Year 9:41 Dragon, NOW
Ellana stands at the end of the steps, hand hovering above the doorknob, almost close enough to touch. The thin wood does little to muffle the sounds wafting in from the hall, that once familiar buzz of life.
She will have to leave. After she shamefully disposed of the body upstairs, there is no reason to stay. The experience of watching her own self melt away under magic should unsettle her more than it has, but she fears what lays beyond the door to her chambers.
She breathes deeply and closes the gap. The green glow of the Mark winks out from where it presses against the doorknob and she focuses on that light as she turns the knob and opens the door.
Already, she hears her title casually dropped in greeting from the people lingering nearby as she emerges. She’s still looking at her hand, which buys her a few seconds to whirl around and make an effort of closing the door without looking up and into the hall.
‘I am the Inquisitor,’ she reminds herself, ‘They need me. I have been here before. I won’t let them down.’ It’s a variation of the mantra she used to tell herself before a big mission, when she felt small.
She does her best imitation of casually turning around.
She prepared herself for this moment for months, of course. She knew what it would mean to be here, again. She knew it meant seeing everyone again – dwarves, humans, qunari – vibrantly alive.
Not for the first time, Ellana realizes knowing something and actually experiencing it were two wholly different experiences.
There are humans in the hall: standing in groups, walking franticly, arguing, laughing. Existing. They smile at a joke or shake their heads at a question. Their hands wave in front of their face as they talk. Blood pumps through their veins. One human is striding toward her with a determined gait and Ellana’s breath quickens involuntarily.
“Ah good, you’re awake,” Josephine says, brandishing her feathered quill and immediately turning her attention to her trusted scroll. “We need to run over etiquette on dealing with certain members of the Orlesian nobility, and I have an update on that shipment of materials you requested, which reminds me that Cullen had something he wanted to discuss before the next batch of assignments, something to do with bees, and I’ll also need you to confirm tha…Inquisitor?”
Josephine looks into Ellana’s eyes and her own amber eyes widen.
“Are you alright?” she asks.
Ellana curses herself inwardly, desperately trying to arrange her face into a serene stare. She can already see by how fast Josephine’s eyebrows are rising that she’s already seen the traitorous tears forming in Ellana’s eyes.
“I’m fine,” Ellana says quickly, “I’m just…”
Josephine lays a hand on Ellana’s shoulder and she hates how comforting it is. “It’s alright,” the other woman says. “It’s been a stressful few days.”
“Months, really,” Ellana answers, shrugging into her old personality. It doesn’t quite fit and she can feel the gaps where her true self peeks through, but she puts on a manufactured easy-going smile.
Josephine mirrors her smile. “I just remembered, I need to speak with Cassandra on something important. Why don’t you find me in my office when you’re ready?”
Ellana feels a lump in her throat. She speaks around it. “Thank you. Yes.”
Her advisor pats Ellana’s arm and turns away. The same power that tugged out her tears compels her to blurts out, “Josie, I just want you to know I appreciate you. I didn’t…I don’t say it enough. You are a good friend.”
Her mouth opens in surprise, but quickly transitions to a smile that’s as genuine as Ellana’s is fake. “Thank you, Inquisitor.” She turns away again, but this time with a noticeable spring in her step.
One encounter survived and Ellana feels confidence pooling back in her stomach. Seeing all the life around her still makes her body tremble, so instead she turns her focus to an inconspicuous door across the hall. The door is barely cracked open and she can’t see what lies beyond, but it’s as familiar to her as her own breath leaving her lungs in one great exhale.
Year 9:44 Dragon, THEN
Ellana stayed awake for three days after the end of the world. She never fell asleep, just kept going until her body shut down. She feared her dreams, what would be there without the Fade.
Turns out, it was him.
She had no idea if she was dreaming or not, but her body felt solid. They stood in the forest where he broke her heart for the first time. Solas had the nerve to look guilty and Ellana lost herself.
She descended on him, a wild animal. Her scream tore her raw throat, spittle flying and claws out. Her body slammed into his and they fell to the ground together.
Ellana forgot her magic. She wanted to do this with her hands, feel him rip apart under her fingernails. She punched and tore at his face, she felt his skin peel underneath her assault and the primitive joy of destroying something so alive thrummed through her stronger than any spell.
She said nothing, just grunted and shrieked. Her tears blurred her vision into a red, meaty mess.
Worst of all, he let her do it. He didn’t raise a hand to defend himself or utter any cry of pain. Could he even feel pain anymore? Was this a dream of hers or just another trick of his? The uncertainty made her hate him even more. She scraped her fingernails across his brow, through his wet eye.
Ellana screamed, bit, destroyed until her breath grew ragged even in her dreams. The evidence of her gore and madness coated her arms. It wasn’t enough. She thought of Dorian, wherever he was. She remembered Varric slumped on the ground, staring endlessly. She brought her arms feebly to his face, rested them against either ruined cheek.
“I’m sorry,” was all he said.