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A Dance Along The Grey

Chapter Text

"Isa?" Something else was said, though she did not understand.

Her stomach churned. How dare they use that name? It was only for the lady.

"Isa? Are you awake?"

Isa? Why did that sound familiar? She understood their words now. One world faded as the other came into focus. Who was Isa? Was that her? It sounded… Incomplete. That couldn't be it.

"Isa?"

A different voice, weathered with age, gentler. There was a soft touch on her shoulder. The other world was gone, lost to her. Yes, she was Isa. That made sense. Nothing else did, but that much made sense. She opened her eyes, gazing up at a warm, wrinkled face with faded green designs burned into the flesh. The design was vaguely familiar. So was the face.

"What?" Her own voice cracked, as if she hadn't used it in a long time. She choked on it, coughing. The old elven man held a water skin to her lips. "Drink, da'len." The cool liquid soothed her throat. Water had never tasted so good. The first voice reached her ears, "she's awake!" Too loud, she winced. "Hush," the older man turned his head, "go and get Devessa."

"Where am I?" Isa sat up fully, swaying a bit, the world spinning. "What happened? What… who…" She was seized by panic. "I remember nothing." Her chest felt tight. Everything was blank. The old elf took one of her hands in his. Her hand was dwarfed. "Calm down, da'len, you are safe here. Do you remember nothing of the ruins?" She looked up at him. He had kind brown eyes, and streaks of gold in his gray hair. She shook her head.

He handed her a piece of bread. "Eat slowly, Isa." She took a bite, and he began to speak. "It was very strange, where we found you. We roamed much farther south than we usually do, passing through Ferelden towards the Kocari wilds." These names meant nothing to Isa, but she listened. "I do not know why, but we were all overcome with the desire to travel that way. When we approached the wilds, we turned East and made our way to the sea, through the Brecilian forest. Something about it seemed very out of place. We came across some caves in the cliffs. We made camp there. Geris, the young man who was just in here, and myself went into the caves. I would have taken more hunters, but the passages were narrow, and should something have happened, I did not want to lose any more people than necessary."

"We made our way through the caves, and it was very strange, because we both remember the fact that there were many carvings on the walls, though neither of us can recall what they were. As we got further in, they were less like caves and more like ruins. Finally, we reached what appeared to be a tomb. We stepped foot in the chamber, and the braziers lit up with veilfire." "What's veilfire?" Isa asked. The old man replied, "a memory of fire that occurs when the veil is thin." Isa tilted her head, "the veil?" The old man seemed surprised. "You have much to learn, da'len. First, let me finish the story." Isa smiled slightly and nodded.

The old man leaned back a bit in his seat. "In the middle of the chamber was a sarcophagus. We approached, and a strange feeling washed over me. I felt as if I were in the presence of some great power. I told Geris to stay back, just in case, and I reached out and touched the stone. For a moment, it was warm, glowing with what appeared to be some form of lyrium, though I'm not certain. Then it split in two. The stone fell to either side. I expected to find a long rotted corpse inside, imagine my surprise when a child sat up and looked at me." He smiled, almost laughing. "You gave me quite a fright, da'len." Isa was only more confused. "Then what?" He continued, "I tried to ask you your name, but you didn't understand me. You spoke an ancient language, I'm not even sure if it was elvish. So I pointed at myself, and I said my name, 'Atrith,' and I pointed to Geris and said his, then I pointed to you. You seemed to understand, but you didn't seem to be able to remember. All you could come up with was 'Isa,' so that is what we have been calling you. You stood and guided us out of the cave. You were wrapped in rags, though it must have once been quite some finery, judging by what's left. Once we left the cave, you fainted, and the cave collapsed behind us. You've been asleep for two weeks now."

That only left Isa with more questions, but she doubted he could answer them. "At least I can understand you now. But what am I supposed to do? I don't know who I am." She was terribly frightened. She was, after all, a child, appearing no older than 10.

"Well," a new voice, a woman's, reached her ears as the tent flap was pushed aside. Her smile was very welcoming. "Doesn't matter what you are, dear. You look like an elf, and you can learn like one. You can stay with us, clan Lavellan." Isa liked this woman. Atrith bowed his head in greeting, "Devessa, this is Isa. Isa, this is Devessa, our clan's healer." "A pleasure, Miss." Isa smiled warmly. "Such manners!" Devessa knelt in front of her and began examining her arm, "you're all skin and bones, dear, has Keeper Atrith not fed you yet? Shame on him, we'll have to fix that." Isa giggled a bit, feeling much better.

The old Keeper huffed, "feed her slowly, we can't have her getting sick. First things first, once she's healthy-" Davessa cut him off, "other than being a little thin, she's fit as a bird." Atrith nodded, "then we'll start with her education. She doesn't know anything. We also need to find out if she has any magical talent." Davessa nodded, "there's probably something, since she was in those ruins for who knows how long, but it may not have come from her. Might be a curse. But enough of that. For now, we need to fatten you up, dear." Isa took the fruit offered to her, delighting in the juice that ran down her chin when she bit into it. "Thank you," she mumbled around a mouthful." "You're welcome dear. Welcome to the family."

Chapter Text

Ears ringing, the stench of smoke stinging the back of her throat; Isa couldn't see, couldn't hear, there was nothing. Fading in and out, something chased them away. She wasn't safe, but there was no fleeing. Vhera? Where was Vhera? She had gone up to the temple, but Isa was supposed to find another path in, in case one of them was caught. They were spies, not supposed to be there, but everyone was affected by the war. The conclave. What had happened?

Choking, Isa was drowning in her own blood. She managed to roll on her side, snow in her eyes, but it didn't matter, she had to let her nose drain. An explosion. She remembered that much. Where was Vhera? Was she even alive? Isa couldn't think clearly. She remembered a flash of green, then nothing. Was there anything to remember? How much time had passed? She could hear them all around her, the demons, shuffling along, the gut-wrenching screams of those unfortunate enough to survive the initial blast, but the demons left her alone. Perhaps she was buried beneath the snow. It was in her eyes, after all.

The earth shook all around her as it was pounded by blasts, though she was unaware of the source. She was frightened, but it was a vague, primal fear. She could not bring herself up to heightened awareness. She was barely conscious. How much time had passed, by the gods, she didn't know. The pain started. She hadn't felt it at first, but she did now. Burning, her flesh ripped apart and shredded, her bones strained, her muscles torn, her head in agony, she just wanted it to end. How many days did she lay there? It had to have been days. She was aware of light and dark, though she wasn't able to count. It was so long.

"What's that?" The sound was quiet compared to the blasting of the earth, but much closer. "Look, she's breathing!" "Maker, she's alive!" "Seeker, I can help." Then a familiar voice, one that brought tears of joy to frozen lashes, "ISA!" Touches on her arm were agony, but it was a small price to pay for the rescue. "Isa, it's okay, I'm here," it was Vhera, her best friend, they had trained together, grown up together with the clan; her voice was such a comfort.

Isa felt a tingling over her skin, and the pain began to fade. "Hold on," Vhera murmured, holding her hand. "Solas will help you. He knows some healing magic. Oh Isa, I'm so glad you're safe, lethallan," they called each other sister.

Gentle fingers wiped the ice from Isa's eyes, and she slowly cracked them open, Gloved hands held a water skin to her chapped lips and she drank. It soothed her scorched lungs. "What happened?" Her voice was scratchy. Vhera's face appeared in her vision, her violet vallaslin of Falon'din seeming to glow, her gentle hazel eyes full of tears. "Let's get you back to Haven," she was cut off by a sharper woman's voice. "There is no time." Vhera turned to a woman with cropped black hair. "We can't just leave her here!"

"The scouts," Isa turned her head to a dwarf standing behind another elf kneeling next to her. "I bet they could take her back. They can't have gotten too far." The elf shook his head, the sun shining against his bald head. His voice was oddly soothing, "they could barely take themselves. However, things should be safe by the temple. I should be able to heal her enough to make the journey there, and we can leave her just outside while we try to seal the breach." Vhera bit her lip anxiously, but nodded. "Alright."

Isa winced a bit as the elf's healing magic washed over her, then relaxed a little. Vhera helped her shakily to her feet. "That's it. Little steps. It's not far," her friend guided her down the mountain path. The woman with black hair was impatient, but Vhera pointedly ignored her huffing. Isa was set against a crumbling wall outside of the remains of the temple. At that point, hunger and weakness got to her, and sleep overtook her once more.
________________________________________

Isa woke with a start, sitting straight up, earning a startled screech from a young man sitting at her bedside. He was so startled that he unceremoniously fell out of his chair. Isa stared at him for a long moment, and once he regained himself, he stared back. "You're awake!" She began to laugh. "I did not mean to startle you, shemlen. Are you alright?" He got to his feet, brushing himself off, "I'm fine. Isa, right? My name is Caiden, I'm working for Adan, the healer here in Haven. How are you feeling? The Herald is quite worried about you." Isa shook her head, "the Herald?"

The door to the small cabin opened, and the bald elf from the mountain peered in. "She lives!" He declared, surprise gracing his features, then relief. "How are you feeling?" Isa took a moment to shift around. "Sore, and… exhausted. But not terrible. You healed me on the mountain, correct? Ma serannas, hahren.*" He entered the cabin and closed the door behind him. "Sathem lasa halani,** da'len," he replied. "Caiden, please go inform the Herald that her friend is awake, and likely very hungry." Isa's stomach growled at the very mention of food. She smiled sheepishly. Caiden nodded and hurried off.

"My name is Solas," the elf introduced himself, putting a pillow behind Isa so she could sit comfortably. She shifted around a bit, her vibrant copper hair spilling over her shoulders, then smiled at him, "Isa. What is this whole Herald business?" Solas righted Caiden's chair and sat in it. "Your friend, to put it simply, has absorbed a sort of ancient magic that many believe to be a gift from Andraste. Allow me to explain," he told her the story of what had happened, the mysterious explosion at the conclave, the breach, how Vhera had stepped out of the rift and the woman behind her, how they had sealed the big rift and the breach had stopped growing and how the new Inquisition had been formed. "You have been asleep for about two weeks while I've been healing you." He finished, gazing at his patient with steely grey eyes. Isa met his gaze, her sky blue eyes alight with humour, "two weeks? No wonder I'm so hungry!"

"ISA!" The door to the cabin burst open, and Vhera all but jumped on Isa, her fine pale hair tickling Isa's nose as she hugged her tight. Isa wrapped her arms, "lethallan, did you bring me food?" Vhera laughed, holding her at arms length, "you brat, I've been worried sick for two weeks and all you can think about is food?" Isa's stomach growled loudly.

Vhera sat next to her on the cot and produced a loaf of bread and a skin of wine. Isa wolfed it down, starving, and drank enough wine for the pleasant warmth it brought. "So, the Herald of Andraste. The Keeper's gonna get a kick out of that." Isa grinned. Vhera shrugged, "wasn't my idea. We're just starting out, but if that's what it takes to get things moving on sealing the breach completely then that's what it takes."

"I'm surprised at you, lethallan," Isa began, "working so readily under the name of a shemlen god." Solas raised an eyebrow. Vhera sighed, "like I said, whatever it takes. Besides, you've managed to mediate with them for years. I figured I'd try." Solas cleared his throat, "mediate?" Vhera nodded. "I know you're not really part of either world, but you know of the conflict. Isa is very good at de-escalating when humans want to drive us away, or clans get riled up and want to attack." Isa waved her hand dismissively, "all it takes is for someone to stop feeding the fire. I'm glad you're working together on this."

Solas stood, "I hate to cut the conversation short, but now that you're awake and coherent, we should make sure that you're fully functioning again." Vhera stood as well, "I should get back to work. We're planning to go to the Hinterlands. It's kind of the center of the war between mages and Templars, and a good place to start spreading the influence of the Inquisition. I'll drop by later, alright?" Isa nodded, squeezing her hand before letting her go.

Solas held out his hand to her. She took it, and he helped her to stand. She felt a bit shaky at first, but that was to be expected. She took a step, and stumbled a bit, but he caught her. "Steady, da'len." He began talking to her, distracting her from the slow steps around the small room, like a child learning to walk. "Vhera has been doing very well since the breach. She's inspired everyone here, and people are flocking to join the Inquisition in droves." Isa's steps were a little more confident. Her legs felt like her own again. "I do wonder how you survived the blast, being as close to the temple as you were. You were barely alive when we found you. You were fortunate that we decided to take the mountain pass." Isa looked up from her feet to his face. His eyes were gentle. "You must have been in a great deal of pain."

"Where are you from, Solas?" He seemed surprised at the question. Isa clarified, "Vhera said you weren't from either world, so I assume you're not a circle mage." Solas replied, "you are correct, I am an apostate, though I suppose all mages are apostates now, you included." Isa blinked, then laughed. "I'm no mage." Solas looked surprised. "You have the aura of one." Isa shrugged, "that's what the Keeper said, but I've never shown any abilities." Solas tilted his head slightly, "how unusual." There was a brief moment of silence before he asked, "how do you fight then? The Dalish train all of their people in combat, do they not?" Isa nodded, "they do. I am a skilled archer. Vhera and I usually work well as a team. I do hope I'm well enough to go with her when she leaves." Solas gave her a warm smile that made her heart flutter. "I will do my best to ensure that happens."

Chapter Text

"No way."

"Bet I can."

"That's far, even for you."

"I definitely can."

"I bet you ten silvers you cant."

"I bet a sovereign I can. Your dessert tonight that I can hit the bullseye."

Isa and Vhera sat on the wall on the gates of Haven, overlooking the training camp below and the frozen lake beyond, and on the other side of the frozen lake was a target set up in front of a tree. Vhera squinted, "I can barely even see it. Alright, you're on. You miss the bullseye, you buy drinks tonight. You miss entirely, you get to hold Cassandra's training dummy for the rest of the afternoon." Isa stood, rolling her shoulders. "If we're raising the odds, then your dessert if I hit the target, I get one of your blankets if I hit the bullseye." Vhera nodded and the two shook hands. Isa picked up the bow she had been issued. It was Dalish, sent by one of the nearby clans, so better than most of the Inquisition scouts, but still not as good as the one she had made, lost in the blast. She knocked an arrow, and drew back, taking a long, slow breath. She could hear the guards on the wall beside them taking bets. They left for the Hinterlands the next day. What was the harm in a little friendly bet?

Isa focused, going tunnel vision on the target, then lifting her gaze for the arching shot she'd need to make the distance. Slow breathing, loose legs, tight shoulders, she let out her breath, whispering, "there," and let the arrow fly. It whizzed through the air, disappearing into the blue before coming down. "There's no way," a new voice joined them. Varric, the dwarf from the mountain pass, leaned on the wall beside them. "You actually made that shot? Bianca's jealous." "Damn!" Vhera shouted, tossing a stone at the wall. "You're too good for your own good." Isa grinned, "There's a reason you trust me to shoot at you in battle." Vhera rolled her eyes playfully and shoved Isa. "I've gotta get to a war meeting. Just don't take the big blanket, okay?" Isa waved and watched her go.

"That was impressive, kid, where'd you learn to shoot like that?" Varric looked up at Isa, squinting against the sun. Isa sat down on the wall's edge, "our clan taught me, though I've always had a knack for it. Vhera's just jealous because she's a terrible shot, but what she can do with a pair of daggers is a sight to see, so it balances out." Varric sat down beside her. She commented, "Bianca's a lovely crossbow. Where'd you get her?" Varric shook his head, "that's the one story I'll never tell, kid." Isa shrugged, "alright, keep your secrets, ir dhula.*" Varric chuckled at that. "So what is your full name? Isa sounds incomplete, and not really…. Elvish, you know?" Isa shrugged, "I don't know. Isa is all I remember." Varric looked confused. Isa explained, "I wasn't born with the Dalish, they found me. I don't remember anything from before that, only that someone called me Isa." Varric let out a bit of a whistle, "mysterious back stories, strange names, weird powers, holes in the sky, this is shaping up to be one hell of a novel." Isa laughed, light as bells.

"So what do your face tattoos mean?" Varric asked. Isa explained, "my vallaslin honours the goddess Sylaise, goddess of the hearth. We pray to her to heal the sick, to deliver infants safely. She gave us fire, and taught us the domestic arts." Varric laughed, "you, domestic?"

The bell rang for meal time. Isa stood, offering a hand to the dwarf. "Come on, I'll share my dessert with you, since Vhera owes me hers."

Though she was warmer than she usually was with the extra blanket, Isa found herself unable to sleep. Not wanting to disturb Vhera, her cabin-mate, with her tossing and turning, she pulled on a warm coat and went out into the night for a walk. She knew she should try harder to rest for the journey in the morning, but she was eager to move around. Her breath froze in the air and the snow crunched under her boots as she walked through the gates of Haven out into the night. The air was still, the chill of the mountains not quite so bad without the usual wind. Isa gazed up at the stars, slowing her anxious walk to a leisurely stroll. She stopped all together, but something was off. She heard an extra crunch in the snow. She was being followed.

She looked over her shoulder, scanning the trees. The glint of the moonlight off his head gave him away. "Solas?" He stepped out of the trees, bathed in moonlight. "Were you following me?" Solas shrugged, "not at first. I found myself restless, and went for a walk. I saw you do the same, and gave in to my curiosity." She turned to face him. Something still wasn't quite right, but she couldn't quite figure out what. Solas watched her, as if he was waiting for something. Isa walked towards him slowly, then she realized, "are we dreaming?" Solas nodded, a slight smile crossing his handsome features. "We are. I am surprised you dream with such clarity, despite not being a mage. You are indeed a mystery." Isa hugged her arm to her side, "no wonder the air is so still. I don't like the wind at Haven. It cuts right through you." She frowned a bit, "why are you in my dream?" "Didn't I tell you already? Curiosity." Isa huffed, "that's hardly an answer."

Solas shook his head a bit. "I am curious about you, da'len. You claim to have no talent as a mage, yet you dream like one. You survived the blast at Haven, despite being so close to the breach. According to Varric, you have no memory of your life before the Dalish. I want to know who you are. Often, the fade has answers to questions like these." Isa felt her hostility melting. "You think the fade could tell me?" "Perhaps," Solas looked up at the sky. "Perhaps it will only provide more questions."

Isa crossed her arms, unsatisfied with the answer. Solas noticed. "Patience, da'len. I will help you look." Her emotions stronger in the fade, Isa found herself rather irritated. "I'm not a child. I don't want more questions, I have enough of them as is."

Solas patted her shoulder in a friendly manner and walked beside her, continuing on down the snowy path. "I fear there may not be much time to explore such questions anyway, with the breach and the mark on your friend's hand." He walked with his hands held behind his back, going at an easy pace. Isa wondered why he had really come. He hadn't just popped in for a dream visit. He wanted an answer, but what was the question?

"We will face many dangers, no doubt," he continued, glancing sideways at Isa. "Some of them, I doubt you will be able to face with mere arrows." Isa scowled. Solas stopped suddenly, and turned to her. "I will get to the point. I know many things your Keeper likely does not. I believe that you do have the abilities of a mage, and that they have been locked away somehow. I would like to help you find them. You, I suspect, do not wish for your lethallan to come to harm."

Isa paused thoughtfully. "You want to train me. Isn't that dangerous?" "Everything has its dangers, da'len." Isa thought about her desire to support and protect Vhera. "Alright, hahren. I don't think much will come of it, but I am certainly willing to try."

Solas let a half-smile cross his face. "I thought you might, da'avise.**"

Chapter Text

The warmth of the Hinterland breeze dancing on Isa's neck was a welcome change to the chill of Haven, though it was far from summer. Isa gazed up at the clear blue sky, far from the twisting marks of the breach, and let out a sigh of relief. The four of them, Vhera, Isa, Solas, and Cassandra, reached the forward camp at about mid-morning. Even from there they could hear the sounds of warfare. Vhera was on edge, and Isa didn't blame her. Who wouldn't be? The way Scout Harding explained it, the situation was rather dire.

"Well," Cassandra began, overlooking the crossroads from high up at the edge of the camp. "We need to get down there quickly. The path around is windy, so let's get moving." Isa and Vhera made mischievous eye contact, and of course, like anyone would have, opted to take a shortcut and jumped the fence, sliding down the rocks. What was a few scrapes? Isa could hear Cassandra shouting after them, but it was too late now. Vhera drew her daggers, and Isa knocked an arrow, firing at a mage locked in battle at the crossroads. A headshot to start off the battle.

Vhera flew at her first target, a Templar close to the base of the hill. He didn't take long to dispatch, but the next one posed more of a problem, as Vhera was still getting used to foes with tower shields. Fortunately, Isa had her back. She took out another mage, then waited for an opening, firing right past Vhera's pointed ear into the helm of the Templar as he lowered his shield for a strike. Her arrow struck true, and he fell.

The hairs on the back of Isa's neck began to prickle with heat, and she began to wonder if she should have left her hair down instead of a tight braid wrapped against the back of her head. She turned just as a mage sent a blast of fire at her, and raised her arm to shield her face, but the heat never reached her. Instead, she was enveloped in a barrier. The other two had caught up to them, and Solas had cast a protective spell on them. "We will have words, da'avise." He grumbled and hurled a ball of ice from the tip of his staff. "Ma serannas, hahren," she stepped behind him, turning her back to his and continuing her tactic of firing past Vhera into Templar faces. As fun as that was, the most satisfying part of the whole fight was watching Cassandra absolutely lay out a man in full armor twice her size with a shield bash and a ferocious battle cry. It made Isa giddy, and she made a mental note to ask Cassandra to teach her a thing or two later. The Dalish never taught her anything like that.

Finally, the crossroads were clear. Isa stood breathing heavy, a copper lock falling in her face. She tucked it behind her ear and slung her bow across her back, going around to salvage most of her arrows from bodies, because this was reality and there was no such thing as unlimited arrows. Vhera let out a whoop of victory, sliding her daggers back into their sheaths. "It feels good to fight again." Cassandra had a slight smile on her face, "don't get too excited. You'll get sick of it soon enough."

Solas strapped his staff to his back. "Is anyone injured?" Isa checked herself over quickly. "Oh," she had a small ice shard in her arm. "Just a little." Solas caught hold of her wrist and pulled out the shard with steady fingers before applying a poultice to the wound. "It is nothing serious. This should suffice." Isa nodded.

Slowly, refugees began to emerge from nearby buildings. Isa's heart melted as the thrill of battle faded and pity set in. "Vhera," she stood next to her friend, "we have to help them." These people looked so hopeless. Pitiful, starving: they were miserable. Vhera nodded, determination set in her gentle features. "Of course. Start asking around, find out what people need." Cassandra commented, "the best thing we can do to help is to get rid of the renegade Templars and the rebel mages." Solas nodded, "you are correct, Seeker, but once that is done, surely there is more we can do." Cassandra nodded, pity softening her normally hard expression.

Isa looked up on the hill, where the wounded from both sides were being tended. "Look, isn't that who we're looking for?" There was a chantry mother on the hill, kneeling by a man on a stretcher. Vhera nodded, "I will go speak with her. Try to find out what people need in the meantime." Cassandra added, "Corporal Vale is coordinating our efforts in this area. I will go speak to him." The two went off in separate directions.

Isa started to walk, but Solas stopped her, "I would appreciate it if you two would refrain from running off like that again. We cannot lose the mark to impatience." Isa sighed, he was right of course, but that didn't mean she wasn't childishly annoyed. "Alright. Come on, let's see if we can't help."

Isa had expected to receive a sort of cold shoulder, due to being an elf, but most of the people there were so desperate that they were only relieved when she asked if there was anything she could do to help. Most of them had the same complaints. There was no proper herbalist, there was no food, and there weren't enough blankets to go around. There was one, a young girl that claimed she had dropped her doll running from the Templars. It was made from a grain sack and buttons. Isa vowed to look for it.

The group met back up, and made a plan of action. First they would find the Templars, since their camp was likely just down the west road. Then they'd find the mages, then horse master Dennet, since he was why they had come in the first place, then they'd do what they could to help the refugees. It seemed like a good course of action, so they set off for the west road.

As soon as they left the tunnel from the crossroads to the road, it was high-speed combat. The mages and Templars were pretty occupied in fighting each other, but they still didn't let the small band just slip by. By the time they reached the broken bridge, they were exhausted. Isa was glad to reach the river, dipping her gloved hands into the frigid water and bringing them to her face, splashing the sweat away, then drinking. Vhera plopped down next to her and did the same. Cassandra stood over them, keeping an eye out for an ambush. Solas commented, "at least we're going in the right direction." Vhera let out an exhausted laugh. Cassandra sat down on a nearby rock, "it seems we are safe for the moment. We should not stay here long."

Vhera got a mischievous glint in her eye, and Isa slowly leaned back, out from between her and Cassandra. Vhera cupped a hand in the water, then hurled it at the intimidating Seeker, earning a less-than-dignified screech. The two Dalish burst into a fit of giggles. Cassandra let out a huff, "oh, you want to play around, do you?" She stomped over to the water, drawing her foot back and kicking, sending a wave of water over to them, soaking them and Solas in the process.

Big mistake. Solas shook water off of himself and waved his staff, sending a tidal wave over the three of them, soaking them to the bone. Vhera sputtered and laughed, trying not to breathe in any water. "You scoundrel!" Solas chuckled, wringing out the bottom of his tunic. "Do not start a battle you cannot finish, da'len." Isa splashed some water at him, "no fair, I'm an innocent bystander in all of this!" Cassandra was smiling, and for the moment, their troubles were forgotten.

Chapter Text

The first time Isa saw a rift in person, she froze. The others, of course, had seen them, since they had actually fought against them at the breach, but Isa hadn't been part of that battle. They had successfully defeated the Templars and wiped out their main camp, and were wandering through the forest in pursuit of the mages. Judging by the ice spires, they were getting close, then they came across a rift. The green light and crystal-like structure folding and twisting in on itself almost put Isa in a trance. She felt like it was sucking her in, trapping her, and she was gripped with terror.

Until Vhera called out to her, that is. "Isa, help!" The terror demon was certainly frightening, with its gaping mouth and many eyes, but only inspired rage in Isa when it dared to raise one of its long clawed limbs to Vhera, knocking her back. Isa stormed towards it, drawing her voice from the depths of her chest. "BEGONE!" Surprisingly enough, it listened. The thing shrieked, shrinking away from her as if it were afraid, and opening the ground, dragging itself in. Isa pulled Vhera to her feet, and from then, it was like any other combat, ignoring the uncomfortable tugging of the rift. The demons fell to her arrows like any other creatures, and as they vanished, their essence sucked into the rift, Isa didn't even have to pull her arrows from their corpses. She certainly gave Solas a fright when one of her arrows whizzed right by his ear into the face of the wisp he was fighting. He scowled at her, only earning a grin. "Don't worry, Solas, I never miss."

Watching Vhera seal the rift was an interesting experience. The same sucking feeling was intensified, and Isa felt like she might fall forward. When the rift closed, she sucked in a deep breath, relieved, as if something gripping her tightly had let go. "That was… awful." She looked to Vhera, who patted her shoulder. "You're alright now. It's scary the first time. Hey, you sure showed that terror demon though. It was scared of you!" Isa grinned sheepishly. Cassandra cut in, "we should keep moving. We must be getting close." Solas agreed.

They walked on, the air around them getting colder. Isa spotted the magic barrier first. "There!" She walked right into the ice trap. Ice rose around her, encasing her, freezing her in place as mages ambushed her comrades. She struggled, wriggling as much as the ice would allow. Solas was locked in combat, unable to free her, so she was on her own. She could see Cassandra, blasted with magic over and over, never faltering. Seekers were certainly something else.

Isa mentally scolded herself for being foolish enough to walk right into a trap. She fought against the bonds of the ice as much as she could. Fortunately, it was weak, beginner's magic, and after some effort, she was able to break free, falling to her knees. She took a few breaths and picked up her bow, but her fingers were frozen, and she couldn't manage to draw her string. So instead, she strapped the bow to her back, picked up a staff of a mage that had fallen to Cassandra's blade. Remembering what Solas had said to her in the fade, she tried to draw on magic, any magic, but to no avail. She didn't know how. So she proceeded to use it as a club, going up behind one and bludgeoning him over the head with it until he fell, then bringing it down hard on his spine. There was a sickening crack, and he stopped moving. Isa turned to the next, but stopped. It was just a kid, no older than 12, not even dressed in mage robes, but common clothes. He looked terrified.

"Run. Don't come back."

He took off, bolting through the woods, dropping his staff. Isa let him go, hoping she had done the right thing and putting him out of her mind. She clubbed down another distracted mage, and by that point, the initial battle was over. She dropped the staff, flexing her fingers, trying to get some warmth back into them. She had splatters of blood all over her front. She wiped her face on her sleeve, streaking the blood over her cheeks. "Ugh," she wrinkled her nose.

Solas approached the barrier to the cave, "this is likely their base of operations. I can bring this barrier down, and it will be all fighting from there. Are we ready?" Isa brought her bow out, her fingers working again. Vhera nodded. "Let's go."

Solas brought down the barrier, and Cassandra led the charge, shield raised and sword brandished. Vhera followed, darting around behind the startled mages for a flanking move. Isa climbed up some rocks, firing from overhead while Solas stayed at the entrance. Cassandra and Vhera sort of herded them in, then Solas bombarded them with blasts of fire. Any that resisted the magic were taken out by Isa's arrows. In all, it was a very effective maneuver, but that was only the first group, and now the rest were aware of their presence.

Isa scooted along the rocks up on the walls of the cave, maintaining her vantage point as they swept through the cave. Finally, they finished, wiping out the last of them. Isa hopped down, walking over to the leader, who was taking his last breaths, an arrow in his chest. Isa knelt down to him, touching his hand. Her mind filled with images, fires and screams, students at desks, a child begging at the feet of a Templar. "They will burn for what they've done," he sputtered out, and closed his eyes. Isa recoiled, stumbling back and falling onto her bottom. She shook her head, feeling sick.

"Isa?" Vhera pulled her to her feet. "I'm alright. He just… I'm fine. Let's go." It was just a spell. The mage was dead, it didn't matter. They needed to leave. They had to go find the horse master. They had to get out of that damn cave.

Finding the horse master was easy, as was clearing the rifts off of his farm. What was difficult was convincing him to join them, though it was for the better. They cleared out the demon controlling wolves, they built watchtowers, and they even found a lost druffalo, guiding it back with a large carrot. Isa loved the druffalo, and they seemed to like her too.

At that point, the night was upon them, and by the river on the farms was the perfect place to set up camp for the night. Solas quickly got a fire going, and Isa had caught a few nugs for their supper. Vhera was the better cook, so she put them on spits and roasted them over the fire. They put up their tents and settled by the fire to eat their meal under the stars.

Cassandra ate a whole nug by herself. Isa understood; she was rather famished herself after fighting all day. She knew she would be rather sore in the morning. She wiped the juice dripping down her chin on her sleeve, amazed at how Solas could eat such a messy meal so neatly. Must be magic, she thought to herself, amused.

With Inquisition scouts there with them, there was no need to set watch, so they could rest easy that night. Cassandra went to bed first, wishing them a pleasant night. Solas went next. Vhera was staring intently into the dying fire. "What's on your mind?" Isa asked. Vhera let out a soft sigh. "I know we've a long way to go, but I'm starting to feel the pressure. This thing," she lifted her hand with the mark on it, "it means I'm leading the way. They want me to go to Val Royeaux, to address the clergy. I'm not ready for this. I'm just a hunter." Isa scooted closer, resting her shoulder on Vhera's. "You're not alone. If anyone tries to pull you down, I'll tear them to pieces." Vhera laughed softly, resting her head on her friend's shoulder. "You always did keep the bullies away. I'm glad you're with me." Isa rested her cheek on Vhera's hair. "I'd never let anything hurt you. You're my lethallan. What kind of sister would I be if harm came to you? You may have to lead the way, but I'll be right behind you every step." Vhera hugged her tight, "thank you." They stayed like that for a long time.

Chapter Text

Isa woke to the sound of a crow cawing loudly outside her tent, and to Scout Harding trying to shush it. Isa rubbed her eyes, her hair falling out of its ties, and sat up, stretching her arms over her head. She pulled her leather armor on over her tunic and leggings and scooted to the tent opening to pull her boots on. She took her hair down and shook it out, standing up outside the tent to put it back up again.

"On dhea,*" Solas greeted her, eating a simple breakfast of apples and cheese. Isa sat down next to him, "On dhea, hahren. How did you sleep?" "Peacefully. I dreamt of the great herds of proud horses of this land." He offered her an apple. She took it, mumbling a thanks and taking a bite. The crisp sweetness of it woke her up a little. She then noticed her boots were on the wrong feet, and that Solas looked highly amused. Ears burning, she righted the situation and continued munching on her apple as if nothing had happened.

"News from Leliana," Vhera approached them with a note in her hand. "There's a grey warden somewhere in the area by the name of Blackwall. We should find him, see if he knows anything about the grey wardens' disappearance." Isa nodded, remembering Cassandra saying something about the unusual circumstances. Isa finished her apple, tossing the core into a nearby druffalo pen. "Once we find him, we should split up. I can hunt for the refugees while you all find the apostate caches that the private mentioned." Cassandra frowned, "we may have taken out the main camps, but it's still not safe to be on your own." Vhera waved her hand dismissively, "she'll be fine, she's a slippery one. Let's get moving. We've got a lot of ground to cover today."

Isa stood, rolling out her shoulders, stretching her legs and her back. She felt the stiffness from the previous day's events in her muscles, but it would fade. She was no stranger to hard work. They headed north, towards the upper lake, where the warden had last been seen. Settling up another camp there, they stopped for lunch, and to gather some herbs for the inquisition. Then they moved on.

Cassandra heard him first, a deep voice giving what sounded like a motivational speech. They went around the wooden dock pathways to see the warden they were looking for, along with a bunch of "conscripts," local villagers armed with axes and makeshift shields preparing to defend their home from bandits by the sound of it.

"Warden Blackwall?" Vhera addressed him. "What? Who are you?" She didn't have time to answer as they were attacked. "Either help or get out of the way!" Blackwall shouted. "Conscripts, defend yourselves!" Isa knew which side she was on. She turned around and fired upon their attackers, finding herself quite pleased when Solas lit her arrows ablaze when they left her bow. It didn't take long to kill the bandits.

"Go back to your families. You saved yourselves." Blackwall turned to Vhera as the villagers thanked him and left, more confident than when they had been waiting for the attack. "You're no farmer. Why do you know my name? Who are you?" Vhera replied, "I'm with the Inquisition. The grey wardens disappeared and the divine was murdered. I'm investigating whether the two events are related."

Blackwall seemed genuinely surprised. "Makers balls, the wardens and the divine? No, you're asking so you don't really know. I didn't know they had disappeared. I travel alone for the most part, recruiting. Haven't heard from another warden in months. But no warden killed the divine, our purpose isn't political. They're better than that." Vhera frowned a bit, "so you don't know what happened?" Blackwall shook his head, "maybe they returned to our stronghold at Weisshaupt in the Anderfells." Vhera sighed and looked to Cassandra, who shrugged. She turned back to Blackwall, "thank you for your time." Isa shifted on her feet, a dead end wasn't good.

"Inquisition you said?" Blackwall stopped them from leaving. "The divine is dead and the sky is torn. Thinking we're absent is almost as bad as thinking we're involved. I'm sure the Inquisition could use allies. Perhaps you could use a grey warden on your side? I've got treaties, and though this is no blight, it is certainly a crisis." Vhera smiled slightly. "We'd be happy to have you, Warden Blackwall."

Blackwall, Cassandra, and Vhera went off in search of the caches, killing two birds with one stone and catching Blackwall up on Inquisition matters while they went. Solas and Isa set out for the East Road towards Dwarfson's pass where the ram hunting would be best. They passed under the stone arch, receiving the warning from the scout about bandits. "We'll have to be careful," Solas mused, staff in hand. "We don't want to walk into an ambush." Isa nodded, bow at the ready. "We could try to clear them out." Solas shook his head, furrowing his brows. "They're too well-organized for us to take on our own." He was probably right, from what they had heard.

They walked along the road in tense silence, keeping an eye out for the first sign of trouble. Isa briefly hoped they didn't run into any rifts. Without Vhera, they would be in trouble. Isa caught a flash of something in the bushes. She stopped, her bowstring taunt. She approached the bush slowly, peering over the hedges. All she found was a discarded breastplate. She let out a sigh of relief, until she felt a blade at her throat. "Well well well, what do we have here lads?"

Isa gulped, "etunash,**" she muttered. "Drop the bow, girl, and you may live." The bandit's voice was low and scratchy, and he reeked of alcohol. Isa let go of her bow, letting it clatter to the ground. She raised her hands slightly, palms up. "Good girl." He grabbed her arm and turned her around to face the group of five bandits on the road. Solas was nowhere to be seen. That helped to ease the panic rising in Isa's throat. She didn't like the way these bandits were looking at her. They were all men.

"I know our orders are to kill everyone coming through here, but it seems such a waste," one of them said, roughly tugging her hair out of its braid. She scowled, struggling not to clench her fists. "Not every day we get a Dalish bitch coming through here." She made herself focus. Their weapons and armor were finer than bandits should have. Someone was paying them to be out here, but why? They had to be part of a bigger group, if they were receiving orders. She needed to know more. That had to be what Solas was waiting on. That, and he wouldn't risk catching her in the cross fire. She cleared her throat. "Orders to kill? Why?" She asked, trying her best to seem scared and helpless. It was easy. She was very frightened.

"What's it to you," another one growled, grabbing the front of her shirt and pulling her away from the first, the dagger nicking her throat as it slipped by. She was lifted off her feet by the mountain of a man. She gulped, "I'm not particularly interested in dying." He dropped her, then shoved her roughly to the ground. "That's too bad." The first one said "you'll live long enough to give the boys a well-deserved break, wench. That's it." Isa bolted, it didn't matter what else they had to say, nothing was worth risking that for. She heard them shout, "SHOOT HER!" An arrow hit the ground next to her ankle.

Solas made his move, and the bandits went up in flames. He bombarded their position; the heat washed over Isa and she was glad she was a good fifteen paces away. Their screams echoed in her ears as the force of the blast knocked her down. She stayed there until the chaos died down. She would never admit it was because her legs were shaking too much to stand.

"Isa." He emerged from behind a boulder. "DAMN IT SOLAS," she screeched, tears streaming down her face, "what took you so long?" He knelt beside her. "Ir abelas,*** I had to take out the archers and the mage surrounding us. I also couldn't risk burning you. Are you alright?" She wiped her cheeks on her sleeves, sniffling. "You're crying." His voice cracked. She turned her head away. "Everyone is afraid of something."

After a moment, she pulled herself together. "It's alright. We're okay. How did you get away?" She asked him, relieved that neither of them was hurt. He replied, "I fade-stepped when I noticed the trap. I needed them all to reveal themselves. I would have warned you otherwise." He helped her to her feet. She gritted her teeth, "they're under orders to kill everyone passing through here. My guess is they have a base out here. We need to find it." Solas frowned, "We shouldn't-" she cut him off, "shut up, Solas. I'm not letting them terrorize anyone else." He gave a resigned sigh, "alright, da'avise. Where should we look?"

Isa reclaimed her bow and strapped it to her back, then started climbing up the rocky hill to get a better view. She reached the top and looked around. "There, campfire smoke to the north. We should head in that direction." She picked her way back down, catching Solas's concerned expression. She raised an eyebrow. He sucked in his cheeks, then huffed, "I'm not going to convince you otherwise, am I?" She shook her head.

They followed the road in silence. Solas was the one to break it. "What did they say to you?" Isa just shook her head, and they were silent once more. It didn't take long to reach the main camp. It was crawling with bandits, and many of them had large war hammers. "This is going to be interesting," Isa muttered. Solas took out a vial of lyrium potion and drank it. "I will freeze them, shatter them with your arrows, as many as you can before they break out. She nodded and readied herself. She would slaughter them.

And slaughter them she did. She wasted no time when Solas cast a massive freezing spell over the camp, firing arrows at a rapid rate, shattering bandit after bandit. Those that were left were easily picked off. Then the reinforcements came, men in the tunnel beyond that heard the commotion. Their armor was thick, and all Isa's arrows did was slow them down. Solas's magic was limited after such a massive spell. Isa dove for one of the hammers of the fallen. It was as big as she was. With all her might she began to spin around with it until it had enough momentum that she let it go flying into the men, knocking them down like bowling pins. She drew a small dagger from her belt and darted over, ripping the helmets off of them and slitting their throats. She could only get half of them before one grabbed her hair and ripped her off her feet. Damn, it was not her day.

Solas downed another lyrium potion, his last one, and sent lightning through their bodies. It was enough. Isa fell to the ground as her captor perished. She was quick to get to her feet. "Hahren," she began before he could scold her for the bad idea in the first place, "when we get back to Haven, teach me magic." He simply nodded.

They checked the camp, then the valley beyond, and when they spotted a dragon, they noped the fuck out of there. Isa knew when not to push her luck.

So they headed back south. The refugees still needed food, after all. Finally, something Isa could handle with ease. The hunter stalked her prey at a distance, pulling off some impressive shots. It was nice to spend time in Solas's company when they weren't in battle. He talked about some of his adventures in the fade, and Isa was content to listen. They pulled one of the abandoned carts from the roads and loaded a few rams onto it. The skins could be used for warmth as well. They each took a side and hauled the cart back to the crossroads, exhausted by the end of the day. On the way back, Isa even came across a doll made of a grain sack and some buttons, and brought it back to the little girl that had lost it.

Chapter Text

"You have to focus, da'len," Solas scolded once again. "I'm trying!" Isa growled and gripped the apprentice staff they had found for her. Cullen wore his Templar armor to the side and held his shield, just in case. A dummy was between them. They were in a clearing in the woods a bit away from Haven, trying to get Isa to connect to the fade. She had such an easy time of it while she slept, but being awake was something else. "I don't think this is going to work." Even with the staff, there was just nothing. Not even a spark.

Solas scowled, "of course it won't if you don't believe it will. You have to want it. Imagine the fire at your fingers." Isa even tried closing her eyes. Nothing. Cullen cleared his throat, "Maybe she was just exposed to lyrium? There are dwarves like that." Solas shook his head, "dwarves don't dream, Commander." Cullen shrugged, giving Isa a sympathetic look. They had been at it for hours. Solas was a demanding teacher.

"Defend yourself," Solas hurled a ball of ice at her. Isa dove out of the way. "No! Stand and stop it!" Isa huffed and tried, but only succeeded in getting the wind knocked out of her. "Again!" Isa tried, trying to bring her will to a focal point, but it didn't seem to do anything. Solas stopped, scowling so hard his brows could have knit a sweater. "Commander, stand behind her. Isa, pretend that Cullen is Vhera, and I am attacking her. You are the only thing standing in the way." Isa put the scenario in her head. Solas hurled some magic at her, and she took it to the chest again and again. It hurt a lot, the ice stinging her skin through her clothing, but still no magic from her. "Solas, I don't think-" Cullen put his hands on Isa's shoulders as she stumbled back. Solas's staff began to glow with fire. "Isa, command this fire to stop, or it will consume both you and the commander. Vhera will burn."

It was as if someone had flipped a switch. The fireball hurled towards her. She braced her feet, put the hand with the staff out, and felt her aura explode. Her eyes flashed like molten gold. From deep within her, her voice boomed, "STOP!" The staff exploded in her hand, and a blast of force radiated out from her, blowing the fireball, as well as Solas, into the snowbank, the sound echoing around the valley, leaving nothing short of a small crater in a semicircle in front of her and nothing but splinters in her hand.

"Solas!" Cullen released her shoulders and ran over to where Solas was pulling himself out of the snow, an incredulous look on his face. Isa stood in shock, had she really done that? "What the FUCK?" She opened her hand, releasing the shards of wood there. Cullen pulled his helmet off, "what in the name of the Maker was that?" Solas, though a little shaken, was otherwise unharmed. After the shock wore off, a rare grin crossed his face. "That was incredible, da'avise! I've never seen anything like it."

Cullen approached her, "how are you feeling?" Isa blinked, still a little startled. "I… I don't know." Solas knelt down and examined the shards of the staff. "I wonder… I must consult one of my spirit friends about this. This is highly unusual." He looked up at Isa, a sincere look of pride on his handsome face. "Well done, da'len." A slight smile flitted across her lips, her cheeks burning.

"What was that?" Cassandra burst out of the trees, sword brandished. "Are we under attack?" Cullen raised a hand, "it's alright Cassandra, just working out a bit of magic. I've got it under control." Cassandra let out a stressed sigh, "haven't we had enough magical explosions?" Isa burst into a fit of giggles at that.
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Though they continued to practice, they couldn't manage to repeat what had happened, since they didn't know what the trigger was. Finally, Isa caved. "Hahren, please, it's nearly dark, I'm starving!" Solas gave her a stern look, but Cullen agreed, "we have been at it all day. One victory is enough to start out with. Besides, the trip to Val Royeaux is tomorrow-" "We aren't going," Solas interrupted. Cullen seemed surprised, and looked at Isa for confirmation. She nodded, "The chantry is already going to have to swallow the presence of one elf, we figured it best not to push them. But-," She crinkled her nose at Solas, "I think it is time to stop." Solas nodded, "very well, but I will be waking you up early." Isa groaned and looked to the Commander for help, but he carefully avoided her puppyish gaze.

They made their way back to Haven; Vhera met them at the gates. She greeted Isa with a hug, "Cassandra told me what happened. You just keep getting weirder," she teased. Isa poked right back, "I'm not the one who glows." Vhera grinned and turned to Solas, "how was it? Anything else happen?" The two had already built a mutually respectful friendship. Solas shook his head, "we could not repeat the results. We will be trying again in the morning." Isa pouted.

They ate together with Varric, Cassandra, Blackwall, and the advisors. Isa found herself to dead tired, and didn't even finish her meal before excusing herself and slinking off to bed.

Isa soon found herself in the fade, only it was different somehow. She was definitely dreaming, but it didn't feel quite right. How odd. She wandered around. She found herself in the doorway of a pleasant sitting room, listening to a conversation between Solas and what she somehow knew to be a spirit of wisdom. Of course, that's what was off. This wasn't her dream.

"I knew of a woman once," the spirit spoke, in the form of an older woman, "who had died in battle, but was kept alive by a spirit of faith. Perhaps your friend is something similar? From what I have seen, I do not think she is truly a mage." Solas leaned back in his chair, one ankle resting on his knee, his elbows on the arms and his fingers linked together. "I have not met a spirit that isn't a demon that has such raw power outside of the fade. Besides, wouldn't she have to have been a mage to be possessed by a spirit?" The spirit shrugged, "I have heard of Templars succumbing to demons of desire." The spirit paused, taking a moment to consider. "How old is she?" Solas replied, "as far as Vhera knows, she is in her twenties," "You cradle robber," the spirit teased him. Solas cleared his throat pointedly and continued despite the interruption, "but they found her, so I do not know. However, she has grown at a normal rate since they found her, so perhaps she was under some sort of time spell that kept her from aging until the seal of her chamber was broken?" The spirit considered that, "but who would have put her there, and why?"

Isa was filled with questions, but she knew she was intruding as it was. She stayed silent, hidden by the shadows of the doorway. Could they truly solve the mystery of her existence? Wait, what did the spirit mean by cradle robber? Her ears burned, and she shook her head to clear it. Now was not the time for such things. It was far too easy to develop crushes on mentors, figures of authority.

"I was not aware you invited other spirits to join us," the spirit turned her head towards the door where Isa was hiding. Isa froze, her heart pounding. "I did not," Solas's voice lowered. Isa turned and bolted, and in her panic, she managed to wake herself up, bolting upright in bed. She took a few frigid breaths and relaxed. She hadn't been caught. Probably.

She settled back down in her warm blankets, smiling to herself. When she fell asleep, she dreamed of dancing under high arches and crystal spires to a tune long forgotten to time.

Chapter Text

Isa was aware of him the instant he entered the cabin, but she kept her eyes closed, curious about how he would wake her. Solas had come to rouse her for their early start to a day of magic training, of course, but after her dream walking the night before, her curiosity got the best of her. Would he wake her gently? Would he even dare to touch her shoulder to shake her?

"Still asleep?" His voice was soft, so he wouldn't wake Vhera, who snored quietly on the other side of the cabin. "Oh, da'avise, when will you learn I cannot be so easily decieved?" There was a draft on her foot, sending a shiver up her spine, then the weight on the cot shifted. What was that by her leg? "You can ignore me all you like, but when you sleep, you don't hold your breath."

That bastard had put a snake in her bed. She shot up with a start, muffling her screech with her hands, scooting up away from it, glaring daggers at him. The trickster's eyes were alight with humor, the slightest smirk rested on his chiseled features as he stifled a laugh. She tossed back her blankets and grabbed the harmless grass snake by the head, tossing the poor creature at him. He caught it and motioned for her to get up and follow. She grumbled and pulled on her boots and a coat while he released the snake outside.

Isa missed her warm bed dearly as soon as she set foot outside. It was a cold, cold morning, and the wind was whipping through Haven mercilessly. The sun wasn't even over the horizon yet, and the sky was illuminated mostly by the breach. "Solas, why do we have to be up so early?" Solas didn't reply, earning a grumble from Isa. He reached into his satchel and produced a pastry wrapped in a cloth napkin. "Here," his voice was warm and friendly. "I hope you like raspberries." Isa lit up at the sight of the treat, "Ma serannas," she made quick work, soon licking the last of the jelly off of her fingers. Solas reached over and brushed her cheek with his fingers, "you've got crumbs on your face, da'len." Her cheeks flared bright red. She cleared her throat, drinking some water from the skin she had brought. "Where are we going?" "Back to your little crater," Solas answered nonchalantly. "I'm going to give you a little lyrium and see if that helps your connection to the fade." "Lyrium? Is that such a good idea?"

"Well, I didn't think so," Cullen was waiting for them a little ways down the trail, bright and peppy so early in the morning, "but it might help stabilize the connection instead of having a sudden burst like yesterday. Good morning." "Good morning, Cullen," Isa returned the greeting and followed them to the crater. Solas rolled the stiffness of the morning out of his shoulders, "no staff today. I think it's safer with the lyrium." Cullen seemed relieved. Isa didn't quite like the idea that he feared her.

Solas handed Isa a small bottle of glowing blue lyrium. "Here. Drink up, all at once." Isa uncorked it, shifting uneasily on her feet, and downed it like a shot. It didn't really have a taste, but it made her tongue tingle. At first, nothing happened, but then Isa closed her eyes, and began to hear something. A soft song, a gentle hum in her head, an ancient rumble from the very depths of the earth that seemed to flow up through her, growing louder until it was all she could hear. It was a pleasant song, no words, just a hymn from lungs of iron and stone carried through the blood of the earth.

"Isa?" She opened her eyes to Solas's concerned expression. The song faded, but it was still there, singing to her in the back of her mind. It was oddly soothing. "It sings." She stated. Solas seemed surprised at that. He quickly hid his expression. "Let's try a little magic. Here, I'm going to summon a flame, take it from my hand." He held out a small flame to her. Isa reached for it, but it was too hot, she couldn't get close enough. The lyrium didn't seem to help.

She caught a figure out of the corner of her eye. She turned to look, but there was nothing there. She shook her head, trying to focus, but she saw it again as soon as she looked away. Cullen cleared his throat, but Solas held up a hand to silence him. Isa ignored them, trying to focus on whatever she was seeing. Slowly, as if through a fog, a shape came into form on the edge of the clearing. It was as if she was in the fade, watching a memory, of what? There was a woman, she looked familiar somehow, and she was fighting? What was she fighting? Isa took a step closer, she just wanted to touch the stone the woman was standing on. She went over and stood where the woman stood, and looked where she looked.

She shrieked as a dragon dove at her.

As soon as she had seen it, it was gone, and a very confused Cullen was in its place. "Are you alright? What did you see?" Solas stood behind him, deep in thought. "The Hero of Ferelden fought a high dragon here," Isa muttered, feeling rather bewildered. The song was fading, and she was feeling very tired. She sat down right there, her eyes feeling heavy. Cullen looked at Solas, at a loss. Isa laid down on the ground, deciding it was a good time for a nap.

Chapter Text

It had been a few days since the incident with the dragon vision, and Solas was still a harsh teacher; they had backtracked to book studies and the theory of magic. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, warm enough to start melting the snow, but Isa was inside Solas's cabin at a desk, reading on a mage's connection to the fade. She didn't even want to be a mage, and if it weren't for Vhera, she wouldn't put up with all this, but Solas was right. Sometimes, arrows wouldn't cut it.

Speaking of Vhera, she was supposed to return from Val Royeaux that day, hopefully with good news. Isa found herself staring out the window above the desk, wondering if they had bought anything while they were in the city. Lord knows they had enough spare coin from looting bandits and Templars and mages in the Hinterlands and selling their stuff. It's not grave robbing if they're not in a grave.

"You can't read if your eyes aren't on the book, da'avise," Solas scolded her gently. He sat on his bunk, sketching something in his notebook. He sketched a lot of things. Occasionally Isa caught a glance, usually of a plant or some oddity they came across, but mostly he kept it to himself. She let out a heavy sigh, "ir abelas," she smiled to herself and said under her breath, "elvar masa."* Solas raised an eyebrow and she gulped, hoping he hadn't heard her. "You certainly know more elvish than most of the Dalish I have come across. Where did you learn?" Isa shrugged, "my clan is pretty good about our history," she ignored his slightly irked look, "I guess I just pick it up from different clans. We travelled a lot." Solas let out a "hmm" and went back to sketching.

Isa watched him out of the corner of her eye. Spending so much time together had really fed her attraction to him. She watched his jaw shift as he concentrated, and his tongue stuck out slightly as his wrist flicked, his fingers delicately forming his image on the page. Then he glanced up, and their eyes met.

It never had occurred to Isa that he might be drawing her. She got a slight smile. "What are you drawing, hahren?" Solas kept his expression neutral. "Respectful now that we want something, are we? I thought I was elvar masa." Isa snorted a bit, "you did hear me." "You were not quiet."

Isa stood, stretching her arms above her head. Solas started to close his notebook. "I want to see," Isa crossed the cabin, peering over. He snapped the book shut. "No." Isa pouted, "why not? What are you drawing?" His cheeks flushed pink and he avoided her gaze. "It is nothing for you to trouble yourself with, da'len."

"I'm not a child, hahren."

"Then respect your elders, da'avise."

"Why don't you make me?" Isa was feeling a little stir crazy after reading for a few hours. Solas raised his eyebrows. He stood up, and Isa found herself in very close proximity, fighting the blush creeping up her neck. His steely gaze met hers, and she felt a whole different kind of crazy. His voice lowered and he almost growled, "tel'esay em."** Isa didn't actually know what he said, but she knew it was a challenge, so she moved forward until her chest was almost touching his. She could feel his steady breathing against her face. Her heart was pounding. The fire in his gaze threatened to melt her.

The tension was broken by a knock on the door. The smirk on Solas's face was absolutely sinful as he slipped past her, notebook tucked safely under his arm, heading over to the door. Isa's face flushed red and she hid it in her hands, feeling giddy. She got herself under control as she head Varric's voice at the door. "We're back! Vhera's in a meeting to report on what happened, but she sent me to make sure you haven't killed our favourite little sniper here."

"Varric!" Isa grinned and ran to him, hugging him tightly. "Solas has been so horrible to me, I've been in here for hours, save me from this nightmare!" Solas rolled his eyes, "reading is not going to kill you." "It's gonna kill me!" Varric laughed, patting Isa's back, "let's run while we can." "Do not encourage her, Varric." Varric took her hand and they bolted, running through Haven to Vhera's cabin, Isa giggling the whole way.

Once they settled down, Isa filled Varric in on the events of the past few days, mainly how she had blown Solas into a snowbank and hadn't been able to do anything since. She left out walking in Solas's dream. That was best kept to herself. Varric, in turn, filled her in on what had happened in Val Royeaux, how the Templars and Lord Seeker had been there and had struck down a Revered Mother right there in front of everyone and had left Val Royeaux, but the chantry threat was dealt with.

"Oh, and Vhera got you a present." Varric winked, a sly grin on his face. Isa lit up, excited, "what did she get?" "Nope, my lips are sealed, kid. You can wait until she gets out of that meeting." Isa giggled, "I guess I can wait."

"Wait no longer!" Vhera burst through the door, and Isa leapt into her arms, squeezing her tightly. "You're back!" Vhera returned the embrace, "yes, and I brought you something! I know you like to make your own bows, so I got you a few things, if Solas will let you have some spare time before we go to Redcliffe." She went to the foot of her bed and handed Isa a large box. Isa sat down and opened it. Inside was a whole dragon bone, along with some bow string. Isa's jaw dropped. "Vhera! This must have cost you a fortune!" Vhera shrugged, "if the future is anything like the Hinterlands, we'll get it back in no time. It's supposedly cursed too, so I got it at a steal. Apparently the dragon was an abbysal dragon tainted with lyrium. I don't think such a thing exists and shem just want to sell bones, but I thought you might like it." Isa hugged her once again, "thank you so much!"

"Now you'll never finish that book," Solas leaned in the doorframe, a pleasant smile on his face. Isa smiled sheepishly, "sorry for running out on you. If I had to read one more page I was going to go crazy." Solas raised an eyebrow, but otherwise didn't respond. Isa's cheeks flared, and she looked away, instead picking up the bone. As soon as she touched it, she could hear a heartbeat, along with the beating of wings, and could see an ancient battle. These images were gone as soon as they appeared, replaced with the faintest song. Maybe it really did have lyrium in it. Isa couldn't wait to start carving.

Chapter Text

Cursed or not, the bone was perfect for carving a bow, and Isa was nothing short of a master, having done so many times for her clan in the past. The first day of carving the basic shape she could do while she was reading, which pleased Solas. It was about lunch time, and she was reading on the various types of demons one might encounter in the fade, while skilled fingers whittled away at the bone resting on her leg. It was starting to take the shape of a bow at that point. She even carved sharp blades into it in case she needed to beat someone with it.

"You've been a diligent student today, da'avise," Solas broke the silence, looking up from a book of his own. Isa stopped her motions, looking over at him, as if breaking out of a trance. "Oh. I guess keeping my hands busy helps." Solas nodded thoughtfully. "Would you like to take a break and get something to eat? I'm rather hungry myself." Isa nodded, standing and cracking her back. "I've been sitting still for too long." She left the bone on the desk, and Solas waved his hand, casting a barrier over it. Isa doubted anyone would steal it, but she was glad for the precaution. They left the cabin together, making their way to the makeshift tavern. "Do you think you'll finish your bow before we head to Redcliffe?" Solas asked, dropping a few coins on the counter for a couple of bowls of soup. He was very kind to her.

"I'm not going to Redcliffe." Isa declared. Solas seemed surprised, "I thought you would want to get out of Haven when you got the chance." Isa nodded, "I do, but while Vhera goes to Redcliffe, she asked me to look into the red lyrium in the western road fortress and possible carta activity with Varric and Blackwall, then if we have extra time, we're going to look for a circle tome for First Enchanter Vivienne, the mage who came back with them from Val Royeaux." Solas frowned, sitting at a table near the corner of the tavern. "You are going without a mage?" Isa let out a light laugh. "We don't need mages for everything, Solas. I am not helpless." "I am aware," Solas began to eat his soup. Isa sat next to him, perhaps a little closer than she should have, and ate her own. It was gamey, probably ram, but delicious, and the heat was welcome. "But yes," Isa said, "I will finish my bow within two days, if I keep sleep to a minimum and you don't bombard me with too much work."

Solas rubbed his temple. "I am concerned for you," he began. "You must be a mage, there isn't any other explanation, but you're very unusual." Isa put her fingers on his arm. "You don't have to push it so hard. I don't need magic. Maybe I can't solve everything with arrows, but that's what you're for, right?" Solas smiled at her, chuckling softly. "Inanshain."* Isa tilted her head, but Solas just continued with his meal.

Maryden, the bard, entered the tavern, tuning her lute. Isa perked up, she liked music, and Maryden had a lovely voice. It reminded her of when she and Vhera were children and would sing together. They even knew a few shemlen songs, and had used them as sort of a common ground with villages their clan passed through. Maryden began to strum her lute and sing, and Isa was delighted when she recognized the song.

**"I am flesh and I am bone,

Rise up ting ting like glitter and gold"

Isa began to play the drum beat for it on the table, humming softly. Maryden flashed a knowing smile her way.

"I've got fire in my soul

Rise up, ting ting like glitter

Isa began to sing along softly, smiling ear to ear.

Do you walk in the valley of kings?

Do you walk in the shadow of men

Who sold their lives to a dream?

Do you ponder the manner of things

In the dark

The dark, the dark, the dark"

Maryden sat on the stool she played on and nudged the drum in Isa's direction, motioning her over with her head. Isa couldn't resist. She hurried over, sitting in a chair and tucking the drum under her arm. It was almost like singing with Vhera again, and she was able to harmonize well with Maryden.

Solas was entranced, resting his chin in his hands and openly staring.

"Do you walk in the meadow of spring?

Do you talk to the animals?

Do you hold their lives from a string?

Do you ponder the manner of things

In the dark

The dark, the dark, the dark

I am flesh and I am bone

Arise, ting ting, like glitter and gold

I've got fire in my soul

Rise up, ting ting, like glitter

I am flesh and I am bone

Arise, ting ting, like glitter and gold

I've got fire in my soul

Rise up, ting ting, like glitter"

Maryden finished the last few notes of the song and turned to Isa, "you've got a real knack for that drum. You should join me more often." Isa glowed with the praise, "thanks for letting me join you." Maryden nodded, and Isa tossed her a coin before rejoining Solas, who had what looked like a loving smile on his face. It made Isa blush.

Lunch didn't take long to finish, and soon they headed back to Solas's cabin. To Isa's surprise, he closed the large tome on the desk. "Let's not worry about that for now. You'll need to finish that bow, da'avise." Isa grinned and sat down, taking the bone in her grasp and the whittling knife in her hand, getting back to work. Strands of hair fell in her face, but she was too concentrated to notice. She and Solas sat in comfortable silence.

Chapter Text

Isa didn't know Blackwall all that well yet, but the silence they walked in was comfortable, broken only by Varric muttering about how those damned long legs needed to slow down. Finally Isa suggested, "you could ride on our warden's shoulders." Blackwall let out a short laugh, "I will not be ridden into battle, thank you."

Varric huffed. "Why couldn't I have gone with the Herald? They headed for the Storm Coast first, something about a mercenary band, and they were smart enough to bring horses." Isa rolled her eyes, "We've been over this, Varric. We had to leave the horses because if the carta attacks we need to be on our feet, and we don't need horses around red lyrium, now do we?" Varric scratched his chin, "can we at least stop for a break? We've been walking for a while now." Isa nodded, sitting on the side of the road on a rock.

She had finished her bow before they left. It was truly a thing of beauty, wonderfully carved bone with perfect balance, sharp blades and points on the ends, a good grip wrapped in halla leather, and it sang to her softly. She was in love with it, and so far it had served her well.

They had already destroyed the red lyrium in the old fortress on the west road with explosives. Its song was very unsettling to Isa, different from normal lyrium. It made her very uncomfortable. She was glad to see it destroyed, as was Varric. Now, they were on their way to some waterfall in the hills where there was supposedly a carta hideout.

Blackwall leaned against a nearby tree, gazing down the road, keeping an eye out for trouble, though the Hinterlands were relatively safe at that point. Varric took a moment to get a pebble out of his boot. He seemed irritated. "Is something bothering you, Varric?" Isa asked softly. Varric let out a deep sigh. "The red lyrium. I thought I had seen the last of the stuff, and now it's everywhere." Isa put a hand on his shoulder, "that's what explosives are for." Varric laughed a bit, "I'm always down for blowing shit up, kid."

"We should keep moving," Blackwall commented, running his gloved fingers through his hair. "We're burning daylight." Isa shrugged, "yeah, but we're in no rush. Don't worry, we'll get the bad guys." She stood, stretching her arms above her head. Her feet were sore as well, and they still had to look for the circle tome before meeting the others at Redcliffe.

They kept moving, eventually reaching the waterfall mentioned in the note they had found on a carta member's body. Inside was an old dwarven outpost, and it was crawling with carta. However, with two skilled archers and a bear of a warrior leading the way, it was little effort to clear them out and take their treasure. What they weren't expecting was the darkspawn. They were coming up from below, not a whole lot of them, but enough to worry Isa. "Blackwall, how many are we facing?" "It's hard to tell," he called out as he drove his sword through another. "Come on, we've got to find the hole they're crawling out of and seal it! Keep your mouths closed, you don't want to ingest any of their blood!"

So they fought their way down, lips tightly sealed, until they finally reached the source, a hole in the rocky walls where a darkspawn emissary was waiting for them. "Shit," Varric grumbled and shot at it. "There's no way we can build a barrier and fight darkspawn at the same time!" Isa gulped, "I've gotta try magic! Can you two keep it busy?" "We can," Blackwall charged the thing, bashing into it with his shield.

Isa stepped over the pile of rubble, trying to recall Solas's lessons. Nothing. Of course they didn't have any lyrium. Isa closed her eyes and tried to focus, but the sounds of the others fighting the darkspawn made it difficult.

"Isa," Varric called out, just as she felt a knarled claw sink into her shoulder. "Just command the rocks!" "Like that's going to help, Varric," Blackwall grunted, "now get the damn darkspawn off of her!" Isa's eyes flashed and the rocks around her began to rumble, sliding up and into place, sealing the hole and crushing the darkspawn trying to crawl out of it.

Once the euphoria faded, she let out a cry of pain. There was, after all, a darkspawn claw in her shoulder, and a darkspawn still attached to it. Blackwall quickly beheaded the thing, "Isa!" He guided her to sit down, looking extremely worried. "Just relax, let me take a look. Varric, keep a look out, there may be more lingering."

Blackwall pulled off his gloves. He didn't warn her as he jerked the claw out of her shoulder. She let out a screech and brought her other hand up to her face, biting her sleeve. "Son of a whore, Blackwall, you could have warned me!" "Apologies, but you would have tensed up if I had. Now hold still, I need to make sure there wasn't any darkspawn blood on the claw." Varric chimed in, "that was the emissary; it should be fine." Blackwall looked slightly relieved, "still, better safe than sorry. The blight is no joke." He took a flask out of his pocket and poured a little alcohol on the wound. She bit harder on her sleeve, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Varric started talking, probably to distract her as Blackwall patched up the wound. "You know, I think I've come up with a good nickname for you. What do you think of Bones?" "Bones?" Isa let her arm fall to her side. "Why Bones?" He flashed a smile at her, "you've got a spine of iron, you literally shoot arrows with a bone, and you could stand to eat a few more desserts. Plus, they found you in a tomb, didn't they?" Isa let a small smile dance across her face. "Alright."

Blackwall finished patching the wound. He reached up to her face, wiping the tears from her cheeks in a moment of surprising tenderness. He only succeeded in smearing her own blood on her face, but she appreciated the gesture and only laughed, "war paint it is." Blackwall smiled a bit, "sorry. Here, I think I've got a cloth here somewhere." Varric cut in, "probably drenched in sweat and darkspawn blood, I think you should pass, Bones." Blackwall pulled his gloves back on, "Come on, we've still got to find that circle tome." He offered her a hand and pulled her to her feet.

Varric looked thoughtful. "I know it's a weird thing to say, but the blood on the face works for you. Reminds me of Hawke." Isa laughed a bit, "well next time I'll try to make sure it's not my own blood." Blackwall looked embarrassed and led the way out of the outpost.

They made their way down through the crossroads, got a bite to eat, and headed up the East road where the tome had last been seen. Isa's intuition kicked in as they passed under a crumbling road arch. The ladder to the tower had long since fell apart, so it looked like she was climbing up.

"What are you doing?" Blackwall asked as she began setting her bow and quiver down on the side of the road. "Rock climbing," she replied, rubbing her gloved hands together. Fortunately, the crumbling meant there were plenty of grips. It also meant she had no way of knowing which ones were sturdy and which wouldn't support her. "You're crazy, Bones. Why?" "I think the tome is up here. Call it a hunch."

Isa made her way carefully up the side of the tower, taking care not to put too much strain on her injured shoulder, though it seemed to be doing fine after the walk. She reached the top. Sure enough, there was a large red book in decent condition. "Alright, it's coming down!" She dropped it over the edge. Blackwall caught it and put it down next to her stuff. "Be careful coming down. This thing looks like it could collapse at any minute."

Isa swung her leg over the side, finding foothold, and slowly picking her way back down the tower. She made it about halfway down when she slipped, letting out a shriek, "SOD IT ALL!" She plummeted down. It's true what they say, a fall feels so much longer than it is.

She never hit the ground. Instead, she hit Blackwall, who caught her in his arms. They tumbled to the ground, shaken but unharmed. Isa sat up, feeling like the wind had been knocked out of her. Blackwall huffed, his mustache puffing with indignation, "stop hurting yourself!" He still had his arms around her firmly, and she was practically in his lap.

Isa grinned, "hey, at least I've got you watching out for me."
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They reached Redcliffe just as the sun was setting. They met Vhera, Solas, Cassandra, and Vivienne, who were on their way to the inn. "How did it go?" Varric asked. Vhera's lips were in a taunt line, "we've got some… developments. I'll tell you about it over supper." Vivienne cut in, "did you find the tome?" Isa nodded as Blackwall produced the book from his pack. Vivienne looked delighted, "oh thank you darling, I hope it wasn't too much trouble!" Varric laughed, and Isa shot a playful glare in his direction. "And the carta?" Vhera asked. "Taken care of," Isa replied, "as well as a hole to the deep roads. We had a run in with dark spawn." Vhera's eyes widened, "were any of you hurt? Isa, there's blood on your face!" "Warpaint!" Isa exclaimed with delight, grinning. Blackwall let out a short laugh.

"Bones here certainly had an interesting time. Chuckles, you'd be proud, she got some magic going for a moment there. Probably gonna have a hell of a scar," Varric reached up, patting Isa's back. "It's not that big of a deal," Isa said, "just a little injury, clean, no taint. But I did manage some magic!" Solas seemed pleased, "you'll have to tell me about it, see if we can figure out what caused it."

"Yes, well, we can discuss this with full bellies," Blackwall patted his gut and started moving towards the inn. The rest followed, eager to hear about what went on with Fiona.

Chapter Text

"So tell me exactly what happened, from the beginning." They were back at Haven after the meeting at Redcliffe, planning for the next step in freeing the mages from the Magister's grasp. Isa was out in the crater with Solas and Blackwall, since Cullen was in the war room. Solas was trying to figure out how to activate Isa's magic. Since Blackwall was there, he figured he could help.

"We were under attack by the dark spawn, and Varric told me to try and use my magic to seal the hole. I couldn't do it at first, then the darkspawn drove a claw through my shoulder and suddenly it worked." Solas frowned as he thought. "Pain perhaps? No, because you weren't in pain the first time. A fear response? That would make a little more sense, but I doubt it would be quite so… controlled. Your magic does exactly what you want it to do in the moment, and little else, with the exception of blowing me back into the snow, but that was a mere side effect of stopping the fire ball, just as crushing the darkspawn was a side effect of moving the rocks into place."

Blackwall twisted his beard in his fingers, looking thoughtful. "I don't know if this helps, but what Varric specifically said was 'just command the rocks.' I thought he was full of shit at the time. Maybe this idea of commanding things with magic is the key?" Solas nodded slowly, bringing his hand to his chin, his other hand resting on his elbow as he thought. "it's worth a try." He gestured to a boulder at the edge of the clearing. "Command that rock to move." Isa tried to focus on the boulder and repeated the word command in her head. Nothing happened. She even put her hand out. She let out a defeated sigh. Blackwall gave her a sympathetic look, "maybe it's a certain combination of things?" Isa was frustrated, "it's impossible. There are so many circumstances, I don't get it. I'm certainly no mage, so what is going on?" "Have patience, da'avise." Solas put a hand on her shoulder, and the boulder flung itself across the clearing. Isa nearly jumped out of her skin.

They stood in stunned silence for a moment, broken only by an Inquisition soldier coming out of the treeline. "Miss Lavellan? The Herald requests your presence in the war room. You are to lead a strike team to infiltrate Redcliffe castle." Isa's frustration turned to elation. "I'll be right there." She turned to Solas. "I think I've got it. I've got to hear a command, and I've got to be touching something with a link to the fade. The first time, it was Cullen, since there was still lyrium in his system. He had his hands on my shoulders. Then it was the darkspawn emissary. This time, it was you! I think I've got it!" Solas didn't seem quite as pleased, changing the subject. "Leading a strike team? What is she thinking? This isn't child's play."

Isa rolled her eyes. "Creators, hahren, you don't know me at all. I may have been peaceful, but I am no stranger to war. Demons may be new, but you seem to be forgetting how very effective I am against humans." She turned her back to him. "I am no child, and you would do well to get your head out of the fade and see what's in front of you. You don't need to be a mage to be a force of nature, and the Dalish aren't failures at everything."

She left him there, baffled. Blackwall stifled his laugh, "she's right, you know. From what Vhera was saying, when humans attacked their clan, Isa was usually chosen to lead the counter-attack. She may be your student, but she is a trained hunter. Besides," his face fell a little bit. "You just shut her down hard. She was excited and you ignored that. You should apologize."
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Isa was fuming as she made her way back to Haven. Solas was so blind sometimes. Of course, he only saw her as a student, a child, someone who needed protecting in battle. How could he not see that she actually knew what she was doing when it came to some things? Sure, she was no mage, and everything he knew was new to her, but put a bow in her hand and a few good men at her side and she could win a battle without breaking a sweat. Demons were new, but she was getting better. She was just so frustrated. It was hard, coming to the realization that the man she had come to hold affection for thought of her as a child, and nothing more.

She felt something in her harden, and came to a resolution. She would get to the point where she no longer needed a few good men to win a battle. After Redcliffe, she'd go to Cassandra, Blackwall, anyone who could teach her more. She would do more than just fire arrows. She'd learn to wield a sword and shield. She'd learn from Josephine, from Leliana, from Cullen. She wanted to be better. She could be more useful to Vhera as well.

And she'd do it all without magic.

Isa burst into the war room like a storm cloud, startling those within. She quickly softened her expression, "my apologies, I didn't mean to startle you." Vhera smiled at her, "Solas getting to you?" "How'd you guess?" Vhera gave her a knowing smile. "Come on, let's get planning. There's another way into the castle, and you and Dorian are going to lead the agents inside."

Finally, Isa was in her comfort zone. Dorian was standing next to her in the small meeting room off to the side in the chantry, and in front of her were eight of Leliana's best. She had learned each of their names, and now they were planning their attack with what little knowledge they had. It wasn't much, but it was enough. They would split into two groups, Dorian leading half and Isa leading the other half with an amulet that would hide them from the magical wards likely placed on the castle. It would be quick and deadly. By the time they finished, it was late at night. "Alright, we head out tomorrow. Get a good night's rest, and be ready. Remember, I'm trusting each and every one of you with my life. I hope you'll do the same." Isa sent them off.

"You're experienced with this sort of thing," Dorian commented, walking out of the chantry with her. Isa nodded, "most of the time the humans would leave our clan in peace, but occasionally they would get aggressive. Normally we'd just move on, but sometimes they'd take our hunters prisoner before we could. I was very effective at extraction, and there was always harsh punishment to follow up with." Dorian nodded, "fair enough. Well, I'll see you in the morning." Isa wished him a good night. She stood on the steps to the chantry, looking up at the sky, watching her breath rise in clouds into the night.

"Da'avise?" She looked to her left, where Solas stood under the lantern. "On dhea'lam, hahren."* She greeted him rather coldly. She felt conflicted, still upset with him, but the lantern cast shadows over his features that made him look rather alluring. "Walk with me?" He asked. She followed him silently.

"I…" The words seemed to catch in his throat as they made their way through Haven, out to the woods. "I would like to apologize for what I said earlier. I did not mean to offend you." Isa didn't say anything, shoving her hands into the pockets of her coat. They followed a simple trail circling the lake. "You are right. I do not know as much about you as I would like. I have seen little but an inexperienced fighter against demons, a fledgling mage unaware of her own powers, a dreamer of clarity unable to control where she walks, and a young woman who does not remember her origins. I have forgotten that I've also seen a confident huntress, talented with a bow, inspiring among her companions, limitless in how many hits she can take for those she cares for. I let my own emotions cloud my judgement, and for that, I am sorry."

Isa stopped walking. Solas turned and looked at her. "Isa?" She let out a deep sigh. "It's alright, Solas. I forgive you. If anything, you made me realize I need to broaden my horizons. I am inexperienced in many things, and I want to fix that. I will do whatever it takes to make sure Vhera succeeds, and that hole in the sky is fixed." Solas's expression was blank. Isa shivered a bit, she didn't want to leave it at that. "Something's got to give. I want to practice magic, especially now that I think we've got the key, but it cant take up all of my time anymore. That," she took a step closer to him, "and I want to know you better as well." Solas raised an eyebrow.

Isa felt her heart pounding. She moved closer until she was as close as the day she demanded to see his notebook, though the mood was quite different. "I want you to know that I am not a child, though I am a willing student." She couldn't think clearly. "I want you to see me differently." His patient eyes sparked with something she didn't recognize. She leaned forward slightly. "I want…" It was now or never. It was part a childish whim, part failed impulse control, but she stood on her toes and brushed her lips to his lightly. As soon as she did, a blush exploded across her face, and she quickly turned away. "I- I'm sorry, I don't know what I was thinking, I just-"

"Da'avise, do you know what you've done?" His voice was low and made her shiver. He put one arm around her, pulling her closer. His other hand rested on the back of her neck and he kissed her deeply. She melted into his arms, her heart pounding in her ears, eyes fluttering shut. His kisses started out sweet, but they grew hungrier until he was kissing her breath away. She loved it. Sure, she had been kissed before, but never like this. Her shy hands made their way up to rest on his shoulders, squeezing them with trembling fingers.

He let her go, panting slightly, resting his forehead against hers. "I know you are no child," he murmured, his thumb brushing her cheek tenderly. "Perhaps I saw you that way so I wouldn't tempt myself." Isa crinkled her nose, "shut up, Solas." She kissed him again, wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing her chest to his. He was happy to kiss her back for a moment, then he pushed her away suddenly. "I shouldn't." He looked pained. Isa was confused. "What? Why not?" "I…" He shook his head. "It's hard to explain." Isa crossed her arms. "Oh no, you do not get to kiss me like that then tell me that you shouldn't. It doesn't work that way." He seemed surprised, then laughed, his expression an incredulous mix of relief and joy. "Alright, da'avise, you've got me. You should get to bed. You have a long ride tomorrow." He caught her hand in his, lifting it to his lips and leaving a gentle kiss on her fingers. "On era'vun, ina'lan'ehn."**

Isa made her way back to her cabin in a sort of trance. When she got there, Vhera was still awake, looking like the cat that got the canary. "So, you went on a midnight stroll with Solas?" Isa grinned and burst into a fit of squeals, telling her best friend all about it.

Chapter Text

Isa crept through the tunnels behind the walls of Redcliffe castle with her four agents in tow, making their way to the throne room. Any minute now, Vhera, Cassandra, and Vivienne would be welcomed into the throne room with Magister Alexius and, without a doubt, a trap. Isa held a small dagger in her gloved hand, painted so it wouldn't reflect light, and crept out of the tunnels into the shadow of the room. She motioned for the agents to position themselves. Her sharp eyes caught sight of the agents on the other side of the room doing the same. She could see Vhera and the others conversing with Alexius. She raised her hand, then dropped it slowly, and all at once, they silently slaughtered the Venatori agents, pulling them into the shadows and replacing them.

When Alexius called out for the Venatori to attack, there was no one to answer his call. "Venatori, I said attack them!" Isa stepped into the light, "No one's coming. Let's keep this civil, shall we?" It would seem she had gotten there right in the nick of time. Dorian emerged as well, "It's over, Alexius."

"Or is it?" Alexius brought out some sort of amulet. "No!" Dorian rushed forward to disrupt the spell, and he and Vhera were sucked in to whatever void was created.

There was a brief moment of silence, then they popped right out on the other side from a similar looking void, Dorian looking cocky. "You'll have to do better than that." Alexius fell to his knees, and Vhera demanded his surrender, appearing as confident as ever, but Isa knew better. She was shaken. What had happened?

Inquisition soldiers arrested Magister Alexius, to be locked away for judgement at a later time. Isa assumed their business was done there, until royal Ferelden guards marched into the room, followed by none other than King Alastair himself. Isa tuned out of the conversation, not really interested. She tucked the dagger back into her belt and waited, listening enough only to know that the mages were offered an alliance with the Inquisition. She figured that would be the case. Vhera would rather die than enslave anyone.
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Isa found out on the way back what had happened in that span of a few seconds that Dorian and Vhera were gone, about the horrible future they had seen. Vhera cried in her arms that night. It may have only been a glimpse, but it's not easy to watch people die and be able to do nothing about it.
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The next day was the beginning of settling the mages in and preparing to seal the breach, and Isa figured she would stay out of the way and find something else to do. So, she found Blackwall, and asked him to teach her how to beat the shit out of someone with a shield. He seemed a little surprised at the question, but willing enough to teach her. "Come on, I told Cullen I would oversee training some recruits anyway."

He gave her a practice wood shield and a dulled blade and put her up against an Inquisition recruit. "The first thing about fighting with a sword and shield is that the shield is far more important than the sword." Isa found that unusual, having only ever fought with daggers in close combat, but she was keeping an open mind. "Your sword is an extension of your arm, but your shield is an extension of your body and armor. It protects you, and it can be used as a weapon. Take turns striking at each other. Your shield arm is going to need to get used to taking hits. It's going to tingle, and it's going to hurt, but it's far better than taking the blow directly. Isa, take the blow first." Isa held up the shield, keeping her arm close but not too close to her body. The other man, one of the refugees from Redcliffe and a former farm hand, raised his sword and struck down hard. "Damn!" It did hurt like a bitch, and nearly knocked her off balance; the boy was strong. "Don't hold back, boy, practice like you play or you wont be able to when the time comes," Blackwall called out. "He was holding back?" Isa groaned and held up her shield. The full force of the strong man's blow knocked her back into the ring of recruits around them. They caught her and pushed her back in.

However, Isa was no weakling herself. Instead of coming down from above, she swung her sword from the side, knocking the recruit sideways. Such a direct blow made her arm tingle. This style of combat would certainly take getting used to. The farmhand had a bit of a temper, and swung again without direction. The other recruits goaded him on, and Blackwall just stood by, watching with a stern expression. Isa took a few blows to her shield, then rolled out of the way, before darting behind the man and driving her shoulder forward into the shield, into the man's back, knocking him flat on his face.

"You're not fighting another recruit, boy, just someone who isn't used to this style of combat. Don't get cocky, because she'll teach you some manners. Your strength does not mean automatic victory." Was that pride in Blackwall's voice? He certainly had a smile on his face as the man got to his feet. Isa rolled out her shoulders and readied herself again.

Isa trained for hours, getting better at wielding a shield and being in a confrontational combat role, but she was getting exhausted. How did Blackwall keep this up all day? She certainly was not weak or out of shape, but damn this was hard. She stepped to the side for some water, rubbing her sore arms. Rather suddenly, she found herself in the shade.

"What's an archer doing with a shield?" A deep voice came from somewhere above her. She turned around and looked up to see a massive Qunari man looking down at her. "You must be The Iron Bull," she greeted him, drinking some water. "Vhera told me about you. I'm Isa." "Good to meet you," Iron Bull nodded to her. "But you didn't answer my question."

"I'm broadening my horizons. You might find this hard to believe, but arrows are only good for so much." Isa leaned against a crate, grateful for the chill of Haven, since the hard work was making her sweat. "That's certainly interesting," Iron Bull commented. "You're doing well, for someone new and used to something else. I also like the combining of styles. It's working for you." "Thank you."

"Can I give you a few pointers?" Iron Bull asked. "Of course." Iron Bull handed her the shield and sword. He took her break time and made use of it, even teaching her how to fight if she ever lost her shield. A sword and a dagger were not the same thing. It was just the beginnings, but basics are the start of all great things. Isa's limbs were jelly by the time they were finished, and the sun was sinking low. "Thank you, Bull," Isa felt friendly with him by the end of it, a feeling he seemed to return. "No problem, Isa. Keep it up, you've got talent, and you've got drive. Those two rarely happen in the same person." He ruffled her hair, causing some strands to fall from her tight bun. She grinned, "wanna go get something to eat?" "Fuck yeah I do, I'm starving. Krem! Let's go eat!"

After supper, Isa desperately wanted to bathe, but she didn't have the energy to walk back and forth from the river to the fire to heat water and pour it in the tub. She dragged herself out of the tavern, feeling full, and stretched her sore limbs.

"You've had a busy day." The familiar voice brought a pink tinge to her cheeks. "Solas," she greeted him. "I'm going to feel it tomorrow." Solas chuckled, "would you like me to rub the soreness from your muscles?" Isa lit up, "you'd do that?" He nodded. She sighed, "I'd love that, but I need a bath first and I don't have the energy to drag water up and heat it and-" He cut her off. "You need a mage." Damn it, he was right.

Solas took her back to his cabin and filled a washtub for her, heating it, then put a blanket up as a makeshift curtain for her. She undressed and slipped into the water, letting out a content sigh. She let her hair down and dunked her head under the water, staying under for a moment before coming back up. "This is great. Thank you so much, Solas." "Of course," He said from the other side of the curtain.

He struck up conversation. "Have you met Sera?" Isa nodded, then remembered he couldn't see her. "Yes, I met her at supper. She's… different. I like her though, in doses." Solas chuckled softly, "yes, in doses." Isa smiled, leaning her head against the side of the wooden tub. She began absent-mindedly washing her arms. "How long until we close the breach?" Solas took a moment to respond. "I suppose we'll do it in two days. The mages aren't used to being equals with those around them, and thus are not used to having equal quarters. They've been a little demanding. Cassandra is annoyed." Isa leaned her head back, "oh well, as long as it gets done."

"What are your plans for tomorrow, da'avise?" Solas asked. Isa heard a page turn. He must have been reading. "In the morning, I'm doing some training with Cullen and Blackwall. I've asked Josephine to let me shadow her in the afternoon." "I did not know you were interested in politics." Isa laughed softly, "I wouldn't say I enjoy it thoroughly, but I have an interest, and it will be useful to Vhera." She heard Solas shifting around. "You are very loyal to her." Isa's smile softened. "We've been together for as long as I can remember. Now that she's had this destiny shoved in her face, I have to help her as much as I can. I'd never let anything harm her."

Isa stood, letting water drip off of her for a moment, then reaching for the towel. She dried off, feeling much better with the sweat washed off. She saw her own clothes, still sweaty and likely cold, and abandoned them in favour of one of Solas's tunics and a pair of his leggings. They were softer than she had expected.

"Those aren't yours," Solas murmured in her ear, his hot breath tickling her neck. She squeaked and blushed. "W-well I wasn't going to put my dirty clothes back on." She turned the tables on him, "though I could always go with no clothes at all." It was Solas's turn to blush. He cleared his throat. "Have a seat, I'll see what I can do about keeping the soreness at bay."

Triumphant, Isa settled herself in his chair, relaxing into his hands as he began to rub her shoulders. "Mmmm," she closed her eyes and leaned forward to give him more room. "That feels nice." Solas leaned down and planted a kiss on her head. "Good."

There was a knock on the door. "Isa, you had better be fully clothed!" It was Vhera. Isa laughed, "and what if I'm not?" Solas blushed and stated, "she is." Vhera entered the cabin, stomping snow off of her boots. "I need your help, lethallan," She began, shaking snow from her hair. Solas stepped aside as Vhera approached, picking up a hairbrush and brushing out Isa's drying hair. "I want to do something nice for our Commander, since he's been working so hard. I thought you might have some ideas." Isa raised an eyebrow, "something nice?" She grinned. "Vhera, you minx."

"Hush, do you have any ideas or not?"

"I'll think on it. Right now all I can think about is how hard I got hit today. Blackwall takes his training seriously." She watched Solas cross the room and sit down, taking up his drawing notebook and opening to a new page. Vhera tugged a knot out of her hair. "I saw, but you did well. Bull seemed rather pleased with your progress. You know, I'm really proud of you." Isa glowed at the praise, "well, you're having all sorts of adventures. I figured I should have a few of my own." Vhera leaned down and hugged her, pressing their cheeks together. "I'll leave you in peace, lethallan. Think on it for me, I want to do something special." "Of course," Isa giggled, "he's a lucky man." Vhera wished her a good evening and headed out, telling Solas to behave himself.

Isa sat quietly, watching Solas sketch. It didn't seem to take him long. When he finished and prepared to close his book, Isa asked, "may I see?" Solas nodded, motioning her over. Isa smiled, "what an honour," and stood behind him. It was a rough sketch of Vhera brushing Isa's hair. A mundane scene, but a lovely expression of the bond they shared.

However, Isa had no intention of observing just the one page. She snatched the book from Solas's grasp and darted to the other side of the cabin, flipping through. He growled and practically pounced on her, trapping both her arms under one of his and plucking the book from her grasp. "I wont show you thinks if this is how you behave," he scolded her. "Ir abelas, hahren," she smiled at him innocently, leaning her head back on his shoulder. "What's in there that you don't want me to see?" Solas clicked his tongue, "wouldn't you like to know?"

"You're teasing me!"

Solas laughed, "yes, I am." He let her go and tucked his book safely away. "And I will continue to do so until you learn some manners." Isa crossed her arms and stuck her tongue out at him. He took her jaw in his fingers, looking down at her with a hungry expression that made her knees week. His eyes flashed in the candlelight. "Careful, da'len, you're playing with fire." Isa reached out and grabbed the front of his tunic in her fist, pulling him in, "I'm not a child, hahren." Solas's other hand rested on her hip, "fine then, lin'sila,* let me teach you something." He squeezed her hip, earning a deep blush that spread from ear to ear and down her neck. He pulled her face to his and kissed her softly. She melted into the warmth of his lips. His fingers moved from her jaw, brushing her cheek and running over her ears through her copper hair, entangling themselves there. She felt him smirk against her lips, then he gave a slight tug on her hair, pulling her head back and exposing her neck. She let out a quiet gasp as he kissed the tender flesh there. She gripped the front of his tunic, "Solas…" "Hmm?" He smiled against her neck. She gulped, biting her lip. "You're still teasing me."

"Yes, and I will continue to do so until you learn some manners. You're wrinkling my tunic."

Oh, that bastard. She loosened her grip, letting her hands slide down his chest, then back up to rest on his shoulders. "Good girl," he murmured. She shuddered at his words, blushing furiously. His hand that was on her hip slid under her tunic, his long fingers tracing over her soft skin. He kissed where her shoulder and neck met. She felt like she was in heaven.

She could have screamed when there was a knock on the door. Solas let out a heavy sigh, clearly as disappointed as she was. He stepped away from her, composed as if nothing had happened. She had no such luck. She quickly smoothed down her hair and her – his – clothes, grumbling to herself that she might kill whomever was at that door.

Solas opened the door to Cassandra, who was there to discuss their plan for the breach. Isa pulled on her boots and a coat, scooped up her dirty clothes in one arm, and wished them a good evening before rushing back to vent her frustrations at the interruption to Vhera and to help her plan to court their esteemed commander.

Chapter Text

Isa woke feeling incredibly sore and stiff, groaning as she rolled out of bed. "Vhera," she threw a pillow, "herald of early mornings, get your ass out of bed." Vhera groaned and rolled over, "no." "Do you wanna get with Commander Cutie or not?"

The two got ready for another day of training. Isa stretched as much as she could, but her muscles complained with every step she took. She chewed on some elf root to keep it at bay. Vhera cracked her neck, "you know the plan?" Isa nodded. "You got it. I got your back girl, go get em. Don't let him worry too much though." Vhera gave a sly smile as she pulled on her boots. The two headed down to the training grounds together.

Cullen and Blackwall were going over the plan for training when we got there. Cassandra was going after the dummy as always. Isa approached Blackwall, tapping on his shoulder. "Good morning," he greeted her. "Good morning Blackwall. Vhera and I had an idea. You were saying yesterday how strength isn't everything. Well, I need a warm up, and Vhera would like to give the recruits a demonstration of speed, so we thought we would do a bit of sparring to start out with." Blackwall raised an eyebrow. "You and the Herald? Very well, what do you think, Commander?" Cullen looked thoughtful. "Speed certainly is important, and it would be good for them to at least witness a different style of combat. I think it's a good idea. Go grab a couple of practice swords, I'll gather the recruits." He went off, and Isa shot a wink at Vhera.

"What are you up to?" Blackwall asked quietly. Isa cleared her throat, "I have no idea what you're talking about!" She leaned closer and whispered, "Vhera's got a bit of a thing for the Commander. I'm just helping her out, so don't be alarmed." Blackwall crossed his arms, "so she's going to throw a fight in front of all of these recruits?" Isa shook her head, "of course not. It'll be an honest fight, but there might be some bruises that'll need tending to. I want to see if the Commander jumps at the opportunity." Blackwall's mustache twitched as he hid a smile, "sly girl. Ten silvers says she'll win. From what I hear, you're evenly matched." Isa grinned, "you are correct, and I'll take that bet."

Isa tossed Vhera a practice sword and took one for herself as the recruits made a wide circle for them. Even Cassandra stopped battering that poor dummy to watch. Vhera shifted onto her toes, warning Isa to move to the side as she jumped forward. Isa whipped around and cracked the flat side of the sword across Vhera's back. "You've still got to work on your tells!" Vhera snorted and shifted to the side, knocking Isa off balance. Isa stumbled back. Then the real fight began.

They flew at each other, exchanging blows at lightning speed. Vhera was slightly faster, but Isa was stronger, and could easily predict Vhera's moves. Vhera knew her well though, and they seemed to be in a deadlock. Both were covered in minor cuts and bruises, but neither had slipped up enough to change the tide yet.

Isa heard the cheers and shouts of the recruits around them, as well as some of the soldiers that had joined them. They had drawn quite a crowd. Her pride demanded she win, but she knew that she couldn't let their Herald fall in front of them. Damn it. Vhera's eyes narrowed, catching her attention. "Don't you dare throw this fight, I see you thinking. I will not have a hollow victory, you brat." Isa smiled slightly, "you got me. Fine, fine." They clashed swords again. "I guess I have to knock you down a peg."

Again and again they clashed, until finally Vhera caught her foot under Isa's ankle, driving her elbow into the ginger elf's chest and slamming her to the ground. Isa hit the dirt hard, rolling out of the way as the sword struck down where she had just been. Isa swung her legs around, using her weight to knock Vhera down as well, then rolling away from her to regain her feet. Only Vhera didn't get up. Panic struck Isa and she knelt down, "Vhera?" "Ha! Gotcha!" Vhera jumped on her, pinning her face down on the ground with a sword to her neck. Vhera had won the fight by playing dead.

"Oh you bitch!" Isa growled, tapping the ground. "That's cheating." Vhera laughed and helped her to her feet, "maybe, but I'll buy you dinner tonight to make up for it." Isa brushed dust off of herself. Vhera looked expectant. Isa blinked, then said rather loudly, "oh, you've got a nasty cut there! You should go get that checked out, can't have it getting infected!" The moment of truth. Cullen hurried over, "you're hurt? It doesn't look bad, but better safe than sorry. I'll walk you up to Adan. Blackwall, take over training until I get back." He fussed over her, his cheeks tinged pink. Isa grinned as the two went off.

"You owe me ten silvers, though that was a good fight." Blackwall patted her back. Isa groaned, "I cant believe I fell for playing dead! Every time!" Blackwall laughed, a hearty laugh from the depths of his belly. "That was quite a turn of events." He cleared his throat. "But you're not done yet. Pick up a shield and let's get training. That's all of you! We're not standing around all day, you sorry louts!" Isa grinned and picked up a shield.

Her sparring partner was Blackwall himself, once he had paired up the recruits with some senior soldiers. "Alright little girl, show me where your power comes from. Since I'm so big, I use my shoulders to drive, but you're a third of my size, so you'll have to figure something else out. I'd suggest your legs. Most of your muscle mass is there." He held up a practice shield. "Charge me. Try and get me to move. Getting your enemy off-balance is the first step."

Isa took a deep breath and rushed him. She practically bounced off. Blackwall shook his head, "lower your center of gravity. Drive up instead of forward, like you're trying to lift me off my feet." Isa grinned, "oh I'll sweep you off your feet." Blackwall's neck flushed red behind his beard. Isa charged him again, this time lowering her shoulders. The impact jarred her, but didn't move him at first. She didn't give up, and kept pushing with her legs. After a moment, he took a step back. "Good, you're getting it." They practiced for a bit until Isa could at least get him to shift his weight when she hit him.

"Now," he looked slightly mischievous, which was unusual for him, "try not move." Isa gulped, paling, and braced herself. Surely he wouldn't come at her full force? Of course not, but even at half his usual driving power, he was a lot bigger than her.

He absolutely laid her out. He rushed her and knocked her flat on her back, her teeth clacking together painfully as she hit the ground. "Ah, creators, that hurt," she grunted, laying there for a moment to collect her bearings. Blackwall stood over her, offering her a hand. She took it, her own dwarfed in his large, calloused hand, and let him pull her to her feet. He patted her shoulders. "A good effort. You just need to build up the right muscles. You've got the legs for it." Isa raised an eyebrow, "spend a lot of time looking at my legs?" He turned bright red, "that isn't what I meant." She laughed, "I'm teasing you, Blackwall. Come on, hit me again." She braced herself again. And got laid out again.

This went on for most of the morning until Isa hit the ground particularly hard. Her muscles were practically crying. All she wanted was to shoot a bow and forget all this nonsense, but she had dedicated to this. She sat up slowly, wincing. Blackwall knelt in front of her, "are you alright?" She nodded, rubbing her back. "Sore. It's about time for me to go see Josephine anyway. Call it a day?" He nodded, giving her a smile. "You did well today. Forget about the ten silvers, spending the day as a training dummy covers it." "Ass," she smacked his shoulder lightly. He pulled her to her feet and sent her on her way.

Isa went back to the cabin to clean up quickly and put on some slightly nicer clothes, then headed to the chantry to Josephine's makeshift office. Josephine had tea waiting for her.

She spent the day watching Josephine, learning how to phrase a threat pleasantly, coercing dignitaries and making it seem like their idea, the usual skills of political prowess. Isa was quite impressed, and left with a greater appreciation for their ambassador.

At that point, it was about sunset, and Vhera owed her supper. She was heading for the tavern when she caught sight of Solas, gazing up at the breach. She stopped for a moment to watch him, her eyes following the line of his jaw, down the slope of his shoulders and the curve of his spine. He seemed to sense her eyes on him and turned to look at her, greeting her with a smile. Then he pursed his lips and approached her, "you're covered in bruises." Isa snorted, "didn't you hear? Vhera kicked my ass this morning and Blackwall spent the rest of the day pummeling me into the dirt." Solas chuckled, "I assume you volunteered for all of this." Isa nodded sheepishly. He took her hand and kissed her fingers. "I will join you for supper." It was the small things that made her heart flutter.

The next day, they would seal the breach, and the world would be right again.

Right?

Chapter Text

Closing the breach was a success, and rather uneventful. Not a single hitch, and Vhera walked out perfectly fine. Isa was thrilled; she had been so concerned that Vhera would be worse for wear after the ordeal. The celebration after was absolutely glorious. Isa had never seen anyone drink so much, but Iron Bull was certainly in his own league. The sun had long since set and Isa was starting to wind down, having a pleasant chat with Solas about his philosophy on the elven gods. "How can you believe in them and not believe in them?" She was confused. Solas huffed, "I believe that they existed, just not that they were gods. They were particularly powerful mages, nothing more." "Then who created us?"

She never got her answer. There was a knocking on Haven's gates, but Isa more sensed the soul beyond. She pushed the gates open with Cullen's help. She let out a startled yelp at the twisted red thing at the door, but it fell to her feet. The boy behind it was the source of her feeling. "My name is Cole. I came to warn you, they're coming. You took his mages. He is very angry."

Before she knew what was happening, Haven was under attack.

Isa called out to the troops, her booming voice coming from her chest and reaching them over the chaos. They had to defend the gates. There were troops, no banner, pouring over the mountain, these twisted red men whom may have once been Templars were attacking them without mercy, intent on wiping them out. Isa had her bow, and had found Iron Bull to fight with her, but there was little they could do but keep them at bay.

The song was maddening. The red lyrium, it sang to Isa, calling to her, trying to suck her in. It made her sick, dizzy, she wanted to get away from it, but she had to keep fighting. She shoved her bow into Sera's hands, "go help Vhera, she's defending the trebuchets!" and picked up a sword and shield, putting her new skills to use. She ignored her weakened muscles, complaining from overuse. Bull cried out, "we've got to pull back!" Isa called out, "go! I'll cover you! I can't leave Vhera!" Bull growled, "damn it, you're right, we'll hold it here."

The trebuchets fired then, and brought down an avalanche on the red Templar armies, but it wasn't enough.

That was when Isa saw him, the Elder One. He was tall and twisted, with ribs outside of his flesh and red lyrium sprouting from his withering skin. Fear pierced her heart, but she shook it off. She couldn't stop yet.

Vhera ran by, "fall back! Get to the chantry!" Isa nodded to Bull and they ran after her, pulling Haven's gates closed behind them. Inside was chaos as well; Haven was never meant to withstand assault. Isa focused on pulling anyone still alive out of fires, even as the lyrium dragon spewed twisted fire from overhead. They fought their way through, finally reaching the chantry. Isa's head was spinning, and she couldn't focus on anything. The lyrium's song was still in her head.

"I'll give him one hell of a distraction," she heard Vhera say. She reached out, latching onto her best friend's sleeve. Vhera put her hand on Isa's arm. "Isa, go with them, Chancellor Roderich will-" "If you think I'm leaving you behind, you'd better reconsider." Isa looked up. "Sera has my bow, it will serve her well and keep them safe. Commander, give me your sword and shield?" Cullen handed them over, "may they serve you well. Make sure they hear you, and Maker guide you back to us."

The two fought through the remains of Haven together, reaching the final standing trebuchet. "Wind it up," Isa called out, holding up her shield, "I'll keep them off of you!" She took hit after hit, remembering what Blackwall had taught her, her desire to protect Vhera fighting the buckling of her legs. She lashed out with her sword, killing Templar after red Templar. Then she saw the behemoth. "What the FUCK is THAT?!" She cried out, just as its massive club hit her hard and swiped her to the side. Vhera had just finished winding the trebuchet and managed to dart out of the way, attacking the creature and avoiding its clumsy attacks.

Ears ringing, shield crushed to her arm, Isa struggled to her knees, shaking the blurriness from her vision. She heard the behemoth fall, only to be replaced with something bigger. The lyrium dragon's tail swept her aside, and she hit the wooden wall hard. She struggled to focus on the scene in front of her. Corypheus, that was the Elder One's name, she caught that much. Vhera's mark was glowing, causing her pain. Isa tried to get up, to no avail. Blood trickled down her face. Vhera was tossed back into the trebuchet, but she had a sword in her hand. Isa felt her limbs grow cold. She saw the trebuchet fire, and Vhera run. Good, she would get away. The dragon took off, carrying the blighted creature with it. Isa sank back to the ground, closing her eyes. She could still hear the lyrium singing.
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Vhera struggled forward in the blizzard, forcing herself to take one more step forward. One more. One more. She had left Isa. Her best friend, her sister. One more step. Corypheus, a blighted magister, with an archdemon at his command? This blizzard was endless, was she even going in the right direction? One more step. There was a light ahead. One more. This firepit was still warm. "There she is!" Vhera collapsed, unable to take another step.
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There was scratching in the snow above. Isa was so cold. The lyrium sang its maddening song, it was getting closer. They dug for her, seeking out another source of power. The Elder One demanded her life. They dragged her body from the snow, saved by the wall that had taken the brunt of the avalanche, sparing her life, but just barely. Terrified healers, captured and forced to work, fought to save her life, but she would wish they had not. The lyrium sang. She wished it wouldn't.
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"The orb is ours," Solas broke the news to her. Vhera was still reeling. "It is elven?" She tried holding it together. The people needed their Herald, their singing had proven that. She had to keep it together now. She could barely focus on their conversation, until he finally asked the question she had been dreading. "And… Isa? Is she…" Vhera put a hand to her mouth, stifling a sob. "I… don't know… She had taken a blow, but she was still alive. She was against a wall, maybe it saved her? Oh creators, what if those things got to her?" Solas put a hand on her shoulder to comfort her, but there was a tear sliding down his cheek as well. He wiped it away. "If she lives, we will find her. But first, we need to get these people to safety. I may know of a place."
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They forced the corrupted lyrium down her throat, on her knees in shackles. How long had she been there? They asked her questions, but she wouldn't speak to any of them. They wanted to know about the Herald, about the Inquisition, but she kept her lips sealed, through torture, no matter what they did, but the lyrium almost broke her.

Almost.

It sang to her, certainly, but just like with normal lyrium, it faded gradually. She saw things, she saw the faces of prisoners who knelt where she was kneeling and felt what she was feeling, though she would not come to the same end as them. When the lyrium didn't corrupt her, it put them off, it scared them, and they left her for a while. It didn't last long. It never did.

When she dreamt on the red lyrium, she remembered another life, memories that didn't feel like her own, but certainly had to be. A woman's face, the stench of blood, the crying of an infant, and her name. Her real name, given to her when she was born, for she was born for one purpose alone, to serve as a vessel for their war. "Isenatha," she muttered to herself. "Isenatha."

Chapter Text

"Inquisitor!" Solas burst into the war room of the newly re-discovered Skyhold, interrupting the meeting going on there. Leliana gave him a withering scowl, but he didn't care. "Inquisitor, I believe I know where Isa is."

He instantly had Vhera's attention. "I explored the fade, thinking perhaps a spirit may have come across her dreaming," he explained, "and I found her. One of my friends had approached her, but had been blocked out. She is alive, Inquisitor, but she is suffering greatly, to the point where she does not wish to dream." Vhera turned to the advisors, "we have to save her." Cullen's face was firm, "I agree. She is a hero, after all. I know many soldiers who would volunteer to rescue her." Leliana frowned, "I understand she is a personal friend, Insquisitor, but we're spread thin as it is." "It's not up for debate, Leliana," Vhera snarled. Leliana was taken aback by the unusual hostility. Vhera turned to Solas, "where is she?" Solas approached the map, "They have her in an old Tevinter ruin north of the Exalted Plains, and it will be no easy task to get in."
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Isa heard the fighting above, but it was through a haze. They had just forced more red lyrium down her throat, along with a bit of soup broth. That was five doses total, along with whatever other magic they had forced upon her. She heard them chanting, but never could make out what they were saying. She wondered when she would turn into one of those monsters. She wondered why they were trying so hard to make her one. They certainly had kept her mostly healthy, cleaning the wounds they left with their whips when they first interrogated her and keeping her fed and hydrated whether she wanted it or not. She heard footsteps coming down the stairs. What did they want? They usually left her alone after a dose.

Oh no, she was seeing things. "Vivienne?" Her own voice sounded foreign to her. Vivienne's expression changed rapidly, from one of relief to fear to pity, then settling on resolve. "Oh you poor thing, let's get you out of those chains." She froze the shackles and broke them, letting Isa lean on her for support. "Is Vhera with you?" Her voice was scratchy from using it for nothing but screaming in agony. The lyrium song looped in her head. "No, dear, it was too dangerous to risk her coming. She is Inquisitor now. There is much to catch you up on."

The lyrium. Oh no. Isa shoved Vivienne away, much to the enchanter's surprise. Isa slumped against the stone wall, "the lyrium, the red lyrium, it'll infect you, don't get too close." She held out a hand. Vivienne knelt in front of her, "oh you poor thing, what have they done to you?" She sat down a couple feet away from Isa, letting her rest. "You don't look infected. Don't worry, dear, we'll figure something out. I don't think I'm in any danger, and you have to be alright, you know. Vhera wants to make you her second when you are well again." Isa smiled wearily. "Really? That's so nice of her. I want to see Vhera again. When we were children, we'd play in the woods together. That was so long ago."

"We need to get out of here, darling. Come on, let me help you." Vivienne supported her once again and hauled her up the stairs, stumbling and struggling, making their way through crumbling halls. Isa thought she could smell salt. She could hear the fighting clearly now. "Who is fighting?" Vivienne answered, "Solas, dear. As well as some of Cullen's soldiers led by Blackwall, all volunteers. People who wanted to rescue you." Isa smiled. "Rescue me? How nice of them."

They reached the doors to the crumbling keep, where the soldiers in the courtyard were battling against impossible odds. Solas was off to the side, cornered by two great behemoths. "Solas?" Isa reached out to him, and he looked at her, losing his focus for a moment. "Isa!" He rolled out of the way of a behemoth just in time. They were fighting a losing battle, and for the first time, Isa noticed how drained Vivienne was.

Solas called out to her once again, bracing himself against the risk he had to take. "Isa, eliminate the tainted templars! I command it!" Isa's eyes flashed, and in an instant, she levelled a mountaintop.
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Flashes, that was all she got. The scent of horses and pine wood, the warmth and pressure of arms around her, the rolling bump of a horse at full gallop. The sounds of a keep, then the panic of an infirmary at maximum capacity. "What happened? What the hell?" "Where are the others? There are supposed to be twenty of you!" "It was an accident, the red lyrium, look, you've got to-" "Put her on the table."

Familiar hands around her own. "You've got to fight this, da'avise." She knew that voice. The lyrium's song threatened to consume her. "Solas, you know what happened to those Templars. We need to end it before she infects anyone else." "No! I know it may not seem wise, but she's different, she's resistant, she would have turned long before now if she was going to, but it's going to kill her instead. Please, help me stabilize her." "You'd better know what you're talking about."

Pacing. Back and forth, over all of the chaos, just outside the door, heavy boots pacing back and forth. Pain like fire tearing through her body as the song threatened to consume her. She couldn't hear her own screams, but she could hear the pacing stop. "You can't go in there, Inquisitor." "What do you mean I can't go in there, that's my best friend!" "Just trust me, you don't want to." "Get out of my way, Blackwall." "Vhera, please. Don't get in their way." Vhera, that was Vhera, and she was crying. Isa tried to lift her head, but a gentle hand pushed it back down. The hand felt like ice, and she realized she was burning.

"You're going to pull through, da'avise. You've got to fight it. Vhera needs you to. I need you to." Solas, she tried to reach for him, but her limbs were not her own. Then a new voice, not new, she had heard it only once. "The song is choking her." Cole? Was that his name? She did not know who or what he was. Another shock ripped through her, and a whimper escaped her lips.

"She is like me, but not like me. Same soul, unsame body. The red will not consume her mind, but her body will-" Isa didn't hear the rest. The song and her heartbeat played like drums of war in her ears, drowning out all else. She felt like her head was going to explode. 'Do not let it out,' she heard a whisper. 'You will destroy them.' Fingertips on her head, the spirit boy's voice coaxing her, giving her strength to lock down on whatever was trying to escape.

So she waited, holding back the floodgates; she didn't know how long, until the tide began to recede, and the song began to fade. She felt the hard wood of the table against her bones, the chill of the sweat she was drenched in, then she heard a quiet voice, talking. Varric?

"A dozen ancient swords lay nestled in display cases, protected from dust and prying fingers. He moved to lift the lid of the nearest one. Jevlan started to protest, but then the doors opened. She had eyes the color of topaz and dark hair that fell across her brow like sword strokes. She strolled into the parlor with such dignified elegance that Donnen didn't realize for several minutes that she was clad in a housecoat and not a ball gown."*

He was reading to her. Isa opened her eyes slowly, turning her head, feeling a wet cloth slide off of her forehead. Varric, seated beside her, looked up, startled at first, then hit with a wave of relief. "Bones! Andraste's ass, you look like death warmed over." Isa smiled weakly, reaching out for him.

He caught her hand, "easy kid, you're alright. You had one hell of an ordeal. You've been gone for three weeks and all of a sudden Solas has a dream and says he found you. So he, Blackwall, Vivienne, and seventeen soldiers go out to find you, and only eight of them come back with you on the back of a horse, all but dead and dosed up on red lyrium, and then you live through it? What the hell happened?" "I don't know," Isa croaked, realizing how dry her throat was. Varric got up and helped her lift her head enough to drink some water. "Not too much, you don't want to get sick." He gently laid her head back down. "Blackwall said you levelled the mountain. He said that's… well… Some of the soldiers got blown off the side, crushed by debris…."

Isa's stomach clenched. She had killed her rescuers? Varric must have seen her expression. "Hey, Bones, it wasn't your fault. Red lyrium is uncontrollable stuff, and if it weren't for you, they all would have died. The ones who did come back practically worship the ground you walk on. They don't blame you at all. They knew what they were walking in to when they volunteered." Isa felt tears fall from the corners of her eyes. Varric pulled a hankerchief from his pocket and wiped them before they ran into her ears. "It's alright, Bones. Why don't you try and go back to sleep? It's the middle of the night. I'm gonna go let Solas know that you woke up, okay?" Isa nodded, "thank you Varric." "Any time."

He left, and she was alone with her thoughts. There was still a hint of the red lyrium's song in the back of her head, just waiting, quietly humming, a gentle threat, and a grim reminder.

Chapter Text

"Solas," Isa smiled despite herself, "I can feed myself." Solas held another bite of bread to her lips, "humor me then. Let me care for you, da'avise. You gave me quite a fright." It had been a couple of days since Isa had woken, and she was quickly getting back on her feet, though Solas insisted that was not the case. When he wasn't there, she could walk across the room on her own, though it was rather exhausting. She was also feeling better about what she had done at the ruins. Some of the soldiers that had come to rescue her had dropped by to visit, and Varric had been right, they were grateful for their lives, though they mourned their comrades, they claimed it was better than falling to those monsters.

When Isa had finished her meal, Solas cupped her face in his hands, kissing her forehead gently. Isa looked up at him, "I'm alright, Solas." He nodded, "I know. I am relieved." Isa shifted in her seat, "when I was in the ruins," she began, noticing his pained look. "I know, but listen. When I was there, the lyrium made me dream, and I think I learned my name." Solas seemed surprised, "your name? From before the Dalish found you?" Isa nodded. "There was a woman, an elf, and she was telling it to me; I think it was a memory. Maybe it's nothing, but it felt real. She said it was Isenatha." Solas looked thoughtful, then stated, "I will consult the spirits."

"It appears you have a sort of immunity to red lyrium, to an extent. A relief, certainly, given the circumstances, but very unusual." Solas commented, rubbing his chin. Isa nodded, leaning back in her chair. However, that wasn't the subject on her mind. "What is Cole?" She asked, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees. "He is a spirit of compassion, I believe, whom has somehow achieved a human form. He wants to help us, and Vhera has allowed him to stay." Isa nodded slowly, taking a moment to process the information.

She stood slowly, earning a protest from Solas. "Oh, hush, I'm fine, hahren, I'm not going far. I just want to use my legs. I've been cooped up, I want to breathe in some fresh air. Take me outside?" Solas frowned, but offered his elbow. She took it, leaning on him for support and allowing him to guide her to the door and outside.

The cool air hit her face and blew her hair back, immediately refreshing her. Even from inside, Skyhold was certainly a place of beauty, thrumming with life. It brought a smile to her face. The sounds of the keep filled her ears and warmed her heart.

"Isa!" Vhera rushed up to her, scooping her up and swinging her around in a tight hug, "you're alive!" She smushed their faces together affectionately. Isa giggled and held onto her, "and I hear you're Inquisitor, congratulations my lady." Vhera grinned from ear to ear. "Actually, when you're better, I have a proposition for you."

"Not too much excitement, Inquisitor," Solas reminded them gently, "Isa is still recovering." Isa leaned on him once again, "you worry too much." "I worry just the right amount. You do not worry enough, da'len." Isa stuck her tongue out at him. Josephine appeared at the door to the hall, "Inquisitor! Oh, Isa, you're doing better! That is wonderful news. Inquisitor, if you have a moment?" Vhera wished them well and headed off.

Isa let Solas guide her around, showing her the main parts of Skyhold that were easy enough to reach. With each step she felt stronger, and the Inquisition seemed to be filled with a renewed sense of hope. Things were going to be okay.
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Isa slid back on her heels, her calves hitting the fence of the training ring, her muscles straining against the soldier she was sparring against. Her recovery had gone rapidly, and a week later she was back on her feet and feeling better than ever, much to everyone's surprise. She had spent the last couple of days training, and had discovered that whatever they had done to her in the ruins had made her stronger, to say the least. She felt more… lethal, to put a word with the feeling. She pushed forward, shield-locked with the soldier, and pushed him back, fighting for every inch. The man was at least twice her size, but Blackwall's training had come in use. She pushed forward until he had his back to the fence, then stepped to the side, so his own force made him stumble forward. Then she kicked him right between the shoulders, sending him sprawling to the ground.

"You've certainly been improving," Vhera leaned on the fence, a warm smile on her face. She wore golden scale armor, more ceremonial than anything. She had to keep up appearances as Inquisitor. Isa set her training shield aside, hopping the fence. "I can't stay in bed forever, despite what Solas thinks." Vhera laughed softly, "the things we do for love."

"Speaking of love, how are things with the Commander?" Isa asked, following Vhera up the steps to the main hall of Skyhold. Vhera giggled like a schoolgirl, "perfect. He's very sweet. Nothing too explicit yet, but he's a wonderful kisser." Isa patted her shoulder, "atta girl."

They stopped in front of the throne of Skyhold, an elaborate thing of wrought iron stained gold, with six dragon heads coming out of the sides in decoration.* An intimidating throne, to say the least. "I hear you have Alexius working for you now," Isa commented, turning her gaze to Vhera, who nodded. "He seems willing enough, complacent even. He's under heavy guard of course." She shifted on her feet.

Isa leaned her head back a bit. "Something on your mind?" Vhera let out a sigh. "I can't do this on my own, Isa. You've been there for me since day one, and I've always trusted your judgement. The divine has her hands, but I don't need all that, I just need my wingman. I want to name you as my second, officially." Isa's expression turned serious. "Are you sure? The shem are going to have a hard time swallowing one Dalish, is two a good idea?" Vhera met her gaze, "I'm glad you're taking this seriously. Yes, I'm sure." She held out her hand. Isa took it, shaking it firmly. "I accept."

Vhera embraced her tightly. "Good. I don't know what I'd do without you. When you were missing, I was beside myself." Isa held her close, breathing in the familiar scent of the forest and leather. "I'm alright now." Vhera let go, blinking away her emotional tears. "I'll go let Josephine know. Thank you, Isa. It means the world."

Chapter Text

"Harritt," Isa made her way down to the Undercroft early in the morning, having woken with an idea. "Think you could make something for me?" Harritt, who was just starting up the forge for the day, looked up from his work. "Sure, Miss Lavellan. What do you need?" Isa sat on a stool, trying to think of how to explain it. "I want a shield that I can wear as armor when I'm not using it. Something that wont get in the way while I'm shooting my bow." Harritt looked thoughtful, heading over to his desk and pulling out some parchment. "Let's see, that's an interesting idea, certainly a unique one. I suppose that would be something that would work for you, wouldn't it? You wear light, thin armor, yes? The shield would have to be thin too, unless it folded. How strong are your wrists? No, that wouldn't do. Unless, yes, adjustable iron locks…" The master got down to work.

They spent the day together, working on this unusual request. Harritt admitted he loved weapons that were hidden as other things, so this was particularly interesting for him, and he offered to make a sword that would fit into the decoration of ceremonial armor when he got the time. Of course, Isa would take him up on that offer, but it would have to wait.

By mid-afternoon, they had done it. Isa had a breastplate that had a folded shield on the front of it, a little heavy, but not hindering her movements. All she had to do was slide her hand between the plate and the shield and into the straps, then pull it right off, unfold the sides and slide the iron bars to keep them from folding back in, and she had a full shield. "Harritt, you're amazing." He seemed rather proud of his work, and for it, Isa gave him fifty sovereigns.

Isa couldn't wait to whip it out in the heat of battle and surprise everyone. It was going to be a delight.

She made her way back up to the main hall, then out and down towards the ancient library in the basement. She had cleaned up one of the rooms back there for her own use. She didn't mind the spiders so much since they kept to themselves, and she liked the quiet it offered. It was better than sleeping in barracks. She dropped off the armor, since she wore a more formal outfit around Skyhold when she wasn't training. Vivienne called it The Midnight Tower, a dark coat with a silvery sash that certainly made her stand out. Since she was the Inquisitor's second, she had to look presentable at any given moment if she wasn't preoccupied. At least it was warm. What wasn't comfortable was what was underneath. Vivienne had insisted that when not in combat, she wear what was known as a bra and not just the cloth wrappings the Dalish used. Sure, it was pretty, but extremely uncomfortable. Who would know the difference anyway? Isa let out a sigh, Vivienne would know, and as much as she enjoyed the high-class lady's company, she was not interested in the lecture that would ensue. That, and Vivienne would use her full name, which was still weird to her. Since she had discovered it, it was being used in formal situations. Josephine loved it, said it had a delightful ring to it. Isa wasn't so sure. It was just a name.

At that point, Isa was starving. She checked to make sure her hair was in place, high up in a braided bun, and headed back up in search of food. She had almost reached the kitchens when a hand caught her wrist and pulled her into a dark corner. "You've been hiding all day, da'avise," Solas's murmur in her ear made her shiver. A smile broke across her face. "Ir abelas, I've been preoccupied." Her eyes adjusted to the shadows and she could see him, inches away from her face. "Come see me later? I've decided to turn the rotunda into a mural of the Inquisition's exploits and I'd like your opinion." Isa hooked her fingers in the neckline of his tunic, "I will, but you didn't pull me in a dark corner to ask for art advice."

Solas brushed his lips over hers, but it didn't last long. Isa's stomach grumbled loudly, earning a soft laugh. "Go get something to eat, vhenan, I will wait." He left her leaning against a wall. She covered her mouth, smiling and feeling like she was going to melt. Had he just called her vhenan? She let out an enamoured sigh. He was going to be the death of her.

Isa made her way into the kitchen, smiling sheepishly at the cook, a plump woman with a stern face and a quick smack when anyone tried to sneak a dumpling before supper. Cook raised an eyebrow, "what do you want?" "Just a little snack? I missed lunch today. Please?" Cook sighed, sliding two plates in her direction. "As long as you take this one to Harritt." "Deal!"

After eating, Isa headed through the main hall on her way to the rotunda. She got caught up in several conversations with visiting dignitaries and Josephine, and despite her desire to see Solas, she couldn't brush them off. By the time she got to the rotunda, it was evening, so most of the activity from the library in the upper levels had quieted for the night, though it seemed that Dorian was still pouring over some books.

Solas had several sketches strewn across his desk, most of them pretty similar. Isa strolled over, moving behind him and peering over his shoulder. They all seemed to be different version of Haven. Looking around, there were already three murals up on the walls. One was the breach, one for the formation of the Inquisition, and the third for the mages, and what would have come of Redcliffe had they not interfered.

"What do you think, da'avise? Which one?" Solas glanced over his shoulder at her. She leaned on the desk, her gaze travelling over the sketches. "You're talented, Solas," she commented, her eyes tracing the lines. She put her finger on one of the sketches, the one that seemed to speak to her the most. "This one." Solas nodded, "that one it is. Would you like to help?" Isa grinned, "of course I would."

Isa unwrapped the sash from her waist and shoulder and took off her overcoat, leaving her in her undershirt and breeches. Vivienne and Dorian both would kill her if she got paint on that coat, and Josephine would dance on her corpse.

"Start out with the base, we need to get the colour even underneath." Solas handed her a brush. Isa dipped it in paint, wiping the excess, and started painting the wall. Soon, she was standing on her toes to reach where she hadn't painted yet. Some time had passed, and Dorian had gone off to sleep.

Gentle hands rested on her waist. "You won't grow taller by wishing it, da'len," Solas's tone was teasing. Isa rolled her eyes, "I'm not a child, hahren. Will you get me a chair?" Solas pulled her away from the wall. "Worry about it later, that's enough for tonight." He kissed her shoulder softly. She smiled, turning to kiss his temple. He wrapped his arms around her, resting his forehead on her shoulder. He seemed… sad.

"What's wrong, vhenan?" She asked softly. He held her tighter. "I… I have made so many mistakes, and I fear you may suffer for them." She set the brush on the desk, resting her arms on top of his. "Solas, what are you talking about? You could never hurt me." He laughed bitterly, "not intentionally." She turned around in his hold, taking his face in her hands. There were tears in his sad grey eyes.

She kissed him, slow and sweet. She didn't like seeing him hurting, and didn't know what else to do. He held her tightly and kissed her with an innocent desperation. They let the kiss break, looking into each other's eyes. "Ar lath ma,* Solas," Isa whispered, her thumbs rubbing his cheeks. He smiled sadly. "Ar lath ma, ma'fenorian**, ma'vhenan, Ar tel'nuvena ma'nuem ahnsul or em.***" Isa shook her head, "Solas, I love the way that sounds, but I have no idea what you're saying. What do they teach you in the fade?" He just kissed her again.

Chapter Text

Isa hadn't gotten the chance to meet Hawke, but Varric and Vhera trusted him, so she would follow. He claimed to have a friend in the wardens who knew where the rest of them were, and wanted to meet with the Inquisitor.

They rode out early in the morning, as it was a long trip to Crestwood, where Hawke wanted to meet. They took a decently sized party: Vhera, Isa, Varric, Iron Bull, Cole, Blackwall, and Solas were the ones going. The rain had soaked them through by the time they reached Scout Harding's camp. Isa was feeling a little grumpy about it. She was feeling a little grumpy about everything, actually. She was having a bit of a rough day, and the others knew enough to just leave her to it.

Isa looked out over the lake as Vhera talked to Harding. The rift gave the waters an eerie glow, and she could see the corpses stalking the shoreline. It was sickening. Isa looked up, squinting against the rain. Even the clouds echoed the despair of this wretched place.

"Let's move out," Vhera called, and Isa followed, bow drawn. This place made her skin crawl. The rain was cold, and it soaking into the cloth under her armor made her hot and sticky, and she just felt gross.

They came across a couple of wardens fighting some corpses, and of course helped them fight. Unfortunately, the wardens had orders to return immediately, offering little information before their departure, but they did let the party know that the town of Crestwood was under siege by the undead.

"We're going to help them, right?" Varric asked, shouldering Bianca. "Of course," Vhera replied, "we can't just leave them like this, and that rift needs to be sealed anyway." Blackwall let out a grunt of agreement.

Isa interrupted their conversation by shooting an arrow past them, into the face of a wandering corpse. "Let's not let our guards down," she stated bluntly, turning to talk up the road to Crestwood. Bull shrugged, following her, the others trailing behind.

It didn't take them long to reach the town. It was a miserable little place, and the people were exhausted. Vhera went to speak with the mayor while the others went around to see what they could do to help, and to get whatever information they could. Isa found herself rather unwilling to speak to anyone at the moment, so she just stood around, waiting for the others.

A young child, no older than 2, toddled up to her, little hands reaching up. She stared down at this human child, with an adorable chubby face, soaked by the rain. "You'll catch a cold, da'len," she spoke softly. The child smiled, opening and closing his hands, rocking on his feet. "Up?" Isa blinked, "you want me to pick you up?" What a brave child. She was a total stranger.

She was also a softie. She picked up the child by the ribs, resting him on her hips with her arm around him. "What is your name, little one?" A slight smile crossed her face. She stepped under the awning of one of the houses, out of the rain. "Jacob!" The child reached for her face, putting his hands on her cheeks. "Paint?" Isa's smile grew, her heart warming. "That is vallaslin, Jacob. The Dalish wear it to honour their gods." "Pwetty!" His big smile showed he only had a few of his front teeth grown in. Isa laughed softly, her bad mood melting away entirely. Something sad tugged at the back of her mind, but she ignored it in favour of the sweet boy in her arms.

"This is the vallaslin of Sylaise, who-" she went on to tell him the story of the hearth keeper. He wouldn't remember this moment, but she would, and she would treasure it: the little happiness to be found in the midst of chaos.
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Varric came out of a home with Blackwall, looking around for Isa. "She was right here a moment ago," he muttered, peering through the rain. "She's in a mood today," Blackwall commented, looking up at the rain. Varric shrugged, "the weather sucks; can you blame her? Women have bad days more often than we do; she'll be fine. Oh, there she is. Is that a kid?" He pointed to where the elven women stood under the awning of another house, a smile on her face and a child in her arms. She was talking to him, and he was clearly enjoying whatever he was telling her. "That's adorable, Bones is good with kids." Blackwall had a distant, almost wistful expression on his face. "She is, isn't she?" Varric noticed, sympathy in his eyes. He knew what a man in love looked like. He also knew that Isa was spoken for, and Blackwall was hiding something he didn't want to talk to anyone about. Poor guy. He looked like he could stare at that woman with a child in her arms all day. Varric rarely had to come up with his own tragedies for his tales; they often presented themselves right in front of him.
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"Jacob!" Isa looked up as the boy's name was called. A woman was poking her head out of a nearby house, a worried expression on her weathered features. They made eye contact, and Jacob started wriggling, "Mama!" Isa carried him through the rain, doing her best to keep him dry, right to the door. The woman looked relieved, "I didn't even notice him slip out. With the lake, I had thought- oh, thank you so much!" She took the child from Isa, hugging him close. "Of course, ma'am, he was a delight." She took a gem out of her pocket, just a small purple trinket she had found during the war in the Hinterlands. "Here, a gift for little Jacob."

The woman gave her a warm smile. "Thank you, dear. I'll make sure he doesn't lose it before he's old enough to know what it is." Isa nodded, taking her leave of the house. She stood in the rain for a moment, looking up at the sky. She closed her eyes and felt the rain on her face.

She felt a hand on her shoulder, and heard Cole's voice, barely audible over the steady rumble of the rain. "You barely remember, nothing but a whisper, but still it torments you, twisting, tearing, torturing your soul. They sacrificed a babe so you could become what you are, and you didn't know they would until you were drowning in its blood, its screams echoing in your head. It was not your fault. They lied to you, they bound your arms and held you back until it was already dead. Blood, blisters, burning, buried in guilt, you were bullied into barbaric brutality. You accepted anyway, you had to. It could not be in vain, and now you can prevent it from ever happening again. It was not your fault."

Then he was gone again. Isa opened her eyes. That's funny, she could have sworn someone was touching her shoulder. She felt as if a weight had been lifted from her chest. She felt… better. Maybe it was seeing the kid. She liked kids. She went to join her friends with a smile on her face.
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Solas saw Cole speak to her, he knew what the spirit was doing, but he did not hear the words. Perhaps it was best he did not. Some hurts were private. The nature of Isa's existence was still a mystery to him. She was not truly an elf, he knew that much, and she had been right, she was no mage, so what was she? Cole's appearance had given him the idea that maybe she was like him: a spirit that had somehow taken mortal form and a body of its own, but she embodied no particular trait, and certainly had a vivacious personality of her own. Maybe she was similar to Cole, but she wasn't the same. It was a mystery that no spirit he consulted seemed to have an answer for. Perhaps one day he would find out. He hoped that she was still with him when he did.
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"So here's the plan," Vhera began once they were all back together. "We need to drain the lake. The dam controls are on the other side of the fortress nearby, and we need to take it from the bandits holding it. Once that's done, Bull and Cole will stay behind and protect the town from undead while the rest of us go down into the old caves and seal the rift. Sound good?" Everyone seemed to agree with the plan, so they set off to take an entire well-defended fortress with seven people whom apparently had balls of steel.

Chapter Text

Taking slow, deep breaths, Isa steadily made her way up the wall, trying not to look down. She and Vhera were climbing the ramparts of Caer Bronach, while the others waited out of sight. They needed to take out the archers if they stood a chance of taking a keep, because realistically, a few people can't just break down the doors with their fists and slaughter an entire fort one person at a time, right? Isa cursed under her breath, the rain had made the stone slippery, and the leather of her gloves was the only reason she had a good grip.

She finally made it to the top, about the same time that Vhera did, and the look on the archer's face as she leapt over and beat him down made it all worth it. They made quick work of the lazy archers caught unaware, and opened the gates. Bull came charging in, followed by the rest, and it was a piece of cake from there.

Once that was done, sending Bull and Cole back to the village to defend it from undead while they sealed the rift, they made their way beyond, to the dam controls. Never mind the dragon flying overhead in the storm. Everything was just dandy. They entered the little tavern out on the dam, quiet in case there were bandits hiding out. Isa heard some giggling ahead. She mouthed "what is that?" to Vhera, who just shrugged and went first.

It was just a couple of love birds, kids hiding their budding relationship from their parents. They all promised not to say anything; who were they to stand in the way of young love?

"I thought these controls had been destroyed in the darkspawn attack," Vhera commented as they worked together to open the floodgates. "So who repaired them?" Varric frowned, "our mayoral friend certainly has some questions to answer." "Later," Blackwall grunted as the controls locked into place. "For now, we need to get down in those caves and seal that rift." Solas nodded in agreement. Isa heard the shifting of gears and the thunder of water pouring through the floodgates. "Let's get moving," she said, heading for the door.

It took a while for the lake to drain, and the mud was atrocious when it did. "Ugh," Isa grumbled, pulling her feet from the mud. "You think you've got it bad," Varric complained, sinking in up to his knees. Blackwall, heavy as he was, also sank in pretty deep. It was a bad time all around. "All this infernal rain doesn't make it any better," Vhera commented, trudging her way down to old Crestwood.

"Move! Over there!" They stopped at the sound of a demanding voice coming from one of the rotting houses. "No, that way! Why won't anything here listen?" Vhera led the way into the house, and Isa followed behind her. Inside was a spirit, an orange whisp, floating around trying to change the world around it. "It is a spirit," Solas commented, "likely pulled here by the rift."

"You!" The spirit turned to them, pointing towards Vhera and Isa. "Who are you? I demand you tell me why nothing in this world will listen to my commands!" "A spirit of command," Solas added, "this world is not like the fade, you-" "Silence! I did not ask you!" The spirit turned back to the two women. "I sense something alike in you and I. Who are you?" Vhera answered, "you likely sense the anchor on my hand, spirit." "Not you, though your mark certainly sings." The spirit moved past her, floating in front of Isa. "You. You are like me. Surely you are in charge here, yes? Does this world change for you? Why is it so unmoving?" Isa blinked, very confused. She looked to Solas, who only gave an encouraging wave of his hand. She cleared her throat, "this world is not like the fade. You cannot change things with will alone. If you go back over to the fade, things will listen to you again."

"No!" The spirit whirled away, crossing the house again. "I refuse to return until something here obeys my commands!" Vhera stepped forward, "I feel compelled to help you, spirit. I will obey your commands, and pledge myself to your service." Solas seemed pleased. The spirit did as well. "Excellent! I have but one command. A demon of fire and rage had the gall to chase me across the lake! Kill it, and return to me." "I will do this for you," Vhera affirmed, and they headed out.

"What did it mean when it said you were like it?" Varric asked Isa when they were away from the spirit. Isa shrugged, "I haven't the slightest. Solas theorizes that I might be something similar to Cole, and that's why I can sometimes use magic. Perhaps the spirit sensed that?" Varric laughed, "you're weird, Bones. Hey, is that the mayor's old house?" He pointed to a house on a small hill with a plaque on it.

"It would appear so, yes," Solas approached, pushing the rotting door open. Vhera went in first, followed by Blackwall. Isa stayed outside, wandering around. She found piles of bodies, their flesh wrinkled and stretched. Varric walked with her. "A chantry sister asked us to keep an eye out for bodies. She wants to cremate them. Proper burial and all." Isa nodded, making a mental note of their location.

Vhera came back out looking pale. "I think the mayor flooded old Crestwood." "What?" "During the blight, most of the people here were sick. I think he flooded it so it wouldn't spread. He murdered the refugees here." Isa scowled, "then he will answer for his crimes." Blackwall crossed his arms. "I knew there was something shady about him. He really didn't want us down here."

"Let's keep moving. We need to get to that rift. The undead are still prowling here." Vhera was about to head towards the caves, but Solas stopped her. "There is an artifact nearby." Isa tilted her head, she had heard of the artifacts they had been finding, but she hadn't seen one herself. She followed them to the water's edge, spotting the strange looking elven piece. Vhera activated it with her mark. They seemed content at that, but Isa took a moment to look at it. There was something familiar about it. It made her feel strange.

"Da'avise," Solas put his hand on her shoulder. "We need to get moving. The undead won't wait forever," he insisted quietly. She shook her head to clear it, "of course." She let him guide her away from the strange artifact that he claimed strengthened the veil. For some reason, she doubted that was the case, but she didn't know enough to suggest otherwise.

As soon as they entered the caves, a wave of fear washed over Isa. It wasn't her own, rather, it was the memories of the people whom had died there. The feeling soon faded, but it was still unsettling.

"Are you alright?" Blackwall must have seen her expression. She nodded, "yes, just… the people who died here were not." She didn't know how else to explain it. He put a hand on her shoulder in a comforting gesture, and they moved on. They went further down into the caves, fighting their way through a few demons and undead, and Isa even got to show off her new hidden shield, which Blackwall and Varric were quite impressed with. Since they were close quarters and Varric seemed to have the shooting under control, Isa kept the shield on her arm.

Eventually, they reached some dwarven ruins, which none of them were expecting, as well as the rage demon that the spirit of command had mentioned. It was a tough bastard, but nothing the five of them couldn't handle. Hopefully the spirit would be appeased when it heard the news.

Isa found the ruins to be rather fascinating, as did Vhera. They did as much exploring as the patience of the others would allow. They finally came across the rift, and boy did it start out rough. Despair demons hurled ice at them. Isa held up her shield, feeling her arm freezing to it as ice crept over the edges. "Get around them!" her voice boomed, "Vhera, try to disrupt the rift! We'll keep them busy!" Once they were dealt with, terror demons leapt out, their twitching limbs and unnatural movements setting everyone on edge. Isa's sword hacked into their limbs, her arms stronger and sturdier than they had been when she had first started with a sword. She had certainly changed since then.

Finally, the rift closed. Soaked in demon blood and covered in ice shards and mud, Isa found herself rather chilly. Solas warmed her with a bit of fire, and she could wash off in the river when they left the caves.

Vhera led them out a different way, not the way they came in. "Are you sure you know where you're going?" Varric asked. Vhera nodded, "there's a draft this way." They found another elven artifact, as well as some old documents. Isa rather appreciated the old dwarven architecture. She liked old things.

They passed through a chamber with light filtering in from far above. There was some soft squeaking from a corner. Isa squinted into the shadows, and out popped a nug. Unafraid, it hopped lazily up to her, sniffing at the mud on her boots. She grinned despite herself. "Nugs," Solas commented, smiling as well. "I doubt they've ever seen people before. I wonder what they think of the giants passing through their home." There were several, hopping among them, bringing smiles to all of their faces. Such a small thing, but it warmed all of them to the core.

They made their way out; Vhera had been right. The passage spit them out right above old Crestwood. It was delightfully sunny when they reached the surface. Isa could see the river sparkling below. They returned to the spirit, informing them of the rage demon's demise. It was happy to move on. "We'd better get back to the mayor," Vhera commented, but Isa shook her head. "You all can go, but I am washing all of this crap off of me before I go anywhere." She waded into the river in all her armor, feeling it grow heavy as the cloth soaked in the water. It wouldn't matter. She took off the outer layer of metal, setting it on the bank. Vhera cleared her throat. "I think I will as well." She was far less shy than Isa, and stripped down to her base layer of undershirt and trousers, tossing her armor on the bank and jumping in the water. "It's cold!"

Soon enough, they were all in the water, enjoying the sun, washing the dirt and grime and demon blood off, splashing each other, and acting like the weight of the world wasn't on their shoulders.

Chapter Text

"That gutless son of a whore," Isa felt like throwing something. The mayor had vanished, leaving behind only a note. "That sodding coward! He couldn't even face what he had done!" Vhera clenched her fist, "we'll find him, don't worry. The Inquisition has eyes everywhere. But in the meantime, we need to get to Hawke." Iron Bull and Cole had met up with them at that point. Iron Bull chimed in, "one of the men here in town wants us to check in on an herbalist living up in the highlands. Why don't we split up?" Vhera nodded, "alright. Isa, take Bull and Cole to check in on the herbalist. Solas, Blackwall, Varric, and I will go find Hawke and keep an eye out for Leliana's missing scout. Join us when you're done." "You got it, boss," Bull grinned, heading towards the road. Isa wished them luck and followed with Cole in tow.

The sunny road was rather pleasant, and the small groups of bandits they got to wipe out kept their spirits up. Bull even sang a marching song he had picked up from one of the Inquisition soldiers. They made their way up into the highlands, spotting the herbalist's hut at the top of a cliff. Isa knocked on the door, pushing it open. "Come on in," the pleasant woman turned around. "What can I do for you?"

They had a pleasant conversation, but the instant Bull heard her talk about the dragon in the next valley, they had a new mission. Isa was concerned about just the three of them taking on a high dragon, but Bull was way to excited to be talked out of it, and Cole seemed to be down for it, so Isa readied her bow to bring it down and made sure her shield would be good to go when it was time to get it. "Alright, when it comes down, I'll take the fire, since I've got the shield. Bull, use that axe of yours and give it a good bashing. Cole, get underneath it. Watch the feet, but the belly is softer than the rest. Gut it if you can. It'll be one hell of a fight, but we can do this if we're careful."

They spotted the beast as they made their way towards the fort ruins in the next valley. It was massive, a great hunter, and she was angry. She flew high into the air. "Spread out!" Isa called as she fired her dragonbone bow, aiming for the wings. A few well-aimed shots, and she came down like a wounded butterfly, with a few holes in her wings. Isa strapped her bow to her back and drew her shield, charging the dragon's head, slamming right into her nose. Of course, she had no hope of winning a strength battle against a dragon, but it gave Cole enough time to slip past her great talons to get at her belly, gouging with his daggers. Bull came charging in, with a wide grin on his face, yelling something in the Qunari language, bringing his axe down on her well-armored head. It dazed her for a moment, then she began spewing fire. Bull rolled out of the way, and Isa ducked behind her shield. It grew hot, but it held. Harritt really was a genius.

It was a long battle, but finally Bull struck the killing blow, his axe striking where her neck met her head, cutting it clean off. At that point, Isa was exhausted, slightly crispy, and shakey from an adrenaline crash, but she grinned nonetheless as Bull scooped her up onto one shoulder and Cole on the other, swinging them around, shouting his joy to the world. "That was fucking AWESOME!" Isa giggled, holding onto his horn for support. "Bull, you're absolutely insane, but that was fun!" Cole had a smile on his face, "you are happy. I like happy." Bull set them down, "I could kiss you both!" Cole looked up at him, "please don't." Isa laughed, accidentally snorting, which only made her laugh harder.

They took a bit of time to bandage the burns and gouges they got from the fight before heading back up to the herbalist, who was clearly impressed and sent a crow to the Inquisition, so they could collect the remains. Dragon leather would certainly make for good armor. Isa hoped to surprise Vhera with it.

They met the others near a fishing pond. They had already met the grey warden. Vhera spotted them and jogged over, "goodness, you look rough. Was the herbalist a dragon?" Bull was more than happy to launch into the epic tale of their exploits.

Solas caught Isa's arm, putting his hand to her cheek, which had a burn on it that was hard to bandage, so they had just put poultice on it. "Here," he first used a bit of ice magic, then healed her slowly. She closed her eyes. Though the pain hadn't been bad, it was nice to feel it fading. "Ma serannas, Solas."

"Let's get back to Skyhold," Vhera interrupted the moment. "We need to get some scouts out to the Western Approach. Warden Stroud says there's been Venatori and Warden activity out there. He fears the Wardens have been corrupted." Isa frowned, "that isn't good." Blackwall shook his head, "it's terrible. The sooner we get moving, the better." They returned to Skyhold, one step closer to their victory.

Chapter Text

It was late in the evening, a few days after their return from Crestwood, and Isa was in her room, combing out her hair after a long day. The odd crinkles in her hair from being up in a tight bun all day gradually smoothed themselves out as she brushed, adding rosewater to her hair to help the process and to get dust out. Her delicate fingers helped untangle any knots. She looked in the mirror, her eyes tracing the vallaslin on her face. She looked down at the table part of the vanity, where Josephine had left her a sort of gift. Make-up. It wasn't much, stains for her lips, powder for her cheeks and eyes, but Josephine expected her and the Inquisitor to be invited to many more formal events in the future and wanted her to learn how to wear it.

Now was as good a time as any to practice.

What had Josephine said? Isa was trying to remember. There were several brushes, a bunch of coloured powders, pastes, paints, all sorts of things. "When you practice, start simple. You have bright eyes, so start with something soft and light. I would suggest the gold powder, just a little on your eyelids, then a line of black, like this. Make it look like a wing." Isa started with that, taking one of the smaller brushes and dipping it in the golden-bronze dust. She leaned in close to the mirror to see, dusting it lightly on her eyelid. The candle light made it sparkle. She did the same to the other eye. Isa had to admit, it was rather pretty.

She took a thin brush and dipped it into the black paste. How different could it be than vallaslin? She had never done real vallaslin, but all Dalish children practiced with paints made from crushed berries. She did what Josephine had showed her, making a delicate line along her lashes, coming to a point past the corner of her eye. She did the same for the other. It made her eyes pop.

She moved onto her cheeks. Over the black vallaslin she took some of the pink dust on a big, fluffy brush and brushed it over her cheeks. She looked like a blushing maiden. She giggled a little bit, actually enjoying herself. She was never one for vanity, but she did like looking pretty upon occasion.

She looked at the colours Josephine had given her for her lips. "You have very full lips and pale skin," Josephine had said, "try a darker lipstick. The red will come out because of your hair." Isa dipped a brush into one of the pastes; it looked like a rich red wine. She looked in the mirror and slowly brushed it over her lips, the shininess going away as it soaked in. She traced the curve of her lips with the brush, filling out the middle with the lovely colour. Josephine had been right. She looked beautiful. She sat there for a moment admiring herself, the way her copper hair curled slightly around her face, the way her lips popped, the way her eyes drew her in. She smiled, feeling like a child indulging in an extra sweet after dessert.

Of course, she couldn't stop there. She looked to her clothing rack, where the simple, yet elegant satin dress suit Josephine had gotten her for a dinner the next month with some Orlesian noble hung temptingly. She pulled the gold pants on, then carefully put on the wine-coloured shirt, making sure the fabric didn't touch her face. She even put on the matching heels, taking a few practice steps in them. They felt… natural, as if she had worn heels before, though she had no memory of doing so. She twisted her hair loosely and pinned it up behind her head with the golden inquisition pin on the vanity, letting a few strands hang loose in her face. She looked in the mirror again, scarcely able to believe her eyes. Was that really her? She let herself glide around the room, imagining she was at some grand ball, imagining she was dancing, talking with strangers, having a grand time.

She was startled by a knock on her door. She didn't even have time to answer when it was pushed open slightly, "Isa? Are you in?" It was Solas. She felt so embarrassed, frozen to the spot. He entered the room, closing the door behind him, then turned and caught sight of her, and he froze, his eyes widening, his mouth slightly open.

Her confidence plummeted, and she feared she looked ridiculous, worrying suddenly that the makeup was too much, that he would think her silly dressing up for nothing, that her hair was too careless. "I…" She struggled for something to say, feeling her face heating up.

"How do you expect me to come in here and have a civil conversation when you look that ravishing, vhenan?" In an instant he hand crossed the room and had one arm around her, the other lifting her chin. Her confidence lifted again, she asked shyly, "you like it? Josephine said I should start practicing with makeup." He looked absolutely enamoured, which melted her heart. "Of course. You look beautiful. That is a lovely lipstick. I wonder if it tastes as good as it looks."

He didn't give her a chance to respond. He kissed her hard, practically shoving his tongue into her mouth. She wrapped her arms around his neck, gripping the back of his shirt, pulling him closer. His hand fell from her chin, sliding down her back, his fingers tracing her spine. She tugged on his shirt, feeling rather bold. He growled against her lips, making her shudder. He broke the kiss, looking into her eyes, his own burning with lust. "Manners, da'len." Isa raised an eyebrow, "I'm not a child, hahren." He brought his hand around from her back and rested it on the front of her neck, gently, making sure he wasn't pushing boundries. "Manners," he growled.

His hand on her neck set her on fire in ways she didn't expect. She leaned forward into it and snarled, "make me." He gave a slight squeeze and kissed her again, biting her lip and tugging. Her legs felt weak, so she leaned into him, tugging on his tunic again. He pulled away from her, raising his eyebrow expectingly. "Please?" She gave in. He smirked and removed it, pulling it over his head. He was surprisingly fit, his subtle muscles visible on his slender frame. Isa traced her fingers over them, blushing hard.

"Vhenan," he murmured, resting his hand on her cheek. She leaned into it, looking up at him. "Yes?" He smiled, shaking his head slightly. "You're irresistible, you make it so easy to give in to desire. I think about nothing but you all day, how you might feel, the sounds you might make, how beautiful you are," he kissed her again. She draped her arms over his shoulders, melting into him. He slid a hand under her shirt, his fingers tracing her ribs. She broke the kiss laughing, "that tickles!" He chuckled, tickling her more. She squealed and wriggled out of his grasp, backing away from him.

"I'm sorry, vhenan, I won't do it again." He smiled impishly at her. She put her hands on her hips, "I don't believe you." He winked at her, then turned to the bowl of water she had. "Wash off your face and change your clothes, vhenan. I wouldn't want those fine garmets to get messy with what I have planned for you."

Her face turned bright red as she realized what he meant. Of course, her surprise quickly turned to excitement, and she hurried to her clothing rack. "Turn around, Solas." "Why?" "Manners," she stuck her tongue out. He laughed softly and turned his back while she changed into a simple tunic. She decided to omit trousers, just this once. She then went to the washbasin and cleaned the makeup off her face, then let her hair down, brushing it out.

Hands snaked around her waist, and warm lips met her neck, earning a soft sigh from her lips. "Vhenan," her lover murmured against her skin. "You make me do so many things I shouldn't. You change everything." She leaned her head back against his bare shoulder. She nipped his ear softly, backing her hips into his, whispering, "you make me crazy."

"You have no idea," he growled, turning her around and pushing her against the wall, biting at her neck, letting his hands wander her body without a care. She melted at his touch, so soft, yet so demanding. She traced the subtle muscles of his back and shoulders, leaning her head back and closing her eyes. "Solas," she murmured. He chuckled softly, "ma'lin'sila*," he began, biting her shoulder rather harshly, earning a squeak. "I want you to be louder than that. Speak up so your hahren can hear you."

She lifted up one of her legs, resting her knee on his hip, moaning his name into his ear when his hand came down to run along the underside of her thigh. "Solas!" She breathed, lightly scratching his back. Every little thing he did was driving her crazy. Maybe she was just pent up after nothing but teasing and interruptions for so long. He seemed to know it too, and judging by what was pressing against her hips, he felt the same way.

"Isenatha," he murmured, kissing her collarbone. She hadn't really liked the name before, but she loved the way it sounded from his lips. She then decided that he was moving way too slow for her tastes, and decided to give him a little push. She jumped a little so both legs were around his waist and dragged her nails down his back. He let out an animalistic groan and used one hand to hold her up, gripping her rear tightly. The other grabbed the front of her shirt and burned it a little so he could rip it the rest of the way, right down the middle. Isa shivered at the hunger in his eyes. She loved it.

He wrapped both arms around her and pulled her off the wall, tossing her onto her bed. He was on her in an instant, letting his hands and mouth wander her body. She laid her head back on the pillow and let out an elated sigh, her hands gripping the blanket beneath her. "Ah!" She cried out as Solas's fingers wandered between her legs, brushing against her. She blushed at how sensitive she was. He teased her more, drinking in all the little sounds she made. Finally he pulled her smallclothes off, sliding one long finger inside of her. Her whole body reacted, her back rising up off the bed, her hands coming up to grip the pillow. "Solas~" she purred, biting her lip. He started sucking on her chest, determined to leave a mark. He added another finger and moved them slowly inside of her. "You tease," she breathed out, releasing the pillow in favour of running her hands over his shoulders.

He pulled his mouth away from her skin with a slight pop. "What are you going to do about it, vhenan?" She lifted her head up, opening her mouth to say something, only to drop it again and moan out his name as he curled his fingers inside of her. He seemed to know all the right spots to touch, his other hand wondering her body, finally coming to rest on her hips where he dug his nails in. She cursed quietly, her face flushed, breathing heavily. Solas smirked and kissed her softly, mumbling against her lips, "you seem to be enjoying yourself." She wrapped her arms around him, scratching his shoulders and biting his lip, letting out a loud groan as he hit a particularly pleasant spot with his fingers. His other hand came up from her hips to rest on her neck again. "I thought I had taught you some manners, da'avise." Breathless, she looked into his eyes.

"I guess you're gonna have to try again."

His fingers started moving faster, earning a chorus of moans and curses. Isa dug her nails into his shoulders as he bit her neck, curling his fingers, "say my name," he growled. "Solas!" He bit harder, so she cried out louder, "SOLAS!" A wave of euphoria washed over her as all the pent up energy she had released. She laid back breathless, releasing her grip on her lover's shoulders. Solas chuckled softly, sliding his fingers out of her and bringing them to his own lips, looking into her eyes as he sucked them clean. Just like that, Isa's lust was renewed. She sat up, pushing on his shoulders and straddling him. He seemed surprised, but allowed her to do so. She leaned down and pressed her lips to his, then murmured, "Ar isalan ma latha em.**" Solas rested his hands on her hips, and his voice absolutely melted her. "Garas, aman ara'mis.***"

With quick fingers, Isa untied his leggings and pulled them off of him, tossing them aside. She crawled over him, settling her hips over his, letting out a soft gasp as she slid down on him. "Oh, Solas," she leaned her head back, lifting herself up before sliding back down. He held her hips, the look on his face absolutely sinful. His moans drove her wild, making her bounce faster, making her desperate. She braced her hands on his chest, enamoured by his expression. His lips slightly parted, his chiseled jaw tense, his eyes fluttering with every movement, he was putty in her hands, and she loved it.

"Isa," he moaned, gripping her hips tightly, his hips moving up to meet hers. "Isenatha," he cried out, one hand releasing her hips and coming up to hold one of hers. She interlocked her fingers with his next to his head, her other hand remaining on his chest. "Solas, vhenan!" She cried out, sitting up straight as her stomach tightened. "Isa!" He squeezed her hand tightly, closing his eyes as he finished.

Isa laid on his chest, breathing heavily. She felt like she was in heaven. He continued to hold her hand, his other hand tracing her spine gently. She smiled, then turned her head, pressing her mouth to his collarbone and sucking. "What are you doing?" She only hummed in response until she was finished. "You left a mark on me," she stated, admiring the purple mark forming on his pale flesh. "It was only fair." Solas brought her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers. "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever met, vhenan."

Isa grinned, kissing him sweetly. "That was incredible, Solas." She kissed his cheek, trailing down to his jaw, then settled her head on his shoulder. He ran his fingers through her hair, letting out a sigh of contentment. "We should get cleaned up," he spoke after a few minutes. Isa nodded, getting up. "Stay with me tonight?" She asked, feeling shy all of a sudden. "Of course, vhenan," he kissed her cheek. "Ar lath ma."

Chapter Text

Isa was thoroughly disgusted by the Western Approach. There was so much fucking sand, and it was everywhere. In her clothes, in her boots, in her hair, everywhere. And the sunburn? Oh, it was bad. She had figured out too late to cover every inch of her skin with something. She just wanted to be done with this place.

Clearly, Vhera felt the same. By the time they reached Hawke, she was snappish, and vulgar enough to make Varric blush. Blackwall was unbothered by the sun, but the heat certainly made him sweat like the bear of a man that he was. Dorian, contrary to the rest of them, seemed to like the sun, though he too hated the sand. In all, it was a miserable place.

They met up with Hawke and Stroud outside some old ruins that may have once belonged to the Grey Wardens. "You're just in time," Hawke called out as he jogged up to them. "They've started some sort of ritual. We have to stop them." Isa drew her bow, and they headed in.

They were just in time to see a warden get his throat slit against his will, and a demon summoned and bound. Isa was disgusted, and infuriated. "Why you sick son of a whore," she called out, not bothering to let Vhera handle the situation. The man leading the rituals, a weasel-like man with a permanent sneer, turned to them. "Ah, Inquisitor, it's an honour, and I see you've brought friends. If you could call off your dog, I'm sure we could have a chat."

"Oh we'll have a chat all right," Isa growled, but stopped when Vhera cried out in pain. The anchor on her hand was flashing, magic crackling in the air. "Corypheus showed me how to deal with you," the man gloated. Isa charged him, earning a startled screech. "Wardens, attack!" The man called out, his magic faltering as Isa jumped on him. They tumbled off of the ruins, down into the sand below, Isa doing her best to beat the shit out of him the whole way down. After the sand, they hit rocks, and unfortunately, Isa hit her head rather hard. When they stopped rolling, she lay still for a moment, ears ringing and world spinning. The coward took the opportunity to make a run for it.

"Maker's balls, you really took a tumble." Isa opened her eyes to Blackwall, looking concerned, but clearly trying to hide amusement. She scowled at him, "he got away." Blackwall nodded, "no matter. We know where he's going. Adamant fortress, to the North. Are you alright? Hit your head hard?"

Isa sat up slowly. She felt alright, if a little light headed. "Maybe a slight injury, but I'll be alright." She ran her fingers through her hair, oh, it was down? Must have been all over the place, full of sand; no wonder he was laughing at her. No blood. "I'm fine." Blackwall pulled her to her feet. Woozy at the sudden movement, she stumbled, bracing herself on his chest. "Easy there," he rumbled, a hand on her elbow to steady her. "Not too fast. The others went back for horses, they should be here soon. All we've got to do is get to the top of this hill, then you can just rest for a while. If you hit your head hard, you don't want to play games." Isa grumbled, closing her eyes for a moment. "It's fine. Just a blood rush."

Before she knew what was happening, she was cradled in his arms like a bride. She started to protest, but he just rolled his eyes. "Hush, it's only to get you up the hill. You're covered in sand as it is." He started trudging his way up the steep dune, huffing as he went, his eyes fixed firmly on the landscape. Isa stared at her knees, crossing her arms. "Quit pouting," Blackwall teased, "or I'll tickle you." "You'd better not, I'll stab you." He laughed at that.

It didn't take long to reach the top of the hill, where he set her back down on a rock. The sun bore down on them. Isa wanted to shrink away from it, but there was nowhere to hide. Then suddenly she was shaded. Blackwall had his shield held over her, keeping the unforgiving sun at bay. She smiled to herself.

"Maybe I should have called you princess instead of Bones," Varric called out, approaching on his pony. Isa looked up to see the others riding towards them with a pack mule and a draft horse in tow. Isa started to stand, but the world spun again. Blackwall held her up, "she's not good to ride on her own, I'll ride with her until we can get to a healer. Should be no problem for a mage." Dorian scoffed, "I'm right here." "Yes, but you're no healer, are you?" "I could be considered a very late healer." Isa laughed despite herself. Vhera snorted, "that's twisted, Dorian, you can't call necromancy really late healing." Dorian winked at her, "I didn't lose my medical license for nothing."

Blackwall lifted Isa onto the draft and hoisted himself on behind her. She dozed off for most of the ride, leaning back on his broad chest. By the time they got to a healer, her sunburn was bad enough that they took pity on her and healed that as well.

Chapter Text

The siege of Adamant had begun.

As much as Isa had wanted to go with the Inquisitor, it was agreed that she would be better off storming the battlements and meeting Vhera once the outer walls were secure. It was a good thing, too, because they were having a damn hard time of it. Isa had made it off of the ladders and onto the wall, but that was about it. She was swamped with demons. She had left her bow at Skyhold, knowing it would mostly be close quarters combat, so she fought with sword and shield, slaying demon after demon, only to find them replaced.

Oh shit, that was a fucking pride demon. She cleared enough space for a few more soldiers to get a hold on the battlements and went after the massive brute. She shouted to get its attention, then rolled out of the way when it swung out of her with its great lightning whip. "Stay back!" She warned. "Keep the other ones busy!" She darted in, trying to get close, but the demon smacked her away. Her armor took the brunt of the blow, but it still winded her. She took a breath and went for it again, jumping over its arm, vaulting up and driving her sword into its eye socket. It let out a pained roar and swiped at her, trying to get her off. She twisted her sword around, ripped it out, and drove it into the other eye. That one felled the beast, and she landed hard on her back. "Ugh," she rolled onto her knees, taking a moment to catch her breath.

Fortunately, that was when Vhera, Solas, Dorian, Blackwall, and Cassandra arrived, having cleared out the light resistance below, and helped to get the soldiers up on the battlements. Cassandra pulled Isa to her feet. "Are you alright?" "Just winded," Isa puffed. "I despise demons." "Don't we all?" Cassandra gave her a hint of a smile.

They made their way towards the heart of Adamant, pushing past the massive army of demons. Isa had just about had it with all these damn demons. She was feeling very grumpy, and was happy to take it out on the endless waves of fucking demons.

They finally reached the source of them. Isa was bloody, battered, bruised, and rather exhausted, but ready to slaughter every damn warden taking part in these blood rituals, including Clarel and that damn Venatori bastard, Erimond, with that smug look on his face. Isa had a hard time focusing on what they were saying. Something was interfering, like the lyrium song but… different. Maybe it was being so close to the abyssal rift? Maybe there was red lyrium nearby. She could feel Vhera's hand on her shoulder, keeping her from attacking. That was enough for Isa, but she was still ready to attack as soon as that hand was gone.

The wardens below lowered their weapons, much to Isa's surprise. Clarel also seemed to have a wounded look on her face, and turned against Erimond, who summoned the archdemon dragon. That must have been what was driving Isa crazy, because when it got closer, she fell to her knees, her head screaming. She was aware of the fighting around her, but she could barely lift her head. Her heart beat like a drum in her ears.

Vhera landed beside her, having been thrown back by another pride demon that had been summoned. Isa forced herself to stand, stepping over her, raising her shield and taking the blow of the whip the demon brought down. Like a stone pillar she stood, taking blow after blow, where the hell were the others? Fighting the other damn demons and trying not to get blasted by the damn dragon.

Finally someone managed to take down the demon, and Isa looked down at Vhera, who was coming to her senses. She said something, but Isa still couldn't hear her. She felt hands over her ears, and suddenly the pounding quit. She couldn't hear anything at all. The pressure was gone though, and she felt strangely empty.

Solas brought his hands from her ears and took her hand, pulling her towards the stairs where Clarel had gone chasing after Erimond. Isa got the point. Though no longer fueled by rage, she was still just as determined to bring the bastard down. Those were her orders, after all. Vhera and the others followed. They dodged a few blows from the dragon, chasing the warden-commander to the very edge of adamant, over the abyssal rift. Clarel was clearly furious, and Erimond was clearly afraid, the weasely coward.

Isa watched the scene unfold. Of course, Erimond's only card to play was to summon the archdemon. Isa followed the others in trying to get out of its way, wincing as it chomped down on the Warden-Commander. They backed away as the thing stalked them, and Isa's heel hit the edge.

"In Death, Sacrifice." Isa heard it loud and clear in a chorus of a thousand voices, welcoming their sister into their ranks. The ground beneath them crumbled, and Isa found herself falling through the air with nothing to hold onto. She saw Vhera above her, reaching out, her hand glowing. Then it was too bright to see.

The ground was an inch away, but Isa hadn't hit it yet. There was a strange sound around her, and a familiar feeling. The Fade. Oh no. Vhera must have opened a rift as they were falling. Did that mean they were physically in the Fade?

She reached out and touched the ground, suddenly hitting it. She got up and brushed herself off. Whatever spell Solas had used to deafen her had clearly worn off when they passed through the tear in the veil, since she could hear Hawke and Stroud bickering clearly. She turned and looked in their direction. They were a bit far away, so Isa started to make her way towards them.

By the time Isa reached them, the rest of the group had found each other. Cassandra spotted her first, and to Isa's surprise, drew her sword. "Stay back, spirit!" Isa blinked, putting her hands up. "Cassandra, it's me." Cassandra blinked, confused. "Isa? Impossible. Why do you look like that?" Isa shook her head, "what are you talking about?"

"Fascinating," Solas approached her, studying her. "Since we are physically in the Fade, it must have drawn out some aspect of the truth of your form." Blackwall seemed disturbed, "you said she might be a spirit like Cole, or possessed by a good spirit, not some sort of demon!" Solas waved his hand dismissively, "her body is still the same, she doesn't look demonic to me." Isa scowled, "what are you talking about? What do I look like?" Solas motioned towards a puddle. "See for yourself."

Isa peered into the still water. She was startled by her own image. She was the same, except her eyes glowed like burning coals, and her hair looked like strands of molten gold. Her hair floated around her, as if she were under water. She didn't blame the others for reacting like they had. "I… Solas?" She looked to him for some sort of explanation. "My hypothesis was at least partially correct. You are similar to Cole, but unlike him, you are not fully a spirit. The Fade simply reflects reality. I would theorize you do not need to be touching a mage to use your power here, but I would not consider it wise to test it, since we do not know how strong it will be, or if you can control it. I wish I could offer more, but all the spirits I have consulted do not know what you are, or have refused to say. When we return, I promise to look further into it. For now, we must focus on getting out of here."

"How do we know she won't turn on us?" Cassandra had not dropped her sword. Vhera cut in, "it's still the same Isa, even if she looks a little… startling. We've known she's weird for a while now. If she decides to go rogue, I'll kill her myself." Vhera winked at Isa, who shrugged, "that sounds fair. Let's get moving."

They searched around, finally finding a path forward up a creepy set of stairs. They came across what must have been demons, though Isa saw little twisted children screaming as their bones broke and rebroke, folding in on themselves. She froze, horrified. Then she saw them burn, and Dorian stepped in front of her. "They're just demons," he shook her out of her daze. "It's not real."

"Lesser fear demons," Solas clarified. "Spiders is something so many people fear, an appropriate form." "That afraid of spiders, Isa?" Dorian asked. Isa shook her head, swallowing the lump in her throat. Blackwall voiced her thoughts exactly. "Spiders? I did NOT see spiders." Solas seemed more interested than anything. "Ah, so we each see what they think will scare us most. Our own personalized nightmare." "Delightful," Cassandra muttered.

Isa didn't like this place.

There was a woman ahead, dressed in chantry robes. Isa could see a slight glow around her. Cassandra nearly dropped her shield. "Is that…. Divine Justinia?" They approached the woman, who greeted them, and told them where they were. She spoke mostly to Vhera, claiming that the nightmare demon had her memories captive, and she had to kill the demons to get them back. She needed to remember the conclave. Isa had a lingering suspicion that this was not truly Divine Justinia, but she seemed truly willing to help, so they took her advice.

The demons were weak, even in the Fade, and went down easily enough. Isa watched the memory through Vhera's eyes, as did everyone else. It was the Divine, being held by grey wardens while Corypheus prepared to sacrifice her.

Vhera gasped, the memory fading. "Those were grey wardens!" Hawke snarled at Stroud, and the two began arguing. Isa wasn't interested in listening to them bicker, so she began to wander. She felt so… strange. Like this place was familiar to her, but she was a stranger at the same time. She hadn't noticed she had wandered off from the group until she stood in front of a few small grave stones, each with a familiar name on them. "Solas," she read. "Dying alone." How strange. "Cassandra, helplessness." She knelt down. "Blackwall, himself. Cole, despair." These were all fears. Their biggest fears. She read off all of her friends' fears, finally reaching Vhera's. "Vhera, paralysis." She hadn't known that. Maybe Vhera didn't know herself. Then she saw her own name. Did she know her biggest fear? Did she want to know?

"Isenatha. Buried Alive."

Chapter Text

"Isenatha!" Isa broke out of her daze when she heard Vhera calling out for her. She turned her head, seeing them across what appeared to be a bog. When Vhera tried to reach her, the acid of the bog burned her. Isa strode through it without a care. "Isa, I was so worried! How dare you wander off in a place like this?" Vhera hugged her tightly, not letting go. The others were glowering, clearly worried as well, except for Hawke and Stroud, who were still bickering. "I… I'm sorry. I didn't even notice. I'm alright. Have you had a lot of trouble?"

Vhera let her go. "No, though we've heard the nightmare demon talking to us. He's trying to discourage us. Has he said anything to you?" Other than showing her their greatest fears? "No. Let's get out of this place; I don't like it."

They kept moving, making their way through this twisted part of the fade, warped by the powerful nightmare. Isa did hear the nightmare talking to the others, and finally, it spoke to her. "Isenatha," it said. "A shell of your former self. What a force you once were." "What is it saying?" Solas asked. Isa raised an eyebrow, "can't you hear it?" Solas blinked, "it is not a language I am familiar with." Isa was surprised. "You don't even know what you are, what you're still capable of," the demon continued. "You could destroy them all with the simplest slip up, and you don't even know it. Pathetic."

"It doesn't matter what it's saying," Isa grumbled. "It's just trying to put us off." Blackwall let out a grunt of agreement. Dorian gripped his staff, "all he's done is piss me off." Cassandra laughed a bit, "I cannot wait to find this demon."

They came to the blockade, where Divine Justinia waited for them. Apparently the others had determined she was indeed a spirit mimicking the Divine, but she was helping, so at the moment, it didn't matter.

That she sacrificed herself was a curveball for them all. The bloody legs formed the perfect grisly battleground to fight the projection of the nightmare demon. Isa noticed that she felt… faster in the fade. Stronger too. She was certainly more effective, and resisted his attempts at stunning them better than the others. It was still a long battle, and all the little fear demons coming to his aid didn't make it any easier. but finally they prevailed.

Vhera opened a rift so they could get out. Isa ran for the opening, turning back to see the others trapped by the demon that had reformed as the monstrous spider. "In death, sacrifice!" Stroud shouted, attacking the monster so they could escape.

They tumbled out of the rift, back into the main courtyard of Adamant fortress. Isa felt drained, returned to her usual form, of course. Her legs felt shaky as she stood, moving to the side so Vhera could address the remaining wardens.

"The wardens will ally with the Inquisition. Corypheus is a darkspawn magister, after all, and we need all the help we can get."
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"Are you out of your mind, Inquisitor?" Solas was furious. Isa stood in the doorway to the rotunda, watching them argue. Vhera crossed her arms. "What's so wrong with having the wardens join us? I don't understand, Solas." Solas slammed his hands on the desk, "they were corrupted by the Venatori, they could easily do it again! They are a risk, Inquisitor!" Vhera lowered her voice dangerously, "are the mages not a risk? We allied with them. They were slaves to the Venatori, and last I looked, you were all for their rescue. The wardens were tricked, they were being controlled! I will not abandon them and drive them from Orlais, not when they could help!" Solas shook his head, making his disapproval apparent. Vhera threw her hands in the air in exasperation and stormed out.

"And what about you," Solas spoke. "What do you think of the wardens joining the Inquisition?" Isa emerged from the doorway. "I think she's right. You're overreacting." Solas gave her a disgusted look. "You can't be serious. You support this madness?" Isa took a deep breath. More heated words wouldn't help. "I do, but even if I didn't, I support my Inquisitor, and so should you. She has enough on her shoulders." "That gives her no right to be a fool."

Isa turned her back, walking quickly out of the rotunda. "Isa, wait, I-" She didn't wait to hear the rest, slamming the door behind her. Solas could pretend to be wise and all-knowing all he liked, but he was just as flawed as the rest of them, and the Wardens deserved a second chance.

The smell of horses hit her, and before she realized it, she was at the stables. One of the horses nickered at her, reaching out to sniff her in hopes of a treat. She scratched his whithers, not caring that she was going to get her Skyhold uniform dirty. "Hey boy," she whispered, her anger melting.

"It's good to see you… not glowing." Blackwall's gruff voice came from the right of her in the barn. Isa let out a soft sigh. "Cassandra is still jumpy. It's not like you all didn't know something was weird." Blackwall looked sheepish for a moment. "That isn't what I meant." "I know." She was exasperated, but not with him, and she needed to remind herself not to take it out on him.

"You support the wardens?" Blackwall asked, coming up to pat the horse's nose. "Yes." "Solas giving you a hard time?" Isa ground her teeth. "Yes." "He'll get over it."

Isa let out a sigh, resting her forehead on the horse's neck. He was very warm, and smelled nice. It was no hart, but Isa liked the way horses smelled. Blackwall spoke in hushed tones, making conversation to ease her mind. "The Inquisitor is heading for the Exalted Plains tomorrow. Are you going with her?" Isa shook her head. "No, she's asked me to go to the Emerald Graves. The Commander has a lead on some red lyrium smugglers that might lead us to Samson, a red Templar working with Corypheus. I'm going to hunt them down." Blackwall nodded slowly. "Bringing anyone with you?" Isa shrugged, "I'm not leaving until the day after tomorrow, so I haven't asked around yet. Would you like to go?" Blackwall's mustache curled up in a smile. "I'd be honoured."
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The next morning, there was a knock on her door. Isa grumbled, unhappy about waking up before she had planned to. "What?" The door opened and Solas entered. Isa rubbed her eyes. "Solas? What are you doing? It's not even dawn?" He approached her bedside. "I know. I wanted to apologize, for yesterday." He sat down and took her hand in his. "I did not mean to upset you, vhenan." He kissed her fingers tenderly, earning a sleepy smile. "It's fine," she reached up to pull him down. He chuckled softly. "As much as I'd like to, I'm leaving soon, da'avise." "So early?" Solas's face fell. "A friend of mine needs my help. I must get there as soon as possible." Isa kissed his cheek, "alright. Dareth shiral." He lifted her chin and kissed her softly. "Ar lath ma."
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Isa woke to an insistent knocking on her door. It was later in the day, and Isa realized she had overslept. "Shit," she crumbled. "I'm coming!" She rolled out of bed. "Lady Lavellan," Josephine called out through the door. "As the Inquisitor's second, you are responsible for judging prisoners in her absence." "Fantastic," Isa got up. "I'll be out soon. Let me get dressed."

She brushed her hair and tied it up quickly, pulling on her trousers and buttoning up the velvet coat she wore around Skyhold. She tied the silvery sash around her waist and over her shoulder, pulled on her boots, and headed out.

It didn't quite feel right to sit in the Inquisitor's throne, so she stood in front of it instead. Josephine announced to the spectators, "as the Inquisitor's second, Lady Isenatha Lavellan will be judging the prisoners in her stead." Isa felt a little nervous, but at least this case was black and white.

Wait, did she say prisoners? Multiple? Who else was she judging? The first man they led out in chains was not Lord Erimond. It was the Mayor of Crestwood. "Mayor Gregory Dedrick," Josephine began, "is accused of flooding old Crestwood, murdering refugees and families given shelter in homes and the caves below. He claims it was to save the healthy from the darkspawn taint." Isa wrinkled her nose. "This is a serious accusation. Have you any defense?" The former mayor looked very tired. "I did it to save them. How could I convince someone to leave a husband or child behind? I had no choice." "Were no innocents caught in the floodwaters?" He was silent.

Isa tried to think of what Vhera might do, then realized that she wasn't Vhera. This was her decision, and Vhera trusted her with it. She took a moment to think. "Your crime was committed on Ferelden soil, before the time of the Inquisition, so let Ferelden have you. You'll rot in one of their prisons."

Isa began to wish she had decided to sit as the next prisoner was led out. This also was not Lord Erimond. It was a woman in grey warden armor. Isa was surprised. Josephine explained. "This is Ser Ruth, a grey warden. She turned herself in, asking for a public death." Isa crossed her arms, leaning her weight on one leg. "Why?" Ser Ruth spoke up, "I deserve no less. I took part in murder and blood magic. I want to serve as a warning to others who might do the same. What I did was unforgivable, and must be punished."

Isa was torn. Vhera had forgiven the grey wardens. Isa couldn't turn around and execute one of them. However, Ser Ruth had committed a horrible crime and clearly wanted punishment for it. Isa looked to Josephine, who merely shrugged. Isa's gaze went around the room, and landed on another grey warden, an older man she had overheard talking about the calling.

"Ser Ruth," Isa began, swallowing the lump in her throat. This didn't feel right, but it had to be the best decision. There didn't seem to be a right answer. "There is a place for grey wardens who no longer feel able to carry out their duties. You will go to the deep roads to die an honourable death in battle." Ser Ruth shook her head, distraught. "That teaches a lesson to no one!" Isa looked down at her, keeping the emotion off her face. "You asked for my judgement, and you have received it." They took Ser Ruth away, her fists clenched together in the shackles she had put herself in willingly.

"Lord Erimond," finally. "Is accused of corrupting the grey wardens, murder, blood magic, summoning demons, conspiracy, attempts on the Inquisitor's life, among other crimes," Josephine stated. Isa already knew what her verdict was, but she would follow due process. "Do you have anything to say for yourself?" Lord Erimond laughed at her, "death is not the end! I will be glorified by the Elder One!" Isa rolled her eyes, "fanatics. They're all the same. You," she pointed at Erimond and snarled at him, "will die by my hand. It's a shame the Inquisitor isn't here to do it herself, but I must say, I am relieved she won't have to dirty her hands with your unworthy blood." She stepped down from the platform the throne was on. "Bring him out to the gallows, and bring me an ax."

Clearly Erimond's words had been empty, for he was terrified as he knelt on the wooden execution platform. They brought Isa the Inquisitorial sword, the massive ornate thing Vhera wielded on formal occasions, including executions. She didn't say a word as she brought the sword up over her head, then in one swift movement, she cut Erimond's head clean off.

The rest of the day was a blur. It was full of meetings with the advisors, with various nobles, with wardens, mages, soldiers, spies, Isa lost track. How did Vhera do this day after day? Maybe it just took a while to get the hang of it? Isa hoped she wouldn't have to do this often.

"We have to get everything finished today, or I wouldn't push you so hard," Josephine apologized between meetings. "With both you and the Inquisitor gone tomorrow, we have to be sure everything is in order that we would need you for." Isa smiled, "I understand, Josephine." "You are handling this remarkably well." Josephine put a hand on Isa's arm. "How are you doing?" Isa paused, then shrugged. "Just caught up in everything. I appreciate the concern, but I'm fine, Josephine. Let's get on to the next meeting."
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It was nearly midnight by the time Isa finished with everything necessary, and almost dawn by the time she had finished everything she felt would make life for the advisors easier. She had just collapsed into bed when there was a gentle knocking on the door. She thought she might cry. "Yes?" Vivienne cracked open the door. "I'm sorry to disturb you, darling, but I have something you may want to see." It would seem that Isa was not going to sleep before they rode for the Emerald Graves.

Isa reluctantly pulled on her clothes and followed Vivienne outside, where a fight was brewing between, of all things, a grey warden and a mage. Not many were awake yet, and those that were, well, they were content to watch. "You deserved no pity! Using blood magic to summon demons, you should have been banished!" The mage's staff glowed as she hurled sharp words at the warden, whom had his sword drawn. "And you would have seen a Tevinter magister enslave us all, but you were too blinded by your selfish war that it didn't matter to you, nor did it matter who died in the process!"

"ENOUGH!" Isa's voice boomed out, all eyes turning to her. She was furious. "You ungrateful CHILDREN!" She stormed down the stairs, the small crowd parting for her. "The Inquisition risked life and limb, each and every one of us, to save both groups, the Inquisitor herself went through hell and back for both of you, and all you brats can do is sit here and bicker because you're feeling better that you couldn't help yourselves? You're not mad at each other! If you can't handle your own guilt, then walk out of this keep, but do not start fights in my courtyard, or I will have you in the stocks faster than you can blink. I am disgusted." She snarled, and they physically flinched away from her. "Lady Lavellan," the mage began, "I didn't mean- the warden, he-" "I don't give a DAMN!" Isa clenched her fist. "I don't care who started it, and I don't care why. You are working together. You are facing a real threat bigger than your egos. Get out of my sight, and if I hear of this again, I'll have you both flogged!"

Isa slammed the door of her room closed behind her, flipping the lock down. She couldn't believe it. After everything, how ungrateful could these people be? Starting petty fights over past mistakes like their mistakes hadn't already been paid for in blood, like they both weren't guilty. It was ridiculous! The insult to Vhera alone made Isa's blood boil. She let out a shout of anger and picked up a vase, hurling it at the wall. The effort that Vhera put in, that everyone put in, to keep the Inquisition together, to fight the evil of Corypheus, and for some stupid little mage and some fledgeling grey warden to fight at dawn like they knew anything: it was infuriating! Isa hurled a stray stone at the wall, knocking a chip off as it hit.

Large arms wrapped around her from behind, earning a startled shriek. "Shh, it's alright, it's just me." Blackwall. Isa's face flushed with embarrassment. "H-how did you get in?" Cole appeared out of the shadows. "I let him in. I wanted to help, but you wanted to be angry for a while. You did not want to be helped, so I left the door open." Isa tried pushing Blackwall's arms away, "I'm fine!" "No you're not. You're upset." Blackwall held her tight. "I'm just making sure you don't break everything in here."

"You bastard," Isa growled, considering biting him. "She might bite you," Cole said nonchalantly. "Thanks for the warning," Blackwall had the gall to be amused. Isa thought about killing them both. Blackwall held her tight, ensuring she wouldn't escape his grasp. "How dare they," Cole began, and Isa shook her head. "Cole, please." "Anger, outrage, how dare they insult her like that? Blatant abuse of loyalty, loathing, how I loathe them, how I long to make them suffer, to make them see," Cole put a hand on her cheek. His hands were cool. Isa tried to turn away. "You need my help, but do not want it. I am uncertain, your soul is split, spliced, I am confused. Your half like me, it resists, it is hard to reach, but your half like this world, it calls out desperately for relief, and that is why I asked Blackwall to hold you. I only want to help. Desperate, lost in despair, drowning, dreary, dreading every step. You are as uncertain as I am. You cannot lead if your rage consumes you. Your exhaustion already clouds your mind. You should have slept last night, but you thought about them instead."

He was right, though his methods were unusual for his usual mild nature. Perhaps it was the quiet parts of her that were calling out to him, and he saw no other way. Isa sighed softly. "Alright. But I don't want to forget." Blackwall slowly released her. Cole held her face, and she felt her anger melt away. "Flogging, fire, ferocity, fury, they deserve wrath but it will not be wrought upon them. Mercy. Forgiveness. They are foolish children, they will learn. They are scared. We are all scared." Cole let her go. "Thank you Cole," she smiled slightly. "Blackwall, if you ever hold me like that against my will again, I'll rip your arms off." Blackwall chuckled, "yes ma'am. Who's coming with us?" Cole asked, "may I stay here? There are many wounded wardens, frightened, haunted by demons and themselves, and I can help them." Isa nodded, "of course. Varric should come with us; he's sort of our expert on red lyrium. Ask Vivenne as well; it would be good to have a mage along." Blackwall nodded and headed out.

Cole smiled at Isa. "You are worthy of being followed." Isa blinked, surprised by the sudden statement. "Thank you." "You are welcome."

Chapter Text

Isa could barely keep her eyes open on the ride towards the Emerald Graves. They stopped halfway for the night in an old bear cave, long abandoned, and sheltered from the wind. Blackwall started a fire while Varric shot down a ram for supper. Isa struggled to put up her tent, though she was fumbling over herself.

"Let me help, dear." Vivienne put her warm hands over Isa's, guiding her away. She set up Isa's tent for her, laying out her bedroll. Isa watched her with a glazed over gaze. Vivienne sat down with her, draping a blanket over her shoulders. "You're exhausted, did you sleep at all last night?" Isa shook her head, rubbing her eyes. "I wanted to be sure everything was set until Vhera returned to Skyhold." Vivienne smiled at her warmly. "I'm sure they'll appreciate it, darling. After dinner, you just get some rest. We'll take care of keeping watch." Isa was going to protest, but Vivienne would have none of it. She was a kind woman, in her own way. Isa liked her.

Isa ate enough to satisfy her hunger and flopped into bed, easily slipping into sleep.
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She knew she was dreaming as she walked across a vast expanse of plain, the grass tickling her fingers. She was unfamiliar with this place. Had something drawn her here? It looked nothing like where she had fallen asleep.

She saw a familiar figure ahead. Was that Solas? His shoulders slumped and his head hung, his hands covering his face, his back turned to her. Ah, that explained it. This wasn't her dream. They were so far apart; how had she come to his dream so easily? Had he called her there?

No. At least, not intentionally. When she reached him, he seemed just as surprised as she was. His cheeks were damp, and his eyes were clogged with despair. "Vhenan," Isa's heart ached for him. "What troubles you?"

Solas hugged her tightly, his chest shaking with silent sobs as he cried into her shoulder. It was very unusual to see him cry. He was normally very composed, even when he was upset. Something horrible must have happened. Isa rubbed his back, letting him cry it out. She wanted very much to help him more, but this was the most she could do.

Finally, he spoke. "They bound my friend, a spirit of wisdom, and forced her to fight, turning her into a demon. We managed to break the binding spell, but it was too late. This was where she used to dwell. It is empty now." He was mourning. Isa held him close, "oh Solas, I'm so sorry." She didn't know what else to say. Death was hard, and nothing made it easier.

Solas nodded, wiping his eyes on his sleeves as he let her go. "Thank you for coming to me, da'avise. Your presence is a comfort." Isa kissed his hands softly. "I wish I could help more." Solas gave her a sad smile. "I will be alright. I simply need some time. You should focus on the task set before you for now. I will see you upon your return." Isa brushed her fingertips over his cheek, tracing the lines of the bone. "Ar lath ma. Min ju'etunen.*"

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Isa woke to some rustling not too far off, and the sounds of heavy feet moving. It was still early. Dawn was just beginning to stretch her pale fingers over the world. She rose slowly, fearing danger. She crept out slowly, past the sleeping forms of Vivienne and Blackwall. Where was Varric? In her barely awoken state, she didn't think to bring a weapon as she followed the source of the noise.

She found Varric with his back to a rock, cornered by a massive wild hart. The great beast had his antlers lowered, his ears pinned aggressively. Varric had Bianca aimed, but he didn't have a good shot that would do much more than make the beast angry. "Shit," Varric muttered. "Run through by a hart. What a way to go."

Isa emerged from the brush, getting the attention of the hart, who pawed at the earth and turned his attention to the bigger target. He was a beautiful creature, strong and proud, with a silvery-brown coat and massive antlers. He was truly in his prime. "Easy now," Isa murmured, turning her body slightly to the side and putting a hand out, palm down. The hart snorted, letting out a call, his breath steaming in the chilly morning air. Isa barely felt the frost on her bare feet as she inched forward, keeping her gaze lowered. Varric watched in awe as she approached the hart, who shook his mighty head and pranced in place a bit, then sniffed at her hand.

Isa then lowered her hand, leaning her body forward and offering her face instead. She greeted harts the same way one should greet an unfamiliar horse, by rubbing noses. The hart snorted, uneasy at first, but after a moment he lowered his head and brushed his nose against hers, blowing hot air against her face. She let out a breath from her mouth, letting the hart get used to her. She had bonded with harts before, and seemed to have a knack for it. It was an old thing, something more primal than magic. Few elves had a true gift for it. Hopefully this one would be no different. It would also make life on the horses easier, as they could disperse the weight load.

The heart raised his head and let out a call, shaking his antlers. Isa smiled, "hello there." He nudged her chest with his nose, his aggression gone. Isa pet his nose and scratched his neck, "you're a good boy, aren't you?"

"This is like something out of some damn princess story," Varric lowered Bianca, shaking his head in disbelief. Isa reached out to him, "come say hello. He's harmless now, don't worry; he was just territorial." The hart let Varric approach, lowering his head to sniff at him.

"Feynthorn," Isa proclaimed as they walked back towards camp, the hart following like a puppy. "That's what I'll call him." "We're bringing him with us?" Varric ran his fingers through his hair. "He tried to turn me into mincemeat!" Isa laughed. "You were in his territory! Besides, once you bond with a hart, it's for life. I couldn't leave him behind if I wanted to. He'd follow me eventually."

The other two were waking at that point. Blackwall was stirring a fire to warm up something to eat, and Vivienne was smoothing her clothes out. Vivienne spotted them first. "Oh goodness!" She put her hand to her chest at the sight of the hart. "What a beautiful creature!" Blackwall looked up, his eyes widening. "That's a big hart. I don't think I've ever seen one up close."

Feynthorn got plenty of pets that morning.

Isa rode without any sort of saddle or bridle, guiding Feynthorn with her legs, her hands resting on his neck when they went over uneven terrain. It was a very natural way of riding for her, and certainly one she liked. The rest of the trip was a pleasant one, and they made it to the Emerald Graves at about mid-afternoon.

They were not expecting the turmoil that awaited them.

Chapter Text

Apparently these Freemen of the Dales had been causing quite a lot of trouble, and there were some refugees that needed help. Isa let out a sigh at the news. "Looks like we'll be here a bit longer than expected." They started off into the valley, towards the deep gulch where the refugees fighting the "freemen" were camping out.
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They fought for days, uncovering plots, finding connections to red lyrium, and even finding a haunted mansion high in the hills and killing the abomination residing there, as well as the fucking dragon that resided up in the hills. There were quite a few disturbing questions found in the graves that it was better not to find the answers to. In all, it was a stressful trip, but once they had turned their accidental revolution into a success, they did catch the smugglers they had come to find. Feynthorn proved to be quite the fighter with a thick skin, and it was satisfying to watch him plow through several enemies at once. Isa's biggest concern was that the red lyrium would get to him, so she was careful to keep him away from it, which he didn't seem to mind.
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They arrived back at Skyhold a few days after Vhera had, since apparently she had run into some issues of her own in the plains. Horsemaster Dennet absolutely fell in love with Feynthorn, opting to give him a full pampering in the stables while Isa took the smuggler letters up to Cullen's tower. She knocked twice on the door, surprised when she heard Vhera shout "don't come in!" She paused, then realized. "Ah, I'll come back later then!"

Good for Vhera.

Isa tucked the letters in her pocket, deciding to go check on Solas. She wondered how he was doing after the death of his friend. She made her way across the stone bridge to the rotunda, pushing the door open. He wasn't there. Isa supposed that he may have wanted some time to himself. He did like to travel, after all. She hoped he would return soon.

Varric caught her as she emerged into the main hall. "There you are, you wanna play some wicked grace tonight?" Isa nodded, a smile crossing her face. "Sure, I'm down. Got some coin for the stuff we found in the emerald graves, please don't take it all." Varric laughed, "don't bring it all then." Isa shook her head, a smile on her face. She went to change into her Skyhold uniform.

Vhera called her to the war room later, pretending like their earlier encounter had never happened, though Cullen wouldn't meet her gaze. Isa showed him the smuggler's letters, which all pointed to the Emprise du Lion. Vhera crossed her arms, "I don't have enough time to investigate both that and the Western Approach disturbance before the grand ball. Isa, you've shown resistance to red lyrium before. Would you mind taking care of this?" Isa nodded, then asked, "what's going on in the approach?" Vhera replied, "Leliana's scouts caught wind of something going on in an old ruin beyond death drink springs, so we had the sulfer springs capped off. I'm taking Dorian, Bull, and Sera to check it out." Isa nodded again. "I'll take care of the lyrium mine. Just be back in time for the ball. We can't be late to saving the empress, you know."
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Later that night, Isa changed into a simple tunic and trousers and headed to join the rest of the group for wicked grace, bringing a small sack of coins for betting. Vhera was the last to arrive. Isa went ahead and chugged a strong drink with Bull to get her buzz going, and they began.

Josephine was demolishing them. Cullen was telling some story, but Isa was more focused on Bull encouraging her to take one more shot. Varric laughed, exclaiming "she can barely hold her head up as it is!" Isa took the shot, leaning back in her chair. She was no quitter.

"And he marched out, like he was in full armor!" The table roared in laughter at Cullen's story. Isa didn't hear it, but she thought of one Vhera used to tell. "Vhera," she slurred, "tell them the one about the camp, and the rabbits." Vhera snorted, "oh boy, that one. So we were camped by some old ruins, right?" Isa tried to focus on her cards, was that a sword or a face card? She had more alcohol than she had thought.

"They ran out, bare asses shining in the moonlight!" Isa looked up at the end of the story, grinning. She loved that one.

Josephine dealt another round. Isa had lost all the coin she had brought, so she opted to sit this one out. Cullen gave her a sympathetic look, then turned back to Josephine. "Alright, deal again. I've figured out your tells." Josephine did her best to look innocent. "Everyone knows a lady has no tells." Vhera leaned back in her chair, "deal me in too, I want to win some dignity back."

Cullen was soon sitting completely naked in the chair, thoroughly embarrassed. "Not a word, dwarf." He muttered to Varric. Josephine was quite pleased with herself, "never bet against an Antivan, Commander." "It comes off!" Cole grinned. "I didn't know it came off!" Vhera had a wicked smirk on her face.

Isa hiccupped and slammed her fist on the table. "One more, I'll win it back for you!" Cassandra laughed, "saving the Commander from the walk of shame? You'll barely be able to get back to your own quarters as it is." Bull let out a roar of a laugh and handed Isa another mug of something. "Here, have a drink." Isa downed it, coughing as it burned. Vision blurry, she took the cards from Josephine. She had nothing left to bet, so she bet her own shirt. She was clever not to bet everything she was wearing, because she lost, horribly. "Damn!" She pulled it over her head and tossed it across the table. "Sorry Curly," Varric snickered, "looks like Bones is down for the count." Cassandra stood, "I'm leaving, I don't need to witness this walk of shame." "I do," Dorian was highly amused.

Cullen darted out of the room, thoroughly embarrassed. Isa laughed, falling out of her chair and onto the floor. Bull looked down at her, grinning. "Alright, let's get you to bed." He hoisted her up and onto his shoulder. She held onto his horn, the world spinning. "You can hold your liquor, I'll give you that." Bull commented as he carried her back to her quarters. "Thank!" Isa mumbled, yawning. Bull made sure she was safely tucked in, "goodnight. See you tomorrow!" She waved and passed out pretty quickly. It was good to just relax and be a person every once in a while.

Chapter Text

Emprise Du Lion was unnaturally cold. The river was completely frozen, and the people were worn down and desperate. Vhera had brought Cole, not willing to risk the others to the red lyrium, though it was likely going to be a tough fight, if they were indeed clearing out an entire mine of soldiers. Varric had wanted to come along, but even he wasn't immune to lyrium's effects, and wasn't even resistant since he was a surface dwarf.

Isa spoke to the townsfolk. The lady of the town was hiding something, but that wasn't why they were there. Isa started heading up the embankment, towards the lyrium's twisted song. "It sings," Cole whispered. "I don't like it." "Neither do I," Isa held his hand for a moment. "It'll be alright."

The first camp they came across was full of red Templar soldiers, but they were weak, and taken by surprise. They were easy enough to take out with a few arrows and Cole's daggers. The next was a little harder, but the two were skilled, and in tune with each other, so they fought well together.

They made their way up the mountainside, towards the quarry. They passed some corpses, and Isa paused. They didn't look like they had been killed by soldiers. She searched the bodies. They were wardens, and the fortress nearby had fallen; the deep roads seal collapsed.

"We've got to close it," Cole said, concerned. Isa nodded, "but how?" Cole thought for a moment. "Solas says you have magic, but it's weird. You can use it, but you need a connection. Maybe you can use me? Maybe the red lyrium?" Isa shrugged, "it's worth a shot. Come on, we can at least clear out the darkspawn."

So they made their way into the fortress, soaked in blood and heavy with the fears of dead men. The darkspawn weren't hard to kill, but there were so many of them. By the time they reached the collapsed entrance, they were exhausted. Isa put her hand on Cole, and he said "Isa, command this hole to close!" Nothing happened. Isa frowned, "damn it! You're the wrong kind of connected to the Fade! I need a mage!" She killed another darkspawn crawling out of the hole. She had a few open wounds, and didn't want to risk getting their blood on her, so she backed away from the hole.

"Isa!" Cole cried out as a massive darkspawn ogre jumped on him. "Cole!" Isa dove at it, but it smacked her aside. She hit the wall hard, knocking a bit of it away. Her head spun. She put her hand on the crack in the wall, hearing the red lyrium's song. There must have been some behind the wall. A darkspawn emissary crawled out of the hole and put its twisted hands on her, trying to leech on her life force, trying to drag her away from the wall and down into the hole. The ogre was crushing Cole, bashing him over and over. Isa pressed her body against the wall, feeling the tainted lyrium, hoping the emissary's magic would be enough, and her voice boomed out, "Cole!" Cole couldn't manage to speak long enough to get out a full sentence, but he knew he only needed one word. "Command!"

Isa's eyes flashed, and a blast of energy radiated outward from her. The darkspawn were blown back, and red lyrium burst from the walls. The earth rumbled around them, and the fortress began to crumble. Isa fell to her knees, feeling drained. Such tainted sources of magic weren't easy on her, and without a specific command, she had unleashed raw power. Cole pulled her to her feet, "we need to run now!" Isa staggered out after him, the deep roads sealed by the cave-in behind them.

They made it out just in time as the mountain collapsed behind them. Isa fell into the snow, vomiting. Cole put his hands on her, "singing, scorching, it burns, it twists my flesh, tearing my insides, this magic is not natural, it is bad for my vessel." Isa trembled violently, and her limbs gave out. Cole dragged her into clean snow, putting some on her face to cool her rapidly rising temperature. "The tainted lyrium before, it was in small doses, but now you use it all at once, you absorbed too much, and with a corrupted link to the fade; your body cannot handle it. You are dying. I want to help, but I don't know how." He held her hand. Cole was no healer.

Isa laid her head back in the snow, struggling to breathe. "Cole," she choked out. He put his hand on her face. He looked just as scared as she felt. He was a spirit, but there was part of him that was human, and he cared for her. Watching her die would not be easy for him. She squeezed the hand holding hers.

"Damn it, Bones! This is why we don't let you go off on your own!" Varric? He came rushing over, and behind him was Solas, looking like he had been through hell and back. Solas knelt in front of her, his hands glowing. He put a hand on her chest, one on her head, and closed his eyes, chanting. She let out a scream of pain, choking on the red lyrium threatening to consume her. Varric pulled Cole away, "give him room, kid. If anyone can save her, he can. What the hell happened? Did that mountain just crumble?"

"There were darkspawn, we couldn't let them run free. We had to seal them off. We were overwhelmed, the only way to seal the hole…" "The red lyrium," Solas picked up where Cole left off. "And a darkspawn emissary, I assume, since you are not a mage. Both horribly tainted. She'd be resistant enough to withstand one, but both together would have an unpredictable outcome. I'm not surprised the whole mountain came down. The commotion will likely have drawn attention. I cannot be interrupted." Varric nodded, his face set with grim determination. "Alright kid, you heard him. No one gets past us."
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It wasn't until dawn the next morning that the magic faded from Solas's fingers. Cole and Varric hadn't had too much trouble, but it was enough for them to feel the exhaustion. Solas was tired as well, his magic drained. Isa was drenched in sweat that froze in beads on her skin. Cole knelt in front of her. "Cold, chilled to the bone, but not burning anymore. Relief. Thank you, Solas," he turned to Solas, who only nodded. "Of course. You are fortunate that Varric was determined to come with you, and that we crossed paths." He let out a weary sigh. "Vhenan," he held Isa's hand. "Please do not put yourself in such danger again. I could not bear to lose you."

Isa let out a cough, "yeah, you know, just a bit of fun, thought I'd just go and tango with death for a while on a whim." Varric let out a bewildered laugh, "she'll be fine." He looked up, his breath clouding in the air. "We still need to clear that mine, but let's get some rest first. Oh, and we should probably not tell the Inquisitor."

After napping all morning, Isa was still shaky, but well enough to carry on the fight with the other three at her side. It was more of a mentally wearing fight than a physical one, because though there were many soldiers, they were stupid, and finding evidence of Samson's whereabouts was easy enough. What was hard was seeing the villagers forced into slavery. Of course, Isa freed them, but the whole ordeal took its toll. When she got back to the town, she had the lady of the lands arrested by the Inquisition for selling the mine in the first place, and knowingly cooperating with its continued operation. They would deal with her when they got back to Skyhold.

Solas was pleased to meet Feynthorn, quickly making friends with the great beast. He and Isa rode on the hart together. Isa leaned back into Solas's chest, letting him steer for a while. She was exhausted. Eventually she drifted off, trusting the others to get her back safely.

Chapter Text

Isa slept for two days after reporting the results of their journey. She was so exhausted she didn't even dream, giving her body time to fight of the residual effects of using tainted magic. "Never again," she promised herself when she awoke, starving. She rolled out of bed, peering up at the tiny window high in the room to see what time it might be. It was dark outside. Delightful. She pulled a coat on over her tunic and pants and headed for the kitchens, not bothering with shoes.

She raided the kitchens, wolfing down whatever she could find. She enjoyed some roasted chicken, some smoked lamb, some potatoes, apples, and a loaf of bread. She even had a couple mugs of mead before finding herself satisfied. She was ready to head back to her room when she heard someone clear their throat. Shit, had Cook caught her? She slowly turned to see Solas, his eyes alight with amusement. "Hungry, are we?" She smiled sheepishly, brushing crumbs from her tunic. "Can you blame me? How long was I asleep?" "A couple of days," He crossed the kitchen and took her hands in his, kissing her fingers. "I wanted to yell at you, you know, for doing something so dangerous, but I know you had no choice. You shouldn't have gone in the first place, but I understand why."

Isa leaned up and kissed his cheek. "Thank you for controlling your temper." Solas rolled his eyes, "am I so terrible?" She grinned, "no, but you do get rather stubborn." She pulled on him, "let's get out of here before Cook catches us."

They headed back to the main hall and to the rotunda. Isa looked over his depiction of Adamant. He really did have a certain talent for perfectly capturing murals with simplicity. Isa sat at his desk, propping her bare feet up on it. He stood behind her and ran his fingers through her hair. "How are you feeling, da'avise?" Isa shrugged, "better. There's no more pain. Just weak I guess." Solas nodded, leaning down to kiss her forehead. "It will fade soon. I am pleased it wasn't worse." She smiled warmly, "I'm glad you were there."

"Are you looking forward to the ball?" Solas asked. "Yes," Isa admitted. "I think I'm going to enjoy that sort of thing. What about you?" "Oh yes," he chuckled, "I have always loved courtly intrigue. It is a shame you will have to be in Inquisition uniform. I would have liked to see you in a dress."

"Save me a dance?" Isa asked, smiling shyly to herself. "Of course, vhenan. I am more concerned that you will have little time for me." Isa looked up at him, "I will make time." He ruffled her hair gently. "It is late, and you should get back to bed. I'll give you a sleeping draught, and you should be mostly better by the morning." Isa stood, stretching her back. "Thank you, Solas." He kissed her briefly. "Of course." She smirked slightly at him. "But there are other ways to put me to sleep." He raised an eyebrow, "oh?" She draped her arms over his shoulders. "Mhm. Why don't I show you?" He pushed her against his desk rather suddenly, the softness in his eyes replaced with wolfish hunger. "Do remember who is the student here, da'avise." She laughed softly, "make me."

Chapter Text

Josephine had described the palace at Halamshiral before, but nothing could have prepared Isa for the sheer size of it. It was massive, covered in excessive decoration, and full of people who were also covered in excessive decoration. Isa wore the same thing as the other members of the Inquisition: the red and gold version of what she wore around Skyhold. She wore makeup as well.

Fortunately, Vhera got to do all the hard work of investigating everything, so Isa was on standby for the evening. Her main job was keeping curiosity placated, which was simple enough. There were certainly plenty of people who seemed interested in talking to her, though some had trouble swallowing that they were talking to an elf as an equal, and they were still out in the front courtyard. She could only begin to imagine how hostile the interior of the palace would be. Isa stood among a group of nobles that were hounding her with questions about her exploits. To her surprise, they were all curious about the dragon she had slain at Crestwood.

Isa, of course, added more flair to the tale than it deserved, though it certainly pleased the nobles. She had to make their organization look good. She was no Varric, but she could add a bit of flourish to a story when she needed to. She caught sight of Vhera heading inside and excused herself to follow her.

Isa braced herself for the eyes of the Orlesian court as Grand Duke Gaspard was introduced, followed by "Lady Inquisitor Lavellan." Isa stepped onto the floor as she was introduced, "Lady Isenatha Lavellan, Second to the Inquisitor." She kept her head high, keeping the slightly amused smile off her face when Solas was introduced as a serving elf. These damn humans and their racism. They weren't even aware of it.

Isa bowed to Empress Celene, standing a ways behind Vhera and the Grand Duke, listening to their brief conversation with the Empress. Isa prepared to follow them off to the side until the Empress spoke to her. "You are the Inquisitors second, yes?" Isa bowed her head, "Yes, your majesty." Celene returned the gesture. "The fate of Orlais will be decided tonight. Be careful which side you pick." Isa made her way off to the side. She was not one to be intimidated so easily.

Cullen had accrued a following. The poor thing looked very uncomfortable. Isa had been encouraged to mingle, as her presence was nearly as important as the Inquisitor's, though Isa believed that had been overstated. She made her way around the ballroom first, making small talk with various nobles. She found that once they got past her pointed ears, they rather liked her. She was a curiosity, a more attainable entity than the Inquisitor, more like them than the almost-diety they saw Vhera as. Isa had more of a connection, and less of a sense of awe about her. In short, she was less intimidating to these people.

Vhera would laugh at the very idea.

Isa met the Dowager, a member of the Council of Heralds, who seemed content to talk about herself for a long time before asking Isa about herself. "You are Dalish?" "Yes, your grace. I am from the same clan as the Inquisitor." The Dowager seemed sort of off in her own little world. "I met one of your kind once, an old Keeper, I think he called himself. The clan leader." Isa wasn't sure what to say.

"You're absolutely delightful, dear, give the Inquisitor my regards, and do save me a dance." The Dowager sent her off. Isa was rather relieved. She met several other members of the council, and they were all too happy to spill some secrets to her, as well as a delegate of Gaspard's that was going around threatening them. Isa let Vhera do all the sneaking around while she collected dirty secrets in plain sight. It would seem that Briala, the elven ambassador, was up to trouble as well.

Eventually, Isa found Solas, hanging out by a window to the courtyard. Though she found his hat to be a little ridiculous, the suit looked rather handsome on him. She approached him with a sly smile. "Do you have any interest in dancing?" Solas winked at her, "a great deal, though I would wait until our matters are resolved here. You won't have nearly as much luck wooing the crowds after being seen dancing with an elven apostate." Isa pouted, but conceded. Solas smiled, "enjoy yourself. I certainly am." Indeed, he did seem to be having a good time. He seemed to like the life of court. He seemed like he belonged there.

Isa continued to wander, making her way out into the gardens, where many more nobility vied for her attention. It was unusual; normally she was the one who had to worm her way into the hearts of the humans to get them to be peaceful, but that was a lifetime ago. She drank in the sort of power that it gave her. She liked this life of court as well. She played their game well. She knew how to please people, and these people were eager to be pleased.

Isa made her way back to the ballroom to whisper what she had learned in Leliana's ear, as well as Vhera's. She found Vhera talking to a strange woman with raven hair in a purple and gold dress. Isa's gaze met the woman's striking gold eyes, and she was deeply unsettled. The woman was unusual, to say the least. Who was she, and why was Vhera talking to her?

Vhera slipped off, and the woman motioned Isa over to her. Isa approached, and the woman led her onto a private balcony. "Quite a curiosity, the Inquisitor has brought," the woman stated, looking Isa over. "My name is Morrigan, currently advisor to the empress on matters of the arcane." That would explain it. This woman was the rumored apostate at court. "Isenatha, Second to the Inquisitor," Isa introduced herself. "Isenatha," Morrigan tilted her head, "it means dragon." Isa frowned slightly, "I know what my name means. What can I do for you, Lady Morrigan?"

"I have already spoken to your Inquisitor," Morrigan stated, "so as of now, nothing formally. Though, as a personal favour, you could satisfy my curiosity. You appear elven, but you are something else, are you not?" How did she know? This woman was certainly strange. "Yes, though I am afraid I do not know much more." She didn't trust this woman.

Morrigan tutted, "I won't tell. I simply wish to add to my own knowledge. What could be so bad that you do not wish to say?" Isa sighed. "It is not simply that I do not wish to say. No one knows for sure. Solas believes I am part spirit. It is… complicated." Morrigan got the look of a fascinated child for a moment. "You must tell me more." She turned her head, as if someone had called her name. "Alas, it will have to wait. We shall converse later." Isa nodded to her, watching her walk off.

The Inquisitor had disappeared, as had some of her companions, so it was up to Isa to keep the court distracted for a while. She decided the best way to do that was with a dance, and under Josephine's guidance, she had become quite the dancer. She stood by the entrance to the dance floor, looking wistfully at the dancers. Sure enough, several gentleman approached her, though the Grand Duke himself got to her first. "My Lady, would you care to dance?" Isa smiled warmly, "I would be honoured, your grace." She took his hand and followed him onto the floor.

The song that began to play was one Isa knew, though Josephine said that it wasn't one played often. So he was going to try to embarrass her? Oh, they would see about that. Isa followed the steps, slow at first, and the dance floor gradually cleared as the less experienced dancers stepped off. Someone had set this up intentionally. Had it been the Grand Duke? Perhaps. She saw Briala and Celene watching from above and thought perhaps he may have just been a pawn in it as well. It didn't matter. They hadn't expected her to know the dance, but it was one of her favourites.

The pace of the music slowly picked up, and their steps were soon leaps across the dancefloor. The hushed whispers of the crowd turned to gasps of awe as Isa danced with the Grand Duke, staying in step perfectly. If anything, her small elven body and lack of bulky skirts gave her an advantage. By the time the dance finished, there was applause. Isa bowed to the Grand Duke, who returned it, and led her off the floor. "Thank you for the dance. You are quite talented, My Lady." Isa smiled slyly at him, "thank you, your grace. I do love to dance."

From then on, it seemed like everyone wanted to dance with her. Of course, nothing as high pace as that particular dance was played again, but she spent several hours dancing with men and women of the court, making conversation, keeping them entertained, their minds off the missing Inquisitor, stopping only for brief breaks for drinks and the occasional snack. She did get a longer break when Vhera came through, dancing with the Grand Duchess, which set the court abuzz with gossip, but it didn't last long, and Isa was back to dancing with nobility from all corners of Orlais. By the time Vhera returned, Isa was starting to feel a little worn out, though elated. She really did love dancing.

No one was prepared for the shock of Vhera revealing Grand Duchess Florianne as a traitor in front of the entire court. While Isa had been dancing, she had been busy, gathering information and doing a bit of fighting as well. Isa was very proud of her, unable to hide a pleased smile as Florianne was arrested by her own guards.

Isa leaned on the railing, taking a few deep breaths, hoping no one would ask her to dance for a moment. Blackwall ambled over, standing beside her. "I'd ask you for a dance, but I've got two left feet and you've been dancing all night." Isa smiled at him, "I'll just say thank you for the gesture and we can leave it at that." He nodded, a slight smile on his face. "Where did you learn to dance like that?" "Josephine," she thought the answer would be rather obvious, but he shook his head. "Josephine only taught you half that. You're a natural." Isa laughed slightly, "I'll take that as a compliment." "I meant it as one."

Isa rolled out one ankle, then the other. Her feet were sore. Vhera came back inside from the balcony with Empress Celene. "Gaspard has been revealed as a traitor, and shall no longer hold land or title in these lands." Briala was behind them, so Isa supposed that they had reconciled. A wise move. Both threats had been dealt with.

Of course, that was only more cause to celebrate. Isa was starving, so she slipped away from the dancefloor to go and get something to eat. The roasted duck was absolutely divine, her favourite of the night. She also enjoyed the puffed raspberry pasteries, and was fond of the wine they had, though she couldn't place the flavour and didn't want to embarrass herself by asking. Surely Josephine could tell her later.

She may have had a little much of it, because the soreness in her feet had gone away, her cheeks were flushed from far more than the makeup, and the people around her kept urging her to drink more. It appeared that in court, she was a people person.

She caught sight of Vhera slow dancing with Cullen out on a balcony. She was really happy for them, and would have cried tears of joy if she hadn't been distracted by someone offering her a special raspberry candy. For the night, she had become the court's pet, something to be spoiled and appreciated. Now that their business was done, all she had to do was ensure she didn't embarrass herself and she would be fine.

Isa eventually found herself in the gardens with a few of the ladies, the moon high overhead. The party was slowly dying out, and the band's playing could be heard softly. "You are such a dear!" One of the ladies handed her another glass of wine, happily supplied by a serving elf. "I never imagined an elf could be such a delight." Another said. "I'm just glad we managed to pull you out of that ballroom, there were too many people in there! All those men, they get handsy after too much wine." "Must you go back to the Inquisition? I could certainly use a competent bodyguard. I could give you the nicest things to wear!"

"My apologies, ladies," Solas's smooth voice filled Isa's ears. "I'm afraid the Inquisition very much needs Lady Isenatha, though I am sure she would be delighted to attend dinner parties if invited." That sent them chattering about planning dinners, and Solas managed to pull her away to a private section of the garden.

"Thank you," Isa giggled, "I thought I would never get away." Solas gave her a look, "you didn't seem to be trying too hard." "What can I say?" She popped a raspberry candy in her mouth. "I'm a sucker for sweets."

"Dance with me?" Solas extended his hand. Isa grinned, setting her wine glass on a bench and taking his hand, listening to the faint music of the band. She took his hand and he pulled her to him, following the steps of a simple dance, an enchanted smile on his face. Isa laid her head on his shoulder, her heart pounding. "Solas," she began, rambling in her buzzed state. "I've never felt like this before. You are the most incredible person I've ever met. I love you." Solas kissed her fingers. "Ar lath ma, vhenan. You will always be mine."

Chapter Text

Isa hadn't expected as much chaos as there was when they returned from the Winter Palace, but it had to be dealt with. Leliana and Cassandra were both candidates for divine. Isa decided to let that be Vhera's problem. Vhera wanted to go after Samson with Cullen. Alright, also Vhera's problem. Morrigan was with them as an advisor, and wanted to study Isa in depth. That was definitely Isa's problem, and she wasn't sure how she felt about that.

But first, they had prisoners to judge. Isa stood by Vhera's throne where Vhera sat, legs crossed, waiting. "Crassius Servis," Josephine began, "is the leader of the operation in the Western Approach and is accused of working for Corypheus, apostacy, and smuggling." The man looked up, not really looking concerned. "Look, I didn't know who I was working for. I'm no different than a mercenary. Give me a chance to fix that. I know where those artifacts went. I can recover them."

Vhera looked up at Isa, who looked thoughtful. "Anything Corypheus wants, we should keep him from getting. I would just keep Servis here under guard, but let him recover the artifacts." Vhera nodded, turning to the accused. "Very well, you will be put under guard and sent to find the artifacts you smuggled for Corypheus." The man had a cocky smile. "Pleased to be of service."

The next prisoner put a bad taste in Isa's mouth. It was the lady from Emprise Du Lion. "Mistress Poulin sold the quarry to the red Templars and continued to take their gold even after she discovered what they were doing to her people." "I had to feed the ones who were left! We were desperate. What would you have done?"

"Do not interrupt!" Isa spat, stepping forward. Vhera put a hand up, stopping her. Isa stepped back, turning away. She had seen what had happened to those unfortunate enough to have been there too long. Hell, she had almost died herself because of this woman's foolish actions.

"You will work, every penny you earn will go to rebuilding the town you destroyed, and once that is done, you will be in the service of Emprise Du Lion until they see fit to release you." Vhera gave her judgement cooly. Mistress Poulin lowered her head. "Your mercy shames me." Isa let out a deep breath, ashamed as well. She wondered if she was too hot-headed.

"Finally, Former Grand Duchess Florianne, stripped of land and titles, given to the Inquisition to judge as a gesture of good will from Empress Celene." Isa looked down at Florianne, who looked utterly defeated. "You have won," Florianne stated. "I have been left to rot. Do with me as you will."

Isa leaned down and whispered in Vhera's ear, and Vhera stifled a laugh. "Florianne, you will live a life of service as court jester here in Skyhold. With flat shoes." Florianne got a disgusted look. Isa covered her mouth so she wouldn't laugh.

Isa went to see Morrigan, but Blackwall caught her on her way to the courtyard. "Isa," he looked… sad. "I… I just wanted to say… thank you. You've been a good friend, and you're the most wonderful woman I've ever met." Isa was confused. "Thank you, Blackwall, but what brings this up?" Blackwall brushed her off, "I just thought I would tell you that I appreciate you. If you'll excuse me." He gave her a brief smile and headed off.

Morrigan was waiting for her, as was Solas. Though they clearly didn't like each other, they both wanted to solve the mystery of Isa's existence. Isa swallowed the lump in her throat and joined them.

"So she must be touching someone with a connection to magic, either a mage or a Templar with lyrium, and she must hear the word command. The command doesn't have to come from the person she's touching. Does she have to be given a specific command or is it just the word?" Morrigan was conversing with Solas. Solas shook his head, "No, though the more specific the command, the less disastrous the results." Morrigan looked thoughtful. "Can she be commanded against her will?" Solas clearly did not like the question, but he answered it honestly. "I do not know."

Isa cleared her throat, earning their attention. Morrison's clothing threw her for a loop, but she quickly got over it. Morrigan smiled in an eerie manner. "Let's find out, shall we? Come, there's a good spot over the next hill. Your hart can carry all three of us, can it not?" "Feynthorn?" Isa replied, "yes he can." She was glad Solas was coming along.

They reached a sort of dip between mountains, out of blasting range of Skyhold, should any accidents happen. "Alright," Morrigan began. "I want to discover a couple of things first. I want to see if the command has to come from someone you trust, or if it can be from anyone, and I want to see if it happens against your will." Isa nodded, that seemed reasonable. She put her hand on Solas. "Alright, give me a command." "At least you're honest about not trusting me," Morrigan smiled, not offended. She waved her staff and brought the snow into a sort of spire. "I command you to knock over this spire."

With a slight flash of her eyes, it happened. Each time she used the magic, it seemed to get easier, and less draining (with the exception of tainted magic, of course). "That answers that question," Solas commented. "You do not have to trust the person giving the command. That could either be a blessing or a disaster, depending on if your magic can be withheld at will." Isa nodded. Morrigan crossed her arms, "alright. I'll give you a command, and you have to not do it, with your hand still on Solas. Isenatha," she waved her staff and another snow spire rose up. "I command you to knock over this spire."

It didn't happen. Isa felt a slight spark at the word 'command,' but easily squashed it back down. She let out a deep sigh of relief, "easily controlled." Solas smiled, patting her shoulder. "Good. That puts many fears at ease. You cannot easily be used against us."

They spent the day and a good portion of the night running various little tests, but it didn't yield as much as Isa had hoped. They sat around a table at Skyhold, going over the day. Morrigan spoke, "you bear many similarities to a spirit that has been summoned and bound, but you are not bound to any one thing. If anything, I would agree that you are not fully a spirit, like Cole is. You cannot be an abomination, since you are no mage and you are not possessed. You are some sort of… hybrid. I do not know how to explain it. Your existence beyond that remains a mystery. I do not even know what type of spirit you might be, though it is certainly a powerful one. I originally had thought command, since that is the word used to activate you, but that is a rare spirit that you do not share many traits with. Valor would be closer, but those spirits do not possess an inkling of the power that you do. I simply do not know, though I will continue to search." Isa nodded. It wasn't the answer she was looking for, but it was a step.

She did, however, get to grin at Solas and say, "I told you I wasn't a mage." He rolled his eyes and squeezed her leg under the table. She kicked him lightly.

"While you two play footsie, I will be heading to bed. There is much to do," Morrigan stood and wished them a good evening before heading off to her quarters. Solas leaned over and kissed Isa's cheek softly. "I should be getting to sleep, too. Perhaps a spirit will have been drawn in by our activities that might know more?" Isa shrugged, "maybe. Goodnight, vhenan." He squeezed her hand. "Goodnight."

Chapter Text

Isa woke to Vhera pounding on her door. "Hold on, hold on!" She held a sheet around her and opened it. Vhera burst in, looking very concerned. "Blackwall is gone!" "What?" Isa rubbed her eyes. "What do you mean, gone?" Vhera thrust a note into her hands. Isa squinted, trying to make out the words through a haze of sleep. Had he really just left?

Isa pulled on the closest thing she could find, which happened to be her formal Skyhold wear, while Vhera ran to Leliana to find out where he might be. Blackwall was a dear friend ot both Isa and Vhera, and if they had anything to say about it, he would be found.

Soon, they were on their way to Val Royeaux, not bothering to even change out of their Skyhold wear. Since Cassandra had been ready to go in battle armor anyway, they had brought her along. They jogged into the city, spotting a crowd at the gallows. They approached, standing at the back for a moment to watch.

It was a man accused of treason. He was about to hang when Blackwall himself stepped up, revealing himself as Thom Rainier, and a criminal. Isa felt… betrayed. That was a pretty big detail he had left out, and he wasn't even a grey warden? She watched him head to the prison in shock.

"We have to do something," Vhera broke her out of her daze. "We can't just let them execute him!" Cassandra started to protest, but Vhera wasn't having it. "He's more than repented for his crime. We can't just let him walk away like that. He has fought just as hard as any of us, I-" Cassandra stopped her. "Let's go talk to him. We can get you into the prison."
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Isa let Vhera go first, still too in shock to go and speak to him. She could hear them talking, just down the stairs and a short hall. Cassandra seemed conflicted. "I'm sorry," she kept her voice low. "I know you two were… close." Isa crossed her arms. "How could he just leave, after all that? Why didn't he say anything? I thought…" She bit her lip. Cassandra reached out, putting a hand on her shoulder. "You thought he trusted you." She nodded, tears running down her face.
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Vhera stood in front of Blackwall's - Rainier's - cell. He knelt before her. She had gotten the full story from him, and she believed that he didn't deserve this fate. She would redeem him. He didn't see it yet, but she would. She turned to leave, but he stopped her. "Please… don't let Isa see me like this. She doesn't deserve that. I… Maker, I love her." Vhera felt her heart break for him. Of course, she had known, she would be blind to not have seen it. "I won't," she promised.

She trudged back up the stone steps, her heart heavy. Isa was in Cassandra's arms, trying not to cry. Of course, Vhera's best friend must have felt so betrayed. Vhera gulped, feeling the burn of knowing she would have to temporarily deny her friend closure. Isa looked up at the footsteps, "Vhera? So, what's the deal?" She almost jogged, heading for the stairs, but Vhera put her left hand on Isa's chest to stop her, the faint glow of the mark illuminating the silver sash. "Isa, I know this is going to be hard, but for right now, I need you to turn around and walk away." Isa looked bewildered. "What? Vhera, I have to-" "No." Vhera couldn't meet her gaze. "Don't make me pull rank. You are not to go down there." "Vhera! Don't be ridiculous." Isa started to push past her, clearly planning on ignoring her. "Isenatha, that's an order." "You can shove it," Isa growled. Vhera's open hand turned to a fist as she grabbed Isa's coat. "Isenatha, I forbid it! I command you to-"

Vhera looked into eyes of molten gold, and before she knew what was happening, she was blown back into the stone wall of the prison. After a moment of shock, Vhera shook her head and looked up. Isa's jaw had dropped, her expression distraught. Clearly she had not intended to do what she had just done. Vhera was unharmed, maybe a little bruised, but so startled that she just stared at Isa in disbelief.

Cassandra drew her sword, and the delicate balance of shock snapped. Isa bolted out the door of the prison. Vhera called after her and Cassandra gave chase, but Vhera knew she wouldn't catch Isa, not in a thousand years, not when Isa was scared. Vhera stood slowly, once again checking to be sure she wasn't injured. She was unharmed. There was a little dust on her back, as if she had merely bumped the wall. As explosive as it was, Isa's magic must have had a surprising amount of control.

Cullen wandered in, clearly surprised. "What in the name of the Maker is going on? Why is Cassandra chasing Isa with her sword brandished? Are you alright? What happened?" Vhera hugged him without a word, spending a long moment in his arms. He held her, stroking her hair. "It's alright, Vhera," he murmured. "I'm here. You can tell me." Vhera pulled herself together, the Inquisitor once more.

"We need to get Blackwall turned over to us. I don't care how it's done; we can discuss that back at Skyhold. Cassandra will not catch Isa, so when she comes back, tell her that Isa is to remain unharmed and welcome at Skyhold. She has done nothing wrong, and what happened is not to be revealed to anyone else. I will tell you later." Vhera let out a shaky breath. "When we judge Blackwall…" She shook her head, biting her lip. "Iron Bull and four Templars are to keep Isenatha out of the hall at all costs. Hopefully it won't come to that, as I don't even plan on telling her we have Blackwall in custody. Also, please find something for Solas to do away from Skyhold. I think it would be best if he didn't pick sides until this blows over. Actually, send Dorian and Vivienne too. The less of a chance there is that she touches a mage, the better." Cullen nodded, lifting her chin. "I'm right here if you need me." She smiled sweetly at him. "I know."
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Several days had passed since Isa had blown her best friend into a stone wall, and though she had been avoiding it, she finally made her way back to Skyhold, ready to face whatever Vhera thought she deserved. She was surprised when she received the same enthusiastic greeting from the gate guards that she usually did. She took Feynthorn to the stables, carefully avoiding looking at the empty barn, and headed to the main hall. She brushed any dirt from her uniform, though there wasn't much, and entered.

Immediately, Vhera had her in her arms. "Isa! I was so worried!" Vhera hugged her tightly. "You're not angry?" Isa hugged back tentatively, concerned. "I didn't mean to, I swear…" "I'm not hurt. You did nothing more than knock me down and get a little dust on my scale mail. It's alright." Vhera let her go, holding her at arm's length. "I was so worried you wouldn't come back." Isa smiled, tearing up. "I could never abandon you."

"Inquisitor, we-" Leliana cut herself off as she spotted Isa. She cleared her throat. "Good to have you back, Isa. Inquisitor, Solas has left with Dorian and Vivienne to look in to the disturbance you mentioned. Mages have been dispatched to Emprise du Lion and the Exalted Plains to assist the wounded. We've taken care of…. Everything else. The swap was made." Vhera nodded, and Isa raised an eyebrow. "Swap?" Vhera waved dismissively, "just a smuggling trade deal, nothing to worry about."

Isa's hands fell to her sides, "Vhera, can we talk about Blackwall?" Vhera's face fell, "about that, I think we should let the sting fade a bit." Isa blinked, surprised. Vhera wasn't one to run from things. "Alright…" Isa was slightly hurt, but she wasn't going to push. She felt as if she had no right.
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Vhera watched Isa's face fall, but she knew she had to be firm. It needed to wait. Vhera smiled, "why don't you go get something to eat? The tavern has roast duck." Isa perked up a bit, "alright. I'll see you later?" Vhera nodded, sending her off.

"You wanted to see me, boss?" Iron Bull approached from behind her. Vhera nodded. "She couldn't have waited another day? We judge Blackwall in the morning. You know the plan, the Templars will be there just in case, but I don't think it will come to that." Bull nodded, rubbing the back of his neck. "Out of curiosity, what are you gonna do with him?"

Vhera steeled herself. There was what she wanted to do, and what she knew she should. "He was recruited to join the grey wardens, to the grey wardens he shall go." Bull nodded grimly. "I'll keep her out."
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It was late morning, and Isa was outside grooming Feynthorn, whom had rolled in some thistles. She was picking them off of him, and had just finished when she heard Iron Bull calling out to her. "Hey, Isa, wanna get a drink?" Isa looked up, "this early?" Bull laughed. "It's called day drinking! Come on, you need to build up more tolerance anyway." Isa smiled, "Sure, I could use a drink, but you're buying."

They walked across the courtyard. It was strangely empty. Even the soldiers who were usually training were few, only a small amount polishing armor, looking angry, as if they were being punished for something. "Where is everyone?" Isa asked. Bull cleared his throat, "out doing Inquisition stuff, probably." Isa glanced towards the main hall when they reached the doors of the tavern. The doors were closed. Two Templars stood at the base of the stairs leading up to it, and Isa spotted two more lingering by the stairs to the battlements. That wouldn't have been too unusual, but they were in full armor and had belts of lyrium.

"Bull?" Isa stopped. Bull looked back, "yeah, what's up?" He pushed the tavern door open. "You coming or not?" She didn't move. "What's going on?" Bull shook his head, looking at her strangely, "what are you talking about?"

It hit her. Vhera hadn't wanted to talk about Blackwall, Josephine wouldn't let a known Inquisition operative be publically executed, Bull was distracting her from something, Leliana had been acting strangely, it all made sense. Maybe she was crazy, but she had to know. "I'll join you in a minute, I need to grab something from my room." Bull never faltered. Of course he wouldn't, he was former Ben-Hassarath, even if he was Tal-Vashoth now. "Hey, I'm buying, right? What else do you need?" Isa took a step back, then bolted for the stairs. As she suspected, the Templars by the stairs put up their shields to stop her, but she planned on climbing the side of the stone wall around them.

Bull wrapped an arm around her, swinging her up in the air. "Isa," he kept his voice calm. "You can't go in there." Isa's heart raced, she was panicking. "He's in there, isn't he?! She's judging him! She doesn't want me to watch." Bull set her down, standing between her and the stairs, large hands on her tiny shoulders. "Yes, he's in there." She struggled, but he was much stronger. "Isa, you can't go in there." The Templars formed a square around them, clearly intent on keeping them in.

A sickening realization hit her. "She sent the mages away." Tears started to run down her face. "She thought I might…" Iron Bull put his arms around her, holding her to his chest, both restraining and attempting to comfort her. She tried to push him off, "what is she going to do with him?" "Isa, I can't-" She screamed at him, "does she plan on killing him? Is that why she's taken so many measures against me? He doesn't deserve to die!" She felt betrayed by her best friend.

Iron Bull shook his head. "No. He will go to the grey wardens." Isa fell to her knees, and Iron Bull sat down with her, making sure she wasn't going to slip away. She let out a wail, pressing her forehead to his arm. "He's too old for the joining," she sobbed. "The blight will take him! She can't do this!" Bull held her, and the Templars tightened their circle. Isa pushed against Bull, "please, please, let me go in there, there has to be another way!" She beat her fists on his chest. "Bull, please, I can change her mind; he doesn't deserve that!" There was a soft, eerie glow to her hair. "I can't let this happen!"

"Sometimes," Bull held her tightly, waving off the Templar ready to shackle her wrists. "Sometimes, kid, you just have to follow orders." The glow in her hair faded, and she quit fighting, settling for heartbreaking sobs. "She couldn't even tell me herself."
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Vhera looked down at the broken man in front of her, trying to keep her emotions separate from the trial. "You traded another man's life for mine," Blackwall was angry. Vhera explained. "The man who replaced you was a traitor and was going to die anyway. I wished to judge you myself." Blackwall sighed. "Pass your judgement then. I deserve no mercy."

Vhera steeled herself. "You deserve the chance to atone for what you've done." She paused, hearing a long wail, very faint. It almost sounded like it was in her head, but she knew it was Isa. Isa knew. Vhera looked down at Blackwall, who met her gaze evenly. His eyes were full of guilt, of sadness, and when he heard the wail, of heartbreak.

At the last moment, Vhera couldn't do it. "And atone for your crimes is what you will do. You have your freedom, not as Blackwall, not as a disgraced Chevalier, but as the man you have become, the man you really are." Blackwall seemed surprised. "Are you sure?" Vhera nodded, holding his gaze. "So long as you go out to do good in the name of those you have wronged and repent for what you've done, you are free."

"Then, I would like to remain with the Inquisition. I can do the most good here, right where I have been. You have made me into this man. I… thank you, Inquisitor, for giving me this chance." He was released, the crowded hall in shock.

"You changed your mind," Blackwall kept his voice down. "What were you going to say?" Vhera could still hear the wailing. "You were going to be a grey warden." Blackwall nodded, "a fitting punishment. You should have gone with that, but…" Vhera clenched her fist. "I should have told her. I should have faced her. She may never forgive me." Vhera laughed a bit, almost hysterical. "They may have put her in shackles to keep her out." "Shackles?!" Blackwall turned and headed out of the hall, out to where Isa was waiting to hear of his fate.

Vhera followed, standing at the top of the stone stairs, her stomach dropping at what she saw. The Templars had formed a tight shield circle around where Bull held Isa, letting her cry. No one seemed hurt, but the Templars were certainly on edge, so something must have happened. Blackwall jogged down the stairs, calling out to Isa. She looked up, her face red and puffy, glistening with tears. Bull looked over at Blackwall, then up at Vhera, raising an eyebrow. She shrugged, giving a weak smile. To her surprise, Bull gave her a thumbs up and let Isa go, telling the Templars that they were done.

Isa approached Blackwall, relief on her face as he told her the verdict, then rage. Vhera could hear her shouting at him. Her anger quickly burned out, and she hugged him. Vhera knew she was probably still cursing, but there was no bite.

Then Isa caught sight of Vhera. Vhera gulped, shifting uncomfortably. She had gone behind Isa's back, she had practically lied to her second, and she had put her through hell. Isa stalked up the storm steps, stopping in front of Vhera. "Why did you do that to me?" Isa asked, her voice cracking since she had been screaming so much. Vhera didn't have an answer. Isa snarled, "why didn't you just tell me? Did you think I would hurt you? Did you think I would burn this place to the ground? Is that what you thought? Is that why you sent the mages away?"

Shit, she had figured that out too.

Vhera got a little defensive. "You blew me into a stone wall in a prison because I tried giving you an order, are you surprised I was a little concerned?" "A little?" Isa scoffed, "You had them ready to put me in chains! You think I would ever intentionally hurt you?" Vhera fell silent. Isa turned away. "You should have told me. And if you didn't trust me, you should have put me in chains when I came back. I was ready for it then. When did you become such a deceptive coward?" She spat the words.

"Isa…" Isa shook her head. "Inquisitor." She pushed past Vhera into the mail hall, heading towards her room. Vhera stood in shock, letting her go. Bull approached slowly, not wanting to push her too much. "I think you made the right decision with Blackwall, but you should have told her what you planned. She wouldn't have liked it, but she would have listened." Vhera put her hand on her mouth. "I did the wrong thing." Bull shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. Maybe she would have burned this place down, but I don't think so. I think she would have been angry for a bit, then followed your orders anyway. I think you should have trusted her, and not treated her like an abomination. Trust is the basis for loyalty, boss, and loyalty is the strongest force of nature that there is. I think if you're not careful, you're going to lose hers."

Vhera looked up at Bull. "Was I really so wrong?" Bull shrugged, "I think you're both wrong, but you both have a lot on your shoulder. You can only take so much hardship in the name of duty, and she can only take so much betrayal." Vhera frowned, "I betrayed her? Not him?" Bull crossed his arms, sucking his teeth. "Boss, let me put it this way. Yeah, he lied to her, but he did it indirectly. You lied to her face and had her on her knees in a courtyard surrounded by templars because you couldn't bring yourself to tell her the truth. You may have meant well, but she doesn't see that, not yet."

Vhera put her head in her hands. "Creators, what have I done?"

Chapter Text

It had been a while since Blackwall's judgement, and everything had almost returned to normal. Almost. Isa was professional with Vhera, and still defended her tooth and nail, but she wouldn't talk to her best friend outside of work anymore. Things were tense between them, and while they could still work well together, it was taking its toll on them.

Things were strange with the others as well. Everyone was tense. After a shattering event like that, they all had their own secret doubts that boiled inside of them with no way to let them out. Cole had his work cut out for him. That, and Solas had refused to speak to Blackwall since he had discovered what had happened, and was rather terse with Vhera and Iron Bull as well. Isa refused to talk about what had happened with anyone, avoiding the subject entirely.

The only hope between them was Dorian. He was the Inquisitor's other best friend, after all, and had a reasonably strong friendship with Isa as well. Though they weren't really speaking, the two did still care about each other, and asked him about the other one often. Dorian didn't seem to mind. It took his mind off of his father.

Cole had been given an amulet and had sought out the source of what had kept him bound to this world, and had become a full spirit once again, though he remained to help. Sometimes, when Isa was overwhelmed by her guilt with her distance with Vhera, she would go to him. He could soothe her temporarily, but until she faced the problem, she would have to deal with it on her own. It wasn't that she wasn't ready to face it; she was, but she wanted Vhera to apologize first. In her mind, Vhera had done a cowardly thing, and refusing to apologize for it only enforced that. So the tension went on.

They were heading to the Arbor Wilds soon. Plans were all laid out, they had tracked a way to destroy Samson's red lyrium armor, and Morrigan had an idea of what Corypheus was looking for. Isa was preparing, making sure her bowstring was fresh, her sword was sharpened, her armor was ready, and that she had plenty of clean socks. It was a tense time for all of Skyhold, not just the inner circle.

There was a knock on her door. "Come in," the Inquisitor's Second called out, turning her head to see who it was. "Good afternoon, Solas." Solas smiled at her. "Good afternoon, Isa. Almost ready?" She nodded, "yes. Corypheus won't know what hit him." Solas sat down in the chair next to her vanity. "I hope we get to the temple before he does."

Isa stood, stretching her arms above her head. She sat in his lap, draping her arms around his neck. He rested his head on her shoulder, taking a deep breath in. She kissed his cheek gently. "Do you know who all is going in with the Inquisitor?" Solas asked, his voice a lazy drawl. She traced over his features with gentle fingers. "Yes. You, me, Morrigan, Dorian, and Blackwall." Solas wrinkled his nose in a look of disgust. Isa rolled her eyes, "I know you're still upset with him, but you can't ignore him forever. He is trying to-" "atone for what he's done, yes, I know. Aren't we all?" He let out a deep sigh. "I am not upset with him for his lies, though I should be." He looked up at her with those beautiful grey eyes she loved so much. "He hurt you."

Isa kissed him softly. "I'm fine, Solas." "No," Solas frowned. "Because of his actions, there is a rift between you and Vhera that cannot be crossed." Isa stiffened. "The Inquisitor made her own decisions." Solas cupped her cheek in his hands. "Even so distant, you still follow her with all the ferocity that you always have. You are something else, vhenan." She leaned into his hand, closing her eyes.

There was another knock on the door. Solas was visibly annoyed. Isa got up and opened the door. To her surprise, it was Cassandra. "Good afternoon Cassandra," Isa greeted her. "I would have thought you'd have left with the Commander and his troops. What can I do for you?" Cassandra wrung her hands nervously. "I will catch up with them soon. I just…" She sighed. "I have a bad feeling. Whatever you find in those ruins, keep an eye on the Inquisitor. We cannot lose her now." Isa nodded, "I understand bad feelings. We'll be careful." Seemingly satisfied, Cassandra left.

Solas cleared his throat. "She's just nervous." Isa nodded, closing the door. She turned back to Solas. "Please try to get along with everyone. This is life or death. We can't afford to bicker."

"Are you scolding me?"

"Yes."

Solas smiled at her. "I will do my best."
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Soon, they found themselves running through the Arbor Wilds. The place felt strangely familiar to Isa, like she had lived there a lifetime ago. It was an odd feeling. They didn't have to do a whole lot of fighting, as all of their allies were there, holding back the red Templar forces. Isa led the way, seeming to know the path, and in the midst of the chaos, the others didn't question it.

Throughout all of the turmoil of the red Templars, there seemed to be something else harassing them. Elves in golden armor kept going after them, though no one seemed to have any idea who they were or whose side they were on. They seemed to go after everyone.

Finally, they reached what seemed to be the main temple, and Commander Cullen taking on a slew of red Templars on his own. "Cullen!" Vhera cried out. Isa loosed a couple of arrows, lightening his load. Solas and Dorian took care of the rest. They continued their rush once his relative safety was ensured, darting into the temple.

Isa heard fighting ahead, then nothing. They creeped forward, peering over a wall. The elves in the same armor as the ones before were defending a bridge to the inner sanctum, and opposing them was Corypheus himself, with Samson and other corrupted wardens and Templars at his side. Isa watched as Corypheus passed through the barrier, his body burning, destroyed in an explosion, along with the barrier. Samson and some others disappeared across the bridge.

They jumped down, heading for the bridge. One of the unconscious grey wardens started convulsing, and they watched in horror as Corypheus morphed the body into his own. "Run!" Vhera shouted, and they tore across the bridge, running from that monstrosity and the archdemon coming after them. They pushed the doors closed at the last minute, their magic seal holding.

"He takes the bodies of other blighted creatures," Solas leaned against the wall in a state of disbelief. "Maker's balls!" Blackwall was awfully pale. Isa looked to Vhera, who met her gaze. They exchanged a brief nod, and Vhera stepped up. "We've got to get moving. We can't let Samson reach the target."

"Look." Morrigan had found some elven writing, along with some stones on the floor. "It's a ritual, a rite of petition. I can't quite translate it." Isa tuned them out, stepping on the stones. It lit up, humming beneath her. She stepped on the next, then the next, all the way around until they all lit up. There was a hum, and something shifted beyond them. A door opened across the room.

"Look at us, good Andrastians, performing elven rituals," Blackwall muttered. Isa rolled her eyes, but opted to keep her mouth shut. More tension wouldn't do them any good. Morrigan was talking about some other artifact in the temple she would like to find. Isa was grappling with an uncomfortable sense of familiarity. She had been here before.

The red Templars had blasted a hole in the ground, but rather than follow them, Vhera wanted to follow the rites of petition and respect the temple. Isa agreed. For some reason, Isa knew exactly how the puzzles worked, and they made quick work of them. They discovered the temple was dedicated to Mythal.

Finally, they heard some doors open as they completed the last rite. They ran back, walking into a grand hall covered in gold and gems. Isa was in awe. Then she spotted the elf peering down at them, with the vallaslin of Mythal on his face. "You are not like the other invaders."

Isa listened to their conversation, and was interested when she heard about the Well of Sorrows. Morrigan was interested too. The sentinels agreed to aid them, but when the leader, Abelas, said he would destroy the well, Morrigan flew off after him.

Isa was still plagued by a sense of familiarity as they walked through the hallways, listening to the sounds of the sentinels fighting the red Templars. Blackwall seemed to notice. "Something wrong?" "I know this place," she muttered, trailing her gloved fingers over the mosaics on the wall. "Strange, as if from a dream." Blackwall pulled her to the left when she ambled to the right. She shook her head to clear it.

They emerged into the daylight, and were launched into battle once again. Isa fired a few arrows, then jumped in to battle with her sword and shield. The sentinels fought beside them, and fighting with them felt strangely natural to Isa. This place made her feel strange, like she wasn't entirely herself.

Finally, they reached the inner sanctum, where Samson and his Templars finished slaughtering some sentinels. Isa barely gave Vhera time to use her rune against Samson's armor to shatter it before she flew at him. She backed off when Vhera started attacking him and went after some of the others to give her breathing room. More sentinels fought with them, including an elf swinging a war hammer around that seemed very familiar. Isa wrote it off until they ended up back to back, and he told her to duck. She knew his voice. She dropped to the ground as his hammer swung over her head, taking out some of the Templars around them.

He then pulled her to her feet, and she looked into eyes of emeralds, the face they belonged to clear of vallaslin. He was so familiar, even more than the rest of the temple had been. Clearly, he shared her confusion. "Ara seranna ma*," he began, his voice light and bubbling like a creek. "Have we met?" "I don't know," Isa replied, then pushed him aside to drive her sword into another Templar.

Finally, they won the battle. Samson was still alive, so they bound him so he would be ready to go back to Skyhold for judgement. Isa turned back to the elf, holding out her hand. "Isenatha." He took it, "Iovoren." Even the name sounded familiar, but both had a look of slight bewilderment.

They didn't have time to work it out as Abelas and Morrigan raced to the Well of Sorrows. Morrigan was flying as a crow, so she beat him. "The sanctum has been despoiled at last then," Abelas was bitter. The rest of the party soon joined them. Isa could hear the well whispering.

"The price of the well is service to Mythal herself. You will be bound to her will," Abelas announced. Vhera shifted on her feet. "We can't leave it here for Corypheus." "Let me take it then!" Morrigan insisted. "No, if you wish to preserve this item so badly, then respect its heritage."

Abelas sighed. "We shall leave then. Where shall we go?" Vhera gave him a hopeful smile. "The Dalish could use your guidance." He looked thoughtful. "Perhaps I will go to them then." "Abelas," Iovoren asked, "may I join this Inquisition? Their cause is worthy. I would not see such evil wrought upon this world." Abelas lowered his head, "as you wish, falon'ni.** Your fate is in your own hands now." Abelas strode out of the sanctuary, and Solas called after him in elvish, "I hope you find a new name, friend." Strange, while Isa was there, elvish seemed less like a fumbling second language to her and more like a native tongue.

"I am willing to pay the price of the well," Morrigan was insisting once more. "The knowledge inside could-" "So you could use it against us?" Blackwall crossed his arms. Solas was clearly torn. "I do not wish to see it in her hands, but being bound to the will of Mythal is not something to take lightly." Dorian put his hands on his hips. "I say let Morrigan have it. We can't risk losing you."

"No, we can't," Isa spoke up. "I will take the well." Morrigan scoffed, "it would be wasted upon you, you would not know what to do with it." Isa glared, "you didn't even know what it was a few hours ago. Tone down your power hunger and get out of my way." Vhera caught Isa's arm. "Are you sure about this?" Solas added, "think twice, da'avise. I-" "Yes, I'm sure." Isa put her hand on Vhera's shoulder. "I will be fine." She smiled. Vhera hugged her tightly, then let her wade into the waters of the Well of Sorrows.

It whispered to her, and Isa had a moment of apprehension, but it soon passed as she cupped water in her hands and drank. Suddenly it was like her head was being cut open. She passed out.

She woke to the others standing over her, and she felt… wonderful. Better than she had in ages. She sat up, letting Vhera pull her to her feet. "How do you feel?" Isa smiled, "I feel great."

Corypheus decided to make his appearance at that moment. "The eluvian!" Morrigan shouted. "Activate it!" Isa waved her hand and the eluvian opened. A figure rose out of the well, blocking corypheus. Isa dove through the mirror behind the rest.

They tumbled out in Skyhold, all safe and sound. Isa felt the desperate need for a nap. Vhera helped her to her feet. "Why don't you take a nap, and I'll show our new recruit here around Skyhold?" Isa nodded, making her way to her bedroom. The whispers were rather comforting to her, not unlike lyrium's song.

Chapter Text

The next couple of days were strange for Isa. The well whispered things to her, things she wanted to know if it knew the answer, and things she felt like she already knew that she had forgotten. It was truly a wonderful gift.

Elvish began to come naturally to her. No longer did she stumble through it like a child struggling to speak. She loved it, speaking the language of her ancestors. She spoke often with Iovoren, whom she seemed to share some sort of bond with, though neither could seem to remember anything beyond a fuzzy familiarity.

Morrigan pestered her often, wanting to know what the well had to say about a good many things. Isa was happy to answer, though the apostate was getting on her nerves with her arrogance and annoyance that she hadn't been the one to drink from the well.

Isa and Vhera had sort of made up, though they no longer were inseparable, they were talking again, which was good, considering Solas seemed to be avoiding Isa, and only spoke to Vhera about Corypheus's next move. Whenever Isa went to see him, he made up some hurried excuse about having to go speak to someone else about an urgent matter, but they had just won a great victory. How many urgent matters could there possibly be? Isa was deeply frustrated by this, and finally, one evening, she cornered him as he was getting ready for bed.

"Solas," she called out, and he turned to face her. "Isa," he looked startled, "how are you? I'm afraid I don't have time to-" "Time to what, Solas? Got somewhere to be? Some urgent matter to attend to? In your bedclothes?" Isa crossed her arms, making her intentions clear. "What's going on? Have I done something to offend you?" Solas's face fell. He lowered his gaze, shaking his head. "I… it is complicated. I know you did what you had to, but I am frustrated that you drank from the well. The price is not something I would have you pay." Isa rolled her eyes, "it's not that big of a deal, Solas." "Not that big of a deal?" He looked at her, furrowing his eyebrows. "You have bound yourself into the service of an elven god; that is not something to be taken lightly!" Isa put her hands on her hips. "You don't even believe in the elven gods!" "I don't believe that they were gods, but I believe that they existed and that they were very powerful!"

Isa ran her fingers through her hair in frustration. "Okay, so even if that's the case, I am bound to the service of Mythal. You heard Abelas. She was murdered!" Solas clenched his fists, "the first of the People do not die so easily, Isenatha! Yes, she was murdered, but bits and pieces of her may have survived." Isa raised an eyebrow. "You're just looking for reasons to be angry, now. What is your problem?"

Solas sighed, letting his anger fade. "Ma serannas, I do not mean to be so harsh. I am frustrated with many things at the moment. I care deeply for you, vhenan. The idea of you being bound to the will of anyone other than yourself frightens me." Isa shook her head, "that doesn't give you a reason for avoiding me, Solas." He crossed the room and kissed her rather suddenly. As much as she wanted to be cross with him, she couldn't help herself, and melted into his touch. "Come with me, vhenan," he murmured. "I want to show you how much you mean to me."

He took her out far beyond Skyhold, to a secluded little grove with a pleasant waterfall and the moonlight in the background. It was a beautiful spot. Isa held Solas's hand, her fingers entwined with his, and her past qualms forgotten. He turned to her, kissing her softly. "I want to give you a gift, vhenan, the gift of truth." His eyes were sincere. Isa waited patiently. There seemed to be confliction in his gaze, then… "Your vallaslin, I want you to know what it really is." She opened her mouth, but he hushed her. "They are slave markings. Ancient elven nobles would mark their slaves with these to show which god they honoured."

Isa took a moment to absorb the information, the peace on her face twisting into confusion, then pain. "What? You mean…" Solas put his hand to her cheek. "I did not tell you this to hurt you, da'avise. If you like, I know a spell. I can remove the vallaslin." Isa felt conflicted. These markings had been a part of her for a long time. They meant everything to the Dalish, but she wanted to be true to the elves, and she despised slavery. "Do it."

Solas guided her to sit on a nearby stone. His hands glowed, and Isa closed her eyes. She heard him say, "Ar mala lasan na revas.*" She opened her eyes, gazing into his. He smiled warmly at her, "you are so beautiful." Isa stood, leaning into his chest, resting her hands on his shoulders. "Ar lath ma, Solas. Ane ma'en'an'sal'in.**" Solas held her close, kissing her deeply. He kissed her again and again. He almost seemed desperate, like he would never see her again. Isa giggled, loving the attention.

They stood in each other's arms for a long time, swaying slightly to the music of nature around them. Isa looked up at Solas when he let out a deep, shuddering breath. There were tears in his eyes as he took his arms from around her. "Solas? Are you alright?"

He didn't look at her. "I want you to know that none of this is your fault." Isa blinked, "none of what?" He turned away. "This cannot go on any longer, Isenatha. I cannot continue with this relationship." Isa was shocked. "What? Solas, what are you talking about?" She reached out, but he stepped away from her. "You will understand in time, but for now, you have a duty to the Inquisition, and I won't distract you from it anymore." "Solas, you're being ridiculous! I don't understand!" She was choking back tears. He still wouldn't look at her. A tear fell down his face, as well. "Isenatha-" "Solas, look at me! What is going on? Why? What have I done?" She was hysterical. "Please Solas, look at me!" He turned his back to her. "I am not worthy of you."

He left her there.

Isa fell to her knees, feeling her heart shatter. She let out a wail, sobbing hopelessly. She prayed that she was just having a horrible dream, that the man she loved hadn't just walked away from her. She knew that she was very much awake. How could he just leave? What had she done?

It seemed like everyone she loved was determined to make her suffer.

Chapter Text

"What am I?" Isa asked the well, her own voice swallowed up by the silence of her quarters. 'Commander,' they answered, the same answer she got every time. "Yes, but what does that mean?" They were silent. Isa let out a sigh, perhaps they just didn't know. Her patience was running thin, so she decided it was time to get ready before she started to throw things.

Word had gotten around quickly that things had ended with Solas, and Isa was running out of patience. If she had to say "I don't want to talk about it" one more damn time, she was going to stab someone. Her lack of vallaslin had startled everyone at first, but that had been a week ago. They soon found better things to whisper about.

Isa headed to the war room, leaning against the table while she waited for the others. She closed her eyes and conversed with the well for a bit, only noticing the presence of the advisors when Vhera put a hand on her shoulder. She opened her eyes, looking up. "Are you alright?" Vhera asked. Isa nodded, "apologies, I was listening to the well." She stood straight, holding her hands behind her back, and announced, "I have an idea on how to fight Corypheus. The well has revealed to me-" "I'm surprised it's revealed anything to you at all, given your inexperience with magic," Morrigan interrupted. Isa's eyes flashed dangerously, her irritation blatant. "Morrigan, if you're going to do nothing but stand there and be bitter, you may leave. I am not helpless, and I have been quite effective at conversing with the well. Jealousy is not a pretty colour on you. Now shut up."

She turned back to the others. "There is a shrine, where I believe we can contact the spirit of Mythal. I want to go to this shrine. I think she will have a way to defeat this monster." Vhera stated, "I will go with you." "As will I," Morrigan added. "I am curious about what we might find at the shrine of a dead god."
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Isa led the way into a grassy knoll surrounded by a ring of stone. The place sang with ancient magic, and the grass whispered welcome to them as the wind blew through it. "Incredible," Morrigan approached the shrine on the far side, a statue of a woman with wings, her face hidden by a helmet. "The temple was in Mythal's name but this, this is where the elves beseeched her, asking for justice."

Isa felt nothing but dread, though she didn't know why. Iovoren had come with them, as had Vivienne and Cassandra, but as they had approached, Iovoren had found himself unable to go any closer, so Vivienne and Cassandra had stayed back with him while the others went on, assuming it was simply because he had been a servant of Mythal himself.

Isa approached the shrine, calling out to Mythal, her mouth spilling out the words of the well. The grass rustled behind them, and Isa turned, unsure of what she was expecting. She was not expecting a human.

"Mother?" Morrigan exclaimed. The woman, her white hair tied up, mimicking a dragon, nodded. "Do not look so surprised, girl." Morrigan started to draw on a magic attack, but the woman waved her hand, scoffing. "Restrain her." Isa found herself compelled to put herself between Morrigan and the woman, her hands grabbing Morrigan's wrists. "What are you doing?" Morrigan shouted. "I don't know!"

"She is bound to my will, is she not? She drank from the ir'abelasan." Isa let Morrigan go, stepping back from her. Morrigan got a look of realization. "Then you are Mythal?"

Vhera bowed to the woman, and Isa followed suit. The woman smiled. "There are some proper manners. Rise, girls, there is no need. Mythal is a part of me, as your heart is a part of you. I cried out for justice, and she found me. You may call me Flemeth." Morrigan was in a state of disbelief. "I must say, I am now rather relieved it was you and not I that drank from the well."

Vhera stepped forward. "Flemeth, we came here for a reason." "Yes, I know, Inquisitor. You seek a way to fight Corypheus. There is a way to kill him without his life force passing to another blighted creature. You must kill his dragon, as it holds a piece of his soul, which will be forced to return to him, and for a short time, he will be vulnerable to permanent death. The guardian of this shrine, a high dragon, will be here soon. Command it, and it will fight the dragon for you."

"What?" Vhera exclaimed. "Command a dragon? Impossible!" Flemeth smiled knowingly, "you have done many impossible things, but this task is not yours. Isenatha, you must command this dragon." Isa nodded, feeling a little numb. All of this was happening so fast. Flemeth turned to leave.

"Wait!" Isa cried out, reaching out to Flemeth. "What else do you want, child? I have given you everything you need to defeat Corypheus." Isa glanced at Vhera, then back at Flemeth. It could change everything, but she had to know. "What am I?" Flemeth raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?" Isa grew impatient, "I knew Mythal. I recognized that temple. I have these flashes of memory, I was in that tomb for so long, I can do all of these things and I don't know why, please, just tell me what I am, tell me what I was to Mythal, what she did to make me this way." Flemeth crossed her arms, "and what does the well tell you?" Isa looked at the grass by her feet. "When I ask, all I hear is 'Commander.' What does that mean?"

Flemeth let out a sigh. "It would be kinder not to tell you, but perhaps it would make things easier. It will help you to unlock your ability to command, but you will not like what I have to say." Isa steeled herself. "I want to know."

"Very well." Flemeth stood in front of her, meeting her gaze. "I will show you." She reached out, eyes glowing with magic, and pressed her hand to Isa's temple.

Suddenly, it seemed like everything was different. They were still in front of that shrine, but something was off. Isa looked around as Flemeth dropped her hand from her head. "Are we in the Fade?" Flemeth nodded. "Yes. We are going to watch a memory."

"I am ready." Isa heard a familiar voice, but it sounded altered somehow. She turned, freezing when she saw herself, her face free of vallaslin, with a few other elves. "That's me?" She couldn't believe her eyes. "When was this?" Flemeth answered, "very long ago, when the elves still ruled Arlathan. This was right before the fall. You were part of Mythal's inner circle, one of her trusted war leaders. You see, she was fighting- well, it doesn't matter now. All that matters is that she was losing, and she had one last desperate card to play. You didn't know what she had planned for you, but you were loyal to a fault." Flemeth gave her what seemed to be an almost sad smile. "You still are."

Isa watched as her memory approached the shrine, calling out to Mythal. Mythal answered the call, in all her former glory, glowing so bright that Isa could barely see more than her outline. "Isenatha, high warrior," Mythal's voice filled the space. There was something in your arms. "You have given everything for me, yet this time I fear I must ask too much. There is no going back now."

"My lady, there is nothing you could ask of me that I would not give. My life is yours." The memory Isa bowed her head, a gesture of respect. Mythal approached the shrine, placing a small bundle on it. The bundle whimpered.

"No," the actual Isa whispered. "The baby." A memory Cole had lifted from her came flooding back. It had been a mere fragment, but now it was fully formed. Flemeth nodded. "Yes, the baby."

The memory Isa looked confused. "My lady?" Mythal did not turn to face her. "Yours is not the only life I must claim this day." She drew a knife. Isa stepped forward. "My lady, surely you do not intend-" "Restrain her." The elves around her grabbed her arms, forcing her to her knees. The memory Isa didn't fight it. "My lady, what is the meaning of this? Are you going to…. Surely you wouldn't spill the blood of an innocent! You're the protector, the lady of justice, you could never-" Mythal cut her off. "I must make sacrifices, Isenatha." Her voice wavered, as if she were crying. "This ritual, it calls for the blood of an innocent, and the soul of a vessel. I must summon a high spirit of command and give it physical form. To save The People, I must give everything." Memory Isa shook her head, starting to pull against the elves restraining her. They tied her arms back, using all their strength to hold her. The baby was wailing.

"No! Mythal, you can't do this! There must be another way! This is the blood of the unwilling, this is an atrocity! There is no justice in this! There is no mercy!" Memory Isa fought, devolving into screaming as Mythal plunged the dagger into the crying babe. There was a sickening gurgle as the baby's screams were drowned by its own blood. They gradually faded. Mythal picked up the corpse, taking it over to Isa and letting the blood rain down on her, running down her face, staining her hair and skin, mixing with her tears. "My child," Mythal murmured, "my Isa, you must accept the gift that I offer you. If you do not, this babe will have died in vain."

Memory Isa was choking on her words, her body shaking with rage and guilt. Duty above all. "I accept." She opened her mouth, letting the blood of an innocent child drip down her throat.

Light poured from the sky, condensing into a single beam on Isa's body, ripping screams of agony from her lungs as her soul began to burn away, replaced by the high spirit of command. Mythal was chanting, though the language was unrecognizable.

Then she stopped, cut short by the spear through her chest.

The cloaked figure behind her ripped her away from Isa, tossing her and the baby's corpse away. The light twisted, contorting around Isa, who fought against the ropes that bound her. "Since the ritual was cut short," Flemeth's voice seemed distant, "your soul wasn't replaced. It fused with the spirit of command, twisting it from its original purpose. By definition, you are an abomination, though the truth is a bit more complicated. The spirit Mythal had summoned had a very specific idea of command. It was merciless, harsh, distant; a high commander over vast armies, ruling over great beasts and men alike with an iron fist, serving only one master. Since it fused with you, that all changed. You still hold the power of command, but it is your idea of command. It is mercy, justice, protection, loyalty, duty to your people as well as loyalty from them. It's not obedience to the letter, rather, it is the drive that comes from shared ideals. It is a very flawed idea of command, as far as spirits are concerned, but a realistic one. Since the ritual was interrupted by Mythal's murderer, you were free from her control, but you couldn't activate your power at will, since it was still a binding ritual, meant to bring you under control. Your power is deeply flawed, and extremely dangerous. Still, it is a chance to restore The People, and a chance to defeat Corypheus. You still have a long way to go before unlocking your true potential, and the only one who can do that is you. You must find a true purpose to follow, a cause to believe in, and that will be the first step, because when Mythal died, she left a sort of crack in the ritual. When you find your purpose, you will no longer need to hear the word command to use your gifts." Flemeth looked down at her, seeming very distant. "You must remember why you served Mythal in the first place, because it was of your own free will that you did. Only then will you be the high commander the spirit fused to you longs to be."

Memory Isa fell to the ground, the light fading. Flemeth continued, "when the other elven gods learned that any means of controlling you against your will had died with Mythal, they locked you away in that tomb where you slept until the Dalish woke you." The memory began to fade, leaving Isa in shock.

Isa fell in the grass, Flemeth's hand falling from her head. The whole thing had been a sort of dream, one Morrigan and Vhera had not seen. Tears streamed down her face as the memory hit her. Now that she had put her foot in the door, more glimpses of her former life would surely follow.

"Get up, child," Flemeth sneered down at her. "You're not done yet. You cannot afford to falter now. You Inquisitor needs you to command the guardian of the shrine." Isa got to her feet on shaky limbs. "How will I know when I-" "Trust me," Flemeth cut her off with a wink and a finger to her lips, a signal to keep it to herself. "You'll know."

"Mother!" Morrigan called out. "I... you!" Flemeth gave her a strange look, one of sorrow. "Oh my darling girl, a soul is not forced upon the unwilling. You were never in any danger from me." Flemeth vanished, leaving the three of them in shock.

"What did she show you?" Vhera asked, but Isa didn't get a chance to answer. A dragon swooped down on them, and they were launched into battle.

Isa spent a moment fighting, but then she remembered that she was supposed to be able to command this dragon. She closed her eyes for a moment, feeling the air crackle in front of her as the dragon prepared to burn her to a crisp. She opened her eyes, and they flashed like burning coals. "STOP!"

The dragon stopped. It lowered its head, snorting. Isa reached out, putting her hand on its nose. They stood there like that for a moment, coming to an understanding. Then it flew off. Isa felt faint. She had done it. She had commanded a dragon.

Chapter Text

Isa was in a daze when they returned to Skyhold, brushing off Morrigan and Vhera's insistent questions, wandering to the stables to Feynthorn, burying her face in his coarse fur. She could hear Blackwall talking, then Iovoren holding conversation with them, though she couldn't make out what they were saying. A memory washed over her, of something similar, of Iovoren's voice, of the smell of halla and the forest. He worked under her. She looked up, the memory fading. Flemeth had said she was a war leader for Mythal, Iovoren must have worked under her until she vanished, then joined the sentinels. That was how they knew each other. The sentinels had spent so much time asleep, letting the world pass around them, that it was no surprise he couldn't remember either.

She was about to join the two when she head Solas behind her, "Isenatha." Just hearing him sound so formal made her blood boil. "Solas." She didn't turn to look at him. "The Inquisitor has asked me to learn what I can about what happened at the shrine." "Then ask Morrigan," she snarled, not in the mood to talk to him.

"Morrigan was not pulled into the Fade by Flemeth."

Isa turned to face him, crossing her arms. "She showed me how to command the dragon. That's it." Solas seemed to be struggling to keep a neutral face. The corner of his mouth twitched. "You're not a good liar, da'avise."

Isa walked out of the stables. Solas tried to stop her, and she turned on him. "You think you have any right to try and sweet talk your way into my secrets?" She switched to elvish, getting in his face. "You can go shove an antler up your ass, how dare you? Was it all a game to you? Just another stepping stone in your quest for knowledge? Was it easiest to get to my secrets through my heart? I guess it didn't matter that you shattered it in the process!" Solas's composure broke, and Isa saw him for what he was: a horribly guilty, heartbroken man struggling with the weight of what he'd done. "I never meant to hurt you." Isa shook her head, struggling not to cry in the courtyard. "No one ever does, do they, vhenan?" Of course she still loved him, but she was hurting, and pushing her would get nothing from her. "Do not ask again."

Solas lowered his head in defeat. "I am sorry."

Isa watched him leave, retreating back to his rotunda. She went back into the stables, hopping onto Feynthorn and riding out of Skyhold. She couldn't stand to be in that place for another minute. She heard her name being called, and hooves thundering after her, but Feynthorn was faster than a horse, and she was soon out of reach of whomever was pursuing her.

Having only ridden for a few minutes, she stopped in a grove of pine trees by a deep pool of a bubbling creek, ice creeping around the edges. She hopped off Feynthorn, going to stand at the edge of the pool. She had a sudden desire to go for a swim. She stripped down to her tunic and trousers and jumped in, letting out a gasp at the freezing water. She dove under, swimming deep, then coming up for air. She did it again and again, determined to reach the bottom of the pool. She felt her limbs succumbing to the cold, but she didn't care. It kept the tears from burning her face, and it distracted her from the pain in her chest.

Suddenly, something grabbed the back of her tunic and hauled of her out of the water, tossing her on the bank. "What in the name of the maker do you think you're doing? You'll freeze to death!" It was Blackwall, with Iovoren standing behind him. Isa shoved him away, "none of your damn business!" He caught her arms, making her look at him. "Hey," he shook her a bit. "Hey! Look at me. You're going to be alright. I know you're hurting, for good reason. A lot of people have hurt you recently. It's okay to hurt, but drowning in freezing water isn't the answer."

"I wasn't going to drown." Isa's teeth chattered. Blackwall took off his coat, wrapping it around her. It smelled like leather and horses, like him. It was very warm. Iovoren sat down beside her, taking one of her hands. "Even leaders need someone to lean on." Another memory hit her. They sat back to back in the snow, battered and bloodied as war raged on. They held swords in one hand, and held each other's hand with the other.

Isa began to cry. She felt like such a baby. Flemeth had told her to be strong, and she had done a lot of crying recently, but neither one of the men beside her seemed to share her thoughts. Iovoren was talking, his voice oddly soothing. "I knew a woman once. I don't remember much about the time before the sentinels, but I remember that she was the best leader I had ever known, because she was always open. She wanted to know how the people around her felt. She listened to them when she cried, she lifted them up when they were happy, and she dragged them through the wars we fought, determined that they would all survive. I don't even remember her face, but I remember the loyalty she inspired. She was loved."

Blackwall cleared his throat, "I know I haven't been the best friend lately, maker knows I've been a source of turmoil for many, but…" He let out a deep sigh. "You are very much loved, Isa, by many, including myself. Everyone who has watched you hurt has wanted nothing more than to help, but no one knows how." Isa shook her head, "I don't know either. It seems like every time I start to feel better, I get kicked down again. And Solas, damn him, who does he think he is, talking to me like nothing happened just because he thinks I know something he doesn't? That was just uncalled for." She choked back sobs.

Blackwall patted her leg, "that was really unfair." Iovoren squeezed her hand.

Blackwall stood. "I'm going to make sure they don't send out a search party. No more ice diving, alright?" Isa nodded, smiling despite herself. "Thank you, Blackwall." He gave her a sweet smile and got on his horse, riding off.

Iovoren traced the back of her hand with his thumb, conversing with her in elvish. "Did… Did you learn anything about how we might know each other? It is… strange. I feel like I have known you a long time." Isa clasped both of her hands around his. "Yes. But you must keep it to yourself." "You have my word." She told him everything she knew.

Once she was finished, they sat in silence for a long moment. Then he let her hand go and moved to where he was kneeling in front of her, his expression a very serious one. "Then my memories of the leader must be of you. My lady, my weapon is yours once again, this I swear to you." Isa reached out and put her hand on his shoulder. "I am honoured. I will do my best to earn that loyalty."

Chapter Text

Isa was minding her own business when Skyhold shook beneath her feet. The sky filled with an eerie green glow, and Isa turned in horror to see the breach, pulsing in all of its former glory. "Shit!" Isa shouted. Vhera burst out of the main hall, "Isa! We've gotta go, now! Grab who you can, we can't wait!" Solas and Dorian were with her. Isa ran down towards the stables, catching Bull and Varric along the way, calling out to Iovoren and Blackwall as she jumped on Feynthorn. "We need to go! Corypheus has made his move!"

Before long, they were riding through the mountains on their way to the remains of Haven. They reached the ruins of the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Isa hopped off of Feynthorn, rushing up the stairs to come face to face with Corypheus. Fortunately, he was far more interested in Vhera, threatening her, telling her to bow down before her new god. Isa swelled with pride when Vhera just snorted, "you talk too much," and attacked him.

The ground shattered around them, and Isa held on for dear life as the whole temple rose into the sky, floating as if they were in the fade. "Foolish girl," Corypheus's voice surrounded them, "running around with your stolen mark and slave markings on your face. You will fall before my power." Vhera staggered to her feet, and the others followed suit.

The lyrium dragon flew overhead. Isa closed her eyes and called out for her own secret weapon, smiling when she heard the mighty roar of her ally. The green beast swooped in, attacking the lyrium dragon before it could blast them to bits. Corypheus was clearly furious. "A dragon, oh, very clever." Isa fired an arrow at him while the others attacked. She tried getting close, but he turned on her, "you think you can face me? The blighted lyrium in your body makes you weak!" Suddenly, it was as if her blood was on fire, and she stumbled away. "Stay back!" Vhera shouted over the chaos. "We'll handle this!" Isa slumped against a wall, taking deep, shaky breaths. She looked up to see her dragon fighting the other beast.

She was losing.

She watched her dragon plummet to the earth, defeated. The red lyrium dragon turned its attention to the others, its throat glowing as it prepared to smother them in lyrium shards. Isa reached out, feeling the Fade around her. The veil was so thin here, torn by the breach. Maybe she wouldn't need a mage. Maybe she could do it on her own. She prayed, and stood, her eyes ablaze, her hair rising around her, glowing like molten gold. The lyrium dragon stopped its attack and turned to her. It let out a thundering roar and dove at her.

She met it with a wave of force, raw power flowing from her body. She threw blow after blow at the dragon, battling it with all of her might, destroying everything around her in the process. She could feel her energy draining, but the dragon was faltering as well. With one last mighty blow, she brought all of her force down upon it, smashing its skull, splitting it in two and splattering its blood everywhere. Isa stood, breathless, victorious over the tainted beast.

The soul fragment leaked out of it and rose to where Isa and the others were fighting Corypheus. Isa felt her glow of power fading, having spent up all of her energy; she knew better than to approach the battle, so she watched at a distance as the others wore down Corypheus. Finally, Vhera had him on his knees and defeated him with the anchor. There was a huge blast of power, and Isa ran towards them, hoping Vhera was okay.

She was. She stood victorious, closing the breach. Isa was so proud of her, unable to keep the grin off her face. Finally, the breach was sealed, leaving only the glowing scar in the sky. The temple lowered back to the ground, knocking them off balance as the world returned to normal. Well, mostly normal.

The orb Corypheus used lay shattered on the ground. Solas approached it, a strange look of despair on his face. He knelt down, picking up one of the shattered pieces. "I know you wanted to study the orb," Vhera began, "but at least it can't hurt anyone else now." Solas nodded, sighing sadly. "So much knowledge, lost. It will be alright. We must move forward." He stood. "Thank you, Inquisitor. You will always have my respect." Vhera nodded, "thank you, Solas." She headed down to check on the others.

Solas turned to Isa, a look of deep sadness on his face. Isa felt a pit in her stomach. He smiled slightly. "You seem to have discovered a way to activate your power without a mage." Isa shook her head, "only because the veil was torn. Still, it is a step. Are you hurt? The fight was a rough one."

He walked over to her, taking her hand and kissing her fingers gently. He ignored her question. Her breath caught in her throat, and she couldn't bring herself to pull her hand away. He looked at her with sad grey eyes. "No matter what happens," his voice trembled, "I want you to know that what we had was real."

"Isa!" Vhera called out to her. Solas let her go, stepping aside. Isa stood still for a moment until Vhera called for her again. She left Solas standing there, heading down to where Vhera waited. When she looked over her shoulder, Solas was gone.

Suddenly, Isa was held up high on Bull's shoulder. "Look at you, dragon slayer!" Vhera was on his other shoulder. Isa grinned, "yeah, I guess that was pretty cool." "Pretty cool?" Varric laughed incredulously. "You killed the damn beast with your bare hands! That was fucking awesome, Bones!" Vhera whooped, "we did it! We have slain Corypheus for good!" Isa let out a shout of victory, "to the Inquisitor!"

They celebrated for a week. Isa spent most of that week plastered, partially because people kept her drunk, and partially because she didn't want to think about the fact that Solas was gone, and even Leliana hadn't been able to track him down. He had vanished. Isa was so confused, and felt so lost, but she was content enough to drink with her friends and allies in celebration for the time. They had certainly earned it.

Chapter Text

After that final battle, many things changed. The Inquisition needed a new purpose, so Vhera had guided it into relief efforts for victims of the trouble Corypheus and his actions had caused. She had also gone on a few personal quests, including some mess with the Avaar and the previous Inquisitor and finding out what lies beneath the deep roads, but that is another story for another time.

Isa, in the meantime, had sort of drifted. She remained as the Inquisitor's second, but she also had stepped up to help her kin rise up in the world. Iovoren had been shocked, seeing elves reduced to alienage residents, servants, and nomads, and had begged her to try and do something about it, and so she had. At first, it had been part of the relief efforts, but Isa found herself wanting to give the elves a real home where they wouldn't have to be in service to humans or wanderers with no place of their own.

So she asked Vhera to make use of the Arbor wilds.

Though a dangerous place, Iovoren knew it well, and surely he could teach others. It was a slow process, but over the process of roughly two years, they had gotten several Dalish clans and some former alienage residents set up on a sort of colony. It wasn't much, just a start in the temple of Mythal, now empty since the Sentinels had gone, but it was a start. Isa visited as often as she could. She let the keepers and an elder from an alienage form a sort of council with her at its head, and they ran things while she was gone. It wasn't much, just rebuilding projects in the ruins of an empire, but it was a start.

However, other things changed over two years as well. Blackwall had been gone for a while, determined to at least apologize for his mistakes. Varric had gone back to Kirkwall, and Dorian had been all over the place. It seemed everyone had gotten on with their lives. The Inquisition was starting to hit a new age. Though grateful for the Inquisition's service, Ferelden and Orlais were growing wary of the ever-present army the Inquisition had gathered. Isa had been called back to accompany Vhera to the Winter Palace for some peace talks to decide the fate of the Inquisition. Divine Victoria, as Leliana was now called, had kept them at bay as long as she could, but no problem can be ignored forever. Her bloody methods of silence certainly didn't help ease their fears that the Inquisition had grown too powerful.

Isa rode a horse, dressed in her black and silver garments as the Inquisitor's second, since riding Feynthorn would have been too much of a statement at the Winter Palance, given her recent activity with the elves. She sat tall and proud with a silver Inquisition pin holding her hair back. As the second, she likely wouldn't have a big role in the talks, but her presence was still important.

Isa hopped off of her horse, stepping over to help Josephine off of hers. She had heard some of their old friends would be joining them. She hoped that was the case.

Cullen helped Vhera off of her horse, trying his best to hide his smile. The two had grown close over recent years. Isa was expecting an engagement announcement at any time. She was glad her friend had found happiness in a man she knew would never let her come to harm. It put Isa's heart at ease.

Isa was left outside as Vhera entered the Winter Palace. The talks weren't due to begin yet, so she had some free time. She decided to visit with some of their old friends.

Varric had become Viscount of Kirkwall, and he seemed to revel in ignoring the merchant's guild. Iron Bull and his Chargers were still going strong. Sera didn't seem to approve of what Isa was doing with the elves, so they avoided that subject, instead setting up a prank on one of the visiting dignitaries. Cassandra was rebuilding the Seekers of Truth, and Dorian was taking on his father's seat as a Magister in Tevinter.

Isa was stunned when she ran into Blackwall writing a letter behind one of the buildings in the expansive courtyards. "Blackwall?" She hadn't seen him in quite some time. He looked up, his eyes lighting up. He set his writing materials aside. "Isa!" He ran to her, scooping her up in his arms and engulfing her in a crushing hug. His beard tickled her face. She grinned and hugged him tightly. "It's so good to see you, Blackwall!" "Actually," he set her down. "I'm using my real name now. Thom Rainier." Isa smiled warmly. "May I call you Thom?" "Of course."

She hugged him again, resting her head on his chest. He chuckled and held her close, "it's good to see you too, Isa." She stepped back from him, trying not to let emotion overwhelm her. "How have you been? What have you been up to?" He sat back down on the bench, patting the spot beside him. She sat, and he told her of how he had gone to the families of the men whom had been put to death for treason because of him, offering what apologies he could and what aid he could offer. "I got hit more times than I could count, but I think I did the right thing." He certainly seemed to feel better about himself. Isa smiled, taking one of his hands in her own. "You've done well, Thom. I'm very proud of you."

"Isa!" Iovoren rounded the corner. He had changed much as well. Isa had finally convinced him to let his hair grow, though he kept the sides shaved and kept the top braided and tied back. It had grown out to a lovely shade of light brown. He had also grown to show more emotion, and was getting used to the modern world, and though he longed for the glory days of the elven empire, he had fallen in love with the world he had found himself in. "Ah, Blackwall, it is good to see you, falon." "Rainier," Thom corrected him. "It is good to see you too." He stood, exchanging a hearty handshake with his old friend.

"Isa," Iovoren continued. "Madame Vivienne is looking for you. She would like you to join her and the Inquisitor for a day spa." Isa stood, "I had better not keep Madame de Fer waiting. I'll see you two later."

Isa made her way up to where Vivienne and Vhera were waiting for her. "There you are, dear," Vivienne greeted her warmly. "I want to treat you both. You must look your best before the Exalted Council, after all." Isa was happy to oblige.

The rest of the day was filled with relaxation. Isa greatly enjoyed herself, having never had an experience quite like this one before. Afterwards, it was time for the introductions to the talks, so Isa readied herself and headed into the Council chamber with the other members of the Inquisition.

"Remember," Josephine whispered. "Best foot forward."

Chapter Text

The trail of Qunari blood led to an active Eluvian, of all things, hidden up in a wing of the palace closed off to everyone else. Isa looked at Vhera, who shrugged. "We've got to see what's on the other side," the Inquisitor stated. "We walked out on the Council for this. We need answers." "Shouldn't we get some backup?" Isa asked. Vhera crossed her arms. "Go grab whomever you can find, quickly. I'll stay here to make sure nothing else comes out."

Isa hopped back over the raining and down into the courtyard. The first people she found were Iovoren, Varric, and Blackwall. "Grab your weapons," she didn't have time to explain. "We've gotta get moving." "Is this about the dead Qunari?" Varric asked. Isa nodded, and the four of them rushed back up to Vhera.

Isa went through the eluvian first, insisting that she couldn't let Vhera go first in case there was an ambush waiting for them. She stepped through, feeling like she was floating for a brief moment, then she was back on solid ground. Fortunately, there was no ambush, and the trail of blood went on.

There was a dark eluvian at the bottom of a ramp, though the trail didn't lead that way. "Perhaps it needs to be opened from the other side," Isa thought. The others came through behind her. They followed the trail of blood up to an active eluvian and stepped through. They came out at the bottom of a stairwell, light pouring in from the doorway at the top. Vhera led the way up the stairs. They came out on a stone structure high over a vast forest. It was nothing short of beautiful. There were several other structures, and they all seemed to be connected by eluvians. Across from them on a structure that could only be reached by opening the eluvian in front of them, more Qunari were fighting… something. They were shaped like elves, but they glowed. Were they spirits?

"Here," Iovoren called out, having gone to the left of them. "There's an open eluvian. I wonder if by exploring, we can find a way to open that one." "It's worth a shot. Perhaps we can find out more about where we are."

They went through the eluvian, finding themselves confronted with the same spirits fighting the Qunari. One of the spirits approached them in a non-threatening manner. It spoke to them. "Atish'all vallem, Fen'Harel Elathadra. Nuvenas mana helanin, dirth bellasa ma." Isa heard the well whispering to her, and put her hand on Vhera's shoulder before the Inquisitor could speak. Isa returned the greeting, which was part of a ritual. "Ar'melana dirthavaren. Revas vir'anaris." The spirit nodded, moving aside to let them pass. "Amae lethalas." The other spirits nodded in greeting as they passed by.

"What was that about?" Vhera asked, bewildered. Iovoren replied, "this place belonged to Fen'Harel, the dread wolf. These spirits must have been summoned to protect it from invaders. How did you know the greeting, Isa?"

"The well," Isa answered. "It was a secret greeting from those Fen'Harel trusted. If the well knew this, were he and Mythal close? Friends?" Iovoren shrugged. "I do not remember, and Abelas rarely spoke of our mistress."

"Let's keep moving," Blackwall cut in. Varric agreed; "we can't spend forever here. People are waiting for you, Inquisitor." They kept moving.

They came across mosiacs blocking their way, which Vhera's mark dissolved. When they brought one down, Vhera learned something. Fen'Harel and the other elven gods were no gods, just powerful mages, mortal as the rest of the elves.

Eventually, they came to a strange room with glowing spheres around them. As soon as Vhera entered the room, the light from the spheres flew from them and into the anchor. She let out a shriek and fell to the ground as the room went dark. "Vhera!" Isa cried out, her hands reaching out for a wall. Suddenly, the room was illuminated again. Vhera was glowing brightly. "I'm fine," she was shaky, but alright. "Whatever that was, it's made the anchor stronger. Look, this looks like it goes with the broken statue at the first eluvian." She picked up a piece of carved stone from the middle of the room. They quickly made their way out and to the first eluvian. The Qunari that had been fighting before were now corpses, and the spirits were gone.

Vhera put the statue in place, and sure enough, the eluvian opened. The group stepped through, finding themselves standing over the bodies of the Qunari. "What were they doing here?" Vhera asked, thinking out loud. Isa shrugged, "maybe if we keep going we'll find out more."

Isa began to get the lingering feeling that they were being watched.

They headed in further, finding themselves in a grand hall with great murals on the walls. The spirit guardians stood watch, and she felt as if they were all staring at her. Maybe they knew that she was like them? She hadn't really explored what she was since the battle with Corypheus, but she knew she couldn't put it off forever.

The murals reminded Isa of the ones Solas had painted back at Skyhold. While the others looked for a way forward, she studied them, trying to discern their meaning. "They depict Fen'Harel removing the vallaslin of the slaves that came here seeking freedom," she said aloud to no one in particular. "He armed them, lifting them up so they could fight." Another thing the Dalish had dreadfully wrong. But if that was the case, why had he locked the other gods away? Was it because they had slaves in the first place? Was it because they murdered Mythal? She asked the well, and the well said it was the latter.

Isa turned around and squeaked when she found one of the spirits standing right behind her. "Oh goodness, you startled me," she spoke in elvish, thinking it was the safer bet. "Apologies," it responded. "I was hoping you could satisfy my curiosity. You are similar to us, but you are different. Your friend bears Fen'Harel's magic, but you are foreign to us, and a mix of many magics, though it was you who greeted us. What are you, friend?"

"I was an elf, at first. I carry Mythal's Well of Sorrows." Isa answered, but Vhera came over before she could tell it about the manner of spirit she was. "Isa, we figured out how to get through." The spirit lowered his head, "may we meet again."

Vhera turned to Isa, "what was it saying?" Isa replied, "it was asking about what I was. Come, let's get moving. We don't have much time." They kept on. Eventually they found themselves in an armory, where the last of the Qunari had holed up. They were easy enough to kill, since they attacked on sight.

"Well shit," Varric sighed, strapping Bianca to his back. "We may have stumbled on something big." He took some orders off of a body; the Qunari were trying to infiltrate Halamshiral. That was definitely not good.

Isa explored the armory and the small library attached. She found an ancient letter, unsent, not daring to touch it in case it crumbled. It was written in a familiar hand, though she couldn't quite place it. The well helped her to translate the ancient elvish writing.

My dearest friend,

I believe I have caught wind of what you plan to do, and if I have, then so has our enemy. They will seek to control the spirit you summon, and I fear for your life. I also fear that the price you must pay for this spirit will be far greater than it is worth. Mythal, I must ask you not to do this. We can win this war without it. This spirit is volatile, ruthless, and merciless. There is a chance that you will not be able to control it, and that is not a risk we can take. I have met it, I have heard it speak; it is not worth the risk. A vessel strong enough to contain the spirit is a valuable asset on its own, surely it can be used for other things? Let us discuss this before we move forward.

Safe travels,

Fen'Harel

Chapter Text

Isa was having trouble sleeping. Vhera had gone back into the eluvian, but Isa had stayed behind to placate the Council, and though the meeting was over and it was night, Vhera still wasn't back. Isa turned over in her bed, restless and irritated. What if something had happened? What if they had been hurt, or captured, or killed, and Isa hadn't been there to protect them?

She sat up in bed, throwing a pillow at the wall. "Fuck," she grumbled, getting out of bed and pacing. She trusted Dorian and Bull to protect her, and Cassandra would die before allowing any harm to come to the Inquisitor, but what if they failed? All of these thoughts racing through her head were driving her crazy. Isa ran her fingers through her hair, bunching it up in her fists. She needed to get out of this room.

Well, she couldn't just wander about the winter palace in her pajamas, so she put on one of the overly fluffy robes that had been gifted to her and some slippers and headed out into the hallway. Maybe waiting in front of the eluvian would make her feel better? She doubted it, but at least she would know as soon as they were back. She reached for the door leading out of the guest wing when she heard a gruff voice.

"You couldn't sleep either?"

It was Blackwall. Well, Thom Rainier. That was taking some getting used to. "I'm worried," Isa admitted, turning to face him. He was in full battle armor. She raised an eyebrow, and his mustache twitched in amusement. "You've been tossing and turning all night. I figured we'd go and look for them." Isa grinned, hurrying back to her room, stopping to kiss his cheek on the way.

She quickly changed into her battle gear, grabbing her bow, and headed back out. The two snuck down to the eluvian, pushing through the magical barrier into the labyrinth. There was a new staircase that hadn't been there the first time. "I'm gonna guess they went that way," Rainier commented. The two went through the eluvian, finding themselves in a dark corner of the deep roads.

They overlooked the Qunari moving explosives around, and the pieces began to click. "They're trying to blow up Halamshiral," Isa whispered. Rainier looked grim. They crept down, deeper and deeper into the roads, finding little signs of their companions along the way. Then they saw the barrels ready to detonate. Rainier grinned, "that crazy woman, she's gonna blast this place." Isa stifled a laugh, "we'd better get out of here then."

Just then, the first blast went off, and the earth shook around them. "Run!" Isa shouted, and Rainier took off in the direction they had come. More blasts went off behind them, and a wall crumbled. The cavern began to fill with water. Suddenly, a bit of the ceiling crumbled, and Isa was cut off from the escape route. "Isa!" Rainier shouted from the other side. Isa called out to him, urging him to escape. "Go! I see another way! Don't you wait for me, Thom, just go!" Isa heard his footsteps running off. She turned around and started climbing a crumbling wall. She wasn't fast enough. Water hit, and she was sent plummeting into the rapids.

She swirled around in the darkness for what seemed like forever, pummeled by debris and other bodies, barely managing to get enough air to survive. Finally, things settled, and she found an air pocket in one of the low ceilings of the old thaig just as she was about to give up. She fought back panic, trying not to think about how she was trapped in the deep roads by herself in complete darkness, half drowned, bleeding, and exhausted. She should never have come after Vhera.

The only way out would be the eluvian. The blast and the water would have sealed off any other means of escape. She could only hope that it hadn't been broken or closed. She took a deep breath and went under, peering through the darkness, hoping to see something, anything, but there was nothing. Only the kind of absolute darkness that came with being buried alive.

Isa came back up for air, struggling with her greatest fear. "It's okay," she whispered, her voice overwhelmingly loud in the sucking silence. "It's fine." She tried not to breathe too fast. The air pocket was small, and wouldn't last forever. Isa looked under the water again, hoping for some glimpse of something to guide her in the right direction, but there was nothing. She could be sealed in, for all she knew. She came back up crying. She felt like a frightened child. "Help" she whispered, her legs feeling weak as they kicked to keep her afloat. The water was freezing. "Help!" There was no echo in the small air pocket. "Please," she begged, sobbing. She didn't know who to pray to. The elven gods weren't gods at all, and she had never believed in the Maker, so who was she supposed to pray to?

"If there's any spirit out there, listening," she sniffled, feeling lightheaded. "Hear me now. Get me out of this mess. Please," she cried out, her panic overwhelming her, "Sil'ahn ma' athlan*!"

There was a soft glow, small at first, then blinding. She shielded her eyes with her arm, then when the light faded to a dim glow, she looked. It was a spirit, a glowing entity in the shape of a man. "Commander," it greeted her. "Your armies have not heard from you in a long time. I am relieved to see you still live." Isa shook her head, "my armies?" The spirit clarified, "the armies of the spirit you absorbed, we still linger in the fade, waiting for your command. We had assumed something had gone wrong with the summoning. It would seem that we were correct. Might I ask your name, vessel?" Isa shivered at the cold. "Isenatha."

"Isenatha, though you have changed the nature of our Commander much, our loyalty is still yours, and in time, you will learn how to call upon us." The spirit brought its arm across its chest, fist clenched, in a salute. Isa returned the gesture. "Thank you, but for now, can you get me out of here?" The spirit looked around. "I can pull you through the fade, if you wish. It will likely make you tired, but I doubt you will be heading directly to battle after this." Isa nodded quickly, "please, anything is better than this." The spirit took her in its arms, and suddenly, they were not in the water, but in the fade, flying past twisted shapes bathed in the eerie green glow of the fade. Then, they were back in the little space where the first Eluvian at the winter palace lead. The spirit set her down. She coughed and stayed on her hands and knees, shivering, dripping, and thanking whatever was out there for getting her out.

"Until next time, Commander." The spirit saluted her again, and then it was gone.

Isa struggled to her feet. Now that the panic of drowning and being buried forever was receding, she felt all of the battering of the stone and bodies with the force of the flood behind it that had happened to her body. She staggered to the eluvian that would lead her back to the winter palace.

She fell out of it, right at the feet of two very startled guards. Fortunately, instead of running her through, they recognized her. "Lady Isenatha! Go get the Inquisitor!" One of the guards ran off while the other knelt down and began applying pressure to a bleeding wound in her side. Isa laid on her back, swearing she would never go underground again.

"Isa!" Rainier was the first to get to her. He shoved the guard aside, taking her in his arms and hugging her tightly, barely containing his sobs. "I thought you were gone," he was shaking. The guard was not pleased about being shoved. "Rainier, Lady Isenatha is injured! If you would please-" "Injured!? Go get-" "I'm here, darling," Vivienne was rushing towards them, nightgown billowing behind her, Vhera at her side. Vhera had been crying. How long had she been gone? Time flowed differently in the Fade.

Vivienne made quick work of the wounds. Vhera was so relieved that Isa was safe, she forgot to yell at her for following in the first place. Isa wasn't going to push the subject, and vowed to give her at least a day before she went chasing after her friend.

Isa went to sleep rather quickly after that.

She slipped into the fade easily, finding herself in the Fade's rendition of the Winter Palace. She felt like it wasn't quite her own dream, but not someone else's either. Perhaps she was simply in the fade, a rare occurence, but not unheard of. She walked the halls, hearing whispers, unable to pick out any word except "Commander." She felt welcome there, she could feel the excitement of the spirits gathering around her.

"I am here," she called out to them, her voice sounding quite different than her normal voice. It was the voice of a thousand warriors, the voice of a leader. "Show yourselves."

The spirit that had saved her appeared in front of her. It knelt before her, arm over its chest. "Commander, we have found you at last." She could sense the others at the edges of her vision. They were darting in and out, some leaving entirely. "They will carry news of your return all across the fade." The spirit looked up at her.

"Rise, spirit." She felt as if something were waking in her, something that had been dormant since they had sealed her in that tomb all those ages ago. "What are you called?" She asked, wanting to address the spirit properly. "I am Loyalty," the spirit answered, standing to see her at eye level. "Commander, you were summoned by the elf Mythal to fight for the freedom of the elves. Is this still our mission? Much has changed since then, but we can still be of use."

"Yes," Isa nodded. The Inquisition was changing, and while Vhera would always be her friend, she knew she could not follow the Inquisitor until the end of her days. She was already helping the elves. Why not take it a step further? "Much has changed, but my soul has merged with that of an elf, and I wish to help my kin find a place of their own in their world."

"I will spread the word of your return, Commander. In the meantime, I will search for a way to reconnect you to the Fade while you are awake. Until next time."

Isa woke to the sun shining in her window with a new hope in her heart. Something felt different. Something good. It was as if all of her doubt had drowned in the deep roads. She felt rejuvenated.

She was ready to fight.

Chapter Text

Isa stood with her arms crossed, standing between the Winter Palace guard and the Inquisition agent, who was glaring down at the elven servant moving a suspicious barrel across the yard. Vhera, fortunately, recognized the barrel as a gaatlok barrel, a Qunari explosive matching those in the deep roads, and had the servant arrested, though to avoid panic, she couldn't tell the winter guard why, which thoroughly pissed him off. Isa was simply keeping the peace.

"Something has changed," Iovoren commented as they left the scene, tensions eased for the moment. "You mean the Qunari smuggling explosives into the Winter Palace? Yes, I'd say that's a pretty big change." Iovoren shook his head, a smile on his sharp features. "That's not what I mean. Something about you has changed."

Isa put a hand on his shoulder. "Iovoren," she smiled warmly at him. "You're absolutely right. I'm starting to discover who I truly am, and our mission to give the elves a home? I have new hope for it." Iovoren seemed surprised at first, then took her hand in his. "I'll follow you anywhere."

They met Vhera near the eluvian. "Leliana has deciphered the code," Vhera began, "from the note we found on the Qunari spy. We need to find an eluvian by a bookshelf." Isa nodded, "who are we bringing?" "Dorian-" She devolved into screaming curses as her hand pulsed. Isa caught her, lowering her to the floor. "I'm fine," she muttered after a moment, slowly getting to her feet. "I'm okay." Isa nodded, her face grim.

"Dorian, you, Iovoren, Varric, Rainier, and Cole. I'd bring Cassandra too, but I need her to help keep the Council under control. Tensions have been high." Vhera let out an irritated sigh. Isa nodded, "I'll go get them." Soon, they headed back through the eluvian, up a new passageway to a cove of bookshelves with a mirror in it. "Well, that looks like a mirror next to a bookshelf to me," Rainier commented. They stepped through it, finding themselves in what appeared to be a massive library.

Ahead, there was a spirit. Cole said quietly, "it has been here a very long time." It greeted them with enthusiasm. "Welcome!" Vhera conversed with it, and Isa left her to it, wandering around the room they were in, looking at the ancient books on the high shelves. This place seemed familiar to her. She found herself in a memory, one of her own. She was scanning these very shelves, with idle chatter all around her. She could hear the same voice from the shrine, the voice of Mythal, calling out to her from behind her. "Have you found it yet? Remember, we can't let the evanuris get to the Commander first." Isa answered, "not yet, but I still don't see why this is a priority. You said so yourself, the Commander can't be summoned against its will, and will only answer the call of someone it deems worthy. Anyone working with those glorified slavers is hardly worthy. Besides, wouldn't finding one of the pages be enough to keep them from discovering the ritual? Why do we need all of them?" Mythal didn't answer her.

"Isa?" Iovoren's voice brought her back to the present. Isa turned, hiding her expression with a smile. "Yes?" "We're ready to go. The Qunari are here; they're trying to learn about the veil. Keep an eye out for the librarians. Apparently they are unwell." Isa nodded and followed them. They reached a platform, but the way up to the next one was blocked. Vhera was able to use the anchor to move some stones, but there weren't enough. "Let's look around, maybe we can find more?"

They explored the shattered library, finding all of the stones theyd need to form a path, but also finding some cryptic notes left by the Qunari. Isa began to form a lingering suspicion, one she wanted desperately to dismiss, but she couldn't. Was it possible? She had to know more. She decided to dive into the Well of Sorrow's secrets when they returned.

They returned to one of the central courtyards in the library, and Vhera fell to the ground. Isa ran to her, barely noticing the demons in the corners of her vision, and knelt down to her friend. "Vhera!" A blast of power went out from the anchor, washing over the Inquisitor's companions harmlessly, but blasting the demons, the librarians warped into nightmare demons, back into the shelves. The others leapt into action, fighting the demons. Isa stayed by Vhera, who slowly got up, the pain in her hand fading. "It's fine, I just need to discharge it," Vhera said, though the fear in her eyes made it clear that it was not fine. Isa kept her safe until the nightmare demons were dead, which didn't take long.

They headed up to where the Qunari were, coming face to face with the one leading their operation, the Viddasala. She was an arrogant bitch, in Isa's opinion. She divulged their plan, to assassinate Theda's leaders and convert the rest of the world to the Qun, but that agents of Fen'Harel had been interfering. She left them, and left a large amount of Qunari behind to kill them.

The Qunari, of course, were slaughtered. They found a keystone, and the archivist in the library told them where to go, and the password to get to the Darvaarad, where the Viddasala was carrying out her plan. They hurried back to the winter palace, knowing there was no time to lose.

Chapter Text

Isa stood outside the room where Vhera was meeting with the Inquisition advisors, and she could hear Vhera's voice raised, both from anger and from pain. The anchor was driving her mad. Isa closed her eyes, wishing she could help, but she knew she could do nothing but watch.

Isa put out her arm to block the ambassador of Ferelden from entering. "Stay out," she growled. "This is a private meeting. Have a little patience, ambassador." Her tone left no room for argument, though the ambassador was clearly offended. Isa watched him go off, then closed her eyes again, focusing on the whispers of the well. She knew she should ask a certain question, but she wasn't sure if she was ready for the answer. She asked anyway. "Is Fen'Harel who I think he is?"

'Yes.'

She opened her eyes, her stomach churning. This changed everything. So many pieces clicked into place; most things made sense, but she still had questions. She would find him, whether he liked it or not.

Vhera burst out of the room, clearly in a hurry. "The advisors are telling the council what's going on. There are gaatlok barrels in nearly every palace in Thedas. We need to get moving now." "Yes, Inquisitor," Isa jogged off, getting the first people she could, which were Iovoren, Dorian, Rainier, and Varric, whom had been hanging around nearby, ready to go. They hurried to the eluvian, going through.

The eluvian that was just in front of the entrance was still dark, but Vhera used the keystone and the words the archivist had told them, and it opened. They went through, finding themselves at a fort crawling with Qunari. Vhera squeezed Isa's hand, biting her lip so she wouldn't scream in agony as the anchor pulsed. Isa squeezed back, waiting until it passed. Then they set out, having no time to waste.

They reached a courtyard with a locked gate into the keep. They killed the Qunari in it, taking the key for the gate control room off of one of the bodies. Vhera's mind was too clouded by pain, so Isa took care of the controls. She opened the gate, and they stormed the keep.

It was a small keep, so it didn't take long to find the center of the whole plan. They burst through the door, thoroughly shocked to find an actual dragon, trapped by the Qunari. The Viddasala ordered her men to attack. It would take a long time to kill the dragon, and with the Qunari practically overwhelming them, there had to be a better option. Isa noticed the flames in the floor keeping the dragon in the center of the dome, and the giant gate.

"Keep the Qunari busy!" Isa shouted, standing in front of the dragon. "Varric, can you find a way to turn these flames away? Iovoren, get that gate open!" She dodged a fireball, then made eye contact with the dragon, praying that her crazy plan would work. She took a deep breath, reaching deep inside herself. The dragon hurled another fireball at her. She rolled out of the way, right into Dorian. She put a hand on him, then looked at the dragon, putting her hand out, her voice booming out, "STOP!"

The dragon paused, turning from a ferocious beast to a scared creature. Isa lifted her hand from Dorian, her eyes glowing like they always did when she used her spirit magic. Her hair looked like a brand of fire rising from her head, barely held in place by the inquisition pin. Fortunately, the magic held when she stopped touching Dorian, who could then go back to fighting the Qunari, but holding it took all of Isa's focus.

Finally, the gate opened, and the flame jets were on the opposite side of the circle. "Go!" Isa commanded the dragon, and it burst out of the gate, taking out the Qunari on the bridge with it. Isa let the magic go, gasping for air.

Isa stumbled after her companions, leaning on Iovoren for support. They chased the Viddasala, who claimed that Solas was the chief agent of Fen'Harel that had interfered with her plans, and that the Inquisition was playing right into his hand. She was going to kill him.

The others were shocked by this revelation. Isa chose to keep quiet. "Chuckles," Varric shook his head in disbelief, "what have you gotten yourself into?" Vhera put her hands to her face. "We've got to stop her. We can confront him afterwards! Let's go!" They chased her through another eluvian.

Vhera fell to the ground in pain, the blasts from the anchor causing pain to the others as well. They fought through it, and as long as she kept discharging it, they would be fine. They pursued the Viddasala through the valley, eluvian after eluvian, until she put a Qunari mage, chained and bound, inbetween them and another eluvian.

The fight was near impossible. The Qunari mage wielded power that Isa had never seen in a mage, and they were running out of time. She put her hand on Dorian, telling him, "command me to free him!" "What? Are you insane? We can't beat him as it is!"

Vhera gave the command. "Isa, I command you to break his chains!" There was a burst of power, and the Qunari mage was free of his chains. As Isa had suspected, as soon as he had his freedom, he was gone. The Viddasala tried to call him back, furious that her slave had abandoned her. Isa was not fond of slavery.

The next courtyard was crawling with Qunari. They were overwhelmed. The Viddasala disappeared into an eluvian on the other side of the courtyard. "There's too many!" Rainier called out, taking hits on his shield and doing his best to stay standing. "Vhera, get over there! We'll handle it!" Isa put her hand on Dorian, who nodded. Vhera, in all her roguish ways, managed to slip across the courtyard.

Isa looked up into the sky, closing her eyes. What had she said in the deep roads? She took a deep breath, reaching for the Fade, and cried out, "harthaan em mala, sil'ahn ma'athlan!*"

Suddenly, they weren't so overwhelmed. Dorian slumped to the ground, exhausted, as a host of spirits fought back the army. Isa's hair glowed bright, and her eyes were practically ablaze. Her body emitted an eerie golden glow. She was unrecognizable. "Protect them," she told her spirit defenders. "Yes Commander!"

She went after Vhera, leaving her bewildered companions to rest, defended by an army of spirits, who were quickly slaughtering the Qunari.

She crossed through the eluvian, finding herself surrounded by Qunari warriors turned to stone. She could hear talking ahead. One voice was Vhera's. The other's was Solas.

"Solas, I can't let you do this. I will change your mind," Vhera said. "I will treasure the chance to be wrong again, my friend." Isa watched as Solas put Vhera to sleep, taking her left forearm, removing the anchor, and saving her life.

"Fen'Harel." Isa made her presence known. Her voice was not her own. It was the voice of the Commander, the voice of a thousand warriors. Solas looked up, his eyes widening. He was silent for a long moment, then he spoke. "I knew the spirits were stirring, rallying, but I had no idea… who summoned you? How did the Inquisition come by such knowledge?" He seemed to be angry.

"The Inquisition did not. Mythal succeeded, but was murdered before the ritual was complete. I am not bound to any will but my own." She could see the gears in his head turning. "I begged her not to," Solas lowered his gaze. "The price was too high. If she didn't complete the ritual, your soul would have fused with the vessel instead of replacing it, limiting your power but freeing you from any binding. However, the evanuris would have locked you away once they discovered they couldn't control you. Who could possibly be your vessel?" Then he paused, looking up again. Realization hit him. "No. Not you."

Isa felt the glow of power fading, and she was herself once again. She felt faint, swaying on unsteady legs. Solas moved forward, catching her as she staggered. The fur on his new armor tickled her nose as her face rested in it. "What are you planning on doing, Solas?" He held her tightly, his arms trembling. "I must tear down the veil."

She stood up straight, and he held her face in his hands. "Had I known," he shook his head, sadness plaguing his features. "I never thought she would go through with it, especially once she found out the price." Then he got a look of fury, "and you? How could you allow such a ritual to take place? Were you different then? Did the spirit change you? Would you really so willingly have-"

Isa slapped him. It didn't have much force behind it, but it was enough to shut him up. "First of all," she began, quite furious herself. "I was tricked. Mythal didn't tell me what was happening until it was too late, and even then, I was restrained. I only accepted the gift after…" She stopped there. Solas rubbed his cheek, then made eye contact again. "I apologize."

"Second, how could you just disappear, Solas?" Isa felt all of her past emotions welling up. "And now you show up, telling me you're going to destroy the world I love? The world that Vhera loves? Why? Vhenan, what are you thinking?" Solas lowered his gaze. "I would see the elves restored to their former glory." "This isn't the way to do that!"

"Prove me wrong then." Solas's face was set firm. Isa matched his intensity. "I will."

He kissed her suddenly. It only ignited her fury, and she wanted to hit him, but she had missed him terribly, and she did love him, so she kissed him hard, then bit him instead. "Ah!" He pulled away, putting his hand to a bleeding lip. "Isenatha!" She kissed him again, softer this time. He put his arms around her.

Confused as she was, Isa was willing to pretend that for the moment, everything was perfect. It was only a moment.

Solas pulled away first. "Vhenan, I-" "I know. Ar lath ma, Solas. You will see that this world is worth saving, whether you like it or not." He raised an eyebrow. "And if I don't?" Isa scowled. "You have to ask? I am not as selfish as you are, and I am not soft. I will stop you." He took her hand in his. "I would expect nothing less of you." He kissed her fingers delicately.

Isa was fighting back tears. There were so many mixed emotions of anger, despair, love, hatred, and sorrow, and every little thing he did made them worse. She kissed his cheek softly, a kiss goodbye. Then she went over to Vhera, lifting her best friend in her arms. "Dareth shiral, vhenan," she said to Solas. "Ar lath ma, da'avise." Then he was gone.
__________________________________________________________

"This," Vhera slammed the thick tome on the table in front of the council, "is a writ from Divine Justinia, granting us the authority to act." Cassandra smiled proudly as Vhera addressed the council. "We will find those responsible for the breach, and we will bring them to justice. From this moment on, the Inquisition will act as Divine Victoria's personal honour guard, and we shall be a force for peace."

Isa had never been so proud of her best friend, but her own heart was torn. After the meeting, Isa approached Vhera, steeling herself. "Inquisitor," she began, then shook her head. "Vhera?" Vhera smiled at her. "What's up?"

"I can no longer act as your second, though I do hope to remain allies with the Inquisition. I am going my own way to stop Fen'Harel, and I am continuing with my quest to give the elves a new life. I cannot do that with the Inquisition." Vhera's face fell, but she nodded. "I understand. Of course, I would love to have a formal alliance with you. I'll talk to Josephine. I love you dearly, my friend. Thank you for being here with me this far." Isa hugged her tightly, her heart breaking.

"Dareth shiral."

Chapter Text

It was time. Isa had spent a month practicing walking into other mage's dreams, (the Dalish mages that had joined her were willing participants), shaping them to her will, and with Loyalty's guidance, she felt she was finally ready to take her first step in stopping Solas. She needed to recruit, that was certain, and what better place to do it that his own ranks? She had a specific target, an elven mage in one of his lower circles by the name of Ariassa. She wouldn't be missed, but to Isa, she would be a huge asset, if she could be convinced to join.

Isa had found out that Solas's people didn't know fully what his plan was, only that he was going to restore the Elven Empire to its former glory. He must have forgotten to mention the 'burning the entire known world' part.

Isa was asleep, and walking through the raw fade with Loyalty, the Commander's second. Loyalty had no interest in coming out of the fade to fight for her, as some of the other spirits did, but he was most helpful in the fade. There was nothing he didn't know about. The fade had ears where even the best spymasters didn't. The spirits heard all, and most of them were more than willing to share information with the Commander. Isa still didn't quite fully grasp who she was yet, but it certainly was helpful.

"Here, this is the way to her dream," Loyalty stopped at a fade portal. "She is speaking with another mage in her dream this evening. This will either be a road block, or you may recruit two this evening. Good luck, Commander." He saluted her. "Thank you, Loyalty." Isa returned his salute, and entered the dream.

When in the raw fade, she took on a semblance of the spirit's true form, but in a dream, she looked like her elven self. She found herself standing beneath an open sky, on the ruins of a stone platform. Candles were lit around her.

The two mages were sitting on a stone bench, conversing. Ariassa, a mousy elven woman with choppy brown hair that stuck up in all directions, was wondering aloud, "do you think we'll live to see the new empire?" Her companion, an elven man with slicked back black hair, replied, "I don't know. Perhaps."

"I doubt it," Isa stepped forward into the candle light, startling them both. Of course, they went defensive, grabbing their staffs. Isa put her hands up, showing she was unarmed. "I come in peace, my friends. I only wish to show you a bit of truth." The man seemed suspicious. "What are you, a demon? You don't really look like a demon." Isa frowned, "I'm no demon, I'm an elf, just like you." Ariassa kept her staff pointed at Isa. "But you're not mage."

Isa smiled. "You're right. I will be completely honest. My name is Isenatha Lavellan. I was the Inquisitor's second, until recently, and half of me is a spirit." That was the simplest way to put it. The man lowered his staff a bit. "I recognize you. I worked with the Inquisition for a time. You do look like the Inquisitor's second, but half a spirit? That's impossible." Isa smiled in a friendly manner. "Allow me to explain." She told them that Mythal had brought her peculiar brand of existence into being, excluding the how, only stating that it was a blood ritual, and that she had been sealed away until the Dalish clan found her.

Fortunately, they seemed to believe her, and lowered their staffs. It was difficult to lie in the fade, after all, unless one was a demon. "But why tell us this?" Ariassa asked. Isa replied simply, "I want to be open, to establish a bit of trust. You see, I need your help, and I also want you to know what the Dread Wolf truly plans for this world." The man scowled. "He plans to restore the elven empire to its former glory." "Yes, but did he tell you how?"

The two mages shook their heads. Isa's eyes flashed, "let me show you." She waved her hand, and the dream turned to one of Haven, with the breach pulsing in the sky. "The orb Corypheus used to create the breach was Fen'Harel's. The Dread Wolf wishes to tear down the veil. It would bring magic to Thedas, but our world as we know it would burn in the process, consumed by spirits forced into this world against their will." She waved her hand again, showing them the breach expanding and swallowing the world. "Fen'Harel himself may survive, as would some other ancient beings, but you? I doubt you would survive the first day. Millions would die, and that is why I am trying to stop him."

The two elves were in shock. Ariassa looked from the sky to Isa. "Is this true?" Isa nodded, growing sad. "I… I want to change his mind. Surely by now you have heard of my little colony in the Arbor wilds? I may not be able to rebuild the empire the way it once was, but we can build something new, something better, even. We can make him see that change is not always a bad thing."

"And if he doesn't change his mind?" The man asked. Isa looked at her feet. "I will do what I must. I will not see Thedas burn. I too want nothing more than to end the plight of the elves, but this isn't the way to do it." The man approached her, holding out his hand. "I'm in. When I wake, I will gather what I can and join you." Isa shook it.

"No," Ariassa said, seeming shy. "I mean, don't go to the wilds. You will need spies in his ranks, right? Why don't you stay, Tahren? Keep me updated on the projects, and I can report to you. I will go to the wilds. I… I have talents that may be of use." Tahren laughed. "They were certainly being wasted here. Ariassa is quite adept with fade magic. She's been able to apply it to other people." Isa grinned, "I would love to research that more. I'm glad to have you both."

Tahren then looked nervous. "What if I get caught? You saw what happened to the Qunari spy." Ariassa put her hands to her mouth. "Maybe you should go to the wilds." Isa put her hand on his shoulder. "I will have one of my friends watch over you." She closed her eyes, reaching out into the fade. Soon enough, a spirit answered her call, coming as a wisp to rest on his shoulder. "This is a spirit of vigilance. It will let me know if you get into trouble. If you find yourself in desperate need, call out 'harthaan em mala, sil'ahn ma'athlan.'* Either I or one of my spirits will find you. Oh! I almost forgot. Just as Fen'Harel has his secret greeting, I have mine. The question is 'ma sildeara syl or isenatha?'** The answer is 'Ar sildearan ash emathe i eolasan amen vhenas.'***

Chapter Text

Over the next few months, the Arbor wilds colony had grown quite a bit. Isa had also recruited a good number of elves from Solas's army, either from dreams or running into them. She was perfectly clear with her own people what was at stake, and was honest with them about what she was and what she could do.

They loved her. Isa had set herself up as a sort of ruler, though she had no official title, she did have a council elected by the people she governed. She had taken in refugees, rescued slaves, educated Dalish, taken in alienage elves, and even openly accepted agents of Fen'Harel. If anyone decided they wanted to leave, they were welcome to without repercussion, though if they were actively working for the military force, the mages removed the secret greeting from their minds.

Isa wasn't just building a military. She was building a home. Many of those she took in were just people looking for a life. She didn't expect them to work as spies or fight against Fen'Harel. These people were craftsmen, farmers, hunters, builders, and everything else a growing city needs. They had turned the wilds into a city built from the ground up into the trees, using the forest's natural structure as the basis for their new home. In a few short months, Isa had created a place of hope she called Tuastlas.

Iovoren remained at her sides at all times, insisting on acting as a personal bodyguard. She often walked amongst her people, helping them with their daily tasks when she wasn't too busy, making sure everyone was treated fairly. For the time being, everything was going well. They were laying the foundations for a new empire.

Ariassa's research proved to be invaluable. Though still in the works, she was working on a fade portal usable by any attuned to it that they could use in place of an eluvian system altogether. Tahren had only heard whisperings from the upper levels, but so far he had given them the locations of several elven ruins they might be able to reach, hopefully before Solas did.

Solas. Isa sensed him often at the edges of her dreams on those rare nights where she let herself dream peacefully instead of working. She could never get him to come out, but she knew he was there. She missed him terribly. She wondered if he was proud of her. She wondered how much it would take to change his mind. She didn't even want to think about having to kill him. She'd rather die, but duty came first. Hopefully, it could be avoided.

With success would come trials; Isa knew that as well as anyone, so she was setting out for Emprise du Lion, where there were rumored to be three high dragons residing. She had already brought several great beasts under her wing, a few giants, plenty of brontos, among some of the beasts of the wilds, but this would be a true test of her control over her abilities.

Feynthorn carried her and Iovoren, and Ariassa rode a halla. Isa still needed a mage for most of her magical feats, and Aliassa was more than happy to leave her research for a little while to witness the taming of a dragon. This would be different from the past few times. Then, the dragons were only given one command. This would be bringing a dragon (or hopefully three) completely under her control.

Isa had found that the easiest way to keep the beasts under control was to keep them happy when they weren't working. For the others it was easy enough, but how does one satisfy a dragon? She couldn't just let it eat people. For that, she had written to Vhera, who still had contact with a professor of Draconology. Hopefully they could discuss it when Vhera and the advisors visited Tuastlas to discuss a formal alliance. Until then, Isa would simply have to do her best with the dragon.

They reached the bridge, which had recently been repaired, as had the rest of the place. The unnatural cold had thawed and the river flowed once again, but none dared approach the sun pools in fear of the dragons lurking there. Isa left Feynthorn and the halla at the bridge, not wanting them to be injured, and continued the rest of the way on foot.

They made their way into the ancient stone structure built like a colosseum. At the top of the crumbling stairs was a pool of water, pleasantly steaming, heated by the sun. Spires of ice rose from it, and around the edges, no doubt the product of the dragon's breath.

The dragon soon made its appearance, bombarding them with ice blasts before it landed. "Don't attack!" Isa shouted. Iovoren was clearly displeased, but he obeyed. Isa put her hand on Aliassa, who was shaking. "Relax," Isa murmured, and closed her eyes, feeling the chill in front of her. She reached for the fade, and reached for the dragon.

This one fought against her control. Isa pushed hard, communicating silently through the link she had established. This dragon only wished for warm waters to bathe in, and space to form its ice nest. Isa gave it the image of a pool in Mythal's temple, where there would be plenty of space, where the mighty dragon could be pampered if she liked, or left alone if she preferred. This seemed to tempt the dragon. Isa was surprised at how intelligent the creature was, but pleased as well. If she could communicate with this one, perhaps it would be simple to find what the others wanted as well.

The dragon submitted. Isa slowly released her link, but felt the lingering tendril, as she did with the other beasts. She approached the dragon. The mighty beast lowered her head, allowing Isa to touch her. "Alas'dana," she gave the dragon a name. Alas'dana closed her eyes, and Isa got a sense of delight for a brief moment. Then she took off, her great wings stirring the air as she flew high into the air. Isa hoped the other elves at the temple wouldn't freak out. Though she had told them her plans, a dragon suddenly landing in the temple was bound to be startling.

The second dragon, another ice dragon, absolutely would not entertain the idea of being controlled by anything, and attacked the trio viciously. Isa was overwhelmed by sadness when they were forced to kill it. Once, she would have been filled with pride at slaying a dragon, but now, it just felt wrong.

Isa almost dreaded approaching the third dragon, who wasn't in a sun pool, but down in an old arena, sleeping. Isa briefly wondered if dragons even dreamed. She held Aliassa's hand and put her hand on the dragon's nose, grasping a link just as it woke.

This one was surprisingly cooperative. Isa felt a sense of questioning coming from it. Of course, she asked for its service in exchange for a home and protection from dragon hunters. The dragon seemed to like that, and also gave her a vision of its torn wing. Of course, Isa would see if Ariassa could fix it; she was not a healing master, but she may be able to patch it enough to get the dragon back to Tuastlas.

Isa opened her eyes. The dragon was staring at her intently. It stretched out its wing, which did indeed have a long tear in it, likely from a harpoon of sorts. "Ariassa, do you think you can do something for her?" Ariassa gulped and nodded, drinking some lyrium.

The process was slow, but the dragon was patient. Isa came up with a name for her. "Fioril," she stated. Iovoren nodded approvingly. When Ariassa was finished, she had a huge smile on her face. "I never thought I would be this close to a dragon, much less healing one! This is incredible!" Iovoren approached Fioril slowly. The high dragon turned her great head, snorting a breath of steam at him. He laughed a bit, "wow." Isa smiled, glad they were happy. She was thrilled that this had worked.

She couldn't wait to show Vhera.

Chapter Text

The day had come. Isa waited at the edge of the wilds for her friends, sitting atop Feynthorn, who was less than content to stand still. It was a pleasant afternoon, sunny and warm, with a gentle breeze blowing from the depths of the wilds.

"I see them!" A guard called from the post up in the trees. Opposed to building battlements and cutting off the natural flow of the forest, they had instead built other means of defense. It had been roughly 6 months since the Exalted Council, and Isa felt they were finally ready to receive visitors. Of course, many building projects were underway, but their priorities of defense and reliable food sources had been taken care of.

Isa spotted the Inquisitor riding her horse through the outskirts of the wilds, following the road that led in. Isa remembered using that same road to invade the wilds in search of Corypheus. She hoped it would never see such battle again. She knew that it probably would. All she could do was be prepared.

Isa smiled as Vhera approached. "Inquisitor." Vhera returned the grin. "And what do we call you now?" Isa shrugged. "My name is still my name, though the People have taken to calling me the Lady, if you wish for a title." She slid off of Feynthorn. She had worn a dress of satin that glimmered like gold in the sunlight. Mythal's temple had been full of such treasures. Vhera wore her Inquisition uniform. She hopped down and embraced Isa. "It's good to see you, lethallan."

Isa greeted Josephine and Cullen warmly, as old friends. Of course, the Divine couldn't come to an upstart elven settlement; her support of the elves was already controversial enough to cause uprisings in some of the more conservative human settlements, demanding that the elves be returned to their place. Isa had no doubt she would have to meet with the Empress or the King and Queen of Ferelden at some point. It seemed like there was so much going on. She longed for the days of the Inquisition, where the most she had to do was keep a knife out of Vhera's back.

They rode through the wilds, making their way into the central city. The elves living there gave Josephine and Cullen a mix of looks, some shocked, some scathing, and some outright aggressive. Josephine seemed startled, "why are they-" Cullen answered her before she could finish the question. "We're human. It's the same way the nobles in the Winter Palace looked at the Inquisitor before the grand ball nearly three years ago." Josephine seemed more embarrassed than anything.

They made their way to Mythal's temple, which Isa had made her center of command. "They are scared. Many of them are still new here, and have suffered at the hands of humans. Here in the temple, you will be welcome," Isa assured them. She dismounted, sending Feynthorn to play in the woods, and led them into the temple.

"Repairs are still underway, but everything is structurally sound," Isa said as they walked through the courtyard. Josephine was astonished. "It is beautiful! I heard you describe the temple, but I could never have imagined!" Isa and Vhera shared a smile.

They made their way through the golden halls, to a room with a large round table that acted as Isa's war room. Seven other elves waited for them there. "This is my council," Isa stated. "Each oversees an aspect of Truastlas, and they help me make decisions for the good of our home." She smiled warmly. "This is Inquisitor Vhera Lavellan, Ambassador Josephine Montiliyet, and Commander Cullen Rutherford."

"A pleasure." A city elf with a deep voice for an elf and caramel eyes by the name of Joshon stepped forward, offering his hand. Vhera shook it as he introduced himself. "I am General Joshon; I command the city's forces while the Lady is away." Each of her Council introduced themselves. Keeper Athador was the representative for the Dalish, and Hahren Mihnna was the representative for the city elves. Hopefully their jobs wouldn't be necessary in the future, but for now, it put minds at ease, knowing each side was represented. Getthon was a dalish mage in charge of food supply; he was an excellent hunter as well, and skilled with magic traps. Nawyn was in charge of the various beasts and animals in the city, making sure they were healthy and cared for, and making sure they weren't worked too hard. Ariassa, of course, was in charge of magical research and acted as a scribe for the council's meetings; and last but not least, Zathdis was a city elf who was an extremely effective spymaster.

Her Council introduced, Isa decided to start the meeting. "We invite the Inquisition here today to discuss the terms of a formal alliance. First and foremost, we have a common enemy, and I believe the sharing of pertinent information is of utmost importance." "I agree," Vhera nodded. "My concern is that both of our organizations are vulnerable to infiltration by Fen'Harel's agents." Isa let out a soft breath.

"I openly welcome agents of Fen'Harel." The Inquisition, understandably, seemed shocked, but Isa explained. "Everyone here knows the truth about what he's trying to do. If they chose to follow him even after that, then I will not stop them. Only my Council here knows everything. Everything else must be pieced together, but it doesn't matter much. You see, my current path to battle Fen'Harel is recruiting from his own ranks. You'd be surprised how well it's working. He may have spies everywhere, but so do I."

Vhera put her face on her fists, resting her elbows on the table. "I… can't say I quite approve, but I understand. It will have to be handled delicately, but you seem to have it under control. In that case, we will agree to sharing information, but only with each other's inner circles. Would you happen to have a way that wouldn't be intercepted?" Zathdis spoke up. "Is there a mage you trust? Currently, the fade is the safest way to pass messages along. You would have to be certain that your mage isn't a spy, however. If you like, we could arrange for one of ours to go with you." Ariassa frowned, "we have so few as it is. To use one solely as a messenger would be a waste. Surely there is something else we can do."

"I believe the Divine's resources would be the best way to resolve this," Josephine commented. "If you set up a chantry here, we could-" "No." The Council spoke unanimously. Isa let out a sigh. "That would be more trouble than it's worth. To set up a chantry here would be an insult to most living here."

Vhera had an idea. "The message crystal!" She pulled out a small crystal on a chain from her pocket. "It may cost a fortune, but if we could locate two more of these, we could use them to communicate." Ariassa leaned forward, examining the crystal. "I've seen these. I… I know where we can get some, but…" She bit her lip. "We'd have to steal them from Fen'Harel."

Isa raised an eyebrow. "Like from his army, or from him?" "From one of his personal offices," Zathdis cut in. "It will be no easy feat." Joshon crossed his arms, saying "I can assemble a strike team." Zathdis shook his head, "getting there is next to impossible, we can't do it yet. Ariassa, do you think you could fix Mythal's eluvian? It's our best bet." Ariassa shifted on her feet, biting her lip. "I could try, but I don't think it can be fixed. It was shattered completely; I doubt we'll even be able to find all the pieces."

"We've got an eluvian," Vhera commented. "We keep it closed so it can't be used against us, but we have one, and it works." Isa laughed, "well why didn't you say so?"

"Let's finish with the terms of the alliance, then discuss going after the crystals." Josephine guided them back on track. "With tensions as they are, we cannot offer you military assistance against anyone but Fen'Harel, unless agreed upon by the Divine Council, though I doubt that will happen." Isa nodded, "that is fair, but expect the same from us. Also, if elves in your lands call for our help, we will answer. They are our priority. Peace is always the first option, but if attacked when moving migrants, we will fight back." Josephine seemed stressed, but nodded.

They finished with the terms of the alliance, both sides pretty satisfied. They still had a while before supper, so Isa sat down to talk with her friends for a while.

"I've noticed you have no formal ambassador, Isa," Josephine commented. Isa shrugged. "Everyone here is either running from the humans or willing to ignore them. I could definitely use an ambassador, but at the moment, it is a difficult position to fill, so I do it myself. Besides, we are just starting out. There's no need just yet."

Cullen sat with his arm around Vhera. Isa couldn't hide her smile; she was so glad her best friend had found happiness. Vhera leaned her head on his shoulder, content to relax for the time.

Iovoren jogged into the room, "Isa! Oh, good evening everyone. Isa, we've got a problem. I was in the dragon pools giving Alas'dana a massage when Fioril started throwing a fit! She hasn't eaten anyone yet, but she seems to be very agitated. Even the drakes are hiding." Isa stood, ignoring the confused looks from the others. "I'm coming."

She rushed through the halls, out the back of the temple, beyond the remains of the Well of Sorrows, to a large glade that had hot springs welling up out of come caves in the rock wall encircling part of it. Alas'dana was settled in one of the larger heated pools, looking thoroughly annoyed with Fioril, who was indeed throwing a fit, in the process of tearing up a tree by its roots.

"Are those dragons?!" Cullen shouted, drawing his sword, but Isa stopped him. "They're my dragons. I'll explain in a moment." She crossed the glade to Fioril, who scorched the grass around her. "Fioril," she reached up. Reluctantly, the dragon lowered her head so Isa was touching her nose. Isa felt the burning desire to consume, the desire to nest, but the resistance of Isa's desire to leave Thedas unharmed.

When a dragon is ready to lay eggs, she goes on a rampage, destroying and consuming all in her path for a week, then returns to her lair to nest. The drakes, which were male dragons, since males didn't develop wings, were not under Isa's control, but were at the whim of the high dragons instead.

Isa let out a sigh. She didn't want to set a dragon loose on a populated area, but she couldn't deny Fioril what came naturally to her. She tried to think of a mostly uninhabited place she could send Fioril to go on her rampage. She decided on the wilderness of the Frostback mountains. There was plenty of game up there to eat, but not a lot of people. Fioril seemed fine with this idea, and took off as soon as Isa let her go.

"Isenatha, you'd better tell me what that was right now." Vhera was bewildered. Isa laughed softly, and explained how she could bring beasts of power under her control, most of the time. Josephine was inching towards Alas'dana, curious but afraid. Alas'dana watched her with a bored expression. The great dragon was certainly a spoiled princess, especially since she had come under Isa's care.

"So you figured it out?" Iovoren chased off one of the drakes hissing at him. Isa nodded, "Fioril is ready to nest, and wanted to go on a rampage. I sent her to the highest ridges of the Frostbacks, where she'd be least likely to hurt someone." "Oh boy," Iovoren tugged at one of his braids nervously. "That'll be interesting."

Josephine had made it to Alas'dana's foot, which was propped on the side of the pool. Alas'dana lowered her head, reaching out to Josephine. Josephine put a shaky hand out. Alas'dana let her touch her nose for a moment, then let out an icy snort and sank deeper into the warm pool. Isa laughed, "look at you, you've pet a dragon." Josephine had an expression of stunned elation. "Indeed I have."

"After supper," Isa smiled as she sat by Alas'dana's foot. "We'll plan to steal the message crystals, but until then, it looks like my princess could use a good massage."

Chapter Text

Isa kept to the shadows in the eluvian labyrinth, with a hood covering her hair and a cloth masking her face, with two of Joshon's best scouts slinking along behind her; one of them was a mage, the other a skilled rogue. Ariassa had given them a good idea of what they were looking for, an eluvian in a lonely tower surrounded by bones, but the labyrinth was vast, and though they hadn't come across many travelers, they still had to be careful.

"There," the rogue whispered, pointing at a tower in the distance. The trio made their way to it. It was indeed surrounded by bones. Isa didn't want to think about where they had come from. So many terrible things had happened in these in-between places when the veil had gone up. No doubt this was just one of the calamities.

They approached the tower, which seemingly had no guards, but there was a magic seal on the door. The mage examined it, then nodded to himself. "I can open it, but it'll take a minute. Make sure no one spots us." He got to work while Isa and the rogue kept a lookout. Fortunately, no one came by while they were bringing the barrier down. "Done," the mage said, and they entered the tower, closing the door behind them.

The only thing in the tower was the eluvian, as expected. Ariassa's information was correct. The eluvian was closed, however, but hopefully it could be opened from this side. Isa didn't want to wait for it to open. The mage inspected it, though he didn't know much about eluvians. "Perhaps you could command it?" Isa hadn't thought of that. "I don't know. It's worth a try." She put a hand on the mage's shoulder, and the rogue told her, "Command the eluvian to open." There was a flash, and miraculously, the mirror wavered. "Go and find the crystals," the rogue told her. "We'll stay here and make sure none follow. Don't take long, or we'll come looking for you."

Isa slipped through the mirror, finding herself in a dark room that smelled of dust and cinders. She let her eyes adjust, making out the shapes of the windows on the moonless night, and that of a desk in the room. She pulled some flint out of her pocket and shuffled her way to the window, feeling along the wall until she found a brazier. She reached up to light it, striking the flint for a spark. It illuminated the room in soft golden light. Isa looked around. It was a simple room, the walls practically made of shelves holding old books, artifacts, and stacks of crumbling papers. The desk was messily organized, with stacks of papers and open books. Isa approached it, sliding open the drawers one by one until she found what she was looking for. "Here they are," she wrapped up two messenger crystals in a cloth and tucked them securely in her pockets.

She took a moment to look around for anything else that might be of use. She found a map on the desk of Thedas, with several marked Xs with elvish written beside them. She recognized the word 'temple' and several names of the evanuris. She rolled it up and tucked it in her coat. This really was one of Fen'Harel's personal offices. She was pleased.

She found a list of names, each with a location beside it. She took it, perhaps Ariassa would recognize some of them? Perhaps they were operatives, or targets. Either way, it would be good to know. She looked around at the artifacts on the shelves. One of them looked suspiciously like the orb Corypheus had. Isa knew she couldn't leave that there, so she reached up and took it, stuffing it in a bag and tying it to her belt, then turned around to head out the mirror. She barely had time to register the dangerous glint in his steely eyes before she was blasted back into the walls.

"Didn't your mother ever teach you that stealing was wrong?"

Shit, she had been caught by the Dread Wolf himself. Her heart pounded. Obviously he didn't know who she was yet, as she had the hood and mask on. She figured it was best that he never found out. She couldn't risk him coming after Tuastlas. "Who sent you here?" He asked, lighting up the other braziers in the room with a wave of his hand. "Was it the Inquisition? Orlais? Your clothes are certainly fine enough to be Orlesian. How did you get through the eluvian? Only a certain few know the password. Who has betrayed me?"

Isa leaned against the wall, keeping her head lowered. Somehow, this wasn't the Solas she knew. This man was angry, ruthless, and ready to kill her. This was the Dread Wolf at war, and true to his nature, she never saw him coming. She would be more careful next time. He went to the eluvian and shattered it, "since I obviously can't trust this anymore," he let out a sigh of disappointment. Isa was very disappointed in herself for finding this side of him extremely attractive. This was no time for girlish love. Her life was in danger, dammit! Her mind raced, what would Vhera do?

One of the windows was cracked open, and Isa could smell pine trees, as well as the delightful smell of burning wood. Could it be? She felt the chill of the breeze prickling her skin. She took a deep breath, this was her only chance. She had to take it. Isa bolted for the window, pulling a brazier from its holder and tossing it onto the desk, then she dove through the glass. So what if she was at the top of a tower? She didn't have many other options. "Ahn anbanal?!*" She heard Solas shout.

She closed her eyes and reached out, latching on to her link with Fioril, hoping against hope that she was close by. She opened her eyes, seeing the snowy rocks approaching fast as she plummeted downward.

There was a shriek as Fioril dove from the air, catching her in her talons. Isa let out an audible gasp of relief. "Fioril, you're the best thing in my life! I love you!" She laughed incredulously. Fioril snorted, and Isa could tell that the high dragon thought she was a moron, and was not happy about her rampage being interrupted. They flew away from the tower, far out of the Dread Wolf's grasp.
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Solas was in shock as he watched a dragon catch the thief, plucking her right out of the air and soaring off with her. It couldn't be a coincidence. How was that possible? Perhaps he had come across a powerful blood mage, though he hadn't felt any sort of magical aura. Maybe he had just been so caught up that he had overlooked it.

He turned around and iced the fire that had consumed most of the documents on his desk, cursing. He had no way of knowing what she had taken and what had been left to burn, but it didn't matter. She had taken the focal orb of Dirthamen, the only other focal orb that Solas had been able to locate other than his own. Even Mythal's had been lost to time, destroyed after her murder. As far as he knew, the others were trapped deep in the fade with the other evanuris, but Dirthamen had left his behind.

Solas had to get it back, but he had no clue who the woman was or why she had taken it. How had she even known what it was? How had anyone known he had found it? Her clothes, though dark and made for work, were clearly of fine make. Orlesian, maybe in league with the Inquisition? He would have his spies snoop around the Inquisition to see what they could find.

First things first, he had to find out how they had gotten through the eluvian.
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Isa was soon back at the temple of Mythal. Fortunately, as soon as the eluvian had gone dark, the rogue and mage had bolted, returning immediately to inform the others of the news. Isa had arrived soon after, safely in the clutches of Fioril, who was happy to settle down in her nest. Isa gave the documents she had procured over to Ariassa, who took them to her office to examine them. She kept the orb to herself. It was smaller than Fen'Harel's had been, and mostly fit in her hand. It didn't activate for her, not that she wanted it to. She kept it securely tied to her belt.

She soon handed off one of the crystals to the Inquisitor. Now that they had communication set up, they were ready to start operating. Isa was ready for war.

Chapter Text

"My Lady!" Isa was shaken awake, Ariassa's hands on her shoulders. "Lady, I have news! It's urgent. The list of names you gave me, they're all top operatives of Fen'Harel! One of them lives here in Tuastlas, among the city elves! The locations beside the names are in code, just like the letters we intercept, but I know someone who knows the code. He's in Fen'Harel's inner circle, and he might be recruitable! The only problem is, he's not a mage, so dream walking isn't an option. However, I know where he's heading next, if you still want to try."

"Woah," Isa sat up, rubbing her eyes. "Slow down, Ariassa. One thing at a time. Who is this guy? How are we supposed to convince him to join us?" Ariassa sat on the edge of her bed. "His name is Cyrel Sounlin. He's been an operative of Fen'Harel's since before the breach was closed. He could be considered the Dread Wolf's right hand man. From what I hear, he's a tough guy, likes to get his hands dirty, drinks a lot, spends a good amount of time in brothels, a real piece of work. He acts more like a dwarf than an elf, but he's extremely effective. I hear he was once an Antivan Crow. Super smart too, and Fen'Harel trusts him with everything, though I'm not sure why. You'll have to ask him."

Isa yawned widely. "So he's not a mage. How am I supposed to get to him?" She swung her legs over the side of the bed, trying to wake herself up more. Ariassa, clearly wide awake, kept talking. "One of the locations marked on the map is the temple of Falon'din. One of our spies works directly under him, and they're going to that temple, though the spy isn't certain what they're looking for, only that Fen'Harel wants it bad. They should arrive there within the next week." "Where's the temple?"

"Lucky for you, it isn't far. It's off the coast of Ferelden, on an island shrouded in mist. It's supposed to be warded and really hard to get to. Fen'Harel must have given them a way in. Since you're part spirit, I bet you'll be able to get in too." Isa sighed, knowing she was done sleeping. "I guess I'd better get going then. "I'd better go alone. I wouldn't want to tip them off." Ariassa tilted her head, "tip them off?" Isa stood, stretching. "You said he's cocky, right? I'm gonna start with the damsel in distress card."
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Isa stood on her small sail boat peering through the mist, letting out a soft sigh. She wore the simple leather armor of a typical scout with the seal of Tuastlas, a fire breathing dragon head with hart antlers, stamped on the front. Her hair was tied up with a simple blue ribbon that matched her eyes. She carried only a sword. For all intents and purposes, she looked like a normal scout.

She saw something in the mist, what appeared to be a spirit. It hovered near her boat, seeming more curious than anything. "Greetings, friend," she smiled warmly. "Are you here to guide my path?"

"You can see me?" The spirit seemed surprised. Isa nodded, "I can, for I am like you." The spirit came closer. "Ah, Commander. Forgive me, I did not recognize you. It has been many eons since we last met." "It is no trouble. Will you guide me to the island of Falon'din?"

"You wish to visit the Temple of the Dead?" The spirit asked. "Why?" Isa answered plainly. "Fen'Harel seeks to take something from the temple that he would use to destroy this world. I wish to stop him." The spirit considered this. "Very well. I will guide you through the mists. Falon'din certainly had his faults, but he merely wished to guide the dead, not to kill them in the first place. I have only one question. Will you take from the temple?" Isa thought about that. She let out a sigh. "It would be best if I did, if only to keep the Dread Wolf from trying again. However, if there was anything you'd have me leave alone, you only need to name it." The spirit remained silent, only nodding approvingly.

The spirit led her through the mists. Eventually, Isa could make out the shape of an island. There was already a boat on the shore, and she could make out a campfire flickering.

"Thank you, spirit." She smiled. The spirit nodded, vanishing into the mists.

Isa turned around, pulling a few boards from the hull of her boat. It began to sink, and she slipped into the water. She dunked her head under, making sure she looked soaked. She swam to shore, making sure to look thoroughly exhausted as she 'washed up' on shore. She coughed a few times to get the attention of the occupants of the campfire.

"Hey, look!" She heard a gruff voice, not unlike Joshon's, though a little rougher around the edges, call out, and footsteps making their way across the rocky sand. "Well what do we have here?" There was a tinge of an antivan accent in his words. This must be Cyrel. Isa laid stomach-down in the sand, her right cheek resting on a water-worn rock. She slowly blinked her eyes open, letting out a soft groan. She was staring at a pair of leather boots.

"Easy now," the voice said. "Pik, go get her some fresh water. Probably swallowed some salt." Good, he didn't suspect a thing. Isa coughed a few more times, spitting out some water she had held in her cheek for good measure. She pushed herself up slightly, making her arms shake. She felt hands on her shoulders, helping her to sit up. She found herself looking into a pair of stunning emerald green eyes.

"Here," the man, who matched Cyrel's description, took a water skin from one of his men and held it to her lips. She drank slowly, playing the part of a weak girl. "Look at the armor, boss," one of the other elves whispered. "She's working for Tuastlas." "Then she's harmless. You know what Fen'Harel says; they're not a threat, just some elves hiding out in the woods, trying to prove we can do this peacefully." It was good to know that Fen'Harel didn't suspect Isa of plotting against him. That, or that was what he was telling his men. Either way, it was a good thing to hear.

Cyrel had very sharp, handsome features. He would certainly stand out in a crowd. He also had a commanding presence, though at the moment, he felt very welcoming. No wonder he was put in such a high position. He was a natural leader. His gaze turned back to Isa. "What's your name?" Isa let her voice gargle in her throat, as if it were stinging with salt, so it sounded scratchy. "Nala." Cyrel nodded, a slight smirk playing on his lips. "And what's a pretty little thing like you doing out here, Nala?"

"The temple," Isa coughed a few more times, putting her face in her elbow. "I'm looking for the temple of Falon'din." "What a coincidence! So are we." "Careful, boss," one of the elves said, "everyone knows the Lady is against Fen'Harel, even if she's peaceful." Isa blinked a few times, doing her best to look wide-eyed and a little afraid. "I-I don't know anything about that. I didn't even know there was going to be anyone else here! Please don't hurt me, I'm just looking for history!"

Cyrel raised an eyebrow. "Where's the rest of you? Surely you didn't come alone." Isa gazed out over the sea. "We must have hit some rocks or something. They couldn't swim." She sniffled a little. It worked like a charm. He took one of her hands in his, "why don't you come sit by the fire and dry off a bit, alright? We're not gonna hurt you." He pulled Isa to her feet, right to his chest. She blushed a bit, taking a quick step back, making her way over to the fire.

There, she recognized one of the elves, a mage named Nethon she had recruited a while back. She shot him a sly wink. His only response was a slight smile.

Isa sat down on a log they had pulled up to the fire, hugging her arms close to her. The island was chilly, especially after being soaked through. Cyrel draped a heavy fur over her shoulders and sat down next to her. "So tell me about Tuastlas," he began. "What's it like there?" Isa smiled a bit. "It's wonderful. We're certainly still learning, but we're much closer to the truth of elven lore than the Dalish. City and Dalish elves are living together, and we're building our own brand new society. We're living in harmony with the wilds, and the Lady is honest with us about everything, even though it scares most of us." She frowned a bit. "I don't understand it. How can you follow the Dread Wolf, knowing what he's going to do?" "What do you mean?" Nethon asked, handing her a warm bowl of stew. Isa took it, swallowing a few hot spoonfuls before speaking. "Does he not tell you?"

Cyrel frowned. "What?" Isa put a surprised look on her face. "He's trying to tear down the veil. He put it up in the first place. He wants to bring back magic to the world, which would be fine, except the world as we know it will have to die completely. There will be nothing left. I don't know about you, but I like being alive. We may not be the great empire of old, but what the Lady has build in Tuastlas is definitely worth living for." She took another bite of soup. Nug, she guessed. It was decent.

There was silence around the campfire. Nethon was the first to speak after a long moment. "How can you be sure?" Isa explained, "you remember the Inquisition battling Corypheus, and the breach? The artifact used to open the breach was Fen'Harel's focal orb. He didn't know that Corypheus would survive the blast that it took to unlock the orb. It ended up being destroyed, but the Dread Wolf is still trying to tear down the veil. He told the Inquisitor this when he took her arm, and she told the Lady. The Lady used to be the Inquisitor's second, you know. They were best friends. I have no reason to believe she would lie about this. She wants to change his mind, to show him that this world is worth saving. That's why Tuastlas is so important to her, to all of us. It's a home, but it's so much more than that."

Cyrel stood, pacing behind the log. Nethon watched him curiously. "Boss?" One of the other elves scowled, "if what you say is true…" The other two elves of the group remained silent. Cyrel ran his hands through his short hair, letting out a frustrated sigh. "I… We're here for an orb. I believe what you say, but… Sod it, I…" Isa looked over her shoulder at him.

"I'll explain later. Let's get moving. Help us find the orb, then we'll decide what to do with it." Isa gulped, she couldn't risk it falling into Fen'Harel's hands, but she really needed Cyrel's help. She needed someone in the inner circle. Which was more important?

She could still convince him to give up the orb. She stood, folding up the fur and laying it across the log. "I will help you look, but I cannot let it fall into his hands." Cyrel laughed a bit, "I don't think you could stop me, sweetheart, but I'll think about it. Let's not worry about it for now. The temple's going to be dangerous. It's full of traps and wards to keep out trespassers." He grinned. "Nothing I can't handle."

Chapter Text

Isa followed the five elves up a winding path through the mist to a massive gate into the mountain itself. She could read the elvish words on the door just fine, but she feigned ignorance when Cyrel asked if anyone could read them. She peered at them, only saying, "it just says something about the guide of the dead." She didn't want to give them any reason to be suspicious.

They pushed open the stone doors, letting out air that had been sealed away for eons. Cyrel went in first, playing hero, leading the way into certain danger. He seemed to be very one dimensional, but Isa could tell there was more to him. There was another reason he was serving Fen'Harel, not just the rebirth of the elves. Isa wondered what it was.

The inside of the vestibule was dark, so Nethon made his staff glow. They came across another door, this one magically sealed. It also had elven writing on it. "No chance in blasting through this?" Cyrel muttered, examining the stone. Isa leaned in to read the elvish, squinting in the faint light.

"Sing to the Wings of Death, friend of the fallen." She read aloud without even meaning to. Nethon brought the light closer." What does that mean?" Isa frowned. She had to find a way through this, or the Dread Wolf would. She closed her eyes and asked the well.

She heard a choir of voices in song, a soft melody honouring Falon'din. Her voice, soft and sweet, joined them. Vhera had always sung in the higher octaves, but Isa's voice rested right in the middle, sweet as honey.

'The People swore their lives to Falon'Din

Who mastered the dark that lies.

Whose shadows hunger

Whose faithful sing

Whose wings of death surround him

Thick as night.

Lethanavir, master-scryer, be our guide,

Through shapeless worlds and airless skies.*'

The doors creaked open, shaking the ground beneath them. Once they were open, Cyrel patted Isa's back. "Good thing we brought you along, Nala. How'd you know that?" Isa cleared her throat, quickly thinking of an excuse. "I like history. It asked for a song, and I gave it one. I suppose I got lucky that it was the right one."

They continued on. They found themselves in crypts. "The priests of Falon'din," Isa muttered, looking at the bones resting in the indentions in the walls. The inner sanctum was massive, the high ceiling far out of reach of Nethon's light. Isa found it unusual that they hadn't run in to any traps yet.

She spoke too soon. As they approached the shrine with the focal orb on it, She heard the well whispering, telling her to run, telling her to flee, telling her to get out NOW. She turned around, seeing the floor oozing a thick black smoke. The whispers went silent. It was too late. The Formless One* had arrived.

"Get down!" Isa's hair and eyes glowed bright as her power released, putting up a barrier of light. The smoke hurled itself against the barrier again and again, and it took all Isa had to keep it out. The veil must have been thin in the temple, and her fear must have been enough to pull her power through.

"What the hell?!" Cyrel fell to the ground, holding his shield up. "What is THAT? What? What are you? You're not a scout!" Nethon put his hand on her shoulder, strengthening her barrier. "This is the Lady Isenatha Lavellan, vessel of the spirit Commander." "Oh… shit. No wonder. Wait, you KNOW her?"

There were horrifying screams, and Isa noticed the other three elves weren't under her barrier of light. The screams were abruptly cut off, one by one, until they were surrounded by overwhelming silence. Isa could feel the Formless One crushing her barrier, squeezing her like ripe fruit in the summer. "I can't hold it!"

"Commander." The voice was more inside her head, yet it echoed around the room, a deep, ancient voice filled with a thousand ages of fury. "How the mighty have fallen. You once stood equal with me, able to match my power, but now you can barely stand at all." Isa didn't respond. Nethron drank some lyrium, and her barrier flared in strength, but it wouldn't last, and her legs felt like stone, anchored to where she stood.

"You've become so dreadfully mortal," the demon taunted her, pushing against her barrier. "How long do you think you can hold? A day? A week? An hour? It will not matter. You will be consumed." Isa thought quickly. "Why do you serve Falon'din? I thought he banished you! Why do you remained locked in a crypt, guarding the treasure of a false god who has been locked away forever?"

"Do you know the kind of power that blood offers, child? I could have roamed the world, consuming it, passing my knowledge on to more than just Tevinter, but Falon'din made me an offer. Why waste my energy when all the blood I wanted could simply be brought to me?" Of course, this hadn't been a temple of worship. This was a place of sacrifice. The Wings of Death brought the blood of the fallen to the Formless One, the price for keeping him contained. "But he's been gone for ages!" Isa shouted, grunting at the effort of holding the barrier.

"And yet, here you are. You think you are the first to come here?"

Isa was running out of ideas. She had no way of killing something with no form, especially when she could barely fend it off, and her barrier was getting dangerously small. The other two elves were huddled up against her as she warded off the darkness.

Cyrel began to speak, his voice perfectly calm, his back to hers. "What do your friends call you?" "Isa." "Isa? I like that. You know, I feel like now is a good time to tell you why I serve Fen'Harel in the first place, even… even knowing what he's going to do. You see, a few years back, I was hired to assassinate the Inquisitor. I worked for the Crows then, so I did what they told me. Well, he found out before I even got close, and he hunted me down, but he didn't kill me. He offered me freedom, a new life, as long as I worked for him. I owe him my life, you see? We don't always see eye to eye, but he needs someone he trusts, someone indebted to him. We've become good friends, I like to think. He's certainly much better than the crows. You came here to ask me to work for you instead, right? You want to change his mind?" Isa pushed against the darkness. "Yes. I want to save him from himself." "Me too. You get us out of here, Commander, and I'll help you do that, as long as you don't kill him." Isa let out a laugh, "I'd rather die than kill him. We were very close. You have a deal."

"You two are kind of missing the part where we're not getting out of here!" Nethron pressed against Isa's shoulder, trying to stay away from the edge of the shrinking barrier. "Your light is fading," the demon spoke. "Kind words are pretty, but useless in the end. You will die, like all others here. Even your spirit armies cannot save you from me, not that you'd call them. The Commander I once knew would have sacrificed them in a heartbeat, but you are weak."

Sacrifice. "You may be able to consume my flesh, but you will never be able to consume the Commander, not unless I let you." Isa's voice was strong. The Formless One stopped pushing against her barrier. "Are you suggesting we make a deal?" "I am. I want to walk out of here, and I want you to stay here and continue to guard this orb. You can stand up to Fen'Harel, can you not?" The demon's laugh shook the temple. "Fen'Harel is nothing but a flea in comparison to me. You hold far more power than any of the evanuris ever did, even in your weakened state. But what are you willing to give up?"

"You thirst for power in blood, right? I will willingly give you some of mine."

"Why make a deal when I can just take it from you?"

"Because if I don't give it, my blood will not have the power of the Commander, now will it? You know this to be true. You let us go, you stay here, and I'll give you some."

The demon was silent for a long time. "You do know if I take this, I will also take a piece of you. You will not know what is lost until it is already gone." Isa swallowed the lump in her throat. "I know."

The smoke receded, forming in the middle of the vast room in the shape of a man. Isa let her barrier fall, suddenly overwhelmed with exhaustion. She shuffled over to the smoky figure, trying to suppress her fear.

Black hands reached out for her, and fangs sank into her chest, piercing her heart. She stifled her cries of pain, her eyes glowing as a piece of both her and the Commander left her. The black smoke crackled with newfound power as she fell to the floor, her armor stained with her own blood, though the wound had been burned closed.

"A pleasure doing business with you." The smoke vanished, leaving only wisps of the Formless One.

"My Lady!" Nethon ran to her, kneeling down beside her. She breathed heavily. "It's alright, I just need to rest." Cyrel knelt on her other side, looking quite bewildered. Isa put a hand on his knee, "it's going to be alright. Do you think you can carry me out of here?"
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They were soon back on Cyrel's boat. Isa was fine, just exhausted and weak from blood loss. She laid on some furs, propped up by supply sacks. Nethon was steering while Cyrel worked out the details of his service with Isa. Basically, he would stay where he was, communicating through Nethon, since Nethon was a mage and could dream like one. They did set up a meeting place in Orlais if necessary. Cyrel wanted to meet there in a few weeks so he could decode some of the things Ariassa had found.

Isa assigned a spirit of vigilance to watch him, and taught him what to say if he ever needed help. She also taught him her secret greeting. "Just like Fen'Harel has his greeting, we have ours. Nethon," the elf looked over at her, and she asked him, "ma sildeara syl or isenatha?*" He smiled warmly and answered, "Ar sildearan ash emathe i eolasan amen vhenas.*"

Cyrel put his head in his hands. "It's been such a long day. Fen'Harel trying to destroy the world really threw me for a loop, but almost being eaten by the Formless One? That was too much." He looked over at Isa, concern in his bright green eyes. "What did he take from you?"

Isa frowned, "I'm not sure." She closed her eyes and searched. All of her memories and emotions seemed to be the same as they were. She reached for the spirit magic. There was a blast of power, rocking the boat. Isa opened her eyes. "What was that?" Cyrel asked, holding the railing of the boat. Isa hugged her arms to her. "Well, he took the barrier holding me back from using my power at will. He probably took some of the intensity of it, but mostly everything else is intact, and the fade will regenerate it." Nethon raised an eyebrow. "That's a good thing, right?" Isa sighed. "Sure, but the problem is, I don't know how to control it."

"Oh," Cyrel seemed a little nervous for a moment, then smiled at her. "Well, practice makes perfect. And between you and me," he winked at her, "I like a woman that can knock me over with a glance."

Isa stared at him for a moment, then burst into laughter. She liked Cyrel, and was glad he and Nethon were on her side.

Chapter Text

Isa could feel him on the edge of her dreams, as she often did, but it was different this time. This time, he was worried. "What," she growled, peering into the drees her dream had conjured up. "If you're going to skulk around my dreams and worry, at least tell me why." She didn't expect him to actually listen.

Except this time, he did.

He stepped out of the shadows, worry evident on his face. Isa's heart twisted with guilt, "Solas, I-" "Do not apologize, da'avise. You are right." It was so good to hear his voice again. He furrowed his brows. "There is something… off. You are brighter here. Something has been ripped from you, the bindings of Mythal are weak, yet you barely contain the power you have released. What happened? I have a feeling this was not intentional."

Isa turned her gaze away. "You do not want to know." He approached her, and she could feel his barely contained anger. "Tell me." She couldn't tell him the full truth, or Cyrel would be revealed as a traitor, but she had to tell him something or he would find out on his own.

"I…" Isa couldn't bear to look at him. "I had a run-in with the Formless One."

Solas took a staggered step back, his jaw dropping and his eyes widening, distraught. "No. How can this be? Where?" She had to come up with a convincing lie. Her mind raced. Solas put a hand on her cheek and gently pulled her to look at him. "You cannot lie in the fade, for you are no demon. Where?" She got an idea. "I won't tell you. I won't have you going after him. I made a deal to bind him where he is, and there he will stay." Solas scowled, "Isenatha." "Don't you dare," she hissed at him, the trees flaring up and arching over them menacingly. "You have no right."

He let out a soft sigh, his hand dropping from her face. "Alright. Will you at least tell me about the deal?" She turned her back to him. "Why should I?" She tensed as his long arms wrapped around her waist, his forehead resting on her shoulder. "Sathan*?" She was furious, but she melted against him. She wished she didn't love him. He wouldn't cause her so much pain if she didn't, but she did, and she had to live with it.

"It wanted blood. The Commander's blood. As far as I can tell, it took the block that kept me from using the power at will. The downside is, if I do use it, I can't control it." She leaned her head back, letting out a sigh. "Why must you torment me? You walk the edges of my dreams for months, and you only come out when something goes wrong?"

"I have a new enemy," he changed the subject, only adding to Isa's anger. "Someone broke into one of my personal offices, then was carried off by a dragon. I am concerned that the Inquisitor has reached out to blood mages. While I have no issue with controlled blood magic, the massive amounts needed to cast a mind control spell over a dragon would certainly cause the death of many, and mind control is not something I condone. Do you know anything of this?"

So he didn't know it was her. Good.

"Goodness, that sounds horrible!" She was very careful to technically not lie. "I doubt Vhera would go to such lengths, especially since she only wishes for you to change your mind. If you would just let this madness go, Solas." "You know I cannot do that, vhenan."

Isa clenched her fists, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. For the first time since he had left, she didn't want to see him. She wanted him to leave. How insensitive could he be? She felt like he was only using her to his own ends. She opened her eyes again to his confused expression. Holding back tears, she asked him, "did you ever really love me?"

His face fell, and he swept her up in his arms in a crushing hug. "Ar lath ma ir diane,*" he murmured, stroking her hair. She shook her head, "then why do you wish me dead, vhenan? Why would you see me burn?" She pushed him away, baring her teeth as she snarled at him, "you are drowning in your guilt," she hissed. "You are unable to accept your mistakes, thinking yourself better than everyone else in this world, you think you have any right to decide their fates?" Each word burned her. She pulled down her shirt to show him the cauterized bite marks from the Formless One. "This is what I gave for this world, and all you can give if a half-hearted apology? Promises of an empty future?" Obviously he would not change his mind through kinder means.

"Your people bow before your throne, unaware that it was born of lies," she sneered as she backed away from him, the pain on his face like a knife to her heart. She forced herself to maintain eye contact. If she was going to hurt him, she was going to watch his pain. She would not run away like he did. "You can't even tell them the truth. You're far worse than the Evanuris ever were."

Solas looked absolutely devastated, but he held her gaze. "Do you really loathe me so much, vhenan?" Isa shook her head, no longer fighting back the tears. "Of course not, I love you with all my heart. It is because I love you that I must tell you what you have become, to save you from yourself. You can't undo what you've done, Solas! We all have to live with our mistakes!"

Solas turned his gaze away from her. "I have to try, or I will have nothing." Isa shook her head, readying to drive the final nail in the coffin. After this, she would make him come to her in person. "Nothing? So I am nothing to you. Good to know. The sacrifices I must make will be much easier knowing that I am not loved."

Isa woke up with his cries of confusion and protest echoing in her mind. She would not let him in her dreams again. She wanted him to come to her in person. Maybe it was a little selfish, but she wanted to be near him in reality. She just hoped it would work.

Chapter Text

Isa was shuffling through documents on her desk with Ariassa, packing what needed to be deciphered during her meeting with Cyrel. Her hand brushed over an unopened envelope with only her name written on it. A courier had ridden all the way from the Anderfels to deliver it, saying he had been paid forty sovereigns to deliver it.

Isa sat down in her chair, breaking the unmarked seal. She pulled out the letter, smiling when she recognized the hand it was in. It was Rainier.

'Dearest Isa,

That's a strange way to start a letter, but I couldn't think of anything better. Didn't want to be too formal. I've been traveling around a lot, visiting a lot of people. I like to give them a little hope, a second chance, like the Inquisition gave me. I think about you a lot, and I figured I would write to you.

I'm not good at writing letters.

I'll be in Denerim for the whole month of Bloomingtide. I'd like it if you'd make time to see me. I completely understand if you can't, you're a busy woman, but I miss you.

Damn, I'm really bad at writing letters.

Hope to see you,

Thom'

Isa grinned. Bloomingtide was only a few weeks away, and Ferelden flowers would be in full bloom. She would definitely make time to see Rainier, even if it killed her. She put the letter in a drawer and continued packing up.
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Isa rode through the Exalted Plains, gazing out at the sunset. She rode to the Fens, closed off until the Inquisition had dug out the path, past the long-abandoned Inquisition camp, and through the marsh. She knew she was early; they weren't supposed to meet until later in the evening, but Isa had another reason for wanting to come here.

Vhera had mentioned a dragon that lived out here, back in the good old glory days of the Inquisition. Isa wanted to know if it was still there, and if she could control it. She approached its grotto, hopping off of Feynthorn, and creeping over the rocky pools.

There she was, sleeping. Isa crept up and put her hand on the dragon's nose, closing her eyes. This dragon didn't seem to mind the intrusion, but didn't particularly want to leave the grotto. Isa could respect that. She simply wanted an ally. This dragon was lonely, she could feel that. The dragon was also lazy. Isa was content to leave her be, and to visit whenever she was in the area, if the dragon would aid her when she called. The dragon seemed fine with that. Isa marveled at the intelligence of the creatures as she opened her eyes. "Leala," she smiled. "Thank you." The dragon snorted and went back to sleep.

Isa got back on Feynthorn and rode to the other side of the fens, where some old elven ruins went deep underground. Vhera had solved the puzzle long ago, but it made for an excellent secluded meeting place, and Isa had hidden the focal orb she had stolen from Solas there, guarded by the magic that already existed.

Isa climbed down into the hole, surprised when she saw light glowing from below. Cyrel wasn't supposed to be there yet. She crept forward silently, a dagger in her hand at the ready. She saw a fire ahead, neatly set up, with a basket. Was that a bottle sticking out of the basket? Isa was confused.

She jumped, feeling a cold blade at her throat. "Rule one of sneaking around. If you can see the light, the light can see you." She let out a sigh of relief at Cyrel's voice. "Damn it, you scared me. You're here early." He let her go, grinning. "I wanted to surprise you." He pulled her over to the fire, where he unpacked the contents of the basket, which included two bottles of Vint-9 Rowan's Rose Wine, a rarity indeed, some apples, a chunk of cheese, some bread, and two trout wrapped up in cloth. "Caught these fresh from the river," he said as he unwrapped them, putting them on spits and setting them over the fire.

Isa grinned, "you did all this for me?" She felt flustered. "An awful lot for a secret meeting to share a cipher." He winked at her, "if I'm going to be a traitor, I might as well go all the way." Isa found herself giggling. She shook her head, still smiling as she pulled papers out of her satchel. "Alright, here you are." Cyrel clicked his tongue, "I'm not doing all the work here. Wouldn't it be much more effective if I taught you the cipher? You could teach me a little elvish while we're at it." Isa rolled her eyes. "Alright, lin'sila,*" that brought back memories, but Isa chose not to dwell on them. She smiled instead. "Let's get to work."

Isa picked up the cipher quickly. It was simple enough, once the pattern was understood, and similar to something the Well of Sorrows was familiar with. Once she had gotten a hold of that, they stopped to eat.

The wine was delicious. It went well with the meal, which disappeared quickly. Cyrel had even brought two glasses, so they sipped out of glasses, relaxing on blankets and sleeping mats as Isa went over some basic words in elven. "Ma serannas," Isa said the words slowly. Cyrel hadn't been taught anything, being from the city, so they were going from the very beginning. "Ma serannas." His accent made him roll the r. Isa tried to ignore how delightful it sounded. "Good. Hmm, what next? Let me see…" He had a coy smile on his face, "how do I say 'you are beautiful?'" Isa raised an eyebrow, "are you trying to flirt with me?" He laughed a bit, "I have been all evening, but thank you for noticing." She grinned, shaking her head and sipping her wine. "Ane ina'lan'ehn.*"

While Isa was sitting upright with her legs crossed, Cyrel was laying on his side, propped up on his elbow. The firelight flickered across his fine features. He looked her in the eyes and repeated, "ane ina'lan'ehn." Her face felt very warm all of a sudden, but she held his gaze. "Ma serannas." He replied smoothly, "ane vhallem.*" She hid her smile behind her wine glass, taking a few sips. "You're learning quickly." "I've got a good teacher."

Isa was determined to think the heat in her face was from the wine. They had gone through a bottle and a third. Cyrel refilled her glass, sitting up to do so. He then rested his hand on her calf. "Alright, how do you say leg?" Isa blushed darkly. "Shol." "Shol," the devilish elf repeated, sliding his fingers up to her knee. "And knee?" "Gliun." Isa was holding her breath without realizing it. Here in the firelight, feeling as lonely and as fragile as she was, he was intoxicating, and he was really good at flirting.

He touched her arm, "how do you say arm, teacher?" He had a sly look in his eye. Isa drank it up, a little indulgence couldn't hurt, could it? "Lav." His hand trailed up to her shoulder, and he looked at her expectantly. "Tarlavin," her voice wavered. He reached up, pulling the ribbon from her hair, running his fingers through it. Her lips twitched into a shy smile. "Hair is tarlavin." "Mhm," his hand rested on her cheek, his thumb tapping her lips. "And lips?" "Av."

He leaned forward, and she met him halfway, giving in. His lips were soft, and certainly experienced. His strength surprised her as his hands went to her waist, lifting her up and pulling her to his lap. Her heart would always belong to Solas, but Solas was not there; he had abandoned her, and she longed for some way to fill the void that she hadn't even realized he had left until now. She ran her fingers through Cyrel's hair, her ears turning bright red.

"When you washed up on that beach," he murmured between heated kisses, "I thought you were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen." Her chest fluttered. She leaned her head back as his lips moved to her neck. She could feel his smirk as he spoke again. "You know, I speak other languages too. I speak Antivan and Antilian, the native languages of Antiva. I may be a little rusty; it's been a long time, but would you like to hear?" Isa leaned into his chest, replying, "yes, I would like that."

He slipped his hands under her shirt, rough and warm against her skin. "Non vedo l'ora di togliermi questo,*" he growled in her ear. She didn't know what it meant, but it was exciting all the same. His hands slid upwards, sliding the cloth over her head. He leaned forward, laying her on her back, looking down at her with those piercing green eyes. It made Isa breathless. He winked at her, tucking his finger under her chin, lifting her face up and kissing her. He removed his own shirt. Isa was astonished by the amount of scars he was covered in. She reached up to touch them. He put his hand over hers, holding it to his chest. "It is nothing to worry about. They are hurts long healed."

Isa leaned up, using her elbow to prop herself up. She kissed a scar on his shoulder, then one on his chest. She did this with several of them until he gently pushed her back down. He pressed his body against hers, making her shiver and let out a soft moan. Embarrassed, she covered her mouth. He chuckled softly and pulled her hand from her mouth. "You are so precious, belladonna. Mi prenderò cura di te.*" He was being so sweet to her, but she decided she didn't want sweet. She wanted something a little spicier.

She reached up and gripped his hair, pulling him down into a rough kiss, he moaned into her mouth and let his hands roam her body, his nails scratching down her hips. For tonight, at least, the world was forgotten, she was all his, and she liked it that way.

Chapter Text

Isa let out a dejected sigh as she sat by her tiny campfire, rereading one of the final reports from her council on one of the members of Solas's inner circle, Mihri Ophel. The recommendation? Kill her. She was a known blood mage from the Anderfels, a little not right in the head, but she was a genius, and had accidentally managed to close a rift without the anchor. From what Cyrel had passed along through Nethon, she was studying how to reverse the process, how to open a rift. The Council was right, she had to die. Isa had decided to go herself because she was most likely to survive if something went wrong, and the job was in Denerim. She could see Rainier while she was there.

Isa snuffed out the fire as dawn stretched her pale fingers over the horizon. She whistled, and Feynthorn made his appearance. She hoisted herself onto his back, letting him stride down the road, lazily rocking her hips with the hart's movements.

Isa left Feynthorn far outside of Denerim where he would be safe from hunters and walked on foot the rest of the way. She reached Denerim by nightfall, heading through the market district to an old warehouse. She picked the lock on the door, slipping in silently. The bodies were a clear indicator that she was in the right place. She made her way to the back of the warehouse, hearing fighting ahead. She picked up the pace, reaching the room just as a sword was driven through her target's throat.

She paused, she knew that broad back anywhere. "Thom?" Rainier turned around, surprise on his face. "Isa?" He had more grey in his beard than Isa remembered, but his eyes were still bright and sparkling. Isa ran and hugged him, not caring that he was covered in blood. "Thom!" He picked her up and spun her around, his beard tickling her. "You came," he rumbled, clearly delighted to see her.

"Well it seems you've done my work for me," Isa looked at the dead blood mage on the floor. "Why don't I buy you a round?" She pulled a cloth from her pocket to wipe the blood from his armor. He grinned, "alright, but only if you let me buy your meal."
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They found themselves in the tavern Rainier was staying at with full bellies and their third mug of ale in their hands. Isa had her feet propped on the table. They were talking about the good old days. "So Vhera was battling these bandits," Rainier was going on, tears in his eyes from trying not to laugh, "and Bull just picks up Sera and tosses her! Right over their heads! She's screaming the whole time, raining down arrows, and the bandits are screaming because the elf is fucking flying and Vhera is screaming because Sera has been thrown through the air and Bull is on the ground laughing, so I'm the one that has to kill the last few bandits, but the whole thing was absolutely hysterical!" He was laughing from deep in his belly. Isa was giggling helplessly at the idea of Iron Bull just hurling someone through the air. She snorted, which only made them laugh harder.

Rainier settled down, finishing his mug. "I'm calling it there before I make any bad decisions." Isa grinned, "and what bad decision could possibly be made on the fourth mug of ale? It's the seventh that gets you." Rainier grunted, trying to hide his smile. "You'd be surprised. With you, I could make some mistakes sober."

Isa leaned forward, downing her mug and slamming it on the table. "Another, you coward!" Rainier huffed, "I'll not be goaded by some half pint elf with a tolerance twice her size." "Who are you calling half pint?" Isa stood, putting her hands on her hips. Rainier stood, crossing his arms and towering over her. "Gonna give me a good thrashing? Go ahead and try." Isa easily swept his legs out from under him in one swift movement, and he hit the floor hard. "Don't forget who you're talking to, old man."

"Old man?!" Rainier grunted as he got up off the floor. He wrapped his arms around her knees and tossed her over his shoulder, tickling her. She screeched and wriggled, pounding on his back. "Thom! You let me go right now! You- AH! stOP that TICKLES!" She wriggled and writhed, trying to get out of his grip.

"OI!" The barkeep shouted. "No roughhousing! Take it outside or up to your room, and don't break anything or you're buying it!" Embarrassed, Isa called out, "sorry!" She huffed, "you heard her, put me down." Rainier grinned, carrying her up the stairs. "You heard her. Outside or up to the room. Its warmer inside."

"You bastard!"

He tossed her into a chair in his rooms, a childish grin on his face. She pouted, crossing her arms, slumping in the chair. "Aww, now I feel bad," Rainier teased her, clearly not feeling bad at all. She sat up, laughing a bit. "I missed you Thom." "I missed you too, Isa." He sat on his bed, taking off his boots and outer layers. "You have a place to stay tonight? You're welcome to stay here." Isa smiled, leaning her head back. "I think the bed's a little small for us both." Rainier shrugged, "not like we haven't been more cramped. It's chilly anyway. Like the old days, right?"

Isa liked that idea, and nodded, removing her outer layers until she was fit to sleep. She trusted Rainier with her life. It would be nice to sleep next to him and pretend like everything hadn't happened yet, that the carta in the Hinterlands was the worst of their problems, like life could go anywhere from there.

Rainier laid down, holding out an arm to her. She laid next to him, resting her head in the crook of his shoulder. He was very comfortable, and extremely warm. She felt safe with him. She closed her eyes, feeling sleepy. "Where are you going next, Thom?" She could feel the rumble in his chest as he spoke. "Don't know yet. Maybe I'll stay in Ferelden for a while. I thought about seeing if Vhera could use some help." "That's a good idea," Isa mused, idly running her fingers over his chest. "They could definitely use your help. She'd certainly be happy to see you again."

"What's that?" Rainier brushed the collar of her shirt aside, revealing the marks the Formless One had left. Isa didn't know quite how to answer that. "A scar." He let out a huff, "what gave you the scar? It looks pretty… brutal. I've never seen scars like that." Isa sighed softly. "I don't really want to talk about it." "Alright," Isa was surprised when he let it go, just like that. Of course, he was one to understand not pushing boundries.

As Isa was dozing off, she heard Rainier murmur, "you know I love you, right?" She smiled, snuggling close to him. "Yeah, I know. I love you dearly, my friend." She felt his fingers running through her hair. It was really nice. "I think I will join up with Vhera. Solas needs to answer, one way or another. We can't let him just tear the world apart." Isa nodded lazily, yawning. "He will. We'll change his mind." She felt Rainier's mustache tickle her as he kissed her forehead softly. "You're too good for him. I've never met anyone as wonderful as you." Isa smiled, "flatterer. You ramble when you're sleepy, Thom." He chuckled softly. "Maybe I do. Goodnight, Isa." "Goodnight, fenor'falon.*"

Chapter Text

Isa woke in her room in Mythal's temple, feeling very week and absolutely awful. Iovoren was at her bedside, pacing back and forth. She grumbled and rubbed her eyes. "Isa!" Iovoren was sitting by her in an instant. "Thank goodness you're awake. How are you feeling?" "Tired," Isa sat up slowly. "What happened?" Iovoren blinked. "I was hoping you could tell me. We found you in a crater in the Frostbacks."

The memory came flooding back. Isa had been in some ruins in the Frostbacks looking for some artifact when she had been swarmed by a group of elves, likely belonging to Solas. She doubted they knew who she was. Her only option had been to release a burst of her magic, but it had felt like it was shredding her, and she had passed out as the temple had crumbled around her.

"The Commander's magic," Isa stated. Iovoren nodded, the gears turning in his head. "Yeah, ever since you went to that temple…" He hugged her suddenly. "Be more careful. You got lucky. Alas'dana rescued you." Isa hugged him close. He really did care for her. She got to her feet, shaking a little. "How's Fioril? Has she laid her eggs yet?" Iovoren helped her up. "Yeah, she has. She won't let anyone near them though, which seems fair. Oh, and you're going to visit the Empress."

"WHAT?!"

Of course, as a growing nation of sorts, Isa had been formally invited to the Winter Palace to meet with the Divine, the Empress, and the King and Queen of Ferelden, since it was their borders that she was on, to discuss the possibility of being officially recognized as a nation and as a sort of peace talks. People weren't happy about an exclusively elven nation, not that Isa gave a damn what they thought, but refusing to attend would be an act of aggression she couldn't afford at the moment.
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Thus, Isa found herself on the way to the Winter Palace for a third time, thoroughly dreading it. Fortunately, the Inquisition and the Divine would also be in attendance, so she wouldn't be entirely alone. However, she would be standing on her own two feet, and not in support of someone else this time. She wondered how it would feel. She hoped that Briala might back her up as well, since she was an advisor to Celene since their reconciliation.

Isa dressed in a formal suit, with black pants and a gold blazer with the antlered dragon of Tuastlas emblazoned in black on it. She held her head high as she entered the winter palace, bowing to Empress Celene, King Alastair, and Queen Anora in turn. She then greeted the Divine and the Inquisitor. It would seem that she was the last to arrive.

That first day was just a formal greeting, then Isa had time to herself to settle in. She had brought General Joshon, Zathdis, and Iovoren with her. She had considered bringing some of the other council members as well, but she didn't want her presence to be overwhelming. She was nervous, and glad to have their support. Iovoren was there as a bodyguard, though she really needed a friend.

That evening, Isa was in her chambers, brushing out her long copper hair. It had grown, and she figured she needed to cut it soon. She heard a knock on the door. "Come in," she looked up. A young elven girl in a servant's garb came in, looking nervous. "Good evening, ma'am. I beg your pardon." Isa smiled warmly at her, "it's fine. What can I do for you?" "I bring a message for you." She crossed the room and handed Isa a slip of paper. "It's Lady Briala. She wishes to meet with you in secret. She has a proposition for you."

Isa unfolded the paper and read the note. It was true, Briala wished to meet in one of the palace gardens by the grand ballroom. There likely wouldn't be anyone else there at this time of night. "Thank you," Isa lit the scrap over a candle. She wouldn't want to leave any evidence. Things were tense as it was.

"Is it true?" The servant girl asked, shifting on her feet nervously. "They say you've built a paradise out in the wilds." Isa nodded, "of sorts. It's still a work in progress, but it is a safe place for all elves." Isa then tilted her head. "Your accent isn't Orlesian. Where are you from?" The girl answered, "Highever, in Ferelden, ma'am. I'm from the alienage there. I knew some people who left to go to Tuastlas. That's how you say it, right?" Isa nodded again. "Yes, that's right, Tuastlas. I could take them a message, if you'd like. Or perhaps you'd want to join them yourself?" The girl shook her head, "I couldn't. With most of the elven servants disappearing to either join you or this Fen'Harel, my wages have doubled, and Briala still needs eyes and ears here. Thank you for the offer though. If you could take a message for me, my cousin Sengan went to join you. He's got dark hair, and brown eyes. It isn't much to go off of, but the name's unique! Here, do you have any paper?"

The woman wrote out a message, and Isa promised to deliver it. The girl seemed thrilled. "Thank you so much, you're truly a gift, My Lady. Blessings upon you." She disappeared out the door, leaving Isa alone with her thoughts.

When the time came, Isa dressed in a dark cloak and headed out to the gardens beside the ballroom. She found herself drowning in memories. Solas, standing in the moonlight by the window. Solas asking her to dance. The music of the ballroom floating through the air. Her heart clenched, longing for simpler times. She could practically taste the raspberry puffed pastries. She could feel his heartbeat against her cheek if she closed her eyes. She could hear his voice softly rumbling. "You will always be mine."

"My Lady," Isa was pulled from her memories by Briala's voice. She turned, seeing the masked elf approaching through the garden. "Briala," Isa returned her greeting. "What can I do for you? Why the secrecy?" She got straight to the point. Briala smiled a bit. "I cannot very well ask for a secret alliance with an elven upstart out in the open, can I?" Isa tilted her head back, waiting to hear more.

"Though Celene and I have reconciled, my priority remains with my people. You are doing for them what I never could. You are giving them a home, and from what I hear, you have ample means of defending it. I want this council to turn out well for you, Isenatha. You have the Divine on your side, so there will be no Exalted March, but that will not stop Orlais or Ferelden from wiping out anything they view as a threat. They are already stacked against you. I wish to help you turn the tables. Besides, we all share a common enemy in Fen'Harel, do we not?"

Isa nodded slowly, taking a moment to think. "A few questions, if I may. I can easily see how you might change Celene's heart, but how would you convince Queen Anora?" A sly smile crossed Briala's face. "Blackmail. It would be best if you didn't know the details." Isa crossed her arms, "and if her highness doesn't take kindly to that?" Briala laughed, "trust me, she will."

Isa sighed. She didn't like that, but maybe Briala was right. She couldn't afford war with Ferelden. "Alright Briala, what's in it for you? Why help me? I'm helping the elves either way, so you must want something personal out of this." Briala crossed her arms, tapping her long fingers on her elbows. "I want your support. Not openly, not at the moment. But when Fen'Harel has been defeated, there will still be many displaced elves that will need a home, and you will soon outgrow your quaint little wilds. I believe that if we can combine forces, we can reclaim the Exalted Plains, turn it into the beauty it once was, and expand for the good of our people. I also want the eluvians back." Well, that answered the next question, how was Isa going to trust Briala. If she held the eluvians, she had leverage against Briala.

"Alright Briala, you have a deal."

Chapter Text

There were three days of pleasantry before the official meeting of the peace talks began, plenty of time for Briala to turn her words into actions. Isa hoped that Briala had come through as she strode confidently into the meeting chambers, a large room with a square table. Isa, General Joshon, and Zathdis took their place at one side of the table. Vhera, Josephine, Cullen, and Divine Victoria sat on one side, Briala and Empress Celene sat on one side, and King Alastair and Queen Anora sat on one side. Scribes sat around the edges of the room. They faced each other as equals, not like the Exalted Council had been, which had been more like a trial.

"Thank you for your willingness to join us today, Lady Isenatha Lavellan," Celene began. Isa bowed her head. "It is an honour, your majesty."

"Let's get right to the point," King Alastair was never one for tact. "Your presence on our southern borders has been a cause for concern. Elven rebellions have always been nothing but troublesome." His bluntness often sent diplomats scrambling for a polite response, but Isa was no diplomat. She smiled, not bothering to hide her annoyance. "I apologize your highness, but for my home to be considered a rebellion, you would have to claim ownership over us. That is not the case."

"Tuastlas has not raised arms against, nor shown any sign of aggression towards any nation," Josephine spoke up, stepping in to ease tensions before they rose. "They are not a rebellion against anyone. They could be considered a colony. They are like the Dalish, only they have settled in one place." Isa was annoyed by the comparison, but it was a human mistake, and she was not going to bite a helping hand.

"Tuastlas has raised an organized army," Empress Celene interceded. Isa fought back her indignance. "The Arbor Wilds is a dangerous place, your Majesty; would you have us defenseless against it? Do not forget the threat we all face as well. Fen'Harel is still out there, and will not lie in wait forever. I have no desire to attack Orlais."

Celene clearly wasn't impressed. "How do I know you will not attack us the moment our back is turned? The elves have been oppressed for centuries. How do I know you would not take revenge?" Isa swallowed her anger. "Are you taking up arms against Tevinter, who ruled the world at one point and enslaved Orlesians? Do you see Ferelden taking up arms against you? That is a ridiculous notion, your majesty, one born of false pretenses."

Celene scowled. "The Arbor Wilds technically belonged to Orlais. Therefore, I must insist you disarm until you have proven you have no ill intent. Until then, Orlesian soldiers will occupy Tuastlas to keep the piece, and I'm sure Ferelden will be happy to join."

"Absolutely not!" General Joshon slammed his fist on the table. "Your people couldn't get close to the Arbor Wilds, it never belonged to Orlais. If you think I'm just going to let you march in, you've got another thought coming, your majesty." He spat the last two words. Divine Victoria was inclined to agree. "Empress Celene, I have to agree. This is a step too far. This was supposed to be a council for peace, not occupation. I cannot support this. Elves everywhere will riot; you will start a war that no one can afford with the threat of Fen'Harel looming over us!"

Celene looked to Ferelden's side of the table. Alastair opened his mouth, but Anora put her hand up, silencing him. She was looking at Briala. "Ferelden will not support this. An alliance with Tuastlas is the answer, as it is with any nation, not occupation." Isa let out a sigh of relief. One army she could take, but two would be too much.

Isa stared down Celene. "Your majesty, I never believed you to be rash, much less one to decide the fate of two nations based on racism." Celene looked offended. "You think this is based on-" "Absolutely!" Isa cut her off, her voice echoing around the room. "If my ears were the same shape as yours, you would embrace my new nation as an ally. I expected a friend in you, your majesty. We are all facing the same threat, but I see now. You could barely stand to accept the aid of one elven leader, much less two. I do not wish for war with anyone, but if you attack my home, it will be defended."

She turned to Ferelden. "Thank you for your wisdom, Queen Anora. I do not ask for your aid, as I would not wish to strain tensions between Ferelden and Orlais. We must all be as united as possible. I would still like to form an alliance with Ferelden, if possible." Queen Anora nodded. King Alastair frowned for a moment, then relaxed. "We'd be honoured."

Briala was speaking in hushed but urgent tones to Empress Celene, trying to get her to change her mind, but it seemed that Celene was firmly set on occupying Tuastlas. Isa made a mental note to speak to Briala afterwards. Something strange was going on.

In the end, both the Divine and Ferelden officially recognized Tuastlas as a nation, and signed an official alliance against the forces of Fen'Harel. Orlais also signed the alliance, but did not recognize Tuastlas as a nation. There would be war first.

Isa caught Briala later in a secluded corner. "What was that? What is her issue?" Briala was bewildered. "I have no idea! I believe someone has pushed her to this. I'm having my people look into it, but I don't even know where to begin." Isa sighed, "I thought that might be the case. To so rashly declare war doesn't seem like her. I'll ask the Inquisition to quietly look into it as well. Thank you for handling Anora." Briala nodded, and the two parted before they could be seen conversing.

Isa made her way to Vhera's room, where she was meeting with her advisors and the Divine. "Someone's definitely blackmailing her," Leliana was pacing the room. Vhera nodded in agreement. Isa added, "Briala is looking into it, you all should too. I'm afraid my resources are all tied up with Fen'Harel. Pulling enough to make a difference would arouse suspicion." Josephine waved her hand dismissively, "I'm sure we can cover this. You can defend Tuastlas in the meantime?" Isa nodded, "of course. Celene doesn't know that I have dragons. She's in for a surprise. I'd rather not slaughter Orlesians, but my people come first."

Cullen rubbed his temples. "At least Ferelden isn't getting mixed up in it. I suppose Briala had something to do with that too? Good thing, but why is she working with you? I thought she was loyal to Celene again." Isa laughed, "she is, but our people demand more loyalty than Celene does." "Of course," Cullen shook his head, laughing at himself. "I suppose even she has a heart."

Isa hugged Vhera and wished everyone a pleasant evening, then went back to her own quarters. In the morning she'd head home and plan for war.

Chapter Text

Isa rode home with her entourage. Iovoren was planning with Joshon the whole way, while Zathdis and Isa remained mostly silent. It took them roughly a day and a half at a good pace to get home. They stopped at the edge of the wilds, where the sentry called down from the trees, "ma sildeara syl or isenatha?*" Joshon answered proudly, "Ar sildearan ash emathe i eolasan amen vhenas." There was a slight flicker as they passed through the illusion barrier, which simply hid their city from outside eyes, making it look like a forest.

Isa rode through the city, smiling as her people welcomed her enthusiastically. She then remembered the letter the elven servant had given her, and sent the others on ahead, though Iovoren opted to stay with her. She asked around, finally finding the man she was looking for. He was happy to receive the letter, and happier to hear that his cousin was doing so well.

It was the little things that made her day.

Isa made her way to the temple, her heart swelling as she looked over how far her home had come. Where only crumbled ruins had been before, buildings and bridges stood once more. High up in the trees, wooden platforms provided more space and protection. They had become one with the wilds. Beasts roamed their home freely. Giants were careful not to step on children playing in the river. Horses and halla mingled together in the grassy clearings, and hart climbed high up on the rocky cliffs. Bronto wandered the outskirts of the city, usually keeping to themselves.

Isa entered the temple, taking a moment to herself to visit her dragons. Fioril had laid over twenty eggs, a small clutch for a dragon, but it was still a lot to Isa. They filled a mossy nest at the edge of their home. Fioril was curled around them, and looked up lazily, snorting in greeting when Isa entered. Alas'dana flew in from overhead, returning from stretching her wings. She nearly knocked over Isa, pushing her head into the elf's body. Isa grinned, "hey princess. Have a nice flight?" The dragon rumbled and rolled onto her back, wriggling in the grass.

After hanging out with them for a while, Isa joined her council, who were preparing for war. They had a while before the Empress could muster her forces, probably a week at least, but they still needed to be prepared. The dragons alone could likely finish most of them, and the giants and brontos could also be sent out, but Isa was unsure about showing all their cards. However, she didn't want to lose any unnecessary lives either.

She came up with a plan. They'd have to find the general leading the assault, because they could force him to sign a treaty recognizing Tuastlas as a sovereign nation. They could start with archers to wipe out a few ranks, then send in the brontos and giants. In that chaos, they send in warriors to split the general and his vanguard off from the rest of his troops, and mages could keep artillery under control. If the general refused to surrender, a dragon would be a good motivator, though Isa hoped it wouldn't come to that. If Fen'Harel found out she had control of a dragon, he might connect some dots she really needed him not to. She had hidden away the orb she had stolen, but she didn't know how far he would go to get it and she didn't want to find out. She could also have a mage on standby with her and use her own power, but that might be too intimidating, and provoke other nations into war as well. She just hoped it wouldn't come to that.

After a long war council, Isa decided to go for a walk. She went out into the wilds, into the forest they hadn't tamed yet. She breathed in the fresh air, listened to the water run, feeling the song of nature in the air. She smiled as she walked, having gone in her bare feet, she felt the cool earth of the trail beneath her feet. The gentle breeze kissed her skin, and purple hues of the evening sky cast a magical look over the forest.

She heard a crackle behind her. She turned around, seeing nothing but the trees. She frowned a bit, was someone following her? She was armed with a sword, but she wasn't in the mood to use it, so she hoped it was no one hostile. "Show yourself!" She ordered, feeling foolish when nothing happened. "Maybe I'm just hearing things." She shrugged and turned around, only to shriek in surprise as she bumped right into a familiar chest. She recognized that cocky grin in an instant. "Cyrel, damn it!" She huffed, shoving him. "What are you doing here?"

Cyrel laughed a bit, "ir abelas, Isa, I couldn't help it. You're so easy to sneak up on." Isa scowled, sticking her tongue out. She then crossed her arms. "Isn't it dangerous for you to be here? What if Fen'Harel finds out?" Cyrel rolled his eyes, putting his arm around her waist and lifting her chin with his other hand. "Relax, inanshain*, he sent me to the area, but won't ever know I was in the city. The only one who saw me was the sentinel and I had my hood up." Isa rolled her eyes, "it's still a risk, Cyrel." He pouted, "aren't you happy to see me?"

"I didn't say I wasn't."

"Then stop worrying." He gave her a brief kiss. She asked, "so why are you here? You said Fen'Harel sent you, so you didn't just pop in for a visit." Cyrel shook his head, "though I have been dying to see you, no. Fen'Harel heard about the little bout you've gotten into with Orlais. I'm an observer." Isa asked, "is it just you?" Cyrel shook his head, "Nethon and a few scouts. The scouts think I'm just doing a little recon right now. If I were you, I'd keep the dragons inside." Isa leaned on him a little. "They're a last resort, trust me. Celene's being blackmailed, but I doubt we'll find the source before she attacks, so we're going to force the general to recognize us as a sovereign nation. I don't want to wipe out her forces entirely."

Cyrel ran his fingers through her hair, which had been let down for the evening. It was relaxing. "I'm sure it'll be fine," he stated confidently. "Ward of the first attack, then find out what's got the stick up her ass, and it'll all be fine from there." Isa laughed a bit, "I sure hope so."

Cyrel lifted her face again. "You seem a little stressed, maybe I can help?" Isa rolled her eyes, struggling to keep the grin off her face. He laughed, "you're adorable, how does anyone resist your charm?" He kissed her, pulling her close to him. She closed her eyes and kissed him heatedly, tangling her hands in his hair. He made for a wonderful distraction from all her woes; it was a shame he wasn't around more often.

Isa squeaked and pushed him behind a tree when she heard footsteps on the trail behind them, and someone calling her name. She turned around, smoothing her hair just as General Joshon came around the corner. "Ah, there you are." He had his ever-present business look on his face. "I apologize for disturbing you, my Lady, but our scouts have reported sights of the Orlesian army about two days away. Apparently the Empress was preparing for war long before the peace talks. I figured I would tell you before I began preparations." Isa nodded, "thank you, General. Will we be ready in time?" He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. "Tel'eolasan,* I can only hope. Fortunately, the beasts do not take much preparation, since that is mostly on you and Nawyn. Hopefully the mages we have will be enough to suppress artillery. I would advise setting up for flanking maneuvers." Isa nodded, "go ahead. Thank you, General. We'd be lost without you." A slight smile crossed his face. "This, coming from you? I will begin preparations at once, my Lady." He bowed his head and turned around.

Isa let out a sigh of relief, turning back around. Cyrel poked his head out, snickering. "He's certainly very business-like." Isa smiled, "a damn good general, though. He certainly knows what he's doing." Cyrel held out his hand. "Walk with me?" Isa took it, "you're the one walking with me, this was my walk that you intruded upon." Sarcastically, he groveled, "oh forgive me, my lady, how dare a lowely being like me intrude upon your evening walk through the forest! I am not worthy to-" "oh shut up." Isa shoved him playfully. For a little bit at least, she could pretend the outside world didn't exist.

Chapter Text

It was still early morning, and Isa could feel the marching of the Orlesians before she heard it. She sat atop Feynthorn in the open field at the edge of the wilds, in full battle armor, a copy of Harritt's design for her, only made of lyrium-infused dragon plate, a gift from the Inquisition, with the crest of Tuastlas carved in the shield plate on her chest. Tucked under her arm, by the wishes of her people, was a sort of crowned helm, carved from dragon bone and decorated with gold leaf from Mythal's temple. She didn't like wearing a helm, but it was not for her. It was a symbol for her armies. They had a leader.

Feynthorn himself wore armor, enchanted ironbark, a gift from the Dalish. Isa hoped he wouldn't need it.

Of course, Empress Celene would never come to the battlefield herself. She was no doubt back in Orlais, awaiting news while fattening herself on her plush throne. Her high general, Duke Ocellus Marteu. Duke Marteu wore flashy gold armor, glinting in the morning sun. The fog had melted away from the field, but clung to the wolds that skirted it, an excellent advantage for Isa's forces.

"My Lady Isenatha," the Duke greeted her courteously, riding up with a small guard for a formality before the battle begun. Isa met him with her general and Iovoren at her side. "Greetings, Your Grace." Isa smiled warmly. "A pleasant morning, is it not?" The Duke lifted the front of his helmet, revealing his grizzled face. He may have been a noble, but he was no stranger to war. He had fought for Celene during Gaspard's uprising, and Isa wouldn't underestimate him.

"It is, my Lady. We do not have to do battle today." At least there was mutual respect between them, something Celene clearly did not share. "With all due respect, Your Grace, I cannot accept this occupation any more than you would accept occupation by Tevinter." The Duke nodded, patting his horse softly. "I understand, my Lady. These are not my decisions, but it is my job to enforce them. I bear you no ill will, and when I have won this day, I will do my best to ensure you are treated well." The Duke rode closer until his shoulder was at Feynthorn's, and he offered his hand. Isa shook it, replying, "I will give you the same courtesy, Your Grace. Once I have accepted your surrender, your wounded will be tended to, and you will be sent home in one piece."

"Good luck."

They parted ways, returning to their people. Isa put on her helm. It was heavy on her head. The battle horn sounded, and the fight began.

The Duke, of course, had to send in the cavalry first, since Isa had no men visibly on the field. There was nothing for artillery to shoot at. Joshon gave the order for the archers to rain arrows down upon them. Of course, the Chevaliers were well-armoured, and the most it did was spook their horses, but that was all they needed.

While they were getting their horses under control, the Duke sent in infantry for backup. Isa brought a horn to her lips and blew, signaling for her beasts to charge from the sides of the field, flanking the enemy and taking them completely by surprise. The Chevaliers held their own against the brontos, but the infantry didn't stand a chance. When the giants joined the fray, though they were few, they demolished the enemy.

However, this all took some time. While this was happening, the Duke's artillery and mages locked onto Isa's archer's location. Isa's mages returned fire, but they were heavily outmatched. Isa had to move fast. She sent out her own warriors in two groups. One was to encircle the battle with the beasts to keep any of the Duke's forces from breaking out and attacking the mages, since they did outnumber the beasts, even if they were overpowered, and the other was to sabotage the artillery as much as they could, and to battle any reinforcements. The archers were to keep an eye out for any other forces approaching, just in case.

Fortunately, it appeared that Celene had underestimated Tuastlas's numbers, and hadn't given the Duke the numbers he would have needed to take the city. Isa rode with Iovoren and a small group of elite warriors. They had to reach Duke Marteu before he and his guard joined the battle, or they'd have to fight to the bloody end.

They gave the main battle a wide berth and spotted the Duke riding towards it, just in front of the artillery. The other group of Isa's warriors had been caught by a second force that had tried to slip through the trees. Isa pushed Feynthorn harder, gaining on the Duke's much smaller horse, barreling into them at full speed, sending them both flying.

Then they were locked in their own smaller battle.

Isa rolled and scrambled to her feet, drawing her sword and pulling her shield from her chest, just as the Duke did. Her men clashed with the Duke's guards. The Duke drew his sword, and took the first swing. Isa matched his ferocity and skill, exchanging blow after blow, taking and dealing hit after hit. Finally, they locked swords, arms shaking, the sounds of battle barely audible over the tension between them.

"No magic tricks, my Lady?" The Duke asked, eyes locked with hers through his helmet. Isa shook her head, "I do not wish you or your men harm. Stop this madness, and I'll call off my beasts. We can end this slaughter." The Duke pushed her back. "I cannot do that, my Lady." Isa let out a sigh of resignation. She knew that Fen'Harel's scouts were watching. She couldn't call the dragon now. Besides, from the looks of it, this was barely half of the Orlesian's forces. They could afford to lose them.

"My Lady," the Duke didn't attack. "I have a similar proposition for you. You see, your mages cannot hold off my artillery forever. You and I both know that." Of course, Isa had almost forgotten. With her warriors caught up in battle, they couldn't control the artillery. The mages would be overwhelmed. "Surrender, and we won't turn your wilds to dust." Isa took a moment to look at the artillery. They had expected a good number of catapults, siege towers, that sort of thing, but what she saw was so much more than they could have planned for. Endless rows of flaming trebuchets waited behind each row that was destroyed by the mages.

"The Empress has been planning for a long time."

"Isa!" Joshon called out. They had defeated the guard, and circled the two fighting on the ground. "Our warriors in the forest were overwhelmed! The Duke's forces there have joined against the beasts in the main field, we have nothing to take on the artillery!"

The Duke sheathed his sword. "Kill me if you must," he crossed his arms. "But if you do, your city burns to the ground. I apologize, my Lady, but this is checkmate."

Isa clenched her fist, furious, then released it. "No," she closed her eyes. "It's check. I've got one more piece to move." She reached out for the threads to the three dragons she had under her command. Of course, Fioril was reluctant to leave her eggs, and Isa would rather have her defend the city as a last resort. Alas'dana was more than happy to oblige, and Leala was as well, though it would take her a bit longer to reach them, since she was on the far side of the Exalted Plains.

"I thought you said no magic tricks, my Lady?"

Isa opened her eyes. "I did. I'm simply calling for reinforcements. I have a few more beasts you should meet."

A shriek pierced the air as Alas'dana rose from the forest. The Duke turned around, only able to watch as she soared over the field, dodging the fireballs thrown by the trebuchets, and swooped down, her icy breath swallowing the first of them. Back and forth she went, row after row, though it would seem every damn piece of equipment in Orlais was there.

Alas'dana took out about half of them before she was hit by a fireball. She plummeted down, landing not too far from Isa, screeching in agony. She struggled to her feet, putting a wall of ice between herself and the trebuchets, but she was unable to fight them anymore.

Isa, however, had a triumphant smirk on her face, since she felt another of her connections growing stronger as it drew closer. "This, your Grace, is checkmate." The air crackled as the raw force of a storm tore through it, blasting the remaining artillery to splinters as lightning scorched the ground. Leala then dove for the battlefield, seemingly excited to get her claws dirty. The other beasts gave her a wide berth, allowing her to rain lightning down on the Duke's men. Isa's warriors withdrew, taking any who chose to run as prisoners.

The Duke removed his helmet. "I see." He dropped to one knee. "My Lady, I surrender, on the condition that you cease the slaughter of the good men of Orlais."

Isa took the horn from General Joshon and brought it to her lips, letting out three long blasts of victory.

True to her word, the soldiers that survived were not harmed further, much to Leala's disappointment. Isa was more concerned about Alas'dana. She ran to her dragon's side, where she lay behind a wall of ice. "Easy, princess," she murmured. Alas'dana allowed her to come close, lifting her wing to reveal the wound. Isa breathed a sigh of relief. It was messy, a large area of burn, but it was only on the surface. Alas'dana was simply weak to burns, being a creature of ice. "You're a good girl," Isa murmured. "I'll get a healer for you, alright? You're going to be fine."

Isa's priority was her own men, many of which were wounded in the battle in the forest ambush, but her losses had been far fewer than the Duke's, and once her healers were finished with her own, including the beasts, they set about cleaning up the Duke's men enough to go home. The battle had taken most of the morning, and the cleanup took until the next afternoon. Her healers were exhausted. Isa stood before the Duke once more, this time to send him home.

"Dragons," the Duke laughed slightly. "Who would have thought? I thank you for an honourable battle, My Lady." Isa shook his hand. "The honour is mine, Your Grace. Tell the Empress that we still stand together against Fen'Harel, but if she comes after us again, I will burn her palace to the ground. Oh, one more thing." She smiled sweetly. "You have the authority to recognize us as a nation." The Duke laughed fully at that. "Give me the damn paper, woman, you've earned that much."

Chapter Text

That first night after the battle was for rest. The next day, however, was spent in elaborate celebration. Isa put the thought of Fen'Harel from her mind and spent time among her people, dancing, feasting, drinking, and even offering kisses on the cheeks of wounded men who were brave enough to ask. She had a great time.

She passed out at some point, probably from too much drink. She had no concerns for her safety, not in Tuastlas. She half-woke to a slight swaying. She cracked open her eyes to find the nighttime world upside down and moving. "Oh fuck…" She groaned, laughing despite herself. She lifted her head with a bit of struggle, looking to see who was carrying her.

"Joshon!" She grinned, reaching up to smooth back a chocolate strand of hair that had slipped from his ponytail. She only succeeded in messing his hair up more. "My Lady," he stepped over another unconscious elf. It was the late hours of the night past midnight, when the world slept. "You did so well today," She rested her head on his arm instead of holding it up herself. "Thank you, My Lady, though the credit is yours. We could not have won without you." "Nonsense!" Isa tossed herself a bit in protest, causing him to frown and toss her up to get a better grip on her.

"Where are we going?" Isa asked, lazily draping her arm over his shoulders. Her other hand brought her wine skin to her lips. It was miraculous that it had remained in her hand, though it was mostly empty. "Should you be drinking more?" Joshon raised an eyebrow at her. She stuck a berry-darkened tongue out at him. "Want to share?"

He actually cracked a smile, a rare sight indeed. "Yes." She grinned again and held the skin to his lips. He stopped walking to drink the last of the wine, a few drops falling from his lips down his sun-kissed skin. Her eyes wandered over his face, from his long eyelashes, the soft curve of his nose, the three small scars marring his cheek, the gentle slope of his jaw, to his wine-stained chin. Isa set the empty skin on her stomach, not wanting to bother with holding it, She used her sleeve to wipe the drops from his chin. "You've been drinking all night. Not often I find someone with a tolerance higher than mine." Joshon just kept walking.

Isa gazed up at the tree canopy. The stars were hidden by the light of the torches around them, since the drunken elves had never bothered to put them out. "Where are we going?" She asked her General. "To your quarters. It is where you should sleep, as opposed to laying atop a barrel of wine." Isa laughed, putting her hand to her mouth in surprise when she snorted. Joshon smiled again, the left corner of his mouth turning up slightly.

"You can smile," she poked his cheek, teasing him. "Of course I can, My Lady." Isa frowned, "do you really have to call me that all the time? This is a celebration, Joshon. I'm absolutely plastered and you're at least slightly drunk." Joshon sighed softly, "Isa. You're not plastered, and I'm not drunk. We're tipsy at most. We've spent most of the night sleeping it off. Don't be so troublesome." "Don't scold me, Joshon." Joshon rolled his eyes, "at the moment, I'll scold you all I like. You're drunk."

In protest, Isa tried to roll out of his arms. He retaliated by tossing her over his shoulder and continuing on. Isa whined and smacked his back lightly. He tapped the back of her thigh, "behave yourself. We're almost there." She blushed at the touch and kicked him lightly. "Isenatha," he rumbled, glaring at her over his other shoulder, his caramel eyes boring into her. She stuck her tongue out at him.

They entered the temple, making their way to Isa's quarters. Joshon unceremoniously tossed Isa onto her bed. "That would have gone much easier if you had been cooperative." He crossed his arms. Isa sat up, her hair a mess, and started laughing at him. "You're acting all high and mighty," she giggled, "where's your shoe, General? Your left boot is gone! And you've spilled wine all over your tunic, you're swaying like grass; you're no better than I am, you're just better at hiding it!" Joshon rolled his eyes, "my left boot is none of your business." He tried his best to look stern, but Isa could see the humour in his eyes.

She got her giggles out, shaking her head. "You're a phenomenal General, you know that? There isn't anyone else I'd rather have." Joshon slumped down on the side of her bed, clearly finding standing to be a lot of effort. "Thank you," he laid back, letting out a deep breath. "I'd follow you anywhere," he mumbled, reaching out and resting his fingers against her calf. "I've followed a lot of rebellions, a lot of leaders, you know, the lot, but I've never followed someone like you." She scooted forward until she was sitting next to his head. She pulled the band from his hair, alcohol tearing down the barriers between them, as it often does. "What do you mean?" She asked, combing her fingers through it.

"Your charisma, for one. It's very unique. Most leaders choose to hide their emotions entirely, and the weak ones are slaves to theirs, but you manipulate yours to be the weapon." His fingers traced shapes on her leg, never going up past her knee. "You give us all hope. You're a beacon. People are naturally drawn to you, and you've amplified that. Even without your power, you're a force to be reckoned with. You're terrifying, but at the same time, it's easy to be around you. With most people, it's one or the other, but with you," he gazed up at her with nothing short of adoration. "You could stab me and I'd apologize for bleeding on you."

Isa felt her gut clench. "That's… I'm not sure-" Joshon rolled over her legs, propping himself up on his elbow. "Not sure that's what you want?" Isa nodded. Joshon shrugged. "It doesn't really matter. I'm not the only one who feels this way. I just feel that you deserve to know the extent of our loyalty to you. Some of these words aren't even mine. Zathdis has become a close friend to me, a surprise to us both, since neither of us have ever had much use for friends, but that is beside the point. We discuss such matters sometimes. Loyalty scares him, but it is what you demand, intentionally or not. The other advisors openly adore you, and you are well aware that the people of Tuastlas would praise you to their dying breath. Many warriors did in that battle."

Isa felt completely sober. She also felt very much alone. Joshon's eyes met hers, and his gaze softened. He shifted to sit beside her. "I'm not much of a hugger, but I think you need one." Isa laughed despite herself. She leaned into his open arms. "Thank you for your honesty, Joshon. You are a good friend. I… I won't deny that it scares me, and makes me feel very alone." He certainly was very awkward, his arms stiff and unsure, and Isa fought to stiffen her laughter. He huffed, "I am doing my best, Isenatha." She burst out laughing, unable to contain herself.

He growled and crushed her against his chest, grumbling about how she was an ungrateful brat. "Ir abelas, Joshon!" She wriggled free, her chest heaving as she struggled to stop laughing and catch her breath. He glared at her, though there was no bite behind it. She finally stopped laughing and said, "let me show you." She wrapped her arms around him, pulling his head to rest on her shoulder, and hugged him gently. She felt his eyelashes flutter against her neck as he closed his eyes. His breath tickled her collar bone. Gradually, his arms encircled her waist, and he relaxed. "That's better." She gave him a gentle squeeze.

"This is nice," he murmured, his body relaxing against hers. Isa smiled, resting her cheek on his hair. "Have you never been hugged, Joshon?" "Not that I can remember," he held her tight. "My father died when I was very young. I do not remember him. My mother was not a kind woman. She was the only thing to ever leave a scar on me. Three of them with one blow, in fact. She had sharp nails. Our alienage was a particularly rough one, so I joined a band of mercenaries when I was old enough to be useful, and they certainly weren't the hugging type. Maybe my father did, but if that is the case, I do not remember." Isa stroked his hair gently, her heart aching on his behalf.

Isa felt something warm on her shoulder, and realized he was crying. Of course he was, this man had seen many horrors in his life, and was experiencing a hug for the first time. She let him cry. He was silent, his breath barely hitching, the tremor in his hands so faint it could have been imagined. He gulped and whispered, "how can you trust a general who would cry in his Lady's arms?" "That's what you're worried about? Joshon, I would not trust a man with no heart. It takes great strength to show what you want to hide away from the world, even if it's just to one person." Joshon squeezed her gently, his fists balling up her tunic. "I… I don't want to let go. May I stay a while?" "Of course, my friend." She laid back with him, humming softly until sleep claimed them both.
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Isa knew she was in the Fade as soon as she opened her eyes. She also knew who was following her. She blocked him hard, but she could feel him pushing against her. Solas really wanted to see her. She found herself in a quarry, so she sealed off the entrance. Then she was in a cave, so she parted the stone to leave. In a forest, she set the trees ablaze and bent them over themselves to keep him out. The Fade was her realm, as much as he wanted it to be his. "Vhenan," she could hear him begging. "Please." "You want to see me so badly, Solas?" She growled, dropping the block enough for her eyes to meet his. "You will. But not here. Ju'esayas mar vhenan fra ha'na'in mar ha'lam'shirem' lethal, iras genise dea revas to syl.*"

She shut him out then, and forced herself to wake. Morning light was filtering in through the curtains, and Joshon was still clinging to her like a child. She placed a gentle kiss on her forehead and closed her eyes, not quite ready to be fully awake.

Isa thought of the cliff where the ashes of a hisband had been released into the wind upon the request of a dead woman. She figured it was as good a place as any to meet. If Solas truly wished to see her, then he would find her there.

Chapter Text

Isa stood at the edge of the cliff in the Emerald Graves, feeling the breeze, gazing out over the expansive forest below. Her advisors hadn't been happy about her sudden departure so soon after the battle, but once she mentioned Fen'Harel, they had agreed. No doubt Solas had discovered that she commanded the dragons. She wondered what he would say. Would he try to take the orb she stole? It wouldn't matter. He'd never find it. She had hidden it well away from where he could ever get it. Would he try to kill her? She didn't know how she'd deal with that. She'd cross that bridge when she came to it.

"So you are the thief." Right to the point then. Isa turned around to see Solas, in all of his glorious armor, gazing at her with a perfectly neutral expression. "Yes." Isa answered. There was no point in lying to him. Solas held his hands behind his back, as he always did in conversation. "You are no fool, you would not keep it in Tuastlas. You would have hidden it away." Isa remained silent, only nodding.

Solas held her gaze evenly. "You needn't worry, I will not threaten your home." Isa frowned in disbelief. "How do I know that?" Solas chuckled a bit, his neutral expression breaking. "In all my power, even I do not command dragons. I do not wish your people harm. I will find other ways, though it would be easiest if you told me where you had hidden the orb." Isa smiled sweetly. "Iras ju'venas'din ra.*" Solas sighed, approaching her. Isa rested her hand on the hilt of her sword.

"Vhenan," Solas showed that his hands were empty. "I did not come to fight. I only wished to see your face again. The orb is not as important as you." Isa scoffed, "right, because you can kill me and burn my world with or without it, right?" Solas frowned, approaching her slowly. "Isa, that's not what I meant." Isa turned her back to him.

"Vhenan," Solas's voice cracked. "Why did you say those things?" Isa hugged herself. "Because they're true, Solas. At least in slavery, there is hope of freedom. You wish to bring about nothing but death in the name of people who are long gone. It's madness, Solas." Solas put a hand on her shoulder, turning her back to face him. "No, not that. This isn't about Fen'Harel and the Lady. Why would you ask me if I ever really loved you? Why would you tell me you believed that you were nothing to me? That you are not loved? I am asking you as a man with a hurting heart, Isa." There were tears in his soft grey eyes, and for a moment, he was just Solas, as she had seen him all that time ago, when they were still in Haven, just learning to love.

Isa reached up, resting her hands on his face. This damn face, the face she couldn't forget, no matter how many times she tried to replace it with someone else's. Those eyes unlike any others. "Let me go," she begged quietly. "Damn you." Solas's gaze darkened, "I've told you before, vhenan, you will always be mine. You have always been free to walk away, and I have tried to push you, but you cannot stay away, and neither can I. Just as you are mine, I am yours. I do not want you to perish, Vhenan. I believe there is a way to keep you from doing so."

Isa stopped him there. "No. The only way to stop this is to stop everything, Solas. I have no wish of being in a world that isn't this one." Solas closed his eyes and leaned forward, resting his forehead against hers. "I cannot be selfish, Vhenan. The People need me." Isa wanted to throttle him. "I barely even know you anymore," she grumbled. "If I ever did in the first place. Who are you, Solas? You are a stranger." Solas kept his eyes closed. "You're cruel to me, Isenatha." "I'm cruel? You're plotting to kill me." Solas smiled a bit, which infuriated Isa. "No, vhenan. I do not think your death will be at my hands."

"Have you held another woman, Solas?" Isa asked, surprising herself. "Since everything happened, I mean." Solas opened his eyes wide, clearly startled. "What kind of question is that?" Isa gulped, her hands trembling against his skin. "Have you?" Solas wrapped his arms around her, "of course not. How could I? There is no beauty that could ever match yours. So long as I live, you are the object of my affections, Isa. Ar lath ma, telir ma.*"

The guilt came in a crushing wave. Perhaps it shouldn't have been as strong as it was. He had, after all, been plotting to burn her world and kill her in the process, and had abandoned her to her fate, but even when she had snatched his best chance of achieving his goals from under him, he had remained loyal to her, and what had she done? Her heart was still his, but she had been doing her best to replace him. Even now, while he was in front of her, she knew he would eventually walk away to leave her alone once again, and she would be desperate to fill the empty void he would leave behind.

Her hands fell from his face as tears rolled down her cheeks. "Isa?" His expression turned to worry as she stumbled away from him, her sobs catching in her throat. She couldn't bring herself to push him away when he pulled her to him. He clearly did not understand her pain. He rocked her gently and asked, "did you believe I would?" She laughed through her sobs, bordering hysterics. "The thought never occurred to me before now, Solas." Solas was silent for a long time.

She could feel the moment that he understood. She could feel the breath catch in his chest; she could feel his arms tighten around him, and the anger clenching in his gut. "Isenatha…" She had a choice to make. The valiant side of her told her to apologize. She knew that there was no excuse. Situation aside, they loved each other, and she shouldn't have sought distraction in the arms of another man. She had plenty of other things to do. She knew that her actions were not entirely unwarranted, since they were not technically together, but she also knew that she should apologize, at the very least. She had betrayed the man she loved in a manner far worse than his own betrayal. He had turned his back on her, but she had spat in his face. She knew that the right decision would be to apologize.

But she was just as selfish as he was; she was weak from the hell that he had put her through, and she was suffering because of him. She was angry, and in that instant, she made the wrong decision. "You turned your back on me, Solas. I was lost and alone. What did you expect me to do?" He let go of her, his hands moving to her shoulders to hold her out at arm's length, a storm gathering in his eyes. She hugged herself, arms around her abdomen, her chin lifted defiantly. "You left, with the intent of killing me in your insane plan. Was it really so wrong to seek solace in the arms of another? You betrayed me first!"

The silence that followed was deafening. Solas's withering glare made Isa feel very small, and she had to force herself to maintain eye contact. She could feel his fingers digging into her shoulders with barely contained rage. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he spoke. "Who was it?" His voice was calm. Isa wished he had yelled instead. She couldn't back down now. "That's none of your business."

"Isenatha," he snarled, shaking her slightly by her shoulders. "I will not ask again." She could feel the air crackling around them. Of course, on this side of the veil, Solas's command of the fade was much stronger than hers, not that she would dare fight him at the moment anyway. She wondered if he would even hesitate to crush her. "Why do you want to know?" She mentally cursed as her voice cracked.

The expression on his face was one that she had never seen from him: pure malice. It frightened her. "I am still your ghi'lan,* and you need to learn a lesson." Her knees felt weak. This was a brand of fear she had never experienced. "Who WAS it, Isenatha?" She flinched as one of his hands flew from her shoulder to her jaw, pulling her closer until she was inches away. "You've gone mad," she whispered.

Solas laughed bitterly, "I have done far worse in the name of love, da'len."

Of course. Solas's bond with Mythal had certainly been a strong one, and he had all but destroyed his civilization over her murder. It may not have been intentional, but Solas was no fool. He would have known his actions would have had some serious repercussions. He had burned men alive for the binding of his spirit friend in the Exalted Plains. He was short-tempered and impulsive when it came to those he cared for. What lengths would he go to for her? He tightened his grip on her, his head tilting slightly, his teeth bared. In that moment, he was hardly Solas. He was the Dread Wolf. "Tell me, or I will have to guess."

Isa closed her eyes and her mouth, refusing to look at him or speak at all. She hugged herself tightly, praying he would let go. She didn't know who she was praying to, since she didn't believe in any gods. As far as she knew, the most powerful beings around were herself and the man holding her hostage.

He let out an infuriated shout and tossed her away from him. She hit the ground, sliding to the edge of the cliff, her head hanging over. She gasped a few times, her eyes flying open. She scrambled away from the edge. She let out a yelp when Solas tangled a hand in her hair and pulled her head back, kneeling behind her and whispering in her ear, "what happens next is your fault. When you have learned your lesson, this is as good a place as any to meet again, vhenan." The last word was full of venom and malice. "You will know just how loved you are."

Then he was gone.

Chapter Text

Isa was paranoid for days, though she refused to talk to anyone about what had happened. Instead, she spend some time trying to think of what Solas might do. He had told her that she would learn her lesson and meet him again, so she didn't think she was in danger. No, she was concerned he would try to find her lover.

In a dream, she asked Nethon to keep an eye on Cyrel, though she doubted Solas was aware of anything having to do with him. Still, precautions needed to be put in place. She had no doubt that Solas had spies in Tuastlas, and that someone had seen Joshon carrying her after the celebrations, but he was perfectly safe in Tuastlas and was under her orders to stay there until she said otherwise, not that he had planned on leaving any time soon.

Rainier was who she was most concerned about. It was no secret that they were close even before Solas had left, though it was an innocent friendship. Isa did love Rainier, but not quite in the same way that he loved her. Still, she didn't think he was safe. She spoke with Vhera through the messenger crystal, since Rainier had claimed he was going to join the Inquisition, saying nothing expect that he might be in danger.

According to Vhera, Rainier had been gone for a few days.

He had gone out looking for a group of Fen'Harel's spies that Leliana had received a tip about. Isa's stomach churned when she heard the news. She paced her quarters, out of her mind with worry. She nearly jumped out of her skin when there was a knock on the doorframe.

"Isa," Iovoren looked deeply concerned. "I don't know what this is about, but we can go and look for him. I can take some warriors out. We know the general area he's looking in. It wouldn't take long to get there." He crossed the room and took her hand in his, squeezing it softly. Isa nodded, squeezing her friend's hand in return. "You've always been a good friend, Iovoren. Be safe." Iovoren grinned, "relax. I've been at this for ages, literally. I've got your back." Isa believed that he would be safe; Iovoren had been her partner since before the fall of Arlathan. There had never been anything between them. Solas wouldn't go after him.

With all her bases covered, Isa did her best to put the situation out of her mind. It was hard, certainly, especially with Zathdis quietly pestering her. Of course he wanted to know what had her all worked up. What could possibly scare the Lady of Tuastlas? Isa couldn't tell them. She wasn't ready to. She felt like she was losing her mind.

Isa finally relaxed when Ariassa was able to distract her. She came rushing to Isa, a delighted grin on her face. "I've done it! I've created a fade portal, no eluvian required! Let me show you!" Isa followed her to her workshop, a large underground room the ancient elves likely also used for magical experiments, or something to do with unfamiliar magic. They had found all sorts of strange instruments when they had first explored the place.

Two stone arches sat in the room, with goblets hung in the braziers. "So this is how it works," Ariassa began. "One of these arches will physically have to be moved to the place the portal needs to be, but that's how it was with the eluvians too. All it takes to open one of these is a drop of blood, I know, blood magic, ugh, but listen. Only the blood of someone who has lived in Tuastlas for a full phase cycle of the moon will open one of these, and it has to be fresh from the wound dripped right into the goblet. They're tied to the magic of this place." She pricked her finger, "all it takes is a drop," and held it over the goblet of one. The portal opened, filling the dim room with a green light. Ariassa stepped through and out of the other one. After a brief moment, the portals closed behind her.

"That's incredible! You've done it, Ariassa!" Isa grinned, quite pleased with her resident genius. "How do you pick which one to go through?" "Just think of your desired location. The Fade knows our minds, after all, so no words are necessary." Ariassa answered confidently. "May I try?" Isa asked, approaching the portal. Ariassa nodded, handing her the pin. Isa took it and pricked her finger, squeezing a drop of her blood into the goblet. The portal opened. Isa thought that she wanted to go through the other portal, and stepped through. She stepped out the other one in an instant with a grin on her face. "Ariassa, you're a genius."

"It'll take me about a month and a half to make another one, so making more will be a slow process, but this one can stay here, and the other one can go wherever you like. You can take it when you go to the Inquisitor's wedding!" Isa blinked, she had entirely forgotten! Vhera had invited her to her and Cullen's wedding in two weeks' time in Cullen's hometown near Redcliffe. Ariassa must have seen the look on her face. She laughed, "don't worry, I'm here to remind you of things like that. I know you've been stressed lately. Where would you like this to go?"

"Skyhold," Isa decided quickly. Though the Inquisition was no longer there, Skyhold was still an influential seat of power, occupied now by the new Seeker Order Cassandra had established. Ariassa nodded, "I can send an envoy with you, and they can drop you off at Redcliffe on the way back. I'm sure Zathdis wouldn't mind sparing a bird to send a message to Lord Seeker Pentaghast to let her know you're coming." Isa nodded, "please. Let's get that done as soon as possible. It will be a long trip."

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A long trip it was. It took a week to reach Skyhold. Even in the summer, the Frostbacks clung to their snowy cloaks. Isa rode at the head of her small envoy, a wave of nostalgia washing over her as she rode through Skyhold's gates. The seekers, or what was left of them, welcomed them.

Cassandra burst from the main hall as soon as news reached her of Isa's arrival. "Isa? What on earth are you doing here?" Isa dismounted from Feynthorn's back and embraced her old friend. "Good to see you, Cassandra. I see you've been busy." Cassandra greeted her warmly, "as have you. Congratulations on your victory over Orlais, though if anyone asks, I didn't say that." Isa laughed a bit.

Pleasantries were exchanged for a good while. Isa and Cassandra had never been particularly close, but they were still decent friends, and it was good to see someone from the old days again. Finally, they got around to the subject of what Isa had brought in the caravan. Isa explained what the portal was and how it worked. "With your permission, I'd like to leave it here. Skyhold is a place of safety, and a link to parts of the world that are hard to access from Tuastlas. It would not be used often, and unless in the case of emergency, you would, of course, be notified first. It is mostly a precautionary measure." Cassandra nodded slowly, taking in the information. "Very well, I trust you, though if it causes trouble, I will destroy it." Isa laughed, "if it somehow causes trouble, you are welcome to. I will put it where Morrigan kept her eluvian."

They stayed there for a night, then headed out. Isa sent her envoy home and headed to a little village near Redcliffe called Honnleath, where Cullen had been born. Cassandra travelled with her, also going to the wedding.

"Isa!" Vhera rushed to her when she emerged from the woods. Isa jumped off of Feynthorn and ran to her best friend, spinning her around in an embrace. "Vhera! It's good to see you!" Vhera kissed her cheek in welcome. "Come on, you've got to meet Cullen's family. You know, Iwas starting to worry. The wedding is the day after tomorrow. You're late!" Isa snorted, "need someone to help you fret?" "Duh!"

The next day was blissful. Isa spent it running around with Vhera, preparing for the smalltown wedding. Vhera, to Isa's surprise, had converted and become Andrastian. Of course, her views were slightly different, given what she knew, but she had come to believe that the Maker had created the Evanuris. She wanted to share her husband's religion, even if she had her own viewpoint of it.

Isa was happy for her. It certainly seemed to bring her peace, and after everything, Isa believed she deserved that.

Vhera's dress was beautiful. It was simple, a white flowing gown of silk that hung loosely from her shoulders, long sleeve so she could tie one sleeve around her missing arm. Cullen dressed in his full dress armor, of course. The wedding was outdoors, performed by the local revered mother. The little town was full to bursting with many old friends. Varric had even managed to pull himself from Kirkwall, and though Dorian had been unable to come, Iron Bull held Vhera's messenger crystal so he could hear the ceremony.

And much to Isa's relief, Rainier was there.

Isa had never seen Vhera so happy. It brought tears to her eyes. Cullen couldn't stop staring at his beautiful bride. There wasn't a single dry eye at the ceremony, and the party after was filled with delight. Vhera danced with Cullen for hours, breaking from him only upon the insistence of her friends demanding the attention of the bride and groom for a short time. Isa was content to watch, a warm smile on her face. She even danced with a few of her close friends, laughing in delight when she was pulled from a dance with Rainier and hoisted up onto Iron Bull's shoulders next to Vhera. For a while, all was right with the world. Love is a beautiful thing.

Chapter Text

The afternoon sun was warm on her back as Isa rode through the Frostbacks. Rainier was riding beside her, and a few of his men with them. They were headed in the same direction for now, and had decided to travel together. It was good to spend time with an old friend, especially when she had been so worried about him.

"I hear you gave the Empress a real walloping," Rainier commented, swaying with the steps of his horse. Isa laughed, "her general, anyway. It was a tough battle, to be certain, but yes, we were victorious." Rainier gave her a look of pride. "You've certainly grown since we first met. I'm proud of you." Isa smiled warmly. "You have too, Thom. But thank you. It means a lot, coming from you."

Rainier got a mischievous glint in his eye. "We've been riding all day. How about a little sparring? It's been ages." Isa grinned and hopped right off of Feynthorn, pulling her shield from her chest. "Let's see that spring in your step, old man." "Don't underestimate experience, little girl." Rainier hopped down. "Put that shield away, one day you'll find yourself without one. Can you handle yourself in a fist fight?" Isa stuck her tongue out and pulled her armor off entirely, ready to tousle in her tunic and breeches. She tightened her belt a notch around her waist after removing her sword from it.

Rainier's soldiers dismounted to watch the fight, taking bets among themselves. Isa could feel the excitement coursing through her, just like it had all that time ago when she had first stepped into a sparring ring with him. Rainier took off his tunic, choosing to fight shirtless. Who could blame him? His tunic was always more of a coat, and it was a hot day. Isa would have done the same, had she been a man.

Isa put her fists up, taking a few deep breaths to calm her nerves. She was pretty sure he was going to absolutely lay her out. She had very little experience fist fighting. She could see his confident smirk behind his mustache. "Ladies first," he rumbled, not even bothering to take a stance.

Isa started with a kick. She likely couldn't do much with a punch without hitting him in the face, but she knew she was strong enough to kick his legs out from under him, so she did. She feigned like she was going to go for his face, and when he put his hands up, she dropped and took his legs out. He hit the ground hard, and she was on him, one foot on the ground, her other knee planted on his chest, striking the furry arms covering his face.

The bastard rolled, one arm wrapping around the leg on his chest, locking her there, the other knocking her fists aside and reaching up to grab her shoulder, bringing her down as he rolled on his side. He quickly broke her hold, pushing her face down and pinning her arm behind her back, her legs pinned beneath him. "Good effort, but I'm a lot bigger than you. You can get me down, but you'll have to try harder than that to keep me there."

"You bastard," Isa grumbled, giving him a playful side-glare. "I just didn't want to hurt you." He pulled her to her feet. Her ears burned as she heard his men laughing. Rainier frowned, "alright, you, Sunderland, your turn. You want to laugh, you take her on." Isa had to hide her smile. Rainier was one thing, but a common soldier? She would take this one down easily.

That's exactly what she did. As soon as the bout started, she put all of her force into a kick to the man's chest, knocking the breath out of him. As he stumbled, she tackled him, forcing him to the ground and into an arm bar. She learned quickly.

They took turns sparring for a few hours, until hunger demanded that they make camp for the evening. There was a river nearby, and while the men cooked supper, Isa went for a dip to wash the sweat and dust off. The water was chilly, sourced by snowmelt from the mountains, but it was rather refreshing once she got used to it. She sank in to her shoulders, dunking her head under to get her hair wet. She had gone around the bend, hanging her clothes on a tree limb, and found a spot behind a grove of trees a good ways upstream, so she had no worries about the soldiers seeing her. She leaned her head back and let the stream flow through her hair, the setting sun dancing along the water, making her glow.

"You'll catch a cold that way."

Isa squeaked, bringing her arms to her chest and whipping her head around. Rainier knelt on the bank, washing his face in the water. "Don't worry, I'm not staring." Isa relaxed. "You startled me, you ass." Rainier chuckled softly, "my apologies. You have a history with cold water, I just wanted to check on you." Isa scowled, "I'm not a child." Rainier was smiling. "I know. I'm going to shut up now, before I say another stupid thing."

"Too late." Isa brought her arm out and skimmed it along the surface of the water, sending a frigid wave in his direction. "Hey!" He grumbled as he was soaked, his clothes clinging to his skin. Goosebumps were visible through the rough fabric of his trousers. He removed his coat, frowning as he wrung it out. Isa giggled into her hands, stepping back, retreating further into the river.

"Oh no," he pulled off his boots, "you're not going anywhere, little girl. You've gotten my favourite tunic wet." "It needed a wash anyway!" Isa retreated faster, swimming backwards, shrieking as Rainier dove into the water. She turned to swim away, but he grabbed her ankle and yanked her under. She held her breath, resisting the urge to shout under the water as he pushed her down into the cold current. He pulled her up, ensuring that her shoulders never came above the water. The reflection of the sunlight off the river lit up his face. "What have we learned?" He asked, raising an eyebrow, unable to keep the smile off his face.

"That you are indeed capable of bathing!" Isa grinned, taking a deep breath and closing her eyes as she was pushed under again. She wriggled out of his grasp, swimming between his legs and pulling them from under him. She swam for the shore, going for his coat. "Oh no you don't!" He sputtered and caught hold of her leg, pulling her back. "It's seen enough abuse at your hands, you witch!" He pushed her under again.

"You're so mean!" Isa whined as she resurfaced, wiping the water from her eyes. "I'm the mean one?" Rainier crossed his arms. "You're the one who-" he blushed suddenly, turning his gaze away. "Oh, never mind, you little devil." Isa pursed her lips, "what is it, old man? All tuckered out from playing in the water? Too much for the old bones?" Rainier laughed, his hand coming up to pull water from his beard. "You sound like Sera. No, I'm not tired. I just-" Isa splashed him again, getting water in his mouth. "You brat!"

Isa laughed, pleading with him as he pushed her under again, trying to wriggle from his grasp. She splashed him again. He wrapped her in a bear hug, pinning her arms to her sides, lifting her out of the water to her waist. She stuck out her tongue. "Ser Rainier, lifting a naked woman out of the water is hardly proper behavior."

"Like you've been behaving properly, Isa. Besides, I'm doing it in self-defense. You're trying to drown me."

"I'm trying to drown you? You keep pushing me under!"

"I don't know what you're talking about, my lady."

"Oh don't you 'my lady' me, Thom." Isa was doing her best not to laugh. She could tell that Rainier was doing the same. She could feel the slight shake in his chest as he stifled the laughs rising in his throat. She stared him down, making faces at him, trying to get him to laugh first. He rolled his eyes and dropped his hands to her hips, closing his eyes as he tossed her into the water.

She came up laughing helplessly. "You cruel beast of a man! Tossing a helpless woman about as if I were a doll!" Rainier smoothed his wet hair out of his face, letting his laughter escape. "You are anything but helpless." Isa's heart felt lighter than air. She couldn't help it. She grinned, winding her arm back. Rainier saw what she was doing, "don't you dare. Isenatha, I will-" She splashed him again, over and over, bombarding him with watery fury, laughing like a madwoman. He put his arms up and charged through it, putting his hands squarely on her shoulders and pushing her under. Under the water, she grabbed his trousers and yanked them down, darting away like a fish when he let her go to pull them back up.

"Isa!" He bellowed, his face bright red. She laughed until her sides ached. "You should see your face! Aww, Thom, I'm sorry." She could see he was doing his best to look angry, but was failing miserably. "Damn it, woman, you are such a pain." He stuck his tongue out at her. She had never seen him so playful. She loved it. "No, that's just the ache in your old bones!"

She shrieked as he splashed her. "I'll show you old bones," he growled and picked her up, tossing her into the river once more. She came up sputtering, giggling helplessly when she caught her breath enough to smooth the hair back from her face. The sun had set, and the purples of the evening chilled the water even more. Isa started to shiver.

"You'll catch your death," Rainier headed for the shore. Isa followed him, but she wasn't quite done playing yet. Rainier made the mistake of heading for his boots, turning his back so she could exit the water. Isa went for his coat, giggling impishly as she ran into the water with it wrapped around her shoulders. "DAMN IT" Rainier bellowed, grinning despite himself. "That's it, where are yours?" "No!" Isa tried to get back to shore, but he spotted them hanging on a nearby branch, and with his heavy coat weighing her down, he got a hold of them long before she could stop him. He jogged to the water and dunked them in. Isa let out a whine, "you're so mean, Thom!" "Oh, so when you do it it's fine, but when I do it, I'm so terrible?" "The worst!"

He hung them back on the branch, not even bothering to wring them out. "Bring me my coat, Isa." "No." Isa hugged it to her, standing firmly in the middle of the river. Rainier raised an eyebrow. "You'll get cold before I do, little elf." Isa stuck her tongue out at him, inching towards the shore. She was cold, freezing in fact, but she didn't want to lose.

Rainier's gaze softened. "Come here, I'll warm you up." Isa was suspicious, creeping towards him with ridiculously exaggerated suspicious movements. He chuckled, shaking his head, and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close to his chest. Even through the soaked coat, he was very warm. She closed her eyes and rested her cheek against his fuzzy chest, content to listen to his heart beat.

"Solas never deserved you," his voice rumbled softly in his chest. Isa scowled, "why are you bringing him up?" "I'm sorry, I know it's painful for you. I just…" he let out a soft sigh, squeezing her gently. "If you ever…" He seemed to be searching for the words. Isa loathed herself in that moment. She wanted to use him, just as she used Cyrel, to fill the void that Solas left, to feel like she wasn't quite so alone. She didn't want to hurt him, but by the way his voice was catching in his throat, it sounded like he was going to hurt either way.

"Thom." She looked up at him, briefly admiring the way the evening shadows danced across his face. He gulped, looking down at her. She reached up and rested her hand on his cheek. "I don't want you to hurt because of me." She spoke softly, trying to keep the tremor out of his voice. Even in the face of Solas's threats, she was as selfish as ever, but who was Solas to tell her how to live her life?

"You know I have no room for a full relationship. Tuastlas demands that I-" "I know," Rainier put his hand over hers, leaning into her touch. "I just thought it was high time that I told you. I love you. I have for a long time. I know it will never be a stable, permanent thing, and I'd never push you to do something you don't want to, but I want nothing more than your happiness, and if I can give you that in any way, all you have to do is say so."

She kissed him. His beard tickled her face, but she liked it. She lifted her arms to drape them over his broad shoulders, letting his coat fall from her body. He pulled her closer to him, his hands shy as they wandered over her. She was not so shy. She was pushy, demanding, ordering him around by her very nature, and it was only convenient that Rainier greatly enjoyed her dominance. She tore at his clothes and drank in the guilty pleasure he offered her so willingly, intoxicated by the way he revered her in the moonlight.

Like the Evanuris before her, she was a demanding and hungry goddess, and she would take whatever she desired, willingly given by those who worshiped the ground she walked on.

Chapter Text

They say love is blind, but Isa didn't think that was the case. She liked to think that love tended to turn a blind eye instead, and that the lover just didn't wish to see the truth until it was thrust in their face, undeniable. Even then, closing one's eyes completely was always an option. She dwelled on this thought as she popped the last piece of cheese in her mouth, finishing her breakfast. She had parted from Rainier's company a few days before, since he was heading north through the Frostbacks, and she was heading southwest. She had left the mountains and was in the forested foothills, on the very outskirts of Ferelden.

Feynthorn approached her, snorting impatiently. "I know," she smiled, standing and stretching her back. "It's time we get moving." She climbed onto his back and let him make his way through the forest.

A thick mist had settled over the woods. It was still early morning, so the sun wouldn't melt it away for several hours. It was eerily quiet, and Feynthorn seemed uneasy. He suddenly veered off the path, his ears pinned back, prancing as if he were threatening to charge. Isa hugged his neck to stay on his back as he jumped down an embankment and galloped through thick forest, crashing through the underbrush. "Feynthorn! What's wrong?" Isa tried to talk to him, but he was completely unresponsive.

He halted rather suddenly, raising his head and snorting, letting out a nervous call. His body trembled beneath Isa. "Easy boy, what is it?" She rubbed his neck, sitting up, then froze as she saw what he was staring at.

An elf hung by his wrists, swinging from ropes tied to two trees on either side of him. He had been crucified. A black wolf's skin peppered with grey was draped over him, the head hiding his face, his pointed ears peering out from behind the teeth around his face. He had been stripped of any clothing except his bloody breeches, soaked from the slashes to the inside of his thighs, with a wolf head with three rows of eyes, the symbol of Fen'Harel, carved in the flesh of his chest, still oozing blood. Around his neck, a fresh tongue was hung from a string. Blood dripped from the body, pooling beneath his feet.

In a state of sickened shock, Isa dismounted. She approached slowly, her stomach churning. She couldn't hear anything over Feynthorn's nervous prancing, but she could see the slight flutter of the man's chest. He was still alive.

She drew her sword, cutting the ropes free and catching him as he fell. She lowered him to the ground slowly, cradling his head in the crook of her elbow. She pulled the wolf pelt from his face. "No…" she whispered, her gut clenching. "Iovoren?"

Iovoren's eyes fluttered open and blood poured from his mouth. She sat him up quickly, leaning him forward so he wouldn't choke on it, but he shook his head, putting a bloody hand on hers. The tongue around his neck was his own. He did not speak.

He laid his head on her shoulder and she held him, rocking him gently. "Lethalin,*" Isa murmured. "What has he done to you?" He slumped against her, his hand weakly holding hers. She didn't bother to tell him that he would be okay. They both knew better. So she sang to him. She sang him a lullaby.

'Elgara vallas, da'len

Melava somniar

Mala tara aravas

Ara ma'desen melar.

Iras ma ghilas, da'len

Ara ma'nedan ashir

Dirthara lothlenan'as

Bal emma mala dir.

Tel'enfenim, da'len

Irassal ma ghilas

Ma garas mir renan

Ara ma'athlan vhenas

Ara ma'athlan vhenas*'

He was gone by the time she finished. She leaned her head back, choking on the cries rising in her throat, but she did not let them out. How could she have been so foolish? Solas didn't have to find out who her lover was to punish her. All he had to do was know whom she loved. He must still have been nearby; Iovoren would not have survived such wounds for very long. Isa would not give him the satisfaction of seeing her grief. She lifted Iovoren's body and wrapped it in one of her blankets from Feynthorn's back. She mounted her hart with Iovoren held to her chest firmly and rode off without a sound.
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Isa rode into Tuastlas with a grim look on her face, telling the sentries that she had brought their brother home for burial. Word quickly spread, and elves lined the streets to watch her go by.

She left the body to be prepared for the funeral and went to help dig the grave, deeper into the forest, away from the city, next to the warriors that had fallen in the battle with Orlais. Her partner of a thousand ages had been ripped from her before she could even truly remember the extent of their bond, but she felt all the pain of losing it. Solas would pay for what he had done, but that would wait.

Now, it was time to bury the remains of a thousand lifetimes of unquestionable loyalty, and unconditional love.

Chapter Text

A week had passed since Iovoren's burial. Isa had been distant, still fulfilling her duties, but during her free time, she kept to her study, sketching something over and over, and asking Zathdis to retrieve an amulet of concealment for her. It wasn't something that was hard to come by, just an enchanted amulet used to hide the scars markings on the wearer's skin, but it did raise some concern.

One night, Isa was working late into the night, honing in on one particular variation of her sketch, when Joshon knocked. She looked up, "good evening, General. What can I do for you?" "My Lady, it's late. Will you retire for the evening?" He was concerned for her. Isa stood, letting a smile cross her features. "Joshon." She approached him, putting her hand on his shoulder. "I understand, but you shouldn't worry so much. I'm not mad with grief. I'm just focused. I'm sorry to cause you such concern."

He clearly had not expected such a cooperative answer. She laughed softly at his surprised expression and hugged him. "You are too sweet. I'll be fine." He hugged her back. His movements were still awkward, but he was learning to relax. "How are you holding up?" She asked him. He shrugged, walking with her down the hallway. "We weren't particularly close, but he was a good man. I miss him, as does everyone." He leaned his head back, letting out a heavy sigh. "Tuastlas mourns his loss greatly. He was loved by the people greatly. He was an excellent stand-in while you were gone. There was even hope among the People that you two might…" He stopped, shaking his head. "Forgive me, My Lady. That sort of comment is inappropriate at this time."

Isa stopped, confused. "What were you going to say?" She could hear her heart pounding in her ears. Joshon clasped his hands together, putting his fingers to his lips. "You didn't know? You may refuse the title, but the People view you as their Queen. If your bloodline were to continue, you would need a King. Iovoren was adored by the People, and he was an ever-faithful guard to you. Though we of the inner circle know it was a bond of friendship and loyalty, any who did not know you personally would be free to draw their own conclusions. The idea that you two were closer than you let on was a pleasant notion to many." He looked away. "I apologize again, My Lady, I thought you would have heard the rumors. I suppose no one would have told you directly, but…"

It all made sense. Isa had thought that Solas had chosen Iovoren just to punish her, since their bond of friendship was older than any other she had, but perhaps that hadn't been the case. She did, after all, have a known operative of Solas's inner circle in Tuastlas, though he was just among the townsfolk. If he had heard these rumors, perhaps he had truly thought that there was something more between the two of them.

"Thank you for telling me, Joshon. Perhaps I should listen to the People more. Do they truly wish for a Queen so badly? I would have thought they were tired of rulers." Joshon crossed his arms. "Why don't you ask them? You have your representatives for a reason. Find out how they'd feel about an official declaration. They did, after all, give you a battle crown. Perhaps they'd want to put you on a throne as well." Isa looked down at her feet. "And what do you think?"

Joshon crossed his arms, his answer confident. "Tuastlas is officially a sovereign nation. It should have a formal ruler. If something were to happen to you, there'd be chaos. If you were named Queen, Empress, whatever they decide to call you, then there would at least be the beginnings of order. If something happened, the Council would probably choose an heir if you hadn't named one." Isa nodded slowly. "Thank you, Joshon. Call a meeting with the Council in the morning. We have much to consider."

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Isa stood around the table with her Council, the rays of the morning sun illuminating the room. "Good morning everyone, thank you for joining me today. It has been brought to my attention that the People of Tuastlas may desire a formal rule, as opposed to what we have now. I'd like to conduct a sort of formal poll to determine exactly what the views of the people are, but first, I would like to know what your opinions on this matter are."

Joshon spoke first. "You have already heard my opinion, My Lady, but I will repeat it for the Council. As a recognized sovereign nation, Tuastlas needs a formal ruler. Otherwise, relations with other nations will be hopeless. We may be self-sufficient now, but we will need to establish trade and more alliances, especially once Fen'Harel's threat has been dealt with. I believe establishing a royal bloodline would be the best option."

Keeper Athador, representative of the Dalish, spoke next. "I agree with the need for a formal rule, but I'm not sure if a royal family is the answer. Perhaps instead of a sole bloodline, we establish a system similar to the dwarves of Orzammar. They have an assembly, much like we have our Council, that votes on a new monarch when the old one dies. The monarch's children are in the running, but if they aren't the best option, they can be replaced with someone more qualified." Isa nodded thoughtfully, liking the idea.

Ariassa chimed in, "I would agree with that system, unless our Lady's abilities were capable of being passed down through her bloodline. Of course, we wouldn't know that until she bore a child, but if that were the case, then a bloodline rule would be for the best. Until we know for sure, I think the Lady should simply name an heir that we can all agree on. Only if we decide to establish a formal rule, of course."

There were murmurs of agreement at her words. Hahren Mihnna, representative for the city elves, stated, "for now, we should find out the general consensus of the people on whether or not they'd like to name the Lady as a formal ruler. I will ask the elders. Keeper, if you would ask among the Dalish, I believe we will cover most of our ground. General, Spymaster, I'm sure you two can reach any that are not currently in Tuastlas."

The Council was dismissed. Isa called out to Keeper Athador, "Keeper, a moment if you please?" He stayed behind as the chamber emptied. "My Lady?" She took a slow breath. "I have a favour to ask, and I'd also ask for secrecy about the matter." The elderly Keeper clearly expressed his concern, but nodded. "What do you need?"

"I need you to put vallaslin on my face."

He was clearly startled. "My Lady? Are you feeling well?" Isa nodded, "allow me to explain." She pulled a folded piece of paper from her pocket. "I have a plan that might at least slow Fen'Harel down for a while, if not change his mind." She unfolded it, revealing a new design. A face was drawn. The eyelids were black, and two more black eye shapes were beneath each one. Fangs came up from the chin and down from the forehead.

The Keeper leaned on the table, taking the paper and staring at it in disbelief. "You have designed a vallaslin for Fen'Harel? My Lady, I…" The pieces clicked together in his head. "The amulet, that is why you needed it. The People will never see this, will they?" "No." She sat down in one of the chairs that they rarely used. "I haven't been entirely honest with you, Keeper, and for you to understand that this may work, I need to be."

"Speak your mind, Da'len. Your words are safe here."

Isa smiled a bit, then set her face in stone. "Fen'Harel, known as Solas to me, was once my lover. He took my vallaslin from my face, telling me the truth of what it was. I will allow him to remove this one, only if he ceases with his plan to tear down the veil. It may not work, but it will at least buy us time, that I am sure of."

The Keeper took a moment of silence to absorb her words. "Is that why he slaughtered Iovoren? Jealousy?" "Jealousy, revenge, whatever you'd like to call it, but yes. It was not a blow meant for Tuastlas, though the People certainly felt it. It was meant for me." Isa clenched her hands together. The Keeper put a hand on her shoulder. "Thank you for your honesty, My Lady. I will do as you ask, and it will be known only to me. I am sorry. You do not deserve the pain he has brought to you." Isa put her hand over his, drawing comfort from him. "Thank you, Keeper. Do not worry for me. I am not innocent in this battle. I only wish that Iovoren had not been caught in the crossfire."

Chapter Text

The time had come to face the Dread Wolf once more. Isa stood at that same cliff, her sword in her hand. It was still early. As the sun rose, she was ready for a bit of change. The last link she had to her past was gone. Iovoren was a month dead. She needed to move on.

She took her hair from its ponytail, casting the ribbon into the wind. She brought her sword up to her copper locks, taking a deep breath, and cut them off. She cut it short, so that it tickled her ears and hung loosely on her forehead. After all, no one bothered to use a man’s hair against him. Gazing into a puddle, it didn’t look half bad. Maybe a little messy, but it would settle. It was just hair.

She let the hair fly off the cliff, the same way the ashes had all those years ago. She sheathed her sword, smiling to herself when she heard Solas’s voice. “Your hair was always so lovely. A shame to see it go, but I will say I do like it that way. It gives you a sense of lethality. Such drastic change can be a sign of many things. In your case, I hope it is repentance.” Isa felt jittery, almost excited. She had the amulet around her neck, so her face appeared blank. She gazed out over the forest below, feeling prepared for the moments ahead.

“I will repent of nothing, Dread Wolf. You are the one who has slaughtered an innocent man.” She turned to face him, hot blue eyes ablaze. “I never would have suspected you to be so easily swayed by mere rumors. You should know better, Solas.” Solas kept his expression carefully neutral, but she could see the doubt in his eyes. “You think I was wrong?” Isa laughed bitterly, “I know you were wrong, since it was my affair. Iovoren was a close friend, my oldest friend, but he was nothing more.” She walked closer to him. “But you took him from me anyway, torturing him and letting him die in my arms, all based on the wistful gossip of hopeful townspeople. Every time I see you, you hit a new low.” Solas’s neutral expression broke into a scowl. “I will apologize for the death of an innocent, but not for the pain it caused you. Whether it was him or not, I trust you will have learned your lesson.” Isa grinned wickedly, practically trembling with barely contained excitement. “Oh yes, Fen’Harel, you made your point quite clear.” She reached for the amulet, her fingers wrapping around it. “Like you said, I am yours, right? I will always come back.” She pulled it over her head, tossing it aside with her travel pack. As it left her fingers, its charm on her left, and the vallaslin on her face emerged. The three-eyed wolf of Fen’Harel was branded on her skin.

Solas was overcome with horror. He took a step back from her, his mouth open slightly, his eyes full of despair. “No.” He whispered, processing the sight before him. His horror quickly turned to rage. “Isenatha, what have you done?”

Isa pursed her lips, putting her hands on her hips. “What do you mean? I learned my lesson. This is what you wanted, isn’t it? I just wanted to show you how right you were.”

“You know very well this isn’t what I meant!”

“Is it not? Shame. It’s too late now.”

Solas growled and took hold of her arm, pulling her to him. “Let me take it off of you.” She smiled sweetly. “Why should I?” Solas let her go, seeming to suddenly remember his manners. “Isa, please.” “Isa, please!” She mocked him. “No, Solas. You will accept the consequences of your actions!” He closed his eyes, turning his head away.

She saw her chance. She reached out, putting her hand on his cheek and softened her voice. “You will accept the consequences, but it doesn’t have to be this.” He leaned his face into her hand, glaring at her through angry tears. She went over to her pack, picking up the amulet and putting it back on, hiding the vallaslin once more. She turned back to him, wrapping her arms around his waist and laying her head on his shoulder. He stiffened. “Isa?” “I’ll let you take it off, Solas, but you must promise me one thing. You have to stop.”
Solas put his arms around her, resting his cheek on her hair. “Alright Vhenan.” Her heart soared. He squeezed her gently. “You win.” She pulled back, looking up at him, “how do I know you’re telling the truth?” He smiled warmly at her. “I will prove it to you. The arm of the Inquisitor is the last thing I have capable of bringing down the veil, and I lack the power to activate it fully. Meet me at Adamant Fortress, and watch me toss it into the abyss.”

Isa kissed him, tears streaming down her face. She couldn’t believe it had worked. He kissed her deeply. There was a desperation to it, and the way he clung to her was the same as it had been when he had first taken her vallaslin.

“I must return to retrieve it, and prepare. I will meet you there in a month? In the meantime, I hear you have a regency to accept.” Solas ran his thumb over her cheek. Isa kissed his palm. “Maybe. We’ll see what the People have to say. Oh, Solas, you’ll love them. Tuastlas is so wonderful. I do hope you’ll visit, once this is all over.” Solas glanced to the side. “I should like to see it, yes, though I doubt I will be welcome.”

“Nonsense! Give things a while to settle, and I will welcome you with open arms. Vhenan, this changes everything. Thank you!” Isa held him tightly, feeling much like a child again. Solas held her close, running his fingers through her freshly cropped hair. “Ar lath ma, Vhenan. We should get going. The sooner we get this over with, the better it will be for everyone.”

Isa kissed him once more before she let him go. Her spirits were high as she headed home. After this, everything was going to change.

_______________________________________________________

Cyrel knocked on the door to Fen’Harel’s study, pushing the door open. “Boss? You in?” “Enter.” Cyrel let himself in, shuffling through some notes. “So I got that info you asked for, and I-“ he stopped, looking up to see Solas sitting at his desk with his head in his hands. There was an empty bottle of whiskey beside him, and he was in a tattered tunic instead of his armor and fur, which was very unusual for the middle of the day. “Solas?”

Solas looked up, and it was clear he had been wallowing in sorrow for some time. “I apologize, my friend, I…” He looked away. “Please ignore my appearance. Tell me what you’ve found.” Cyrel cleared his throat. “Well, while you were gone, Tuastlas did their poll. Upon the Lady’s return, she will be named Barast’ama, High Protector. That’s the title the Council decided upon. The People liked it more than Queen, which reminded them too much of humans. Something about a servant to the people rather than ruling over them.” Cyrel thought it was very fitting for Isa, but he kept his expression neutral. “After she is crowned, she’ll name an heir, should anything happen to her.”

Solas stood, wandering over to the window. Cyrel watched him quietly, then peered at the desk. There was a sketch of the Inquisitor’s hand, which Solas kept under lock and key, and some writing around it in elvish. Cyrel couldn’t read much, but with what Isa had been teaching him, he could read a few words. ‘Open, Evanuris, Commander, trap.’ Off to the side, on another slip of paper, written over again and scratched out, was some more writing. Cyrel could make out ‘love, apology, guilt, trick.’ Cyrel looked up quickly as Solas turned back around.

“Thank you, Cyrel. That is good news. I’m sure Tuastlas will prosper with a proper regency.” Cyrel swallowed, shifting on his feet. “May I ask what’s troubling you?” Solas smiled a bit. “Your concern touches me, old friend. I must do something I wish I didn’t have to. Don’t worry about it. It won’t affect any of the People. It is personal.” Cyrel nodded, smiling. “Let me know if I can help. You know I have a link to the good stuff, if you get tired of that pisswater.” Solas nodded, waving him off. “Thank you, Cyrel. Please inform the others I am not to be disturbed. I have planning to do.”

Chapter Text

A ray of sun filtered through the trees as Isa knelt in front of the Vhenadal* tree the elves had planted where the city met the temple, a place that had become a symbol that this was their home. Now, it had become the place of Isenatha's coronation, where the People could gather and watch her accept the role of Barast'ama. Isa wore polished gold armor, merely symbolic, and a white cloak with the antlered dragon of Tuastlas embroidered in red on it. On either side of her, holding a majestic crown of woven gold and bloodstone, was Keeper Athador and Hahren Mihnna. Since they honoured no gods, the ceremony was focused on honouring the people of Tuastlas.

"Rise, Isenatha Lavellan, Barast'ama of Tuastlas." Isa stood, the crown placed on her head as she did, and turned to face her people. They erupted in cheers, and Isa couldn't help but to smile. It seemed that everything was going right for once.

After the celebrations, Isa was tasked with naming a successor, should anything happen to her before she could have a child. She agonized over this for days. She had initially considered Joshon, but when she had gone to ask him, he had outright refused, declaring that while he was a good General, he was no king. Isa was frustrated. She was torn between Keeper Athador and Hahren Mihnna, since they were leaders in the community. However, if she picked one, she would look like she was favouring their group over the other. Besides, they were firmly set in their role as representatives.

The rest of her advisors didn't have enough rapport with the People. Isa found herself walking through the city one late afternoon, dressed in plainclothes, just observing the people going about their daily lives. Children ran through the streets, their hurts no more than skinned knees and bruised elbows; they would never be subjected to the hunger and abuse their parents suffered. A parent. Isa needed someone who would carry on teaching the people of Tuastlas, raising them to their full potential, someone who could learn everything she knew. Isa needed someone willing to take on the Well of Sorrows, should she die. She needed someone with a gentle, yet firm guiding hand. Someone who could keep the beasts under control, should she pass, but could manage with the People as well.

She found herself wandering towards Nawyn, the caretaker of beasts and a member of her Council. Nawyn was a warm, welcoming woman, but she could be firm when she needed to. Perhaps she wasn't perfect to lead people, but she would have the Council to help her. She knocked on Nawyn's door, firmly set in her decision.
_____________________________________________________________________

"Then the Council is in agreement," Keeper Athador stated. "Nawyn, you are named heir should the Lady pass before bearing children." Nawyn had gracefully accepted the position, though she was clearly nervous about the responsibility, but Isa had told her not to worry. She didn't plan on dying just yet. She felt hopeful for the future.

Isa dismissed the Council, heading for the door. Zathdis asked for a moment of your time. "You said you were sure that Fen'Harel would stop with his plan to tear down the veil, but what assurance do you have? I'm afraid I fail to understand, My Lady." Isa nodded, "of course, let me explain. I have backed him into a corner. I'm going to watch him throw the last hope he has of doing it into the abyssal rift at Adamant. I ride out in the morning."

Joshon joined the conversation. "You are going alone? Is that wise?" Isa nodded, "I know it may seem dangerous, but trust me on this one. It would be best if I went alone." The General frowned, crossing his arms. Zathdis objected as well. "I'm afraid I have to agree with the General on this one. If you wish to appear alone, we should at least send some scouts with you. This is Fen'harel we're talking about. What if you're walking into a trap?"

Isa sighed softly. "I must ask you to trust me on this one. Please." They were clearly not happy, but they let the matter drop. Isa smiled warmly. "Thank you. If you'll excuse me, I must prepare. I'm not going in blind."

She continued off down the hall, to her chambers, where she packed her bags for travel. She was nervous, but a good sort of nervous. She was excited to see it all end, and she was hopeful to have Solas back. She wanted to reconcile with him. She did love him, after all, despite everything, and if there was a chance, she would take it. She had to.
_______________________________________________________________________

It was the early hours of the morning when the world slept, but Cyrel was restless. He knew it would be better if he didn't know, but he had to. Isa filled his thoughts, overwhelming his loyalty to Fen'Harel. Besides, hadn't he more than paid off his debt by now?

He crept up to the Dread Wolf's study, hoping he wouldn't still be in. With deft hands, he picked the lock, lifting on the handle so the hinges wouldn't creak. The room was dark, and much to Cyrel's relief, empty. He silently closed the door behind him, moving to the desk where he had seen the notes. He had to know.

One of the locked drawers glowed with the hand of the Inquisitor inside. Weird, but not what he was looking for. He lit a candle, scowling at the clear tabletop. He slid one of the drawers open, rifling through the papers, then another, until he found what he was looking for. The papers that had been on the desk earlier were shoved in the back of a drawer. Cyrel pulled them out, wincing when they made the slightest noise.

He laid them flat on the desk, looking over them. "Commander," he whispered to himself. "Could that mean Isa? Is he planning something?" It couldn't be; as far as Cyrel knew, Solas didn't suspect Tuastlas of actively working against him. Perhaps he had discovered something? Perhaps he was going to use her as a hostage against the Inquisition? Cyrel got a chill at the thought. He hoped not.

He struggled with the words, frowning over the papers, choosing to focus on the sketches rather than the words. They depicted a ritual, using the anchor on the Inquisitor's hand. A way to lock someone in an inescapable prison. Cyrel's eyes widened as the pieces clicked together. "No…"

"It must be done." Cyrel nearly jumped out of his skin, looking up to see Solas standing in the doorway. He cursed internally, trying to think of a way out. "You plan to lock the Lady away? Why?" Solas approached, standing on the other side of the desk. "She has given me no other choice. I haven't told you everything, my friend. Perhaps it is time that I did." He looked weary. "The Lady and I were once very close. We were lovers. I still love her, and I like to believe she still loves me." Shit. Cyrel's gut clenched.

"She's issued me an ultimatum I cannot ignore. The only way for her to survive what is coming is to lock her away where I put the Evanuris so long ago. She would not go willingly, so I must trick her. She thinks I am planning to throw away the last hope for the People," he gestured to the glowing drawer. "I will use it to lock her away until it is safe for her to be freed once again."

"That's why you were so upset earlier." Cyrel kept his voice carefully neutral. "Yes. I do not look forward to this. I do not know if she will ever forgive me, and leaving her at the mercy of those who buried her when she was created will not be easy." He went over to the window, gazing out at the night. "I must ask, my friend, what made your curiosity so strong that you chose to break into my study rather than just asking?"

Cyrel gulped. "I didn't want to disturb you further. With all due respect, Solas, are you sure this is the best idea? Surely there's got to be another way. Tuastlas isn't even hostile towards us." Solas's steely eyes flashed in the darkness. "As I said before, this is personal. I have planned to lock her away for some time now; it is only recently that she has given me the opportunity to set the trap."

Cyrel had to try and talk him out of it. He knew that Solas was leaving within the next few hours for Adamant. A message would never reach Isa on time. He couldn't let this happen to her. "Why lock her away? Why would she not survive?" Perhaps he could at least buy time? He was running out of ideas. Solas raised an eyebrow. "People die in war. You have seen with your own eyes the forces she commands. Far less will die should she not be involved."

"Tuastlas isn't hostile."

"You think it will remain that way, should the Inquisition come calling? The Lady's ferocity is matched only by her loyalty, and the Inquisitor is her oldest living friend." Cyrel had to fight to keep the scowl off his face. He knew that Solas had killed Iovoren. He just hadn't known why until now. "This is about her bodyguard, isn't it? You killed him; our spies in Tuastlas reported the circumstances of his death. What did she do in retaliation that would drive you this far?"

"Yes, I killed him. Perhaps it shouldn't have been him, but what's done is done. She used everything I stand for against me." Cyrel crossed his arms. "You killed him out of jealousy. You did it just to hurt her. You struck down an innocent man."

"And you haven't?"

Cyrel had to get a hold of himself. This conversation was dangerous. Solas walked towards him, standing right in front of him. "Why do you care so much, Cyrel?" Cyrel held his gaze. "I know people in Tuastlas. This just doesn't seem right. There has to be another option."

"I'm not asking for your permission."

Cyrel could see no good way to end this. He looked away. "Very well. Whatever you say, boss." He started to head for the door, but Solas put an arm out to stop him. "Cyrel." His eyes flashed dangerously. "How do you know what those plans said? I never taught you elvish."

Shit.

"We're surrounded by elves, boss. You pick these things up. I can only pick out certain words. Shouldn't you be proud of me? I'm trying to learn for our cause." Cyrel tried to keep the tremor out of his hands.

"See, a little run-in I had with Nethon makes me doubt." Solas was glaring at him now, and Cyrel, for the first time in his life, felt very small. "He has not been careful in his dream walking. I know he speaks to the traitor Ariassa. I found out a few nights ago, stumbling upon them by accident. I ensured that he did not wake up." Cyrel decided to play dumb. "Nethon has betrayed us?" "Yes, but the real question is, have you?"

Cyrel sighed. "Boss, if you really thought I had betrayed you, why did you wait until now to ask?" Solas smiled bitterly. "I wanted to believe you hadn't; that it was merely a coincidence. Only now, seeing you break into my study and read elvish, trying to convince me not to trap my enemy, do I see what is in front of me. All I want to know is why."

Cyrel knew he had been caught. He let out a sigh. "You'd see us all burn, Solas. I'm not entirely thrilled about that." Solas shook his head with disappointment. "You'd let the People suffer on the word of one woman?"

Cyrel felt his fury rising up once more. "You love that woman, or did you forget in your plan to lock her away in endless torment?" Solas closed his eyes, his pained expression clear in the candlelight. "I do not want to." "Then don't!" The Dread Wolf opened his eyes once more. "Silence, traitor."

Cyrel laughed a bit. "You're the one who has betrayed your people, Dread Wolf. You want to know where I learned elvish? The Lady taught me herself." If he was going to go out, he was at least going to make Solas hurt. He had hurt Isa, after all, and Cyrel loved her. "I may have betrayed you, Solas, but not in the way you think. You wanted to hunt the Lady's lover, but you got the wrong man. It was never Iovoren." He grinned, taking a few steps back. "It was me, and I was right under your nose the whole time."

He relished the look of shock, then rage that crossed Solas's face. Right as Solas lunged for him, he called out to the spirit Isa had placed over him. "Harthaan em mala, sil'ahn ma'athlan!"* He made eye contact with Solas as the spirit stopped his onslaught. "You never deserved her."

There was a brief moment of silence. "I know." Solas's rage had faded to pure despair.

Then Cyrel was swept away by the spirit, pulled through the fade, and dumped at the gates of Tuastlas at around mid-afternoon. Exhaustion overcame him, and overwhelmed with guilt, he succumbed to the nightmare, barely able to grasp the weight of what he had just done to the man who had saved his life.

Chapter Text

Adamant echoed with the whispers of the atrocities committed within its walls, the blood still staining the ancient stone. Isa had left Feynthorn behind long ago, and walked through the desert, feeling the pull of the abyssal rift. Adamant loomed before her, the walls still crumbling from the Inquisition's assault. She picked her way over the ruins, through the main gates, around the battlements, passing the skeletons of long dead men, hearing the echoes of their last fears.

Isa pushed onward. Eventually, she reached her destination, the crumbling stone structure over the abyssal rift. Solas stood on the far end, peering down into the abyss. With a hesitant smile, she approached him, setting her pack aside. "Vhenan?"

He turned to face her, his lips blossoming into a smile, though there was weariness tugging at the corners of his eyes. "You came." Isa reached out, taking his hand. "Of course I came. I want to make things right; I'll take any chance you'll give me."

"Take off the amulet, vhenan. Let me remove the monstrosity from your face."

Isa pursed her lips. "The arm first, Solas." Solas's face fell. "You truly do not trust me? I was not the one who-" She cut him off. "Don't. I see your point. Here." She removed the amulet of concealment, tossing it aside. The vallaslin emerged on her face. Solas looked into her eyes. "May I take it?"

"Only if you swear to destroy that arm when you have finished."

Solas nodded. "I swear it." He put his hands over her face, glowing with magic. "Ar mala lasan na revas.*" Isa let out a soft sigh, relieved. So far, so good. She opened her eyes when he rested his fingers on her cheeks. His own grey orbs were brimming with tears.

"Solas?"

He smiled, his lip quivering slightly. "I apologize, vhenan. I am a little emotional. Quite often I find myself overwhelmed by my love for you. May I kiss you?" Her heart skipped a beat, and she leaned forward, gently pressing her lips to his. He kissed her sweetly, as if he was afraid he might break her. He pulled away after a moment, kissing her forehead softly. He retrieved the arm, holding it out over the abyss.

He put his free arm around her shoulders, holding her close to his chest, and asked her, "Elana ma ver ma'abelas sal?"* Confused, Isa looked up at him. "Ar ju'tel'ithan ve o ma,* vhenan." Solas seemed to be barely holding back tears. "Kiss me again."

She did. He kissed her with that same desperation that he always did when he was saying goodbye, only this time, she could feel his tears on her face. "Ir abelas, vhenan," he murmured against her lips. "Ju'sildearas nu ahnsul or em.* Eolasas ar lath ma i ga or vhenan.*" Isa opened her eyes, only to see agony that she had never before seen upon his face.

Then he pushed her into the rift he had opened, sealing it behind her.

Isa felt like she was being crushed as the Fade sucked her in, pulling her further and further into its depths. Wherever he had sent her was no ordinary part of the fade. Her screams were choked, strangled before they ever emerged from her. She was unwillingly silent as she plunged into the depths of an inky black lake. The light of her spirit form flickered as she sank deeper, pulled down by some unseen force.

Then she hit cold stone, and she could breathe again.

The anchor glowed softly in front of her, flickered, and turned to ash. Solas had kept his promise. It had been destroyed. Isa's hair glowed softly, providing the only light in the pitch black place she had been locked away in. Where was she? Why had Solas done such a thing? Her mind raced, was it a punishment for defying him? No, he would not have taken such drastic measures. This was something else, something he did not want to do.

Something he had said came to mind. She had dismissed it before, but now it came back to her. "I know of a way for you to survive." What if he had locked her in the Fade so she would live when he tore down the veil? Of course, for that to work, he would have to have another way to bring the veil down, and he would have to have known a place where even she could not escape from. She could feel her power being crushed in this place. It hurt, like she was drowning, like she was buried, and with nothing but darkness around her, she felt as if she was.

She began to panic. "Hello?" Her voice sounded so small. She sniffled a bit, hugging her arms. "Is anyone there?" She began to cry. In an act of desperation, she called out to her spirits, "harthaan em mala, sil'ahn ma'athlan!"* There was no response. She was completely cut off.

"It is no use, child." Elvish words reached her ears, any echoes swallowed up by the dark. It was a man's voice. "No one will answer you here." She turned towards the source, but saw nothing. Her glow only extended a few feet. The soft sound of footsteps approached her. Her heart jumped in her throat as fear overtook her. A cloaked elven man with sunken cheeks and piercing golden eyes came into view a few feet away from her. She recognized him, much to her horror.

"It has been long since we have seen you, Isenatha, or you, Commander. To have both of you here is a great blessing. One way or another, we will be released." The man reached up, removing his hood. Long black hair, streaked with grey, fell over his shoulders. Isa's breath quickened, and she took a step back.

"Dirthamen?" They had only met once in passing, but one did not forget the Keeper of Secrets. If he was here, then Isa knew exactly where Solas had sent her. She was locked in the depths of the Black City, sealed in everlasting torment with the Evanuris, the same false gods that had murdered Mythal.

The same false gods that had buried her alive.

Chapter Text

"You misunderstand me, falon*," Joshon slumped heavily in his chair, his gaze reflecting the roaring fire beside them. Cyrel sat across from him, and was trying to understand just who Joshon was to Isa. Joshon had hinted that they were more than friends, but denied that they were lovers, and Cyrel, already on edge, was growing irritated.

Cyrel had been in Tuastlas for a few days. Isa had been gone for a week, but the Council's spies had turned up nothing. Cyrel had told them everything he knew, and Ariassa was digging through everything they had. All he could do was wait. He hated waiting.

"Then by all means, enlighten me. What is more than friends, but not lovers?" Cyrel scowled into his goblet of wine. Joshon looked thoughtful, not at all sharing Cyrel's tense state. "Some legends say that Dirthamen and Falon'Din were not brothers at all, but merely best friends who became practically inseparable. There is no longer a word for the bond they shared. Perhaps the bond between myself and the Lady is not comparable to that one, but it is of a similar nature. I have no desire to keep her to myself, to strip her of her clothing, or anything of the sort. I simply wish to love her, and I would wish that others would share this love as well, as Iovoren did, though I fear she would be overwhelmed. Our brand of love is not born of desire, or longing, but of loyalty. Affection is merely an afterthought."

Cyrel swallowed his guilt. "My apologies. I understand now." Joshon waved his hand dismissively, "it is nothing. I suspect you only ask because you love her very jealously." Cyrel nodded rather sheepishly. "I do. I don't know her as well as I'd like, but I've never seen anything like her." He smiled wistfully, nostalgia washing over him. "The first time I saw her, I thought a siren had washed up on the beach. This beautiful woman shrouded in mist looking up at me with eyes like the sky itself was opening up to me, and damn she tricked me good too; she played me like a fiddle." He laughed to himself. "I've been enamored ever since."

"You're not the first man to say that." The two looked to the doorway, where the Inquisitor herself stood, leaning against the frame. Cyrel waved lazily towards a sofa, inviting her to join them. She sat gracefully, propping her feet up. "A man once begged me to keep her away from him because he could not bear to see her upset. He had been lying for a long time, and it had finally caught up with him. It was left to me to pass judgement on him. She was distraught, and I was horribly cruel to her." She stared into the fire, lost in her own memory.

Cyrel finished his goblet. "What happened to him?" Vhera smiled a bit. "I let him go." She looked at Joshon, and Cyrel could see the understanding between them. Joshon let one of his rare smiles cross his face. "The things we won't do for those we love."


 

Agony. Pulse after magical pulse ripped through her bones as the Evanuris poured every ounce of magic they had through her, trying to rip open the coffin they were buried in. Isa had not been given a choice in the matter. She did not know how much time had passed, not that it mattered. Time was different in the Fade.

Finally, they let her rest, lest they tear her apart entirely. Limited though they were, the Evanuris still wielded power beyond the imagination of any mage in Thedas, and with her powers crushed by the weight of whatever held them there, Isa stood no chance against them. She collapsed to the ground, her sobs ripping themselves from her lungs. There was pity in Sylaise's gaze, but the others wouldn't look at her.

There was no running from them. Where could she run? There was nothing but darkness for an eternity around them, and she was a beacon, the only constant source of light. She would never make it far.

"Off with you all," smooth elvish rolled off an ancient tongue. "Give the child a rest. It is not her fault we are here, and we should cause her no more pain than necessary." Elgar'nan, the metaphorical father of the gods, stood over her, his white hair tumbling down his shoulders. There was barely a wrinkle on his face. The other Evanuris bowed their heads and left them, vanishing into the darkness.

Once he was certain that they were gone, Elgar'nan knelt down beside her. She shied away from his open hand, whimpering softly. Of all the Evanuris, he was the most familiar to her, being Mythal's husband, but that had been ages ago, a time she barely remembered, and he was taking part in her torture.

"Be calm, child." He withdrew his hand. "I will not hurt you anymore. I only wish to ease your pain." She looked up into a pair of deep sapphire blue eyes, filled with ancient wisdom. Their intensity startled her.

He rested his hand on her shoulder, and she could feel the soft tendrils of healing magic embracing her. She allowed it, not that she could have stopped it, and relaxed as her pain eased. "There now," he murmured, smoothing her hair back. "You're alright."

"What is the point of your kindness? Before long it will all start again." Her words were thick with bitterness, laced with the venom of resentment. Elgar'nan shook his head. "It doesn't have to. The others are impatient, eager to get out, but I believe there might be another way." Isa scowled at him. "What other way could there possibly be?"

Elgar'nan looked a little embarrassed. "It is… less than ideal, but everyone is aware that neither you nor I can break out of this on our own. What the others are trying to do is combine our power, but as you can see, it isn't working. I believe there may be another way."

Isa gulped. "What is this other way? You're not going to eat me, are you?"

He laughed, the tension breaking for a brief moment. "No, I'm not going to eat you. Consuming one another to absorb power is ridiculous. Forcing you to act as a conduit will only work if someone is also pulling from the outside, but the others refuse to see this. They are desperate. We have been in here for so long, and we have our own tortures here. No, to get out, I believe we may have to create something new."

Isa shifted to sit up, rather than laying slumped on the floor. "What are you proposing?" Elgar'nan's look of embarrassment returned. "I apologize, I would not ask if I believed there was another way." "Spit it out. I have little patience for this." Isa snarled at him. He stepped back. She got to her feet, shaky on her legs. "What do you want?"

"I can hide you from the others. I know the secrets of this place, and I know the Evanuris better than anyone. They will not find you. In exchange, I ask for a child."

Isa took a moment to absorb what he had just said. "Excuse me? Did you just-" Elgar'nan put a hand up, avoiding her gaze. "I did say it was less than ideal. Even in death, I am loyal to my wife." "Even though you killed her," Isa snarled. Elgar'nan was silent, guilt and remorse written plainly on his face.

"What good would a child do us?" Isa would rather consider his insane proposition than go back to the mercy of the other Evanuris. Elgar'nan cleared his throat. "The Commander is part of your being, fused with you, and just like any other trait, will be passed down through your bloodline, its full power moving on to the child upon your death, b ut the child will still have partial abilities while you live. My magic is unparalleled, even with the Dread Wolf's veil. Combined in one being, they might be enough to break us out of this emptiness."

Isa let her hostility drop. "Do you think that might actually work?" Elgar'nan nodded, adding, "it is not guaranteed, but it is the best chance, and will certainly be the least painful for you."

She could hear the footsteps of the others approaching, and fear overtook her. Her eyes widened, and she felt like a frightened child. "I'll do it. Don't let them find me." Elgar'nan held out his hand. She took it. He put a finger to his lips, motioning for her to remain silent. She all but held her breath, paralyzed by fear. He pulled her to him, draping his outer robe over her body, and Isa felt a strange trace of magic flowing around her.

"Elgar'nan?" She could hear Dirthamen's voice, and it was close. There was no reply, so the false god of secrets called out again. "Elgar'nan? Isenatha?" Were they truly hidden? How? Isa wasn't about to ask. She was simply grateful beyond expression.

"Where have they gone?" Sylaise could be heard pacing. "Oh no, I don't suppose he's hiding her? He did say this wasn't going to work. Do you think he's abandoned us?" Falon'din was behind them.

"It doesn't matter." Andruil snarled. Of all the Evanuris, Isa found her to be the most… unhinged. Even the legends said that the Fade had driven her to partial madness at one point. "We'll find them. Try to find any trace of magic. They can't have gotten far."

The Evanuris broke into chatter. Isa felt Elgar'nan's hand on her shoulder, guiding her back. They took quiet steps, any sound muffled by the arguing of the others. It worked. She was safe. For now.

Chapter Text

The weight of what he had done threatened to consume him, but Solas carried on, pretending like he couldn't imagine her screams of agony, pretending like the memory of the betrayal in her eyes as he pushed her in didn't plague him every second of the day. He had a way to bring down the veil. With Isa no longer in the physical world to mask its presence, he had located the focal orb she had stolen from him. Once he had it, it wouldn't take long to tear down the veil. It would be messy, but it wouldn't matter. It had to be done. Then he could free her.

Would she ever forgive him? He doubted it, but it was better than seeing her die at his hands.

He wondered how much she would age, or if she would at all. Time was different in the fade, and time in that particular part of the fade was a nightmare. It was accelerated, designed to torment its inhabitants as much as possible. An hour in the physical world would be much longer there. He hoped she would survive her time there. He couldn't forgive himself if she didn't, but it was a risk he had to take.


Isa remained silent, tucked in a corner under Elgar'nan's cloak. She was heavy with child at that point, though not close enough to risk going to the other Evanuris with their plan. Elgar'nan had been kind to her, and though interactions between them had been cold at first, they had quickly warmed up, taking comfort in the other's presence in this desolate place. Though it was a bond born of necessity, they almost considered each other friends.

In that time, Isa had discovered the other residents of the vast emptiness. Great clouds of nothing, not unlike the demon at Falon'din's temple, floated amidst the darkness, unseen until they were upon the elves. They burned like hot tar, and enveloped them in nightmares until they burned out, leaving their victim a trembling mess. No wonder the others had gone mad. Elgar'nan was rather effective at hiding from them, especially since Isa could sense them, as they were a twisted form of demon too cruel for even other demons to associate with, but Isa had been caught in their hold a couple of times, and never wished to relive the experience. The Silent Horrors, she called them, for all noise was stripped from the nightmares they wrought.

All of her nightmares had involved Solas.

Even with all he had done, she loved him. The Silent Horrors filled her with visions of his body being ripped to shreds in front of her, or worse, him begging for mercy at her feet, mercy which she denied. It all felt so real, and her own screams emerging from the Horrors had alerted the Evanuris more than once. Fortunately, Elgar'nan was clever, and he was patient. He really was kind to her, though Isa had no desire to share her burdens with him, he was always ready with a squeeze to her hand, a small gesture of comfort in this never-ending nightmare.

At the moment, several of the Silent Horrors were swarming them, so they hid beneath Elgar'nan's cloak, praying that they would move on. Praying to what, they didn't know, but pray they did, and silently they huddled together, ancient god and abomination hand in hand, praying for salvation to an unknown entity from a horror of their own making.

The unknown entity remained silent. Isa knew the instant the Horror got a hold of her, its smoky tendrils wrapping around her throat, filling her mind with silent images. It burned, she could smell her own flesh burning, but there was nothing she could do. Once the Horror had you, all you could do was wait.

She found herself in one of their visions, a familiar place. It was a pine forest, and the stench of blood replaced the burning. She took a few steps forward, feeling sick at the sight of Iovoren crucified the way Fen'Harel had left him, tied between two trees with a wolf pelt over his head, only in this vision, it wasn't Iovoren, and the hunter wasn't Fen'Harel.

A dark reflection of Isa herself finished tying the victim's arm to the suspended rope, then turned to the actual Isa. The silence that always plagued the visions was deafening. The reflection gestured to the body, an invitation. Isa gulped and stepped forward, her shaky hands reaching up to remove the wolf pelt. Instead of emerald green eyes, steely grey orbs met hers, and Solas's mouth opened, his lips silently forming her name.

Then Isa was the dark reflection, and she was the one cutting out his tongue, she was the one carving the symbol of Fen'Harel into his chest, and she was the one slicing the careful gashes in his thighs so he would bleed out.

He smiled at her with bloodied lips the whole time, his eyes filled with love.

Isa was dragged out of the vision. Of course, she came out screaming, begging for it to stop. The sound of her own screaming was a comfort to her, until Elgar'nan put his hand over her mouth, still sweaty from the terror of his own vision, his eyes wide and frightened, and she realized she could hear footsteps running towards them.

He tried to hide her glow, but it was too late. Andruil dove for him, knocking him away from her. Isa tried to go after them, but she was seized from behind, her arms held firmly, and she could only watch as Elgar'nan was forced to his knees. "Traitor!" Andruil hissed, her eyes wide, spittle flying from her lips. "Why?"

"You wouldn't listen," Elgar'nan kept calm. "I tried to tell you this was the best way, the only way, but you are too impatient." June approached the eldest Evanuris, shaking his head. "Every second here is agony, and you ask patience of us? No. You are no better than Mythal was, bending to the whim of the Commander without even being aware of how she had corrupted your mind, and now, your blood will be used as the final bridge to fill the gap. We will escape."

They were going to use blood magic. Elgar'nan's gaze met Isa's. "I am sorry, da'len." Isa shook her head, terror and rage blotting out every other emotion. The Commander's voice broke through, speaking both elvish and a language not known to the physical world, the same language the nightmare demon had spoken to Isa all those years ago at Adamant. The language of demons mingled with the elvish pouring from her lips.

"Ju'eaan dalem aron te'gesha dhar ma ane."*


Joshon woke with a start, cold sweat running down his face. He was plagued by a sense of desperation, though he knew not what for. Two weeks had passed since Isa had met with Fen'Harel, but there wasn't much for him to do until Ariassa came up with something.

And yet, he could not just sit around and wait.

He rose from his bed, pulled towards Ariassa's fade portal. He stood in front of it, pricking his finger and dropping his blood into the goblet. The portal opened, and for a moment, nothing happened.

Then a bright blue figure stepped through. "General Joshon," the spirit spoke to him. Joshon had never met Loyalty before, but he had heard Isa describe the spirit. "Loyalty, I presume?" "Yes. I require your assistance. The Commander is trapped in the Empty, and I can feel magic being forced through her, but it is not enough to break out. I will be brief. I can pull her out during one of these pulses from the place she was pushed in, but I need a physical body to do it. Your loyalty to Isenatha is unparalleled, and makes you an ideal vessel. However, you will not survive when I leave your body. I will not force this upon you, but I beg you. Our Commander needs us."

It was certainly a lot to take in at once, but the answer seemed pretty clear to Joshon. His life for Isa's? "You have a deal."

Chapter Text

Joshon rode out for Adamant that night, leaving only a note saying "I'm going to get the Barast'ama. Do not follow." He doubted his orders would be obeyed, especially by the Inquisitor, but he would be too far ahead to be caught by the time his absence was discovered. He pushed his hart to the limit, the beast thundering faithfully over the land until it collapsed at last in the sands of the desert, heaving a mighty sigh, a final farewell, before it lay still forever.

Still, Joshon carried on. There was no turning back now. Loyalty drove him on with renewed strength, though his legs ached from riding, and the sands were treacherous. Finally, the great walls of Adamant were within sight. It had only taken a day and a half to get there, but to Joshon, it was far too long.

Stumbling up the stone steps, crawling over long dead skeletons, parched and aching, Joshon pushed on until he reached the overhang of the abyssal rift. "Here?" He asked, breathless. He came across a discarded pack, and searched it, finding water to soothe his throat. "Yes," Loyalty answered. "Here. Now we must wait." "For what?" Joshon laid on the stone, allowing it to draw some of the excess heat from his body.

"For the Commander."


She watched as they encircled her, like vultures around a dying animal. Like lions around a lamb.

She watched as they bound him, preparing their father for the slaughter, their words falling upon her ears like stones, weighing down her heart.

She watched as they drew the circle in which she would suffer.

She watched as they slit his throat.

Then she could no longer watch, for the agony was blinding.


Joshon was jerked out of sleep by Loyalty. "Wake up! She is coming! Come, we must pull her through. Up, General!" Joshon stumbled to his feet, towards the edge of the stone overhang. The air crackled with unrelieved stress, the tension of the other side trying to break through, but rendered unable. Loyalty took control of him then, reaching out and touching the cracks in the air, casting his hand into the Fade. He opened his fingers. Something caught hold.

Then Joshon was blown back, nearly blinded by the light of the tear he had ripped open, only the things coming out of the rift were no ordinary demons. They were gods.

Behind them? Yes, there was a demon behind them, but this was no ordinary demon either. This was the greatest of them all, and she was out for blood.

Isenatha stood on the stones of Adamant, a newfound power pouring out of her. She reached out and took hold of the nearest Evanuris, which happened to be Andruil. She gripped the huntress by her hair and wrenched her to the ground, forcing her to her knees, earning a cry and the attention of the others. "You want an end to your suffering?" There was no mercy in her eyes. Her golden light had been tainted with blood. "You will have it."

The Commander had been denied its purpose, suppressed, and pushed too far. Only slaughter would satisfy her now.

Joshon could only watch as Andruil screamed when Isenatha shoved her hand through her chest and ripped out her heart. The Commander caught the spirit before it could escape to the Fade, as the First of the People knew their way around death, and swallowed the soul of Andruil, destroying it for good.

The other Evanuris tried to fight, but with all of their power poured into her to break out of their prison, they were weakened, and she was unstoppable. She slaughtered them all, one by one, without mercy, and without hesitation. "The time of the Evanuris has come to an end," She said, cradling Falon'din's face in her hands. "All of them." She swallowed his spirit, as she had all the rest.

Then the glow of the Commander faded, and Isa fell to her knees, one hand on her swollen belly.

Joshon stayed where he was for a long moment, trembling. Terror gripped him, but it was eventually overwhelmed by his concern for her. "Isa?" She looked up, tears in her eyes. "Joshon!" She reached out for him. In an instant, he was by her side, holding her hand, wide-eyed and confused. "What… are you… how?" He gingerly touched her stomach. She swatted his hand away. "It doesn't matter now. You've got to find some water. Time works differently there and-" she was cut off by a cry of pain. She bit her lip, silencing herself. She grunted, "please, Joshon, its coming now."

Joshon brought her the last of the water from the skin of the discarded pack. She set it aside, laying back on the stone, preparing herself as best she could. Joshon didn't know what else to do but hold her hand and talk to her.

Fortunately, there were no complications, and after a couple of hours, Isa was using the last of the water to dampen a cloth to clean off a strong baby boy with a full head of copper hair. She wrapped him in a blanket from the pack, tears streaming down her face as she smiled at him. Joshon wasn't quite sure what to say. He didn't want to ask about the boy's father. He didn't know the circumstances, and he didn't want to pry.

"What are you going to name him?" Joshon finally asked, his voice low and quiet. He still sounded loud to himself amidst the silence of Adamant. Isa looked thoughtful for a moment. "Revasan," she finally answered. Joshon nodded approvingly, "a place where freedom dwells." He reached out and smoothed her hair back. "It's gotten long again," he commented, feeling rather foolish. She laughed softly, holding her baby to her chest. "Yes, it has."

"Let's go home," Joshon helped her to her feet. "Or at least to a place with water. The old Inquisition outpost is still south of here, isn't it? That may be our best bet. It's a half day's walk. Can you make it?" Isa nodded, resolve setting her shoulders firm.

It took them almost a full day, between the exhaustion and the stops to feed Revasan. Joshon's biggest concern was that Isa was going to faint before they reached the outpost. He didn't think he would have the strength to carry her. Fortunately, they made it, but just barely. Isa slumped down once they were inside the old fort while Joshon ran for water. He returned quickly, helping her drink. "Slow now, you don't want to get sick." He wished he had thought to bring food, but he had been in such a hurry that he hadn't brought anything in the way of supplies.

Isa caught hold of his hand. "Joshon, thank you." She smiled sweetly at him. He sat down beside her, taking a breath. "Of course. Anything." She rested her head on his shoulder. "How did you know where to find me? When I broke free, it felt like I was being pulled." Joshon swallowed. "Loyalty pulled you out with the help of the magic pushing on you. We… made a deal. I…" He rubbed the back of his neck. She looked up at him, sadness filling her gaze. "Joshon." She knew. Of course she knew, the Commander would know the consequences of such an action.

"I had to."

She put her free arm around him. "I know."

He looked down at little newborn Revasan, reaching out to rest his finger on the babe's palm. Revasan wrapped his tiny hand around Joshon's finger, and Joshon was filled with warmth and a sense of peace. One of his rare smiles crossed his face. For the moment, fear was a distant memory, and there was nothing more than the woman and her precious babe. Joshon was happy.

Chapter Text

Rainier wasn't terribly fond of the desert. Even following the chill of the night, the morning sun was bearing down on him and his horse, and it was miserable, but he pressed on. He had to find them.

He had received an urgent letter by crow from Vhera saying that Joshon had gone to get Isa, and they were both likely in danger. He wasn't entirely sure what had happened to Isa, but he had the feeling that it was bad. He urged his horse and his pack mule as fast as they could go without exhausting the beasts.

He saw two figures in the distance, blurred by the waves of heat. He pushed towards them, his heart racing. As he drew closer, he saw that it was indeed Isa and who he assumed was Joshon, and Isa was carrying something bundled in cloth. She looked to be in a rough state indeed.

"Isa!" He called out, dismounting and rushing to her. She looked up, her eyes wide. "Thom?" He expected a look of relief, but was deeply surprised when he saw nothing but despair. "Oh Thom," she turned her gaze from him to Joshon, who had a strange smile on his face. "You're safe now, Isa." The elven man took her hand and kissed her fingers gently. She looked like she was going to cry. "Joshon, what am I going to do without you?" She was grieving a man who wasn't dead yet. Rainier was extremely confused.

Joshon squeezed her hand. "Whatever you have to." He turned to Rainier. "See her home safely. We cannot slip up again." Rainier nodded, bewildered. What was happening?

There was a flash of blue light, and Joshon collapsed to the ground. Rainier jogged up to him, kneeling down. "What's wrong with him?" He looked to Isa for answers. She had one hand over her mouth, trying to hold back sobs. Maker, she looked exhausted. "He's dead," her voice quivered. "He was possessed by a spirit of loyalty, which left him as soon as I was safe with you. We knew it was going to happen, but I expected a bit more time." She was struggling to keep her composure.

Rainier felt terrible. "Isa, I…" She shook her head. "It's not your fault. Can we take his body? I can't stand the thought of leaving him here." "Of course."

There was a soft whimper from the bundle of blankets Isa was holding in one arm. Rainier was startled. "We should get moving, Thom," Isa's voice was soft. "We need to get out of this heat." Rainier wasted no time in tossing the body over the pack mule's back and hoisting Isa onto his horse, opting to walk alongside her. The horse couldn't carry the both of them, not in the sand and heat. They turned East and headed out of the desert.

Isa explained to him what had happened along the way, telling him everything, how she had come to have a child, how she had slaughtered the Evanuris, and how she had gotten to the Empty in the first place. "I'll kill the bastard," Rainier growled, his heart filled with fury. Isa reached down from the horse to touch his shoulder, a gesture of comfort. He put his hand over hers.

"I should never have left your side," he lightly grasped her fingers. She gave him a weary smile. "It's not your fault, Thom." He frowned a bit. "I know that, but that doesn't make it right." Guilt gnawed at his stomach. He could have done something, he could have spared her this pain. He shouldn't have let her go. He had walked away because he thought it would have been selfish to stay with her, but he was wrong once again, and once again, someone else was suffering for his mistake.

The bundle of blankets began to cry. "Revasan," Isa's voice was soft. "I know it's hot. We'll be out of the sun soon. I can already see the trees ahead." Rainier looked up and sure enough, the trees skirting the edges of the Exalted Plains were peeking up over the horizon in the distance. Good. He was sweating like a horse.

They reached the tree line and found a small stream running through, opting to stop for some rest. It was late afternoon by that point. Rainier brought Isa some water and went to rinse some of the sweat off of himself while she fed the baby. He found himself struggling with mixed feelings. He was relieved to have found her, horrified at what she had been through, as well as what had happened to Joshon, and he wasn't quite sure how he felt about the newborn.

They decided to camp there for the night. Rainier lit a fire and went out hunting. Halla and wolves were all he could find at that point, and he wasn't quite sure if Isa would approve of killing a halla, (he didn't know all that much about Dalish tradition), so he slaughtered a wolf and brought it back. "It'll be a bit tough and gamey, but it's food." He claimed as he skinned it. Isa was nothing but grateful. "I'm starving."

After eating, they lounged by the fire, not quite ready for sleep as the sun settled on the horizon, setting the sky ablaze. Rainier sat next to Isa, looking down at the tiny babe in her arms. Now that the sun wasn't going to roast him, Isa had uncovered Revasan's face and arms, letting him reach out and stretch.

Rainier held his finger out, and Revasan's tiny hand latched onto it. "Strong little rascal, isn't he?" Rainier mumbled. Isa nodded, a soft smile on her face. "He certainly is." She rested her head on Rainier's shoulder. His heart felt warm and fluttery. It didn't race, like it used to. He had long since moved past the crushing stage. He rested his cheek on her head. She smelled of sweat and sand, but he didn't mind. He probably wasn't any better. There was also a softer scent about her, probably the same scent as the baby.

"He looks like you," Rainier commented. "Little carrot top." He could feel Isa's cheek shift on his shoulder as she smiled. "He does, doesn't he?" She was drifting off. "Goodnight, Isa." "Goodnight Thom, and thank you."


Isa woke early the next morning to Revasan crying. Of course, he was hungry. She fed him and soothed his cries, wondering where Thom had gotten off to. Probably getting something to eat. Hopefully they would reach Tuastlas that day.

With time to think. Isa began to formulate a plan. She didn't like it, but she saw only one course of action. She had to go after Solas. It was time for the Evanuris to die. All of them. Only then would the world be safe. She wondered if she would be able to look at the man she loved and kill him.

She gazed down at her child and saw hope for the future in his little chubby face, his pointed ears poking out from orange curls. He hadn't opened his eyes yet, but that was normal. He probably wouldn't for another couple of days. She wondered if they would look like hers, like the sky, or if they would they be dark sapphires like his father's? She hoped they would be like hers.

Isa looked up as Thom came bumbling through the bushes with a nug slung over his shoulder and a few apples in the crook of his arm. "Good morning," he greeted her warmly. She returned his smile, gladly wolfing down the food he offered. She was ravenous. She hadn't felt hunger in the Empty, but now she was practically starving.

They rode for Tuastlas soon after, making it to the outskirts of the city in the early afternoon. News spread quickly that the Barast'ama had returned, and that a human had brought her home. There were many questions that lingered in the air, and Isa wasn't sure if she should dare to answer them.

"Isa!" Vhera was the first to burst from the temple, the worry on her face quickly turning to relief. "Rainier, you found her!" Cyrel was hot on her heels. "Isa?" He ran to her, his face lit up. The Council followed behind them.

Isa had to tell them that Joshon was also with her. His cold body was wrapped in blankets, draped over the mule. She dismounted with Rainier's help, cradling her son in one arm. Vhera was at her side in an instant. "Isa?" "There is much to tell you."

Once they were inside, Isa recounted the story once more of everything that had happened to the Council, Cyrel, and Vhera. She was met with silence. She had expected as much. She cleared her throat, holding her head high. "We must prepare a service for our General. The people must be allowed to mourn."

She could not yet bring herself to tell them she planned to leave again. That could wait, at least, until the sting of Joshon's sacrifice had eased.


That night, she was rocking Revasan to sleep, humming softly to him. Cyrel hadn't left her side, and Rainier had been reluctant about it, though exhaustion and gentle urging from Isa had led him into sound sleep in a room of his own. Cyrel was wide awake, and anxious. He was quiet, but Isa could tell from the gentle tapping of his fingers on his knees that he had many questions.

Revasan opened his eyes, surprising Isa. He looked up at his mother with deep pools of sapphire blue, with the lighter blue of the sky ringed around the edges. Isa thought that she would feel grief or even anger if his eyes ended up being darker than hers, but she was filled with nothing but love. "Hey," she smiled at him, rocking him slowly. He made a few little noises before closing his eyes again and falling asleep.

Isa set him in a basket, making sure he was comfortable, and turned to Cyrel, motioning for him to follow her to the next room where talking wouldn't disturb Revasan.

Isa slumped down onto a sofa, exhausted. Cyrel gave her a sympathetic smile. "Rough time?" "That's the understatement of the century," Isa laughed a bit. "I assume you got caught, or you wouldn't be here." Cyrel chewed on the inside of his cheek; there was clearly more to it. "Sort of. I found out what he planned to do, and he caught me searching through his plans. Loyalty pulled me here, but I didn't make it in time to warn you." Isa nodded, "time works differently in the Fade."

Cyrel sat down next to her, reaching for her hand. She let him take it, smiling at him. He let out a soft sigh. "You're leaving again, aren't you?" She nodded. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and pressing her hand to his forehead. "Can I come with you?" "Someone has to take care of Revasan." He looked at her, surprised. "You think I'm cut out for that?" Isa laughed softly, "I think you'll have the Council around to help you, but if you'll do it, I'd like you to take care of him."

"You don't plan on coming back."

Isa sighed, turning her gaze away. "I'd like to, but no, I don't think I will. Solas has shown me that our battle will be to the death." Cyrel squeezed her hand. There was a brief moment of silence between them, but then he broke it with a grin on his face, his eyes sparkling. "Hey, pretty woman, I know you're tired and you just had a baby and all, but will you dance with me?" Isa blinked, raising an eyebrow. Cyrel grinned sheepishly, "just a little? I'll carry you if I have to." He pulled her to her feet, putting one arm around her and holding her hand with the other. She rested her head on his shoulder and let him guide her in a slow dance to unheard music.

Overcome with nostalgia, Isa closed her eyes, and for a moment, she wasn't in Tuastlas. She was in the Winter Palace, in the garden, with music playing distantly in the ballroom, and she wasn't dancing with Cyrel. She was dancing with Solas. She could feel the velvet of his uniform on her cheek. She could taste the raspberry candies. She could hear his voice, gentle and sweet in her ear, "you will always be mine." Even after everything, she still loved him. She hated it, but she couldn't help herself. She loved him enough to know she had to stop him from being the monster he was becoming, by any means necessary. What she wouldn't give to go back to the naive times where she could just dance with Solas among the flowers while ignoring the rest of the world.

"You're crying," Cyrel's voice broke her out of her thoughts. He dropped her hand and put both arms around her, halting the dance in favour of an embrace. "I'll take care of him, alright? He'll grow up to be the best Barast'ama this world will ever see." Isa smiled, nodding into his shoulder. "Thank you, Cyrel." She felt like falling asleep right there on her feet. "Teach him to love," she said quietly. "But don't let him be as blind as I have been. If he must hurt, at least let him see the blow coming."

Chapter Text

Though Isa would have liked to go after Solas completely alone, it was a coordinated effort. She had to find him first, and Vhera was good for that. Vhera was also good for distracting the rest of the Dread Wolf's forces, drawing them out and away from Solas's location. Surprisingly enough, Solas was back where it had all began, in the remains of Haven, among the bones of the Temple of Sacred Ashes. What he was doing there was anyone's guess, though that was where the veil would be weakest. To keep his forces' attention elsewhere, the last of the Inquisition started picking fights at elven ruins in Orlais.

Tuastlas also started causing trouble, though not by directly attacking Fen'Harel's forces. Instead, they began to push into the Exalted Plains and the Emerald Graves. Cyrel officially replaced Joshon as General of Tuastlas's forces and spearheaded the campaign of expansion, vying to take back the Dales that rightfully belonged to them.

In short, taking a hammer to the delicate balance of peace in Thedas was a good way to get the Dread Wolf's attention off of their snooping.

Isenatha spent this last bit of time that she had setting her affairs in order in case she didn't come back. First, she had to ensure that the two dragons nesting in her city would not eat the infant she was leaving in charge of him. Loyalty assured her in her dreams that they would not, but she wanted to be absolutely certain that they would be kept under control. She couldn't risk losing them, not when they were waging war on the Orlesian Empire.

Maker, she was leaving quite the mess behind.

Rainier, true to his word, did not leave her side the whole time. It would seem that he would see this through to the end. Isa was content to let him. She felt alone enough as it is, and she didn't have the willpower to push him away. Not after everything else.

When she was finally ready to leave, it was nearly impossible to hand over Revasan to Cyrel and Nawyn, who would care for the babe when Cyrel was off in battle. Cyrel wiped the tears from her cheeks with gentle words of comfort and kissed her forehead one last time. It was obvious he was fighting his own emotions, but the others had the grace to ignore it.

Then Isa was upon Feynthorn with Rainier at her side, riding away from Tuastlas, the prayers of her people for her safety hovering over her like a shield. If only prayers would solve her problems.

And so they rode towards where it all began. At that point, the Western Pass had closed up with snow, so they would have to go down through the Kocari Wilds and up the Eastern side of the Frostbacks to reach Haven.

The wilds were unsettling, to say the least. There was an unnatural warmth in the dead of winter, and the frogs humming gave the marsh its own pulse. The fens hissed as the pair rode by, having to push deeper in order to ride around them. Their ride was mostly filled with silence, since this part of the world was wrought with unknown dangers. Isa was just glad for the companionship.

They stopped for an evening in the remains of an old tower. Rainier identified it as an old Grey Warden outpost. "We're not too far from Ostagar. If we head north from here, we'll be out of the wilds and hit the remains of Lothering. Following the road from there should take us right to Haven." Isa dismounted from Feynthorn, taking a look around them. "Sounds like we have a plan then. We should push hard; we can't rely on Vhera to keep his people busy forever." Rainier shrugged. "Three days at most. I bet we can make it in two if we push hard tomorrow."

"I bet you can make it in one," a new voice startled them. Isa turned, her hand on her sword hilt, towards the voice's source. A familiar woman emerged from the evening shadows. "Morrigan?" The witch smiled at them, but there was something different about her. The Well of Sorrows was whispering to Isa. She took a moment to listen to it.

Mythal.

Morrigan was Mythal.

"That can't be right," Isa said aloud, furrowing her brow. Morrigan laughed, "I assume your well is telling you what I have found? It is indeed correct. You see, your pet Wolf had to absorb most of my mother's power to bring himself back to his full glory, but she left a piece of herself behind. I happened to come across it." Isa nodded, slowly understanding. "Of course, that was her plan for you all along, wasn't it?" Morrigan shrugged. "Perhaps."

Isa didn't let her guard drop, even though she knew Morrigan could control her. "So what, you're here to stop me?" Morrigan's stance was relaxed. "From killing the Dread Wolf?" She cackled. "No, on the contrary, I would like to watch, and you might just need my help. For all of your power, you no longer have the power of the other Evanuris flowing through you, and you will need to bind him in order to kill him completely."

Isa frowned. "I thought you- Mythal- wanted to help him?" Morrigan waved her hand dismissively. "Mythal certainly does, but she is very weak, a mere fragment of herself, and I would not see this world destroyed. She grows stronger every day, so I would like to see her only ally dead before he can help her overtake my body."

Isa dropped her guard slightly. She believed Morrigan was telling the truth. She looked to Rainier, whose mustache twitched. "I don't trust her, but I think she's telling the truth. Besides, we need all the help we can get." Morrigan seemed pleased. "Good. Now, get some rest, because we'll get there tomorrow. I have an eluvian here, and a way to access Solas's near Haven."

Mythal had certainly changed Morrigan. She didn't seem to be quite herself. Isa would have to be very careful around her. If there was a chance that Mythal would take over Morrigan's body, Isa had to stop it, but it would have to be after they had defeated Solas. Morrigan was right. Isa might not be able to do it on her own.

Isa kept watch that night, unable to sleep. She was going to kill the man she loved. How could she possibly rest knowing that?

Chapter Text

The warm gloved hand enveloping hers was of little comfort to Isa as they climbed the crumbling trail from the ruins of Haven towards the scorched Temple of Sacred Ashes. Rainier held her hand, squeezing when her step faltered, and for that she was grateful, but there was little that could soothe her now.

Morrigan led the way, a spell cloaking them from the wards Solas had put out to detect intruders. With Mythal’s power backing her already exceptional talents, she was a pretty good match for his preparations. She would certainly be a boon in the battle to come. Her role would be to attempt to bind Solas’s power and keep him from fleeing while Isa wore him down enough to kill him. Rainier had reluctantly agreed to stay out of the main fight, but he would be vital in holding off any reinforcements that might have stayed behind. Of course, Solas would know Isa was out of the Fade; it was no secret he had spies in Tuastlas. Surely he wouldn’t fall for the chaos Vhera was causing. He would have held some forces back. Isa just hoped Rainier would be able to hold them.

He had accepted that they were marching to their deaths. He held her hand all the tighter.

Isa took a deep breath and stepped over the threshold of the Temple, letting go of Rainier’s hand as she walked past the petrified bodies, their last cries of terror forever frozen on their faces. Isa steeled herself for what she was about to do.

He was waiting for them, as if they were just popping in for lunch. He stood in the middle of that open floor, gazing up at the scarred clouds above, the frigid breeze tugging on the furs draped over his shoulders. He looked over his shoulder and up at them. “So,” his voice reached Isa’s ears, and she almost turned back. “You’ve found me at last. I suspect you have questions.”

“You tricked me.” Isa walked around the edge of the temple, making her way down to where he was. His eyes followed her. Morrigan remained where she was, and Rainier went around the other way, looking for anyone who might be hiding. “I had to.” Solas’s voice was cold and even. Isa’s voice was raw and trembling. “You put me in there, knowing what they would do.” She saw him flinch. Good. “You put me in there, and you denied the Commander its purpose.” She jumped down into the main floor and approached him. “Do you know what happens to a spirit when denied its purpose, Solas?” Solas’s gaze held hers, though she could see his jaw clenching. “I had no choice, Isenatha. It was either that or death for you.” “I would have preferred death,” she hissed.

“So what will you do now?” He held the focal orb she had stolen from him in his hand. “You alone cannot stop me, not even with a mage of Morrigan’s talents aiding you. Only another Evanuris could stop me.”

“You’re a fool,” Morrigan spoke up. “You can’t even recognize me?” Solas turned to look at her, and saw her for what she had become. He didn’t have time to utter a word when she began her binding spell. Sure enough, his agents began crawling out of the woodwork like vermin, and Rainier was very efficient at keeping them away from Morrigan.

Isa kept Solas’s attention. Her eyes glowed and her hair blazed as her might clashed with his, his magic flowing through the orb. He easily overpowered her, but she just had to keep him busy long enough for Morrigan’s binding spell to take hold.

They battled for hours. With the Fade so thin, Isa was able to call a host of spirits to aid Rainier in battling the elves, but she could only call so many without sacrificing her own battle, and hers was far more important. Again and again she clashed with Solas, sparks of pure power flaring up into the sky.

“You’re holding back!” Morrigan shouted at her. “You cannot afford to let your emotion cloud your judgement, Barast’ama! You have a duty to your people!” Isa was trying, but even though he was throwing all of his might at her, even trying to turn her to stone, this was still Solas.

So she closed her eyes, and let the Commander take over completely.

When she opened them again, Solas was kneeling in front of her, the delicate threads of Morrigan’s binding spell wrapped around him tightly. Morrigan approached, exhausted, breathing hard. Solas’s face was blank.

Isa felt… empty.

“We’ve done it.” Morrigan reached down to pick up the orb that Solas had been wielding. “Kill him, Isa.” “I shall,” Isa tightened her grip on her sword. “The Evanuris must come to an end, after all.” She reached out and put her free hand on Morrigan’s shoulder. Morrigan turned to face her, a look of pleasant relief on her face. It quickly turned to shock as Isa plunged her sword through Morrigan’s gut. “All of them.” There was no malice in Isa's voice, only cold certainty. Isa twisted the sword, then jerked it out. Morrigan was caught off guard and betrayed; there was no magical barrier, no back up plan, and no healing magic that could save her. Morrigan dropped the orb, coughing, her eyes wide with disbelief.

Isa lowered her to the ground as Rainier’s heavy footsteps came running up. “What in the name of the Maker are you doing, Isenatha?!” Isa shook her head, “I’m sorry, Morrigan. All of the Evanuris must die. I hate that it had to be you.” Morrigan spat at her, barely managing a scowl before the life was ripped away from her. That last shred of Mythal had nowhere to go, and died with her.

Isa wiped the blood and spit from her face, turning to Solas. He was unable to hide the stunned look on his face, staring at Morrigan’s body. Isa knelt in front of him, lifting his chin with her bloodied hand. His eyes met hers, and that emptiness inside of her was replaced with terrible grief.

“Vhenan,” his voice was soft. Those beautiful grey eyes didn’t bother to plead with her. Instead, they were full of sorrow. “You would doom this world?” Isa cupped his cheek in her palm, her lip trembling. “For you? To save you from yourself? In a heartbeat.” She leaned closer. “But saving this world is the only way to redeem you. Will you tell me how to kill a wolf, Solas, or do I have to find out myself?”

Solas looked sideways at Rainier, who was standing guard. “You want to kill a wolf, send your dog away.” Rainier scoffed at him. Isa closed her eyes. “Thom, he might explode. You never know. Take that orb, and give it to Vhera. She’ll find a good place to hide it.”

“You’re not asking me to leave you again.”

Isa stood. “Thom,” she picked up the orb and put it in his hands. “With Morrigan dead, the bindings won’t last long. Please.” She stood on her toes and kissed his cheek. He rested his head on her shoulder, taking in a long, slow breath. “Alright. For you.” He took her hand and kissed her fingers, his eyes full of love and heartbreak, and turned away from her, leaving the temple.

“I suppose in the end, you did choose me, vhenan.” Solas caught her attention again. She knelt in front of him once more, the silence of the temple overwhelming them. “Of course I did.” She stared at her lap. “Ar lath ma, vhenan. Even when I hate you, I love you. Things that be so easily marked as right and wrong become hazy around you. I don’t want to do this, but it is far better than watching you suffer the consequences.” Solas laughed softly, “We are just walking in the grey areas, aren’t we?” Isa smiled slightly, “it’s more akin to a dance.”

“A dance along the grey.”

There was a long silence, and Isa realized she couldn’t waste any more time, as much as she wanted to. “You said you would tell me, Solas.” Solas leaned forward and rested his forehead against hers. “The same way you killed the others, vhenan. A blood sacrifice.” Isa raised an eyebrow. “Are you trying to escape?” Solas locked his gaze with hers, and she knew he was telling the truth. “Why would you tell me so easily?” She asked. Solas seemed weary. “You would have found out eventually, and I have caused you enough turmoil. I regret many things I put you through. I should not have cast you into the Empty. That was cruel of me. If this is what you wish of me, then who am I to say no? I only ask one thing.” Isa scowled, what scheme was he going to come up with now?

“Will you kiss me, vhenan?”

He was so sincere. In that moment, she didn’t see a god of rebellion, a mage bent on tearing down the veil and destroying the world as she knew it, or anything of the sort. She saw a tired, beaten, broken man that had spent his whole life fighting, all for naught, who just wanted to be loved.

She kissed him. She held his face tenderly and kissed him, tears spilling from her eyes. “I forgive you, Solas. Ar lath ma, vhenan.” She took up her sword, putting it to his back, pressing her chest to his. He put his arms around her as the bindings began to weaken, but he didn’t fight them. “Ar lath ma,” he murmured to her. “Din ju’tel’atha em’an.*”

She drove the sword through his back and through her own chest. Her eyes flashed as the Commander was ripped from her. His hands glowed, the last of his life force being used for magic, and within a few seconds, their bodies turned to stone, their final embrace immortalized.

The Dread Wolf had fallen. Their dance came to an end.

Chapter Text

The death of the Barast'ama was a tragedy, but the young Revasan was well loved by all the citizens, and was raised with a sense of duty and purpose by Cyrel and Nawyn, with help from the rest of the council, and of course, auntie Vhera and Uncle Cullen when they came to visit. Revasan was a powerful mage, carrying on the bloodline of his father, though he never knew the origin of his unusual might. He used it for good, for the advancement of his people.

The war for the Dales was long and hard-fought, bloody, but the elves of Tuastlas did win it, and expanded out into the Exalted Plains and Emerald Graves, reclaiming their ancestor's homeland. An uneasy alliance with Orlais was made, and the delicate balance was restored once more. After that, the elves lived peacefully, and eventually established trade with the neighboring human nations, though humans were rarely allowed to visit and still were prohibited from living within Tuastlas's borders.

As for the Commander, it would not inhabit a child, but upon Revasan's 16th birthday, it was more than happy to make a deal with him, and the Barast'ama was at his full glory as was intended for him, and would be for his children.

Vhera had taken the orb from Rainier and hidden it far, far away where no one would ever find it. It's best if no one ever knew where it was. She made no record, no mention, and made certain she was never followed.

The Inquisition, with no more threat from Fen'Harel, was disbanded completely. Cullen and Vhera retired happily to the Ferelden countryside, though they visited Tuastlas frequently.

Cyrel was the best father he could be to Revasan, but he was never able to love another woman. Still, he was a well-respected General and fought for Tuastlas fiercely. Once the war was over, he travelled to Haven to visit the resting place of Isa. In the end, he turned back before he ever saw the stone that had taken her figure. He knew if he saw her, even in death and stone, he would never leave. So he ran. He lived out the rest of his days in Tuastlas, running from the love that plagued him. He did go back as a very old man, hobbling his way up the mountain side. He froze to death before he ever reached the top, his stubbornness keeping him from turning back. The young soldier that had accompanied him carried his body the rest of the way, and laid him next to her on that lonely mountain.

Many of the elves that had been working for Fen'Harel refused to drop the cause, though they were lost and leaderless. Oh well, cults had been a thing before and would be again. Some of them joined Tuastlas and were welcomed, and some returned to their old lives.

Rainier, after turning over the orb to Vhera, made his rounds once more to his old friends, then headed to Orzammar. Though he was no true Grey Warden, he believed that he would still be honoured to go where wardens went when they were ready to die. He was not distraught, or suicidal. He was just ready. He had come to terms with his lost love and heartbreak, and was simply at peace. He was an old man, and had seen enough for one life. He wanted one last go, and didn't want to die in a bed with some young dolt fretting over him while his bones ached. That was not the death for him. So to the deep roads he went, where he died valiantly. Maker rest his soul. An expedition found his remains and discovered a small bit of antler on a string around his neck. They sent it to the surface, where it was passed along, from one travelling convoy to another, until it eventually reached a band of former Inquisition soldiers, the same soldiers that had volunteered to rescue Isa and had survived when she had blown the top off of a mountain after she had been captured at Haven. They brought the necklace to the Temple and hung it around her neck.

The Temple of Sacred Ashes once again became a pilgrimage, though now, it was no longer just for Andrastians. Not everyone was brave enough to cross the threshold of the temple, but those who were would see the stone bodies of the two lovers that battled for the world, caught in their final embrace, pierced through their hearts by their own hands as they whispered their love. Bards say if you're bold enough to touch the statues, you can hear their last words whispered in the wind. Whether that's true or not, well, that's up to you.