Chapter 1: An Innovation
“The strap needs to be tighter”.
Ellana slid her thumb under the buckle, delicately loosening the harness. A nimble flick of her wrist sent the silverite prong sliding home into a well-worn leather hole. Ellana smirked. Abelas worried too much. She was perfectly capable of caring for herself.
“I have had this arm for five centuries, Abelas”, teased Ellana. “I can put it on and take it off more easily than you can don your shiny silver breeches”.
She leered at his muscular thighs. The glistening hose overlaid in gilded leather left little to the imagination. Ancient elven fashion was scandalous at best, and uncomfortable at worst. Ellana was still unsure how Abelas managed to fit inside something so tight. The way she grimaced in sympathy told him exactly what she was thinking.
“How are your balls not crushed when you walk?”
Abelas was stern by nature, but had a wonderfully dry sense of humour. He took her question in stride as he did everything else that roused her curiosity. Ellana still had the impatience of youth despite attaining her fifth century. Age had not (much to Abelas's constant amusement) granted her a wealth of maturity.
“Lest I remind you, Lethallan”, he reproved. “My armour is worn for protection not for show”.
Ellana rolled her eyes. Abelas could be annoyingly secretive. A simple question did not guarantee an answer. “Yes. I know”, drawled Ellana. “But something that constricting can't be comfortable to wear”. Her expectant look was met with serene nonchalance.
“Your concern for the welfare of my testicles”, said Abelas. “Is both perturbing and highly inappropriate”.
Ellana groaned. The sentinel's sense of propriety was terribly old-fashioned. The Dalish, while conservative, did not have the inhibitions of their city-dwelling kin. Sex and reproduction, like birth and childrearing, were accepted facets of life. Ellana was used to frank honesty not puritanic staidness when it came to discussing the birds and the bees.
Abelas's generation had some very odd ideas.
“Are they warm and snug at least?” quipped Ellana. She grinned crookedly when Abelas regarded her with cool solemnity. His eyes glinted like gold sovereigns. He didn't need to tell her what he was thinking. The disapproval was written clear as day upon his fair elven face.
“Very”, replied Abelas. His tone drier than a desert full of sand. The casual nod to her formfitting bodice amused Ellana. The leather was dyed neutral shades of green and brown, subtly reflecting the colours of the forest. Ellana was patient when Abelas scrutinised her chest.
“Now I have a question for you, Da'len”.
The way his silver brows furrowed revealed his confusion. Abelas was ignorant of the everyday challenges faced by the fairer gender. The lack of baggage upstairs certainly made his life simpler. Ellana was ready when he asked his question, though she still blushed to the tips of her pointed ears. The Dalish were less inhibited, it was true, but their men also had an uncanny sixth sense.
They knew when not to poke their noses into a woman's business.
The ancients elves had less tact.
“How can you breathe”, Abelas wondered aloud. “With your bosom so tightly bound?”
Ellana took the question in stride as she did everything else that confounded him. Dalish women were more pragmatic than their ancient brethren. Ellana had no use for velveteen robes, sheer chemise, and silk petticoats. She favoured suede, dragon scale, and silverite fashioned into durable lightweight armour. The design was foreign to Abelas, the fit strange, but even he could appreciate its effectiveness.
Ellana had adequate protection without being overburdened. Her proficiency with bow and blade was still unrivalled. Five centuries had dulled neither her tongue nor the cutting edge of her daggers. Abelas braced himself for the lash of her displeasure. He was surprised when Ellana's eyes twinkled merrily.
She was pleased by his candidness.
“Lest I remind you, Lethallin”, remarked Ellana. “My armour provides protection and support for my delicate woman-bits. Top and bottom”.
“Clearly”, replied Abelas. “I am surprised you did not take offence”.
Ellana smirked. She regarded him as if he were adorably sweet and ignorant. “Oh, Abelas”, she soothed. “You may be older than dirt, but you're still as innocent as a newborn fawn”. She gently patted his cheek as if she were comforting a child.
“I'm Dalish not a prude”, Ellana reminded him. “I'll blush when you ask me so blunt a question, but I won't growl at you for being curious”. She winked. “You share my food, my home, and my furs. How could I find your interest anything other than flattering?”
Ellana smiled when she caught him staring. His methodical consideration of the stitching reinforcing her bodice incited laughter. Ellana caught his face in the palm of her hand when he boldly stepped forward. She gave Abelas a playful shove. He rocked back on his heels, but didn't lose his footing. Ellana patted the prosthesis strapped to her left arm.
“Would you look at the harness?”, she asked him. “Something doesn't feel right”.
Abelas nodded sagaciously. His focus shifting with ease. “Of course, Da'len”. He nodded with due seriousness, bending to the task at hand. Nimble fingers slid up and over Ellana's shoulder, tugging on dragon scale straps, and testing silverite buckles.
Ellana was patient until Abelas touched the runes engraved into silverite plates.
The spark of his magic enkindled the enchantments. Ellana gasped when her arm writhed like a living thing. Fingers forged from silverite flexed. A wrist encased in dragon scale twisted. The elbow studded with silverite bolts bent like an oiled hinge.
Ellana winced when the prosthetic hand curled into a fist. Metal ground against metal, spitting sparks. Ellana was wary when that hand turned towards her of its own accord. She grasped the wrist with her living hand, fingers straining to hold it. She heard the pop and grind of the gears inside, whirring incessantly like a buzzing bee. Ellana frowned when the fingers unfurled like the petals of a silver flower.
She gulped when she saw the symbol stamped into the palm. The open unblinking eye with lashes like rays of sunlight stared at her. Ellana felt as if she were being weighed and measured. The arm jolted and silverite fingers, long and powerful reached ever-eager. The prosthetic was stronger than her arm made from flesh, blood, and bone.
Mastering it was always a challenge.
“Focus, Da'len”, advised Abelas. “It is a tool like your bow and blades”. He watched her with the patience of a seasoned instructor. “An extension of your body”. Abelas gently encouraged her as the fear took hold. The silverite arm shook whilst Ellana fought for control.
Metal fingers spread wide ready to ensnare.
“Take charge, Da'len!” ordered Abelas.
Ellana grunted with the effort. Magic crackled across her skin like lightening. The runes engraved into silverite plates burned with an unnatural light. The prosthetic arm may have had a will of its own, but it also had a master. The elbow creaked, the wrist jerked, and the silverite hand convulsed.
Fingers tipped with silverite talons froze an inch from a bewildered elven face.
“Fenedhis!” cursed Ellana.
Abelas gently took hold of her mechanical limb. His fingers slid trustingly between silverite digits. He was pleased when the hand curled around his own. Ellana was in control again. The process of mastering the prosthetic, Abelas could see, was no easier now than the day it was forged.
“A masterpiece of incredible design”, he praised. “But the binding magic is dangerously volatile”.
Ellana gently squeezed his fingers. “I know”.
Abelas made a suggestion, though he knew she would disagree. “If you would entrust it to the College of Alchemy. I am certain improvements could be made”.
Ellana's response was predictable.
“Ellana”, implored Abelas. “It is unsafe”.
“For you!” hissed Ellana. “Not for me!” She hastily released his hand as if she'd been holding a hot coal. She ignored the contrite look upon his face. Abelas was only trying to help, but his proposal was unthinkable.
“You know who designed, built, and enchanted this for me”, growled Ellana.
“I do”, admitted Abelas.
Ellana refused to look at him. She busied herself by testing the prosthetic arm's range of motion. Silverite fingers flexed. The wrist rotated like a well-oiled cog. The elbow smoothly bent and twisted. The mechanical limb housed a complex arrangement of pistons, wheels, and wires.
It was one of a kind. Made to fit one person. The only example of a magically-augmented piece of engineering in existence. The concept was ingenious. The execution exceptional, for an invention that was not an innovation of the Elvhen.
“To think that a durgen'len conceived the idea”, praised Abelas. “And adapted it to include magical enhancement is humbling”.
Ellana scowled. She detested the arrogance of the ancient elves. Abelas was more open-minded than Solas, but he was still a product of his generation. Ellana found his comment distressing, especially when it implied that dwarves were inferior. She had learned from experience that having pointed ears did not make a person clever or cunning.
“That durgen'len was my friend!” snarled Ellana.
She was furious.
“Ir abelas, Da'len”, replied Abelas. “My comment was thoughtless”.
His apology did not appease Ellana. She shrugged him off when he tried to grasp her shoulder. Abelas meant well, but his attitude was vexing. Ellana did not take kindly to others thinking less of the dead. She brushed passed Abelas to fetch her bow, blades, and quiver. She walked briskly to the hut they shared, slipping inside like a shadow.
Abelas sighed regretfully. He was worried when Ellana emerged moments later. The strap of her quiver, full to the brim, rode her right shoulder. The arc of her bow was visible over her left. She intended to go into the forest alone. Abelas thought her reckless not wise.
The forest was dangerous.
Ellana cut him off. Her expression thunderous. “Race has nothing to do with intelligence!” declared Ellana. “Having pointed ears doesn't make you or I better than anyone else!” She glared at Abelas.
The anger burning bright.
“Dagna was smart, talented, and dedicated to her craft!” defended Ellana. “Without being arrogant like those bastards in your College of Alchemy!” She extended her left arm to show him the fruits of Dagna's labour. The elbow, forearm, and wrist were sheathed in sturdy dragon scale. The hand, left bare from wrist to fingertip, gleamed silver in the sunlight.
Ellana's fingers unfurled to reveal the unblinking eye stamped into her silverite palm. “She was unselfish, kind, and forgiving just like Dorian, Varric, Vivienne, The Iron Bull, Cullen, and Cassandra”. Ellana lowered her hand. “They helped Dagna craft this arm for me”. She shook her head disapprovingly.
“To malign her efforts is to insult their memories”, Ellana reminded him. “And to offend me”.
“Ir abelas, Ellana!” insisted Abelas. His face, like a mirror, reflected his contrition. He hadn't meant to cause upset.The way Ellana's expression darkened, like the moon eclipsing the sun, made him realise how deep the pain went. She was worse than angry.
She was grieving.
Abelas saw how Ellana's eyes glistened. His heart was heavy when a single tear slid down her cheek. The hasty swipe of a silver thumb erased its existence. Abelas tried to reason with her. Ellana could be rash when she was enraged.
“Forgive me, vhenan”, said Abelas. He realised his mistake when Ellana tensed like a startled rabbit. The way she regarded him sent a shiver of apprehension down his spine. Her wide and disbelieving eyes revealed more than vulnerability. An unconscious slip of the tongue had made her fearful.
“Fenedhis!” swore Abelas. He had not intended for her to discover the truth. The attraction was mutual, the affection sincere, but Ellana wasn't ready for marriage or children. Solas had broken her heart. Even after five hundred years, she was far from mended.
“Ellana!” implored Abelas. “Wait!” He strode forward, trying to catch her arm. He cursed when she dodged. Ellana was fleet-footed like the Halla, sidestepping nimbly to avoid his grasping fingers. A wild lunge ended in disaster when she vanished.
“Ellana!” roared Abelas.
She called to him from the trees. Her accusation chilling him to the bone.
“Ma harel lasa!”
“Tel'abelas!” cried Abelas. “Ma emma lath!"
They had been friends and lovers for centuries, but had never crossed that final hurdle.
The realisation that Abelas loved her as Solas had loved her was overwhelming.
Ellana fled into the woods. She leapt gnarled roots. She ducked under low-hanging branches. Her heedless flight spooked birds from their roosts and rabbits from their burrows. Ellana ran until her lungs burned and her chest heaved. She stumbled when a shadow, glimpsed out of the corner of her eye, passed close enough to be a threat.
Ellana pivoted on the balls of her feet. Her hands, flesh and silverite, took swift hold of her weapons. She had an arrow nocked and the bowstring drawn before her adversary could move a paw. Ellana stared down the shaft of her arrow into eyes grey like storm-clouds. A wolf, black as midnight, regarded her solemnly.
“Ar'vallem ma ghilas”, warned Ellana.
Her brows furrowed when the beast boldly loped forward. She let the arrow fly. It whizzed through the air, landing on her mark with deadly accuracy. Ellana reached over her shoulder to the quiver strapped across her back. A second arrow replaced the first, its steel-tipped head aligned with her target.
The wolf whined. The arrow, fletched in white, was buried two inches deep in fertile soil. Ellana's aim was true. The wolf dared not move. The first arrow had planted itself squarely between its forepaws.
The second would land between its eyes.
“Ar'din nuvenin na'din”, said Ellana.
She had no desire to slay the beast. Wolves were a necessary part of the cycle of life inside her woodland home. Ellana understood and respected their role, even if she lost a handful of Halla does and fawns each year. The herd survived season after season always stronger than before. Ellana did not kill for sport, but she would make an exception for unforeseen dangers.
This wolf was not a member of the local wolfpack.
He was a vagrant.
Elvish Translations: Courtesy of the Dragon Age Wiki – Elven Language.
Da'len – Little one.
Fenedhis – An elven curse, likely translated to 'wolf crap' or similar.
Durgen'len – Child of the Stone aka a dwarf.
Ir abelas – I am sorry.
Abelas – Sorrow.
Vhenan – Heart.
Ma harel lasa – You lied to me.
Tel'abelas – I am not sorry
Ma emma lath – You are my love.
Ar'vallem ma ghilas – I bid you to depart.
Ar'din nuvenin na'din – I don't want to kill you.
Chapter 2: An Ululation of Wolfsong
Ellana discovers that her vagrant wolf is not what he appears to be.
Warning: This chapter contains a confrontation, violence, angst, tears, and a Golden Halla. Discretion is advised.
Ellana watched the wolf warily. The beast was healthier than the wolves she'd encountered. Its fur thick and glossy. Its legs long and sturdy with large black paws. Its triangular ears, perked in readiness, were whole instead of ragged.
Most wolves bore marks of their status in the pack hierarchy. Ears torn from nipping. Scarred muzzles. Patchy fur. The occasional freshly oozing wound.
Scraps were common for low-ranked wolves.
Ellana judged its length and girth by eye. Her suspicion grew by the moment. This wolf lacked the scars and skinniness of a predator that ate once every few days. It was proud too, perhaps defiant as it eyed her instead of bolting. Most wolves were naturally wary of elves, especially those armed with metal teeth and claws.
This wolf was a little too curious for Ellana's comfort. “Ar'vallem ma ghilas”, she repeated, hoping to spur the beast to action. A tactical retreat on its part would end their stalemate. Ellana refused to lower her bow and arrow lest the wolf charge. She'd seen the damage sharp and shearing carnassial teeth could do.
Wolves had jaws like a guillotine, capable of crushing bone and rending flesh. Gutted bellies bleeding entrails or bones shattered beyond repair were mortal injuries. Ellana had always believed it was kinder to leave the Halla, felled by a wolfpack, to be slain and consumed. Pain ended with death. The pack also had bellies to fill and cubs to raise.
The delicate balance of nature, cruel and kind, remained in harmony if she did not interfere.
Ellana was sure this bold black wolf wasn't part of that balance. It certainly wasn't wild. Wolves did not look or act like this one did. It was neither wary nor fearful, despite the steel-tipped arrow aimed at the centre of its shaggy forehead. The intelligence glittering in those grey eyes wasn't lupine either.
Ellana frowned when that wolf cocked an ear as if to goad her. The broad shoulders, splayed legs, and erect tail reminded her of one person. Morrigan had been able to change form. Flemeth too. Magic was both deceptive and practical when applied discreetly.
Only one proud and sly elf would dare to set foot in her forest.
“Ma emma harel”, advised Ellana. Her eyes narrowed when the wolf growled. The flash of jagged teeth in a curling black lip confirmed his identity. This wolf had been the hunter, but never the hunted. It was too proud to tuck tail and run like its wiser brethren.
It also seemed to understand the elven language.
“Halam sahlin!” roared Ellana.
The outburst revealed her intent. The black wolf's shoulders rolled, turning its muscular neck. The shaggy head dropped low. Ellana's arrow flew straight and true, clipping a furry black ear. The wolf's snarl would have made lesser elves cower.
Ellana's gut reaction was rage.
A third arrow was nocked to the bowstring. Black paws churned leaves, pebbles, and earth. Ellana aimed. He was fast, but so was she. The wolf sprang, her bowstring slackened, and the arrow was airborne.
Finally, after five hundred years of waiting.
It would be over.
Ellana grunted when he hit her, the bow falling from her hands. She bore the brunt of his weight, toppling over, her back striking the leaf-littered ground. Air whooshed out of her mouth and nose, leaving her winded. She still had enough sense to grasp the hilt of her dagger. She drew the blade when jaws full of jagged teeth closed around her jugular.
Ellana anticipated the life-crushing blow. She groaned when a slick red tongue lapped the underside of her throat. The soft whining, like a wolfpup begging for forgiveness, provoked Ellana. She dug the point of her dagger into a soft underbelly. The agonised yelp was the least of the pains she wanted to inflict.
Fen'Harel had destroyed her life.
He was undeserving of pity or forgiveness.
“Ar tu na'lin emma mi, Harellan”, wheezed Ellana. She was unsympathetic when the shock set-in. She felt the tension ripple up and down the wolf's body. Its weight shifted as muscles bunched and coiled beneath black fur. Ellana had known his identity when first he'd bared his fangs.
Magic could not change a person's nature.
Solas was prideful no matter what form he took.
Ellana tensed when the wolf's bulk lessened. Fur shrank inwards, revealing clothes fashioned from cloth and leather. Stocky forelegs and paws transformed into sinewy arms and calloused hands. Muscular hindquarters became hard thighs and shapely calves. The black fur atop the wolf's shaggy head grew long, thick, and luxurious as it sprouted between a pair of pointed elven ears.
Ellana scowled when the wolf's muzzle retreated into a recognisable face. A wet lupine nose thinned and straightened. A long jaw filled with jagged teeth receded into pale cheeks, a cleft chin, and a sensuous mouth. The eyes were last, glowing like hot coals before dying, their inner-light smothered by more than guilt. Solas looked upon her wistfully, his expression remorseful.
The way he smiled made Ellana's stomach churn. His face was soft and hopeful. His gaze lovingly tender despite the patchwork of scars marring his skin. The puckered lines slashed across his cheeks and chin were dark, deep, and ugly. Solas should have feared the hand that scarred him.
“Nae!” spat Ellana.
“Vhenan”, pleaded Solas.
Ellana spat in his face.
The spittle trickled down his cheek.
Ellana was breathing hard when Solas looked down his nose at her. The disdain for her impudence was enraging. She bucked like a wild horse, hips rolling, and legs kicking. She tried to gut him, but her efforts were thwarted when Solas wrested the dagger from her grasp. The blade was cast aside, falling to the ground beyond Ellana's reach.
“Venavis ma vhenan!” urged Solas.
“Nae!” snarled Ellana.
Solas glowered when she refused to submit. He wrestled her to the ground. Long legs tangled with her own as he thrust his forearm under her chin. Ellana, ever-defiant, braced her shoulders on hard earth. She waited until Solas hovered over her. He leaned inward, lips pursed invitingly, his breath warm on her skin.
“Venavis”, he whispered.
Solas wanted to kiss her.
The gesture of intimacy (only reserved for Abelas) infuriated Ellana. She struck without hesitation. Black hair flew when her head lashed forward. She clipped Solas squarely in the face, near breaking his nose. The crunch of bone was very satisfying. Ellana savoured his pained cry.
The hard heel of her palm hit him under the chin. Solas tumbled from her with a curse. His hold slackened. His long legs untangled from her own. Ellana took immediate advantage.
Solas was taller, heavier, and had the longer reach. She was quick to capitalise on his error, punching where shorn leather gave way to blood-soaked cloth. Ellana's third arrow had delivered a glancing blow. She ignored the furious roar, shoulder rolling, the metal fingers of her silverite hand closing round another hilt.
“Ar tu na'din!” vowed Ellana.
She spotted her dagger's twin lying in the dirt. She darted forward to retrieve it. Ellana felt more secure when her right hand closed around that leather-bound hilt. She lunged for Solas, wrists crossing, the cutting edges of her blades facing outward. Ellana sliced upward, arms separating in a deadly arc.
Solas smelt burning hair before he felt the bite of frost. The dwarven runes engraved into Ellana's daggers shone an electric lyrium-blue. He caught himself the second before she could carve his head from his shoulders. He danced out of range when Ellana charged. Her focus was unnerving.
Solas admired the flash of her daggers in the sun. Ellana was death personified as she rent the air, blades spinning. Every movement had purpose. Every thought had one motivation. She was breathtakingly beautiful.
Ellana wanted to kill him.
Solas respected her determination, though he refused to cower. He would not shrink in fear from the woman he loved. Ellana's anger was justified. Solas understood her need to rectify a past mistake. He knew how vengeance could consume life as it dealt judgement.
The murder of Mythal had earned the Evanuris an eternity of damnation.
Solas had seethed for aeons. Ellana had loathed his existence for less time, but her desire for revenge was no less consuming. Solas admired her tenacity. Ellana's will to survive was a match for his own. Her inner-fire always burned brightest when under duress.
“Ma vhenan!” implored Solas. “Venavis!”
“Nae!” growled Ellana.
His lady-love slunk like a hunting wolf with single-minded purpose.
Solas saw the interloper before she did.
The skilfully carved horns spiralled up and over a proud cervine head. The flash of a white tail, raised in warning, matched tufted ears. Pale fur tinged with gold glistened along muscular flanks. Long slender legs moved in a blur of motion. Cloven hooves clipped the ground.
Solas stared Ellana down when her blades descended. The intention was clear. His heart clenched in sympathy when her daggers landed on horn instead of flesh. Ellana's frustrated scream made his blood curdle. His need to comfort her was more instinctual than common-sense.
“Ma vhenan!” called Solas. He tried to intercede, to reach for her, but a warm wall of fur and flesh prevented him from making contact. He sought to move around the living barrier. A sharp grunt and a balefully rolling brown eye made Solas pause. He stepped back humbly, head bowing in contrition, when the Halla forcibly separated them.
“Nae! Hanal'ghilan!” shrieked Ellana.
The Golden Halla snorted disdainfully. Her velvet nose wrinkled as she blew warm air into Ellana's face. A swift upswing of her horned head sent Ellana's blades flying. The first, burning hot with demon-fire, scorched bark as it embedded in a gnarled tree-trunk. The second froze the earth when it sank in hilt-deep.
Ellana feinted left before stepping right.
Hanal'ghilan knew her all too well. The doe followed suit, mimicking Ellana's every step. Her elegantly crowned head was kept low to ward off the enraged elf. She pawed at the earth, churning soil and dead leaves. The doe was ready when Ellana tried to slide past.
Hanal'ghilan rushed forward, blocking her advance. Ellana screeched when the doe crowded uncomfortably close. A single turn of that mighty head would deliver a terrible injury. Halla were known for impaling the unwary on their horns. Ellana respected Hanal'ghilan's strength, but at times like this, she detested the doe's loyalty.
The orphan she'd raised loved her far too much.
Hanal'ghilan would not allow her dam and friend to commit murder.
“Nae!” hissed Ellana.
The doe squealed when she stubbornly dug her heels in. Ellana was butted in the belly by a velvet nose. Her hands and clothes were nipped when she stumbled. She was pushed back by a broad chest covered in golden fur. Hanal'ghilan herded her as if she were an ill-behaved child.
“Fenedhis!” swore Ellana.
The doe would never allow her close enough to make the kill. Ellana could improvise. She skidded to a halt, refusing to take another step. Hanal'ghilan stamped and snorted. Ellana's hand descended upon the sheath at her hip. She looked into gentle brown eyes and murmured an apology.
“Ir abelas ma falon”.
Ellana vanished from sight.
Hanal'ghilan's alarmed cry alerted Solas to the danger. He saw the flash of silver in the sun. His breath caught in his throat. A single blade, cast with unerring accuracy, cut through the air. He didn't have time to react. Ellana matched Cole in skill and ability.
She was just as fast and deadly.
Solas knew there was no escape. He could have petrified Ellana with a glance, but he refused to use his magic against her. Their love was a double-edged sword. He was ready to accept his fate when in an icy-blue blur, something slammed into him. Solas was knocked off his feet.
He tumbled in the dirt with his would-be rescuer.
The throwing dagger embedded in a tree-trunk beyond them with a sharp thock.
“NAE!” roared Ellana.
Solas was shoved aside when she pounced. A hard kick to the ribs left him gasping. He heard the sounds of a scuffle. The thud of fists on flesh. The clang of steel on steel.
Solas rolled onto his side. His chest heaved. His lungs burned. His brows furrowed when he spied his rescuer tangling with his peeved paramour. His eyes widened when he saw who was responsible for saving his life.
The sentinel's golden eyes flashed angrily. He glared at the Lord of the Virvhenas. He had Ellana in his arms. She was red-faced and spitting with rage. Her eyes rolled balefully in her fair elven face.
“Ar tu na'din!” she howled.
Ellana was a writhing ball of violence. She bit and clawed. She kicked and punched. Solas had never seen her so savage. The way she tore at Abelas's hands showed how incensed she was.
“Hanal'ghilan!” commanded Abelas.
The doe's response was swift. She turned agilely, cloven hooves scattering dead leaves. She galloped to the cause of Ellana's fury. Her strident cry was like a bugling war-horn. Hanal'ghilan cantered in a circle around Solas.
The presentation of her golden flank revealed her desire.
“Ar'vallem ma ghilas!” bellowed Abelas. He hastily nodded in the direction of Ellana's hut. He struggled to contain his fierce beloved. His robes were torn. His forearms scored bloody by Ellana's fingernails.
Solas was too startled to argue. He nodded numbly and grasped a tawny spiralling horn. He vaulted aboard Hanal'ghilan's golden back. The doe was Ellana's preferred mount when the Halla herd were on the move. Her responsiveness to the shifting of his weight and the gentle pressure of his thighs astounded Solas.
Hanal'ghilan turned willingly when he gently squeezed her shoulder.
Solas's heart sank when he spied Ellana. Her cheeks were flushed. Her eyes narrow and angry. Her lips were peeled back from her teeth in a vicious snarl. She was breathing hard as if she'd run a thousand miles in a heartbeat.
Solas saw the rage, fear, and grief reflected in her eyes. Moments passed. He couldn't bear the weight of her judgement. He averted his gaze, head bowing in shame. His pride had nearly destroyed the one he loved best in Elvhenan.
“Ir abelas ma'arlath”, said Solas. He kneed Hanal'ghilan in the ribs. The doe bleated before taking off at a swift trot. She carried him away when Ellana gasped. Solas heard but did not witness the inevitable fallout of his impromptu visit.
Hanal'ghilan galloped into the underbrush when Ellana's eyes glistened with tears. The outrage bled from her like wine from a punctured wineskin. She ceased to struggle. Her body sagged as if she had lost the strength to stand.
Ellana's knees gave out. Her feet slid apart until she was splay-legged. She teetered precariously before dropping like a stone. Abelas caught her when she fell. His arms were strong and sturdy around her waist and shoulders. He supported her with the tenderness of a man very much in love.
“Atisha”, whispered Abelas.
Ellana trembled like a newborn fawn. Solas had never apologised for his misdeeds. He had taken her by surprise. Again. Ellana's face was ashen when her head fell back. She looked skyward through the leafy boughs to the cloudless blue heavens.
“Atisha”, soothed Abelas.
Ellana thought of all she had loved and lost after the tearing of the Veil.
Skyhold burned to cinders.
The members of her inner-circle dead.
Thedas engulfed in war.
Ellana remembered the mass burials. The grassy mounds outside the ruins of Skyhold contained more bone than earth. The overgrown courtyard housed the graves of soldiers, servants, and loyal retainers. The esteemed grand hall, now a mausoleum, guarded ten stone cairns. Ellana knew the face and name of everyone entombed there.
Abelas was deafened when she screamed. The anguished wail tore through the forest. Birds flew from their roosts. Rabbits darted into their burrows. Wolves lifted their heads and opened their jagged jaws.
Ellana sobbed on hearing the ululation of wolfsong.
The mournful howls, beautiful and haunting, were neither mocking nor scornful.
The Dread Wolf's kin were not so dreadful.
Abelas believed that their voices, raised in eerie lamentation, proved that they shared Ellana's sorrow. He sank to the ground with her in his arms. He spread his legs to make room when Ellana wilted like a flower withheld from light and water. She lacked the will to fight him. The last of her strength had evaporated in the revelation of Solas's contrition.
Ellana wept like a child.
Abelas took a deep fortifying breath. He was prepared to wait out the worst. Ellana would be distraught for hours. Abelas sighed regretfully as he laid a warm cheek against her hair. He kissed her temple and murmured fondly.
“Atisha ma da'assan”.
Elvish Translations: Courtesy of the Dragon Age Wiki – Elven Language.
Ar'vallem ma ghilas – I bid you to depart.
Ma emma harel - You should fear me.
Halam sahlin - This ends now.
Fenedhis – An elven curse, likely translated to 'wolf crap' or similar.
Ar tu na'lin emma mi, Harellan - I will see your blood on my blade, Trickster.
Ma vhenan – My heart.
Nae – No.
Venavis ma vhenan – Stop, my heart.
Ar tu na'din - I will kill you.
Hanal'ghilan – The Path Finder – Name for the Golden Halla.
Ir abelas ma falon – I am sorry my friend.
Ma'arlath – My love.
Atisha ma da'assan – Peace, my little arrow.
Chapter 3: Asha'belannar's Web
Warning: This chapter contains angst, fluff, a journey home, unexpected guests, a world-shaking revelation, and conversations in elvish. Discretion is advised.
Abelas bears Ellana home with Hanal'ghilan's help. They have unexpected visitors, and Ellana learns of a world-shaking revelation.
The shadows were long when Abelas bore Ellana home on Hanal'ghilan's back. The crescent moon was visible on the horizon. The sky awash with streaks of violet in a darkening sky. The stars were kindling like the embers of a dying fire. Night was fast approaching.
Ellana hadn't said a single word in hours.
Abelas was worried.
Hanal'ghilan shifted beneath them. Her sure-footed hooves found purchase amidst rocks, slippery leaf-litter, and uneven ground. She navigated their way over trails that no elf could see. The forest was a dangerous place after sunset. Wolves hunted by moonlight.
Abelas trusted the Halla. The doe was strong-willed but cautious. She knew what territory to avoid and what paths were safest to travel. Elves were keen-eyed, but they were blind in darkness. Abelas hoped they would return to Ellana's hut before the moon reached its zenith.
Abelas was relieved to hear her speak. Ellana's voice was drier than sun-parched sand. She hadn't drunk anything since morning. Abelas undid the leather loop knotted to his belt. The waterskin came free with a firm tug.
Abelas handed the skin to Ellana. He was glad when she accepted it. Their fingers brushed. Abelas felt her tremble at the brief contact. He gently grasped her hand.
“Ma serannas”, said Ellana. She responded with a half-hearted smile. Her grip was lax when Abelas let go. She had not returned his affection. Ellana was still unsure of her own feelings.
The day had been trying for both of them.
Abelas waited whilst Ellana uncorked the waterskin. She lifted it to her mouth, lips sealing tight around the spout. She drank thirstily. The skin was half-empty when Ellana finished with a satisfied sigh. She resealed the skin and handed it back.
Abelas retied the waterskin to his belt. He slid an arm around Ellana when Hanal'ghilan brought them to the foot of a steep hillside. Abelas looked up the slope. He saw the silhouettes of overgrown shrubs, misshapen boulders, and gnarled tree-trunks. He held on tight when Hanal'ghilan began her ascent.
The doe climbed with the confidence of a seasoned path-finder.
The going was disquieting for her riders.
Abelas tried to comfort Ellana. His efforts were unwelcome. Ellana was tense as a drawn bowstring. She twitched nervously when Hanal'ghilan's swaying gait pressed her hard against him. The knowledge that Abelas wanted to be more than her bedmate was still unnerving.
Ellana's heart was bruised and battered. Solas had destroyed everything she'd held dear. The Dread Wolf was a liar and a trickster. Ellana had learned not to trust the passion bubbling beneath her skin. Abelas was not Solas, but he wanted the same thing.
Ellana was right to be wary.
Solas's love was like a blade. The first cut had been the deepest when he'd revealed himself as Fen'Harel. The second had cleaved her heart in two when he'd torn the Veil. The third had ripped the bloody pieces from her chest. A dragon had rained fire on her home.
Skyhold had burned for days.
Ellana didn't want to repeat history.
She'd had her fill of betrayal.
Hanal'ghilan crested the hill's rounded top. The doe's slender legs parted stalks of slick grass. She would have paused to graze if Abelas hadn't kneed her in the ribs. Dusk was descending. The forest was unsafe at night for elves without a camp-fire.
Ellana was eager to move on.
“Ghilan vhenas ma falon”, she urged Hanal'ghilan. She frowned when the doe ignored her command. Hanal'ghilan paused in a patch of succulent brush. Ellana felt those muscular shoulders roll as that mighty horned head dipped low. She heard the crisp snap and crunch that always accompanied a browsing Halla.
Hanal'ghilan was just as headstrong as Ellana. The Halla cleared her velvet nostrils with an airy snort before lowering her head. The leisurely chewing of a second mouthful annoyed Ellana. The doe refused to take another step. The casual turning of a golden ear towards her riders signalled her desire.
“I believe she wants an apology”, advised Abelas.
Ellana's lip curled. The doe's timely intervention had saved Solas. Ellana looked down her nose at the Halla. She sniffed haughtily. She was unimpressed by Hanal'ghilan's mulishness.
“Tel'abelas”, said Ellana.
Abelas despised being stuck in the middle. He was caught between two stubborn women. Ellana was tired and dirty with twigs in her hair and grime on her clothes. She needed a bath and a good night's rest. She would get neither the longer Hanal'ghilan waited.
Abelas wanted to get his beloved home.
“Ellana!” he reproved.
A firm prod in the ribs did the trick.
“Venavis!” she squealed.
A retaliatory smack on Abelas's knuckles made him laugh.
Ellana panicked when she was embraced. She was drawn tight to Abelas's chest. She was squeezed affectionately as if she were a favoured stuffed-toy. The contented nuzzling into the nape of her neck was the final straw. Ellana stiffened.
Abelas exhaled shakily. His grip relaxed. He had forgotten himself in that moment. He grimaced. Ellana wasn't ready. Abelas took several deep and calming breaths to regain his composure.
He steeled his nerve with an earnest apology.
“Ir abelas ma da'assan”.
Ellana's eyes were red-rimmed and puffy. She tried to bear the guilt, but she could not ignore what she knew to be true. The hot sting of her tears was a sobering reminder of her folly. She was not alone. Abelas had been with her since the fall of Skyhold.
Five hundred years she'd known him.
For four centuries they'd been friends.
For three they'd been lovers.
Abelas was nothing like Solas.
He could be trusted.
Ellana brushed her fingertips over a fair elven cheek. She heard the startled gasp. She felt him tremble. Ellana closed her eyes. She pressed her face into Abelas's throat.
She inhaled deeply, taking comfort in his presence.
“Ma da'mi”, whispered Ellana. “Lasa ma melana”.
Abelas pondered the nature of their relationship. He understood Ellana's anxiety, though her reluctance to take that next step still stung. He could not help the way he felt. Love should have been a simple thing. For Ellana it was complicated.
Moments passed in an uneasy silence.
“Dirthera ar ma enfanim”, encouraged Abelas. He rued his hastiness until Ellana replied. He smelt the salt on her breath. The tears had dried, but the sadness remained. Ellana would never forget those she'd loved and lost.
The pain ran deeper than Abelas could see.
“Tel'din'an”, admitted Ellana. The way her shoulders sagged revealed her regret. The luxury of time eternal was not a comfort. Ellana saw it as a road of unending suffering. She couldn't understand how Abelas could bear the weight of the ages.
“Ar bellanaris”, said Ellana. She bowed her head ashamedly. “Ir souveri”. Ellana voiced her desire even though she knew Abelas would object. He loved her.
“Ar nuvenin uthenera”.
Abelas disagreed. “Nae!”
Ellana shook her head. Abelas did not understand. “Ar tel'suledin bellanaris”, she told him. She could count only five centuries in age. Solas and Abelas, together, were her elders by several millennia.
“Shem vunin'en ar”, intoned Ellana.
Abelas's voice was soft and sad as he finished the ancient adage.
“Felas uthannar'en ma”.
Ellana stilled when a calloused hand cupped her cheek. Long fingers slid beneath her chin. She did not resist when Abelas exerted gentle pressure. Her head tilted back and her mouth rose. The fear abated when she was kissed.
Abelas was neither jealous nor possessive. He understood and accepted her past with Solas. Abelas did impress upon her how patient he was. His tenderness made Ellana cry. His touch was light. His lips feather-soft against her own.
Abelas was not demanding, but he commanded the entirety of her attention.
The kiss ended with a promise.
“Tel'enfanim ma da'assan. Irassal ma ghilas. Ara ghilas”.
Ellana sobbed. The tears trickled down her cheeks. It was more than a kindness. It was a pledge of support regardless of the decision she made. Abelas, thought Ellana, was more empathetic than she deserved.
“Nae”, she protested weakly.
Abelas smiled. “Tel'numin, Ellana”, he soothed. He wiped her cheeks, erasing the tears she wept like rain. “Ara suledin”, vowed Abelas. “Ma vhenan suledin”.
Ellana's brows furrowed. She wasn't sure to what or who Abelas was referring. His statement was annoyingly cryptic. The ancient elves loved riddles. Ellana's unhappy pout made Abelas chuckle.
“Atisha ma da'assan”.
Ellana rolled her eyes.
“Atisha!” laughed Abelas.
Ellana sighed wearily. She leaned against him, the crown of her head tucking beneath his chin. She could forgive him this once. Abelas had always been tolerant of her eccentricities. Ellana decided that compromise wasn't a terrible thing.
“Ma solas suledin”, teased Ellana. “Ir abelas ma da'mi”.
Hanal'ghilan resumed their trek through the forest. The sudden movement jolted Ellana. She was almost unseated. Her startled gasp and hasty grab for Abelas amused him. He wheezed when Ellana vengefully jabbed him in the ribs.
“Fenedhis!” cursed Ellana. “Hanal'ghilan!”
The doe snorted airily. She ignored Ellana's outburst. She proceeded to guide them home. The second half of their journey was easier than the first. Ellana was noticeably calmer to Abelas the closer they came to reaching their destination.
She was still tired, but no longer wept.
The forest gave way to a crude dirt road. The trees were sparser in the meadow that surrounded Ellana's home. The hut came into view. Made of ironbark, river-rock, and mortar it was sturdier than the aravels the dalish had used to travel overland. Abelas had helped Ellana build it with his own two hands.
The hut was a welcome sight. The banked fire, burning inside a circle of stone was not. Abelas frowned when he saw a wooden spit being turned over the flames. The headless and hoofless carcass was golden brown. The scent of roasting meat delectable.
Abelas's appetite soured when he spied their unexpected visitors.
Ellana wasn't pleased either.
Two elves awaited their return.
The first was taller than the second. His hair was white like snow. His eyes were green flecked with gold. He was garbed in flowing robes dyed in shades of green and brown. The favoured colours of the Dalish.
His companion was slender like a river-reed. Her hair was the red of fresh blood. Her eyes were dark like fertile soil. She wore the decorative robes befitting a woman of her station. The fabric was dyed in neutral shades of grey and blue. The neckline, cuffs, and hem were adorned with a ruff of white fur.
Ellana saw the influence of the Circle of Magi. She should have been overjoyed to see her again. She was not. The woman's fair elven face was expressionless. She didn't smile when she saw an old friend, nor was there a spark of recognition when Ellana called her name.
“Aneth ara, Minaeve”.
“Aneth ara, Ellana”, Minaeve replied serenely.
The lack of inflection in her voice to signify emotion perturbed Ellana. The way Minaeve looked through her as if she were made of glass was unsettling. This woman was a pale imitation of the shy elven apprentice Ellana had known. She looked and sounded like Minaeve, but she was not the same. The brand of the rising sun had burned away everything that made her unique.
Ellana blamed herself for Minaeve's fate. Five centuries ago the Knight Commander of the Templar Order had taken charge of the Inquisition. The judgement of Ser Delrin Barris had condemned thousands to suffer the Rite of Tranquility. Hundreds more were accused of practising blood-magic. The screams of the dying set to the torch still haunted Ellana.
The moment was awkward.
Ellana did not speak again. Her gaze was fixed upon Minaeve's branded forehead. The stamp of the rising sun proclaimed her tranquil. Ellana's silence grated on the patience of their other guest. The former Keeper of a disbanded dalish clan.
“Andaran atish'an”, greeted Abelas. He felt the tension in Ellana. The rigidity of her spine and the hard line of her shoulders belied her calm expression. She wasn't usually so rude, but Hawen's unexpected arrival had thrown her off-balance. Her unabashed staring at Minaeve proved how uneasy she was.
“Aneth ara”, said Hawen. “We have waited for you since mid-afternoon”.
Abelas would have made small-talk, but Ellana was his primary concern. She was physically and emotionally exhausted. She needed a bath, a decent meal, and a good night's rest. Abelas tolerated Hawen's indiscretion, but not his sense of entitlement. They were not servants at his beck and call.
“You can wait another hour”, declared Abelas. “Ellana will bathe and eat before we indulge you”.
He ignored Hawen's disgruntled scowl. The former Keeper was now a member of New Arlathan's College of Alchemy. Hawen was used to deference and respect from his pupils. He did not appreciate Abelas's lack of reverence, though he was wise not to voice his opinion.
The Halla were protective of the elves that tended them.
Hanal'ghilan was especially protective of those she considered her own.
The doe sensed Hawen's annoyance. A brown eye rolled balefully. She trotted forward whilst carrying her riders. Her slender neck bent and her golden head dropped low. Hawen stiffened when Hanal'ghilan blew a blast of hot air in his face. Velvet lips peeled back from flat herbivorous teeth.
“Fenedis!” swore Hawen.
The tip of his elven ear throbbed. The skin smarting an angry red where Hanal'ghilan had nipped him. The doe's brand of Halla discipline made Ellana laugh. Hanal'ghilan snorted in amusement. Hawen fumed like a sullen child.
Abelas was glad to hear Ellana giggle. The sound was more pleasant than soul-searing sobs. He gave Hawen a reproving look when the alchemist's lip curled. The man's haughtiness was trying. Abelas disliked him.
Hawen's presence at Ellana's home, however, meant that something had occurred in recent hours.
Abelas wondered what would draw one of the College of Alchemy's senior researchers away from his ivory tower. This was not an ordinary social outing. Something had brought Hawen out of New Arlanthan. Abelas doubted he would have left the city willingly if not for Minaeve. She was tranquil, a shadow of a person, without emotion but not motivation.
“Ma serannas ma falon”, tittered Ellana. She smiled lovingly when Hanal'ghilan turned her great horned head. The doe's velvet nose nuzzled her cheek. Ellana embraced that thick golden neck. She gladly returned the Halla's affection.
Abelas was pleased and saddened by the display.
He hoped, one day, that Ellana would look as fondly upon him too.
Abelas swung a leg over Hanal'ghilan's broad back. He dismounted gracefully, bare toes touching the earth before his heels pressed downward. He centred himself with practised ease. “Garas, Ellana”, he urged, more for his own peace of mind than hers. Abelas was aware of the eyes scrutinising their every move.
Ellana patted Hanal'ghilan's velvet nose. She smiled warmly at the Halla. They shared a moment of understanding. The exchange of a brief nod between elf and animal ended their silent communion. Ellana released Hanal'ghilan's neck before turning her attention to Abelas.
His arms were outstretched. His hands ready and waiting to receive her. Ellana could dismount by herself. She had done so innumerable times before without Abelas's help. The irritable line between his brows convinced Ellana to cooperate.
Abelas wasn't just being courteous. He was being vigilant and attentive. Two facets of their relationship that always went hand in hand. Abelas did not like other elves looking askance at Ellana. Hawen's arrival with Minaeve did not bode well for his beloved.
Something was surely very wrong in New Arlathan.
Had Solas sent them in his stead?
Ellana swung a leg over Hanal'ghilan's back. She was seated side-saddle when she reached for Abelas. The doe flicked a pale ear when her rider slid down. Abelas caught Ellana around the waist. His hands were strong and steady as he lowered her to the ground.
“Ma serannas”, said Ellana.
Abelas was surprised to see her blush. Few things embarrassed Ellana. Perhaps their audience had made her nervous. Abelas would have escorted her away from their prying eyes if Hawen had been more patient. The rough clearing of his throat made Ellana tense like a startled fawn.
The way she rolled her eyes revealed her exasperation.
Abelas knew that look.
His beloved was a heartbeat away from pinning Hawen's ear to a tree.
“Be civil”, advised Abelas. “We have guests”.
Ellana smiled thinly. Her hands rested against his chest. She patted his armoured collar. The gilded leather was soft and smooth beneath her fingertips. She took a deep fortifying breath.
Her question was brash and blunt.
“Why in the seven hells are you on my doorstep, Hawen?”
Abelas's disapproving expression did not cow Ellana.
She was an adult not a recalcitrant child.
“What?” she hissed. “I'm dirty, hungry, tired, and I smell like nug-shit”. Ellana's nose wrinkled in disgust. “I am not in the mood to be entertaining an arsehole who would rather bow in servitude than uphold his Dalish beliefs”. She heard the sharp intake of Hawen's breath, though she did not acknowledge his presence.
His cowardice had cost too many Dalish lives.
Ellana thought him a fool not a venerated elder.
“Fenedhis lasa”, cursed Abelas. He waited for an argument to ensue. He was relieved when a cooler head prevailed. Minaeve interceded before Hawen could antagonise Ellana. Abelas saw her lay a gentle remonstrative hand on her companion's shoulder.
“Venavis”, she reproved. “We are not here to fight”.
Ellana regarded Minaeve. “Then why are you here?” she challenged. Her eyes were narrowed in suspicion. She was weary, but not dispirited. Solas had made her miserable, but he had not extinguished the fire that burned beneath her skin.
“Have you come to lecture me for not respecting your precious Fen'Harel?”
Minaeve's face was blank. Her eyes empty. Her mouth a lax line of solemnity in her fair elven face. Her voice was flat and dry as she explained. She had come with good reason.
“No”, said Minaeve. She shared a brief companionable look with Hawen. His grave nod granted her permission. Minaeve addressed Ellana. Her next words alarmed the dalish elf.
“We were sent”.
“By whom?” asked Abelas.
Hawen sighed. “By the witch imprisoned in the bowels of the College of Alchemy”.
Minaeve was apathetic when Ellana gasped.
“You knew her once”, stated Minaeve. “As the daughter of Asha'belannar”.
Ellana exhaled shakily. She stared at Hawen and Minaeve. It could not be true. “That's impossible”, she told them. “Morrigan disappeared after Corypheus was defeated”.
Hawen nodded. He looked Ellana in the eye. “She did retreat”, he affirmed. “But she did not abandon you. Morrigan watched from afar for many years, under the strict instruction of Asha'belannar. She was tasked with keeping you safe”.
“She failed”, growled Abelas. His golden eyes glinted in the firelight. His silver brows were furrowed. He was unimpressed by Hawen's revelation. “My beloved has suffered immeasurably”.
Hawen glanced between Ellana and her lover. She neither confirmed nor denied his claim. The alchemist smirked. He was cocky when he answered. The amused twinkle in his eye infuriated Ellana.
“You haven't told her the truth”, chuckled Hawen. “Not in five hundred years”.
“Hold your tongue!” admonished Abelas.
Hawen laughed when Ellana frowned.
“Abelas” she asked earnestly. “What is he talking about?”
Abelas's face was soft and sad. “Ellana”, he implored. “It is unimportant”.
Ellana's eyes widened. She gaped at Abelas. Not once, in five centuries, had he ever lied to her. He was always frank and honest. The thought that he would withhold something from her hurt worse than a knife-wound.
“Tell me!” demanded Ellana.
“She has a right to know”, seconded Minaeve. “She is entangled in Asha'belannar's web as surely as you are”.
Abelas sighed. He did not avert his eyes. He met Ellana's gaze. He was too proud to look away, though he had the humility Solas lacked. Abelas's voice was gentle.
His explanation simple.
“When Fen'Harel tore the Veil, Morrigan feared you would perish. It was at her behest that I find you, Ellana. She charged me with your protection. I did as I was bid to do. I went to Tarasyl'an Te'las and found you in its ashes”.
Ellana was quiet for several moments. She looked away from Abelas, her heart heavy. So that was why he had come to Skyhold. She did not know if she was ready to accept his explanation. She set it aside in favour of interrogating Hawen.
“You didn't answer my question”, she said sharply. “Why are you here?”
Hawen's tone was grim. “Morrigan needs your help”.
Minaeve's voice was clear and calm. “To end her suffering”.
“She wants to die”, declared Hawen. “Shemlen were never meant to live an elven lifetime”.
Elvish Translations: Courtesy of the Dragon Age Wiki – Elven Language.
Ir enfanim – I am afraid.
Ma serannas – My thanks.
Ghilan vhenas ma falon – Guide us home, my friend.
Tel'abelas – I am not sorry.
Venavis – Stop.
Ir abelas ma da'assan – I am sorry, my little arrow.
Ma da'mi – My little blade.
Lasa ma melana – Give me time.
Dirthera ar ma enfanim – Tell me your fears.
Tel'din'an – Not being able to die. i.e. being immortal.
Ar bellanaris – I have eternity.
Ir souveri – I am so tired.
Ar nuvenin uthenera – I want to dream forever. i.e. to enter Uthenera the 'Eternal waking dream'.
Nae – No.
Ar tel'suledin bellanaris– I do not have the strength to endure eternity.
Shem vunin'en ar. Felas uthannar'en ma - The swift days for me. The slow years of eternity for you. - An ancient elven proverb.
Tel'enfanim ma da'assan. Irassal ma ghilas. Ara ghilas – Never fear, my little arrow. Where ever you go. I will follow.
Tel'numin – Don't cry.
Ara suledin – I will endure.
Ma vhenan suledin – My heart will endure.
Atisha ma da'assan – Peace, my little arrow.
Ma solas suledin – My pride will endure.
Ir abelas ma da'mi – I am sorry, my little blade.
Fenedhis – An elven curse, likely translated to 'wolf crap' or similar.
Aneth ara – My safe place – A Dalish greeting.
Andaran atish'an – I dwell in this place of peace. A formal elven greeting.
Ma serannas ma falon – My thanks my friend.
Garas, Ellana – Come, Ellana.
Fenedhis lasa – An elven curse, likely translated into 'grant or give me wolf crap' or similar.
Asha'belannar –The Woman of Many Years – The Dalish name for Flemeth.
Tarasyl'an Te'las – The Place Where the Sky is Kept – The elven name for Skyhold.
Shemlen – Quick children – The elven name for humans.
Chapter 4: The Vir Thenerasan
Hawen and Minaeve try to convince Ellana to use her magical talent to help Morrigan, without rousing Fen'Harel's suspicion.
An hour had passed since she'd returned home. Ellana was freshly washed, dried, and dressed in a tunic and breeches. She and her guests were inside the hut she shared with Abelas. She sat cross-legged on a bed-roll. A bear-pelt was draped across her shoulders.
“You're mad”, she told Hawen. “He'll find me the moment I step through the Eluvian”.
Ellana accepted the plate of sliced meat and roasted vegetables.
Hawen and Minaeve had made themselves comfortable in her modest home. The ironbark walls, floor, and ceiling along with the stone chimney were more rustic than anything in New Arlathan. Ellana wasn't fond of crystal spires and marble archways. The city elves were too soft in her opinion. Many were overfond of artistry and aesthetic rather than proper form and function.
Simple and pragmatic suited Ellana just fine.
“Of course he will”, agreed Hawen. “Fen'Harel is the Master of the Crossroads. He knows all that travel through his labyrinth of Eluvian”. He gestured to the plate of food in Ellana's lap. “Eat, Lethallan. You're going to need your strength”.
Ellana snorted derisively. She loathed being told what to do. She winced when Abelas tugged on her scalp. The halla-horn comb snagged on a wet tangle. An irritable glance over her shoulder earned Ellana a gentle reprimand.
“Be polite”, advised Abelas. “It would be wisest to heed his counsel”.
Hawen's haughty smirk turned into a scowl when Abelas modified his statement.
The tension between them was palpable. Ellana lost her appetite. She would have abandoned her plate if not for Minaeve. A slender hand grasped the ironbark rim. Ellana gaped when that plate was returned to her lap.
“You must eat”, urged Minaeve.
“I'm not hungry!” snapped Ellana.
“I can hear your stomach rumbling”, said Minaeve. “I think it disagrees”.
Ellana blushed. She sulked and bent to her meal without another word. She resented Minaeve's forthrightness. The tranquil were renowned for lacking emotion and social mores. Ellana wouldn't win this argument no matter how hard she tried.
“Well”, chuckled Hawen. “Shall we continue our discussion?”
Ellana shovelled food into her mouth. She was ravenous. She simply didn't want to admit it. Cooperation with arrogant arses like Hawen, had never been her strong point. Ellana lacked the patience for diplomacy.
“Mind your manners, Hawen”, reproved Abelas. “You are a guest inside these walls”.
“My aren't we touchy”, retorted Hawen.
The two elves exchanged looks of mutual dislike.
Ellana rolled her eyes.
“Boys”, called Minaeve. Her tone flat and dry. It was not a command, but it gained their attention. Abelas and Hawen ceased their bickering. They regarded her expectantly.
“We must focus on the task at hand”.
Minaeve gestured to Ellana. The bobbing of her throat showed another mouthful had been swallowed. She was eating, much to Abelas's relief. The defiant gleam in her eye worried him. Ellana did not like being treated like a child.
Abelas hoped she would cooperate long enough to achieve Hawen's goal. If Morrigan needed aid then only Ellana could provide it. His beloved had a talent in common with the Dread Wolf. Abelas doubted she would take kindly to using it in the manner Hawen wanted. Ellana had a strong distaste for magical interference in mundane matters.
“Speak plainly”, urged Abelas. “What do you want from us?”
Minaeve turned to Ellana. Abelas saw his beloved tense. The lax line of her shoulders tightened. Her spine straightened and her neck was stiff too. Abelas recognised her body-language.
Ellana was preparing herself for a fight.
“We need nothing from you personally, sentinel”, declared Minaeve. “It is Ellana's help we seek”.
Ellana swallowed the last of her dinner. She had devoured everything. The plate was all but licked clean. Ellana handed the empty dish to Minaeve. She watched the tranquil set it atop a low table beside the hearth.
A cheery fire burned. Minaeve helped herself to the wood stacked beside the hearth. A few logs were cast into the flames. The fire stirred, the fuel searing as it was scorched black. Minaeve retrieved a wooden cup from the mantle, filling it to the brim with liquid from a ewer.
She returned to Ellana, retaking her seat. The stool creaked when she leaned forward. She offered the cup to the dalish elf. Minaeve waited whilst Ellana scrutinised her face. A suspicious look at the cup in her hand revealed a lack of trust.
Hawen was offended on her behalf.
“Fenedhis, girl! She's not going to poison you!”
Minaeve endured Ellana's judgement with the patience of a saint.
“I know the stink of a sleeping draught when I smell it”, accused Ellana. Her nostrils flared as she sniffed the potion inside Minaeve's cup. “You used the fresh leaves of Prophet's Laurel steeped in a herbal tea”, she recounted expertly. “Before adding a pinch of powdered Felandaris root and the ground petals of dried Dawn Lotus”. Ellana glowered when she heard an appreciative whistle.
Hawen was impressed.
“You got all that from the scent alone?”
Ellana's lip curled. She eyed Hawen. “Don't insult me by resorting to flattery”, she told him. “You know that herblore is an important part of a Dalish hunter's education”. Ellana did not trust Hawen.
“I learned my Keeper's lessons well”.
“So you did”, affirmed Hawen. “As Keeper of my own dalish clan. It was my responsibility to teach the hunters those lessons too”. Hawen nodded to the cup in Minaeve's hand. “Which makes me wonder, if you know what we need from you. Will you still drink or not?”
Ellana's brows furrowed. She glanced from Hawen to Minaeve. The tranquil was serene as a summer breeze. Her expression neutral. Her dark eyes shone with an intelligence devoid of the emotional turmoil plaguing Ellana.
To drink a sleeping draught so potent, would leave her slumbering well past sunrise.
“You cannot enter New Arlathan through an Eluvian”, Minaeve reminded her. “Without rousing Fen'Harel's attention”. She placed the cup at the foot of Ellana's bedroll. She nodded to the generous portion of sleeping draught inside. “This is the only way”, reasoned Minaeve.
Ellana glared at the simple wooden cup as if it contained poison. “You didn't come from New Arlathan”, she said coolly. “Through the Eluvian that connects my home to the capital”. She knew the truth when neither Minaeve nor Hawen said a word. Their silence was telling.
Only one person could have smuggled them out of Fen'Harel's jewelled city.
He moved like smoke and shadow.
“Cole brought you here in the vain hope”, declared Ellana. “That I'd agree to do your dirty work”.
Hawen's expression was thunderous. He was outraged by her accusation, though he had enough sense to stay civil. Abelas was watching him. The slightest hint of aggression towards Ellana would not end well for the alchemist. The sentinel was as expert in the arcane arts as he was in the art of combat.
To harm Ellana was to court death.
Hawen preferred to stay alive.
Rotting in a grave, six feet under the earth, would leave Minaeve unprotected.
“Atisha, Hawen”, cautioned Minaeve. Her voice was calm. Her face solemn. Minaeve was apathetic to his anger, though she understood its cause. Hawen would always feel indebted to Morrigan.
The witch had saved her life.
Love was a strange and mysterious force.
It made the most reasonable men do foolish things.
“Ar vallem ma dar athim”, advised Minaeve. She saw how Hawen's face softened. His brows arching in contrition did not inspire empathy. His mouth turning down unhappily did not move her to pity. The silent plea for support fell short of its mark.
Minaeve was indifferent to Hawen's need.
Logic defined for her a clearer and more concise path to their mutual goal.
“I am tranquil”, she said gently. “I cannot feel as you do”.
Hawen's head, bowing in disappointment, revealed an old and familiar hurt to Abelas.
“I understand your frustration”, he told him. “It is not an easy burden to bear”.
Hawen gazed at Ellana. The dalish elf was so focused on Minaeve that she seemed unaware of the man behind her. Abelas dutifully combed her hair whilst she conversed. Ellana was nothing like Minaeve. She had neither been born a mage nor made tranquil.
Hawen doubted their relationship was similar to his own until he saw how Abelas doted on Ellana. The softness of the sentinel's face revealed his innermost desire. He was gentle as he combed Ellana's hair. The tenderness of his actions revealed the depth of his feelings. Hawen recognised unrequited love when he saw it.
The thought that he shared this in common with Abelas was discomforting. The sentinel was old, wise, and sworn to Asha'belannar's service. Hawen knew he could not compare. He averted his gaze, suddenly self-conscious. He was a child next to Abelas, the product of an entirely different generation.
Just like Ellana.
“It never is”, agreed Hawen. “But there is always hope for change”.
Abelas nodded. “However small”.
“Patience”, sighed Hawen. “Is necessary”.
“It is indeed”, said Abelas. “But the potential reward is worth the wait”.
Ellana heard their hushed discourse. She glanced over her shoulder. “What are you two talking about?” she asked Abelas. She frowned when her lover chuckled. His cryptic answer made her blush.
“Hawen and I have reached an understanding”.
Ellana knew exactly what he meant. “Oh”, she said. “I see”. She turned away, the guilt multiplying tenfold. Abelas deserved better, but Ellana doubted she could give him what he wanted.
Solas had taught her that love was dangerous.
Ellana was relieved when Minaeve interceded. Her appeal for help was a timely distraction. Ellana did not trust Hawen, but she would listen to Minaeve. They were both former members of the Inquisition. Ellana felt enough kinship to give Minaeve a chance.
“Ellana”, implored Minaeve. “Morrigan isala ma halani”.
“Ma tel'halani”, hissed Ellana. She looked Minaeve in the eye. She found neither sympathy nor compassion reflected in those dark irises. Minaeve was unconcerned if Morrigan lived or died. She was bound by duty not by choice.
This was not an issue of morality.
It was about repayment.
Ellana saw through Minaeve's nonchalance. “Ma nuvenin ar na'din Morrigan”, she stated. “Because you owe her a life-debt”. Ellana was unswayed when Minaeve nodded. Her silent acquiescence was not a convincing reason to commit murder.
Ellana's response did not please Hawen or Abelas.
“That score”, she said gravely. “Is yours to settle”.
Ellana weathered the storm of their protests.
“ You cannot refuse !” roared Hawen. “ You are the only somniari outside New Arlathan !”
“ Morrigan is shemlen not elvhen !” bellowed Abelas. “ She cannot endure the passage of time as we do !”
Ellana ignored their angry tirades. She shared a brief moment of understanding with Minaeve. A nod of acceptance was exchanged between them. Ellana reached for the cup at her feet. She ignored the round of startled gasps and inevitable questions.
“ What are you doing ?” demanded Hawen.
“ Ellana !” cried Abelas. “ Think before you dispose of the contents of that cup !”
Hawen and her lover had assumed the worst.
They did not believe Ellana would comply.
Minaeve knew the truth.
Ellana would not turn her back on her friends.
“I hope you have a contingency plan”, warned Ellana. “Because when Fen'Harel finds out what you've done. He'll be coming for blood”.
“We are prepared”, Minaeve assured her.
Ellana snorted as she raised the cup. “You'd better be”, she replied frankly. “He's too smitten to consider killing me, but you and Hawen are fair game”. Ellana saluted Minaeve before opening her mouth. She tilted her head back, pressing the cup to her lips. She grimaced as she swallowed.
The sleeping draught was horribly bitter.
Five mouthfuls later and the cup was empty.
A hush descended upon the hut.
Hawen and Abelas stared at Ellana.
She had drunk willingly.
Minaeve leaned forward. She offered her empty hands. She received the cup when Ellana relinquished it. Minaeve gently grasped her wrist before she could pull away. She squeezed gently to convey the gratitude she could not feel.
“Ma serannas ma falon”, said Minaeve.
Ellana's nod of acceptance was brief. Her eyes rolled into her head till the whites showed. She toppled backward onto Abelas. He caught her with a surprised grunt. The halla-horn comb fell to the floor.
The sleeping draught's effect was immediate.
Ellana's exhaustion doubled the potency. Strong arms enfolded her when she yawned. Ellana knew she was safe. She smiled when a worried face came into view. Abelas pillowed her head upon his shoulder.
He peered at her concernedly, his calloused hand cupping her cheek.
“Ir abelas ma da'assan”, he apologised. “Ar tel'ghilani ma vir theneras”.
Ellana turned her face into his palm. She kissed his wrist as fatigue bled into her limbs. She felt more sluggish by the moment. “Atisha ma da'mi”, Ellana reassured him. “Ma elgar'falon ghilana ma Setheneran”.
“Ma souveri”, advised Abelas. “Ma ghilas ma da'assan”.
Minaeve was intrigued by what she saw. She did not feel emotion, but she could appreciate its effect on other people. Abelas's concern for Ellana was natural. They were lovers. Minaeve wondered how Hawen would have reacted if she were capable of reciprocating his feelings.
“Dareth shiral”, murmured Minaeve.
Ellana nodded wearily as her eyelids closed. She relaxed into Abelas's arms, sleep taking hold. Her chest rose and fell in perfect harmony with the beating of her heart. Abelas looked across the hut. He saw Hawen's furrowed brows, the confusion plain upon his face.
“She said a spirit would guide her”, he stated. “Who did she mean?”
Abelas looked upon the slumbering face of his beloved. He knew of whom Hawen spoke. Ellana had spent the past five hundred years consorting with other spirits like Cole. None were as kind or patient as the spirit who walked the paths of the Setheneran. Abelas was grateful that Ellana had such a considerate friend.
She had too few allies in the waking world.
To have one unlooked-for, inside the realm of dreams, gave her another circle of protection.
Fen'Harel was not the only Dreamer in existence.
Ellana was somniari too.
“Many years ago, Ellana befriended a Spirit of Wisdom”, explained Abelas. “That Spirit has guided her ever-since, as a mother would a child, along the Vir Thenerasan”.
“The Way of the Dreamer!” gasped Hawen. “But that knowledge has been lost for centuries!”
“To ordinary elves. Yes. We do not share that rare and powerful gift”, confirmed Abelas. “But for those like Ellana, instruction is needed. She refused to turn to Fen'Harel for guidance, so she sought another teacher. The Spirit of Wisdom, sensing that need, found her wandering the Setheneran”.
Abelas kissed Ellana's brow as he eased her down onto their shared bedroll. A pillow was slipped beneath her head. The bear-pelt was draped over her from chin to toe. Abelas settled in beside her for the night. He would guard her till she awoke.
“The Spirit offered to teach her”, said Abelas. “Ellana accepted and they have been together ever since”.
Minaeve's insight unnerved Hawen. “Fen'Harel had a friend”, she told him. “Who was also a Spirit of Wisdom”. Minaeve regarded the sleeping woman beside Abelas. She wondered if Ellana shared more in common with the Dread Wolf than she'd dare admit.
“Could Ellana's tutor be the same entity?”
Hawen glanced at Abelas. His eyes widened when the sentinel shrugged. The nonchalant roll of his shoulders revealed his ignorance. Abelas did not know for certain. He was not somniari.
He could not walk the Setheneran as Ellana did.
“Fen'Harel's friend was corrupted by shemlen mages”, said Abelas. “Ellana helped to free her, but the damage was done. She wished for death. Fen'Harel obliged. Ellana was present when it happened, that is all I know”.
Hawen frowned. “Could that Spirit”, he suggested. “Have been reborn?” He nodded to the slumbering dalish elf. “Could she have been drawn to Ellana?”
“It is possible”, agreed Abelas. “Spirits do not die as we do. Nor are they born as we are”. He tenderly stroked Ellana's cheek. “Perhaps that Spirit recognised something familiar in her. Perhaps that is why she offered to instruct her”.
“It would be comforting to think so”, remarked Hawen.
“Comforting but dangerous”, cautioned Abelas. “No matter involving a Spirit is ever simple”.
“The weak can be overwhelmed”, asserted Minaeve.
“The strong corrupted”, offered Hawen.
Abelas nodded. “And then we have maleficar”.
Hawen grimaced. “Is Ellana at risk?”
“You should have thought of that before you came here”, reproved Abelas. He watched his beloved sleep. Her expression was calm. Her breathing even. “We will know when Ellana awakens, if your scheming has come to fruition”.
Elvish and Tevene Translations: Courtesy of the Dragon Age Wiki – Elven Language.
Fenedhis - An elven curse, likely translated to 'wolf crap' or similar.
Fen'Harel – The Dread Wolf aka Solas.
Ar vallem ma dar athim – I bid you to show humility.
Morrigan isala ma halani– Morrigan is in need of your help.
Ma tel'halani – You're not asking for help.
Ma nuvenin ar na'din Morrigan – You want me to kill Morrigan.
Somniari – Tevene for Dreamer.
Ma serannas ma falon – My thanks, my friend.
Ir abelas ma da'assan – I am sorry, my little arrow .
Ar tel'ghilani ma vir theneras – I cannot guide you on the path of dreams.
Atisha ma da'mi – Peace, my little blade.
Ma elgar'falon ghilana ma Setheneran – My spirit-friend will guide me through the Land of Waking Dreams – aka the Fade.
Ma souveri – You are weary.
Ma ghilas ma da'assan – You should go , my little arrow.
Dareth shiral – Safe journey.
Vir Thenerasan – The Way of the Dreamer.
Shemlen – Quick children – The elven name for Humans.
Chapter 5: A Sliver Of A Being
Warning: This chapter contains the deaths of two canon characters. Discretion is advised.
Ellana meets an old acquaintance in the Fade, and strikes a bargain to save someone she loves, that will change the course of her life.
Ellana awoke inside a familiar place. The Setheneran, subject to her will, had replicated the quarters she'd had as Inquisitor. Ellana recognised the stone walls, high ceiling, and the stained glass windows. She looked passed the burning hearth to the open doors leading to the balcony. Ellana knew those snowcapped mountains and jagged peaks intimately.
“Ironic that I would find myself here again”, she told herself. “So much for moving forward with my life”.
It was an illusion, but it was still real for Ellana.
The plush Orlesian bed with its brocade coverlet was as luxurious as she remembered. Ellana recalled the nights she'd spent tossing and turning beneath it. Her life as the Inquisitor had never been easy. She glanced around the room. She was melancholic when she saw four familiar things.
The candelabra, with branches and points like a Halla's antlers, housed myriad burning candles. The hardwood bookshelves, lining one wall, held books of every shape, size, and colour. The desk, where she'd pored over missives, overflowed with paper, quills, and inkwells. Ellana recognised the lute she'd never played still leaning on its stand. The strings were untouched and the tuning pegs unturned.
Her memories of Skyhold (before the tearing of the Veil) were pristine.
Ellana's melancholy abated when she heard a delighted giggle. She could not be unhappy when her friend was near. The Spirit of Wisdom missed her when she was away during the day. Ellana looked across the room to the couch beside the stairwell. She smiled when she saw an elven child with bright eyes, rosy cheeks, and shaggy black curls.
She bounced like an exuberant puppy. She was ecstatic to have company again. The Setheneran was a lonely place when you were the only spirit around under five centuries old. Ellana laughed when her friend bubbled with enthusiasm. She was overjoyed to see her again.
“Ellana! Andaran atish'an!”
“Aneth ara, Taren”.
Ellana braced herself when the spirit-child leapt off the couch. She hit the ground running, her bare toes skidding across the carpet. Her green skirts, embroidered with silver thread, billowed around her like a cloud. She barrelled into Ellana's legs with the elegance of a charging druffalo. She nearly knocked her elven friend off her feet.
“Taren!” reproved Ellana.
She stumbled, arms pin-wheeling to keep her balance. The Setheneran was not bound by the laws governing the waking world. Ellana did not fall to the floor, nor did she skin her knees, or awkwardly twist an ankle. She slipped through the carpeted stone as easily as water through sand. Taren took her on a bewildering short-cut to the throne-room two stories down.
Ellana gulped when she dropped like a stone. The floor disappeared out from under her feet. Her fear of falling from a great height resurfaced with a vengeance. She watched their descent, lest the Setheneran shape itself to reflect her dread. Ellana heard Taren's gentle guidance as they slid between floorboards overlaid on mortared stone.
“Good”, said Taren. “Stay calm, Ellana. Nothing can hurt you here unless you want it too”.
“Is this another one of your lessons?” asked Ellana.
Taren snorted. “Naturally! Someone has to keep you on your toes!”
The spirit giggled as they passed through a layer of roughly hewn stone. The bricks were disproportionate by size, but perfectly distributed. The thick slabs of mortar in every nook and cranny firmly cemented one to another until the fit was tight. Ellana appreciated the ingeniousness of the design. The upper floor housing her quarters was supported by a framework of wooden beams.
The entire structure was fixed to the stone foundations by wooden pegs and steel pins.
“It's beautiful”, Ellana mused aloud. “Especially when the real Skyhold was likely built without magic”. Ellana combed her fingers through Taren's thick curls. “Can you imagine organising the workforce and resources to build a fortress this large?” Ellana's appreciative whistle made Taren smile.
She had forgotten to be afraid.
Ellana was in awe of the majesty of her memory.
Tarasyl'an Tel'as would always be her home.
“It would have been incredibly difficult”, proposed Ellana. “Not to mention expensive”.
Taren fondly rubbed a rosy cheek on her kneecap. She hugged Ellana tight around the shins. It was nice to spend time with her again. Ellana was gone more often than she liked. The waking world, and its many responsibilities, kept her firmly grounded in the present.
“It could be even more beautiful”, suggested Taren. “If you stayed here with me instead of going back”.
Ellana's reverence for the foundations of Skyhold evaporated. She settled light as a feather on the stairwell spiralling downward from her quarters. The second story landing was over their heads. The door to the great hall stood beyond them. Its hinges shone like polished silver.
The hardwood panels gleamed as if newly waxed.
Ellana saw her face reflected in that shining wood as if it were the surface of a mirror.
“You would be so much happier!” gushed Taren. “There is no grief or death or pain here!” She dug her fingers into Ellana's leggings. The soft suede, the colour of newly turned earth, pulled uncomfortably tight. Taren implored her friend to remain by her side.
“You wouldn't have to see that horrible harellan again!”
Ellana sighed. Taren always asked for the same thing each time she entered the Setheneran. The Spirit of Wisdom had a kind and gentle heart. She loathed seeing Ellana so disconsolate when she returned to the waking world. It was better, in her mind, if the Dreamer stayed where she was safest.
Inside the wellspring of her magic and the cocoon of her memories.
“The Setheneran can become anything you want!” wheedled Taren. “You have the power, like all Somniari, to shape it to your will! Think of it, Ellana!” Taren beamed, teeth flashing white in her rosy-cheeked face. “You could build a New Arlathan here! And make it fairer than anything ever seen in the waking world!”
Taren's excitement dimmed like a guttering candle-flame. Her mouth turned down unhappily when Ellana's expression softened. Her friend's sadness smelt like brine and tasted like ash. Taren hated the salty sting that prickled in the corners of her eyes.
Spirits didn't know the touch of grief, but in befriending Ellana she'd learnt to cry.
“You know I can't do that”.
Taren sniffled. The tears trickled down her chubby cheeks. She peered at Ellana through tear-wet lashes. The smell of the sea lingered in her nose and mouth. She was miserable when she asked that heartbreaking question.
“Taren”, pleaded Ellana. She had denied her a thousand times over the past five centuries and still the Spirit begged. “If I stayed here with you”, reasoned Ellana. “I would die out there in the real world. My body can't survive without sustenance. And I don't know the ritual to enter Uthenera”.
“I could find out for you!” assured Taren. A swift nod revealed her eagerness. “Your sentinel knows! The harellan does too!” Taren grasped Ellana's left hand and squeezed her fingers tight.
Only in the Setheneran was she whole of mind and body.
She didn't need a prosthetic arm here.
“I'm a Spirit of Wisdom!” urged Taren. “I could pick their thoughts apart! I could find the spell inside their memories! I would do it for you, Ellana! All you have to do is ask!”
Ellana's smile was sad. She tenderly cupped Taren's cheek. “Ma da'lath”, she soothed. “That would pervert your nature and turn you against your purpose”. Ellana shook her head. “I could not do that to you”.
“But I want you to stay!” sobbed Taren. “It's so lonely here without you!”
Ellana's knees bent and her long legs folded. She sank to the floor before the weeping spirit. It was her own fault. Taren had taken the form of the dearest and most desperate wish lurking in the darkest corner of her heart. The Spirit of Wisdom was the embodiment of the child she'd wanted to have with Solas.
Black-haired, grey-eyed, and rosy-cheeked. Taren was Solas's double in miniature. She would have been beautiful as a babe. Small and fair with a dusting of black hair on her crown, deep lungs, and a voice loud enough to crack glass. Ellana had once imagined such a child cradled in Solas's arms.
She would have been the first piece of a non-existent family.
“I know, ma da'lath”, said Ellana. She wiped away Taren's tears. “I know”.
Ellana was startled when Taren made a suggestion.
The Spirit had never (in five hundred years) ever come to this conclusion.
“If you can't stay here with me”, babbled Taren. She looked pleadingly at Ellana. “Then take me with you when you return”.
Ellana's mouth was agape. Her eyes were wide and incredulous. She couldn't believe what her friend was asking. Taren had always existed inside the winding paths of the Setheneran. She had no place outside of it or within the confines of the waking world.
The Setheneran had always been her home.
She was a houseless spirit.
Ellana didn't know what to do.
“I can't!” cried Ellana. “I don't know how!”
“But you do!” insisted Taren.
“You're not like Cole!” argued Ellana. “He believed himself into being! I know you're not strong enough to do that!”
“I don't need to be!” countered Taren. “There's an easier way!”
Ellana stared at her friend. The little girl, not more than eight years old, had been her constant companion for half a millennium. She did not want to lose her. Taren was as much a part of her life as Abelas. To have one without the other was unthinkable.
“How?” asked Ellana. She gasped when a small hand pressed against her belly. She spied the four short fingers, a delicate thumb, and a soft palm placed over her womb. Ellana glanced at the distraught elven child. She slowly shook her head.
“I know what I'm asking for”, said Taren. “And I know it's unfair”. She pouted. “But I can't exist outside your dreams without him, Ellana”. She patted the dalish elf's leather-clad belly.
“I became the child you wanted, but never had”, said Taren. “Because it eased your pain and made the teaching easier”. The spirit sighed as Ellana cupped her face between calloused palms. The melancholy returned and the stone walls, floor, and ceiling overhead grew dark. The light dimmed and the shadows rolled in.
“I guided you through the Setheneran because you trusted me”, explained Taren. “Now I want to be with you, always, because I love you”.
Their roles had been reversed.
Ellana gaped at the Spirit of Wisdom. She understood Taren's plea with sudden clarity. She had never thought that it would be possible. They had been together for centuries. Ellana had believed that her friend and teacher would always be within easy reach.
Ellana's expression was pained. The realisation startling. Her hands slid down Taren's round cheeks to her shoulders. She took one shaky breath and pulled the spirit close. Ellana embraced her tight, afraid to let go lest she disappear.
“You can't leave me!” exclaimed Ellana. “Please! I've lost so much! I don't want to lose you too!”
Taren tucked her crown beneath her student's chin. She patted Ellana's shoulder, knowing how much this hurt. The heart thrumming beneath her ear was steady and constant like the beating of a drum. Ellana was stronger than she believed herself to be. Taren knew that she would survive the separation, though it would wound her grievously.
“You don't need me for lessons or guidance any more”, whispered Taren. “You have mastered the Vir Thenerasan”. Taren slipped her arms around Ellana's waist. She gladly returned her affection. “I have nothing more to teach you”, admitted Taren.
“Except perhaps”, advised a deeper, wiser, and more venerable voice. “The lesson of mercy”.
The walls changed from grey to pristine silver-white. The stairs turned from mortared brick to cobbled stone. The form Ellana cradled shifted shape. Black curls grew long and lustrous. The hair bleached white from root to silken tip as it cascaded over broad shoulders.
Child-like eyes, full of innocence, flashed gold in the darkness.
“So we meet again”.
Ellana trembled. She recognised that velvety timbre. She eased away from the person in her arms. Her hands slid over studded leather trimmed in black feathers. Ellana felt the cold kiss of steel against her cheek.
The keen edge cut her skin like a blade.
Blood dribbled down her chin.
“Asha'belannar”, whispered Ellana.
“Yes, child”, said Flemeth.
Ellana's arms dropped to her sides. She sank onto the cold stone floor. Skyhold had disappeared. She glimpsed candelabra burning with blue-red magefire. Iron-wrought torches were sunk into pale marble walls. The mosaic beneath her feet housed an intricate web of enchantment.
The tiles laid in concentric circles were engraved with a single rune.
Ellana recognised the bite of the magic charged into each rune. It was as wild and untamed as the mage who had built the foundations of New Arlathan. Ellana was afraid, not for herself, but for poor Taren trapped inside this tug of war. Her gaze was fixed upon the Witch of the Wilds, who crouched like a cat ready to pounce. Ellana froze when a gauntleted hand, clad in steel, wiped the blood from her cheek.
“Atisha da'len”, soothed Flemeth. “I am here to bargain not to hurt you”.
“A bit late for that isn't it?” hissed Ellana. “You cut me”. She jerked away from Flemeth's touch. She was too proud to shrink like a coward. Ellana had a backbone of steel. Her bravery pleased Flemeth.
“An accident”, said Flemeth. She tapped her bloodied crown with a gauntleted finger. The tip was a sharp silverite talon. “I am unaccustomed to restraint”, explained Flemeth. “I am a mere shadow of what I was, but I had strength enough to lure you here. And to lock away someone dearest to you”.
“Taren!” snarled Ellana. “Where is she?”
Flemeth smiled. The horns protruding from her white hair, made her appear more devilish than angelic. This was not a being that bent to another's will. She could be kind and cruel. Asha'belannar was as famed for her wisdom as she was for her wrath.
“Your elgar'len is safe”, she assured.
“Give her back!” demanded Ellana.
“I will”, promised Flemeth. “If you do something for me in return”.
Ellana heard the moaning. The sound was wordless, but full of agony. She was anxious when Flemeth glanced over her shoulder. The grave nod to the gleaming barrier, glistening like transparent glass, revealed her desire. Ellana rolled onto her knees and shuffled across the floor.
Flemeth's regard was sombre.
“My daughter has endured her guilt for long enough”.
Ellana was on her feet before another word was spoken. Flemeth saw her charge across the room. She was unsurprised by Ellana's attachment to Morrigan. The girl collected friends like stray cats. She was kind-hearted despite the grief she bore like a yoke around her neck.
She had survived tragedy without breaking.
Flemeth was certain that her choice was right. Only Ellana could do what needed to be done. The Dread Wolf had torn the world asunder. Someone had to heal the hurts his pride had inflicted. Thousands of crippled survivors needed more than guidance.
They needed someone to believe in.
Ellana sank to her knees beside the barrier. She saw the shrivelled body, the wrinkled face, and the protruding bones. The snow-white hair was lank. The sagging skin mottled with age. Ellana watched the rise and fall of a skeletal chest clothed in tattered purple rags.
“Morrigan!” screamed Ellana.
She slammed her fist into the barrier. The magic sparked like flame set to tinder. The barrier neither cracked nor shattered like a mirror. It remained intact, though the runes engraved into the stones beneath it flickered. A second blow caused one rune, glowing lyrium-blue, to extinguish as if it were a flame doused by water.
“Morrigan! Please!” implored Ellana.
Flemeth walked the periphery. She spied the effect Ellana's desperation had on the runes anchoring the wards. The Setheneran shaped itself to exert her will over Morrigan's prison. The intensity of her desire, fuelled by guilt, raged like an inferno. The Setheneran made itself into the bludgeon Ellana required.
She was breaking the binding by sheer force of will.
“Incredible”, murmured Flemeth. She paused when a name was whispered inside the barrier. The voice was drier than parched sand. Flemeth had wondered if her youngest would muster the strength to respond. Morrigan had always been sensitive to the eddies and undercurrents of magic in the Fade.
Flemeth was glad to see her roused out of her stupor.
Her daughter hadn't shown such liveliness in centuries.
Ellana braced her hands upon the barrier. She peered through it to the figure laying supine on the cobbled floor. The tears fell like rain. Ellana was horrified by what she saw. Poor Morrigan, aged and ailing, was imprisoned inside a binding spell just like Erasthenes.
“I'm here!” called Ellana.
Flemeth smirked. “So my Morrigan has ears after all”.
The name was repeated.
“Morrigan! I'm here!” bellowed Ellana.
She banged on the barrier.
A second rune went out.
“Ellana”, croaked Morrigan. “You must forgive me”.
Eyes the colour of gold sovereigns rolled beneath wizened lids. Morrigan was caught halfway between waking and sleeping. Ellana's cries sounded hollow and distant in her ears, despite the dalish elf's nearness. Morrigan was too weary to fully rouse from her dreams, though she spoke in a delirium, as if Ellana were a ghost.
“I did not want to do it”, wheezed Morrigan. “But I had no control over my actions. The voices crashed like thunder. I was deafened by their pain. I could only react like a bewildered beast in the eye of a hurricane”.
Her confusion was telling to Flemeth.
“Abelas was wise to withhold that knowledge”, she said. “Until you were ready to hear it”.
Ellana found Flemeth's insight offensive. She was aware of her lover's oath to Mythal. Now she wondered if he had stayed with her, all these years, because he'd been commanded to do so. The irony made her feel sick inside. He had admitted that his presence in Skyhold, after the Veil was torn, had been at Morrigan's behest.
Ellana wondered how much of Abelas's feelings were genuine.
“He lied to me”, she whispered. “Just like Solas”.
“Abelas lied to protect you”, countered Flemeth. “Solas lied to protect himself”.
Ellana wasn't so sure. Her pained expression revealed the emotional turmoil inside.
“They are not alike in heart or mind, child”, reassured Flemeth. “My sentinel would be insulted by the comparison”.
Ellana rolled her eyes. Flemeth knew those sworn to her service well. Abelas was too honourable to consider himself the same as Solas. The sentinel respected the Dread Wolf, but he did not trust him. At times, reflected Ellana, Abelas tolerated his presence.
“You're right”, admitted Ellana. “Abelas would be offended on principle”.
“He would indeed”, agreed Flemeth. She nodded to her whimpering daughter. “Now I would have you listen to her ravings”, she advised. “My Morrigan is old, but she is not mad. Time has ravaged her body not her wits. She has carried this sorrow throughout the centuries”.
Flemeth regarded Ellana expectantly. “I would have her die free of regret, even if it will cause you agony to learn the truth”.
Ellana shook her head in disbelief. The withered old woman, weeping inside the barrier, couldn't want to divulge so dark a secret. No one willingly courted suffering. Ellana's brows furrowed. She didn't understand, though she wanted too.
“What did you do?” asked Ellana.
Morrigan cringed like a chastised child. Her voice was thick with contrition. Her breath hitched as if she feared the judgement of an angered parent. She implored Ellana for forgiveness. She confessed with a heavy heart.
“The wolf howled. The Veil was torn”, confided Morrigan. She shuddered, bones creaking, as she admitted her crime. “And the voices of the Vir'abelasan screamed”. Tears leaked from her eyes. She had guarded this knowledge for five centuries.
“They were so loud. So full of anguish”, keened Morrigan. “I could not shut them out. They wailed like lost souls. Their grief enraged me”.
“What did you do?” hissed Ellana.
The compassion was gone.
Ellana wanted an explanation.
“Tell her”, urged Flemeth.
Morrigan hiccuped. Her lower-lip wobbled. Her composure crumbled in a deluge of tears. Her fragile frame, shrivelled to the bone, shuddered as if she were afraid. The answer was not what Ellana expected.
“I fell on Skyhold with a dragon's fury”, confessed Morrigan. “I knew not what I had done until the fortress was a pile of ash and dead embers”.
Ellana's shocked silence spoke volumes. She stared at the withered old woman imploring her for forgiveness. Morrigan's bone-rattling sobs did not inspire sympathy. Ellana was strangely numb. Morrigan had been imprisoned with her shame for five centuries.
How could Ellana justify her anger?
“A witch in the skin of a dragon”, murmured Ellana. “Burned my home to the ground”. Ellana exhaled a lungful of mist. The temperature dropped by several degrees. She blinked and the icy residue of frozen tears clung to her lashes.
“Forgive me”, implored Morrigan. “Please! I can not go to my grave knowing you hate me!”
Morrigan had not told an untruth. The Setheneran, a place of dreams, like a mirror reflected the hopes, fears, and desires of the living. Illusions could be deceiving. Emotions could not. Ellana sensed the depth of Morrigan's remorse.
Iron-wrought braziers and candelabra iced over. The torches and candles lit by magefire went out with a hiss, plunging the room into darkness. The cobblestones under Ellana's knees grew slick with sleet. Their glowing runes were the only source of light. Morrigan's sobs were wretched. Her thin chest and shoulders rattled like desiccated bone.
“Do the voices still whisper?” asked Ellana.
Morrigan nodded feebly.
Ellana considered the choice she'd made in the Temple of Mythal. She had declined to drink from the Well of Sorrows. Morrigan had taken her place. The act had bound her to the will of Mythal. Morrigan had never suspected that deity would be her own mother.
The legendary Witch of the Wilds.
Ellana gestured helplessly to frail Morrigan. “Her suffering is my fault”, she told Flemeth. “As is the destruction of Skyhold”. Ellana hung her head. Her pride, like her heart, was bruised and battered.
“I refused to drink from the Well. Morrigan took my place. Solas tore the Veil and awoke the voices in the Well. Their hysteria drove a shape-changed dragon into a rage. Morrigan destroyed Skyhold by accident. All my friends, allies, and followers died in the conflagration”.
Ellana's voice cracked. “Did you bring me here to humble me?”
Flemeth found her contrition amusing.
“You are such a bleeding heart, child. It is sweet if misguided. You are not to blame for Morrigan's decision to drink from the Vir'abelasan. She did so willingly, lest I remind you, without heeding my sentinel's warning. She bound herself into my service without your help”.
Flemeth laughed. “Ah”, she teased. “So you do know what humility is”.
Ellana thought on what Abelas had said. All sworn to the service of Mythal were elvhen. All who had drunk from the Vir'abelasan in the past were elvhen. Morrigan was the first and last shemlen to bear the weight of their devotion to a dead goddess. She'd had the thirst and the will, but not the resilience of their people.
Time had worn down her resolve.
She was not a mountain, but a pebble ground smooth.
Flemeth heard Ellana's relieved sigh. Perhaps the girl needed a little motivation. The barrier had to be dispelled for Morrigan to be freed. Solas would not appreciate her intervention, but action was necessary.Time was running out.
New Arlathan was not the promised land. Many elvhen prospered, whilst others were trapped just like Morrigan, inside its ivory walls. Solas was too mired in the past to plan for the future. History was destined to repeat. Flemeth foresaw war on the horizon.
The Dread Wolf's nostalgia would doom them all.
Flemeth considered his beloved. Ellana's face was pressed against the barrier. Her tears clung to her lashes in silver-white icicles. Her cheeks glittered with a dusting of salt. Flemeth had heard Morrigan beg Ellana for mercy as she had begged the Evanuris.
Flemeth remembered the corpses, piled beside her own, upon her funeral pyre.
The Dread Wolf's vengeance had come too late.
Flemeth circled Ellana like a hunting dragon. Her golden eyes glinted. Her silverite claws were bared. What compassion she'd possessed had burned to ashes. Now only bitterness remained. She was avenged and her people endured, but too many were lost and living without purpose.
Flemeth was unsurprised when Ellana spoke to her.
The girl had always been sharp.
“This was never about Morrigan”, she told the Witch of the Wilds. “It was about you”. She turned on Flemeth with a snarl. “Minaeve said I was entangled in your web”. Ellana regarded the last surviving member of the Evanuris.
“She was right”.
Flemeth's cheeks dimpled. She grinned like a predator, teeth bared to the gum, and eyes shining. She neither confirmed nor denied Ellana's accusation. Her silence was telling. She cackled when Ellana revealed her deception.
“Did you possess Morrigan's body before or after she razed Skyhold?”
“During”, corrected Flemeth. “The voices of the Vir'abelasan were reinvigorated by the tearing of the Veil. Their reawakening heralded Morrigan's end. She is not elvhen. She could not endure the storm of their discontent”.
“They overwhelmed her”, deduced Ellana.
“Yes”, confirmed Flemeth. “And she was crushed by the weight of their memories”.
Ellana looked through the barrier. She braced her hands on its transparent surface. It was solid like a dome fashioned from the purest crystal. She considered the figure lying on the icy floor inside.Morrigan had ceased to cry, but she continued to sniffle like an upset child.
“The battle that ensued for the possession of her body”, declared Flemeth. “Raged in the skies over Tarasyl'an Te'las”.
“Before descending upon the fortress”, finished Ellana. The stingof Morrigan's betrayal was like salt rubbed into an open wound. Ellana looked on the old woman blubbering like an infant. She was trapped inside a prisonof her own making.
“You subdued her”, said Ellana.
“With help”, acknowledged Flemeth. “From an old friend”.
“Solas”, guessed Ellana. She scowled. “He created the Veil”, she stated. “Replicating the spell Corypheus used to bind Erasthenes, would be easy for him to do”. Ellana groaned.
She saw the game for what it was.
The puzzle pieces fell into place.
“He imprisoned Morrigan to keep you alive”.
“You know his greatest weakness”, said Flemeth. “Is it so surprising that he would do all that he could to keep me close?”
Ellana was aware of the Dread Wolf's darkest fear. She had seen the gravestone in the Fade. She grimaced. She did not want to feel compassion for him. Ellana distracted herself by asking a frank question.
“Did you lure me here to possess me?”
“No”, replied Flemeth. “As I said. I brought you here to bargain”.
Ellana tensed when gauntleted knuckles caressed her cheek. The gesture was more sinister than maternal. She trembled. The blessing of Mythal was double-edged. Ellana doubted she would survive the second cut.
“What are your terms?”
“The barrier was created by a somniari”, said Flemeth. “It can only be broken by a somniari”. She stroked Ellana's temple with a gauntleted thumb. “Do this for me”, offered Flemeth. “And I will return your elgar'len”.
Ellana frowned. “That's too simple a request. You are Mythal, the mother-goddess of my people. Deity or Evanuris. What you ask isn't the only thing you want from me”.
“Such a smart girl”, praised Flemeth. “So polite too, unlike my Morrigan”. Flemeth tucked a loose strand of hair behind Ellana's pointed ear. She extended a silverite talon. She tapped on the barrier enclosing her elderly daughter.
The magic rippled like waves in a pond.
Flemeth was the spider at the centre of an intricate web.
Ellana was ensnared as surely as Morrigan.
“You will not become the martyr I was”, avowed Flemeth. “You will lead with a fist of fire, a heart of steel, and fly with wings fashioned from dragon-scale”. She smirked when Ellana gasped. She was amused by the dalish elf's fright. Flemeth chortled.
“Morrigan carries the last fragment of what was Mythal”, she explained. “When you free her, my dear girl, you will become my last living heir”.
“You said you wouldn't possess me!” asserted Ellana.
“I will not”, assured Flemeth. “I am a remnant, a sliver of a being, a feather cast upon the wind. I will cease to exist. You will become more than what you are. And you will have the strength to endure the aeons. You will no longer fear the burden of time”.
Ellana exhaled shakily. “What if I refuse?”
“You will not”, countered Flemeth.
“How can you be so sure?”
The Witch of the Wilds laughed. “You are shackled by your love for your elgar'len. You would give up everything to see her again. That is why you will not refuse”. Flemeth gestured to the barrier incarcerating her last-born child.
“Now that you know what Morrigan has done”, she told Ellana. “Will you be cruel or merciful?”
Ellana's eyes narrowed. She did not abandon her friends. She forgave them, even if someone as fallible as Morrigan, had fallen on the sword of her own arrogance. Five centuries of suffering, decided Ellana, was penance enough. She placed her hand on the barrier, focusing her will as Taren had taught her.
She channelled her magic into the anchoring wards.
“I am not Solas!” snarled Ellana.
Rage replaced sorrow. Hope crushed despair. Ellana was tired of being broken inside. She wanted a new purpose to direct the course of her life. Eternity was too long a time to spend wallowing in regret.
“I accept”, agreed Ellana.
The bargain was struck.
“Excellent”, crowed Flemeth. She was pleased when the barrier thrummed like a beating heart. Its transparent surface glowed red, then blue, then white. The runes carved into a circle of concentric stones, pulsed an electric lyrium-blue. Flemeth watched them extinguish, one after another, like hot coals smothered by a lack of air.
She was delighted when the stones split in two. The barrier crackled like lightning before it vanished. Flemeth was satisfied when Morrigan stirred. Wrinkled lids opened to reveal weary golden eyes. Her daughter's startled gasp made her smile beatifically. Flemeth addressed Morrigan as her body disintegrated into ash.
“Farewell, my child. Do not fear. Your time of suffering is over. You will see Kieran again. It is time to go home”.
“Home”, reiterated Morrigan. “I would like that, mother”.
“As would I”, said Flemeth.
Ellana heard Morrigan's relieved sigh.
“Ma serannas, Ellana”, she called, her voice growing fainter by the moment.
“Dareth shiral ma falon”, whispered Ellana.
“So it ends”, concluded Flemeth. She acknowledged Ellana with a smile as she faded from existence. The studded leather she wore turned from blood-red to ash-grey. The black feathers adorning her shoulders frayed like tattered cloth. Her gauntleted hands dulled like tarnished steel.
“Wait!” demanded Ellana. “You promised to return, Taren!”
Flemeth arched a snow-white brow. She leered at Ellana's belly. “Your elgar'len is where she belongs”. She smiled when Ellana blushed. Flemeth was amused by her embarrassment.
“Only you can decide”, she advised as she dissolved into a pillar of smoke. “If she will be born or not”.
Flemeth disappeared, leaving Ellana alone. The marble chamber was empty. The light dim. Ellana took a deep fortifying breath when she heard the wolf's howl. The lupine wail shook the walls, cracked the cobblestone floor, and relit the braziers.
Fire exploded around Ellana. The ice of her fury and Morrigan's despair melted. She was soon surrounded by pools of steaming water. The howl escalated in volume. Ellana listened to the thunderous roar of the Dread Wolf's lamentation.
She was unafraid when a shadow crept into the chamber. Ellana saw stocky fore and hind legs covered in black fur. She recognised the pointed ears and long snout with its glistening nose. Black lips peeled back from a muzzle full of jagged teeth. Ellana was unimpressed when he snarled.
The multitude of baleful red eyes focused upon her with unerring accuracy.
“I've faced demons, maleficar, and dragons”, goaded Ellana. “Did you honestly believe I would be afraid of you?”
The Dread Wolf circled.
Ellana rolled her eyes. She smacked the black snout that nudged her leg. The startled yelp satisfied her sense of propriety. She was unsympathetic when the Dread Wolf's fur smoked. She had scorched him with a spark of fire-magic.
“Mind your manners”, reproved Ellana. “Or I'll do worse than singe your whiskers”.
Her eyes glinted like gold sovereigns in the firelight. She clucked her tongue when the Dread Wolf whined. His tongue lolled from his formidable jaws. He was adorably confused by the change in her attitude. She hadn't attacked him nor was she spewing vitriol.
Fen'Harel was unnerved.
His mournful howling ceased.
Ellana snorted. “Now that I think about it”, she told him. “You're not worth killing”. Ellana reflected on their most recent confrontation. “I have far better things to do with my time than plot ways to spill your blood”.
Elvish and Tevene Translations: Courtesy of the Dragon Age Wiki – Elven Language.
Setheneran – The Land of Waking Dreams – aka the Fade .
Andaran atish'an – I dwell in this place of peace . A formal elven greeting.
Aneth ara – My safe place – A Dalish greeting.
Taren - Mind
Ma da'lath – My little love.
Harellan – Trickste r – aka Solas.
Vir Thenerasan – The Way of the Dreamer.
Asha'belannar –The Woman of Many Years – The Dalish name for Flemeth.
Atisha da'len – Peace, little one.
Elgar'len – Spirit-child.
Tarasyl'an Te'las – The Place Where the Sky is Kept – The elven name for Skyhold .
Somniari – Tevene for Dreamer.
Ma serannas – My thanks.
Dareth shiral ma falon – Safe journey, my friend.
Chapter 6: The Heir of Mythal
Contains temporary amnesia, the regrowing of a severed limb, sentinel elves, and a life-changing realisation.
Ellana awakens from her Fade-dream to discover that she is changed inside and out.
The bargain with Flemeth has unforeseen consequences.
Ellana awoke with a groan. The hut was quiet, though she heard the startled gasp of someone already awake. Her eyelids fluttered. Her brows furrowed. Ellana rubbed her aching temples.
It hurt to think. Her brain was aflame. Waking from her wanderings in the Setheneran, always gave her a throbbing headache. This one felt worse than usual.
Ellana opened an eye.
The world was blurry. The brightness of daylight, after hours of sleep, was almost unbearable. Ellana coughed. Her throat was parched. Her tongue drier than sun-baked stone.
She needed water.
Ellana started when the rim of a cup was pressed to her lips. She jerked at the contact, more surprised than alarmed. She tried to turn her face away, but a hand slid behind her head. Calloused fingers curled around the nape of her neck whilst a thumb grazed her cheek.
“Drink”, instructed a gentle voice.
Ellana was too groggy to identify the speaker, though she thought it might be a friend. Her chapped lips parted. Her tongue darted out to taste the contents of the cup. It was bland, but ice-cold, and tasted of crushed elfroot. Ellana was too thirsty to care if it was water or mulled wine.
She opened her mouth, complying with the request. She gagged on the first mouthful, her throat too tight and dry to swallow. Water dribbled down her chin. She coughed, chest heaving. Ellana panicked when the cup was withdrawn.
“Nae!” she croaked.
Ellana lunged forward in desperation. Her fingers locked around the person's wrist. She hung on, forcibly redirecting their hand. She opened her mouth again, lips closing around the rim of the cup. She tipped her head back, slurping greedily as she drained it dry.
Ellana nodded though she refused to release them. The voice was unfamiliar even if they spoke the same language. All elves and the spirits they interacted with knew Elvhen. Ellana blinked blearily as her eyes adjusted to the light. Her vision cleared and a face emerged decorated with vallaslin.
Ellana was more curious than afraid.
His markings were beautiful.
Ellana recognised the twining lines arching over his brows. She followed the pattern that flowed in a path of green along his temples. It curved beneath his eyes and ended upon his cheeks in a sharp point with three prongs. Ellana was reminded of the roots of a great tree. The double band upon the bridge of his nose was the trunk.
The plethora of twisting lines upon his forehead were its branches.
“You're an acolyte of Mythal”, croaked Ellana.
Her voice was hoarse. Her throat still dry. The cup of water had wetted her appetite, but hadn't filled the gaping chasm in her stomach. Ellana blushed when her belly rumbled. She was hungry.
“I am”, he confirmed.
Ellana was intrigued by the way he stared. The glinting of his amber eyes reminded her of an eagle surveying the land beneath its eyrie. He was handsome for an elven man, with a smooth brow, straight nose, and high cheekbones. His face was angular with hard edges, the squareness of his jaw gave him an air of confidence. The severe line of his mouth would soften, thought Ellana, if he were kissed.
She tittered at the thought. Water and food would serve her better. Her thirst would be quenched and her hunger satisfied. Ellana would have asked for both if a disappointed sigh hadn't stopped her cold. Mythal's acolyte pouted.
He looked so unhappy.
Ellana released his wrist. Her brows arched in sympathy when she touched his face. Her fingers curled around the swell of his cheek. Her palm cupped his jaw. He trembled like a frightened mouse.
Ellana saw the fear etched into every line of his fair elven face. The way he watched her, full of apprehension, made Ellana feel protective. She wanted to reassure him of her intentions. She did not mean him harm. Ellana smiled kindly.
“It's all right. You don't need to be afraid”.
“Do I not?” he countered. “You are changed”.
“Changed”, repeated Ellana.
Her furrowing brows revealed her confusion. She did not understand the nature of his remark. She was whole of mind and body as far as she knew. A glance downward made her aware of something unusual. Ellana examined her left arm.
It was bare to the skin, but silver-white as if it were made of steel rather than flesh, blood, and bone.
Ellana turned her wrist. She studied the fine overlapping scales upon her skin. The slight iridescence, like mother of pearl, reminded Ellana of a fish in a suit of mail. She looked at her palm and the five splayed fingers. She saw the mottled silver-grey scales covering every inch of naked skin.
Ellana flipped her hand over. She noticed the scales were larger, longer, and thicker than those on the underside. The hue was darker, more of a silver-blue tone than white. She saw faint banding, akin to the thick stripes on the hind-quarters of a bull Hart. Ellana flexed her knuckles, fingers bending.
She was unperturbed by the pointed tips of her nails.
“How odd”, said Ellana when she saw the black talons. “I have claws”.
“Do you not find it strange?” asked Mythal's acolyte.
Ellana thought his comment was stranger than her having claws. She shrugged her shoulders. Her nonchalance startled him. He gaped when she replied. He was confounded by her sincerity too.
“Why would I?”, countered Ellana. “It's my arm. It would be silly to be afraid of it”.
The incredulous expression upon his face made her frown. He must have thought her worse than foolish. Ellana rolled her eyes. Men in her experience too often thought women lacked enough wits to be intelligent. Ellana wondered if this man, with his pointed ears and vallaslin, was just as bigoted as the rest of his gender.
The way she glared provoked a reaction.
Ellana was surprised when he reddened. The heat in his cheeks coupled with the way he lowered his eyes showed his embarrassment. He avoided looking at her as if he were ashamed. Ellana was reminded of a child dreading the reprimand of an irritable parent. She hadn't meant to make him nervous.
“Ir abelas”, he apologised. “I did not mean to cause offence”.
“Well”, declared Ellana. “I'm not offended, just thirsty, hungry, and confused”.
“You are not offended”, reiterated Mythal's acolyte. “That is unexpected”.
He seemed unnerved by the lack of anger in her voice. He had braced himself, thought Ellana, for the lash of her displeasure. She did not like the idea one bit. She was not a violent woman by nature, unless someone invited that kind of retaliation. Ellana had survived assassins, brigands, and bounty hunters.
Her head would once have fetched a hefty price in Tevinter.
“I would like a decent meal and more water”, implored Ellana. “If you would be so kind”.
She bit her lip when her friend hesitated. He seemed reluctant to leave her alone. Ellana's empty stomach voiced its dissatisfaction. The hungry rumbling was louder than a croaking bullfrog. Ellana's cheeks flushed a rich rosy-red.
“Please!” she begged.
Ellana snorted when her friend chuckled. Her belly's insistent grumbling for nourishment had made her less intimidating. He had lost his fear of her in a heartbeat. Ellana was more annoyed than amused when he turned his face into the palm of her hand. The delicate brush of his lips on her skin made her shiver.
The roguish glint in his golden eyes suggested that he knew her well.
Ellana wondered just how well.
She would have scolded him for taking liberties with her person if she hadn't been distracted. A memory opened like a book inside her mind's eye. The pages turned, flicking fast, but she caught glimpses of the things between. There were no words, only images laden with meaning. Ellana gasped when she saw, heard, and felt several intimate things.
The fevered undulation of two sweat-slicked bodies. The breathless moan of a woman in the throes of passion. The strain of slender legs locked around broad hips. The groan of an elven man reaching his peak. The cresting of their shared pleasure before satiation.
The memory left little to the imagination.
Ellana had seen herself and her friend during coitus.
A smug smirk confirmed his suspicions.
“You remember us being together”.
Ellana blushed to the tips of her pointed ears. She was pink-cheeked with mortification. She didn't say a word, though the crinkling of his eyes showed how pleased he was. Ellana knew what he looked like after an exhausting session of lovemaking. The complacent bastard was gorgeous when naked, tired, and sweaty.
“I am glad”, he said in relief.
Ellana had often enjoyed playing with his damp silver hair afterwards. She was contemplating just that when he leaned inward. She stilled when he kissed her. The touch of his lips upon her own was like the brush of a butterfly's wings. Feather-light and feather-soft, but filled with the tenderness of a man very much in love.
His mouth had softened, realised Ellana, when he'd been kissed.
Her lover was not a complete hard-ass after all.
Ellana had not protested the gesture of affection. She was comfortable with his forwardness. His actions had felt oddly right, as if he belonged inside the circle of her arms. Ellana bit her lip when he smiled again. He was too tempting a morsel and he knew it.
Her vexation made him laugh.
“Ass”, griped Ellana. “I don't even know your name”.
“You will ma vhenan”, he assured her.
Ellana peered into his face, an earnest question in her eyes. The term of endearment made her wonder if they were more than lovers. She knew that marriage was permitted for the acolyte's of Mythal. Their spouses, however, were usually acolytes themselves. Ellana doubted she would fit the role of devotee to Mythal.
She enjoyed her freedom too much to accept a life of indentured servitude.
Ellana was disappointed when her lover shook his head. She had hoped that they shared a permanent spousal bond regardless of her lack of ties to Mythal. Ellana pouted. The downturn of her mouth revealed her unhappiness. The lack of familial stability in her life was too upsetting.
“I would wed you vhenan”, avowed her lover. “But you are not ready for such commitment”.
Ellana sighed when he kissed her temple. His touch was gentle as he withdrew. His reassuring smile did little to ease her anxiety. He had told her the truth though it was hard to hear. Ellana was relieved when he left her side.
His absence gave her time to think.
She watched him leave. He was akin to the Halla. Light and graceful on his feet. Every step had purpose. Every movement was focused as he approached the door.
He opened it, quiet as a mouse, and slipped outside.
The door shut behind him. It was made of ironbark, stiff as bone, and stronger than steel. The walls of the hut were the same. The rafters were constructed from intersecting wooden beams fixed with iron nails. The roof was fashioned from ironbark too rather than thatch or stone.
Ellana had not forgotten her Dalish roots.
She frowned as she looked around the room. Her bedroll was made of suede stuffed with wool, down, and the fibres from flax fronds. She remembered preparing the bedding herself. It was strange, thought Ellana, to know so much and to recall so little. Her mind was sluggish as if she'd slept for years instead of hours.
Ellana rubbed her temples. The worst of the headache had receded, though she still felt a dull throbbing behind her eyes. It was bearable. The water she'd drunk had been laced with the juice of crushed elfroot. An excellent remedy for relieving minor aches and pains. Ellana rolled her stiff neck and shoulders to work out the kinks of being abed.
“I wonder how long I slept?” she mused aloud.
She caught the edge of the thick bear pelt she'd used as a blanket. Ellana stared at her right hand. The skin was brown from exposure to the sun. The fingers were strong and calloused. Her hand appeared fairly ordinary with its crescent-shaped nails.
Ellana inhaled shakily.
Something wasn't right.
Ellana slipped her left hand free of the pelt. She placed it beside her right upon the slick fur. She glanced between her hands. The right was normal. The left was not.
Silver-white scales and black talons replaced tanned skin and blunt nails.
Ellana flicked back her fur blanket. She scrambled from her bed, bare toes sliding across the hardwood floor. She rushed across the room, near tripping over the low-table beside the hearth. A fire burned in the stone grate. Ellana saw the cup Minaeve had left there. It was dry as a bone, but the smell of the sleeping draught she'd drunk lingered.
The memories returned, tumbling over each other, like water coursing through rapids.
Ellana saw images from her past.
A glowing green mark burned into the palm of her left hand. The twisted shape of a darkspawn magister. An open unblinking eye with lashes like rays of sunlight. A stone fortress, on a hillside, surrounded by snowcapped mountains. The ardent kiss of an elven mage, with shining grey eyes, and a smile full of melancholy.
Ellana knew each piece of the puzzle.
Her life, as the Inquisitor, had been a constant gamble.
She had never been in control of her own fate.
The Mark had infested the flesh and bone of her left arm like a canker. Corypheus had tried to slay her to gain control of the magic capable of tearing the Veil. The Inquisition, formed to seal the Breach, had been hers to command. The fortress of Skyhold had been her home and a haven for the Inquisition's forces. Solas, an apostate mage, her friend and lover, had been Fen'Harel – The Dread Wolf in disguise.
The memories faded. Ellana exhaled shakily. Her head throbbed. She grimaced in discomfort. It hurt to think.
Ellana took a deep fortifying breath. She spied something glinting in her peripheral vision. She turned, brows furrowing. She gaped at a wooden dummy garbed in armour. The belt looped around its waist bore two leather sheaths.
The harness strapped to the left shoulder was attached to a gauntlet.
Ellana was intrigued by what she saw. The dummy wore a leather bodice dyed in shades of green and brown. An overcoat with long sleeves and many pockets was rust-red. A pair of matching breeches and hose were neatly folded upon a stool. The boots, covered in straps and buckles, were underneath.
The belt and harness caught Ellana's attention.
She did not hesitate to reach for the nearest sheath. The hilt was fashioned from a curved piece of Halla-horn. Ellana wrapped her hand around it, fingers fitting into the familiar grooves. She knew this weapon intimately. She pulled the dagger free, the blade sliding clear.
“Beautiful”, murmured Ellana.
She admired the runes engraved into the silverite blade. The letters, charged with lyrium, glowed an eerie electric-blue when Ellana blew on them. She smiled when the runes iced over. The Superb Frost Rune was still formidable. Ellana returned the dagger to its sheath.
She decided against reaching for its twin. The blade was enchanted with a Superb Fire Rune. Fire runes were always a little temperamental. Ellana preferred to avoid an accidental scorching. She was more interested in the harness and its matching gauntlet.
Ellana laid her left hand upon it, taloned fingers gliding over the dragon-scale straps. The pebbled texture of the leather was smooth underneath her scaled palm. She was more fascinated than alarmed by the odd contours of the gauntlet. The silverite plates were expertly riveted and welded together. The runes etched into the metal shone lyrium-blue.
The gauntlet comprised a forearm, elbow, wrist, and hand with five articulated fingers.
It was a perfect duplicate of a left arm.
A prosthetic fashioned to replace a lost limb.
Ellana glanced between the gauntlet and the hand that had grown from the stump of her left arm. She had a forearm, wrist, hand, and five fingers each capped with a single black claw. She paused when she saw her own reflection in the surface of a silverite plate. Ellana peered closer, brows furrowing, as she spied two gleaming golden eyes. She touched a hand to her face, a taloned finger gently pulled on the skin of her cheek, to expose the iris of her left eye.
A voice whispered in her thoughts.
The phrase was a repetition of the promise Flemeth had made.
You will become my last living heir.
Ellana trembled when the door opened. She heard the soft tamp of footsteps. She tensed at the clink of ceramic on wood. She smelt something hot and savoury. Her lover had returned with a meal in hand.
Her memory was still hazy, but she knew enough to know his identity.
She also knew what had happened to her.
She was no longer the same.
“I am changed”, said Ellana.
Her eyes welled with tears. She had not considered the consequences of the bargain she'd made. Flemeth had promised to return her elgar'len. She had though not in the way Ellana had expected. Her voice broke.
“What have I done?”
Abelas was at her side in a heartbeat. He needed to reassure his weeping beloved. He did not hesitate to reach for her. He cupped Ellana's face in the palms of his hands. He wiped away her tears with his calloused thumbs.
“You saved two souls”, Abelas reminded her.
“At what price?” asked Ellana. “Am I an abomination? A maleficar?”
Abelas's response was a fierce denial.
Ellana gripped his wrists. Her left hand flexed as her taloned fingers hooked into the cuff of his robes. She shook her head in disbelief. She had been possessed, she was certain, by a fragment of something strange. Her eyes had not been gold before she'd drunk Minaeve's sleeping draught.
She was different.
“Then what am I?” demanded Ellana.
“You are my love”, explained Abelas. “And you are Mythal”.
“Nae”, protested Ellana.
“Ma vhenan”, insisted Abelas. “You know it is true”.
Ellana sighed. She knew he was right. She felt the bond binding them together. It thrummed like a beating heart inside her chest. Ellana sensed that she shared that bond with many others too.
“All who drank from the Vir'abelasan are bound into the service of Mythal”, said Abelas. “The voices of the Well speak clearer now than they have in centuries. I do not hear them as echoes from a great distance, Ellana. I hear them as if they were standing next to me. They say that you are Mythal and I believe them”.
Ellana bit her lip. She could not deny his claim. Part of her knew he spoke the truth. Her left-arm, regrown from severed bone, flesh, and blood was proof enough. The scales and talons marked her as touched by more than magic.
She had been blessed by Mythal.
“I'm just me!”, argued Ellana. “I'm an ordinary elven woman. I'm no one special. You have to believe me, Abelas. I'm not Mythal's Herald”.
Abelas smiled sagaciously. He was proud and pleased. She was the embodiment of all the things he admired. Ellana was kind and compassionate as much as she was fierce, proud, and protective. She was more like Mythal than she knew.
“You are not a god-touched mouthpiece”, said Abelas. “You are more”.
“No I'm not!” contradicted Ellana. “Don't you dare say it!”
Abelas chuckled. “You are the Heir of Mythal”.
He wheezed when Ellana jabbed him in the belly. The pain was worth the scandalised look upon her face. She was discontent with this unwelcome change in her life. The Blessing of Mythal, thought Abelas, had become Ellana's curse. She had very large shoes to fill.
“That conniving snake!” spat Ellana. “Let's strike a bargain, she says! She never said anything about being saddled with her responsibilities! Oh! I should have known that freeing Morrigan wouldn't be that simple! Josephine always told me to read the fucking fine print! I am such an idiot!”
Ellana pulled away from Abelas. She was fuming. Her arms folded across her chest. She paced back and forth before the wooden dummy. She smacked Abelas's hand when he reached for her.
“Just leave me alone! I know you lied to me, Abelas! Morrigan told me what really happened when the dragon attacked Skyhold!” snapped Ellana. “You're sleeping on the couch from tonight onwards! I will not have a liar and a sneak sleeping in my bed! You're more honourable than Solas, I agree, but you still lied to me! And you had better not have told those bastards outside that you're my consort!”
Abelas frowned. “I am your consort”.
Ellana's lip curled. “You won't be again until I can find it my heart to forgive you!”
“Ellana, you are being unfair”, asserted Abelas. His expression pained. He had anticipated Morrigan revealing his deception. The ruse had been necessary to gain Ellana's trust. The friendship, love, and respect that had come afterwards was sincere not a fabrication.
“Don't you Ellana me!” hissed Ellana. “And I am not being unfair!”
Abelas sighed. Her anger was justified though the result was disheartening. He loved her. Perhaps time apart would cool her ire. Abelas would give her the space she needed.
“I will do as you wish”, he agreed. “For now”.
Ellana scowled. “You always were stubborn”.
“I learned from the best”, quipped Abelas.
The corners of Ellana's mouth curled upward. She was soon smiling despite her annoyance. Abelas had a wonderfully dry sense of humour. His snark had been both a threat and a promise. He would not relinquish his place at her side, despite being dismissed from her bed.
His love for her was more binding than his Oath to Mythal.
“After you have been fed and watered”, advised Abelas. “I will introduce you to my brethren”.
He nodded to the open doorway leading outside their hut. His face softened when Ellana's breath hitched. Her wonder gave way to fright when she saw several elves seated around a burning fire. A spit laden with a roasting carcass cooked whilst they conversed. She was relieved to find Hawen and Minaeve were alive and well, though they kept some odd company.
Ellana counted their five companions. They might have seemed ordinary if not for the elaborate armour and embroidered hoods. Ellana recognised their garb. These were ancient elves, like Abelas, not residents of New Arlathan. Ellana groaned.
“Fenedhis lasa! Who are they?”
Abelas smirked. “They are my brothers and sisters newly awoken from Uthenera”.
Ellana voiced her displeasure.
“Sentinel elves from the Temple of Mythal. Wonderful. Now I'll have a gaggle of ancient elven ducklings shadowing my every step. I won't be able to take a piss without an escort. As if my life couldn't get any more complicated”.
Ellana glowered at Abelas. “If they're here now then I slept for longer than a night and a day”.
“You did ma vhenan”, confirmed Abelas. “You have been asleep for two weeks. Your left arm regrew in that time. The voices of the Vir'abelasan awakened my fellows while you slumbered. I think you know why”.
Ellana grimaced. She knew why the sentinels were camped outside her home. The hut was modest in comparison to the Temple of Mythal in the Arbor Wilds. Ellana doubted they were used to such simplicity. The ancient elves, in her opinion, were too old-fashioned.
“They came to protect me”, admitted Ellana. “I just don't understand why”.
“Ellana!” growled Abelas.
Ellana rolled her golden eyes. “Oh right”, she remarked. “I'm the fabled Heir of Mythal”.
Her sarcasm irritated Abelas.
“Do not be so dismissive!” he scolded.
“Am I supposed to be enthusiastic about Asha'belannar changing my life to suit her whims?” retorted Ellana.
“It is a blessing!” argued Abelas.
“More like a fucking curse”, countered Ellana. “I hated being the Herald of Andraste”.
“Fenedhis!” swore Abelas. “You are behaving like a child!”
Ellana snorted. “Says the snooty arse who thinks it's a good thing that his lover was possessed by a spirit”.
“You were not possessed!” bellowed Abelas.
His outraged cry was heard by the elves outside. Heads turned. Ellana saw several fair elven faces adorned with the vallaslin of Mythal. She had inherited Asha'belannar's host of elven sentinels. They were hers now.
“Andaran atish'an”, called Ellana. “Don't worry”, she told them. “We're just having a lover's spat”.
Hawen snickered. “We heard”.
“Aneth ara, Ellana”, said Minaeve. “It is good to see you”.
Ellana doubted the sentinel elves felt the same. She saw their disapproving looks. They did not like sound of her arguing with Abelas. She knew that they considered her lover their leader. The quarrelling troubled them.
“I'm surprised you're still alive”, remarked Ellana. “Did Fen'Harel forget you betrayed him?”
Hawen's expression soured.
Minaeve was unperturbed by her statement. “He has not forgotten. Hawen and I are safe provided we remain in your employ, Ellana. He will not attack your home. His love for you and his respect for Mythal have stayed his hand”.
“For now”, concluded Ellana.
“Yes”, agreed Minaeve. “Now that you are conscious. He will wait no longer. We will need to move quickly to evade him. The Dread Wolf is a dangerous enemy to have”.
“I've never run from a fight”, said Ellana. “If Fen'Harel thinks he's going to chase me out of my own forest. He'll soon learn otherwise”.
Her statement distressed Abelas and his fellow sentinels.
“This place is far from defensible”, stated one sentinel.
“It would be wisest to retreat”, declared another.
“They are right, Ellana”, reasoned Abelas. “We cannot stay here”.
Ellana shrugged off the hand that tried to grasp her shoulder. She moved away from Abelas to the low-table beside the hearth. She took the plate he'd brought for her from the table-top. It was filled with roasted meat and root vegetables. It smelt delicious.
“I'm not running away”, avowed Ellana. “This is my home. I will not abandon it”.
“Ellana”, implored Abelas.
“No!” barked Ellana. “I'm not afraid of that black-hearted beast! If he pisses on my doorstep, I'll geld him! This is my home! I'm staying, Abelas!”
Ellana ignored him in favour of satisfying her ravenous hunger. She tucked into her meal with relish. The pleased groan on her first mouthful made one sentinel redden. Ellana was quick to drain several mouthfuls of water from the accompanying cup. She continued to eat with gusto as she filled her empty stomach.
Elvish Translations: Courtesy of the Dragon Age Wiki – Elven Language.
Nae – No .
Ma halam – Are you finished?
Ir abelas – I am sorry.
Ma vhenan – My heart.
Elgar'len – Spirit-child.
Vir'abelasan – The Well of Sorrows.
Asha'belannar – The Woman of Many Years – The Dalish name for Flemeth .
Andaran atish'an – I dwell in this place of peace . A formal elven greeting.
Aneth ara – My safe place – A Dalish greeting.
Fenedhis – An elven curse, likely translated to 'wolf crap' or similar.
Fenedhis lasa – An elven curse, likely translated into 'grant or give me wolf crap' or similar.
Chapter 7: The Reclaiming
Ellana greets Cole, who comes as a messenger for Solas, from New Arlathan.
The Dread Wolf is in desperate and dangerous.
Ellana reclaims part of the power of Mythal.
Ellana's guest emerged from the Eluvian. He came alone, as was his way, a ragged leather hat upon his head. He was pleased to see her, though he was anxious too. Ellana saw the uncertain looks he gave her retinue of guards. The sentinel elves, led by Abelas, refused to leave her side.
“Ir abelas, Cole”, apologised Ellana.
“Precautions are necessary”, advised Abelas.
“It's all right”, countered Ellana. “He's a friend”.
“That remains to be seen”, said Abelas. “Cole comes as a messenger for Fen'Harel. Even if his intentions are peaceful, Ellana. Fen'Harel wishes to harm those that have taken shelter with us. I will not gamble your safety on the chance that Cole would further his goals”.
“But he wouldn't!” protested Ellana. “He's a Spirit of Compassion not a Spirit of Vengeance!”
Ellana's plea fell on deaf ears. She didn't like seeing the arrows aimed at Cole. He had been her friend for five hundred years. Ellana trusted him even if the sentinel elves did not. She would have interfered if two hands hadn't grasped her shoulders.
“Nae”, said Minaeve. “You must defer to Abelas's judgement. Caution is needed now, Ellana. We do not know why Cole has come. You should stay here with Hawen and I, until his purpose is known”.
Abelas didn't argue. Their difference of opinion was understandable. Ellana and Cole had been friends since the dissolution of the Inquisition. The Spirit of Compassion had been a trusted confidante through the roughest parts of her life. Abelas thought him trustworthy, but he did not hold Fen'Harel in the same esteem.
Abelas was unsurprised when Cole proved more reasonable than Ellana.
The spirit was renowned for his intuition.
“He's right, Ellana”, called Cole. “You need to be more careful. Solas is like a wounded animal backed into a corner, teeth bared, and temper short. He is dangerous and he is desperate. He knows what you did and why, though he doesn't fully understand how”.
“I did what he wouldn't”, declared Ellana. “Morrigan had suffered for long enough”.
“I know”, said Cole. “I'm glad you helped her”.
Ellana stood on the threshold of her home. Minaeve to her right. Hawen to her left. They were enclosed by two circles of protection. Ellana's hut was warded with shielding spells. Six sentinel elves, armed with bow and blade, stood between them and Cole.
Their quivers full and bowstrings drawn. Their hooded faces were grim. They awaited Abelas's command. They would loose a volley of arrows upon Cole at the slightest provocation. They would safeguard the new incarnation of Mythal with their lives.
Cole was reluctant to descend the cobblestone path. Abelas had not signalled his fellows to lower their bows or sheathe their blades. Ellana watched him, expression remorseful, though she remained rooted like a tree. She listened, heart in her mouth, when Cole addressed her again. His words cut to the bone. His candidness suggested urgency of the worst kind.
“I'm not here to negotiate”, said Cole. “There isn't time”. He gave her an imploring look with his large sad blue eyes. He held out a calloused hand. His request was earnest.
“Please come with me, Ellana. Solas needs to see you”.
“Nae!” snarled one sentinel. “The Dread Wolf will not devour our mistress!”
“He never betrayed Mythal!” retorted Cole. “He avenged her!”
“To the breaking of the world!” argued another sentinel. “He created the Veil and sentenced thousands to die in exile!”
“Venavis!” roared Abelas.
Ellana saw the difficulty her lover had quieting the discontent of his companions. The other sentinels were embittered by Fen'Harel's past judgement. They had lost more than friends and family. They had lost their purpose in life. Mythal's return, in the form of Ellana, had given them more than hope.
It had given them a reason to live.
Ellana watched Abelas engage in a heated argument with his comrades. They squabbled like children. The epithets cast back and forth were in the Arlathan dialect of ancient Elvhen. Ellana understood what was said. Mythal's memories were hazy, but her knowledge of language and custom was crystal clear.
Ellana shrugged off Minaeve's hands. She paused when Hawen tried to prevent her from leaving the sanctuary of her hut. The look she gave him made him tremble like a newborn fawn. Her melancholic smile curbed his resistance with gentleness rather than force. Ellana pressed a finger to his lips when he tried to protest.
“Atisha”, she told him. “Tel'enfanim. Ara dareth ma elgar'falon”.
Minaeve grasped Hawen's hand. She interlaced their fingers much to his astonishment. She did not smile with reassurance. The brand of the rising sun had burned away every shred of emotion. Minaeve still understood the importance of gestures of comfort. She gave Hawen what little she could.
It was enough.
He moved aside.
Ellana thanked him.
Hawen watched her walk past him with a sense of awe. He noticed the change in her gait and posture. Ellana no longer slunk like a hunting wolf, every movement calculated and cautious. She strolled as if she had not a care in the world. Her back was straight, her shoulders square, and her head held high.
“She is fearless”, murmured Hawen. “Like a dragon”.
“Mythal was a shapeshifter”, remarked Minaeve. “Her preferred form, according to legend, was that of a High Dragon”.
They watched Ellana approach the arguing sentinels. She stepped between them. She tapped shoulders and pressed upon hands wielding bow and blade. Ellana's presence was like a balm, defusing their conflict with a soothing touch. The sentinels were startled by her actions. Their arched brows and wide eyes showed their surprise.
“Ar vallem ma atisha”, counselled Ellana. “You should not be fighting each other like this”.
She glanced from face to face. The vallaslin of Mythal proclaimed each sentinel as an acolyte. They were hers in all but blood. Their oath of service was as binding as their devotion. Ellana took a step forward. She stilled when a calloused hand gripped her forearm.
“Nae”, entreated one sentinel. “Do not leave us again”.
He peered at Ellana from under his embroidered hood. Wisps of auburn hair tumbled over his brows. His troubled blue eyes reminded Ellana of an orphaned child. He was afraid of loss just like Solas. Ellana was moved by his admission.
“We are nothing”, said the sentinel. “Without you”.
“Arryn”, reproved Abelas. “Let her pass”.
Ellana saw the sentinel's brows furrow. He was conflicted. He did not want to obey the command. He wanted her to stay where she would be protected. Ellana could see the indecision, the uncertainty, and she was humbled.
“Arryn!” urged Abelas.
Ellana looked from Arryn to his comrades. She saw his fear and anxiety reflected upon their faces. They worried for her and for themselves. Flemeth had been unconcerned for their welfare. She had left them to a fate of slow decline in isolation.
Only death or Uthenera had awaited them in the Arbor Wilds.
Ellana had forgotten the consequences of the bargain she'd made. She carried the last fragment of Mythal, like a seed sown in fertile soil. The first root preserved the sentinel bond. The second filled Ellana with shame for her own thoughtlessness. The third root ensured that she would always have a maternal concern for her acolytes.
“Ir abelas!” cried Ellana. “I had not considered you or your comrades, Arryn!”
Abelas smiled when Ellana comforted his subordinate. The gentle patting of Arryn's knuckles made the sentinel elf blush. Abelas had never known his friend could turn that shade of red. He was pleased by Arryn's reaction when Ellana apologised too. The sentinel's arched eyebrows and owlish gaping revealed his amazement.
Mythal had rarely made mistakes.
Her likelihood of admitting wrong and apologising was rarer still.
“If you want me to stay, Arryn”, assured Ellana. “I will stay”.
Abelas smirked when several mouths fell open. The dumbstruck expressions of his fellow sentinels made him chuckle. Ellana was unlike the Mythal they remembered. She did not cast aside their concerns. She listened with an attentive ear.
Her next statement soothed ragged nerves and fraying tempers.
“Flemeth would not assume Mythal's place”, said Ellana. “So I must, which includes shouldering her responsibilities. Her surviving acolytes are mine now, Cole. I will not abandon them. I will remain here under the protection of my sentinels”.
“It is where you belong”, avowed a relieved Arryn.
“I know”, agreed Ellana. “I do, but it will take me a while to get used to the idea”.
“We have all eternity to accommodate you”, Abelas reassured her. “My brethren and I are patient teachers”.
Ellana rolled her eyes, although she was more amused than annoyed by Abelas's teasing.
“But Solas needs you!” insisted Cole. “He's in terrible pain!”
Ellana's smile dimmed. Some of her amusement ebbed. She loathed Solas, but even she could not help feeling a twinge of worry for him. Her perceptions were coloured by her predecessor's beliefs. Solas had been Mythal's closest friend.
“I know”, acknowledged Ellana. “I can feel his agony. The power Flemeth lent him centuries ago now sears him inside and out. He has endured for days, but his strength wanes. The affliction has grown worse since I awakened”.
“It has!”, affirmed Cole. “He's suffering!”
Cole trembled when Ellana studied him. The way her eyes glowed like pools of amber fire made him wary. This was not the Ellana he'd known. She was changed, different, but still the same at the core of her being. Cole hoped her compassionate nature hadn't been consumed by Mythal's bitterness.
“Do you want me to help him?” asked Ellana.
Cole's hasty nod was confirmation enough.
“You presume much”, remarked Ellana. “You know I hate him”.
“Mythal didn't!” Cole reminded her. “They were friends! She wouldn't hesitate to help him! I know what he's done, Ellana! I know you're angry, but letting Mythal's magic consume him won't change the past!”
Ellana considered his plea. Flemeth had asked the same for Morrigan. Mercy was not forgiveness, but it was cathartic. Ellana had gained a new perspective. In liberating Morrigan, she had liberated herself from her own insecurities.
She was ready to return to Skyhold.
Ellana could finally lay her own demons to rest.
“It would even our score”, she replied. “Every breath he draws is an insult to those he murdered”.
Cole's face softened with concern. “Do not become the thing you're not, Ellana. You are kind and forgiving. You are loving and compassionate. Don't let your rage poison you with bitterness”.
Ellana's smile was sad. “It's too late, Cole. I cannot forgive Solas for what he did. His selfishness ruined my life. I loved him with all my heart and I still couldn't dissuade him from plunging the world into chaos”.
“I know”, said Cole. “But now you have a chance to show him a new way, Ellana. It may have come five hundred years too late, but now is better than never. If you will not help Solas because it is right, than help him to help yourself. Let the past go and move forward, so you can have a chance to be happy again”.
Ellana glanced at Abelas. “To be happy”, she repeated.
“Yes”, confirmed Cole. “Sometimes, it is not a terrible thing to be selfish”.
Ellana knew what he was doing. Cole hoped Mythal's influence would soften her anger. His assumption was correct. Ellana's opinion of the Dread Wolf was changing. He was no longer the drifting vagrant in her tales of woe.
Solas was merely an old and bitter man.
“For Mythal I will make a concession”, said Ellana. “For you I will grant Solas the help he needs”. She gestured to the Eluvian. “Bring him to me before his pride destroys him. I will do what I can to ease his pain”.
Cole sighed in relief. “I will!” he affirmed. “Now! Wait for me! I must fetch him from his bed!”
“Go”, urged Ellana. “I will be here”.
She watched Cole turn swift as a falcon on wing. He launched himself into the Eluvian. Ellana saw him leap out the other side. He hit the ground running. He was gone in the blink of an eye.
“Fen'Harel is undeserving of your compassion!”, growled another sentinel.
“Ilcen!” barked Abelas. “Venavis!”
Ilcen spat on the ground. He glared at Ellana. He did not say another word, but his mood was clear. He did not approve of Ellana's choice. Abelas would have admonished him, but it was Ellana's response that quelled Ilcen's outrage.
“I am not helping Fen'Harel”, explained Ellana. “I am reclaiming the rest of Mythal”.
Ilcen frowned. “I do not understand”.
“You will”, assured Ellana. “Once Cole returns”.
“Atisha ma falon!” hissed Arryn. “Give her a chance!”
“We will see”, grumbled Ilcen. “If her judgement is sound”.
Ilcen gazed into the Eluvian. He waited impatiently for Cole to return. His dislike for this course of action was obvious. His scowl revealed his displeasure. He did not believe that Fen'Harel deserved an ounce of kindness.
The Dread Wolf's pride had sundered the world twice. Ilcen was surprised Thedas had survived. He wondered if the Heir of Mythal would rebuild their ranks. Time had changed many things. Ilcen was certain that Ellana would change many more.
“Fen'Harel garas”, declared Ilcen.
The sentinel saw two people shuffling towards the Eluvian. It reflected the image of Cole supporting an ailing Fen'Harel. Ilcen stared when he saw the Dread Wolf's ashen face. Black veins marred every inch of skin from his temples to his clavicle. Ilcen heard the laboured breathing and the muffled cries of discomfort.
He felt no pity for Fen'Harel's suffering.
The surface of the Eluvian rippled like water when Cole stepped through. Solas came with him, feet dragging. He did not have the strength to stand on his own. Lank black hair was plastered to his sweaty face. Dull grey eyes rolled inside his head. An arm, shaking with weakness, was thrown across Cole's shoulders.
“Ellana!” wheezed Solas. “I must see her!”
He could not take another step. His knees gave out, the power of Mythal bubbled inside his blood like molten fire. His agonised cry made Ellana flinch. She was moving before she was consciously aware. The insistent tug of Mythal's magic trumpeted like a hunting horn.
Like called to like.
“Ellana!” exclaimed Cole. “Hurry! Please!”
Arryn tried to pursue when Ellana rushed up the cobblestone path. She shook off his grasping hands. She stopped him cold with a terse command. The way she glowered got his legs moving. Arryn was smiling as he left to do her bidding.
“Get my blankets and bedroll from the hut! Go!”
Abelas was unsurprised when his subordinate sheathed his blade. Arryn darted past him to the hut beyond. The sentinel did not pause to ask for permission. Mythal had given him a task. He was quick to fulfil her request.
“Water, Ilcen!” called Ellana.
Abelas saw his comrade's nose wrinkle in disdain.
“Now!” snarled Ellana.
Abelas chuckled when Ilcen lowered his bow. The slack bowstring and the hasty return of an arrow to the quiver ended the stalemate. Ilcen presented Abelas with his weapon. He was not unarmed, magic was at his disposal, as well as a plethora of silver blades concealed upon his person. He grimaced when Abelas smirked.
“Keep that wagging tongue behind your teeth!” griped Ilcen.
Abelas accepted the bow without saying a single word.
His amusement annoyed Ilcen.
Abelas looked on whilst Ilcen untied the waterskin from his belt. He was grinning toothily when his friend raced after Ellana. Ilcen had always been a tad high-strung. Too many centuries in Uthenera had soured him. Abelas was glad he would spend the next few years chasing after Ellana.
Ilcen had spent too long in isolation.
He needed to socialise more.
“You should not antagonise him”, chided another sentinel.
Abelas chuckled. “Your bonded does that well enough on his own, Valoya”.
The soft laugh, like the tinkling of silver bells, filled his ears.
“He does”, agreed Valoya. “He feared Mythal would not return. He is glad she is with us again, though he would never admit it. Be patient with him, Abelas. Ilcen and I were cut off from our children when the Veil was created. Their loss has left an empty void inside his heart and soul”.
“He will not forgive or forget Fen'Harel's treachery”, concluded Abelas.
“Nae”, stated Valoya. “He will not, but I am certain he will learn to trust your Ellana. She is kind like Mythal was before her death. Her anger is tempered with compassion. She is wise beyond her years, and more patient than I expected”.
“She is young”, said Abelas. “But she has born the weight of responsibility before. She knows the importance of her role. She chafes under the yoke, but she is capable of bearing it. Mythal could not have chosen a better successor”.
Valoya heard Ellana thank her husband when Ilcen handed over his waterskin. The surprised look upon his face made her smile. Ilcen was unused to such courtesy. The Mythal to whom he'd dedicated his life had not been so gracious. It was odd to be treated as more than a member of her personal guard.
It seemed that Ellana was trying to cultivate a fledgling friendship.
“The All-Mother did choose well”, affirmed Valoya. “Although I wonder what your Ellana will do with the authority she has”.
Abelas did not answer. Ellana's frantic cry ended their conversation. His focus changed when she called his name. He left Valoya with an instruction to help Arryn fetch supplies. The other sentinels lowered their bows and sheathed their blades.
The urgency of Ellana's need spurred them to take action.
“Abelas! I need one of the sentinel's tents! I cannot take Solas inside the hut without the wards activating! We'll have to camp outside! Get one ready!”
“At once, Ellana!”
“Ma serannas!” replied Ellana. “Ilcen! Stop scowling and hold Solas's head up! Good! I'll get some water down his throat before we move him!”
Ellana uncorked the sentinel's waterskin. The leather was like butter in her hands. Her palms were sweaty. It almost slipped between her fingers. Ellana gaped when black-veined hands caught the waterskin before it could fall.
“Ma vhenan!” gasped Solas.
His shaking fingers curled around her wrist. His grip loosened when Ellana's black claws pricked his bare skin. He was startled by the change. His eyes widened when she brought the waterskin to his lips. He did not have an opportunity to comment.
Water filled his mouth.
He gulped thirstily.
Ellana lowered the skin when Solas finished.
His bleary grey eyes welled with tears. He looked at her long and hard. Ellana frowned when he wept. The tears rolling down his cheeks were shed in relief. He had feared the worst when the spell incarcerating Morrigan had broken.
“Ma vhenan!” panted Solas. “Ir enfanim ma di'nan!”
“Why?” asked Ellana. “You've never cared before”.
Solas's composure crumbled. His brows arched in contrition. His mouth turned down unhappily. Ellana's statement stung. It hurt him to hear such callous disregard for his feelings.
“How can you say such a thing?” accused Solas. “Ma emma lath, Ellana!”
Ellana shook her head.
“Nae!” insisted Solas. “It is the truth!”
Ellana did not deny his claim. The fear was plain upon his face. He wanted her to believe him. Ellana thought he lacked conviction. He sounded sincere, but from experience, she knew better than to take him at his word.
“It was”, murmured Ellana. “Once”.
Solas's strangled sob moved Ellana to pity. She was grateful when Ilcen withdrew the open waterskin. They shared a single understanding look. He remained by her side, ever vigilant, when Cole relinquished Solas into her care. Fen'Harel was at her mercy.
“Only you can help him”, declared the Spirit of Compassion.
“I know”, confirmed Ellana.
Cole watched her anxiously.
Ellana caught Solas when he staggered on unsteady feet. She took him by the shoulders. She embraced him like a mother would hug a frightened child. Solas clung to her, the desperation clear in the way he grasped fistfuls of her clothing. Ellana let him drag her down, till their knees touched the cobblestones.
She knelt with Solas weeping inside the circle of her arms.
Ellana did not begrudge him the comfort he needed. She was patient when he buried his face in the curve of her throat. She combed her fingers through his lank black hair. She felt the hot tears trickling down her skin. Ellana laid her cheek upon his crown.
She sang an ancient elven lullaby. Her voice was cool and calm like the spring rain. Ellana rocked him gently, back and forth, as she would have a distraught child. Her song was simple. The words were meant to grant comfort to those with troubled dreams.
“Tel'enfanim da'len”, recited Ellana. She knew the verse by heart. “Irassal ma ghilas”, sang Ellana. “Ma garas mir renan. Ara ma'athlan vhenas”.
The song ended on a single sweet note.
Ellana was unaware of the moment's poignancy. She did not notice the sentinel elves were watching and waiting with bated breath. Her only concern was for the man in her arms. Solas was her enemy, but he had once been her beloved. Ellana lifted her cheek from the crown of his head.
She eased away from Solas. She cupped his scarred cheek with her clawed hand. She studied the black veins marring his fair elven face. The pain was visible in his weary grey eyes. Solas was exhausted physically and emotionally.
Mythal's magic rebelled against him.
He was losing control.
“Your left hand”, sniffled Solas.
Ellana nodded. “Mythal gave it back to me”.
“Ir abelas”, apologised Solas. “You should not have had to make that sacrifice”.
Ellana smiled. “I made it willingly”.
Solas stared at her. “Ma vhenan”.
Ellana pressed a finger to his lips. “Atisha”, she said, silencing him. She heard the thrum of the fire burning beneath Solas's skin. The power was there, flowing like a river. Mythal's magic was ready to be reclaimed.
“You must return what was given”, advised Ellana.
“If I do”, lamented Solas. “I will lose you forever”.
“You lost me long ago”, reasoned Ellana. “But you are still loved by Mythal”.
“It is not Mythal's heart I desire”, said Solas. “It is yours”.
“Solas”, reproved Ellana. “Mythal and I are one in the same”.
“Not yet ma vhenan”, corrected Solas. “Not completely, if you can discern between her feelings and your own. The merging of two souls takes time. Mythal is old and you are young. The transition will not be easy”.
“I have eternity to find an equilibrium”, stated Ellana.
“You will need a teacher”, wheedled Solas. “Mythal's magic is volatile”.
“Tel garas solasan”, warned Ilcen.
“He wants to make amends”, asserted Cole.
“Enough!”, barked Ellana.
Ilcen and Cole eyed one another.
They did not agree on the Dread Wolf's intentions.
“Return what was given, Solas”, urged Ellana.
Solas searched her face. He saw the hard glint in her golden eyes. She was Mythal, he knew, for the magic in his blood smouldered. It yearned to be reunited with its source. Solas groaned when Ellana stroked his cheek with a clawed thumb.
Her breath was warm on his skin.
“I will”, promised Solas. “If you allow me to instruct you”.
“Prideful and stubborn”, said Ellana. “Until the end”.
“I have to try to make you see reason”, retorted Solas. “You are being irresponsible”.
“Says the Dread Wolf renowned for telling elaborate lies”, said Ellana. “If I said I would think on your proposal, would you be satisfied?”
“Nae”, countered Solas. “I would have your agreement first”.
“You are hardly in a position to negotiate”, admonished Ellana.
Solas bared his teeth in a fierce snarl. “And you are being reckless! Mythal's magic is not a child's plaything! It is dangerous, Ellana! Only a fool walks into a bonfire without knowing how to douse the flames!”
Ellana regarded him soberly. “I have been burned before”.
“This is not a game!” groused Solas. “I have carried Mythal's magic for five hundred years! I know its power! It will destroy you if you are not careful! You will need tutelage!”
“This is not about me or Mythal's magic”, argued Ellana. “You fear losing us both, so you have invented a reason for me to stay with you. An excuse, Solas. I know you, and Mythal knew you better than I. You cannot deceive me”.
A single tear slid down Solas's scarred cheek. His brows furrowed. He did not want to admit the truth. Honesty was not his forte. It was second nature to lie.
“You still need training”, persisted Solas.
“I will have it”, Ellana assured him.
“Only I can teach you”.
“So you say”, replied Ellana. “But I know better than to believe you”.
“Ellana”, pleaded Solas. “Will you not give me a chance?”
“Mythal would”, she told him. “But she and I do not share the same opinion”.
Ellana pinched the bridge of his nose. Solas gasped for breath. His mouth falling open. Ellana took the initiative. She leaned inward before he could protest. Her lips parted and her tongue was wet.
Solas's breath hitched when she covered his mouth with her own. The kiss turned heated in a heartbeat. Solas sucked her lower-lip between his teeth. He bit her in retaliation for her presumptuousness. They had not finalised the details of their arrangement.
Ellana warred with him for control. She came up for air once. She sucked in a hasty breath before Solas devoured her again. His mouth found hers. Ellana deepened the kiss, fingers grasping a ragged handful of his shaggy black mane.
“Fenedhis!” swore Ilcen.
He grimaced in disgust.
“Well that is one way to make peace”, said Cole. “At least they're not arguing any more”.
He cleared his throat with a hoarse cough when Ilcen glowered. He twiddled his thumbs when Ellana and Solas ignored him. He was glad when light poured from Solas's mouth. He waited whilst Ellana drank it like water, her throat bobbing with each mouthful. She swallowed the light until the black veins upon Solas's face receded.
The Dread Wolf's throaty moan made Cole uncomfortable.
“Love confuses me”, he confessed to Ilcen. “So does sex”. Cole gave the sentinel a calculating look. “You're bonded, I can tell. Could I ask you a few questions about ancient elven courtship rituals?”
“Fenedhis lasa!” cursed Ilcen. “Nae!”
Cole pouted. “Could I ask you later?”
Ilcen grimaced. “Tel'dirth elgar!”
Ilcen was revolted by Ellana's actions, though he understood the necessity. He shuddered when she resurfaced from the kiss. He gazed at her face. He was relieved when her eyes glowed blue-grey. He saw that each iris was in the shape of a burning flame.
“It is done?” asked Ilcen.
Ellana exhaled a lungful of black smoke. Her silent nod answered his question. Solas slumped in her arms. He was overcome by exhaustion. His eyelids closed and his face was slack.
“He will sleep for a time”, said Ellana. “I took back part of Mythal's power. The rest resides within him. Solas will need its strength to recover. For now, he will rest in a place of safety and comfort”.
Cole cautiously came closer. One step at a time. He sensed the change in Ellana more clearly now. She felt old, sad, and full of regret. He came to her side, knees bending, as he sank to the ground. He knelt behind Solas when Ellana released the exhausted mage.
Cole resumed his role of friend and guardian.
“Will he be all right?”
Ellana nodded. “In time”.
Cole bit his lip. He wasn't sure if he should ask.
“Dirthera ma elgar'falon”, encouraged Ellana.
“Will you stay until he awakens?”
Ellana glanced from Solas's slumbering face to Ilcen. She sighed when he nodded to the waiting sentinels. Abelas stood beside an empty tent. Arryn had a thick bear-pelt and a bedroll in his arms. Valoya watched her like a hunting hawk.
The other sentinels, all nameless faces wearing the vallaslin of Mythal, awaited her command.
“What does the leader of my sentinels say?” asked Ellana.
“It would be wisest to retreat”, counselled Abelas. “While Fen'Harel is indisposed”.
Ellana saw Hawen and Minaeve standing upon the threshold of her home.
They were still in danger.
“So it would”, agreed Ellana.
She turned to Cole, the blue-grey fire in her eyes faded to a deep sunset gold. The power lay within her, a heady rush of magic and promise. She had many things to do. A small reprieve to tend Solas would not hinder her plans. Ellana would stay long enough to achieve two things.
“Hawen and Minaeve are my wards”, she informed Cole. “They will retreat with a handful of my sentinels to a place of safety. I will remain here with a host of my own until Solas awakens. Afterwards, you will take him back to New Arlathan. He will be safest within the walls of his home”.
“He will want to stay with you”, said Cole.
“I know”, remarked Ellana. “We have not, after all, discussed the conditions of our arrangement”.
Elvish Translations: Courtesy of the Dragon Age Wiki – Elven Language.
Ir abelas – I am sorry.
Nae – No.
Venavis – Stop.
Atisha – Peace.
Tel'enfanim – Do not be afraid.
Ara dareth ma elgar'falon – I will be safe with my spirit-friend.
Ar vallem ma atisha – I bid you to make peace.
Atisha ma falon – Peace, my friend.
Fen'Harel garas – The Dread Wolf comes.
Fenedhis lasa – An elven curse, likely translated into 'grant or give me wolf crap' or similar.
Ma vhenan – My heart.
Ir enfanim ma di'nan – I was afraid you would die.
Ma emma lath – You are my love.
Tel'enfanim, da'len - Never fear, little one.
Irassal ma ghilas - Wherever you shall go.
Ma garas mir renan - Follow my voice.
Ara ma'athlan vhenas - I will call you home.
Tel garas solasan – Come not to a prideful place.
Tel'dirth elgar – Stop talking, spirit!
Dirthera ma elgar'falon – Tell me, my spirit-friend.
Chapter 8: Of Debts and Bargains
Ellana strikes a bargain with the Dread Wolf to safeguard her wards, whilst Solas unwittingly incurs a life-debt.
Warning: This chapter contains coarse language and mature references. Discretion is advised.
The sun was high. The sky cloudless. The wind cool as it blew through the trees. Ellana watched the boughs dip and sway like the sails of a ship. It had been many years since she'd seen the frothing blue waves of the Waking Sea.
Ellana remembered running along the sand and shingle beaches of the Storm Coast. She smiled as she recalled how Dorian had hated the constant rolling white-washed waters. The cloying stink of brine had made his stomach churn. The flock of gulls roosting on the poles of his tent every morning had infuriated him. Ellana had often awoken to the sound of Dorian ranting in Tevene.
The thud of stones and frightened squawking had caused Ellana to fear for the local wildlife.
“He was hilarious”, giggled Ellana. “Standing there every morning, half-naked, raving like a madman”. She grinned at her companion. “He was fabulous with spell-craft, truly, the man was a master. But in all honesty, if he wasn't firing spells or flirting, he really did have terrible aim”.
Ellana's golden eyes glinted with mirth. “He never actually hit a gull with those stones. Not once, although I think he missed on purpose. Dorian was a sweetheart underneath all the bluster, good looks, and gold embroidery. He didn't have a cruel bone in his body. I think it saved the Storm Coast's gulls, wild nugs, and giant rats from extinction”.
“Your friend sounds boorish and clumsy”.
“He was a far-cry from a mild-mannered Dalish man. Dorian was like a peacock, loud and flamboyant, with a flair for the dramatic. Shemlen or not. The man was an utter delight for dinner conversation. He once made the Empress of Orlais blush with a single look”.
“You miss him”.
Ellana's smile was melancholic.
“I do. He was to me what Solas was to Mythal. A dear and trusted friend. I always went to him when I was troubled. Dorian listened, no matter how foolish or serious I was. He'd share a word of wisdom or tell a dirty joke just to make me smile”.
S olas woke to the sound of their hushed conversation. He kept his eyes closed, feigning sleep, whilst Ellana shared a little of her past with a sentinel elf. He knew to whom she spoke. The voice was softer, the tone undeniably feminine, in comparison to Ilcen's masculine rasp. Ellana talked with Valoya, the spouse of the sentinel that reviled him.
“Ah”, said Valoya. “The Harellan is awake”.
Solas sighed. He had tried to remain inconspicuous. He was a better liar when he was conscious. Solas opened an eye. He peered over the bear pelt tucked beneath his chin.
“I am still alive”.
Valoya rolled her eyes. “ Fenedhis !” She was on her feet and marching out of the tent before Solas could climb from his bed. Ellana gave him a disapproving look. She was unimpressed by his childish behaviour.
“That was uncalled for”.
“Her husband loathes my existence”, retorted Solas.
“I hate you, I've attacked you, and I've tried to kill you several times. Ilcen and Valoya haven't done a thing to you, Solas. I'm the guilty party here. Not my sentinels. If you want to be an arse, focus your irritation on me”.
“And if I do not?”
Ellana's eyes glowed a fiery blue-grey.
The cup of water, atop a low-table beside his bed, turned grey like stone. Solas heard the crackling as the wood was petrified. The spell was cast with a thought, a sure sign that Ellana was tapping into Mythal's magic. The ease of transition worried him. He had not thought her capable of controlling the least of Mythal's power.
“Impressive”, remarked Solas. “I am surprised you did not turn the spell upon me”.
The blue-grey fire faded from Ellana's eyes. “Don't tempt me”, she warned him. “I would love to turn you into a garden statue for the birds to shit on”. Ellana smirked when she heard the muffled laughter from outside. Valoya, still standing guard, tittered at the Dread Wolf's expense.
“Why wait?” taunted Solas. “I am not in any condition to fight you”.
Ellana rose from her simple three-legged wooden stool. She strode across the tent's grassy floor. She stopped at the foot of his bedroll. She regarded him sombrely, head shaking. She glanced at the low-table, the stone cup, and the ewer beside it.
Ellana closed the distance in a few steps. She reached for the ewer's bent brass handle. She grasped the stone cup with her scaled left hand. Her black claws clicked as she curled her fingers around it. Ellana lifted the ewer and cup, pouring water from one into the other in a gurgling gush.
“Always so fatalistic”, reproved Ellana. “I'll repeat what I told you in the Setheneran, Solas”. She offered him the cup, filled to the brim. “You are not worth killing”. Ellana sighed as she returned the ewer to the table.
“Drink”, she instructed, proffering the cup again.
Solas's eyes narrowed. He did not trust her. “You first”.
The corner of Ellana's mouth curled upward. She was amused by his suspicion. She sank to her knees beside him, long legs folding. She made herself comfortable on the edge of his fur blanket. Ellana toasted him with a flick of her wrist and a casual nod.
She lifted the cup to her mouth. She took one small sip. A drop of water beaded on her lower-lip. It was shiny and transparent like a glistening ball of glass. Ellana made certain Solas saw the pink tip of her tongue slide out from between her lips.
She licked the droplet clean.
Solas's wanton groan made her grin. Ellana pressed a hand to his chest when he tried to lean inward. His mouth was open. His gaze fixated upon the pink bow of her lower-lip. Ellana stopped him with a gentle admonition.
“If you kiss me again. I will extract the last of Mythal's magic. You will be weaker than you are now. Your recovery would take months not days. If you want to take the risk, Solas, I am willing to leave you crippled”.
Solas's breath was warm on her skin. He hesitated a moment longer. Ellana saw how he struggled to reign in his base desires. She had lit a fire in his belly with a simple gesture. He grimaced as he tried to resist temptation.
“You are wicked”.
Ellana eyed him. “I'm not the one who can't keep his cock in his pants”.
“Ellana!” reprimanded Solas.
Ellana pressed the cup to his lips. “Hush”, she soothed. “And drink. I promise it isn't poison”. She waited whilst Solas made up his mind.
A moment later, after a calculating look, he opened his mouth. Ellana held the cup until he drained it dry. The faint scent of crushed elfroot lingered on his breath. Ellana returned the empty cup to the table. She turned back, pausing, when Solas frowned.
“Why are you being so kind to me?”
“Would you prefer that I were cruel?” countered Ellana.
“Ellana!” hissed Solas, the frustration leaking through his self-control. “I am not in the mood for games!”
“Now that is odd indeed”, teased Ellana. “I thought the legendary Fen'Harel delighted in contests of wit and will”. She arched a slender brow. She peered at him from under her lashes. “You are the Lord of Tricksters, the teller of half-truths, and the crafter of elaborate lies”.
Solas glowered. “You dare to insult me!”
Ellana lifted her chin. She looked down her nose at him. She mimicked the haughtiness Solas had when he dealt with unpleasant things. Ellana wasn't cowed by his anger. She was fearless as she met his eye.
“It is hardly an insult if it is true”, said Ellana. “You are a liar, Solas”. She remained by his bedside when he leaned closer. She was tolerant as he pressed his brow to her temple. His lips brushed feather-light against the lobe of her ear.
“I know”, he admitted. “But I have told you two truths”.
“Remind me”, retorted Ellana. “I am too used to hearing lies spill from your lips”.
“Ma emma lath”, whispered Solas. “Ir abelas ma vhenan”.
Ellana turned her face into the crook of his neck and shoulder. Her arms rose of their own accord. She embraced him despite their shared past of tragedy and conflict. Mythal's heart was her own. The affection she had for him was not entirely one-sided.
“Ir abelas, Solas”, murmured Ellana.
She kissed his cheek before withdrawing. The innocent peck of her lips on his skin alarmed him. Ellana stilled when Solas stared. She returned his scrutiny. She was unperturbed by the startled expression upon his face.
His wide eyes, arched brows, and open mouth revealed his distress.
“You are leaving”.
“I am not one of your spies skulking in the shadows”, Ellana reminded him. “Nor am I a conceited elven noble trying to curry your favour”. She clucked her tongue disapprovingly. “I go when and where I please. I do not need Fen'Harel's approval”.
“You trust the sentinel elves”.
“More than I trust you”.
“Ellana!” pleaded Solas. “Ar vallem ma tel'ghilas!”
Ellana studied him with cool solemnity. Her request was simple. She knew he would disagree. The Dread Wolf did not show mercy to his enemies. Although he was a traitor, he did not condone treachery from his own followers.
“Stop your hunt for Hawen and Minaeve”.
“They were sworn to me. They broke their oaths. I have every right to seek restitution”.
“You have no right at all”, she told him. “Hawen was Flemeth's agent long before you removed his vallaslin. He was also Dalish. Minaeve too, before she was turned out by her clan. They acted at Flemeth's behest even if she spoke with Morrigan's voice”.
Solas's lip curled.
“You would harbour oath-breakers?”
“No”, corrected Ellana. “I would safeguard oath-keepers. They are mine, Solas, just like the sentinel elves”. She interceded before he could berate her. The anger was plain upon his fair elven face.
“They are not servants or slaves!” scolded Ellana. “They are Elvhen! My people! Your desire for vengeance is misguided! They were acting in accordance with the will of Mythal!”
“You are not a god!” snarled Solas.
“Nae”, agreed Ellana. “I am not”.
Her ire cooling. She faced him as Mythal had once faced the vanguard of the Evanuris. Fearless and proud. Ellana stood her ground when Solas glared. His fury was understandable when she considered his rebellion against the elven pantheon.
“I am a mere woman”, explained Ellana. “Housing an old, bent, and broken soul. Mythal is burdened with bitterness and regret. She loves you, Solas, but she cannot separate her rage from her purpose. She is the All-Mother. She should be caring for her people, not desiring to burn them to ash”.
Solas grimaced at the revelation. He had known for centuries that Mythal chafed under the yoke of her responsibilities. The possession of Flemeth had given her focus. She had intervened many times in conflicts between elves and humans. She had spared innocents and curbed eruptions of violence.
Mythal had understood that war was not an answer, only a problem best avoided.
Flemeth's death and the transference of her power, had destabilised an already traumatised soul.
“I slept for too long”, said Solas. “When I awoke from Uthenera, Mythal awaited me, but she was not as I remembered her to be”.
“I know”, stated Ellana. “I have seen her memories. She was glad to be reunited with her dearest friend, but she was angry too. You left her alone, Solas. It is why she possessed Flemeth, so that she might have company again. A like mind with which to share her pain”.
“The possession of Morrigan”, Solas mentioned cautiously. “What do you think about that, ma vhenan?”
Ellana took a deep fortifying breath. She relayed what she knew as best she could. She was still growing accustomed to having two sets of memories. Her own were pristine. Mythal's were fractured, with pieces missing, and others jumbled together like an ill-fitting puzzle.
“Flemeth didn't possess Morrigan because she needed a vessel. She did so to prevent her from killing me. It was she who sent Abelas to Skyhold. She who instructed him to pull me from the burning ruins. Flemeth saved me, so I could preserve what little sanity Mythal had left”.
Ellana cupped Solas's scarred cheek with her scaled hand. She tucked a strand of black hair behind his ear with her clawed fingers. She sighed. The slow shaking of her head showed how she felt. Ellana sympathised with the Dread Wolf.
“I still have my heart, despite losing everything I loved. I know what it is to fear, grieve, and harbour resentment. I am not without compassion. I am proud, Solas, but I am not too prideful to ask for guidance. I have not closed my ears to the wisdom of my peers as Mythal did. Through me, she will be whole again”.
Solas rubbed his cheek upon her scaled palm. “Ir abelas. I did not think”.
“You rarely do before you open your mouth”, teased Ellana. She smiled at him. Mythal's fondness shone through her golden eyes. “This argument would have been avoided if you had listened instead of making assumptions”.
“Ellana”, implored Solas. “I have apologised”.
“Rascal”, reproved Ellana. “You always were sly”. She clipped the tip of his pointed ear when he tried to kiss her again. Solas's pained yelp made her eyes roll. Ellana was irritated by his behaviour.
“Nae!” she barked. “We are barely friends. We are most certainly not lovers. I have accepted the past you share with Mythal. The past we share is dead, Solas”.
“Nae!” rebuked the Dread Wolf. He gazed into Ellana's golden eyes. “I remember the way you kissed me. All fire, passion, and need. You love me”.
“I did what was necessary”, said Ellana. “To ease your pain”.
The brisk shake of his head earned her pity.
“It was more than necessity!” insisted Solas. “I did not imagine what I felt!”
Ellana tried to extricate herself from him. She stilled when calloused hands clamped around her scaled wrist. Solas held tight. He refused to let her go. The desperation coupled with fear urged him to exact an accounting.
He wanted to know, with certainty, if there was hope for them.
“Ellana!” begged Solas. “Please!”
“What you felt was Mythal's love”, corrected Ellana. “Not mine, Solas”.
“It is the truth”, said Ellana.
“It is not!” roared Solas. “You care for me still!”
“Let me go”, urged Ellana.
Solas's eyes were slick with moisture. His throat tight. His voice was raw with emotion. The sincerity of his reply astonished Ellana. She had expected as much, but to see the Dread Wolf so distraught, made her wonder if he was not as selfish as she thought.
“I cannot”, declared Solas. He spoke a line from the lullaby she had sung to him. “Irassal ma ghilas”, promised Solas. “Ar ma ghilas”. Solas grew more determined when the steel-tip of an arrowhead was aimed at his cheek.
“You will never escape me, Ellana”.
“Then perhaps”, said Ellana. “I will retreat to a place that lies beyond your reach”.
Solas's eyes widened. He did not want to believe it was possible, but Mythal had never slept through the ages as he had. She had bolt-holes in a thousand places. It would take him centuries to find them all. Solas knew that Ellana would know how and where to hide from him if she ever needed too.
“I cannot teach you to wield Mythal's magic”, coaxed Solas. “If you run away from me”.
Ellana looked him in the eye. “Then stop your hunt for Hawen and Minaeve”.
Solas saw the bribe for what it was. The way Ellana watched him with an expectant expression confirmed his belief. She would make an exchange of her time if he reconsidered his stance. They had kept their oaths to Mythal, by breaking his trust and confidence. It was a bitter pill to swallow.
“You will stay?”
“I will consider it”, replied Ellana. “If you no longer pose a threat to those under my protection. Hawen and Minaeve acted in Morrigan's best interest. They ensured Flemeth's release by coming to me. I opened the cage, you created, by breaking the wards used to seal Morrigan away. I became Mythal and here we are”.
Ellana frowned. She lifted her chin. She looked him in the eye. His deep ingrained fear of loss did not soften her resolve. Two lives depended on his decision.
“Can Fen'Harel put aside his pride?” asked Ellana. “The choice is yours, Solas. I will not condone the slightest threat to those I consider my own. I am not their god or their sovereign. I am the only shield standing between them and you. Try to break my guard and I will make certain you never see Mythal or myself again”.
Solas exhaled a shaky breath. “You would shackle me with chains of my own making”.
“You shackled yourself”, Ellana reminded him. “When you continued to love me after I tried to kill you”.
Solas regarded her cagily. He recognised the hard glint in her golden eyes. Mythal had always taken matters involving the lives of her devotees seriously. Solas saw her earnestness reflected in Ellana's expression and the tone of her voice. It was reassuring to see nuances of his dearest friend preserved in the face of his beloved.
“A smart man”, Ellana told him. “Knows when not to trust his heart”.
Solas chuckled. “An intelligent man”, he countered smoothly. “Knows when to set the caged bird free lest she break her wings upon the bars of her prison”. His head turned towards the sentinel elf doing her duty. He looked up the shaft of the arrow aimed at the vulnerable space between his eyes.
“Release her!” commanded Valoya. “Now!”
The embroidered hood had fallen from her head. Wisps of flaxen hair had escaped from the austere braid down her back. Her eyes were the verdant green of new leaves. Valoya glowered at the Dread Wolf. She saw an enemy not a comrade.
“Ellana”, entreated Solas. “We are not finished here”.
Ellana's reply was calm.
“Five hundred years ago. I would have given up everything for you. My clan, my life, my heart, and the Inquisition. You had me once, on my knees, begging to go with you. You refused me, Solas”.
“I walked the din'anshiral!” growled Solas. “I sought to spare you from sharing my fate!”
“You did not have to walk that path alone”, reasoned Ellana. “I am not afraid of dying”.
S olas bowed his head in shame. His grip tightened at Ellana's gentle jostling. He had made many mistakes. The greatest of all had come back to haunt him. H e had underestimated the wom a n he loved.
“I will not seek those who broke their oaths to me”, proposed Solas. “If you come to New Arlathan. I will await your return in fourteen days within the halls of the Virvhenas. You will come, without an escort, and be my guest for a day and a night. We will discuss the conditions of your tutelage during your stay”.
Ellana thought on his proposal. It was reasonable, although she knew Abelas would disagree. The rest of the sentinel elves would reject the idea too. They had already expressed their views on her keeping company with the Dread Wolf. They would not approve of her staying within the walls of his estate.
“Valoya”, prompted Ellana. “What do you think of Fen'Harel's suggestion?”
“Harellan!” spat Valoya. “Dirthara ma athim!”
A hasty nod to the entrance of Solas's tent was indication enough.
Valoya wanted Ellana to retreat.
“Garas! If you value my opinion, Ellana, then leave this place!”
“Solas”, said Ellana. “It is time for me to go”.
Solas peered into her golden eyes. His voice was soft. His message simple. He had spied upon her for centuries inside the Setheneran . He had seen the spirit-child she had concealed within the well of h e r memories.
“I await your return”, replied Solas. “You have a fortnight to decide”.
E llana turned her wrist, a silent cue for him to release her. Solas held tight for a moment longer. His fingers slid over her scaled skin. He paused, grip gentle. He lifted her scaled knuckles to his lips.
A chaste kiss sealed the deal.
“Dareth shiral ma vhenan”, remarked Solas. His grey eyes gleamed like the silvered blade of a sword. He would cut her sentinels down to find her again. “Keep your word, Ellana”, he warned her. “And I will keep mine. Fail, and I will resume my hunt for your charges”.
E llana's silent nod of acceptance was enough.
Solas released her scaled hand.
Ellana eyed him warily.
She had underestimated the Dread Wolf.
Valoya's arrow, nocked to the bowstring, was still trained on him.
“He deserves to die for all he has done”, stated Valoya. “I should kill him”.
“Nae”, said Ellana. “Elvhen isala Fen'Harel”.
The sentinel glared at the bedridden Solas. “We do not need a traitor in our midst. He wields too much influence over you, Ellana. He will cause trouble in the long run. It would be wisest to end his miserable life now than allow him time to regain his strength”.
“You are not a murderer, Valoya”, asserted Ellana. “If Solas proves troublesome, now or in the future, then I will deal with him. Personally. For now I will give him a chance to make amends. I owe Flemeth a debt for saving my life”.
Ellana glanced at Solas. She saw the hope she had kindled in his stormy-grey eyes. She wondered if he loved her for herself or for the spirit residing beneath her skin. Only time would tell if his affection was genuine or false. Ellana vowed that she would not be so easily fooled a second time.
“You have repaid it”, concluded Valoya. “Fen'Harel will live another day”.
Valoya lowered her bow. The steel-tipped arrowhead moved from Solas's forehead to the grassy floor of his tent. A flick of her wrist and the arrow was returned to the quiver strapped across her back. Valoya addressed him whilst Ellana turned on her heel. She waited until Mythal's Heir walked through the tent's leather flap.
“She is better than you deserve”.
“I know”, said Solas.
Valoya scowled. “If you touch her again without permission, Harellan. Ar tu na'din”.
“You can try”, retorted Solas. “I warn you now. You will not succeed”.
Valoya shook her head. She did not like how miserable he looked. His pride had deflated when Ellana had left his sight. He appeared helpless, but Valoya knew he was not. Fen'Harel had created the Veil and exiled Mythal's murderers to the void.
Valoya knew better than to believe his façade.
“You would make a poor husband”, said Valoya. “You are too selfish, thinking only of yourself. Ellana would be a fool to wed you”.
“Do you think Abelas would be better?” demanded Solas.
Valoya's response surprised him.
“Nae”, she admitted. “He is too gentle and too patient. Ellana is fiery and headstrong by nature. She needs a firmer hand than Abelas can provide. You would do, Harellan, if you were not so mired in the past”.
Solas's furrowing brows revealed his confusion. “What would you suggest I do?”
Valoya shrugged her shoulders. Her nonchalance annoyed him.
“I would appreciate your insight!” huffed Solas.
“The mighty Fen'Harel taking advice from a lowly sentinel elf. My husband will laugh until his face turns blue. How far you have fallen. Ma nuvenin, Harellan. If it is advice you want from a wedded woman. Ara dirthera ma”.
“Yes?” urged Solas. “I am waiting”.
“Stop wagging your tongue. You talk too much, Harellan. You heard Ellana say she missed her friend, Dorian. If you want her to trust you again. You must stop flapping your gums and start using your ears to hear her words”.
Solas frowned. “Ma serannas, though I wonder why you are so civil now. You would have put an arrow through my brain a moment ago. Killing me would have been easier than having this conversation. Have you an ulterior motive, Valoya?”
Valoya's smile was sharp and cutting like a blade. Her green eyes shone as she regarded him like a falcon would a mouse. He was the final thread of a rope that was slowly unravelling. She turned away from him, golden braid swinging as she walked to the entrance of his tent. Her words were final, the message clear, as she took her leave.
“Mythal enaste lasa sulahn'nehn Elvhen. Mythal abelas lasa di'nan Elvhen”.
A twinge of foreboding made Solas shiver. He grimaced when Valoya stepped outside. She had gone to rejoin Ellana and her remaining host of sentinel elves. Solas sighed when a familiar friend entered his tent. The leather flaps rustled in the wind.
“Cole”, greeted Solas.
The Spirit of Compassion assumed Ellana's empty seat. The stool creaked as he sat down. Cole folded his hands in his lap. He twiddled his thumbs. His anxiety annoyed Solas.
“What troubles you?”
Cole gestured to the fur covering Solas from chin to toe.
“You never noticed”.
“I did not notice what?” hissed Solas.
“You slept in Ellana's bed”.
Solas gave his bed a curious glance. He examined the brown fur, likely he guessed, from the back of a great bear. It was soft, thick, and full, and perfectly preserved. The work of a master tanner. Solas's hand slipped beneath it to prod the bedroll upon which he lay.
The leather was buttery beneath his fingers. The texture soft and supple. It was another perfect example of Ellana's craftsmanship. The Dalish had taught their hunters well. The stuffing was thick and warm too, showing that time and effort had gone into the bedroll's making.
“Oh”, mumbled Solas.
He was at a loss for words.
“Is that all you can say?” chided Cole. “She did a lot more than just giving you her bed”.
The disapproving expression upon his face infuriated Solas.
“Do not keep me in suspense forever”.
“Well, Solas. Ellana made an awful fuss when Ilcen suggested drowning you in the stream behind her hut. She said your bloated corpse would only foul the water. She was afraid Ilcen would cut your throat while you slept. So she sent him off with Hawen and Minaeve”.
Cole nodded gravely. “Ilcen would have killed you given the chance”.
“Not unlike Valoya”, said Solas. “Fenedhis lasa. I owe Ellana a life-debt twice over”.
“Unfortunately”, affirmed Cole. “Yes”.
“Abelas must have planned this from the beginning”, mused Solas.
Cole wisely gave Ellana's lover credit for the idea.
“I'm afraid he did”.
Elvish Translations: Courtesy of the Dragon Age Wiki – Elven Language.
Harellan – Trickster.
Fenedhis– An elven curse, likely translated to 'wolf crap' or similar.
Setheneran – The Land of Waking Dreams – aka the Fade .
Ma emma lath – You are, my love.
Ir abelas ma vhenan – I am sorry, my heart.
Nae – No.
Ar vallem ma tel'ghilas – I ask you not to go.
Uthenera - T he 'Eternal waking dream', entered by ancient elven elders who wished to end their long lives.
Irassal ma ghilas. Ar ma ghilas – Where ever you go. I will follow.
Din'anshiral – A journey of death.
Fen'Harel – The Dread Wolf – aka Solas.
Harellan – Trickster.
Dirthara ma athim – May you learn humility.
Garas – Come.
Dareth shiral – Safe journey – A Dalish farewell.
Elvhen isala Fen'Harel – Our people need the Dread Wolf.
Ar tu na'din – I will kill you.
Ma nuvenin – As you wish.
Ara dirthera ma – I will tell you.
Mythal enaste lasa sulahn'nehn Elvhen – Mythal's favour will bring our people happiness.
Mythal abelas lasa di'nan Elvhen – Mythal's sorrow will bring our people death.
Fenedhis lasa – An elven curse, likely translated into 'grant or give me wolf crap' or similar.
Chapter 9: Epilogue - The Sun's Shadow
Ellana looked to the horizon. The sun had risen high in the sky, the clouds were white boats on a sea of blue. If she tarried any longer it would soon be midday. A glance around their camp revealed that Abelas and the sentinel elves were ready to leave. Ellana knew they had already lingered too long.
The Halla were restless. The herd needed to move on.
It was reassuring to see that the sentinel elves had taken down their tents down. Their bedrolls and blankets had been packed away too. Their appreciation of her Dalish crafts had pleased Ellana. She smiled when she saw the bedroll and pelt she'd gifted to one sentinel tied across the shoulders of his mount. He’d had to make do, like all his brethren, with neither saddle nor bridle.
Unlike them he was accustomed to the lack of proper elvhen tack. He made use of a soft handwoven blanket thrown across his mount’s back. It was green and brown with a yellow trim, a fine example of Dalish weaving. Ellana was glad he hadn’t protested the idea. The rest of their band couldn’t travel on foot.
They needed mounts and she had a herd to muster. The does were due to calve in a few weeks and there was plenty of grazing around the Temple of Mythal. Fewer wolves would guarantee more fawns survived the spring. Halla hadn’t been seen in the Arbor Wilds for centuries. It would be a welcome change.
She turned at the sound of her name. She knew who spoke though she was reluctant to address him. They hadn’t talked since the incident with Solas. Ellana saw one last tent standing in the meadow. Solas was still inside, recuperating.
And she didn’t care a wit.
“Ellana. Please. Don’t leave him like this”.
She sighed, brows furrowing. Cole had never been good with farewells. Ellana knew he would have gone with her if not for Solas. Cole was being pulled between them like a piece of rope in a tug of war. To follow her was to leave Solas alone.
And to stay with Solas was to lose contact with her.
Poor Cole was torn between love and loyalty.
“You can’t ask me to stay”, said Ellana. “Not after everything he’s done”.
“He loves you”.
“Then why won’t you stay with him?” pleaded Cole. “Solas needs you”.
“He didn’t need me when he tore the Veil. Why is now so different?”
“No, Cole. Don’t ask me again”.
Cole wrung his hands. “Do you really have to go away with them?” He nodded to Abelas and the sentinel elves. They were waiting for her. Cole was miserable when Abelas vaulted atop the back of his mount.
The stag bugled.
It was time.
Ellana patted the golden flank of her own mount. Hanal’ghilan responded in kind, head lifting high. She roused the does and immature bucks. A soft cry got the herd moving. And soon the meadow was teeming with impatient snorting Halla. Cloven hooves stamped the earth as the herd waited for Ellana to start the migration.
“You know I must”, she told Cole. “I have to leave my valley like I do every spring. The herd needs new pasture. The does will be calving soon. And the bucks need to roam the Arbor Wilds to learn the lay of the land”.
“Make me a promise”, begged Cole. “Tell me you’ll return by next spring”.
Ellana’s smile was soft and sad. She gripped the ruff of Hanal’ghilan’s neck, knees bending. She leapt atop the doe’s back with the confidence of a seasoned rider. Ellana lifted the fingers of her clawed left hand to her brow. She nodded to Cole, scaled fingers tapping her forehead in a fond farewell. She turned away, head shaking.
“I swear no vows, ma falon. I have more than myself to take care of now”.
Cole frowned. “Because of the one whose eyes glow like the setting sun”.
Ellana knew whom he meant. “Yes. Because of her and more. Many things have changed. Nothing is the same as it was before”.
“I’ll miss you”.
“And I will miss you”.
Cole pouted. He tried again to wheedle an agreement out of her. “Solas will miss you too”.
“But I will not miss him”.
“My decision is made. Accept it, ma falon. I am leaving today. Now. Wish me a safe journey”.
Cole complied with a sad nod. “Dareth shiral”.
Ellana squeezed Hanal’ghilan’s golden flanks. The doe picked up her pace, trotting away. She was quick to take her place at the front of the herd. Ellana was a passenger as the doe wove her way through the throngs of Halla. Hanal’ghilan paused on occasion nosing a doe, or nipping the ear of a nervous buck.
It took time for her to make certain the herd was ready.
Ellana waited until her mount reached the big broad-shouldered stag. She nodded to Abelas when Hanal’ghilan shared a brief affectionate nuzzle with her mate. Her lover smiled. He was glad to be on their way too. It was passed time the herd migrated.
They’d been forced to delay a week thanks to Solas.
“Are you ready?” asked Abelas.
Ellana took a fortifying breath. She glanced over her shoulder and saw Cole standing on his own in the meadow. The spirit raised his hand in farewell. She waved him goodbye. She gave that single lonely tent one last look.
She didn’t regret leaving Solas behind.
Some things had changed, whilst others remained the same. The herd and the sentinel elves were her concern now. And like Mythal she was ready to take charge of them. Solas would be on his own for another year. After five centuries – Ellana doubted it would matter.
“Yes. Let’s go”.
Ellana turned her face towards the sun. She patted the crest of Hanal’ghilan’s neck.
“Find our path, ma falon”.
The doe snorted, head tipping forward. Sunlight gleamed off the interlocking spirals of her antlers. Ellana waited whilst she snorted and pawed at the earth. Moments passed until she was certain. Hanal’ghilan took that first bold step into the forest.
And a heartbeat later the entire herd followed.
“Fenedhis!” cursed one sentinel. “I was almost unseated!”
“Arryn!” bellowed Abelas. “Hold onto your buck with both hands!”
“Where? I do not have a bridle!”
“The fur along the ruff of his neck! Valoya! Show him how before he falls off! The herd will not stop for hours! We have miles to go before we make camp again!”
Ellana was amused by her lover’s annoyance. He was already arguing with the youngest member of his order. Their journey would be entertaining this year. They had more company than usual. Ellana laughed when Abelas muttered several elvish epithets.
He was scowling whilst his stag stayed close to Hanal’ghilan. The doe led. The stag followed. And the rest of the herd moved with them. The going was noisier than usual.
Ellana heard Valoya instructing Arryn.
“Not like that, ma falon. You pull too tight”.
“Is that why he almost threw me?”
Valoya’s tone was dry. “If a fool of an elf was trying to rip out your fur by the roots. I say. You would be trying to throw him off your back too. Go gentle now or you will end up on your arse in the dirt”.
Ellana snickered when Arryn sulked.
“I have never ridden a Halla before”.
“It shows”, said Valoya.
“Stop being so cruel”, complained Arryn. “And so honest. I am trying to learn. Be nice”.
“Hush. And stop trying to rip out your buck’s fur. Look he’s showing his teeth. Do it again. And he might just bite you”.
“I do not want to be bitten”.
“Then be gentler”, cautioned Valoya. “There now. That’s better”.
Ellana glowed with pride. Her smile made Abelas glower. He was unimpressed by her lack of sympathy. She had grown up around Halla. Riding one was second nature.
“You know my brethren have little experience with Halla”.
Ellana giggled. “Valoya’s doing fine”.
Abelas’ lip curled. “Her father bred horses before she came to the Temple of Mythal”.
“So that’s why she’s so comfortable around them”.
And around it went, as it did every spring. They chatted to pass the time. They would spend weeks together during the Halla migration. Although this year they would have more company than usual. Ellana heard Valoya and Arryn talking quietly.
Valoya praised him. “You are doing well”.
Arryn wasn’t so sure. “Am I?”
“For a novice. Although perhaps you could use some advice”.
“It would be appreciated. All of this is new to me”.
Ellana smiled as the sentinel bond thrummed with their camaraderie. The friendship between them was warm like sunlight and deep like the anchoring roots of a tree. It was full of respect – she knew – for Valoya had known Arryn for centuries. Ellana wondered if she could befriend the sentinel elves too. Only time would tell if her relationships with them would prove as amicable.
Ellana was jostled from her thoughts when Abelas called her name. She braced herself when he broached that sensitive subject. She sensed his fear and yearning through the sentinel bond. He wanted to earn her trust again. The past few days had been difficult for both of them.
“Will you sleep beside me tonight?”
“I don’t think that’s appropriate”.
She felt the sting of his disappointment. It pricked at her like a needle. Abelas wanted more than she was ready to give. Too many things had changed. And now a third person lay between them.
“You know why”.
Abelas exhaled a weary sigh. “I apologised for what I did”.
“Was it not enough? Are you still angry with me?”
“No and Yes”, replied Ellana. “You want the same thing Solas wants from me. And that knowledge hurts worse than an arrow-wound. I loved him and he destroyed my life. If I love you than the same thing might happen again”.
Abelas scowled. “I am not Fen’harel!”
“No”, she agreed. “You’re not”.
“We have been together for three hundred years! Does that mean nothing to you?”
She smiled. “It means everything and more”.
“Then why have you not forgiven me?”
Ellana raised her left hand high. The silver-white scales glinted in the sun like pearls. The tips of her claws were hard black points of obsidian. She flexed her fingers and pointed to her peeved lover. Abelas fell silent when he saw the forearm, hand, and wrist Mythal had returned to her.
A gift and a brand of responsibility.
“Mythal forgives. I do not. You are her acolyte first and my lover second. She accepts your love as another facet of your devotion. For her it makes sense to accept your affections”.
Abelas frowned. “But not you?”
“Not yet”, explained Ellana. “Give me time, ma vhenan. I am like a newborn butterfly testing her wings. The caterpillar is changed, the chrysalis torn open. I have yet to catch the wind and see if I can fly”.
He gasped. “Am I your heart?”
She smiled. “You’ve a place in it”.
Abelas blushed to the tips of his ears. “I do not know what to say”.
Ellana laughed. “You will find the words in time. I know it”.
Cole returned to Solas with a heavy heart. He pushed the canvas flap wide and stepped inside the tent. His friend was where he’d left him, lying inside Ellana’s sleeping furs. Solas looked at him – suddenly hopeful. Cole shook his head.
“And so she has left me again”, lamented Solas. “As I knew she would”.
“I asked her to stay”.
“I know, ma falon. But she refused as she always does”.
A tense silence passed between them for several moments. Cole thought on all that had happened in the past few weeks. Ellana’s ascension, Solas’ manipulations, the waking of the sentinel elves from Uthenera. And all because of a certain Witch of the Wilds – Mythal had returned. It was as wonderful as it was terrible.
“Solas. You’re not dealing with just Ellana”.
“She’s become something more than herself. She has the sentinel elves now too”.
“She is Mythal. And she bears Mythal’s responsibilities”.
Cole frowned. He saw the weariness in the dark circles under Solas’ eyes and the pallor of his skin. He was ashen-faced from illness, despite the comforts Ellana had provided. He was weak too, often shaking with fatigue doing the simplest tasks. Cole didn’t mind looking after him, but he wished Ellana were here instead.
It would’ve meant so much more to his broken-hearted friend.
“Do you truly know who you're dealing with?” asked Cole. “I’m not one of your courtiers. I won’t judge you. You can tell me the truth. We’re friends”.
Solas smiled though the light never reached his eyes. “Are we?”
“Of course we are!”
He laughed, though the sound was bitter. “Are you sure you are not taking pity on me?”
“Don’t push me away”, said Cole. “I’m all you have”.
Solas bowed his head, dark hair falling across his face. “I know, ma falon”.
“Oh, Solas. Don’t you see? Flemeth knew what you’d done with Morrigan and she knew what you would do to keep her alive. She planned it all from the beginning. She always intended to use Ellana and you made it easier for her to do that”.
Solas’ eyes closed in guilt. “I know”.
Cole persisted. “Do you love her?”
Solas’ mouth turned down unhappily. His eyes opened and his heart bled with every word he spoke.
“Ellana or Mythal?”
“You know I do”.
“Then why do you keep manipulating her?”
Solas’ confidence cracked and for the second time in days. Cole saw him cry. The tears came thick and fast, though he never made a sound. He wept in silence as if he were afraid the world would hear his weakness. Darkness had too often been Solas’ preferred hiding place.
Ellana had dragged him into the light.
Now he was burning.
Cole sighed. “You were right. I can’t help you, Solas. You’re broken in ways I can’t mend. Only Ellana can help you now”.
Solas cried harder, shoulders shaking.
Cole took a seat on the abandoned stool beside his bedroll. He sensed flickers of emotion leak through the armoured ring around Solas' heart. Cole felt fear, anxiety, self-loathing, and a despair so deep it almost drowned him again. He pulled back, breathing hard, chest heaving.
“I’m sorry!” he babbled. “I didn’t mean too”.
Solas’ voice was rough. “It’s all right, ma falon”.
“It’s not! You’re hurting! And I can’t help you!”
“I know. And so does Mythal. What you have said is true. Although I did not foresee Mythal stealing my vhenan. Ellana is in more danger now than she was before”.
“What?” gasped Cole. “Why?”
“I have wanted her with me all these years for one reason”, admitted Solas. “A shadow stalks her every step. Now more than ever because of her merging with Mythal. He will not be satisfied until they are reunited. I do not know if Ellana has the will to resist him”.
“Who? Tell me his name!”
Solas exhaled a weary breath. “The Sun”.
Cole paled. “No, Solas. You can’t mean him. He’s dead”.
“He is, but even in light there is darkness. Ellana will never see him coming until it is too late. She is Mythal. And Mythal was his wife. Elgar’nan hated me, but he loved her with all the fire that was in him”.