It was barely past dawn when the noise awoke the Dalish Ambassador. Cheers of victory and triumph echoed through Skyhold’s walls as the first of the Inquisition troops returned from the Temple of Mythal. Whoever had been left behind from the battle now crowded by the gates, singing the Inquisitor’s name in glory, rejoicing another victory against Corypheus. Hearing this, Hans rolled back over in his bed and attempted to fall back asleep, his mind only reading the cheers as mockery to his expense.
As the Dalish Ambassador, Hans was the first to hear when reports came of the Temple of Mythal being targeted by Corypheus, yet when the time came to make a stand against the corrupted magister, he was made to stay behind. Of course, he trusted the Inquisitor’s decision, as perhaps he would struggle to fight when in such a sacred place, as he would likely want to preserve the ruins and seek artefacts of the ancient Elvhen, whilst in the process compromising their goal. Yet he could not help feeling the distaste of not going. It almost felt as if he was doing his own kind a disservice by not fighting for it.
Once they left, he began to grow embarrassed for acting so petty towards the Herald, but when news returned from the battle, his rage only escalated. Messages that came back quickly claimed that majority of the Temple was destroyed, and the Elvhen artefact, ‘The Well of Sorrows’, was preserved by being given to the human advisor, Morrigan.
After reading this, he remembered storming down from Leliana’s office, resorting seething alone in his chambers to deal with the news. “It should have been me,” he would think. As the only elf with an interest in helping the Dalish’s cause, he had the right to preserve the artefact himself above all else. But, as he was left behind, he could not even protest the decision that was made.
The Inquisitor’s main squadron returned first, including Lady Adaar herself, her chosen companions, the war advisors and the thief witch herself. There were still many soldiers left to also return, some not for a while as they would be surveying for any of Corypheus’ army to bring back as prisoner. But, marking the Herald’s return and her victory, Hans knew there would be a great feast to applaud her.
He considered himself a friend to the Herald but decided against congratulating the Inquisitor on her victory that day, instead skipping celebrations at the stables, practicing his bow and arrow against a straw dummy.
Several weeks passed, and Hans was becoming restless with thoughts of the Temple of Mythal. Whilst still envious of Morrigan and her possessed knowledge, he was mostly desperate for information on the Temple before it was destroyed from the battle. He knew that there was ancient Elvhen lore hidden within the walls, but the reports he read and interviews he made provided little insight, and no one except for Morrigan herself knew about the Well of Sorrows prior to the battle. He was beginning to lose hope and was becoming exhausted from constantly chasing information. Hans decided, before giving up, he would pay a last visit to Commander Cullen in attempt to convince him to give one more in-depth report. He had little hope, as he suspected nothing more than another lecture from the man. Despite this, he mustered up the motivation to leave his desk and venture down to the Commander’s tower.
It was a warm day outside his room; the light of the sun poured through the glass windows in the hallways and cast long shadows against the staff scurrying about the castle. Hans paid them little mind as he wandered about the halls and cut through the library as he made his way across the castle to Cullen.
From the window in the library, he stops to stare down in quiet resentment at the Orlesian witch. He watches as she gawks in bewilderment as the Well whispers to her the great secrets of Elvhen kind, gifting her with a knowledge she could not possibly grasp the importance of and will undoubtably use only for her own benefit. He stays rooted there for a moment, wishing that he could force himself to cooperate with her for the sake of his research, but he knew he’d only get that patronising look from the woman. Silly Dalish elf, he imagines she’d think, could not possibly grasp the wonders of the Ancient Elves, nothing but a mockery of their former glory. With a sigh, he continued his walk.
Past the stairs, he exchanged a curt nod of respect with Solas before passing through to the bridge connecting to the tower. Approaching the tower door, Hans gave a small knock before entering “Commander, a word if you’re not preoccupied?”
Cullen sighed in frustration, “Arren, if this is about that bloody Temple again, I assure you I have given you all the reports and remains that we have gathered from the battlefield.”
Hans walked a few feet into the room and gazed up to the Commander; he looked exhausted and avoided eye contact with the elf, keeping himself alert by pacing the length of his desk. The past few days has been a rush as the entire Inquisition prepared for the final battle against Corypheus, and it clearly was taking its toll on the former Templar.
“I know I have asked you before, but I need to know more about the artefacts within the Temple. You know anything recovered could help my people greatly.”
“I know, Arren,” the Commander snapped back, stopping and scolding down at the man. “You’ve explained this to me many times. But I’m not risking any of my soldier’s lives by sending them back into those ruins.”
“I know but- “
“No, Arren,” he replied firmly, “This is not the time. We are getting so close to this final battle against that… Monster. We can’t afford to send any soldiers on... On a fool’s errand!”
Hans furrowed his brow, swallowing his anger, “What about all the errands your soldiers run concerning Josephine’s politics? Or Leliana’s marks across Thedas? How are they any different to what I ask of you?”
He was met with a cold glare from the Commander, “Because, those errands actually benefit the Inquisition. Helping Orlesian nobles and disposing of important enemies give us the influence we need. The Dalish, whilst a useful asset, are not nearly as important as allies such as Orlais.”
“What are you saying, Commander? That my job here is useless? That my people are pointless?” Hans questioned, quickly beginning to lose his professional temperament with Cullen.
“I am simply saying, Ambassador, that- “
A loud knock on the side door cut them short, and a scout entered with a parchment message. He was visibly out of breath. “Commander, ser! An urgent message from the scouts in the Dales!”
“What is it?”
“Ser, Commander Samson has been located and apprehended in the Dales, and it now being transported back to Skyhold for judgement, ser.”
Hans watched as the Commander suddenly breathed a sigh of relief, holding back a grin of triumph. “Thank you, glad they finally tracked him down. That will be all.” he dismissed the scout with a wave.
“Good news?” Hans queried.
“Very,” Cullen replied, “Been looking for him since the battle ended at the Temple. This means Corypheus has lost his army’s leader.” Finally, the Commander sat down at his desk, visibly relaxing in his chair and exhaling a breath that looked to have been held for weeks. “This is… Fantastic news.”
After that, their conversation never continued. Cullen suddenly became scarce after the news of the prisoner, and Hans no longer had the energy to chase the man further on his request. But, was surprised to see such a personal reaction from the Commander regarding an enemy.
From the moment he heard it, the Ambassador recognised Samson’s name on the messenger’s tongue. He had his interest and Hans dived straight into research on the man, rereading all reports on the Temple, hunting for any mentions of Samson’s name and his involvement before the trial. After a few skims, he realised why he recognised this man’s name.
‘Samson proclaimed to be the ‘Vessel’ for the Well of Sorrows. What we suspect this means is that originally, Samson would have taken the knowledge of the Well, and used it at Corypheus’ request.’
The Vessel. The phrase rattled in Hans head over and over. Samson had the same role that Morrigan adopted during the battle, and instead of Samson aiding Corypheus with the Well’s secrets, instead Morrigan is using it for the Inquisition’s gain. But, whilst they had the same role, something was entirely different about Samson and his ‘proclaimed’ role in the battle.
Frantically, Hans searched through countless more reports, before settling on a short statement from of the Herald’s companions, handwriting recognisable as belonging to Solas.
‘No one within the party knew of the Well of Sorrows until it was mentioned by the enemy. The Witch appeared to have some prior knowledge, and perhaps suspected it was at the Temple, but no one knew of the Well and its significance in Corypheus’ plan except for him and his Vessel.’
“His Vessel,” Hans repeated in a whisper, his fingertips tracing the dry ink on the page. He knew that the Inquisition appeared to have no prior knowledge of the Well being at the Temple, or even the existence of the artefact in the first place; but, this Vessel, he knew something about it that the Inquisition did not.
Samson was the one he needed to talk to.
Haven’s Rest was bustling with life when Hans entered, making him wonder if they were even aware of the likely hardship of the days to come. After taking his drink from the barkeep, he took his seat nearest the back, nursing his tasteless ale in one hand as he tried to distance his mind from work. Not many people that were here today he could recognise but could hear a few familiar voices such as Varric’s storytelling and Iron Bull’s booming laughter. As he downed more of his drink, the sounds of the tavern began to meld into white noise, the only prominent noise now being the sweet voice of the bard as she sang her songs of legends and tragedy.
Suddenly, a certain name pierced his drums, breaking through the tavern’s background noise.
“C’mon, Sparkles! Everyone knows Samson was from Kirkwall originally.” Hans heard Varric claim loudly from across the room. As he listened in, Varric’s comment piqued his curiosity and soon enough, he began edging his seat over to the table the dwarf sat at.
“Well, that explains slightly why he’s like that then,” Dorian added with a chortle, soon grimacing as he took a sip of his watered-down wine.
Varric chuckled back at the mage, “You got me there, Sparkles. But it’s true that he was from Kirkwall, also was originally a Templar like Curly.”
“He was a Templar?” Hans intruded, startling himself as the entire table flinched from his sudden presence.
“Originally he was,” Varric corrected, “Probably got booted out for his lyrium addiction, he ended up begging on the streets in Lowtown. Which was where I met him.”
Hans frowned; this was the same man who lead Corypheus’ army? He thought to himself.
“Makes you wonder what happened that lead him to Corypheus’ side,” Dorian wondered aloud, asking Hans’ internal question.
“That’s the part I don’t get.” Varric said, a hint of pity in his voice, “I suppose his resentment towards the order helped him rally what was left of the Templars. He was a broken man, and with the Order also broken I suppose they could relate to him.”
“That or a promise of endless lyrium perhaps. As an addict, bet that gave him plenty motivation.” Dorian added.
Varric hummed in agreement, unusually quiet in thought.
Hans leant forwards toward the dwarf, “Did you meet him then? Before he was with Corypheus?”
“Yeah I did,” Varric started, “He wasn’t the nicest man you’ve ever met, but assure you he was no where near the worst person in Lowtown.”
“What was he like?”
“Well, Hawke and I met him when a young apostate went missing. And with the Templar tension in Kirkwall, we wanted to help him before the Templars got there.” Varric began, taking a pause as he took a gulp from his drink, “Samson helped us find him, he took in lost mages and apostates and protected them from the Order.” Another pause, “He cared about them.”
“He supported the mages?” Hans sounded sceptical, “I thought the Templar’s hated mages? Or at least most of them do.”
Dorian laughed at the elf’s comment, taking the last swig of his drink when he calmed down, “Careful with bold claims like that, Ambassador. But, you’re not entirely wrong.”
“Maybe that’s why they kicked him out of the order. Afterall, Kirkwall Templars were also famous for their tension with the mages. Maybe he couldn’t stand treated mages the way he did.”
“You think so?”
“Ghil, I don’t think anyone really knows except for Samson himself.”
Then, the dwarf turned away, quickly changing the subject a different exaggerated story of his past. The table laughed and applauded along as Hans swallowed the feeling of unease rising in his throat.
Later that evening, in the dead of the night, the last of the Dales’ scouts returned to Skyhold, along with their special bounty. Hans was awake when they came and peered out of his window to watch the shapes of men taking the prisoner below the castle to the dungeons. The man was only a shape in the darkness, but you could still tell he was heavily chained and still dressed in full armour. Whilst the elf was far away from the events below, there appeared to be no complaints from the man as he was dragged down the steps, as no sounds pierced the night except for the chains rattling between his wrists.
He watched intensely until the group disappeared down the staircase, before the light of their lanterns disappeared from the courtyard. As everything fell silence once again, Hans turned back over and collapsed into the bed sheets.
Tomorrow would be the trial, and hopefully with it, there will be answers.