Chapter 1: Falherna
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Big thank you to me proof-readers: ZaraLethallan, Llynnyia and Arideya.
This chapter would not be finished without your wonderful help.
To all the readers - thank you for taking the time to read my work and for all your kudos :) Come back for more :)
There are women, who can catch the eye of both women and men alike.
Women who are extremely attractive and full of magnetism. Women who have that magical something in their appearance that is difficult to clarify.
Their beauty, sexuality, their strength so incapacitating it makes others fall before them, and should have in a sense made their life easier. Yet they spent their lives frustrated, alone, under the pressure of continuous lustful glances and unwanted attention.
Falherna was one of those women. She aroused desire in men and jealousy in women. It was not her intention, she couldn't control the eye-catching power she had.
Her value was measured through the prism of her appearance. She wasn't desired for her personality or her kindness. Her body, neither human nor elven, was the only thing of interest to the others. Maybe it was an unusual combination of red hair and blue eyes or the sweeping lines of her hips and breasts. Whatever it was, it always came down to that primitive desire. Which often resulted in that men were willing to fight for her and over her. To leave their wives and families for her at just a hint of interest. They were willing to do almost anything for one night with her. She learned long ago how crude shemlens can be.
Their proposals and attempts to bed her were often offensive and vulgar. Men acted like they lost ability to think clearly around her and as for their objectivity, Falherna had to wonder if they had any to begin with. Many times she overheard them talking to one another that she was some rare kind of animal one which needed to be captured and dominated.
Falherna felt pity for them and compassion for their women who weren't aware what kind of pigs were fucking them at night. Shemlens duality made her sad and every time she stayed among them she fought the urge to tell their wives, friends and children the truth. She never did it thinking it was not her concern.
Her visits in their towns were clear, she was there to fulfil a mission, achieve materials, clothes or contacts. The only rule she held herself to was to ignore any signals of affection. Even her disinterest encouraged the shems, they treated it like a challenge.
When she went into their cities and towns she carried herself as if she were dangerous, hands never far from her weapons. She knew how this world worked. Showing any weakness only made you a victim, a victim of abuse, harassment, and mockery.
All your values would be reduced to nothing, people would shatter your beliefs, then happily break everything you ever treasured within yourself. Your heart would be beaten and broken, not just once, but over and over again. Your confidence would be betrayed and by the end of the road you called life, you would be alone and forgotten.
Falherna was alone for nearly ten years, without a man, a family, and a place she could call her own. Half-elves usually did not have such privileges. She had learned that she could only rely on herself.
She was raised by her father alone, what must have been a difficult task. He was a flat ear, without vallaslin or clan, yet his origin wasn't known even to her. He never wanted to talk about it and after a few futile attempts she stopped asking.
Loved ones would come and go. There was no other way than just accept and enjoy as best as she could, the little amount of time she had had with them. Her mother died in childbirth, the father was murdered in cold blood by shemlen's bandits ten years ago, Faron left Kirkwall and joined another group of assassins.
So she hardened her heart and went through life with her head held high, hiding the fears and doubts that welled within her.
She was different from any other race. Even though she was able to gain the trust of shemlens, city elves or Dalish alike. Easily obtain their affection and soothe their worries and affairs. She knew she did not fit in.
Her physical appearance was not suspicious, as long as her ears, magic skills and age were hidden. Otherwise, she was an oddity at best and a danger at worst. How could she logically explain her youthful look, if she could not understand it herself? How could she explain anything if people were not believing in her words? Any efforts she undertook, revealing the truth went nowhere.
Earning the trust of the Dalish while easier on her emotionally, it often was harder on her physically. To gain their trust she relied on her hunting and healing skills. It was easier for them to accept material goods and tangible things like new clothes, leathers, fur and meat. Her father was right when he told her that people can trust someone who gives them something they're missing in life - goods, attention, conversations, kindness and unselfishness.
So, just like Fen'Harel Falherna could move among various races and clans. She did not stay with them for long. Instead, she travelled to other places in search of those who needed assistance. It was one of the things she did best - helping others, getting to know them, listening to the history of their lives.
On her journeys she endurance, hunger, thirst, and ill weather but none stirred her ire. Whether she lacked shelter, friends, family or someone she could trust, she faced them all with composure and acceptance. She considered negative emotions as a waste of energy, especially when there was so little she could neither control nor change.
Her father taught her how to endure pain, sorrow and grief and use them in ways that would benefit her. She learned fast, even as a young girl. He was a great hunter, mage and archer. She could remember him as a beautiful, blond, tall man. He meant the world to her, always so kind, calm and self-confident with a practical view on things.
Stoicism and great respect for the history oh his people were the finest of his traits. For a long time he studied the ancient ruins and writings in search for answers to his insistent questions.
He developed in her patience, wisdom, inquisitiveness, fighting, hunting, and magic. Regularly they travelled alone, living for a long time in the woods, enjoying their liberty, the crowns of trees and the presence of wild animals. Sleeping under the open sky, looking at the stars and listening to the father’s stories about old ruins, dreams, constellation, mages, goods, sorcerer, knights, dragons, and many others was her finest memories.
Men like Falherna's father were a rare gift to this world, not many nowadays could be compared to him. His death was a huge loss to this world.
But loved ones always come and go and nothing could change that.
Standing on a hill near the forest, she looked at the horizon thinking on Anders' actions and about Hawke who probably hated her now. Wondering if she will ever meet Varric again, poor dwarf dragged off by The Seeker, no-one knew where. She thought about Merrill, The Keeper, and the dalish clan she left behind.
She shook her head at the thought. They would be better off without her. In their eyes, she was a danger, using her ability to mix people's minds, deceive, and lie. Motives of her actions have never been important to them. They saw life in black and white, ignoring the shades of grey that she saw so clearly.
Falherna knew how complicated and hard it was to interact with her. She was too straightforward for them, too curious and without any respect for the dalish history. She understood why the dalish wanted to make her one of their own, to mark her. Their plan was some sort of exorcism, aimed at expelling her openness, sympathy and a drive for the lost knowledge of their people. Things long forgotten by their descendants.
The keeper once explained to her that every creature should have her own kind and belong somewhere. To her knowledge, it was safer as a half-elf to stay among dalish, if given a chance than to travel across the world alone.
Above all, they wanted to deprive her of curiosity and skepticism. To them, she was a heretic, someone who leveraged their stories and beliefs.
Conversations about the Pantheon and Fen'Harel had taken place only between her and her father. They've kept them secret, allowing themselves full openness only when they were away from the clan, hunting, exploring the woods and ruins. Her life was magnificent back then and she cherished those memories.
All, however, was about to change.
The Conclave was near and the fate of all people depended on the negotiations, which were soon to begin. She felt the upcoming danger, the air smelled of electricity as though before a storm, ozone was palatable in the growing wind and the sky had taken on a strange sea like color, neither blue nor green.
Templars and Mages were approaching from either side of the world, entrusting their hope in the Most Holy Divine Justinia, and in her idea to stop the conflict which was had been growing more and more dangerous for months.
Fen howled loudly and his fur ruffled. She patted the wolf's head, speaking to him quietly "I can feel it too, my friend. Soon we'll meet again".
Grey eyes lingered on her face for what felt like the longest time and her hand stayed on his back, petting and comforting the animal.
"You must go now. I'll find you, ma Fen" she kneeled beside him looking at his eyes.
The wolf howled again touching her hand with his wet nose "Fen'Harel will guide you. We will meet again". She pet him, once again delighted by the warmth of his body and roughness of his fur. She rose slowly, moving her gaze back to the horizon and to the Temple of Sacred Ashes.
"Go now" her voice was unyielding. Goodbyes to the ones you love had to be made quickly, without unnecessary words. The animal stayed at her side for another moment, then with a flick of his tail he made his way slowly into the forest.
There was no need to watch over him. The wolf knew how to find a way back to her. In a few hours, she would meet him again, in the forest near Haven. Going down the hill towards the Temple, she started to plan her next expedition. After getting back to keeper Marethari and delivering information about the negotiations between mages and Templars, she wanted to take Fen in a long journey to elven ruins.
Her lips stretched into an unfamiliar smile when she thought about spending more time with her wolf.
Chapter 2: Brighteyes
Solas felt like his heart stopped beating. “Falherna” was the only word he could hear in his mind now. It took only second to form the letters into different name - “Fen’Harel”.
I have decided to combine two chapters in one - so I highly recommend to re-read chapter 2. Things are getting more interesting :) Or... maybe not?
Edited by my lovely Arideya, Lyn and ZaraLethallan :) Thank you :)
“And I thought that we would be ass deep in demons forever,” a familiar voice said. Her heart raced and a smile formed on her wrinkled lips.
Falherna turned slowly. He was walking towards them, Varric Thetras. Hawke’s best friend. Her acquaintance. She was so pleased seeing him again, imagining this moment a thousand times before. She spent the countless days wondering what happened to her witty friend. The last time she saw him was the night at the Hanged Man in Kirkwall full of sadness and words of farewell almost a year ago.
Varric did not recognize her, though, and she realized that her spell was still active.
Her hair was grey, her face and body were wrinkled and she was aware she looked several dozen years older now.
He walked over to the three of them with loose, rocking steps that she loved so much.
“ Varric … ” he was beginning his introduction, but Falherna interrupted him resting her hand on her staff looking at him from under her hood.
“… Thetras: rogue, storyteller and as I can see Cassandra’s slave” she said calmly and smiled kindly at him.
“Do we know each other?” Varric frowned looking at Falherna with suspicion in his eyes. He scanned her face, making two slow steps towards her.
She pushed down her hood so he could see her light blue eyes with white spots around the pupils. Once he had called her ‘Wolfie’ or just “Brighteyes’. She wasn’t sure if he will recognize her seeing just her eyes, but she hoped that they and her young voice would be good clues.
“Certainly" Falherna murmured bending on one knee and putting her staff on the ground. The bald apostate and Cassandra approached them taking in the scene. Falherna could feel the elf’s eyes on her, but she ignored his glance focusing only on Varric, who studied her face. He looked into her eyes and his breath hitched.
“Once,” he cleared his throat “I knew a woman with eyes like yours.”
She waited patiently supporting her elbow on her knee while watching Varric’s struggles. He didn’t know she had the ability to use an aging spell, so he could not believe it was her, his old friend.
“But…” his voice shattered for the moment and he shook his head, mouth open, as if he wanted to say something else but couldn’t find proper words. Falherna used his hesitation to cut in.
"But she was almost thirty years younger than me, right?” she smiled again looking into his eyes and wondering how to help him recognize her. Finally, after few seconds, when Varric took another step her way, she raised her hand pointing to her eyes.
"Brighteyes?” he gasped and for the longest moment she could only see disbelief on his face. She wasn’t surprised, giving him time he needed to consider a possibility that this strange, old woman was his friend.
His expression changed when he scanned Falherna’s eyes. Suddenly, without a warning, tears welled up in the dwarf’s eyes.
“It’s me, Storyteller” a small whisper came out of her mouth as her gaze remained on Varric.
“What happened to your face?” he took another step towards her bending slightly.
“Doesn’t matter,” she smiled again and outstretched her arms.
“Come and hug me, Storyteller.” He put down Bianka and ran up to her, slamming into her arms. The last time they saw each other was almost a year ago and Varric didn’t know if she was even alive. Cassandra and the elf were standing nearby trying to understand what was going on.
“I’ll explain everything,” she murmured to them, not taking eyes from Varric’s face.
“You have not changed, Master Thetras. You didn’t even lose your charming hair, ” she joked, pointing to the dwarf’s exposed chest. He laughed loudly, but after a while his smile faded and his face seemed troubled when he looked at her again. His gaze was concerned and he frowned when he raised his hand towards her face.
“So what happened here, Brighteyes?” he asked with low voice touching her wrinkled cheek. She pushed his hands away and stood up slowly, taking her staff and glancing at the elf and Cassandra.
“I owe you an apology, ” she bowed before them.
“You don’t see me as I really am. My appearance is an act of magic. My keeper wished I was unrecognizable to the Conclave.” she explained calmly “If you would allow, I will cast a spell to reveal my true face.”
The elf nodded without a word, but Cassandra’s grim face was a clear indication of her unwillingness to let Falherna do anything. She pointed a finger at her.
“You tricked us” her voice was calm, but brash and her second hand in the meantime reached to her sword. Falherna felt the urge to laugh out loud. How many times had she heard those words in the past?
“It was not my intention, Seeker," she murmured sincerely, looking straight into her eyes. The strong warrior woman glared into Falherna’s striking eyes long enough until Varric cleared his throat loudly, drawing her attention away. Flickering his eyes to the remains of the demons as if to remind the Seeker of the perils. She snorted at Falherna.
"Undo this magic trick and let us go further towards the forward camp. We don’t have much time” The intimidating warrior said as her frown deepened.
Falherna bowed again staying serious and whispered a few words with closed eyes. Removing aging spell was a quick process, what was coming next, the whole body transformation was longer. She felt a wave of magic in her guts. Energy poured into her and she could feel her body stretch and then smooth. At first it was a gentle feeling that soon began to grow stronger and more unpleasant but not painful. Few seconds later the sensations reached a culminating point and slowly faded.
She let out a small breath and opened her eyes.
* * * *
Solas froze. The woman standing in front of them was an enigma. At first it were her manners and composure that curioused him. Then the fact that she took off the effect of the potion with the spell, which was a well-known skill only to his People.
When she had closed the rift with one gesture, he felt tingling on his skin and his terror and guilt seemed to be fading. He felt hope, a long forgotten emotion and a relief because if the mark could close the rift it could also close the Breach. A simple touch of her skin, although wrinkled was different, stronger, more electrical now when the power on her hand was active.
As their fingers touched, Solas felt an odd exhilarating shiver running through him. Maybe it was just a static produced by the mark and his own magic, but it also felt like something familiar, like a long forgotten memory. He never saw this woman before, yet her scent and voice were strangely recognizable.
The color of her long hair slowly changed, from grey to red. Wrinkles disappeared from her face, the lips gained glitter and light pink color.
Solas frowned seeing how young she was. A Dalish, less than the age of twenty, should not have access to such power. No random creature should have access to his power. He began to worry how she will exploit the mark. It depend of her personality, which was completely unknown to him. He had to observe her every move and action. Someone young, inexperienced with unexpected access to his power could use it against them. He could not allow it, he needed to be perceptive and cautious.
He looked at her again noticing how her body started slowly changing. Firming, lifting and melting until she stood before them composed, hands tucked behind the back. She was tall, taller than Cassandra but not taller than him. For the longest moment, her eyes drew his attention. He hasn’t seen, in his long life, eyes so blue. He understood her nickname now.
He studied her face noticing that the facial markings didn't disappear or change. He didn’t recognize them and was still wondering what they were, as she turned her face away from his own.
Was it possible, that it was vallaslin? If so, why it was unfinished?
"Much better now" Varric gaffed pleased smiling widely. He looked to Cassandra who stood next to Solas, still frowning with tightened lips.
"My name is Falherna" she introduced herself with calm, quiet voice "I am an apostate, a healer and … Varric's friend" she finished.
“Time for the explanations will come later.” Cassandra stated starting to loot the corpses laying around them.
* * * *
Solas felt like his heart stopped beating. “Falherna” was the only word he could hear in his mind now. It took only second to form the letters into different name - “Fen’Harel”.
Questions spontaneously appeared in his thoughts.
Why had she a name which was the anagram of his own? Did someone choose it for her or she did she select it? What did she know about Fen’Harel? Did she believe in dalish stories? Why would someone give an anagram of his name to a half-elf?
He drank the view of her. She had cheerful glimmers in her eyes and at the same time she was moving with remarkable grace and a peace aura. She selected her words with the deliberation and didn’t behave as spontaneously as a twenty year old woman. But what could he know of this subject? He averted his gaze quickly noticing admiration in Varric's eyes who was looking at her intently.
"Fair enough" Lavellan’s voice made Solas’ heart racing. He tried to stay calm and focus on their goal, but her timbre was familiar and his mind tried to locate it in his memory.
"Varric, nice to see you again, " he heard.
"It is possible that you'll change your mind... In time, " Solas laughed slightly thinking about how absorbing the dwarf was. Lavellan looked straight into his eyes so he smiled to make a friendly impression. He reminded himself that he needs to be careful in conversations with the Dalish, so distrustful with flat-ears. In the past, they treated him badly only because of the lack of vallaslin on his face.
He had to try be nice to this one here if he planned to have a chance to observe her and built any form of trust between them.
“My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions.” he bowed lightly "I'm pleased to see you yet live".
"He means he kept that mark from killing you while you slept, Brighteyes," said Varric tucking Bianca in the holster on his back. Solas ignored him focusing on the elven woman before him. She was observing him intensively.
Her light blue eyes resting on his as if she was trying to analyze him. He felt discomfort fighting the urge to look away.
"You seem to know a great deal about it all, " she stated slowly while her eyes lingered on his face.
"Like you, Solas is an apostate" Cassandra interrupted them. She was looting one of the bodies that lay scattered around their group. She rose slowly and came closer to them standing beside Lavellan.
Solas looked at her "Technically, all mages are apostates, Cassandra" he correct her.
Looking again at Falherna he started to explain "My travels have allowed me to learn much of the Fade, far beyond the experience of any circle mage. I came to offer whatever help I can give with the Breach. If it is not closed, we are all doomed, regardless of origin".
"That's a commendable attitude," Lavellan said. Solas smiled hiding his surprise.
"Merely a sensible one, although sense appears to be in short supply right now".
"Yes, it is" she murmured cocking her head to one side and regarding him intently.
"And what will you do once this is over?" she asked and he started to ponder if she is always so inquisitive.
"One hopes those in power will remember who helped and who did not, " he smiled while maintaining some semblance of relaxation, although he felt anxiety inside at her expression so full of understanding and interest.
For centuries, no one had looked at him that way.
* * * *
Falherna found she couldn't stop herself, no matter how intense she stared at the elven apostate. He was incredible and she was sure she had seen those steel blue eyes before. Those were the eyes of an old man although his face was smooth and devoid of a single wrinkle. His gaze was grave, but his smile made his features soften, warmer, even handsome. Her eyes slowly moved from his face to his neck, arms, legs and down to his bare feet.
Falherna’s fingers tightened around her staff while her gaze trace the width of his arms hidden under a few layers of clothes.
He spoke evasively, as if he wanted to avoid answering direct questions. It frustrated her, it made her want to interrogate him even more than his appearance did. He was hiding something but seemed very knowledgeable and she was always interested in expanding her knowledge.
His voice, soft and clear was a comfort to her. It was strange how it moved through unfamiliar areas in her body and soul at the same time. It made her heart beat faster, stronger and filler her stomach with weird tickling sensations. She kept her eyes on his and tried to ignore the appetizing shape of his lips. What was wrong with her? What happened with her composure? She needed to concentrate.
Falherna narrowed her eyes at him. His attitude on the surface was easy going and cheerful, but the jaded sadness in his eyes made her believe it was just posturing. Why did he feel the need to deceive them all? What was he trying to hide?
"Whatever magic opened the Breach in the sky also placed that mark upon your hand" for a moment his eyes met hers then he once again switched his focus to Cassandra.
"I theorized the mark might be able to close the rifts that have opened in the Breach's wake and it seems I was correct" he seemed pleased that his theory worked.
"Meaning it could also close the Breach itself" Cassandra standing next to them and listening to their conversation calmly till now, suddenly took a step closer and looked at the apostate with hope in her eyes.
Falherna thought that it would be a welcome relief to close it before it could kill more innocent creatures but what then? What would happen with the mark? With her?
"Possibly," Solas said looking directly at Falherna "It seems you hold the key to our salvation".
His words sounded like a mockery but by the look in his eyes she could tell that his confidence in her was genuine. She didn't know how to respond to it. She didn't feel like someone's savior. It was obvious they were all in danger and her mark could help them, but that was all.
What could she do? Run? She has never been a coward, but there was also something else, something… that captivated her in the mark itself. More importantly she wanted to recover her lost memories and find a way to enter the Fade again. There, she saw Fen’harel for the first time and it couldn’t have been an accident. For so many years she only dreamed about him, built his image through the years. Both based on father’s stories and wolf’s statutes they have seen in their journeys. If the Dread Wolf had the reason to disclose himself to her once, it was probable he would do so again.
The half-elven woman shook her head and fixated on the conversation. Varric looked around carefully to ensure they would not be taken unaware by any lingering demons. Falherna looked down briefly at her marked hand and felt a small sense of relief that she was finally able to take her eyes away from the mysterious elf. She did not like distractions. Especially when that distraction was an elven man.
The mark was calm, although she could still feel the painful tingle on her palm like a reaction to the heavy, stuffy smell of the Fade that lingered in the air. She clenched her fingers, and lowered her left hand.
"Cassandra, you should know: the magic involved here is unlike any I have seen," Solas said evenly.
"Your prisoner is a mage, but I find it difficult to imagine any mage having such power".
Falherna frowned. How could Solas know how to close the rift if he had never seen this kind of magic before!? She wondered if he was aware of how completely illogical his words sounded?
If he always lied this way, someone should tell him that he is awful at it, she thought as she felt Varric's hand on her own. She looked at the dwarf and smiled.
"I understand. We must get to the forward camp quickly" Cassandra adjusted her sword and rushed forward without waiting for the rest of them. She hopped over a small wall and looked at the three of them “Here, down the bank. We must hurry”. Solas followed her without a word.
“Well, Bianca is excited” Varric declared to her with a grin.
“Oh, I bet she is” she laughed quietly “Remind me… she is now with her husband, isn’t she?” She scratched her chin and pretended she was deeply considering something. Falherna glanced at the dwarf who’s face contorted with dissatisfaction.
“You will never let that go, will you?”
“Probably not” she ruffled his hair smiling at him. She grabbed his arm and pulled him forward, down the trail.
* * * *
"Varric, what is your role in all of this?" she asked while they walked together towards the low wall. Cassandra and Solas waited for them. Falherna jumped over and looked at Varric.
"Oh, I am a prisoner, just like you" he winked at Seeker who glared angrily at him over her shoulder.
"That's not true. I brought you here to tell your story to the Divine. Clearly this is no longer necessary" she said.
"Yet, here I am. You need me considering current events" he smiled "Also I cannot leave Brighteyes here alone to fix this mess. She fell from the sky to see me again" The dwarf squeezed Falherna's hand and gave her a wink.
Cassandra started to walk faster, but they could anyway hear a disgusted noise she let out. Falherna smiled, let go of Varric's hand and ran to catch up with the Seeker. The human woman seemed annoyed with Varric’s presence, but that was understandable. This strong, practical shem was concentrating on their goal, fully aware of the danger they were in. Falherna felt that despite the woman’s roughness, she could admire her strong personality. Varric, however, charming and funny, sometimes was too absorbing especially when someone was forced to spend long months in his company. Falherna smiled, as she remembered how he could make Hawke lose her temper. Even though they usually shared the same ironic sense of humor.
"Cassandra, I need to tell you something" Seeker looked at a half-elven woman with irritation.
"It cannot wait? We have more important matters, to be honest" she said, and her voice had a new, hard edge to it. Falherna could only assume that too many interactions with the others were upsetting the woman.
"That’s for you to decide, Seeker” she smiled “Leliana knows me. From Orlais. I was there some time ago with Varric". The dwarf laughed loudly to his own memories, passed them by to catch up with Solas.
“I understand. And your relations…?” she looked at Falherna slowed down and walked shoulder-to-shoulder with her.
“...Were neutral. After our mission, we attended a party and Leliana was our guide. She gave us clothes, drinks, and food. I am sure she doesn’t remember me” she explained quietly.
“Oh, Brighteyes, I am sure she remembers you” Varric shouted.
“That’s your opinion, my friend. You have the right to it” she answered seriously. She didn’t want to talk about Leliana's sexual preferences knowing that spymaster wanted to keep the matter privately. It was not the topic for a debate on the road and especially not with the strangers. Even if Varric would be eager to write a whole chapter about it in his next smutty book.
“Amazing! When you talk this way you sound just like Chuckles” he gaufed again. Cassandra ignored him, instead she nodded to the prisoner and started to walk faster. Falherna decided to leave Varric’s joke without an answer and she was pleased that Solas did the same. He was quiet, likely lost in this own thoughts. Thinking of his bare face, she wondered how often other elves called him a “flat-ear”?
A few minutes later they stepped out onto the frozen river to confront the three demons that appeared on their path. The ice was thick enough to move confidently on it. Falherna grabbed her staff casting the barrier around Cassandra who charged forward. Quickly she checked Varric’s position on her left, then switched her focus to the demon coming forth to her. Without hesitation, she froze it and fade-stepped to the other side of the frozen body of water. Falherna had to keep them at a distance. The ice crackled under her feet dangerously, but she had no time to think about it as she turned around quickly. The view that met her eyes terrified her. Cassandra’s shield slammed the frozen demon and shattered it. While the other two were getting closer to Varric. She registered Solas’ movement with the corner of her eye. With a final florish of his staff, the apostate cast a protective barrier around the cornered dwarf and stunned the demons for a second.
Falherna raised her staff, cast another electrical spell which slammed one demon down. Varric took advantage of the reprieve to withdraw and quickly found a better vantage point to send down a hail of arrows in the demon’s direction.
“I’ve got one, Brighteyes” he shouted laughing. Before Varric shifted his aim to the right, where Solas attempted to freeze greater fade that was dangerously close to him.
“You really want to play now, Storyteller?” she cast winter's grasp which gave her fellow elf time to retreat.
“Why not?” Varric’s voice reached her ears over the sounds of the battle, but she ignored it and finished her demonic target.
“One for you, Fal!” the dwarf laughed. She growled under her breath, turned towards Cassandra who killed the aberration and headed towards them.
“I must admit, I have missed fighting with you” Varric carefully crossed the ice to her side, his fingers lovingly traced the lines of Bianca.
“Likewise, friend” she smiled, her eyes scanned nearby trees and cabins.
“We should search the area” she suggested looking at the Seeker. The black haired woman seemed invincible. She was indeed a great warrior. Falherna could only assume that Cassandra, with her practical point of view, would agree with her idea. There could be survivors and even if they were in a hurry she was convinced they were still worth checking out.
“Alright,” The Seeker’s response was short and firm. Falherna tucked her hair into her hood and ran into the nearest burning cabin. The flames engulfed the front door and she needed to find a back entrance.
Few minutes later she ran out of the burning cabin. „Nothing” she said under her breath, the moment the painful glow on her marked hand forced her to a halt. She cradled her arm up to the elbow with a shaky gasp of pain. She took a deep breath and fought the numb sensation that spread through her forearm. It made that arm all but useless. She closed her eyes and took every ounce of her willpower to smother the discomfort she felt. Father taught her how to shut off the pain, clarified that it existed only in her mind. With the mental strength, she was able to control emotions. After few seconds, her consciousness opened for a new wave of the burning pain, taking it in, calming it down. Another deep breath later she was able to open her eyes.
The mark responded to the proximity of rifts or to the presence of demons. She grabbed her wrist with the right hand as she looked around seeking any signs of the danger. On her left, among the trees she noticed stairs covered with a thick layer of snow almost invisible for normal human vision.
“There” she announced to her companions as she pointed to the stairs hidden behind the trees. She rushed in fearless and doubtless. Her spells at the ready and her stuff firmly in hand. She climbed the steps quickly, she could hear her comrades footsteps crunching on the fresh snow behind her. The strange magic in her palm burned with a green light. It grew warmer and stronger the closer she got to the cave. Two demons hovered around the camp fire and Falherna could see the corpse of a man near the rock wall. She looked briefly at the dead body which seemed to once had been owned by a handsome blond man. His face was calm and so young. Her heart filled with compassion and sadness when she saw the man’s wide-open eyes, now shallow and lifeless.
“Poor man, poor demons. The whole world is on fire” she thought. Whoever was responsible for the creation of the Breach, deserved nothing less than death. Spirits should be left alone in the Fade. They were bewildered and lost in this world, thrown here by the rifts against their will. Their presence was unnatural and they were changed into something… an abomination. What was the purpose of it? Why would someone want to unleash such chaos? She clenched her teeth and sent a wall of ice towards the demons. Solas joined her and cast an explosive fire spell. Cassandra attacked with one smooth but strong charge. Varric delivered a finishing blow with a few well-placed shafts.
Falherna sighed quietly as she felt the mark calm down. She shook out her left hand and strode over to the fire. She bent over the corpse and reaching out slowly to close man’s eyes. Silently she said a prayer to Fen’harel for the peaceful rest of the shemlen’s soul.
After carefully checking his pockets for possessions she turned around to ther companions and her gaze was caught by a pair of intense steel blue eyes.
* * * *
“You’re dalish” Solas stated after a while. She frowned just a small change to the set of her mouth. Nothing that would tip the others off to her displeasure.
“But clearly away from the rest of your clan. Did they sent you here?” she wanted to laugh. It was hard to believe that he took her for a Dalish.
Couldn’t he tell she was a half-elf? But how he could not?
She cooled her mind down analyzing the situation. Her body was invisible for him covered by her cloak. Her ears, small but pointed buried under her red hair. Surely he would recognize the difference if he could see some of her attributes.
The tone of his voice inspired her to question him “What do you know of the Dalish?” she asked not slowing down her steps.
“I have wandered many roads in my time, and crossed paths with your people on more than one occasion” he explained.
“What do you mean by “crossed paths”? This conversation was becoming more and more interesting.
“I mean that I offered to share knowledge…”
Falherna interrupted him “Let me guess... they attacked you?” she looked directly at him. She knew the Dalish very well, their superstitions too. His expression changed slightly and she noticed the confirmation in his eyes.
“I was attacked for no greater reason than their superstition” he answered quietly.
“Well, they’re not my people nor yours given your bare face,” she hissed back at him.
“Ah,” he growled enigmatically in respond “Accept my apologies”.
“No need to apologize” the look on her face was serious, her tone sharp “Half-elves do not have clans”.
“Brighteyes, can you play nice for once?” Varric cut in on their conversation with a smile. Falherna stopped and stepped into Solas’ path.
“Was I unpleasant?” she asked searching for a hint in his eyes. She was aware of her look, maybe she was too quick in assuming he would recognize the half-elf in her. She knew how distant and cold she was sometimes, too judgemental as well. Sometimes she was just tired of the inevitable and perpetual explanation to nearly everyone that she wasn’t the Dalish. It always required too many words, caused too many questions and an unhealthy curiosity.
“Not at all” Solas looked at her, surprised by her behavior.
“Still, forgive my tone,” she said with genuine repentance while she looking him in the eyes. Falherna turned away and hid her face beneath the hood of her cloak. Slowly she moved forward and supported herself on her staff to cover her shaky fingers.
Sometimes she wished she could look like any other half-elf so she could be mistaken for a shem not a dalish.
Author's note: If u want to see Fal you're welcome :) Click here :)
Chapter 3: The Breach
Ansunobe, Jirelle and Zara, thank you for your help and suggestions :)
The forward camp was located on the stone bridge. Corpses laid on both sides of it. Falherna glanced at them briefly thinking how many have died already defending the valley from the massive rift at the temple. The Chantry Brother cared for the bodies of the dead, bending over them and praying.
Dark grey clouds covered the sky, chill in the air sharp and smelling of decay. A strong blast of wind hit her face causing her eyes to blur with tears. She pulled her hood down tighter, protecting herself from the oncoming wind.
Her vision was blurred, but the view of the corpses covered by rags was already burned into her mind. Her heart ached, still she kept restraint knowing that now was not the time to lose her temper.
She could not help the dead.
Falherna noticed Leliana arguing with an older man wearing Chantry robes in the distance.
She pulled down her hood as she rushed towards them, eyes focused on the red haired woman. She had a mission to fulfill.
Their approach was welcomed by two pairs of eyes, Leliana's were stunned but calm, the man's full of surprise and distrust. Falherna tilted her head slowly, observing the man.
Cassandra quickly explained the change of the prisoner's appearance causing a sudden shift in the elder's man expression.
"Another apostate!" he shouted raising his hands up high. Falherna clasped her hands behind her back not taking her eyes away from his face.
"As Grand Chancellor of the Chantry, I hereby order you to take this criminal to face execution!" another shout directed towards the Seeker came out from his parched mouth.
"Order me?" Cassandra's eyes flashed with irritation and disbelief.
"You are a glorified clerk. A bureaucrat!" her voice raised.
Falherna's calm and silent glare shot towards the woman, she was amazed by the strength and strictness of the woman. Most of the women she had met in the past were usually quite the opposite. They had always avoided discussions and arguments just to gain some peace.
"Justinia is dead!" Chancellor stated angrily drawing the half-elf woman's attention "We must elect a replacement, and obey her orders on the matter".
Falherna frowned disgusted by his callousness. She sighed quietly suspecting what kind of replacement he had in mind. Sadness, so exquisite it was near pain, washed through her. This shemlen's short-sightedness was predictable, maybe even justified in other circumstances. Circumstances where the sky was not torn apart and many innocent people were not dying.
Taking a step forward she opened her mouth to speak, although she could predict his response.
"Sir, you could have me dead, it flatters me but isn't closing the Breach the more pressing issue?" her tone low and calm, her expression was smooth and benign.
He looked at her with surprise, his eyes wide open, mouth ready to speak, but no words came out.
He frowned pointing a finger at her "You brought this upon us!" he shrieked.
"Enough!" Leliana interrupted them "She is right," she said as she looked briefly at Falherna.
The Chancellor snorted loudly closing his eyes for a moment pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingertips. Silence fell among them. Falherna waited, observing the Chancellor. She knew how humans' minds worked. The man needed some time to calm himself, to see the whole situation from the new perspective. Her eyes slowly scanned the man's shaky hands and his reddened face as she traced the changes in his expression and breathing. His features smoothened and he was inhaling slower.
He lowered his hand looking at Cassandra with resignation in his eyes "Call a retreat, Seeker. Our position here is hopeless".
Falherna loosened her hands, cursing in her thoughts. It wasn't the first time when she'd met this kind of human, stubborn, angry and unpleasant. She took a step back and stood beside Solas and Varric. The dwarf sent her a comforting smile, she winked at him and turned her head around to observe the whole scene.
"We can stop this before it's too late" Cassandra assured the Chancellor.
"How? You won't survive long enough to reach the temple, even with all your soldiers" he mocked at her.
"We must get to the temple. It's the quickest route" the Seeker was relentless and Falherna was starting to feel sympathy towards the woman.
A woman like Cassandra was a rare gift - strong and militant. She wondered what kind of experiences made the woman so harsh as she was. Her mind instinctively drifted to her wolf, Fen, and anxiety filled her heart. The Breach needed to be closed as soon as possible and she could only hope she will be the one able to do it.
"How do you think we should proceed"? she suddenly heard Cassandra's voice.
She was expecting her answer but what was the question? Falherna registered their conversation, however selectively. There were two possible roads to take to arrive at the Temple of Sacred Ashes. And obviously she was the one to make the decision, she had the mark possessing the same magic as the Veil tear. Cassandra informed the half-elven woman earlier that the mark was killing her, but she wasn't afraid of her own death. The death of the others, people she loved, the destruction of the world they were living in, that were the things that terrified her. Almost everything depended on her now but having a strange magic inside her hand did not give her the right to choose who should live or die.
"You're asking me?" she raised an eyebrow exposing her surprise.
"You have the mark" the soft and quiet voice on her left was unexpected.
She looked at Solas and murmured, "And the mark is giving me the right to risk someone's life?".
Something unrecognizable appeared in his eyes and quickly faded.
He stayed silent so she focused on Cassandra deciding that going through the mountains will be the best solution. They needed the quickest path, for her there was only a little chance to survive. She had nothing to loose, no place to come back to. The Dalish would be better off without her. People she once loved and called friends would endure. Her wolf would finally return to his pack for good.
The direction of her thoughts was disturbing but not surprising.
She has always been realistic.
Still, she had no desire to die.
At least, not before closing the Breach.
* * * *
"Sealed, as before. You are becoming quite proficient at this" Falherna looked at Solas without a word.
He seemed pleased with her. He looked at her intensively as if she was some kind of fascinating or interesting creature. She was accustomed to such glimpses, however, his gaze was different, gentle and warm. She opened her mouth to thank him when Varric came along and interrupted them.
"She's a quick learner, Chuckles. Let's hope it works on the big one".
"Ah," he grunted supporting himself on the staff, his gaze still on her face. She looked at him wondering how could he knew how the mark would work on the rifts. He knew a lot and she was curious what else he learned from the Fade.
Slowly she turned from him and Varric and looked at Cassandra who was helping a young soldier to stand up. Falherna came closer observing his movements to check if healing magic was required. The man's arm was bleeding, but it wasn't a dangerous wound.
"Lady Cassandra, thank the Maker you finally arrived," he said sheathing his sword and pressing his hand to the injured arm "I don't think we could have held out much longer".
Cassandra looked at Falherna "Thank our prisoner, Lieutenant. She insisted we come this way".
"The prisoner?" the man looked at her and his face turned red when she pulled down her hood "Then you..." he stuttered.
* * * *
Solas observed the whole scene with interest. The lieutenant's face was all red and his confusion and desire visible in his eyes. He was old enough to presume that Lavellan was arousing such emotions in all men. He was curious if she was aware of the effect she had on men because now she seemed unmoved.
After a second she bowed with grace and he could hear her calm, low voice "It was an honor to save your life. I'm glad we took this path".
His heart lifted in his chest on the sound of her voice. Every time he heard it something inside him stirred, his guts were tightening, he couldn’t help but feel that there was something he was missing, some lingering remembrance that he couldn’t recall.
He shook his head slowly and his gaze drifted to Lavellan. The young man was becoming increasingly embarrassed what caused an outbreak of laughter in Varric. Solas looked at the dwarf trying to calm down his heartbeat, to stop the urge to look at Lavellan once more.
"Is there something you want to...?" he tried to ask but Varric rained into his words.
"Chuckles, don't tell me you cannot see how this boy is looking at her" he laughed again pointing at Falherna with his finger "It always worked like this. It was enough for the men to looked at her once and she had them in her hand."
Fascinating, Solas thought as he looked at her again. As far as he knew humans usually felt an aversion to half-elves but, in some ways, the prisoner was more human. One should look at her very closely to see her elven eyes, ears or moves.
"Oh, here's Curly," Varric said suddenly. Solas forced himself to look away from her. The commander approached them slowly, limping and breathing heavily after the fight. The curly blonde man was covered with a mix of mud and blood, that caked over his skin and clotted in his curls.
"Cassandra, you managed to close the rift? Well done," he greeted the Seeker.
"Do not congratulate me, Commander. This is the prisoner's doing" Cassandra answered as she turned to look at the half-elven woman.
Solas' eyes narrowed when the Commander's gaze rested on the prisoner. The way he looked at Lavellan, tracing the lines of her coat as if he was trying to see her body beneath it made him wanted to roll his eyes. Such glances were inappropriate. Solas averted his gaze quickly focusing his mind on the Breach. They needed to move, to act, not to stand here and chat.
"Is it? I hope they're right about you. We've lost a lot of people getting you here" the Commander said still looking at the half-elven woman with desire mixed with something else, something that Solas couldn’t define.
"You're not the only one hoping that" even though the prisoner's voice was calm he could still hear the sharpness behind it.
The corners of the apostate's mouth raised at her words, he would not come up with a better riposte. It was intriguing to find her so young and yet so calm and intelligent. He wanted to know who taught her manners, who showed her how to control her emotions. It was curious how naturally she behaved among strangers, humans and other races. She was sharp-witted and focused.
Still, what had fascinated him the most was how calm she seemed. She didn't show any signs of panic, nor did she express any concerns in the fluctuations that surrounded her. Not once did she complain about the situation she had found herself in.
She was behaving as if she accepted the burden without any objections.
Even Fen'Harel could not ignore such practicality.
* * * *
Falherna jumped off the wall onto the burned remains of the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Bodies twisted, burned and turned into stone were laying everywhere. Some corpses were frozen on their knees, with their hands raised up like in their last seconds they were trying to shield themselves from the explosion.
She walked slowly, looking around, not hearing the exchange of opinions between Solas and Varric. She could hear only the sound of the explosion and the screams of the burning people. It was a horrible death, and so unnecessary. She felt tears of rage and helplessness under her eyelids. Her heart was filled with sorrow and compassion.
What had been their last thought? How many of them had children, husbands, wives? How many died here in silence, pain and loneliness?
Her hand started to vibrate, reminding Falherna that she is not completely defenseless. She knew their goal, she was aware that mourning those people wasn’t a good idea, not now. She needed to stay strong and move forward.
She lifted her head and focused on the road. She hoped that wherever they went after death they were safe and comfortable. Whoever killed them would pay for it in future, she believed that what goes around, comes around.
They went deeper into the ruins “What a damn thing” she heard Varric's voice. He was looking upon the Breach. Cassandra and Solas approached her.
“This is your chance to finish this. Are you ready?” Cassandra's voice was stern but calm. Falherna could not take her eyes from the rift and the Breach in the sky. It was huge and beautiful.
“Like never before” she murmured.
“This rift was the first, and it is the key,” Solas said.
“Seal it, and perhaps we seal the Breach” he looked at Falherna. She could feel the warmth radiating from his body, he was standing close, their shoulders almost touching. Being this close to him seemed familiar to her, but when she gave him a nod, looking into his eyes, he slightly moved away from her and his gaze lingered on the rift.
“Let’s find a way down. And be careful” Cassandra ordered. They took the only available path, to the left. Falherna removed her hood so she could see and hear everything, analyze it.
Five minutes later they were at the bottom. Falherna’s mind worked now at full speed. The Rift revealed them what she could not remember, the Divine was calling for her help, probably she was there, with her. Trying to help when something happened. Something that caused an explosion and gave her the mark.
Cassandra was determined to get her answer, shouting to Falherna, demanding for an explanation. Falherna could only tell her the truth, that she didn’t remember those events.
“Echoes of what happened here. The Fade bleeds into this place” Solas' voice moved her soul. She could notice so much sadness and experience in his tone. She moved closer to feel the rift seeing glimmers of the fade.
“This rift is not sealed, but it is closed… albeit temporarily” he looked at her, again composed, practical, distant and straightforward.
“I believe that with the mark, the rift can be opened, and then sealed properly and safely”.
He was using words as “believe”, “perhaps”, probably” but his expression was showing something different. He looked like someone who not only believed, assumed and suspected, but knew for sure what to do with the rift, the mark, and the breach.
How could he know? Was that a part of his pose? Or maybe it was his personality? Maybe he was so arrogant or self-confident?
“However, opening the rift will likely attract attention from the other side” he continued.
“That means demons. Stand ready!” Cassandra was alarmed.
“Brighteyes” Varric called her. Falherna turned around. She kneeled to face her friend.
“Shh. I am gonna be fine” she smiled hugging him. Varric looked at her “You better be”.
Few seconds later Cassandra looked at her, giving her a sign that the soldiers are ready. Falherna raised her hand and the mark came alive, sending a string of power towards the rift. She didn’t know what would happen, it was the first rift she was planning to open.
The process took only a few seconds before the rift went open with a big blast and a Pride Demon appeared behind them.
“Keep him away from the prisoner!” Falherna could hear the determination in the Seeker’s voice.
Quickly she searched her memory, remembering herself that Pride Demon are resistant to electricity. She started to attack it with fire, but he was immune.
“We must strip its defenses! Wear it down!” Cassandra shouted.
Falherna wasn’t hesitating and disrupted the rift to weaken the demon. “Attack him!” she shouted preparing the barrier to protect Varric and Cassandra. Solas already protected himself and her.
She disrupted the rift many times. Killing this demon was hard and time-consuming.
“Do it!” Cassandra screamed at her when the demon was dead and the rift ready to close. The Breach resisted, stronger than the rifts. She made few steps forward clenching her teeth, feeling in her body how the force of the Breach was surrounding her. The stream flowing from Falherna’s hand became bigger and suddenly the explosion knocked her off of her feet.
Falherna fell into darkness.
* * * *
Solas came closer to the prisoner. She was unconscious and barely breathing.
He felt anxiety.
She could not die.
She had to live.
Especially now, when the breach was not closed. Her face was losing color.
They had to move quickly.
“Is she alive?” Cassandra asked kneeling beside him.
“Barely,” he responded quickly "We need to hurry."
The Seeker stood up, calling the soldiers. She ordered them to bring Lavellan to Haven, as fast as they could. Solas, torn internally, suggested to join them later. He needed to investigate the Breach. He watched as the soldiers took her on their shoulders and moved towards Haven. He felt an irrational urge to run up, shake her and wake her up. He had thousands of questions for her, but knew that he will not ask them.
The prisoner should not be the object of his interest, he had a mission to complete and that should be the only subject of his concerns and interests.
Three hours later, he returned to the Haven searching for the Seeker and finding her in the war room bending over the map.
“Seeker, the breach is stable. Your prisoner did not close it but interfered it so that we are not currently threatened” he reported.
He refrained from asking about the status of Lavellan knowing that Cassandra will tell him anyway.
“Thank you. The prisoner’s condition improves. If you want to visit her, she is sleeping now in the cottage next to Varric’s” she said.
“It will not be necessary," he replied against of himself. Some part of him wanted to check her state, but it was wiser to keep the distance “I'm pleased she is alive.”
“Me too. We need her. The Breach is still in the sky” she sighted “The Chancellor is furious. He wants her cut down.”
“Ah, human justice” he muttered and added after a while “The prisoner helped us even if the final effect is not what the Chancellor expected ”.
The Chancellor was a typical shemlen stubbornly stuck to his own truths. He probably was convinced that Lavellan's mysterious plan was to leave The Breach in the sky and flee.
“He thinks that the fact that she survived the attempt of closing the Breach proves that she is responsible for its creation” Cassandra confirmed his suspicious. She looked disgusted standing beside him with clenched jaw and hands clasped into fists. Solas just shook his head.
“He is a stubborn, blind fool,” Cassandra stated sending him a brief glance.
He stayed silent, starting to believe that the Seeker will protect the prisoner and not let her die.
“Now, we have to find out how to finally close the Breach. I am counting on your help, Solas” she looked at him.
“I will consider it, Seeker,” he said heading to his cottage. He wanted to fall asleep and find Wisdom. He assumed he will be able to find the spirit in the Fade after the Breach was stabilized.
However, instead of his friend his thoughts turned to Lavellan. She turned out to be well-trained in a fight and in magic.
If she was ever in a Circle? Where was she born? By whom she was brought up? Has he met her before? Her voice seemed familiar. Her eyes were looking into his soul as if she knew him.
She did not say anything about it, but he could swear that he felt as if she knew his secrets and nature.
But she couldn’t. It was not possible.
He growled loudly walking into his cottage and throwing off his backpack. He took off his cloak and reached for some wood, putting it into the fireplace. He ignited a fire with a magic spell and sat on the floor. If he could he would flee today. He had a job to do. He had his own duties.
However, his plans were in chaos because of the one mistake, one miscalculation. He needed to stay until the Breach is closed and his orb returned to him. This half-elf was the only hope to move one with his designs.
His jaw clenched when he reminded himself that he could not afford to be distracted. He focused and closed his eyes.
Gradually soon he was able to muffle the sounds of the village, he breathed deeply and stepped into the Fade.
Chapter 4: Disharmony
Ansunobe and Jirelle thank you for help :) Without you I would be lost :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Falherna was waking up slowly. Both her body and mind felt heavy and drained like she was underwater. She tried to take a deep breath but to her surprise her lungs wouldn’t respond.
A bright light glimmered above her, tempting her. However when she tried to reach for it, she found that her body wouldn’t respond either. So she simply waited, surrendering to the current.
She stayed still, weightless, warm and cozy. The light slowly got closer but before it reached her a strange force suddenly grabbed her and dragged her towards the surface.
Falherna opened her eyes and sat abruptly. "Grey" the word escaped from her mouth. Her throat was dried so she cleared it impulsively.
Her fingers pressed to the bridge of her nose instinctively, her eyes squinting in an attempt to get used to the light. Once her vision had cleared she saw that she was lying in a bed – a human bed. It had been years since she last had that luxury.
Cautiously she pulled herself to the edge of the bed. She felt strangely well-rested, her hand did no longer hurt. She glanced at her palm and noticed that, even though the mark hadn’t disappeared, it wasn’t flaring up like it did before. It seemed to be stable, at least for now.
A number of questions overflowed her mind. Did she manage to close the Breach? Could she finally go back home now? Did she even want to? And was Solas still with them or had he left?
Her thoughts were disrupted as the door of the cottage she was in suddenly opened and a young elf came in. A servant most likely, she assumed. The boy fell to his knees once he saw that Falherna was awake.
“My lady, I beg your forgiveness and blessing. I am, but a humble servant. You are back in Haven.” he whispered in horror “They say you saved us. The Breach stopped growing just like the mark on your hand” he looked at her finally.
She frowned, wondering why he'd felt the need to kneel before her with such terror. After a second she smiled at him “Stand up, please. Why are you afraid of me?”.
“Lady Cassandra would want to know you've wakened. She said to inform her “at once”” he rose and started to withdraw to the door.
“Where is she?” Falherna asked gently. She could not understand why this boy was so afraid.
“In the Chantry with Chancellor Roderick. She said “at once”" the elf sent her another scared glance and opened the door.
He ran out, leaving on the floor the pack of herbs he had with him. She looked at them before deciding to put them on the shelf next to the bed.
She stretched her arms and back. Her muscles were accustomed to the fights, and long journeys so she didn’t feel sore.
She approached the small mirror on the desk noting that her clothes were left untouched and her coat rested on the chair next to the desk.
Looking at her own reflection, she brushed her hair until it ran down her shoulders. Despite the dark circles around her eyes, Falherna found herself looking fresh and ready for the meeting with the Seeker.
A small note on the table caught her eye. Someone had been watching her while she slept.
Could it have been Solas? How long had she been asleep?
Whoever it was mentioned that she had been out for three days, muttering about “too many eyes” and “the grey”.
What was the meaning of all of this? She didn’t remember any dreams or nightmares.
She shook her head leaving the note on the table, looking again at the image in the mirror. Her skin seemed pale in comparison with the black fragment of vallaslin. She traced it with her finger thinking how sad it was to be forced to wear something so pathetic on her lower lip and neck.
"Oh, for fuck sakes" she growled to herself averting her gaze from the reflection. She hated blood writing on her face. Hated all the memories they were arousing. Hated herself for the restlessness she felt every time she looked at her own tattoo.
Falherna straightened and reached for the coat putting it on. After a short deliberation, she took the herbs from a shelf hiding it in her breast pocket. Taking a deep breath to ease her mind and thought she opened the door of the cottage. Cold air hit her face forcing her to pull up the hood.
“Interesting,” she thought as she noticed people had gathered outside of her cottage. They were looking at her but not with fear or disgust, like the teenage elven boy, but with worship and admiration.
Hopefully, Cassandra could shed some light on the situation.
“It’s her. It’s the Herald of Andraste!” someone in the crowd whispered as she slowly moved forward.
“Did you hear? She stopped the Breach from growing” she wasn’t looking at those soldiers, women, children, she was just listening to understand the situation.
“Why did lady Cassandra put her in chains?!? She saved us!” she heard on her left while climbing the stairs.
The building of the Chantry was visible in the distance and more people were standing there.
“She’s the chosen one. Andraste chose her”
“Herald of Andraste? The Chosen One?” she thought hearing another word of admiration.
Suddenly she felt the urge to laugh bitterly.
A half-elf, a tricky, withdrawn and ironic woman, who murdered in cold blood when it was needed, but who always guided by caring for the comfort and happiness of other beings, who was hated in some circles and desired at the same time, that same woman was considered by shemlens to be a holy person?
It should be obvious to her. She should have predicted it. Most humans believed in what was most convenient for them and not exhausting for their minds.
How annoying must have been the thought about the hybrid with the strange mark who „fell from the sky”?
They had to explain it somehow. Rationalized it. Although rationalization aimed to make her a saint was ridiculous.
She reached the top of the stairs and took the time to look around trying to ignore the people that mobbed around her. Haven was calm and beautiful, surrounded by mountains and forests.
Her thoughts strayed to Fen. She wondered where the animal was now and moved towards the Chantry’s door. She needed to speak to
Cassandra and ask for permission to find her wolf before the trial. She wanted to say goodbye to him.
Falherna went inside finding Varric and Solas standing at the end of the hall by big, wooden doors. As she came closer to both men she pulled down her hood.
“Good morning” she greeted them.
“Welcome. I’m glad you’re awake” Solas sent her hesitant gaze.
The smile she saw on his face when they first met and he told her she held the key to their salvation was now gone. Even his eyes seemed colder.
It was strange. He didn't look too happy because of her arrival. But his mood couldn't be her fault considering she was unconscious for last three days.
Deciding to stay polite she thanked him and leaned forward to kiss Varric’s unshaved cheek.
“You scratch, Storyteller” Falherna rubbed her face wincing.
“Every real man should” he laughed resting his back against the wall.
“I would engage in the polemic with it” she replied feeling Solas’ gaze on her. She looked at him, but the elf turned away his eyes quickly.
“Oh, yes… I forgot what kind of men you like” laughing again Varric looked at her with a broad smile.
“I’ve heard the Breach is stable” she focused her attention on Solas who opened his mouth to answer her when suddenly the Chancellors’ voice from behind the door stopped the apostate from speaking.
“You are crazy! I want her head! Now! I will not allow this freak to walk freely in Haven” they heard the man's shout.
“I love such delicate words” Falherna winked to Varric smiling slightly.
Varric seemed moved. He frowned and folded his arms on his chest.
“Brighteyes, sorry you have to hear that” he murmured.
“You want to say that it moves you, dear?,“ she smiled gently “After all, “freak” is a compliment compared with terms that I've heard over the last several years” she lifted her eyebrow “Has my absence blunted your claw?”
He laughed out loud “Certainly, I missed your presence. If something happened to my claw, I’m sure you’ll find a way to sharpen it again.”
She poked his shoulder “I’m sure Bianca will be pleased to sharpen your claw, Varric”.
“Take her to Val Royeaux, where she will be judged by the new Divine!” the Chancellor’s voice thundered again.
Falherna giggled, feeling the gaze of steel-blue eyes on her again.
“Well, good luck with that Chancellor!” Varric whispered with a the wide smile.
“Hush!” she pointed a finger at him “I'm going to say hello”.
Without a second thought, she opened the door and went in calmly.
The atmosphere in the room was heavy with emotions. Leliana's and Cassandra's postures showed her how both women were furious.
Chancellor Roderick reacted angrily at her entrance.
“Chain her!” he ordered pointing at her “Take her to her cell and prepare for travel to the capital!”.
“Disregard that and leave us” the soldiers looked at Cassandra and did what they were asked.
“You walk a dangerous line, Seeker” Roderick hissed coming closer to Cassandra when the door slammed and the soldiers left the room.
“The Breach is sealed, but it is still a threat. I will not ignore it. Nor should you” the Seeker looked in the face of the elder man pleading him with her gaze for a small sign of common sense.
Falherna clasped her hands behind her back and said slowly “I did what I could to help”.
It was the truth. She tried very hard to close the Breach. Maybe it was enough for Leliana and Cassandra, but obviously her actions could not convince the Chancellor.
“You did more than the others” Cassandra looked at her with approval in her eyes.
“Thank you, Seeker” she bowed slightly “But as I understand, I am still a suspect?”
“You absolutely are” the Chancellor's eyes hardened as he stared at her. She tilted her head on the side observing him, finding it fascinating how blind and stubborn one shemlen could be.
Did he really think she did not close the Breach intentionally? To gain what?
“No, she’s not!” Cassandra’s voice was sharp like a knife's edge.
Leliana came closer, smiling to Falherna, like she was trying to comfort her, assure her that both women were on her side. Lavellan was trying to make sense of all of this. As it seemed Cassandra had changed her mind, she wasn’t suspecting her anymore. The spymaster met her before, had seen her in action and knew there was no rational reason not to trust her.
“Someone was behind the explosion at the Conclave. Someone Most Holy did not expect” Leliana explained calmly looking at Cassandra “Perhaps they died with the others or have allies who yet live”.
“So... I am a suspect now?” Roderick asked staring at both women with surprise.
“You and many others!”
“But not this straggler?!” his shout filled the whole room.
“Stop calling her that” Leliana asked him quietly with fire in her eyes. Falherna looked at her with wonderment.
Why were the others so moved by epithets thrown at her direction? Was it important what this elder shemlen thought about her or called her?
He was not worth a single wave of anger or energy. He was feeding himself with it. Surrendering to his provocation would probably make him very pleased and she was not willing to give him any sort of pleasure or joy.
“I heard the voices in the Temple. The Divine called to her for help.” The Seeker went closer to Roderick, her lips formed into a thin line.
“So her survival, that thing on her hand - all a coincidence?” Roderick clasped his hands in front of his chest.
“Providence. The Maker sent her to us in our darkest hour” Cassandra seemed very certain in her words.
The Seeker of Truth believed Falherna was the Herald of Andraste. She was probably a pious woman, supportive of Chantry-derived institutions. The situation was getting more and more complicated.
Even, if she could agree her mark was not a coincidence, in her opinion it was rather some form of a destiny that she found herself in the specific time and place. But the magic she bore for sure didn't come from the Maker.
“You believe I am innocent” she stated not showing her surprise. Cassandra was not what she expected.
“Yes. I was wrong. Maybe I am now, but I cannot deny that you’re exactly what we need” emotions appeared in the Seeker’s eyes.
Obviously she was determined to protect Falherna because she needed her.
“The Breach remains, and your mark is still our only hope of closing it” Leliana added calmly looking at her with care.
The atmosphere became increasingly tensed, the Chancellor seemed furious because none listened to him. He snorted loudly heading to the door and left the room. Falherna felt sympathy for the man, even if the was a fool too proud to admit defeat.
She stayed at the war room for another 30 minutes listening about bringing to life the Inquisition. Falherna knew the history and she did not want to take part in this until she was sure that modern organization would have a different purpose and work differently than the first one.
The first Inquisition was strong, an armed organization with the goal of protecting the people from the "tyranny of magic" in whatever form it might take; blood mages, abominations, cultists or heretics. A loose association of Andrastian hard-liners, the group combed the land in search of these "threats" and some say theirs was a reign of terror. In these accounts, it was suggested that the group was already known as the Seekers of Truth and that the "Inquisition" moniker was perhaps pejorative.
In 1:20 Divine, the newly founded Chantry found common cause with the Inquisition and they signed the Nevarran Accord. As part of the agreement, the Inquisition became the new martial arm of the Chantry, the Templar Order, and its senior members became known as the Seekers of Truth. Another result was the creation of the Circle of Magi, with the Templars serving as overseers for the Circle.
It was almost all she knew and could remember. She was curious how the history would be written now, by their actions.
She agreed to stay and help with the second attempt in closing the Breach.
* * * *
"Come with me, Herald. You must eat" said Cassandra leading Falherna to the hall.
"There is a tavern where we can talk in peace" the woman looked at her.
"About?"Falherna's gaze rested on Cassandra.
"Well, it occurs to me I don't know much about you" she explained as they left the building and reached the stairs.
"Ask Leliana. I am sure she has made a full research while I was sleeping" she answered callously as she watched the Seeker out of the corner of her eye.
She wasn't a friendly girl willing to share her story, still knowing someone better was some kind of social custom.
"She did, but I don't want to ask her. I want to hear it from you" Cassandra slowed her pace.
"Lady Cassandra!" they heard suddenly. Falherna turned around seeing a young scout running up towards them.
"What is it?"
"Commander Cullen would like to talk to you. The matter is important" he informed casting furtive glances at Falherna.
"The tavern is on the right. I’ll join you in a while” the Seeker left her without waiting for the answer.
Lavellan sighed with relief wrapping her cloak closer to her body.
* * * *
The tavern was warm and very cozy. Only one table was occupied by Varric and Solas. They raised their heads when she approached the table.
In the corner, next to the fireplace she saw the elven boy who visited her an hour ago in her cottage. She still had his herbs.
Discreetly she started studying Solas. He wasn’t looking at her, focused on his plate. For the first time, she could see him without a woolen coat, which was hanging on the backrest of his chair. His bodybuilding again drew her attention, but she had to divert her gaze, hearing a small squeal behind her.
“Oh, it’s you… you’re an elf!” she heard realizing her ears were exposed. She turned around and saw a short woman looking at her ears with eyes wide-open.
Falherna took the woman’s reaction and words with peace deciding it will be easier to confirm she is an elf than starting a discussion about her race.
She smiled in respond “I am. It’s nice to meet you too”.
It was amusing to observe the changes on the woman’s face, from fear, by surprise to rapture at the end.
“Forgive me” she stammered “You’re the Herald. What would you like to eat?”.
“First... some mead, if you have one. And a seafood soup" she pushed away the chair making the decision in two seconds.
“Of course” the woman bowed and quickly went away to prepare the meal.
“Well, are you going to sit?” Varric looked at her with curiosity.
“I am” her gaze was lingering on the servant elf “But not now” she moved slowly towards the fireplace.
* * * *
Solas slowly raised his head and looked at Lavellan analyzing her behavior.
She was kneeling next to a teenage boy, by the fireplace. The elf boy seemed stressed when Lavellan introduced herself and pulled out her hand to him.
The half-elven woman took out a small bag from her breast pocket and Solas could hear her words.
“You ran so suddenly and lost your herbs along the way. I found them on the floor and thought, that you'll need it” she pulled her hand with the bag towards the boy smiling warmly.
The young servant looked at the bag, and at Lavellan with surprise visible in his eyes.
Solas felt the urge to respond to her smile even though it was not directed to him. He averted his gaze, focusing on his meal, listening to the conversation.
“Would you like to sit with me and my friends and share a meal with us?”
“Oh no, my lady. I cannot. Servants eat somewhere else” the boy answered quietly.
“I’m sure I’m not talking with a servant now, but with a young boy whose name is Glándir, would you agree?” warm feeling washed Solas’ heart. It was the first thing that moved him so strongly since he woke up from his slumber.
Who was this woman? Did she need anything from this boy or was she nice to him with no ulterior motive?
The young elf thanked her for the bag of herbs, declining her proposition and she didn't pressure him to change his mind.
“Dareth shiral, white young man,” she said simply, getting up from her knees.
Solas struggled with an intense compulsion to flee and to stay, to know more of her and to ignore her. The disharmony he felt was a completely new sensation for him.
A decision about joining Cassandra, Leliana and Cullen wasn’t responsible of him. He was an apostate in a village full of Templars. Still, he had no other choice. He could blame only himself.
Still, he wanted to help. He was the only one who could assist with the mark and the Breach.
Approaching their table Lavellan slipped the coat of her arms and Solas scanned her body with curiosity.
It was slender, with a narrow waist and long legs, her hips were wider than most elven women and her breasts were larger and fuller. It made the lines of her form strangely asymmetric and specific.
In his journeys, he'd met some half-elves, but often they had more of a human build than elvhen. This prisoner was the exceptional mix of two races with a domination of elvhen traits. It was interesting to get a chance to observe such a creature.
She loosened her belt, removed her doublet then rolled up the sleeves of her tunic.
“Wolfie, you have to eat something, immediately” he heard Varric’s voice “You’ve lost too much weight, in my opinion” the dwarf stated.
Lavellan smiled and sat opposite to Solas. She looked at him, their eyes met and he slowly turned away his gaze.
He needed to be more careful with his glances. Drawing this woman’s attention could complicate everything and such complications were unwanted.
The Seeker joined them a few moments later. Her entrance was loud and energetic. She ordered the food and sat down next to Falherna who was eating her soup in silence.
“We have two hours of peace” she informed them looking at Lavellan “I must ask, from where you learn of the Inquisition’s history?”.
“It surprised you?” Falherna asked not taking her eyes away from her plate.
“Usually elves do not show interest…” Lavellan interrupted her smoothly “I’m a half-elf and I show an interest in many things”.
Solas looked at her for a few seconds longer, appreciating her composure. Her gaze was focused on the Seeker’s face when she was reminding the woman about her own origin. Her aura seemed full of distrust and carefulness.
“My father once told me about the First Inquisition and The Seekers of the Truth” she explained quickly, continuing her eating.
“Where’s is he now?” the Seeker asked openly.
“Dead” she answered quiet, but with finality. Her face was like a mask without expression.
Solas felt grief and compassion. What kind of tragedies has this creature endured? How had she survived?
“I wasn’t trying to… I hope I did not offend you” Cassandra seemed confused by her own indiscretion.
"You didn’t” said Lavellan casually while she continued eating.
A moment of silence passed between them. Solas finished his supper reaching for his mug with fresh water.
The tension got worse when suddenly Varric decided to open his mouth.
“How’s your arm, Brighteyes?” he looked at Lavellan with a smile cleaning his plate with bread piece.
“Healed” she murmured waving with her fingers. A little smile crossed her face.
“Magic fingers!” Varric laughed and took another sip of his beer.
Solas thought that evidently she knew how to be nice, but only to people close to her or ones who were oppressed like elvhen servant.
She winked to him turning her gaze to Cassandra “So, what happens now, Seeker?”.
“Leliana sent ravens to the Hitherlands about you and the renewal of the Inquisition. News about the Herald already spreads throughout the whole of Thedas”.
Lavellan nodded as she finished her meal and drink, deciding to ignore the part about the Herald. Cassandra seemed like a very religious woman, there was no point in engaging an discussion about calling Falherna differently.
“I know it’s been three days… but do you need any help with the injured?” Falherna asked after a while.
Solas froze reminding himself that the prisoner was a healer like him.
He made the same proposition few hours ago. He could feel the Seeker’s eyes on him, but he avoided it.
“Solas made the same proposition".
Falherna looked into his eyes, hypnotizing him.
She sat in silence for a while as if she was waiting for his answer.
“I believe the Herald wants to help me. It will be faster if two healers will take care of the injured” he replied.
Lavellan's eyes lingered on his face. Analyzing. Reading him.
Being the object of someone's observation was an uncomfortable feeling.
“Storyteller, I will see you later” suddenly she averted her gaze and grabbed her coat.
She rose from the table while Solas left them without a word waiting for Lavellan by the doors.
“Seeker” she bowed putting on her cloak and going towards the elven apostate.
Glándir - white young man
Chapter 5: Little pecker
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” ― John Lennon
This chapter is not canon-compliant. As always, comments and critiques are welcome. Feel free to let me know what you think :D
Ansunobe and Arideya thank you for proofreading and your insights :) Precious as always.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Falherna walked beside Solas, in blissful silence, peeking at him from time to time. He was taller than her for about ten centimeters.
He walked in an erect way, slightly swaying, his moves were quiet and deft, like animal’s.
He had a charming profile, with a long straight nose and high forehead. She looked briefly at his full lips wondering how to encourage him to speak.
She had so many questions she wanted to ask him, but she didn't know where to start. She had no talent of conversing easily with people she had never met before.
Falherna found a great contrast between simple apostate she met three days ago and a man accompanying her now. His posture could appear either as a proud or a cold one, but the sadness she discovered earlier in his eyes forced her to reconsider the first impression and observe the elf closer.
They looked at each other at the same time, and each of them has opened their mouth to speak.
"Please, you go first," he proposed with low, quiet voice.
Falherna nodded and went straight to the point "I want to thank you for saving my life".
"It was not only my doing," he commented courteously sending her a brief glance, "I am glad that I helped".
He was considering something for a moment, looking into the distance and she turned her head giving him time. Apparently, he wanted to ask her about something.
"How do you know, master Tethras?" she heard his voice when they were passing by the main gates.
"From Kirkwall" she replied shortly as she breathed deeply into her lungs the fresh mountain air and looked at the sky.
"Ah... so I assume you know the Champion too" he stated not looking at Falherna.
"Yes. Her companions and siblings too" she added.
"Then it is good that the Seeker cannot hear us" Solas looked at her smiling slightly and she felt a tingling sensation in her stomach when she returned his gaze.
The feeling of familiarity hit her again. She had almost perfect memory of the faces and eyes which she considered the best source of knowledge about people.
The certainty with which she was sure she saw Solas' eyes before filled her spirit. She needed to establish where and when she met him if she wanted some piece of mind.
"I am assuming she is still trying to force Varric to reveal Hawke's place of residence?" she asked quickly averting her gaze.
People often considered her a phlegmatic and retarded person because of her lingering looks. They could not even suspect it was a sign of a deep thinking process and an intended method to study their gestures or mimics.
"Vainly," Solas said simply.
"You were close when the explosion took place?" she asked lightly, curious if he will answer the question.
"I was. I'd come to hear about the Conclave, but did not want to get close" he explained, "When I went to see the Breach for myself I've heard about elder woman with a strange mark, deciding I could help".
"Lucky for us, then" she sent him a small smile and focused on the surroundings, thinking about Fen again.
It was possible he was somewhere in the forests near to Haven. Hopefully, now when it was obvious that the trial will not take place, Falherna could plan how to find the wolf.
She just needed to close the Breach and leave Haven behind.
* * * *
"It is not exactly a infirmary, but it is better than nothing" she muttered under her breath when they reached a broad tent constructed with a single slope on each side of the ridge supported at the end by a gable triangular portion of an end wall.
"I believe they don't have enough resources" Solas answered calmly lifting the tent flap and inviting her in with a gesture.
"Not enough resources for injured? Shocking" Falherna puffed with an irony as she entered a tent.
The place was soaked with a smell of elfroot, dawn lotus, and blood. She quickly counted nine injured soldiers.
A man with black, bushy beard ran from one wounded to another looking around nervously. When he saw Falherna, he came to a sudden stop.
"Herald, good to see you awake and healthy" he spoke to her as if he knew her.
"Excuse me, do we know each other?" she asked reaching out for a leather strap, binding her hair in a braid as she observed a man.
"Oh, I'm sorry. You probably don't remember me. I watched you while you slept. How do you feel?" shemlen came closer to look at her.
"Good, so far. If you don't mind we wish to start" she said pointing at the injured men.
"Yes... yes... of course" he started to walk away but halfway he remembered something "Herald," he looked at her shyly "I would like to talk to you in private... later".
"We will speak when I’m finished here" she answered.
"Thank you. The pharmacy is located on a hill, next to the Chantry" he said, "Now, I will leave you. We need more healing potions" he explained directing himself to the exit.
She nodded and turned to Solas who already kneeled over one of the beddings.
"How deep?" Falherna asked as she bent over to look at the wound.
An arrow had lodged in soldier's leg. Solas looked briefly at Falherna while he tried to check if the arrow went inside out. By his frowned expression, she could tell he was not sure how to handle it.
"Let me take care of this" she proposed kneeling next to him. He moved over to give her more space.
"It was a long time since I healed that kind of wound. If you don't mind I would like to watch?" she heard his calm, quiet voice.
Explanations were unnecessary so Falherna ignored it.
"Please, wash your hands first," she asked him as she cut the injured's trouser-leg with a small knife she bore beside her belt "I will need you here."
While she waited for Solas she took off her cloak throwing it on the empty bedding behind her. She quickly uncovered soldier's leg and examined the wound.
An arrow went inside out and she assumed there was a high probability to rescue a man's leg.
"Can you please bring fresh water and cotton fabric?" she looked at Solas. He nodded and handed her what she asked after a while.
Then he kneeled next to her ready to act.
"An arrow needs to be cut and pulled out from the body," she started to explain quietly while her moves were concentrated on the task.
"Ma serannas" Falherna thanked the elf when he helped her with cleaning man's wound from the blood.
"We need to use magic since we don't have any free elfroot" words were directed towards Solas.
"Shhh. Everything is going to be alright" she whispered to the young man, stroking his hair when he opened his eyes. He had a high fever and Falherna could not be sure if he could see her.
"Please hold his leg" Solas bent over and grabbed man's leg keeping it in position.
Falherna anesthetized the soldier with magic and broke the arrow with one quick move.
"Ir abelas" she looked at man's face pulling the arrow out of his leg.
"I saw you're using fire magic, hahren" her voice was calm. She was wiping soldier's forehead. After a while, she realized how she called Solas and she slowly looked at him wondering if she will see disapprovement in his eyes.
He seemed surprised but pleased "I am, da'len" he answered.
She nodded and cleaned the open wound asking Solas to burn it. Falherna oiled his leg with antiphlogistic salve.
"Done" she murmured resting her gaze on Solas, it lingered on the elf longer than necessary. For the first time since they met, he was so close to her. Not until now did she notice rare freckles on the wide nose and a dimple in his chin, which sparked the urge to dip her fingers in it.
He smelt like wood, smoke, wool and leather and the heat radiating from him was alluring. She felt a glimmer of electricity between them, time stopped for a few second and again she thought that she knew those eyes, scent, and this man.
She called herself to order and focused on the soldier laying in fever.
"Can you put him to sleep, hahren?" she asked and her question sounded softer than she intended. It sounded almost intimate.
Solas averted his gaze and did as she asked without hesitation.
* * * *
They worked in silence with other injured. Their movements were synchronized in a way she never saw before. And even though they were close to each other and the situation conducive to physical contact she avoided it at all costs.
"Apothecary brought this" Solas handed over a fresh elfroot and some healing potions.
"Good. As you probably know roots can be used with very little preparation. Rubbing some of the juice on the wound will speed up healing and numb the pain" she smiled as she prepared the root for the last wounded soldier.
"True" she heard.
"True that I guessed you knew it already or that the root can be used as I explained?" her question was thick with impassiveness. Monosyllabic answers were not her favorite. Probably because she preferred to answer in the same manner.
Solas chuckled quietly surprising her "Both".
The sound of his voice was highly distracting. Her hand shivered slightly and Falherna looked at him out of the corner of her eye content that her reaction remained unnoticed.
* * * *
When they finished their work it was dark and first stars started to appear on the sky.
"Thank you, hahren" they left the tent and moved towards the main gate.
"It's me who should thank you, da'len. Although I considered myself a healer, you taught me a lot tonight " he smiled.
His cottage was next to the pharmacy and when they approached it Falherna hesitated.
She did not want to say goodbye. Not yet.
The last few hours spent in his company were, against her better judgment, very pleasant. She felt strong emotional attachment that seemed so natural at that point, yet so foreign.
She could not even pretend it was some form of elves' solidarity. She knew it had nothing to do with Solas's race.
"Thank you once again. Goodnight" he smiled.
She clasped her hands behind her back "On nydha, Solas" she answered not returning his smile.
After a while, when the doors closed behind him she moved slowly to the pharmacy.
She had mixed feelings. The sound of his voice lingered in her mind. The weight of his name on her tongue was prominent.
She was here, in Haven, with the sole purpose of closing The Breach, no to pursuit the elder, elven apostate.
* * * *
After a talk with Adan at the pharmacy, who had claimed to be serving as a healer somewhat reluctantly, seeing himself as more of an alchemist who creates various types of potions, and a demonstration on how to upgrade them, she had made a promise to bring him the notes from the cabin west of Haven.
Falherna had one more thing left to take care of with Adan before she would go to the tavern. She relayed the state of wounded soldiers to the grumpy healer and was happy to be off.
The village was almost empty. Few shemlens in the courtyard talked loudly. Falherna glanced towards them deciding they were not a threat to her.
She scanned the region of the tavern with narrowed eyes. Men would not be so stupid to accost the Herald of Andraste, still, she covered her body and hid her face under the hood as she walked toward the "The Singing Maiden".
* * * *
"Hey, there, little pecker" hoarse, male voice behind her was full of alcohol and impure thoughts.
When Falherna discovered that Varric was not in the tavern, she ordered a small barrel of mead intending to surprise her dwarven fellow.
She ignored the drunken man focusing on the tavern's oaken bar as she placed her hands on the counter and drummed her fingers lightly while waiting for the innkeeper.
"I am talkin' to you!" she heard as the heavy hand rested on her arm.
Falherna counted to five. Shemlens' touch was the most hated thing for her but initiating a fight would be ill considerate.
"Little pecker indicates that you've been talking to the small fellow in your breeches" she answered sharply. Her hands clenched into fists.
"Now, please, take your hand away from my shoulder" her voice was cold and low.
From the other side of the alcove, a burst of laughter reached her ears. She had sensed the second man before, obviously. His wheezing breath has given him away.
"Show her how to keep mouth shut!" he encouraged his companion.
Men's fingers tightened on her arm. She shook her head and laughed with bitterness. This bastard should be killed by demons who came through the rifts in the first place. In the meantime, innocent women and children were dying and this asshole survived. The perversity of fate was predictable and twisted.
Falherna flinched, then straightened to face the source of her actual aggravation. Scamp was shorter than she and at least six years younger. His green eyes winded when he looked into her face.
"What are you doing, Dave? Leave Herald alone!" innkeeper came back with a barrel for Falherna closing the door of the cellar.
"Andraste preserve me! It is you!" he shouted in shock taking his dirty hand away in one quick move "I... I am sorry" he apologized while his companion stood up and grabbed his arm pulling him towards the exit.
"Next time I will show you how to keep your mouth shut, Dave" Falherna hissed back at him as she watched both men.
"Herald, forgive him. He is a good man, he just drunk too much" the woman looked at her with contrition while she tried to hand the barrel over.
"Let me" Falherna went behind the counter and lifted the barrel.
Listening to the excuses wasn't interesting enough for her to even consider honoring her with an answer. Men who became aggressive when drunk should be mature enough to find another entertainment for themselves.
Dave had problems so he had been drinking. She saw it too often in the past to believe in "he is a good man, he just drinks too much" explanation. Presumably he, together with his friend, would take advantage of her or worse, and for her it meant he was not a good man.
Such a waste of time and energy detested her. Aggressive men with a tendency to bother innocent women detested her even more.
"Dave has now a new problem," she thought deciding to watch him closely during her stay in the village.
"What is your name?"
"It is Flissa" the woman smiled at her.
"Thank you for the intervention and a mead, Flissa" she sent a dim smile towards the woman "Goodnight".
Falherna took her leave carrying the barrel under her arm.
* * * *
"So, Brighteyes where's your tame elf" Varric stretched his legs and took a long sip of mead that she had delivered.
"In some woods, I suppose" Falherna rubbed her hands standing next to the fireplace. The cottage taken by Varric was small and modest with very little furniture all residing within the few steps of each other.
"Meaning you finally admitted he is yours" the dwarf laughed out loud.
She sent him a glance as she unknotted her braid "Did I?".
She hid the leather strap in the pocket of her tunic and sat down by the table pushing her goblet to Varric.
He filled it with beverage looking at Falherna with a lifted brow and a sneaky smile on his face "You did by ignoring the word "your"".
"I'm not telling you anything but this: you will not mention me at any chapter of your next book. Just like you did with 'The Tale of the Champion'" her lips curled into a small smile, but her gaze stayed serious.
"Don't look at me that way, Brighteyes. I was just asking for science purpose" he lifted his hands in surrender "You know I will not do it".
She nodded and rested her back on the chair closing her eyes.
"Are you holding up all right?" the tone of the question startled her. Care in his voice was unmistakable.
"I am good" Falherna answered between sips. She had put aside her goblet touching her marked palm with a thumb as she looked at Varric.
Her friend seemed confused watching her with frowned expression. He bent over the table resting his weight on his elbows to get a closer look at her.
"You are bothered by the lack of emotional reaction?" she read it in his gaze.
"Well, after the events in Kirkwall I should get used to it but..." he hesitated for a second "I mean, you go from being the most wanted criminal in Thedas to joining the armies of the faithful. Most people would have spread that out over more than one day. Aren't you, I don't know, afraid?" he did not even try to hide his perplexion.
She sighed. A long silence fell between them while she was wondering how to explain something so obvious. Something they have been discussing many times before.
"I find fear being an unproductive factor, dulling my judgment and concentration, Varric." she shrugged looking at the dwarf innocently.
"You are not like most people" he shook his head with mistrust.
"I am trying not to be" she sent him a shrewd smile.
He laughed out loud tossing his head reaching for his goblet and filled it again when the burst of laughter passed.
"What can you tell me about Cassandra and apostate? But..." she pointed a finger at him as she took another sip of beverage "... be so kind to omit the part about being her prisoner. I know how it is from personal experience" she giggled.
The warm mead was fulfilling its function.
The dwarf scratched his cheek clearly searching for right words to describe Cassandra.
"The Seeker is a harsh woman without a sense of humor, I must admit," Varric smiled.
"Maybe she doesn't find your jokes funny?" she replied without smiling.
"More drinking, less talking, Fal" his face contorted in a grimace of displeasure while she could catch sight of amusement in his eyes.
A short snort escaped her mouth "And the apostate?".
"That man knows all there is to know about everything," Varric answered as they moved to sit on the floor next to the fireplace.
Falherna's eyes fixated on the flames as she waited for the dwarf to continue. He was quite a talented observer and she always took his opinions into consideration.
"Sadly, no personal history," he looked over to Falherna "I would say he reminds me of you. Tight-lipped, stiff, often lost in his own thoughts."
"Hmm," murmur was the only answer she could come up with. Avoiding Varric's gaze she lifted goblet to her mouth.
"A strange man. Addicted to the Fade but what's comforting, he is rarely manifesting an ironic sense of humor," he added.
"Oh well! To your health, Storyteller!".
"But I'll tell you, Brighteyes," he started again after a while "I can bet he doesn't know anything about women despite all of his wisdom" Varric winked at her.
"Ah, and you are a real specialist in this matter," she said jokingly changing the subject.
"What can I say, Fal. Women cannot resist my charm!".
"I will not dare to deny it" she laughed stretching her body.
* * * *
After Varric directed her to her cottage, and a short bath Falherna looked at the shemlens' bed with dislike. In a few minutes, she created a small place to sleep opposite the fireplace.
She lay down readying herself to sleep and closed her eyes. There was so much information to process.
Varric told her about the people of Haven and Cassandra's company. Apparently, next day was going to be busy for her.
More shemlens. More meetings. More questions.
She sighed and rolled over on her back looking at the ceiling. Her mind worked slower after drinking, her attention was scattered. Still, she was well aware that during forthcoming days a change in her behavior will be needed.
Answering few questions or initiating few conversations would not make her any harm. An image of Solas' face appeared in front of her eyes.
Falherna growled as she changed her position again on this imitation of the bed she had made so quickly. Restraining her self-control seemed the best solution if she wanted to take some sleep.
Her mind reminisced of the elf's answer to her gratitude. His voice, so low and calm, his chuckle, his smile all spoke of his modesty.
Her jaw tightened when she tried to erase the memories from her brain.
Infuriating! Just fatiguing!
Never had she played a supplicant. A pursuer. Never had she wanted it or needed it.
Quite the opposite, she had always been the heckler of any pursue and dalliances after her.
Romances did not interest her. Maybe because the only object of her preoccupations was an ancient elvhen God.
There was never any other man who could move her heart and draw her attention for longer than few seconds.
Simple attraction or desire were not foreign to her, still, love never made even a short stay in her soul.
All her life she was aware of her own emotions, she was able to recognize them, name them and cope with them.
And now? Could she recognize or define her own feelings?
At the time of conversation with Solas and their visit at the infirmary, the attachment and familiarity were strong and warm. Now, laying here, she felt things she had never experienced before.
She ached for more conversations, glances or even for physical contact. She wanted to be gentle and tender towards him.
In this short period of time he evoked in her respect and sympathy, muffled her mind and above all fascinated her.
Her affection was far from desire, but she had to admit his appearance was pleasurable. He looked more attractive than any other man in his age, which she judged between thirty-nine or forty-three.
She moved anxiously under the blanket.
Those deliberations were meaningless considering he had someone else in his life. Obviously.
He had to.
It was impossible for this man to be alone.
On nydha - goodnight
Ma serannas - my thanks
Ir abelas - my apologies
Chapter 6: Morning incompatibility
“People who judge others tell more about Who They Are, than Who They Judge.” - Donald L. Hicks, Look into the stillness
Kindly edited by Ansunobe and Jirelle. Thank you ;*
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I was wondering what was going on in the War Room when Inquisitor was leaving her advisors alone :)
So, here is a small attempt to create their POV.
Also harsh Solas' POV and Varric's POV.
Enjoy. Any feedback is welcome as always :) I am very curious of your opinions.
Edit: small changes in the chapter have been made.
The next morning invited her with warm rays of light rushing through the window into the cottage. She could feel the brush of sunlight on her cheeks and eyelids. The smell of smoke and cooking mutton woke her up.
She laid with closed eyes, slowing her breathing as she tried to hear the rustling of trees or rush of running stream. There were all kinds of other sounds, but not those she longed for the most. She moaned reminding herself she wasn't in the middle of the forest. Fighting with her stiffen body she sat up stretching her arms.
Knocking on the door startled her.
"Lady Lavellan" she recognized Glándir's voice. She pushed away the blanket and rushed to the door.
"Good morning" Falherna smiled at him as she opened the door.
"My Lady" he greeted her as he bowed lowering his gaze and handed her a short note and a package, "The Spymaster asked me to deliver this to you".
"Ma serannas" she took the possessions. Glándir sent her a brief look and then withdrew quickly leaving her alone.
Closing the door behind her with a kick, she looked at the piece of paper.
Lady Cassandra has asked that you please meet her at the Chantry after equipping yourself with the delivered armor.
She blanched at the idea of wearing an armor crafted by some stranger, still she had first to see it before deciding she would use it or not.
The content of the package turned out to be rather interesting and surprisingly in her taste. Apparently, Leliana remembered that Falherna was fond of light materials that easily adjusted to her body movements.
She looked with suspicion on the pair of long, leather boots. Setting them next to the bed she pushed back a strand of hair which fell across her eyes.
"Ah, why the hell not" she murmured with resignation. Shemlen boots were a more reasonable solution than walking through the snow with bare feet.
She put the outfit aside before she undressed and washed. Without hesitation, she underlined her eyes with a carbonic pencil she kept in the pocket of her belt and brushed her hair in a high ponytail.
The preparations were treated by Falherna with caution helping her enter in a new role, it almost seemed like a ritual of initiation. The shemlens would probably place her in the spotlight and proclaim her the savior of Thedas. Posturing was required.
She saw it before happening to Hawke. Praising someone so highly often took a heavy toll. Fate was merciful by letting her experience it in the past. Even if it was just as an observer.
The cacophony of sounds hit her right after she left her cottage. Falherna slowly drew her cloak on her shoulders. She hid her face under the hood to provide some privacy. All seemed so noisy and chaotic. Her eyes moved from one group of people to another as she tried to accustom her ears and mind with forgotten commotion. But try as she might concentration escaped her. She kept hearing surrounding voices and thinking about the events that awaited her.
She did not realize she'd been holding her breath until it left her in a soft exhale.
"Brighteyes!" Falherna raised her head as her eyes searched for Varric. He stood by the nearby fire warming himself and waving at her.
Silent, she stalked in his direction clasping her hands behind her back.
"Restrained as usual, I see" he greeted her with a small poke.
"It is faster and easier this way" she winked at him with a smile.
"I can't stay long, Cassandra is waiting for me, my friend. I will take my leave," her eyes lingered on the dwarf for a while noticing that the rings around his eyes were paler and his cheeks were clean-shaven.
"She is planning to introduce you to the ambassador" Varric moved closer to her forcing her to hunker down next to him to hear his words "I've heard that we are going to travel to the Hinterlands today" a broad smile appeared on his face.
She chuckled quietly patting his arm "Good to know, that you still like to eavesdrop. Grab the apostate and meet me at the Chantry" her eyebrow lifted while she waited for the answer.
The dwarf shook his head in disbelief, cursing under his breath.
"No way. Keep me out of this shit, Brighteyes. I had enough of Cassandra's company" he protested loudly.
"We both know you respect her more than you want to admit" she laughed "But I will not tell her".
Falherna took his face in her hands glancing into his eyes "Now move your hairy ass, Storyteller. I need you there."
He grasped her hands smiling at her "You love me too much to separate with me even for a minute, don't you?" he said with amusement.
Fal tilted her head "And yet, I survived a whole night without you".
She stood up freeing her hands "Go" she commanded.
Spinning on one heel, she strode into the Chantry.
* * * *
Solas paused his reading when he heard someone knocking at his door. The dwarf greeted him with a small nod and informed about the Herald's unusual request. It has been ages since he participated in the council meetings, especially as a companion, not a leader. He felt pleasantly excited.
The half-elf must have been very gifted if she convinced The Seeker to agree to have him and Varric present in the War Room. He clasped his hands behind his back as he followed the dwarf.
Maybe this sudden turn of events could bring him some benefits. After all, access to the Herald and his anchor was necessary. He needed to establish how such young girl would handle the power she was given. Considering what was at stake, their Herald would probably require guidance and support.
His observations from last night did not bring enough answers. The girl was withdrawn and hard to read. All she offered so far was clipped answers, short requests and lingering mysterious glances. The only knowledge he gathered was about her unquestioned, healing talents.
It would be childish to chase her around for answers and bombarding her with questions. She could claim that the Dalish were not her People, but Solas knew better. They were all the same. Closed-minded, stubborn and blind like children in the fog.
Presumably one of the Herald's parent was Dalish and if they raised her they passed all their mannerisms, habits, and beliefs on to her.
The unfinished vallaslin told him also that Lavellan could not tolerate the pain of the blood writing. That indicated she was deemed unready to undertake the responsibilities of an adult.
It was little disappointing that a child would be the one to bear his power.
As much as he found interacting with the Dalish repulsive he had to confess he was curious.
Curious if she would surprise him once more.
Curious of the origin of her name.
Curious when she would start to seek his advice and aid. It was obvious that sooner or later she would.
Truth to be told Wisdom warned him of being too curious. Specifically about the half-elven woman.
He did not know what was the meaning of this warning, but it didn't alarm him.
In all Thedas, there was no one and nothing that could draw his attention from the Fade or his duty.
* * * *
"This is ridiculous!" Cassandra's nose wrinkled with irritation as she folded her arms on her chest. Falherna stood at the doorstep of the War Room with a tray from the kitchen as she observed the scene.
Leliana seemed amused leaning her back on the brick wall. Her eyes flickered with sparkles of amusement.
The Commander and ambassador Montilyet were already late and Falherna needed to put the end to the forthcoming conflict before their arrival. She closed the door, nodding to Solas as she set the tray on the small wooden table next to the wall and turned around.
"Herald, what is the meaning of this?!" The Seeker demanded stepping closer to Lavellan with a frown.
"Seeker" Falherna's gaze rested on Cassandra's face, "It was my idea to bring Varric and Solas here" her tone remained calm, quiet, even a little bored "I am quite sure you will agree that their presence can be beneficial if you want them to accompany us throughout our journeys".
"I do not trust him" the Seeker straightened her body as she proudly raised her chin.
Falherna sent Varric a brief glance, then she focused on the woman's face.
"Of course you don't. You have reasons not to" she assured politely.
"Hey!" Varric's shout was quickly held back by half-elven hand gesturing the dwarf to keep his mouth shut.
"I will take full responsibility for my dear friend, Seeker" she drew herself up to her full height and stared down at Cassandra "I need them both here. Please," she asked with an impassive expression.
The move with pretended domination over The Seeker seemed risky, however, the mark on Falherna's hand granted her some sway with the humans.
After all, what could Varric do with the information from the War Room? Write another book?!
Cassandra's brows drew together in pensive thought as she stood still.
"Alright, then" she nodded finally with a small sigh.
Lavellan bowed her head, a bit more deeply and politely than the usual, courtesy required "Thank you, Cassandra".
* * * *
Of course, how typical, Solas thought as the wave of irritation hit him.
The Herald's small manifestation of strength, the attempt to intimidate The Seeker using her height and manipulate her was ridiculous.
He had seen it before among his own people. This frantic pursuit after power. Arrogance and egocentricity.
There was no control over such individualities. What was worse, she held his anchor and remnants of his own power. The effect of the combination of her personality, the age and the title she received could be crushing.
Solas startled when Lavellan proposed him a stale cup of tea. He blinked few times looking into her bright, blue eyes as he shook his head before he refused.
"Ah, then maybe water?" she asked with a polite smile while Varric grabbed the cup from her hands thanking her with a wink.
The urge to refuse again and leave was hard to fight down. Solas looked at the woman standing in front of him. Her face seemed expressionless. Was it a facade? Or maybe she was simply deprived of emotions?
"Water will be fine," he answered calmly but without a smile. The Herald handed him another cup avoiding his gaze to his great surprise.
So many contradictions. In one second, she was commanding, in another she was changing in polite young girl offering him water.
He thanked her quietly focusing his gaze on The Commander and Lady Montilyet who had just entered the room.
* * * *
The meeting turned out to be formal and boring. The whole trio treated her with the worship she found in a bad taste, to say the least. She did nothing to deserve it.
Patiently she waited through the introductions drinking her coffee in silence. She did not even had to speak. She was only a tool expecting orders and missions to fulfill. It was not a new situation for her. She was good in being a tool.
The Commander resembled as a clumsy man, maybe even a shy one. He was avoiding her gaze, his words were often fumbled and his cheeks stayed blushed. When he admitted he was glad she survived Falherna sent him the mirthless smile.
Cassandra seemed more relaxed in this place among Leliana, Cullen, and Josephine. A small smile appeared on her face transforming her features into a fine and soft lines.
The Chief diplomat looked proud to meet The Herald of Andraste. Her amber eyes were full of joy and her shiny lips often formed into a smile. Her appearance was dignified and friendly.
Varric leaned his back on the wall next to The Spymaster demonstrating his boredom. He sipped his coffee slowly while his eyes wandered around the whole room.
Solas seemed concentrated standing between her and the ambassador, his posture stiff with hands clasped behind his back. It was obvious he did not approve Falherna's earlier behavior.
Leliana glanced briefly at Falherna's armor before the introductions began and raised her thumb up. It was not hard to recognize what she referred to and Falherna had to bite her lip to prevent herself from a loud chuckle.
As she listened to the report from Scout Harding her excitement grew stronger. They needed to start acting, to bring some help to the areas filled with rifts and demons. There was also a slight chance to gather some time to search for Fen.
"When do we leave?" Lavellan asked when they agreed she will meet Mother Giselle in the Hinterlands. She bent over the map and Cassandra joined her pointing the best road to travel.
"If we will depart in two hours at least we will be there tomorrow before the dawn".
Falherna nodded as she straightened herself "Alright, I will meet you at the main gates in two hours then" Cassandra appeared pleased at her easy acceptance.
She turned around without a word of goodbye planning to leave the room and search the notes for Adan. Her hand rested on the door handle when someone cleared his throat.
"Look for other opportunities to expand Inquisition's influence while you are there" she heard Cullen's voice and looked at him over her shoulder.
"You mean by closing the rift, helping people and securing the area?" her brow lifted.
Wasn't that obvious? she thought.
"Uhm...," he hesitated for a moment as his cheek reddened again.
Josephine supported him "Not only. We need agents to extend our reach beyond this valley and you're better suited than anyone to recruit them," she explained gently.
Was she? Because people believed she was The Chosen of Andraste? They would listen to her and follow her only because of their beliefs?
She knew they would and she was trapped in the middle of this madness. Her jaw tightened as she lowered her head with resignation.
"Alright," the word flew from her mouth.
What was the point to discuss with them? The wisest solution was to agree to their plan leading straight to closing the Breach.
Then, when the world is finally safe again, they will let her be, she told herself leaving the War Room.
* * * *
"We are lucky she was the one to survive the Conclave," The Spymaster said and three pairs of eyes looked at her.
"Are you certain, Leliana? Can she be trusted?" Cassandra rested her palms on the table with a long, harsh sigh.
"I am certain, Cassandra. She is very effective and she will succeed" a small smile ghosted her face and her gaze got distant as if she reminded herself something amusing.
"You and her... uh..." Cullen glanced at her with surprise, his hand idly grabbing his neck as he searched for proper words.
Leliana looked at him with a smile and curiosity "Yes?"
"Was she..." he coughed "I mean... did you two...?" his face reddened and he lowered his gaze what evoked a burst of laughter from Leliana.
"Are you asking for details?"
Josephine giggled covering quickly her mouth with a hand.
"I, uh, no! That would be, uh, inappropriate" shame was written all over Cullen's face. He cursed under his breath at his own curiosity.
"Enough!" Cassandra finished quietly but firmly. Her tone put an end to the discussion.
"Is there any personal history that can be significant to the Inquisition?" impatience appeared in Seeker's voice as she sat on the edge of the table.
Leliana tilted her head in wonder as she thought about the content of the report "Her first name and the one she gave at the Conclave is Celia however she does not use it. She is a well-trained mage and healer," she hesitated for a second "I cannot specify if it's important, but there is a gap between her leaving from the Lavellan clan and joining Hawke. My scouts had only some suspicions where she spent five years," she explained.
"What kind of suspicions?" Cassandra frowned crossing her hands on her chest.
"She was joining several, different groups of people during her journeys through Thedas. Bandits, spies, even assassins. But as I said these are only the suspicions" Leliana shrugged.
"At such young age?" Josephine asked with a surprise as she came closer to the three women "She looks like she is only twenty!" her voice raised slightly.
"Falherna is thirty-years-old, Josie" The Spymaster chuckled.
"Bandits, spies, and assassins doesn't sound good" Cullen stated, "However, that could mean she is experienced and her skills are various".
"Yes, but she will not do any harm. I assure, you" Leliana stated with confidence.
Cassandra stood up and looked at her companions "In the meantime, let's think of other options. I won't leave all this only up to the Herald".
* * * *
The doors of The Chantry closed wth loud clang behind their backs.
Falherna continued to gaze off to the side, striking incessantly the necklace with the wolf's teeth. The plan was formed in her mind quickly after she, Varric and Solas left the fuggy room. Breathing was hard in spaces filled with so many candles.
Someone passed her by murmuring "Herald", but she ignored it. Her thoughts were occupied by Fen as she tried to leave the political matters where they belonged, in the War Room. The wolf had no realistic chances to find her here, in a village full of people. He would sidestep the area and search for her in the woods. The Hinterlands seemed a lousy hideout for a lonely wolf, separated from his pack, but instinct suggested her he could catch her scent, on an empty road, outside the Haven.
If he would, then she could easily hear his steps and presence.
"... last night?" she stopped suddenly glancing at Varric. They were near Solas' cottage and the apostate was surprisingly still keeping them company.
"Excuse me?" Varric had asked her a question, but she could not tell what was it about.
"I asked what happened between you and Dave last night?" he asked after a while, frowning.
"Did something happen?" her answer had been evasive.
"Well," the dwarf rubbed his palms looking at her with a crooked smile "He greeted you with this dreadful look on his face. I thought he will shit himself" he laughed briefly "Also some rumors reached my ears today morning..." he paused as he pushed his hands into the pockets of his pants.
Falherna narrowed her eyes as she replied "Drunk shemlen wanted to have some fun. I refused" her tone was grave and face tensed.
She turned around slowly catching Solas' gaze as she rushed herself towards the main gates.
* * * *
"Sensitive subject?" Solas asked sarcastically as he observed the Herald's leaving. His brow wrinkled despite his control.
Varric averted his gaze reluctantly from the path Brighteyes took to flee. He knew exactly what happened at "The Singing Maiden" and he was proud of her. It was not the first trouble that boy, Dave, caused since he appeared here. Still, he should not have asked.
The dwarf sighed loudly and looked at the elf standing next to him.
"Not very fond of our Herald, huh?" he shuffled a piece of ice with a toecap.
"It matters not, Master Tethras" the apostate replied with firm neutrality that Varric was considering as weird.
His eyes shifted again to the space that Brighteyes occupied few moments ago.
"Well, Chuckles..." he said with a smile "I saw it before. We will get back to that when you will know her better" he returned Solas' glance with earnestness.
"See you later, Chuckles," he said and left the apostate with a finger raised up and mouth slightly opened as he headed straight to the tavern.
Chapter 7: On wolves and men
Rape warning for this chapter!
So, finally, some action and stories by the fire :)
Enjoy. Any feedback is welcome as always :)
Arideya, Ansunobe and Llynnyia thank you for helping me with this chapter :)
Arideya thank you for the title. ILY :*
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Falherna hunkered down, forming the snowball in her hands, she looked around with a smile. The search for Adan’s notes took her only a few minutes, so she decided to wander among the trees enjoying the moment of solitude and silence. People were so overwhelming.
After a brief visit to the apothecary to finally deliver the promised notes, she passed by Solas wordless, occupied with her own thoughts, and she strode towards the main gate to find more challenging activities. In the villages like Haven, there were many people that could use her aid. She just needed to find them.
A group of children was racing around in a snowball fight. Falherna looked at them with a smile. Their giggles, roars, and laughter were filling the air, changing the atmosphere in the village to the one slightly brighter and optimistic.
Upon approaching the tavern, something hit her arm when she was just by the tavern's door. The group of kids dispersed immediately leaving only one blond girl on the path. Falherna smiled at her as she brushed the snow from her cloak.
A girl seemed stunned, probably because she knew she hit Herald of Andraste by mistake.
"I don't mind. Don't be afraid. Can I play?" she spoke gently while the girl glanced at her with wide-open eyes. The child nodded after a while with a tiny smile forming in the corners of her little mouth.
Falherna quickly bent grabbing the snow in her hands and throwing the snowball too low, missing the target intentionally.
A several, small heads peeped out from the nearest bushes and the corner of the building.
"Your turn. Catch me!" Falherna laughed as she looked at the small figures staring at her with curiosity. She turned around in one, smooth move. The snow crunched under her boots as she started to run towards the stairs leading to the Solas' cottage. A snowball reached her leg and she heard a roar of victory behind her back.
The children chased off after her with loud laughter and screams. Falherna unbuckled her cloak flinging it off from her shoulders while the two snowballs missed her arm and her head. She dodged a little bit as she covered the length of the stairs with two frisks.
Solas sent her a surprised glance when she almost run him off throwing her cloak at him.
"Hold it for me, please" she requested not slowing her pace. His fingers met her left hand for a second and the mark flashed shortly.
Something hissed in the air and she looked over her shoulder. The snowball meant for her hit Solas straight into his bald head. The snow splashed and settled on his shoulders. She snorted loudly when he wiped the snow from his pointy ears with a grin and sent her a short gaze full of disapproval. He stomped into his hut slamming the door and dislodging more snow, which caused a loud burst of a laughter from her mouth.
Falherna turned with a broad smile, focusing on the path while she dodged again and ran behind the apothecary's building hearing children steps getting closer.
The tingling in her hand drew her attention while she ran towards the Chantry.
How strange, she thought. The mark responded at Solas' touch. She wondered if it would react the same way to any other touch.
Her foot tripped over a small stone, Falherna flew forward outstretching her hands in front of her in an attempt to amortize the fall. She landed on her palms, feeling a stab of intense pain in her arms, and she winced. The worst damage was averted and yet she would probably feel this for a while. Behind her, the joyous screams of the kids grew louder. Falherna’s face quickly changed to a grin, and she rolled herself over on her back, allowing the group of four children which now surrounded her to jump on her with screams.
Only those small creatures were able to live without concerns or classifications. They were pure, innocent and honest. The title, race, or age were insignificant, unnoticeable for them.
Their laughter followed by her own filled the air as she started to tickle the boy who kept the snowball in his hand, readying himself to rub it into her cheeks. Falherna moved again drawing children with her carefully as they shouted in delight.
"Children?! ... What ... Why... What is this?" a voice screeched suddenly. The blond-haired girl disentangled herself suddenly from Falherna's arms standing up with fright in her big eyes.
Two boys and the other girl joined her throwing the snowballs behind them.
"Come on over here right now!" Lavellan turned her head to locate the source of the voice. The brown-haired woman with one hand on her massive hips was pointing with her finger to the place next to her leg.
Falherna stood up slowly and looked at the girl's mother "We were just playing..." she started politely while the woman's eyes widened as she strode towards.
"Lady Herald! Forgive me!" she shrieked bowing low while her voice reached high tones.
Lavellan tilted her head "Please, call me Falherna. It's my name" she stated calmly predicting that the statement will be ignored. Still, she tried.
"Oh... forgive me, my lady. They will not trouble you again, Lady Herald" the woman lowered her gaze shyly and grabbed her daughter by the arm calling other three kids to go with her.
"They were not troubling me" she murmured cleaning the remnants of the snow from her ponytail and armor and looking with sadness as the woman lead the children away. She could hear how their mother explained to them that they cannot play with Herald.
The girl looked over her shoulder and waved quickly at Falherna. Lavellan smiled and waved back. She shook her head sighing. People gathered at the Chantry entrance were observing her intensively. Some of them with shock, some with surprise.
"What happened?" Varric appeared suddenly next to her looking at the woman and children.
"It looks like they can't play with the Herald anymore." she answered with a bitter smile.
"Are we leaving already?" she asked looking at the sky and the position of the sun.
"Yes, Cassandra can't wait" Varric laughed "Clearly she likes to get her hands dirty considering what is happening in The Hinterlands"
"Oh, I got you this" he looked at her handing her the cloak.
"Ah, thank you" Falherna pushed it over her shoulders "I will gather my things, Varric." she strode to her cottage leaving the dwarf behind.
Moments of happiness were disappearing so quickly. It seemed she would be deprived of it for as long as the Breach was in the sky and she was trapped in Haven.
* * * *
They were marching over an hour in complete silence. There was no sound but the sound of their own feet, the dull stump of Varric’s dwarf-boots, the heavy tread of Cassandra leading at the front, the light steps of Solas' bare feet behind her and the slow firm footfalls of her own. Falherna's eyes glinted in the bright light as she turned her head from side to side scanning the trees.
The first body they discovered around noon. The sight of the dead rarely shook Falherna. Her gaze passed over most of them with indifference. But not today. The boy couldn’t have even been thirteen years old. He lay on his back, legs wide apart, the grimace of terror frozen on his lips. The arrow had pierced his eye and penetrated deep into the skull through his once blue eye. That could mean the child had died on the spot, that he had not suffered and he probably hadn’t even seen death coming. This was a small blessing.
Falherna looked around quickly. Cassandra found a second arrow, identical, stuck in the trunk of a pine tree, about six steps back. She understood what had happened. The childboy had not noticed the warning, probably shocked by the whistle and the impact of the arrow, he had taken off running in the wrong direction. Not stupid, just scared.
"Bandits" The Seeker hissed under her breath hunkering next to the tree and looking at the companions.
Falherna nodded "In the past they would have given the kid a warning, maybe even two..." she sighed examining the body "But that was in the past before they thought the world was ending." tears formed under her eyelids. She blinked quickly.
Solas moved cautiously, but swiftly, inspecting the tracks around the boy.
"Tracks are fresh" he murmured. Falherna straightened and came closer to him "I believe the boy at such young age would not travel alone" he added touching the footprint on the ground.
"Shit! What a mess" they've heard Varric's voice "And I thought that this fucking breach is our only problem".
Falherna looked at the dwarf over her shoulder. He was pacing uneasily looking around.
"How naive of you, Storyteller," she said, turning her head to look at The Seeker "Cassandra, what do you see?"
"Four men, I would say, Herald" the woman stated circling the tree "I agree with Solas. The boy must have been traveling with someone adult".
They followed the tracks in silence when suddenly Falherna stood up as her gaze rushed towards the nearby bushes. The chirp of birds, the sound of leaves touched with a blow of the wind and the hum of the stream suddenly seemed to be hushed.
She tilted her head closing her eyes.
"What now?" Varric asked. His deep voice sounded too loud in the silence around them.
"Quiet" she requested listening intently. Her quick ears caught sound in the woodland below. She stiffened. There was a moan, and among it, to her horror, she could distinguish the harsh voices of men.
"Solas" she whispered opening her eyes and looking at the elf "You have far better hearing than I..." he interrupted with a whisper narrowing his eyes.
"A moan behind the bushes, there" he raised his hand pointing to a place twenty steps ahead "and a laughter".
Falherna looked at Varric and Cassandra "Slowly and quietly" she said, "We must be prepared there are more than four of them".
Cassandra nodded with fierce expression adjusting the sword in her hand. Varric readied Bianca holding her firmly. Falherna's fingers tightened on her staff as they started to prowl.
* * * *
The woman lay on the ground. Her skirt was dirty with blood, mud and tore along the left leg. Straps of her linen blouse were cut open. She lay on the ground, her face was sheltered by the tangled mass of her hair. Falherna could not tell if the woman was still breathing.
Four of the bandits were laughing and joking as they secured their leather armor into place. “Boss, wanna bet that was Jimmy’s first pussy?”.
They roared with laughter uncaring for the small whimpers from the prone woman that was their victim. The scent of sex hung in the air as the remaining two bandits, slowly laced their breeches with satisfied grins smeared across their faces.
It was not hard to guess what had transpired.
Falherna felt the wave of rage, closing her eyes for a second and pressing her finger to the bridge of her nose she inhaled sharply.
"We must help her" she heard Solas' voice next to her. Her gaze met his steel-blue eyes.
"I know" she whispered back "But the worst had happened already".
“Death is the worst. She can yet survive this.” Cassandra whispered in horror.
"No,” Falherna said quietly, observing their surroundings „Death would be preferable here. I would not want to live after this.”
She looked around examining their position.
"Varric, I need you to shoot as many as you can" she requested quietly. The rage did not want to disappear. She felt a cold, heavy knot in her breastbone.
"I can take down three of those fuckers, Brighteyes" Varric looked at her and she could see the tension in his jaw, the fire in his eyes.
She nodded to him and looked at Cassandra "Seeker..." her voice cracked. Falherna paused to calm down her nerves. She cleared her throat "when Varric will take them down we charge. We must split first."
Cassandra nodded to the nearby bushes to their left "I will go there. They cannot see us, let's use it."
"Go" Falherna agreed.
She looked at Solas. „You and I stay here.” He nodded grimly.
The woman's moan cut through the air. Falherna peeped out from their hideout. The victim tried to sit just to sink back into the mud with a shriek. “Little rabbit cunt doesn’t know when to stay down!” the men laughed then the biggest one sent her a kick in the stomach.
Falherna's jaw tightened as she withdrew slightly and looked at Solas and Varric.
"Varric, there is no time to waste. You must shoot from here" she said decidedly and stood up walking from behind the bushes. The dwarf changed his position kneeling on the ground and taking out the Bianca.
"Ready when you are" he stated not taking his eyes from the bandits.
"Solas, we must surprise them and get closer. They are going to be stunned for only a few seconds," she looked at the apostate. His eyes seemed navy-blue, his expression was motionless.
"Herald, I assure you, this day is the last one for them" he hissed.
"Varric, five steps" Falherna sent him a brief gaze as she left their cover.
No other explanations were needed considering she have done it with the dwarf many times before. She focused her gaze on the men as she started to prowl towards them with Solas next to her.
* * * *
Arrow came whistling in, finding the target in a blink of an eye. The bearded man fell down, killed on the spot, an arrow struck deep in his neck. Falherna looked at the other five men hearing another two arrows fired by Varric. Before men recognized the situation they were in and the danger the two of them that were un-armored fell dead each by a single whistling bolt.
Cassandra hewed the legs from under another one and plunged the sword in his chest. Solas knocked out the fourth bandit from his feet with a fire blast while Varric finished him with two shots into the neck joint of the armor.
"Not another step" Fal growled to the last remaining bandit. Diving under Varric’s sudden blow with surprising speed he draw a bow and fitted an arrow with hands. He shot. Cassandra lifted her shield, the arrow struck it and fell harmlessly to the ground.
Falherna counted the steps between her and the man and the time that he needed to prepare another shot. Very slowly she took out the small knife from the pocket in her belt and hid it under her cloak's sleeve. The man looked at her but only for a second. His gaze was restlessly following Cassandra, Varric, Solas and herself as he tried to fit another arrow onto the dilapidated bow.
Falherna fade-stepped towards him tightening her fingers on the knife. She felt his breath on her neck when he slid down slowly grabbing her arm. She pulled out the knife gently from the man's neck, freeing her arm from shemlen's disgusting touch. Blood rushed from his mouth as he uttered his last grunt.
"How is she?" Falherna looked at Cassandra who kneeled next to the woman's body. She cleaned the blade wiping it in bandit's pants. She hid it and walked over to Cassandra.
"Dead" Seeker sighed heavily "Let the Maker take you into his blessed embrace" she added quietly glancing at woman's face.
Falherna was dimly grateful. Death was the best solution for the poor woman. The best escape.
She was taken up with the pain in her chest. She tried to make her legs go, but her legs would not oblige. She closed her eyes, breathing slowly, her toes and fingers felt numb.
She opened her eyes catching the sight of Solas and Varric standing next to her with heads bowed in grief.
"Perhaps we should bury them" Varric proposed quietly.
Falherna nodded then she turned around looking to the East.
"We have passed one cottage" her eyes rested on Cassandra "I will go back there and ask someone to lend us a shovel".
The Seeker agreed and asked Solas to help her with the bodies.
"We will bury them together, where the boy was killed, Herald." black-haired woman sent her sad glance.
"Alright. I will be back soon," she answered quickly, striding towards the main road.
She needed to be alone. Emotions crushed her mind. Her heart. Cruelty. Such purposeless cruelty was terrifying. It felt like a nightmare that coils around your brain. Black, suffocating and fatiguing; and despite her fear to admit it she knew it was only the beginning. There would be more children, mothers and fathers killed, assailed or robbed without any reasons or motives.
"Brighteyes, want some company?" Varric's voice reached her ears. She came to a halt and looked at him over her shoulder.
"No" her answer sounded more curt than she had intended. The dwarf looked at her for a while wordlessly. Finally, he nodded and left her joining Cassandra and Solas instead.
Falherna turned her head as she strode forward wiping discreetly the tear from her cheek.
* * * *
"This camp will be useful" Varric looked around kicking the half-burnt wood pieces.
The moon had set when they killed another three bandits who tried to rob them. Only twice in the day's march had they rested for a brief while. The trees rustled. There were no other sounds.
"We need fresh wood to set a fire" Cassandra stated with tiredness in her voice. She opened the tent's flap and looked inside "They have one spare bedroll" she informed after a while.
"Good. I will go gather some then" Falherna nodded leaving her stuff next to a tree trunk.
Varric and Cassandra were already cleaning up the old campfire. Solas took off his backpack and opened it searching for the stock of food they took from Haven.
Falherna plunged between the trees and worked quickly and carefully. She was listening intently at the same time searching for any signs of Fen's presence.
Where are you, Fen? she thought. Are you safe? Are you looking for me too?
She shook her head picking up another branch as she directed her steps back to the camp with a pile of wood in her hands.
The night was dark and windy, the crowns of the surrounding pine trees rustled steadily, their branches and trunks creaking in the wind. Beside Falherna the campfire flickered with light and warmth.
"What you said earlier, over the grave of the mother and her son, was very nice" she looked at Solas when they prepared a meal. The elf returned her gaze, the flame of the campfire sparkling in his eyes.
"It gave them a little comfort, but thank you" he answered simply, averting his glance as he took another sip of water. She looked at his profile for a while. He was not very fond of her, and that caused tiny stings in her heart.
"True." the Seeker said looking into the flames "At least we could bury them".
Varric sighed loudly "Wanna hear a story? To feel ease?" he smiled.
Falherna leaned over the trunk behind her "The one about stabbing Varric's book seems very exciting" she chuckled winking at Varric.
"Ugh," Cassandra grunted wrinkling her nose.
"Do not even remind me" Varric looked at Fal refilling his mug "It is good I had a copy of that masterpiece".
Falherna snorted and looked at Cassandra "Thank you, Seeker".
"For?" the woman's brow lifted.
"For choosing this trash over Varric's back, of course," she chuckled again sitting cross-legged and untangling her ponytail.
"Trash?!" Varric sent her a gaze full of disbelief.
"Well," she winked at him brushing her hair "It wasn't the work of your life, Storyteller".
"Herald..." Cassandra got closer to the campfire and looked at her "Is that real teeth?" she pointed to her neck. Falherna lowered her head taking the necklace in her fingers.
"Wolf's teeth, Seeker" she answered quietly raising her head and meeting Solas gaze. He seemed surprised.
"Wolf's? How did you get it if I may ask?" curiosity glimmered in Cassandra's eyes.
"That will be interesting" Varric laughed lying on the bedroll with his hands behind his head, staring at the stars.
Falherna frowned before she started to speak "Long time ago, it belonged, to the wolf who was my and my father's friend" she rubbed the teeth with her thumb while her gaze became unseeing.
"The wolf was your friend?" Cassandra blurted out the question full of shock and uncertainty as if she was not completely sure she had heard Falherna correctly.
Varric laughed again looking at Fal "Tell me, Brighteyes how is it that everyone reacts the same way when you tell this story?".
"Solas, you are not taken aback by it?" Cassandra looked at the apostate.
Fal's gaze turned towards him. He was smiling slightly.
"Should I be, Seeker?" he asked calmly looking at Cassandra "People cannot befriend to animals?" he glanced at Falherna "I knew mages who had the ability to summon different creatures to fight alongside them. Do you have it too, da'len?".
"My father had it. I don't." her eyes lingered on his face long enough to make him uncomfortable.
"Imagine, Seeker, my own consternation when I saw Lavellan for the first time" Varric stood up and came closer to the campfire and sat nearby Falherna "She was ambling around the Dalish clan with a huge, grey wolf next to her" he took a piece of meat from the grate and sank his teeth in it.
A soft smile appeared on Falherna's lips when she recalled the memory "Fen is beautiful, isn't he?".
"Fen? You named your wolf Fen?" Cassandra's eyes were wide-opened as she leaned slightly towards Fal.
She felt the urge to chuckle, but she held it back and explained firmly.
"He is not mine. He is free. However, we are bound by an indestructible bond. When I met him, he was wounded and alone. He was trapped in shemlen's snares," she talked quietly and calmly giving herself away to memories. She could hear Fen's jerky howls and growls when he tried to free his leg only to deepen the wound "His heart was bleeding with sadness, loneliness and separation from the pack, I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his yelps. I saved him, took him to my camp, healed him and let him go because he deserved to be free. Like any other creature in this world".
Falherna sighed softly and continued "For some reason, for several weeks I could feel him behind my back... he kept his distance, he watched me from afar, until he became familiar with my scent. I suspected he felt bound to me somehow. I knew that eventually he would approach me and I was patient. When the wolf marks you, in any way, you are his forever" she added the last sentence more to herself than to her companions.
There was a silence broken only by their breaths. Solas looked at her intensely and, this time, he did not turn his eyes.
"That sounds like a description of a man you love," Cassandra noted after a while.
"Well, Fen is male" Falherna smiled at the woman taking a sip of tea "and I love him. Wolves are my favorite animals" she paused to avoid revealing everything and she sent a brief gaze towards Solas. He seemed to absorb every word. She cleared her throat.
"They are strong yet gentle. Clever, intelligent, practical, but also possessive, they don't like to share what they consider as theirs. Like men" she shrugged and fixed her eyes on the flames poking the wood with her boot.
Cassandra rubbed her hands lost in thought.
"Oh finally, you finished" Varric mocked her smiling "You almost put me to sleep with this moving story, Fal".
She nodded with a small smile "I suspected that much".
"I never understood this..." he paused raising his hands in search of a proper word "let's not be afraid to say it out loud, your obsession with wolves. I don't know why you are confusing it with love" his smile became broader and his brows lifted in a grin of satisfaction.
"Those terms are not so far from each other, Master Tethras" they heard suddenly Solas's voice. His tone caused goosebumps on her arms.
It was very dark, but her half-even eyes saw him clearly, with every detail. He watched the fire frowning as if he was haunted by unwanted thoughts. She wanted to reach out to him and take his hand. She wanted to touch the pendant on his neck and ask about its story.
Was it wolfish like hers? Was it the remnant of his wolf friend? Was it a gift? Or only an object?
Instead, Fal averted her gaze and stood up brushing off the dirt from her pants.
"If you allow me I will go to meditate" she looked at Cassandra waiting for approval, but the Seeker seemed taken aback.
"Seeker, if I would wish to flee I would have done that a few days ago" Fal assured the woman holding her gaze as long as it was required for the awaited nod to appear.
* * * *
Solas lay motionless with his hands folded upon his chest, his eyes open, staring at the dark sky.
The Seeker already occupied the tent and Varric joined Lavellan who sat nearby meditating. Solas turned his head only to see her long, red hair and straightened back.
"Brighteyes" Solas observed as Varric sat next to her looking at her face "Hey, don't pretend you cannot hear me. I know this trick of yours" the dwarf waved with his hand in front of Lavellan's face. There was no reaction, not even a flinch.
He looked back at the sky. He could not sleep despite all the wonders waiting for him in the Fade. Usually, he was asleep in seconds, but not tonight. Tonight his mind was racing. He felt frustrated.
"Are you ok?" he heard a concern in Varric's voice.
"I am" the answer appeared sudden. Solas, apparently not able to control his own body, looked at her again. Nothing changed in her form. She was fully focused. It has been ages since he saw this kind of focus.
"Are you ok, Varric?" she asked. Her tone was calm, cadenced.
"I have wanted to ask you..." the dwarf paused and looked straight at Solas, but the apostate knew he cannot see him in the dark.
"Remember that song..." Varric started to speak, but Lavellan interrupted him.
"The one I sang to you sometimes when you felt overwhelmed by the events we have experienced, but you did not want to admit it because real men struggle with emotions differently?" she breathed deeply and slowly, then turned her head to look at the dwarf.
Solas narrowed his eyes examining her profile. Such a mystery she was. He had great talent to judge characters, but not this one. Not hers.
Varric snorted "Yeah, this one. You are insufferable" he shook his head.
Lavellan hugged him kissing the dwarf's cheek. Solas growled quietly changing his position. He needed some rest.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must - but don't you quit.
Life is queer with it's twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out,
Don't give up, though the pace seems slow
You might succeed with another blow.
Her soft, vibrant and clear voice reached his ears and he caught his breath gustily. Right then, in this moment, he recognized her voice. He heard it long, long time ago during his lonely wanderings although, the song was unknown to him.
How confusing. Why would he recognize it? He had never met Lavellan before.
Solas closed his eyes, squeezing his eyelids tighter, trying to repel the heavy, alien feeling in his chest.
Words of the song came from a poem "Persist" by unknown author.
Chapter 8: A man's final journey
After four months it is here.
I would like to thank my readers, who obviously did not forget about this fic. Guys, it was heartwarming when I saw new kudos and views.
There are also few special people who helped me a lot with this chapter. A special thank you goes to Arideya, Ansunobe and Jirelle for sticking with me and my fic for so long :D You're wonderful friends and proofreaders :) I would be lost without you! Thank you from the bottom of my heart <3
I would like to thank Diagk, Zhanna and Blueravenandsmoke who patiently were reading this chapter, for all suggestions, edits and constructive feedback you gave me <3
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart” ― Helen Keller
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Falherna caught the scout’s gaze out of the corner of her eye while passing him by quickly. She directed her steps towards the area of Crossroads filled with bed-rolls scattered on the ground. The scent of blood and sweat strong in her nostrils. She scanned her surroundings until her eyes rested on a wounded man. A fine spray of blood had splattered on his cheekbones, drying droplets matted his hair on one side.
Falherna walked closer to him, ignoring the chaos around her. Shemlens were running, shouting for more covers and herbs. Healers had already taken care of the people with the most critical wounds, but this man was lying alone under a carelessly thrown blanket. His expression full of pain. She threw her staff to the ground and sank to her knees next to him.
"I've got you," she assured him as she brushed aside the strands of his tousled hair, rapidly checking the man's pulse and vital signs.
"I cannot lose so much blood..." he spoke with a hoarse voice, "I cannot...".
"Shhh," Falherna grabbed his hands pulling them aside to uncover his stomach and legs. There was a deep wound running from the groin down the length of the thigh. The blood was gushing in a steady flow although it wasn't spurting. The femoral artery was cut, which meant that she had a good chance to stop the bleeding.
What she couldn't stop was the oozing of intestinal fluids from the man's stomach, where the ripping tushes had laid open skin, muscles, and organs alike. This sort of an abdominal wound was disastrous, even with magic spells readily at hand. The contents of the ruptured gut, spilling out into the body cavity made the infection a deadly certainty.
She looked quietly at the man's face. His eyes were closed and his breathing uneven.
"Look at me," Falherna demanded and patted man's cheek. He turned his head in her direction, struggling to open his eyes. His gaze searched hers for a moment and when he saw her his expression changed into pure panic.
"What is happening?" he asked trying to get up. Her hands landed on his shoulders to keep him lying down.
"Stay down. What's your name?" she spoke to him gently.
"James... Let me go! What's happening?" he asked once again making another attempt to get up. She held the man down without any effort, sending a small amount of a calming spell into his body while observing his face, and waiting until his breathing slowed down.
"Can somebody explain to me what is going on here?!" Cassandra's voice cut through the air, "Why is nobody, besides Herald, helping this man?" Falherna met the gaze of the white-haired healer who seemed to be shrinking under the Seeker's tone.
"He is a Templar, my lady," he answered, "He was transported here by," the man cleared his throat “by mistake.“It was a chaos, so many were dead and wounded. We had no time to check," he looked down.
"You think I blame you because you brought the Templar here?" Cassandra snapped and stepped closer. The silent tension filled the air and Falherna averted her gaze to focus on a more pressing matter. The argument was not her interest, the Seeker was resourceful enough to handle it by herself. She vaguely registered woman's sharp voice and rising anger as she focused her attention on the man in front of her.
In the meantime, Solas quietly kneeled beside the Templar and looked at Falherna, as he also noticed the hideous gash. His lips moved, mouthing soundlessly the words "Can he live?". She shook her head silently. He paused for a moment, then nodded.
When the argument between Cassandra and the healer intensified the wounded man moved his head. His eyes opened wide and he reached to his stomach. His gaze seemed blank as if his spirit was absent in the current moment, as if he was somewhere else, somewhere where the pain was gone and the death seemed kinder than life.
"It will be better soon," she said, and her voice was steady, as it always was, as it had been trained to be, "The pain will be gone soon."
"I can't feel my leg anymore... nor my hands... Is something wrong?" he frowned, his hands were blindly flailing before his face. Falherna grasped them firmly between her own and leaned in closer to look into his eyes.
"Look at me, James." she repeated her earlier demand and he obeyed.
"You are going to die, that is what is happening".
James' gaze suddenly became sharper and more present, he locked his eyes on her and slightly cocked his head.
"What?" his gaze darted to Solas and back to her "No.", he sputtered "No, no. Wait. Hold on." the templar made another attempt to get up, but Falherna held him down firmly.
"Shhh... James" she spoke to him calmly. Her fingers touched his cheek and wiped away the tear that ran down from the corner of his eye.
"Shhh... Keep looking at me" she asked stroking his face as she leaned closer to him. His eyes had a gray color like the sky just before the storm. He coughed, winced in pain and their eyes met.
"Keep looking at me. It is alright" Falherna's throat tightened with emotions, but she swallowed it knowing she had to stay strong for both of them.
"It will slide over you, James," she spoke as gently, but firmly as she could, keeping her hand on his neck "You will start to feel nice and warm. Let it into you, where your spirit is trapped. Let it pour the light inside of you," she caressed his forehead "Let your thoughts go to all good things and places."
He held her gaze as he started to understand what was happening. His expression changed, face relaxed.
"Whom do you love?" Falherna asked. James looked at the sky above them and the silence fell between them. There was only silence. Only two breaths - his and hers.
"Whom do you love, James? Surely you must love someone," she whispered searching for his gaze. His face turned towards her before his eyes did. As if the clouds or the sky itself had somehow drawn in his gaze. There was a long pause, long enough to make Falherna wonder if she was going to get an answer or not.
"Myra..." he whispered with effort and deep tenderness in his voice. She reached forward and deliberately untied the cloth she had placed around his thigh earlier. She could staunch the bleeding, and allow the man to linger in increasing agony as the belly gash festered until the infection would spread far enough to kill him. A better death, perhaps, was what Falherna was giving him, to die cleanly under the bright sky with a mind filled with thoughts about someone close to him.
"Then let her take you, James," she spoke stroking his cheek again, locking her eyes on his. He gulped a few times and his gaze drifted over to a place behind her back. Unseeing, absent. A smile appeared on his mouth and a whisper "Myra".
His back arched suddenly and his heels dug deeply into the ground, his body in violent protest at what his mind had begun already to accept. He gasped heavily for air.
The Crossroads suddenly became very quiet. No birds sang, and the healers, scouts, refugees were silent as the trees and air themselves. Falherna and, to her surprise, Solas leaned close together over James' struggling body, sharing the messy, heartrending, and necessary task of helping a man to die. Even Cassandra silently joined them, discreetly wiping the tears from her cheeks, murmuring a prey under her breath. As James' spirit left his body Falherna covered him with a blanket and drew herself slowly to her feet.
She turned toward the basin with fresh water, dipped her hands in it, her gaze following the lines of blood swimming under the surface. She dried her hands with a clean piece of cloth, when she heard steps behind her.
"You have seen men die before," Seeker said flatly "by violence," It sounded almost like an accusation, not a question.
"Many of them", Falherna answered, just as flatly. She turned around and looked at Cassandra's face. The woman stared at her with a deep frown and a kind of hesitant awe that spoke louder than any words and made Falherna's skin crawl.
Cassandra looked wary as if she was speaking against her better judgment. "This templar was dying. That belly wound was terrible, it would have caused him much pain but you made it easier for him. Almost calm and bearable," her voice shook slightly.
"I did," she answered quickly and added after a moment of silence "Now, I will find Mother Giselle, Seeker." she bowed her head turning to walk away, to avoid the growing light in Cassandra's gaze, but the woman grabbed her wrist forcing her to halt.
Falherna's jaws clenched as she realized the direction of Cassandra's thoughts. The Herald of Andraste carrying the soul of Templar to the other side, to the side of death. Performing it with peace and focus, liberating a man from his corporeal life, sending him straight into the arms of their Maker.
"Cassandra, there is no need to," she patted the woman's hand freeing her wrist, "every being deserves compassion and kindness regardless of their race and rank.” Sending a small smile towards the woman she pointed to the healers. “Help them, please. They need our resources and the herbs growing nearby. You can send Varric to the hill to gather it," she asked and looked at Solas.
His hands were flowing over a man's leg as healing magic drifted from his fingers. He kept his gaze focused on the man's wound and didn't look up. He seemed disheveled; the sleeves of his tunic rolled up like hers, James’ blood smeared across his cheek.
"Solas will be needed here. He is a great healer," Falherna looked at Cassandra again, after a moment's pause, "I will talk to Mother Giselle and to Corporal Vale, do you agree?"
Something in Seekers expression shifted, her eyes softening as they took in Falherna's gaze.
"You are probably right, Herald."
She nodded, picked up her staff and turned away before Cassandra could add anything else.
* * * *
Solas observed her from afar for a while trying to decide how to approach her, wondering why he felt the need to do so. He felt conflicted. She was his weapon, a tool to retrieve his orb. The anchor was going to kill her and he knew it from the very beginning. It was not destined for mortals. That is why he kept the Mark from killing her too soon. Still, he could not guess how much time they have left and he could only hope it will be enough to set things right. He needed her to achieve his goal, to move forward to put his plan into motion.
Yet, he had no idea on how to form any connection with the red-haired woman. Any attempt to make a conversion with her was hard, he could not read someone who seemed so empty, deprived of all emotion. But he needed more frequent access to his anchor, to have some control over his own power, and thus more control over the effect it had on the Herald.
At the same time, he did not want to be around her. He felt uneasy when in her company - frustrated and curious, less concentrated on his plan, and more on the current events. He couldn't allow himself such luxury. He had his duties. The Inquisition, the Herald, and her inner circle were just pawns. He only has to make sure that the Herald will last until the Breach is closed.
He was not here to make friends, only to right his mistakes. He frowned at the memory of Herald's voice singing; her back straight; her composure evident while she meditated in the camp last night.
How could he find out why her voice was familiar? How could he come to some explanations about the origin of her name? How could he gather information from her about her rare magic abilities?
He shook his head, slowly pushing those thoughts aside. It was not important. What mattered was the fact that he needed to start a conversation with her somehow and attempt to create some level of trust between them.
His gaze drifted to her once again; though she did not make any move while observing the Crossroads. The only thing changing in the scenery were her impractically long hair and a black cloak fluttering in the wind. There was something off about her that he could not put his finger on. He cleared his throat to announce his presence and approached her.
"Seeing someone die is a heavy burden, Herald," Solas started standing next to Falherna. The statement stood unanswered for a moment and he snuck a glance at the woman, slightly annoyed at the lack of reaction.
"Indeed," she replied not taking her eyes off of children running through the Crossroads. She spoke to him with guarded countenance and in a measured voice.
They stayed in silence for some time and Solas could not bring himself to tell her how admirable was what she had done for the dying templar, so he followed her gaze and focused on the view. The day was peaceful and warm despite the clouded sky.
"Can I help you with something, Solas?" he heard a toneless whisper. He met her bright-eyed gaze and almost opened his mouth to speak when suddenly cool fingers reached to his cheek and wiped away the smudge of blood. The gesture was so natural and so quick that he could only blink. His cheek tingled a bit where her fingers brushed it.
The Mark awakened abruptly; magic swirled and sank into his skin. His jaw clenched, his eyes wide open. The white light, warm and bright like the rays of sun swirled under his eyelids. Time slowed down and he watched as the Herald recoiled her hand, frowning a little as she looked at her palm. He felt strands of something completely foreign. It came from the Herald, not from him and he recognized what it was. Emotions poured through him, one by one. First, the sadness; sadness so deep that it clenched his heart and shoved the air from his lungs. Then, a bitter taste of melancholy appeared making him weak, motionless. And at the end, in seconds that seemed to be minutes, it changed into compassion and something else, hard to define, like a persistent yearning, but for what or whom he could not tell.
He saw Falherna's spirit, pure and strong, embracing him, surrounding him, washing through his mind. He saw her blue eyes flashing, a string of her body under the weight of the power it held. He realized she was not the shadow deprived of feelings he had taken her for. She wasn't lost, nor blind, nor a child. She had the force and focus, and this strange light which filled her. A force he found alarming in one so young. Was it the effect of the Anchor? Was she just a twist of nature or perhaps a rare creature? The sensations vanished as quickly as they appeared. It must have taken only a blink of an eye because the Herald looked at him as if nothing happened.
"What you did..." he swallowed the lump in his throat "for James was admirable, Herald," he stated as calmly as he could considering the circumstances. He clasped his hands behind his back to stop them from trembling and forced himself to look at her. He blinked a few times because his vision was dimmed as if he was looking directly at the sun for too long.
She shrugged, "Thank you. It was merely a simple kindness and a manifestation of humanity."
"I believe it was something more, Herald," he stated since he felt the urge to convince her she should give herself more credit. It was millennia since he saw such peace while facing someone's death.
"If one must die, it would be preferable to provide some level of comfort..." her voice firm and calm. She hesitated for a moment sending him a brief look, "Is there something more comforting, in the moment of death, than the truth, the warmth of someone's hand..." she averted her gaze and focused on the horizon, "and mind filled with memories of loved ones?" the question hung in the air between them and he allowed it to stay unanswered while she continued. "No one should die alone or in fear."
Solas looked at her while she brushed a strand of hair from her cheek.
He was stunned as it was the longest statement she had ever shared with him. The significance and maturity of her words surprised him. He would never think half-elf could have similar beliefs and before he could stop himself his mouth opened letting out the words better left unspoken.
"Sometimes dying alone is inevitable," he thought about the vow he took, about the solitary path of the Dinan’shiral.
Falherna tilted her head as her eyes scanned his face. "Banal nadas," she stated quietly.
He averted his gaze as he felt a slight sting in his heart. He did not want or need her sympathy. He deserved to die alone. What could she know about dying alone? What could she know about the vow and a duty millennia old? She could not understand and surely she could not know what was inevitable or not.
Silence fell between them once more. The black tail of her cloak fluttered on the wind, a soft breeze brought a rich, sweet smell with delicate wood notes to his nostrils. He breathed it in finding something exotic and subtle in it. He looked at the half-elf noticing how her eyes scanned the Crossroads, pausing for a second on refugees and healers.
She spoke suddenly without looking at him, "The Mark reacts strangely in contact with you. I wonder if you have any theory on this matter?" her tone seemed light but after he took a closer look he could swear her frown deepened a bit.
"While you slept, Herald, the mark did not manifest any strange responses," he started slowly. His mind raced creating answers for the possible questions. He had to lie effectively enough to convince her that his words were true. He had a theory he could not share regardless the risk.
"I did not come up with any theories. At this point it would be blind guessing," he explained shifting his weight from foot to foot and searching her face. His eyes roamed her profile.
How carefully she keeps her gaze away, he thought.
"I wonder if it is responding to you because of your unusual connection to the Fade," she puzzled.
"Possibly," he agreed, "I would like to investigate it if you will allow me," he added formally while a plan started to form in his head. The Herald was intelligent enough to verify the Mark's reactions to other mages. However, the testing would fail because none of the mages had the connection to the Fade, even by half, as strong as his. Thus, he could act to maintain her belief in her own theory, which wasn't completely wrong, he had to admit. What troubled him was the fact that the mark was exposing the Herald's emotional state to him and it would be a violation of her privacy to study it without warning her about its side effects. He frowned, wondering where, when and how he would reveal it.
"Herald!" a voice startled him. He raised his head and saw the Seeker walking towards them, "We can proceed to Redcliffe Farms to locate Master Dennet," the woman explained standing in front of the Herald.
"Alright, Cassandra," Lavellan nodded and turned to Solas. "I will speak with you later, Solas." Again her eyes locked on his and he felt the urge to avert his gaze.
Although, he was not going to obey it. For most of the people, he was unreadable. She was studying him for too long and too closely. He needed to work on his posturing.
He bowed his head slightly, "As you wish, Herald".
Stay modest, simple and humble, he thought.
* * * *
It was almost nightfall by the time they left Master Dennet's cottage. The old man and his wife had treated them to dinner and a fresh beverage. They welcomed it with relief after a long march through the Hinterlands. For a whole day, they were traveling from one place to another and back to the Crossroads to provide more food, water, herbs, and warm clothes for the refugees.
Falherna hid her face under the hood, hands in pockets of her cloak. She was going to move closer to the caves where the wolves' den might have been located. She was determined to get there as soon as possible.
"We can camp here, Brighteyes. This place is good as any other," Varric shouted to her. She turned around to look at him, surprised she left them behind. She halted and thought about the whole situation. It was unreasonable to camp near the den; the fire, the smell of food and people could draw wolves closer, causing them to attack. Also, staying near the farms would give them a chance to protect people if the wolves would decide to show up here.
"Alright," she agreed finally directing her steps back to the camp.
Harding's scouts set up camp for them as Solas cast a spell to make a fire, Cassandra took out the food from the bundle given them by Master Dennet. Falherna observed them for a while, tracing their movements. Her eyes rested on Solas' profile and she frowned thinking about the gesture she made earlier towards him. It seemed so natural but he did not appear pleased. Still, her fingers tingled at the recollection.
She shook her head and forced herself to move, to act. She felt numb; her mind was racing, heavy under the weight of images of Fen among other wolves which went mad or sick.
She pushed them aside focusing on helping the others with food and bedrolls.
* * * *
Falherna licked her fingers swallowing the last piece of meat when Cassandra's voice cut the silence.
"I've wondered, Solas. How did you know to approach us? " The Seeker looked at the apostate, "The Breach opened, we were scrambling and barely had time to think... and there you were."
Falherna shot him a brief glance.
"I went to see the Breach for myself. I did not know you would be there," he answered simply with a calm, quiet voice. He took a sip of water keeping his eyes locked on Seeker's face. Falherna suspected he wanted to prove his truthfulness this way.
"You must not have been far away," the woman continued and there was a sincere interest in her tone.
"I was not," he smiled, "I'd come to hear of the Conclave but did not want to get close."
Cassandra's eyes narrowed as she analyzed his words. Falherna could understand her suspicions - first, Solas, humble apostate, an expert of the Fade, a man from nowhere offered his help; then a strange half-elven woman fell from the hole in the sky with a holy mark on her hand. Even for her, it was weird enough to make her wonder. Two people appeared exactly where and when they were needed.
"Hmm," the Seeker murmured, "lucky for us, then."
Falherna raised her head taking the sight of bright stars. It has been two hours since they made a camp and the sky was almost black, without a single cloud. It was beautiful and soothing.
"Solas, have you always lived alone? Out in the wilderness, as an apostate?" Cassandra continued questioning him and Fal smiled at the question. Shemlens were often shocked by the thought of living and traveling alone. Their nature was different; they craved for attention, company of others and many primal matters which, for elves, were not important.
”For the most part.” An answer appeared almost immediately. Falherna looked at Solas amazed by the lightness of his tone, stillness of his body and his unblinking eyes.
”Would that not be incredibly trying?” Cassandra pressed and Falherna smiled again. Seeker’s astonishment was amusing but also her attempt to understand was comforting.
When Solas spoke again, his voice was gentler ”People can be trying, mankind most of all.”
Cassandra let out a small chuckle ”That...” she hesitated ”is an excellent point.”
”Since the Seeker suddenly started to be so talkative and flexible I will go to sleep.” Varric laughed and drew himself to his feet, ”Not that I mind it...” he grinned looking at Cassandra.
She wrinkled her nose sending him a reluctant glance ”How kind of you, Varric.”
”I am just saying that you’ve shown me a completely different side of you, Seeker” he chuckled raising his big hands in a gesture of defense, ”Seeing you like this, now, is a bit overwhelming for my poor soul.”
Falherna snorted at his words while the Seeker averted her gaze from the dwarf and let out a disgusted noise.
”Cassandra, please ignore his harshness,“ Lavellan stretched her legs, to put them closer to the fire and sent the woman a gentle smile, ”Varric is always sarcastic and unpleasant towards women he finds attractive,” after those words she sent a wink to the dwarf ”Don’t you, my friend?”
Seeker’s cheeks took on a lovely rose color what Falherna found very charming.
”What? I do not...” Varric started, looking at her with a mix of surprise and dislike.
”Admit it,” she murmured sending him another wink, ”There is no reason to hide your true feelings, Varric.”
”You’re impossible, Brighteyes!” He frowned, shaking his head.
Falherna cocked her head looking at him innocently ”How can I be impossible? I exist!” she answered with a pretended shock. Solas’ quiet chuckle got her attention causing a slight skip of her heart but she controlled the urge to look at him.
Varric threw his hands up in the air, letting out a small growl ”Like Daisy would say, Fal – may the Dread Wolf take you!” he turned around and left pulling up the tent flap.
”You wish me only good things, Varric. You’re such a good friend,” she smiled and added quietly closing her eyes ”May the Dread Wolf take me.”
By the sound of crackling fire, she could not hear the hitched breath of one of her companions.
Banal nadas - Nothing is inevitable
Fal's response ”How can I be impossible? I exist!” came from my fave TV-series "TBBT" :D