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Smith From Another Land

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The chains remained. Tight like leashes on her body. The wood plank around her wrists was useless but there was no point dealing with those as the other chains held her down. The cell was small and dark but it was dry at least. There was no window that gave her the illusion of the outside world. Just the one in the door that hinted at a world beyond this. Two guards were stationed out there like usual. She could hear them talking but she understood little of what was being said. There was only one word among many that she had come to realize referred to her.

Demon.

It was as foreign as the rest but they seemed to think it was her, whatever it meant. She could guess by the tone and the way the guards looked at her. While they varied, it was clear that the word was nothing good.

They had come to her several times to talk to her. It was always the dark haired woman, but there were times she had a companion who seemed unusually fond of hoods. They all seemed to think she was responsible for something and she could not even figure out what that was. She remembered being in the ancient ruins, following Fingers as he led the way to some ancient treasure, and knee deep in stagnant water.

There was nothing that could explain this hostility. There were plenty of things in her past that would make someone irrationally angry at her but there had been nothing in recent memory to any one that was not from the area. She would certainly remember pissing off anyone like the angry woman or whomever she was serving.

Demon!

She was getting tired of being called that. Every day, one of the guards would take it upon themselves to call her that word. One even had the nerve to try and hit her. It had been glorious to watch him stumble backwards after she landed her forehead square against his nose. Some of his blood even splattered on her face but she did not care. It just felt good to do something. She could not keep the smile off her face as the guard staggered away.

She was still grinning when other guards came to beat her into unconsciousness.



She no longer knew how long she had been in the dungeon. Time seemed to fade into one unending blur of days. Her body ached from being chained but no other guards attempted to be foolish. They had also stopped speaking to her which was a bonus in her mind. She was content to die in silence in this hole then have to hear them call her strange words in their language.

It was a bit surprising when she heard the door swing open and the approach of footsteps. She frowned at the people that were studying her. One was that Imperial woman who seemed to be in charge of her but her companion this time was an elf or at least that is what she assumed. He did not look like any elf she had encountered. He apparently shaved his head which was rather amusing to her. His features were similar but they were just a little less sharp and he was short.

“By the forge, you're short.” She mumbled under her breath at him but sat up to get a better look at him. He didn't smell like the others but then, that might have just been an elf smell as he was the first elf she had seen since she'd been locked in here.

He looked at her intently and she merely stared back at him. He was definitely not one of the high elves who sought to force their beliefs on the rest of the world but there was something about him that set her on edge. Not that anything about this situation put her at peace anyway.

She kept watching as he conversed with the dark haired woman again. She had no clue what the two of them were saying but she guessed it had to do with her, especially with how animated his hands were becoming when pointing at her.

It was slightly amusing to watch as it became clear that he seemed to be objecting to her treatment.

It was, however, surprising that he came over to her and grabbed the wooden brace around her wrists. He said something harsh towards the other woman and shook the wood. It was a little jarring but she paid it no mind.

Clearly it had some effect on the woman as she came over with a key. Ara felt her eyes going wide and she could not help pulling her hands up towards the key in a clear motion.

The dark haired woman said some harsh words at her and then more harsh words at the elf before she finally unlocked the part of the chains that held her to the floor.

Ara could not help the relief as she heard the iron hit the floor. She shuffled a little but got to her feet and straightened up. Her muscles were stiff and sore from crouching so long but it was better then still being chained down. She rolled her neck and then her shoulders, trying to relieve the tension that tightened across those muscles. There was an audible pop which seemed to echo in the cell. With a blink of her dark red eyes, she realized the entire troop was now staring at her.

“What?” She asked as if they could understand.

The elf said something to the other woman before moving to place a hand on the wood around her wrists. There were more things said but Ara merely shrugged. She had no idea what he was saying to her. Then he did something that none of the others had bothered to do.

“Solas.” He said as he pointed to himself.

She blinked before grinning. She made an awkward gesture towards him and repeated.

“Solas.” Then she pulled her hands back and tapped on her chest. “Ara.”

The elf beamed at her like she was a child but she paid it no mind as he then motioned for her to follow him. There was a brief glimmer of hope that he was taking her outside but she also regarded it warily.

“You better not be leading me to my execution.” Ara managed with a laugh before she followed.

The dungeon was much smaller then she thought it would be and the stairwell was clearly not meant for those taller then the human and elf. It was kind of amusing how they both seemed to be trying to intimidate each other. The human woman was fit and had the look of a fighter but the elf had the look of a survivor. He also seemed to carry himself around like he knew more then everyone else.

Probably true, he was an elf and nearly every one of those she had met had been holier then thou assholes.

“Ara.”

She stopped when the elf said her name and put up a hand at the door way. He said more words she did not understand but there was something in his voice that almost seemed like a warning. Ara frowned but nodded. Whatever he said, she was going to follow with caution. Lest there be more guards who needed broken noses.

He pushed open the door and they stepped out into a grand hall. There were pillars and those fancy tapestries hung between them. She did not recognize the symbol but it was everywhere. She bit back any comment and merely followed the others through the hall. There were people in a variety of clothing but the most common theme seemed to be white and red robes but boy did they love to stare.

She had become accustomed to being stared at but this was something else. They were not staring because she had just come back from spelunking in some god forsaken ruin or that she had wiped another bandit group from existence. No, these stares were the looks someone gave something unknown that they had decided to fear and hate on principle.

She wished she knew the words in their language to tell them all to piss off.

Solas seemed to understand as he glanced back at her with a wry smile. She did her best to give a thumbs up and a smile but it was awkward with how her hands were bound. That smile only widened when she began to hear the sound of rain and then got to see the outside world as they opened the door for her.

She stepped outside and stood on the steps. Her head tilted back as she just let the rain hit her face. She felt one of the guards try to push her forward but she stood her ground. The shove got harsher and she still did not move. Ara made an annoyed snort noise as the guard looked ready to draw his sword on her.

The dark haired woman acted before any one else did, barking out a sharp command at the offending guard. Ara continued smiling at the rain but watched the guard out of the corner of her eye. She remembered him as the friend of the one who got his nose broken. They had both seemed to be very hot headed.

Perhaps he intended to take the moment of being outside as his chance for a little revenge on her or maybe he had some other lofty ideas, Ara simply did not care. Her world focused down to just him and her. She zoned out every other sound, even that delightful sound of rain. The moment she saw him make a lunge in her direction, she dodged to the side in a fluid motion.

Her knee came up in a solid blow to his midsection just as both of her hands came down in an axe handle smash to the back of his head.

She stepped back and put her hands in the air in case the other guards got it in their heads to start beating on her again. Solas was looking at her with a strange look so she gave him a smile and shrug. The Imperial woman was once more barking orders and Ara saw that she had drawn her sword.

The Imperial woman spoke to Solas again, her voice irritated but overly calm. He responded equally as calm but Ara could see the faint twitch of his cheek. She had no clue why, guessing maybe he was amused or perhaps he was irritated.

“Ara.” Solas said and motioned to her once more.

She blinked and glanced towards the Imperial but the woman was already busying herself with the guard who was unconscious for his efforts. Ara glanced back to Solas and he motioned again. Shrugging to herself, she moved to follow and walked with him.

Ara managed to keep her attention n where they were going instead of getting distracted with the simple joy of being outside. The faint but unmistakable noise of a hammer on an anvil got her a little more excited but she pushed that away until later. She doubted these people would let her around a hammer. She just hoped they had not decided to try and do away with her gear.

Solas remained silent as he led her towards a series of tiny houses that were out of the way of the main area of the village. For it was a village, she had realized.

He led her to one of the houses and pointed to it.

“Solas.”

She blinked, suddenly thinking that Solas was not his name.

“Ara.” He pointed to one of the other houses next to his.

He did it again and she just stared. She was not a stupid creature but it still took several repeats for her to realize. His house and her house. She grimaced at the thought of the four walls and shook her head.

“Ara.” She said and pointed to a large rock that was against the wall surrounding the village.

Solas sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration.

“Solas.” Ara said, trying to make him understand. When he looked at her, she pointed at the house that was his and nodded. “Solas.” Then she pointed at the house that he had said was her's and she shook her head. She pointed once more at the rock and then moved to sit with her back against it. “Ara.”

Solas was clearly far more understanding then she was as he suddenly smiled and nodded. She felt a bit of elation that he had because she had no interest in going inside that wooden building. Ara had been penned up for so long that she just wanted to be in the open air, even if it was raining.

Solas approached her and she could see a key in his hand. She blinked up at him before grinning. Ara lifted up her arms for him but the moment he got close enough to put the key in the lock, she decided to make a point known. Pulling outward and flexing her arms, she caused the wood to splinter and break like it was fully rotten.

She could not help the cackle that came at the look on his face. She almost fell over sideways laughing as he back pedalled a few steps. He angrily said a few words in that strange language of theirs and she merely smiled at him. Solas gave a sigh at her and went into the house.

She thought about leaving but she was not going to go anywhere without her things. That and she had no idea where she was. So long as these people were not planning on killing her, this was as good a place as any. She closed her eyes and leaned against the rock, not caring as the rain soaked her through and through. It felt like it was washing the grime of the cell from her body. The smell of rain was perfect after smelling that cell for Malecath knows how long.

Ara peeked an eye open when she heard the sound of a nearby door opening. Sure enough, there was the elf returning. He looked a little annoyed at the rain, or possibly her for making him be out in the rain, but he moved to place a stool on the ground near her and sit. He had an assortment of things in his hands but they did not seem to be getting wet with the rain.

She guessed it was magic of some sort but she paid little attention to that thought as he presented her with a book. Ara stared at it blankly before he spoke. Like before, he was careful to pronounce the word and point at the object. He laid it in his lap and then held out a cup to her. Again, he said a single word and pointed at it.

Suddenly it dawned on her.

Forges help her, he was trying to teach her words.

 

Chapter Text

Varric watched the commotion from down the hill. He had been as surprised as anyone when Solas had stepped out with the woman behind him. She had been wearing a threadbare shirt and simple pants but there was no mistaking that form. She had the look of a warrior and definitely had the muscles for it. He had thought she was a Qunari at first but then, he had never seen a green skinned Qunari before or one with tusks.

She did not seem to understand anything that was being said around her and Solas seemed to be the only person she was listening to. Varric watched with fascination as this giant of a woman, nearly twice his height, just stood with the rain falling on her face. She definitely did not have the look of a guilty person. Maybe one who had been kept inside for far too long but definitely not like she was the cause of the rift in the sky.

He wondered how he could work her into a story as she just had that physique. He continued to watch and could easily see the guard that was trying to prod her into moving.

“Don't do it kid...” He mumbled under his breath. She had the same look as an old friend of his and he definitely had the feeling that she would react just as badly if the guard kept prodding at her.

Sure enough, it happened in a blink of an eye. The guard lunged and she seemed to dance around him.

“Andraste's tits.” Varric said as he watched it unfold.

She hit the guard, the guard went down and she backed away with her hands up. He resisted chuckling as she just smiled like a proud little puppy. Most of the other guards looked like they were ready to shit themselves. The only people who seemed to do anything then was Cassandra who started barking orders.

He was not close enough to hear but there was definitely some chastising as the guards made off with the unconscious one followed by her telling something to Solas. Something about Chuckles' face made it clear he just got nominated to continue on with the green woman.

She even seemed confused, herself. Varric could see it on her face, and could not help but laugh when she followed after Solas like an obedient little puppy.

Yeah, she was definitely going into his stories.

 

Chapter Text

The rain had stopped but it was still several hours before Solas stopped pointing at things and naming them. He seemed almost irritated with the idea which was something she had in common with him. She wasn't even sure how much help knowing that the book was called “Book” and the ground was called “Ground”.

Ara was getting irritated with this whole situation. She just wanted to go do whatever she was supposed to do.

“Alduin!” She said with a start before looking at the elf. “I was supposed to fight Alduin, in Sovengarde! Is this Sovengarde?”

He looked at her with a look which said he clearly had no idea what she was saying. She sighed in frustration and tried to think of how to explain what Alduin and Sovengarde was but there was nothing coming to mind.

Ara tilted her head back and ignored him as he started chattering more of those strange words at her. Her eyes went heavenward. The clearing clouds gave her a first hand view of the angry green sky above them.

How in the hell didn't I notice that? She just stared at it.

“Ara?” Solas had a question in his voice but didn't say anything.

She glanced back down at him before stabbing a finger in the air towards the hole in the sky. It looked unlike anything she had ever seen but there was a sense of familiarity about it. Perhaps it was like Dragon Rend or some other strange thu'um.

Solas started gibbering again in his language and she sighed at him.

She pointed at the book in his lap. “Book.” She pointed at him. “Solas.” Pointed to herself. “Ara.” And then she pointed to the thing in the sky with a questioning look.

It was a good thing that she had a gift with words, even if it was usually for Dovahzul as opposed to other languages. It was coming in handy now.

“Breach.” He responded with a thoughtful expression.

“Breach?” Ara frowned. The thing in the sky was called a Breach but she was not exactly sure what that word meant.

Solas seemed to understand her confusion and went into his little hut. He returned a few minutes later with a piece of cloth and a knife. He held up the cloth so she could see it was completely whole and then stabbed through it with the knife.

“Breach.”

A hole. The Breach was a hole. Ara understood that easily enough and she couldn't help but pull her lips back in a grimace.

He nodded at her, clearly knowing that she understood what he had demonstrated. He said a few other words but she only really understood Breach, Sky and Bad. That was clear enough for her.

Ara went silent for a moment as she tried to figure out how to convey what she was thinking. This did not look like any village she knew of in Skyrim but she was not going to turn away from helping if she could. She rather liked living and a breach in the sky was something that would threaten her as well.

She pointed to herself and then pointed at the Breach. Frowning for a moment before making swinging motions like she would with a sword or a hammer.

Solas looked at her in surprise before he nodded. He said some other words to her but she completely had no idea what he was trying to say to her. It was becoming a bit of a headache for her.

Thankfully, his attention was suddenly diverted by the arrival of another elf. Solas' attention was completely enraptured with the girl and Ara watched the two of them cautiously. They were both speaking in that strange language and Solas seemed almost excited.

Ara watched the woman a little longer. The female elf was shorter then Solas with dirt brown hair and green eyes, pretty enough for an elf but she looked almost like a cross between a human and a wood elf. Not quite angular enough to be one of the other elves she was used to. Perhaps it was a softness of youth as the woman seemed far younger then Solas. She also didn't smell the same as Solas. There was a faint hint of something but it was nothing like the almost electric smell of the male elf.

Then the girl's hand crackled with the same green energy that seemed to have torn open the sky into that Breach. It raised the hair on the back of Ara's neck and the Dragonborn wasted no time getting to her feet. She let out a breath as she started to pull magic to herself to summon a weapon into existence.

“Ara. No!” Solas' voice was stern and he had whirled to face her with his hand up. He interposed his body between her and the female elf. There was a strange look on his face as he stared back at her.

Ara bared her teeth at the elf but stopped mid cast, dropping her hand to her side. She pointed at the female elf then pointed at the sky. “Breach.”

Solas blinked before quickly shaking his head. “No.” He said again for emphasis. “Ellana.”

Ara glared at the young woman who seemed to shrink a little behind the other elf. Solas was looking at back at Ara with a look that clearly said this was unacceptable.

Ara threw her hands up in the air and turned around to sit back at the rock. She closed her eyes and let the two of them talk. Ignoring them completely but she knew the woman was speaking in her direction every now and again. It was irritating but then, everything was irritating about this place.

Solas didn't return to begin teaching her words, instead, he gave her a disgusted look and went into his little house. Just as well, she was in no mood for more childlike education.

Ara crossed her arms and leaned back against the stone. She was too stubborn to go into the house despite feeling herself drift off.

To hell with them and their houses. She thought as she fell asleep.



She knew she was dreaming. She had become aware of the difference between dream and reality ever since she took the first dragon soul into herself.

She stretched and could feel her dragon-self. These had always been the dreams she loved best. The ones where she felt complete, where she felt whole.

Some how, there were still chains on her limbs. There was even a pair on her wings. She snarled as she tried to struggle against the metal holding her in place. She wanted to fly! To roam the skies of her dreamworld. Yet, she was lashed down like some common animal.

Easy.” The voice had her zeroing in on a form that approached. There was concern in the voice but there was also awe. It stepped out of the shadows to reveal itself as a large black wolf with several pairs of red eyes.

Grohiik.” She said in Dovahzul, her voice angry. “Have you bound me to this place?”

No.” It responded as it edged closer. “You have done this yourself.”

I doubt that.” She tilted her head and strained against the chains in her wings, she could feel it beginning to tear.

Stop! You will only injure yourself.” The wolf said again.

What does it matter?” She stopped moving and glared at the wolf who was much smaller in form. “I must be freed.”

Then free yourself without destroying yourself.” The wolf seemed almost curious.

You speak as if that is as easy as breathing.”

This is your dream, is not, irmorisenatha?” There was a laugh in the wolf's voice.

A dream that is not a dream.” Dragon-Ara responded. “If I had the power to control it, I would not have imagined chains to bind me.”

Then allow me to help you this once.” It was almost a question.

Very well, grohiik.”

The chains fell away from her form, dropping with a clang of metal to the floor. Ara rumbled her approval as she shook the tiredness from her limbs and stretched her wings out. The real world version of this place had been far smaller and yet she found enough room for her huge form. Her head angled back as she stretched out her neck before she leaned down to peer at the wolf.

Kogaan, grohiik.” She bobbed her head a little at him.

Sathem, irmorisenatha.” The wolf bobbed his head in return. “Although I find myself most perplexed. I had come here expecting to find a woman, yet I find you instead.”

Ara regarded him cautiously then. She had long since guessed that he was not something her mind had dreamed up but yet he did not feel like the deadric lords she had encountered. Of course, none of them had ever invaded her dreams and helped her work out whatever issue had her keeping herself in chains.

I am Arakash gra-Krazak, Dragonborn. Within dreams, I am sometimes an ogiim... orsimer, other times I am the dragon.” Ara saw no reason to lie to the thing that could obviously invade her dreams.

Ogiim, orsimer?” It questioned.

Orc.” Ara explained.

Which form were you born as? Irmorisenatha or orismer?”

Orsimer.” Ara tilted her head. “But within, I am dragon.”

Her soul was that of a dragon, she had long accepted that but there were days she regretted her destiny as the dragonborn. How many of her kin had she slain and consumed in the quest to protect the world. She hated the idea but she could not let things fall as they may.

Tell me, grohiik.” She tilted her head. “Have you heard of other dragons?”

Not like you, irmorisenatha.”

What of one named Alduin? A great thing with black wings and wicked claws?”

Unfortunately no.” The wolf tilted it's head. “Is he important to you?”

He is the First Born. It is my task to kill him.” Ara responded with a sigh. She still could not recall if she had made it to Sovengarde or not.

I see.” Said the wolf. “How is it that you came to be here?”

I do not know.” She frowned, her snout twisting a little. “I followed him... or at least I think I followed him. I awoke in a cell similar to this with chains binding me and Imperials shouting words at me I did not understand.”

You do not recognize anything of them?”

No.” She shook her head. “There was a mer but his features are wrong. He looks altmer but reminds me of an uncorrupted falmer.”

I do not understand those words.” The wolf responded with a whine.

Mer... is a name for those who came from the aldmer. The first elves. Altmer are high elves. Falmer... Falmer were once similar in appearance to the high elves but a little taller and prettier.” She answered as best as she could. “The elf appears somewhere between the high elf and what I have seen of the true falmer.”

You mentioned that you are an orsimer? Is that a mer as well? Are you an elf then?”

My people?” She paused for a moment, considering what he was asking. “Once, long ago. I do not remember the lore well but yes, we were once elves.”

The wolf went silent, sitting back on his rear. He seemed to be puzzling out what she had said. She watched him for a moment before she stretched again. It felt good to be free of the chains but this was just a dream. Curious but just a dream.

Do you trust the elf you met?” The wolf asked, speaking once more.

Truthfully?” Ara asked with a laugh as she regarded the wolf. “I am not sure. Perhaps a little more then I trust you but that is not saying much.”

You do not trust me?” There was a laugh in the wolf's voice. “Why speak to me then?”

It has been some time, several weeks I believe, since I had someone to speak with.” She shrugged, her wings tucking against her back. “The elf has attempted to teach me his language but he teaches me like a child. It is tiresome.”

The wolf laughed again as it got back to it's feet. It seemed almost nervous.

Perhaps that is the only way you can learn, irmorisenatha.”

Perhaps. How would you enjoy it if someone taught you in a manner more befitting of children?” She asked of the wolf. “I know he means well but it does not help me much in my goals.”

What are your goals?”

As I said, I am to kill Alduin.” Ara nodded even as she flicked her tail in annoyance, one of her legs was beginning to ache. “That is my purpose. To fight him on the field of battle. If I fail then the world is destined to end for he is the World Eater.”

You truly believe that you must kill this Alduin?”

Yes. Unfortunately, I have no idea where I am.” She said with a sigh. “I recognize nothing of the buildings, even the trees are foreign to me. I thought perhaps I was on the south side of the Throat of the World – that's a large mountain – but it seems things are far from where I was.”

And where were you?”

Skyrim.” She responded with another shrug. “If I cannot find a way back to fighting Alduin then I think I may need to stay to help them with their Breach.”

You would help those you don't know?”

I would.” She wiggled herself as she became aware of a small pain in her foot. “I have the feeling that the breach will consume the world if it is not stopped.”

The wolf made a huffing noise before he tilted his head to his left. It seemed he was hearing something she could not hear. She was more preoccupied with the pain in her foot that was increasing.

It seems our time is up for now, irmorisenatha.” The wolf sounded almost wistful and almost annoyed.. “We will meet again.”

Farewell, grohiik.” She answered even as that pain intensified.



She woke to a soldier about to swing another kick to her foot. Her red eyes snapping open and focusing on him with a growl.

The sun had gone down and only torches lit up the area but she could make out the men that surrounded her. One was the one she had knocked unconscious, another was Broken Nose and she didn't know the others. They had all surrounded her and there was no mistaking their intentions.

They shouted words at her again but she recognized the usual one. Demon. Maybe she should have asked the wolf what that meant but right now it was more of an irritation.

“Piss off.” She muttered at them even though she knew they didn't understand a word she was saying.

One of them went to fire another kick at her foot but she lifted just enough to meet his foot with her own. He may have been a soldier but this man was only an Imperial and hardly a match for her superior strength. The angle she was at did not allow her to kick hard enough to break anything but it was enough that he went down in a tumble.

Ara scrambled to her feet as the man went down. The others looked hesitant for a moment but Broken Nose decided that he it was time to involve weapons, drawing his sword from his sheath.

“Coward.” Ara spat as he advanced on her. She thought about summoning a weapon but she didn't think she'd need it to beat this man and his fellows.

Sure enough, he swung wildly at her. Apparently, he assumed because she was big that she was going to be slow on her feet. She was quick to remedy that, stepping in with lightening speed and snapping her hand around his sword arm as he swung at her. Her hand went to his throat and she started to squeeze even as she twisted his arm to force him to drop the sword. The sword fell to the ground with a metallic clang and she proceeded to lift the man into the air by the throat.

“Ara!” The voice was a bark from behind her and the men in front of her all started to look uncomfortable. At least one of them had the sense to take off.

She stood there, keeping Broken Nose gripped tightly before she turned just enough to make out the appearance of the elf.

There was no mistaking the look of anger on his face and she scowled back at him. He was crazy if he thought she was just going to sit here and take the soldier's abuse.

He looked at the other soldiers and said some words to them in that strange language they all seemed to speak. Solas' voice was cold and sharp. He then turned to face her as he placed his hand on her arm. “Ara.” He said softly before motioning to the man. He said some more words but she had no idea what they meant.

She assumed it meant for her to put him down and she glared for a moment at the elf. Finally, she snorted and dropped the man in an unconscious heap on the ground. Ara thought about giving the man a hard kick in the ribs for her troubles but then she didn't need to give the other soldiers more fuel for the fire. They were all being Imperial assholes as far as she was concerned.

“Ma serannas.” The elf mumbled and she instantly perked. The way he said it meant something important.

“Sathem.” She took a guess and responded with a small smile which seemed to catch the elf off guard. The way he looked at her made it clear, she had guessed right. She understood the word sathem as that had been what the wolf had spoken in her dreams, and it was clear that ma serannas must mean thanks.

If only the other language was so easy to grasp.

The other soldier who had run off was now returning with the angry dark haired woman in tow. Of course, there was now that young elf lady and a golden haired guy who wore the most fascinating armour. Ara couldn't help but stare at the puffiness of the fur adorning the top part of his armour. There was no way that was practical.

The soldiers seemed to defer to the three of them with the same sort of respect one would give a leader and she guessed that they were somehow in charge of what was happening. She understood why with fluffy blonde guy and the angry lady Imperial, they both looked like they had seen some battles but the young woman looked like she was barely old enough to be on her own. Perhaps it had something to do with the thing on her hand.

They were all shouting in that strange language but it seemed like they were arguing over her and the soldiers. Solas' voice was definitely raised in agitation and she was certain he said her name a few times while pointing at the soldiers.

Her heart beat finally slowed and she felt the small bit of pain in her side. “Ah shit.” She muttered under her breath as she looked down and readjusted her leather vest. The blood was seeping through the white undershirt.

There was a small gasp as the young elf was suddenly pushing people aside and was in her personal bubble within seconds. Ara took a step back on reflex.

“Ara.” Solas said before nodding towards Ellana.

Ara understood that easily enough. Grumbling a little under her breath as she lifted the top of her undershirt to show where the sword had bit into her side. It was a small flesh wound, one she could heal on her own but she was suddenly thinking she shouldn't be using magic around these people. The soldiers were already reacting like she was a monster, no doubt they'd react like the Nords had in Skyrim.

She was a bit surprised when she felt magic against her skin. It was not completely unfamiliar to what she was used to but it was almost a little sharper. Glancing down at the elf, she could see the soft glow of green radiating from her hands. Ellana then leaned back and started barking orders at the men who all seemed keen on obeying the little elf.

One of them took off to the other set of houses just beside Solas' little hut and returned shortly with a small red potion. Ara knew what that was easily enough but this was an unfamiliar place, Malacath knows what might actually be in that potion. She was about to refuse when it was handed to her by the tiny elf and she sighed.

“Fine... but if this isn't what I think it is, I'm totally coming back from the Ashpit to make you regret it...” She muttered which just brought weird stares from the group of them. She sighed and drank it and was relieved to feel her body beginning to heal the cut into her side.

She smiled at the female elf and repeated what Solas had said earlier. “Ma serannas.”

The elf looked startled and started gibbering at her in that whole other language. Ara just stared blankly and had no idea what the hell she was saying. Perhaps using the one or two words she knew in a language was a really bad idea.

Solas seemed to understand and he said something to Ellana in the first language they'd all been speaking. The elf woman looked almost disappointed.

Ara gave a small shrug and a little smile.

“Ara.” Ellana said as she pointed towards the little hut that Solas had indicated earlier.

Ara scowled and pointed at the rock. Everyone stared at her for a moment before Solas put his hand on her arm again and shook his head. He, too, motioned once more towards the hut.

“Fine. Fine. I'll sleep indoors.” She said with a mutter before she shuffled off to the little house.

 

Chapter Text

Solas did not have much time to think about what he had learned about her from the dream. Instead, he was catapulted into consciousness when he heard the men outside.

He snarled to himself in irritation as he roused but his irritation gave way to concern when he heard some of their words becoming a bit more derogatory towards the sleeping woman. He hastily got dressed and stepped out of the door just in time to see the fight unfolding.

Solas watched in shock as Ara took the sword to her side and grabbed the man by the throat. The tenseness of her shoulders made it clear that she was one short second away from crushing the man's wind pipe and something told him she would do it.

“Ara!” He barked out quickly as he advanced down the hill. He was well prepared to fire a spell but it seemed that the men were fine on not approaching the wild looking woman as she held one of their fellows up by the throat. One was limping to the side, trying not to lean on one of his legs. The rest just seemed to have lost whatever spark of fight they had when they realized she was going to fight back.

Solas felt anger at these men who dared menace her for no reason simply because she was different. They were all fools, these humans. Every single one of them.

One of them had taken off on a run but he knew the man's face.

“What do you think you're doing?” He snarled at them as he strode past Ara.

They all muttered a few things at him and he was certain he heard one of them call him knife-ears. Had this been any other night, he probably wouldn't have cared but the fact that they were all so willing to gang up on a sleeping and unarmed woman was beyond wrong. He could see why the mages of this era rebelled if Templars were anything like these soldiers.

“Shall we involve the Commander in all of this, hmm?” He said, staring at them all with a disapproving look. They were not his soldiers but he remembered how to look the part of a commander.

No one had any responses for him at that point.

He turned to look at Ara and where she stood. She was nearly a head and a half taller then the soldiers that surrounded her, and there was no fear in her face despite being completely unarmed. That could have been the fact that she had already disarmed the first man that tried to attack her, despite her wearing little more then rags. The threadbare shirt and vest did little to hide the bunching of muscles all along her arm and up her shoulder. It was clear that she was just naturally strong and she held a soldier aloft, his dangling feet not quite reaching the ground. The man's face had already turned a little bit blue and Solas moved quickly.

“Ara, put him down.” He said softly as he laid a hand on her arm before motioning towards the man. He would have let her end the man then and there but he knew that the Inquisition would not tolerate her presence if she was killing their soldiers. Even if they clearly deserved it.

She snorted at him but she did do as he asked and dropped the man. Solas let out a breath he didn't know he was keeping when the soldier collapsed in a heap. He saw the look she gave the fallen soldier and was thankful that she had the restraint to not act on it.

“Ma serannas.” He said beneath his breath, not expecting her to hear or understand him.

She responded with a smile and some words he didn't understand but he could guess at the meaning.

“Sathem.” She said with a pleased smile.

He looked at her in surprise as it made it clear that she had picked up the word from the dream which could prove both helpful and perhaps a little bit troublesome. It did, however, make him wonder why she learned elvhen easier compared to the trade tongue.

Then the other soldier returned with Cassandra, Cullen and Ellana in tow.

“What is the meaning of this?” Cullen spoke, his golden eyes blazing as he looked at his soldier on the ground. “Someone pick that man up and take him to healer's tent.”

“That thing needs to be back in chains.” One of the soldiers volunteered which brought a look from Solas.

“I think not.” He said harshly as his gaze narrowed on the man. “Ara did not wish to sleep within the house, so she slept out here by the rock. I woke to your soldiers taunting her.”

“Bullshi...” The soldier went to say but was cut off as Cullen raised his hand.

“You saw what happened?” Cassandra asked.

“Yes.” Solas said as he motioned to the soldier who was unconscious. “I came out just as he went to swing his sword at her. I would also like to point out that Ara is completely unarmed as you demanded when you had me lead her from the dungeons. Involving a weapon in a fight with an unarmed woman seems rather... extreme.”

Cassandra tsked under her breath but said nothing else. Solas knew she had already looked over Ara and the men, but the look on her face was clear. She was not pleased with this situation.

“Soldier, explain yourself.” Cullen's voice was just as angry as Solas' voice had been earlier..

“It... attacked us.” The soldier hadn't expected the Commander to ask his opinion and it was clear in his answer. “I mean, we was just walking and she leaped out at us.”

“Yes, jumped out at you from where she was sleeping by a rock that is some distance from the main street.” Solas' voice was dripping with sarcasm.

Cassandra was about to say something when they heard the words from Ara and all eyes turned to look at her. Even the soldiers were staring at the woman.

The strange woman was standing there and looking at her side, almost with a detached expression as she pulled her leather vest to the side. The blood welling up around the tear in the white cloth underneath was clear and Solas had to resist the urge to swear. He had forgotten that she had taken that sword to the side.

He looked at her face quickly as he could see the pain beginning to drift onto her face. She didn't look as upset as he would have expected. In fact, she looked more annoyed then anything.

He went to take a step towards her but Ellana was quicker, shoving him and her two advisers out of the way to get to where Ara was standing. Ara looked like she was about to bolt.

“Ara, it's alright. Let her look.” He said as he motioned towards Ellana, trying to use the calmest tone of voice he could manage despite how irritated he was. This situation should never happened but yet, there they were.

Ara grimaced but nodded, letting the Herald take a look at the wound. For that, he was grateful but if he guessed, her good mood wasn't going to last so well. Her red eyes were almost black at this point and he knew she was more then a little angry over the soldiers waking her.

“Can one of you go get a healing potion?” Ellana asked from where she was tending the woman's side.

A soldier, eager to please, quickly hurried off to fetch one.

“How badly is she hurt?” Cassandra asked and there was a faint note of concern in the woman's voice.

“Not bad, looks like the wound is shallow.” Ellana responded.

The man arrived with the potion and Ellana held it up to Ara with a smile. “Here, drink this, it'll help.”

The look on Ara's face was somewhere between curiosity and distrust. She said some words in her own strange language and glared at them all. Solas thought she was about to refuse the potion when she did take it and down it in one quick drink. The look of surprise crossing over Ara's face was rather amusing but it lasted only a moment before her face was once more schooled into a look of calm.

“Ma serannas.”

Solas froze as he heard her parrot the word back to Ellana. Ara definitely understood what it meant when he had said the word earlier.

“Ir abelas! You speak elvish!” Ellana became excited and animated as she started speaking to Ara. “Mahn na dirthala Elvhen?”

Ara looked completely baffled as the young woman started speaking to her and Solas felt a bit sorry for her. She simply had no idea what any of those words meant. He could understand now why she was getting frustrated with his method of teaching her.

“Ellana, she doesn't know elvhen.” Solas said softly. “I spoke the word to her earlier during lessons and she seems to have picked up on it.”

He regretted that action as it seemed it would make things more difficult for Ara. He was going to have to be more cautious in what words he spoke to her as she was absorbing them all like a sponge.

Ara shrugged as if she seemed to understand them all.

“Ara, you're going to need to sleep in there, okay?” Ellana said as she pointed towards the house Solas had been trying to get her into earlier in the day.

Ara looked over at it before scowling at all of them. She really did not seem to enjoy being indoors and Solas was uncertain as to why. Ara's eyes met his and for a moment it looked like she was pleading not to have to go into the house but he sighed. He placed his hand on her arm and and said her name gently.

She wandered off to the house with an annoyed grunt. There were a few words that were spoken low and he guessed they were probably curse words.

“Solas.” Cullen spoke. “If you would be so kind as to explain fully what you saw.”

Solas turned back to the Commander and sighed before he started speaking.

“I was asleep when I heard men outside my house.” He motioned to where the fight had been. “There were several men circling Ara, they said a few... inappropriate things.” Solas grimaced as he spoke. “I do not know what happened before but the one with the crooked nose drew his sword and advanced on her. She let him take the swing before stepping in, grabbing his wrist and put her hand on his throat, lifting him in the air. She would have crushed his throat if I had not intervened despite your soldiers colourful comments regarding my ears.”

“You're saying she lifted the man with one arm?” Cullen said in surprise. “By his throat? After she was stabbed in the side?”

“Yes, Commander.” Solas said tersely, wondering why that seemed to be the most doubtful thing. Ara was not a small woman, and even weak people can do some amazing things when they think their life is on the line. “It seems that she has some training as a warrior as she took the blow to her side like she was used to wearing armour.”

“Do you think it is possible that she antagonized them?” Cullen asked. His voice was calm and he was making no assumptions, simply asking the question to be sure of motives and reasoning. Cullen's words still bothered Solas.

“I do not believe so.” It was Cassandra that spoke, her voice relatively calm. “Two of these men have had issue with her in the past. One of them believing that she was responsible for the Breach.”

“Maker's breath, why didn't you say something to me?” Cullen said with an irritated grunt as he looked over at the other woman.

“It was unnecessary, I believed the issue was dealt with.” Cassandra said simply with a wave of her hand. “I was unaware that they would continue things further.”

Solas listened to the two of them talk but he could see Ellana's glower out of the corner of his eyes. She was getting angrier by the moment. He made a point of keeping silent as the Herald seemed ready to burst as she listened to the other two discuss this amongst themselves.

“Are we going to skip past the fact that Ara has been treated like a prisoner since day one, mistreated and now attacked... not once but three times by soldiers?” Ellana's voice was almost cold.

“That was not our intention.” Cassandra said as she looked over at the elvhen woman with a faint bit of surprise on her features.

“Intention or not. I don't want her treated like a prisoner any longer.” Ellana crossed her arms. “She is free to leave if she wishes it.”

“But we don't know anything about her or where she comes from, she could be a spy working for whomever being caused the Breach.” Cullen argued.

“I highly doubt that,” Solas said, interjecting despite not being one of the advisers. “Her inability to communicate would be a hindrance to spy work and I doubt she is lying about not understanding.”

“You are certain of that?” Cassandra asked him.

“Yes.” Solas said firmly. 

“We will discuss this further in the morning.” Ellana said with a grumble. “But I will not stand for soldiers being racists, even if she does look like something out of one of Varric's books. That also includes derogatory terms towards other elves.”

Cassandra gave Ellana a strange stare before nodding. “Very well, Herald.”

Cullen nodded as well before they, and the soldiers, wandered away leaving just Solas and Ellana standing there.

“Good night, Herald of Andraste.” Solas said with a small smile.

“You!” She glared at him and poked a finger in his direction. “Do not speak any more elvhen to her until she actually learns the trade tongue.”

“Yes, Herald.” He said with a sheepish smile.

“Good. Now get some sleep, we're going to the Hinterlands in a few days.”

“Yes, Ellana.” He repeated with a frown before he turned to go back to his little house. He was a bit surprised at the sudden hardness beneath the soft exterior of the woman and could almost find himself liking this Herald, she was strong willed for one of the Dalish.

But that was a thought for another time.

He rubbed the bridge of his nose as he went about settling himself down to sleep. The whole thing was troublesome as it seemed like he was nominated to be a babysitter for the strange looking woman. Orc, she had called herself. She'd also called herself a dragon but then, it was hard to mistake that form in her dreams.

As sleep claimed him, he decided to try and find her in her dreams once more. Unfortunately, he found nothing. Not even a hint of a dream from the other house.

 

Chapter Text

The house was small. Smaller even then her home in Whiterun which was saying something. There was a fireplace, a table, a chair, a bed but not much else other then some crates and a chest next to the bed. The entire place was made of wood and she just thought about how easy this place would be to burn.

She was content to lie in the bed but no sleep came to her. She had already rested outside even if there had been a rude awakening by the Imperials that called her names again. At least Solas had seemed to be on her side even if he made her come to this wooden box.

Hopefully it doesn't get to the point where I have to beg to be outside.

She thought over the events of the day. From going free to her dream. It was a strange thought, to think of the wolf she had encountered in her dreamscape. She had instinctively known that it was not something her mind had thought up and he had smelled different.

Perhaps it's Hircine and whatever claim he thinks he has on me.

She mused over it but eventually shook her head. There was no way that the wolf was the daedric lord Hircine as she was certain he would have come to her as a full werewolf instead of a wolf. He had been large, certainly, and possessed an unnatural amount of eyes but she was the person who was a dragon in her dreams. He also didn't smell like a daedra.

Not that there really was a smell in her dreams but whatever sense passed as smell had told her it was not the same. The few times she had encountered the daedra, they all had the same basic smell. They had other things marking their scent like Sanguine smelling of booze and sex while Hircine smelled of the woods and earth but beneath it all, they had an almost ash like smell.

The wolf smelled like wolf with a little mix of electricity. There was no almost ash smell at all.

Not a daedra then.

That still wasn't much help in her mind so she turned from that to thinking about how to get a map. Of course, she wasn't sure how much help a map would be as she wouldn't even be able to read the damn thing. It would at least give her an idea of where she was, provided they had a distinct 'you are here' marked on the board in a way she could understand. She had the feeling that she wouldn't be that lucky.

Eventually, she grew tired of thinking about the wolf and how to escape this place, and she started counting how many boards of wood made up the ceiling. Until that too became boring.

She spent the next few hours rearranging the furniture in the house. Table from one side of the place to the other. It felt flimsy in her hands but then she guessed it was someone's second hand table that they had shoved in here for keeping. The bed was not much better but at least it was sturdy enough to hold her weight. She eventually decided to put it away from the window so the sun wouldn't shine on her face if she did manage to fall asleep.

Rearranging things got boring too.

The sun was just beginning to peek in through the windows when she was balancing everything on top of each other. Bed in the middle of the floor, the table on top of that and then the chairs. She was just adding a crate to the top of it when she heard the knock at the door.

She may have stumbled a little at the noise, knocking over the leaning tower of furniture to send it all crashing to the floor, she landed in a heap amongst the broken crates. At least the flimsy table had broken her fall, although it looked like she was going to need a new table.

The door swung open with a bang as Solas rushed into the room. Ara could practically feel his eyes on her, with a look somewhere between concern and irritation. A look reserved for children doing something potentially dangerous.

“Ara?” He questioned, at least not adding a bunch of extra words to it and just using her name as the question.

“I'm fine.” She said as she waved her hands in the air before getting to her feet. “Bored.”

He sighed and said some words in that other language before moving his hand towards his face. He repeated the move several times.

She stared at him for a long minute.

“Food?” He said again, making very exaggerated motions like he was eating.

“Oh!” She nodded enthusiastically. It seemed that nodding still worked as a universal symbol for yes as he smiled and turned towards the door.

She followed after him, her eyes adjusting easily to the dim light of early morning. He led her away from the little huts and down the hill to the larger building that sat almost in the middle of this little village. She'd stared at it yesterday but had paid it no mind as the place was outside her little sphere of comfort.

He paused at the door before giving her a small look. He said something else but she had no idea what the words were. It could have been the recipe for pie for all she knew. Sighing at him, she shook her head.

He gave a small shrug before leading the way into the building.

The moment the door swung open, she knew precisely what this place was. The smell of ale hit her in the face followed by the faint aroma of stew. It smelled almost like what she would have gotten back at the Bannered Mare in Whiterun.

“Food.” She said to Solas with a small smile.

The elf laughed before nodding, repeating the word and leading her to a table. He pointed at the bench beside it and said another word. “Sit.”

She looked at him and then at the bench, she just wasn't sure if that was the word for bench or if he was asking her to do something. Regardless, she sat down and he looked pleased before he wandered off to go get them food.

It was then that she realized the place had gone silent and everyone was staring at her. Every set of eyes, from the soldiers to the female bard in the centre of the tavern, were all fixed on her. Some were looking at her in a curious manner, she could handle that but there were more that was looking at her with distrust on their faces. Worse yet, some even looked openly hostile.

She lifted her head a little, sitting just a faint taller on the seat. If they were going to glare at her, she was going to glare back.

A chuckle to her left brought her attention away from the other people to find herself staring at a rather short man. He looked like a human but he was easily several heads shorter then any she had met before. Though he was a little stockier then everyone she had met so far.

He motioned to the bench and tilted his head like he was asking a question. A few words were said that implied he was asking for something.

“Oh, you want to sit with me?” She blinked in surprise before shuffling over to give him room on the bench.

He grinned even wider as he sat down on the bench, setting his own plate of food on the table in front of him.

“Varric.” He said with a smile as he held out his hand.

“Ara.” She smiled as she took his hand and shook it.

He kept eyeing her curiously but he wasn't rude about it, like the others. More of a casual glance to determine some other little facet of her appearance.

“Orc.” She said finally.

He looked a little startled by her comment. Luckily, Solas showed up to save him from whatever embarrassed thought was running through his mind. Solas actually chuckled as he handed her one bowl and moved to sit across from her.

The two of them started talking but she was more interested in the food. It smelled heavenly. Hell, she couldn't remember the last time she had something other then bread and water. The guards had never been keen on feeding her much.

It was a little colder then she liked so she put her hands on either side of the bowl, letting the magic seep from her fingers to heat it up. She patiently waited until there was steam rising before she settled her hands on what passed as a spoon. She stared at the spoon for a few moments, lips curling at the rather shoddy construction of it. Better things had been found in centuries old ruins.

“Ara?” Solas' his brought her attention up to him.

She stared blankly for a moment, not sure what she had done wrong but when he slid his hands to the same position on his bowl, she understood. Something about her using magic to heat up the food was a bad thing.

Great.

She had been completely right. The people here were as magi-phobic as the Nords. This place was so ass backwards that she wanted to bang her head on the table.

Just another thing she was going to have to deal with until she got out of this place.

“Fine. I wasn't hungry anyway.” She muttered before getting to her feet and leaving the tavern. She ignored the stares and Solas' calling to her. She just went straight back to where she had been sitting by the rock the day before.

It's not like they were going to let her go anywhere else anyway.

 

Chapter Text

Varric watched as Solas led the strange woman into the Tavern. He knew next to nothing about her and he was damn curious.

Especially when she looked at Solas like he grew a second head when he told her to sit on the bench. There was something clear about her reaction that hinted that she had no idea what Solas was actually asking but she did sit down and the elf looked completely thrilled.

He had been content to sit there and watch from a distance as he knew full well she wouldn't be able to understand a thing he said but as he watched her, he simply couldn't remain sitting where he was.

The way she seemed to notice everyone staring at her, the clear look of hurt on her face for a brief moment before it was replaced by a stoney glare. Her shoulders hunching for a moment before she lifted her head up high and met their gazes like they were all beneath her.

He chuckled as he approached, standing next to her for a minute as he tried to figure out what to say to a woman who had no idea what his words meant. She turned and looked at him, well looked at his chest hair first and then his face. The look she gave him was almost comical, like she was trying to figure out just exactly what he was.

“Can I sit here?” He asked, tilting his head and motioning to the bench.

She looked at him blankly for a few moments before she shuffled over to give him room. It was clear that she was pretty smart despite her inability to speak the common tongue. Judging by what he'd heard about yesterday's fight, she was also trained as a warrior. It was just damn odd that someone would show up out of the blue like that.

He sat down on the space that she had vacated and for a moment, he felt completely dwarfed by her size.

“Varric.” He said with a smile as he held out his hand towards her.

“Ara.” She said with a smile as she took his hand in a grip that was almost crushing.

“That's a hell of a grip.” He said with a laugh but she just looked at him like he was saying gibberish.

Varric decided that he was going to wait until Solas showed up before he started asking questions as there were no answers to be found from the young woman at his side or at least he assumed she was young. He looked at her face close up for a moment and he could see the scars that were time worn but there was a youthfulness to her face that was almost soft. He had seen a lot of people over the years, and ones that had that kind of roundness generally were young. Didn't matter if they had been elf, human, qunari or dwarf. The same trait for youth was in all of them.

“Orc.” She said to him as she noticed him staring.

He fumbled for a moment, not sure what to say to that. He wasn't even sure what that meant.

“That's what her people are.” Solas said from behind him with a chuckle.

The elf handed Ara a bowl of stew before sitting across from them.

“Master Tethras.” Solas said as he bowed his head.

“Hey, Chuckles.” Varric said as he looked away from Ara. “So, how much of what I'm saying does she actually understand.”

“Not much, I'm afraid.” Solas said as he picked up a spoon and began to eat his food. “She is learning quickly but there is only so much she is willing to learn before she becomes frustrated.”

“Funny that, I heard she spoke some elvish last night.” Varric said as he idly fished out a piece of meat that he really hoped was venison before popping it in his mouth.

“Yes, that was unfortunate.” Solas said with a frown. “She picked up on a few things I said in exasperation.”

“So if it's easier for her to learn elvish, why don't you do that instead?” Varric questioned. “I mean, it's better to be able to speak to her in some manner then not at all.”

“It's not that easy.” Solas sighed. “I'm under orders to teach her the trade tongue, no elvish until she learns it.”

“I'm sure the Herald isn't going to get upset if you let a few words slip here and there.” Varric said with a good natured chuckle which turned into a laugh at the look that crossed Solas' face. “She's already chastised you then.”

“Yes. Unfortunately.” Solas said with a grimace before his eyes were drawn to Ara's bowl of stew.

Varric blinked and glanced down before he stared in partially open mouthed surprise. Ara was staring intently at her bowl of stew, both of her hands on either side of it and steam was beginning to rise.

“Andraste's tits...” Varric knew magic when he saw it. He quickly glanced around and saw that everyone else had turned their attentions back to their own food.

“Ara!” Solas hissed, his voice taking on a cautionary tone.

She looked up at them in surprise even as she was reaching for a spoon. Solas mimicked what she had done, putting his hands around his bowl. It didn't take long for Ara to understand what that meant and her face turned completely insulted.

She tossed down the spoon and got to her feet, uttering some words in that language they didn't understand before she stalked off.

“Ara, wait!” Solas called after before getting to his feet.

“I think you should try explaining that to her, Chuckles.” Varric said as he eyed the woman's bowl of food. He lowered his voice and whispered. “Though.. I don't believe anyone actually saw that.”

“I hope not.” Solas said as he was hurrying past. “Good day, Master Tethras.”

Then the elf was gone, chasing after the mystery that was making for good ideas for his next books. He just really wasn't sure how to add in a story about a nearly mute giant of a woman.

 

Chapter Text

Solas was in a foul mood and knew the problem was mostly himself. He had made no efforts to teach Ara anything regarding magic. Not a word.

Now it was clear he should have brought it up.

He had been a bit surprised when she had used the magic so easily on her bowl of food. It had been subtle, and he had almost missed the play of magic in the air but there was no denying that it was there. Just enough magic to heat the bowl.

He had to admit that he was a little impressed but the dangers of the situation was what was driving his mood now.

It didn't take long for him to see her, sitting by the rock with her arms crossed. She looked almost like a petulant child. It reminded him further of how difficult this had been for her. From the inability to really communicate with them beyond a few words and gestures to the fact that she seemed at odds with everyone here.

He sighed to himself before he leaned to gently tap her shoulder.

Perhaps in hindsight, it was not the best idea as she latched onto his wrist in an almost vice like grip. The red eyes were a little unfocused as they looked up at him.

“Solas?” Her voice questioned a little and she said a few of the other words he didn't know.

“Ara.” He said calmly but was a bit relieved when she let go of his wrist. He had seen her strength first hand when she had dealt with the man who had threatened her but it was another thing completely when it was turned on him. He made a great effort not to let her think that his wrist stung a little from her grip.

She said something that he was certain meant sorry as her body language seemed to be that way, the slight hunching of her shoulders and the faint bit of guilt in her eyes. Eyes that weren't quite meeting his at the moment.

He thought about it for a moment before he motioned for her to get up and follow him.

“Come with me, Ara.” He said it simply, being sure the pronounce each word properly.

He saw the frown that came just before the sigh as she moved to get to her feet. Solas took a few steps but glanced back to ensure she was following him as he led her through the town. People stared at them but he ignored them, he only hoped she was doing the same. He walked until he passed the Blacksmith but he did see her eyes going that way.

He mused over the longing that he saw there but said nothing. It was a topic for another time.

He continued to walk until they were some distance from Haven. Far enough away that no one was going to see what he was up to. He paused and looked over at her before he lifted up his hand to motion to her to stop.

She did so but the look she was giving him was one part caution and one part wariness. He smiled at her as he turned his hand and let a small bit of flame appear. The magic came easily to him, and he felt an almost pleasurable sensation at simply using the magic for the purpose of teaching. It had been years since he had someone's attention so completely.

“Magic.” He said as he turned to ignite a bit of dead wood. “Fire.”

She stared at him for a moment before she repeated. “Magic.”

He held his breath, wondering if she understood what he was saying or if she was just parroting the word as she had earlier.

She turned from him and pointed at the fire that sputtered. Her voice clear as she spoke. “Fire.”

He was surprised to see her lift her hand and mimic what he had done, summoning fire to her own hand. “Fire.” She said with a small smile even as she closed her fist, snuffing out the flame. “Magic.”

It wasn't that he was surprised that she had cast the fire spell, he was surprised that it was so easy for her. The spell was a simple one but she had simply cast it without a second thought, nothing to hint that it had been even mildly tiring. It was also surprising how natural her magic felt. It was like standing next to one of his own kind, like magic was a part of her just like breathing.

And of course it was, she was the dragon in her dreams.

It almost broke his heart to do the next part.

He held his hand up to let the flame appear again, but he snuffed it out like she had done and quickly shook his head.

“No.” He said.

Her face fell quickly.

Solas paused for a moment before he pointed back at Haven. Once more, he shook his head. “No Magic. Bad.”

She sighed and her shoulders slumped. He could see the disappointment in her features and her very posture. It settled an ache in him but he figured it was for the best until she learned enough that he could actually explain that she must be cautious. Even if Varric had seen her using magic, it would be a lot more troublesome if the soldiers saw her using magic.

In fact, he had the suspicion that her magic may be beyond even their mages.

“Ara?” He asked.

“Solas.” She responded with a smile that did not seem all that genuine.

“Ir abelas, you must not use magic in Haven.” He said softly. It wasn't completely breaking his word to the Inquisitor as it wasn't like he had completely agreed to her decision about elvhen. He just hoped she understood enough to know he wasn't telling her that magic was bad, just that it was bad to do it in Haven.

She sighed a little before giving him an actual genuine smile. “Ma serannas.”

He chuckled before nodding.

Solas started walking back to Haven when she put her hand on his arm. He was a bit surprised at the sheer size of her hand, it was easily larger then his but it wasn't mannish. It had the same look as a woman who was used to working with her hands but it was definitely feminine.

She canted her head towards the fire that was burning. He raised a questioning eyebrow before motioning to her.

He wondered what she would do and he hoped she would demonstrate more magic. To his joy, she grinned and raised her hand.

Ice formed from her fingertips and hit the burning bit of wood, extinguishing it completely. It was easy but it was impressive. He could feel that magic travelling over his skin and was more then pleased that she was that capable of at least the two basic elements. It did bring the question as to what else she was capable of but that was for later when she was more capable of understanding him.

He led the way back towards Haven and she followed willingly. Her gaze once more swept over the Blacksmith but he did not let her tarry there. They were still not completely friendly with her and he would prefer there not to be another incident.

He led the way back to the house where he saw Ellana waiting for them.

“There you are!” She called, looking happy to see them. He felt a warmth at the simple eagerness in her features as she spoke.

“I apologize, Herald.” He said with a smile. “I took Ara out of Haven to give her a break after last night.”

“That's fine.” Ellana said as she peered over at Ara.

Ara titled her head before nodding a hello to the other woman. She didn't say anything but then, Solas realized he had never taught her the word for Hello. He'd have to remedy that, if at least for the sake of the Herald.

“We're going to be leaving for the Hinterlands tomorrow morning.” Ellana said. “I was just making sure you were aware.”

He was a bit surprised that she had come to tell him herself when a servant would do just as well.

“Thank you, Herald.” He smiled at her before pausing. “What of Ara?”

“Leliana has arranged for someone to take over her studies while you are gone.”

Solas wasn't sure he liked that idea but he said nothing. He stole a glance at Ara but she had moved ahead of them and sat down at her rock. Relaxing against the stone as she closed her eyes to bask in the early day sun.

“It is not one of the soldiers?” He questioned.

“No, it is not.” Ellana said in agreement but then silence seemed to hang for several long moments.

“Was there anything else, Herald?” He asked.

“Uh... no... not really.” She blushed a little. “I should be going. See you tomorrow, Solas. Bright and early.”

“Yes, Ellana.” He said with a smile and he was sure her blush deepened even more before she scurried off. He may have let himself gaze a little longer then he should have because when he looked over at Ara who's eyes were wide open and she was looking at him with a little grin on her face.

“What?” He asked, schooling his features into a steady calm look.

She said something he didn't understand with that same grin before she made kissy faces in the air at him.

“What?” He was taken aback by her actions. She was clearly implying what he thought she was, which was just absurd. He had only given Ellana a casual glance and nothing more. “She is the Herald and the only one who can stop the Breach, she views me as a teacher, nothing more.”

The look she was giving him was clear that she did not believe a single word of what he was saying. She did stop making that silly face at him.

“Fenedhis lasa.” He muttered under his breath and stomped past her to the house. Whatever hope he had that she did not see his blush was lost as he heard her laughing behind him.

Solas huffed as he entered his little house and gathered up a few things. He returned to where she sat with an armload of things before he started again.

“Knife.” He held up the small knife to the groan that echoed from the Dragonborn.

 

Chapter Text

She hadn't thought she'd be this put out by Solas leaving her behind but she was pretty upset about it.

Since she had woken up in the dungeon, only Solas, Varric and the Herald had bothered to talk to her. All three were going off on what ever mission they were up to. She understood it completely, after all, she had gone off for days at a time to travel in some ruins or other. Even longer when she had to take out groups of bandits.

Still, she was far more perturbed by them leaving.

She had watched them go from her rock. Solas tried making it clear that she was to behave. Or at least that's what she assumed those words were, at least he wasn't trying to tell her to not cast. She'd understood that well enough when he'd taken her out of Haven to show her his magic.

Strange thing, his magic. It wasn't quite as sharp feeling as Ellana's but it was nothing like her own magic. It just felt a little off to her.

She was sitting by the rock when the strange woman came up. The woman wore a robe and had a fancy little tattoo on her forehead. There was something about her that made Ara feel increasingly uncomfortable. She had no idea what it was but there was something about the woman that felt wrong.

It could be the way she looks at her with an impassive look, her toneless voice or the fact that her body language gave next to nothing away. No matter how much Ara tried to see something in her, there was nothing. Not even a glimmer of what would be considered normal.

The woman must have spoken for a good half an hour before she realized that Ara wasn't really responding. She seemed a little confused for a moment but then she turned on her heel and walked away.

Ara sighed in relief as the woman left, closing her eyes and leaning against the rock behind her.

Her relief was short lived when she heard the approaching footsteps. She had doubts that it was the soldiers coming back to attack her but she still opened her eyes to be sure.

Turns out, it was Commander Fluffy and the strange woman.

“Ara,” He started and a bunch of words she did not understand came following after.

She frowned at him before shaking her head and motioning to her mouth.

He understood, sighing before motioning to the woman. “Lynne.” He said her name clearly before motioning back to Ara. “Ara.”

Ara nodded before pointing and quirking an eyebrow at him. He had never introduced himself and she figured it was only polite to ask as he was volunteering this strange woman's name.

“Cullen.” He said simply.

It was a little shorter then what she was sure they called him before but she was willing to accept that. She smiled up at him.

“Nice to meet you, Cullen.”

He had no idea what she said but that was alright, she had long gotten used to that.

Cullen motioned once more to Lynne and then pointed at Solas' house. Ara just looked back at him with a blank look.

Is he asking me to take her into Solas' house?

Cullen frowned before Lynne spoke.

“House.” She pointed at the house, before looking at Ara with a very patient and serene look.

“Oh, for fuck's sake.” She buried her head in her hands. It seems like she was not going to get a respite even with Solas gone. Apparently this new person was to be her teacher.

“House.” The woman repeated.

Ara started to laugh as it seemed the woman assumed her little outburst was her word for the little house. Ara sighed before smiling. “House.” She repeated, parroting at the woman.

This Lynne didn't smile, or even look pleased in the least. Instead, she pointed at something else and said the word for that.

Ara sighed again before looking up at Cullen who gave her a small smile before nodding and walking off.

Lynne repeated the word again.

It was going to be a long day.



As the day progressed, Ara realized this strange woman had the patience of a saint. They had gone through the basics and then she'd whipped out a book out of one of the pockets in her robes to try some more complicated words.

It was completely headache inducing and no matter how many times Ara lost her temper, the woman just sat there calmly; teaching her the words. It was infuriating, and just down right creepy.

Finally, when the woman got up to go for supper, Ara took off.

She didn't want to learn any more words from the woman she couldn't read so she high tailed it out of Haven. She had planned on just going to hide in the woods for a few days. Just long enough to hide until Solas and the rest came back.

Her thoughts got derailed the moment she was through the gates and she saw the smithy. The sound of hammer on metal was like music to her ears.

She found a tree to lean against as she watched the smiths working. Just sitting there as they worked. One of them was clearly giving orders to the rest and she guessed he was the one in charge. She was certain he had noticed her watching but he made no move to shoo her away so she was more then happy just to sit down and watch.

The sound was like a lullaby and she dozed for a little while. Not really sleeping but it was peaceful. Plus no one was trying to fight with her which was a bonus.

She stayed there for most of the day, hoping that Lynne was not looking for her or better yet, that she wouldn't find her if she was.

When it began to darken, she got to her feet and headed back to her little house. She was a bit dismayed to see the woman sitting there waiting for her.

Lynne said a few words and Ara had the impression that the woman had been waiting here for her the entire time. Despite the creepy feeling she got from the woman, she actually felt bad.

“Sorry.” Ara said sheepishly, rubbing the back of her head as she tried to think of how to apologize to the woman. “Tomorrow then?”

The woman gave a nod as if she understood and wandered back to the small keep. Although it could be a temple, Ara wasn't really sure.

She sighed and walked to her little house, remembering that everyone seemed keen on her being inside it at night.

When she stepped inside, it was clear that everything had been put back to where it had been before she had been playing with it a few days ago. The crates were gone but it irritated her that they expected her to stay in here but were willing to come in and move things around.

That was forgotten when she saw a familiar bag on the bed with a few things wrapped in cloth.

“My stuff!” She dashed over and started rummaging through her things.

Everything was as she remembered it in her bag. Some random books, small gem stones, those two daggers, her bag of coins, her little statue of Malacath – which was still wrapped up but she knew it'd been touched – and some of the plants that she'd gathered. She guessed that her things had been pawed over by all the Herald's soldiers and she felt a little insulted by it.

She undid the cloth over her armour and weapons and was dismayed to see the state of them. There was a clear hole in the top of the breast plate. It was large, too large for a simple knife strike and too round to be anything but from a dragon's bite.

“Damn it...” She rubbed her face as she tried to puzzle this out.

Clearly, she had fought a dragon before she arrived here but she simply could not remember. She did remember the ones she had fought leading up to facing that dragon priest but none of them had landed a bite on her like that.

She closed her eyes as she tried to think back to it. Travelling through the area, facing the guards Alduin had erected. Some of them said a few things but she couldn't remember what.

The dragon priest had been easy to kill, same with the draugr. She remembered the ground opening up into that swirling vortex but everything after she stepped into it was a blank. It was like she had stepped into the portal and then ended up in that dungeon.

She rubbed her face as she thought about it. It was possible that it had been a trap laid for her by Alduin, he definitely seemed the type to sacrifice his men if it led to things going the way he wanted.

It was some time but she drifted off to a fitful sleep.



It was her small little house in Whiterun. It was still bigger then the hovel the Imperials had her in now.

She could hear the sound of childish laughter coming from upstairs.

Lucia!” Ara took a step but was stopped by a man stepping out from the room that belonged to the young girl.

He was tall, just a little bit taller then her but just as muscular. The armour he wore was completely foreign to her, black but with gold and silver embellishments. His hair was dark, pulled back from his head in a silver clasp. The pointed ears made it clear he was an elf but the features weren't quite right. They reminded her of Solas but also more like the elves of Nirn, a little more regal and a little more predatory. Her eyes finally met his and she was startled by the intensity, yet she could not think of the colour of the eyes. It was like her mind simply couldn't think of a colour for this dream creature.

Ah, Arakash.” He said with a smile before he moved to sit at one of the chairs next to the fire. “Come, join me for a bit.”

Who are you?” She summoned a sword to her hand. She would have preferred a maul but a sword was far quicker if this man was here threatening Lucia.

He looked startled at her and sighed. “You do not remember, then?”

His voice was almost sad and she was staring at him even more intently. First the wolf and now this man. What else was going to invade her dreams in this strange place.

Remember what?” She asked as she tightened her grip on the summoned blade.

We have met before.” He smiled at her, a sad little smile. “I will trouble you no further.”

Then he was gone. Just like that.

She stared at the space that he had been with a confused expression. There was a familiarity about him and a familiar smell. Perhaps he was the grohiik in humanoid form, coming to torment her. She would question him next time, if she remembered.

Mama! You're back!”

She let the sword disappear as the young woman came running down the stairs. Everything else was forgotten for the moment as her dream focused on the little orphan she had adopted.



The sun hitting her in the face woke her up from the dream.

“I hate this place.” Ara muttered under her breath as she got up from the bed. It took a little while to come fully awake but the warmth of a fire helped.

She didn't have much in the way of food in the little place but she didn't feel all that hungry. She was startled by the sound of a knock at the door.

Sighing, she went over to open it to find the woman from yesterday, Lynne, standing there with a tray of food.

“Good Morning.” Lynne said, although Ara wasn't entirely sure what the words meant. She guessed it was some sort of greeting.

“Breakfast.” Lynne said without a smile as she laid the food on the table.

Ara went to take something when Lynne spoke up again.

“Apple.”

Ara couldn't suppress the groan as it seemed even this was going to be a lesson. One by one, Lynne said every food that was on the tray. She then proceeded to say the words for every utensil on the tray. Which led to every piece of furniture in the room. Then to the random little things like books, comb, boots and so on.

By the end of the morning, Ara had been told the word for every single thing in the little house other then her own things. She had growled at the woman when she tried to open Ara's bag to use those things as a part of the lesson. It appeared that the growl accompanied by a resounding 'No' was enough to get the point across.

Lynne did not seem in the least bit bothered by Ara's refusal to allow her to look within the bag. Lynne did, however, decide that was the time to end the little teaching session.

“Farewell, Ara.” She said, clearly indicating that it was a goodbye of sorts. Ara nodded as the woman left the little house, leaving her to herself for the moment.

Thank Malacath for small mercies.

She waited until she was sure that the woman was gone before she opened the door and stepped out into the midday sun. A quick glance around revealed that there was no one around waiting for her so she went to the same place she had gone to before.

She sat against the tree and watched the smithy again. She watched as they did their work, listened to the words they were saying.

Perhaps it was because she so desperately needed to learn their language, enough to get out of this place, but she was paying more attention to the little conversations they had with one another. She picked up on a few words but nothing enough to let her say coherent sentences, just some expressive dialogue about forging.

She was definitely sure that when one of them said 'Maker's Breath' that was a curse word of sorts as that's what the Master Blacksmith said when one of the younger ones dropped the hammer. It was repeated again when another stubbed his foot. And yet again when another man dropped off a piece of paper.

She watched as they all went off to the Tavern for supper, all save the Master Blacksmith who gave her a curious look before motioning her forward.

Ara had no idea what he wanted but she couldn't help the scramble forward. She had grown up at the forge, learning from her mother as the custom of the Orcs, being around one was second nature.

He didn't smile at her as he handed her a hammer and then motioned at some scrap pieces of metal. Ara grinned before nodding.

“Iron!” She knew that metal, utterly thrilled to see something familiar amongst the bits. There were a lot of little pieces of metal, not enough for a proper blade but she could make something small. She grinned to herself as she set about working the metal.

The Blacksmith looked at her with a curious expression as she began to heat and fold the metal in on itself. She repeated the process of heating and hitting until the few bits of scrap had become a nicely made little block.

She thought about using a little magic to heat the block up faster but thought better of it after Solas' little reaction a few days before. So, she did it as her mother taught her. Hammering until she was certain that there were no air pockets within the metal.

There was a short pause when the Master Blacksmith leaned forward to take a look at what she was doing. Ara thought this might be a little test of sorts so she let him look, waiting until he made some little noise of approval before she began to draw out the metal to make it longer.

She got lost in making the knife and completely did not realize the other smiths had returned and that she was being watched by the group of them. There was more then one anvil for them to hammer at but they all seemed more interested in what she was doing.

She finally got the blade blank to the right shape, lifting it up to ensure that it was straight. She put it into the forge just prior to dipping it in the oil, a process she knew as heat treating, and looked up to see all the eyes on her.

They weren't hostile stares but she was still a little self conscious about the eyes on her.

“Great. An audience.” She mumbled under her breath before she took the knife out and dipped it in the oil.

She heard another grunt of approval from the Master Blacksmith even as all the others seemed to crowd around to get a look at what she had made. The Master barked a few words and they all took a few steps back but she was certain that even the soldiers on the other side of the path were now staring in this direction.

When he came over, she took a step back and handed the blade to him to look over. He gave a nod to her before pointing at himself.

“Harrit.” He said before quirking an eyebrow at her.

“Ara.” She said with a small grin.

He idly waved her hand and she took that as a dismissal.

She went back to her little house, a small spring in her step. Anything said behind her was forgotten as she almost started whistling. She ignored all the stares in her direction and even greeted Lynne with the same 'Good Morning' that the woman had said to her earlier.

“Hello.” Lynne corrected before the word teaching began.

 

Chapter Text

Harrit was impressed. The small blade she had made with the scrap pieces of iron was not the work of an apprentice.

She had managed to fold the scrap bits together with precision, making the blade as easily as most other people breathed air. She had been careful with it, and worked with a skill that was almost beyond her years.

Or at least how old he assumed she was. It was hard to tell, with her looking nothing like anyone he had ever seen before. A green Qunari is what some of the men called her but he had no idea what a Qunari was even like, let alone what colours they came in.

He was almost disappointed when she did not show up the next day but then he had nearly died of fright to find her out at the forge in the middle of the night.

Harrit had thought to scold her but then, she had only picked through the scrap bits left by his apprentices. He had watched, with surprise, as she folded iron and onyx together. Which was followed by her muttering in her strange language.

He's not even sure why he did it but he decided to go out on a limb.

“Ara.” He said softly. He had been told that she might not understand what he was actually saying but that she was quick to understand simple gestures which is what had him pointing to some of the Obsidian he had laying around.

She blinked at him and waited.

“Shit... how do I tell her to make a...” He had a stroke of self proclaimed genius as he picked up one of the swords. He motioned to the Obsidian again and held the sword out for her to look at.

Her face lit up like he had just given her a present. She nodded enthusiastically and began to work with the obsidian.

It was strange watching her with the ore as it seemed like she was testing it out first. Then it hit him, she was testing out to see how much heat it needed and exactly how strong she needed to hit it with to get it to do what she wanted.

He grinned to himself and settled onto a nearby crate to watch her work. After about an hour, he dozed off. The steady hammering lulled him off to sleep like it had done her the first day she'd come down to watch them.

When he woke up in the morning, he was surprised to see her gone. Even more surprising was the obsidian blade sitting on the crate next to him.

It wasn't fully done, there was no hilt but for a blank it was damn good. He picked it up, checking the weight of it, what he could see of the imperfections of the blade and everything else he could reasonably test without finishing the blade. It was finely made and he grinned to himself.

She didn't come down that day but then, the same thing happened in the night. She showed up but she only touched the scraps of iron like the night before.

“Ara.” She looked up from what she was doing and he handed her a different type of metal, this time choosing bloodstone. He motioned to a shield he had taken out for that simple occasion.

Once more, she did the same thing she had the night before. Testing the metal.

He didn't stay up to watch this time, heading to sleep in his bed with a comfortable sigh. He woke up long before morning to find her gone and a half decent shield sitting on the crate. It was roughly the same shape and lacked all the finishings but it was definitely more then acceptable as a shield. Better then what most of his apprentices could manage in ten times the length of time it took her to make it.

He wandered up to the tavern for breakfast and was surprised to see her still awake, although she didn't stay long in the Tavern. He was even more surprised to find out that she had not slept the day before either.

The third night, she showed up again and he looked at her with some concern. There was nothing to hint that she was sleep deprived, her red eyes bright and shining as she waited for him to tell her what to do that night.

He couldn't think of anything for her to make so he simply pointed at one of the swords.. Taking an even greater chance, he gave her some of his rarer metal, everite from Emprise du Lion. It was some of the best ore he had at the moment, something he'd been saving until he found something worthwhile to make. He figured now was a good a time as any to see what she was capable of forging.

And the morning repeated as always, he woke up to find the sword there and her gone.

He had thought the obsidian sword blank was good but the everite sword was nearly a master work.

Harrit tested the blade and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was already partially sharpened. She had taken the time to finish most of it. Smiling to himself, the old smith finished the handle while he waited for his apprentices to wake.

The sun rose higher and he saw Commander Cullen wander down from the Chantry and he elbowed one of his apprentices to fetch him over.

He arranged the two swords and the shield in his little room while he waited. Sipping on a cup of tea when Cullen came over to where he was waiting outside.

“Your apprentice says you wished to show me something?” Cullen asked, his tone calm despite having been distracted from training the soldiers.

“Yes, if you'll come this way, Commander.” Harrit nodded to his senior apprentice and went inside. “As I'm sure you're aware, your guest has been visiting the Forge.”

“Yes, I did not think there was any trouble.” Cullen said. “I'll instruct the guards to keep her from the Forges then.”

“What?” Harrit glanced at him before chuckling and shaking his head. “No, my good Commander. I think you should encourage her to be around here.”

Harrit picked up the obsidian blade and held it out to him.

“Tell me what you think, Commander.”

Cullen blinked and took the sword. The room wasn't really big enough to do anything fancy but the Commander was capable of testing out the basics like he had done earlier. He waited as the Commander finished his inspection of the blade.

“This is fairly decent for an unfinished blade.” Cullen nodded his approval of it.

“Here's one better.” Harrit said as he handed over the everite blade. His work had added the grip, leather wrappings tight around the tang of the blade, set with correct sized pommel to balance the sword out.

“Everite?” Cullen questioned as he set down the blade.

“Your little guest made that in a night. Well, short of the pommel. I haven't tested her knowledge of that, yet, but she's definitely more then capable of smithing.”

Cullen made a small hmmph noise before looking at the other sword and shield. He seemed to be thinking over what Harrit was saying.

“So you're saying she made these during the night?”

“Each one a night. The metal was cold by the time I woke up but I'm not certain how long it took her to make them.”

“You're certain it wasn't one of your apprentices?”

“Damn certain.” Harrit nodded.

“I'll have to discuss this with the others, you understand.”

“That I'm aware of.” Harrit looked at the blades for a moment. “I'm not familiar with her techniques but she's not an apprentice, Commander. I'm fairly certain she's never used either obsidian or everite before now. She recognized iron but that was about it.”

“So, she did this without ever knowing the metals before?” Cullen sounded a little in awe.

“That's what I'm saying. Someone somewhere is missing a damn good smith.”

“I take it you're suggesting we use this to our advantage?”

“Would be a shame not to. I don't think she sleeps, Commander.”

“What do you mean?”

“She's been here every night for the last four nights, my apprentices tell me she's spent most of the days with that tranquil.” Harrit said with a shrug. “She might be getting a few hours a night but I don't think she's sleeping at all.”

Cullen made another hmmph noise as he thought about what he was saying.

“She doesn't look like she's tired out during the day so... if you get your little group to agree, I'd like to have her here during the night making gear.” Harrit posed it innocently enough. She'd be more then capable of helping supply Cullen's little army if she was making things while the rest of them slept.

“I'll have to discuss this with the others but that brings up more concerns.” Cullen was honest with him. “We're still trying to puzzle out where she came from and what she's doing here.”

“I know but I'm really starting to think she's not a spy, Commander.” Harrit said with a shrug. “She's got something she's worried about but the way she started smithing... you can ask the boys, she looked like she was at peace.”

“I'll keep all this in mind.” Cullen answered.

“Good. Just remember, I'd like her here.”

“Understood.” Cullen turned and walked to the door. “Good day, Master Smith.”

“You as well, Commander.” Harrit said as he started about his day again.

 

Chapter Text

The days had stretched on and Ara was starting to grasp some of the harder parts of the language. Not enough to have a fluent conversation with people but she was at least starting to understand things like 'going' and 'holy shit, you're huge'. It had been about nine days since she started going to the blacksmith at night, and at least two days since anyone had called her the lovely 'demon' word.

That was partially due to the smiths. Ever since they had watched her make the blade out of scraps, it seemed that the whole group just accepted her as one of their own. Even the apprentices who were still learning.

When one of the soldiers, while his Commander was off to lunch, decided to call her something foul in their tongue; one of those smiths came from within the smithy and punched him. She savoured the shot as the soldier was definitely going to be spotting a black eye come the morning. The smith said something that she only guessed was rude as several soldiers came out to help their fallen comrade. It almost became a full on fight as the rest of the smiths swarmed out.

She was a bit surprised when they stood between her and the soldiers, the two groups shouting back and forth. There were a few words she understood, something about a Maker and someone's flaming something or others. These people were downright strange.

Commander Fluffy showed up shortly after that and words were exchanged between the Master Smith Harrit and Cullen. She was even more surprised when Harrit led her back to the forge for her to actually do some smith work.

She had to admit, this was far nicer then things had been. The apprentices around her even cracking some jokes. Or at least she assumed it was jokes as they all seemed to laugh. She picked up a few words here and there but most of it was smithing terminology. Not that she objected, it was kind of nice to be able to ask where were the tongs instead of trying to ask with flailing her arms around the air.

She learned their names as well. Johns was the blonde apprentice. Samuel was the one who decked the soldier. And Kipp was the youngest of the three. Of course, there was also Harrit but he was considered the Master Smith.

They all seemed to consider herself one of them.

Lynne still kept up her lessons but it was mostly done when Harrit made her take breaks. Apparently, he assumed her unusual sleeping habits was a bit of a danger if she didn't at least rest or try to nap once every few days.

She gave up trying to explain that she just didn't sleep that often. It hadn't seemed strange when she was travelling the Skyrim countryside but now, it was just leading to her being bored most nights.

Lynne had decided to take advantage of the inability to sleep and started with her education at other, even earlier hours. Harrit had seemed a bit put off by the woman taking charge of Ara's time but it seemed that had been the decision of the Commander and whomever else made decisions around the town.

By the fourteenth day, Ara had managed to figure out some numbers but anything above ten just became “many”. Despite that, Lynne seemed pleased with her speed at learning the words or at least pleased as the woman could manage. She had told Ara that she was doing well in an almost toneless voice with the barest amount of emotion in her face.

It was still strange and it unsettled her worse then the first time one of the draugr got out of it's coffin. She was starting to miss the angry Imperial woman, at least it was some sort of emotion. Harrit had laughed when she tried to explain her discomfort with the woman, something he had said made her think he felt the same which was a bit of a relief.

She had skipped out on studying words that morning, helping Harrit with repairing some of the armour. He seemed to believe she was capable of repairing gear that would have normally been scrapped. It was pleasing to know that someone was willing to treat her on her ability instead of just assuming she was something to fear because she was a different colour.

Ara was completely entranced when she heard some shouting from the down the road.

“Herald!” The soldier's voice was raised loudly and there were a few other words shouted. Ara recognized a few or at least she assumed so. It sounded like he said that the Herald had returned but he was shouting and had such a horrible accent. “Herald!”

The soldiers all stopped but she paid little mind to their attention. She focused instead on the armour before her. It was gripped tight in her tongs as she hammered it to straighten out the broken piece.

She paid little mind as the group dismounted at the stables nearby. They were all chatting with one another and sounded tired but she could hear Commander Fluffy welcoming the Herald back before they all started travelling up the road.

“Herald's back.” Harrit said to her. She nodded at him but continued to work on the armour. He reached over and put his hand on her's before tilting his head over his shoulder. “I think he's wanting to talk.”

She blinked at the Master Smith. She heard all the words and understood about half of what he was saying. Harrit had understood from the beginning that she understood body language and a few words far easier then long complicated words.

Ara glanced in the direction he was gesturing and she could see Solas standing there. The elf was watching her with a curious look.

“I'll finish.” Harrit said to her.

She frowned at him before sighing and moving away from the forge. He was the Master Smith and it was by his graces that she had been allowed to work at the smithy at all. She bowed her head in respect as she discarded the heavy gloves in a pile on the nearby crates. Instead of taking the logical exit, she vaulted over the little fence that surrounded the forge.

“Solas. Welcome...” She tried to think of the word but nothing was coming. “Welcome.”

“Ara,” He said with a half smile. “Ma serannas. May we talk?”

She tilted her head and motioned for him to lead the way. She understood the elvish, his thanks. She guessed that meant Welcome – something was the appropriate greeting.

“You've been keeping up your studies, I see.” He said with a smile as he walked, leading the way back to that little spot in the woods where they had demonstrated their little magical abilities.

She frowned a little at his words as she wasn't entirely certain what he meant by that.

“Lynne, words.” She said the name and the word with a small grimace. “Harrit and forge.”

“You are a smith then?” Solas asked curiously as they walked.

“Yes.” Ara tried to think of how to explain that she had been smithing longer then most of the apprentices had been alive. She pointed to herself and then measured the height of a child, or at least as close as she could manage. “Little... little me. Mother smith.”

“You learned from your mother?” Solas provided. “When you were little?”

“Yes.” Ara nodded, pleased that he had understood. “You well?”

“Fine,” Solas said with a chuckle. “Long ride from the Hinterlands.”

“Hinterlands.” It wasn't so much a question, more of Ara puzzling out the word. She did not recall any place in Skyrim by that name. She pushed it aside as she asked the question she had been puzzling over for several weeks. “Lynne... wrong.” She frowned for a little. “She wrong. You right. Harrit right. Ellana right. Her wrong?”

She tried to explain it as best as she could. She had no idea why but Lynne still felt wrong to her. Everyone else felt alright but not her.

“Lynne is...” There was a scowl forming on Solas' face but there was also that expression like he was trying to sort out how to explain it. “Tranquil.” He said. “She is cut off from dreaming and magic.”

Ara quirked an eyebrow, wondering exactly what that was supposed to mean. Solas seemed to understand her confusion so he moved to pick up a stick.

“Lynne.” He said holding the stick up and then snapped it in half.

“Broken?” Ara said with a scowl forming on her face. “Lynne broken?”

“Yes, she's broken.” Solas said. “Templars cut her off from the fade. Where magic and dreams come from. They took her magic.”

Ara's scowl deepened. “Why?”

“I don't know.”

Ara started to pace, and she could feel anger rising in her. She understood that magic was dangerous but it seemed a bit extreme to deal with mages by making them like Lynne.

“You haven't been using magic, have you?” Solas asked her, concern in his voice.

“Me? Magic?” Ara blinked at him before shaking her head. “No. No magic. Smith.”

Solas nodded, seeming pleased with her answer but quickly fired another question. “Have you been sleeping?”

She frowned at him, wondering if someone had passed along her sleeping habits to the elf.

“Yes.” She said with a shrug.

“Ara.” He crossed his arms and frowned at her.

“Yes. Every....” She tried to think of the numbers that Lynne had taught her but gave up and just counted on her fingers before holding up four fingers. “Many.”

Solas sighed at her, much like one would with a child. She huffed at him before shrugging. She didn't want to bother trying to explain that she didn't need much sleep. It would never get across in the limited vocabulary.

“Ah, messere Solas.” The voice came from down the path and they both turned to look at the scout that had run to catch up to them. “The Lady Herald wishes to speak with you and the smith woman.”

“Very well.” Solas said with a wave of his hand before motioning for her to follow.

Ara kept up with him, not saying a word as they walked. She shrugged at Harrit as they passed but the Master Smith didn't say a thing to her. She also noticed that Commander Fluffy wasn't in his usual place with the soldiers.

The scout parted ways with them as they walked, heading to the tavern while Solas beckoned for her to follow him to the Chantry.

She remembered this building, it's where they kept her in the dungeon for several weeks. The sisters – as that's what Lynne had explained to her or at least tried to anyway – stood near the doorway, the pair of them whispering back and forth. It didn't take the same language to understand when someone was gossiping.

Solas sighed, as he clearly understood what they were saying as well.

He didn't stop walking, however, and led Ara through the doors and into the hall proper. They passed more of the priestesses/sisters and were only stopped by a woman in a similar garb. She just happened to have a larger hat.

Ara mused that their religion must be led by whomever has the largest hat.

She may have laughed a little out loud as the woman shot her a strange look that was definitely on the side of unfriendly.

Solas paid little attention to what was going on as he led her into the meeting room for the leaders of this little Inquisition. They all stood arranged around a rather large table that looked like it was made from a large stump. There was the angry Imperial woman, Cassandra. Commander Fluffy. The Herald. And some woman that Ara was sure she'd seen but she had no clue who she was at all.

“You're here, good.” Ellana said with a smile.

 

Chapter Text

Upon arriving back at Haven, Cullen had updated them with everything. Most of the reports were about their agents, new recruits and supplies. They were all pleased that she had managed to recruit Mother Giselle but all Ellana wanted to do was sink into her bed and sleep the day away.

Shouts of Herald! Herald! had made it clear that she was not to rest. She met with her inner circle instead. Discussing things with them always seemed to calm her down after the people of Haven chanted at her like she was some holy woman. She didn't even believe in their Maker.

Cullen had explained to her that Harrit had taken a shine to Ara, and that the woman was apparently trained as a smith. Leliana had then piped up with more information, or lack of information. Apparently, Ara was good enough of a smith that someone somewhere should have noticed her absence. Ellana felt a little guilty that she hadn't gotten to know the woman any better then the few brief times that they had talked together, but then, she had no idea how she would even talk to her.

Leliana also mentioned that the tranquil, Lynne, had made more headway in teaching the strange green skinned woman.

Leliana then suggested that they bring the woman to them for further questioning, as she may understand them more easily. Ellana agreed but suggested either Solas or Lynne to be there.

Cullen quickly stepped in and suggested Solas which brought a surprised look from the rest. He simply shrugged as they sent off the scout to find the two. She eyed the Commander and wondered what it was that he didn't share with the rest of them. Clearly it was not something that was a danger to them or else he would have volunteered it, possibly loudly.

A short while later, both the elf and the orc – Ellana was never going to get used to that word – walked into the war room. Ellana could see the difference in height compared to the rest of them now that they were all in a smaller space. Ara was the tallest of all of them, with Cullen being just slightly shorter. Up close, Ellana could see the yellowed parts of the woman's green skin as it seemed she was not one complete shade.

Solas moved a few steps to her right. It was an unobtrusive position, allowing them all to face Ara but keeping close. Ellana put that thought aside as she focused on what they were doing here.

“You're here, good.” Ellana said with a smile, trying to put the woman at ease.

“Yes.” Ara replied simply but warily. The red eyes flicked between all of them before settling on on her.

“I believe you've met everyone before.” Ellana said, motioning to her companions.

“No.” Ara said with a shake of her head before pointing at Josephine. Her eyebrow quirked as she looked at Ellana, that question in her eyes. “Who her?”

“Josephine.” Ellana smiled.

“Josephine.” Ara responded, pronouncing the woman's name on the first try. She nodded then. “Good... welcome?”

Solas rolled his eyes a little before he corrected her, his tone was gentle as if he was correcting a child. “Greetings.”

“Greetings.” She said with a nod.

“Greetings, Ara.” Josephine said with a kind smile. The others all repeated a hello, one after another but she did not seem to pay them much mind.

“We were hoping you could explain more of yourself.” Ellana was hopeful that the woman understood enough of what they were saying.

“Me?” Ara blinked before tilting her head. “What...” She seemed to struggle with the words. Apparently, her lessons with Lynne had not been as successful as Ellana was led to believe. “What know?”

Ellana looked at her with some sympathy. It was clear that she had made great strides in learning over the last few weeks, but it was unfair of them to assume she was just going to pick up the trade tongue that quickly.

“Where are you from?” Cullen asked.

“No words.” Ara said with a frown as she seemed to think a little harder. She pointed at herself. “Arakash gra-Krazak. Ara...” She hesitated for a moment. “Ara from Krazak. Krazak like Haven. Walled. Orcs.”

They puzzled over that for a moment but it was Solas who spoke up.

“Krazak is a walled city?” He provided.

“No. No city. It...” She frowned before moving to the war map.

Cullen moved to intercept her but Ellana held her hand up, keeping him from acting. The Commander glowered as Ara picked up one of the pieces. The woman turned the piece over in her hand before she turned back to Ellana.

“Krazak. This Krazak.” She held out the piece to Ellana.

Holding it in her hand, Ellana glanced down at the small piece. It was carved in the form of a small barricade with a few men behind the walls. Cullen said the piece was for where ever they had to shore up a camp, or fortifications, she wasn't completely sure as she hadn't been paying attention at the time.

“This. With houses.” Ara nodded, pointing at the carved piece in Ellana's hand. “And orichalcum mine. Always mine.”

She glanced up at her advisers as she passed the piece over to Cullen, who looked it over before handing it over to Cassandra. She turned it over a few times before looking up at Ara with a curious look.

She was unfamiliar with the word orichalcum, guessing that it was something in Ara's native tongue. It was clear that it was an ore of some sort or perhaps gem stone but beyond that, she would leave it up to the others to determine it. Leliana had noticed the word and the Spymaster had a clear look in her eyes that she would use that to further search for the origins of this woman.

“A stronghold.” Cassandra said. “Perhaps a fort?”

Ara shrugged as those were words the woman was unfamiliar with. She merely remained silent and waited for the next question. It was clear that she had been questioned like this before and Ellana was getting more curious by the second.

“Did you learn smithing there?” Ellana questioned, her hand motioning towards the piece in Cassandra's hand.

“Mother.” Ara said with a nod. “Mother forge...” She frowned as she tried to figure out the word.

“She mentioned to me earlier that her mother had taught her how to smith.” Solas volunteered.

“When did she mention this?” Cassandra demanded.

“Just before we came in here, actually.” Solas said with little change in his tone but there was a faint flicker of annoyance in his eyes.

“How long have you been a smith?” Leliana prompted.

Ara looked at all of them with a confused expression before glancing to Solas with a shrug. Something seemed to pass between the two of them as he volunteered the answer.

“Since she was little, however long that has been.” Solas said with a sigh.

“Oh!” Ara said as she understood and nodded in agreement with him. “Many. Many long. Little me.” She motioned to the height of a child.

“Since you were a child?” Ellana quirked an eyebrow at that. They had no idea how old Ara actually was but it appeared she had been an apprentice at a young age.

“Child?” Ara rolled the word around. “Little... littles?”

“Yes, a child is a little one.” Ellana nodded again.

“Child, yes.” Ara nodded.

“How old are you?” Leliana asked.

“Old?” It seemed that it was not a train of words that she had learned.

“Perhaps this line of questioning should be done in a different setting?” Solas suggested, a faint bit of annoyance in his tone. “You will only confuse her if this persists.”

Cassandra was about to say something when Cullen cut in.

“He's quite right.” Cullen said, finally speaking up after the questioning. “Perhaps it would be best if he or Lynne questions her about things like this?”

“That would probably be for the best.” Leliana said before casting a wary glance in Ara's direction. “Lynne would be more suited to obtaining information from her.”

“Lynne?” Ara questioned before looking at the others intently. “Lynne broken.”

Ellana blinked at the woman for a moment, trying to understand exactly what made Lynne broken in Ara's mind.

“She's one of the tranquil.” Solas gave the answer for Ara. “I'm not sure it would be wise to have Lynne question her.”

Ara made a face at the mention of the word tranquil and Ellana knew she understood who and what they were referring to. That was another curious thing that Ellana would think about after this meeting was over.

“And why is that?” Leliana's voice was almost challenging.

“Ara has indicated that she thinks Lynne is wrong.” Solas said with a small shrug. “I do not believe that is because of the woman's opinions as she then indicated that other people were right, like myself, Ellana and the blacksmith. I do not think she enjoys being in the tranquil's presence.”

“Lynne wrong.” Ara nodded.

Ellana couldn't help but agree with the woman. She really despised the rite of tranquillity as it reduced mages to mere shells of themselves. They had their emotions and identities stripped away and became little more then obedient slaves. The idea was just wrong.

“Lynne... “ Ara continued, explaining as Leliana was still staring at her with a rather intense stare. “Hard. Lynne wrong here.” She motioned to her face. “Words hard. Can't...” The orc continued to struggle with the words. “Can't see – read Lynne. Hard learn.”

“Body language.” Cullen said with some surprise. “You mean body language?”

“Yes. Body. Can't read Lynne body.” Ara nodded enthusiastically. “No smile. No frown. Wrong.”

Ellana glanced over at the woman in surprise. She knew that Ara had been picking up words relatively quickly but she had not thought that the woman had been learning through watching people. It made sense now that she thought about it. How much was in a word, when a posture or tone of voice could change the meaning of something with ease. A smile was almost universal, same with a nod.

“I had not considered that.” Leliana said with an agreeing nod, looking almost guilty for a fleeting second before her features were once more schooled into a more thoughtful look. “Solas, you are to question her further about her background as she seems to trust you. You are to report anything of note you discover about her.”

“Very well.” Solas said with a toneless expression. “Are there any other questions?”

“Yes.” Cullen said as he leaned against the war table. “Ara, what is your armour made of?”

She blinked at him and then shook her head while giving a small shrug of her shoulders. It looked almost comical but Ellana didn't laugh.

“Ah well, when she learns more words then.” Cullen said with a small wave of his hand.

“That will be all for now.” Leliana said as she glanced to the two of them. “Solas, Ara; thank you for coming.”

Ara was about to say something when Solas gripped her by her arm and led her from the war room. The door closing behind them as they went.

“She's hiding something.” Leliana said after it was clear they were gone.

“You think so?” Josephine asked, having been silent for most of the meeting until now.

“Yes.” Leliana answered.

“I agree.” Cullen said as he glanced over at the others. “She has been at the smithy long enough to understand my question. I think she did not want to tell us what the armour is made of.”

“That's of concern?” Ellana asked cautiously. She did not want to choose sides between her Advisers and Ara but she saw no reason why the woman lie to them about her armour.

“Yes.” Cullen said with a nod as he took the stockade piece and set it back down in it's place on the table. “Harrit examined the armour prior to her working with him. It's made of a metal he's never seen before, and none of the researchers have any idea. In addition, it appears to be enchanted but...” He stressed the word. “Harrit believes she made it herself, and that includes the enchantments on it.”

“You can't be serious.” Cassandra asked as she looked up at him.

“I am.” Cullen responded as he looked over at her. “She crafted a sword out of everite in about half a night.”

“And the enchantment?” Caution was in Leliana's voice as she asked the question.

“We're not sure, we didn't try to trigger it but one of the mages examined it.” Cullen answered. “They can't tell what it is, nor can they determine what rune was used to make it.”

“What is so special about that?” Josephine asked.

“She had never seen the metal before. Harrit watched her test out the metal before she began work with it. She crafted a nearly complete master level blade in half the time it would have taken Harrit to make it.” Cullen said. “With enchanting... well, most non-dwarves don't take well to making runes. Being that close to lyrium drives a person mad.”

Cassandra made a hmmph noise as she thought that over.

“As far as my agents have been able to tell, no one is missing a smith of her calibre.” Leliana added. “I've sent word to all the major cities, everywhere but Tevinter. No one has any rumours of a missing master smith, nor are there any tales of a green skinned smith.”

“It is moot until Solas discovers more from her.” Cassandra volunteered.

“Can we trust the apostate to tell us the truth?” Cullen questioned.

“I believe so.” Ellana said. “He is here willingly after all.”

She desperately wanted to believe that Solas was here to help them. He had already aided her in keeping her alive when the mark threatened to kill her. It was also nice to have another elf around, especially one that seemed so knowledgeable about the fade and magic in general.

“We shall have to wait and see,” Leliana said with a nod.

 

Chapter Text

Ara followed Solas out of the war room as he led them back to their small little houses. She half expected Lynne to be waiting for her but was relieved to find that there was no one there at all. There was just the little cottages and her rock. She was definitely sleeping by the rock tonight. Their questions made her ornery.

She was about to travel past him to the smith when he held up his hand. She quirked an eyebrow at him but couldn't figure out his expression as he seemed a little bit distant. It made her wonder if he had caught the few little lies she had said during the little interrogation.

“Wait.” He said before motioning towards his little house. “We need to speak.”

She frowned and thought about taking off on a run but decided against it. Sighing, she followed the elf into what passed as his home.

She was not surprised to find that his house was just like her own. Nearly the mirror of furniture. She was amused to find that he had shifted his own bed away from the window as well.

Solas motioned for her to sit in one of the chairs as he moved to close and lock the door behind them. She sat up a little in the chair and warily watched him.

“Why did you lie to Commander Cullen?” He asked as he turned around, facing her. His eyes were dark but it was clear he expected the truth when his voice raised in that question.

She wasn't certain of all the words in his sentence but she knew what he was referring to almost instantly. Ara couldn't keep the scowl from her face as she spoke. She managed not to cross her arms like a petulant child and humoured him.

“Armour. Armour made...” She paused for a moment, trying to think of the proper words. “Ore no here.”

“Not here.” Solas corrected.

“Ore not here.” She repeated before tapping her chest. It seemed simple enough to explain to him what it took to reforge her daedra armour. “Need... thump thump.”

“Heart?” Solas too a step away from her, his face a mask of horror as he realized what she was saying. “It's made with hearts?”

“Yes. Thump thump... heart.” She nodded, quirking an eyebrow at him in surprise at his reaction. Then it dawned on her that he was thinking of hearts from him or others. She quickly shook her head. “No. Not Solas heart. Not Ellana heart. It daedra heart.”

“Daedra?” He asked, still looking horrified but no longer retreating. It was also clear that he did not know what that word meant.

“Daedra.” She nodded before puzzling out further how to explain what the daedra was. There was only one thing that the people here seemed to use in the same manner that those of Skyrim referred to daedra so she decided to try the word. Her voice was a little hesitant as she spoke. “Demon?”

“Demons don't have hearts.” Solas spat at her.

Well, there goes that explanation.

Ara sighed before thinking further. How could she explain to him that she was only taking the daedra's hearts because at that point, it wasn't like they had much use for them.

“Daedra. Daedra bad. Daedra hurt people.” She said with a nod before pointing at herself. “Kill Daedra. Take heart. Make armour.”

She paused as she had another idea.

“Deer. Kill deer. Take hide. Make armour?”

He seemed to understand that, and visibly calmed. It would have to do for now as an explanation as she didn't want to try to tell him that a daedra was definitely not like a deer. He had looked at her with such revulsion that she was fairly certain he would react terribly to knowing that a daedra was just as intelligent as him or her.

“You made the armour yourself?” Solas asked as he moved to sit on the edge of his bed, as opposed to the nearer chair.

She understood why he did it, he was wary of her now that she had said that. She almost regretted explaining it now. Not because she needed a friend but he was one of her few lifelines to figuring out where the hell she was at and how to get out of here.

“Yes. Make armour.” She nodded. “Armour broken. No ore. No daedra. No fix.”

“You can't repair your armour?” Solas asked but she was certain he already knew the answer.

“Yes. No fix. No make.” Ara sighed and sank into her chair. She pointed to herself again. “No tell. He want many armour.”

Solas seemed to understand which for that she was grateful. It made things easier if he wasn't constantly questioning her and making her think that she was a bad person. There were days when she could be but she genuinely wanted to help things. It was too large of a habit to try to break. After all, nearly everyone in Skyrim had come to her with their problems. The legendary Dragonborn.

“I understand.” Solas said with a sigh before he rubbed his face. “You should be careful how much you let the humans know about you.”

Ara fixed him with a look before shaking her head. She had no idea what he was saying but she guessed it was some sort of warning. It was just hard to make sure what he was saying as she couldn't see his face. She was well aware of how easily he hid things but it made it easier if she could see his face when he talked. His body posture helped but not as much as his face.

“Ara go?” She questioned, motioning to the door.

“One minute.” He said as he straightened up and looked over at her. “Ara, would you prefer Lynne to continue your learning?”

“Lynne?” Ara blinked at the question. “Lynne words?”

“Yes, would you prefer her to me?”

“No.” She stated it firmly. She had no desire to spend more time with the tranquil. Even if Solas was an elf, and hid what he was thinking, she could learn far more from him then she could from the woman. “Solas. Can see Solas. Solas not wrong. Solas smells. Solas right.”

He just stared at her with a very confused expression. She sighed and just shrugged at him. She did not really trust the tranquil woman but that was more because of the disquiet the other woman instilled in her. People shouldn't be like the tranquil. Even if Solas didn't seem like the rest of the people in this little town, he at least smiled and frowned when it was appropriate.

“Ara go?” She asked again.

“Fine.” He waved at her. “Go.”

She was out the door in seconds and back down to the smithy. Harrit was waiting with a grin and handed her another breast plate to fix.

 

Chapter Text

Solas didn't want to admit it but he was actually happy that Ara had not wanted to have the tranquil continue to teach her. Ara was a puzzle that he was going to be the person to solve. He knew it was a distraction but he rather enjoyed it as it helped pull his mind away from this dreary location. There was only so much time he could spend in the fade before someone began to question him.

There was another possible distraction but he was fighting hard to ignore that. Focusing on Ara made it a lot easier to ignore his building attraction to the Herald.

He had found himself watching Ellana as they travelled through the Hinterlands, and he could easily see her becoming a distraction but one that threatened a little more then just to distract him from his true task. There was something about the Dalish woman that captured his attention far more then it had been in centuries.

He thanked whatever spirits had set Ara in his path as she was a welcome diversion from the real thing he wanted to distract him. Here in Haven, Ara's studies would keep him from making a mistake.

Sighing to himself, Solas pushed the thoughts from his mind as he watched Ara leave.

Her comments about hearts came back to mind and he regretted the look he had given her. She had looked so crestfallen when he had recoiled in horror. Despite having only spent a few days with her prior to leaving with Ellana, it seemed that the Dragonborn trusted him the most out of every one here. Of course, he had given her no reasons not to trust him.

He decided to get himself ready for sleep, hoping to learn more of her through her dreams, that's if she actually did sleep tonight. He had sought her in the days while they were in the Hinterlands but she had been elusive, and apparently rarely sleeping.

Settling into his bed, he slipped into the fade.



He was relieved to find her in her dreams. She was the orc this time but he could see the fluctuation of the fade around her. Little ghostly wings and horns would appear for a moment before vanishing. She did not seem to be the least bit concerned.

He kept to his wolf form as he padded into her dream. It was a simple thing. One within an unfamiliar building. There were stairs leading to a second level and a fireplace at the centre of the room. He could smell herbs and meat. The laugh of a child from upstairs made her flinch but she made no move to go to it.

I know you're there, grohiik.” She said softly.

He was not surprised that she noticed his arrival in her dreams. He slunk out from the shadows to sit on one side of the fire, tilting his wolfish head to peer at her.

You seem at odds, irmorisenatha.” He said simply.

Old memories stirring new wounds.” She sighed.

He heard the child laugh again and the orc closed her eyes as she took a deep breath.

What wounds trouble you?”

I have counted days since I was taken out of my cell,” She spoke, opening those red eyes that seemed almost sad. “It has been more then three weeks.”

This troubles you?”

I have left home many times before but I have always returned. If I would be longer then a week, I would send a message.”

Mama! You've returned!” The delighted squeal of a child echoed in the house as a little girl came running down the stairs.

Solas watched as the little girl threw her arms around Ara, giving her a tight hug. He could see that the girl was not an orc like Ara but more human. Her features were soft, still with the chubbiness of childhood, but he could see the stress that had once lined them. The look of malnourishment never fully left a person and he could see it in the way the child stood.

He watched with dawning realization that this was Ara's family. Mama, she had called the orc. It brought more questions but it did give him an answer to one he didn't know he had. She had a family where she came from.

I have.” Ara said, her voice was a little detached. “Why don't you go out and play, Lucia?”

Okay, Mama.” The little girl gave Ara hug before she turned and ran straight through Solas, then around the fire and out the door.

He felt a little disturbed as he watched the memory unfold, something about it was a little off.

You have a daughter?” He inquired, his voice soft.

He wondered if perhaps this was like the elvhen. That a child born of an orc and human would be human. She had said that she was a mer, a descendant of elves, so it was possible.

Lucia,” She said with a nod. “An orphan I found in Whiterun. Her parents died and her uncle and aunt threw her out.”

You took in an orphan?” He managed not to sound too surprised.

Yes.”

That is... most kind of you.” Solas said truthfully. He would not have been so kind.

In the Stronghold, children are not abandoned.” Her red eyes darkened a little as she talked. “It is the sign of a poor chief if he cannot care for his children.”

His children?” Solas tilted his head. “Are you the daughter of a chief then?”

Yes. My mother was the Forge Wife. Second wife of the chief. I payed the price to be allowed to leave.” She wrinkled her nose. “All children are children of the chief. It is the way of things.”

I do not understand what that means.” Solas said even though he had an idea. She had paid for her freedom from her Stronghold, paid in gold like she had been a slave.

Within the Stronghold, every ogiim has a purpose. Has a place. We defend the Stronghold to our deaths.” Ara explained. “I would have been wife to the next chief if I was lucky, otherwise, I would have been forced to remain as just another ogiim with no life beyond the Stronghold. I did not wish for this so I paid my debt to the Stronghold so that I could leave.”

Solas pondered over what she was saying, he did not like it but he could understand it.

Your people, they are few in number?”

Yes. We once lived in Orsinium, but that was many years before I was born.” Ara paused. “Orsinium was a province, one of peace but others did not view it so.”

Solas could hear the laugh of a child again, and once more, Ara flinched at the noise.

It still exists but the people of my Stronghold, Krazak, live far from it.”

The laugh grew louder and once more the young human, Lucia, came running down the stairs. Her face full with a smile. Solas stared at the memory of the girl.

Mama! You've returned!” Like before, she threw her arms around Ara and gave her a hug.

Yes, Lucia. Why don't you go out to play?” Ara responded with that same detached tone.

Okay, mama!” And once more, the child ran through him to get outside.

Solas frowned as he understood what was playing out here before him.

How many times has this memory repeated?”

Seven times before you arrived.” Ara said with a sigh.

Why do you not stop it?”

I cannot.” She said with a rueful expression.

This is a dream, irmorisenatha, your dream.” Solas eyed her with caution, unsure why she believed it such when he knew she was more then capable of changing her dream. She was powerful but yet she seemed to believe she had no effect on the fade around her. “You can stop this if you will it.”

Perhaps I do not will it, grohiik.” She said crossly.

Then you torture yourself with this?” He could not keep his surprise out of his voice.

Yes.” Ara answered.

Why?”

I have slain my brothers.” Ara said with a shrug.

Your brothers?” Solas stopped, startled by the revelation. He had not believed that she was capable of such a thing but then, she had told him earlier that she used hearts to make her armour. He had done worse but he was hard pressed to think of anything at the moment.

The dovah... dragons.” Ara said with a shrug. “I have slain many in my quest to hunt down Alduin. I protected the joorre from them.”

Solas understood quite well what she said. He had defeated and imprisoned those he had once called brothers. It made some sort of sense with what she had mentioned before of herself. He was surprised that she had gone through the same, though not that surprised to find she viewed the dragons as her brothers.

You feel guilt for such?”

Of course.” Ara looked at him with a strange look. “Tell me, grohiik, if you had the choice. Would you kill your kin to save the world?”

Yes.” Solas said without hesitation.

And if you did so, would you not feel guilt for removing them from the world? Or would you be so cold to believe that you have done right, regardless of the consequences?”

Solas hesitated then as she spoke. There was far too much similarities in her beliefs and his own. It was beyond unsettling but it made him realize that she may indeed be capable of knowing his secret without hating him for it.

He thought of showing his true self but then he remembered what she had said about the Breach. How she had reacted to Ellana's hand flaring up. There was telling her that he was Fen'Harel but he did not think she would accept him so readily if she learned that he was the cause of the wound in the sky.

He sighed to himself and did not answer.

I do not believe you to be so cold, grohiik.” Ara said.

There was the laugh of a child again and this time he flinched at the noise.

Please, irmorisenatha, allow me to spare you this torment.” Solas felt a bit of pity for her.

It is my torment, grohiik.” Ara sighed even as it repeated again.

The girl came down, hugged Ara and the two of them spoke together and then Lucia was once more out the door.

I do not believe you are deserving of this.” He whined as he turned his gaze towards the stairs.

What you believe and what I believe are two different things.” She said with a withering stare.

Then what do you believe, irmorisenatha?” Solas' voice was still that whine. “That you deserve to be punished for protecting those that needed the protection?”

You do not understand, grohiik.” He turned to see that her eyes were glowing red.

Then explain this to me, irmorisenatha.” Solas prompted.

No.” She said simply as she lifted her hand to him. “I will answer no more questions. Leave me to this.”

Solas was about to question when he felt himself being pushed from the dream. It was like a force had simply decided to remove him from the dream.



Solas came awake with a start, finding himself in his bed. He stared up at the ceiling with a confused expression on his face. He had learned much in her mind but he had not expected something to throw him out of her dream. He was capable of leading others, of changing the fade with his will to suit his needs, yet something had been strong enough to take him out of her dreaming mind.

Something far more powerful then him.

 

Chapter Text

The days had begun to stretch on again but no one was calling her a demon now so that was a plus. Solas was patient with her and she was sure that only his curiosity about her was what kept him from losing his temper. Not that she blamed him, he was being forced to teach someone a language in far too short a time frame. Forges, she found it irritating and she was just the one who was learning it. At least Lynne no longer came to teach her, she still couldn't get over how unsettling that woman was.

She was getting it though. She was at the point she could form simple sentences. Enough to be understood even if it made her feel like she was the dullest sword in the armoury. Still, it was a far better situation then it had been. It helped when she was permitted to go to the smithy. Harrit still welcomed her like it was the first time she had shown up.

Ara made a point of pretending to not understand when Solas or the others asked about her past. The days that had passed made it clear to her that it was unlikely this was a ploy to do her harm but she did not feel comfortable sharing it with them. She was not sure if it was old prejudices or if there was just something about them that made her wary. Whatever he, and the others, believed her to be; no one was blunt enough to outright ask and she was surprisingly okay with that. She just didn't want to tell anything else to him with how badly he reacted to learning about how she made her armour.

She did share with the wolf who came into her dream. There was something about it that was familiar but she was hard pressed to really figure out what it was. She'd come to the conclusion that he was no daedra but he was genuinely curious about her. So, she answered whatever question he had. Most times, anyway. She would not answer any questions pertaining to Lucia but thankfully, he never asked.

Unfortunately, she did not sleep often enough to try and draw him to herself. Which was probably for the best as she didn't want to reveal too much about herself. It was her lack of inability to speak fully to others that had her telling him too much. Deep down, she was lonely.

The house was another issue, she had begun sleeping in there because the small elf woman had asked her but it was still a weird little house. It was more like a storage building. It didn't even have a proper fire place for cooking. She liked it less here then she did when she faced the executioner's axe in Helgen. At least the rest of Haven left her alone in her little house.

She was leaning against the wall when she heard a knock at the door but no one came in. She sighed as she realized they were waiting for her to allow them to come into the house.

“Enter.” The words still sounded foreign to her.

The door was pushed open and Ara could smell the faint electric smell she normally associated with Solas but there were the smells of plants – especially one they called elfroot – and she guessed it as the Herald. That electric smell was always less with the other mages around here and the rest never came to visit her. She always found herself staring at the young woman with the strange tattoos on her face. She was just so... short. She was too short to be one of the prats, the high elves, but far too soft to be a wood elf. The blue eyes were the same shade as ice but there was a warmth there. A friendliness that was not often found amongst the people around the village.

And then there was the green crackle of energy on the woman's left hand. They may have been standing on opposite sides of the room but Ara could easily make out the pulse of that magic. Something about it made her feel wrong. It made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Yet there was something about it that had a hint of familiarity. She kept meaning to ask the wolf but she always forgot until she woke.

She knew it was connected to the Breach but Solas had told her that Ellana was not to blame for such a thing. She was not utterly convinced of that but the woman seemed kind enough.

“Ah. Herald.” Ara said, watching the woman warily.

“Ellana is fine.” The elf said with a smile.

“Ellana.” Ara said with a half nod, still watching her. She knew the woman's name but Ara had long learned that people with titles wanted to be known by the title. “Want something?”

“I was wondering if we could talk.”

Ara understood a few of the words but the gist behind it was far easier to read. The way the woman's shoulders bunched, the way she tilted her head as she spoke, even the way her eyes darted about the room. All of that helped Ara understand what the woman was trying to say. She bobbed her head and moved across the room to place a chair near the fire for the Herald and then sat on the floor a small distance away. Her act only made Ellana stare at her before she moved to sit down on the chair.

“Will try.” Ara said honestly.

This woman had done nothing to wrong her so Ara felt that if she wished to talk, then they would talk. She also felt a little sorry for this Ellana as she knew full well that the people here were relying on her as their saviour.

“Solas says you are learning quickly.”

“Yes.”

“That's good.” Ellana said with a smile. “I wanted to ask if you know anything about the rift.”

“Rift?” Ara paused, not quite familiar with the word. She had heard it being said but never was there much context. Just people making gestures and staring at the sky. She knew the hole in the sky was called a Breach, perhaps the rift was just another name for it. “Green thing sky? Breach?”

“Yes, the green thing in the sky.” Ellana almost laughed but managed to hide it in that smile of her's.

“No.” Ara said shaking her head. It was times like this that she hated not knowing the full language these people were speaking. She felt like the village halfwit when she tried to talk. She wished they had a wall she could tear the language from like she did with dovahzul. “Not know. Makes feel... strange.”

“Me too.” Ellana said with a sigh as she looked down at her hand.

Ara felt a bit of wonder as she looked at the dark haired elf. That weary pose, like she had all the world on her shoulders and wasn't entirely sure how she was going to save it all. Ara found it hard not to see herself sitting there. In another place she had become a symbol just like this woman was becoming but it did not take another “Hero” to understand the look on Ellana's face.

“You well?” Ara asked.

Ellana blinked and looked up at her with a startled look on her face. Ara wanted to tell her that she understood far better then any one else in this little town. She found herself wanting to help the young elf who reminded her of her when she had first learned what she was. It was easy to remember that sense of panic when everyone had told her that the world was depending on her to save it. Of course, Ellana looked younger then she had been and she could only imagine what the young elf must be thinking.

“Yes.” Ellana finally responded but it was hesitant.

“I.. “ Ara paused again. “Words wrong. I help.”

Ellana sighed at that and looked away. The Herald did not want more blind followers and it was clear she thought Ara was just another person swept up in the need to have something to believe in. Ara paused for a moment before getting to her feet and started to rummage in her things. At the very bottom of the bag was a small leather bundle that she took out.

“Look.” Ara said as she began to unwrap the leather to reveal a small carving of a man like figure with a head of horns and tusks like her own.

“Is that a Qunari?”

“Qunari?” Ara was baffled for a moment but quickly shook her head. That was an unfamiliar word, she wasn't even sure she had heard it being said before. “Malacath.”

Ellana stared at the effigy but made no move to touch it. Ara was not sure if she would even let the elf touch it so it hardly mattered.

“Andraste Herald.” Ara said with a smile at Ellana then she pointed to herself. “Malacath - “ She had no idea what the word for follower would be so she merely pointed at herself. “Ara follow Malacath.”

“Your people worship this Malacath?” Ellana asked, suddenly curious.

“Yes.” Ara nodded, breathing a sigh of relief that the elf understood. She used the word that Ellana said, hoping that it meant what she thought it did. “Worship Malacath. You fix...” She paused as she remembered the word. “Breach. Follow not Herald. Follow you. You fix breach.”

Ara knew that was not a really good explanation. She suddenly realized she wanted to be friends with this little elf but it was hard to tell someone you wanted to be friends when you only spoke the basics. Forges, she still didn't know how to say simple things like explaining she needed to look at a calender to determine days. She did think that Ellana got the gist of what she meant as the woman seemed to be a little happier. The elf remained silent as Ara carefully re-wrapped the idol and hid it safely at the bottom of her things.

“Ara, would you like to go with me and the others when we go on our next mission?”

Ara instantly lit up like a child receiving a gift.

“Leave Haven?”

“For a short time, yes.” Ellana said with a nod. “But you have to promise to come back with us.”

“Yes. Many yes!” Ara grinned, definitely happy with that idea. “Won't leave. Will help fix.”

Ellana beamed and nodded before getting to her feet.

“We'll leave tomorrow morning.”

 

Chapter Text

She was sitting at a campfire. In the distance, the giant statue of Malacath was visible against the night sky.

She knew there were other mammoth bones around it but she cared little. It was just another place she had been. Her lips curled a little as she remembered the ogiim chieftan who had attempted to barter with her to hide the details of his treachery to their people.

Follower of Malacath, eh?” The voice came from behind her and she turned to see that strange elf from before.

He leaned against an outcropping of rock, a cocky smile on his face as he regarded her rather calmly. Even though his words sounded like a barely suppressed laugh, his features said he was happy. She had no idea what he was happy about and she wasn't sure if she even cared.

You still cling to that old faith despite knowing what you are?” He questioned with a quirked eyebrow.

I was born an ogiim.” She stated simply.

No, you were born a dovah. You just happened to have the form of an ogiim.” The elf smiled before stepping towards her. “May I join you at your campsite, dovahkiin?”

She quirked an eyebrow at him before motioning towards the fire. She was uncertain as to why he was here in her dreams as this form instead of as the wolf, or even why he was asking. He usually just showed up, sat somewhere near and talked.

Very well, grohiik.”

Grohiik?” He paused before he frowned. The frown became an almost unreadable look before he nodded to her and then turned to leave. “Ah, yes. Perhaps another night then.”

Ara stared at him in confusion as he turned to go. Over the crackle of the fire, she could hear the baleful cry of a wolf as the elf disappeared into the night of her dream.



When she woke, it was morning and it began the start of a long journey to where ever it was that the Herald decided they were going to go. She was a bit surprised when they provided her with a horse but then, she guessed that it was some distance that they were going to travel.

The creature was a huge thing with a mottled pattern of black and white. Honestly, it reminded her of the pattern on a cow but she wasn't going to question it. It was sturdy enough to hold her weight and that was the main thing. That and it didn't try to bite her.

If any of them were surprised at her knowledge of how to ride a horse, they seemed not to notice. They were far more preoccupied to her reaction at seeing Ellana mount a damn deer. She knew she was staring but she couldn't help it. It was the largest deer she had ever seen, stocky like a horse with huge antlers. Ara had stared for several minutes before Solas attempted to explain what it was. Apparently, it was something called a hart.

This place is fucking weird.

Otherwise, she had remained silent and well behaved the entire trip to the Storm Coasts. The others talked to her a little but for the most part, everyone seemed to avoid her. Ellana had arranged for her to have some armour that looked like it was made in leather and then splattered with colour. How they hell did they intend to hide when their gear was so damn bright and thirty different shades of rainbow?

At least they had let her pick out a weapon to take. She had thought about just summoning something as they went but she still remembered Solas' warning about magic. So, she had chosen a large maul. It was a little smaller then she would have liked, clearly made for a human hand, but it would do. Varric had seemed most amused that she would choose a giant hammer. He had started calling her some strange words afterwards but it was like he was trying to decide what was the best to call her.

Solas had began educating her on various things. Some of the words were refreshers. Words like tree, rock, wagon and so on but he did teach her some new ones. He seemed keen on fitting as much knowledge into her mind as he could. Varric provided a few more colourful words in there, and by the third day, she had learned just about every version of Andraste's somethings for curse words. Solas did not seem amused by it at all, even though Varric clearly thought it was hilarious.

She was incredibly thankful when they finally reached the campsite. Ellana went off to talk with Scout Harding and get any reports the others had. Ara had thought nothing of it until she heard the crash of waves and instantly perked up. She strained to see through the trees but the nearby hill was keeping her from really seeing the edge of the coast.

“Easy, you'll hurt yourself.” Varric said with a laugh as he moved to stand next to her.

“Storm Coast.” She said, rolling it off her tongue. She was actually getting excited by this trip, she had not realized they would be close to the sea. Ellana had just asked her to come along and she probably would have gone anywhere to get out of Haven. Even to see Ulfric Stormcloak. “Big water?”

“Sea.” Varric corrected. “Waking Sea.”

“Waking Sea.” Ara said with a nod to herself.

“Never seen the sea before?” Varric asked curiously, still shaking with mirth.

“Never.” Ara nodded at him, smiling like a little kid. “Rivers. Lakes. Never sea.”

“Well, you're in for a treat.” Varric said with a grin.

Ellana returned to them then and motioned to the path heading down through the trees.

“We're to meet a mercenary group this way.”

“Okay!” Ara practically skipped down the path, pulling the massive maul from her back. Mercenaries usually meant fights. Fights were good. She could do those.

“Ara, wait!” Ellana called after her before moving to catch up.

Varric could not keep his laughter to himself as he followed.

Ara moved easily through the trees. She only stopped when she got to a place where she could see the waves breaking on the shore. She did not move as she just stared, her mouth hanging open at the sight of the Waking Sea. There were ruins littering the shore, buildings and ships, but her gaze was only for the water. The roar of the waves as they battered the shore was like the beat of a music which suddenly had the sounds of battle added to it.

“Sight seeing later,” Ellana said before pointing towards the fighting below. “Hit the ones that look to be dressed the same.”

Ara nodded and was into the fight with hardly a second's thought. Laughing with an almost mad glee as she swung the maul at the enemies who came near her. It felt good to fight something again even if they were nothing near the enemies she was used to fighting. These ones were so much softer, easier to hit and not at all a challenge.

It also did not help that her maul glowed brightly with magic and was easily a match for their much less effective armour. It was clear that they were still trained warriors as they had not looked even the slightest bit alarmed at her appearance as she waded in among them, swinging her weapon. The world narrowed down to the battle and Ara zoned out everything else until she heard Ellana's voice calling to her. Her maul was mere inches from pummelling a body into nothing but sticky goo but she stopped, her red eyes seeking out the elf.

“Ara!” Ellana shouted again.

Ara could feel her smile fading as she saw the horrified look on Ellana's face. Her nose flared as she took in deep breathes of air, willing her heart to slow from the rhythm of battle. There was the smell of blood and magic in the air, masking the scent of the sea. She had been sure that she had only attacked the ones who attacked Ellana when the elf wandered into the fight and not the others but she wondered for a moment if she had slipped into the battle rage and attacked someone she was not supposed to.

She said nothing and merely moved to stand behind Solas who was looking at her with a very strange expression. Ara slunk a little lower and felt very much like she did something wrong.

“Well, that's fucking interesting.” The voice was gravelly and rough, but it sounded amused.

She glanced over to look at the speaker. She made them out easily enough. Two elves, three humans, another one of those short things like Varric and then something else. She was not sure what he was as he looked something like her people but with horns and no tusks. Plus his face was just a little more angular. Almost like a Daedra but he didn't move like they did, nor did he smell like them. There was none of that weird nearly ash smell. The way the others looked at him made it clear, he was the leader of the group.

Ellana once more left the group to go talk to him and the others. Leaving her to listen to Varric and Solas.

“Soooo.” Varric said to her. “Looks like that maul is not just for show, after all.”

“Show?” She blinked at him before shaking her head. “Not show. Hitting. It hitting.”

“Were you actually taking pleasure in killing those men?” Solas sounded almost disgusted.

She hunched a little lower, feeling shame colouring her features. Clearly these men never dealt with an orc before. She wasn't sure why but it made her feel terrible to have Solas react so badly to the things she did. First the daedra hearts and now this.

“Blood....” Once more, she could not think of the word. “... anger. Blood many anger.” She mumbled, pulling a piece of cloth from the waist band of her armour to start cleaning the maul. It was better then looking at either of them.

“Blood rage? Like a beserker or reaver?” Varric seemed to think that over in his mind before he was staring at her. “Chuckles... I'm not imagining things. That's an arrow sticking out of her shoulder, isn't it?”

“I do believe you are right, Master Tethras.” Solas sounded surprised which quickly bled into concerned.

“Oh.” Ara glanced over her shoulder and shrugged. She had not even realized there was someone with a bow, let alone that she had gotten shot by the arrow. “Not hurt.”

“Let's get you back up to camp.” Varric said with a shake of his head. “Let Ellana know we've gone to get the camp people to look at that.”

“Very well.” Solas said with a visible grimace before he moved away to let Ellana know as she negotiated with the mercenary leader.

Ara was silent as they walked but Varric was eyeing her with concern. She ignored the look as she walked, keeping the maul on her good side. She tried not to favour the injured side too much, not wanting them to think she was weak. The pain was already starting to trickle in as her heart finally began to slow to a normal rhythm.

“Do you seriously not feel that?”

“Starting to.” Ara said with a grimace. “Blood rage. Don't feel fight pain.”

“Damn” Varric said. “You always fight like that?”

“No. Try not to.” Ara sighed as they hit the tree line. “Just... no fight many long.”

“What's the last thing you remember fighting, anyway?”

“Fighting a ...” She frowned before stopping. The memory came quickly of Alduin in the air above her but there was no beginning or end to the memory. Just him and her in Sovngarde. She went to move her arms up in the air like wings but grimaced and caused blood to start oozing from around the arrow in her armour.

Solas was giving her another strange look but she ignored him for the moment.

“Easy.” Varric said as he put his hands up to stop her from doing that again. “Tell me later? Let's get that patched up because I don't think Ellana would be too happy on you dying on our first trip out.”

 

Chapter Text

 

He had been surprised by their arrival. He knew they were coming but damn, if it was not spectacular when they joined the fight. First there was the two mages, one he knew was the Herald while the other was some bald elf on the side of the Inquisition. Then there was the dwarf with a crossbow. Nothing spectacular there even though the crossbow warranted more attention later. And finally there was her.

He knew instinctively that she was not a Qunari but she certainly had the wildness of those who had come before the Qunari. She even seemed on par with the Tal-Vashoth. She was just too green. Maybe she was an offshoot or something. The way she had given herself to the fight with wild abandonment was almost a concern. And a little bit sexy but in that crazy kind of way.

Until it became clear that she was almost mindless in that fight. Perhaps she was Tal-Vashoth and a mindless killer like they all became. He didn't know much about the ones the Qunari came from, but he supposed she could be from something back in that time. Something from long ago that somehow seemed to exist here in the present day.

Ara. That's what the elf had called to her and made her stop. The look on her face afterwards had been surprising, like she had not expected for them to look at her like that. She looked almost hurt.

Still, he watched her saunter off behind the others. When she passed him he caught a particular smell that caught him off guard. It filled his nose and brought his attention to focus on the area around him like a lightening bolt.

Dragon.

He cast his good eye heavenward but there was no dragon in the sky, there was none in the sky. Nor were there any sounds nearby. There was only the Herald and her people. He knew nearly everything that was possible to know about them, other then the strange green woman.

His mind twisted over the possibility of it coming from them but that wasn't possible.

Wasn't it?

“Well, that's fucking interesting.”

She looked at him and he could see those blood red eyes. He wondered if any of her companions could see it. That fire that rolled just beneath that kicked puppy look. This person was dangerous but he knew nothing about them.

And as a spy, that was a bad thing.

 

For Bull, the trip to Haven was beyond interesting. Ara didn't say much but the elf, Solas, seemed intent on saying a lot. Mostly words. For everything.

Any time he went to hand Ara something, he'd say what it was. Stew. Bowl. Spoon. It was like he thought the green woman was mentally daft. Varric and the Herald did it as well, just not to the same degree. It became clear after the first day that the woman was learning the trade tongue and it seemed Solas was the guy in charge of that education.

They distracted her enough that Bull could get a good look at her without her noticing him looking. Her features were unusual, from the red eyes and tusks to the green skin but she was tall and muscled enough to be a Qunari, even if she didn't quite look right to him. There was something that was just a little off that he couldn't place.

She could have been from selective breeding but he was certain that someone would have notified him that a green Qunari was within the Inquisition before he came here.

She had a lot of scars, both the ones on her skin and the ones on the inside. The way she sat, always with her back against something, whether it was a tent or a tree, she never chose a spot that wasn't easier to defend. Even the way she walked and spoke hinted at psychological scars deep down. He wondered exactly how much about this woman was known to the Inquisition, as he certainly did not have any information whatsoever. He was sure the folks back home would want to hear about this sort of Qunari.

On the third day, he realized that she didn't sleep. Even as the watch cycled out between the Inquisition forces and his Chargers, she was still awake. Watching everything with blood red eyes from her little perch. She didn't sleep inside a tent although she made a point of looking like she had just come out of one whenever Ellana or Solas were about to get up.

He could tell she was keeping up the charade of pretending to sleep just for the two of them which made him more interested in exactly what their relationship was.

On the fifth day back to Haven, they were beset by brigands and he watched her in battle once more. This time, she was a little more controlled. Sliding herself unobtrusively between the foes that were targeting Ellana. Even as he cut down his share, he still found himself noticing that she never once lost sight of the elf woman in battle.

At camp, she did whatever Ellana asked. The Herald didn't seem to ask much of the green skinned woman but whatever it was, Ara did it. Gathering firewood, tending to horses, setting up a tent. The woman would do it without a question.

The soldiers reacted the same but there was a difference in them. They looked at Ellana with reverence, worship and awe but Ara simply looked at her with a smile and a nod. It was clear that she wasn't being obedient because she thought the elf was some divine saviour, and it made him wonder what exactly had her following in line with the rest of them. He thought about it almost the entire time they were travelling.

They were a few days from Haven when he came awake to the sounds of someone in his tent. He kept his eye closed but he tensed up, listening to the approach.

Whomever it was, they were quiet. It had only been the small change in temperature that had woken him. A small bit of chilly night air that came in as the flap to his tent was opened. He strained as he listened for them.

He heard the movement as a hand came towards him, his own hand snapping up to grab around the wrist of the intruder.

He opened his eye to look up and found the green skinned woman staring down at him, one of her hands caught mere inches from touching one of his horns. There was a flash of surprise on her face as if she hadn't expected him to catch her. He didn't let his own surprise show as she was pretty big for sneaking around the camp like she was.

“What are you doing?” He glared up at her, not letting go of her wrist at all. He could feel the strength coiled there but she made no effort to try and pull free.

“Those?” She asked, motioning with her free hand towards his horns.

“My horns?” He stared at her. She had snuck into his tent in the middle of the night to touch his horns?

“Horns?” She repeated the word before tilting her head. “You orsimir? You orc?”

He could hear the almost hopeful tone in her voice.

“No.” He shook his head as he sat up, still with a vice grip on her wrist. “Qunari.”

“Qunari.” She looked almost crestfallen.

“Yes. Qunari.” He fixed her with a stern look. “Did you need to do this at night?”

“You stare me.” She shrugged, those red eyes fixing him with a slightly accusatory look.

She had noticed him looking at her then. He had assumed she was distracted with whatever the Inquisition was trying to teach her at the time.

“Never seen someone with green skin and tusks before.” He went to poke her shoulder but her free hand snapped out quickly to latch onto his wrist like his other hand was on her's.

He had felt the strength in her other arm but it was nothing compared to the grip. He flexed his arm a little but she kept it from moving at all. Bull decided to test a thought, and he tried to pull his arm away from her but she kept him steady. Not even looking like she was being strained in the least. Those muscles were not for show, but there was a slight disconnect between them and how strong she actually was. She was too strong.

“Orc.” She said simply as she let go of his arm and pointed at herself, then flicked one of her tusks. Her eyes never left his horns. “Tusks, orc. Horns, qunari.”

“Do you want to touch them?” He asked, quirking an eyebrow at her as he let go of her wrist.

“Yes.” There was no hint of motive in her voice as she glanced down at his face. He could have sworn he saw that same look in her eyes that she'd had while she was on the battlefield but it fled quickly and was replaced by a more curious look.

He leaned his head down so she could actually touch the horns. It let him get a little closer and get a better look at the scars that lined her skin. The ones on her face were clear but at this close, he could see older ones, that had become faded over time, and ones that darted just beneath her clothing. There was no mistaking a life of hardship or the fact that this woman before him was very dangerous. He knew that you didn't gain that many scars without going through some tough shit. It only furthered his resolve to find out what he could about her.

That scent was in his nose again. The dragon. It was not as overpowering as it had been during the fight but it was there, just beneath the rest the smells in the tent. Her scent, leather and metal, but it was just beneath that. He found himself leaning in as he breathed it in.

She ran her fingers from the tip of one horn all the way to the base of his head. Horns were not that sensitive but he could feel the warmth and almost hesitant touch of her fingers. He had expected an almost curious sort of touch but she was touching with purpose, if rather politely.

“Big. Horns big.” She said, still running her hands over his left horn. “Qunari all big horn?”

It took him a second to understand what she was asking, her strange clipped speech was not as difficult to understand as he had first thought. She was catching on to how to speak easily enough.

“No, not all of us.” He responded, his voice kept simple as he answered her question. There was the brief moment where he thought about adding in a joke but he didn't think it would translate well for her. “Same kind of tusks on all orcs?”

“No.” She admitted, fingers running over the groves near his head. “Ara tusks small.”

Her fingers slipped from his horns and onto his scalp. There was a heat beneath her fingers that seemed at odds with the chill in the air. The touch had gone from curious to intimate. Way too intimate. She was too much of an unknown for him. A danger to him and his position in the Inquisition.

He coughed awkwardly which caused her to draw back from him.

“Thank you.”

Then she was gone out the tent just as quickly as she had come in.

 

Chapter Text

She was her dragon self but once more she felt chains on her body. They wound across her neck, looped around her horns, cut into her wings. Chains even wrapped around her snout, forcing her mouth closed. She was unable to speak, to shout or to breath flame.

It was different then when she was chained in her dream several months ago. These were strong chains, enchanted with magic. She strained against them but there was nothing she could do. She was trapped.

She attempted to lift her head but even that was near impossible. She could make out the cave she was in with it's high ceiling and walls that were lined with veins of silver and gold. There was a heat from deeper within and her mind supplied volcano for her but she could not see further in. There was something familiar about this place, but then, she only ever dreamed of places she had been unless someone else acted upon her dreams.

Lo! Dragon!” The voice was familiar in the same way as a half remembered dream.

She managed to tilt her head enough that she could see the man before her. A Nord with dark red hair and a beard. There was something about him that was unsettling familiar but she could not remember where she had seen him before. He almost looked like Filkas and Farkas but with a much more square jaw.

We have trapped you here in your lair, you will die, dragon!”

The Nord lifted his war hammer from the ground and faced her. She was distracted from looking at the weapon when the realization sunk in.

He was going to kill her!

She struggled harder against the chains even as that hammer swung towards her eye. The chains seemed to burn into her dragon form, tightening the more she struggled. She would not die here, not at the hands of this mortal.

She wordlessly screamed but the hammer never fell. The image faded to nothing and she found herself in her orcish form, a pair of powerful arms wrapped around her. She clung to them as she fought the panic that had risen as she thought she was going to die. Her heart felt like it was going to leap out of her chest. She turned her head to look at the being holding her but it was like she couldn't make out his face at all. Like it had been when she had tried to sort out the eyes on that elf in her earlier dream but now for all of his features.

Not this memory.” The voice was a whisper against her ear, soothing her. It sounded somewhere between annoyance and concern.

The dream slid away from a cave to an almost palace like place but something told her that they were still within a cave. Gigantic pillars rose around her, gossamer curtains seeming to spring from nothing to shield out the stone walls beyond it. It had the distinct appearance of a temple but it was unlike any temple that she remembered. She had the feeling she had been here before but she had no recollection of such a place.

What is this?” She demanded. First the Nord seeking to kill her and then this place.

Somewhere safe.”

The arms slid from around her but by the time she turned to look, the figure was gone. Instead, she found herself sitting on a bench and before a statue of two headed man holding a timepiece. One head was human, old with a beard while the other was clearly a dragon. She just stared for a few minutes, startled by the appearance of the statue.

An Akatosh shrine?” She mused to herself. She assumed that whatever brought her here did so because of the dragon's connection with Akatosh but she wished they had stayed long enough to explain what had just happened.

She stared at it for several long minutes before she felt the approach of the wolf behind her.

Greetings grohiik.” She sighed, wondering when he was going to get tired of these games.

Greetings irmorisenatha.”

The great black wolf moved towards the statue with a curious tilt of his head. She watched him, patiently waiting to see what he was going to do.

Is this one of your gods?” He asked.

This is Akatosh, the rah of time.” She sighed, realizing this was going to play out like it usually did. She was going to answer his questions even though he had clearly just been involved with dreaming of her death as a dragon. “Bormahu, the father.”

The rah?” He questioned.

God.” She answered.

Is he a dragon?”

They depict him as such, so perhaps.” Ara responded. “ I have never met him so I'm unaware of whether that is true or not.”

Are all of your dragons gods?”

No, just him. I believe.” She had never really paid much attention to the Empire and it's nine divines. She only knew about a couple of them, although her knowledge was mostly limited to Akatosh and even that was hardly enough to answer most questions about the god. “He is the father of all dovah.”

Even you?”

Even me.”

By parentage, wouldn't that make you a goddess then?”

She stared at the wolf.

No more then you, grohiik.” She said with a sigh.

She noticed the almost curious look he gave her. A bit of a hesitant look, even for a wolf, but he said nothing. He seemed to stick to his own thoughts.

The mer know him as Auri-El, it is said that some like the Altmer and Bosmer claim direct to be direct descendants from him.”

But you do not believe such?” He turned to look at her and she could see something else in his eyes. Something a little more then curiosity.

No, I do not.” She shrugged. “To claim such would mean that they were all descendants of a god seems a bit... far fetched.”

Do they perceive him to appear as such?” The wolf jerked his head towards the statue.

No, they don't. That's an Imperial statue.” She wrinkled her nose and thought hard about the difference between Auri-El and Akatosh.

The statue shifted as she thought becoming something more elven. The armour was formed from gold and silver, intricate and well designed. His features were sharp with intense eyes staring out from the statue. A crown of dragon horns graced the top of his head and held back long hair from falling into his face. Despite looking nearly like the Thalmor, he looked every inch a god. It was far more detailed then she had ever remembered seeing but then, this fade dreaming place was quite strange.

Ah, it seems you are capable of changing your dreams, irmorisenatha.” The wolf chuckled at her.

Matters little.” Ara shrugged. “That is what the elves perceived Auri-El to look like.”

The wolf turned to focus more intently on the statue, his tail swishing as he looked. She wondered if that was like a dog's habit when it was happy. Her experience with wolves was lacking, she had no idea.

She sighed as she watched it stare intently at the statue as if it was going to find some meaning for existence in the stone.

Surely your people have some manner of gods that they carved into statues.”

My people?” The wolf turned it's head to look at her, his ears going back.

I am no fool, grohiik.” She said with a sigh. “I know you are not a wolf.”

Whatever answer the wolf was about to give was lost as she felt herself wake up.

 

She woke to the sight of the Qunari, the Iron Bull, standing nearby. His approach had not been quiet and she assumed this was what had woken her. She had no issues with the man, having already determined that he was not an orc like she hoped. Especially not with those horns. A Qunari. Just another thing to add to the strangeness of this land.

The Qunari was eyeing her with a strange sort of look as he held a bowl full of what looked like stew. The usual morning meal. That or porridge. Half the time it smelled the same anyway.

“What want?” She asked.

“You hungry?” He asked as he held out the plate towards her.

“No.” She responded flatly as she straightened where she had been sitting, stretching stiff muscles that had become cramped from falling asleep against her tree. There was an audible pop from her back as she settled back down.

“You sure?” He held out the plate towards her, letting her smell some of what was on it.

“No hungry.” She shook her head at him for further emphasis.

He looked a little unsure for a moment before he dropped to sit down on the grass next to her. Ara had no idea what he wanted and just stared at him again.

“You want something?” She was trying not to be rude but it was hard when she simply didn't know what this man wanted. It had already been determined that he was not an orc, even if he stood out as much as she did.

“Been watching you with the others.” He said with a small shrug. “You don't speak the trade tongue very well.”

“Trade what?”

“Tongue. Language. What they're speaking.” He frowned at her but it seemed more like a look of concern as opposed to the judgey look the people at Haven liked to give her.

“Ah. Words.” Ara shrugged, understanding that easily enough. “Not speak words right. Not Ara words.”

He seemed to be thinking that over, rubbing the faint stubble on his chin. She had been this up close and personal in the tent but in the early morning light, she could easily make out more scars on his craggy skin. Of course, she was also questioning his taste in clothing. Ferelden, as she'd been told this place was called, was fairly cold. It seemed odd that he would just run around in pants in this kind of weather.

“What language do you speak?” He asked simply.

Cyrodilic.” She said the word for the Imperial tongue, not knowing what it was in their language.

The Iron Bull frowned at that, clearly not recognizing the word.

“Cyrodilic?” He questioned.

“Imperial words.”

“Imperial?” There was a brief pause as if he was working things out. “That like Ferelden or the Tevinter Imperium?”

“Tevinter Imperium?” She asked the question, slightly confused as to what this Tevinter thing was. “Cyrodiil. No... Not Tevinter. Not Ferelden. What Tevinter Imperium?”

“You don't know what the Tevinter Imperium is?” He was staring at her now, a sort of stunned look on his face as he regarded her.

Ara frowned as she considered that. Clearly this Tevinter was supposed to be something important. She thought back to all the conversations she had over heard at Haven but she was hard pressed to think of someone mentioning this Tevinter Imperium in her presence.

“Words.” She shrugged.

“Well, yes, it's a word.” The Iron Bull responded with a low chuckle before shaking his head at her. “It's a place, to the north.”

“Place?” She questioned for a moment, wondering whether Tevinter was something the size of Ferelden or if it was closer to the size of Haven. “Ferelden? Haven?”

“It's like Ferelden,” He grimaced when he said that which made her think that it was definitely not like Ferelden. “A kingdom. Really big. Lots of Havens in it.”

He had already taken to the tactic Ellana and Solas employed. Simple sentences when he was trying to explain something to her.

“Ara no Fereldan.” She gave a helpless little shrug. She wasn't from Ferelden or from this Tevinter that he referenced. “No Tevinter Imperium.”

“I see.” The Iron Bull said. There was a thoughtful look crossing over his features as he tilted his head at her. “Where are you from?”

“Skyrim.” The simple answer was given. She had no desire to try and explain to him what a stronghold was, especially after Ellana and the others had been so confused by the concept.

He said nothing but his face still looked thoughtful. Clearly he was puzzling over the word Skyrim. It gave her more information to go on. This strange being who was clearly not from Ferelden did not recognize Skyrim either. That was just another person that had no idea where she as from.

“Iron Bull.” Ellana had crept up on the pair of them and stood there with a slightly disapproving look. “Would you be so kind to leave Ara alone?”

“I wasn't bothering her.” He said as he glanced up at the petite elf, a smile on his face.

Ara looked up as well and noticed the almost stern look on Ellana's face. She quirked an eyebrow at that, trying to sort out what was the issue. It was not like it was not public knowledge among the people of Haven that Ara wasn't from the area.

The way Ellana stood there, it did give Ara pause and she glanced over at the Qunari. She noticed how his face seemed to wrinkle up as he smiled but it did not quite light up his eye. It was strange, almost like Lynne in the sense that it was not right but it was more in the opposite direction. It was too much of a smile compared to the tenseness of his shoulders.

She frowned before looking back up at Ellana. She realized this meant something else that she was missing. Body language was easy but this was something she had not expected.

“Ellana need something?”

“Pack your tent.” Ellana said, her voice a little firm but the elf's eyes never left the Qunari.

“Yes.” Ara said as she got to her feet and walked away from the Qunari without a second glance.

She busied herself with her rarely used tent but she could hear the conversation between Ellana and the Iron Bull. Apparently, Ellana did not want him questioning her. Something was said about Ara was not to be bothered if he wanted to continue working with them but Ara really didn't understand all of what was being said. Only that Ellana was quite irritated with the mercenary speaking with her.

Ara sighed as it was clear that this was some manner of politics between the mercenaries and the Herald's Inquisition forces. It just meant that she couldn't really discuss other lands with the Qunari until things were a little more settled.

Just another set back in figuring out where she was and how to get home.

 

Chapter Text

Solas had just been about to tell her. Everything nearly came out in that one instant but thankfully, she woke.

He came awake in his tent, startled by the sudden ending of her dream. A cold sweat instantly broke out on his body as he realized what he had seen in her dream. He sat upright like a bolt as he thought about it.

The first statue had been unfamiliar but the second nearly had his stomach dropping at the mere thought of it. That statue, or at least a similar one, had been something he had seen before the days of the elves even considering to make Elvhenan. He didn't remember the name of the person it was supposed to represent but it had been something older then the Evanuris. Ara had called it Akatosh, Bormahu and Auri-el. All of those were names unfamiliar to him but that statue was not.

The temple in her dream was familiar as well but in the sense that all other temples that had been crafted by the people had been based off it. It shared many of the same similarities of the early temples before the people had begun to craft the temples for their false gods.

Then there had been her questioning.

She had realized that he was not just a wolf. He had known she was powerful but he had not considered she was that powerful. Solas was just thankful that she had not realized that it was actually him that was the wolf. That was a tiny mercy compared to the rest.

He would need to be more cautious from then on, at least until he learned more about what he had seen. Right now, he wanted to slip to the fade and seek out Wisdom but the sounds from outside his tent meant that it was time to be moving again.

Solas made a point not to try talking to her for most of the day, instead spending time with Ellana. He was certain that he would reveal too much if he talked to Ara right now.

And he was truly terrified of what he might reveal.

Especially since he was certain that Elgar'nan had worn that exact same crown as the statue.

 

Chapter Text

They were into more familiar lands when Ellana had directed them in the direction of a little keep that rose out of the mountains up ahead. Solas had explained that it was Redcliffe and it was about a day's journey away.

That had been irritating but it would be the first place Ara had seen since they were in Haven and there was the possibility of there being more people there that might have an idea about where she was from. She was not too hopeful about that but there was no harm in asking.

They had all settled down for the night when Ara had crept off. It was surprisingly easy to sneak past the guard that was set at the perimeter but she was cautious any way.

Her goal had been a small spring that they had passed that wasn't too far from camp. It wasn't very big but with some strategic shifting of the rocks, Ara made herself a nice little pool with a waterfall. It didn't even go up to her waist but it was enough for what she wanted.

She dropped all her clothing as she settled beneath the water. It was cold but it was a refreshing change from the method of bathing she'd had to endure for her time at Haven and there had been little opportunity to clean herself on the trip to and from the Storm Coast. She was still a bit bothered that they hadn't let her go into the water but apparently everyone agreed that was a bad idea.

Ara sighed as she leaned back into the cool water and felt a sense of contentment. Her eyes closing as she simply savoured the moment.

It didn't last when she heard the cracking of something stepping through the underbrush.

Her eyes snapped open as she looked in the direction of the sound. She knew it was not from the camp as it was on the wrong side of the river but something large was moving towards the edge of the stream.

She waited for it to show itself, suddenly wishing that she had her maul with her but she had left that back at the camp. Thoughts of conjuring a weapon came to mind but that would be too bright, too flashy. If it was something hostile, then she was going to be careful. Perhaps it was a deer.

What came out of the underbrush was not a deer.

It was about as long as her horse but less then half it's height. Covered in dark red – almost brown – scales, it tilted it's head back and forth as it eyed the water. A dragon. It looked wrong to her and she knew instinctively what it was missing. It had no wings. She could see no injuries on it to explain why the dragon was flightless, or so small, but she definitely knew that it was one of them.

“Mal dovah...” Ara whispered quietly as she leaned out from the water. Power swirled with the words but it was unfocused, merely her speaking to it.

It tilted it's head towards her and hissed at the movement. A small breeze kicked up across her water cooled skin, carrying her scent to the creature.

The hissing stopped almost immediately as it cocked it's head at her in surprise. There was an almost curiosity in the dragon's eyes as it regarded her but she could sense something else. This thing was afraid.

Ara inched closer towards it, one hand out towards it tentatively. She was not close enough to touch it but she was inching her way towards that.

“Mal dovah,” She said again as she slowly made her way through the water.

It gave a confused noise that was somewhere close to a 'chirrup' like sound that was more reminiscent of a bird but it did inch closer and began to rub it's head against her hand. The head rub continued further, until the creature was rubbing itself against her naked side. She was close against it and she could feel that it was a dragon but yet, it was not like the dragons she knew.

Ara could not remember ever being this close to a dragon short of the few she had ridden. Cuddles were not exactly something to be expected when she had been speaking with Paarthurnax.

There was a sense of relief that the thing recognized her but it did not speak. It just acted like she was another animal like it, trying to scent mark her skin. There were noises coming from the creature that Ara could only guess was happy noises. She had never been around a dragon when it was this small.

Forges, she didn't even know they came in small sizes.

She glanced up as she heard an angry screech echoing through the skies. The large dragon that was approaching was definitely like the ones she had known in Skyrim, if a bit more colourful. It dropped to the ground, destroying the trees as it made that screeching noise again. It was almost like metal grating on metal.

The large dragon hopped from foot to foot but it made no move to attack her. It waited for a brief moment before it spouted fire just to Ara's right.

“Hi mindok dovah. Zu'u los dovahkiin.” Ara hastily said even as the little dragon left her side and trundled over to the larger one.

There was no answer from the larger dragon either but Ara wasn't close enough to tell if it was much different then the dragons she had faced in Skyrim. She was assuming so as it did not seem to be very interested in trying to attack her. That and it looked less lethal then what she had faced in Skyrim, not that she was going to treat it as anything less then the things she had faced in Skyrim.

It seemed content to collect the smaller one but it's head suddenly whipped towards the encroaching foot steps from the direction of the camp. Ara froze, praying that the new arrival would be quiet and not attract attention to themselves.

“Cree... creators.” Ellana's voice was just downriver, closer to the road and closer to the dragon.

The dragon screeched again and Ara knew precisely what was about to happen. The dragon arched and once more, Ara saw the fire about to spring from the creature's mouth.

WULD!

The shout worked precisely as it should, and Ara catapulted across the stream to barrel into the side of the dragon's head. It was perhaps not the best choice but it was either that or ending up with her naked body in front of Ellana, which would do neither of them any good.

The dragon was startled, head twisting away to breath the gout of flame down into the trees. The little dragon made a hissing noise but Ara ignored it as the large dragon had turned back to her.

It shook it's body as it beat it's wings into the air. The dragon took a step to move around her like it was going to advance onto Ellana and Ara reacted instinctively. Ice forming at her fingers to be shot into the ground just in front of creature, impeding it's movement that way.

She felt something shimmer into place around her but she ignored it, focusing completely on the dragon.

There was a hiss but the dragon took the hint. It leaned towards the little dragon, scooping it up in it's mouth before it leaped into the air. Ara watched as it flew towards the north east, relieved that it had left instead of having it boil down to a fight. It would have been only easy to kill the dragon but she was lacking in armour, and would not have come out of that unscathed.

“You fade stepped! And used ice magic!” Ellana's breathless voice came from behind her.

Ara blinked and turned to look at her but found that it wasn't just Ellana standing there. Three people had apparently come out to the woods whether to find her, or because they heard the dragon. Ellana, Solas and Varric all stood there, staring at her.

Ellana stood there, her eyebrows set in a half glare, half surprised look. Varric stood next to her and looked in awe. Solas, however, looked like he was about ready to strangle someone. Probably her as he had made clear instructions not to use magic.

“Fade step?” Ara questioned, not sure what that was referring to.

“Yes, fade step, where you hit the dragon with yourself?” Solas provided for her but there was something about his gaze that made it clear that he knew that was not whatever fade step was supposed to actually be.

Ara shrugged before moving back to where they stood. She slid her shirt over her head like this was completely normal.

“Why didn't you say you were a mage?” Ellana demanded.

Varric had a strange look on his face that was directed right at Solas. Ellana did not notice that as her attention was completely focused on Ara.

“Soldiers say demon.” Ara said as she looked at Ellana. “Hit Ara. Wake Ara. Ara mage? Soldiers hit more.”

She had figured out the warning that Solas had given her earlier. Then there was Lynne, the woman that had been cut off from magic and made into a human sized puppet. Ara didn't think they would have treated her much better, especially since they seemed to think she was something completely monstrous.

Ellana stared at her but a clear look of horror dipped across her features. She understood instantly why there might have been problems if the general populace had learned that Ara was capable of magic.

Solas gave an uncomfortable cough before he finally spoke up. “Herald, I was aware that she was a mage.”

“And you said nothing?” Ellana whirled on him, her voice angry once more.

“I was not aware of it until just before we went to the Hinterlands.” Solas kept his voice calm as he spoke. “I do not know the extent of her abilities but she agreed not to perform magic in Haven. I believe she only revealed herself now to stop the dragon.”

“That doesn't change the fact that you were supposed to be informing me of anything you learned from her.”

Ara felt like she had been slapped. Her red eyes turned towards Solas, a glare forming as she hissed at him between her teeth.

He had only been teaching her because Ellana had asked him to. He had been gathering information about the things she'd said to him because he was a spy for the Herald. It didn't matter to Ara that she was trying to be friends with the elf woman, it was still hurtful.

She hastily pulled on her trousers and stomped off from the stream.

“Ara, wait!”

“Fenhedis lasa.” Ara retorted at him as she strode away. She wasn't even sure where she learned the words but she somehow understood that it was something he'd understand.

Ellana's voice called Solas from following after and she could hear the two of them starting to argue. Ara ignored it as she continued to walk. She was about half way to camp when she realized that Varric had followed behind her.

She glanced over at him in surprise.

“Got to hand it to you,” Varric said with a grin. “Pretty damn brave to challenge a dragon with nothing on.”

“It not fight.” Ara shrugged her shoulders before grinning at Varric. “Big dragon took little dragon.”

“Little dragon?” Varric looked confused.

“Child dragon?” Ara tried that word instead.

“There was a baby dragon here?” Varric's face went from confused to startled. “We'll need to let Ellana know, that means a nest.”

“Nest?” Ara stopped as she said the word. “Dragon nest? Chicken nest?”

“Yes, like a chicken nest.” Varric stopped next to her. “That means it's a mother with plenty more little dragons.”

Mother?

Ara stared blankly at Varric before she shook her head. Dragons weren't female. She just didn't know how to explain that to him. How could she even explain that to him?

 

Chapter Text

Ara didn't talk to any of them for the rest of the trip back to Haven. She took food when it was offered and did as she was asked but she did not say a word to any of them.

Solas continued to provide words for various things but she did not repeat them afterwards. He did not try to discuss things that had happened while they were within camps and she made no effort to bring attention back to that either.

The soldiers that had accompanied them all realized that something was wrong. Even the Iron Bull and his mercenaries picked up on it. Bull, himself, was a little bit distant and Ara guessed that was from Ellana chastising him over his questions. It didn't matter, she didn't want to talk to him either.

They were much more subdued when they returned to the village.

There were the usual shouts that accompanied Ellana every time she returned but Ara ignored most of those as she hopped off the horse. She intended to help tend the creature but was gently shoved aside by the stable hands.

“They will take care of the horse.” Solas was quiet behind her.

She ignored him as she watched them take the horse. There was a small frown forming on her features but she shook it off as she walked towards the forge. Harrit gave her a welcoming smile which eased her irritation. At least he had been honest in why he wanted her around the forge.

“Ara.” Ellana's voice was calm but direct. “No.”

That frown turned into a scowl as she looked over at the elf. Ellana's face was set in a stern line.

“You are not to be smithing today.”

“Okay.” The word had a little bite to it as she walked up towards the little house they had assigned her. Solas stepped like he was about to follow her but she didn't want to deal with him just yet. Instead, she bared her teeth at him and continued on her way.

She stepped into her little house and gathered up what few things she had. There really wasn't much beyond what she had arrived in and her bag of a few things. Sighing to herself as she checked the straps of her armour before setting it aside. She placed it on the table, planning on putting it on later.

Ara wasn't sure when she had decided it but she was going to leave.

She was standing back up from where she had slipped one sheathed dagger into her boot when she heard the sound of someone at the door.

Ara whirled, her lips set back in a grimace as she saw Solas had ignored her and followed any way. His eyebrows were furrowed and he looked more irritated then concerned.

“What want?” Ara demanded.

“To talk.” Solas said simply as he closed the door and stepped away from it.

“Why?” She didn't keep the anger out of her voice. “You tell Ellana?”

“No.” He shook his head. “I am not going to tell Ellana what we talk about.”

“No believe.” Ara spat at his feet. She had trusted him but it seemed that she was just a little task that Ellana had assigned to him. She should have known better, high elves never did anything that didn't benefit themselves. “Elves lie. All elves.”

The look on his face said he wanted to ask about that but he did not question her opinion on elves. Instead, his face contorted into something unreadable for the briefest of moments before sliding back into that almost unemotional mask he wore while thinking.

“Ellana asked me to find out information from you, yes.” Solas said with a nod. “But not for the reason you're thinking.”

“Solas not know Ara thinking.”

“You're thinking she's had me spy on you because she believed you were a threat.” He shrugged. “In some way, yes, that is true. Ellana wants to know more about you and where you came from. You are an unknown, Ara.”

She understood what he was saying but that still didn't help with her irritation over the whole thing.

“Initially, she was concerned that you were part of the forces that caused the breach.” Solas continued. “Then it became a concern that there is absolutely nothing like you anywhere in Thedas.”

Ara's irritation fled as she stared at him.

Nothing like her.

That had to be wrong. There had to be other orcs, but then as she thought about it, it started to make sense. She had not seen any Argonians, Khajit or any distinctly different looking elves beyond the ones that appeared similar to Ellana. Even the dragons had felt wrong.

“No.” Ara shook her head. “Orc somewhere.”

“Ara, there are no orcs in Thedas.” Solas said calmly. “Please, trust me on this. Orcs do not exist here.”

“No. No.” She shook her again even as she felt panic rising. It was an unfamiliar feeling but she recognized it as it threatened to overwhelm her. “Ara orc. Orc somewhere. Maybe... Waking Sea?”

“Across the Waking Sea is the Free Marches, Varric is from there.” His voice had taken on a kinder note. “Further then that is Antiva and the Tevinter Imperium. In all of Thedas, there are no Orcs.”

She flinched at his words. There was simply no possibility about what he was saying. She refused to believe that she had some how managed to end up somewhere where her kind did not exist, yet there was something in his voice that told her he was not lying.

“Further. Orcs further.” Ara said with a stubborn set of her jaw.

“Further does not matter. There are no orcs. There is only you.” Solas remained where he was standing. “Ellana has been trying to find your home, your people. I have been trying to find them.”

She crossed her arms, refusing to give in to the despair that was beginning to chase the panic. Ara did not want to admit to herself that she was completely lost from where she was supposed to be.

“In all the books here in Haven, and what I have discovered of the past. I have found no record of your people.”

Ara struggled with the facts he was presenting. She wanted to believe that he was mistaken but she doubted that and this was something a bit extreme for him to lie about. She had considered him a friend prior to learning he'd been reporting everything to Ellana and she was unsure of where they stood now but perhaps he actually was trying to help.

She dropped to her ass with a thump, taking a deep breath. Ara's mind went back to the last time she knew she had been in Skyrim. That portal she had stepped through.

“No. No...” She trembled before she jumped to a conclusion. “Alduin! Alduin did this!”

“Did what?” Solas stared at her, confusion colouring his features. “You mentioned that word before. Alduin.”

“Alduin...” She frowned as she tried to figure out how to explain what Alduin was to Solas. “Alduin. Thing on road.” She attempted to make a snarly face for an example. “Attack Ellana.”

“A dragon?” He looked a little stunned at that revelation but it did not quite reflect in his eyes. “Alduin is a dragon?”

“Dragon. Yes. Big Dragon. Very strong.” Ara nodded quickly. “Alduin made... made door. Ara went door. Woke here.”

“He created a door and you ended up here in Haven?”

“Yes!” Ara got to her feet and began to pace. There was no way she could explain exactly what Alduin was to him, she simply didn't have the words. “Alduin much magic. Alduin dragon. Commander dragon.”

“He's the leader of the dragons?” Solas was now giving her a look she didn't quite understand.

“Yes.” She answered. “First Dragon.”

“Why would he send you here?”

“I... not know.” Ara sighed as she looked down at her hands. She knew full well why Alduin would send her here. She had to kill him, and what better way to eliminate the enemy then to send them to a place they could never escape. “Sovngarde. Alduin hunt...” She didn't have the right words and this was just getting more difficult to explain to him. “Open Sovngarde door. Ara follow. Wake here. Alduin here. Somewhere.”

“What is Sovngarde?” Solas questioned.

“Sovngarde.” She frowned at him. “Other place... other side. Holy... holy side?”

Solas face lost all expression as he just stared at her.

“Not Ara other side. That Ashpit.”

“You went into the realm of the dead?” His voice was just a bare squeak. “You followed this Alduin into the realm beyond this one?”

“Yes. Other side for dead.” She nodded at him.

“Don't tell anyone about this.” Solas' face was still expressionless but his voice had become more of a warning. “Not even Ellana.”

“Why? You tell?” She accused.

“No, I'm not telling her or any one.” Solas looked at her with an honest expression. “I promise, I'll explain why you cannot tell them about this. Just be patient until then.”

Ara wrinkled her nose at the mere idea that he was expecting her to believe he'd tell her the truth. She also didn't believe that he wouldn't tell Ellana. Elves tended to stick together and the pair of them was definitely growing on one another.

“When?” Ara demanded. “When explain?”

“When you understand more of the trade language.” Solas answered with a sigh. “It's far too difficult to explain to you why you shouldn't mention it until you truly understand the danger this puts you in.”

That was even more frustrating for her. There was too much that she didn't know, and she was stepping into danger by attempting to protect Ellana from the dragon.

A part of her wished she'd just stood back and let it happen. A very, very small part that made her feel instantly ashamed of herself. That was not the way of her people. No orc would ever stand aside if there was battle to be had.

She sighed. Damned if she did and damned if she didn't.

“I know you don't have any reason to trust me but please, you must not tell any one anything you have discussed with me.” Solas' voice was honest but concerned. “And I swear to you, I will not tell Ellana anything that will endanger you.”

She stared at him before she sighed again.

“Okay.” She said as she rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Ara sleep. Go away.”

Solas went to say something else to her but quickly shut his mouth and left her little house. She busied herself with putting her things away again before she dropped into the bed.

Maybe she'd get lucky and she'd actually sleep.

 

 

Oh, thank the forge.” Ara muttered under her breath as she realized she was dreaming.

This time, the dream was situated at the top of the Throat of the World. She recognized the place easily enough, from the view to the broken wall that Paarthurnax was usually perched on. There was a brief sigh as she approached the stones and ran her hand against the snow. Part of her had hoped that if she dreamed of this place, that she would see the old dragon here but that did not happen.

She closed her eyes, hoping that the dragon was well and not targeted by the Blades in her absence. They couldn't kill him permanently but that did not mean they wouldn't try.

The crunch of snow warned her that she was not alone but she had already guessed who would be there. Glancing over her shoulder, she could see the wolf approach her.

There was caution in his steps, like he was wary of her. She had no idea what she'd done to warrant that but then, she guessed she probably looked as irritated as she felt.

Grohiik!” Ara practically shouted with relief.

The wolf looked at her strangely as it approached. It clearly had not expected her to be happy to see it.

Are you alright, irmorisenatha?” It enquired.

I have encountered a dovah in this land.” She turned to the creature as the words were practically spewed out. “It recognized me but it did not answer when I talked to it. It felt... strange. Not wrong, but different then the dovah I was used to. And it was female.”

You tried to talk to it?” There was scepticism in the wolf's voice.

Yes. Dovahzul. It's the language of dovah, the language of dragons. She did not answer me but I know she knew that I was a dovah as well. She had come for her young, that was apparently drawn to my smell.”

You're certain of that?”

Yes. It cuddled into my side like a baby animal would do.”

What do you mean by it felt strange?”

It... -” Ara paused as she thought of it. She could easily say the words here for the wolf to understand but it was not as simple as a language issue. She had tried to explain this to him before, or at least partially. “- It felt more like an animal then a dragon. Intelligent but instinctual.”

I meant how did you manage to feel it?”

I am dovahkiin. I can sense my own kind if I'm close enough.” Ara said with a shrug. “I haven't actively tried to search out other dovah but it's like a presence. I know it's there. Yet, these ones did not feel like the dovah I was used to.”

Ara paused for a moment as she thought about the dragon.

I had never met a female dovah before.”

What?” The wolf asked, it's head tilting in surprise. “Almost all dragons are female, save for a few great dragons that have long since disappeared from this world.”

It was another sharp reminder of what Solas had told her. She could not help but feel that strange sense of guilt that washed over her at the further proof that she was not supposed to be in this place. She felt the dream flicker, her own anguish causing things to change around her.

Irmorisenatha! Are you alright?” The wolf's voice rose in concern.

I... do not think so, grohiik.” She took a breath even though she knew this was a dream. “I... I have come to the realization that I may be in a different world.”

A different world?” The concern was overridden by curiosity.

Yes. I chased Alduin into Sovngarde. It is the realm that the Nords go to when they die.”

Not orcs?”

No, orcs go to the Ashpit when we die. Preferably glorious death like the Nords but our land of the dead is different. It is where we will be reunited with Malacath, the daedra prince responsible for our existence.”

I do not understand that but we can discuss that another time.” The wolf said, a strange look passing through his eyes. “You are certain that you are in another world, irmorisenatha?”

Yes. The elf teaching me has told me there are no such things as orcs in this world.” Ara sighed. “Then there is the extent of their kingdoms, there is nothing near that is even remotely like my home. Finally... the dovah. They are hardly the beings I knew.”

Have you told any one this?”

I have briefly mentioned it to the elf but not to any of the others. He recommends that I keep it to myself until he can properly explain why.”

I think I agree with him.” The wolf nodded at her. “The mortals you deal with have many beliefs about the land of the dead and dragons. Many believe that this realm, the realm of dreams, is where a soul goes after it's physical form dies. Even if this Sovngarde is a different place, they would not believe you. It could place your life in danger if some of the more militant people learn of this.”

Ah grohiik, I didn't know you cared.” Ara said with a small laugh. She could see reason in what he said. She had already learned first hand that they were not pleased with her knowing magic.

Well, it is not every night I get to speak with someone like yourself.” There was almost a bit of a snarky tone in the wolf's voice. “Truly, I wish you slept more frequently as our talks are quite few.”

I wish that as well.” Ara answered truthfully. “But I don't sleep often. The moment I absorbed my first dovah soul, I stopped needing to sleep often.”

He was staring at her with a look that might have been almost horrified but he was a wolf, so it looked more predatory.

You... absorb dragon souls?”

Yes.” She had forgotten that she never mentioned that. “That is the curse of being dovahkiin. The only way to truly kill a dovah, at least where I am from, is to absorb it's soul. Otherwise, Alduin would bring them back to life.”

What effect does that have on you?” There was worry in his voice. The wolf was concerned about her. “Does it harm you?”

No, it does not harm me.” Ara said with a chuckle before she sighed. “I gain the knowledge and strength of the dovah. As of yet, it has failed to impact me in a noticeable way beyond that.”

You are certain of this?”

Fairly certain, yes.” Ara cast him a wary look. “The souls become part of me and I am a part of them. Would you rather they ceased to be altogether?”

You have a fair point.” The wolf responded.

The answer clear that he did not wish for dragons to disappear. That was a curious thing to her as most feared the dragons or hated them. There had been a whole group that became dedicated to hunting dragons in Nirn, and she assumed there was probably a similar group here or else they would have seen far more dragons then just the one and her baby.

It seemed the wolf did not want to continue this particular conversation and quickly shifted to something else of interest to him.

What is this place, irmorisenatha?” The wolf asked as it approached where she was standing.

This is the peak of the Throat of the World.” Ara responded. “The highest mountain in Tamriel.”

Tamriel?” He questioned.

It is a continent, a large landmass.”

I know what a continent is, irmorisenatha.” The wolf said with a laugh.

Yes, well, used to people not understanding what I'm saying.” She grumped.

Forgive them, they are trying.”

Yeah, not so keen on forgiving them.”

What else has happened?” Concern coloured the wolf's voice.

The elf that was teaching me has apparently been spying on me for the rest.” Ara sighed as she strode away from the wall to look over the edge of the mountain. “I do not know what he has told and what he has not. I was a fool to think he'd keep things in confidence. Fahliil only serve themselves.”

You do not like elves?” There was surprise in the wolf's voice.

Where I come from, the Altmer are not... pleasant to deal with.” Ara made a face as she thought of the Aldmeri Dominion. “They persecute many for their beliefs, especially in Skyrim.”

Why would elves do such a thing?” He sounded genuinely baffled.

They were upset that the humans believed one of their own had ascended to godhood.” Ara shrugged. “Or at least that's what I was told. All I know is that they sent their people all through Skyrim while I was there. They'd drag people from their homes, destroyed families; even tried to kill me a few times because I didn't agree.”

You're... you're serious.”

Completely.” Ara sighed. “Not all elves are bad, I will admit but I have not had much experience with altmer being kind.”

You believe that this elf teaching you is an altmer?”

It was a clever little topic shift and she noticed it. She just didn't bother bringing it up.

As I said before, he is either an unusual altmer, an uncorrupted falmer or... “ She thought for a brief moment, considering the final alternative. “Or one of the ones that came before. We have no stories as to what happened to them, the first mer, the first elves. I only know about the ogiim and how they came to be.”

Do you trust this elf?” He had asked the question before but he was asking again, something almost pleading in his voice.

I...” She paused again before rubbing her face. “Truly, I do not know. He seems to want to help me but he is keeping secrets. He is not like the over elves within the town.”

Irmorisenatha, do you trust any of them?”

Well when you put it like that.” Ara grimaced. “I trust him the most out of all the people in Haven. Next would be their smith but even he wishes for something.”

She liked Harrit well enough, and was grateful to be allowed to work in the forge again, but that didn't change the fact that the man had wanted her there to be able to work on gear that they needed made.

Then perhaps you should give the elf your trust.” The wolf tilted his head. “At least for now. Until he actually does something to harm you.”

Telling my secrets could be harmful, grohiik.”

Against them?” There was a chuckle. “I think we both know that if you wished to leave that town, you could.”

She made a hmmph noise as she thought about it. Until that moment, she hadn't really given it much thought. Certainly, she knew she was better then their soldiers but she had never taken on the ones they were calling Templars or even against their mages.

But I don't wish to.” She griped. “I need to help them with that damn hole in the sky.”

Irmorisenatha,” The wolf's voice was cautious. “Have you considered that the hole in the sky may be why you are here to begin with?”

What?” She stared at the creature. That was something she had not considered. “The elf did say it was a breach in the sky, perhaps...”

Was it even possible that she could have fallen through the breach when she had stepped into the portal that Alduin had created?

I think I need to learn more about the Breach.”

 

Chapter Text

It became clear to Solas that Ellana was still upset with him. She had blatantly told him that he would not be needed on her trip to Orlais.

He did not want to admit that it bothered him that she would leave him behind, opting instead to attempt recruiting a Grey Warden along the way. A very round about way as the Grey Warden was several days out of their way.. He hoped she would be successful as it left their party one man down as she had chosen to leave behind the Qunari as well.

The only good thing in this tangled mess was that the Commander had managed to convince Ellana to allow Ara to return to the smithy. Harrit and the others had apparently wanted her back with working with them, and her advisers were in agreement.

She started spending almost all her time there, avoiding him when she could, but he understood why. Within her dream, she had said she trusted him most out of everyone but now she wasn't sure if she actually trusted any of them. He had violated that trust and she was hurt by it.

Even if he felt bad about it, this gave him time to meditate and think over the latest revelations.

Ara had accused him of telling Ellana what they discussed but he knew he would not do so again. Solas was determined to win back her trust, even if the nature of her was still a puzzle.

He could not help him from thinking of seeing her with the dragon. The way she had stood there, facing down the beast without a hint of fear.

The word she had shouted as she dashed towards the creature had been another thing that stuck in his mind. Ellana and Varric had assumed it was just her shouting in her strange language but he had felt the power in it. A single word that let her perform magic unlike anything he had been aware of.

It had been like she fade stepped but he knew it wasn't that. Fade step relied on the power of the fade to send the caster forward but that was where the similarities ended. Her display of power had pulled her forward in the wake of that word.

It had been like pure magic unleashed in a mere instant.

It sent a shiver down his spine as he thought about it. There was no mage alive in this world that should have been capable of such. Perhaps he could have done it with his foci but she held no object of power to enable such.

Then there had been his revelation to her about her people. He had searched the Fade, asking every spirit he could find but none of them had ever heard of such a thing as her. Solas had even questioned Valour and Faith but none knew of creatures such as the Ara. He longed for the spirits that had lived during Elvhenan but many had been twisted in the centuries following the fall of his people, and the rest had fled beyond his reach it seemed.

There was one person he had not asked but he refused to seek her out. If Ara truly was something as old as the elvhen, then the less that were aware of this, the better.

Finally, he had reached the point where he could find no answers within the Fade but he knew that there may be some answers that could be provided by Ara if he could convince her to speak about what she had done against the dragon.

Rousing himself from meditation, he stalked towards the smithy only to find that she was not there. Harrit was working as always but Ara was uncharacteristically absent.

“You looking for the orc?”

Solas turned to look at the Iron Bull. The grey skinned Qunari was standing next to the tents that had been assigned to his mercenaries. Solas knew what the Iron Bull was. A Ben-Hassrath, a Qunari spy but he had freely given his services to the Inquisition as part of some deal with the Qunari. Solas did not know the full details, only that the man was now working with them and any reports he sent were to be looked over by another.

“Yes, I am looking for Ara.” Solas stressed her name.

“She went up to tavern with younger smiths.” Iron Bull said, his face completely impassive, yet simply knowing that Ara had been and gone was proof that the man had been watching.

That was of some concern and he found himself irritated by the notion that the Qunari spy had been keeping an eye on Ara. She had enough people watching her and did not need the Iron Bull nosing about her business.

“Thank you.” Solas said as he bowed his head and turned to go.

“What's the deal with you and her?” Iron Bull's question made him pause.

“I beg your pardon?”

“You and her.” Iron Bull said as he motioned towards where Ara was normally at the forge. “You were the first one to notice she was missing on the way here, and no one else seems to make as much effort to talk to her as you do.”

Solas eyed him cautiously for a moment. He could see the man's face, still as impassive as ever, but there was a polite curiosity in his voice. Still, Solas was on guard and thought for a quick moment; choosing his words carefully.

“I am her teacher.” Solas said with a small shrug. “She does not trust the other teacher that was provided for her to learn.”

“You two aren't friends then?” He asked, his voice getting even more curious.

“Partially.” Solas responded. He wanted to be friends with her but after she realized that he had been Ellana's spy, the woman might not want him as her friend any longer. Another reason he needed to talk to her.

“Partially?” The Qunari's eyebrow arched in a questioning look.

Solas stared at the other man as it became clear that the Qunari was trying to feel him out and get more information. His gaze narrowed as he quickly thought over the few questions that had been asked, wondering exactly what the man wanted.

“Partially.” He said with some finality to his words. “Was there a reason for this questioning?”

“Curiosity.” Iron Bull said as he shrugged his shoulders before glancing in the direction of Haven's gate. “I wasn't told there would be a green skinned woman here, especially not one that looks potentially Qunari.”

Solas understood that meaning well enough. The Qunari had sent him here and they did not know about Ara, or at least that they had not passed the information on to the Iron Bull before he came forward as instructed.

“I expect you have informed the Herald of this?” Solas asked.

“I have.” Iron Bull responded. “But if you're her friend, I'm telling it to you as well. I wasn't told.”

Solas paused for a moment but the message was clear. That was a warning. He went over all he knew about the Qunari and their actions over the time he had been awake. Realization struck that the Qunari could find several reasons to be interested in the strange woman, someone whom many others had mistaken for a green skinned Vashoth.

“You believe that others may be aware of her?” Solas questioned.

“If they weren't, then they will be.” Iron Bull gestured towards the town. “Pilgrims come through that gate, more then I can count. She was also with you on the trip to the Waking Sea.”

Solas almost cursed at himself for their foolishness. The thought that they might have put her in danger had never crossed his mind. He had been so caught up in teaching her the trade language, and solving the puzzle that was her, that he had not thought of teaching her how to actually behave outside of Haven. She may not be innocent or naive but she was definitely unknowing of what would happen if she left the town.

How many people would react as the soldiers had and called her things like demon or worse? He did not want to consider what she would encounter if she left the safety of this little town. She would be able to handle her own but there were ways to keep her contained.

“I see you get my point.” Iron Bull said with a small roll of his shoulders but said little else.

“Thank you. I will ensure that the concern is passed on to others.” Solas nodded to the Qunari before he strode towards the tavern.

 

Chapter Text

It was nice to be able to go to the Tavern without having someone staring at her like a freak. The three junior smiths were more then willing to spend time with her and give black stares to anyone that thought otherwise.

Ara hadn't realized how relaxing it was going to be to just sit in the tavern without any issues. Listening to the bard sing some weird song that seemed to be about the Herald. The song did make her think of Ellana. Which brought back Ara's rage at discovering that she had asked Solas to keep an eye on her and report back what he learned.

Thinking back, she could clearly remember the words being said while they were in that war room of theirs but they had meant nothing to her at the time. Little more then gibberish pushed to the back of her mind. She wasn't even certain it was considered spying as they had been very out in the open with that discussion, she just hadn't known what they were saying.

Perhaps that was why Solas had seemed so keen on trying to get her to talk to him again.

He tried nearly every day to talk to her and it wasn't like she was hard to find. There were only three places she was allowed to go here in Haven. The huts, the smithy and the tavern. Plus there was now someone watching and following her since they returned from the Waking Sea.

Like the men in the loud armour. They were clearly supposed to be discreet but their armour made them stand out like a sore thumb. Clearly, they weren't aware that she could see the small differences in how they walked or the fact that they smelled differently.

Yet no one seemed to stare at her any differently. Her stunt with the dragon had clearly been kept to a very small group of people.

It made sense. The soldiers were still wary of her even if the smiths had taken a shine to her. Forges knows what the normal people would do if they discovered she was okay with just running headlong into battle with a dragon without so much as a scrap of clothing on.

She was so lost in thought that she almost ran into Solas when she exited the Tavern. He looked wound up about something.

Perhaps he still upset over being left behind by Ellana.

“Solas.” She said in greeting. While she was still mildly angry with him, she knew he had answers to some of her questions.

“Ara, come with me, please.” He said as he motioned for her to follow him.

Kipp, one of the younger smiths actually swore at him in a language she wasn't entirely familiar with. There was a definite glower there as the young man stared down the elf.

She quirked an eyebrow at Solas before she rested a hand on Kipp's arm.

“Ara catch later. Tell Harrit, will forge at night.”

He didn't look pleased but he didn't argue. The young man merely shot a frosty glare at Solas before he followed after the other smiths. If Solas noticed, he didn't pay it any mind as he led the way back to his little hut.

Ara followed, ignoring the other people they passed as they walked. None of them looked at her any differently. She was just another person living and working within Haven. A few new arrivals would all react in fear to her but she was getting used to that.

She pretended not to notice the armoured man following them, as the man was attempting to look disinterested in the pair of them or at least she assumed that's what he was trying to do. It was hard to tell with the full helmet.

Once they were inside and he had the door safely closed, Solas moved to his trunk.

“What doing?” Ara asked in confusion as she watched him.

Solas threw the thing open and rummaged around for a few moments before pulling out a large cylinder shaped container. He took it to the table and popped the cover off to reveal a large rolled up bit of parchment. It was laid on top of the table even as he carefully placed objects on the corners to hold it rolled out.

“Look.” He motioned her over.

She stepped towards the table and let her gaze travel over the parchment even as her breath caught in her throat.

Before her was a map. She could not read the words that were scattered across the map but she could understand the basic details of it. The mountains, the rivers, even the coast. She recognized the direction they had gone when they had sought out the Iron Bull at the Waking Sea but without a point of reference, she wasn't entirely certain where it was on the map.

Map.” He said, using their word for it.

“Map.” She nodded before peering at it. Nothing was familiar on the map. Not even the barest hint of Tamriel appeared on it. “Where we?”

“Here.” He said as he put his finger down on a small little place near the southern border of the map. “This is Haven.”

She leaned to look, tracing her own finger from there up until she reached the largest section of what she believed to be water.

“Waking Sea?” She asked.

“Yes.” He said with a nod, clearly pleased that she understood how to read it.

“Why show?” She asked as she withdrew her hand to herself.

“You need to understand what is outside of Haven.” Solas said quickly. “You must be prepared in case you ever decide to leave.”

She stared at him but she knew there was more to it then that. It was clear that he was treating this as a way to make things up to her but there was something else behind it. She doubted that he did anything without thinking it through and this was something else he was considering.

“You stop Ara leaving.” She said simply. “Why teach?”

“You're safest here, even with not telling them everything.” He said with a weary sigh. “But outside of Haven, you won't have any allies or friends.”

Friends.

She had wanted to be friends with Ellana and with him but she didn't trust the two of them as far as she could throw them. And that was pretty damn far.

“Ara no friends.” She said as her lips pulled back from her teeth in a sneer.

“I know.” He looked almost guilty. “I am sorry for not telling you that I was instructed to inform Ellana about things I learned from you but you are not the only one with a precarious position here.”

He was using unfamiliar words which made her frown at him.

“I mean... I am an Apostate.” He continued. “A mage that is not controlled by their Templars. Mages are feared and blamed here. If I did not do as asked, to some degree, there was the chance that I would be turned away or worse. They are not forgiving to mages that do not follow in line.”

She understood. In that little phrase, she understood. She had not given much thought to why that woman, Lynne, had been broken but now she could see why.

“Tranquil.” She said with a hiss. “Ellana would not...”

But there was more then just Ellana here. She could see it clearly with the ones who formed this Inquisition, they would turn anyone who threatened the safety they were trying to build. If Solas had not been helpful, then there was the chance that someone might have taken it upon themselves to either chase him away or tranquility. People had done less in times of war.

“Ellana has already stated that she wouldn't.” He said with a half smile. It softened his features and Ara wondered if he even realized he was smiling like that at the thought of the young elf. “But there is the chance that they might have felt that you were too great a threat and done that to you.”

“Why?” She questioned even as her blood boiled in anger. She would kill any of them that tried to cut her off from magic. Strange how she had once rebelled against her nature in Skyrim but now she would kill them all if they dared. “Why help Ara?”

“In truth, I was curious about you.” He said with a small shrug, the smile fading to something more thoughtful. “You appeared at the same time as Ellana slipping out of a rift, yet you were unlike anything I have seen. Now, it is more that you may be able to help us.”

“Help?” She frowned. “How help?”

“Your magic is powerful.” Solas took a breath as if he was preparing himself for something. “What you did against the dragon... that was no fade step. It was like you used that word to channel yourself forward.”

Her frown deepened. She had been right, he had understood that what she did was not whatever fade step was supposed to be. A sigh escaped her as she remembered what the wolf in her dreams had suggested. That she should give Solas her trust until he actually did something significantly harmful to her.

“It is... -” She took a breath before continuing. “Dragon shout.”

“A dragon shout?” He seemed perplexed.

“Yes. Ara know dovahzul.” The mere word stirred power in the air but there was no focus to it, and weaker then most could feel. She had grown accustomed to the people not reacting in Skyrim when she used the dragon words, and she doubted anyone could really sense it here in this Thedas as everyone felt muted.

Solas shifting into a straighter posture made it clear that he sensed the power in the word, his eyes becoming bright as he stared at her. There was something akin to wonder in his eyes.

“Ara know many words, many tongues. Dovahzul, Orcish, Jel, even old words.” She sighed as she spoke. There was no way she could explain to him that she had always been able to pick up languages easily, and that this trade tongue was no exception.

Even before she had learned she could pull the language from the dragon walls and master them with the souls of dragons, she had always been quick to learn how to speak languages and even quicker to understand what was being said.

She had just assumed it was a survival necessity when she left her Stronghold and ventured out into the world. Now, she wasn't entirely sure but she wasn't going to bring that up to him.

“And Elvish?” He asked with a quirk of an eyebrow. “Na dirthem Elvish –“

She had an idea what he was saying but she didn't fully understand the words.

“Not know.” She answered in response.

“Yet, you know enough to answer me.” He pursed his lips together as he seemed to be thinking it over.

“Yes. Answer Solas. Not know Ellana elvish.” Ara said with a frown as she thought about it. She understood some of the elvish when it came to Solas but she had been utterly confused when Ellana had tried to talk to her those weeks ago. Perhaps it would be different now with the passage of time but she didn't think so. “Just Solas elvish.”

“How?” He questioned, those eyes staring intensely at her. “I had never spoken what you had said the other day but you understood full well what you were saying.”

“Not... not fully. Ara not fully know what say.” She shrugged. “Ara... know elvish but not know.”

It was another thing that she did not understand how to explain it to him. She wasn't even certain of it herself but she knew that it had to do with the dreaming place, the fade.

“You don't know how you know the language?” He stared at her, clearly not believing her answer.

“Ara not know.” She looked up at him with an earnest look in her eyes. “Truthfully. Ara not know. Ara think... dreams. Fade? Ara learn there.”

That was the only reasoning she had. That she had picked up on the language from the wolf. She already believed that the wolf was an elf like Solas, having encountered that strange dark haired one in her dreams several times. Yet, she had made no effort to learn elvish from him or even ask him about it. They had merely spoken to one another through the nature of dreaming and now she was here capable of understanding what he said in it and parroting some words back in her irritation.

“That... is possible.” There was a strained look on Solas' face that brought a questioning look from her.

“Something wrong?” She asked.

“No. Nothing's wrong.”

But something was, she could see it in the way he was looking at her. His face was mostly calm but there was something akin to awe in his eyes or perhaps it was fear, although it could have been both.

“Ara think hard for elvish words.” She said honestly. “When angry, easier.”

“That explains what you said the other day.” There was a flicker of amusement in his face but it did little to mask that strange look of his. “I believe it would be best if you do not share this knowledge with others.”

She wrinkled her nose at him as he was suggesting that she keep more secrets. So far, every time she demonstrated something new, he was telling her not to show it to everyone else. That wasn't exactly working out very well for her at this point.

“Believe me, I would prefer nothing more then to speak with you at great lengths in my own language.” Solas said with a sigh. “But it would be best if no one hears me conversing with you in elvish, for both our sakes.”

“Our?” Ara straightened a little as she voiced that question.

“Yes, our.” Solas fixed her with a strange look. “I told you that I was not going to tell anything to Ellana about what you tell me. I would be in a fair amount of trouble with her and her advisers if they discover that I had not informed her of your ability to understand elvish.”

“Why?” She asked, suddenly regretting all the negative thoughts she'd had about him since they got back to Haven. She glossed over the part that he seemed to think that she understood all elves speaking elvish and not that it was just his elvish. “Why no tell?”

“If they discovered you could understand the language, I'm certain that they would question you further.” There was a grimace on his face which made it clear that it was less of questioning her and more of an interrogation. He truly did not trust these people with any of his secrets. “While Ellana seems to like you, the Nightingale is the one you need to be wary of.”

“The Nightingale?” Ara paused, remembering the woman who had worn a hood nearly every time she had seen her. “Tent near Chantry?”

“Yes, her.” Solas said with a nod. “She is the spymaster, in charge with learning secrets and using them to help Ellana and the Inquisition.”

Ara frowned as she considered the words. It seemed like he was trying to get her to trust him again by being so open about everything. It was a nice change but then, she was still not entirely sure it made up for everything else. The wolf had suggested that she do so but it seemed that he too wanted something from her.

She wasn't even surprised by that, even in Skyrim, people had wanted things. This place was no different but she might as well use it to her advantage.

“Ara no talk Nightingale.” She promised before she pointed at the location of Haven on the map. “Teach Ara read?”

There was a startled look on his face before it turned warm.

“Of course. I will teach you to read.” He sounded pleased that she had asked. “But it still stands, you may be powerful enough to help Ellana close the Breach.”

Ara considered that before she shook her head. There was so much that she did not understand about the Breach and the magic in this world. She had done as Solas had suggested earlier and kept her magic to herself but she could feel the difference. Each time they had used magic around her, she could feel it in the very air.

“No.” She said simply.

“Why not?” There was irritation in his voice as he demanded an explanation.

“Ara know nothing Breach.” She shrugged as she humoured him with an explanation as best as she could manage. “Ara know it... “ She paused as she thought of the word. “Different. Breach different.”

“Different? In what way?” Solas questioned.

“Magic. It different. Ellana hand like breach. Same magic. Ara magic different.”

He seemed to understand that, nodding at her as he moved to his little book shelf.

“Ara would try but not know what happen.” She frowned as she considered, she wanted to tell him that she thought his magic was like a stepping stone between her own and Ellana's but something at the back of her mind warned her against that. “Could work. Could boom. Not know.”

“I understand.” Solas said with a nod before he returned with a book and some parchment.

“Solas?”

“Yes?” He looked up from where he was now shifting the map off the table to replace it with what he had brought over.

The books were laid out, and the parchment was resting there. Blank.

Obviously, he intended to teach her how to write as well. That would be helpful as she had little practice with doing that. Reading had been well and fine but there had always been others to write messages for her.

“You tell Ara Breach?” She could not help but keep the hope out of her voice. If he truly did want her to trust him, perhaps he would be willing to tell her what she needed to know. “What happened?”

“Please keep in mind that my knowledge of the events leading up to meeting you in the cell is limited.” Solas looked like he was about to start speaking in elvish but he stuck to the trade language. “Someone used powerful magic which killed everyone there save for Ellana and yourself. The entire temple was devastated in a large explosion. Ellana stepped out of a smaller rift in what was the Temple of Sacred Ashes.”

“And Ara?” She asked.

“I don't know.” He answered truthfully. “Cassandra told me that you were found in a nearby snow bank with nothing but your armour and your bag of things. You looked like you had just come from a battle.”

She saw the guilty look on his face and she guessed it was the fact that it had been some time before anyone had taken her out of her cell. She wondered if he had been aware of how long she had actually been there.

The way he wouldn't meet her eyes made her think that he had been aware of it the entire time.

“Where?” She asked, suddenly wanting to know where it was that she had popped into this world. There might be more answers to be found there even if it had been some months.

“I - “ He paused, and it was clear that he did not know where she had been found. “I am not sure. I believe it was between Haven and the Temple of Sacred Ashes, away from the red lyrium but still close enough that you should have been caught in the blast.”

“Ah.” Ara said as she thought about that. She ignored the part about the red lyrium as she wasn't even sure what normal lyrium was.

There weren't many places that were easy to find that were near the remnants of that Temple. She had yet to go there but she guessed it wouldn't matter as it had been months since the Breach first opened. Then there was the Breach, itself, it was what had brought her here, she was certain of that. Perhaps it could take her home.

“Solas, Ara come Breach?”

“I don't know.” He answered truthfully. “Travelling through a rift, even one like the Breach, should have killed you. Ellana only survived because of the mark on her hand.”

Her face wrinkled up as she considered that thought. If she had come through the Breach then that meant she would have died. Perhaps arriving in Sovngarde to defeat Alduin had actually happened and she was technically dead. People weren't supposed to travel to the land of the dead and return.

Oh forges, I am and this is some twisted version of the Ashpit.

So much for a glorious death and wonderful afterlife.

Her thoughts were bitter.

“I don't think you came through the Breach.” He said as if he understood what her thought process was. “It might have channelled whatever magic brought you here but I don't think that is the method in which you arrived.”

“Ara need go home.” She said with a sigh before she fixed him with a hard look. She would tell him one of the greatest secrets she had. “Home... Home is Lucia.”

“Lucia?” He questioned even as a look crossed his features. Somewhere between sadness and understanding.

“Little... my little.” She said softly. “Need return. Been long. Many long.”

“Ara, I promise you that we will get you home to your Lucia.” His voice was just as soft. And it was clear that he had suspected that she had family. Just the way he was looking at her made it clear that he was not surprised at all by this.

They didn't say much else about her abilities with languages or her magic. Instead, she focused on what he had before her. Learning to read.

It was easier then she thought it would be, pouring over the words and having him explain what the few unfamiliar words were. By the end of the day, it had filled in some gaps for words she had been grasping for. Not enough that she had mastered this silly language but enough that she could express herself more easily if need be.

She returned to the forge at sun down, even if he had protested and told her that she should sleep. She ignored it but promised that she would try to sleep tomorrow night. He had been about to argue but then she was out the door and gone before he could really voice his concern.

 

Chapter Text

It was another dream. Once more, she was as a dragon but she felt groggy.

Almost heavy.

She tried to move but then she felt them. Dragons. Hundreds of dragons.

They varied in ages, some old and some young. There were even eggs, giant crystal eggs that seemed to rest everywhere, some broken and others whole with dragons still within.

Overhead, the roof of the cavern stretched high above her and the walls were spread far from her. She could stretch herself out to her fullest length and she would have nothing that stopped her. A single hole rose in the ceiling, and the open sky could be seen high above.

It called to her, the song of the sky. To spread her wings and fly but there was a reason why she was here.

There was the barest growl of a dragon and she looked up to see the creature. It was huge and looked almost like the dragons from Skyrim but it was a purple colour, almost lavender. Red eyes were fixated on her even as it's giant clawed hand rested against the crystal shape around her.

It seemed she was inside of one of those giant crystal shapes. It was not an egg but a container.

The dragon made a strange noise which almost sounded like words but it was still a low sort of hissing. She couldn't quite make out what it was trying to say but she was certain it was trying to speak with her. The words were all wrong but there was intent behind the growly voice from the dragon.

It turned away from her to look towards that sky so far ahead for a moment.

Ara turned around, surveying the rest of the place, noticing two humans talking just in the distance.

Well, one human and one... something else.

The man was human. Tall with sandy brown hair and wearing fancy armour. Not quite the metal armour she had seen in Haven but definitely well crafted with bits of fur along the shoulders. A sword hung at his side. He looked almost regal.

Her attention, however, was drawn to the woman. She appeared human with long flowing black hair. Gracing the top of her head was a helmet that seemed to be made from the skull of a dragon like creature. Her outfit was a mix of metal and red cloth, revealing far too much skin but it was the eyes that attracted the most attention. They were alien, bright gold and peering at the man with wisdom that was far older then her youthful appearance.

There was something about the woman that was familiar but she just couldn't figure out what it was. She just knew she wasn't human.

Awaken the last of the great ones, as your father was meant to.” The woman said. Clearly, Ara had come in the middle of some conversation or other. “Absolve him of his oath and we will search for Aurelian Titus together.”

The man looked utterly disgusted at the woman's proposal. Turning from her even as he seemed to have difficulty wrapping his mind around what he was being told.

We will find your father, and he can relieve you of your crown.” The woman's voice was almost sweet, honeyed as she tried to get him to agree to some thing. “Your life will be yours again.”

Why is it always a ritual?” The man said in irritation.

He seemed to be truly bothered by what she was asking but Ara wasn't even remotely sure what was going on between them. They were discussing something back and forth like it was important. Neither had said their name but apparently the man was nobility, a prince or king perhaps.

The woman had a different sort of bearing, looking wild but dangerous.

You and Morrigan and Flemeth... all you do is manipulate and lie.” The man said, acid in his tone.

That is our craft but it is not our purpose. Mankind destroys without understanding, yet I preserve.” The woman said, sliding her hand up along the man's cheek in an almost lover's touch. “What is your purpose?”

Ara was more interested in the sleeping dragons around her. Tilting her head to look until she heard the man speak. There was dark intent in his words and her attention narrowed down upon him and the woman.

Justice.”

She turned back in time to see him drive his sword into the woman's midsection and out her back.

Blood splattered into the air from the mortal wound.

A hiss pulled out of the dragon as it turned, it's attention focused solely on him. The dragon's wings spread in this cavern as it approached the man. Rage filled the air as the dragon opened it's mouth to growl loud into the cavern.

There was magic in the air, Ara could feel it like a claw grasping at the man.

You took Maric from me. From my brother.” The man's face was full of anger and grief but his voice was cold. His gaze stuck on the dead woman before him. “You took him from Ferelden. Everything that happened to my country is because of you.”

It was clear the dragon intended to rip this man to shreds for daring to kill the dark haired woman. Ara had no idea why she felt such rage but this, this transgression could not be allowed. She agreed with the dragon.

How dare he kill her?

Krii fin mun!” Ara hissed even as her hand came up against the small crystal thing around her. She felt too sluggish to hit the wall of whatever this was that held her there, so she just placed her hand on the crystal. All she knew was rage. Rage that this unfamiliar woman had been slain.

The dragon seemed to move in indecision, halting just before it got to the man and the woman's body. The eyes glowed red as it stared at him.

Krii! Krii!”

Behind the dragon, Ara continued to rage. Even as her words had little effect on the creature.

Going to eat me?” His voice was flat, his gaze hard, but he turned away and started walking for the stairs leading out of the cavern. “I don't think so.”

Ara raged briefly as the dragon approached the woman's body. She could not see what the dragon was doing, only that it leaned it's head down to seemingly sniff at the woman. The dragon opened it's mouth towards the body and Ara felt magic in the air.

It was like an electric smell and it felt like fire licked along her skin. It was the dragon using the magic, even as a strange glow seemed to fall out of the dragon's mouth to touch the woman's body.

Then, she saw the woman twitch.

 

Ara woke with a shriek. A terrible feeling of wrongness washing over her as she practically leaped out of her bed.

Unbidden, a sword appeared in her hand. A conjured blade of shifting purples and blues. Her magic had brought it into existence the moment she had woken, a weapon to defend what ever threat she felt.

Ara's chest heaved as she tried to draw in a breath but it was like she could not get air fast enough into her lungs. Her heart was racing fast, thundering against her ribs and her eyes scanned the darkness of the hut before her.

There was nothing in the house that could be causing her to feel so threatened.

The danger must be outside.

She rushed to the door and yanked it open, stepping out into the cold night air and staring around the two little huts. There was nothing in Haven at this hour. Only a few guards walking patrol.

Everyone else was asleep.

She bared her teeth as she took in a lungful of cool air. The bound blade dying in her hand and returning to simple magic around her. Everything felt fine in the little town but there was a wrongness in the air. Something more then the Breach. Not as strong as the magic that corrupted the sky but it was there. Faint.

Her heart would not slow and she began to pace. Another deep breath but still, she could not still get herself to calm.

She thought about it for a brief moment before she strode to Solas' door. There was no one else in this stupid village that she could confide in. She was certain that they would try to lock her up if she said anything.

“Solas?” She called even as she banged on the door.

It was several agonizing minutes before she heard the door open and a rather irritated looking elf was standing there.

The look faded the moment he saw that it was her.

“Ara?” He questioned, startled by arrival.

“Sorry. Ara know late.” She babbled as she rubbed her bare arms. “Ara... something wrong.”

He blinked before he moved aside to let her enter. Concern locking into place in his eyes as he ushered her to a chair.

“What's wrong? Are you hurt?” He genuinely did sound worried about her.

“Not me.” She frowned, trying to think of how she could explain this in her clipped speech. She knew how to explain it in her own languages but she simply didn't have enough words in her own. “Ara sleeping. Dreaming. Ara wake. Something wrong. Like Breach wrong but not Breach.”

She frowned as she thought about it. She had no idea how to explain that it was a magic that she could sense in the air. Something that twisted the world just as badly as the Breach did.

“Perhaps it was something in your dream?” Solas asked, trying to be helpful.

“No. Not dream.” She shook her head. “Dream okay. Bloody but okay.”

He didn't push about the dream even if she could see that curious look.

“You no feel?” She questioned, looking at him. “It... wrong. Air wrong.”

Solas frowned for a moment before he closed his eyes. She waited patiently before his head suddenly jerked in the direction that she thought was somewhere north. His eyes snapped open and he actually hissed.

“See. Wrong.”

“Yes, that is most definitely wrong.” Solas' face had contorted into a look somewhere between anger and disgust. “Someone is using powerful magic.”

“Wrong magic.” Ara said with a shudder but she felt a sense of relief that he sensed it too. That meant she wasn't going crazy. “It not Breach but it wrong.”

“I know.” Solas glanced over at her. “You said it woke you from your sleep?”

“Yes.” Ara nodded. “Ara dreaming. Woke quickly. Thought bad thing happen.”

“Well, it is a bad thing whatever it is.” His face returned to that normal, mostly impassive look of his. “You should return to sleep, I will see what I can determine this to be.”

She bared her teeth at the thought. There was no way she was returning to sleep and he should have known that. She was just too wound up over whatever magic someone was unleashing in the world.

“Ara no sleep. Going smithing.”

There was a brief sigh from the elf, as he understood that she was not going to be returning to dreaming. At least not tonight.

“We will still have lessons in the morning.” He argued.

Both of them went still as they felt that wrongness in the air simply vanish as if it had never been there. Solas' face twisted again before he began to pace in front of his bed. There wasn't really much room to be pacing in the room but he simply could not seem to remain still.

“Ara no like this.”

“I don't like it either.” Solas said. “But don't worry about it, I will speak to Ellana's advisers about it.”

Solas fixed her with a strange look as if he expected her to speak up about what he was planning on doing.

“I will tell them I sensed this, alone.” His voice had a sense of finality about it.

Ara stared at him before she simply shrugged. If he wanted to take this all on his own, then she wasn't going to argue.

“Fine.”

She didn't wait to see if he was going to say anything else and slid out the door.

Ara stomped towards her own house, returning to the night air dressed in clothing that the others would find more appropriate. At least they weren't forcing her to wear robes like some of the people around here or that heavy armour.

Her gaze flicked around the buildings but she realized that the man in armour wasn't there this time. A blessing as he had missed her little show with the bound blade.

She was down the path and passing the Tavern when she heard a voice from the shadows of the building.

“So... you and the elf, eh?”

She skidded to a stop as she looked at the Iron Bull who was leaning against the Tavern like that was completely normal at this hour. There was a brief moment where she considered his appearance looked a bit menacing, just standing there in the shadows but she quickly pushed that thought from her mind and just quirked an eyebrow at him.

“Ara and the elf what?” She stared at him, wondering if he was going to finish the rest of that question. “Why you awake?”

He stared at her like he was utterly dumb founded by the first question.

“I'm awake because the Inquisition seems to think that seven people can fit in that shitty little tent they gave us.” He grumbled about it. “Easier to sleep in the tavern in the chairs.”

“Sleep Ara's house.” Ara said as she jerked her thumb towards the little hut. “Ara no sleep often.”

“Thanks, but I think some folks might get upset if we start moving into one of the houses. Though... why are you up at this hour?” He suddenly questioned. “You tend to sleep through the night when you do sleep.”

Ara quirked an eyebrow, realizing that he has been watching her go through her routines it seemed. She hadn't been paying attention as she had been more preoccupied with her irritation with others. That and she doubted anyone would be dumb enough to try something to her. The soldiers had already learned their lessons and she had that guy following her around.

He was surprisingly absent at the moment but she guessed whomever was on duty tonight just assumed she was out for the night.

“Smithing.” She said, not wanting to get into the details of exactly why she was up at this hour.

“You do a lot of smithing at this hour?” He asked, that eyebrow quirking.

“Yes.” She nodded. “Little sleep. Need be busy.”

“I could help you keep busy.” He said with a small grin.

“How?” She shook her head at him. “You mercenary. Listen Ellana and Advisers.”

His face fell a little but he still continued to smile. “How about a sparring match?”

“Night?” She stared at him before shaking her head yet again. “No. Not night. Maybe day?”

“Sounds good to me.” His eye actually lit up as if he liked that idea. “I'll see when I can convince the Commander to use his training field.”

“Why?” She laughed again. “We spar. Woods.”

She motioned with her hand as if to point out that there was quite a few places they could actually have a sparring match without involving Fluffy. Not that she had any problem with discussing things with him, it was more that she didn't want to give the Soldiers any ideas.

She still didn't trust them.

“Deal.” Bull grinned before motioning towards the path leading towards the smithy. “Lead the way, we can talk while we walk to the smithy.”

“Okay.” She smiled broadly at him. “Tevinter?”

“What about Tevinter?” He asked, his eyebrow rising in slight confusion.

“You tell Ara.” She nodded. “Tevinter. Ara want know.”

She started walking and he hurried to follow after her. There was not much distance between the Tavern and the smithy just outside the walls but he did as she asked. He talked about what he knew of the Tevinter Imperium.

When they arrived at the smithy, she motioned for him to keep talking as she started working. She learned about the general idea of Tevinter, from the basic politics to the war with the Qunari. Ara absorbed it all like a sponge but asked no questions of Bull. She merely listened as she worked the metal into a passable sword.

Bull just continued to talk, eventually sitting on one of the crates and watched her the entire time. It was only when the night began to lighten that he finally stopped talking about the Tevinter Imperium.

“Where'd you learn to smith?” He asked.

“Mother.” Ara responded simply.

“And where did your mother teach you?”

“Krazak.”

“Never heard of that place before.” Bull said as he idly stroked his chin. “You said you weren't from Tevinter or Ferelden. I know you're not from Par Vollen so where are you from?”

“Par Vollen?” She questioned, ignoring what he had asked.

“It's where my people are from... well mostly anyway.” He shrugged his shoulders. “It's to the north, probably the northern most place in Thedas. But you didn't answer my question, where are you from?”

“Skyrim.”

“You said that before.” Bull said, his eye becoming little more then a small slit. “But I've never heard of that place.”

She faltered in her swing of the hammer.

“Not important.” Ara said with a hiss. “Why ask?”

“Curiosity.” Bull said as he leaned back. “You could almost be Vashoth.”

“Vashoth?”

“They're.... shit how do I explain this.” He frowned for a moment. “Vashoth are Qunari like me but they've never known the Qun.”

“Qun?”

“That's not something I can explain in words you'd understand.” He said with a good natured laugh. “Maybe when you can speak in full sentences.”

She glowered at him and he looked the picture of innocence or as best as he could manage.

“Look, I promise I'll sit down and explain it some time but you're gonna need to explain something equally complicated for me.”

“Fine.” She shook her head at him before she continued to work on the sword. “Other questions?”

She really didn't think he was just here to ask her that question again.

“Why are you here?”

“Smithing.” She said as she lifted the weapon she had been hammering together.

“No. I mean. Why are you here?” Bull asked.

She froze completely before she pointed towards the sky. The roof above them hid the Breach from view but they knew where it was. Everyone knew where that damn thing was.

“Breach.” She said with a hard look in his direction. “Ara help.”

“I don't think making swords for the Commander's forces is going to be much help fix that.” He said dryly.

“If rude, can go.” She said as she motioned towards the tent that he and his Chargers were apparently sharing.

“It's the truth though.” He said with a shrug. “I've seen you fighting several times since we met, you're wasted as a smith.”

She hissed at the words, taking them as an insult before turning away from him to ignore him completely.

He clearly understood that she was not going to respond any further as he stood and returned to the tent. Ara didn't look in his direction but she was sure that he watched her until the sun rose.

Even when it was time to go to her lesson with Solas, she still shot him an angry glare and said nothing as she passed him.

 

Chapter Text

Ara hadn't spoken to the Iron Bull ever since his little questioning hit a little too close to home but she knew he was still watching her. He had stopped the pretence that he wasn't looking when she caught him every single time.

He seemed almost impressed.

It was just another reason to ignore him as she went about her daily business. Just another infuriating person sticking their nose in her business.

She focused more on her smithing then on Bull, to the point that she completely lost track of time. She had been elbow deep in making a dagger when the shouts of Herald started up. Ara hadn't been keeping track of days but she knew it was at least a month, if not more since Ellana had ventured off to Orlais.

Ara was content to ignore the arriving people when she heard a rather loud woman speaking behind her.

“Is she green? Why's she green?”

Ara ignored the voice, although it was amusing to hear the hiss of irritation from Ellana as she chastised whomever was speaking.

“What?” The woman's voice rung out even louder. “I was just asking. I ain't never seen a green Qunari before.”

“She's an orc.” Varric's voice was partially a laugh before he shouted. “Hey, Ara, come meet the new arrivals.”

She did not say anything but Harrit stepped in, clearly deciding she was going to go be social. He put his hand on her arm before jerking his head towards the dwarf. There was a kind smile on the man's face but she acted like she did not understand.

“Go on. You can smith later. Besides, it's getting late.”

She scowled a little but did not argue. She never argued with Harrit, she respected the man too much.

She quickly discarded her things before she vaulted over the edge of the fence and wandered towards where Varric was still standing. The Iron Bull was ignored where he stood talking with his Chargers and a few of the soldiers who had returned with the Herald. Still, she was aware of his eye following her as she went past him.

Ara paused briefly to examine his new companions.

One was a rather stately looking Redguard, who's flashy outfit seemed out of place in Haven. Ara couldn't figure out whether she was wearing a hat or a helmet, although there was two rather large horns on the top of it.

Crown maybe?

A well groomed man – perhaps a Breton, she was not too sure – stood to Varric's left. He looked just as out of place as the Redguard woman. His clothes were too nice, too clean. Plus his shirt seemed to be half made of straps. Perhaps him and the Iron Bull were from similar climates but she was not going to ask. He wore a half smile as he chatted with Varric but his eyes had already taken a quick, if polite, gander in her direction.

It was the third person who had spoke. A blonde haired elf who almost looked like she could fit in with the rest of the elves in Haven. There was nothing about her clothing to make her look distinct or even remotely different from the average person. Then she opened her mouth.

“Hey, lookit. She's got red eyes too.” The woman stared at Ara in open mouthed surprise. “But she ain't got no irises, just those beady little pupils. How can you tell where she's looking?”

Varric chuckled before waving Ara further towards them.

The Redguard did not stay, giving Ara a once over that was a little too close to looking over an animal for Ara's liking, before marching off with Ellana and Commander Fluffy.

“Ara, this is Sera and this is Dorian.” Varric said as he motioned to first the woman and then the man. He then motioned to the woman who had stalked off with the others. “And that was the illustrious Madame de Fer.”

“Charmed.” Dorian said with a polite nod.

“Greetings.” Ara said with a bob of her head in return before looking over at Varric. “Gone long. Alright?”

“Yeah, we're fine.” Varric said with a reassuring smile. “We stopped to pick up a Grey Warden named Blackwall, then headed straight to Orlais. We just stopped back at the Hinterlands where we picked up Dorian here when things didn't go as planned.”

“Blackwall?” Ara questioned.

“That would be the slightly sour looking man with the bushy beard.” Dorian said with a chuckle.

“I heard that!” One of the men from near the horses answered.

Ara glanced over quickly and saw a human, perhaps an Imperial, with one of the most fantastic beards she had ever seen. She stared, just looking at the beard before she turned back to Varric who gave a small laugh.

“So what have you been up to while we were gone?” Varric questioned as he started walking towards the Tavern. The others following along with him.

“Smithing. Studying.” Ara said with a small nod. Not revealing anything about that strange dream or the feeling that had woken her from her sleep. “Solas teach Ara read.”

One of the soldiers that had been training with Cullen's forces fell into step a few steps behind them. Ara noticed it but she called little attention to it as the man was keeping a respectful distance.

“Really?” Varric said with a small grin. “I hope that's been go-”

“What's wrong with her?” Sera interrupted.

Varric stopped and gave her a hard look.

“Hey! It's just a question. She talks funny.” Sera's nose wrinkled.

“She blunt.” Ara said with a small chuckle. “It okay, Varric.”

Ara didn't think there was anything wrong with Sera's statement. She could understand well enough that the woman would be confused by how she spoke, most of the people here in Haven had become used to it. The ones that actually talked to her anyway.

“Incredibly blunt.” Dorian laughed with her. “But you do have a strange way of speaking, I will admit a bit of curiosity myself.”

Varric started walking again, and the group following along with him once more. He was apparently the ring leader for this escapade to the tavern.

“Ara learning words.” Ara said with a shrug as they walked. “These words... this tongue not Ara's tongue.”

“What language do you normally speak?” Dorian had a curious glint to his eyes.

“Orcish.” Ara said, watching the confused looks grow on their faces. “And others. None here though.”

“Ara, here.” Varric said as he pushed open the door to the Tavern. “Isn't from around here.”

“She definitely doesn't look Fereldan.” Sera spoke.

“Not Fereldan.” Ara laughed again before she found a place to sit.

Dorian sat across from her and Sera went at the other end of the table. Varric went up to the bar to get them something to eat.

“Then where are you from, exactly?” Dorian's voice was still polite, but there was a definite curiosity.

“Far. Very far.” Ara said, having a finality in her voice before she quirked an eyebrow at him. “You not Ferelden. Where you from?”

“Tevinter.” Dorian said with a small half smile.

“Ooh Tevinter.” Ara leaned on the table, looking curiously at him. “Bull tell Ara Tevinter.”

“Bull?” Dorian looked a little confused.

“The Iron Bull.” Ara corrected herself. “Qunari.”

“Oh, right, I do recall Varric mentioning that.” Dorian nodded, more to himself then to her. “So tell me, what brings you to the Inquisition?”

“Breach.” Ara said with a shrug as if it should be obvious.

“You're green, it's green. Did you have a hand in it?” Sera suddenly asked.

“No.” Ara flicked her gaze over at her and gave her a scathing look.

“Watch it, Buttercup.” Varric said as he returned to the table, a small grin plastered over his features. “Ara is more then capable of defending herself if you push too far.”

“She's all muscle.” Sera said with a comical look. “I can outrun her.”

“I think you're underestimating how quick she can be.” Varric was still grinning.

Ara shot him a quick look but his own grin quickly faded into something that was altogether innocent. She didn't think he was involved with telling her secrets to everyone but then she had heard a bit about him being a writer.

“I doubt that.” Sera said with an annoyed sniff. “Qunari are all slow.”

“Orc.” Ara corrected. “Ara is Orc.”

“Orc?” Dorian questioned.

“Complicated.” Ara answered.

Dorian looked over at Varric who merely shrugged back at him.

Ara knew full well that Varric knew more about her then he had clearly told these people on their trip here. Perhaps she had been wrong in her assessment about there being no one all that trustworthy in this little town.

“Orc. Qunari. Still slow.”

Ara turned to look at Sera with a small smirk.

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?” Sera said before sticking her tongue out.

Ara reacted before the woman had time to blink. One foot snapped out at the right place to tip the chair backwards.

The elf's arms windmilling in the air but Ara didn't let her hit the ground. She leaned forward and grabbed the chair just before it got to the point of tipping in the claws of gravity. It took less time then it took to take in a breath.

“Told you she was fast.” Varric said as the bartender finally came around with four mugs.

“Holy shite.” Sera said, her eyes wide and her hands clinging to the front of her chair.

“Next time, no warning.” Ara said with a sweet smile before she righted the woman's chair.

“Quite impressive.” Dorian said, his eyes twinkling before he took a drink from his mug which had him sputtering. “Good lord, what is this?”

“Ale.” Ara answered. “Bad ale.”

“So, I can tell.” Dorian laughed.

Ara smiled at the man before toasting him as best as she could with the mug.

“Hey, don't knock the ale.” Varric chastised before turning his attention back to Ara. “So you said you're learning to read from Solas? How's that go-”

“Andraste's flaming tongs.” Ara swore under her breath before she got to her feet. “Sorry. Ara late.”

She hurried for the door as she heard Varric's irritated comment about constant interruptions.

Ara was out the door and heading towards the huts where an irate looking elf was waiting for her. She gave him a sheepish look before he motioned her inside to begin her lesson for today.

 

Chapter Text

Solas saw how Ara had been ecstatic when she was invited along on the trip to the Hinterlands.

The plan was a simple one, they were going to waltz in there at Ellana's back while Dorian snuck in with the more rogue like element of Leliana's forces. It was a plan that relied on them being a distraction, with Ellana completely holding their enemy's attention. That only brought up the warning the Qunari had given him. He would be very visible and so would Ara.

She had not gone into the city proper the last time they passed through but now this Alexius, and whomever he is working with, would be aware of her.

Ara had been irritated when he suggested she stay and hadn't talked to him since, so he remained silent and considered what he knew about the situation at hand.

Ellana had discussed things with him in detail before they left. Especially the possibility of time magic and the fact that it may have been used to allow Alexius to arrive at Redcliffe before them.

He had no doubt that it was a certainty, recalling the night Ara woke up and he felt that strange distortion in the fade. Still, he kept the knowledge to himself, telling neither Ellana or Ara what he was nearly certain of.

Everything was going the way that the Inquisition had planned. The Grand Enchanter was there, an elf by the name of Fiona, and they had managed to take out the guards the man had installed. Everyone was shouting back and forth before Alexius used some strange amulet. Magic rippled out from that single point even as Dorian sought to keep the amulet from performing as expected.

They could do little more then watch as Ellana and Dorian vanish in that vortex of power.

That magic radiated outwards, slamming into his personal shields like a wave. The hair stood up on the back of his neck at the sheer wrongness of it. Magic like that was a forbidden art, not because of the effects changing time could have but because of the danger of it. One miss step and the entire nature of the fade could be ripped apart.

It seemed Ara understood that on an instinctive level as the shriek that pulled from her mouth was nearly animalistic. Alexius found himself face to face with a completely enraged warrior that seemingly pulled blades out of the air.

Solas stared, his mind not quite processing what he was seeing. Her red eyes had become solid red, not a hint of her pupil to be seen, and had taken on an almost otherworldly glow. Her face had contorted into a look he had seen before. That look when she had gone berserk near the Waking Sea.

“Ara!” He shouted as he strode towards her, interposing his body between her and the pedestal.

She whirled before he could put his hand on her shoulder and he hastily withdrew his arm. There was not a hint of the woman he knew in those eyes. Whatever was staring back at him was something completely alien.

“Isenatha'dana!” The words were in perfect elvish but the voice was something else. It was something ancient and full of power.

Dragon break.

He had heard the words before but he had never heard anyone use them in recent memory. Something about Mythal came to mind but he pushed it aside. Now was not the time to be delving into memories when she was moments from snapping further.

She continued speaking, but it was like gibberish to his ears until he heard a few words he recognized. A word in elvish here, another in the dragon language she spoke in her dreams, one in the language she had been speaking when she first got here, a few in the trade language. It was like her mind had become jumbled by whatever had happened to Ellana and she was speaking in every language she knew.

Hearing the dragon language, however, brought a chill up his spine. He could feel the power in the words as she spoke. It was just like when she had said that single word, Wuld, and leaped forward. Words that were full of magic.

“Ara.” He said again, trying to keep his voice calming. “I cannot understand you.”

“Isenatha'dana.” She repeated and he could feel the rage radiating from her. “Melava danem.”

He felt his heart stop when he realized she could feel what the spell had done. She understood that time was broken, something he had only guessed until this moment. It was another example of exactly how different Ara was from the others. He knew that a powerful magic had been done but not that it had been a spell affecting time.

That is what this man had done. He had sent Ellana through time.

Solas whirled to face the man on the dais, his voice raising in anger as he lifted the staff in his hand.

“Undo what you have done!” His power channeled around him. “Return the Herald. Now!”

Ara did not move from where she stood behind him but he felt her magic rising around her. He had no idea why she was suddenly calm but he wasn't going to question his luck.

“She is a mistake.” Alexius spat. “I have done as asked, she no longer exists.”

“Father... what have you done?” His son questioned, taking a step back.

Solas was about to crush the main with his power when there was a sudden blast of magical energy again. It was the same as before, but this time it seemed to clear the wrong feeling in the air. Almost like a rubber band as the world snapped back into the way it was supposed to be.

The strange vortex of power cleared and there stood Ellana and Dorian, completely unharmed.

All the power and rage at his back dissipated just as quickly as the magic. Ara almost instantly calming at the sight of the pair.

“You'll have to do better then that.” Dorian said with a small smile at the corner of his mouth.

Solas breathed a sigh of relief before he turned to look at Ara.

Her eyes had gone back to a more normal, for her anyway, shade of red but he still led her away from what unfolded on the dais. There was concern in his eyes but before he got the chance to ask, the sound of armoured soldiers rang through the hall.

He grabbed Ara's arm and dragged her behind one of the pillars.

“What?” Her response was a hiss as she jerked her arm out of his.

“Leave this to Ellana.” He cautioned.

Ara glowered at him but seemed to agree. She merely watched from the shadows as the soldiers filled in and positioned themselves within the hall.

He breathed a sigh of relief. A feeling that quickly fled when he watched Ara stiffen and go pale when a voice rung out through the hall.

“Grand Enchanter, imagine how surprised I was to learn that you had given Redcliffe Castle away to a Tevinter Magister.”

Ara's eyes fixed on the blonde man that was leading the soldiers.

“King Alistair!” The Grand Enchanter said, the first thing of note that she had said since this whole thing began.

“Especially since I am fairly sure Redcliffe belongs to Arl Teagan.”

“Ara?” Solas questioned as she jerked away from the pillar.

She dodged the question as she ran for the side door. Shoving any one that stood in her way until she was outside. Solas followed her on every step, not bothering to apologize for the woman as she seemed to need to get out side.

“Ara?” He asked again as they got outside. “Do you know King Alistair?”

“No.” She answered. “Saw... Saw King in dream.”

“You're certain of this?”

Solas did not show how disturbed he was by what she was saying. He had made a point of being in the fade, hunting for her, every time she dreamed but he had no recollection of such a dream. Not even once did he recall her dreaming of the King of Ferelden.

“Yes.”

Solas had hoped she would elaborate more on the dream but she didn't. She just wandered a few steps away from the castle before she stared off into sky.

She remained silent until everyone else came marching out of the castle, completely fine. He moved to ensure that Ellana was alright but she ignored him and stalked right towards Ara was standing.

“Ara, I was told to tell you.” Ellana took a breath before she spoke. “Fin Vaaz los ni fin miiraad hofkiin.”

He felt his heart stop at the look that crossed over Ara's face. It was something like grief, as if she just had everything she knew ripped from her. Without a word, she turned from the two of them and walked straight into the forest. Solas went to follow when Ellana put her hand on his arm.

“Ellana?” He questioned even if he wanted to shake off the Herald's arm and follow after Ara.

“I was told to give her time.” Ellana hissed and he could see the look in her face, she wanted to follow after her as well. “But you have some explaining to do. You called her irmorisenatha.”

He stared at her even as he wrapped his mind around the only explanation for her knowledge.

“You were in the future?”

“Yes. A year.” Ellana's eyes were haunted as she said it. “Why did you call her that?”

“I cannot speak for my future self.” He chose his words carefully. “But perhaps because of her interactions with the dragon we faced?”

The look on Ellana's face was clear that she did not believe him but she had no reason to doubt what he was saying.

“Get your mount and find Ara, we're going back to Haven as soon as everyone is ready.” Ellana barked before she strode away from him.

 

Chapter Text

One moment they were arguing with Alexius and the next, a green vortex dropped them in calf deep water. Ellana felt like her stomach was left somewhere else as she got to her feet. Apparently, their arrival did not go unnoticed as two guards came running in.

“Blood of the elder one!”

“Where did they come from?!”

They wasted no time and moved to attack. Even as scrambled as her mind felt, Ellana easily wielded her magic to defeat them. Dorian's magic helped and before long she was capable to easily get a look around.

They were still in the Castle or at least it looked like they might be. The same type of stone architecture rose around them but it was now highlighted with giant pillars of red lyrium. It looked exactly as it had at the Temple of Sacred Ashes and she didn't want to get any closer then she had to.

Dorian clarified after the battle, revealing that he was certain they had moved through time. It hurt her mind thinking about it but then it was just like the change that had been made to the Grand Enchanter and the mages.

Then of course there was the revelation that the Magister had attempted to remove her from time altogether. She didn't want to think about that for too long.

Both of them had the same idea, to get the void out of here and back to the correct time.

They travelled through the lower levels, trying to find a way out but then she found the Grand Enchanter. The red lyrium growing out of her body. That was disturbing in ways that Ellana couldn't even guess about that.

The Grand Enchanter filled them in on more information and they did not stay long where she was. There was no helping the woman, not with most of her lower body consumed by red lyrium.

Further search brought them to a series of smaller cells.

Ellana's breath caught in her throat as she saw Solas pacing back and forth. There were red lines along his body, like the lyrium had not yet done the work that it had on Grand Master Fiona.

He jumped, startled, as she opened the cell door to step in to speak with him.

“You're alive!” His voice sounded distorted, his eyes tainted with that red and little waves of it pulsing off his body like electricity.

“I am.” She said softly as she looked at her old friend.

“Ara... Ara believed you'd come back.”

“Ara? Is she here too?”

“Yes.” His voice and face spoke far more then that single word. Anguish and grief crossing over them before his face went to an unemotional mask.. “She will help but... but she is not as she was.”

“What happened to her?”

“You... you will see.” Solas responded. “Can you reverse this?”

She stared at him, realizing full well that he had been aware of the jump in time. Clearly, he had given up hope that she was going to arrive yet, he had expected it.

“I think we can, yes.” Dorian nodded to him. “I believe I can get us back to the time we left.”

“Good, then you can return and obviate the events of the last year. It may not be too late.”

A year.

They had lost an entire year. Ellana tried to think of something to say to him, anything to make up for what Alexius had done.

“You look... bad.” Ellana managed with a grimace. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“I am dying but no matter.” Solas said with a small shake of his head. “If you can undo this then they can all be saved.”

She went to speak but a pained look darted across his features.

“You know nothing of this world... it is far worse then you understand.” He spoke before her or Dorian had the chance to say anything. “Alexius serves the master. The Elder one. He reigns now, unchallenged. His minions assassinated Empress Celine and used the chaos to invade the South.”

Ellana motioned for him to follow as they stepped out of the cell. Solas motioned towards the door at the far end of the row of smaller cells.

“This Elder One commands an army of demons. After you stop Alexius, you must be prepared.” Solas continued.

“You are just brimming with good news, aren't you?” Ellana said with a sigh.

“If you can return to your present, you might find it helpful to know what the elder one plans.” There was no anger in his voice, no sneer, nothing to hint that he was stating anything other then emotionless fact. “This world is an abomination. It must never come to pass.”

They walked towards that door and Ellana realized that this was where they were keeping Ara. She was not locked in a cell like Solas or the Grand Enchanter. No, they had locked her away in a room by herself.

“She killed many of Alexius' men.” Solas looked at the door, emotions finally flicking across his face.

Ellana nodded and unlocked the door before stepping through. She stopped and stared at what was within.

Her skin was the wrong shade of green. A sickly, nearly grey colour had taken over the yellow-green shade. Her back was to the door and the scarring was visible across her skin. Runes had been carved into nearly every bare inch of skin, some were even carved over other scar tissue. Runes upon runes.

Chains from either side of the room held her arms out stretched while another was locked around her neck and holding her in place. It kept her body bent, not allowing her to stand to her full height. Every chain was lined with red lyrium, some of it almost growing into her skin.

Ellana gasped at the sight of her.

Ara's head jerked up at the sound but she couldn't turn to look at the door. Stringy brown hair twisted in the movement, revealing that even her ears had suffered torment. The tips had been shorn off and left to heal as jagged edges.

“Who's there?” The voice was hoarse and deeper then Ara's voice should have been.

“Ara?”

“No one has called me that in a while.” There was a laugh that sounded somewhere close to crazy. “They normally don't send soft sounding women in here either. A new tactic?”

“Ara, it's me, Ellana.” Ellana said as she took a step into the door.

“Liar.” Ara answered, her voice turning into a growl. “Ellana is gone where you fuckers can't touch her.”

Ellana stepped around her and gasped again at the sight of Ara's face.

Even her face had runes carved into it but they were ignored as she stared at the features of her face. They had gouged out her eyes and let them heal to the point of empty sockets, Ellana was certain there had been burning involved. Then there was her tusks, or the lack of them. The skin around her lips was deformed which made it clear that they had been removed as a form of torture. But it was the mark on her forehead that held Ellana's attention the most.

Bright against her skin was the mark of tranquility.

“Oh, Creators...” Ellana covered her mouth with her hand.

“Your gods are dead, elf.” Ara's nose flared as she turned her head in Ellana's direction. Even without her eyes, she seemed capable of knowing where Ellana stood. She sneered, revealing where teeth had been replaced with bits of metal. “And I'll kill you too if you come closer.”

“It is her.” Solas said as he approached from the doorway.

“Grohiik?” Ara questioned, her head jerking in surprise.

Ellana did not recognize the word but she paid it little mind as Solas' presence seemed to sooth the anger in Ara's face. She wracked her mind as she tried to think of how Ara could be angry despite the mark.

“It is Solas, I am here.” He answered. “She returned, like you believed.”

Ara had been the one who had believed she would return, not Solas. That brought a stare from Ellana even if she felt unbelievably confused and horrified by what lay before her.

“Heh... I expected her in a thousand years or so.” Ara's laugh was bitter.

“I don't understand.” Ellana stared. “That.... that means she was -”

“Yes.” Solas' face contorted as he began undoing the chains holding her. Ellana quickly moving to her arm to do the same. “They made her tranquil.”

“It didn't work.” Ara laughed again, an insane laugh. “Tried to seal me in so I killed them.”

“It did work.” Solas grit his teeth as he said it. “She can no longer touch the fade.”

“It did not affect her mind?” Ellana asked in confusion and horror.

The rite of Tranquility removed a person's connection to the fade. They lost their ability to dream, to perform magic but it also removed their emotions and personality. Yet it seemed like Ara was intact.

“It did.” He answered as the chain around Ara' neck fell away. “But... her mind has been broken ever since you disappeared in time. Tranquility and the growing Breach just made it worse.”

Ara straightened up with a groan, her spine cracking. More scars were visible on her front but thankfully, the tattered rags hid most of the damage that Ellana had no doubt was there.

“You're just saying that.” Ara laughed again at Solas.

He moved to take care of the other arm when Ellana finally managed to get the manacle off her. Ara shoved him out of the way as she grabbed the chain and pulled. Muscles bunching as she tore it from the wall to free her hand.

“That's better.” Ara rumbled before her head turning towards Ellana.

Quicker then a blink, Ara was across the distance and grabbing her. One hand holding her steady while the other grabbed her left arm and lifted it. Ellana just stared at Ara before the woman lifted Ellana's left hand and sniffed her palm.

“Eh... you're right, Solas.” Ara let go and took a step back. She grinned at Ellana, but it looked wrong without the tusks. “It is her.”

“Did... did you just sniff the mark?” Dorian said from the doorway.

“Yes.” Ara turned her head towards the doorway. “They've tried to trick me before but they all smell wrong. None of them had the mark.”

“You can smell something of the mark?” Ellana stammered as she took a step back.

“Always could.” Ara said before she stretched again, her head tilting towards the other woman with a look almost like a feral animal.

It was clear that both her and Solas had suffered in the year but it almost looked like Ara was a beating away from snapping.

“We should get to the throne room where the spell was triggered, that would be the key location to getting us back.” Dorian mentioned before turning to start walking. “And if I know Alexius, that is where he will be if he is here in this time.”

Ara fell instep behind her and it further made Ellana consider that the woman had been through hell.

“You should have warned me.” Ellana said to Solas as they continued to wander through the castle, heading for the place they needed to be. “What they did to her...”

“I do not like discussing it.” Solas answered, his voice sharp but distorted from the red lyrium.”And if you can return to your present then you can prevent it from happening.

It was then that she realized it. A dawning look of horror crossing her face as she stared at him.

“You witnessed it.”

“Yes.” Solas' jaw tightened.

“Did they not perform the rite properly?” Ellana asked, seeking some explanation as to why Ara was not fully tranquil.

“No, they performed it correctly.” His eyes became dark. “She... she is not like we are. It painfully cut her off from the fade. Her screams... ”

He trailed off and Ellana wanted to push no further. Solas and Ara were friends, and she could only imagine what it would be like to be forced to watch and listen as a friend was tortured in the worst way imaginable.

“Afterwards, she killed her way to the outer walls before they subdued her.” Solas finally continued, his voice dropping when he mentioned her being subdued. It made Ellana think there was more to it then that but she did not push. Especially since he was doing his best not to look at her or Ara as he spoke. “They only kept her alive because... “ He hesitated, like there was something he was about to say but quickly changed his mind to something else. “They wanted to know what made her different from us.”

Ellana didn't want to hear anything more about this topic.

“When you return, you must try to help her.”

“Help her?” Ellana questioned him.

“I can hear you.” Ara said without turning her head to them. “They might have taken my eyes but my hearing is better then fine.”

“Ara...” Solas started.

“No.” Ara's voice was final. “This isenatha'dana must be undone. That is it.”

He frowned and said nothing else as they slid through the halls. A sound up ahead caught Ellana's attention and she turned. Ara stopped in her tracks.

“Blood.” She bared her teeth. “A torture room.”

Ellana made out the voices within. Only one of them was important.

“Leliana!”

They rushed to the woman's aid but it turned out it was not needed. More about this time was revealed and Leliana agreed with their plan, that they needed to get back to that point in time.

The five of them made their way towards the throne room of Redcliffe Castle, killing all the guards in their way. Ellana swore to herself that she was going to stop this even if she had to kill Alexius in the past, and his master.

They had managed to find Alexius and ended up fighting the crazed magister to his death. There had been no way to convince him otherwise as his sole motivation had been his son who looked like little more then a brainless ghoul. Leliana killed the young man before the battle was joined.

Afterwards, Ellana realized that the sheen on Alexius' son's skin was the same as Ara's. That sickly threading of greys and blacks. She did not want to think about it.

Dorian was the one to find what they needed. The amulet that had sent them there was on Alexius' body, and it would be what they needed to get them home.

“Give me an hour to work out the spell he used, and I should be able to reopen the rift.” Dorian said with confidence.

It was Leliana who looked the most upset out of the other three companions. Her features were distorted by the torture she had sustained but there was no masking that look. Her voice rising as she approached.

“An hour? That's impossible, you must go now!”

A tremendous roar shook the building and Ara turned her head towards Solas. There was no sadness or grief in her face, just an overwhelming look of relief like she knew death was waiting and she was just glad it was finally going to end.

“The Elder One.” Leliana whispered.

“Irmorisenatha?” Solas questioned but there was more to that word then just a simple question.

Ara gave a half smile, that almost looked sane for a moment.

“I am sorry.” Solas answered as he bowed his head to her.

“It's alright. Maybe I'll see the Ashpit after all.” She turned her head towards Ellana. “I will face his beast, demons will follow. When you return, tell my younger self Vaaz los ni fin miiraad hofkiin and give her time to come to terms with it. She is your friend, remember that and those words. Vaaz los ni fin miiraad hofkiin.”

Ara was then running for the door, a mad look of glee on her face as she threw herself out into the courtyard. The rift kept her from sensing anything but she was certain she could feel more magic being unleashed.

Ellana went to stop her but Leliana put her hand up to prevent her from moving.

“You cannot stay here.” Solas said as he looked towards Ellana briefly. “I will hold the outer door, when they get past me. It'll be your turn.”

“No!” Ellana almost shouted. “I won't let you all commit suicide!”

“Look at us!” Leliana's voice was calm, like that of a woman going to her death. “We are already dead. The only way we live is if this day never comes."

Solas turned and walked towards the door, closing it behind him. A roar tore through the building and Ellana was certain that it was a dragon, another roar answered and it was one that set a chill to her bones. Other screeches answered and she knew those as demons.

“Cast your spell. You have enough time as I have arrows.”

Ellana watched as Leliana took her place and began to recite a prayer to the Maker.

Dorian shouted at her not to move even as they felt an earth shaking tremor, like something large had fallen against the building. Another roar echoed before she could hear Solas' voice rising above everything else in words she did not understand.

The battle continued to wage as Dorian worked the time magic and ever instinct in Ellana demanded she help them but she remained there.

A huge body was suddenly careening through part of the keep, smashing through the door and the wall. The debris and dust kept it from view but she could see horns. Perhaps a demon of pride or something as massive.

Another shout from Solas which was cut off mid way.

Ellana's eyes ripped away from the unknown form in the corner as she looked to the now open doors. Demons and men walked in, one carelessly tossing Solas' body to the ground as they advanced on Leliana.

Ellana went to take a step forward but it was Dorian's voice that called her back.

“You move, and we all die!”

She was torn as she watched her adviser face those demons alone. Glancing from Dorian to Leliana before that green light erupted outwards to surround the two of them. She watched as Leliana died at the hands of those monsters before the world shifted and they were once more in the present in Redcliffe.

There was everyone as they had left them. Aleixius and his son on the raised platform.

Ellana could not help but glance towards where Solas and Ara had been standing, both were unharmed but wore looks that were a mix between surprise and rage. It was unsettling to see Ara completely whole as opposed to that last memory of her running to her death with mad glee.

“You'll have to do better then that.” Dorian said with a cocky smile.

“Put aside all claim to Redcliffe, and we let you live.” Ellana said with some vehemence to the magister.

“You won.” Alexius responded. “There is no point extending this charade.”

Alexius paused for a moment before looking up at his son with anguish in his face. “Felix...”

“It's going to be alright, father.” Felix responded as he crouched down next to his father.

“You'll die.” Alexius' voice was almost a squeak.

“Everyone dies.” Felix answered simply.

Alexius lowered his head as he closed his eyes. The magister accepting both defeat and the undeniable fact that his son would eventually die. The Inquisition guards moved to take the magister into custody while Ellana glanced back to her companions.

“Well, I'm glad that's over with!” Dorian said, relieved.

She was about to go deliver her message when she heard the footsteps of several armoured soldiers. Ellana turned towards the entrance to see Denerim soldiers marching towards them.

“Or not.” Dorian stared in the same direction she was.

Ellana almost jumped at the sight of Ferelden's King marching in, his voice a little angry as he addressed the Grand Enchanter.

“Grand Enchanter, imagine how surprised I was to learn you'd given Redcliffe Castle away to a Tevinter Magister.”

“King Alistair!” There was something in Fiona's voice that caught Ellana's attention but she paid it little mind, thinking that perhaps it was surprise at being berated by the King.

“Especially since I'm fairly sure Redcliffe belongs to Arl Teagan.” There was something almost stern in Alistair's voice as he regarded the woman.

“Your majesty, we never intended...” The Grand Enchanter said, wringing her hands.

“I know what you intended. I wanted to help you, but you've made that impossible.” The King sounded sincere but his voice hardened further as he shook his head at her. “You and your followers are no longer welcome in Ferelden.”

“But... we have hundreds who need protection! Where will we go?” The Grand Enchanter responded.

“The Inquisition might be willing to take in the mages.” Ellana finally spoke.

“And what are the terms of this arrangement?”

Ellana stared at her for a moment. She understood why the woman would be asking, given what she had just gone through with Alexius and the Tevinter mages but the sheer audacity to ask after what had happened. It was a little stunning.

“Hopefully better then what Aleixus gave you. The Inquisition is better then that, yes?” Dorian spoke as words simply escaped Ellana.

“It seems we have little choice but to accept whatever you offer.” The Grand Enchanter responded.

“We would be honoured to have you fight as allies at the Inquisition's side.” Ellana finally managed.

“I'll pray that the rest of the Inquisition honours your promise, then.” The Grand Enchanter said.

Ellana bit her tongue against her initial response and simply went with the truth. “The Breach threatens all of Thedas. We cannot afford to be divided now.” She took a breath before speaking again. “We can't fight it without you. Any chance of success requires your full support.”

“I'd take that offer if I were you. One way or another, you're leaving my Kingdom.” The King spoke. His voice was completely flat, unemotional for the fate that was to befall the mages, as if he was discussing something inane. Like the weather.

The Grand Enchanter bowed her head to the King, a strange sadness filling the woman's eyes before turning towards Ellana. “We accept. It would be madness not to. I will gather my people and ready them for the journey to Haven.” The Grand Enchanter's voice lifted, as if she was just reminded of the new purpose of her and the other mages. “The Breach will be closed. You will not regret giving us this chance.”

The Grand Enchanter turned and walked towards one of the side doors.

“Well, that was interesting.” Dorian said with a good natured sigh before he glanced to where Solas and Ara had been standing. “Where did those two get off to?”

Ellana blinked and realized that both Solas and Ara were missing from the Hall. She turned and made to bow to the King before leaving but she found that he had also become absent. No doubt cleaning up the mess that Fiona had left for Arl Teagan.

“Gather those of that are going back to Haven, we're leaving once I talk to Ara.” She said with a nod to Dorian.

He nodded in return and made no effort to follow. He had heard Ara's words in the future, and he had the clear look that he did not want to be there when this was told to the Orc.

She strode from the Hall and found the two of them standing outside a little distance away. The pair looked like they were discussing something, or rather like Solas was trying to prod Ara for answers and the woman was having none of that.

She remembered what the older version of Ara had said and she suddenly felt guilty for ordering Solas to gather information and teach her the trade tongue. The Orc, even as beat up as she was in the future, had claimed she was a friend but what kind of friend had Ellana been to her? Viewing her as nothing more then a possible threat.

Solas saw her approach and moved towards her but Ellana walked past him and went straight to Ara. Ellana steeled herself for whatever reaction this would bring and knew her nerve would leave her soon if she did not say this as soon as possible.

“Ara, I was told to tell you.” Ellana said before taking a deep breath to try and calm her rapidly beating heart. “Fin Vaaz los ni fin miiraad hofkiin.”

The words spilled from her mouth but she was never going to forget the look that crossed over Ara's face. Ellana knew that look. The utter disbelief chased by anguish. The kind of look a person had when you gave them the worst possible news they could ever hear. Ara did not respond to her, merely turned on her heel and walked away, disappearing beneath the trees.

Out of the corner of her eye, Ellana saw Solas move to follow after the woman but she put her hand on his arm to stop him. She had a question she needed him to answer.

“Ellana?” His voice was full of concern but he looked torn between her well being and that of Ara's.

“I was told to give her time.” Ellana could not keep her voice from coming out in an angry hiss. Both at herself for delivering that message and at him for being the one that was close enough to the Orc to help with whatever all of this meant. “But you have some explaining to do. You called her irmorisenatha.”

Ellana had known what that word meant. Great dragon. A word that held no meaning to the elves of this day but had once held purpose in the time of Arlathan.

“You were in the future?” He questioned.

“Yes. A year.” Ellana could not help the thought that came to her mind. Solas, Ara, Leliana and what they had suffered in that year. She took a breath before speaking again, trying to keep a grip on her anger. Anger was better then the terror and grief that threatened at the thoughts of that future. “Why did you call her that?”

“I cannot speak for my future self.” He said calmly and slowly. “But perhaps because of her interactions with the dragon we faced?”

He was hiding something, she realized it the moment he spoke. Something had passed between Ara and him, some secret that he had not shared. Part of her was hurt by that fact but another part was glad. If she was going to be friends with Ara, then it needed to start somewhere and perhaps Solas was her way of being friends with the woman.

“Get your mount and find Ara, we're going back to Haven as soon as everyone is ready.” Her voice was harsh but she did not care. She turned and strode away, looking for some quiet place where no one would see her break down.

She was the Herald and they were counting on her.

 

Chapter Text

Solas tried to talk to her on the ride back to Haven but she ignored him completely.

Fin Vaaz los ni fin miiraad hofkiin.

The Breach is not the path home.

That was the message from her older self. Dovahzul spoken to a woman who had no idea what the words meant or even the power behind them.

Not that she thought Ellana was capable of using hem as a thu'um, as a dragon shout, as Ara had felt no power at all stirring when Ellana gave her the message. There was not even the hint of the power that had come from the Greybeards and the Dragons. Nothing at all.

That alone made her feel a sense of despair.

She had been focusing on other things, making herself as useful as she could. Helping as a smith and on the few missions she had gone on but she had considered that the Breach had been her gateway back.

Yet, the dragon break had proved that she would not be able to return to Nirn through the Breach. She almost wanted to know what her future self had gone through in that time to realize that the Breach was not the way.

She tossed it all around her head on the ride. Trying to think of anything and everything. This was not her world, and the Breach was the only logical thing for an explanation on how she got here. She had asked Solas about it but his knowledge seemed far more limited then she had expected or he was lying to her. While it was a possibility, she did hope that he would not lie to her if he thought there was the possibility of her getting home that way.

Either way, it made it clear that everyone else really had no idea about what the Breach was. They all assumed it was merely a hole in the veil and that only Ellana was the one capable of closing it.

Ara would not give up that easily and by the time they arrived in Haven, she decided to see the Breach for herself. She considered asking the others about it but she had the feeling they would not be helpful to her desire to see the thing. Plus, they were more interested in closing it as opposed to understanding it.

She did not blame them on wanting to close it, the Breach was a danger to the world but even she knew that there had to be something that was responsible for it. Tears in the fabric of the world do not just happen by themselves.

When they arrived back at Haven, Solas tried to talk to her once more but she just shook her head and walked away. A few others tried to speak to her, Bull and Varric but they were ignored as well. She was not going to play this particular game, not today.

Ara went to her little hut and just laid in the bed, waiting. She ignored every attempt at getting her out of the house and into the world, and eventually they gave up for the day.

Finally, it had gotten dark and quiet enough that she knew everyone was already sleeping. There would be a few guards but she knew she could get past them easily enough.

She strapped her old armour to herself, ignoring the hole that she could not repair, and slung her bag over her shoulder. There were only a few things within but they were her's and she would not leave them here in case she did manage to find a way through the Breach. She did not even give the building a parting glance before she stepped outside into the night air.

Ara peered up at the night sky for the briefest of moments before she heard the shuffling of someone nearby.

Without a second thought, she leaned back into the shadows cast by the wall of the building and crouched down. She waited, patiently for whomever was prowling around her house at this hour.

“Hmm...” The man muttered to himself, a soldier dressed like one of Fluffy's men. “Must have been my imagination.”

She understood who this was. One of the men that was to watch her when she travelled about the town. They did not trust her and she had accepted that but she was not going to let it stop her tonight.

There was a brief moment where she considered knocking him out but she knew that she could just get passed him if she just waited.

Sure enough, he ventured back around the building towards the street and she crept out towards the wall behind the houses. It was not very high and she knew she would be able to make it over it before the other man was back looking for her.

It would be well into the day before anyone realized she was gone.

It was surprisingly easy to make her way up into the mountains towards the Breach. There was a straight forward path with a few guards patrolling it.

Not that she would have called it patrolling. One man would walk from one point to the next, and then back. All she had to do was be patient and she could slip past them. She only nearly got caught once but it seemed like the guard could not even see her when she crouched back down beside the wall.

She had stuck to the frozen riverbed after that. It was all along the side of the path to the Temple. There was some debris here and there but nothing that she could not navigate if she needed to get past it.

She only really stopped once, when she got to the remnants of a small village. The houses had burned to the ground and the ruins picked clean. Not that she was planning on looting the houses, it was just a little depressing to see.

Sighing to herself, she continued on her way.

She had to scale the mountain side at the next bridge over the river as she could see another pair of soldiers. Apparently, the Commander had decided they needed to keep a very good eye on the pathway there.

Ara ignored everything as she worked her way around the guards, going into the temple ruins in a different way so as to not attract their attention.

There were several things that Ara became aware of by the time it had become mid afternoon.

The first was that the men guarding the temple did not want to get too close to it. They gave the place a wide berth but every couple of hours someone apparently came to ensure that nothing was happening before they ran off.

The second was that there was nothing to indicate where she had appeared. It had been months since Ellana stepped out of a rift, and Ara stepped out of where-ever but there was no sign of either event. Merely the charred and distorted remains of people.

The third was that those bodies were made of the same material as the strange red crystals growing out of the walls. Judging by the fact that they were bright red and smelled faintly of rot, she guessed those things must be the red lyrium Varric talked about. She kept away from both the bodies and the walls.

The fourth, and final thing, was that her future self was right. The Breach was not a way home.

It was too out of the way for her to get close but she did not need to. The closest she could get was a nearly destroyed balcony and where she stood, she could feel the energy of the Breach.

She knew what it felt like as she had been around Ellana enough to recognize the same crackling force but the Breach was something else altogether. It was like an itching against her skin, but one that she knew no amount of scratching would solve. That itching was accompanied by pulsing waves of power that just felt wrong. It felt like a wound that could not quite heal.

She had thought about studying it, about pushing her magic into it to see what would happen but some common sense told her that would be a bad idea. If it had any effect to begin with.

Sighing, she settled back against the wall as she tried to think of what to do. The Breach was not the answer but she was not even certain that going back to Haven was the answer either.

Still, those pulses of magic came from the Breach and somewhere in the middle of thinking, Ara dozed off.

 

This dream was different.

She recognized nothing in it.

There was a giant wall on one side of her and the plains on the other side. She turned to look out over that vast expanse and just stared at it.

A great flat area was stretched out before her and she was certain there were people out there. She stared as she finally made sense of what she was seeing.

It was a battlefield.

A giant, horrible battlefield.

She was an Orc, dying on a battlefield would be a sure fire way into the Ashpit. A glorious death could be had there but what she saw was not of glory.

It was a slaughter.

There was something terrible about it that tugged at the back of her mind but she could not quite place it. There was something important, as terrible as it was, but she simply could not remember what it was.

There was blood and pieces of bodies everywhere. Bonfires were spread through out the field, and the smell of smoke and ash rose in the air.

A sense of foreboding seemed to tug at her mind but that was ignored when she felt someone prod at her back with something sharp. She turned to look over her shoulder at whomever was behind her and she saw that there was an army at her back. There were men surrounding her, one with a spear that had been jabbing her to continue on. His face was contorted in anger and his words were the only ones she heard over everything else.

A hush had fallen over the battlefield as all eyes were on her.

She frowned, and attempted to take the spear from him but she noticed that her hands were actually bound.

That frown deepened as she found she could not break the rope. Panic rose at the feel of the rope around her wrists, rope that was stronger then steel. No matter how she flexed her wrists and tried to pull her arms away from one another, she could not free her hands.

There were harsh words said towards her but she did not understand them at all. They were motioning towards to a platform that she had not noticed before. They were quite animated about it.

That spear jabbed in her side again to hurry her along.

She glared at him but he did not take a step back. There was no fear in his eyes, only anger at her. More words were shouted at her in that angry tone which only added to her confusion.

Another jab and she followed where he wanted her to go. She lifted her head high as she walked.

Voices started rising in the crowd again. She could hear them but she still did not understand a word any one was saying. However, she did understand the tone. Some were pleading, some were angry, some where downright raging.

She had no idea what was going on even as she walked to that platform.

There was something forbidding about the platform but she could not place that either.

She climbed the steps and stood at the top, looking over everything before her. There were a great many people there in her dream. Many more faces then she ever recalled seeing before.

You should not be sleeping here.” There was a hint of irritation in the voice, as if she should know better.

She turned to find the offending soldiers having been replaced with that dark haired elf. He stood against the bottom of the platform, leaning almost nonchalantly against the bottom. He was dressed as usual, fancy black outfit with the silver and gold patterns, with the dark hair pulled back away from his face.

What is this place?”

A place of little importance.” He said with a shrug, his face a complete mask of indifference but she could still hear the annoyance in his voice. “It has a name but it will be lost to history, just like everything else.”

Really?” She sceptically asked. “Clearly, I must have remembered something different.”

She waved her hand for emphasis. Obviously, there was a point to this dream. Just like everything else she had dreamed about since she had woken in that little cell. She just had no idea what it was as she did not recognize anything before her, other then that sense of impending dread. Something bad must have happened to have this place stick in her mind.

What did you expect?” He asked, turning to look at her and she could almost make out a surprised expression on his face. “You're sleeping next to a rift. Not just any rift, mind you, but the very Breach that spawned all the rest.”

Yes...” Ara mumbled, only just remembering where she had fallen asleep. She had not even felt tired when she had settled down to think. That was something that did not bode well. “I had thought it would be the way to take me home.”

To take you home?” His eyebrows rose even further. “I see...”

You see?” Ara stepped closer to him, pointing an accusing finger at him. “Explain what you know.”

She vaguely realized that her hands had come unbound but she was not thinking about that at all. This strange elf, whom she was certain alternated as the wolf, knew something about how she got here and that meant he possibly knew how to get home. He had told her that the Breach may be the reason, clearly he had to know something.

No.” He said simply, fixing her with a hard look.

Why not?” She demanded. ”I have been playing your games since I got here, I think I deserve some answers.”

You haven't even begun to play my games, irmorisenatha.” He actually sounded angry but the elvish word was dripping with sarcasm.

And what do you call the last few months?” Ara asked as she invaded his personal space.

Someone forgetting why they're here.” He did not move, just stared her down as she glared at him. “Perhaps I'll explain things when you actually do what you're supposed to be doing instead of playing hero with a bunch of children.”

There was a brief moment where she was certain she could make out his eye colour. A shade of bright gold that was almost cold. Then it was gone and his face was once more obscured by whatever power that brought him into her dream.

A bunch of children?” Ara sneered. “What would you have me do? That Breach threatens this whole world, I won't let the young elf face that alone. If I can do anything to help, I will.”

Don't be a fool.” His voice was still irritated. “Why should you bother helping them?

Because I rather like living?” Ara retorted.

She had trusted the wolf before her but she was beginning to think that perhaps she had been wrong to do so. If he knew what was going on, if he had even the slightest idea how she got here and how to get her back then he had been keeping that to himself this entire time.

You've already endangered that enough by even being here.” He sneered at her.

What?” She stared at him blankly. “What the forge are you talking about?”

It is of no concern.” He looked away, almost uncomfortably. “All you need to be aware of is that others have become aware of your presence. The Qunari knows, speak to him about it if you want to know.”

Why are you passing this off to someone else instead of telling me right now?” She demanded.

Because I have the feeling you would not believe me if I told you.” He glanced back to her and smiled at her with a predatory look. “That, and it is time to wake up.”

 

She woke with a start to find Solas staring down at her with a clearly perplexed but concerned look on his face.

 

Chapter Text

Solas stood at her door and gently knocked. He had given her space for the entire day they returned, although he had hoped to see her in the fade that night but it did not happen. It was not uncommon for her to not sleep but he had the feeling she was avoiding the “wolf” in her dreams.

Patiently, he stood there and waited for her to answer. He knocked again after a couple of minutes but he became aware that there was no sound from within the little house. There should have been sounds of her moving, even if she was sleeping.

Frowning, Solas pushed open the door and found that there was no one within the home. There was not even the trace of a fire in the hearth. It looked like Ara had left early, perhaps dealing with her emotions using a hammer and metal.

Turning, he strode from the home and in the direction of the smithy. He had only taken a few steps when he noticed the man lingering around Ara's house.

He recognized the man as the one of the ones who had been following her around for the last few weeks. His armour marked him as one of Cullen's soldiers but Solas could see that the man was more then that. He could practically smell the lyrium the former templar used.

“Have you seen Ara today?” He asked the man.

“No. She hasn't left her house.” The man said with a nonchalant shrug as if this task was beneath him.

Solas cursed in elvhen before striding towards the blacksmith but he already knew she was not there. She had been devastated by whatever Ellana had told her and he had no doubt that she would be found if she did not wish to be.

He stopped to check in the tavern but only a few people were sitting within, and she was not one of them. Just a few late risers who were trying to find some way to wake themselves.

Once more, he was outside and moving. The village was not that large, despite the amount of people situated there, and he was through the gate within seconds. The soldiers were there training and the Chargers were milling about just beside the smithy. The steady clanging of hammers revealed that the smiths were hard at work.

A quick glance confirmed his suspicions. She was not there either.

He must have had an irritated look on his face as the Qunari was quirking an eyebrow in his direction. The Iron Bull was perceptive but that was a concern for another time.

Solas turned from the smithy and went straight to the Chantry. He knew that Ellana would be there at this hour with her advisers. The mages had arrived with them the day before and been given a night to rest before they all pushed towards the Breach.

He ignored the Chantry sisters as he pushed his way into the war room. All four turned to look at him with startled expressions. He closed the door behind him, so that none of the people outside of the room would hear what he was about to say.

“What's wrong?” Ellana asked, her voice concerned.

“Ara is gone.” He said simply.

“Are you certain of that?” It was Cullen who spoke but all eyes were on him. “My men have been watching her since the dragon incident.”

“Do you really believe your men would be capable of following her if she wished to leave?” Solas managed to keep the contempt out of his voice. It was no fault of Cullen, or his men, that Ara was gone and the man was not deserving of his anger. “Your templar -” He practically spat the word. “- believes that she has not left her house. She is not within it, nor is she at the Tavern or the Smithy. Nor has her guard left his post at her house.”

Cullen was about to respond, no doubt to defend his soldier, when Ellana spoke up.

“You're certain then, that she's gone?” There was something in the woman's voice that lessened his anger but not by much.

“Yes. Whatever you said to her, she was distant and refused to speak to me at all since we left Redcliffe.” Solas turned his gaze towards the Herald as he spoke. “I had expected that she would come out of it by today as she does not seem to be one to mope overly long. I went to fetch her for lessons but she was not there. What exactly did you say to her?”

“Can you guys give us a minute?” Ellana asked the advisers. “Commander, can you get the mages ready to move in the mean time?”

They all bowed to her and went out the door. Only Leliana gave him a second glance and it was almost a glare. Not enough to be considered hostile but one that made it clear that she did not approve of his actions.

Let her be suspicious, right now, he did not care.

“I don't know what the words meant.” Ellana honestly said as the door closed behind Cullen. “All I know is that was the message her older self wanted me to tell her.”

So he had been right in thinking that it was her older self that had passed the message along. He doubted there was anyone else who knew Ara's language, even in that future.

“What was the context?” He demanded.

“She said it before she ran to her death.” Ellana's eyes sparked at the demand but her voice was flat.

“Her death?” Solas' anger fled as he stared at her. They had not spoken of what she had seen in that future but he knew whatever had happened that it haunted the young elf. “Tell me what happened in this future. Everything that you saw.”

He was not certain why but she did to as he asked without complaint. She told him everything. How she had found first the Grand Enchanter, nearly consumed by the red lyrium, and then him. The explanation he had given on what had happened, including the knowledge that the Empress of Orlais would be assassinated.

Solas could see the emotion in Ellana's eyes as she spoke and he heard the falter in her voice when she described finding Ara chained in the cell on her own. She did not go into detail about the scarring, only stating that there were runes carved into her skin and that they had burned out Ara's eyes. Solas remained quiet as she spoke, only flinching when she mentioned the mark of tranquility on Ara's forehead but he pushed the thought of that away, wanting to hear everything before he interrupted her.

Ellana told him what happened with Leliana. She spoke of how the three of them - himself, Ara and Leliana - had sacrificed themselves to buy her time to get back to the past. She said everything she could remember of the conversations between them all but there was nothing to give insight into the dovahzul future-Ara had clearly spoken.

“Were you aware?” Ellana asked suddenly. “That she isn't connected to the fade like we are?”

Solas wondered what would have prompted himself to speak of something like that. Clearly more had passed between himself and Ara in that year, things he had only just begun to consider. That future must have been truly abhorrent that he would reveal things he would normally keep to himself.

“Not fully. I had suspicions regarding her magic.” Solas said, choosing his words carefully. “I wanted more proof before I brought it to your attention.”

It was a lie but he did not think she would consider it such. There was just enough of a truth in the words for her not to completely doubt him.

He had no suspicions about Ara's magic, it was the same as any magic in Thedas but it was done in a way that felt more natural then he could explain. And then there were the word. He had heard her use the one against the dragon and he had seen the effects. That word had been unlike anything he had ever seen before. The veil kept Ellana from truly seeing what Ara had done with that word but he had seen it.

“Whatever those words meant, her future self said she would need time.” Ellana stated, clearly buying his little lie. “But for me to remember that she is my friend.”

“I understand that but this is not like her. She would not leave without stating anything.”

He knew she may leave without telling him anything, if she was sufficiently angry with him but there was the fact that he knew Ara wished to help Ellana solve the problem of the Breach.

The Breach!

That was where she would have gone.

“Ellana.” He spoke. “Have any of Commander Cullen's men gone missing? The ones on patrol towards the Temple of Sacred Ashes?”

“No... why?” She questioned before her eyes went wide. “You don't think she went to the Breach by herself?”

“Ara is not the type to simply go off to a hole to deal with her issues.” Solas said quickly before taking a step towards the door. “If she has gone anywhere, it will be there. She was asking about the Breach before.”

He was such a damn fool. He should have realized she would go there, especially if she received negative information from the future. He had told her himself that the Breach may be the reason she was here.

“Where are you going?” Ellana demanded.

“To look for her.” He stated, startled by the tone of the woman's voice.

“We don't have the time.” Ellana shook her head. “We're moving to the Temple within the hour.”

Solas stopped, torn between the need to fix his mistake and to find the orc woman. The Breach needed to be sealed but there was the possibility that Ara was already there. He only hoped that if she was, that she was not so brash as to throw her own magic at the Breach.

“Then I will meet you there.” Solas answered. “Hopefully she will be there as well.”

Ellana frowned but she was clearly thinking over what he proposed. Finally, after what was one of the longest few seconds he had experienced, she sighed.

“Very well. It should not take you long to get there.” Ellana chewed on her lip before speaking. “If she isn't on the path there, scout further ahead as you deem necessary but return to the temple and wait for the rest of us after the hour. The soldiers are already aware that we will be heading up today so there shouldn't be any trouble.”

“Thank you, I will.” Solas said with a nod before darting out the door.

He hurried to grab his things, a thicker jacket and his staff, before he practically raced out of the town.

The trail up the mountain was clear of the debris that had blocked most of the way after the Breach opened, and wooden supports now replaced the stone where the bridges had been destroyed. He paused only once or twice when he saw clearly where Ara had gone a different way before picking up where she returned to the path. He almost missed the prints in the snow and knew that he only saw them because he was actively looking.

She had been avoiding the patrols.

Solas realized then just how much Ara was letting the Inquisition get away with. He guessed that she could have left the village at any time, just judging by her disappearing act on the guard assigned to her and now this. She had simply not wanted to.

He had guessed that they would not be able to hold her if she wanted to leave but that had been the assumption that she would be forced into a fight. This was something different, a stealth he had not even realized she had and further proof that none of them really knew what she was capable of.

There were several guards on the way but most ignored him, although a few looked at him strangely as he stopped to stare at the frozen river or examine a separate part of the path.

Finally, he arrived at the ruins of the temple and he stopped. He could feel the Breach ahead like the waves on the shore. There was the taint of the Elder One's magic but there was also his own that acted like a connection from the waking world to that of the dreaming. He could sense it all from the wound upon the veil.

Sighing, he continued forward. The bodies that had been distorted by the red lyrium remained, just as the red lyrium was left to grow from the walls. No one wanted to touch the corrupted lyrium, especially not since any of them understood how to purify it.

He stopped dead in his tracks when he felt something else. It felt like the Breach, like a bridge between this world and the fade but it was not a painful wound on the veil. It was something else.

He started walking again, following the power like it was a beacon. Thoughts of finding Ara were momentarily forgotten as he sought out what this was. Whatever it was, it could not be left there for someone to accidentally find.

The power came from one of the balconies that had somehow managed to survive the destruction of the temple but there was no stairs leading to them any longer. It took him several minutes to find a way up, and he had to jump the last few feet and trust in blind luck that the edge would not give way when he grabbed on.

He pulled himself up over the stone railing and saw the figure resting against the wall. There was both relief and confusion as it was Ara but she seemed to be thinking with her eyes closed. He was surprised to see her in her armour that she had apparently worn when she first arrived in Haven. It was a fearsome thing, dark and full of sharp edges.

That strange sense of power was coming from her.

“Ara?” He questioned but there was no answer.

Vaulting over the edge, he landed with a thud on the balcony and took a step in her direction.

The noise apparently jostled her awake as she was suddenly moving with blinding speed. He did not even have time to blink before she was partially crouched in front of him with a dagger pointing up at his throat.

He made a startled noise but managed to hold his ground, staring down at her in confusion and concern. Her face contorted into a snarl but she made no noise.

However, his noise caused her eyes to snap open and once more he was faced with that alien look he had seen at Redcliffe. The red eyes were glowing as they stared up at him, and he was certain she did not recognize him.

Solas did not move, he just stared down at her. His body tense as he waited for her to make some move. If that dagger came any closer, he knew he was going to have to demonstrate that he was not an Apostate like he had let them believe.

“Solas?” She blinked before her face softened into a confused look.

“Are you alright, Ara?” He asked as she took a step back. Somehow, he managed to keep his face and voice calm despite how close they had come to trading blows.

“Yes. Strange dream.” She muttered before a guilty look crossed over her features. Ara hastily put the dagger away and Solas was not even sure where it went. She was holding it one moment and then it was gone the next. “Sorry. Did not mean...”

“It's okay.” He said as he put his hand up to ward off any continued apologies. “Why are you sleeping here?”

She had been next to the Breach and dreaming. He had tried for months to get her to sleep a normal night's rest but apparently, it took the Breach to send her off to the fade.

Now that she was awake, that secondary bit of magic seemed to lessen. He guessed that her dream had been the bridge between to the fade, something that was being intensified by the presence of the Breach itself. Thinking about that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

“Didn't mean to.” She shook her head as she got to her feet. “Came see Breach. Sat, fell asleep.”

“Why did you leave without telling someone?” He asked, trying to keep his voice on the concerned tone. He could have been irritated at her running off on them, or perhaps fearful that she was being affected by the Breach but neither would help him get any answers from her.

“Future Ara say Breach not way home.” Ara shrugged and stepped around him to look up at him. “Didn't believe. Wanted to see.”

Her behaviour made sense now that he knew that was what she had been told. He gently put his hand on her shoulder, trying to be comforting.

“Why didn't you say something before you left?' He questioned. “You should not have come here on your own.”

“Ara not child.” She shot him a glare before shoving his hand off her shoulder. “Ara leave when Ara want.”

“I know that.” He sighed and took a step back from her. “I meant that you didn't need to be here on your own. Ara, I'm your friend.”

She scowled at him but said nothing. Her eyes still glowing as she stared up at the Breach with a fathomless expression. She just stared at it.

“Ellana told me what happened to your future self.” He said. “You were made tranquil in that future.”

Ara flinched but still remained silent.

“Even cut off from the fade, you were still capable of emotions.” Solas continued, trying to get some response from her instead of just this silent staring at the Breach. “My future self told her that you were not as we are.”

She turned around at that comment. Her eyebrows arching as she regarded him carefully. There was suspicion in her eyes which brought a small sigh from him. He decided to give her the truth about what he thought about her and her powers. In that moment, he decided he was going to come clean as he knew she would ask for an explanation about everything. Including himself.

“I've been aware of it for some time.” Solas looked past her towards the Breach. “Your magic is not like that of this world. When you channelled yourself forward with that word... WULD -”

Just like that, everything changed with a single world.

The moment the word came out of his mouth, he realized he had made a mistake.

Power swirled with the word and he was suddenly catapulting forward at a tremendous speed. His vision blurred and he suddenly felt dizzy, like he had left his mind behind as he stepped forward with the word. He did not even have time to think before Ara's hand clasped hard on his arm and kept him from travelling off the edge of the balcony.

She held him there for a brief second before he twisted and vomited up his breakfast. She looked both surprised and concerned. Ara took a step back and just continued to stare at him with open mouthed wonder.

“Solas use thu'um!” Ara was clearly startled by such an idea.

He did not answer as he waited for his insides to catch back up to him.

“Ellana spoke dovahzul, she no use it.” Ara continued, staring down at him. “How Solas use?”

“I have no idea.” He responded tersely. “I have never used magic like that before.”

It was partially the truth. Magic had been far more unlimited in the days of Elvhenan but he had never witnessed someone using magic like that word, like the dovahzul thu'um she had mentioned. It suddenly made him glad that he had not repeated the words that Ellana had said, he had no idea what might have happened if he had.

His knees wobbled and he ended up leaning against the edge of the stone railing. It had been a long time since he had been this affected by magic he performed. Not since he was young and learning to master his ability.

“Solas use thu'um...” Ara paused, thinking over that before looking at him like a little kid being given the best present ever. “Solas say Fus.

He felt the power in the word but he could also feel the fact that she was keeping the power of that word contained. There was excitement in her eyes that was almost an oddity compared to the way she had looked since he had known her. Never had he seen her this thrilled.

He considered it for several minutes while she stood there and waited with bright eyes staring at him hopefully. Even with all he knew, he had no idea why this was so important to her.

“Very well.” He decided to offer his trust after he stopped feeling like he was going to vomit again. Hoping that she was not telling him to speak a word that would be hazardous to his health. “Fus!

He felt the power travelling before him like a wave. It struck Ara dead centre and threw her through the stone railing to crash down below. The magic almost felt like telekinesis or mind blast but it also felt like the fade pushed through the veil and shoved everything aside in front of it. Even through the haze of using the word, he could not even fathom how that was possible.

“Ara!?” He stumbled forward, feeling just as bad as he had after the first word.

She was on the ground and practically roaring with laughter.

“I fail to see how this is amusing.” Solas said as he stared down at her.

Magic was dangerous if not wielded properly and here he was capable of using magic with single words without properly mastering them. This was dangerous on a whole other level.

“It funny.” Ara said as she got to her feet. “Dragons wrong here and elf use thu'um like dragon. Weak baby dragon but like dragon.”

He scowled at her, realizing that she was calling him the equivalent of a child.

“Jump, Solas.” She motioned him down. “Ara not climbing up. We need talk.”

His scowl deepened but he did as she asked, landing with a thud near where she was standing. The balcony was not that high up but it still stung a little as he landed.

“I take it there are other thu'um?” Solas asked with a quirked eyebrow before leaning against the stone that made up the lower part of the balcony. He still felt queasy and the jump had done little to help his stomach settle.

“Yes. Many.” Ara said with a nod. “Thu'um made of Dovahzul. Can speak dovahzul normally like trade tongue but it take time. It take time learn thu'um too.”

She sounded a little perplexed and he surmised that it was not a normal thing to be able to use these thu'um without some manner of training or something related to dragons. He recalled what she had said in a dream, that she gained knowledge and power from absorbing dragon souls. A thought that now had him hoping he had misheard that as that implied something more of his nature.

It also proved that there may be a greater connection between their two worlds then he had previously considered.

“Perhaps I am capable of learning because of my connection to the fade?” He suggested, almost hopeful that the explanation would be just that easy.

“Perhaps.” Ara pursed her lips together in what he was certain was an imitation of himself. “Ara not understand fade very well. Shows stuff I don't remember.”

“The fade can be manipulated by others.” Solas said softly, wondering exactly what he had missed in her dreams. “It is rare but it is possible that you are witnessing something from someone else.”

“No.” She shook her head. “It mine. Ara know but not know. Like Solas' elvhen words but not Ellana's.”

He suddenly remembered what Ellana had planned for today and that they were no doubt getting close to the temple.

“Ara.” He said carefully as he pushed off the wall. “You must not tell Ellana about my capability of using dovahzul as a thu'um.”

“Ara agree.” She said with a nod before flicking her glance up at the Breach. “Keep secret. Thu'um powerful. They want armour like Ara's, they would want thu'um. Ara no teach.”

That was something he could understand. The two words he had used had already proven to be more powerful then just basic magic. He did not believe there were others within the Inquisition that would be capable of performing using the words like that but he would not want to take that chance either.

“I won't tell anyone the words.” He said with a nod.

“Ara know.” She flicked her eyes back down to him. “Ara trust Solas.”

He was glad for her trust but then he thought about what he had intended to tell her.

“Ara, there is something I need to tell you.” He said as he took a breath and went to continue but then there was the sound of footsteps approaching. The two of them turned to look towards the main entrance into the temple and they could see the mages with Ellana at the front of them. Just behind her was Dorian and Vivienne.

Ellana looked genuinely relieved to see them and he pushed the truth from his mind. He would have to find another time to tell Ara that he was the wolf in her dreams, that he had an indirect hand in what was happening in the world.

“You should probably head outside the temple for this.” He said as he turned back to Ara. “Ellana is going to use the mages to close the Breach.”

“Ara help.” She said, not questioning his sudden change in topic or even bringing it up now that there were people close enough to hear.

“I... don't know if that is a good idea.” Solas honestly responded. He knew it would probably raise her suspicions but he was going to honour that trust as best as he could. “Like you said before, your magic is not the same. We both know that to be true.”

Ara frowned at him before looking up at the Breach once more. She sighed at him before nodding in understanding.

“Ara stay. No help but stay.” She looked over at him and he could see the glow leaving her eyes, as if the light left them when she resigned herself to the idea of just standing by.

“Alright.”

The two of them walked towards the group that was getting situated. The very air thrummed with the energy of all the mages gathered in one place.

Some stared at Ara but she seemed to ignore them completely as she moved to talk with Ellana. They could see the skin tone and the colour of her eyes, that she was different from them and yet she did not even twitch a glance in their direction. Her attention was completely fixated on the young elvhen woman.

The woman looked further relieved with the orc starting to converse with her again. He did not hear much of what was being said as he guided the mages to where they needed to be but he did hear Ellana telling Ara that she would no longer be followed around Haven.

Ara looked genuinely happy about that.

They all stood together and for a brief moment, he could see the world as it should be. Dozens of mages working together in unison for the betterment of everyone.

Ellana stood at the front, channelling the combined might of all the mages. He threw his own power to the Herald, just enough that no one would raise questions. That power flowed upwards and struck the Breach.

A resounding crack reverberated in the air, a sound that every magically enabled person felt instead of heard. The cheering that followed was almost equally deafening.

The Breach closed above them.

He turned with a smile as Cassandra sought out Ellana to ensure she was alright but that smile died on his face when his eyes fell on Ara.

She was still staring up at the scar that formed across the sky but her face held a look of almost heartbreaking loneliness. She seemed to notice that he was looking at her and the red eyes dropped to stare at him. The look changed and he had a sinking feeling in his gut. She did not say a word to anyone as she merely turned and walked away.

Solas went to follow when he heard Ellana calling to him. He watched as Ara walked out of the temple before he turned to speak with the Herald.

 

Chapter Text

The mages had all filed in with Ellana when she arrived. Her inner circle of mages were the closest to her - Dorian, Vivienne and Solas – with the Head Enchanter close behind them. Every other mage was aligned behind them.

The only ones who spoke were the ones near the front. Everyone else seemed almost too afraid to speak.

Ara did not need to look to see the few shuffling away from her. They were new, people who had never seen her before other then on the trip back from Redcliffe. She was an unknown to them and she was certain that some of them were fearing her on principle.

Had this been any other day, she might have felt offended. Instead, she just moved a few steps back away from them and found a place at the very back. A few people remained there but the crowd was much thinner.

It gave her time to quickly look over the different mages around her.

Elves and humans. She saw nothing else in the crowd. She had thought that maybe there would have been a dwarven mage or maybe one of those qunari people but there were none.

She did not think further of it when she heard Solas shouting to all the assembled mages.

Ara watched as they lent their power to Ellana, as they focused their power beyond Ellana and towards the Breach. She could feel the magic filling the air. It was like a blanket that the elf pulled around herself and forced upward. She had seen mages at the College in Winterhold perform the same kind of group magic but it was still awe inspiring to watch as the tiny elf used the magic herself.

She could see what Ellana was doing, could even feel it tugging on own her magic but it hardly affected her. It was just further proof that their magic was not like her own.

Every single mage there felt different to her. Every one except for Solas. He was the odd one out.

That is, until Ellana started using the magic of the mark on the Breach. There was something about the power that almost felt like Solas' magic. Just a faint twinge of similarity but Ara could feel it. Frowning, she tried to focus on that magic and on Solas' magic.

He was like the intermediate point between her own magic and theirs.

Which made sense given that he was apparently capable of dragon shouts. No one else had spoken a dovahzul word and had it act like a thu'um. Ara was certain she had heard at least Ellana speak it but it had just been a sound to the elvhen woman and nothing more. Solas had unwittingly put power into the words when he spoke.

There was the possibility that he was lying but then, she had seen the look on his face after he accidentally whirlwind sprinted. He had looked genuinely terrified.

Ara remembered the first time she had shouted. She had just slain Mirmulnir, the first dragon she had ever seen, and absorbed his soul. She would never forget it, that moment when she uttered the word she had learned.

It had been the same word she had asked Solas to speak and, while he did not use it as fully as she could, he had done better with it then she had the first time. The possibility that he was something closer to her world had thrilled her. It meant so many things to her but it was the fact that there was a connection between Thedas and Nirn even if it was only a small one.

That feeling had fled now that they were all standing beneath the Breach.

The fact that Alduin had not appeared had caused her to consider other options about her arrival here. The wolf had suggested that the Breach was the cause of her arrival here but looking at it, as Ellana worked to close it, made her think otherwise.

She could feel magic at the center of it but there was something so alien about it that she felt repulsed by it. It simply felt wrong, like an old wound that rotted through the very sky.

Then Ellana sealed it shut and that was the end of it.

There was no chance of it being her way home.

Ara had a strange sense of vertigo as the Breach closed as if the ground beneath her moved, she stumbled forward a step but managed to keep to her feet. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before looking over at the others.

No one else seemed to have noticed. Not the sudden shifting in the world or her little stumble. She took a step back from the crowd but everyone was silent and in awe.

That silence lasted only a moment before they all began to cheer.

Her eyes met Solas' and there was a strange disconnect as she looked at him. She could see that he had not put his full force of power into the spell like the others had. He simply looked too okay compared to the rest of the mages. Even Ellana looked drained.

There was something else too.

Something more. Something she could almost see but it seemed almost fuzzy, like she was looking at them under water. It was not just Ellana that seemed like that but all the mages. Only Solas looked clear through the strange fog that seemed to cloud her mind.

The bald elf stood out among the crowd of mages, a strange look of concern on his face.

He was clearly inching towards her but at the moment she did not feel like talking with him. Not with the Breach completely closed like it was and her options slimming by the day. No doubt he wished to discuss his ability to use the thu'um or continue chiding her for leaving Haven earlier. Neither were topics that she felt like discussing at the moment.

She turned away and strode from the temple, ignoring everyone gathering around as the cheering began to deafen her. Ara felt like the crowd was pressing in on her, smothering her.

There were soldiers standing all around, just hugging one another or throwing their arms up in the air. Every face wore a grin or a smile, and they were cheering just as loudly as the mages within the temple.

Commander Fluffy stood off to the side with a few of the others, looking immensely relieved.

It did make her wonder who exactly was watching over the village if everyone was here as it certainly looked like everyone.

They all looked as they should. Happy. Thrilled.

She was the odd one out.

“If ask, went back Haven.” Ara said as she stopped next to Cullen. She did her best to give him a smile as she had no doubt that everyone was expected to be happy.

They had succeeded after all. The Breach was closed and the world was saved. Their world was saved.

“Very well. Do you need someone to accompany you back?” He asked. There was kindness in his eyes but he kept his voice as neutral as he could manage. The way he asked was enough to make her believe he was asking, not as a Commander of a military and her as a potential threat but as someone who was simply offering company.

She clung to the hope that Cullen did understand and that it was not just her imagination.

“No. Ara take long way.” She responded with a small but grateful smile. She glanced over to the temple before she waved at him and wandered away.

She heard him turn to his soldiers and begin giving orders but she was gone through the trees before someone came looking for her. She did not want to speak with any of them, even if she had started to view some of them as friends.

She let the lay of the land chart her path, following the river where she could. Eventually, she ended up in a tiny clearing where most of the snow had melted away. Ara had no interest in returning to Haven just yet and she moved to make herself comfortable, her back against one of the barren trees as she considered the events of the last few weeks.

Ara tried to stifle the guilt that rose at her unhappiness. Ellana had managed to close the Breach and save this world. She should be happy for them. Yet all it did was remind her that she was failing in what she was meant to do.

Alduin was still a threat to Nirn. That entire world of people was counting on her, including Lucia.

And she was here in a foreign land with no way back.

She just sat there for hours, thinking about the Breach and Skyrim and Alduin and everything else that was important. Every thing always bled back into her thoughts about returning home but there seemed to be no way for that to happen. Solas appeared to be the most knowledgeable of the mages she had encountered and even he seemed stumped on that idea.

Sighing, she rubbed the back of her head. It soothed her a little but it did little for a headache that had started growing. The cool air and relative silence of the clearing seemed to help but it was steadily increasing.

She ignored it for the moment as her thoughts went back to the Breach and what might have been the cause. Alexius' Elder One.

“Perhaps he's why I'm here.” She said out loud and then frowned when she realized that there was little else for sound. Just her voice echoing through the empty woods. There were no birds or even the sounds of little insects moving in the woods. Even the breeze had seemed to die down.

She was about to consider that further when she felt something approaching. It was familiar and foreign at the same time, and she found herself gazing in the direction of whatever it was. She stared at the line of trees that dipped behind the edge of the mountains.

“What the forge...”

In the distance, she could see a large army on the march. They bore no banner to announce their allegiance and some parts seemed to move independently of the others. As if they were more a large gathering of mercenaries then a trained military. They all moved in one direction, this rag tag force.

Yet it was not the army that sent a shiver down her spine.

She realized precisely what it was that felt so familiar. There, in the distance, she could see the form dropping down behind the mountain. A dragon.

The creature did not feel like the dragon she had encountered in the Hinterlands but it did not feel like the dragons of Skyrim either. It was far too distant for her to truly make out any details but from what she could see, it looked like a dragon. It was large, possibly even larger then the one they had encountered earlier and it travelled with these men.

That was obvious as none of them were running from it in a panic.

Dimly, that headache gave way to the press of words as if the dragon was trying to speak to her across that distance. A type of magic that she had heard very little about, let alone had experience with and yet she could almost make it out. If it was speaking words, it was speaking in a language she did not know. That bombardment of words quickly became a noise that she pushed to the back of her mind and tried to ignore as she continued to stare at the force approaching

It was clear that the army moved with a singular purpose and she knew instinctively what they were seeking. There was only one place that they could possibly be moving on.

Haven.

That realization was enough to get her moving. Scrambling to her feet, she ran in the direction of the town. She did not slow, ducking or jumping whenever she needed to avoid an obstacle in her path.

It was strange to run in her armour. She had not worn it in the long months at Haven and for a brief moment, it was almost like she was back in Skyrim. Running through the trees in pursuit of some foe or other but these were not the trees of Skyrim and she was not pursuing some bandit or troll through the woods.

The day was beginning to dim into night, and she knew that the villagers were most likely celebrating the end of the Breach. The sky was lit with reds and golds as she paused in a stand of trees. Resting for a brief moment to catch her breath before she would run again.

Between the trees, she could make out the edge of the town in the distance.. Bonfires were lit and there was singing. They were celebrating their victory against the Breach and not a one realized what was coming for them.

They could not see the approaching army, not with the way the hills blocked the neighbouring valley, not until it was too late. The force would be nearly upon them when the guards would actually see them.

Her mind was made up in that instant.

She had promised Solas that she would not use any magic and none of the civilians were aware of her abilities but a full dragon shout would have her across that frozen lake in moments. Quickly enough that she could warn those outside the wall. She could save them.

She opened her mouth to shout when she heard a voice to her right. It sounded confused, almost startled.

“Dumat?”

She turned to find herself face to face with a man... no, not a man. Perhaps he had been one but now he was a twisted looking creature. His face was distorted, ripped and scarred, with red crystal like growths pulling up from one side of his face and growing from the other. His lip was set in a permanent grimace, a few teeth showing as he stared her down. The eyes still looked human but they burned with a hate she had only ever seen in the worst monsters she had fought in Skyrim.

His body was just as twisted as his face, fingers ending in long talons and skin stretched around bone and crystal. Muscles seemed distended or withered away to nothing. He reminded her of a draugr, an undead creature of Skyrim, but there was something that made her realize he was something much worse then the Nords of old.

The way he stood, tall and menacing, she understood instantly who this thing was before her.

An enemy.

“Ah, you are the green one that Alexius mentioned.” In contrast to his appearance, his voice was deceptively human. A little rough but nothing to strike fear into the hearts of children. He approached her, floating through the air. Power radiated from him but it felt just as sick and twisted as his body looked. “How peculiar.”

“Alexius' Elder One...” A conjured blade appeared in her hand as she stared him down. She had no descriptions of the Elder One but there was nothing else this thing could be.

“I am Corypheus.” There was something about his voice that made it clear, he was used to having people obey his words and that his name alone carried some manner of weight.

He lifted his hand in the air towards her. Grasped tightly in his hand was an orb which blossomed to life with red energy. She could both see and feel that power as it clawed at the air like living fire.

The press of magic erupted from it and she could feel it crawling over her skin. That headache grew into something nearly skull splitting as she stared at the orb. This Corypheus pulled at the magic, preparing to throw it at her but she knew what he was about to do.

A single breath and she had a shield formed in her hand, held up against the attack he fired against her. Magic met magic, sending a shower of purple-blue sparks into the air.

She could feel the magic when it was that close to her. The magic was distorted but there was a strange sense of familiarity to it. It almost felt like Solas' magic in the same way that Ellana's mark felt similar. There was just something different about it compared to what she had encountered before.

Her eyes zeroed in on the orb and she knew again.

He was only scratching the surface of what that orb was capable of. There was power in his attack, certainly, but it did not quite feel right. It felt unnatural as if the magic was not his.

Dimly, she knew it was capable of far far more but she could not quite piece together what it was capable of. She just knew that it was more.

This man was toying with a weapon far beyond him.

“Ah, the old magic.” His voice was almost a sneer. “How interesting to see it again.”

Her headache seemed to have worsened with the use of the conjure shield spell but she focused past the pain. This was more important then some head pain. She had to stop him from getting near Ellana and Haven but she also had questions. This being, with the power of that orb, may have been capable of tearing her from Skyrim. Even if he did not have mastery over it, it oozed enough power that he could have torn a hole between this realm and her's.

The Breach!

This was what caused the Breach, of that she was certain. This monster and that orb. How or why, she had no idea but Ara was certain that he was the cause of that. It just felt too similar in it's strangeness for it not to be connected.

“Did you... bring me here?” She hissed between her teeth.

“Bring you here?” His tone faltered and he stared at her as if he did not quite understand the question. He then had the audacity to laugh at her, his voice becoming harsh once more. “Interesting indeed.”

“Answer!” Ara shouted at him.

“In due time.”

He rose into the air just as the dragon flew over head and her gaze instantly flicked between the two. Every part of her screamed in revulsion at the creature that was in the skies. Just as Corypheus had once been a man, that thing had once been a dragon.

Ara could see that it was no ordinary dragon. It's appearance was just as twisted as the man's, with it's hide stretched over it's form and red crystals growing from various parts of it's body. It's horns were twisted, some broken and others partially overgrown with that crystal. Dead eyes fixed on her for a moment before it continued on.

It roared a roar that shook the very trees around them.

“Apprehend her.”

Corypheus' voice brought her attention back to him just as she felt the head of an arrow burrow into her shoulder in that unexplainable hole in her armour.

The arrowhead bit deep into her skin, the summoned shield disappearing as she stumbled to one knee. It felt like her body was burning. Like that arrow had been fire that had stabbed into that shoulder.

She hissed in pain and turned towards the forest where she could see his soldiers moving.

She swore at herself. The dragon had been a diversion.

“Try not to die, parvus dracona.” His voice rang out from between the trees as he disappeared into the growing night. “We have much to discuss, you and I.”

Ara snarled as she reached up to snap the wood shaft of the arrow that it would not impede her movements. She knew enough not to yank the arrow free but having the shaft jutting out of her shoulder would make things difficult. She moved to follow him but another arrow thudded into her back, and while the armour deflected it, the impact still sent her stumbling forward.

Turning, she saw Corypheus' men moving out of the woods. They were all distorted like him. Red crystals growing out of parts of them, but they were still recognizable as men. Mostly.

She did notice that they wore the armour she had seen the Templars wearing but that was pushed from her mind. Their appearance was not important at that moment.

The first advanced towards her but she held her ground. She watched him but she was paid attention to where the men with the bows were standing. They were the ones who could get a lucky shot in if she was not careful.

Those archers were the least distorted. Not like the ones who seemed to mull about beside them. They looked more human and only one of them wore the armour of the templars. The rest were dressed in better fitting but lighter armour.

“You want die first?” Ara spoke as she set her feet firmly into the ground and raised her face towards the men who surrounded her. “Very well. Come then.”

She summoned a sword to her hand as the man lunged the last few feet towards her.

The fight was finished in what seemed a blink of an eye. The blood rage had fuelled her, carrying her conjured blade from foe to foe, leaving none standing but it's passing left her weakened.

More so then usual.

Ara pushed that thought from her mind as she stood there among the bodies of her fallen enemies and tried to calm herself from the remnants of the blood rage. Her heart thudded in her chest and she could hear that beat echoing in her ears but it was her shoulder that she focused her attention on.

The hole in the armour was enough that she could fit her fingers through – it had been an easy target for the archer – and she could feel a heat radiating from the wound.

“Poison.” She spat the word.

It was faster acting then what she was used to but she knew the signs when she saw it. It showed the colour of these soldiers if they were willing to use poison to take out their enemies.

She left the wound alone and turned towards the village. Through the trees, she could see a red glow creeping across the night sky.

A cloud of ash and smoke reflecting the fires of Haven.

Ara broke into a run and burst out from the stand of trees in time to see Ellana facing down Corypheus with that dragon at her back. The elf darted about and some how managed to fire off that single trebuchet.

Ara opened her mouth to shout but the mountain roared in her place.

Ara was not a creature given to fear but terror rose within her as she saw the peak above Haven come to life. She had never seen an avalanche, not in the years living in the stronghold and not in the years travelling the breadth of Skyrim but the sight of the snow rushing across the ground was enough.

She watched as it obliterated everything in it's path. The living and the dead. Trees and Haven. All of it was gone in a wash of white snow.

She took a deep breath and then the edge of the avalanche hit her.

 

Chapter Text

Things were darkness. Cold and dark.

A flash of green warring with red and an orb before her.

Clawed grey fingers holding the orb. Grasping it tightly like it was a lifeline.

Terrible laughter in the dark.

You have failed.”

She struggled against the fathomless black, trying to find some way to move. It felt like her entire body was bound in stone.

You will kneel.”

She did not answer the voice in the dark. She tried to ignore it and everything else.

You will obey.”

She snarled in answer but there was only laughter to greet her.

Dracona, et erimus oboedientes.”

The baleful sound of a wolf shattered the silence but it was quickly lost as the darkness erupted into a thousand different sounds and a thousand different images.

It was too much.





It was cold. So very cold.

Why was she cold?

She tried to think, to remember what had happened.

She had been in the woods, thinking things over when she had noticed the approaching army. Then there had been...

I am Corypheus.

The Elder One!

She had faced him in the woods and failed so damn terribly at it. He had slipped past her and left her to his men.

Her eyes fluttered open to face an oppressive darkness. A sharp pain in her shoulder brought a gasp that only brought a sensation of cold invading her mouth.

She was buried in the snow!

The realization sent a shiver down her spine but it gave her something to focus on, something to fight against. The memory fluttered back of fighting Corypheus' men in the woods only to face a wall of snow that swept them all away. She knew she was lucky, she should have been smashed to bits on every tree and rock and yet, there she was. Buried in snow but alive.

Ara focused, drawing her magic to her before radiating it outward. She could not quite draw flame but she managed to gain enough heat to melt a small hole around her body. Just as quickly as her spell flourished, it fizzled out and she was once more in the cold.

Cold that was now quickly starting to freeze.

Dimly, she was aware that she would suffocate if she did not find a way out soon.

Ara had no idea how far she was from the surface or even if she was right side up but she was determined to survive.

She pushed against the snow, the half melted slush giving way beneath her hands as she clawed her way to the surface. Ara broke through the upper level of snow, sucking in a lungful of fresh air. Each breath felt harder then the last but it was air. Her relief at freedom was short lived as she was struck by the destruction that lay before her.

It had begun to snow while she was buried but she could still make out the landscape by the dim light of the moon.

Haven was utterly gone.

Wiped away in a sea of white. The landscape was littered with debris, from chunks of the village walls to pieces of the forest.

Ara took a breath and pulled herself further from the hole that she had formed. Her whole body ached but it was her shoulder that sent the most pain through her. She remembered the arrow and gave it a quick glance. The wood still stuck out of the hole in her armour, a reminder that she had been caught unawares. There was no sign of fresh blood but it still burned with whatever poison they had coated their arrowheads with.

She shook her head, trying to shake away those thoughts as she focused on her survival. Staying there in a partial hole in the snow as not going to keep her living long. Especially not if Corypheus' army was still nearby. There was no sign of him or his dragon but she was not going to take any chances.

She shivered at the breeze that darted snow over her form but she struggled to get to her feet. Her arm ached, but the exertion was a relief. Proof that the arrow had not cost her the use of the arm.

Ara looked towards where she thought the Chantry had been but it was completely covered in snow. She could not even see the top of the building despite the fact that it had been the tallest and built on a small hill. Her little house was completely gone and she prayed that there were still people somewhere alive.

She prayed that everyone had gotten out of the village in time.

Blinking against the snow, she recalled a spell she had learned but rarely used. It had been something she picked up in her travels, magic to sense life around her. Despite the difference in the magic of this world, she hoped that it would work just as well.

“Where are you?” She mumbled under her breath as she worked to cast it.

Reaching out with that spell, she sought the points of life in the world around her. She could dimly make out tiny little things, squirrels she assumed, still living in the distance. A few larger creatures but nothing that resembled what she was looking for. Further, there was a single life stumbling off into the distance.

A soft glow surrounded that larger life, one that made it feel almost friendly to her. She knew that it was a person and not one of the men that had accompanied Corypheus to destroy Haven. The blue sparked green for a moment and she knew exactly who was trudging through the snow.

“Ellana!”

Ara wrapped her arms around herself as she walked in the direction the other woman had clearly gone. She summoned a little magic to warm herself but it did little to stop the wind at her back. Even that tiny spell made her feel drained.

More then once, she felt her foot go through the snow to touch something frozen solid beneath the snow. Never did she stop to look. Haven had become little more then a graveyard and she was frightened of seeing a friendly face in that snow.

The cold wind continued to batter her body, whipping her with snow. A chill was settling into her bones and it was getting harder for her to focus. Everything was becoming fuzzy again but it was the cold and that gently creeping thought.

How easy it would be to just rest.

She shook her head against the thoughts. Death could come swiftly in the snow if she settled down to rest. Even a moment could send her to meet Malecath and her ancestors in the Ashpit.

The spell wore off and she lost sight of Ellana before her but she continued, forcing herself to walk even as the weather continued to get worse.

The snow had become deeper as she walked. It seemed like she was wading through the snow at times. Still, she refused to give in to the grogginess filling her mind or the knowledge that she was having difficulty feeling her toes or fingers.

“A... Ara...?” A voice to her left had her staring off into the night.

There, trembling in the snow was a weary looking Ellana. Her skin was pale and her lips were blue. Bruises lined her face but the young elf seemed to still be standing despite the cold and whatever injuries she possessed. The elf was dressed for combat but appeared to be unarmed.

“Ellana.” Ara's voice was rough as she shuffled towards the other woman.

“You.. you came back.” Ellana's voice trembled before she fell into the snow.

She was not fast enough to catch Ellana, but Ara crouched nearby. Gently, she touched her hand to Ellana's cheek. The other woman felt cold, far colder then she did and that was of concern.

“Sorry. Wrong to leave.” Ara grumbled before sliding Ellana's arm over her shoulder and trying to stand with her.

The pair went tumbling into the snow as the sudden effort reminded her of the wound in her shoulder.

“You're hurt.” Ellana's voice barely reached her ears. Ellana sounded mildly surprised as if she had just noticed the shaft of the arrow.

“You too.” Ara responded before she tried to stand with the elf once more.

Ara forced herself to stand and ended up hunched over. She had never felt this weak. Not since before she took in her first dragon soul. It was like the cold was sucking what little strength remained.

Ellana leaned against her but Ara knew that there was no way they were going to make it any where like this. Even if one of them was capable of venturing for help, there was no guarantee they would make it or even return in time for the other.

“I think... I think... they're that way...” Ellana weakly lifted her hand and pointed towards a pair of mountains that could be barely made out in the night air.

Ara looked over in that direction and summoned what little strength she had left to try and sense the survivors from Haven. The spell worked for a brief moment, long enough that she could see points of blue in the night before it faded into nothing. It felt like her magic was a stubborn horse she was trying to drag through mud, a struggle that was weakening her.

“Need moving.” Ara said as she tried to step with the elf but they seemed to flounder in the snow even further.

“It's cold...” Ellana went limp against the orc.

“Ellana?” Ara shook her gently but the other woman did not wake.

She tried to think, to figure out what to do in this situation. This was not something that she could just beat her way through and every second was counting. If they had a horse, they could at least get move faster.

A horse!

Ara actually prayed to Malacath before she tried to work the spell. The first time she had uttered a prayer to the god of her people in all the time she could remember.

A flash of bluish purple light proved that it worked. Out of the night, she could see the skeletal horse approaching. It's bones were still that bluish color and it lit up like a beacon. It made no sounds that could be considered horse like other then the crunch of snow beneath it's hooves. It stood on top of the snow like it was completely solid ground beneath it's ghostly body. Bits of blue light seemed to drip from the creature's mane, and tail, only to disappear before hitting the snow.

“Arvak!” Ara felt a sense of relief as the undead horse came to her. She did not question how it was possible to summon the horse to herself here in this other world, she was just grateful that it worked.

She laid Ellana over the top of the horse before hoisting herself up. It was a struggle but it was better then trying to walk the distance. There was no warmth to be found from the horse but it could at least carry them where they needed to be.

“Arvak, that way.” She said, motioning in the direction she had seen the other lights.

The horse raised it's head before it started to walk. Ara clung to it's back while trying to keep Ellana from sliding off. Ara struggled to form a spell to warm them both and finally managed something that seemed to work on the elf before her. The snow in the woman's hair melted and her color started to return to a more normal shade but Ellana did not wake.

Ara knew that they were both in terrible danger in the cold but there was little else she could do. She could not heal the woman's wounds. She was barely capable of performing a simple spell to warm them, something strong enough from the restoration school would be outside her strength.

The horse somehow managed to stay on top of the snow. Some magical nature of it being undead, Ara guessed.

Through the snow, they travelled until her magic began to wear out. The simple fire magic died as she felt herself beginning to slip unconscious. She knew she could not sleep. She had no idea if Arvak would remain if she lost consciousness and she did not want to test that out. Not when she needed to get Ellana somewhere warm.

She shook her head, trying to clear that fog that was settling across her mind. The wind had died some but the snow continued to fall. It obscured the tracks they left behind and hid any that would lead the way to the survivors of Haven.

“I...” She struggled, gritting her teeth and raising her voice. Her words sounded distant even though she knew she was shouting it. “I am Arakash gra-Krazak. I... will... not die in the snow!”

The horse reared up but then continued on. Her shouting at the bitter cold was of no concern to the creature.

There was no one else to hear her. It was just the three of them struggling through the snow. The wind continued to pick up, and she was having trouble keeping track of where they were or where they were going.

It would be so easy to just close her eyes.

So easy to sleep.

Dimly, she focused on a point ahead of her.

It seemed to have a flickering light. Glowing and warm. She could get Ellana and herself there. They could survive this cold.

Maybe she was going mad and hallucinating before she froze to death.

“What in the maker is that!?”

The glow was talking to her.

“Ara?!”

The glow sounded a lot like the Commander of Ellana's forces.

“It's her! And Ellana is with her!”

“Thank the Maker!”

Several people stepped towards her in the dark and she recognized the people that had followed Ellana. Their faces were fuzzy and not quite as distinct as they should have been but she knew it was them.

Arvak stopped as the others came near. Concerned and wary faces that dodged around the horse's head. Only a stranger seemed okay with getting near Arvak's face. Ara watched as he gently pat the nose of the undead horse like he was familiar with the horse. He was more interested in the horse then all the people milling about. She was certain that she heard him whisper to the horse.

“Ara, I asked if you're alright?”

She turned towards Cullen who was helping them pull Ellana off the horse's back.

“Tried... tried keep warm...” Ara managed as she felt herself losing the battle for consciousness. Sliding forward to lean over Arvak's neck, she wondered why they were all staring at her with such strange expressions.

Must be Arvak.

 

Chapter Text

Bull leaned against the wall and watched his men train. Normally, they were relaxing but he felt on edge ever since the large group of mages arrived and suggested a brief training for the group of them. Their antics were more entertaining then actual training but he was not going to stop them. It was something to distract from the chaotic energy in Haven.

Everyone was on edge, including him.

He watched his men train before he glanced over at Cullen and his men. The Commander carried on as he always did but there was a tension in the man's back that was hard to miss.

The Herald had gambled on the mages being the right choice and soon they would be putting that gamble to the test.

He turned as he heard Solas stomp down the path. Bull quirked an eyebrow at the elf as he looked towards the smithy before turning on his heel and stomping right back up towards the main part of the village.

He caught the elf's eyes for a moment but neither said anything.

Bull understood immediately. Ara was not at the smithy and if Solas had come there to look for her, she was not at her little house either.

“Something up, Chief?” Krem asked from where he was standing next to him.

“Seems our resident mystery smith has skipped out on her lessons again.” He shrugged at Krem and left it at that. Krem seemed content with the response as he turned back to the other Chargers and went about their training.

Bull rubbed the stubble on his chin as he thought about it.

The three of them - Ellana, Solas and Ara – had all been strange since they came back with the mages so he guessed it was more then just her usual issues with her lessons. Whatever had happened had changed something.

He thought about the possibility of venturing up to the Chantry and simply asking but he doubted they would share that with him. Especially given that he had not quite managed to gain their trust yet. They knew he was a spy but they still did not quite believe his promise that he would only share the information they agree upon.

Still, if it was going to become a problem, he knew he was going to have to pry a little.

Bull was still thinking about it when he saw Solas come stomping back down the path. This time the elf was dressed for venturing out into the woods.

Clearly, Ara had left without any of them noticing.

That was another peculiar thing for him to think about. He had been up since the early morning and had not seen the orcish woman come from the main part of the village. In fact, he could not remember seeing her since they returned and she went to her little house. He was certain that someone would have pitched a fit if she scaled the walls even if it would be interesting to see.

He watched the elf head in the direction of the woods, following the old road that lead just to the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Another thing for him to think about.

He did not know enough about Ara to consider why she would go to the Breach but then, that was the reason they were all here. Even him.

He continued to rub the stubble on his chin when a soldier hurried up to Commander Cullen. Bull did not quite make out what the man was saying but he did not need to as the Commander shouted over to him.

“Prepare to move out your mercenaries, we're heading to the Temple on the hour.”

Bull nodded gruffly before glancing over towards Krem. His Chargers needed no orders, they were already preparing for the trek up the mountain.

He considered declining the order as his people were not needed to close the Breach but he knew it was expected. He was an agent of the Qun and a first hand account would be what his superiors wanted.

Everyone else assembled in the area outside the village and they all began their march up to the Temple.

The Herald and her closest companions were the leaders of the group even if it seemed like she would rather be any where else but there. He could see it in how she did not quite look at any of the others and how she was gripping her horse's reigns. Responsibility seemed to be weighing heavy on the young elf.

He could see the good Commander riding next to her but Cullen's gaze was towards the scenery before them as if he was scanning for any threat to the large group. More then once, he seemed oblivious to Ellana's attempt at conversation and she finally just gave up and began talking to the others around her.

Bull thought about walking closer to the front but he stayed where he was. His position in the caravan of people gave him an ideal view of the group as a whole.

The soldiers and the mages. He had a pretty good idea of the general mood. There would be a full on riot if this plan of theirs did not work.

It was not long before they were all filing into the temple. Every mage they had recruited was there. He got a look at everyone and zeroed in on Ara standing at the back of the crowd. She stood out among all the mages as she was dressed in the most bad ass looking armour he had ever seen. It was mostly all spikes and dangerous edges, the metal some weird shade of black, but the most eye catching thing about it was the giant hole near her shoulder. It was big enough that it should have been a lethal wound although he could not think of a weapon that would damage armour quite like that.

She glanced quickly over the crowd before her eyes flicked up to the Breach. There was something about the way she was staring at it that was unsettling. Those red eyes completely fixated on the Breach, mesmerized by it.

No one else was staring at it like that. He was not even sure he had words to describe the emotions flickering across her face at that moment.

She stared even as magic filled the air, he could feel it prickling across his skin but she did not move. There was a sharp crack – something almost like thunder – and the Breach closed. She stumbled forward like she had been struck but he was too surprised to move towards her.

In that moment where the Breach was sealed, Ara's eyes went from simply red to glowing as bright as the sun. It was only a second but he knew what he saw.

That was not normal.

“You okay, Chief?” Krem's voice at his elbow had him glancing over at the man.

“Fine, just thinking.” Bull said with a half smile that he did not quite feel.

Whatever response Krem had was completely lost in the roar of people cheering as the realization sunk in that they had succeeded in closing the Breach.

Bull turned but found that Ara had already made for the way out of the crowd. He struggled to follow but she was gone by the time he got outside.

Only the soldiers and Cullen were waiting outside.

The Commander stared down the path for a moment before glancing back towards the Temple. He nodded towards Bull but said nothing as he walked inside. No doubt to check on the Herald.

Krem had followed him out and Bull nodded over at his second in command.

“When we get back to Haven, make sure everyone is ready for combat.” Bull said.

“You expecting a fight?” Krem's tone was still jovial but there was a serious tilt to his lips.

“No, I just don't think any of these soldiers or mages will be capable if something does happen.” His laugh was good natured but Bull was serious.

Everyone was here and there was bound to be a celebration later. If any one was going to attack Haven, tonight would be the night.


Bull hated being right.

He had counted the survivors as they set up camp. More then a third of them had been lost at Haven. He guessed more would not survive the night.

Among the missing was the Herald, a woman who had stood bravely and bought them time, and Ara. They had searched for both on the way but there was no possibility of going back.

Ellana's actions had stopped Corypheus' army in it's tracks. A giant avalanche that wiped out the village completely, burying it in several feet of snow. Bull knew they would send people back later to look for survivors but for now, they were all marching forward.

Everyone was feeling the loss of Haven but no one had broken down just yet. They were close to that breaking point but many of them had slipped into shock.

He looked towards the entrance of the camp, his good eye fixing on the soldiers as they hurried to make their report to Cullen.

“No signs of any followers, sir.” One said, his teeth chattering in the cold.

“Snow is starting to get heavy.” Another said.

“Go warm yourselves by the fire.” Commander Cullen responded before gazing out into the growing night.

Bull could see the concern written all over the Commander but the man hid it well, none of the soldiers seemed to notice or they simply respected the man not to say a thing. Cullen bowed his head and seemed to mouth a few words.

Bull turned away when he realized the man was whispering a prayer. It was no secret that Commander Cullen was a religious man, he had been a Templar after all, but Bull had not guessed he would be a praying man.

“You guys ready?” He glanced over at his Chargers who all nodded at him.

Bull strode over to where Cullen stood and politely coughed to get the man's attention.

“We'll head out, you get your men warmed up.” He did not say that they were going out on search. There was no need for that. There was only one thing that would warrant travelling out into the dark night and that was searching for the Herald.

“Thank you.” Cullen responded.

The thanks was not needed but Bull nodded at him anyway. The Chargers were mercenaries, under employ with the fledgeling Inquisition, but this was still outside the realm of what they had originally been hired for. Not that it mattered. They would help in whatever way they could.

Out of the corner of his eye, Bull saw something in the distance.

“What is that?” He asked quickly as he tried to make out the form.

It looked like a small blueish light. One that was slowly making it's way towards them.

“I'm not certain.” The frown was audible in Cullen's voice.

Several others came out from the tents to look at what they were staring at, a few even grabbing weapons in case this was some new threat.

It was finally close enough that Bull could just barely make out the shape within the blue light. He was not completely certain but it almost looked like a horse.

“What in the Maker is that!?” One of the nearby soldiers shouted in fear.

Bull stared harder at it even as it became clear that the horse was not quite a normal horse. He could make out the skull, bleach white against that glow, and a body that looked like it was just as skeletal.

Then he made out who was riding the glowing horse.

Sitting atop the creature, her body tilting forward in a posture that was clearly pained. He could see something jumbled before her on the back of the horse but the distance was too far for him to make out.

“Ara!?” Cullen shouted in surprise before hurrying forward to meet her.

Bull followed a few steps behind just as several others seemed to come out of nowhere to catch up. He noticed that Ellana's entourage was not too far behind him and Cullen.

“It's her! And Ellana is with her!” Varric's voice sounded thrilled.

“Thank the Maker!” Cassandra responded.

Bull's eye flicked over the two of them. Ellana was unconscious and thrown over the back of the horse like a sack while Ara leaned over her, those red eyes dulled but still open. She relinquished Ellana to the waiting hands but did not quite move of the horse just yet.

“Ara, are you alright?” Cullen asked even if it was clear the woman was not alright.

Her armour was lit up by the glow of the horse and terrifying to behold but all eyes fixed on the arrow shaft jutting out of that hole near her shoulder. The cloth beneath the armour was dark red. A colour he hoped was not because of her wound.

“Ara, I asked if you were alright.”

She slurred a few words towards the Commander before she lost consciousness and slumped forward against the back of the horse.

A few soldiers moved closer to help the Commander lift her down but the horse shied sideways away from them. It made no sounds but it was clear that it was not keen on the men being near.

“It's okay.” Cole, the stranger who had arrived moments before the attack on Haven, stood near the front of the horse and was whispering to the animal. He even stroked the top of the horse's skull like it was a real, living horse. “They only want to help. It's okay.”

Bull had not even noticed the young man approaching the horse but was even more surprised when it seemed the skeletal horse was completely alright with his presence.

The soldiers all remained away from the horse so Bull walked towards it and pulled Ara off the back of the creature. She groaned once in pain before going silent.

“Lead the way to a tent.” Bull said as he adjusted her in his arms, doing his best not to jostle the arrow that was clearly sticking out of her shoulder.

Cullen did not say a word and merely led the way towards the tents where several people had gathered. Bull guessed that the front tent was specially set up for Ellana as there were several soldiers stationed nearby.

He carried Ara to one of the ones in the back and set her down on the free bed there. Bull glanced up but there were no other healers arriving, not even a Chantry sister. Frowning, he walked towards the door only to find his way blocked by Dorian.

“They're all busy.” The Tevene mage said with a grumble before heading towards Ara's bed. “She's got an arrow sticking out of her shoulder and all they can say is 'it can wait' while they fawn over Ellana.”

Bull blinked in surprise at the man. He barely knew the man but he did not believe he had been friends with the Orcish woman. They had been on the excursion to Redcliffe together but that was as far as he knew.

“Here, help me get her armour off.” Dorian motioned him over without so much as a please.

Bull moved back to the bed and meticulously began to undo the armour. Most armour was buckled in similar ways but her armour did not fit with any style he was familiar with. Slowly but surely, they had the top part off to reveal the ripped shirt beneath.

He found himself grimacing again when it was clear that the shirt was not a naturally red colour.

“Vishante kaffas!” Dorian muttered under his breath. “The wound is old.”

“You think she got shot before Haven was attacked?” Bull asked him.

“Definitely.” Dorian glanced down at where Ara was laying on the bed. “I believe it would be best to leave her to one of the healers.”

“Don't feel like you're up to the task?” Bull joked but he did not quite feel it.

“My skills lie elsewhere.” Dorian said as he practically swayed out of the tent.

Bull did not say a thing, biting back the comment that came to mind. Instead he looked over the armour that he had pulled off of Ara. He did not recognize the metal at all but he could tell that it was finely made.

A few moments later, Dorian returned with one of the healers who looked none too pleased to be there. Then she saw Ara on the bed and her face softened.

“Arrow wound.” Bull said as he set the armour back down.

The healer went straight to work, bossing the pair of them as she tended to the wound. She ordered both Bull and Dorian to hold Ara down as she worked on the wound.

The only time she let Dorian move was for him to fetch her water or another tool, but otherwise, the three of them remained in the tent as she steadily removed the arrow from Ara's shoulder.

Bull watched as she pulled the shaft out, only to reveal the arrowhead that was not made of metal. The triangular shaped top was made of crystal, angry and red.

Dorian hissed through his teeth as the healer hastily dropped it into the nearby pail.

“Red lyrium.” Bull practically growled the words.


 

Chapter Text

It felt like she was trying to swim through lava. It kept dragging her down while it burned. It surrounded her and suffocated her. Blinded and deafened.

Ara had no idea how long it went on but it felt endless.

And then, suddenly, it was gone.

Replaced instead by a cool breeze blowing across her face and a low but steady thud that repeated. Eventually, she realized that it was not just a single sound but of many all sounds all together at once.

“Ara?”

Varric's voice was off to the side and she cracked open an eye to peer over at him.

She was a bit surprised to find herself in what looked like the back of a wagon. It had some manner of covering over the top of it to shield her from the sun but it was definitely a wagon. One that rolled over a bump and jostled her further. Beneath her was some manner of lumpy cloth that was a makeshift bed.

“Varric?” She had the same questioning tone he did before sitting completely upright.

She got a better look behind them and could see the passing trees between the pieces of cloth that made up the wagon cover. There were also a few people walking or riding horses next to them. She recognized a few of them as the people from Haven but there was no one of note to really pay attention to.

“Andraste's flaming butt cheeks!” Varric sounded both surprised and relieved. “You're just gonna pop up like that after sleeping for a week?”

“A week?” Ara turned from where she was looking outside to stare at him. “Been asleep for week?”

“Yes. You've been out for a week straight.” He said with a nod to her. “You rode in out of the night on an undead horse and passed out completely.”

“Undead...” Ara frowned before she remembered what had happened to get her to this point. That whole encounter with Corypheus had been disastrous and not just for her. “Oh. Arvak. Horse name Arvak.”

“Cole's been looking after him since you haven't really been conscious.”

She frowned at that. Arvak had never really stayed around when she summoned him. She really hoped she did not just get the horse stuck here in Thedas.

“Who Cole?” She asked instead.

“Oh right... you weren't there when he arrived.” Varric responded. “He's... interesting. Can't really explain him, he doesn't talk much but when he does it's all really cryptic shit. Seems nice though. Really likes your horse.”

“Ellana okay?”

“Completely fine. She had a few broken ribs but it was mostly bruising. Although if you hadn't found her, she wouldn't have made it.”

“Haven buried.” Ara made a face as she thought about it. “People got out?”

“Yes, people got out.” Varric did not quite meet her gaze as he said it. It was clear by the guilt that he felt some what responsible for the lack of those who managed to flee the village. “We lost some people. Some of the villagers got killed when Corypheus attacked.”

“Smiths?” She asked, suddenly very worried for her friends.

“All of them but Kip showed up...” He quickly held up his hand as if to ward off her reaction. “Don't worry though, we've been getting stragglers since we began in this direction. I'm sure he's not too far behind.”

She did not think so.

It was sheer luck that had her surviving Haven, anyone closer to the village would probably not be as lucky. There was no chance the smith survived if he was even remotely close to the smithy when Ellana launched that avalanche.

She did not let any feeling show on her face and just put the thought of the smith to the back of her mind.

Instead, she moved to stand.

“Hey!” Varric almost shouted at her. “What do you think you're doing?”

“Walking? Getting horse?” She said it like it was obvious. She wanted to walk if she had been asleep that long.

“Hell no.” He actually leaned over to push her back to a sitting position. “You took a damn arrow to the shoulder, you're staying there until someone gives you a clean bit of health.”

“Ara fine.” She said with a scowl at him but she did let him push her around.

She had almost forgotten about the arrow. Glancing down, she could see where the bandage was wrapped completely around that part of her shoulder and chest. There had been pain before, she could remember that part of walking through the snow, but there was nothing now. Not even the barest hint of a twinge.

She lifted her arm up and rolled her shoulder, flexing her arm the entire way. The bandage tightened as her muscles rippled and she shook her head at him. Everything seemed fine to her.

“Holy nug shit...” Varric was just staring at her.

“What nug?” Ara recognized the other words but not the middle one. She looked over at him as she continued to stretch. Her shoulder did not feel like she had gotten shot at all.

“Small animal.” He said, still staring at her in disbelief. “You've got to be pulling my leg. There is no way you can't feel that wound.”

“Feel fine.” She poked herself in the shoulder for emphasize. It was a little tender but it felt no worse then if she poked a small scrape.

“Ara, you took an arrow to the shoulder. You had the highest fever I've ever heard of and your arm started turning purple.”

“Purple?” She frowned before hastily moving to remove the bandages herself.

She did not bother being methodical about it, simply ripping through the cloth until it was nothing more then tatters. She discarded the pieces around her without much care. She was more interested in seeing what Varric was talking about. Purple was not good.

The wound on her shoulder looked jagged but it was healing. All around it was that soft new skin with the hole healing much as she expected. There were a few tendrils of purple but it was hardly anything she was worried about. She had seen far worse.

“It fine. Poison gone in day. Maybe two.” Ara shrugged over at Varric. “Seen worse from eating poison. Look like Crimson Nirnroot reaction.”

“It's red lyrium... it's not supp...” He just shook his head. “Please tell me you've seen the effects on other people and not because you were eating...”

She grinned at him.

“Of course. You're something else, you know that.” He sighed.

“Ara walk now?” She asked, stretching out her legs and wiggling her toes. The movement made her realize she was not wearing anything on her feet beyond the blanket covering them. “Well... Ara have boots now...?” She paused and lifted up the blanket covering her lower body before glancing over at him. “And pants. Ara want pants.”

She was dressed in some manner of dress. Some little armless shift that had allowed them to take care of her shoulder while keeping her mostly covered. It was clearly not in her size but then, it was not like there were many tall women in Haven.

She wrinkled her nose as she looked it over. A dress was useless in a fight.

“You'll have to wait on that too.” Varric tried hard to suppress that chuckle but failed. “We don't exactly have much clothing in your size. We left Haven in a hurry.”

She sobered a little as she was reminded of what had happened. Wearing a dress seemed a little inconsequential given that people had probably been driven from their homes with just what they had on their back.

“Which reminds me...” Varric continued, his face going almost neutral. “What happened to you? Cullen said you wanted to walk back to the village on your own but no one saw you until you rode in with Ellana.”

“Thinking. Went off on own.” Ara said softly. “Breach not way home. Everyone happy.”

She did not add in that she had felt a little guilty about feeling miserable while everyone was happy. That would not have been fair to Varric as he was one of those happy people.

“I don't imagine thinking gets you shot with an arrow.”

“No.” She grimaced. “Corypheus had men. Attacked in the woods by lake.”

“Ah.”

“Varric... what Dumat?” She questioned, looking intently at him. She was curious about the word and if anyone would know about words, it would be Varric.

“Dumat?” He quirked an eyebrow at that. “Why do you want to know about Archdemons?”

“Archdemons?” She frowned. Some old instinct told her not to tell him the full truth. “Corypheus said something about Dumat.”

“I'm not sure about that...” There was a strange look flicking across Varric's face.

“Varric?” She turned fully to look at him.

“Well... back in Teviner, Dumat was considered a god.”

“Bull did not say that.”

“It would have been back in Ancient Tevinter. Before the Chantry came along.” Varric paused for a moment, thinking about what he was going to say. “Dumat and the other Old Gods all tricked the ancient Magisters into breaching the Golden City. As punishment, they were sent back and brought the Blight with them.”

“Ara... not know those things.”

“What part of it?”

“All.” She said with a sheepish look. “But what mean Golden City and Blight?”

“The Golden City is the home of the Maker. The god who created everything. The Blight...” He trailed off. “The Blight is something that is beneath the ground. It's hard to explain but it's like a sickness, it kills animals and plants. Darkspawn come with it. Beasties that kill anything they come across.”

“Dumat? Dumat given Blight?”

“No, Dumat and the other Old Gods were banished under ground for their trickery of men.” Varric sighed. “They were dragons. Huge, ancient dragons.”

“Oh.” She could not stop the shiver that went up her spine. Somehow, this Corypheus was aware that she was the dragonborn. That had to be it. Otherwise, it made no sense that he would call her by the name of some ancient dragon.

“Did dragons do that where you're from?” Varric suddenly asked.

“Do what?”

“Pretend they're gods.”

“Alduin believed himself one.” Ara said with a thoughtful look although she was inwardly relieved he was not asking why Corypheus had said the word Dumat. “Then there Akatosh. Bormahu. He is dragon but god. First of Nine.”

She had not really talked about Akatosh with anyone in the waking world and it was kind of nice to share it with Varric. Even if the reasons for the conversation were a bit more dire, it was almost relaxing to just sit there and talk.

“There are nine gods?” Varric was clearly side tracked by that and showed interest in the religions of her world.

“Yes... well... eight. Ninth was a nord, a human who became divine. At least by Nords.” Ara said with a small chuckle.

“A human becoming a god?” Varric quirked an eyebrow at that. “That's interesting.”

“Elves not like that.” She grimaced as she thought about the absurdity of the whole eight versus nine for gods in Nirn. “They outlaw Talos worship.”

“They outlawed it?” Varric's eyes lit up but he looked more sceptical then interested. “The elves are in charge in Skyrim?”

“No.” Ara shook her head. “War. Peace only by agreeing. Not sure words but peace in exchange for no Talos.”

“That's interesting.”

“Remind Ara when know more words. Will tell about Daedra Princes.” She said it with a grin. She was certain he would enjoy hearing about Malecath and the others.

“I'll hold you to that.” Varric said with a nod.

She turned on the sacks they had her piled on and put her feet on the wood floor of the wagon. The wood was a little cold but she ignored it as she found her balance.

“What are you doing?” Varric asked as she stood up in the wagon.

Her head grazed the cloth above them and she glanced up at it with an annoyed look. If she had been wearing armour, she would have easily put her head through the cover.

“Ara walk now. Talked with Varric. Varric see Ara fine.”

“You don't even have boots, remember?”

“Ara fine.” She grumbled before moving towards the back of the wagon. She pulled open the cloth and hopped out before Varric could stop her.

The wagon was not too high off the ground so it was of no concern when she landed. A few people scattered in surprise as she straightened but otherwise, no one really seemed to pay her any mind.

She did not move from where she stood, just wiggling her toes in the mud and slush. Her nose wrinkling at the cold of it.

The wagon had been alright but this cold mud slid up between her toes and squished around her heel. She was rethinking her choice of walking but she was not going to admit that to Varric.

“You don't do anything by halves, do you?” Varric said from beside her, having hopped out of the wagon shortly after her.

A few villagers actually smiled pleasantly at her before continuing on their way. In fact, it seemed that the long time inhabitants of Haven were quite happy to see her. The mages and scattered templars seemed to be the only ones who tried to avoid her as they walked.

“Ara not like resting too long.” She shrugged. He had told her she had been asleep for an abnormally long time and did not want to sleep there any longer.

“I'm not going to explain this to Ellana or Solas if you hurt yourself further.” Varric said with a grumble.

“Won't hurt further.” She said with an idle wave of her hand as she turned around to start walking in the same direction as everyone else. “Where they?”

“They went off to close a rift.” Varric went silent for a moment. “Just before you woke up actually.”

“Rift... little Breach?” She was certain someone had told her that before but she did not see the harm in asking again.

“Yes, the little ones.” Varric said with a nod.

“Varric.” Ara said as she glanced around. She did not recognize any of the land before them. This was not the way to any of the places they had gone before. They were deep into the mountains here. “Where we going?”

“Solas said it's a keep out of the way. I'm not sure what the elvhen name for it was but it's apparently somewhere the Inquisition can lay claim to.”

“You not sound sure.” Ara quirked an eyebrow in his direction.

“It's a place in the middle of nowhere. What are the odds that somewhere fantastic exists without everyone in the surrounding area knowing about it?” Varric said with a shrug.

“Really good.” Ara laughed. “Ara found many places in Skyrim. Old castles. Old forts. All abandoned.”

She did not bother telling him that they were usually infested with bandits or some manner of dangerous beasts. She was not even sure she could fully explain what a draugr was to him and she did not want to try.

He smiled at her before his eyes flicked just behind her.

She was just about to whirl when she felt something hard bump into her shoulder. Turning slowly, she saw that it was Arvak. The horse attempted to nose against her back which was strange, given that his face was nothing but bone and light.

He was still all bone but his glow had lessened considerably since she first called him.

“Arvak?” She questioned in surprise even though she knew full well the horse could not speak.

“He wanted to stay.” Then there was the little voice on the other side of the horse. She could not make out much beyond the large hat that seemed to cast the human's whole body into shadow. He was slight, a little too thin and his skin was an unhealthy pale shade.

Frowning, she realized that it was not a human standing there. She had no idea what it was but it was definitely not human. There was no smell, nothing beyond the smell of mud and the other people around them.

“Ah, Ara, this is Cole.” Varric said by way of introduction, waving his hand over for the other person to come closer. “He showed up at Haven just before Corypheus attacked.”

“Just before?” She bristled a little, looking at him warily. No scent and a very peculiar arrival time.

“Yes. I wanted to warn but I was too late.” There was no guilt in his voice, no emotion at all. She could see the bright blue eyes staring at her from beneath the hat. “You were in the forest. He did not know you were there. I thought I could warn and then...”

“It's okay, Kid.” Varric said softly.

“You heard.” Cole's voice suddenly took on emotion. “So much. Too much.”

“You weird.” Ara frowned, not sure if she liked what he was saying. The way he spoke was unnerving but then there was just the way he stared at her. It was like he was trying to stare all the way to her very core.

“It wants you to kill it.”

“Ooookay.” Ara glanced over at Varric. She suddenly felt a little panicked by what he said but she was not really sure why.

“Cole isn't like the rest of us.” Varric said simply as if he was not too sure of the other man either.

“I bother you.” Cole seemed to frown. “I don't mean to. I want to help. You're lost. Very lost.”

Ara stared at him. It was common knowledge among Ellana and her advisers about where Ara had come from but to have a complete stranger just know was a little on the creepy side. She was suddenly very frightened as to what he did know about her.

She realized the three of them, and the horse, had stopped walking. Most of the caravan of survivors had moved on, just leaving them standing there on the trail.

“How much? Secrets. Killed them. Killed the dragons. Killed my bro-”

“That is enough, Cole.” Solas' voice was stern, almost commanding.

Ara had never been more glad to see the elf in all her life.

He rode up with Ellana, Dorian and Bull. The four had apparently gone to deal with a rift and were now catching up with the rest of the Inquisition.

“Ara, what are you doing up!?” Ellana's voice was irritated but Ara could hear the small hint of exhaustion in the woman's voice. The elf turned to glare at Varric. “You were supposed to watch her!”

“She got up and didn't want to sit in the wagon any more.” Varric said with a helpless shrug. “What was I supposed to do? Tie her up? I don't think we have ropes strong enough for that.”

Ellana grunted in response. The woman was clearly annoyed by the fact that Ara was up but the orcish woman could not think of why. Everyone else seemed okay with the idea or at least looked like they were. Dorian looked surprisingly neutral while Bull had the strangest kind of look on his face. Almost thoughtful and possibly lewd.

Solas was the only one she could not get a good gauge on. He just looked completely neutral, which was at odds with the look in his eyes. Those eyes were almost angry.

“Where are her bandages?” Solas barked as he hopped off his horse to examine her wound.

“She tore them off.” Varric said with a shrug before looking straight at Solas. “Tell me what you think.”

Solas did not say a word as he got up close to Ara, examining her shoulder before gently prodding at the wound.

“She should keep it wrapped up, at least for another couple of days.” Solas said.

“And?” Varric prompted.

“And... nothing.” Solas shot him a look.

Something clearly passed between them with that little bit of conversation as Varric scowled back at him.

“Precisely. Nothing.” Varric said before glancing over at Ellana. “Ara said her shoulder looks no worse then a poison from her home land. In fact, she's pretty much implied she's eaten more poisonous.”

“You're serious?” Dorian said, his eyes growing wide.

Ara looked between all of them. She had no idea what was so impressive about her body healing through the poison that was on the arrowhead but clearly, it was important.

Dorian had slid off his horse and was hurrying to give his own inspection of her shoulder. He lightly shoved Solas out of the way who said nothing but shot the man a small glare.

Dorian poked and prodded like Solas had and she was beginning to feel even more awkward as things were progressing.

“Can you move your arm?” Dorian asked, sounding hopeful.

She had no idea why he was so interested but she did as he asked. Once more, rolling her shoulder as she had done in the wagon. Proving that there was nothing wrong with her arm at all.

Dorian looked practically giddy when she did that.

“Someone explain?” She finally asked.

“You were shot with a red lyrium arrow.” Solas said flatly.

Ellana slid off her horse and approached. Just like the other two, she started prodding at Ara's shoulder.

“Red lyrium? Red stuff at temple?” Ara asked. She had no idea why that was important but clearly, they all thought it was.

“Yes.” Solas nodded.

“Burning and dark. Can't breath, can't see.” Cole said from the other side of the undead horse.

Nearly every face turned to look at him and just stared. Only Solas did not look at the young man. A look somewhat like sympathy crossing his face as he looked at Ara.

“Red lyrium really bad then?” Ara managed, not wanting to think about what Cole had just said. She knew precisely what he was referring to and she was not sure what was worse. The fact that he knew that or the fact that he was capable of knowing.

“Really bad.” Bull answered from where he was standing. Apparently, he did not get to ride a horse.

“Red lyrium, as far as we can tell, is infected with the Blight.” Ellana explained but her gaze was focused on Ara's shoulder. “However, most people start growing more lyrium out of their bodies when they come into contact with it. The former Knight-Commander of Kirkwall became a statue of it, and that was just from carrying around a sword made of it.”

Ara frowned and looked down at her shoulder.

“In the future in Redcliffe, we found First Enchanter Fiona.” It was Dorian who spoke. His tone was rather neutral but there was an excitement in his eyes. “She was nearly completely consumed by the red lyrium growing out of her body. You have apparently been spared that fate.”

Ellana had squeezed her eyes shut at that point. Ara understood that easily enough. What the elf had seen in that future haunted her and probably would until the day the woman died.

Ara lifted her arm up and gave the other woman's shoulder a light squeeze before quickly letting go of her and stepping back from the group of mages that had crowded around her.

“Ara fine. No lyrium growing.” She actually curled her arm up and flexed, revealing the toned muscle all along her upper arm. “See. Ara totally fine.”

Bull snickered and Varric laughed. Ellana managed a smile but that quickly turned into a scowl.

“You still should be resting. You were unconscious for quite a while.”

“Varric told Ara.” She said with a nod. “Ara fine. Not like sitting in wagon.”

Ellana did not look that convinced but her attention was quickly stolen away by a shout from near the front of the caravan. Ara could not quite make it out but the words were repeated all down the people and eventually she recognized it as 'We're here'.

“We'll talk more later.” Ellana said with a shake of her head before remounting her horse.

“I will rebind her wound.” Solas spoke quickly. “We'll catch up.”

“You don't want to be one of the first to see it?” Ellana asked with a laugh.

“I have seen it in the fade.” He responded with a kind smile. “We should not be too long.”

Dorian looked like he was about to protest but was hastily pulled along by Varric and Bull. Cole seemed to hesitate a moment before he too was moving to catch up with the others. Arvak followed along beside him in a rather calm manner.

“Come, sit here for a moment.” Solas said as he led her to a rock by the path before turning to his horse to fetch bandages from his saddle bags. “You really should have remained in the wagon.”

“No.” She made a face at his back. “Varric said sleep long time. Ara need walk. Legs stiff.”

“You could have at least waited until we were back.” He turned back to her with a scowl as his eyes fixed on her bare feet. “You also do not have any boots on.”

“It fine.” She was getting really irritated with having to tell everyone she was fine. “What big deal with red lyrium?”

Solas did not answer at first, instead he focused on wrapping the cloth around her shoulder. She guessed he must have been used to taking care of his own injuries as he did it quite well.

“Solas? What big deal with red lyrium?” She repeated again, grabbing his hand where he was about to do another loop of the bandage over her shoulder. He instantly froze.

“You appear to be immune to it's effects. At least mostly.”

“Mostly?” She cocked her head to the side.

“You should have shown some signs of growth by now.” He elaborated, that look of concern filtering through his calm mask. “We thought you were going to die on the first night.”

“That bad?” She had not expected it to be that bad.

She felt perfectly fine now, just a little stiff but clearly she had been banging on the door to the Ashpit if he thought it had been that bad. Ara simply could not imagine an arrow, red lyrium or otherwise, reducing her to that.

“Yes, I...” He paused and then quickly continued. “I was worried. We all were.”

Ara frowned. She had spent the last few months paying rapt attention to everyone and she knew he had been about to say something else. The words just did not match the look on his face.

“Ellana recovered fairly quickly,” He moved his hands to continue wrapping up her shoulder. “But you remained unconscious. She was up and moving within a day.”

“That good.” She nodded but remained still.

“Come, let us catch up to the others.” He finished wrapping the wound and motioned in the direction the others had gone. “They should be entering Tarasyl'an Te'las now.”

“What Tarasyl'an Te'las?” Ara asked, cocking her head to the side as she got to her feet.

“It is a keep from very long ago. It is safe there.” Solas said with a smile that did not quite meet his eyes. “I think you will like it.”

He walked over to his horse but simply stood by it as he waited for her.

“No bandits?” She asked.

“No.” There was a small laugh. “Why would you expect bandits?”

“Bandits hide in abandoned places.” She said with a shrug as they slowly began the walk up the path.

“Tarayl'an Te'las is protected. Magic has seeped into it's very stones.”

“Magic? Who's magic?” Ara frowned, not sure if she liked the idea of staying in a place that was so touched by magic. Especially since everyone looked down on magic so much here.

“Good magic.” Solas said simply.

That did not answer the question but the sudden squaring of his shoulders made it obvious he was not going to elaborate further.

The frown on her face died as they reached the top of the hill. The keep rose before them, and she could not help but stare.

It was massive. Several large towers and a large main building. All around it was a straight drop off that she could not see the bottom. The sides that did not have a drop off were lined by giant snow capped mountains. She had seen many keeps over the years but never had she seen something on the scale that was Tarasyl'an Te'las.

Not even close.

 

Chapter Text

Waking up in the tent on the way to Skyhold had been a bit of an eye opener for Ellana. She had always known that people were counting on her but hearing them all pulling together to show that they were just as willing to continue on as she was. Their song had been rousing and for a moment, it reminded her of being back in the Clan.

Then there was Solas telling her about the orb that Corypheus held. That it was something that had once belonged to the Elvhen of old.

That was not the best thing to hear but at least it made it clear that they had to get it away from Corypheus.

All the while, Ara remained unconscious.

That had been the troubling part of the travel through the mountains.

Ara, the woman who rarely slept more then a couple of hours every few days was unconscious for a week.

The healers had no explanation for it. She should have woken up within a day like a normal person would have. Even with the red lyrium arrow, she still should have woken but she did not.

Each passing day had been a growing concern for Ellana and most of the Inquisition understood that.

If it had not been for Ara, Maker knows if Ellana would have made it out of the snow on her own.

She knew about her own injuries but everyone made light of them.

Oh, it was just a couple of broken ribs.

The dead calm on the healer's face had been enough to have Ellana just stare at them. It was like they had no true concept of how bad a broken rib or two could be. It was not a death sentence but even in the Clan, an injury like that could keep someone from doing their needed tasks. One wrong move and she could have a punctured organ or done unrepairable damage to her muscles.

Instead, they had her up and going within the night. Pumped her full of healing draughts and elfroot salves.

Yet they had no answer for Ara's condition. Merely that they would keep the wound clean and make sure she was comfortable. That was it.

Even Solas had been worried about her, at least until about the fourth night. She still did not understand how he went from concerned to suddenly calm about Ara's predicament. Worse yet was when he started trying to distract her from it.

He spoke of Skyhold and that she should focus on getting them there. She found herself wanting to believe him as the sheer conviction in his voice about the place was enough to get them moving.

He had that same conviction when he told her that Ara was going to wake up.

It was only when they were nearing the keep proper that she had something to fully distract her. The scouts had come to them with the report that there had been a rift in the area.

She had almost been relieved to hear that report.

She left the caravan of survivors and took Solas, Bull and Dorian with her.

It was only easy to take care of the rift. Compared to the Breach and the Pride demon, the rift was nothing. They had finished off every demon in record time when Ellana felt a strange surge from the rift.

It happened just as she was closing it. She threw her will into it as she always did but this time it felt like something pushed back. It was not quite like a shock but her fingers tingled afterwards and she swore she could taste something metallic.

That reaction from the rift had startled her but neither Dorian or Solas seemed to notice. It seemed like a regular outing fighting demons for the two of them. She was the only one that felt something on a magical level.

She shook her hand, flexing her fingers as she stared up at where the rift had been.

“Is something wrong?” Bull had been the one to ask but the others were staring at her.

“Nothing... just... did any one else notice anything weird about the rift just now?” Ellana asked, her question directed at the two mages.

“Other then the slightly more powerful demons then usual? No.” Dorian tilted his head towards her. “Did it feel different to you?”

“If I may?” Solas asked, holding his hand out for hers.

“A little.” She said to Dorian as she allowed Solas to look at the mark on her hand. It was relatively calm which was normal after she closed a rift. “Not really sure but either that rift was stronger then the usual ones or I'm still a little winded from dealing with the Breach.”

Solas said nothing as he carefully examined her hand. He was meticulous about it and completely ignored them as they talked. He did not touch the mark, keeping his hand a few spaces above it as he checked it over.

“Well, the Breach wasn't exactly something small.” Bull said with a small shrug as he started to walk off to fetch the horses.

“He does have a point.” Dorian said as he leaned on his staff. “Perhaps we should convince the rest of our merry band to give you a few more days to recover.”

There was genuine concern in the man's voice which brought a smile to her lips. She had only known Dorian a few short weeks, perhaps little more then a month, but the Tevinter mage seemed to be kind. If a little strange and flashy.

“I would recommend rest as well.” Solas finally said from where he was peering intently at her hand. “It seems your interaction with the Breach has caused some change in the mark.”

“Change? It's not going to get bigger is it?” Dorian said with mock horror.

“No, but it will possibly be more sensitive.” Solas answered with some annoyance. “Magic and closing rifts may aggravate it.”

“Solas? What's wrong with it?” Ellana asked him with wide eyes.

“Nothing is wrong with it, Herald.” He responded softly before letting go of her hand. “I believe you may be able to harness more power and control with the mark due to your interaction with the Breach, but until that moment, you need to rest your hand.”

She scowled at him. It was her duty to close the rifts. If not for the people who saw her as some Herald, a title he had just used, but to her own people. The world would not survive if they did not close the rifts. Demons would just continue to be pulled through.

There was also Corypheus but she did not want to think about that. Not until they were all settled in at Tarasyl'an Te'las and the Inquisition was back on their feet. They still had to ensure that Orlais did not fall into chaos but that was something for another day.

“I agree with him.” Bull said with a nod as he approached with the horses. “If you push yourself too hard, we'll all be stuck without someone to do what needs to be done.”

She glared lightly at Bull but said nothing. She had hoped the Qunari would have been on her side at least.

“Fine, let's get back to the caravan.” Ellana said as she mounted the horse and rode off. She did not bother waiting to see if the other three caught up to her. Deep down, she knew that they were just concerned about her and the new change with the mark but it still irritated her. She was the only one who could close the rifts that still remained and they were only concerned because of that.

Like Bull said, they would be stuck without someone who could do what needed to be done.

She did not speak to any of them as they caught up. Dorian and Bull began chatting with one another while Solas seemed content to ride in silence. Ellana just turned everything over and over in her head as they returned to the road.

Ellana looked on in surprise as Solas suddenly urged his horse forward. Lifting her head, she could see that glowing horse and three people just ahead.

She quickened the pace of her horse and arrived at the tail end of Solas seemingly chastising the stranger, Cole. It was obvious that Solas knew something of the young man but she had no idea what it was that Solas could possibly know.

Instead, Ellana focused on the other two people that were there. Varric had a guilty look on his face but it was Ara that held her attention.

Ara, who had been unconscious for a week was standing there with a look that was somewhere near confused and irritated. Ellana was glad to see her up but she could not believe that Varric had let her out of the wagon.

The wound on her shoulder was clearly visible and Ellana stared at it. She knew how bad the wound had been as she had taken over caring for it. The bandages she had wrapped around it earlier were gone but now the wound looked mostly healed. A strange thing given it had still been a garish looking thing this morning.

Ellana tried to wrap her mind around that fact as she rode up on the three of them.







Three days had passed since they arrived at Skyhold.

Three days of having people ask her where things needed to go.

It was like everyone wanted the opinion of the Herald. On things as simple as where to put the benches in the hall to the more complicated ones of how were they to feed all the soldiers. There was so much that she did not know about all of this.

She had been trained to be the First of her Clan, and one day be the Keeper but there was a big difference between a clan of perhaps fifty to an Inquisition that was at least a thousand and growing with each day.

It seemed that Leliana and Josephine had been busy sending ravens out as they travelled to Skyhold as many people began to arrive in the keep with each passing day.

Merchants and builders.

Everything the Keep needed to get up and running which was a big help as the Inquisition had begun to grow. Even with the destruction of Haven, people seemed to be flocking to the Inquisition's banner.

They had finally managed to settle in when Cassandra and the others brought up the fact that things were becoming far more then just what they had originally believed. So many people had heard of what the Inquisition had done, from healing the sky to helping people throughout Ferelden and Orlais. This had gone from a simple quest to help others to something far more.

An actual force to be reckoned with.

Cassandra herself had realized that and it was then that she had asked Ellana to further step up.

Cassandra wanted her to become the Inquisitor. The leader of the Inquisition. All of these people, their lives would be in her hands.

She had hesitated but Cassandra's argument had been a valid one and Ellana had to admit she got caught up in the cheering and shouts of the people.

She would be their leader, their Herald and their Inquisitor.

It took a day for that to really sink in.

Everyone continued to look at her with that awe that was bordering on worship. People bowed as she neared. They said her name like it was a prayer.

She would never forget when Josephine asked her what kind of throne she wanted. In that particular moment, Ellana felt like she was going to vomit.

She had smiled politely and said whatever the woman thought was best before she ran and hid in the dark hallway leading to the undercroft. Most of that area was still unexplored but Harritt had already chased away any of the people who felt the need to decorate it further.

It was quiet but the sound from the Great Hall was only dimmed. Just enough that she could try to think on her own without hearing someone whisper her name.

Leaning against the cold stone wall, she closed her eyes and wondered how she had ever gotten herself into this mess.

Her hand crackled in pain and she gripped her wrist as if that would help.

She had come to the Conclave with the intention of spying for her Keeper. That had been her task. A simple if tricky one.

Now she was poised to lead these people in what was starting to feel like a holy crusade. A crusade for a god that was not even her's.

She had truly hoped that closing the Breach would be the end of it and now she cursed her naivety for believing that. No, she had to remain until Corypheus was dead. Of that, she was completely certain. That was going to be the only way to end this. Either her or Corypheus dead.

She knew he would not stop until she was. The mark ensured that. He would chase her until the end of time to kill her because of it.

She sighed to herself and tried to focus her thoughts elsewhere instead of that downward spiral.

Ellana quickly put that neutral look on her face when she suddenly heard the door opening but she waited for whoever it was to speak. She just hoped it was not one of the courtiers looking for her.

When they merely closed the door, she opened her eyes to look over at them.

“Oh... sorry.” Ellana said as she put a pleasant smile on her face. She pushed off the wall to stand properly.

“What doing?” Ara asked, her head tilting to the side in a look that was not as curious as her voice sounded.

“Just relaxing.” Ellana immediately felt guilty but hoped her face did not show it. She did not want to tell Ara that she was here only to hide away from the rest of the Inquisition. Even though the orcish woman had agreed that she wanted to help, Ellana simply did not want to trouble her with all of her concerns. Especially given that the woman was still trying to deal with her own fate of being lost.

That was another thing that weighed on her mind. Her friendliness seemed genuine but then there was so much that they did not know about her. Then there was her willingness to help. Something Ellana felt went deeper then just wanting to stop the Breach.

Ara seemed to realize more about what was going on as the red eyes flicked down towards Ellana's hand but she said nothing. Instead, Ara seemed to pause for a second and thought over what she was about to say.

“Ellana not busy, show Ara the smithy?” Ara asked with a hopeful smile after a few seconds of almost awkward silence.

“Sure.” Ellana responded, grateful that Ara had not pried. One of the others might have pried in concern but Ara did not. “Have you found a room yet?”

 

Chapter Text

Ara had been less then thrilled when they told her she needed to choose a room or that one was going to be assigned to her. She had considered a few places but the place was still an utter mess.

There was still debris in many of the halls and they were already becoming bossy about it despite the fact that they had only been there for a few days. Apparently they wanted to get the keep up and running as a home for the Inquisition, and they wanted that done yesterday.

Even if Tarasyl'an Te'las – or Skyhold as everyone started calling it – was somewhere new, the stone rooms were very reminiscent of her time locked in the dungeons at Haven. It was of a different type of stone but it was still stone.

She was ill used to sleeping inside stone buildings after a life time of living out under the stars of Nirn.

Instead of choosing a room, she decided to just explore the keep. Claiming that she was looking for somewhere was a good excuse and it kept someone from pushing a room on her.

She steered clear of the dungeons and the places already claimed by the arriving members of the Inquisition.

One tower, which was vastly in need of repair, became the office of Commander Cullen. The other outer towers seemed to require a lot more repair before someone could live in them. All of them seemed to have holes in the roof or worse.

A tower on the main building would become the library with the Nightingale and her agents in the upper levels. There was talk that the mages would be housed in the library and it seemed no one argued with the idea.

A small chamber off the main hall was where Josephine would be, and further on was the command center for the Inquisition. Ara had watched as they dragged a heavy wooden table through the Great Hall and then struggled with the door. Apparently, there was a larger door further in but it was entertaining to watch the soldiers grunt and groan as they attempted to shift the hefty table through that narrow outer door.

She had no idea where they had gotten the stump for that was what it was, a giant stump of a tree that had to have been hundreds of years old. It was easily wider then she was tall. It was a strange thing to see in the keep, given that there was nothing but snow capped mountains around them.

She discovered the courtyard easily enough afterwards yet it still looked too small for the tree. It might have been a nice garden at some point, something the inhabitants took pride in but now it was nothing more then bare ground with a few patches of hardy plants. There was nothing there to be exciting but she guessed sleeping there was out of the question.

Given that many people had taken to it like it was a second home.

Otherwise, Skyhold was a fairly straight forward keep. The walls were sturdy enough that Ara was sure a full on assault would fail regardless of whatever magic had become a part of the land. That single entry point was easy to defend although it made her wonder what had caused anyone to abandon the place.

It was just too strategic to fall empty without a good reason.

That thought stuck in her mind as she wandered the outer parts of Skyhold until someone reminded her of the smithy. She was told that it was apparently quite large, taking up a large portion of space in the undercroft – a word she did not understand and was eventually just told “really big cavern”.

She was genuinely hoping that she could just shove a bedroll in the corner and claim that space as her sleeping quarters.

Ara had to navigate through the many people working on the main hall to get to the door leading down to it. She really hoped they would figure out another way to get down there as having to walk up that raised platform attracted a lot of attention, especially with those windows that just shown light on whomever was there. It was clear that the positioning of the windows had been on purpose and it made her wonder what had once stood there.

More then one person had demanded she helped them move something.

New arrivals that had apparently come to help get the keep in working fashion. She had simply pretended she had no idea what they said while they screamed at her in some foreign language that she truly did not know.

Those were the ones she practically dashed away from.

Then there was the lady in a strange mask and a feather hat. She took one look at Ara and just started shrieking at the top of her lungs. The act only lasted a second or two before the woman suddenly clutched at her chest and fell to the ground in an exaggerated fainting motion.

All of the similarly dressed people gathered around her, spouting more nonsense in whatever language they were speaking. A few even pointed fingers in her direction.

Several guards had seemingly come out of the other doors as if they all thought demons had found a way into the keep but the majority of them just looked confused. Ara had never been so glad to have Josephine start explaining. She knew she was being mentioned but she did not care, the calm responses of the woman was proof enough that she knew Josephine was on her side.

The moment the crowd thinned, Ara took that opportunity to walk quickly away from the situation. Josephine's presence was enough that no one called after her.

Ara made her way to that doorway off to the side and ignored everyone else. She knew that people could easily see her as the light from the window had lit up the entire raised platform.

She did not want to deal with anyone else so she only opened the doorway enough to fit through.

The hallway was completely dim compared to the shining beacon of the hall and Ara's eyes took a few moments to adjust to the torchlight. Even if it was dark, it was still a welcome relief from all the people above.

Ara was a bit surprised to find Ellana a few steps in on the other side of the door. The woman had her eyes closed and seemed lost in whatever thought had her here instead of dealing with all the chaos out in the main part of the hall. The way Ellana was leaning against the wall made it clear she was trying to relax but her hands said otherwise.

Her normal hand gripped the wrist of the one with the mark. Holding it tight in a near vise like grip. A few sparks of magic flickered but it was hardly something that was dangerous. It looked, and sounded, more painful then anything else.

Closing the door seemed to startled Ellana out of her day dreaming.

“Oh... sorry.” Ellana pushed herself off the wall before schooling her features into a pleasant smile. It was that same look she wore whenever she was dealing with someone in the Inquisition.

“What doing?” Ara asked as she cocked her head.

“Just relaxing.” Ellana said with an all too guilty look.

Ara quirked an eyebrow. She had a pretty good idea why the woman was there. Any kind of solace was better then none when everyone crowded her. No doubt, Ellana had come here for the same reason as it would be only easy to find her if she had gone to her own rooms.

She had heard the commotion when Cassandra announced Ellana as the Inquisitor. Another title they added, another role the woman had to fill. She had seen the way the young elf had paled but merely acted accordingly.

Ellana may have been the one who had been leading the push to close the Breach but this was different. It was one thing to have a group follow you for some goal, it was another to actively lead.

Ara thought for a few moments before trying to find some way to take the woman's mind off of being the Inquisitor and all the things she was no doubt required to do.

“Ellana not busy, show Ara the smithy?” Ara asked as she pointed towards the stairs leading down into the bowels of the keep. She made her voice sound hopeful as she asked about a simple task like that. Something to distract the elf from her troubles.

“Sure.” Ellana said with a smile even though her eyes said she would rather not. “Have you found a room yet?”

“No. Cassandra said no sleep outside either.” Ara said in irritation. That conversation had been nearly immediate as soon as they arrived. Along with being told she was not allowed to sleep outside the gates or on the parapet walls.

“Well no... you can't sleep out in the courtyard.” Ellana managed a small laugh which she tried to cover up and failed, instead, she ended up blushing in embarrassment. “You need to find a room proper. Even if you're not in it often, you need a room for yourself and your things.”

Ara nodded but did not bring up that she had nothing beyond her armour at that point. Everything else had been lost in the avalanche. She just did not want to admit that she had completely forgotten about her bag in the snow when she had been more preoccupied with her own survival.

She would have to either make a new carving of Malacath or get someone to do it for her. The rest she could live without even if she did miss her book.

“Stables?” Ara posed, hoping that she could at least camp out in the upper levels of the stables. There was plenty of room in that building even with all the horses of the Inquisition.

“Sorry, Blackwall had already asked.” Ellana gave her an almost sheepish look before she started walking down the stone stairwell. “Why not check the rooms near the library, just off the rotunda? Solas and Dorian said there are spaces available on both levels of that tower?”

“Near Leliana and birds?” Ara quickly shook her head. She could just imagine how well that was going to work. “Birds noisy and shit lots. Rather sleep in tavern chair.”

“Bull has beat you to that.” Ellana was laughing again. It was a light sound that barely echoed through the passage but it was a happy sound. Even just talking seemed to lift the strain off the young elf.

“Serious?” Ara quirked an eyebrow, not in the least bit surprised about Bull choosing the Tavern over a room in the Keep.

“Well no, not the Tavern itself but he's laid claim to some of the rooms for him and the Chargers.” Ellana said with a small nod. “Sera has also taken up residence there and so has Cole.”

“Nope.” Ara said at the mention of Cole, her nose wrinkling up immediately.

She had been avoiding the strange man in the hat. She simply walked away any time he tried to talk to her. There was just too much creepiness when it came to him.

“You don't like them?” Ellana asked, looking curiously back at her.

“Cole... Cole weird.” She had no problem with Sera but Ara could not quite explain how Cole made her feel. Part of her was curious but in the same way she had been curious about spelunking in old ruins. Something was bound to be interesting about it, terrifying but interesting. Cole was the same thing and then there was his ability to just know. “He know things.”

“I know what you mean.” Ellana grimaced a little. “Solas said he's to be trusted and Cole does say he wants to help but it's a little strange when someone just knows what you're thinking.”

“Yes!” Ara enthusiastically agreed. It was a relief to know that someone else felt the same way. “Know too much.”

“He seems fond of your horse though.” Ellana said with a smile.

“Arvak.” Ara said with a nod.

“How did you ever come across a glowing undead horse?” Ellana seemed genuinely curious, her steps having slowed as she asked the question.

“Ara went place...” Ara paused as she remembered what Solas had said about her trip to Sovngarde. The Soul Cairn had been almost the same but all the souls had been trapped. It had been a terrible place to be and she would have avoided it if she had been able to. “Went place, lots magic. Bad things too. Met a...” She paused again but this time because she simply did not know the word for ghost. She avoided saying he was dead as she worried what Ellana might think if she talked about dead people. “A man. Arvak his horse. They were attacked and man told Arvak flee. Arvak constantly running. Man told Ara find Arvak. Ara did and now can call Arvak. Arvak usually leave though.”

Ara thought about the Soul Cairn and all the things she had encountered there. Finding Arvak's skull had not been the weirdest of them.

“That sounds... interesting.” Ellana responded as if she was not sure whether to believe the story.

“Ara not know all words.” Ara said with a frown.

“It's okay.” She smiled, her eyes shining with kindness. “You're doing quite well given that it's not your first language.”

“Ara try.” Ara nodded and could not help beaming like a child being praised. “Solas teaching Ara read.”

“You should get some of Varric's books. One of them even has a story about a woman turning into a dragon.”

“What?” Ara came to a complete stop. “What book?”

“Tale of the Champion.” Ellana answered. “Although I'm not sure how much of that is true given that Varric seems to love exaggerating his stories.”

“It false story?” Ara could not help but feel a little dejected.

“Well, not all of it.” Ellana answered truthfully. “You'll have to ask him what parts are true and what are not.”

Ara frowned as she thought about it. The dragons were indeed truly different here in Thedas. Then there was her dream of the woman with the dragons and then there was the name Corypheus had called her. Perhaps there was a bit more truth to that story then Ellana knew.

She considered for a moment that there might be beings here like the ones she had encountered in Skyrim. She just hoped it was not one of the daedra that she had made bargains with.

“Something bothering you?” Ellana asked before taking another step.

“No. Just thinking.” Ara responded. “Elves have dragon stories?”

“Dragons?” Ellana paused again. “Most of the lore of the Dalish has been lost over the centuries but one of our goddesses had the form of a dragon at times.”

“Really?” Ara thought that over. “What name?”

“The goddess? That would be Mythal.” Ellana started walking again. “Are any of your gods dragons?”

“One.” Ara took the stairs several steps at a time to catch up to the elf. “Father god Akatosh. One form dragon.”

She saw no harm in sharing that with Ellana. It was not like she was going to use dovahzul to explain the importance of Bormahu among the dragons. She had not told any of them about her nature as the dragonborn, only the wolf in her dreams knew that.

“I wonder how similar our mythologies would be if we compared them.” Ellana's voice was thoughtful.

“Not Ara's god.” Ara said as she wrinkled her nose. “Ara worship Malacath.”

“Oh, I do remember you saying that.” Ellana said sheepishly. “Didn't mean to offend.”

“No offend.” Ara waved her hand. In truth, she understood that Akatosh had far more importance then simply worshipping him but she was raised an Orc. Malacath was the god of her people. “Ellana no worship Andraste.”

“No, I don't.” Ellana laughed as they came to the bottom of the stairs and a small hallway. Part of it led away into the dark while a large wood door stood before them.

The wood was ancient but it still stood, completely unaffected by the dampness or breeze that seemed to come up from the other hall. There were carvings all across it. Most of it was artistic but she was certain she could almost make out dragons or perhaps it was poorly done birds. Those carvings were a little too faded and worn for her to truly make it out.

“That old.” Ara said with a small sniff. “Wonder how old.”

“We're not sure, just really old. Solas said that this place has been inhabited several times before so it's anyone's guess about how long this has been here.” Ellana nodded before resting her hand on the wood carving. “Perhaps the magic of this place kept the wood intact.”

“Ara see ruins in Skyrim. Old things. Some still have wood, some even flames.” Ara nodded.

“Oh, the flames are probably veil fire.” Ellana said without looking over at Ara. “It's magic that is simply the memory of fire. Gives off light but no heat.”

Ara was certain that what she had seen in Skyrim was not this veil fire but actual fire.

“What this way?” Ara asked as she pointed off towards the tunnel that seemed to lead deeper into the mountain.

“Not sure, I haven't been down there yet.” Ellana looked off into the darkness. “I'm assuming more rooms and storage like the other hallways. This...” She tapped the wooden door. “Is the way to the smithy. Come on, I'll show you.”

Ara frowned as she considered that they had not fully explored the keep.

Her attention honed in on the door as it creaked open and the shadowed hall was forgotten when she laid her eyes on the space behind it.

It was massive to say the least. It was easily as long as the Chantry had been in Haven with one end open to the mountain air. A waterfall seemed to cascade down through that opening and into the depths of the mountain. Stone steps were carved with precision and led to a smaller indent in the floor beside that opening. A stone railing lined the outside edges of the room while sunlight filtered in through that gigantic opening. There were a few alcoves and little hallways that she assumed led to storage rooms.

The place was downright amazing in Ara's opinion. It was far more then just a simple smithy and she could see some devices she was sure were used in enchanting.

“This is the undercroft.” Ellana said with a smile at Ara's slack jawed stare.

“This... this.. good. Big. Big good.” Ara said with a nod as she moved over to look at all the mechanical tools around. Her finger pointing to each new thing in turn. “What this? And that?”

“Those are tools for enchanting.” Harritt said with a chuckle as he stepped out from one of the alcoves off to the side.

“Harritt!” Ara was immensely relieved to see the old smith and walked over to him. She did not quite stand close to him but just gave him a cursory glance over. Her way of making sure he had not suffered too badly in the destruction of Haven and the trek here. “You okay?”

“I'm fine.” He said with a deeper laugh before giving her an awkward hug. His voice was a little gruff but nothing out of place for the old smith. “We were worried about you, girl.”

“Sorry.” She grinned at him before motioning to the undercroft. “This your smithy now?”

“Yes, and the boys too. And yours when you're here.” He said with a nod. “Just don't let me catch you sleeping next to the forge.”

Ara continued to grin. She did not ask about who made it or did not as she was simply relieved to know that some of them had made it. Life had been hard in Skyrim and she had never been one to focus on the dead. She would mourn for them once she was sure of who had died in Haven and she would do it privately.

“There is someone else you should meet.” Harritt said before glancing over towards Ellana. “The Arcanist was here earlier but I think she wandered off to find her own lodgings. She's pretty excited to meet you both.”

“Arcanist?” Ara asked, not familiar with the word.

“Woman by the name of Dagna,” Harritt explained. “She studies magic and enchantments.”

“But not mage?”

“No, she's not a mage.” Ellana spoke before her tone went right to business like. “She's a dwarf. If you're okay with it, we'd like her to look at your armour.”

“Why?” Ara said warily, not sure if she liked the request or not.

“The enchantment on it is not like anything we've ever seen.” Ellana said truthfully. “We know it's different then the ones we do. Dagna is a specialist in that.”

Ara frowned as she considered. She realized that it was not just asking about the armour but more asking about her involvement in making it. If they wanted to look at the armour then they would just do it any way without asking.

She was fairly certain they had done that already anyway.

“Okay.” Ara said with a small sigh. “But no breaking.”

“Don't worry, we won't let her do that.” Ellana was smiling again, looking quite happy that Ara had agreed. “I'm pretty sure she would want to talk to you anyway.”

Ara really hoped they had not shared information about her with this Dagna. It was bad enough that a lot of people seemed to have knowledge about her that she was not quite ready for them to have. Solas had pointed out that she knew little of the world beyond the Inquisition and that could be a dangerous thing.

There was some shouting just up the stairwell causing Ellana to grimace. Whoever it was, was coming closer and shouting Ellana's name along with her few titles.

“Creators, they found me.” She muttered under her breath before speaking louder to Ara and Harritt. “I need to go take care of some more things but why don't you take a look around down here and see if you can find a place you want for yourself? Come see me later, my room is apparently going to be that stupidly massive tower on the other side of the hall.”

Ellana made a face somewhere between exhaustion and disgust as the shouting got louder. It was a better look then the earlier strained look and Ara wondered how long it would last before the newly crowned Inquisitor would be trying to find some other place to hide.

She waved at the pair of them before she hurried out the door and up the hall. They could hear her talking with whatever person it was who came looking. Ellana's voice rising in that fake cheery tone before their voices died off in the distance.

“Poor thing.” Harritt said with a sigh. “They're gonna run her ragged before she even leaves.”

“What?” Ara glanced back at him. She had known that Ellana had been hiding but she had not thought it bad enough that Harritt would speak up.

“Everyone has been running to her for how to lay out Skyhold even if they've been told to take it up with Lady Montilyet or one of the others.” Harritt looked towards the door with a shake of his head. He really did not seem to take kindly to the chaotic mess that was the rest of Skyhold. “Watch the next time you're walking through the hall, everyone wants her input on everything.”

Ara glanced back at the door as she thought about it.

She had not been followed like that when she was in Skyrim. People had just given her a title, a servant and occasionally a house, for the things she had done in their lands. People had put the weight of the world on her shoulders but it had not been like this.

They were setting Ellana on a pedestal far higher then Ara had ever been on.

“I'm fairly certain they were even asking her which tapestries they should put up.” Harritt grimaced at that, looking faintly disgruntled with the idea of tapestries. “Like she doesn't have better things to do with her time.”

Ara shook her head at that. The whole thing just sounded absurd. She had no idea who cared about what colour the decorations were when there was a war brewing around the corner. She certainly did think Ellana had better things to do.

“Anyway, the forge isn't quite set up yet.” Harritt said as he jerked his thumb towards the unlit hearth. “You go find a place to settle in and then we'll see about getting the lads together to get things going.”

“Ara choose corner.”

She pointed to the corner just beside the doorway which only got her a withering stare from the smith.

“No. Find somewhere proper, girl.” Harritt said with a shake of his head at her.

A quick shooing motion from him made it clear he wanted her out of the undercroft.

It may be a new place but he was still the Master Smith and she was not about to argue with him.

Sighing, she went back out the door and into that dark hallway. She thought about heading back topside but people were getting loud again. She did not understand all the words but there was something about choosing the right location.

Apparently, they were going to put something right in front of those damnable windows.

Listening to the people above, Ara chose to continue exploring instead of joining that mess. She would have to walk through that large crowd to get to anyone she felt like talking to and there was always the possibility that someone else would ask her to do something.

Or that someone would start screaming at her again.

That and she really did not want to talk to any one other then Bull or Varric at this point. Bull had made himself scarce when they began clearing things out of the hall and Varric had been enlisted by Josephine to help with some of the more clerical matters. Apparently, the dwarf was quite capable with business and planning.

That was surprising but then she had never really asked what he did besides shoot things with his crossbow. It was another reminder that she did not know half as much about them as she thought she did.

Wrinkling her nose at her thoughts, she continued to walk down the hallway. That was one benefit of this place, and another reason Ellana had probably started this way, it was a decent place to think. Peaceful as the din of the workers had faded into nothing more then a dull thudding.

The hallway was just like the rest of the keep. Made of finely cut stone that was all wedged together as tightly as possible. There were a few forks in the tunnel but it was mostly turns and uneven surfaces – as if someone had merely packed the stones in following the curve of the mountain – but it was fairly standard as far as tunnels go. Just lacking torches or even torch holders.

She realized that it was going to become far too dark for her to walk without some manner of light. It was an easy spell, one she had learned early on when she had first started delving into ancient Nord ruins. Far easier then carrying a torch.

It should have been nothing to create light but Ara suddenly found that she could not just will it into being.

Stopping dead in her tracks, she lifted up her hand and focused.

Still nothing.

She threw all of her will into it and just stared off into the dark where her hand should be. She even threw her hand forward and flexed her fingers for good measure as if that mattered.

Not even the barest flicker of light.

“Well... shit.”

 

Chapter Text

Ara just stared off into the dark where nothing was happening. She was not sure how long she was standing there and trying to cast spells but there was nothing.

Not even the barest hint of flame, ice, lightening, light or any of the other many spells she tried. She tried just about every spell she could think of, even a spell to give her the ability to see in the dark.

It was like her magic just no longer existed.

Part of her panicked at the idea but then she remembered what Solas had said about Skyhold. That magic had seeped into the very stones. If anyone would know about magic related problems, it would be him.

She turned and put her hand back against the wall as she sought to trace her way back out the tunnels. Mentally cursing herself for never paying better attention to the few teachers in the Winterhold College back in Skyrim.

No, she had always been the type to just quickly pick up the spell and then rush off to some forge forsaken hole, expecting things to just work.

The path back was easy to follow as she simply took the opposite turns to what she had done originally. That was until one of the stones seemed to sink in beneath her hand.

Ara stopped dead in her tracks as she felt the stone give way and fall in to the wall. Instinct told her it was a trap, a pressure plate hidden among the stones of the wall.

Dust fell from above as she heard the sounds of stone grinding on stone. She had no idea what direction to turn and merely stood there as the floor beneath her suddenly gave way and dropped her down into a sudden widening abyss.

Her heart lurched as she could not see what was around her.

Ara landed with a huff on uneven steps that led off into the dark. She cursed under her breath about elvish engineering and wondered what kind of person makes a passage like this.

She leaned against the wall of this new stairwell and caught her breath. Her forehead rested against the stone but it was not as calming as she hoped. She could hear something but worse ws that she could almost feel it through the stone. A strange hum like noise. It seemed to travel all through the stone but that was not what made her pay attention to it.

It felt and sounded like it should be familiar.

Curiosity won out over common sense and she walked further down the stairwell. Her hand still planted firmly on the wall as she slowly took the steps one at a time.

Her foot jarringly found the bottom but she did not stop walking. Each step took her further but she quickly realized that it was not as dark down in that hall.

Gradually, it was growing lighter as that noise began to increase and eventually she could make out voices. They were unfamiliar to her but the way they spoke was familiar. She had heard the same many times before but from voices that were clearly Nordic. These voices were softer, not quite feminine but definitely no where near the battle cry like tones of Nord voices.

“A word wall?” She questioned to no one in particular as she followed the sound and the light.

It was too similar for it to be anything else then this world's version of it.

This hall was simply straight, with no breaks in the path and for that she was glad. Eventually, she came to a cavern like room with walls that glowed with blue light.

Stepping fully into it, she could see that the entire inside was covered in words. Every inch was covered. There were words from the floor to the ceiling. They all glowed with that light, pulsing with each sound.

Some words were familiar, ones that she had learned before, but others were in a flowing script that did not match up with what she knew of dovahzul writing. They looked like fancier versions of dovahzul but done with extra flourish. Almost stylized.

Frowning, she turned to the right of the door and reached out her hand.

The closer her hand came to the wall, the louder the words became. Energy seemed to crackle from the words and arch to her fingers. It felt warm, different then Skyrim's word walls, but not completely unfriendly.

She thought it would be like back in Skyrim. A simple touch to learn the word. It had to be the same here.

The hair standing up on the back of her neck coupled with that brief second of burning smell proved her wrong.

The snap of power from the wall sent her flying back.

She had little time to consider that this was wrong as that landing sent her careening into unconsciousness.





Sitting up, she found herself in a city of stone.

She sat right in the middle of a large street with buildings towering all around her. None of them were familiar but they all shared a strange indistinct quality as if they were all made of mist and fog.

Even the air seemed to be almost hazy.

Overhead, she could see a sky that was tinted with a wash of colours. It seemed natural but yet there was a wrongness in the air. A stillness that she could not quite explain.

There was a silence all around her as she realized the street was empty. She strained her ears but she could hear nothing beyond herself.

Ara climbed to her feet and stared around her, trying to make sense of what she was looking at.

There were no signs or markers. Nothing to tell her about this place or the people who lived there. The buildings were not made like the ones she knew of Skyrim or even of the ones she knew from her time in Thedas.

A feeling crept up inside her at the unfamiliarity of this place.

This was not her dream.

We must hurry!”

She nearly jumped out of her skin as someone ran right through her.

He was young, perhaps little more then a child, with black wavy hair pinned back away from his pointed ears. His outfit was black, made of overlaying panels which almost made her think of feathers. He was distinct against the hazy background as if he had been the important thing.

Faaslen, we're not going to make it.” Another voice from behind her as a near identical elf said as he hurried to catch up to him.

The only difference that Ara could see were the eyes. The pair both had an eye of blue and an eye of black, only they were reversed on the opposite elf. They looked like the mirror image of one another.

We have to!” The first, Faaslen, sounded panicked. “If we stay here, we'll be trapped!”

I think we're already trapped.” The second said before glancing overhead. “I think it's too late.”

No!” Faaslen practically shouted as he looked heavenward.

Ara blinked and turned to look at whatever it was that had attracted their attention and what she saw made her stomach lurch.

That rainbow of colours that made up the sky was slowly being overtaken by a wave of sickly green. It almost seemed to eat away at the other colours, pressing forward and destroying the rest of the colours. On the other side was a pale blue that looked normal but felt just as wrong as the green wave that consumed all in it's path.

She had seen that same shade of green before when she had stared into the breach.

Brother...” The second one said sadly before he took Faaslen's hand. “You can make it.”

No no no...” Faaslen let go of the twin's hand and covered his ears. Perhaps he was younger then what she thought. “I won't. You can't make me.”

You have to. Father needs to know what happened.” The mirror twin's voice was sad but his face looked completely serious.

He leaned to rest his forehead against Faaslen's before speaking.

You were always better at shape changing. You know that.” He said before taking a breath. Words spilled out of his mouth that sounded like Dovahzul but she did not recognize any of them.

In the blink of an eye, he was no longer leaning against another elf but holding a black bird in his hands. She had no idea what kind of bird it was but there was no mistaking the anguish on the face of the elf as he lifted the bird into the air.

Good bye.” Another breath. “FUS RO DAH!

She recognized that shout and watched as the bird was suddenly thrown far into the sky. The shout carried it far beyond the leading edge of that green wave.

The twin that had used dovahzul sank to his knees and just watched as the bird vanished in the distance before he gradually faded away.

Ara tried to move, as if she could stop him from disappearing completely but it was like she could not move. That she was being held by some invisible barrier.

That fuzziness became far worse now that the bird was no longer nearby. The buildings began to disintegrate into nothingness.

Whatever this was, she realized it had been connected to the bird-elf.

She stared after it as the rest of this strange dream was consumed in that green and grey.



She woke as she felt herself being half carried, half dragged through the hall. She blinked against the sudden weight in her eyes before she started coughing. She sucked in a lung full of air and felt like she was eating a fistful of dirt.

It felt like her face and mouth were full of dust. Her nose was even cloyed with it, all she could smell was dirt. Copper and dirt.

The noise startled whomever it was that was carrying her and she dropped to the stone with a loud thud.

“Shit. Sorry.” Bull answered from just by her head but she could not make out the Qunari.

She was immensely relieved to realize that it was him and not something sinister dragging her off to her death inside these damn tunnels. She was an idiot for wandering down here especially with no magic and no weapons to defend herself.

“Bull?” She asked, as if his voice wasn't answer enough. She tried to rub at her face and ended up grimacing as her fingers came away sticky.

Ara went to rub at her face again but he caught her hand before she did. She could feel the grime on his hand and frowned, wondering exactly how much dust covered the two of them.

“Still with us?” He sounded relieved. “Can you walk?”

“Think so.” She mumbled as he looped an arm around her torso and helped her to her feet. He lifted her easily enough.“What happen?”

“You tell me.” The relief had faded and was replaced by something cautious. “Hang on, gotta pick up the torch.”

She put her arm over his shoulders as he bent them both. She guessed that was to get the torch but only winced at the movement.

“Sorry.” He said again. “I'll get you top side and then you can explain.”

“Explain? Explain what?” Ara felt a rising sense of panic that was only paired off with confusion.

She had no idea what happened after she touched the wall. There had been the strange dream but even that was growing fuzzier with each passing moment.

“Why you were shouting into an empty room that then collapsed on you.” Bull said pointedly as he walked slowly but some instinct told her that he was choosing his words carefully.

She felt rocks against her feet as they walked and guessed it was debris from what had been the room with the word wall. Ara did not bother asking if there was still a glow as she guessed he would have asked her about that too.

“Shouting? What shouting?” She asked.

“Don't know, I think it was in a different language.” Bull answered, his voice still cautious. “I was too far away to really make it out but whatever you said, the ceiling came down after that.”

“Oh.”

She had shouted.

That was definitely not a good thing.

“Why you here?” She asked, trying to divert the attention away from what had clearly just happened.

“You owe me a sparring match.” He responded and she felt the shrug in his shoulders. “I figured now was good a time as any, especially with all the strange people here in Skyhold.”

She had no idea what he meant by that and she did not ask. Her sight was slowly coming back but it was just shapes that she could make out in the glow of the torch.

“Watch -”

She barked in pain as her foot came in contact with the bottom of the stairs. His warning coming just a few seconds too late.

“Sorry.” He apologized again.

She grimaced but said nothing as they went even more slowly up the stairs. One step at a time as she tried to feel out the way with her feet. Bull's grip was enough to keep her steady as they walked.

“Weird place for a set of stairs.” Bull muttered under his breath when they came to the top and he steered them down the hallway.

“Button in wall.” Ara motioned with her hand towards the wall. “Hit it, stairs.”

“A secret set of stairs?” Bull's voice rumbled through her. “That's interesting.”

“Less interesting, more annoying.” Ara responded.

She shook her head to try and clear the cobwebs but only sent a shock wave of pain up her neck. The pain was enough of a jolt that she saw a little more clearly.

Looking over at Bull, she could see his face was covered in dust. There was a long, narrow scrape along his cheek and a few more down his neck and chest.

“Oh... you hurt?” She questioned.

“I'm fine. You took the brunt of it.” Another shrug of his shoulders.

“What?” She had no idea what that word meant.

“You took most of it.” He clarified. “You were standing at the doorway as it all fell down around you.”

She did not remember that.

He went silent again as if he was thinking about what he had seen and heard. She saw no reason to interrupt his thoughts as they walked, almost afraid that he would react badly to knowing about her ability to thu'um.

Solas had not been frightened but he had been cautious. Ellana had been down right furious when learning about Ara's ability to use magic. Ara did not think anyone would react well to learning about the thu'um.

It seemed far longer to get into the familiar area next to the undercroft but she was relieved when they stepped through and into the smithy. Harritt took one look at the pair of them before he was barking orders to one of the other smiths and then turning to them.

“Here, sit on the bench.” There was a look of concern on the old man's face. “What happened?”

The others were already on their way out of the smithy and through the undercroft to fetch a healer and Ellana. One quickly returned with water which was handed over to Bull.

“One of the rooms below. The ceiling gave way.” That was all that Bull said as he handed Ara the water.

She nodded in thanks before swallowing several mouth fulls.

“Ara?” Harritt turned to her as if he did not believe the Qunari.

She almost coughed on the water as the man turned to her. Hastily, she swirled the water in her mouth before spitting it into a nearby bucket.

“Yes. Ceiling fell. Many rocks.” It was not quite a lie although she had no idea what had actually happened. She hoped she did not look as guilty as she felt.

Harritt continued to talk to them but it quickly became clear that he had heard nothing from below. Apparently there was enough stone between here and there to block out the sound. Ara was incredibly grateful to whichever god was watching over her for that.

Harrit asking her about the thu'um was not something she was ready to answer, especially as it might change the old man's opinion of her.

“What happened?” Two voices said it in unison from the doorway.

Varric and Ellana stood there with Cullen, Josephine and several guards just behind them.

“Ceiling collapse.” Bull said even more smoothly, his face an utter mask of calm with just a hint of his usual grin. “Really need to have people look through those other tunnels more thoroughly.”

Ara said nothing to him when she realized he was keeping it to himself. She did not even look in his direction.

“Are you both alright?” Ellana asked as she stepped closer to them.

“I just got a scratch and some bruises.” Bull said with a broad smile as if it was no trouble at all. “She was unconscious for a bit.”

He quickly skirted to the side as Ellana focused all her attention on Ara.

That red potion was offered to her and Ara scowled but drank the whole thing down. It tasted terrible. More terrible then it had last time but it did the trick. That warm glow easing the headache and other minor little pains she had not really noticed until they were gone.

“Better?” Ellana asked before she busied over Ara like a mother hen.

“Much. Thank you.” Ara said as she bobbed her head in a nod.

“Good.” Ellana said without the barest flicker of emotion. The elf was completely engrossed in helping and seemed to ignore the rest of them around her. “Doesn't look like anything is broken.”

“That good.” Ara said with a smile.

“I will arrange for a proper mapping of those hallways.” Cullen said from the doorway.

“Good plan.” Varric said before Josephine motioned him out.

The woman had already started talking to him but he gave Ara a small nod before continuing on his way with her.

“Didn't mean bother.” Ara said honestly as she realized that the group of them must have been in some meeting.

“It's alright.” Ellana said with a half smile before glancing back to Cullen. “Commander, I'd like a detailed map of what we do have explored and a guard at the doors to what's not. I don't want someone wandering off and getting lost.”

Commander Fluffy nodded to her before turning on his heel and was gone without so much as a second glance.

“I need to finish speaking with Varric and Josephine.” Ellana said as she dusted off her hands. “Are you sure you're alright?”

“Fine. Need bath though.” Ara responded.

“Alright.” Ellana frowned for a moment. “Well, if you stop feeling fine, please come find me, okay?”

“Okay.” Ara nodded to her.

Ellana turned and left. It was only then that Ara realized that the smithy had emptied out. Even Harritt and the other smiths had disappeared leaving just her and Bull there.

It felt strange, sitting there with just two people in such a large and empty space. That silence settling on her and destroying whatever calm she had managed to maintain while they were all in there.

“You no tell?” She turned and jabbed a finger into his shoulder. “Why?”

“I didn't tell what?” He looked at her skeptically with that one eye.

There was no picture of innocence there. She knew he had seen more then just the ceiling collapsing.

“What see?” She scowled at him.

“What does it matter?” He asked as he got to his feet.

“If saw, then reason no tell Ellana.” Ara crossed her arms with a huff.

“Plenty of reasons.” Bull answered as he stopped at the door. “I'm sure you wouldn't want me telling the rest of them that you shouted the ceiling apart.”

She went completely still. Her irritation dying instantly as she stared at him.

“Ara... did not...” She blinked at him.

“Guess I was mistaken then.” There was a shrug of his shoulders. “But it sure as shit sounded like that to me.”

She balled her hands into fists as she shook her head.

“Bull mistaken.”

“Sure. Mistaken.” He fixed her with a strange look but said nothing else before he too left her alone in the smithy.

Her knuckles had turned white at that point and her finger nails dug into her palms.

The very idea that she would willingly destroy a part of Ellana's Skyhold was absurd but the idea that she would reveal that power considering she had been trying to keep herself hidden was another thing completely.

Besides, her magic had stopped working.

She held her breath for a minute as she considered the possibility that her magic no longer worked but that her shouts were still fine. It was possible and she knew she had to test that to be certain.

Closing her eyes, she thought of the most benign dragon shout she could remember.

LAAS.”

She felt the power surrounding the word even if she said it as little more then a whisper.

It was like that spell she had used in the blizzard. A way of determining life around her. She saw all the people above that milled about in the hall. Ellana stood out from the rest with that mark on her hand but that was the only difference between them all.

She saw the retreating form that was clearly Bull as there was no one in the Inquisition that was quite that large. A second life flickered just down the hallway where she had come from with Bull, and that one was far different then the others she could see.

Everyone should have been lit up in a reddish tinge.

This person was green.

She stared at the doorway as they walked up towards it and pushed it open.

Realizing she had no magic to aid her, she grabbed the next best thing. The heavy Blacksmith's hammer.

Turning, she raised it over her head ready for whatever was about to walk through that door.

“I believe it's time we talked.” Solas calmly said from the doorway.

 

Chapter Text

She kept the hammer raised even as Solas walked into the room and sat on the bench near where she had been earlier. There was a look of calmness on his face even though he was faced with her raising that hammer into the air.

There was still a strange nervousness in how he fidgeted with the edge of his tunic. It was subtle but she had spent months studying him to help herself learn faster.

Perhaps his nervousness was from the hammer or the fact that she could see him differently, she was not sure.

“You can put that down.” He said, resting his hands in his lap.

“You... you wrong.” She lowered the hammer but she was still more then capable of throwing it if she needed to. Not that it would do her much good without another weapon to back herself up.

Solas just happened to be sitting between her and all the recently made or repaired weapons.

“What do you mean?” Solas looked at her with vague confusion.

“Others. Can see them. See their colour. You wrong colour.” She had no idea how to explain this particular thu'um to him. Even if he could use the shouts like she could, trying to explain it to him was like trying to explain colour to the blind. It was something that had to be experienced. “You wrong.”

“I'm not wrong, Ara.” His voice was soft and his head titled towards her. “I'm just... different.”

“What? What mean?” She questioned but still kept that hammer tightly gripped. Her mind raced for some answer, any answer to explain what was only now fading from her sight. “You not elf?”

“I am an elf, just not like the others.” He sighed before glancing towards the door. “It's complicated but something I should tell you.”

“Complicated?” She had heard the word before but she did not recall the context. “Then tell.”

He frowned and looked thoughtful. Ara just stared at him, waiting for him to say something. She was not sure what she was expecting to come out of his mouth but she did not believe he was an elf despite what he said. An elf would be the same shade as every other living thing in Skyhold.

“I am old, Ara.” He started. “There are few people as old as I am in this world.”

She had no idea what age had to do with anything but he was the one telling the story so she let him continue.

He paused and then seemed to concentrate for a moment. His eyebrows knitting together before she felt press of magic. It did not harm her but she suddenly stopped hearing everything from beyond him. It was like the rest of Skyhold no longer existed.

Even with her magic gone, she could still feel it. A strange current that travelled over her skin before the silence wrapped around them like a cocoon.

“Solas... Ara magic. Gone.” She suddenly said, not letting him finish his explanation. Feeling his magic brought that back to the forefront of her mind and she guessed she would not have the answers she wanted if she let him explain himself first. “Nothing works.”

“What?” His face instantly became concerned. “When did this happen?”

“Earlier. Tried make light, did not happen.” She frowned before quickly continuing. “Other spells not work. Tried several.”

“But your dragon shouts still work?” He questioned.

“Yes.” Ara said in irritation. “Can still see life. Knew you different.”

He frowned, his hand pressing against his chin as he considered that. There was something about the look on his face that told her he might know what was going on but he said nothing. He merely sat there, thinking.

“What is it?” Ara questioned, her attention totally fixed on him.

“It's nothing.” His eyes were guarded. “I mean, nothing for you to worry about. I believe it is just an after effect of the red lyrium poisoning.”

His face was completely neutral but he would not quite look at her. He kept his hand against the front of his mouth as if he was afraid his lips would betray whatever secret he was keeping.

“Why lying?” She demanded, recognizing the little things that gave him away.

“I am not certain of it yet.” He answered with an almost defiant stare back at her. “But believe me when I say that it is nothing you should be concerned about. At least, not until your body has fully recovered from the red lyrium.”

“What?” Ara blinked at him in surprise. “Am recovered.”

“Are you certain of that?” Solas challenged.

Ara huffed before tapping the hammer against her thigh. Her shoulder was still sore but that was not out of the ordinary. She had taken an arrow to it after all.

The question brought too much attention to herself and she did not want to answer.

“Why Solas different?” She suddenly demanded again.

He sighed as she brought the topic back to that instead of herself. His hands folding against themselves in his lap.

“As I said, I am old.” He looked at her with a faraway expression. “I was born in a time where magic and the elvhen were different. We were powerful, gifted with magic and abilities that the mages now can barely consider.”

There was a hint of regret in his voice but she did not ask.

“My brothers and I were different from the rest. We were... more.” Solas explained. “We loved the people but over time things began to change. My brothers became evil.”

She quirked an eyebrow at that and guessed that they must have done something quite terrible if he was explaining it as 'they went bad'.

“I was forced to choose between them and the people.” Solas voice remained level as if this was a conversation he had gone over in his head over and over again but still did not know what to say. “They threatened those beneath them, indeed, they threatened the entire world. In the end they left me no choice.”

Silence hung for several minutes while he thought over what he was going to say next.

“I hunted them.” He took a deep breath before continuing. “It was... impossible to kill them so I imprisoned them far away from the world.”

Ara recognized the similarity in her own life. Her role as the dragonborn had resulted in her hunting the dragons, the ones she had viewed as brothers. It seemed strange that they both would have encountered the same thing.

The dragons of Nirn could not be killed by anyone other then a dragonborn, they would simply remain in some limbo until their souls were claimed by one. She wondered if that was what would have happened with Solas' family.

“It is not unlike you and the dragons you have defeated.” His voice dipped low. “Although I did not absorb their souls as you have done.”

She blinked as she thought that over in her head. She remembered telling that to someone but not if it had been Solas. It was a small comfort to know that someone else had experienced that same feeling of grief but yet there was something tugging at the back of her mind.

“Why tell?”

“I had hoped to tell you this in a more private circumstance but you have not slept.” He said with a sigh.

“No place sleep.” She said with a shrug, even though she had no idea what any of that had to do with him being different. Even dragons were the same as everything else but he had been a completely different colour. “Why?”

“Why?” Another sigh before he continued. “It is easier to explain things in the fade, especially for me but you have been avoiding that. Then in the brief moment you did sleep, I was unable to reach you and then you woke with one of your shouts.”

“You heard?” She questioned in surprise. No one else had seemed to notice. Just him and Bull. Not even Harrit had noticed and he had been the closest.

“No.” He shook his head before fixing her with a strange look. “I felt it.”

“You felt the... thu'um?” She stared at him, the hammer finally lowering as she looked at him.

Ara remembered the Grey Beards who had felt her awakening but even that was far beyond this. Solas had no training and only the instinctive ability to use the shouts. She had no idea how he would be able to feel a shout that she was not even fully certain she had done.

She knew she had been the conduit for it but then, that dream of hers had someone else using the thu'um and not her.

“Yes.” He answered. “I was in what is called a dreamer's trance. It allows me to enter the fade without actually being asleep. It is relatively easy to slip into it when people believe I am focused on the walls of the rotunda. The others tend to leave you alone if they believe you are busy.”

She just stared at him and did not say anything. He just seemed to be rambling.

“I am a dreamer mage.” Solas swallowed before staring right at her. “I can walk the fade and shape it as I desire.”

She realized then what he meant and her blood went cold. He had the power to change dreams to suit what he wanted.

“You... you enter dreams?” The question came out more of demand but she did not care how he perceived it.

“Yes. I can enter the dreams of another.” Solas suddenly did not meet her eyes. “I have done so frequently.”

“Dreams...” She struggled with the realization that this elf whom she had finally decided to trust had done something heinous. “You... you in dreams. Dark haired elf.”

“Dark haired elf?” His head suddenly jerked up and he was staring at her. That look of guilt warred with concern. “I have never appeared to you as an elf.”

“Not elf?”

Although I did not absorb their souls as you have done.

The realization hit her just as quickly as the words had earlier. There was only one being she had shared that knowledge with since she had arrived here in Thedas.

“Grohiik.” The power swirled as she said the name and it was comforting even as she felt rage building. “You Grohiik.”

“Yes, I am the wolf.” He answered but concern seemed to win. “You said there was a dark haired elf in your dreams? What did he say? Did you recognize him?”

Ara felt crushed but her anger rode over everything else.

“No.” She bared her teeth at him. “No tell. No talk. No anything.”

“Ara?” He looked startled at her reaction, getting to his feet as if that would make her change her opinion.

“No!” The wooden shaft of the blacksmith's hammer cracked under her grip. “Solas lie. Solas lie from start.”

She could feel the beginning of the blood rage. It boiled in her veins as she sneered at him. She felt completely betrayed by his violation of her dreams and her trust.

“Ara, I didn't intend to lie to you.” He said in earnest as he lifted his hands. “Please, you have to believe that.”

“Believe you?” She spat on the floor by his feet. “No. Never again.” She tried to think of something insulting to call him but she only knew a few things she overheard others saying. “Lying nug humping... rotten... sod-eared... turd eating Fahliil!”

A pained look crossed his face at her words but he quickly schooled his features into that same calm sort of look. The look was not fully complete as she could see the clenching of his jaw and the fire in his blue eyes.

“Very well.” His voice seemed strained. “I will arrange for another to teach you.”

He said nothing else as he turned and left her there in the smithy. That bubble of silence disappearing as he stepped to the edge of it. The sounds of Skyhold coming back in like an explosion against her ears.

She did not follow him as she tried to deal with what she had just learned.

This entire time she had spoken with the wolf in her dreams, it had been telling her to trust Solas. He had been telling her to trust him. It was beyond absurdly self serving. Then there was everything she had shared with him. He knew more about her then anyone ever had, even in Skyrim. She had shared so much with that wolf.

She was such a forge damned fool.

Ara turned and hurled the hammer as hard as she could towards the water fall. She watched as the tool sailed well through the water and then disappeared into the space beyond it.

It was pointless but it made her feel a little better.

Rubbing her hands over her face, she was reminded of the dirt that still clung there. The blood had already dried and was flaking off beneath her fingers but it was not quite enough.

She picked up the bucket and walked over to the trough. She doused herself with bucket after bucket of cold water before she found herself a new hammer.

She threw herself into hammering something without another thought.

 

Chapter Text

Ara gradually lost track of time as she continued to work on the iron before her. It had long since taken the shape of a shield but she was carefully focusing on adding little details to the front.

A time consuming process that kept her attention firmly wrapped up in it. She simply did not let herself think about Solas or how angry she had been.

They could have burned down Skyhold and she would not have noticed until the fire was licking at her boots. She did not even notice when the door swung open and a woman came through carrying a bowl of stew and a rather large piece of bread.

“Oh.. Oh my!” The voice drew her away from the forge and Ara glanced up.

She did not know the woman but she knew it was one of Varric's people. She stood a little shorter then the storyteller and was dressed in armour like the soldiers only with her own unique emblem on it or at least what Ara assumed was her emblem. She looked every inch a woman that was just as at home in the forge as Ara was, from her hair pulled back in a bun to the thick gloves that went up past her elbows.

“Uh... Hello?” Ara asked, pausing mid swing. The woman's arrival had startled her out of her rhythm of hammering.

“I didn't think anyone would be down here. Well the Master Smith but he's up having supper with the others. But you're here. And it's you.” Her voice was full of excitement as she tried to close the door with her hip. “Though I did not think you would be so tall... I really thought you would be a dwarf or maybe a qunari but you're not either of those, are you?”

Ara watched her in silence as she managed to close the door before striding over with a confident stride. The dwarven woman oozed confidence and excitement. She managed not to spill any of her food despite looking like she was practically bouncing towards Ara.

“Oh, I'm getting carried away again.” She held out her hand full of bread. “I'm Dagna.”

Ara stared down at the bread before Dagna gave a sheepish grin and tucked it under her arm and properly held out her hand again. The woman was strange but she seemed friendly enough.

“Ara –“ Ara laid down the hammer and took her hand warmly.

“Arakash gra-Krazak, right?” Dagna said quickly but practically beamed as she spoke. “I know all about you. Well, not all about you. Just that you had some unusual armour that had enchantments on it unlike anything anyone had seen.”

“You... know?” Ara managed as she tried to sort out everything that this woman was saying. She was talking entirely too fast for Ara to to understand it all.

“Somewhat.” Dagna said as she went to sit her food down on the nearby bench. “The Inquisition wrote about it in their letter. They didn't describe you or anything. Like I said, I honestly thought you'd be shorter but that's only because most people don't deal with enchanting. It's usually just us dwarves or a few special humans.”

It was at that moment that Ara decided she liked the dwarven woman. Dagna was completely thrilled to meet her and had no qualms that she looked different then everyone else. Ara honestly could not remember the last time someone had been so excited to meet her.

Even the Greybeards had not treated her like this. They had just been willing to serve the latest Dragonborn.

“I'm talking a lot again.” Dagna's nose wrinkled up as she spoke. “Sorry. I don't usually get to deal with a lot of new things ever since the mages rebelled.”

Ara found herself staring at her again. She had no idea what that meant but something told her that it had to do with the mages that were now part of the Inquisition. It was not like she had really asked anyone about what had recently gone on in the world beyond the Breach.

“It okay.” Ara nodded. The woman's spitfire method of talking left little time for her to even think of still being angry. Solas' lies were pushed far, far from Ara's mind. “Ara talk little.”

It was Dagna's turn to stare and then rapidly blink.

“They didn't say you had a problem with words.” Dagna frowned.

“Trade words not Ara's words.” Ara said with a sheepish look, feeling a little self conscious about her method of speaking. She had picked up enough of the language but she had started to get a little lazy with the proper grammar.

“Oh! Like... you're just learning?” Dagna suddenly grinned. “I am totally going to help you with that. Although for starters, when you're referring to yourself you don't use your name. You say I, me, my and mine.”

“No one said anything.”

Everyone had been teaching her words but no one had bothered to correct her.

“They were probably waiting for you to realize it.” Dagna said with a small shrug. “Or it wasn't as important as teaching you the basics like chair, floor, and so on.”

“You teach I?” Ara asked hopefully. She could still learn from the others but there was something about Dagna that made the orc want to have her as a friend and if not a friend, then it was an excuse to stick near her and learn from someone new.

“Me. Teach me.” Dagna grinned. “And of course. But you have to promise me that you'll show me your armour.”

“You not see it?” Ara asked in surprise.

“Of course not!” Dagna looked almost incensed at the idea. “It's your armour, isn't it?”

“Yes.”

“Exactly. Your armour, your enchantment, your things. I don't touch without permission.”

“Ara... I go get.” Ara said.

“Really? I can look at it now?” Dagna looked like she was a little kid that had just been given every sweet roll in the shop.

“Yes, I go get armour. You wait here.” Ara motioned to the bench before putting aside the half made shield and hurrying from the undercroft.

She made her way out into the main part of the hall but ignored everyone else around her.

There were still those people in the fancy clothing that looked down their noses at her and a few more guards then earlier. It looked like little had happened during the time she had been below but it was only noticed in passing.

She saw Varric standing in his corner with a new table resting against the wall. Papers already lined the top of it, some of them weighted down with stones. She guessed he had more papers elsewhere and books. It reminded her she still needed to ask him for his books.

“Hey Ara,” Varric said as she approached.

“Varric!” Ara stopped next to him. “Where Ar-my, where my armour?”

They had not given her things back to her since she woke up and she had not really cared much to look for them until now. It was not like they were really capable of doing anything with the armour as it fit no one else in the Inquisition.

“Oh, right.” He jerked his thumb towards the door behind him. “Solas has your stuff. I thought he would have given it back to you by now.”

She had hoped he would have it but she was apparently not that lucky. The anger bubbled back up but she was determined not to let it get the better of her. Not when she had a hyper-active enchanter to show things to.

Ara nodded her thanks to Varric and hurried through the door. She ignored the curious look on the dwarf's face as she stomped her way down the hall and into the rotunda.

This was the first time she had been in here since he had taken over the place and she intended to make it the last. She did get a quick look around as she approached his desk, and she easily made out the beginnings of a fresco on the nearby wall. She had no idea what the design was going to be and it was just another thing she instantly ignored.

Solas was sitting calmly in his chair, one hand resting on a book while looking away from the door she had come in through.

Ara suddenly wondered if he had not noticed her arrival at all or if he was trying to ignore her. The latter irritated her even more.

“Solas.” She said as she came to a stop in front of the table.

“Ara?” He sounded both surprised and hopeful but his expression was guarded.

“Where my armour?” She demanded.

“In the box over there.” He motioned absently to a series of boxes laid against the wall but went quickly silent afterwards.

She said nothing and began rummaging through them. Most of the boxes were full of random things to be put away. Some books, a few candles, a cushion and then her armour wedged in a box with a rug.

Ara took everything that was not her's out of the box, placing them in some other random boxes, before she got to her feet. She glanced back at him but could do little more then glare at the elf.

“Can we-” Solas went to speak.

“No.” Ara cut him off and was back out the door. She did not want to talk to him as standing in his presence made her want to break things and she was certain Ellana would get upset if she broke Skyhold... or the other elf.

She could hear him talking as she left and part of him wanted to shout at him that she was not going to talk with him. Then she heard Cole speak.

Something she found strange as she had not seen the young man in the rotunda or heard him enter it. She was not sure why but she felt a sudden chill go up her spine. It was a thought she pushed from her mind as she briskly walked back to the undercroft.

She smiled warmly at Varric as she passed and the dwarf nodded back at her but said nothing to attract her attention.

No one tried to stop her as she strode through the hall. Not even a peep from those strange people in flamboyant outfits. Apparently, all one had to do to get through without harassment was to look busy.

Dagna was still waiting for her down in the smithy, she had remained sitting on the same place on the bench. She turned to look at Ara before hastily wolfing down the bit of bread in her hand.

“Is that it?” Dagna asked around her mouthful of food. “Is that your armour?”

Ara nodded as she set the box down and pulled out the chest piece. She left the rest in the crate and carried over the largest piece to Dagna. It was the largest piece but it had been the one that had taken the most time to forge.

She was kind of proud of it. Not that she would admit that out loud.

“Oh my.” Dagna practically squealed as she took the chest piece and ran her hand over the sculpted design on the front of it. “You made this? This is magnificent! I've seen dwarven make that isn't this good! Oh oh!”

Ara just stared at the woman as she continued to run her hand over the metal. Dagna seemed utterly thrilled by the piece of daedric armour and turned it this way and that.

Ara tried really hard not to look pleased with herself at the compliments.

“There aren't any runes on it?” She sounded almost unsure, still excited but very unsure. “And it doesn't... doesn't seem to be made with lyrium.”

“Lyrium?” Ara questioned. “What lyrium?”

“You've never seen lyrium?” Dagna asked in surprise. “The Inquisitor is a mage, isn't she? Those little blue vials they have, that's a potion made with lyrium.”

“No, never seen.” Ara answered truthfully. She had never seen any of the mages use lyrium potions. She had assumed that they had mana potions like the ones back in Nirn as the health potions seemed to be the same, if nastier tasting.

“Oh well, lyrium is used in a lot of things. It restores a mage's mana, to make enchantments and the templars take it to help them fight mages...” She paused before pulling a small round object from her pocket and handing it out towards Ara. “Here, this is an enchantment rune. See, it's different then yours.”

Ara took the object and turned it over in her hand. It was small and almost looked like a stone but there was a fancy foreign symbol carved in red on it. There was a strange glow radiating from it. She thought the glow was red but she could almost swear that it was blue at the same time.

She found herself staring at it and the more she stared, the more she was certain she heard something. A small humming at the edge of her hearing that sounded almost familiar. A sound that should have been comforting but sounded just a little off.

She was not even sure what sounded wrong about it, she just knew that the sound was not supposed to be in that shape.

“...for weapons.” Dagna continued speaking before suddenly waving her hand in front of Ara's face. “Hey! Are you even listening? Are you there Arakash?”

Ara blinked and shook her head several times. It suddenly felt like she was coming up from under water as if the noise from the rune stone had completely overtaken everything else. The noise disappeared the moment she was no longer paying attention to the enchantment rune.

A quick look at Dagna made it clear that she did not hear the noise that she did so Ara said nothing.

“Sorry. You saying?” Ara quickly handed the stone back.

“This is a fire enchantment for weapons.” Dagna said her face developing the beginning of a frown. “It's made using lyrium. Normally only dwarves deal with making lyrium into enchantments because it an have an adverse effect on others. Drives them crazy.”

“Where lyrium from?” Ara asked.

“It's mined. Dwarves have a mining caste that does that alone.” Dagna quickly pocketed the enchantment. “Well, there are rumours that the Qunari have been mining some of it on their own but I don't know how well that's working.”

Ara was glad that Dagna put away the stone as she felt calmer with it gone. She did not even realize she had tensed up while holding the stone.

“Your enchantment on this isn't with lyrium is it?” Dagna said before Ara say a thing. “I mean, it doesn't feel like lyrium. I've never felt any kind of enchantment like this before.”

“No, not lyrium.” Ara paused and wondered how the woman would react. “It made with stone... “ She paused again. A look of frustration crossing over her face as she tried to think of the proper word. “No, not stone. Uh...” She glanced around before snagging one of the mage's staffs that had been unpacked. Pointing at the top of the staff where a small purple stone was set. “This. Like this.”

“Crystal?” Dagna provided although she looked sceptical. “I don't think it's made with a mage's focusing crystal.”

“No. Not mage's. Different crystal.” Ara nodded as she returned the staff to where she found it. “Special.”

“I have a few crystals if you want to look at them?” Dagna looked hopeful. “Perhaps see if any of them are like what you used?”

“Not here.” Ara frowned and shook her head. “A... I from far. Far far away. No crystal here.”

“Never say never.” Dagna said with a grin. “I mean, if it exists where you're from then it has to exist here as well.”

Ara sincerely doubted that but then she did not want to share with Dagna that she was from another world. She had already made the mistake of sharing that with Solas who was clearly not to be trusted.

She shoved the thoughts about the elf away before it ruined the good mood from Dagna's company.

“Maybe.” Ara finally said with a shrug.

“So what kind of enchantment do you have on this?” Dagna asked as she stared back down at the chest piece.

“It... “ Ara tried to think of any word to use to explain it but nothing came to mind. In a bit of an eureka moment, she remembered the health potions that Ellana had forced her to drink. “It like red potion.”

“You mean it makes you heal faster?” Dagna sounded amazed and turned the chest piece over again. “Is this on all of your gear?”

“No,” Ara shook her head. “Boots make steps silent. Gloves carry more.”

“Oh wow. I've never heard of that kind of enchantment before.” Dagna looked somewhere between in awe and like this was the best day ever. “Do you think you could recreate those kinds of enchantments?”

“Need crystal.” Ara had known that question was coming. That was the only reason they would want to know about her enchanting. Obtaining more of it for whatever battles they had to wage.

She discovered that she did not really have a problem with explaining it to Dagna as she seemed genuinely curious about it. And there was a big difference between explaining and actually doing it.

Although, she certainly would not mind if Dagna did find soul gems as that meant she would be able to make new armour for herself that did not have a giant hole in it.

“We can look into those later. I can even ask a few of my contacts for rarer crystals.” Dagna nodded more to herself. “Oh... do you think that maybe those crystals you're talking about could be Lyrium crystals?”

“Don't know.” Ara answered truthfully. “Will know if see.”

“I'll see about getting one of those too then. Until then, I can show you my things.”

“Your things?” Ara questioned.

“Only fair. You showed me yours and I did say I would, right?” Dagna said with a grin as she passed the chest piece back. She got up with another bounce and went to that table where all the strange tools were laid out.

There were various drawers and Dagna began opening them. She pulled out crystal after crystal, laying them out on top of the table. She hummed a tune to herself as she placed them all there before finally motioning Ara over to take a look.

Some of the crystals looked like they had been carefully shaped while others looked like they had just been carved from the rock. Some even had bits of stone still clinging to them.

“These are focusing crystals for mage staffs, just unrefined.” Dagna said as she motioned to the first group of crystals. “And these ones are from when my people used to make golems. They could use these to make the golems far stronger.”

“What golem?” Ara asked, not recognizing the words

“Oh, right. Forgot you wouldn't know.” Dagna said with a sheepish look. “Golems are like statues only they move and can do things that a person can. They don't quite like look people but they're close. I saw one when I was younger but I think that was the only one.”

“Oh like Dwemer Centurion.” Ara said with a nod, saying the words in her own trade language.

“What is dwa-meer sent-orin?” Dagna asked in confusion.

“Sorry.” Ara wrinkled her nose. “It Dwemer Centurion.” She said again, carefully pronouncing the words. “Dwemer... are people. They made statues, Centurions. Huge but move like people.”

She wished she could explain it further but even she did not understand the Dwemer and their mechanical creations. Of course, she did know how to easily destroy one but that was about it.

She was also not certain they would believe her if she really described what a Centurion was capable of. Nearly twice her height, made of metal and capable of killing any person foolhardy enough to attempt pillaging the Dwemer ruins.

She had a brief moment of home sickness and scouring those ruins with Faendal but it was another thought she quickly shoved aside.

“I've never heard of these Dwemer.” Dagna said thoughtfully. “Are they your people?”

“No. No no.” Ara shook her head, chuckling a little before she spoke. “I Orc. Dwemer all gone.”

“Oh.” She sounded almost dejected.

“Lots Dwemer ruins.” She hoped that would cheer up Dagna even if there was no way for the woman to ever see the ruins herself. “Many ruins. Deep under Skyrim.”

Dagna seemed to think that over. Ara had no idea what was going on in the dwarf's mind but the woman was clearly thinking that little bit of information over. Apparently something about the Dwemer was important to Dagna but Ara could not think of a thing other then curiosity.

“I would love to look at them one day. Especially if they have golems like my people did.” Dagna finally said. “It's a shame that we can't talk with any.”

Ara almost laughed out loud at that. Of all the things she had wanted to do while traversing Dwemer ruins, talking with one of them had been far from it.

“Do they use crystals too? The ones like your enchantment?” Dagna cheered up almost immediately as she fixated on something else to discuss.

“Yes. Least... think so.” Ara made a face before looking back at the crystals. There was one that was off to the side that caught her attention as it seemed different then the others. “What that one?”

“That one?” Dagna asked before picking it up and turning it over in her hands a few times. “Oh, this one is a dwarven memory crystal.”

“Memory crystal?”

“Yes, it can record things for you. Like you speak into it and then later, you can use it to hear yourself or whatever it is that you recorded.”

Ara stared at it for a few minutes before thinking about that strange dream earlier. She considered then that perhaps that was what Bull heard. A voice from a memory crystal repeating the thu'um that took out the whole room.

“Possible hold memories? Like... large memories?” Ara asked, trying her best to word the question without revealing what she had experienced. “Let you see more and hear?”

“With a crystal?” Dagna frowned as she thought it over. “Perhaps... maybe with a really strong one. Though that sounds a lot more like what the Shapers do.”

“Shapers?

“It's a dwarf thing.” Dagna explained. “Shapers of Memories. They record their own memories on the wall of memories in the Orzammar Shaperate. They use lyrium for that too.”

Ara could not help but stare as she worked that over in her mind. A wall of memories made with lyrium. Perhaps that was what she saw down there.

“Why do you ask?” Dagna queried.

“Curious.” Ara said with a small nod. “Helpful way share things.”

“That's true, it would be a helpful way to share knowledge.” Dagna agreed. “Unfortunately, contact with the memories might prove harmful for anyone that's not a dwarf. The lyrium after all. And the Shaperate rarely lets outsiders even into the building let alone examine any of it. That being said, any dwarf that is not casteless or exiled is permitted access to their collective knowledge. Everything from ancient dwarven history to the marriage records of Orzammar.”

Ara noticed the way Dagna explained it, how she stressed a few words and did not quite meet Ara's eyes when she mentioned casteless and exiled.

“Dagna not live Orzammar?” Ara asked even if she had no clue what Orzammar actually was.

“No, not for a long time.” Dagna said with a small smile. “I'm considered exiled. I used to be of the smith caste though.”

“Dagna smith?” Ara asked and could not help but feel a little excited. The only smiths here had been human and while Dagna was not an orc, it was better then nothing. Especially if they had smith castes, even if Ara was not entirely sure what the word caste meant.

“Yes, although I'm not sure I'm as good as you are if your armour is any indication.” Dagna laughed as she motioned towards the chest piece. “And I usually stick to making enchantments these days.”

“Can Dagna show me how?” Ara was suddenly quite interested in the practice.

“Sure!” Whatever unhappiness plagued the dwarf faded the moment Ara asked. “But if you start feeling strange, tell me immediately, okay?”

“Okay, sure!” Ara nodded enthusiastically.

Everything was forgotten as Ara watched Dagna make an enchantment rune. The wall, Bull knowing things about her, Solas' betrayal and her lack of quarters were all forgotten as she just watched and learned.

Dagna only used a small amount of lyrium, and did not allow her to actually touch the stuff or come within two feet of it. Seeing the lyrium did not bother her in the least but she did hear that hum again. Soft and barely there as Dagna worked with it. It was strange that the noise sounded right when it was not formed into anything but then sounded just a little off when it was used for the rune.

It was stranger still how the sound comforted her.

 

Chapter Text

Solas sat at his desk and tried to focus on the book that lay open before him. It was some Tevinter chronicle about ancient elvhen ruins. The book should have been fascinating for him. A tale of a place the elvhen settled after the fall of Elvhenan but he could not focus on it. He could not focus on anything today it seemed.

His mind was utter chaos after the events that had transpired over the past few weeks.

Starting with the closing of the Breach and nearly losing both Ellana and Ara to the blizzard. He had not expected that the possibility of losing the two would affect him so badly.

Then they came riding out of the storm on a spirit of Hope and he did not know what to think. Especially when one recovered and the other did not.

He had been distraught in a way that he had not known in years when he had learned that Ara suffered from red lyrium poisoning. He had searched the fade for days for her mind but found nothing and then he sought a cure when that failed.

It was only when Wisdom intervened and told him that she would wake that he finally felt a sense of relief. He trusted in his friend and knew the spirit would not lie to him about it.

The rest of the time since then was plotting just telling her that he was Fen'Harel and that he was responsible for what had befallen Thedas. He was going to tell her everything. The orb, Corypheus, his part in the Breach, even what he was to Ellana's people.

He just wanted to have someone know and he had been so damned sure she would willingly accept him. She had experienced similar in her own life.

Yet things had not gone the way he had hoped.

She had avoided him since they arrived in Skyhold and then she outright rejected him when he started explaining himself. He had not even gotten to the worst parts of his past before she looked like she was about to physically hurt him.

Her reaction was far worse then he had expected and now he regretted that foolish notion. He knew she would not accept him if she could not accept that his travels in her dreams was to satisfy his curiosity and then find a way to help her.

He wondered now how long it would be before she told the Inquisitor everything. That was something he would have to prepare for. He had already considered leaving before she got the chance but he knew there was no point. Ellana would not make the connection to his true identity.

If anything, the Dalish First would laugh it off and call him a fool pretending to be something he was not. That was even if Ara could fully explain it in her clipped trade tongue.

“She won't tell.” Cole said, suddenly appearing next to the desk. “It's not her secret.”

“I am not so sure of that, Cole.” Solas said as he glanced up at the spirit. He was not surprised that Compassion would show up when he felt utterly miserable. His thoughts were bitter, full of anger and regret.

“She won't.” Cole said again. “She hurts but she won't tell.”

Solas sighed and closed his eyes. He did not want to hear about how Ara was hurting from his admittance of what he had done. Clearly she did not hurt as badly as he did if Compassion had decided to show up where he was instead of trying to sooth her.

Regardless, he was glad that there was enough space between them and the library above that no Tevinter mages overheard what he and the spirit discussed there.

“She knows why. Could not learn, could not understand.” Cole continued. “But it still hurts. Lied. This entire time. Lies.”

“Why are you here?” Solas asked simply. His voice was not harsh but he guessed the spirit had a purpose.

“You need to try harder.” Cole said, those bright blue eyes staring intently from under his hat. “She won't see me but she sees you. You can help.”

“Help? Help in what way?”

“She is lost. So very lost.” Cole's voice became sad. “She doesn't know how lost she is.”

“Do you know how lost she is?” Solas asked, uncertain what the spirit was getting at. He knew that Ara was not from Thedas, that she was not from this world but that mattered little when he was no where near close to finding a way to get her back to her Skyrim.

“Yes.” Cole answered but did not explain further.

“And?” Solas prompted.

Cole had gone completely still and did not look at Solas. It seemed like the spirit was actually looking through him.

“He knows too.”

“Who knows?” Solas suddenly remembered what Ara had said. That she had mentioned the dark haired elf. His feelings were pushed aside as he asked about that potential threat. “Do you know who he is?”

“Yes.” Cole said.

“Cole, who is he?”

“He is...” Cole looked a little frantic as if thinking of the man was difficult for the spirit. “To know true form from false.”

Solas stared at the spirit. The words were confusing but he was certain he had heard them before. A very long time ago. Perhaps something he read in a book or words of a spirit from the days of Elvhenan.

“If you cannot tell me who he is then at least tell me what he intends with Ara.” Solas moved to rest a hand on the spirit's shoulder, his voice becoming urgent but hopeful. A change in questions may get him the answer he sought. “Does he intend her harm?”

“No. He wants to help.” Cole said again, once more becoming still as if Solas' hand was a tether to calmness. “He wants her to find her away but he's afraid.”

“Afraid? What is he afraid of?”

Whatever answer Cole was about to give was suddenly cut off as Ara stomped into the rotunda. There was nothing kind in her face as she practically shouted at him.

“Solas.” His name sounded rough and angry in her voice.

“Ara?” He tried to hide his surprise and for a brief moment, he hoped she was here to continue their conversation. He did not let his emotions show as he looked at her.

“Where my armour?” She dashed that little hope in him as quickly as it came.

“In the box over there.” He pointed towards the crates that were piled near the wall.

He knew full well which box held her things but he said nothing as she wandered over to them. He could see the anger in every move. The tenseness of her shoulders, the way she haphazardly shoved everything around and then again when she stood up and gave him a parting glare.

He remembered what Cole had said and knew he had to try. If it was important to the spirit, then there had to be a reason to try and regain her trust.

It would also assuage his own pain and guilt.

“Can we-” Solas started to speak.

“No.” That single word practically barked at him before she was carrying one box off down the hall and away.

“She is angry.” Cole said, sounding almost surprised. “The hammer. She threw it.”

“She threw a hammer?” Solas asked as he recalled the smithing hammer she had been clutching when he arrived in the smithy. If she had hit something with that, she could have done some serious damage below.

“Yes. She was angry. So angry. Red drowning everything out.” Cole seemed to shudder. “I want to help but she won't let me. Won't see me.”

Solas wondered exactly how angry she had been if it was enough to affect the spirit this badly.

“You have said that before. What do you mean?” Solas turned to him.

“She doesn't want to see me. It's not like you. You want to see me. So you see me.” Cole stared down the hallway that Ara had taken. “Even if I try, she won't see. Refuses to see. She doesn't like it that I know but she doesn't know that she doesn't like it.”

“She can't see you.” He repeated it to himself even as the realization set in. Ara could not see Cole. He knew that others could not see Cole if the spirit wished it but he had never thought it was possible for someone to actually block out the spirit from being there. “But then how does she see Hope?”

“She sees him but she does not see him.” Cole responded. “He is a good horse. Hope saw what she needed and he became. Hope makes it easier. She see me when she sees Hope.”

Solas sat back in his chair, his hand resting against his chin as he considered that. He knew very little about the form Hope had taken, a ghostly horse that Ara had called Arvak, but the fact that a spirit of Hope had been done the same thing Cole had done was far more interesting.

There were other times when spirits had crossed over willingly but he did not know of any that had done as Hope had done and taken on the appearance of a horse from another world. It was another peculiarity that he had no answer for.

“She was dying. Ara didn't want her to die.” Cole said softly.

Solas thought he meant Ara at first but the rest of the words chilled him. Ellana had been lost in that snow and it had been Ara that brought her to the camp while riding Hope. Perhaps the dragonborn had done far more then she realized when she had tried to keep Ellana warm with magic.

“And Ara was not suffering?” Solas asked.

“Not like her. Won't die in the cold. Won't die to the snow.” Cole responded, his head tilting as he spoke but his eyes seemed to look through Solas again. “She refused to give up so they burned her.”

“W... what?” Solas had no idea what that was supposed to mean. Spirits were cryptic beings, especially so in this era of Thedas but even that was a little beyond him. Especially without any context.

“Why did you ask Wisdom about her?” Cole asked as his startlingly blue eyes snapped back to look at Solas.

“Because I wanted to know the truth.” Solas said with a sigh as the spirit jumped to a completely other topic.

Solas knew Cole was referring to his meeting in the fade with Wisdom, that frantic moment when Ara had been unconscious for several days and he genuinely thought she was going to die. Solas frowned as he thought of it.

“You thought she was going to die?” Cole suddenly looked thoughtful. “But you knew... you didn't know. You don't. You don't know. How do you not know?”

Solas stared at the spirit. He had no idea what that could possibly mean.

“What don't I know, Cole?” He prompted and hoped the spirit would answer him. If there was something important that he had missed over the centuries, then Cole had to tell him.

He was discovering that he did not like puzzles half as much as he thought in his old age especially if he did not have all the pieces.

“What the hell did you say to her, Chuckles?!” Varric's voice from the door brought his attention to the dwarf that had managed to slip in unnoticed.

Out of the corner of his eye, Solas realized that Cole had made a quick retreat. He would have to continue his questioning of the spirit another time. That only made him more frustrated with the situation.

“Excuse me?” Solas asked, startled by the dwarf's outburst.

“Ara. What did you say to her earlier?” Varric had crossed his arms.

“What gives you the impression that I said something to her?” Solas kept his voice calm.

“When I told her you had her things, she looked at me like I had tried to feed her something rotten.” Varric said tersely. “So, what did you say to her?”

“Nothing of importance.” Solas said with an idle wave of his hand. “We had a differing of opinions and she has seemed to take it to heart.”

“Then you better apologize to her.” Varric uncrossed his arms.

Solas quirked an eyebrow at the reaction from the dwarf. It seemed that the others had warmed up to the orc far more then he realized. .

“I will try.” Solas responded with an honest tone. “But it will take time before she allows me.”

“Good.” Varric gave him a pointed look. “Next time, use more tact. She understands far more then you give her credit for.”

Solas almost laughed. The dwarf had no idea how much Ara actually understood.

“I will take your advice to heart.” Solas said with a nod. “Is that all, Master Tethras?”

“For now but I'm watching you, Chuckles.” Varric said with a huff before wandering back to his part of Skyhold.

Solas was just glad that the man had not decided to push it further. He was not in the mood to deal with an accusation of any sort when all he had done was tell the truth.

He leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table and resting his head in his hands.

This day was just becoming more and more disastrous. Cole had given him no answers, only added more questions. Varric now assumed the worst for whatever conversation he imagined. And Ara probably hated him now.

He did not understand why she could not just see that he was telling her the whole truth and sharing more with her then he had with anyone in centuries. Even Felassan had not been told as much as Solas wanted to tell the Dragonborn.

Felassan had never been able to understand what it was like. Not in the way he was certain Ara could understand.

He did not want to admit to himself that her knowing, her understanding, was important to him. Nor did he want to admit that getting her home was something he was determined to accomplish. One last good act before he destroyed everything in Thedas for the sake of his people.

Sighing, he let his mind slip into that trance that allowed him to enter the fade. He thought about searching for Ara but he knew she would not be sleeping and quite frankly he was frightened of seeing her in the fade.

Especially after his attempt earlier had been shattered when she had used a thu'um in her sleep. It had rattled him to his very core but yet it was another thing he had not been able to address, not with her and not with Cole.

He only hoped he would find Wisdom and that his friend would be capable of giving him the answers he so desperately wanted.



It took no time to find Wisdom wandering the fade in a place that mirrored the Exalted Plains. The spirit had taken on the form of an elvhen woman in shape but bore no distinctive features. A glow surrounded the spirit and made it appear friendly.

The spirit waved at him as he approached. An odd gesture but something it had done ever since he had found it the first time.

Ah, my friend, what brings you to me during the day?” Wisdom asked, the words falling easily into the ancient elvhen the world had once spoke. They usually only met during the night as it was dangerous for him to enter the trance with so many suspicious beings around.

I have questions.” Solas answered as he moved to sit near Wisdom, sighing in simple pleasure at hearing his own language even if it was just within the fade.

They could have conversed in any language and understood the other but there was something wonderful about hearing the language he had been born to.

Don't you always?” Wisdom laughed. “It is about the one you call Ara, is it not?”

Wisdom was as perceptive as always.

Yes.” Solas said with a nod. “I... revealed some of what I am to her.”

She did not take it well, I assume?”

She did not.” He sighed but did not let the fade reflect his inner turmoil. “She reacted badly when she learned I had been within her dreams.”

You did enter them without her permission.” Wisdom said simply as if that answer was already evident to the spirit and should have been for him.

I did not expect her to be aware when I first started.”

Yet you knew for each other time and continued to do so.”

There was no change in tone in Wisdom's voice but he still felt chastised.

Perhaps things would have been different if he had tried to explain it to Ara instead of just continuing. He had explained somewhat to Ellana about his abilities but he had never considered trying to do so with Ara.

He just believed it was better to wait and tell her everything at once.

I had hoped she would understand.”

But it was still a thing you did not ask, my friend.” Wisdom shook it's head.

You are right, I did not ask.” He sighed. “But that is not why I am here. She has spoken of a dark haired elf within her dreams and Compassion would not answer me who he was.”

And you think I will answer?” Wisdom asked, it's head tilting as it looked at him with an almost curious expression.

Yes. Do you know who it is?”

Yes, I know.” Wisdom answered.

Then who?” Solas asked, not liking that he had to prompt for an answer.

It is not mine to tell.” Wisdom shook it's head again but the tone was almost sad.

Why not?” He demanded of his friend.

Because he asked me not to.” Wisdom said simply.

You know this elvhen as well then?”

I do.” Wisdom responded.

I need to meet with him, to discover what his intentions are with her and whether it affects what I must do.” Solas said as he got to his feet.

It is not so simple.” Wisdom actually sighed at him. “I cannot say if it will affect your goals but it is not intentional if it does. He intends to guide the dovahkiin on the path when he can.”

Guide her? To what ends?” Solas frowned as he noticed Wisdom's use of the word dovahkiin. He had never once said it when he questioned Wisdom of Ara and her origins. He had always used the elvhen words for dragon and born, but Wisdom had used the actual dovahzul word. A word he had heard Ara speak in her own dream.

The dovahkiin has a task that must be completed.” Wisdom seemed to hedge it's words, just as Cole had done earlier.

They both revealed just enough to drive him mad instead of actually giving him the information he sought.

Do you know what this task is?” He asked, feeling like he was chasing his friend's thoughts in a circle.

The task is known to me, yes.”

What is this task?”

The dovahkiin must find a way to stop...” Wisdom suddenly paused, thinking over his request. “Come to the place the humans call the Exalted Plains. There is a place here. The Dalish Elvhen call it Var Bellanaris.”

Our Eternity.

Solas guessed that it was either a burial ground or where their ancestors had once gone to uthenera. Or perhaps even both as time changed the Dalish.

He noted that his friend had chosen not to explain what Ara was supposed to stop but then he knew about her quest against the High Dragon Alduin. That being must be somehow tied into everything as Corypheus was not her's to fight.

What is so important about that place?” Solas asked.

Spirits linger there.” Wisdom said. “You will find what you need to search for your answers.”

But not the answers themselves?” He quirked an eyebrow but knew he could ask little more then that of the spirit. He did not like that they were all being so elusive about answering his questions.

Those will take time, my friend.” Wisdom said with an almost sad smile.

It was clear to him that the spirit knew more. Perhaps knew everything but he did not want to press it further. It could simply disappear and never return to speak with him if he did that.

Very well, I will go to the Exalted Plains.”

Good. Ensure that she accompanies you.”

Why would she need to come as well?” He found himself asking.

Do you think she would believe you if you discovered answers about her?” Wisdom chuckled at him. “It would be best if she was there to hear what you may discover.”

He could not help but agree with the spirit. Ara's attitude towards him would only worsen if he came at her with new information about herself instead of letting her learn it as he did. If she was there when they visited this Var Bellanaris, then she would hear or read this information first hand.

He hoped it would be the former and that they would find a spirit who would explain what he needed to know.

I also recommend you tell her the truth when she finally does ask.”

I tried that.” Solas groaned.

Do as Compassion says. Try harder.”

The spirit faded away at those words, leaving him to himself in this part of the fade.

Solas remained sitting there, thinking over what had been said and what he had learned. He was still no closer to his answers but at least now he had an idea of where to look for them.

He ignored the part of himself that wondered why Wisdom had never mentioned Var Bellanaris when he had questioned the spirit earlier. Wisdom had to have had it's reasons even if he could not think of a single one.



Solas roused himself from the trance and hurried to find the Inquisitor.

She did not question him when he mentioned a need to travel to the Exalted Plains. She seemed more surprised then anything as apparently, she had been planning on travelling there anyway. She did not argue either when he suggested Ara would enjoy the trip.

It seemed that only Varric and Cole were aware of the tension between the teacher and student. Something he was surprisingly grateful for.

Solas knew how castles worked. One word or phrase spoken the wrong way would send rumours through the entire Keep. He would have found it entertaining to hear the stories about the other members of the Inquisition but he did not want to hear things about himself.

No doubt they were already spinning tales of the strange elvhen apostate who bent the Inquisitor's ear with his tales of the fade.

He returned to the rotunda before deciding to venture to the library. There, he found a few books regarding the Exalted Plains and one that was specifically about the elvhen that had settled there. He knew that it was part of the Dales, a fact he had learned in his time in uthenera.

He simply did not know why Var Bellanaris, a Dalish place, was important when it came to a world lost Orc.

 

Chapter Text

Ara was a bit surprised when Ellana asked her to accompany them to a place called the Exalted Plains. She was even more surprised to find that Solas was going as well.

She half expected him to tell Ellana to keep her at the keep but he said nothing. Which was completely okay but just as surprising as the five of them going.

For the entire trip, she ignored the elf and spent most of her time with Varric and Bull. Any time Solas tried to talk to her, she simply ignored him or urged her horse closer to someone else to talk to them. She knew it was childish but she was still uncertain of what to do with him.

Nearly the entire trip, Varric and Bull talked about a place called Kirkwall, a city that Varric called home. She did not understand it all but there were also things about a book and more Qunari and fighting. Ara ended up zoning out of that conversation by the time they really got into it. Especially when they started talking about a guy or a bird. She really was not sure.

Some where around day three, she learned that they were venturing there because Ellana's spymaster was concerned about the quiet of the troops in the Plains.

Ara really had no idea what that had to do with them as she did not believe the Inquisition actually had any people there.

Varric had explained that night that it was not their troops that they were concerned about but the ones that belonged to Orlais. An explanation that only brought more questions and eventually a rather detailed and even more boring explanation about Orlesian politics.

Apparently, there was an Empress and a Grand Duke – she guessed Grand must mean bigger or more important – who were all fighting over the throne of Orlais. An elf was thrown in for good measure. It turned out that the soldiers were either on the side of the Empress or the Duke but all communication with the forces had simply ceased.

Ara assumed it was a waste of time. The two forces probably just eliminated each other but she did not say that out loud. Clearly Ellana thought it was important enough to go.

She just let Varric and Bull talk out what was going on in the Exalted Plains and Orlais in general. Then Solas had to get involved and the three of them started bickering like old fish wives.

It was around the time they were discussing the most recent issue with Orlais that she drifted off by the fire.

 

 

She perched on the edge of the cliff and watched as the humans below her went about their tasks.

They were small and nearly insignificant but they served a purpose. They served her. They carried out her will where she could not go.

She felt so limited despite being a dragon of great age. Reduced to relying on these humans to act.

She stretched out her crimson wings as she watched. A small breeze sliding across her scales was barely noticed as she turned her gaze towards the nearby temple. A building carved from solid rock that held many secrets within.

Centuries had come and gone since she first began her attempt at entering the temple. Centuries of failing and having to rely on these mortals below her. These joore with their short lives had been easy to sway and now they carried out her will of defeating the guardian within.

The mere thought of the ghostly figure within made her blood boil and she turned to stare at the temple with a hiss.

The Guardian had hampered her from the beginning. An undying foe that kept her from succeeding in her task. He was as fanatical in his devotion as she was in her own.

The fool had no idea what it was he was guarding or the true reason she had taken up residence outside his door. He merely assumed that she sought to befoul the shrine he guarded.

There were a thousand other places befitting a dragon like her but no, she had to be here. There were no others that were strong enough or even knew what was at stake. It would take the blood of a High Dragon to do what was needed and she was one of the last, if not last of them. It had to be her. She had to restore the blood within.

Her thoughts were suddenly startled away to the trio that came from within the cave leading down the mountain. They carried weapons and were covered in blood. Their wary eyes danced across the ground in front of them but none looked up to where she perched.

Rage coloured her mind as instinct told her that it had to be the blood of her children but another thought won out.

These were not her servants.

They could enter the temple.

She steeled her mind against her desire for revenge as she watched. It seemed that they had the intention of venturing into the temple. There was no other reason for people to visit the village below and then attempt the journey through the caves. There was no treasure to be found at this temple.

She saw the leader of her joore, a man who bowed willingly, move towards them. The wind carried away their words but she knew he asked what she had just thought.

Humans had their uses.

Some agreement must have been struck as they ventured beyond and into the temple proper. She watched as her servant handed a small vial to the three.

It was enough to get her to patiently wait. If they succeeded, she would know.

They would all know. The very air would shake with their success.

Time continued to slowly tick by but she was patient. A few more hours made little difference when she had been here for centuries.

She waited.

Then, they were marching back out of the temple again.

She could see the fatigue even from where she sat so high above them. They had clearly fought and perhaps defeated some creature or other but that did not matter.

There was no change the world around her, not even a ripple in that cursed veil, no sign that they had done anything to the ashes. It was the same as it had been for thousands of years.

She let out a draconic sigh as she turned away from them.

They had failed just like everyone else.

The sound of battle reached her ears but that too was ignored. If the joore from the village could not defeat three travellers then they were useless to her. She would find someone new to bow and scrape. There were always people travelling the roads and who would not bow to such majesty as herself?

Then came the sound of the gong and she turned with a snarl. Rage coloured her mind as she glared down at these interlopers.

How dare they?

They presume to summon her. Like she was some sort of pet?

With a growl, she launched herself into the air. Wing strength, and gravity, had her slamming to the ground with a thunderous crash.

Her wings spread as she reared up. Claws dug into the ground and her maw opened in a snarl to reveal horrendously sharp teeth.

Let these humans see their doom.

Only, they were not human. Not all of them anyway.

A second glance had her realizing two of these three were mer. They were elvhen. She could see their slight forms, the pointed ears and their eyes that held the barest spark of the old light.

That changed things. Perhaps all the old ways had not been lost. Perhaps they had come to seek her out as per the bargain made with Mythal so long ago.

She opened her mouth to speak when she smelled it.

The ashes.

It was not enough to be the full urn but they held some of it. They had desecrated the ashes. They had taken from the urn and now sought to leave with what they had stolen.

Instinct drove her. She had to get the bit they had taken. She had to return the ashes and pour her blood over all of it. Not just what remained.

“RUTH WAH NIVAHRIIN JOORRE!” She bellowed the words at them even as flame accompanied them.

None of them reacted to the words.

None of them could hear, none of them understood. Bitterness came with the realization that the elvhen had fallen far to no longer know the old words.

That bitterness mixed with rage as the battle was joined but she found herself outmatched by these three. They fought as one, weaving blows together in a way she had not seen since she was a hatchling.

They struck blow after blow onto her hide.

Mortally wounded, she refused to give in. Blood poured freely from her wounds but she would not surrender.

She rushed towards them. One last glorious effort to undo the damage that they had done to the urn and the ashes.

She had over estimated herself, her body moving sluggishly from those wounds. She had hoped to kill them with her final act in this waking world but she had simply lost too much in this battle.

Too late, she saw the largest elvhen swing his blade for her neck.

She felt the metal bite through her hide.

She felt it cut through bone.

 

Ara woke with a start, her hand reflexively going to her neck where she was certain she had been cut. Relief eased that overwhelming sense of panic that she did not quite understand.

Gradually, her senses came back to her and she realized she was sitting in the campsite with her back against a tree. Everything was as it should be. The tents of the scouts a little further away with the tent for the Inquisitor closer to the fire. The Inquisitor’s companions’ tents were between the them.

The fire had died down a little but she had clearly slept through most of the night as sky had begun to lighten with the first rays of dawn.

Then the dream came sliding back to her.

Her mouth went dry as she remembered what had unfolded in her sleep. That panic changed to an uneasiness that settled at the pit of her stomach.

She had been the dragon but she knew that it had not been her own form. It had felt too small to be the dragon form she dreamed about. Yet it had known dovahzul and had called the elves mer. No one else in this world had ever considered these elves as mer, save for her. Not even Solas who had stalked her in her dreams.

She considered waking him up to question him about what she had just seen but then came the realization.

She had recognized one of the three.

The man had been far younger then the other times she had seen him but she knew for certain that one of the men had been the King of Ferelden, someone she had seen more then once in her dreams. He had been far younger in this dream then the other and far less scarred then when she saw him in Redcliffe.

Her hand slid from her neck to rub at her face as she puzzled that over.

Ara had long since assumed that there was a point behind the dreams. There had been stories in Skyrim of beings using dreams to communicate some point or other and this Thedas was tied heavily to the realm of dreams.

She just had no idea what the message was supposed to be. She did not know about temples and dragons and ashes and the veil and red lyrium and just everything. This whole thing was a problem she could not solve.

She groaned to herself as she got to her feet. Ara stretched before wandering to the wood pile to get a few more sticks to coach the flames higher.

Ara had just settled the larger stick on the fire when she heard rustling from the nearby tents. Glancing up, she saw Solas exiting his tent with a rather concerned look on his face.

She braced herself as she expected him to come and try to have a conversation with her but instead, he hurried to Ellana's tent. It seemed he was not at all interested in speaking with her this morning. Clearly, he had not been invading her dream last night or else he would have brought it up to her.

“Wonder what's bothering Chuckles.” Varric's voice came from behind her and she turned to look at the dwarf, merely shrugging at him when it was clear the question was directed at her. She guessed he was referring to Solas but the name was a bit unusual.

“What’s bothering you then?” Varric asked when it was clear she was not going to answer beyond her shrug.

“Me?” Ara questioned him with a frown, wondering why it had suddenly turned towards talking about her.

“You two were thick as thieves and now you've been avoiding him for a few weeks. Hell, you've been avoiding him since we got back from Redcliffe.”

Ara had not realized that the dwarf had been paying that much attention to what was going on between her and Solas. She could not help the scowl that formed on her face.

“No concern.” She shook her head at him before quickly focusing more intently on the fire before her.

“Ara...” Varric started but she held up her hand to him, cutting whatever else was about to come out of his mouth.

“No. Nothing to know.” There was a bite to her words that she instantly regretted. She did not want to discuss anything about her issues with Solas, not when she was still so uncertain about it herself.

She saw the fleeting look of hurt that crossed over the dwarf's face but he went silent and did not ask again. He just sat at his usual place by the fire in an awkward silence that weighed heavily on them. She was never more grateful to hear Bull’s rough voice grumbling low behind them.

“It’s much too early to be about without reason.” The Qunari said as he moved to sit next to Varric. If he noticed the tension between the two of them, he said nothing and merely wore a cheery smile that seemed at odds with the annoyance in his voice.

“What’s the matter, Tiny? Didn’t sleep so well?” Varric asked, his voice once more the usual happy tone.

Ara breathed a sigh of relief at the change, glad that the dwarf was finding something else to focus on instead of her. She really did not mean to hurt his feelings but she did not know any polite way to get him to stop asking.

“Of course not, I’ve gotten used to the plush living with this Inquisition.” Bull responded with a laugh. “The comfy beds and the good food. Can’t beat it.”

“You mean that slightly better then porridge slop you’ve been eating at the Tavern?” Varric chuckled. “You know that’s just the leftovers from the day before thrown into the same pot, Tiny.”

“That’s what makes it great.” Bull continued to laugh. “Can’t beat a meal where you get it all at once.”

Ara listened to the two of them banter back and forth, Varric seemingly already forgetting his questions to her while Bull seemed quite content to just talk with the other man. It seemed the Qunari had picked up on the awkwardness as he made no effort to drag Ara into the conversation. She would have to thank him later for it but right now, she was just content to be silent and stare into the fire.

She mused over how the two of them talked to one another. They seemed like old friends despite having only met one another through the Inquisition.  It reminded her of home, of the Companions and of the friends she had made across Skyrim. She felt a bit of loneliness as she thought of Faendal and the others who had accompanied her into various ruins, and sat around campfires like this one.

“-don’t know what’s in it.” Varric said as Ara focused more on the conversation again. “Tiny, I don’t know how you can eat anything from in there.”

“Tiny?” Ara questioned, realizing that Varric had called Bull by that word several times. She knew it meant small but there was clearly some context she was missing as Bull was anything but small.

“It’s a nickname.” Varric explained while Bull started to chuckle. “Kind of like a short name.”

“But he… not tiny.” Ara made a face. There were a dozen other names she could have thought of for Bull and one based on his height was not among them.

“That’s kind of the point.” Bull’s smile was good natured as he explained. “What do you call some of the others?”

“Let’s see, there’s Buttercup, Sparkler, Kid…”

“You call someone butter in cup?” Ara was confused by the words he used, only truly recognizing kid out of all of them.

“No, no.” Varric shook his head. “Buttercup. It’s a flower. If we see one, I’ll point it out to you.”

“What nickname do you have for her?” Bull asked, cocking his eyebrow while motioning to Ara.

“Still trying to sort one out but I was thinking perhaps Dragon.”

Ara froze and tried her hardest not to let her face reflect the sudden apprehension that answered that possible nickname. She had no idea if Varric knew her secret or if this was something else. There was a long second where she feared Solas had revealed to the dwarf about her nature.

“Dragon?” Bull suddenly looked far more interested in the conversation. “Why Dragon?”

“Oh yeah… you weren’t there for that.” Varric said with a laugh before pointing at Ara. “Ara here, decided to try and take down a dragon on her lonesome.”

“Really?” Bull’s good eye was now focused completely on her.

“Yep. That little trip to get you and your mercenaries. She’d gone off and manage to antagonize a dragon.” Varric grinned. “She ran full tilt into the dragon’s head to keep it from cooking our illustrious leader. Pretty sure you saw the thing fly off in irritation.”

“Didn’t antagonize.” Ara glumly said although she was unfamiliar with that word. She just assumed it meant getting into a fight with the dragon. “Angry dragon.”

“As you’ve said,” Varric nodded before continuing his story for Bull. “We came out of the forest just in time to see the dragon about to breathe fire on Ellana when Ara knocked it off course. You should have seen the look on Solas’ face when he realized who it was that was staring down a dragon. Naked.”

Ara huffed, becoming more annoyed then relieved at this story. It was clear he did not know a thing about her being dragonborn, or if he did, he was keeping it to himself. Now he was just talking about this like it was something amazing when she had already stated that there was nothing spectacular about it.

If she had not stopped the dragon then it would have killed Ellana, she assumed the others would have done the same.

“Naked?” Bull asked in surprise.

Ara was not too sure she liked the look the Qunari gave her. It was too close to that strange look of awe that people had worn back in Skyrim when they realized just what she had been capable of.

“Not a strip of clothing or armour. She didn’t even have weapons.”

“That’s…either impressive or really crazy.” Bull said with a laugh before looking away almost politely. Like he did not want to intrude too much on looking at her.

That was just as unsettling as the awed look he had worn a few moments before. She had become accustomed to the man’s staring over the months they had known each other.

“Not that. Ellana in danger.” Ara said with a shrug as she looked over at Varric with an annoyed look. “Think something better. Not Dragon.”

“I think Dragon fits quite well.”

Solas’ voice from the other side of the campfire had all three of them whipping their heads in his direction just as quickly as his input came. Ara managed not to hiss out her frustration at the elf. She must have glared a little harder then she meant when he hastily spoke again while avoiding looking at her.

“Or perhaps something more suited to her smithing skills?” Solas said quickly but with the same tone. “I’m certain you can think of something clever for her, Master Tethras.”

“Because yelling ‘Smith’ doesn’t quite have the same sort of appeal as Dragon.” Bull said and everyone could hear the grin in his voice.

“I’ll think of something.” Varric said with a nod before jerking his head in the direction of Ellana’s tent. “You in a hurry with the Inquisitor this morning?”

“Yes… unfortunately.” Solas’ voice dropped a little. “I received word this morning about a friend needing our help. The Inquisitor has been kind enough to divert us to deal with the problem.”

Ara realized then how tense the elf was. The way his shoulders had hunched lower as he spoke and that brief change in volume. He hid his emotions well but there was no mistaking the body language. Not after she had spent the last few months staring at him to better understand what he was saying. She understood his body language quite well at this point.

“She will be along and we will be on our way shortly after that.” He said, almost curtly, before moving off to tend to his horse.

Ara watched him go before glancing back over at Varric and Bull. It was clear that the pair of them had noticed as well but no one wanted to go say anything to Solas. They even made a point to avoid looking in his direction as if neither of them wanted to go talk with him over this little issue.

Sighing to herself before muttering a vague curse in Orcish, Ara got to her feet and followed after her estranged friend. She heard the conversation start between the two of them as she walked and did not bother to explain where she was off to.

It was not hard to find Solas next to his horse and preparing the animal to ride for the day.

“Solas?” She called as she stepped up next to him.

“Ara?” He looked towards her in surprise, nearly dropping the pack he was carrying. That guilt was still there in his eyes but there was concern in his voice. “I… had not expected you to come.”

“Something bothers you?” She asked, keeping her voice polite.

“Yes.” He nodded. “We were to meet with a friend of mine, however, it seems they have disappeared.”

“Disappeared?” Ara frowned, not liking the sound of that.

“Yes…” He sighed. “It is a spirit, one of Wisdom that I often speak with. I felt it get pulled from the Fade during the night.”

“Oh. That why you wake early.” Ara nodded.

“The moment I realized they were not there, I went to tell Ellana.” Solas said with a nod. “I’m worried.”

Ara thought for a moment. She understood that concern as she felt it for everyone she had left behind and guessed that they felt it for her. She resolved then to talk with him later and discuss things further. Especially the more recent dreams that included the King of Fereldan.

She could hear Ellana and the others as they walked in their direction.

“Will find your friend.” Ara said with a nod before glancing towards their approaching companions. “And… speak later?”

He looked surprised but pleased. She would have found that look amusing had her situation been less dire. There simply was no one else for her to talk to about her dreams. No one else seemed equipped with the knowledge that could help her and he seemed to know more then he had shared with her.

It was better to have some idea instead of floundering in the dark like she had been.

“Yes, we will speak later.” Solas nodded again. He still looked concerned but there was some relief in his eyes as if a weight had been lifted. “I will continue to explain what we were speaking of the other day.”

She nodded but said nothing else, choosing instead to step away and find her own mount.

 

Chapter Text

Travelling across the Plains had been a far quieter but less painful trip then the one that had taken them there. Ara caught Varric looking at her with a pointed look within the first five minutes and she took great care not to look back at the dwarf again.

She knew he suspected something was going on as Solas had cheered immensely but Varric was starting to irritate her. There was just something about the way he kept trying to change the conversation to something else that was getting on her nerves.

She may have been reading too much into it all as Solas seemed oblivious to the not-so-subtle attempts by the storyteller or perhaps he was distracted by the disappearance of his friend. Probably the later as he constantly attempted to hurry them along.

“Thank you for this, Inquisitor.” Solas spoke as they rode quickly across the Plains. It rose her suspicions that he did catch something as it came right at the tail end of one of Varric’s little segue-ways.  “We are not far from where my friend was summoned.”

No one said anything else as they continued on their way. Ara was a bit surprised that he was so open about it with the others but she had decided this was not the time for questions, especially when she was getting an unsettled feeling in the pit of her stomach.

There was something about the stillness of the plains that did not sit well with her. Years of living out in the wilds had taught her that there should be some manner of noise. Little animals, bugs, birds; something should be making noise. Yet she could not hear anything. It was like the noise had disappeared along with Solas’ spirit friend.

Then Ellana completely stopped and stared at the ground. There, at the feet of her hart, was a mage. His corpse was peppered with arrows and it was clear he had not been dead long. Ara wrinkled her nose as she directed Arvak nearby to get a closer look.

She hopped down to lightly prod at the corpse without disturbing it much. The man looked like he had been attempting to flee when he was cut down by the onslaught of arrows. Ara looked at the scene with disgust as it was clear the man had no chance to even try and defend himself.

“Bandits, no doubt.” Varric said softly.

Ellana's face became grim by the time Ara had remounted Arvak.

They all moved together again, only to stop again when they came across a pair of bodies lying next to one another. Ara wrinkled her nose as the breeze shifted and she caught the smell of charred flesh and blood.

They all dismounted but it was Solas who got the closest look. Crouching next to the bodies and carefully moving the closest one around to get a better look. The kill would have been recent, enough so that they had been just out of range to hear it.

“These aren't mages.” Solas' voice shifted, and he almost sounded pained. “The bodies are burned, and these claw marks...”

Solas suddenly darted ahead of them, pushing aside the others as he ran down the path. Varric mouthed soundless confusion before they followed the elf.

There was something panicked in Solas’ stride that was just as unsettling as the silence. She had seen it in people before and she was instantly sympathetic to her friend.

“No. No, no, no.” He did not wait for them as he ran ahead.

They hurried, running across the ground to come within view of a massive demon surrounded by sparking crystals. Ara had never seen anything like it before but she guessed this was what Ellana and the others faced when they went to seal the Rifts.

Solas had come to a complete stop with a gasp as he looked up at the demon.

The demon itself was hunched over, looking like it had just gone through a tremendous fight.

“My friend.” Solas voice turned into something guttural, a tone somewhere between rage and grief.

“The mages turned your friend into a demon...” Ellana's voice held nothing but shock.

A shock that the others felt but not quite so keenly as Ara. She had not been aware that it was possible to turn a spirit into a demon. Suddenly, she remembered how many rifts Ellana had sealed and how each rift had been guarded by demons.

She glanced over at Solas and wondered how many more of his friends had met this fate since the Breach.

“Yes.” Solas answer was distraught and the elf stared at his hands.

The two of them started discussing back and forth about Wisdom and how it was not supposed to be in that form but Ara's attention quickly snapped to the sound of someone travelling through the small bit of underbrush. She gripped her war hammer tighter as she stared.

A man in mage robes approached Solas and Ellana, the two instantly stopped talking to turn towards him. He had a clear look of panic but seemed surprised and almost grateful to see the group. The man went to speak but Solas was quicker as he glared at the new arrival.

“Let us ask them!” Solas' voice was still nothing but anger.

“A mage! You're not with the Bandits?” The man sounded relieved as if his salvation had appeared. “Do you have any lyrium potions? Most of us are exhausted. We've been fighting that demon...”

The tenseness of Solas' shoulders indicated it was anything but salvation that had found the stranger. She could practically feel the rage boiling off the elf as his voice became a roar.

“You summoned that demon! Except it was a spirit of wisdom at the time.”

Even Varric and Bull were staring at Solas now. There was nothing like the calm man that normally sat in the rotunda painting or reading books. There was only rage and pain in the elf's face and voice.

“You made it kill. You twisted it against its purpose.” Solas continued, raging at the mage before him.

“I... I... I understand how it might be confusing to someone who has not studied demons, but after you help us, I can...” The mage started.

“We're not here to help you.” Solas said towards the mage, his voice dripping with disdain.

“Word of advice? I'd hold off on explaining how demons work to my friend here.” Ellana said.

“Listen to me! I was one of the foremost experts in the Kirkwall Circle-” The mage tried to reason.

“Shut up.” Solas' voice made it clear that he was one step away from shutting the mage up permanently. “You summoned it to protect you from the bandits.”

“I – Yes.” The mage stuttered, looking a little guilty.

“You bound it to obedience, then commanded it to kill. That is when it turned.” His voice was still enraged but he turned to Ellana. “The summoning circle. We break it, we break the binding. No orders to kill, no conflict with its nature, no demon.”

The mage started to argue, claiming that the creature would attack them.

“I agree.” Ara said while still staring at the man. She had some experience with breaking bindings in Skyrim and she guessed this would be roughly the same.

The mage finally looked past the two elves and saw the three standing behind them. He paled a little as he saw Bull, then paled further when he saw Ara standing there.

She could only imagine what was going through the man's mind. Tall, green and wearing spiky armour. She already knew she looked more at home with the demons that had been spawned from the rifts as many had been keen to point out when they first saw her.

“Inquisitor. Please.” Solas' voice had become a plea.

“I've studied rituals like this. I should be able to disrupt the bindings quickly.” Ellana answered, her voice sympathetic to the situation.

“Thank you.” Solas sounded relieved.

The mage darted away from them as they all turned towards the pillars that held the demon in place. Ara wondered what the man was thinking as there was no way he could outrun the demon if this failed, or Solas for that matter. She would have thought he would have taken off running even if it would not do him much good after this was done.

The demon suddenly stood, roaring at them as they neared. The eyes were fathomless pits of madness and pain.

Ara's run faltered as she realized she could sense that pain the creature was in. She had never been around the rifts, and had never fought a demon until now. Standing even at this distance, she could feel it like a wave of heat coming off the creature's body. It felt abnormal, like a wound on the soul of the creature before them.

Worse yet, she could not even feel that with dragons in Skyrim. Never had she felt another creature quite like she could with this demon – spirit.

“We must hurry!” Solas shouted urgently at them.

They all turned towards the binding pillars. Ellana showed them what to do, where to strike to destroy them. Ara would have expected Solas to provide the information and a quick glance told her that he did know but he said nothing. He let Ellana take the lead even as he kept his gaze focused on his friend.

Stepping inside that binding circle was like stepping inside the wards that Ellana and Solas erected around their camps each night but far more confining. Ara did not like the way it made her feel. It almost felt like she was suddenly very small.

It was a race against time as they avoided the demon's swings while trying to take down the binding that held the spirit in place. It seemed to be unaware that they were trying to help it, seeing them just the same as it had seen the bandits earlier.

Just like that feeling of pain, Ara could not shake the sudden feeling of grief that filled her at that realization. She pushed it aside as she focused on the task of destroying the binding crystals.

It was an almost physical feeling of relief when the binding broke. She could not explain it but she was glad when that circle was broken. The pain seemed to flee and she once more felt right in her own skin.

The air seemed clearer as well even if she had never noticed anything wrong with it until now. 

Ara watched as Solas dropped to his knees in front of the spirit when it shifted from that monstrous form to a more humanoid one. The shape flickered and seemed more like smoke then a solid form but she could clearly make out the spirit’s new form.

Her breath caught in her throat as she watched it take on the appearance of an orc woman. One that was missing one tusk and a chunk of her ear on that side. Long hair, that she knew was supposed to be red, was braided down the middle and across her back.

Looking at the spirit – who had taken on the clear form of her mother – made her feel a little queasy and far more confused then before.

Glancing over to the others, they seemed to be completely calm. Not one of them looked at her in confusion. Her stomach further dropped when she realized that they must not be seeing what she was seeing.

She was certain one of them would have commented on the similarities if they saw what she saw. Someone would have said something about Wisdom taking on the form of an Orcish woman. Especially one that bore such a similarity to her own appearance. Varric, with all his curious questions, would have been the one to ask while Ellana would have demanded an explanation.

An explanation was something Ara did not have. Perhaps Solas might have known why but right now, it did not seem remotely appropriate to ask why his friend had suddenly looked like someone from so long ago in her past.

Solas and the spirit spoke together in elvhen. He was turned away from them but she could see the grief that dragged his shoulders down. The sound of his voice was almost heart wrenching, especially when Ara realized that his friend was dying.

They had arrived too late to save the spirit.

He said a few more words that were clearly intended as a funeral rite as the spirit faded away to nothing.

Ara was still trying to process what to say to the elf when he turned on the mages nearby. She was caught by surprise when Solas executed the mages with hardly a warning. Even more surprising was that Ellana stood by and watched with a grim expression on her face.

Ara stared at the rest of them. They all made no move to stop him as he simply murdered the unarmed mages in his rage and grief over the loss of his friend. The other two looked completely impassive as if they had seen this or worse already.

Still, to Ara there was the simple fact that this was not justice, this was retribution.

An orc would never lower themselves to this and Ara had expected better of Ellana at the least. She was the leader of them all and should have tried to bring these men to justice instead of this. Yet she had just stood by and watched.

It did not sit well with her but there were no words to explain her growing uneasiness with the Inquisitor. She thanked Malacath that everyone was far more wrapped up in what was happening with Solas to notice her discomfort.

“Damn them all.” Solas said as he stood over their charred remains. It was clear to see that his murder of the mages had not assuaged his emotions. The bitterness in his voice was matched by the bitterness in his eyes.

“Solas…” Ara said as she approached. She knew she had to say something. They were supposed to be friends. Despite her irritation with him, she still felt that he was the closest thing she had to a friend. “I—"

“This is your fault.” He snapped at her. That earlier rage was now turned towards her.

“What?” Ara took a startled step back from him.

“My friend was only here because of you.” Solas said with that same accusatory tone.

Ara kept her ground, glaring back at the elf who was now blaming her for this situation. She had no idea why this would be her fault as she had never met the spirit or even been to this part of Thedas. The words stung but it was better to be angry then to admit that.

“That’s a little…” Varric started but Solas shook his head as he turned away from the group.

The elf’s shoulders sunk a little in his grief. Ara did not wait to see if he was going to say something else to her, instead she strode away towards Arvak. She muttered under her breath in Orcish as she walked away.

Arvak was closer then the other animals as if the creature knew to follow them. It made it’s strange, almost metallic, whinny noise as she came near and she raised her hand to it in greeting. Treating it much like she would if it had been a living horse

 “I need some time alone. I will meet you back at Skyhold.” He said but it was clearly meant for Ellana and not the rest of them.

Ara heard him but said nothing as he strode past her. She focused completely on Arvak and tending some imaginary needs of the horse. The undead creature did not care either way but it was easier to have something to focus on instead of her own building rage.

She continued to mutter under her breath in her own native tongue while she began to rub at the bones along the undead horse’s neck. To her surprise, the creature seemed to enjoy the affection so she continued the small affection as she turned over what had just happened. She could see no reason why Solas was blaming her for this. His grief had to be what made him blame her as she could see no rational way for her to be at fault in this.

She continued to stroke the bones of Arvak’s neck as she thought it over. Strangely, the action seemed soothing. Calming even.

That rage still remained but just rubbing the horse’s neck made her feel more grounded and her thoughts turned more tactical when it came to Solas and his reaction. She genuinely felt sad for his loss, hurt and angry that he would react like that to her but that clarity made her realize he was still the only person she could talk to about what was happening. Even if it meant she had to accept all of his little transgressions, he was still the only one who might be able to help her figure it all out.

She continued to think and stroke Arvak’s bones when she realized Bull had approached. Ara turned her head to look over at him and quirked an eyebrow at that strange look he was giving her.

“Ellana wants us all moving, she wants to get to the Dalish camp before it starts getting dark.” His voice was gruff and he turned on his heel without saying any thing else.

The anger had fled but she became annoyed as she realized he must be blaming her for this whole thing as well. Bull was still acting suspiciously to her since the event in Skyhold but he had been downright frosty with Ellana’s request.

Groaning, Ara mounted Arvak and urged him towards the others. She remained silent as they rode. Only Varric and Bull really talking with one another as Ellana preferred to be silent as well.

No doubt thinking over what Solas had done and said.

No one tried to provide words to the various things they saw on the way but there was really nothing new for her to see. Rocks, trees, some plants that Ellana stopped to gather. It was the same as any trip although the landscape reminded her a little more of Skyrim, and specifically the land around Whiterun.

It was quickly feeling more like home when Ellana stopped to help anyone that they encountered. It was getting late in the evening when they finally arrived at the Dalish camp.

Ellana quickly conversed with the people within while the rest of them waited out of the camp proper. The elves looked at them with distrust in their eyes but no more then if they were any other strangers.

No one stared at them in fear or shouted words. It was a nice change of pace compared to other first meetings.

“Does she stop at every place like this?” Bull asked, ending the silence between the three.

“Yep.” Varric said with a chuckle. “You think this is bad? You should meet my friend Hawke.”

“Hawke?” Bull asked with a curious expression. “You mean the Champion of Kirkwall? How would he have been worse then the Inquisitor?”

That would have been the man they had been discussing earlier, Ara guessed. Clearly a human then, and not a bird.

“That’d be the one.” Varric nodded. “Hawke helped everyone. And I mean, everyone. Even the Qunari. Hell, we helped a Saarebas once.”

Ara blinked at the conversation. She understood that Hawke was a person in this case and not a bird. She had no idea what or who a Saarebas was although she had to admit that she was curious about the story. It was something else then how depressing this trip had become.

“How well did that work out?” Bull asked, seemingly just as curious as Ara.

“Well… Hawke revealed he was a mage to the Qunari so as well as can be expected.” Varric said with a slightly grim laugh.

“What happen?” Ara asked, unable to resist knowing.

“They attacked us.” Varric said with a flat shrug.

“Qunari aren’t known for our sympathies towards mages.” Bull’s expression was just as grim as Varric’s laugh at had been but there was nothing humorous in Bull’s tone.

Ara did not ask for further explanation but it did put Bull’s people into a new light. They were harsh towards mages as she doubted that this Hawke deserved to be attacked as he had clearly been returning one of their own to them.

“We’re heading out again.” Ellana spoke as she stepped out of the Dalish camp and mounted her hart. She turned the creature towards one of the scouts before speaking. “Keeper Hawen has asked us to clear out the demons at a local burial area.”

“Lovely.” Bull mumbled.

Ara said nothing as she mounted Arvak and moved in the direction one of the Elf scouts had indicated. The others were close behind her with Ellana already a distance ahead of them on her quicker hart.

“Varric,” Ara spoke softly. “What happen Saarebas?”

“He killed himself.” Bull answered for her before urging his mount ahead of hers, a clear effort to avoid other questions.

Ara glanced back to Varric who strode closer to her and explained. His eyes were fixed on Bull’s retreating form with an almost sad expression.

“Qunari believe that mages have to be tightly controlled. The Saarebas was away from his people too long.”

“So just kill himself?” She frowned.

“He believed in the Qun and that was what the Qun demanded.” Varric said softly as he continued to watch Bull hurry to catch up to Ellana. He kept whatever thoughts he had to himself as they rode.

“Bull knew story?” Ara asked suddenly.

“Not that one but it’s probably happened before among the Qun.” Varric’s tone remained grim. “I doubt the one Hawke and I helped in Kirkwall was the first that had been separated for that long.”

Ara remained silent as they rode. This day was just full of disappointing moments.

Chapter Text

Bull had noticed the tension the entire way through and into the plains. It honestly seemed like half their group did not want to be there.

They tried to hide it but it was just plain obvious. Solas seemed more tightly wound then usual. Ellana was not her normal cheery self. Even Ara wore a rather bored expression but that could have been Varric’s enthusiastic discussions about Kirkwall. Yet she seemed to listen, or at least pretended to. He guessed her sudden interest in Kirkwall had to do with Solas’ attempts to engage her in conversation. Which she was ignoring as subtly as a Qunari in a chantry.

Another sign that something had happened to fracture the pair.

Otherwise, everything went okay right up until they found Solas’ spirit friend who turned out to be a demon.

That was definitely not what he wanted to deal with but there was little choice as Ellana instantly agreed to Solas’ request to help free the spirit. He noticed that there had been no hesitation at all.

Bull would have preferred if they had just killed the thing.

It was a demon. Demons were bad and needed to be destroyed but apparently this one was the exception to that rule. It made no sense to him why this one demon was far more important, and worthy of saving, then all the ones they had killed since the Breach first opened.

Still, despite his own feelings on the matter, he did what he was told. Ellana was the boss and what she said was what he did.

Things took a turn for the weird when the demon returned to a friendly looking form. She, because it clearly took on a female form, looked exactly like one of the Tamassran that had raised him. Right down to the curve of her horns. It was unsettling when she spoke as it was clearly not the voice of the Qunari woman he knew. It sounded more like a combination of voices.

He kept his mouth shut as Solas said something in elvhen but he did look around at the others. Everyone seemed to be looking rather calmly at the image the spirit had taken, well almost everyone.

Ara had a look that was closer to panic. That was strange as he had no idea what might spook her regarding the image of a Qunari. She had been around him long enough to get used to what a Qunari female should look like.

Then it hit him.

She was not seeing a Qunari.

None of them were seeing a Qunari, not even him. The spirit was just appearing as his Tama to him but the others could be seeing something else completely different. He wondered what the others saw. Especially Ara given that she looked the most upset about it.

He was going to ask but then things went further south.

Solas sent his friend on to the void before he turned and killed the mages responsible. Bull certainly could see why, he would kill anyone who hurt Krem or one of the other Chargers but again it was Ara that caught his attention in this situation.

Her panicked look had changed to something between disgust and utter confusion. She even looked between Solas and Ellana like the two of them had turned into monsters right before her eyes.

Bull guessed she did not agree with Solas’ method of dealing with the mages. That revealed a lot about her that he had not considered before. There was clearly something about it that bothered her, and another thing to ask.

Things just got worse before he could ask when she tried to speak to Solas and started blaming her for the situation.

Bull was about to speak up but Varric beat him to it. Instead, Bull watched as Ara stalked off in irritation.

Their Inquisitor did not need this kind of problem.

“They better sort themselves out.” Varric mumbled under his breath. Clearly, the dwarf had the same opinion he did.

Bull nodded in agreement with the dwarf but said nothing. He liked Solas and Ara but he would be damned before he let their childish attitudes endanger the Inquisitor and what she needed to do.

His people had sent him here for to help deal with the Breach and now to help defeat Corypheus, the man who caused it all. That was the purpose for all of them being here.

“Bull, can you tell Ara that we’re moving out?” Ellana asked as she walked past him to get to their mounts. Ellana’s face was clear that she was not sure how she should address the situation that had just developed and was passing the order on to him instead.

“Sure boss!” He managed to make his tone cheerful before he turned to find Ara.

She was standing there next to her undead skeletal horse, petting its neck like it could actually feel it. The horse creeped him out at this distance. It should not exist but yet there it was. Somehow moving despite being nothing but bones and light.

Magic was terrible sometimes.

“Ellana wants us all moving, she wants to get to the Dalish camp before it starts getting dark.” He said with a slightly stern look.

He was ready to give her a piece of his mind when he saw the hurt expression on her face. She quickly schooled her face into a scowl when she noticed him looking at her. Clearly, the elf’s words had hurt her more then he had guessed.

 He had assumed she had stomped off in annoyance but there was no mistaking that fleeting look. It completely took the wind out of his sails.

He wanted to make his point but not when she was already feeling bad.

Bull quickly retreated before she said anything so he could try to get his thoughts together and come up with something a little more tactful. Perhaps getting her drunk in the tavern when they got back to Skyhold.

 

It was later that night after Varric’s story and Ellana’s decision to clear the demons out of the burial area for the Dalish. Bull, for all the information he had learned, was really wishing she had taken Cassandra with her for muscle on this one instead of him.

Demons and ghosts. Two things he did not like to deal with. Thankfully, they only encountered the former but he was not going to put it past this trip for a ghost to show up.

They had ventured back to the Dalish Camp but Ellana had decided she wanted to further explore the area around the burial grounds so they returned and set up a temporary camp for the night.

This was just damn wonderful in Bull’s mind. He was not fond on camping in general and even less so when a graveyard was within spitting distance. Still, he tried to settle himself down and relax for the night as he sincerely doubted he was going to get any sleep that night.

It seemed this was going to be one of the nights that Ara was going to be unable to sleep. He watched her toss and turn before she finally got up. Picking up a torch and lighting it at the fire, she turned and wandered away into the woods.

Bull just assumed that she was going to relieve herself in the woods as she left that skull crusher of hers behind but time stretched on and she had not returned. Muttering to himself, he hauled himself to his feet and followed in the direction she had gone. He made a point of taking his own weapon with him in case she had found some trouble out in the forest.

He assumed there would be shouting if he had but he preferred to be safe then sorry, given that they had spent the day killing things.

Her path was surprisingly difficult to follow. He had expected broken branches or leaves crumbled under foot but it was like no one had gone this way. Tracking was not his strong suit but he had expected there to be at least something. He just followed the general lay of the land instead.

It was not long before he realized he was getting close to the graveyard. That realization tempted him to turn around when he caught a sight of Ara ahead of him inside the decaying place.

She was crouched next to one of the graves they had looked at earlier and she was… digging. She had wedged that torch into the ground next to the small gravestone.

Grimacing, Bull strode towards her.

“What –” He started.

“Quiet.” Ara said without looking at him, her back to him as she dug. “You loud like bear.”

He was startled out of his mixed feelings when she chided him. Shaking his head, he advanced towards her with a much more intentional stride even if he was careful where to walk.

“What the hell are you doing?!” He demanded. “Ellana would have a fit if she saw you doing this!”

“Quiet.” She repeated before glaring at him. “This.” She pointed at a strange symbol carved on the stone.

He had noticed it in passing earlier but it had not held his attention at all. It just looked like a weathered carving on the stone.

“What about it?” He asked.

“This. This…” She frowned, clearly searching for the word before using a word in her own language. He had listened long enough to know the difference between her Orcish and that language she had spoken first. “Symbol from home.”

He frowned as well from both her usage of the word and the fact that she was pointing out something that was clearly important to her homeland. He looked closer but could see nothing spectacular about it. It looked like the twisted version of one of the letters in the common tongue. Perhaps a little fancier but that was it.

Symbol.” He repeated the Orcish word and pointed at the carving. “What does it mean?”

She merely looked at him like he had grown a second head. Her eyes completely wide as she stared at him. He was about to repeat himself when he realized she was not looking at him. She was looking past him.

He started turning his head but halted when he felt something pass right through him. All the hair on the back of his neck stood on end and goosebumps raised on his skin. He was certain he could feel that chill go up his spine and all the way to the tips of his horns.

Bull swore several times as it fully materialized in front of him before floating towards Ara. It came to a complete stop there and stared own at her.

Ara stared right back at it as if she was transfixed by the ghost and he found himself staring at it as well.

The spirit was an elf and clearly female but her face was a little wider them most Dalish with wide set eyes. It had shoulder length hair that might have been brown and wore gear that was clearly Dalish but it did not look like any Dalish armour he had seen. It looked heavier and bore more metal then the usual leathers the Dalish elves wore.

Still as fanciful though.

“What the fuck!?” Bull demanded and reached for his weapon but he stopped when the creature spoke to him.

He had no idea what the thing said but the words seemed to echo in his head. It was more like he was thinking it then the creature was speaking. He shuddered at the sensation before glaring at the spirit and rubbing his chest with the flat of his hand.

Whatever language it knew, it was something foreign to him.

It did not seem to notice that he could not understand it, or perhaps it did not care as it turned back to Ara.

“It mean no harm.” Ara said quickly, holding up her hands towards him.

“Bullshit.” Bull muttered but made no move to get closer to the spirit.

He found himself staring at the spirit as there was the fact that there was something physically familiar about the spirit that made him feel uneasy. He guessed was that he could see a similarity in the spirit and others he had met before. He really hoped it was just his tendency to be over-observant and seeing what he wanted to see.

Right now, he just wanted some explanation but he guessed that he was going to get nothing.

Then the spirit focused on Ara and was clearly speaking to her in the same way it had spoken to him.

“You know me as Dragonborn?Ara asked the spirit, surprise colouring her voice.

Bull frowned at the word and the question in general. He had never heard of such a thing and even if it did sound a little awesome, it sounded dangerous.

 “Forges, it is.Ara responded with a huff, those red eyes having gone from fear to something between annoyance and excitement. How?

Bull found himself looking between the spirit and Ara. He had no idea what the spirit was saying to her and hoped that one of them would explain before he had to demand an answer.

“Someone wanted come here. Not me.” Ara was looking more and more annoyed. “Explain or done talking.”

He was a bit surprised at her response to the spirit and a little bit awed. It made it even more clear that she was not just some lost traveller, something he had long since suspected.

Questions bubbled up in his mind about who she was. Questions that he was certain he might get the answer to as she as quickly understanding more and more of their language.

She was clearly having none of the spirit’s attitude or the cryptic answers he assumed it was giving her. There was a pause as if the spirit was further elaborating whatever it wished her to know.

Ara merely stared back at it and crossed her arms. There was such authority to the way she stood that he knew the Inquisition was underestimating Ara. Whatever they thought she was, they were wrong. She was used to people listening to her.

He could only guess how infuriating her inability to truly communicate must be.

 “Wisdom?” Ara answered in confusion before her face lit up with realization. “Solas’ spirit friend. The demon was Wisdom?

Bull was surprised again. He had no idea that the spirit had a name or even that it was supposed to represent something. He did not really care either way as it was a demon when they faced it. A spooky demon that he would have rather avoided but still a demon.

“Kynareth? Other aedra here as well?” Ara’s voice was full of surprise and confusion that Bull mirrored.

He had no idea what a Kynareth was or that other word, aedra, that she used. It was clearly something from her homeland. He considered that it might be a word for spirit or perhaps dragon but he was just guessing at this point.

The spirit took a step closer towards Ara before resting her hand on the woman’s injured shoulder. He saw the flinch and grimaced. He hoped it was just because the ghost was putting her hand on Ara’s shoulder and not the worse possibility that the injury had not healed.

“Who are you?” Ara suddenly asked the spirit.

The spirit seemed to answer, withdrawing her hand away from Ara. There was something almost agitated with the spirit. Something that had to do with the question of her identity.

“That which is mine?” Ara shook her head at the floating woman.

Bull was not even completely sure that Ara understood what the spirit was calling it. That sounded like a poor translation of a word from another language. Knowing this situation, that was probably what it was.

“Bull?” Ara asked in further confusion.

“Yes?” Bull asked as he tilted his head at them. Wisely, he kept his thoughts to himself and acted like a dumbstruck fool even if this situation was absurd.

He did not want to think about how creepy it was that the spirit was clearly discussing him to Ara.

“Nothing.” Ara answered him in the common tongue before looking back at the spirit and once more speaking to the spirit. “It wants me do something with help.”

The spirit looked at the pair of them in annoyance and spoke once more to him. He still did not understand the majority of the words it used but he did make out a Tevene word. He was pretty sure it was crypt and that was when he was ready to just leave the graveyard.

Bull kept his face completely still as he looked between Ara and the spirit once more.

“Why this important?” Ara asked the spirit. Still looking as irritated as when the conversation had begun.

“What—” Ara started to ask.

“Alright, what the hell is going on?!” Bull decided then to speak up. He was not certain if he wanted to get involved in this one sided conversation but he knew he had to say something before this spirit got it into Ara’s head to go through a crypt in the middle of the night.

Both turned to look at him with a surprised look.

“Ghost.” Ara motioned to the spirit before continuing. “Something here. Want me to find. Need your help.”

“Find? Find what? And where?” Bull asked.

“Crypt.” Ara motioned off in the direction of that crypt they had passed earlier.

“Hell. No.” Bull responded. “I am not going into that crypt at night.”

“Go myse—” Ara went to speak but was once more cut off, this time by the spirit.

Once again, he had no idea what it was saying but this time it sounded like it was chiding him. Bull blinked but said nothing. His face was steeled into an emotionless mask.

“Alright… I can’t fucking understand what you’re saying.” He almost shouted it at the spirit.

It blinked as if it was surprised. Bull had no idea you could surprise a ghost but then, he was learning something new every time he was around Ara.

My apologies.” The spirit answered in what was clearly a more recent form of Tevene. It was still an archaic version with a few words that made no sense but at least now he was understanding what the spirit said.

It made Bull wonder exactly what language she was speaking to Ara and if it had been the same one she used initially with him.

“Uh… not a problem…” Bull said, suddenly feeling a little worried that the spirit was now focused on him. “I… what exactly is it that you want Ara to do?”

Ara, as you call her, must venture within the crypt to retrieve a weapon that has lain here since the Dales were given to the elves.” The spirit answered.

“That old?” Bull managed.

He was not in the mood to go grave robbing, especially not at night. It was bad enough that this place had been full of demons earlier. Desecrating the tomb of long dead elves was not how he wanted to end the day.

Older.” The spirit answered before turning back to Ara.

Once more, some unheard conversation passed between them as Ara suddenly paled. The annoyance fleeing as she looked almost distraught about what the spirit was telling her.

“What is it?” Bull asked, completely ready to tell the spirit to fuck off if this was going to be a problem.

“Mehrunes’ Razor.” Ara said in a hushed tone. “Mehrunes’ Razor is here.”

I will wait your return.” The spirit said to them both before vanishing.

Bull swore under his breath at the spirit. There had been no explanation, just a ‘go get this, bye!’ from the spirit.

This was yet another reason he hated dealing with magic.

“Care to explain about this Mehrunes’ Razor?” Bull found himself asking.

“It weapon.” Ara turned away from him and he could see her shoulders slump. “Dagger capable of killing on single strike.”

“Sounds deadly.” Bull said with a shake of his head.

He really doubted something like that would remain untouched in this place since the Dales. This place had probably been looted an uncountable amount of times since falling to the Orlais.

“It is.” Ara answered. “From homeland. People fought, killed… did bad things for it.”

“I get it.” He said with a small shake of his head. He wondered if she had been one of the people who had done bad things for this dagger but he did not want to ask. “… After you. Dragonborn.

He could not help the slight snark that came with his words. He had no idea what the word Dragonborn was supposed to mean. He knew what the words meant separately but he had no idea what it meant like this. There was no way the spirit meant that Ara was born of a dragon as that was surely impossible.

“You caught that?” Ara asked with a sigh.

“Yep. You gonna explain that bit?”

“We get dagger and out of here?” Ara countered.

“Deal. Just before we get back to the others.”

He was glad that she just took it at that and did not bother questioning him. He had yet to tell Ellana everything that he had learned about Ara. This was just something else getting added to the list. A very long list.

“Here, help with the door.” Ara said from next to the crypt door as she put her shoulder against it. “Should push open.”

“What if it’s locked?” Bull asked with a shrug before setting his own shoulder against the door and giving it a slight push.

He gave a yelp of surprise when the door slid open under their combined strength. The solid stone was far too heavy for the average person to move but it was like it was greased up when the pair of them used their combined strength.

“It was.” Ara answered with a shrug as she peered into the darkness beyond the door.

“How did you open it then?”

“With key.” Ara answered.

Bull had not seen her with the key. He had no idea how she would have gotten it or even where she would have picked it up. People just did not spontaneously find keys lying around.

“Don’t worry, will put back in Ellana’s things.” Ara said with a shrug as if this was completely normal.

“You stole from the Inquisitor?” Bull stared at her. He was not sure if that was something to be in awe of or just outright angry. He had been watching her all day and never noticed her slip it out from Ellana’s gaze.

“Borrowed. Borrowed from Inquisitor.” She did sound guilty but that annoyance was still there. “Thought it unlock something at the grave.”

He did not say a word further about it. Just another thing added to the weirdness of the day. They would have to have a talk about that and so many others. He had so many questions for her and her ability to seemingly sneak away or sneak things without anyone noticing was nearly at the top of his list. Right after explaining who she was and what a Dragonborn was.

All he had to do was go with her to get this Razor thing and then he would have his questions answered.

He sighed as she took a step into the darkness next to her.

“Follow.” Ara said simply before she lifted the torch to better light the way in front of them.

She moved silently and he found himself following. The crypt looked like it had not seen visitors since a thousand years or more, dust lining the floor and spider webs clinging to the wall like tattered cloth.

“So… tell me more about you.” Bull said as they walked, unable to keep himself from starting to pry. Now was a good time as any with no one else around to overhear what she might not want to share. That and it made the crypt a little less creepy. “How did you get to Haven?”

“Now?” Ara sounded surprised but she shrugged. “Carried there by soldiers. Fell from rift. Surprised no one told you.”

“They did, I just wanted your side of it.” They had not told him specifically but he had heard the stories from the soldiers in Haven. Found in a snow back and tossed in a cell. She had been a favorite topic of gossip when anyone new arrived. He sincerely doubted anyone tried to tell her that. “You don’t remember anything at all?”

“Nothing. Remember following a dragon and then chained beneath chantry.” She answered with a shrug.

“You were following after a dragon?” He asked in surprise. “By yourself? Is this like that story from Varric?

“Yes, following dragon.” She shook her head at the mention of Varric’s story. “No. Not like story. More armour, more weapons.”

“You hunt dragons?” He made that leap of logic given the name – or title – the spirit called her and the fact that she had been at ease with nakedly attacking that dragon at Redcliffe. Even with her rationality, no one makes that kind of decision on the first time out.

“Among other things. What you do, Bull?” Ara asked him, clearly trying to divert the conversation away from herself.

“Whatever it is that the Inquisitor needs me to do.” Bull answered with a shrug, humouring her little attempt to discuss something else.

“That is very open.” Ara said with a snort.

It was clear to him that her being able to communicate with him was quickly putting her in a better mood. A few sentences in and she was already less angry and annoyed. He had been right that it must have infuriated her not being able to speak with everyone else.

He could not imagine what it would be like to end up somewhere without knowing the language.

“It is.” He did not elaborate further, not wanting to try and explain his role within the Qun just yet. “What is it that we’re looking for in here? Mehrunes’ Razor?”

It weapon, made by daedra.” She made sure to clearly pronounce everything so he could understand it but there was that foreign word.

It took him a moment to realize that it was different then the one she had used earlier.

“You said aedra earlier… now daedra… what are those?”  Bull asked, using the two unfamiliar words.

“They… they like spirits.” She frowned, obviously trying to figure out some way to explain it to him. “Bigger. More. Not here though.”

“Other then this Kynareth?” He posed the question, hoping that she would reveal something of the nature of this Kynareth thing.

“Not sure.” She said with a small sigh. “They from homeland, like me and Arvak.”

“You and … oh, the creepy horse.”

“Not creepy.” Ara glared at him over her shoulder. He mused that she must genuinely like the undead horse.

“He’s a skeleton horse that glows. That’s creepy.”

“No problem the bog…” She used a word that was completely foreign to him but he guessed it was unicorn or some other word to describe one of Ellana’s weird mounts. “That worse.”

“Yes, it is but it doesn’t glow and acts like a normal horse.” Bull pointed out. “Your horse doesn’t. It’s… smarter.”

He saw the frown on her face and guessed that she had not really noticed that until now. He had noticed it the first night when she rode in out of the snow. The horse had followed to the tent and stood guard like a well taught malbari.

“Do horses where you’re from just follow you around like an obedient dog?” He asked, skeptical about her opinion on her undead horse.

“Some do… maybe smarter then horse here. What point?” She stopped and turned towards him, those red eyes practically glowing.

“Did you know your eyes glow when you get pissed off?” He asked, realizing those eyes would show up in the dark even without the torch. “Or that they were glowing when Ellana had closed the Breach?”

“What?” Ara blinked at him in surprise and almost dropped the torch.

“So… you didn’t know that then?”

“No.”

“Well, they do.” Bull said. “Does that happen with others of your people?”

The look she gave him answered that question easily enough.

“Just you then.” He said as he idly rubbed his chin. “I take it a lot of what you can do is not normal for an O—"

“Shhh.” Ara said before lifting that torch higher, cutting him off as she turned towards the hallway before them. “You hear that?”

The hallway was more of a tunnel and there was a break up ahead. He went completely silent as he listened and heard a strange shuffling noise up ahead. Frowning, he pulled his weapon free as he peered towards the hallway that lay in front of them.

It was then that he remembered Ara had no weapon of her own. Frowning, Bull took a step forward so that they were about even in the hallway. He could see her making that same realization as she was suddenly gripping that torch like it was a club.

That shuffling grew louder as it became quicker. Something dashed from around the corner, he saw a strange sight.

It looked like a corpse but one that was withered to the point where nearly all recognizable traits were complete gone. Eyes glowed with a strange blue light and it was near impossible to tell where the risen was looking. Stringy brown hair trailed down over it’s shoulders, and across armour. He recognized the armour. It looked a lot like the armour that the spirit had been wearing, although a little more beat up.

A rather plain looking dagger was gripped in one hand and it twisted in the air as the creature moved to attack.

He raised his sword to block the first swing of the creature’s weapon. It moved a lot faster then it should have and dodged beneath his sword. It quickly followed up with another upward swing that was going to land firmly into his chest.

“Shiiiii—”

He felt himself shoved to the side and turned to shout out a warning to Ara as it seemed she had intended to take the blow for him.

YOL!

Ara’s shout caught him off guard but not as badly as suddenly seeing flame burst from her mouth.

He had seen weird magic and strange things over the years but he had never seen anything like that. Bull tried hard to think of some rational explanation for this sudden ability to breath flame but all he could think of was her shouting the ceiling apart at Skyhold and then being called The Dragonborn by the spirit.

He believed it had to be that. Otherwise, he was going to start thinking of the worst possible reasoning for her unique abilities.

“Holy shit!”

He only let his mind wander for a second before returning to the problem at hand. The thing that had attacked him had been blown back by the force of her fire but it was still very much coming. It was just now on fire.

He regained his footing, racing forward to swing his sword as hard and fast as he could at the creature’s midsection. He aimed for that one spot where the armour was joined together in parts. It did not get the chance to dodge this time.

The sword cleaved the thing in two.

The flaming pieces of monster fell to the ground and he whirled to Ara quickly. Her eyes were still glowing and fixed intently on the creature on the ground.

“What the hell was that?!” He demanded.

“Dagger.” Ara answered, motioning to the weapon still gripped in the smoldering creature’s hand as if the answer was obvious.

“I meant the spitting fire bit.” Bull motioned to the fire that was dying.

“Oh… magic.”

“I don’t know of any spells that do that.” He said skeptically. “Is that like when you shouted apart stone?”

“Yes.” Ara said but did not elaborate.

He was about to pressure her for further information when that spirit suddenly materialized above the smouldering corpse. Bull managed not to show that he was startled by the sudden appearance as it hovered there and watched them expectantly.

Ara said nothing else as she moved to scoop up the dagger from the crumbling hand of the shuffling corpse. It was quickly becoming little more then ash and dust from the fire but the dagger seemed completely untouched.

It was like the fire had been unable to touch it.

He lowered his sword as he watched her.

There was that strange expression back on her face again. Something that looked almost like regret or perhaps guilt. Another question for later when they were out of this stupid crypt.

You have found it.” The spirit said as it hovered there above the remains, speaking to them both.

“You could have mentioned draugr.” Ara sounded beyond annoyed at this point, not that Bull blamed her.

He did not recognize the word she used but it was strange that she made a point of clearly saying it, just like that sentence earlier. Clearly that word was of importance to her or perhaps she was just that annoyed.

I told you. It would have been disastrous for me to guide you.” There was clear sadness in the spirit’s voice. Something it had mentioned to Ara but not to him, much to his annoyance in this moment.

Bull realized instantly why it had remained away until the shambling corpse was killed.

“This was you, isn’t it?” He said, more of a statement then a question.

Once. Yes.” The spirit looked towards him. “I was but another elvhen to the men who came to murder the Dalish. They did not realize who or what I was when they desecrated my tomb.”

“Who were you?” Ara asked, not bothering to find out what happened to the men responsible.

 “The child of a murdered woman.” There was another sad look. “But it does not matter. My bloodline survived and we completed what we were meant to. We summoned The Dragonborn.”

“You responsible for me here?” The look on Ara’s face was completely unreadable.

Yes. You were needed.” The spirit answered. “You are the only one who can fix things.”

Fix things? Fix what?” Ara asked even as she trembled. “Have Skyrim to fix. Why did your family bring me?

“You have the dagger, you know what you must do.” The spirit looked at Ara with a pointed look as if that was clear enough to explain the purpose.

Bull did not need the look to understand what it meant. This spirit and it’s family had summoned Ara here like an assassin from another country.

“Who did you bring me here to kill? Despite the tremble, Ara’s voice was completely flat. The words were as clear as he had ever heard her speak.

“You must kill the man who destroyed the world.”

Chapter Text

You must kill the man who destroyed the world.”

The words went through Ara’s mind like a crossbow bolt. She suddenly felt nothing. Not sad, not angry, just an absolute nothing.

Everything the spirit said before that was pushed to the side as she just stared at it.

Destroyed the world.

Destroyed.

Her thoughts went to the people she had left behind. To Nirn, Lucia and everything that had been her reason for doing anything in this Forges forsaken world. Every thing that the spirit had mentioned before now just no longer seemed important.

Not her mention of how Kynareth had arranged for Ara to come here or Asha’Bellanar. There was only the realization that everything might already be gone.

She stared at the spirit even as Bull looked at the two of them with outright confusion.

Bull had no idea of her past, at least not enough to really understand where her thoughts had gone so she knew she had to be the one to ask.

She went to speak but her voice came out as a croaking noise before she coughed and spoke again.

“Nirn gone then?” Ara asked, clutching the hilt of Mehrunes’ Razor tightly. If she was right, it was one of the last ties to her world. Mehrunes’ Razor, Arvak and her.

Nirn?” The spirit questioned, it’s voice wavering. “I do not know of Nirn. I only know of this world.”

There was some relief that it did not know of Nirn even if that brought several more questions that Ara had no answer for.

“This world?” It was Bull who asked. “This world seems pretty fucking okay if you ask me.”

Ara frowned but she agreed with what the Qunari had said. She had no idea what the hell the spirit meant. Everyone was alive and well as far as she could tell. There was the possibility that this was some bizarre prophecy. Prophecies were things that she knew all too well.

There was no other explanation for the words about a destroyed world.

More then that I cannot say.” The spirit answered. “As I asked of Asha’Bellanar, Asha’Bellanar has asked of me. She will find you and explain what I cannot.”

Ara frowned and rubbed at her face with one hand. This spirit was just as frustrating as every other person in this accursed world that was supposed to be helpful. She wondered why nothing could be completely straight forward and just a simple set of instructions.

Instead, she was being told to kill someone without even the barest hint of a name.

“Well that’s helpful.” Bull said with a snort, clearly agreeing with her own sentiments.

I am sorry.” The spirit seemed apologetic, if a little annoyed at them. “I felt the death of my people as I lay in slumber, my role was to guard the weapon and nothing more.”

“How long?” Ara found herself asking.

I entered uthenera…

The spirit used a word that Ara had never heard before and Bull provided no answers for her as he looked just as confused. It sounded elvhen but it was not one she had heard anyone speak at Skyhold. She tried to memorize the word to ask Solas or Ellana later.

I died before the Dales fell.” The spirit continued. “But it matters not. You have the god-killer, return to your camp before the rest wake.”

The spirit turned and walked away, disappearing as it travelled. It’s body fading out to nothing but air as it passed through the wall. Ara went to speak to stop it but she found herself unable to, a cold chill going up her back and raising the hair on her neck.

This was all too unsettling.

Ara looked over at Bull and the Qunari had a completely bewildered look on his face. He looked like he was so far out of his element that he might has well have been in Nirn for all the good this conversation did them.

“You understand?” She asked, hoping that perhaps he had understood what the spirit meant.

She did not want to admit that she suddenly wished Solas was there. If anyone could explain the spirit, she was certain it would have been him. He knew about all this old stuff or knew who to ask or where to look.

“A little.” He frowned.

“And?” Ara prompted, hoping to get some manner of answers for the strangeness of the night.

“We talked with a centuries old ghost about a hit.” Bull said with a shrug before looking around. He was doing his best to hide it but she could tell he was uncomfortable inside the crypt. The way he glanced around like a trapped rabbit. “How about we get outside before we start discussing what the hell just happened?”

Ara glanced around at the inside of the crypt and she was inclined to agree. She did not want to be here any longer then she had to, even if she was left with more questions then answers. The ghost had just told her that she needed to kill someone who destroyed the world… or will destroy the world. She really hoped that it was the later.

She lifted the torch again and led the way back to the exit. The trip was far quicker and in complete silence as they were both thinking over things. Her thoughts continued to turn over what the spirit had said, from the destroyer of the world to this Asha’Bellanar and Kynareth.

There was the thought that perhaps this was like the prophecy regarding her and Alduin. That she had been summoned here to kill another world ending being or rather a being who had already destroyed the world.

She sighed in irritation when they reached the outside, the chill night air helping a little but still not fixing her annoyance or confusion.

“We should put this back the right way before we go.” Bull suddenly said as he motioned to the door.

Ara nodded at him and pushed from her side the door after she tucked the dagger into her belt. The door took a few tries but it eventually slid back into place. She quickly relocked the door.

She had expected Bull to say something but the Qunari had once more gone silent. He did not say a single thing as he started walking back towards the camp. She followed him without a word, her mind still playing over everything.

They were about halfway there before Ara could stand the silence no longer.

“I don’t like this.” She said as they walked.

“Me either.” Bull agreed with her, seemingly relieved by her admission. “Do ghosts normally show up and give you cryptic messages?”

“All the time.” Ara said as she wrinkled her nose. It was partially in jest but she had dealt with many spirits and otherworldly beings in Skyrim. All had wanted something from her.

“So, this is normal for you?” Bull asked.

“Not like this.” She jerked her thumb back in the direction of the graveyard. She was used to people showing up but they usually did not volunteer a weapon like Mehrunes’ Dagger. Then again, it had been a spirit that gave her Arvak. “Not so… cryptic.”

She used the word he had used, guessing it had to do with how little there was explaining.

“Does this have to do with you being this… Dragonborn thing?” He asked as he stopped walking.

She thought about it and how much she wanted to tell someone about what she was. Then she remembered Solas’ warning about keeping things a secret. That alone prompted her to do the exact opposite.

“I am Dragonborn.” Ara said with a fierce look. “On the inside I am Dragon.”

It was the simplest explanation she could give and it usually worked to get the point across.

“On the inside, you’re a dragon?” Bull frowned for a moment before a look of realization crossed over his features. “Your soul. Your soul is a dragon?”

“Yes!” Ara said quickly, glad that he had remembered the word that she had forgotten. “My soul.”

Bull went very silent and very still. Ara was worried she might have broken the Qunari for a long minute.

“Ataashi.” Bull said as he bowed his head to her. The look was just like before when he learned she had charged a dragon while naked. “It’s what we call them. Glorious Ones.”

“You worship them?” She asked, surprised as he had shown nothing to hint at his beliefs before now.

“Maybe once.” Bull laughed. “We respect them. They’re dangerous but powerful. They’re sacred but we understand that sometimes you have to kill them to protect others.”

She thought that was a bit of an over-explanation about his people and dragons but she did not question it. Especially given that he seemed almost giddy about it.

“Do your people worship them?” Bull asked in return.

“No.” She shook her head, quickly deciding that she would not explain her people’s beliefs. She still did not know enough to explain that.

“Then how did you become Dragonborn?”

She went silent as she thought about the question but she really had no idea as to why she was Dragonborn. Out of all the people in Nirn, she had been the one born with a dragon soul.

“No idea.” She responded truthfully.

“So, you never questioned it?” Bull asked incredulously.

She had not always accepted her destiny as the Dragonborn but she certainly had never questioned why it was her. Never once did she wonder why it was her. She just accepted that she was and moved on with it.

“Never.” She shrugged. “Not good dwell on things. Accept and move on when can’t change it.”

He paused, once more falling into his thoughts and she was content to stay in silence.

“Is that why you just went along with helping the Inquisition?” He finally asked. “Helping Ellana, I mean?”

“Yes.” Ara nodded. “Ellana need help. Breach was bad so I helped.”

“But this isn’t your home and definitely not your p—”

“Breach bad for everyone.” Ara said as she cut him off. “In my home, I help. Kill dragons. Kill bandits. Find things and people. I do—did what Ellana does, I not turn away when Breach there or Corypheus to kill.”

“Ah… that explains some things.”

“Explains what?”

“You don’t like anyone giving you orders.” Bull said as he moved to sit on a nearby fallen log. “But you’ll accept them from her with no question. You give her a lot more respect then the rest of the Inquisition.”

“That’s no—”

“It’s not a bad thing.” He said with a laugh as he held up his hands. “I just mean that you look at her and you listen to her. I saw that look you gave her and Solas when Solas cut down those mages, yet you said nothing to her.”

“Solas cut down mages.” Ara grimaced at him as she stuck the torch into the soft earth near where he was sitting. “What they did was wrong but he was wrong too. They unarmed. No fight. No chance. Just… murder.”

“So, why didn’t you say anything about it to Ellana?”

“Ellana has enough.” Ara shook her head at the idea. “She deal with people as Inquisitor. She doesn’t need questions or…”

Ara frowned as she could not think of the right words to explain it to him. She just gave a frustrated grunt before continuing. She did not know the proper words as there had never been the context needed to learn these.

It was always the every day and straight forward ones. Learning to read was beginning to help with the words she did not use every day but it was still slow going.

“Us. We help Ellana. She not need us question her.” She finally managed after many attempts at the right words.

“Then why are you and the elf bickering like children?”

The look he gave her made her feel a little ashamed.

“No trouble for Ellana.” She huffed in annoyance.

“No? Do you think she wants to deal with the two of you getting angry at one another every other day?” He quirked an eyebrow at her. “You might think it’s nothing. That it’s just between the two of you but how does it look to the soldiers she leads? What do they think when the people who are supposed to be helping her are fighting among themselves?”

Ara glared at him. She just did not want to deal with it but she guessed he was not going to let it go by the way he was staring back at her.

“Not my fault this time!” She said as she threw her arms up in exasperation. “I tried being nice. He got mad for stupid reason. I not ask his friend here!”

“I didn’t think you did.” Bull said with a shake of his head. “I’m just saying. If you believe Ellana needs us at her back, following her, then you know she doesn’t need dissent among us. A unified front.”

“Agreed.” She crossed her arms.

“And she needs the truth.”

“The truth?”

“I doubt you’ve told her that you can shout apart walls, breathe fire and are this Dragonborn?”

“Well… no.” Ara looked down at her feet.

“Why not?

“Why you think?” Ara said tersely. “I am Dragonborn. Here… they think I am threat. Dangerous. What you think they do if learn I talk to dragons?”

“I think they’d be glad for the help.” Bull answered. “After all, it’s not every day they have someone who’s a powerhouse—Wait… did you say you can talk to dragons?”

“Yes?” She sighed. “They don’t answer. They different then my dragons.”

She was careful with her words. She was not going to explain everything about being Dragonborn to him. She truly had no idea how he would react to the truth of it.

“Wouldn’t that be like anyone talking to a dragon then?”

“No.” She wrinkled her nose as she understood how he could get that impression. Even as that comment irritated her. “Dragon language. Dragons not speak it here but they know it. They know me. That why dragon did not eat me.”

“Oh. The dragon you attacked… while naked.”

“Yes, that.” She responded tersely.

“It’s not like I’ve ever heard of someone challenging a dragon while naked. It’s still pretty damn impressive even if they recognized you as one of their own.” He said with a grin and a shrug. “Did you know it wouldn’t attack you?”

“No.” Ara responded.

“So, it doesn’t matter that you’re Dragonborn or not. You still assumed the worst when you stuck yourself between it and Ellana.” Bull was still grinning. “That’s pretty ballsy.”

“Ballsy?”

“Brave.” Bull clarified.

“Not brave.” Ara said with shrug. “No one else. Couldn’t let Ellana die.”

“You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you cared about our Inquisitor.” Bull’s tone was curious but there was something beneath it. A clear indication that he was prying for some more information about her.

“She stop Breach. Stop Corypheus.” Ara shrugged, not really sure what he was getting at. “Save world.”

“It’s more then that, isn’t it?”

“No, not really.” Ara shook her head, getting annoyed at this line of logic that seemed to be his favorite. “Ellana is Inquisitor. She protects people, we protect her. Like said. United Front.”

“If you say so.” He stroked his chin as he went silent.

“I say so.” Ara’s annoyance gave way to frustration. “Why so curious?”

“I’m allowed to be, aren’t I?” He asked with a laugh. “Are you so afraid of people questioning you?”

“You already questioned.” Ara said pointedly. “I answered. You not answer my question.”

“Fair enough.” Bull grinned at her. “I’m curious about you.”

“About me?”

“Of course. First, I was curious because no one knew a damn thing about you… well maybe other then Solas but after that, you were a mystery.” He spread his hands as he talked. “A powerful mystery, one that seemed oddly fond of our Inquisitor. Then when you do start talking, I learn things about you like the fact that you’re the Dragonborn – which is awesome by the way – and that you’re here to kill some guy who destroyed the world.”

She knew he meant it as a joke but it still did not sit well with her. It reminded her of why she had the dagger and what it could possibly mean.

There were several possibilities that she could guess. She was honestly hoping that it meant that this world was in dire straits from some action years ago, otherwise she had no idea why a long dead spirit would be waiting to give her advice on what to do.

The other options frightened her a little too much.

“You know… you should probably keep the dragon soul bit to just your friends in the Inquisition.” Bull said with a thoughtful expression. “Just the people you trust to know what you are.”

“I trust you?” She asked, somewhere between teasing and honesty.

“You didn’t chase me off the moment you heard me earlier? Or even tried to hide what you were doing.” Bull shook his head. “Which was pretty damn observant by the way. Does anyone in the Inquisition know you’re that observant?”

Ara shrugged in response. She did not know, nor did she really care to know. If they did not pay enough attention then that was not her fault.

“Or that you can get through thick underbrush without leaving so much as a damn broken branch?” He continued as if he had not seen her shrug. “I still stand by my comment from Haven. You’re fucking wasted as a smith.”

“There nothing wrong with smithing.” She glowered at him.

 “I never said there was.” The corner of his mouth went up into his usual grin. “I’m just saying. I followed what I thought was your path to the graveyard but couldn’t even see where you had gone. I was about ready to give up and go back to camp when I saw you digging around a grave.”

“Alright.” She wrinkled her nose and decided to ignore his insult to her heritage. “Why not say things about Dragonborn?”

 “Right.” Bull nodded. “My people would try to figure you out. See what you’re capable of and then try to breed your bloodline into the Qunari or kill you… if you were lucky. Then there are the more fanatic types that follow the Maker. They’d just try to kill you.”

Ara wrinkled her nose in disgust as she understood what that meant. The more she learned about his people, the more she wished there was no connection between her own and his.

“The Chantry really dislike dragon shit. According to them, dragons posing as gods were the ones who led to the Magisters breaking into the Golden City and pretty much wrecking things for everyone else.”

“Varric mentioned something like that.” She paused as she remembered Corypheus calling her by the name Dumat and could not resist asking. “Dumat?”

“Yeah, Dumat was one of them. Coincidentally, he was the first to rise as an archdemon at the head of a Blight.” Bull mentioned it as if it was a passing thought before he continued on. “That being said… my people will end up damn interested in you when they find out about you. Even if you weren’t this Dragonborn thing. People are already calling you a green Qunari.”

“Thought was Demon?” Ara said with a snort before focusing on what he said. “What you mean, when they find out? You telling them?”

She knew she was being paranoid but Solas had been informing Ellana about her and lying about himself. Bull had even said earlier that he was going to tell Ellana what he learned so she guessed he was going to tell his people as well.

“Yeah, that too.” Bull shrugged yet again before looking away from her. There was something almost uncomfortable in the change in his posture as if he really did not want to say what he was about to say. “I’m Ben-Hassrath… I know that word doesn’t mean anything to you but… well… it basically means I’m a spy.”

Ara bared her teeth at him almost instantly.

“Does Ellana know?” Her voice came out in little more then a hiss.

A spy. Now she understood why he was so curious about her. It had nothing about him wanting to be friends with her but just another person trying to find information for nefarious purposes. She wondered if there was anyone in the Inquisition who was not spying for someone else.

“Yes.” He fixed her with a strange one eyed stare. “Do you really think I would have lasted this long in the Inquisition if her or her Spymaster didn’t know I was one?”

That took a little out of her but she was still upset that a spy would be privy to first hand knowledge of the Inquisition, and especially of Ellana.

“A part of my agreement is that I pass on information from the Inquisition back to the Qunari. Nothing that would jeopardize their work but enough to keep my superiors happy back home.”

Ara was still scowling at him.

“I haven’t informed them of you… not really, not yet.” He looked away again but there was some guilt on his face. “What I have told them has been okayed by the Spymaster. That you’re tall, green and damn skilled with a hammer. I didn’t mention anything about the magic or any of the other weird shit you do.”

She understood what he was saying. Ellana’s council had decided what he was sharing with the Qunari and she had been included in it. Not once had any of them mentioned this to her. None of them had even hinted that information about her would be passed on.

And that made her angry.

“So, I’m going to leave this up to you. What do you want me to tell Elanna?” He suddenly asked.

“What?” She asked, startled by the question.

“I’m not dense. I know you’ve been hiding this shit from everyone.” He paused for a moment and that uncomfortable look seemed to shift into a sly one. “Except Solas, right? He knows about you being Dragonborn and a lot more? Like perhaps where you came from?”

She scowled at him again. The Qunari was too perceptive for her own good.

“I knew it!” He said with a small chuckle.

“Ugh.” Ara said, making a disgusted noise at him before idly kicking at the dirt.

“So, you decide what you want me to share with Ellana.” Bull said, his face becoming almost neutral. “But if you decide you don’t want her, or anyone else knowing then I won’t tell… unless it gets to a point where it becomes a problem for Ellana or the Inquisition.”

“Why you letting me decide?” She asked.

“I like you.” Bull said with a shrug. “And I sincerely doubt I’d want to be on your bad side if you can breathe fire and shout apart stone. And you’re a dragon. Which is awesome. Very, very awesome. Can you do other things that dragons do? Can you fly? Shit… there are so many questions that I can’t even begin to think of to ask about this.”

“You sound like this best thing ever.” Ara said with a snort. His enthusiasm about her being the Dragonborn was kind of nice, if a little annoying, but the fact that he said he liked her was rather heart warming. The thought that she might have friends among the Inquisition made things seem a little less bleak.

“It kind of is.” He grinned. “Oh… have you ever ridden a dragon?”

Any other problems seemed to bleed away as she shared stories about what it was like to be the Dragonborn in Skyrim. Bull listened with an almost childlike glee as she told him everything from riding various dragons to capturing Odahviing. She clearly got enough of it across that he understood as Bull looked nothing but thrilled the entire time.

She only stopped telling stories when the sky began to lighten, the pair of them returning to the camp where the others were beginning to wake.

It was travelling through the forest that she remembered what the dark haired elf had told her in that dream so long ago. That the Qunari knew.

“Bull.” She said with a frown as she stopped.

“Yeah?”

“Someone said others aware of me and you know.” She continued to frown.

“Ah…” He had stopped but now he turned to look away from her. “Like I said, I told my people about you but just what Leliana had cleared. I got word back afterwards.”

“And?” She prompted.

“The Qunari have spies everywhere, that information gets shared with me.” He answered. “As you’re part of the Inquisition, that stuff got relayed back to me.”

“Bull.” She was beginning to get the feeling that he did not want to tell her.

“People know you’re here, alright.” He said with a sigh. “Not just the Qunari. I don’t want to get into depth about it right now but… just… don’t go too far from Skyhold without someone with you. There are so many damn eyes on the Inquisition and you’re the focus of some of them.”

“Does Ellana know?”

“Yes, her and her Advisors know.”

She scowled but she pushed it no further. She just stalked off towards the camp as she thought over all this new information.

Chapter Text

Solas’ journey back to Skyhold had been a lonely one. There was merely him and his thoughts. Each night he wandered the fade but other spirits seemed to avoid him.

His grief warped the fade each night and he woke each morning feeling ashamed.

There were many things he thought over. He had constantly been running to Wisdom for answers when he could find them no where else. If he had not been so insistent then perhaps his friend would never have been brought to the part of the fade where it became captured by the Mages.

He could not find it in himself to forgive them for what they had done and he grew even more bitter over the state of the world.

It was several nights before he could bring himself to journey to where Wisdom had once dwelled. The place was empty as he had expected but he found that there were little things left by other spirits.

Images and memories of their friend who was no longer with them.

It eased his grief to see that the others did not want Wisdom to be forgotten. It was a flitting spirit of Hope that told them they hoped their memories would help the new spirit to be like the old Wisdom.

A strange notion but he took that with him into the waking world.

It was a week before he accepted what he had known all along. He had been the cause of Wisdom’s arrival in the Plains. The spirit would never have gone if he had not been so insistent. It was a painful notion but one that he finally admitted as he arrived at Skyhold.

The Inquisitor and the others had yet to arrive but he doubted they would arrive for some time. He had abandoned them in the midst of their quest and he knew Ellana would not leave things half done.

The young Dalish woman continued to surprise him at every turn. He had not counted on her willingness to help him free his friend after discovering Wisdom’s fate. He had hoped but still, it was surprising when she agreed.

Others of this time simply reacted in horror at the idea of having a friend among the spirits.

He decided, as he stabled his horse, that he would apologize to her when she returned. She deserved no less and perhaps far more.

“You hurt her.” Cole’s voice was in his ear, insistent and almost angry. “You were supposed to help!”

“Cole?” Solas asked as he turned but the spirit was no where to be seen.

Frowning, Solas turned back to his mount’s gear. The tone of the spirit did not sit well with him and he worried what Cole was thinking. Spirits could be easily twisted by their own thoughts, especially if they touched waking minds too long.

“Her fault. You said it was her fault.” Cole’s voice hissed in his ear again. “You blamed her!”

“I was upset, Cole.” Solas said as he continued to care for his horse. Every part of him wanted to turn around and look at the spirit but he knew he would not be there. Just like last time.

“Upset?” Cole’s voice came again, this time in his other ear. “Upset? Wisdom died. And you blamed her.”

“I will apologize when I see her, Cole.” Solas said as he handed off the horse to a rather confused looking stable hand. The conversation seemed to be one sided which was not that unusual, Cole was a spirit after all.

“Will that be enough?” Cole responded, his voice sounding almost puzzled. “Her hurt was loud. She counted. How many died? How many pulled through?”

Solas frowned as Cole’s words descended into some other train of thought. He turned away from the stable and slowly walked across the courtyard. His eyes scanning for the spirit who had become nearly human.

“Were they your friends? Did they die too? Did you kill them?”

A shiver went up Solas’ spine as he turned and found Cole standing behind him. The hat hung low over his face but those eyes were glowing points beneath the rim, nearly white hot and filled with something quite unlike compassion. A dagger glinted in his hand as he stared at Solas with intent.

He had seen spirits twisted against their natures before and Cole looked one step too close for comfort.

“Cole?” Solas said softly as he put his hands on the spirit’s shoulders, doing his best to keep his thoughts calm. “I promise. I am going to apologize to her and answer whatever questions she has.”

“Will it be enough?” The spirit asked again.

“I hope so.” Solas said with a sad sigh. “I had hoped to find more to help her but Wisdom’s death—”

“It hurt you.” Cole paused as if the spirit had only now just realized Wisdom’s death had hurt Solas. “Friends for so long. Years. Centuries. All gone.”

“Yes, it hurt.” Solas nodded.

“She hurt for you.” Cole sounded almost puzzled. “Wanted to help but you were angry.”

“Perhaps it would be best if she told me that herself.” Solas kept his voice level. He was uncertain what he felt knowing that. “You must not delve into the thoughts of another like this.”

“But I want to help. I need to help.” He said earnestly. “She needs help. He helped. Liked hearing about her and dragons. He wants to help. And do other things.”

Solas frowned but did not ask. He simply did not want to know what the spirit was talking about. It seemed too personal and not something that Cole should be hearing in another’s mind.

It did not help his already disturbed emotional state.

“She needs your help.” Cole said. The dagger was suddenly gone and he was gripping Solas’ arms in a vicelike grip.

“I’ve been trying, Cole.” Solas said even though he knew he really had not been. He had been more selfish then anything with trying to figure her out. Everything else had been ignored in his quest for answers.

Not once since they arrived in Skyhold had he thought about trying to get her home.

“Home?” Cole questioned. “No. No. You can’t send her there. He’s waiting there. You have to help her here.”

“Who is waiting?” Solas demanded but Cole was no longer listening and Solas found himself holding nothing more then air as Cole seemed to pull himself away in the blink of an eye.

Solas was startled as Cole danced away from him before practically disappearing.

The spirit’s words hung in the air leaving him both perplexed and concerned. He had somehow managed to twist Cole’s nature and that was worrisome. Compassion should not be threatening.

He wandered towards his rotunda as he considered what Cole had meant.

Ara had told him before of Alduin, the first Dragon, a being that she was supposed to kill. She had said she believed it was that creature that had sent her here. He wondered if that was who Cole was referring to but he doubted it.

Helping her here would have no effect on her return to her world. That would leave her with just facing Alduin despite everything they had done here.

He had no idea what it meant and now he was without Wisdom. There was no one he could ask but with a rising dread, he knew there was someone he could ask. Someone he had been avoiding for some time now.

Sighing, he entered his room and locked the door.

He laid his things to the side as he moved to find a comfortable position on his bed. His eyes closed as he willed himself into the fade.

He went to Mythal’s temple within the fade and waited.

Time seemed meaningless as he waited but Mythal did not answer his summons as he hoped.

Nothing answered his summons. It was as if his presence chased away all the spirits of the fade.

Regardless, he waited until morning before waking.

He lay in his bed and stared up at the ceiling. Merely thinking on the absence of the usual life of the fade. He doubted that he was the cause for the spirits hiding as they had not shied from him when he created the veil.

There was simply no reason they would do so now.

It did not take long for him to realize that Mythal had told the spirits to stay away and that she had avoided him as well. He had was not sure why Mythal would turn him away but he guessed it had something to do with Wisdom and Ara.

Spirits tended to talk and it would have reached Mythal by then.

The day was uneventful before he once more returned to his bed. Solas tossed and turned for several long hours before falling into a restless sleep. His wanderings took him far from Skyhold and he slid into an unfamiliar dream.

 

The dream was disjointed, almost like it had been taken from dozens of different dreamers and pieced together.

Not unlike the landscape of the fade but this was different then what he normally witnessed.

He could not quite put his finger on the difference, just that he knew that it was.

It was a little village, perhaps a little bigger then Haven, with stone houses. Some manner of straw was used as roofing for those houses. A stone road led through the town that curved out of sight behind several buildings.

A quick glance around revealed several large but narrow towers, a slightly larger building – which may have been a keep, he was none too certain – and a stone wall encircling the whole thing.

Villagers wandered the street. A boy hung off the porch of one house while an older man watched down the road with a disinterested look.

The people looked much the same as the people of Ferelden but the style of clothing was foreign. He had seen a child wearing the same kind of clothing as the boy in another dream once before.

He realized then that he was in one of Ara’s dreams and quickly made an effort to leave.

He was curious about this place, and a new dream of hers, but he was not going to visit her dreams until he had spoken his apologies and gained her permission to enter.

Solas turned towards one of the exits as it was often so simple to leave a dream by a doorway. Beyond it, he could make out the faint inside of a home.

He stepped through only to find himself back where he had been before. It was as if he stepped from the door of a tower instead of walking into a building.

He swore under his breath as he tried the northern most exit before he was once more returned to that one spot. Each conventional exit sent him back to that one place at the foot of a watch tower.

He was trapped.

There was a moment where Solas considered using his powers to force his way from the dream but then that would bring her attention and that would not go well for him. She would never let him into her dreams again if she discovered his presence.

Clearly this dream, or place, must be important to her in some manner.

He took a second look at the place but could see nothing that would warrant it. There were no Orcs here, so clearly it was not her home.

There were also no dragons.

There was nothing of note, it looked just like some random town nestled in a small forested valley.

Solas turned his head at the sound of approaching carts and horses.

He watched as a pair of carts came around the bend in the road. Several people rode horses next to them and all wore strange armour. The armour looked similar to Thedosian armour but the details looked nothing like even the oldest armour in fade dreams.  

One man wore even more ornate armour and a cape to match. Solas was certain he heard him being addressed as General Tullius, the only name he had made out thus far.

He glanced past them and into the first cart. More soldiers wearing a different set of armour. Then came the second cart and he realized these were not soldiers.

Two were dressed in thicker clothing with one being a slightly fancier version of the first. The fancier man must have been of some importance as he bore a gag across his mouth. Their clothing matched in shades of blue and grey so the pair were clearly of some group or other.

The other two were dressed in near rags. One human and one that looked like an orc, or at least looked like Ara.

The colouring was darker and this woman seemed thinner.  

Solas shrunk into the shadow of the nearby tower as he watched everything unfold. This must be the important moment that had sealed this in her memoires and dreams.

The cart stopped and all four were forced out. All four had their hands tied.

There was no doubting that these were prisoners of the others.

He remained completely still as they began taking one prisoner after another from the cart, leading them to one of the armoured humans who looked over a parchment. He called out their names one by one as if to confirm the prisoners.

Solas watched as one of the scruffy prisoners took off at a run.

Only for the man to be shot down on the order of the Captain.

Then they called forth the orc and he was certain of who he was looking at.

There was no mistaking Ara even if she looked no more then a child.

She was skinnier with gaunt cheeks and sunken eyes. She looked downright starved. Her hair was shaved close to her head, or perhaps singed, he could not really tell from where he stood. Bruises and dirt lined her face and her clothing was little more then tattered rags.

Strangely, he did not see what he had come to expect in her other dreams. There were no ghostly wings or horns or any hint of her dragon nature. She looked just like a poor urchin that survived on the street by her bare wits. Yet, there was a familiar fierceness in her red eyes as she glared at the people who had captured her.

That anger softened when one of the humans apologized to her and promised to return her remains to a place called Orsinium.

Still, they sent her to the line up with the others even if there was no crime mentioned.

Solas watched with a morbid fascination even while he realized she was facing her death.

General Tullius stopped the gagged man – who was called Ulfric apparently – and began to speak with him. Solas missed whatever was said as he heard the distinctive roar of a dragon in the distance. That was far more interesting then whatever politics brought these people together.

Blinking, he looked between the people standing there and it was as if they did not notice or simply did not care about the proximity to a dragon.

Only the kind soldier seemed to ask, confusion and fear in his voice; only to be told that it was nothing. 

A woman, a priest he assumed by the way she was dressed, started speaking some prayer which seemed to infuriate one of the men. He shouted before walking towards the executioner that Solas only just noticed. The executioner held a large and unwieldy looking axe but remained silent at the shouting.

The priest merely allowed the man to meet his end how he wished, standing aside and resting her arms at her sides.

The man kneeled to put his head on the block and taunted the people about to kill him. No one responded to his words.

Solas winced as the axe came down and the man’s head rolled free into the nearby basket.

People were shouting their thoughts but he ignored it all as he watched the commander push the man’s still quivering body over with her boot. There was a clear look of distaste on her face.

Then the Captain shouted and Solas went cold.

“Next! The orc!”

This had to be a nightmare.

Something from her past that was contorted into this horrific scene. There was nothing he could think of for her to escape this fate, yet Ara walked up to the block with her head held high.

Perhaps she had known some of these men who had been executed and this place hung in her mind as something terrible.

Once more, a dragon’s roar echoed through the silent town.

He desperately hoped it was the dragon that had made this place stick in her memories.

“There it is again! Did you hear that?” The kind soldier asked as he looked around.

 “I said ‘Next Prisoner!’” The Captain retorted angrily.

“To the block, prisoner.” The soldier said as he turned back to Ara with clear regret in his voice. “Nice and easy.”

There was no fear in Ara as she walked up. No words of panic as she moved to take her place. She kneeled where the other man had been and rested her head on the block.

Every part of him rebelled at what he was seeing and Solas moved to stop the dream. He was not about to watch as she let herself die.

He shouted but his voice was silenced by the sudden roar of the dragon.

Solas stopped in his tracks, startled as the dragon flew into view from over the edge of the mountain range. Its roar shook the very buildings around him.

“What in Oblivion is that?!” General Tullius shouted.

Solas was caught up in watching it soar through the skies.

People were speaking around him. That Commander was giving orders and villagers were shrieking. At least one called out that it was a dragon and he was not certain if it was a soldier or a villager.

The dragon landed on the tower behind the executioner’s block with enough force to rock the ground. Dust and debris rained down upon them, perhaps far more then should have come from that tower.

That perch gave Solas a chance to look at the dragon. It looked much the same as Ara’s dragon form. Terrible and black but this one looked sharper. He could see no difference between the amount of horns, the wings, or scales. Yet, it was sharper. More fearsome somehow.

The dragon took a moment to look around at them as if it was surveying the village. There was an intelligence in those red eyes that Solas had not seen in Thedosian dragons since long before the fall of Arlathan. It opened its mouth to roar but what came out was completely unexpected.

It was not a thu’um or even a roar but more like a snap sound. Solas felt a rush of magic accompanying it and the very sky twisted with the power that came from the dragon. Clouds billowed behind the dragon. Flashes of lightening arching through the sky.

Solas tried to move to Ara, to help her get to her feet but the sky split open and another thunderous noise shook the village.

Startled, he looked up to see that meteor like bits of stone were falling from the sky. They trailed through the sky leaving fire in their wake. He saw more then one villager be taken out by the debris and many a roof collapse under this new onslaught.

Magic like this was not unknown to him for he had seen such spell work when the Elvhen had fought among themselves but it was still an awe inspiring sight and a little terrifying.

Ara had gotten to her feet and run off in the chaos. Solas tried to see her in the destruction of the village but he had no idea where she had gone.

Instead, he focused on the dragon who had taken to the skies once more only to land on a tower and slam its head through the stone.

Solas was surprised at such a tactic but it made it clear that this dragon was far stronger then the dragons he knew. Such a blow would have slowed Thedosian dragons but this seemed as easy as breathing for this dragon.

TOOR…SHUL!

The thu’um echoed in his head like he heard it from several places at once. The dragon breathing flame into the hole in the tower.

He watched as the dragon leapt into the sky once more but turned in surprise when he watched young Ara jump through the hole in the tower and into the building below. Her hands still tied but a look of determination was across her face.

He followed as best as he could from this side of the buildings. Watching as she avoided the dragon’s thu’um a second time and then a third. She got back to her feet each time she was knocked down. Never once did she seem to be willing to give up in the face of the dragon.

Solas watched as she ran through the village before being forced to choose between the kind soldier and the prisoner from her cart. Words were passed between the two men before she chose the soldier and followed him into the keep.

He was left standing there in the village as the dragon continued to wreck havoc. He watched as it laid waste to the remaining soldiers.

The sky continued to rain fire and the town was quickly obliterated.

It was only when the dragon gave a final roar and flew off that the dream began to meld back into the fade.

In the distance, Solas could see another part of the dream. This time of Ara exiting a cave with the kind soldier following close behind her.

He was loathe to ignore his curiosity but he knew he had stayed long enough without her permission. This strange memory-like dream had been private and he had only remained because he could not leave.

Now that he could, he chose to wake up lest he be dragged once more into her dream.

 

Solas woke once more in his bed and knew that he had slept well into the morning. He felt a little guilty about that but more so about what he had witnessed. He had thought that she had witnessed some horror in that village but it turned out that it had been her own near death.

That she had accepted her death and gone to meet it with a defiant stare only to encounter her first dragon. Of that, he was certain. Everyone around her had reacted in surprise to the dragon as if it was some legendary creature.

That puzzled him but it was quickly forgotten as he realized that the dream should have ended or at least changed when she ventured into the keep. Instead, it had gone on like it had not been her dream but someone elses.

It was another piece to the puzzle that brought her here but he had no idea what it meant or who it was that had actually been dreaming. It had seemed like Ara’s dream but a person did not dream of what they have never seen.

Chapter Text

Solas had been out walking several days later to clear his head when he heard the return of the Inquisitor and her companions. There was no mistaking the boisterous laughter from the group but he froze at the unfamiliar sound of Ara’s laughter among them.

He had heard her laugh before but it had never been quite as free as it was in that moment. It was strange that he had heard it so infrequently that he had barely recognized it at all.

There was no repressing the sudden feeling of guilt as he pondered the laughter.

Solas knew that it was his caution and direction that had prompted her to be a bit more reserved around the others. He had been the one to tell her not reveal too much to the others. He had said to keep everything a secret.

There was no doubt that she had shared with the others, or at least one of them, given what Cole had mentioned to him.

He wondered how different would she acting if she had decided to ignore him and open up to others.

Solas sighed but waited until they were long past before he slowly made his way toward the road. He would rather face his talk with Ara when there was no one else present. She kept her anger contained well but he did not want to push his luck. While she had given no cause to show that she possessed a short temper, he had an idea of the power was lurking behind her façade of acceptance.

Solas would rather not tempt fate at this point.

He stopped at the crest of the hill as he saw Ellana standing there and speaking with Dagna. Ellana looked mildly annoyed and rather tired. Clearly, Dagna had snagged a moment of the Inquisitor’s time before the woman had gotten the chance to relax.

There was more guilt over his actions and he thought about allowing Ellana to simply go but he would rather get that apology over with as well.

He disliked the nervousness clawing at him as he approached the Inquisitor. Even more surprising then his guilt was that he genuinely wanted her forgiveness for his actions. There was something about her that almost made him think twice about his decision to restore their people.

Almost.

He was surprised when she turned to speak with him without a shred of hostility. It was as if his behaviour had been forgotten and already forgiven.

Ellana even genuinely attempted to comfort him after he had given his apology.

He was grateful for both her acceptance and for the small, honest curiosity she had for his lost friend. That attitude made him wonder if perhaps she was an oddity among her people as he dared not hope that the rest of her clan was as open minded as she was. The other Dalish had not been quite as understanding during his meetings with them.

Ellana went on to reveal everything that had happened in the Exalted Plains after his decision to flee. Everything from the graveyard they visited – an oddity in itself – to Ara and Bull’s night in the forest alone.

He did not want to admit that he did not like the fact that Ara had become closer to the Qunari. A feeling he was certain was based on Bull being a spy for the Qunari.

Something he doubted the man had confided in Ara.

He was about to ask more questions when Varric interrupted that curious streak by the news of the arrival of his friend and Solas had to admit that he was just as curious about the man they called Hawke as Ellana seemed. The Champion of Kirkwall who was there when the war between the Chantry and the Mages began.

There were so many questions he wanted to ask but he had other, more important, concerns.

There had been several other beings who demanded he help Ara and that all began with an apology.

He knew his outburst in the Plains had been uncalled for. Something he felt immensely guilty even as he said it. Ara had not deserved his ire, regardless of the reason for Wisdom being in the Plains. The whole thing was something he regretted, from Wisdom’s death to the outburst.

A regret that was further worsened by the knowledge that he had missed whatever it was that Ara discovered in Var Bellanaris. Something that the Qunari now knew.

That bothered him as much as his guilt over his actions.

He did not follow Ellana as Varric led her away to introduce her to Hawke. Instead, Solas headed for the place he knew Ara would be.

She was rather predictable in that sense. Always at the smithy if she had the choice.

“Ara.” He said her name as he approached. “I was hoping we could talk.”

She looked up at him with a sigh before nodding. Straightening up, she strode for the door of the smithy and began walking towards a set of the rooms in the back.

They had apparently given her more then one room as her own, something he guessed was helped along by Harritt and the other smiths.

He was a bit surprised to find that there was another door leading to void knows where. Perhaps it was the advisors’ way of ensuring she did not feel trapped by the four walls. He would make a point to examine this new addition to Skyhold that he had been unaware of.

“My quarters.” She said with a small shrug. “Josephine chose.”

He was certain then. Josephine was far more perceptive and tactful then the others.

“You do need a place to rest, occasionally.” He tried to keep his voice neutral, given that they had not parted on the best of terms. “I… I wished to apologize.”

She stared at him blankly, completely silent and unmoving.

That silence hung in the air and he began to feel even more uncomfortable. Each second of that silence only heightened that nervousness and worry that she had already decided never to speak with him again.

“Ara?” He questioned. “Are you alright?”

“Yes just…” She cocked her head almost owlishly, those deep red eyes unblinking as she continued to stare. “Must be going deaf. Thought you said sorry.”

He managed not to grit his teeth as he realized she was being intentionally difficult. The words and the look made that perfectly clear.

“I did. I apologize.”

“For?”

“Everything.” He said with a strained shrug, wondering if she actually wanted him to list everything. He decided to start with the more memorable things and hoped that would be enough. “For not telling you about my ability to walk in dreams. For deceiving you into believing I was someone else. For telling you to trust me. For blaming you for Wisdom.”

She paused and he knew she was savouring this. She knew more then enough language to know what an apology was and she knew him enough to know he meant it.

“Stop being difficult. I am apologizing.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. Varric had clearly been rubbing off on her. “I sincerely mean it, Ara. I am sorry for it all.”

“Apology accepted.” Ara said simply before turning to pull something from her travelling gear. “Here. Look at this.”

He took a step back, startled by the quick change.

Just like that, she had accepted her apology. There was no anger. Nothing to even hint that he had hurt her feelings in the plains. Just an acceptance and moving on as if it had never happened.

“You are… accepting my apology?” He questioned, staring at her and completely oblivious to what she was holding out to him.

“Yes.” She responded gruffly. “You sorry. I accept. We move on.”

Solas had honestly expected something a lot more then this. Nothing like her throwing something at him or anything but he had expected something closer to screaming. Yet she was just telling him that she was forgiving him without anything else.

He did not believe it could be that easy. 

“Here. Look.” She held out the object to him again even though she kept a nearly white knuckled grip on it. “Have you seen before?”

He blinked at her before taking the object – a dagger – from her hand. She seemed loathe to let it go but she eventually let him take it. He went cold the moment it touched his hand. His eyes growing wide as he looked down at it, and he glanced up at her for a moment before looking down at it once more.

That blade was something he had not seen in thousands of years. There was no doubt in his mind to what he now held in his hand.

The same black leather bound the handle and that same undimmed steel. Everything was as he had seen it last so long ago. A weapon capable of killing even the strongest of the Evanuris.

“Wh…where did you get this?” He stammered, genuinely terrified by the reality of the dagger.

“Var Bellanaris.” Ara said quickly. “Took it from draugr… walking corpse?”

“How… I…” He stammered as he tried to get his mind around what he held. It was not often that something in this era could startle him but this was outside of anything he had expected.

“You know it?” She asked.

“Yes. This… this was a weapon that—” He stopped and concentrated. Once more, that shield fell into place around them. He saw Ara flinch and knew she felt it’s presence despite her limited magic. “It was a weapon brought from beyond the void by Andruil. She used it to slay other immortals.”

“Nothing is immortal.” Ara said as she wrinkled her nose. “Who Andruil?”

“Andruil was… she was one of the Evanuris.” Solas said before motioning for Ara to sit while he turned around to lock the door. This was not an explanation he wanted someone to walk in on. “Do you remember what I started to tell you before? About how I locked away my brethren?”

“Yes… sort of.” Ara responded with a sheepish look which quickly turned to a look of realization. “Andruil one of them?”

“Yes, and I had thought all of her weapons were gone with her. In fact, I know I made sure to lock away her armory.” He held the dagger tightly. “You said you took this from a risen corpse in Var Bellanaris?”

“Talked with its spirit.” Ara said with a nod as she held out her hand. “She called it ‘that which is mine’ but it called Mehrunes’ Razor.”

“Mehrunes’ Razor?” There was something familiar about the words that he just could not place. Like a phrase heard in a half forgotten dream from thousands of years ago. “I do not recall what Andruil called it.”

“You not understand.” Ara said clearly as she looked between her hand and him. “It was mine. In Thedas. I found pieces. Put together. Did… did bad thing to get.”

He wondered what the bad thing was but did not ask. He merely looked down at it for a brief moment before finally handing it back to her. The idea of that weapon being in someone else’s hands was terrifying but he did not think Ara would go on a murder spree. At least he hoped she would not.

“You said you talked with the spirit, what else did it say?” Solas asked.

“That she helped me get here.” Ara wrinkled her nose. “Her family and her. They want me kill someone.”

“Who?” He questioned.

“Don’t know.” Ara seemed to hedge her words and he was not certain if she was telling the truth. “Spirits cryptic. Never straight answer. Bull heard but he not know either.”

He really wished he had not abandoned them all so quickly when it was now clear that he could have helped shed some light on the information that Ara had gained.

“It did say uthenera. What that mean?”

“Uthenera is...” He paused for a moment, trying to figure out how to explain the concept of uthenera to her when it was just as foreign to the people of this era. “That would make it very old, Ara.” He sincerely doubted that it was that old.

“It said old too. Old as Dales.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.” He grumbled, wondering what reason this spirit had to lie about this. “No Dalish elvhen would be capable of entering uthenera. That was something the elven of my time were capable of but not when the elvhen lived in the Dales.”

Ara frowned even as she put the dagger in the scabbard. She had clearly decided to use the scabbard for her original dagger and seemed keen on keeping this Mehrunes’ Razor close to her. Something he was thankful for as there was no better guard for something so dangerous then here.

“You mer are weird.” Ara finally said with a sigh. “Bull was like child over dragons.”

“Bull is not elvhen.” Solas sputtered.

“Close enough.” Ara fixed him with a strange look before shrugging. “He happy about me being Dragonborn… but… he warned.”

“What did he warn about?” Solas questioned, concerned about what the man might have said to her.

“That others know I am here.” She said with a sigh. “That his people know others looking. He say I should not leave. Not by myself.”

Solas frowned but found himself agreeing with Bull. He had taught her a little of the world beyond Haven but he was not certain of things now that the Breach was closed.

“I believe he is right.” He spoke. “I also advise caution in your dreams.”

“My dreams?” She peered at him intently.

“What you reveal might be seen to others.” He hemmed his own answer a little. He knew he needed to tell her what he saw about the dragon but he was wary of doing so in that moment.

“But you there. You protect?”

“If I can, I will.” He nodded enthusiastically at her. Glad that she seemed to have forgiven him for that, and hoped that was some manner of acceptance of his dream walking. “But you do not always sleep when I do and I fear that you would not take kindly to me sealing you into a certain place of the fade.”

“No. Definitely no.” She wrinkled her nose in disgust at the idea of being caged in her dream. “Bad enough people die each time.”

“People have been dying in your dreams?” He blinked in surprise. He had only seen the nameless villagers die in his most recent excursion into her dreams. Every other dream had seemed almost harmless compared to that.

“Yes.” She grimaced again. “Woman with horns died. Ferelden King killed her.”

He remembered her panic in Redcliffe when she had claimed that she had seen the King of Ferelden in her dreams but he had never considered that her dream was of him killing someone. That was something that seemed far out of character for what he knew of the man.

“Another dream, he killed dragon. I was dragon.”

“Do you know why he killed them?” Solas asked as he tried to make sense of what those dreams meant. It seemed strange that her dreams seemed to revolve around the Ferelden King killing people, especially considering those were the dreams that he was not present for.

“Woman took his father. She wanted blood. His blood I think.” She paused, suddenly looking thoughtful. “Dragon in other dream had thing with blood too. Wanted put her own blood on ashes. She got mad when King and his friends took ashes.”

He went very still as she explained. He knew of blood magic and he knew of dragons. The two were dangerous in general but combining them both was something he had not heard in thousands of years.

Dragons were beings of pure magic and their blood would make any blood magic beyond what the mages of this era could even dream of, let alone plan.

Dragon blood would make for a powerful spell but he was not quite certain where the ashes came in. Not unless—

“Ara… do you remember anything else about the ashes or even where the dream was? Anything about the people beyond it being the King? Anything at all?”

She frowned but seemed to think over what he was asking.

“Dragon had been there long time. Next to… temple I think. She had strong desire to put her blood in ashes.” She continued to think, briefly pausing before suddenly speaking quickly. “King was younger. Lot younger then Redcliffe. Him and two mer.. well… elf and Qunari I think? Qunari had no horns but big and grey. King and girl elf had animal on outfits.”

Her nose wrinkled up as she tried to remember something. Solas was just about to suggest that she show him in her dreams when she suddenly spoke quickly. “Bird but four legs and long tail. That was what was on armor.”

Solas just stared. He understood what all of that meant together but it only raised a question he had about Ara that just frightened him outright.

“Solas?” She questioned when he did not respond.

“Ara…” His voice was a squeak. “What you claim to dream of. You dreamed of the Temple of Sacred Ashes.”

“So?”

“That is where the Breach was formed and where you appeared. Ten years ago, when the Blight ravaged Ferelden, the Hero of Ferelden ventured to the Temple to retrieve a small portion of ashes that were kept there. She needed those ashes to heal the Arl of Redcliffe.”

He said all that even though he knew she did not know any of the history behind it. That it would be nothing more then words but he was determined to treat her better then had before. He would explain what he could to her and then fill the rest in later if she wanted to know.

“Ashes can’t heal people.” Ara scoffed.

“They were the ashes of Andraste and they were capable of a great many things.” He did not believe in the Maker or the religion that had sprung up in the name of the supposed bride of the Maker but he knew there had been a woman of great power born during that era. He had felt it and the reverberations of it throughout the fade even being as far from that part of Thedas as he could manage. “The dragon wanted to mix her blood with that of the ashes of Andraste.”

There was a slightly confused look on Ara’s face when he mentioned Andraste but Solas did not want to lose his train of thought given the situation. He knew there were so many questions she could ask about Andraste but he simply did not have all of those answers. He would have to leave that up to someone who was more familiar with the faith surrounding the woman.

 “Blood must have been spilled when the Breach was opened.” Solas shared his thoughts. “There must have been ashes remaining somewhere within the temple and the two together somehow finished a centuries old summoning spell.”

“But why them?” Ara questioned. “Why not King or Lady elf with King or hornless Qunari? They fought, held ashes too.”

“I’m not certain.” Solas answered truthfully as he considered what they knew.

Blood magic was powerful, distasteful but powerful. The more powerful the being then the more powerful the blood which in turn made the magic more powerful. And dragons were some of the most powerful things he knew.

Both in Thedas and her world apparently.

Yet there had been no dragon killed at the conclave. There had been people from all over Thedas but not a dragon. Only Ellana had survived.

Ellana.

“Ellana. It was Ellana’s blood that pulled you through.” His voice was low. Ara had been found nearly at the same time as Ellana and been unconscious just as long. He suddenly wondered if Ara had woke up at the same time as Ellana but that was a thought for another time. “She must have been a descendant of the spirit in Var Bellanaris.”

Ara’s eyes had gone wide as she seemed to make that same connection.

He was certain of it.  An ancient line of elves and dragons who had summoned the Dragonborn from Thedas. The thought was mind boggling as it had clearly been put into play centuries upon centuries ago.

That amount of planning was staggering for a people that had been reduced to such short lifespans.

It did however answer a question he had about their dear Inquisitor.

He had wondered how Ellana had managed to survive gaining the anchor. His magic was not for the people of this era, yet she had survived and was now thriving with it. If she truly had a bloodline of power, like he now believed, it would explain how she had adapted to it and made it her own.

It had crossed his mind but he had never pursued it as Ellana had shown minimal problems with the anchor. He had noticed the changes as time went on but he believed he would gain his power back before it became lethal.

 “Do you think Ellana could possibly learn to use a dragon shout?” Solas suddenly asked. If her blood had been strong enough to finish the spell, then he considered that there might be a possibility of her learning the thu’ums. “I think it might be wor—”

“No.” Ara shook her head. “No teach. Thu’um dangerous. Ellana have hand power, she not need thu’um. Even she if could.”

“But it could be helpful in her battle with Corypheus.” Solas argued.

“It take time.” Ara said as she shook her head at him again. “She need time other things. Thu’um would only… distract. Ulfric learned one word, it took long time.”

He did not recognize the word she used but he understood what she meant. He recalled Ulfric from her dream and vaguely remembered what had been said. This Ulfric had taken a long time to speak even one word and that would not be of any use to Ellana. Yet, Solas had been able to use them just as if they were another spoken word.

“Ara, how is it that I am capable of using them as easily as you are?” He asked, once more putting aside his little curiosities in exchange for the larger puzzle.

“Not as easy.” She huffed, almost insulted that he would suggest such. “You different. You said elves different.”

“Then the elvhen of now, yes.” He nodded. “We were more powerful, more in tune with magic.”

“Dragons different here too.”

“You believe it’s because our dragons are different?”

“Yes. Not like Nirn dragons.” Ara said. “Both different. Nirn dragons not animal. Immortal. Unchanging.”

Solas frowned as he considered that. Long ago, the elvhen had been immortal and ageless. It had been his act that brought mortality to his people and changed everything. There had been a time before that when dragons had been more but that was long before his creation of the veil.

There were so many parallels between him and her, and it seemed their people was no different. He had fought his brethren who were as immortal and unchanging as hers had been.

“Alduin first dragon.” Ara continued. “Well he say first. Paarthurnax oldest.”

He remembered that she had mentioned both dragons before and found himself wishing they could share this knowledge much easier through the fade but Mythal’s warning still troubled him.

“How can Alduin be the first dragon if this Paarthurnax is the oldest?” Solas questioned, hoping she could answer but not putting much faith in it.

“Alduin said he was god and made war. Fought humans and mer.” She spoke with a strange detachment. “He was winning so they used magic, sent him through time.” There was a brief pause. “Like Ellana in Redcliffe.”

“Ah yes, you called it a Dragon Break?” He had wondered what prompted those exact words but had been too caught up with everything that happened to ask her about it before now.

“Akatosh, Borhamu, father of dragons. He is god of time.” She explained. “Breaking time is… breaking Akatosh? Breaking dragon?”

The way she said it made it clear that she did not quite understand it herself. He guessed it was another of those things she seemed to know without really knowing how she knew it.

“They sent Alduin through time?”

“Yes.” She looked nervous again but continued speaking. “I meant to fight Alduin. If lose… Nirn ends.”

“Your world ends if Alduin is not defeated?” He suddenly understood why she had looked so heart broken when the Breach had been closed.

She had believed that to be her way home. Her way to facing this Alduin and saving her world.

“Surely, your world’s fate does not hang on one simple battle?” He quickly asked.

“It does.” She stated firmly. “People say things will happen. Things happened. He returned and I am meant to face him. It decides the world’s fate. I die, Nirn dies. He dies, Nirn lives.”

Solas blanched at the thought. That kind of weight on a person’s shoulders would be maddening. He had known that he had to act to save his people but it had never been anything like this. There had been no predestined fate leading him.

“That is why you wish to return home?”

“That is why I need to return.” There was another pause and she looked down at the dagger in her hand. “But it’s not why I am here.”

“You know why you are here?” He asked in surprise.

“The spirit said I need kill the one who destroyed the world.”

Chapter Text

Ara had been content to relax with some basic smithing when Solas had just shown up. She had thought about going to see him when they returned but had decided to put it off.

There was a look on his face that gave the impression he was trying to prepare himself and she was certain that he was intending to apologize.

She listened to him talk. Heard the whole thing and could not resist teasing the elf a little. His apology had been sincere and she was not the type to hang onto the past. There was no point in dwelling on what could not be changed.

That talk had made her feel a lot better but there were still so many unanswered questions, and things she simply forgot to bring up or been incapable of asking because of her limited vocabulary.

The one thing she did remember was what the spirit had told her. The quest that they had brought her here for.

Ara did not think she would ever forget the look that crossed over his face when she said it.

“The spirit said I need kill the one who destroyed the world.”

Solas went paler then she had thought possible before his face became a strange and unreadable mask.

It was like the opposite of the look he had given her in that moment after Wisdom’s death. An almost blankness that chased away any of the serious but thoughtful look he usually wore.

“Something wrong?” Ara asked, instantly suspicious at the change.

“No, nothing.” He answered with a smile even as his face became more thoughtful looking. His eyes, however, still gave him away. “I am not certain to who this person might be.”

She managed to keep herself from calling attention to it but she could see it in those eyes. The lies that poured out of his mouth with each word. He knew who it was.

She kept her face as impassive as possible but she had spent too much time with him over the last few months to not notice it.

“No ideas at all?” Ara prompted, hoping that he would give her the truth.

“I will have to give it more thought.” Solas answered, and for a brief moment, his eyes did not lie but they were still far more veiled then she had seen in months. “I must think it over as it is difficult to say when the world seems quite intact.”

She could not argue that with him. It was the same thing that she had thought before. Thedas seemed to be a living reality. People, animals, plants; there was so much that made her think there was more to it.

“Thinking maybe it is a prophecy?” She provided another attempt for him to tell her the truth.

“A prophecy?” Solas asked with a quirked eyebrow.

“Yes. Like my fight with Alduin.” She answered with a nod but could not quite look happy with that idea.

“Perhaps.” There was another thoughtful look before he looked away. “Give me some time, I might be able to find the answer to this puzzle.”

Even with his calm posture, there was a growing tension in the air that was getting a little too hard to ignore.

“Okay.” She said with a forced grin before her stomach growled a little too loudly.

“Perhaps you should go eat something.” He said.

“Good idea, you coming?”

“No, I will go look over my books and see what I can find.”

She nodded to him before they parted ways. It was only when he was well on his way to his rotunda that she remembered the other things she had planned on bringing up. It had all seemed so inconsequential after his reaction to what the spirit had asked her to do.

She thought about turning around and going to ask him about this Asha’Bellanar person but Solas’ reaction had shifted her mood and she was not so keen on talking with him again. It seemed she would get no answers to her questions as she was coming to realize that she could not really trust Solas to tell her the truth.

Ara was so preoccupied with her thoughts that she rounded a corner and walked into Bull. She kept her footing but was immensely grateful it was not someone smaller as she would have practically crushed them underfoot.

“Hey!” Bull nearly shouted but sounded quite pleased with himself. “There you are!”

“You looking for me?” Ara asked as she quirked an eyebrow. It was no big secret of where she would be during her free time and wondered exactly how hard he had actually looked.

“Yes! Varric wants you to meet Hawke!”

“Hawke?” She questioned before motioning in the direction she had been walking. “Was going to eat.”

“Varric has him at the tavern, you can get something to eat there!” Bull said and his tone was clear that he was not going to be accepting no for an answer.

She shrugged and walked alongside the Qunari. Their little talk in the woods had revealed a lot more about the Qunari then he probably meant her to know. Her opinion of him had changed vastly in the last few weeks, perhaps nearly a dozen different ways but had ended up on a good night. Plus he did genuinely seem to want to be her friend.

So far anyway.

They had travelled next to each other before but there was something entertaining about the way the people looked at them as they walked out into the main hall. They were most definitely the largest members of the Inquisition and all the nobles seemed to part to let them through.

There were some whispers that reached her ears but Ara ignored that in favor of conversing with Bull. He was quite intent on telling her as much as he could about this Hawke.

In the five minutes it took them to navigate their way through the hall way and out into the courtyard, Bull had told her about Hawke’s escapades in Kirkwall. Everything from Hawke’s expedition into the Deep Roads – which she was starting to realize was like the Dwemer ruins in Nirn, just more interconnected – to becoming the Champion of Kirkwall.

She was certain that she had heard some of this before but she did not bother correcting him, just letting him talk.

“Anyway, I think you’re gonna like Hawke!” Bull said as he pushed opened the door of the tavern.

Ara grimaced as they walked in. She had been in Haven’s tavern many times but she had not really spent much time in this new one. There had been no real reason for visiting this place, especially after learning how packed it usually was.

“Krem!” Bull shouted boisterously as he strode to what was clearly his place in the tavern. “Get down off that chair and come meet the Champion!”

“I already met him, Chief!” Krem shouted back, just as loudly before his voice lowered to a more manageable level. “Hey, Ara! Me and the boys have been meaning to ask you who you think is stronger. You or the Chief? And when can we set the two of you up with an arm wrestling match?”

“Not answering.” Ara answered with a shake of her head before she started walking in.

“Ah, Dragon, you not up to the challenge?” Varric said with a chuckle from where he was sitting with an unfamiliar looking man.

“Dragon?” The man asked before glancing up at all of them and then fixating on her.

The general appearance of the man was nothing spectacular. Just another Imperial with jet black hair and a few noticeable scars. He wore an armour that looked like a cross between metal and fur, a staff rested by his chair – something that could almost be mistaken for a regular walking stick if not for the gem at the top. It was his eyes, however, that were rather attention grabbing. They were a very bright shade of blue but they had the look of a warrior. Those eyes were intense and she found herself staring at him.

Then she realized that he was staring back at her.

That was nothing new but he was not looking at her with that confused and frightened stare people usually wore. There was a distinct wariness but it was more curious then cautious.

“Hawke, this is Ara. Ara, Hawke.” Varric said with a grin as he motioned between the two of them before motioning to a free spot at their table.

Ara walked to where they were sitting and dropped herself in the chair.

“Well, Garrett Hawke if we’re being technical.” Hawke said as he held out a gloved hand to her.

“Arakash gra-Krazak if technical.” She parroted the word even if she was not sure about the meaning. She took his hand in a firm grip before making herself more comfortable. “Ara fine though.”

“Thank the maker, that seems a bit of a mouthful.” He responded with a grin. “Bit unusual though. Kinda like it.”

“Glad, her name meets your approval, Hawke.” Varric laughed.

“Better then yours, that’s for sure; Tethras.” Hawke said with another chuckle before glancing over at Ara again with a slightly quizzical look. “Hope this isn’t rude, but you’re kind of built for a mage.”

Ara froze but it seemed like no one outside of their little section of the tavern. In fact, it was almost like the bard lady started singing louder.

“Hawke, apparently you’ve lost whatever tact you’ve managed to gain from my company.” Varric said with a disapproving tone, even clucking his tongue at Hawke like some overbearing older brother.

Hawke blinked before looking a little embarrassed which he covered up with a shrug and a quick swig of his drink.

“Here.” Bull said as he put a bowl of something in front of Ara.

She blinked, only just realizing that he had just gotten up and brought her food even though she had seen him sit down shortly after they had walked in. She quirked an eyebrow at him but he merely gave her a shrug and sat down back in his particular spot.

“Sorry, my mouth tends to run away with me.” Hawke said with a genuinely apologetic look. “It’s just … you kind of feel like…”

“Hawke!” Varric threw his hands up in the air in exasperation.

“I know! I know!” Hawke said as he threw a piece of bread at him. “I’d rather explain myself then be an ass, Varric.”

“No trouble.” Ara said as she shook her head at him. He seemed sincere enough that she did not think he was trying to be malicious about it. “Besides, thought the Champion be taller.”

Hawke stared at her for a moment before he burst out laughing.

“Do go on, I love hearing the exaggerated tales about myself.” Hawke said between laughs.

Ara found herself grinning at him before explaining what she had heard which was a lot more then she had initially realized. She had apparently heard almost all of what was written in the Tale of the Champion and a few tales that had been left out of it.

Hawke seemed enraptured by her talking about his life which was something she was sure was an act as there was no way that any one person could be in love with themselves quite that much.

“Well damn,” Varric said after she had finished. “Here I thought you were ignoring me or Bull when we get started talking.”

“Easier to learn if I listen.” Ara said around a hasty mouthful of food.

“Even if it is mostly fiction.” Hawke said with a shake of his head. “Really, Varric, you’ve exaggerated everything in that book.”

“Not kill an Ogre with bare hands?” Ara questioned with a laugh.

“Definitely not.” Hawke made a sour face. “And I had help. Aveline and my brother. Then in swooped Flemeth who killed everything else that followed.”

“Flemeth?” Ara questioned. That name itched at the back of her mind but she simply could not place it. She was certain she had head it before but she simply could not remember where or from whom.

“Yeah, the Witch of the Wild.” Hawke nodded even as a rather neutral smile crossed his face. “Not sure if it’s in the book but she showed up as a dragon before frying every darkspawn that was about to kill us. Course, she had an ulterior motive about it all.”

Ara stared at him again, not a single blink as she processed what he said. This man had met a woman who had turned into a dragon… or a dragon that had turned into a human. This was important even if she was not sure of how or why.

“Flemeth… other name?” She asked as she lowered her spoon, wondering if there was something else she could glean from this conversation.

“Uh…” Hawke paused and tapped his fingers idly on the table. “What was it that Merrill called her?” He glanced over to the dwarf. “Do you remember, Varric? When we took that amulet up onto Sundermount?”

“Oh that.” Varric lowered his mug before speaking. “Had an elvhen name. Umm… Sha-bella-something?”

Ara swallowed against the feeling growing in the pit of her stomach. She wanted very much to be wrong about what she suspected.

“Bellaga? Beluga? Uh….?” Hawke said a few more words as if he was trying to spark the memory of the name in his head.

Varric was doing the same, just mumbling a little more quietly to himself.

“Bellanar?” Ara quietly provided.

“Bellanar!” Hawke nodded enthusiastically. “Bellanar, that was it! Asha’Bellanar! She said it meant something like many years.”

Her hope clearly was not going to happen today. Another coincidence to add to the growing list of coincidences. This Hawke had met this Asha’Bellanar. Ara wanted to ask the man a thousand and one questions but she had no idea where to really start.

It took less time then a breath for he to realize she should bring this up to Solas. Especially if there were questions they could ask Hawke. He would definitely have some to add to this.

“Woman of many years.” Varric corrected before noticing the look on Ara’s face. “Something wrong?”

“Think… think left forge on.” Ara said as she hastily got up and headed for the door.

“Ara?” Varric called after her, confusion coloring his voice.

“Nice meet you, Hawke!” She called back as if that was a simple answer to the question Varric was asking.

She knew he was more concerned about this then he was about her brush off his friend but right now she had an answer to a question and she knew she had to go find someone to talk to about it. Ellana, or even Solas – despite his earlier reaction – as they were the only two people she could think of that might have an idea about who or what this person might be.

This Hawke had encountered the same woman who had helped the spirit. Flemeth was Asha’Bellanar, a woman who had an elvhen name and could transform into a dragon.

She ignored everyone as she took long strides for the stairs. Her thoughts piecing everything together as she went.

Ellana had told her that there was an elvhen goddess who had been capable of the same. There had been nothing else of anyone capable of changing their form into something like that. Solas could become the wolf in her dreams but now she was beginning to suspect that he could do it outside of the fade.

She stopped dead in her tracks when she suddenly remembered the sound of the wolf howl in the blizzard. A strange thing to remember in that moment, and even stranger given that a lone wolf would not be so brazen in lethal weather.

“He could not find you.” Cole’s voice echoed from just by her elbow.

Ara whirled to face the strange boy but he was several steps back from her. She was a bit surprised to realize that they were the only two in this part of the courtyard.

It was almost as if everyone had suddenly found other places they needed to be.

“Ellana, he knew. She had been in Haven but you… you had left the temple. He didn’t know where you had gone.” Cole answered, his voice somehow carrying on the wind as a mere whisper. “He went to search but Hope found you first.”

“You…” She had no idea how to talk to this person that was not really a person. “You know what I’m thinking?”

“Yes. You are loud.” Cole said and seemed to take a step back but it did not look like he moved. Just another creepy act of the strange being. “You do not like me.”

“Yes. You’re different.” Ara said as she wrinkled her nose.

“I am different.” He nodded in agreement. “Not here but here. You don’t like me but you see me. You see me now.”

She frowned as he sounded almost delighted about the idea. There was something about it that was almost childlike and that made it even more disturbing to her. She took a step back and thought about turning to flee.

Ara had rarely found anything to spook her in Nirn but there was something about Cole that sent a chill up her spine. She tried to push it from her mind and focus on going to ask questions of her two elvhen friends.

“I can help!” He said quickly, as if afraid that she was going to flee. “I want to help! Please!”

“Help? How can you help?” Ara asked, giving him a skeptical look but did not move.

“I…I just can.” Cole repeated as if he was not completely certain how he could help her. “He helped. I can help too.”

“He?”

“Hope…” He faltered a moment before suddenly continuing. “Bull! Bull helped! He talked. He helped when Solas upset you.”

Ara’s face contorted and he clearly got the message as he suddenly continued. His words spilling forth almost faster then she could coherently understand. Answers to questions that she had not even taken in breath to ask.

“I hear. You’re loud. So very loud.” Cole quickly bobbed his head up and down while rubbing his arm in what was clearly a self conscious gesture. “Solas’ words hurt. That hurt was in the fade, I could hear it through the fade. I was listening but not for you… not originally, not that hurt. Wisdom went there, Solas asked for answers to help but Wisdom told him that the answers would be found in Bellanaris. His answers. Your answers. Not all of them. But answers. I listened because answers always hurt.”

Ara stared at him as he spoke, realizing that he had not taken a breath since he had started talking. That was an inhumanly long time to speak without breathing.

“How do you hear things from the fade?” She asked, taking great care to pronounce each word carefully. She already guessed that this boy was not mortal and she wanted him to give her proof of it.

“One foot here, one foot there.” Cole started wringing his hands together. “I chose. I became real but still me. Wanted to help another so I stepped across.”

“You…” Ara stared at him as the words began to sunk in.

“Yes.” Cole said as he bowed his head. “Please don’t be mad. I want to help.”

She did not know what to think. She had met ghosts many times before but never one quite like this Cole.

“Not a ghost.” He shook his head. “I never lived. Never breathed. I only want to help.”

“A spirit then.” She provided, still trying to process this. “Why do you look human?”

“He was Cole. Alone, forgotten. I heard his pain. I came to him so he wouldn’t be alone.” Cole looked genuinely panicked and his words seemed to distort a little. “I wanted to help but they forgot him.”

“Why did Wisdom look like—” She started.

“Wisest you remember.” Cole finished. “Each saw something different. Someone different. Human. Qunari. Different for each.”

“Oh.” Ara answered before looking down at her hands.

That made sense but it did not really help her at this moment. She really did not like the spirits in this world if they were so capable of taking on different forms and looking different.

“Wait… Cole,” Ara suddenly asked, looking up at him as her thoughts had gone to the idea of different forms. “Asha’Bellanar… Flemeth…”

“You need to talk to Solas about her.” Cole said quickly before looking around suspiciously. “She is old. Older then the Dales. Older then them.”

“The spirit in the graveyard said that Asha’Bellanar had asked of her?” Ara prompted, not willing to let it go so quickly. “She said Kynareth was here as well.”

“Yes.” Cole answered.

“And?” She added tersely, a little annoyed that she had to prompt the spirit for answers.

“And nothing.” Cole wavered a little as he spoke. “She died long ago. Waiting in sleep, apart from all but waiting. Asha’Bellanar promised and then you came.”

“And the dagger?”

“Ara!” Bull’s voice interrupted whatever answer Cole was about to give.

Ara swore under her breath as she glanced over at the Qunari who lumbered towards her, Cole instantly taking that moment to make himself scarce. She could see the boy – spirit go but it was different then a normal exit. Almost looked magical as he simply flitted over the edge of the nearby wall and seemed to disappear.

“Yes, Bull?” She asked.

“You took off without much of a warning.” Bull said as he approached. “Something up?”

“No.”

“Then why are you standing out here talking to nothing?”

“Not nothing.” Ara huffed at him even though she had no proof Cole had even been there. “Was talking with Cole.”

“You told Varric that you left the forge on.”

“So?”

“The forge is always on.” Bull said as he crossed his arms and looked at her with a no-nonsense expression.

“And?”

“Ara.”

“Fine. Hawke said he knew Asha’Bellanar.” Ara said in irritation.

Bull gave a slow blink once, twice and then a third time.

“He said she is Flemeth too.”

“So… you’re going to go talk to talk to Solas then?” He provided, as if he suspected she had planned on running off for another reason and was just trying to give her a better option.

“Or Ellana.” Ara answered truthfully. She was fine with either elf at this point. Any answer was better then no answer at all.

“Alright.” Bull nodded.

“Alright?” Ara blinked at him. “Just alright?”

“Yes, just alright.” Bull said with a snort. “I’m your friend, not your damn keeper. Just… let me know if you need help smashing something.”

“Deal.” Ara said with a smile before turning on her heel to hurry up the stairs.

She went to the rotunda first but did not see Solas anywhere. She had an idea where his personal rooms were but did not want to spend time exploring the hallways to find out where it was. Instead, she chose to go off in search of her second choice.

Only to learn that Ellana was deep in a meeting with her council in the war room.

She waited outside for what felt like hours before giving up and returning to the Undercroft.

The area around the Forge was surprisingly empty but Harriet hurried her off to bed before she could even look for her hammer.

Despite her protests, he still ushered her off and demanded she try to sleep for a short while.

She lay in bed, humouring him, and eventually fatigue caught up with her and she drifted off into a shapeless dream.

Chapter Text

It was about two days since they returned but a new expedition was already being discussed.

Ara had been out of the loop for most of it, something she was grateful for as she had discovered she disliked the planning that went along with these trips. They apparently went over everything from which section of the Inquisition was going with Ellana to any supplies they needed to bring out to the forces already there.

Ara’s trips in Skyrim had been as simple as discovering that something needed to be done and then going off to do it. This was a stark contrast between being a single person going out to the massive, and much better funded, Inquisition.

She was a bit dismayed, however, to find that she was not one of the people going on this trip.

It was a bit more confusing, and annoying, when she realized that Solas was going along with Ellana. That meant it would take longer to find out who was the person she needed to kill. There was no chance that Solas would have time to do the research he needed if he was going with the Inquisitor.

Regardless of what he would find out, she doubted that getting home would be that simple.

There was no way a single death would ship her back to Nirn. She was certain of that. Things were never that easy.

There was still the question of this Asha’Bellanar person but that too was going to have to wait.

Sleep came more easily then usual and she did sleep in the next few nights. Unfortunately, it seemed that her usual visitor had taken her anger to heart and simply refused to show up in her dreams. She assumed that he was simply busy with Ellana and the others but she began to grow suspicious that it might have to do with her important question.

Especially since she started having far more sleep then she was used to and she woke up each morning more irritated then the previous day. She took out that irritation at the forge, hammering metal into shape.

She wanted to make a new shield with some of the new metal that Ellana had brought back from the Plains. She could not remember the name of it but it seemed close to the metal her people were known for.

After a few days, Harritt clearly noticed her apparent change in attitude.

“Josephine wanted to see you.” Harritt said from where he was resting against one of the tables. His voice almost toneless. “Said it was important.”

“Busy.” Ara responded in a huff before readjusting where the ingot was sitting on the anvil. She had no idea what the Ambassador wanted but it could wait until she was done getting this bit of metal hammered just right.

“That’s what I told her.” Harritt shrugged. “But she’s been getting insistent and I think I’ve made enough excuses. You go see her.”

Ara stopped and looked over at him with a confused expression before glancing back at the anvil. She had no interest in going to see what the Advisor wanted but Harritt was still the Master Smith and he was telling her to go.

“Be sure to wash some of the grime off first.” He motioned towards the water that was put aside for that reason.

Her confusion only grew but she briefly did what he asked. She scrubbed her face just enough to get rid of the grime that had clung to her face while she worked. Perhaps it was a bit childish but she did look up at him after she was done to see if he was watching.

He, of course, had gone off to do something else as if there was nothing at all wrong. The old man was more observant then she realized.

Ara snorted and strode off out of the Undercroft with a heavy step. She understood well enough when she was being told to leave and knew there was no point in staying there to convince Harritt otherwise.

The narrow side halls were mostly clear but the Great Hall was completely full of people. More nobles from across Thedas had arrived since Ellana’s latest adventure. People who arrived due to curiosity and others that seemed intent on trying to curry favor with the Inquisition.

It reminded her a little of the various courts she had visited in Skyrim. This was just fancier and flashier then the plain court of the Jarls. Those were generally in little more then lodges with a few in grandiose keeps but even those paled in comparison to Skyhold.

Ara Ignored the people who still whispered about her. There would always be talk, she was certain of that and most were keeping it to themselves. She strode straight for the door where Josephine’s office was located.

Josephine was waiting there but so was Cullen and Ara really was not certain of whether she should stay or not. The two of them seemed to be in a deep discussion about something that was really none of her business. She over heard a snippet or two but nothing that made sense to her.

“Oh! Ara! There you are!” Josephine said just as Ara had decided to turn around. The woman sounded utterly delighted that Ara was there.

“Harritt said you wanted see me?” Ara asked as she stood there, half turned.

“Yes! I have been telling him for weeks to get you here.” Josephine said before giving her a sly smile. “Tell me, do you know how to dance?”

“Do I know how to…” Ara stared at the woman, utterly baffled by the question. “To dance?”

She was certain she heard Cullen mumble something under his breath and it sounded a lot like a prayer to the Maker.

“Yes, how to dance.”

“If you’ll excuse me, Josephine.” Cullen said hastily before bowing to the Ambassador. “I… have several reports I must get filled out. Ara.”

He nodded to her and she nodded in return. She probably should have said his formal title out of respect but the man seemed to want to flee the room as quickly as she had arrived. That was perplexing but then she assumed it had something to do with Josephine’s question of dancing.

The Commander did not wait for a second word before quickly turning on his heel and striding out of the room before either of them could say a word in response. Josephine did not look bothered at all by the man’s exit.

Ara turned and stared at her for several minutes as she just smiled cheerily back.

“Why dancing?” Ara asked, suddenly cautious as to what had the woman asking that question.

She was a warrior and a smith. An Orc and the Dragonborn. The idea of dancing was just absurd.

“Oh, I thought…” Josephine looked momentarily surprised before becoming even more excited then she had been before. In fact, she looked positively thrilled. “The Inquisition has been invited to Halamshiral to attend a Ball.”

Josephine almost looked like she wanted to bounce from foot to foot in excitement.

“A… ball?” Ara was certain she was not understanding that particular word, at least not in this context. There was no way they were all being invited to a far off place for a child’s toy.

“A grand one.” Josephine continued, sounding somewhere between ecstatic and worn out. “In Orlais with the Inquisitor as a guest. Empress Celene and a great many nobles will be there.”

Ara was still perplexed but those words started making sense to her. Especially when Josephine got to the part about the Inquisitor and an Empress. Ara understood rulers and what an Empress was, and suddenly guessed that they were going to go see this Empress in some formal manner.

“A court? We’re going to a court?” Ara managed not to scowl at the woman. “Is this safe? Does Ellana know?”

“Yes, the Inquisitor is aware.” Josephine said with a nod, not at all bothered by the questions Ara was asking. “And it is one of the largest courts. There will be singing and dancing but most of all, this will get us close to the Empress.”

“Why?”

“Why?” Josephine blinked, finally startled by a question. “Were you not made aware?”

“Aware of what?”

Josephine looked startled before she paused. She was clearly thinking something over before she finally spoke again. This time her voice was far less cheerful and a lot lower.

“When Ellana was in the future reality, Leliana revealed to her that it was Empress Celene’s death that allowed Corypheus to sweep across Orlais and destroy the Inquisition. I have arranged for us to be there for the Ball so that we may assess the threat there and deal with it, hopefully saving her life and preventing that awful future from coming to fruition.”

Ara went silent as Josephine explained. The Advisor clearly knew her way around a court, something Ara would rather avoid.

“If we succeed in Halamshiral, then we can count Empress Celene and her forces as potential allies.”

“Okay.” Ara nodded in understanding. “Why do I need to dance?”

“Unfortunately, you were also among the required invitees.” Cassandra’s voice came from further down the hall as she walked up to the two of them.

“Me?” Ara frowned, recalling what had been said about people knowing she was here.

“Yes,” Cassandra answered, clearly not liking the idea of this ball or perhaps just the situation where Ara had to go as well. “Your unique appearance has resulted in you becoming known to the Empress and the nobles of Orlais. They requested your presence as part of the Inquisition.”

Ara scowled at the words. There was no way that it was simply a request and that did not sit well with her. She was not some dog that some trussed up noble could request at her table for an evening.

“I am of the same mind.” Cassandra looked at her in sympathy for a brief moment before she glowered at Josephine. “I do not agree with forcing Ara to go with us.”

“It must be done.” Josephine trilled. “That was part of the agreement to gain our entry.”

“I still do not agree.” Cassandra repeated. “This places too many eyes on our people.”

“I agree with her.” Ara said as she pointed to Cassandra. The woman was a great tactician and clearly had a level head on her shoulders. She was going to make a point to talk battle with her after this was all dealt with. “Too many eyes on Ellana.”

“Then your presence will be a boon.” Josephine said, her voice going silky smooth. Ara knew that tone, she had heard the Ambassador utilize it on those nobles in the Great Hall. The tone she used to win people over with her tricky words. “If people are focused on you, they will not be as focused on the Inquisitor.”

Ara went to speak but found that she could find no argument in that logic. If people were truly focused on her instead of Ellana, then perhaps the Inquisitor could figure out what they needed to know. She thought about it even as Cassandra continued to argue with Josephine about it.

“This whole thing is absurd!” Cassandra barked.

“We need allies in Orlais!” Josephine countered.

“Then let us find them in other places.”

“Where would we find them?”

“Somewhere that does not put our Inquisitor in the direct line of a court of venomous snakes.”

“We would not find them in time and we would still need to prevent Celene’s assassination.”

Ara’s head whipped back and forth between the two of them as they just kept talking. The pair were almost shouting at one another. Their disagreement over this was surprising as she had assumed that Ellana’s advisors agreed on everything.

Yet it seemed that there was dissent among even them.

“I’ll go.” Ara finally said after Cassandra’s voice had taken on that note she usually held for Varric’s questioning.

The two stopped and turned to look at her. Surprise written on both of their faces as if neither had expected her to readily agree.

“I’ll go.” Ara said again before fixing them with a hard stare. “But only for Ellana. And… you have to tell me what you know about me.”

She stressed the last part.

“What we know of you?” Cassandra questioned, still with a surprised look on her features.

“Spymaster learns things. Other people know about me. I want to know too.” Ara crossed her arms. “Either I know or I won’t go.”

She wanted to go to protect Ellana, and probably would go if they did not give her what she wanted, but she realized she could use this to her advantage. If she could learn everything that they knew then she would be better set for when she had to leave the Inquisition.

As quickly as the thought of leaving came, she pushed it down. She had not thought about leaving the Inquisition in months and yet there was that thought bubbling up like some old instinct.

“Very well.” Cassandra replied quickly before Josephine got the chance. “I will speak with Leliana about what we have discovered about you.”

“Good. When do we go?” Ara asked.

“Not yet.” Josephine quickly shook her head. “The official date has not been set and we do need to wait for the Inquisitor’s return. Returning to my earlier question, can you dance?”

“No.” Ara’s nose wrinkled at the question as she now understood why she was being asked. “I’ll go but not dancing. No dancing. Never dancing.”

“That would be a no, that you cannot dance then.” Josephine said with a smile. “We will need to find something more appropriate for you to wear as well. Step in with the tailor in the courtyard for a proper fitting and I’ll have him make something for you.”

Ara made a huffing noise as she looked down at her clothing.

She had not given much thought to what she had been wearing since she arrived in Thedas. A single set of armor and the clothes beneath. She had long since stopped wearing the Daedric armor, an effort to call less attention to herself while out in battle with the others, and her clothes had become rather tattered.

There had been some repairs made here and there but she had worn the thing down to bare threads. Her only replacement outfits were shirts and breeches made for human men, and it was quite clear that they did not fit properly.

“I did arrange for some clothing replacements for you but the tailor had to guess your size.” Josephine gave her an almost disapproving look. “You have not worn any of them.”

Ara stared back at her before remembering the other chest that had been put aside for her. She had nothing to add to it, so she had simply ignored it.

“No one said anything about new clothes.” She said with another huff.

“We can clearly see that.” Josephine’s voice held a note of irritation but there was nothing mean about her mannerisms. “It wouldn’t do for the members of the Inquisition to be wearing their clothes until they wore them to pieces.”

Ara said nothing to her, not wanting to insult the woman as she was clearly taking it to heart that Ara had not been wearing these new clothes that were apparently made for her.

“The tailor and a fitting?” Cassandra prompted, although there was faint confusion in her tone.

“Yes, right.” Josephine said with a sigh before glancing directly at Ara with a look that said she was not to be ignored. “To the tailor for a proper fitting.”

“Why not clothing already made?” Ara asked.

“That is not appropriate.” Josephine turned up her nose at the suggestion. “We are the Inquisition and we will not suffer a fashion faux pas.”

“A… a what?” Ara did not understand those words although she assumed it must be something very unpleasant.

“Nothing for you to concern yourself about, you will look every inch a member of the Inquisition.” Josephine said with an air of intent. “Now, you go get measured and I will go speak with Leliana for you.”

Josephine turned and strode off down the hall. Ara was certain that it was to prevent any other arguments about this fitting that she as apparently supposed to get done.

She glanced over at Cassandra, who had been oddly silent through out the whole thing. The woman seemed to be thinking something over but she was hard for Ara to read.

Ara had never spent much time with the woman and really did not have much to go on about her. Ara knew that the woman was a warrior like her and Bull but that was about it. Cassandra was clearly stronger then most women in Thedas and that was as far as Ara’s knowledge went.

“So… fitting?” Ara questioned her.

“I promise we’re not going to stick you in a dress.” Cassandra said suddenly. “Or anything too frilly.”

Ara realized that she had not really considered what they were going to dress her in. The idea of wearing a dress seemed down right comical to her. She had not worn a dress since she was a child.

Apparently, the thoughts were reflected on her face as Cassandra suddenly broke out into a smile and a barely concealed snort. It seemed Cassandra thought the idea was just as strange as she did.

“Good. Harder to fight in a dress.” Ara said as she shook her head at the absurdity of this little meeting.

“I doubt you have been to the Tailors.” Cassandra said as she started walking, pausing only long enough to motion for Ara to follow her. “I’ll show you where it is before I return to training.”

“Training?” That piqued Ara’s interest.

“Yes. I have a small training area outside of the tavern.” There was another pause in her speech before Cassandra smiled warmly again. It was strange seeing the woman smile when all Ara had seen were stern looks. “You are more then welcome to train there if you like.”

Ara hurried to catch up to the woman as she spoke. She had never really thought about them training, only Bull had seemed interested in sparring with her, but the idea was appealing.

“If it’s not a bother.” Ara answered when she fell in step with the woman. “I don’t want any trouble.”

“It’s no trouble.” Cassandra said with a small sigh. “I wish to apologize.”

“Apologize? What for?” Ara could not keep the confusion out of her voice. She had no idea what could prompt an apology when she had rarely spoken to the woman. In fact, she did not recall going on many excursions with her either.

“When you were in the cell beneath Haven, I was not… the most kind.” Cassandra answered, guilt in her eyes but she did not look away from Ara. There was a fierceness in the woman that had Ara warming to her quickly. “I treated you poorly based on my own beliefs.”

“Oh. That.” Ara quickly shook her head. “No apology needed.”

She did not want to admit to Cassandra that she had practically forgotten about the woman’s reaction to her. There had been so much since then that it had all been pushed to the back of her mind. Even the behaviour of the soldiers had been long forgotten in light of the lies and the problems at hand.

“Still, it was reprehensible of me.” Cassandra continued. “I treated you like an enemy even when there was no real proof to that. While we do not know much about you, you have done nothing to warrant that kind of approach.”

“Look, no apology needed.” Ara said, cutting her off before she had the chance to continue. “I was stranger, nothing to warrant a friendly approach either. Would have done same if strange thing showed up.”

Cassandra blinked at her before making a hmph noise but said nothing else about it.

As they walked, she did not really attempt small talk for conversation but she did ask about Ara’s smithing. It was idle banter but she seemed genuinely curious about it.

It was not long before Cassandra had led her to the courtyard and motioned down to the lower area. There were a variety of stalls all lining the narrow spit of land. A veritable mini-market.

“The second last stall just before you get to the stables. It will be on your left.” Cassandra said before she walked away, motioning Ara off as she did.

Ara did not question the woman and was just grateful that Cassandra had taken the time to show her where to go. She navigated through the throngs of people and down the stairs into that lower courtyard.

A few people looked up at her approach but she was ignored for the most part. Most had clearly accepted her as part of the Inquistion or were perhaps more interested in the business at hand. Ara found herself stopping to look into this stall or that one and the journey to the tailor took a little longer then she had intended.

It was partial procrastination and a genuine curiosity that made that trip longer. She had seen the Skyhold market in passing but had never really looked at anything. It had been just to the stables and then in through a side door to avoid the large crowds, there had never been a reason to look when she had been going with Ellana.

Still, she managed to make her way to the Tailor’s stall where several people seemed incredibly thrilled to see her. Two of them seemed to be the ones who were going to fit her.

Ara remained completely still as the pair fussed over her. Everything from her height to the width of her shoulders, there was not a part of her that had not been measured. She felt far more mauled then if she had lost a battle with a giant.

Her mood had sunk with the sun as they kept her there far longer then she wanted to be.

Ara started in the direction of the undercroft but changed her mind by the time she got to the stairs, instead turning towards the tavern. Her steps chased by the growing growl in her stomach.

She was not surprised to find the usual crowd there. Bull sat in the corner with his Chargers, and the minstrel singing – something about Sera which was slightly weird – then there were the other usual patrons. It looked just like it usually did.

“Hey, Ara!” Bull called from where he was sitting and motioned her over.

Her feet moved of their own accord and Bull was sliding a chair towards the small table near where he sat. Krem waved a hello but was otherwise focused on the minstrel.

“Hello Bull.” Ara said as she stopped short of the chair. “Just going to get food.”

Bull gave her a nod as she turned and walked back to where the bar tender was leaning against the bar counter. She could not remember his name but introductions were not needed as he spoke up.

“Ah, the green one.”

His tone was gruff and had her taking a second look at him. He was one of Varric’s people, a dwarf but he was far more tattooed then the others she had seen. Lines marked one side of his face but seemed to suit him.

“Yes, green one.” She said as she stared him down.

“What do you want?” He asked, straightening up and resting his hand on the counter.

“Some stew.”

“Stew it is. I’ll have one of the girls walk it over to you.”

The response came and she blinked at him before answering. “Thanks.”

He made a grunt like noise and went about his business. A clear dismissal as any but there was nothing insulting about it.

Ara was frowning by the time she got back to where Bull was sitting.

“He’s grouchier then Flissa.” Ara said as she dropped down into the chair.

“Pay him no mind.” Bull said with a laugh and a shake of his head. “He’s got a thing going on but his messages have apparently been going missing.”

“Thing going on?” Ara asked, trying to get clarification.

“He’s got a girlfriend.” Bull answered. “The apothecary Elan.”

Ara had no idea who that was but then, there were quite a few people she did not know by name or face in the Inquisition. The amount of people at Skyhold changed daily and she tried to stay within the undercroft if she could.

“Never would have guessed.” Ara said with a shrug.

“What about you, are you sweet on one of those other smiths?” Bull asked.

“No, not sweet on the other smiths.” Ara answered even if she had no idea what he meant by that. She knew what the words meant but not in that particular context. She quickly ignored the question as an unfamiliar face placed a bowl down in front of her before wandering off. “Wait I di –“

“All of Ellana’s companions have a tab.” Bull interrupted her, explaining for her. “Part of the perks.”

“Nice perks.” Ara said with a shrug before beginning to eat.

“They’ll cut you off if you drink too much though.” Bull said with a laugh.

“Don’t drink.” Ara guessed he meant liquor. She paused for a moment before amending what she said. “Often. Don’t drink often.”

Bull chuckled as he picked up his own tankard and drowned whatever it was he was drinking. She guessed it was something alcoholic.

“So, been meaning to ask.” Bull said after he swallowed the last bit of his drink. “Woul –“

“Messere Iron Bull and uh… Lady Arakash…?” A nervous sounding voice came from just behind her and Ara turned to look at who was interrupting her dinner. One of the scouts that ran papers through the Keep. “Commander Cullen would like a word with you both in the Inquisitor’s Council Chambers.”

“Damnit.” Ara mumbled as she put down her spoon and got to her feet. She glanced over at Bull and saw that he was glaring at the scout. She shrugged it off as she pushed away from the table. “You coming?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Bull said with a snort as he slowly got to his feet.

“Hey Chief! Before you go, can you gimmie a minute?” Krem said as he walked over.

“Sure thing, Krem.” Bull rolled his eyes in irritation before motioning Ara on. “Looks like I’ll catch up, give the Commander my regards.”

Ara shrugged at him before striding away to whatever meeting she needed to attend.

She mused over what exactly Cullen could want with either of them but the Commander had an answer for her the moment she walked through the hallway and into the council room.

“Ah, excellent.” Cullen said with some relief as he turned away from the other two Advisors. Apparently, this was somewhat important. “We have need of sending troops to deal with an issue in Denerim, and the King has requested that the Inquisitor deal with this.”

“Ellana isn’t here though.” Ara said in slight confusion.

“Precisely the problem.” Leliana answered. “Which is why we have decided to send a few of our more… visible members.”

Ara wrinkled her nose at the idea. It made sense why they would choose her and Bull, they did stand out. Especially compared to the humans and elves.

“It is not meant like that.” Cassandra clarified as if she understood where Ara’s mind had gone. “The King requested the members of the Inquisition that were at Redcliffe as well. While Solas is with Ellana, both you and Dorian are still here which is why we are asking you to go.”

“And Bull?” Ara asked, not quite believing the reasoning.

Cullen looked towards Leliana who gave a small nod.

“One of Bull’s contacts have also passed word that they are in Denerim and wish to speak with him personally.” Cassandra continued to answer as if she had seen the nod that had passed between the other two.

Ara went silent as she realized they had told her more information about Bull then they had before. She frowned for a moment before quirking an eyebrow at Leliana. Leliana was the spymaster, nothing was revealed without being passed by her.

“Bull has informed us that he revealed his position within the Inquisition to you.” Leliana said with a small shrug. “I would have chosen otherwise but that is his decision.”

“So, will you go?” Cullen asked.

Ara whipped her head towards the commander and gave it a few seconds thought. People had repeatedly warned her not to travel too far from Skyhold but she did not want to remain too long in the undercroft.

The few trips out with Ellana had made it clear that she really did belong out there and doing things.

“Fine. I’ll go.” She said.

“Excellent.” Cassandra said with a wide smile. “You’ll be leaving in the morning.”

Ara nodded before turning on her heel and heading back for the undercroft. She was really going to need to work on something to work out the annoyances of the day.

Chapter Text

Ara regretted the trip the moment they left Skyhold.

First it was the horse that threw a hoof while still within sight of the gates. Then there was the brief stop in Redcliffe to make an appearance by official Inquisition members – something Ara felt soldiers were more then capable of providing that duty but it apparently had to be them. Then there was the detour to fight an angry pack of wolves. It was like no one but the Companions of the Inquisitor were capable of these silly little tasks.

The only highlight of the whole trip was that she got to spend time with Cassandra and Dorian. Two people that she had barely talked to.

“So, tell me, Ara, what is your homeland like?” Dorian asked one day in passing. “Is it much like Ferelden and it’s dreadful cold?”

Ara glanced over at the mage and saw no other motives in his eyes. Just a genuine curiosity and an effort to make conversation with them.

“Colder.” She said with a grin, urging Arvak around a bend in the road. “Krazak Stronghold was in mountains.”

“Stronghold?” Cassandra questioned.

Ara remembered the last time someone had asked about where she was from, where she had simply been unable to explain anything due to lack of her inability to speak their language. There was a brief moment where she considered lying or just not talking at all but there did not seem to be any reason to at this point.

“Yes, Stronghold. It is like village but with better walls.” Ara answered truthfully with a small shrug. “All Orcs live in strongholds or in Orsininium.”

Cassandra had a look of understanding and Ara remembered that she had been there when she had used one of the pieces from the war table to explain what Krazak Stronghold was. Clearly not that good of an explanation but the puzzles seemed to fit for the Seeker.

“Orsinium?” Bull questioned. “Is that your country.”

“Country of Orcs, yes.” Ara nodded. “But Krazak Stronghold not in Orsinium. It is farther north.”

She had no idea why she bothered to explain that as none of them knew where Orsinium or Krazak Stronghold were. North was just relative in this case.

 “So, it is colder then Ferelden?” Dorian seemed to focus on that fact. “That sounds horrendous.”

“Maybe.” Ara shook her head at him, wondering how he could find it cold when he seemed to refuse to wear warmer clothing. It had to be a mage thing or perhaps a Tevinter thing. “Lots of snow. More snow when you’re closer to Skyrim.”

“I believe you said you were from Skyrim earlier.” Bull mused, bringing up something she had mentioned earlier to them.

“Born in Krazak, moved to Skyrim.” Ara said with a shrug. There had been places in between but Skyrim was the place she had called home for the longest part of her life.

“Krazak, that is your last name as well?” Cassandra suddenly asked.

“We are named for our Strongholds.” Ara nodded enthusiastically, slightly thrilled that she was getting to talk with someone simply for the point of talking. The fact that Cassandra had made that connection made her feel a little pleased. “Arakash gra-Krazak. Arakash—” She paused for a moment, failing at finding the right words before attempting at explaining. “—Arakash, girl of Krazak. Orcs use gra as… symbol? Sign?”

“Ah, I get it.” Bull said with a nod and opened his mouth to continue.

“The Fereldans use a similar thing to name people based on their parents.” Cassandra said, ignoring Bull’s attempt to speak. “Usually it means son of.”

“That seems overly complicated.” Dorian said. “The Stronghold naming, I mean. You could end up with so many different people all with the same name but from different Strongholds, it must be difficult to keep track of everyone.”

“No, not really.” Ara shook her head. “Don’t meet other people from Strongholds often. Just famous ones.”

“What of your leaders, how do they keep track?”

“Not by people.” Ara answered, shaking her head again. “And Krazak not lead by Orsinium.”

“Oh, who then?” Dorian asked, clearly quite fascinated with her people and their background.

“Clan Chief.” Ara answered. “He lead Krazak.”

“Intriguing, so you’re telling me that your Stronghold did not tithe to a lord or King?”

“Well, yes. Ore and animals. Occasionally Orcish blacksmithing but usually just ore.”

“If the other smiths are half as good as you are, I can see why they’d trade their skills.” Cassandra said with a stern smile. It was clearly not meant as a compliment and more of her stating a fact.

“Others better.” Ara said with a shrug.

“Seriously? There are better smiths then you?” Bull asked incredulously.

“Yes. I learned and practiced but not spent whole life smithing.” Ara answered. “My mother was better. She smith her whole life, she the Forge Wife.”

“Forge… wife?” Dorian sounded perplexed.

“Second wife of Chief.” Ara continued to explain. “Orcs forge so much we call the second wife the Forge wife.”

“So… that means you’re the daughter of a chief?” Cassandra asked with a rather blank expression.

“Yes?” Ara quirked an eyebrow at her.

“Why did you not mention that sooner?” Cassandra sounded almost angry which only confused Ara further.

“It is no matter.” Ara answered with a shake of her head. “All children are children of Chief. Others in Stronghold not permitted to have children.”

“Your culture sounds fascinating.” Dorian said with a genuine grin. “I have been meaning to get you away from the forge for some time to discuss it but you always seemed busy. Do you know how many St—”

“Hold up, we’re not going to be spending this whole trip discussing Ara’s people.” Bull said as he raised a hand to cut off further discussion.

Ara was a bit surprised by Bull’s interruption and ended up staring at the Qunari. She was not the only one as both Dorian and Cassandra had turned to glare at him.

“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind pestering her to know about her.” Bull said as he caught the looks everyone was giving him. “But can’t we talk about something else? Like the upcoming ball in Orlais.”

Bull deliberately looked at Cassandra as he said that. It was clear on his face that he had some issue with the idea of their upcoming foray into politics.

“You are expected to go, Bull.” Cassandra said with an annoyed huff. “And you will wear something more befitting a member of the Inquisition.”

“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing now?” Bull sounded equally annoyed.

“Well for starters, you’re not wearing a shirt.” Dorian said with a mixed expression and a tsk-ing sound. “That does not exactly say formal Inquisition wear.”

Bull briefly scowled at him before urging his horse closer to the mage.

“Perhaps you had other things in mind for me to wear?” Bull said, a hint of mischief in his voice.

Cassandra made a strange noise, rolling her eyes before glancing over at the road ahead.

“I think your clothing looks nice.” Ara said.

“Thank you.” Bull beamed.

“Reminds me of warriors from home.” Ara answered with a shrug.

“We’re not going for warrior based looks.” Dorian scoffed. “The Inquisition must look united, that includes outfits.”

“We’re… wearing united outfits?” Ara wrinkled her nose in response. She did not know the right word but she guessed he meant matching and that did not seem like it would be pleasant looking.

She was certain she heard Cassandra stifle a laugh behind a cough but the woman was a stoic mask by the time Ara had looked over at her.

“Yes, we are going to be wearing matching outfits.” Dorian answered, clarifying her missing word. “Something stylish to make a statement. We are the Inquisition.”

“Statement? Clothes don’t talk.” Ara shook her head at the very idea of it. Perhaps clothing belonging to Sheggorath, a Daedra known for his madness which included outlandish clothing.

“No, they don’t talk.” Dorian said with a good natured smile. “But they can leave an impression. It would not do for us to show up all wearing patchwork outfits and armour. Josephine has arranged for us all to wear something more unified then what we have now.”

Ara remembered some of the cloth she had seen in the tailor’s tent and it suddenly made sense why they had so much in the open. There had probably been far more in storage if the tailor had been able to reveal that much so blatantly.

All in preparation of dressing the Inquisition in matching outfits.

“I hope Ellana dresses you in plaideweave.” Bull muttered under his breath.

“Perish that thought!” Dorian looked almost insulted, putting his hand over his chest in mock horror.

“Plaideweave?” Ara asked, uncertain as to what kind of material that was.

“A garish cloth.” Dorian answered, wrinkling up his nose as he explained it. “Plaid pattern in yellow and brown.

“Regardless of the cloth used,” Cassandra interjected. “I’m certain the tailor will find something suited for all of us in a similar enough style and material that we all match.”

“I really doubt that.” Bull said with a shake of his head. “I don’t think he’ll make me anything like I’d wear.”

“What, like an antaam-saar?” Dorian asked with a shake of his head.

“I meant something a little bit looser around the neck.” Bull said with a laugh. “But could you imagine me riding into Orlais wearing an antaam-saar?”

Dorian started to grin before breaking out into a chuckle.

“It might be worth it to see the looks on their pompous faces.” Dorian said as he shook his head.

Ara looked between them, not quite understanding what the joke was or what this antaam-saar was but she did not want to ask. She knew they would answer but there was only so many times a person wanted to point out they did not understand some little joke.

“An antaam-saar is an outfit worn by Bull’s people.” Cassandra responded, her tone just a little softer then normal. “Imagine what Bull is wearing now except with a rather small vest and then rope laced around his shoulders and down his arms.”

Cassandra motioned to her collarbone and across to her shoulder as it to emphasize what she was trying to explain.

“It is very, very Qunari.” Dorian said. “The Orlaiseans do not do so well with foreign things. Either it is a curiosity or an insult.”

“It will not be that bad.” Cassandra said as she shook her head again at him. “Besides, we will be there with the purpose of preventing the death of Empress Celene.”

Ara straightened on Arvak’s back. She had been told that already but the how and why had not been revealed. Back in Skyrim, she had taken great pains to remain outside the politics of the various Jarls and their Holds but she had been forced to aid a few of them.

There was a brief pang of homesickness as she thought of Balgruuf, the first Jarl she had met. The one who had been ready and willing to accept her as the Dragonborn. Even allowing her to use his keep to capture a dragon.

The feeling passed as quickly as it came.

“Does that mean we’re expected to mingle?” Bull suddenly asked.

“To a degree.” Cassandra said with a weary sigh. “It is more expected for you all to keep your ears open for what you might hear.”

“Spying on nobles?” Ara asked, not quite liking that idea. She could handle being there as a visible target to help protect Ellana but actually attempting to overhear gossip was far from her favorite part of their idea.

“Not spying.” Cassandra said, quickly shaking her head. “More of listening to the idle chatter. If someone says something then it can help us later. Anything overheard must be relayed to Leliana who will determine what to do with it.”

Ara sighed. She had no idea what would even be important if she overheard it. She did not know the nobles or their alliances or even if anything said would be useful.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be standing with one of us.” Bull said with a knowing smile. “You’ll attract attention and one of us will figure out whether people say anything of value. You just get to smile and not punch someone if they get handsy.”

Ara had no idea what he meant by that as the word was used in an unfamiliar way. It just sounded like a punch worthy offense with the way he explained it.

“We do have some time before the ball, I’m certain someone can teach her about the nobles in Orlais.” Dorian provided. “Or better yet, what would be proper and improper.”

“We are not going to be teaching her Orlesian etiquette for a single ball.” Cassandra’s tone made it clear that she thought the idea was absurd.

“Not complete etiquette.” Bull said with a nod in Dorian’s direction. “Just enough that no one finds fault with the Inquisition.”

“Perhaps we should ask her if she even wants to learn.” Cassandra retorted.

“I speak common well enough.” Ara said in annoyance as it seemed the three of them had momentarily forgotten she could understand them.

The three blushed but it was Dorian who spoke first.

“Well, do you want to know about Orlais and proper behaviour at a ball?” Dorian asked. There was no hint of insult in his tone, just a straight forward and rather blunt question.

Ara glanced between the three of them briefly as she considered the offer. She did not have much interest in being around Orlais or any of the other courts but she did not want to cause problems for the Inquisition either.

“Fine.” She said with a shrug. “Been in courts before. Small ones of Jarls…. Lords.”

“Then that is a good place to start.” Dorian said before he started explaining.

The rest of the trip to Denerim was filled with days of learning. Everything to the proper titles of the important nobles to the names of the Empress and her cousins before going all the way to the proper way to enter the ballroom.

Ara had never imagined that there was a wrong way to walk through a set of doors but apparently there was.

Cassandra and Bull interjected every now and again but it was primarily Dorian who explained to her. The mage seemed to know a lot about the behaviour of nobles and courts.

After about a week of travel, Ara started diverting his attention away from Orlais and to his own homeland of Tevinter. He willingly answered every question she asked. She learned that his country was ruled by mages and far more open about magic then any other place in Thedas. There of course, were problems with that but it seemed they all diverted her questions elsewhere any time she tried to get answers.

Eventually, she decided it was not important and focused more on simpler bits of conversation.

They had arrived at Denerim when Ara realized they had not seen the dragon that she had encountered those long months ago. There was a moment of panic as she wondered whether Ellana had killed the beast before Ara had gotten a second chance at trying to talk to it.

“Something bothering you?” It was Dorian’s voice that dragged her back out of the depths of her concern.

“No dragon.” She said with a frown before hastily continuing at his confused look. “Saw a dragon between here and Redcliffe months ago. Thought we would see it again.”

“Don’t worry.” Cassandra answered as she slowed her horse just a little. “The Inquisitor has plans to deal with that particular problem if it persists.”

Ara managed to keep herself from looking too relieved by that notion. She was hoping that there was a chance to speak with the dragon again but without other distractions. Perhaps without the animal instinct to protect it’s young, it might be able to understand her and if not then she wanted to be there when it died.

If it truly was like a dragon of her world, then she should be able to absorb it’s soul and that could answer a lot more questions.

She just hoped that it would not descend into that. She would rather leave the dragon unharmed but if it did threaten others, it would have to go.

“We’re not expected to meet with the King until after sun down, in the meantime, we have lodgings in the palace assigned for us.” Cassandra continued.

“No thanks.” Bull said as he wrinkled up his nose. “I’ll stick with the tavern, send for me when you need me.”

“As expected, lodgings have been arranged for you in the Gnawed Noble tavern.” Cassandra said, her voice holding a hint of irritation.

“Aww, not the Pearl?” Bull asked, a small glint of teasing in his good eye.

“Definitely not.” Cassandra sounded even more incensed. “That is much too far away from the palace. You will be expected there come the evening.”

“Sure, sure.” Bull urged his large horse forward before glancing over his shoulder. “You coming?”

“Yes.” “Definitely.” Both Ara and Dorian spoke at the same time before Dorian broke out into a small chuckle.

Ara glanced over that the mage who gave her a wink and a grin. She found herself grinning back at him.

“The three of you.” Cassandra shook her head at them. “Very well, I will see you all tonight.”

“You should join us.” Bull said with a laugh as they rode through the gates and into Denerim proper.

“As much as I would like to shirk my duties, I have things I need to attend to.” Cassandra’s voice was a little sour. “Be sure to remember that you have duties as well.”

“Yeah yeah, we’ll get to that.” Bull said as the road diverged. “Besides, it’s not like I can meet people in the palace.”

He said the word palace with such disdain that Ara almost wanted to ask but the thought quickly fled at the realization of being somewhere new.

It had been months since she was to an actual city and she could not hide that excitement.

She urged Arvak on with a grin, edging ahead of Bull by a few strides. Ara stared around at everything. The houses, the shop stalls, the people milling about and staring at them.

Ara went rigid in her seat when she realized they were whispering too. There was no mistaking that slight turn of the head with their hand in front of their mouths as they talked to the person next to them. The way their eyes remained fixated on her and the others.

There was no mistaking that. In this place or any other.

“Easy there, Ataashi.” Bull said with a nudge of his leg against hers when he rode past. “People stare, thought you were used to that now. Besides, look at us. People would have to be blind not to want to stare.”

“I am.” She said with a huff before looking away from them and towards him and Dorian, who was now riding right next to Bull.

The three of them definitely made a sight, or rather the four of them as Arvak stood out like a glowing beacon compared to the normal horses. Dorian seemed to be preening in all the attention, even going so far as to wink at her when she made eye contact with him.

“Okay, I get it.” Ara said with a shrug of her shoulders.

She had become so used to people knowing her at Skyhold that it now felt weird to have these people stare at her. A few faces here and there was nothing major but this was different. This was like all the eyes of Denerim fixated solely on them.

She squared her shoulders against the stares and forced them from her mind. There were other things to deal with while they were here.

Perhaps she truly had become too accustomed to the lessened stares in Skyhold as this felt far more abnormal then before.

“I’ll show you around once we get our horses stabled.” Bull said with a small grin.

“You will?” Dorian sounded a little skeptical.

“Yeah, I will. Why, have you ever been to Denerim before?” Bull asked him, his grin growing even wider.

“No, of course not.” Dorian said with an idle wave of his hand.

“Then I will show you around after we deal with the horses.” Bull laughed.

Az…” A voice seemed to drift across the wide market area, clear despite the cacophony of voices that rose in the market place. There was something hauntingly familiar about the voice.

Ara glanced over at Dorian and Bull but neither seemed to notice. If they heard it, they gave no sign of it.

“You hear that?” She asked.

“Hear what?” Dorian asked as both him and Bull cocked their heads to listen.

“Don’t hear much beyond the people in the square. You aright?” Bull asked, looking genuinely concerned.

“Must be all the voices.” Ara said, although neither of them looked that convinced at her words. “Lot more people here.”

“A hell of a lot more.” Bull agreed. “Denerim is the capital and saw a lot of refugees after the Blight. Then again when folks tried to capitalize on the new laws passed by the King when he came to the throne.”

“That recent?” Ara found herself asking.

“About a decade.” Dorian answered. “He took on the throne after his half brother was killed fighting the Darkspawn at Ostagaar.”

Ara could not help but go a little blank. She had no idea about any of that.

“We’ll explain that later.” Bull said with a laugh. “Let’s get settled first.”

Azeez…” The voice came again but still, neither of them said anything. Ara turned her head in the direction it seemed to be coming from but she could only make out the throngs of people before there was a large stone wall. She knew a word that sounded like that but she guessed it was just a coincidence.

It had to be as the word was one from a language that should not be here in Thedas.

“You sure you’re alright?” Dorian asked.

“I’m fine.” Ara said with a nod, trying not to think too much about it. “So where is this tavern?”

Azeeeez…”

The voice drifted away as she followed the others.

It was several hours later after they had gotten settled and Bull had taken them through the market area. They had just retuned to the tavern to relax when Ara had enough of that voice uttering that single word.

She did not want to tell the others but she knew it was going to drive her crazy if she did not figure out where it was coming from. The voice was just too insistent for her to ignore.

She slipped out of the dining hall of the tavern, claiming that she was going to go to the bathroom, and followed the sound of the voice.

Azeezma…”

The voice got louder as she approached the wall through the people still wandering the market.

Azeezmasu …”

She stopped dead in her tracks as she understood it as a compound word, two words from the language of the Argonians, Jel. Words that meant Shining Lizard, a strange phrase for anyone to speak let alone Argonians that should not exit in Thedas. Yet this was another connection between her world and this one.

She leaned against the wall but it seemed that those two words were all it was going to repeat. Briefly, she thought about going to let Bull know where she was going but the words seemed to call more urgently.

Ara glanced forward and saw a set of guards standing by an open gate. They were dressed in matching uniforms and both held a spear and shield with a sword sheathed at their sides. She strode towards them without a second’s hesitation.

The pair of them glanced back at her with some confusion, fear flickering in the eyes of one of them. She ignored him and turned towards the one guard who looked far calmer.

“What’s here?” Ara asked.

“Uh… this is the way to the Poor District and the Alienage…” The guard answered, surprised that she was addressing them.

“Alright.” Ara’s nose wrinkled up as she considered what that could mean. She paused before quickly adding. “Thank you.” Then she strode through the gate without a second word.

The voice continued to repeat the words Azeezmasu but the tone seemed to lower as if the speaker was growing weaker. The urgency remained and drove her on.

Ara wandered through the streets of the Poor Quarter, noticing the signs of old stone mixed in with newer buildings. A sign that someone had been attempting to make this section of Denerim not quite as poor but that they had failed as many of these newer works were clearly abandoned. Some falling into disrepair.

Unfortunately, that made these streets harder for her to navigate. It was only after she had been wandering for what felt like hours that she came out to a small clearing in between the houses.

It was a strange space, large enough for a small market but that area was all used by a tree. The tree looked like a cross between an oak tree and a willow tree. Something that should have looked absurd but yet looked normal. There were symbols painted along the trunk of the tree and places where candles must have once been placed.

It looked abandoned.

The voice had stopped as she walked into sight of the tree and Ara found herself frowning at it.

“Alright, I followed, now what.” She mused to herself before looking around for who ever had been speaking. She was guessing magic was involved as there was no other explanation for the way the voice carried or that she was the only one who seemed to hear it.

Azeezmasu…” The voice called again, louder this time. “Tum.”

Another word, one she knew to mean root. It had been a while since she had to speak any Jel but the words being spoken were simpler ones.

“Root?” She blinked before glancing at the bottom of the tree. Several of the roots of the tree were visibly present and partially above ground.

Ara sighed as she realized whomever was speaking was not going to come out until she did something with the root of the tree. There was no other explanation for this.

She guessed that there might be a passage or something hidden near the root or something like that. There was no other reason for someone to send her over to look at the roots of a decrepit tree.

Wandering over, she got a better look at the tree and the ground around it. Weeds had been removed and the ground looked like it had been tended to.

Clearly, someone had been caring for the tree but she had no idea who would bother. The tree must have been important at one time but now there was not a soul wandering this part of Denerim. The guard had called this an Alienage, or at least she assumed this must have been the place he was referring to, but she had no idea what that word was supposed to mean.

She leaned down to look beneath the root and rested her hand onto the root for balance.

The moment her skin came in contact with the root, a whole host of images slammed into her head far faster then she could understand what she saw. Blood, flames, battle. There was more but those were the easiest to see and the easiest to make out. She could even smell the blood and flames.

Every single instinct was demanding she fight. Her blood rising in the beginning of her orcish blood rage but there was nothing here.

Shining lizard. Dragon” The voice said, this time switching to the more familiar common tongue of Nirn. “We did not expect to see you here.”

“What. The. Forge.” Ara practically shouted as she pulled her hand away from the tree just as it spoke.

She took a breath to try and calm herself. She needed to keep herself from going into a blind rage over what she had just seen.

We are sorry.” The voice sounded genuinely apologetic, almost like it understood what was now going through her mind. “Our keeper would have greeted you but she does not dream with us any longer.”

“Alright. No apologies, just explain.” Ara said as she took a step back, breathing deep through her nose.

We are the Vhenadahl.” The voice came again and Ara was positive she saw the tree move. “We are the Hist.”

“The Hist?” Ara exclaimed as she stared at the tree. Excitement rising in her as she stared at the huge tree.

She knew a little about the Hist in Nirn. Trees that the Argonians talked with and ones that apparently answered back. Beyond that, they were far outside of Skyrim and Orsinium. She had never really dealt with them at all.

Yes.” The Vhenadahl – the tree – answered. “We were once and will be again.”

“Then you know who I am and – “ Ara found herself speaking almost faster then she could think of the questions. It obviously knew who she was at it had called her a shining lizard. “- And how I got here?”

“We do not know how you arrived.” The tree answered. “But we do know who you are.”

“Do you know how I can get back home?” Ara asked.

“Yes.”

“And how do I do that?”

In this realm there are powerful objects. Destroy them and you can return to where you belong.”

Ara went silent as she pondered that bit of information. There were several items that could fit that description.

“They’re not weapons, are they?” She asked. She knew she had Mehrunes’ Razor but Solas had mentioned that there had been an elf who had taken other weapons from beyond the void. Perhaps the tree meant the weapons of the other Daedra.

They are tools of the Taskmaster. A plague to all who wield them.” The Vhenadahl spoke. “I offer knowledge of them in exchange for a boon.”

“What do you want?” Ara could not help but feel irritated. Of course, this tree would want something. It seemed no one, even the forge blighted trees, could do something on their own without requiring help.

We have not dreamed with a Keeper in some time and our children have become deaf to us.” There was an unmistakable sadness in the voice of the tree. “Return to us our new Keeper. Remind them of us. Let them dream with us once more.”

“Alright, where do I start looking for this Keeper of yours?” Ara asked.

She answers to Shianni.” The tree answered. “An elf child that fled with the others. We still feel her here in the city but she has not answered us.”

“I’ll start looking for her.” Ara had no idea where she was going to even start looking. She did not know enough people in Denerim to even consider asking them about elf children fleeing this section of the city.

“Thank you.” The tree’s branches shifted against the wind. “What you seek lies in three on waking. One you know is held by your enemy. The second is held by a woman filled with regret and purpose. The third is—”

A sudden snap turned Ara’s attention away from the tree. Her lips curling back from her teeth as a wrongness filled the very air. The hair stood up on the back of her neck and she instinctively knew this was a rift like the one that had been in the air above Haven.

Her heart began to beat fast as she felt that rift like she was standing in it. It was as if she could feel the pulse of energy with her whole body. The rush of blood from earlier returned and the urge to fight rose within her.

The tree had gone silent in the face of this new magic but it’s branches trembled.

She turned away from the tree and followed that strange sense as it led her right to where she needed to be. The bright green rift cut through the air like a wound, yet the sky above seemed to darken around it.

Demons had been pulled through the rift and had already begun to wreak havoc in the city. The smell of blood and ash rising through the air.

Instinct drove her on as she summoned a weapon to her hand without thinking. A second later and she had thrown herself into battle with the demons. She did not even think about the fact that she has just used a summon spell, the first spell that had worked in months, as she began to fight.

They were taller then the one she remembered facing. Skinnier and with jagged claws. They shrieked as she dodged around their swings. Shrieks that grew louder when she landed her own blows against them.

“Ara!”

Dorian and Bull’s voices boomed out over the sound of battle and Ara was shaken from her blood lust for the first time to look to them.

A demon acted on the distraction to swipe across her shoulder.

Ara hissed as claws tore through cloth and bit into skin. A quick turn of her body had her swinging her summoned sword through the midsection of the demon that had landed a hit.

“Shit!” Bull’s voice echoed as they approached.

Dorian spraying fire out to kill the remaining demon. It was peculiar watching him cast as it seemed like he used his staff to perform spells even though it was not a fire enchantment.

Magic in Thedas was weird.

“Well this is just lovely, isn’t it?” Dorian jibbed before taking a quick look at her shoulder. “We don’t have the time to bandage that before…”

The hair on Ara’s neck stood on end again as she felt the magic rising in the air once more.

“Really?” She grunted in annoyance and looked up at the rift.

This was the first rift she had ever been around and she had no idea what was going to happen but she guessed that this was probably not going to be good.

“Another wave.” Bull answered the question she was not going to ask. “Try to go easy on that shoulder, would ya? That’s the second time you’ve taken a hit there.”

She blinked at him before realizing the demon had struck her where that red lyrium arrow had so long ago, yet she had shrugged this off like it was little more then a gentle tap.

“It’ll be fine. We got things to kill.” Ara said as the second wave appeared.

It was more of the same thin creatures. Quick moving but predictable.

“Yes, but then we have to figure out how to deal with the rift.” Dorian said, a few words between each of his spells. “Unless one of you has an Inquisitor in your pocket, Denerim is in huge trouble.”

“Dragon, you can do it.”

The sound of the Vhenandahl’s voice nearly had her taking a second strike. She was about to question it when it continued.

Speak the words, dragon, you can heal the balance.”

Ara turned as Bull took down the last demon. She did not answer Dorian but took a deep breath instead and stepped in front of the two of them. Her weapon disappearing as she prepared herself to use the thu’um.

The words came to her mind and then out of her mouth.

Kreh Ro Win!

They were words she had never spoken as a Thu’um but she willed it to work.

Her voice rose above everything as the rift seemed to snap in on itself. It crashed together, magic spilling outwards in a shockwave.

Ara had no idea if it worked as she was unconscious before that shockwave knocked her off her feet.

Chapter Text

Bull had no idea what to think. One moment, he and Dorian were out looking for Ara and the next they were running to deal with demons. The shouts had all come from a part of the poorer section of Denerim, one that was full of people.

“Demons in Denerim?” Dorian said with a shake of his head as they hurried in the direction that people had been fleeing. “Who would open a rift here?”

“Why not?” Bull answered through gritted teeth. “It’s a heavily populated area and they know the Inquisitor isn’t anywhere near by. Perfect plan to sow discord.”

“Good point but why now? I mean, wouldn’t it make more sense to –” Whatever Dorian was about to say was lost as the pair came around the corner.

There was their missing Orc facing down the demons on her own, while wielding a glowing purple sword. He had never seen her wield a weapon like that and he was certain she had left her maul back at the tavern. He was going to have to ask later about it.

“Ara!” Bull found himself bellowing out her name just as Dorian shouted to her.

He regretted it instantly when she turned to look at them and suffered a slash to her shoulder for their troubles. He could not help but wince, remembering that she had been injured there before.

“Shit!” He glanced at Dorian but the mage was already wading into the thick of battle.

Dorian was clearly well versed in combat magic as he started alternating between fire and lightening, quickly taking down the demon in front of him before it had the chance to get close to him.

Bull found himself a little impressed but said nothing as he too joined in the fight.

There was some banter back and forth but the three of them moved like one cohesive fighting unit.

Fighting demons like this was easy. It was always easy to tell who was the bad guy and who needed to be killed. Far more simple.

Things turned out to be not so simple after Ara shouted.

Kreh Ro Win!

He had seen her breathe fire and was certain she had shouted apart stone but this was different.

This shout seemed to echo in his bones all the way up to his horns. He could feel it all the way to his very core, like the words themselves were pure power.

He had seen mages in action before but he had never been able to feel the magic. He felt the words.

And that was utterly fucking terrifying.

Whatever magic went with the words seemed to work as the rift closed but the resulting backlash knocked her off her feet.

“Ara!” He shouted just as he ran over to her.

Blood dribbled from her nose and seeped through the torn cloth where she had been slashed. Her skin had already taken on a sickly tone as if her spell had drained her of her vitality in a single instant.

It was just like when she had ridden in from the blizzard.

The wrong shade of washed out green.

He leaned down close enough to check for some manner of life. Bull almost cheered when he felt the jump of her pulse beneath his fingers.

“Damn… what was that? I could have sworn she-” Dorian asked as he hurried over to her other side before visibly blanching at the sight of her. “We need to get her to a healer.”

“The palace.” Bull said, nodding his head in agreement before scooping her off the ground.

It had been months since he carried her but he was dimly aware that she was lighter this time. Far lighter then she should be.

Even without the armor, she felt too light as if part of her had been sucked into the rift when she closed it.

The streets were mostly empty but the few soldiers that were hurrying to the scene of the rift were parting away from them.

Cassandra and the King met them half way back to the palace. Both of them took one look before whirling back, the King barking orders as he went.

There was a bed and a set of healers waiting for them by the time they got to the palace. Healers who started tittering among themselves as Bull set Ara down on the bed as gently as he could manage.

It did not seem to matter, there was not a bit of movement out of her as the trio from the Inquisition were pushed outside into the hallway to wait while the healers worked on the unconscious woman. The door was practically slammed on them.

It was only then that Bull and Dorian explained what they had seen. Bull saw no point in not revealing the words Ara had shouted as anyone in that little plaza would have heard her. Dorian interjected with his own point of view but mostly left the explaining to Bull. He also chose not to elaborate on the words Ara had shouted, something that Bull was grateful for.

Cassandra went off to write back to the Inquisition when they had finished talking. The King also quickly hurrying off to deal with his own issues.

There was no doubt that there was a ton of chaos out in the streets. Bull just hoped that the collateral damage was not too significant.

Dorian looked like he wanted to say something to him but merely closed his mouth instead. As the seconds ticked on, the Tevinter mage remained oddly silent and Bull did not feel like trying to get him to talk.

Bull considered going back to the tavern but could not bring himself to go that far from the rest of his companions. A servant, however, did show him to his room where he promptly flopped onto the bed. His mind raced through the night’s events.

He had no idea what would have happened if they had not been here in Denerim but he did not want to think about it. Both for the people that would have died if they had been elsewhere and for Ara, who would not be unconscious.

A soft knock came to the door and he glanced up from his thoughts.

“Yes?” He called.

“You’re with… her?” A voice called as the door was slowly opened.

The woman standing there was of middle age, an elf with reddish brown hair and the markings of some elven god or other.

“Yes, I’m with her.” Bull answered with a quirked eyebrow.

“I have a message…” The elf looked a little hesitant. “You need to take her back.”

“What?” Bull asked, uncertain what this stranger was trying to get at.

“You need to take her back. The place where the sky is held.” The woman fidgeted for a moment before turning away and back out the door.

“Wait! Who are you? Who gave you that message?”

“I am Shianni.” The elven woman responded. “The Vhenadahl did.”

Then she was gone. Bull hurried to his feet in an effort to catch up to her but he found that she was long gone down the hallway. Damn elves could move fast when they wanted to.

He rubbed his face for a moment before he hurried in search of Cassandra to let her know what he had been told. A tree was apparently telling them they need to take Ara back to Skyhold. He had no idea how to word that to make it sound any less absurd.

He had to pass the hallway where Ara’s room was, and to his surprise, he found Dorian still leaning against the opposing wall. Bits of demon still clung to the mage’s gear but he had made no move to clean himself.

“What are you doing?”

“Waiting.” Dorian said with a shrug of his shoulders.

“Waiting?” Bull asked.

“To make sure she’s going to make it.”

“She’s going to make it. She’s pretty tough.” Bull answered, almost insulted that the man would suggest otherwise. It quickly became realization as he noticed the guilt flickering in the mage’s eyes.

“I know that… it’s just…” Dorian sighed and looked frustrated. “We could have sealed the rift temporarily or come up with some other plan. She did not need to perform untested magic on the rift.”

“How do you know it was untested?”

“If it was tested, she would have known to prepare herself for that backlash.” There was another sigh. “It was foolhardy of her to do so.”

Bull did not say a thing before glancing at the door. He already had the impression that Ara did things first and asked questions later. Especially if there was only a little time for her to make her decision.

“But she did close the rift.”

“Yes, she did but at what cost?”

“Perhaps we should talk about that later.” Cassandra’s voice echoed down the hallway as she approached. “I’ve already sent a raven to Leliana and one on to the Inquisitor.”

“We need to get her back to Skyhold.” Bull said to Cassandra without a second’s hesitation.

“I do not think it is wise to move her at the moment.” Cassandra answered. “We only moved her last time due to the circumstances at Haven.”

“I know.” Bull answered. “But… this is going to sound crazy… some elf named Shianni showed up at my door and told me that the Vhenandahl told her that we need to get Ara back to Skyhold.”

“The Tree said to take her back?” Cassandra looked at him with clear skepticism.

“Yes.”

“Well, why not.” Dorian said with a small shrug. “I have heard of elves speaking with their sacred trees before. I doubt the healers here will be able to do anything for her anyway. Remember how the ones at the Inquisition reacted when she fell in from the Blizzard?”

Bull remembered that vividly. The ones they had managed to get to treat her were utterly beside themselves with trying to take care of her. They had felt it was too difficult to judge her health when they had never examined a healthy Orc, let alone one who had suffered red lyrium poisoning.

Cassandra made a tsking noise before sighing.

“I believe you are right.” Cassandra did not seem to enjoy admitting that. “I will speak to King Alistair about arrangements. In the mean time, we will do what we can to keep her comfortable.”

Bull nodded in agreement, relieved that she was willing to believe him but not wanting to openly admit it to her.

He was not sure why he believed the elf either but there was something about it that just fit. It was not the weirdest thing he had ever done.

It was just the weirdest that dealt with a life or death situation.

Chapter Text

Solas could not keep his mind on the task at hand. Ellana had requested him specifically for this trip, something that pleased him, but he simply could not focus enough to answer the various questions Ellana and the others asked him.

For it was Ara’s words still echoed over and over again in his head.

Kill the man who destroyed the world.

He had no doubts as to who that could mean, after all, there was only one person responsible for the change in the world. He had destroyed the world that was when he erected the veil, the Dalish were proof of how far his people had fallen.

Every day he wracked his mind trying to find a way out of the situation.

Each morning he woke with the certainty that he had to flee before Ara discovered the truth but leaving would keep him from his foci.

He desperately needed that object of power. It was the only way to save his people, to undo the spell that he had wrought so long ago. And Ellana, with her Inquisition, was his greatest chance of gaining that power.

Those thoughts haunted him as he stepped through the fade. Each night he kept himself from the dreams of the Dragonborn when she slept and each night, he continued to seek out Mythal.

He created glades that had not been seen in a thousand thousand years.

He shaped buildings and temples.

Everything in the hope of getting an answer.

It was only after they had discovered the horror that lay in Crestwood that he felt something approach him in the fade.

 

 

He had formed a simple meadow, full of flowers that had long since faded from Thedas, when he felt the approach of Mythal. He sighed in relief that she had finally answered his summons, only to hear a voice he had not heard since the veil was erected so very long ago.

“You are a fool and an idiot. A foolish idiot.”

Solas turned and found himself face to face with the spectre of a dark haired elvhen man. His clothing was elaborate and there was no mistaking the crown that kept that black hair pinned back from his face. His golden eyes were piercing as he stared at him with a look that was somewhere between contempt and disgust.

“Dirthamen.” Solas breathed and instantly began to pull his power towards himself. Instinct, and old habits he had almost forgotten, told him to prepare to fight. “How is this possible?”

He was ready and willing to slam the apparition with all that he had for Dirthamen had always been one of the more powerful Evanuris. A being who claimed to trade in secrets. He certainly held power and had been underestimated by more then one opponent.

“How is anything possible?” Dirthamen sneered, those eyes flashing in thousands of years worth of anger. “Did you truly think we would be content to remain where you had imprisoned us in your ignorance?”

“You made your choice.” Solas said as he looked at the man who he had once called brother. He knew Dirthamen would hate him until the end of time for sealing the Evanuris away from the world. “Your punishment fit your crime.”

“Did my sons deserve the same punishment?” Dirthamen’s voice was cold, snapping through the fade like a whip. “They had no hand in any game of the Evanuris.”

Solas took a step back at the sound of Dirthamen’s voice. He had not given much thought to Dirthamen’s Ravens, having not seen them since before the veil was erected. He merely assumed they had been banished with the rest. Unfortunate casualties in a war that had to be stopped.

Clearly, they had been with their father when the banishment came.

“Leave, Dirthamen.” Solas managed with a snarl. He reached with his powers to try and banish the Evanuris from his dream.

“You have no power over me, mongrel.” Dirthamen advanced, those eyes looking nearly murderous. “You have become weakened in sleep.”

“Then why are you here?” Solas demanded as he continued to pull parts of the fade to him, storing up power in case Dirthamen acted on his anger. He may not be able to make him leave but he would definitely make him pay for this incursion.

“To keep you from another ignorant and selfish decision.” Dirthamen continued to sneer at him. His voice dripping with disgust. “Your constant crying out for Mythal must end before you attract the attention of beings far less charitable then myself.”

Solas frowned at him before he realized Dirthamen meant the other Evanuris. He ran through it in his mind, trying to think of any other excursion where he had encountered his brethren but he could think of none. Yet if Dirthamen was here, then others must have found ways to breach the veil and they were far worse then the Keeper of Secrets.

“I see you have begun to understand something for once.”

“Have the others made contact to this side of the veil?” Solas asked, genuinely worried about what this might mean for Thedas.

“Not all of us.” Dirthamen answered before turning away from him. “But there has been enough contact that events have been put in motion.”

“What events?” Solas took a step forward, staring at Dirthamen’s back.

“I believe you know what those events are, mutt.”

He paused but he knew. Ara’s arrival. The dark haired elf in her dreams. Her task with killing him.

“Then it was one of you who orchestrated Ara’s arrival in Thedas to kill me?”

“To kill you?” Dirthamen asked as he turned to face him, one eyebrow arching as he wore an unreadable expression.

“Do not play games with me, Dirthamen.” Solas could not keep the harshness out of his voice. “She has been brought here to kill the one who destroyed the world. I destroyed what Thedas was by erecting the veil.”

“Well, what did you expect?” Dirthamen asked him with a snort, shaking his head. “That you would get to live happily among the people you liberated? What of the ones you left with nothing? Those you trapped in the places between? Those who perished when their connection to magic was severed? Hmmm? What punishment would you have expected for your crimes?”

Solas closed his eyes briefly and took a breath. The words were harsh but he had thought the same for so long. Thousands of years worth of guilt all wrapped up in this image of Dirthamen. If he had been less confident in his abilities, he would almost believe this was a spirit forming into a shape to torment him.

He took another breath and focused on Dirthamen with renewed intent. There were more important things then his emotions right now. Ara, Ellana and all the Elvhen people may be affected by what information he could glean from his foe.

“Are you the one who has been into her dreams?” Solas asked.

“Seek wisdom from the wise.” Dirthamen mused before actually answering. “I am and yet I am not. It is both a memory of someone who once was and knowledge of who I am. You of all people should know things are never so simple.”

“Me of all people?” Solas was beginning to feel less angry and more irritated.

He had been certain in his powers that he had locked them all away but yet here Dirthamen was. The man claimed that the others had touched minds in Thedas and that he was the one who had been visiting Ara’s mind as she slumbered.

Perhaps he had overestimated the spellwork of his veil.

“Your ignorance is still getting the better of you, I see.” Dirthamen’s voice was toneless but the sigh that followed was full of annoyance. “Fen’Harel, you must aid the one you call the Dragonborn. There is more to her task then simple murder.”

“I suppose that’s something you will not be sharing with me.”

“Of course not.” Dirthamen tersely answered. “This is a grand game and a pawn does not need to know the plans of the King.”

Solas bit back his initial retort. Dirthamen’s time behind the veil had changed the man little. The Keeper of Secrets and Wisdom was as self assured as always. Even knowing that he had sealed him away, Dirthamen still acted like he was better then everyone else.

“I will say this, your attitude towards this is very much a you behaviour.” Dirthamen was clearly trying to get under his skin. His tone had become mocking as he spoke. “You act as if she wants to kill you. Poor Fen’Harel, everyone is out to get me. Woe is me.”

“Does it matter?” Solas’ voice was full of a great many things. His emotions at the forefront. Regret, anguish, fear, there were too many for him to choose from. “If she is to be my end –“

“Foolish Fen’Harel, think with your head and not your heart for once.” Dirthamen said with a snort, cutting Solas off before he could finish. “If that is to be your end then it will be your end but do you not have a task of your own to complete? If you act like a lamb to the slaughter then the veil will remain and the people will fade to nothing.”

Solas took a step back as his grip on the area around them began to crumble.

He had to rethink that plan as Dirthamen’s presence was a clear indicator of what would happen if he destroyed the veil. It had to be done for his people but he was not certain he could let the Evanuris back out among the world again.

“Then I will die when you are freed anyway. You will all seek vengeance for your imprisonment.” He felt like he was stating the obvious but he had to. He knew that they would all seek to end his life, if he even survived the process of bringing down the veil. Elgar’nan and Andruil, at the very least, would hunt him down like a dog.

“Again, your ignorance astounds me.” Dirthamen said with a weary sigh. “I have no interest in fighting with you, Fen’Harel. There are others, of course, who may wish it but I am tired of this half life. I want an end to this endless fighting. Only the Isenatha’sal ca –“

Whatever Dirthamen was about to say was washed away in a snap inside the fade.

The shockwave struck his form and turned it to mist before striking Solas. He had no words for what he felt as that magic slammed him back into the waking world.

 

He felt sick as he came awake.

There had been ejections from the fade before but this was quite unlike anything he had ever experienced. He tried to think to what it had felt like but he could only come up with the resounding feeling of wrong.

Sitting up, a wave of dizziness hit him and Solas found himself leaning over the edge of the bed to vomit onto the ground.

Everything about his dream was washed away in that feeling of wrongness that seemed to settle in him. From his bones to his heaving insides.

He reached for the fade but it took some time for him to slip across the veil. He remained partially conscious as he tried to examine what had driven him so completely from his dreams.

Dirthamen was no where to be found but then it was as if all the spirits had fled as well. The man was a concern but right now, this was far more important.

He reached further, letting his mind expand beyond that little part of the fade and he in an instant, he knew without a doubt that something was very, unbelievably and unescapably wrong.

He could make no sense of what he felt as he saw the damage done but dimly he was aware of it being the aftermath of a rift. It felt just like the area around the Temple after the Breach had been closed but this time it was harsher. Like someone had slammed a rift closed so hard that the very foundations of the veil had been shaken.

That knowledge chased him back to the world of waking and he could not shake the sense of dread that filled him.

It was perhaps the fastest he had ever gotten dressed. Quickly cleaning up the vomit as best he could manage before venturing out into the camp.

He was surprised to find Varric already awake and looking rather disturbed.

“Hey Chuckles,” Varric called before motioning to the pot of tea over the fire. “Looks like you had a rough night. Know it’s not your kind of thing but I have the feeling it’s going to be a long day.”

“Thank you, Varric.” Solas wandered over to take his seat before he found himself asking. “What makes you say that?”

“Couldn’t sleep, pretty sure Ellana is already up if the sound of her throwing up is any indication.” Varric said with a shrug. “Most of the camp is up in some fashion already and it’s far too damn early to be setting out.”

“Ellana was sick this morning?” Solas asked, surprised and growing even more concerned.

“Yeah…” Varric sighed before sipping from his own tea. “I think the pain of the mark is getting worse.”

“That is possible.” Solas nodded in agreement and hoped he did not give away the lie.

It was more then a possibility that her mark was getting worse. That was something that was inevitable as the mark had never been intended for her. Even with her unusual bloodline, the mark was beyond anyone save himself.

Her vomiting, however, he believed was from something far more recent.

Solas was certain that she had felt whatever it was that had driven him from the fade. Perhaps from the mark or something he could not quite fathom.

Regardless of the why, he now questioned who.

For he knew of no one else that could close the rifts caused by his orb.

Chapter Text

Bull had not liked the trip back to Skyhold at all. It was a mostly quiet trip with very little stopping. Cassandra seemed of the mind to get them back to Skyhold immediately which he was definitely all for.

He was still trying to wrap his mind around what he had seen and what had happened in Denerim.

There was guilt over Ara closing the rift but there was more fear then anything.

In all his life, he had never once felt magic the way he had when Ara had shouted at the rift. He had felt magic before. That electric tang of lightening through the air or the heat of fire but it had never had it been like that.

It had not been like that before, even when she had shouted apart the stone at Skyhold and again with the fire breath. He had felt it but it had been like every other spell.

That shout against the rift had been different and that disturbed him on a level way beyond what he was comfortable with.

He had left Ara to the care of the healers as they travelled and spent most of the trip running it over and over in his head.

There was his own fear about her power but there was the knowledge that he was going to need to write back home about it. This was something that he wanted to leave up to the Nightingale, something he did not want to write about at all. Bull did not want his people interested in Ara.

It was perhaps one of the more troubling things of their trip.

That realization that he did not want to do something that the Qun demanded.

That was far more unsettling then the growing fear of the woman in the wagon.

Something that was not helped by the soldiers that had all started whispering when they thought none of them were paying attention. Especially when they thought he was not watching them.

Their favorite topic was the small wagon, or rather the occupant within.

Most of the ones from the Inquisition were fairly reserved but there were a few new recruits who constantly wanted to get a look at this strange woman who closed the rift.

Everyone knew of the Inquisitor with the power to do the same but Ara was not the Inquisitor. That was enough to get their attention. She was something else, something that no one had ever seen before.

The Ferelden King had been kind enough to send a healer with them but even they were having trouble keeping their mouth shut about Ara’s condition. They were a day away from Redcliffe when everyone in their little caravan was very aware of how badly the rift had affected Ara.

Bull had tried to keep people away but he was having a hard time wanting to be around the wagon. Not when he had to figure out what he was going to do.

It got to the point that Cassandra had guards set up near the wagon. Those few who would not talk or let their friends gawk at the unconscious woman within.

It had taken him nearly a week before he built up the courage to take a look at her and Bull had no words for what he was looking at.

They had taken a small cot from Denerim and wedged it into the corner of the wagon. Blankets and a few pillows offered some comfort but all of that was not what he focused on. Ara’s particular shade of green looked all too familiar and he froze as he tried to wrap his mind around it.

She looked like a hornless Qunari.

The coloring fit for several of those he remembered from childhood. He even remembered seeing a Viddasala with that particular coloring as a child.

“You see it too then?” Dorian asked from behind him.

“Yeah, I see it too.” Bull said before turning his head to look at the Vint. “Has anyone else said anything?”

“No.” Dorian shook his head. “Be thankful for small mercies, the healer has apparently led a very sheltered life.”

“Have you told Cassandra?” Bull found himself asking.

“Again, no. I was waiting to see if it was just my imagination acting up or if I truly am seeing what I’m seeing.” Dorian answered.

Bull quirked his eyebrow at him and tried to sort out what the man could gain from keeping this to himself. It was clear there was some reason as any other mage would have ran right to the Seeker and told her of what they suspected.

Well, perhaps not Ellana’s inner circle mages but he had no doubt that anyone outside of that would.

“I know this is asking a lot but –“

“I won’t tell Cassandra.” Dorian answered, quickly cutting him off. “At least not until we get back to Skyhold and I discuss things with Ellana but you do realize that Cassandra is not blind, yes?”

“I know. Just… Just let me tell her, alright?” Bull said as he rubbed his head. “Let’s just hope the healer is up to doing his job.”

Bull did not want to think about what this could mean. First the rift and now her coloring. He hoped it was temporary as this was starting to jump headlong into a place he did not want to be.

“Speaking of the healer.” Dorian mused as the healer approached the wagon.

“If you two don’t mind, you’re letting a breeze in and I would prefer not to freeze my patient.” The healer shooed the two of them away as he climbed up.

Bull thought about saying something nasty to the little Ferelden but he had other concerns right now.

“Come on, let’s go find Cassandra.” Bull said as he led the way to the other side of the camp.

Dorian followed behind them as they navigated through the small camp. Soldiers sitting near the fire, some spouting various rumors and others just happy to be getting warm.

It seemed almost normal but there was always that one guy who kept looking over at the wagon.

Bull was only too happy to see Cassandra talking with one of the scouts, discussing something important but she quickly dismissed the man when she saw them approach.

“What is it?”

Bull motioned for her to walk ahead of them. Just enough to get out of earshot of those who might be listening. He certainly did not want anyone to hear and start the rumors flying.

He carefully explained about what he and Dorian had seen. How Ara had taken on a sheen that was closer to Qunari then any other they had seen. There was complete silence when he finished as Cassandra stared at him for a full minute.

“Don’t be absurd.” Cassandra finally said with a shake of her head.

“Look, I’m telling you that she could pass for one of my people right now.” Bull said, his voice low.

“Yes, pass.” Cassandra said with another shake of her head. “We had always believed she could pass for a Qunari, this is of no further concern. People have already been saying she’s a Qunari.”

“I get that,” Bull said. “But you know as well as I do that there is a difference between people questioning what she is and then having her completely look like one.”

Cassandra sighed at him.

“I don’t know if you understand the Qu-“

“I understand it well enough, thank you.” Cassandra responded. “Right now, it’s not a major concern. We need to get her to Skyhold before we discuss this further.”

“And why can’t we discuss this right now?” Dorian asked, a well manicured eyebrow arching.

“Because I would like to discuss it with Ellana and Solas as well.” Cassandra eyed him with some annoyance. “As well as a healer that is more familiar with Ara.”

Bull could not argue that it was a sound idea. It was just an irritating one.

He desperately wanted to explain that his people would come down south if they felt there was a true connection between Ara and themselves. Something that frightened him far worse then Ara’s magic.

There were not many in the Inquisition who would survive the Qun and he doubted Ara would be one of them.

“We shou-“ Dorian started.

“Enough.” Cassandra interrupted him, loud enough that the soldiers at the fire turned to look at them. “We will discuss this further when we arrive at Skyhold. I have already decided that we will avoid Redcliffe and the Crossroads.”

Her voice lowered but Bull could feel the eyes on them. The rest of camp clearly now focused on the three of them.

At least they were no longer discussing the green Qunari he supposed.

“Cullen has also arranged for us to take Ara there in the dead of night so that there are less eyes on her.” Cassandra continued.

Bull as inclined to agree with that. Especially given that Ara’s appearance had changed drastically in the time they left Denerim.

People were easily panicked and the idea of Ara being capable of something like this was going to frighten a lot of them. He had seen people attacked for far less then magic dealing with the rifts or even magic in general.

He was just about to speak when he felt it.

That same sensation of power calling to his blood and bones. The hair on the back of his neck stood up on end as he turned and practically dashed for the wagon. Dorian was just a step behind him and he had no doubt that the mage had felt it as well.

Cassandra followed a few steps behind them.

“Ara!” Bull shouted as he threw open the doors.

He found the healer on her ass and staring up at a rather distraught looking Ara. A dagger was held in her hand and he recognized it immediately.

The one that she had said was capable of killing with a single strike.

Her mouth was moving and Bull had the distinct fear that she was about to use that magic again. It had been the feeling of it that had drawn him and Dorian here.

Yo-“

She started and Bull prepared to jump out of the way.

“Ara, it’s alright, you’re with friends!” Dorian called out which seemed to give her pause.

“It’s Bull and Dorian.” Bull said and she seemed to hesitate in moving. That feeling faded away but Bull still felt like there was a tingling in his horns. A sensation which was beyond strange and seemed to linger as she stood there.

Bull climbed up into the wagon, and could clearly see that she was not completely lucid as those eyes seemed unfocused. Almost like she was not quite seeing him.

Her mouth was twisted up into an angry snarl and she barked some words at them. He remembered how the Orcish words had sounded and he was certain these were from that language. They had the same kind of harsh tone and seemed to flow together in the same manner.

“Ara, put the dagger down.” Bull said, keeping his hands in front of him as he stepped around the healer.

“Vilkas?”

He was not certain what the word was, or even if it was a word as she promptly crumpled to her feet. The dagger skidding across the wagon floor to clink against the things piled in the opposing corner.

That feeling finally died as she lost consciousness.

Bull rushed to her side, scooping her up and back into the bed. He noticed immediately that blood was seeping from her nose again. He wiped at the blood with his hand before grabbing some random piece of cloth to completely stem the flow.

Anger flashed inside him and he was just about to turn to demand an answer but Dorian beat him to it.

“What in the Maker’s name were you doing?” Dorian demanded.

“I was just…” The healer stammered.

“Get out.” Dorian spat.

The healer scrambled away and out the wagon, leaving them alone. Cassandra had followed the healer but Bull tuned out what she was saying. Her words were definitely angry but they were ignored at the moment.

“Blighted fool.” Dorian said as he approached where Bull was kneeling next to her bed.

“What did he do?”

“I think he tried to feed her a lyrium potion.” Dorian sounded practically livid, a small empty bottle in his hand.

“Thought that was fine for all you mages.” Bull said, not quite understanding why that was a bad thing for Ara.

“Mages yes. Ara no.” Dorian sighed but the anger still remained in his voice. “I haven’t shared this with anyone beyond Ellana but I don’t think Ara should be permitted any lyrium based draught. Dagna had the same concern as well.”

“When did you talk with the Arcanist?” Bull asked as he settled the blanket up around Ara’s chin.

“When she comes to ask me about Tevinter’s use of lyrium.” Dorian retorted. “She informed me that Ara seemed to have a reaction to the lyrium she showed her in the Undercroft.”

“Then why hasn’t anyone else said anything?” Bull said but what he really meant was why had Ellana not said anything to them.

They were all meant to be in this together but something like this, if it was potentially dangerous, it should have been something they were all aware of.

“Because we did not think it was something to be concerned of. Ara has expressed her distaste for our potions and we did not believe she would be faced with the opportunity to ever drink lyrium potions.” Dorian paused before swearing under his breath. “Vishante kaffas!”

Bull quirked an eyebrow as Dorian suddenly dashed out the back of the wagon. He had no idea what the man was up to but he guessed it had to do with the healer or the lyrium potion.

He had been a little concerned when the Inquisitor had brought home the Vint but Dorian turned out to be a good guy. Another mage but a good guy.

“Vilkas?”

That question came form Ara again and Bull turned back to look at her. She looked feverish which had him more concerned then before. Her eyes were still closed and he wondered exactly what it was she was dreaming about.

Even when she had been stabbed with the lyrium arrow, she had not become feverish. Just cold and clammy. This was the complete opposite of that. All of that coupled with the change in her skin tone was making him regret ever agreeing to go to Denerim with her.

“Easy, Ataashi.” He said as he rested his hand across her forehead for good measure. “Shit… definitely warmer then normal.”

Bull glanced around the wagon and found what he was looking for. A small bowl with a rag hanging out of it. No doubt it had been used earlier in the trip for the same reason. He was not the most adept when it came to caring for the ill but even he knew that a wet cloth would help.

He was half out of the wagon when Dorian came charging back with a look of fury on his face.

“What is it?” He asked.

“That moronic healer has been feeding her lyrium potions since we left Denerim.” Dorian’s face had turned a rather angry shade and Bull was not certain if the Vint was going to explode or not.

“Where is he?” Bull knew the man had no reason to suspect he might have been doing harm to Ara but at that moment, he simply did not care. The healer had clearly decided to give a draught to an ill person despite no signs that it was helping. When it had been in fact giving signs that it was making her worse.

“On the other side of the encampment and being shipped back to Denerim come the morning.” Dorian was still fuming. “I will need your help with this.”

“With what?” Bull asked as he stepped aside, the bowl still clutched in his hand.

“If he had just given her one before we showed up, then we will need to induce vomiting.”

Bull blinked at him before glancing at Ara. The grimace forming on his face as his mind finally caught up with what they had to do.

It was nearly half an hour later when Dorian was finished and Bull just wanted to take a hot bath. He was just grateful that the healer had the herbs on hand to do what they needed to do instead of using magic.

“Well, that’s disgusting.” Dorian was clearly not pleased with the way this night had gone but he sounded relieved. “I believe she should recover more quickly now.”

“You think?” Bull said, as he eyed the bucket they had used. He would dispose of it later in the woods.

“Quite frequently.” Dorian retorted before resting his hand on Ara’s forehead. “It seems it has lessened her fever as well.”

Bull glanced over at her with relief. He had been right that she had been feverish but having Dorian confirm it was even better. A quick look at the Orc revealed that she seemed to be sleeping more easily. Her skin tone had even lightened a few shades to a less Qunari kind of green.

“I think one of us should stay with her until we get to Skyhold.” Dorian said.

“I agree.” Bull had wanted to do that from the beginning but Cassandra had said otherwise. “I’ll dump this out and let Cassandra know what’s been happening.”

“Good, I’ll take tonight then.” Dorian said before giving a shooing motion.

Bull snorted at the man but quickly left the wagon to toss the bucket and speak with Cassandra.

They had alternated nights. Dorian one night and him the next. It started more whispering in the camp but Bull paid no mind to those.

Ara improved without the healer’s misguided ideas, her color had returned to nearly completely normal by the time they had arrived in Skyhold. She was still delirious when she woke and Bull feared that there may have been some lasting harm with the lyrium.

Bull was a bit surprised to find Cullen waiting for them and even more surprised when Ara responded to the Commander’s voice with a weakened word. She had been mostly unconscious when she uttered the word “Hadvar?”

No one had any idea what that could possibly mean and Bull just added it to the other strange word she had been calling him. They gave him a questioning look but he merely shrugged.

Cullen mentioned something about her rooms being changed and one of his Templars came forwards to lead the way to one of the doors beside the stairs up out of the courtyard.

The soldier led the way to the new rooms where she was staying and Bull followed easily enough. He knew they were getting closer to the rotunda which made sense.

Her new room turned out to be closer to the mages and healers, situated just beside the tower with another door opening out into the garden. Her things were already there waiting for her, including some books that he did not recall seeing her with before and that strange armor she had arrived in.

Bull settled her down in the bed while he waited for the healer to arrive. He just hoped this one was not as dumb as the last one. He tucked the blanket up around her before sitting at the table and found himself watching her breathing.

Her breathing had become far more normal since they had dealt with the lyrium but it was strange watching her look so peaceful when she was usually glaring at him.

 “Vilkas?”

That question came again and he lifted his head to look at her. She was definitely awake and staring at him but there was something about the way her head was tilted that was not quite right.

“Hey Ara, you gave us quite a scare.” He said with a grin as he pulled his chair closer to her bed.

“I did?” She sounded confused. “Sorry, didn’t mean to be any trouble. I know you’re all busy with your own things… are you watching me sleep?”

“No trouble.” Bull answered but ignored that last question. “That was pretty stupid of you in Denerim.”

“In Denerim?” She frowned. “It didn’t end badly, did it?”

“No, it ended alright.” He smiled at her, trying to reassure her as best as he could. “You just need some more rest.”

“I’m done resting.” She said with an annoyed huff before looking around. “This isn’t Jorrvaskr…?”

He had no idea what that word was supposed to be as it sounded far more foreign then anything she had ever said to him before. Her sudden desire to get up brought an instant feeling of relief.

That was more like the woman he knew.

“No, we’re back at Skyhold.” He answered.

“Skyhold? No matter, I need to go.” Ara pushed herself towards the edge of the bed. “I need to get home to Lucia. I have been gone long enough already.”

Bull had no idea to react to that. Not once had he ever heard her utter that name or had her reference anything, or anyone, with that tone of voice.

He just stared at her as he tried to put his thoughts together. It took him at least a breath before he finally asked.

“Who’s Lucia?”

“Who’s Lucia?” She stared at him with a strange look. “Did you hit your head or something, Vilkas?”

Bull felt it all click in that moment.

Vilkas was not a question or even a word.

It was a name.

She thought he was someone named Vilkas.

“Ara, what is my name?” He asked, trying to keep his voice level.

“What?”

“What is my name?” He wavered a little.

“I don’t understand…?”

“What. Is. My. Name?” He practically demanded it at that point.

“You’re…” She paused and seemed more confused. Her eyebrows practically touching as if this was some puzzle she could not figure out.  “You’re… you are…”

“Stop!” Cole’s voice nearly had him jumping out of his skin.

Whirling, Bull found the strange spirit-boy standing inside the room. He had no idea how he got there as he was certain that the room had been empty when they arrived and he had definitely not heard the sounds of the door opening or closing.

Cole took a step towards him with a very threatening look on his face, his voice rising in a harsh sound. There was a dagger in the boy’s hand and he looked ready to brandish it in Bull’s direction.

“You are hurting her!” Cole said, practically twitching towards Bull.

“She doesn’t know who I am!” Bull said as he turned towards him.

“She knows! She’s just confused right now!” Cole answered as if that was easy enough to explain. “She needs rest. No more lyrium. No more songs of old things. No more questions. Sleep where the sky is held back.”

“What?” Ara demanded from her bed and Bull was grateful that she at least sounded like herself. “What is he talking about, Vilkas?”

“Nothing.” Cole answered for him. “He was just leaving. He has a job to do.”

“Oh… well that would be good as well. I apologize for any problems for the Companions.” Ara took that as his answer but seemed groggy enough that she did not try to move any further.

“Don’t apologize, just rest.” Cole said without looking at him.

Bull turned his head ever so slightly to watch her settle back into the bed and seem to fall into a deep sleep almost instantly.

“I will watch over her.” Cole was at his side frighteningly quickly, close enough to shove him. The dagger was long gone, stashed away somewhere.  

“No offense, kid, but I think I got this.” Bull said gruffly, completely unsettled by the boy.

“No. You don’t. Fear. You felt the words.” Cole answered, his tone dipping down into some dark depths. “In your bones. In your horns. In your blood. A song that your body wanted to answer but it didn’t know how. Dorian understands. Go ask him.”

Bull stared at him and took a step away from Ara. The thoughts of when she had used the words in Denerim to close the rift came to his mind, quickly followed by the knowledge that she had been about to do the same just outside of Skyhold.

“But she didn’t. There is too much.” Cole’s eyes were still fixed on him, boring right into him as if the boy could see into his very soul. “She can’t sort out the here from there. Words and thoughts. It’s too much.”

“Then I’m staying.” Bull crossed his arms.

“You can’t.” Cole shook his head. “You can’t help. Not with this. She needs…” There was a frown across Cole’s face that was almost unreadable. “No. You can’t help. You’re afraid. Dorian can explain and then maybe you can help.”

Bull was about to question Cole when Dorian did push open the door and stride in.

“Healer didn’t arrive yet?” He questioned before noticing the tension between the two of them. “Are you two about to get into a fight next to the patient? Because, by all means, go right ahead.”

Dorian crossed his arms with a look that said he was not going to be putting up with whatever was happening in Ara’s room.

“Get out.” Cole said and there was an almost menacing tone to the boy’s voice.

It seemed so out of character that Bull went for the door. There was a very brief second where he thought about challenging Cole but right now, a fight was not needed.

“No, it’s not needed.” Cole said as if he could hear what Bull was thinking. “I won’t hurt her. But you hurt her. You are too close. Too much. Get out.”

“What?” Dorian sounded utterly confused.

“It’s nothing.” Bull said before grabbing Dorian by the arm and leading him out of the room.

“Bull!” Dorian said in exasperation as they were out in the hallway, confusion coloring the man’s face. “Care to explain?”

“I’m not leaving her with him for very long but…” Bull wondered how he could ask this question without utterly freaking out because the more he thought about it, the more he felt like he was going to lose his mind. “I felt Ara’s magic. When she closed the rift, I felt it. Cole said it was a song my body wanted to answer but it didn’t know how? What the fuck does that mean?”

Chapter Text

Dorian had been in a poor mood ever since Ara had acted on his poorly timed joke and closed the rift. An act that rendered her quite weakened.

Something he could tell without the healer’s input as her magic felt like it had been utterly ravaged by the act. He had never felt anything like he had when he had tried to sort out what was wrong when they returned her to the Palace.

He had stood outside that door and tried to feel for her magic but it was unlike any mage he had ever sensed before.

First it had been the spell she used to close the rift and now the ambient magic that seemed to cling to what remained of her connection to the fade. He was not certain if he was losing his mind but it certainly had felt less like what he would expect of a person’s connection and more like those strange elvhen artifacts that Solas had been adamant on them reactivating.

He had just been about to burst in to get a closer look when Bull came stomping down the hallway.

The man had apparently received a message from a Tree – because of course, why not - and a long trip back to Skyhold. He could understand the reasoning as Denerim was an unfamiliar place and even agreed returning was a better idea then remaining in Denerim but only because the Inquisition had better healers.

Right now, Ara needed the best healers that they could get. Not some backwoods healer that probably gained his position based on nepostism.

Now that healer had done a terrible job and he realized he should have been keeping a closer eye on Ara. He had been checking every time he was in there with her but never once would he have assumed that the healer was trying to administer her a lyrium potion.

It made sense, of course, as that was the general method for dealing with a mage who had over extended themselves but Ara was not like other mages. Even if her magic had returned to feeling like normal magic, he still continued to think about how it had felt that night in Denerim.

He had long realized that she did not wield magic like he did. He had assumed she had been an untrained mage at first or perhaps just trained in a different way but then that summoned weapon and those words had made it clear. She was something far more powerful and possibly different then a mage. He just had no idea what she could be.

There was nothing he could recall, not in all the Tevinter manuscripts that could explain the word magic but there had been something he had read. A tale of what it had been like in the Tevinter of old.

It had been a forbidden text. One that he had bartered and arranged to get a hold of when he had been an adventurous youth.

It spoke of the Magisters Sidereal, and how their magic had felt. It only stuck in his mind because a slave had explained that it had felt differently then other magic. That it had felt like the magic used had been tugging on the very core of the slave.

Of course, it had not felt the way Ara’s magic felt to him so he wondered if there had been more to the text.

He had assumed it was a fiction but now he was not so sure. Especially not after encountering an angry Cole and having Bull drag him about like some doll. Now Bull stared at him with that panicked but angry look on his face in the hallway.

“I felt Ara’s magic. When she closed the rift, I felt it. Cole said it was a song that my body wanted to answer but didn’t know how. What the fuck does that mean?”

“What do you mean, you felt it?” Dorian asked but he had a good idea what that meant. He had felt Ara’s magic calling to his own magic as if it was a part of the grand scheme of power she used to close the rift. Even a mildly sensitive person would have felt that and he doubted Bull was that deaf to magic.

Even if the Qunari had no connection to the fade, they still had the possibility for magic and dreams. There was always the potential for mages, just like any other people.

“I felt it…” Bull stopped, clearly uncertain of how to explain it. “Cole said I felt it in my bones and my blood. That it was a song my body wanted to answer but couldn’t.”

“Have you been around her when she’s done magic before?” Dorian asked, not wanting to think too much about what Bull had just said as there were far too many potential answers to all of that.

That text came to mind again and he made a mental note to ask the Nightingale to see if she could obtain a copy of it. He had no doubt that it had to exist somewhere as they had even managed to trace Corypheus’ potential family line.

Finding a book should be far easier.

“Yes, but it wasn’t like this.” Bull said as he ran his hand across his face, obviously disturbed by what they were discussing. “A while back, she used that same kind of magic to breathe fire but it didn’t make me feel like this. It didn’t make me feel like anything, just like usual magic but this…”

“She used magic to breathe fire?” Dorian asked, a bit surprised and definitely adding that to the idea of how to deal with bandits in the future.

“That’s not the point, Dorian.” Bull said with a grimace.

“Right, as near as I can tell, Ara’s magic is not like the magic normally practiced anywhere I know of.” Dorian said with a shrug. It was the truth but not the full truth as he had suspicions that this kind of magic had been practiced in Tevinter so very long ago. Bull’s explanation was just too close to that vague memory. “I’m guessing that whatever she did to close the rift, that it must have called on the ambient magic in the air. My magic and whatever you Qunari have in you.”

Bull’s grimace deepened and he suddenly looked very horrified.

“Not that I think she’ll be doing that often.” Dorian hastily added. “It’s something I will need to discus with Ellana and the other mages.”

“Might as well note that Vilkas is apparently the name of someone she knows.” Bull said as he glanced down the hallway, his face still contorted in that grimace. “There is also a Lucia who she claimed she needed to get back to.”

“I am not familiar with that name.” Dorian said as he shook his head.

“Neither am I and she’s been pretty talkative with me.” Bull sighed and rubbed his face again. “We never should have brought us to Denerim.”

“That is not something we can worry about now.”

“Yeah, I know but now people are gonna talk.” Bull glanced over at Dorian.

“People were always talking, Bull.” Dorian said with a sigh. “Do you really think that no one has made the connection before about her and the fade? I mean the people at Haven were practically singing about the woman who looked the same shade as a rift.”

She had never been that green of course but people had still made that connection. Green to green.

“That’s not the point.” Bull said and looked hesitant. “Look, I know what you’re going to say to Ellana and the others but there’s some shit I need to tell them too. We do it together, alright?”

Dorian quirked an eyebrow at the man, unsure of what he was getting at but realizing that it had to do with Ara quickly enough. She was the main topic of conversation these days.

“My, my, have you been keeping secrets?” Dorian asked, teasing in an effort to relieve some of the gloom that seemed to hang over the Qunari.

“Perhaps.” Bull answered before sighing. “It’s…” He paused. “Complicated.”

“Oh, and here I thought it was as simple as us having a magical powerhouse who is probably the talk of every city and village from Denerim to Minrathous.”

“There is no need to be an ass.” Bull said with a snort.

“You’re not the only one concerned about her.” Dorian said with a shake of his head. “All of this. It’s nothing I’ve even read about before. Do you know what a Magister in Tevinter would give for even an iota of the power in this Keep? Or even sleeping in that room?”

Bull seemed startled as if he had not considered that to the degree that Dorian had. It had been something weighing on his mind since the beginning. Haven had not been well protected but Ellana made enough excursions out of Skyhold that a snatch and grab was not out of the question.

In fact, Dorian was surprised that there had been no attempt to capture either Ellana, Ara or any of the others. Even some of the Tranquil would have been worth their weight in gold, former mages who were steeped in the knowledge of entire Mage Circles.

He just hoped that it was more of his people growing a sense of comradery with the south and it’s attempts to stop a homicidal Magister as opposed to further plotting.

“You really think the Magisters would get involved in all this?” Bull asked but his voice hinted that he had suspected as much already.

“Not publicly, no.” Dorian said shaking his head at the idea. “But you can bet that there are some that have been planning something.”

Just as he knew some were all for the idea of Corypheus and returning Tevinter to the power it was.

“Just more Venatori attacks then?”

“Oh, that was never going to change.” Dorian responded. “They’re bigoted fools following the ideals of a Tevinter that hasn’t existed in thousands of years.”

That lure of power. It had been enough to make even Alexius believe in Corypheus. The man had only sought to save his son and Corypheus had offered that.

Dorian was glad that Ellana had allowed him to live in service to the Inquisition. Alexius may have tried to kill her but he had been Dorian’s mentor and friend at one time.

Bull had gone silent and Dorian found himself wondering what the man was thinking. The Qunari was rather intelligent for a man who passed himself off as a brute. Dorian knew that Bull was a Ben-Hassrath but the man had easily proved himself an ally over the last few months.

“Dorian,” Bull said as he turned to look back in the direction of Ara’s room. “Do you think it’s possible… that she’s a kossith?”

“A kossith?” Dorian questioned even as he tried to wrack his brain over the idea. What he knew very little of the kossith and was even surprised that Bull knew the word. He had heard from others that the kossith were a rarely mentioned thing even among the followers of the Qun.

That it was a topic reserved only for the hushed discussions among their priesthood.

“I mean, you saw the way she looked when she had been fed lyrium.” Bull seemed to be trying to reason what he saw and Dorian had not realized it had affected him so badly. “And no one knows where she’s from. This place she calls Skyrim, it could be from a continent to the North.”

Dorian felt something akin to pity as he realized Bull was trying to rationalize it all in that moment.

“I can’t say one way or the other.” Dorian answered truthfully, not feeling like cracking a joke. “I don’t know very much about the kossith, only what I’ve read and rumors.”

“What have you heard about them?” Bull asked.

“That a group landed here in the Ancient era and are supposedly the reason why the Blight has those giant Ogres.” Dorian grimaced. “Beyond that, there really wasn’t much in the Tevinter libraries about anything Qunari related. It’s easier to rationalize killing the enemy if we don’t give them a history beyond invading force.”

Bull snorted and Dorian felt a little relieved. He preferred that reaction to the Qunari suddenly freaking out as he was certain Bull was not far off from that. It seemed to lesson with the topic of the kossith.

“I’m just trying to figure this all out.” Bull said before looking over his shoulder at him. He seemed like he was going to say more but he remained silent.

“Well, I’m afraid I can’t be much help there.” Dorian said in sympathy. “I only know what I can sense of her magic. I don’t know as much about her as you and the others seem to. And I definitely don’t know anything about the kossith.”

“What exactly do you sense when she performs magic?”

“It feels like magic?” Dorian said with a shrug. It had felt mostly the same as any magic, other then that one moment in Denerim but he was not certain about that himself. “There is no way I can really answer that where I won’t sound like an asshole. You felt what she did so you know just as much as I do at this point.”

“Yeah but you’re a mage. How did it feel as a mage?” Bull asked, turning fully in the hallway to be facing him.

“It felt the same way you explained it and the way that Cole told you.” Dorian answered. “Like it was calling to my magic.”

It felt like it had called to his magic all the way down to his very core but he guessed Bull did not want to hear that.

“I don’t have magic.” Bull was almost defensive as he said it.

Bull’s attitude change suddenly clicked. It was not just fear for Ara that was making him seem a little more panicky then normal. He thought it had been calling to some untapped magical power within him.

“Is that what you think her spell did?” Dorian asked, voicing his thoughts. “That it’s calling to magic you don’t have?”

“I wouldn’t be the first Qunari who was a late bloomer.” Bull said unhappily.

“Late bloomer would be an understatement.” Dorian said with a huff at the absurdity of the idea. People normally came into their magic at a young age and he believed Bull was far past that age. “It’s not like Ara just waved her hand and gave you magic. This isn’t some ‘Congratulations! You can shoot fireballs’ kind of thing. It just doesn’t work that way.”

“You’re certain of that?”

“Fairly certain.” Dorian answered but he felt like Bull was still unconvinced. “Listen, you would show some signs beyond sensing what Ara was doing. It could be that you’re just sensitive to extreme magic because trust me, what she did was very extreme. It made my fireballs feel like a summer breeze.”

“That potent?”

“She closed a damn rift, Bull.” Dorian said with a shake of his head. “Really, I wouldn’t be too concerned unless you start dreaming or accidentally lighting something on fire.” He stopped for a moment and tried to sense any magic from Bull but he felt nothing. Not even a hint of magic. “I’d say you’re about as magically gifted as a dwarf.”

“Not sure whether to be insulted by that or not.” Bull answered but there was a clear sound of relief in the man’s voice.

“Either way.” Dorian shrugged. “I think it’s best not to think too hard on what Cole said as the boy tends to say a lot of strange things.”

“You’re telling me.” Bull said with an aggravated sigh. “He said I was hurting her when I was trying to get her to say my name.”

“Why were you trying to get her to say your name?”

“Remember how I said Vilkas was a name and not a word?” Bull answered. “It seems she thinks I am this Vilkas person. She talked like they were really good friends.”

“That’s possible.” Dorian said with a shrug. “She did have a life before coming here or did you think she popped out of the Breach fully formed?”

“Of course not.” Bull said with a tone that was somewhere between annoyance and insult. “I just meant that she thought I was Vilkas. I’m guessing Hadvar was also a person she knew as she only said that after Cullen started talking. Cole said she knew who I was but that she was confused. That she couldn’t tell the difference between here and there.”

Dorian frowned as Bull started with what Cole had told him. To him, she sounded just like an old Templar that had been on lyrium too long. Someone who was confused and unable to make sense of what was around them.

He certainly hoped that was not the case as he was horrified by the idea that they might have destroyed the woman’s mind by allowing an inept healer to care for her.

“What exactly did Cole say? In entirety please.”

Bull started explaining what he remembered. Dorian listened, quiet and focused. The conversation between Bull and Cole had been short but it was quite an eye opener for Dorian.

It seemed the spirit creature knew more about what was going on then he was willing to share.

Something else that Dorian was going to have to bring up with Ellana when he saw her next. The lack of sharing knowledge was something that brought Cole’s loyalty in question, at least in Dorian’s mind.

“What do you make of all that?” Bull asked after he finished talking.

“I think I need to have a little chat with Ellana about him.” Dorian said as he idly rubbed his chin. “And a talk with him and a visit with the Nightingale to request a few more books.”

“You’ve got an idea of what all that meant then?”

“Not really.” Dorian said with an honest smile. “It does give me a few ideas of where to look.”

He did not want to tell Bull about his suspicions, especially the part about the song of old things. There were so many things that could mean and each one was a little more terrifying then the last.

He just hoped it was more to do with the dwarves and their supposed song from the stone as opposed to the song the Magisters claimed to hear from the Old Gods.

Either way, those were terrible ideas and all that was between them was just as bad.

“When you find out anything, you have to let me know.” Bull said. “I promised her I’d help her if she needed it.”

Dorian found himself smiling at the Qunari.

“Of course.” Dorian answered. “I intend to let Ellana know anything I discover so you will be the next after that.”

“Good.” Bull said before glancing back to the room where Ara was being watched over by Cole. “Do you think she will be alright in there with him?”

“With Cole?” Dorian asked as his own gaze followed. “I believe so. I am not certain of him fully but I don’t think he would do anything to hurt her, especially given that he was willing to take on a man more then triple his size for her.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right.” Bull said with a strange expression. “Look… I gotta go get some air, will you check on her before you head topside?”

“I will.” Dorian said with a nod.

It had been the reason he had come down in this dusty hallway to begin with.

“Thanks.” Bull said before striding down the hallway and out towards the courtyard. No doubt to return to the Tavern to relax.

Dorian considered joining him and the Chargers but Ara came first.

Gently pushing the door open, he found himself staring at a curious sight.

Ara was sleeping on the bed while Cole watched over her like a hawk. The boy was balanced on the back of a chair in a way that should have been physically impossible. Dorian just stared at him as Cole turned to look at him in a rather owlish manner.

Ara was still in the bed but he could see that her breathing was level and her shade had returned to nearly the right green. He could even make out that faint tinge of yellow that had become the norm for her.

“You tried to help Bull. That is good.”

“I… yes.” Dorian said as he moved closer to the bed. “He is –“

“He is afraid.” Cole answered for him. “Magic that is not magic. Words that pull. What if she’s not just a dragon? What if he’s not just a Qunari?”

“He is worried that there may have been some consequences with closing the rift, yes.” Dorian said, suddenly feeling uncomfortable in the boy’s presence.

“Consequences?” Cole tilted his head back. “There are always consequences. They made them deaf but it wasn’t enough. Now the song sings wrong but the words are right.”

“Is that the same song you told Bull about?”

“No.” Cole answered as he turned and was suddenly sitting on the chair like a normal person. It was a move so fast that Dorian was not even sure he saw it right. “He doesn’t understand. He thinks he does but he’s too afraid.”

“Yes, well, having someone alter the very reality you’re used to tends to do that to a person.” Dorian retorted.

“It does.” Cole agreed. “She will be alright.”

“What?” Dorian stuttered.

“That is why you came, wasn’t it?” Cole turned to look at him again. “Ara will be alright. The lyrium was bad. But you helped.”

“I thought as much.”

Or rather, he had hoped as much.

“It’s not your fault either.” Cole said before Dorian had the chance to steer him back to the topic of Bull and Ara.

“What’s not my fault?”

“Her closing the rift.” Cole answered. “She knew it was bad. Spirits would be pulled through. People would get hurt. Bull and Dorian. No Ellana. No time. The Tree understood but she’s not meant to do that.”

“She’s not meant to close the rifts?” Dorian asked, completely surprised by what Cole was now revealing to him.

“No, that is what Ellana is for.”

“Then what is Ara for?” He almost wanted to ask what any of them were for but he doubted the spirit would understand the joke, and he was beginning to feel like this was not the right moment for joking either.

“She is for what she is for.” Cole answered, as cryptic as ever. “You are here to help. It’s why you stay. You know this is more then just you or home. You want to go home. But you stay because you have to.”

“Well yes, I do have to stay and help.” Dorian fidgeted a little. He did not like the way Cole could peer so deep into a person. This was not the first time that he had been on the receiving end of the boy’s ability.

“I will stay and help.” Cole said. “Right now, you need to go. Bull will need friends.”

“Bull? What has happened to Bull?”

“A letter, clutched tight. A trap.” Cole shook his head. “He needs to be drunk tonight.”

Dorian did not question Cole further and instead turned on his heel to find Bull.

He knew there was no point in trying to speak with the boy further and Ara looked like she was recovering well. He just hoped he was not believing in a false hope that Cole would merely do as he said and help her.

Chapter Text

Ara was sitting at a table.

A table that seemed to go on forever. There were people sitting there.

Then she realized that they were not people, they were…

She had no idea what they were.

They were human. Then they were mer. Then they were glowing dots of light. Then they were dragons. Then they were things she had no descriptions for. Then they were human again.

All of it cycling through different forms and all of them remaining sitting in the same spaces.

“We’re tired.”

One of them said, the feminine voice mildly familiar. Perhaps a short conversation of importance long ago. She tried to get a look at them but they had shifted into an indescribable form of light.

Then one of them was sitting next to her with a silly grin and she knew him. Instinct causing her to lean away even as those strange, almost vacant, eyes fixed on her. His hair was mostly gray with a few strands of black and white, but it did not make him look distinguished.

“Sheogorath?” She questioned, knowing the man and his outlandish outfit that looked more suited to a court jester then a Daedric Lord.

Ara remembered the man she had once aided in fleeing from Sheogorath’s realm but that was long ago. His appearance had been mostly forgotten in place of Sheogarath’s outlandish appearance.

“Maybe I am. Maybe I am not.” He laughed with that same mad laugh she remembered. “Maybe you are.”

“I am not Sheogorath.” Ara said with a shake of her head. “I am –“

“Oh yes, we have heard that. You’re the Dragonborn. All powerful and something something.” Sheogorath tilted his head at her. “But there is no Dragonborn in Thedas so what does that make you?”

“Still the Dragonborn.” Ara said as she crossed her arms. Thedas may be different but she was still the Dragonborn.

“Makes you as mad as I am. Or was.” Sheogorath said with a thoughtful look before his form began to change. “Or will be.”

Little blue veins seemed to creep up along his skin before his body seemed to turn into tendrils of blue light that expanded away from the table. He seemed to connect to something beyond her realm of sight. Perhaps even beyond the dream. It just made him seem something more.

She shivered as she stared at him and tried to sort out what he was but it was almost as if she could not comprehend this change.

“Sheogorath?” Ara found herself questioning this new form of his even as her mind seemed to break at the idea. Which was rather normal when it came to dealing with the patron Daedra of madness.

“I am. I was. I will be.” He no longer looked at all like Sheogorath. “It’s all the same in Aetherius.”

Then he disappeared from view completely and she was staring at a blank space in the table.

“We’re tired.”

Another said and she turned to look at them. Again, there was a familiarity of the voice but she could not place it. Not at all. She guessed it might be another Daedra as she had encountered nearly all of them at least once in her travels in Skyrim.

“So very tired.”

There was a brief form of a woman just as Sheogorath had appeared as a man, and just like him, she expanded out in blue tendrils to something else.

“No secrets have I for you, not any longer. My whispers cannot reach you here, Listener.” The woman responded to some unspoken question as her body shifted into something incomprehensible. “The thread woven wrong must be cut.”

Then she too disappeared.

There was something about what played out before her that troubled her mind. Almost like a sense that she had witnessed this all before, yet it all felt wrong this time. Each person flickering and for a moment, she felt an overwhelming sense of grief that threatened to drown her when they faltered and disappeared.

Ara attempted to get up from the table but found herself unable to move from the chair. It was like she had become one with the chair.

Further down the table, the other lights began to disappear. Some changing into the same blue tendrils and others just simply disappearing until only a handful remained.

“The last Dragonborn was born on the eighth of Frost Fall.” Came a voice that was familiar and frightening at the same time.

Ara felt her whole body stiffen up and she could not move to look but she knew who was sitting to her left. She had heard the voice only a few short times before but she knew it.

Malacath.

“They were the spurned. The ostracized. The pariah.” The voice continued. “Yet they gave their oath. Always their oath. It did not matter the consequence, they held true.”

It felt like it took a thousand years but she managed to turn her head every so slowly. Every muscle screamed at her in pain as she looked.

There sat Malacath, the patron Daedra of her people, her god. 

He looked almost as every statue and painting had depicted. Everything from the near-Orcish like appearance to the tone of skin. A crown of horns seemed to grace his skull. There was no leer or grin as the other Daedra had worn when dealing with her, just a stern look.

He almost seemed to be judging her.

“Have you forgotten?”

Then Malacath began to change but it was not like the others. His form began to shift and become more elven. Yet he looked unlike any elf she had ever seen. Once she had considered Solas to look like what she expected of the elves that came before the others but now she was certain that this not-Malacath was what they were supposed to look like.

The tusks vanished and the horns were replaced with a true crown of wrought iron. Pointed ears were lined with curved iron jewelry and dark hair hung low over his shoulders. Armor unlike anything she had ever seen suddenly blossomed from light to cover his form. Silver blue eyes peered back at her with an unreadable expression.

He did not look like any elf she had met before but there things in his appearance that reminded him of the dark haired elf she had seen in her dreams before. This man’s appearance was just more angular, shaper and more dangerous.

“We have all become changed.”

“Who are you?” Ara managed to ask even as her mouth felt like it was full of ash.

“I am what Malacath once was. Strength, honor and unity. He held the same but he was not the same.” This new figure said. “We who warred with ourselves, we became less with each new life.”

“What are you talking about?” Ara demanded but her voice seemed to be carried away by the murmuring of the handful at the table. She thought back to what she knew of Malacath but she had never been the most studious when it came to the old lore. She knew he was the patron of all Orsimer and that had always been good enough for her.

This, she had a feeling, was something far more then just spirits being cryptic but she had no idea what.

“We are tired.”

“We are so tired.”

“It has been too long.”

“What the Ashpit are you all talking about?” Ara yelled over them.

“Death for life. Life for power.” The not-Malacath said even as his form shifted like the others had. He became blue tendrils that seemed to stretch on forever.

Yet, at the same time, they seemed to focus together into what looked like a small star. A sphere shaped glowing orb that spun at the very center of the blue tendrils.

“Those that fought and those that died.”

“We are tired.”

The tendrils reached from the bright spot and wrapped around her. It started gradually but the tendrils kept going, tighter and tighter.

“Remember what once was. Remember what now is. Know what will be.”

The blue tendrils wrapped around her began to change in color from blue into an all too familiar green. They blinded as they wrapped around her face, slowly closing off her sight of the unending table.

The remaining points of light had shifted into something different. Each one became an elf. Two female elves and four male elves.

As that light began to overwhelm her vision, she recognized the fourth male elf.

He had been the dark haired elf that had visited her dreams. For once, she could make out his face and could see the weariness in his eyes. There was something sad about those eyes.

She wanted to question him but it felt like her tongue had become lead in her mouth.

“There are no Orcs in Thedas.”

She rebelled at the words that she had heard spoken before but there was no way to escape the things that bound her. They stifled her breathing and it was getting harder and harder to draw air into her lungs. The tightness became burning, searing across her skin like flame.

It was as if that flame now threatened to burn her to nothing.

“Dovah, bex hin miin.” A voice called just at the edge of her consciousness. A familiar voice that she felt like she had not heard in years. “Zu’u los het.”

Paarthurnaax?

She fought against the blinding light as she tried to reach out to that voice.

“Bex hin miin.”

“P…Paarthurnaax?” She managed to say the name out loud this time.

 

“Ara?” Cole’s voice echoed in her ears and she was certain he was leaning over her, judging by the weight pushing down on the edge of whatever she was laying on.

She assumed it was a bed as it was far too soft and warm to be the ground.

It felt like she was wading through mud but she finally opened her eyes. Everything was little more then shapes with faint color. There was a pale shape above her, she guessed that to be Cole, and he almost looked like he was bouncing.

A few slow blinks and she realized he was not bouncing. The room just had a strange sort of spin that seemed to lessen with each breath. Unfortunately, it was followed by a splitting headache and an overwhelming sense of nausea.

Just that incredibly queasy feeling but not quite at the point of throwing up.

“Cole?” She questioned.

“You’re awake! Good. He helped. You weren’t listening to me.” Cole sounded both happy and sad at the same time.

“Who helped?” She asked as she tried to sit up. She wanted to ask if Paarthurnax had been here but she doubted it. There was no way a dragon could fit in the small room she was in.

“I did.” Solas’ voice came from just by the door. “And you should lay still for a while yet.”

She started turning her head to look at him but that just made the headache worse. In truth, she felt like far worse then that morning after getting drunk with Sanguine. At least she was waking up in the company of friends as opposed to half naked in Markath’s temple to Dibella.

That had been one hell of a night which she only vaguely remembered but the hangover the day before had been made worse when she had to run a bunch of little quests for people to undo the damage she had done while in the company of the Daedric Prince.

“The giant was sad you took his friend.” Cole suddenly said, picking up on that faint memory of retrieving a goat from a giant in order to get an answer.

“Goat didn’t belong to him, Cole.” Ara answered testily, not wanting to think too much more about that night. She was still angry with Sanguine for that little stunt.

She slowly pushed herself up before she found Solas looming over as well. The look he was giving her must have been disapproving but she could barely make him out against the stark gray of the walls. Stone walls she assumed.

“Lay still.” Solas barked.

She frowned at him and the angry tone in his voice. Ara was about to tell him off but Cole intervened.

“She had to.” Cole’s voice was still that mix of happy and sad but there was an almost defensive kind of tilt to it. “People would have hurt if she hadn’t. Her words became all that might be. She fixed it.”

“It okay, Cole.” She said as she pat his hand as comforting as she could manage. At least she hoped it was his hand, she could have been patting a random wrinkle in her bed clothes. His words were confusing but she had given up trying to understand him unless something spectacular jumped out at her. “How badly am I this time?”

She was tired and she was annoyed but there was no point in not asking. She remembered closing the Breach and she remembered feeling like something slammed into her. Then there was nothing beyond some fuzzy dreams. She had definitely done some damage to herself this time.

Especially since there was no doubt in her mind that she was not healing as quickly as she normally did.

Something she was certain had to do with this stupid world of Thedas.

“Not as badly as you could have.” Solas still sounded angry. “Closing the rift with a shout was unwise, you should have allowed Dorian the opportunity to seal it.”

He was chiding her.

Like she was some child that had pulled a dog’s tail.

Ara suddenly felt angry despite feeling sick. He had avoided her since she talked to him about what the spirit had said. Both in waking and in dreams and now he had the nerve to scold her for saving the people in Denerim.

Cole shrunk away from her but she barely noticed as her anger was focused completely on Solas.

“Shut up.” Ara snapped.

Solas went very still and she was certain he was staring at her.

“I did what had to do. You don’t get to tell me what I can’t do.” Ara practically snarled her words at him. The anger seemed to make the room come into focus a little faster. It did not help her nausea but at least she could make out the rest of the room better. “Especially not after you act like a spoiled little when I need answers.”

She knew he was being overprotective, for whatever reason, but she just did not want to deal with his attitude right now. Not when she needed to complete her task so she could return home and he was hampering her with keeping things to himself.

“Ara…” He blushed at her words before sighing. “Ir abelas, I apologize.”

She was completely startled by the apology. She had honestly expected something a little more confrontational then that. Perhaps even an explanation but all he said was that. And blush right up to his ears.

“He does mean it.” Cole volunteered. “Too much. Too many. Can’t let her g-“

“It’s alright, Cole.” Solas said. “I can explain on my own.”

“I…” Cole paused.

“You want to help.” There was some sympathy in Solas’ voice. “This is not something you can help with this.”

The room was clear enough that she could actually make out their features and she could see Cole getting upset. The spirit boy was practically twitching on the edge of her bed. She was not sure if she had ever seen him argue with Solas but it looked like he was close to that now.

“I would like to speak with Ara alone, Cole.” Solas said and it almost sounded like an order.

There was something commanding about Solas’ voice that she had never really heard before. He had ordered her before, dictated what she should do but this tone of voice was different. She could hear the authority in his voice.

“A…alright.” Cole answered as he seemed to float away from the bed. He seemed to become indistinct, almost like he faded, before he looked normal again. “Don’t hurt her.”

She guessed her illness was playing havoc on her as he opened the door and walked out like a normal person. Clearly there was nothing strange about Cole.

“Ara, there is something I want to tell you.” Solas said as soon as the door closed.

That shield went up around them, a very common thing whenever he was going to talk with her about something. It felt different this time but she had no idea how or even why it felt different.

“Listening.” She said with a firm tone but not as angry as before.

“I have wanted to tell you before now but it has been difficult.” Solas actually looked like he was trying to get the courage. “I do know who the spirit wants you to kill.”

She had been right in assuming he knew. That anger came back in a flash and she crossed her arms as she waited for him to give her the name, or at least point her in the direction to find the cause for her adventure in Thedas.

“I want to tell you but I truly fear that you might run off.” Solas said. “After closing the rift, you are not well enough to face that opponent.”

She scowled at him and was about to yell at him when he cut her off and continued.

“I promise you, after you are strong again, I will tell you who it is.” Solas quickly said. “I will even help you in your task but until then, I am asking you to trust me.”

Ara frowned. She had no problems with trusting him but she did not believe she was that weakened by closing the rift. Even with her blasted nausea, she was certain she could take on whatever threat it was.

“Irmorisenatha, please.”

She blinked, startled by the sudden pleading tone. It was not like him to beg. Even when she had teased him before about his apology, he had never sounded quite like that. He did not use the elvhen word too much in th waking world either.

She was suddenly worried that she may have done more damage to herself then she thought.

“Fine.” Ara answered with a huff. “I will trust you.”

“Thank you.” Solas said as he bowed his head, looking far more relieved then she thought possible. “And I will endeavor to answer any questions as best as I can without sending you after your target.”

Ara hated the way that wording sounded but that was what it was. A target. Like some Dark Brotherhood target that had been given to her by the Night Mother.

“Good.” It was all she could say to that as she doubted she could convince him otherwise.

“You really should be resting still.” He still looked relieved but his voice sounded more like himself. “Your act in Denerim severely drained you.”

“My act?” She shook her head at him but regretted it instantly as it made her nausea slightly worse. “I closed the rift using the thu’um.”

“I wasn’t aware that you knew a shout for that.” He said, suddenly looking thoughtful. “Were there rifts in Skyrim?”

“No, there were no rifts.” Ara responded.

“Then how did you know that was going to work?” There was no demand in his voice, just an honest curiosity.

“The Hist told me.”

“The Hist?”

“The Vhenadahl?” She provided. “The tree the city elves keep.”

“You communicated with a Vhenadahl?” Solas’ mouth was hanging open after he said. A look of surprise and awe shining on his face.

“Yes?” Ara blinked at him. She had assumed he would know what it was but she had not expected him to look at her like that.

Apparently it was a major thing for someone to talk to the tree.

“I had not realized that their trees were actual Vhenadahls.” Solas said. “I had assumed that they were merely trees named after the trees that once lined Arlathan.”

“Arlathan?”

“An ancient city that was the center of the ancient Elvhen homeland.” He explained and his voice sounded a little distant. “Long ago, the elves had a land of their own. Elvhenan with Arlathan as it’s capital.”

She had never heard about any of those places before but it did make sense that the elves would have their own homeland. Even the Orcs had Orsinium, even if it had been destroyed and rebuilt repeatedly over their history.

“The trees were commonplace in Arlathan and the many other cities.” Solas continued. “They were connected to the fade in a way things today are incapable of.  It allowed them to be connected to one another.”

Ara frowned at him. That made sense with the few things she knew about the Hist but his explanation of the time made no sense to her.

“That doesn’t make sense.” Ara said as she shook her head. “The Hist is from my world.”

“That is what you call the Vhenadahl?” Solas questioned.

“The Hist, yes.” Ara nodded. “Never seen one but they were in the Black Marsh. A place very far away from Skyrim. Only Argonians were allowed near.”

“I am not familiar with Argonians.”

“Different type of people. Man sized lizards.” She explained. “About Dorian’s height, or at least the one I knew.”

Solas went quiet as if he was working that through and Ara suddenly wondered if there was an equivalent race here in Thedas.

She had encountered enough diversity in the elves to get the rest of the mer and there were even dwarves here. Certainly different then what she knew of the dwarves of Nirn but dwarves none the less.

She doubted it as there should have been some sign of such a thing. Something that different would no doubt have been whispered rumors as it was fairly difficult to not remember an Argonian’s appearance.

“It is possible that the Vhenadahl may not be the Hist from your world?”

“It said it was the Hist.”

“Then perhaps there is more then one Hist?” Solas suggested.

“Maybe.” Ara said but she just did not believe it.

She had never heard of such a thing but then she knew next to nothing about the Hist. They were the worshipped by the Argonians, not her people.

“Your speech has improved.” Solas suddenly said, shifting the topic away from the Vhenadahl and the Hist.

“What?” Ara was startled by the observation.

“We have been conversing as if you were born to the common tongue.”

She gave it more thought and realized he was right. There were a lot of words that she had said that she had never used before. A lot of words that she should not know. It was still not perfect but it was closer to a better understanding and the others.

Ara immediately started to feel panicked.

“Easy, Irmorisenatha.” Solas said quickly. “This must be an after effect of dealing with the rift.”

She shook her head. There was no way it could have been that.

She had spoken the words and that was it. There had been strange dreams since then but she could only remember the last one with that table. None of that made any sense for her to learn the rest of their blasted language.

Ara knew she had not come into contact with anything that could convey that amount of knowledge. She had not touched any word wall or absorbed a dragon soul or anything else that could explain it. All she had done was touch the root of the Vhenadahl.

“Damn it.” She knew it was that tree. The flash of images came back to her mind and she swore in Orcish under her breath as well. There was no other thing that could have possibly made her this better with speaking.

“You believe it was something else?”

“Blasted tree.” Ara felt just as enraged as she had when she had learned it was Solas in her dreams. It seemed nothing in this world wanted to ask permission before mucking about in her head. “It showed me things when I touched it. It only started talking to me after.”

“It is possible.”  Solas said with a nod. “It may not have been able to understand you. If it is truly a Vhenadahl that has been in the elvhen alienage then it would know common the most.”

“These trees shared knowledge back in Arlathan?”

“Quite frequently.” Solas nodded. “We conversed with them as we did with spirits.”

That did not surprise her in the least. Especially not when it came to him.

“I need to think of explanation for Ellana.” Ara said as she fidgeted.

“I do not believe lying will be necessary.” Solas shook his head. “Many were aware how you closed the rift, the story has already spread well beyond Denerim.”

Ara frowned, not liking that idea at all. She briefly wished she had thought about the consequences of her actions but the thought was quickly pushed aside. There was no point in dwelling on what she could not change even if it now put her in a far more difficult position.

“Ellana and the others will ask but it is up to you on what you wish to tell them.”

“Her and her Advisors want to see me?” Ara wrinkled her nose a little at the thought.

“Not just her Advisors.” Solas answered with some displeasure in his voice. “I am expected to attend but then so too is Vivienne and Dorian. In addition, Fiona will be there as well.”

Her face went into a full grimace. All of the important mages and then Fiona. She did not remember who that was but it was someone important enough that they wanted her there.

“I will not allow them to interrogate you.” He said quickly. “But they will want to know about your ability to shout closed rifts.”

“I guess I should explain I’m the Dragonborn then.” Ara said with a sigh.

“Is that wise?” He asked.

“It may help. Bull knows now too.”

Ara was a bit surprised to see a flicker of something in Solas’ eyes. Something that almost looked like jealousy which made no sense as the man was also well aware of her being the Dragonborn. He had, after all, been the one who had found out while peeping in her dreams.

“Do you intend to tell them about being from another world?” He asked.

“I…” She paused and thought about it. “I don’t know. I think I should tell Ellana but not sure how much.”

“Perhaps leave the part out about her family line being the reason you appeared here.” He suggested.

“That’s probably best. She’s got enough to deal with without knowing that.” Ara said as she frowned again. “Just need to think of something so they don’t all think I can teach the to use the thu’um.”

Solas developed a peculiar look on his face before breaking out into a small smile.

“I will admit in some interest in seeing if others are capable of shouting.”

“And I have no interest that.” She retorted.

Solas did not respond to her and she knew he was not going to argue it. She had already mentioned her intentions to not share any of her abilities with the people here. Ulfric, a man from her past, had learned the thu’um after years of study and had used it to murder the High King of Skyrim.

There was the possibility that something like that would be repeated in Thedas.

“Besides, they need to focus more on Corypheus then thu’um.” Ara found herself saying after a few moments of silence. No one would be able to learn how to speak any word in time for it to be useful.

“Would you be willing to teach me additional words?” Solas suddenly asked. “Perhaps the words you used to close the rift?”

She thought about it and shrugged.

“I can try but,” She paused as she thought about when she had spoken the thu’um. “I never used it before.”

“You used untried magic on the rift?” He did not sound happy about that.

“Like I said, no rifts in Nirn and I have shouted plenty.” She chafed under the displeasure in his voice but at least he was not chiding her like earlier. “Didn’t have any other choice, I just used the words that worked.”

Ara did not want to try and explain that she had simply shouted the words without really thinking about them. They had just been the ones that came to mind and had seemed right in the moment. Now, of course, it did sound like a horrible idea.

“Have you done that before?” Solas asked.

“Done what?”

“Made up your own shout?”

“I…” She frowned. “No, I have never made my own thu’um.”

She had never tried before now. In all her adventures in Skyrim, she had never tried to make her own thu’um. There had been only one other shout that she knew of that was made and that was the Dragonrend.

A shout that had been used in the Ancient Age of Skyrim in the battle against Alduin, and one that she had briefly stepped through time to learn.

“That would explain how drained you were.” Solas said with a small sigh. “Promise me that you will not be creating your own shouts without thinking more carefully about them.”

“I have no intention of doing that again.” Ara answered truthfully.

She still felt like her insides had been caught in a thunderstorm and had no intention of going through any of that again. She was just glad that she had not thrown up in front of Solas or Cole.

“Good, now, get some rest.” Solas said as he moved away from the bed. “I need to go speak with Dorian and the others.”

She had almost forgotten that the mages were all going to talk with one another about her.

“I promise I will return and explain whatever is discussed.” Solas said before she could ask.

“Thank you.” Ara said with a nod to him.

She meant it and he seemed a little surprised. Perhaps even a little pleased with himself.

“Now, sleep.” Solas said before he stepped out the door.

Ara managed to find a comfortable position in her bed but it was hours before she drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Solas had been surprised when he arrived to find a panicked Cole trying to wake Ara from her troubled dreams. Not only had he not felt her in the fade since the rift closing but also because she readily woke when he called out to her.

He was certain he had heard her call out to Parthurnaax and assumed she must have been dreaming of her home. Parthurnaax, a being she claimed was the oldest dragon in Skyrim. Strange that she would mention him in her sleep but then dreams were often based on old memories. Clearly the dragon had been important, he only hoped it was not one of the ones she had killed to protect her world.

That question of her dream was pushed to the side when they began to talk. Especially when she responded angrily to his concern.

He had genuinely meant what he said but felt a little shame when she reacted like that. It reminded him that she was not someone who needed protection. The stories she had told him, and the dreams he had seen, had already made it clear that she was the one who usually protected others.

He certainly had no doubt that she could still defend herself even in her weakened state. Not that he wanted to test that.

He never wanted to know who would succeed in a fight, him or her so he found himself speaking a small lie. He told her that he would tell her who she needed to kill when she recovered and to trust him until then.

Deep down, he truly did believe that he would tell her that truth but he was determined to fix his own mistake first. He would destroy the blasted veil and then he would face his friend in combat.

He tried hard not to think about it as the conversation progressed. Especially not after she mentioned the Vhenadahl and the apparent connection to the Hist from her world. Then the Argonians, another unfamiliar name but the description did sound familiar.

All of it made little sense to him but any thoughts quickly fled at the sudden feeling that was sparked by her comment about Bull. Something between rage and jealousy.

He pushed those emotions aside as best as he could before cutting their conversation short.

The others were waiting for him in Ellana’s War Room and he knew he could not put that meeting off for long. The others would have their own opinions on the matter of Denerim and Ara’s interaction with the rift.

All he could manage was a simple request for her to rest further before he fled the room.

He paused outside after he closed the door and leaned against it with a sigh, trying to get his emotions and thoughts under control.

It had been some time since he had felt jealous about anything. Yet the mere idea that she had shared the revelation of her dragon soul had him feeling that twist in his gut. Especially since she had shared it with the Qunari Ben-Hassrath. There was a definite threat with the man that Solas found himself having a far larger range of emotions then just that rising jealousy.

He paused but quickly put it down to his determination to learn as much as he could from her and then aid her on her return to her own world.

Even if it meant his own death in the end.

 “You need to decide.” Cole said, having clearly stayed after Solas asked him to leave. “Tell her. Don’t tell her. Dirthamen in her dreams. Secrets are never safe.”

“Now was not the right time, Cole.” Solas answered before looking over at Cole. He had the full intention of telling her about one of the Evanuris in her dreams but she was still very weak from closing the rift.

Cole, however, quickly reclaimed his attention and he found himself taking a closer look at the spirit. Cole had taken on a more physical form since he originally arrived but Solas could still see what he was. Compassion in a physical form.

Cole may have arrived here with the intention of helping Ellana but it seemed the spirit had fallen more into helping Ara then the Inquisitor.

“Time?” Cole frowned at him. “Time continues on. Time is running out. They will dance in the game soon. Why do they call it a game?”

Solas frowned at him but Cole quickly continued, clearly sensing his confusion.

“Ellana was told in the future. The Inquisition will go. Ara said yes but eyes will always see. Searching and looking. She thinks she will stand out, that they will look at her and not at Ellana.”

Solas’ frown deepened as he understood the meaning in the twisted words of the spirit. He recalled what Ellana had said about going to Halamshiral but he had ben unaware that they were all going. The entire Inquisition arriving in Halamshiral would definitely make an impression.

Not that he minded the idea of going to a court but he did not believe in the idea of taking Ara with them. Especially not now that she had been so completely outed to the world by the rift in Denerim. He knew that there would be consequences from her act. Placing her in the forefront of all Orlais was going to put her in far more danger then before.

That was just as troubling as her trust in Bull.

“We will make sure that nothing happens to her.” Solas said to the spirit before reaching over to gently put his hand on his arm in a soothing gesture. “And she is more then capable of taking care of herself.”

“She is but she isn’t.” Cole frowned as he looked to the door. “She wasn’t supposed to speak the words, that’s not why she’s here. The words were right. They fixed it.”

“I know.” Solas said with a sigh, knowing full well why she was here in Thedas. “The act damaged her already weakened connection to the fade.”

“You’re worried.” Cole sounded startled as if that idea just came to him in that moment.

“I am.” Solas answered. “I only hope the damage was not lasting.”

“It’s not.” Cole shook his head before looking at the door. “She will get better. She has to get better. It’s not time yet.”

“No, it’s not time.” Solas agreed.

He wished there would never be a point where it would be time but he knew better. In the end he would either succeed in tearing down the veil or he would not, either way, he was going to be the one that Ara would face in order to go home.

Cole suddenly jerked away from him, the spirit’s eyes going wide.

“No.” Cole’s eyes went cold for a moment before going sad.

“Cole, that…” Solas started speaking but Cole quickly cut him off.

“No.” Cole repeated. “You can’t make her do that. You’re supposed to help, not make it worse. That would make it worse. So much worse.”

“There isn’t much to be done about it, Cole.” Solas said with a shake of his head.

“Find a different path. Different way.” Cole seemed determined to find some other way then what he had understood from Solas’ thoughts. “You are-“

“Cole.” Solas cautioned, realizing what the spirit was about to say. There was no one around but he did not want to have such a secret revealed out loud.

“I’m sorry.” Cole tittered and looked frightened for a moment. He started wringing his hands together and looked back and forth in a panicked manner. “I want to help but there is so much hurt. Both yours and hers. I can’t see it all. It’s too much. So much death. So much pain.”

He was uncertain what Cole had seen in his mind but he was not going to question the spirit, not when he was still expected by Ellana and the others. He loathed the idea of leaving the spirit when Cole was this distraught yet he knew there would questions if he did not go.

“Cole, we can discuss this later.” He said softly. “Alright?”

“Alright.” Cole answered before looking back towards Ara’s room before he turned and walked away.

Solas sighed as he watched the spirit go. He knew that Cole was aware of who he was. That he was the Fen’Harel but the spirit was also aware of how wrong the Dalish stories were about him. It brought little comfort right now.

Solas turned with another sigh and strode through Skyhold to get to the small room on the other side of the Great Hall. It had amused him that they had chosen that particular room as their War Room as it had once been the meeting room for his old allies back in the days of Elvhenan. It had been even more amusing, if disrespectful, when they had taken the stump of a Vhenadahl for use as their table.

It was ironic now given Ara’s communication with the one in Denerim.

He pushed open the door and walked in, finding that everyone but Fiona and Ellana there already. He came in at the middle of a heated argument between Dorian and Vivienne. It was obvious who they were arguing over and Solas saw no reason to interrupt as they yelled at one another.

His entrance was barely noticed in the noise from the two.

“She is completely untrained!” Vivienne’s voice rose in irritation.

“Just because she learned elsewhere does not mean that she is untrained.” Dorian retorted. “Or do you consider mages from Ferelden and Tevinter to be untrained?”

“Untrained in manners, certainly, dear.” Vivienne responded. “Even in Tevinter, you train against demonic intrusions. What training has she been given on that? Do we even know?”

“Are you implying that she’s susceptible to demon possession?” Cullen asked.

“That is absurd.” Dorian shook his head. “She has never once expressed any problem with demons visiting her dreams.”

Solas managed to keep his face completely calm even though he suddenly found their debate quite hilarious. They had no idea about her dreams.

“Not speaking of it does not mean it does not happen.” Vivienne said in annoyance. “And she has only recently begun speaking in full sentences.”

Something about the way she said it bothered Solas, his irritation growing with each new sentence.

“She has not mentioned any interactions with demons or spirits in her dreams.” Solas spoke up, hoping to end this conversation before it went further.

They both turned to look at him but Vivienne looked at him like she had not expected him to see him.

“See!” Dorian said. “If she has not said anything to Solas or Bull, then there is no issue.”

The mention of Bull soured his mood further but he merely shrugged when Vivienne arched her eyebrow in his direction.

“Solas, you believe there is no concern about it?” Leliana asked, suddenly adding her input to the conversation as if his voice had been the dam breaking.

“I do not believe there is any reason for concern.” Solas said as Dorian moved to stand a little closer to him. A subtle us against her that made him feel a little better about Vivienne’s words. “Ara has not disclosed any issue with demons other then a curiosity about spirits.”

“A curiosity about spirits?” Leliana questioned, her tone getting a little firmer.

“Our dealings with Cole and the spirit in the Plains, no doubt.” Dorian volunteered. “I admit that I would be curious as well given that we interact with Cole on a daily basis.”

Leliana said nothing else, clearly satisfied with the answer. Cullen also seemed to be puzzling it over in his head as he said nothing either.

“Fine.” Vivienne said with a small huff before speaking of another matter. “I was told that she shouted words at the rift in Denerim before it closed.”

Solas went still and merely watched the woman as she spoke. He knew full well that she had used one of her dragon shouts to close the rift as there should have been no magic capable of properly closing a rift created through the magic of his orb.

Certainly, Ara’s shout had been like brute forcing the rift to close but it had done the job.

“Some magically gifted people in the area also believed that she had invoked unknown magic. In addition to closing the rift, they saw her with a strange weapon.” Vivienne continued, all while giving him and Dorian a rather intense stare. Something rather unfriendly. “Apparently glowing, yet transparent.”

“Yes, well, I would prefer we wait until Ellana is here before we start discussing all of that.” Dorian said with a sniff. “There is quite a bit to go over regarding what happened in Denerim.”

“Indeed.” Vivienne said in annoyance but quieted down.

The room went silent as people began to think over what had been said. The silence hung in the air before Dorian finally turned to look at him and speak. The man’s voice was low, barely loud enough for Solas to hear. No doubt to keep the conversation to the two of them.

“What’s your opinion on her health?” There was genuine concern in Dorian’s voice.

“She is getting better.” Solas answered. “She was awake before I came here.”

“She’s awake?” Dorian looked relieved.

“Yes, although I asked her to return to sleep as she is still quite drained.”

“Has she said anything unusual?”

“No.” Solas frowned, uncertain of what Ara might have said to Dorian while partially unconscious.  “Were you expecting something?”

“To be honest, yes.” Dorian said. “She was referring to Bull as someone named Vilkas and then said she had to return to someone named Lucia.”

Solas schooled his face into as passive as he could manage. He had no idea who this Vilkas was but he knew about Lucia. It made him wonder what exactly had been said before but then Ellana pushed open the door.

Ellana stepped in with Fiona at her heels.

“We’re all here, good.” Ellana said as she took her place at the head of the table, completely unaware of the conversation that had happened just before. “We’re here to discuss Ara and what happened in Denerim.”

All eyes had turned towards the Inquisitor and Solas was easily as captivated as the rest of them.

Ellana started discussing what happened. She summed up the reports that everyone had given her, from Cassandra’s point of view as a Seeker all the way to Dorian’s summary about the magic used.

It was easy to see that she had grown in to her role as the Inquisitor. There was no uncertainty in her voice as she directed the conversation. No hesitation as she brought up everything that had once been a secret otherwise.

He remained silent and focused on what was being said as opposed to examining the changes in their Inquisitor. He had decided that he would just listen to what they were saying but would not speak unless asked. Ellana would hear his opinion later when there was no one else around. Solas simply did not want these people to begin digging too much into his answers.

There were some answers that were better left with just the Inquisitor.

“Alright, so now that we know all of that, what do we do with it?” Dorian asked simply when Ellana finished.

“We determine whether we should inquire with Ara further or leave it with what we know.” Cullen answered, clearly knowing everything before hand. “I vote we leave her be. As much as her abilities remain an unknown, she has given no cause to any of us that she is a threat and has proven quite readily that she is our ally.”

“She could be waiting for the right moment.” Leliana suggested.

“I doubt that.” Dorian shook his head. “If she was waiting to destroy the Inquisition from the inside, I don’t see how closing a rift would be helpful to that. She nearly killed herself in the process.”

Leliana did not answer him and Solas kept his own mouth shut about it.

He wondered if any of the others had felt the closing of the rift but it seemed that only he and Ellana had felt a thing out of the Inquisition mages.

Strangely, Ellana did not mention that at all.

Perhaps Ellana was not aware that her sickness that morning was connected and Solas certainly felt no need to bring up his own illness.

“I am more concerned about what training she has.” Vivienne said.

“So, you’ve mentioned before.” Dorian’s voice was rather dry.

“You have an issue with her?” Ellana asked, her head tilting just a little in Vivienne’s direction.

“It is more that I have an issue with not knowing how and where she was trained.” Vivienne answered. “I have no doubt that she is a mage, and potentially a powerful one at that, but there has been nothing to examine how much she knows. There is considerable danger in someone wandering around without training. If she is capable of closing rifts, what else is she capable of?”

There was logic in Vivienne’s words but it still bothered him that she would consider Ara a threat to Ellana.

“Solas?” Ellana suddenly turned to him. “You are the most familiar with her magic.”

“I do not believe she is a threat to the Inquisition.” He said simply. “Her magic is different from what is taught in the circles, that is true but then so is my own.”

“Ah yes, the self taught Apostate.” Vivienne said with some distaste.

Solas ignored her words and returned to being silent. He respected the woman as a mage but he disagreed with many of her views and he certainly would not allow her to treat Ara like a common mage if she pushed this.

“If Solas believes she is of no danger, then I am inclined to agree.” Ellana said with a small nod. “Although I am curious about her about her abilities. Do any of you know anything about what she demonstrated, previously and in Denerim?”

“I have never witnessed anyone wielding a sword like she had in Denerim.” Dorian answered honestly. “The magic seemed close to what we would do for forming a shield but just reformed into a sword. Which is brilliant, I might add. I have requested additional books from Leliana to confirm my suspicions.”

Solas quirked an eyebrow and wondered what he would need to confirm when it was clear that he had a good idea about her sword. Solas had never seen Ara summon a sword and had not seen any mage do so since the veil was erected.

Mages in this era all tended to perform the same magic. There was far less creativity in this time then there had been before the veil. In Elvhenan, such magic had been common place but only during flashy duels and not true battle.

It was too much of a drain on the wielder and not many soldiers could properly manifest a weapon.

“I have arranged for what remains of Kinloch Circle’s library in addition to several books from other Circles from across Orlais and the Free Marches.” Leliana elaborated, shaking him out of his thought process. “Along with several books from some contacts in Tevinter.”

“Tevinter?” Dorian questioned with a curious look. “You’ll have to explain how you managed that one of these days.”

Leliana merely smiled at him and said nothing. The Nightingale was one of the few Solas genuinely feared would learn his secret. He had managed to avoid her and her agents thus far but he knew that she would find out eventually. He also knew he would be long gone by then.

“If you managed to pull that off, then I would like some time to do research.” Dorian said with a small nod, willing to leave Leliana with her secrets. “Perhaps employing the tranquil mages to help in the research would be helpful as well?”

Solas wrinkled his nose at the suggestion but still remained silent. The tranquil mages would be more then capable of aiding. They all completed any task given them with a single minded determination but their very natures unsettled him.

“That would not be too bad of an idea.” Cassandra said thoughtfully. “However, it would be best to keep this to as few of us as possible.”

“I agree with Cassandra.” Cullen said, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword. “While the tranquil mages will keep silent if ordered to do so, having so many of them turned towards this research would result in others becoming suspicious.”

Solas found himself nodding in agreement with the former Templar and he was not the only one in the room.

“I agree.” Ellana said with a nod before glancing over at Fiona. “Was there anything you would like to add?”

All eyes were now focused on the former Grey Warden.

Her attempts at liberating the mages had endeared him a little until he learned about the Warden part of her history. She was the only person he had heard of that had been completely cured of the Blight and had cheated the death that all Wardens were said to face. It was a strange thing and he wondered how it had happened.

He disliked the Wardens in general but then Fiona’s attitude in Redcliffe had left a sour taste in his mouth. Her choice had endangered a great many people, the Inquisitor among them.

Yet, Ellana or her Advisors had seen fit to have the woman present.

“I will ask the other mages who came with me.” Fiona responded without really looking at the rest of them. “However, I do not know of anything like the magic you have described to me.”

“Nothing at all?” Dorian sounded sceptical. “Were you not a Grey Warden for a time?”

“I was.” Fiona answered before fixing him with a strange look. “I encountered Blight magic, not whatever your friend uses.”

Dorian made a hmmph noise but seemed to let the conversation end there. Solas was curious as to the man’s thought process but it was not important at that moment.

“I would like a detailed report of the Blight magic you encountered as a Warden.” Leliana stated flatly. “Even if it has nothing to do with Ara, it may assist us in dealing with Corypheus.”

“Very well.” Fiona said with a meek nod. “I will reveal everything save for the more secretive matters of the Wardens.”

“I won’t make you violate the oaths you had taken with them but you should know that we’re aware of a lot of the secrets of the Wardens.” Ellana was the picture of calm as she spoke. “Hawke’s contact is Warden Stroud and he has revealed the problem with the Wardens.”

“What problems?” Fiona asked, her face lighting up with concern.

Ellana hesitated for a moment. The first time had seen uncertainty on her features since this little meeting began. It passed quickly as she clearly made up her mind.

“All of the Wardens in Orlais are hearing the Calling.”

Fiona visibly paled and her eyes went wide. There was something akin to horror on her face.

“The Calling?” Vivienne inquired, her tone unusually polite to the other mage.

“Grey Wardens can sense the darkspawn, eventually they begin to hear the call of the Archdemons.” Leliana responded in a flat and nonchalant tone. “It increases as they grow older. Eventually, a Grey Warden will seek out a final confrontation with darkspawn in the Deep Roads as opposed to going mad.”

Something about the way she said it made Solas think there was more to it then that. A quick glance at Fiona confirmed his suspicions. However, it did not seem like it was too far off as Fiona merely looked startled and then grateful.

“How do you know that? More spywork?” Dorian asked.

“I spent a lot of time with the Hero of Ferelden. I overheard a few conversations between her and Alistair regarding Wardens.”

She was still choosing her words carefully but suspiciously.

Fiona looked like she was about to ask something of Leliana when Ellana finally spoke up again.

“Solas, you have been quiet for nearly all of this.” She did not specifically ask but there was an urging in her voice.

“I think all of this is pointless.” He answered truthfully. “Ara has already agreed to speak with you and anything we say is just our own opinions, not the truth. Knowledge of the Blight Magic would be beneficial but she can answer about herself instead of us speculating.”

“She’s agreed…” Ellana blinked at him before her face twisted into a slightly angrier look. “She is awake then?”

“Yes.” Solas answered.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Josephine inquired.

“Because no one asked.” Solas said with a small shrug before continuing when Dorian coughed very audibly. “Dorian and I were discussing her before your arrival.”

He had no idea how Josephine did not hear them talking as she had been in the room when he entered. He guessed that she had other things on her mind, perhaps the upcoming trip to the Halamshiral.

“Perhaps we should have someone send for her?” Cullen suggested.

“I would advise waiting until she is further recovered.” Dorian said before Solas could say anything. “Or perhaps just have Ellana go speak with her on her own?”

Vivienne gave him a scathing look but did not add anything to the conversation.

“I agree.” Leliana said with a nod before looking over at Ellana. “Whatever our intentions, Ara will most likely be more inclined to speaking with just you. Any more might appear as an interrogation and give her the wrong impression.”

It seemed that Ara had won over the Inquisition’s spymaster which caught Solas by surprise. He carefully glanced over at the woman but could see nothing to hint at any ulterior motives.

“Then I will speak with her.” Ellana said before glancing between them to see if anyone else was going to speak. When it became clear that the mages had nothing else to add, she lifted her hand. “Dismissed.”

Fiona was the first to leave, followed by Vivienne and the Ellana’s advisors. Solas went to leave after them when he felt Dorian lightly grab his arm.

“A moment, if you will.” Dorian said.

Solas quirked an eyebrow but said nothing, merely staying put as the others left the room. Ellana did stop at the door to give them a questioning look.

“Nothing to worry about.” Dorian said with a friendly smile. “I believe Bull wanted to speak with you.”

“Alright, thank you.” Ellana said before leaving.

“You know more then you’re letting on.” Dorian said simply once it was clear that they were the alone.

Solas made no effort to erect a barrier to hide their conversation as he knew well enough that the door was heavy enough to mask any conversation.

“I-“

“I do not care.” Dorian said as he held up his hand. “I saw the look on your face when I mentioned the name Lucia. You know who that is.”

Solas frowned at the man and found this questioning to be infuriating but it was clear that Dorian was not going to let this go.

“I promised her that I would not share her personal secrets.”

It was not a complete lie but it was not the truth either. He never said he would not reveal about her family but it simply felt wrong to mention things about Lucia. Especially that he had only learned from visiting her dreams.

“It is not a threat to Ellana or the Inquisition.” Solas added.

“Of that I have no concerns.” Dorian said dismissively. “I just know that there is more that we don’t know about her. Her magic for example…”

“What of her magic?”

“I know you are not a fool, and that you have been keeping that to yourself as well.” Dorian’s voice was completely calm without even a hint of his usual joking tone. “I have only encountered one excerpt in all my reading that was similar to what Bull and I felt in Denerim.”

Solas quickly became interested in what Dorian was saying.

“In the book, it discussed what the magic used by the Magisters Sidereal had felt like. I merely assumed it was a work of fiction as such a thing would be unheard of.” Dorian paused and Solas was certain it was for dramatic effect. “However, it matched up with how Bull explained it.”

Solas did his best not to let his face reflect his thoughts and emotions as Dorian revealed that little bit of information.

“Have you informed Ellana of this?”

“Yes.”

“You’re certain that it felt like that?” Solas suddenly asked even though Dorian had said he had already told Ellana.

“As far as I recall the manuscript.” Dorian nodded. “Have you encountered anything in the fade regarding the memories of that particular time in Tevinter?”