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All Measure of Blame

Chapter Text

Pippa could not have said what woke her from sleep so early that day, but hours before dawn she flinched awake, fully aware and feeling inexplicably restless. Perhaps she was simply getting old; she remembered, from the time before being sent to the Circle, that her father would get up unusually early some days and go out riding, and when he returned for breakfast he'd always joke about how you need less sleep as you draw nearer to death.

It seemed a bit morbid in retrospect, and she understood her mother's appalled gasp better now than when she was a little girl getting her hair ruffled at breakfast table.

But an early morning ride was something she'd never done for fun, and if her father enjoyed them, surely they must have had something to recommend them. She pulled on her armor and departed.

She emerged from her quarters into the grand hall, and she intended to go straight for the stables, quietly, without disturbing anyone.

But the door was ajar.

That was the minor, almost inconsequential detail that drew her attention. The second door on the right, leading from the grand hall towards the war room, was just slightly cracked, and she noticed it from the corner of her eye.

It was probably nothing, she thought. Someone had forgotten to close it properly. But.

But. She stepped towards it, pushed it just enough to slip through it, and nearly pushed it closed behind her when she noticed the light down the steps. Not the war room, not Josephine's office; someone had slipped to the lower level of Skyhold.

Why?, she wondered. Who?

She was quiet as death as she descended the stairs, holding her breath so she would not even stir the air. The light was steady, blue-tinged; not fire. She followed it to the small auxiliary library, the archivist's nook as she called it, and when she stepped through the door her breath caught.

"Solas?"

He turned around. The wisp lighting hanging in the air and the room cast deep shadows across his face.

"Inquisitor," he said.

He sounded exactly the same. He looked exactly the same, even though five years had passed. And he strolled into Skyhold as if his arrival bore no mentioning--for what reason?

"Theft is a bit beneath you, isn't it?" Pippa remarked cheekily.

Solas tightened his grip on his bounty. She would have half-expected him to return for the orb. They still had it, locked in a plain wooden box, no more than a historical curiosity they took out for scholars once in a while. It was on the shelf just behind the desk.

Instead, in Solas's hand was Alexius's amulet, the same that had sent her and Dorian hurtling through time. The same that she assumed was just as broken and useless as the orb, until that very moment.

She kept her face pleasant and her voice light.

"I mean, looting is one thing, but sneaking into someone's home without even engaging them in combat seems a bit impolite to me," she said.

"I apologize for the oversight," Solas said, inclining his head. Much too serious. The amulet was humming with magic, more and more with every moment, as he poured mana into it.

Pippa felt her apprehension climbing, even as she remained outwardly calm. They both did, regarding each other with similarly masked expressions; Solas because he knew time was on his side, and Pippa because she knew it wasn't. He was going to activate the amulet, slip away from her through the folds of time, and she didn't know if she should stop him.

Where was he going? What was he planning? Was it good, bad, mere curiosity? Had he plumbed all the secrets the Fade had to offer, and decided to seek out the past in a more direct manner? Or was something more sinister at play? Once, she would have been certain the answer to that last question was no, but the distance of five years and his abrupt departure had taken a toll on her trust in him.

"That's alright," she said, extending her hand as if offering it to a skittish animal to sniff, "you can make it up to me if you stay for a short chat. Breakfast, maybe? It's a bit early, I don't think the servants are up, but the kitchens should be empty, and I can arrange a mean cheese platter--"

"I truly am sorry for this," Solas interrupted in the softest voice.

The amulet's hum reached a pitch, and it began glowing. Pippa's eyes widened.

"Solas, wait--" she said, panic edging her voice. "Tell me where you're going first! We need to talk about--"

He shook his head.

"The time for such things has passed," he said. "Goodbye, Inquisitor. You were a true friend, and I regret that it has come to this."

Great clouds of green light belched out of the amulet in nauseating waves, engulfing Solas. Pippa yelled, and then she swore.

And then, in a move which would later make her seriously question her own judgment, she jumped forth, catching Solas by the shirt just as he was slipping away.

Her last impression was of the shocked look in his eyes, just before the light seared through her.




Solas fell.

In a moment that seemed to distend over an eternity, he fell through time, and reaching his destination, his back hit the ground hard.

When he next breathed in, it was the air of home, flagrant with magic and unpolluted by the millennia of death Thedas had seen. He could feel the vitality of the Fade beyond a Veil which had not yet been tattered, and with that one lungful, he felt himself come to life.

Then the Inquisitor landed on top of him hard, and the air was knocked out of him.

"What did you do?" she demanded, ripping the amulet from his grip. She set herself to straddle his torso, keeping him pinned to the ground, and holding the amulet aloft, out of his reach. "Why?!"

A terrible complication, Solas realized. But not one without potential, if he could find some way of turning it to his advantage.

"I would think the more important questions would be when and where," he replied, taking this moment to glance around.

He recognized the city, ravaged by conflict though it was. In the half-collapsed architecture and the distinctive spell damage he could identify the location and even the approximate time frame. He frowned, feeling the first creeping tendrils of doubt. Had he landed too late in the timeline? The Inquisitor's intervention must have caused this.

She scoffed at him.

"When and where will become self-evident quite soon, I'm sure! It's the other questions I need answered while I have you here, unable to slither away."

He tore his gaze away from the surroundings to look at her. She glared down at him for a few beats.

"Just tell me what this is about, Solas," she said, softening her voice.

"I am sorry."

"You keep saying that, but you don't exactly demonstrate it."

"I..." He sighed. "Yes. It is a problem. May I be allowed up now?"

After some consideration, Pippa clambered to her feet, releasing him and taking several steps back. She placed the amulet in her pocket, and he found that he couldn't fault her her caution.

He rose slowly, brushing dust off his clothing to delay answering.

"You ask what I did, but you've already guessed. We are in the past. Thousands of years into the past, in fact." He gestured to the ruined city around them. "The exact date eludes me at the moment, but I trust it is evident my people have been at war for some time."

She took notice of it now, her expression crumpling into uncertainty and... pity, perhaps.

"There is nothing I can do about the war itself. Nor would I want to, when it was justified, and when it ended with victory for my side. But the aftermath..." He shook his head.

"There is much I can fix there. I have been turning it in my mind for so long, in so many ways. The way things could have turned out differently." His voice grew more heated. "But why? Why spend so much time thinking, and not act, instead?"

"Because you might doom us all," Pippa replied with exasperation, "how's that for a reason? If you change things, what's going to happen to our own time?"

He shook his head.

"Your own time," he said, almost too low to hear. The look she gave him was baffled. "I did not mean for you to discover who I truly am, but I hope that once you do, you will understand why I must do this. So much of this is my own fault."

Pippa had gone from looking confused to worried, and now she sounded almost perturbed as she asked, "Why? Who are you?"

He did not need to answer. From the shadows stepped out an entire cadre of armored Elvhen, their appearance so sudden it startled Pippa. She was not so obvious about it, but he knew her mannerisms well enough to be able to tell. Her attention had been focused on him, and she had missed the fleet-footed elves surrounding them.

He turned towards them and they approached, just as startled as Pippa.

"Fen'Harel?" one of them asked, uncertainty lacing the word.

From the corner of his eye he saw Pippa tense. She heard. Maybe she understood.

"No," Solas replied in Elvhen, clasping his hands behind his back and drawing himself up--body language they recognized, and that belied his words. "But take me to him and all will be answered."

Chapter Text

 

Pippa did not need to understand the language to know the name Fen'Harel. That the Elvhen warriors recognized Solas was clear enough, and it cast his identity in new light, but Fen'Harel? Him? What exactly did they mean?

Seeing herself at a disadvantage, Pippa took the wise course of action and remained completely quiet. At Solas's indication, one of the Elvhen retrieved the amulet from her and then ushered her along. That she was now their prisoner was a fact which transcended any language barrier. There was no real point in fighting. She was unarmed--her staff was still in her quarters at Skyhold, years ahead of her--and though she had her magic, she was steeply outnumbered. She counted a dozen elves, that she could see.

They moved in complete silence; despite the fact that near everyone else was in heavier armor, Pippa still heard only the scuff of her own feet. She was flanked by guards on either side, as well as trailing behind her, and she had no choice but to follow. Solas walked ahead confidently, the leader of this group of elves a deferential half-step behind him. Habit, or merely Solas's force of personality?

They moved through the ruined city--walls collapsed, scorch marks and frost damage and strange, inexplicable craters she couldn't even begin to know the origin of--until they eventually emerged onto a first intact street. 

The true grandeur of Elvhen architecture became more obvious once they did. It was, quite frankly, breath-taking, but Pippa had grown inured to astounding sights since becoming the Herald of Andraste, and so she regarded without the slack-jawed awe she would have experienced once. She tried to memorize the path, in case escape became an option, and imagined how she might slip away, but she was not completely unimpressed by the intricacy of the mosaics or the delicate beauty of wrought iron decoration or the way buildings were carefully wound around intact trees so high that they seemed to scrape the sky.

They arrived soon enough to an open pool of water, as bright as the Miroir de la Mère in Val Royeaux, though not as large, and perfectly circular. Compared to the beauty of the rest of the city, it seemed a strangely plain element.

They walked towards it, the entire group, and then right into it, descending steps straight into the water.

Pippa cast a sidelong look at the guard next to her. His expression was neutral, as if this were a completely unextraordinary event, and so she had to conclude it probably was not for the elves. Certainly Solas wouldn't have her drown, and he strode confidently into the water.

So when she came to the steps herself, she did not hesitate. As her first foot submerged into the water, she noticed with some surprise it was not cold. As she waded up to her thighs, she noticed she did not feel wet. And when it got to her chest, she concluded that it was not water at all, and in fact, up close, looked like something more akin to quicksilver.

Or glass, she thought belatedly, as her head sank beneath the waves. 

It felt a bit like passing through an eluvian, though somewhat stranger due to the horizontal position and the fluidity of the surface. But the stairs continued on into a great underground chamber, and when she looked up, she saw the pool of water on the ceiling, as bright and unstirred as on the other side.

This new underground location was nothing less than what she expected from passing through a magical pond. The ceiling seemed enchanted, dark with pinpoints of light twinkling in it, and now that she noticed, the perfectly circular pond looked like a moon. An artificial night extended far into the horizon, and she wondered if they were truly underground, or somewhere far stranger.

The stairs seemed to go on forever, perched high, high above a city. It had no crystal spires like the one outside, but the roofs looked like gemstones, bright colors with striations in whimsical patterns. It seemed they were looking at the city from miles up, and she would have expected them to be climbing down the spiraling stairs for hours, but in brief minutes, they were already on the ground, stepping into a city square with great metal statues rising in every corner. The stairs disappeared from sight.

What a strangely practical yet ostentatious use of magic, Pippa thought, and then immediately envied the fact that Skyhold, with all its numerous stairs, did not possess the same. She regretted not knowing Elvhen, because she would have liked to rib one of the guards about it. Solas was not even looking in her direction, and offered no prospect of conversation.

But here was where the group split. As Solas walked towards one of the buildings in the square, she was herded towards another. A prison, she knew. Even pretentious Elvhen architecture could not conceal the inherent oppressive quality such a building inevitably developed over its use.

The cell, though. That was nicer than she expected. Instead of a hard wooden cot, it had something like a cushioned Orlesian chaise-longue. A chair and a table in the corner, which held a few items, and a privacy screen which, upon inspection, hid a heavily embellished toilet--which from what Pippa figured, expelled waste through magic instead of the elaborate system of water pipes common in her time period--and a sink with a perfectly polished mirror embedded into the wall. The cell even boasted a shelf with books, though for obvious reasons she was not much warmed by their presence.

And, of course, instead of bars, the cell had glyphs along the floor and walls, maintaining a magical barrier. The more she approached the barrier, the louder she heard a discordant buzzing, and she did not wish to test what would happen if she got truly close.

Overall, as cells went, she gave this one quite a high rating. She'd choose it even over the ones at Skyhold, which were quite drafty and, if one turned the wrong way during sleep and faced the gaping hole in the floor as one woke, could make the life flash before your eyes.

So Pippa gathered all her patience, sat down, and began to wait.

 


 

Gathered around their grand table, sorted before Solas, were the victors of a rebellion; and just the same, the architects of an empire's demise. It was not quite a full council, only a vital few in attendance: Geldauran, Anaris, Isartha, even Daern'thal in her corner.

At their head stood none other than Fen'Harel, younger than even Solas remembered, and still strung taut by the tensions of war.

And while the others levered suspicious looks at Solas's appearance, Fen'Harel tilted his head ever so slightly, fascination lighting up in his eyes.

"Interesting," he said, more to himself than anyone. But in the crisp silence of the room, the noise carried.

He rose from his seat at the table, descended the three steps of the dais and crossed the distance, stopping just before Solas. They inspected each other, head to toe, with identical critical looks in their eyes. Fen'Harel could recall many an occasion that demanded he don the disguise of a simple traveler, but never one as rough as this, and never had it required he shave his head. And Solas, for his part, could recall being so young, but not quite from this vantage point.

"Well, don't leave us in suspense, Fen'Harel," Anaris grumbled, rapping his knuckles against the table. "What is it and why is it here?"

The other generals, though they remained quiet, were in agreement with him, and they hung at the edges of their seats with interest. Many were the occasions on which their enemies sent some magical construct to confound them, but Fen'Harel was particularly adept at unraveling every such deception.

"Let us see," Fen'Harel said, and Solas felt his magic sweep over encroach on his own. Solas remained perfectly still. Words would not get him far, this was something his younger self needed to determine for himself.

While Fen'Harel busied himself with this, Geldauran shifted heavily in his seat, his well-worn leather armor creaking.

"So tell us, apparition, why are you here?" Geldauran asked. His golden eyes held no outright hostility, only an amused sort of interest.

"I come to bring a warning," Solas replied.

"Oho, yes, that should have been expected," Anaris scoffed.

"I did not say 'threat'," Solas responded in clipped tones, "I said 'warning'. And if you've any interest in not having your victory turn to ashes, you will listen to me. I've traveled considerable distance into the past to help you avert the mistakes I have already seen us all make once."

"From the future, are you?" Isartha asked, amused. She rested her elbows on the table and steepled her fingers together, the ample sleeves of her robes flowing in fine waves of silk all over the table top. "Dread Old Wolf?" She gave a delicate smile, her amusement just as soft and lady-like as the rest of her veneer.

Daern'thal alone remained quiet and watching, her finger tapping against the hilt of her sword as she remained in thought.

They were all as Solas remembered them, and nothing of their reactions surprised him.

No, the surprise was young Fen'Harel's alone as he stepped back and declared, astounded,

"He is not lying."

The generals were stunned into silence for half a moment, before their detached interest turned into something more focused.

"Not about being from the future, at the least," Fen'Harel continued.

Solas nodded once and presented Fen'Harel with the amulet responsible for his arrival.

"Ah, yes," Fen'Harel said with satisfaction, "you would need a way to channel such complex magic." He inspected the amulet as he continued to speak, almost distractedly, "Though I am curious about one thing in particular."

Solas suddenly felt a prickle of apprehension at Fen'Harel's tone. He opened his mouth to speak, but he had only a split second of warning before he felt the blast of magic, and Fen'Harel's barrage sent him flying through the air and towards the solid double doors behind him.

There was a resounding thud as Solas hid the doors; the hinges creaked, but the lock held, and Solas slid against them to the floor, blood pouring out of his nose. The barrier he'd wanted to bring up had been dispelled by Fen'Harel before it could form, and the blast of magic had pummeled Solas straight in his face.

He'd forgotten. The paranoia of war, his brittle moods in the aftermath, that this young Fen'Harel had never been weak and never forgot how it felt to command the vast reserves of his power.

And he'd forgotten that the rage he held in check now in his old age he'd once allowed to rule him, but he was reminded quite swiftly of it as Fen'Harel advanced on him. Even the other generals were struck speechless at the sight, stiffly regarding the spectacle before them without daring to intervene.

"Tell me, then, Fen'Harel," the young Dread Wolf sneered, "why you would possess the essence of Mythal."

Chapter Text

 

Of all the things Pippa had faced over the years, this was the worst. Demons, she could kill. Rips in the Veil, she could mend. Even terrors beyond comprehension she'd learned to take in stride.

But dear Maker, the boredom was going to kill her. 

The cell offered very little in ways of stimulation. The books on the shelves all had beautiful illustrations, but without being able to read and learn the context for them, leafing through the pages quickly made her feel like an idiot. Napping was also out of the question, as every time she nodded off, she'd start hearing strange Elvhen whispers scratch at the back of her mind. She did not know what they were or where they were coming from, but while nothing more than irritating at the moment, it still put her off sleeping.

She sprawled on the chaise-longue, feet propped up against the adjacent wall. She'd removed her coat and the more cumbersome bits of her armor, draping them across the backrest, and that made it all the more comfortable to scowl at the ceiling as she considered her situation.

Was Solas's attempt at manipulating the past truly something to worry about? Would she have even known, in the present, that it had taken place? Or would his actions create some new timeline that she would not even know? She dredged up as much as she could remember on the subject from her conversations with Dorian, but she remembered less than she hoped.

And if changing the past meant a new timeline, and not an overhaul of the old one... then somewhere in Redcliffe Castle her friends had died, and the awful doomed world they died in marched on. Of course, if changing the past did change the original timeline, it meant her own present was in jeopardy. She hated either possibility.

And of course, here she was, smack dab in the middle of this time quandary. She had none to blame but herself and her doe-like grace when it came to springing straight into things well over her head.

And Solas. Good grief, what was even going on there, other than the obvious? The immortality thing she should have guessed. 'I learned it in the Fade,' what a hilariously transparent trick in retrospect. Next time she saw Solas, she was going to congratulate him for it. With her hand. By slapping him silly. But also actually congratulate him, because good grief, what a good trick.

When she heard the door open, she was utterly relieved. Partly because she finally had a distraction from her own circular thoughts, but also because it happened when she was lounging instead of earlier, when she'd been pacing like a caged animal. Even as a prisoner, it didn't do to make a bad first impression.

She rolled her head towards the new arrival, and did nothing to hide her surprise. No, instead she grinned, and slunk to her feet, approaching the barrier.

"Well, well, this is something which never would have occurred to me, I confess," she said, giving young Fen'Harel a once-over.

The resemblance to Solas was most obvious in the face, even though there was something slightly less mature about his features. This Fen'Harel looked to be in his mid-twenties, though doubtless he was old beyond mere human ken, and all that dreck. His hair was dark, shaved on the sides and coiled at the back of his head in simple loops, and he wore something distinctly Elvhen in design, not quite mage robes and not quite an armor, dark green and smooth with wear. The addition of the wolf pelt over a shoulder was, Pippa suspected, purely a personal fashion choice. She had to applaud him for his consistency over the years.

But the look in his eyes... ah, yes, that was very much like Solas. He looked her over like an interesting puzzle, and she folded her arms, grinning at him. Go on, try to figure me out, she was saying with the gesture.

"So are you here for a nice chat?" she asked dryly.

He gestured briefly, and she felt the tingle of a spell pressing over her, like cobwebs over her skin.

"I suspect this will make little difference in the quality of conversation, but we can understand each other now," Fen'Harel informed her.

"So you are here for a chat," she said, choosing to ignore his barb outright.

"You know who I am?" he asked.

"Solas," she replied promptly.

"Fen'Harel," he enunciated slowly, "but you are not completely wrong."

He approached the barrier.

"Your hand," he demanded.

She knew exactly what he meant, but she was not feeling particularly cooperative, so she extended her right hand, and gave him her best 'stupid shem who doesn't understand anything' face.

He responded with a steely glare.

"Being amusing will not get you far, girl," he said.

Pippa's eyebrows rose slowly, perhaps because of the facts that she was a grown woman, that he could very well see that she was a grown woman, and that even his elder self, who had quite a few years on this young pup, had never treated her with such disrespect.

"Being condescending won't secure you my cooperation, brat," she replied, giving him an easy smile with too many teeth.
His lips tightened, and something flared behind his eyes, but when he spoke his voice was subdued.

"Your hand, please."

She obliged him this time, bringing her left hand as close to the barrier as she dared. The warning buzz dampened when Fen'Harel reached through it and took her palm, poking at the Anchor experimentally. This all felt familiar, to an extent. Solas had subjected her to similar. He'd been a great deal more delicate that Fen'Harel, however, who delved his magic into the Anchor with no consideration for her discomfort. The mark sputtered and flared, and made her nerves light up with an unpleasant burning sensation.

She grimaced, because the mark hadn't bothered her this much in years.

"Tell me about Mythal," Fen'Harel requested, without taking his eyes off the Anchor.

"Mythal?" Pippa repeated, surprised. "Nice old lady, bit strange. Terrible mother, I hear, but one mustn't gossip, I suppose."

His grip tightened just a bit, and the Anchor, strangely enough, sizzled in response to his magic.

"Ow," Pippa said, loudly and pointedly. She didn't pull her hand back, though. A bit of pain wasn't going to intimidate her.

"I apologize," he said, licking his lips and releasing her.

Pippa rubbed at her hand, frowning. Ah, so that part hadn't been on purpose.

"Was it something I said?" she asked.

Fen'Harel hesitated before he spoke.

"Mythal. She... was my friend. I wish to know of her death."

"Well, I don't see what I can tell you. I only found out about it thousands of years after it happened, and that was only in mention."

"I meant the second time she was killed."

Pippa pulled a face at this information.

"Oh good grief, it happened to her again after the first time? Most of us only get one to begin with, you know. This sounds like a terrible habit to get into."

There was something blank and strained about Fen'Harel's expression that made Pippa regret her glibness. Mythal had been his friend, and here Pippa was rambling with irreverence about some poor dead woman.

"Look, I don't... actually know what you want from me," she said. "I only met the old gal once, and she was alive and kicking at the time, albeit with someone else's feet. Only thing I can tell you is that the first murder didn't quite stick, so maybe not write her off as dead so quickly the second time around, yes?"

Fen'Harel smiled humorlessly. 

"Perhaps you are correct," he said. "And it appears you truly were not involved at all in Solas's plans."

"Which plans would those be?" she asked, grinning.

"If you do not already know, telling you is pointless," Fen'Harel replied.

He took something from his pocket. Pippa sucked in a breath as she saw the amulet, dangling by its chain from Fen'Harel's fingers.

"I suspect you might wish to go back to your time," he said.

"Not a hard guess," she said neutrally.

"That is not possible," he said plainly. "I do not say this to be cruel, but there is no way you might use this amulet that will have a fortunate result for anyone, you included."

"You seem terribly sure about this." Pippa arched an eyebrow at him.

"The future you know," he said, "will no longer be allowed to exist. You will return, but the world will be a different one. Perhaps it will not be to your liking, in which case you have an amulet which helps you travel through time and, as Solas tells it, quite the impulsive streak."

He paused for a few moments, his silence accusing. Pippa pursed her lips, but couldn't argue.

"At any rate, you do not even know how to properly use it," Fen'Harel continued, "and it is anyone's guess where and when you might end up if you do. I could only speculate on the mess you might make of things. So I must apologize, but... you will not be receiving this back."

"I don't have to be the one to use it," she said as he hid away the amulet again.

"No, you don't," he agreed, "but where would you be sent, even if by someone else? What kind of world, and what kind of danger, would you be delivered into? And with no way to leave or return? No. Sad as it may seem, you are safest here." He sighed, something like genuine regret passing over his face. "I am sorry. But you will have to grow used to the idea that you will never go back."

His hand squeezed around the amulet, glowing white and sickly green. Pippa flinched.

"Wait," she said, and took a step towards the barrier, hands flailing, the warning buzz making her eyeballs itch with discomfort. "You can't just--"

In an implosion of light, the amulet was rendered to dust, slipping through Fen'Harel's fingers.

"It was too dangerous an object for anyone to meddle with," he said, "and not something I would have wanted to hold over your head, either. I've released you from a fruitless pursuit. In time, I hope you come to understand that, but you are free to hate me all the same."

He briskly turned on his heel and left.

Stupor kept Pippa in place for long minutes after he left, staring at the dust on the floor. She knew the sight of it was supposed to make her feel something, but she drew an emotional blank as she stared.

She eventually stumbled backwards, limbs not quite obeying her, and dropped like a stone to the chaise.

Chapter Text

 

 

Fen'Harel returned to the council chamber with something akin to dread in the pit of his stomach. He lingered outside the door, taking a few breaths before he had to enter again and face what was happening at that very moment.

He was almost startled when Daern'thal walked up to him; he hadn't noticed the quiet woman.

"You do not need to go back in," she said kindly. "I think you have heard everything of import. Right now it is only arguing."

"Is that why you are out here, Daern'thal? The arguing hurts your delicate ears?" Fen'Harel asked.

Her ears, poking out through thick black hair, twitched.

"I dislike it because I don't have lung capacity to join in," she said, slanting a smile. "But it is quiet out here, and I needed to think."

Yes, Fen'Harel thought. Daern'thal did so enjoy doing that.

"You believe there is some way he might be lying?" Fen'Harel asked.

"Oh," Daern'thal breathed, surprised, "it hadn't occurred to me. Do you think there is some way he might be lying? At any rate, I shouldn't think it matters."

Fen'Harel had to admit he had completely lost the thread of Daern'thal's reasoning.

"I cannot think of any way or reason he could be lying, but that does not preclude the possibility. I am not omniscient. I would be curious to know why you seem to think it doesn't make a difference, however," he said.

"Because nothing he says is unlikely," Daern'thal explained. "The in-fighting? We do that already. Carving up Elvhenan into fiefdoms? It is the kind of daft solution to the in-fighting that I fully expect from someone like, say, Anaris. He never did like to share." She smiled sardonically for a brief moment before continuing, "The loss of immortality is... already troubling, of course. That it should spread further than it has is... a possibility we already feared. And as for the humans sweeping in and destroying all that is left of Elvhenan, I..." She paused, frowning in thought for a while. "We take no notice of them, do we? They are something to be avoided, but we do not stop to think of them as dangerous, beyond the threat they pose to those weak of mind, who succumb to the quickening when in contact with them. But then the quickling woman the Old Wolf brought along... You went to see her?"

"She is clueless," Fen'Harel said. "Solas was right that she holds no value to us. It would be best to release her, send her back to her people."

"You spoke to her, then?" Daern'thal asked.

"I did not need to, her ignorance was plain."

Daern'thal gave Fen'Harel a long look.

"And what is this supposed to mean?" he asked, gesturing to her expression.

"Only that you've grown incurious and impatient, Dread Wolf," Daern'thal replied. "I recall you being different before the war. How long since you have done nothing else but wander the Fade untroubled?"

Fen'Harel remained quiet at the question, regarding Daern'thal with a burgeoning discontent. Finally, he sighed.

"Too long," he said, almost to himself. "There has not been any time for such frivolity. But what does it matter, when yet new problems come to beset us?"

Daern'thal hummed in thought.

"And as for the human woman, there is little chance she will speak to me now," he added darkly.

Having no wish to continue the conversation, he pushed through the doors, sweeping back into the council chamber.

Solas was where he'd left him, on the floor, knelt before Isartha. She carried an object not dissimilar in appearance to a spindle--a focus which once belonged to Isartha's former mistress. Now she wielded it to weave the tapestry of a complex spell. It was meticulous work, but a good fit for such a skilled craftswoman as Isartha.

And the truth was unraveled from Solas's tongue, both in words and in the intent behind them, both knowing and not. It was the only way any of them would accept that they were not being deceived.

But the spectacle was a perturbing one. Fen'Harel had seen its like before, in a different cast. Isartha, too, remembered doing this to more defenseless individuals, to less noble purpose, at the bidding of her old mistress, and it was obvious in her face, drawn and pale, that the experience was only slightly less unpleasant for her than it was for Solas.

Yet Solas submitted to this treatment willingly. And that, perhaps, rattled Fen'Harel the worst. 

What was his game?

 


 

Pippa pressed fingers to her eyes, rubbing until she saw colors explode behind her eyelids.

The thing about surviving enough impossible situations was that you got used to the thought that you'd always muddle through them somehow. Emerging from the wreckage of Haven and shambling through the cold and snow with wolves howling in her ear had broken her of pessimism. She was, she'd noticed, just unlucky enough to get into these situation and just lucky enough to get back out of them again.

So there was nothing to do but wait for an opportunity, she decided. 

In the meantime, the benefit of Fen'Harel's spell was that the books in her cell had become comprehensible. For a given value of the word, at least.

She was ignorant of both Elvhen cultural norms and the conventions of their literature, and so, it seemed to her that the characters acted like idiots and all the descriptions were heavily bent in the favor of irrelevant details. The illustrations remained the parts clearest to her, and even some of them took on bizarre dimensions in light of the text.

She let the book fall closed against her chest and stared at the ceiling, with no reprieve from the same thoughts which had plagued her since her arrival.

Between blinks, the scene seemed to change, however, and she stared up at a clear blue sky for much too long before she finally figured out she had fallen asleep and was dreaming.

"My, but we weren't expecting visitors."

Pippa flinched, sitting up at the sound of the voice. It was an amused drawl, the kind of pretentious sound she would expect out of the mouth of a smug Orlesian noble.

It came, instead, from an elf sitting across the room. Or, not room. They seemed to be in an open meadow, soft grass underfoot, but furniture sprung up like braided vines from the ground, a sofa, a table, chairs. A cabinet with an array of crystal decanters off to the side. Even the chaise-longue she occupied had changed to match.

Fields of green extended into the distance, but there was something illusory about the sight, like the old trick of mirror walls to make a room seem bigger, and Pippa felt strangely boxed in.

The elf was clad in fine robes, complicated in pattern, looking nothing like a prisoner, and yet... 

With eerily long fingers, he poured wine into a tall glass. At least, she assumed it was wine. Hoped it was. Well, it was certainly something very red.

"Sorry to drop in unannounced," she said cheerfully. "Terrible when guests do that, isn't it? Should be illegal."

"Oh, but you are most welcome here, little one," he said, "as long as you tell us how you managed it."

"Us?" Pippa echoed, and flinched when another elf snaked his way around her back and to her side. 

He looked identical to the first one, and in the split second when he appeared, she thought it truly was the same one. But his face was different, unsmiling, and his eyes burned in a way the first elf's didn't. 

He took Pippa's hand, without asking and with no regard to her personal space.

"Tell us," the second elf said, his voice a rough hiss, "was this a blessing or a curse?"

He turned her palm over to expose the mark.

"It was an accident," Pippa replied, taking her hand back. His eyes brightened even more in interest. "So who are you two, then?"

Something ugly flashed across the first elf's face, a flash of murderous, irrational anger that made Pippa feel an atavistic spike of fear. Then his mien turned back to friendly.

"Of course, I should not expect a creature such as you to know us," he said with an utterly insincere smile. "We are Falon'Din and Dirthamen. And like you, we are prisoners here." 

Ah, but she did know of them, even if she was not going to share that fact. Certainly, she thought. What's another god or two with the life I've led, eh?

Falon'Din gestured, and a glass appeared in her right hand, crystal so fine it was nearly invisible, and filled with more of the red stuff. 

"Please, do partake," he said pleasantly.

"Thank you," she said, looking down into the glass. She did not drink right away, however. There was something off-putting about that particular shade of red. "Well, nice to know I'm not the only one having a dreadful day."

"Dreadful," Falon'Din repeated, and laughed. "Yes, that is exactly the word for it. So tell us then, what manner of accident puts the magic of Fen'Harel under a quickling's skin... and has her survive the process?"

"I got it from..." Pippa trailed off. Her mind, in the process of conjuring an amusing turn of phrase to describe the elven orb, hitched over the words 'magic of Fen'Harel', looped back onto itself, and began filling in blanks it hadn't wondered about in years.

Dedicated to certain members of the Elvhen pantheon.

Son of a bitch.

"Ah, I know that look well," Falon'Din commented, a languid smile twisting his face. "You are just now realizing you fell for one of the Dread Wolf's tricks, aren't you?"

"Not as such," she replied, but did not elaborate. 

Falon'Din did not look as if he believed her, but Dirthamen still stood at her shoulder, staring down with unreadable eyes. 

"Though I'm guessing you fell for one?" she asked. "What am I doing here, exactly?"

"Only you know why you are imprisoned," Falon'Din replied, and raised his glass in a mocking toast to Pippa before sipping. "But how fascinating that you slipped into our cage so easily. Barely did we even need to tug on the edges of your dream to summon you. Perhaps it is the mark. It would be interesting if it would work just as well to permit you entry into our cell on the other side of the Veil as it did into our Fade one."

"So this dream is your prison?" she surmised. Her finger tapped against the glass as she considered.

"A construct by Fen'Harel," Falon'Din sneered, slumping over in his seat with a theatrical pout. "A dreary little box to store us until our permanent prison is settled for us."

His smile turned sharp over the rim of his glass just then, and his eyes narrowed at Pippa.

"What do you know of Fen'Harel?" Falon'Din asked.

"Less than I need to, probably," Pippa admitted.

"Do you know what he has done?"

"I'd love to hear your take on it," she said, making an effort to not sound mocking.

Perhaps she was not all that successful; Falon'Din's nostrils flared just then, fleeting anger passing over him again. Dirthamen remained impassive as ever.

"Then please have a drink, and I shall tell you," Falon'Din said.

Pippa swished the wine in her glass. It caught the sunlight, reflecting it in beautiful ruby shades.

"In his greed for power," Falon'Din explained, "Fen'Harel struck an alliance with the dwellers of the Abyss. I do not know that you've met them or not, but we are in their domain now, in one of their cities."

"We're in the Void?" Pippa asked, incredulous.

"A pocket in the Void," Falon'Din shrugged with one shoulder. "It is where they have always made their home, far from those such as myself and my brethren. They've always given shelter to deviants, miscreants and anarchists, and in return, those lost creatures who could hardly call themselves of the People anymore would worship them." He sneered. "Pale imitations of true gods."

Pippa made a non-committal sound, abstaining from comment.

"Then Fen'Harel came along," Falon'Din continued contemptuously, "and put the idea in their heads that they could be gods in our stead. Together, they misled the People, convinced them to strike out against their rightful masters. They incited the People to violence, and had them depose the very gods whose love was once theirs."

"And here you are," Pippa concluded.

"Here we are," Falon'Din smiled. He topped off his glass again, smiling at Pippa. "Please, do drink. There are so few joys available to any of us in this place. I would be glad to see you have this small indulgence."

And there it was again.

"Of course," Pippa smiled, and brought the glass to her lips. "Just out of curiosity, though, what is it that you want from me?"

"I think you are intelligent enough to figure that for yourself," Falon'Din said. "Where there is a way in, there is also a way out, yes? Surely you've also been ruminating upon escape."

"Sure," Pippa agreed, "and as soon as I have a place to go, I'll be getting right on that."

"There are places, of course," Falon'Din hastened to add. "Secret places, untouched by the madness of Fen'Harel, where proper, loyal servants still lie in wait. Where helping their masters would yield great reward."

"Where you can go right back to binding slaves again," Pippa said pleasantly.

Falon'Din's expression grew stormy.

"You speak like Fen'Harel," he said icily. "'Slaves'. There are none who would not serve willingly, when their minds are uncorrupted and their hearts pure."

"Right, right, serve willingly," Pippa said, and with an elegant tip of the glass, poured its contents onto the ground. "Then you won't be needing this."

She watched Falon'Din's face very carefully as it crumpled into rage and frustration at the sight of the wine seeping into the ground. Even Dirthamen, with his quiet presence, turned sharp and angry at the edges.

"Well, nice chat," she said cheerily, "but how about we catch up later?"

She'd never done this before, but she did not want to discover what it meant to be subject to Falon'Din's tantrum, so she activated the Anchor, and with a push of willpower, made herself wake up.

Chapter Text

When she woke, Pippa opened her eyes to be met with the sight of Solas, sitting next to her and looking down at her. It seemed like he'd been waiting a while for her to wake up.

"Solas," she murmured, as she felt his cool fingers smooth the hair over her forehead, "there's something very important I need to know."

"You need only ask," he said.

"Are the books part of the punishment?"

"...What?"

"These books, Solas." She lifted the tome from her chest and waved it. "I've been reading them. They're terrible. You just put this nonsense inside cells to drive the prisoners mad, don't you?"

He took the book from her and frowned at the cover.

"This is a classic of Elvhen literature," he informed her in a deadpan.

"Oh, a classic! Of course! That explains a lot, actually."

Whatever serious discussion he'd been ready to launch into, now he narrowed his eyes at Pippa for derailing it.

"This work was held in especially high esteem by critics," he told her. "They say its lyricism is unmatched by any other work."

"How typical," Pippa snorted. "Critics celebrating the triumph of style over substance."

Solas sighed in exasperation, but there was some of the old fondness behind it. He dropped the book to the floor like it had suddenly become an unbearable burden.

They lapsed into silence after that. Pippa laced her fingers together across her stomach, waiting. Whatever rancor she had against Solas, she couldn't hold on to it now that he was here, with his shoulders bent by fatigue and deep bags under his eyes.

"Have you been treated well?" he asked.

"All things relative to a prison cell, yes," she replied. Then she sat up, pressing a hand to the side of his face. He closed his eyes as she gently rubbed away the flecks of dry blood still obvious under a nostril. "Have you?"

He gave a shuddering sigh, nothing but tired and uncertain.

"In order to prove my trustworthiness, I've had to be... less than squeamish about preserving my well-being," he replied. "It will pass."

"Well!" Pippa managed to sound both unconvinced and profoundly offended on his behalf. 

"There is the matter of what is to be done with you," he said, attempting to put the conversation on a different track.

"He broke the amulet," she said. "Fen'Harel. Or, you did. The young you, did." 

Solas breathed out slowly.

"I am sorry. I should have anticipated such an outcome," he said, turning to look towards the floor.

"He's not nearly as fun and laid back as you, I suppose," Pippa said glibly.

Solas shook his head.

"It is too soon after the war," he said. "He is too exhausted by the conflict to be as... malleable as I'd hoped. Perhaps things will go better once the others are sealed away..."

"Oh, the elven gods."

"They are not gods."

"Really? They certainly have the attitude for it."

Solas scowled at the floor, and shook his head wordlessly. If he'd been up to the task, Pippa had no doubt he'd lay out some vehement argument against the notion. As things were, Pippa did not argue.

"Solas," she said instead, "how am I getting back home?"

"You must consider, Inquisitor, that you have done all that is possible in your timeline, and achieved your goals."

For a beat, she was actually stunned silent. "You're saying I'm never getting back."

"It is a distinct possibility. I will do what I can, but you must understand, immortal Elvhen are not beholden to the passage of time in any way you might be able to conceive. If you await on any of us to offer you a solution, I am afraid you would be waiting fruitlessly until the end of your days."

"You're saying I'm never getting back, and that I should make the best of it."

"...I am," Solas said, not meeting her eyes.

They sat together in silence that was not quite on the edge of tense, and Pippa considered.

She considered the fact that she'd already known this was a possibility. After all she'd been through, it would have been inevitable for her luck to run out eventually, and it was a relief that at least it ran out in a comfortable prison cell rather than somewhere more unpleasant.

The reality had not hit her yet, perhaps because she'd only been away from Skyhold for... a couple of days, perhaps? She'd been too bored to accurately assess the passage of time.

In a month, a couple of months, a year, when she truly began missing Skyhold and her friends and everything she held familiar, she would perhaps feel the despair and be crushed under the full weight of the knowledge that she might never return. 

Until then, however, there was the matter of how she would escape, where she would go, and what she would do from there.

"So what am I doing here, then?" she asked.

"Nothing, I suppose," Solas replied. "Fen'Harel thinks it would be merciful to send you off to your kind."

"My kind," Pippa said, "are Free Marchers. I assume Ostwick isn't around quite yet."

"No," Solas said. "Your options, as they stand, are the primitive human tribes at the edges of Elvhen civilization. The Tevinters, the Alamarri... the Avvar."

Pippa couldn't say the last option didn't appeal to her the most. It was unlikely the Avvar remained unchanged over a thousand odd years, but they had a leg up on the Tevinters on on at least one front; the Avvar never had a daft scheme to crack open the Golden City.

Now there was a thought. The Golden City. If she happened to end up in the raw Fade for some reason, she was in for a sight.

"I'm going to assume Fen'Harel wants me out of his hair as quickly as possible."

"Fen'Harel is largely indifferent to your fate," Solas said dryly. "What he wishes is to imprison his former kin beyond an eluvian as soon as possible and begin the rebuilding of Elvhenan."

"And are you here to ensure he gets what he wants, then?" Pippa asked.

"Yes," Solas replied, "though perhaps not by means he'd approve of."

Pippa's eyes lit up with interest.

"Well, now," she drawled, as if she were about to receive a particularly juicy bit of gossip, "that makes it sound like you have something particular in mind."

"I make no such claim," he said. "But if I can delay the proceedings even a little, I may be able to maneuver the necessary players into place."

"You want to delay the imprisonment?"

"That," he shook his head, "would not be ideal. They are currently being held in cells in this very building, but even with all the care that has gone into crafting their restraints, eventually they may yet find some way to escape. Their permanent prison will be beyond an eluvian for a reason. Fen'Harel even now uses his every spare moment to create a pocket in the Fade, cut off from everything, which his former brethren will not be able to escape physically nor through Dreaming, and the eluvian will only work one way to get them there, after which it will close permanently."

"A pocket in the Fade," Pippa echoed. "Something... constructed, like the Crossroads?"

"Exactly so."

"I take it their current cells aren't as sophisticated," she said.

"No. Though they are blocked off from the Fade, as well." He hesitated before adding, "In many ways, it is in the Fade that we are at our most dangerous."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"So what are you delaying instead?" Pippa asked.

"Fen'Harel's abdication, as it were," he answered. "It was... in my case, a way to release control and afford others the freedom of self-determination. In retrospect, I should not have had such blind faith in them. They still needed my guidance. I will prevent Fen'Harel from committing my mistakes, however I can."

He turned to her, graver than she'd ever seen him.

"You should leave, Inquisitor."

"Not exactly Inquisitor anymore."

"Lady Trevelyan, then," he said, and she snorted. "You should leave. I will do my best to help you along, but it would be better if you were gone before it occurred to anyone that you might be used against me."

"I think you might be right," she agreed.

 


 

 

When her next meal trays arrived, carried by steely-eyed Elvhen Sentinels who did not speak to her, Pippa discovered that other than food they also carried papers. They were accounts of human activities, written on paper so fine and silky to the touch that Pippa couldn't help but rub the corners between her fingers as she read. After she finished, she folded them up in the shapes of paper birds, boredom being overwhelming, but not so much that she'd subject herself to re-reading the extremely dry reports.

They were not extremely informative, anyway. The Elvhen tended to avoid humans, and those who did not were subsequently shunned by Elvhen society. The loss of immortality and the diseases that humans brought to elves was by all accounts taken quite seriously, even if it was not as widespread yet as Pippa thought it might be.

That was another issue, too; pinning down an exact date was practically impossible. Even Solas had this difficulty, having slept for a large chunk of known history and thus being able only to gauge its passage in broad strokes. Since Pippa had no idea how he even managed to get her this information, or what strings he'd had to pull for it, she did not expect any more help on that front.

It was rather lucky that, given the Inquisition's resources and the scholars it tended to attract, Pippa had grown quite educated in history. She had, in fact, grown educated on a wide variety of subjects, most of which would now be useless to her. But at any rate, even with her rather general knowledge, she managed to cobble together a frame of reference for the time period she was inhabiting. Information on the various human tribes was incomplete, and did not even identify particular tribes by name, but Pippa could guess what some of it referenced.

It was matters of geography that she was contemplating on the day she got her next visitor.

The Elvhen woman reminded Pippa of Cassandra, though Cassandra'd never had that shrewd glint in her eye, even after becoming Divine. But this stranger wore armor, both beautiful and functional, as well as a sword on her hip. And though she was shorter than the other Elvhen, she was also lean and muscled under her armor, moving with a grace that Pippa was sure had been developed in combat.

And she held the next reports Pippa was expecting.

"I am Daern'thal," the Elvhen woman introduced herself, smiling thinly. "And I understand you are the Old Wolf's friend."

Pippa feigned just the slightest bit of surprise at that.

"Yes," she replied, after just a breath's hesitation.

She couldn't read Daern'thal at all, but that was all Pippa could do to plant the doubt in Daern'thal's mind: that she was in fact not Solas's friend, and merely using the pretense for her own purposes.

Daern'thal smiled thinly, an expression Pippa did not know how to interpret, and then offered the reports, passing them easily through the barrier with just a delicate application of magic. Pippa reached out deliberately with her right hand, and snatched the papers.

"I suspect a talk with you would prove quite educational," Daern'thal said, her voice a pleased lilt.

"'Educational' is one way of putting it," Pippa said. "But sure. Pull up a chair."

"Just like that?" Daern'thal asked, raising an eyebrow. 

"I think I can squeeze you into my busy schedule," Pippa replied glibly.

"Interesting," was Daern'thal's response. She remained silent for a long while after that, eyes raking over Pippa as if looking for something specific.

Pippa didn't think she made much of a sight. She'd shrugged off her coat, her sash, stripped down to her underarmor. Lacking a comb, she'd managed her hair with water and her fingers, and thus appeared more tousled than usual. And the reports she'd received so far had been folded into little paper birds and arranged in a neat line. As impressions went, Pippa was sure she'd struck better ones in her time.

But she remained impassive, bearing Daern'thal's inspection for as long as it took.

"I will return at a more suitable time," Daern'thal said at long last. "But I do look forward to a conversation."

She bowed shallowly before sweeping out of the room again.

Pippa sat down and began to fold the newest reports into paper birds, not bothering to read them first. The folds in the paper were rough as her hands shook, but they smoothed out completely on the last one. After she was done, Pippa placed the paper birds on the ground and lied down on the chaise-longue, closing her eyes.

 


 

 

It was no pleasant garden party this time. Winds whipped at her, cutting and cold under a sky roiling with thunderclouds. It was still illusory, merely a shadow play on the walls of their cage, but Pippa gave them credit for the spectacle, nonetheless.

Dirthamen stood before her, in quiet expectation, at odds with the harsh surroundings. The wind did not stir a single hair on his head.

"I assume Falon'Din is kicking about as well?" Pippa asked, just as she felt fingers sinking into the flesh of her upper arm. She felt the workings of magic as well, subtle but powerful, rooting her into the dream and barring her exit. "Ah, there's the charming fellow."

With his iron grip, Falon'Din hauled Pippa closer so he could hiss into her ear.

"So tell me, is it bravery, or foolishness that brings you back?" he asked.

"Well, I'm not here for the drinks, that's for certain," she replied dryly. "Though you might want to crack one open after you hear the proposition I came to make."

The winds howled louder for a moment, reaching a deafening pitch, and yet underneath the sound Pippa could still hear the laughter of Falon'Din, like an echo coming from somewhere deep.

Then the storm dispersed. The skies did not clear, but they mellowed into a sullen overcast, and every sound simply stopped, swallowed up by a ravenous silence that settled over anything.

"Speak," Falon'Din said, or perhaps Dirthamen, or perhaps both of them.

 


 

 

This time, Pippa was pushed awake, her eyes fluttering open instantly.

She rose and went to the sink, washing and grooming herself with as much thoroughness at she could under the circumstances. Then, unhurried, she picked up her paper birds, stuffing them into whatever pockets they fit, and ate the leftovers of her last meal. She went around her cell next, straightening up the few items there were to speak of, and then, finally, she donned her armor. Though this was a familiar routine, she did it more meticulously than she had in years.

After taking a final look around and concluding that nothing was out of place, she nodded once to herself and turned to the barrier.

She raised her hand and the Anchor flared at her command, green light evening out to a blaze. She stepped towards the barrier, gritting her teeth, expecting the warning whine, but if it happened, she couldn't hear it. She heard only the rush of the Anchor in her ears, power which had grown obedient to her throughout the years.

The barrier warped around her hand and parted, and she managed to step through quickly before it closed back up. As long as she did not disrupt its edges along the walls, it was unlikely the warnings would be triggered. According to Dirthamen, at least.

Speaking of whom...

Pippa emerged out into a corridor, stepping as lightly as she could. Left, and around the corner. The knowledge Dirthamen imparted into her mind guided her past a patrol, unseen, and through the gaps in their routes, and soon enough, she reached the chamber where Falon'Din and Dirthamen were kept.

It was, she supposed, too late to turn back now, no matter what she was about to unleash. The deal had been made. I can get you out of your cage if you can get me out of the city. Now she had to live up to her end, and hope they'd live up to theirs.

No guards around the chamber, at least. Because they had an overwhelming trust in wards and magic to keep Falon'Din and Dirthamen contained, or because guards could be a liability? Something Solas had said once indicated that Falon'Din used any trick he could do amass followers. She wouldn't put it past him to have some way of influencing Sentinels tasked with keeping him contained.

At least in this case, it proved an advantage. The wards had been set up by Fen'Harel, fortunately, and thus did no more than flicker as she passed by them, a brief disruption in their flow as they adjusted to the difference in magic. Adaptive, Dirthamen had called them. He guessed that she would fool them, even with how different Fen'Harel's magic had become under her use. She still glowed brightly with it.

The more confounding aspect of this, perhaps, was that when she slipped into the chamber and walked up to the corner cell, there was only one figure behind the barrier.

Falon'Din, or Dirthamen? He was knelt on the floor, seemingly in meditation, but his eyes opened as she approached.

"Aaah," Falon'Din purred at the sight of her, and it was undoubtedly him by the easy malice in his face, "you have proved far less disappointing than I expected."

"Glad I could rise to your paltry standards," she replied. "Base competence is what I aim for. And Dirthamen?"

Falon'Din tilted his head, and then it was Dirthamen's cool, assessing gaze that looked back at her through the same pair of eyes.

"You have met my expectations exactly," Dirthamen replied.

"Truly, a heartwarming reunion," Pippa said, lighting up the Anchor and raising her hand. "Shall we move it elsewhere?"

Before either could add anything, Pippa slammed her hand into the barrier, and clenched her teeth down on a scream. This was not a parting of the curtain, as she had done on her own cell barrier. 

This time it burned.