaking to her I did not think her drunken state was a ploy he used to part her from her secrets. He seemed far too apologetic for accidentally reminding her of her family. He assisted me in bringing her to my cabin, not questioning that Faelyn would not be best served by seeing her like this.

She was trying to stand, and would have failed if not for the wall holding her up, when I returned from mollifying her ward. When she called me her wolf, I wondered just how much about me she knew, but it flew from my head when I felt her Song swelling around her.

It pulled at my senses, and I couldn't help but respond in kind. I touched and teased her with it, stroking her everywhere while I tasted her sweetness. She surprised me, then, by following my lead and using the magic on me. Her touch on her magic was unsure, hesitant at first, but she quickly gained confidence.

I'd never imagined she'd be able to figure out how to use it, not within minutes of me demonstrating on her and certainly not in her inebriated state. That she could, and did, had me ecstatic. The primal need in me to take her had me shaking, trying to contain the wolf so as not to scare her.

So I did what I should not. I promised myself, only this once, I wanted to feel as she did. So I sketched the link on her, binding us together for as long as the Song flowed through us. The feeling of being filled, of being complete in that way, was intoxicating. I felt her on the cusp, her pussy tightening on me, and as it swelled over her, it filled me as well, pushing me into my own release.

The magic broke apart as her Song stuttered to a halt, and the link between us dispersed. But something I had felt in her, even as I filled her, had me wondering if I should stop, if we should end this now before it was too late.

She was falling in love. She had whispered, "thank you for trusting me," and I knew, if I allowed it to continue, it would only hurt her more when I finally had to tell her the truth about me, about who I am.

My unease only grew when I was forced to tell her that I could not answer her innocent question.

I should have pulled away, as she fell asleep, but I couldn't. I needed the weight of her in my arms. So instead I began to consider ways I might persuade her of the rightness of my path. With her growing power and dexterity in her Song, coupled with my orb and power, it was possible we could accomplish together what would kill one to do alone.

Perhaps it won't be the end of my Song, after all.

Chapter Text

Your fingertips trace my skin
To places I have never been
Blindly, I am following
Break down these walls and come on in

I wanna feel the way that we did that summer night
Drunk on a feeling, alone with the stars in the sky

'Wolves' by Marshmello ft. Selena Gomez

===========================================

"Whatever- or whoever- brought you here, the situation has changed," the former Grand Enchanter had intoned.

"Apparently, someone's playing silly buggers," Sera muttered. Varric had stayed out in the village, speaking to the people and getting a feel for the attitudes of the 'small people,' as Sera put it.

We'd left Haven the day after getting back in, not taking a day to rest. Sera had decided to join us last minute, saying she wanted the chance to actually do something.

When we'd reached Redcliff village, we found that no one was expecting us. We met with Fiona, that tiny, delicate-looking elf, and then the magister she'd sworn the rebel mages to.

Garion Alexius was a slimy man, his eyes lingering on me possessively. I felt like I needed a shower after meeting him, and I wasn't sure his son Felix was going to be much better.

We were heading to the Chantry, to meet Felix after he'd slipped me a note under his father's nose.

"I don't like this," Solas murmured to me, his fingers brushing my elbow. "It's too convenient, a chance to get you somewhere alone."

"I agree," Bull said. "Which is why we're coming with you to this meeting." I nodded, not even trying to argue about that.

We went into the Chantry, dealt with a rift that had opened within and had odd side effects, and faced the Tevinter mage who was waiting for us.

"How does that work, exactly?" he asked, open curiosity on his face. At my blank look, he gave a little laugh. "You don't even know, do you? You just, wiggle your fingers and boom, rift closed." He considered me for a moment. "Fascinating."

"You're not who I came here to meet, so I'll just be going," I said, turning towards the door.

"Waitwaitwait," he said, grabbing my arm to stop me. Solas went still, his eyes hard and his staff humming with magic. Bull growled and hefted his ax. Sera had slipped behind him, and was aiming an arrow for his throat.

The strange mage dropped my arm, his hands up in surrender. "You're here to meet Felix, yes?" He didn't wait for an answer. "He was supposed to slip you the note, then meet us here. I can't imagine what's delayed him."

"I shouldn't have played the illness card," a voice said from behind us. "It took forever to get away from him."

Felix closed the heavy doors behind himself, and walked towards us.

"I'm Dorian, of House Pavus," the mage in front of me said. "I was once Alexius' apprentice. You've met Felix," he gestured a well manicured hand.

"A magister. Great. Watch out for this one, the pretty ones are always trouble," Bull growled.

"He's not a magister," I said absently.

Dorian's eyebrows went up. "That's right," he said, surprised. "I'm a mage from Tevinter, but not a member of the magisterium." He shook his head. "Look, you know you're in danger. That should be obvious even without the note." He paced a little, a few steps forward and back. "Let's talk about Alexius stealing the allegiance of the mages out from under you. As if by magic, yes?"

"Right...?" I said slowly.

Dorian snapped his fingers. "And that's exactly what it was," he said excitedly. "He used magic to go back in time, to make sure he made it to the mages first."

I rubbed my temples. "If you tell me he's a mad man in a blue box, I'm leaving," I muttered.

"What?" Dorian looked confused.

"Never mind," I said, waving away the comment. "So he managed to get here just after the mages?" I asked.

"You catch on quick," Dorian said with a quick smile.

I shrugged. "It's not the weirdest thing I've ever heard," I said.

"That would be incredibly dangerous, if true," Solas murmured.

"I know what I'm talking about," Dorian said, annoyed. "I helped him develop this magic in Minrathous." He resumed his pacing. "The rift you closed, here. You noticed how it was unstable, slowing some things down, speeding others up?" Dorian explained, his hands waving as he talked. "They're a product of his spell. And there's more spawning, further and further from this quaint little village every day."

"My father's joined a cult," Felix put in. "They call themselves the Venatori. And they're obsessed with you," he fixed his eyes on me. "I'm not sure why, he hasn't told me. Perhaps because you survived the Temple?"

"He's your father," I said, my brow furrowed. "And your mentor, Dorian. Why would you work against him?" I asked.

"I love my father, but I can't condone what he's doing. Cults? Time magic? It's madness," Felix shook his head.

"It would also be nice if he didn't rip a hole in time," Dorian muttered. "There's already a hole in the sky." He sighed. "Whenever you decide to deal with him, I want to be there," he declared.

"Let's get back go Haven, and give this new information to the big hats," I said. "They still haven't made a decision. They need to know how dire it is here."

"And perhaps there is new information about the templars, as well," Solas said.

I chewed my lip, nodding absently. "I've got a bad feeling about all this," I muttered to myself as we left. I couldn't help but curse under my breath. Why hadn't Tia ever talked about the other things in Inquisition? I had no idea what I was up against here, except that sometime after sealing the Breach, there'd be an attack, then a song, and Solas was supposed to give one of his precious secrets away.

I hoped the advisors reached a decision, soon.

===========================================

Aaaand they were still fighting about it. Cullen was pushing to go to the templars, while Leliana wanted to help the mages.

"There's no way to storm that castle!" Cullen argued.

"A foriegn power squats on Fereldan soil. We cannot let that stand," Cassandra insisted.

"The letter from Alexius asked for you by name," Josephine said to me. "It's an obvious trap."

"Indeed. He was so free with his praise, we are sure he wants to kill you," Leliana smirked.

"Redcliff castle is one of the most defensible fortresses in Fereldan," Cullen said. He finally met my eyes. "If you go in there, you will die," he finished quietly. "I won't allow it."

"An Orlesian Inquisition marching an army into Fereldan would be seen as an act of war," Josephine put in. "Our hands are tied."

A memory sparked in my mind. "But what if there were another way in?" I asked.

Eyebrows around the table raised. I turned to Leliana. "Don't you remember, during the blight?"

Her eyes lit up, and she nodded. "There is a way in. A secret tunnel, known only to family and a select few," she confirmed. "But how did you-"

"Not important right now," I waved away her questions. "Could you get your scouts through there with a few soldiers?"

"They would be discovered long before reaching Alexius," Cullen dismissed, leaning forward over the maps, his brows furrowed.

"That's why we need a distraction," I put in. "Like the envoy he requested?"

Cullen chewed his lip, his eyes searching my face. "It's a gamble, but it might work," he finally agreed.

"Fortunately, you'll have help," Dorian said, pushing through the door. Leliana waved away the guard who was still trying to protest his entrance.

"You'll need me to get past Alexius' magic," Dorian said confidently. "Your spies will never make it, otherwise. So if your going after him, I'm coming along."

"You could still go after the templars," Cullen said quietly, coming to stand next to me. "It's your choice, since you'll be playing the bait."

"Those mages need help," I insisted. "So many of them looked so scared." He nodded, his eyes going back down to the map. "But I don't want to give up on the templars, either."

His head snapped up, a little hope in his eyes. "What do you suggest?" he asked.

"There was a templar, when we went to Val Royeaux," I said. "What was his name..." I looked to Solas, who was by the door, his face tight.

"Barris," he supplied quietly.

I gave him a grateful smile, and his face softened slightly. "That's it, thank you," I said. He inclined his head. I turned back to Cullen. "Ser Barris. He didn't seem sure about what was going on. Maybe you can contact him directly? See if you can convince him and any others willing to join the Inquisition."

"I can try, Herald, but letters into Therinfal Redoubt to the Lord Seeker have been going unanswered," Cullen replied.

"I'm not surprised," I said. "I think something happened to the Lord Seeker."

"Like what?" Leliana asked.

I glanced at Solas. He kept his face blank. "I can... see through illusions, sometimes," I said slowly. "When we saw him in the capital, I noticed a weird aura of magic around him." I shrugged. "It might have been illusion, or it might have been something controlling him. I don't know for sure."

"That is very troubling," Leliana murmured. "That implies that the templars have been compromised for months."

"But not all of them, if some might still be swayed," Josephine mused.

"We can hope," I said. "Well then. Are we decided? I'll take a few people to Redcliff to meet with the magister. Leliana will send a few agents through the passage with Dorian. While we're gone, Cullen will try to sway the templars, inviting them to come here and join us." I looked around the table as I spoke, and everyone nodded as I got to them. I took a deep breath. "Alright then. We'll leave in the morning. Good luck, everyone."

"And Maker guide us all," Josephine murmured.

===========================================

"But I want to go with you!" Faelyn whined. "The hinterlands are safe now, right? So I should be able to go. I'll stay in the village while you go to the castle," he begged.

"Faelyn, listen," I started. "This isn't a pleasure trip. I've got a terrible feeling about this." I sat him on his bed. "I want you to promise me, if something happens to me," he tried to interrupt and I stopped him. "If anything goes wrong, use the tunnel in the Chantry. Get yourself out." I peered at him. He looked stubborn. "Please, I need to make sure you're safe," I said softly.

He hung his head, looking at his feet. "I promise," he muttered.

I let out a long breath, then pulled him into a hug. "Thank you," I whispered.

"But you're going to come back, right?" he asked.

"I can't promise that," I cautioned. His face fell. "But I will promise that I'll do everything in my power to make it back to you."

After a moment, he nodded. "I'll take it," he said, still subdued.

I smiled, then stood. "Alright. I've got some people to see before leaving tomorrow," I said. "And then I want to hear what you've been learning while I've been out and about."

He looked up, an impish smile on his face. "Sera has been showing me some amazing things," he started.

I laughed. "Ok. But later. And I want to hear how your lessons with Ellendra and Vivienne have been going, too," I told him.

He sighed, looking put upon, but nodded.

I left our little cabin, intending to see Harritt. I wanted to make sure my equipment was in as good a condition as we could make. Cullen stopped me on the way.

"Herald, I-" he paused. "I wanted to apologize, for my behavior," he finally said. "Who you choose to... trust, is your choice. So long as you're happy, I will support you," he finished.

I blinked. "Thank you, Cullen," I said, giving him a little smile. "That means a lot." I started moving on towards the forge.

"Hera- Lashanna, please be careful," he said as I moved away.

I flashed a smile over my shoulder. "I'm always careful," I called back.

The smile slipped away as I walked to the forge. I didn't know if being careful would be enough. 

Harritt looked over my daggers, shaking his head. "I'll get these sharpened up for you. They'll be as good as new when you leave tomorrow." He put them on his worktable. "Also, I took the liberty of making you a new coat," he pulled it out of a box. It was white, in complete contrast to the one I had on. "I got my hands on some rare materials. This one should be lighter, slimmer, and protect you even better than the first one," he said, proudly.

I immediately pulled off the old coat, shivering a little in the cold air. When I pulled on the new one, it felt perfect. It was everything he'd claimed, with a few extra hidden pockets lining the sides. I felt like I could move faster, react better in this coat. "It's amazing!" I gushed. "Thank you!" I pulled him into a hug, ignoring his grumbling.

I said farewell, leaving my old coat for him to work over. I made my way to the Chargers camp, looking for Bull. "He's in the Singing Maiden," Krem told me. "He's probably looking for a little evening entertainment," he said, smirking suggestively.

I bumped into Varric on the way to find Bull. "Varric! Just the person I wanted to see!" I said, giving him a smile. "Are you up for little spying and politicking?"

"You know I'm game," he replied. "Leaving tomorrow, right?" I nodded. "Alright. Just got to get a few things squared away tonight then. I'll see you in the morning." I waved as I moved on.

I found Bull sitting with Cassandra and Blackwall, discussing the merits of a sword and shield combo over a larger weapon.

"Oh good, I wanted to talk to all of you about the Redcliff mission," I said, relieved.

"Nice coat, Boss," Bull said, his eye roving appreciatively. Blackwall had pink cheeks over his beard, clearing his throat.

Cassandra glanced at me, then nodded. "It suits you," was all she said.

I gave Bull a wry smile. "Bull, Cassandra, I'd like you both to come with me tomorrow," I said. Blackwall looked a little crestfallen, his eyes falling to his tankard. "Blackwall, I want you to do me a favor."

He looked up at me. "Name it," he said without hesitation.

I glanced around, then sat next to him. "I've got a bad feeling about that magister," I said quietly. "If anything happens, I want you to find Faelyn, and get him out through the tunnel. I've already told him this, but I want you to make sure of it."

He rocked back in his seat a little, eyeing me. "You'd trust me with this?" he asked, his brow furrowed.

"Of course," I replied, surprised.

After a moment, he nodded. "I'd rather go with you," he said, "but I'll make sure your boy is kept safe."

"Thank you," I smiled and gave him a quick hug, then stood.

"If we're to leave in the morning, then I should find my bed," Cassandra said. "Good night, everyone." She left, leaving Bull and Blackwall to their drinks.

Bull sighed. "I suppose the same goes for me," he said. "And here I was hoping to find a little company for the night. Ah, well." He finished his beer, waved, and ducked out the door.

"Night, Blackwall," I said, giving him another smile.

I left out the side door, waving to Sera as I went. She barely noticed me, too busy talking with the minstrel Maryden.

The sun was getting lower, my time almost up. My feet brought me to a halt in front of Solas's door. I raised a hand to knock, but hesitated, debating whether I should bother him.

"Are you going to knock, or not?" His voice said behind me. I turned, smiling. He moved closer to me, into the light, his eyes on me and a smile tilting his lips.

"I wasn't sure yet," I admitted.

He moved past me, opening the door, then standing back to let me through first. It seemed very gentlemanly.

When I entered, he followed, closing the door behind us. I turned to speak but he surprised me by grabbing me into a kiss, pushing me against the wall. All thoughts flew right out of my head. He pressed his body against mine, and I could feel his hard length already straining for release.

He cupped my mound through my pants, drawing a gasp from me, his fingers moving over the fabric covering my pussy. My arms came up, encircling him, my nails digging into his back through his thin shirt. He growled against my lips.

He dipped his hand into my pants, his fingers finding the wetness already collecting there. My hips bucked forward at his touch, and I felt him smile.

I started undoing the buckles to my coat, but when I would have pulled it off he stopped me. "Leave it on," he said, voice low. He raked his gaze over me. "I like you in it," he said. He curled his fingers against the entrance to my pussy, and I groaned.

He nipped at my neck, and began pulling my pants down. Once past my knees, I kicked them off. He looked at me, in my coat but otherwise bare from the waist down. His gaze was hooded, hungry. Predatory. 

He pushed me back against the wall, one hand grabbing and pinning my wrists above my head, the other pulling at the laces of his breeches, freeing his cock. He guided it against me, sliding it through my juices, and I spread my legs farther to give him access. All at once, he pushed into me, filling me completely with another growl. I cried out, and he captured my mouth with his, his tongue pushing in as he began pumping his cock furiously into me.

I couldn't catch my breath, whimpering with every thrust, and came hard on him, his hand holding my wrists the only reason I stayed upright. His cock throbbed inside me, and he moaned as his hot cum covered my pussy.

He didn't slow his pace, kept pumping, until my orgasm ebbed, then pulled me away from the wall. He guided me to his bed, then pulled out of me, his cum spilling out onto my thighs. He turned me and bent me over his bed, pushing my knees apart until I was spread fully before him. I put my arms out, digging my fingers into the furs covering his bed in anticipation. He pushed the coat out of his way, and I cried out as he thrust hard back into me.

He leaned over me as he fucked me hard and fast, one hand tangling into my hair and pulling my head back, out of the furs on his bed, the other snaking around to grasp my throat. His voice was silky, low and dangerous in my ear. "I want to hear you, to feel you scream," he said.

I pulled one hand back, feeling for his hip just under the edge of his shirt, and dug in my nails. He growled in my ear, pulling my head back farther, making my back arch. He thrust harder, the smack of our skin colliding filling the cabin. I was moaning, every thrust accompanied by a cry from my throat.

I crested again, everything in me focused on him. I couldn't move, couldn't think, only feel his increasing pace. He thrust hard, holding himself deep inside me as he came again. When he had stopped throbbing, he pulled his still hard cock out of me, his cum dribbling out of my pussy. He turned me around, laying me on his bed. He then climbed on top of me, his knees by my ears, cock bobbing above my face, dripping with both our juices. I licked the tip, tasting us both on him, and sucked his cock into my mouth.

He gave me a wicked smile before leaning over me and using his fingers to spread my pussy lips, thrusting his tongue into me. I moaned around him, my hips bucking upwards, my knees coming up around his ears. He used his fingers and tongue masterfully, a collection of sensations that had me spiraling upwards again.

Not to be outdone, I took him deep into my throat, my hands stroking what I couldn't take in, and massaging his sack. He growled, the vibrations moving from his throat straight into my pussy, and I groaned. He sucked in my clit as his fingers stroked inside me, his teeth grazing the little nub and sending shocks to my core.

I could feel another orgasm coming, and pulled him out of my mouth, using my hands to continue stroking him. As I peaked, I bit the inside of his thigh, making his cock twitch above me.

He eagerly tasted me, lapping up the mix of my juices with his cum, his tongue finding every sensitive spot it could reach as my pussy clenched down on him. He finally pulled away, and turned around, hovering over me, his knees between my thighs, my legs spread wide. He looked at me, open before him, and stroked a finger along the cleft of my pussy to my clit, smiling at the hitch in my breath. He played with me like that a few minutes, not letting me cum but keeping me on the edge, his long fingers striving to stroke as deep inside me as he could.

I was gasping with need, my hands fisted in the furs beneath me, when he finally leaned over me, guiding the head of his cock against my entrance. He kissed me, and I could taste us both on his lips, his tongue eager to share. He pushed back into me, his mouth muffling my moans. He started thrusting his cock hard, coming almost completely out of my pussy before slamming home again. My hands curved onto his hips, digging in with every thrust.

He broke the kiss, panting as he moved in me. He brought his hand up, onto my throat, cupping my jaw. "Scream for me," he demanded. "Say my name!"

"Solas!" I cried out, clenching down on his cock as my orgasm fell over me once more. He cried out, spilling into me as he came inside me again. His weight settled over me, his cock still filling me. His hand gentled on my throat, and he lightly kissed and nipped my neck where his fingers had been.

I sighed contentedly, my fingers stroking his skin under his shirt, the aftershocks twitching through me. I really loved the feeling, after sex with Solas, when we were both momentarily satisfied, but he still filled me, his cock still hard inside my pussy.

He breathed deep, nuzzling the underside of my jaw. After a few minutes lingering like this, he sighed. "I assume you came here to talk, ma'da'mis?" he asked.

It took me a moment to remember. "Oh, umm, yes," I found myself stuttering. I cleared my throat. "I wanted to ask you to come with me, when we deal with the magister in Redcliff," I said.

"Of course," he said, surprised. "You needn't ask. I wouldn't allow you to face him alone."

"Well, we won't be alone," I laughed. "Varric, Cassandra, and Bull will be going in with us, and that mage, Dorian, will be helping the scouts and meeting us inside."

Solas twitched his fingers dismissively. "No one will protect you as well as I," he said. "I will make sure of your safety, ma'da'mis," he whispered in my ear, and gave me a long kiss.

I smiled against his mouth, enjoying his protectiveness. "I'll try to make sure you won't need to," I promised.

After another lingering kiss, I sighed. "I do need to go, though. Faelyn's waiting for me," I murmured.

He pushed up, hovering over me. "I suppose it was too much to hope you could stay here for the night," he mused. He started pulling his cock out of me, and I sighed wistfully, but then he rolled his hips, slamming back in hard. I gasped, not expecting it, my legs automatically curling up around his hips. "But I want you again before you go," he growled.

He started opening the front of my coat, and I fumbled to help him. He pulled my hands away, pinning them up above my head with one hand, and finished opening the buttons with the other. As he continued thrusting into me, he pulled my coat open, dipping his head down to pull my breast into his mouth through my thin shirt, his tongue teasing my hard nipple. My back arched into him, giving him more access to my breasts, my panting cries echoing in the room.

His free hand slipped up under my shirt, palming my other breast, his fingers rolling one nipple between them while his teeth pulled on the other. It sent twin shocks of pleasure straight down, mingling with the feeling of him moving inside me.

I was about to reach my peak, and he stilled, withholding it from me. I keened, my need encompassing me. I bucked my hips upwards, trying to make him move, to find that apex of pleasure. I struggled to pull my wrists free, but his grip was iron tight.

His hand on my breast pulled away, out from under my shirt, and came up to grasp my throat, holding my head in place, exerting just a little bit of pressure. "Tell me what you want, Lashanna," he said, his thumb stroking my throat. "What do you need?"

"You," I gasped out, "please, Solas, I need you." I moaned my need.

He pulled out, then pushed back in, achingly slow. I whimpered, my hips rising. His hand on my throat tightened slightly, and I gasped at the pressure. "If you want something," his voice was a low growl by my ear, "then tell me."

"Faster, Solas, please," I panted. "Fuck me faster."

"Ma nuvenin, ma'da'mis," he murmured, and I felt his teeth close on the tip of my ear. He began sliding his cock into me faster, and my climax began building up again.

I could hear his breathing getting ragged, knew he was as close as I was. I lifted my hips a bit, and he went just a bit deeper than before. He groaned, and I felt his cock throb as he thrust into me. My orgasm crested over me as his hot cum filled me.

His hands holding me loosened, and I brought my arms down, my fingers trailing down his back. He nuzzled my neck. "I like seeing my marks on your skin," he murmured, kissing the slightly tender spots.

"That's good," I smiled impishly, "because I like having them." I felt his lips curve up against my skin. "But I really do need to go back to Faelyn, now," I sighed. He nodded, his nose still on my skin breathing in my scent. "Did you want to come with me, spend some time with him?" I asked.

Solas hesitated, considering, then nodded. "I shouldn't, but... yes. I will," he said, pulling himself off and out of me. I immediately felt empty, and wished we could have stayed like that.

We cleaned each other up, teasing just a bit, fingers stroking and plucking. I was close to tearing off all my clothes, but I knew I needed to get back.

The rest of the evening was spent with Faelyn, listening to his misadventures with Sera and watching him demonstrate some of the lessons Ellendra and Vivienne had been giving him.

I savored it while I could, being able to relax with the two people in this world I enjoyed most.

I knew it wouldn't last much longer.

Chapter Text

It kills me not to know this
but I've all but just forgotten
What the color of her eyes were
and her scars or how she got them

As the telling signs of age rain down
a single tear is dropping
Through the valleys of an aging face
that this world has forgotten

-'Savior' by Rise Against

============================================

"Fucking hell!" I cursed, landing in a foot of water. The vertigo made my head spin, and I was vaguely aware I was hanging onto Dorian, who seemed just as pleased as I was.

I got my balance back just in time for a couple of guards to come investigate the noise. Dorian hung back, using his spells, and I wreathed myself in fadefire. I stabbed my daggers into the sensitive areas of one guard, channeling lightning through my blades into his flesh. He cooked from the inside out.

The second tried to run, but Dorian tripped him up with his staff, and launched a fireball point blank at the poor guy's face.

"Well. This is unexpected," Dorian muttered. He paced, gesturing to himself as he talked to himself, trying to work out what happened. I searched the bodies of the two we'd killed, saying a silent sorry to their spirits. I found a set of keys on one, and as I pulled them off his belt, Dorian Ah-ha-ed. "It's not just where, it's when!"

"Yeah, I figured," I said.

Dorian stopped, looking put out. "And how, pray tell, did you come to your conclusion?" he asked, his hands crossing over his chest.

I started with, "Your former master-"

"Mentor," Dorian interrupted.

"Whatever," I said crossly. "He used time magic before. So it stands to reason he did it again. I know enough stories to know that's how it always works."

"That's hardly grounds for a valid hypothesis," he argued.

I laughed. "If you knew how my life went, you'd know it was," I told him. I could hear the bitterness in my voice.

"Regardless, I don't know whether we've traveled forward or backwards in time, or how far," he said.

We both began moving towards the door. "My money's on forward," I muttered, eyeing the state of the walls around us.

We explored cautiously, dispatching guards as we found them. I used the stealth that Varric had taught me to my advantage, getting behind enemies before they even knew we were there.

We found the Grand Enchanter a short time later. She was in terrible shape, with red crystals embedded in the corners of her eyes, the beds of her nails... Her skin had a red tint, as if the crystals were growing underneath.  She looked like it hurt to move.

She told us it was almost exactly one year since we'd entered the castle to face Alexius. Everything had gone wrong since that day.

I felt a spike of fear. I hoped Faelyn had made it out of Haven, and hadn't gotten caught up by the demon army Fiona told us about. Dorian insisted that if he could work out the spell, he could try to send us back.

"You must go back and stop this," she insisted. She was gasping for breath by the time she was done, and I could hear the crunch of crystals moving in her lungs.

"We'll fix this. I promise," I told her.

"I did say, 'try,'" Dorian said as we moved on, his voice dry.

"I've got faith in your abilities," I told him.

============================================

Over the next few hours, we explored the dungeons, finding my companions that had been with me before everything went wibbly wobbly. Everyone had bad news. Empress Celene assassinated, out of control rifts... my worry grew with every tale.

New scars, along with fresh and old bruises both, covered the skin I could see on everyone. Cassandra kept shying away from everyone, twitching whenever Dorian spoke, but she didn't say a word, even when we explained our presence. Varric's eyes followed her, undisguised worry on his face. He was walking with a distinct limp, having trouble keeping up. Bulls horns had been sheared off, the stumps glowing red with embedded crystals. Everyone had a red miasma in their eyes, dulling the colours, and their veins pulsed with red light.

We found Solas last. The condition of the others had given me some warning of what to expect, but seeing his blue eyes turned dark with corrupted lyrium, and his veins turning red made me want to sit and cry. A burn mark covered his left arm, healing poorly, and a scar twisted its way across his left cheek. It looked like a few fingers had been broken and badly reset, and he was too thin, bruises from restraints showing stark on his wrists.

His eyes when he turned and saw me nearly broke my heart. I'd seen every version of disbelief on the others, but his were hard and cold. "Another trick?" he asked, his voice raspy. "Pretending to be her won't get you anything from me."

"Solas," I whispered. I was rooted to the spot, unable to move forward but unwilling to depart. Dorian gently plucked the keyring from my fingers with a sympathetic glance, opening the door.

"It's really us," he was explaining, "we were sent through time by Alexius's magic."

Solas's eyes narrowed on Dorian. "If that's true..." his eyes came back to mine, a spark of hope blooming on his face, warring with fear. "Lashanna?"

I nodded. His eyes roved over me, and he took a  careful step closer to me. He saw the marks still on my neck from our last night in Haven, and his hand came up, gently touching them. He lightly touched a lock of my hair, then cupped his hand on my cheek. "It's me, Solas," I said, my voice wavering.

All at once, he pulled me into an embrace. His nose went to the crook of my neck and breathed deep, and his arms tightened around me. "Vhenan. I thought you were gone," he whispered. "I thought I'd failed, again. I thought..." he stopped, shaking against me.

He pulled away, took another deep breath, and turned to Dorian. "Can you reverse the process?" he asked. "Can you obviate the events of the last year?"

"We're sure as hell going to try," Dorian replied.

"Good," Solas said. He took my hand, fingers rubbing my knuckles. "This world is an abomination. It must never come to pass."

We turned to move on, but he held me back a moment. "Can you... are you still able to Sing, ma'da'mis?" he asked.

I nodded. "Do you need help healing yourself, or-"

He stopped me, shaking his head. "No, I'm dieing. I just wanted to be sure it had affected only me. I can't... the only Song I can hear now is the corruption. I can still do plain magic, but my Song..." his eyes closed. "It's gone." His voice broke on the last two words,

"Solas, I'm so sorry," I said. I touched his cheek, and he leaned into the contact.

"It's no matter," he replied quietly. "I got to see you, to touch you again before I die, and know that you'll be able to stop it from ever happening." I leaned in to kiss him, but he backpedaled. "Don't," he warned. "I do not want to see you carry this... infection of corruption, and it is spread all too easily."

I nodded. "I understand," I told him quietly. We started after the others. "I need to ask you something," I said hesitantly.

"Anything, Vhenan," he replied. His use of vhenan made me pause. He'd never called me that before, and it made my heart hurt a little to hear it.

"I need to know... how you'll react to something that I know," I said quietly. His eyes narrowed, watching me. I glanced ahead, making sure Dorian was out of earshot. I pulled Solas to a halt, looking down at his hand in mine. I took a deep breath to prepare myself, then pushed on. "I know you're Fen'Harel," I said. "I know you gave Corypheus your orb." His hand became a vice grip.

"How long?" he asked. I glanced up  at his face. He wasn't angry, but he seemed... focused.

"Since before I came to Thedas," I replied. He blinked at that.

"You continue to surprise me, Vhenan," he said. "Before... all of this, I had been worried what you would say, how much you would hate me when you found out."

"But I need to know, Solas," I started. "Would there be anything short of impending death that would have pushed you into telling me?"

We continued walking at a distance behind the others, Solas's eyes on the ground as he considered. "No, I don't believe so," he finally said. "Though it seems like you have a particular scenario in mind," he said, his eyes coming up to watch me.

I hesitated, but then I realized it didn't really matter. Either Dorian accomplished his spell, and this conversation never took place, or we all die anyway, and at least he'd die knowing the whole truth.

"Do you remember, the first time we Sang together in the Fade?" I asked tentatively. He nodded. "The second song. Do you remember what I told you about it?"

"You said that in the story, the character you cared for left his lover for the third time," he said, confused.

"Yeah, that." I took a deep breath. "The character was you. The story was this one."

The shock pulled him to a stop. After a moment, he asked, "This is all just a tale, to you?" He closed his eyes a moment. "We're just characters, playing out a grand story for you," his voice was bitter.

"No!" I said sharply. "You are far more important to me than just a character." He looked down, not entirely convinced.

"That's how you know who- what I am?" he asked. I nodded. "So at some point in the future, something will happen to one of us, and it will prompt me to tell you everything?"

"About two years after the Conclave explosion, the mark will go... bad, in some way," I explained quietly. I couldn't look him in the eyes while I told him, so I stared at the tiny rift on my palm. "There's other stuff happening, you'd left the Inquisition just after Corypheus was dealt with, but the inquisitor catches up to you. And you take the mark, along with most of the attached arm."

He sucked in a sharp breath. "That shouldn't be necessary. With the orb I would be able to stabilize it." His eyes searched my face. "Something happens to the orb, doesn't it?" He seemed resigned.

"After the final confrontation with Corypheus," I confirmed. "It ends up shattered."

He closed his eyes, pain etched on his face. "Then that is why I will leave," he said quietly. "Before, I had been considering ways to... sway you into helping me." Guilt flashed over his face. "Between the strength of our combined Songs, and the power of my orb, we could have brought the Veil down without needless death." He shook his head. "But without the orb, it would kill you. If it is as you say, then I would not allow it."

"Dammit..." I whispered.  "I was hoping that I could get you to trust me enough to tell me on your own, before facing Corypheus." I gave a hollow laugh. "Stupid of me, I guess."

"Ma'da'mis, no," he said. "It is never stupid to hope. Unwise, perhaps, but never stupid."

I was quiet for a few minutes. "When I get back to my time," I refused to think that Dorian might fail, that we might be stuck here, "should I just tell you? That I know?"

He contemplated for a moment. "No," he said finally. "At least, not yet. It took a hard year of torture, thinking that you were dead, for me to realize how I felt, Vhenan," he explained. "If you told me before I knew my own feelings, it would likely push me away. I would be angry, feel that you only became so close to me because you wished something from the god Fen'Harel, not because you wanted me."

"I always wanted you," I said softly. "That's what made you so dangerous to me." I started moving forward, and after a moment, Solas followed.

"One last thing, please," he said quietly. I looked back at him. "If you know this story, then you must know what happened to my friend. To Wisdom?" When I nodded, he closed his eyes. "I heard it crying out to me for help, but I was already here, and couldn't get to it to help. It went silent shortly after that."

He looked at me, his eyes dull with old pain. "Please. If you can, save it."

I considered. "In the story I know, it's impossible to save her entirely," I said softly, "only to break the bindings holding her. We're able to let her die in peace, but she still dies."

"Ah," Solas sighs, his shoulders sagging.

"But," I gave him a small smile, "as Fifi is fond of telling me, stories can be changed." He looked confused. "If I can, I'll prevent Wisdom from being bound in the first place," I told him.

"Thank you, Vhenan," he breathed. "All I ask is that you try."

The others were nearly out of sight. They'd stopped ahead, giving us some time alone together, for which I was grateful. When we caught up, the path was leading upwards. "I heard some of the guards talking about the spymaster being interrogated today," Varric told me quietly. Cassandra grimaced, her hands shaking. She tightened her hand on her sword, her lips pressed thin, a dangerous look in her eyes. "I don't think they'll do to her what they did to you, Cass," he reassured her. She nodded slightly, the tension draining just a little.

I sent a questioning glance at Varric. He tilted his head, indicating he'd rather tell me more privately. He motioned Dorian to join us, muttering, " I don't want to have to say this more than once." When we moved a little apart, he started speaking. "They... infected all of us with red lyrium, in various ways. They cut into my leg, swapping part of the bone with a chunk of the stuff. They tried to force Solas to drink the same stuff the templars use. When he refused to open his mouth, they cut in to pour it down his throat. Bull... you can see how Bull got it. But Cassandra... she got the worst." He swallowed, trying to put it into words.

"At first, she fought them. She can ignite the lyrium inside someone, did you know that?" I shook my head. "It works almost as well with the red, from what I understand. When she kept doing it, they... drugged her. Something that trapped her in her own body. She couldn't move, couldn't fight, couldn't use her Seeker abilities... but she was still there, still aware. And then they..." he stopped, the pain in his face blocking his voice.

"They got a few red templar dogs, and they..." he clenched his fists, red tears starting down his cheeks. "They raped her. Over and over till they were sure she was infected. When she wouldn't stop screaming, after the drugs wore off, they broke her voice box and cut out her tongue."

My legs gave out. I stared, first at Varric, then at Cassandra. She turned away from me. Before she hid it, her face told me she wouldn't accept pity.

"We have to prevent this," Dorian said quietly, putting his hand on my shoulder. "The only way to do that is to keep moving forward."

I nodded, clearing my throat. "Let's go," I said, my voice hard.

==============================================

It didn't take long to find Leliana's torture chamber. We would hear screaming, then shouted questions and maniacal laughter.

I entered stealth, pushing open the door quietly, and slit the throat of the guard inside the chamber before he even knew I was there. Leliana was suspended from the ceiling, her clothes in tatters, blood running down her from the dig of the shackles at her wrists, and from cuts on her stomach, chest and thighs. When she saw the guard go down, as the torturer cut into the skin over her hip, she twisted her legs around, tripping him, and wrapped her legs around his neck. She pulled, and I heard the snap of his neck as he went limp.

I looked her over as Dorian and I got her down. She was in terrible shape. In addition to the new cuts there were scars all over her. But where everyone else showed clear signs of being infected with red lyrium, she looked like death walking. Her eyes and cheeks were sunken, with black veins crawling under her skin. Patches of her skin looked wrong, diseased.

Dorian was explaining the situation, and she responded in disgust. "And mages always wonder why people are terrified of them," she sneered.

"Leliana," I said softly. "I'm going to heal you." She started to protest but I cut her off. "You won't get very far if you collapse from blood loss." Tight lipped, she nodded, then sat on the floor. I knelt beside her, taking a deep breath.

I started the Song, aware of Solas hovering behind me, drinking in the sound. I noticed as I went, certain areas I tried to heal were simply not responding, and when I passed over them I could hear... something. It sounded like a sour note in my mind.

"You can't heal it," Leliana said darkly. "It's the Blight. They were experimenting, I'm not sure why. They never spoke of reasons around me, only asked questions."

I sat back on my heels, the Song fading away. "I... know this is selfish to ask," I said quietly. Leliana eyed me. "Did Faelyn make it out of Haven?"

She was silent for a moment, her face giving nothing away. "Before Cullen and I left for Redcliff, Blackwall and Faelyn were gathering up all the villagers who would go, getting them ready to evacuate," she told me. "I do not know what happened to them, after we left, but I never heard anything from our jailers about capturing people fleeing Haven."

I nodded. "Thank you," I said. "How did you end up here?"

"After we lost contact with my agents here, we decided that the only course left to us was a frontal assault. We were captured when we failed. Cullen was forced to drink red lyrium on the spot. I suppose they didn't want to waste a templar tool. He was turned within days." Her voice was flat as she recounted what happened.

"Leliana, I'm sorry, I-" I started but she silenced me with a look. She didn't respond, only pushed up off the ground and started through the door.

==============================================

By the time we made it to Alexius, everyone was exhausted. Once he was dead, Dorian said he could work out the spell in just an hour. Leliana cursed. "We don't have that long. You must go now!" she insisted. Distantly, we could hear screams, rumbles, roars, all headed our way.

Cassandra and Varric started heading towards the door. "We'll hold them off as long as we can," Varric called over his shoulder. As they pulled the door shut, Cassandra gave me one last unreadable glance.

Bull and Leliana took up stance just inside the doors, ready to be the next line of defense. Solas pulled me into one last crushing hug, then stood in front of the dias, using his magic to create a giant bubble barrier. "I'll keep them from interrupting your spell," he said to Dorian. Solas's eyes went to mine. "Help him- me, to grow. If anyone can, it will be you, Vhenan." With that he turned away.

Dorian began channeling his magic through the amulet he'd taken from Alexius, and the air began to distort.

The doors burst open, and demons stalked in, throwing the broken bodies of Varric and Cassandra to the floor. Bull and Leliana did what they could, but they were severely outmatched, and already at their limits. I didn't look away as they fell, feeling I owed it to them to watch their sacrifice.

Solas held the barrier as long as he could, but they broke through. Before they grabbed him, he cast one more around us, giving us just enough time. Dorian's hand latched onto my elbow. I looked back, watched as a demon stabbed through Solas. Saw him look up at me, mouthing, "Ar lath ma, Vhenan."

==============================================

We stumbled, holding onto each other for balance. I looked around, saw Inquisition soldiers lining the hall. My companions were at the foot of the dais, looking up with surprise in their faces. Alexius sighed, drawing my gaze. "You win," he said sourly.

I growled, taking a step towards him, intending to kill him where he was. Dorian grabbed my arm. "Let's not be hasty," he said.

I turned cold eyes to him, but before I could respond, the clanging of armor pulled my attention to the doors. Fereldan army soldiers marched in, leading the way for the Queen. I glanced behind her, but didn't see anyone else with her. I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach, but pushed it away.

I watched the denouncement and banishment of the mages by the crown, the desperation in Fiona's face.

"Perhaps I should mention, we originally came to Redcliff looking for help against the Breach?" I piped up. Every eye in the room fell on me. I flushed, but held my head up. After everything I'd seen today, a little embarrassment was easy to handle.

I bowed slightly to Queen Anora, and she nodded an elegantly coiffed head towards me.

"And what would the terms of this help be?" asked Fiona skeptically.

"If you'd been this cautious with the magister, a lot of this trouble could have been avoided," I responded sharply.

She flushed. "You're right," she agreed. "We should have been more careful. But now, we are at your mercy."

I sighed. "You won't be indentured, or slaves or prisoners," I said. "If you and all able mages help us with the Breach, you can then join the Inquisition."

Fiona looked shocked. "That's... very generous," she said finally.

"It's not for you. You fucked up," I said, pointing a finger at her face. "But there are a lot of mages here that want to do better. I intend to see to it they get that chance."

==============================================

I avoided my companions for the few days we stayed in Redcliff castle, not answering the light knocks on my door at night, sneaking down to the kitchens to grab meals alone. I cried myself to sleep a few times, and my dreams were filled with nightmares of what had happened in that terrible future.

But I knew I couldn't avoid them once we were on the road again. The first night out, I started setting up the tent. Varric said, "Hey Sunshine, you know it's not raining, right?" His gaze on me was worried.

"I know," I said. "I just... I can't..." I looked blindly down at my hands in the tent fabric.

"You could always tell your friendly neighborhood dwarf all your troubles," he said, nudging my side with his elbow and giving me a smile. I gave him a halfhearted smile in return. "Was it really that bad, what you saw?" he asked quietly.

I nodded. "You all had been tortured," I murmured. "Forced to undergo experiments involving red lyrium." I stayed quiet for a time, just staring at my hands.

"Tell me about it. 'A burden shared is a burden halved," as they say," he cajoled.

So I started talking, trying to tell him the horror of seeing people I considered friends with the marks of torture on them. Of seeing them cut down in front of me, and being unable to do anything to help.

"But you did help. You got back here," he said. "So none of that can happen, right?"

"Let's hope so," I murmured.

I slowly began the process of putting up my tent, then slipped inside. Some time later, Solas stepped in with a bowl of stew, to find me curled up, tears streaking my cheeks. He set the bowl aside and gathered me into his arms, just holding me.

"Ir abelas, ma'da'mis," he murmured.

I remembered the sound of his voice saying Vhenan to me, and fresh sobs wracked me. I buried my face into his chest, inhaling the clean spice scent of him.

He held me like that till I fell asleep.

Chapter Text

How can I say this without breaking
How can I say this without taking over
How can I put it down into words
When it's almost too much for my soul alone

'Hurts Like Hell' by Fleurie

=============================================

We made it back to Haven ahead of the slower moving train of mages by almost a week, in mid morning. When Faelyn came running up to me, I swept him into a tight hug, relieved to see for myself that he was alright.

He squirmed in my grip, protesting a little. "Sorry," I said, rubbing tears out of my eyes and forcing a big smile. "It was just a very long trip, this time. I'm really happy to see you."

His eyes looked over me critically. "You haven't been sleeping well, or eating, have you?" he accused. He turned to Solas, crossing his arms. "Well?" he demanded. "You said you'd take care of her!"

"It's difficult to take care of a bruised heart, da'len," Solas responded quietly.

Faelyn looked me over once more. "I suppose so," he muttered. "But that means that before you go talking to anybody, you're coming with me to Flissa's for a good meal." He grabbed my hand and started pulling me along.

"Don't worry, Boss, we'll give our reports while you eat," Bull said with a wave.

"It might be better done separate," Cassandra said. "Your story is very... confusing, at the least."

Varric fell in step behind Cassandra and Bull with a tired wave. Solas wavered, but I shooed him along. "Cassandra's right. My report will only confuse them right now," I told him. Reluctantly, he followed the others.

Dorian, however, stayed right next to me. Faelyn gave him a mistrustful look. "Don't worry about Dorian," I told him. "He's the only reason I made it back to you in one piece."

Faelyn eyed Dorian, considering. "Well then, come along if you want," he finally decided.

"So good to get permission," Dorian said, his voice overly sweet.

"Play nice, please," I said tiredly. The tevinter mage pursed his lips, but nodded.

Faelyn pulled me into the Singing Maiden and sat me in a corner by the minstrel, Maryden, then dashed off to find Flissa. Dorian sat beside me. "Isn't this quaint," he drawled. I didn't respond, simply stared at the table in front of me. "Listen. I know that what we saw and heard was terrible," he said quietly, leaning in close to me. "But as of now, it never happened. And it never will, if either of us has any say in the matter. That must help with the memories, yes?"

I took a deep breath, straightening my back a little. "It does, a bit. Thank you, Dorian," I said.

He gave me a charming smile. "That's what I'm here for!" he said airily, waving his hand vaguely.

Faelyn came back, carrying a bowl in each hand, trailed by Flissa, who had a third bowl, three mugs on a tray, and a huge welcoming smile.

Blackwall and Sera came in while we were eating. As soon as I saw him, I got up and gave the Warden a hug. He stood there stiffly, in shock, looking around for someone to explain.

I pulled back. "I just wanted to say thank you," I told him.

His brows furrowed. "For what?" he asked, confused.

"For taking care of Faelyn when it counted," I responded. His confusion only deepened.

"Remember, it never actually happened," Dorian murmured in my ear.

"I know. But it still counts, to me," I said.

"Is someone going to explain what's going on?" Blackwall asked.

"The Herald is gone bonkers, didn't you hear?" Sera said playfully, slinging her arm around my shoulders.

I laughed. "Only a little," I said, giving her a wry smile. "It's healthy to be a little crazy, right?"

"Totally healthy," she agreed.

We all sat, and the easy conversation helped me relax a little, and cleared away some of the last vestiges of grief lingering in my mind.

When Bull came in, he signaled to me, saying, "They're ready for you, Boss."

I nodded, my meal suddenly feeling like a stone in my stomach. "Let's get this over with," Dorian said, and we left, heading to the Chantry.

Cassandra was still in the war room with the advisors. The door closed behind me, and I took a deep breath to steady myself. Thankfully, Dorian loved the center of attention, and immediately launched into an account of our time. He didn't gloss over the terrible parts, but the way he said it made it matter of fact. It made it easier for me to hear it all again.

I stayed mostly quiet, unless asked a direct question. When it was over, they started discussing the implications of everything we'd seen.

"That's all well and good," Cullen interrupted, "but what were you thinking, giving the mages free reign with no oversight?" He directed this at me, the anxiety plain to see on his face. "We just secured some of the templars, and now they'll think we don't take their concerns seriously!"

"Wait, so you were able to contact them?" I asked.

"Yes, though not all decided to join us," Cullen said. "The ones who did felt vindicated in their choice when all communication out of Therinfal Redoubt stopped completely, shortly after they arrived. But that will all be undone, now." He came back to his original point.

"The mages were only half the problem," I said. "The whole circle system was broken, limping along. If it wasn't the events in the White Spire that sparked rebellion, it would have been something else, possibly worse."

"There will be abominations among the mages," Cullen insisted.

"And we have templars," I said. "The mages are free, but not out of the woods yet. They still need to prove their loyalty." I took a fortifying breath. "They will still be watched. The templars can still fulfill their vows. But it doesn't need to be the way it was before."

Cullen sighed, rubbing his neck. "I suppose you're right. I'm still not happy about it, but things will have to change." He gave me a small smile. "Perhaps this old dog can learn a few new tricks," he said with a little laugh.

I gave him a tired smile. "Was there anything else you needed?" I asked. I felt like we'd been there for hours.

"Once the mages have arrived, you can go seal the Breach at any time," Josephine said. "Until then, I suggest you take some time to relax. You've been on the road with barely a break for weeks."

"And even when you are here more than a single night, you're pushing yourself with training," Cullen put in.

"A break would be great, thanks," I said, a smile flashing over my face.

"Come, I've heard tales that Haven has surprisingly luxurious bathing accommodations," Dorian said, slipping his arm around my waist and turning me towards the door. "I think we've both earned a little spa treatment," he said with a wink.

=============================================

"All that's missing is a little privacy and a servant with little finger foods," Dorian sighed, arms spread as he reclined in the water.

The bathhouse in the afternoon was crowded, filled with the villagers as well as the new templars. Dorian eyed a few of them discreetly. "I would suggest leaving the templars alone," I murmured to him quietly. "They tend to be very holier-then-thou, and don't look kindly on anyone trying to get in their pants."

"My dear Lashanna, I have no idea what you're talking about," he said, his eyes twinkling mischievously.

"Oh no, of course not. I guess I'll just drool all by myself, over here," I said.

"Like you would," he retorted. "You prefer the lithe form of certain apostates, not the generous muscles of a hardened warrior." I laughed, shushing him. "What? You can't mean to tell me it's supposed to be a secret?" he asked incredulously.

I blushed, looking away. "I'm not trying to flaunt anything, that's all," I said.

"Lashanna, I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but the way you two look at each other is, quite frankly, nauseating," he said. I laughed. "If you didn't want anyone to know, I'd suggest hiding under a rock. The people you find there will be suitably uninformed."

I waved away his teasing. "What about you?" I asked. "Anyone in particular catch your eye?"

"I find relationships to be like frilly cakes," he said dryly. "You can look and drool all you want, but you only taste when you're very sure it's not poisoned." I laughed again. "You know, it's good to see you laughing. You were so glum on the trip back, avoiding everyone. Very tiresome," he sighed.

"I know, I know. I swear I'm done moping," I said, holding up a hand in a mock girl-scout salute. "Better to get it out on the road, so Faelyn didn't have to see the worst of it."

"Yes, Faelyn," Dorian said, watching me. "I don't see any familial resemblance, beyond the pointy ears, but he certainly mothers you like family. What's that about?"

"His family is gone, my family is gone," I said. "Templars tried to kill him, I stepped in. And we kinda... helped each other, filled in the gaps we were each feeling." I shrugged. "Now he's like a little brother to me."

"That explains the mothering," Dorian mused. "Are you teaching him magic?"

"Solas is teaching us both," I responded. Dorian's eyebrows went up in disbelief. "I only knew I was a mage when I woke up after the explosion at the conclave. No training that I can remember before that."

"Which is why you prefer to stick things with pointy bits of metal, rather than use a staff," he surmised. I shrugged, not answering. He sighed. "Ah, well, this has been very informative, but I'm starting to get wrinkly. I'm afraid I'm done for the day." He started making his way out of the bath. "If you want someone to spar magically with, let me know," he called back to me.

I waved my acknowledgment, then settled myself further into the water, letting the sounds of the other bathers wash over me.

=============================================

I jerked awake, finding myself in someone's arms, being carried through dark Haven paths. My hair was heavy and cold in the night air, still wet from the baths. I stiffened, trying to get away, but the arms held me fast. "Atisha, Lashanna," a familiar voice murmured by my ear. It was Solas. I relaxed, and tried to slow my breathing.

He came to a stop, setting my feet under me and putting me down. "You fell asleep in the baths," he explained quietly. "When no one saw you in the tavern for dinner, Faelyn asked me to look for you. I was taking you back to your cabin for the night."

"Thank you, Solas," I said, giving him a small smile. He nodded, and moved to turn away. "I have a message," I said. He paused, then turned back to me. "You have to warn your friend Wisdom," I told him. "At some point soon, some mages are going to summon and bind her, to protect them against bandits."

He sucked in a sharp breath. "To kill, even in defense, would go against its nature entirely," he said, alarmed. "That would force it to become a demon."

"Yes," I agreed softly. "She will become a demon of Pride. Once she is bound and turned, we could go to her and release the bindings, but that wouldn't save her, only allow her to die as herself."

Solas's nostrils flared, his jaw clenching. After a moment, he said, "Thank you, Lashanna. I will pass on the warning, and we will endeavor to prevent this from happening." He began moving away again.

"Solas," I said, confused. I started walking beside him. "Why are you being like this?"

"Like what?" he asked. I grabbed his arm, pulling him to a stop.

"Like... this!" I gestured vaguely. "Distant, and cold. Like you don't..." I pursed my lips. Like you don't care anymore, I couldn't bring myself to say.

"What do you expect, when you cut me out?" he asked, his voice low.

"Cut you out?" I asked, confused. 

"You choose to tell others of your grief, but refuse to share it with me," he said.

"That's not... I'm not cutting you out, Solas," I said quietly. "But in that future... I watched you die, right in front of me." My arms came up, hands grasping my elbows. "You..." I swallowed hard, then pushed the words out. "You called me 'Vhenan,' and as you died you said 'ar lath ma,'" I whispered, keeping my eyes to the ground. I was struggling to keep the tears from bursting forth again. I had done enough crying this past week.

Fingers stroked my cheek, and I looked up to see shame on his face. "Ir abelas, ma'da'mis," he murmured. "I assumed..." he sighed. "It doesn't matter. I was mistaken."

Hesitantly, I brought my arms up around him. When he didn't move away, I rested my head on his chest, breathing in his scent. He pulled me close, his arms offering a safe harbor. "Can I stay with you in your cabin, tonight?" I asked quietly. He shifted, looking down at me in surprise. "I'm... still having nightmares. I don't want to disturb Faelyn."

He pressed his lips to the top of my head. "Of course. Whatever you need," he murmured. "I'll go tell Faelyn of the change in plans for the evening."

I shook my head. "No, I should be the one to tell him," I said with a sigh. "He looks up to me. I owe him that much, at least."

=============================================

I found myself back in the castle dungeons in Redcliff, red lyrium scattered throughout. I could hear screaming, coming from the chambers above.

A hand closed on my wrist, and I pulled away with a cry,  afraid it would be one of the red templars to take me for my own turn in a torture session. "Ma'da'mis, please, be calm," I heard. I looked, to find Solas. Not the scarred and bent future version of him, but the confident, present version.

I sagged against him, shivering, his arms coming up around me. I could recognize the screaming as Cassandra, knew what I'd see if I went up there. I'd been witnessing each friend being tortured every night, the torture that I'd been absent for.

"Let me take control, please Lashanna. I can't change it unless you let go," Solas insisted, his breath tickling my ear.

I gulped, buried my head in his chest, and tried to clear my mind. The screaming stopped abruptly, and I hated to think of the implications of the sudden silence.

"You're doing well, ma'da'mis, but you must allow me to take control of the Fade," Solas became more insistent.

The air around us changed, and I could hear the sounds of fighting nearby, and the final request that Solas had made of me. I looked up in time to see Bull get slashed by a demon, and the barrier, being held by the figure in front of the dais I was standing on, was beginning to waver.

The Solas that was holding me was very still, his eyes on the future version of himself.

I turned away, unwilling to watch him die yet again, but I could hear when it all ended. The room around us dissolved, becoming nothingness. My legs collapsed beneath me, and Solas gently brought me down, sitting with me, with his arms still supporting me.

"It's over, now," Solas was murmuring, his hand running over my hair, comforting me. "You had said... I hadn't realized how deeply this had affected you," he said, sorrow in his voice. I was still shivering, hating myself for being so weak. I kept my face buried in his chest, not wanting to give up the comfort it afforded me.

Blue flame lit the nothingness beside us. "Oh good, you got out sooner than usual," I heard Fifi say, relief in her voice.

"Why do you do nothing to keep the nightmares from finding her?" Solas asked, his voice low, accusing.

"It's not that easy," she said sadly. "You've seen how much connection she has to the Fade. It's not the nightmare finding her, it's her calling to it. While she's in the midst of it, it's nearly impossible for me to get to her."

"Ahh," Solas breathed, "that's why I didn't find her in them before this. She wraps the nightmares up in a self-contained piece of the Fade." He was still stroking my hair. "I believe, then, that the only reason I was with her from almost the beginning tonight was because I was sleeping next to her. Physical proximity would have given me a chance to step directly in, rather than having to search for her scent."

He sighed. "But why is she calling the nightmares?" he wondered softly.

"She blames herself for the horrors that everyone went through, in that other future," Fifi said.

Solas paused, his brows furrowed. "Why? It was not her doing that sent her, and she worked with the other mage to ensure she returned. Nothing that happened there was her fault."

"Because everything they went through was a direct result of me not being there to stop it," I said quietly.

He shook his head. "But you have stopped it," he insisted. "And in the process you learned valuable information, information that can be used against this Elder One."

I shook my head. How did I explain the possibility of multiple time lines, or divergent stories, of the idea that just because I was now on a path that avoided it, that didn't mean it was negated completely?

"Lashanna," Fifi said softly. I turned my face to her. "Do you remember, you used to blame yourself for Mike's death?" I nodded, the old sorrow from that mingling with the newer grief. "You thought that, because you'd eaten all the ice cream before going to Tia's, your parents had to go out to get more." I looked down. It was true. But something Tia had told me had helped.

"But they had more than just ice cream in the car," I repeated her words said quietly. "They'd likely have gone out anyway, whether or not I'd had the ice cream."

Fifi nodded. "You can only affect you," she said. "The actions of others are outside of your control. Try to remember that, when it gets hard."

I nodded, after a moment. My shivers had all but stopped, by this point. "I'll try," I said quietly, my throat dry.

==============================================

I cracked open one gritty eye, looking around the quiet cabin. I breathed in the scent of Solas surrounding me, felt his arm wrapped around my waist. I was laying on my right side, and he was right behind me, pressed against my back. We were both still mostly clothed, though he didn't have a shirt on, and I was in my underwear and thin undershirt,. My armoured pants would have been uncomfortable to share a bed with, let alone the coat.

I recalled falling asleep, after talking to Faelyn. We'd only been back here for a few minutes, Solas petting my hair down my back, before the nightmares began.

I took a deep breath, stuffing my guilt for that terrible future into the mental lockbox with my memories of the weekend my family died. It didn't lessen the guilt, but it did make it easier to deal with.

I shifted a little, and Solas's arm tightened around me a little. "You're awake," he said, voice still sleep-roughened. I nodded.

"I'm sorry you had to see... everything," I said, keeping my voice low.

"I'm not," he replied. "Lashanna, you must realize, being able to gain useful information is worth the painful memories." His thumb rubbed the skin over my left hip. "It was terrible, yes, but every breath you take now is a rebellion against it. Take that for the victory it is."

I nodded, giving him a small smile.

"I do need to ask..." he started hesitantly. "In that future, did he... I tell you anything?" he asked.

"You told me about what happened to Wisdom," I said truthfully. He nodded, waiting. "You didn't tell me any of your secrets, Solas." He seemed to relax marginally.

"So then, what are your plans for the day?" he asked.

I blinked. "I don't have any. I was told by the leaders, in no uncertain terms, to take time to relax. So probably just spending time with Faelyn. I've left him alone far too much recently," I said. "Why, have something in mind?" I asked playfully.

His hand drifted down from my hip, brushing along my inner thighs. "I may have a few ideas," he said. I could feel him behind me, hard and ready, pressed against my ass.

A grin spread over my face. I half-turned towards him, twisting my shoulders so I could see him. His eyes were hooded, watching me, and he had a little smile on his lips. He grazed his fingers up, touching my lower lips through my underwear. At the same time, he dipped his head, capturing my lips in a kiss.

He rubbed me through the thin fabric, and I gasped into his mouth. He dipped his fingers in under the edges, tracing the cleft of my pussy up to my clit. My hips bucked, a whimper making its way out of my throat.

I felt his fingers begin to tug my underwear, sliding them down over my hips. Once I was exposed, he cupped my mound, his fingers playing with my entrance. My hand reached down to join his, trying to get him to go faster, to fill me. He growled, pulling away, and I mewed.

He ripped my underwear the rest of the way off, reached under and lifted my left leg up, resting it on his shoulder. He pulled his cock free of his breeches, sliding it along my wetness. I arched back, my fingers finding his length. I ran my nails lightly up the underside, subtly pushing his tip to my entrance.

Agonizingly slow, he started pushing in, and I moaned at the feeling of him filling me. He stopped when he had sheathed himself completely inside me, pulling my hand away from our joined bodies. He reached up, under my shirt, and traced a small circle around my nipple, and I could feel the magic his fingers left. He whispered a word, and it began to buzz against me, shocking me into momentary silence.

Then the pleasure began to escalate, and I was gasping, panting with it. He started moving in me, small thrusts at first, but he was soon pounding into me, holding me with my thighs spread.

My hands were fisted into the furs, and I was trying to hold on to my sanity. His hand came down, between my legs, and traced another circle in magic around my clit. Another word, his breathing becoming strained, and that one too began to vibrate.

All too quickly, everything in me was focused on him, on his magic on my body and his cock thrusting hard and fast into me. I shattered, shuddering as I came. He pumped a few more times, then growled as he spilled himself into me.

The buzzing faded into nothingness, leaving me breathless. He kissed the side of my neck, still breathing hard, his arms wrapping around my waist to keep me close.

I sighed, trying to regain my equanimity, and asked, "What was that?"

His lips curled up against my skin. "Just a little touch of magic, something I learned a long time ago, and decided to try and see if it would still work," he said. I raised an eyebrow, and his small smile grew. "I'm pleased to say the experiment was a success."

I laughed, loving his playfulness.

Eventually we did get out of bed, after a few false starts. The final impetus was my stomach, loudly complaining about being empty.

=============================================

Time seemed weird, during our wait for the mages. Every day seemed slow and lazy, since I wasn't needed anywhere, but before I knew it five days had passed. The mages were expected to arrive in the next few days.

The nightmares were getting better, easier to break out of. Solas was a huge help, teaching me to work past the panic, and how to unravel the knots that I was apparently making in the Fade when I entered the nightmare.

But in my waking hours, I was getting nervous. What if all the mages power didn't help, and I wasn't able to close the Breach?

What if I could?

The day they arrived was chaos. I slipped away, going into the woods surrounding Haven, with a promise to Cullen that if they blew the horn, I'd come back, and he made me take a small version in case I ran into trouble. It was the only reason he let me go alone.

I was breathing in the cold air, holding it in till it hurt, when I felt a phantom touch of magic on my senses. I turned, and found Solas silently walking behind me, leaving barely any impression in the snow.

"I was worried, when I realized you'd left alone," he said quietly.

"Sorry," I murmured. "It was just too much going on. I needed some time alone."

"Ah. In that case, I'll leave you be." He started moving away, back towards Haven.

"No, it's ok," I said, reaching for him. He stopped, watching me. "I like your company," I said. "You don't expect miracles from me."

He came close, sliding his arm around my waist and pulling me close to him. "They don't expect miracles," he chided.

"They do," I disagreed. "Or they will. They call me the Herald of Andraste. Anything I do, will be attributed to divine intervention." I sighed. "I'm surprised they don't ask me to part the Red Sea for them," I muttered.

He shifted, looking down at me. "Unless geography has completely escaped me, I don't believe any seas are red," he said, confused.

"No, it's... it's a reference to a prophet... It doesn't matter," I stumbled through my words. "Though I find it telling that the 'parting the seas' part didn't even faze you." I gave him a wry smile.

He returned it. "It's been done," he admitted. "A very long time ago. I... may know a story about Fen'Harel challenging Falon'Din to magical feats when they were young."

I leaned back from him, studying his face. "Well, are you going to tell me the story?" I asked.

I was delighted to see a blush creep up his cheeks. "It's a silly story," he tried to deflect.

"Yeah, but that's to be expected when the people in the story are young," I replied, a smile spreading on my face. "Come on, let me hear it, please?" I cajoled.

He was silent for a time, considering his words.

"This story happened a long time before either took the names they're known by now," he started slowly. "But their oldest names are forgotten now, so these will do for the purposes of this telling."

"Falon'Din was a cocky, swaggering man. Fen'Harel wasn't much better. They were both young, as far as the elvhen went, only a few centuries each. Even then, Fen'Harel tended to push against convention, questioning why some were powerful and some weak. Why the weak were considered ripe prey for the powerful."

Solas drew me towards the trees, sitting me down, then taking his own seat behind me. I leaned back against his chest and let his story wash over me.

"Falon'Din tended to take what he wanted, in those days. He enjoyed entering villages and taking his pick of the local young, boys and girls both, and playing with them until he tired of them. It could take weeks or months, or on one occasion, years, before he sent them away, bruised and abused. Later, he began demanding sacrifices. Any who didn't please him ended up on his altar. And eventually, everyone would displease him."

"But this story happened long before he grew to those excesses. A village elder came to Fen'Harel, seeking help. Falon'Din had been seen in the area, prowling for new conquests, and the elder's own daughter was said to be quite beautiful. He was afraid to lose her to the games of the powerful, but when a village tried to hide their young, Falon'Din tended to punish everyone."

"So Fen'Harel decided to be clever. He gathered the pretty ones, and pretended to be perusing them for selection when Falon'Din arrived."

"Falon'Din was not pleased to be second to anyone, let alone a vagabond such as Fen'Harel. But since they were fairly evenly matched in power, Falon'Din could not force the issue without destroying what he wanted to claim."

"Fen'Harel took his time, pretending to be unable to pick, as Falon'Din became more and more impatient." Solas went silent for a moment. When he continued, his voice was quiet. "In order to... further his deception, Fen'Harel kissed and touched, teased and played with them. It incensed Falon'Din, that someone else was taking what he wished in such an obvious way."

"Finally, Fen'Harel sighed and said he couldn't decide, he would have to take them all. Falon'Din was furious. He insisted on the right to pick one, and he'd let Fen'Harel take the rest. So Fen'Harel pretended to consider the proposition as Falon'Din looked over the young. He pulled one forward, the elder's daughter, saying he would be content with this one."

"Now, Fen'Harel found himself in a quandry, since if he allowed the sacrifice of one daughter, it would save the rest of the children of the village. But the frightened eyes of the girl, as well as his promise to the elder, prompted him to decline. Instead, he challenged Falon'Din."

"'I will accede to you, if you show you can use your power with more finesse than I,' he said. 'Let us move closer to the mountains, so as to not level a village that can produce such beauties.' Falon'Din readily agreed, and they moved towards the shadow of the mountains."

"On the way, they had to cross a river. 'Let this be our first test,' Fen'Harel said. 'We shall each cross the river, with magic, but without Singing any boat or creature to aid us.' He went first, using his Song to harden the water under his feet, and walked across with no small amount of swagger."

"Wishing to impress, Falon'Din decided to instead use his Song to move the waters, allowing him to walk across the bottom of the river. However, when he was halfway across, Fen'Harel Sang a feather into existence, tickling Falon'Din and interrupting his Song. The waters rushed back in and swept him away."

"It didn't kill him. The oldest of my people are not so easily disposed of, but it did wash him far enough away, and embarrassed him so much, that he didn't trouble that village again for a very long time."

"The villagers were grateful to Fen'Harel for saving their young. Being young and cocky, he stayed in the village for some time, enjoying the willing attentions of the people Falon'Din had wanted to force."

Solas fell silent. I twisted around, looking up into his face. His eyes looked distant, and a little sad. He blinked, coming back to himself, and forced a smile. "As I said, it was a long time ago."

I wasn't sure what to say, but before I could figure it out, I heard the horn in the village, with the non-alarm call Cullen had worked out with me. I sighed. "I guess that means an end to my relaxation," I said, standing. Solas rose gracefully next to me. "Thank you for the story," I said with a smile.

He nodded, still subdued, and was silent as we walked back to the village.

Chapter Text

No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes

No one knows what it's like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

-'Behind Blue Eyes' by The Who

============================================

She had walked through hell, and come out the other side with a bruised heart.

But she wasn't broken.

She avoided most of our party after her return, and I worried at what she might have learned. I overheard her speaking to Varric about her troubles quietly, on our first night on the road. That she would be willing to share her pain with him and not me only deepened my worry that she might have learned the truth about me from my future self.

It wasn't until we were back in Haven that she confessed to me what I- he had said. Before he died, he had told her that he loved her. He called her his heart. And when I witnessed it, in her nightmares that night, I could see the look in my- in his eyes.

It was not me, I told myself. It will never be me. But I knew it could be me, all too easily.

At least I had her assurances that my future self had not divulged my secrets to her in a misguided sense of guilt. No matter how many lessons she recieved to assist her in prevarication, she was still bound to tell me the truth when I asked for it.

So she spent her nights in my cabin, wrapped in my arms and facing her nightmares. She had somehow, subconsciously, created a place within the Fade like my sanctuary, a place none could affect, enter, or leave without her wish. But instead of creating a safe haven, she was confronted again and again with the guilt she felt for the fates of those in that future.

She was learning to face it, to break through the panic and change the landscape into a neutral space for contemplation. I still found it difficult to enter, even with physical contact to assist me in stepping in, but she trusted me, which helped. She kept no barriers up against me.

Her days were spent with Faelyn, for the most part. She was taking the leadership's command to heart, and relaxing until the arrival of the allies she had secured. Her nervousness in the face of it prompted her to leave the security of the village, alone, on the day the mages arrived.

The dog Commander insisted that she was fine, when I questioned him on her whereabouts. He likely would have insisted that anyway, if it meant keeping her away from me. So I followed her tracks. It wasn't hard, as she did nothing to hide her trail.

I found her on a ridge, taking in the view of the valley. I believe her magical senses were becoming more finely honed, as she turned towards me as I approached. It made me proud to see how far she'd come, from the shivering, confused elf ignorant of her magic, to this confident, vibrant, strong Singer.

She confessed her dislike of being considered the answer to all the humans problems. Our conversation somehow wandered, and I found myself telling her about an early escapade, though I did edit it a bit.

The children of that village had been so young, by our standards, not a one older than a century, the youngest only twenty. Old enough to explore the physical pleasures of their bodies, but barely old enough to know their own minds.

At the time of the story, I was arrogant, and self assured. I had protected them from the abuses he would have heaped upon them, so why not reap the benefits? It makes me wonder, about how old ma'da'mis is, and whether I'm any better than Falon'Din after all.

I was an idiot, when I was young. Perhaps I still am.

Chapter Text

It don't matter what they say
'Cause the strong will rise up anyway
And you're amazed that we're still standing here at all
(We won't bend 'til we break, 'til we break, No)

Now you've found a state of mind
That's just enough to paralyze
Your superstition got the best of you

Bet you'd never thought we'd last
When you thought the sky was sinking fast
Now you're waiting for the chandelier to fall

'The Break' by Cold Kingdom

============================================

All I could see was snow. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep moving, if you stop you die.

There's a reason I prefer the beach.

The fadefire covered me, but after hours of constant use it could only do so much. I was exhausted, the flames guttering low, close to my skin.

My mind played back the events that led me to this purgatorial walk.

We'd given the mages a few days to settle in, before beginning the march up to the Temple, and the Breach. My lessons with Solas in gathering magic during our Songs were a great help, giving me the dexterity to manipulate all the disparate threads coming at me from all sides.

It had worked. The skies were calm, the Breach gone, and my only way home was closed to me. I turned, and saw a turmoil similar to my own mirrored on Solas's face before he schooled himself.

The celebrations had been going on for a couple days, and I was getting antsier with every passing hour. I'd asked my friends to keep their drinking light, and though a few grumbled about it, they accepted my request.

When the horns started blowing, I was almost glad that the waiting was over.

Immediately, I headed towards the gates. Faelyn had started to follow me, and I had to force him to leave, to go to the Chantry. In the end, I phrased it as a request that he make sure everyone else got out safe.

He gave me a look, like he knew it was a ruse, but he nodded and ran off, yelling for everyone to follow him. The last I saw of him, he was banging on doors, forcing people to move.

============================================

I shivered, one foot moving in front of the other automatically, following the siren call through the snow. My ribs ached, likely from the fall through the old tunnels , but I couldn't remember, couldn't think. So instead I focused on before.

Bull and Varric were the first ones to make it to the gates. Cassandra was close behind, and Solas brought up the rear.

"I sent the others through the village," Cassandra had said. "They're gathering everyone into the Chantry. I only hope it's big enough to hold everyone." I nodded my agreement.

Cullen had looked at me, eyes wide, as I went to the gate. "You knew," he'd breathed out, wondering. "How-?" I hated the look on his eyes, like he was looking at a holy person.

"I guessed," I had told him bluntly, putting my hands on the heavy wood of the gates. "Now we have to push back, give everyone time to get to the Chantry." He nodded, drawing his sword.

Before we could push it open, a thud on the other side had us all hesitating. A thin voice had called through. "I can't come in unless you open!" It sounded desperate.

Without waiting for anyone else, I pushed. Bull reached over me, helping. "You've got good instincts, Boss," he grunted, "let's hope it keeps up."

There were bodies, outside the gate, with slash marks covering them. A young man- nearly a boy- was standing there, daggers dripping, over a massive- and very dead- red templar.

"Cole," I breathed. His head snapped around.

"You know me," he said, surprised. "Words on a page, images in your mind but you feel... kindness towards me. Why?" He shook himself. "The Elder One comes. He knows you, you took his mages. He's very upset that you took his mages."

He turned, pointing up to a figure in armor on the ridge overlooking the valley. "Is that... Samson?" Cullen sounded incredulous.

"How the hell would Samson get involved with this mess?" I asked. Then, from behind the former templar, a familiar outline came forward. "Ah shit," I breathed.

I glanced at Varric. He was looking up, stunned and surprised, but I could tell by his face, he recognized the figure too.

"Ah shit is right," he mumbled.

"Alright, we need to do this. Cullen?" I prompted.

He turned and rallied the soldiers, while I readied my daggers, lighting my fadefire. "Lashanna!" he called to me. "My soldiers will do what they can, but can you and your companions split up and cover the trebuchets?" I nodded.

"Solas, can you go with Cassandra and Varric?" I asked him. He seemed unhappy with this idea. "I don't want to have anyone going off without a healer," I explained.

"That means I'm with you, then?" Bull asked.

"Yep. I've got my qunari horde at my back, I can face anything," I replied with a grin.

He fingered his giant axe, returning the grin with a feral one of his own. "Lets see what these guys are made of," he growled.

============================================

My breaths were coming in gasps, my thighs burned from moving through the three feet of snow. I didn't dare stop, if I stopped I'd never get moving again. My hair was loose and heavy, wet from the snow. The fadefire was a bare shadow of blue on my skin.

It had taken so much out of me, that fight. I'd been doing much better fighting with my daggers, but somehow the red templars were resistant to my fadefire.

But we'd been doing so well, until the dragon showed up.

At least the villagers had made it into the tunnels. The remaining soldiers ran for the Chantry, so they could act as a rear guard for the evacuees. The rest of us joined them inside the doors to figure out what to do next.

"The Elder One doesn't care about them, only you," Cole said, his pale eyes on me. "But if he doesn't get what he wants, he will hunt them, find them, just to find you."

"Well then, I guess I get to be bait again," I said lightly. "Cullen, the trebuchets. Are there any still working?"

He nodded. "But we're overrun. To hit the enemy, you'll bury Haven," he protested.

"Which is why it's a good thing everyone's already getting into the tunnels, right?" I pointed out. "At this point, we're not going to be able to come back to Haven anyway. At least this way, we'll take out some of those troops. Who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and bury him, too."

Cullen looked sick. He swallowed, clearing his throat. "Maybe... maybe you'll surprise him," he muttered.

I started moving towards the doors. Solas intercepted me. "You're not going to stop me," I warned him.

"I know," he said quietly. "But I wanted to offer some of my power." I shook my head, trying to protest, but he interrupted me with a finger on my lips. "You're already tired. I won't need it, and you will." He pulled me into a hug, his face buried into the crook of my neck, and I felt his magic begin to swirl into me.

I gasped as it filled me. It was invigorating, intense, and I felt like I could run for days. I pulled away, not wanting to take too much from him. "I'll do everything I can to make it back to you," I said in a low voice. "But promise me you'll take care of Faelyn, if I don't."

He looked down at me, his face unreadable. Finally he nodded. "I swear it."

============================================

I lingered on the memory of his last kiss. Of the heat of his lips on mine, the taste of him. My steps faltered, falling out of the beat swirling in my head, and I staggered against a tree. "Have to keep going," I said out loud, my face numb. I could hear my teeth chattering. Idly, I thought about how I'd always thought that that was just a saying, not something that actually happened.

All the power Solas had given me was gone, burned away as I'd trudged through the snow. I thought back to how I'd burned through it so quickly.

I'd fought the templars alone, using every ability, every spell I'd learned so far. I succeeded in drawing the twisted, blighted creature behind it all. I was still wreathed in fadefire when he grabbed me. I'd expected him to burn, but the flames had shied away from him.

He'd kept talking, unable to help himself it seemed, until he sneered and tossed me away. I pulled myself to my feet, next to one of the last trebuchets. Over his shoulder, I saw the signal flare go up, letting me know everyone was through the tunnels.

I gave the thing before me a feral grin, saying, "You really don't know when to shut up, do you? Well, here's a hint!" I threw the switch on the trebuchet, then ran, not knowing where I could possibly run to.

All I remember after that was blinding white, pain, a feeling of movement... I woke up in a cave, I don't know how much later, snow still crumbling from the hole above me. It felt like I'd broken my leg. I'd had enough magic left, so I'd been able to do a rudimentary healing on it, but I couldn't do much of anything about the other pains I felt.

I'd made it through the caves, but I'd had no idea where to go. As I stared around me in dismay, I realized I could feel a tug in my mind, like the echo of a song you can't really remember. So I'd started walking, following that pull, mind blurring as I went. At first, the song of the fadefire was a strong counterpoint in my mind, but as I went, it got weaker, until it was barely a murmur.

I realized I'd been leaning on the tree for far too long, and pushed myself away. Dimly, I thought I heard something ahead, but all I could do was keep pushing forward.

"Makers breath, it's her!" Someone was picking me up, out of the snow (when had I fallen?) holding me close. "We have you," I heard murmured by my ear, stubble tickling my cheek.

I sank into the darkness.

============================================

My skin felt like it was burning, hot needles digging in. Hands were pulling on my clothes, muffled voices above me. When I opened my eyes, red templars surrounded me, holding me down, knives and chains in hand. I tried to scream, but it seemed like I couldn't get my voice to work. I tried to get away, but my limbs felt almost unresponsive.

I panicked, terrified that what had been Cassandra's fate in that awful future would be mine now.

It seemed like they were shouting, but I couldn't make out the words. One put his hand to my forehead, burning hot against my skin, and I felt the darkness begin to claim my mind. I fought, not wanting to be unconscious around these monsters, but it dragged me down inexorably.

============================================

I became aware that I was laying on my side, with warm bodies on either side of me. I didn't want to move, in case it was the templars I remembered seeing, but I needed to know.

I peaked through my lashes, and nearly sobbed with relief when I saw Faelyn, sleeping peacefully in front of me under a heavy layer of blankets. I tried to look around, to see who was pressed up behind me, but I could barely move. All I could tell was that we were on a cot, in a nondescript tent.

Someone else noticed my shifting. "Atisha, ma'da'mis," I heard a whisper. Long fingers touched my forehead, brushing my hair away from my face. I looked up to see Solas, his face pinched with worry, dark braids falling over his shoulders. "Here, can you drink this?" He brought a mug to my lips, a warm broth mixture. I took a careful sip.

I realized how incredibly thirsty I was, and tried to reach up to hold the mug, but my hands were clumsy. My attempts at moving stirred the person behind me. "Lashanna?" I heard Cassandra's sleepy voice. "You're awake," she said, relief filling her tone.

"Not for long, I think," Solas murmured. My eyelids were already getting heavy, and the last I saw were his blue eyes.

============================================

I woke up alone, with thick winter clothes on, wrapped in a thick layer of blankets. I was starving. From outside came shouts and arguments. I listened for a few minutes. It seemed our illustrious leaders didn't know what to do next.

I sighed. Movement nearby drew my attention to Mother Giselle. "Ahh, you've finally awoken," she said. "If you can, drink this," she folded my hands around a warm mug. It looked like the same one Solas had had me drink from before. Cautiously, I lifted it to my lips. My hands were a little wobbly, but I managed a sip without spilling it on myself, so I considered it a victory.

"What's the yelling all about?" I asked, my voice hoarse. She raised an eyebrow, and I hastily took another sip.

She nodded her approval. "We survived the events of Haven, but they are unsure as to what our next course should be," she murmured to me. "They have that luxury, thanks to you."

"Except yelling your opinions over and over isn't likely to change anyone's mind," I replied sullenly. I took another sip. "So, where are we?"

"We're not entirely sure, except that it's on the other side of the mountains from Haven," she answered. "That is probably the only reason we have seen no sign of Corypheus or his red templars."

I paused, the mug halfway to my lips. "Corypheus?" I asked. "No one was there, when I confronted him. How do you know his name?"

"When you stumbled into camp, you were delirious," she said. "After the delirium passed, you talked in your sleep. That name passed your lips many times as you recovered."

"Oh." I swung my legs off the cot, out of the blankets into the cool air of the tent.

"You must rest," she chided.

"I've rested enough. I need to help, if I can," I responded.

"Your position here is complicated, as is ours," she said, tucking the ends of the blankets around my legs. "You must understand what we survivors saw. We saw you stand to defend us," she raised her hands up, then dropped them back to her lap. "Then we witnessed you fall. And now, you have returned to us." She shook her head. "The more the enemy is beyond our comprehension, the more miraculous your survival becomes."

"I didn't die and come back," I interrupted. "I survived. By the skin of my teeth, maybe, but I made it."

"You survived when any other would have fallen," she pointed out. "Add to that your foreknowledge of the attack, and you seem more than just a woman. You seem a prophet, a voice for Andraste and the Maker." She tilted her head. "The Maker works both in the moment, and in how it's remembered after. It seems impossible, does it not? What we have seen, and what we must come to believe because of it?" She patted my knee.

I sighed. "It doesn't really matter what I believe, or what I say, does it," I said wearily. "You're going to push me into being some figurehead for the Chantry regardless." I pushed myself up, letting the blankets fall, needing to move. My legs were sore, but they held.

I pushed out of the tent flaps, into cold air filled with the smells of campfires, horses, and way too many people. I wandered a little, watching the stalemate between the leaders. The mood was somber in the camp.

From behind me, I heard Mother Giselle's low voice begin to sing. Shit, I thought. I turned, hoping I could slip away through the tents. Unfortunately, there were people everywhere. Already they were joining her, lifting their faces towards me.

I stood there awkwardly, clenching my jaw and blushing. Everywhere I looked, people were coming in close, and kneeling in front of me.

When it was finally over, the people were smiling, laughing, and somewhere nearby someone started playing a lute.

"Just because you do not believe in the Maker, does not mean He does not believe in you," Mother Giselle murmured behind me. "These people need to believe. Would you really take that away from them?"

I looked down at my hands, to find them clenched tight, my nails digging into my palms. I forced myself to relax, taking slow, deep breaths.

A hand touched my elbow. "I must speak with you," Solas said quietly, indicating a path through the tents. He led me away from the relative heat of the campfires, to a nearby ledge with an old torch stuck into the ground. His braids swayed lightly with each step.

I recognized this, from Tia's obsession with Solas. I wondered if he'd try to lie to me outright, or only make his answers vague.

He lit the torch with veilfire, a simple wave of his hand. The light accented the planes of his face, throwing him in stark relief. I stood shivering, my arms clasped around myself, staring into the teal flames.

"The humans have not raised an elvhen so high for ages," Solas mused. I dragged my eyes to his. "It was hard won, ma'da'mis, but I dread to think of the consequences."

He pursed his lips a moment, watching the flickering light. "The orb that Corypheus carries? It is ours," he said finally, his hands twined together behind his back. "It belonged to the elvhen, in the days of Arlathan." He glanced at me sidelong. "You don't seem surprised," he commented.

I brought my eyes back to the veilfire. "An ancient Tevinter magister turned darkspawn ripped a hole in the sky. Of course it would be ancient elvhen magic he used," I replied dryly.

"Do you know anything about it?" he asked, watching me closely.

"Not a lot." I shrugged. "What can you tell me?"

After another moment, he said, "They were foci, dedicated to those that were considered gods to our people." He shook his head. "I cannot say how he came to possess it, but it must be taken from him."

"Of course. But we have to be careful. If it gets out that elvhen magic is what caused the Breach..." I shook my head. "There would be purges of alienages across Thedas. The Dalish wouldn't just be scorned, they'd be actively hunted." I let out a heavy breath.

"Indeed," Solas replied. He came close, rubbed his hands on my arms. "We can discuss this more at another time. You are still not fully recovered, you need to rest." He turned me towards the camp.

"One more thing I need to ask, Solas," I murmured to him. He stopped, looking down at me. "I can see your braids." I reached up, running my fingers through them. I went through them, but I could almost feel them. "They don't even seem... see-through anymore," I whispered.

"I was worried that might be the case," he stared into my eyes for a moment. "You used the fadefire to a dangerous degree, ma'da'mis. It is much more closely entwined in your spirit." He brushed his fingers over my cheek. "Your eyes have a permanent glow to them, now. You won't have to be consciously holding it to see through illusions."

"Great," I said bitterly. "Something else they'll use to point to my supposed divinity." I leaned my head forward, resting it on his chest and breathing in the scent of him. Whatever else he was, whatever he wasn't willing to tell me, he was still the one person I could trust more than anyone else in this world.

"It will be hardly noticeable in normal daylight, don't worry," he assured me. "It makes your eyes appear like burning amethysts." He rubbed his thumb over my cheekbone. "It only adds to your beauty."

I blushed, looking up at him. His eyes dropped to my lips. "I was so worried," he murmured, before dipping his head and pressing his mouth to mine. I could feel his relief as he kissed me.

A shiver passed over my body from the cold, and he pulled back. "My apologies, ma'da'mis, let's get you somewhere warm. Your charge would not be best pleased with me if you took sick again."

Faelyn certainly was upset with me, putting his palms on my cheeks and fussing. "Your skin is cold again! We just got you warm, and you go traipsing off in the snow!" he scolded. He grabbed my hand, pulling me towards one of the fires. Sera and Blackwall were there, trading dirty jokes. They got quiet when I sat by them. Solas sat next to me, silent.

"Please don't treat me like some sort of, I don't know, prophet or something," I said tiredly. Faelyn pushed a bowl filled with a thin stew into my hands, glaring at them pointedly.

"They wouldn't," he said mulishly. "Whatever may or may not have happened, you're still my big sister. That's all that matters." He sat, giving the two a pointed look.

I put an arm around him, giving him a half hug. He pushed me away, embarrassed, though a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "Thanks for the food," I said as I dug in.

"There's supplies aplenty, thanks to your foresight, Lady Herald," Blackwall said.

I pointed at him. "Uh-uh. None of that title business. I'm still just Lashanna. Got it?"

"I hear it," Sera said, scooting closer. "Even if you are... whatever," she gestured vaguely, "you need people you can set it all down and be just you with."

I gave her a grateful smile. "Yeah. Something like that."

"Well then, has Fae here told you about that one time..." she launched into a rambling account of one of the pranks they pulled while in Haven, making me laugh. "It was the best. You know, Faelyn," she leaned forward, "you could be a Jenny." I raised an eyebrow at her. "When you get older," she said hastily.

I giggled. "Are you sure?" I asked. "After all, he is a mage."

"Yeah, but unlike most, he knows it's more fun to do it without magic," she shot back.

I glanced at Solas. "Oh, I dunno. Doing it with magic can be fun too," I murmured with a grin. Blackwall sputtered, coughing on his mouthful of stew as he laughed. Solas gave me an unreadable look.

"Oh yuck," Sera said, pulling a face.

Blackwall spoke up. "So hera- Lashanna. I haven't heard you sing since we traveled back from the hinterlands. Could we, maybe, get a song?"

I sighed. "Hasn't there been enough singing tonight?" I asked plaintively.

"Yeah but that was different," Sera said. "We didn't get to hear you."

I was silent for a minute. "What kinds of song did you have in mind?" I asked cautiously.

"Well," from behind me, "we didn't lose many, thanks to your... advice. But what about something for those soldiers that fell at Haven?" Cullen and Leliana moved into the light. Josephine came in from the other side. All three sat, dropping tiredly to the logs we were using as seats.

I considered for a moment, thinking through the song I had in mind, to change a few words to fit Chantry doctrine better. I took a deep breath and started.

"Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now I'm found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

The Lady hath promised good to me,
Her word my hope secures;
Her will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing the Maker’s praise
Than when we first begun."

It was one of the songs we'd sung at the funerals for my parents and Mike. For me, it was always going to be the one best suited to help lift the heart through grief.

I let the last note fade away. After a moment of quiet contemplation, Sera cleared her throat. "That was... nice," she said. "Not what I expected. But nice." She stood, stretching. "I think I'll head to bed, at that." She waved, her face still contemplative.

Blackwall stirred. "Thank you," he said, his voice gruff. "For humoring me." He stood, and went off to his own tent.

"I didn't think you believed in the Maker, or Andraste," Leliana murmured.

I shrugged. "I don't, not really," I replied. "But a song can still lift the heart, even if you don't believe in it. You know that." She nodded thoughtfully, eyeing me.

Cullen was watching the fire glumly. "It was a good song. But it doesn't answer the question of what's next?"

Solas spoke up. "I may have an option." He glanced at me. "We should scout to the north. The spirits in the Fade told me of a place, a fortress in the mountains."

"How far is it?" Leliana asked.

"For a small party? Probably a week of searching, no more. But for the whole of the Inquisition?" He shrugged. "I couldn't say."

"But we can definitely get there?" Cullen pressed, watching Solas.

"Oh yes. It waits for a force to hold it," Solas replied.

"It's a gamble," Josephine murmured. "But if this fortress is truly there, it could give us a place we won't have to worry will be taken from us."

"Alright. You and a few of your... followers can scout ahead," Cullen started.

"But it's cold!" Faelyn interrupted. "She just got better from the last walk in the snow she took!"

"But there's a difference," Solas replied. "She won't be injured, or alone, or without magic."

"How about this, Faelyn," I said, forestalling his protests. "We won't spend more than one night away from the main force. We'll go out, scout for a safe path, and come back the next day while the rest of you travel to catch up."

"And you'll always stay with someone?" he prompted.

"Yes, I'll always stay with someone," I agreed.

He turned to Solas. "You'll make sure she's not pushing too hard?"

Solas inclined his head. "You've my word. I'll make sure she returns safe every other night."

Faelyn eyed me. "Ok. But at least the first trip I'm coming with you." I raised an eyebrow. He struck his chin out. "You're still sick. Someone needs to take care of you," he said mulishly.

"Faelyn..." I started. He glared. I sighed. "Even if we don't take you, you'll just follow us anyway, won't you?" I asked, resigned. He nodded once. "Fine. You'll come with us. But if it gets dangerous, you're going back, got it?"

"I can take care of myself, you know," he muttered.

"And have you ever gone mountain climbing?" I asked him. He hesitated, then shook his head. "It's a different type of dangerous." Of course, I'd gone rock climbing, but never mountain climbing. But he didn't need to know that.

"Who else do you think you'll take with you?" Cullen asked.

I thought for a moment. "Maybe Blackwall. Not Sera, she hates wilderness. Hmmm think Varric would be willing?"

We discussed for a while, before settling on Blackwall, Bull, and Varric.

I yawned. Faelyn started pulling me towards the tent I had woken up in. "Yeah, I know the spiel. 'Rest, sleep,' etc," I mumbled. I pulled him into a hug. "Thank you, Faelyn," I murmured to him.

He shifted uncomfortably. "Thank you for coming back," he whispered, before pushing me into my tent.

Regardless of whatever front I put up in for everyone else, I really was exhausted. I sank into the cot, and I was pulling the blankets up over me when Solas came in.

"I wanted to give you one last check for the night, to make sure you're healing," he said. I nodded, and he came to stand by my cot, and started humming his Song, letting his magic settle over me. It tingled, sinking into my skin. After a few minutes, he let the magic dissipate.

He brought his hand to my face, cupping my jaw. "Do you wish me to stay?" he asked quietly.

"The answer to that will always be yes," I whispered back.

He gave me that smile, the one he only gave me, and climbed into the cot, wrapping his arms around me.

I fell asleep like that, with the comfort of his heartbeat next to mine echoing the song I'd heard in the snow.

Chapter Text

Where dark woods hide secrets
And mountains are fierce and bold
Deep waters hold reflections
Of times lost long ago

I will hear their every story
Take hold of my own dream
Be as strong as the seas are stormy
And proud as an eagle's scream

I will ride, I will fly
Chase the wind and touch the sky

'Touch the Sky' from the Brave soundtrack

==============================================

"Tarasylan tel'as," Solas murmured, pointing through the morning mist to the towers, just barely visible in the early light.

"Skyhold," I breathed, excitement seeping into my voice.

"Yes."

"Is this why you didn't want to go back, last night?" I asked.

"I thought you might want the chance to explore it, before the whole of the Inquisition descended on it," he replied, grinning. "The view was also a consideration," he added. "Shall we?"

"Oh hells yes!" I said enthusiastically. "Let's go!"

We'd been scouting, moving forward and back, finding paths for the Inquisition, for three and a half weeks. Yesterday we'd normally have gone back, to report back and rest, but Solas had suggested sending the others back and moving forward ourselves, staying here for the night.

I was excited to see everything, barely able to contain myself as Solas led me across the valley. It took most of the morning to reach the base, and another hour of hard, overgrown trails to reach the broken gates.

Solas stood aside, letting me be the first to walk under the battlements. It was surreal, standing in the shadows of the towers. It was warmer inside the walls, and I wasn't sure how much of that was physics and how much magic.

It was slow moving, since everywhere we looked was covered in debris. We went carefully, taking in the fortress sprawled before us. It was huge, with eight square towers connected by the walls, which were wide enough for ten soldiers to walk abreast. Without including the towers and walls, the grounds were easily twice the size of Haven, more than enough room for any villagers that decided they wanted to stay with the Inquisition.

The main keep was imposing as well, with six turret towers, and multitudes of rooms everywhere. The highest levels had suites of rooms, each complete with bedroom, sitting room, and full bathroom. Somehow, whomever had built this place had incorporated indoor plumbing, which had me thinking there had to have been dwarves involved in the construction.

Solas seemed just as curious as I was. "Is it much changed, from what you remember?" I asked him quietly.

He gave me a sharp look. After a moment, he nodded. "Nothing of the Palace that was here remains. Too much time, too many peoples came and laid their own stone down," he replied. "The feel, the magic here is much the same, but otherwise..." he shook his head sadly.

"This is pretty much a metaphor for the whole world to you, isn't it?" I observed.

He eyed me, then sighed. "It's not something to worry about right now" he said, a little shortly. "Did you wish to continue exploring, or begin our journey back to the rest of your army?"

I checked the sky, seeing it was already late afternoon. "It's probably best if we head back," I said regretfully.

We hadn't gotten past the gates when we saw figures heading towards us.

"Leaving already?" called Varric with a wave. Cassandra and Bull were with him.

"Hey! What're you guys doing here already?" I asked as they came up.

"The last few days were easier travel for everyone, so they made good time. We weren't too far behind you this morning," Cassandra replied.

"By the way," Varric said conspiratorially, "a certain young someone is upset you didn't come back last night." I sighed, knowing I was in for a lecture.

"Don't worry, Boss, we explained that you wanted some time alone," Bull said with a grin.

My cheeks flushed. "You didn't," I said, mortified.

"Well, no," he admitted. "But it was funny, wasn't it?" His grin widened.

I swatted his stomach. "Asshole," I muttered affectionately.

==============================================

The main Inquisition force stayed in the valley below for the first week, so that the debris could get cleaned up. Skyhold was still in a sad state, but at least we could walk around without tripping every three steps.

Scaffolding supported the walls that needed a little love, though there was far less of it than I thought there'd be. Apparently it had settled well, with only a few spots that the masons considered problem areas.

The cleanup crews kept focused, and it wasn't long until all the leaders had chosen quarters. I had pitched a tent in the courtyard outside the keep for the time being, with Faelyn stubbornly putting his right beside it. With what I knew of this story, it was only a matter of time until I moved in to proper rooms.

I spent most of my time helping with the healers, down in the valley. Every healing mage was intrigued by the way I Sang my magic, though they did teach me how to heal in a more regular fashion. There weren't many wounded from Haven, far less than it could have been in fact, but the prolonged exposure to harsh weather had a rash of colds, and the ice meant more slips and broken bones than usual.

The first time we were able to gather everyone- and I do mean everyone- into the courtyard, it was because the leaders wanted to have a small service for those we lost. They managed to convince me to sing a few songs during Mother Giselle's sermons, including 'Amazing Grace.' I added 'Danny Boy,' and 'One More Light' to round it out.

I was confused when, while I sang, everyone was looking up in awe. Varric told me later that while I sang,  my eyes glowed brighter and my hair seemed to dance around me. When I questioned Solas about it, he shrugged, saying, "Your increased connection to the fadefire means when you use your magic, the effects bleed through the easiest outlets. Which for you are similar to when you use the fadefire itself," he explained. "Since you generate magic when you sing, it's logical that it would occur."

"Did it happen the night I woke up, after the avalanche?" I asked.

"Yes. I'm surprised you didn't notice," he replied. "Though, considering the extent of your exhaustion, perhaps I shouldn't be." He seemed a bit amused at the recollection.

I stuck my tongue out at him. "You could have said something," I muttered.

For a week after the memorial service, I started noticing people whispering and giving me appraising looks before hurrying off. It was disconcerting to walk into the tavern and have half the conversations just stop.

Cassandra approached me, one day when I was on my way back to the healers tents. I'd been looking after some of the kitchen staff that were feeling ill. No one wanted food made between sniffs and sneezes.

Cassandra had stopped me with a hand on my arm, asking to speak with me. I joined her as she went up to the battlements, slowly working her way around the walls, a sinking feeling in my gut. 

"You've been doing a lot of work for the Inquisition," she said. "In fact, you've practically carried it on your shoulders entirely, since you walked out of the Fade."

"I didn't walk out so much as fall on my face," I replied, quirking my lips into a half smile.

"Indeed. I remember," she returned with her own amused smile. "I didn't trust you. Too many questions, and not enough answers to them. But you have done so much to keep us going" She looked down for a moment.

I shrugged in the silence. "I'm just doing what I can. It's all I've ever done."

"We still don't have answers to most of those questions," she brushed aside my modesty. "But in the months since the Breach opened, I find I care less about the how of your appearance. Because you, yourself, have been exactly what we needed, regardless." She paused. "Did you know, you are more than the Herald of Andraste, now?" I looked at her blankly. "They call you the Singer of the Makers will."

"What." I groaned.

"Yes. Very poetic, isn't it," she said, laughing. "Your talent for music has spawned the ideas that perhaps His hand is on you, that you are the one to guide the world back into His sight once more, just as Andraste herself did."

"Shit." I wanted to bang my head against the wall. She led me down, towards the imposing doors of the main keep.

"But the Inquisition needs more than a Herald. It needs more than a Singer. It needs a leader." She drew me to a stop. "Perhaps the one who has already been leading it?" she asked, gesturing towards the courtyard.

I looked out to see everyone assembled. "Oh shit," I breathed. It was one thing to vaguely know it was coming, and entirely different for it to actually happen. Cassandra smirked as I turned towards her, suddenly desperate. "I can't do this. I'm not a leader!"

"You are," she said simply, her smile easing. "We already look to you for guidance, and for hope. This is simply the next step of that." Leliana came up from behind her, holding a sword that would look more at home in the Iron Bull's hand than mine. "Will you accept?"

"Do I need to wield that thing in battle?" I asked dryly.

"We would not expect it, no," the smirk flashed across Cassandra's face before she turned serious once more. "It is a symbol, if you wish to accept it."

I stared at it for a moment. "If I do this, there is no going back," I murmured.

"Has there ever?" Leliana asked quietly, her grey eyes sharp.

I let out a sigh. "I suppose not," I admitted. Slowly, I wrapped my fingers around the sword.

Josephine's voice rang out from amidst the people. "Commander! Have our people been asked!"

"They have!" Cullen shouted back. He turned to the crowd at his back. "Inquisition, what say you! Will you accept Lashanna ne'Drak as your Inquisitor?"

The crowd erupted into cheers. Looking out, I could see people I had helped in the tents, on the trail, at the camps. There were smiles everywhere, awe and joy and not a little reverence.

I gulped, then lifted the ridiculous sword high above my head in salute to them. "Your Herald, and your Inquisitor!" Cullen roared over the crowd.

I clenched my jaw, forcing myself to stand there and let their adulation wash over me.

==============================================

Josephine walked me to the top level of the keep, up a set of stairs that were hidden behind a throne, to a private suite of rooms. "We set this aside for you," she said quietly. "We kept it plain, since we were unsure of your taste for decor, but if there's anything you need for it, simply ask." She gestured for me to explore.

A head poked out of one of the side rooms, exclaiming "My Lady!"

"Tamra?" I swept her into a hug, and she squeaked. "How are you? Wait. What are you doing here?" I asked, pulling away, holding her at arms length to look her over.

"I was on the road to Haven when I recieved word of... of the attack." She ducked her head. "It must have been terrible. But I had been communicating with Leliana and Josephine, and when you survived I recieved a raven." She nervously tucked her short hair behind her ears. "As soon as you found this place, Josephine sent for me. I got here two days ago."

"Well, that's how you got here, but why?" I asked, puzzled.

She fidgeted a moment. "You're the Herald. And now the Inquisitor. You need someone to take care of your wardrobe, when you meet with dignitaries. So, I'm to be your wardrobe mistress. If that's alright," she added hurriedly.

"I don't have much of a wardrobe for you to take care of," I mused. Her cheeks pinked. "Unless..." The blush spread, and she ducked her head a little. "You didn't." A smile twitched her lips, and she nodded. I groaned. "You brought those awful things?"

"I brought everything that was gifted to you, yes. There's... rather more than you saw," she said sheepishly.

I sighed. "I don't know if I even want to know," I muttered.

"Inquisitor ne'Drak," Josephine said behind me. "It can only help your standing with the noble dignitaries who will be visiting for you to be seen with a retinue of your own, as well as having the fashions of the court." She gestured. "Tamra has had the training as a ladies maid, and seems to me to have an excellent sense for the fashions and whims of the court."

"You need someone to think about this, so that you can be free to consider... bigger issues," Tamra added.

I thew my hands up in surrender. "Alright. But you," I pointed at Tamra, "will be getting paid for your trouble." Tamra looked surprised, but Josephine had a small smile already on her face.

"It's been taken care of, Inquisitor," she said.

"Also a room for yourself. None of that 'tiny room off of the big huge rooms' shit," I pressed. Tamra looked ready to protest. "You need your own space, and honestly, I like my privacy. It'll be better if you have separate rooms."

Josephine considered. "I believe we can do that, Inquisitor," she agreed.

Once Tamra and Josephine left, I was able to prowl the suite, taking everything in. Directly at the top of the steps was a sitting room, with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, a couple couches in front of a fireplace, and a modest desk tucked into a corner. A glass door set in the windows opened onto a wraparound balcony, that disappeared around the corner.

There were two other doors leading from this room. The first one I opened I immediately backed out of. It was a huge room filled with clothes, shoes, accessories, you name it. I was not about to give myself a headache going through all of that. I'd leave it in Tamra's very capable hands.

The second door led to a spacious bedroom, with a modest looking but huge plush bed, another couch, a deep fireplace, and another desk. "How much paperwork do you think I have the patience for, Josephine?" I muttered. The floor to ceiling windows were repeated in the bedroom, with another glass door leading to the other side of the balcony. On the wall above the bed, a beautiful painting spread, depicting the Inquisition symbol above a representation of Skyhold. I idly wondered who had painted it.

One last door to explore from the bedroom opened into a bathroom that was bigger than some apartments I've seen. It included a tub as big as the bed, and deep enough to practically swim in.

I closed the door with a sigh, heading back out to the sitting room and plopping onto the couch.

I don't even remember falling asleep.

==============================================

Cold, crisp air tinged with the smell of wood fires stung my lungs. The snow underfoot crunched as I walked the paths of Haven. Beside me, Solas walked, his hands clasped behind his back, braids gently swaying with his motions.

I paused, my brow furrowing. "What're we doing back here?" I asked.

He glanced at me. "Haven is important to you," he replied. "It changed you, and in turn was changed by you. Is it so surprising you'd find your way back here?"

"But there's nothing here anymore," a memory flashed around us, the white wall crashing down, sweeping everything away.

"But there will always be memories of what happened here. The things that were important to people will continue to be lived here." Another flash, of a hand being grabbed and thrust towards a rift, of the heady relief that accompanied its closure.

"That was important to you?" I asked, studying him.

"Yes," he turned towards the image of the Breach, hanging still in the sky. "You fell out of a hole in the sky, magic rippling on your hand. You, a mortal, had been in the Fade, physically. How could you ever wake up?" He faced me. "And then you appeared before me, as fierce as a goddess of war, as beautiful as flame itself." He appraised me. "The world shifted around me, then."

"Shifted?" I asked, looking up at him. "Shifted how?"

His hand came up to touch my cheek. "You've changed everything," he whispered.

I pushed forward, giving him a light kiss, but he seemed hesitant. So I pulled away, and for a moment it almost seemed he would leave it at that. But he groaned, and pulled me back against him bringing his lips to mine.

After a few moments of tasting each other, he pulled away from me. "It would be better to leave this place before continuing. We would not wish to draw the attention of anything untoward." He gave me one last lingering kiss, then laid his hand on my eyes. "Wake up," he whispered.

==============================================

I opened my eyes, blinking at the ceiling for a moment and trying to get my bearings.

I was laying on one of the couches, in my new sitting room. A light blanket had been pulled over me. I turned my head to the side, to see, on the other couch, Solas opening his eyes.

I cleared my throat. "Well that was... a little different," I said lightly, rising onto my elbows.

"Indeed," he said, sitting up. "I believe... I need some time, to think on things." He stood abruptly, and headed towards the stairs. He paused as his foot hovered over the first one. "I hope, this won't change your desire to learn to use your Song?" he asked, a little hesitantly.

"As long as you're not second guessing your desire to teach me," I replied.

He blinked. "Then I shall see you soon, for your lessons," he said, and descended the steps.

I sank back into the cushion with a sigh.

==============================================

The next few days were a whirlwind, with meetings and decisions and... I was seriously reconsidering this whole 'inquisitor' thing already.

I was leaving Josephine's office- she'd called me down to discuss decor of all things- when Varric stopped me.

"So I may know a couple someones who can give you a bit of information on Corypheus," he said. He looked a little... troubled.

"Awesome," I replied. "When can they get here to tell us?"

"Actually, they're already here." He glanced around. "And they're not comfortable coming into the main keep. They'd rather meet somewhere a little... private."

"Ooo-kay," I said slowly. "Where?" I had a pretty good idea who it was waiting for me. There weren't that many people he'd be so nervous to have here. He gestured for me to follow him. I sighed, and decided to humor him.

He led me up to one of the battlements, far from the prying eyes of the rest of the fortress. Looking ahead, I could see four figures. Two were sitting on opposite sides of the wall, one leaning against a tower wall, and the fourth was gesticulating wildly, practically dancing in excitement.

As we got closer, I could hear a high voice saying, "But just look at it! It's absolutely gorgeous here! It certainly puts Sundermount to shame. Come, Fenris, even you have to admit it. Just a little?"

Varric sighed beside me. "Daisy, try not to go flying off the walls in your excitement over the view," he called.

"Oh! There you are, Varric," big, deep green eyes, framed by short black hair, blinked at us. "And who's your friend? Wait, is this the Herald? I mean the Inquisitor, I hope you don't mind, we only heard when we arrived," she kept babbling.

"Merrill," another female voice said, sounding somewhat exasperated. The figure leaning on the wall lifted a hand to their forehead, under a heavy hooded cloak.

"What, Mariah?" Merrill asked, oblivious.

A male hand lifted from the ground. "Come here, Merrill," a deep voice said gently. Merrill tucked herself under the arm, cuddling close to the covered form.

The other sitting figure stood, all long limbs with intricate white lines covering his dusky skin. Longish white hair was pulled back into a tail, trailing down his back. Little wisps of it escaped the tie to float around the light green eyes. He moved to stand by the leaning figure, an arm dropping around her waist.

She laced her fingers with his for a moment before pushing off the wall to meet us. "Inquisitor... ne'Drak, was it?" she asked. "What a pleasant surprise." She flashed a quirky smile at me. "Varric, you never told me your friend was so tall." Her hazel green eyes scanned over me.

"I'm a dwarf. You're all giants to me," he replied dryly.

"Perhaps we should get you some stilts, then," the other hooded figure said, standing. "It would certainly save the strain in my neck when I talk to you."

"Inquisitor, meet Mariah and Garren Hawke, collectively known as the Champions of Kirkwall," Varric said. "Then we have Merrill, she's the bubbly one, and Fenris. He's the broody looking one over there."

"Welcome. But you know, you all can call me Lashanna," I said.

"That's odd," Merrill's voice spoke up again. "'Lashanna' isn't a dalish name, and I don't recall any clans called ne'Drak. But you have vallaslin, in such a pretty colour too." She tapped her finger to her chin. "Where does your clan usually wander?" she asked.

"Another time, Merrill, please," Mariah said. "We need to discuss what happened in the Vimmark mountains."

"Oh, yes of course," Merrill murmured, subdued. Garren glared at Mariah.

"Anything new you guys could tell me would be a big help," I said. "I just don't know if there's anything you can tell me that I don't already know."

Garren raised an eyebrow. "Well, how about the fact that Corypheus can control Wardens, through the blight?" he said.

"You had Carver and Anders with you when you went after the Carta, right? So as you got closer to his resting place he twisted their perceptions, forced them to turn on you," I said, remembering how the second game went. "Then there's the Wardens he manipulated to free him inside the prison. That sound about right?"

Four pairs of green eyes stared at me. "How did you..." Mariah said slowly. Fenris came to stand just slightly in front of her, his eyes narrowed, his hand hovering over his sword hilt. Varric rubbed his forehead with a soft groan.

I raised my hands, showing them that I wasn't a threat. "I'm not a bloodmage, don't worry," I said. "And you'd never believe me if I told you." The suspicion didn't waver. "Regardless, I know everything you found out in that prison. Including the truth about the seals your father was coerced into rebuilding."

Mariah and Garren shared a look. After a moment, Garren spoke up. "Then how about the fact that Corypheus can mimic the Calling?"

"Wait, what?" That surprised me. I walked to a barrel, sank onto it. "Shit." The Hawke twins relaxed slightly.

"You know the Wardens in Fereldan and Orlais have all disappeared, right?" Mariah asked. At my nod, she continued. "Corypheus figured out a way to... amplify his false Calling. Now every Warden in range is hearing it."

"They all think they're dieing," I murmured. Garren nodded mutely. "Well, that explains why they're gone. But we still don't know where."

"We have a friend, in the Wardens, who can help answer that," Garren said. "He's waiting for us near the village of Crestwood. We thought you might want to be there when we meet with him."

I stared out over the wall, not seeing the view but considering the implications of everything. "Carver is safe?" I asked.

Another glance between the twins. "When everything started, we had a friend in the Kirkwall guard take him as far away as she could." Mariah answered. "We weren't about to risk our family, especially since Bethany is still missing."

"Aveline will keep him safe, even if it takes her life to do so. She considers you all family," I said absently. "But Bethany is missing?"

They were quiet for a moment. "Yes. She left with Anders, after he... well. After the death of Meredith," Mariah replied.

"After you let him go, you mean," Garren put in bitterly. Mariah's lips thinned.

"What's done is done," Varric said tiredly. "Let's just... move forward, alright?" I got the impression that this wasn't the first time they'd been through this fight.

"Well," I said, trying to distract them. I stood, brushing my hands over my thighs. "When did you want to leave?"

==============================================

"But you're our leader!" Cullen insisted. "We need you here!" We were in the office he'd claimed, in the tower above the barracks. I'd gone to inform him of my plans to leave for Crestwood the following day.

"You need me wherever I can do the most good," I said flatly, my arms crossed in front of me. "I refuse to be the sort of leader that sits back and lets everyone else do all the work."

"That's not- I'm not asking you to be. But it wasn't that long ago that you almost died," Cullen replied with a sigh. His voice softened. "I al- we almost lost you. You don't need to go charging out again so soon." His eyes dropped to the papers in his desk.

"It'll take a lot more than a silly avalanche to take me out," I said lightly. He looked at me reproachfully. I guess he wasn't one for gallows humor. I lifted my hands. "It's not like I'll be alone. Both Hawkes, Merrill and Fenris will be traveling with us. I'll be bringing Varric and Solas at least, and probably Blackwall." I chewed my lip, considering, staring through the papers on Cullen's desk. "I don't know of it'd be a good idea for Cassandra to come along, what with the issues she had talking to Varric about the Hawkes." I sighed. "I guess I won't know until I ask."

I looked up, to see Cullen looking longingly at a small box set on the corner of the desk. His hands were gripping the edge tightly. My brow furrowed. "Commander?" I asked, concerned.

He looked up, and let out a sharp breath. "I have a confession to make," he said quietly, looking back down at his hands. I could tell this was as important as it was hard for him, so I stayed quiet and sat in the chair opposite him, waiting patiently.

He swallowed hard. "You are aware that a templars abilities are fueled by lyrium?" He glanced at me, and I nodded in confirmation. "It comes with a high cost," he said, and paused, pain flashing over his face.

"It is the Chantry's way of controlling the Order," I supplied quietly. Cullen's eyes flew to mine in surprise. "It's highly addictive, and the longer you take it, the more you need it."

He nodded, looking grateful that he didn't need to explain. "Yes. And we have secured a supply route for our templars here. But..." he struggled for a second, his eyes traveling to that box once more. "But I no longer take it," he finished quietly.

"I... don't remember if I've ever heard of a templar trying to shake this," I murmured. "If this can hurt you..." I asked, not liking the implications.

"I can control it," he assured me.

I took a deep breath. "Then I'm glad for you," I told him. "If you need anything, to help you through the worst of it, please let me know."

"Cassandra is aware," he added quietly. "I asked her to watch me. If I become erratic, or my judgment becomes impaired, she will relieve me of my command."

I nodded. "Thank you for trusting me with this." I stood, intending to leave. I paused at the door. "Just so you know, Cullen, I think you're very brave for doing this." He looked startled as I walked through the door, his eyes wide in surprise.

Chapter Text

I can’t help but be wrong in the dark
Cause I’m overcome in this war of hearts
I can’t help but want oceans to part
Cause I’m overcome in this war of hearts

I can't help but love you
Even though I try not to
I can't help but want you
I know that I'd die without you

'War of Hearts' by Ruelle

==============================================

I nearly broke, when we thought her lost to the creature that had descended on Haven. I kept close to Faelyn, in the day after she sacrificed herself to keep everyone safe. He was stubborn, insisting that it was only a matter of time until she found us.

The only reason I kept his faith was that I could still feel her Song, drifting in the Fade. It was weak, fluttering, but every pulse of it was an affirmation. I sent threads of magic to her, through our shared Song, hoping that her senses had refined enough to feel my pull. Dreading that she would question how I was able to call to her in such a way. Trying desperately to mask the feelings I only realized when I mourned her.

And then, just before dawn on the second day after we fled Haven, a commotion went up, shouts and torches alighting the darkness. I started out of my cot, not daring to hope.

The commander stumbled into my tent, and she was clutched close to him, cradled against his chest. She was limp, barely alive. His eyes met mine and I knew that whatever else we might despise about each other, we both would do anything to keep her alive.

I nodded to him, and he gently placed her on my cot. I began to check her, my magic probing her for every injury, every stress on her system. She had a hastily healed broken leg, cracked ribs, a concussion, numerous abrasions and twists in her muscles. But what truly concerned me was the fact that she was deeply, desperately cold.

"We need to warm her," I said, and began peeling away the wet layers of her clothes. She stirred, hands weakly fluttering at her sides, and her eyes opened, unseeing. She started screaming, trying to thrash.

"Ma'da'mis, please! Please be calm," I tried to break through her delirium, but she was mumbling about the red, don't let them touch me please don't make me red... she wouldn't stop fighting, and I was forced to put her into sleep, if we wanted to allow her body the chance to heal.

She slumped back, her breathing shallow, her heartbeat erratic. "Quickly, help me," I commanded. The commander left, fled I thought at first. Faelyn joined me, pulling the sodden fabric from her skin. We had her bare when Cullen rushed back in, furs and blankets bundled in his arms.

I nodded my thanks to him. "You've seen this before," I said, unable to hide my approval. He nodded as I set my magic to begin healing everything else. Trying to warm her with magic would only cause harm, as it was too difficult to prevent the magic from working too quickly to be able to prevent more damage to her system.

"It's not uncommon to be seen in the town I grew up in," he said, his worried eyes on her form. "You'll need someone to stay here, under the blankets with her." I paused, narrowing my eyes on him. "I suggest Cassandra. She's well known to Lashanna, and strong enough so that if she wakes in delirium, she can be contained."

Inwardly, I snarled at the thought of anyone 'containing' ma'da'mis, but I kept my face neutral. "Yes, that will work," I said.

Cullen put the blankets down nearby and left the tent once more. A few minutes later the Seeker entered. Her mouth was set in a grim line. Without a word, she began stripping off her armor, setting everything aside. When she was in her smallclothes and nothing more, she sat beside Lashanna, taking up her hand.

"I want to help too," Faelyn spoke up. His face was stubborn, and after a moments consideration I acquiesced. The added body heat could only help her.

"Alright," I said. "You will need to do exactly as the Seeker and I say, however.

Faelyn nodded. "I remember, when we were still with the clan, one of the hunters fell through the ice on the river," he said quietly. "I remember how scared everyone was when he didn't surface for so long." He was quiet for a moment, as he began pulling his clothes off. "When he finally came up, everyone rushed to help him. The Keeper was so happy that his lungs were clear, but she needed people to help warm him. Papae volunteered." He went quiet again.

My magic had healed everything it could, so I pulled most of it back, keeping just enough on her to monitor her. "Help me turn her," I instructed. Hands pulled and pushed, getting her onto her side, and I gestured for Cassandra to take up her place behind Lashanna. When she was comfortable, with an arm around ma'da'mis to hold her in place, Faelyn clambered up as well, settling in front of her.

I began piling the blankets over them, tucking in and using a touch of magic here and there, reinforcing the frame of the cot and ensuring the vital body heat wouldn't escape.

"You'll likely get uncomfortably warm," I warned them. "Be sure you don't lift the blankets, or the heat she needs will be gone." Faelyn nodded. "I'll be here, in case she wakes," I murmured, and sat on a travel chair nearby.

I was lightly dozing when the Chantry mother slipped inside, a steaming mug in her hands. "An old family recipe," she whispered to avoid waking the three on the cot. "It will help warm her inside, when she wakes enough to drink it." I sniffed it, curious. "Mostly broth, with a few herbs mixed in," she said with a shrug. "Simple is sometimes best."

"Agreed. And thank you," I whispered back. I set up a fire rune and placed the mug on it to keep it warm, and went back to waiting.

After an eternity that was likely just hours, she stirred. I tried to get her to drink, happy to see that she was past her delirium. The glow of her eyes in the wan light was disconcerting, and I knew the fadefire was even more closely entwined in her spirit.

She was only awake for a minute, barely long enough to take a single sip of the broth. She was over the first hurdle, at least, and no longer delirious. I tested her with my magic, sensing for any cold within her, seeing if there were any injuries I had missed in my initial healing.

She was better, though not out of the woods yet. Cassandra had awoken when Lashanna had, and since the worst of the danger was past, she got up and dressed, to find food for herself. When she returned, we woke Faelyn, and he grumbled but left with Cassandra. I painstakingly dressed ma'da'mis, in thick clothes designed for heavy winter, before tucking her back into the blankets.

Lashanna was sleeping again, but not peacefully, twitching and crying out in her dreams. Murmurs about Corypheus, and the orb in his hands, the dragon at her back. She dreamt of it over and over again, trying to pull her mind through the events of the last few days.

Only days. And in the back of my mind, a word pulsed like a drumbeat.

Vhenan. Vhenan. Vhenan.

I couldn't deny that I had crossed a dangerous line, in my own self. To take pleasure in her, that was one thing, but if I gave in and allowed myself to feel more than attraction, or fascination...

Who was I fooling. I was already lost. The guilt of it slammed through me.

A hand on my shoulder pulled me from my ruminations. I pulled my head out of my hands, looked up into the Chantry mother's dark eyes. "Go. You need to rest. I will watch her, while you eat and sleep." Gently she pulled me to my feet, and pushed me out of the tent.

Nearby the leaders, her advisors, sat. The commander's head snapped up as I left the tent. My steps were slow, heavy as I made my way to the fire. The Ambassador pushed a bowl into my hands, and I gave her my thanks. To the expectant stares, I began to speak of her condition. Kept it simple, no mention of the added effects of the fadefire. They'd see for themselves, if they noticed at all.

After I finished the bowl, the Spymaster led me to another tent, set apart from the noise of the camp. "You can rest here. We will send for you if anything changes," I was promised.

Empty words.

I was woken after dark had fallen again by the sound of a chorus of voices, lifted together outside. I pushed myself out, to witness the devotion they gave her. The tension in her. She didn't want to accept it, but what choice had she when the hopes of so many hung in the balance?

Afterwards, I pulled her away, and the wariness I had not seen from her in months was back. I told her a few things about the origins of the orb, being careful not to overtly lie. We were still bound in a pact, after all. She didn't seem surprised by my revelations, and again I had to wonder how much she really knew. Her evasive non-answer did nothing to alleviate my unease, and through it all I attempted to hold myself back. Better for everyone if we simply stopped the relationship before it grew too far.

But I found myself holding her as she shivered, and comforting her as the news of her eyes hit her. The taste of her lips was still the same, still intoxicating, and I felt any resistance I had built in my mind against her crumble.

In the wind that stirred the night, she didn't notice the fadefire's effect on her hair when she sang. It was subtle, though I believe her companions noticed even in the low light. I could feel the eyes of others around us, taking in the sight of her. I knew it would be only a matter of time before it was added to the legend of her.

So when the question of what next came up, I offered her the only thing I could. The place that was once the site of my palace, where I had experimented and planned and finally managed to collar the Evanuris. The place of my greatest triumph, and deepest folly.

Tarasylan tel'as.

She was a vision to behold, in the morning light, her eyes wide with wonder and joy as she took in the sight of the fortress. Her words, when we explored inside, were far more perceptive than I had come to expect from anyone else, but from her they were... right, if far too close for comfort. My world, my people, and my palace were all gone. The only hope I had was that the deepest levels were intact, and that I could still somehow access my laboratory. It was too soon to tell, however.

The days came quickly, after that. The restoration of what she called Skyhold was underway. It was a name that fit, though it vastly oversimplified the true meaning. I avoided her for the time being, still trying to come to terms with how our relationship was progressing. She was kept busy during her waking hours, showing great talent in the use of the healing Song I'd taught her.

She had yet to notice, but when I had given her my power in Haven, it had deepened her ability to wield her Song. This was because I hadn't simply refilled her magic the way one would a waterskin. Instead, the addition of my power widened her connection to the Fade, which allowed her to grasp more magic, for longer.

It was not a recommended for any teacher to 'help' his student in such a way, though it was not unheard of in Elvhenan. But it was too easy to push too fast, too far, and completely burn out the connection to the student's magic.

The increase in her capabilities meant she was far more proficient in the healing Song. She used it, often, in the camps healing tents, assuaging everything from chills to broken bones, and her presence there reinforced her in their minds as someone who cared, who always had and always would.

The songs she sang for the memorial services cemented the idea. The last song in particular...

Who cares if one more light goes out
In the sky of a million stars?
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone's time runs out
If a moment is all we are?
Or quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well, I do

Her voice was poignant, clear, a lance that pierced the boil of grief in the hearts of her people. She cared. Every life was precious to her, and she did not hesitate to ensure they knew it.

The depth in her heart, the capacity for compassion... I must find a way to bring her permanently to my side, regardless of the cost. If she were arrayed against me, against my goals, then everything we both held dear could be destroyed.

But oh, if our goals and our powers were aligned, the fabric of the world would shake with the things we could accomplish together.

After the service, I was quietly approached by the Ambassador, Josephine. She asked what I thought of the idea of appointing Lashanna as the Inquisitor. I was surprised she wanted my opinion.

"You have shown both a careful consideration, and a certain ruthlessness, Messere Solas," she replied when I asked. "I believe you understand the intricacies that such a position requires, and I'd like your thoughts on her suitability."

I considered, and gave her what she wanted to hear. Regardless of my opinion, it seemed obvious to me that the current three-way leadership was floundering. By giving ma'da'mis authority over the others, she could be the unifying voice they needed.

She wasn't happy about being chosen for the position, but she didn't seem surprised. I could see the tension in her when she was presented to the people. Her people, in every sense of the word.

Later that day, I went to her new quarters, intending to speak to her. I found her on a sofa, slumped back, asleep. Gently, I laid her out into a more comfortable position, putting a light blanket over her.

I was going to leave, and return at another time, but I hesitated. Sat on the other couch. I berated myself, silently, as I stretched myself out and slipped into the Fade.

I found her as she walked the paths of Haven as it was before the battle. I spoke to her of the importance of it, of how the memories of it would shape the Fade for ages to come. And somehow, the conversation turned, and I found her in my arms again, the taste of her intoxicating me.

I pulled away when I felt our strong emotions stir the attentions of spirits best left alone, gently pushing her back to the waking world. It was a delaying tactic. If I had wished, I could have brought her to my sanctuary  where I knew we wouldn't be disturbed. But I needed time to think. Distance, to see if the feelings coursing through me were temporary due to the fear of losing her and her power, or more firmly entrenched within me.

I needed time to decide if I could live with the guilt that loving her would leave me with for the rest of my life.