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What Dreams May Come

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Ari stretched out on her couch, left hand tightening around the white of her PS4 controller as she yawned. She blinked slowly, eyes taking in her surroundings. It was dark, the only light in the room was the save screen on her TV. She sighed, reaching for her phone and checked the time. 3:01am. Great. She would be able to get maybe an hour and a half of sleep before she had to get ready for work. Slowly she stood up, placing her controller on the light wood of her coffee table and walked around it still stretching.

She had promised herself she wouldn't make the same character. She told herself that she would make a male Qunari or a male Trevelyan and romance Dorian because even though she totally loved him platonically and loved him and Bull together, she really wanted to see his romance scenes. Of course, that is not what happened. No, what happened is what always happens. She loaded the screen, she made her lavender-eyed, silver haired Dalish Elf and prepared herself for tears with a bucket of neapolitan ice cream. She was completely useless and incapable of doing anything with this game that did not involve romancing Solas. Sighing, she turned and picked up the controller, making sure to save again just in case. She had just beaten Corypheus and was preparing for the hell that was Trespasser. Flicking her fingers across the controls, she moved to exit the game and turn off her system when the darkened room suddenly became much more bright. An eerie green glow emanated all around her until the living room of her apartment faded away to nothing. She tried to scream but no words came out as she felt her body shifting and pressure mounting all around her. Her ears were in excruciating pain and she felt the blood drip down her neck while she struggled to remain standing. All traces of thought left her mind and she felt needles push behind her eyes. It was the last thing she felt before the blinding light faded away to the darkness that was unconsciousness.


Her entire body was sore. She grunted, trying to get her bearings as her consciousness slowly returned to her. She felt the cold, hard ground beneath her and wondered briefly if this was what it felt like to die. She’d always thought it would be more warm and fuzzy, maybe some long lost friends and relatives to greet her. Not this abominable pain and discomfort. Her struggles were noticed and soon she felt soothing fingers brushing against her cheek.

Atisha, da’lan. Hamina,” a calm and wonderfully sexy voice carried to her ears and for a slight moment, she forgot she wasn’t wrapped in her warm blankets on her soft bed and wondered what Solas was doing in her apartment, before sleep carried her off again.


“It still hurts,” a high-pitched voice called to her. She turned around, coming face to face with a purple mass that seemed to take the shape of a small child.

“Everything hurts,” she whispered, turning her head to take in what was around her. It all seemed so familiar but she couldn’t quite place it. No matter though, her dreams were always a little chaotic and a little more out there than your run of the mill running out of the house in the nude.

“You don’t remember,” another voice joined in and she realized that various shapes and sizes surrounded her, ranging in colour and body.

“I don’t remember?” she asked, slowly almost as if she wasn’t quite sure she was supposed to remember anything at all.

“It broke,” yet another voice joined in.

Slowly, the shapes around her pressed against her, the purple child coming to stand in front of her, taking her hand.

“We’ll help!” it said excitedly, all but bouncing in place as it moved to guide her towards a rather fuzzy rock.

“I don’t understand…” she whispered, the shapes with voices followed, moving to sit around her as she took her seat on top of the fuzzy rock.

“You will, da’lan… you will…” a new voice broke out from behind her and as she turned to face it, everything faded away.


Her eyes burned as they slowly opened. She groaned, trying to sit up only to realize that she was chained. She was chained and it wasn’t in the fun way. Why did everything hurt so much?

“Tell me why we shouldn’t kill you now? The Conclave is destroyed-“

She knew that voice. She knew those words… no… she couldn’t… this was clearly just another overly realistic dream…

“-is dead. Except for you.” Cassandra, or rather a really, really well done dream-image of what she would actually look like in the flesh turned to her.

“You think I did it.” The words left her mouth; an automatic response she knew was expected of her.

Well, if I'm dreaming the game, I might as well play it right?

“Explain this,” the seeker reached for her hand and she felt the blinding pain break across her skin.

No… this was no dream.

Her eyes widened in shock.

How could this… those voices… those… were they spirits? Had that been the fade? Did that make me a mage?

“I can’t…” she whispered. I mean how was she suppose to tell them that this was actually a mark left by an artifact that belonged to an ancient Elvhen God…

“What do you mean you can’t?!”

“I don’t know what happened!” she cried as the seeker reached for the collar of her clothes. She didn’t want to lie to them. She knew exactly what it was and how it happened. She just didn’t want to tell them. It wasn’t like she was lying about not knowing anyways. She had no idea how she got here. That was what they were asking, right?

Leliana came between them, reminding Cassandra that they needed her. She fought to make her sigh of relief a little less audible. She sat there, just staring at the stone of the floor, waiting for more questions.

“Do you remember what happened? How this began?” Leliana had turned to her, forefinger on her chin as she studied Ari.

“I remember running. Things were chasing me… and then a woman, she reached out to me but then… nothing.” She tried her best to remember the game dialogue hoping that what came next didn’t kill her stupid self. If she was a mage… how the hell was she supposed to use magic?

“Go to the forward camp, Leliana. I will take her to the rift.”

“What did happen?” she asked as Cassandra removed her chains.

“It… will be easier to show you.” She stood, reaching down to help Ari to her feet.

Slowly they made their way out of what she knew to be the Chantry at Haven. Her eyes were met with a sight that even the best graphic processors couldn’t meet. It reminded her of the Aurora Borealis, except with fewer colours. The sky was filled dark clouds, surrounding a bright green light that illuminated the sky in an creepy radiance that was somewhat similar to what she imagined Hades' realm to look like. It cast shadows over the snow covered hills and she was almost suffocated by the raw power she felt pushing against her skin.

That light… it seems so… before she could finish her thought it was gone.

“We call it the Breach. It’s a massive rift into the world of demons that grows larger with each passing hour. It’s not the only such rift, just the largest. All were caused by the explosion at the Conclave.”
“An explosion could cause this…” she stared, marvelling at the scar she saw in the sky. She wondered if it had been similar when the veil was first created.

“This one did. Unless we act, the breach may grow until it swallows the world. Each time the breach expands, your mark spreads."

Ari fell to the floor grabbing her wrist, crying out in pain as the mark ripped through her palm. She could feel her veins being torn apart, her blood lit on fire as it spread through her.

"And it is killing you. It may be the key to stopping this but there isn’t much time,” Cassandra finished.

So help me, I will not lose this damn arm to this damn mark! she promised herself.

Her breathing returning to normal, she stood up, still grasping her wrist. “Alright then, let’s go.”

Cassandra’s eyes widened a little in shock. “You mean…?”

“If I can help… If I can do something to stop this madness, how could I say no?” she started walking forwards, more familiar than she should be with the terrain of Haven and Cassandra quickly followed. She could hear her drone on as the people of Haven glared at her and shouted obscenities her way. It didn’t matter to her.

What mattered was that she found herself currently in a video game. That she had no idea how to use what she now recognized as magic flowing around her and that she knew who the real big bad was… and she was pretty sure she was already in love with him. She wanted to face palm so bad but she didn’t think that would go over so well with Cassandra. Instead, she tried to remember what she could. She had been in her living room… just defeated Corypheus and was preparing for bed… then the light… Could the light have been the breach? Were they connected? She vaguely remembered the spirits telling her 'it' broke… that they wanted to help her. But help her with what exactly? Getting home? Closing the breach? Stopping Solas? Too many questions and too few answers.

She was startled by Cassandra’s cry as she realized that they had come upon demons. Her eyes flew wide in a panic. What was she supposed to do?

Without thinking, her body reacted as a rage demon came close. Raising her hand a flurry of snow and ice shot straight from her palm and encased the beast.

But I need a staff for that, don’t I?

Before she could think further, the demon broke free and she had to dodge his fiery swipe. She felt a barrier form around her and quickly moved her hands again, calling down a hailstorm upon the creature. A sword suddenly cut through the magma of the demon and she was faced with Cassandra as the last remnants of the demon faded away in smoke.

“How did you find a sta-“ her words cut off as she stared at Aryael, the shock clear upon her face. “The Dalish are truly something else,” she whispered.

Dalish? Wait, did that mean. Unconsciously, she raised her hand to her ears, feeling the pointed tip. An elf… She was an elf. She was a fucking Dalish Elf in a video game that not only had blatant racism towards elves but who’s big bad was an Elvhen God who didn't even consider the Dalish people.

Well, shit.

Chapter Text

Cassandra had seen many things on her journeys as a Seeker. She knew mages did not need staves but she also knew many did not know how to control their magic without a conduit. Seeing the prisoner in front of her so capable at wielding her magic without such a conduit left her feeling very unsettled. They had continued on their journey, running into a few more skirmishes with demons. The prisoner had more than held her own, saving her from injury on more than one occasion. She was not fond of feeling indebted to her.

“We’re getting close to the rift, I can hear the fighting.” 

Ari’s shoulders tensed. She knew what that meant. Varric and Solas. She had a vague recollection of hearing Solas’s soothing voice as she slept…

“That’s one for me! How many do you have, Chuckles?” Varric’s baritone rippled over the crackling of the rift.

For a moment, Ari stood in shock, taking in the scene around her. Solas stood to the left, staff a whirlwind as he let loose cold magic at the demons. Bianca let arrows whir past over and over as Varric shot as many off as he could into the demons. Cassandra had run in to join the battle, her sword glinting in the green glow of the rift as she hacked them all down. And Ari… Ari was on the verge of tears.

This so can’t be happening right now.

But she wasn’t left alone to think for long; a green circle appearing beneath her and she knew what was coming next. Without pausing, she froze the ground beneath her feet, blocking the path of the terror and scrambled up some fallen rocks to get a better vantage point.

Okay… muscle memory. That’s obviously what this is. Lavellan remembers what to do… so let her do it  

She closed her eyes briefly, letting the feel of the magic around brush against her skin before calling to. Raising her arm, she let loose chains of lightening that hit each of the demons on the field simultaneously and they all fell to dust. She didn’t remember seeing anything like that in the game.

Lavellan might be a little too good at this… she thought to herself as she noticed the stares coming from her companions.

“Quickly-“

She saw Solas reaching for her and was in no mood for that. Last thing she needed was to have his hand on her and realize that she was just as bad as Lavellan in that regard too.

No, no, no. Bad, Dreadwolf. Stay.

She jumped off of her rock perch and raised her left hand towards the rift, feeling the rip in the veil. She felt the resistance, almost like a zipper that was stuck and she pulled. With a resounding snap, the rift closed. It was easier than she had imagined it to be what with the muscle straining she had seen on her Inquisitor in game.

“I had theorized the mark might be able to close the rifts left in the wake of the Breach, it seems I was correct.” Solas voice thundered in her ears.

Come on now, Ari. We talked about this. Crushes on fictional characters are no good. Especially when they’re the bad guy. You are not allowed to have butterflies in your tummy!

But she did. His voice rolled over her, leaving gooseflesh in its wake and she was scared to turn to him. Her reaction to the hobo elf was not okay.

No, no, no. She would NOT do this.

“Meaning it could close the Breach itself,” Cassandra’s voice sounded hopeful; too hopeful.

Before Solas could speak anymore, she turned to the Seeker. “Possibly. It needs magic though… lots of magic.” She turned her head to the sky, looking towards the Breach. “I am not sure I alone will be enough to close it permanently.” Her back was still turned towards Solas.

“It seems you are the key to our salvation,” he continued to speak. She did not want to hear him right now. She did not want to see him right now. If Cassandra looked… If he looked real

“Good to know. Here I thought we’d be ass-deep in demons forever,” Varric’s humour was much appreciated at this moment. This… this she could do. “Varric Tethras: Rogue, storyteller, and occasionally unwelcome tagalong.”

She turned a toothy grin in his direction. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Varric!” Which was true. She loved Varric. She loved him in DA2 and she loved him in Inquisition. She was her Hawke’s best friend and one of her Inquisitor’s besties.

“You may reconsider that stance in time,” Solas drawled.

“Aww, I’m sure we’ll become great friends in the valley, Chuckles.” She couldn’t help but laugh, raising a fist to her mouth to try and cover her mirth. She’d always loved that nickname.

Cassandra and Varric began to debate the merit of his accompanying them when finally she could no longer ignore Solas.

“My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions. I am pleased to see you still live.” She turned to him then, surprised to see the inquisitive look on his face, almost as if he was searching for something in her eyes. She was lost in his gaze when she heard Varric’s voice tell her he had saved her life.

“You seem to have a lot of knowledge about it all,” she said, almost a whisper, still staring into the grey-blue depths of his eyes.

“Like you, Solas is an apostate.” Cassandra offered.

Their locked gazes did not falter. “Technically all mages are now apostates, Cassandra. My travels have allowed me to learn much of the Fade.-“ Yea, no, she was not listening to this dialogue again. 

“I must thank you, then, Solas. And be grateful for your travels. They seem to have saved my life,” she tried to sound normal. She really did. But she couldn’t help the huskiness in her voice. She did, however, finally manage to break free of his gaze.

“Cassandra, as I said, I am not sure I will be enough to close it. The magic here… No one person should be capable of having such power.”

She could feel his eyes on her still.

“Understood. We should get to the forward camp quickly.” Cassandra moved past them, leading the way further into the mountains.

“Well, Bianca’s excited.” Varric said with a smile as he moved to follow the seeker.

She moved to follow as well, not wanting to be left alone with Solas.

“You seem to know a great deal as well, da’lan.” He said, easily matching her stride with his long legs.

Dammit. I’m short enough as a human; did I really have to be short for an elf too?

“I had a good teacher, ha'hren.” She responded, keeping her eyes focused ahead of her.

She could almost swear she heard him chuckle.

“Do all mages in the Dalish learn to cast without a conduit?” he asked, clearly not satisfied to leave her alone.

“Do all non-Dalish mages not know how to cast without a conduit?” she retorted.

This time, she really did hear him chuckle.

Chapter Text

She was getting tired. She had walked for who only knows how long. Her body was still sore and there was pain in places she didn’t even realize existed. She just wanted to get to the Breach. 

“Another rift!” Cassandra yelled as she drew her sword.

“We must seal it! Quickly!” Solas added as he whirled his staff.

She groaned. Flicking her wrist she threw the demons in her way to the side, bee lining for the rift. Ignoring the demons around her, she raised her hand, disrupting the rift. She was knocked from her side as a demon took a swipe at her. Falling to the ground, she turned to see the demon frozen in ice.

“It would be prudent to keep aware of your surroundings, da’lan.” Solas said, casting another spell from his staff and causing the demon to shatter into pieces. He reached his hand down, offering her help and there was nothing she could do but take it.

Grasping his proffered hand with her right hand, she felt a shock as his warmth flooded her. “Ma serannas,” she whispered as he pulled her to her feet. She dusted the snow from her robes, noting for the first time that she wore dark green vestments lined with silver threads in the shape of branches. It reminded her of something but she couldn’t recall what.

“The rift, quickly now,” Solas gestured.

She raised her left hand, once again feeling the pull before snapping it back into place. This was exhausting. Had she really forced her little Lavellan to do this over and over without any rest? She was starting to feel bad for all of her grinding before Here Lies the Abyss.

“Open the gates!” She heard Cassandra before she watched the Seeker move past her.

With a startled jump, she realized she was still holding on to Solas’ hand.

“Ir’abelas, Solas,” she said, feeling her ears turn pink as she let go of his hand, turning quickly to follow the Seeker without sparing him so much as a glance.

She crossed her arms just under her breasts as she walked behind the seeker, heading straight for Leliana and Chancellor Roderick.

“Ah, here they come.” She hated this man’s voice.

“You made it. Chancellor Roderick, this is –“

“I know who this is. As Grand Chancellor of the Chantry, I hereby order you to take this criminal to Val Royeaux to face execution.”

“Order me?! You are a glorified clerk. A Bureaucrat!”

She loved this side of Cass.

“You do realize there is a large hole in the sky, yes? I mean, sure, take me to trial, and execute me, whatever… but none of that will be possible so long as that hole remains in the sky. I suggest we stop arguing over ridiculousness and try to do something about the problem. “ She was getting really agitated. She always hated the drawing on of the beginning of the game… and the Hinterlands. Fuck, the Hinterlands… she was going to have to do it all… again… and she JUST finished doing it all… again.

“Our position here is hopeless, we must retreat.”

“Hopeless? Are you serious? The creepy, green glowy thing on my hand can close rifts and you say hopeless?” she scoffed, dropping her arms to her sides. “I am going to the Breach. I am going to try and close the Breach. If you would like to join me, join me. If you would like to stop me, try.” She said, giving the Chancellor the mosty icy of her cut eyes.

“We can stop this before it’s too late.” Cassandra turned to her, a look of approval on her face.

“We can use our forces to charge as a distraction while we go through the mountains.”

“We lost contact with an entire squadron on that path, it is too risky.”

She bit her lip, holding back the cry as she clutched her hand to her chest, the mark once again tearing at her.

Solas stepped to her side, placing his hand over hers and she felt his magic dance along her skin, calming the mark. She looked up at him, not quite fond of how close he was to her at the moment. It was much too comfortable.

“How do you think we should proceed?” Cassandra’s eyes roamed over her, as if appraising her for more faults or perhaps just to see how much damage the mark had caused this time.

“The mountain pass. With luck, we can find the missing soldiers.” Her gaze flitted away from Solas, warmth once again flushing her face. She didn’t like this, no, not one bit. The damned hobo apostate was turning her into a tomato.

“Gather everyone left, Leliana, and take them into the Valley.” Cassandra ordered before turning to head out to the mountain pass.

Ma serannas, Solas. It seems the mark responds well to your magic,” she whispered, daring to flick her eyes up towards him once more.

She almost didn’t notice the subtle shift of his features. Almost.

“My experiences in the fade have done well to expand my knowledge on such matters,” he murmured, eyes once again searching her own, almost desperate for something, though she did not know what.

She smirked. His go-to. Of course he responded with his go-to.

“You’ll have to share some of your experiences with me one day, Solas. I imagine them to be quite fascinating,” she said softly. Oh there it was. There was her stupid little, sultry flirting voice. She hated herself so much right now.

BAD GUY, ARI! YOU DO NOT FLIRT WITH THE BAD GUY!

But he wasn’t really bad. Just misguided. Very misguided. And he was sweet… and cute…

Ugghh, not even here a day and I’m already justifying everything he has done and will do.

She saw his eyes darken; the ghost of a smile pulling at his lips and just as he was about to respond Varric interrupted them.

“Come on lovebirds, quicker we get to the Breach the quicker you can fascinate each other.” He put Bianca across his back as he walked past them.

The flush only deepened, heating her ears and cheeks a deep shade of red. She took her hand from his, skirting him to quickly catch up to Cassandra.

They crossed snowy hills, making their way for the tunnel and came to stand beneath ladders leading up the stone wall. Rickety, old, wooden ladders.

Great.

Cassandra quickly pulled herself up with Varric following behind and they swiftly scaled the ladders leaving her and Solas behind.

“Not fond of heights?” Solas inquired, coming to stand behind her, again much to close for her liking.

“It’s not that I’m not fond, per say. Simply that I do not enjoy the idea of an old, wooden ladder falling apart beneath me before I fall to my doom below, in a heap in bloody, broken bones.”

He chuckled. Yep, he definitely chuckled. And damn if it didn’t send a shiver up her spine.

“I promise, if you fall I will catch you, da’lan.” He said. He placed a palm at the small of her back, gently guiding her towards the ladder. “Come, we shouldn’t let them get too far ahead of us." 

She sighed, reluctantly accepting her fate and the warm fuzzies his words and touch were igniting within her. She would climb the evil ladders of death. And if she fell, at least she knew she would take the evil wolf with her.

Slowly, she pulled herself up, hands chafing against the cool wood. She felt the burn against her palms and was relieved when she finally reached the top.

They arrived at the front of the tunnel entrance and skirmished their way through it, emerging on the other side.

“Guess we found the soldiers,” Varric pointed out, lowering Bianca.

“That cannot be all of them,” Cassandra did not want to believe it.

She continued on, ignoring their banter as she searched for the rift she knew would be close by. 

Soon. Soon she would seal the rift for the first time and she could rest.

She just wanted a bed.

The rift came into view and she swung her hand outwards, a hail of ice hitting the demons nearby and scattering them. She pulled at the rift, disrupting it before the demons could get away. Splaying her fingers, crackles of lightening once again fell from the sky, striking them all down.

She panted. This was truly becoming exhausting. The others joined her as the next round of demons made their way through the once again functional rift. Cassandra hacked and slashed her way through them as Varric provided cover fire. She felt a barrier surround her and knew it was Solas. She could even taste the difference in their magic. Catching her breath, she waited for the right time to finally close the rift, the demons having been dealt with.

“Another rift, sealed. You are becoming quite proficient at this. Though I still do not think it wise to rush into battle without us. You are a mage, not a warrior.” His scolding tone made her teeth clench.

“I do believe I managed to take care of the first round of demons all by myself, ha’hren.” She bit back, refusing to acknowledge that he was right. She didn’t even really know what she was doing, how her body worked… all she knew was that she was tired. She knew was sore and she had no idea if crossing between worlds had done any permanent damage besides the fact that her body was now clearly that of an Elf.

“Thank our prisoner, Lieutenant. She insisted we come this way."

She had forgotten about the scouts.

“The prisoner, then you…”

“Well, you know. Getting arrested, saving some scouts, saving the world… just the kinda day I’ve been having.” She chuckled to herself. “You should return to the forward camp. The way behind us should still be clear.”

“The path ahead appears to be clear of demons as well.” Solas advised.

“Let’s hurry before that changes.” Cassandra said, turning back towards the path.

More ladders. Great. This time going down.

“So… holes in the fade don’t just accidentally happen right?” 

“If enough magic is brought to bear, it is possible.”

“But there are easier ways to make things explode.”

“We will consider how this happened, once the immediate danger has passed.” Cassandra. Always the pragmatist.

Solas seemed true to his word about willing to catch her however, going down just after Varric and before her. She slipped once, her hands tightening on the rungs so hard she thought she would snap the brittle wood.

Syla. You are safe, da’lan.” Solas called from beneath her. He was right. She took a steadying breath and continued down, grateful to be almost done with the ladders. 

When her feet touched the snowy ground she almost dropped to her knees and kissed it. She had never really been scared of heights before… but these ladders. They just didn’t even pretend to look secure.

They came upon the temple and she wondered for the first time if things would be different. I mean, Lavellan fell out of the fade too but what about her? What about Ari? Would she be there? Had she been there?

Slowly, they made their way inside the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Her eyes hurt from the glare of the rift.

“The Breach is a long way up…” Varric said as he paced towards the railing.

“Thank the Maker, you made it.” Leliana cried in relief before ordering her men to take positions around the temple.

Cassandra turned to her. "This is your chance to end this, are you ready?”

“Never been more ready to get this over with,” she exclaimed, turning from her companions to follow the familiar path downwards, ignoring any more comments. 

She heard the booming voice of Corypheus and was stricken once again by the thought that anything that evil and ugly should not have such a pleasant voice.  

She could hear the fear in Cassandra’s voice as she wondered at what she was hearing. Solas could explain it. He knew exactly who it was.

Damned wolf.

As she came across the red lyrium, she paused. She had always wondered what it looked like close. The closer she drew to it, the more pronounced a buzzing of sorts became. It was lyrical, almost like a hum. She could see swirls twirling inside the depths of the stone that were reminiscent of lava lamps, albeit with a thinner matter inside. Before she could draw any closer, she felt Varric’s hand halt her at her stomach.

“Now that is not such a good idea. You don’t want to get anywhere near the stuff, trust me.” He said with a grimace. 

He was right. She just hadn’t expected it to call to her so much.

She nodded once, before continuing on, Corypheus’ voice drawling on as they finally landed near the rift.

Her mark shone brightly and she heard herself asking what happened before a vision played out before her eyes.

Eyes that widened in shock. It was the first time she saw herself, well the new self that is. Her hair was long and silvery, curls cascading down her back with her left side shaved. Braids of various size threaded through its mass as it draped down, falling just below her rib cage. It was a far cry from the dark curls that barely passed her shoulder. The ivory skin of her face was branded with the dark purple of Sylaise’s vallaslin over her left eye and down her cheek bone. Her eyes were wide with a determinedness that belied the fear behind them. And they were purple. A striking lavender with dark violet around the pupils. She looked just how she imagined she would look in her head if not as similar as she could make herself look on her console. But she looked nothing like the human she was. Her lithe frame could have been no more than five foot two, though she did note that she seemed a tad more curvaceous than her Inquisitor in the game. Her hips were more full, thighs slightly thicker and bust definitely larger. Maybe all of her humanity didn’t slip away…

She was brought back to reality and her eyes were torn from staring at herself by Cassandra. 

“-Is she…? Was this vision true? What are we seeing?” 

“I don’t remember, Cassandra.”

Because she didn't. She really didn't know what happened to her and she really didn't remember being at the Conclave.

“Echoes of what happened here. The Fade bleeds into this place. This rift is sealed but closed, albeit temporarily. I believe that with the mark, the rift can be opened, and then sealed properly and safely. However, opening the rift will likely attract attention from the other side.” Solas turned to them, leaning slightly on his staff.

“Great, more demons. Don’t you just love fighting demons,” she said, running a hand through her hair and cursing when it snagged on her braids. “Fenedhis. Alright, I need to get close to the rift to disrupt it or close it. There are probably going to be demons. Lots of demons. Solas, you mentioned this is the first rift? I would go under the assumption that means that the spirits have been aware of this rift for some time and that there are probably some pretty strong foes awaiting us.” She wanted to warn them. She knew how devastating this fight would be. Hell, she had died the first time she played it on nightmare. That still stung. Probably shouldn’t have jumped the gun and started the game for the first time on nightmare difficulty though.

“She is correct. Prepare yourselves for the worst.” Solas nodded his head towards her, walking off to the side as everyone found their positions. 

Okay, little pride demon… let’s go.

She raised her hand and pulled at the rift. Unsurprisingly, it was much easer to pull a rift open than it was to close them. Within moments the Pride Demon knelt before her and she ran. She found cover behind a fallen stone, taking a deep breath and pulling the fade around her. She cloaked herself in it, felt it brush against her and sink under her skin as the sounds of battle fell away.

As quickly as she had run behind the fallen stone, she dashed back out, flicking her wrist and casting lightening at the lesser demons plaguing the soldiers. She pulled her first inwards, a stone fist forming at the Pride Demon's back and pummelling him from behind. Satisfied that the demon was otherwise occupied by an unseen enemy, she focused her attention on the rift, raising her left hand to disrupt it before once again turning her attention to the demons. She knew her lightening would not work, but ice, ice could work. Waving both her hands in the air, she summoned a blizzard, hail and snow swirling in strong winds as they encircled the Pride Demon who knelt on its knees, vulnerable. As her storm raged, she threw more stones at the demon, focusing her attention on it and praying the soldiers would deal with his lackeys. She knew it was strong and knew that if it had the chance it would kill the first person it got its hands on. She refused to let that happen.

She felt a sweat break upon her brown and her muscles strained as she continued to cast. She knew she was getting more tired. She had already been tired when she awoke and closing the rifts took a lot out of her. Not to mention, she was still getting used to her magic.

Finally, the demon fell with a thud and she turned back towards the rift before she fell as well. Raising her hand once more, she pulled and pulled… the rift did not want to close. Gritting her teeth she refused to give in and she yanked with all she was worth, finally closing the rift. 

“See, ha’hren,” she whispered as she fell to her knees, “I’m not a mage or a warrior… I’m both.” Her eyes closed and she was vaguely aware of being caught in someone’s arms before unconsciousness claimed her for its own once again.

Chapter Text

She was lying on the grass as the sun blazed down on her skin, warming her as she listened to the sounds of the stream nearby. 

It was nice. It reminded her of summer camps as a child. 

“You’re back!” An excited little voice exclaimed before she felt a warm and soft pressure settle on her stomach. It was the purple child.

“I have returned, da’lin,” she said, curious as to what this spirit could be.

“I’m glad. You remember things you don’t really remember. It’s not good for you to be out there, alone…” the spirit sounded sad almost. 

“Remember things I don’t really remember?” she queried, unsure what the spirit meant. 

“You know things but you don’t remember things. Things you should remember. Things you want to remember. It’s because it broke,” the little spirit said, placing its hand over my heart.

“My heart broke, da’lin?” She scrunched her nose in thought. Did it mean Solas? That her heart broke so I couldn’t tell apart her realities?

I mean, I was heavily invested in this game, perhaps that’s what it meant. Who didn’t cry after he left again in Trespasser?

“No, silly. Well, yes. But no. Not really. Your heart broke, yes. But that’s not what really broke. You went away. Far, far away. And nothing could bring you back. But now you’re back!” The spirit smiled, clapping its hands together.

She was more confused than when she had first woken up. A brief look of sadness washed over the spirit-child’s face.

“I have to go. I will be back though! I promised I would help!” it said, scooting off of her stomach and fading away into the background of the fade. She continued to lie there, wondering what scared the spirit off and what exactly broke before she felt someone watching her. Was it a spirit? She didn’t think she was that scary, perhaps it just didn’t know how to talk to her?

Before she could sit up and introduce herself, the fade slipped away.

 


 

She blinked wearily, eyelids heavy still and she knew she needed to rest more. Yawning, she raised her hand and rubbed her eyes before blinking away the last traces of sleep from her eyes.

“You have awakened.”

The voice made her jump. Her head snapped and her gaze was caught by the sight of Solas sitting on a chair by the foot of her bed, with a book in his hands. Her eyes flicked over the long, elegant fingers and she mentally scrubbed her brain of dirty thoughts before resting her gaze against his.

“It appears so.” Her voice sounded hoarse and she realized she was very, very thirsty.

“You managed to seal the rift, temporarily. I imagine you were right. You will need a much larger power source than your own magic to be able to seal the Breach. This almost drained you as it is.”

If she didn’t know any better, she would almost swear she detected a hint of worry in his voice.

“What… What happened after I sealed it?” Slowly, she pulled herself up in her bed, resting her back against the pillows and headrest.

Solas placed his book on the table behind him and reached for her left hand, turning it over in his as he traced the mark with his finger.

“You fell, exhausted to the ground. I carried you back to Haven and you slept straight through the day and night. A fever broke across your skin. For a moment, I thought the mark had done you in. But the mark stopped growing, it lay dormant in your hand and flared no more. As far as I could tell, it caused no more pain.” At some point during his observation of her mark, his eyes had returned to hers and her breath had hitched.

His fingers felt nice. She felt the flush spread from her nose, across her cheeks and up her ears.

Damn Dreadwolf!

His eyes continued to search hers, again, as if he was looking for something.

“Solas?”

“The Breach has stopped growing. Cassandra would want to see you and plan your next steps. You can find her in the Chantry.”

His cool mask of indifference, the one she hated so much, fell across his face as he dropped her hand as though it burned. He stood, taking his book in his hand and walking towards the door.

“I am glad you survived yet again, lethal’lan.” His words echoed in her cabin as he closed the door behind him.

Lethal’lan… what had changed?

She had barely made it through the prologue and already Solas was throwing her off… Just what had she gotten herself into? 

 


 

Ari got up from the bed and hastily dressed in her green robes. As she headed out of the cabin, she grimaced at the sight of the villagers. She remembered Haven and it’s fanatical cult from Origins. She swore there had to be something in the water here, the villagers were looking at her in much the same way she had always felt the cultists had looked upon their dragon.

Avoiding making eye contact with anyone, she scurried along the path and up the steps, heading straight for the Chantry doors and walked inside. She could hear Roderick and Cassandra arguing behind the large oak door from the front of the Chantry.

Bracing herself for more annoyance, she walked down the hall with a confident stride, pushing open the door and was met with Roderick’s demands for her arrest. She didn’t even try to hide the smirk when Cassandra dismissed his command.

She let them bicker among themselves before cutting in.

“I understand the importance of finding who is responsible for the destruction of the Conclave. I understand the devastation of the death of the Divine and all other lives that were lost… but the Breach… The Breach is not gone. We can’t ignore it.”

“And the mark on your hand. Being the sole survivor… do these not strike you as suspicious, Seeker?” Roderick seethed.

“It was exactly what we needed, when we needed it. I heard the voices at the Temple. Most Holy called to her for help. She is innocent.”

“Thank you, Cassandra.”

“This is not for you to decide!” Roderick exclaimed.

Cassandra turned, grabbing a large tome and slamming it on the table.

“Do you know what this is? It is a writ from Divine Justinia, granting us the authroty to act. As of this moment, I declare the Inquisition reborn. We will close the Breach, we will restore order,” Cassandra walked towards Roderick with a menace in her step, “With or without your approval.”

Damn, Cass. You go, girl!

Roderick stormed out of the chamber.

“This is the Divine’s directive: Rebuild the Inquistion of old. Find those who will stand against the chaos. We aren’t ready. We have no leader. No numbers. And now, no Chantry support.” Leliana walked around the table, coming to stand at Cassandra’s side.

“But we have no choice: We must act now. With you at our side.” Cassandra turned to her, eyes blazing with duty and determination.

“And the Chantry? You want to start a Holy War.”

“We are already at war. You are already involved. Its mark is upon you. As to whether or not the war is holy… that depends on what we discover.” Cassandra laid her hand to rest on the hilt of her sword.

“If you are truly trying to restore order. To end the chaos-“ she began.

‘That is the plan.” Leliana cut in.

“Help us fix this, before it is too late.” Cassandra asked.

“Of course.” She reached out, clasping her hand to Cassandra’s forearm as the woman did the same to her. “We will right the wrongs done to Thedas.”

They had no idea what that really meant.

 

 

Chapter Text

She left the war room, turning on her heel to leave Cassandra and Leliana to whatever it was they had to do now. Practically skipping down the steps, she headed off to find Varric.

Haven was a flurry of activity, everyone running around to do what they could. She smiled brightly as her gaze fell upon Varric and he returned it with a toothy grin of his own. 

“So, now that Cassandra’s out of earshot… you holding up alright, kid? I mean you go from being the most wanted criminal in Thedas to joining the armies of the Faithful. Most people would have spread that out over a little more than one day.” 

“Honestly… I’m just glad I didn’t kick the bucket. Could you imagine? Having to deal with Cassandra and Roderick… sealing the breach and never getting my just rewards? Not that this is exactly just rewards… who really wants to be the Herald of Andraste anyways?” she sighed. “I’ll get back to you on how it feels once it all settles in. It still doesn’t feel real… like I’ll open my eyes shortly and this will just have been some sort of dream.” 

“I still can’t believe you survived the blast…”

“You know, Varric… I’m very impressed with you. Bianca and skills aside… you didn’t have to be here. But you are.” She smiled then, a soft curving of her full lips as she looked down on the dwarf. 

“Even I can’t walk away and leave this to sort itself out.” 

“And that’s what impresses me, Varric. You’re a good man.”

“You know kid, you might want to consider running at the first opportunity you get. I’ve written enough tragedies to see where this is going. Heroes are everywhere. I’ve seen that. But the hole in the sky? That’s beyond heroes. We’re going to need a miracle.”

“Or divine bad luck. I seem to have that in spades,” she countered with a cheeky grin.

Varric laughed, a loud guffaw, he couldn’t keep in and it was infectious. Ari grinned like a madwoman.

“That you do, kid. That you do.”

“Thank you for your uplifting speech, Varric. I will do my best not to run and escape at the first opportunity.”

“You know kid, you remind me of someone. Liked to get in to trouble just like you. Didn’t know how to help themselves, but they knew how to help everyone else. For what its worth, I’m rooting for you.”

A thought flitted across her mind and she flushed with shame as she realized that she had never actually introduced herself to anyone.

“Oh, Varric! I’ve been remiss! I never even told you my name!”

“Oh? Just noticing? Thought you were giving me the opportunity to come up with my own,” He smirked.

With a flourish she bowed, “Aryael Lavellan: First to the Keeper of Clan Lavellan, singer extraordinaire when drunk and lover of wolves at your service.”

“And the chosen of Andraste, a blessed hero sent to save us all.”

She heard Solas’ voice behind her and again was flush with embarrassment. Standing upright, she turned to face him. She heard Varric’s chuckle walking off into the distance.

Was the man actually leaving me alone with him?! On purpose?!

“Am I riding in on a shining steed to save fair maidens from fire breathing dragons?”

He smirked. “I would have suggested a griffon. But sadly, they are extinct. Joke as you will, posturing is necessary. I’ve journeyed deep into the Fade in ancient ruins and battlefields to see the dreams of lost civilizations.”

More like lived through the fall of Arlathan, caused the destruction of your people and put the veil up, but you know, do your Fade thang, Solas.

“I’ve watched as hosts of spirits clash to re-enact the bloody past in ancient wars both famous and forgotten. Every Great War has its heroes. I’m just curious as to what kind you will be.”

“Ruins?” she asked. She couldn’t help it. She loved Thedas and the man was like a walking, talking encyclopaedia.

“The past is entrenched in places of old. Places that have withstood the rigours of time, battlefields steeped in blood…” He turned to her, cocking his head to the side. “Both attract spirits, pressing against the veil. When I dream in such places, I am able to go deep into the Fade, finding memories no other living being has ever seen.”

Like your own…

‘Somniari… Solas, are you a Dreamer?” she asked innocently, knowing full well the answer.

“You have heard of them, da’lan?” his curiosity was clearly peaked and had yet to give way to wariness. She needed to remember not to let her vast wells of game knowledge slip out so easily!

“I have read things in my Keeper’s books. A few scant passages detailing the abilities of some select mages and the Fade. What you describe sounds strikingly familiar.”

“I see. Yes, a Dreamer. That is what you would call it. I have never met another in this age,” he said as he looked at her curiously.

Oh, Solas… You’re slipping. That right there is prime Dreadwolf clue time.

“I will stay then. At least until the Breach is closed.”

“You were going to leave?”

These conversations are starting to become annoyingly structured.

“I am an apostate mage surrounded by Chantry forces and unlike you, I do not have a Divine mark protecting me.”

“I would not let them harm you, Solas.” It was a soft promise, less vehement than she had intended; a warm whisper against her lips that shocked him.

“How would you stop them?” he asked, eyes narrowing.

“Any way I had to,” she promised with a viciousness she didn’t even realize she had in her. It was in that moment she realized that she would in fact, do anything in her power to protect this foolish, foolish man. And she would keep his secret. She would stop him, of course, from burning the world down around them. But she would not let any harm come his way in order to achieve that goal.

 

 

Chapter Text

Any way I had to… 

The words rang in his ears as he lay on his cot. She was a mystery. When he had first found the Chantry forces, spoken with Cassandra and found her chained to the stone walls of the prison in Haven, he had been shocked.

She looked so familiar, as if he had known her for thousands of years. Her pale skin was marred by the vallaslin of Sylaise and it had made his heart ache. The Dalish were fools, honouring would-be Gods through practices meant for slaves… She was no different. But something about her had…

The curve of her lips, the soft tip of her nose, the silver curls at her nape… It was like he knew her, had seen her before. But for all that he wracked his brain, for all he had even searched the Fade of his memories… He could not find a trace of her.

Who was she? This Aryael of Clan Lavellan? She was clearly a talented mage, capable of wielding magic with no conduit… In the days of Arlathan, it might not have been so rare but her strength… That was rare. She could have rivalled many a noble house.

And she knew. She knew the rift and the mark almost intimately. How had she managed to understand the lock and key so easily? He had not needed to show her anything.

He sighed. He would not get answers to these questions tonight.

Standing up in his small cabin, he made his way to the door and took a sharp breath at the feel of the mountain air hitting his skin as he opened it. Taking a left, he slowly made his way through the winding streets of the small town and came out of the gates.

The soldiers to his right were wrapping up for the day, sharpening swords and wiping sweaty brows. He noted Cassandra and Cullen speaking near the corner of a tent and veered to the left. He was not in the mood for questions about the Breach. 

Walking down the mountain path, he took in a deep breath, giving his head a quick shake.

This was not what he had intended. The magister had clearly been underestimated. And he was still all but powerless.

A whirring noise caught his attention and slowly he crested the medium sized hill in front of him, coming to a plateau of sorts. He was met with the sight of Aryael, hair pulled back and tied in messy bun, sweat soaked locks clinging to her neck and temple. Her breath was ragged and she was clutching something in her hand, striking at the air.

It was a sword. A spirit sword.

How had this child found the secrets of the Dirth’ena Enasalin?

Aryael had not noticed his presence and continued to run through basic forms with her sword. She knew Lavellan had been a mage and knew that the game had you slowly advance in skill but she refused to believe that her companions and herself had started out so weak in reality. Varric alone had been hella skilled by the time Anders blew up the Chantry, she had made sure of that.

So she left the walls of Haven, found a secluded spot and decided to let muscle memory do what it did best. She felt the magic. She called upon the different elements, noting ice and electricity felt more familiar. She manifested a shield, a sword, moved rocks and called forth vines from the ground.

Her magic, it seemed, was a heady mix of spells that spanned across all games and she was starting to become familiar with them all. She wanted to know if she could shapeshift like Morrigan could too, but as of yet was a little too scared to wind up some sorta werewolf looking creature to do anything. So instead, she practiced. She called forth her sword, feeling its familiarity in her hand and she struck the air.

She didn’t know how long she had been there moving her sword in various arcs, straining her muscles to move through defenses and lunges when she finally noticed she was no longer alone. Letting the sword fall away, she turned, breath heavy, and swiped away a stray lock of her hair from her face, placing it behind her ear.

Of course it had to be Solas.

“It would seem the Dalish are most talented. I have seen remnants of that particular skill in the fade. The People called it Dirth’ena Enasalin-“

“Knowledge that led to victory. Yes, I am aware. My clan spent time in the Brecilian Forest. There were many ruins there and I came upon a vial that held the spirit of one such warrior. They taught me what they knew in return for release from their prison. They had lost much to the years, but that, that they remembered.” Taking a little bit of history from the Warden couldn’t hurt right? I mean it wasn’t like anyone besides her and her companions knew about that little spirit and she doubted Solas was about to go confronting Leliana about such an adventure.

His eyes widened. “You found a spirit trapped in a ruin?”

“I have found many things in my travels, Solas,” she said, wiping her sweaty palms against her robes. “Have you not yourself unlocked many mysteries found in the past through the Fade? Perhaps my journeys have not been so different.” She mimicked him then, pulling her arms behind her back and clasping her hands as he was want to do. She cocked her head to the side, eyes roaming over him. 

Solas was taller than he seemed in the game. She would easily peg him at around 6'1. His shoulders filled that drab sweater much better than they should have and it did little to hide the fact that the man clearly had a bubble butt. The freckles dusting his face were faint, his nose a little less sharp and his eyes slightly larger than they appeared in the game. The cheekbones and chin though… those had been pretty spot on. He stood, hands draped at his sides and feet slightly apart.

How did the man walk all but barefoot in the snow? Did he have super elf feet? Did that mean I had super elf feet too?

He regarded her as if she was some puzzle to solve. She didn’t like it. She needed to appear less interesting. She did not need the attention from him.

“It would appear they are not. I would be interested to hear more of them, Aryael. It seems I may have underestimated the Dalish.” A slight inclination of his head matched his words.

“Underestimated them? No, I would think you probably did not. The Dalish are… firm in their beliefs and ways. There were many things I came across that led me to believe that perhaps those beliefs and ways were not the right ones…” the words had escaped her mouth before she could even think them through but they felt right. Felt as if Lavellan had in fact had doubts about the Keeper and what exactly they kept.

Ari had written quite a few fanfictions in her day. From her whirlwind love affair as a Cousland with the soon to be King of Ferelden, to her days convincing the abused slave that it was okay to love a mage and the torture that was solavellan hell… She had also written memories, glimpses into the lives of her heroes before they were heroes. In her head cannon, Lavellan had explored ruins. She was somewhat similar to Merrill, always eager to explore and find answers. And she had in fact, found answers, some of which the Keeper had not liked. There was always a disconnect and that was why it was so easy for her to believe Solas and his words about the truth of her history. Why it was no shock to her that the Dreadwolf had not betrayed Mythal.

Does that mean that… I am literally living the life of the Lavellan I wrote and created? But that would mean…

“I must admit, I would never have thought to hear a Dalish say such a thing,” his tone was amused, cutting off her train of thought as she looked up into eyes that twinkled with something she didn’t quite understand.

“I am sure there are many things you will hear from my lips that you had not thought to hear a Dalish say.”

There it was again. That damned flirty voice.

Her lips curved in the barest hint of smile, a promise of something hidden behind them. 

His breath hitched as he looked into her eyes. He had to admit to himself she was beautiful. Her eyes sparkled in the fading daylight, soft hues of purples, framed by thick, dark lashes under perfectly arched brows of a dark grey. Her skin was cream and soft, the faint hue of a blush constantly dusting her cheeks only made her all the more endearing. Seeing her like this, however, cheeks flushed from activity, hair the colour of moonlight askew in messy curls and the faintest glow from the sheen of her sweat dusting her skin…

He closed his eyes briefly and attempted to collect himself.

“I look forward to such enlightment, Aryael,” his voice a soft growl, her name on his lips sending a shiver down her spine and warmth through her core.

They stared at each other, having unconsciously begun to close the distance between them. They stood, mere inches between them, lost in words left unspoken. Aryael licked her lips, tongue darting out and teeth nibbling on her bottom lip slightly. Solas’ eyes were drawn to the movement and as tempting a picture it made, it had broken the spell.

Solas was the first to come to his senses. Turning his head, his body soon followed.

“Should you wish to continue enlightening me, perhaps we might share a meal this evening in the tavern?” he asked, back straight as he began to walk away from the elf who was the cause of too many unknowns.

“I would like that, Solas,” she whispered, voice carrying in the silence of the mountains.

 

 

Chapter Text

Ari slammed the door to cabin behind, leaning her back against the wooden frame and digging her fingers into her hair.

“What is this? What is wrong with you Ari? Are you secretly a devious masochist, begging for pain?” she harshly whispered to herself as she groaned.

She was flirting with someone who was literally nicknamed dreadwolf. Who in an act of righteous rebellion, sealed the most powerful mages of the time behind a veil that he created and had now decided need to come down. This man may deny being a God but he played at it nevertheless.

Sighing, she released her hair and stood straight, moving across her cabin to sit on top her cot, hands splayed out behind her and holding up her weight.

“Okay, Ari. Let’s take a breather and take stock. One: you were getting ready for bed and turning off your system after defeating Coryphishite. Two: strange green light, lots of pain and then, poof: nothing. Three: what we can only assume to be spirits coming to greet you in what appears to be the Fade and telling you that something broke, that you know but you don’t remember. Four: you wake up as the Inquisitor in a dungeon being interrogated by Cassandra Pentaghast. Five: you think the smart thing to do is act out on the crush you have and flirt with the Elvhen God of Rebellion. Six: you are a mage. A pretty powerful one if the stares that your magic has garnered is any indication and you do not need a staff.” Groaning once again, she let herself fall back on the lumpy mattress.

“What the hell, Ari? Even your fanfics aren’t this messed up…” her whisper softly fell from her lips as she threw an arm across her eyes and fought back a sob.

Was this her life now? Was she doomed to repeat the same mistakes, survive the same atrocities? Or would she die?

I mean, there was no ‘your journey ends’, load last save screen coming my way any time soon.

And if this was as real as it felt… What about the real Lavellan? Why did she seem to understand her past enough to understand how she felt about the Dalish but not have any actual recollection of the last… How old was Lavellan again? If she was piecing things together correctly, the current world state of Thedas was very much based upon the headcannon and fics she had written amongst her favourite playthroughs of each of the games. That meant that her Lavellan was about 21.

“You just have to take it, Ari. Think of it as a big adventure. You love Thedas. You love Dragon Age. Aside from all the anxiety and fear that being here induces… you’re here. You are in Thedas, living the game. You cannot pretend that isn’t freaking deliriously cool.” She chuckled to herself.

She was in Thedas. Maybe for now, it didn’t matter how that happened or what it meant. She was going to enjoy it.

 


 

 

Once she calmed down, Ari had found her cabin had been stocked with fresh clothes, a travel bag, and some accessories for her toiletry. Quickly going through the pile of freshly laundered clothes, she pulled a pair of light-brown leather leggings from the pile and a soft green tunic with long sleeves. Placing them on the cot, she filled a nearby basin with water and washed herself best she could, changing her undergarments and dressing in her chosen attire. She was more than happy to realize her small clothes were actually exactly like regular underwear and strapless bras. Though the Thedas version of a bra was capable of being much more restricting.

Dressed now, she pulled on the dark brown leather boots provided to her and headed out of her cabin and through the streets, (Haven was much larger than the game gave it credit for), heading for the tavern. She was met with loud voices and laughs in a brightly lit room. Her eyes honed in on Varric sitting in the corner with a tankard of ale and scribbling away in a book.

“Varric!” she called with a grin, moving past bodies to join him at his table.

“Ah, there she is. The Herald joins us! Enjoy your time with Chuckles?” he smiled from behind the rim of his tankard as he brought it to his lips. He had seen the way they looked at each other out in the field when they first met. He’d written enough love stories to know how this was going to play out.

She flushed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said with more confidence than she felt. Was she really that obvious in her infatuation? “I’ve been meaning to ask you Varric, what was it like for you? Travelling alongside Hawke all those years?”

She was curious. She knew the story, yes. Heard it narrated from his own lips… knew they were the best of friends. But what was it like?

Varric settled his tankard down on the wood of the table, ale sloshing around on the inside as he pondered her question. Many people had asked about Hawke, killing a dragon, Anders and his actions… no one had ever asked about himself though. It was a question that brokered an honest, if not slightly vulnerable answer.

“It was an adventure. Every day different from the last. I didn’t know what new trouble would find us or who else Hawke would find in our journeys. I watched my brother fall prey to madness… a madness that I’ve appeared to unleash upon the world all in the name of riches…” he took a deep breath, his eyes lowered on the table. 

Ari reached out her hand, curling her fingers around the dwarf's in an offer of comfort. Varric had gone through so much and in all his travels with Hawke, he had always kept his smile bright, being a rock upon which she leaned for support.

He returned her gesture, gripping her fingers tight as he raised his eyes to meet hers.

“I’ve seen a lot of shit, kid. I’ve done my fair share of adding it to the crap pile we face today. What was it like? It was the greatest and worst time of my life. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

She offered him a sad smile. “A lot of people do a lot of bad things, Varric. Doesn't mean they're bad people themselves. Sometimes shit just happens." She was very fond of him and knew that he held a lot of self-appointed guilt over everything that happened in Thedas over the last ten years. Mage-Templar war included. She wouldn't stand for that. "You know, I’ve heard of the Champion and the things that happened… I haven’t quite managed to get my hands on any of your works, however. I would love to read them if you had any on hand?”

She was curious to see exactly what the story of events Varric had written down were and how different from the truth it was.

“A fan in the making? My, my, aren’t we the clever little flatterer,” he jokingly admonished as he dropped her hand and signalled for the barkeep. He ordered another round of ale as Solas appeared in the doorway behind him.

“Solas.”

“Aryael.”

“Chuckles! Join us! Have you eaten? I was just about to ask Aryael if she would care to join me for some of Haven’s finest tavern food.” 

Solas slid onto the bench beside her, his thigh a mere hairsbreadth from hers.

“Yes, it was my intention to partake in the tavern’s offerings,” he said, eyes warm as he nodded at Varric before gifting her with a bright smile.

Even in the rowdy mayhem of the tavern, it was hard to pretend her stomach had not just growled loudly at the prospect of food.

She flushed, ears burning as both Solas and Varric looked at her. 

“When was the last time you ate, kid?”

“I don’t know,” she mumbled, willing herself to shrink under their astounded stares.

Varric ordered a ridiculous amount of food, pulling out his coin purse to pay for the meals as Solas looked her over.

“It would be wise to pay more attention to your health, Aryael.” His voice was soft in his scolding.

“Yes, ha’hren,” she responded with a slight attitude. She did not need to get advice on how to care for herself from anyone. She was not a child.

Varric and Solas began to discuss the events during which the Breach was temporarily sealed, going over the possibilities regarding red lyrium. It was during this discussion that Cassandra arrived.

“Varric. Solas. Herald.” She nodded at each of them in turn. 

“Aryael would do just fine, Cassandra. I would like to retain some individuality regardless of the religious mantles currently placed upon me,” her voice was warm and beseeching. She truly enjoyed Cassandra as a person. She very much wanted them to be friends. She could imagine them getting along quite nicely as they read Varric’s smutty little serials.

“Aryael. Yes, I apologize. I had not thought to ask…” Cassandra trailed off.

“And I had not thought to offer. Join us, please? We were just about to eat and Varric has ordered the most ridiculous amounts of food. I doubt that even the three of us could actually eat it all.” She smiled brightly up at the Seeker, waving her hand and indicating she should sit next to Varric. Cassandra returned her smile somewhat awkwardly and sat next to Varric, careful to sit as far from him as possible. She chuckled inwardly at herself, wondering if the romance she had in her head between the two of them would play out in this world as well.

The night went on and she was pleasantly surprised to find that the potatoes were particularly scrumptious as were the boiled carrots. She did not partake in the meat and hoped that her companions would not make a fuss over it. It seemed that they didn’t even really notice her lack of carnivorous appetite. They spent the evening trading stories and tales, she even managed to add in a few about her clan that she had written for one of her fics about a missing halla and very, very prank prone child who had just come into her magic. Her heart was warm and all thoughts of her displacement in place and time were gone as she began to build bonds of friendship with her companions.

 

 

Chapter Text

Ari groaned, flopping her right arm over her eyes as the dull thud of a headache crept around the edges of her skull.

“Ale is not my friend,” she muttered to herself before flipping the furs off of herself, dragging her body out of bed and readying her wash basin. Her jug had been filled before she woke and she wondered why she had yet to see that sweet if not nervous servant that was supposed to have greeted her when she initially awoke. 

She washed her face with the cool water, pulling off her tunic and letting it drop the floor at her side as she shivered from the cool air around her. The fire in her hearth was burning but it had yet to warm the little cabin. Lazily she walked to the pile of tunics, robes and leggings that had been so graciously donated to her and took out a pair of light grey woollen leggings and a soft blue cotton tunic she had not seen before. It seemed to be the only pair of none leather bottoms she had.

Grabbing the wooden comb from her table, she began to brush through her hair, pulling slightly as it caught on tangles. Satisfied with her efforts, she quickly plaited it to the right, leaving it to drape over her shoulder as she reached for the strap of cotton on her table that she had come to use as a hair tie and braced herself for the day.

If things were to continue in the vein of the game, she should be meeting Josephine and Cullen soon.

Cullen.

I wonder whether his eyes are really that gold? 

She had always appreciated the growth of Cullen over the games. She had hated that whiny, little brat in Origins, so blinded by his fear he was willing to let innocents fall. In DA:2 she had enjoyed watching his inner turmoil, his struggle with what was wrong and what was right… how he had pretty much ignored the fact that she was a mage even though he had to know. And then Inquisition. The first time she played Inquisition, she had been a human and romanced Cullen. She had regretted it once she met Solas and realized he would only go for someone with elfy bits (she even almost restarted and made a new character; debated it for several minutes in fact) but the romance with Cullen had been so sweet. And based on how she had been after Solas’ romance… she probably never would have been able to experience it if she hadn’t made the mistake of playing as a human first.

She sighed to herself, wrapping her arms around her waist as she made her way to the Chantry. She was greeted by Cassandra in the main hall. 

“Does it trouble you?” she asked, gesturing for her to follow her as she led her towards the war room.

She raised her left hand, flexing her fingers as she stared at her scarred palm. “No. It’s stable now, it doesn’t hurt… and… It’s become a part of me. If it weren’t for this mark, the Breach would still be spreading… If anything, I think it’s a blessing,” she smirked to herself.

Yes, the blessing of Fen’Harel, given to me by the graciousness of his mistakes.

“It is good of you to think of it this way,” Cassandra offered her a smile. “You were right about power. Our attempts to seal the Breach for good have not failed exactly, but to ensure it can never open again, we shall need to amass more power.” She opened the door to the war room.

“May I present Commander Cullen, leader of the Inquisition’s forces.”

“Such as they are. We lost many soldiers, and I fear many more before this is through.”

Oh fuck me…

His eyes were definitely golden; an amber sea that she wanted to dive into. Cullen was so much more attractive than those stupid pixels had let on. She was staring. She was definitely staring. Her mouth was definitely a little bit too open.

She barely heard Cassandra introduce everyone else, so caught up she was in Cullen’s eyes. The silence awoke her from her awkward gaping. But not before she noticed that he had definitely been returning that stare.

“Such impressive titles, you all have. It’s a pleasure to meet you all,” she said, finally turning her gaze away and gifting Josephine and Leliana with a smile.

“We were discussing the necessary power for the mark to seal the Breach. We must approach the rebel mages.”

“And I still disagree. The Templars could serve just as well.” Cullen cut in.

 She sighed. She always hated how ridiculous it was that they could never agree.

“I think either party could honestly assist us. The mages, of course, could provide raw power, enhance the mark. The Templars may be able to suppress the Breach, allowing for my own magic to be enough. Both valid options. However, aren’t we in the midst of a war? Would either side even give us the time of day?”

She wanted to get this over with. Crossing her left arm under her chest, she lifted her right hand and grasped her chin as she assessed those who would become her advisors. Leliana had always been beautiful, soft skin and gorgeous eyes with that accent. A deadly mind with deadly hands. She was really fond of her outfit and wondered if now that she was here she might be able to get something similar…

Josephine wasn’t as 'ruffley' as she appeared in the game, her sleeves less puffy and more billowy. Her dress was actually kinda of… pretty. It felt awkward to admit that though.

“The Herald would be correct. As such, neither side is willing to speak with us. The Chantry has denounced the Inquisition – and you, specifically.”

“I’d be surprised if they didn’t to be honest. A Dalish Elf being hailed as the Herald of Andraste? And a mage at that. I would assume this frightens them to no end.”

“A wise evaluation. The Chantry is calling it blasphemous and we heretics for harbouring you. This limits our options. Approaching either side of this issue is out of the question at the moment.”

She couldn’t help but laugh earning her odd looks from those around her.

“I’m sorry, it’s just... Blasphemous… Honestly, all of it is just... The Herald of Andraste? Who started that ridiculous rumour?”

“The people have seen what you did, how you stopped the Breach from growing. They also heard of the woman who was behind you in the rift when we found you… they believe she was Andraste.”

“Even if we tried to stop the rumour-“ Leliana started.

 “Which we have not.” Cassandra told her without an ounce of regret.  

“People are desperate for a sign of hope. For some, you are that sign.”

She sighed. “I will not claim to be the Herald of Andraste. To be honest, I may not even respond to being called by that name by anyone. I understand that you are all Andrastian and I understand that hope is something necessary, especially at times like these. But I am not the Herald of Andraste. Your maker had no hand in this mark,” she said as she raised her hand. She wanted to get that very clear. She was not a fan of the cult worship and she would not pander to it, whether they liked it or not.

She was met with an understanding nod from Josephine, a curious look from Leliana, shock from Cassandra and a wariness from Cullen. It was about as she expected.

“Understood. Aryael, yes? I am not opposed to calling you by your given name, however, while you may not wish to sanction the rumours… would you be opposed to not vocally denouncing them?” Josephine’s right eyebrow arched at her question and she knew that the woman would not let this go. 

“I will not go around telling everyone that they are wrong, no. However if I am asked, I will not lie.”

“I think I can work with that.”

“Then it is settled. There is, however, something you could do for us? A Chantry cleric by the name of Mother Giselle has asked to speak to you. She is not far and knows those involved in the Chantry far better than I. Her assistance could be invaluable.”

“I will do my best not to offend her with my heathen ways,” she said with a little smirk.

It was met with a slight chuckle from Leliana and an indignant inhale from Cullen.

Man, that guy still had a stick up his ass.

“You will find Mother Giselle tending to the wounded in the Hinterlands near Redcliffe.”

“We shall need agents to extend our reach beyond this valley. You are better suited than anyone to recruit them.”

“Because they call me the Herald?” she sighed. “I will do my best, Josephine. And I’ll make sure to look for opportunities to expand our influence while on the road. We should look at other options, however. I doubt I will be able to do this on my own.” She gave them a pointed look. She was never fond of how they just expected her to do everything.

“Aryael is right. I will seek out Mother Giselle with her in the Hinterlands. While we are away, we should test other waters.”

“Of course,” Cullen responded, inclining his head to nod at Cassandra.

 She didn’t think he liked her very much. Okay, well, maybe he liked her a little. Just not for her personality.

The advisors began to disperse and she called out to Josephine before she could leave.

“Um, I was wondering… You see, the thing is. I am a rather unorthodox Dalish. I don’t particularly do well with eating meats and have rarely partaken in wearing leathers or furs except when absolutely necessary,” she said avoiding eye contact. “Would it be possible, perhaps, to ensure any clothes or armour provided… are cloth or metal? That my rations exclude meat? To be honest, I’m not even sure if you are who I should be-“

“It is quite, alright. I will ensure to have your cabin outfitted without any leathers or furs and attend to your dietary needs. Do not worry, Aryael. I understand that things here must be quite different for you than back home with your clan… Should you need anything at all, come to me and do not be afraid. I will do my best to ensure your comfort,” the woman said with a friendly smile. Josie really was quite nice wasn’t she?

“Thank you, Josephine. It means a lot. Dareth shiral,” the words tumbled from her lips without thought. It seemed Elvhen was very much second nature to her.

 “You are most welcome, Aryael. I will see you later,” she said, turning on her heel and exiting the room.

Aryael was left alone with her thoughts as the room was emptied out. She wasn’t fond of Mother Giselle. She wasn’t really fond of any of the religious fanaticism that this game portrayed but she really didn’t like this woman. She was mean to Dorian. She would never be okay with that.

Sighing, she ventured outside of the Chantry and absentmindedly made her way along the paths until she found herself outside Solas’ cabin. Not the smartest of routes. As she was about to turn around, the door opened and the man himself stood before her.

“Aryael,” he said, nodding his head in greeting.

“We’re leaving for the Hinterlands soon.” The first thought that came to mind spilling from her lips in a rush.

“Ah. I see. Shall I accompany you then?” he asked, leaning his shoulder on the left side of his doorframe.

“If you wouldn’t mind. It couldn’t hurt to have another mage around. Especially one who seems very adept at healing.”

What am I even doing right now?

"Then I shall prepare to depart with you."

“Good,” she said, still standing awkwardly near the front of his entrance, her eyes focused on his. They were really quite blue at the moment.

Almost the colour of a darkening sky as the sun…

“Was there something else?” his voice called, snapping her out of her reverie.

“Would you tell me about the Fade? Your travels, I mean. I’ve never had the pleasure of being able to speak with a Dreamer before and I must admit I’m very curious…” His eyes widened a little and she felt her cheeks warm. Why did her body react like that to him?

Not cool, body. Not cool.

His smile was warm. “I would love to. I was just heading out to see the merchant, perhaps this evening you would like to come by my cabin?”

“Yes, I suppose that would be quite alright.”

Of course he was busy. This was like, real life. He wasn’t going to spend all his time in front of his cabin just waiting for me to come talk to him.

She was slightly embarrassed and turned her heel quickly, heading down the steps and onto the streets of Haven.

“I will see you then,” he called after her scurrying frame.

Chapter Text

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

She was chasing him. She already knew about his dreams and his fade trips. She knew everything. She did not need to get herself stuck with him alone, at night.

Scrunching her face in a scowl, she made her way through the streets of Haven and walked out the town gates. She could see Cassandra near the stables, obviously preparing for the journey ahead. She assumed they would leave in the morning.

Clasping her hands behind her back, she walked along the snow-dusted path towards the lake, until the walls of Haven were far behind her and the sounds of clanging swords could no longer be heard.

Gazing out onto the frozen water, she sighed, wondering what she was going to do next. She needed to settle down. She was going to be in the heart of war rather shortly and would face many more dire situations as time went on. She needed to make some choices.

She grinned to herself as an idea struck her. Lifting her boot, she waved her hand, ice clinging to her soles in the shape of a blade and she quickly did the same to her other foot. Tentatively she placed her right foot on the ice and pushed, gliding onto the ice.

Laughing to herself, she began to skate, sliding her feet along the surface and raising her arms out beside her as she spun. The wind whipped against her cheeks as she moved her legs, faster and faster, bending her body as she circled the edge of the lake.

“That is quite an impressive trick,” she heard a heavily accented voice call out to her from the bank.

She slid to a stop in the middle of the lake, turning to face Cassandra as her ice blades scratched the surface of the lake.

“Just having some fun. There are some benefits to being a mage,” she called out, eyes sparkling with mirth. She had really been enjoying herself. It had been a while since she had gone skating and she never had time to dance anymore. She missed moving her body in a rhythm. 

“I see that,” she said, stepping closer to the edge of the ice.

“I could teach you, if you like?” she offered as she skated closer to the Nevarran woman.

“Perhaps another day. I must admit it does look… fun,” she said with a smile. “Tomorrow we shall leave for the Hinterlands. It should take us just over six days to reach the last known location of Mother Giselle. Leliana has sent scouts ahead to establish a forward camp.”

Coming a halt in front of the woman, she noted that the scars on her face were not as deep as the game had made them seem. Her eyes held a slight green to them and reminded her of a cat. The sun on her hair highlighted cold tones of blue within the dark, black tresses tied in her braid. Cassandra was truly beautiful.

“I asked Solas to join us. We should probably ask Varric as well,” she said as she loosely crossed her arms around her stomach.

“Varric? Why?” the distaste in her tone was just a little too strong to be real.

“Why not? He had a point about the valley and not much has changed. We don’t have many soldiers and we’re walking into a war zone. I think it’s best we use all our assets, don’t you?”

“You are correct,” Cassandra conceded after a moment of thought.

“Why don’t you like him?” She asked, purple eyes piercing as she regarded the woman in front of her.

“I don’t- why would you- Varric is a rogue. He is not to be trusted,” she sputtered. 

“I trust him. At least, as much as I could for someone who has only just met him… You know, Cassandra… He was your prisoner and when he was finally free… he didn’t run away. He ran to help. I think that says something. He’s not all so bad. Really.” She offered the woman a smile.

Cassandra stared at her curiously. She couldn’t deny her words. Varric had in fact stayed and continued to help the Inquisition as best he could. He didn’t even ask for anything in return. And he wrote those books. How could anyone who wrote those books be truly terrible?

“You are right. I should not be so hard on the dwarf,” she once again conceded, nodding her head in affirmation. “We shall leave at first light. It would be best to pack tonight. I had meant to ask… I know you do not need a staff but if you would like one, our armoury is open to you. That goes for armour as well. Of course, the robes we found you in should be returned to your cabin today.”

“My robes will be fine for now. Thank you, though. I will look through the staves to see if anything speaks to me.”

“Of course. I will see you tomorrow.” Cassandra bade her farewell and headed back towards Haven.

She returned to her skating for a bit more, turning over different thoughts in her head. She knew that after finding Giselle there were a million other things that required doing in the Hinterlands. She also knew that she would need to go to Val Royeaux soon to face the Chantry. She was looking forward to that though. It meant she would get to meet Sera and was she ever excited for that. 

Stepping off the frozen lake, she heated her hand with a thin flame and melted the ice off her boots before heading back towards Haven herself. She should look through her things and pack her bags before heading over to see Solas tonight.

 


 

She hummed with pleasure as the warmth of her hearth hit her upon entering her cabin. Her eyes raked over the room and noticed that her clothes had been replaced and bed remade sans fur. A smile lit her face. She realized that being a vegetarian probably wasn’t practical in Thedas and all of her qualms didn’t really exist here. But she still felt uncomfortable wearing a dead animal and knew her body wouldn’t react well to the sudden introduction of a foreign food it no longer remembered how to process.

She grabbed her pack from the floor and opened it, placing a few pairs of leggings and tunics inside with as many fresh small-clothes as she could fit. Her green robes had been laid across her bed and she folded them, placing them next to her pack with a fresh pair of underclothes for the next day.

“Oh, Herald!” a nervous voice called from the front of her cabin as a gust of chilled wind entered.

“Please, I’m just Aryael,” she said with a grin, turning to face the woman at her door. “What’s your name?” 

“Shora,” she responded with a nervous voice, closing the door behind her and walking over to the table. She set down a small basket, covered with a cloth. “I’ve brought you a lunch, Herald. Cheese and bread with dried berries. Lady Josephine says that she will have similar fare delivered to you in the morning before you depart for your journey. Just a lot more of it.” She was prattling on, eyes darting around the room.

‘Shora… I’m just Aryael. You don’t need to call me Herald. In fact, I’d prefer if you didn’t,” she confessed with a wry smile. “Would you sit with me? I haven’t had a chance to meet any one here really and I wouldn’t mind getting to you know you if you’re not too busy? Care to share my lunch?” 

Shora’s wide eyes met hers and it was like she was seeing her for the first time. She noted her gaze flicking over her ears and taking in her vallaslin before she nodded slowly. 

“Yes, Aryael. I would like that,” a small smile dancing around her lips. 

“Excellent!” She pulled out a stool for Shora, moving her pack and things off to the side and opened the basket, dividing up the food between the two of them. “Tell me, how long have you been at Haven?”

“Not long. A month at most. The fighting between the Mages and Templars got real bad in the Hinterlands and it wasn’t so safe anymore. I came with my brother and his wife when we heard about the Conclave, hoping to find work here that would keep us out of the line of fire. No one ‘spected a hole to rip open the sky though,” she said before throwing a few berries into her mouth.

Ari had taken a small bite of the bread, her fingers picking through the dark red berries in front of her as she chewed. They looked like cranberries and cherries. “No, no one would have expected that… So your brother and his wife are in Haven as well? Do you all work as servants for the Inquisition?” she asked curious before deciding to taste the berries. Oh, they definitely tasted like cranberries.

“Emith works for the apothecary, Adan. He collects herbs and his wife helps in the tavern.” Shora paused for a moment, ripping a piece from her loaf of bread and holding it in her fingers. “Is what they say true? Can you close the tear in the sky?” Shora looked up at her with hope in her wide green eyes.

Ari was startled for a moment. It hadn’t really hit her that were people living here. I mean, yes she knew there were people everywhere and she had known about the villagers and the war and all that… but this… This was a person who was scared and had no idea what was happening. Who needed someone who could put a stop to all the scary things and make everything normal again. Someone who very much wanted to depend on her.

The thought made her a little uncomfortable. Who was she to be promising to save anyone? She didn’t even know what she was doing here…

But she did know what Lavellan was doing. And she did know that Lavellan would in fact, close the Breach.

“Yes, Shora. I am going to close the Breach,” she promised, eyes determined and lips thinning with the thought of her goal.

Shora flashed her a bright smile, the most genuine thing she had ever seen. She spent the rest of the afternoon trading stories with Shora about their childhood, friends and favourite foods. They both laughed over ridiculous infatuations and when Shora left to attend to her duties, Ari felt light and warm. There were good people here and she was feeling very lucky to be able to get to know them.

Chapter Text

Ari was making her way through the streets of Haven, the sun falling back in the distance as the soft hues of sundown scattered over the snow. She was nervous.

Solas was… more than she expected. She’d been drawn to him in the game and found his character fascinating… more so after Trespasser. She’d always loved a tortured soul. She’d read countless fanfics, written so many herself, she’d felt that she was intimately familiar with his motivations and character. But now the real Solas (or as real as he could be) was here.

And she was even more drawn to him. It didn’t help that she truly believed that he could be saved from himself. It didn’t help that she truly believed in the relationship that he and her Inquisitor had cultivated. But that was in the game and her stories. Here they were strangers.

She slowly carried herself up the steps leading to his cabin and hesitantly rapped her knuckles on his door.

The door opened to reveal Solas, dressed in a simple grey tunic and brown leggings and those abominable footwraps.

Aneth ara,” he greeted her, motioning for her to come in.

She offered him a smile, stepping into the warmth of his cabin.

“I don’t know if you’ve eaten but I procured a small meal nonetheless if you are hungry?” his words came from behind her as he closed the door and her eyes were drawn to his table. A bowl of what smelt like cabbage stew sat in the middle, steam rising from it.

Her stomach growled and she couldn’t help but facepalm.

He chuckled. “I think I may need to monitor your eating habits, Aryael. It wouldn’t do to have a patient recover only to fall prey to lack of sustenance there after,” he gently chided, pulling out a chair and waiting expectantly for her to sit.

She took the proffered seat, resting her hands in her lap. “It’s not that I don’t pay attention to mealtimes, more like sometimes I get caught up in other things and forget,” she confessed sheepishly. She’d had that habit back home too.

He took a ladle and filled a bowl, placing a spoon inside and laid it front of her, turning to make himself one as well before his seat opposite of her.

Ma serranas,” she said, looking down at her soup and taking a large spoonful into her mouth. She couldn’t help the little hum of satisfaction at its warmth. The soup was a touch salty to her but with the cold outside, its heat was more than welcome.

She awkwardly tried to avoid looking at him as they ate their meal, trading idle banter about their day. Solas mentioned that he felt the mages would be a good bet when the time came to seal the rift, the Templars abilities perhaps too much of an unknown in their affects on the mark. She nodded her head in agreement though she was unsure if she wanted to side with the Templars or the Mages. She’d done both in the game and she’d never really settled on what felt like cannon for her character, even if she was a mage.

When their meal was done, he piled their bowls to the side and resumed his seat opposite to her.

“Have you encountered many spirits in the Fade?” she questioned.

“There are plenty of spirits in the Fade. Some benevolent, others less so. I have been lucky enough to count a good number of spirits among my closest friends,” he responded, lazily regarding her as he leaned back on his chair.

“Are they all rather different?” she wondered for a moment if he might not be able to help her identify the purple child that seemed intent on helping her. She knew that spirits could be dangerous, their help less about helping you than about helping themselves. She thought that the child was genuine but… she didn’t know if she could really trust herself on something she knew so little about.

“There are many spirits that embody various virtues… Justice, Compassion, Valour, Hope. What they embody makes them who they are. Very much the same as how mortal personalities can vary, each unique.”

“And they are drawn to mages… I’ve heard that they are drawn to Dreamers in particular, that Dreamers are more susceptible than other mages to possession.”

His eyes narrowed slightly. “I’m sure the Dalish would think so. Spirits are responsive. A spirit of wisdom corrupted by the emotions of a mage easily becomes twisted into a spirit of aggressive pride. Justice when faced with anger, vengeance. If mages are in danger from spirits, it is no more so than the spirits are in danger from mages.” He crossed his arms across his chest, raising a leg and resting his ankle atop his knee.

“I had never thought to think that way… that we pose a threat to them. I would suppose that would be the case though, wouldn’t it? The Fade is their home, is it not? And we merely guests who venture forth in our dreams… unaware of what havoc we might cause.” She raised her right hand, fingers absentmindedly pulling at her bottom lip, as she was lost in thought. Could she harm the sweet little spirit child? She did not like the idea of twisting it into what it was not, even if she wasn’t exactly sure what it was.

Solas was silent, his eyes drawn to her movements and he noted that her lips were rather full. For a moment the thought crossed his mind of biting on that lip, taking it between his teeth and he mentally shook his head free of such frivolity.

“Yes, mages are very unaware of what they bring into the Fade with them and how it affects the Fade around them. Awareness of such things makes it easier to interact and to protect both yourself and the spirits around you,” he offered.

“Could you tell me of a spirit you have met? I am curious, as I have not spoken to many. At least, I do not think I have,” she rambled on a little, her eyes rising to meet his.

“I met a friendly spirit who observed the dreams of village girls as love first blossomed in their adolescence. With subtlety, she steered them all to village boys with gentle hearts who would return their love with gentle kindness. The Matchmaker, so I called her,” he said with a chuckle. “That small village never knew its luck.”

“A spirit of love then?” she asked.

“Yes. In its most pure form. The people of the village never parted ways, guided as they were to kindred souls by a spirit who knew love more intimately than you may know yourself.”

“It sounds awfully romantic,” she sighed, leaning over the table and cupping her cheek in her hand. “Unfortunate your matchmaker friend stayed with only one village.”

“A shame…” he whispered, captivated by the dreamy look in her eye.

“Solas… can you introduce me to spirits?” she asked, gazing off to the left.

“If you like.”

Her eyes snapped up to meet his. “Oh, I would. So very much. Could we meet some tonight? Or whenever you can, really. I mean, I don’t want to impose…” she rambled, suddenly aware she had just asked the enemy to visit her in her dreams. Her dreams, where emotions were not so easily contained and he was the master of the realm.

He chuckled again. Damn that chuckle. It was sending heat through her core and she felt her face flush lightly.

“If you wish, I will find you tonight in the Fade. I think, perhaps, I know a spirit you may find quite enlightening,” he promised with a smile.

She stood suddenly. “Yes, tonight. Please. Thank you. Oh, I can’t wait.” She couldn’t keep the grin off her face and it appeared to be infectious as he had a wide smile across his face, laughter dancing in his eyes.

“You are quite excited.”

“How could I not be? This is fascinating. Imagine, speaking with spirits…” she was all but humming with excitement. “Alright! I’m off to bed!” she declared, turning on her heel and heading for the door.

“So eager...” his noted, his chuckle following her as she opened the door and turned her head to wave quickly before dashing off into the night.

“You have no idea.”

Chapter Text

She all but ran the whole way back to her cabin, wrenching the door open and tugging off her clothes, leaving a trail in her wake as she tossed herself onto the lumpy cot.

Sleep, She told herself. But she was too excited. It was at least an hour before sleep finally claimed her.

 


 

She found herself sitting on the edge of a wooden bridge, tucked away in a forest by her grandparents old home. Taking a deep breath, she inhaled the scent of pine as she kicked her feet over the small creek beneath her. She could hear the faint sounds of hummingbirds in the distance and she smiled. She missed home.

“It’s quite beautiful here… Have you camped here before?” Solas voice startled her as it came up behind her. She turned her head to stare up at him.

“I have, yes. I would summer here sometimes.” Not a lie. She often spent her summers at her grandmother’s ranch and would spend days hiking or canoeing. She had camped in this forest before.

“I see,” he replied, reaching down his hand to pull her up. He did not let go of her hand when he turned, beginning to walk down the beaten path in the dirt. With no choice but to follow, she let him lead her further into the forest as the scenery started to change. They came upon a small grove, oak trees lining the edge and an ethereal woman standing near the centre, bent over and speaking to someone…

The child!

It was the spirit child. Just as she was about to call out to her little spirit friend, it caught sight of her and disappeared, leaving the woman alone.

“Wisdom! It is good to see you,” Solas called out to the spirit woman.

Wisdom? But that’s… oh…

She felt her heart tighten. He had brought her to meet one of his oldest friends… one who would die in the coming months. Wiping any discomfort from her face, she let herself be pulled along to meet the spirit.

Aneth ara, Wisdom,” she said, inclining her head with a polite respect.

Wisdom smiled at her. “Aneth ara, da’lan,” she murmured, eyes appraising her.

“This is the woman I mentioned. The one who managed to halt the growth of the Breach,” Solas mentioned.

“But I haven’t closed it,” she said, slightly flustered.

Solas had spoken of me to Wisdom? What did he say exactly? Did he curse me for stealing the power of the orb?

“But you will, da’lan,” Wisdom’s soft voice carried over her, a confidence and knowledge in her words that only she should have been able to know. Her eyes locked onto the spirits and she saw something there, more than just knowledge. The spirit knew. It knew the truth about her, where she came from, how she didn’t belong.

She wanted nothing more in that moment than for Solas to disappear and to be able to speak freely with Wisdom. She saw a glint in the spirit’s eye, almost as if she could read Ari’s mind.

“It is good of you to visit, Solas. And to bring a guest,” the spirit turned and the grove fell away around them, being replaced with stone walls, the sun being blocked out as sconces of veilfire flared to life. Letting go of Solas’ hand she turned slowly, taking in her new surroundings. It was clearly some sort of Elvhen structure, the walls decorated with murals of legend. Against the walls were benches of smooth stone that looked remarkably like marble. She approached the mural to her left, eyes roaming over the fresco to take in the story. It was the tale of the slow arrow.

“Felassan…” she murmured.

“Yes. I always did enjoy that story,” the spirit said as she approached Ari, coming up on her right side. “You are lost.”

The words struck her as if she had been slapped. “Lost?” she asked tentatively. Would Wisdom expose her to Solas? What would he do when he found she knew? That she wasn’t even really an elf?

“You awoke in a time and place you do not recognize. Your soul searches for answers to that which it does not understand. Your broken pieces no longer fit,” the spirit turned to her and she glanced back to where Solas had been standing. He was gone.

“Solas will not disturb us. It is good he brought you to me. I would have searched, but you are a tricky one to find. Your friend likes to keep you to themself,” she murmured, the hint of a laugh in her voice and a sparkle behind her eyes.

“My friend? Do you know what they are?” she asked, at once wondering if Wisdom would have answers for her.

“A falon, da’lan. One that you desperately need right now. I would like to also be your friend,” the spirit cocked her head to the side, eyes locked with hers.

“I would like that very much. You are… I don’t know what I’m doing here or how I arrived. I’m not sure what happened to Lavellan, the real Lavellan. If you could… if you could help me find answers-“

“But you are the real Lavellan, da’lan.” The spirit cut her off before she could finish the sentence.

Her face scrunched in confusion, nose wrinkling and eyebrows drawn. “But I’m a human? I can’t be the real Lavellan.”

“You are much more than a human, da’lan. So much more. You will remember, with time. Your falon will help, as will I. And I will not tell Solas of your burden,” she offered with a kind smile.

Aryael had more questions than ever. What did the spirit mean she was the real Lavellan?

“I know you have many questions and we will get you your answers. But not tonight. Solas will find us again soon and I fear he is not very fond of being left behind.” The spirit turned then, almost as if she knew what would come as Solas walked down the hall slightly agitated.

“Wisdom. What is the meaning of whisking the girl away?” he asked, a mask across his face leaving him bereft of any emotion, save the steel edge underneath his voice.

“I simply wanted to get to know her, Solas. She has a rare and marvellous spirit, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t try to become more familiar with her,” her words seemed to calm Solas down, his shoulders no longer tight with tension.

Had he been worried about me? But it was Wisdom… no, he was worried for Wisdom, wasn’t he? Of course he was. Hadn’t we just spoken about what mages could do to harm spirits before meeting in the Fade?

“Wisdom was regaling me with tales of legend and history, Solas. It’s all really quite fascinating,” she said, walking over to join Solas.

“She is eager to learn. It is nice to share knowledge with someone so thirsty for it,” Wisdom said with a smile.

The moment of answers had passed, however, with Solas now in their midst once again. Wisdom guided them down the hall, regaling them both with tales of when this structure was the seat of a great artist of Arlathan. She shared paintings and murals, sculptures and drawings, pulled from the memories of the Fade. Ari ate it all up like a kid on Christmas morning, fingers brushing the strokes of paint and the lines of charcoal. Before long, however, it was time to wake. She knew she would have to seek Wisdom out on another night. Solas and Ari bade farewell to Wisdom and each other before the call of morning took her from the Fade.

Chapter Text

Ari blinked, adjusting her eyes to the dark of her cabin. She pulled herself up and threw her legs over the side of the cot. She flicked her fingers, the logs in her hearth coming to life with flame and casting light into the room. She squinted, pulling herself up and stretching languidly.

What did she mean that I am the real Lavellan?

She thought to herself as she brought her hands together. Moving her body in various poses, she centered her mind as she took the eagle pose. Yoga had always been soothing, calming. After everything that happened, she desperately needed the simplicity of it.

She spent around twenty minutes in various poses, stretching her body and slowing her breathing before rising once more to a standing position. Letting out a deep breath, she walked over to her small table and changed her smallclothes, dressing in her dark green robes. They were soft to the touch and light, but she could feel the magic of runes inlaid within the folds. She pulled on a pair of light grey tights underneath and reached for her comb, brushing through her sleep tussled hair. She pulled the long locks apart in three and left a loose braid over her right shoulder. Satisfied, she tossed the comb into her sack and threw it over her shoulder as she made her way to the door.

Her breath hitched at the cool air that whipped against her face as she stepped outside. She turned to her right, heading for the gates of the town and was met by Shora.

“Aryael!” her excited voice called out as she ran up to the Herald, arms full with packs. “Lady Josephine wanted to send some comforts with you. There’s soap and towels and some more clothes. I’ve also got your rations. And breakfast! There are some boiled eggs and cheese and an apple.” 

Aryael smiled at her, white teeth glistening in the pale bursts of sun just beginning to break over the horizon. “Thank you, Shora,” she murmured taking the two packs from the girl. “And thank Josephine for me, will you?”

“Of course, Aryael! Um, Dareth shiral!” she said nervously.

Aryael paused. Shora was not Dalish. She smiled, “Dareth shiral, Shora. I will see you when I return.” She headed off to the stables in a wonderful mood, greeting Cassandra and Solas with a smile. Varric came up behind her shortly after.

Ari walked over to a beautiful chestnut mare, gently palming her long nose under her hand. Her coat was glossy and soft, the mare nuzzling her as they got to know one another.

“You are familiar with horses? I thought the Dalish used Halla?” Cassandra asked, slightly perplexed. She had assumed Aryael would need to ride double with someone until she was more comfortable on a mount.

“We don’t really ride Halla, Cassandra. We may not keep horses but we have from time to time come across wild ones. They are beautiful creatures, especially so when free,” she murmured, moving to tie her packs in place.

“You are full of surprises, Dimples,” Varric said, hoisting himself into the saddle with much more ease than would have been expected of a dwarf.

“I like to keep people on their toes, what can I say,” she said with a cheeky grin, following Varric’s lead and finding a seat in her saddle. Dimples. She liked it. Varric giving her a nickname was the best indication that they were becoming friends and that pleased her to no end.

“Come, we have a long ride ahead of us,” Cassandra said, leading her steed forward and down the path. Varric followed while herself and Solas brought up the rear. She reached into her pack and began to munch on the thoughtful breakfast Shora had brought her as they rode.

The gentle trot of the horse was a nice familiarity in a world so different from her own. Once again, she was reminded of her home, her grandma’s stables… the life she left behind.

It wasn’t much of a life. She had just wrapped up third year of college, worked part-time at a coffee shop downtown and lived in a little one bedroom apartment with an amazing view of the skyline. And she had no idea what she really wanted to do. I mean sure, political science was super interesting, she loved her classes and she had participated in perhaps a few too many demonstrations against budget cuts, tuition hikes and other injustices in her city and country. But what she planned on doing? She had no idea. Maybe volunteer for someone abroad, teach English or help run activities for kids. She wanted to see the world, change it for the better. But she had no real drive to pursue specific goals in that regard. She was just as content to waste away on her couch playing games or writing fanfics as she was to write letters to parliament demanding accountability and change. Both made her happy.

“Are you troubled?” Solas voice pierced through her thoughts. She turned her head, realizing that she had been very silent for a very long time. The sun was high in the sky. 

“Not really, no. Just thinking. “ She tightened her grip on the reins slightly, the sudden realization that she may never see her home again finally dawning on her. And she wasn’t all that sad. 

Her grandparents had died last year, the last of her family. Her parents had died in a car accident 5 years ago with her older brother, just a month away from her 18th birthday. She was emancipated and moved halfway across the country to enrol in university for the coming fall. She’d made friends, sure. She definitely cared about them, they just weren't really that deep as far as friendships go. No one had really… well, she didn’t particularly think anyone would notice if she just disappeared. She tended to do that lot, popping back up every few weeks or months. Never really staying attached to anyone. It was just easier. People couldn’t leave you hurting that way. It’s not like everyone lived forever. She was fine being on her own.

“I can see that,” Solas said dryly.

She wasn’t really in the mood to talk. She was uncomfortable with how much she actually wanted to stay here; build something here. She’d barely been with them five minutes but the warmth in her heart from Varric’s nickname and tripped her up. She cared. She cared a lot more than she was used to caring.

They continued in relative silence, taking a break at mid day to rest the horses and eat something. Varric and Cassandra squabbled, her cheeks reddening in frustration as Varric knew just the right buttons to push. She could feel Solas' eyes on her when they began to ride again. Soon it was time to make camp for the night. They found an area in the mountains well secluded from the winds and began to set up camp. Cassandra and Ari placed their packs in one tent while Solas and Varric shared another. Solas started a fire and Varric began to pull out rations.

She reached into her bags and pulled out some cheese with what appeared to be a scone and began to nibble. Walking over, she plopped down on the furs that had been laid out to act as barrier over the snow. She was really going to have to get used to dead animals being everywhere at some point.

“Ahh, that Frostback air,” Varric said with a deep whiff as he divided out rations between himself, Solas and Cassandra.

“Yes, invigorating,” Cassandra retorted with a scoff, taking a bite of dried meat before continuing. “I will take first watch. Solas, second. Varric, third. There is a chance we will come upon rifts on our way to meet Mother Giselle. Aryael, you should rest as much as you can. I know that closing rifts can be tiring.”

She was somewhat startled. She hadn’t been looking forward to staying up alone but she hadn’t expected to be excused from it. It didn’t sit right with her.

“I am capable of handling a few hours of watch and not fall flat on my face from exhaustion, Cassandra,” she said with a little bit of attitude. She would not depend on them for everything. “I will take first watch. You can take second and Solas and Varric can battle it out over last.” She stood up and walked to the edge of the camp, turning her back on the warmth of the fire as she searched for somewhere to set herself up for her vigil.

“I don’t think Dimples takes too well to being coddled, Seeker. It might be best we try not to sound like we’re attempting to protect her,” Varric said before heading into his tent. “I’ll take last watch. We can rotate days so each of us get a full nights rest at some point.”

Cassandra sat there, somewhat dumbfounded, a flush gracing her cheeks. She had not meant to offend Aryael.

“Varric is right, Cassandra. Aryael is just as capable as the rest of us, if not more so. We should treat her no differently for her mark.” He stood as well, moving to follow in Aryael’s footsteps after fetching some furs from his shared tent. Quietly he came up behind her and sat next to her on the large stone she had found.

“Cassandra did not mean to offend you,” he said, tossing a fur across her shivering shoulders.

She glanced up at him. “I know. I don’t mean to be offended. I just… I’m not a child, Solas. I am fully capable of participating in everything that any of you do.” She said with a huff, drawing the furs closer for warmth. “Thank you for the furs… I am not used to needing them.”

“I noticed. You don’t eat meat, either. I assume you have something against harming animals in general?”

His words made her stare. He had noticed. “I… I do not enjoy the thought of ending a life, even when that life is given so that I may survive. In fact, I think that may just make it worse. I have not eaten meat in years or worn any leathers or such… I think I may have to get used to it though… The Frostbacks are not kind. And it is a far cry different in a camp with wools than in my cabin with a hearth,” she murmured, drawing her legs close and wrapping her arms loosely around them.

“You are correct. While I understand not wanting to cause harm… there are ways to make sure there is no suffering,” he offered, looking up at the night sky.

She nodded lazily, taking his words in. She should apologize to Cassandra. She shouldn’t have responded in that fashion, it was rude. When she woke her for her watch, she would do just that.

Solas spent the rest of her watch with her, pointing out various constellations in the night sky and sharing legends. His voice was enchanting, calming her frayed nerves and alighting her insides with a warmth. When her watch came to an end, they said their goodnights and parted ways. Ari awoke Cassandra and they reconciled with an awkward understanding before Ari finally laid her head down to sleep, still wrapped in Solas’ fur.

Chapter Text

It took them one more day and night to exit the Frostbacks. The sparsely grassed knolls of the Hinterlands left much to be desired on the pretty front. I mean sure, when she got around it, the waterfall was actually quite nice but it was nothing like the Emerald Graves.

She felt something tug at her and she stopped her horse. It was like a faint hum off in the distance but so close.

“I fear there is a rift nearby,” she heard Solas from her right. He had stopped as well.

“He’s right. We should deal with it as soon as possible.” She nudged her horse in the direction she felt the tug, heading off before checking to see if the others followed.

Not long after, she came across the rift. She pulled herself off of her mare and tied the reins to a nearby tree. She counted at least 3 terrors, a pride demon and two Despair demons.

Oh what fun…

“I need to get close,” she said as she heard the others dismount.

“Understood. I will get you to the rift; Solas and Varric will lay cover fire. Stay close, Aryael.” Cassandra drew her sword and shield, slowly making her way over the terrain towards the rift.

Aryael followed her, right fingers flicking and covering them in a magical barrier. The terrors’ heads turned, noticing them before they made it anywhere near the rift. Cassandra charged with a loud battle cry, swinging her sword in an arc and slicing through the right arm of the nearest terror. Ari felt the tingling in the air and recognized the touch of Solas’ magic whirring past her to freeze another.

She ran to the side of Cassandra, heading straight for a Despair demon. Calling her sword to her hand, she laced the ethereal shape with lightning, bringing it down in a hard swing against the demon. It screamed in rage, twirling away to avoid her onslaught. She followed, taking note that the pride demon was making its way toward her while Cassandra had finished off two terrors and was working on the third with the assistance of Varric and Solas. She spun on her heel, raising her free hand and calling forth a hailstorm on the pride demon to hinder its path towards her before returning her attention to the Despair demon. Lightening crackled around her sword and flames soon joined it as she ran after Despair, not noticing her barrier had fallen.

Continuing her onslaught, the demon fell to dust under her swings just as she felt the lash of Pride’s lightening strike her back. She fell to the ground on her left side, crying out in pain from the burn of his strike. Cassandra came up behind the demon, bashing her shield against its leg and drawing its attention to her. Varric was firing Bianca at the remaining Despair demon, Solas laying barriers over Cassandra and sending spell after spell against the Pride demon.

Ari crawled over to the rift raising her left hand and pulled at the tear. She felt the familiar tug fighting back against her and grit her teeth. 

I am not dealing with another wave of these fuckers.

Tightening her fist, she pulled her arm back and the rift closed with a resounding snap. She let herself fall down to the ground and sighed, listening to the battle behind her. Within moments she felt strong hands pulling her up and opened her tired eyes. She was cold. She knew it was her body going into shock, she could barely even feel the burn on her back any longer.

How did… I thought these robes would be stronger…

Apparently her runed robes weren’t very demon proof. Solas had her sitting up, his hands running over her back. His fingertips skimmed her skin under the ripped robes, leaving a trail of cool magic in their wake.

“Foolish. You are not indestructible, Aryael. Talent or not, you cannot simply charge into battle!” Solas voice was harsh against her ear as he knelt to her side, his chest pressed close to hers, hand on her shoulder and arm loosely wrapped around her to reach her back. She blinked for a minute as awareness dawned on her.

This is nice.

Solas fingers on her skin were more than soothing. She nibbled on her bottom lip, his breath brushing against her ear as he continued to rant at her. Her body was responding in a most uncomfortable way. For a brief moment, she wondered what angry sex would be like with the elf. She stiffened from embarrassment, flush spreading over her cheeks. Now was not the time for sexy thoughts.

“I’m sorry,” her voice croaked. She was parched, sore and a little more than tired. It didn’t help that he was right. She shouldn’t have tried to rush in like that; she should have focused on the rift, stayed with Cassandra. For all her power, he was right. She was not indestructible.

Solas’ fingers stopped on her lower back as Cassandra and Varric joined them.

“How is she?” Cassandra inquired, slightly out of breath.

“She will be fine. Notwithstanding future endeavours to get herself killed,” Solas retorted, falling back on his heels and standing, pulling her up with him. He let go of her arms as if she burned and turned away, her eyes following after him.

“Maybe I just wanted to put those magic fingers to use,” the words tumbled from her mouth before she could process them.

Varric chuckled and Solas did not break his stride on his way to the mounts. “We have lost precious time, we should continue onwards.” His words did not betray any emotion but the red tips of his ears did.

 


 

They continued their journey, trading watches and closing rifts. Ari made an effort to avoid one on ones with the demons and focused on closing the rifts. Solas burst of upset was soon forgotten and he met her in the Fade at night, taking her through the memories of the lands they crossed. They had fallen into a steady rhythm.

It had been three days since they had closed the first rift and were getting closer to the forward camp when they were attacked.

Templars.

Ari was thrown from her horse as a smite hit her, head knocking against a rock. Yells broke out around her, Cassandra throwing herself against the Templars as Solas threw up barriers around them all. Varric scrambled for high ground, his arrows let loose against the weak points of their armour. There were nine of them. A relatively medium sized party.

One of the Templars made their way towards her and she rolled as he brought his axe down on her. Scrambling to her feet, she felt a rush of fear she had not felt against the demons. She called her sword, using it to deflect the Templar’s onslaught, her feet backing her away from the rest of the battle. He was gaining on her, his swings more powerful than hers. She was going to die. This Templar was going to cut her down. With a rush fear, she thrust a savage force right at the Templar’s throat. She felt his bones give way, heard the crunch loud in her ears as his blood splattered against her face, hot against her skin as it left the scent of iron in her nostrils.

She moved as his weight fell forward before it could pin her down. Her sword fell away as she rushed to join the battle, calling lightening from the sky and frying the Templars in her range of vision. She was mindless in her fear, seeking only for the fight to end. She moved like a blur, ice leaving a sparkling trail in her wake as she burned the first Templar she came upon, leaving her a screaming mess on the floor as she cooked beneath her molten armour before heading to another, once again calling her sword. She swung, an odd sound filling the air as her sword hit the Templar’s. They lashed at each other, neither willing to give in before she saw a break in his defenses. Bringing her sword in a strong upward swing, she disarmed him, pushing forward and slicing at his throat. Once again she was hit with a spray of hot blood that ran in rivulets down her face, its splatter pulling her from her frenzied daze. She fell to her knees, not caring if there were any left, the adrenaline and fear dissipating from her body and leaving her quiet.

I killed someone. I spilled their blood and took their life.

The words repeated over and over in her mind. Ari was a pacifist by nature. She had never been fond of the students who had gone too far, not even willing to smoke bomb the metro when asked. After all, what if someone had gotten hurt? This violence went against every fibre of her being.

She loosely was aware of the feel of a warm hand squeezing her shoulder, the shadow that passed over her and blocked the sun. She blinked slowly, her hands resting on her knees and open to the sky. Her lip trembled and she felt nothing.

“Aryael?” she heard the call of her name but made no move. She thought it might be Varric but she didn’t care to check.

Varric knelt on the ground in front of Aryael, his hand braced on her shoulder as he gently tried to shake her from her reverie. She had been a blur on the battlefield, deadly in her strikes with no hesitation. But he saw the moment it all hit her. Aryael was young, couldn’t be more than maybe 20 or so winters. She was Dalish and had never seen war. The kid didn’t even eat meat. He doubted she had ever seen the life drain from someone’s eyes let alone been the cause of it. Demons were different, they didn’t bleed.

Gently, he wiped the blood from her cheeks, cupping one as he tried to get her attention.

“Aryael,” he called to her. Cassandra and Solas stood behind her a few feet away, both unsure of what to do or say.

“Come on, Dimples, look at me,” he tried again.

Her head slowly turned, her eyes locking onto Varric’s golden-hazel gaze. “It’s going to be okay, Dimples.”

“No it’s not,” the whisper was soft but loud in the silence of the glade. The tears started to form in the corner of her eyes as the reality of it all washed over her.

“Listen to me Dimples. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not going to get easier. This was the first time but it’s probably not going to be the last. And you won’t forget. You shouldn’t forget. Remember. Remember it had to be them. Remember why it matters and what their deaths are going to lead to. You could not have saved them, Aryael. They didn’t give you the chance to.” Varric wouldn’t let go of her stare, his eyes focused on her and calling her from her trance. “It was you or them, Dimples. And you still have a world to save.”

She couldn’t hold it anymore, the tears falling as a heavy sob wracked her body. She fell into Varric, her face falling against his chest, nose burning from the tears. His arms wrapped around her, his hand brushing over her hair as she let it all out. They stayed like that for what seemed like hours until there were no tears left, her breathing finally calming.

“Perhaps we should set up camp somewhere nearby. I believe there was a stream where we could wash,” Cassandra’s voice broke over the silence.

“Sounds good, Seeker. Solas, a little help?” Varric said, nodding his head towards Ari, who was all but passed out in his arms, her body exhausted, physically and emotionally drained. Solas slipped his arms under her, lifting her into his embrace and carried her towards his mount. She nuzzled her face into his chest, protesting slightly as she was passed to Cassandra while Solas mounted his horse. Cassandra passed her to Solas who shifted her in front of him, letting her fall back against his chest, her head on his shoulder. They rode in silence; Ari’s horse being led by Varric as they searched for a good place to camp along the nearby stream.

Cassandra reached for Aryael, waking her from her slumber and assisting her to the stream to bathe after grabbing both their packs. Ari stripped herself of her bloody robes with trembling fingers, stepping into the cool water. She reached out with her hand, calling the water from stream in a coil, wrapping it around her and rinsing her body of all the blood. She stared as the clear liquid turned a dirty red from the dried blood. She pulled her braid apart, running her hands through it and drenching it. She scrubbed her body with vigour, trying to erase the feel of the blood from her skin.

Ari and Cassandra bathed in silence, Ari scrubbing and rinsing over and over until the sun began to lower in the sky before she finally walked to the bank and drew a fresh pair of smalls, tights and a tunic, dressing quickly before she headed back towards the camp. She headed into her shared tent, drawing Solas’ fur around her and stared at the canvas of the tent until sleep claimed her.

Chapter Text

The sound of water coursing over rocks echoed in her ear as she laid her head down on the lap of Wisdom. She felt warm, soft; almost solid. Wisdom rubbed her back slowly as she curled up on the bank of the river, staring blindly ahead and saying nothing.

“If it wasn’t them, it would have been you da’lan. Death comes to all eventually. Sometimes it comes to you when you try to bring it someone else. So it was with them. Do not punish yourself for something you could not control. You cannot save everyone.” Wisdom's words washed over her.

“I wish I could…” she whispered softly.

Wisdom smiled. “I know. But things are not always simple. Not everyone wants to be saved. Not everyone can be saved.”

“Can Solas be saved?” she asked, the thought echoing in her mind. At the end of Trespasser, she had promised she would save him. Being here now, she had every intention of making sure she fulfilled that promise.

Wisdom paused for a moment, thinking over the question. “Perhaps, da’lan. He is far gone but I do not think he has crossed the final line just yet.”

Ari nodded slowly, her hands coming to rest under her chin as she burrowed further into Wisdom’s lap. When she came to the Fade, she had walked in a daze, gray surrounding her and despair trailing at her heels. Wisdom had found her then, taken her hand and brought her to the riverbank, laying her down and just letting her rest. She didn’t know how long she had been here, but the spirit had gently brought a peace to her. She knew Varric and Wisdom were right. This world was so different from hers. Life and death… fighting. These were all things that she needed to become accustomed to. Especially if she was going to defeat Corypheus and stop Solas.

Slowly she raised herself, pulling her legs to her chest and wrapping her arms around them, resting her chin on her knees. “Do you think he would listen?” she asked.

Wisdom was quiet, the question left hanging in the air. Wisdom had known Solas for ages. They were friends before he took bodily form, when he was still Pride. “I believe he will listen, eventually. There are still many unknowns to you, da’lan. You will need to find your answers before you can hope to help him find his. Patience will be your best advantage in this. He is curious of you. And I am aware of how you feel about him.” She paused then, searching for the right words. “You know many things, have experienced many things. But that world is not this world. The pieces on the board will change and so will you; you must. Solas is not ready to know what you know. He will not understand and he may very well try to remove you in order to keep his plans and identity concealed.”

“You mean he would kill me.”

“He might.”

The silence between them was deafening.

“How much of what I know do you know?” she finally asked, turning towards the spirit.

Wisdom regarded her, tilting her head slightly.

“There are some things that must come to pass, da’lan. You cannot save me from my fate.”

Ari threw herself into the spirits arms, warmth rushing around her as the spirit returned her embrace. Wisdom did not deserve what was coming. 

She recalled what Solas had said, when he returned to Skyhold after Wisdom's death. Spirits did not truly die. They may not come back exactly the same, but they still came back. She tightened her hold on Wisdom. "I will find you again," she promised.

“We have time yet, da’lan. Do not fret. It is time for you to return though. I will be here when next you rest.” The spirit pulled back, brushing her hair back from her face, a ghostly smile spreading across her lips. It was the last thing she saw before her eyes blinked open.

The sun’s rays were beginning to rise over the horizon, turning the canvas orange. She rose from her bedroll and began to gather her things. Cassandra’s belongings were already gone. She recalled that it was Cass’s turn for last watch. Hauling her bedroll and packs from the tent, she strode to place them on her mare.

“Morning, Dimples!” Varric called from the fire, “How’d you sleep last night?”

 Ari shot him a smile, “Sound as a babe. Although Varric, we really need to work on your snoring. I have no idea how Solas manages to get any rest with you in his tent,” she said with a little chuckle.

“Hey now-“ Varric started.

“She is right, Varric. Though the sound may be responsible for our peaceful watches,” Solas added as he exited his tent.

Cassandra even smiled at that one. They acted as though yesterday had never happened, pretending she hadn't lost it. They broke camp and mounted their horses, heading towards the Forward Camp.

Chapter Text

“The Herald of Andraste! I’ve heard the stories. We know what you did at the Breach. Everyone’s a little nervous around mages right now, but you’ll get no back talk here. That’s a promise.” Scout Harding greeted Ari, brushing a stray hair behind her ear. “Inquisition Scout Harding at your service. I – all of us here – we’ll do whatever we can to help.”

“Harding, huh? Ever been to Kirkwall’s Hightown?” Varric said with a little chuckle.

“I can’t say I have. Why?” Harding asked with a quizzical look.

“You’d be Harding in… Oh, never mind,” he said with a small shake of her hand.

Cassandra scoffed and sent him a death glare while Ari tried to keep a straight face.

“It’s a pleasure, Harding. The Hinterlands aren’t exactly welcoming nowadays are they? What’s our status?” she asked.

“We came here to secure horses from Redcliffe’s old horsemaster. I grew up here, and people always said that Dennet’s herds were the strongest and fastest this side of the Frostbacks. But with the mage-templar fighting getting worse, we couldn’t get to Dennet. Maker only knows if he’s even still alive. Mother Giselle is at the Crossroads helping refugees and the wounded. Our latest reports say that the war’s spread there, too. Corporal Vale and our men are doing what they can to help protect the people, but they won’t be able to hold out very long.”

Ari nodded. “Do you have a map of the area, Harding?”

“Of course,” Harding responded, turning and heading towards a table by one of the tents. Over top the wooden surface laid a frayed map of the area indicating scouted areas. Ari approached the table, fingers dancing across the rough parchment. There was text written here and there, indicating where they found the bulk of the fighting to be. It was shifting ever closer to the crossroads.

“We’ll head to the crossroads now, try to provide some relief for Vale and his men. Can you try to pin point the Mage or Templar camps? Where they rest? It would be best if we perhaps could put an end to this all quickly. Once we find Giselle, we can look for Dennet.” She grabbed the map from the table, rolling it quickly. “I hope you don’t mind if I take this?”

“Of course, Herald,” Harding nodded once, turning to deliver orders to her men.

“And what will we do if we find the camps?” Cassandra asked.

“We try to reason. If there is no reason, we stop them.” She said walking towards her mare and mounting it quickly. “This fighting is doing nothing but harming innocents. We can’t allow it to continue.” She nudged her horse towards the path, turning right to head towards the crossroads. They rode in silence, until the loud clang of metal against metal could be heard faintly in the distance.

“Looks like they could use our help!” Varric called from behind her. She dug her heels into her horse’s flanks, urging her into a gallop and headed straight for the commotion.

Fire was everywhere, Templars fighting Inquisition forces as mages joined the fray as well. She raised her hand, wind picking up as gusts of snow began to barrage against the flames. Jumping from her horse, she felt a barrier pop into place and the familiar feel of Solas’ magic brush against her skin.

“Protect the people. Drive them back!” she cried, running towards a fight much too close to innocents. She pushed them back, knocking them off their feet and rushed to help the refugees to their feet. “Hide!” she yelled, turning to deal with the Templars and Mages that were rising back to their feet. Curling her fingers, she pulled them all together, a small rift appearing overhead and dragging their bodies towards it. She splayed her hand out, shocking them with electricity. She could hear Solas and Cassandra both respectively trying to reason with the Mages and Templars to no avail. She knew how this was going to go down.

Calling her sword to her hand, she dealt swiftly with the Mages and Templars nearby, assisting any refugees in her line of sight get to safety away from the battle. The sound of fighting filled her ears, drowning out everything else as metal slid against metal and screams of pain filled the air. She tried to block it out but it was too loud. What felt like hours later, the battle had ended.

She stood in the middle of corpses, bloodied and out of breath.

“Are you alright, Aryael?” Cassandra called, walking over to her as she sheathed her sword and placed her shield upon her back.

“I’m fine. Send word to Harding. Have scouts sent to hunt for meals for the refugees and search for anything that could be of use nearby. Vale’s men should assist in cleaning out the bodies and building a funeral pyre outside of the crossroads so the stench doesn’t upset anyone," she said as she turned to Cassandra and noted Solas and Varric coming up behind her. “Where is Mother Giselle?”

“With the wounded up the stairs, Herald.” A scout responded to her query as he approached them. “Corporal Vale has also asked to speak with you when you have a moment.”

“Thank you,” She nodded to the scout before heading up the stairs to find Mother Giselle. She could hear the woman’s gentle voice comforting soldiers, reminding them that magic could, in fact, serve noble purposes and was not all evil.

“Mother Giselle?” she called as she crested the steps, coming up behind the woman.

“I am. And you must be the one they are calling the Herald of Andraste,” Giselle turned and approached her, a gentle smile on her face.

“That is what they have been calling me yes. I was told you asked to speak with me?” She tried her best not to sound short with the woman. She was aware that she was needed, however distasteful she found her.

“I know of the Chantry’s denouncement.” She said, moving to walk away from the makeshift infirmary and gesturing for Ari to follow. “And I am familiar with the those behind it. I won’t lie to you: some of them are grandstanding, hoping to increase their chances of becoming the new Divine. Some are simply terrified. So many good people, senselessly taken from us.” She stopped and turned toward Ari.

“The Conclave… what happened was terrible. It’s not something that should be used to help further people’s own agendas or political goals,” voice low, Ari stared into Mother Giselle’s eyes.

“Fear makes us desperate, but hopefully not beyond reason. Go to them. Convince the remaining clerics you are no demon to be feared. They have heard only frightful tales of you. Give them something else to believe.”

“You want me, an apostate… a Dalish mage to waltz into Val Royeaux and speak to the Chantry?” she asked, incredulous. This woman was really too optimistic. She knew how Val Royeaux would go down, but she still had trouble believing they would actually think sending her there would be a good idea.

“Let me put it this way: you needn’t convince them all. You just need some of them to doubt. Their power is their unified voice. Take that from them, and you receive the time you need.”

She nodded. “That easy, huh? Well, I’ll do my best.” She said with a small smile.

“I honestly don’t know if you’ve been touched by fate or sent to help us… But I hope. Hope is what we need now. The people will listen to your rallying call, as they will listen to no other. You could build the Inquisition into a force that will deliver us… or a force that will destroy us.”

“The Inquisition will never harm innocents. We will never allow anyone or anything to destroy Thedas,” she promised with vehemence. Coryphishite could suck it. And Solas wouldn’t even get the chance to tear down the veil so far as she was concerned.

Mother Giselle’s eyes widened slightly at her impassioned outburst, a smile gracing her lips as she inclined her head towards her. “I will go to Haven and provide Sister Leliana the names of those in the Chantry who would be amenable to a gathering. It is not much, but I will do whatever I can.”

“Thank you, Mother Giselle.”

“You are most welcome, Herald. I pray you find safety in your travels. And I pray you succeed in your quest to protect us all.” She turned then, walking away to prepare for her travels.

Ari returned to her companions. “Mother Giselle believes we should speak with the clerics directly and will be leaving to Haven in order to provide some names to Leliana. We’ll make for Haven shortly, to discuss it. Before then I’d like to find Dennet. And perhaps weed out the factions of Templars and Mages causing issues for the refugees.”

“It is a sound plan. We can return to the forward camp once we have settled things here. I will go assign a guard for Mother Giselle and assist in the preparation for her travel.” Cassandra nodded before heading off.

“We should see to the refugees. They’re in dire straights, Dimples. Could use some good news or a warm smile. I’m going to speak to the merchants, send some notes off and see if I can’t get some supplies down here. Who knows, maybe the kids wouldn’t mind hearing a story either.” Varric smiled at her.

“Just make sure the stories are appropriate Varric. We needn’t start them on the path to corruption just yet. I appreciate your help, though. Thank you,” she said, grin spread across her face as she felt another twinge inside her. The people of Thedas had no idea just how lucky they were to have amazing people like Varric and Cassandra on their side.

“Hey now, I know how to write a good story for adult or child alike,” Varric said with mock indignation before heading towards the merchant’s wagon.

“I will assist in tending to the wounded. If you have need of me, you can find me here,” Solas gave her a small nod and headed off towards the makeshift infirmary.

Ari took a deep breathe and asked the nearest soldier where she could find Corporal Vale. Heading off in that direction, she came upon the Corporal speaking with some soldiers on the outskirts of the refugee camp.

“You’re the Herald? Thanks for your help. The Mages and Templars don’t seem to care who gets caught in their war. The refugees here are in dire need of help. If the war doesn’t kill them, cold or starvation will.” Coporal Vale appeared to be in his thirties, short for a human, maybe around 5’8. He looked haggard and his eyes were wary.

“What can we do to assist? I’ve sent word to Harding to try and procure some game for them to eat. Scouts are being dispatched to search for anything that might be useful. One of my companions is a very competent healer and assisting the wounded.”

His eyes widened in surprise. “Thank you, Herald. Some of the wounded’s injuries go beyond stitches and elfroot. They’re scared to let the mages too close though. We’ve got a lot of refugees with no shelter or blankets, not enough food for them either. I sent word to Haven asking for them to send blankets. You’d have thought I was asking them to send a wagon of raw lyrium.”

“We’ll make sure they’re all fed and warm, don’t worry, Corporal. Thank you protecting them. You’ve done good here.” A bright smile curved her lips and lit up her eyes as she looked at the man with gratitude. The people here were defenseless and on their own, completely at the mercy of struggle surrounding them. Vale and his men were all that stood between them and death. He was a good man. He should know it.

“Just doing my duty, Herald.”

“What can you tell me about Horsemaster Dennet? Have you had word?” she asked him.

“We haven’t heard from him. Best we can tell, he’s holed up until the Mages and Templars are done killing each other. He lives on a farm to the West. Tough old fellow. If you have further need of me, Herald, you can find me here. I best finish tending to the mess.”

“Yes, of course. Thank you again, Corporal.”

They parted ways, Ari weaving through the soldiers carrying bodies or wood and headed back towards the wounded. She found Solas kneeling on the ground, hands moving over a young man. The young man was ghastly pale, tunic ripped and bloodied. She could barely make out the deep gash on his side surrounded by bruising over Solas’ shoulder.

She paused, curious as to how healing magic worked exactly. His palms glowed faintly with a blue light and she could sense his magic flowing through the young man’s body as if searching for something. Seemingly satisfied, he held his hand over the deep wound and she watched as little strings of mana seemed to seep into it. For minutes it remained that way until she could slowly begin to see the flesh being pulled together. The young man was wincing, jaw clenched tight and trying not to cry out.

“Bones are never easy to mend and the healing of such is never painless. I am sorry.” Solas words did nothing to ease the young man, who by this point was squeezing his eyes shut.

Perhaps 10 minutes later, the bruises began to fade and the gash had closed, leaving a jagged scar. Solas stood and told the young man to rest, before a young Chantry sister came to ask him to attend another of the wounded.

Ari smiled to herself. He may not be very fond of this world but he doesn’t like to see people suffer. She moved to follow him, coming up to his side as he came to the next of his patients. It was an older woman, a refugee it seemed. Her breathing was slow, eyes closed and dark bruises all but screaming from her pale flesh on her neck.

“You are quite the healer it would seem Solas,” she murmured as he began to search the woman’s body for the worst of her injuries with his magic.

“I have had much time to practice and refine such skills in my travels,” he intoned, face concentrating. His lips were set in a straight line, eyes drawn and a small furrow in his brow. She could tell that this was wearing on him. His mana reserves were not infinite, there were many wounded and he had just been in a battle. She could see the moment he found the cause of her distress, his magic seeping into her chest and tendrils sliding behind the woman’s head.

“But your power is not limitless. Is there something I can do to assist? I can’t say I know much about healing magic but…” she offered, somewhat in awe as she watched the colour return to the woman’s cheeks and her breaths ease.

“You are right. I am not yet in danger from falling due to exhaustion, however. Perhaps I can teach you, Iethallan. Reach out with your magic and touch mine.” Solas' gaze never wavered from the woman in front of him.

She did as he asked, eyes fluttering and fingers twitching slightly as she called her magic to her, seeking out Solas'. She gasped slightly as she felt it, cool and warm, a heady mix of contradictions ever so raw. She felt it draw her in, guiding her to see what he saw. She felt the blood pouring from the woman’s brain, a contusion formed near the base of her skull. She felt the crack in her ribs, putting pressure on her lungs and felt as Solas’ magic worked to mend it all. She blended her own with his, copying the movements as it fused her bone solid once more and worked to stop the bleeding, applying pressure to stop the swelling and pulling the blood back to its rightful place in her veins. When the damage had been resolved, she felt Solas pull his magic back and did the same.

“That was…” she had no words. It had felt intimate on a number of levels. She was familiar with the touch of his magic but this had been different. She could feel it. And to intrude on someone’s body in such a way… It was as if she could see beneath their very skin, like an x-ray or ultrasound… perhaps both combined.

“Magic is malleable and capable of many things. Not all mages attain the finesse required to gently prod at injury and heal them. I think perhaps, given enough practice, you may be capable of such a thing.” He turned to her then, exhaustion clearly written on his face.

“Right…” she mumbled, staring into his eyes. He was pushing himself.

“If you’d like to continue the lesson, you are more than welcome to join me,” he said, turning to seek out another of the injured.

He is going to bring himself to the brink of death like this…

She reached into the pocket of her tunic, searching for a lyrium potion. “Here. You’re going to drop dead if you continue like this.”

He turned to her, shock colouring his features. “Thank you… I… you are correct. I had not realized how draining this could be. Perhaps, if you are willing, I could guide you for a bit while I recover? That is if you feel up to the task.”

She laughed lightly before gifting him with a wide and toothy grin. “I’m always willing to learn new things from you, Solas.”

She could see his eyes darken slightly and wondered what things had crossed his behind before he gestured for her to follow him to the next patient in silent acceptance.

Chapter Text

They had spent three weeks in the Hinterlands, closing rifts, recruiting agents and assisting refugees in any way they could. Cullen was having soldiers place watchtowers near Dennet’s farmland, the Templars and Mages had both been dealt with and the area was relatively secure. She had felt like she was some sort of exhibit on display when they had approached the Citadel and wanted nothing more than to run in the opposite direction but she had to close that damn rift in the hold. Orator Anais’ eyes had unsettled her greatly; reverence and awe that she simply did not deserve in her gaze. The woman was now to spread word of the Inquisition as far away from Ari as she could manage thankfully.

They had just arrived back in Haven and parted ways at the stables, Cassandra and Aryael to deliver reports while Solas and Varric returned to their quarters respectively.

“You did well, Aryael. Support for the Inquisition has surely grown due to our presence in the Hinterlands.”

“We still have to contend with the Chantry, Cassandra. I doubt we’ve garnered enough notice to get near the Templars or Mages. I doubt either side would be happy with how we dealt with their own either. ”

They heard commotion as they crested the hill, voices raised in anger as Mages and Templars accused each other of failing the Divine. They both broke into a hurried run, racing up the steps to see Cullen break apart the fighting with a furious glare at both parties. Relieved, Ari slowed her pace, eyes rolling as Chancellor Roderick made his opinion known.

“Right, because the Chantry has been so good at dealing with the unrest as it is? And of course, the remaining clerics must be so valuable, being left at home instead of attending the Conclave. We should obviously rally to them! They must have the answers.” The sarcasm dripped from her lips as she glared at the mousey little man. She did not notice Cullen’s appraising look or the way he held back a chuckle at her words.

“And the rebel Inquisition and it’s herald of Andraste? Is that who should lead?”

“I am not your bloody Herald of Andraste! I am Aryael. I am a person.” Her temper was rising, nose flaring slightly. “And I have heard enough. Keep your thoughts to yourself, Chancellor. You do yourself, the Chantry and in fact Thedas itself, no favours with your misguided disdain.” She turned her attention back to the Chantry, and pulled open the door, not waiting to see if anyone had followed her.

“You are nothing but an upstart!” She could hear the Chancellor’s voice crack in anger behind her as she stepped inside and was surprised to hear Cullen intercede on her behalf.

She is the reason the Breach is stable and your life is safe. You will not speak to her that way again,” he growled.

She stopped, turning around to see the Chancellor step back as Cullen stepped forward. Cassandra watched from the side, eyebrow raised. The Chancellor turned with a huff, walking away as Cullen folded his arms and sighed.

“Thank you, Cullen. You didn’t have to,” she said softly as she stood in the doorway.

Cullen turned, a slight flush gracing his cheeks as he lifted his hand to rub behind his neck. She’d always thought that nervous reflex was endearing and she couldn’t hold back the smile that danced on her lips.

“Think nothing of it. You have done much for us. It shouldn’t be treated so lightly.” He nodded once and turned to head back down into the town.

“The Commander is not normally prone to such outbursts,” Cassandra commented as she moved to follow Aryael into the Chantry.

“No?” she asked, refusing to look the woman in the eye.

“No.”

The silence was suffocating as they made their way to the war room, Cassandra’s words flitting about in her mind. Perhaps the Commander did not dislike her as much as she had earlier assumed from their initial meeting. They opened the door to the sight of Leliana pouring over the map, turning to greet them at the noise of the door opening.

“Welcome back!” The Nightingale said with a smile.

“It’s good to see you, Leliana,” easily returning the redheads cheer. Leliana had been one of her favourite characters in Origins. Their friendship in the game had come so easily. She had been very pleased to see her at the end of DA:2 and more than happy at the chance to speak with her again in Inquisition, although she had been a tad upset that they started off as strangers once again. But it couldn’t be helped with a different character and all that. Still, Leliana’s voice and gentle smile was comforting to have around amid the chaos of strangers and a stranger world.

“I hear your efforts in the Hinterlands have not gone unnoticed. Tales of the Herald and her generosity are spreading across Thedas. It seems you always find time to help everyone, even if it the matter is as simple as returning a wedding band.” Leliana’s eyes were sparkling with amusement and approval.

Ari was bashful. She’d just done what she did in the game. She was a completionist. She couldn’t leave a quest unfinished. And she didn’t like the idea of letting people suffer. “Just doing what I was asked to do, Leliana.”

“Of course,” she nodded, moving to map in the middle of the room. “Mother Giselle has provided me with the names of some clerics who would be amenable to meeting with us. We’ve reached out and they have invited us to speak with them in Val Royaux. Josephine believes that it would be best to have you, the Herald, address them personally.”

Ari nodded, “I suppose that makes sense.”

“Until the situation with the Chantry is resolved, we are powerless to seek aid in closing the Breach.” Cassandra stood to the side, arms crossed and leaning her hip against the edge of the table. “I will travel with Aryael, provided she is willing to represent the Inquisition in this matter.”

“Alright. We’ll prepare to depart the day after tomorrow. I think we deserve a little bit of rest before we head out again. Plus, it’s a long journey into Orlais. I am going to seek out Josephine and see if I can’t manage a bath before I have to trek out into the wilderness again.” Ari turned, waving her hand in goodbye and left the war room.

“Do the Dalish not live in the wilderness, Leliana?” Cassandra turned to the Spymaster.

“I am sure she is simply not used to travelling so very much. The Dalish do tend to set up camp for months at a time.” The bard’s eyes stared at the door as she wondered why a Dalish elf would crave a bath.

 


 

 

Ari turned right from the war room, heading to find Josephine in her office. She opened the door to the sight of a most ridiculously dressed man sporting a mask. She groaned inwardly.

What is with these Orlesians and their masks?

“The Inquisition cannot remain, Ambassador, if you can’t prove it was founded on Justinia’s orders.”

“This is an inopportune time, Marquis. More of the faithful flock here each day.” Josephine noticed her presence, turning her body slightly towards her. “But allow me to introduce you to the brave soul who risked her life to slow the magic of the Breach. Mistress Lavellan, may I present the Marquis DuRellion, one of Divine Justinia’s greatest supporters.”

“And the rightful owner of Haven. House DuRellion lent Justinia these lands for a pilgrimage. This “Inquisition” is not a beneficiary of this arrangement.”

Could the man not even offer a simple nod in acknowledgement?

“I have not heard that Haven belonged to someone other than the Chantry.”

“My wife, Lady Machen of Denerim, has claim to Haven by ancient treaty with the monarchs of Ferelden. We were honoured to lend its use to Divine Justinia. She is… She was a woman of supreme merit. I will not let an upstart order remain on her holy grounds.”

She repressed a groan. What was it with these men and calling her an upstart?

“An interesting stance, Marquis. Especially considering that the Inquisition was begun by the left and right hands of the Divine.”

“I’ve seen no written records from Sister Leliana or Seeker Pentaghast that Justinia approved the Inquisition.”

“If he won’t take her word, I’m afraid Seeker Pentaghast must challenge him to a duel.”

“What?”

“Oh dear, that is quite the predicament. It is a matter of honour among the Nevarrans. Perhaps you can schedule the bout for tonight, Lady Montilyet?”

“No! No. Perhaps my reaction to the Inquisition’s presence was somewhat hasty.” The Marquis sighed, turning away and beginning to pace.

“We face a dark time, Your Grace. Divine Justinia would not want her passing to divide us. She would, in fact, trust us to forge new alliances to the benefit of all, no matter how strange they might seem.”

He turned to face them. “I will think on it, Lady Montilyet. The Inquisition might stay in the meanwhile.” He left them alone in the office and was just barely out the door before Ari could no longer hold her laughter.

“Oh Josie, I can’t. That was positively marvellous.”

“I must admit, you are quite deft with your words. I fear the poor Marquis was about to wet his smalls when you suggested we schedule the duel for tonight. I had been about to suggest it myself.” Josephine chuckled.

“Well, I doubt his claim holds much merit. Ancient treaties don’t sound all that binding or easy to uphold. Especially when you are not a resident of the country in question.”

“This is true. His position is not as strong as he presents. He is, however, only the first of many dignitaries we must contend with. Each who will take a tale of the Inquisition with them. An ambassador should ensure the tale is as complimentary as possible.” Josephine’s eyes glinted with appreciation. It seemed that Ari had impressed her.

“We’re lucky to have you, Josephine. I especially after all you have done for me.” She clasped her hands together in front of her, looking down before letting the words rush out. “I was wondering if I couldn’t trouble you for a certain comfort… would it be possible to arrange a bath?”

Josephine chuckled. “Of course, Aryael. Expect it in your cabin within the hour. And I appreciate the sentiment. The Inquisition is quite lucky to have you as well. Your efforts in the Hinterlands are making my job quite simple.”

The blush was creeping up her neck and over her cheeks. “Just doing my part. Thanks again, Josie. Let me know if you need something.” She said with a smile, heading out the door before any more praise could be laid upon her. She really wasn’t doing anything that great here.

“Of course. Enjoy your rest.”

 


 

Ari hadn’t felt this good in days. Her skin was flushed pink from the warmth of the bath and she was clean. Clean. It felt wonderful. She tossed on a tunic over her naked body, the cotton slightly rough against her sensitive skin and sat at her small table, fingers reaching into the basket at the centre and breaking off a piece of bread before tossing it into her mouth.

She groaned at its freshness. Travelling with rations and traipsing all over the Hinterlands had not been kind to her. Her muscles were sore, getting more so the more they had battled. She slowly ate the rest of her meal of bread and cheese, the soup already devoured before her bath. Leaning back in her chair, she went over the events of the past month.

Cassandra and Varric had bickered a lot. She could tell that Varric really enjoyed getting a rise out of the woman. She wasn’t convinced that Cassandra wasn’t fond of it either. She had caught her smiling to herself more than once after one of their little spats. She’d come to think of them as a verbal foreplay of sorts. She might have even encouraged the start of a few on the sly.

She’d also gotten to know Solas quite well. For someone who saw this world as something that needed to be replaced, he was so very determined to save it. He had almost fallen down by the time they had tended all the wounded at the crossroads, face pale and skin clammy from exhaustion. All for humans who both feared him as a mage and disdained him as an elf. It spoke volumes. She had asked him while they worked why he pushed himself to such limits. He had smiled and simply said that if it was within his abilities to help, to save a life, how could he not?

Solas, for all that she had written of him and practically memorized his every word in game, was an enigma to her. His friendship with Varric was clear to her and his respect for Cassandra great. They had gotten into the habit of sharing their watches, Solas sharing stories from the Fade, tidbits of history lost to time. The sound of his voice had soothed her frayed nerves after long days and she smiled remembering his enthusiasm in recounting the tale of how Maric escaped his mother’s killers and came to meet Loghain. She had listened, fascinated by his tale with small details that varied from the depiction she had read in The Stolen Throne.

She had begun to develop a very real attachment to the man and she was slightly worried as to what that might mean. It was one thing to want to save him, quite another to want be even closer to him. She sighed, lifting herself from her chair and slipping under her covers.

They had just begun to get their feet off the ground, so to speak, and already she was falling prey to pesky emotions. She knew ultimately how this was going to end. Well, maybe not end. She knew nothing past the DLCs, nothing of how Solas actually planned to bring down the Veil, just that he would attempt to. She wondered how he might accomplish such a feat as she drifted off to sleep.

 


 

“You’re back!” The purple child all but ran into her, wrapping its little arms around her neck.

“Why, hello to you too,” she chuckled.

“It’s hard to see you when you’re with the wolf. He doesn’t remember either.”

“He doesn’t remember, da’lin?”

The spirit shook its head as it settled onto her lap. They sat on a grassy knoll, aravels all around them, Dalish milling about doing their daily tasks. Bare faced children ran past them, laughter carrying on the wind.

“You remembered a little though.” It seemed it didn’t want to discuss Solas further which slightly unnerved her.

Why would the spirit avoid Solas? And what exactly did the man not remember?

“What do you mean I remembered?”

“What came before. You remembered finding the ruins in the forest with your friend. You remember your camp.” The spirit raised an ethereal hand, gesturing around them.

Ari paused, stricken by the spirits words as the aforementioned scene flashed across her mind. Her eyes wandered over her surroundings, taking in for the first time that she found herself in a Dalish camp.

“Lavellan’s memory?”

“No, your memory, silly. You are Lavellan.”

“I don’t understand, da’lin. How can I be someone if I am someone else?” She was confused. She had used her head canon for her character when pressed with questions about her childhood or background and remembered sharing stories in the tavern or when at camp with the others, but those hadn’t been memories.

The spirit’s laugh was a warmth that filled the air. “But you’re not someone else. You’re you!”

Her nose scrunched in confusion.

“You shouldn’t be so afraid to remember. I told you, I’ll help.” The spirit flashed her a smile before it let go of her hand and ran off to play with the children, one of which had startlingly violet eyes and a shock of silver curls trailing down her back. Before she could give chase she heard a thump in the distance, growing louder and louder until she opened her eyes to find the sun blinking into her small cabin.

Chapter Text

“Aryael?” Shora’s voice was muffled through the wood of the door.

“Come in,” Aryael called as she sat up in her cot, blearily rubbing the sleep from her eyes. The door opened with a slight creak.

“Oh, I’m sorry to wake you. I thought maybe you’d be hungry. The cook made some delicious tarts with apples and cheese.” The sweet smell of the pastries wafted through the cabin and she felt her stomach rumble greedily.

“Oh, those smell delicious!”

“They are!” Shora set a small basket on the table, uncovering it and taking out the delicacies to set them on a small cloth.

Ari raised herself from her bed, striding over to join the young woman. They each took a seat and began to eat, Ari groaning in pleasure as the flaky tart melted in her mouth.

“You were gone a long time. I heard some of the soldiers talking, saying you saved people in the Crossroads. Said you moved around like a dancer, prancing around and taking the refugees away from the Templars and Mages.”

Ari chuckled. “Pranced around, huh?”

Shora blushed. “Well, I mean, that’s what they said. That it was something to see, the Herald of Andraste moving with grace and power, saving the people and doing away with their enemies.”

A small smile played at her lips. “I suppose so. I bet many of them have not seen magic at work before. I’m glad I could help though. The Templars and Mages seem to forget that the citizens of Thedas are not part of their war.”

Shora nodded, wiping her hands on her skirts. “I understand you will be leaving again soon. Is there anything you’d like? I took your clothes to wash from your pack. I’ll leave them to dry by the fire when I’m done.”

“Shora, I can wash my own clothes.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble, Aryael. You must be tired from your journey. I mean, usually you don’t sleep so long, that’s why I thought you would be awake already.”

“What time is it, Shora?”

“It’s just about midday,” the elf said as she began to clean up their small treat, taking the basket and bowl from her dinner last night as well.

She swore softly. She definitely hadn’t meant to sleep that long. She wanted to peruse the staffs in the smithy, perhaps train a bit on her little plateau before the day ended. She also needed to speak with the advisors before she left. Quickly, she stood and began searching for small clothes and pants.

“I’ll let you get ready for the day. Will you take your dinner in here tonight, Ari?”

Aryael startled a bit at the call of her nickname. She had named her character for herself, wanting to fully immerse herself in this world when she began to play Inquisition. Ari was what her family and friends had called her. It had been a very long time since anyone had called her that. Probably since before her grandparents passed to be perfectly honest.

“I think I will go to the tavern tonight. You could come if you like.” She turned a smile to the girl, hoping to encourage her presence.

“Oh, I couldn’t. I need to help the cook prepare rations for the journey. But perhaps I can scrounge a few more pastries tomorrow before your journey?” she asked, slightly hesitant. They had become close during her short time in Haven. It was a small comfort that Ari had greatly come to appreciate. She almost felt like the sister she had never had.

“I would like that. I’ll see you in the morning?”

“Bright and early!” the girl said with a grin before turning to exit the cabin.

Ari dressed herself hurriedly, pulling her messy curls into a loose bun before stepping out into the brisk day and heading for the Chantry. She hoped she would find at least one of the advisors there. Continuing on, she pushed open the heavy oak doors and walked into the Chantry. She could hear Cullen’s voice coming from behind the war room door and it did not sound happy.

“You can’t be serious! Sending the Herald to Val Royaux is sending her straight into enemy hands. We have no way to ensure her safety.” The man was clearly upset as he spoke to Josephine, Leliana and Cassandra.

“Well, I wouldn’t say I’m defenseless, Commander. I do know a magic trick or two.” She gave a lazy smile to the advisors as Cullen turned his attention toward her.

“Herald, this-“

“I thought we dispensed with the formalities, Cullen. I really would appreciate being treated no differently than others. Especially by being called by my given name.” She came to stand at Leliana’s side, just to Cullen’s left.

“I-forgive me, Aryael.” He looked slightly abashed. “I understand you plan on going to Val Royaux. You should take a contingent of soldiers with you, for protection. Or not go at all. The Chantry should come here, see the Breach for themselves.”

She offered him a small smile. “We both know they would never do that. And taking soldiers is a declaration of hostility. One that we really can’t afford to make. We need the Chantry, Cullen. If we are to have any hope of aid in order to close the Breach, we need to make a united front, end this ridiculous war and work together. That is why I have to go. Without military aid.”

Cullen’s face was grim, a frown set upon it that told her he knew the truth of her words.

“Aryael is right. And she will not go alone. I will accompany her, as will Varric and Solas. Leliana has sent scouts ahead to determine the state of the city and they will meet us before we go before the Chantry. She will be protected, Cullen.” Cassandra’s voice was hard and brokered no argument. The decision had already been made.

“As you say.” Cullen no longer argued with them but the look on his face let them all know he was far from happy with this decision.

For the next few hours, Aryael and the advisors discussed the Chantry clerics she would be speaking with and possible outcomes. She already knew what was to happen but their insight into Chantry politics was helpful nonetheless. When they were satisfied that Aryael knew enough to speak on their behalf, she ventured out of Haven and found herself at the smithy, perusing the staffs they had on hand.

“Looking for a conduit?”

Ari startled at the sound of Solas’ voice near her ear. She turned to him, cheeks flushed slightly from his closeness.

“Cassandra had mentioned it might benefit me to have one before we left for the Hinterlands. I think that since we’re going to Val Royaux, it might be nice to make a statement by having one. I do not want them to doubt the fact that I am mage.”

Solas eyes seemed to bore through her as he nodded slowly. “Have you ever used a staff?”

She shook her head. “No. Keeper Deshanna had tried to teach me with one but it mostly got in my way. It’s always been easier for me to cast freehand.” The truth of her words rang throughout her body and she recalled the spirit child’s words once more.

Solas grasped his chin between his fingers, eyes leaving hers and roaming over the staffs she had been looking at before. “None of these will aid you,” he said with an air of finality.

“What do you mean?”

“Magic is as natural as breathing to you. If you want a staff for simple adornment, any will do. However, if you want to cast with a staff, you will need something else entirely. You practice the Dirth’ena Ensalin. I think it might be more appropriate to have weapons capable of harnessing your magic crafted for you than bother looking for a staff at all.”

She looked at him curiously. She could call a phantom blade to her hand but she wouldn’t deny that the thought of a pair of daggers did sound nice. She always liked playing as a rogue as well and her Hero of Ferelden was just that. Well, the human one she made so she could stay with Alistair instead of her original Elf mage. She had really liked the arcane warrior specialization in that game. Much more so than the silly Knight Enchanter.

“You do not need a staff to claim yourself a mage, Aryael. While you may be required to do a great deal of posturing, you do not need to prove who you are to the Chantry.”

“Perhaps you are right,” she agreed, sighing as she turned away from the smithy. “I do not think that Harrit would have any schematics for weapons I could use with magic though. I will have to look for some. No matter, it’s not so important right now. I should be more worried about the clerics.”

“Worried?”

“Well, not worried. I just mean… They’re not exactly my biggest fans, Solas. Val Royaux will be an interesting trip, I daresay.” She wanted very much to not discuss the upcoming events in the city. “At the very least I think I shall very much enjoy hunting down some frilly cakes in the bakeries there.”

“I see you have a bit of a sweet tooth?” He said with a smile. “I must admit, I myself find such things delicious as well.”

She hummed in agreement as they turned back into Haven, sharing idle chatter about the upcoming journey before venturing into the tavern to share a meal.

 


 

Ari woke with a yawn, cabin lit by the fire in her hearth. She buried herself under her blankets and curled up, relishing in the warmth before she finally convinced herself it was time to go. She dressed quickly in light grey woollen tights and a dark green tunic that fell loosely around her frame. She pulled her hair into a high ponytail at the back of her head, curls tumbling down to her mid-back and turned to fold her now dry clothes into a neat pile. The door creaked open as she placed her clothes into her pack.

“Good morning, Ari!” Shora called, the decadent smell of those pastries from the day before filling her cabin once again.

“Good morning Shora! Those smell even more delicious then they did yesterday!”

Shora laughed, dropping a pack full of rations on the floor and placed her basket full of treats on the table. “That’s because you already know how delicious they really are.”

Ari chuckled, reaching into the basket and pulling out a warm tart, closing her eyes in pleasure as the pastry once again melted in her mouth.

“Oh, am I ever going to miss these,” she said after swallowing the second bite.

“I understand why. I’ve asked the cook to teach me the recipe. It’ll be my brother’s birthday in a few weeks and I’d like to give him a nice treat.”

“How is your family, Shora?”

“Oh, they’re right well. I think my brother’s wife may be ‘specting but I don’t think either of them know it just yet. I have a feeling it’ll be a little boy, with bright red curls, just like his ma.”

Ari smiled. “Bit of a fortune teller are we?”

“Intuition. And I recognize the signs. She’s been having a craving for red berries as of late. Woman never could stand them before,” she giggled, popping the last bit of her pastry into her mouth.

“Well then, congratulations! Looks like you’re going to be an Auntie.”

A wide, toothy grin split her face. “Auntie Shora. I quite like the sound of that. It’s nice to have some good news in town. Everyone is always up in arms about the Breach and the war…” she looked up at Ari as she picked up the basket. “I know you’re going to close it though. Everyone’s all worried but I’m not anymore.” She flashed her another grin and Ari felt her heart clench. Shora had so much faith in her.

“Thank you, Shora. I’m going to do my best,” she whispered, packs hanging loosely over her shoulder.

“Your best is going to be more than enough. And then I’ll get to tell my little nephew that I knew the Herald that stitched the skies closed.” She turned to open the door, the cool air welcome against Ari’s flushed cheeks.

They shared friendly banter as they walked the town’s streets, guessing at whom the child would look most like. Shora was determined that he would look just like her. Eventually they found themselves at the stables. The others were already there, chatting together as they tied their packs to their mounts.

“I will see you when you return, Ari. Safe travels!” She hugged Ari quickly before bounding back into the city.

“Tell Emith and Iona congratulations! I’ll be sure to find something in the city for the little one.”

Shora turned back with a wide grin and final wave.

“Little one?” she heard Solas ask as she handed some oats to her mare, running her fingers through her mane.

“Iona, Shora’s sister-in-law, is pregnant, she just doesn’t know it yet.” It seemed there was a permanent smile on her face. Shora’s good cheer was infectious.

“Ah. The maid in the tavern? That would explain some things. It is good news.”

“Yes. Yes, it is.”

Chapter Text

They had been on the road for a little over the week and the going was much easier this time around. The imperial highway was friendlier than the Hinterlands. Ari had been wide-eyed almost the entire time. The scenery of the Dales was astounding. Bright green hills littered in flowers, grand trees standing tall and proud. Slowly, they made their way into the Heartlands, hoping to save time by crossing the river that ran into Lake Celestine.

“You know, things have been a little too quiet lately. Something bad always happens when things are too quiet,” Varric’s baritone voice carried over the silence as they moved off of the highway.

“Varric, if something happens, I am going to blame you. You will not enjoy my retribution,” Ari softly threatened with a smile.

“Oh, Dimples, you wound my heart.”

“She is right. And she will not be alone in her retribution,” Cassandra added in with a straight face, though her tone was light.

“Come now, Seeker. You know I am right. We’ve not seen a Mage or Templar since we left Haven. The days have been warm, the wind nothing but a welcome breeze. Something has to be coming. Any good storyteller knows about the calm before the storm.”

“Varric may be right. Things may have been too quiet.”

“See, Chuckles understands.”

“No, Solas is just pessimistic.”

Solas turned his head towards Ari. “I am not pessimistic.”

“Right. And I’m the Queen of Arlathan,” she noted drily. “Seriously though. Can we not just enjoy the peace instead of wondering why its peaceful or what could still go wrong?”

The low rumble of thunder sounded overhead.

“Varric, so help me this is your fault!”

“I’m not the mage, Dimples. I can’t call storms from the sky.”

Ari groaned.

“We should set camp before the storm is upon us. Hopefully it will only last through the night.” Cassandra quickly set about looking for a good place to set the tents.

With as much haste as they could manage, they unsaddled their mounts and set to work. They had barely gotten up one when the crack of lightening flashed overhead and the water began to pour. Hastily they grabbed their packs and rolls from the grass and rushed into the tent. The rain fell heavily on the canvas echoing inside the tent as Solas’ staff illuminated it.

“Well then, looks like we’ll be sharing boys and girls.” Ari sat down with her legs crossed and reached into her pack for some dried berries.

“Solas and Varric could still set a tent,” Cassandra suggested with a slight blush.

Ari stared at her with eyes wide from disbelief.

“Do you hear that Cassandra? It’s raining cats and dogs outside. I am not going to request they get themselves drenched and possibly contact some form of pneumonia simply because I would like segregated tents. Or perhaps a little more room. It’s not as if this tent is small anyhow. We always have a ridiculous amount of empty space and while it might not be ideal, we can fit four bedrolls side by side easily enough.”

“Seeker, don’t tell me your shy.” The dwarf had an incredulous smile on his face as though he had just received exactly what he asked Santa for on Christmas morning.

Cassandra scoffed, turning her back and setting her bedroll to the right side of the tent.

“We should still set watches,” Solas said, leaning slightly on his staff.

“Definitely a pessimist. Solas, I honestly doubt that anyone would brave this storm to try and see what we might have worthy of stealing. I suggest we set wards around the tent from the safety of inside the tent with an open flap. That way we stay nice and dry and you don’t have to worry your pretty little head about thieves in the night.”

Varric laughed loudly, hands clutching at his stomach as he took in the look on the elf’s face. “Dimples has a point there, Chuckles. The weather is a pretty good guard dog.”

Solas’ cheeks were slightly flushed and his eyes glinted with the promise of something as he stared down at Ari. He really didn’t like being called a pessimist. Over the course of their travels, Ari had opened up a lot more. Openly teasing and flirting with Solas was becoming much more commonplace.

“As you wish,” he nodded his head and opened the flap, raising his staff and setting wards around their tent. Ari rose and joined him, fingers outlining complicated runes as she laid down her own glyphs of protections over his. She stood just behind him, using him as a buffer for the wind and rain.

When they turned back towards the inside the tent, it seemed that both Varric and Cassandra had taken up opposite sides of it, leaving the middle for Ari and Solas. Ari rolled her eyes.

Children. They are absolute children. No. This is actually worse than a child yanking on a braid or screaming about cooties.

She went about setting her bedroll next to Cassandra’s, moving her packs so the lay at the top of her blankets. She settled in comfortably, drawing Solas’ fur (she had long since decided that it was hers to keep) around her shoulders.

“Varric, tell us a story.”

“I don’t understand why you encourage him, Aryael.”

“Shh, Cassandra, I am well aware you enjoy his stories just as much as I do, if not more so. You protest too much. I am tired and in need of a bedtime story to drown out the sounds of the storm raging around us.”

Solas chuckled and Varric flashed a cheeky smile.

“Seeker, I have the perfect story just for you.” Varric took a small swig of his wineskin before he turned cross-legged and shared a tale from his days with Hawke. Cassandra feigned a grimace but her eyes danced with interest. It seemed this was a story she had not heard before.

Ari had not been joking, however, she was exhausted. They days had been long, rising early and riding until last light in order to make the most of their days. The trip to Val Royaux was long and they could not afford to lose time. The Breach needed to be closed. It wasn’t long before she was laying down in her blankets, fur wrapped tightly around her and eyes firmly shut as she drifted off in to the Fade.

 


 

Solas was warm. Warmer than was usual for him. Slowly he blinked open his eyes to the dark of the tent, noting that the sounds of rainfall had disappeared only to be replaced with Varric's soft snoring. He made to roll onto his side and return to sleep but was halted due to the warm body currently attached to his side. Slowly, he raised his right hand and found that his hand was somewhat tangled in long curls. Ari’s head lay comfortably on his shoulder, her left hand curled on his chest and body pressed firmly against his. His breath hitched and he disentangled his hand from her hair, trying to gently free his arm from under her. He did not want her to wake in such a position and become uncomfortable.

Ari didn’t seem to like that though. She made a small murmur of discontent, burrowing herself deeper into his warmth, her leg rising slightly to slip between his, her thigh sliding over his and her arm moving to wrap around his waist. It seemed there was no escape.

She will not like this when she wakes.

He didn’t necessarily believe that though. He had noticed the way she looked at him when they spoke. The way her cheeks flushed when he came too close and the small intake of her breath when their fingers brushed. The fact was, she might in fact like the position they currently found themselves in. Solas sighed, his arm falling against her waist and drawing her in even closer. He used his free hand to pull his furs more securely around them both and closed his eyes.

He wasn’t exactly unresponsive to her either. Aryael was captivating. The little dimple in her left cheek, the way the sunlight made her violet eyes sparkle or her hair seem as though woven from the finest of silvers; her light laughter that seemed to pierce right through his soul and her quick wit that never failed to impress him. The Dalish woman had awoken something in him he could no longer attribute to mere curiosity. Especially not now as his body responded to the press of hers against him. It was becoming embarrassingly uncomfortable for him.

He cursed slightly under his breath and willed himself to fall back to sleep, the steady beat of her heart soon lulling him into the Fade as it thumped against his side.

 

Chapter Text

The sounds of buckles being clasped together slowly drew her from her rest. She frowned, not wanting yet to wake up and burrowed herself further into the warmth. Her cheek grazed against warm cotton covering a hard surface, her thigh brushed against something that seemed to throb in response to her movements and her fingers clutched at fabric.

This is not what my bedroll feels like.

Her eyes flared open only to be met with darkness as she became aware of her head resting on a firm bicep, the warm feel of a hand against the small of her back and the rhythmic rise and fall of the chest pressed to her cheek. She was tangled up in Solas.

Fuck.

How did this happen? Did he realize the position they were in? Gods, did the others realize the position they were in?!

She was ever grateful for the fact that she was burrowed under the furs when she heard Cassandra’s voice.

“Solas, did you see Aryael leave? I have not seen her since I woke.”

“I believe she told me she wished to wash at the small stream we passed earlier.” Ari could feel the rumble of his voice vibrate against her whole body and she flushed.

Damn hobo is awake. Great.

“Ah. I will prepare some breakfast and leave you to dress. The wards are down?”

“Yes, Seeker. I have removed the wards,” Solas responded. She fought not make a noise as she felt the warmth gathering in the pit of her stomach.

Why does he have to sound so hot?!

Ari could hear the flap open and the sound of Cassandra’s boots against the wet grass and closed her eyes, trying to calm her breathing and not draw attention to the fact she was awake. She really didn’t know what to say to Solas. She was 100% positive this had been her. She was surrounded in the earthy smells of elfroot and a faint musk that she knew to be all Solas. She was definitely in his bedroll.

Yup, this has my doing written all over it.

“You know, Dimples, we can always try to change up the sleeping arrangement for you,” Varric’s tone burned against her ears. Cassandra might have been too naïve to realize where Ari had disappeared to, Varric however, was not. She could hear his chuckle as he soon followed the Seeker outside, leaving them both to their mortification.

“Good morning,” Solas voice called to her and she felt his head slightly incline towards her.

She groaned.

“I didn’t- I don’t. I’m sorry.” She was stuttering. She had no idea what to say to him. And she still hadn’t disentangled herself. He was really warm. And really comfy. She didn’t really want to let go.

“There is no need to apologize, Aryael.” He pulled the furs down and bared her tomato red cheeks to the morning light. “It was a cold night and warmth was sought. We do not need to dwell on it past that.”

Ari was silent. She didn’t want to leave it at that. She liked how his arms felt around her. She liked the way she seemed to fit perfectly against him, like they were made to connect just so. She liked the sound of his heartbeat against her ear and how his voice seemed to make her body react in the most tantalizing way as it rolled through her.

They were still wrapped around each other.

She lifted her head, darkened eyes catching his grey-blue gaze before dropping down to his lips.

Perfectly kissable lips.

She felt more than heard the hitch in his breath before she returned her eyes to his.

“And if I wanted to dwell on it?” It was dangerous territory, this. For so many reasons.

Solas was taken by surprise. He had sensed her discomfort and expected her to be grateful for the easy out he offered. He had not expected her to… Well, it was his turn to be at a loss for words.

They stared at each other, silent for a few moments before the sounds of Varric and Cassandra once again disagreeing over the proper way to skin a fennec drew them out of their trance.

Just like that they let go of each other, cheeks red and eyes averting each other as they quickly scrambled to their feet and gathered their things in silence.

“I will draw attention away from the tent so that you may leave without notice,” Solas called from the flap of the tent, back turned to her.

Ma serannas,” she called softly as he slipped outside.

The cool air on his cheeks was a welcome relief. He needed to clear his thoughts, regain control. She was a dangerous distraction.

Aryael was quickly becoming too integral to everything. He had come to look forward to their time together, relishing in their stolen moments alone during shared watches. He delighted in the sparkle in her eyes and the smile that graced her lips as she eagerly listened to the memories he had come across in the Fade. They way she always asked questions, ever keen to find more knowledge. She was so receptive to him and his ways. It had been so long since he had had any form of companionship and if he was honest with himself, he could not recall ever feeling so drawn to one person. Yes, Aryael was dangerous indeed.

“If you both cannot agree, perhaps I should take over? Have we managed to find dry wood to light a small fire? Have the horses been fed?” Solas voice interrupted the squabbling between Varric and Cassandra.

Cassandra huffed, turning on her heel as she announced she would collect the wood. Varric just chuckled, shaking his head as he watched her stomp off into the nearby trees.

“You do realize that antagonizing a woman is not usually how one courts them,” Solas called out to the child of the stone.

Varric turned his way, smirk on his face as he crossed his arms. “No? I suppose cuddling together for warmth in the middle of the night works quite well though, doesn’t it?”

A dark red stained the tips of his ears and his cheeks. He refused to discuss this. “You would do well to try diplomacy with the Seeker.”

Varric chuckled again, slowly shaking his head. “Don’t worry, Chuckles. The Seeker and I are just fine. I would worry more about what you plan on doing with Dimples.” He turned, grabbing one of the packs and heading towards the horses.

Varric had a point. Solas had no idea what he was going to do with Aryael.

Chapter Text

They had spent the last few days soundly avoiding what had transpired between them. They sat a little further apart during watch and rarely held each other’s gaze. Ari didn’t like it. 

They had crossed the river not too long ago and were still a few days out from Val Royaux but were back on the Imperial Highway. Solas and Cassandra rode ahead of their little group while Ari skulked in the back, eyes trained on Solas with a wistful look. She missed him. And she cursed herself for ruining the easy friendship that had grown between them.

“Dimples, you’re going to stare a hole through him if you keep at it like that,” Varric’s voice drew her attention away from the source of her woes.

“I wasn’t staring.”

“My mistake. You were ruefully gazing upon him like a wounded mabari pup.” He raised an eyebrow as he looked at her.

“I was not!” The tone of her voice was slightly shrill and raised, ears painted red and a flush across her cheeks as she stared back at the dwarf with embarrassed outrage.

“Varric, leave the Herald alone!” Cassandra called as she halted her mount and waited for them to catch up.

“I told you to stop calling me that,” she snapped, tightening her hold on her reins and nudging her mare to move into a brisk canter. She stared straight ahead and moved passed them all, needing space.

This is ridiculous. It was an accident. He said you didn’t have to think about it.

But you basically told him you wanted to. And then he did nothing.

Ari’s mind was racing a mile a minute. She couldn’t avoid the fact that the more time she spent with Solas, the more her feelings for the elf increased. It was nothing like her utter fascination with his character, no. This was a flesh and blood man who’s eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled. Who’s voice sent shivers down her spine. Who cared enough about people that he would risk himself without a second thought. She was definitely more than half in love with the man already.

And in a stupid moment of weakness, she had showed him her hand.

Felasil,” she muttered under her breath, brow furrowing in anger at herself. It was too much too soon. They had known each other for just under two months.

“And who is the idiot, Aryael?” Solas voice came at her from her left and she snapped her head in his direction from surprise.

“It doesn’t concern you.” She could have sworn she saw a wave of hurt flash behind his eyes before his stoic mask took its place upon his face.

Ir abelas.”

They rode in an uncomfortable silence, Varric and Cassandra trailing behind them. The minutes stretched on and it felt like years were passing. She couldn’t take it anymore.

Ir abelas, Hahren. I should not have spoken to you like that.” Her cheeks darkened to a deep rouge. “And- and for in the tent… I should not have used you like a hearth.” She kept her eyes trained straight ahead, refusing to acknowledge him past this.

Solas laughed; a deep rumble that warmed her, his head shaking as he took in her words. The sound drew her attention to him.

Da’lan,” he murmured, drawing his horse closer to hers as he looked her in the eyes for what felt like the first time in decades and leaned over to her, perilously close, “I am more than happy to help keep you warm whenever you need.” There was a dangerous twinkle in his eyes, his tone soft and playful. The blush crept up her ears and she drew in a haggard breath as he held her gaze. His lips were curled in a cocky smirk and she knew she was in real trouble.

Behind them, not close enough to hear but close enough to see, Varric and Cassandra regarded them with mild interest.

“How much do you want to bet we’ll have to start sharing a tent by the next fortnight, Seeker?”

 


 

The gates into the city were massive, carved from gold and set in brilliant white marble. The walls were decorated with intricate statues, vines artfully climbing the marble. They had left their horses outside of the city at an inn’s stables and were making their way through a stone pathway that led towards the city core.

“The city still mourns,” Cassandra murmured, her eyes downcast.

From the corner of her eye she could see masked Orlesians scurry off at the sight of her and her party. She sighed, eyes scanning over the intricate ironwork and gold filigree that screamed opulence and wasted coin at her.

“Just a guess, but I think they all know who we are.”

Cassandra rolled her eyes, placing her hand on the hilt of her sword. “Your skills at observation never fail to impress me, Varric.”

An Inquisition scout stepped from the shadows and bent the knee before them.

“My lady, Herald.”

Ari waved her hand dismissively. “None of that now, get up, get up. You bend the knee to no one, do you hear me?” The worship and awe she received really unnerved her. No one should be so willing to submit themselves to another without so much as a second thought.

“My apologies,” the scout quickly stood, flush with embarrassment.

She sighed again, closing her eyes. “It’s not your fault.” She looked at the scout and moved her right hand to rest on their shoulder. “You’re an important part of the Inquistion and I understand the chain of command and all but I’m not your boss. And even if I were, you don’t need to revere me like that. I’m just a person.” She flashed the youth a smile, hoping to gentle the harsh bite of her words.

“What have you found?” Cassandra asked, her tone clearly indicating she did not approve of Aryael’s words.

I probably shouldn’t have told her not to bend the knee to anyone, huh?

“The Chantry mothers await you… but so do a great many Templars.”

“Templars? Have they returned to the fold then?” Cassandra sounded incredulous.

Aryael turned to face her. “I doubt that very much. They’ve too much pride.”

“People seem to think the Templars will protect them from… From the Inquisition.”

“Of course they do. Because the gaping hole in the sky is obviously of no concern to anyone.” Ari shook her head, placing her hands on her hips.

“They’re gathering on the other side of the market. I think that’s where the Templars intend to meet you.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to keep our gracious hosts waiting,” she said as she flashed her companions a cheeky grin before heading down the path.

“Unbelievable. Protect the people? From us?”

“Come now, Seeker. You can’t imagine the Chantry is going to just let this threat to their power go unchecked now, can you?”

“But the Templars? Now of all times?”

“Honestly, Cassandra. I doubt their motives as are altruistic as the people believe them to be.”

That disgusting demon is waiting. I won't let him leave to destroy the rest of the Templars.

They strode into the markets, stalls falling silent as they passed. She could hear the accented voice of the cleric calling to a gathering crowd.

“Together we mourn our Divine. Her naïve and beautiful heart silenced by treachery! You wonder what will become of her murderer. Well, wonder no more.” The revered mother gestured in her direction as she walked towards the makeshift stage. “Behold the so-called Herald of Andraste! Claiming to rise where our beloved fell. We say this is a false prophet! The Maker would send no Elf in our hour of need!”

“No? Why not? I mean, did your Maker not send Andraste, Shartan? Or did she manage to beat back the Tevinters at the Valerian Fields all by herself? Was he not her Champion? Oh, dear me, I forgot. The Chantry likes to twist the truth to what suits them.” She glared daggers at the woman, gasps sounding around them as Cassandra’s jaw dropped. She did not hear the chuckles barely contained by Solas and Varric. This had not been the conversation they had painstakingly rehearsed back at Haven.

The mother looked outraged, taking a step back as her anger all but crackled around her. Aryael did not give her another chance to speak.

“We came here in peace, for talks. See you our weapons drawn? No. I mean the people of Val Royaux no more harm than I mean you: none. The skies are being torn apart, the Fade is leaking through and demons run rampant across Thedas. Now is not the time to be divided!”

“The Herald speaks truth! The Inquisition seeks only to end this madness before it is too late!”

“It is already too late,” the Mother’s words dripped with threat. “The Templars have returned to the Chantry! They will face this ‘Inquistion’, and the people will be safe once more.”

The Templars were making their way to the stage, Lord Seeker Lucius leading them. She gritted her teeth as she heard the crack of the Templar’s fist hit the Mother’s chin. The woman may have not been nice but she did not deserve brutality.

She barely registered the man quieting his men. “How dare you?! Striking down a defenseless woman of faith!” She took a step forward, magic nipping at her heels.

“Lord Seeker Lucius it is imperative that-“ Cassandra strode forward to meet him.

“You will not address me.”

“Lord Seeker?” she questioned.

“Creating a heretical movement, raising up a puppet as Andraste’s prophet. You should be ashamed.”

“And your actions are something to be proud of?” Aryael strode in front of Cassandra, coming to stand before the demon in the Lord Seeker’s skin.

“False prophet, your words hold no sway. You should all be ashamed. The Templars failed no one when they left the Chantry to purge the Mages! You are the ones who have failed. You, who leash our righteous swords with doubt and fear! If you came to appeal to the Chantry, you are too late. The only destiny that demands respect is mine.”

“Respect for someone who commands innocents to be struck down? Who abandons those he is sworn to protect to the very demons he is meant to keep at bay? You are nothing.” Her eyes searched the man before her, trying to determine how she could destroy the demon without harming the people around them.

Lucius laughed. “Are you, a puppet on strings meant to frighten me? Do you forget what I am, Mage?”

“Lord Seeker, what if the woman really is sent to us by the Maker? What-?” A Templar came up to his side and was cut off by a sharp look.

“You are called to a higher purpose. Do not question!”

“Why should he not question a man who clearly has questionable morals? Templars, do you not see what is before you?” Something nagged at the back of her mind, halting her words from spilling forth. A warm, gentle brush of air against her hand stayed it in its place before she could attack.

“I will make the Templar order a power that stands alone against the void. We deserve recognition. Independence. You have shown me nothing. And the Inquisition… less than nothing. Templars. Val Royaux is unworthy of our protection. We march!” He turned, Templars falling inline behind him, though a few hestitated.

“Charming fellow, isn’t he?” Varric came to stand at her left.

“Has Lord Seeker Lucius gone mad?” Cassandra was aghast.

“That was not the man you once knew, Cassandra,” she whispered the words, eyes burning with anger.

Why did I let him go?

“We must return to Haven and inform the others.”

Ari nodded as she felt Solas’ presence behind her.

Did he stay my hand?

She mentally shook herself. It did not matter right now. She had to find Sera and speak with Vivienne before they could leave. She also needed to find some new clothes for the new addition to Shora’s family.

“We’ll spend the night and head out in the morning. Cassandra, can you find us rooms in an inn? I wish to peruse the stalls in the market for a bit.”

“Of course. I will see you at the Masked Lion.” She nodded before turning down one of the side streets nearby.

“I’m going to see what I can’t find out at the Taverns, maybe try to get in touch with some of my contacts. I’ll meet you at the Inn tonight.” Varric offered a soft wave before he too disappeared into the crowds.

“And you, Solas?”

“Would you be opposed to company, Aryael?”

She finally turned to him. “Of course not. I’d welcome it.” She offered him a shy smile. They had taken no more than a few steps before the long awaited arrow hit the stone before them. She had to fight hard to suppress her grin.

I'm finally going to meet Sera! Yes! PRANKS ABOUND!

“There seems to be a note attached,” Solas said as he plucked the arrow from the ground. “People say you’re special. I want to help. And I can bring everyone. There’s a baddie in Val Royaux. I hear he wants to hurt you. Have a search for the red things in the market, the docks, and ‘round the café. And maybe you’ll meet him first. Bring swords. Signed, Friends of Red Jenny,” he read aloud.

“Sounds fun and mysterious. What say you we find those red things?” Her eyes danced with anticipation.

“It could be a trap.”

“It could also prove helpful. Come on, Solas. Where’s your sense of adventure?” She gave him a small hip check before she bounded off towards a stall that seemed to carry clothes. She found some adorable light blue baby tunics and small hats. “Oh, these are adorable. Shora is convinced the child will be a boy, you know,” she said as she noticed Solas walking up to her side.

“And if it’s a girl?”

She giggled. “Trust a woman’s intuition, Solas.” She paid for the tunics and hats, finding small little socks to match and blanket that felt like cashmere to go with it all.

“Excuse me, but... is what they’re saying real? The Inquisition’s going to fix the hole in the sky?” The voice sounded familiar.

Ah, another agent.

“Well, yes. That is the plan.”

“No one is doing anything. The Chantry is useless. The Templars… Andraste. I never thought they’d abandon us. Listen your camp will need food. I have contacts. We’ll have deliveries there in days.”

“That would be most welcome.”

“Never been part of something this big before. But… if your Inquisition is going to seal the sky, I want to help.”

“And we are most appreciative of that. Head to Haven. We need good people.”

“I don’t know if I’m that, but it will be nice to see.” She offered the masked woman a smile before taking her small bag of things in her hand and heading off with Solas.

"You are becoming quite adept at recruiting people to our cause," his voice hummed with appreciation.

"Its a good cause. Good people flock to good causes."

"As do bad ones." She rolled her eyes.

“So, red things, red things… there’s one in the market. Let’s check the upper levels?” She said as she headed towards a grand staircase.

“You are so eager to put yourself in danger. How can you be certain this is not a trap? That you are not being led to assassins?”

“You’re being grim and fatalistic in the hopes of getting me to warm your furs again, aren’t you?”

“I am grim and fatalistic. Getting you into my furs is just an enjoyable side benefit.”

She chuckled, biting on her bottom lip as she moved along the walkway. The man did know how to flirt.

Smooth bastard.

“That does not change the fact that you are being reckless, however.”

“Solas, if I was not reckless I would not bear this mark on my hand. I would not have been able to halt the Breach from spreading. Thedas would have no fighting chance against any of this. So excuse me if I think that what you see to be recklessness, I see as productive determination.” She picked up her pace as she spotted the red material by the potted plant. “There!” She lifted it up and made to read the piece of parchment stuffed inside a sock. “And we are to obey well. We meet at three bells to discuss how best to serve the new way. Theres an addendum. Herald, go at time. Praise Adraste.”

“This could still-“

She spun around on Solas. “Yes, a trap. I get it. I’m still going. If you’re a good boy, I’ll even take you with me.” She pocketed the note and failed to see the flash of challenge in his eyes.

“We’ve still to check the docks and café. Come on, then.” She sprinted back the way she came, hair flying in the wind behind her.

“She may very well be the end of me…” he muttered beneath his breath before he moved to follow her.

Chapter Text

Ari sat at a round wooden table with Solas, Varric and Cassandra at the Masked Lion. They had just eaten a warm meal of honeyed carrots, mashed yams and what she guessed was a grilled rabbit. Solas had been kind enough to take it from her plate. Taking a swig of her ale, she listened to Cassandra and Varric discuss how they should approach the clandestine meeting in the secluded courtyard. They had hours still until the supposed meeting time but had no way to scope out the location prior to it.

“Solas is right. I do not feel comfortable with this.” Cassandra: ever a worrywart.

“It will be fine. I am sure.” Her gaze looked over the patrons and ears twitched slightly as she listened to the hum of conversation around her. She had always thought Orlesian to be at the very least similar to French. She now knew it was pretty much the exact same language. Well, a dialect at least.

“I think we should at the least take a look. The arrow was aimed with accuracy. If they wanted Dimples gone, she’d be gone.” Varric leaned back in his chair with his arms crossed as he looked between Cassandra and Solas.

“The Child of the Stone makes a valid point,” Solas tipped his head as he conceded defeat. They would go.

A small child, dressed in finery that held the livery of some Orlesian noble approached their table with a calm look on their face that no child should have to wear.

“Mademoiselle, je vous apporte une invitation à participer au salon de Madame de Fer demain." The child extended his hand, offering a rolled parchment tied with a gold ribbon and wax seal.

Ari reached out and took the scroll, nodding her head. “Faites lui parvenir mes remerciements. Et vous pouvez également lui assurer que je serai présente. Cette invitation est grandement appréciée.”  

The child bowed and exited the tavern of the inn, leaving Ari to unfurl the scroll while her companions gawked.

“You speak Orlesian?”

Her back stiffened and eyes remained unfocused as she stared at the paper before her.

Crap.

She nodded. Damn her automatic responses! This was not Canada, she was not home, and she was a Dalish elf! She should not be able to speak any other languages than Common and perhaps bits of Elvhen.

“How did you come across such a skill?” Solas all but purred as his eyes bore into her. She could feel his assessing gaze rake over her. She had made him more curious.

Fenedhis.

“My clan spent some time in Orlais. It was prudent to assist us in ensuring the merchants did not take advantage us. As First, it fell on me.” She quickly skimmed the missive, noting the time and place of the salon.

“It is an invitation for myself to attend Madame de Fer’s salon. We can still leave tomorrow. The salon is an afternoon affair and is on the edge of the city. This also gives us the excuse to sleep in after our late night.” She slipped the missive over to Cassandra, pointedly ignoring Varric and Solas, both of whom seemed to be gazing at her curiously. She didn’t like it. She really needed to be more careful. Lavellan definitely did not speak Orlesian.

“Have you heard of Madame de Fer?” Cassandra gave her a curious look.

Fuck.

“I figured it was another Orlesian noble vying to get word of the Inquisition. I’m sure Josie would like us to make connections if we could while we are here.”

Cassandra nodded as she quickly read over the invitation. The sceptical look in her eye did not disappear. Ari lowered her gaze and took a long swig of her ale.

Well, aren’t we doing just a marvellous job of blending in?

She could kick herself.

“Her name is Vivienne. She is the Imperial Enchanter to the Orlesian Court and her support would be a great asset. It is good that you accepted the invitation.”

The group sat quietly, nursing their drinks.

 


 

They silently made their way through the back alleys of Val Royaux, streets dark and lit faintly by the moon.

“It’s the Inquisition’s Herald!” a cry rang out in the silence as dark figures emerged from the walls, swords and bows primed at them.

“I really wish people would stop calling me that,” she grunted as she dodged an incoming arrow.

Cassandra rushed in, bashing her shield against one of the mercenaries. There were a good five of them but they weren’t equipped to deal with Ari and her companions. They made short work of them, Varric’s arrows landing perfect shots and taking two out while Cassandra dispatched with the other three before Ari or Solas had a chance to get in on the action. Ari kicked the foot of one of the men downed by Varric to see if he was really down. A ball of fire flew by her face.

Dude has really shit aim.

“Herald of Andraste. How much did you expend to discover me? It must have weakened the Inquisition immeasurably.”

“Yea, sorry. Really have no idea who you are. Don’t particularly care either.” She crossed her arms and stared the masked man who emerged from behind a crate down.

“You don’t fool me. I’m too important for this to be an accident! My efforts will survive in victories against you elsewhere.”

The thud of a body falling to her left echoed in the narrow courtyard.

“Jus’ say wot.” Sera’s voice caught her ears and she grinned, slowly turning so that both Sera and the Orlesian were in her sights.

“What is the-“ Sera’s arrow flew straight into the man’s neck, a burst of blood spurting out as he fell heavily backwards.

“Ugghh. Squishy one, but you heard me right? Jus say wot. Rich tits always try for more than they deserve.” Sera sauntered over to the downed man, reaching down to pull her arrow from his neck. Ari’s eyes took in the young woman’s features, her blond hair falling raggedly against her cheeks and bangs brushing over her eyebrows. Her pale blue eyes shone under the light of the moon that danced across her freckles. Sera was adorable.

“Blah blah blah. Obey me. Arrow in my face. So… you followed the notes well enough. Glad to see you’re… aaannd you’re an elf.” Sera looked away from Ari dejectedly.

“The elfiest of elfs, really.” Ari smirked. She couldn’t help it.

“Of course you are.” The girl groaned.

“Is there a problem? Who are you?” Cassandra took a step forward, unsure if the girl posed a threat.

“Don’t worry, Cassandra. Everything’s fine,” Ari assured her as she uncrossed her arms. “My name is Aryael. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I was very glad for your note and assistance tonight.” She felt Solas as he closed the distance between them, coming to stand at her right.

“Another elf. Thas jus’ great innit?”

Ari’s lip trembled as she attempted to repress a laugh.

“He’s almost as elfy as me.” She could see Solas purse his lips from the corner of her eye.

“Well, the important bit is that you glow, right? You’re the herald thingy.”

“Aryael. My name is Aryael. But yes, they call me the Herald.”

“Name’s Sera. Get round the cover. For the reinforcements. Don’t worry. Someone tipped me their equipment shed. They’ve got no breeches,” she said with laughter in her voice.

Ari laughed. “Oh, you. You are wonderful. I think we’re going to get along just splendidly,” she said before diving behind some crates.

Soon enough the pantless mercenaries arrived and this time she didn’t let Varric and Cassandra have all the fun. She curved her fingers and called vines from beneath the stones, trapping the men and women in place before calling lightening from the skies. Sera was laughing like a hyena, screaming about no breeches as she shot arrows from on top of a stack of crates. She could hear Cassandra muttering that taking the weapons would have been a better choice.

Sera hopped down from her perch as the last mercenary fell. “Friends really came through with that tip. So Herald of Andraste. You’re a strange one. I’d like to join.”

“And who are your friends?” She asked, turning to the woman with a wide smile on her face. Watching them fight pantless had actually been quite entertaining.

“People. Little people. The friends of Red Jenny. That’s me. Well, I’m one. So is a fence in Montfort, some woman in Kirkwall. There were three in Starkhaven. Brothers or something. It’s jus a name, yea? It lets little people, friends, be part of something while they stick it to nobles they hate. So here, in your face, I’m Sera. The Friends of Red Jenny are sort of out there. I use them to help you. Plus arrows.”

“Welcome aboard!” She reached out her hand to clasp Sera’s.

“Aryael, I think we should discuss this.”

“I agree.”

“Seeker might not be wrong, Dimples. The Friends of Red Jenny aren’t exactly all on the same page.”

Ari groaned, turning to face her companions. “Listen, I’ve heard of the Jennies. Sometimes their means are odd. But we need all the help we can get, especially from places Leliana’s spies can’t reach. And Sera is a crackshot. And funny. I like funny. She’s coming with us.” Her face was hard and the look in her eyes brokered no argument.

“Right, well. This will be grand. Elven glory over there looks like loads of fun.”

Ari choked on her laughter. Laughter that only grew louder as she took note of the look on Solas’ face.

“So, Haven?”

She wiped a tear from her eye as she turned back to Sera. “You can travel back with us. We’ll be leaving tomorrow evening after I meet with someone. You can find us-“

“At the Masked Lion. Right, got it. I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” She gave Ari a cheeky grin. “I think I might like you, Elfiest Elf.” With a quick wink, Sera darted off and headed out of the courtyard.

“She could be trouble.”

“Relax Cassandra. Her intentions are good. She cares about the little people. The people who usually pay for the mistakes made by those in power. Or the abuse of that power. She’s really not all that bad. You may even find you come to appreciate her peculiar sense of humour,” She said with a wry smile as she followed Sera’s lead and made way for the inn.

“Almost as elfy?” Solas said drily as he easily matched her pace.

Ari shot him a sly glance. “You can’t get more elfy than the Dalish, Solas.”

She enjoyed the agitated look that flitted across his face. She needed to start selling her character better. Reminding them all, especially Solas, that she was Dalish was a good start.

 


 

Ari smiled, basking in the sun of a warm summer day as she sat in a charming garden. Elfroot and crystal grace grew around the stone path in an almost wild state, the scents filling her nostrils. Stone benches of alabaster lined a wall decorated with a mural of an intricate tree to her right. She felt Wisdom’s presence as she looked up at the clear blue sky.

Da’lan.

“Wisdom,” she called softly, a peaceful smile gracing her face. She liked this place a lot. It felt like home.

“I would speak with you.”

She blinked, turning her attention towards the spirit. “Is something wrong?”

Wisdom came to sit beside her on her bench, her eyes dancing over the garden.

“This is familiar to you.”

Ari nodded.

“Yes, it is.”

The woman smiled. “That is a good sign.”

A confused look appeared on her face as she regarded the woman to her left.

Da’lan, do you remember when we spoke of Solas?”

Ari nodded slowly, recalling her conversation with the spirit after she took her first life.

Wisdom turned to her. “You know many things of the events that will come to pass and of events that have already happened. I told you that the pieces on the board with change, as will you. And you are. However, the board itself cannot change.”

“I don’t understand…”

“Today you tried to intervene in the events you already know. Your falon found me and I was able to halt your hand because of your mark. It allowed me to connect with you. And it is lucky that I did.” The woman paused, searching for the words to help Ari understand.

“It was you? But I don’t…” Ari looked away, her head full of questions.

How can she… does that mean spirits can come through to me? Is the mark like a rift? Why did she stop me?

“The mark connects you to the Fade. It is a key. You are like a beacon, shining ever so bright. Most spirits would flock to you but your falon has asked them to give you peace as you are out of practice and this world seems unfamiliar to you. The key makes the veil thin around you and as such, I was able to reach through, ever so slightly. I am glad that it was enough.”

“But why? Would it not be better to have saved the lives of those Templars? To rid Thedas of that demon before he could cause more harm?” Her gaze returned to the spirit.

Wisdom gave her an indulgent smile.

“You understand the concept of time magic? This journey for you is very similar to that concept. You have been granted the foresight into events that are set to occur. What has been written cannot be erased, Aryael. No more can you change the future that is set in stone than can you turn back and change the past that has already occurred. Time is but an illusion.”

“An illusion?” Her brow furrowed in even deeper confusion.

“It is how we perceive that which we cannot, in actuality, perceive. We are incapable of understanding the whole as it is and so we understand it as smaller moments that fit into what we can perceive. Those moments though, are set. They occur in the past or future because that is how we understand it to be so. The truth is simply that they have always simply been there. There is nothing you can do to change that. Had you attempted to harm the Lord Seeker, he still would have walked away. You would have done nothing except raise suspicion towards you.” She smiled then. “And I believe you have done that quite a bit, already.”

Ari laughed nervously. “It seems that I have. But I don’t understand. If everything is meant to happen, how am I supposed to change things? How can I save Solas? How am I even here? My game did not include me speaking French to little boys or having the knowledge I have of events.”

“It was a game, Ari. This is real life. These are the true events. You know them from a second hand experience. Yes, they are similar and there are many things that will occur exactly the same. But your presence can only be what your presence is. All that you do is exactly what is meant to be done.”

“This is just… I still don’t understand. If this is all true, how could I change the events that I see with Dorian when Alexius' sends us away?”

“Those events were never going to occur. The magisters believe they discovered time magic. They did not.”

“But if they didn’t then how do they get to Fiona? How do I go into the future?”

“They are all illusions, Aryael. Magic is a powerful thing. Alexius manages to distort people, it is a form of transportation magic. You are suspended in the present, able to see the future that is envisioned by Corypheus and experience it. That is what allows you to stop his plans. Not time travel.”

“This is…”

“Aryael. Listen to me. You cannot change the events that you know. Your choices are your choices, yes but those choices are choices that you have already made and cannot be undone.”

“So what, no matter what I do it’s going to happen that way. If I put Gaspard on the throne, Celene will still rule because that was my original choice? Because everything is already determined? Is this the will of the Maker?”

Wisdom smiled softly. “It is much more complicated than that. You know what you know because you were able to see the various versions of how things could have been. You have seen all options. But this world is what it is and the choices made here, you already know in your heart. Those cannot change. The nightmare demon will be defeated. Solas will not tell you the truth before you defeat Corypheus. The Exalted Council will occur. Those are your knowns. Everything else will fall as it will.”

“No matter what I want. No matter what I do,” she whispered. She felt so defeated. If everything was pre-determined, what did it even matter what she did?

Da’lan, you don’t yet know everything. Your answers are just coming to you now.” Wisdom gestured to the garden around them. “Your garden is just the beginning. Do not lose hope. Things that are written cannot be unwritten, no. But that that does not mean that writing them is any less important. Or that you even truly know all that is written.”

She was just about to ask what Wisdom meant when she was called from the Fade.

Chapter Text

Ari groaned, pulling the weight of her pillow from underneath her to cover her face. She was not ready to face the day. Her mind was still reeling from her conversation with Wisdom. Wisdom had warned her that things couldn’t change before, but this? How the hell was she supposed to do anything if she couldn’t change anything?

“Aryael.” She heard the muffled sound of her name being called through the door and could tell it was Varric.

Shifting the pillow so that her mouth was free she called out, “What is it?”

“Cassandra has gone to the market to fetch you something appropriate to wear this afternoon. I think you might want to hurry up and join her before she comes back with an outfit that’ll make you Ruffles’ twin.”

Ari shot straight up on her cot. “Oh hell no!” She quickly scrambled to get dressed as Varric laughed from behind the door, thoughts of Wisdom, time and the Fade slipping from her mind. Pulling the door open with her hair eschew still, she dashed past the dwarf and headed out of the inn.

She all but ran through the crowds of people, fingers quickly running through her hair to calm it down. Her fingers brushed against her scalp and she realized she would need to trim down the hair growing on the left. She groaned inwardly.

Just how dishevelled must I look right now?

She found Cassandra inspecting the most outrageously poofy dress imaginable at a vendor.

“YOU ARE NOT GETTING ME IN THAT MONSTROSITY!” she yelled as she made her way towards the warrior. Cassandra’s head snapped in her direction, a slight flush dusting her cheeks from what could only be embarrassment as the crowd turned to look at them.

“It is not that hideous. And you must respect the latest fashions when in Orlais. You are representing the Inquisition.” Cassandra seemed to be looking for any excuse to justify the bright coloured dress in her arms.

“I am not Orlesian, Cassandra. I will not be dolled up like one to appease anyone.” The look in her eyes was hard as she stared up at Cassandra. The woman sighed, laying the dress down in front of the Merchant.

“If the lady is not happy with this style, I have others?” The lilt of the Orlesian woman’s accent grated against her ears. The condescension was practically dripping from her voice.

“The lady will be taking nothing from you.” She reached out and grabbed Cassandra’s arm, dragging her away from the small store. “I can’t believe you were going to try to put me in that thing."

“It was not so bad, Aryael. The colour would have looked marvellous on you.”

“Oh really? The yellow or the orange? Which would look best with my silver hair?” She raised an eyebrow mockingly.

Cassandra scoffed. “It was not yellow or orange.”

“Right.”

Aryael led Cassandra through the maze that was the market until they fell upon a small shop that sold robes. “Come, I think perhaps something from here would be more befitting.” She stepped into the small space, eyes raking over robes of pewter and emerald. She came to a stop in front light blue robe with silver threading down the front seams and around the bottom of the sleeves.

“This might be appropriate, I think,” she murmured, fingers delicately tracing over the silver swirls.

“This is a mage’s robe.”

“And I am a mage,” Ari said as she turned her head towards Cassandra with a stubborn look on her face. “I won’t pretend to be something I am not. And Madame de Fer is a mage herself.”

Cassandra sighed in acquiescence and turned to purchase the robes from the merchant behind a desk. Ari smiled to herself, pulling the robe down and folding it gently before handing it over to be wrapped. Finished with their business, they left the shop and slowly headed back towards the inn.

“You shouldn’t have gone without me, you know.”

“It was a long night. I thought you may wanted the rest before being paraded around before the nobility.”

“That’s a kind thought. And I do appreciate the new robe and the fact that you wanted to make me presentable. Don’t worry too much though. I am sure I can handle the salon.”

“Oh, I think I am less worried for you than for anyone who may try to cross you. You have proven yourself more than capable. If not a little brash. I do not think the way you spoke with the clerics has won us any favour.”

Ari snorted. “The clerics we met with yesterday are opportunists that prey upon the scared and innocent to further their own political agendas. I refuse to pander to them.” 

Cassandra sighed. “You are right. The Chantry… it is not as it should be.”

Ari cocked her head towards Cassandra. “You truly think so?”

“There is much that should change. The Chantry should be a place of refuge and support. We should not create fear but be welcoming to those in need. I think we may have failed in our duty to the faithful.”

Ari hummed thoughtfully. She was surprised to hear this viewpoint so early on.

“Perhaps things will change with a new Divine.”

“One can hope.”

They walked back in silence, each lost in their own thoughts about what changes the future could hold.

 


 

Ari smoothed out the soft fabric of her robe and raised a hand to slide some stray strands of hair behind her left ear, knuckles brushing against the freshly trimmed hair of her undercut before she walked confidently into the foyer of the First Enchanter’s abode. She heard her name announced and the flurry of whispers as she passed by the nobles hiding behind their pretty little masks.

“Ah, what a pleasure to meet you, my lady. Seeing the same faces at every event becomes so tiresome. So you must be a guest of Madame de Fer. Or are you here for Duke Bastien?”

“Are you here on business? I have heard the most curious tales of you. I cannot imagine half of them are true.”

Ari laughed, the light sound fluttering from between her lips. “Oh, I am sure they are missing a few elements here and there, some small details lost as they pass from ear to ear making each rendition sound more fanciful.”

“How modest you are, my dear.”

“The Herald of Andraste graces us with her presence. What a load of pigshit.”

Ari turned towards the stairs, lips pursing in distaste as a foolish noble made his way towards her.

“Washed up sisters and crazed seekers. No one should take your Inquisition seriously. Everyone knows its just an excuse for political outcasts to grab power.”

“I never claimed to a holy messenger for your God. And what is this outburst if not a play for political gains by challenging the only institution in Thedas able to defend against the breach?”

The man laughed. “In front of all these people, you admit to being a pretentious usurper! We know what your Inquisition truly is. Do not try to paint me in the same light. If you were a woman of honour, you would step outside and answer the charges.” He walked right up to her, the smell of his breath wanting to make her gag before he was frozen in place.

“My dear Marquis. How unkind of you to use such language in my house to my guests.” Ari turned to see Vivienne gracefully descend the staircase to her left, staff in hand. “You know such rudeness is… intolerable.”

“Madame Vivienne, I humbly beg your pardon.”

Ari couldn’t hide the smirk that pulled on her lips.

“You should. Whatever am I going to do with you, my dear? My lady, you are the wounded party in this unfortunate affair. Whatever would you have me do with this foolish, foolish man?” Vivienne turned her gaze towards Ari, dark eyes hiding behind her golden mask.

“The foolish man is of no concern to me. His words matter little. I see no harm in allowing him to go.”

“Poor Marquis, issuing challenges and hurling insults like some Ferelden dog lord.” She released the glyph beneath him, handing her staff to a nearby servant. “And all dressed up in your Aunt Solange’s doublet. Didn’t she give you that to wear to the grand tourney? To think all the brave Chevaliers that will be competing left for Markham this morning. And you are still here. Were you hoping to sate your damaged pride by defeating the Herald of Andraste in a public duel? Or did you think her blade could put an end to the misery of your failure? Run along, my dear. I would remember that you owe your life to the very Herald you just denounced. And give my regards to your aunt.”

The Marquis left, head bowed in shame and Ari repressed her laughter. Vivenne definitely knew how to cut someone apart.

“I am so glad you could attend my salon, my dear. It is an absolute pleasure to meet you. Please come along with me and let us talk in private.”

“The honour is all mine, Madame de Fer. Your reputation precedes you.”

“Ah, so you have heard of me then?”

Vivienne guided her down an empty hall, coming to stand in a small alcove overlooking the gardens.

“I have. I must admit, I was very curious about your invitation.”

“I wanted to meet you my dear. It is important to consider one’s connections carefully. With Divine Justinia dead, the Chantry is in shambles. Only the Inquisition might restore sanity and order to our frightened people. As the leader of the last loyal mages in Thedas, I find it only right I lend my assistance to your cause.”

“The Inquisition would be glad of the aid, Lady Vivienne.”

“Great things are beginning, my dear, I can promise you that. I will meet you in Haven after I settle a few things in the city. It has been a pleasure.”

Ari curtsied to First Enchanter, surprised at the ease with which her body performed the movements. Almost as if they were second nature. She did not notice the similar surprise of the woman before her.

 


 

Ari had changed from the light robes into dark green cotton leggings and dark grey tunic once she returned. She carried her packs out of the inn to meet the others and head to the stables.

“Fancy meeting you lot here,” Sera’s voice called out.

“Sera!” Ari turned with a wide grin on her face to meet the woman.

“Elfiest!”

Ari chuckled as the woman joined them, making small talk as they headed out of the city. 

"So what is it exactly you have against Elves, Sera?" she asked innocently.

Sera snorted. "Really? All the woe is me, poor empire lost? You never get sick o' it? People are people. Why keep tryna remember the past? Its gone."

She could almost hear Solas roll his eyes.

"I suppose that's an interesting way to look at things. It's nice to remember sometimes though. I mean, would you want to forget all the good bumping bits you've done?"

Sera turned to her, eyebrows raised in a subtle shock at her words. She could feel the others' eyes on her as well. 

Is it really that shocking to hear me discuss bumping bits?

"Why would I want to forget bumping bits, Elfiest?"

"That's the point, Sera. It's nice to remember some things. The Dalish enjoy trying to remember better times. I mean, some of them take it much to seriously. But the sentiment behind it is nice."

Sera made a raspberry noise but Ari could see the wheels turning in her head.

"Too elfy," the blonde muttered under her breath as they crossed beneath an archway heading towards the gates. 

“Herald! If I may have a moment of your time,” a cloaked figure called from the walls near the gates. Ari turned to the figure and remembered who else she was supposed to meet in the city.

“Grand Enchanter,” she murmured in greeting, approaching the hooded woman.

“The leader of the mage rebellion? Is it not dangerous for you to be here?” Solas inquired from her side, the only one to have stopped with her.

“I heard of the gathering in Val Royaux and I wanted to see the fabled Herald of Andraste with my own eyes.”

Ari bit her tongue. This herald business was really grating on her nerves.

“If it is help with the Breach you seek, perhaps my people are the wiser option.” Ari cocked her head as Cassandra approached their little trio.

“Grand Enchanter Fionna? Do you truly think it is wise to be here?”

“We’ve already covered that, Cass. Grand Enchanter, are you offering your services?”

“I am. I would like to invite you to meet with me and discuss details in Redcliffe.”

"It may be wise to consider the offer," Solas said in a low tone, head bent near her ear. The warmth of his breath tickled her and sending slight shivers down her back. 

Ari nodded. “The Inquisition welcomes the offer. You should perhaps leave though, before you are sighted by another less friendly party.”

“I appreciate the concern. I look forward to seeing you again.” The woman pulled her hood closer and walked past them, leaving the city behind her.

“You cannot be serious, Aryael? You wish to work with the mages?”

“Well, its not as if the Templars are exactly willing to work with us Cassandra. And their assistance in the matter of the suppressing the power of the Breach is all hypothetical. It may not work at all. I think there is no harm in meeting with her and discovering what she wants to offer us and what she wants in return.”

And I can finally see my Tevinter Stud Muffin!

“We should discuss this with the others.”

“Of course. Let’s return to Haven.” 

 

 

Chapter Text

They had been travelling for three days and Ari was already wondering what masochistic feelings encouraged her to want Solas and Sera travelling together. Sera had left lizards in his bedroll, honey on his saddle and hid his staff three times. For Solas’ part, he had taken to discussing the Fade, spirits and magic much more frequently. He had asked her about the Dalish and their opinions on various myths. He had even gone so far as to lapse into Elvhen when directing questions or comments towards Sera.

And I thought Varric and Cassandra were children…

It had been entertaining at first. Well, the first day anyways. On the second it was mildly amusing. On the third… she was about ready to hit them both over the head and drape them over their mounts for the rest of their journey to Haven.

“The veil is wobbly here,” Sera intoned in a dramatic voice that clearly mocked Solas’.

“How astute, Sera. It does seem there is another rift nearby.”

“Demons. Arrows. Got it.”

“Did Sera really just detect a rift?” Ari asked incredulously.

“I think she just noticed the green light over the hill, Dimples.”

“Yea, that makes much more sense,” she said as she nudged her mare in the direction of the rift.  

The group had become very proficient as a fighting unit. Sera’s abilities fit in with theirs seamlessly and they easily made work of the rogue factions of Templars and Mages they had come across, as well as several rifts. This rift was no different. After the second wave of demons, Ari managed to close the rift with a loud snap. It was all over quite quickly.

“We should look to set up camp for the evening. The light is fading.”

“The Seeker is right,” Varric agreed as he placed Bianca back on his back.

“Let’s move out a bit further, there may be somewhere with water nearby. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind being able to get at least somewhat clean.”

Her companions nodded in agreement and mounted their horses. Soon enough they came upon a suitable place near a creek. Varric and Sera went off to hunt some small game for dinner while Solas, Ari and Cassandra set up the tents. They took turns at the creek, washing the grime of travel from their skin before turning in for the night. Ari had first watch and Solas sat beside her at the edge of the camp while the others fell asleep in their tents.

“You shouldn’t antagonize her.”

“I do no such thing.”

“Right. You don’t purposely try to ‘outelf’ me to her at all…” Ari rolled her eyes.

“I am simply myself, Aryael.”

“You are purposely trying to get under her skin.”

“Sera is… misguided. She thinks that our past is something we should ignore and forget. I merely try to illustrate that is not.”

“In the way that is most likely going to make her hate it more?” Ari turned a wry smile in his direction, eyes peeking up at him from beneath dark lashes. They sat almost thigh to thigh, Ari hugging her right knee to her chest with his fur drapped over her shoulders while Solas stretched out with his hands splayed behind him, resting his weight on them.

“Are you taking her side?” He asked, eyes narrowing as he looked down at her.

“Absolutely not. I am my Keeper’s First, Solas. One day, I will be Keeper. Keeper of our past and our future, meant to never forget the old ways,” she recited the words as if they were a mantra she had repeated a thousand times.

Solas looked down at her with eyes that seemed to flash with a deep sadness for a moment before all emotion was lost in their stormy depths.

“It is hard to think the Dalish raised someone like you. You are not what I expected.”

Ari’s breath hitched. This territory was too familiar.

“What were you expecting?”

“I have… spent some time with Dalish clans. Tried to share knowledge that I gleaned through my travels in the Fade. They did not respond well. But you… you have shown a wisdom I have not encountered since… since my deepest journeys into the Fade,” he ended on an almost whisper.

“The Dalish are… We have strong convictions. So much was lost to us that what little we manage to salvage, we hold onto fiercely. Perhaps a little too much so,” she said with a rueful smile, a flush creeping along her cheeks and up her ears.

“And yet you do not.”

“Things are not always as they appear, Solas. So much was lost… No one even really knows how to read or write, let alone speak our native tongue. How can things not get lost in translation? How can we say with absolute certainty that we know our own history?” She shook her head slightly, lifting her chin to look up at the stars. “Its not for lack of trying. We try very hard. We simply do not understand.”

Ari’s mind was suddenly full of images and words blending together. Days spent with Keeper Deshanna, learning the rituals of her clan. Eyes scanning over Elvhen texts they had managed to preserve or found in their journeys. Running off from camp with Lyara and Nehnis to explore ruins. Sleeping on the nose of wolf statues scattered across lost lands. Her hands went to her head as image after image flitted through her mind like a movie on fast-forward with no pause button.

“Aryael? Aryael?” She vaguely heard Solas call her name from her side. He had a hand on her shoulder and was gently shaking her, a worried look across his features.

“It’s fine… I just… I think I may have not had enough to drink or eat today,” the lie slipped to her tongue too easily as her fingers threaded through her hair and clutched at her throbbing head.

Da’lan, you need to take care of yourself,” he admonished her as he quickly stood, walking to get her a water skin. He turned back to kneel on one knee at her side. “You should rest. I will take the rest of your watch.”

Ari shook her head, eyes looking up at him as he handed her the water skin. “No, I can finish it. Its only just over an hour.”

Solas sighed, sitting beside her. He knew better than to argue with her once her mind was made up by now. They sat in silence, Ari trying to make sense of her thoughts, Solas observing her under the moonlight.

“Go to sleep, lethallan,” he softly called to her as he saw her eyelids droop.

Ari mumbled something unintelligible as she slowly blinked, pulling her fur tighter around her and resting her chin on her knee while the Fade claimed her.

 


 

“You have many questions, da’lan. I hear them buzzing around you.”

Ari walked with Wisdom through her favourite part of her city, Parc La Fontaine. People littered the grassy knolls with blankets and sandwiches, kids played with a soccer ball nearby and a young man on rollerblades whirled passed her as his dog bounded beside him. The scene felt oddly unfamiliar to her now.

“Things are… complicated. The longer I’m here, the more complicated it all seems. The spirit child says that I am Lavellan but then what does that mean for Aryael Lavoie? Why do I remember things as if I lived them? Is this all just some weird dream? How do I change things if things can’t be changed? Is this some sort of self-inflicted nightmare? Maybe I’m in a coma at the Royal Vic.”

Ari hugged herself tight, stopping in the middle of the pathway. The scene slowly dissolved around her and was replaced with the familiar ruins that she had come to know as Wisdom’s home of sorts. She had finally given voice to fears that had been whispering in the back of her mind since she first realized she was in her game. She hugged herself tighter, biting her bottom lip as tears welled in her eyes.

“Is it truly so impossible for you to be both?” Wisdom turned to her, a gentle smile on her lips as she drew her into a warm embrace. She felt warmth surround her as the tears spilled down her cheeks, her arms clutching to the fuzzy feel of Wisdom.

“I don’t understand any of this. My home doesn’t feel like home anymore. The people here… I don’t want this to just be a dream. But if it isn’t, than its so much more complicated. And how do I possibly manage to save Solas if I can’t change what’s already been written?” she hiccupped and closed her eyes as she felt Wisdom’s arms tighten around her.

“What is written cannot be changed, no. But you do not know all that is written. Tell me, what happens after you were meant to learn who Solas was? What happens in the years between him leaving and you meeting again?”

Ari paused in thought. Wisdom had a point.

“I don’t know.”

“There is much that is written that you simply do not know. Take advantage of what you do know; use it to guide your actions so that the most benefits can be taken from your knowledge.” Wisdom stroked her hair gently, reminding her of being a young girl in need of comfort.

“As for who you are… The truth is not so simple. Your spirit was broken, pieces lost to the wind. One such piece was present when the Breach was formed and called to you across worlds. The Breach brought you home. You have not taken a life, nor lost your own, da’lan. You are simply reclaiming yourself.”

Ari froze in Wisdom' arms before pulling away and staring up at her, unsure of what to say.

“Reclaiming myself?”

“You are as much Aryael of Clan Lavellan as you are Aryael Lavoie. And more. Your spirit has always belonged in Thedas.”

She was silent, letting Wisdom’s words roll over her.

I come from Thedas? Is that what she just said? And a piece of me… so Lavellan and I… we really are the same person?

“How?”

Wisdom tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear, letting her hand fall to cup her cheek.

“That, is something you must also remember.”

“But how am I supposed to do that?”

“Your soul is healing; reconciling lifetimes. It will take time but you have already begun to regain so much.”

Ari felt a little hand slip its fingers in hers and looked down to find the little spirit child at her side.

“See? You’re just you.” The child squeezed her hand. “Not scary right?”

She returned the gentle squeeze, a soft smile falling across her face as the truth of the child’s words hit her.

No, it wasn’t scary. It felt right.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Ari woke feeling rather groggy, the long days and nights of travel catching up with her. They had arrived in Haven late in night, silently parting to get some rest in their cabins before the fast approaching morning sun finally dawned. Cassandra had guided Sera to a common bunk for scout and she wondered how many of the scouts would survive Sera’s antics over the coming weeks.
 
She lazily dressed in dark woollen leggings and a deep purple cotton tunic with high slits at her sides. She rolled up the sleeves to her elbows and quickly plaited a small French braid over her undercut, threading a few additional loose plaits in her long tresses. Satisfied she didn’t look as wrecked as she felt, she left her cabin, small package of baby clothes in her arms and headed towards the Chantry. As she crested the hill she was met with a familiar face standing near the requisition officer.
 
“Excuse me!” a deep voice called to her as she approached the Chantry.
 
“Hello.”
 
“I have a message for the Inquisition but I’m having a hard time getting anyone to speak to me.”
 
“Well then, you’ve run into the right person. What can I do for you?”
 
“Name’s Cremisius Aclassi with the Bull’s Chargers mercenary company. We got word of Tevinter mercenaries gathering out on the storm coast. My company commander Iron Bull offers the information free of charge. If you’d like to see what the chargers can do for you and the Inquisition, meet us there and see us work.”
 
Ari broke out into a wide grin. She absolutely could not wait to meet Bull.
 
“Abso-freaking-lutely. When will they be arriving? I’m meant to head to Redcliffe in the morning but I’d love to meet with your company as see what they can do.”
 
“The vints are sailing in and should be arriving in about a month’s time. Bull has our company moving out of Orlais and heading there now.”
 
“Perfect. I will meet you there, Krem.”
 
Krem gave her an odd look.
 
“Oh, I’m sorry. Your name’s just a bit… well uh-“ she fumbled for words. That had not been a smart move. She really needed to watch her words. She clearly didn’t learn a thing while in Val Royaux.
 
“It’s alright,” the man offered her a small smile.
 
She gave him a grateful smile in return. “I will see you in a few weeks then!” She outstretched her hand and shook his firmly. “If you can find one of the workers, ask for Shora and tell her Ari sent you for some refreshments and a meal. She’ll take care of you before your journey out. If you need rations or anything, just ask!”
 
“Thank you, Messere.” Krem responded with a nod.
 
Bull’s definitely going to hear about this.
 
Ari groaned inwardly. She was going to have to watch herself around the Ben-Hassrath. Steeling herself to meet with Leliana and the others, she strode into the Chantry. The trio of advisors stood with Cassandra outside the war room, clearly waiting for her.
 
“It’s good that you’ve returned. We’ve heard of your… encounter.” Josephine said before turning to follow the others into the war room.
 
“What happened to appealing to the Chantry?” Cullen’s tone was irritated.
 
“I stand by what I said and did. The clerics aren’t thinking of the people, Cullen.” She all but glared at him from the other side of the table.
 
He sighed. “You’re right. The Templars have abandoned their senses as well as the capital.”
 
“At least we know where we stand better. And Grand Enchanter Fionna is amenable to working with us. I’d say we’ve gained from this.”
 
“Have we? Lord Seeker Lucius is not the man I remember.”
 
“True. He has taken the order somewhere. But to do what. My reports have been very odd.”
 
“We should look into it. I’m certain not everyone in the order agrees with him.”
 
“Or Aryael could go meet with the mages instead.”
 
“Do you really think the mage rebellion is more united? It could be ten times worse.”
 
“It could. It probably is. Honestly, both sides of this war have fallen. I would like to meet with Fiona, however. Now is not the time to bicker over our course of action. I’ll leave for Redcliffe in the morning.”
 
“I agree. We must act.”
 
Ari turned to Cassandra. “You’re alright with working with the mages?”
 
“I think that the most pressing matter is the Breach. What matters is that we close it once and for all; end the war. We must do what is necessary to achieve these ends.”
 
Ari was growing to respect the woman even more.
 
“I will send scouts ahead to Redcliffe.”
 
“We should also consider other options. I will reach out to those who have indicated support of the Inquisition.”
 
“And I will try to make contact with some of the Templars. I do not think we should discount them just yet.”
 
“Of course.” Ari nodded to both Cullen and Josephine as they left the war room, Cassandra trailing behind them.
 
“There is one other matter.” Ari’s eyes returned to Leliana who approached her from her perch near the wall. “Several months ago, the Grey Wardens of Ferelden vanished. I sent word to those in Orlais, but they have also disappeared. Ordinarily I wouldn’t even consider the idea that they are involved in all this, but the timing is curious.”
 
“I agree. There is something there.” She attempted to sound somewhat aloof, so as not to show her hand and just how much she knew of the Wardens involvement.
 
Leliana’s eyes seemed to spark with something before being hidden behind a mask of indifference. “The others have disregarded my suspicion, but I cannot ignore it. Two days ago, my agents in the Hinterlands heard news of a Grey Warden by the name of Blackwall. If you have the opportunity, please seek him out. Perhaps he can put my mind at ease.”
 
“I will seek him out before we reach Redcliffe. Have you heard from the Hero of Ferelden?”
 
“Arwynne has been silent these past few months. We tried to reach her before we went to Kirkwall in search of Hawke. I am not sure where she went. She left Denerim weeks before the order went missing from Vigil’s Keep.” Leliana paused. “I am not sure it is unrelated. I am even less sure that I will like the answer.”
 
Ari crossed her arms, eyes cast unstaring towards the wall behind Leliana.
 
That’s my warden’s name alright.
 
“I am sure you have not stopped trying to find her. I think we should continue. Her insight to the order may prove invaluable.”
 
“Agreed. I have scouts following some recent leads. I will keep you informed.”
 
To say she was shocked by this declaration was to put it mildly.
 
“I appreciate that. Thank you, Leliana.”
 
The two woman stood together, eyes locked on each other for some time.
 
“You are… I think you are exactly what we needed when we needed it most. For all that has happened, I am grateful that you have come to us.” Leliana softly confessed with a small smile.
 
“I… I don’t know what to say.”
 
“Say nothing. You already say too much without wanting to. I am not sure what you are hiding, Aryael. I may be the last person you would want to share you secrets with. I would have you know though, that I trust your secrets are not meant to harm the Inquisition or us. You may keep them as you see fit.” With a small nod, Leliana left Aryael alone with her thoughts in the war room.

 


 

 
Shaking herself loose of her musings, Ari left the Chantry in search of Shora. She found her in the tavern with Iona.
 
“Shora!”
 
“Ari! You’re back! You must ‘ave arrived very late.” The woman turned a full grin on her, wrapping her up in a tight hug. Ari froze at the contact for all but a moment before melting into it and returning the woman’s affections.
 
“I think we have given the night watch a heart attack to be honest. We weren’t expected until morning but we were so close and I missed my cot, lumpy as it is.”
 
Shora laughed.
 
“Good day, Iona. I hear congratulations are in order?”

The cherry colour haired elf blushed, hands fluttering over her womb. “Thank you, Herald.”
 
“Oh stop! None of that now. It’s Aryael.” She gave the slim woman a friendly smile, placing the wrapped package on the bar. “Here. I’ve brought you some things for the little one. I hear it’s going to be a strong little lad.”
 
“Oh you shouldn’t have… I mean, I really – you didn’t have to-“
 
“Iona, I wanted to. Please, take it as appreciation for all that you do here. Working in the tavern isn’t always easy.”
 
Iona giggled. “You’re right. Thank you. Truly. Just imagine, one day I’ll be able to say the Herald of Andraste clothed my babe!”
 
The three women broke out into a chorus of laughter.
 
“Wot’s so funny, yea?”
 
Ari turned to see Sera.
 
“I see you’re making yourself right at home,” she said with a twinkle of laughter still in her eye.
 
Sera snorted. “Home, yea? I thought’d be bigger.” She snickered. “That would’ve been hilarious if you were a man right? Wasted.
 
“Haven isn’t very grand no.”
 
“Would you like something to eat, Aryael? We’ve just had some stew made for the patrons.”
 
“I would love some, Iona. Shora, Sera, would you care to join me?” she said as she sat down at one of the empty tables.
 
“Wot’s with all the elves? This the Inquisition or the Elvsquisition?”
 
It was Ari’s turn to snort.
 
“Elvsquisition? Really Sera?”
 
“What’s wrong with Elves?” Shora asked confused.
 
Sera rolled her eyes.
 
“You know, Shora and Iona are technically city elves. They’re nowhere near as elfy as me.”
 
“My mother was a Dalish.”
 
“See? Elfy. Elves are always so damn elfy.”
 
Ari snickered. “And yet here you are sitting with us and enjoying some vegetable stew.”
 
“Right. Gone bonkers.”
 
Shora looked perplexed as she flitted her gaze between Sera and Ari.
 
“It’s alright. All the best people are.”
 
It was Sera’s turn to look at her like she was the one who’d gone crazy.
 
Shame they don’t know the Madhatter…
 
They quickly dove into the meal Iona laid before them, Sera regaling them with the tales of all the pranks she had played on Solas. It seemed to be her favourite thing to do.
 
“So wot's the deal with you and droopy-ears?” Sera asked as she spooned the last of her stew into her mouth.
 
Ari’s ears turned bright red as her eyes widened.
 
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
 
“You mean Messere Solas?” Shora asked, eyes too bright. She was starting to understand Sera speak much too quickly.
 
“There is nothing going on!” She denied, tone a little squeaky.
 
“Right. Elf always takes the elf. Sure you’ll be bumping bits soon enough. Bet he calls out Elven Glory when he does it.” Sera laughed. “I seen the way you look at him.”
 
“And the way he looks at her.” Shora added.
 
“What?!” She was sure her face could not get more red at this point, the heat of her blush stinging against her cheeks.
 
Sera rolled her eyes. “No use denying it.”
 
“I think you two are quite suited for each other.”
 
Ari stood up, hands braced on the edge of the table and a panicked look in her eye.
 
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” she all but yelled before she dashed out of the tavern and ended up face to chest with the very subject of her mortification.
 
“Aryael?” Solas inquired, looking down at her with worry. He placed his hands on her shoulders to steady her as she had all but toppled them both over.
 
“I’m fine! It’s fine! Everything’s fine!” she sputtered looking up at him briefly and noting the curiosity in his eyes before she dashed around him and headed for her cabin.

“ELLLVVVEEENNN GGGLLLOOORRRYYYY!” she heard Sera cry out before bursting into a fit of laughter which she could hear Shora join in on. She didn’t like it one bit. 

 

Chapter Text

Ari slammed the door behind her, slowly sliding down its wooden frame.
 
This is not okay.
 
Sera had spent just over a week with them and was already making comments about her and Solas.
 
And what did Shora mean about the way he looked at me?
 
Her skin was burning from the embarrassment. Closing her eyes, her mind wandered, recalling memories of her time with Solas. Her flesh prickled as she remembered the feel of his fingers on her bare back as he healed her wounds, the way their magic touched as he taught her what it was to heal, the way his eyes would sparkle as he recounted various memories he had seen in the Fade or how warm he was when his arms had been around her…
 
She groaned.
 
“Oh girl, you got it bad…” she muttered to herself before rising back to her feet. She didn’t have time to worry about her emotional attachment to the Dreadwolf; or the possibility that he may have a similar attachment. They had flirted, yes. She had practically attacked him in her sleep, burrowing herself into his warmth. There was definitely something there. She just couldn’t handle dealing with that right now.
 
She rubbed her hands over her face, willing her flush away.
 
“Alright. In the morning we leave for Redcliffe. We find the pretend warden. I confront Alexius and finally come face to face with my Tevinter Stud Muffin. We go to the Coast and I meet with Bull and try very hard to act like a good and proper Dalish. And then we deal with Alexius and free the mages. And I wait to fight Coryphishite. Easy as pie.”
 
A thought struck her then.
 
“What is going to happen to Haven…” she whispered in the silence of her cabin. She couldn’t save them. Not really. Nevermind what Wisdom had said, who would believe her? They would probably lock her up as a mad woman.
 
Shora. Iona. The baby.
 
There had to be something she could do. She would find it. She would make sure. She had to.
 



 
Ari had set out with Varric, Solas, Sera and Cassandra for the Hinterlands in the morning. The journey was much faster this time, most of the rifts in the area having been closed by Ari during her first trek into the area.
 
“Hey droop-ears say wot?”
 
“…excuse me?”
 
Sera groaned, “You’re no fun!”
 
Ari chuckled. “You couldn’t honestly believe that would’ve worked?”
 
“Worth a shot. Works on normal people.”
 
They had left the Upper Lake Camp not long ago, heading towards the area that Leliana’s scouts had spotted a man matching Blackwall's description. They rode their horses over the rocks towards the lake, leaving their horses tied to trees near the shore.
 
“There’s a cabin over there.” Ari nodded in the direction across the water.
 
“Perhaps the Warden is there?” Cassandra suggested.
 
They made their way across a rickety bridge that served as a dock of sorts, leading them to the topside of the lake. Ari bit her lip nervously as she looked down at the wood.
 
Do these people not know how to make something that at least looks structurally sound?!
 
“You will not fall through, Aryael.” Solas voice called low to her from just behind her right side. She startled a bit before looking up at him. She wasn’t sure she liked how the fact that he towered over her made her all warm inside. Her head barely made it to just under his shoulders.
 
“I know I won’t.”
 
“Then why do you look like you are planning your own funeral?” He quirked one those deliciously arched eyebrows at her with a small smirk twitching at his lips.
 
“It’s not my fault that the humans build things that look like they will fall apart at any moment.”
 
They had fallen behind the others a bit, feet finally meeting solid ground again as they skirted the lake towards a cottage. They could hear  the sound of a deep voice instructing on how shields should be held.
 
“Blackwall? Warden Blackwall?” Cassandra called as the man in question, as well as a handful of men, came into sight.
 
“You’re not--How do you know my name? Who sent…” Blackwall’s questioning was cut off as he and Cassandra both raised their shields to take the arrows aimed at their heads.
 
Ari and Solas ran for cover behind a large tree, her back to his front while they cautiously looked around the trunk as Varric and Sera sought the high ground.
 
“Bandits! Bastards.”
 
“Help or get out. We’re dealing with these idiots first!” Blackwall’s voice echoed over them. “Conscripts! Here they come!” He raised his sword high, charging against the bandits and knocking aside the swing of an axe with his shield.
 
Ari extended her hand, a burst of flames erupting beside three of the bandits and sending them flying. She felt Solas lift his staff with his left arm, a flurry of ice freezing the archers. Quickly, they joined the fray, Ari calling a sword to her hand and meeting the fall of a bandit’s sword as Solas barrier snapped into place around her. The group of bandits was large, another wave soon joining the initial push and it took them a while to deal with them all. When it was over, Ari was somewhat out of breath and covered in blood.
 
“Sorry bastards.” Blackwall muttered with disgust as he turned to face his men, driving his sword into the ground. “Good work Conscripts. Even if this shouldn’t have happened… Well, thieves are made, not born. Take back what they stole. Go back to your families. You’ve saved yourselves.”
 
The men thanked him, running off to do exactly as he bid, more confident in their abilities to defend themselves now.
 
“You’re no farmers. Why do you know my name? Who are you?” He said as he turned to their group, arms crossed.
 
“My name is Aryael of Clan Lavellan. I’m with the Inquisition. We’re looking into the disappearance of the Grey Wardens. And the Divine's murder.”
 
“Maker’s balls, the Wardens and the Divine? That can’t-no, you’re asking, so you don’t really know.”
 
“No, but we’d like to. We’re hoping you can help us shed light on where the Warden’s have went.” Ari’s eyes took in the sight of the man before her. He wasn’t very tall all things considered. He looked about three inches taller than Cassandra, perhaps another three shorter than Solas. He was bulky though, broad shoulders and thick arms. His height probably made him more lithe with the broadswords he so loved to swing. His hair was a warm chestnut, threads of red found in his thick beard. His eyes were drawn and lines of stress were clear to see. He looked much older than he should.
 
“First off, I didn’t know they disappeared. But we do that, right? No more Blight, job done, Wardens are the thing forgotten. But one thing I’ll tell you. No Warden killed the Divine. Our purpose isn’t political.”
 
“I’m not accusing you, Blackwall. I’m just trying to find the Wardens. I’ve only found you though. Where is everyone?” She knew he didn’t have answers but she asked anyways. The others needed to hear his 'answers'.
 
“I haven’t seen any Wardens for months. I travel alone, recruiting. Not much interest cause the Archdemon is a decade dead. And no need to conscript cause there’s no Blight coming. Treaties give Wardens the right to take what we need. Who we need. These idiots forced this fight, so I 'conscripted' their victims. They had to do what I said. So I told them to stand. Next time they wont need me. Grey Wardens can inspire. Make you better than you think you are.”
 
“The Grey Wardens do tend to do that, don’t they?” she said with a small smile. She’d always liked the Wardens. Hated what Inquisition turned them into. Well, not that all the Wardens were great. But Duncan had been. Alistair had been. She had been.
 
“Well, ain’t this jus’ a waste then?” Sera said from behind her.
 
“She’s right. This has been no help at all. We should inform Leliana," Cassandra suggested.
 
Ari nodded. “Thank you, Warden Blackwall.”
 
“Inquisition… Agent, did you say? Hold a moment. The Divine is dead, and the sky is torn. Events like these, thinking we’re absent is almost as bad thinking we’re involved. If you’re trying to put things right, maybe you need a Warden. Maybe you need me.”
 
“The Inquisition is in need of allies,” Cassandra said.
 
“We are. We could use all the help we could get really. We’d be glad of the assistance, Warden Blackwall.”
 
“Good to hear. We both need to know what’s going on, and perhaps I’ve been keeping to myself for too long. This Warden walks with the Inquisition.”
 



 
They had spent the night camping just north of the Crossroads before heading on to Redcliffe. Blackwall and Sera had already begun to become the best of chums. Varric had brought out his cards and the three of them had played Wicked Grace until the end of the first watch. Ari woke early, the sun still not quite beginning to peak out from the horizon. She quietly stretched, making her way towards the edge of the camp and find a spot out of sight to calm herself.
 
Everything felt as though it was happening so fast, she needed to slow down. Bringing her hands together, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath lowering herself into the Figure 4 Chair Pose, taking in three deep breaths before transitioning to the Extended Big Toe to Hand for another three breaths and then settled into the Warrior III pose. Her eyes still closed, focused on her breathing, she did not notice Solas’ approach from behind her as she moved from the Half Moon to the Rotated Half Moon pose and still did not notice him as she began again, favouring her other side. Finishing her routine, she brought her hands together, ‘Namaste’ tumbling softly from her lips before she opened her eyes.
 
“I have never seen something like this before,” Solas called softly from behind her. She stiffened before she turned around to face him.
 
“It’s just a way to stretch, focus your breathing.”
 
“Where did you learn such a thing?”
 
“From an old Ha’hren at an Arlathvhen some years ago.” The lie slipped easily from her lips as she looked up into the blue depths of his eyes.
 
“I wonder where they learnt such a technique.”
 
She shrugged. “I am not sure but I find it a nice way to start my day or end it. It's good for the mind.” She gave him a small smile before heading back to return to camp. The others had not left their tents although Blackwall sat at the fire pit, portioning out rations.
 
“G’day.”
 
“Morning, Blackwall.” She said, reaching into a nearby pack and pulling out an apple. She could hear the others starting to stir as the morning light bathed their campsite in its bright glow.
 
“We should reach Redcliffe by mid-afternoon.”
 
“And you’re sure the Grand Enchanter is going to welcome us?” Blackwall asked.
 
She paused for a minute. She knew exactly what was waiting in Redcliffe. And it wasn’t just Fiona.
 
“The Grand Enchanter did invite us, Hero.” Varric called as joined them, taking his portion of jerky from the cloth in front of Blackwall.
 
“It would be wise to exercise caution nonetheless.” Cassandra had headed straight to saddle her mount, strapping her packs to its sides.
 
“Too much mage business. Don’t see why we don’t talk to the Templars.” Sera plopped herself on the ground, her short blonde hair eschew.
 
“The mages provide us with a powerful ally with a more sure ability to assist us in closing the Breach,” Solas called out as he began to dismantle the tent that had housed himself and the other men.
 
Sera snorted. “Magics wot went wrong in the first place, innit?”
 
The elf wasn’t wrong.
 
“Either way, we are going to meet with the mages. We’ll see what happens when we get there.” She took a bite from her apple and let her mind wander.
 
Dorian… I wonder if he really thinks its all time magic?
 



 
The group was met outside the city by a forward scout as they approached on their mounts. Ari quickly dismounted, leading her horse forward by its reins.
 
“Herald. We’ve spread word of the Inquisition was coming, but you should know that no one here was expecting us.”
 
“No one? Not even Grand Enchanter Fiona?” Cassandra questioned, disbelief written across her face.
 
“If she was, she hasn’t told anyone. We’ve arranged use of the tavern for negotiations.” The scout said as he led them into the city. A plain looking elf scrambled up to meet them from the path.
 
“Agents of the Inquisition, my apologies! Magister Alexius is in charge now, but hasn’t yet arrived. He’s expected shortly. You can speak with the former Grand Enchanter in the meantime.”
 
“Magister?” Solas asked, shock appearing in his eyes before his face returned to its calm emotionless façade.
 
“Yes. He will arrive shortly. You can await him in the tavern,” the elf nodded to their group before heading back down the path towards the docks.
 
“What is the meaning of this?” Cassandra looked livid.
 
“It appears that the Grand Enchanter has more friends than she let on.” Varric’s fingers scratched his chin pensively.
 
“We should speak with her. With any luck, we will get to her before he arrives,” she called, handing her mount to the scout and all but running down the path into the village. She did not wait for the others before she found, and went into the tavern.
 
Her eyes scanned the patrons, coming to rest upon Fiona as she heard the others clamber into the tavern behind her. She could feel Solas' glare on her back. He wasn’t fond of her running off on her own.
 
“Welcome, Agents of the Inquisition. What has brought you to Redcliffe?” the elvhen woman stood to the side of the bar, hands clasped in front of her.
 
“We’re here because of your invitation back in Val Royaux.”
 
Her eyes widened at Ari’s words. “You must be mistaken. I haven’t been to Val Royaux since before the Conclave.”
 
“Grand Enchanter, we met you there. You invited us here. If it wasn’t you, then who was it?” Cassandra asked, coming up to stand at her left flank.
 
“I-I don’t know. Now that you say it, I feel strange. Whoever or whatever brought you here… the situation has changed. The free mages have already… pledged themselves to the service o the Tevinter Imperium.”
 
“I understand that you are afraid, but you deserve better than slavery to Tevinter.” Solas stated, incredulous, standing to her right, hands clasped behind his back. The look in his eyes was hard. It did things to her.
 
“An alliance with Tevinter? Do you not fear all of Thedas turning against you?” Cassandra’s tone was becoming angry.
 
“As one indentured to a magister, I no longer have the authority to negotiate with you,” Fiona’s face was unreadable as she ignored the words of Ari’s companions.
 
“An alliance with Tevinter is a mistake, Grand Enchanter,” Varric was slowly shaking his head.
 
“All hope of peace died with Justinia. This… bargain would not have been my first choice. But we had no choice. We are losing this war. I needed to save as many people as I could.” Her green eyes shone with regret and sadness. It made Ari’s heart clench.
 
Venatori bastards.
 
The sound of the door opening had her head turning to greet the new arrival.
 
“Welcome, my friends! I apologize for not greeting you earlier.”
 
“Agents of the Inquisition. Allow me to introduce Magister Gereon Alexius.”
 
“The southern mages are under my command.”
 
Ari’s eyes quickly raked over the elder man, taking in his haggard appearance. They flicked quickly to the young man behind him, pale skin and shifty eyes. The boy the magister strove to save. The boy who would be his undoing.

“And you are the survivor, yes? The one from the Fade? Interesting.”
 
“I’d like to know more about this alliance.”
 
“Certainly. What specifically do you wish to know?”
 
“I haven’t seen any sign of the Arl of Redcliffe or his men.”
 
“The Arl of Redcliffe left the village.”
 
“Arl Teagan did not abandon his lands even during the Blight. Even when they were under siege.” Cassandra took a step forward. From the corner of her eye, Ari noted that Sera was slowly shifting into a position with a better vantage point.
 
“There were… tensions growing, I did not want an incident.”
 
“Ah, so you ran him off. You are quite a long way from Tevinter, Alexius.”
 
“Indeed I am, though I have heard you are no Fereldan either.” The man cocked his head as his eyes appraised her, dismissing her tone and ignoring the agitated state of her companions. He was too confident in his own abilities. “ It seems we are both strangers here.”

He motioned for her to follow as he took a seat. Ari settled herself onto a wooden bench, Cassandra and Solas both at her sides just behind her. She could feel Solas thrumming with magic, ready to let lose at any moment. Varric and Sera had taken tactical positions spaced out in the tavern while Blackwall stood stoically by the door, hands clasped in front of him as he looked on. If the Magister felt threatened, he gave no outward indication.
 
“Felix, would you send for a scribe, please? Pardon my manners. My son Felix, friends.”
 
The boy bowed before turning to fulfill his father’s command.
 
The Magister smiled at her. “I am not surprised you are here. Containing the Breach is not a feat that many could even attempt. There is no telling how many mages would be needed for such an endeavour. Ambitious, indeed.”
 
“You wish to close the Breach, then?”
 
“Of course, the Breach threatens us all, does it not?”
 
Ari hummed thoughtfully, tilting her head to the left as she gazed at the Magister.
 
“There will have to be-“ The Magister’s attention was drawn to his son to slowly hobbled towards their table, looking faint. Ari stood, rushing to his side to give him a chance to complete his mission, feeling the press of the note in her hand as she reached to help him stand and he fell against her.
 
“Felix!” The Magister rushed to their side as Ari’s arms wrapped around the boy.
 
“I’m so sorry. Please forgive my clumsiness, my lady.” He bowed his head to her, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. The boy succeeded in his goal. He was happy.
 
“Are you alright?” His father placed a hand on his shoulder, face wrought with concern.
 
“I’m fine, Father.”
 
“Come, I’ll get you your powders.” The Magister began to lead his son towards the door. “Please forgive us friends. We will have to conclude our business another time. Fiona, I require your assistance back at the castle.”
 
“I don’t mean to trouble everyone,” the boy called back, face contrite.
 
“I shall send word to the Inquisition. We will conclude this business at a later date,” Alexius gave a quick bow of his head to her before heading out the door.
 
Her companions gathered around her as they exited the tavern, leaving them alone with the barkeep. She unfolded the note, looking down long enough for the others to think she read it before she handed it to Solas.
 
“Come to the Chantry. You are in danger.” Solas sighed. “More notes.”
 
“Wot’s wrong wit’ notes?” Sera asked.
 
“Let’s go.”
 
“We’re not even going to discuss this?” Solas asked, matching her steps easily.
 
“The boy played his father for a fool for a reason. I would like to see that reason.”
 
“Dimples is right, Chuckles. The boy clearly knows something and wants to share. I say we let him.”
 
Ari opened the door, eyes scanning the village for signs of the Magister and his son and found none. She turned to the right, heading up the small hill towards the chantry.
 
“We should exercise caution.”
 
“We are cautious. We have weapons. We have people. I am sure that if the boy wanted to ambush us, he could have easily done so in the tavern. Stop worrying Solas.”
 
Solas pursed his lips and looked down at her. She matched his gaze with an amused smile.
 
If his overcautious behaviour wasn’t so aggravating at times, it would be really sweet how he worries over my safety. Well, the mark’s safety.
 
The though was a bucket of cold water on her head and she quickly looked away, smile falling from her lips. They crested the steps leading up to the Chantry and she paused in front of the door.
 
“Do you feel it?” She called, hand resting on the handle.
 
“It’s a rift.” Solas said perplexed.
 
“More demons?” Sera asked.
 
“More arrows.” Ari agreed before pulling open the door and was greeted by a long awaited sight.
 
Dorian twirled his staff, bashing a demon on the head as flames danced around the feet of another before they both fell away to dust. He turned to them, cheeky smile on his face.
 
“Good! You’re finally here. Now help me close this, would you?” he said as he stood up, shooting his staff in the direction of new demons that had begun to pour from the rift.
 
Ari dashed to his side, cutting down a wraith that had appeared behind him. Cassandra charged in, using her shield as a battering ram against a pride demon as Blackwall joined her with a battlecry, bringing his broadsword against its leg with a heavy swing. Varric and Sera darted off in opposite directions, jumping on top of benches and letting loose a hail of arrows on the demons while Solas raised shields on them all.
 
“Why thank you, my dear,” Dorian huffed out as he noticed Ari at his side.
 
“Most welcome,” she shot him a smile before spinning to head off after a despair demon, lighting her spirit sword up with flames. She grinned to herself as she felt Dorian’s magic whirl past her, a burst of hot flames hitting the demon before she arrived and making it wail.
 
She felt the adrenaline pumping through her veins as her body chased the demon, sword slicing at it while it tried to escape. She could hear the sound of demons falling around her. Her companions were really quite efficient at dealing with enemies. As the despair demon fell, she rushed to the rift, raising her left hand and feeling the familiar tug. Her eyes danced over to the Pride demon that Cassandra and Blackwall were dealing with, Solas offering them support from the sidelines.
 
I wonder if he holds back so that the others don’t notice how powerful he really is?
 
With a resounding snap, the rift closed and she turned to face her beautifully charming Tevinter Stud Muffin. He strode up to her, a look of concentration on his face.
 
“Fascinating. How does that work, exactly? You don’t even know, do you? You just wiggle your fingers and boom! Rift closes,” he chuckled, pearly whites gleaming from beneath his perfectly kept mustache.
 
“Actually its more like a” she snapped her fingers, “it’s hard to explain. The easiest would be… its like a needle and a thread? The mark seams the rift shut but first you have to pull it together…”
 
“Remarkable…” The Tevinter stroked his chin with his right hand, left arm crossed over his chest. “I’m getting ahead of myself again though. Dorian of House Pavus. Most recently of Minrathous. How do you do?”
 
“Aryael of Clan Lavellan-”
 
“Another Tevinter. Be cautious with this one.”
 
Ari fixed a hard glare at Cassandra. Dorian was off limits.
 
“Suspicious friends you have here. Magister Alexius was once my mentor. So my assistance would be invaluable. As I am sure you can imagine.”
 
“I had thought Felix was to meet us here?” Solas inquired.
 
“I’m sure he is on his way.” Dorian’s arms dropped to his sides. “He was to give you the note, then meet us here after ditching his father.”
 
“The kid did a good job of distracting his father. Almost too good. Alexius couldn’t jump to his side fast enough. Something wrong with him?” Varric asked, Bianca still in his hands.
 
“He’s had some lingering illness for months. Felix is an only child. Alexius is being a mother hen, most likely.”
 
“We really talkin’ to more magisters?” Sera said, leaning on a pillar.
 
Dorian sighed. “All right. Let’s say this once. I’m a mage from Tevinter, but not a member of the Magisterium. I know southerners use the term interchangeably, but that only makes you sound like barbarians.”
 
Ari giggled. She couldn’t help it. It turned into laughter when she heard Sera’s little growl and she doubled over.
 
“I’m far from a barbarian, I assure you.” She looked up at Dorian taking in his good looks. The man was truly very handsome. Bull was a lucky man. His hair was perfectly groomed, dark curls falling just right on top of his head. Soft laugh lines crinkled when he smiled, the only mar on his perfectly soft, dark complexion.
 
“You want to betray your mentor?” Blackwalls deep baritone called out from behind Cassandra as he took a step forward.
 
“Alexius was my mentor. Meaning he’s not any longer, not for some time. Look, you must know there’s danger. That should be obvious even without the note. Let’s start with Alexius claiming the allegiance of the Mage Rebels out from under you. As if by magic, yes?” Dorian took a step forward. “Which is exactly right. To reach Redcliffe before the Inquisition, Alexius distorted time itself.”
 
“To arrive just after the Divine died?”
 
“You catch on quick.”
 
“That would be fascinating, if true… and almost certainly dangerous. But impossible. No such magic exists.” Solas offered.
 
“The rift you closed here? You saw how it twisted time around itself, sped some things up and slowed others down. The proof is before your eyes,” he said to Solas before turning back to Ari. “Soon there will be more like it. And they will appear further and further unstable. The magic Alexius is using is wildly unstable, and it’s unravelling the world.”
 
“There’s got to be more than ‘Magical Time Control: go with it’.’” Varric said, finally holstering Bianca on his back.
 
“I know what I’m talking about. I helped develop this magic. When I was still his apprentice, it was pure theory. Alexius could never get it to work. What I don’t understand is why he’s doing it. Ripping time to shreds just to get a few hundred lackeys.” Dorian cast his gaze away, seemingly lost in thought before Felix’s voice reached them.
 
“He didn’t do it for them.”
 
“Took you long enough. Is he getting suspicious?”
 
“No, but I shouldn’t have played the illness card. I thought he’d be fussing over me all day.”
 
“My father has joined a cult. Tevinter supremacists. The call themselves Venatori. And I can tell you one thing: whatever he’s done for them, he’s done it to get to you.”
 
“Lovely. I do so love it when fans go to extremes,” she said as she rolled her eyes.
 
“Why work against your father?” Cassandra asked, stare boring into the young man.
 
“The same reason as Dorian. I love my father. I love my country. But this? Cults? Time magic? What he’s doing now is madness. For his own sake, you must stop him.”
 
“It would also be nice if he didn’t rip a hole in time. There’s already a hole in the sky.”
 
“Why rearrange time and take over the mage rebellion just to get to Aryael?” Solas had slowly come closer, standing once again at her side.
 
“They’re obsessed with her, but I don’t know why. Perhaps its because you survived the Temple of Sacred Ashes?”
 
“You can close the rifts. Maybe there’s a connection. Or they see you as threat.”
 
“If the Venatori are behind those rifts, or the Breach in the sky, they’re even worse than I thought.”
 
“I really must do something for him in return for all the attention.”
 
“Send him a fruit basket. Everyone loves those.” Dorian gave her a wry smile and she heard Varric chuckle behind her.
 
“You know you’re his target. Expecting the trap is the first step in turning it to your advantage. I can’t stay in Redcliffe. Alexius doesn’t know I’m here, and I want to keep it that way for now. But whenever you are ready to deal with him, I want to be there. I’ll be in touch.” Dorian offered her a smile before making his way for the back entrance. “Oh an Felix! Try not to get yourself killed”
 
“There are worse things than dying, Dorian,” Felix said before departing himself, bowing once more to Ari.
 
Ari smiled.
 
Yea, me and Tevinter Stud Muffin are totally going to be BFFs.
 
“We should return to Haven and discuss this with the others.”
 
“We’ll send word through the scouts. To be honest I think I’d be surprised if pigeons hadn’t already been sent to Leliana about the Magister. We still have to make our way to the meeting point at the Storm Coast and it’s a good two-week journey from here. As it stands we can’t make a move until Alexius reaches out to us anyways.”
 
Cassandra bowed her head in assent quickly. “You are right. We should make haste to leave the Hinterlands in the morning. I think we should see if we can’t gather more information from some of the mages left around town.”
 
“And agents. Sera, Blackwall, how do you feel about hitting up the Tavern again? Varric you should go with them.”
 
“Sounds good to me, Dimples.”
 
Blackwall and Sera highfived each other while Ari tried to hold back a grin.
 
Those two are definitely fast friends.

“Cassandra perhaps you’d like to speak with the sisters?”
 
“Of course.”
 
“I’m going to speak to the scouts and replenish some supplies before we leave. Solas, if you wouldn’t mind joining me?” Solas nodded. “I would suggest we make camp as far as possible from the city tonight.”
 
“Agreed.”
 
Ari tried to ignore the rawrs and kissy noises that Sera was making behind her back as they exited the Chantry.
 

Chapter Text

His fingers were dark from the charcoal in his grip. His hands moved deftly over the paper in front of him, broad strokes of the black stick bring to life wide eyes under thick lashes. He sat with his back against a tree; the fading light of the sun falling away at his side while the others ate round the fire. Flicking his long fingers over the paper, he smudged the charcoal, giving depth to the face he was recreating.
 
With a long sigh, he lifted the sketch he had spent the last few weeks slowly putting together. Ari’s cheeky smile and sparkling eyes looked back at him from the paper. The soft curve of her neck lay bare at one side, while her perfect loose curls fell across her shoulder at the other. The dimple in her left cheek caught his eye before he lowered the picture once again.
 
What is it about her…
 
He couldn’t shake her from his thoughts. He spent hours with the woman; in waking and in dreaming. Her optimistic mannerisms and carelessness to her own safety drew him in like a moth to a flame. But there was more. A thoughtful gesture, calming words on the flames of anger, a tenderness that defied all she should be masked under a sharp wit; a shadow behind her eyes that spoke of secrets long forgotten. He was enraptured.
 
He briefly closed his eyes, recalling the night they had all been forced to share a tent. The feel of her thigh slipped between his own, her hand curled into the fabric of his tunic, pulling him in close. The sound of her even breathing as she slept while pressing herself closer against him. The soft curve and warmth of her breasts through the thin fabrics they wore firmly placed against him. The tickle of her hair against his nose. It had felt so familiar and so… right. Like two pieces of a puzzle coming together in exactly the right place. It was unsettling to say the least.
 
This girl is the answer to a problem; no more, no less.
 
He needed to focus on the task at hand. Closing the Breach. Retrieving his orb. Distractions such as these would help no one. Even if the distraction would prove to be pleasurable. Solas groaned. The Dalish was all but a child to his thousands of years and here he was lusting after her.
 
But she is not really a girl is she?
 
The traitorous thought slipped through before he could halt it. She wasn’t really a girl, no. She was a woman with curves and desires all of her own. Desires that called to him in a way he could not recall ever having felt. He knew Ari was struggling against the pull of it as well. He could see the desire in her eyes when they brushed against each other, feel the longing in her touch before she caught herself reaching out for him. He so desperately wanted to answer that longing but he knew he shouldn’t. It would be kinder in the long run.
 
“Chuckles, what are you doing out here?” Varric called as he approached, forcing Solas to hastily hide his sketch beneath blank papers. It was too late, however.
 
“Was that Dimples? Solas, you sly dog, you. Planning on wooing her off her feet with your artistic prowess?”
 
Solas felt a slight flush warm his cheeks.
 
“You are mistaken, Master Tethras.”
 
Varric cocked an eyebrow, crossing his arms over his chest before releasing a sigh into the air.
 
“This is… this is a lot bigger than any of us really thought. And Ari… I imagine you already know that they’re grooming her to lead this whole thing. It’s lonely at the top, Solas. It’d be a shame to deny her something you both want when she has to take so much she doesn’t.”
 
Varric turned and left him alone with his papers and pencils once again.
 
But I don’t deserve her, Child of the Stone. And she deserves so much better than a wolf in sheep’s clothing.


 



 
Ari was chilled to the bone. The rain poured lightly over them, soaking through her tunic and cloak, plastering wisps of her hair to her cheeks and forehead. They had just entered the coastlands and were making way for the forward camp Harding had established in the region.
 
“Why do you never take us anywhere nice?” Varric said with a shudder. She could almost hear his teeth clattering.
 
“Val Royaux was nice.”
 
Sera snorted. “Sure, nice assassins and stuffy nobles. Great taste.”
 
Ari smiled. “Oh come on, it’s not that bad. The sound of the rain drops is actually quite comforting.”
 
“The Herald has gone mad,” Cassandra said, face still as stone.
 
Ari chuckled. “Just making the most of the situation. It’s really not all bad. Can’t you smell the sea?” She took in a deep breath, eyes closing in delight. She loved the smell of the salt water. “It’s wonderful isn’t it?”
 
Her companions gave her an odd look, their wet faces showing their obvious discomfort.
 
“Well, it is refreshing I suppose. Missing the sharp musk of the city, it’s not so bad.” Varric offered her a smile.
 
She returned his smile before returning her gaze to look ahead, leading her mare down the path. The sight of the forward camp came to them as they crested a hill and Ari dismounted as Scout Harding approached them.
 
“Your worship! For what it’s worth, welcome to the Storm Coast. I would have sent word sooner, but our efforts have been… delayed.”
 
“Delayed?” Cassandra said as she approached.
 
“There’s been a group of bandits operating in the area. They know the terrain, and our small party has had trouble going up against them. Some of our soldiers went to speak with their leader. Haven’t heard back, though.”
 
“We should look for them as soon as we can,” she said handing off the reins of her mount to a scout.
 
“Thank you, your Worship. That’s a relief. The soldiers didn’t have an exact location for the bandits. But they were starting their search farther down the beach. With all this fuss, we haven’t been able to conduct a proper search for the Wardens, either.” Harding led her to a tent that housed a map of the area, similar to the one she had shown them in the Hinterlands with places of interest marked. “We’ve scouted what we could. The Chargers have set up a camp near the mouth of a cave just south of us and we’ve yet to see the sails of the Tevinter mercenaries. A messenger from their camp told us they should be arriving any day now.”
 
“We’ll set out to explore what we can, see if we can’t find the missing soldiers and deal with the bandits while we’re at it.”
 
“Well, good luck, and enjoy the sea air. I hear its good for the soul.”
 
“Very good for the soul.” Ari made an exaggerated display of taking in a deep breath.
 
Harding chuckled. “If you need anything, I’ll be here for a few more days yet.”
 
“Thank you, Harding.”
 
“The soldiers probably didn’t meet with an enthusiastic welcome. Sera, Varric, think you can find their trail?”
 
Sera nodded once. “Course I can. Think you can keep up?” she asked turning to Varric.
 
“I sense a bet in the making, Buttercup.”
 
Sera scoffed. “Last one there is a rotten nug!” She gleefully exited the tent, dashing off down the path and heading towards the beach with Varric hot on her heels.
 
She could hear Blackwall chuckle as they slowly made their way to follow the two rogues.
 
“Perhaps we should meet the Chargers’ camp?” Cassandra suggested, tone light.
 
“Let’s wait until the mercenaries arrive. See if their intelligence pays off and how they handle it. I have a feeling we’ll be in for a show. We should focus on freeing our scouts path to establish a presence here and find what leads we can on the Wardens.”
 
Cassandra hummed, not quite in agreement with her assessment. They walked in awkward silence, trying to find purchase in the muddy terrain of the coastlands as they followed the trail marked by Varric and Sera.
 
“Those two are really quite nimble,” Ari muttered as she dragged herself up the side of a cliff, fingers trying to maintain their grip on one the slippery rocks.
 
“You would not expect it of a dwarf, would you?” Blackwall chuckled.
 
“Why not? Dwarves have a remarkable way of feeling the land. Stone sense. Even the topsiders exhibit it. I bet Varric could scale a mountain with nothing but his hands and feet.” She shot Blackwall an irritated look. Varric was downright graceful.
 
“The dwarf is resourceful.” There was a hint of something in her tone that caused Ari to look at her with a sceptical eye. The Seeker was definitely not immune to the man’s charms.
 
“So, Solas. Elfroot. Do elves just call it 'root?'"
 
“No, we have another name for it.”
 
Ari laughed.
 
“Well, that’s no fun.”
 
“You spend too much time with Sera,” Solas said with an exasperated tone as they ascended the top of the rocky ledge.
 
“Pffft. Not enough time if you ask me. Don’t go spoiling the fun one, droopy.”
 
“We found a small group of bandits near a cabin. I have a feeling these are the ones our guys ran into.” Varric reached down to help Ari pull herself up.
 
Ari’s gaze flitted through the thin trees, making out the shape of seven armed men.
 
“Not many of them.”
 
“No, but that does not mean they are not dangerous,” Cassandra said as she unsheathed her sword.
 
“Varric, Sera. Lay cover fire. I want to get into that cabin. Think you can handle the horde without me?” She turned a cheeky smile on her companions.
 
“That was definitely an insult,” Varric muttered, scrambling over to one of the thicker trees and drawing Bianca.
 
Cassandra let loose a battle cry that could freeze your insides as she and Blackwall charged at the bandits. Sera and Varric trained their attentions on the enemy archers, taking attention away from the slick path on the right. A few other men rushed out of the small cabin and joined the fray, Solas pelting them with hail and snow as she made her way unseen towards the cabin.
 
The stale scent of decaying bodies filled her nostrils and she almost gagged the moment she entered.
 
The soldiers…
 
She sent up a small prayer to Falon’Din for their souls out of habit and walked over to the desk. She took the schematic to Mercy’s Crest, noting the mechanics and materials needed. The sounds of the battle outside had come to an end with the whelp of a mabari falling.
 
Poor thing. I wonder if my Nerien is still around?
 
Ari’s thoughts went to her Warden’s faithful warhound and she realized that she was on Cousland territory.
 
“Highever is not that far from here…” she whispered to herself before she heard footsteps enter the cabin behind her.
 
“These must be the missing soldiers…” Cassandra’s sad voice called from the opposite side of the room.
 
“We must see that their families are notified.”
 
She turned to see Solas looking down at the bodies with remorse written on his features.
 
“We should send word to Harding. Sera, do you mind returning to the camp?”
 
“Sounds good to me, Elfiest.”
 
“Have her send scouts to retrieve the bodies and let her know that the bandits won’t be a concern come evening. They call themselves the Blades of Hessarian.”
 
“Hessarian’s blade is supposed to represent mercy, not random slaughter.”
 
“So we’ll teach them that.”
 
“And how do you plan on dealing with the bandits, Dimples?” Varric asked her with a curious quirk of his eyebrow.
 
“Why, challenging their leader for the rights to the group, of course.” She waved the note in the air with a smirk before handing it over to Varric. “Think you can fashion me one of these real quick?”
 
“I’m no blacksmith, Dimples.”
 
The note was being passed around the group before Blackwall spoke up. “I can do it. I saw a bit of serpentstone near the ledge. Should be enough for the amulet.”
 
“Perfect!”
 
“Don’t you need a forge?” Cassandra asked.
 
“Not for this. Its just a rough bit of stone set on a leather strap. The tricks in the shape of the stone. Nothing fancy. Should be able to use my knife and wetstone. Serpentstone is very malleable. More so when wet.”
 
Blackwall set off to put the amulet together while Cassandra looked over the map in the corner of the room.
 
“It looks like the bandit camp is further along the beach.”
 
“So do you have a plan for facing this guy? It sounds like its one on one combat.” Varric crossed his arms as he looked at her.
 
“Not you too? You’re starting to sound like Solas,” she groaned. “Has everyone forgotten that I do happen to be a mage? A mage of some skill I might add, who is perfectly capable of holding her own in battle.”
 
“When she isn’t rushing in headfirst and ignoring the enemies around her in light of facing the one who caught her eye. Or falling from a wound due to an attack from her back that she continues to neglect defending.” Solas levelled a glare at her that both excited her and her reminded her that he was a very dangerous elf. “You throw caution to the wind, da’lan.
 
“What would you have me do, ha’hren ?” the words dripped with mock respect. “Storm the hold and take countless lives? Risk all of ours in a bid that may or may not work in order to stop the bandits?” She cocked her eyebrow in challenge and noted that Varric and Cassandra had both slowly stepped away, backing towards the door in an attempt to avoid partaking in their argument.
 
“I would have you think! Consider your actions before you risk your life. Is your life so less valuable than others that you would toss it aside without so much as a second of hesitance? Without even the guarantee that it would achieve anything? Are you so willing to die?” He had taken a step towards her, eyes flashing with barely concealed anger.
 
Her features softened as she looked up at him. “Why should my life be more important than anyone else’s, Solas? Does my one life outweigh countless others?” She shook her head, taking a step closer to him and placing her hand on his chest. She could feel him tense under her fingers, the skin at his eyes tightening. “I would give my life for theirs every time.” She gave him a sad smile; letting her hand fall away, fingers brushing against the coarse, wet fabric of his tunic before stepping around him and out the door. Leaving him alone with his thoughts.
 

 



 
Ari wore the amulet overtop her tunic, forgoing her cloak as she led her companions up the path to the spot marked on the map they had found. Solas was at her left side with Cassandra trailing just behind her at her right. Varric stood next to Cassandra on the right while Blackwall brought up the rear end. All in all, they did not make for much of an imposing presence, loose in their mannerisms.
 
“Someone’s come with a challenge?”
 
“That’s right,” Ari said with a bright smile. “I’ve come to challenge your leader. Where is he?” She tilted her head, waiting for the bandits to open the doors.
 
The door opened with a groan, an archer leading the way into the centre of the camp. It was much larger than the game had let on. Full stables and numerous rows of huts lining the outer rim on one side. She saw a behemoth of a man standing near a practice ring to the right.
 
“So you would challenge the Blades of Hessarian?”
 
“Did you think that killing my soldiers would earn anything less?”
 
“You want Justice?! Claim it .” The hulking man growled as he pulled his great-axe off of his back, whirling his arms to swing it down at her. She quickly fade-stepped out of the way, noting that a circle of onlookers had gathered to watch. The leader of the bandits turned to face her, his cheeks flush with rage and bloodlust in his eyes. He charged at her and she raised her hand, freezing him in place. He struggled against the ice but it was too strong, encasing his legs and torso, leaving just his hands, neck and head free.
 
“Mage,” he spat at her.
 
“Yes, mage.” She smiled, walking with a skip to her step right up to him. “I would have thought you would prove a more difficult foe to deal with.” She tapped her right index finger against her chin. “But you’re sort of a wash up.”
 
She could hear Varric chuckle.
 
“Fight me without your magic and see how long you stand.”
 
Ari cocked her head, eyes appraising her enemy.
 
“Can I borrow your sword, Cassandra?”
 
“What?!” The Seeker said, shock making her take a step back.
 
Ari turned to her. “Let me use your sword. A proper duel, I think. Yes, that would be much more satisfying.” Returning her gaze to the bandit, she advised him, “No magic. Just little old me against big old you. Sound fair?”
 
The bandit stared at her for a moment before nodding. Ari grinned, dashing off to pull Cassandra’s sword from its holster on her belt pointedly ignoring Solas and the blood-drained faces of her companions.
 
“Aryael… you should not-“
 
She lifted her hand. “Stuff it, Solas. I don’t want to hear it. I understand you all think I don’t know what I’m doing and that I am not practiced enough or battle hardened enough. That I take unnecessary risks and need protection during battle. I told you once before, I am more than a mage. I am a warrior.” She furrowed her brows, giving him a reproving look before turning her gaze towards the bandit. With a flick of her wrist she let him go, ice turning to dust around him.
 
Ari and the leader stalked each other, slowly turning in a circle as they waited for an opening. She was tired of everyone acting as though she was a child. Well, tired of Solas always berating her rather. It was bad enough he shielded her before she even had a chance to draw on her mana when they entered battle. She couldn't pretend she didn't like the feel of his magic though. Or that the fact she knew he would shield her didn't make her feel safe and warm. And it’s not as if he was exactly wrong. She had gotten injured more than once because she wasn’t paying attention. And he had been the one who healed her every time.
 
The bandit lunged, swinging his axe towards her and she raised Cassandra’s sword to deflect it.
 
Felasil.
 
She narrowed her eyes and ducked under another swing, sliding the sword against the leather of his armour. The sound of his hiss as her blade broke skin made her smirk. She was dangerous too.
 
Quickly she dashed out from under him, coming up his backside and swung her sword for his neck. The man raised his axe spinning while his arm took her blow, letting free a spurt of dark red blood as skin parted under the sharp edge of the sword. Taking a step back, she barely missed his next swing, putting all her focus onto moving out of the way his axe. She was being backed up to the wall, her eyes locked on the enemy.
 
“Aryael!”
 
She heard Cassandra cry out as the bandit leader swung his axe at her head, the fall heavy and loud as it splintered the wood where her head had been moments before. She looked up, eyes wide as she crouched beneath him, thrusting her blade upwards and pushing it through his ribcage. The sound of tearing flesh filled her ears as she watched the light slowly fade from his eyes. His body fell forward, pinning her to the wall, her elbow cracking against it, hilt slipping through her fingers as the sword was left stuck in his chest.
 
When did taking a life become so easy?
 
She barely registered the sound of steps hurrying in her direction, the weight of deadman being pulled off of her. Solas’ fingers slipped under her chin and pulled her unseeing gaze towards him. Her eyes locked on his and she felt her ragged breath steal through her lungs.
 
“It is done. As long as everyone here respects the outcome,” Cassandra stated, turning her hard gaze on the bandits.
 
Out of the corner of her eye she noticed a man come up behind Solas.
 
“Your Worship. The Blades of Hessarian are at your service.” He bowed to her but she could not look away from Solas.
 
Are you alright?” The lyrical sounds of his elven words were a whisper as his hand slipped to cup her face, his thumb brushing the soft skin of her cheek.
 
Ari nodded, her hand reaching to grab his wrist and holding it as she continued to stare up at him. Cassandra moved to speak to the man who had addressed her.
 
Solas’ lips curved into a soft smile. “I thought I told you that you don’t need to prove yourself. To anyone.”
 
Ari snorted. “I don’t.”
 
“Then stop doing foolish things.”
 
Her eyes searched his, finding a warmth there that made her heart flutter. Her eyes dropped to his lips, a flush creeping along her cheeks. His hand flew from her cheek, wrist breaking her hold at a lightening speed as he turned away from her.
 
“I will do my best to remember that you can hold your own,” he said before walking away from her.

Chapter Text

 

She is reckless.
 
So are you.
 
She doesn’t care for her own safety, rushing into battle with no concern for herself. ”
 
She wishes to protect.
 
Solas turned, arms crossed and glared at Wisdom.
 
You spend too much time with her.”
 
Wisdom offered him a warm smile.
 
And you do not?”
 
It is not the same.
 
No, you are right. I do not feel for her as you do.
 
Solas was stricken, taking a step back as his arms fell to his side.
 
I do not-
 
Solas, we have known each other too long for you to try and pull the wool over my eyes. You care for this girl. A great deal.
 
He lowered his gaze, thoughts drifting.
 
She is… unique.
 
She is.” Wisdom nodded in agreement, walking over to stand in front of him. “You do not have to deny yourself, ma falon. Would it truly be so terrible to allow yourself to feel?
 
Solas shook his head. “It is not right. She is so young. She doesn’t know… I am the reason for all of her trouble. The mark will kill her. And even if it did not… she is mortal. She will die.
 
There was softness in Wisdom’s gaze as she regarded her long time friend.
 
Things do not need to be so complicated. You care for her. She may die, true. But may you not as well? Or have you suddenly regained all your strength?
 
Solas shot Wisdom an irritated look. “She does not know who I am. It would all be under false pretenses.
 
Wisdom placed a gentle hand on his arm, heat radiating from her touch in a soothing manner.
 
Ma falon, were you not Solas first? Are you not still Solas now? She knows you as you are, as you have always been. Your titles are just things that have been thrust upon you. They do not define your spirit.” She squeezed his arm once before letting her hand drop. “There is no need for you to continue punishing yourself. You did what you thought was best. You did not make a mistake. You are allowed to find happiness, ma falon.
 
Solas was silent as he shaped the Fade around himself, leaving Wisdom alone to wander with his thoughts.


 

The stark white sails of the Tevinter ships were just seen over the horizon as Ari stood with her companions behind the tents of the forward camp. It had been two days since she had defeated the bandit leader of the Blades of Hessarian and assumed the title herself. They had worked hand in hand with Harding’s scouts establishing camps along the coastline and providing a much needed insight to the terrain. The scouts had found pages from a journal indicating that the Warden presence had moved on, clearly having found no leads on the Warden. She had perused the entries, noting that they discussed a woman and wondered if they had been searching for her Warden.
 
Ari thought of the missing Warden as she made her way down to the beach, moving quietly to try and take cover behind whatever was available as the ships docked themselves on the sandy beach. They watched from the sidelines as Bull’s Chargers launched themselves at the mercenaries, a wicked grin splitting her face as her eyes took in the towering Qunari. He was absolutely massive. Easily over 8 feet tall with broad shoulders that she could probably lay across with plenty of room. He swung an axe that looked as though it was as tall as Ari with deliberate ease, slicing through his enemies with glee on his face.
 
“They are quite accomplished fighters,” Cassandra commented.
 
Ari nodded. The Chargers had made quick work of the mercenaries, bodies littering the beach, sand soaked in blood.
 
“Chargers, stand down! Krem! How’d we do?”
 
“Five or six wounded, Chief. No dead.”
 
“That’s what I like to hear. Let the throatcutters finish up, then break out the casks.” He gave a small chuckle as he noticed Ari approach.
 
“So you’re with the Inquisition, huh? Glad you could make it. Come on, have a seat.” He said, gesturing to a nearby log. “Drinks are coming.”
 
“You are the Iron Bull?” Cassandra asked.
 
“Yea, the horns usually give it away.”
 
Krem joined them as they took seats on rocks and soaked logs, Varric and Solas preferring to stand while Cassandra and Ari leaned back slightly, perching themselves on a large rock. Sera and Blackwall joined the Chargers in getting out the casks of ale.
 
“I assume you remember Cremisius Aclassi, my lieutenant.”
 
“Good to see you again. Throatcutters are done, Chief,” the man said with brief nod in her direction.

“Already? Have ‘em check again. I don’t want any of those Tevinter bastards getting away. No offense, Krem.”
 
“None taken. Least a bastard knows who his mother was. Puts him one up on you Qunari, right?”
 
Varric outright laughed while Bull chuckled, Krem walking away with a smirk on his lips.
 
Ari smiled, easily feeling the friendship between Bull and Krem.

It's his men. They're the reason he let's go of the Qun. Friends.
 
“So you seen us fight. We’re expensive, but we’re worth it. And I’m sure the Inquisition can afford us.”
 
“The Inquisition is in need of magical strength to close the Breach. It doesn’t need mercenaries.” Solas clasped his hands behind his back, sizing up the Qunari.
 
“Hey, everyone needs mercenaries. But if I need to sweeten the deal…" He looked at Ari, pointedly staring at her mark. "You need a front line bodyguard, I’m your man. Whatever it is-demons, dragons? The bigger the better. And there’s one other thing. Might be useful. Might piss you off. Ever hear of the Ben-Hassrath?”
 
Cassandra stood, arms dropping to her sides.  “You are one of them.” She narrowed her gaze, hand resting on the hilt of her sword.
 
“Calm down, Cassandra. He’s being forthcoming. There’s more to it.” Ari gave the woman beside her a sidelong glance before returning her attention to Bull. She noted that Solas had come closer to her while Varric remained near Cassandra.
 
“The Ben-Hassrath are concerned about the Breach. Magic out of control like that could cause trouble everywhere. I’ve been ordered to join the Inquisition, get close to the people in charge, and send reports on what’s happening. But I also get reports from Ben-Hassrath agents all over Orlais. You sign me on, I’ll share them with your people.”
 
“And why would you do this?” Solas asked, taking another step to come up beside Ari.
 
“Look, whatever happened at that Conclave thing, it’s bad. Someone needs to get that Breach closed. So whatever I am, I’m on your side. I would’ve been tipped sooner or later. That Leliana of yours is good. Maybe the best. Better you hear it right up front from me.”
 
“And you would share our operations with the Qun in return?” Cassandra asked with a sceptically raised brow.
 
“Only enough to keep them happy, nothing that will put the Inquisition at risk. They want to know if they need to launch an invasion to stop the world from falling apart. Letting them know what you’re doing, that it’s working? That’ll put some minds at ease.”
 
“I do not like this.”
 
“Of course you wouldn’t, Cass. But he has a point. I’d rather have an inside man than someone I don’t know poking around at our secrets. Leliana will have to approve all out going correspondence. And we’ll need to vet what comes in. Open door policy.”
 
Bull flashed her a grin. “You got it, Boss.”
 
“If you compromise the Inquistion, I’m going to let Cassandra eat you alive. And help her.” She stood; extending her arm towards the Qunari who tilted his head at her, giving her a once over. He gave a low chuckle, chest rumbling as his overlarge hand engulfed her forearm.
 
“Wouldn’t have it any other way. Krem, tell the men to finish drinking on the road. The Chargers just got hired.”
 
“What about the casks, Chief? We just opened them up. With axes.”
 
“Find someway to seal them up.” The towering male said as he turned towards his men. “You’re Tevinter right? Try blood magic. We’ll meet you back at Haven, Boss.”
 
“This is either a very stupid move or a brilliant one, Dimples. Not sure which it’ll be yet.”
 
“It all depends. I have a feeling it’s going to work out though. Have some faith.”
 
“Oh, are we starting to finally come around? Starting to see the Maker’s light?”
 
Ari snorted. “You do realize that I’m an Elf, right? We do have our own Gods.”
 
“Who I’ve never heard you speak about. Usually the Dalish are more vocal in their beliefs.”
 
She turned and gave Varric a cheeky grin. “My beliefs differ from most Dalish.” She said as she turned to look for Sera and Blackwall before returning to their forward camp.
 
“Do you not believe in the Creators, da’lan?
 
Of course I’ve peaked his interest.
 
“Oh, I believe they existed. Were they as all-powerful as our tales claim? They must have been, to a degree. To what extent, who knows? They’re not really around anymore. Though I will admit my attention had always been caught by one in particular, to the utter horror of my clan.” She chuckled, recalling Deshanna’s face when she asked about the Dreadwolf’s vallaslin.
 
Funny how these memories come so naturally now.
 
Solas was silent, though she could feel his eyes on her, trying to see through her motivations and secrets.
 
“You mean that wolf? Daisy was always cursing about some wolf.”
 
“The Dreadwolf.”
 
“That’s the one.”
 
“Was he not a traitor?” Cassandra asked with a curious tone.
 
Ari stopped and turned to her, serious look on her face as she clasped her hands behind her back.
 
“The stories and myths surrounding the Gods are… complex. They say he locked away our creators as some great trick. But you have to wonder… for someone to want to play such a trick… Would they not have had to have done something equally reprehensible first?”
 
“You think the Dreadwolf was getting pay back?”
 
“I think Fen'Harel did something he felt he had to.” Ari was doing her best to avoid looking at Solas. This subject was very much sensitive and she did not want to give anything away but…
 
I don’t want him to leave. I don’t want him to think I won’t understand. I want him to trust me.
 
“Some of your people may think that you have let the Dreadwolf catch your scent, da’lan.”

She turned to face Solas, his face an unreadable mask.
 
“Would that honestly be so bad?” She flashed him a wide grin, trying so very hard to keep her hormones in check. She definitely wanted him to catch her.
 
Solas stared at her, eyes fathomless depths of nothing. Though she did not miss the slight quiver at the corner of his bottom lip.
 
There is so much underneath that mask he wears…
 
It was in that moment that Aryael realized that for better or worse, she was falling. And she was going to run with it. Let Sera make all the kissy faces she wanted.
 
Ari smirked, skipping over to his side.
 
“You are reckless.”
 
“Oh come now, Solas. Do you honestly think that the Dreadwolf has time to stalk wildly boring prey such as myself?” She looked up at him, eyes catching on his lips before looking into darkened steel-blue orbs, burning with something that made her blood sing.
 
“You are far from boring.”
 
Her lips slowly broke into a half smile before she turned and darted towards the path. “Someone please tell Sera and Blackwall that they can have all the drinks they like once we reach Haven? I think it’s time we leave the Storm Coast.”
 

 

Chapter Text

They had been on the road for weeks before they finally arrived back at Haven. It was mid-afternoon and every muscle in Ari’s body was screaming in agony as she dismounted her mare, handing the reins over to Dennet. 
 
“I’ll come brush her down this evening.”
 
Dennet nodded. “You’re good with her. She likes it.” The man offered her a small smile before leading the chestnut mare away.
 
“We should speak with Leliana. See if the Magister has sent word.”
 
“I’m sure he has.” Ari nodded before turning to the rest of her companions. “Dinner at the tavern? I think we could all use a good bit of relaxation. I have a feeling we’ll be setting out before long.”
 
“Sounds good, Elfiest.”
 
“How about you give me a chance to win back something in Wicked Grace, Solas?” Varric said looking up at the tall elf.
 
“You always have a chance, Child of the Stone.”
 
Ari laughed.
 
“We could always try a new game? Diamondback perhaps?”
 
“I have never heard of it.”

“Oh, I like my chances with that one.” Varric grinned.
 
“Well, Solas, looks like we’ll have to teach you.” Blackwall slapped his shoulder much to Solas' obvious discomfort.
 
“With any luck, the Chargers wont be far behind. Maybe Bull can join us as well. I'll meet you all there.”
 
They said their goodbyes, heading off to wash up while Cassandra and Aryael headed for the Chantry.
 
Leliana noticed them as she spoke to Harding outside her tent.
 
“Aryael. Cassandra. It’s good you’ve returned. We’ve had word from Alexius. Harding, please retrieve the Commander and tell him to meet us in the war room,” she said before turning to join them.
 
“I imagine he offers himself up as a gracious host?”
 
“With all the backstabbing and pleasantries that it entails,” Leliana responded with a smirk.
 
They headed into the Chantry, Cassandra retrieving Josephine as they headed into the war room.
 
“I hear that the search on the coast was not very successful.”
 
“The Wardens were there. But they left. I believe they are looking for the Hero of Ferelden.”
 
Leliana crossed her left arm over her chest and held her chin in her right hand. “They will not find her if she does not want to be found.”
 
“The question I would like answered is why they are looking for her in the first place.”
 
“As would I. Something is not right.”
 
“I have reached out to some contacts but no one has seen the Queen Consort in months. Even her King does not seem to know where she is,” Josephine added in.
 
Ari nodded.
 
No, she wouldn’t have told him. He is no longer a true Warden. It is her burden, and her burden alone.
 
The thought came unbidden to her mind, its truth ringing in her ears.
 
“Alistair has men searching as well. Old companions from the Blight spread out across Thedas but they have had no luck.”
 
Ari shook her head. “She will be found when she wants to be found. We need to focus on the rest of the Order. And with taking back Redcliffe.”
 
The sound of the door opening was followed by Cullen’s heavy step as he entered the war room while she spoke.
 
“We don’t have the manpower to take the castle, however. Either we find a way in, or give up this nonsense and go get the Templars!”
 
“Redcliffe is in the hands of a Magister. This cannot be allowed to stand.” Cassandra's tone was slightly raised.
 
“The letter from Alexius asked for the Herald of Andraste by name. And her alone.” Josephine notified them.
 
“Don’t you love it when they all but scream ‘TRAP!’ at you?” she chuckled.
 
“He has been so complimentary that we are certain he wants to kill you," Leliana's voice was filled with laughter.
 
She smirked.
 
“It’s nice to feel so wanted.”
 
“Redcliffe Castle is one of the most defensible fortresses in Ferelden. It has repelled thousands of assaults. If you go in there, you’ll die. And we’ll lose the only means we have of closing these rifts. I won’t allow it.”
 
“I’m not certain you can allow or not allow me to do anything, Commander.” Ari bristled under his words. The man was being ridiculous.
 
“If we don’t even try to meet Alexius, we lose the mages and leave a hostile foreign power on our doorstep!”
 
“Even if we could assault the castle, it would be for naught. An 'Orlesian' Inquisition’s army marching into Ferelden would provoke a war. Our hands are tied.”
 
“The Magister-“
 
“Has outplayed us.”
 
“I don’t think that’s true. Leliana, I have heard stories of how you and the Hero breached the castle to save the Arl and Connor from the demon that plagued them.”
 
Leliana’s eyes sparked with understanding. “The escape route for the family.”
 
“I imagine that it is not enough to allow our troops through but perhaps we could send agents?”
 
“Too risky. Those agents will be discovered well before they reach the Magister.” Cullen was being hardheaded.
 
“Unless he is otherwise occupied.”
 
“You cannot mean to offer yourself up to him!?” The incredulous look the poor man's face made her heart twinge uncomfortably.
 
“It is a sound plan. While they are focused on Aryael, we break the Magister’s defenses. It could work,” Leliana addressed the advisors.
 
“But it’s a huge risk.” Cullen turned a worried look towards her.
 
The door behind them opened once again.
 
“Fortunately, you’ll have help.” Dorian strode into the room in all his Stud Muffin glory. It delighted her to no end.
 
The scout trailing behind him began to apologize for the intrusion before Ari cut him off.
 
“The help is most welcome.”
 
“Your spies will never get past Alexius’ magic without my help. So if you’re going after him, I’m coming along.”
 
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Ari crossed her arms, smile plastered on her face as she looked over at the Tevinter.
 
“The plan puts you in the most danger. We can’t, in good conscience, order you to do this. We can still go after the Templars if you’d rather not play the bait. It’s up to you.”
 
“I do think the plan was of my making, Commander. And I can in very good conscience say that we are going to do this.”
 
Cullen’s face was tight with anxiety and she almost felt sorry for being so sassy. But he was being ridiculously over cautious. Almost as bad as Solas.
 
“We’ll head out after a day of rest. I’ll take a small party with me to the castle. Send some scouts ahead in small groups, staggering after each other. This will work.”
 
“Your confidence is refreshing my dear.” Dorian turned a dashing smile her way.
 
She looped her arm in his, turning him toward the door.
 
“Come, let me show you the town, starting with the tavern.” She gave one last look to her advisors. “I trust you all to make the appropriate arrangements.”
 
“Ah, a woman after my own heart. Tell me, do they have decent wine in this tavern?”
 
“Only the best of the worst of the ales,” she flashed him a cheeky grin and headed out the door.
 



The tavern was full, Bull’s mass taking up a large portion of the back corner where he sat with Krem, Varric, Sera and Blackwall. Solas had just walked in the back entrance and their eyes caught.
 
“Friends! You remember the lovely Dorian?”
 
“Magister.”
 
Ari and Dorian sighed in perfect sync. Dorian shot her an amused glance.
 
“He’s not a Magister, Sera. He already explained that.”
 
“A Qunari is with the Inquisition?” His eyes widening as he took in the hulking figure that was the Iron Bull sitting at the table.
 
“Not just a Qunari,” she said as she sat down beside Solas on a bench across from Bull, Krem and Sera while Dorian sat beside her.
 
“He’s a Ben-Hassrath,” she said in an exaggerating loud whisper.
 
“We have a Ben-Hassrath with us? A spy. An actual Qunari spy. That doesn’t strike anyone as a bad thing?” he exclaimed, looking around her to Solas or Varric for support.
 
“Says the Vint. When we’re fighting Vints.”
 
“That’s… not a terrible point. Okay.”
 
Ari chuckled. “It works. Don’t worry. Bull seems all sorts of cuddly off the battlefield.”
 
Bull chuckled before taking a big swig of his ale.
 
“Always willing to help you find out, Boss.” He gave her wink.
 
Krem rolled his eyes.
 
She could feel Solas tense up beside her. She gave him a side glance from under her eyelashes, noting the tightness of his skin around his lips.
 
Don’t worry, vhenan. Bull and Dorian are made for each other. Just like us.
 
The thought brought a slight flush to her cheeks which her companions took for a response to Bull’s words, causing a round of teasing and laughter at the table. The agitation pouring out of Solas was all but palpable. She chuckled.
 
“ARI!” She felt arms wrap around her shoulders.
 
“Shora!” She turned her head, coming face to face with the delightfully perky elf.
 
“You’ve been gone so long! Almost worried you wouldn’t come back.”
 
“Come now, Shora. You said it yourself. I’m going to close the Breach. Can’t exactly go anywhere until I do that now, can I?”
 
Shora let out a small laugh.
 
“That’s true. Have you seen Iona? She’s starting to show.”
 
Her eyes sparkled with excitement.
 
“She is? Where is she? How is Emith handling it all? I haven’t seen him around much, imagine he’s been out collecting herbs.”
 
“Adan sent him out into the mountain pass earlier today. He should be back late this evening. Iona has been in the kitchens helping the cook prepare meals for the soldiers tonight. Tavern has been kind of empty as of late. Not tonight though,” the woman said, finally taking in Ari’s company, eyes widening as she saw Iron Bull.
 
“This is Shora, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure as of yet. She works in Haven for the Inquisition doing various odds and ends. And she is personally my favourite breakfast companion. Who also happens to have the cook’s ear. I’m telling you, if you get the chance, you must try these delectable little apple cheese tarts she makes.” She moaned, closing her eyes. She did not notice the tips of Solas' ears go pink. “Absolute perfection.”
 
Sera gave Shora a wink over the brim of her mug, Blackwall nodded in greeting while Dorian began to grill her about the tarts. Bull seemed pretty keen on the tarts too, asking if there were any around. And Krem… well, damn if that wasn’t a slight flush breaking out across his face.
 
Interesting…
 
“It’s very nice to see you back, Ari. Will you be leaving again soon?”
 
“The day after tomorrow. Breakfast in the morning? I’ll regale you with tales while you update me on the latest with Iona? Maybe we can find some time to visit with her if she’s not too busy.”
 
“I’ll see you in the morning then. I’ll have someone bring around some meals for you and your friends.” She gave her another quick hug before heading back out of the tavern.
 
“Off to Redcliffe?” Solas inquired.
 
“Not all of us.”
 
He cocked his head as he looked at her. She took a deep swig of her drink. She didn’t know what she was expecting at Redcliffe. It wasn’t time travel clearly, but if it was like the game… she didn’t want to watch Solas die for her.
 
“Most of you will stay behind. Dorian will come since he knows Alexius. I doubt Cassandra will allow me to go without her. Or that Cullen would let me go completely alone either.” She smirked. “That’s about it though.”
 
She didn’t really want to see any of them die for her.
 
“Elfiest, that is the stupidest shite I have heard in a long time.”
 
“She’s right, Dimples. Walking into a trap like that isn’t a smart move.”
 
“How am I supposed to be your bodyguard if you leave me behind?”
 
“Doesn’t sit right with me, Herald. I’d like to come.”
 
They all but spoke over each other, each offering objections to her decision. She was almost overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it.
 
“Alright, calm yourselves. Look, I’m just a distraction. Leliana’s agents are doing all the heavy lifting.”
 
“And what if something goes wrong?” Bull asked, brow furrowing. “’Vints aren’t known for playing by the rules.”
 
Dorian bristled under the insult. “He does have a point, my dear. It may be wise to bring more than one companion along. I’ll be with Leliana’s agents after all.”
 
Ari rolled her eyes. They didn’t understand. Nothing was actually going to happen to them. They weren’t really going to get to fight. They would just stand there like a bunch of idiots for a few moments while she disappeared and reappeared.
 
Do you truly not want the company? ” Solas was quiet under the others’ arguments, each still trying to change her mind.
 
She looked at him, brow furrowing as she considered his question.
 
It’s not that I don’t want the company… I just think it’s putting you all in unnecessary danger.
 
Ah, so you may be reckless but we may not?
 
“Solas-“
 
Aryael, if you wish for us to recognize your capabilities… you should allow us the same opportunity.
 
She frowned.
 
Damned wolf.
 
“Alright.” She whispered with a heavy sigh. The others had stopped talking, looking on at her and Solas with varying degrees of interest.
 
“You may all accompany me straight into the Magister’s trap.”
 
“Good choice, Dimples.”
 
She snuck another glance at Solas and was miffed to see that the man wore the smuggest of expressions.
 
She pouted; cradling her ale in her hands as she wondered what nightmare she was about to face, completely disregarding the fact that she had just conducted an entire conversation with Solas in perfect Elvhen.
 
 

Chapter Text

Ari walked out of the gates of Haven, heading towards the training field. She found Cassandra working out her anger on a straw dummy.
 
“So, is that meant to be Varric or the Magister?” she asked with an amused tone.
 
“It alternates,” she grunted before slicing the head straight off. “That was Varric.”
 
“Ouch. What did he do this time?”
 
“Varric is an ass.”
 
“Cassandra.”
 
The woman spun to face her, digging her sword into the icy ground. “That man is infuriating. I tried to apologize. For everything. For Kirkwall. And he-“ she growled. The woman growled. And it was terrifying.
 
“I don’t think… Look, Varric is… It’s a touchy subject, right? You two didn’t meet under the most perfect of circumstances.”
 
Cassandra sighed. “We did not. Still, I would not have him… hate me.”
 
She smiled. “He doesn’t hate you. Actually, I think he far from hates you. Likes you, actually.”
 
Cassandra raised her eyebrow in disbelief as she scoffed.
 
“Honestly, I think he may just… enjoy ruffling your feathers. You make it quite easy for him. And there might still be a little resentment that you managed to catch him. And stabbed his book.”
 
“He told you.”
 
“Possibly.”
 
Cassandra took a seat on a tree stump that served as a chair for the soldiers.
 
“Did I do the right thing?”
 
“You’re going to have to be more precise, Cass.”
 
“The Inquisition… everything. What I have set in motion here could destroy everything I have revered my whole life. One day, they may write about me as a traitor, a madwoman, a fool. And they may be right.” She slid her hands over her face, fingers slipping into her hair under the braided crown.
 
Ari walked over to stand in front of her. “What do you believe, Cassandra?”
 
“I believe you are innocent. I believe there is more going on here than we can see. And I believe no one else cares to do anything about it. They will stand in the fire and complain that it is hot. But is this the Maker’s will. I can only guess.”
 
“You don’t believe that I am the Herald of Andraste?”
 
“I think you were sent to help us. I hope you were. But the Maker’s help takes many forms. Sometimes it is difficult to discern who it truly benefits, or how.”
 
“I believe that I am here for a reason too, Cass. I may not have faith in your Maker… But I am here to help. To help Thedas.”
 
Cassandra raised her head, looking up into Ari’s eyes. “And so you are. My trainer’s always said, ‘Cassandra, you are too brash. You must think before you act.’ I see what must be done and I do it. I see no point in running around in circles, like a dog chasing its tail. But I misjudged you in the beginning, did I not? I thought the answer was before me, clear as day. I cannot afford to be so careless again.”
 
“You connected the dots in front of you. If I were you, I would have come to the same conclusions. What matters is that you were open minded enough to change your opinion. You’re willing to learn. That is more than most.”
 
Cassandra chuckled. “You are kind, Aryael. Perhaps too much. I am grateful for your presence here.”
 
Ari smiled down at her. “And I yours. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d have survived everything without you. I hope that with all that is to come… well, I’m glad I met you Cassandra.”
 
Cassandra stood, returning Ari’s smile. “It is mutual. Come, I believe that there is something waiting for you in your cabin.”
 
“Waiting for me?” She let herself be turned around and guided back into the town, following the aggravatingly silent woman to her cabin. She opened the door and was met with Shora leaning over her table.
 
“Oh! Ari. You’re back! I was just leaving something for you.”
 
Ari walked over to the table, eyes widening as she took in what Shora had been laying out. It was her robe.
 
“You have been without proper armour for some time. I understand that your robes were special to you. You had not been pleased when the Pride demon shred them.”
 
“You fixed them?” She said in awe as she pulled the green material from the wooden surface, holding them up and inspecting them.
 
“Shora replaced the back panel. I asked Solas to help with some warding. He inlaid some runes and glyphs before Harritt lined the robes with dragon scales.”
 
“Dragon scales?!”
 
“I understand that you are not fond of leathers… but I thought it best you have suitable protection.”
 
“How did you even get dragon scales?”
 
“I asked Josephine to contact my uncle on my behalf. They are from old remnants of armour that has not seen the light of day in decades.”
 
“Cassandra, Shora… I have no words…” Ari turned to her friends with tears in her eyes. Her mother, inlaid with protection spells by Keeper Deshanna before she left for the conclave, had sewed the robe for her sixteenth birthday. She had traded almost everything she had to acquire the dales loden wool. It was the last thing her mother ever did for her as it was also the year her mother had died.
 
“It is nothing. We simply want you safe. Especially since you are want to rush headfirst into battle.” Cassandra gave Ari a wry smile before Ari attacked them both with fierce hugs.
 
“Thank you. You really have no idea how much this means to me.”
 
“You should prepare yourself for the journey tomorrow.” Cassandra seemed a bit flustered by Ari’s outburst of affection and quickly headed out the door.
 
“You’ve made some good friends here, Ari. They really care about you. Especially Messere Solas.”
 
Ari blushed. “You think so?”
 
“Oh yes. I heard when Cassandra asked him to do the magic bit. He fussed over it. Wanting it to be perfect. 'protect her from everything' I think his words were. He’s a good one.” She gave Ari a warm smile before she too headed out into the fading light.
 
“Yea… he is.” She smiled to herself as she hugged her dark green robes.
 

Chapter Text

Ari strode into the keep with Solas, Bull, Cassandra, Blackwall and Varric, her newly repaired green robes fluttering around her ankles as she walked. Sera had joined Dorian in the infiltration mission of the agents. The click of armoured boots echoed in the foyer as the steward walked forward to meet them.
 
“The Magister’s invitation was for Mistress Lavellan and no one else. You lot will have to wait here.”
 
“Well then, I guess Alexius will have to come here then.”
 
“Mistress Lavellan?”
 
“Either we go, or I don’t go.”
 
The steward sighed. “Alright.” He turned about to lead them into the great hall, mages falling in line behind them to block off any attempt at retreat. Ari smirked.
 
“My Lord Magister, the agents of the Inquisition have arrived.”
 
“My friend. It is so good to see you again. And your associates, of course. I’m sure we can work out some arrangements to suit all parties.”
 
“Are we mages to have no voice in deciding our fate?”
 
“Fiona, you would not have turned your followers over to my care if you did not trust me with their lives.”
 
“If the Grand Enchanter wants to be part of these talks, then I welcome her as a guest of the Inquisition.”
 
“Thank you.”
 
Alexius turned to sit on the garish throne atop the dais but not before Ari caught the look of agitation flit across his features.
 
“The Inquisition needs mages to close the Breach, and I have them. So, what shall you offer in exchange?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe we could talk about the Venatori? Or time magic? It all seems so fascinating. Wouldn’t you agree Solas?”
 
Alexius’ features darkened as Solas voiced his agreement.
 
“Now wherever could you have heard that name?”
 
“I told her father.”
 
“Felix, what have you done?”
 
“Your son is concerned that you are involved in something terrible. He’s looking out for you.”
 
“So speaks the thief! Do you think you can turn my son against me? You walk into my stronghold with your stolen mark – a gift you don’t even understand – and think you’re in control?”
 
“You think I don’t understand it? I understand it more than you, Alexius.” She was seething, venom dripping from her tone. The shem knew nothing of Fen’Harel’s orb.
 
“You’re nothing but a mistake.”
 
“Oh please, if you think you understand it all so much, enlighten us dear Alexius. What pray tell, do you think the mark is?” She was glaring at him, hands clenched at her sides.
 
“It belongs to your betters. You wouldn’t even begin to understand its purpose.”
 
She laughed. She couldn’t help it. The poor man knew absolutely nothing of what he spoke.
 
“Father, listen to yourself! Do you know what you sound like?”
 
“He sounds exactly like the sort of villainous cliché everyone expects us to be.” Dorian emerged from behind a pillar, moving to position himself before the stairs Alexius now stood upon.
 
“Dorian. I gave you a chance to be a part of this. You turned me down.”
 
“Of course he did. You’ve gone mad, Alexius.” She wiped a tear of mirth from her eye, the anger dissipating from her as she realized just how ridiculous this entire thing was.
 
“The Elder One has power you would not believe. He will raise the Imperium from its own ashes.”
 
“The Elder One? Is that who you serve? The one who killed the Divine? Is he a mage?” Cassandra asked, taking a step forward her her hand on the hilt of her sword.
 
“Soon he will become a god. He will make the world bow to mages once more. We will rule from the Boeric Ocean to the Frozen Seas.”
 
“He will never be a god.” She took a step forward herself, coming to Dorian’s side.
 
“You can’t involve my people in this!”
 
“Alexius, this is exactly what you and I talked about never wanting to happen! Why would you support this?”
 
“Stop it, Father. Give up the Venatori. Let the southern mages fight the Breach and let’s go home.”
 
“No, it’s the only way Felix. He can save you.”
 
“Save me?”
 
“There is a way. The Elder One promised. If I undo the mistake at the Temple…”
 
“It was no mistake, Alexius.” She took another step forward.
 
“I’m going to die. You need to accept that.”
 
“Seize them, Venatori. The Elder One demands this woman’s life.”
 
No one responded. Ari took another step forward, climbing the first stair.
 
“Your men are dead Alexius.”
 
“You… are a mistake. You never should have existed.” He pulled an amulet from his neck, hazy green light emanating from it.
 
“NO!” Dorian screamed, raising his staff.
 
“ARYAEL!” she heard Solas cry out just before everything started to fade away.
 
A low screeching noise rose in volume, the light grew until all she could see was white and her body felt like it was dissolving.
 
And then there was nothing. Just a vast, empty space. She floated there for what felt like eons before she felt herself being pulled in all directions, the noise once again raising in tempo as it flooded her ears, skin feeling as though it were burning away.
 
She landed in murky waters against hard stone with a loud splash.
 
“Blood of the Elder one! Where’d they come from?”
 
“Sorry boys, no time to talk.” She raised her hand, lightening crackling in the sky as it shot down and burned the two guards to a crisp.
 
“Impressive.”
 
“I try.”
 
“Interesting. It’s displacement.” Dorian spun around slowly, taking in their surroundings. “It’s probably not what Alexius intended. The rift must have moved us… to what? The closest confluence of arcane energy? Let’s see. If we’re sill in the castle, it isn’t… Oh! Of course, it’s not simply where – it’s when! Alexius used the amulet as a focus. It moved us through time.”
 
“Alright. Let’s look around. See where the rift took us. Then we can figure out how to get back.” Aryael stooped to fish for keys from the burnt corpses.
 
“I wonder what this will do to the fabric of the world. We didn’t travel through time so much as punch a hole through it and toss it into the privy.”
 
They made their way through the dungeons, sloshing murky water as they headed towards a door.
 
“But don’t worry. I’m here. I’ll protect you.”
 
“And I’ll protect you. We’ll be the perfect duo.”
 
Dorian chuckled. “Thoughts on the Elder One?”
 
“Probably the leader of the Venatori.”
 
“You’re probably right. It’s the same old tune, ‘let’s play with magic we don’t understand, it will make us extremely powerful’.”
 
It was Ari’s turn to chuckle. “Magisters can be terribly predictable, can’t they?”
 
“Some of them, yes.” Dorian noted drily.
 
They climbed the stairs, turning right and coming across more cells, red lyrium peeking out from almost every nook and cranny. She could hear Lysas raving about Andraste and shivered.
 
“This is… This is not good.”
 
“No, it’s not. We need to get back.”
 
“Agreed, my dear.”
 
They climbed another set of stairs and came face to face with more guards. This time Dorian was quicker to the draw, raising his staff and engulfing them both in flames after placing a paralyzing glyph beneath their feet.
 
“Not too shabby.”
 
“I try,” he turned her own words back at her, enticing a grin from her lips.
 
“Come, we should continue on.”
 
“Is this… lyrium?”
 
“Red lyrium. Bad lyrium. Varric would have a heart attack if he could see this right now.”
 
She went through a door on the right and heard Varric and Bull. Her breath caught in her throat as she approached the cell, noting the pale pallor of his skin, the cracked lips and red eyes.
 
“Andraste’s knickers. You’re alive? Where were you? How did you escape?”
 
Dorian moved to turn the key in the lock and open the cell door.
 
“We didn’t escape. Alexius displaced us in time. Quickly can you tell us the date?”
 
“Harvestmere 9:42 Dragon.”
 
“9:42? Then we’ve missed an entire year.”
 
“Everything that happens to you is weird.”
 
“Divine bad luck, remember?”
 
Varric chuckled. The sound of his voice was making her skin crawl. There was an undertone, a hum… something that almost spoke underneath it.
 
“So what are you doing here? Or did you come back just to trade quips with me?”
 
“We get to Alexius and I just might be able to send us back to our own time. If we can find the amulet I may be able to open the rift to the exact spot we left. Maybe.”
 
“That may not be as easy as you think. Alexius is just a servant. His ‘Elder One’ assassinated the empress and led a demon army in a huge invasion of the south. The Elder One rules everything. What’s left of it anyways. Alexius is really not the one you need to worry about.”
 
Ari dropped to her knees, taking his hands into hers as she looked up at him.
 
“I swear to you, Varric. I will not let this happen.”
 
“I’m pretty sure you’re crazy. Or I’m crazy. Either way, it’s a nice thought. You want to take on Alexius? Let’s go. Get up, Dimples. You’re not allowed to cry.”
 
She offered him a watery smile, turning to regain her composure before following the sound of Bull’s singing. She stopped, noting the red veins streaking over his back and shoulders before he turned. He was practically dripping red lyrium from his veins.
 
This… this is too much. How can this not be real? They’re here. They’re here and they’re suffering.
 
“You’re not dead. You’re supposed to be dead. There was a burn mark on the ground and everything.”
 
“Alexius didn’t kill us. His spell sent us through time. This is our future.”
 
“Well it’s my present. And in my past, I definitely saw you both die.”
 
“You don’t… are you okay?” She hated how her voice shook while she fumbled to unlock his cell.
 
This was why I didn’t want them to come.
 
“Red Lyrium. If I’m lucky, it’ll kill me. If not… I’m hoping I die fighting.”
 
“Dying…” she whispered.
 
“No, he’s not. If we find Alexius, we go back and none of this will happen. Remember?”
 
“Kill Alexius. Sounds good. Let’s go.”
 
“I’m with you, Tiny.”
 
They continued on, going down another flight of stairs and found Blackwall and Sera. Ari hesitantly approached the first cell.
 
“Andraste have mercy. Y-you shouldn’t be here. The dead should rest in peace.”
 
“It’s me, Blackwall. I’m really here. I’m not dead yet.”
 
“I was there. I saw you fall. Alexius’ spell left nothing but ash.”
 
Dorian took the keys from her hands, deftly unlocking the cell. “You’ve skipped over too much. Look at the poor man. Alexius’ spell didn’t kill us. It sent us forward in time. That’s how we survived.”
 
“Forward in time? I don’t understand.”
 
“We can stop it, Blackwall. All of it.”
 
“Have I gone mad? If what you say is true. All of this, everything I’ve been through never happens.”
 
“That’s the goal.”
 
“One last battle. If we make Alexius pay for his crimes, it’s enough for me.”
 
She gave him a curt nod, trying to pull herself together. Their voices were getting to her. She couldn’t shake the whispers from her mind. Quiet but not quiet enough. Still there. She turned to face Sera, her face a hard mask as she watched the girl titter over a song she could not recall.
 
“Remember, stupid!” She turned around and saw Ari.
 
“No, no, no. You can’t be here. You’re dead and they don’t come back.”
 
“I’m not dead, Sera. I’m right here. You don’t need to be afraid.”
 
She scoffed. “Like I’m going to believe some demon or whatever.”
 
“Oh for the love of –” Dorian unlocked the cell door and swung it open. “Alexius used time magic. No one’s dead.”
 
“Talk sense or shut it. I can’t think about him.”
 
“Sera, I swear. It’s really me. I’m the elfiest elf you’ve ever met, remember? I haven’t even bumped bits with droopy, I can’t just die .”
 
Sera snickered.
 
“It is you.”
 
Ari smiled. “It is.”
 
Sera launched herself at her, throwing her arms around her shoulders and bringing her in for a deep hug. “The day you died… I ran out of arrows to make them pay.” She clutched Ari tighter and Ari buried her face into the woman’s neck. “But then it didn’t matter. There were demons and gods… and I had a bow.” Her voice cracked and Ari felt the drop of tears against her neck before Sera pulled back, hands on her shoulders. “I will die to spit in their faces.” The look in Sera’s red eyes unnerved her. Her skin was clammy and warm, nail beds tinged with red.
 
This stuff is awful.
 
“Well then, let’s go spit in their faces. Minus the dying bit.” She gave her a shaky smile.
 
Just Cassandra and Solas left…
 
The turned down another hall and went up a flight of stairs. She could hear Cassandra reciting the Chant of Light. She approached the cell tentatively. She was kneeling on the ground, hands clasped together in prayer. She was just like Bull, red veins showing beneath thin pale skin. Her head cocked as she heard her approach.
 
“You’ve returned to us? Can it be? Has Andraste given us another chance? Maker forgive me. I failed you. I failed everyone. The end must truly be upon us if the dead return to life.”
 
“I never died, Cass.”
 
“I was there. The Magister obliterated you with a gesture.”
 
“Alexius sent us forward in time. If we find him, we may be able to return to the present.”
 
“Go back in time? Then can you make it so that none of this ever takes place?”
 
“The Elder One will never succeed, Cassandra. I promise you that.” She opened the woman’s cell and turned, closing her eyes and mentally preparing herself for what came next.
 
“Is someone there?”
 
It barely even sounds like him…
 
“Solas…” Her voice wavered as she saw his cracked lips and the red peeking from beneath his all but translucent skin. His eyes glowed red and she could just barely make out the wonderful blue-grey colour behind the glow. Tears sprang to her eyes, falling down her cheeks unbidden and she was helpless to stop them. She rushed forward with the keys, turning the lock and pulling open the cell door with too much force.
 
“You’re alive!” He took a hesitant step forward.
 
“The spell Alexius cast displaced us in time. We just got here, so to speak.” Dorian called from behind her.
 
He reached out towards her, fingers trailing down her cheek gently as though he thought she would disappear at any moment.
 
She threw herself into his arms, clutching tightly at his tunic as she hugged him.
 
“I saw you die,” he whispered against her ear, his own arms crushing her against his chest.
 
“But I didn’t. I’m right here, ma fen.”
 
Solas froze, his breath halting in his throat.
 
“Aryael?”
 
“Shhh. No. Shhh. We have to get to Alexius. We need to go back so that none of this happens. This isn’t how it’s supposed to happen.”
 
He pulled back, looking down at her with curiosity and fear. She offered him a tentative smile, reaching up to cup his face in her little hand. “I’ve always known. And I never once thought twice.”
 
“Ary-“
 
“Shh. No. This isn’t – just no. We don’t have time. This just may be the only chance I get to say it. And I needed to say it.” She sniffled, pulled herself together and stepped out of his embrace to turn to her companions.
 
“We have to get to the great hall. I’m sure that’s where we’ll find him.”
 
She strode forward and back up the steps towards the main room in the dungeon.
 
“Leliana is here too. And Fiona. Fiona is too far gone but Leliana is not. We need her.”
 
“How do you know all this?” Cassandra questioned her, bending down to pick up a sword from a guards corpse.
 
“I spoke with her Fiona. I saw her before I found you all. And I have faith in Leliana. She wouldn’t break.”
 
You are slipping way to hard right now, Ari! What the fuck was that? AND WHY DID YOU JUST CALL SOLAS YOUR WOLF?!
 
“Aryael is correct. If what Fiona had to say was true.”
 
Did Dorian just cover for me?
 
“If this madness is to be undone, we must focus on Alexius.”
 
“Solas is right. Let’s get going.”
 
They crossed the metal grated floor and found the guards barracks, Bull, Blackwall and Sera quickly finding weapons. Varric seemed disgruntled.
 
“No Bianca?”
 
“No. Daggers it is.” The dwarf followed their companions, rifling through the weapons rack and found a pair of daggers.
 
They exited the barracks in solemn silence, mounting stairs and coming face to face with a room full of guards. They dispatched with them quickly, Bull hacking away at them as though they were toys.
 
“Leliana must be close.”
 
The made their way down the hallway and she could hear the angry voices of Leliana’s interrogators.
 
“Tell me how Lavellan knew of the sacrifice at the Temple!”
 
Never!
 
They heard a loud thwack followed by Leliana’s shout of pain.
 
“You will break.”
 
“I will die first.”
 
Ari’s eyes widened in desperation.
 
No, no, no, no, no, her mind screamed.
 
She threw herself at the door, throwing it open with wild force and a crazed look in her eye. The interrogator turned, allowing Leliana the opportunity to get her feet around his neck and break it.
 
“Or you will.”
 
“Leliana,” she choked out, taking in the gaunt cheeks and grey skin.; chapped lips bloody and raw. Her cheek was bruised and blood trickled down her face from a gash near her hairline. She ran to her, hastily fumbling for the jailor’s keys and unshackling Leliana.
 
“You’re alive.”
 
“I am. I came to end this, Leliana.”
 
“Do you have weapons?”
 
“Yes.”
 
“Good. The Magister’s probably in his chambers.”
 
“You… aren’t curious how we got here,” Dorian inquired.
 
“No.”
 
“Alexius sent us into the future. This. His victory, this Elder One, it was never meant to be.”
 
“I’m so sorry you had to experience this, Leliana. I won’t let him get away with it.”
 
“If we can get back, we can prevent this from ever happening.”
 
“And mages always wonder why people fear them… No one should have this power.”
 
“It’s dangerous and unpredictable. Before the Breach, nothing we did –”
 
“Enough! This is all pretend to you, some future you hope will never exist. I suffered. The whole world suffered. It was real.”
 
Ari took a step forward toward the angry woman.
 
“This is real, Leliana. This, all of it… the pain and the suffering. I can see you all dying in front of my eyes. Yes, I do hope it never comes to pass. I will die to make sure this never comes to pass. But do not for one moment think that this is pretend to me.” The tears were falling down her cheeks, eyes burning as she fought back a sob.
 
This… no, this real. No matter what Wisdom says. If I fail…
 
Leliana took a step forward. Then another until she was right in front of Ari. She tilted her head down to look her in the eyes.
 
“And I will die to make sure you get that chance.” With that she turned and headed out of the torture chamber.
 
“What happened in the last year?”
 
“Stop talking.”
 
“I’m just asking for information.”
 
“No, you’re talking to fill silence. Nothing happened that you want to hear.”
 
Their group strode through another corridor before encountering a rift. Wraiths attacked them from the sidelines and Ari was shoved aside with Dorian while the others took point. She didn’t even bother resisting, lost in her own thoughts.
 
I don’t know what happened. Wisdom said its not time magic but this feels like time magic. Everyone is real. They all…
 
She heard her name being called and looked, noting that the demons were gone. She lifted her left hand and quickly sealed the rift, moving to lead the group onwards.
 
“Alexius is most likely in his chambers.”
 
“He will most likely be heavily guarded.”
 
“Good. I need to kill some ‘vints.”
 
“Arrows. Lots and lots of arrows.”
 
They continued on their journey, encountering more rifts and Venatori. They dispatched abominations and demons, cutting through them like they were but flies. The broke out into the courtyard and Ari gasped, her head uplifted towards the sky, eyes wide in disbelief.
 
“The Breach… it’s –”
 
“Everywhere!”
 
“The veil is shattered. There is no boundary now between the world and the Fade.”
 
“But this is not how it should feel…” She spun around, skin prickling with discomfort. “This is wrong.”
 
Solas turned his gaze to her, brows furrowing with concentration as though she were a question left unanswered.
 
“We must move on.”
 
“Y-you’re right,” she stuttered, lowering her gaze and heading for the broken stairwell. They reached the middle of the courtyard and encountered another large rift. Ari ran towards it, hand raised to disrupt while she flung her right hand out, a wall of jagged ice erupting from the ground and ensnaring the nearby wraiths. Her magic felt dirty, like the Fade was distorted. She growled, pulling once more on the rift to close it as her friends dealt with the rest of the demons.
 
She heard the resounding snap of the closed rift and pushed onwards, not waiting for anyone.
 
I need to get back. I have to stop this.
 
She opened a door and found herself in the upper royal wing of the keep. She heard Connor’s scream as she ran for his door.
 
“Connor, no!” She fell to her knees in front of the hearth, watching his body burn, the scent of charred flesh filling her nostrils.
 
“It was an act of courage. He knew there was no other way to resist. He resisted that demon to the last.”
 
“It should not have had to happen.” Her voice was soft, eyes dry and face an emotionless void. Slowly she picked herself back up and turned, passing through her companions as though she did not see them and headed out the door.
 
“Elfiest?”
 
She ignored the call, turning down the hallway with renewed determination.
 
The Magister will pay.
 
She had spent hours saving that boy from demons. She had bled to save that boy from demons. And he had died because this stupid man had decided to follow Coryphishite.
 
“He dies…” she whispered to herself as she jogged down the staircase towards the lower royal wing.
 
She ignored Dorian’s incessant questions, striding into the great hall and summoning a lightening storm overhead. Someone came at her, swinging his sword against her and she lifted her spirit blade against it, sliding it along its length until its tip pierced her enemy’s neck. She barely registered the charge of her party behind her as they joined the fray. She pulled on the Fade around her, calling forth a hailstorm to join her lightening and sent vines thrusting forcefully through the stones of the floor to wrap at the Venatori’s feet, trapping them for the warriors. She felt a sharp pain as an arrow pierced her shoulder and she stopped for a moment to look at it before turning to force a flurry of ice and snow towards the culprit, freezing them. With a flick of her wrist a gust of wind knocked the frozen body against a nearby wall, shattering it to pieces. She broke the shaft of the arrow as she pulled the spelled arrowhead out, grunting in pain as warm liquid drenched the robes covering her right shoulder.
 
The fighting raged on around them. There were dozens of Venatori and demons. A rage demon had her in his sights, making its way towards her as the snow sizzled against its molten skin. It swiped at her but she was too quick. She paralyzed the demon with a glyph before entrenching it in its own personal snowstorm. With a hard thrust, she shattered the demon, impaling it on her sword. Her storms raged on around her, winds whipping her silver curls against her tear streaked cheeks, snow and ice pelting against her hands and face. The lightening cracked as it struck the Venatori down. She stood on the steps near the large rift, eyes roaming over the battlefield. Bull was swinging his axe against two archers while Blackwall and Cassandra cornered a pride demon. Dorian and Sera were providing cover for Varric as he darted around from foe to foe while Solas provided support and dealt with a pair of despair demons.
 
Slowly, as if in a trance, she made her way to the centre of the room and lifted her hand, feeling the mark burn against her palm. She pulled against the rift until it snapped shut and fell to her knees, panting, both storms flickering out as though they had never been.
 
“Herald?” Blackwall was the first to reach her. “Are you alright?” he asked as he dropped to a knee beside her.
 
“I think she may need some rest. She has closed many rifts very quickly.”
 
“The door. Check the door.”
 
“We need a key.” Leliana said, coming out from the shadows she had been using to hide her presence as she struck down the enemies.
 
“Split up. Two groups. Find the key.” She was barely capable of full sentences. She felt so drained; emotionally and physically.
 
“I will stay with Aryael in case of any problems.”
 
“Cassandra you take one team, I the other. Blackwall, Sera, you’re with me.” Leliana’s tone brokered no argument and she set off to take the left staircase.
 
“Bull, Varric, Dorian, we shall take the other side.”
 
“Be careful,” she whispered as they all dispersed.
 
Solas sat himself on the ground beside her looking to the other side of the room as she continued to stare at the ground.
 
“Aryael.”
 
She ignored him.
 
“Aryael. Sathan.
 
She looked up at him slowly, noting the worried look in his eyes. Her lip trembled and she fell against him, her head resting on his shoulder.
 
It’s not supposed to be like this.
 
And what is it supposed to be like.
 
Not like this. ” She twisted her fingers into his tunic, taking a deep breath.
 
You are not what you appear to be, are you?
 
Neither are you.
 
Solas chuckled.
 
Have you…
 
Have I what? Always known? Yes.
 
He wrapped an arm around her, rubbing his fingers over her back.
 
This has been hard for you to see.
 
I didn’t want you to come ,” she confessed, voice shaking.
 
He stiffened. “You knew .”
 
I know many things .”
 
He pulled back, staring into her eyes.
 
Who are you ?”

I don’t know …” she whispered, tears once more springing to her eyes as she trembled under the weight of his gaze.
 
His eyes searched hers, confusion and fear drawn upon his face. For once he had no mask. He raised his hand, thumb brushing away her tears.
 
We will get you back. And you will set it right.
 
What if I can’t ?”
 
You can. You will. Have faith, da’lan. You have the Dread Wolf’s blessing.” He lowered himself, lips lightly brushing against her forehead, warm and dry against her skin. She blinked, the sound of returning footsteps reminding her that she needed to get moving. Corypheus would be there at any moment.
 
“I think I found a way into his chambers.” Dorian called.
 
Solas stood, reaching down his hand to her and pulled her up. She slipped her fingers between his, squeezing his hand as the others gathered around them.
 
“Let’s end this.”
 
She followed Dorian towards the large door at the end of the hall, hand still clasped with Solas’.
 
Dorian fiddled with shards of red lyrium, twisting them into grooves and made a handle. He looked back at her.
 
“Ready?”
 
“Let’s get this over with.”
 
He opened the door and they strode in to find Alexius staring at the back wall.
 
“And here I thought you’d throw me a welcome party.” She stepped forward, letting go of Solas’ hand and immediately regretted the loss of his warmth.
 
“And here you are. Finally. I knew that you would appear again. Not that it would be now. But I knew I hadn’t destroyed you. My final failure.”
 
“Was it worth it? Everything you did the world? To yourself?”
 
“It doesn’t matter now. All we can do is wait for the end.”
 
“What do you mean? What’s ending?”
 
“The irony that you should appear now, of all the possibilities.” He chuckled. “All that I fought for. All that I betrayed and what have I wrought? Ruin and death. There is nothing else. The Elder One comes. For me. For you. For us all.”
 
“Leliana, please, don’t.” She turned as she saw the glint of the woman’s dagger from the corner of her eye.
 
“Felix!”
 
“Felix? Maker’s breath Alexius, what have you done?”
 
“He would have died, Dorian. I saved him.”
 
“You call this saving him? Honestly? You have truly lost your mind, you old fool!” Ari cried out.
 
“Let him go and I swear I’ll give you anything you want.”
 
I want the world back.” Leliana pulled the blade slowly across the boy’s, throat blood spurting out and sliding down his neck as she let his lifeless body fall to the floor.
 
“No. NOOOOO!!” Alexius cried out, raising his staff and knocking Leliana back.
 
She rushed in, spirit blade drawn and attacked, She felt the pop of Solas’ barrier around her and smiled, darting to the left to avoid a shot from Alexius’ staff. Blackwall swung his blade against him as Cassandra bashed him with a shield while Bull brought his axe down overhead. It wasn’t enough. Alexius pushed them back with a mind blast that had them all landing on their backs.
 
Dorian and Solas tried to break through his barrier as she felt the familiar tug behind her of a rift opening.
 
“DEMONS!” she called out as she sprinted for the rift. She let the other’s draw the attention of the horde of demons, Sera sending arrows flying to keep them cornered.
 
The fight was bloody and she felt her mana draining. They could not hold out much longer. She closed the rift, turning her attention back to Alexius who was on the offensive again. Bull circled him as Cassandra attempted to back him into a corner. Leliana shot arrow after arrow until his barrier finally cracked under her persistence and Cassandra saw her opportunity. With a quick thrust, she sent her sword clean through his chest. Alexius gulped for air, blood trailing from the corner of his mouth as his eyes bulged.
 
They were all out of breath, covered in sweat and blood. Dorian approached the still body of his one-time mentor, and kneeled.
 
“He wanted to die, didn’t he. All those lies he told himself, the justifications… He lost Felix long ago and he didn’t even notice. Oh, Alexius…” The mage sighed as he pulled the amulet from Alexius’ neck, the chain breaking with a loud clink echoing in the silent hall.
 
“I know you cared for him,” she offered her sympathy as she approached him.
 
“Once he was a man to whom I compared all others. Sad, isn’t it?” Dorian gave a small shake of his head, turning to examine the amulet. “This is the same amulet he used before. I think it’s the same one we made in Minrathous. That’s a relief. Give me an hour to work out the spell he used and I should be able to reopen the rift.”
 
“An hour?! That’s impossible! You must go now!”
 
The floor began to shake and she fell against Solas’ side as broken pieces of stone fell from the roof. Wailing of demons could be heard in the near distance.
 
“The Elder One.” Leliana said with fear in her eyes.
 
“You cannot stay here.” Solas grabbed her arms and spun her to face him, face overcome with worry.
 
“Solas-”
 
“No. We’ll hold the outer door. When they get past us, it will be your turn.” He pulled her against him and kissed the crown of her head before turning towards the others.
 
“I WON’T LET YOU DIE FOR ME,” she screamed, running after him and staring wide eyed at her friends. “You can’t die…” she whispered.
 
“Look at us. We’re already dead. The only way we live is if this day never comes. Cast your spell,” Leliana said as she drew her bow and arrow, giving her a curt nod in farewell. “You have as much time as I have arrows.”
 
She stared helplessly as one by one her companions headed out the door to face their deaths.
 
“Princess, we have to go.” Dorian called to her as he held the amulet. She could feel his mana pooling, slipping inside the amulet to unlock its spell.
 
The sound of crashing blades and painful cries filled her ears.
 
“Though darkness closes, I am shielded by flame.”
 
Her eyes were pouring tears, nose burning as she held her first to her mouth, hugging herself with her left arm around the waist.
 
With a loud thud, Bull’s mangled body came flying through the now open door.
 
Leliana let loose her arrows, dropping mages and demons by the second. She saw Solas backing up against the horde, stepping over the fallen bodies of their comrades, his staff discarded as he hurled his magic against the demon army.
 
“Andraste guide me. Maker, take me to your side.”
 
Leliana was swarmed by demons, using her bow as both staff and sword, she hacked at the demons, diving and rolling as she let them fall to dust around her. Solas was pierced with multiple arrows, falling to his knees just as Leliana was sent flying against a pillar with a loud crack by a pride demon.
 
“No!” she cried trying to run towards them before Dorian pulled her back. “You move, we all die!”
 
Solas sent sharpened ice flying towards the demons, drawing a spirit sword from the Fade and slashing them down as they surrounded him. She heard faint, crackling, humming and her vision blurred as the light from behind her began to encase her. The last thing she saw was the claw of a terror plunging through Solas’ chest as his eyes stared into hers.
 


 
Her gaze flicked around the room, taking in the face of each of her companions. Their living, breathing, red lyriumless faces.
 
“You’ll have to do better than that.”
 
She closed her eyes in a silent prayer of thanks and turned to face Alexius, who had fallen to his knees.
 
“You have fallen far, Alexius. Surrender. Now.”
 
“You won. There is no point extending this charade. Felix…”
 
“It’s going to be alright father.”
 
“You’ll die.”
 
“Everyone dies.”
 
Inquisition agents came forward to take him into custody and Ari sighed with relief. Her body was trembling still and the image of Solas’ dying face was stuck in her mind’s eye. She barely registered Dorian speaking to her, as she stood rooted to the spot.
 
The unmistakable sound of clanking armour as knights marched, however, could not be ignored.
 
Alistair.
 
She turned, facing the entryway with wide eyes. She watched as the tall frame of the King of Ferelden made its way up to the dais. His golden hair was combed back, no longer showing his unruly curl. Face, clean-shaven with deep laugh lines etched at the corners of his eyes. His skin was taut with prominent dark smudges under his eyes, most likely from sleepless nights worrying about Arwynne.
 
“Grand Enchanter. Imagine how surprised I was to learn you’d given Redcliffe Castle away to a Tevinter Magister.” The sound of his voice rolled over her and she felt her stomach flip-flop with nerves. Alistair had been the first character she had ever truly come to care for, appreciating depth underneath his sarcasm and insecurities. She had cried when he left her elf-mage to be King in her first playthrough and had created Arwynne so that they never had to part. She hated his evil sister and was so glad to learn that she wasn’t really related to the beautiful, pure soul that was her Warden’s rock.
 
“King Alistair!”
 
“Especially since I’m fairly certain Redcliffe belongs to Arl Teagan.”
 
“Your Majesty, we never intended…”
 
“I know what you intended. I wanted to help you. But you’ve made it impossible.”
 
Slowly, Ari descended the steps to the right of Fiona, her eyes never leaving the King. Her heart broke as he shook his head at his mother, clearly torn by duty and personal desires.
 
“You and your followers are no longer welcome in Ferelden.”
 
“But… we have hundreds who need protections! Where will we go?”
 
“The Inquisition still has need of your assistance, Grand Enchanter.” Her voice was soft, her eyes barely flicking over the elven woman at her left. Her focus was entirely on Alistair.
 
He looked at her then, eyes flashing as they roamed over her face. He took a startled step backwards before he regained his composure.
 
“And what would the terms of this arrangement be?”
 
“Hopefully better than what Alexius gave you. The Inquisition is better than that, yes?”
 
“I know you are a mage, but consider how these rebels have acted. They must be conscripted, not coddled.”
 
The others all voiced their opinions in similar fashion except Solas, who was eerily quiet.
 
“It seems we have little choice but to accept whatever you offer.”
 
Ari’s gaze was finally torn from Alistair’s as she turned to face Fiona. “An alliance. We would be honoured to have you fight as allies at the Inquisition’s side.”
 
Don’t worry, Ali. I’ll watch over her for you.
 
“I’ll pray that the rest of the Inquisition honours your promise then.”
 
“The Breach threatens us all. Being divided only hurts us. We can’t fight this alone.”
 
“I’d take that offer, if I were you. One way or another, you’re leaving my kingdom.”
 
Fiona bowed her head in shame. “We accept. It would be madness not to.” She looked to Ari, raising her head and straightening her shoulders. “I will gather my people and ready them for the journey to Haven. The breach will be closed. You will not regret giving us this chance.”
 
Ari clasped the woman’s forearm before turning back to Alistair. His gaze flickered down to the faintly glowing mark on her hand.
 
“Herald.”
 
“Your Majesty.”
 
“It seems that I am in the debt of the Inquisition for both ridding me of the Tevinter Magister and taking the Rebel Mages off of my hands.”
 
“You owe us nothing, Your Majesty. We are glad to have been of service.”
 
“Right. Well. I should... I should go. Now. Right. Yes. I’m going back to Denerim now.”
 
Ari smiled.
 
Some things don’t change.
 
She fell into a graceful curtsy, lowering her head in deference to his station.
 
Dareth Shiral.”
 
She looked up at him from under her lashes, head still bowed and noticed the flicker of curiosity dance across his features before he gave her a light bow of the head and turned on his heel, leaving her to deal with her demons.

Chapter Text

It had been a few hours since they had returned from their escapades in the future. Ari had refused medical attention much to the chagrin of her comrades the entire time they had been preparing the mages and themselves for travel.
 
“Aryael, you are wounded. You need to be tended to.”
 
Her gaze was unfocused as she turned towards Solas.
 
“I’ll see to her,” Dorian said, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and steering her towards the massive oak doors leading out into the courtyard.
 
Ari paid no attention, following Dorian’s guidance as they headed out into the late afternoon sun. She was lost in her mind.
 
They all died. They all died to save me. Me. Me who doesn’t even understand what I’m doing here. I’m supposed to be the one to save them, not the other way around.
 
Cassandra followed them out of the castle.
 
“Aryael, we must discuss the situation.” The woman’s pace was brisk as she rushed to catch up to them.
 
“Not now, Cassandra. Ply her with your questions tomorrow. Can’t you see that she is in no shape to be harassed?” Dorian pulled her closer against his side, heading towards the stables.
 
Cassandra stopped midstride, face screwed in confusion as she watched the Altus whisk away her friend.
 
“Thank you,” Aryael murmured.
 
“Think nothing of it, Princess.” He led her to sit, gently pulling at the torn fabric of her shoulder as he knelt in front of her. His magic was warm as it trickled into her wound, knitting flesh together.
 
She looked down at her knees, face bereft of any emotion.
 
“I think its best we leave this place. The sooner the better.”
 
“Yes.” She looked up at him. “We have to go to Haven.”
 
And I have to face Corypheus.
 
Dorian nodded. “Shall I tell them that we are leaving? If we’re lucky we might be able to reach the Upper Lake Camp before its too dark.”
 
“No. I don’t want… Too many people. Honestly, I’d prefer to travel alone though I doubt anyone would allow it.”
 
Dorian gave her a sad look. “It won’t come to pass, Aryael. We won’t allow it.”
 
Ari clenched her fists and stared into his eyes with a fierce determination.
 
“No, we won’t.”
 


 
Dorian had collected her companions and they had set out through the Hinterlands to return to Haven, stopping as the sun began to go down north of the Upper Lake Camp. Ari had left the others to set up camp while she found a nearby stream to wash the sweat and blood off of her.
 
She slowly peeled her robes and smalls off.
 
Protect from everything my ass.
 
She knelt by the bed of the stream, dipping the blood soaked fabrics into the water and attempted to scrub it as best she could. The water turned a faint rusted colour as it ran downstream. She gave up after twenty minutes, admitting defeat and laying the robes to dry over the grass. Turning back to the stream, she waded in and plopped herself down, sending ripples of water out around her as the water splashed. She sat up to her navel in cool water, bringing her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around her legs to rest her chin on her knees. She replayed the events at Redcliffe over in her mind, lost to the horrific images and completely unaware of the footsteps approaching her.
 
“You’ll catch cold if you stay in there much longer, Princess.”
 
Dorian sat himself down on the grass to her right and she turned her cheek to rest on her knee as she looked over at him, feeling no shame or embarrassment at her nudity. It was only Dorian, after all.
 
“That’s what being a mage is for,” she said, lowering her hand to the stream and setting small flames over top to warm the water.
 
“Have you always been able to cast like that?” Dorian asked her.
 
“Always.”
 
“Interesting. Your flair and deftness for magic is truly stunning.”
 
She hummed, pulling her hand back to her calves as rivulets of warm water ran down her shins to return to the stream.
 
“I wanted to thank you,” she murmured. “You went along with me back there and I…”
 
“How did you know about Leliana, Aryael?” He gave her a serious look.
 
She sighed, unsure of how to broach the subject.
 
“I… I know things. Lots of things. Things I shouldn’t really know because they haven’t happened yet.”
 
“This was not your first foray into time magic, was it?”
 
“That’s not exactly true or false. It’s much more complex. I… Gods, I wouldn’t even know how to begin.”
 
“Do you know this Elder One?”
 
“He’s a Magister. A really, really old magister. And he’s going to attack Haven just after we close the Breach.”
 
“What?! We need to do-“ Dorian’s eyes practically popped out of their sockets, his body language frantic.
 
“We can’t do anything. The music plays on and so we must dance.” She closed her eyes, wondering why she was telling Dorian these things.
 
“How do you-“
 
“Dorian, if you want to prevent the future you saw from happening… you have to trust me. Trust that I know what I need to do to ensure it never comes to that.”
 
“You’re not a simple Dalish elf, are you?”
 
“No… I’m not exactly sure what I am if I’m being honest. What I am sure of is that I can stop Corypheus. That I will stop Corypheus. And then… well, then I don’t know. I don't really have answers that I can give you right now.”
 
Dorian was silent as he stared her, taking in what she had just revealed to him. “You really should dress and return to camp. The others won’t stay back for long and while Cassandra may let you sleep before she berates you, they’re all fairly unnerved over what happened and need to see you close by.”
 
“You’re right. I know.” She stood then, waving her hand and bringing warm water up with her to brush gently against her skin and remove the grime, sweat and blood. She sifted her water-wrapped fingers through her hair, detangling her curls and braids to wash it clean before letting the water fall peacefully back to the stream.
 
“You really…” she turned back to see Dorian with awe in his eyes. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
 
Ari gave him a non-chalant shrug as she walked over to her bag and rummaged through it to find a clean tunic. “You just have to let yourself feel the magic.” She slipped the dark grey material over her arms to slip down over her body and faced Dorian as he rose from his feet. She cocked her head and gave him a once over. “You, my dear Altus, are in desperate need of a bath yourself.”
 
“Well, Princess, seeing as I can’t do anything half so fancy as you… I’ll be a while.”
 
Ari approached him as he began to undress, “I… thank you, Dorian. For supporting me. For not pushing.” She gave him a small smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.
 
“Aryael. I’m not sure what burdens you bear but you don’t have to bear them alone. If what you say is true, I offer myself to your cause wholeheartedly. I won’t see that future come to pass.” He bent over and gave her quick kiss on the cheek before he turned to continue undressing and wash himself of the days events.
 
“I’ll see you in the morning,” She turned and headed back towards the camp, feet bare against the cool grass. The hem of her tunic slid against her lower thigh as she moved forward with her sack in hand and half-dry robe over her arm. She rounded a cluster of trees and noted that Bull sat with Varric, Sera and Blackwall at the campfire while Cassandra sharpened her sword on a whetstone. Solas was nowhere in sight.
 
For a moment her heart froze over, eyes frantically searching for him as she approached the camp. She let out a small sigh of relief as she saw him by the horses, brushing down her mare. Her lips quirked in a half-smile at the sight.
 
He didn’t notice her watching him, his long fingers moving the brush against the mare’s neck as he crooned to her. She could hear Varric regaling the others with another tale of the Champion, detailed descriptions about a group of bandits they had dealt with harassing travellers on the wounded coast. Her gaze flicked over to the tents, noting that a fourth had been set up and decided that she deserved some more alone time. She headed for the new addition to their usual campsite, setting aside the flap and placing her sack just along the right side, spreading her robes out over the ground before she headed back outside to find her bedroll.
 
“Hey Dimples! Join us for a quick game of Wicked Grace?”
 
She turned to her friends with a regretful look on her face.
 
“Not tonight, Varric.”
 
The smile on his face faltered slightly and she could feel everyone’s gaze upon her. She must look a mess, half-dressed and barefoot with wet hair hanging down her back.
 
“Alright Dimples, I’ll take your money another time.” Which was far from the usual case. She swore that Varric purposely lost hands to her in order to keep her purse full.
 
She headed over to the mounts, looking for the rest of her belongings.
 
Da’lan,” Solas called from beside her mare.
 
“Thank you for taking care of Nehn.” She said, eyes finally coming upon her sacks and bedroll.
 
“It was no trouble.” Solas approached her tentatively from behind her.
 
“I-“ she didn’t really know what to say. She didn’t really want to see him right now. Everything was still too fresh. She was scared if she looked at him this close, she would break down and throw herself at him.
 
If you do not wish to speak of it, you do not have to,” he said softly.
 
Her bottom lip trembled and tears began to blur her vision as she clutched her bedroll to her chest.
 
Solas… ” her voice was barely a whisper, rife with pain and sorrow. She felt his hand brush against her arm as he stepped around her and she buried her face into his chest. “Please don’t die for me,” she murmured against his chest as her tears soaked into his tunic.
 
His arms wrapped around her and held her close, stiffening at her words. He couldn’t lie to her. He could withhold things. He could redirect. But lie… he could not lie. And he may be very willing to give his life to save hers if it came down to it. The thought was terrifying to him.
 
They stayed like that for a long moment, Ari burrowing in close to him and his arms trapping both her and bed roll against him. “I would hope you would strive to not put me in such a position, da’lan.” He felt her tense, acknowledging that he would not give her the promise she craved. She sniffed once, pulling herself from his chest slowly.
 
“Would you stay with me...?” she looked away from him, cheeks burning, “For hearth purposes.”
 
Solas’ heart skipped a beat. “If you wish.”
 
She looked up at him then, red eyes filled with relief. “Ma serannas.”

She stepped away then, lowering herself to grab the rest of her things and headed back to the tent she had claimed for herself with a red face. Solas soon followed in her direction, removing his bedroll from the tent he had been to share with Varric and Dorian and entered her tent.
 
Cassandra placed her whetstone back in her sack, sheathing her sword and walked over to sit beside Varric at the fire.
 
“It's been over 3 months, Varric. I believe you owe me 50 royals.”
 

Chapter Text

They had laid on joined bedrolls facing each other for what felt like hours as the sounds of her companions faded away, each turning in for the night. Ari’s face was buried against Solas’ chest with open eyes, head resting on his arm with her hands tangled in his tunic and holding him all but hostage against her. His right arm acted as pillow, fingers lazily playing with her hair as his left held her close, fingers splayed on her lower back dangerously close to her rear. Their legs were intertwined, his left leg thrown over her right as it rested over his right thigh. The soft fabric of his leggings rubbed against her bare legs as she burrowed further against him, briefly sliding against his manhood.
 
Aryael, you should sleep.” His voice was soft and slightly strained.
 
I don’t want to dream. They won’t be dreams, they’ll be nightmares,” she confessed.
 
I will fashion whatever dreams you’d like in the Fade,” he promised her as his hand began to rub her back gently.
 
She shifted herself so that she could look up at him; their faces close in the dark. Though her night vision was quite sharp, she could still just barely make out the shape of his face. “Show me what memories you’ve seen of Elvhenan.” She asked, the breath of her words brushing against his bottom lip. Solas tried to remain indifferent to her request, letting none of his unease show. He had many memories of Elvhenan.
 
“If you wish. But first you must sleep.”
 
“I can’t”
 
“Would you like me to place you under a spell to help?”
 
Sathan.
 
The fingers of Solas’ left hand trailed along her waist and skimmed the side of her breast as he slid it up her body towards her cheek, causing her to shiver slightly from the sensation. His fingers brushed against her temple and she was whisked away from the waking world. 

 


 

She found herself in a very familiar garden, Crystal Grace and Elfroot growing beautifully all around, the rush of the waterfall a soothing sound to her ears. She felt Solas’ hand on her lower back.
 
What is this place?
 
A temple garden. I have seen it in long lost memories as a meeting grounds for friends and lovers alike to bask in each others’ presence.
 
She turned to him then, cheeks slightly flushed at his words. When his eyes met hers, she was once again reminded of the look in his lyrium-tinged eyes as the life bled out of him in Redcliffe. Her breath hitched and she tried to wipe the image from her mind.
 
“Aryael…” he said, reaching his hand to cup her left cheek.
 
I watched you die, Solas. I watched everyone die so that I had a chance to come back. You were the last one standing. I saw you overwhelmed by the sheer volume of demons and then a Terror thrust his claw through your chest. I stared into your eyes as your life faded, helpless to do anything as I was pulled back to the past.” Her voice trembled as she looked up at the man who held her heart in his hands.
 
Solas pulled her closer with his other hand on her hip, bringing his forehead down to touch against hers, closing his eyes.
 
The moment Alexius’ spell activated I felt you being ripped away. It was as though a void had replaced the light of your spirit in the world. It was mere moments but it felt like eternity. I was powerless to do anything. I thought you died. I thought I would never see you again or hear your laugh.”

Ari’s hands slid up his chest to wrap her arms around his neck loosely.

I never want to feel that way again,” his soft confession brushed against her skin and she felt her whole world shift.
 
Solas withdrew from her slightly, sliding his fingers into her hair at her nape and tilting her head up towards him. He pulled her in and kissed her, his soft lips sending sparks and shivers coursing through her. She leaned in, her mouth pliant against his and a soft moan escaped her, muffled against him. Instantly, the kiss changed. Solas tightening his hold in her hair, tongue demanding entrance into her mouth as his free hand slid from her hip to her round ass, fingers digging in as he drew her fully against him. She tightened her arms around his neck, desire clouding her head as she returned his fervour. Their tongues danced, a guttural moan rumbling from Solas that was lost in the meeting of their mouths. She could feel his length hardening against her and she pressed closer, needing more. His leg slipped between hers, thigh rubbing against her core as she tugged on his bottom lip with her teeth. He pulled her hair, moaning as he leaned into her, arching her back and pulling her up by her ass, dragging her heat against his thigh as he pressed his hardness firmly onto her.
 
They were lost in each other. They were devouring each other.
 
Panting lightly with flushed cheeks and pupils blown wide, they parted just a touch to look into each other’s eyes. Ari’s chest was crushed against his and she was all but riding his leg with his fingers tangled in her hair. Their lips were swollen and eyes afire with desire. Her body was aching for him.
 
Ar lath ma, vhenan.” Solas’ voice was laced with a heady mix of want and love.

Ari’s full lips, tingling from his kiss, slowly parted into a smile as she slipped her hand down his neck to cup his face, thumb brushing against his cheek.
 
Ar lath ma, ma’sal’shiral.”
 
She pulled his face closer as she pressed her lips to his in the most tender of kisses before they were both called from the Fade.

 


 

She awoke in a very different position than the one she had fallen asleep in, her face pressed to his neck as she lay on top of him, hands on his chest and legs spread while she straddled his hips. His swollen member was flush with her bare slit. Her tunic had ridden up over the course of the night, the hem falling above her waist causing her cheeks to burn with both desire and embarassment.
 
Vhenan? ” His voice was deep, coloured from sleep.
 
The endearment brought a smile to her face, lips curving against the skin of his neck. She pressed a quick kiss to the sensitive skin and felt him twitch beneath her before shifting her head to his shoulder so that she could look up at him.
 
On dhea,” she purred.
 
He wore a wolfish smile as he looked down at her through hooded eyes.
 
“Aryael, Solas, we’re ready to break camp.” Cassandra stood awkwardly outside their tent. She had been calling to them for a few minutes now but only now heard the rustling noises of wakefulness. “Have you woken?”
 
I am going to kill that woman.
 
“Yes, Cassandra. We will be out shortly.” Solas called out, his hands sliding down her back to her hips in order to help her up. She bit her bottom lip and rocked them against him, holding back her moan as his erection responded. She didn’t want to go anywhere right now.
 
His eyes were dark and heavy as they looked into hers. “Ma’sa’lath,” he began, tone semi-chiding but rumbling with desire, “we have to return to Haven.”
 
“I don’t want to.”
 
Solas sighed. “You are-“
 
His words were cut off as her fingers tipped his chin towards her and she pressed her lips to his. He returned her kiss with all the passion of a man starved for touch, rolling them over so that she was pinned beneath him. Her hands held his face as she drowned in their kiss, lifting her hips to roll against him and whimpering against his lips.
 
He broke away from her mouth, face strained as his hands held her hips firmly so as to keep her from moving against him.
 
Isalan alas’nira aron fen’en,” her voice was throaty and raw with need.
 
His eyes flashed with something feral as she spoke, sending heat thrumming through her. She was throbbing with want from his kiss in the Fade.
 
Jutuan ma ir rosas’da’din, ma tel’aman melin,” he promised her, making her moan softly and strain against his grip on her hips while she bit her lip. His eyes darted to her mouth and she saw his deep breath. “ When I can have you to myself with no interruptions.”
 
She frowned, brow furrowing in discontent.
 
“Solas…”
 
Vhenan , I would have you scream for me and only me, with none of our companions around to hear you,” he whispered, freeing one hand to tuck an errant curl behind her ear.
 
She took a sharp inhale of breath at his words, sliding her hands over his chest.
 
“Have it your way,” she whispered, breathless.
 
He flashed her a wicked smile full of lecherous promise.
 
“I will.”

Chapter Text

Ari and Solas had risen from their shared bedroll begrudgingly, sharing touches and soft kisses as they dressed. She had just put on her wool leggings and was about to braid her hair when she felt Solas’ hands on hers, his lips briefly caressing her neck as he pulled her hair from her hands.
 
Allow me,” he whispered against her skin before his fingers combed through her soft curls, twining thick pieces into a loose braid over her left shoulder.
 
She stood perfectly still, the feel of his attentions sending small waves of pleasure throughout her body.
 
Ma serannas ,” she said, turning to face him and slide her hands up his chest, lifting her head up for a kiss, raising herself up slightly on the balls of her feet. He smirked before bending down to place a small peck on her lips. She frowned, slipping her hands over his shoulders and pulling on him.
 
Vhenan, we have to go.
 
Just one proper kiss.” She pressed her chest against his invitingly.
 
He bent down, sliding his hands down over her hips and pulling her in, claiming her lips in a passionate kiss. She slid her right hand around the nape of his neck, prodding his lips with her tongue. Their mouths melded together, seeking dominance of each other in a battle of passion. Solas’ teeth grazed her bottom lip, pulling it between them and tugging gently before releasing her. She grinned, eyes twinkling as she looked up at him, lowering herself back down.
 
“Mmm… that was much better.”
 
He returned her smile, desire flashing in her eyes and she giggled as he took her hand in his, leading her from the tent.
 
“Gooooood morning, Dimples, Chuckles.” Varric called out with a wide grin. He sat near the doused firepit, playing a hand of Diamondback with the others.
 
The others who had similar grins on their faces as they watched the two elves approach.
 
“You know, I just about thought that we’d be here all day waiting for you two,” the dwarf remarked slyly.
 
“Solas wouldn’t let me stay in the tent. IIII would have been perfectly fine ignoring the world for a day,” she said with a little ‘hmmph’.
 
“We must return to Haven,” Cassandra declared with a look of surprise. Usually Ari was the one rushing them around, trying to do every little thing they could, as fast as they possibly could. It had been non-stop since she awoke in Thedas.
 
“I know.”
 
She let go of Solas’ hand, sitting herself beside Dorian as he went off to help Bull and Blackwall take down the tents. She lay her head on Dorian’s shoulder, looking up at him from beneath her thick, dark lashes.
 
“Sleep well?” she asked.
 
“Perfectly fine, my dear. And you?”
 
“Marvelously,” she replied, a smile tugging at her lips.
 
Sera snorted. “Bet you dinnit sleep much at all.”
 
Ari blushed.
 
“Of course I slept!” she replied with a little too much enthusiasm. It caused a round of laughter, Bull’s chuckle carrying to her ears from nearby tents.
 
“Ok, maybe you slept. But you wasn’t sleeping when you was sleeping. Sexy fade times, yea? Glory and Elfiest. Interesting.”
 
She could all but feel Solas’ groan.
 
“I’m not sure that’s your business, Sera.” The tips of her ears were burning.
 
“Fine. Cause I meant boring. Go rebuild the empire. Rawr!”
 
Ari laughed. “You are ridiculous.”

She stood and stretched. “Cassandra’s right. We need to head back to Haven as quickly as possible. I’ve no time to be lazy and I’ve made us miss a few hours of daylight it seems. I’m sure both Cassandra and Cullen would like to lecture me. In private. Where they can yell.” She tossed the warrior woman a playful smile, hoping to offset her ire at Ari’s decision to align with the mages as allies.
 
“I do not yell.”
 
“Seeker, you yell. You stab things. Especially innocent books. Accept your violent nature as I have,” Varric said with a wink.
 
Cassandra fumbled for words, cheeks turning red before she walked away. Ari shot a glance between the two with a suspicious eye.
 
Maybe Solas and I aren’t the only ones redefining our relationship?

 


 
Ari’s head broke the surface of a clear blue lake, water running down her forearms as she pushed her hair back from her face. She smiled, lazily swimming through the warm water as she basked in the late afternoon sun.
 
“The wolf really likes you,” she heard from the shore. Turning, she noticed the spirit child sitting on the bank.
 
She smiled, making her way towards land.
 
“I really like the wolf.”
 
The child giggled. “You always really liked the wolf. Well, maybe not the first time you saw him.”
 
“The first time?” she asked, walking out from the water and twisting her hair to drip on the grass over her right shoulder.
 
“The day I met you.”
 
Her face screwed in confusion. She had met the spirit child when she arrived in Thedas.
 
I was already half in love with Solas when I was just Aryael Lavoie…
 
The child nodded, bounding up to take her hand in theirs.
 
“You’re mending though. Still broken; some pieces are missing.”
 
“I don’t understand.”
 
The child smiled. “You will.”
 
She turned her head, following as the child led her into the forest. Spirits watched, curious as they passed by. Her eyes roamed over them, soft and bright colours of orange, blue, green and red… A veritable rainbow among the brush.
 
“Are they scared of me?” She asked, turning down to look at the child. She had wondered why no other spirits approached her but Wisdom and the child. It saddened her, to be honest, that she was unable to speak with others.
 
“They could never be scared of you, Ari.”
 
The child did not elaborate and she did not push. She had become accustomed to the way it divulged information. Only what it thought she needed to know, when she needed to know it.
 
They came across a glade, the child darting off join another with a long silver haired braid falling down their back. The silver-haired child had her back to her and wore dark green robes that were similar to the ones her mother had made her years ago. She could hear her laugh as the spirit child joined her, pointed ears peeking out through her silver tresses, body trembling with mirth. She bent down and picked up a small bow and quiver, heading into the thicket of trees after the spirit child.
 
Her body tensed, recognizing that the child was in fact her. But she had no recollection of this. She had never seen the spirit child before. Her memories had reconciled into a calm peace, snippets of her time in both lifetimes side beside in her mind as if they were one. She knew her lives. She knew them well. The sound her brother made when he scored his first goal in AAA hockey. The smell of her mother’s stew, slowly cooking over the fire in front of their aravel. Keeper Deshanna telling stories to the children of Arlathan. Baking scones with her grandmother and preparing trail mix for afternoon hikes. But she did not remember the child.
 
She wracked her brain, trying to reconcile what she had just seen. She had no recollection of ever using a bow as a child. Her magic had showed at a very young age. Her mother had often jested that she was born in it, lightening crackling in her eyes.
 
Her thoughts were chaotic with confusion as she left the Fade for the waking world.

 


 
They arrived in Haven in the morning hours, Cullen meeting them at the stables the second he spotted them.
 
“Herald.”
 
“Yes, Commander?” she answered while avoiding looking at him as she dismounted. She placed her forehead to Nehn’s nose, fingers grazing her neck and promising to visit her later before handing the reins off to Dennett.
 
“We must discuss Redcliffe.”
 
“Yes, I know. There will be abominations, we must be prepared!” she said in a mocking tone. "Tell me, Commander. Has it escaped your notice that I myself, am in fact a mage?” She turned to him, clasping her hands behind her back and arching her left eyebrow. She noted Vivienne approaching with Josephine behind him. Leliana remained strangely absent.
 
“The Commander is right my dear. The circles exist for a reason.” Vivienne called out as she joined their little tête á tête.
 
They were starting to gather a small crowd, Templars and Mages alike curious as to where this was going. All of Haven seemed to have heard of the events at Redcliffe.
 
“We should discuss the matter in the war room,” she suggested. She pointedly looked at Josephine, Cassandra and Cullen before making to head into the town.
 
“Herald, I feel that my expertise on the subject-“
 
“Madame de Fer. I am ever grateful for your support of the Inquisition. The work you have done to build and expand our connections will not be forgotten. However, this is a matter best discussed by those with direct oversight and myself, who made the decision on their behalf.”
 
Vivienne pursed her lips, clearly unhappy. Josephine, ever the diplomat, sought to placate her and invited her to join them as she did have certain experiences as the unordained First Enchanter of the Monstimmard Circle. Ari in turn invited Solas and Dorian for their expertise as mages as well. The sneer was not missed. They walked in silence towards the Chantry, onlookers pretending to be busy as they watched with mixed emotions.
 
They entered the small chamber one by one, Dorian and Solas flanking her sides at the head of the map table while Cullen stood on the far right, Josephine to his right with Vivienne standing opposed to Ari. Leliana joined them, with Cassandra, opposite of Cullen.
 
“The offer to the mages has been made.” Josephine’s accented voice filled the room. “If we rescind the offer of an alliance, it makes the Inquisition appear incompetent at best, fanatical at worst.”
 
Ari nodded in agreement, arms crossed under her breasts.
 
“What were you thinking, turning mages loose with no oversight? The veil is torn open!” Cullen’s hands gripped the edge of the table, fear and anger smearing his handsome face.
 
“The Mages are people. A people who fought for freedoms denied to them simply because of the circumstances of their birth-“
 
Vivienne scoffed loudly and she could see Cullen about to interrupt her. She raised her hand to halt him, sending Vivienne a glare.

“No, whatever you say that is exactly what the circles have done. Mages are not just mages. They are people. They are people with wants and needs who deserve the opportunity to have those satisfied. Yes, magic can be dangerous. Yes, magic can cause harm. Yes, the veil is currently torn apart and demons are spilling through all over Thedas. That does not mean that we should ignore the issue of freedom.”
 
She uncrossed her arms, slamming her hands on the table and leaning over, as she looked each of her advisors in the eye.
 
“No one deserves to have their freedom taken from them due to forces out of their control. A circumstance of birth is just that. We should be teaching our mages and guiding them, not sequestering them away and berating them, beating them down into submission and harassing them at every corner with swords and other abuses. Deciding their entire lives for them.”
 
She turned her full attention to Vivienne then.
 
“Do you even know how bad a circle can be? Forcing a mage to deal with a hostile spirit, taking away everything, their very personhood, from them if they prove to be what others determine as weak? Do you know of the Templars that rape them? Of the iron gauntlet backhands and do you hear the cries of the children as they are ripped away from their mother’s? The wails, as nightmares of a better life haunt them? Or are you so detached from it all considering you hail from a circle full of nobles whose families would never allow their children to be abused? Who looks out for the common man? Tell me!” She demanded, turning a hostile look to each of them.
 
She made a disgusted sound, raising herself to a standing position once again.
 
“I gave them what was decided they did not deserve. If you do not like it, stop calling me your blasted herald and sending me out as your symbol.”

She was met with stunned silence, the stares of everyone in the room upon her. Vivienne’s eyes were wide open, hand slightly raised in her shock as she took a step back. It was as though everything Ari had just said, all the horrors and atrocities that filled the circles, were things she had never even considered. She was taken aback, clearly.
 
She thought she noticed a twinkle of admiration in Leliana’s eyes, as though she very much approved of what she had said. Cullen, for his part, grimaced at the sting of truth. He saw first hand how bad it could be at Kirkwall, how desperate mages can get for their freedom at Kinloch Hold. He knew she spoke truth. Freedom was the answer here, whether he liked it or not.
 
She could hear the hum of approval from both Solas and Dorian and was glad she had invited them here. She wasn’t sure how much support she would get for how strongly she felt on the subject and had very much needed their support of her.
 
“Aryael makes valid points. While I did not agree with the decision completely at first, I cannot deny that her words hold truth. I support this decision. Aside from the obvious issues at large, the mission to attain the mages’ assistance in closing the breach has been accomplished, Commander. You must at least cede that point. All that matters right now is that we close the Breach. We can deal with everything else after. Including the issue of the Mages’ freedom.”
 
“Cassandra is correct. We must deal with the Breach as soon the Mages arrive.”
 
Solas was the calm voice of reason after her outburst, reminding them of their responsibilities.
 
“We will.” Ari gave a curt nod and turned her attention to Leliana. “We should also look into the events that I saw with Dorian in Redcliffe. Celine, the demon army…”
 
“Sounds like something a Tevinter cult might do. Orlais falls, the Imperium rises. Chaos for everyone.”
 
Ari smirked, flashing Dorian a smile.
 
“Magisters do love their chaos.”
 
“Of course! How else could they outshine each other, my dear?”
 
“One battle at a time. It’s going to take time to organize our troops and the mage recruits. Of course, this all means nothing without your mark.” Cullen seemed resigned to follow along with Ari, knowing full well they needed her.
 
I wonder how long it will last…
 
“I’ll close the Breach, Cullen. You don’t have to fret. Now, I am tired. It has been a long journey. In fact, it has been many longs months and I would like to pretend that the world is not being threatened by an ‘Elder One’ or the Breach for at least one night before I march towards what could very well be my death. If I may have your leave?” She said, giving a slight bow of her head before heading out the door. She was tired of it all. The constant pace of events; knowing more than she should yet not enough. She just wanted to see Shora, trade stories over drinks with her friends in the tavern and pretend she wasn’t about to almost die at the hands of Corypheus. Maybe find Solas in his cabin, alone.
 
It’s all about to go to shit. They better not fucking kneel and sing.
 
She groaned as she opened the Chantry door and headed back into town.
 
Tabernak!

Chapter Text

Ari opened the door to her cabin and threw herself on her bed. Flopping over onto her back, she stared up at the wooden ceiling.
 
Haven is going to be obliterated…
 
She rubbed her face with her hands.
 
So many innocents. I don’t… Wisdom must be wrong. There has to be a way to change things. Things are already different. I’m different.
 
She heard a knock on her door.
 
“Come in,” she called, turning her head towards the door.
 
“Ah, it seems fighting for Mages’ rights is exhausting.” Dorian’s voice filled her small cabin as he entered, closing the door behind him.
 
“It’s not just Mages’ rights I’m after.” She offered him a smile.
 
“And what are you after?” he asked, pulling out a chair from her table and taking a seat.
 
Ari sat up, swinging her legs off the side of the cot.
 
“I want to change things. Stop senseless fighting, end prejudices… make it better.” Her words were soft as she gazed down at the floor.
 
Dorian looked at her with a sad wonder in his eyes.
 
“Change is never easy.”
 
“No. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. Have you stopped supporting Maevaris?”
 
Dorian’s mouth fell slightly open.
 
“What do you…” his voice trailed off.
 
Ari closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
 
Dorian will understand. Out of everyone, Dorian will understand.
 
“I… I lived 23 years as a human in another world; a world that was nothing like Thedas and similar all the same. There was no magic but plenty of war and religious fervour that took precedence over people’s rights. You thought I’d experienced time travel. In a way, I did. In that world, Thedas and everything that happens here… It’s a story; a game. An interactive one. You create a character to fill a role. I’ve been the Hero of Ferelden, the Champion of Kirkwall and the Inquisitor, because that’s what the Herald of Andraste becomes.” She opened her eyes and stared into Dorian’s confused face.
 
“I’ve seen it all. I know how it ends, I know all your stories. I don’t… I awoke here in this body after a bright green light appeared in my apartment when I had just finished the game for the hundredth time. I’ve now determined that light to have been the Breach, acting as a gateway between worlds. In the Fade, I met spirits who told me I was broken and a spirit of wisdom elaborated. My soul… is from here. It was broken and I don’t know how. In the other world, I was a human named Aryael Lavoie, political science student and activist. Here, I am Ayrael of Clan Lavellan, First to Keeper Deshanna. I recall both lives perfectly. I’ve lived both lives. My memories are side by side in my mind, intertwined with each other. And everything that’s happening… I’ve seen it all. I know who the ‘Elder One’ is. I know what happened at the Temple of Sacred Ashes. I know the real threat that faces Thedas.”
 
“Kaffas…” Dorian’s face was the picture of incredulity.
 
“I know. I sound mad, don’t I?” Ari laughed nervously.
 
“Aryael, I… you have proven to me that you are… unique and have certain insights… Fasta vass, we’ve travelled through time together. Magic is capable of many things.” He stood, coming to sit at her side on the cot and wrapped his left arm around her shoulder to bring her in for a hug against his chest. She buried her head against his shoulder.
 
“I just… I’ve tried so hard not to reveal myself. They could kill, blame me… Cassandra certainly did at first. They could make me tranquil. And I need to stop Corypheus.”
 
“Corypheus?”
 
“The Elder One. He’s a magister and darkspawn. He claims to have been a priest of Dumat who went into the Fade physically and found the Golden City. And he has an elvhen foci that belongs to the Dreadwolf.”
 
“The Elven God of trickery?”
 
“Of Rebellion. Fen’Harel is not what the Dalish tales tell us.”
 
She clutched at his shirt while he remained silent.
 
This was a mistake. I shouldn’t have told him. He is going to have me put in chains and tell everyone-
 
“Well, then. We face an ancient Darkspawn Magister with the powers of an ancient Elven God. You know all his moves already. This, my dear, we can deal with.”
 
“Well, technically I stole that power. I’m not sure how much; the orb still has magic. But I interrupted the ritual he was performing to get back into the Fade. That’s how I got the mark.” She raised her hand for his inspection.
 
“Alright, Princess. You are going to have to tell me what you know. Not just the short version.”
 
“You… you won’t tell anyone right?” Her voice quavered with her fear.
 
Dorian lifted her chin, forcing her to look him in the eyes.
 
“Aryael, you are a treasure. I have watched you for weeks now, seen your heart and motives in action. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be thrown into a new world, experience multiple lives… it seems outrageous, all of it. Almost more so than time travel. But I believe you. And I believe in you.” He kissed the top of her head. “Now, tell me everything.”
 
And she did. She told him everything. She told him about her life as Aryael Lavoie. How she loved her mother’s sourdough bread and how her brother taught her how to skate when she was small. How she found Dragon Age after her family had been killed in a car accident and the way it had spoken to her. How it helped her through her grief, giving her something to focus on and look forward to. She spoke of her time in university, how she marched in protests and volunteered with the political parties in her world. She spoke of growing up with the Dalish, how her mother would braid her hair. Her father had died when she was small and she never quite remembered him. Though she had been told he was a great hunter. She told tales of Keeper Deshanna and how frustrated she was at her inability to use a staff. She broke them often as a child, it seemed, her magic short-circuiting them in a way. She spoke of exploring ruins with her friends, at how Lyara and Nehnis would tease her for her fascination with the Dreadwolf. She discussed being sent to the Conclave by Deshanna, who hoped this might sate her curious soul. She spoke of the light that had found her in her home. How she awoke in a world both familiar and strange.
 
She told him about the game. About the quests and people. How he had been the one to find Corypheus’ history. How they beat him. How she was meant to be Inquisitor and lead them to Skyhold. How Haven would fall. She told him of the Wardens and Celine.
 
She told him about Solas. She told him about the Dreadwolf. She told him she loved him and she could save him.

She could. She would.
 
She repeated it, muffled into his shoulder as her emotionally drained body gave way to sleep.
 
 
 

Chapter Text

“Wisdom?” Ari called out to her friend, slowly turning around.
 
She was in the hall of Wisdom’s ‘Fade Home’ but Wisdom was nowhere to be found. The spirit had been painfully absent since before the events at Redcliffe. She walked along the empty halls, her eyes roaming over detailed mosaics of long lost tales and closed doors.
 
Da’lan.” She turned to face the sound of Wisdom’s voice.
 
“I saw it. The tainted future.” She wasted no time in getting to the crux of it all.
 
Wisdom nodded, remaining at the far end of the hall.
 
“It was real.” Her voice was loud and accusing, echoing in the empty corridor.
 
“It was what could have been. What could have been, had you not returned.”
 
“You told me there was no such thing as time magic. That everything was an illusion. That it was transportation magic! That it was nothing but a dream of what Corypheus wished for the future!” Ari was furious, eyes flashing with hurt and anger.
 
What could have been? Is she serious?
 
Wisdom remained impassive to her accusations, standing straight and tall as Ari railed at her.
 
“I may have underestimated the abilities of the human mages…” The spirit conceded.
 
MAY HAVE?!” Ari sputtered, reverting to Elvhen in her fury. “I was there Wisdom. You lied to me. You told me I couldn’t change things. You told me it would happen anyways, no matter I did!”
 
Aryael, please calm yourself. I can only keep the dark away for so long if you continue on like this.” Wisdom’s tone was chiding, like a mother reminding her child to use their manners.
 
Ari took a moment to process her words. This was the Fade. Wisdom was a spirit.
 
Her face flushed in shame at her loss of control over her emotions.
 
I could have perverted her from her purpose…
 
“It is not so easy a feat to accomplish for one as old as I, da’lan.” Wisdom offered her comfort, even in the face of her hostility.
 
“Yet the mages succeed.”
 
“Through blood magic and bindings, tearing me through the veil from what I have seen.”
 
Wisdom approached Aryael now, her glowing eyes warm with understanding and compassion.
 
“You have experienced many things and know many things. You returned to us, broken with knowledge that no soul should bear. The events you experienced… You are not meant to know what happens.”
 
“What are you getting at?”
 
“Aryael, your spirit was taken from Thedas. You experienced another world, another life that was separate from Thedas yet you were still connected. You were able to peer into possible futures. Time is a complicated matter. We exist in moments. Spirits do not see time as you do. What can be days for you can appear as mere seconds to us. 'Time' stands still for the most part. Memories exist in the Fade because they are pieces of a long line of events that persist to exist in their moment of existence, continually. Those, such as yourself, who live and breathe, experience it differently. Each moment is new or old. It moves. For us, it is not so.”
 
The spirit slipped her arm through Ari’s and began to guide her down the hall toward the large library.
 
“I know what I know because I have seen it through your eyes. In much the same way Compassion is able to hear your thoughts. Time magic… it is not something that mortals should be capable of. Time is not something that should be able to be altered. What happened in Redcliffe is similar to what happens to spirits when drawn from their purpose: perversion. Twisted corruption that turns them to demons. So it is with time. Think of it as a line. When you bend or twist it at one end, it is no longer straight, it leads to new places, and it changes shape. But time is meant to be straight. It is meant to continue and not halt or veer of course. What you experienced in Redcliffe was that distortion. It should not be feasible. If it were, many others would have attempted to change fate, erase events or change them to what they believe to be better. But to do that, alters the entirety of it all.”
 
She led Ari to a plush, velveteen, red sofa near a large window at the back of the room.
 
“You cannot change time. You mustn’t change time. That was not a lie. It will always fight to return to itself, to regain its balance. In the future you experienced… you arrived and freed your comrades. They fought Corypheus’ army and you stole the means to change time from that timeline. In returning here, you have destroyed that reality, returning the balance to the timeline that was broken in the few moments you left. Many things went wrong when you left Thedas, da’lan. Your return is another way in how the timeline fought to right itself. You were always meant to be here.”
 
Ari looked Wisdom in the eyes as they sat side by side.
 
“You don’t make sense,” she said, shaking her head slowly.
 
“It is a complex matter. I admit that I myself have struggled to reconcile what I know of time and what you experienced. I had thought, through seeing your interpretation of it all, that it could not possibly be factual manipulation of time. But I felt you leave, almost the same way I felt you leave when you left Thedas. You disappeared, Aryael. I can only conclude that that means you did in fact experience an alternate reality formed from a deviation in time that created a new time line from that point.”
 
“So you were wrong.”
 
“I misinterpreted certain factors. That does not change the fact that time is not meant to be trifled with. You returning to Thedas is the perfect example of that. You were never have meant to leave. Your soul fought to return, to complete its purpose here.”
 
“Purpose? You mean defeat Corypheus?”
 
“Among other things. I apologize for the confusion and upset that this experience has caused. And for my part in your confusion. You must, however, remember to continue on in much the same way you have. You must experience things as they are to be, were written to be. You mustn’t try to change those defined moments.”
 
“You mean I can’t save everyone.”
 
“Not in the way you would like, no. Remember da’lan, your heart and soul already know their path. All you must do is listen. As you did when you went to the mages’ rescue instead of the Templars.”
 
Ari looked away, turning her words over in her mind.
 
“I never really thought about it, did I? I just rushed to help the mages’, abandoning the Templars.”
 
“The Templars fate was already decided.”
 
Ari nodded slowly. It all sounded so very convoluted to her…
 
Don’t mess with time or you fuck shit up.
 
Wisdom smiled, “That is the essence of it.”
 
“I… I should not have been so angry. I just… they all died for me.”
 
The spirit nodded solemnly. “I believe they would do so again. You are the only one who can seal the Breach. Who can defeat Corypheus. Right the wrongs done. But you must waken. You have been here for some time and I do believe your friend seeks your company.”
 
Ari blinked slowly as she felt herself being pushed gently from the Fade back into wakefulness.


 


 

Ari tried to get more comfortable, raising her hands to settle under her head.
 
“I do think your nap has gone on long enough, my dear.”
 
Ari’s eyes snapped open and she realized that she was currently napping on Dorian’s lap.
 
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to fall asleep on you. It’s just been…”
 
“I understand,” the man said with a warm smile, fingers languidly braiding pieces of her hair.
 
Ari rolled onto her back and looked up at him, lacing her hands over her stomach.
 
“Thank you.”
 
“I know that gracing you with my presence has most likely made your heart all a-flutter for my dashing ways, but I can’t seem to think why you feel the need to thank me.”
 
“For listening, Dorian. For understanding. For not thinking I’m crazy. For a number of things. You are absolutely wonderful and I am grateful to have you in my life.”
 
The altus flushed. “Yes, well. Of course. Now, what are we going to do about Haven?”
 
Ari sighed. “There isn’t much we can do. I spoke with Wisdom. Altering the time line is not a good idea. In fact, trying to do so will just make it all worse. Haven will fall. Now, that does not mean that we have to let everyone fall with it, however.” The wheels in her head were turning.
 
“And how do you propose we evacuate the entirety of the Inquisition.”
 
“There is a passage that was used for summer pilgrimages. The same path the Warden took when she discovered Andraste’s ashes. You’re meant to use it to escape when I set off the avalanches that bury the town. I think, perhaps, we could ‘prepare for the worst’ should I fail to close the Breach. With luck, everyone will be so happy celebrating they will forget to remove supplies and prepped mounts. If we could get even a portion of the Inquisitions supplies and such there already… We’ll have more of a fighting chance at weathering the Frostbacks. We’ll lose less people. I might not be able to evacuate everyone, but I should be able to at least ensure we are prepared for our eventual escape. And at the very least, I can ensure that you and I remain sober to fight the Templars.”
 
Dorian hummed. “And how shall we present this to the others?”
 
“Leliana.”
 
“The Spymaster?”
 
“I trust her, Dorian. She has promised me that I may retain my secrets. I do not think she will be satisfied without answers for long but I trust that she will think the precaution a sound idea.”
 
“Well then, it looks like you’ve already found the answer.”
 
Ari grinned and sat up, wrapping her arms around the Tevinter in a tight hug.
 
“Of course that doesn’t solve the problem of the ancient Elvhen God in our midst.”
 
Ari’s smile faltered and she drew back to look up at Dorian.
 
“Dorian, you can’t-“
 
“I am not going to go around screaming Dreadwolf and pointing, Princess. Wipe that worry from your face.”
 
“Do you think you can still look at him the same?”
 
“He is the same, my dear. He hasn’t changed. He’s always been this God, I just never before had the insight to know it. Now I do. He is still terribly dressed and rather morose, though his wit is quite sharp.”
 
Ari chuckled. “He’s really not so bad. I mean he is a bit of a pessimist but how could you not be when so much has gone wrong from what you expected? And all he really wants is for things to be better. He just doesn’t seem to be going about it the right way. But I’m going to fix it.” Her brow furrowed in determination.
 
“While I do have an abundance of faith in you, have you any inkling of how you are going to manage that?”
 
“Not exactly… I just… I need to show him this world has merit. That it’s not irredeemable… that he isn’t irredeemable.”
 
Dorian nodded.
 
“Then that is exactly what we shall do. Now, you need to eat. I need to eat. And I wouldn’t mind some ale or wine to go along with it after all of these delightful revelations.”
 
Ari grinned sheepishly as her stomach responded to the promise of food.
 
“Shall we head to the tavern? I do believe I still owe Varric a game of Wicked Grace.”
 
“Off we go then!”
 
Dorian stood and helped her off the bed, leading her towards the door and out into the crisp mountain air.
 
For the first time in what felt like ages, Ari didn’t feel so quite alone. Sure, she had Solas and her friendships with the others… but this honesty? Dorian had provided her with the support and comfort she hadn’t realized she was so desperately in need of. Things were starting to look like they were going to be a lot easier to deal with.

Chapter Text

The Tavern was loud; recruits sharing tales of feats while they drank ale from tankards. The Chargers were mingling freely amongst them, Dalish clearly winning round after round of Wicked Grace in the back corner.
 
Varric sat with Sera and Blackwall near the bar, working their way through what appeared to be a very large bottle of liquor.
 
“ELFIEST!” Sera cried as she saw Ari enter with Dorian.
 
“Hello to you too, Sera,” she said with a smile. She took the empty bench space next to Varric and across from the pretend-Warden and the Jenny. Dorian slipped onto it next to her.
 
“So, did the Seeker stab any books? Maybe bang on the map table?” Varric turned to her with a cheeky smile.
 
Ari flushed. “Actually, Cassandra was rather composed.”
 
“Our little Rebel Princess was less so,” Dorian cocked an eyebrow as he took the cup offered to him by Blackwall. “She was a veritable terror in there. I think Madame de Fer might have had a heart attack.”
 
“Always knew you had it in you, Dimples.”
 
“It’s a touchy subject. I suggest we leave it be.” She avoided looking at Sera, knowing the elf did not agree with what she had done for the rebel mages.
 
“Right, wot’s done is done and all of that. What matters, iz we can fix the hole in the sky.”
 
Ari was surprised by her… pragmatism. There was no other word for it. Sera wasn’t often pragmatic.
 
“Exactly. When the mages arrive, I will be able to channel them and close the Breach for good.”
 
“Here’s to the end of the beginning!” Varric raised his glass and offered a toast.
 
And the beginning of the end…
 
Shora came by their table with platters of roasted meats, stew and boiled vegetables shortly after, the smell tantalizing Ari’s senses. She placed a bowl of potatoes and beans in front of her, complete with a fresh roll of bread and small brick of cheese on a side plate. Ari looked up with a grin.
 
“The Dalish favourite I’m told,” Shora said with a wink.
 
“Shora, you are my favourite. Sit with us! I’ve missed you! How is Iona? Your brother?”
 
“Oh I’d love to! But I’ve preparations to assist with for the arrival of the mages! Lots t’ be done! I’ll bring your breakfast to your cabin in the morning. We can catch up then!” The woman flounced off, a sidelong glance thrown in Krem’s direction before she headed back out of the tavern.
 
Yea, there is definitely something there. I wonder if she’d be upset if I played a little matchmaker?
 
The hulking mass that was The Iron Bull strode into the tavern from the back entrance and headed towards their table.
 
“Hiya Boss.”
 
“You know, you really don’t have to call me that.”
 
“It’s good to remind yourself who’s filling the coin purse sometimes.”
 
Ari snorted. “That would be Josephine and the Inquisition. Not me.”
 
“You are the Inquisition, Boss. Might do you good to remind yourself of that too.”
 
Ari frowned. She didn’t like where this was going.
 
“Bull, is Krem seeing anybody? Any ladies waiting on letters or visits?” she asked. Best to distract the Ben-Hassrath with frivolity. Too much focus on her was not wise.
 
“Not that I know of, Boss. And I would know. Why? Solas not enough for you?”
 
Her ears burned.
 
“Solas is more than enough, thank you. I was thinking of another Elvhen woman who seems to have shown interest.”
 
“The serving girl?”
 
“Her name is Shora. And yes, her.”
 
Bull chuckled. “I’ll leave it in your hands, Boss. Can’t say I don’t agree. I’ve seen the looks Krem has shot her way. Might need a little shove in the right direction though. Man can be slow on the uptake when it comes to women.”
 
Ari nodded. She’d find a way to get them alone together.
 
If only Cole were here. He would be such a great help with this.
 
But Cole was coming. The thought was a dunk of ice-cold water on her consciousness. She had maybe a day or two before the Mages arrived and she had to close the Breach. That very night, Compassion would be on her door and Corypheus at her heels.
 
Suddenly Ari’s appetite wasn’t quite so ravenous.
 
“It’s been a long day. I think I might turn in early,” she said, placing her spoon in her half-finished bowl and standing up.
 
“Already? But you’ve only just joined us. Stay for a game of Diamondback,” Blackwall entreated her.
 
She offered him an impish smile. “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll take all the coin from the lot of you!”
 
“Whoa, big words there, Dimples. Think you can beat us all?”
 
“Well, Master Tethras, I did learn from the best,” she gave him a wink before stepping around the table. “Enjoy the rest of your evening, ladies and gent!”
 
“Ladies?”
 
“Gent?”
 
She left them to their confusion and headed out the back door near the apothecary. She wrapped her arms around herself, rubbing the cold from her thinly covered skin as she looked up into the green-tinged night sky.
 
“I need to speak to Leliana before it’s too late.”
 
“Too late?”
 
The low rumble of Solas voice filled her ears and she turned to see the rather tall elf to her right.
 
“Oh, just for preparations for the mages. I want to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible,” the lie hurt her chest. She knew it would probably not be her last to this man.
 
“Ah. Are you turning in for the night?”
 
“It’s been a rather long journey and I must admit, I don’t feel all that fit company at the moment.”
 
Solas took a step closer to her, the faint light of the torch illuminating the side of his face.
 
“You are afraid.”
 
Ari nodded mutely.
 
She was very afraid. She was afraid that Corypheus could kill her easily. She was afraid Cole would blurt out everything. She was afraid of the pain she knew was coming her way from her fall. She was afraid of what the next few months meant for her, for them. She was afraid she wouldn’t stop him; that she couldn’t change his mind. She was afraid of a lot of things.
 
He reached out, fingers gently trailing the soft skin of her unmarked cheek.
 
“I will not allow any harm to come to you, vhenan.” His words were a soft promise amidst the low noise emanating from the tavern beside them.
 
She looked into his eyes and took a step closer, finding herself flush against him, and raised her hand to his chest as sinful thoughts filled her head.
 
“Stay the night with me,” words a breathless whisper as she looked up at him.
 
She could see the glint in his eyes as he considered her words, a hunger welling in their depths.
 
Without a word, he took her hand in his and led her down the snow-covered streets and up the stairs towards his cabin, opening the door and pulling her in before slamming it closed again.
 
In moments, he was on her, hands sliding down her waist and over her hips to grab her plump rear and pull her against him. His kiss was soft and demanding, tongue caressing her bottom lip and seeking entrance. She slid her hands over his shoulders, wrapping her arms around his neck as she leaned into him, eyes closed and head tilted, giving into his embrace. He was making her lightheaded, the feel of his lips on hers sending searing pleasure through her core.
 
She could taste the elfroot on his tongue as it delved into her mouth and he tangled the long fingers of his left hand into her hair. He walked her back towards his cot, their steps staggering in their refusal to let go of their embrace. Their breathing was becoming haggard, months of attraction coming to a head and leaving them both teeming with overwhelming lust.
 
Letting go of her lips, he found purchase on her neck, teeth nipping at her skin as his tongue followed in their wake. She groaned, head lolling back, nails scraping at the nape of his scalp. Her body was on fire, begging for release.
 
“Solas…” his name was a plea on her lips. She needed more. She needed to feel him, to touch him.
 
She felt the cot against the backs of her calves and fell backwards, Solas standing over her looking ever the predator as he consumed his prey.
 
She licked her lips slowly, bracing herself on her forearms as she watched him remove his tunic, the jawbone necklace swinging back down to his chest before he drew it over his head. She sat up; legs spread to accommodate him standing between them and slowly ran her fingers over his well-defined stomach, nails tracing lightly up his chest.
 
He reached down, fingers deftly finding the hem of her pale green tunic and lifting it over her head. Her bindings were made quick work of, breasts bouncing free of the restriction and nipples pebbling under his fiery gaze. He cupped her cheek, drawing her gaze to meet his own as he bent over her, leading her up the cot, the end.
 
You are so beautiful, Aryael.” His words were husky, dripping desire as he knelt over her.
 
Her cheeks tinged pink under the unabashed want flashing in his dark blue eyes. She leaned in closer, eyes fluttering close as her lips met his. He claimed her mouth, hands sliding over her newly exposed skin to cup her full breasts. His thumb brushed over her left nipple and she gasped, arching into his touch. Their tongues rolled over each other, desperate in their dance. His left hand slid over the skin of her taut stomach and pulled at the lacings of her pants as she trembled. Sucking her bottom lip between his, he nipped it with his teeth as he moved to pull her smalls and pants off in one fluid motion.
 
The cool air on her exposed sex made her shiver as she lay under him, her hands sliding downwards over his body to tug on his own leggings. He smirked down at her before moving to help her in her endeavor. Within moments their clothes were thrown off to the side of the cot. Ari glanced down towards his cock, taking her bottom lip between her right canines as her eyes took him in.
 
That is… much larger than I had anticipated.
 
She reached down, fingers brushing against his sensitive head and felt him throb. The tip of her index finger slowly rubbed over his head, smearing the sticky drops over him before she wrapped her fingers around his girth. She heard him groan as she slowly started to stroke him, eyes watching him twitch under her fingers in fascination.
 
He bent his head low, lips pressing to the sensitive spot behind her ear. His right hand slid up her thigh at a tantalizingly slow pace, eliciting a small whimper from between her lips. His fingers found her slick lips, thumb brushing against her clit and making her moan as she lifted her hips off of the bed.
 
Gods, I think he might make me cum just like this…
 
Her eyes were wide-open, breath ragged as he slipped his middle finger inside her folds.
 
“So-Solas…” she stuttered, fingers tightening their grip on his length ever so slightly.
 
He was torturing her with his slow pace, lazily sliding in and out of her, keeping her on the edge as he slid another finger inside her. She jerked under him, body begging for more as his free hand pinched her left nipple.
 
Yes, vhenan?”  His voice was pure sex in her ear and she felt herself clench around his fingers.
 
Pala em, sathaaan,” she gasped out. She couldn’t take much more of this. Her body responded to him instantaneously but his fingers weren’t enough. She let go of him, nails raking over his chest as he raised himself to look down her. The hungry look in his eyes lit coils of fire in her belly and her breathing became more erratic as he began to pick up his pace inside of her.
 
Patience, da’lan,” he murmured, bending his head to her chest. He swirled his tongue around her taut nipple before taking it between his teeth and tugging. She was reeling under his touch, his words trailing fire over her very aroused body.
 
His free hand massaged her other breast as he lavished his attentions on her right, fingers curling inside her and hitting her g-spot. She bucked her hips against his hand, nails digging into his shoulders as the world shattered around her. She could feel his smile against the soft mound of her breast as she lay under him, panting and waiting for the shockwaves to wash over. He had no intention of letting up, however.
 
Trailing soft kisses down her body and over her stomach, his lips lightly caressed her nub. She jerked under him, the sensitive area reeling from the feel of his soft lips. He slid his hands under her thighs, pulling them farther apart as he lapped up the taste of her orgasm. She was writhing under him, body assaulted by too much sensation, too much arousal. Her hands slid over his scalp, high pitched moans filling the small space of his cabin as he flicked his tongue over her clit. She pulled him closer against her, back arching as she felt his fingers dig into the flesh of her ass. His tongue delved inside her, fucking her senseless.
 
“Oh… Solas- I-“ Her body was wracked with wave after wave of pleasure as she came closer and closer to the crest of her orgasm. Breath hitched in her throat mid-cry as she came again, feeling the clenching of her walls as her body hummed with release.
 
She stared up at the ceiling, trying to catch her breath and let her hands fall to her sides as he knelt between her legs. He drew her gaze as he rose and she noted the traces of her orgasm shined on his lips. She practically growled as she watched him lick them clean.
 
I love the sounds you make,”  he said as his hands roamed over her thighs. His voice was deep with desire and even after two orgasms, she felt herself respond.
 
You… are far too good with your tongue.”
 
He smirked down at her, leaning over just enough to brush the tip of his cock against her drenched slit. She moaned, fingers twisting in the sheets.
 
Enjoying yourself?”
 
You are cruel to make me wait, ha’hren. Sathan, pala em,” she begged, eyes beseeching him as he looked down at her.
 
Ma nuvenin,” he breathed, grasping her hips in his hands and lifting her to meet his hardened shaft, he pushed inside her, parting her folds.
 
She cried out as she felt a tremor of pain and she reached up for his shoulders. Solas paused, eyes wide as he looked down at her.
 
You…Why did you not say something?”
 
Ari cringed at his words. She hadn’t exactly thought about it. In fact, to be perfectly honest, she had completely forgotten she had never done this before; in either life.
 
I… I didn’t think to.”
 
Her body moved, rocking her hips against his, not wanting him to stop now that the moment of pain had subsided.
 
Don’t stop…”

She was sensitive, body wound tight from multiple orgasms and in desperate need of another. The feel of him stretching her, filling her was more than she could have ever imagined.
 
Slowly he moved inside her, the friction causing her to gasp as she arched into him. He bent over her, hand sliding into her hair as he pressed a gentle kiss to her lips, his hips rocking into her at a steady pace. Her right hand slid to the nape of his neck, holding her against him as she returned his kiss.
 
“Ar lath ma, Solas,” she breathed against his lips, her eyes, darkened to a plum, looked up at him in wonder as her hips met his. He groaned, picking up his pace as he held onto her. Turning her head, he bit her earlobe before flicking his tongue over the point of her ear. She mewled, nails scratching at the back of his scalp as she clenched her walls around him. It was almost his undoing.
 
He thrust into her, sack slapping against the cheeks of her ass as he came closer to his long denied release.
 
“Solas,” she gasped, “oh, gods…” she was practically whining under him, her movements frantic. He reached down between them, thumb mercilessly rubbing her clit and driving her over the edge. She raked her nails down his back and cried out as she burst around him. The sound echoed around him and sent him following after her as he felt her tighten around him. He spilled inside her with a groan that was muffled against her neck.
 
Their heavy breathing filled the room as they tried to catch their breath. They stayed joined for some time before he pulled out of her, the mess of their lovemaking streaked across her thighs. He lay on his back and covered his eyes with his forearm. She turned to him with worry knitting her brow.
 
“Solas… you’re not… are you mad?”
 
She realized that she hadn’t just given him her virginity… she had thrust it upon him. There was every chance this wouldn’t have happened had he known the truth.
 
He reached over for her and drew her against his chest, fingers playing with her hair as he pressed a kiss to the crown of her head.
 
“Absolutely not. In giving me your trust, sharing yourself with me in this way. You have given me something very precious, vhenan. Had I known… I would have wished to have made this more memorable for you.”
 
She traced patterns over his chest.
 
It was very memorable, ma’lin. And I’m looking forward to many more memories like it.” She grinned against his chest, darting her eyes up to look at him.
 
He chuckled, a small smirk playing at his lips as he moved his arm and looked down at her.
 
Ar lath ma, Aryael.”
 

Chapter Text

Ari’s sleep was dreamless, granting her a much needed peaceful rest. She blinked her eyes open, grinning to herself as she felt Solas’ right arm wrapped around her waist and his left pillowing her head. His nose was pressed to her neck, breath tickling her sensitive skin.
 
Moving her arm, she threaded her fingers under his and brought their joint hands to her lips, brushing them over his knuckles.
 
“Good morning, vhenan,” his words were hot against her skin as he nuzzled her neck, causing her to nibble on her lip as flashes of desire sparked within her.
 
“Mmm, morning,” she purred, pushing her hips back against him.
 
Letting go of her hand, his fingers traced down her neck, between her breasts and over her stomach to rest on her hip, drawing her tighter against his hardening length.
 
Are you not sore, emma lath? Perhaps we-” His words ended on a groan as she rolled her hips, massaging him with her full cheeks.
 
“Shhh,” she admonished him, twisting her hips against him. Yes, she did in fact feel sore. But she also ached.
 
His teeth nipped at the point of her ear, tongue flicking out against it; fingers slid over her hips, finding her slickened lips with practiced ease. Deftly, he worked her nub with his thumb, sliding a finger inside her as she bucked against his hand.
 
Her breathing grew heavy as he ground himself against her ass, his magic fingers driving her wild as his mouth tantalized her neck; hot kisses and light bites dragging moans from between her lips.
 
“Solas, I want to feel you inside me. ” Her voice was breathless as she writhed against him, his left hand curling around hers.
 
He didn’t reply, mouth preoccupied with sucking the sensitive spot where neck met shoulder in a way that was sure to leave a mark. His hand withdrew from her and she whimpered at the loss of sensation before he grasped her thigh and lifted it, drawing it back over his leg. Moving his hips, the tip of his cock brushed over her rear before he pressed forwards, sliding his length along her folds.
 
She gasped, biting down on her lip to stifle the deep moan coming from her throat. She raised her arm behind her, fingers grazing over his ear as she tried to reach him, lost in the sensations taking over her body.
 
He released her neck with a lick, bringing his lips against her ear. He moaned against it as he drew back once more, before slowly thrusting forward, her drenched folds parting to hug him and coat him in her juices.

Tease,” she groaned, tightening her fingers around his.
 
Should I stop, vhenan? ” The question burned against her ear as he tugged her lobe between his teeth, the movement of his hips stilling. She felt his throbbing cock nestled between her lips and she squirmed against him.
 
olas, if you do not take me this insta- “ her speech was cut off as he grasped the base of his cock and aligned himself with her slit, thrusting fully inside her with one fluid motion of his hips.
 
“Ohhh..” her voice felt far away as he began to move inside her, his right hand massaging her breast and tweaking her nipple.
 
Mewling noises mixed with pants and moans echoed around them as they came closer and closer to climax.
 
Solas, my God …” she cried out, sparks of desire turning to flames as she crested her orgasm. He pumped inside her furiously, breath ragged against her ear as he sought his own release. He groaned and she felt him pulse within her, flooding her with warmth.
 
“Mmm… this is how we should always wake up,” she said, satisfied smile playing on her lips.
 
Solas chuckled, nuzzling her neck as he wrapped his arm around her and hugged her tight, still snug inside her.
 
Already asking to share a home, vhenan?
 
Her cheeks burned.
 
“I never- no, I mean- tents and-“
 
Solas saved her from her babbling by tilting her head towards him and claiming her lips in a sweet and gentle kiss.
 
Oh we should definitely do this every single day…
 
As much as I would love to keep you in bed all day, I do believe you wished to speak to Leliana. And I must help prepare for our venture to seal the breach.”
 
Ari pouted. He was right, of course. But she didn’t have to like it.
 
We could just hide here all day. No one would miss us, I’m sure!”
 
He kissed her nose.
 
“Yes, no one could possibly miss the blessed Herald of Andraste. I am positive that not even Shora-"
 
“Shora!” she gasped, breaking free of his embrace and scrambling off the bed. He stared at her with concern.
 
Vhenan?
 
“Shora is supposed to take breakfast with me in my cabin,” she hurriedly explained, finding her smalls and putting them on with a small wince.
 
Oh, I desperately need a bath.
 
“What time is it? Oh, I hope I didn’t miss her.” She hastily tugged on her pants and tunic while Solas sat up. She bounced over to him, pressing a quick kiss to his lips.
 
Find me at mid day?”
 
He raised his hands to her hair, fixing her bedhead.
 
Of course.”
 
She bolted out of his cabin and ran past Varric who seemed to have the widest grin on his face as he stared at her rushing through town under the morning light. She skidded to a halt in front of her cabin and opened the door to see a familiar basket on it with a note.
 
Ari closed her door with a sigh and opened the basket, reaching in and tossing some berries into her mouth as she unfolded the note.

 
 
I must have missed you this morning, Ari. I’m sure your very busy these days. Hope all’s well. I’ve left breakfast for you but I don’t think I’ll be able to make it with lunch. Iona is grand, round and plump as ever with my wee nephew growing by the day. I wanted to say… Not many people’d do what you done for the mages. My uncle was a circle mage. Sometimes I’d see mother lock herself in her room for hours with tears in her eyes after getting a letter from him. You did good, Aryael. People deserve to be people.


 
Ari teared up a little.
 
“Shora… wish more people saw it like you.”
 
Ari stripped and ate her breakfast, warming the water in her wash basin with magic and grabbed a cloth. She washed away all traces of her night and morning spent in Solas’ arms and dressed quickly in grey leggings and a deep purple tunic before heading out the door to find Leliana.
 
Her gait was a bit stiff and she chuckled to herself as the cool breeze whipped through the strands of hair that had fallen loose from her braid. She came up the steps to the chantry and found Leliana sitting on a stool inside her tent reading missives.
 
“Can I have a moment, Leliana?” She asked, taking a step inside the tent.
 
Leliana looked up and smiled.
 
“Of course.”
 
“Is there perhaps…”
 
“Somewhere more private?” Leliana stood. “Let’s go to the war room.”
 
Ari silently followed the redhead into the Chantry and towards the war room. She walked to the other side of the map table as Leliana closed the door.
 
“We need to prepare to leave Haven. Immediately.” The words rushed out before she could really think them through.
 
“Why do we need to leave, Aryael?” Leliana cocked a brow at her, obviously expecting an answer.
 
“There are… When we attempt to close the Breach, we cannot know what will happen. We should make sure the people are safe.”
 
Leliana’s gaze bore into her. “We should. Now, what are you not telling me?”
 
Ari sighed and closed her eyes.
 
“You told me I could keep my secrets.”
 
“So long as they do not harm the Inquisition.”
 
“I’m trying to make sure no harm comes to anyone.”
 
Leliana was silent. She stood there, arms crossed and head slightly tilted to the left.
 
“Something is going to happen to Haven.”
 
Her eyes flew open and she stared at the woman agape. Ari was really not very good at trying to be covert.
 
“Yes,” she confessed with a shaking voice and sad eyes.
 
“The mages arrived late last night. The Templars and Mages we already have in our ranks are already prepared to march on the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Fiona has been advised and in turn advised the mages on how to assist. They are to go over it all with Solas this morning. We had planned to approach you this afternoon to make way to the Temple. It is far too late to evacuate the whole town.”
 
“Then be as prepared as you can for a mad race to escape destruction. The Elder One will strike tonight. And we are far from prepared to deal with his might.”
 
Leliana’s eyes flashed with fear and curiosity for a moment before she hid them behind the mask of a bard.
 
“How do you know this?”
 
“It… You wouldn’t believe me. What matters is that I do know and I know you are far too good at your job to not prepare for this possible eventuality. He will strike at us through our front and so we must escape through the back. The passage used in the summer pilgrimage. As many supplies as we can, as many horses and wagons, whatever you can manage. It will be a long journey through the mountains to safety.”
 
Leliana walked around the table to stand over her, an unidentifiable look in her eye.
 
“You are remarkably knowledgeable about things that only a handful of people should know. You have been since you fell from the sky. Is this the grace of Andraste, protecting her children?”
 
“Look at me, Leliana. What do you see? I am an elf. An elf that has been tasked with saving all of Thedas. I will save whom I can, until there is no longer breath in my body. But I need your help. And I need your trust. You will understand after tonight and one day perhaps you will understand my story as well. But today is not that day. All I ask is that you help me prevent a disaster from being worse than it has to be. Please.”
 
“I will make the preparations. A cautionary undertaking in case the ritual does not go as planned. But I cannot send anyone through that passage. Only ensure that it is ready and accessible and that we have the bulk of our supplies ready to go.”
 
“Thank you.”
 
Leliana turned to head out of the room but turned as she approached the door.
 
“I do not know your story, Aryael. But I have come to know you. I do trust you. I hope that one day you will trust me enough to share your secrets. I am very good at keeping them for those I hold dear.”

 



 
Ari had spent most of her morning with Sera and Blackwall. Sera had offered to teach her how to shoot, telling her she could be more elfy and go back a proper Dalish hunter to her clan. Blackwall had enjoyed shouting pointers at her while Sera made raspberry noises at him. Her arms were slightly sore and she didn’t think she could be further off the target if she tried. Her aim was terrible.
 
Solas found her at mid-day and reminded them that they should all probably eat something. He took her hand in his and led the way to the tavern while she blushed like a schoolgirl and looked up at him from beneath her dark lashes. Sera of course, made kissy noises the whole way there.
 
Varric joined them in the tavern, along with Cassandra, Dorian and Bull. She watched in fascination as the Seeker tried to avoid looking at the dwarf, a faint blushing dusting her nose and cheeks.
 
What happened there?
 
She leaned on Solas shoulder as they all listened to Sera and Blackwall regale them with the tale of the ‘shitshot Herald’.
 
“I’m not that bad Sera,” she said, burying her face in Solas’ shoulder.
 
“Oh, you are. But all it needs is practice. Sera’ll have you ready to shoot clean through from hundreds of yards away in no time.” Blackwall gave her a grin that showed his utmost confidence in her.
 
“Not a bad idea to practice with weapons, Boss. It’ll give you an edge. You can shoot fire arrows or ice pellets from your bow. The Vints won’t know what hit ‘em.”
 
She laughed, eyes twinkling as she turned her gaze on her friends.
 
“Who ever heard of an archer mage? Ridiculous. Though I am grateful for the offer to teach me, Sera. It’s always fun to learn new things.”
 
“Our Warrior Rogue Mage Herald of the Inquisition. I’m sure the Chantry would say its blasphemous,” Cassandra mused, fingers tracing the rim of her tankard.
 
Varric chuckled. “The Chantry says a lot of stuff is blasphemous, Seeker. Especially the fun stuff.”
 
Ari could almost hear the increase in Cassandra’s heartbeat.
 
Varric works faaaaaassstttt.
 
“I think perhaps, you should join us with the other Mages when we’re done our meal, Aryael. It would do them good to see you and you good to get a feel for them as well. After all, you’re going to be channelling all of them.”
 
“Dorian is correct, vhenan. It is no small undertaking.”
 
Ari nodded.
 
“I should take my leave as well. Leliana has convinced almost everyone that we should be prepared for the worst and has the bulk of our supplies being prepared for journey. All communications and weapons need to be transferred to the Chantry as well as any supplies not being carried with us to the Temple or being prepared for our victory feast tonight. I think it is a waste. I appreciate her need to be prepared for every eventuality but I have every faith in you.” Cassandra looked directly in Aryael’s eyes with a deep fondness. They had become close over the past few months, sharing many stories of their childhoods and discussing the perfect evening with a loved one.
 
“You never know, Cassandra. I think Leliana is right to be prepared. For all I know, I could make it all worse instead of closing it.”
 
“Nonsense. Have faith, my dear. You are more than capable of wielding that mark on your hand to seal it shut tight.”
 
Dorian nudged her foot under the table and gave her a bright smile.
 
I suppose I am being quite morose. And I never was very good at keeping my emotions off of my face.
 
“Sparkler’s right. Cut yourself some slack. You ended the Mage Rebellion, gave them their freedom and traveled through time. This is the easy part.”
 
Ari chuckled.
 
“I suppose it is.”
 
They all stood, parting their separate ways to finish their own preparations for the evening. They would be heading towards the temple in a few hours and everything needed to be just right.
 

 



 
They rode their horses through the valley and towards the temple, silent as they all stared up at the Breach. The mages and recruits marched behind them, splitting off as they entered the ruins to circle around the main room from the crumbling levels up top. Ari navigated her way down to the base of the ruin with Solas, Dorian, Cassandra, Vivienne, Blackwall and Bull. The warriors made a perimeter around her as Vivienne and Dorian each took point on a half of the ruin, raising their staffs and guiding the other mages in how to channel their mana and funnel it to her.
 
Solas took her hands in his, brushing his lips against her crown and looked down into her eyes.
 
“Are you ready?”
 
Ari nodded.
 
“Let’s get this done.”
 
He let go of her and began his speech, turning to the mages and Ari could feel his own magic guiding theirs to her. They knelt, staves in hand as they used it to send whatever power they had towards her. She could feel it well inside her, lighting her skin with a tingling sensation as she raised her arm towards the sky. She closed her eyes, feeling a hard resistance against her pull.
 
Fuck… this… stupid… rift… you… will… close!
 
She struggled, closing her fingers as she used every last drop of mana to fuel her mark and seal the Breach. She bit her lip and tasted blood, refusing to scream as she felt her hand being torn apart. The mark was spreading as the Breach was closing.
 
A thunderous clap and they all were blown against walls and pillars, Ari falling to her knees and panting. Cassandra and Solas rushed to her side, their voices drowned out from the ringing in her ears. She tried to focus on them but her eyes… everything was fuzzy. Her hand throbbed and she felt Solas clasp it in his, a soothing warmth trickling over her skin as he calmed the errant magic.
 
How did people not realize he could control the mark?
 
The stray thought floated through her head as her gaze was taken in by Dorian’s face. He clasped his hands on her cheeks, calling her name and drawing her attention.
 
“Aryael? Princess? Are you alright?” His eyes were bright with fear as they roamed over her, looking for injury.
 
“I’m fine, Dorian. Just a bit winded. That was… well, glad I won’t have to do that again.” She offered a wry smile towards her friend who laughed before tugging her into a warm embrace.
 
“Come. Let us return to Haven. I believe we all deserve a celebration. The Breach has been sealed and Thedas is safe once again.”

Cheers and shouts filled the ruins at Cassandra’s words. She tried to smile at Cassandra but was sure it just came off as a weird facial expression that could be written off as a side effect from using all that magic. There was definitely much cause for celebration, however short-lived that joy would be.
 
Solas helped guide her to the horses, refusing to let her ride alone.
 
“You are unstable on your feet. I can’t imagine you being less so on a horse. You will ride with me.”
 
She didn’t have it in her to argue. She was fine, really. He had stabilized the mark once more and he knew it. She let him pull her up in front of him and rested back against his chest as they made their way back to the town. Closing her eyes, she let herself pretend that it wasn’t all going to shit in the next few hours.
 
When she opened her eyes again, they were approaching the gate, the entire town waiting to greet them. She could smell roasting meat on the fire pits and see the smiles on everyone's faces. It made her uneasy, shifting uncomfortably in the saddle.
 
You are a hero to them all, vhenan. Does that make you uncomfortable?
 
I’m no hero. Just an elf who happened to be a certain somewhere at a certain time when things went wrong.
 
He curled his right arm around her and bent his head to speak in her ear.
 
“You are much more than just an elf, emma lath. You have in fact saved all of Thedas from calamity and destruction today.”
 
“Perhaps.”
 
Josephine approached them, Leliana in tow as they dismounted.
 
“You did it! I knew you could. This is glorious, a true cause for celebration. The Herald of Andraste has saved us all!”
 
Ari flinched. “Please Josie, just Aryael. Say what you want to the nobles. But here, I am just Aryael.”
 
Josephine hugged her tight, not even listening to a word she said as she guided her towards to the cheery mob that was waiting for her.
 
She could hear them chanting her name. Yips of ‘To the Herald!”, “Maker bless the Herald” and “Andraste’s Herald” screamed in her ears. She hated it.
 
Soon enough they were parting, allowing her into the city as music began to play. Within moments they had all dissolved into hugs and tears of joy. Templar and Mage alike had found common ground in the celebrations. She sat with them, watching them all make merry and dance as they feasted on roasted game and drank ale by the barrel. Hours passed as the daylight faded and they continued to dance. Her companions joined them all, Bull loud in his laughter as he and the Chargers shared stories with them. She rose from her seat next to Solas and walked up the steps to the Chantry, making her way towards Leliana’s tent to get a look at the mountains.
 
“You have given them more than hope today, Aryael.”
 
Leliana approached her silently from behind as she searched the distance with a melancholy look, unaware that she was being watched by Solas.
 
“It may not last long.”
 
“I have made the necessary preparations. The path has been opened and most of our supplies, weapons and mounts are waiting for us. We are ready.”
 
Ari smirked.
 
“We are far from ready. But it matters not. He will come anyways.” Her eyes focused out past the wall, seeking the first sign of anything that could indicate he was here. They stood in awkward silence as Cassandra joined them.
 
“Solas confirms the skies are scarred but calm. The Breach is sealed. The heavens are calm. We’ve reports of lingering rifts, and many questions remain, but that can wait for tomorrow. This was a victory. Word of your heroism has spread.”
 
“I did not act alone, Cassandra. My divine bad luck simply put me at the crux of it all.”
 
Cassandra chuckled. “Your luck is strange, yes. I am not sure if we need more or less of it. But you are right. This was a victory of alliance. One of the few in recent memory. With the Breach closed, that alliance will need new focus.”
 
Ari’s heart pounded her chest.
 
He comes.
 
The warning bells tolled and Ari ran, jumping off of the ledge and into a roll on the snow covered ground, dashing through the crowd of her companions towards the main gate. Dorian was hot on her heels, Leliana not far behind. She heard Cullen’s call to arms as she approached. The townsfolk began to scatter, panic spreading far and wide. Leliana’s agents began to guide them towards the Chantry.
 
She could hear Cullen advising Cassandra of the massive force approaching them from over the mountain but she tuned it out as she moved closer to the gate.
 
“I can’t come in unless you open!” Cole’s voice was muffled through the wood and she yelled for them to open the gates. She dashed out to see Cole slice through a Templar.
 
“I’m Cole. But you-“ confusion darted across his face.
 
Please, Cole, don’t. I know. I promise we’ll talk after. Now, tell them your message.
 
“Alright. I came to warn you. To help. People are coming to hurt you.
 
“What is this?!” Cullen’s voice called from her side. She could see the glint of his blade in the moonlight waiting to cut through Cole.
 
“Stand down! He’s here to help.”
 
“The Templars come to kill you.”
 
“Templars? Is this Order’s response to our talks with the Mages? Attacking blindly?”
 
“The Red Templars went to the Elder One. You know him and he knows you. You took his Mages.” Cole turned, pointing towards a cliff in the near distance.
 
“There.”
 
She shivered, eyes holding the dark gaze of Corypheus.
 
“I know that man… but this Elder One…” Cullen’s voice trailed off, fear apparent on his face.
 
“He’s very angry that you took his Mages.”
 
“They were never his Mages. We need to get to the trebuchets. Control the battle. Round the villagers, get them all to the Chantry. Leliana’s contingency plan will come in handy now. Haven is no fortress and we may not be able to hold it. Dorian and anyone else who doesn’t feel too drunk, with me. Cole, can you help the civilians?” She looked at the spirit boy with warmth. He hadn’t spilled her secrets.

“We’re all ready, Dimples.” She turned to look at her companions, serious looks on their face as they drew their weapons and prepared for battle.
 
“I will head out with Dorian, Sera and Bull to the second trebuchet. Cassandra, you and the rest head for the closest one. Aim it for avalanches. With luck, we can bury most of the forces before they get anywhere near us.”
 
“Herald?” Cullen looked at her, a sheen in his eye as he appraised her.
 
“Take our forces and defend the outer walls until it becomes too much. Retreat when you must but protect the civilians.”
 
“Of course.” Cullen turned to the forces standing read behind him. “Mages! You – You have sanction to engage them! That is Samson. He will not make it easy! Inquisition! With the Herald! For your lives! For all of us!”
 
War cries filled the air as they charged forward to their missions. She dashed along the path, calling her barriers around them all and drawing her spirit blade from the Fade. She hacked away at tainted Templars as they ran at her, slicing through them as she pushed forward. The trebuchet came in sight and she called out.
 
“Protect the soldiers!”
 
She charged in with a storm of lightening, the red lyrium making odd colours as it struck the Templars. The battle was bloody, her robes twirling around her as she spun, striking spell after spell to push them back. She kept her companions shielded, adrenaline pumping through her veins as she whirled through the Templars, evading strikes.
 
“Aryael, the trebuchet!”
 
She heard Dorian’s shout and turned to see the lifeless body near the aiming device.
 
Fenedhis!” She made her way towards the trebuchet, not paying attention to the Templars that fell behind her. Bull covered her back, making sure she had no resistance as she jumped up the steps and grasped the wheel. She wrenched it, turning it with all her might and released the shot into the mountains causing a great fall of snow to bury the Templars. She could hear resounding shouts of triumph from soldiers but knew it would be short lived. Within moments the cry of the blighted dragon cracked through the skies like thunder. The roaring winds from its beating wings lashed out around them and she dove to avoid its fireball as it struck the trebuchet. The blast pushed them all, knocking them on their backs.
 
“BACK TO HAVEN! WITH THE OTHERS AT THE CHANTRY!”
 
She screamed, rolling onto her hands and knees and pushing herself up. The air was smoky and sparks flew around her. She pumped her legs, lungs burning as she ran down the path towards the gates and noted that Dennet was nowhere near his cabin.
 
Good. Maybe that means the villagers are all in the Chantry.
 
Her hopes were soon dashed as they got through the gates, noting that the buildings were burning and some civilians were still running through the streets. Cullen called for them to close the gate the second her party had made it in. Solas stood with Cassandra, a look of relief on his face as he saw her. She stopped for barely moment before she ran to assist in pulling a villager from a burning home, turning on the Templars that approached from the far side as they got him free. She spun, throwing the Red Templars back with a blast of snow.

"Help the villagers!" she cried to her companions, flicking out her hand and freezing the stunned Templars.

She moved deeper into the city, following the snowy paths and cutting down Templars as they surrounded the straggling civilians. She heard a cry from the cabin ahead and hacked at the door, kicking it in and found Shora on the ground beneath a burning beam.

"NO!" she cried, running forward and dousing the flames eating at her side with snow and ice. She pulled Shora from underneath the beam and looked for a pulse.

"Oh thank the creators! You're alright Shora, you're alright." She held onto the woman and rocked back and forth on her knees. Her face was badly burnt as was her hand. She couldn't tell the damage under her dress though she saw how the fabric melded to her flesh. Her breathing was shallow and heartbeat slow. It was not good but she had a chance. 

"She needs a healer! Solas!" She turned her head and called out behind her, seeing Solas climb over the debris in the doorway. 

"We need to get her out of here, vhenan. To the Chantry. I will do what I can." He knelt beside her, fingers hovering over Shora's limp body as he sent his healing magic into her. Her raspy breathing began to deepen and he lifted her from Ari's embrace to head out the door, handing her over to a nearby soldier with instructions to get her to a healer as quickly as possible.

She turned her gaze to see the crumbling town alit in flames, skirmishes coming to an end as the area in front of the Chantry cleared out. Cullen approached her, sword held tight in his grip and dripping with blood.
 
“Herald, our position is not good. That dragon stole back any time you might have earned us. It cut a path for that army. They’re going to kill everyone in Haven before we can escape.”
 
Cole popped up beside her facing Cullen.
 
“The Elder One doesn’t care about anyone in the village. He only wants the Herald.”
 
“Of course he does.” She rolled her eyes.
 
Cole turned to her.
 
“He wants to kill you. No one else matters. But he’ll crush them, kill them anyway. I don’t like him.”
 
She reached over and put her hand on the boy’s shoulder.
 
“I don’t like him much either, Cole.”

"We haven't the time to get out! They're already breaching the walls."
 
“Listen to me. Leliana has an escape route; the summer pilgrimage path. Get them out, Cullen. I will provide a distraction for the dragon and the Templars. The Elder One won’t know what hit him.”
 
“A distraction? We’re over run! The only way to –“ His eyes widened as understanding dawned. “You’re going to bury Haven.”
 
Ari nodded, lips tight. “Get them out Cullen.”
 
“Aryael this is madness!” Cassandra cried from her left.
 
“I will not let anyone die for me, Cassandra!” Her tone was harsh. “All of you, help them get out.”
 
“Vhenan, you cannot-“
 
“NO! I will not stand here and argue with you while time is wasting. He is coming.” Her eyes blazed with fury and confidence, as she looked her companions in the eyes.

“I will turn the final trebuchet and bury Haven after you send the signal from the path. Please, trust me.” She pleaded, taking a step towards Solas and cupping his cheek in her palm. His face was pained as he looked down at her and she could tell he was going to follow her regardless of what she said.
 
Solas, I promise I will come back. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”
 
She pressed a kiss to his lips and sent a spell through her fingers at his temple, settling a sleeping spell over him. He fell like a brick against her and she stumbled backwards.
 
“Bull, a little help?”
 
Her companions stared at her in shock as Bull took Solas from her and hefted him over his shoulder.
 
“Boss, I don’t think you should do this alone.”
 
“Bull, I am ordering you to take that stubborn elf on your shoulder and help protect the townsfolk as they escape from Haven. And the rest of you. GO!”
 
“I’ll stay with her.” Dorian’s voice rang out. “There’s no sense in all of us staying. The people need protection and I’m sure they’d rather it come from all of you than a Tevinter. Go on now.”
 
He strode to her side as her companions looked at her with remorse and grief.
 
“Dimples…”
 
She smiled, eyes flooding with tears. Blinking them away she laughed shakily.
 
“Varric, I strode out of the Fade at the Temple. I travelled through time. My divine bad luck hasn’t run out yet.”
 
“You better come back, Elfiest. We’re not done with arrows.”
 
She could hear the sound of the red lyrium, its song growing louder and she turned her head to see Templars cresting the stairs to the lower part of the town.
 
“Go!” She cried, calling on the Fade and drawing up a storm of snow and lightening to block the Templar’s path. Her companions dashed off, Blackwall offering a salute of respect before leaving her with Dorian.
 
“You will run when I tell you to. Before I shoot the trebuchet. You can make it to the Chantry and follow them out before sealing the path behind them with magic. Use your strongest wards.”
 
“Aryael-“
 
“Dorian, you know I will make it out of this alive. You have to go when I tell you.”
 
“Of course.”
 
The two mages fought their way to carve a path towards the trebuchet. Blood splattered against her and lyrium cracked under the force of her spirit blade. Her mana was running out fast as they dashed through the abandoned streets. She flung Templars out of the way, bashing them against walls with stonefists and setting them aflame with fire mines. Falling to her knees as the hilt of a sword cracked against her skull, she felt warm blood as it trickled down her neck. Raising her hand to the where the blow had landed, she winced before she was pushed down against the ground with a smite. Flames surrounded her and she felt Dorian pulling her back as he blasted their enemies away to give them space just as they broke through his fire wall.

There are so many. I should have let someone else come.
 
She pulls on her magic, feeling the strain from the day in her bones as she directs lightening to whip through them all in a chain, sending them to their deaths. She falls forward panting, hands braced on the floor as she tries to say upright. She is depleted, at her end.
 
“Aryael, you don’t-”
 
“You need to go. He’ll be here soon. The moment I aim it. The signal will come soon. Run, Dorian.”
 
His face is torn as she looks down at her and she looks up at him. She gives him a weak smile.
 
“We know what happens remember?”
 
Dorian nodded before he turned and headed back through the town.
 
She pushes herself up, all but dragging herself towards the wheel and falls on it, using her dead weight in place of her strength to turn it. Hearing the dragon cry, she pushed away from the trebuchet, crawling on the ground to get away from its flames as it rained fire down around her. She grunted as she rolled as far as she could from it. She tried to rise, getting to her knees as the blighted magister stepped through the flames, his dragon stepping close to her, snapping its large maw in her direction.
 
“Enough.” He called, silencing his dragon in the low rumble of his voice as she rose to her feet in an unsteady stance.
 
Why does his voice have to be so damn nice? He is not nice! He is evil! EVIL PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE EVIL VOICES DAMMIT!
 
“Pretender. You toy with forces beyond your ken. No more.”
 
“Beyond my ken? Do you really think you understand the elven foci better than I, Magister?”
 
“So the knife-ear thinks she knows me. I am a God. Know what you have pretended to be. Exalt the Elder One! The will that is Corypheus. You will kneel.
 
“I do not kneel before false Gods, magister.”
 
“You will resist. You will always resist. It matters not. I am here for the anchor. The process of removing it begins now.” He pulled the orb from a pocket in the fade, red energy crackling around it.
 
He’s tainted the orb…
 
“You can try. The anchor was never meant for the likes of you! Fen’Harel ver na!” she spat as she magister called to her anchor. She bit her lip, refusing to scream in his presence as it painfully seared inside her palm.

Corypheus laughed. “Your Gods are dead. No one can save you now. It is your fault, 'Herald'. You interrupted a ritual years in the planning, and instead of dying, you stole it’s purpose.”
 
She fell to her knees, right hand holding her wrist and trying to push back the pain.
 
“I do not know how you survived, but what marks you as ‘touched’, what makes you flail at rifts, I crafted to assault the very heavens. And you used the anchor to undo my work. The gall!”
 
“You will never touch the Golden City, Corypheus. You will never walk the Fade. This mark is mine! And you will not have it.”
 
She spread her fingers, feeling the power of the anchor flowing over her hand. She let it embrace her, course through her and closed her eyes.
 
He stepped to her, yanking her up to dangle in the air by her forearm. She felt the strain in the socket of her shoulder and bit her lip, the iron taste of her own blood settling over her tongue.
 
“I once breached the Fade in the name of another, to serve the Old Gods of the empire in person. I found only chaos and corruption. Dead whispers. For a thousand years I was confused. No more. I have gathered the will to return under no name but my own. To champion the withered Tevinter and correct this blighted world. Beg that I succeed. For I have seen the throne of the Gods, and it was empty.
 
He threw her against the trebuchet, her eyes seeing white as her head cracked against the wood. She felt bone snap as she fell to a heap on its base, arm bent crookedly.
 
“The anchor is permanent. You have spoiled it with your stumbling.”
 
She scrambled to her feet, stumbling as she used only one hand and turned to face him, marked hand raised and glowing green as she held it between them, ready to strike.
 
“So be it. I will begin again. Find another way to give this world the nation – and God – it requires.”
 
She saw the flare of fire crest the mountains in the distance over the Magister’s head and smirked.
 
“And you. I will not suffer even an unknowing rival. You must die .”
 
“Coryphishite, you really talk too much. You are not worthy of being called my rival. You will fail and I will delight making it happen!” She called, turning to kick at the release for the trebuchet. The chains rattled as they released the shot at the mountains overhead, snow thundering as it cascaded down. She turned and ran, not looking back to see the damage she was surely causing. The snow nipped at her heels and she tried to move faster.
 
Where is that damned hole?
 
She saw it then, fast approaching, the crevice in the roof of the tunnel, unblocked by missing planks. She jumped, flailing in the air before the snow pressed to her pack and pushed her down to meet the hard ground beneath.
 

Chapter Text

They had stopped to make camp when they were about two miles out of the passage, pushing through the night into the morning. They had been lucky. Leliana had prepared well, wagons full of supplies ensured that those wounded would get potions and salves and they would be all be fed and sheltered.The recruits had worked with the Mages setting up tents and a makeshift hospital of sorts for those in need of care.

The Inquisition had not come out unscathed. The Templars had been well on their way to Haven by the time Cole arrived and some people had been caught outside the walls. Lives were lost. Red Templars had broken through their defensive line before Aryael and her companions could shoot off the trebuchets and some had fallen under the enemies’ blade. Many were injured, soldier, mage and civilian alike; flames raging like wildfire across the wooden cabins had caught many who had tried to save what little they had claimed in the world from their homes before fleeing to the safety that the Chantry promised.
 
Some, like Shora, would be marked by the scars for the rest of their lives.
 
They had spent the day resting and treating the wounded, the band of companions remaining in sombre silence. Dorian had found them in the early hours of the morning sun, covered in blood and barely able to walk.
 
They had looked at him with pained expressions, none having the courage to ask what had become of their friend. They knew.
 
She had given her life to save theirs.
 
Solas had awoken on a pile of furs, rage boiling in his blood. She had used her magic on him. The Dalish child had used her magic on him.
 
He flew out of the tent, fury blazing in his eyes and found Cassandra near a fire with Varric.
 
“Where is she?!”
 
“Solas… I-“ Cassandra was at a loss for words.
 
“We don’t know, Chuckles. Dorian and Aryael both went to fire the trebuchet after she pulled a fast one on you. They were attacked by the dragon and split up. She was supposed to follow the path once she rigged the trebuchet to the rest of us but he arrived and she was nowhere to be found. He’s adamant that she survived. Dorian has been waiting at the camp’s edge since he got here, refusing to rest. He's been there for hours.” Varric’s words washed over him and it dawned on him that she hadn’t simply put him to sleep. She had faced the Darkspawn Magister on her own.
 
Foolish, foolish girl!
 
His heart was gripped with fear as the implication that she might not have survived, that the avalanche was the least of her problems, settled in his mind.
 
His face blanched and he stared down at Varric with unseeing eyes.
 
He couldn’t lose her. She had been the colour in a dark grey world full of regrets of could haves; the light that lit even the darkest depths.
 
He turned on his heel and searched for Dorian. He needed to know everything that happened.

What had she said? What had she done? Where could I find her?
 


 
The throbbing in her head was excruciating, sharp stabs exploding all over as she slowly came back to consciousness. She took a deep breath with eyes closed and wheezed.
 
That can’t be good.
 
Slowly, she opened her eyes, vision blurry as they adjusted to the dark. She tried to move and noted her legs were buried under what appeared to be a slide of snow from the avalanche.

"Just wonderful,” she groaned, struggling to reach a seated position with her one good arm and trying hard to ignore the searing pain in her palm. Her right forearm was clearly broken, bone pressing against skin uncomfortably.
 
“I should have spent more time discussing healing magics instead of ogling Solas,” she cursed herself as she struggled to push at the hard packed snow trapping her legs. She couldn’t feel them. She wasn’t sure if they were numb from the weight and cold or if she had injured herself some other way.
 
“Tabernak!”
 
She was getting nowhere, fingers clawing at snow and burning her skin. She tried to call on her magic and bring flames to her palm but she was too tired and in too much pain. She fell back against the cold floor as the agony in her head took her from consciousness.
 


 
“Dorian!”
 
The young altus turned his head towards the sound of his voice and saw the determined stride of Solas as he approached him.
 
“Solas.”
 
“What happened in Haven?”
 
Dorian grimaced.
 
“We left you all in front of the Chantry and fought the Templars that had made it to the inner part of the town to buy you all more time to escape. They swarmed us, Solas. Almost overwhelmed us as we finally made it to the trebuchet. Ari was injured from a blow to the head and both of our mana pools were dangerously low. We were lucky to finish them off. She aimed the trebuchet; we had agreed to make a run for it, hit the tunnels from an entrance she had come across while exploring the town nearby. Then the dragon found us. It attacked and we were cut off from each other in our efforts to escape. I made it to the tunnel and had assumed she made it there before me… she’s so fast and had been closer to it than I before the attack… And the trebuchet had fired. I thought I’d find her here. I was wrong.” The half-truths and lies spilled easily from between the lips of a man born and raised in the treacherous courts of Tevinter.
 
Solas let out a long breath.
 
“Thank you. I am going to find her.”
 
“We’ve got it covered, Chuckles.”
 
Varric and Cassandra had followed him, both listening to Dorian’s tale for the second time.
 
“We are preparing search parties, Solas. A team of scouts have already been sent into the mountain pass. If she is… they will find her, I am sure.” Cassandra’s face was uneasy; knowing the probability was that Aryael had died but hopeful that she had not.
 
“Cassandra, I am but a humble apostate. My presence is not needed here. Aryael is alone and injured. I need to find her.” He was having difficulty keeping the desperation from his voice.
 
Aryael had become everything to him. She was the first person to simply accept him; his fascination for the Fade, his curiosity and love for spirits, his beliefs and values.
 
“We could use your skill with healing. There are many wounded from the battle.”
 
Solas shook his head.
 
“No. You have many skilled mages at your disposal and the apothecary. Aryael could be… I must find her, Cassandra. It is not up for debate.”
 
Cassandra lowered her gaze. She knew that Solas and Aryael had become very close. She also knew the mountains were treacherous and that anything could happen to him should he leave the safety of their camp. For all they knew, the Elder One’s Templars were hot on their heels. But she couldn’t stop him. Not really.
 
“You should not go alone, Solas.”
 
“Cassandra, I have travelled these mountains many times. I will be fine.”
 
He did not wait for a response before he headed towards the mountain pass they had come from, leaving his staff behind.
 



Ari awoke again, teeth chattering and pain down to a dull roar in her skull. She tried again to move her legs, grunting in frustration when they wouldn’t budge.
 
“This is not how I am supposed to die,” she cried, closing her eyes in defeat. She lay there, freezing for long minutes before once more she tried to call on her magic. This time she was blessed with flames and quickly she sent them to lick at the snow covering her legs. She couldn’t feel the water as it poured over her legs. When she could see her knees, she turned and was relieved to feel her body shift, legs rolling slightly from the force of her weight as she twisted her torso. She clawed with her good hand, trying to crawl out from under the snow and managed to break free.
 
She was panting from the effort, eyes seeing white as the pain in her head reminded her that this was not about to get easier.
 
Waiting to catch her breath, she prodded at her legs, hoping to feel something. She felt nothing. She banged her left fist on the ground and tried not to cry.
 
I will not die here.
 
She dragged herself to the wall of the tunnel and leaned back against it, waving her fingers to call on more flames. She let them dance around her for warmth as she gave in to sleep.
 


 
Solas had looked back once to ensure he was well out of sight of the camp before he shifted his form. He took on the form of a white wolf, larger than the common gray wolves found in the area.
 
He struggled to find any trace of her, bounding across the snow at a break neck pace as he headed back towards Haven.
 


 
Ari awoke with burning sensations in her legs, her fire long having gone out as she let go of the spell in her slumber. She winced, bending her knee to feel sharp pricks of pain all over her legs.
 
“Câlisse!” she bent over her legs as tears sprung to her eyes and took a deep breath. She needed to get blood flowing. And she needed to set that bone. She reached for her forearm with her left hand, fingers following the feel of her bones as she looked for the break or breaks. She felt the tip of bone and pushed, biting her lip to keep from screaming as she tried to right it under her skin. She spent 10 minutes causing herself immeasurable pain before she gave up. She was no healer and with one hand, she wasn’t going to get anywhere.
 
Instead she used her good arm to pull herself up the wall, hand grabbing on jutted rocks for leverage as she slowly put weight on her legs. Her knees almost buckled but she clung to that wall for dear life, eyes closed and trying to block out the various areas of her body that hurt. She managed to stay upright, waiting patiently as her legs gave in to her will.
 
She didn’t know how long she stayed there; consciousness fading in and out as she held on. Finally, she thinks she can take a step and she pushes forward, wincing with each step as she clings to her broken arm.
 
I needs a healer. I needs Solas.
 


 
The sun is falling the sky and still Solas can find no trace of her. He briefly finds a place to rest and hunts the Fade for any sign that could possibly lead him to her. He has not come across any scouts and he doesn’t know if that’s good or bad. Night will be upon them all soon and he is scared, petrified, of what that mean for Aryael.
 


 
Aryael walks and walks. She stumbles and falls. She picks herself backs up and presses on. The tunnel is dark and her mark is giving her hell but its green glow is helping light the way so in a weird way, she is grateful for it. Even if it feels like it will consume her whole hand.
 
She can see something in the distance and remembers that there is a rift. She closes her eyes and sighs, mentally preparing herself for a fight. She is not sure if she can use her mark the way she’s supposed to in the game.
 
Soon, the sound of the rift and accompanying demons are echoing around her and she is forced to use what little mana she has to push them back as they try to crowd around her.
 
She falls to her knees, breath haggard as she struggles to take in air. She raises her marked hand, knowing that she is no condition to fight and she might as well try to use the mark. She feels the flow of the veil surrounding her, the tendrils of Solas’ magic trailing from her hand and she pulls. A tear appears in the veil, thin and bright, sending green strings of energy towards the demons and pulling them back into the Fade. She watches in fascination with eyes wide as the demons disappear.
 
She brings her hand in front of her face and eyes the mark.
 
“You are going to very useful.”
 
She falls to the ground once more, drained of energy and succumbs to sleep.
 
When she awakes again, she notices that there is light coming into the tunnel from the distance. She drags herself up and heads towards it, grimacing as her face and body are whipped by hard gusts of snow. She covers her eyes and tries to see through the snowstorm to no avail. She stumbles forward and hopes she is going in the right direction.
 


 
It has been almost two days since Corypheus had attacked Haven. Solas was becoming ever more desperate. A storm raged around him and he pushed through, refusing to stop in his search for Aryael. He had found the tunnel that the Inquisition had come through and tried to return to Haven but passage had been blocked by dozens of spells and wards. It would have taken too much time to undo them all. He had been surprised to find that the magic felt like Dorian’s, wondering why the mage had left out the part about sealing the entrance the Inquisition had used to escape.
 
The spirits in the Fade had been no help, many still not having returned to the area after the Breach had opened. He had been unable to even find Wisdom which only fuelled his panic further.
 
Where is she?
 
A particularly harsh gust of wind blew against his face and his heart stopped. He could smell her. Faintly. Barely anything, but it was her. He sniffed once, twice and then bounded off in the direction of the scent, his paws barely grazing the snow as he ran.
 
The smell grew stronger and eventually he could make out a dark mound in the snow ahead. He howled, the fear that he was too late clutching at his heart with icy cold fingers. He shifted back to his Elvhen form as he came to her side, dropping to his knees and reaching out with his magic. She was unconscious and who knew for how long. He noted the pressure of a cracked rib on her lungs, the broken radius bone in her forearm and the blood clotting in her skull over her swollen brain. She was a mess. He poured his magic into her, laying her head on his lap gently before he set the bone in her arm. The mark was flaring, having spread once more. What once had been like a sliver across her palm now appeared as a gash. He drew her hand to his lips, kissing her knuckles as he calmed his magic in her palm.
 
Ir abelas, vhenan,” his voice was hoarse with emotion, tears pricking at the corner of his eyes.
 
The damage of her head injury was severe and could have potentially killed her had any more time passed. The mark slowly was. And all of it, was because of him.
 
Him and his damned orb.
 
He clutched her body to him, wrapping his arms around her as he drained a good portion of his deep wells of mana to heal her injuries. He shuddered to think what would have happened if he had not made it in time.
 
“I promised to protect you,” her murmured against her blood streaked silver curls, “and all I have done is cause you harm.”
 
He knelt in the snow, cradling her and murmuring words of regret against her ear. She shifted in his arms and he pulled back, eyes red from unshed tears and looked down at her as she slowly blinked her eyes open.
 
“Solas…”
 
“Hush, vhenan. Your injuries were deep. You need to rest.”
 
“The others?” she clutched at his tunic with her left hand as the snow whipped around them.
 
“They’re safe. You saved them.”
 
She smiled and closed her eyes again.
 
“Good…” she drifted back into sleep and Solas picked her up, hefting her limp body onto his back and began to walk back towards their camp.
 

Chapter Text

Ari flitted in and out of sleep as fever took her, dreams turning to nightmares as her lives blended together the worst of her memories. She stood next to her keeper as her mother’s body was taken from their aravel. She sat numbly as she stared at the closed caskets that housed her parents' and brother’s mangled bodies. The pain and knowledge that she was alone tore at her as she tried to escape her memories.
 
Solas stayed by her side, washing her brow and sending soothing healing magic into her as her body fought to fight off the infections that had come from her wounds. They spent three days like that until her fever finally subsided and the worst of it was over. Her skull had been fractured in the fighting and to be perfectly honest, the damage should have been much worse by the time Solas had found her. He should not have found her alive. He had healed her arm, relieved the pressure on her lungs and dealt with the clotting in her skull but he had needed to get them out of the storm and to shelter before he could fully assess her and heal her properly.
 
Her companions had flocked to them as he appeared in the pass, the limp blood covered body draping over his back and shoulders causing both cries of relief and horror. He hadn’t stopped once for rest, determined to get them to safety.
 
The sounds of the camp preparing for dinner broke out over their refuge and drew Aryael back to wakefulness. Her body was sore as if she had just run a marathon without stretching but there was no more pain. The tent was dimly lit with candles and she felt Solas’ hand clasped in hers. She gave it a gentle squeeze drawing his attention to her.
 
Solas’ expression was tight, bags under his eyes and frown tugging his lips taut. There was a hard glint in his gaze that spoke the volumes of his fury to her. Her throat was dry as she tried to swallow and discomfort was growing in her belly. He was clearly far from pleased.
 
You almost died. The blow to your head caused a massive concussion and the clotting in your skull was blocking airflow to your brain; your brain that was swollen and bruised and in need of healing. You had multiple cracked ribs and a break; a break that was pressing against your lungs, almost puncturing it. Nevermind the hundreds of cuts that marred your body and the amount of blood you lost. The break in your arm damaged some of your nerve endings and you were lucky I managed to save your sense of touch and motor capabilities with it. You were on the verge of hypothermia and it’s a wonder you could move at all. You. Almost. Died. Because you were too stubborn to accept assistance. Because you valued others above yourself. Because you chose to take away my choice to protect you. ” The longer his speech went on, the more each word bit into her, his grasp on her hand becoming almost painful as he leaned in closer to her. Dark fury washed over his features.
 
Ir abelas ,” the words were coarse from between her lips and they felt hollow. She absolutely would not have changed a thing. Her friends were safe. He was safe.
 
“Something tells me, da’lan, that you are not in fact sorry.”
 
“What would you have me say, Solas? That I am sorry that I wanted to make sure you survived? That I am sorry that I knew you wouldn’t listen to reason so I stopped you from being able to follow me? That I am sorry that I chose to face the danger alone?” she closed her eyes as tears threatened to spill down her cheeks, “I’m not sorry I kept you safe, Solas.”
 
“What good is safe if you are not safe with me?!” He let go of her hand and turned his back on her, rising from his seat and stepping towards the front of the tent. He stopped and barely turned his head in her direction before speaking again. “You will never attempt something like this again. It is my choice where I go and what I choose to do. You will not like the repercussions that find you should you attempt to halt me again.”
 
Ari shuddered, his words sending pricks of foreboding along her skin. She had never felt Solas’ anger before and she realized then just what had made him such a capable threat to the Evanuris. He was more than dangerous in his wrath.
 
She was left alone for mere moments before Cassandra entered her tent with soup and bread, a flagon of water strapped to her hip. She gave Aryael the bowl silently, handing her the hard bread and sat on the edge of her bed before removing the flagon from her hip.
 
“I should not have let you go.”
 
“You could not have stopped me.”
 
Cassandra sighed.
 
“Aryael, you have given much to our cause. You have spent months separated from your clan. You have been harassed and heckled, made a mockery of by the Chantry and you have suffered under my very hand. And you almost gave your life.”
 
She settled the bowl on a nearby stool and moved to take Cassandra’s hand in her own.
 
“Cassandra, you have never asked of me something I have not been willing to give. I made the choice to be the one to fire the trebuchet.”
 
Cassandra clasped her hand and turned towards the pale elf.
 
“When you are feeling up to it, we should discuss what happened at Haven. Dorian said the dragon attacked you but that you were separated.”
 
“The Elder One tried to take my mark.”
 
“What?”
 
“He claims to be one of the Magisters who went into the Fade to find the Golden City. He was attempting to return to the Fade at the Temple. He wants to be a God. He wants to take over Thedas, return Tevinter to its former glory.”
 
“This is… I must speak with the others at once.”
 
Ari nodded.
 
“You should. And Cassandra… For what its worth, I know that you stand by my side. What happened to me was no one’s fault but my own. Don’t blame yourself for something you could not have stopped.”
 
The Seeker’s face was awash in emotion and she bent to hug her friend.
 
“Thank you, Aryael.”
 
Cassandra stood and strode from the tent, on a mission to find the advisors and discuss this latest revelation shared by Ari.
 
Aryael reached over and began to eat the warm soup greedily. Her stomach was painfully empty and she needed nourishment. She tried hard not to think about Solas. She had known he wouldn’t be happy with her but she had not been prepared for the cold look in his eyes or his icy demeanour, so far removed from the man she had come to know in recent months.

 


 
 Ari had fallen back asleep to the sounds of arguing arising from outside the tent, no one quite sure what their next step should be. When she awoke again the fighting had not ceased. She groaned and sat up from her make-shift cot and strode to the front of the tent, raising her left arm to open the flap.
 
The stars were bright in the sky and the fires had begun to dim as most people had turned in for the night. Cassandra, Cullen, Josephine and Leliana stood arguing in a circle by what appeared to be a command tent.
 
“You should be resting,” the soft voice of Mother Giselle came to her from her right.
 
“I’m not sure how anyone could rest with this racket. They’ve been at each other’s throats all night.”
 
“They have that luxury, thanks to you. The enemy could not follow, and with time to doubt, we turn to blame. Infighting may threaten as much as this Corypheus.”
 
“Not sure Corypheus could find us as we are now, anyways.”
 
“You may be correct. We are not sure where we are. We are unsure of Corypheus and what he means to do, or if he will attack. Our Inquisition has taken a blow and with this comes much uncertainty.”
 
Ari crossed her arms and nodded her head in the direction of the advisors.
 
“This is not helping.”
 
“They know. But our situation – your situation – is complicated. Our leaders struggle because of what we witnessed. We saw our defender stand… and fall. And now we have seen her return. The more the enemy is beyond us, the more miraculous your actions appear. And the more our trials seem ordained. That is hard to accept, no? What ‘we’ have been called to endure? What ‘we’ perhaps, must come to believe?”
 
“I did not die.”
 
“Of course, and the dead cannot return from across the veil. But the people know what they saw. Or perhaps what they needed to see. The Maker works both in the moment, and in how it is remembered.”
 
“The Maker did not have a hand in this. I am sorry to disappoint you, Mother Giselle. But I am just a woman. Just an elf.”
 
“Can we truly know the heavens are not with us?”
 
Ari sighed. There was no reasoning with the faithful, it seemed.
 
“I don’t think faith will be enough to defeat Corypheus, Mother Giselle.”
 
Ari turned away, her eyes darting over the large tents looking for Solas. They needed to discuss his foci. He needed to tell her about Skyhold.
 
She had just taken her first step away when she heard the first words to that damned song. She froze, eyes wide.
 
Shit.
 
It seemed as though everything was in slow motion. Mother Giselle’s voice echoed peacefully over the entire camp, drawing the gaze of all those still awake. Leliana’s beautiful voice soon joined in and the next thing she knew, the entire camp had begun to sing as one. Scouts on watch stepped forward, bending the knee before her and she hoped she didn’t look as horrified as she felt.
 
I do not deserve your reverence…
 
She took a shaky step backwards, hands raised as though to create a barrier between herself and the faithful.
 
This is crazy… They are all crazy.
 
The song came to an end and soon the crowd was parting with smiles on their faces. It was a drastic shift from the scene she had first come across when she stepped out of her tent.
 
“An army needs more than an enemy. It needs a cause.”
 
Mother Giselle’s voice was warm, the tone of a teacher imparting a new lesson as she stepped away.
 
Ari brought her fingers to her temple and began to massage away the headache that was newly forming. She did not care for religious zeal and while she understood the sentiment, she hated being the focus of it.
 
She started when she heard Solas’ voice.
 
A word?” his tone was sharp and he turned away from her the second she looked in his direction, expecting her to follow.
 
Guess he’s still mad.
 
She sighed and followed him out past the edge of the camp to a small cliff overlooking the base of a mountain.
 
He turned to her, having lit the nearby torch for light.
 
“The humans have not raised one of our people so high for ages beyond counting. Her faith is hard-won. Worthy of pride… save one detail.”
 
“Corypheus has an elvhen artifact.”
 
She knew she shouldn’t have interrupted him. She knew she had to stop showing her cards like this but his anger was chafing her already frayed nerves and she wanted to see him squirm. It was petty.
 
Shock registered on his face for all of a nano-second before his mask was back in place.
 
“Yes. I am curious, da’lan, how did you come to recognize it?”
 
“I didn’t.”
 
Solas quirked an eyebrow at her.
 
“I highly doubt the darkspawn magister, regardless of how talented he may have once been, was capable of creating something that could tear apart the veil or create passage into the Fade. There really is no other option than for the orb to be Elvhen, Solas.”
 
Amusement flitted across his eyes as he regarded her. She folded her arms in defiance under his gaze.
 
So what if that was a shitty lie? You can’t prove anything.
 
The orb he carries is a foci, said to channel power from our Gods. Some were dedicated to specific members of our pantheon. All that remains are references in ruins, and faint visions in the Fade, echoes of a dead empire. However Corpyheus came to it, the orb is Elvhen, and with it, he threatens the heart of human faith. We must prepare for their reaction when they find out the orb is of our people.
 
“It won’t matter what they think if we remain lost as we are now.”
 
That is the immediate problem. And it offers a solution that may secure your place in their hearts. You saved them at Haven. Perhaps you can again. By attacking the Inquisition, Corypheus has changed it. Changed you. Scout to the north. Be their guide. There is a place that waits for a force to hold it. A place where the Inquisition can build, grow. A fortress.”
 
Ari took a hesitant step forward, letting her arms fall to her side and nibbled on her bottom lip as she wondered just how long he was planning on treating her like this.
 
Solas, I…” she looked away from him, unsure what to say.
 
You should speak with the others.”
 
Her gaze snapped back to his. She hated the indifference in his tone. Hated the way in which he had spoken to her. It all felt so impersonal and detached.
 
Is this how it is to be then? You offer your assistance for the good of the Inquisition and maintain a cool demeanour with myself?” She hated her voice shook.
 
“Aryael… You-“ he took a step forward and crashed his lips against hers, his arm sliding around her waist and drawing her against him as his other slipped into her hair. His touch was rough and she gave in to it readily. Her hands slid over his shoulders, right moving to cup his neck. She moaned against his lips as she felt the press of his arousal against her. Their kiss was hard and demanding and she felt as though she could still taste the anger on his tongue. When he pulled away, she murmured protest and tried to pull him back down to her lips but he settled his hands on her hips and kept her placed firmly out of reach. His eyes were closed and his breathing harsh as he tried to compose himself.
 
I don’t know how to reconcile what you did with what almost happened to you.”
 
His confession sounded painful, as if he was fighting himself.
 
Vhenan, look at me.” She cupped his face in her hands and brushed her left thumb over his cheek. He opened his eyes and she saw pain, anger and fear swirling in their blue-gray depths.
 
I know that what I did was dangerous, that I almost died, that I-“ It hit her then, in that moment, just what she had actually done. She had forced him to do as she wished. She had taken away his freedom of choice. She had…
 
She swallowed as tears sprang to her eyes.
 
“I never should have forced you to listen like that. I should have said something or just… I shouldn’t have done that. I know I shouldn’t have. But I can’t take it back. And I was petrified of losing you just when I’d found you and I… I don’t know how to do this without you. I don’t want to do this without you.”
 
He pulled her against him and wrapped his arms around her tight, his hand stroking her hair as she held on to his tunic and buried her face in his chest.
 
Ma’sa’lath, you very much still have me.”
 
Somehow she managed to twist in further against him.
 
So you don’t hate me?”
 
Far from it.”
 
She breathed a sigh of relief against him and took a deep breath.
 
“Ma serannas. For the fortress. For finding me and saving my life.”
 
“I will always find you, vhenan. Always.”
 
The words were a promise against the cool wind of the Frostbacks as the two lovers stood under the canopy of stars in the night sky.

Chapter Text

Solas had forced her back to her tent to rest; healer’s orders. She could speak to the others when she woke. It was a far cry from his earlier words but she was grateful for the change of heart. She was very much exhausted. Though she was far from pleased when he left her to sleep on her own. She pouted to no avail as he had already committed to taking over for some healers with the wounded.
 
The sky was still dark, faint lights peaking over the eastern horizon through spaces in-between the mountains as she woke up. She stretched and took a long drink from the flagon of water Cassandra had brought the previous day before she stood and headed out her tent. She saw Leliana standing over various maps and reports in the command tent and took a deep breath before approaching.
 
“You’ve come back from the dead twice now.”
 
“I never actually died, Leliana.”
 
“That does not change the fact that you knocked on its door. Loudly.” The redhead looked up from the table and regarded Ari with curiosity.
 
“We need to move.”
 
“Yes, we do. We do not have a place to move to, however.”
 
“There’s a place in the mountains. An abandoned fortress that we can claim as our own.”
 
Leliana stepped out from behind the table and approached Ari.
 
“Another one of your secrets?”
 
“It’s the safest place we will find, Leliana. It will need repairs and it is probably by no means liveable at the moment but -“
 
“I trust your judgement, Aryael. You have proven yourself to be dedicated beyond a shadow of a doubt. You have saved us, all of us, more than once. I will speak with Cullen and the others and prepare to leave as soon as we are able.”
 
“That would be wise. Our wounded could use sturdy walls and hearths.”
 
“Speaking of wounded, your friend, Shora, is in the second medical tent.”
 
Leliana nodded in the general direction of the tent and Ari murmured her gratitude. She wasn’t sure how to deal with Leliana. This trust… It should not have been so easily won. She was honestly surprised she had not been clapped in irons again and interrogated as to how she knew what she knew. But she knew better than to question it. That would only lead to more questions about herself. Questions she could not give the answers to. She bent her head in farewell and traipsed off into the faint morning light to find Shora.
 
She found Shora laying on a cot, her brother and Iona sitting at her side as she ate what appeared to be a sort of oatmeal.
 
“Ari!”
 
The woman smiled as she looked her way and Ari’s heart broke. The left side of her face was marred with white and pink scars, crisscrossing over her eye like a web and down her cheek through to her neck and shoulder. A long sleeved tunic covered her arm but she could make out the same scars travelling up its length beneath the sleeve. Her whole hand was a mess of scars and raised skin, blotches of pink and white.
 
“I’m so sorry…” her words broke on a sob as she fell to her knees beside her friend’s bed.
 
“For what? For saving me? I heard it was you who found me. The healers say I’d be dead if it wasn’t for you.”
 
“Does it hurt?”
 
“Not so much. The healers said they did all they could for my skin… the burns were bad. Some of the skin was gone altogether. My eye was a bit tricky. I see mostly shadows around the side but I can still make it all out. And I’ve faired much better than some. I’m still here. And it’s thanks to you. Maker’s breath, you saved everyone, didn’t you? I knew you’d come back to us, though. The hero always survives in the best stories!”
 
She smiled through tears as the woman took her hand and squeezed it. The damaged skin was soft but thick as it curled around her hand. Shora was amazing. She’d lost some of her sight, her body was marred forever… and here she was smiling and comforting Ari.
 
“I’m no hero. Just doing what has to be done.”
 
“You’re my hero, Ari. Always will be,” the woman offered her a cheeky smile as Iona took away her bowl.
 
“You know what they’re saying, don’t you? You walk with the Maker’s blessing.”
 
Ari looked over at Iona.
 
“The Maker is not my God, Iona. If I walk with blessings at all, they are from the Creators.”
 
Iona nodded.
 
“Of course. That doesn’t change that the fact that the Chantry faithful think differently. I don’t think it matters much though, if it helps them have hope that we’re going to make it through, what’s the harm? You’re you no matter what blessings you may or may not have. And I for one, am very grateful that you fell from the sky.” She gave Ari a warm smile as she rested her head on her husbands shoulder.
 
“We’re all grateful fer it. I can’t thank you enough fer what you’ve done fer my sister or fer us,” Emith rubbed a hand over his wife’s protruding belly and looked down at her with warmth and affection.
 
“They have a point.” Shora nodded towards them.
 
Ari looked between the three of them as though they were both in cahoots with Mother Giselle. She wouldn’t put it past the wily woman to use her friends against her in her mission to spread her tales of the Maker’s hope.
 
“Perhaps,” she conceded, albeit grudgingly. She rose and bade them farewell before she strode off to find her companions. She needed to head their large party and lead them to Skyhold. Her body was humming with anticipation.

 



 
Travel was slow, the sheer size of their party hindering progress as they made their way through the mountain pass. Solas followed her as she traipsed over ridges to get a better lay of the land on that first day. They had stopped to break for a meal and for the healers to check on their charges. Solas had begun drifting through the wagons carrying the wounded and offering assistance when needed. It had become his habit as they travelled and he left her to leading their band of refugees through the pass. She could swear she saw him spending an inordinate amount of time speaking with Shora as well. It gave her a funny feeling in her tummy and she wondered just what they were discussing with a furrowed brow.
 
She better not be recruiting him… Or he, her.
 
They had been on the move for four days now and she had no way to tell how close they were to their destination. Solas kept his directions vague, sending her to scout this way and that way as they progressed. Sera and Varric had been her constant companions as she did so, the lot of them betting on races between them to help pass the time and keep warm.
 
Varric was nimble and fast but Sera was faster. Her feet barely touched the ground as she ran or scaled rock. Ari, on the other hand, was like a blur. Her fingers found purchase the second they met stone and her feet barely left a mark in their wake to show she had passed through. Her days with her clan in the forest had made her agile and honed her reflexes as she climbed trees and ventured into unknown ruins. She much preferred the solid feel of nature beneath her than the rickety cut wood humans used to scale heights. Her purse was quite full now as Sera was having a very hard time accepting defeat.
 
They sat around a fire, bowls of stew being passed around while Varric whipped out a deck of cards. Soon Blackwall, Sera, Iron Bull and Varric were playing a round of Wicked Grace while Cassandra shook her head in their direction.
 
“I don’t know how you southerners do it. All this blasted cold. Its outrageous.”

Ari smirked, plopping a steaming spoonful of vegetable stew in her mouth.
 
“It is warmer in the pass than it is in other places on this mountain, Dorian. The mountains shield most of the wind and snow from us,” Cassandra offered as she began to dig into her own meal.
 
“It is still blasted cold!”
 
Ari smiled at her friends and raised her hand to draw a rune in the air. The air around them became warm and toasty and Dorian practically melted in his relief.
 
“Better?”
 
“Much. You need to show me how you manage to do things like that. Most magic requires such focus that it’s all but impossible for the average mage to accomplish without a conduit, particularly if they don't want to be demon fodder. But you manage to bend everything to your will as if it were no effort at all.”
 
Ari shrugged her shoulders. “Its really not hard. I can try to show you how I cast when we have the time.”
 
“I would like that very much, Princess.”
  


 
It was the morning of their ninth day of travel and Solas had not given her directions. Instead he had bid her to follow him as they climbed the sloped side of a cliff overlooking the western side of the mountains. For all her deft and agile manoeuvring, the man waited for her at the top. He had his back to the view and a light smile on his lips as he watched her approach his side, turning with her to face the sight of Skyhold in the distance.
 
Her breath hitched in her throat as her eyes widened. The keep was massive, bridge at least a mile long and wide enough to carry thirty carts side by side. The arches sloped down into a green ravine, sheltered from the harsh elements, with what she could barely make out as ruins of an old town. The towers inside the walls rose high against the early morning sun, glass gleaming in the light. The walls were high and long and she could just barely see the other side of the keep from her position, even though they were still quite a distance away.
 
Terasyl’an Te’las…” the words came out in a breath as she took a step forward. It was calling to her and all she wanted to do was to run to it; dance in the halls and frolic in the garden. She was faintly aware of Solas' hand on her shoulder before everything faded around her.

 

 
The wind whipped through her loose curls and braids as she darted around the hall. Taking the corner in a quick turn, her silver skirts flew around her calves and she laughed. Her smile almost hurt her cheeks, it was so bright. She made it into the garden and moved to go right through the door that she knew would lead to yet another hallway before strong arms wrapped around her waist and drew her against a familiar body, causing her to squeal.
 
‘I’ve caught you, da’ean,” his words were hot against her ear as his lips brushed against the sensitive skin.
 
She laughed and turned in his embrace, hands sliding over his shoulders as she leaned against him. Her eyes roamed over his handsome smirking face, gray-blue eyes twinkling with victory as his hands settled over her hips. It was still taking some getting used to, seeing him without the vallaslin arching over his brow. But he had always been handsome, even with the markings covering most of his face. She did not want to dwell on it though, or all that it meant. What it would mean for them. She was elated and content, here in his arms, in their home. And right now, that’s all that mattered.
 
“And what if you simply fell into my trap, ma fen?” She grinned mischievously as she threaded her fingers through his thick hair and raised herself on her toes to press her lips to his.
 


 
“Aryael?” the worried tone of his voice drew her out of her reverie. She took a deep breath and blinked a few times, Skyhold coming back into her vision.
 
“Are you alright?”
 
“Fine. I’m fine. It’s just so beautiful.”
 
What the hell was that? was… That was Solas… No, Fen... and I… When did...? Was I…?
 
Her thoughts were racing through her mind at a mile a minute and she barely had the time to process, let alone finish a single one. She could feel Solas’ worried gaze and it burned the side of her face. She turned quickly to head back down the hill.
 
“We should be able to get to the bridge by nightfall if we push ourselves. I think most would be happy to sleep inside solid walls. We can assess damage and repairs tomorrow. I’ll speak to Cullen and Leliana about sending a forward party to prepare the way and ensure we can get inside.”
 
She all but ran back towards camp, fleeing the images in her mind and what they might mean.

Chapter Text

They made good time and began to cross the bridge as the sun began to set over the mountains. The forward party had opened the gates and had begun preparing areas for their forces to rest. Skyhold was nothing like the game.
 
She strode into the courtyard and let her gaze wander. The stables to the right were in disrepair but could easily hold hundreds of steeds. Soldiers were already clearing out clutter and debris, leading mounts towards the building. The outer walls were high, casting shadows over the inner sanctum that didn’t even breach the walls of the keep.
 
And the keep was… wreckage had fallen from some of the walls from lack of maintenance and she could see some broken glass in the windows. She strode up the stairs as if in a trance; everything felt so familiar. She passed a glance over the wooden structures that would become the tavern and found small cabins that made up a tiny town of sorts where Cassandra should have had her practice dummies. She could hear her companions making comments about the fortress as they followed her. Solas however was oddly quiet and she could feel his gaze burning through her.
 
She slowly made her way from the upper courtyard into the main hall, scouts rushing about to get supplies into the main building. Her eyes widened as she took in the tall walls and sweeping ceiling. Her steps were hesitant as she went further in, mind trying to process it all. The hall was long and branched out into various hallways at its sides. Stone had been moved to the side to create more floor room and a door to the right had been thrown wide open. She followed a scout as they headed through it and down a hall that led into a large sweeping room with dusty heraldry lining its walls. She slowly spun around with her head tilted high as her gaze took in the paint on the ceiling, creating the illusion of a night sky.
 
“This place is… very grand.”
 
“Do you think this might have been a ballroom?”
 
“Just who did this place belong to?”
 
Her friends had followed her in her exploration and they continued to do so as she turned down another hall, finding a smaller dining room and a hall that led to servants’ quarters. The corridors and doors seemed to go on forever and one could easily get lost in them.
 
They found their way back to the main hall by sheer luck and dispersed to help the others set up cots and such for the wounded. The ‘ballroom’ they had found would serve as their de facto hospital as it offered the most protection from the elements and seemed to have worn the least damage from the centuries. Most of the recruits had set up camp in the main hall with the villagers, though a guard unit had cleaned up one the towers near the inner gate and had set themselves up in there. 
 
The hours passed quickly and it was well into the night by the time they had mostly settled down. Her companions had found nooks and crannies to call their own temporarily but Aryael was restless. She could not shake that… daydream? Memory? The word taunted her senses. She kept to shadows as she disappeared from the crowd and began to explore the keep in earnest, small flame floating along at her side to give her light.
 
It truly was grand. She could see areas where mosaics had once covered entire walls as she wandered from room to room. She found the kitchen and cellar, a grand library with many empty shelves and various rooms that still housed furniture that had managed to remain in a surprising amount of repair. The architecture had seen different ages, the changes were subtle but they were there. The overall layout had been kept mostly the same but she could see early Alamarri influence and later both Orlesian and Ferelden in the stone. As her gaze roamed over the structure, her mind replayed the moment in time she had seen over and over.
 
He was soo… young.
 
The thought perplexed her. He by no means looked old to her now but she felt it, his youth; their youth. But that wasn’t quite right either. They weren’t young as you might think a child. No, they were... naive? Innocent? She couldn't quite find the right word.

His teeth had glinted in the sunlight as he smiled down at her and his hair had been so soft, braids slipping through her fingers as she moved to pull his head towards her. And his lips… they felt the same. She absent-mindedly raised her fingers to her mouth as she found herself climbing stairs, left hand lazily running along the cool stone as she pushed forward, opening a door at the top, unaware that she was being followed.
 
She found herself in a small corridor with a large wooden door to one side and a small library of sorts on the other, a short staircase off to the side that led to a large door. She followed the steps and cursed at the ridiculous amount of effort she had to put into opening the door. When it finally gave way, she almost fell into the new room.
 
The light of the moon filtered in, illuminating a vast chamber with dusty settees and armchairs around a large fireplace. There was carpet on the floor but it was so old and dirty she could no longer make out the colour. In the far left corner were large windows that looked over the outer walls into the mountains, as they stood tall against the night sky. A large bed, covered in dust could barely be seen farther in through an archway and rubble littered the floor. She stepped through the archway, over to the near right wall and stepped through the broken glass door that led out onto a wide, stone balcony that overlooked the gardens.
 
Taking in a deep breath, she released it slowly as her hands curled around the balustrade and she looked down into the dark depths below, dark leaves on trees leaving shadows against the stonewalls of the keep under the moonlight.
 
Have you found what you are looking for?”
 
The sound of Solas voice startled her, causing her to jump before turning around with a wide-eyed look on her face.
 
I was merely exploring. I find myself too curious for sleep. This is…” she waved her hand at a loss for words.
 
It was familiar, yet it was not. It felt safe and like home. But it also felt so very different; almost detached from her reality. She could feel the traces of magic in the air, in the stone. The lingering memories of his spell, long since cast, that held back the Fade.
 
I imagine you have never quite seen something like it.”
 
“There is nothing like this in the Free Marches,” the evasion rolled off of her tongue as she watched him approach her, back now pressed firmly against the balustrade. He had his hands clasped behind him in his familiar pose as he closed the distance between them, coming to stand in front of her so that she had to tilt her head up to look him the eye.
 
“You have been walking around as if in a daze,” his words were soft, blue eyes flashing as they roamed searchingly over her face.
 
She chuckled, raising a hand to his chest and smiled.
 
How should I behave, then? I mean, this is a veritable castle, Solas. And it feels… I can feel the magic here, permeating through the stones and in the air. Can’t you feel it?”
 
“This fortress is old, vhenan. It has seen many ages and passed through many hands. I believe this place may once have been home to ancient elves, though the structures may have changed since then.”
 
She watched his lips as they moved, the ghost of his voice in her ear, the whisper of his arms curling around her as he dragged her against him. It sparked a fire deep within her as she recalled it all. Her gaze flicked back to his eyes and she leaned against him, her hand moving to cup his neck.
 
Solas… ” his name a whisper on her lips before she raised herself on her toes and claimed his lips, much the same way she had in her memory. His arms snaked around her, fingers threading through her hair and holding her against him as his he palmed her ass beneath her tunic.
 
She moaned against him, her free hand raking down his back as he pressed against her. Their kiss was heated, a desperation borne from their lack of privacy during the journey through the pass clinging to them.
 
Soon enough she was tugging at his clothes and they were undressing each other, the cool mountain air hitting their bared skin. They fell to the ground in a mess of limbs and Ari rolled him onto his back. Her lips pressed kisses to his neck as her hands trailed down his chest. Their clothes abandoned, thrown around them in their haste to have skin on skin.
 
She moved his jawbone necklace out of the way and flicked her tongue over his nipple, smiling as he groaned. His fingers brushed against her breasts as she made her way down his chest, tongue hot and wet against his skin. She knelt between his legs and looked up at him with a mischievous smirk as she took him into her hand, stroking him slowly as she peppered kisses over his hip.
 
“Vhenan,” his voice is breathless as he looks down at her with lust-darkened eyes.
 
She ran her tongue along his length and he growled, hands reaching down for her. She chuckled, breath warm against his throbbing cock. She swirled her tongue around its head, as she looked up at him, delighting in his haggard breath. He groaned, eyes locked on hers as she took him into her mouth. His fingers tangled in her hair as she takes him down her throat, lips pressed tightly around him. She moaned around him, her hand stroking him in tune with her mouth as she sucks, cheeks hollowed.
 
Warmth gathered between her thighs, shocks of carnal desire rolling through her as she watched him become undone by her mouth. He raised his hips, tugged on her hair and she picked up her pace, hand sliding along his spit-slicked length. She felt his leg shake, his breath coming out in pants as he stared down at her.
 
She stopped, releasing his cock with a loud pop.
 
He exhales loudly, a growl rumbling low in his throat in protest. She climbs on top of him and his hands find her hips as she straddles his arousal.
 
I want to feel you come inside me.”
 
She watched as she sunk down onto his cock and bit her lip to stifle her moan. His hands tightened their grip on her hips and pulled her down against him. She gasped as she felt her nub rub against his skin, grinding against him for more.
 
Look at me, Aryael,” his voice is deep and sinful as he commands her attention. Her eyes snap up to look at him and the look on his face is feeding her need. She started to ride him, his hips rising to meet hers as they find their rhythm. Her knees scraped against the stone but she doesn’t care. The feel of him inside of her is everything.
 
She raked her nails over his stomach, barely brushing them against the cool jawbone laying against his skin. Her breasts bounced while his fingers dug into the flesh of her hips and ass as she rode him. The sounds of their skin slapping against each other filled their ears, breath hot and heavy as they came closer to climax. He rose a hand and took her breast into his hand; thumb rubbing over her sensitive nipple and she whimpered, eyes still locked on his. The pressure built inside of her, burning as it comes to a head. She cried his name as she exploded around him moments before she felt him pulse inside of her, coating her insides with his orgasm.
 
She was breathless as she slid her hands up his chest, leaning down and nuzzling his neck as she dissolved into a sated heap on top of him. He kissed the crown of her head and wrapped his arms around her, their fevered bodies cooling under the frigid mountain air.
 
Ar lath ma, Solas. So ridiculously much.”
 
He chuckled as his fingers stroked her back lazily.
 
Ar lath ma, Aryael. More than I think you realize.”
 
They stayed like that for a time before it became too cold and they hurriedly dressed, descending the various stairwells hand in hand until they joined the others in the main hall. They managed to find an unoccupied corner and Solas retrieved their bedrolls and furs from the supplies at the back of the hall. Within moments of slipping beneath the warmth and into his embrace, the Fade called to her.
 
 

Chapter Text

The smell of lavender and roses mingled in the air as she lay in an open field staring up at a cloudless sky. Her fingers played with the grass while she hummed a familiar tune to herself, basking in the sun. She could feel its warmth on her skin where her dress did not reach.
 
“You have always loved the sun.”
 
Her head turned to the sound of Wisdom’s voice and noted her slow approach from her right side.
 
“It’s a wonder how you always remained so fair skinned and never burned.”
 
“You say that as though you’ve known me a very a long time.”
 
Wisdom inclined her head slightly, a wordless admission to the truth of her words.
 
“Why did you not tell me?”
 
Wisdom cocked a brow, amusement dancing in her glowing eyes.
 
“Would you have truly accepted my word?”
 
Ari frowned as she sat up, drawing her knees to her chest and lacing her arms around her calves. She didn’t know what she would have done. She was still having trouble processing what that vision had meant.
 
“I… Remembered something, I think. I’ve known Solas before.”
 
“You’ve always known him, da’lan. Before is relative.”
 
“Who was I?”
 
“There is not a simple answer to that question. You are as you have always been; a little more, a little less perhaps. But you are still you. And you are still her.”
 
She shook her head.
 
“I don’t even know what that means anymore.”
 
“Your spirit has not changed, Aryael. It has new experiences, it has seen different things, but your essence remains the same as ever before. I would know if you were different.”
 
Wisdom smiled warmly as she sat down beside her.
 
“Would you like to see?”


Ari nodded and the Fade twisted around them as Wisdom pulled upon its strings, reconstructing her memory in front of them. A silver-haired child of no more than six knelt upon an ornate wooden chair in a vast library, bent over a large tome with wide, sparkling lavender eyes and her tongue sticking out to the side.
 
“That’s… me?”
 
Wisdom nodded. The child ran its finger over a sentence, nose scrunching in thought as she fought to understand the words. She could see a pale image of Wisdom approach the child from behind; hear her gentle words as she coaxed her into understanding and sounding out the syllables. A gleeful smile spread across her face as she managed to decipher what the text had said, her hands clapping before her as she turned to the spirit.
 
“It was many ages ago when you were first a child in Thedas. A new spirit born to the world in the flesh; your parents’ pride and joy.”
 
“Parents…”
 
“I cannot give you the answers your seek, da’lan.
 
Her brow furrowed as she regarded the spirit.
 
“Why not? Why can’t you simply show me everything I can’t remember?”
 
“Because that is not how you will remember. And you must remember.”
 
She was silent as she hugged her legs.
 
“Solas doesn’t remember.”
 
“No, he does not.”
 
“Why?”
 
“That is a question with another complicated answer. One that it is not my place to give.”
 
“Then whose place is it?”
 
“The answers will come in time.”
 
Ari stared at Wisdom dumbfounded.
 
“You cannot be serious right now. I just discover that I grew up in Elvhenan. That I was with Solas. But you can’t tell me why he doesn’t seem to recall it? Or why I can recall one memory? Or why I look exactly the same, even though I am a Dalish elf?”
 
“You remember more than you realize.”
 
“What are you… you’re evading.”
 
“They are not ready to face you.”
 
“What do you… who isn’t ready?”
 
Wisdom closed her eyes and straightened the skirts about her ethereal frame.
 
“I have already said too much. I have already shown too much, eager in my desire to have you remember our history. Aryael, you have a duty and a destiny to fulfill. You should be focusing on Corypheus and the threat that he poses. Have faith, da’lan. When the moment is right, all will be revealed to you. I promise you that you will be able to remember. I promise you that you will understand.”
 
Ari was silent as she regarded the spirit woman. She clearly knew everything that was gnawing at Ari’s mind to be known. And she knew that Wisdom would not, in fact, tell her.
 
“You always were fond of gentle pushes in the right direction and self-enlightenment.”
 
Wisdom smiled, her presence practically humming next to Aryael in delight.
 
“Let your subconscious free, da’lan. As you heal, your memories will return.”
 

 



 
She groaned as she slowly woke up, her body stiff and sore from the stones beneath their furs. Hugging Solas’ waist tighter, she burrowed herself into his warmth, straining to get even closer than their already intertwined bodies were. She could hear the sounds of people stirring and knew that they would need to wake and begin assessing the keep with the others.
 
On dhea, vhenan,” his voice rumbled in his chest as he moved to kiss the crown of her head.
 
“Not morning. I refuse.”
 
“I believe our companions are already awake and waiting for you.”
 
“Ugh, why does everyone wake up so early?”
 
“Not everyone stays awake as late as you, da’lan. Early to bed and early to rise.”
 
“My friends are all ha’hrens. That’s why.”
 
Solas chuckled, his hand slipping into her hair and pulling her head back gently so that she had to face him. He gave her a quick kiss and Ari pulled on his tunic for more.
 
We are hardly in a position for more.”
 
Ari pouted.
 
“The first thing on my list of things to do today is find us private quarters.”
 
Solas smirked.
 
“I think there are more pressing matters to be attended to, vhenan.”
 
Nothing is more urgent than kisses, Solas ,” she said with the most severe of tones, face still and sombre.
 
A smile curved his full lips and she felt her heart flutter in her chest, eyes drawn to them. She loved his smile, rare as it could be.
 
“We should join them.”
 
Ari rolled her eyes.
 
“Yes, ha’hren.” She let go of her hold on him and they disentangled themselves, rising from their shared furs. Ari stretched, back cracking as she turned to see that most of the people in the main hall had dispersed. She could smell cooked meats and followed her nose outside into the upper courtyard to find burning fires and clusters of her companions eating, many of the recruits doing the same on the lower level.
 
“Dimples! Chuckles! So glad you could join us.”
 
Ari gives him a cheeky grin.
 
“I didn’t realize how much my presence was so easily missed.”
 
“Kinda hard not to notice, Boss. You’re kind of a big deal.”
 
She gave Bull an odd look, flush creeping over her cheeks as she took in his amused smirk and the sly wink he shot her.
 
“And quite loud at times. Very hard to miss you, Princess.”
 
The damned Qu’nari knows… And Dorian! Gods, did they hear…
 
She fought off the feeling of mortification that the hulking man and her Tevinter stud muffin may or may not have been perfectly aware of (and heard) what exactly she and Solas had gotten up to last night, turning her attention elsewhere.
 
“How much looking around have we done?” she asks Cassandra, taking the red apple that Dorian offered her in her hand and turning her back on him after a quick thank you.
 
“The scouts have gone through most of the keep and the townspeople of Haven have been spending much time nearby, investigating the cabins and looking for a more permanent residence for themselves. Josephine is already sending letters and Cullen has organized the recruits into groups to deal with the debris in the keep and to get the battlements and guard towers up to his standards. Leliana has also sent two patrols out into the surrounding areas to get a lay of the land and investigate the remains of the village in the valley below.”
 
“Sounds like it’s all being taken care of then.”
 
“Many of the mages have been assisting with the wounded, though others are assisting the recruits. This will… take time to restore.”
 
Ari took a bite of her apple, turning to look up at the battlements. There were numerous soldiers carrying fallen stones or broken beams, wooden doors thrown open as they cleared out chambers.
 
“Not as long as you think, perhaps.”
 
“When you have a moment… I believe the others would like to speak with you.”
 
“I’ll go find them now.” She turned to her companions, eyes pointedly resting on Blackwall and Bull. “We should focus on getting the civilians as settled as possible. Offer them whatever assistance you can. Especially when it comes to the heavy lifting.”
 
“You got it, Boss.”
 
She didn’t miss Sera’s look of approval before she turned on her heel and gave Solas a quick kiss on the cheek, raising herself on her toes.
 
Private. Quarters,” she whispered into his ear.
 
He chuckled and gave her an amused look
 
She ran back up the steps and into the main keep, Cassandra hot on her tail. They found Leliana and Josephine with their heads together, pouring over correspondence on a large wooden table in a grand library found in the back of the keep.
 
“Ah, Aryael. This is truly a magnificent find. With repairs and some refining, I am sure that Skyhold will do marvellously as a base of operations. We really must thank you for finding it.”
 
“Well, Solas is the one of who knew of it.”
 
“Yes, I must make sure to thank him as well.” Josephine smiled, her medieval clipboard in hand as she turned her full attention towards her.
 
“I was hoping that we could discuss the events at Redcliffe more closely. This Corypheus and his plans.”
 
Leliana held her hands behind her back, face a mask as she regarded Ari.
 
“He is going to have Celene assassinated but I do not know when. No one in the future mentioned how he manages to do it either. So I really have no other information I can offer on that. As for the demon army… There were darkspawn amongst the demons that attacked before Dorian and I escaped. I think our answer will lie with the Wardens.”
 
“I will do my best to get ourselves into contact with Celene. It may prove difficult however, with the civil war raging in Orlais.”
 
“It might be prudent to reach out to Duke Gaspard as well. We can never tell what contacts will benefit us in our goals. What is most important is that Orlais regains and retains its stability. A divided Thedas is exactly what Corypheus wants. It will make us easier to conquer.”
 
“Aryael is correct. I will get in touch with our camps in the Hinterlands and Stormcoast to have scouts dispatched in the surrounding areas. If there is any Warden activity, we shall know.”
 
“Right.”
 
The silence was heavy, as the important decisions it seemed, had been made. And Ari knew that no strides forward would be made until Hawke showed up so that they could meet with…

But it wasn’t going to be Stroud, was it? Those letters had clearly indicated they were hunting a female warden… My Warden. Hawke knows my Warden. How am I supposed to leave either of them behind in the Fade?!
 
“I should help the others," her voice sounded a little sharp to her ears as she tried to turn her thoughts to less dire ones. Adamant was not here yet.
 
She said her goodbyes and turned out into a long hallway.
 
“You were awfully quiet, Cassandra.”
 
“There was no need for my input. Josephine and Leliana have things well in hand.”
 
“You have no concerns or suggestions?”
 
Cassandra regarded her thoughtfully.
 
“I have voiced them.”
 
“Ah.”
 
Ari silently contemplated what that might mean.
 
Was Cassandra the one who suggested I lead the Inquisition? Has she already done so?
 
They entered the main hall and Ari soon found herself assisting a group of recruits get into a barricaded door with her magic before she herself was recruited to assist clearing out the kitchens and cellars.
 
Well, this is going to be a very fun home renovation.

Chapter Text

It had been two weeks since they arrived at Skyhold. The days had been long, everyone joining in to assist in repairs and clearing out the debris. Groups had been sent down to the valley to appraise the standing village as well as find any materials that may assist in rebuilding. Slowly supplies had begun to arrive from Ferelden and Orlais, wagons of lumber and stone along with seeds, wheat and tools. 

It was mid-morning and Ari had spent the early part of the day assisting in cleaning out the gardens. What had been an overgrown mess of vines, elf root and other various plants was beginning to look much more pleasant to the eye. She took a step back and wiped her brow of sweat, eyes roaming over the piles of cut plants and weeds. 

"You know this place."

She looked over her shoulder at Cole and smiled.

"You've managed to stay out of sight quite a bit haven't you? Try to stay clear of Vivienne. She has the ridiculous idea in her head that you're a demon."

"I'm Cole."

"Yes, you are. Are you comfortable?"

"I've been helping. There is so much hurt. So much fear. You don't know what it all means."

Ari flicked her eyes over towards the others, ensuring they were out of hearing distance.

"I'm not sure what any of it means, Cole. But I'd like to find out. Would you walk with me?"

Cole nodded and she led the spirit boy out towards a hallway that led them back to the main entrance and down into the courtyard, waving at her companions as though she were alone while making her way towards the battlements. She wrung her hands nervously as she climbed the stairs, cool winds whipping loose stands of her silver curls about her face. She had been dreading this conversation.

"You are confused, yes? I know you but you don't know me?"

"You helped me. Protected me. I can see it but it hasn't happened yet."

She placed her hands on the stone of the outer walls and looked out into the mountains.

"Many things have yet to happen. I've... Experienced all of this. Corypheus and the orb... The veil tearing. I've met everyone. Made decisions that would affect Thedas and everyone in it profoundly. But I never felt… "

She turned to him with a sad look in her eyes, a half-hearted smile tugging at her lips.

"No one can know."

"Dorian knows."

She nodded.

"Yes, Dorian knows. I don't think anyone else would understand. I'm... I'm from here but I went away. And when I came back... Well, I don't remember all of it. And things are different, so very different. Even though this is what I know now. I am not sure what it all means. I just know that things are slowly coming back."

"I can help."

Ari chuckled.

"You remind me of a friend."

"You call them the purple child. But they're not a child."

"They're a spirit, yes. Like you."

"I want to help. Like them. Normally I make them forget, but I want to help you remember."

"Then can you keep a secret, Cole? Don't tell anyone about me or who I am. Especially Solas."

"He could help too. He would want to remember. He would want you to remember."

"I don't know if he could... I don't even know how to remember myself. Please, Cole. He can't know. I don't know what it would mean or what he would do... And right now, the only advantage I have is that I know what is going to happen next. I need to know what is going to happen next if I'm going to save anyone, let alone everyone."

"You're not just a nobody, Ari. You belong here. You belong with them. They know you. He knows you."

Ari started, wide lilac eyes looking up into Cole's sharp blue gaze.

He... I forgot how easily he can read people's hurts and fears.

"You will remember, like Wisdom said. You should find your friend. They make you happy. They always made you happy."

"Cole, do you... Can you see? Do you know who I was?"

"Bits and pieces. Not more than you. You already know so much."

Ari sighed, the spark of hope that he could see into her past flickering out in the cool air of reality. He knew no more than she. Which was not much at all.

"He loves you, Aryael. You are you. Even if you don't remember. You're not a ghost."

Chuckling, Ari reached over and gave the boy a hug. He stiffened under her embrace, unused to the contact.

He’s much too good at pinpointing your fears. And saying what you need to hear.

"Thank you, Cole. Mind what I said, yeah? Steer clear of Vivienne. Solas and Varric are safe enough. So is Dorian. You're safe here. You will always be safe here. This is your home as long as you wish it to be." She pulled back, hands on his arms and gave him her signature cheeky grin.

"Thank you. I'd like to help. I think I can help most here."

 


 

Ari stood on the cusp of the upper courtyard, watching as Cullen ran some recruits through drills below. She heard the crunching of snow behind her signalling the approach of someone and turned her head.

“Leliana. The renovations seem to be going well. It’s starting to feel like it’s ours.”

The woman nodded.

“Yes, we’ve managed to make quite a difference in the short time we’ve been here. If Josie has her way, we’ll be hosting nobility in no time at all, with all the comforts of the best the courts of Thedas have to offer at their fingertips.”

Ari chuckled.

“She is quite the force to reckoned with, isn’t she?”

“Yes. As are you. Which is why I wanted to discuss something with you. We’ve received reports of a missing unit of soldiers in southern Ferelden. I’ve dispatched a unit of scouts into the area to search but they could use some back up. They’ve set up a camp in the Fallow Mire.”

“How long have they been missing?”

“We lost contact some time around the attack on Haven. At first we were unsure if we simply lost communications due to our own situation but now we are certain that there has been interference.”

“I’ll prepare to leave at once.”

“Thank you. Maker be with you on your travels, Aryael.”

The redhead lowered in her head in farewell leaving Ari to her own devices once more.

The Fallow Mire… corpses. Great. The perfect practice for Crestwood.

She sighed to herself before turning on her heel and heading towards the tavern. The wooden building had been one of the first that been completely cleared out, granting the troops and civilians a much needed place for respite from the outside world. Bull’s Chargers had managed to supply the place with casks of ale though there was no barkeep as of yet. She opened the large wooden door to find the sounds of Varric regaling Bull with yet another tale of Hawke.

“I’m telling you Tiny, the dragon was huge. Scales gleaming in the sun, breath foul enough to knock you off your feet. And the fire… I don’t know how Hawke or Fenris managed to get so close but they did! The battle was brutal and I wondered more than once who it was going to eat first.”

“Careful Varric, you’re going to give the man wet dreams if you keep describing the dragon like that.”

Bull chuckled.

“Boss, you know me so well.”

“You haven’t exactly been quiet about your want to get on a battlefield with a dragon, Bull.”

“Don’t tell me you don’t want to get your hands on a dragon, Boss.”

“I’d like to think that there aren’t any around for us to engage to be honest.” She took a seat next to Varric and slid her hands onto the rickety table they sat at. “Though there may be a decent fight in our future. Some soldiers have gone missing in the Fallow Mire. Foul play is suspected. I’ll be heading out in the morning and I’m putting a party together.”

“You’ll have to count me out of this one, Dimples. I’m waiting on a guest and some important missives that may be able to help our situation.”

Ari turned her head towards Varric, cocking a brow and a small smile gracing her lips.

“A guest? My, my, doesn’t that sound intriguing? I do hope I’ll get to meet them when they arrive?”

“Of course. Just… don’t tell anyone that I’m expecting anyone. Especially Cassandra. Definitely don’t tell Cassandra.”

“Women always find out, Varric.”

“Bull’s right, we do.”

“I’d still like to hold on to this little secret long as I can.”

“Understood. Bull? Would you like to accompany me?”

“Of course. I’ve been itching for a good fight. Maybe we’ll find a dragon along the way.”

Ari laughed. “I don’t think we will but you can always keep hoping.”

“Headin’ off, Elfiest?”

Ari looked up to see Sera trailing down the steps leading to the upper levels with Thom.

“I am. Care to join me?”

“’Course. Can’t go ‘avin' you run into trouble alone again. Maker knows you need us t' keep you safe.”

She smiled, eyes finding Thom’s questioningly.

“I’ll join ye as well. Would do some good I think to get away from this place for a bit.”

“I truly hope you don’t regret that once you experience the Fallow Mire.”

“Been there before, Dimples?”

“Around once or twice. Never too deep. Not very pleasant. I should find Dorian and Solas. See if they’re up to coming as well.”

“Maybe find Dorian first? Chuckles has a habit of distracting you these days.”

Ari felt her cheeks warm at his words.

“I have no idea what you are talking about, Varric. I am very focused. Indomitably so.” She raised herself from her seat and looked at her companions. “We’ll leave at first light. Meet me at the stables.”

“You got it, Boss.”

She turned and walked out of the tavern, heading towards the main keep.

I’m not that obvious, am I? I mean… we have been spending a lot of time together… Gods, tell me I don’t seem like the infatuated teenager he’s making me sound out to be…

She slid her hand up her face as she climbed the steps into the main hall, turning down a hallway towards the make shift hospital. It was much less populated these days. Just a few remaining in the cots that had been set up and soon they would be free to join the rest of them without worry. Solas and Dorian had both spent much time here with the other mages doing what they could to help heal the injured. She spotted them both in a corner discussing something as she approached.

“You are more than just a mage, Solas.”

“The differences between us are not technicalities to be discarded, Dorian.”

“I was simply hoping we might find some common ground, that’s all. We barely know each other and I find that I would like to get to know you.”

“Why?”

“Why wouldn’t he want to?”

Ari approached them with a smile on her face, slipping her hand into Solas’ with ease as she looked up at him.

“It wouldn’t kill you to try to get to know the man, vhenan. You cannot judge him based solely on where he comes from.

Solas quirked a brow as he looked down at her, face bereft of emotion.

“And who is he then?”

Find out for yourself. Dorian, would you care to accompany me to the Fallow Mire? There’s a soldier unit that has gone missing in the area and I’m going to investigate. We leave at first light.”

“Of course, Princess! I will take my leave and prepare for the journey. Who else is accompanying us?”

“Bull, Sera, Blackwall… I’m sure Cassandra will tag along as well once I ask her. And I don’t think Solas has any plans of letting me out of his sight after Haven.”

“And Varric?”

“Varric needs to stay behind on this one. Has some things to get done.”

“Right, of course. Well then, I will see you in the morning.”

She watched him leave and her brow furrowed in a frown.

It really wouldn’t kill you to try, Solas. You seem perfectly at ease with Varric and Cassandra. Even Sera, though you squabble all the time. I don’t understand your hostility towards Dorian.” She turned her frown towards him. “He is a good person, vhenan. And he is my friend. A very dear friend. I would appreciate it if you tried to get to know him.”

Solas sighed, raising their joined hands and kissing her knuckles lightly.

I will… try. I cannot promise anything more than that.”

“Ma serannas. It’s all I can ask for.”

A wide grin split her face before she raised herself on her toes and gave him a chaste kiss on the lips.

“I also suggest you pack oilskins for the journey. The Fallow Mire may just be worse than the Storm Coast.”

Chapter Text

Solas walked through the memories of the area, watching silently as the ghosts of the past came to life in the Fade. He watched as a young Maric was exposed for the rightful King of Ferelden, a middle-aged Gareth fighting his son Loghain for control of a knife before bending knee before Maric. The emotions high as Maric knighted him before being taken by Loghain into the Korcari wilds as Gareth led his band of refugees to buy them time. He was quiet as he heard the soft fall of footsteps to his side, indicating the approach of his friend Wisdom.

"Ma falon," the warm lilt of her voice carried to his ears and he turned to face her.

"It is good to see you. You have been absent for some time."

"You are not my only friend, Solas. My oldest perhaps," her lips curved into a teasing smile, "but there were others who I needed to see."

Solas raised a brow in amusement.

"Oldest?"

"Oldest. I am surprised to find you here, walking amongst memories you have already seen."

"I thought to show Aryael some of what happened here but it seems she is not yet asleep."

"You always were quick to slumber. I see that you have let your reservations go. I am happy for you, ma falon."

"I confess my fascination with her has grown to be something I did not expect. I cannot recall ever feeling as strongly for someone in all my years. I- she calls to me; her spirit, her warmth, her light. I never would have imagined to ever find someone like her, here, now in this world of all places. But she is not like the Dalish I have come to know. She is... Real. More real than anything else has been since I awoke. I am not sure exactly... She is a question I cannot seem to find the right answer to. All answers I have yet found, lead to more questions and each answer has led me to... It is worrisome."

"Are you not allowed to simply enjoy living, Solas? Must you seek trouble around every corner?"

"I am not seeking what is plain to see. There is something. Something that she keeps close. She knew the name of Tarasyl'an Telas. She stood against Corypheus alone and sent Dorian through the passage without her, to seal it behind him, and hid that from everyone. I do not even know if she expected to survive. She speaks Orlesian and Elvhen as if they are her mother tongues. She wields magic as though she breathes it, more adept than most I knew from the time of Elvhenan. She practices the way of the dirth'ena enasalin. If I did not know better, I would swear she is Elvhen. I am not certain what to make of it, of her.”

"Solas, how many months have you spent at her side since the veil tore? How many chances have you had to share parts of yourself not so easily discussed? Do you truly feel she is guarding secrets? That these secrets may harm you? Are you so unwilling to abandon the lonely path you have placed yourself on?"

Solas sighed, clasping his hand over wrist behind his back and began to walk away, leaving Wisdom to follow.

"I do not believe she wishes to harm me, no. That does not mean that she could not very well become a liability, that her very being could prove cumbersome to my endeavors."

"Solas, you have always been prone to the dramatic for all your simple posturing. Aryael is unique. We have discussed her rarity before. That does not make her a potential enemy. She makes you happy. You make her happy. Must she be a puzzle for you to solve?"

"Your defense of her is telling, ma falon."

He turned his steely blue gaze towards her.

"You know what she hides."

"I know many things, Solas. As will you when the time is right. Now is not that time. Nor I, the being who should tell that tale. It would do you well to heed my words. Cease your needless worrying. Live your life, Solas. Let yourself be happy.”

 


 

Ari pulled the hood on her cloak tighter around her head as she led her mare through the bog.

“Why were there soldiers in this area again, boss?”

“No idea. I think they just like to make me go places it is very wet and cold.”

“I believe the last time we ventured to such a place, it was to meet with you, Iron Bull,” Cassandra remarked with a smirk.

“That was worth it,” he said with a grin, rain dripping down his face as he rode his asaarash through the downpour.

“As is this journey. We shouldn’t be too far from the forward camp now. With luck, they’ll have tents that we may use already set up. Otherwise…” Ari did not want to think about otherwise.

“Why even bother setting up tents in this? I don’t think we’ll ever be dry again.”

Aryael turned to her right and suppressed a laugh as she took in the appearance of her friend. He very much looked the drowned rat even with a cloak protecting him.

“I truly apologize, Dorian. I will find a way to make this up to you. I swear it!”

“That, princess, is something I will hold you to. I should have known better than to simply accept your invitation at Skyhold.”

“I did warn everyone before we left that you should all pack oilskins and prepare for the damp.”

“Damp. You said damp.”

“This is damp.”

“This is a torrential downpour! We may as well be lost at sea, sinking beneath the frothy depths of salt water.”

“I wouldn’t go that far. It’s really not so bad.”

“Elfiest’s gone daft. No’ so bad. Dorian’s right. It’s a neverendin’ bath. A stinky one. With corpses. And mud. Arrows don’t fix mud.”

“We only encountered undead twice.”

“How many more will we find before we leave? Though I must admit, I don’t find it near as bad as the rest of ye.”

Sera snorted.

“That’s coz you want to find your warden shite. Don’t matter if it’s a bloody flood long as you get your relics. Almost as bad as Elfiest and Glory with their elfy ruins.”

“There is nothing wrong with appreciating pieces of history, Sera.”

“The corpses disagree."

“I believe I see light ahead. It must be Harding and the scouts. They may have an update on the soldiers, Aryael.”

“How can you see anything in this, Cassandra?” she squinted as she tried to make out the light that Cassandra saw.

“To the left, vhenan.”

She turned her head slightly and found the speck of light Cassandra had seen.

“You would make an excellent hunter, Cass.”

“I am not so deft with a bow.”

“Just ask Sera for lessons. I’m sure she’s tiring of my terrible aim by now. Needs better students.”

“S'not so bad. I mean, you waste arrows, yea. You'll learn though. I got 5 crowns on it. And I’m not losing any more coin to Varric!”

“You bet on my ability to learn to use a bow?”

“I bet on me teaching you to shoot arrows.”

“You have no faith in me.”

“Don’t take it to heart, Aryael. Sera’s just teasing. And you’re really not as bad as you think. You hit the target more often than not.”

“You’re just saying that, Blackwall.”

The outline of the camp finally came into view, a raging fire in the middle of 6 tents with fennecs burning on spits a welcome sight for her companions.

“Harding!” she called with a smile as she nimbly dismounted Nehn.

“Thanks for coming. Hope the corpses didn’t take too much out of you.”

“Not at all. Have you found any leads on the soldiers?”

“Our missing patrols are being held hostage by Avvar.”

“What are the Avvar doing down down here?” Cassandra asked as she approached.

“That’s the thing. Their leader… he wants them to fight you. Because you are the Herald of Andraste.”

Ari sighed and closed her eyes.

“The Avvar think there are gods in nature. As in, the sky has a God, and the forest. The Avvar say you’re claiming to be sent by one, and they’ll challenge the will of your God with their own.”

“God vs God?” Bull’s tone was amused.

“I think their leader’s just a boastful little prick who wants to brag he killed you.”

“You’re probably right. The perils of religious fervor and fame. There’s no chance of negotiating, is there?”

“I wouldn’t count on it. These Avvar don’t seem to value diplomacy. Getting to our troops wont be easy. You’re going to have to fight through the undead. Regions full of them.”

“More corpses.”

“Wait, you’re not squeamish about undead, are you Sera?”

“I’m going to need more arrows.”

Ari laughed.

“I think we all need some sleep first. Perhaps some food as well.”

“We set up some tents for you guys and there should be a few fennecs ready to eat. Don’t worry about watch tonight, we got you covered.”

“Thank you, Harding. It’s much appreciated.”

She followed Harding and made to sit beneath a tarp strung high between thick trees, creating a covered canopy near the fire. The winds still blew rain through but much less than being out in the open. She sat on a log and watched as her companions gathered their things and made way to their tents.

“Where are the Avvar currently holed up?”

“On the other side of the Fallow Mire in a castle. Maker willing, our people are still alive.”

“Have you encountered any of them?”

“No, our scouts have stuck to recon only, tracking the soldiers since their last known location. We had strict instructions from Leliana to await your arrival.”

Ari nodded.

“We’ll leave first thing in the morning.”

“We appreciate it, Aryael. After Haven… well, you’ve done a lot of good. And you keep doing it.”

“It’s really not much.”

Harding laughed.

“You went up against an arch demon and a blighted magister. You fell out of the Fade. Most people would say those are something.”

Ari grinned.

“Maybe. I’m not most people though.”

“No, you definitely aren’t. We’re lucky to have you.”

“And the Inquisition is lucky to have you.”

“Aw shucks, I might have to ask Josephine for a raise now.”

Ari laughed as her companions joined them, Bull diving straight for the meat and Cassandra coming to discuss stability in the Hinterlands region with Harding. Solas brought her a satchel of dried fruit and nuts with a small wedge of cheese before turning to join the others in their warm meal.

“Don’t know how you do it, Boss. Nuts and cheese. A body needs more than that to be strong.”

“Are you insinuating I am weak, Bull?”

She cocked a brow at the Qunari.

“Oi, Bull. Careful. Efliest will freeze your bits off.”

“Just saying. You eat like a mouse. Don’t know how you don’t drop from fatigue."

“There are plenty of people who practice such diets religiously.”

“Yea, but they don’t do it all the time. A few weeks, maybe a few months out of the year. You’ve done this most of your life.”

“And how do you know that?”

“The ease with which you prepare your snacks, counting exactly what you're eating, the small flare of your nose when the smell of cooked meat hits you, the way you avoid looking as we eat our meals. Your tells are easy to see.”

Ari's lips curled slightly with amusement. Bull was sharp. He picked up on a lot of things. Much too easily. She needed to remember that.

“I have not eaten meat since I was a small girl, you are correct. The idea of it… When I was young, perhaps five or six years of age, I wanted to go hunting. My mother had told me that my father had been a great hunter, the best the clan had ever seen and I suppose I wanted to feel closer to him. I begged Mihren to take me with him one day. He was thirteen but already the clan had come to depend on his talents. And his sister Lyara was my best friend, so he was easy to approach. He showed me what to look for as we made our way deeper into the woods. Game had been scarce in the area we had chosen to set up our camp in. We did not realize that we had encroached on a territory already claimed. Mihren found a ram and hushed me with a finger to his lips, gesturing for me to stay still as I watched him silently pull an arrow from his quiver and take aim. The ram had… It was just eating. And within moments it had fallen to the ground without a word. It was as if I could feel its life slip away… I'd never been so repulsed.”

She stared out into the fire as she told her story, the memory playing vividly in her head.

“I sat there, eyes wide as Mihren moved to claim his kill, pulling out a knife and expertly cleaning out the animal and draining it of blood so that it would be easier to trek back to the others. The smell must have lured the bear to us and the sound of growling shook me from my trance. I stared at the large black bear as it came out from behind the trees and dashed at Mihren. I raised my hand and shouted, lightening crackling in the air and drawing the attention of the bear towards myself. I could barely hear Mihren scream for me to scramble up a tree as fast as I could. I could see arrows hitting the bear but it did not stop. I closed my eyes and… I apologized. I was sure this was punishment for taking the ram’s life. I called to the heavens and apologized for wanting to go hunting. For Mihren’s arrow. I promised the Gods I would never hunt again, I would never take another animal’s life… I called to all of them, to any that would hear me and I prayed that they would save me… And the bear never touched me.”

She rubbed a hand over her arm and smiled to herself. That day and all that came from it after had defined her as a person; as Aryael of Clan Lavellan.

Funny to think how just a few moments could alter your entire life.

“When I opened my eyes, Mihren had slung the ram over his shoulders and was about to grab my hand to run. Before me, a large gray wolf had its maw clenched around the neck of the bear, providing us a distraction that allowed for escape. I swore that my prayer had been heard and I never touched meat again. Odd, I know. The clan thought I’d lost my mind. They tried everything to get me to eat “properly” but I would not break my vow. Deshanna was quite incensed with me. It probably didn’t help that I swore up and down the Dreadwolf had saved us and took to roaming around the camp on all fours pretending to be a wolf.”

Ari chuckled, a rueful smile playing at her lips. She missed her clan. How exasperated Deshanna would get when she disappeared for days on end only to come back with some new tome or relic. How Lyara and Nehnis always had her back, how easy it was to see their love. She even missed Mihren’s overbearing protectiveness that only seemed to grow since that fateful day in the Planasene Forest.

Bull laughed, a loud guffaw that was drowned out by the sound of rain falling all around them.

“You told your clan that the Dreadwolf saved you?”

She turned to him and raised a brow.

“A wolf attacks the bear that is about to kill you and you don’t automatically think your prayers were answered by the God that is literally named the Dreadwolf?

Bull laughed.

“Guess it makes sense when you put it that way. Can’t imagine your clan reacted too well to that.”

“They reacted even less well when I told them all I would wear his vallaslin one day. Luckily they brushed it off as the wild fancies of a child and I learnt to keep my opinions on our Gods to myself after that. Though on the day I received Sylaise’s markings, Lyara did ask if I was sure I didn’t want them to give me the face of a wolf over my own.”

“Always were a little rebel, weren't you?” Dorian's voice was amused, eyes glittering with merriment as he looked on at her.

She grinned and blew him a kiss.

“Perhaps. But it’s been a long day. And I think it’s time I turned in. Rest well. We’ll leave as soon as there’s light. We won’t be getting much of it through the storm anyhow.” She turned on her heel and left her companions to the rest of their meal, eyes pointedly avoiding Solas as he sat in silence, his eyes watching her every move. She found the tent she had seen him enter with her belongings and shed her wet cloak and tunic, peeling her leggings off with a bit of difficulty. Unfurling her bedroll, she pulled the familiar smelling furs over her shivering body and closed her eyes.

I probably shouldn’t have shared that story. He’s probably going to think less of me for wanting his slave markings… he doesn’t even have any vallaslin though.

She yawned, hand covering her mouth before burrowing further into the warmth of the furs.

Ah well. Doesn’t matter. It’s not like I knew that they were slave markings back then. And he’s not going to tell me until forever. Silly wolf. Things would be so much easier if he just trusted me enough.

Her thoughts trailed off as the pitter patter of the rain falling onto the canvas lulled her into a fitful slumber. 

Chapter Text

The sound of the rainfall drowned out all other sounds; gray skies casting dim lights over the mire. They had gone through Fisher’s End, dealing with straggling corpses and avoiding as best they could the smell of plague that permeated the bog and abandoned cabins. The thoroughfare had seen them swarmed by undead as they crossed the rickety, broken bridges over the swamplands. Sera had fallen in the water once or twice, screaming bloody murder each time she came up sputtering. She hadn't holstered her bow since the first attack, keeping it out and half-drawn just waiting for more to come at them.

 “Bloody corpses… Minging boney things… dead should stay dead. Stupid. Corpses,” the blonde elf muttered as her eyes darted around the area, trying to find anything that could attack them.

“I don’t know Sera, corpses or demons? What would you pick?”

“Andraste’s tits!” Sera swore as the light of a rift could just be made out in the distance through a small opening in the walls of stone off to their right. “You just had to ask, didn’t you, Elfiest?”

“Well, perhaps the demons will be more friendly?” She tossed a grin over her shoulder as she picked up her pace, left hand hovering at her side and ready for the inevitable clash. Blackwall and Bull charged in, drawing the attention of three terrors and a pride demon. Barriers went up like clockwork around them all and Ari smiled at the familiar touch of Solas’ magic. Dorian cast fire mines strategically around the field, dealing damage as the demons moved towards the warriors. Sera’s arrows dealt with the minor wraiths in swift order as Cassandra shielded Ari’s approach towards the rift. The sounds of battle raged around her as she raised her hand, pulling the strings of the veil back together. Another wave of demons saw a rage demon almost overwhelm Blackwall  before Solas froze it solid. With a resounding snap, the rift closed just as Sera’s arrow pierced through the last of the wraiths.

“Definitely weren’t friendly demons, Boss.”

“Really? I thought the despair demon was really quite gracious.”

“You’re daft.”

“Definitely friendlier than Sera seems to be right now. I suggest we all check our bedrolls before we tuck in for the night.”

“Right. Coz I’m gonna touch the bloody corpse lizards.”

“I’ve never seen you turn down the opportunity for a good prank. Especially when you’re stressed. You prank much more when you’re stressed.”

Her smile faltered slightly as her ear twitched, a familiar tug of magic pulling at her senses.

“There appears to be an Elvhen artifact nearby.”

Ari turned to face Solas, barely catching the gleam of hopefulness in his eyes.

“More elfy shite.”

“I can feel it too,” she murmured, eyes locked on his face. She did not miss the surprise that flashed across his features.

“It should not be far.”

She nodded once, before turning towards the tug, letting the feel of the magic guide her forward. They passed through another small opening and Blackwall and Bull rapidly dispatched a few corpses when she noted the camp off in the distance.

“Why in the Maker’s name would anyone be out here?”

“I can’t imagine for good reasons, Dorian,” she whispered, feet slowing her approach.

Widris noticed them quickly, and soon balls of flame were being thrown their way.

“Why does everything have to attack us?”

“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know,” she responded, running for cover as she sent a blast of ice and snow towards the apostate. The feel of the artifact was stronger now, a sort of hum in the air as it called to her. Cassandra bashed her shield against the apostate, having managed to get close and soon the warriors had made quick work of the mage. She frowned. Widris was crazy, yes, but she still was not found of having to kill her. She didn’t even have the chance to try to talk some poor sense into the girl.

She sighed before moving to approach the artifact, Solas right behind her.

“This will strengthen the veil.”

She frowned. His words… were true but they weren’t. Something was nagging at the back of her mind as she clasped her chin in her right hand.

“And how do you know that, Solas?”

Ah, Bull. I can always count on you to ask the right questions.

“It is an artifact of the Ancient Elves. I have heard whispers of it in the Fade and had been trying to locate one such a device in the Hinterlands before the attack on Haven occurred. It is meant to measure the veil and I had hoped to study it in order to determine a way to use it in order to prevent more tears.”

More half-truths.

She still couldn’t shake the feeling that she should know more, that she did know more. She lowered herself, resting on the balls of her feet and extended her left hand. The mark began to grow brighter and she could feel the magic in her responding to that of the artifact. They were connected. A light whirring noise began as the artifact began to spin and she swore she could almost see the lines of magic as they tethered themselves to the veil.

“How did you do that?”

“I just…”

Blackwall’s question rung in her ears.

Was it just the mark? Was it simply responding to familiar magic? Do the orbs have more to do with the veil than the game had given credit for?

She’d always thought there was something more to how adamant Solas was about these artifacts.

“Perhaps it simply knows I’m an elf. I’m sure Sera could have done the exact same thing.”

Sera snorted.

“Not on your life, Elfiest. Not on your life.”

“The veil is no longer as thin here as it once was. This should help to stabilize the area.”

Truth. That was all truth.

“Then we should move on. The longer our people are with the Avvar, the less chance they have for survival.”

“Lead the way, Herald.”

She rose to her feet swiftly, turning to see the curious and reflective gaze of Solas. She cocked a brow in an unspoken question before moving past him to lead the others back out towards the Thoroughfare. Returning to the broken bridge, they continued on, encountering numerous undead.

“It does not end!” Cassandra cried out as she sliced through the bones of the latest corpse to attack their party.

“This land is… there is a sickness that permeates the ground and waters. Dark things happened here and scarred it.” Ari frowned, face turning pensive. “It’s almost as if there is a dark cloud of magic hanging heavily around it all… I wonder if there is not a way to remove it?”

“It is more than simple magic, vhenan. It is the memory that holds on to this land. Time does not seem to erode its hold.”

“We should look into it, nonetheless. It may be nice to make it inhabitable once again. Perhaps there are histories we can refer to that may hold the key. At the very least, we must do something about the plague that infects it.”

“Wot’s tha’?”

A large stone loomed in the near distance, towering over the small piece of land it stood on. Warily, the party approached, all feeling the aura of magic surrounding it. 

“It appears to be a beacon,” Solas informed them.

“For wot?”

“Let’s find out!” Ari waved her hand, igniting the veilfire and called her spirit sword to her hand as she waited for the demons and corpses to come find them.

Sera groaned and Bull laughed. Within moments, they were swarmed, corpses and demons encircling them around the beacon. She hacked her way through bones, rolling in the mud to avoid a sharp terror claw as it swiped at her. Dorian created a wall of fire, burning the corpses as they tried to break through. A sweat broke out on her brow as she continued to fight, the sheer number of corpses and demons barely thinning out as her companions tried to break through their defenses. They were remarkably well formed.

“This is ridiculous!” she cried as a tunnel of snow and ice blasted against the barrier covering her.

“We may have bitten off more than we can chew, Herald.”

“Don’t you dare say it, Blackwall!”

She backed up a few steps until her back was against the beacon and thrust her left arm high above her, letting the magic of the anchor wash over her. Splaying her fingers wide, she pulled at the veil, untangling woven threads of magic and creating a small rift of her own that immediately dove for the demons and tore the corpses apart. Her arm shook as her mana was drained, her companions no longer fighting but merely watching her with a rapt fascination. None more so than Solas.

“Where did you learn how to do that?” Dorian asked as she closed her fist and pulled the self-made rift tightly shut. The demons and corpses were gone, bones scattering around them in a mess.

“In the valley. Before Solas found me. There was a rift in the tunnel and I… I just pulled. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Didn’t exactly have any fight left in me.”

“Fascinating! The mark is… you have such control over the veil, its miraculous, really.”

“Just a fancy trick.”

“Why dinnit you use it before?”

“Because it is ridiculously tiring. Especially on such a large scale. The last time I used it; I passed out face first in the snow for Creators’ only know how long. It is a useful trick, yes. But one that unfortunately requires quite a bit of charge time.”

“You have grown very accustomed to the mark. It seems to respond to you almost.”

Ari caught Solas’ penetrating gaze before lowering her own to her hand.

“It… I don’t know. It just seems to fit. As foreign as it is… it’s a part of me. I can feel it’s magic threaded with my own practically.”

“Just make sure you keep aiming that at the demons.”

“Of course, Bull. We should move on though. There may be more beacons and as hellish as that seemed… there don’t seem to be any left around us. It’s a good way to draw them in. We just need better tactics on how to deal with them so we don’t get corralled next time.”

Their group began to make their way further into the mire, coming upon another two beacons and dealing with the demons and corpses much easier than last time now that they were better prepared. Daylight was beginning to fade, or rather, the dim eerie light that filtered through the clouds was becoming more sparse. Up ahead they could see the green light of a half closed veil tear lighting up a tall man covered in furs with a large hammer over his shoulders.

“Is tha’ one of ‘em?”

“Perhaps. We must be cautious, Aryael.”

Ari nodded to Cassandra before striding right up to Skywatcher. He turned his head to the side and looked down at her.

“So you’re Herald of Andraste. My kin want you dead, lowlander. But it’s not my job. No fears from me.”

“Where are your people? How come you’re not with them?”

“Trying to figure out this hole in the world. Never seen anything like its like. They spit out angry spirits. Endless. What’s the sky trying to tell us? I don’t know.”

“They are caused by the Breach in the sky. A type of magic gone wrong,” Dorian's voice came from just behind her.

“I know that, Lowlander. I’m talking about the Lady in the Skies. Do you not know her? Can’t you see the warnings she writes through the bird flocks in the air?”

“Interesting how widely Fereldan beliefs diverge.”

“Call me Fereldan again, elf, and see how far you get.”

“Don’t mind him. He’s not used to people,” she offered Skywatcher a smile. “Do you know if my people are alright? Are they injured? Dead?”

“A few were injured in the skirmish but they were alright. Last I saw them. Someone’s trained them well. They killed more of us than I thought they would.”

Ari nodded before turning her attention towards the tear.

“We’ll need to open it to close it. Ready?”

A chorus of agreement sounded out around her and she lifted her left hand to untie the threads holding the half formed fade rift together. She pulled and soon demons were pouring forth. Skywatcher joined them in battle, swinging his hammer with great might against a pride demon. Flurries of ice and lightening shot forth from her hands as she fought back against the wraiths that had deemed her the proper target. They all made quick work of the demons and while the others kept the last of them occupied, she wove together the rift once more, closing it for good.

“Lady of the Skies! You can mend the gaps in the sky?”

“It’s what the Herald was sent here to do.”

“Maybe you do have a God’s favour. Maybe the Lady of the Skies… You’ll find your people ahead, holed up in an abandoned keep. Watch the water.”

“Thank you, Skywatcher.”

Ari led her companions onwards.

“Strange. He doesn’t seem to care that his people want you dead.”

“I don’t think he fancies much else besides his Lady in the Skies, Dorian.”

“I must admit, the Avvar’s beliefs seem quite fascinating.”

“Your Andraste was Alamarri, wasn’t she? She would have known the same Gods in her time before she found her Maker.”

“This is true, yes. Her prayers to them fell upon deaf ears but the Maker heeded her call.”

“Right. There are numerous different belief systems. People change all the time. Andraste gave birth to one by changing her own views.”

Dorian hummed, lost to his own thoughts as they trudged along. They found yet another beacon, calling wraiths, corpses and other demons towards them to meet their end.

“The area feels more stable, I think,” Ari said, tucking in some stray strands of hair.

“It would seem so. Still, not the safest of places for people.”

Solas turned to her, face inscrutable.

He still doesn’t seem very happy with my ability to unlock that artifact.

“How much farther in is this keep? We may need to think about setting up camp for the night, Aryael,” Cassandra said as she sheathed her sword.

“It can’t be much further in. I’d like to get to them as soon as possible. We don’t know how long before the Avvar get bored of waiting for me to arrive.”

“Cass is right, Boss. It won’t do good for us to get caught in the mire at night. Hard enough to see as it is.”

“Half an hour. If we can’t find them within half an hour, we will set up camp.”

Her companions grudgingly agreed, bone weary and tired of the rotting stench that filled the air. It wasn’t long before they came across a decaying stone bridge riddled with undead and wraiths.

“Never. Ending. Shit. Show.” Sera punctuated each of her words with an arrow as the warriors charged into the gathered crowd of corpses.

“At least I never take you anywhere boring!” Ari cried out as she cast her lightening chains from a distance. She was tired and knew what was coming. She needed to conserve what strength she had left. Using the mark had taken a lot out of her and the constant influx of enemies was not helping. She was pushing herself too hard.

“You never seem to take us anywhere dry either, Aryael,” Cass called as she swung her sword clean through the neck of an undead archer.

“I promise, Cass. I will take you somewhere dry. Eventually. Maybe not yet. But eventually.” She chuckled to herself as she thought about the Western Approach. She doubted Cassandra would be much happier in the sweltering heat.

Ari and Solas took turns casting barriers as Dorian sent waves of flame towards the undead.

“So much for stable.”

“THAT area was stable. This one, less so.”

“Of course, my dear.”

“At least our way back will be free of corpses.”

“And the way ahead still rife with them.”

“Think of this as target practice for the Red Templars.”

“You do know how to encourage your comrades! Here, let’s go into the foul mire and battle the undead! But wait, don’t forget that there are much more dangerous enemies waiting for us somewhere out there in Thedas!”

“I don’t know… This stench is pretty rank. I would say it’s a bit more dangerous than the Templars.”

“Still not helping.”

“You are grumpy when you're wet, Dorian.”

“I resent that statement.”

“You seem to resent everything right now.”

“We are wasting time. They are endless! We must head towards the castle.”

“Cass, cut us a path through to the doors, we can slam them shut from the other side.” Ari began to run towards the warriors, Sera, Dorian and Solas hot on her heels. Blackwall and Bull protected their rear as Cass swung her way towards the gate. Sera and Ari ran to the levers as fast as they could and ducked as arrows whirred over their head.

“Avvar!”

“Stay down!” Solas yelled as he lifted his staff and made a tiny rift in the veil, pulling the archers towards a center point where Dorian blasted them with balls of fire.

Bull, Cassandra and Blackwall were backing into the gates, trying to keep the onslaught of undead and wraiths back while Sera and Ari crawled their way to the controls. They finally slammed the gates shut and Ari fell to the floor on her rear as she listened to the sounds of the undead trying to break through the thick wooden doors.

“We have got to do something about this.”

“Perhaps when we return to Skyhold you can convene with the circle mages to try and find a solution?”

“That’s a marvelous idea, Cass; an ingenious way to endear them to the hearts of the Fereldans.” She tossed the warrior a grin as she strode towards Ari and towered over her.

“Are we ready to make camp?”

“The Avvar were here. Their leader can’t be far now. We wouldn’t be safe. Better to find this leader and deal with him. I swear we can make camp once we have the Inquisition soldiers with us.”

Sera groaned.

They had spent the entire day fighting and traversing the cursed bog. They were all tired and hungry.

“This used to be a warden holding, did it not, Blackwall? Perhaps you could find the relic you had mentioned here.”

“Does so happen to be the last place it was seen. I’ll have a look. Sera, care to join me? I may have need of your brand of skills.”

Sera snorted.

“Fancy way t' say you need locks picked.”

Blackwall gave her grin as they headed off to search the walls of the outer keep.

“I do not think you are in any shape to face their leader, Aryael.”

Ari cocked a brow at Cassandra.

“You don’t think I can take him on?”

“I see the fatigue on your face. It would be best to-“

“You know he would never accept any other in battle. He wants me specifically, Cass. And I feel the need to oblige him. I’ll be fine. A lyrium potion does wonders I’ve heard.”

Cassandra’s lips set into a grim line as she held back a retort. Ari could tell that she wanted to argue the point further but also knew it would do no good. She was determined to face their leader.

“Our fearless leader is fine, Cassandra.” Dorian promptly produced a bottle of lyrium from his pocket, an empty one already in the other hand and gave it her. “She’s survived an ancient Magister.”

“Barely,” came Solas’ terse reply. He was all but glowering at her, clearly on the side of Cassandra.

“Thank you, Dorian,” she nodded in his direction before tipping the glowing blue bottle to her lips. A rush of numbingly cool liquid poured down her throat and she felt her senses peak. It was a heady feeling, going straight to her head and she needed to blink a few times before she felt herself again. She felt completely recharged magically.

“Good as new!” she exclaimed as they heard the sound of the portcullis being raised.

Sera jumped down the stones from overhead and landed nearby.

“Let’s get this done, yea?”

The blonde elf reached a hand down and pulled Ari up before redrawing her bow. Their group headed through the portcullis and was greeted by more Avvar warriors. Bull’s axe made quick work of them, barely giving the others a chance to join in.

“He’s kind of a show-off isn’t he?” Dorian whispered conspiringly, bending his head to Ari’s ear. “Bulging muscles wildly swinging his great-axe and cutting down the enemy like its nothing.”

“Bulging muscles? Do you like his muscles, Dorian?”

The altus flushed.

“I said no such thing.”

Ari chuckled sending new shields over the warriors while Sera whittled down the Avvar they came across with her arrows. They approached steep stone steps that led up into what used to be the main keep. Now there wasn’t much more than crumbling stone left.

“This must be where their main camp is. Their leader should be inside. Right, so. He’s mine.” She gave a curt nod, not looking in any particular direction before she ran up the steps and called her spirit sword to her hand.

“Herald of Andraste! Face me! I am the Hand of Korth himself!”

The blustering of a rather tall and stocky Avvar came from atop a still intact dais.

“Korth does not bless fools like you,” she taunted as his warriors made a ring for them to battle in.

“I have waited for this day.”

“Have you been so eager for your spirit to return to the skies?”

Her sword met his great-axe and she was pushed back, his strength much greater than hers. She could hear the screams of Cassandra’ reprimands and curses from her right before she fade-stepped away from the warrior. With a flick of her wrist she placed ice mines on the ground between them, each being set off in quick succession as he ran at her. Thrusting both hands forward she sent bursts of snow and ice intermingled with lightening in his direction, just barely pushing him back. Quickly she bent over into a low sprint and slashed at his knees, drawing blood before fade stepping to the other side of the ring.

She could feel everyone’s eyes on her, Bull’s appraising stare taking note of every move she made. Over the months she had become much more adept at combat, previously having mostly theoretical knowledge besides a few skirmishes with Templars as her clan had travelled. She had lucked out against the Blades of Hessarian’s leader. She knew that much. This was different. This was to prove to herself that she could.

Her eyes flashed and lightening raged all around them, striking at both the Hand of Korth and his weapon. The hulking man was still striding towards her but she could see his faltering steps. Her strikes had hit their mark. Laying down fresh mines, she danced out of his reach once more and sent fists of stone at him from all directions. He stumbled and she seized upon her chance to pull the roots from the ground beneath him, their thorny vines wrapping around his legs and arms, holding him prisoner as they cut into his skin. He struggled against them and they only held tighter, his blood freely running down their length to the floor.

“Your time has come to an end, Hand of Korth.”

He wore a terribly gleeful grin on his face as she cut his head clean off his body. Her body was sprayed with his blood and she grimaced, raising her hand to wipe her face. His kin nodded their acceptance of his defeat and made to leave the keep.

“This is disgusting,” she muttered as she looked down at her blood soaked tunic and leggings.

“If you wore leathers or armour, it would make a difference.”

“I think I may need to give in and have some made for me,” she begrudgingly agreed with Solas. “We should search the keep. They must have the soldiers locked up here somewhere.” She bent down to search the Avvar’s body and found a key.

“Over here, Boss.” She looked over her shoulder and saw Bull standing near a door. She tossed him the key and he opened it quickly.

“The Avvar?”

“They’ve been dealt with,” Ari called as she strode over, taking in the ragged appearance of the soldiers.

“Herald!”

“Are you alright?”

“Yes, your worship. The injured need some rest, but we can return on our own.”

“We’ll be making camp here and returning to our forward camp in the morning. It’s best to travel together. There are many undead at the gates to the keep though the way past that should be clear.”

“Thank you, your worship.”

“None of that now. It’s Aryael. Just Aryael.”

She turned her back after giving them a warm smile and joined the others in preparing their camp. She found broken pieces of lumber and got a fire going in the rain, fueled by her magic more than the wood itself, as it was still damp. They managed to find some cover in the crumbling halls and were joined by the missing soldiers. She could hear them whisper about her as she settled into her bedroll after eating her small meal of dried fruits and bread. She frowned. Solas caught her gaze as he sat on his bedroll next to hers.

“You are a hero to them.”

“It shouldn’t be so hard to believe that someone would save them, Solas.”

“But someone didn’t save them. The Herald of Andraste saved them.”

Ari snorted.

“Andraste did not send me. She did not bless me. I am no one’s Herald.”

“Not even the Dreadwolf’s?”

Ari started, a flush spreading across her cheeks as a kernel of fear danced in her heart before she looked up at Solas and noted the smile playing at his lips. The man was teasing her.

“Well, maybe the Dreadwolf’s. I mean, he did save me and all.” She grinned at him, eyes flashing with mischief.

“I wonder what the Dalish God of Betrayal would say to hear you have betrayed him with a human God.”

Ari made a raspberry noise. “I do not follow their God, Solas. They thrust their Maker and Andraste upon me. I am perfectly content with the Dreadwolf at my side, thank you very much.” She closed her eyes and placed her hands beneath her head for a pillow. She did not see the flush creep into Solas’ ears, the small shake of his head or the hesitantly pleased smile on his face.

Chapter Text

They returned to Skyhold, drenched and in remarkably irritable spirits for all their success. Dorian and Sera seemed to have come to an agreement that environmental conditions would need to be vetted before they joined her again.

The Skyhold that they returned to was far removed from the one they had left. Rotted wood had been replaced with new lumber. Debris and broken furniture removed from all the halls. Scaffolds had been placed in numerous places around the hold where repairs were being made and it seemed that the villagers of Haven had set themselves up in the square on the upper courtyard with permanent residences. A new barkeep had arrived and Bull’s Chargers were of course to be found spending a good amount of their nights within. The village located in the valley had been repurposed. The mages, it seemed, had set themselves up below while the bulk of their military forces remained in the barracks found near the back of the hold. Many of them were working on the walls on repairs and repurposing rooms for their use.

They had arrived in the late afternoon and Josie had found her right away.

“Aryael, if you would come with me please? Bring your bags.” The woman had turned on her heel, writing board in hand and ascended the steps expecting her to immediately follow. Ari’s face screwed in confusion, a look that she shot Cassandra who merely shrugged.

She bounded up the steps after her. The woman was surprisingly fast.

“And where are we going, Josephine?”

“You will see.”

She led her through the main hall, down a corridor and up a flight up steps before Ari recognized their path. They were headed to the room she and Solas’ had…

Her cheeks flushed with the memory and soon enough the small library had come into view.

“We prepared this for you. It is the least we could do for all that you have given to our cause. Come, up the steps!” Josie lifted her skirts and ascended the stairs, opening the large wooden door and Ari’s eyes widened.

Gone was all the debris and dusty furniture. The fireplace was roaring with flames and the broken glass had been replaced with beautiful stained glass of green vines and crystal grace. The floors had been polished, marbled stone reflecting the warm colours of the glass.

“Josie this is…” she took slow steps into the chambers, fingers trailing over the soft velvet of the settee before following Josie through to the bedchamber.

“Do you like it then? I could not wait to show you! Leliana and I worked out the designs ourselves and had artisans from Orlais bring it all to life!”

The large bed that had once graced the room was replaced with one just as large, four white oak posters carved with halla raising to the sky and holding up sheer silk drapes.

“I don’t know what to say. It’s beautiful, I just… surely the money could have been spent better elsewhere?”

“Don’t worry about the money. Word of Corypheus has spread and our supporters grow by the day. What matters is that you like it.”

Soft and plush dark green carpets covered the floor around the bed and the doors to the balcony were open, crisp mountain air flowing freely around. She took a deep breath and smiled.

“I do. Very much. I don’t have enough… ma serannas, Josephine. This is amazing.”

“You have yet to see the best part!” The woman was giddy as she led her to a door on the other side of the bed. What had been a closet of sorts in game was now a large dressing room complete with tub and wash basin. Garments of all sorts were folded in drawers or hung on a dark metal rack that ran between two walls. There were even gowns. Gowns that were much nicer than what Cassandra had tried to buy her Val Royaux. The tub was marble and large. Large enough for Bull and then some. It was deep and long with curved steps inlaid to one side where one could sit.

“By the Dreadwolf… Oh Josie, this is…”

“I think I recall that you seemed to enjoy bathing.”

“You have no idea. This is glorious!” she cried gleefully as she ran to the tub, eyes sparkling at the prospect of a bath.

“We truly do appreciate all that you have and continue to do for us, Aryael. Providing you with comforts while you are here… well, this is our home for the foreseeable future. And I would see you happy here.”

She turned to Josie, bright smile plastered on her face.

“I am, Josie. For all that is wrong with the world, this is home. And you and Leliana have gifted me with something I cannot hope to repay.”

“Nonsense. You fight for Thedas, Aryael. It is we who cannot hope to repay you. I shall take my leave now, let you get settled in. And if I should pass Messere Solas on my way, I will send him to you.” Her sentence trailed off and sounded like a question.

She felt her cheeks warm and gave a shy nod to the woman before turning to fill her bath with warm water. Divesting herself of her damp clothes, she walked over to the shelves on the other side of the bath that was stocked full of essential oils. Her eyes found crystal grace and poured some into her bath as it filled, the scent permeating the air of the large dressing room.

Sighing, she turned off the tap and stepped into her bath, the water seeping warmth into her skin and eliciting a moan from between her lips. She did not hear the sound of the doors opening as she lowered her hair and head backwards into the water. Eyes closed, she scrubbed her scalp beneath the water and slipped further in, the water reaching up to her chin.

“You have taken to these comforts remarkably easily for someone raised by the Dalish,” Solas’ muffled voice reached her through her water-filled ears. Her eyes snapped open and she sat up with a sheepish look on her face, soaked hair falling over her shoulders.

“Do you not care for baths, ha’hren?” she moved to the front of the tub, almost swimming in it before folding her arms over the ridge and placing her chin upon them. Desire curled in her belly as she saw it flit behind the blue-gray of his eyes. “Does that mean you would not care to join me?”

“How could I refuse such an offer, vhenan?”

She watched with hungry eyes as he disrobed, her gaze following his fingers and imagining them on her skin. Biting her lip, she held back a small moan as he began to walk towards her. She released her hold of the side of the tub and moved backwards, head turned up as she watched him step into the tub. She practically raced back over to him, hands sliding over his thighs before he had even settled in and her mouth claiming his.

They had barely managed a kiss or two in the late evening or early morning as they travelled, even though they had shared a tent during their journey. The rain had been a mood dampener, as was Sera’s wonderfully timed kissey noises.

Her tongue sought entrance as she backed him back against the seat of the tub, running lightly over his bottom lip as his arms wrapped around her waist and pulled her to him. The water sloshed around them and her breasts slid against his chest. She could feel his hands sliding down over her ass and squeezing, causing her to moan into his mouth as he parted her thighs and settled her over his lap to straddle him.

With one hand digging her nails into his shoulder, she rocked her hips against him, the throbbing pulse of his hardened cock rubbing tantalizingly against her clit. She clasped a hand round the back of his neck and pressed against him, her tongue battling his for control. He lifted her up slightly and shifted beneath her before pulling her down on his cock. Breaking off the kiss, she gasped, eyes fluttering closed as she panted against his mouth.

“I’ve missed this,” she moaned, his hand sliding up over her hip and waist to cup her breast. His thumb flicked over a nipple before massaging her full breast.

“As have I,” he confessed, head bent to lick and suck her neck. She rolled her hips, whimpering with pleasure as she felt him move inside her. Slowly she rode his cock, their bodies sliding against each other as their hands and mouths explored one another.

She took his earlobe into her mouth and bit him softly, tugging on it as she increased her pace, knees sliding against the marble of the tub. He growled, low in his throat, fingers tangling into her hair and pulling her head back to expose her neck. His teeth grazed her skin, nips and licks leaving not part of her exposed flesh untouched. She slid her hands up his biceps and over his shoulders, nails sure to leave crescent shaped marks upon them.

“Solas…” she moaned, her pace becoming frantic as he sucked on her neck. He tightened his grip on her hair and thrust into her, the water splashing around them as he bucked under her. She could feel herself getting closer, her insides wound tight.

Rosa’da’din in’em, ‘ma’sal’shiral,” she begged him as she crested her release, her walls clenching around him, nails raking down his back as he came. She felt his cock pulse within her moments later on a deep thrust, ropes of his cum filling her and she moaned. Her fingers ran lightly over his shoulders as he released her neck, panting. He had surely left multiple marks on her as though they were adolescents.

She cupped his face her hands and bent to kiss him, pressing her body against him as he began to soften within her. He deepened their kiss, arms holding her tight as his hands ran up and down her back before he finally pulled back.

I think you may be the end of me,” his honest confession shook her to her core as he rested his forehead against hers and she chose to not think too deeply as to what he might mean.

Are you saying you can’t keep up, ha’hren?”

He laughed, a short bark of amusement.

Da’lan, I think I have already proven myself more than capable of keeping up with you.” He stroked her face, brushing back the wet strands of hair plastered to her cheek. “You are showing yourself to be quite insatiable, however,” he remarked drily as she rolled her hips, feeling him twitch inside her.

She grinned a wicked smile and rested her forearms over his shoulders.

I suppose we may actually need to bathe…”

He chuckled and lifted her off of him, adjusting himself and turning her so that she sat with her back to his chest between his legs. He lowered his head to her ear, lips brushing against the sensitive skin.

We can always resume later, da’lan,” she groaned. She wasn’t quite sure why his voice did what it did to her… but the way he called her da’lan with their naked bodies touching set her body on fire.

She felt him reach over the side of the tub and was surprised to feel his hands in her hair, the cool feel of oiled soap massaging into her scalp. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, soft moans filling the air as he washed her hair. She didn’t remember the last time someone had done this for her. It was so relaxing she almost fell asleep before she heard him bid her to scoot forward and dunk her hair beneath the water. He gently rinsed her hair for her and when she came up, she half turned herself between his legs so that she could face him.

Giving him a soft kiss on his lips, she trailed her hand up his chest.

Will you let me bathe you?” she crooned, fingers dancing across his skin as she looked up at him with unmasked desire.

If you wish.”

She reached for a bar of soap and lathered it in her hands before sliding them up his chest. Her fingers massaged his shoulders and she felt the tension there just as she heard the sharp intake of his breath. She knelt before him, her chest eye level with him and he took full advantage, taking her nipple between his teeth before sucking on it. She started, moaning and leaning forward for more as she worked the soap over his arms and chest.

“What happened to getting clean?” Her words were breathless as her growing desire for him coiled within her.

He let go of his hold on her and reached for her discarded bar of soap.

I believe we can still get clean, vhenan. Are you incapable of multitasking?” he smirked at her as his hands slid under her breasts leaving a soapy trail behind them. She narrowed her eyes at him, reaching beneath the water for his hardening cock and stroked him.

Are you?”

Within moments their attempts at bathing proved futile and he was lifting her out of the tub, her legs wrapped around his waist and their mouths hungrily devouring one another as he made his way towards the bedchamber. Their bath was long forgotten as they lost themselves in one another before falling into an exhausted slumber.

Chapter Text

"Aryael, a word if you will?" Vivienne called out to her from the library as she was walked past.

She groaned inwardly, not wanting to deal with the woman. She had a love-hate relationship with her in game. Honestly, if she wasn't so narrow-minded and if she hadn't tried to reinstate the circles, Ari would probably have no hate for her at all. But the fact was, Vivienne's views on mages and circles affected her perception of the woman.

"Of course, Madame de Fer. How may I be of assistance?" she turned and approached her. Vivienne was dressed in shimmery white robes with golden patterns embroidered on the sleeves and skirts with a matching henin. It was actually a beautiful ensemble even if Ari didn't quite understand the love for masks and henins.

"I wanted to speak with you about the mages-"

"If you are going to rehash your warnings in Haven, you will get no where." Her tone was steel; sharp and unforgiving as her eyes narrowed.

"Not at all, my dear. I actually wanted to... apologize. Magic is a dangerous thing. It can be volatile and untrained mages capable of great damage. Part of the reason staffs are given to all novices is to help them learn to focus. Most mages are incapable of even the most basic of spells without a conduit due to their inability to control their own magic. The circles provided training to people who would otherwise have been on their own and in my arrogance, I failed to acknowledge that an outsider's view such as yours could provide valuable insights. You have raised valid points. I did not see the other circles, though rumours did pass through my ears. Perhaps I did not give them enough credit. The Templars and Chantry failed to provide what was necessary to ensure the proper care and protection of both the mages and the regular people of Thedas. It is not easy to admit, but I perhaps let their fears colour my own opinions. The rebellion was disastrous. Many lives were lost; Templars, Mages and villagers across Thedas that did not need to be forfeited. But they were. I only hope that their loss will be justified in the new world that has been wrought by not only their actions, but yours as well."

Ari was dumbfounded.

Had Vivienne just apologized? Had she just admitted she might have been wrong?

"I don't know what to say. I had not expected you to change your mind, let alone..."

Vivienne raised a perfectly arched brow.

"Is it truly that surprising that I could admit I may have been wrong?"

"Well, you were pretty adamant that we needed to watch the mages. That we never should have offered them alliance."

"I do believe that we need to be vigilant. Mages are susceptible to demons. It is fact. That need not mean that they are treated as less than, however. On that point you are more than correct. It is my hope that we can rebuild what was lost. A proper Enchanter's College. Proper circles for training and living. No fear. I would hope that you may feel the same?"

"And if I thought that mages should not be forced to live in circles?"

"There are numerous things that need to be worked out, my dear. Let's not focus on them all at this instant. We have far greater concerns that press upon us. I have sent word to Empress Celene's household, requesting an audience to no avail. It appears that my messages are all being waylaid. I hope that our Ambassador may have better luck."

"You're right. I'll speak with Josie and see if she's made an headway. I appreciate what you said, Vivienne. I am glad to know that though you may have been blind to their plight, you are willing to see it now. It means a lot to me." She smiled at the taller woman, eyes flashing with warmth.

"Of course, my dear. I must say, you bear it well. The weight of your title, the regard of the troops. Everyone expects much of you. And you have yet to fail to deliver. You were more than competent, saving many lives in Haven. But the enemy struck a serious blow against you and the Inquisition. We must recognize that. You must recognize that."

"We failed to see the true threat behind the breach. I will not forgive Corypheus for the destruction of Haven and will strive to never be caught with our guard down again. He will pay for all that he has done. I must admit however, his blow against us has brought many to our side. Josie has mentioned our support grows by the day."

"Your anger can save you when everything else is gone. Hold on to it. You will need it. Our enemy advances, Aryael. We must not sit idly by. Act first and teach them to fear us. I think you know what needs to be done, my dear." The Enchanter bowed her head in a slightly differential nod before striding out into the corridor, leaving Aryael with her head spinning.

Does that mean... she likes me?

She gave her head a quick shake and strode back out into the hall, heading to the side doors near the servants' quarters and was waylaid by Cassandra as she descended the stone steps.

"Aryael! Are you well rested?"

"Very. I still can't believe that Josie and Leliana did that for me." She smiled to herself, a warm feeling filling her insides.

"You deserve it. And more." She nodded towards the main gate where refugees and half broken carts had begun to enter.

"They arrive daily from every settlement in the region. Skyhold is becoming a pilgrimage."

Ah, there it is.

She walked forward, following in Cassandra's wake as she made for the inner bailey and headed towards the steps up to the upper courtyard.

"If word has reached these people, it will have reached the Elder One. We have the walls and numbers to put up a fight here. But this threat is far beyond the war we anticipated. We now know what allowed you to stand before Corypheus, what drew him to you."

She raised her hand, glow of the mark faint in the light of day.

"The anchor. It all began because he wanted the anchor."

"The blessing of Andraste as most say. Yet did her blessing grant you worthiness or was it given because you were already worthy?" They crested the first steps and Cassandra paused for a moment. "Your decisions let us heal the sky. Your determination brought us out of Haven. You are the creature's rival because of what you did. And we know it. All of us."

She moved to head up the last flight of stairs where Leliana waited on the landing.

This is... really uncomfortable.

"The Inquisition needs a leader. The one who has already been leading it. You." She approached hesitantly, Leliana drawing nearer and offering her a ceremonial sword.

"You can't be serious."

"Aryael, you have proven yourself to be worthy, to be true and to be just. We could ask for no one better than you to lead us against Corypheus." Leliana smiled beneath her hood, face an open book for the first time. She saw admiration and appreciation... and affection.

A crowd had gathered in the lower courtyard and she looked down at their hopeful faces, the hero worship plain to see. She shifted on her feet, stomach in knots. She knew this would happen but... There were so many of them. Her eyes caught Shora's, who had the widest of grins splitting her marred face.

Shora.

“I’m no hero. Just doing what has to be done.”

“You’re my hero, Ari. Always will be,” Shora gave her a cheeky smile as she handed off her bowl to Iona.

It doesn't have to be a bad thing, does it? To give these people hope? To let them have their faith?

"Are you sure? You remember that I am an elf?"

"I would be terrified handing this power to anyone. But I believe it is the only way. They'll follow you. To them, being an elf shows how far you have risen. How it must have been by Andraste's hand. What it means to you, how you lead us. That is for you alone to determine."

Ari reached over and gripped the hilt of the sword, and lifted it from Leliana's hands.

"I am an Elf that stands for all of Thedas but I do not stand alone! We are stronger together than we could ever be on our own! Together we will defeat Corypheus and restore peace to the world!"

Cassandra came up beside her as she looked down at the crowd.

"Have our people been told?"

"They have. And soon, the world!" Josephine cried.

"Commander, will they follow?"

"Inquisition, will you follow?"

The crowd began to yell their agreement.

"Will you fight?"

The troops rallied, loudly.

"Will we triumph?"

The crowd swelled with cheering and shouts, Cullen unsheathing his sword and raising it to meet her. She raised her sword high in the sky and met their cries with her own. A grin breaking out on her face as she watched Josie lose control of herself and then met the eyes of Shora. She nodded in her direction, hoping she knew how much her support and belief had helped her accept all of this.

When the cheering finally began to settle down and the crowd disperse, Leliana led her back into the main hall.

"The others should be joining us shortly for a status update."

The Nightingale led her deftly through the halls and through a door that revealed the war room to the right of the dais in the main hall. Further down the hall she could see a large foyer that could only lead to what she assumed would be Josie's office.

Ari approached the large table in the centre with the all too familiar map upon it. Various pieces laid atop with missives strewn about its sides. She heard Cullen and Josephine enter behind her.

"And so this is where it truly begins."

"It began in the Courtyard. This is where we turn that promise into action."

"Efforts to engage the Empress are still proving futile. I have managed, however, to get into contact with Duke Gaspard. He is willingly to work with us, it seems."

"I don't see how working with the Grand Duke will assist us in preventing the death of his enemy?"

"There have been rumours that the Grand Duchess Florianne wishes to broker peace between her brother and cousin. The Duke may provide us with a way to attend said talks."

"How long before we know whether these are just rumours?"

"All that is left is for a date to be picked. I will let you and Josie know so that she may work her magic with the Duke."

"Wonderful. Leliana, how goes the scouting for tears? I imagine there are many more to close yet."

"Some of my scouts have reported activity in the Dales. Ferelden seems to be mostly stable though there have been murmurs of some left over rifts south of the Stormcoast."

Crestwood. Well, we'll be headed there soon enough. Dorian and Sera will be delighted.

 "And our defenses, Cullen? Will Skyhold stand under attack?"

"Skyhold is near impenetrable. Most of the guard towers have been cleared and I've men working to update the defense systems to withstand modern siege equipment."

"Excellent."

A knock sounded at the door.

"Come in."

Varric came with a nervous look on his face.

"Aryael, you got a minute? Remember that guest I was waiting for? Well, they've arrived. An old friend who might be able to shed some light on our favourite darkspawn magister. They've crossed paths before and may know more about what he is planning on doing. They can help."

"Of course, Varric. I've been looking forward to meeting them."

"Wonderful. But parading around might cause a fuss. Its better for you to meet privately. On the battlements. Trust me. It's complicated. I'll meet you up top near the western tower."

He turned and strode back out the door.

"If Varric has brought who I think he has, Cassandra is going to kill him."

"Maybe let's try to buy him some time and keep Cassandra otherwise occupied for the moment? I'm sure he had his reasons..."

"You don't mean..."

"Yes, Cullen. I am positive that the Champion of Kirkwall currently graces our halls."

"Maker's breath!"

"Keep it hush? At least give us an hour before you let Cassandra loose."

"I will do my best, Aryael."

She nodded her thanks to Leliana before heading out into the corridor and heading to find the nearest and least used path up to the battlements. She could hear the tinkling sounds a woman's laugh and her heart rate increased with anticipation.

Does she look like my Hawke? Has she made the same choices?

She opened the door to the western tower and stepped over some pieces of lumber before heading through the side door to the overlook.

"And there she is! Aryael, meet Hawke, the Champion of Kirkwall."

"It's more of retired title at this point, Varric."

"Nonsense. Hawke, meet Aryael, the Inquisitor."

Her eyes widened slightly as she took in the woman's appearance. She was slightly taller, standing at perhaps 5'5. Her eyes were a shade or two lighter blue than she imagined, almost a periwinkle and her hair was dark blue-black, thickly braided over her right shoulder. A few loose curls fell at her temples, framing her sun kissed face. She wore thin chainmail over a deep purple robe and a smile on her lips. It took Ari a few moments to realize she was not alone.

Her eyes practically bulged out of her head she was sure. But it was him.

Her eyes took in his tanned skin, the glowing lines of his lyrium tattoos bare on his biceps and neck beneath his armour and the stark white of his hair. He wasn't very tall, perhaps 5'8 or 9 but he definitely still managed to tower over her.

"I don't bite,"

"I'm sure you don't," she said quickly, fighting the blush that was threatening to overtake her as she remembered a particularly stimulating scene she had once written between the two people before her. "It is a pleasure to meet you Hawke. And you as well Fenris."

Get it together, Ari. Don't start picturing people you've just met bumping bits. 

"Sorry Broody, didn't mean to forget you there."

Fenris turned a wry look towards Varric.

"Varric tells me that you've faced Corypheus before?"

"You've already dropped half a mountain on the bastard. I'm sure anything I can tell you pales in comparison."

"I somehow doubt that. How did you come across him?"

"The Grey Wardens were holding him, and he somehow used his connection to the darkspawn to influence them."

"Corypheus got into their heads. Messed with their minds. Turned them against each other."

"It is likely that the missing Wardens may have fallen under his control," Fenris said as he crossed his arms over his chest.

"Of course they have. Because an army of Red Templars is simply not enough for the damned blighted Magister."

She barely noticed Fenris smirk as she turned to look out into the courtyard.

"We need to know more before we can make any assumptions like that. Though it is very probable. I've got a friend in the Wardens. She was helping me with something unrelated. The last we spoke she had mentioned she was worried about corruption in the Warden ranks. Since then, nothing."

"Arwynne?"

"I see my attempts at discretion have failed. Yes, Arwynne."

"We've been looking for her. Leliana is worried sick."

"She may have reason to be. Corypheus certainly qualifies as corruption in the ranks. Did she disappear with them?"

"No. She told me she'd be hiding in an old smuggler's cave near Crestwood. Asked for me to meet her there. Fenris and I were on our way when we received word from Varric and headed here first instead. It probably wouldn't be wise to bring the Queen of Ferelden to Skyhold after she's been missing for a few months. It probably isn't very wise that I'm here."

"Trust me, Varric is the only one in danger because of your presence."

"She doesn't know yet, does she?"

"I asked Leliana for at least an hour. But I would start prepping my apologies if I were you. And maybe start thinking about writing another installment of Sword and Shields. I have a feeling that may make the difference here."

"You're shitting me."

"Don't judge your fans, Varric. And don't you dare breath a word that I'm the one who told you!"

"Alright, Dimples. I got it. I'll leave you to it then. It's probably smarter if I face this head on."

"I wish you luck, my friend. Try to make sure she has books to stab instead of you."

Varric sighed as he walked away.

"So if you didn't know about Corypheus?"

"Red lyrium. There was so much of in Kirkwall. I'd hoped the Wardens could tell me more about it."

"Hopefully Arwynne will know more. We'll make for Crestwood as soon as possible. With luck, she'll still be there."

"I'm sure she is. She is more than adept at hiding when she needs to. Or hiding others."

What is that supposed to mean?

"You're welcome to stay here. We can travel together. I just returned with a party from the Fallowmire and to be honest, I'm sure my companions and our mounts could use another day or two of rest."

"I thank you, very much. It has been a long time since we've had a real bed and I'm honestly not in a rush to give it up," Hawke chuckled. "We'll leave with you then. In two days time."

"Wonderful. You should join me tonight in the tavern. Well, me and my companions. I'd love to hear your versions of events... and maybe a tale or two of Varric," Ari grinned wickedly and Hawke returned her smile, the mischief palpable between the two.

"Already conspiring with others. Always looking for trouble."

"Trouble finds me. I don't look for it!"

"I should introduce you to Sera. I have a feeling you'll get along splendidly."

"Why do I now feel like I must warn Varric of what you intend, Inquisitor?"

"Please, it's just Aryael. Or Ari if you prefer," she offered him a smile which he quickly returned.

"Not fond of the titles either?"

"I understand the need for them, I do. I know the hope that faith in a title can bring, the power it can wield against your enemies. But I'm more than a title. I'm just a person."

Hawke offered her a sympathetic smile.

"Don't lose sight of that. I've been lucky to have the friends I do to remind me that I'm not as special as others like to think sometimes."

"Come! Let me introduce you to some of my companions! I understand you've had dealings with the last Arishok? Bull's a Ben-Hassrath."

She led the way up the stairs to the battlements and back down to the upper courtyard where they heard a loud scream and the sound of wood breaking against the wall.

"Well, looks like Cassandra has heard. The tavern's here. I'll join you in a moment. I should probably make sure that she doesn't actually kill him."

Chapter Text

“You knew where Hawke was all along!”

Ari opened the door to the scouts’ lodge near the tavern and found Cassandra backing Varric into a wall, forcefully grabbing the lapels of his shirt.

“You’re damned right I did. What did you expect, Cassandra?”

“You conniving little shit!” she pushed him backwards, slamming Varric against the wall.

“You kidnapped me! You interrogated me! You stabbed my book! Was I supposed to serve up my best friend on a platter to you? How did I know what you would have done to her?”

“Cassandra!”

The woman turned at the sound of Ari’s voice, eyes blazing with fury.

“You’re taking his side?”

“I’m not taking anyone’s side, Cass. I just don’t think that violence is the answer here. Nor do I think punishing Varric is going to make you feel better about anything.”

“We needed someone to lead this Inquisition. Hawke was our only hope. She was the Champion of Kirkwall. The mages respected her. And he kept her from us.”

“The Inquisition has a leader.”

“Hawke would have been at the conclave! If anyone could have saved Most Holy…”

“That’s not fair, Cass. And you know it. She’d be just as dead as the rest of them. You can’t change what has happened.”

“So I must accept… What? That the Maker wanted all this to happen? That he, that he…” Cassandra looked away for a moment and Ari could see the beginning of tears in her eyes before they hardened to anger once more. “Varric is a liar, Aryael. A snake. Even after the Conclave, when we needed Hawke most, Varric kept her secret.”

“Would you really have done any different, Cassandra? They turned her into a symbol. Kirkwall took everything from her. They demanded it. How could I ask her for more? And she’s here now. We’re on the same side!” He took a step towards her, halting at her scowl.

“We all know whose side you’re on, Varric. It will never be the Inquisition’s.”

“Cassandra! Varric has proven himself over and over again. He stayed when he did not need to. He put his life on the line repeatedly for our cause! How can you say that?!”

“Forget it, Aryael. The Seeker doesn’t care. She only sees what she wants to.” He shook his head before turning on his heel and heading out the door.

“That was beneath you.”

“I believed him, Aryael. He spun his story for me and I swallowed it… If I had just told him, explained to him why we needed her… but I didn’t did I? I am such a fool.” She sat on an empty bench, cradling her head in her hands. Ari joined her, settling down to her right and leaning back against the edge of a wooden table, hands clasped loosely in her lap.

“Do you really think having found her would have made a difference for the better? She supported the Mage Rebellion. Do you think she would have trusted a Seeker from the Chantry? The Right Hand of the Divine?”

Cass sighed.

“No, I suppose not. But this isn’t really about Hawke is it?” She released her hold on her head, hands falling to dangle between her legs as she leaned forward. “Varric… I trusted him. But what cause did I give him to trust me? I simply expected. I demanded. I gave nothing. Why should he have told me anything?”

“You were determined and focused on your goal, Cassandra.”

“I was brutish.”

“Perhaps. Varric’s book will never be quite the same.”

Cass chuckled. “How do you do that? Find the humour in everything? Manage to make it all sound so simple.”

“Because it is. Cassandra, you may not have handled things perfectly, no. Yes, you could have been more honest. Yes, things could have gone differently but not necessarily for the better. You’re being too hard on yourself.”

“Perhaps. I suppose I will never know. If I had found Hawke, the Maker may not have sent you. I don’t know how it will end, but I would have it no other way. I need some time. To think. I should not have… I may have been too hard on Varric.”

“It’s nothing you can’t mend.”

“We will see. Thank you. For listening.”

“Anytime, Cass.”

She watched the woman depart in silence before she too headed back out into the upper courtyard. Light was fading quickly and she turned for the tavern, spying Solas descending the steps from the ramparts. Breaking into a grin, she practically skipped her way over to him, easily sliding her hand into his and pressing a quick kiss to his cheek.

Vhenan,” he murmured against her hair, pulling her in against him. “Or is Inquisitor more suitable now?”

She scoffed, turning a pointed glare up at him. “You are perfectly aware that I hate titles.”

“And yet you bear many. Quite well, I might add.”

She fought the blush creeping up her cheeks. “Did you know what they were planning? It felt as though everyone had gathered in the courtyard… but I did not spy my favourite apostate anywhere.”

“I am an Elf that stands for all of Thedas but I do not stand alone! We are stronger together than we could ever be on our own! Very poetic.”

Ari blushed and buried her head against his shoulder, her words muffled by his tunic.

“So you were there.”

“How could I have missed the dawning of a new era such as this?” His fingers found her chin, lifting her from her hiding place and commanding her full attention. “You are a natural born leader, Aryael. Compassionate, just, inspiring… They could not have chosen someone more worthy of the title."

“Sweet talker,” she whispered, tips of her ears pink.

He smiled, his canines just brushing against his bottom lip and drawing her attention.

“I simply state the facts.”

Ari giggled, raising herself on her toes and pressing her lips to his in a gentle kiss.

“Did you know that the Champion of Kirkwall is currently residing within Skyhold?”

Solas quirked a brow.

“Ah. That would account for the foul mood I saw Varric in not long ago.”

"Hawke is lovely though. She’s in the tavern right now with Fenris. You should come with me; meet her. Keep me company.”

“I had been hoping to discuss something with the blacksmith,” he raised his gaze to the sky, now lit with glittering stars against a dark backdrop, “but it seems I may have missed the opportunity today. Very well.”

She wrapped her right arm around his and turned to lead the way into the tavern. The door opened revealing the soft voice of Meridyn weaving tales of splendour for the patrons who sat at the tables drinking their ale. Her eyes found the Champion sitting with Fenris, Blackwall, Sera and Bull in the far left corner of the tavern.

With a grin, she all but pulled Solas in their direction, taking the empty seat next to Fenris and across from Bull, Sera and Blackwall, leaving space for Solas at her right.

“I see that Sera has already found you.”

“She has! Shared some absolutely delightful stories about Varric and some bees.” Hawke’s eyes twinkled under the low light of the tavern, lips curling into a wicked smile.

“Yes, delightful. I’ve always wanted to know how Varric would react to finding bees in his pack.” Fenris’ lips twisted into a wry smile as he leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest, his gaze briefly raking over Ari as she took her seat.

Sera snorted.

“The lizards in his smallclothes was a better show.”

Hawke laughed, hand curling under her nose and over her mouth. A contagious sound that washed over Ari, bringing forth her own bubbling laughter from her throat.

“That was definitely an entertaining morning,” Ari smirked. “I have to say though, I’m much more interested in the stories you must have of Varric.”

“Me? Stories? Oh, but Varric’s the storyteller, Aryael.”

“That’s never stopped you from telling tales before, amatus.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Fenris turned his head towards Hawke, lips quirked with amusement and eyebrow raised.

“No? So it was some other raven-haired, blue-eyed mage waving her tankard in the air as she shared tales of exploits fighting a dragon and the Qunari inside the Hanged Man?”

Hawke flushed, playfully batting at Fenris’ arm.

“Drunken rambling does not count as storytelling. And I was simply reiterating what Varric had already said. With some minor changes. I mean credit where it’s due. Isabela was the reason we managed to down the dragon in the first place. I can’t always be the hero.”

Ari watched the exchange with curiosity and a fluttering in her heart.

Amazingly adorable.

“You know, I’d heard about you. All the details of your dealings with the previous Arishok. Always seemed larger than life, even in the Ben-Hassrath reports. But you’re quite tiny, aren’t you?”

“Having trouble believing I managed to down him?”

“How do you feel about a sparring match?”

“I’m a mage. Are you sure that’s wise?”

“Always a good idea to challenge yourself.”

“50 royals I put you on your ass in the first five minutes.”

“You’re on,” Bull’s face was split with a grin as he raised his tankard to cheers Hawke in acknowledgement of their bet.

“Swindling the common folk out of their gold already, Hawke?” Varric’s baritone came from behind Aryael and she turned her to head to see Varric standing there with a slightly amused look on his face. “Anybody else want in? Another 10 she puts him down in 2.”

“You’ve always thought so highly of me, my dear dwarf,” Hawke’s eyes dancing with mirth.

“I got to say Bull, I think you may be in over your head. I’ll take that wager,” Blackwall said, nodding his head in Varric’s direction.

Sera eyed Hawke, narrowing her gaze as Hawke wiggled her fingers on the table. “Nah, Bull’ll last more’n five minutes. At least 10. I’ll see your bet.”

Fenris shook his head slowly before turning his searching gaze on Ari.

“Are you not going to participate?”

“I’d rather simply watch. I have to admit I’m rather curious to see Hawke in action.”

“You’ll have to wait a bit longer then. This won’t be much action.” He flashed her a smile, his arms loosening across his chest.

“You are very confident in her skills and yet you have not placed a bet yourself,” Solas said as he entwined his fingers with Ari’s.

Fenris’ gaze looked past her, focusing on Solas and slightly frowning. “I find no enjoyment in stealing.”

“Stealing?”

“Yes. Hawke does not lose.”

Solas hummed in thought, his thumb brushing over top her hand as he held it. There seemed to be an air of hostility that arose out of nowhere; a heaviness that crackled around them.

“Well, if it’s stealing how could you possibly encourage me to participate? Positively awful of you, Fenris!” she offered him a playful smile, hoping to diffuse whatever it was that had just passed between the two male elves. “And I’ve been positively remiss. Hawke, Fenris, this is Solas. Solas, Hawke and Fenris.” She gestured between them with her free hand, brow furrowing slightly as she took in the hard look in Solas’ eyes.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Solas. Varric has mentioned you a few times. I believe his exact wording was, ‘he could almost give Broody a run for his money’,” Hawke readily jumping in to assist in diffusing whatever that was.

“His boundless optimism has since improved a great deal,” Varric said with a chuckle before taking a seat next to Solas.

“Broody?” Sera inquired.

“Also known as Fenris,” Hawke leaned over and placed a quick kiss on the elf’s cheek. “He’s really not very broody anymore though.”

“Am I not?”

“Well, sometimes. Like in the morning. Or if there’s too much magic. Or if you’re around Tevinters. He’s very broody around Tevinters.”

“You do realize you are describing situations that I constantly find myself in? You are a mage. There’s always magic around. And we’ve spent the past year in Tevinter. There are always Tevinters around.”

“Still not as broody as you were when we first met. Though, your broody face…” her voice trailed off on a husky note as Fenris’ ears turned pink.

Varric cleared his throat. “Right, right. You love the broody face. Now, tomorrow morning seems as good a time as any for your match.”

Bull chuckled.

“Looking forward to it. You know, I’ve fought mages before. And I’m not the Arishok.”

“No, you’re not,” she mused, smiling. “Five minutes.”

“Cocky. I like that. This’ll be good.”

Ari looked over at Solas, his face a blank mask as he watched the others take jabs at Bull.

You’re being awfully broody for someone Varric calls chuckles.”

His gaze flicked over to her and she saw his lips slightly quiver in a frown.

I am not broody.”

She raised a brow.

No? So what is this then? I can practically feel the disdain dripping off of you.”

“There is no disdain, vhenan. I am simply tired. Perhaps it is best we retire for the night?”

“We?”

“Or do you not want to join me?”

Ari frowned. She very much wanted to join him. She wasn’t fond however, of how he suggested she did. He was being very odd.

Will you promise to stop brooding? Grim and fatalistic I can handle. Broody not so much.”

Solas sighed, exasperation briefly flitting across his face.

I promise you, there is no brooding awaiting you in your rooms.”

Ari stood, slightly tugging on Solas hand to join her as she turned to her companions.

“Well, it’s been a long day. I’ll see you all in the morning.”

Hawke looked like she was stifling a chuckle.

“Enjoy the rest of your night, Aryael.”

“You as well! Let me know if you need anything. Looking forward to tomorrow.”

“You all have such little faith in me.”

“Bull, you’re a fantastic warrior. But this is the Champion of Kirkwall. Champion trumps Bull. Very simple. Also, how are you expecting to use your sword against her magic?”

“We’ll see,” the giant of a man said quietly as he sipped on his ale, leaning back into his chair.

 


 

 Ari undressed quickly, leaving her clothes to pool on the floor as she stepped over to her bath and filled it with steaming water before adding her scented oils. Solas had left her in the main hall to retrieve some of his books from the library before joining her upstairs.

She sighed as she stepped into her bath and replayed the events of the day in her head. She had wondered when they would spring the title on her. Their forces had been occupying Skyhold for near 2 or 3 months now. She was almost starting to think that they would choose not to name her Inquisitor when she left for the Mire.

And though she had been prepared for it… The enormity of it all had taken her by surprise nonetheless. Their expectations and hope… their faith in her. It had been both overwhelming and uplifting all at once.

And Hawke.

She felt connected to her in so many ways. She was exactly the way Ari had played her and she looked almost like a perfect replica of how she had imagined her. Her easy humour and friendly manner were beyond endearing. And she was positively adorably in love with Fenris.

Fenris. She hadn’t expected to see him. He was… well, attractive was putting it mildly. His soft green eyes and stark white hair… and the way his lyrium tattoos stood out against his tanned skin. And his voice.

But what exactly is he doing here, anyways?

She slipped her head beneath the water, running her fingers through her hair to rinse it before reaching over the side of her tub for the bar of crystal grace and vanilla scented soap.

Fenris is supposed to be working on his little rebellion in Tevinter. And Hawke is supposed to come alone. And we’re supposed to meet Stroud, not Arwynne. What is going on?

Her thoughts began to run wild as she bathed, taking her time as she lathered her body and washed her hair.

Am I going to have to leave one of them in the Fade?

She dunked herself once more beneath the water, letting the soapy suds run off her body. She had determined that much of this world state was based on her canon gameplays, tweaked to suit her head canons and fan fictions. Aryael Lavellan having been an avid ruins explorer and the way Hawke looked and acted was proof enough of that. In her head canon, Hawke and Arwynne had met when Alistair went to Kirkwall in Act III. They had managed to smuggle mages out of the city under Meredith’s nose while delivering a very stern warning about the political ramifications of her usurping the title of Viscount through her instatement of martial law, trying to assist in returning democracy to the city state. They definitely knew each other, brokering a friendship during their brief time together and in the time since.

But why is she the warden contact?

Vhenan?”

She heard Solas’ voice from the door and pulled herself up out of the tub and grabbed a nearby towel, quickly patting her hair dry before wrapping it around herself.

“I was in the bath,” she stepped through into the bedroom, pulling her damp silver tresses over her right shoulder.

Solas stood near the balcony, looking out into the mountains. He turned towards her at the sound of her voice.

“Feeling refreshed?” he asked, eyes trailing over her half-naked body.

“Very.”

She took a slow step towards him, small rivulets of water dripping over her arm from stray locks of hair. Her eyes roamed over him, appraisingly. He seemed calm and collected, a soft smile gracing his lips.

He strode forward, raising his hand to slip his fingers through her hair, turning her around and braiding her hair into a thick plait before pressing a soft kiss to her neck.

“You retrieved your books?”

He hummed against her neck, his hands sliding over her shoulders and down her arms, fingers brushing over her skin and sending spirals of heat down through her core. She leaned back against his chest, her hand clutching at her towel.

“I thought you were tired?”

His teeth nipped the tip of her left ear and her breath hitch, his hands falling to her hips and pulling her tightly against his body.

“No more brooding I see,” she said on a rushed breath, her fingers moving to slide over his.

He kissed a trail over her shoulder, ignoring her words while the fingers of his left hand locked with hers as he slid his right down over her thigh, causing her to gasp as she felt melting ice on his fingertips.

“That’s new,” she said before swallowing thickly, her hips grinding back into him. He made his way beneath her towel, slowly brushing his cool fingers against her slick lips.

“Solas,” she moaned as his grip on her towel covered hip tightened and he bit the sensitive spot where her neck met shoulder.

She could feel his lips curl into a devious smile against her at the sound of her moans. Her head lolled back and to the side, giving him easier access as he played with her folds with his iced fingers, teasing her outerlips. His thumb brushed against her nub, sending a small jolt of electricity into her and ripping a cry from her throat as pleasure rippled through her.

Yes, vhenan?” he murmured against her ear, releasing his hold on her hip to let her towel fall free of her body. His fingers traced patterns over her stomach towards her breasts, leaving cool water in its wake from the melted ice casted across his fingertips.

“What are- please…” she was beginning to lose coherence as his fingers slid inside her, his thumb still tantalizing her with the odd shock against her clit.

Please, what?”

His grin was all but feral as he held her in his arms, tweaking her left nipple with his cool fingers and fucking her with his other hand, his swollen cock pressing against her rear.

Take me,” she begged on a groan, voice coarse, her knees quaking from the effort of standing upright as her body was wracked with an onslaught of euphoric sensations.

Take you where?”

His question was left unanswered as she bucked her hips against his hand, mouth left wide open in a soundless scream while her hands trying to find purchase against his body as she approached orgasm. An orgasm that was swiftly denied her as his fingers withdrew from her. She began to sag to the floor, her body thrumming from its heightened arousal. He turned her to face him, fingers sliding to cup her face as his other snaked around her back and held her against his body.

She looked up at him, hunger flashing in her eyes as her hands moved to slip over his shoulders. His thumb stroked her cheek, his eyes dark with lust and a predatory glint as he stared down at her.

She licked her parted lips, leaning against him, the friction of his tunic brushing against her nipples making her eyes flutter with pleasure as she softly moaned.

Vhenan,” his voice was husky, an entrancing sound that captivated her.

Solas, please,” a whimper escaping her lips as she sought release, her hips moving against him. His hand slipped from her lower back to her ass, groping her as he pulled her against him. A growl rumbled low in his throat as she attempted to climb him, pulling herself up by bracing her hands on his shoulders and hooking a leg around his waist. “Please, ‘ma’sal’shiral, please…”

She peppered kisses across his cheeks and nose, her fingers curling around the nape of his neck as both of his hands moved to settle on her hips, holding her up against him. He spun them, backing her against the cool stonewalls near the balcony, rolling his hips against her and his hands sliding over her thighs as she locked her ankles behind his lower back. She pulled him into a kiss, his mouth hot and demanding, tongue ravaged her mouth. She groaned, her right hand fumbling between them as she tried to free him from his pants.

Biting his bottom lip, she tugged, looking up at him with pupils blown wide, her hand wrapping around his thick cock. Slowly she stroked him, her thumb brushing over the tip, massaging a bead of pre-cum against him. He braced his forearm against the wall beside her head, lifting his hips slightly as she guided him towards her, his right hand still holding her thigh.

Their breath came in rushed pants, a loud gasp leaving Ari as he stretched her walls and a deep, guttural groan coming from Solas as he filled her completely. He drove into her with a hard and quick rhythm, fingers digging into her skin as her hands pulled him closer. She turned her head, searching for his lips once more while her nails raked over his back, sure to leave marks even through the fabric of his clothes. Her walls pulled taut around his length and she writhed against him while he devoured her mouth with his kiss, driving her closer and closer to the edge.

Their movements became erratic; need consuming them both, each becoming frantic for the satisfaction of their desires. He released her mouth, breath heavy as he regarded the expressions crossing over her face while he drilled into her.

Their hips slapped against each other, the sound echoing in the room around them. Her legs tightened their hold on him as he pulled her closer and pressed deeper.

“Ma vhenan,” he breathed, his lips brushing against her panting mouth as she stared up into his gaze. “Mine,” his voice a low timber that shot lightening through her core.

Yours,” she breathed, fingers digging into his shoulder as her back scraped against the wall. High-pitched moans began to escape from her lips as she reached climax, waves of roiling pleasure breaking out over her. With eyes still locked with his as her back arched, muscles contracting around his cock, he continued to thrust within her. Her grip tightened on his neck, mouth falling open into a perfect ‘o’ as her body stiffened, drowning under the searing bliss of her orgasm before she fell slack against the wall, held up by his weight against her. 

She was lost in the endless depths of his dark gaze, her body light in the afterglow of her release. His breath hitched and she watched as his eyes sparked, his cock buried to the hilt as he poured himself within her. She bit her bottom lip with her right canine as she felt him fill her, their mixed juices sliding down between them, his cock jerking inside her. A faint smile pulled at her lips as she watched him lose himself in her, expression so unguarded.

They stayed like that for a few moments, catching their breath before he withdrew, taking her into his arms and carrying her to the bed. He laid her down gently, her eyes blinking slowly in drowsiness as he turned to disrobe. She curled onto her side, hands sliding beneath a fluffy pillow and pulling it under her head. Smiling to herself as she felt the dip of the bed as he climbed in behind her, drawing her back against his now bare chest. She hummed in delight as he pulled the covers over them both. He kissed her temple, murmuring ar lath ma against her skin as sleep began to claim her. Her last coherent thoughts pondering over how very claimed she now felt; as if her wolf had marked his territory.

Chapter Text

She giggled and dropped the brush, paint splashing lightly on the stone as he nuzzled her neck. 

"How am I supposed to learn if you keep distracting me?" her voice was amused as she leaned back against him, enjoying the feel of his arms wrapped around her waist and his lips on her skin.

"I am simply trying to provide you with inspiration," he murmured against her neck. He moved one of his hands from her waist and called the fallen brush to his hand, placing it back into her own, twining their fingers together as he drew their joint hands towards the almost blank canvas they stood before. With a slow grace, he guided her hand against the white surface in broad strokes, his chin resting on her shoulder. Her eyes widened slightly as his grip loosened, their movements bringing the image to life slowly; a series of lines and shapes that were reminiscent of a day long before this one. A day of beginnings. 

The world spun around her, the warm light of the sun cascading over the marble walls of her home falling away. Arms that held her lovingly disappeared as the landscape shifted beneath her feet, landing her in the midst of a forest. She turned, the sound of flapping wings stark against the peaceful silence now surrounding her. 

Rarely did she find herself alone in the Fade. Especially since Solas and her had begun to share a bed on a nightly basis. But that was where she was, of that there was no doubt. 

Her mind reeled, desperately trying to call back the memory she had found herself in. It had been pleasant; the smells of paint in her nose, his arms around her. His hand guiding her as they immortalized one of their most precious moments together. A memory within a memory... A memory from before Aryael Lavellan. The first she had recalled since she saw Skyhold weeks ago. 

"Hello?"

No one answered her call and she frowned. 

Who had pulled me from my memory? Solas? But why doesn't he answer me? Maybe the spirit child? Wisdom?

Her thoughts wandered as she began to walk further into the forest. She braced a hand against a tree, eyes searching the depths for a sign of anyone or anything. She couldn't feel any spirits or demons nearby... or at least she didn't think she did. 

"Mamae?"

Her head snapped towards the sound of the voice and found a little girl dressed in a beautiful royal blue gown with soft golden curls interspersed with strawberry highlights falling to her waist and curious amber-gold eyes flecked with green near the pupil. 

"Are you looking for your mother, da'lan?" Ari queried as she stepped closer towards the child. She could be no more than 6 or 7, barely standing to her waist.

"You're... But I was looking for mamae," she pouted, eyes wracked with confusion. "Mamae said I could always find her here." The child took a small step backwards, eyes searching around her for signs of her lost mother.

Ari stilled, unsure what to do. The child was clearly a mage; an adept with magic that was most probably a dreamer.  

"I have to find mamae. I have to." The child turned and ran deeper into the woods. Ari gave chase but soon realized she would not find her again. The child had disappeared. 

 


 

The morning sun filtered through the sheer silks of her bed curtains and she blearily blinked her eyes to wakefulness, the child and her memory long forgotten in the morning cold. Pulling the covers around herself tighter, she shivered, noticing the absence of a certain apostate in her bed. She sat up, looking around her chamber but saw no trace of him. Her brow furrowed in a frown as she pulled herself out of the bed and noticed that her dirty clothes no longer littered the floor of the bathroom. With a big yawn, she rifled through the drawers of her dresser and selected small clothes, a simple emerald green tunic and light grey leggings. She washed quickly, smiling to herself as she washed away all traces of the night before from between her legs.

Solas had been... well, he had been odd. There was no way around that. She hadn't been naive enough to think that Fenris and Solas would get on right away. She was hopeful that they would find common ground in their hatred of slavery eventually but she had not been prepared for such instantaneous dislike. Or Solas' reaction. He was usually so calm and collected, so reserved. Yet last night... He was always passionate that was true, but there was something almost pleading and yet demanding about the way he took her last night. 

She pulled the tunic over her head and began to brush through her thick curls when she heard the opening of door into her chambers. 

"Solas?"

She left the brush on a vanity stand and moved out of the over-large bathroom and smiled when she saw Shora.

"Sorry to disappoint, Ari. Just little old me with some breakfast." Shora said as she settled a small wicker basket onto table in the adjoining room near the large windows that looked out into the Mountains. Shora was studying the beautiful stained glass that surrounded the windows as though a frame.

"Your chambers are something else, Ari. Never seen an elf with anything like this before."

"It is a bit much, isn't it?" She laughed nervously, taking a seat on a plush chair and removing the cloth from the basket to reveal what appeared to be croissants and cheese with fresh cut citrus fruits. She didn't want to think about how easily she had fallen into a life of opulence. An enormous tub, a sprawling bed, more clothes than she would ever probably wear considering she was always travelling. It was so easy for her to just accept it all... But she was Dalish and the Dalish didn't live like this. Sure, many of things were normal for Aryael Lavoie. She had a bed and a shower and electricity... And if she was honest, she knew whoever she was before was very used to this very lifestyle as well. 

"You deserve it though. And p'raps this a step forward. In a new direction, for elves." Shora turned towards her, a bright grin plastered on her face as she took a seat opposite of Ari and began to slice some cheese. 

"It's a thought, isn't it?" She returned the smile, unsure of how to respond. "How is Iona? The baby? I hear you were right as ever."

Shora laughed, eyes twinkling as she began to tell Ari all about her little nephew. "The sweetest little thing really. Bald as anything though. Not a wisp of hair on his head. But I know, I know the red curls are coming. Emith is over the moons, prideful papa cooing over his babe."

"Are they still set up in the little square on the upper courtyard?"

"They've got a cabin all to themselves still, yes. Iona plans on working in the tavern kitchens when she's all healed up."

"And you? Still working in the kitchens?"

"Well, I do a lot of odds and ends but really... I'd like to still... well that is if its not unseemly or... I'd like to..."

"Shora? What is it? You know you can tell me anything." Ari reached over, taking the woman's scarred hand into her own and giving it a gentle squeeze.

"I'd like to work for you. Properly. I mean, I know I'd always seen you fed and clothed in Haven but things are different now and you're the Inquisitor and I heard Josephine talking about maids and really, I enjoy doing what I can for you and sharing meals and just... I'd like to be your maid."

Ari's face was the picture of shock.

"But I don't need a maid. And you're my friend, Shora. I don't want you to-"

"Ari, I know you would never treat me like just some servant and maker's breath if I probably won't have to fight you to let me do your laundry but everyone knows about Corypheus and its a new world. The Inquisition isn't just some small thing in Haven. We have a base. A fortress. People arriving from all over Thedas. You've already met the King of Ferelden and honestly you're probably going to meet the Empress Celene herself soon. It can't be like it was in Haven. Not really, not anymore. And helping out in the kitchens is grand and I love the cook and the people. But you're my friend, Ari. And I might not be able to wield a sword or cast a healing spell but I can help you with missives and laundry and ensuring you get fed when you're supposed to. Let me work for you, Aryael."

Silence.

Utter and still silence.

"You've really thought this through, haven't you? But I meant it when I said I don't need a maid. You can do what you've always done and maybe a little more... You can read and write, yes? I have a feeling I'm going to have to be doing a lot of that soon enough and to be honest, I wouldn't mind some help. So no, Shora you cannot be my maid. But you can be my personal aid. An assistant if you will. You can work with Josie and coordinate whatever needs to be coordinated and fight me over laundry as much as you like." She offered the woman a grin. "I'll speak to Josie about an appropriate salary as well. And get rid of this maid nonsense. I am not a kept woman, I do not need a maid."

Shora laughed. 

"I'm pretty sure if I wasn't there to handle your meals in Haven you would have almost never ate. And when would you have found time to do your own clothes, hmm? No, you dash out of the front gates so quickly. Accept the help Ari."

"I suppose you're right. Though this way you'll be privy to all the high level secrets of the Inquisition! I bet Josie already has a pile of letters she wants me to read and respond to," Ari groaned at the thought.

"Well, I may or may not have seen a stack of missives that has been growing while you were away,"

Ari lowered her head on the table in defeat while Shora giggled and began to eat her share of breakfast.

 


 

Josephine was very pleased with Ari's suggestion of Shora acting as a personal assistant of sorts and was delightfully surprised that the elf could read and write, setting to work right away discussing various upcoming dignitary visits and missives that required the Inquisitor's input. Ari had left Shora with Josephine, smiling to herself as she watched the Antivan woman take the small elf under her wings and begin to teach her the ins and outs of what would be required of her from an administrative level. She had searched the library and gardens for Solas but was unable to find him and it was reaching the appointed hour quickly. She wondered why Solas had simply left this morning as she walked out the main gates towards the practice ring that had been set up near the barracks and stables. She grinned when saw Bull and Krem practicing with sword and shield, Varric, Sera, Fenris and Blackwall of to the side watching. Hawke was curiously missing.

"Good morning!" She called, joining her companions from behind and startling Blackwall.

"Maker, Aryael, you move silent."

"When I want to. Always worth your reaction, Blackwall," she gave him a grin before she turned to Fenris. "And just where is your other half this morning?"

"I cannot say," he said, an amused glint in his eye that let her know he knew exactly where she was.

"Hmm, odd that. Did your lover disappear from your bed as well?"

"'Glory's disappeared?!"

"Well, not disappeared. Okay, maybe disappeared. I just can't seem to find him this morning."

Sera snorted. 

"Books. Books or ruins. Always one of the two."

"You know him so well," she sighed dramatically and draped an arm over Sera's shoulder. "The best of friends, really. Brings a tear to my eye."

Sera rolled her eyes, scoffing while Ari stifled her laughter as she heard the woman mutter something about honey and pants.

"Ah, there she is!" Fenris nodded in the direction behind Ari and she turned, eyes widening in slight shock as she watched Hawke approach them beside Cassandra.

"Aryael! Good morning! I found someone to referee my little sparring match. Cassandra has graciously agreed to hold Bull and I to the highest of standards!"

"Cass?" she inquired, raising a brow in amusement. Cassandra was a warrior and trained in the ways of a Seeker so no, you couldn't really find a better judge. Except maybe Cullen. But Cullen was training recruits down in the Valley on the outskirts of the town, the mages assisting with creating obstacle courses of sorts for them to work through. 

"I understand you have all placed a wager on the Champion or Bull?"

"Varric's got the pot," Sera chimed in, oblivious to the fact that Varric had taken a few steps decidedly out of sight of the Seeker.

"Well, hand it over, Varric. Cassandra's in charge of seeing the appropriate sums go to the rightful winners,"

Ari smiled, watching as Hawke ignored any and all tensions, bringing together the two with relative ease.

"She's always been like that," Fenris' voice was low to her right and she leaned a little closer to hear him better as he continued with his head slightly bent. "She's no stranger to confrontation but between companions? Never stood for it. She was always squirming her way into the middle of things, refusing to allow us to come to blows or disagreements to turn into anything further. I think this time... She feels responsible for what's happened. Varric is her best friend. He was protecting her. But it cost him." Ari watched as Cassandra explained the terms of the wager and sparring match, her words lost to her as she listened to the soothing sound of Fenris' voice. "He wrote about the Seeker you know. A lot. Hawke's got it in her head that Varric might finally be able to get over someone he's been hung up on for a long time. She's determined to fix what she perceives is her fault."

"Their fight was about more than just lying about Hawke, I think. Cassandra and Varric didn't exactly meet under perfect circumstances for romance."

Fenris chuckled low in his throat and Ari's eyes darted up to look at him, a smile tugging at her lips in response to his own. 

"No, I don't think torture is how many of the great love stories start."

The others had spread out, Varric standing awkwardly silent near Cassandra as she stood at the back of the ring, while Blackwall and Sera stood on their opposing sides ready to cheer for the candidate. Fenris and Ari stood a bit off to the side with a good view of the ring but far enough from the others that no one could hear them speak. Krem had moved to join Sera as Bull and Hawke prepared themselves.  

Bull wore a vicious grin as he swung the practice sword in one over-sized hand and pulled up his shield. Hawke's lips cracked in a matching smile as Cassandra gave them the go ahead. Bull charged and Hawke flicked her wrist, snapping her staff up to block his sword as she danced out of his reach, sending a few light bolts of arcane energy his way. Bull easily deflected the bolts, turning to follow her as she tried to create more distance.

"Come on, you're not even trying to break my defenses," Bull called out to Hawke.

Hawke rolled on the ground, using her staff to propel her up as she evaded Bull's charge. 

"I resent that, Bull. I'm definitely breaking a sweat here!" she mocked him as her staff met his blade, sliding it down to the hilt and pushing forward with the help of a guided magic wind to push him off balance.

Sera began to shout in the background, swearing up a storm as Bull regained his footing. Staff met wooden sword over and over as Bull tried to bear down the full weight of his strength down on Hawke. Ari could practically feel Hawke's staff vibrating with magic as she met each of his blows with her own, effectively blocking each strike. They each moved fast, their weapons and hands becoming a blur as they tried to get the upper hand on each other. Until Hawke moved, causing Bull to once again lose his footing. 

Flying under one of his forceful swings she tapped his back with her staff and laughed, falling back slightly before pulling roots out of the ground that wrapped around his ankles as he attempted to turn towards her, tugging his off-balance self easily down to the ground. He fell on his back, landing with a loud thud as Hawke placed the sharp blade at the end of her staff on his throat, her eyes dancing with amusement.

"I think that was less than 5 minutes," Hawke mused, her vines falling away from their hold as she reached for his hand, helping him get to his feet. 

"Gotta hand it to you," Bull said chuckling, "you let me think I had a chance there. Using my own strength against me. And your fast. Very fast for a human. Where did you learn to fight like that?"

"Here and there. My father taught me most of what I know of magic but before I showed any predisposition towards it, I trained with my brother Carver with wooden swords. And I have some deadly friends. Isabella helped refine some of my fighting style; made me quicker. And of course, I tend to find myself in trouble rather often. Makes for good practice," she said with grin, leaning on her staff as she looked up at the hulk of a man dusting himself off.  

"Oi, Bull! What was that?" Sera came over and smacked the Qu'nari on the arm. "Couldn't last 20 more seconds?! 20 more seconds and I'd have my pot!" 

Hawke laughed as Cassandra split the pot between her and Blackwall, Varric shaking his head behind her.

"You did that on purpose, didn't you?"

"Varric, you know splitting a pot three ways is never much fun! Plus, two minutes really isn't long enough to size up anyone. I'd rather know how he fights than line your purse." Hawke turned her attention back towards the Qu'nari and cocked her head to the side. "Satisfied?"

Bull stood straight, crossing his arms over his chest as he peered down at the slip of a woman. Tension had replaced her easy demeanor and Ari's companions, shuffled uncomfortably at the change in the air.

"My orders have nothing to do with you, Hawke."

"For now. I killed your Arishok, Bull. Your people pretend to denounce his actions only because you are not ready to fight a war on more than one front. I know how it works. And you've been presented with the unique opportunity to be close to me. You might not have the order now, but you will. I wonder what you'll make of it, when it comes."

"The Ben-Hassrath are fully aware of your capabilities. They don't send agents to their deaths without a purpose. Demands of the Qun, or not."

Hawke nodded once in acceptance of his words, not wishing to discuss it further. They knew where they stood. That was what mattered. She turned towards Ari and Fenris, an odd look passing over her features before her smile settled back into place.

"You make it look so easy," Ari said, deciding to ignore what had just transpired between Hawke and Bull. She hadn't given thought to the fact that Hawke was an enemy of the Qun. She was under the impression that the Qun had denounced what the Arishok had done in Kirkwall, however, Hawke was right. This was a unique opportunity. The Ben-Hassrath could very easily decide to capitalize on it.

"I've been fighting for years. All about the practice. I've heard you tend to favour a spirit sword?"

"I do! It ensures I'm never weaponless, though I wouldn't mind actually having a weapon to use." The two women began to walk side by side towards the centre of the courtyard, Varric and Cassandra following shortly after while Bull stayed behind with Krem and Blackwall, Sera already off on her own to drink away the sorrow of her loss. 

"This thing is not a stray puppy you can make into a pet. It has no business being here."

Vivienne's voice carried from where she stood across from Solas. Ari's head snapped to look in her direction with a frown.

You have got to be kidding me...

"Wouldn't you say the same of an apostate?"

"He is an abomination, Solas. While your... look, may be considered as such, you have skill. An abomination does not."

"Cole is a spirit."

"It is a demon."

"Cole is not a demon, Madame de Fer," Ari said, coming up to Solas side.

"The truth is somewhat more complex."

"Inquisitor, you may call it whatever you like, but it is still a threat."

"Cole. His name is Cole. He is not an it. He is a he. He is a spirit. He is Cole. Not a demon."

"Is it possession? Cole looks... well, he looks like a young man. Is it possible?" Cassandra asked, coming to stand between Vivienne and Ari.

"No. He has possessed nothing and no one, and yet he appears human in all respects. Cole is unique. More than that, he wants to help. I suggest you allow him to do so," Solas said, inclining his head towards Ari. His gaze briefly flicked behind her, remaining impassive though he surely noticed that she was with Hawke and Fenris. 

"Cole stays. If you have a problem with that Madame de Fer, I suggest you reassess your position here with the Inquisition. I did hear that Celene already had an Arcane Advisor, perhaps you could offer your services to King Alistair of Ferelden." Ari smiled sweetly at the woman and noted the soft tick in her cheek as Ari's threat filled her ears. She had thought that she and Vivienne had come to an understanding of sorts, but she would not tolerate anything less than respect for Cole. He was a spirit of compassion and did not deserve anyone's ire.

"Of course, my dear. The Inquisition is yours, after all." Vivienne turned on her heel and strode for the stairwell.

"You are sure this is wise? Vivienne may have had a point. I did not even recall the boy until I heard them arguing over his presence."

"Cole can affect your memories, yes. But he helps, Cassandra. He warned us about Corypheus, he's aided many of the sick and wounded here at Skyhold since we arrived and I've seen him do the tiniest things to uplift some of the people's spirits here. He is a spirit of Compassion. He will do us no harm, I promise you."

"You believe him to be a spirit of compassion?" Solas raised a brow as he looked down at her?

"Do you not?" She asked, slipping her arm into his and placing her hand on his bicep. 

"I am not sure what manner of spirit Cole is. But yes, Compassion does seem like it fits. That is a rare spirit indeed."

"You are sure the boy is not a demon?"

Hawke hit Fenris' arm and glared up at him.

"Fenris!"

Ari turned, feeling the taut pull of Solas' muscle under her fingers, a sure sign of his agitation.

"He is not a demon. I understand you have... qualms about magic. And spirits. And anything to do with the Fade. But Cole is a friend. A dear friend and I suggest you leave him be."

Ari and Fenris stared each other down, neither blinking as they sized each other up.

"Neither was Anders. You can't trust spirits either. You would do well to remember that." Fenris turned and walked away, heading for the stables.

"I... Fenris has... I-"

Hawke was flustered, eyes darting between Fenris' retreating back and Ari.

"It's fine, Hawke. I understand. I know... Fenris has a past. And I understand where his mistrust comes from. It is not completely misplaced. You should probably go after him."

"Right. Well, thanks for understanding. I swear it won't be an issue once I've spoken to him. Though... do be careful? I had an... acquaintance once. Thought she was dealing with a friendly spirit. Turned out to be a pride demon ready to use her for his own ends. You never know." Hawke turned and dashed off after Fenris, calling his name.

"Gotta hand it to you, Dimples. Broody doesn't normally walk away. He's better at smashing things."

"Please, Fenris is a big cuddly teddy-bear under all that angst. And Hawke is a mage. I'm sure that acceptance isn't a completely new concept to him."

"Still, I've never seen him give in that easily. Except to Hawke. But Hawke has a way of making men... well, they listen." He shot her a cheeky grin that she returned with a slight blush.

"ARYAEL!"

She heard her name being called by a familiar voice and turned her gaze towards the gates, eyes growing wide with shock. She let go of her hold on Solas, pushing past Cassandra as she broke out into a run.

"Lyara!" She cried, throwing herself into the arms of her flaxen haired friend, practically knocking her to the ground. 

"Creators Aryael, when did you get so strong?" 

Ari looked up to see Mihren, grinning down at her with twinkling blue eyes. She let go of Lyara and latched on to him as he spun her around, eliciting a string of giggles from her lips. 

"I don't understand? What are you doing here?"

"What are you doing here is the better question." Mihren said as he placed her back on her feet.

"Well, I mean, I-" She was thankful that her words were cut off by Nehnis quickly coming in for his own hug. She really didn't have an answer for him.

"We thought the humans had done something to you. Glad to see we were wrong," he whispered in her ear.

"Well, I mean there does happen to be a rather nasty fellow trying to kill me and take over all of Thedas but you know... he's not necessarily human."

"Just what have you gotten yourself into this time, Ari? I swear I leave you alone for five minutes... I knew Deshanna should have let me go with you to the enclave."

"How is Deshanna, Lyara?"

"Oh no, you do not get to change the subject, da'lan."

Ari looked up sheepishly at Mihren.

"Ari?" Cassandra's voice sounded very close. She turned and almost collided face first with her breastplate. 

"Cassandra! These are my friends! Lyara, Mihren and Nehnis. This is Cassandra, another friend. We should find you rooms. Cass, can you ask Josie if there's somewhere they can stay? Near my rooms if possible. Come, come! You must have been travelling long, you should rest. Is the clan still near... Wycome..." Ari's face fell remembering the war table missions as she led them up the stairs to the upper courtyard, walking past Solas and Varric. She missed the curious Lyara gave Solas and the suspicious ones from both Nehnis and Mihren.  

"We stayed longer than we probably should have, waiting for your return. By the time word had reached us that you had been found, injured, the enclave destroyed..."

"Lyara," her brother chided. "Ari, I have a missive for you from the Keeper."

"Is all well?" she asked, trying to keep the nervousness from her voice. 

"The missive is addressed to you, not I, da'lan. Is there a reason you may have incurred the Keeper's wrath?"

"Why Mihren, you know perfectly well how spectacularly well-behaved I am!"

Mihren snorted while Lyara and Nehnis broke out into stomach clutching laughter. 

"It wasn't that funny," she said with a slight frown, turning to face them as they entered the main hall. "Come, for now you can rest in my rooms while Cassandra finds Josephine to set you up with rooms of your own."

 

 

Chapter Text

"So what actually happened at Haven?" Lyara asked, cutting right to the heart of it as Ari led them up the staircase.

"Their Divine was murdered. Their holy temple all but obliterated... To be honest, I don't really remember what exactly happened... I was there, I had managed to get inside the walls and was walking along a corridor when just," she snapped her fingers, "poof. It ends. The next thing I knew, I awoke in shackles in their dungeons at Haven."

"Shackles? Is that why you haven't written to us? Are you a prisoner here?!" Mihren grabbed her arm and turned her around to face him in the hallway, his face searching hers for any sign of distress.

"Relax, Mihren. I am no prisoner. I haven't been since the day I awoke in Haven. I'm... their leader I suppose. I closed the Breach in the sky, of that I am sure you have heard by now. But there is a greater threat named Corypheus who must now be dealt with."

"So why did you not send word then?" Lyara asked, arms crossed over her chest as she stepped forward to come to her brother's side.

Ari's face fell. She hadn't sent word had she? For all of her relishing in her memories of her clan... she had forgotten them nonetheless. 

"So much has happened, I just... No, no excuses. I should have sent word the moment I was able. I did not. I failed the clan," she looked up into Mihren's bright blue eyes, gaze unwavering as she admitted her faults. Mihren may have come with Lyara and Nehnis, but he was Deshanna's voice here, of that she had no doubt.

"We should continue this conversation somewhere we cannot be overheard. Are your rooms far?"

Ari shook her head, leading them down the hall. She heard the sharp intake of breath as her small personal library came into view. Hurrying up the steps she pulled open the door and flicked her wrist towards the fireplace, igniting the logs within to a strong and steady flame. 

"This... You stay here?" Nehnis asked, whistling low as he walked over to the window. 

"It's all for show. I'm their Inquisitor, appearances must be kept."

"Ari, they're treating you like some sort of noble... a human..."

"The last Inquisitor was also an elf, Lyara. Inquisitor Ameridan during the Divine Age."

"You are well versed in their history."

"Mihren, I'm well versed in history. And Ameridan was an ElfDoes that not make it our history as well? Or should we reject anything that doesn't have to do with our clans?"

Lyara had sat herself in one of the armchairs by the fire, extending her hands for warmth. 

"Leave off, Mihren. Stop being so suspicious."

"Just what exactly are you suspicious of, Mihren?" Ari asked as she spun to face him, arms crossed under her breasts. "I realize I failed to contact Deshanna. But that could easily have been rectified with a missive. My whereabouts have not exactly been secret. What are you doing here?"

Nehnis leaned back against the wall near the window and Lyara turned to face Aryael from her perch on the armchair.

"You are very defensive, Aryael," Nehnis murmured, looking at her with head cocked to the side and arms crossed in a similar fashion to her own.

"Hard not to be when I'm starting to feel attacked in my own home."

"Home?" Mihren echoed, shock and hurt apparent in his tone.

Ari's face fell.

"You are changed, Aryael of Clan Lavellan," Mihren admonished, tone deep with disappointment. 

"Many things have occurred to make it so," she said raising her left hand and flashing her mark. "I am not simply First to our Keeper any longer. I have responsibilities to more than our clan."

"So your clan no longer matters?" Lyara asked, standing and walking over to stand before her.

Ari looked into familiar baby blues and frowned.

"I never said that. Of course our clan matters. I admitted my fault in not reaching out but this threat... our clan is susceptible to it just as the humans and dwarves and the Qunari."

"Among whom you have found your new home," Lyara whispered. "I have followed you your entire life, Ari. Ventured into forbidden ruins, encouraged you as you sought answers for questions no one had ever even thought to ask. Fought anyone who dared say a word against you and your liberal interpretations of our history. And this? This is what it is now? You lead your shems and forget your people?" Lyara shook her head slowly. "Fen'Harel ma ghilana. Dirthara-ma.

A knock sounded on the door and Cassandra swiftly stepped inside. 

"Rooms have been prepared for your clan mates down the hall, Ari." She turned to Mihren, "I can take you there now, if you'd like? Josephine has need of Ari's presence."

"Yes, please. I think it best we rest and prepare for the journey home," Lyara said, spinning on her heel and walking out the door, waiting for Cassandra and the others outside in the hall.

Cass gave Ari a look, raising her eyebrow in curiosity and noting the ashen appearance of her friend, frowned.

"Are you alright, Ari?" she asked, taking a step towards her. 

"I'm fine, Cass. I'll find the others in the war room at once." She shook her head slightly, swallowing as she tried to collect herself before she moved to head out the door herself.

Mihren grabbed her arm and she turned to him, eyes questioning.

"Ir abelas, da'lan. Take this, it is from Deshanna. I would... Seek me out before you retire, if you can. I would speak with you. Alone." His eyes seemed haunted by regret and pain before he turned away and followed Nehnis out the door.

"Aryael, if you need a friend... I am always here," Cassandra said, placing a hand on her shoulder and squeezing it gently in compassion before she headed out the door to lead the other's to their chambers, leaving Ari alone in her rooms. 

Ari rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands, the parchment grazing her forehead. 

How could I...

With a heavy sigh she unsealed the missive and her eyes darted over the words. 

 

Da'lan,

It troubles me to have not heard from you these past months. Much time has passed since the enclave was destroyed and I have heard through our trade with humans that you have become an icon for them. The Herald of Andraste. 

These whispers concern me. The danger you now face! A Dalish Elf in the midst of a human army facing an Ancient Tevinter Magister. What other trouble can you possibly find? I am sure there is much more to the story than the grand tales the merchants have passed on and I look forward to hearing it firsthand from your own lips when you are ready and able to return home to us.

I wanted you to know that I am proud, da'lan. Proud of the woman you have become and the way you have represented our people. The way you are selflessly placing yourself in danger to protect not only your clan but those who would ridicule the Elves. 

Your heart is warm and compassionate, Aryael. Never change.

But the times we live in are not kind. Especially not for our people. We have remained close to Wycome, both awaiting your return and avoiding encountering any rifts. The valley had been safe so far, a few minor skirmishes with our hunters and a wraith or two. Yet, it is safe no longer.

Bandits are attacking Clan Lavellan. The raiders are well armed and heavily armored, and they come in numbers our hunters cannot match. These bandits may force us to seek a new home. If your Inquisition can help, you might save our clan much hardship.

Dareth shiral,


Keeper Deshanna

 

Ari closed her eyes and took a deep breath, willing away the tears from her eyes. Deshanna had always been understanding, even if she had been exasperated with Aryael's need for answers and to challenge commonly accepted truths. It was odd, to have her acceptance so soon after Lyara's tongue lashing. 

Lyara wasn't wrong...

Ari smiled wryly to herself. 

Fen'Harel does guide me. Just not in the way she thinks. And I have changed... I'm not just First... I'm not just Aryael... I'm not even sure I really know who I am anymore.

Ari turned and headed towards her bathing room, finding a pitcher of water to clean her face before facing her advisors.  

Chapter Text

Ari walked briskly through the empty halls of the main level of the keep and headed towards the war room. Her body felt numb and her mind blank as she pushed away all thoughts of her earlier conversation with her clanmates. Opening the door to the war room, she was greeted with the sight of Leliana, Josephine and Cullen standing around the map table.

"Aryael, its good you've arrived. I hear we have some guests from your clan? Do you know how long they shall stay?" Josephine's accented voice filled her ears and she snapped her head in the woman's direction.

"They'll be departing shortly. I've received word from my clan. They're being attacked by bandits near Wycome. Very well equipped bandits."

"Bandits? Near Wycome? I find it strange that the Duke of Wycome would allow bandits so close to his city."

"As do I. Something seems amiss."

"Should I send troops to defend them?" Cullen inquired, lips drawn into a grim line.

Ari shook her head.

"They will not arrive in time. But that does not mean they may not be needed eventually. Prepare to mobilize a unit. We do not know how this will play out," she said turning to Leliana.

"Find out what is happening here. I feel as though my clan is being specifically targeted. They have camped near Wycome for over a year now and we have never faced difficulty before, enjoying a peaceful acceptance by the Duke and trade with Wycome. Something has changed."

"I will have scouts head there immediately. They can provide a distraction that will allow for your clan to retreat to safety."

"Thank you. Josie, I understand you wanted to speak with me?"

"Yes, Shora has a number of missives to go over with you. Some can wait. There are a few things that do need immediate attention however. Leliana has secured the assistance of 'the Arcanist', a notable Dwarven smith with an uncanny knowledge of the arcane arts named Dagna. She should arrive tomorrow and we would like you to be here to greet her."

"I had planned on heading to Crestwood."

"Crestwood is important. But so is ensuring the Inquisition continues to grow in order to face the threat of Corypheus. Arwynne will not fault you a few extra days in Skyhold."

"A few?" Ari cocked a brow at Leliana before turning to face Josephine once more.

"There are a number of things you must be brought up to date on as the Inquisitor. I have been working on an agreement with the merchant princes of Antiva. Shora has left a copy of the current contract being negotiated with notes of what has already been withdrawn or added in your rooms. Some of the mages of the Mage Rebellion have not yet been reached and you need to decide how we will approach our new allies. They do not know the war is yet over. And the clerics."

"The clerics? Did we not deal with them in Val Royaux?"

"You made an impact in Val Royaux, my dear. And it has caused much unrest. While we were able to control it at the time... Grand Cleric Iona has risen as a leader in opposition to our alliance. And she has amassed her own allies within the Chantry, pushing her forward as a very strong candidate for The Divine. If she succeeds, this could mean trouble for the Inquisition."

"So what are you saying Leliana? The Chantry could once again oppose us?"

"Exactly. She is dangerous and has no secrets. We must silence her."

"We should not be rash. The Templar Order no longer protects her and she is well aware of that. A display of force is all the warning she needs."

"We could also choose the diplomatic route and support a rival. With the right ammunition, she could steal the support from right under Iona."

Aryael crossed her arms and nibbled on her bottom lip as she thought. This was not a mission she had ever come across. But when in doubt, it was usually a safe bet to leave it to Leliana.

"I don't want to underestimate her ability to garner support against us. The Chantry needs a reminder? A warning? Then we silence her effectively. Leliana do what needs to be done."

"Of course, Aryael."

"Was there anything else?"

"I would speak with you privately, if I may?"

"Of course, Leliana."

"Inquisitor," Cullen inclined his head deferentially as he headed towards the door.

"I have a name, Cullen."

"You are also the Inquisitor, Ayrael. The title in of itself is a power you should become accustomed to. The troops need their Inquisitor," he said with his back to her before he headed out the door.

"His words hold merit, Aryael. Our allies and foes will respect and fear the Inquisitor. Ah, and before I forget. There is a missive from King Bhelen among the papers Shora has for you. Please ensure to write a response as quickly as possible. I would like to send a delegation on your behalf with your response to negotiate our alliance."

"Of course," Ari said with a straight face as she watched Josephine close the door behind her.

"It was easier when you were simply our Herald, no?"

Ari turned towards Leliana.

"You had something you wished to discuss?" She didn't have it in her to discuss her feelings at the moment.

"When I first traveled to Haven, it was over 10 years ago with Arwynne. At the time, the town was full of the Cult of Andraste. They worshipped a dragon as though she were Andraste herself. There are many tunnels beneath the town as you are well aware, and I had them searched. Many of the structures predated the cult. We found texts and relics... and a specific relic with unknown runes that I had translated by some of my best agents knowledgeable in dangerous magic. The runes are Almarri in origin, meaning guardian and further translations of texts have led us to an island off the northern coast of Ferelden. It indicates a link between the original disciples of Andraste and this 'guardian' of the sacred ashes. I would like to deploy agents to this island."

"Dispatch them."

Leliana regarded Ari curiously and it caused her to feel unease.

"You are not yourself."

The words struck a chord within her and she laughed at the irony of it all. 

Myself? I don't know who that is.

"I am as much myself as I can be. Is that all you wished to discuss?"

Leliana hummed before turning towards the map.

"One of my agents, Rector, has brought something to our attention. There have been strange markings left on a number of our outposts. An upturned triangle with two waves through it. I set up a decoy outpost to find the culprit. This was the report I received."

Leliana handed her a rolled parchment. 

 

Post set up along the Imperial Highway, ostensibly to guard trade routes and facilitate procuring supplies for the Inquisition. Eyes on all approaches.

Fourth Night: A caravan carrying refuges makes camp nearby for protection. After midnight, a young woman on crutches makes small talk with patrol guard. After he passes, she crouches and makes the mark on a tent post.

The woman pretends for half an hour to know nothing. When it becomes clear the ruse will not work, she kisses an Andrastian locket and says, “Glory to those across the seas.” She dies. The locket was poison.

 

"Glory to those across the sea?"

"Words lost to various interpretations. Regardless of whoever they may be, they are interested in us. And they are organized. The markings have all been removed and they have not reappeared. The Qunari were too obvious a suspect. It is someone else. Someone unknown and clever with resources. But so are we. We must move quickly, hit all our leads at once before they know we are looking. I will keep you updated on any progress. And I ask that you keep a wary eye on your back as you travel. We do not know what we are dealing with."

"Of course. Thank you for bringing this to my attention."

"There are reports that I have left in your rooms. You should familiarize yourself with them and then we can discuss next steps. The Ben-Hassrath have been very forthcoming over the past months. I know there are other pressing matters to attend to and the Commander, Josie and I are capable of handling much of this. But it does you well to take an active hand in even the smallest of things. Thedas needs to feel your presence, not just the Inquisition's."

"I understand."

"Good. I will leave you to it then. We meet every morning at 9am to discuss issues and current standings. You should join us while you are here."

"I will, thank you."

 


 

Ari found herself roaming Skyhold lost in thought, feet aimlessly leading her to the ramparts. The winds curled around her, whipping her loose curls and braids through the air as she stared out into the Frostbacks, hugging her waist. She leaned against the cold stone of the wall, eyes unseeing.

I did forget them. I did replace them. I replaced everyone. 

Images of the classmates she had left behind flit through her mind as she wondered if there was even a body left to be found by her landlord.

What had Shane done when I didn't make it to the monthly PSSA meeting? Had my thesis advisor questioned why I no longer spent hours in her office? Did Coral check up on me when I didn't show up to work at The Hive? Did they bury me in some random plot or send me home to be buried with her parents and brother?

Did everyone think as Lyara did? That I turned my back on them? Did they think me a shem? Did they feel betrayed or worried? Had Deshanna thought me dead?

Does it even matter?

She wasn't that person anymore. She wasn't really Aryael Lavoie. She wasn't really Aryael of Clan Lavellan. 

She wasn't really sure who she was; she just knew she was more than who she had been.

Ari closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

"Contemplating jumping?"

Her eyes snapped open at the rough sound of Fenris' voice at her back. She spun and looked up into his green eyes.

"Why would I jump?"

"Numerous reasons. You're a mage of considerable skill. I doubt it would kill you. It could be your way to escape."

"Why would I need to escape my home?"

"The same reason Hawke used her cellar to get out of Hightown." 

Ari looked away from his piercing gaze, unwilling to face what she saw in them and turned back towards the mountains.

"What do you think defines you as a person?"

"Actions."

"Nothing else? What about your loved ones? Or history? What about what others expect you to be?"

"You can only be who you are. A wolf in sheep's clothing is still a wolf. Even when others expect the sheep."

"What if you don't know who you are?"

Fenris took a step forward, coming to her side and crossed his arms over his chest as he stared out into the Frostbacks with her.

"You decide."

She looked up at him, surprise written across her face. He looked down at her with a serious expression.

"You are who you choose to be, Aryael. No one can decide that for you."

They stood there silent, eyes locked as the wind swirled around them. 

"And if I don't know who to choose?" she whispered, words almost swept away.

"Simply be."

 

Chapter Text

He stood in the library, left arm crossed over his chest and chin grasped in his right hand as his eyes roamed over the barren walls scattered across the large library located in the back rotunda on the northern side of the keep. Skyhold had gone through many transformations in the centuries since he had last stood here.

"Familiar. Warm. Light in the darkness; so alive. So bright."

"Cole, we spoke about this. You cannot share others' thoughts out loud so easily."

"But you are so loud."

"I will try not to think so loudly, if that helps."

Cole nodded, seating himself on a nearby table.

"You want to paint her story."

"Yes, I do. She is the hero of this tale and already she has done much."

"She would like it. She likes it when you paint her or draw her."

Solas turned towards him abruptly.

"I have never shown... Cole, I have never painted her," Solas almost whispers, eyes narrowing.

"She likes it," the spirit says once more, ducking his head down and hiding his eyes beneath the wide brim of his hat before disappearing from the room. 

 


 

She stood outside the thick wooden door gnawing on her lip, hand raised with hesitance.

Just knock, Ari.

She mentally berated herself before she took a deep breath and let her knuckles rap against the smooth wood.

The door opened moments later, Nehnis standing before her; a sympathetic look in forest green eyes framed by the dark burgundy vallaslin of Mythal over his brow.

"Can I... Can I come in?" she stuttered, looking up at him with determination.

He moved aside, gesturing for her to come in and closed the door behind her.

"She's more hurt than anything else, Ari."

"I know," she whispered, looking up at him with sad eyes before letting her gaze fall over the room. They stood in a small salon, golden drapes hung over windows on the far wall with a pair of matching walnut armchairs and a sofa with royal blue velveteen cushions at the centre. Mihren sat upon one of the armchairs, fletching arrows. He looked up at her and offered a warm smile, crinkling the silvery-gold lines of the simple vallaslin of Andruil that covered his face.

"I did not think we would see you again so soon, da'lan. Does your Inquisition not need you?" There was no malice in his tone and yet Ari felt uncomfortable all the same.

"You are my clan, Mihren. My friends. I cannot leave things as they are."

He nodded once, placing his half finished arrow back into his quiver. 

"Lyara has been resting in the adjoining room to your left," he gestured in the general direction of a closed door on his right. 

"Lyara is not the only one to whom I owe an apology." She looked over at Nehnis who had moved to join Mihren, his sword laying a top a side table with an oiled rag. He looked up at her as he sat, thick brown braid falling over his armoured shoulder. She walked over to join them, sitting herself on the floor with her forearms resting on her knees and looked down at the ground. "I have... found much away from the clan and so many things have happened... Memories I cannot recall, human politics and murderous darkspawn magisters... The people here and Skyhold itself... It's all become very important to me. But that does not mean that the clan is any less important. I care about you all and I regret that I never sent word or... I was so happy to see you and I did not think why you may be here or remember that we have not spoken in nigh a year. You may believe it or not, but I have thought of you. Shared stories about the magic tricks I would play, or how you, Mihren, tried to teach me to hunt. You are all still so dear to me, so very much a part of who I am." She looked at the both of them, each staring at her with blank expressions on their face. "But I have been changed by all of this and I don't just mean the mark. The things I have seen, have learnt, have done... The people I have met... I cannot go back to who I was. I can only be what I have become."

A door creaked open and Lyara slowly strode out, coming to kneel right in front of Ari, clearly having heard every word she had said.

"It's that man, isn't it? The one you were all but draped over when we arrived."

Ari's cheeks flushed, lips parting in shock as she stared at Lyara.

"His name is Solas. And he is not..." But she couldn't say he was not the reason for the change. He was. In more ways than one. "The mark changed everything and placed me on a path that I cannot veer from. I am Deshanna's First but that title bears little weight against the fact that there is a darkspawn magister out for my blood with an Elvhen artifact of great power in his hands. And when it is over... I have been thrust into the light, letha'len. I fear that is something that will never change and already the clan faces the consequences of it all."

"Wait, Ari. An Elvhen artifact? And what do you mean consequences?" Lyara asked, eyes widened in shock.

"The bandits are not mere bandits," Mihren said, steepling his fingers as he rested his elbows over his knees and leaned forward.

Ari shook her head. "No, they are not. People are being dispatched to deal with them and investigate further. They will keep the clan as safe as possible. I promise I will not let anything happen to them." She wrung her fingers nervously, looking into the blue depths of Lyara's eyes as she waited for more from her; the woman who was like a sister and stranger all at once.

"It's a foci, belonging to one of the Gods."

Lyara's eyes, surrounded by the golden lines of Mythal's full vallaslin, widened impossibly further as her legs moved beneath her, allowing her butt to plop on the floor. Mihren and Nehnis sat rigid.

"What does that mean?" Mihren asked, tone light and disbelieving.

"It means that the magic Corypheus wields is not his own. The magic that tore the skies apart, the magic in my hand," she said as she raised her left hand, fingers half-curled as she looked down at it's crackling green light, "It belonged to one of our Gods."

"How can you be sure?" Nehnis whispered, breath rushing out.

"Is it really so hard to believe?" Her mark flared as she lowered her palm, holding it out flat before her. "Solas is a Dreamer. He has seen them in the Fade, orbs used to channel power from our Gods. Some dedicated to specific Creators. He has seen so much of history written in memories long lost to us in the Fade."

"You would trust a flat-ear about the history of our people?" Mihren scoffed.

"He is not a flat-ear," she all but snarled as her head whipped to face Mihren head on, eyes blazing with fury. "What do our people know of our own history? Our language lost to time, texts unreadable or gone forever. How many times was I derided for seeking answers in ruins? Ridiculed for trying to piece together pieces of lost history? Simply told that the Gods would answer our prayers? We know nothing, Mihren! Nothing. He saved my life when I fell from the Fade. He kept the mark from tearing me apart because he understood the magic. Kept me alive when the humans were ready to flay me for the death of their Divine. He knows more of Elvhenan, Arlathan and the history of our people than you could ever hope to learn from any of the Keepers."

Silence echoed around them, a stark shock washing over them at the rage in her tone and cutting words; the depth of her defense of someone whom they deemed a stranger.

"You love him, don't you?" The words were whispered from the lips of a thoughtful Lyara. 

"I do. More than I ever have or ever will love anyone else. Ma'sal'shiral." She looked at her friend with a shy smile before bowing her head and shaking it a little. "This is home because he is my home, Lyara. Not because I have forgotten the clan."

Lyara took her hands into her own and clasped them together before her lips, kissing her knuckles.

"Then I expect to hear all about him and perhaps meet him? I mean, if he's managed to get our da'fen's attention..." 

Nehnis laughed, Mihren staying silent as he stared at Ari's profile. 

"Lyara is right, I never thought I'd see the day where you paid attention to anything else but old ruins or Fen'Harel."

"Does that mean you will stay?" she asked, hopeful tone as she looked to her friends, frowning slightly at the indecipherable expression on Mihren's face.

"We cannot stay long, no. If these bandits are worse than feared... we have been gone near three weeks already, there is no telling what has happened to the clan in our absence."

"Leliana's scouts should arrive by nightfall. She had men and women nearby. I will not let enemies I have made harm our clan, Mihren."

Mihren nodded once before rising to his feet.

"I am sure the three of you have much catching up to do amongst yourselves. And the journey wore on me more than I thought. I'll join you later for supper," he said before turning towards a door found behind Ari that led into yet another bedroom.

Ari turned her head and watched him go, brow furrowing slightly as she watched his retreating back. Something wasn't right.

"So, you made him sound like a hero, keeping evil shems away as he healed you. What exactly did happen at the conclave?" Nehnis asked, drawing her attention back to her two best friends.

"Well, I like to think of it as the culmination of my divine bad luck," she started with a smile.

 

Chapter Text

Ari groaned, rolling over and pulling her pillow closer, hugging it to her chest as she rested her head on its corner.

"Never were good with early mornings, were you?" Lyara's voice carried to her from over her back on a chuckle. "You're spoiled, Ari. Mattresses are divine."

Ari laughed rolling over and blinking her eyes open slowly. She had spent the night with Nehnis and Lyara, telling them everything from Cassandra wanting to blame her for the Divine's death to time travel and facing Corypheus before finding Skyhold. Dinner had been brought to their rooms and Mihren joined them, the lot of them laughing and recounting some of Ari's more reckless adventures as a child. Eventually she had followed Lyara to her room, sitting on the bed and telling her all about Solas and the Fade... the look in his eye when he recounted what he had seen in the Fade or discussed spirits. How his voice sounded when he told her the stories of the stars or how she felt when he kissed her for the first time. They had stayed up until the early hours of the morning, giggling and gossiping.

"They are, aren't they? You should try the tubs. Warm baths are exquisite," she said, sitting up and rubbing the sleep from her eyes. 

A sharp knock on the door had her leaving the warmth of the bed and opening the door. 

"There you are! You didn't look over a thing did you? The advisors are meeting in an hour! Barely enough time to bathe and eat! Come, come! I can go over some of the reports for you briefly while you get dressed," Shora said, a whirlwind as she pulled on Ari's arm, dragging her from the room. "It's nice to meet you, Lyara! I've heard so much about you. You should join us tomorrow for breakfast, I'd love to get to know you better," she called over her shoulder as she pushed on Ari's back, guiding her a little forcefully towards the door in the salon. 

Ari could hear Lyara's hearty laugh. 

"Good to see Ari has someone to look out for her here! I'd love to get to know you as well!" she heard her call from the bedroom as she rushed into the hall.

"You are taking your job very seriously, Shora," Ari complained on a yawn. 

"Well, there's lots to be done! And you won't be here long, will you?" Shora admonished, leading the way down the hall towards the southern facing tower where her rooms were located. "Plus, you need to eat. You always forget to eat."

"I'm assuming you're the one who had dinner sent up to us?"

Shora blushed, looking back at a slightly disheveled Ari. 

"I did, yes. I figured you would want to spend as much time as possible with your clanmates. I did not think I would come to your rooms and find them not slept in, however."

Ari frowned.

Where had Solas spent the night?

They entered her rooms and she grinned when her nose was met with the tantalizing smell of her favourite pastries.

"Mmm, my favourite!" she said, sitting at her small table and pulling a tart out of the basket.

Shora dropped a stack of papers on the table a dull thud and Ari grimaced. 

"Alright, give me the rundown," she said before taking a large bite out of her tart. 

 


 

"I can destroy Caralina's marriage with four words and the proper glove left on the proper table," Josephine said, leaning back in her chair in the war room, watching the argument circle around the table once more.

"Jean-Gaspard is a chevalier and a capable military leader. I say we recruit him to our cause if we must remove him from the game," Cullen said as he rose from his own seat at the table. A rapid knock on the door distracted them from the current discussion at hand, much to Ari's relief. They had been discussing Orlesian politics for over an hour after discussing the refugee situation in Ferelden. She had been very close to having called for action to be taken against Lord Kildarn for his words regarding the 'so-called' refugees on his land. She yearned to introduce him to a good old fashioned Elf such as herself. And her sword. Definitely her sword.

"The Arcanist is crossing the bridge, Commander. She should be at the main gates in moments," a voice carried into the room from before Cullen's large frame.

"Wonderful! We should go and meet her. Aryael, think over what we have discussed. We can resume our talks in the morning," Josephine said rising to her feet and heading out the door. Leliana and Ari followed behind Cullen and Josie, as they all made their way into the main hall. 

"Chances Lord Kildarn can find a very nasty surprise in his home?" Ari whispered to Leliana conspiratorially.

Leliana chuckled. "Very high," she murmured with an amused tone.

Ari smiled at the redhead as they entered the main hall, where a starstruck Dagna was currently looking up with awe from the large oak doors.

"Welcome Dagna! It's so good to see you again," Leliana called, walking over to the woman.

"Leliana! How's Schmooples the second?" Dagna asked with a grin.

"Fine, fine. He's gotten quite plump as of late," Leliana said as the two women hugged. Parting, Dagna caught Ari's eye.

"Whoa, you're her. The Inquisitor. I'm Dagna. Arcanist Dagna," she said walking over to her with sparkling eyes; eyes that were immediately drawn to her mark. "Is that it? The anchor? It's pretty... the Breach was pretty too. Deadly. Very deadly. But pretty. Kinda like Leliana."

Ari chuckled.

"Welcome to the Inquisition, Dagna. We're glad to have you and I'm looking forward to working with you," she said with a bright smile. She was proud of Dagna. Her quest to get into the circle was probably one of her favourites from Origins. And the fact that Dagna stood before her, doing what she had wanted... well, that was an amazing feat and she was proud to have enabled that.

"Thank you! Me too! I've heard some impossible things. I love impossible things. Those are the best to make, well, possible! I heard you like to use a spirit sword? We should talk more once I've set up. I knew someone once, used runes in her sword that let her channel magic. Kinda like you do with your spirit sword."

Ari raised a brow. 

"I look forward to it. I'd love to hear your ideas. I've been hoping to get a weapon of my own fashioned."

"Arcanist Dagna, if you would, I've had rooms prepared for you in the keep. With a private entrance to your own smithy. Leliana's scouts had your things delivered yesterday and they are waiting for you."

"Perfect! You must be Josephine. It's nice to meet you!" The dwarf bounded off to follow Josephine as she led her down a hallway towards the right of the keep. 

"Dagna is amazing at what she does."

"She must be. Dwarves don't have magic to help them," Ari said with a smile, hugging herself around the waist loosely.

"I will see you tomorrow. Have a good day, Aryael." Leliana said, turning to head towards her own offices, found in the back of the keep on the opposite end of the library, leaving her alone with Cullen. 

"There's still a lot of work ahead."

Ari turned towards Cullen, cocking her head to the side and eyeing him with a smirk on her lips.

"There is. You've done quite a bit as it is. You're a fine Commander, Cullen."

"I, ah- thank you," he murmured, nervously hand on the back of his neck. "I am... You were chosen for a reason. We needed a leader. You prove yourself. You are quite the leader, Aryael."

She offered him a full blown smile. "You're kind, Cullen. I've simply made the best of what we've been dealt. How is morale?"

"Much higher since you've taken the title of Inquisitor. Haven was a blow to us but it could have been much worse. Most of our people made it to Skyhold thanks to your preparations. And Haven was no fortress, we could not have stayed there forever, especially not at the rate we were growing. And they're part of it. All of them. We're restoring Skyhold as we restore Thedas. We will not run from here, even if Corypheus comes to us here." He crossed his arms over his chest and looked behind her. "If you have the time, I would like to discuss something with you." 

"Of course, Cullen. I'll find you later."

Cullen nodded before departing, heading out the main doors to his office near the barracks on the wall. 

"He's in the library."

Ari jumped slightly at the sound of Cole's voice from beside her.

"Cole. You startled me. I haven't seen you around lately," she looked up into his blue eyes, partially hidden by his shaggy bangs.

"I was needed elsewhere. You should see. You'll like it." The boy disappeared from her sight and she chuckled, turning to head towards the library.


 

She saw him standing near the back of the room and silently made her way up behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist and nuzzling her face against his back.

"I've missed you, vhenan," she murmured against his sweater with arms locked around him. She felt his chuckle against her as it reverberated through his chest. She reluctantly loosened her hold on him as he moved, bending over and placing something on the table nearby before turning around and smirking down at her.

"Were you not enjoying your time with your friends?" He asked, his own arms wrapping around her.

She pressed closer, releasing her hold on him with her right arm to slide her hand over his shoulder and nodded slowly.

"Where did you sleep last night?" she looked up into his eyes with a slight frown.

"I did not," he murmured, grasping her chin with his left forefinger and thumb before bending down to kiss her lips gently. Distracted, she returned his kiss, not feeling the cold wetness on his finger. 

He pulled away, eyes dancing with amusement as he looked down at her.

"You didn't sleep?" she asked, confused.

"I may have lost track of time while I was painting."

"Painting?" she echoed, eyes widening in surprise.

He took a step back and looked up. Ari followed his gaze and gasped in surprise, her lips parting as she took in the ceiling above her. Solas had... His fresco. His freaking fresco was staring back at her, sprawled over part of the ceiling. Vibrant colours, perfect blending and the wolves... 

"Solas..." she whispered, lowering her gaze to look him in the eye. She cupped his face, fingers brushing against his ear slightly and kissed him. Pressing against him, she ran her tongue across his lips and felt his hold on her tighten as she deepened their kiss. "It's amazing, Solas." she murmured against his lips, as she broke off their kiss. "You really stayed up all night doing this? I've never... it's beautiful. Masterful. I don't even have words for it."  She looked into his eyes and smiled, placing a quick peck against his lips. 

He chuckled, cheeks slightly flushed. "I am glad that you enjoy it.

"I love it, vhenan. So very much. You are ridiculously talented." she said, threading her fingers behind his neck. 

He hummed low with pleasure, his fingers stroking her back.

"Would you..." she chewed on her bottom lip nervously as she thought over how she wanted to word her question.

"Would I?"

"Would you possibly paint something... smaller? Just for me?"

Solas smiled, kissing her nose. 

"If you wish."

She returned his smile and laughed. 

"Hmmm, so talented with your hands," she murmured, eyes flashing with mischief.

Solas smirked, hands sliding to hold her hips and draw her closer to him. He bent his head, lips brushing against her ear. 

"You say that as though you have forgotten what they can do, vhenan."

Ari's breath hitched, her own hands sliding down over his shoulders, nails lightly raking over his neck on their way. 

"Remind me?" she whispered hotly; half question, half demand. 

Solas chuckled low against her ear.

"As you wish,"  he said as he took her hand and led her out of the empty library towards her rooms. 

 

Chapter Text

Ari smiled to herself, burrowing in against Solas' side, her arm curled on his chest and splayed over his heartbeat as she rested her head on his shoulder. She could see the soft rise and fall of his chest that told her he had fallen asleep. 

Silly wolf...

She pressed a soft kiss to his chest before gently disentangling herself from him, slipping off her bed and stretching. The cool mountain air rustled her already messy hair and she hastily pulled it into a bun using a cotton strap on her bedside table. Striding into her dressing chamber, she found herself a fresh pair of underclothes and pulled a loose dark green sweater over her head before heading out of her bedroom and through her salon towards her private library. 

Her rooms were pretty far removed from the rest of the hold, located in the tower facing the garden with its own private staircase and locked door that led to her own hallway. While her little office space was quite open and airy, it was also quite private. She sat herself at her desk, pulling one leg under her as she began to go through the reports and missives she had yet to catch up on. Hours passed by as she penned responses to King Bhelen, Arl Teagan and Sebastian Vael. She marked notes on reports with questions or decisions to be discussed with her advisors in the morning and was signing her name across her last missive when she felt long fingers slide over her shoulders. Moaning, she leaned back into his touch and all but purred as he began to slowly massage her.

"Good morning, sleepyhead," she hummed as she placed her quill down on the desk's surface. "Feel rested?" 

"Yes. I had not intended to fall asleep," he murmured, breath hot against her ear as he leaned down over her in her chair.

She tilted her head and looked up at him with a smirk.

"Well, I did wear you out, ha'hren," she said with an impish smile. 

He chuckled, fingers dancing cross the skin of her neck as her stomach rumbled. She had forgotten about lunch. Again. 

"I take it you have not eaten since this morning?"

Her cheeks flushed and she looked away.

He sighed heavily, straightening and reaching down for her hand, pulling her to her feet.

"What am I going to do with you da'lan?"

"Lots of things. Fun things. Dirty things. All the things," she offered, looking up at him and biting down on her bottom lip.

He shook his head and laughed, a low rumble in his throat, before pulling her in against him and kissing her full on the mouth. She smiled against his lips before wrapping her arms around his neck and returning his kiss. His hands slid over her hips, putting space between them as he pulled away. 

"As much as I would like to continue this, da'lan, I would suggest you put some pants on so that we may go eat."

Ari pouted playfully, letting her hands trail down over his shoulders and chest slowly before she turned and made way for the steps that led into her rooms, exaggerating the sway of her hips as she went.

"You're no fun, ha'hren. No fun at all," she taunted as she opened the first door.

Solas quirked a brow at her, crossing his arms over his chest as she looked back at him. 

"I do not believe that is what you were saying earlier, vhenan. In fact, I do believe you were-" He laughed as he dodged a small snowball that she hurled at his face, her ears burning as she stared at him, mortification written all over her face. 

"I know what I said," she said in a squeaky voice, trying to gather herself before heading in to put on her pants.

 


  

Ari walked into the Herald's rest hand in hand with Solas, a large grin on her face when she saw her favourite Altus sitting with Bull behind the stairs.

"Dorian!" she called, practically dragging Solas along behind her.

He offered her a smile, brilliant white teeth peaking out from beneath his perfectly groomed mustache.  

"Princess! It has been a while, has it not? Did you get my note about the Venatori?"

"I absolutely did and have instructed Leliana to look into the leads and send word. With any luck, we'll have locations in no time at all," she said, pressing a quick kiss to his cheek before sliding onto the bench next to him, leaving room for Solas beside her. She placed her chin in her palm as she turned to face Bull, smile teasing at her lips.

"How do you feel about killing some 'vints, Bull?"

Bull chuckled, shaking his head at her.

"Oh, you know me, Boss. Heading out soon?"

"Soon, yes," she said as Solas hand slid over her right thigh to rest just above her knee. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye and noted his blank expression as he ordered ale and food for them both from a barmaid. 

The man has become oh so much more touchy lately... 

"Have you had a chance to meet Hawke, Dorian?" she asked, turning her gaze towards her friend.

"I have not. Though I was warned by Varric that her paramour will not be very warm and fuzzy. In fact, I believe he advised I should avoid him at all costs."

Ari's brow furrowed as she realized exactly why that may be.

Tabernac. And we have to travel together to Crestwood. Ugghh... more fixing.

"Well, you can't exactly blame him, Dorian. He was a slave to a depraved Magister for years. But I'm sure that once he sees how absolutely delightful you are, he will change his mind. Because if he's coming with Hawke to Crestwood, he's going to have to travel with you too. I'm sure it will all be fine."

"I'm sure I'll win him over with my magical prowess in no time at all," he responded dryly before taking a sip from his tankard. 

"Looks like you got company, Boss." Bull gestured with his almost empty mug towards the door and Ari turned, smile breaking out on her face as she saw Lyara and Nehnis in the doorway.

"Over here!" she called, waving them over. "Where's Mihren?"

"He wanted to get rest. Said we'll be leaving tomorrow."

"So soon?!" she said with a frown. "But I thought we were going to have breakfast tomorrow. You've only just arrived."

"And already we've been here too long," Nehnis responded, taking a seat beside Iron Bull while avoiding looking at the hulking man. Lyara slid in beside him and stared right at Solas with a smirk on her lips and a knowing glint in her eye. 

Ari felt her stomach drop.

"The clan needs us. Especially if those aren't mere bandits," Nehnis tried to look in Ari's eyes but she could see his gaze flicker over to Solas on every other word.

"Of course. Well, Lyara, Nehnis, this is Dorian, The Iron Bull and Solas," she gestured at each of her companions as she introduced them.

Lyara laced her fingers together and placed her elbows on the table, resting her chin over top her interlaced fingers. 

"I've heard so much about you," she said, the glint in her eyes taking on a definite mischievous turn as she continued to look directly at Solas.

"Oh?" he asked, quirking a brow with an amused tone, murmuring thanks as the barmaid laid bowls of stew before him and Ari. 

Ari reached for her tankard, taking a deep drink as she heard Dorian chuckle. 

"Really? Tell us Lyara, just what has our lovely Aryael said about her apostate lover?"

Ari groaned, slinking slightly lower on the bench and wishing fervently that she could just disappear like Cole right now.

I have not had enough alcohol to deal with this shit right now. 

"Now, now, Ari doesn't kiss and tell. Actually, she does. She tells a lot." Lyara laughed, giving Solas a cheeky wink as Nehnis shook his head at Lyara with a wry smile on his lips. 

"You're being devious, Lyara. Leave the poor man, alone," Nehnis said, shooting Solas a look that said he understood.

"Tell us, Solas. Where are you from? You're not Dalish but I've heard you know so very much about our people. Where were you born?" Lyara kept her focus on Solas, her gaze sharpening from curious to inquisitive as she questioned him.

She could almost feel the tension building within him.

"Leave off, Lyara. The man is not on trial," she groaned, covering her face with her hand 

Lyara turned to Ari with the most innocent of faces.

"But Ari, I just wanted to get to know the man who captured our da'fen's attention."

"Da'fen?" Solas asked, almost choking on the words.

Ari's ears were burning. 

Nehnis grinned.

"You see when Ari was little, she was absolutely obsessed with Fen'Harel-"

"I was not obsessed!" she said firmly, smacking her fist down on the table.

"Boss, didn't you say you used to run around your camp pretending to be a wolf?"

"I was a child!"

"Ari, be honest. I still find you curled up on the statues some mornings."

"Statues?" Dorian asked.

Ari covered her face in her mortification. She couldn't believe they were having this discussion. In front of him.

"Sometimes we would come across statues of Fen'Harel in our travels and we would set up camp near them. In the mornings, Ari would always be draped on their back or curled up on their paws, sound asleep. Honestly have no idea how she found it so comfortable. Swear she was well on her way to giving our keeper a heart attack the way she acted. First of the Clan and making friends with the Dreadwolf," Nehnis shook his head. "Never were one for rules, were you?"

"You had no trouble breaking them with me," she muttered from behind her hands, melting into Solas as she felt his arm slip around her waist. She buried her face in his shoulder, glaring daggers at Lyara through the spaces between her fingers before hiding her embarrassment, lightly punching his chest as she felt him chuckle.

"Oi, rooms are upstairs," Sera's voice called from the stairs as her eyes settled on Solas and Ari. "There's more. Why're there more?" Sera groaned. "Elf attracts elf, all the bloody time," she muttered. "I need a drink. Bull! 5 sovereigns I can drink the cask this time!"

"Less than 5 minutes?"

Sera snorted, turning for the bar.

Bull grinned.

"I gotta see this. Talk to you later, Boss. Nice meeting you Lyara, Nehnis. Coming, Dor?"

Dorian and Bull followed Sera, watching her as she laid her gold on the table and got comfortable underneath the tap.

Nehnis and Lyara stared after them blankly.

"Who was that?"

"Sera. She is an... acquired taste."

Ari laughed, pulling up from his shoulder and giving him a kiss on the cheek. 

"Vhenan, you are well aware she does not nearly grate on your nerves as much as she used to."

"As I said, an acquired taste." 

Ari rolled her eyes, turning back to her clan mates. 

"How about we put off the embarrassing Ari for all eternity in favour of sharing a meal?"

She reached over, stirring her steaming stew.

"I'm a good multi-tasker, don't worry," Lyara said, cocking her head toward Solas as Nehnis ordered them some food. "So, Solas. What are your intentions with Aryael?"

Ari groaned before stuffing a spoon full of her potato stew in her mouth. She'd tried. Solas was on his own. 

Chapter Text

Ari laid on her soft settee, knees raised, feet planted with toes wiggling near the warmth of the roaring fire and head resting on Dorian's thigh as he read one of her letters aloud.

"Inquisitor Lavellan, I believe that I may owe you an apology. I had offered the rebel mages safe harbour in Ferelden only to have them drive my uncle out of his home and well, I wasn't in the best of moods. I just wanted everyone out of Redcliffe and didn't care who was responsible for what. I wish that I'd done otherwise in hindsight." Dorian paused. "He scratched something out," he said, squinting as he tried to make out the ink marks on the parchment.

"Give it here," Ari asked, lifting her right hand behind her just under his nose, searching for the letter. The paper brushed her fingertips and she grabbed it's side, bringing it down to her level. She narrowed her gaze as she worked out the shape of the scratched out letters .

Isn't that always the way of it? One moment you're yelling for them to just go and the next...

What did that mean?

She groaned, the dull throb in her head spiking as another wave of nausea hit her.

"You should be more careful of how much you drink, Aryael," Dorian tsked as he sent a cool wave of magic over her forehead.

"You left me with them. You don't understand."

"They're your friends."

"They're terrible, terrible people out to mortify me to death."

Dorian chuckled. 

"It really didn't take much encouragement from anyone for you to break out into song, m'dear. You did that all on your own."

"Well, I needed to distract Lyara from her incessant stream of questions. And don't be rude Dorian, I have a spectacular singing voice, inebriated or not. And besides, alcohol helped dull the pain of her assault."

"And gave you the most wonderful of hangovers. You drank more than Sera last night."

Ari placed Alistair's letter on her stomach, raising her hands to rub her face. Much of her night was lost to her after she challenged Bull to join her for shots, pointedly trying to ignore the stories that Lyara and Nehnis had chosen to share with Solas. And the ease with which he deflected her questions about himself back to questions about Aryael. 

"Maybe I wasn't just trying to avoid their conversation." She looked up at him. "I... I'm remembering things."

Dorian quirked a brow at her.

"Solas and I... I may be as old as he is. I remember being with him... here, in Skyhold, the way it once was. I think it was ours, not just his. And I don't understand because if it was... he doesn't remember me. Or he has an even better poker face than I thought." She sat up, parchment rolling off her stomach to the floor as she turned on the settee to stare at him. "I don't know who I was, maybe I don't even know who I am, but I think I'm more tied to him than I had ever thought possible. I knew him. Intimately. This isn't our first journey together. And I don't even know what that means because I remember growing up with my clan. I remember my mother. I have this life... And my life in another world and I... I don't even really remember, just bits and pieces. Slowly coming back to me. Could this be what the spirit meant by broken? How do I even begin to fix this?"

Dorian was quiet and Ari looked away, gnawing on her bottom lip.

"When do you remember things?"

"When I saw Skyhold for the first time. Sometimes in the Fade, when I dream. It's just moments... Happy ones. All happy ones."

"Could Solas also have these memories? He would have to know you as well, would he not?"

Her eyes flicked back towards Dorian, a slight frown forming on her face as she considered his question.

"I don't know... Wisdom has said he does not however... When we first met... I could swear he was searching my face, trying to find something. I had written it off as him being suspicious of me. Of how I gained the mark and managed to interrupt what Corypheus had begun. But now... I don't know, Dorian."

Dorian crossed an arm across his chest, raising his left and rubbing his fingers together as he thought. 

"I'm not sure how we could find out if he did... but your memories perhaps... I will send to a friend in Qarinus for some books. We'll figure out whatever this is, Aryael. You have my word." He chuckled, eyes warm as he looked at her. "You really are just full of surprises m'dear. Other worlds, multiple lives... Ancient Elf. Quite the puzzle."

 


 

Ari wandered along the parapets after spending some time in the stables brushing Nehn. She had spent the morning with Dorian, sending Shora to her advisors to let them know she would not join them as she needed to prepare to leave Skyhold. It had nothing to do with her hangover as she swore to Shora.

Quickly she rapped her knuckles on the door to Cullen's quarters.

"Come in."

The sharp difference in temperature made her suck her breath in as she entered Cullen's office. He looked up from where he was sitting at his desk, annoyance fading away to determination as their eyes met. 

"Aryael."

"You wanted to speak with me, Cullen?" She approached his desk as he pushed back in his seat and stood. 

"I wanted to... As leader of the Inquisition, you..." he sighed heavily, eyes closing.

"Cullen, is something wrong?"

"How much do you know of Templars?" He asked, eyes haunted as they looked into her own.

"What do you mean?"

Cullen braced his hands on the edge of his desk.

"Lyrium grants Templars our abilities, but it also controls us. Those cut off suffer - some go mad, others die. We have secured a reliable source of Lyrium for the Templars in our ranks. But I... I no longer take it."

"You stopped?" She tried to keep the awe from her voice. This development had always made her so proud. Cemented the growth Cullen's character had gone through in her mind.

"When I joined the Inquisition. It's been months now."

Ari approached Cullen, coming around his desk and placed her hand on his. He looked up at her, startled.

"I think that's very brave, Cullen. Making that kind of choice. I want you to know that whatever you choose to do, you will have my support."

He looks so tired...

"After what happened in Kirkwall... I couldn't be bound to the order - or that life -  any longer. Whatever the suffering, I accept it. But I will not put the Inquisition at risk. I have asked Cassandra to... watch me. If my ability to lead is compromised I will be relieved from duty."

"And I would not have the Inquisition force you to do things against your will. I will not have you as a slave to irrational needs, Cullen. You chose to stop taking Lyrium. I have seen what that can do to some when trading with towns and I... You have my support, Cullen. You have led us this far," she squeezed his hand, "and I have faith in your ability to continue to do so. Without the lyrium. If this is what you want, then you shall have it. I respect you too much to take this choice away from you."

"Aryael..." Cullen straightened, withdrawing his hand from hers as he stood tall before her. "The Inquisition's army must always take priority. Should anything happen... I will defer to Cassandra's judgement. My own wants cannot come before the Inquisition."

Ari shook her head.

"How could I possibly ever ask you to give up your autonomy over your life, Cullen? No, this is what you chose and I will not have anyone try to take that from you. Including yourself. You are strong. So very strong to endure what must be like torture. And I am here for you if you need someone to speak to. It means a lot to me that you would be open about this with me. But it would mean more to me if you could let yourself have this choice without fretting over what it means to the Inquisition. Because Cullen, to be honest, you're doing an amazing job as the Commander of the Inquisition's forces now, without lyrium. You don't need it to do your job."

She turned around and headed to the door, pausing just as she was about to open it.

"You're enough, Cullen," she said looking over her shoulder. "You've always been enough just as you are."

 

Chapter Text

Ari buried deeper into the warmth of the blankets. 

"Vhenan."

She grumbled and shook her head. 

"Vhenan, we need to join the others."

"Nnnnmmmm" she mumbled in an agitated tone before rolling over so that her left leg locked over top of Solas' and cupped her left hand around his neck and shoulder. "Bed."

Solas chuckled, pulling her in closer and kissing the top of her head. 

"We cannot get to Crestwood from our bed."

"No Crestwood. Sleep. Sex. Sleep. Much better."

She yawned and slowly opened her eyes, letting them adjust to the dark of their bedroom. 

"I much prefer sex, sleep, sex."

Ari laughed, lifting her head to kiss his cheek before moving to stretch herself out. 

"There isn't time for sex is there?"

"If you would like to keep our companions waiting..."

She groaned.

"Just tell me you know a spell that will make it so no one can hear us in our tent tonight," she said, slipping her legs over her side of the bed and quickly running across the cool carpet to the dressing chamber.

"I am not sure there is magic strong enough to keep you quiet, vhenan." 

She threw her tunic at his head while he laughed. 

 


 

"A Tevinter? You keep a Tevinter mage in your ranks?"

Fenris' voice cut through the early calm of morning twilight.

Aryael closed her eyes and sighed. She had been dreading this moment.

"It seems Hawke's paramour is not fond of your choice in comrades, vhenan," Solas mused from her side. She shot him an irritated side glance and continued to make her way towards the stables. 

"You weren't exactly fond of Dorian either, Solas."

Rounding the corner, she was met with the sight of a furious Fenris being held back by Hawke as he glared down at Dorian. 

"Ah, I see you've met my best friend. Dorian of House Pavus, altus and mage extraordinaire. Dorian, this delightful bundle of rage is Fenris. And the lovely lady holding him back from ripping your heart out is Hawke, the Champion of Kirkwall."

"A pleasure," Dorian said with a slightly exaggerated bow. 

"You trust your back to this man?" Fenris said in an accusing tone as he whipped his head to stare her down. 

"I do. He has kept me alive more than once. I understand your issues-" she stopped herself, realizing she should not know Fenris' past in as much detail as she did, "Tevinters enslave elves. Dorian, is not like that though. I would ask that you give him the chance rather than judge him for being a Tevinter. Or a mage. After all, you are in love with a mage so as you can see, we're really not all bad." She headed towards Nehn who had already been saddled for her by Dennet and began to fasten her bedroll and pack to the saddle. 

She could hear Hawke hissing as she berated Fenris, who still had not moved from his place with arms crossed over his chest.

"Well princess, looks like the start of a wonderful day."

Ari laughed, a light sound that caught everyone's attention. "Don't worry. I'll protect you from the big, bad, white wolf, Dor," she said before pulling herself up into her saddle. She nudged Nehn forward, coming to a halt beside Fenris and Hawke.

"Let his actions tell you who he is," she said as their eyes locked. "You cannot decide for him."

She led Nehn towards the main gate, her companions following in her wake as Fenris stared after her.

Please don't let anything go wrong. It's already weird enough that it's Arwynne. 

She offered up a quick prayer to Sylaise out of habit as she turned onto the bridge. 

 


  

It took them all of three weeks to traverse the Frostbacks and skirt Lake Calenhad to get to Crestwood. The rains had begun a day ago and Ari's ears were still ringing from all of the shouting that Dorian and Sera had done. Though to be fair, none of her companions had been too pleased with the drastic change in weather.

"I still don't understand. We're much too far from the Storm Coast still for this to be normal. It hasn't stopped raining in days. How long has this gone on?"

"It's magic, innit it? Always magic. Bloody mages."

Fenris turned and appraised Sera, a modicum of respect flashing in his eyes.

Ari cleared her throat. 

"Sera, you are surrounded by four spectacularly able and loving mages right now, whom we know you adore. Though it might be nice if you didn't blame all of us when things go wrong."

Sera snorted. 

"It's always magic. You never see the world ending when a bloody lord or lady wants power. But mages... when mages want power holes appear in the sky."

"She has a point there, Princess. Powerful mages do do much more damage than your average power-crazed mortal."

"We're still not all bad. That's like saying all elves are like Sera."

"Hey! I'm not elfy at all!"

It was Ari's turn to snort.

"You're adamance towards being special is as bad as any Dalish clan, Sera."

Sera gasped. 

"ARE YOU CALLIN' ME DALISH?!"

"I think I see our scouts ahead," Bull called, putting an end to the argument. 

"Wonderful. We still have some time before the day ends. Let's get a report and see if we can't cover some more ground toward Arwynne."

They nudged their horses to a faster pace and soon enough Ari could make out the figure of Harding before her. Quickly she dismounted, patting Nehn's neck and handing her reins to Dorian. 

"Inquisitor! Wow, that's different. You deserve it though. Couldn't be prouder to follow your lead."

"Thanks Harding," Ari said with a big grin before clasping the woman's hand.

"Well, you won't be thanking me for much longer. We've got trouble ahead."

"Nothing we can't handle I'm sure."

"Careful, your worship. That optimism may be catching."

"Things can't be that bad," Cassandra said as she came to stand beside Ari. 

Harding gestured with her head for them to follow her. Ari, Cassandra, Solas, Hawke and Fenris followed as Harding led the way towards an outlook over the lake. The lake that was teeming with green light at its core.

Tabarnac. Why does everything have to look so much more sinister in real life?

"Crestwood was the site of a flood 10 years ago during the Blight. It's not the only rift in the area, but after it appeared, corpses started walking out of the lake."

"No one tells, Sera!" Ari said before swearing under her breath. She knew there were corpses. Why hadn't she thought of that before?

"Won't do you much good. You're going to have to fight through them to get to the cave where Ser Hawke's friend is hiding."

"She never did like making things easy on me," Hawke laughed. "Well, could be worse right? You can deal with the rifts while we're here, so that's a bonus in my book. We should get started though."

Ari nodded. "You're fine here? Do you need reinforcements?" She asked Harding as they began to turn back towards the main camp.

"We've had a few shamblers but most are heading towards the village down below. Someone in Crestwood might know how you can get to the rift in the lake. Maker knows they'll want the help."

"They need it as much as they want it. Send word to Cullen and ask for some soldiers to help keep them safe while we work on closing those rifts. Even when they are closed, I have a feeling they're still going to need some help cleaning up. We'll be heading right out. Take care of yourself Harding."

"Stay safe, Inquisitor."

"Oh come on, none of that now. Finally had you calling me by my name instead of Herald. You don't get to replace it with Inquisitor now."

Harding laughed. 

"Apologies Aryael."

Ari shot her a quick grin as she hopped back on to her mount and began to follow the path out of the camp.

"So, big rift in the middle of the lake that we can't get to. Lots of little rifts in the area. We'll have to deal with them before we can get to Arwynne."

"Magic."

"Magic." Fenris agreed.

Ari rolled her eyes. 

Peas in a damned pod.

"You're shiteing me. Why. are. there. always. corpses?" Sera punctuated each of her words with a shot from her bow atop her horse as they approached a fight in the distance. Varric joined Sera and soon enough the corpses had dropped like flies before they had even gotten close.

"Inquisitor?"

"It seems my reputation precedes me."

"The Grey Wardens thank you for your assistance."

"No trouble at all. But what are you doing here in Crestwood?"

"There is a warden that is wanted for questioning. We were following up on a lead that said she may be nearby."

"A warden?"

"A warden."

"Did you have any luck finding her?" Hawke asked.

The leader shook his head. "No, the villagers knew nothing. But they have troubles enough to worry about."

Ari nodded. "They do. Which is why we are here. We'll get them the help they need. This warden though. What have you been told? Perhaps if I came across them I may send word to you?"

"Warden-Commander Clarel ordered her capture. I can say no more than that. I appreciate the help but we have canvassed the whole area. She is not here. Perhaps we were misled."

"Perhaps. Funny things, leads. More often than not, they take you to a dead end." Hawke said, running her fingers through her horse's mane. 

"Right you are, Serrah. We will find her though. Maker willing, she will come with us peacefully. I trained under her for a time. It was... She's a good woman. She has done a lot for Thedas. S'not right."

"Perhaps the reason she is wanted is not a valid one?"

"I can't... I really can't discuss this. And we should be on our way. Thank you again for your assistance, Inquisitor. We wish you luck against the undead and the rifts."

Ari nodded her head. 

"Thank you. I wish you luck in finding the truth."

The warden gave her an odd look but she could see the cogs working behind his eyes. 

Good. Questioning is good. Perhaps this means there will be more defectors when we finally reach Adamant.

 "Something has to be wrong with the Wardens. Warden-Commander Clarel is the Warden-Commander of Orlais. Arwynne, though Queen consort, is still the Warden-Commander of Ferelden. Clarel should not have the power to call for her arrest."

"Hawke's right. There is something wrong here. Something very wrong. We need to get to Arwynne quickly." Ari nudged Nehn forward, a mask of determination slipping across her features. They would deal with this quickly and speak to Arwynne. 

Please, please no more surprises.

 

Chapter Text

Ari sat near the fire beneath the shelter Hawke had rigged between some trees with her head on Dorian's shoulder. Night had fallen upon them quickly and they sought shelter shortly after meeting the Wardens. She and Solas had cast glyphs to keep the area dry while the others set up tents, the size of their party meaning they weren't concerned about expending too much energy. Currently Hawke was trying to entice Cassandra into playing a game of Wicked Grace with herself, Varric and Blackwall. Somehow, Sera and Fenris had come to be fast friends during their weeks on the road, and now were comparing stories on different nobles. Solas and Bull were continuing their chess match across from her and she smirked with amusement. For all of Solas' walls and distaste for the Qunari and their lifestyle... He liked Bull. She could tell. 

Stifling a yawn, she blinked slowly before succumbing to the Fade. 

 


 

"There you are!"

Ari spun around and caught the purple child in her arms as it pounced on her with a hug.

"I am sorry, da'len. I did not mean to avoid you. Have you been well?"

"The child has been very well. They have made a new friend." Wisdom's voice carried to her from her right and she turned her head as the spirit child let go of her.

"A new friend?"

"Yes. Hope has always been good at making friends. After all, they were your first friend when your mother brought you home."

"Do you remember?" The spirit sounded optimisitic, tugging on her hand as they gazed up at her. 

"I... You've known me since I was a baby?"

The child laughed. 

"No, silly. I was your first friend when Mamae brought you home. When you were a baby you still lived with your first Papae."

"First papae? What do you mean?"

"Hope," Wisdom chided, "now is not the time. I think perhaps Era'lin is feeling lonely. You should look for her."

The spirit child nodded solemnly, accepting this request as a great task from the older spirit. Soon they were scampering off to unknown parts of the Fade in search of Era'lin. 

"What did they mean?" Ari asked as she watched them go.

"It is not my tale to tell."

"You've said that before. So who's is it? Pieces come back to me, randomly. I remember Solas but he doesn't remember me. How is that... What happened to make him forget? What happened to make me leave..."

"The answers to those questions are approaching you. I would ask something of you, when they finally make themselves clear."

"Ask."

"Remember that decisions are not always easy, that we do much in the name of love and that anger never solves your dilemma."

Ari watched the serene planes of Wisdom's ethereal face.

"Those are oddly specific requests."

"I have known you for thousands of years, da'lan. I know how things affect you. And you are not yet whole. Something you must also remember that you need to be. There is much for you yet to accomplish. Think on what I have asked" 

 


 

She could feel furs surrounding her and hear the sounds of Solas undressing in their tent as she awoke.

"Solas?"

"Sleep, vhenan. Tomorrow will be another long day.

Ari sat up in their bedroll, eyes adjusting to the dark as Solas joined her beneath the furs. 

"And if I don't want to sleep? Perhaps all I needed was a nap."

"Vhenan..."  Solas' tone was amused as he slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her backwards to lay down with him. 

She pushed herself up with her hand on his chest and elbow bracing herself on his side to peer down at him.

"Are you saying you're too tired?" She trailed her fingers down his chest. "Perhaps you are simply too ol-" 

Her words were cut off as he rolled her onto her back and pressed his lips to hers. He slid between her legs easily, hands roaming over her skin hungrily. She moaned against his mouth, letting his tongue slip between her lips to battle her for control. Arching her back, she pressed against him, dragging her nails across his shoulders as she gave in to his kiss.

How could I forget this? How could he?

The traitorous though flitted across her mind while his lips trailed down her jaw and neck, fingers deftly rousing her body with his caresses, eliciting soft whimpers from her.

"Solas," she breathed, her core throbbing with want, nails digging into his shoulders as he lavished his attentions on her breasts. His tongue swirled around her pert nipple, one hand firmly holding her waist down against the furs while the other cupped her right breast. He ignored the plea on her lips as he continued to take his time exploring her body, lips scattering kisses against her flesh before his fingers found her dripping lips.

She groaned loudly with her pleasure as she felt him explore her, gasping softly as he curled his finger within her, thumb pressing against her nub as he gently massaged it in circles. Her mind went blank as desire and ecstasy overwhelmed her senses. Soon his thumb was replaced with his mouth, teeth nipping at her and making her insides contract around the two fingers he fucked her with. He lapped at her folds with the flat of his tongue and she cried out, teetering just over the edge of release. She pinched the tip of his ear and felt him growl against her, pushing her over the precipice into her climax. She pulsed around him, her juices spilling out over his hand and onto his tongue as wave after wave of pleasure coursed through her. Her moans and fervent repetitions of his name, almost like a prayer, echoed in the silence of their tent.

With a sated smile on her lips, she felt him give her one more good lick before he climbed on top of her, the throbbing, rock-hard head of his cock brushing against her swollen and sensitive slit. His lips pressed to hers and she greedily wrapped her arms around his neck, the taste of herself on his tongue making her body hum as she raised her hips, needing to feel him inside her. She felt him chuckle into their kiss, chest rumbling against hers she pressed herself closer to him. His fingers slipped into her hair and threaded themselves in her tresses as he deepened their kiss.

Cupping her right hand around the back of his neck, she slipped her left along his side and then between them, wrapping her fingers around his cock. She stroked him slowly before guiding him to her entrance, releasing him as he thrust into her. He groaned against her mouth as he filled her, his balls slapping heavily against her round ass cheeks. She rocked against him, her hips rolling, making her gasp against his lips as her clit rubbed against him. 

Her nails dug crescents against the skin of his neck, their mouths panting against each other as he slowly fucked her. Pulling out slowly before sheathing himself fully within her once more. She looked up into his eyes, the raw desire she saw in them making her moan. She clenched herself around him as he entered her again, eyes locked with his. They picked up their pace, his hips slapping against hers harder and faster. She met his every thrust, their fucking reaching a fevered pitch, heavy breaths and deep moans filling the space around them as they came closer and closer to orgasm. 

"Solas," she moaned, hand moving to cup the side of his face as her fingers slid just behind his ear. Their bodies were pressed tightly together and she could feel the whirlwind of sensations culminating within her as she drew near her second climax of the night. He drew nearer, bending his head so that his lips brushed against her ear. 

"Come for me, Aryael." Her eyes fluttered at his words, hot against her ear. Arching against him, she gasped as she felt the growing fire pooling within her burst. Screaming his name, she pulsed around his cock, nails scraping against his scalp, her orgasm squirting against him as it drenched their joined bodies. He growled in her ear, impossibly moving faster within her as he reached his own release. He shuddered against her body as he shot thick ropes of his cum inside her. 

They stayed intertwined, his lips at her ear and her lips at his neck, sweat-slicked bodies pressed tightly together and cum dripping down their thighs as they fought to catch their breath. Gently she traced her nails over his scalp as her breathing came back under control. He pressed a gentle kiss behind her ear before rolling over, his softening cock coming free with a sloshing sound. Ari giggled and rolled over, ignoring the mess between her legs and slipped a thigh over his. She pressed soft kisses to his chest as he pulled her in closer.

"What was it you were saying, vhenan?  I apologize for distracting you in the midst of your thought." She could hear the amusement in his voice and she laughed, moving to climb on top of him, straddling his hips and running her hands up his chest so that she was leaning over him, her messy curls falling over her like a silken curtain. 

"Hmm, I don't know. Perhaps if we work backwards, I may remember,"  a mischievous smile playing at her lips. 

"Go. To. Sleep!" Shouted a frustrated voice, that could only belong to Sera, from across the camp. Ari's face was stricken with shock, cheeks paling before flushing a deep red and Solas tried not to laugh as his hands slid up her thighs. 

"You didn't...""

Solas didn't look the least bit shamed as he raised a brow at her. Furious and embarrassed all at once, she buried her face in his neck as she tried to pretend she didn't need to face her companions in the morning. 

Chapter Text

She peeked out of the flaps of her tent, eyes darting around the camp to take stock of her situation. Bull, Blackwall and Varric were taking down a tent while Cassandra and Dorian packed the horses with their equipment. Hawke was under the makeshift shelter preparing a quick breakfast for everyone and it looked like Sera had gone off somewhere. Solas, of course, walked among them as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened and had absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. Her cheeks burned as she remembered the previous night. 

"Hiding yourself away, Inquisitor?" Ari squealed as Fenris' deep voice carried from beside her tent. Her eyes swept to the left and she caught sight of the warrior with his bag slung over his shoulder.

"I am not hiding."

"No. Just staying inside your tent."

"Exactly."

Fenris chuckled. 

"Sera's gone to hunt something. She's determined to have 'actual breakfast' as she put it. She's quite grumpy when she doesn't get sleep."

"I'm not scared of Sera."

"No. I would keep a close eye on my pants if I were you though." 

Fenris' smirk was hard to miss before he turned to head out towards his horse. Ari shook her head and took a deep breath. She had absolutely nothing to be ashamed about.

So what? They heard me have sex. It's just sex. 

She grabbed her bags and cast a quick spell over it and herself to keep it dry, determined to make the best of the day as she made her way to Nehn. The cold air was quick to seep through her layers of clothing, biting at her skin. Cassandra looked up as she approached and blushed furiously when she saw her.

"Good morning Cassandra," Ari called with a cheery smile as she began to strap her things to Nehn's saddle. 

"Good morning," Cassandra all but stuttered.

"Ah Princess, so good of you to grace us with your presence. And you look so radiant. After such a tiring night, I do not know how you do it," Dorian remarked, lips curled in a tiny smirk. 

"Practice, love. Practice." Ari tightened the last strap holding her packs into place and stepped back. "We should get going soon, make the most of our rainlight. I'd like to check out the town and see if they know anything that can help us with this rift before trying to reach Arwynne."

Cassandra nodded, the flush gradually receding from her cheeks. "Most of the camp has been packed. Two tents left. You should eat before we ride."

"I will." 

She turned her head towards the shelter and noted Solas and Hawke conversing as they ate with Varric, Bull and Blackwall. All the tents had been taken down and Ari felt new glyphs on the ground keeping them dry. She walked over with the rest of her companions, the warmth of the fire curling itself around her the moment she drew near. She sat next to Solas who immediately wrapped an arm around her and drew her into him. Hawke passed her a small wooden bowl full of fruits and what appeared to be granola.

"Ma serannas," Ari said with a smile as she burrowed into Solas' side for more warmth and ate her breakfast.

"You're welcome," Hawke murmured before turning her attention to Fenris. 

Ari's ears twitched. 

I guess she picked up a few things from Merrill.

 


 

They approached the gate to Crestwood and heard the shouts of a fight. 

"Demons!" Blackwall shouted, spurring his horse forward. 

A horde of minor demons and undead were charging the gates to Crestwood just ahead. Arrows whirred past Ari as she dropped from her horse's saddle and ran towards higher ground, followed closely by Hawke and Solas. Blackwall, Fenris, Cassandra and Bull had reached the demons, their swords and axe swinging with focused force and beating them back from the villagers. Varric and Sera's arrows focused on the undead. But the more they killed, the more seemed to rise. She could hear Sera's frustrations, a litany of vulgarities and promises of retribution against Ari for bring her out to Crestwood spewing from her lips. 

Shields had been placed over her companions and the magic felt warm and familiar. With a practiced hand, Hawke raised walls of fire around the battle ground, leaving their companions impervious to its flames. Calling on the storm in the sky, bolts of lightning struck the demons and rain turned to hard, sharp pellets of ice that crushed the undead in mere moments. Quickly the tide of the battle had turned and soon, there were no more demons or undead in sight. 

The warriors waited as Ari, Solas, Hawke, Varric and Sera made their way to join them, horses following close behind. 

"Thank you for your help. We've been plagued by these demons for months. Not sure we can hold out much longer. They've picked off a number of the militia as it is."

"Months? How long has the rift been here?"

"You mean the green light? Showed up about several months ago. Tried to send word to King Alistair for help but its been slow in coming. 'magine the rest of Ferelden is going through something similar as well. Whole of Thedas is under siege, ever since the sky first opened."

"It's a good thing you have a verified sky closer right here," Hawke quipped cheerfully as she gestured towards Ari.

"You... You're the Inquisitor!"

"So they say. I always thought my name was Aryael. But I've been wrong before." She offered a smile to the villager before turning to look for Cole. The spirit showed himself at her side, making Sera jump.

"Creepy."

Ari rolled her eyes. "Can you get word to Harding? Perhaps have some scouts sent to keep an eye on the village while they wait for Cullen's troops?"

The boy nodded, the wide brim of his hat covering half his face before he all but disappeared again.

"S'not right how he jus' comes and goes." Sera was rubbing her arms and shivering in a way that had nothing to do with the cold. 

"Cole is harmless to us, Sera."

"Demons are never harmless," Fenris said as he placed his broadsword on his back. 

Ari shot him a glare before turning her attention to the villagers once more. 

"Your mayor, are they available? I'd like to speak to them about a few things that I hope will help me to close the rift and end your troubles with demons and undead."

"Of course, of course. Follow me!" The villager turned and led them through the gates of the village. Ari noted the hungered and tired faces as the villagers slowly came out of their homes. 

"The corpses are coming from the direction of Old Crestwood. People are saying its a curse brought upon us from the days of the Blight, echoing across time. We should have died with them," the villager spoke low as he guided them through the narrow streets towards the Mayor's house. "'ere it is." The villager bowed and left them. 

Ari rapped on the door, her knuckles touching air soon enough as the mayor wrenched it open. His eyes were quickly drawn to the faint green light emanating from her left hand. 

"The Inquisitor..." He whispered as he looked up at her. "Mayor Dedrick of Crestwood village. At your service, despite everything. Are you here to stop the undead?"

"Of course we are. Dimples here loves to help." Varric, Solas, Hawk and Cassandra followed as she was ushered into the mayor's home. The rest of her companions, it seemed, were content to remain outside. 

"The undead are appearing because of the rift that is currently in the middle of the lake. Do you know how we can get to it?"

"The light in the lake? It's coming from the caves below Old Crestwood. Darkspawn flooded it ten years ago during the Blight. It wiped out the village, killing the refugees we took in."

"But the dam, can we not drain the lake?" She inquired, eyes piercing into the man's eyes. She could the sweat begin to break out on his brow.

"Drain the- There must be some other way!"

"We are trying to help, the Inquisitor is the only one who can close rifts."

"You'd have to evict the bandits in the Old Fort to use the dam. I can't ask you to risk your life."

Hawke laughed. 

"Only ones at risk are the bandits. Look, Crestwood can't last much longer. You have the only person in all of Thedas that can fix your problem standing before you, offering her help. I suggest you take it."

"I-I suppose it must come to this. Here, take this key. It unlocks the gate to the dam controls past the Fort. The rift must be in the caves under Old Crestwood. But Inquisitor, I would not linger there."

"This town is strong, Mayor Dedrick. You survived the Blight after all. You'll survive this too."

"That was a close thing. The Darkspawn followed a band of refugees running from the Blight. Some of the refugees were - they were very ill. But we took them in. They perished when the Darkspawn flooded Old Crestwood."

"How did the darkspawn manage to flood the town?" The curiosity and disbelief dripped heavily from Hawke's tongue. 

"They found the dam's controls. Wrecked them. All I remember is the refugees and villagers screaming as they drowned... And now they return to us."

"That's terrible," Cassandra whispered.

"The Blight was hard on Ferelden," Hawke's tone was stiff, her memories of the blight still fresh in her mind. 

 The mayor nodded solemnly, lost himself to memories of deeds past.

"Thank you for your help. We'll do our best to stop the undead as soon as possible."

The mayor nodded, lost in thought as they exited his home. 

"Something is off with that one."

"I agree, Varric. I'll have Harding's scouts keep an eye out. For now, we should head to this Fort. Sera, Varric, think you can scout ahead? Get a feel for what we're walking into? How many of them there are. I'd like to walk in with a plan if we can manage it."

"You got it, Dimples. Try not to lose Hawke on the way. She has a penchant for getting distracted."

Hawke snorted.

"Says the dwarf who stops to admire his bow in the middle of a fight."

"Hey now, everyone knows Bianca shoots better when you give her a little attention."

Ari shook her head and chuckled as they made their way back to the front gate, her party bantering among themselves. Varric and Sera quickly jumped onto their horses and headed off as they reached the gate, disappearing into the distance just as Ari and the rest of her companions began to follow in the same direction. 

 

Chapter Text

A loud sneeze broke through the pitter-patter of the constant drizzle falling upon Ari's party. She blinked rapidly, drops of water making her eyelashes heavy as they splashed against her face. 

Gods I hate this place...

"Such stealth, Dimples," Varric's voice carried softly from over a nearby hill. 

Ari looked up to see Varric making his way down towards their party. 

"Sera's waiting back at the Caer, perched at the top of one their towers, waiting for our signal. There aren't that many of them. Maybe four dozen. Just over half a dozen near the gate, which incidentally is the only way in."

"The Mayor made it sound like the keep was full to the teeth with them..." Cassandra said as she deftly dismounted her mount. 

Ari nodded, dismounting from Nehn and leading her away from the path.

"He did. It's not. They Mayor is not exactly a very reliable source of information. But let's get this dam sorted and that rift closed first. Then we can deal with the less than honest Mayor of Crestwood."

"You were wise to keep him under watch," Fenris said under his breath from her left where no one could hear him.

Ari's eyes flicked up and over to his face, lips slightly turning downwards in a frown as she tried to read him. 

"It was practical," she whispered before turning her attention back to her mount.

"Alright, I'll be back for you, Nehn. Just need to take care of a few things." With a final stroke to her mane, Ari led her party towards the main gate of Caer Bronach.

Her eyes roamed the rafters and found no archers, causing her already present frown to deepen. “I think our best course of action is to literally storm the castle. Come in hard and fast. Sera can strike down the ones that run in to support the few near the gate from her position. They don't seem to be concerned that anyone would attempt to take the Caer.”

Hawke bridged the small distance between them, coming up at her right.

"I always loved striding in the front door of a hideout." She turned a small grin towards Ari, "Glad to see you do as well." The woman removed her staff from her back as they approached the main gate and the warriors spread out to the sides, waiting for the gate to be dealt with.  

Ari raised her right hand and splayed her fingers, an ethereal fist forming just before the gate. With a flick of her wrist, the ghost fist slammed into the wood, splintering pieces and inciting shouts of panic from within the keep. The warriors stormed the castle, battle sounds drowning out the sound of the rain. Mabaris ran through the now broken gate and headed straight for Ari and Hawke. Hawke threw them backwards with a ball of flame and ran in to join the fray, lightening falling from the sky to strike the bandits nearby.

When did this become my normal?

Ari watched her comrades before slowly making her way into the Caer. Varric had taken to higher ground, laying cover fire for the warriors as they made their way deeper into the keep while Sera kept her deadly aim pointed towards any new comers to the battle. Dorian and Solas lay barriers down on their companions as they picked off bandits on the periphery of the battle with fire and ice. Ari's hand warmed as she called her blade to her grip, fade-stepping through the battle and up the stairs towards the tower where she knew their leader was, impatient for it all to be over; she needed it to be over. She blasted any approaching bandits and ignored Solas' voice as he called after her. Quickly, she darted up the steps and dealt with a lone bandit at the top of them before she broke out onto the open landing of the tower.

"You made a grave mistake, girl, coming to our castle." A towering behemoth of a man turned from the tower's edge where he had been watching the fighting beow and gave his full attention to Ari. 

"Didn't your mother ever teach you it's not nice to take things that don't belong to you?" she quipped back. "Caer Bronach is not for you."

The bandit leader laughed and Ari gritted her teeth.

"The Caer is mine. You will take it from my cold, dead hands."

"That can be arranged," said a slightly out of breath Hawke from her right. Ari turned to her and quirked a brow. "Didn't think I'd let you have all the fun, now did you?" the human woman said with a grin. 

The floor rumbled as the hulking bandit ran towards the two mages, who just managed to dart out of the way. 

"He's fast for a lumbering brute," Ari yelled at Hawke as she called lightening from the sky, covering the landing in a storm that seemed to run off of the bandit with no effect.

"I always wondered how the big ones always managed to be so nimble," Hawke responded, dodging a sideways swing of his hammer as she sent a mind blast to push him back. 

Ari went in close as he stumbled back, sword rising as his hammer swung down to batter her away. Hawke's fire was rapidly hitting against his armor and the Bandit grinned as they did nothing. He began to close in on Ari as Hawke gave up on the ranged attacks, her staff coming down in a hard arc against him from behind to draw him away.

"Your tricks won't work, mage."

Ari narrowed her eyes, searching for the enchantment that halted both flame and lightning. 

But not ice...

Ari dodged his hammer, rolling away as he smashed it against the stone floor. He turned to deal with Hawke and she made to grab his wrist, frost streaming from her hand. The bandit cried out in pain as his skin turned black beneath his armor from the ice of her magic. Blind rage was palpable in the air as he turned his full attention on Ari. He missed Hawke's staff blade as it wedged itself between his plates of armor. But he barely missed a step as he swung his hammer to the right, crashing into Ari’s side.

The force of the blow sent her flying into the wall. With a grunt, Ari felt her barrier give out behind her, the stone cutting sharply into her back and head. A warm stream of blood ran down her neck. Sliding down the wall, she blinked, trying to focus on the bandit before her. He was losing blood in pools around him as Hawke continued to use her staff like a spear, cutting into the weaknesses of his armor and carving him open on the inside.

The sounds of fighting below had stopped and Ari imagined her comrades would soon be joining them. And probably none too happy with her. She rose unsteadily to her feet, sending waves of healing magic towards her back and head, wincing as she felt the amount of cuts and the deepness of a gash at her shoulder. Hawke was moving quickly, like a blur as she striked and dodged. She could hear the steps of her companions coming up the stairs. She took a step forward, grateful that her barrier had protected her from the brunt of his swing and raised her hands, frost shimmering in the air as hail fell from the sky. In moments, the bandit was frozen and Hawke took a high swing at his neck, slicing it off cleanly and shattering the rest of his body in the process. 

Hawke looked over at Ari. 

"Well, that looks like it hurt." Before Hawke could get to her, Solas and Dorian both were at her side. 

"What were you thinking? You had no idea what could have been waiting for you!"

"Dammit Princess, look at you!" Dorian spun her around and she wavered on her feet, becoming lightheaded. She felt his hands in her hair, peeling away the sticky bloody pieces to get a look at the damage. "I swear, we need to set a watch just on you," he muttered beneath his breath as she felt his healing magic work its way to heal the damage she had ignored in favour of dealing with the Bandit leader.

"It's not like she could have known the brute would have enchanted armour and amulets to deflect our magic. And it was one person. Better odds than it was down there. You're being way to hard on her. She's the one who managed to find his weakness too."

"Thanks Hawke."

"It's always the men that fuss. We should look for the way to the dam controls."

"She's right. You're worrying too much. I healed most of the damage myself. I just wanted to deal with the bandit before he got Hawke." she moved away from Solas and Dorian on slightly unsteady feet and turned to face them.

"That does not change the fact you've lost a substantial amount of blood, da'lan. Or have you always been this quick on your feet?"

Ari glared at Solas.

"I'm fine. Let's spread out and look for the way to the controls. I'm going with Hawke." She strode through the two men, shoulders bumping against their arms as she made her way down the stairs and past her other companions.

"She reminds me of someone... I can't seem to recall who," Fenris whispered with a slight smile, head tilted towards Hawke.

Hawke grinned, lifting slightly on her toes to give Fenris a quick peck on the cheek before turning to follow after Ari.

"You know, they only fuss because they care."

Ari snorted as she led the way towards the door she knew would lead them to dam.

"They fuss because they think I'm incapable of taking care of myself. Because my injuries seem to cement this fact. Because I apparently, am some delicate flower in need of protecting."

"I used to think that's what my brother thought. After we escaped Lothering... We spent a year working in lowtown, the not so good area of Kirkwall. He would rush in to deal with any altercations, fuss if I got too close in a battle and almost lost his mind when I broke my arm. I thought that he blamed my weakness for our sister's death. That I couldn't protect her, no less myself. That he thought I was a burden in need of constant supervision..." Ari looked down as she opened the door to the cellar and listened to Hawke. "He was just worried. He didn't want to lose me the way we lost Bethany. It didn't matter how good I got with my staff or how strong my spells were. He worried. Regardless of my capability. I think your friends are the same."

Ari hummed in acknowledgement. She was fully aware that Hawke was right. She was uncomfortable though. Uncomfortable that it was so easy for them to storm a fortress and kill. Uncomfortable that the fact she had frozen a man to death did not perturb her more. Uncomfortable that her own blood sliding down her neck didn't scare her. This was her normal and she wasn't sure how to feel about that. 

"I think this is the way to the controls. We should empty the dam, let the others rest a bit."

 


 

Solas watched Ari walk away in a huff and gritted his teeth.

Petulant child.

Beside him, Dorian sighed. 

"We did act like fussing parents."

Solas turned his glare to Dorian. 

"She acted like a child."

"Because we treated her like one."

"She never should have run off on her own. Especially not knowing the layout of the Caer. And this isn't the first time she's taken foolish risks. She is the only one capable of closing the rifts. She jeopardizes the whole of Thedas with her actions."

"Should we lock her away in Skyhold then? Wait for the rest of the Inquisition to clear the way of demons and bandits so that she can reach the breaches safely?" Fenris turned a hard look to Solas. 

He could feel his temple begin to throb. 

"I don't think that's what he means, Broody. Dimples has a knack for putting herself at more risk than the rest of us. She almost died in Haven. If Solas hadn't gone to look for her, if he hadn't found her, she would have. She probably wouldn't have been hurt so bad if she didn't send us all away with the villagers and the rest of the Inquisition. She'd rather risk her own life than anyone else's and she needs to learn how to be a team player still."

"I think instead of arguing over Aryael's tendency to rush headfirst into danger, we should perhaps assist in locating the gate to the dam?" Cassandra's voice of reason broke the strained atmosphere, and one by one they went down the stairs, leaving Solas alone with Cassandra.

"They had a point you know."

Solas sighed. "I am aware."

"She is rash and prone to dangerous situations. And I understand that you love her. You do not want to lose her. But reprimanding her in front of others undermines her authority as our Inquisitor. You did so in front of the inner circle but had you done this in front of anyone else... Solas, you cannot protect her from everything. She is her own person and she will make her own decisions. She will get hurt and she will most likely throw herself in front of a Templar's sword to protect those she cares for, you included. Because that is who she is and who she will always be. You must learn to accept this."

And who she has always been...

He watched Cassandra go as he remembered that night in the Herald's Rest. 

 

Ari groaned as Solas repressed a chuckle.

 "My howl did not sound like a strangled bird!" she said aghast as she turned her attention toward the blonde elf with twinkling blue eyes.

 Ari's gaze narrowed.

"You weren't the one who had to listen to yourself," Lyara retorted. 

 Ari stood abruptly. 

 "I'm going to check on Sera. With any luck, she'll drink me under the table and I won't have to listen to this anymore! You're on your own Solas."

She turned and made a beeline for Dorian, attempting to put her arm around his shoulder and failing miserably due to their height difference. When she almost face-planted the floor, Solas made to stand and go to her; take her back to their room.

"So what are your intentions exactly with Aryael?"

The calm sound of Lyara's voice drew his attention back to the petite woman with a shrewd gaze currently directed at her tankard as she ran her finger around its rim. Solas remained seated at the table and quirked a brow.

"I should think my intentions are obvious."

"And once the rifts are dealt with, Corypheus defeated and peace restored to the Shemlen... What will you do?"

Solas stared at her, the wheels turning in his head as she questioned him about a time he had refused to think about.

Yes, what would he do when the orb was his once more?

"Tell me, Solas, how much do you know of the Dalish? Of our Keepers?" She continued to stare at her half-full drink. "The Keepers are more than just leaders to the Dalish clans. They offer guidance and wisdom, learn and teach our traditions and preserve the old ways the best they can. And they make life easier for us with their magic. Every clan has a Keeper, a first and a second. Except for Clan Lavellan. For over a hundred years, our second has been the child of our Keeper and we have had no third. Until Aryael. The first mage born outside the Keeper line in over three generations. She has always been gifted with magic, never needing a focus to assist her with even the complex spells that Keeper Deshanna would teach her. And she has always known her duty to the clan."

Lyara gripped her tankard in both hands as she raised her gaze to meet Solas'.

"She has questioned tradition her entire life, searching for answers to questions no one had ever thought to ask. She reveres the God the Dalish fear most and she makes friends with the Shemlen and leads their Inquisition. But she is our First and she is and will always be Dalish. Her devotion to her people has never and will never waver. She will return to us, Solas. I just wonder if she will return alone."

Silence fell heavy between the two as her words seared across his consciousness. 

Alone.

"Come Nehnis, we should get as much rest as we can. Mihren will want to leave at first light."

 

What makes you think you can keep her?

Chapter Text

A low pitched whistle sounded from Ari's left. 

"Looks like you're still out of luck, Buttercup."

Arrows whirred through the air and dropped the undead to the ground. Whips of flame sent streams of smoke into the air as Dorian burned through groups of them, horrifying screams filling the empty town. 

"Come with me, Sera. We'll find the warden, Sera. It'll be fun, Sera. If I finish my flask before you, you have to come, Sera! Bollocks!"

The decayed wooden structures of Old Crestwood began to give way under the onslaught of magic, arrows and swords aimed at the undead. Waves of them came from behind the decrepit homes and rushed forward.

"But did you see the dragon, Sera? A dragon!"

"Blight take your damned dragon, Bull!"

"Can we focus on the undead? Maybe get through them before we think about taking on any dragons?"

"But we are going to think about it? Taking on the dragon?"

"Bull! Focus!"

Ari sent waves of spiked ice towards a nearby group of undead, impaling them before Dorian's fire burned through them.

"Demon!"

"I got it!" 

Opening a small fissure in the Fade, Ari called strands of the woven barrier to call back the demons to the Fade, tearing the undead apart in the cross-hairs. 

"I think that's all of them for now." Hawke slipped her staff onto her back and began to explore what remained of Old Crestwood. "Try not to breath too much. Can't afford to have to carry anyone that passes out from the stench."

"And just who would you carry, Hawke?"

"Me? Carry someone? Oh no, that's for the big tough warriors, not the dainty little mages."

"The day you are considered dainty-"

"Don't finish that sentence, Broody."

"There are... there are corpses. Dead corpses that are actually just dead. They deserve a proper burial."

Cassandra came up beside Ari and wrinkled her nose. 

"We'll send scouts down to retrieve them. I am sure there are some in Crestwood who would grateful to give loved ones a proper farewell."

"Move. Not that way. You, go there. Why does nothing here heed my demands?"

"Who is-"

Ari headed in the direction of the voice, coming around the corner of a broken down cottage she was met with the sight of a spirit.

"Demon," Fenris all but growled and moving to draw his blade from just behind her.

"Demon? Those dolts who would suck this world dry? I am called to higher things."

"Easy, Fenris. What is a spirit like you called to do?"

"I lead armies, Kingdoms, Lords. I am imperial. I am Command."

"Or pomposity."

Ari stifled her laugh behind a cough, sending Solas a hard glare. 

"What of you? I felt your coming. Is there something alike in us?"

"I think there must be."

"I knew it! Make your armies ready. Cleave to your loyal servants. You will need them all."

"What exactly do you find so distressing about this world?"

"It ignores me. I order the rocks to part, but they do not. I bid the sky draw close and it stays still. I don't know how you mortals stand it."

"So why remain?"

"Why are you speaking to it?"

"Quiet. Let the other one talk!"

"Did the demon just-"

"Fenris, please. Let Aryael deal with the spirit."

The spirit continued to focus on Aryael.

"I will not be denied. I refuse to leave until something obeys my orders."

"Then tell me what you would have me do."

"You can-"

Hawke elbowed Fenris underneath his plate armor, causing him to double over as she glared daggers at him.

"Excellent. I have only one command. A creature made of rage had the gaul to chase me across the lake. Destroy it in my name and be rewarded."

"A simple enough request. The rage demon may threaten others as well."

"I will return to you once it has been done."

"Go."

"You really just take an order from a demon, Boss?"

Ari sighed. 

"You know, I recognize that to the lot of you anything that comes from the Fade is a demon, but that is simply not true. Spirits are no more demons than a rose bush is a tree. They are different. And no, I did not just take an order from a demon. I offered my assistance to a spirit so that they may return home, to the Fade instead of being stuck here."

She turned to face her companions, hip cocked to the side and arms folder over her chest.

"Now, I am going to find the rift that is causing all of the problems for the people of Crestwood. Cassandra, Sera, Blackwall and Varric. Please return to Crestwood and speak to them about having the bodies down here retrieved. And get in touch with Harding. We need to clean out the Caer. We might even be able to set up shop there for a while. In fact, I'll meet you there when we're done here. Dorian, Solas, Hawke, Bull and Fenris, if you're not too scared of the corpses and harmless spirits, I ask that you follow me so that I can close the damned rift."

She spun on her heel and began to walk towards the flooded caves when she felt a hum, ears twitching from the familiar sound of magic.

"There's another artifact nearby."

Ari stopped in her tracks and looked up. She could feel it more than see it, hidden near the mountainside. Following the pull of the magic, she left her companions behind, their confused murmurings lost to the wind though she felt Solas close behind her. Behind overgrown foliage, she found it, the small orb thrumming with magic and just begging to be released.

"You felt it again."

"As did you."

The silence was heavy between them, each aware that this was not so easily felt. 

"Do you think it's the mark?"

"Perhaps."

Ari reached out with her left hand, a slight twinge in her palm as she let the magic within touch the magic of the artifact, a soft pop filling the air as it activated. 

"This was different than the last time."

"I imagine that the more artifacts there are that are activated, the stronger their ties to the veil are."

She nodded, eyes cast down and avoiding his gaze. 

"Well, hopefully this will help with any remaining demons. We should close the rift."

Turning away from the artifact she headed back the way she came, passing her companions who had just caught up to her and Solas and heading straight for the cliff side that housed the entrance to the flooded caves.

 


 

 The stench of rotting bodies was overwhelming. Ari pulled the hood of her cloak tighter around her face, using the edges to filter the smell through her nose. 

"This is vile," Dorian's words were muffled by his own cloak. 

"Well, let's not waste time complaining and get out of here quickly."

Their steps echoed in the caves, the damp seeping into their bones as their feet splashed in the thin layer of water covering the floor of the caves. Small balls of mage light floated around them, providing light as they made their way towards the rift.

"These aren't... do they look safe?" Ari let go of her cloak, more concerned about the wooden steps before her that were clearly rotted from water. "I don't think we should go down them."

"Only way down, Boss. Unless you wanna jump."

"They can't possibly hold us all as we descend-" her words cut off as her eyes followed the appearance of floating boulders moving to follow the path of the stairs. Spinning around, she saw Solas with his staff raised and furrowed her brow. 

"You can't possibly think you can-"

"I am more than capable of maintaining my hold while we descend, Aryael. Go."

"Well, come on then," Hawke's voice broke Ari's stare-off with Solas.

Hawke folded her arms across her chest, staring at Fenris as she stood atop the first stone.

"Are you really going to wait up here while Ari and I deal with the rift?" 

"Can't let the Champion and Inquisitor do it on their own, can we?" Bull moved to follow Hawke with Fenris close behind. Dorian looked between Ari and Solas, sighing deeply before following himself. The stones moved continuously as they descended, leaving Ari and Solas out of earshot.

"This is dangerous." Ari reached out for Solas' hand, threading their fingers together as she let him lead her towards his makeshift path. "You could run out of mana at any time. We have no idea how deep the caverns go."

"I assure you, vhenan, I am far from depleting my mana pools. And I highly doubt you would have been any more likely to climb down these stairs had they not spent the better part of a decade soaking in water."

Ari snorted.

"It's not my fault they seem to be shoddily made in the first place."

Solas didn't appear to be remotely tired as they continued down the winding path deeper into the caves. 

"There are tunnels up ahead." 

The sounds of running water echoed around the caverns as they stepped off of Solas' moving staircase. 

"It's not much further. I can feel it... it's not like most of the other rifts."

"This rupture in the veil appears to be larger than most."

Ari nodded, raising her hand for more light as they followed the sound of running water. She saw torches on the walls and flicked her wrist, sending small tendrils of flame dancing through the air to light them. Light spread quickly, causing her to squint as their surroundings were made completely visible.

"Are those bodies? Were people living in these caves when Old Crestwood was flooded?" Hawke's voice was full of anguish. 

The decaying and waterlogged bodies of children and adults alike lined the walls of the caves. 

"Bad way to go."

"You don't think the mayor... No, of course it was the mayor. The controls were in perfect condition. The darkspawn didn't damage them, the mayor sentenced these people to death!"

"Hawke," Fenris placed a hand on her shoulder as she stood there shaking, anger and despair washing off of her in waves.

"Refugees, Fenris. Refugees of the Blight fleeing for their lives!" She spun in his grasp to face him, braid whipping in the air as she bit out her words at him.

"I know, Hawke, I know."

"I'll have Inquisition forces collect the bodies. They deserve a proper burial."

"And the mayor?" Hawke dipped her head slightly as she turned it to the side to face back towards Ari, eyes dark with anger and fingers sparking with tiny flames.

"The mayor will see justice done."

"Good."

The leather of Hawke's gloves creaked as she tightened her fist around her staff. 

"Right then, demons to kill and rifts to close." Hawke took the lead of their group.

"I think she went easy on me," Bull said, eyes open with shock as he stood there shaking his head as he watched Hawke pass him.

"She did," Fenris said as he followed suit. 

The party walked in silence through the tunnel and soon broke out into Dwarven ruins.

"I loathe Dwarven ruins," Hawke whispered, eyes searching for any sign of trouble.

"As do I," Fenris sword was already in hand, tattoos slightly brighter than normal.

"There, there he is!" Command appeared at Ari's side, ethereal finger pointing at a large rage demon just down the hall and drawing its attention with their voice. 

With a deafening roar, the demon caught sight of them and charged, shades following close behind. 

Bull's axe cut through the demon's body with little damage as Fenris drew the attention of the shades, four of them surrounding him.

"No, no, no. Destroy it, don't play with it!" Command was off to the side, a sneer forming in the shadows of their face. 

Hawke cast a crushing prison over the shades in an attempt to assist Fenris while Ari coated his broadsword and Bull's axe is frost magic. Solas lay barriers over them all as Dorian sent a static cage around the rage demon. 

"Working on it, Command. Just sit there and look pretty for me, okay?" Ari called her own sword to her hand, ice trailing in its wake as she swung it down hard against the demon. It screamed and swiped at her with a fiery claw. She was barely able to avoid it as she ducked down into a roll on the ground. She shot out her hand to erect a wall of ice in his path as she tried to put some distance between them. 

The sounds of fire mines exploding behind her drew her attention towards the shades, Dorian, Fenris and Hawke. The mages had laid mines all around, sending balls of fire in quick succession as Hawke’s prison gave out.

Vhenan!” Solas voice called Ari back to her own enemy, who was now in quick pursuit of her, ignoring Bull as it charged.

“Hey, big guy! Where are you off to?” Bull yelled, trying to reclaim the demon’s attention.

Solas raised his staff and froze the demon in place and Ari quickly capitalized, sending a stonefist square at the demon’s chest and shattering it to the ground.

A low whistle filled the cavern.

“Floating stairs and freezing demons. Your wells of magic run deep, Solas.” Hawke’s gaze was trained on Solas with a question in her eyes as she placed her staff back on her back.  

Command floated over to Ari, a feral grin dancing over shifting features. 

“Now that my sovereignty has been respected, I can depart this unchanging nightmare. Here, your reward.”

The spirit faded and a necklace dropped into Ari’s hand. A long and thin silver chain with a glossy emerald fashioned in the shape of teardrop hanging from it. She could feel an inscription on the back under her fingers.

“It is not wise to accept gifts from demons,” Fenris’ eyes were on the amulet in her hand.

“Not. A. Demon.” She clutched the amulet in her fist.

“Perhaps not, yet you still may want to consider studying the amulet before putting it on?” Dorian walked over and placed his hand over hers.

Ari nodded, releasing the amulet into his hand and watching as he placed it within one of the pockets of his robe.

“If we could perhaps turn our attention back to the rift? I believe it is close by,” Solas said as he joined both Dorian and Ari.

Bull held his axe out and pointed down the bend in the hall with it.

“You mean where the creepy green light is coming from?”

Ari turned, the thrum of the rift almost pulsing in tune with the anchor in her hand. They could hear the low sounds of wailing wraiths as they approached the open door leading to the rift.

“It’s…”

“Huge.” Ari finished Dorian’s sentence as she took a step forward into the small hallway that led to the rift.

Her palm throbbed, rift calling to anchor as demons bombarded her with attacks. Solas’ barrier snapped into place around her while Fenris and Bull came rushing out at her sides heading towards the demons.

“We might be a little outnumbered here,” Dorian said, erecting walls of flame to keep the horde of demons at bay. Two wraiths set them frozen almost instantly, a swarm of sloth demons breaking through and turning them to nothing but glittering dust.

“Fenris!” Hawke swung her staff over her head, knocking an approaching terror demon’s head as she ran headlong into the fray towards Fenris.

Quickly, Ari’s party was being overwhelmed. Bull had been knocked into a pillar and lay unconscious on the ground, a large pride demon heading straight for him. Fenris was cornered by three wraiths and five terrors while Hawke desperately tried to get close. Dorian had his hands full, placing mines as he blasted the sloth demons back. Solas, for all his bravado earlier, finally appeared to be reaching the depths of his mana pools, a sheen of sweat on his brow as he summoned elemental storms and sent stones crashing against the demons.

Ari spun, swinging her sword as she tried to make her way towards the rift. She could feel the anchor pulling at her, searing pain spreading across her palm. It felt like her mark was growing, but she couldn’t spare a moment to look. She combined her magic with Solas’ calling vines from the cracks in the earth he created that wrapped around the demons and dealt spirit damage against them. Lifting her hand, she pulled on the Fade and screamed, falling to her knees. The hall was awash in green light as her newly formed tear pulled the demons back to the Fade against their will. Panting, Ari braced herself up on her right hand, vision clouded with dark spots. She could hear panicked shouting in the background. Her tear closed and she took a deep breath before turning to face the rift in the centre of the ruin, body trembling from the power she had just expelled in using the mark.

Refusing to drop her arm, she felt tears slide down her cheeks as her hand was ripped apart by the anchor. Jagged streams of searing pain crossed her palm and over her fingers. It felt as though her skin, muscles and bone where being burnt through. She could hear her blood pounding in her ears as she pulled with all her magic, fighting her own hand for control as she simultaneously fought to close the rift. Vaguely she was aware of hands as they tried to pull her back and she screamed once more before a loud resounding snap echoed against the walls and signalled the closing of the rift. Ari fell back, drained, into waiting arms.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Bright light and the sound of rushing water surrounded her. She couldn’t feel, could barely think.   

 

Solas looked down at her, his face desperate and voice filled with exasperation.

“I can protect you!”

“I do not need your protection!”

She yelled as she glared back up at him, taking a step closer. She was seething with anger that they had decided this without her.

 

She blinked and he was gone. 

 

“Like that, yes!” A deep voice praised her as she felt the arrow fly loose from her small bow, the snap of the bowstring loud in her ears. A large, warm hand ruffled her braided hair and she looked up at her father with a grin splitting her cheeks. Bright gray eyes smiled back at her, white teeth flashing behind a graying beard.

“The Gods favour you, pup.”

 

Drowning. She was drowning. Her lungs were burning, fighting for air. Eyes wide as she tried to move but there was nothing to move. She was weightless.

 

He is rather good looking, you know.”

A blush painted her cheeks a deep red as she looked away.

I hadn’t noticed.”

Syla’s infectious laugh rang in her ears as she flipped the page of her book. He was good looking. And kind. And he made her stomach flip and heart pound.

But he was also a Sentinel. 

 

Darkness.

 


  

Her hand was cold in his, the flicker of his magic lapping at his palm as his mark buzzed with life. It had spread. Green lines marred the skin of her fingers and palm, running over the top of her hand as though it cut straight through her flesh. Marking her a prisoner of his mistakes.

Soft steps sounded near the door but Solas’ gaze never wavered from the deathly still features of her face.

“There has been no change. “ Dorian shifted in his chair, fist holding up his chin. Neither Dorian nor Solas had left Ari’s side since they arrived at the Caer last night.

He brushed his thumb over the top of her hand.

“Hawke?”

“She has not awakened. The blow to her head was severe. Fenris and Varric are still with her…”

Solas let the sounds of their voices fade as he lost himself in his thoughts.

Too much, too fast.

Ari had been injured when taking the Caer, she had opened the veil and drawn on the anchor against the demons in Old Crestwood and fought against the rage demon for Command. The rift had been too much for. She never should have sent the others away. They were overwhelmed and he was weak.

“Will she-” Cassandra’s voice broke through his reverie.

“She will wake.”

They were the first words Solas had spoken in hours, so lost was he in his own mind and guilt.

Uncomfortable silence filled the small room, his certainty clashing with the reality of her condition. Her pulse was faint, breath shallow and her spirit… Solas could not find her in the Fade.

He had done this to her. His magic tore through her mortal body and shredded her from the inside out. No mortal was meant to house this magic. No, not even just any Elvhen could have survived this. His magic was his and it devoured any one else who tried to claim it.

He had sentenced her to death the moment his orb was handed to Corypheus.

 


 

Her awareness of herself faded in and out, disjointed voices breaking through a fog.

She cannot survive much longer like this. Her spirit is in no shape to house such power.”

“Do you think I am not aware of that? What would you have me do? I cannot simply sunder her back together.”

“We could lose her. And they would all die if she dies now.”

The sound of hushed voices and the vague recognition of wisdom’s voice passed over her consciousness.

 


  

Her eyes burned behind their lids as she groggily began to awaken. Throat dry and body heavy with exhaustion. She blinked once, twice. The low light of candles allowing her to see she was in a small room.

Vhenan?”

Solas’ voice drew her attention and she winced as she tried to turn her neck to see him.

Solas? Where are we?” Her voice was hoarse and tongue leaden, making her words rumble into one another.

Rest, vhenan. We are safe at the Caer.”

She felt the cool touch of his magic as he traced his fingers over her cheek.

“No more sleep.”

“Never thought I’d hear those words coming out of your mouth, Princess.”

“What happened?”

Dorian came and sat on the right side of her small cot.

“You closed the rift. After tearing all the demons from our world back into the Fade. Bull and Hawke had been knocked unconscious during the fight. Fenris managed to find a way out of the caves nearby and Solas, Maker bless him, managed to lift you all out to the surface. And with some help from Blackwall and Cassandra, we managed to get you to the Caer.”

“He is quite the mage, isn’t he?” a raspy voice croaked from the door.

Ari turned her head to see Hawke standing in the doorway, Fenris’ arm wrapped around her waist for support.

“I wonder where his mana pools end.” Her wary gaze focused on Solas.

“I hope we don’t have to find out.”

Solas’ face was expressionless as he looked over to the door.

“It’s good to see you are recovering, Hawke.”

Hawke nodded.

“Fenris told me it’s been two days. We’ve lost a lot of time. I’m glad to see you’re up too, Ari. How’re you feeling? Up for a small journey?”

“I don’t believe that-“

“Solas,” Ari hushed him as she rubbed her thumb over the top of his hand.

“How far is Arwynne from here?”

“Two hours at the most. I would suggest a small party.”

“The mage is right. Neither one of you should be travelling.”

Hawke sighed.

“Fenris, it was a blow to the head. Ari just needed sleep. We’ll be fine.”

Ari nodded in agreement.

“You don’t give us enough credit. First light?”

“First light.”

An irritated Fenris guided Hawke back out of the room, voice low as he began to recite all the reasons this was a mistake and left Ari alone with Solas and Dorian.

“They have a point, Ari. You don’t know the damage that the anchor has caused. Can you even stand? Let alone ride a horse?”

She pushed up from the bed to sit, letting go of Solas’ hand to support herself.

“Won’t know unless I try.”

Vhenan, you need to rest.”

“No, I need to get to Arwynne before she leaves. We need to know what is happening with the Grey Wardens.”

The room was silent as Ari pushed herself from her upright position to the far left edge of the bed and swung her feet over the side. She was lightheaded and gripped the edge of the cot for support as she blinked slowly.

“You cannot travel like this.”

Ari sighed.

“We don’t have the luxury of time, Dorian.”

“You will ride with me.”

Ari turned to Solas with a small smile.

“I can live with that compromise. You, Fenris, Hawke and I. That should be a small enough party. Everyone else can wait here. Actually, who is here?”

“Harding has begun to turn the Caer into a base of operations out here. The troops she asked for are being directed here and the bulk of the scouts at the forward camp have moved here. Cass, Bull, Varric and Sera are staying here. Blackwall has taken it upon himself to keep guard over the Mayor.”

“And Cole?”

“He has been in Crestwood.”

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“I think… I think I may need some help getting dressed.”

Dorian scoffed.

“And you thought you could ride a horse.”

 

Chapter Text

Ari kept her lips firmly pressed together, leaning back against Solas as he guided his horse over the rolling hills. 

"Are you alright, vhenan?

Ari nodded, eyes watching as the sun touched the damp grass around them. 

She cannot survive much longer like this. Her spirit is in no shape to house such power.”

“Do you think I am not aware of that? What would you have me do? I cannot simply sunder her back together.”

“We could lose her. And they would all die if she dies now.”

The words echoed in my mind on repeat. That voice... I knew that voice.

"It's not much further now," Hawke called, from up ahead, Fenris close to her side. 

"Just... tired," she murmured.

More secrets. More lies. It was as if the void between them grew by the hour. Words left unspoken were caught in her throat, strangling the life from her body as his arms held her tight against his chest. 

The silence fell upon them, heavy and telling. The mark had grown, spread across her skin like wildfire and she had seen the haunted shadow behind Solas' eyes as he stared at it. The mark that should have never been. His stolen magic tearing Ari apart as she tried to claim it as her own.

His thumb brushed against the top of her palm and she shivered, pressing further against him. 

"Solas-"

"There, in the cave ahead." 

Ari's thoughts were cut off as she looked up to see Hawke and Fenris had stopped their horses and dismounted. Slowly with Solas' help, she lowered herself to the ground and he followed swiftly behind. They let the horses graze and headed up the slight hill towards the mouth of the cave.

"She knows we're coming?" the words were softer than Ari had intended, almost carried away on the mild breeze. 

"Well, she was expecting Fenris and I. I tried to let her know I was going to meet with you but I’m not sure the message got through."

They entered the cave and Solas called orbs of veilfire to light the way. Their footsteps echoed softly against the walls as they delved deeper. 

"Arwynne, we need to move on."

"Kids right, Warden. We've been here too long already."

"Just another day. We know they're here."

"And so are other Wardens."

Soft voice ricocheted and carried down the tunnel.

She's not alone.

The sound of a sword sliding against its scabbard rang in their ears.

"Ri?"

"Carver!"

Hawke threw herself into her brothers arms and laughed, his arms wrapping around her in a fierce hug as he dropped his sword to the ground.

"I told you," a delighted voice called from further in.

"It's good to see you, sister."

Hawke laughed.

"I missed you too, Carver. This is Aryael, the Inquisitor, and Solas. Ari, my brother Carver."

"A pleasure," he said with a quick dip of his head, "Come, Arwynne's been on pins and needles waiting for you to arrive."

Carver led them towards the well-lit cavern and Ari stopped dead in her tracks as her eyes fell upon the people before her.

Anders, in full warden robes leaned against the far left wall with his arms crossed over his chest. His eyes were wary, exhaustion written across his features as he regarded her and Solas. To his left stood Oghren, a shit-eating grin on his face and wineskin in his hand. 

"It’s good to see you in one piece Hawke," a soft and refined accent came from Arwynne, who stood behind a wooden table strewn with papers and maps. She stood at perhaps 5'4, long auburn hair pulled back into a bun with a few loose strands to frame her face. Her sharp turquoise eyes, more green than blue, were warm, a faint scar running from the corner of her left eye down over the top of her cheek. Across her back was a Dalish bow, made of ironbark and two short swords made of silverite. She wore a short, black leather jacket over her dark-gray leather armour corset and black leather armour pants. Around her left thigh were throwing knives on a small belt of sheaths and two belts crossed over her hips with ornate daggers fastened to her sides. Death followed in this woman's shadows and it was all Ari could do to keep from shuddering in her presence. 

“Good to see you’ve managed to evade the Wardens sent after you.”

Arwynne smiled, her left cheek dimpling. “I was always very good at hiding. Fergus never did win hide and seek.” She turned her gaze to Ari. “And you must be the Inquisitor. I am Arywnne, Warden-Commander of Ferelden.”

Nathaniel Howe snorted to her left.

"Forgot a title there."

Arwynne rolled her eyes. “Warden-Commander is the only one that matters right now. These are Wardens Nathaniel Howe, Oghren and Anders. I see you’ve already met Carver Hawke.”

Ari could feel Solas tense behind her as Anders caught his attention.

What does he see when he looks upon Anders?

“Aryael please, no fancy titles necessary. And this is Solas, the resident expert on the Fade for the Inquisition. We know the Wardens have troubles of their own… might they have anything to do with Corypheus?”

Arwynne’s lips set in a grim line and in moments it felt as though the air was sucked out of the room.

“Unfortunately for us all, I believe so. I’d been investigating the red lyrium when I came across information that pointed to the possibility that Corypheus survived Hawke. And now… Hawke tells me that he is responsible for the Breach in the sky. Arch-demons can survive almost anything, it’s why they need to be slain by a Warden. I fear with Corypheus’ talents… the Wardens may be compromised.”

“Talents?”

“He can speak to them,” Hawke said as she came to stand next to Arwynne. “When we faced him years ago… There was a Warden, Janeka, who wanted to set him free. Believed he could assist the Wardens in ending the Blight forever. Once we defeated him, she realized she was wrong… that he had somehow gotten in her head.”

“And now every Warden in Orlais and Ferelden is hearing the Calling,” Nathaniel said as we approached them on the other side of the table.

Arwynne shifted on her feet with her hands braced on the table’s edge.

“They’re gathering under Warden-Commander Clarel in the Western Approach. I lost contact with Velanna, one of my Wardens weeks ago. It’s… It’s not good.”

“And the Calling, that’s some sort of Grey Warden ritual?”

Arwynne sighed.

“The Calling tells a Warden when the Blight will claim them. When a Warden hears the Calling, they enter the Deep Roads to take as many Darkspawn with them as they can.”

“So much for Warden oaths of secrecy.”

Arwynne snorted and shot a glare at Anders.

“You gave Warden maps to Hawke in Kirkwall.”

Anders had the sense to look sheepish.

“That was different!”

“Because she was pretty? Or because she was a mage?”

“That was low, Warden.”

Arwynne raised a gloved hand to her face and massaged her temples.

“Anders I… I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry. It’s just taking its toll…”

Anders moved from his perch on the wall, walking to Arwynne with a frown on his face.

“I know, Arwynne. I know.”

“Are all the Wardens in Orlais and Ferelden hearing it? Even you?”

“All of us, Hawke,” Anders voice was rough and his lips barely moved as he spoke. He took Arwynne’s hand in his own and gave it a comforting squeeze.

“But how…” Hawke’s gaze was full of concern as she turned towards her brother.

“Corypheus. At least, we think Corypheus. And if the Wardens… we are all that stands between life and the Blight. And the rest of us believe that we are all dying,” Carver spat.

“They’re playing right into his hands…” Hawke whispered.

“The Wardens are desperate and scared. That can only lead to poor decisions,” Nathaniel said as he opened a rolled map on the table.

Arwynne nodded.

“My sentiments exactly. Clarel spoke of a blood magic ritual that could end the Blight forever. I said she was mad; blood magic could not end the blight. She turned against me, calling me a traitor to the order and we have been on the run ever since, looking for a way to save the Wardens. Velanna answered Clarel’s call, to be my eyes and ears among them. In her last missive, we were told that there would be a meeting here in the Western Approach. An ancient Tevinter ritual tower.” Arwynne pointed to a mark on the map.

"Blood magic..." Fenris growled.

“Well, Tevinter is the expert on the subject,” Ari mused, eyes wandering over the map that Arwynne pointed to.

Oghren chuckled and Ari offered him a small smile.

“If there was such a ritual, why have the Wardens not cast it before?” Hawke asked, arms folded over her chest.

“Because there isn’t one.” Solas’ finger trailed over the parchment from the tower to Adamant fortress. “It is a ruse. Whatever the Wardens are doing, it will not end the Blight.”

“And we must stop them before they do exactly what Corypheus wants.”

“Heh, sounds like old times eh Warden? Just when we thought it was time to retire.”

“I’d hardly say the entire order turning against us is like old times, my friend.”

“We’ve faced worse. That Architect guy was pretty bad. And you’ve killed an arch-demon and lived to tell the tale. Clarel is full of sod. We just gotta show 'em.”

Arwynne laughed.

“Oghren’s right. We should head to the Western Approach. See what this meeting is all about.”

Ari nodded.

“Sounds like a plan. We’ll need to head to Skyhold to restock supplies for the journey. You should come with us. I’m sure Leliana would love to see you.”

Arwynne grimaced.

“You mean scold me. She was always so very good at scolding.”

Chapter Text

“I need you to listen before you say anything.” Ari leaned back against a table in the small chamber Cassandra had taken as her own.

Cassandra cocked an eyebrow at her and crossed her arms over her chest.

“I am listening.”

“Arwynne is not alone. She is with other Grey Wardens. Tonight, they are going to join us at the Caer and we will set out together for Skyhold where we will resupply before heading to the Western Approach.”

Ari drew a deep breath.

“Anders is among the Wardens accompanying her.”

Cassandra’s nostrils flared and her jaw clenched.

“Just listen-“

“He is a criminal, Aryael. He must be brought to justice.”

“He is a Grey Warden, Cassandra. And under the clear protection of the Queen-consort of Ferelden.”

“He killed hundreds, the Revered Mother… dozens of sisters and brothers, patrons of the Chantry! He is a murderer.”

“Its not our place to pass judgement on him, Cass.”

Cassandra grit her teeth.

“I cannot let him walk free.”

“You have to.”

“You would let this monster lay his head near you? Act as if his hands are not covered in the blood of innocents?”

Ari closed her eyes briefly before pinning Cassandra with a hard look.

“You will not speak to him. You will not harm him. You will let him go. I am not asking, Cassandra. I am ordering you to let this be. We can’t afford to go to war with Ferelden and the Wardens over this.”

Cassandra’s grip on her arms tightened as she took a sharp breath of air.

“As you wish, Inquisitor.”

 


 

Ari kicked her feet as she sat atop the back walls of the Caer, fingers gripped over the edge as she stared out towards the dam that held back the water of the lake.

“Princess?”

“Hmm,” her gaze never left the dam.

She felt Dorian settle beside her. They sat in silence while the wind whipped around them, strands of silver obstructing her view.

Dorian sighed.

“What happened to you, Aryael?”

Tears welled in her eyes as her grip tightened on the stone beneath her.

“I think… I think I really almost died. And not just died as in going to the Maker or Creators or whatever god you believe in, no. I think I almost ceased to exist entirely.”

She blinked away her tears and turned to face Dorian.

“They said… there was another voice with Wisdom, one that I heard when I first came to Thedas… and I think they knew me before too. They felt… familiar. And there were so many memories ripping through my mind… I saw my father… He had pale gray eyes and laugh lines with a beard… But he was human… it makes no sense. None of it makes any sense.”

“Perhaps its time you ask some hard questions of Wisdom, Princess.”

Ari groaned.

“She won’t tell me anything more than she already has. I need to know who this other voice was. I think… I think they have the answers. I just don’t know how to find them.”

Dorian reached out and covered her hand with his own, taking it in a firm grip as he turned towards her.

“You will. You always do, Aryael. I don’t think I ever met someone in all my young life that quite tells the odds to sod off the way you do, m’dear.”

Ari chuckled.

“All she wanted was to come home. But she doesn’t know where it is anymore.”

“Cole?”

Ari turned around, looking for the boy-spirit.

“Home will find you, Aryael. She will find you.”

“That definitely wasn’t even slightly disturbing,” Dorian said as his grip on her hand tightened considerably.

 


 

The flames of the campfire crackled as smoke flew up into the night sky. Most of their party had headed to their tents, Solas and Ari volunteering for the first watch.

“What are you?”

Solas’ voice carried loudly in the silence of the night.

Arwynne stilled, Hawke’s head snapped in his direction and Ari squeezed his hand in hers gently, tilting her head up from its place on his shoulder. She took in the hard glint in his eye and the set of his jaw.

“Easy, Chuckles,” Varric said, cleaning up after his game of Wicked Grace with Carver, Sera, Oghren and Blackwall.

Anders met Solas’ gaze from across the fire and Ari noted the slight tick in his cheek.

“Anders, mage, though I believe we’ve met already.”

Cassandra scoffed, her fingers twitching slightly as she restrained herself from saying anything as per Ari’s request; a conversation that had left a heavy weight in the air between them. Anders was under Arwynne’s protection. Ferelden’s protection. The Wardens’ protection. The Inquisition would not get involved.

Solas was silent, contemplating. Nathaniel placed his freshly fletched arrows in his quiver before levelling a look at Arwynne.

“How did you come to house a spirit?”

The words dripped with accusation, a promise of consequences undercutting every syllable.

Arwynne stopped oiling her dagger, laying the intricate weapon across her lap.

“It’s my fault.”

Her turquoise gaze was focused on Solas and his head snapped in her direction at her words.

“Wynn-“

“No, Anders. It’s true. Justice was forcibly sent here from the Fade by a blood-mage turned Pride Demon years ago as they tried to escape back to the mortal world. They inhabited the corpse of a Grey Warden who had perished named Kristoff. They traveled with us as we battled the Darkspawn after the last Blight and met…” she hesitated then, briefly closing her eyes before continuing on. “We met another ancient Darkspawn; different from Corypheus. Anders… offered to host the spirit because we could not find a way to send him back to the Fade and the inhabiting of a corpse was not feasible in the long term. In a bid to save the spirit, Anders and Justice became one and the same.”

“That is no longer a spirit of justice inhabiting your friend.”

“Solas,” Ari raised her fingers to his face, forcing him to look at her.

“I know,” Arwynne’s voice was a whisper, filled with regret and despair.

“Wynn, it’s not-“

“Stop. He’s right. Justice is… gone. What you’ve done… what you’ve become… is my fault. I never should have allowed… I should have known better. We both should have known better.”

“It is an abomination,” Cassandra’s voice was filled with disgust, barely veiled anger shining in her eyes as she stood and left them for her tent.

The snap and crackle of the fire broke across the heavy silence.

Chapter Text

“Where is Cullen?” Ari asked as she handed Nehn’s reins to a stable boy.

“In his office I believe, Inquisitor.”

“Thank y-“

“Arwynne?”

A question hung in the air as the woman beside Ari sharply turned toward the sound of her name.

“Alistair…” his name a whisper between her lips as her eyes widened in shock before she ran and threw herself in his arms. He clutched at her, fingers digging into the leather of her armour, burying his face in her neck and lifting her from the ground.

“It was Leli, wasn’t it?” she asked between kisses on his face when she finally let go of him enough to get a look at him.

“Who else could it have possibly been, Warden?”

Arwynne laughed as she caught sight of her friend just behind her husband.

Ari smiled. Seeing them together made her heart warm.

“I think perhaps, we should rest a day or two before heading out to the Western Approach. I’ll have Josie set you all up with rooms for our stay. Leliana? When you have a moment, come find me please. I’m off to speak with Cullen.”

“Of course, Inquisitor,” Leliana said with a slight nod of her head.

Ari’s companions dispersed and Solas laid a soft kiss atop her head before heading towards the library leaving the newly reunited couple some privacy. She headed towards the stairs that would lead her to Cullen.

“Inquisitor?”

Ari turned to face Leliana, noting the King and Queen heading towards the main hall in the distance, heads bowed as they whispered to each other.

“I thought perhaps it might serve all our purposes if we spoke with Cullen together?”

“Of course,” she nodded and the two women headed to the battlements together.

“It was kind of you to inform Alistair of his wife’s arrival.”

Leliana scoffed.

“I never would have heard the end of it had I not. Alistair is a master at whining,” she said with a soft smile. “But it is good to see them reunited. The Grey Wardens have taken much from Wynn. I do not wish them to take everything from her.”

Leliana swept in Cullen’s office where he was bent over a stack of papers on his desk.

“What is it now?” he asked without looking up.

“Such a warm welcome after so much time away,” Ari said as she leaned back against the wall with her arms folded across her chest.

“Inquisitor!” he stood abruptly, knocking over his chair in the process.

“At ease, Commander. I believe the Inquisitor was joking.”

“Of course,” he said with a flush. “It is good to see you returned to us in one piece.”

Ari shot him a smile.

“And it’s good to see that not much has changed since I’ve been gone.”

She looked between Leliana and Cullen and stood straight.

“By now, you are both aware that we plan to seek out the Wardens in the Western Approach. We will be leaving in a few days. However, I would ask that the bulk of our army follow suit not more than three days behind. I have reason to believe that the Venatori have corrupted the Wardens and we may need to lay siege to their fortress.”

Silence filled the room as both Cullen and Leliana stared at her.

“And exactly what led you to believe this?”

“One of the reports I received from a scout to the West suggested that there has been Venatori activity in the Approach,” Leliana said, deftly taking his question in stride.

Cullen looked between the two women and raised his right hand to his face.

“So the Venatori have corrupted the Wardens as they corrupted the Templars.”

“It may not yet be as bad as all that. We could save them, Cullen. We just need to rally. And I do not want anyone outside of this room to know exactly what we are rallying for. I’m not sure Arwynne will be pleased we plan to lay siege to a Warden fortress and I am not yet ready to discuss this possibility with our companions. I hope I can trust in your discretion?”

“Maker, Aryael. You’re asking to mobilize thousands of men and women with siege weapons under everyone’s noses? While the King of Ferelden sits in our halls with his own small army?”

“I believe that you are up to the task, Commander.”

Cullen groaned.

“When are you leaving?”

“In two days. Enough time I think for reunions to be had and supplies to be replenished. We’ll leave at first light through the western passages."

“One of these days, Inquisitor, you are going to ask for the impossible and we won’t be able to deliver.”

“But today is not that day,” she said with a grin.

“I believe in you, Cullen. Channel your inner rogue and use your stealth,” she quipped, turning for the door. “Now I think I deserve a nice long bath after Crestwood. I’ll see you both in the morning in the war room.”

 


 

Ari stretched, rolling over in her bed and reaching out a hand for Solas. She frowned, feeling the cold sheets and sat up, blearily blinking her eyes. She stood, reaching for the silk robe hanging by the bed and headed for the salon. She smiled as she opened the door and spotted Solas lounging on the chaise with a thick tome.

“I see that the history of the Exalted Plains seems to be of more interest than our bed this morning,” she quipped as she walked over to him and climbed onto his lap.

He closed his book, placing it on a side table before sliding his hands up her thighs.

“I thought you’d like your rest this morning after last night.”

She bent forward and placed a light kiss on his lips.

“Why the Exalted Plains? Curious of the history of our people?”

She felt him twitch under her, bristling at the casual implication that they shared a people. Before he could answer, the door swung open revealing Shora.

“Ari! Time to eat and dress. They’re expecting you in the war room.”

Shora strode straight to the table to place a small breakfast on it from her basket, oblivious to the couple on the chaise.

“It’s good to see you too, Shora,” she said dryly, standing up and walking over to the table.

Shora turned quick at the sound of her voice.

“Ah, you’re up. Go… Ah, Messere Solas. Good morning,” she said, ears bright pink as she looked between the shirtless elf slowly rising from the chaise and the barely covered inquisitor.

“Good morning, Shora. Please enjoy your meal. I’ll go dress,” he said, kissing Ari on the cheek before heading into the bedroom with his tome.

“I’m sorry. I should’ve knocked. I didn’t think…"

Ari chuckled.

“It’s alright, Shora. Tell me, how many missives are sitting on my desk? I pointedly ignored the desk when I came to my chambers yesterday."

Shora scoffed. 

“’Course you did. The important ones are in the top drawer, the others can wait til you return again. Josie has penned some responses in your stead to the more urgent matters. She’ll discuss them with you I’m sure when you see her this morning. This afternoon, the Mayor of Crestwood will be judged. The throne room-“

“I can’t simply judge a denizen of Ferelden while the King and Queen grace these halls. Especially for a crime committed during the last blight that they both ended. Send a missive to their rooms. I wish to speak with them both before I preside over any judgements.”

She took a large bite of her pastry as she looked over the schedule Shora brought for her. It seemed her day was packed with official business. Barely any time to breathe.

“It’s always going to be like this isn’t it?” she asked with a slight grimace. “Any time I return I’ll have not a moment to myself.”

“You are the Inquisitor, Aryael,” Shora said softly, placing a hand over hers.

Ari sighed.

“Well then, let’s get the day started shall we?”

 


 

A soft rapping at the door halted the debate over how to proceed with the succession in Lydes and Josie called for the door to open. Alistair and Arwynne strode into the war room, hands clasped and both dressed in the golds and reds of House Theirin. Arwynne cut a strikingly beautiful figure in her golden gown, threaded with red mabaris running along the hem. Her hair was pulled back into an braided bun and face powdered with cosmetics. A warrior to the bone, the Warden was still very much the noble woman she had been born. They walked towards the advisors and Ari.

“Good morning!” Wynn said with a grin, skirts swishing as she approached.

Ari returned her smile, nodding her head in deference to them both.

“Thank you for meeting with me so early in the morning. I know you both haven’t seen each other in some time and we’ll be off again soon but I wanted to discuss a rather important matter regarding the Mayor of Crestwood.”

Josie shifted and cleared her throat.

“You have already made a decision then, Inquisitor?"

“Not at all. I believe Their Majesties should be the ones to decide his fate. I mentioned how I closed the rift in Crestwood briefly to you, Wynn, on our way here. What I failed to mention was the role of the Mayor 10 years ago during the Blight.”

The advisors shared a look amongst themselves, remaining silent as the Inquisitor began to explain to both Alistair and Arwynne what the Mayor had done.

“So you see, currently the mayor sits beneath the keep in our dungeons awaiting judgment. We thought it prudent to arrest him for his crimes but I do not believe it is my place to judge him for it. He is a citizen of Ferelden. His crimes were during the Blight and I believe the both of you are much more suited to understanding both the complexity of the situation the type of judgment he should face.”

“He sentenced them all…” Alistair trailed off on his sentence, letting go of Arwynne’s hand to turn to her as he began to stroke his chin. “Have you ever met the man? I can’t say I recall ever travelling to Crestwood directly since taking the throne.”

Wynn shook her head, her face slightly pale as she contemplated the increased death toll of the Blight.

“They would have died eventually, Ali,” It was almost a whisper from between her lips as she looked up at him. “He wanted to save who he could from the horde. We made similar sacrifices. We still do.”

“He also lied about it. For over a decade. The town will hang him even if we don’t.” Alistair sighed, shaking his head slightly, the light and red tunic up-playing the red undertones of his golden hair. “Thank you, Inquisitor for bringing this to our attention. I’ll have some of my men speak to the guards and arrange for a transfer of custody. We appreciate your honesty and assistance.”

“Of course, Your Majesty.”

“Alistair, please. You definitely earned the right to call me by name when you found this little minx and helped to bring her home to me. Well, almost home. Hells, you earned it when you started fixing the holey sky in my Kingdom and helped the Mages when I no longer could.”

Ari chuckled.

“Glad to have been of service. And its only fair that you do the same. My friends call me Ari.”

“Friend is it? Don’t think I can’t see through you, Ari. First you fix my sky. Then you bring me my wife. Soon you’ll be in Denerim with a list of favours owed you and wanting another fancy title and mabari.”

Ari snorted.

“I believe I have enough fancy titles. Not quite a fan of them to be honest.”

“Neither am I. I knew I liked you. Now, how are the mages faring? Grand Enchanter Fiona? Leliana mentioned that they’ve made a village of sorts?”

“Oh yes, down in the valley. You and Arwynne should visit. It’s really quite wonderful to see the little ones learning in the streets and I’m sure Fiona would love to know that there were no hard feelings after Redcliffe.”

“Right, right. Well love, shall we spend our last day pretending to be commoners in the village?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” she said with a smile and wink to the Inquisitor before turning on her heel and leading her husband out into the hall, all the while wondering how she could track down a servant his size to trade clothes with.

“Inquisitor, while I do not doubt your intentions-” Josie began.

“You wish to know why I handed the Mayor over to the King?” 

“Because we are a foreign organization not only living on borrowed land but claiming more and more of it with no official writ from the land’s ruling King. Because we are ungoverned and powerful. Because I am the Inquisitor and I answer to no one. One day, the nobles of this land and others will forget that we were needed. That I defeated Corypheus and healed the sky. Because it will have been long ago. And when the lords and ladies of the realm begin to whisper in the King’s ear that we have grown too powerful, that we have served our purpose and should be put down… He will remember this moment. He will remember that I sought him. That I deferred to him and his rule. And he will not think me a threat."

Ari turned back to her advisors, hands clasped behind her back.

“Now, shall we discuss what to do about the tunnels beneath the Caer?”

Chapter Text

Ari laughed, legs kicking out as she grabbed at her shaking stomach while sitting upon a barrel outside the tavern. 

“Dorian, love…” she said wiping a tear from her eye, “never let her hear you call her that out loud. You’ll be making an enemy.”

Dorian smirked. “I’m an Altus at the service of the Inquisition and a traitor to the succession of the House of Pavus. I already have enemies, what’s another?”

Ari shook her head, jumping off the barrel and sliding her arm to link through Dorian’s as they began to walk back towards the keep.

“Not even the slightest bit fearful of her?"

“What could she possibly do, Princess?” Dorian scoffed.

“Honey in the pants? Frogs in your bedroll? Bees in all sorts of places… She’s done quite a bit to people she kinda likes.”

“Mage. She’s not fond of the magic.”

Ari snorted. “Solas is a mage, Dor. She had no qualms ensuring his bedroll received much attention when they first met.”

“Yes, but Solas does not have my charm.”

Ari rolled her eyes as they approached the main doors.

“Not everyone is as susceptible as you, m’dear.”

“Can’t account for a lack of taste,” she said sticking her nose slightly in the air as they proceeded to head for the back-staircase to her rooms, silence reigning as they began to climb the steps.

“You know, I’ve been meaning to speak to you about the possibility of a memory spell.”

Ari raised her brow and looked over at her friend.

“A memory spell?”

“To recall what you’ve lost. I’ve been reading texts by a Tevene Somniari from a few centuries ago. You’ve mentioned how Solas has shown you memories tied to the Fade? What if you could access yours there? You’ve done it once before already. There was mention of a ritual that could assist in guiding a mage to locate a specific memory tied to the Fade and I believe that perhaps, this could finally give you what you’ve been looking for.”

The duo entered her private study and she turned to face him.

“How soon could it be prepared? And how difficult would it be?” She tried to hide the excitement in her voice.

“I’ve sent to Minrathous for another of the Mage’s journals. There isn’t enough to go on in the works we currently have and our resident Fade Expert is the last person we can ask for assistance. I also sent word to a friend, a young somniari I met a few years ago. I am hoping they may be of some assistance as well.”

Ari threw herself at him and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck.

“Thank you, Dor,” she whispered, shutting her eyes tight. “You have no idea what gift you’ve just given me.”

“Thank me once we’ve seen it work,” he said, stroking her hair as he returned her embrace. “I told you we would figure it all out, Princess.”

She chuckled.

“So you did.”

The door to her chambers opened and Solas shook his head slightly as he saw the pair by her desk.

Vhenan,” she called, letting Dorian go as she moved towards Solas and kissed him on the cheek.

He slid his arm around her waist and kissed her forehead.

Aneth Ara. I believe Iron Bull had been looking for you, Dorian. I ran into him in the library earlier and he was asking after you.”

The mage reddened, shoving his hands into his pockets. Ari quirked an eyebrow.

“Dor?” she questioned.

His head snapped in her direction.

“Don’t you Dor me, Princess. I do not ask you for the dirty little details of your affairs.”

“So its an affair, then?” she smirked.

“That is not- Oh blast it all. It is what it is. I shall see you in the morning,” he said turning on his heel and heading out of her study.

“You shouldn’t tease him so mercilessly. 

“That was hardly teasing, Solas. I simply want him to finally admit that there is a something there between them.” 

“Are you a matchmaker now?”

“Your stories of that spirit of love have inspired me, ma’sal’shiral, what can I say?” she said, wrapping her arms around his neck and giving him a soft kiss. He smiled against her lips.

“I shall have to remember to tell her the next we meet. But come, I have something I’d like to show you,” he said, taking her hand in his and leading her back to the main hall.

“What is it?”

“Patience, da’lan. You will see it soon.”

They walked towards the back halls, heading to Dagna’s undercroft.

“In the undercroft?” she asked as he headed down the stairs. She could hear voices as they descended, muffled through the thick wood of the door. Releasing her hand, he opened the door and stepped through, revealing Arwynne sitting on a table and…

creating a stone sculpture with her hands.

“Arwynne?”

The Warden startled, her stone halla falling to the floor and shattering as she jumped up. Dagna stepped in front of her.

“Inquisitor! Fancy meeting you here. Um… oh! Weapons! Yes, I have them. They’re ready. Specially made, just for you! I made similar ones once. For Wy-“ Dagna cut herself off, eyes darting to the Warden whose face had become an impenetrable mask.

“I’m a mage.”

The words were clipped and to the point, Wynn’s head held in the way only a noble could hold it, hands clasped before her red gown.

“I don’t-“

Well, she did actually. She just didn’t actually think it would be possible even after everything else in this world had fit so perfectly with her stories…

“How did you manage to stay out of the Circles? Keep this hidden when so in the public eye?” Solas inquired, hands clasped behind his back and an intrigued look on his face.

“My father. He was the Teryn of Highever. When I first showed signs of magic at the age of three, he sent word to his sister who had married a Free Marcher with connections to Tevinter. He acquired a tutor in secrecy, bringing them to Highever to help me learn to control myself. When other noble daughters were learning to embroider or play the lute, I read the Collected Letters of Magister Aesthia, The Foundations of Magical Thought and The History of the Fade as Told by a Somniari. I learnt to hide myself from Templars and to hide behind enchanted weapons when fighting. When the Blight came to Ferelden I was seventeen years old. My parents were killed when their vassal, Arl Howe, turned against them in a bid for power. A visiting Grey Warden named Duncan, stole me away from our home and recruited me to save my life. He took me to Ostagar.”

The Warden closed her eyes and took a deep breath before snapping them open again and continuing with her story.

“Alistair and I were the only surviving Grey Wardens after Ostagar. The Witch of the Wilds, Flemeth and her daughter Morrigan saved us. Morrigan came with Alistair and I as we gathered forces by right of ancient Warden treaties to defeat the Darkspawn horde. She was the first person to ever see past my tricks and see me for the mage I was. Perhaps it was because I was hidden away in Highever, never truly in the presence of many Templars or Circle Mages, even when we travelled to Denerim or visited other estates. She taught me what my tutors never did, how to fight with my magic. And how to truly hide. When we saved Kinloch Hold from the abominations… First Enchanter Irving saw me for the Mage I was when I used my magic to defeat a Pride Demon. It was the first time I had ever been exposed. But I was a Warden then, and it no longer mattered. When Alistair proposed… when he made me his Queen… Irving came to Denerim. He asked that I remember the great gift I had received from my parents and told me that he would always remember the day I saved Circle Tower. I knew my secret was safe.”

“And yet you sit here amusing Dagna with tricks?”

“Dagna’s research and understanding of magic-“

“Which I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for her!” the dwarf chimed in.

Wynn smiled. “I read her work and asked if she could enchant weapons to work like a staff. And she did it. She made me my swords and daggers, creating a way for me to channel my magic through them and giving me the perfect disguise for my spells in battle. The general public may not be ready to know that they have a Mage for a Queen, but there are those who know and who keep my secret safe.”

“Fascinating…” Solas murmured, crossing an arm over his chest and raising his hand to his chin.

“And Alistair?” I asked.

“He watched me learn from Morrigan. Guarded my secret since the day he found out.” She snorted. “An ex-templar and an apostate. Love truly does know no bounds.”

“Your secret is safe with the both of us, Wynn.”

The Warden smiled.

“Thank you. I… it has been a long time since I had to worry that someone would see me casting. I let my guard down and forgot where I was. The reminder to be cautious is appreciated. I should be going. Alistair and I still have much to discuss before we part ways again.”

The Warden hugged Dagna before nodding to both Ari and Solas, then headed out the door.

“So. Weapons.” Dagna said, clapping her hands together before darting off to her weapons rack. “They’re very similar in make to what I created for Arwynne. The plans you drew Messere Solas were just… You really do have to share those books of yours. Imagine, smelting the lyrium dust in layers before-“

“Dagna?”

The dwarf turned around, a sheepish look on her face.

“Here,” she said, laying two daggers, a longsword and shortsword on the table. The blades were humming, Elvish script written along the sharp edge. Ari traced her fingers over the cold metal, her mouth dropping open slightly.

 “The Dirth’ena Enasalin used blades such as these in battle. When a young warrior, finished their training, they would have their weapon of choice presented to them, fashioned in magic to represent the connection between their magic and combat prowess. You fight as they do with you magic but your spirit sword may not always be available, particularly against Templars. I thought perhaps, you would like-“ 

Ari had been staring at him with wonder in her eyes as he spoke, trying to process what he had done for her. She cut him off, launching herself at him and kissed him repeatedly.

“Solas.” Kiss. “I can’t even begin-“ Kiss. “This is beyond anything I-“ Kiss.

Dagna coughed, her cheeks pink and a grin on her face.

“You like them?”

Ari laughed.

“I love them! How did you ever find the time to fashion these with everything you do?!”

She released Solas, picking up the shortsword and twirled it with her wrist. The blade quickly became covered in lightning. The balance was perfect, it was light and it fit in her hand like it was meant to be there. She stared at the sword, feeling her magic run through the metal as it had tried to so many times before in staves.

“Solas… I…”

She swung her blade in a wide arc towards a practice dummy in the far right corner, bolts of energy flying off and setting the straw on fire.

She grinned.

“This, this I’m going to enjoy.”

Chapter Text

“I don’t like this.”

“I know you don’t.”

“We need you home, Wynn.”

Ari tried to not listen in as the Warden said farewell to her husband. Alistair had come down with her, helping her strap in her packs to her horse and was currently holding her in his arms. Ari kept her eyes downcast, walking past the couple and finding Leliana waiting with Cullen outside the stables.

“You should say goodbye as well, Leliana.”

The spymaster raised a brow. Ari moved closer.

“You may not get another chance,” she whispered just loud enough for the woman to hear. Leliana cleared her throat.

“You’re right, of course. Cullen, I’m sure you can fill Ari in on the scouts findings.”

Ari turned to Cullen as Leliana walked off.

“Leliana’s scouts found some missives in the Emerald Graves on some lyrium smugglers. We believe we may have found the primary source of red lyrium for the Red Templars. There’s a quarry in Sahrnia in Emprise du Lion. We sent a small party there but have not heard back.”

Ari nodded.

“I’ll investigate after the Western Approach. Is everything ready?”

“We’ll mobilize in four days. Should reach the Western Approach just a week after you. Do your best to avoid too much time in the Dales. The Orlesian civil war is heating up. Lost a few men on scouting parties trying to keep communications open between us and the Orlesians.”

“Will do, Cullen. I appreciate it.” Ari turned to join her companions who were already mounted and ready to go. Alistair stood with Leliana, a frown marking his face.

“We should get going. We’re wasting light as it is and the journey will be long,” Wynn said as she nudged her horse towards the bridge, her fellow Wardens falling in line with her.

Ari approached Nehn and deftly pulled herself up onto her saddle, leading her out of the courtyard and onto the bridge.

“We’re going to have to make the most of our days if we are going to arrive in time for that meeting,” Wynn said.

“We’ll make it. Once we’re through the Frostbacks, the ride gets easier. Better roads in Orlais. Though, the whole business with the civil war might impede us a bit, come to think of it,” Hawke said as she pushed her horse forward, coming between Wynn and Ari.

“I think we’ll need to avoid the main highways in the Emerald Graves. Leliana provided me with a map of the area and the most recent locations of war camps. Our scouts have been back and forth with Gaspard’s men.”

“Getting involved in Orlesian politics, Ari?” Wynn raised a brow in her direction.

“More like being forced to play politics for support against Corypheus.”

“Coryphi-shite!” Sera called from the back.

The group chuckled as they all moved into a quicker trot as they approached the mid-way point of the bridge.

“Ferelden is behind you. Whatever you need. Alistair and Josephine are working on a treaty, hence why he’s staying back at Skyhold.” Wynn looked to the sky briefly. “It’s a good day to ride. Think we can be out of the Frostbacks by tomorrow’s camp if we ride hard,” she said before setting off at a gallop.

 


 

“You know m’dear, when we asked to go somewhere warm, we didn’t necessarily mean blistering heat,” Dorian said as he slid a hand through his hair.

“I would have thought that you would have been used to this. Isn’t it warm in Tevinter?” Ari asked, slipping off her horse and taking her canteen for a drink, letting her hands frost over the metal to cool the water.

“The key word there, Princess, is warm.”

Bull laughed. “Easy there, Dor. Be glad it’s a dry heat and not the humid jungles of Par Vollen. Now that is a blistering heat.”

“Quiet. We don’t want to alert them to our presence,” Hawke said as they left their horses to get closer to the broken down structure ahead of them.

They had spent the better part of the last two weeks riding hard to reach the Western Approach, avoiding almost all traces of the Orlesian civil war thanks to Leliana, though they still managed to find over a dozen fade rifts. They had gone through the Dales so fast, Ari had barely a moment to appreciate the beauty of them let alone explore any ruins. Luckily she had her nights in the Fade with Solas to see some of the many events that had happened there, short as they were. Cullen had sent a scout to their camp to let her know that they would be arriving en masse by tomorrow evening. Most of their party was currently battling the Venatori at Griffon Wing Keep with Harding and some of her scouts, leaving Hawke, Wynn, Bull, Dorian, Ari and Nathaniel to interrupt the clandestine Warden meeting.

Silently, they approached, Wynn somehow disappearing in the sunlight and slitting the throats of the two guards stationed at the bottom of the steps. She motioned her head up the stairs and they quickened their pace as they heard the sound of arguing up ahead.

They cleared the top of the stairs and Ari clenched her fists as she heard the sound of Nathaniel drawing out his sword.

“Inquisitor. What an unexpected pleasure. Lord Livius Erimon-“

“Stand down.” The words were cold and clipped, Wynn’s voice booming over Erimond as she stared at the Wardens around them.

“Your Majesty. What a surprise. A little far from home, aren’t you? Bit out of your jurisdiction.”

“The Wardens' jurisdiction is Thedas, my lord. And you will not hand it to Corypheus. Wardens, Clarel has been playing you for fools. Blood magic? To end the Blight? Are we so naïve to think that if this were truly possible it would not have been done already? That there would be no need for Wardens any longer?”

Erimond laughed.

“Oh, were you hoping to garner sympathy? Maybe make the Wardens feel a bit of remorse? Wardens, hands up. Hands down.”

The wardens moved with Erimond.

“You’ve taken their minds!” Nathaniel took a step forward.

“Ah, ah, ah. They did this to themselves. You see, the Calling had the Wardens terrified. They looked everywhere for help. And since it was my master who put the Calling into their little heads, we in the Venatori were prepared. I went to Clarel full of sympathy, and together we came up with a plan… Raise a demon army, march into the deep roads and kill the Old Gods before they wake.”

“Well, looks like the demon army finally showed up, Boss.”

“Oh, you knew about that did you? Well, then. Here you are. Sadly for the Wardens. The binding ritual I taught them has a side effect. They are now my master’s slaves. This was a test. Once the rest of the Wardens complete the ritual, the army will conquer Thedas.”

“Do you really want to see the world fall to the Blight? What do you get out of this?” Hawke asked in disbelief.

“Power. The Venatori only care about power.”

“Of course, you would know, Lord Pavus.”

“You’re not going to get away with this, Erimond. The Archon wants nothing to do with you officially. Such a lack of faith should tell you that you are destined to fail.”

“Do you honestly think you can stand against me with just demons and a fade rift? Did Corypheus not mention what I did to the breach?”

“He did. He also noted what he did you at Haven,” Erimond smirked, raising his hand.

Ari fell to the ground with a cry, grasping her left hand, her mark sparking and thrumming with a searing pain.

“The Elder One showed me how to deal with you, in the event that you were foolish enough to interfere again. That mark you bear? The anchor that lets you pass safely through the veil? You stole that from my master. He’s been forced to seek other ways to access the Fade. When I bring him your head, his gratitude will be-“

Ari raised her arm and pulled, clenching her jaw shut tight as she snapped the rift shut and thrust Erimond back against the wall of the tower.

“Think again,” Ari muttered as she pulled out her sword, grateful for the nights she had spent with Wynn and Cassandra practicing with the swords that Solas had crafted for her. She felt its weight in her hand as she swung, barely hearing Erimond scream for the demons and wardens to attack. It was over quickly, their party covered in blood and demon ichor.

Wynn looked around for the Venatori mage, throwing her daggers at a corpse on the ground and screamed in outrage when she realized he had escaped.

“The bastard got away! We have to stop him before he does this to more Wardens.” She swung around and took a few quick steps to stand before Ari. “We need to storm Adamant and end this madness!”

Desperation clung to the Warden’s voice.

“That’s madness in and of itself. Even with the Inquisiton scouts we are barely a force of 50. Taking Griffon Wing is one thing, Adamant houses all of the Wardens in Thedas. There are near five thousand of them! Let alone the fact that the keep has never been taken in modern history.” Nathaniel grabbed Wynn’s arm and spun her around. “You need to be rational.”

“She is. Cullen should be here tomorrow with the bulk of the Inquisition forces. And siege weapons.” Ari stepped over to the corpse housing Wynn’s weapons and pulled them out with a sucking sound. She turned and handed them back to Wynn. “We’re going to stop Corypheus. I promise you that.”

Chapter Text

Ari unravelled her braids as she sat near a small fire on the highest level of Griffon Wing Keep. Cullen had arrived with the Inquisition forces shortly after the keep was taken by the small group led by Cassandra; a day earlier than expected. Their army of over six thousand had set up camp in and around the keep; a little more than half their forces. She had spent that last three hours going over every detail that the Wardens knew about Adamant, their defenses and numbers. While the Inquisition may outnumber them… they still had the advantage. Her companions were preparing, trying to find some rest before the battle ahead.

How far we’ve come from wide-eyed awe at the Breach… And tomorrow I will decide who remains in the Fade…

“Can I have a moment?”

Ari looked up into the darkened eyes of Wynn, her train of thought broken.

“Of course.”

Ari stood, following Wynn as she led her towards an alcove in the southwest corner of the keep. She watched with interest as Wynn drew a glyph on the wall for silence.

“Morrigan, a Witch of the Wilds, taught me many things during and after the blight. Handy trick for when you don’t want others to hear what you need to say,” she commented as she turned back around to face Ari. She began to wring her fingers together and took a deep breath.

“I am not sure how much you know about myself or Alistair and I realize we have not known each other for very long but I feel like I can trust you. And Leliana trusts you, which is by far the biggest compliment one could ever receive. You remember Grand Enchanter Fiona, yes? Well… she’s Alistair’s mother.”

Ari stared at the Warden, waiting for her to continue.

“Shortly after the Blight, Alistair retrieved the rest of a Warden named Duncan’s belongings, among them a journal where he learnt the truth about his heritage. Their relationship is complicated, but its part of the reason Redcliffe was chosen as a safe haven for the mages and why he was so upset by their betrayal.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because I want you to understand exactly what I am asking from you. Alistair is half elf. And though our daughter is not even half… she has elven features. And magic.”

“What?”

Ari stood there slightly dumbfounded. This was… new? She had written about Wynn and Alistair trying to have a child but in all honesty, she had never gotten to them having one. So this daughter was quite the surprise.

“My daughter, the heir to the throne of Ferelden is a mage with the ears of an elf.”

“That’s impossible. Children that come from human and elf parents take on human features. Alistair’s ears are human.”

Wynn ran her fingers through her hair, pulling parts of it loose from her bun.

“I know. But she did not. She looks more elf than human half the time. And she’s a mage. I’ve done my best to teach her how to control her magic. Thank the maker her hair is thick and long. I honestly don’t know what they would do to her if they knew. Maker’s breath, half the nobles would accuse me of adultery and name her Zevran’s bastard. Humans are… cruel. We’ve encountered so much resistance to the changes we’ve pushed through for the alienages, city elves and the Dalish that roam Ferelden... Our memory is short and already so many have forgotten what the Dalish did for us during the Blight.”

Wynn leaned back against the stonewall and crossed her arms over her chest, looking at the floor.

“I am going to die one day. Soon. I know it. Wardens’ lives are short lived and soon the calling will truly come for me. I’ve been a Warden for over a decade already. And when that day comes, I’m scared what that will mean for my little girl.”

She looked up at Ari.

“I know that what I am asking is a lot. Especially for someone you’ve just met and who is practically a stranger to you still. But I would like to send her to you. When this business with Corypheus is over. Would you foster her at Skyhold? Train her in secret? And help keep her safe from those who would harm her?”

Ari took a small step back in shock.

“I could very well die fighting Corypheus.”

Wynn offered a wan smile.

“Something tells me that isn’t going to happen.”

Ari scoffed.

“You have more faith than I do.”

“You sell yourself and your companions short. Corypheus has no idea what is coming for him.”

Ari looked away and something constricted in her chest; a pull, a tug… something that told her she needed to do this.

“Of course I will.”

Wynn laughed in relief, the tension slipping out of her.

“Thank the Maker. I’ve asked so much of you in so little time. Trusted you with such secrets. You have no idea how grateful I am.”

 


 

The roar of catapults surrounded them as they ran under the shields of warriors protecting them as they pushed forward with the battering ram. Ari tried to look away from the fallen soldiers littering the ground closest to the keep. The crack of split wood thundered across the battlefield and she followed her soldiers into the lower bailey of the fortress. She felt a spell against her shields and pulled lightening from the sky to attack the Wardens rushing at them to cover their retreating numbers and assist Bull and Blackwall as they fought against them. 

“We’ll keep their main forces occupied and do our best to keep most of them alive. Ari, best make use of the time we can give you, we’ll hold out as long as we can.”

“Don’t put our men at too much risk. Pull back if you have to.”

“Once we’ve dealt with Clarel, the rest will fall in line. They’ll see what they’ve done, Commander.” Wynn sheathed her twin blades at her waist and took a step towards Cullen.

“You’ve come a long way from Kinloch,” she said as offered him her hand, clasping his forearm in her own as she looked up into his eyes. “It has been a privilege to see you again, Cullen.”

“Your Majesty…”

Wynn smiled. “It’s Wynn, Cullen. Just Wynn.”

Ari looked to the battlements. “Solas, Dorian, Nathaniel, Oghren, and Anders are with Wynn and I. We’ll meet Hawke on the battlements. The rest of you stay with Cullen.”

“Understood. Be careful, Aryael. The Wardens are desperate.”

“I’m always careful, Cass!” she called before taking off at a jog.

“Defend their advance!” Cullen roared as he drew his sword once more.

“This is madness,” Carver whispered as they came upon a group of Wardens and demons.

“It’s always madness where the Warden goes, kid.”

Oghren hacked away at demons with his axe while Wynn knocked the Wardens unconscious.

“Stay back! We will not be sacrificed for an insane ritual!”

“Finally, a voice of reason,” Nathaniel grunted as he pushed back against a shade.

They dealt with the demons and continued forward towards the voice.

“Not all the Wardens agree with Clarel.”

“And yet here we are. The Wardens have gone too far.”

“Solas, Dorian, debating the morality of what has happened is far from helpful when fighting our way through a bloody battle!” Ari yelled, dodging a blow from a Warden around the bend.

They came upon a small band of Wardens fighting against demons, Venatori and a few other Wardens.

“It’s no use! They’re enslaved! Fall back to safety and let us deal with Clarel!”

“Is that the Warden-Commander of Ferelden?”

Wynn drove her short sword through a Venatori mage while Anders sent flames licking at the demons nearby.

“You’ve been deceived by Clarel. Listen to our Commander and fall back!” Nathaniel bellowed. “The Inquisition is not here to kill Wardens but to stop Clarel from making a grave mistake.”

“We’ll stand down. Deal with Clarel as you must, Commander.” They bent the knee before falling back.

“Heh heh, didn’t want to be spitting teeth out of their arses after all,” Oghren said swinging his axe up to rest on his shoulder.

“We need to keep moving. Hawke can’t hold the battlements on their own.”

“Hawke isn’t alone, Anders. She has Fenris and Varric.”

Anders scoffed.

“I stand by what I said.”

They climbed the steps with weapons drawn and ready, breaking through waves of demons and tried to avoid harming the Wardens. Bodies dropped around them as they made their way down the battlements and the sounds of Carver, Fenris and Varric counting their knock-outs.

“And here I thought you were going to miss all the fun, Dimples,” Varric called as he sent a bolt from Bianca through a despair demon.

“Can’t let you take all the credit now, Varric,” Ari called as she hit the pommel of her dagger on a Wardens temple, knocking him out cold.

A loud crack warned her a split second before the chain of lightening from a Pride demon hit her side. She whipped around and thrust her hand out pushing the demon back with an energy blast as she clutched her left rib and sent a small wave of healing magic to soothe the burn.

You let your guard down,” Solas growled as he came to her side.

Scolding after we defeat Erimond and Clarel, vhenan,” she whispered hotly as she reinforced her shields.

Carver, Oghren and Fenris had the Pride demon occupied while Nathaniel and Varric shot down the despair demons. Wynn was getting the unconscious Wardens out of harm’s way with some Inquisition soldiers and Hawke and Dorian were dealing with the remaining Venatori mages. Ari and Solas called hail and lightening from the sky, the storms mixing together to lay waste to the remaining enemies on the field as Fenris climbed the Pride demon to slit its throat.

“We need to keep moving. Soldiers tire, but demons do not and there’s no telling how many have already fallen to Erimond’s blood magic.”

“Hawke’s right. Let’s get a move on.” Wynn wiped her brow with her wrist, getting some blood into her hair from her gloves.

“We need to get to the main courtyard. That’s where Erimond and Clarel are,” Nathaniel pulled some arrows out of a corpse and placed them back in his quiver.

“Inquisition, the Wardens are not prisoners. We’re here to aid them. Disarm, but do not kill them if you can help it.”

Their party rounded the battlements, deftly removing the demons in their path as they ran down the steps to the main bailey’s gate that led to the main courtyard.

“Do you feel that? The thrum of the magic…” Anders whispered in awe.

Oghren and Carver burst through the gate just as Erimond approached Clarel to let go of ceremony.

“Stop them! We must complete the ritual!”

“Clarel, you complete that ritual and you are doing exactly what Erimond wants!”

“What, fighting the Blight? Keeping the world safe from Darkspawn? Who wouldn’t want that? And yes, the ritual requires blood sacrifice. Hate me for that if you must, but do not hate the Wardens for doing their duty, your Majesty, because you shirk yours!”

“We make the sacrifices no one else will… Our warriors die proudly for a world that will never thank them.”

“You think I don’t know sacrifice, Clarel? I fought in the last Blight! I watched on in horror as the Wardens of Ferelden fell because of the greatest of betrayals. What do you know of sacrifice? A few escapades in the deep roads? You know nothing of what I have done or seen. And you spit on the order while you bind these honourable men and women to Corypheus.”

“Corypheus? But he’s dead.”

“These people will say anything to shake your confidence, Clarel.”

The silence was sharp.

“Bring it through.”

“Damn you for a fool, Clarel. You have no idea what you have done!”

“Wardens, please! Blood magic is never worth the cost,” Hawke begged as they turned on them.

Erimond’s voice was lost to the sputtering of the Fade rift before them.

“Listen to me! I have no quarrel with the Wardens! I have spared those that I could! Warden-Commander Theirin and I don’t want to kill you, but you’re being used… and some of you know it, don’t you?”

“The mages who have done the ritual? They’re not right. They were my friends but now they are like puppets on a string.”

“You cannot let fear sway your mind, Warden Chernoff!”

“He’s not afraid. You are. You’re afraid that you ordered all these brave men and women to die for nothing!”

“Don’t let more die because of Corypheus’ trickery, Clarel. You know me. Please!”

“Warden-Commander Theirin is right! Some of you have been stationed with her at Vigil’s Keep. Some of you were there at the end of the Blight! She is the bravest and most honourable of us all and she would not be here, against us like this, if we weren’t wrong!” Velanna said as she stepped forward, looking at her fellow Wardens.

Clarel turned to Erimond.

“Clarel, we have come so far. You’re the only one who can do this.”

“Perhaps we could test the truth of these charges to avoid more bloodshed.”

“Or perhaps I should bring in a more reliable ally. “ Erimond turned to face Aryael. “My Master thought you might come here, Inquisitor! He sent me this to welcome you!”

A roar filled the sky as the black wings of the red lyrium ridden dragon took the skies and attacked, sending stone tumbling down toward them all as they perched atop a tower.

Clarel blasted Erimond with her staff.

“Clarel, wait…”

The dragon roared, opening its maw to send blasts of corrupted fire at the Wardens.

“Help the Inquisitor and Commander Theirin!”

Demons littered the courtyard while Clarel took off after Erimond and the dragon.

“We can’t let her face them on her own!” Wynn called, dodging an icy blast from a despair demon.

“Take cover!”

Ari ran with Solas and Dorian to crouch behind a large stone as the dragon raged in the court