“You needed to speak with me, Leliana?” Revas asks, entering the rookery.
"Inquisitor. Yes.” Leliana looks at the papers on her desk, a frown on her face. “I just got a report back from a contact in Antiva, and I thought it better to give it to you now, rather than tomorrow’s meeting.” She passes her a curling sheet filled with firm tiny handwriting. “I had several people looking into the village Solas said he was raised in. This is the first I’ve heard back from any of them.”
She doesn’t look at the sheet. “I’m not going to like what they found out, am I?”
Leliana shakes her head. “It has been abandoned for centuries. I’m sorry. I know you two were- close.”
She looks at the paper blankly. Abandoned for centuries? He had spoken of where he grew up quite freely, he couldn’t be from some place ages dead-
Abelas. The elves of the Arbor Wilds were from places long dead and lost, woken from some strange uthenera only to guard their master’s temple.
His voice echoes in her head. “ What if you wake up to discover that the future you shaped is worse than it was?”
Solas, knowing so much more about the elvhen, speaking more of the tongue than any of the People, filled with stories of the spirits of the Beyond- where elves of long ago once walked in uthenera. Solas, refusing anything to do with the Well of Sorrows, warning against anyone using it; her, mistrusting the binding to a Creator after so many months of discoveries of the strange terrible things her people and the Creators once did; Morrigan, uncaring of gods long gone, only to find out the woman who raised her was one. Was the god she had bound herself in service to.
“Morrigan,” she murmurs.
Morrigan might know more, if she knew to look, to ask. Had others woken from uthenera? Was it possible?
She throws herself over the railing, hears Leliana’s shout of alarm. She needs to reach Morrigan now, while the thoughts are still swirling fresh in her mind. She lands hard on Solas’ abandoned desk, papers flying everywhere. She rolls off, holds on to the desk for a moment, dizzy- that was so stupid, Dorian’s over-dramatic excesses have rubbed off on her- and stares at the wall in front of her. The last section of the wall is blocked in. She's been avoiding the solar, she hadn't even glanced at it coming through, the faint marks not as important as whatever news had Leliana sending a bird for her instead of a runner. It waits for Solas to finish the blocking and begin painting.
A wolf eating a dragon.
Her eyes dart to the wolves on the panel of the Breach closing. The wolves, the only thing to move off of the walls in the dreams of Beyond instead of moving on them like the rest of the murals. The wolf’s jaw bone on a string around Solas’ neck. Solas so insistent the Creators were not gods, but mages or spirits of some kind who had lived once, long ago, only to be twisted beyond recognition in Dalish tales. His faint grimace every time he hears someone say 'Dread Wolf'. (He made the same one every time anything Dalish was mentioned. Everything is different through this lens. How many times did he says "in my journeys in the Fade" and she never once asked how he could all learn all of that with just a few decades of dreaming? You cannot spend every hour of the day dreaming. It would take lifetimes.) Mythal, a seemingly mortal old woman...
She had it wrong. Yes, the orb was what he had been after, he had never hidden his interest in elvhen artifacts. But she had thought too small, of things that were not impossible. He had wanted the orb back. Fen’Harel had wanted his orb back.
Morrigan, shapeshifting herself into a dragon to help fight the false Archdemon Corypheus controlled, using the power the well had given her by binding her to Mythal.
A wolf eating a dragon.
She hears footsteps on the stairs, Leliana coming to see if she’s all right. She breaks for the gardens, shooting past a startled Varric, barely hears him call after her, cannot make out the words.
“Morrigan!” she shouts, entering the garden. There are few people in the garden, but she can’t see the witch, the gazebo where she usually stands is empty. “Morrigan!”
She runs for the room the woman had put the eluvian in, hears more footsteps behind her, her panic drawing attention.
The door is open, the mirror still there, Morrigan’s books beside it. She raises her left hand in the same gesture she had seen the witch use, and the mirror shimmers alive right before she crashes into it.
She stumbles into the faded world beyond. Faintly she can feel the mirror deactivate behind her. She stops, tries to calm her beating heart, concentrates on the steady, slower beat of the anchor. (Does it feel faster than normal?)
All around her is gray and more gray, gray shadows of other mirrors, gray land and gray sky. A ghost world, and she, with her white hair and pale tunic, fits right in. The mark on her hand is the only bright spot, but the gray makes the green glow gloomy. It blazes even brighter here than dreaming in the Beyond. Morrigan isn't anywhere within eyesight.
She pulls the knife at her belt, thrusts it into the ground beside the mirror, and focuses her magic, willing it to grow, to twist up into a tall slender post, visible high above the mirror, to mark the spot should she get too far. The green stone in the pommel becomes a bright light at the top and she wonders how far she will walk before it disappears in the gloom.
She starts walking, one direction as good as any in this place. The witch had to be here, if she wasn't in the garden. She disliked people, stayed as far from them as she could, taking shelter in the world of the mirror when it grew too much.
Maybe she is reading too much into the mural. The other pictures are symbolic, perhaps he does not mean to kill Morrigan.
This time, it is her own voice she hears, speaking to him of trying to fix past mistakes. “See where things went wrong, and try again.”
He had given the orb to Corypheus. She knows it. But he did not expect the results, that was for certain. Had spent the entire time with the Inquisition helping them get strong enough to face the ancient magister, to defeat him and take the orb away from him. And had it not broken when she overloaded it sealing the Breach for good, he would have stayed, asked her if he could do research on it. And she would have agreed. Curiosity has ever been her strongest and weakest spot. And then he could use it for whatever he had originally meant it for once Corypheus activated it for him. (Proof the Creators are not all-powerful gods after all, to trust a darkspawn to do anything other than what it or its master wants.)
He doesn’t have the orb now. Shattered and discarded, it sits in the lower library for her to puzzle back together on nights she cannot sleep. There is no magic in it.
The anchor, though, feels heavier, and has ever since she pulled the orb from the darkspawn’s grasp and forced him into the Beyond. The itch has become a stronger and stronger throb, until it feels like all of her aches with it. She wonders, if Solas had thought to look at her instead of avoid her gaze, whether he would have noticed. Would have stayed. It is an unpleasant thought, any answer painful.
He must get the power from somewhere else. And it must likely be elvhen. And Morrigan has the power of the well, the geas of Mythal something another god might well know how to break.
She doesn’t think the wall symbolic.
The mirrors she passes are all dark, clouded. The one she had stepped out of was clear, though not reflective. The clouded ones must be the broken ones Morrigan spoke of. She passes a clear one, pauses, reaches the anchor out to it. It springs to life at her touch, and she can see a room with poor furnishings and a dark-haired elf with vallaslin seated on the floor, bare-faced elven children circling her as she speaks, hands moving. She cannot hear anything, but the mirror must do something, for the woman stops, starts to rise, and Revas pulls her hand away from the mirror and it shuts off. That had been a Dalish elf, and the children too poorly dressed to be anything but alienage residents. Small steps towards togetherness. She smiles.
She moves on.
The conversation keeps playing in her head. “You have offered hope that if one keeps trying, even if the consequences are grave, that someday, things will be better.” And he had taken her vallaslin away and left her, returning her to the path he claimed to have distracted her from, but really returning to the path she had distracted him from- find Corypheus, get the orb, and what? Correct past mistakes.
“You’re from four thousand years ago,” she says, thinking out loud. “ You’re obsessed with freedom and free will, the empire you were part of just the same as Tevinter at its height. So you cut off the head, thinking it will free the People. It does not.” She twirls the wooden ring on her finger with her thumb and laughs bitterly, thinking of her remark to him that she will have to lock Corypheus away as Fen’Harel did the Creators. “The world you’ve woken up to is a nightmare, the People slaves or scattered echoes of what they could have been, barely recognizable as people, much less the proud People of your time. Your act of revolution turned into an act of betrayal in the millennia of history fading into legend and the oppressors now worshiped as gods. This was not meant to happen.” His voice overlaps with hers, a memory of him staring at the shattered pieces of the orb, and how had she not seen it then?
See where things went wrong. Locking the Creators up only succeeded in the decay of the People. So, free the Creators, let them impose Elvhenan upon Thedas once more, it could hardly be worse.
Does he truly think the Creators will wake any saner from their prison than Corypheus?
“Emma lath, you are so stupid."
You cannot fix the past, bring it back. There is only forward.
She has no idea how long she has walked. Time is fluid in the Beyond, even this strange offshoot of it.
She finds another clear mirror, activated, though no one steps through as she makes her way to it. Her palm itches, and she cannot see through it like she had the other- a second lock? She reaches a hand towards it, then pulls it back as it the anchor begins to pulse stronger. She backs away.
The anchor. Creators, she’s so stupid. It was created using the orb. And the focus orb was Fen’Harel’s. Solas's. Was it any wonder she could always sense his presence in the Beyond when they both slept, no matter the distance? It had likely been the anchor subtly leading her in this direction, seeking him out. (Had it done the same in the snowy wilderness after the siege of Haven?) She had come here thinking to find Morrigan and instead-
He steps through the mirror. Stops short at the sight of her. “Vhenan,” he breathes, as surprised to see her as she was to realize where her feet had taken her. “How?”
He looks different, and she doesn’t know if it’s the gray of the place between eluvians or whether she has already forgotten how pale his eyes are. There is dark dust all down his front.
She wasn’t expecting to see him, has nothing planned beyond perhaps “did you ever trust me?” and instead blurts out the first thing to come to mind. “You didn’t know Corypheus couldn’t die, did you? That’s how he survived activating your orb, after all. Bouncing in to the closest Gray Warden body nearby.” Her and her cursed curiosity.
“You know.” It’s a statement, not a question and the surprise hasn’t left his eyes, but there is something else there. Old, cold, worn, worried. Rarely does he let his face show everything he is thinking (always so guarded, so many secrets he cannot share, how did she manage to open him up as much as she had?) and the honesty in his face just makes her angry.
“You did this.” Her voice is cold, accusing, and she cannot stop talking. “Was it not enough to bring one era to ruin? You must bring another to an end to correct that mistake?”
He flinches and his face closes off until only anger remains. "You see what the People have become! Shemlen digging in the trash for the smallest kernel of the past, only to hold fast to the worst of it, or else creatures like Sera, denying their heritage completely-”
“We still live!” she cries. “So the humans rule now, so what? You yourself said Elvhenan was no better than Tevinter in its day. Why should we go back to that? You cannot change the choices you made in the past, Solas. I told Abelas the People needed him. I should have been telling you that.” She pokes him in the chest and his look of astonishment would have made her laugh at any other time. “The People need you to wake up. I laughed when Sera said your head was stuck up a thousand years ago, because it was funny and horribly right and now it’s not funny at all and even more horribly right. The People of yesterday don’t need you. They’re a thousand years dead and no amount of dreaming will bring them back. The People now do. So what if a clan or two ran you off for being a bare-faced flat-ear? You keep trying. You do what I’m doing, you start in the alienages, with the circle mages, in fucking Tevinter if you must be someplace you want to disapprove of everyone not you. With the people who need to find something in themselves to be proud of.”
“Do you honestly expect that work?” He steps closer to her, and his eyes are so bright. “Do you honestly think people will ever stop being petty, selfish little creatures with only themselves in mind, in squashing someone else to raise themselves up?”
“Yes, I do! People are selfish shits who think only about themselves because they don’t have anything else as an example. But if you give them a chance to prove themselves, they’ll surprise you.”
“Not everyone is you, Inquisitor.” He looks tired, as if he has already played their argument out a thousand times. Perhaps he has.
“Name one person in the inquisition there only to save themselves. They came together to save the world, and the job’s not done just because one crazy millennium-old magister is dead,” she shoots back. “Give them a beacon to steer by, and they’ll find their way out of rocky waters.”
“You are that beacon, vhenan.” His voice is soft, sad. “What happens when that light is gone? Everything will go back to the way it was. Nothing ever changes.”
“Everything always changes.” She wishes she could make a joke about being fatalistic. “The Inquisition isn’t just me, it’s a whole bunch of little people pulling together. They might have needed me to focus on to get them started, but I could disappear today and their path would not change.”
“You will not sway me from this path.”
“You are repeating past mistakes, solas. Swallow your pride for once in your long life and find another path. One that doesn’t lead here. This will not help the People.”
“I was wrong to lock them up. It only brought about the end of everything.”
“How long have they been locked up, Dread Wolf? How long was Corypheus? Look how sane he was. Do you honestly think they’ll be any different, any better? They were already mad before you locked them away. The ages will not have fixed that. They’ll kill you the moment you release them before crushing the rest of us.”
“That is something I must face. Why do you think I came alone?”
“Because you knew if you asked, I would have wanted an explanation and wouldn’t have agreed. Just like I’m doing right now.”
“I do not want this world!" he explodes. "This place is a nightmare from which I cannot wake. You are the only thing that has made any of this bearable. Better they wake and kill me for the betrayal and use their power to correct things, renew the People, than to keep living here and be constantly reminded of everything our People have lost.”
She can’t hide the flinch, but he’s already shown her that she can be set aside for what he thinks his duty. She's no better. A Keeper’s duty is to the clan, they cannot place anyone above it. Stupid, stupid First. They both should have taken his advice and kept away from each other. Maybe then they wouldn’t be breaking each other’s hearts again. But they can’t stop, can neither of them swerve from this collision.
She raises her left hand, the anchor glowing bright as day. “What do you think they’ll make of your work, Fen’Harel? It’s not vallaslin, but I’m marked as yours all the same.” This time, it is him flinching away from her words. “They are no gods of ours. They will not command us. They will not rule us." She can see he recognizes her words, and what does it say of them that now she speaks of someone she loves instead of a monster? "Our lives are our own to decide, not theirs. And not yours." The anchor, so heavy these past few weeks, is easy enough to open and she can barely see anything through the green. "You should have looked away from the orb to see why it had broken before leaving, emma lath.”
“What have you- what are you doing?”
Lightning like a tempest swirls in her magic, her favored element, and she thrusts the mark upwards, releasing the power of it and the element into the gray sky. Green lightning courses downwards, shattering the mirrors around them.
“They sleep, masked in a mirror, hiding, hurting,” she says sing-song, repeating Cole’s words back to him. “You locked them away in here somewhere. Even should they wake, they cannot leave if there are no more doors.”
He grabs her wrist, pulls it down, but the energy keeps coursing out all the same, mirrors in all directions bursting in green light as the bolts keep striking around. She couldn't stop the magic tearing her hand apart even if she wanted to. There's a fierceness in his gaze she recognizes from confronting the mages who bound the spirit of wisdom and this, this is the man who dared stand against gods. “You’ll trap yourself in here too, you fool. I won't allow-” and he cuts off, startled, and looks down at their joined hands. She does the same, is confused by the glow coming from his hand as well as hers. "How-"
They don't have time to figure it out. She tears her hand out of his grip, steps out of his reach. “A Keeper’s duty is to protect the clan,” she says grimly, can barely hear herself over the constant crackle of thunder and shattering glass. “Thedas is my clan. You should use your eluvian. I don’t know how long I can keep missing it.” She can barely feel her arm anymore, leaves it where it has fallen to her side, green light swirling forcefully outwards. Lightning strikes close behind her and she steps forwards away from it reflexively.
“The past is the past, emma lath," she shouts over the thunder. "It’s time to start thinking about the future.” She shoves him with her right hand, back towards the mirror he came through. “Na then, Fen'Harel. Wake up.”
Morrigan, returning to Skyhold from her hunt outside its walls, finds controlled chaos.
“Oh good, someone found you,” a dwarf says, seeing her. “Leliana’s been beside herself, has all of us turning the place upside down.”
“I was not aware I was lost. What is going on?”
“Above my level,” the woman says with a shrug. “Us little people just knew that nobody could find you. Leliana’s in the garden, she’ll know.”
Morrigan curls her lip, and heads towards the main building. If her things are out of order-
It is not the garden she finds Leliana in, but one of the chambers off of it. The one with her eluvian. Leliana and Dorian are crowded into the room, Varric standing outside.
“What is going on?” she asks the dwarf, preferring not to speak with the spymaster if she does not have to.
“Couldn’t tell you for certain, but what I saw was the Inquisitor come sprinting this way calling for you like the world was going to end again. Saw her go through the mirror using the mark.”
She frowns. She had been careful to give no one the password for it. “You do not know why?”
“All I know was she had gone to speak with Leliana.”
“My thanks.” She steps into what little space there is left in the room. The Tevinter mage is murmuring to himself, touching the mirror, obviously trying to activate it. Leliana is frowning, watching, silent.
“Have you lost something?” she asks and both turn to look at her.
“One less thing than we thought,” the Tevinter says. “Lavellan apparently thought you were through the mirror.”
“Obviously, I was not. Why would she think so?”
“I’m not certain,” Leliana says. “I had gotten some information about Solas for her, which clearly had more of an impact than I expected, and she immediately went looking for you. She was very troubled by something.”
“And what information was this?”
“The village he said he was from was abandoned. In the fifth age, my informant thinks.” Leliana passes her a note.
Morrigan takes the paper, skimming it. “Why would she-”
'Judging by the state of the ruins, and the darkspawn skeletons scattered about, Trieste looks to have been destroyed in the Fourth Blight. What’s interesting about this ancient town is that it appears to have been built on top of an even older settlement. Several of the hills surrounding it are littered with ruins that may well date to the time of Arlathan, and its position not far from the forest of the same name-'
Feninan, murmur the ancient voices inside Morrigan’s head. The wolf’s dwelling place. Fen'Harel's home. Abandoned long before Tevinter rose, when the master disappeared.
The Inquisitor did not have the voices of the well to tell her this. But she had a year of his presence, clues he might have dropped- men were always stupid about women, especially when in love- and the research she was ever so fond of, and the intelligence to connect the pieces. What had made her worried about Morrigan though, to the extent she would throw herself through a mirror thinking Morrigan already gone?
She reaches a hand out to the mirror. “Fen’Harel enansal,” she says to activate it, and is only half surprised when it glows green and shatters.