The golden light of the candle on Ellana Lavellan's desk flickered as the door to her bedchamber opened with a squeal of rusty hinges. She didn't lift her head from the parchment, assuming it was her maid with the evening meal.
"Just leave it, please," she said, concentrating on each character in the letter. It was her reply to Divine Victoria, otherwise known as Cassandra, who'd sent them official word only two days ago that in six weeks they'd be expected to take part in the Exalted Council.
Footsteps entered the room, soft and slow. It wasn't the tread of her maid Millie. As Ellana looked up, blinking, her eyes opened wide as simultaneously her visitor spoke, "Vhenan."
"Solas," she said, breathing his name in a whisper. She put her pen back in its inkwell and rubbed at her eyes. "Did I fall asleep?"
"We are awake," he said and chuckled. She watched him move with the catlike grace she'd grown to love so much over the last few years, his feet almost soundless. She wanted to rise from her seat and embrace him but something stiff and stubborn—and wounded—kept her rooted to her seat.
Solas sat with a sigh at the end of her bed, setting his wooden staff down on the side closest to the door. He'd claimed that side as his own when he'd started sharing her bedchambers openly after the defeat of Corypheus. Back when he'd spent every night with her as her dedicated lover. Back when Millie and all of her advisers knew better than to enter the room without multiple loud knocks on the door and a few warning shouts.
She clenched her jaw, trying not to feel the stab of worry and pain in her chest. She missed those days and didn't dare let herself hope they'd ever begin again.
"You're upset," he said. It wasn't a question. He must've seen her expression, though he had only met her gaze for a moment before he began unslinging the pack he always wore while traveling.
"I missed you," she said and frowned at how hard her voice sounded. "I don't suppose you'll tell me now where you were or what you were doing?"
His pack thumped on the floor and he rolled his shoulders in their sockets. Ellana didn't miss the pop of a joint. "I apologize for my long absence," he said, shooting her a sidelong glance that she couldn't quite read. "I could not take the main roads for fear of bandits and Templars." He paused and his mouth worked into a frown. "And slavers."
"Solas," Ellana said, closing her eyes and covering her face with both hands as she found herself suddenly hot and shaky with some ugly, frustrated emotion she couldn't quite name. "You were gone almost three months. All spring."
"I know, vhenan," he said, sounding tired. "I am sorry. I reached out to you in dreams as often as I could."
She thumped her hands down on the desk and felt a brief, hard twist of satisfaction inside her when Solas' head jerked toward her. His blue-gray eyes met hers before he looked away. Was that shame she saw?
"Please, Solas," she said, the words quiet but her tone angry. "Where did you go? Why?" She closed her lips against the other words that pressed against her lips: Is there someone else? Have you tired of me? Have you chosen the Fade over me?
He met her gaze now, his lips twisting in a small smile. "I revisited the temple of Mythal."
Staring at him without blinking, Ellana waited for him to elaborate. After the silence stretched for several long seconds Solas dropped his gaze to his lap and absently brushed at his leggings as if cleaning off dust. When he looked up again his expression had softened. "I had hoped to find an artifact similar to the one Corypheus possessed in order to possibly gain a greater understanding of the magic used."
The artifact again, Ellana thought and kept herself from frowning with an effort. Solas had mourned that orb like it was a prized family heirloom and not just some oddity of unknown and dangerous power. It'd taken weeks for him to stop brooding about it after the final battle with Corypheus left it shattered.
"Did you have any luck?" she asked, letting a little tension out of her shoulders. The temple was a month's journey away by direct roads and Solas had said he hiked through the wilderness to avoid danger.
He shook his head, his lips down turned at the corners. "Unfortunately, no. However…" He leaned down to his discarded pack and began riffling through it until he pulled out a small square of blue silk tied into a knot. "I did find this."
Curiosity won out over her caution and lingering frustration with him. Ellana rose from her desk and strode to take the proffered silk knot. She tugged it loose carefully, opening the flaps of fabric to expose an arrowhead made of a dark green stone. A thin strip of black leather had been circled around the arrowhead's base, creating a necklace. Touching it with the fingers of her other hand, Ellana felt them tingle and sensed magic.
"It's made of stormheart. I found it in what was once an armory near the temple of Mythal," Solas explained, his voice quiet and soothing.
She almost closed her eyes at the sound of his voice, letting him lull her into complacency, but shook it off. "Did you enchant it?"
"I did," he answered and she heard the smile in his voice. "It will strengthen barriers cast over you." He chuckled and she cursed herself for nearly shivering at the velvety sound. "You've grown familiar with my magic, vhenan," he commented. "You may have latent talents yet."
"Not as familiar as I'd like," she murmured and dared meet his eye now, willing herself not to be upset but to move on. She had news. "I'm hoping you can take a break from wandering the wilds for a few months to accompany me to the Exalted Council."
His brow furrowed and his lips thinned. Her heart fell. Was he really about to say no to this? Instead he said, "Must you attend?"
She scoffed, shaking her head in consternation. "Solas—I am Inquisitor. Have you been away so long you've forgotten that?"
She regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth as Solas' shoulders slumped and he crossed his arms over his chest. It was the body language of someone withdrawing from an unpleasant situation. "I did not mean for my absence to hurt you." He closed his eyes. "I thought of you every moment I was away." He paused a moment and then shook his head. "I do not want to have this argument with you, emma lath."
"Then perhaps you should not leave me for weeks on end to worry about you," she muttered, staring down at the beautiful stormheart arrowhead and blinking as angry tears sprang into her eyes. "Please come with me to the council," she said with a sigh. "I need your guidance."
"I doubt you will need a Fade expert at Halamshiral," Solas said, inching backward as if trying to run.
"Not a Fade expert," she countered, scowling. "Just you, emma lath." Why was he resisting so much?
Solas' jaw clenched and he raised his eyes to meet her gaze, a hard expression twisting his features. "Ellana," he said, using her name, "I do not wish to upset you, but with Corypheus now dead almost two years, I have come to believe the Inquisition no longer has purpose and will sink to corruption. The Inquisition should be disbanded to prevent such. There is no need for this Exalted Council."
Stunned, Ellana gawped for a moment, baffled and speechless. Solas had warned her on occasion that she should watch for spies as the Inquisition grew and changed. He'd counseled her on that even before Corypheus' defeat. Yet he'd never put it so bluntly before.
"We keep the peace," she said, shaking her head. Her eyes fell to the arrowhead still on its silk. Anger made her want to push it back at him, reject it. She didn't, clenching her fist around it instead. "We have purpose. We can't disband."
"Have you forgotten your position?" he asked, eyes narrowed slightly in challenge, the way he often did when trying to reeducate her on some bit of incorrect Elvhen history. "You are Inquisitor. You have but to give the order and it will be done."
"You expect me to just order everyone to lay down arms and go home?" she asked, her voice a growl. "It would be anarchy. The Inquisition does more good than either Orlais or Ferelden right now."
He looked exhausted, head drooping forward. "I'm sorry if this upsets you, but—"
"If you don't want to be here anymore, Solas—with me or with the Inquisition…" She broke off, sucking in a shaky breath as she thrust her fist with the silk square and the stormheart arrowhead inside it toward his chest. "Then go." Her jaw squared and her stomach clenched as Ellana waited for him to react.
Instead of anger or frustration or even more exhaustion, Solas appeared stricken, as if she'd slapped him. They stared at each other for a moment and Ellana watched as Solas' expression flashed something like despair for a moment before he seemed to shake his head once, as if shrugging off a spell. Then, slow but deliberate, he reached both his hands to her clenched fist holding the silk and held it in his grip, gentle but firm.
Staring at her over their joined hands, he said, "Ar lath ma, vhenan. Once we defeated Corypheus I did not stay to help the Inquisition. I stayed for you and only you."
She exhaled, suddenly realizing she'd been holding her breath. Her left hand burned along the mark, reacting to the stormheart arrowhead. The pain, though minor, broke the moment between them as Ellana hissed. She transferred the square of silk to her other hand and opened her left palm, staring into it to check on the Anchor.
Solas' gaze stayed on her, watching with a small frown. "Has it done this often?" he asked.
"No," she answered, flexing her hand.
Solas held her right hand, gently opening her palm and taking the stormheart arrowhead with a somber darkness in his deep gray eyes. "The Anchor is sensitive to Elvhen magic, as I suspected." He sighed. "I had not thought it would be this responsive."
"I thought you enchanted the arrowhead?" Ellana asked, then flashed a crooked, teasing smile. "Unless you're just looking to impress me passing off ancient Elvhen magic as your own."
His eyes flicked from the arrowhead to her and narrowed for a moment—he hadn't apparently found her comment funny. But after a beat he grinned. "I am a descendant of Elvhenan, as are you. My magic must be close enough for the Anchor to react. But I was of course looking to impress you." Slowly Solas unwound the thin leather strip from the arrowhead and stretched it, putting it over her head. "Yet," he whispered, "it is you who have impressed me, vhenan."
She laughed, using her right hand to touch the arrowhead where it hung at the base of her throat now. "And how do I impress you?"
He edged closer, his right hand rising to cup her cheek in a caress. "You are a marvelous spirit with wisdom to rival the ancients. You have changed this world, defeated Corypheus, and wielded unfathomable power spiritually and physically with an Inquisition that rivals nations. And yet you have not let it tarnish your virtue."
Laughing again, Ellana laid her hands on his chest, feeling the heat of his skin through his tunic. "How odd you should say that," she purred. "Because I'm having less than virtuous thoughts at the moment."
"As am I," he replied, his other hand moving to her waist and tugging her tight against him. He leaned into her, inhaling deeply. "How I missed you."
"And I you." Her heart pounded and her stomach flip-flopped with anticipation. Three months alone made her ache for him despite his vague explanation of where he'd been and what he'd been doing. Whatever spell he'd cast over her, Ellana had given up trying to escape it.
Solas closed the gap between them, kissing her with a hunger that made her moan with want. His hand at her waist dropped lower, pressing her hips to his. She arched into him, eager to feel his skin against her own. She opened her mouth to him and his tongue swept in to meet hers. He tasted of mint and something else that made her think of the delicious flavor of minerals dissolved in spring water.
The months apart dissolved away along with her tension as she slid her hands to his waist, gripping his belt and unlatching it. He sighed against her mouth, breaking away to trail soft kisses along her jaw and into the crook of her neck. His hands dug under her shirt to stroke his blunt nails over her bare skin. With a shiver, Ellana did the same, slipping her hands under his tunic.
"To bed then, vhenan?" he asked, nibbling her ear.
She shivered again, groaning as one of his hands found her breast. "Yes." She twisted her head to capture his lips again, breathing fast already. She let her right hand fall to the hard lump of his arousal and squeezed.
He broke the kiss to gasp, his breath shaky and his eyelids fluttering. "It has been far too long."
"It has," she agreed, her voice husky as she stepped back from him and undressed. Her skin felt warm under his hungry stare. He shed his clothing, somehow managing to do it both quickly and gracefully. Then he folded her in an embrace, his skin warm and smelling earthy, like pine.
They transitioned to the bed and Ellana pinned Solas beneath her, capturing his lips for another long, passionate kiss. When they broke it, breathing fast, Solas' eyes were wide and dark, dilated with his desire, but his features were soft with love. He stroked the arrowhead against her breastbone. Something like melancholy made his brow knit. "I should not have left you so long. Can you forgive me?"
"Will you come to the Exalted Council with me?" she countered, gripping his hand at her throat with her own and lifting his fingers to her mouth.
Hunger erased the sadness, just as she'd planned. "How could I not?"
Grinning, she kissed him again and maneuvered her hips, taking him inside her. He gasped against her mouth but she wouldn't let him go, keeping a grip on his shoulder with her free hand. He grabbed hold of her hip and moaned as she moved over him.
She sighed, indulging and enjoying herself with the taste of his mouth and then breaking the kiss to nuzzle his ear. He shuddered and held her as he sat up, moving with her as she ground against him.
"How long can I keep you tonight?" he asked, moaning with pleasure into her ear. His breath was hot as it puffed against her neck.
"All night," she said and laughed as he made a velvety noise in the back of his throat, apparently appreciating that length of time. "I won't let you escape now. You have three months to make up for."
He kissed her neck, nibbling. "Vhenan…"
The door to Ellana's bedchamber squeaked on its hinges then and a familiar female voice started to say, "I have your meal from the—" Millie cut herself off with a high-pitched croak and scrambled back out the door with the sound of clinking plates on her tray.
"Fenedhis," Solas said, the curse emerging as both growl and groan.
Ellana clung tighter to his shoulders and bit his ear. "Just like old times." As he chuckled she called to Millie, "Leave it there and close the door please. I am not to be disturbed."
"Of course, your worship," the maid said, squeaking. The door whined as it shut and Ellana heard footsteps thumping as they disappeared back down the hallway.
"Strange," Solas said against her skin, sighing as he stroked up and down her back. "She still thinks you divine even after—"
"You think too much," Ellana admonished, laughing as she kissed him again and ground her hips over him. She grinned with satisfaction when he moaned against her mouth. Pulling away to let them both breathe, she said, "Didn't Andraste have an elven lover, too? So it's only fitting."
Solas let out a gasping laugh. "Blasphemy," he teased, smiling and with his eyes half-closed, lidded with pleasure.
She picked up the pace, feeling the slick heat building inside her. Solas supported himself with one hand while the other guided her hips, his legs partway off the bed. She gripped him around the shoulders with both arms, leveraging her body over his lean frame. He kissed her throat as she tossed her head back, crying out as the climax seized her, sending pulses of pleasure through her. Solas grunted through gnashed teeth as he reached the peak just after her, his voice smooth even with orgasm.
Both of them sweaty and panting, Ellana found his lips for another long kiss. She kept clinging to him, moaning her satisfaction with each exhale.
Finally, when she'd caught her breath enough, Ellana chuckled. "I think we're both out of practice."
"Then we must remedy that," Solas said, husky and soft. "How long until the council?"
"Six weeks," she answered, shivering as he caressed her back. "You'll support me regardless of what happens there?"
He nuzzled her neck. "Ar lath ma, vhenan. My love is not conditional. I will support you whatever you decide."
She held his face with both hands, staring into his blue-gray eyes. "Promise?"
He smiled and she didn't miss the tinge of sadness in it before he pressed his forehead to hers. "I promise."
"Good," she said, smiling. That will have to do.
Author Note: I am still trying to work out how AO3 works. I have end notes for most of my chapters and it seems to display the first chapter's end notes together with the second chapter's end notes. So I am just going to tack them on down here or omit them where I can.
Ar lath ma: I love you
Next Chapter teaser:
"Didn't you know?" Dorian asked, strolling up to within almost arm's length of Solas. He twisted his mustache as he spoke. "It's Ambassador Pavus now. I'm officially the token Tevinter for all of Southern Thedas. Isn't that delightful?"
"I suppose congratulations are in order then. I'm amazed to admit it, but the Imperium finally did something right." He let his smile broaden with a little smug edge to it.
"Yes," Dorian said with a sniff. "But don't say that loud enough for anyone to hear you. My countrymen have quite the reputation at stake what with destroying Arlathan, unleashing the blight on the world, and of course Corypheus and the Venatori." He sighed. "Well, now I've gone and depressed myself."