“I heard you found a lute! Ooh, let me teach you how to play!”
Inspiration swirled her hand and summoned a two stools and two lutes. She picked up her own instrument, fingers delicately strumming the strings as if she had mastered the art years ago. She looked with such intensity at the instrument, blonde curls falling over her shoulder while she tried to recreate the song Athena had been singing under her breath days earlier.
“You’re a God and – Oh that’s funny. Do you think he got it?”
Athena slowly sat down on the bench and looked to the lute, a bright blush creeping up from her chest to her neck. “I. . . .I don’t know. You can hear me down there?
The spirit thought for a second then nodded, her fingers effortlessly recreating the song on the lute. “I have to focus really hard but yes. Everything that happens down there ends up here - It’s like an echo in the Fade.”
She looked down to her own unattended lute, gingerly grasping it while looking to her now spirit friend. “How. . . how did you change, Inspiration? Last time I saw you, you pushed me into the Rift.”
The spirit looked up from her lute with a grin. “It was all because of you. Your story, your past, your experiences! They inspired me so much to learn more about you and of the world I changed. The Breach pushed me away at first but thankfully you're far enough away from it to hear me now.”
Athena gave a small nod and smile in acceptance of her answer, her own unpracticed fingers trying to find the best spot on her instrument. Inspiration nearly bounced in her seat in excitement. The energy coming from her was infectious. It seeped into the Fade Walker’s pores and made her want to continue playing the lute, which was strange considering she had maybe learned two or three notes in her cabin before going to sleep.
Right as they were about to play she felt an odd pressure in her head. It vibrated and hummed, the feeling sending goosebumps down her skin. “What was that?” She flicked her gaze to her friend, the spirit looked past Athena with her mouth scrunched to the side.
“Someone is trying to find you, enter your dream. They’re not dangerous; I think it is your dream walker friend.”
That made her nearly bolt out of her seat. Dropping her lute to the ground, she jumped up to look for a door to slam when she realized there was no such thing. They were in the Fade which was accessible to everyone. He, lucky for him, was a master of it and could find other people in its depths. She whipped on her heel and put a finger to her lips. “Not a single word, Inspiration, of what you know. My life literally might depend on it.”
The spirit wrinkled her nose and stuck her tongue out at her. “Wisdom may keep everyone’s secrets but you were my friend first. You helped me so I’ll help you above anyone else. Let him in, you’ll be fine, friend. This is your area.”
With a nervous smile Athena closed her eyes and felt that pressure within her head, trying to figure out how to allow him in. She shrugged to herself and simply though out into the void as if she were at her house: Come in?
“What do you mean you cannot tell me?”
Solas was standing arms crossed in front of his companion, Wisdom. There had been little pieces of conversations, little snippits that he could not get past. Athena had something to hide and he wanted to figure it out. Her magic was something he had never felt before; it did not flux or obey the same laws as other mages. Whether she knew that or not, that was to be determined, but it was only restricted by the beating of her heart and her imagination. It was a dangerous power indeed but he was no closer to figuring out how she had come about it.
Wisdom stood confidently in front of him, arms by her side in a defensive position. She would not yield to him. Normally she would illuminate his path and discuss things in great length, but on this she would not speak. “You are not the only person who requires Wisdom, lethallan. Others call me and require my guidance and it would be against my nature to betray that trust.”
He scowled at her, anger etched into his features. She was his friend first, as petty as it was. They had been friends for the millennia in which he was trapped in the uthenera. They had their disagreements in the past but this was truly a first for the pair. He snapped his right hand in the air, turning his back to her as he started to walk away. “Fine. I will seek her out myself. She cannot hide from me forever.”
The tone in her voice gave him paused. He let out an angered and heavy sigh, turning quickly to look over his shoulder at her. Wisdom let out a soft sigh of her own, a friendly smile coming to her face as she unclenched the fists at her side. “Why do you think she seeks out the company of spirits? Do you really think you are the only person who has lost everything and is alone?”
His hardened gaze broke, doubt setting into his features as he looked to the ground. It was partially in shame. It was unworthy of him to speak to his friend in such a manner. But. . .could she be right? Athena never spoke of what happened before the Fade. Perhaps she too had experiences her own tragedies. Is that why she was so closed off, with a barrier constantly up? With a softened smile he looked to Wisdom, speaking softly and with guilt in his voice. “Lethallin. . . “
She stopped him by putting her hand up. “I know.”
He chuckled and shook his head, turning around and disappearing into the vastness of the Fade.
He melted into view in Athena’s barren area of the Fade. Inspiration gave a small wave from her stool while strumming away at her lute, playing the same song Athena had sung to tease the both of them. He didn’t act like he noticed, which Athena was grateful for. She took a step back, clearing her throat before talking with as confident of a voice as she could muster: “Uh, hey, Solas.”
He smiled, actually smiled, while shaking his head back and forth. “I see you have made another friend.”
She shook her head and gave him a smug smile, turning her body to the side and gesturing back towards the spirit. “Actually. . . this was Desire. Apparently. . .she changed.” His gaze flicked back and forth between the spirit and her, the action drying her throat and quickening her pulse. The icy blue of his eyes stirred something within her. There was an intensity that she was afraid of, memories of those eyes glowing with the powers of a deity flashing through her mind. The flames of her aura licked against the inside of her stomach, pulsing outwards with every breath and thought. His gaze was so deep, she assumed it was because of his “divine” nature of just because he, like her, was shielding so much.
“That is intriguing. You changed a demon’s nature. I am impressed, Athena. Not many people would be so open minded about the nature of spirits and demons. The lines between them are so blurred but the Circle will never see them as anything other than black and white ideas that can never coexist.” He gestured with his hands while he spoke, his left hand being demons while his right was spirits. Athena was too busy trying to get over the fact that he was here, in her dreams and interacting with her in a friendly manner. “Forgive me, I’m lecturing, aren’t I?”
Holy Hera he’s self-aware when he does it. Athena laughed, rubbing the back of her neck while shaking her head. “No, I understand. In a world where things are so black and white it must be refreshing to find someone that can see in color.” She looked up to him sheepishly, her posture slowly relaxing since he wasn’t giving her his normal cool and unreadable stare.
He nodded, swirling his hand to summon up his own stool. “You keep saying worlds. Aren’t you from this one?”
“The Fade? Thedas? You’ll have to be more specific but that doesn’t mean I’ll answer.”
He sat down on the stool, relaxing back into his posture while giving her a look that spoke really?
She shrugged in response, walking over to the stool and picking up her lute. She felt Inspiration within her head, whispering thoughts into her mind without moving her lips. You have so many songs in your head! Can I learn some? I’ll teach them to you in return! She thought back a weak yes before crossing a leg over the other to face her body towards Solas. The spirit began to play nonchalantly in the background, eyes focused on the strings instead of them. “I was dragged into the Fade from my home. My family and my friends are still there. They probably don’t know where I am.” Her voice trailed off, tears subconsciously forming at the corners of her eyes.
Thinking back today would be Sunday. Mom and Dad would be going on their morning walks then calling her on the drive home. Even though it wasn’t safe, they liked to fill the silence of their drives with family talk. She would be starting the first day of a stretch of days off. The first day mostly consisted of lazing around and cleaning, taking a small nap around one. When she woke up, she would go grocery shopping and be so tired after it all she would order something out for dinner. Thinking back, her current predicament was much more exciting, but it wasn’t home. The only person who had been completely accepting of her was Rathein. Varric acted outwardly kind, but she knew the dwarf probably had his doubts.
He was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, hands clasped into a fist with his head resting on top. She recognized it as an active listening position but it put him closer than before. Her body wanted to lean back ind defense but she squelched the urge and instead settled for an awkward twist of her back to crack her spine before returning to a normal posture. “Do you know how to get home?”
Athena couldn’t help but laugh. It started out as a mocking, almost cheery laugh but it eventually fell into one where her loneliness that she didn’t even know existed melted in. It was a harsh sound, one that even caused Inspiration to look up from her playing. “If I did . . . do you think I would remain?”
He seemed taken aback by this, his face turning to a frown as he sat up into a straight posture. Before he went to speak, she uncrossed her legs put her head in her hands, looking down at the green swirls of the ground. “You saw what happened to my when I first came here. First, I was stuck in a world of demons and then I felt like I was being burned alive from the inside out. I screamed and it did nothing.” Tears fell and hit the ground below. The droplets disappeared into the ground of the fade. “Every day has been a fight since I have been here. A fight against demons, a fight against Templars, a fight against creatures, a fight against you.” Something about the Fade made her incredibly honest and the words left her lips before she had a thought to stop them.
Still, she refused to look up. Perhaps it was the Fade or Inspiration pouring energy into her, but she felt more vulnerable, like she could talk about these things without any fear of retaliation. “Yes you. I can feel how guarded you are, how hard you are keeping everything to yourself. I can also feel how you’re trying to figure me out. Even as you try, your aura is so powerful. It isn’t subtle, Solas, or maybe it isn’t with me.” Because I know you! When she finally looked up to him she saw he was averting her gaze, his eyes now a sort of clouded blue as he rested his chin in one hand, the other hand supporting his arm.
He spoke, his voice almost pained but still restrained. “I am sorry, Athena. I should have stopped them from doing that to you. I should ha-“
She shook her head and sighed. “You know that wouldn’t have done anything. You were just cleared of being an apostate yourself, right? They would have easily turned you away. Unfortunately, we were both helpless and at their mercy.”
He nodded grimly, stroking his index finger along his cheek while maintaining his grip on his chin. He then relaxed his hand, bringing his arms into a guarded position across his abdomen. He raised his gaze to hers and the breath was stolen from her lungs as he did so. “I should not pry. You have your secrets and I have mine. I can see we are both. . . “
Athena answered for him, a smile slowly forming on her lips. “Complicated?”
Solas twitched his lips into a ghost of a smirk. “Yes. Complicated.”