The dreams were the worst.
In them, he saw her again and again, revisited every act of kindness, every time she surprised him with sage advice, each moment she chipped away at his prejudice with genuine interest in him, in his beliefs, in his friends in the Fade. She was an enigma, and yet anathema. But that could not be - he craved knowledge and the power that accompanied it. He would know the real reasons for her involvement, what her true motives were. And he would be right, as he always was. He would expose her reality, a human caught up in the power of the Anchor, engorged with the Fade.
And so each night, he studied events of the past, hovering around the memories, studied each interpretation and retelling the Fade had to offer him. He had found nothing yet, and it frustrated him.
He pushed through, pausing only a few moments to converse with a few of his friends. Joy did not stay long, eager to be off aiding others as they slept. He lingered a bit with Trust as It always had the most fascinating tales. When he found Wisdom, he stopped.
The benevolent spirit was hovering around her dreams again. Wisdom bobbed around the edges of her subconscious, peering into her visions with interest. His thin brows knit together as he stepped quietly closer.
"Good evening, my friend," he greeted with a half bow.
Wisdom looked up and smiled, happy to see him again. She spoke in the language of spirits, an ancient tongue that he knew too well.
"Really?" he responded, one brow arched. "Well, no doubt someone exposed to such great power over the Fade would gain interest with the spirits, especially considering she is a Mage."
Wisdom replied, a quicker lilt and impassioned sincerity in her tone, gesturing with her arms to emphasize her point. A slender finger drew an arch, then pointed into her dream.
The back of his neck prickled. "A strong argument. One that requires a great deal of evidence before I can make that judgement. Though, I always value your opinion." He slipped his hands behind his back, keeping his face neutral, attempting to keep doubt from showing on his slender features.
She seemed to laugh, her watery voice gurgling as she looked at him a motherly gaze. A reply trickled over her lips, and suddenly she was gone, dissipating into the Fade.
Solas waited, peering in through the edges of her dream. In them, the soul itself could be studied. Here it was raw, fluid, and ever reacting to the subtle injection of spirits or memories. What had interested Wisdom so? Or perhaps had she been testing her dreams as well?
Lissa Trevelyan sat at a rough, wide desk, the chair inanely huge, making her appear like a small child. A reflection on how she feels about her place of elevation, perhaps? A great map was spread out in front of her, and she peered over it, her hands pressed into her temples. He could not make out the details from here, but assumed it was related to her heavy considerations of the war table.
"I don't understand . . . I'm not sure what to do," she lamented, shaking her head as she moved a marker.
"Perhaps it would be easier if you cut loose some of your struggles," a nameless soldier suggested as he passed by, carrying a load of armor.
"I'm sure it would!" she agreed quickly, but shook her head. "But easy is not always best. This is just ... so confusing to me."
Curiosity prodded him, and he breached the border of her visions with a single stride. He would be a generic addition, a watcher, nothing more. She looked up as he entered, her eyes rested on him for an uncomfortably long moment. With a simple wave of his hand, he shrouded himself, and she peered back down at the map. His bare feet crossed the thick piled carpet till he neared the desk, and leaned in over her shoulders.
Well, how interesting!
Beneath her was indeed a map, and it was laid out in similar fashion as the one stretched out on the war table. But this map was also overlaid with faces of those she knew, and of ones she imagined. Iron Bull, Dorian, Vivienne . . and even he appeared on the ethereal map. Hand written notes were scrawled all over, as well as symbols and arrows between a few. A jagged, crawled line scored a divide between Cole and Vivienne. It seemed she had made a note to try and keep the two apart, as his presence disturbed the Circle Mage, and she wanted to keep Cole safe.
"What is it you are deciding?"
She titled her head, examining the parchment in earnest. "For reasons I cannot understand, they want me to decide who should become our allies. As if my sanction holds any weight! Are they incapable of making such decisions on their own? They have so much more experience, why not rely on their tested capabilities?"
"Perhaps because it is something for which they fear to share the responsibility. The more likely reason is, of course, that whether they are religious or not, it seems some authoritative power has placed you at the center, and therefore you are important."
She sighed. "But that doesn't make me any less human. I can still make mistakes. Would I remain so 'divine' if I fail them? What if they disprove of my decision?"
He pulled up a chair, resting his chin on his the back of his hands. "Tell me, what are your thoughts on the matter as it stands now."
"Well," she began, tucking a rough curl behind her short, smooth ear, "I had considered pursuing the Mage's assistance." He nodded in agreement, it being his own preference for various reasons. "But I do not believe there to be enough power in magic alone to seal the breach."
His nose wrinkled. "And why do you say that?"
"Because it is not something we even understand! I have been in the Circle nearly my entire life. And even Vivienne, with her status and training, does not have a solution. If the solution were in magic alone, we would have found it by now."
"Simply because you doubt your own abilities as a Mage does not mean you should discount their abilities as a whole."
"I don't doubt their abilities," she added, her shoulders collapsing with frustration. "I doubt it's abilities alone! Right now, there is only one thing that has shown any ability at closing the rifts."
To his surprise, she scoffed. "Me. Yes, that is what they all seem to think, isn't it? No, not me. This mark, whatever it is. And no one even knows what it is. Whichever decision I make ultimately must come down to the preservation of this, our only hope of salvation." She stuck out her hand, looking at it with disgust. It seemed more a curse than a savior.
"And is it not convenient that it is also a part of you? Is it not convenient that it's preservation is intricately tied to your own?"
She looked up at him quizzically. "Is it? How do we know? It was not always a part of me. Why do we assume it must always be?"
"True, but it seems connected to your individual energy. To remove it I fear would result in your death."
Gravely, she looked down at the map. "Yes, that may be the case. So I've been considering the options. Who would take this mark and make the best use of it?"
"What? You can't be serious." His angular features cinched together in disbelief. It was a preposterous plan, but that she was willing to make it spoke much about her character.
"I am extremely serious. There is so much that hangs in the balance. Everything, from the Fade to the waking world would be tainted, destroyed. Why should my own life be protected at the possible cost of everything in existence, just because of unfortunate coincidence? If someone . . anyone . . . could make better use of it . . . could actually solve it . . . isn't that the right decision?"
He steepled his long, slender fingers, eyes roving over the map and the souls for which it was marked. "If someone else were to have this anchor, who would you choose? This mark seems to draw to itself a host of unfortunate events; would you also pass that along to someone else?"
"No, I wouldn't," she shook her head, letting loose tendrils of messy waves to hang loosely around her round face. She began drumming her fingers against the wood anxiously, her thoughts swirling about. The more earnestly she considered her options, the more soldiers appeared in the background, the quicker their steps, as if each represented a single thought swimming about in her dream.
"Then it seems you must make the choice of an ally, instead."
"And that is the biggest struggle! Should we set the brightest minds out to studying the mark, risking time and lives in the process, or should we pour or efforts directly in the sealing of the rift, without any expectations of success while risking our only chance?" She looked down at her palm, gripping it into a fist. For a mortal human, she was taking the situation with more grace and consideration than he expected. She was so often quiet among the group, he had wondered what had been going on in her private thoughts. Now it seemed she carried the weight of their very lives on her shoulders, including the fate of the rest of the world.
And the Fade, he reminded himself, her concern endearing her to him a bit more.
"It seems you have a lot to deliberate upon. What will you decide?"
"I don't know." She lifted her face, and her expression slowly brightened. "But my friends are good advisors. I shall ask them, and they'll help me."
"Ah!" he replied with interest, "And whom shall you ask?"
"Well, I probably ask all of them a little. Cassandra and Cullen know a great deal about the abilities of Templars. And if I want to know about the capabilities of Mages," he sat straighter, awaiting his name, "I will probably talk to Vivienne." He grimaced at the name. But of course she would trust the advice of a Circle Mage and a human more than she would trust him. It was the sort of behavior he was looking to confirm. Smug disappointed weighed down his shoulders, but he had been correct, just as he expected.
"After all," she continued, "most of the Mages we would recruit would have been from a Circle. I suspect any of the Apostate Mages that were roaming before the Circles Fell are in hiding, away from any of the rogue Templars."
In that, she had a point. He was perhaps the only Apostate Mage who voluntarily appeared at their doorstep. Every other Apostate that still possessed a shred of sanity or dignity would not be out engaging in this pointless war. They would be hiding.
"If I ask the Apostates to suddenly turn up at the Inquisition's call, I don't think they would trust us. What reason have we given them yet to not be afraid?"
He studied her features, bore into her gaze for any sign of falsehood. But there was found none. Her eyes were heavy with burden and lack of rest, and he entertained a moment of guilt for disturbing her dreams in this manner. He started to rise, to leave her to her dreams, but then she spoke.
"And of course, I shall have to ask Varric's opinion on the matter."
"Him? Whatever for?" he crossed his arms, almost daring her to provide a worthy answer.
She smiled, a gentle crescent to her full lips. "Of all my friends, he sees the people the most, including myself. I don't often include myself into the calculations, but Varric reminds me why that is a bad idea. He reminds me that people need me, and not just because I'm a convenient symbol of Divine intervention; he sees me, and reminds me how people actually need that. Need me," she added quietly, taking comfort in some small affirmation of value.
For a moment, he felt shame at dismissing Varric's counsel. "Well ... that is an important thing to remember. While your position is both unfortunate and unique, you do bring a certain ... quality to the Inquisition that it would be missing without you."
She chuckled darkly, leaning back into her ridiculously large chair and sighed. "Varric says it would be a terrible idea if something were to happen to me, as if all of Thedas would suddenly catch fire." She laughed, pulling her knees to her chest. "Mostly because Cassandra would go mad on a rampage."
Solas would have chuckled, had it not been too hard an image to conjure in his mind.
"I can help them," she said tenderly, reaching out graze a hand over the map. "I want to help them."
"And I'm sure you will." He rose, watching as she pulled up her feet and began pouring over the map of those she held most dear. "Are you not beginning to feel drowsy?"
"Not really I . . . " He raised his palm, changing the energy of the dream with the Fade, using the energy to cradle her in a soothing embrace. " . . . yes, I think I do feel tired." Slowly, she slumped to the side, resting her head on her bent arm. He reached out to grab a nearby cloak, and draped it over her full form. The number of soldiers milling about trickled to a halt, and even the lighting dimmed to reflect the quietness of her mind.
"Then sleep." He watched as her dark lashes fluttered shut, and her mouth gaped in a weary yawn. He turned, about to step through the barrier of her subconscious, when she offered one final, drowsy reply.
"Thank you . . . Solas."