Chapter 1: Prologue
It had been months since she faced the trespasser. He bounded through her world like a hound, stealing with him her trust and her heart. He stayed fiercely close to her during her ascent. When the opportunity arose, he vanished out of her life. The secrets she'd discovered months after are what's driving her to find him again.
The Inquisition was disbanded as well. A worn dagger wedged into the brown map of Thedas pushed the group into the foreign and dangerous lands of Tevinter. Efforts of searching for something, anything, proved to be fruitless for weeks. Lotasin'Dorei Lavellan, or more commonly known as Lotus, felt exhausted by the weeks of searching for answers in secret.
Forests were her familiar place, as the Dalish were nomadic people that traveled on land boats, aravels, through the wilderness. A quick glance into a mirror, however, would prove it trying to explain that Lotus was Dalish, mainly in part to her absent vallaslin.
She visited a sister clan to the Lavellan who made their presence known to those who could read the forest; patterns carved lightly on trees, foreign leaves by stumps, and the direction in which the birds flew were signs left to those who could read them. On her last day staying with the Dalish, the keeper handed a light pouch of parting gifts.
The Elven ex-inquisitor held her head in her hands, sitting in a lonely campsite in the outskirts of civilization. The crackling of the small campfire brought her to her senses. The small, leather pouch contained rare herbs that granted consciousness in the fade. She had used the remaining resources of the Inquisition to acquire these precious plants and finished most of them off by now. Dreaming in Skyhold had been difficult to focus and navigate, but perhaps the weak veil of Tevinter would be easier.
She fell back into her makeshift tent; The overpowering scent of herbs and lingering taste of lyrium drowned Lotus into a slumber. As a mage, she was able to see the fade. On quite everyday circumstances, mages are not able to consciously control their adventures whilst dreaming. This day for the ex-inquisitor seemed to be different. Her eyes closed, and the world went dark.
A green expanse of floating rocks and quiet noise woke her, wide-eyed and expecting. She glanced about, ready to explore for something.
His hand reached quickly for her shoulder, and he exclaimed his spell in a hissing whisper.
"Is Judala em'an vis hartha"
He will kill us if he hears
Lotus complied, partly in shock. She felt a change in her body for a second, becoming slightly lighter. She was now following the commands of a stranger spirit, following him as their pace picked up. Sharp ears peeked out from under his long, red hair.
They come to an abrupt stop, and after a hand wave, a massive tree with a rabbit hole entrance was made visible. The two waste no time climbing into the hole, and the spirit turns around before Lotus could see the underground. He stared straight into Lotus' eyes and gripped her shoulders to prepare her.
"Ma'melin Aethas, Ar ame falon ormana"
My name is Aethas, a friend of the distant past.
Aethas paused for a moment, glancing behind him.
"What you are about to see may shock you. I understand you have no memories from Arlathan…"
Lotus did nothing, her mind slowly processing what could be happening. The spirit released one hand and made way for her to see in the center of the dirt room.
A woman lay on a pedestal, partly destroyed armor glistened gold in the soft green light. Roots from the tree above pattern the dirt walls, and reach back up into the center, twisting into the pedestal. Lotus stepped forward to the physical body, it laying without a breathing movement. It was like looking at a mirror; closed eyes, a few extra scars, and a foreign vallaslin are the only differences between the sleeping woman and Lotus.
"Lota is your name."
Aethas broke the silence, startling the ex-inquisitor. His long, red hair contrasted the green around them like refined silk against tree bark.
"Your spirit split from your physical body when he created the veil."
He continued, watching her carefully while explaining. Lotus was stiffening in confusion and shock. Aethas gave a slight smirk out of nostalgia, thinking about the memories from the past before he continues.
"The spirits lamented your death, but we couldn't understand how your physical body was here. We hid you far from what is now the Black City. Over the centuries you were forgotten: your physical body was not in a place of pilgrimage and your soul had been unseen… until now."
Lotus only stared into the sleeping face of the other woman... Herself? Her mind was rearranging the pieces and trying its hardest not to believe it.
"If I had not been your keeper then even I would have forgotten your face. It's apparent you finally found a mutable body that created its own identity and shaped this world once again."
Aethas stepped behind her and stood solid for what would happen next.
Nails like needles gripped at the skin, ghostly hands gripping her forearms, the spirit clung onto Lotus in a quick moment.
The corpse sat up with closed eyes, facing Lotus. Terror flushed over the woman as she kicked and screamed but was held back by the arms. The corpse raised her hand to the frightened one's face, slowly opening the eyelids to reveal nothing. Thick, luscious ash blonde hair framed her paling face. The thorned vallaslin was unlike any Dalish markings she had ever seen before. Hollow fingers met Lotus' skin, and staring into the nothingness caused her to gasp in enlightenment.
Memories, secrets, friendships, feeling and fleeting rushed through her mind. The golden city shone brightest, and the true blood of the Elvhen became her. The corpse fell onto her, melting into her, becoming one. Aethas released his grip and gave her some space.
It flooded over her like the waves of the ocean. Now she remembered her past life in Arlathan, as the Champion of a king. She was the lover of Solas, and confidant of the Dread Wolf. Now, her blood sings in full, as true and real as the Elvhen. She felt her arcane ability change into something foreign and familiar.
"Your time in life inspired as much as you had in death. Even now, you persevere."
Aethas quietly spoke, hoping not to destroy her adapting mind.
"Solas walks the dinan'shiral to awaken those trapped in the Eluvians. That also means destroying the physical world and unleashing the Evanuris in the Black City and the Forgotten Ones in the Abyss. I am certain he cannot restore Elvhenan on his own, and without taking as many innocent lives he needs."
He stopped, words cutting short on themselves. He searched Lotus' focused expression for an answer. The only thing left on the resting pedestal was a golden hilt.
A long pause was met with a response: not with fear or naivety, not with anger or contempt, but with strong-willed determination.
"I will find a way. Var las vir suledin tarsul ga, lethalin."
Our hope will prevail over all, lethalin.
Chapter 2: Fallen Star
Lotus goes back in time with a certain Tevinter magister.
9:53 Dragon Age
The gloomy Tevinter weather was what she had been accustomed to in the spring months; A drumming patter of raindrops crashing into the windows mixed with the sound of soldiers marching through the street gave warning to make haste in her reading.
Tevinter, as old and ugly and black as it had been, gave truth to the stories from her clan. War and destruction only caused pain and frustration. Luck seemed to have surfaced a little under three times: once in discovering the secrets and second in finding the Black Emporium. It must be certain that the third time is now.
Her slender body hunched over the ancient wooden desk. The drapes of the attic were closed but the windows let in thin slivers of dusk. Orange veil fire lit the sconces around the small attic, littered with leatherback books, papers, baubles, pens... the vaulted ceiling was thick enough to drown out the light patters of drizzle coming from outside. The atmosphere was warm, and it the entirely familiar scent of musk and lilacs floated about.
A few streaks of gray have woven their way through short, ash blonde hair. Thin scars are hidden behind her precisely docked ears. Tired, brown, eyes that have lost their honey skimmed intently through loose pages of what seems to be sloppy ramblings and indiscernible letters. The ink was dry but new, and the papers plentiful enough to be a novel.
An hour passes. Now three. Her eyes never leave the words, hungrily increasing the pace. Something was riveting in the writing, hypnotizing her to finish.
Time Magic: The Theory of Moving Back.
The knight's heart raced as she finally finished. Her callused hands meet her face, then return to leaning on the table. That haste title written in large, fancy letters spoke itself to her again.
Lotus was still processing what had been reported.
Her voice, shaking and hopeful, thirsty and breathless, broke through the silence of the dimly lit attic.
"A magnificent breakthrough, if I do say so myself, Lotüs."
Turning on her heel to see him, Dorian's confident smile lit the room. She ran to him and they embraced, his dark and toned arms almost sweeping her up by the waist. The mix of dark lilac enveloped her. She smiled as she remembered how much Dorian loved his perfumes.
The mage started, choking on his own words. Memories of the past flooded his mind, almost overwhelmingly. The journey to Haven, meeting Lotus, defeating Corypheus, returning to Tevinter... Iron Bull...
His silk, black hair was now course and graying. Battle scars, mostly burns, speckled his once immaculate complexion. Wrinkles tore away at his once youthful appearance. He held onto Lotus tightly, one of his marred hands holding the back of her head.
Tevinter was thrown into chaos a year after the Trespasser arrived. The Qunari forces marched into the land, starting a war that seemed to have no real end. Lotus came to see Dorian about the beautiful idea that shined during the darkest years of their lives, nearly eight years ago. The Tevinter borders were tightly closed off soon after, but Lotus decided to stay. The magisterium was quickly abdicated of all political reformation power, forcing the idea of opposition to never take hold. He and the other magisters were conscripted as generals and tacticians of the war.
She stayed, creating a life for the purpose of their research. There was no reason to travel back and forth, with vicious birds of prey hunting every foreigner. In her time after the inquisition, she had excommunicated almost all of her loved ones. The most expensive documents that were forged at the cost of her own blood proved her to be Dorian's cousin through a deceased family member. Delicate, beautiful, pointed ears were surgically altered to fit the appearance of a human. And now, at the peak of the war where Tevinter soldiers have begun sacrificing large concentrations of refugees and 'useless' citizens for blood magic fuel, nothing could stop her from setting things right.
They released from their embrace, eyes wet with excitement. Lotus reached with her delicate fingers to wipe away the tears running from Dorian's eyes. Her thumb moved across a scar for a second, her eyes catching his.
"We're almost there," Lotus began, face bright with hope. He turned away, and she gripped his hands tighter, trying to meet his darkening gaze.
"Aren't you ready, Dorian!"
Uncertainty crept uncomfortably up her neck. He stayed silent.
"We can go back— can stop this, we can go back!" She grasped both of his larger hands in her small ones, fingers wrapping around his palms.
"Then we must travel to the fabled Black Emporium". Dorian produced a worn map from his bag. They walked to the table and it stretched across. The inquisition seal was hauntingly stamped onto the bottom right corner. Their journey should bring them just northwest of Kirkwall, in the Free Marches.
After six weeks, Dorian crafted the talisman. It was a thin, gold chain with a small teardrop diamond at the end. Simple and beautiful, it the best parting gift that could be produced. His own blood was infused in the chain, leaving small flecks of brilliant red.
With help from their contacts, the pair of mages finally left Tevinter after eight years. Eight years of torment, captivity, and disguise, the two left the cursed lands once and for all in this lifetime.
Lotus gripped her satchel of few belongings, one of them inside including a bar of lilac soap Dorian wouldn't let her leave without.
The days felt short. Dark, damp, and deciduous, the fall had no beauty anymore. It was warm but bleak in every tavern along the way. Familiar faces were a thing of the past, and with each uncomfortable stare from a drunkard would only be from their time in the inquisition. Aside from that, the pair looked as haggard and old as everyone else. Not to mention with the lack of elf ears and Dorian's change of Tevinter garb, they looked like average free marchers.
It wasn't far from the city of Kirkwall, but after hours of weaving through the forests, Lotus had found a pattern amongst the nature around her. The trees whispered, the insects sang, and the blackbirds emerged from the west. They had found the Black Emporium.
The two stopped to tie their horses just outside the hut. Their old bones ached in this humid, mysterious hut with ravens and creatures scattering about. It was tucked into the mountainside behind a foggy marsh, which was a pain to get through.
The door creaked as they entered, and the skittering creatures appeared to take no heed of the foreigners. The hut was decorated with curious wares and baubles, smelling like humid forest and strange scents. The thing in the center was none other than the talkative and decrepit human, Xenon.
"Few people are worthy of an invitation, you know. They search the sewers for the emporium and accost poor urchin. And I tell urchin to say, 'No! You are not worthy. Starve in the sewers!' Except urchin never speaks."
Dorian's wrinkles creased as he cringed at the booming voice. He looked around the hut, strolling along the deck. Lotus half ignored Xenon's ramblings as she set straight for the fabled black mirror.
The cool, black surface did not reflect her. Lotus looked back to Dorian who looked back at her, who looked to Xenon, then they both looked back at her.
Without further ado, Lotus took a deep breath and faced the mirror. Her fingers hovered over, and with closed eyes, they met the liquid surface. Images in her mind were of her appearance, and her desire to look exactly as she did a decade prior was visualized. Taking a step back, the mirror now reflected as a normal one would.
"No accounting for taste."
The sour words flew from his mouth, and Lotus could feel it miss her mind. She was focused on her reflection.
Her hair was bright ash, her wrinkles gone, and scars clear from view. Looking down at her hands, they were now delicate and clean. Her hands instinctively reached for her ears, tracing the top length in disbelief. There was still an absent image of vallaslin stamped on her face. She gazed back into the mirror, familiar and foreign, almost ready to press on.
Dorian's mouth was left agape. The magister's expression was taken aback by her youth. The elven woman from his memories emerged from the fog brought with time.
"Don't be upset that I look younger, now..." Her attempted use of humor was ignored, and Dorian's tears still fell. She held him as he began weeping. He would be ashamed to be so weak but was overwhelmed by her image and young voice. Lotus held him again, gripping his forearms. She was close to crying as well, but knew this was not the time or place to be having a breakdown.
"Lotüs, I'm sorry,"
He whispered repeatedly. Dorian's shaking hands caressed her returned ears, remembering what he had done to them.
The latex gloves were black, but the smell of blood made it visible. The sewing needle finished the job, hands as precise as they would in calligraphy.
He was ashamed of not feeling remorse although he was conditioned against it- although now it came to strike him.
She tried, her very hardest, but was silent for weeks.
"Dorian... please, please,"
The real world came back into view, biting at his eyes. She tore his hands from her ears, gripping his wrists. Lotus stared at him firmly, tears clinging and not falling.
Dorian centered himself and inhaled deeply. He faced the mirror as well, and Lotus stepped back to watch. It was so strange, at the rate this magic worked. After one blink, the magister was his youthful self once again. Lotus marveled at his appearance from a distance while he did himself in the mirror.
"Let's go.." Lotus started, "A certain tal-vashoth is waiting to meet you again."
Dorian turned at the word 'tal-vashoth' and nodded. After the chaos in Tevinter and the war against the Qunari, Iron Bull's sending crystal stopped working. They had lost contact, and Dorian had lost hope in finding him in this lifetime.
"To Redcliffe." Dorian stated, reminding himself they were going back to where it all began.
Lotus decided to take a quick detour to a nearby encampment in the hinterlands, where it was rumored her clan would be. Or rather, whoever was left of it.
He waited to meet her at the abandoned town of Redcliffe. He stood there in the lonely inn, barren and ransacked. The sunlight poured through the broken windows and plant growth hugged at the edges. It was deteriorating: it's brick walls chipped away and wooden beams broken. A few barrels lay around, and the only table is the bar. He remembered meeting his father here through Lotus. He hated her for it; how ignorant he was at the time. Dorian smiled to himself, reminiscing over the early days of their acquaintance. He was so loyal to her. He felt her genuine desire for peace and love; Something they could tragically never have in this life. He laughed to himself remembering the delicate moments he had almost a decade ago.
The breathtaking view of the Storm Coast, tracing his fingers along the Skyhold bookcase for the first time, stealing a glance at Iron Bull from across the Skyhold tavern, and the most grateful expression Lotus had when he gifted her the sending crystal at the Winter Palace were the random memories he reflected over. Their time here was nearing an end; It was a strange, cool feeling that felt like mint leaves in his stomach.
Lotus' soft footsteps pained the old, wooden floor so much that it creaked in agony. Dorian turned slowly, with notebook in hand and necklace in the other. The ruby flecks sparkled in the sunsetting light; The gold metal absorbed it.
"Ah, Lotüs. How was your expedition..?" His voice trailed off, distracted in seeing a young Lotus again. This was truly the fade's work at hand, as this was the stuff only dreams could produce.
"It was… I should have sought them out sooner." She sheepishly replied, rubbing a hand against her neck. The delicate vallaslin of the youngest elven god, Ghilan'nain, was back as it had been.
"Now you can." Dorian smiled and opened his arms for one final embrace. The mages held each other tight in the twilight, thoughts once racing are now slowing. They were almost at the end of this cruel world.
The two looked at each other one last time, nodding in approval. They made their way across the plaza, past the chilling trees and burnt homes. Busted-down doors, scorch marks, missing ornaments, and destroyed furnishings were what lay testament to a siege on Redcliffe castle. Even the vibrant, lush carpets were beaten and torn away. What was only known for a few days by Lotus were now as decrepit as they were in the distorted future.
"A shame it looks the same as that 'Elder One' future Alexius transported us to."
The elvhen woman remarked as a chill tingled up her spine. The aromas were rank, with mold or moss clinging to the decaying bodies.
"It looks just as fabulous I remembered it, minus the red lyrium growing everywhere."
In front of the Redcliffe throne, they stood, ready to commence the spell. Dorian had been memorizing cantations the entire journey here, and was ready to have them as his final breath.
"Here we go, Dorian,"
Lotus sighed anxiously, determined not to start the waterworks again. He smiled at her, this time with no wrinkles to crack an immaculate complexion. His signature mustache curled at the ends, and brown eyes gleamed with flecks of green.
"You should already know how excited I am to try my new spells, Lotüs. But if this doesn't work out… "
He took her soft, fair face into his rough callused hands and planted a strong kiss on her forehead.
"At least we look fabulous."
Letting go, the two nervously laughed and hoped for the best.
"Ma melava halani, falon. Sule tael tasalal."
You have spent your time helping me, friend. Until we meet again.
"Vitae benefaria, amatüs."
I respectfully bid you farewell, my beloved.
Words that could have meant anything wrapped the emotional weight in the air into a loving goodbye. Lotus turned and stood with her back to him, facing the throne. Dorian began moving, as she heard the fabrics of his heavy robes echo in the grand hall. He was pushing and pulling the fade around them, chanting Tevinter tongue and distorting reality.
She cleared her mind, meditating on the endearing way Dorian said her name. 'Lotüs', it came into her thoughts, so kind and warm. She was determined to never let this happen again. It was her responsibility. Seeing his bright smile when she prepared a meal and holding him close when he screamed himself awake out of the nightmares, laughing for hours over arbitrary jokes and sitting in silence after receiving devastating news about former comrades were all memories never to be experienced again. She was hopeful to reunite him with a lover that could give him all of this happiness and more.
Dorian's hands warped the fade during his fierce concentration. Sweat beads dripped down his temples. In his final moments, he whispered the ancient Tevene words and gripped the golden necklace on Lotus' chest. He held her close, and she squeezed his arms with her hand.
The world was incredibly bright, warm, twisting and turning. Sounds of the fade wrang in their ears, and suddenly they were gone. The throne room went dark, and any traces of Lotus and Dorian were lost to time.
Two flashes of light and a face plant into sewage water was enough to wake Lotus up. She stood there, up to her calves in water, facing her company.
"Is that me? What is happening here?"
The inquisitor asked to an equally confused Dorian, visibly shaken. She looked at a live reflection; more serious than her. The reflection was now moving towards her, with no answer or change in emotion.
"Be wary, inquisitor. They are projections of the fade!"
The Tevinter warned, drawing his staff. The magister drew his staff at the same time and in the same manner, his expression just a serious as his partner's. The reflection drew a hilt from her belt, and swung downwards to ignite a flaming sword in the process. The inquisitor's eyes widened, reflecting the burning flames. All eyes turned to a free hand that sparked bright green, an all too familiar sound.
Inquisitor Lotus spun her staff and launched icicle projectiles at the emotionless reflection. She fade- stepped behind the reflection, attempting to surprise her with another primal attack. It failed, and the reflection, with ease, grabbed the wrist of the inquisitor and held the blade to her neck. Beads of sweat dripped from her face from the heat.
The Tevinter mage unsuccessfully fired flame projectiles at the magister. Magister Dorian, seasoned from years of battle, easily negated the flame attacks with the wave of his hand. The mentally younger, Tevinter mage looked around for something- anything- to outsmart the reflection.
The inquisitor squirmed away, and the two Lotuses sparred. They engaged in hand to hand combat, with the reflection successfully defending herself without any retaliation. The inquisitor leaped backward to launch magical assaults, turning the sewage water to ice to freeze the feet of her opponent. The reflection made no attempt to move, fiery sword in hand. Inquisitor Lotus' panic brought about a focused summon of a firestorm, then blasting the reflection with a cone of fire.
Dorian ran to the opposite end of the cell, attempting to blast magic attacks at his reflection to corner the two enemies. The Magister and the inquisitor were both standing in a corner of attacks as the frightened Tevinter launched an assault of ice and earth storms.
For what seemed to be a while, the inquisitor and the Tevinter ended their primal storm with panting breaths. They looked at each other wearily, but confidently smiled, thinking that this would be enough to kill mere reflections of the fade. The smoke cleared, however, and a terrified expression plastered itself onto their faces. The reflection Lotus was still standing there in the now water, blade in hand and staring dangerously into the eyes of the inquisitor. The reflection Dorian menacingly stood close to her, staff raised above his head.
In an instant, the inquisitor's lower half was frozen solid. The cold temperature instantly killed all feeling to her lower body, and just before she was about to scream, a hand viciously covered her mouth.
In an instant, the Tevinter's knees fell to the ground, out of his control. His face was frozen in a contorted image of pure horror, as the Magister's outstretched hand glowed a soft purple. A scream of horror could not even escape the Tevinter's mouth.
The reflections had spent enough time observing how weak they had to act. The primitive fighting styles and extent of magical knowledge they were at this point in time were easy to remember.
The older Lotus grabbed the arm of the inquisitor, remembering the addicting power of the anchor. She focused on absorbing the mark again, and her body's familiarity with it welcomed it incredibly well. Lotus had gained mastery in the mark far past this time in her life, and understood how to symbiotically communicate with it. The painful stabbing sensation caused the inquisitor to attempt in screaming, and the older Lotus to go lightheaded. It was painful on the giving end, as she remembered when her mark was taken away from her, but empowering on the receiving. The inquisitor's head fell forward in exhaustion.
The Magister pulled a dagger from his belt and executed the Tevinter in one swift movement, careful not to let blood spill on the clothes.
The all too familiar sound cracked the silence, and the sewers turned emerald green. The older Lotus held the mark up to her face in the examination, stealing a second to thank her luck in the success of the absorption. Before the inquisitor could question, head lifting barely in the exhaustion and mouth agape, she lifted the burning blade. With one swift movement, the Lotus from the past executed the inquisitor, cauterizing the blood as it spilled.
The clothes felt uncomfortable and smelled disgusting. The golden hilt and talisman were tucked neatly away in her knapsack. Lotus, mentally eight years older than she should be, lightly jogged through the sewers with Dorian just behind her.
The young, hopeful, and genius voice called out from behind her. She stood frozen for a second, trying to claim her bearing.
"I apologize. Just getting used to calling that out again."
Lotus rolled her eyes and laughed in response, trying to remember the path to the cells. They came back quickly. Her feet moved from under her like muscle memory to the cell she needed to find.
The soft crackling and distorted ringing of the red lyrium punctured its way through Enchanter Fiona's cell. She stood there, starved and thirsty but alive from the lyrium.
"You're alive… how? I saw you… disappear... into the rift."
Their conversation continued exactly how it did in the past. Lotus asks for the date, Fiona answers with 9:42 Dragon, and Dorian marvels at how they've missed an entire year. He plans at finding the amulet that Alexius used on them to travel back in time, and at this Lotus brings a hand to her necklace.
They jog lightly to find a cell with another party member.
"300 bottles of beer on the wall, 300 bottles of beer… you take one down, pass it around.. ugh."
Iron bull turns around to see the two, surprised at their existence. Dorian audibly gasps in surprise.
Without a beat, Iron Bull remarks,"You're not dead. You're supposed to be dead. There was a burn on the ground and everything."
They continue, following Lotus and rambling on the ruby walls and Bull's diseased state. She feels emotionless but her mind is running, remembering how happy Dorian was with Iron Bull. They bantered, Dorian a little more talkative than usual. A look confirming eye contact between them reminds Dorian to calm down, and that there's no time like the present.
The metal clanking of the door resounds throughout the dungeon and appears to make itself heard by someone in the cell.
"Is someone there?" He called, suspicious of who had entered.
Lotus focused intently. She could not let this unhinge her. Taking a deep breath, she led Dorian and Iron Bull to Solas' cell.
He turned slowly to meet her eyes, jumping back in surprise.
"You're alive! We saw you die!" The red lyrium sparked around his eyes. It made him appear crazed and thirsty.
"The spell Alexius cast displaced us back in time. We just got here, so to speak." Dorian said, rushing through the explanation.
"Can you reverse the process?..." Solas' hungry words sent chills down her spine. She couldn't focus on anything else he said. They were desperate and soft, quiet and screeching. It was eye-opening to see how quick he would be to sacrifice his own life for a better world. She became disgusted very quickly, tuning out during Solas' further dialogue.
"I'm glad you understood what he said, because I'm not sure I did," Lotus remarked without a pause, the memory kicking in before she could think of something else.
"You would think such understanding would stop me from making terrible mistakes. You would be wrong."
All that resounded in her mind were those words as they continued forward. Leliana's ghastly appearance and Alexius' magic did not shake those haunting words from the back of her mind. But at the face of the portal back, Lotus turned to yell out,
"Ahnsul ma ama Fen'Harel el'u o em?!"
Why did you keep the Dread Wolf secret from me?
Red lyrium Solas did not flinch, but his face contorted in despair.
"Nadal ama el lath."
To protect our love.
Dorian pulled her through the portal, twisting them back into the grand reception that felt too preserved to be real. With full rage, Lotus attacked Alexius and the rifts. To protect our love. Did Solas feel the blood of the champion upon meeting her? Does he already know the Artlathan Lota is her? She held back her abilities with great difficulty, but it was just as taxing as closing the rifts. This could ruin everything. All her plans, to change the dread wolf's heart, and to save this world...
The defeat of Alexius was met with Lotus collapsing physically, and her mind faded to darkness.
Yes, I am a World of Warcraft Nerd. Aside from that, I tried to be as lore friendly as possible. Some things were made up along the way, so I don't know if I should label it an 'alternate universe'. One last thing! Please take a look at the artwork I used as inspiration.
Visual Aid and notes! Click me hehe
Chapter 3: Aiming for Heaven
Everyone has a beginning, and the champion of Arlathan is no different.
Arlathan, the golden city. Its outer walls and palace made of solid gold. It was the capital and pride of the world. Structures stood with strong modern craftsmanship: geometric shapes and bright colors. Crystal spires of moving elevating steps allowed the denizens to travel quickly up the buildings. The streets were lined with magnificent trees of all Earth tones; verdant grass and delicate flowers filled every crevice. Looking up, the gold walls and crystal spires of the palace shone magnificently as it reflected the setting sun.
Solas peeked around the corner of the white pillar, dreads softly brushing past his shoulders.
'The knight enchanter herself,' he thought as a smirk ran across his lips.
Her hair: A soft ash blonde that glowed in the sunlight, eyes as brown as honey on tree bark, figure slim and not delicate, Lota Sin'dorei walked stoically as she exited the grand hall into the courtyard. A golden hilt was clutched firmly in one hand, poised affront her slender waist. A finely crafted helmet was held under the other arm.
The wind changed direction, pulling at the leaves around her feet. She stopped to watch but thought nothing of it, being in the garden of the palace.
The smooth, deep voice traveled down her neck in warm waves with each syllable. A familiar push of the fade crashed gently against her in waves. His breath danced down her ear, hands lingered gently under her elbows.
She should have known. A flash of burning red and orange flame burst through Lota' hilt as she twisted to fiercely greet her old friend. The burning blade hungered at his neck, but he did not flinch.
"What a welcoming way to greet a stranger."
He playfully remarked, both hands up. He was not surprised; aiming a blade at someone's neck was probably the standard greeting here.
"You're trespassing here, Solas."
Quickly he ducks, and all Lota sees is a mass of black fur traveling down and around her. She spins quickly, slicing her blade in the direction opposite he traveled, and abruptly stops short.
Her eyes meet his. The smooth, gray eyes that captivated her before he even held Elvhen form. Quickly she remembered what she was doing, and attempted to step backward.
Excitement set in, and a smirk raced across his lips. Wild blush painted his cheeks as he lunged forward to wrap his arms around her, tackling her to the ground.
The two broke into laughter, coming into an embrace as her blade vanished. The warm breeze felt as if it swept up the adrenaline in the air. Solas held himself up with his hands planted on the grassy Earth beside her. His light brown dreadlocks dangled in the frames of their faces.
"It's been so long," The knight sighed softly, letting her arms fall to the ground.
"Much too long." The shapeshifter smiled in return, letting his head fall forward.
He lifted his leg over the knight to stand, and she sat up in time to accept his outstretched arm. Lota found her helmet and tucked it under her arm as the two started walking aside each other across the courtyard. Verdant grass carpeted the grounds and grandiose marble walkways glistened under their feet. Magnificent creatures of multicolor called the courtyard their home. Rainbow parrots, azure halla, and pink nugs made their way into view once in a while. Hanging lanterns lined the walkways, and larger forest trees planted into the earth stood like sentinels neatly behind them. Walkways branched off smaller into the courtyard, disappearing in the flora and fauna that grew more intensely off of the main path. The shade reached over the two, as the golden hour began.
His skin was tanned and freckled from adventures in the wilds. Sharp ears pierced once for trial and twice for show; brown dreads tied loosely together. His garments were now of luxury weave; talismans hung around his neck like jewelry. Solas stood straighter and taller than she remembered. His smile was easier to elicit and he spoke louder, with more confidence. A blackened wolf jaw hung on a leather necklace over his chest.
Lota watched him, as his dimple pierced his smile and the light through the leaves speckled his face with golden patches. Sometimes it would catch his eyes, bringing transparency to the gray color. The more blatant detail was the golden vallaslin of Queen Mythal painted his forehead like artwork.
She was afraid he would change in the time he was gone. In the years they were separated they hadn't had contact once. Despite all that, it felt natural to speak with him. She felt comfortable in his wild presence once again.
It was a short distance off a branch in the courtyard path to a dormant eluvian. Lota whispered the key, and the portal appeared. Her playful eyes caught Solas' as she looked back.
"I suppose the champion does deserve her own eluvian." Solas teasingly quipped, smiling at the woman in front of him.
"All top palace guardsmen have the privilege of their own passcode," Lota responded as the pair walked through the blue light.
The two entered into a dark cellar, spare armor and weaponry decorating the walls. Lota led the way up to a few steps and into a dimly lit living room.
With a flick of the wrist, she summoned veil fire to light her home.
The rooms were lavish with neutral toned furnishings and sconces. The vaulted ceiling and open kitchen made it feel larger than it really was. The second floor took the upper half, above the kitchen but not the living space.
"A lovely home," Solas complimented, running his fingers across a marble countertop. His eyes half admiring the decor and half wandering for a kettle. Lota laughed to herself, presenting a gilded pot to her friend.
"Help yourself, dreamer."
He removed his brown satchel, pulling out some of its contents diligently. Different ingredients in small glass containers clinked softly onto the countertop.
After straining special measurements of herbs into the teapot, Solas infused his own heat into the water, and rythmatically completed the recipe.
Solas' reserved nature led him to love few, and admire them deeply. He looked up from the kitchen and back to his tea, inconspicuously taking a glance at her. He watched her lips curve into smiles, hair unravel while she pulled out a ribbon, and smiled at the lighthearted tone that came from her heart when she spoke. As she peeled off her armor, he couldn't help but notice her new scars of battle.
The scent of brewed tea floated around the apartment. Solas served the two, and they sat next to one another on the couch.
"I do not wish to sound arrogant, but the people have enjoyed watching me fight." She smiled to herself, sheepishly speaking. "They now ask for my signature."
"You don't have to tell me how much you're desired," Solas slyly remarked, meeting eyes with Lota. She tried to hide flushed cheeks behind her teacup.
Her fame was acknowledged by many. Even in the wilds, Solas learned of her duels— it was something the Elvhen kept up on intently. They talked about her like a celebrity, and all envied the camp stablehand that had the chance to deliver her water.
"Mythal would speak about you almost daily."
Their conversation continued. He remembered her fierce training and proving trials under the King, Elgar'nan, her rise up the ranks and luxurious perks of the position. She was brought into his palace and raised to fight in his name. She frequently travels with envoys to other cities on the outside.
Lota spoke humbly about her battles and inner court appearances. She described her travels to other cities and meeting many, many people.
She also held her tongue at times, and Solas did not challenge it. He understood why she didn't want to discuss politics; She knew she was a puppet, mere entertainment for the Evanuris. Their power disgusted them both, and Lota is one of the dwindling population that know the full history of their tyranny. War loomed in the distance, and he could feel the fear behind her joy.
Although Lota never acknowledged it, Solas' eyes occasionally lingered onto the growing and aggressive, thorned vallaslin that now ran from the knight's temples, to cheekbones, down each side of her neck and running under her tunic. With each victory, Elgar'nan's vallaslin takes visual dominance. Through this, he shows that his power is more than enough to control her if she became a threat. Through this, he makes it known to the Elven people that she is not a figure to be worshipped.
"I'm glad you're here." She concluded, before the two sunk further into the abyss. Her brown, honeyed eyes caught her friend's gray gaze. Solas smiled softly in return, a dimple piercing his cheek.
"Why of course, my tea mixing abilities are unrivaled in all of Arlathan." The dreadlocked Elvhen playfully remarked, after refilling her cup.
She settled on the opposite end of the couch, legs crossed and facing him.
"How I missed this.."
She sighed, taking a breather for the first time in a while.
Solas watched his companion's soft gaze drift into the tea. This brew reminded him so much of her- the rose essence and simple elfroot, blended with delicate lily of the valley and other elven commodities. Common ingredients blended at the precise amounts created a complex taste that he sank into during his loneliest nights in the wilds.
"I learned many things there," Solas began, as the conversation turned to discuss what happened in the last few years.
"What it means to be Elvhen, and to run with the wind."
He spoke about something Lota learned growing up. Living in the outer villages, she reveled in the forests as a girl. She understood him, and seeing him speak about these experiences brought nostalgia to her. Bound to Mythal, Solas came into this world only having the capacity to serve willingly. He quickly became one of her favorites, as his desire for knowledge and attitude were more Elvhen than spirit. Charisma and wit came into his character after he met Lota.
He described the stories in the wilds as full of absolute freedom and discovery. The days of training now granted Solas the ability to shapeshift, among other Magics. He studied many things on the ends of their society that only the elite know. He studied the Void and the fade, and came into his own as an ambassador to those who are to be forgotten.
"The inner court call me Fen'Harel, the dread wolf,"
Solas continued in his story.
"Don't tell me it was because of your hairstyle..."
Lota cut him off, smirking.
His eyes rolled as she laughed, dimple piercing his smile. He went in about story with Fel'assan, the slow arrow. His name:
"It was used as an insult, that now I wear as a badge of pride."
Lota thought about his diplomacy and charisma. It would raise him to the level to the Evanuris, almost. The stories, the connections, the hardships he had never faced because he was a spirit...
Topics change to more trivial and lighthearted matters, starting from questions of mutual friends, to new city developments, to arbitrary ideas that connect in ways only Lota and Solas can connect them. Intrigue, excitement, and laughter resonated in their vocal exchanges.
In the back of her mind, Lota figured his ascent will not stop anytime soon. He had already been rumored to be in good contact with the Forgotten Ones and the Evanuris. Perhaps he could be the one who brokers peace between the two. As a spirit turned Elvhen, teaching Lota the history of injustice and war, it was hard envisioning him advocate for otherwise.
Suddenly, reality returned. Solas moved closer to her, resting an elbow on the back of the couch and cheek on that hand. He eyed her lips and looked away, chuckling in embarrassment before looking back into her brown eyes.
"Tell me, "The champion set her cup down, and Solas followed. Her face was sly, as her smoking gaze set curiously on Solas. "Was it lonely without me there? In the wilds?"
The wolf smirked, his voice barely a whisper: "The forests weeped, longing for your presence,"
He moved to speak softly in her ear, eyes dark and daring: "As did I."
Her face flushed red, his gentle fingers tilted her chin they both moved for a soft and small kiss. Another and another, hands moving, lips colliding, hearts smiling and familiar.
"The flowers might as well be on your cheeks, darling." A mother cooed, placing another behind her child's ear. The small, ash blonde girl with a flower in each hand giggled in response.
Lota Sin'Dorei from Shal'Aran village was a tender young age when the darkness swept across her home. An eclipse cast by magisters grew a shadow over the land of the eternal sun. The Titans, tall and destructive, destroyed the Elvhen creations with their earthquakes. The spirits, wisdom-seeking and members of the fade vanished during the calamity.
The village warriors raced to attack, including Lota's parents. They commanded the first contact battle with the Titans, although fighting in vain.
The girl was small and smart enough to hide in a wooden barrel, frozen in fear for the following few days. The roars of agony, the screams of the sword, and the hissing breath of destruction. She prayed that the eternal sun to return soon and that this nightmare would be over.
What woke her from an unwilling slumber was the trotting of horses and clinking of armor. What shook her was a golden guard lifting the top of the barrel, his blue eyes catching her brown ones.
Elgar'nan, the leader of the Evanuris recruited Elvhen who showed promise and a thirst for justice. Lota, like the other small percentage of orphans, were raised in an academy to become the soldiers and knights in the army. Through proving grounds and the battlefield, Lota displayed her combat excellence and rose to excellence. She was very decorated for such a young age and favored by Elgar'nan and Mythal for her talents. The war with the Titans began, and the latter third of Lota's youth was spent as a weapon for the Elvhen people.
Through their military leadership as generals and incredible magic ability, Elgar'nan and Mythal changed the world. They set the sun and rose the moon, and the cycle was precedent for the rest of eternity. Titans were driven to the underground, and lyrium was mined from the one who had fallen. The Evanuris comprised of them and six other generals, later being hailed as rulers of their own kingdoms. All who opposed were left behind and outcasted from the new Elvhen society: they were known as the Forgotten Ones, and they established their home on the outskirts and in the Abyss.
The knighthood and it's perks came with the trade of freedom. Lota was branded, as they all were, with Vallaslin. At first, there was no reason to protest. Lota couldn't have been more grateful to Elgar'nan for her second chance at life, as many others believed. But as time went on, she saw those who were in less fortunate arrangements with their Evanuris. She didn't yet fully understand the extent of their slavery in her small palace world. Lota was a young adult, barely gaining her foothold in the new world.
Centuries pass. And then she met him. Or rather, assigned to him. Her expression mentally pained, because she stood in front of Mythal as she tasked her with teaching a spirit to fight.
Teaching a spirit to fight? The Elvhen are spirits made flesh. Spirits otherwise are always shifting and always changing. They flutter about as wisps and never return the same way twice. They carry our essence once we die, and journey through the world to reclaim flesh. Those who return more than twice are also spirits, but do not wish to claim flesh. They cannot, as they have spent too many centuries taking 'flesh' of their own, a more permanent ghostly form that is completely fade. They are only emotion seeking, and have no interest in doing. They are our...
"...tools," Mythal's sultry, powerful voice begins where Lota ends her thoughts.
"I know you have been taught to perceive them as such." She continues, shifting her weight. An outstretched arm waves over the wall of books in her study. The book filled walls of the grandiose study chamber feel closer than they really are. Unfocused browns and reds are mottled by warm candle flames.
"They are much more than what you were made to believe, Lota."
Tingles ran up her arms as her name leaves Mythal's mouth.
"I wish for you to help me with proving this."
Lota graciously accepted the challenge but was ultimately confused. How could she speak to a wisp, let alone keep sight of it for longer than a few moments?
These questions were answered when Mythal explained his binding.
Around the same time, Lota was born into this world, Mythal's first successful subject had emerged from a surrogate. The first born, the Pride of Mythal. Solas.
"He was an intelligent spirit bound to a woman after conception. It was a spirit who lived only to seek wisdom and did not wish to form into flesh. At the time of birth, the spirit resigned to its fate unlike many other rebellious ones, and Solas emerged."
Mythal recounted, almost reminiscing over the past. She held much pride in her unnatural accomplishment.
He was placed in Tel'Anor village, North of Shal'Aran village where mostly nobles lived. It was revealed that he spent much of his life until now in the fade, acting as a spirit of wisdom would. At times, Solas would spend weeks or months in an Uthenera-like state. During the war on the Titans, the calamity locked him into the fade as he was pulled in forcibly by other spirits. The secret of his nature was at the utmost importance: Only Mythal, his birth mother, and himself, and now Lota are the only beings that know of it. One thing was certain with the power-hungry Evanuris: the abuse of that power would have reached farther than just defeating the Titans.
After the War on the Titans and the calamity, Solas spent less time in the fade and more in the physical world. Elvhen society at the time forbade contact with many spirits because they disappeared at the moment they needed them most. He and another Mythalian youth, Felassan, were enlisted into the research arm of the palace.
During this time, Elgar'nan decided to implement the champion tourney to prevent further warring, specifically with another kingdom. Falon'Din was the first of the Evanuris to grow jealous of Elgar'nan's power and decided to challenge it. Lota, bearing superiority with combined power and popularity, was chosen as his champion to tour Elvhenan and fight in the name of Arlathan. The winner of the tourney would receive 'marked' or 'unmarked' villages from other Evanuris. Lota's village, Shal'Aran, was an example of such 'unmarked' village that no large amount of villagers dawned an Evanuris' vallaslin. The marked villages, such as Tel'Anor, would have to morph the existing vallaslin into similar or the same markings as the new Evanuris. It was a grossly regulated version of the slave trade and an excruciating procedure.
Lota could not be beaten against any other Evanuris' champions. Elgar'nan chooses to popularize her amongst the slaves by not trading any village in his kingdom to other Evanuris for the first tournament. He also slaughters the newly gained village in exchange for power.
After a full year of the tourney, the champion returned to Mythal's palace in Arlathan to meet him. She had read letters about him shortly after she left. Nervous and dreadful, she hoped that there would be more to the notes than 'Blunt' and 'Knowledgeable'. She hoped there would be some sort of personality to work with, whatever an Elvhen of artifice could be like. Certainly, he learned from living in another village, like her.
Walking swiftly through the palace halls with notes in hand, she hastily opens the door to their meeting chamber so as not to be late.
His icy gray eyes lock into hers as he stands to meet her. Whatever was not in his dreads were a few coily strands of light brown hair that peeked out at aesthetic angles. A dimple pierced the cheek, and freckles danced when his high cheekbones moved to smile.
'Era'vun, please-' Lota could not even finish the thought that, when fully stated, begged for 'the night' to take over metaphorically to put an end to their meeting. He was quite handsome and she was losing her bearing.
"I am Solas," he reaches awkwardly and confidently to shake her hand.
"I've heard much about you, Champion of Arlathan."
"Please, address me as Hahren Lota."
It was awkward for her to have him address her as Hahren because they were the same age, but it was recommended by her own Hahren in the ranks to establish respect. She accepted his hand to shake, feeling the energy underneath. It was unlike anyone she's ever felt before. More fade in his blood than substance.
"Yes, Hahren Lota."
It was repeated in the most innocent manner possible. The gesture lingered in the air, as if he were tasting it. His voice, smooth and strong like Mythal's sent the same sensation over her arms when he said her name.
"Now, do you understand how this arrangement works?"
"Yes. You instruct me on the physical fundamentals of intermediate and advanced combat, and I tutor you on anything you do not know."
A snicker from behind was from another Elvhen, eavesdropping while inconspicuously searching for a book. Solas didn't seem to take notice.
'Pride was definitely the right name for him.' Lota thought to herself.
"Correct," she nodded after a slight pause, reflecting on his words 'anything you do not know'. The champion gestured for him to follow.
"Our schedule will be tutoring during the vun'in and combative training in the era'vun."
Academics in the daytime and physical activities during the night.
They walked through a door out to the courtyard. It was night, the time of darkness, and Lota was curious to see what he could do.
"Are you prepared to spar with me, Solas?" She challenged, assuming combat position.
"Yes, of course!"
He responded eagerly, surprised. His expression shifted to determined, and the moonlight illuminated their sparring ground. His gray eyes couldn't shift away from hers.
Her hand motioned him to come forward, and Solas took the command wholeheartedly. He lunged for her, fists blazing with face energy.
'At least he knows how to wield the fade properly,' Lotus thought, easily dodging the attack. She pushed him backwards softly, just enough to make him charge at her again.
Instead, Solas charges a green fist of molten rock to hurl at Lota. She runs and stops short inches from his face, hang gripping the fist, and neutralizes it. Solas wriggles his way away from the champion's grasp and suddenly the earth from under her tears away to swallow her leg. Lota is genuinely caught off guard for a second, and quickly jumps away from it.
The two charge and collide with one another, sustaining their fight with hand to hand combat.
'This is where Solas seems to be doing his best at,'
Lota mentally remarks as she blocks his strikes. He is fierce for probably never fighting a day in his existence.
'Perhaps he's done some reading on it, but now he's definitely out of breath.'
She decides there is not much else to learn from him, and tackle him into a headlock. His arms attempt to break him free, but ultimately make no progress. His huffing and puffing were definitely cute.
Lota releases. His face is flushed with exhaustion and makes no attempt to hide it. He stands before her, confident to continue sparring. He is not ready to be defeated. He opens his mouth to speak-
"I've seen what I need today," Lota cuts him off, establishing herself.
'This will be much easier than I expected. What I wonder is why Mythal instructed me to teach him combat when he could've done so from anyone else? Does our age and my accomplishment have to do with it? Or is this another tether to the palace, so that I may never feel the need to leave?'
The champion nods after her suspicions, half turning to leave to continue brooding on the way back home.
"We will continue this tomorrow."
"Ma seranas, Hahren. On'nydha."
Thank you, teacher. Good night.
The following months were filled with the fundamentals. Lota was barely educated so she had to begin anew as well. They took turns teaching one another, one in the presence of bookends and the other in the courtyard.
A/N: And now we begin our story. I also imagine Arlathan to be quite modern.
9:41 Dragon: Haven
Whispers of the fade are the last thing heard as Lotus opens her eyes. They wander about the cabin, and she is forced to accept that this reality is real.
Dorian sent her back, successfully .
She glances down at her hands, one has a green scar and is quiet. The other hand hovers over it, feeling the trespasser’s magic.
Air fills her lungs as she takes a deep sigh, closing her eyes and preparing to meet him once again.
“You would think such understanding would stop me from making terrible mistakes. You would be wrong.”
“Ahnsul ma ama Fen’Harel el'u o em?!”
Why did you keep the Dread Wolf secret from me?
“Nadal ama el lath.”
To protect our love.
His words echo in her mind once again, and she tries to shake them out. To focus, on not only preventing the Hell that became of her world— but to gain his trust in order to change it.
A few moments later the door opens, and she knows it’s him. His careful steps, his-
“Ah, Inquisitor! You’re awake.”
-soft voice, and-
Solas’ long fingers reach for her mark, tracing over it.
Lotus flinched and pretended it hurt, to make him recoil. The other mage did, and when she turned to look at him the expression was concerned.
And closer than what she remembered.
“No, actually, I was just startled.. for some odd reason.” She innocently replied, instantly regretting feigning her pain. His eyes, cool gray and mysterious, were easy to get lost in.
“I intended to check in and see how you were doing. I assume you are recovered now?”
Lotus looked down at the mark on her hand, radiating green. His was still resting close to it.
“Yes, I do. Thank you, Solas, for caring for me... I know it must not have been easy.”
After a short moment of silence, Lavellan looked back up to see a blush dusted across his cheeks. He relaxes and moves his face a few inches away.
“You had quite the nightmares, worse this time than when we first met.” Solas remarked softly, eyes keeping contact with hers.
“I don’t remember that... how long have I been out?”
Shock grew across her face, and Solas quickly rubbed embarrassment into it.
“You insisted on attacking me, forcing me to call upon the Seeker to subdue you like a wild animal. You also called out for the Tevinter mage on occasion. It was a spectacle to behold, inquisitor.”
His eyes sparkled alongside a devious smirk. Lotus could only wince at his words.
“I am so sorry, Solas... I really apologize..”
“I assure you, it is no worry.”
His hand touched her wrist, unexpectedly.
“What troubled me was that I could not find you in the fade.”
Ooooh, the fade. She remembered what they did there. All the secretive time they spent in their small reality. But that hadn’t happened yet, so it’s best to stay away from that conversation.
“Well, I’ve found myself now.”
Lotus replies with a smile, and soon after the two journey with the others to seal the breach at the Conclave.
It was as easy as she remembered, the way she contorted the tear in the fade to be sewn. Everyone marveled at her ability and cheered, believing it was over.
“...But this was your victory. Word of your heroism has spread.”
Cassandra’s strong voice softened, waiting for a reply. The two women stood on a snowy ledge, overlooking the inquisition dancing around the large fire. They all celebrated, the mages and the people, not expecting what would come very soon.
“This was a victory of alliance.”
Lotus made sure every civilian was out of their homes for this festivity. The alcohol, although still supplied, had been cut dramatically so as to promote a sober and aware evening. She was thankful Josephine and Cullen complied with her wishes.
“One of few in recent memory. With the breech closed, this alliance will need new focus.”
The seeker’s words have never been more ominous. Lotus remembered just as it was, the bells tolling moments after their conversation and Corypheus invading Haven.
Everything played as if it were re-enacted by spirits in the fade, accurately; there was no stopping the invasion. Lotus didn’t bother with telling everyone prematurely to escape through the tunnels. It would give way to suspicion.
“So be it. I will begin again, find another way to give this world a mission, and God, it-!”
Corypheus’ thundering profession was cut short by the inquisitor once the red flare makes even the slightest appearance in her peripheral.
“Your arrogance blinds you. Dirthara-ma!”
The Dalish curse: may you learn
She kicks the arm of the lever, hurling a boulder from the trebuchet and making a run for it. The Tevinter and his dragon quickly leave, and Lotus dives past the rotting wood and into the underground tunnel.
What seems like hours pass, the fear takes its hold on Lotus. Trudging through the snow, she feels the winds push harder. Whatever magic she had tried to conjure to keep her warm is now faded.
Paranoia sets in. All she can think of is Dorian. Years of torment just to only have died in the snowstorm before even talking to him again.
The wolves howling; She knows that’s Solas’ doing. To help her find the camp, the howls let her know she was on the right path. ‘By the dread wolf’, a dalish curse she had said in this situation before, now reminds her of unrelenting failure and frustration.
In the final moments of her life fading away, her knees buckle. Her eyes begin to force their way shut, but not before she could hear a faint yell.
“That’s the inquisitor!”
Her body collapses, arms clawing their way to see the warm glow of the camp below the hill. The last thing she remembers is the distinct sound of Cullen’s armor clinking before she is lifted.
In what felt like a moment, she was sitting in the waking world once again. Lotus watched the humans argue— lost, frustrated, and conflicting. It brought great displeasure to know that Solas was right before she understood it. The inquisition needed a leader, and it needed to be her.
Mother Giselle’s prompt to the human chorus was something Lotus didn’t care for much, now. The song needed to inspire, it had accomplished its purpose.
And Solas’ lingering presence made the uncomfortable realization that this was the moment he knew she was the leader.
“A word,” He walks up from behind her, and she follows him to a secluded cliff.
The way he sauntered to the brazier, shoulders back and head focused; The way he lights the veil fire, with an out-turned wrist flicking inward, was something her past and present self was still... impressed about. For a moment, it made her insides flutter just thinking about how marvelous he was, and they calmed when she remembered how secretive he had been.
Their conversation about the orb was interesting, although feigned curiosity bored it. They both knew everything about the Elvhen weapon— his Elvhen weapon. How he hated himself for letting it fall out of his hands during Uthenera was the reason behind his advising against the inquisition’s growth: corruption. Every wise word he spoke made sense in every context. Even when specifics were asked, the answers were still vague. Lotus doesn’t blame herself for never being able to put the pieces together, but it angers her how she wasn’t genius enough to.
“May I have a moment to speak with you longer, Solas? I would like to get to know you a bit more than just my medical assistance.”
“Of course, inquisitor.” He laughed in reply, half because of the joke and half for being caught only slightly off guard.
The two sit under the brazier, view being the dark mountains and the vast sea of stars. She wanted most to know what became of their closest friends, but vague answers are what she will resign to.
“In all your years as a traveling apostate, you must have been raised somewhere,”
”Yes, I believe I shared with you I originate from a small village north.”
“I was wondering if you had a companion throughout that time.”
“I had few, and even less that stuck with me through the testament of time.”
“Who had been your closest?”
Solas paused for a moment, thinking hard over what he would say. Half guilt and half pride allowed him to speak of the friend so confidently.
“His name was Felassan.” Solas shifted his position but continued before Lotus could ask questions. Her body stiffened.
“He was genuinely compassionate, few qualities that many people have. He was always sarcastic, and over the years grew cynical. That never let him change who he truly was. Felassan was the type to give in to what he felt was right. We got along well, and bonded over nights such as these, with the stars flooding the mountain sky.”
Lotus intently listened to how he spoke, and it wasn’t until he finished that he saw her. The sadness in her eyes, and the silence holding back questions. What he wasn’t aware of is that she knew Felassan just as well. She was saddened by hearing him being spoken of in the past tense. Solas felt her question and decided to answer it himself.
“He is remembered for how he was, even though what he had done was noble. His flame was extinguished for helping the elves in Orlais. Compassion had blinded his mission, and death was the only release for his mistake.“
“I’m sorry you lost your friend in such a way.” Lotus replied, trying not to be shaken from it. She paused, then resumed the conversation.
“Has the fade helped connect you with him? Or the reflection of his memory?”
“Somewhat,” Solas continued, and it sounded as if he were trudging against an unwelcome wind. He shook his head in disdain, wanting to get up and leave.
“Enough of my past. Why don’t you share something of yourself?” The Elvhen man asked, against his better judgment. ‘Knowing the leader of this organization could only aid him in using them’, he rationed before this conversation took place. It was harmless information gathering.
Lotus readjusted herself and turned to the mountains.
“The forests I grew up were not far from the wilds,” She positively started, raising a hand in the air.
“Sometimes the children would venture to its edges and find a beast,” An image of a dire wolf appeared through the stars with Lotus’ manipulation.
“I ran with them. I felt the wind at my back and the grass clawing at my heels. And when the arcane gift was brought into my life, the animals were the first to teach me how to manipulate the fade.” This story, although complete bullshit, mirrored her childhood in Shal’Aran and Arlathan. The story, like it would a child with the corresponding starlit images, captured Solas’ full attention. She figured it must’ve been the wolves.
“The fish taught me how to pull with the fade, moving through life with force at my back. The wolves taught me to push with the fade, manipulating its course with my direction.” Her fancy imagery came to an end, and Lotus stared into the night.
“But animals are still animals. They enslaved me.” Solas was visibly confused by this, and Lotus covered it up quickly.
“They would not let me be without casting a spell for their food, nor rest without staying awake for their safety.” She finished, breaking eye contact with him. She stared into the stars.
“Interesting. If the ones you trusted the most turned to use you... Why were you at the Conclave?” A bold question from the dread wolf himself. Lotus knew the abrupt change in topic was on the nose for understanding her motives. Why would she be on a mission from her clan if she so hated them? He was suspicious of her and wanted to predict what she could do with this mark of his. Lotus figured he would gain nothing important from the truth.
“My story remains true. I was sent as a scout by my clan because my keeper prefers to watch human politics from a distance. Unfortunately, it affects us.” She felt the vallaslin foreign and heavy on her face. What was she, now that she knew about her past in Arlathan? Certainly, that doesn’t erase her entire life as the Dalish, no matter how inaccurate their perspectives of Elvhen life was.
“Was it literal animals you had been describing in your parable then?” Solas relaxed, no longer suspiciously inquisitive, but still curious of her. She knows her blood radiates the Elvhen energy after uniting with her past self in the Fade. He should feel it if he tried. Perhaps he is deciding what to do about her.
“Would it have been more appropriate to make them flowers or dances, to fit with your perception of the Dalish?” Lotus sarcastically joked, shying away from the topic. The other mage couldn’t help but give out a small laugh.
“I don’t mean to offend laughing at the crude stereotypes of your people.” Solas remarked, turning to her smiling.
“I am nobody’s people, if I could have it that way.” Lotus replied, smiling back. For a moment, she wished she was neither Dalish nor Arlathan. Humans are the ones that have it easy in this lifetime.
“I risked my life for them... and some still eye me with caution, disdain… I don’t know what it is. They stare at the markings on my face and follow them down to my knife ears. Perhaps if I started wearing shoes and covering my ears with my hair, the Shemlen would accept me as more rather than less.” The inquisitor stated, resting her head on Solas’ shoulder without a thought. It was met with a warm response, as his arm wrapped around and welcomed her to his chest.
“Most of them respect your leadership, Lotus. But I must reassure you, that a condition of respect is not the ownership of shoes. Or hair.”
The laughter of the two echoed throughout the night, weaving its way through their arbitrary conversations about the fade and waking experiences.
Lotus wished these moments could arise again, past the defeat of Corypheus. They always seem to leave her. The stars that gleam in her eyes sparkled, hoping to see a better world.
9:41 Dragon: Skyhold
The place where the sky was held back
Coming over the hills, it easily is seen; a gray, stone monument resting in the white valley. Only time itself had stood testament to the fortress, built up by Fereldens and founded by Elvhen. Lotus remembered this being the base of operations when Solas was leading the charge against the Evanuris. The place where the sky was held back, it truly lives up to its name.
Reading the letter from Solas left on her desk was quite blunt and ominous. He never lied to her, only omitted. She held the letter in one hand and burned it quickly, frustrated he had lived so cleanly right under her nose.
As the weeks go on, progress in restoring the Skyhold from memory pass by quickly. The inquisitor and party periodically venture to the Hinterlands, helping the citizens and closing the rifts with ease this time around. The evenings setting camp, the days spent fighting, and the nights dreaming in the fade.
Lotus, after becoming one with her past self from Arlathan, now had the ability to consciously traverse through the fade, and did so while treading lightly. Aethas would often help her find her way, and she would hide her presence with the amount of magic she could use there. The green, floating expanse was now seen as less of a deserted wasteland and more of one half of the physical world. To tear the fade down would make them come together again, yes, but who could truly handle it? What of the people who couldn't?
“It’s hard to say,” Aethas replied, sitting in their underground hideaway. Lotus shaped her previous resting place into a more lavish Arlathan style home, albeit underground. Golden metals wrapped around circular beds, with royal blue plush fabrics and carpets to match. Aethas was quite pleased by this.
“I remember, you did have your doubts about the veil before it went up, and those seemed to prove true.” The spirit continued, laying on a blood red chaise.
“There has to be a compromise, someway or another.” The inquisitor stated, halfway brooding. Bringing the fade back into the physical world would give too much power to those who should never have it. Leaving it out leaves spirits like Aethas and the elvhen in their predicament. Lotus needed to think about this, and think about it hard with Dorian.
“The answer should come soon enough.” Aethas sighed, emerald green eyes connecting to hers across the room. “On another note, I think I will create a bar and practice my mixology. You remember how good of a bartender I was, right, Lota?”
“Yes, unrivaled in all of Arlathan.” Lotus chuckled, remembering a scene from their past.
“So talented you made half of my squad bedridden for 2 days off of your underground concoctions!” She threw a pillow at him, and he caught it, grinning. Their friendship stems back to fighting in the war of the Titans, meeting as new recruits under Elgar’nan. He was another top palace guardsman alongside her, and their bond was strong through the final days of Arlathan.
The feeling of the morning started to trickle into Lotus’ head, and the two bid their farewells.
9:41 Dragon: The Hinterlands
She almost missed it; The warm breeze across the green Hinterlands, faint flower scents clinging to the wind of Emprise Du Leon, and the entertaining banter between party members.
The small moments in between closing rifts and killing Venatori influenced Lotus to appreciate the vibrant environment and personalities surrounding her.
Dorian seemed to blend in wonderfully with whatever party, adding his usual smart comments and sass. The two attempted to extinguish their rapport in front of others, but the bond they shared through time was far too strong. In times aside from loneliness, Dorian would find himself researching the possibilities of the veil next to Lotus in her study. The nights no longer trouble him, as the demons in the fade do not seek his younger body with the same hunger. The crackling sounds of the fireplace and golden reflections off of the bookends and gilded tassels on furniture brought a comfort that nothing could replace.
“So... you and the boss lady, huh?” Iron Bull boldly threw his sentence forth, while the group of four trekked through the dense forests of the Hinterlands back to camp.
“What? What are you on about?” Dorian quipped, already coming into defensive mode considering what his conversation may pertain.
“The entire Skyhold knows it, you’ve been visiting her chambers pretty often,” Bull replied matter of factly.
Lotus’ stern voice rang in, head turning back to address the three party members behind. “If you are suggesting Dorian and I are together, you’re far from the truth.”
After Lotus turned forward, Solas decided to join in. “Not just him, inquisitor,” Solas playfully jeered, adding to the fire.
“You all understand I’m only interested in men, correct?” Dorian frustratedly stated, almost in vain. They all knew.
“Better hike up your skirt, mage boy. I was only stating a rumor-” Iron Bull soothed, but at the same time instigated more conversation.
Lotus cut him off, declaring in her commanding voice as she turned her head to the side. “I’ll see to it that rumor is squashed.”
Solas caught up to Lotus’ side, eyes playful with teasing.
She continued so as to avoid his interjection. “There is nothing between Dorian and I, other than discussing with Josephine the diplomatic relations between the inquisition and Tevinter.”
“Josephine as well? Dirty.” The Qunari replied, voice now devoid of suspicion. It was completely playful and utterly frustrating to Dorian.
“Vishante Kaffas! I’m not surprised at your beastly nature.”
“I'm just saying, Dorian. You have this picture of the Qunari in your mind,” Iron Bull led the conversation from the horns now, tone becoming more flirtatious. “Like you see us as this forbidden, terrible thing, and you're inclined to do the forbidden...”
“I have no idea what you're talking about.” The tips of his ears were a dusty red, and his eyes shifted away from the path forward. Dorian was visibly flustered.
Lotus and Solas glanced at each other, eyes knowing and mouths suppressing smiles.
“All I'm saying is, you ever want to explore that, my door's always open.”
“You are impossible. This is...” The Tevinter mage’s voice cracked, and he cut his responses short.
“Good. I like that energy. Stoke those fires, big guy.” Bull teased playfully again, and they continued their conversation as they neared Skyhold.
9:41 Dragon: Skyhold
Dorian’s frequent visits to her chambers came to an end after that conversation, and Lotus noticed that it was much to Solas’ approval. The nights in Skyhold were only lonely for a few, as her apostate friend became more comfortable with visiting her. They discussed the fade and it’s parameters, on more advanced terms than Solas had anticipated. At first it was hard to distinguish what could be real; Lotus was always suspicious of the Dread Wolf inside. She decided it wasn’t worth it to keep her guard up and take his new actions for what they were.
Lotus decided to stick with the truthful knowledge she gained from her clan keeper about dreamer magic. Her keeper, she discovered just before she originally left for the conclave, was Elvhen with heritage tracing back to one of the outer villages of Arlathan. Velonara was the head of the Palace keep in Arlathan.
“My Keeper is a dreamer,” Her words came out foreign and proud-- strange and comforting. In the past, she hadn’t spoken much about her clan, especially to Solas. The two sat on a bench in the courtyard garden, originally discussing the parameters of the fade. This was her answer to being so knowledgeable on the subject.
“She would tell me about her travels and promise that someday I would understand the path as well.” Lotus finished speaking, eyes wandering to him. The flora framed him from behind, green contrasting against his red tunic. Solas’ freckles were incredibly faint, but noticing them brought a rush of excitement behind her chest. His gray eyes gleamed lighter, clear and transparent.
When Solas’ fingers grazed hers, there was a small rush of warmth through her blood, if there was any way to describe it.
“Your Hahren was right in promising you that. You are far from what you should be.” His voice, partly sorrowful, didn’t match his calm and content expression. The dimple that dug into his cheek when he smiled lingered, and his head tilted at Lotus with her response.
“What do you mean by that?” Lotus inquired, already half knowing the answer. That warmth from earlier was Solas feeling her Elvhen bloodstream. A strange, yet comfortable gesture.
Solas only chuckled in reply, and led her by the hand as they stood.
It was too quick to notice. He shaped the fade so quickly and smoothly that an average mage wouldn’t remember such a scene change. The white snow blanketed the ground, and sounds of recruits training echoes in the distance. It was an incredible illusion of Haven.
“I sat beside you while you slept, studying the anchor...” The mage began, slowly turning around to face the inquisitor. He released her hand and crossed his arms, leaning toward her.
She knew where this conversation was going. They discussed Cassandra and her mistrust, all the while electricity ran through her nerves. Butterflies crashed into each other at the bottom of her stomach. The cool air of Haven pulled goosebumps out of her skin. He kept speaking from his heart, as she could feel. The rifts were getting out of control after he awakened from uthenera, and he was too weak to control them.
“... You had sealed it with a gesture... and right then, I felt the whole world change.”
Appreciation, hope, salvation. he had found it in her.
“Felt the whole world change?” Lotus replied, more emotion spilling onto her words. She placed her hand on his arm, and they stood almost in an embrace.
Her heart was heavy with the past. Was he only using her for the mark? Was she truly a dalliance to him in this life? She remembered his reply in the past, dismissing his words so quickly. ‘A figure of speech,’ he replied in the past. This pivotal moment between them is what Lotus reflected over intensely after their parting.
“Lotus...” he started, head tilted down, his eyes searching into hers, arms gently wrapping around and voice full of heart. “You change everything.”
She felt her eyes close and head spin as lips softly came together. They kissed once, and Solas began to release his arms from around her. His expression was a mixture of uncertainty and desperation, and he began to turn his head away in embarrassment. That’s all Lotus needed to kiss him again. Her hand rushed to his jaw, leading it back with her fingers so that their lips could meet again. They kissed passionately, bodies warm together under the feathery snowfall. Solas wrapped his arms around her again, running a hand into the base of her hair while Lotus stroked his ear with her thumb. She gasped when Solas pulled back abruptly, breathing a little harder for air.
“W- we shouldn’t. It’s not right. Not even here.” The flustered Elvhen explained, stepping back.
“I don’t understand,” She looked around, hiding her annoyance under feigned confusion. “how are we in Haven?” Lotus replied, heated emotion washing away from her expression.
Solas returned to his soft smile, probably excited to teach her more about the fade. Her eyes mentally rolled over before he spoke.
“This would probably be best discussed after you…
Her eyes opened gently at his final words, unsurprised this time with his illusions of the fade. Her body lay light on the illustrious bed in Skyhold, gear peeled off and strewn across the floor. The pretense of not knowing the full extent of what dreamer mages can do is only a slight annoyance. She somewhat enjoyed watching Solas light up speaking to her about Elvhen related things.
The two found themselves talking more often in the privacy of the Fade. Solas was eager to show her what secrets the spirits of the fade would reveal to them, reflecting the memories of the waking world like a play. He led her to the most romantic parts of the wilderness, the gems of his travels. He taught her the basic skills in building and shaping the fade, which Lotus was proficient at already. They bonded over the small moments in between, and often Solas became starstruck in her wonder-filled eyes.
On nights she hid her presence from him, Lotus spent time in the resting lounge with Aethas. His bright green eyes lit the room when they revisited memories of their past.
“Do you remember?” Lotus giggled, glass of wine dancing in her hand. “When you knocked over the entire ice display in the grand hall?”
“The funniest thing was, Velonara was on duty and I wasn’t.” The redhead replied, stifling a chuckle.
“So you just left it to make her suffer??”
The two bust out into bold laughter, Aethas turning bright red with embarrassment. In one hand a glass of wine, the other pushing long hair out of his face.
“She was the worst, you can’t blame me! I ran as fast as I could out of there!” He defended himself, taking another sip of wine.
“I bet Velonara’s eyebrows were twitching so hard when she caught sight of it,”
Lotus quipped, and Aethas nearly spit his drink out from laughter.
“Her eyebrows,” He huffed, “I almost forgot about her crazy eyebrows,” The two could barely breathe through the laughter. Aethas stole a glance at her through teary eyes, remembering their life in the past together for a split second. Back to back, pure trust, and complete confidence.
A quick thought about their stolen future cracked his mood like a strike of lightning.