There was no pain; just a sudden nothing where her forearm should have been, and he was leaving. Walking away as if he hadn’t done that, as if it meant nothing to him.
As if she meant nothing to him.
Fen’aslan tried to stand up, stumbling forward in the numbness of system shock, crying out as her knees gave way and connected with the ancient stones that made up the broken, cobbled path. Panic seized her, keeping her from sobbing by stealing the breath she would have used as she realized she didn’t have the strength to keep herself upright let alone make it to the eluvian.
Her voice sounded foreign to her own ears, full of anguish and pain she didn’t yet feel. He paused, turning just barely towards her. “Don’t, Solas! Don’t leave me, ma vhenan!” she begged, standing up on legs that felt like withered branches, liable to snap at any given moment. Without thinking, she pulled on the fade with her right hand. It was only natural; their most tender moments, the moments of greatest intimacy, had been in the fade. The mist began to form around her as she took a single, shaky step forward. A breath later, she disappeared into the fade, hoping with her aching heart that it would work, that it would distract him just enough for her to catch him.
She strolled through the doors of the Exalted Council, her bare toes and heels soundless against the mirror-like tile, light robes swishing against her legs with a faint whisper, like the summer breeze through the grass. Her passage through the crowds was marked only by the quiet jingling of the six tiny leaves adorning her collar and the quiet hush she left in her wake. On the Dias, Arl Tegan and the Orlaisian continued their heated debate around the Divine in ignorance, unaware of how rudely they were about to be interrupted.
That thought almost made Fen’aslan smile, but the book in her hands kept her thoughts anchored on the moment.
“The Herald of Andraste,” a woman whispered, reaching out to touch her like she was their savior. She wasn’t, though, and before she could react, the man next to the woman snatched her hand back.
“It is a Rabbit, Woman!” he hissed through his teeth. “She was not sent by Blessed Andraste! More likely one of the demons her people worship.” He spat towards her as she passed him, but he may as well been invisible for all the attention she paid him.
As Fen’aslan became visible to her former advisors, she could see Josephine’s aggravation melt into relief and smugness radiate from the Divine’s smile. Her plan had been shared, then. Good, this would not surprise Leliana. The effects of her sudden appearance effectively pulled the two lords from their argument, just as she hoped it would. She wanted their undivided attention.
“You all know what this is!” She raised the book above her head as she took the final steps toward the Dias, her voice ringing out in the newborn silence the way her footsteps hadn’t. Defiantly, she faced the men who would put her organization under their sway, who were even now attempting to position themselves as Judge, Jury, and Executioner over the ones whose strength had revealed their shortcomings. As Inquisitor, it was Fen’aslan’s place to pass and enact justice, not theirs.
Behind her, the crowd waited with bated breath for her next words. No one spoke, not even the man who had spit at her, and not a single rustle of fine silks hinted that anyone was stirring. They were all either enthralled with her brazen declaration or - more likely - frozen by her audacity. It was time to find out. Exhaling, she spun on her heel to face them.
“This is a writ from Divine Justinia, authorizing the formation of the Inquisition.” The sea of silent faces, both masked and not masked, raised their eyes to the book clearly visible in her hands, and she flipped open the cover showing the distinctive ink of the blood-red eye staining the parchment. “We pledged to close the breach, to find those responsible, and to restore order - with or without approval.” She turned her head slightly towards Arl Tegan, catching Cassandra’s smirk and nod of approval.
The silence held; no one dared do anything but breathe, afraid to break the tension that drew every eye to her. Fen’aslan drew in another breath to steady herself, torn between the fluttering uncertainty in her belly and the wild exultation howling in her blood. Would he be proud of her in this moment, her love? She discarded the thought to continue with her plan.
“It was not a formalized treaty that saved Ferelden or her people,” she declared, turning to hurl the words directly at Arl Tegan. Oh, how smug he looked. “The Inquisition saved them when you could not. We will not disband for you.”
She could hear a squeak as the Arl sat back in his chair, too stunned for a moment to form words. His expression said it all for her - how dare she have the gall? She clenched her jaw, keeping her smile trapped behind her teeth. She was a wolf among the sheep who thought they could tame her. Stepping along the Dias with the sharp grace of a sword slicing through the air, she moved so she was directly in front of the masked Orlaisian.
“The Inquisition will not submit to an Empress who failed to end your inane civil war, and only keeps her throne because of Inquisition support!” It spoke volumes that Celene, Gaspard, and Briala had not attended these talks and instead, sent this Lord who was not important enough for her to remember his name. The Arl had presented more of a threat, but she was done with both of these sheep now.
The silence tore with the soft sound of gasps ripped from the throats of Orlaisian women. With that intangible protection broken, men put hands on their swords and yelled, their voices colliding in the air and forming a single incoherent jumble of sound. It did not matter; she knew every insult they threw at her, but they shattered against the armor of her indifference.
“This was never just an organization!” Fen’aslan declared when the volley of words ended. “It is about people doing what is necessary. We will continue to support you as we have done in the past.” Her eyes finally met Leliana’s as the Divine bowed her head in quiet approval. “There is worse coming than anything you’ve yet seen. We will not be rendered defenseless and riddled with the bureaucracy and the so-called politics of The Game. The Inquisitions will bow - but it will not be to either of you. Now excuse me.” Her tone turned the plea into a command of respect and authority, her robes once more whispering against her legs as she strolled away from the Dais “I need to save the world again.” She thrust the book towards Josephine, giving her little time to collect it as she passed. “I will see you at Skyhold.”
Like a wolf returning from a successful hunt, she prowled through the divided crowd, gliding through the room while gasps of outrage and protests lapped at her. How dare a blasphemous Rabbit and the supposed herald of Andraste voice such insolence to her betters! She ignored it all, chin high, unable to hide her smirk. It wouldn’t be more than a handful of breaths before the muttering erupted into a storm of shouting - but she would be gone before that happened. Throwing open the doors to the chamber, she grabbed her staff from a page and handed the boy a Caprice coin. Then, with the doors swinging shut, she smiled at the mutters rising into furious protests. A muffled boom behind her was the doors closing, silencing the storm as it broke.
As she materialized out of the fade, she could see the eluvian starting to darken and she quickly pushed herself through. How dare he try to shut her out again! Once she’d stumbled forward into the crossroads, however, she couldn’t see him.
“Solas! Tel’tuaun min ea el’u i em!” She could see the mirror closing behind her as she moved away from it, and for a split second, she wanted to jump through – but she continued, away from home, away from a guaranteed future. “Lasa em’an dirth ma’lath,” she begged. They needed to talk. Each mirror she passed, she sketched and made a note of it in relation to her path. “Ma tel’isala dina sul min! Tamahn emen to ea vir!” She cried out to the emptiness, but there was no answer and she sank down to the ground, her eyes slipping closed. “Fen’aslan ma ane a felasil Fen’harel.” Tears staining her cheeks, her body beginning to shake as she curled forward, she sobbed. He had left her again.
“Ma ane las, Da’lan.”
She opened her bleary eyes at the unfamiliar voice, noting the vallaslin on an equally unfamiliar face. It was her own – Fen’harel’s eyes was what her clan named it. “Ma ane isa ghi’la,” the elvhen asserted, crouching down. “Ar ame Rashale. Las, ma ane naim; ar juhalani ma vena mar sal.” He offered his hand and she took it, standing with his help and letting him lead her over to a mirror. “Fen’harel Enasanal,” he spoke. The mirror sprang to life, and he pulled her through it.
“Rashale?” she glanced at him, and he turned back. “Do you understand me?” She asked in the common language. At his nod, she continued. “Can you speak like this?” Again he nodded, and her shoulders relaxed. “Where are we?”
“The ones who raise you call it the Tirashan,” he replied as he led her into the temple. “This was where Mythal sent you to protect you from the Veil going up.” He watched her as she ran her over the wards on the temple walls, tracing their shapes. As soon as she removed her hand, energy pulsed through them. “Temple of the Hoping Moon,” he offered as he guided her deeper into the temple. Statues of two wolves appeared everywhere.
It had been a week since she went into the Eluvian after Solas, a week since Rashale had found her and took her to this temple. If Rashale was to be believed, it had apparently been created for her. She wasn’t sure she believed any of what he’d told her, honestly. He claimed that she was as old as Solas - or rather, her soul was, and she had been put into uthenera sometime during the slave rebellion. She frowned as she wandered the moss- and vine-covered floors, letting her bare feet pick their own path while she mulled over this information.
As she walked, she reached out with her remaining hand, touching the faded mosaic wall absently. Ambient magic pulsed through the tiles as her fingers ghosted over them, strands of vivid green arcing along certain tiles, lighting them up. That caught her attention and she stared at the wall, walking back a few steps to see the design.
It was the dread wolf.
The green magic changed; this time, it was purple, and she watched as a dragon took shape. Her lips parted as the color changed to a pale silver to make the last image in the mosaic: a moon's glow lighting up a white wolf ahead of the dread wolf.
“I wondered, Las, how long it would take you to find this.”
Looking around, she couldn’t see anyone, but the voice almost sounded like-
Her eyes locked with the dragon. “Mythal?”
She watched in awe as the dragon turned its mosaic head to her. “Well done, young one. You have come a long way since we last met.”
Her brow furrowed; the sentinels had told her Mythal was dead.
“I am a fragment, placed here once you were ready for everything. I am dead, child. We both know I can not help your wolf on his path.”
She drifted forward a few steps until she could reach out and touch the moon. “I am supposed to be his guide,” she whispered before looking at the dragon. “How, though? I am not even sure any of this happened.” Exasperated, she rubbed her hand over her face.
“How did the wolf claim to known things? That path is open to you...and it is time you learn to hunt.”
An orange glow began to appear along the dragon’s throat. As it opened its mouth, mosaic flames shot out but left the wall to smash into her chest, making her scream. The dragon closed its mouth as she pulled her hand back to touch her robe-covered chest, but there was no burn. The sudden sensation that she had swallowed the fire made her drop to the ground, gasping, trying to breathe past the phantom flames in her throat.
“Child, I have nudged history and shoved it. You are being melodramatic. Take what is yours; you are Elvhen, and kin, and would be gods just like your wolf; act like it!”
At the words, a fit of burning anger formed in her stomach and for the first time since the loss of her forearm, she reached out with her left hand. Ignoring that her hand wasn’t there, she attempted to pull the fade. Magic began to course around her, creeping along what was left of her arm after her forearm had been disintegrated, sickly green magic of the fade beginning to burst through the scars and drawing a scream from her throat. Her knees threatened to buckle from the sudden influx of pain in her arm and tears streamed freely from her eyes, her skin starting to tingle as the veil strained against her crude pulling. The sickly green magic traveled up her arm, skin smoking in its wake as the scars ripped open, the wounds cauterized before even a single drop of blood could drip onto the stone floor. Blindly, she staggered forward, away from the mosaic, feeling draconic eyes watching her with interest.
Clenching her jaw, she reached out with her missing hand, her weak legs causing her to sway dangerously. The anchor spread further with each faltering step she took. As she pulled on the fade, she could feel it begin to tremble around her. Her eyes went to her vestigial arm, which was beginning to ooze green fade-magic, and a hollow laugh burst out of her. This not-even-formed plan of hers was working? It was hard to believe, but the smoking grew worse with each tremor of the fade as more and more of the ooze came bleeding out.
The fade trembled and quaked under her assault, and the anchor began to spread past her arm. Each inch it crawled - sometimes leaped - over her skin, she could feel it trying to claw her apart. A scream tore from her throat but it echoed off the stone oddly, the sound warping until to her ears, it sounded like a howl. Hunching forward, she continued to stagger down the hallway, her nose filled with the smell of burning flesh. The fade was bleeding into the temple; she stared at a distant image of Solas removing his vallaslin from her face and her right hand tightened into an angry fist. She had been blind, so blind, so many signs that he had been hiding something and she hadn’t seen them.
She tore her eyes away from the memory, her heart aching because, despite everything, she still loved him. “Ma vhenan.” she whispered, her voice rough.
Something deeper in the temple called to her, and she struggled to continue her journey towards it. Bit by bit, the oozing, burning, green magic of the fade was forming the shape of her missing forearm. Her foot hooked a branch as she approached a door frame and sent her stumbling forward, her right hand catching one side of the frame as her shoulder slammed into the ancient stone of the other side. Leaning against it, she tried desperately to slow her frantic breathing. Each pull, each spasm of the fade left her feeling emptier than the last, and the pain still tore at the fabric of her very being.
As she stared at the remnants of her forearm, she pushed off the door frame and staggered into the room. In the center was a massive statue of two wolves nestled together. The shock of seeing what could only be her and Solas made her legs give out, her next pull on the fade purely reflexive as her knees collided with the overgrown tiles. He had to know what was happening, had to know what she was doing. If he didn’t, he either was not even looking at the fade or...well, she couldn’t think past the pain to figure out an ‘or’. Fen’aslan half expected his footsteps to echo towards her down the hallway she’d followed, and she could almost hear him calling her name. Tears trailed down her cheeks, and she closed her eyes.
It was nightfall when she opened her eyes again, one of them the sickly green of the fade. There had been no rest, no dreams for her. Breathing heavily, she stood up, her copper hair torn loose from its braid, and reached out with her left arm. There were still many missing pieces, and with soft exhale she attempted again to pull the fade, to tear the veil. She would have her arm back. Sweat dripped down from her forehead as she strained, splattering onto the tile. Another piece slipped through the fade, but there was not enough time to pull the rest of her arm through before something reached out and slammed into her.
Fen’aslan went flying backward, her head cracking against the wall as she hit it and crumpled to the floor. It felt like an eternity before she was aware of a groan slipping past her lips. Again she opened her eyes, but this time her green eye was met with a blue eye. The burning, clawing heat of the mosaic warred with the creeping chill of the glyphs as she climbed to her feet and realized she’d come face to face with herself.
“Inquisitor, you promised a price.”
Her eyes widened. The glyphs tightened on her face, attempting to spread to the left side. Another scream tore from her throat as the two ancient magics warred over her. The anchor pulsed angrily, and the only warning of it attempting open was the distinctively sickening popping noise. Her knees almost gave out again, every bit of her body aching and burning, leaving the fade scarred and bleeding even more heavily into the temple. It had already saturated the room, she realized as she looked up. There was no ceiling anymore, just the twin silver moons.
“Give in, Fen’aslan. This is our destiny: to serve the well. Fen’harel’s magic will kill us.”
Her mirror self spoke in a mocking voice, attempting to soothe her. Her reflection’s left hand was missing and her face was filled with unending sorrow and anguish, branded with the glyphs of the Well. Fen’aslan forced herself to keep her feet as she stepped away from the wall, her breathing heavy and ragged. Anger burned brighter than a star as the anchor flared along her left side, tearing into her further. Lighting, manifestations of her anger and pain, struck around the mirror.
“No,” she growled, her body shaking with her fury, and something began to change. The anchor had once been Fen’harel’s, but now she was making it was hers. It had been hers to claim all along. Slowly, at the tips of her sickly green fingers, silver magic began to emerge, spreading and clawing for each inch as it crept up her arm. The anchor fought back with violent pulses of magic that further assaulted the fade and clawed at her.
“Accept it, Inquisitor, and stop fighting. You will always be what you are now. Come home.”
She stared at the mirror, her heart hammering in her chest. Something in that phase had caused panic to seize her. Her left hand clenched into a fist as silver magic continued to bleed up her arm. Reaching out, she raised both her hands, attempting to pull the ceiling down on her mirror, only to stare in horrified when nothing happened; the mirror still stood in front of her and the ceiling remained intact.
“I told you, Inquisitor, you need to stop fighting this. You will never survive.” The image of herself in the mirror laughed. A wave appeared behind it, and the realization hit her: the woman in the Well had been her. Then the wave surged forward, smashing into her and tossing her back into the wall.
“I..I will never surrender…” As she struggled to stand up, ice spread from her feet, slowly creeping forward and freezing what it touched. Another wave smashed into her, trying to slide her back into the wall, but the ice held and her jaw tightened. Silver magic began to arc and hiss as it slowly overtook the green fade energy, bit by bit. It mended the skin that had torn, pulling her flesh together and quenching the burning pain. Slowly the green bled from her opaline eye, leaving only blue. She turned her gaze to the ceiling and pulled on it; the rubble tumbled down in a distraction as she began to walk towards the mirror, her legs trembling with each step. “I am no one’s slave. I paid the price of the well, now yield to me!” She commanded, throwing all of her strength into it. Every fiber of her body begged her to relent, to surrender to exhaustion.
The mirror shook violently as lightning began to arc between them. “We will not be commanded by a girl so foolish that she took what was not hers twice and would not pay the price!” Another wave began to raise up. “You will relent; in the end, they all do. Become what you are, child. It will not hurt, and you can rest.” The soothing mocking was back, each word casting a grapple of fade energy to entangle Fen’aslan.
This time, her anger was more precise, the lightning arcing around the mirror to entrap it. Each breath was focused on the glyphs, and her vision went black for a moment before she spoke.
“You dare command me?” Her voice was different to her ears; something had changed. The howl of a wolf echoed from somewhere as the two statues stepped off their base and began circling the mirror. “I am one Mythal calls kin. You will yield and become mine!”
Her magic lashed out towards the mirror as her skin began to ache and burn from the grapple she had been tangled in. Turning her eyes away from the mirror, she raised her now-silver magical hand toward the grapple, letting one finger claw at the grapple until it released her. The glyphs on her face began to change, silver magical energy coursing through them, turning both her eyes into pools of moonlight as another howl echoed through the room. Lightning flashed, the stone wolves growling before launching at the mirror. They savaged it with fang and claw and soon, silver magic began to ooze from it as it bled back to her. The Vir’abelsan had become hers; the mirror dissolved, and she could feel the voices fade from her mind.
Her knees buckled as exhaustion overtook her, silver eyes fading back into their normal, opaline mauve. The statues of the wolves were back on the base, nestled together as they had been, and as she kneeled there on the ground, Fen’aslan began laughing. Another voice joined her in laughing as the careful steps of armored boots approached, and when she looked up, there was Mythal.
“Well done, girl.” The woman’s amber eyes truly did seem pleased with her. “Now you can learn how to help him.” Mythal nodded, her lips curved into a slight smile. “Help him before he can no longer be helped, daughter.”
The warning chilled her. The goddess disappeared, the fade becoming less saturated in the room with each passing moment, and Fen’aslan staggered up onto her feet. She stared at her new arm admiring, magical energy substituting for the flesh that had been lost. Then a yawn distracted her, and she rubbed her eyes. Her body was exhausted and she could feel her stomach beginning to rumble and cramp with an increasingly-desperate need to find food. She needed to find Rashale. How long had she been in the fade?
As she hobbled out of the room, she noticed that the temple seemed to be repaired: the overgrowth was gone, the walls clean, the floors smooth with no ragged edges to catch her feet. She paused as she passed the mosaic and noticed the dragon’s absence. Was…it just a dream, she wondered? A glance at her left hand dispelled that; it was neither flesh nor missing, but a construct of her magic. It couldn’t have been a dream. Frowning, Fen’aslan limped gingerly out of the hallway and into the main thoroughfare of the temple.
“Las!” she jolted alert, her magic suddenly flaring to life at the sound of her name. Rashale seemed to appear out of nowhere, jogging up to her. “Thank Mythal I have found you.” His brows raised as he noticed her left hand, and he bowed. “My lady, pardon me. I was merely worried for you; you have been gone from the temple for a week,” he said, his voice formal and respectful.
“A week. I thought…” she whispered. She thought it had been less. Gone from the temple…Had she physically gone into the fade again? “Rashale, please. I am not a lady, and there is nothing to pardon.”
He shook his head firmly at her in disagreement. “You are a lady; your spirit has changed. You have found yourself, my lady.” It was his only explanation and while it was not enough for her, she was too hungry and too tired to worry about it for now. She yawned, swaying on her feet.
“My lady? Do you need refreshments?”
She stared at Rashale, blinking for a moment before his words finally made sense. Yawning again, she nodded. He offered his arm and, reluctantly, she took it and let him lead her to the kitchens.
The kitchens were rather large for the small temple. Carefully, Fen’aslan made her way around with a plate, gathering bits of fruits, jerkies and candied meats, hardened cheeses, and an glass of some kind of drink that smelled a bit like the wine Solas had introduced her to in Orlais. Lacking any sort of table or chair, she climbed up onto the counter where she perched with her plate of snacks, eating her fill and quenching her thirst. After her meal, she quietly made her way to her room.
Once the doors had shut behind her she looked around, closing her eye and trying to prepare herself. “Two weeks since I have dreamed…” she whispered to herself, wrapping her arms around her torso and squeezing in attempts to reassure herself. She made her tired way over to the bed and lay down, curling under the blankets, slowly letting herself drift off into the fade.
“Vhenan.” The word summoned her, and she found herself face to face with him. “Where are you?”
She stood up, and the images around them changed. He was trying to find her. “Where are you, vhenan?” she countered, shifting the fade on her own. “I will find you, vhenan. I told you I would not give up.” Around her, the fade stilled. Arlathan.
“I know you will not, Vhenan…” he seemed reluctant, looking around. “Allow me to show you these before we do not have time?”
She nodded, offering her hand. "Em ghi’lana,” she offered gently as he took her it, squeezing it gently. He lead her through the glass spires of the city and she watched the reflections, seeing multiple images of her and Solas. “In another time…” she smiled fondly; in another time, they had walked these streets just like this.
“Yes, Vhenan,” he added, turning and taking her- left hand? Her brows furrowed. “This is the fade,” he whispered. She realized they were in a grand ballroom just as Solas pressed close to her and began to dance. As they moved over the glass tiles, the room filled with people. “The Evanuris held such parties often. This was the night,” he started before spinning her. “The night everything I cared for was taken from me.” He growled, and the music took a deadly twist as she watched Mythal crumble to the floor. The young dreadwolf stared in horror at his kin, letting go of her. She recognized the figure in his arms. She tried to watch what happened to herself, but the scene focused on Solas lashing out at Elgar’nan.
“Wake up, Vhenan.” He leaned forward sadly and kissed her cheek. As her eyes opened, she sighed looking at the walls.
So it had began.