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Tales of the Fade Walker

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Like many adults entering the main of their career a few years out of school, Victoria’s days recently had turned into a never ending routine. “The Great Rut” she was calling it. She woke up, went to work, came home to eat, then went to sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat.

 

Today had been like any other day. She pressed snooze as many times as she could afford before dragging herself to work. Twelve hours later, she left feeling no better than she did that morning. Even though she was an extrovert, speaking to people, let alone patients, was becoming a chore. The only bright things in her day were when she could listen to music on her lunch break, or when she returned home to snuggle underneath her favorite blanket and play video games. It was a routine - but it was hers.

 

Victoria pulled up into the driveway with her favorite song blaring so loud it drowned out all other thoughts. Hands drumming on the steering wheel, eyes closed, she leaned her head back into the headrest and tried to sing along to the best of her abilities. She was no trained singer, nothing like her sister who could sing the roof off of her house, but she enjoyed being able to match the emotion of the singer within the confines of her safe car where hopefully nobody could hear her. It was her own private karaoke studio with the roads as her performance time limit, or sitting in the parking lot of a store prolonging needing to finish her errand.

 

As the song came to a close, she sighed and rubbed the back of her neck in a sore attempt to sooth the ache that had formed. Bending over beds, lifting patients, and lugging dirty laundry bags was not easy on the body or the mind. It was why she took such solace in her little drives home. It was the one place where she could get lost in music and let go for just a minute or two.

 

She turned off the car and got out to go towards her door with her keys, purse and papers from the day all jumbled in her hand. It took a small amount of skillful and balanced effort to open the door and drop everything on her couch that was immediately to the left. Something was missing though. Victoria stood up to pat her multiple scrub pockets, brown eyes searching all over her body for what felt so off. She had her keys, her purse, her lunch bag - Water bottle. Shit. It was under the passenger side of the seat of her car probably with hour old water sloshing around the bottom with a small layer of algae growing on the mouth piece. It’s not that it didn’t gross her out. It kind of did, but it took so much extra effort to get it out of there it was almost worth it to buy a new one.

 

With a small grunt of frustration, she returned to the vehicle, searching around with her hands and eyes before finally finding her prize. It had old bits of dirt and a small clump of lint from her scrubs on it. It would have to be washed or thrown away now. Its fate was sealed when it decided to be the strong dirt magnet on the floor under the seats. A soft whine came from behind her and she whipped around quickly while ever so gracefully hitting her head on the top of her car.

 

“Oh shit. . .oh shit!”

 

Standing right in front of her was a wolf, a large looking black wolf. What was it doing here? They weren’t native to the area! Crap. Shit. The car door closed behind her so all she could do was press her body against it until nearly became one with it, eyes never leaving the beast that seemed to just be sniffing the air around her. Its paws weren’t covered in mud so it couldn’t have been traveling far. Its tail stood perfectly still as it inspected her, eyes nearly sparkling in the moonlight as its curiosity apparently caused it to take a step closer to her.

 

She looked at its eyes and then nearly screamed. There weren’t just two, there were six identical sets of orbs all staring her down. It was now so close she could see her reflection within them, its breath hot on her skin. She wanted to call out for help to her roommate within the house but that could entice the creature into attacking. Surely it could smell her fear. Hell, she could smell herself from the shift and she knew she needed to wash her scrubs. Heaven knew what kind of fluids were causing her pants leg to stick to her skin but it wasn’t something she wanted to remain.

 

The wolf did a quick exhale before going back into a sitting position, head tilting to the side in what she could assume was confusion at her. Victoria relaxed a small bit, her hands going from a don’t hurt me stance to staying on guard clenched in front of her body. What was it doing here? She could have sworn it held resemblance to something she had seen in a video game but that was impossible. This was Earth; that was Thedas. The two couldn’t mix unless she was in the middle of a really good dream which was normally interrupted by her cat pawing at her face at exactly six in the morning for his morning meal. Damn cat. But this? This wolf was insane. Maybe she had worked too long?

 

Before she could theorize anymore what it was doing here, the wolf threw its head to the sky and howled. The howl felt like it vibrated through her very core. She slammed her hands over her ears and looked around to the people walking on the street. They didn’t react or see the wolf. They simply kept on walking and doing their nightly routines. Perhaps she was just going mad, but the wolf was then in front of her. A thought came into her mind. It had no voice but her own but something sounded off about it.

 

“Come with me.”

 

There was no time for an answer. A green light formed beneath her in a minute she was falling. Her hands gripped for some kind of reality and found nothing. She screamed, her body spiraling downwards in a turbulent tunnel of green and white. The lights were flashing before her eyes and causing her to go dizzy. The taste of bile became very present in her mouth, especially because she could see the tunnel ending with some kind of rough end quickly approaching. The smell of sulfur hit her like the landing that followed. Her body was slowed somehow but she still landed belly first onto the ground below.

 

Victoria groaned, taking a moment to collect herself before looking up at her new surroundings. It was dark and something felt off about the whole area. It contained a sense of dread that she couldn’t shake and there was shouting. Where was it coming from? She pushed off of the ground and took a few tries to get herself standing, her body wavering in uncertainty on whether she was going to faint or not. The sensation was foreign to her; she had never fainted before thankfully but she was suddenly wishing she had. Perhaps that would explain everything going on around her.

 

There were two women running towards a bright swirl of green lights. She could see their bodies climbing up what looked like a fallen over wall that had some outwards ridges for them to grab onto. The person on top was able to get to the peak and offer a hand down to someone wearing a very tall, strange hat.

 

Wait a minute.

 

That looked like the Divine. THE DIVINE. Divine Justinia murdered at the Conclave. Oh no. Oh no oh no. She shuffled side to side, looking at how she could get to the portal. It was the only exit from this place! If that was Divine Justinia then that meant she was in . . . the Fade. The realization hit her while a gust of wind did, her body being blown back for what felt like a large distance. She was greeted with a large rock formation. Her body slammed against its surface while falling unceremoniously to the ground.

 

Everything within her body hurt. Something had broken. If she was in the Fade, did that mean she died? No. The soon to be Herald and the Divine were here physically, perhaps she was too. Victoria went to breathe but realized the air had been knocked out of her. Her ribs burned with pain every time she tried to breathe so she assumed they were broken too. The world began to spin around her, a dizzying sensation taking over her. The darkness threatened to steal her consciousness but a creature stepped into her vision.

 

The creature, having somewhat feminine elven features, was green and sitting on its hind legs. It then bent down so it could rest its forearms on top of its knees. Its glowing yellow gaze appeared to be looking through Victoria before it nodded and stood up. The thing spoke softly to her, like a whisper, but its tone was friendly. “You look like you could use some help.”

 

Victoria coughed, the taste of cafeteria food and old coffee threatening to spurt from her lips. When she could finally catch some air, she asked: “Who are you?”

 

The creature laughed, the glow in its eyes fading as it smiled calmly towards her. “I am Wisdom.”

 

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She looked up with a confused gaze towards the creature, eyes searching for the “Ha-ha! Got ya” moment of all of this. When there was none, she sighed, running a hand through her hair only to discover there was a wound there seeping blood into her light brown locks. “Shit.” She looked to Wisdom, giving her a quick look over. She had pointed ears and wore what appeared to be ancient robes with different designs on them. Ooooooohhh wait! She swallowed a lump of nerves before asking, her voice shaky from the journey still. “Wisdom. . . do you know Solas?”

 

The spirit almost seemed to jump, her eyes expanding in surprise while she took a nervous step back. “Yes. He has been a friend of mine for eons. How do you--?” The spirit then looked to the sky and her eyes began to glow while she did. She stepped forward and placed her hands upon Victoria, who was in no position to object. Her hands shook so poorly any one of her coworkers would have given her Ativan if they had seen her. The bad case of nerves had spread to her mouth which added the unsettling sound of her teeth chattering to the whole area.

 

The place they had landed was what she could guess was approximately two miles away from the portal where the future Inquisitor had escaped. The further away from the rift she was, the nicer the environment seemed. Since they were somewhat close it still stunk of rotten food and eggs and there were pits of a bubbling substance Victoria could not identify. While her eyes looked around them, Wisdom had closed hers. It was then that she felt something odd within her head. It was almost like a pressure, but it felt calm and peaceful. She looked to the spirit who simply nodded and she hesitantly relaxed, closing her eyes and allowing the spirit to do whatever she was trying to do.

 

In a flash played all of her recent memories as if on fast-forward. It went through her last work day. The breakfast, the drive to work listening to a pop boy-band of the early 00’s, the two patients she had, the fight with the doctor, her phone call with her sister on the way home, the song and then the wolf. When the spirit had seen everything she nodded and stepped back. “I understand now. You are not from here.” She shook her head, tears forming in her eyes. What would happen to her roommate? Her family? Her friends? Would they even know she was gone or would they assume she had died? The reality of the situation hit her and suddenly the woman was a mess on the ground. She sobbed into her hands, streaks of day-old mascara running down her face. The sobbing and heaving hurt her ribs but she didn’t care. She was just snatched from her world like a child in a fairy-tale and thrown into this one and it wasn’t even Thedas! It was the Fade!

 

Shit.

 

“Where is the Nightmare Demon?”

 

Wisdom looked over her shoulder off into the distance. “It is over far over there. But still. . .it and the Breach are why I cannot be here long. My friend had called for me for advice on closing the tear but. . . It is too bright. It hurts, even me. I can already feel myself fading from this place. We must speak quickly.” The spirit put a caring hand on her shoulder, squeezing it while smiling. Already her form was beginning to fade into the ether, its colors becoming fragmented pieces of light. “You have a magic within you, Victoria. Meditate, master it. I feel you won’t be here for long but you must survive!”

 

And with that the spirit was gone. She was alone.

 

Victoria fell to her knees and simply screamed at the sky. The Breach was above her, lightning sparkling and striking within the clouds. It simply dominated the skies, even in the fade. No wonder Wisdom was driven from this place. The very presence of the Breach was maddening, it tingled on her skin like a creep sneaking up behind her at a bar. It was something that made her very uncomfortable and she needed to get out now.

 

Think, think Victoria. If she got into the Fade, the way to get out was through a rift. She had only seen one rift so far and it was the one that the Divine and the future Herald came through. One that likely was protected by a Pride Demon right now with its shade followers. Well that wouldn’t work. As her scream ended, she slammed her fists into the ground. Much to her surprise, flames exploded at the impact, leaving two small scorch imprints in the ground below her. She blinked once. They were still there. Twice more. Still there. Ash flecked and floated to the ground from her hands and her voice was suddenly absent from her throat.

 

Well shit. Wisdom was right after all, clever spirit. Thinking back on it, didn’t Wisdom speak elvish? She sat back on her butt with a small grunt, eyes simply glued to her hands while her mind was lost in thought. Perhaps in the Fade spirits spoke the language a person understood most. Everything was possible in the Fade, right? A person's mind was the only limitation. Thanks to a lifetime of cartoons and superheroes, Victoria’s imagination was more than ready. But things like logic, fear, and reality were getting in her way.

 

The roar of demons wasn’t too far off and she knew sooner than later she would need to start making the trek to the portal. It would only be, what, a couple days at most before the Herald was guided by Cassandra to the Temple of Sacred Ashes? That would be her opportunity to escape. . . in theory.

 

She pushed herself to a standing position and gave one last groan of frustration in all of the mess before walking forward. Her ribs were definitely the thing that hurt most. Each breath still brought a sharp pain but it was dulling overtime. She stopped and looked down, cursing herself at her current appearance. Light green scrubs stained, messy hair, and now smeared make up around her eyes. Good heavens if she could find a clean patch of water she would feel a thousand times better, but there were more important things than vanity at this point. Hydration was one, but she did not trust the puddles of foreign liquid existing within the Fade.

 

Victoria walked for a few minutes. The lay of the land was pretty flat where she was at. There were puddles of bubbling liquid where the bubbles hovered a few seconds in the air before popping. The smell wasn’t pleasant either. It was reminiscent of the pools Iron Bull and Blackwall bitched about in her game in the back of the Western Approach. There was a ghost of a smile at the edge of her lips at the thought of meeting the pair, the closest thing to happiness since she had been dragged into this hell.

 

The happiness didn’t last long when she heard a smooth voice behind her. The sound glided over her mind and made her feel like she was wrapped in a warm blanket, maybe the arms of a lover. That can't be normal. She whipped around with her fists raised in preparation to fight to find a creature with two horns, its body covered in colors and shapes that resembled a dark purple bikini made of scales.

 

“My my my, lost, little pup?”

 

She took in a gasp, her feet subconsciously bringing her away from the demon. It put its hand against its face, index finger resting on its cheek. It tapped its finger against its face while clicking its tongue against the back of its teeth in a condescending sound. “You aren’t a spirit and you aren’t simply a dreaming mage. What are you?” A creature resembling a demon floated towards her, poking her in the chest. It then squealed with delight, clapping its hands together while its eyes curved up in apparent happiness. “Oh you are real! I just saw someone of your kind run out of here but you must have been left behind. Poor, sweet thing. I can ease your loneliness. What is it you want?”

 

Demon. Of course a demon found her first after Wisdom left. She now cursed herself for not learning some spell from her before she was torn away from the breach. She held a palm out towards the demon, her voice shaky and lacking in confidence as she shouted: “You better watch out! I have magic. I’m not afraid to use it!”

 

Lie.

 

Desire laughed, the sound bell-like and too charming to be sincere. “Oh no, my dear. You and I are going to have such fun together. Now just tell me, what is your Desire?”

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What did she want?

 

That was a complicated question. She wanted to find a way home. She wanted to find a way out of the Fade. She wanted to continue on with this quest. At the same time, she didn’t want to die. There were so many thoughts buzzing through her head, the demon leaned forward and snapped her fingers in front of her face. The action caused Victoria to yelp out, fists rising back to their defensive position. Her hands began shaking in front of her, traitorous things. This caused Desire to laugh again, the sound sending an odd chill down her spine. The creature was enticing and terrifying in the same moment. She knew what demons were capable of, but at the same time she knew they were capable of reason. She had seen that in Honnleath when her character came across Shale the golem. Her Warden at the time had convinced a demon to let a little girl go and it simply complied. Perhaps this one would be charitable as well?

 

Thinking simply, Victoria looked to Desire and lowered her guard. “I need to get out of here. I know. . .that I won’t be well received on the other side.” She spoke slowly to ensure that she chose her words specifically. She didn’t want Desire to get any wrong ideas or try to possess her.

 

The demon was getting impatient. It clicked its tongue at her then spoke, its voice a mocking tone as it rolled her eyes. Each word elicited a tilt from the demon's head, hand swaying back and forth as if it were lazily conducting a band. “You want to learn your magic, yes?”

 

She nodded, ashamed that she couldn’t get the words out and that the demon was somehow able to read her mind. To be fair, she was in its home so Desire had all of the power here. The demon clapped its hands together and hummed, fingers tapping in a rhythm from its pinky. . . claws to its thumb. “You. . . You are not like the others. Your song. It’s different.”

 

Victoria was the one to tilt her head in confusion this time, the action arousing a stiff neck she didn’t instantly realize she had. With a wince and quick neck rub, she asked, “What do you mean song? Like, my magic?”

 

Desire nodded while putting her arms by her side. “Most of the mages we come across have this certain song to their aura. Yours is different somehow. It’s obvious you are a novice. You haven’t even summoned a barrier to keep me out or flames to dispel me. Even a novice during a Harrowing could accomplish that.”

 

Victoria nearly squeaked in embarrassment. She felt so vulnerable in this place. She had no armor, no staff to even channel magic through, and no clue on how to bring her magic to bear. Earlier it was when she was frustrated and screaming at the sky. Perhaps it was linked to emotion? That was how it worked in a lot of the shows she watched. Avatar, Dragonball Z, heck even Star Wars. They always talked about mastering their emotions in order to focus on their abilities. She hoped it was the same here.

 

Except Victoria was absolutely awful at hiding her emotions.

 

She was the type of person who would tell her story to anybody and be willing to listen to them in return. She had to fight. It would be the only thing to ensure her survival in this awful place. With a firm nod, she opened her eyes to meet the demon. “How about a deal?” She asked and suddenly Desire looked interested. The flames floating between its horns turned from a dismal black color to one that was bright pink. Victoria saw it as a demonic mood ring, which brought a satisfied hum from her. The demon took a step closer, its interest obviously peaked.

 

“Well, child, what kind of deal do we have?”

 

She looked to the side to gather her thoughts for a moment before looking back, her face remaining as neutral as possible. “You help guide my self-taught lessons and I’ll show you images of my world. You say my song is different? I’m not like the people you have met. From where I’m from, there isn’t magic. There aren’t demons. But we can still fly. We can get from one side of the largest country in the world to another in hours!”

 

The last bit got the demon’s interest. Her lips curved into a smile. “What? You're lying. Do you use portals?”

 

Victoria shook her head and crossed her arms across her chest. “Nope.”

 

Desire frowned. “Wings?”

 

Another shake of her head.

 

The demon pouted, putting most of her weight onto one hip while it also crossed its arms underneath its scaled breasts. As the creature went to guess again Victoria gained the confidence to interrupt it with a raised finger. “Ah-ah-ah Desire. You don’t get to know unless you help me.”

 

Desire whined, throwing its hands up in the air before coming to a frustrated conclusion. “Fiiiiiiiine.” The demon's voice dragged on like an irritated teenager taking out the trash for her mother, hands flopping to the side while its body posture slumped. Victoria gave small “hmph” of triumph, extending one hand to the demon. “We have to make a deal or this isn’t official. No back-stabbing. No possessions. Nothing. Do you agree to these terms?”

 

The horned creature looked up and shook her hand before retreating her hand to the comfort of her crossed arms. The momentary touch left a sensation of dread on her hand but Victoria shook it off, chocking it up to a side effect of dealing with demons. Desire then perked up, the color of the flame turning into a mysterious purple cloud that had small bits of lightning within it. “Wait. How did you know my identity, Outsider?”

 

She paused, voice trapped within her throat while taking a guarded step back. “Uh, this is difficult to explain. In my world. . . .I was able to watch this one. Through a type of screen. “ She made a rectangle shape with her fingers then expanded it outward to roughly the size of her TV that sat in her living room. The demon didn’t look convinced but then scoffed it off like it wasn’t interested. “Fine. Start your training. I’ll watch over you but you must answer my questions! We have a deal, you and I.”

 

Victoria nodded and sat down into a crossed leg position. The movement put pressure on her ribs and back but she moved through the pain and took in a deep breath. In college she had taken a yoga and meditation class. Granted, it was only for three weeks because the class met at eight AM and her other classes left her drained, but the three classes were enough to teach her how to properly meditate. Plus her sister was into the crystal, meditation, and Reiki therapies so she got influence from there too.

 

With each breath she focused on how the flow of air was moving. She felt the rise and fall of her chest and the cool feeling her throat got when she took in a deep breath. She felt the way her heart pumped against her rib cage underneath her left breast. To steady herself even more, she placed her hand underneath the elastic of her sports bra to feel her heart beating there. The steady rhythm centered her mind, gave her a clear space to simply feel what her body and mind was doing. In the center of her body, a flicker shocked her. Her brown eyes flew open and Desire was laying across from her on her side. It supported its head with one hand while drawing lines in the dirt with the other. “You feel that?”

 

The demon nodded, putting a hand in the center of its chest where she felt the spark like fire burst. “That is your magic, the spark of it at least.” The demon then yawned and lied on its back, its somehow perfect breasts not sagging to the sides. Victoria shot a glare at her. Damn Fade magic and its unrealistic expectations. No wonder so many young mages fell to demons during their first trials. How could they not when the things in the Fade would never compare to those in the real world? With a huff of air Victoria returned to her meditating position, this time gripping the tops of her knees instead of feeling her pulse.

 

The breaths came smoother now. Her mind blocked out the pain of the expanding as every breath passed. The spark came back quicker. It felt like a calm warmth within her body. With another exhale the feeling expanded from just her chest to her entire body. It caused her skin to tingle like when she went from a cold room to a warm bath. It sent a quick shiver down her spine which caused her to arch her back and neck from the feeling. A genuine smile came over her lips and she didn’t realize she was doing it. While the magic tingled on her skin she heard the voice of Desire. “Push it outwards.”

 

She nodded and focused, feeling the energy around her body before willing it to go outwards. Within moments it followed her command, expanding to the size of a small dome that encircled her. She opened one eyes to see if it was working, not moving a muscle so it wouldn’t go away. Desire had moved backwards from the push of the barrier, eyes lighting up with something that looked akin to Pride.

 

“We’ll make a mage of you yet. Now tell me, Fade Walker, how do you fly from one end to the other in such a small amount of time?”

 

Victoria gave her a victorious grin, the barrier holding strong while she answered. “Giant metal birds that can fit over a hundred people in them.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It felt like the demon and her went back and forth for an eternity.

 

Desire asked her of machines, people, and animals. The demon seemed to be turning into an excited little school girl, its words fumbling out of its mouth as its mind processed her answers and came up with rebuttals. Victoria was working on how long she could hold her barriers while expanding their size. It was exhausting but somehow in the Fade she felt more energized? It was like there was a constant stream of coffee running through her veins to keep her awake and focused.  The coffee in the hospital was always terrible and smelled of burnt Starbucks but they would occasionally sneak away to the waiting room and get the good stuff.

 

It was then that she realized she hadn’t eaten in hours but she wasn’t hungry yet. She chocked it up to the Fade and brought her barrier skin-tight. It hummed along the surface of her skin while protecting her. It felt like a cozy fall jacket and it was definitely a sensation she could get used to. After a long question string regarding religion and the ilk, Desire stood up and looked to the rift. “You should learn an attack. What’s the emotion that comes easiest to you?”

 

Victoria scoffed with a laugh, answering easily while lifting her hands that had shadows of ash clinging to them: “I think Fire would be best. Don’t you think?”

 

The demon smirked and nodded in agreement. It extended a hand to help the new friend up. She wiped the dust off of her already ruined scrub pants and shrugged. Desire didn’t give any instructions, just gave her a head nod and a gesture that meant “okay, go on!”

 

She then sighed, opening a palm out in front of her facing up. The energy still hummed on her skin so she withdrew it into herself. It was suddenly obvious that it pumped through her veins. It wasn’t just in her heart. That might have been her center but her magic was a part of her now. It filled every breath and went all the way down to her toes. She opened her eyes and focused on the palm of her hand. She focused on the frustration of her being yanked from her car to the Fade. The frustration of the doctor arguing with her over fluid orders for her patient. The frustration of her cat knocking her phone off of the night stand earlier that morning causing her to scramble through her alarms. All of the matters seemed trivial now but they were the easiest thing to summon in a quick moment.

 

Small, but sturdy, a fireball formed. It swirled within her hand. The fire pulsed in time with her heart and if she didn’t know any better she would have said it looked like a little Calcifer. The skin of her hand began to ache and Desire quickly put her hands out as if to guard her. “Barrier your hands, idiot!”

 

Victoria dropped the fireball and shook her hand off to cool, the minor burn fading away until her skin was back to being its normal ivory color. The flame ceased with a hiss against the ground. A scorch mark was left in its place but even that gave her a small bit of triumph.

 

Well smack her ass and call her Zuko, she did it!

 

She pumped her fist in the air and jumped, a sound of victory coming from her lips as she celebrated. Desire rolled her eyes and pointed to the rift. “Your time is running out, Outsider. Do you think this will be enough to get you there?”

 

All of the celebration and happiness stopped. “Oh. . . I didn’t think of that. How much time do you think we have left? Shit!”

 

They were both rocked to the side as the sound of a large tear rang through their ears. She closed her hands over her head and Desire turned behind them with flames in its hand. In the far distance was a rift that suddenly ceased it exist. The colors faded from the bright swirling to the simple background colors of the Fade.

 

Her pupils dilated and her mouth hung low in shock. “No. No. NO! We have to move.”

 

Desire stepped forward, eyes actually full of something that would resemble worry. “You’re not strong enough yet! Stay with me! I can make you powerful!"”

 

She began to walk towards the rift that she knew the Pride demon was in front of. Her walk then became a panicked run, her heart pounding against her rib cage. She could feel her pulse in the side of her neck and back while she ran. Gods she was out of shape but that wouldn’t hold her back from getting to some people who could actually help her. What would she say to them? How would she explain her current situation? What was something Varric said to the Herald at first? Should of spun a story?

 

Spin a story she shall.

 

Victoria was now at a full sprint, her goal coming within reach. During band in high school they forced them to run two agonizing laps around the football field. Compared to this that was nothing. If only she could go back in time and slap the skinny, careless self she used to be. That girl knew nothing of pain. This was pain, running in a foreign territory with a demon at her back with broken ribs.

 

The pair ran past shades that couldn’t be bothered and a sloth demon that was sleeping on a large pile of bones. Perhaps it was her experience with death in the hospital or the fact that she had befriended a desire demon, but suddenly these things weren’t as frightening anymore. She ran with her barrier around her. It kept her from crashing into rock shards and kept the other demons from coming near her. It also helped that Desire was right on her heel, apparently giving looks of possession to the others that Victoria was its and its alone.

 

That part was strangely comforting.

 

Roooooooaaar crack!

 

The second rift with the scouts on the mountain. It was behind them but she knew that meant that they were all close. Cassandra, Varric, the Inquisitor, and oh god. Solas. She suddenly halted in her tracks, feet making two scorch marks against the ground as she did. Desire nearly collided behind her, its claws hands pushing against her back to stop. “What? What’s wrong?”

 

Victoria was winded, her hands resting on top of her knees as she caught her breath. “There. . .there are people on the other side. They will be able to see right through me. What if they just kill me?”

 

Desire frowned for a second before shaking its head. “So? Is Death really the worst option here? You, Outsider, have flown in metal birds across the skies, have kept people from dying with your hands, have controlled small devices that can show you other worlds! You have powers even I can’t give you.” For a second, it looked like the light between her horns became a pure white. It flickered back to its neutral magenta tone while the demon sighed. “You have to try. Come on, you’re almost there.”

 

She slowly nodded, eyes taking a moment to leave the place where the holy light had been shining between her horns. They took off at a run and already the Pride demon came in their sights. It wasn’t focused on them, however. She now smelled of the Fade and the demons were waiting at the rift with a too eager smile on their lips. Desire put a hand out in front of them as they came within walking distance of the rift, its eyes examining the area.

 

Then the world around them shook and they fell to the ground. The rift burned brighter, brighter than any sun she could think of before ripping open to the other side. Victoria saw the burned edges of the area where the rift was. She saw archers on the higher ground and saw the future Inquisitor, her Herald she created standing with her right hand at her side while she thrust her left hand into the sky to open the rift.

 

Almost as if the Herald commanded it herself, the demon group jumped through the rift. The battle was breaking out below them, the sound of swords clashing and spells bursting filling her head. Victoria watched with an awe-struck gaze. It all was so real now. Goodness. It was real now! The chill from their icy spells made her shudder even from her place on the other side of the rift. Desire grasped her shoulders and did something she didn’t expect.

 

The demon hugged her.

 

As she pulled away a bright light was taking over the demon. It had started as a small flame in between her horns and expanded over the demon’s whole body. Victoria went to speak but the demon put a finger over her mouth. “It’s going to be okay, Victoria! You have such strength. I am excited to watch your journeys!”

 

And before she could respond in turn she felt the pull from the rift. It was being sucked closed and her body was going with it. To help in the process Desire pushed her through the portal. Victoria reached out to her friend as the rift closed behind her, her body unceremoniously falling from the sky to the ground in front of what would soon be the Inquisition.

 

The impact was a crushing blow against her body. She landed on her legs and crumbled down, her head hitting the cold stone ground below. Darkness finally swallowed her mind after days of traveling through the Fade without a moment of sleep. Before she succumbed to the injuries, she heard a familiar voice in her head:

 

“Chuckles, we’re in luck! Beautiful women keep falling from the sky!”

 

Chapter Text

Victoria woke from a dreamless sleep with a gasp, instantly shooting up from bed. She regretted that. Her head felt like it was splitting and her breath was caught in her throat. A pained groan left her lips, somebody coming to her side and soothing her. “Easy, easy there!” She looked to her caretaker, eyes instantly acknowledging the facial hair and familiar gruff voice. He pushed her down into the bed, not so gently she might add, and brought a potion to her lips. “Drink this then get up.”

 

She came to a slightly elevated position on her elbow to drink the red potion. It tasted of cinnamon and acid, not a pleasant combination. The taste burned her tongue and she made a face but eventually swallowed it all. It didn’t take long, but the tingly feeling on her tongue spread through her body. Already it became easier to breathe and the blood in her hair dried. She let out a sigh of relief, her gaze returning to the local apothecary. He patted the tops of his knees before rising from the chair. “Well good, you’re finally up. The Herald just left but you need to meet with the Seeker as well. Get dressed. We had to burn your old stuff, man did that stink! Were you rolling around in a nug’s den before you fell from the sky? Maker help me.” He continued to whine and rant on even as the door shut behind him.

 

With a surprising amount of pep, she rose from the bed and looked down at herself. They hadn’t taken her sports bra, thank goodness. That would be something she couldn’t find in this world. She was covered in simple linen undergarments that were a shade off of white. In the chest next to the bed were a pair of black boots, sturdy brown pants, a jacket, and a simple shirt. She put it on to find it fit surprisingly well. Adan might have looked a little too hard at her before choosing her clothing options. She sighed, looking to the door and knowing exactly where it leaded.

 

She would have to confront Cassandra, Leliana, Josephine, and Cullen.

 

What would she say?!

 

Panic filled her body, her heart beating within what felt like her head but with a few easy breaths she calmed herself down. Be honest but not too forthcoming. Telling them that she knew the future would get her instantly turned into a Tranquil, or worse, tortured by Leliana for details. Victoria was too proper of a name here as well. Plus she knew it would be the name of the next Divine so that would be awkward. Biting her bottom lip, she looked to the skies for inspiration and thought. What would be a name foreign to them? Even in her cabin the light of the Breach came in through the window and she could see it under her eyelids.

 

It looked smaller in the Fade for some reason. She walked to the edge of the cabin and looked up through the window. The Breach ate the entire sky. The green colors looked so alien and abnormal here. It put an odd feeling in her stomach, it churning and tightening within her abdomen. The sensation almost brought her to her knees but then she realized: she hadn’t eaten in days. Victoria - no – Athena - sure, that sounds good for now - sighed and rubbed a hand nonchalantly over her stomach. Better get this over with.

 

Athena timidly opened the door and looked out and sure enough the line of villagers still stood there. However, they were all eagerly looking at her like she was the Herald. “Um. . . “ Before she could even speak voices began to ring out all throughout the crowd of survivors.

 

“Look! It’s the girl who fell!”

 

“She fell from the rift!”

 

“It’s the Fade-Walker!”

 

She tried not to smile at the title even though hearing it made her queasy. It was something Desire had come up with for her during their short time together. She made a mental note to not bring up the demon quite yet. Solas might understand but even then he would be angry for her speaking with demons without any sort of protection or preparation. Varric would probably think it was some weird story and be friendly but guarded towards the whole thing.

 

The others, well they were more militaristic and wouldn’t be so open minded. She would have to wait for the rest of the companions to be recruited. Oh what would the Herald be like? Rathein in her game was sarcastic but loving. She had shaved sides and a Mohawk style down the middle with tattoos around her left eye. Athena had a feeling they would get along but hopefully nothing changed in this strange world she was in.

 

With bravery summoned within her heart, she walked through the only path allowed by the villagers to the Chantry. With help she opened the heavy ass wooden doors. The candles lit the area but the inside of the church was gorgeous. Her gaze found its way looked around the building, her body spinning around to get a 360 view of the place. It simply captivated her. She would have to spend more time in here, especially with all of the books! Codex aside, it would be completely different having the information in her hands. 

 

Perhaps she was taking her time because she knew what might come or because everything was so beautiful - but it took a minute or two for her to reach the council room. Her fist gingerly hesitated over the door. Did she knock? Did she simply enter? Oh Maker help her. Oh no. She was already thinking in terms of the Maker.

 

Even in her normal world she wasn’t so much a religious person. For her, it was hard to dismiss the ideas of energy and the like while also dismissing science. Working in the field she did, it was nearly impossible to not believe in science, evolution, and its common topics. How would she describe that in Thedas? Dorian claimed to be Andrastian but he did not like the Chantry. Perhaps they would talk of that. . .if she made it that far.

 

The fear of dying caused her to panic and quickly knock. Why did I do that? She screamed at herself while footsteps approached the door. Athena took in a sharp gasp while taking a step back. Did one bow to a Seeker? What was the appropriate response? Instead her eyes widened in a mixture of fear and astonishment. Cassandra, on the other hand, seemed to stand up straighter and say: “Ah. You’re awake.” She gestured her inside of the room and she saw that the Herald was there. The large book was already on the table so the Inquisition had been formed.

 

Damn she missed the speech.

 

Cassandra grabbed her by her arm and put her next to the Herald. The Nevarran woman was simply gorgeous, even in the grime of war and fighting. The armor fit her perfectly and there was a natural power she held that could not be communicated in the game. “Herald. Before you find Mother Giselle, there is also the matter of this woman.”

 

Rathein turned towards Athena, giving her a soft smile. Athena visibly relaxed, walking to her side while looking to the Right and Left Hands of the former Divine. The Herald spoke: “What do you want me to do? You barely just started trusting me.”

 

Leliana took a step forward, her gaze slicing daggers through Athena’s skin. She bristled, her barrier coming up in a subtle way on her skin. Both Rathein and Cassandra noticed. The Seeker made a noise of disappointment. “A mage at that. She could be an abomination.”

 

Athena shook her head, placing her hands up in a defensive position. “I am not an abomination. I swear it!”

 

The Seeker took a step closer to her, forcing Athena’s backside to be pressed against the war table. “You arrive with magic but no staff? Our healer examined you once you exited the Fade. You do not have the Maker’s mark and with foreign garments. How did you learn magic, Fade-Walker?”

 

The title was like an insult coming from Cassandra’s lips. Leliana gracefully glided across the room to stand at the Seeker’s side, in between where Athena was standing and the door. She let her arms fall to her side, eyes going to the floor. “I . . .taught myself.”

 

Leliana’s face did not change but Cassandra was obviously unimpressed. “Taught yourself? You fell from the Fade! Do you remember nothing? How did you find a way out?”

 

Athena answered without thinking, the pressure of both of their gazes breaking her. “Someone helped me!”

 

Chancellor Roderick then decided to chime in, the sliminess of his voice bringing a disgusted shiver down the woman’s spine. “I agree! How do we know this someone wasn’t a demon! Bring the Commander in here. We need to remove the demon from her.”

 

Rathein motioned to speak but was cut off by Cassandra. “I agree. It is the only way to know for sure.” The Herald gave a look of disappointment before looking to her, pity in her eyes. She bent over and looked Athena with a sympathetic expression on her face. Somehow she was the only accepting and friendly face in this place and she had just been put through the same ringer that she had. Already the Herald was a braver woman than she. The Herald was looking for something, something to prove her innocence. But there was nothing. With a defeated nod of her head Cassandra poked her head out of the room and ordered: “Fetch the Commander and Solas.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Shit the Commander was intimidating.

 

He entered with anger and confusion fueling his heels, his trained Templar eyes looking her over once before nodding. “I’ve been briefed. You really think she is. . . “

 

Cassandra interjected with a nod, turning to him and whispering not soft enough. “She came from the fade and states someone helped her learn spells. She knows magic and taught herself. . . Cullen. We can’t afford an abomination in our Inquisition camp this early.”

 

Athena swallowed down a lump of fear, her head being held in her hands. Oh yeah there was a wound on her head. She felt the healed scar underneath the caked blood. It had to have been a hematoma, subdural? Who had healed the majority? She could tell the potion only healed the superficial wound left, but somebody had to do the dirty work to take pressure off of her brain.

 

The answer walked through the door and she was too busy looking at the floor with an air of self-pity to notice. The three leaders of the Inquisition came to a decision when Rathein spoke up, her voice full of confidence but lined with sympathy. “If we do this, if she is clean, there are to be no more questions. She is with us. I will take personal responsibility for her. Can you promise me this?”

 

Cullen groaned and went to answer when Rathein cut him off. Good girl. “You all thought poorly of me until you found out I was useful to you. Perhaps she could be too!” Athena saw the Herald look at her with a small glance of hope as she looked up from the floor. The potion must have worn off because her headache came back, it taking over her whole head. She realized it was probably a caffeine headache as well. Damnit. She would need to find a glass of tea when this was all over and some food. That is if she survived their interrogation or whatever first impression this was.

 

The Commander cleared his throat and spoke when the Herald was finished. “Fine.” He looked to a messenger at the door. “Go get some lyrium and chains. She is going to need to be kept still.”

 

A hum of disapproval to the side brought both ease and worry into the pit of her stomach, it clenching her throat in a moment of panic. She looked to her left and saw the elf for the first time. Oh this was not going to be easy. A blush rose to her cheeks and flushed her chest, which was thankfully covered by the high-necked shirt and jacket. There was something more striking about him in real life as compared to on her television screen. The subtle freckles on his cheek stood out against his pale skin and cheekbones. He was taller than she expected, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Commander. The wolf bone necklace hung where she expected and to keep from staring at his features she looked to the Herald.

 

Cassandra spoke this time. “Solas, we need to assess her for demonic possession.” He glanced in her direction, his gaze cold and weighted with judgment. The blush instantly drained from her cheeks and she placed both hands on the table behind her to steady herself. His voice rang out and it was entrancing, bouncing along the syllables and bringing a strange sense of calm over her mind. She could feel him too, in a way. There was a cold presence in the room and with a look in his direction she realized it was his aura. It was faint to see on other people since she was new, but it was like a blue fire around his body. “I will monitor her while you do so.” He spoke simply in response.

 

He was obviously on guard so the flames were small but he just had a general hue and outline of blue. Her magic flared against his in defense, it following her mind. Every nerve was on edge because she had a faint idea of what was coming but didn’t know what to fully expect. In the games, she entered the fade with the Warden to save Connor. She knew Cassandra could light the lyrium in someone’s blood aflame, but she didn’t exactly know how Templars tested someone for possession. The messenger arrived with a small bottle of lyrium and some rope. He winced when the Commander chastised him for not bringing chains but it would suffice.

 

Cullen did not hesitate to pull her from the war table and put her to the side, firmly wrapping the ropes around her arms behind her back. She thought she felt them get really tight and he did not speak to her while doing it. Did he think of her less just because she was a mage? It was amazing how quick they moved to intervention when they hadn’t even gotten her name! It was good to see that they took threats to the Inquisition seriously but there were some already obvious flaws in their leadership. Solas stood by the side with his arms crossed. She felt his aura reach out towards her, an icy brush against her skin. He showed no hint of it though, his face neutral as he looked from her to the war table. It looked like he was taking mental inventory of the markers on the map.

 

Dread wolf.

 

Athena thought in her mind, pulsing her aura as a gesture to get away. In that moment she felt her aura flare hot as a flame against his, the result causing her aura to vibrate in the air before returning safely to her skin. He retrieved his aura within himself and she thought she saw the corner of one eye twitch in response. Even though she wasn’t well trained she would be damned if he was going to crack her open like an egg, hah, and learn her secrets. Not today anyways.

 

The former Templar took the vial and ripped off the cork, getting ready to drink its contents. That’s when realization hit her. Cullen was quitting lyrium. He quit it before he joined the Inquisition. This would set him back and he had already made so much progress! “Wait!” She cried, the party freezing to look at her. Athena paused for a moment, eyes looking from the ground to the side before looking to Cassandra. “Someone else.”

 

Cullen obviously confused looked to her and spoke through gritted teeth. “What.”

 

She sat up more from her kneeling position, eyes filling with pseudo-confidence while looking to the Herald. “Lysette. There is a Templar that came from the Conclave, outside of the gates. I want her.”

 

Cullen bristled once more, taking steps towards her while looking down at her. His body, furred in all of its glory, shadowed over her while he spoke again, venom dripping with every letter of every word. “Why would we do that?”

 

Athena didn’t flinch, somehow, but stayed in her position. “No offense, Commander, but you already don’t seem to like me. I would like an unbiased person doing. . .whatever it is you’re going to do because I have a feeling it won’t be pleasant, even more so if it is by your hand.” Cullen rose to apparently argue back at her when Rathein and Solas nodded in agreement, their mage status apparently already ringing in to balance the conversation.

 

Solas spoke up first, looking to Cullen with a raised brow. “It would not hurt. You would still get the desired effect and you could supervise.”

 

The Commander backed off for a moment, closing his eyes in a poor attempt to contain himself. In a firm motion he shoved the cork back into the lyrium bottle and stated: “Fine. But I will observe. Go get her.” The messenger ran off with agility in his step as they were all left to the awkwardly empty room. Athena fell back on her heels and sighed, her head hanging in obvious relief. An accented voice spoke first, the sound cutting through the room.

 

“How did you know about Lysette? Didn’t you just wake?”

 

Fuck. Athena controlled her body and took a deep breath, putting up a mental barrier to try and gain some sort of self-resolve. Leliana was controller of the spies and ravens of the Inquisition. She would kill a person just for breathing the wrong way at her, at least she would in the hardened state she was in. She made a mental note to help Rathein change that somehow. The nug-loving Nightingale was one of her favorite quirks of the game and she would be damned if she didn’t get there somehow. “I saw her when I walked from the cabin to the Chantry. The gate opened and she was standing with the group of people staring at me.”

 

Partial lie but it earned a small nod from the Spy-Master. Thank the Heavens.

 

Lysette arrived with a confused look on her face but the moment she saw Athena in bindings she clicked her tongue and simply went “Ah. I see.” Almost as if she was programmed to do it she removed her sword from its sheath and drank the contents of the lyrium. The potion hummed to her, she could feel its magic even from her position on the floor. Lysette bent on one knee, placing her blade down into the ground while mumbling a prayer to herself. “Maker grant me the strength to vanquish villainy and promote peace in your name.” It was short, but it did the job apparently because she stood up from her position and walked to Athena. The room grew very silent and she saw Rathein look away. Solas, however, kept his trained eye on her, hands clasped behind his back in an academic looking fashion.

 

“Brace yourself, mage.” Lysette warned, her own bit of an aura flaring up before it plunged into Athena’s unprepared body. A wordless cry ripped itself from her throat as her body bent backwards and her mind went white.

 

The pain was indescribable. It coursed through her veins like liquid fire and left her with no voice, no words, no thoughts. The only thing she could do was scream into the room at the people in the room and fuck it, even the Maker. Every nerve was lit flame as she felt Lysette’s lyrium fueled magic push through her barriers. It was searching for something but there was nothing to be found. Desire had pushed her out of the rift and was left in the fade. No other creature approached her and she was alone.

 

Oh how utterly alone she was. The realization mixed in with the pain of the ritual, hot tears streaming down her face until her jacket was wet to the skin with them. She thought she even felt blood dripping from her ears and mouth. Fuck that wasn’t good. Her body wouldn’t last much longer, she could tell. Her breaths were shorter, her pulse was bounding, and darkness was threatening to overtake her mind. With one last scream she fell limp in front of the Templar, her body shaking while blood dripped from her lips and nose to the ground. The room was so silent a feather could have dropped and they all would have heard it like deafening thunder. She suspected the entire town of Haven was silenced after hearing her screaming because the bustling in the Chantry even ceased.

 

Through panted breaths Athena sobbed, her shoulders aching while they were bound tightly against the confines of her rope. There was a quick set of footsteps and Rathein was at her back, slicing her robes with a knife she apparently took from Cassandra’s side. The Herald released her hands and wrapped her arms around the back of her, keeping her close to her body while stroking her blood soaked hair. “It’s done. It’s done. You’re alright.”

 

Athena couldn’t answer, the only thing she could do was helplessly weep against the only person who had shown her an ounce of kindness in this town. The leaders of the Inquisition gave a grim nod. She could see through a tear-soaked gaze that even Cullen had pity within his gaze, a hand running through his thick golden curls. Lysette gave a look that screamed with apology before exiting through the door. Cassandra and Leliana went to speak but the bold-hearted Herald spoke first.

 

“You. Promised.”

 

The Seeker closed her mouth and nodded, turning with Leliana, Cullen, and the Chancellor towards the door to leave before Athena bellowed out. “ATHENA.”

 

They paused, acting like they were visibly hurt by the word she shouted. Solas was actually the one to answer, his voice measured and calm, edged with curiosity. “What?”

 

She spat blood on the ground under the war table before looking up to all of them ignoring his gaze because he would hear her clearly enough. “You never even asked my fucking name. It’s Athena.”

 

Chapter Text

The group stilled from her announcement, Chancellor Roderick scoffing as he exited the room. Bastard. With sweat, blood, and tears dripping from her body she glared at the top three members of the Inquisition. Hate fueled her breaths, each one resonating with pain from Lysette’s little procedure. She felt absolutely drained, like the very will to breathe was drawn from her body. Athena rose to continue telling off the triad before her body fought against it. She barely had time to put one hand on the table before her body fell forwards. It was caught by Rathein and Solas. Rathein had her waist and Solas put a calming hand on her shoulder, his cool healing magic rushing over her in a wave. She could also feel that it was trying to make her sleepy, relaxed. The fire within her fought it off.

 

“No.”

 

He paused, head tilting in confusion. “No?”

 

She stammered, her jaw shaking and chattering against her teeth from weakness and exhaustion. Rathein pulled her to a standing position, her own trained eyes looking the woman over while her hands tenderly examined her, lifting her chin and looking at the old head wound. Athena leaned against the table, feeling slowly better as Solas’s healing magic filled in the cracks that were in her will and energy level. “I don’t want to sleep. . .I am not ready to go back there yet.”

 

The realization hit him, his eyes almost becoming slightly wider as he nodded. Although Desire had been a great friend and protector in the Fade, she didn’t like the way the whole place made her skin crawl. She didn’t like the way the other demons had looked in real life compared to in the game. They all had claws dripping with ichor and fangs sharpened to points. They each had an aura of pure malice and it intensified when they looked at her. How her Warden was able to make it through the Fade in the Circle blew her mind. Maker knew how Cullen was able to make it through that experience without shattering. It didn’t surprise her why he was so guarded but it was different to experience it first-hand.

 

They both helped her walk, their hands slowly coming off of her as she regained her balance and posture. Before she could even leave the door a very flustered Josephine walked in. “Herald! Oh-“ Her voice was cut off at the sight of Athena, it breaking through her trained Antivan face and posture. Her eyes widened in surprise, a hand coming to her mouth in apparent fright. It was hard to see with just the candle illuminating her face but the shock was there. She must have looked terrible for Josephine to react this way. She had to look better than she felt. The flustered Orlesian regained her composure before saying in a soft voice. “I’ll have a bath drawn, Herald, Athena.” There was a smile to her face when she said her name.

 

That was the thing that broke her again. Athena fell to her knees, tears silently streaming down her face while her body shook in quiet sobs. Rathein cracked her knuckles before lifting Athena and putting an arm around her shoulder, supporting most of her weight on her built form. The mage had been one of her stronger built characters she created in the past. She reminded her of Korra and she thanked past self for making her this way. The Herald carried her through the Chantry and ignored all of the stares she was getting.

 

Many of the sisters and volunteers had cleared out. Apparently the sound was too inconvenient for them. Poor them. Athena couldn’t help but get a rush of anger at the thought of others leaving to get away from her screaming. They should hear it. They should hear and stay in support of her, even in silence. She is an unknown, a survivor, like them trying to make it in this hellhole. She ground her teeth in between soft cries as she hobbled outside.

 

Suddenly the light appeared much brighter than before. She had to raise a hand to block it while Rathein led her towards where she slept in one of the cabins off to the side. Athena already had an idea of where she would shack up once this phase had passed but that concern was in the far corners of her mind. Pain shot through her muscles with every movement, every thought, every breath. They were little reminders of what she was in this world: an untrained apostate. Thankfully a clean of demons untrained apostate, but an unwelcome person nonetheless.

 

A chipper voice cut through the silence that had conquered Haven, it almost being jarring to her. She weakly turned her head to the left before looking down, Varric waving at them with a crooked smile. “Morning, Herald, Chuckles. Anything I can get you?”

 

Solas began to speak: “No, thank you Master Tethr-“

 

“Food.” Athena spoke weakly, her voice apparently convincing enough for Varric to laugh and nod, turning towards the tavern with a wave.

 

“I’ll get you something Flissa cooked up. I think it has potatoes in it but you can’t be too sure of tavern food. I’ll bring it to you.” He left and the small group for a few moments, the pauses stretching before Rathein chuckled while dragging her along.

 

“Come on, Fallen. We’re almost there. Maker I thought Herald was interesting but Fallen? Psh. They won’t get over you for weeks.”

 

Athena tried not to smile but a small smirk twitched at her lips, even that action bringing a wince of pain after it. The attendant drawing the bath left with the final empty pail of hot water. The steam rose from the empty vessel in small spirals and already her muscles ached for a good soak. Pushing herself from Rathein’s grip and Solas’s icy aura she burst through the door and nearly collapsed on the sides of the tub. The water had been oiled with something smelling of lavender and rosemary. Thank goodness for Josephine and her fancy oils.  

 

The tears ran dry on her face as she paused, looking back to her two helpers. Solas opened his mouth, before shutting it, looking to both of the women while giving then a simple polite wave before turning. “I will give you space. I think there is a potion I have that might rejuvenate you and your mana supply. I will return. Rathein, Athena.”

 

The Herald shut the door after he left and she broke the silence with a smile. “Isn’t he so serious? Good thing Varric likes to laugh because I think being stuck with him and Cassandra would drive me insane!” Athena couldn’t help but giggle. If only the Herald knew what would come before her. A sense of dread crept into the back of her mind, washing over her head like the headache she had earlier. Oh no. Haven! Haven wasn’t safe. Everybody that had looked in awe at her this morning was in danger. She nearly fell on the side of the tub and Rathein took no time in quickly undressing the battered mage.

 

With a great deal of strength, she ripped through the bottom layers of linen and paused above her black sports bra and underwear. “What is this?” Athena waved her off, weakly defending while showing she knew what to do. She unclasped it from the back and threw it to the ground while climbing into the almost too hot confines of her sanctuary. The water stung at every open wound and slice but the heat was oh so relaxing. She placed her arms on the side of the tub to keep from sliding down in the depths. Rathein sat on the tub side, looking down at her but she wasn’t even shy about her nudity. Her parents had raised her in a house where they frequently walked around in their underwear when Dad wasn’t around. He didn’t like that they did it but as long as he didn’t see he couldn’t argue.

 

The thought of her family brought tears she didn’t realize to her eyes. The sound of them dropping into the tub caused her to shake from her daze and look to the Herald. “Well, Athena. I’ve taken responsibility for you, so I think I get to have a little bit of an explanation right?” Athena must have frowned because she instantly shook her head and waved her hands in front of her. “Oh no! Don’t worry it stays between us! Trust me. I understand the way they’re treating you, in more ways than one.”

 

Athena bristled in the water, using a stone she found on the side of the tub to scrub away at the dried blood and dirt on her skin. Apparently the process had opened some wounds on her arms and legs. They were small slivers that looked like they were cut with a small blade. Thankfully they were healed due to Solas’s healing spell but they left behind a myriad of scars. It had barely been a day in Thedas and she was starting to look like a seasoned warrior. Oh how her mom would fret now. “Oh those scars look hideous! Can’t you cover them up with some long pants?” Clearing her throat she raised her brown eyes to meet Rathein’s friendly yet piercing icy blue ones.

 

“Fine, fine. I was in the Fade at the same time as you at first.” Before Rathein could ask any questions she raised a hand to stop her. “All I saw you do is escape. That was it. I was stuck in the fade after that until you came to open that rift. I found out in the Fade that I had magic. I had. . . .some help.” The Herald’s eyes leveled with hers and there was a look of concern in her gaze.

 

“From who?”

 

Athena could only laugh because the answer was going to seem hilarious considering she had just been exorcised with the purpose of taking any demon out of her. The laugh was broken and eerie, the hurt apparently breaking through because Rathein’s put her hand on top of her exposed knee popping up from the water. “Believe it or not, a demon.” Her hand stayed and her gaze stayed. Good, she wasn’t bothered too much, outwardly at least.

 

“We had a deal. I would tell it of my past and it would protect me and give me magic.”

                                                                   

Rathein drew her hand back and turned around to pick some dry under garment linens for her. “Why would it want to know that? It didn’t try to possess you?”

 

Athena looked to the water, her hands clenching into fists as she felt her aura slightly return to her body. “Honestly? I think it felt sorry for me. It said I had a 'different song' than most mages it had met. It was curious and wanted something from me instead of the other way around. In the end. . .it was the one who pushed me through the rift.”

 

Knock knock.

 

A rapping at the door cut off her story, her body instinctively going under the now murky water for cover. The voice of the healer rang through, the inflection and tone showing no signs that he just heard their conversation. Athena knew he wouldn’t be that easy and let it show. He was crafty. He was literally a God. And she knew that. . . which put her in a special predicament. “I brought the potion and Master Tethras said he got caught up in the tavern and to meet him there. . . when you are feeling up to it.” He opened the door a crack and Rathein fetched the potion from him, quickly shutting it to give them back their privacy. She put her ear to the door and waited until she heard the sound of his footsteps dissipate into the snow.

 

She handed the strange looking purple potion to Athena then stated: “Come on! Let’s get you dressed and get you to meet people. You’ll like Varric. He was nice to me before he even learned my name.”

 

Athena dipped her head under, making one last pass through her hair with her fingers. The blood was now in water, thankfully, instead of her hair. “Didn’t you just wake up too? How can you be so hopeful?”

 

Rathein shrugged while looking out the window towards the tavern. “Because I’m not alone.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Boy did a bath make her feel better!

 

Athena bent over in front of a mirror propped against a chair in the Herald’s room, analyzing what the Fade and the ritual did to her. Already she could tell she had lost weight? 5? 10 pounds? Perhaps she was in the Fade longer than she thought but she hadn’t had an ounce of food or water, save for the potion Adan gave her. The taste of cinnamon on her tongue was long gone and instead replaced with dried blood. She had tried swishing her mouth out with water at the beginning of her bath but it only cleared so much. Instead, she grabbed the linen from her ripped underclothes Rathein had removed and wiped her teeth until the white underneath shown through. Her teeth would probably appear abnormal here but she was thankful for that in a way.

 

Her parents insisted on braces and she still had a permanent retainer lining her bottom teeth. Hopefully nobody would be fishing around in her mouth anytime soon so she had a feeling they wouldn’t notice anyways. She straightened out her jacket before looking to Rathein with a genuine, albeit tired, smile. The Herald opened the door with a deep sarcastic bow, eyes twinkling in excitement. “Shall we go to the tavern, Lady Fallen?”

 

Athena nearly pushed her over with a quick shove, her head shaking back and forth. “Oh stop it.” She bounded out of the cabin with some real energy in her movements. Solas’s potion had brought the flame back to her heart, a barrier sparkling within her as she came down the steps and fell into rhythm with the Herald’s gait. People had returned to their normal duties and all of them paid the pair a cautious eye. Lysette was sitting on a bench near the gate while cleaning her sword. Her gaze did not rise from the task at hand and she couldn’t help but feel that was on purpose. The taste of bile rose in her throat at the sight of the Templar, her body tensing up in response.

 

It was almost like she noticed but the Herald put her arm around Athena’s shoulder and guided her towards the tavern. The bustling and roar of the building hit her instantly, the warmth melting off any bit of frost that had formed on her wet hair between the cabin and the tavern. Varric had a table with two extra bowls of stew on a table in the back. Surprisingly, Solas was sitting across from him. The pair walked over to them and Athena chose to sit next to the dwarf, a sincere smile coming to his lips as he patted her back gently. “Good to see you! I don’t think we were officially introduced. I’m Varric Tethras – occasional storyteller.”

 

Athena was too excited sitting next to him to let him finish. “I know who you are! I. . .”

 

Her voice went soft and Varric chuckled under his breath. “A fan, eh? Good to know. That makes things easier. Here, eat up!” He pushed the bowl in front of her. As she picked up her spoon the other member of the table spoke, his voice calm and steady through all of the conversations in the tavern.

 

“And if there are to be introductions, I am Solas. I. . ." He paused, at a loss of words for a moment. Athena cherished the second where he didn’t know what to say; they were rare in the game from what she knew. “I apologize for what happened earlier. I am sure the others will not because they felt it necessary. I am a self-taught apostate myself.”

 

Rathein shuffled in her chair, taking a breath from the stew she had started devouring. She spoke with a bite of food still in her mouth. “Isn’t every mage an apostate now?” He looked to her mouth then nodded, his lips a thin line. Even still, looking at him brought a sensation of anxiety to her stomach so she turned to her stew.

 

Tavern made her ass! It tasted like home cooked beef stew. She didn’t realize the hunger that was settled in the bottom of her stomach until the first taste of food hit her tongue. She ate so quickly Varric pushed a mug of warm ale towards her. “Here, don’t choke!”

 

Without even thinking she took it, swallowing the bitter and hoppy taste down with her current mouthful of food. “Oh, Varric, you undersold this soup.” She leaned back in her bar stool, her eyes closed in utter bliss as the food rested warmly in her stomach. Oh! She hadn’t introduced herself back yet. Sitting with a proper posture she looked to Varric and then Solas, her normal warmth and friendliness returning to her voice and gesticulations. “I’m so sorry that was rude of me. My name is-“

 

The dwarf cut her off with a smirk that somehow was somber. “Athena. Trust me. . .we heard.”

 

“Oh. . . I. . .didn’t realize.” Blood rushed to her cheeks and in an attempt to hide her embarrassment she continued eating her stew. Solas looked down at his current cup of some brandy-smelling drink and Rathein touched her foot to hers underneath the table, a small act of comfort that brought a thankful glance up from the starving woman.

 

Varric leaned in and smoke lowly so that only they could hear. “Hey, Are you okay, Walker?”

 

Texas-Ranger was the next thing that came in her head, which brought an odd smile to the conversation. She nodded, gesturing to the two across the table. “Thankfully they were there to drag me home.” It then became apparent that the whole bar was quiet and looking at them, hoping for some explanation for the screaming coming from the Chantry. This would be her chance to either tell the truth or ease some worries, so she chose the latter.

 

Thankfully before she spoke The Herald nudged her elbow into a rather stiff-looking Solas while winking towards Varric. “That Commander Cullen though! Woof. No wonder he had her screaming I almost joined her!”

 

The bar patrons around them laughed and raised their mugs in cheers to their Herald. Athena could only blush and nod at her in thanks and Solas took the time to scoot his bar stool just the right distance to put some space between him and the apparently touchy woman. He cleared his throat and looked to Rathein, trying to obviously change the subject because Athena swore she saw the lightest hue of pink in her ears. “The Chosen of Andraste. A blessed hero sent to save us all.”

 

Without missing a beat, the Herald lifted her mug to her lips and drank, slamming it down upon completion and grinning at him. “Am I to be flying in on a gryphon while the sun rises in the east?”

 

He chuckled, finally breaking the grim and fatalistic face that he always wore. “Posturing is necessary, I am sure you are aware we travel to the Hinterlands soon, yes?”

 

Athena perked up from her meal, looking to them. “How soon?”

 

Varric groaned while stretching his back in the bar-stool. In the middle of his stretch he answered with a not-so-happy tone. “In a few days.”

 

Shit that was soon.

 

She put her head in her hands and looked into the now empty soup bowl. The food was turning over in her stomach and Rathein prodded her with the end of her fork. “Hey! What’s wrong? You could use some fresh air.”

 

She looked up to the ever-persistent Herald and groaned like a kid that was being woken up by their parents. Solas smirked at this and took a sip of his drink, looking over at all of the bar patrons. Varric slapped her on the back, now harder than the first time. “What’s a matter? Don’t like traveling?”

 

She shook her head, looking into her hands that tingled with potential magic. “I only know two spells and have never fought before. I would just be slowing you guys down, surely.” Rathein pursed her lips and patted Solas on the shoulder, who threw an uncomfortable glance toward her hand on his shoulder. Varric broke out laughing at the sight of his face, gesturing to the barkeep for another drink. Athena couldn’t help but smile as well. The touchy Herald was so friendly it was hard not to like her, but apparently Solas still had his walls and personal bubble up. That would be broken, in time. She wouldn’t though; she couldn’t be allowed to. She knew what was coming for this world and everyone in it and somehow she had to help them all with the limited skills she had.

 

“It’s a good thing you know two mages who would love to give you a crash course! Isn’t that right, Solas?” Rathein looked to the elf with a confident wink and he rolled his eyes, nodding in agreement.

 

“If that is what you need, Athena. Yes, I could assist in teaching you the fundamentals of magic.”

 

Well that was a relief but Rathein gave her no time to consider it. She grabbed her hand while tapping Solas on the shirt. “Come on, let’s see what you got!”

 

“Herald! She has not recovered from the ritual! Surely you cannot expect her to showcase her magic for you!”

 

“Oh come on! Have some faith!”

 

Chapter Text

Athena found herself being dragged outside the gates and towards the forest. Rathein herself hadn’t been there yet but she apparently had the good instincts to take a novice mage outside of the village. In the thick of the woods, she released Athena's arm, panting from the small excursion. Solas had simply twisterd open the veil to fade step to their side, his gaze piqued in curiosity towards the brash actions of the Herald. “Like I had stated previously, she is not strong enough yet. Give her time.”

  

For some reason this felt like a challenge from the Dread Wolf and her pride would not let it go unanswered. She searched for that spark within her chest and it quickly responded, flexing to the movement of her hands as she pulled her palms out from her belly until they were a foot from her chest. A red barrier flared out from her skin, forcing the two to step back and keep their distance. It flickered in the light the larger she made it, so she compromised on keeping its height in between them and her. Sweat formed at her brow and trickled down the side of her cheek.

 

“’Tis a good start, Athena. Do you know any offensive spells?”

 

Rathein was beaming with pride, her arms crossed across her chest while she bumped her hip into the elf next to her as a “Seeee I told you so!” He accepted the gesture without moving further away from her. He was obviously irritated with her childlike energy level but it reminded Athena of her own sister so she smiled, bringing the barrier back within herself.

 

“Only one. My friend in the Fade didn’t have much time to help me out.”

 

The words left her lips before she realized she wasn’t alone with Rathein anymore. Solas’s blue gaze broke for a moment but then leveled out into one of concern and confusion. “Your what in the Fade? You had a friend help you while you were physically in the Fade? Was it a spirit? A demon?” His voice almost turned to anger at the mention of demons, this causing a protective reaction from her.

 

She twisted her right hand from its flaccid position to where it was palm up and firm. A fireball swirled within her grasp and thankfully she had remembered to coat her hand and forearm in a barrier. “I met things in the Fade, yes. I thought you would be a little more considering. . . “

 

He crossed his arms, his tone growing agitated while the tempo and volume remained the same. “Considering what? That I am an apostate as well? An elf?”

 

She rolled her eyes, the fireball disappearing from her grasp while she tried to think of a way to cover for her slip up. Just be honest, Solas! You are the one who walks in dreams! A man with one foot in the real world and another in the fade! Having to choose her words was proving to be exhausting but thankfully Varric showed up to save her. “Come now, Chuckles, everyone at the bar talks about how you can talk to spirits and stuff. They aren’t a quiet bunch either, right, Athena?”

 

She nodded confidently in response with her fists at her sides. “I don’t care whether you’re an elf either. Elf, dwarf, Qunari, human, it makes no difference to me. There is a giant hole in the sky; we have bigger things to worry about than where someone comes from.”

 

Solas simply responded with a nod, tersely replying: “Apologies, Athena.”

 

Gods hearing him say her name brought small insects to her stomach but that feeling would have to be pushed down, waaaay down until the flame in her magic ate it away. With the ringing of the Chantry bells dusk was upon them. The three of them turned to go back towards Haven while Athena looked over her shoulder towards the forest. She knew of a cabin there where she would find the notes Adan needed for a potion. There was a logging stand there and ample elf root for her to try and brew basic healing potions. Varric turned to her: “Come on, Walker, aren’t you coming?”

 

She shook her head. “I’m staying out here. I don’t think it’s good for me to stay with them tonight after what happened this morning.

 

They all paused, looking to one another before nodding. Varric was the one to speak first. “I can’t and don’t want to imagine what you’re going through. I’ll see you at the tavern for breakfast.” He waved over his shoulder before turning back towards Haven, his heavy footsteps crunching in the snow. Rathein was quick to follow but before leaving she ran to give her a hug while quickly whispering into her ear: We’ll both make it through this. Sleep easy tonight. She ran to catch up with Varric and left just Solas, who was giving her an uneasy gaze. Fuck it all.

 

“Don’t you have some words of encouragement before you head back to your cabin?” Athena jested, getting a mere twitch of his lips before he gestured forward.

 

“I assume you will need wards if you are going to sleep out here. Unless your friend in the Fade taught you those as well?” He asked, his eyes searching for any sort of tell from her reactions or expressions.

 

Nu-uh. Not today. Especially because she was now too tired to argue or have any sort of reaction. “You’re right in your assumption. Come, I have a gut feeling there’s a woodsman cabin out here.” She didn’t even look to see his reaction, she felt it. There was a small decrease in the temperature around them and that told her everything she needed to know. Sure enough, just like the game, the cabin stood in the forest with wood on the side of the house to burn. She could hear Solas pause behind her, a hum of acknowledgement coming from him as he began to set up wards around the house. His magic sent a chill down her spine. It took her breath away. The way his aura clashed against hers was nearly violent in the way that they were so opposed. Rathein’s aura was playful, almost like a puppy. In shades of green and purple it intertwined with hers and didn’t have a care in the world, much like the Herald.

 

Athena walked inside the cabin and saw that it was indeed deserted. The healer’s notes were on the desk and there was a chill in the cabin that suggested the door had been open for some time. Paw prints of snow trailed around the cabin. She huffed. Wolves. They were her favorite animal in the real world but she had a feeling they wouldn’t be so friendly to her here, particularly the ones in the Hinterlands. She looked and took stock of everything in the cabin: bed, chamber pot, desk, fireplace with no embers, a rug, Solas. Wait, Solas?

 

While she was inspecting her new lodgings he had walked into the door frame and leaned against the side, his arms clasped behind him in that cold, calculated manner. When he spoke next his voice was low and it nearly had the tone of a growl. “A different song, hm?”

 

The color drained from her cheeks but she stood her ground. He was still trying to press into her but she took a step forward and flared out with her aura. It felt like it warmed the inside of the cabin and he smirked for a moment. “I am just curious, Fade-Walker. Forgive my intrusion; it is only natural. You claimed this demon said you had a different song? How did you escape it?”

 

She tilted her head to the side and gave her best sarcastic smile with a raised brow. “I never expected you to be the kind to eavesdrop outside of a woman’s bath, Solas.” Color rushed to his ears and he looked towards the fireplace with as straight of a face that he could manage. With a flick of his wrist he summoned a small fire within the hovel and the heat felt like a comfort immediately. Athena looked to the elf and sighed, rubbing the back of her neck. “Like I told Rathein, it seemed to pity me somehow. Just said my song was different. I don’t know what that means, you speak spirit so maybe you do.”

 

He gave a small nod, reaching a hand out to her. “If you would allow me to do a simple examination then. I do not wish to enter your mind; I just need to touch to get a closer read on you.”

 

Hesitantly, she agreed stepping forward and giving him her hand. Immediately she regretted it because his aura washed over her in a tidal wave of cold. It sent a chill down her spine but she felt frozen to the spot, her eyes glued on his face as he closed his eyes to “read” her. The icy chill of his magic ran along her skin, intermingling with her own aura before withdrawing into his hands once more. He nodded, letting her hand drop the front of her body. There was a lingering tingling on her skin and she wasn’t sure if it was from his magic or from the fact that she just had contact with a very cute man for the first time in a long time.  “It was right. There is a difference in your magic compared to other mages. I cannot pin it down. What is your origin, Athena?”

 

Her mouth felt dry and her hands were shaky so she shoved them in the pockets of her jacket. When she spoke it came out heavy and shaky. Damn thing. So he touched your hand, big deal? That is first base for elementary school children. Still, it was the only significant touch besides the ritual performed by Lysette and a hug from Rathein. “It’s hard to explain. Perhaps another time?” It was the kind of answer he would give and it looked to satiate his curiosity for now. As he turned from the cabin he rested his hand on the door frame while looking over his shoulder. “Be wary of the wolves, Fade-Walker.”

 

Athena looked to him with a confident smile. “Wolves do not frighten me, Solas. They are loyal animals who rely on their pack as a unit and are masters of the forest. I’m more frightened of the giant tear in the heavens, aren’t you?” 

 

He gave a shadow of a smile before walking back towards Haven in the dark of night. She closed the door when he was out of sight and pressed her back to it. A breath she didn’t know she was holding shakily left her mouth, her hand clutching her chest as her aura pulsated with her heartbeat. It would be difficult to survive here, let alone thrive here. How much time did she have before Haven was attacked? How much time until Val Royeaux? All of the events of the Inquisition flashed through her mind. The pain of it brought her to her butt on the ground in the cabin, tears stinging her eyes while threatening to slide down her face.

 

She would not succumb. She had to be stronger than this. For some reason that damned wolf brought her here, whether he realized it or not. Her eyes fell to a chair leaned against the side of the wall, a lute resting against it. Hm. That could pass the time.

 

She stood up from her defeated position on the floor and grabbed the lute from the ground. Its wood was tinted green and dust hadn’t even had time to form on the wood and strings. She plucked the strings and winced at the out of tune sound they made. There were no things to adjust the tone of the string so she would have to improvise. Guitar was not an instrument she knew but there were plenty of people she knew who played by ear, her father being one of them.

 

Athena took the lute to the rather firm bed no doubt made from hay and other “soft” plants. It had a little bit of give which gave her hopes for the night. She leaned against the pillow and plucked the strings, trying to memorize their pitch and where her fingers lay when she made the sound. This continued on for an hour before sleep overcame her and she surrendered to exhaustion.

Chapter Text

Unfortunately for Athena, she did not have a Fade-less sleep that night.

 

Come on, Fade-Walker.

 

You opened up for Desire!

 

What do you want? What do you want? WHAT DO YOU WANT?

 

The demons were endless and this time the Fade looked different. It was fields of never ending grass that came up to her knees. She was unsure of why she was brought to this place, the only thing that resembled it were the fairgrounds during the off-season in her childhood. This was faulted, something was off about the whole picture and she could not run fast enough.

 

Like a gazelle she burst through the grass, her arms and legs pumping in rhythmic motions to bring her farther and farther away from the demons. They were close on her heel, their claws digging and tearing at the environment around them to gain some advantage. They twisted the Fade to their making, the images flickering at the edge of her vision as she ran. One of the Despair demons gave up its lead to take in a deep breath and exhale a stream of frost at the Fade-Walker. Athena jumped, pushing with her hands out and forming her fiery barrier while turning heel to face them. Sweat felt like it was pouring down her back and her breath came in shallow pants. The demons clawed against her barrier, teeth trying to grab some sort of purchase and tear it away from her.

 

Her back was against a sharp wall suddenly, probably due to the demons’ wishes, the protruding rocks attempting to cut through her skin like a blade against paper. The flare of her barrier pushed out with every breath, flames lashing out towards the demons as she gave one last burst with her hands. It was able to catch the robes of two desire demons, the flames quickly disintegrating their frost magic and leaving them as a pile of rags. The others, greater and lessor terrors, used their claws to dig in and tear at the barrier. It exploded in a burst but soon it was just Athena backed into a corner like prey staring down the demons. There were no tears in her eyes, no pathetic cries of help, there was only crippling fear. The game could never animate or describe how awful these things were in real life. They fed off of all negative emotion and enjoyed their pursuits through the fade.

 

The Breach had scared off anything good and Desire was nowhere to be found. When she first had appeared in the dream-like world she had called for her friend, cupping her hands around her mouth to increase the volume. Her voice had carried for what seemed like a minute with echoes until she heard a response. It was the roar of a terror and it paralyzed her where she stood. Goosebumps exploded on her skin, eyes widening while her gaze searched for the source of the sound. The roar echoed again and from the ground itself came the demons. That was when she ran and it felt like she had been running for hours.

 

Exhausted, Athena shouted towards the demon and summoned a fireball in her right hand. It was the size of a baseball and the color was a weak orange. It struggled to maintain its shape but she willed it long enough to throw it at one of the lessor terrors. It stood back from the group to deal with its burns while the others took slow, agonizing steps towards her. Their eyes nearly glowed with greed and blood lust, their fangs dripping with blood from Maker knows where. She whispered a soft apology to her family as she felt the breath of the Greater Terror upon her face.

 

An explosion rocked the Fade, all demons turning around but instead were frozen in their place. A spontaneous blizzard tore through the area, knocking away the environment and leaving Athena in an empty field once more. She fell to her knees and covered her head to avoid any damage but she barely had time before a hand wrapped around her wrist and yanked her to her feet.

 

Solas stared down at her with determined eyes, a growl twitching the corner of his lips in what she assumed was a snarl. He then looked to the demons, snapping his fingers and exploding the ice on impact to leave the creatures in a pile of frozen rubble. With a wave of his hand he took control of the Fade and brought her to a peaceful glen of a forest. It didn’t look familiar to her so it must have been a construct of his mind. He released her wrist in a violent motion before stalking over to the other side of the clearing. This put a healthy space between them and she could only fall down to her hands and knees, breaths heaving in large shaky movements.

 

The tears finally came but they froze in her eyes when he turned to chastise her: “What were you thinking!”

 

His jaw was clenched as he narrowed his eyes at her, body leaning over her even though they were so far apart. She felt small, she felt weak, and she felt alone in all of this. She shook her head back and forth, tears streaming down her face while she tried to keep her teeth clenched. Don’t snap. Don’t snap.

 

“You should not have explored the Fade. The wards I put up would of sufficed if you were smart about it.” He tapped his forehead then gestured it into the air and that was a universal motion she recognized. Slowly she looked up from the ground at him, eyes full of embarrassment and hurt. There were no words to describe how she felt. The first time she had been in the Fade she had been in her physical form. She had luckily attracted the help of a nice demon and was able to find her escape learning magic practically by herself. Did this mean she was suddenly a master of the Fade in her dreams? All she knew was what she had learned from playing the game but that paled in comparison to actually feeling helpless and trapped in your own dreams. Her dreams at home were full of super-powers and random scenarios that would never come to pass. 

 

“That was fool-hardy. No wonder they suspected you of possession when you were flaunting about with demons and the like!”

 

Fwoosh! The fireball launched from her hand before she even realized it, her right hand raised from the ground in his direction. He effortlessly brought up a barrier but she had made her point. The blast forced him to back up a few steps and she took this time to dig deep, find that spark within her mind that was her body and pull it forward.

 


 

 

Athena gasped and rose from her sleep, hands clutched to her chest while her breaths came in heavy and pained heaves. There was a dried path of tears down both of her cheeks and they felt raw. Had she been crying all night in her sleep? She needed to scrub any trace of her dream from last night before she ran into the crew at the tavern for breakfast. With a huff of determination, she grabbed an empty pail and took down to the lake, smashing the ice with the bucket until she could push the bucket down to grab some of the frozen water. Thankfully her fire was still burning when she got back so she put the water over the flame while she stripped down to her underwear.

 

There were small straps of cloth on the healer’s desk so once the water was not freezing cold she soaked the strips in the water and washed her face, scrubbed her arms, legs, and torso. She pulled her air up into a messy bun using a piece of corded rope and put on the clothes from the day before. The sun was just beginning to peak up over the mountains so the wolves would be asleep by now. She pulled her jacket snug and shoved her hands into her armpits and ran from the cabin to the main gates.

 

Lysette had just come from her tent. She was stretching in the morning and Athena had to slow to not run into her. “Oh, I’m sorry!” The Templar stated, finally catching sight of who she was talking to. She took a step back, eyes not full of fear but guilt. Athena stopped and dropped her hands from the comfort of the warmth and looked her in the eyes. Her heart was racing and she wanted her run. Her body was not ready to forget what had happened to her but she understood to a point. They hadn’t even asked her name before they started. She was just a mage.

 

So they stood in silence, looking at one another.

 

The Templar opened her mouth but Athena didn’t give her time to spit out some fake apology. She turned on her heel and walked towards the tavern, puffs of steam hovering in the air as she huffed out frustrated breaths. Tears stung her eyes as she burst into the refreshing warmth that the tavern provided. Rathein and Varric were already talking over their empty plates with a cup of warm wine in their hands. She walked up and got a plate from the bar before sitting down next to the Herald, her head resting against her arms as she bent over and rested on the table. Varric nudged her arm with his hand, giving him a lopsided yet friendly smile. “Sleep well?”

 

She let out a sigh before looking up at him. It was hard to be in a bad mood when he was around. He just exuded happiness and it was obvious he just wanted everyone to get along. He had seen his fair shares of tragedy and knew what happened when there was infighting. He had been betrayed just like Hawke when Anders had blown up the Chantry. Maybe that is why he was one of the first people to try and be nice to her.

 

She quickly told them about her dream and what happened in the fade. At some point in the story Rathein put her hand on her forearm in comfort but at the end Varric gave a long whistle. “Demons man. I’m sorry, Walker.”

 

She shrugged, the door of the tavern opening but she didn’t look to see who was coming. She didn’t need to, she could feel the cold presence brushing up against her mind but she was too busy looking to Rathein to fight back. The Herald gave her hope when she smiled and tilted her head. “Don’t worry. I’ll teach you in lessons today. You ready to go?”

 

Athena quickly nibbled on some hot bread and drank a cup of hot water when his voice froze her in his tracks. “Are we to begin lessons today?” He pulled up a bar stool against Varric and gave her a cool gaze. There was no hint of anger or any hint that he was upset about last night in his face. He was probably pushing it down somewhere, just like her.

 

The ever-peppy Herald gave a nod while shooing Athena out of the tavern. “We’ll meet you up by her cabin. Get some breakfast first!”

 

As they were running out of the tavern Athena whispered a quick “thank you” under her breath, Rathein pulling her in for a sideways hug before continuing up towards the clearing by her cabin.

Chapter Text

“Again.”

 

Athena raised her barrier to block the Herald’s lightning bolt, her hands merely twitching now to accomplish the act. Barriers were getting easier. As long as she kept them to a consistent size, she could raise over a dozen before needing to take a sip of a lyrium potion. It tasted odd, like it was effervescent with some sort of medication for the flu. The moment it hit her stomach it felt like bubbles burst through her veins, bringing her back to a normal state of being with a side of pep.

 

She didn’t raise her barrier to block a fireball but instead covered her hands in a barrier and caught it like a football, turning her body and using the momentum to fire it back towards Rathein. Solas leaned against a tree and watched the lessons, interjecting when he felt the Herald wasn’t giving a good enough technical breakdown of the spell. For him, foundations and understanding were important in knowing the magic. For Rathein it simply happened. Which was ironic because when Solas cast spells the magic moved through him like air, following his very movements and will without hesitating. The perks of being elvhen she guessed.

 

It was obvious Rathein was trained in a circle. Her staff movements were crisp, precise, and repeated over and over again. Her magic was strong and the Mark definitely helped, but she was the product of a Circle and its teachings. They decided to take a small break to catch their breath. Athena pulled a wooden chair out of her cabin and scooted it over towards Solas. He curtly shook his head then gestured to offer it back to her. Well he missed out. She plopped her body down into the chair and stretched back until she could look at the sky. The Breach was large, terrifying but beautiful. The way the vortex swirled and the way she felt it swirl with her aura almost put her in a trance.

 

“You really think we can close it, Solas?” Athena called out to him, flicking her eyes over to where he stood only to find him looking at it as well. He nodded, his hands clasped behind his back while he thought.

 

“Yes, but we are going to need immensely more power for the Herald to be able to accomplish the feat. The mages are supposed to be in Redcliffe from what I have heard. Perhaps we could go to them when we travel to the Hinterlands?”

 

He looked over to Rathein who simply shrugged. “We need to find this Chantry sister first, then I will worry about the mages.”

 

They all gave a hum of acknowledgement before sitting in the silence. The wind whistled through the trees and blew harshly against their cheeks but none of them seemed to notice. For just a moment, the peace brought them a way to clear their minds of the mages, the Templars, the Breach, and the ever forming Inquisition.

 

“Have you given thought to what you want to specialize in, Athena?” Solas asked, his voice kind of far off as they looked towards the Breach.

 

She shuddered, crossing her arms across her chest while leaning the chair back until it was on its hind legs. For some reason when he spoke her name it sparked the flame that was her aura. It instinctively went to protect herself when she looked at him. It had been a while since he had openly tried to pry into her mind, but she had to be on guard around him. What they both knew could change this world but they had to keep it secret, keep the Inquisition safe. Solas was trying to right a wrong and Athena was trying to find a way home while saving as many lives as she could along the way.

 

“Actually. . . I’ve thought about being a shapeshifter.”

 

They both stilled, Solas giving her a curious arch brow. “Shapeshifter?”

 

Athena nodded in response, actually grinning at the idea of becoming another animal. It was something she had always dreamed about during her normal work life. She would immerse herself in stories and games, imagining for a second that she could be a being with powers. She laughed to herself and her current situation. She never imagined the training and work that would go into being a person with superpowers. In her dreams, it all came naturally to her.

 

“I’ve always been connected with animals and cherished their presence. To actually be able to run with them and call for their help in battle. . . I think that would be fantastic!”

 

Apparently her response was adequate because they both gave her smiles. Solas’s was curious but she let it slide off of her shoulders. From the village a messenger came to Rathein’s side, informing her that they would be leaving for the Hinterlands the next day instead of two days out. The Herald nodded and Athena cursed under her breath. “Well, let us get prepared. Solas, do you think you can teach her how to protect herself in the Fade or set up wards?” He bristled and crossed his arms across his chest but responded with a soft nod, his eyes staring through her with an icy glare.

 

As Rathein trotted off Athena sat forward on her chair and stood up, placing her hands on her lower back so she could stretch backwards until she heard a few satisfactory pops along her spine. Solas moved from his position against the tree and came closer to where she sat. “I think it would be best if we found you a staff. Casting without one is a good skill, having a staff just makes casting easier and it gives you an object that you can channel and strengthen your power through.” He looked to his staff then tossed it over in her direction. She caught it with a small yelp of surprise, her eyes examining the smooth wood and intertwining creatures that protected the orb at the top.

 

“Do you feel it humming in your grasp? Can you hear the enchantments sing beneath the wood? Focus on it, channel your energy into it.”

 

She closed her eyes and tightened her grip around it. Her aura pulsed from her fingertips into the staff and it instantly sparked to life within her hands. She could feel her energy shoot and then expand within the staff. It felt like a sword within her hand crafted from her own essence. It echoed the spark of her heart and made her feel oddly whole. The flame of her aura lit the orb atop a bright blue color. She used it to push herself to a standing position, eyes finally opening and looking to him for guidance. He made a small sound of approval, walking around the cabin while looking like he was calculating something in his head. “Follow my lead, feel with your own magic what mine is doing and try to replicate it.”

 

Athena nodded and stood a few paces behind him, stretching her aura out until she could feel the extension of his forming a dome over the cabin. With every flare of his magic it felt like a puzzle piece snapping into place in the world around them. He would set up small barriers and fixate them with a flash of magic, attaching them one by one until they encompassed the entire area. Every few pieces he would gesture for her to do the same. Their magic fought against one another, the fire and ice struggling to fit together as they constructed the barrier. Sweat dripped down the side of her face as they put the final pieces together. He nodded then looked to her with a small smirk.

 

Hey it’s a start!  She returned the smile, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand while looking towards the direction of Haven. “I guess I should go show my face to them. I haven’t really walked around since. . .well. You know.” He nodded and returned his academic and guarded stance, posture shoulder width apart with his arms clasped behind his back. She began to walk towards the village but then stopped, turning towards him and tossing his staff back into his hands. “Thank you. Hopefully I won’t be needing your help tonight.” Before he could respond she walked down towards where she knew Cassandra and Cullen would be.

 

The Knight Commander acknowledged her with a glance, nodding his head to her. His greeting was terse, short and borderline rude. “Athena.” His tone brought up her guard, eyes stern while she walked past him.

 

“Commander.” It would take them a while before they were on a first-name basis, but at least he knew hers now. She had a feeling that nobody would forget her name after she screamed it at the top of her lungs, but she made her point. They couldn’t go around treating people like mage or Templar or apostate. People were people, yeah? Shit. Now she was thinking like Sera. Perhaps they would get along now more than she did in her play-throughs of the game. Typically, the Red Jenny wasn’t a member of her party, but now she was seeking the comfort of normal people more than anything.

 

She turned the corner to see Cassandra going through her practice routine, beating up on a training dummy. There was a fierce determination in her eyes, eyes shining with the thrill of battle as she came down with an overhead strike with her sword arm. The Seeker looked to her, continuing her training. “Can I help you?” She spoke almost between gritted teeth. This elicited an uncontrollable eye-roll from Athena as she shifted some of her weight to one hip.

 

“Forgive me, Seeker. I heard we were heading to the Hinterlands tomorrow. I was wondering if there anything I needed to be briefed on before I prepare for our venture?” She tried to sound as formal as possible, even with her sarcastic stance and exhausted “I’m sick of the way you’re treating me” voice. Cassandra paused, her eyes knitting together in thought as she pointed over to the blacksmith with her sword. “You’ll probably need a staff to defend yourself with. There are reports from Leliana about rogue Templars and mages battling in the Crossroads. You would be wise to arm yourself and be prepared.”

 

Athena nodded and turned on her heel go towards the blacksmith’s area. She made a mental acknowledgement of the tents where Bull and his Charger’s would be staying in a few weeks’ time. As she came up to the blacksmith a gruff voice hollered over the sounds of the workers around him. Harritt cupped a hand to the side of his voice and called her name, waving her over. “You, Fade-Walker. Seeker said she would need some gear. Look in that chest over there, should find what you need. Let me know if anything needs fixin’.”

 

Almost like a child on Christmas morning she ran to one of the larger chests, finding a basic equipment and brown apprentice mail that looked to be exactly her size. She smiled and gave the blacksmith a nod of thanks and he nodded in response before slamming his hammer down on a piece of red-hot metal. She walked out to the side where Blackwall would eventually hold up, throwing the armor on over her cotton underclothes. It fit like a glove and boy did it make her feel official. The staff had a large metal hook at the top with twisted brown wood coming down to a white wooden bottom. It looked like a fire mage’s staff, which only caused her smile to beam with delight. She sheathed the staff into a small holder on her back and walked towards where Varric would be camped.

 

He was already starting to pack up when she gestured towards the tavern. “Want to grab a drink and some dinner?” The dwarf looked up with a surprised and curious smile. “Someone is feeling better. Sure, why not. You coming, Sparky?” Rathein came bumbling down the stairs and perked her head to the side. “What are we doing?”

 

Athena bounced on the balls of her heels. “Dinner!”

 

The Herald rubbed her eyes then looked her up and down. “Look at you finally looking like a mage. Come on, gang. Dinner to celebrate!”

Chapter Text

“Okay, how does this game two truths and a lie work, Walker?”

 

They were already through their meals and onto their second pints of ale. A gloss had already come over the Herald’s eyes - lightweight- and Varric was just starting to get warmed up into the conversation. Athena had somehow convinced them to get into a drinking game with her and they were more than eager to join.

 

“You state three things about yourself. Two of them are truth, one of them is a lie. You have to guess which one is the lie. If you’re wrong, you drink. If you’re right, you’re safe and the other person has to drink for not thinking of something clever enough. It’s an icebreaker game and I figured we could learn a little bit about each other before we are on the road tomorrow.”

 

They both looked to each other with nervous glances before shrugging and lifting their mugs. Rathein spoke first: “Alright I’m game! But you have to go first to show us how it is done.”

 

Athena cleared her throat, thinking of something off of the top of her head that would be an easy start to the game. “I used to have a pet cat named Coco, I used to be a healer, and I’m married to a Prince of Starkhaven.”

 

Rathein and Varric scoffed while saying “Starkhaven” in unison. Athena then raised her mug to them and took a drink. “Okay, Herald, your turn.”

 

She looked down at her mug, scratching the right side of her head where it looked like it had been recently cut short. “Hm. My favorite color is green, I hate animals, and I had a lover in the Templar Circle.”

 

Varric laughed while giving her an analyzing grin. “Templar lover? Too cliché. What do you think, Walker?”

 

Athena stared her in the eyes until she got a smile. Once she did, she nodded and responded simply: “Green.”

 

The Herald grumbled and took a drink, slamming the mug on the table. “How could you tell!?” Athena crossed her arms across her chest proudly, flashing her a smile.

 

“You blushed when you spoke of the lover. Haven’t you ever played cards? You can’t show your tells, Rathein. Your turn, Varric.”

 

He rubbed his chin with a gloved hand, clicking his tongue against the top of his mouth while he did so. He then snapped his fingers and gave them a grin that showed he would surely win this round. “I am in the Merchant’s Guild.” Throwaway. “I sleep with a stuffed nug at night. I really don’t know where Hawke is.” Athena didn’t even hesitate before pointing a finger at him accusingly. “Two lies isn’t fair, Varric.”

 

She knew he knew where Hawke was, so why throw in the nug? He didn’t seem like the soft and cuddly type. Apparently her accusation was right when a blush flushed his cheeks and he scratched at his protruding gold lucks on his chest. “Fine fine you got me. I’ll drink.”

 

They went back and forth for what seemed like an hour. They learned little things that could be explained in this world about Athena. That she didn’t have children, had never been married, but used to sleep with her baby blanket until she was 25 years old. The blanket thankfully didn’t make it in the trip or she would have had to show it to them. At one point during the game Solas walked into the tavern, his eyes searching the crowd until he found them. When he did find them, they were roaringly drunk. There were a few empty mugs at the end of the table and they were all laughing because Rathein had tried to convince them that she hasn’t kissed a girl behind a wardrobe in the Circle. Again, Her blush was an easy tell.

 

“What game is this?” The elf looked to them with a curious eye, a small smirk at the corner of his lips. Varric leaned over and pointed to the two girls, giving them a playful glare. “These two girls are liars. The both of them.”

 

Athena waved her hands in front of her to try and shoo the accusation away. “No, no noooooo.” Her voice slurring and heavy with ale. Rathein unsuccessfully tried to stifle a laugh and ended up making a small snorting sound instead. What time was it? The sun had been down for hours and exhaustion was pulling at the edges of her mind. This game couldn’t go on any longer so the Fade-Walker gave them all a wicked green before leaning her elbows on the table to support herself. “I have flown through the sky. I can see the future. I know what Cullen sleeps in at night.” For the last comment she gave a naughty eyebrow wiggle to the Herald who nearly fell out of her chair laughing.

 

Varric shook his head, standing from the bar stool. “Those are all too ridiculous. I think that’s a sign we better turn in for the night. Early morning, right?”

 

All of the table but Solas groaned. He seemed to smirk at their displeasure in the thought. Athena stood up from her position and realized she did it waaaaay too fast. She gripped the end of the table and let out a shaky breath before stabilizing herself with her staff. This thing did come in handy! They all headed out towards the cold air. It took a few seconds but she realized Solas was at her heel. He was giving her a watchful eye as they walked towards her cabin. “Yes, Solas? Can I help you?” She asked with sarcasm dripping from her voice, eyes glazed over as she shot him a somewhat happy glance. Good Heavens he was attractive. The cadence in his voice, the curve of his cheeks, and those thighs! She forced her gaze to stay unnecessarily glued on the path ahead so her drunkenness wouldn’t take over.

 

“You are in no state to put up wards tonight. Surely that is obvious?” His following smirk was almost snide. She made a sound that she thought resembled a growl low in her throat while walking ahead of him to the cabin. Thankfully she was able to snap her fingers and produce a small spark to start the fire in her fireplace. It picked up on the kindling she had gathered earlier that morning and soon defrosted the bits that had grown cold in their trek from the tavern to her cabin. She let out a sigh, rolling her neck around while she began to remove her armor and set it on the chair next to her bed.

 

Solas cleared his throat by the door, eyes averting her while she was undressing. She didn’t stop. During marching band sixty sweaty kids changed in front of each other so there was hardly any modesty in what she was doing, especially because their forms of underclothes covered so much of her skin compared to what she normally wore in her world. Here she was able to wear a linen top that resembled a tank top with white cotton bottoms that extended to her knees. “I placed the wards. You should be safe for the night. Both here and in the Fade. . . just don’t explore. Good night, Athena.” He shut the door and left without another word or chance to respond. It was easy to see the blush in his cheeks and ears from where she was standing but her main focus and goal was sleep.

 

The moment her head hit the bed she fell into a deep Fade-less sleep, thankfully.

 

The next morning was not so kind.

 

They rose with the sun and were on horseback by time sunrise had finished. Varric, Rathein, and Athena were all groaning on their horses at every unexpected bump or neigh. It had been almost twenty years since Athena had last rode a horse. She occasionally did the mechanical bulls at the local country bar but that was temporary. Riding a horse long-term was not going to be friendly to her thighs.

 

Almost with a mockingly perky trot Solas pulled his beige horse up to the three, tossing them each a small three-ounce vial of a peculiar purple liquid. It smelled similar to what Athena had consumed after the Templar purging ritual. “I figured you would all be needing help this morning.”

 

“Chuckles, you’re a life saver.” Varric was the first to flick the cork off the top of his vial with his thumb and swallow the contents. Already he seemed to sit a little straighter on his horse and the general pallor had faded. He raised the empty vial in thanks to Solas who nodded in return, watching the two women each drink their potions. Athena had a coughing fit after hers. She was still not used to drinking their magical potions ground from roots, herbs, and other things. Even as a child she disliked drinking medicine unless it was drowned in grape flavor. She knew she would not get that kindness here but it didn’t make the experience any less pleasurable.

 

Wiping the back of her mouth with her now gloved hand, she nodded to him with a weak smile. “Thank you. I really don’t know if I could have made the trip this morning without it. It’s been so long since I was on horseback. All this is going to be so new for me.”

 

Cassandra looked over her shoulder from her position at the front of the group. She was slightly less perky than Solas that morning but still fared better than the rest of them. “Our destination is a few days’ ride. You’ll have time to adjust.” Athena paused. Was the Seeker just nice to her, kind of? Her mouth hung slightly open in surprise and then made a low whistling sound. Good to know they were all warming up to each other somewhat.

 

Rathein rubbed her eyes with the palms of her hands before stretching upwards towards the sky. She was obviously a skilled ride since she used her thighs to direct the horse when her hands weren’t on the reigns. “You don’t ride? What did you do before all of this? You said you were a healer of some sort?”

 

Athena nodded, rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly while she thought of an appropriate answer that wouldn’t be too telling. Boy this was going to be difficult. “Yes. I worked in a very large  - er - clinic and assisted with wounds, infections and the like. We normally got the sicker people that were basically in the hands of the Maker already.”

 

The Herald tilted her head, much like a pup would at an odd noise, and retorted: “Why did you stop?”

 

Wasn’t that the question of the year? She had already been considering switching up professions, or at least job locations, back in her previous life. There had just been a stagnation that was bringing her down. Every day was repetitive and the monotony was bringing her only unhappiness. “I no longer got joy from it.”

 

This caught Cassandra’s attention. The Seeker slowed her large, black mare and came back to where it was closer to Athena’s side. “You didn’t get joy from helping people? That almost sounds crass.”

 

Athena shook her head before looking down to her saddle, hands wringing at the reigns. “I’m sure you’re aware, Seeker. Death is a heavy weight on somebody’s mind. When there’s too much of it, you have to stop and wonder how many people you’re actually helping. Even if you feel like you’re doing the right thing, there’s always that doubt.”

 

The group was silent in what she could assume was agreement. She could have sworn she saw Solas tighten his grip on his own reigns but there was no other cue that he had heard what she said. She took the silence as an opportunity to pat her mount’s side. He was a basic steed with a brown coat and black mane. She could only assume he had been used for labor of some kind. His trot was steady and paced like he had done it a thousand times before. In that moment of shared monotony Athena sympathized with him. They would need to shake things up a little for him then.

Chapter Text

Perhaps it wasn’t possible to animate exactly how beautiful the Hinterlands were, but Athena’s breath was taken away by the unrealistic landscape set before them at the Crossroads camp. Sweeping snow-peaked mountains thick with trees that rivaled to touch the sky. Bits and pieces of castles and ruins scattered across her vision, eyes nearly shimmering with delight. The rest of the crew was groaning while unpacking their mounts and tying them near the tents. They were exhausted from the ride but seeing their destination had awoken a new excitement within her. This was all actually real!

 

Athena began making a list in her head of what to expect from this area. Mages, Templars, bears, oh my! She made a mental note to write down everything that was vital to remember so she would have ample time to prepare and help out in some subtle way. Whether it be setting up glyphs in front of the trebuchets to push away enemies or by putting pillows in the mine shaft where the Herald would fall, she had to do something that would help. . . but not give her away.

 

Rathein had just finished receiving report from Scout Harding and looked to the rest of the group with a new look of determination. She was all fun and games but knew how to get serious when it counted. “It sounds like we’re going to meet some resistance when we’re down there. Are you all ready to go?” The Herald looked to each of them to get a gesture or nod of acknowledgement. Once she had them all she turned on her heel and turned down the hill to get to the Crossroads. Athena fell into step behind her, her staff sitting loosely in her hand parallel to the ground. Already she could feel her energy humming within the object, the hook blade at the top catching the sun’s light perfectly.

 

A shrill scream cut the silence between them and she could hear Cassandra unsheathing her shield while running forward, commanding them with her unquestionable authority. “Hurry! They need help!” The group took off behind her and Athena realized her pulse was already within her throat. The scene they came upon was chaotic. Inquisition members fought aside the villagers against mercenaries, swords clashing against one another while blood sprayed upon the ground. Blood didn’t make her squeamish, but the looks of anguish did. She had cleaned enough corpses to be comfortable with the dead, but it was the suffering that really made her uncomfortable.

 

“Rebel mages!” Solas called out, pointing his staff to the side where they were coming. He tried to reassure them that they weren’t Templars but Cassandra was quick to point out how little they cared. With a sweep of her hand, Athena raised a barrier in front of Cassandra and Varric as they chose the closer targets to work with. Her eyes looked for an opponent, her hand shaking with her staff in its grip. An ice mage fade stepped in a blur of black between the Seeker and Varric, a book levitating by his side as he mumbled a spell and aimed his palm towards Athena.

 

Without even thinking she pushed her staff’s end into the ground and flicked it up at him, a fireball forming at her will and launching into him. The force of the attack broke through his barrier and pushed him to the ground, the flames eating through his robes. His screams curdled her blood, a sick feeling coming to her stomach as she stepped over him. The flames ate at his skin, his hands scratching at his face in an attempt to stop them. The flames must have inflamed his throat to where he couldn’t breathe because it didn’t take long for him to be silenced. Athena felt her body go numb, face as cold as a soldier’s as she detached herself to continue on the battle.

 

The mages were taken care of when the Templars arrived, Cassandra trying to reason with them but it fell on deaf ears. One of the chargers with a body-sized shield stormed through Rathein’s barrier and knocked her over. Athena was quick to reach towards her and throw her barrier own onto the Herald. This left her vulnerable to a smaller shield bash that knocked her on her back. For a moment she saw stars but was drawn out of it by the sight of a sword coming down at her.

 

She raised her staff to defend it, the wood thankfully stopping the blade from hitting her face. With a feral scream she pushed her staff upwards to knock him back, the blade of her staff hitting the templar’s face. He staggered back, hand coming from his cheek soaked with blood. He roared, stabbing his sword into the ground while quickly chugging a vial of lyrium. Athena’s blood ran cold, her mouth ajar as she stepped back from him. No, no, no, no, NO! NOT AGAIN.

 

Anxiety clutched her stomach and her body stiffened, pupils constricting to their smallest point while she took a defensive step back. The Templar then raised a hand towards her and without thinking she screamed, thrusting both hands towards him and unleashing whatever her body would allow. Lightning rained on the soldier from her fingertips, it accelerating its process thanks to his armor and ending his life within a moment. She thought she could hear the slow decline of his pulse as it faded into nothingness. While she had dealt with her own enemies the rest of the party had cleared the field, their breath coming in pants and sweat on their brows.

 

The Crossroads were now littered with bodies, some of the enemies still struggling for their last breath. Varric was retrieving arrows and ending the lives of those that still clung on, a blank expression on his face as he did so. Rathein was drinking down a healing potion while nursing a small cut on her left arm. Cassandra wiped her brow, sheathing her sword while giving a nod of approval. “That should be all of them. Is everybody alright?” There were noises of reply in the area but Athena was still too stunned to speak. She looked to the Templar and the mage that she had managed to murder. Did they have families? Were there people worrying about them? Were they forced into this fight?

 

While the group was reforming and talking about future plans, she heard from the side: “Please help me! My wife needs help!” She knew that quest; she knew that voice and it would provide a momentary escape from the sense of death permeating the area. With an almost zombie like gait she walked towards the home of the Dalish couple and peeked her head inside. “Did somebody call for help?” Her voice was hollow but sincere, her gaze looking for the husband who was probably fretting over his wife.

 

Sure enough he was, his hands shaking above her face as she lay on the bed with ragged breathing. “Yes my wife. She has breathing problems. Our son normally has a tonic but he has gone off and joined some cult in the mountains.”

 

Athena nodded, rolling her arms up while she walked over to the window and slammed it shut. There was an empty pail by the door and she grasped it to go outside where the water wheel was. After filling it to the brim she came back to the home of the sick elf and hung the pail over the water. Before the husband could ask questions she looked up to him with a soft smile. “We will go and get the potion. In the meantime, keep this water boiling. This mountain air is too dry and your wife needs to not work so hard when she breathes. The steam from the water will help thicken the air of the room. It should make her more comfortable while we go look for your son. Try to keep the window and door shut as much as possible so you don’t lose any of the steam.” 

 

“Ma serannas, stranger.”

 

She walked out of the cabin and took a deep breath of the cold air. Helping them gave her mind a moment to get over the fight. She could feel that the color had returned to her cheeks, thank goodness. Rathein ran up to her with a worried expression. “Where did you go! We thought you had been hurt!” Athena shook her head, giving the Herald a quick embrace.

 

“You have that little faith in me? These people need a potion from the mountains. There’s a cult stationed there. We’ll come across it soon.”

 

The Herald sighed at the embrace, looking to villagers as they burned the dead and attempted to return to their normal lives. Cassandra hailed them over with a gesture and they followed. She spoke of Corporal Vale and Horsemaster Dennet and what we needed to do with both of them. Already Athena wasn’t looking forward to trekking across the Hinterlands for every little thing, especially that stubborn Druffalo that never liked to come down the river with her. Before Rathein decided which quest to choose first, Athena grabbed her shoulder, spun her around, and pointed up to the outdoors infirmary where Mother Giselle was tending to a wounded man.

 

“You might want to go talk to her first. It’s one of the reasons we came here, right?”

 

Rathein sighed and playfully punched her shoulder. “How did you even know?”

 

Athena winked back at her. “Gut instinct. Go on, talk to her. We’ll wait here.”

 

The Herald walked up towards Mother Giselle to talk of the Chantry and Val Royeaux. When she was out of earshot, Cassandra walked up to Athena’s side. There was an air of sympathy about her as the Seeker put a hand on her shoulder. Athena did her best to not twitch away from the touch. “Was that. . . your first kill?”

 

She stilled, biting her bottom lip while nodding. “I. . . have ended the suffering of some patients with. . . “ What was an old word for medication?  “Tonics to take away the pain. Their family was normally at the bedside to say good bye. That was peaceful and provided comfort. This. . . was different.”

 

The brunette warrior nodded, giving her shoulder a small squeeze before releasing her. Cassandra spoke with such certainty it was inspiring. “It gets easier. You did. . . .good, Athena. Was that lightning I saw?”

 

She knows of my capabilities? Damnit, Leliana. She nodded, a genuine smile creeping to her lips. “I didn’t mean to. It just kind of came to me.”

 

Varric approached them while sheathing Bianca onto his back. “In just the nick of time it looked like. I turned to cover you but you seemed to have it handled. Give yourself some credit, Walker.”

 

He slapped the middle of her back and knocked the breath out of her before sitting on a nearby rock to tighten his boots and gloves. Solas placed his staff in the sheath on his back, giving her a nod of acknowledgement with a slight smile. “Indeed, it was impressive. You are getting a grasp of your magic. Well done, Athena.” If she was elven, she had a feeling he would of called her da’len in that sentence and it irritated her in a way. She was not a child. She was a full-fledged adult with a boatload of experience under her belt. What good that does me here.

 

Rathein returned to them soon and explained what would need to happen. The Chantry was meeting in Val Royeaux and it was their job to go there and woo them somehow with their Inquisition magic and charm. The woman was certainly hopeful, even with the sarcasm dripping from her mouth as she explained their task. “What should we do first? It seems like there is so much.” Athena nodded and looked over to where the hunter was sitting next to a fire. He would want some rams.

 

She spoke up, pointing over in his direction. “I overheard he is looking for someone to hunt for meat for the village. They are running low with all of the attacks. We’re in the mountains so rams should be close, right? It shouldn’t take long with all five of us looking.”

 

Ram hunting was just as miserable then as it was in the game. With an easy flick of her staff she killed a ram with one shot, its body falling lifeless to the side. Solas was staying close to her while she hunted and it wasn’t often she would get a chance to ruffle his feathers without anybody else being close by. She began to hum the first notes of a song she remembered, her fingers drumming on the shaft of her staff while her eyes searched for another ram.

 

“I’ve got to be honest. I think you know. We’re covered in lies and that’s OK.”

 

He gave her a curious glance but kept to himself. He brought down a fennec and put the stilled creature in his pack while climbing up the side of the mountain.

 

“There’s somewhere beyond this I know. But I hope I can find the words to say.”

 

Her voice wasn’t strong or blatantly skilled. She had musical training but it was in instruments, not singing.  She was able to find the pitch but it was soft enough so that only the two of them could hear.

 

Never again. No-oo-oo. No never again. Cause you’re a God-

 

Solas stopped in his walk, hand gripping his staff. She took this opportunity to walk in front of him and she could feel his gaze piercing her back. The air around them grew a few degrees cooler while he did so. This only brought a smile out of her while she finished the part she wanted to sing.

 

“And I am not. And I just thought that you would know.

Chapter Text

They were able to close the rift at the cultist’s lair, give the potion to the thankful husband, complete the horse races, return a stolen wedding band to the widow, find the Templar and mage lairs, and yes, return the damn druffalo. They were now on the way to the wolf cave. It pained her to bring so many of them down, but their eyes glowed with corruption and their actions were not their own. Athena brought her staff down into a wolf to end its life, its neck snapping to the side with a final whine. She ground her teeth and snapped her staff to the side to get the excess blood from the bottom. They were on the outside of the cave and soon a demon would be inside to face them. The last time she had fought a terror was in the fade so preemptively she shielded the group with a barrier. . .which apparently they found odd.

 

Cassandra wrinkled her nose and walked forward, making sure to stay within the confines of the barrier. “What is this for?”

 

Athena brought her staff in front of her, keeping it in a shielding position. “Bad feeling. Be wary.”

 

The rest of the group paused for a moment but nodded, bringing their respective weapons out. Rathein headed the group this time, causing her own barrier to expand on her friend’s. The purple and red auras blended together to strengthen the barrier already in place. Within the first few paces of the cave a small batch of wolves caught their scent and howled. Instead of attacking they retreated further into the cave. Shit, they’re going to protect their alpha. Athena picked up the pace and walked in front of Rathein. The Herald tried to reach out and pull her back but it was too late.

 

She ran into the center of the cave and came face to the face with the terror and its pack of wolves that were there. The terror clenched its claws and bellowed a warning into her face, the wolves growling at her simultaneously. Instead of focusing on the furred creatures her eyes looked to the terror with a possessive rage that said: You’re mine.

 

In a sweeping motion she brought the bottom of her staff from the ground and pointed it towards the demon. A stream of flames followed and pushed the demon back but unfortunately this gave the wolves the cue to attack. They lunged at her and gnawed against her barrier. Arrows flew by and struck a few of them between the eyes, their falling cries bringing a pained expression to her face as she tried to expand on her new trick. Tucking her staff under her arm, she rubbed her hands together then separated them, mirroring a certain Sailor Scout she knew while summoning lightning between her palms.

 

The storm magic raged within her hands until it was impossible to contain. The moment before it broke free she launched it at the demon. It paralyzed the creature mid-scream and suddenly it was even further paralyzed by a layer of frost. Solas came to her side, standing so close she could touch, with a look of determination and- was that pity towards the wolves? Cassandra brought her sword down on the demon while Rathein unleashed a barrage of energy attacks towards it. The demon was brought down quickly, the wolves suddenly being free of its grasp.

 

Athena couldn’t help herself. She stood in front of them, making a shooing motion with her staff and even putting off some pulses of force to get them to flee. “Go on, you’re free now. Get out of here.” The wolves, however, were already blinded by blood-lust. They bared their fangs at her and growled, slowly encroaching upon her as if she were prey. She shook her head, refusing to launch any more spells at them. Why are they still attacking! They are no longer under the demons control.

 

Solas sighed, obviously picking up on her frustration. “The demons affects appear to be lingering.” He cast his arm out and covered the ground and their paws in frost. It made them easy pickings for Varric, Cassandra, and Rathein. She backed up until her back was flesh with a rock wall, tears in her eyes as she looked upon the fallen bodies of half a dozen wolves. Their final cries echoed through her mind until they dissolved into a soft whine. The whine continued while she found her breath and it took her a moment to realize it wasn’t in her mind. . . and the others couldn’t hear it yet.

 

She gave them a quick glance before following the sound of the creature. It was young, the pitch was high, and it sounded scared. She picked up her pace and found herself in the corner of the cave and hiding behind a pile of rocks was a puppy. A wolf puppy with pitch black fur and innocent blue eyes. She smiled, bending down to her knees and holding a hand out to the pup. Its whine ceased, its ears pressed back to its skull while it came out with its tail between its legs. “Ssshh shhh it is alright, little one. Come here.” The pup was resistant but it came out to sniff her hand, its wet little nose pressing against her index finger.

 

Before it could run she picked it up and pressed it against her chest. Its fur was cold and it was shaking. Doing a quick check, she tucked it, well he after the check, into the vest of her armor and made her way back to the group. They had just finished looting what they needed from the wolves (teeth, meat, and some furs) when she arrived with a beaming smile on her face. Cassandra predictably drew her sword, voice strained and judgmental as she asked: “What is that?”

 

Athena gave her a look that screamed “Seriously?” before responding with a deadpan voice, eyes meeting the Seeker’s in challenge. “It’s. A. Puppy.”

 

Varric and Rathein laughed, Solas giving an approving smile while approaching her, hand outstretched. “May I?” She nodded, opening up her vest so he could scratch the small pup behind his ears. The pup was leery of the new strangers but he nuzzled in closer to the heat that Athena’s body provided. “He seems to like you, Athena. Where did you find him?”

 

She jerked her head back towards the corner of the cave. “Back there. I think it was the last one left. I think one of these wolves was its mother.” There was a ghost of a frown in her eyes but she shook her head and nuzzled her nose against the wolf’s pup. “I think I’ll call him. . .Kain. He looks like a Kain, what do you guys think?”

 

Rathein nearly skipped over to her, pressing her curious face right at the level of Athena’s chest. “Oh look he is so cute! Can we keep him, Cassandra? Please?” It was like asking a parent. Cassandra caught the tone in which she asked and scoffed, rolling her eyes while sheathing her sword.

 

“Athena, you are responsible for the creature. I will not wake up to wolf droppings in my bedroll.”

 

Athena could not contain her glee. They left the cave and returned to the farm, alerting Dennet’s wife of the wolfs’ demise. Rathein had been smart and delegated the watchtowers to Inquisition agent’s at the camp near the farm and they were able to get started on them. That progress was enough for the stubborn horse master since he finally agreed to give his horses and come along with them. The last part took some convincing from Cassandra, pulling on his beliefs in the Chantry. It was funny how even religious guilt carried between worlds. 

 

Finally, they returned to their camp and she couldn’t wait to set up a small bed of fabric scraps and some of the wolf furs they collected. Morbid as it may be, Kain seemed comfortable within the wolf furs. He instantly fell asleep when they set up camp, his little whines coming with each breath while he slept. She walked out and set on the benches surrounding a campfire. The group seemed tired, but excited. Solas spoke first: “I think we have attracted the attention of the Chantry now. Should we head to Val Royeaux?”

 

Rathein gave out an over-dramatic sigh before nodding, throwing a piece of wood into the fire. “I guess that would be the next logical step. The templar and mage threat are handled here and we have the horses the Inquisition will need. Can you think of anything else, Cassandra?” The Seeker shook her head, tucking in the braid that fell across the front of her face. “No, I think whatever remains can be given to some of our agents. Not every mission requires your attention, Herald.”

 

“Varric?”

 

He shook his head and leaned back in his chair while rubbing a polishing cloth over Bianca’s side. “No I think a little trip to Orlais would be a nice break from all of this outdoorsy stuff. Walker?”

 

Athena looked up from the flames and nodded. The city of Val Royeux would be her first experience with Orlesian civilization here. The Great Game! The masks! The fashion! They had earned a small amount of coin by performing their missions and selling what trinkets and equipment they did not need. Perhaps it would be enough to buy a book on shape shifting, if such a thing existed considering it was a rather taboo specialization.

 

The dwarf looked up with a smile that could only mean trouble. “What’s that game we played last week, Walker? Two truths and a lie? I don’t think Chuckles or the Seeker ever got a chance to play.”

 

Solas leaned over and rested his elbows on top of his knees. “No, you were all at the end of your evenings by the time I arrived. I think I understand the premise if I may start?”

 

There was no objection from the group but Athena raised a single brow in curiosity. He sat up in his posture, eyes to the sky while he thought of options. They must have come because he gave a small smirk. “I am from a small town north of here. I have vallaslin you just can’t see them.” This brought a curious hum from Cassandra while he finished. “And I am looking forward to going to Val Royeux because of the frilly cakes they sell.”

 

Rathein slapped her knee with determination, pointing a confident finger at him while almost shouting: “Cakes! You almost eat like a bird. It’s amazing you have any energy to cast spells! There isn’t a chance in the Black City that you eat those things.” Varric and Cassandra smiled and nodded in agreement. Solas gave a soft laugh before looking to Cassandra. It looked like they were about to move onto the next person when Athena’s voice cut through the roar of the fire. “Vallaslin.”

 

They all froze, eyes slowly turning to Solas as he grew pink in the cheeks with a smirk on his lips. “How did yo-“

 

She shrugged with a confident smile. “Everyone has tells, Solas. Yours is just harder than theirs.” She pointed her thumb in the direction of the other three. It took a moment to settle in but when it did Rathein’s laugh soon echoed through the hills. “NO. WAY.” Solas rubbed the top of his head while shooting a playful glare in Athena’s direction. She winked back at the elf, suddenly feeling a warmth spread to her chest and cheeks. He was becoming friendlier with her. She noticed in the past couple of days there had been fewer pokes from his aura. To keep him from seeing the blush she looked up to the moon and leaned back, faking a yawn while stretching. “We have time to play this on the road tomorrow. Let’s hit the hay.”

 

She luckily shared a tent with Rathein so it wasn’t long before they were sleeping in their bed rolls. Kain had wondered over and nuzzled his body up against Athena’s side, his breaths syncing with hers while her mind drifted from consciousness. . . and entered the Fade.

 

The greens were brighter here, happier almost since they had put some distance between themselves and the Breach. It was still large but it wasn’t as threatening from the Hinterlands. The landscape was empty, open for her to sculpt as she suspected. Before she could even have time to explore a familiar voice caught her attention.

 

“You seek to be a shapeshifter? I can help.”

 

She whipped around to see the face of Wisdom smiling at her, hands clasped behind her back in an oh so Solas fashion. Without even thinking about it she ran forward and threw her arms around the ethereal elven spirit. The spirit didn’t even hesitate to hug her back, a hand coming up to stroke her back. Athena looked up into her yellow eyes. “I was so worried! Oh!”

 

Wisdom looked at her with lips slightly pursed while she waited for what was to come next.

 

“You can’t tell him. You can’t tell him anything of what you saw in my past. . .please.”

 

She remembered that when they first met Wisdom had looked into her mind to answer her own questions. She trusted the spirit. In the game Solas had spoken about how they were close friends. Perhaps she could trust her with her own secrets? Wisdom chuckled under her breath and stepped back from the embrace. “Of course, Victo- I mean Athena. I heard you want to learn shapeshifting. I can teach you what it will take to do so, it is up to you to put in the practice.”

 

Without hesitation she nodded, eyes nearly glowing with a smile. The spirit nodded and placed a hand on top of her head. There was a warm feeling that flowed through her body. Her mind whispered of connections with animals, how to call on them, and how to finally shift her shape into one of them. Shapeshifting required a lot of energy and focus that she didn’t have yet, but she grew stronger each day.

 

Wisdom stepped back with a satisfied nod before looking over her shoulder. “I must go. I am being called for, but before I go someone was actually looking for you.”

 

Athena pointed to the center of her own chest. “Me?  Why me?”

 

Before dissipating the elven spirit answered with a laugh in her voice. “I will let them explain for themselves.”

 

“Oh-wait! What do you mean?”

 

It had hardly been five seconds before Athena was tackled to the ground from behind. She rolled to her back and brought a fireball to her palm but was greeted by another spirit, not a demon. It wore a large brimmed hat and a floor-length sundress. Its smile was contagious and she couldn’t help but give a nervous smile in return. “Um. Hi. Who are you?”

 

The spirit stood up and smoothed out the fabric of its long, billowing dress. It then made a “ta-da” motion while giving its most genuine smile. Athena stood up slowly while never taking her eyes off of the spirit. Something was familiar, pulling at her memories. It was the eyes. . .the smile. The answer fell from her lips in a surprised whisper. “Desire.”

 

The spirit jumped off the ground in child-like excitement, clapping her hands together before correcting its friend. “No-no-no. I’m Inspiration now. And it’s all thanks to you!”

Chapter Text

“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.”

 

“Solas.”

 

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.

 

“Me?”

 

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.” 

 


 

 

 

Chapter Text

The next morning when she woke, Kain was twitching in his sleep beside her, his little paws flicking while he accompanied the movement with a gurgled whine. Athena bent down and placed a kiss on top of his head, wrapping him in the wolf fur while she quickly got dressed back into her linens and armor. She tucked the midnight furred wolf pup into her vest after packing up her bedroll. He stayed content in his sleep, nuzzling further down into the fur so he wouldn’t be disturbed by the outside cold. She giggled and thought to him: You are safe little pup. Somehow, she felt like he believed it. He opened his eyes and met her gaze, the innocence shining through but he nodded and immediately returned to his sleep.

 

Did he just nod at me? No, that’s impossible. He couldn’t of heard me.

 

As she threw her potato-sack feeling bedroll onto her back she remembered that Wisdom had given her a blessing in regards to the abilities of a shapeshifter. The information trickled in now. She knew she could learn how to commune with animals, how to call on them in battle, and eventually how to become one of them herself. The idea was invigorating and it gave her the boost she needed to lift up the tent flap and greet the outdoors. Cassandra and Varric were already packed up, Rathein trudging a few steps behind them. Sleep hung heavy on the Herald’s eyes, crust still sleeping in the corners. Her hair was put into a type of feaux-hawk from the apparent tossing and turning she did in her sleep.

 

Solas exited his tent as she did but his horse appeared to be packed already. He shut the tent behind him while glancing over towards her, a small smile coming to his lips as he nodded in her direction. “Good morning.”

 

She returned the gesture, meeting his gaze for a moment before blushing and turning towards Rathein. The brown-haired woman gave the show that she was ready to go, seeing as she hopped on her horse and looked to the others. “My my, somebody is not a morning person.” Athena chided at her, walking up to her side and patting her hand on her friend’s thigh.

 

Rathein groaned in response, playfully kicking her foot at her. “Val Royeaux is a long way and it would be wise to stop in Haven first and update the council. I would also like to sleep in an actual bed for once. Somebody snores.” The short-haired woman made an obvious turn towards Varric, eyes narrowing into daggers in his general direction.

 

The dwarf shooed the insult away, pulling himself up to his own horse with ease. Bianca was secured into what looked like a special harness on the side of the saddle. Athena quickly grabbed her bedroll and tucked it in with rope on the side of her saddle, pulling at the ties to make sure they would fit. Before mounting her horse, she slid her staff onto the back of her armor, keeping Kain tucked into her vest at all times. He didn’t seem to mind the movement much.

 

Cassandra rode to the front of the party and with a signal of approval to their arrangement began the journey back to Haven. The horses started off at a simple trot which allowed Athena the chance to grab her lute off of the side of her saddle and test out what Inspiration had taught her last night. Previously unskilled fingers now just seemed rusty as she was able to find notes and play a few bars of the melody before losing her spot again. At least it’s not out of tune. This one is for you, friend! She echoed the song that Inspiration was playing in the background of her and Solas’s conversation last night. The notes flowed over the party and brought a satisfied sound from Solas in the back of the group. When it was finished Varric clapped in appreciation before asking: “Are you a bard too, Walker? You don’t look Orlesian to me.”

 

Athena shook her head, patting the lute on the side for doing a good job before putting it back in its simple holster on the side of the saddle. “Actually a friend in the Fade is giving me lessons. Never played a day in my life before this whole thing.”

 

The dwarf gave her a look that was uneasiness mixed with being impressed. “Well I guess I should thank the Stone I don’t dream like that because it sounds freaky and complicated. You and Chuckles can keep the spirits to yourself.”

 

She looked over her shoulder to meet Solas’s gaze. He seemed to be expecting it, smiling and raising his chin slightly in return. It was as if he was saying to her: We’ll keep the Fade to ourselves. She turned her head back towards the trail, the very thought causing her thighs to clench together in nerves and her stomach to turn over on its end. Later in the game the Fade was a very interesting place if you were an elven woman. That probably meant. . . .it was impossible. He aspired to save his entire race from his past mistakes and there she was: a mistake that didn’t belong there.

                                                                                                    

The thought suddenly turned the hope and joy in her mouth to ash, a frown lingering at the edge of her lips as she squeezed her thighs and urged her horse to break into a run. Cassandra called out to her, reaching a hand like she was going to try and grab the reigns to stop the horse. “Wait, where are you going?”

 

Athena called out without even turning her head, urging the faithful steed underneath her with her movements. “I just need to wake up a little. I won’t go too far.” As if he was listening to her, the horse let out a determined cry before breaking into a full sprint. She leaned her body against the horse’s back, keeping a protective hand over Kain as he slept. The bracing cold wind sliced at her cheeks, remnants of the morning drew flying through the air as the powerhouse underneath her kicked it up with his hooves. He sensed her need for freedom, for a place to think. He did not stop until the sadness had left her face completely. Their ragged breaths came in sync, the horse falling victim to a shudder that started at his head and ended with a large flick of his black tail.

 

She quickly dismounted and leaned against the closest tree, her hand keeping her from falling over as she caught her breath. The ride was exhilarating! There was a moment where she felt absolutely connected to her mount and they needed the same thing: escape, adventure! She turned to share her appreciation but found the horse already right behind her. His eyes were bright, thankful almost. She pressed her forehead to his and stroked the side of his face. He pressed back into her and for a quiet minute they simply breathed together in unison. Then, like a whisper, a thought came into her mind.

 

Prince.

 

Somehow she knew that was the answer to a question she meant to ask. She held his head in her hand’s, leaning back to get a good look at his eyes while asking out loud: “Is Prince your name?”

 

The horse let out a grunt of approval, pressing his head into hers once more before backing up. He now had a youth like glow to him, the sun warming his brown coat as he shook it out proudly. The sound of hooves and people talking brought both of them to look over to the main trail. “I guess they caught up with us. Should we head back?” Kain sneezed within the inside of his vest, burying his head back within the safe confines of her chest. “Yeah, I guess so, huh? Alright, Prince.” She smoothly slid onto the saddle and grabbed the reigns. Like instinct, he began to move towards the trail, obviously following her train of thought of where to go. There was no more resistance against the reigns in her hand, no rebellious jerks of his head or sounds of restraint. After a few moments of silence, Athena tentatively dropped the reigns in front of her and flinched preemptively, waiting for him to take off in a sign of anarchy.

 

But he followed the course, pulling up besides Solas at the rear of the party. He gave her a look full of concern, leaning over to speak so low that nobody else could hear him. “Are you alright?”

 

His concern for her put a warmth in her chest, it rising up like bubbles and bringing a smile to her face. She nodded, leaning forward to pat Prince on his neck. “Just needed a minute to breathe is all. Did you sleep well, Solas?”

 

He shut his eyes and shook his head back and forth, a knowing smile brightening his features as he succumbed to a nod. “Yes. Thank you. And you?”

 

Athena nodded in response rubbing a hand nonchalantly on the top of Kain’s head as he slept. Solas’s gaze drifted to the wolf, eyes knitting in confusion. “Are you familiar with wolves in the Dalish history?”

 

She lied, shaking her head while looking to him. “I’ve heard some of the elves around Haven say things like “Dread Wolf take you” when being frustrated with someone but that is my only exposure.”

 

He rubbed the bridge of his nose with one hand, keeping the other on the reign of his own mount. “Wolves are normally considered a bad omen. One of their Gods was known as the Dread Wolf and they put up shrines to appease him, hoping he will not catch their scent and pray on their clan.”

 

She scoffed while looking down at Kain. “I am not elvish; I do not fear the wolf. Besides, he’s too cute to be ferocious right now. I think I’m going to train him to hunt and fight with us like a Mabari. What about you, Solas? You aren’t Dalish. . .but do you believe in this Dread Wolf?”

 

She heard him laugh, the dark tone of his laughter sliding over her mind like a fog. It sent a shiver down her spine of both fear and excitement, her stomach tightening in response. He then looked to her with an almost wolfish grin before clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “No, I suppose not.”

Chapter Text

The trip back to Haven seemed quicker than the trek out to the Hinterlands. They came into the village with the sun at its highest point in the sky. Already Athena could hear the soldiers practicing their drills outside and the loud clamoring of the blacksmith’s workers. Prince was exhausted from the journey, his trots growing heavier as she led him into the stables and placed him in front of a water trough. She removed his saddle and took the bit from his mouth, tossing it to the side on the rest of his equipment. Dennet called for her from the other side, his face twisted up in frustration. “Hey! Tie that one up!” She waved him away with a gesture, patting Prince’s side while she stretched down in a poor attempt to touch her toes.

 

“He’ll be fine!” She responded with a strained voice, snapping back up to her full posture while looking to her riding companion. He let out a sound that almost sounded like a laugh, his tail flicking around to try and smack her as she left.

 

Kain had grown in size and confidence on the journey back. He walked in time with her steps and didn’t venture too far away unless there was a creature close by that he could chase. Athena led the pup to her cabin, setting down the wolf furs and scraps of blanket at the end of her bed for him to sleep on with a chair pulled up next to it so he could have a halfway mark to jump to. He wiggled his butt in determination before bounding up to the bed. While he was romping about she took the time to wash her face since the last river wash had been a few days prior. Not having a constant stream of running water readily available was slowly killing her, but she knew she would have to adjust. 

                                                                                                    

The battle and traveling was changing her body, that much was obvious. There was a leaner look about her, the muscles of her arms gaining more definition as each day went on. There were subtle changes but overall she was happy with them. It took so much motivation to work out back home. Here, she didn’t really have an option. It was battle, travel, or literally die. She used a softer bathing rock by the basin to scrub the dead skin off of her face and neck before rinsing off with frigid water. She picked up the least foul smelling cloth and dried her face before down-dressing into her basic linens and jacket.

 

As she walked out towards Haven the pup did not stray far from her heel, acting as her shadow while they went through the town. By the time they reached the Chantry, Rathein had already come upon the mages and Templars fighting. There was still some bickering going on. Athena gave some shoulder-pats of solidarity to the mages as she walked by. They look to her with startled glances but then acknowledged her and smiled in thanks. The Templars seemed to nearly steam with anger towards them, but she knew her perception of them was biased from her experiences.

 

Commander Cullen had his arms crossed while trying to back the greasy-feeling Chancellor down. “Order will never be restored as long as this rebellion is allowed.” The Chantry member gawked, his words dripping with false-purpose. The Herald rolled her eyes and made a small comment towards Cullen about hoping Val Royeaux wasn’t full of people like the Chancellor. Athena walked up to her side and put her body in between Rathein’s and Roderick’s. “Rebellion such as yours, Chancellor?”

 

He tried his best to keep in control of his “power” stance. Nobody in the group of mages and templars was listening to him anymore so it was the perfect opportunity to strike him down. “Rebellion like mine? Whatever do you mean?”

 

She scoffed while flicking her hand in the air, eyes narrowed in anger towards his blindness. “All you are doing is stirring the minds of the people of Haven. They are all victims here and have suffered a great loss. The Divine’s death is felt by everyone but you are so quick to forget her memory and put another person on the Sunburst Throne before it has even grown cold!”

 

Cullen gave a small “mmmm-hmmm!” noise behind her and it fueled her to know they were agreeing on something. Rathein nudged subtly into Athena's side as a push for her to keep going, the smile of peace on her friends face now edged with wickedness. “The faith of the people is shaken, Chancellor. Can you not feel it? They need time to be grounded in their beliefs again before they put their trust in another Divine. For now, let them put their faith in the Inquisition because we can give them something tangible here and now to believe in. We are trying to close the whole in the sky that threatens the world. What are you doing to help?”

 

The Chancellor opened his mouth to argue back but was actually speechless. Shame flushes his cheeks, his eyes and their messy, thick eyebrows furrowing in blind anger. Rathein took this as a cue to head into the Chantry, tapping her on the shoulder while jerking her head towards the large building. The Herald went through the doors and she took this as her opportunity to leave. “Another time, Commander.” As she walked by him, her shoulder brushed up against his armor and he quickly murmured: “thank you” under his breath as she did. He turned on his heel and followed the two women into the war council room where everyone was gathered and waiting.

 


 

Josephine started, “Having the Herald address the clerics is not a terrible idea. . . “

 

Cullen raised his lips in a snarl, looking at the Ambassador with an almost disgusted stare. “You can’t be serious.”

 

She continued, appearing unaffected by the Commander’s comment. Go get him, Josie. “Mother Giselle isn’t wrong. At the moment the Chantry’s only strength is that they are united in opinion.” Cullen rubbed the bridge of his nose while shaking her head. Athena couldn’t tell if it was because of Josephine’s response or if he was starting to get the lyrium headaches.

 

Leliana chimed in. “And we should ignore the danger to the Herald?”

 

Rathein shrugged, crossing her arms confidently across her chest. “They’re just words. What can they do?”

 

The Nightingale shook her head but then Cassandra strode up to the Herald’s side. It looked like her armor had been quickly polished and her hair had been washed. At least someone got the time to take a proper bath. Athena couldn’t even imagine what her hair looked like pulled up into some unidentifiable up-do after days of sweaty travel. The Seeker spoke, “I will go with her.” Athena nodded, stepping close enough to the Herald to bump her hip into hers. “So will I. I’m sure Solas and Varric will accompany as well. The Herald will be protected.”

                                                                                                    

They all made a motion of agreement before returning to their duties. Cassandra looked to both of them and actually gave them a kind smirk. “We will leave at dawn. Take this day to relax and recover. Val Royeaux may not have the wolves and demons, but their politics are just as vicious, if not worse.” Rathein shooed the Seeker’s concerns away and left, which left the Seeker and Athena in the council room last.

 

“Seeker, do you have a moment?”

 

Cassandra almost seemed surprised. She looked Athena up and down before nodding, evidence of a smirk still haunting her lips. “Yes, Athena, what can I help you with?”

 

She rubbed the back of her neck, looking up towards the ceiling before coming down to meet her gaze. “I was wondering if you could run me through some training exercises. I see you out there torturing that poor dummy and I know I need to polish up my battle techniques. If I am ever out of mana and am pinned against a wall, I would like the ability to fight someone off with my weapon.”

 

The Seeker approved of this, her lips twitching into a smile while she gestured for them to move outside. “That, I could do. Meet me in a bit by my normal camp. I can run you through a few drills and the Commander might be able to assist."

 

Athena patted the brunette on the pauldron before exiting the Chantry. She made a mental note of where Vivienne would soon be lurking and smiled to herself. The First Enchantress was an absolute beast at the Game and a cold-hearted bitch, but it was something she loved about her. She would be the perfect person to recruit to bring in Orlais’s trust.

 

She took a moment to retrieve her staff and give Kain some jerky to nibble on from the make-shift kitchens. The pair walked down to the training quarters where Cassandra hailed her over with a gesture. She had her own sword unsheathed and Athena instantly cursed herself for not bringing a practice wooden sword for the Seeker to use on her instead. This is going to hurt.

 

She brought her staff from her back and held it in a diagonal position in front of her, the blade of the staff catching the sun’s rays and almost glowing. The Seeker looked at the staff then tossed her sword into her dominant hand, acting like the weapon was weightless. “Alright, I will just throw a few simple attacks your way. Try to block them, okay? I’ll progress into more difficult moves and throws as your skills improve.”

 

Athena nodded, regret and doubt suddenly pitting in her stomach like a rock. Without hesitation, Cassandra came in with an overhanded swing of her blade. Out of instinct she raised her staff to block the blade but the Seeker countered with a soft blow to her stomach with her open non-dominant fist. The move knocked the air out of her, it being sucked out of her lungs in a sharp movement while her face scrunched into a frown.

 

The Seeker chuckled while returning to her starting stance, tilting her head in hesitation. “Maybe we should start simpler.”

 

The pair went back and forth and with every punch or fall to the ground Athena improved. As the day went on, Rathein and Varric brought their meals to the side and began to watch them. They didn’t speak, but their eyes followed the movement of the battle. There as the occasional “ooh!” or laugh when Athena was foiled but they showed their support with silence. By the time dusk was settling on the horizon, she was able to go toe to toe with Cassandra for almost a full minute of back and forth attacks. In a push of strength, the Seeker thrust forward with her blade and she side-stepped it, quickly kicking up the bottom of her staff to strike against the warrior’s open abdomen.

 

“Oof!” The attack brought a wince to the short-haired woman’s face, Athena taking the moment to raise her hands and shout in victory. It had been the first successful attack she had made against the Seeker and damn did it take long enough. While she was celebrating her progress, Cassandra sheathed her sword and rubbed her stomach where the attack had landed. “Good job, Athena. I think we should retire for the evening. It is a shorter distance and easier journey to Val Royeaux but you will need your rest.”

 

Athena gave her a smile and shook her hand in thanks while using the opposite hand to sheath her staff on her back. “Thank you, Seeker. I truly appreciate it.” She then turned to see Rathein and Varric giving her a slow golfer’s clap. The Herald stood from her spot and slapped her hand down hard on a spot on her arm where Cassandra had gotten a good hit in, and the devilish woman knew it. “Good job, Fallen. Maybe you’ll be able to actually hold your own in battle now.”

 

Before she could protect Rathein gave her a playful wink. “I’m kidding, you do fine. I had a bath drawn up for you. You should get to bed.” Athena could not argue with a good bath. The mint oils already floating in the water felt like they drew the inflammation out of her muscles and joints. Already a myriad of bruises was blossoming on her arms and legs thanks to the dutiful training of the Seeker. She groaned while scrubbing over them with a stone, using some of the oils to wash the dirt and grime from her hair. Once finished, she used a thick piece of fabric to tie her hair up into a bun while she walked back to her cabin.

 

The sleep that came was deep, Inspiration keeping her entertained by teaching her new songs on the lute from Athena’s past and providing good company.

Chapter Text

Oh fuck did she hurt the next morning.

 

Even with a great night with Inspiration in the fade nothing could have prepared her for the aching that followed after her drills with Cassandra. Kain was pulling at her ear, trying to get her out of the bed but she was groaning in return at him, pulling the covers over her head. He then pounced, pushing his front two paws into her shoulder. With sudden movement she shot up and whispered “Boo” at the wolf pup. He yelped and jumped back into a playful position, backside high in the air while his tail wagged back and forth. She gathered him up and attacked his head with kisses before gently putting him on the ground so she could get dressed.

 

Since they were traveling to Val Royeux, Josephine had made certain their linens and clothes were clean before they went to sleep the night before. Athena was thankful. The wilderness did not do her body, or its natural odors, any good. She had stolen a small vial of vanilla oil she found on side of the bath to rub on the back of her neck and wrists before getting dressed. It was her favorite scent to wear. The smell reminded her of fresh baked cookies and gave her a sense of being warm and comforted. The oil acted as a little piece of home for now. Prince was already waiting outside of her cabin when she woke. He was chewing on some of the elf root that had grown on the side of the lodging. He gave a small flick of his tail in greeting before continuing his meal.

 

She quietly grabbed her pack and loaded him up, putting a heavy blanket over his back before leading him to the stables with a soft and gentle touch on his side. Kain entertained himself by running in between the horse’s legs while he trotted along. Thank the Maker they get along. The rest of the group was getting their own mount’s ready by the stables; Rathein sporting her not-a-morning-person scowl. The rest of the party looked fresh-faced and clean for the trip to Orlais. Athena could have even sworn Varric’s chest-hair was somehow manicured and combed. Perish the thought, does he do that? It took a moment for her to gather her pack and load it onto the horse and when she did Dennet walked around the corner, giving the horse a stern look. “How did you do it, girl?”

 

Athena turned around, arching a brow while leaning her upper body against Prince’s side. “Excuse me?”

 

The horse-master continued. “He used to be the most stubborn thing I had ever met. Sure enough one trip with you to the hills and he is acting like your pup there. How did you do it?”

 

She smiled, patting her horse on the side before picking up Kain to put him in her bag that rested on the side of the saddle. She then threw her leg over it and lifted herself in a surprisingly graceful fashion onto his back, even though every muscle in her body screamed in protest. “I don’t know. We just click, that’s all. Is it that uncommon?”

 

Apparently so because the man grunted before returning to tend the other horses he had brought from his farm. They all looked to each other and with glances of agreement and took off on the trail to Val Royeaux. When they were out of earshot of the horse master, Varric steered his horse close to hers, having to use a firm guidance of the reigns to do so. “He’s right, you know. You and those animals act like you almost speak to each other. Last time I heard of something like that was Anders and his damn cat he never stopped talking about.”

 

She giggled to herself, remembering Ser Pounce-a-lot quite fondly from her play-throughs of the game. “We just bonded, that’s all. Prince was stubborn at first but he’s taken a liking to me. I caught him snacking on some herbs outside of my cabin this morning.” Perhaps it was why the steed had a particularly peppy spring in his trot. The crew fell back into silence and munched on their morning meals.

 

Rathein finally perked up from her morning time grumpy facade, rolling her gaze over to the Seeker who was looking at a map. “What should we expect in Val Royeux, Cassandra?”

 

The warrior paused, rolling up the map before answering. “The Chantry is looking for answers, someone to blame. We probably won’t be welcomed warmly there so be prepared.”

 

And wasn’t that the understatement of the century.

 


 

 

Upon arrival in Val Royeaux something felt off. The messenger said the Templars were there to protect the Chantry from the Inquisition. Both Cassandra and Rathein nearly snarled at the thought, Athena slowly drawing her staff from its place on her back. They walked through the city and barely had any time to gawk at its beauty. She noted the old architecture and the nearly glowingly clean streets. Culture oozed from every pore and crack in the walls. They rounded around the market to see the platform where the Chantry sister had gathered the large crowd.

 

“Good people of Val Royeux. Hear me.”

 

Oh shit it starts. Athena looked to the others in her party and slowly willed her magic to swarm within her body. The blow to the head looked painful and concussive in the game; it would be a shame if that were to still happen while she was here. She couldn’t outright attack the templars, so maybe a barrier?

  

“Together we mourn the Divine. Her naïve and beautiful heart silenced by treachery! You wonder what will become of her murderer. Well, wonder no more! Behold. The so-called Herald of Andraste! Claiming to rise where our beloved fell.”

 

In person, she was amazed at the white robed red-hooded woman’s confidence. Grief and desperation caused people to do crazy things, she had seen that in her job at the hospital.  Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t hear Rathein’s reply to the Chantry but she assumed it was nothing short of sarcastic. Cassandra added her voice to the cry but it wouldn’t be heard. Athena curled her lips in a snarl, eyes darting to the side as the Templars began their ascent up the stairs.

 

In a subtle gesture she flicked her hand out and then immediately scratched the top of her head. The barrier shot like a stream and then coated the Chantry Sister with no time to spare before the Templar punched her in the head. The resounding crack against the barrier sounded worse than it actually was but the force of the blow still sent the Sister to the ground.

 

She could feel Solas’s curiosity peering at her but she rolled her shoulders back and cleared her throat.

 

“Still yourself. She is beneath us.”

 

Quite literally no thanks to you, Lord Seeker.

 

Athena could not hide the glare she shot at the man. The Lord Seeker was obviously an intimidating presence. His body language demanded respect and obedience. The Envy demon had done a great job at impersonating him. Even with her little training, something felt off about him. It was the same vibe that she had initially got from Desire when she spoke to her in the Fade. It was a discomfort that settled in the back of her mind, festering like a bad memory.

 

While Cassandra tried to reason with the man she thought she knew, Athena moved to the side of the fallen Chantry sister.

 

“Creating a heretical movement, raising up a puppet as Andraste’s Puppet, harboring abominations from the Fade, you should be ashamed.”

 

Oh shit what?

 

With a shocked gaze, she snapped her head to the Lord Seeker, well demon-thing, staring her down as well. Abomination? He could only mean her. How did he know about her? Did that mean there was a Templar spy within the Inquisition? Anger boiled and fueled the spark within her stomach as she pulled it forward and kept it skin tight. She had sheathed her staff before the market to not draw attention but this was too much.

 

“The only destiny that demands respect is mine.”

 

She couldn’t stop herself. “Bastard!” She spat out, body urging to launch forward but was stopped by Solas’s firm grip on her shoulder. He didn’t even meet her eyes but he pulled her to his side until he knew she wouldn’t attack the Lord Seeker. Her aura snapped against his, slapping against his hand and she caught sight of it leaving a red mark against his skin. She turned back towards the Chantry Sister, her face softening as she saw the pathetic woman trying to get up from the ground.

 

She used a soft touch to bring her to a sitting position. “Are you alright?” Somehow her voice managed to be sympathetic even with all of the raw anger boiling beneath the surface. The Sister put a hand to her head and nodded. “I feel. . . I could have been much worse off. Tell me. Do you really think she was sent by Andraste?” The fallen sister looked to Rathein who was trying to help Cassandra recover from the Lord Seeker’s off-putting appearance.

 

“Honestly.  .. I don’t know.” 

 

The sister smiled. “That is more comforting than you think.”

 

Athena patted her shoulder before returning to the group, Solas intercepting her motions by putting his body between hers and the Herald. His recently friendly stare had hardened back into one of frustration, eyes knit while he put a hand to her shoulder to keep her from moving forward. This time she did not fight it off but met his gaze with confidence. “What.”

 

“That was foolhardy. Do you wish to openly declare war against the templars? Here?”

 

She growled and pushed herself closer to him, his arm dropping from her while she nearly met him chest to chest. “Do you want an honest answer, Solas? I am not a child. I do not need supervision.”



He did not falter, staring her down. She could feel the cool presence of his aura trickling down her skin, challenging her, provoking her. Her flame rose in response and for a moment she thought she could see physical sparks igniting between their gazes. He was stubborn but she was more so, especially knowing what she did about him and his future. In the end he sighed, stepping to the side so she could go to Rathein’s side. The Herald gave her a look of “what was that?”

 

Athena shook her head and then began to walk towards the side of the market, her body subconsciously stepping to the side when a rogue arrow came from the sky. Cassandra cried out: “What’s that? An arrow with a message?”

 

The Herald read the note, Athena already storming towards where she knew a café was because Gods she needed a drink. Rathein’s voice came out soft, and for a second scared. “You. . .you dodged that arrow like it was nothing.”

 

Her body froze and became instantly rigid. She spat a silent curse to the side while barely giving the Herald a glance over her shoulder. “What can I say? Gut instinct.” She turned on her heel and went towards the outdoor, stepping into a shop to satisfy her sweet tooth before sitting outside with a glass of mulled wine in her hand. She knew that Rathein still needed to meet with Fiona, the leader of the mage rebellion, in the courtyard so she had some time to herself. She sat back in the shadows of the area, her head resting against the wall while she tried to fight the tears that wanted to burst.

 

Being around Templars was simply terrifying. She could feel the lyrium singing at their hips in vials and the thought of their abilities shook her to her core. Every time her eyes fell on the emblem on their armor her heart felt like it was going to burst from her chest. Her body had not forgotten the sheer blinding pain of Lysette’s magic coursing through her. It acted like a ravenous monster in a city, kicking down whoever and whatever it wanted. She had shattered every defense in Athena’s mind in a heartbeat and left her barren, beaten, and blinded by suffering.

 

She would not let Rathein even consider allying with them. Not with what they could do.

Chapter Text

It took three glasses of wine for the Herald to find her. Eyes closed, head still leaning against the wall, Athena was meditating, pulling her aura in and flaring it out with her breaths in a poor attempt to stabilize herself. The wine didn’t help. It brought her back to realizing how physically close she was to Solas. At the time she had been focusing on winning in the silent duel of confidence but looking back. . . They were almost close enough for his wolf-jaw necklace to brush against her. His cheeks were flushed with frustration towards her and his gaze was tormenting, as if he were a teacher scolding a student. But it still caught her breath in her throat and caused her stomach to tighten.

 

She was brought from these thoughts with a sudden slap on her thigh. She gasped, head snapping up to look at her attacker. Instead Rathein sat across from her, leaning her forearms on her knees and looking at her with concern. She didn’t say anything but simply waited for Athena to talk. How did I deserve such a friend? She sat in silence though, letting out a heavy sigh while wiping her eyes with the palm of her open hand.

 

“These gut instincts you have. . . you ever going to tell me how you get them?”

 

The wine had dulled her sense of shock because she didn’t even freeze. A soft brown gaze looked up to the Herald. She shrugged. “I can’t just be that good? It’s. . .hard to explain.”

 

That answer was enough for the Herald because she wiped her hands together in a motion that said “okay, that’s that.” She then stood up and pulled on Athena’s shirt, getting her to rise with her. A swirl of dizziness made the ascent difficult but after swaying side to side she finally stabilized with her hand around Rathein’s shoulders, ensuring her staff was on her back and her bag with some dessert goodies was on her side. The short-haired woman giggled and nuzzled her nose into Athena’s ear, blowing hot hair like a parent would a child. How on earth did she create something so friendly and accepting in her game?

 

“Come on. We’re shopping and then Varric used his connections to get us some suites for the night. You ever been to a bathhouse?”

 

Athena shook her head. Did a hot tub in the back of a Super 8 count? It wasn’t the most glamorous thing but she was able to soak with her band mates after a sweaty excursion on the football field. She imagined the elaborate bath houses of Val Royeaux would be better. The Herald helped her sober up by taking her from shop to shop. They looked at all sorts of pendants, belts, and rings together. A sterling silver ring caught her eye. It was shaped like a rose and she could not take her eyes off of it.

                                                                                                    

She found herself asking the masked shop-keep: “How much is it?”

 

They took the ring out of the case and rolled it in their hands, examining it with a careful eye. “It is a ring of enhanced barriers. Basic enchantment but should serve you well, especially if you’re a novice mage.” She saw a glance towards her beginner’s staff and she fought off the blush that was threatening to color her cheeks pink. The corseted shopkeep put the ring on the counter in front of them. “5 gold.”

 

Athena took out her coin purse, thankfully having enough from selling some ram and fennec skins to a local tradesman in the Crossroads. She slid the ring onto her ring finger on the right hand, smiling at the natural hum of its magic. Sure enough the subtle barrier on her skin spiked in energy, coming off her in wisps instead of a static cling. Rathein beamed at her, linking arms with her before taking her in the direction of a hostel on the side. The bottom floor was a tavern but there were suites and rooms the higher up it went. It was one of the larger buildings in the city, which caused Athena to nearly fall back in awe trying to get all of it in one glance.

 

It didn’t compare to the skyscrapers of New York City, but this wasn’t Arlathan either. It had been the most glorious building they had seen in their travels so far so the bit of luxury was appreciated. The Herald and her shared a room. It was covered in luscious drapes of gold and royal blue, rugs accented to make the colors pop. The two beds looked like they were made from the softest feathers in the country and she nearly fell into a coma falling against it. The wine was settling in her stomach, which normally made her very sleepy or very touchy at parties.

 

Rathein had grabbed two of the silk robes that were left for them. She had begun stripping down without a second though. Athena sat up on one elbow for support while glancing at the woman with a curious eye. The Herald was curvy but strong, much like Cassandra. She suspected she would be a Knight Enchanter at some point because she simply had the build of a warrior. She already said she had a Templar lover in the past, perhaps they had trained together? “Come on now, you’re making me bashful.”

 

Athena shook her head then laughed, standing up to follow suit and get into a robe. It was soft against her skin, a nice contrast to all of the thicker and firmer materials they had been wearing. Leather armor was great for battles but it did nothing for comfort. “Okay, where are these baths? I think I need to wash today off.”

 

The Herald nodded in agreement leading her down a hall and a staircase until they came to a large room that had rune-heated pools. Where apparently Solas, Varric, and Cassandra were already lounging. Varric looked like he lived for this kind of relaxation, his arms supporting him on the edge of the bath with a hot cloth over his eyes. There was a screened area for people to disrobe before entering the dark waters for privacy. In a childish motion Athena kicked some water at her friend, who playfully scowled back. She used magic to power her response, the water knocking the now nude Athena into the water.

 

“Hey keep it down over there.” Varric shouted, flinging the rag from his face with a mock-angry look. His sarcastic smirk brought a giggle from Athena while she waded over to where he was, the water level rising above her chest and just below her shoulders. “You feeling better from earlier, Walker? Where did you head off to?”

 

She dunked down under the surface until her hair was saturated by perfume and oil tinted water. When she came up she haphazardly tied her hair up on top of her head with a piece of string. “I just needed to cool off. That whole thing with the Lord Seeker got under my skin. How are you feeling, Cassandra? You said you knew him well?”

 

The Seeker was on the side with her arms crossed, eyes closed in a moment of peace. She responded without opening her gaze but there was a somber tone in her voice as she spoke. “Yes, I’m still trying to think what could have happened to him. I sent a messenger to Therinfal Rebout so hopefully we will have some kind of answer when we return to Haven. I am. . . troubled by what we saw today.” She then opened one eye in some kind of amusement. “Did I see you try and go after the Lord Seeker today?”

 

Varric then was fully involved in the conversation, an echoing laugh ringing through the bathhouse. “I thought Athena was going to try and clobber him right there. Boom. War started. You certainly just made this chapter in my book interesting, Walker.”

 

Solas arched a brow without looking from his own book, casually turning a page like nothing interesting was happening in the conversation. “Did you cast a barrier on the sister before she was struck? The attack came as a surprise to us all. . .how did you know and react with such speed?”

 

Athena fought the heat that rose to her face and instead waded to the side to grab some of the oils and rub her arms with them as a distraction. The scents and heat of the water was wonderful but it was so difficult to stay in a constant state of lying all of the time. Still. . . if she told them and somehow altered the future she would be helpless. Doing this, helping out where she could, it would take the burden off of all of them. It was what she hoped anyways. It looked like they were all waiting for an answer so she shot them a surprised glance. “You really didn’t feel the anger coming off that guy? He might as well have pounded on his chest like a giant ape and roared.”

 

This drew a chuckle from everyone but Solas. Of course. I thought we were just starting to get along. She lamented to herself, giving Rathein a playful sideways glance. The Herald had gone over to Varric and was discussing Tales of the Champion, prying into some of her favorite chapters like the Wyvern Caves and “Daisy”.

 

A soft hiss from the side drew her attention, Cassandra groaning while rubbing the back of her neck and shoulder. “Seeker, are you alright?”

 

She huffed, shaking her head. “My armor pinched and now I can’t get this cramp out. I don’t want my shield arm to get stiff.” Athena walked over towards her and made a “may I?” gesture with her hands. Cassandra gave her a leery gaze, looking from her hands to her eyes in a few motions. After a few seconds of deliberation, she gave her a defeated nod. Athena leaned over to the side of the bath, grabbing some oils in her hand that smelled of mint before walking back to Cassandra’s side.

 

“Try and take deep breaths, Seeker, and relax.

 

She almost made a disgusted noise. “I am relaxed!”

 

Varric cut her off with a small splash of water. “Seeker, if I had a lump of coal. . . oh never mind.”

 

The Seeker scowled at him but was surprised when Athena moved behind her and started kneading her fingers into her back and neck. At one point during college she had volunteered for a group whose sole purpose was to provide backrubs for the stressed. They were trained by a professional message therapist and checked off in their skills so they would be giving the ultimate 5 minute massage. She started at the short-haired woman’s neck, moving her thumbs in long, hard strokes up towards the ridge at the base of the skull. When her fingers put pressure there, she felt Cassandra relax in front of her, her head dipping forward slightly.

 

“You hold your stress here. I would recommend some stretches and breathing exercises at night.”

 

There was no response so she moved her hands to the shoulders, pushing her foot against the bottom of the bath to gain leverage while she pushed the palm of her hand into the affected shoulder. She used the motion to stretch the muscle out and then repeated it until it felt softer underneath her hand. To keep things balanced she did it to the other side. At this point the Seeker was taking deep long breaths and when Athena stepped away she rose and rolled her neck around. “Thank you, Athena.” The Nevarran turned and smiled, her eyes tired but the sincerity was there.

                                                                                                    

She gave a head nod in response, washing the oil off of her hands in the water. Bells began to ring outside and they all perked their heads up. Rathein cursed under her breath before looking to Athena with a wicked gaze. “I guess we should get ready for the party we have been invited to, oh Madam Fade-Walker.”

 

Athena paled, hands balling up in fists at her side. “You made no mention of this earlier, Rathein. . . “

 

The Herald laughed, walking over and retrieving her robe before exiting the pool. “We have been formally invited to the party hosted by a certain Madame de Fer. I would get ready if I were you. You wouldn’t want to be late and make a poor example of the Inquisition.”

Chapter Text

Rathein had chosen to wear her formal attire jacket, pants, and knee-high boots. Her hair had been freshly styled and there was a layer of black eyeliner to bring out the blue in her eyes. For Athena, they had decided to do her up. She wore a corset made from wyvern bone and it was so tight she thought she would pass out. The rest of the gown was a mixture of silvers and blues, the theme of the party it seemed and of Madame de Fer. She refused to wear a mask but instead allowed her hair to fall in front of her shoulder in small waves. With the limited makeup provided she added a dab of gold dust to her eyelids and smeared a natural blush to her lips. When she was finished, she almost dropped the brush in her hand. It was the most. . . normal she had looked in almost two. Between their travels to the Hinterlands to Haven and finally to Val Royeaux, all she had relied on was a flowing stream to keep clean.

 

Now with her hair washed and brushed and her makeup done even slightly, she glowed. Rathein clapped her hands on her shoulders and approached her from behind, her reflection showing up in the mirror’s vanity. Both of them were grinning from ear-to-ear even though they were dreading going to the party itself. A knock on the door signaled that their carriage arrived and both of the girls rushed off, their laughs echoing through the halls as they did so.

 

The mansion was simply perfection. They arrived and were announced as they walked in, the sudden formality of their names taking her by surprise.

 

“Now arriving Lady Trevelyan of Ostwick, representing the Inquisition, and Lady Athena.”

 

Athena did her best curtsy while Rathein bowed, the Herald taking her arm and leading her up the stairs. They were instantly handed a glass of bubbling liquor, the smell reminding her of peaches and apples. She hesitantly took a sip and hummed in delight when the drink hit her tongue. It was sweet wine! Thank the Maker. She had learned to tolerate the ale and mulled wine but this drink actually had taste! The pair walked with linked arms up to the curious couple standing at the bottom of the stairs.

 

“What a pleasure to meet you, my ladies. Seeing the same faces at every event becomes so tiresome. So you must be a guest of Madame de Fer. Or are you here for Duke Bastien?”

 

The woman beside him, whose curiosity could not be kept quiet, stepped forth and adjusted the brim of her large purple hat adorned with flowers. “Or are you here on business? I have heard the most curious tales of you both. I cannot imagine half of them are true?”

 

Rathein arched a brow, releasing Athena’s arm to cross her own over her chest. It was already obvious she did not appreciate the Orlesian parties and the Great Game. All Athena remembered was that asking questions was normally the right thing to do and stirring intrigue while being evasive of the answers was considered smart. She placed a gentle hand on the Herald’s elbow, leaning in close to the couple to speak softly. “Everything you heard? All true and then some. Oh the stories we could tell. . . .”

 

The couple absolutely reeled, the female standing up straighter. “Better and better!.” Athena would of sworn that she was smiling except for the obnoxiously high-necked shirt, mask, and hat. Orlais cheated by having so many accessories to hide their true intentions. No wonder there was a civil war. The whole country was fueled by lies and deception. But alas, when in Rome.

 

From the side a voice rang out and it caused the hairs on the back of her neck to stand in annoyance. Rathein dropped her arms to her side, sliding more of her weight onto one hip so she could give him a true look of displeasure. The man continued, alcohol ruining his breath while he managed to make it down the stairs. “The Inquisition. What a load of pig shit. Washed up sisters and crazed Seekers. Nobody can take them seriously. Everyone knows it’s just an excuse for political outcasts to grab power.”

 

She knew of a good response but the Herald, who almost matched her in spontaneous hot-headedness, snapped forward and flicked her hand in a gesture towards the sky, and beyond that, the Breach. “We are working to restore peace and order to Thedas.

 

The man did not falter, walking until he was on the opposite side of the Herald. “Here comes the outsider, restoring peace with an army. We know what your Inquisition truly is.” He stepped close enough for Rathein to curl her lips in a snarl, hands clenched into fists by her side while she stared him down. He then peered over her, his words low and challenging. “Why don’t we go outside right now so you can answer for the charges.”

 

Something about his threat made her skin crawl. She knew what was coming so she stepped forward to put her hand on Rathein’s shoulder, giving her a soft smile. He’s an idiot.

 

He was now a well frosted idiot, thanks to the appearance of Vivienne.

 

The First Enchantress silenced the room with a snap of her fingers, frost covering the man instantly from head to toe. He was frozen with his hand reaching behind his back, presumably to grab whatever pathetic blade he had hidden there.

 

“My dear Marquis. How unkind of you to use such language in my house. . . to my guests.”

 

Her voice cut through the air like an icy spell. It even sent chills down Athena’s spine but she was trying not to hide the grin that wanted to come to her face.

 

“You know such rudeness is . . . intolerable.”

 

The Marquis tried to stumble out some sort of apology but the First Enchantress was already shaking her head, unimpressed with the display. “Whatever am I going to do with you, my dear?” She then turned to the Herald, much to Rathein’s surprise. “My lady you’re the wounded party in this unfortunate affair. What would you have me do with this foolish man?” Athena could feel the anger bristling on Rathein’s skin, her icy blue gaze piercing the man as he stood trapped by the spell. The Herald took a sharp inhale before she came up from the side and did a polite curtsy in Vivienne’s direction.

 

“Madame Vivienne. We would not dare pass judgment on a man who has insulted your house, your guests. Please, do with him as you wish.” Her eyes stayed on the floor until she spoke the last words, rising up to meet Vivienne’s gaze. It was sharp and judgmental, her own eyes looking Athena up and down before she gave a small nod of acknowledgement.

 

“Poor Marquis, issuing challenges like a Ferelden dog lord.”

 

Athena pulled Rathein back to her side, the Herald mouthing “thank you” to her while her cheeks flushed in embarrassment at her poor temper. She shook her head in response, jerking her chin towards the execution that was about to be verbally carried out by Madame de Fer.

 

“And all dressed up in your Aunt Solange’s doublet. Didn’t she give you that to wear to the grant tourney? To think, all of the brave chevaliers who will be competing left for Markham this morning. . .and you’re still here.”

 

Drag him, Vivienne.

 

She watched on with almost a predator-like glee, a wolfish gaze peering at the man who hung his head in shame.  When he did, a spark of guilt fired in her stomach and she frowned, cursing herself for having a bleeding heart. Vivienne took Rathein off to the side to speak to her of joining the Inquisition. Athena downed the rest of her wine to gain some liquid courage before picking her dress off of the ground and walking to the door with an attempted graceful speed. “Marquis!”

 

He was about to leave, his head still hanging low but his fist was clenched at his side. He didn’t speak, silenced by his shame, but didn’t move as an open invitation for her to speak.

 

“Pardon my intrusion. I know it may sound like a jesting offer but I am absolutely serious.” Her voice was breathy as panic clenched around her throat but she continued, trying to take in as deep of a breath as she could within the prisons of her corset. “If you do wish to do something to change your fate and reputation in Orlais, why not join the Inquisition?”

 

He scoffed under his mask, turning towards the door to greet the moonlight. She continued, placing a hand on his shoulder and turning him to look back at her. It was bold and probably uncalled for but he didn’t fight the action. “If you are so good with a blade, prove it. We could always use a good swordsman within the Inquisition and it would be a great show of faith in your attempt at a redemption. Please, just think on it.”

 

He paused, shoving her hand off of his shoulder before throwing the door open with his body. Just before the door slammed in her face she heard a whisper come through the door. I will think on your offer, Lady Athena.

 

Athena let out a shaky sigh while putting a hand to her stomach, breath ragged while she smiled at somewhat of a victory. If he actually showed up, she would need to buy him a drink at the bar. . . even if he was a disgusting man. It would take a great deal of bravery to show up at the Inquisition. He would certainly look like a Ferelden dog lord with his tail between his legs, but even old dogs could learn new tricks. She turned back to the party, an elven attendant showing up with another glass of wine. She took the glass but then frowned, giving a sincere thank you to the helper. They seemed to be startled, running off with the tray to the next guest who acted as if the tray was floating on its own accord.

 

She bounced back and forth between nobles while Rathein and Vivienne spoke. She had heard of different sides of the civil war and how people felt things were coming to a peak. The tension in their words was so thick it could be cut with a blade. The people of Orlais knew something was going to happen and Athena knew in the back of her mind Halamshiral was not that far off.

 

On her fourth flute of wine Rathein came down the stairs and tapped her shoulder, signaling for them to leave. Athena turned around and smiled at her friend, taking her arm again and walking to the carriage. On the ride back, The Herald told her of how the First Enchantress was joining the Inquisition. She giggled, alcohol flushing her cheeks while she leaned against the window of the carriage. “She does know our lodgings won’t . . . quite compare to hers, right?”

 

Rathein nodded while looking out the window at Val Royeux. Somehow the city still seemed to light up in contrast to the sky. They both took a moment to relax, taking in the city one last time before they would have to leave for Haven in the morning. Athena sighed, allowing her head to unceremoniously thunk against the side of the window. “Are you ready, Rathein?”

 

The Herald stirred from her gazing, eyebrows furrowed in concern. “That sounds ominous. Ready for what?”

 

She paused for a beat, a hand running up the length of her back looking for a release for the damn corset. “It sounds like you’re going to need to pick between the mages or the templars. The mages are in rebellion and the Templars literally just punched the Chantry. That’s going to be tough.”

 

Rathein was silent, her eyes examining the mark on her hand. It glowed green in the darkness as they pulled up to the bathhouse. For a moment, she looked concerned, but then her face cracked into a smile, her gaze looking up to meet Athena’s. “That’s why I have you to help, right?”

 

Well. Shit.

Chapter Text

“Oh wait - what about this Red Jenny note we found yesterday?”

 

Rathein was looking at the red-colored objects in her hand over breakfast the next morning. Cassandra, already dressed in her Seeker armor with the large eye on the polished chest piece, nodded and took the note from the Herald’s hand. “Yes, it seems like they give us the location of a meeting place. Should we go? We need to return to Haven as quick as we can.”

 

Athena, who was nursing quite a hangover from the sweet wine the night before, swallowed the piece of fruit in her mouth and nodded to both of the women. “It wouldn’t hurt. Who knows, it could be another ally like Lady Vivienne. At this point we’re too young of an organization to turn away people, right?” The table seemed to be silent in thought but then slowly showed their agreement. Cassandra’s accented voice came in between bites of whatever light meal she had. It seemed like she always ate the least and that was saying something considering Solas ate like an elven bird with his fruits and breads. “We also don’t want to appear desperate. That would attract unwanted negative attention from potential allies.”

 

It was Athena who nodded this time, finishing off the cucumber-water that the bathhouse had provided. It left a crisp cool taste on her tongue as she pushed back from the table and stood. Varric looked up from his porridge and letters, a curious expression on his face. “Where do you think you’re going? Off day-drinking again?”

 

A blush came quickly to her cheeks while she tucked a loose piece of hair behind her ear. “I had a rough day, yeah? I missed a chance to go to a book shop yesterday and wanted to see if they had anything that could help me in my teachings.”

 

Solas and Rathein both looked up from their meals. The Herald, always the energetic one, spoke first. “Well we should really help you. Do you even know what you’re looking for?”

 

She sheepishly shook her head, rubbing one hand up the other arm in a gesture of anxiety. The two mages caught that and stood from their seats, Solas wiping his mouth with a napkin before turning towards his room. “I’ll meet you at the front of the building in a few moments then?” Athena hummed and waved in reply as he left, a small blush coming up to her cheeks as he did. He was so hot and cold to her it was nauseating. In the game he said things were always easier in the Fade. Perhaps that’s why he was so nice to her there while cold and calculated outside of it.

 

She was torn from her thoughts by a smack on the back from Rathein. “Come on, now. Let’s go grab your coin purse and get going!” The two girls stopped by their suite and met the elf at the front of the building. She quickly sidestepped from them and ran to Prince’s side, giving him head butt while stroking the side of his face. He stirred from a nap, opening one eye at her. He gave a satisfied head butt in response before returning to his snooze. Kain had decided to come with her from the suite. It was obvious he was anxious to get outside. His tail was a nonstop almost propeller behind him. He weaved in between her feet as she walked, teeth occasionally nipping at the bottom of her boots.

 

When she returned to the pair they both looked down at her pup with nervous glances. Solas spoke, his voice calm, steady, but obviously lined with trepidation. “Do you think he will behave in the market?”

 

Kain acted like he heard him, standing in a confident position and growling at the elf. This brought a cheerful laugh from Athena who picked up the pup and nuzzled his nose with hers. “I think he’ll be fine. I’ll take responsibility for him, I swear.”

 

He actually stayed within her shadow, almost acting like a guard. He sniffed every person who walked by and came closer to her legs when there was someone with a noticeably dark aura. The creature had great insight and was somehow inherently linked with Athena as they walked into the book store. The air was full of dust and the smell of old books. The leather bindings on the books were wrinkled from use and there was a serene feeling in the air which brought a pleasant hum from her lips. It reminded her of an old library.

 

Upon entering the store, she stopped and took in a deep breath, wanting to spin around in glee but keeping it to herself. Rathein pinched her arm, gesturing with her head to follow Solas through the store. He seemed to know what he was looking for, a hand sliding over the tops of a few books before going “ah” and picking one up. The book was titled “Mythology of the Shapeshifter” and the author was unnamed. The book appeared older than the rest and untouched for some reason. It had an earthy smell to it and the cover was a forest green, dyed and crafted from some animal pelt. The pages were hand written in a cursive writing, like they were almost a journal. While she was slowly browsing through the pages he dropped another one on top of it, obviously not looking paying attention but focused on his own list.

 

“Hey!” She nearly dropped the second book which was “Glyphs and Runes: Volume 1” by a Magister Quilius. Rathein took the books from her hand and gave her a small shrug with a “what can you do” look on her face. She was more drawn to the section she knew Cassandra would like. It was filled with tales of romance, the colors of red and maroon popping up on the shelves. Athena tapped Solas on the shoulder to let him know she was following the Herald before stopping in front of the first chapter of “Swords and Shields” . . . .written by Varric Tethras himself.

 

“No way.” She took the book off the shelf and flicked through some of the pages. Instantly a blush came to her cheeks at some of the chapters, eyes still glued to the parchment as Rathein came to her side. “Oh!” There was no hesitation when she stole the book from her hands, her own blue eyes attached to the words as she began reading the first lines of the first chapter.

 

Solas approached them from behind with a few books of his own in his hand. He quickly glanced at the cover then made a tisking sound with his tongue, turning to go towards the shop keep to pay for his goods. Athena called out for him in a jesting manner, “Oh come now, Solas, not everyone can be so lucky to get their entertainment from the fade.” She gave him a playful wink which only made him shake his head and give the shop keep coin before leaving.

 

Athena whispered under her breath to the Herald, “Don’t waste your money, I’m sure Varric has a copy we can read. Or someone else might read it too that we know, who knows?” She knew that Cassandra had read every chapter and probably had the books hidden in a chest somewhere in her lodgings back at Haven. They both checked out with the shop keep before meeting up with Solas outside. He looked down and gave them a nod, his eyes suddenly glued on her hand.

 

“Yes? Do I have something on my hand?” She lifted it up and saw he was looking at the barrier ring she bought yesterday. The silver caught the light and nearly glowed, it bringing a warm sensation to her hand. He reached out with his own hand, a smile teasing the corner of his eyes. “May I?”

 

She nodded, her breath and words stuck in her throat while her heartbeat pounded in her head. He took her hand gingerly examining the ring with a careful eye. “Barrier ring?” In response to his question she flared her barrier, the now enforced flames dancing along her skin in unison with her breaths. He looked up at her and nodded before dropping her hand. “Wise choice for a novice mage. Let us return to our lodgings and prepare to meet this mysterious ‘Red Jenny’.”

 

They all returned and while they were walking Rathein gave her an elbow in the shoulder. When Athena looked over the Herald was wiggling her eyebrows and motioning towards Solas, whose back was facing them. She instantly made a face that neared disgust, shaking her head in response while waving a hand between them. The short-haired mage arched a brow as if to press further but then scoffed and looked down while shaking her head. This drew a look over the shoulder from Solas, which only caused them to give each other awkward glances while looking at something really interesting on the ground to avoid his gaze.

 


 

 

By nightfall they arrived at the location marked on the papers and Athena was already on guard, her staff drawn in front of it with mana charged in it. Her eyes were looking for the archer that would appear up top so none of her party members would be surprised from the attacks.

 

“The Inquisition!”

 

Already ready to battle her gaze found the archer and she snapped her staff in front of her, launching a small burst of fire towards the archer. He was knocked a step back but still had his arrow drawn, looking for the prime target as the party spread out. Her barrage of small attacks continued, her staff and body taking in the rhythm that the other mages possessed. Snap, snap, snap, stab into the ground. It took one round of attacks for the archer to fall, her eyes moving to the next target.

 

Cassandra gave her a small gesture of thanks while taking down the mercenary in front of them. They made quick work of the group and as they walked through the gate Athena cast a barrier upon them all. It was just in time for the noble on the other side to attempt to launch fire at them. While the noble gloated his ego and tried to make himself seem bigger than he was she looked around the area, keeping an eye out for Sera. Sure enough the dirty-blonde short haired archer came from the side, her voice breaking through the grandstanding. She had her bow up and an arrow drawn back to her cheek, the string taught and ready to fire.

 

“Just say: What?”

 

The noble turned, repeating the exact word that would bring his life to an end. Sera chuckled madly, walking over to the body to pull the arrow from it. Athena giggled to herself, receiving a disapproving gaze from Solas. As the group approached the new elven archer, Athena looked to her and smile: “You did warn him. We all heard it.”

 

Sera gave a crooked grin in return, “Yeah, right? Well good to see you followed the notes.” Her gaze flicked to Rathein and down to her left hand where the green mark of the Rift glowed. “You glow, yeah? You’re the Herald thingy?”

 

Rathein gave an uneasy step back while ungloving her hand to show her. “Yeaaaah why?”

 

The red-clothed archer smiled while pointing to some boxes to their left. “Name’s Sera. This is cover, get around it. For the reinforcements. Don’t worry, someone tipped me on their equipment shed.”

 

The soldiers broke in from the other side of the courtyard and Athena couldn’t help herself from laughing as they did. As intimidating as they were on the top half, they were pants-less on the bottom. Their pale thighs nearly glowed in the moonlight as they ran towards them swords drawn. She reinforced her barrier and kept her staff parallel to the ground, her eyes seeking out the best target. There! A man ran towards her with a one handed sword and shield.

 

Using one of the glyphs she had seen in her newly purchased book, she drew the symbol quickly and sloppily upon the floor then flicked it a few feet in front of him. He ran over it with a war cry but then was instantly covered in flame. It burst like throwing flour on top of a small fire. His body fell to the ground without any further fight.

 

No breeches!” Sera yelled from atop the crate she was standing on, firing her arrows and finding their true mark effortlessly.

 

It didn’t take long for them to finish off their pants-less enemies. Athena started to actually feel bad for them. What a way to go out. Sera then approached them while sheathing her bow and quiver on her back. “So, Herald of Andraste. You’re a strange one. I’d like to join.”

 

Rathein almost scoffed but rubbed her chin in consideration. Almost like it was habit she looked to the rest of her party members before focusing on Athena. Athena looked to Sera with a giddy smile, knowing how foolish and lighthearted the rogue was, before nodding. “Wouldn’t hurt to have more people out there.”

 

Sera tilted her head to the side before asking, “Wait, who are you?”

 

Athena took a step forward and extended a hand to shake. “Athena, friend of the Herald’s. I don’t glow so don’t worry. I’m just people people.” The familiar phrase seemed to ease Sera’s mind as she shook her hand in return. The group seemed tense but accepting of the new Inquisition and handshakes going around. There was an odd stillness between Solas and Sera as they were introduced, Sera taking a look at his ears and making a disgusted noise. He rolled his eyes before turning back and leading the group from the manor.

 

Sera and Athena fell into step with one another, the elven archer leaning over and whispering not so softly to her: “He’s soooo elfy. How do ya’ stand it?”

 

She smirked, sheathing her staff on the back of her armor before shrugging. “Ah he’s not so bad. It’s this one you gotta worry about.” She jested, pointing an accusatory thumb towards the Herald who laughed and pushed the pair over. They were an odd bunch heading back to their lodgings but somehow the Inquisition began to feel more complete and almost like home.

 

Chapter Text

They had given the directions to Haven to Sera and Vivienne and let them get there on their own time. The main party took off in the morning, reluctantly leaving the rooms and nights of luxury behind. Athena felt good in her clean clothes with her new books in her pack. Kain was finding a way to balance himself on Prince’s back but eventually pawed at her to let him sleep back in the basket that she had fashioned for him. It sat behind her on the saddle and was stabilized with ropes. He was able to curl up perfectly in there to tolerate the travels. When they arrived back at Haven, it was apparent that Lelianna knew of their hold up with the Lord Seeker. The red-haired Spymaster gave Athena a knowing stare, which caused her to blush and focus on the marvelous horse underneath her to save herself from further embarrassment. While Rathein went to speak to Lelianna and Cassandra in the war room, Athena took the chance to revisit her cabin and unpack.

 

Prince waited outside of her cabin while she unloaded everything, the steed peeking his head inside every once in a while, only to be shooed out. She placed the books on her nightstand and moved the chair at the end of her bed closer to the door. Kain was growing at what seemed like an accelerated rate since he didn’t need the chair to jump on the bed, or time was going by faster than she realized. Athena paused, her gaze freezing on her staff as she went to lean it against the wall. Shit. How long had she been here already? A month? Two? The time had flown by so she really hadn’t had time to think about what had happened. Was this all a terrible dream and she was just stuck in her body? If more than a few weeks had gone by. . .  she had made very clear wishes with her family on what she wanted to happen in that scenario.

 

She swallowed the rock of nerves in her throat, tears suddenly stinging her eyes. Regardless of the situation, she was here now and it was time for her to start being useful. They were going to discuss the mages and the Templars today and that meant Haven would be attacked in the near future. She had been thinking of small things to do to help that would save more lives without changing their future entirely.

 

With Kain at her side, she walked down to the training area where Cullen was looking after the soldiers. With a stiff posture she came to his side, bowing her head in respect. “Commander! A word?”

 

He looked up from a clipboard a messenger had handed him, giving her a small nod. His face broke from the Commander to a softer, almost sympathetic tone. He stepped closer and spoke under his breath. “Are you alright?”

 

Oh yeah, the crying. She rolled her eyes playfully and nodded, wiping her eyes with the palm of her hand. “We were away from these plants for so long in Val Royeaux. I’m readjusting. I meant to come speak with you, can you follow me for a moment?” He backed up from her, face returning to the hardened leader of the soldiers with a curt nod. She led them away from the training area and up towards where one of the trebuchets were located. In her head, she knew it was where the Herald would confront Corypheus. It was also where she would fall down a mine shaft and be injured.

 

It was just one of the unnecessary things that could be avoided.

 

The pair walked to the area with Cullen looking around with his arms crossed over his chest. “What did you need to show me?”

 

Athena looked over her shoulder and chided him, trying to get some sort of reaction out of him. “Ever the impatient one, Commander. Look over here. Kain sniffed it out before we left for Val Royeaux.” She walked to the side and stomped her foot on top of the fallen mine doors, the broken and splintered wood falling to the depths below. Kain stayed faithfully between her legs but sniffed the old cave air that came up through. “I think we have a mine right under us. It might benefit us to try and mine the ore out of here if we can. Threnn said something about needing more swords for the recruits.”

 

Cullen arched a single brow without changing his expression, walking over directly to her side while looking down. The red and black fur that came around his neck brushed against her shoulder and she could tell that he had been drinking tea not so long ago from the smell of his breath. Athena looked down at Kain with a curious look but the pup was already busy smelling his boots. The Commander gave a curious hum while rubbing the back of his neck.

 

“This would take probably a week to clear out and I don’t know if we have the men for it. We’ve been running drills day and night and we’re getting new recruits every day.”

 

It felt like he was about to continue on until she stopped him so she put a hand on his pauldron while smiling, stepping away from the mine shaft to reduce the threat of them falling in. “Commander, if they can wield a pickaxe with the same skill as you have taught them to do with a sword I think they will be fine. Plus I think we’re needing to head back to the Hinterlands so you will have some time.”

 

At the compliment he cleared his throat and looked towards the mine, failing to hide the blush that was creeping up his neck. “I – ah -  thank you. Perhaps I could spare a few men. I’ll get started on it later today.” She turned with her wolven companion to walk away when he turned and caught her by the sleeve of her jacket.

 

Athena paused, looking at his hand then to him slowly. He instantly dropped his hand and gaze to the snow, a shy smile coming to his lips. “Uh, thank you again Lady Athena. This will be a great asset. I take it you’re adjusting now? You seem . . . more at ease.”

 

She fully turned to him with a dark smirk at the corner of her lips, a slight bitterness edging her voice. “Had a bit of a rough start as you know but things are looking up. I have a dog now!”

 

Cullen initially seemed excited by the idea of a dog but when his eyes fell to Kain his lips twitched into a frown. “That’s not a dog, that’s a beast.”

 

Athena smiled, waving him off while walking back to Haven. Surely Rathein would be done speaking to Cassandra and Lelianna by now and they could continue on planning their next step. “That’s your opinion, Commander. Enjoy your day.”

 


 

As she approached the Chantry she saw a familiar looking man standing outside the building with short brown hair and a tall posture. He leaned against the front of the Chantry, trying to catch people’s attention as they left but they simply waved him off like he was a beggar. He kicked the Chantry wall in frustration before Athena walked up behind him with a genuine smile. “Can I help you?”

 

Rathein came out from the Chantry at the same time so the man started. “Been waiting but am having a hard time getting anyone to talk to me. I’ve got a message?”

 

Athena quickly grabbed the Herald ungracefully by the arm, elbowing her in the chest while motioning for her to pay attention to the man in front of them, who Athena knew was Krem . . .which meant they were one step closer to recruiting the Iron Bull. A mixture of fear and excitement settled into her gut. He was Ben Hasserath, a spy, and could pick up on the smallest cues. If she thought Solas and Cassandra had been wary of her, he would be a whole ‘nother level because he could pretend that he liked you and make you feel good about it while also plotting your demise. While she was caught in her thoughts Rathein elbowed her back and asked: “Well?”

 

She then realized both Cremisius Aclassi, aka Krem, and the Herald were looking at her waiting for input. “Oh- oh! Sorry, we just came off a long travel. Of course we’ll come and check you out. I think we need the day to relax but we’ll probably hit the road by sunrise. Right, Rathein?”

 

She looked back to her friend whose gaze was lingering on the male soldier in front of them. A blush decorated her cheeks while she stuttered. “Y-yeah. We’ll come see you.”

 

He nodded to them both and took off, it leaving them both in a state of shock for a second. Of course Rathein was the first to speak up. “Well. He’s cute.”

 

Athena rolled her shoulders back and tried to assume an official posture. “Is that a requirement of the Inquisition now?”

 

The short-haired woman laughed and shook her head. “No, ‘spose not. Leliana said something about there potentially being a Warden in the Hinterlands. We can stop through there on the way back.”

 

She groaned, visibly slumping over in an over-dramatic fashion. “We just got baaaaack.”

 

Rathein slapped her on the back with a soft smile. “Come on. Let’s go grab a meal with everyone. Sera’s at the tavern but Vivienne is keeping to herself in the Chantry for the evening. I’m sure a hot meal would do you good.”

 

Athena shook her head while pointing in the direction of her cabin. “I actually had something to work on believe it or not. I’ll meet you in the morning. Try and get some rest tonight, okay?”

 

The Herald looked hesitant but nodded, giving her a quick embrace before heading back into the Chantry. Athena walked through the village and noticed that the amount of angry and confused looks she got was on the decline. Now she got the occasional nod or even a “hello” from some of the newer members. It was nice to feel like part of the community, even if it was only somewhat.

 

Once she got back to her cabin she grabbed her book on shapeshifting and took to the thicker parts of the woods away from the village. There had been a section on commanding the attention of animals that caught her eye. It was one of the first things she thought she would be able to do that Wisdom had shown her in the Fade. It was simply using your magic and will to call on animal allies in battle but it took practice. It also suggested being “close to nature” which meant she would need to wait for the cover of night fall.

 

The sun was setting and already the sounds of the night were weaving through the trees. Far off howls rang true and it caused Kain to look up from his position and whine back. Athena, who was covering herself with a large bear skin while shivering in the snow, walked with her staff into what seemed to be a good part of the forest away from most of the members of the Inquisition. Underneath the bear skin, she only wore her sports bra and then her underwear and boots. One with nature. . .  I’m going to get frost bite out here! Better make this quick.

                                                                                                    

She opened up the book and set it on the ground, laying down the bear skin for her to stand on. Darkness now consumed the forest, it creeping into every corner and stealing light from the world.

 

Step one: Push your will into nature.

 

Athena stood with her feet shoulder width apart with her staff firmly held straight up and down in front of her chest. The hooked blade caught the moonlight and provided an eery illumination to the whole ordeal. Kain suddenly grew quiet, his eyes trained on the forest and whatever noise came with it. She centered herself, focusing on her breathing and what she wanted to try and do. The thought, no command, rang in her mind until it was ready to burst from her lips.

                                                                            

At that moment, she plunged her staff into the ground and sent the command with her aura into the surrounding environment. Come. The sound boomed like a drum, the word echoing through the trees and through the forest. Kain already was at her side but something about him snapped to, his eyes glazing over with knowing while he looked to her. He then leaned his head back and howled, the high pitched young sound mixing in with the sound of the spell as it spread through the forest like fog.

 

For a few moments, nothing happened. Athena crouched and kept her staff low to the ground, eyes looking out for any dangers. There was nothing, silence.

 

The air stilled around them and the trees began to creak, their trunks and branches dancing in the howling winds.

 

Both Athena and Kain’s breaths hung in the air, their breathing in unison as they were crouched side by side waiting for something, anything.

 

And then it happened.

 

At first it was just a fox, sniffing the ground and coming towards them with the same glazed look Kain had given her. It wasn’t hypnotized or bewitched, no, there was just a sense of understanding between them all. Her companion, being the puppy he was, instantly ran to inspect the fox, sniffing every inch of its small body before returning to Athena’s side.

 

The fox sat content, its ears twitching as it turned around to see what followed next. It drew the breath from Athena’s throat, her eyes wide with wonder as half a dozen wolves came into view. They did not attack the fox like they would in nature, they simply awaited another command, eyes glued to Athena out of respect and curiosity.

 

While she waited for something to say, the largest wolf stood tall in its posture, assessing the mage in front of him before exhaling a deep breath through his nose. A thought entered her mind, and its voice was not her own. The thought warmed her, tears coming to her eyes as she reached towards her new allies with open hands.

 

Friend.

Chapter Text

Before they left the next day, Athena bent down and brought Kain up in a tight embrace, tears running down her face. “We’re going to be gone for a long time this time. I want you to be safe. You have a pack here now; they will take care of you until I’m back, okay?”

 

In understanding the pup began to lick every inch of her face, soft whines interrupting his shows of affection. He managed to lick the tears that were falling down her cheeks off, a soft laugh coming from her as she set the pup down and motioned him towards the large grey alpha that waited on the edges of the forest. The six wolves from the day before were waiting in the shadows, their postures and eyes filled with pride. The group had bonded all through the night. Athena had joined them in a hunt and almost fell asleep resting on one of their sides. It was probably the reason she had pieces of grass and elfroot within her hair.

 

As Kain ran to the pack, she called out to them: “Stay to the woods! Don’t go near Haven; they’re not like me.”

 

The alpha yelped a sharp bark towards her, nipping Kain on the back of the neck before disappearing into the forest. To keep from breaking down and sobbing, she grabbed her staff and quickly mounted Prince, making sure to keep Kain’s basket outside of the cabin in case he needed to smell something familiar. The pair entered Haven and caught up with the Herald who laughed at her appearance, trying to pick some of the grass from her hair while on her own horse. “Goodness, Athena, did you sleep in the woods last night?”

 

She laughed, pushing her friend away while stabilizing herself on Prince’s back with her thighs. “Actually, kind of. You would never believe what happened-“

 

A sharp voice interrupted them, “Ugh! Don’t you look all elfy with the grass in your hair lookin’ like you slept in the trees.”

 

The two looked back to Sera who was coming up on her own smaller horse, a curious look on her face while she looked Athena up and down. Solas came up behind her with an annoyed look on his features and posture. The two elves must have been getting better acquainted. Athena nearly snorted at the look of them, responding back with a playful jest. “I don’t think I’m that elfy. I got more hair than the two of you combined so something must not be right.”

 

Sera threw the rest of the bread she was eating at the back of her head while she galloped off behind the Seeker, who was already leading the party out on the long trail towards the Storm Coast.

 

And boy was that terrain not welcoming.

 

The biting winds and rain affected all of them. Before as they were riding through the plains and mountains they had somewhat cheery demeanors and were continuing to get to know each other. Once they neared the seas and the violent storms appeared to never end, they all became short-tempered people. Sera cursed the heavens every chance she could and Cassandra seemed to withdraw into herself with every hoof step.

 

“Shit, how much longer?!” Sera screeched, her hands throwing up in the air while she let out an unattractive groan of frustration. Cassandra looked over her shoulder with a scowl, pointing up towards the coastline.

 

“I think our camp is up there!” The Seeker shouted back, her words being devoured by the storm and roaring waves off to the side.

 

Athena whispered soothing words to Prince while they rode, her hands stroking his mane while he bravely kept on without faltering.  Thankfully the rest of the trip was short and they were soon receiving report from Scout Harding, the lovely dwarf who seemed to be able to brave any conditions. They were informed of the Blades of Hessarian, an almost cult type group that had been doing activity in the area. They came for the Chargers and Rathein decided that would be their focus at the moment.

 

In the distance there was the sound of fighting, a rather loud war cry catching Athena’s attention. It sounded like The Bull. “I think we found the Tevinter group Aclassi was talking about.” She poked the Herald’s shoulder then pointed down the hill where the sound continued to grow louder. They barely had time to unpack before Athena was running down the side of the rocky slope with her staff drawn.

 

Sera followed her with her bow and arrows at the ready. “Man you don’t like to wait, yeah?” She asked with a giggle while she followed Athena down the slope.

 

The elf then stopped in her tracks, eyes widening and a singular sound coming from her lips. “Woof.”

 

The Iron Bull was in front of them, looking like he was eight some odd feet tall with two large horns coming from his head. He was big in the game but the amount of raw strength he had in his muscles was majorly downplayed. He brought his great axe down on a Tevinter mage, a satisfied grin coming to his face as he turned to the next enemy and screamed to get their attention off of the mage in the back. There were roughly a dozen enemies left, Athena looking around to see where she could cut in.

 

Krem, the Tevinter man who had come to Haven to recruit them, was battling his own Tevinter when a rogue came up behind with a dagger drawn. Athena snapped her staff to the side, screaming: “ACLASSI.” From the tip of her staff came a bolt of lightning that paralyzed the attacker just in time for the mercenary to turn around with a curious look on his face before shoving his sword deep into the rogue’s chest. He then gave a curt nod towards Athena before moving on to the next person.

 

Rathein, Cassandra, and Solas arrived as the group was finishing up. Iron Bull put his axe in the last one before realizing the fight was over with his final kill of the group. His voice carried out over all of them, its volume rivaling the large waves that crashed against the rocks nearby. “Chargers! Stand down!”

 

The mercenary group seemed to relax, smiles coming over their faces as they realized they came out of the fight without any casualties on their side. Cremisius came up to her, extending his hand to shake hers. “Thanks for that back there. You have a good eye.”

 

Athena smiled at him, squeezing his hand in return while looking at the remains of the battlefield. “Aclassi-“

 

“Krem. Please.”

 

She let go of his hand, nodding before sheathing her staff on her back. “Krem. You guys did quick work of that group. I’m impressed.” Rathein echoed her thought with a satisfied hum but her eyes were glued to the Iron Bull, an almost permanent blush in her cheeks as she looked, no, gawked at his large arm and chest muscles that were covered in tattoos.

 

He noticed, adjusting his eye patch with a cocky grin before calling to his lieutenant. “Krem! How did we do?” 

 

The warrior straightened up his posture, quickly surveying the area before reporting. "Five or six wounded. No dead.”

 

Iron Bull smiled and nodded, obviously satisfied with the results. He turned towards Rathein and gestured for them all to sit down. “So, you’re with the Inquisition? Glad you could make it. Have a seat, drinks are coming.”

 

The Herald was frozen in her place. So much that Athena had to come up and push her from behind, quickly whispering in her ear: “Work first. Gawk later.”

 

Rathein’s flush quickly faded as she walked towards the large Qunari mercenary leader. “Iron Bull, I presume?”

 

He sat down and smirked. “Yeah, the horns usually give it away.”

 

The two began discussing the contract for the Inquisition. The rest of the party stood within ear shot but observed as the Chargers finished slitting the throats of their enemies for security. Sera made a disgusted face while running off to retrieve some of the arrows she skillfully fired during the whole endeavor. Cassandra sheathed her sword while shielding her eyes to look through the rain back at camp. “Do we have to camp out in this weather tonight?” Her voice was filled with disdain and it made Athena chuckle while Solas smirked, his own clothes drenched to the bone from the rain. 

 

Athena pointed up past their camp to some nearby rock formations. “There should be a cave back there. I think if we clear it out we can stay there for the night. I’ll take first guard if you like?”

 

The warrior obviously relaxed, a soft smile coming to her face as she nodded. Somehow, even with all of the rain and wind, the braid that intertwined through her short hair was perfect. It wasn’t fair. Luckily for Athena in their long venture from Haven all of the twigs and grass came from her hair and left her looking somewhat normal especially if she was being compared to a drowned rat. When Cassandra walked back towards the camp, Solas stepped closer to her, raising his voice to speak over the storm.

 

“The night before we left Haven I heard wolves in the air. Have you been looking into your shapeshifting studies?” He asked with a curious sheen to his eyes, a shadow of a smirk at the corner of his lips. She almost bounced in excitement when responding, her hands clapping together.

 

“Yes! I was able to recruit a small pack of wolves!” He went to inquire further but Rathein’s voice cut through their conversation.

 

“A spy?”

 

“Yeah, Ben Hasserath. Like I said.” Iron Bull responded simply.

 

Athena rolled her eyes playfully, quickly shouting to Solas as a roar of thunder echoed through the skies. “Another time!” She then walked over to Rathein and gestured to sit down next to her, the Herald approving with a nod before they both turned back to the Bull. She was the first to respond, allowing Rathein some time to process what she heard. “I’m sure it’s a ‘you help me I help you’ situation, right? You know you’ll be working with the former Left Hand of the Divine, right?” The smile she gave him was a warning because Leliana could be brutal with those she didn’t trust.

 

He smiled at her. “Red? Yeah I know of her. Look we’re expensive but we’re worth it. And you don’t only get the Chargers, you get me, like I was telling her here. You need a front line bodyguard. Demons? Dragons?” His voice seemed to get excited at the prospect of fighting the large winged creatures but he continued. “The bigger the better. What do you say?” He looked to Rathein but then gave Athena a sideways glance. She could almost feel him sizing her up but she didn’t flinch, instead she held his gaze for a moment before looking over to her friend.

                                                                                                   

Without hesitation the Herald nodded, extending a hand for him to shake in a contract. “The Chargers seem like an excellent company.”

 

Athena looked to the dark clouds, trying to determine where the sun was in the sky. It felt like it would be close to dusk so clearing out the cave would need to be sooner rather than later. She nudged the Herald while including the Bull in the conversation as well. “While you guys finish up I’ll take Solas to those caves back there. We’ll fire a spark when it’s clear.” Rathein nodded, a blush returning to her cheeks when she realized she would be left alone with the largely impressive mercenary leader.

 

She stood from the bench and tapped Solas on the shoulder, motioning with her head to follow her while she walked along the coast. He fell into step with her and she could feel his gaze on her back. They reached the mouth of the cave and both of them hesitated. There was a deep darkness and the sounds of something crawling around and knocking rocks over. Athena went to swallow a lump of nerves but she realized her mouth and throat were parched, despite the heavy rainfall. Her voice came out quiet but she managed to curve it with sarcasm. “Five gold says spiders.”

 

Solas hummed in amusemnt, crossing his arms across his chest while assessing the darkness. He even went so far as to sniff the air. “Hm. Deep stalkers perhaps?” There was a slight smile in his eyes that said: “Wager accepted. You're on."

 

Taking that as a cue to enter she lit a flame in her hand and threw it into the cave. The fireball burst, illuminating the cave and the giant spiders that lived within it. As they were crawling down the walls and heading towards them, Athena pumped a fist into the air: “Pay up, Solas!”

Chapter Text

They were able to dispense of the spiders quickly and in no time the Inquisition camp, the Chargers, and all of their mounts were in the cave shielded from the storm. Iron Bull had broken open the casks for the group to celebrate their contract and as promised Athena watched guard at the only mouth of the cave. The storm raged outside even as darkness set in, which made it more difficult to see things moving in the distance. It was strange, but it felt like ever since she was looking into shapeshifting magic her senses were somehow becoming more heightened. She could smell the salt of the sea and there was a slight mixture of blood in the air from the earlier Tevinter battle. There was even a remnant of Kain on her cotton underclothes from where he cuddled up to her at night.

 

She pulled her knees up to her chest, her staff to the side facing the darkness while her lute lay on her left. The wind was bracing against her skin but somehow it still felt nice, comforting. The storms reminded her of where she went to college. The rain would go on for days but life still went on unaffected. Her and her friends would find little landmarks of dry spots in between buildings and make a game out of it, the loser always being the one in the puddle. . .  What were they doing now? Had her coworkers all gone on without her? It was probably best that way, she thought to herself, tears stinging the corners of her eyes in an overwhelming moment of self-pity. It had been months now, surely they had all moved on in their lives and she was just an afterthought.

 

Unfortunately for her everyday put her farther from her past life. She was beginning to forget the little things that made up her past like the locker combination at work, how exactly her bedroom was set up, and the name of the new intern at work she had wanted to ask out. They were all starting to blur into nothingness as she thought back on them. The tears mixed in with the mist from the rain thankfully, which made it easier to cover up when Solas approached her from the side with two cups of whatever Bull had in the cask. He gestured with the cups, asking permission before sitting. She gave him a soft nod, not even looking from the outside to acknowledge him.

                                                                                                    

He handed her the drink and took a sip of his own, his eyebrows knitting in what she could assume was disgust before moving it to the side. “You look lost.”

 

This caught her attention, reddened eyes looking towards him. “Lost?”

 

He nodded, pointing to the air above her. “Your aura has a tendency to move like a wave when you’re deep in thought instead of flaring like when you are speaking.” Suddenly she felt very vulnerable, her barrier reigning in her aura straight to her skin. It warmed her body and brought a twitch of a frown to his lips. “I did not mean to– I am sorry, just an observation.”

 

She took a sip of the strong ale they had served up, downing it in one large gulp before resting her head on her knees. “I’m sorry. I’m just thinking of home, I guess. It’s been a. . . long time.”

 

He hummed in acknowledgement while leaning on the cave wall next to her. “You are not at home in the Inquisition?”

 

Athena nearly scoffed at him, jerking her head in Rathein’s direction while quoting something from his book. “I’m a self-taught apostate mage that lives in a cabin on the edge of town that fell from the Fade. Except I don’t have a mark that can save the world. I’m just . . . me.” Irrelevant. Replaceable. The words rang true in her mind, the tears never drying in her eyes while she looked back outside. Lightning struck out on the seas and briefly illuminated the area in front of them. When she deemed it was clear of enemies she stretched out her legs and sighed, resting her head against the cave wall.

 

He clasped his hands in his lap, eyes still focused on her while he tried to catch her gaze. She wouldn’t allow it. When he looked at her it was always searching and it brought a feeling of uneasiness to her stomach. His voice tried to calm her, it steady and somewhat hopeful. “The Inquisition is still in its youth, surely you will find your purpose within it.”

 

She rewarded his kind comment with a glance, accompanying it with a shrug while relaxing her posture a little more. Her hands grasped her lute. She wanted to play but there was just a general sense of apathy that had conquered her mind. The struggle was apparently written on her face, a small chuckle coming from his lips. “I think your friend might be able to help you there.”

 

Before she could turn to respond he waved a hand over her face, a spell casting darkness over her mind and putting her in a deep sleep.

 


 

 

When she opened her eyes she was in the Fade. It swirled around her, its horizons blank like a canvas for her to shape with her mind. Athena pushed herself up from the ground with a small growl, the realization setting in. “Damnit, Solas!” The bastard put me to sleep! She kicked the ground and ethereal dirt went flying at her gesture.

 

Soon a bright figure appeared beside her, placing her gentle hands around her body. Athena took in a deep breath and was suddenly calmed by the feeling of Inspiration giving her a hug. When she spoke her voice was broken, cracking at almost every syllable while threatening to break into a sob. “How. . . did you know?”

 

The spirit turned her to face her head on, burying her face into her shoulder while smiling against her skin. “Your sadness is really palpable here. I got here before all the demons did so you’ll be okay.”

 

Athena froze in her place, hands suddenly rigid with fear. “Am I really attracting that much attention?”

 

The spirit stepped back and nodded, her normal free-flowing curls braided into a fishtail braid coming down the side of her face and chest. “You have since I first met you. Your song, it’s loud and different. Entrancing almost.”

 

She looked to her hands and sighed, rubbing one of them on the back of her neck while silent tears fell down her face. “I guess you’re right. I’ve just been missing home recently and am realizing I may never see them again. I’m starting to forget. Their names, their faces, they are all shadows now.”

 

Inspiration frowned while snapping her fingers together in an idea. “I know! What is something that used to cheer you up at home?”

 

She paused for a second, sitting down while a chair formed underneath her without having to summon it. “Music. Music was. . .  is absolutely my escape and when I was feeling sad I would listen to music and sing along. Sometimes dance!”

 

The spirit bounced, gesturing in the area around them. “Take me to your world then! You and I can do that together! Come on, you need a happy song, or at least something upbeat.”

 

Athena closed her eyes, trying to imagine her room in her home world. Slowly things started to snap into existence. Her queen-sized bed with navy sheets, her coat rack with an assortment of hats and scarfs, the pile of unsorted mail on her computer chair, it all was coming into place. Inspiration ran from one end of the room to the other, picking up unfamiliar items and making sounds of excitement. She then walked over to where her computer was, or used to be. It was difficult to form the foreign objects in the Fade so there was an empty spot that her fingers slid over. Already the beat for a song began to play in her head, a coy smirk coming to her face.

 

Somehow it moved through her mind into the Fade, the song acting like it was blasting into the room through a set of speakers. The spirit formed her mouth into an “o” in surprise before bobbing her head along to the beat while she tried to figure out what to do with her hands. The music flowed through Athena, wiping her mind clear of worries and the negative emotions that came with them. She thought that was probably due to Inspiration’s influence but still, she was in no place to fight.

                                                                                                                                                                   

Her body bopped a little, eyes closed as the music began to swell. It was all coming back to her now, the choreographed moves from her childhood with her sister, the notes, the nostalgia –

 

Everybody!

 

Her eyes snapped open, a genuine grin on her face as she pointed to Inspiration and mouthed the words with the song.

 

Rock your body!

 

The spirit listened intently, hands wringing in excitement as she watched her friend finally unravel from the sadness she had come into the dream with. Athena allowed her hands to fall to her sides while the song continued to play, the familiar beats creating a tempo within her body.

 

Everybody! Rock your body right.

 

In a burst of movement, she ran and jumped on her old bed, the Fade supplying her with enough bounce to jump in the air and begin to scream the lyrics. Relief poured from her pores while the song continued, her body fluidly moving along to the words. She rolled her shoulders in time with the music, biting her lips while swinging her hips and falling into a hypnosis from the song. Inspiration allowed her magic to flow, picking up on Athena’s dancing and doing it herself next to the bed.

 

Am I sex-u-al?


The song played, Athena dropped down to her knees while rising up in a sensual motion, arching her back and rolling her body with the tempo. Inspiration joined her up on the bed, their bodies back to back while they danced and allowed the tempo to dictate their movements.

 

They went all night, going song through song until it felt like the morning was about to come. The room had faded into her one at Haven but the music still played, Athena now just sitting in a chair and singing along to it, the remnants of a grin on her face. Happiness lit up her features, her eyes no longer red and inflamed from the tears. Inspiration had laid down on her bed, eyes looking up at the ceiling while listening to Athena sing and play the lute to her favorite songs. The notes came easier now, her fingers effortlessly gliding up and down the strings.

                                                                                                    

I can feel the sun whenever you’re near. Every time you touch me I just melt away.

 

She sang with her eyes closed, hands strumming along on the lute while she felt a familiar pressure in the back of her mind. She assumed it was Inspiration wanting to learn a new song and opened her mind to it, not noticing the elf that was leaning against her doorway with his arms crossed over his chest. Inspiration shot up on the bed, shooting Athena a panicked look while throwing a pillow towards Solas, which hit him not so delicately in the chest. He caught it and then opened his mouth to speak but the spirit put a finger to her lips, throwing the thought into his mind of She needs this! Hush!  He frowned while looking from the spirit to Athena. He observed her for a moment, watching as she was so blissfully unaware of his presence. He then cleared his throat with a small smirk on his lips, quickly throwing the pillow back at Inspiration.

 

“Baby it’s you! You’re the one I lo-"  Athena’s eyes shot open, looking over towards the mage giving her an almost wolfish grin as he caught her in her musical escape. Shock filled her features, it paralyzing every bone in her body as she just looked at him. Even in the Fade he wore his wolf-jaw necklace which hung down in the middle of his chest.

                                                                                                    

“I see the sleep helped.”

 

She then scowled, remembering that he was the one who put her to sleep in the first place. She rose from her chair to scold him for it but then reminisced at how happy she had just been for the entire night. Inspiration was the accumulation of all of her friends from home shoved into one. They fed off one another, filling each other to the brim with happiness until it felt like they were going to burst. She blinked away her anger and looked towards the spirit who was sitting cross-legged on the bed. “I. . . I suppose it did. Thank you. Wait, where did you put me once I fell asleep?”

 

He rubbed a hand over his head, relaxing his posture in the doorway. “I put you on a bedroll next to the Herald. I assumed it is where you would have been anyway?”

 

“And my guard duty?”

 

“Do not fret, I took your place.”

 

Athena nodded, kicking her feet on the ground while working her gaze up from the ground to his without a blush coming to her cheeks. Her voice became almost formal, business-like to hide the embarrassment that was fighting to overthrow her tone. “I assume there were no troubles?”

 

His smile decreased but he nodded, hands coming to a clasped position behind his back, almost like he picked up on her change of tone. Shit, Athena. “We are safe, but I think it about time we woke up and began our travels to the Hinterlands to find this Grey Warden.” His words dripped with disdain at the title, a flash of anger coming to his eyes but she ignored it, giving him a nod.

 

She closed her eyes to find the pull to her earthly tether, her body and its sleeping place. Instead she heard an “Allow me” come from the fellow mage, his hand sliding over the top of her head to slowly bring her from the Fade.

 

Chapter Text

The journey to the Hinterlands was a much needed reprieve. They sent Cassandra with the the Chargers to Haven so she could inform the rest of the village on their progress. The Seeker seemed excited to get out of the Storm Plains and not have to go through another trek through the plains and the mountains. They arrived at the camp at the edge of the lake, close to the location where Leliana marked that this rumored Grey Warden was. She allowed Prince to roam free and he immediately took off into the water, splashing around in it like he was a young foal. Athena shook her head and rejoined the party: Iron Bull, Solas, Rathein, and Sera.

 

The Herald was briefing all of them on the plan, a map on the table in front of her as she explained. “This is supposed to be where he was sighted by Leliana’s scouts. He’s supposed to be alone but we can’t be too careful. Leliana mentioned that the Wardens have all but gone missing in Ferelden and Orlais. It sounds suspicious.” Athena nodded in response, looking up towards the lake. They all paused for a moment before ascending the hill and walking across rickety wooden bridges that intertwined and brought them to a woodman’s hut on the side of the lake.

 

The scene they came upon was identical to the game, three plainly dressed soldiers being instructed by a burly man with a large black beard who was in full armor. “Remember how to carry your shields. Remember you’re not hiding, you’re holding.” Athena tried not to roll her eyes as she watched the soldiers absorb every word like it was scripture, their swords holding firm in their hands.

 

Rathein walked into view, calling out to the leader of the group. “Blackwall. Warden Blackwall?”

 

He turned on his heel, surprise filling each feature. “How do you know my name? Who sent-“ Before he could lift a shield Athena glanced over her shoulder and brought a barrier up to deflect the arrow that was aimed near the Herald.

 

She gave a growl of frustration before turning to their attackers while Blackwall shouted to them: “That’s it. Help or get out. We’re dealing with these idiots first.” He rallied his small troop of three soldiers and went into the fray with the bandits, the rest of the party bursting into action. Sera jumped on top of a crate and fired her arrows with ease while Solas and Athena protected the rest of the group with barriers. The bandits were disbanded with a swing of Blackwall’s sword. He turned to speak what Athena knew to be a rousing speech to his “conscripts”. She turned to the water and rinsed some of the dirt off of her staff and boots.

 

Rathein and Blackwall spoke, the Herald informing him of how they were investigating whether the Grey Wardens were involved with the Divine. Blackwall was shocked and Athena had to hide a sneer, washing her hands in the lake before drying them on her pants. She then helped Sera retrieve her arrows and wipe their bloody tips off on clean parts of the corpses. Iron Bull was looking at the bandits for anything valuable but with a disappointed grunt he turned back towards Rathein.

 

“Grey Wardens can inspire. . . Make you better than you think you are.”

 

This brought a unison but soft groan of disapproval from both Solas and Athena, their brows perking up when their gazes met. He looked at her, his features questioning what problem she had with the Wardens. Instead of answering she merely chuckled under her breath, walking past them and on the wooden bridges. She could feel a few questioning gazes on her back as she wandered but it would be safer to look uninterested than it would be to show her leery gazes of mistrust towards Blackwall.

 

Like with all of the others, she knew their pasts and what secrets they would eventually reveal to the Herald. She understood having secrets, shit she obviously had her own, but faking to be a Warden? It was something that had always gotten underneath her skin. The Wardens she knew in Origins were honorable, willing to lay their life on the line to end the Blight. Blackwall would have to earn her trust as well as the others in the game and she would see through all of his lies and hollow explanations.

 

A sound similar to a grunt brought her attention up from the ground, her eyes scanning the trees. It came again, this time louder and followed by a growl. Shit. Bear country. Her brown gaze slowly panned over until she saw the origin of the sound about a dozen paces away. Its breath came out in growls and grunts, steam coming from its mouth in the cold mountain air. Athena instantly brought her staff forward and put a pulse of magic through the air with the thought of Still! Her aura reached out towards the bear, trying to subdue its anger and naturally aggressive instincts.

 

It fought it off, shaking its head while raking its claws through the dirt. For a moment, it stilled, its breaths coming in whines while it looked up at her with a glazed look. But then within a second it broke and the bear was charging her, a claw out and swiping down at her.

 

She blocked the claw attack with her staff but the force of the blow knocked her on her back. A cry of pain escaped her lips as she landed on a fallen tree, the sharp ridges of the branches putting sharp pressure through her jacket. The bear’s body was now over hers, its jaw opening wide as it bellowed a roar in her face.

 

“Athena!” Cried Rathein from the side, the group apparently finding her body trapped under that of a bear.

 

Without even thinking she screamed back at them, “I got this!” while keeping the bear’s jaws off of her. The bear suddenly fell down on its, stomach, the earth-shattering crack of Bull’s axe dealing a heavy blow onto it. Unfortunately, this also put the bear right on top of her, its weight pinning her legs while it looked her right in the eyes with blood lust fueling its growl.

 

She didn’t even have time to react, all she could do was put her hand out to cast a spell and the bear took it into its mouth. Teeth and fangs bit down into the middle of her forearm, a wordless cry ripping from her throat. The pain instantly shot up her arm and she could feel the bones breaking underneath. Blood burst from the bear’s mouth as it tried to pull back, it thankfully giving her legs a break so she could scramble to all fours. This allowed the group to get a perfect view of what was happening: the bear attempting to drag her away while her arm was caught in its mouth and halfway down its throat. 

 

Solas’s cool barrier wrapped around her body, and it took everything in her not to give him a sarcastic glare. So fucking helpful. Instead, she screamed again as the bear readjusted its grip, using the heightened anxiety from the wound and pushing it towards her injured hand. Flames burst forth from her hand into the bear’s mouth, it instantly letting her go and falling to the side as she overheated its brain. Athena fell back with a small cry, her right hand gripping her left while she assessed the damage.

 

Luckily it was still attached but boy was it mangled. Her mind couldn’t even process the extent of the damage before Solas dropped to his knees beside her, gingerly taking her arm into his hands while his gaze quickly looked at the worst points of the wound. Every small motion caused her to cry out and it took everything in her not to jerk her arm from his hand. He looked to Rathein, giving a quick order with a grim-featured face: “Hold her.”

 

“Wait, what?” She gasped as Rathein dropped to her knees and wrapped her arms around her chest while helping to support her upper arm. Suddenly she felt trapped. Her vision went white and her breaths were shallow and fast, her pulse racing which only caused more blood to flow from her wound.

 

Solas closed his eyes and mumbled and apology before quickly snapping her arm back into place. She screamed, Rathein’s arm covering her mouth for her to scream into while he worked his healing magic quickly into the bone and tendons. Hot tears streamed down her face into her friend’s sleeve, the Herald whispering soft apologies into the back of her hair. It felt like she was crying as well since the back of her hair was wet. Solas placed both hands around her forearm and pulsed more magic into it, the cool, crisp sensation of his magic innately fighting against her fire that lashed out at him. He winced with a hiss, her aura apparently really putting up a fight against the healer.

 

Rathein cursed into her ear, ordering a command while squeezing her torso tighter. “Gods, Athena, let him help you!” She slammed her eyes shut and focused on her breathing, trying to slow it while withdrawing her aura into her body. His magic was then able to take effect, the skin closing with a circular scar of teeth marks around her arm. The Herald fell backwards and released her, Athena falling forward with a sigh and half a sob. The pain was slowly fading as blood flow returned to her arm. She wiggled her fingers, touching the tips of every finger to her thumb while assessing sensation. Everything worked, thank the Maker.

 

She looked up and met Solas’s gaze, ignoring the typical feelings of anxiety and light-headedness that came with it while giving him a weak smile. “Sorry I’m such a terrible patient.”

 

He smirked in return, taking a sip of a lyrium potion while handing her a healing potion. “Drink this. You’re pale.”

 

“No shit?” Athena retorted back at him with an arched brow, downing the acidic potion with a wince on her face. Sera came up besides Blackwall, her eyes looking from the bear back to her. “What’d you run off for?”

 

She paused, closing her eyes while knowing her response was being heavily monitored. Sarcasm ended up winning as the response, a sly grin coming to her face while she looked back at the archer. “Sera, you know. I just looked at Bull and thought: Shit. I could really use some bad ass scars like those.”

 

The elven girl cackled, holding her hands to her belly while she bent over laughing. Iron Bull gave a small bark of a laugh while he put his axe on his back. Rathein kicked her in the back for the sarcastic response, this reminding Athena that she was probably bruised to hell from the tree she landed on. Solas was already standing, offering a hand for her to use to get up. Luckily she didn’t have an excess supply of blood for blushing so she took his hand, feeling a jolt of his cold energy shoot down her arm as she did so, and pulled herself to a standing position. Blackwall was over by the bear, his armored boot kicking its side. “What are we to do with this?”

 

Athena pointed with her scarred arm towards him, an almost happy malice curving her lips into a smile. “That bastard’s pelt is mine. Think Harrit can make that into a cowl and robe for me?”

 

Rathein smirked and nodded, resting her elbow on Athena’s shoulder while looking at the bear with an impressed gaze. Iron Bull glanced over at her arm, raising his brows while nodding while gradually smiling.  “You know, that scar is pretty bad ass.”

 

This brought a genuine laugh from her while she took out a dagger that Cassandra had given her from her thigh and began skinning the bear. At the end, she kept its head and the rest of its coat, lugging the thing over her shoulder to take back to the camp. Rathein decided Sera would take the next day’s ride home with supplies, the bear pelt, and another update for the Inquisition, letting them know that the Herald and her party were going to Redcliffe to meet with the rebel mages and their leader, Fiona.

Chapter Text

“Bad feeling. Odd.” Athena stated to the group through gritted teeth as they approached Redcliffe, her staff clutched tightly in her hands. The air around them felt thick, like they were having to push harder to get through it and it weighed their bodies down with every step. The odd sensation sent a chill down her spine and made her feel generally uneasy. The others seemed unaffected, except for Solas who occasionally knit his brows in frustration when they walked through a rough patch. Up ahead was the gate that led to the village, and unfortunately standing in front of it was a Fade Rift. They had been closing a few here and there throughout the Hinterlands, Athena expertly leading them away from one by the farmlands due to its intense nature in the game. But this Rift. . .just felt wrong.

 

Rathein jumped into action by launching her storm magic at the nearest wisps, Athena looking on the ground for areas of time distortion, seeing where a shade was moving at a particularly accelerated rate. She ran to meet it, her body moving through what felt like a film before striking at the demon with her staff, flames following every movement until the shades was dissipated into a pile of rags. She then turned on her heel to assess the situation. They had dispersed the first wave of demons but a second appeared, the ground cracking and giving way for the terrors and wisps as they burst from the veil of the Fade.

 

Athena continued her assault, flames and lightning moving through her body with each snap of her staff. At one-point Iron Bull gave her a curious look and she knew why it was warranted. The place where she was standing had been distorted so that she was moving faster than everyone else. She knew from playing the games that time magic was involved and it was infecting the area around them. So because of where she stood, time warped around her and allowed her to move faster than her party mates. She used this to her advantage, throwing spells and barriers at accelerated rates until Rathein was able to close the Rift.

 

Once the Rift was closed though the exhaustion of firing so many spells hit her, sweat beading on her brow as her breath came in pants. She gave a deep sigh, resting her hands on her knees to catch her breath. Rathein walked over, her voice impressed but cautious. “How were you able to do that?”

 

Athena, still out of breath, motioned to the areas around. “Did you. . . not feel. . . .that? Something. . .is off here.” She was able to stand without her sides killing her, placing her hands on her back while stretching backwards.

 

The Herald bit her bottom lip while shaking her head, placing her staff on the back. The Redcliffe soldiers opened the gates with cries of “Thank the Maker!” An Inquisition soldier that had been sent ahead ran to the Herald, worry setting into his features. He saluted Rathein, his posture straight and tall. Just like Cullen taught him. Athena smirked with a soft blush in her cheeks while she thought back on the Commander. He was warming up to her as well. They all were, which fueled her even harder to try and help them without completely altering their destiny. Chaos was what Corypheus wanted; it was what kept him and his nightmares alive. She would do everything within her power to stop his plans while helping the Inquisition.

 

“Wait, nobody is expecting us? Not even Grand Enchanter Fiona?” Rathein responded, her voice shrill with shock and confusion. The messenger shook his head, pointing back towards the Chantry. “If she was, she didn’t tell anyone. We’ve arranged to use the tavern for a place for negotiations.” He then bowed before taking off towards the tavern. The group stilled, all eyes on the Herald while waiting for their next command. Rathein was still in a small state of shock, her hands balling into fists at her side.

 

Athena tightened her gloves on her hands while walking to her side. “Like I said: Odd. Let’s go meet up with them.”

 

Before they stepped into the gate, an elf mage ran up to them, a sense of entitlement fueling his step. “Agents of the Inquisition? My apologies. Magister Alexius is in charge now, but hasn’t yet arrived. He’s expected shortly. You can speak with the Former Grand Enchanter in the meantime.”

 

When he left the entire group let out similar sounds of frustration and anger, Bull cursing to himself: “Fucking Vints.”

 

The group made a unison sound of agreement. Athena could feel Solas’s aura bristling, it flicking against her skin almost like electricity. With an arched brow, she used her aura to flick his shoulder to catch his attention. He looked at her, anger flaring from his features through every pore. She raised her hands in defense, walking to his side making a small tisking noise under her breath. “And I thought I was the unleashed one.” She gave him a playful wink, trying to lighten the mood even though they had just been told a Tevinter Magister was running the town. It was probably inappropriate, no she knew it was inappropriate, but even in the darkest times at the hospital she was the one cracking jokes just to see her coworkers smile. There was a time for grief and sadness but if there was nobody there to puncture the dread they would all succumb to it. But her thoughts turned back to Alexius, a frown twitching at the corner of her lips while she looked around the area for any of his spies. He was a Magister, whose culture was known for using blood-magic and owning slaves. It was the worst scenario they could have seen themselves walking into.

 

Rathein moved forward, anger obviously fueling her steps as they marched through the town. Redcliffe was cloaked in fear. The streets were full of children pleading their nightmares of demons and magic to their parents. Unfortunately, the parents turned a blind eye, not wanting their children to be involved in the mage rebellion or anything that came with it. Athena growled under her breath, shooting a particular parent a glare as they literally turned their nose up in the air to their child’s worries. If they didn’t address their child’s growing magic they would soon have an abomination on their hands. A mage child was better than a dead one.

 

They walked through the town and before they reached the tavern Athena felt an odd pressure on the inside of her mind. She stopped in her tracks, looking down the stairs and towards a shack that was near the water’s edge. Rathein gestured for the group to pause, her eyes trying to follow her friend’s stare. “What’s a’ matter, Athena?”

 

She took a step forward, the pressure turning into something like whispers within her mind. It made her skin crawl but there was an urgency to the whispers she could not deny. “There’s something wrong here. Something’s calling out. Don’t you hear it?” She followed the whispers, it leading her down the stairs and at the door where a sense of dread washed over her. She remembered what was on the other side. The discovery that in the game chilled her blood to the bone and made her want to burn the whole thing down. Well. Here she could, or at least lay down some havoc.

 

The party fell into step behind her and she knew they were questioning her intentions. She was terrified to open the door, her hands hesitating over the handle. Solas, thankfully, spoke up and eased her mind that she was the only one who could feel it. “Death has permeated this place. The veil is freshly thin.” With that she tried to open the door, only to find it was locked. In frustration she jiggled the door and then kicked it, letting out a small cry of frustration. Bull grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back, silently accepting the task of knocking down the door since he was the most capable from sheer size and strength alone.

 

He took a deep breath in, raising his leg before quickly slamming the bottom of his massive, booted foot through the door handle. The door burst and barely hung on its hinges, allowing Athena to slide past and enter the cabin. Then the whispering voices grew louder until they were near screaming in her head, begging for some release and telling her of their plights. She fell to her knees, hands gripping her hair while she fell forward. The rest of the party fell in behind her, Rathein finally whispering and putting a hand to her own temple as the voices hit her too.

 

The walls were covered in skulls with dimly glowing eyes. They were the Ocularum, dreaded skulls enchanted by the Venatori. Crystals protruded from the base of the skull through their right eye and their jaws hung forever open in a scream. Solas found a letter on the desk, reading it out loud in a flat yet pained voice for all of them to hear. “There must be more Tranquil in the area- the rebels abandoned most of them when they left their Circles. Oh no.” His eyes widened in realization, the letter falling from his hands. Rathein took it from him, her eyes quickly scouring the letter. Curses in many languages fell from her lips, tears forming in the Herald’s eyes as she finished.

 

Athena was barely able to stand up on her own, her eyes red from her own tears. “They butchered them, for what?” Her voice came out hoarse yet determined. She stood with a burst of energy, grabbing each of the skulls and putting them on the ground. Rathein didn’t question her motives but helped in understanding, quickly placing them all in a compact circle. Blackwall cleared his throat. It was obvious the Grey Warden was uncomfortable with the amount of death and odd magic in the room. “What are you two doing?”

 

Rathein was quiet, focused on their task. Athena was the one to look up at him with venom dripping from every word. “They. Deserve. Peace.” Once they were all off the walls she traced a circle around them with her staff. It was a containment circle, something she had seen in her books of basic studies. Then with a flick of her hand she lit the skulls aflame. The screams in her head faded into nothingness as the skulls and crystals cracked in front of her. Rathein had moved outside, needing to get away from all of the whispers that had plagued her mind. Iron Bull and Blackwall followed, leaving only Solas and Athena in the shack with the burning skulls.

 

She was fuming¸ her aura intentionally flaring and writhing in combination with the flames in front of her. She could feel that it created a swirling air around her but she didn’t care. There was no way to contain the anger she felt for the innocent Tranquils. They were already mages who had their magic stolen from them and half of them probably lost it from the actions of a corrupt Templar ruled by fear. They had already suffered enough and then there were those who would pray on that suffering to further their own cause. She clenched her fists at her side, willing the flames in front of her to burn hotter, brighter. The voices were completely gone from her mind as the skulls turned to ash in front of her.

 

The tears had dried on her face but she was nearly shaking with rage. Solas approached her from behind, fists at his side as well. His hardened gaze looked upon the remnants of the skulls. When Athena spoke, her voice sounded foreign, even to her. It was dripping with malice, each word pointed with an unmistakable rage. “Alexius will pay for this.”

 

He nodded in response at her side but he didn’t know the half of it. Alexius would pay for altering time to steal the mages from the Inquisition. He would pay for betraying Dorian so. He would pay for aligning himself with a False God such as Corypheus. He would not live to bewitch anybody else.

 

The pair left the shack once they were able to contain themselves. Rathein was preparing to go into the tavern when Athena pointed towards the docks. “I think it might be best if I don’t go in there. You have to be political and represent the Inquisition in these talks. I can’t make any promises on restraining myself. I’ll stay out here, out of sight, until you guys are done.”

 

The Herald cracked a smile, ruffling her hair playfully. “Yeah, you little firecracker. You would probably lunge across the table and punch him right then and there. Alright, you be safe. We’ll be back soon.” Athena waved off the party, waiting for them to get out of sight before she started exploring the dock-side markets of Redcliffe. There were plenty of mages walking about and from her conversations with them the general consensus was that none of them were happy about being allied with the Tevinter Magister, swooping in at the right time, as if by magic.  

 

She had come across a mourning elven husband who wished for flowers to be put at his wife’s shrine. Athena put a hand to his shoulder, squeezing it while reassuring that she would tell the Herald of Andraste about the quest. He nodded and thanked her with an elven Mas sarannas before turning back to his family. It took roughly half an hour for her to circle the town before she tucked her body around a corner. Alexius appeared, rushing his ailing son to their home surrounded by Venatori Agents. Felix. The son was sick with the Blight, according to Dorian in the game he had come across some darkspawn and had been infected from exposure. Alexius, being the mother hen he was, dropped everything to ensure his safety. The intentions of a good parent were there, she realized, but they were too warped by corruption and greed. She bit her tongue to keep from making any noise, her gaze hardening with fresh anger upon seeing the Magister in person for the first time. Once he was gone, she turned her body and walked with some speed back to the tavern. Rathein and the group was waiting. They all held different expressions: frustration, confusion, and blank. The Herald had pulled through with her game face, a light smile on her lips as she hailed Athena over with a gesture.

 

“Oi. We need to go to the Chantry.” She opened her palm and showed the note that Felix has slipped her while faking an ailment of his illness. “It sounds like a trap, but what isn’t nowadays for us.” Athena smirked and nodded, already preparing for meeting the dashing Tevinter mage Dorian. Before she could even fully smile Rathein frowned and scratched the back of her head. “There was one other thing I found odd.”

 

Athena arched a brow. “Oh?”

 

The Herald paused before meeting her gaze. “He asked about you specifically, Fade-Walker. He thought you would have been with me.”

                                                                                                    

Chapter Text

Athena’s blood ran cold, eyes widening as suddenly all sound faded from her ears. Sweat dripped down the side of her face and she knew that she probably looked like she had seen a ghost, or something akin to it.

 

Rathein waved a hand in front of her face, flicking her in the forehead. “Hey, did you hear me?”

 

She cleared her throat and closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose to try and gain control of her emotions that were screaming for her to run. This did not happen in the game. Alexius was not supposed to know about her. If he did, that meant he had a plan for her. Somehow, someway, Corypheus knew of her and wanted to use her. How did Corypheus know about her? She didn’t steal his mark; she didn’t get in the way of his plans.

 

Shit this was bad.

 

“I heard you, just not happy about it. What’s the next plan?”

 

The group started to move towards the Chantry and Rathein grabbed her shirt to drag her along. “We got a message to go to the Chantry. Come on.”

 

With a grunt of disapproval Athena moved with the group, a cautious gaze looking for the large church building in the middle of town. Thankfully on the inside of it was her favorite Tevinter mage who could probably match her in sarcasm. Unfortunately meeting him meant that a large series of events were about to take place and it left her with little time to do things. Little time to help. Little time to save at least one life that was lost in the games.

  

The moment they opened up the Chantry, they were met with the sound of spells firing, a suave dark-haired mage turning around with a smile on his mustached face. “Good. You’re here. Now help me close this, would you?”

 

She relaxed in her posture and smiled, spinning her staff in her hand before walking over to his side. The rest of the party was hesitant at first but jumped into the fray. The rift in the center of the Chantry was threatening to tear apart the building, demons popping up in every corner with thunderous roars. Wisps came from the rifts, floating near Dorian and Athena. In almost a unison motion they both summoned flames and dissipated the demon into dust. He hummed in amusement giving her a glance before  spinning his body and staff to where he made a flourish of attacks towards another shade.

 

Oh a challenge, eh?

 

Already he was making her feel better, momentarily distracting her from the daunting tasks ahead of them. She turned on the ball of her foot, nearly mirroring his movement but adding a flare of lightning into her spells at the end. He rolled his eyes in a sarcastic fashion but their little dance drew a grunt of disapproval from Blackwall, who had just knocked over a terror with his shield. “Stop dancing around and focus!”

 

Like a child, she giggled at his bossing her around, sticking her tongue out while throwing a barrier politely over him while he charged onto the next target. Dorian murmured under his breath as he snapped a fireball towards a wisp hiding in the corner. “Oooh he’s angry.”

 

When Rathein closed up the rift with a smirk on her face, Dorian was suddenly in awe of her mark and how it effortlessly closed the rift. “Fascinating. How does that work exactly?” The Herald, eloquent as always, shrugged in return while rotating her hand to get a better look at the mark. This caused the new mage to laugh as he put his staff away. “You don’t even know, do you? You just wiggle your fingers and Boom! Rift closed.”

 

Rathein chuckled, putting her own staff away while checking the Chantry one last time for anymore enemies. “And who are you? Did you send the note?”

 

He nodded, giving a small bow to the party. “Dorian of House Pavus, recently of Minrathous. How do you do?” He looked to Athena and gave her a playful wink, this surprisingly drawing a frustrated “hmph” from the resident elf Fade expert behind her. While Dorian and Rathein continued to talk, she on her heel in a full 180 and crossed her arms while giving Solas a curious look, as if asking “what was that?”

 

He shook his head and looked off to the side, there being no indication of embarrassment on his face. “Just felt inappropriate for the current situation.”

 

The Tevinter caught onto this, his own face smirking in almost a smug response. “Such suspicious friends you have here.” Athena squelched the urge to elbow Solas in the chest for his reaction. She looked to Dorian with a half-smile, shrugging.

 

“Well since Alexius is from your land its only rationale to throw every Tevinter in there with him, considering it’s the country where everything big and bad comes from.” Her words were emphasized with sarcasm to make her point, throwing in a wink back to him, which thankfully brought a sarcastic laugh from his lips.

 

“I suppose you’re right.” He cleared his throat before continuing in a more serious tone, his eyes meeting Rathein’s. “Magister Alexius was once my mentor, so my assistance should be valuable – as I’m sure you can imagine.”

 

The Herald nodded, crossing her arms across her chest while looking the mage up and down. “Where’s Felix? I was expecting him.” While the pair continued to talk back and forth Athena took the time to wonder around the Chantry, slowly sipping on a particularly bitter lyrium potion while looking at the stained glass at the back of the hall. It showed Blessed Andraste looking like something akin to Mother Mary in her world. Athena was never a religious person in any sort, so seeing people fall so blind to a belief made her almost uncomfortable in a way. It was something she would never understand and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to. A cool draft caught her neck, sending a shiver down her spine while Solas came up to her side.

 

His face was still covered with a veil of uncertainty so she made a small sound of acknowledgement when he arrived. “Are you Andrastian?” He eyed her coolly, clasping his hands behind her back.

 

She couldn’t help but chuckle in response, shaking her head while thumbing through a book that was on the altar in front of her. “Is that a serious question?”

 

He responded with his own chuckle, hands relaxing at his sides. “No, I suppose not.”

 

A smooth voice carried through the Chantry and caught the elf’s attention: “Alexius distorted time itself.”

 

Solas whipped to the side, his lips twitching while his face showed features of intrigue. He retorted quickly, his voice carrying through the Chantry. “That is fascinating if true. . . and certainly dangerous.”

 

Dorian nodded, continuing to explain how the rifts created in this area were a result of the altered time magic. When he stated that some things were sped up and others slowed down, the group then looked knowingly at Athena, who only gave them a “see I told you” look of smugness. “The magic Alexius is using is wildly unstable, and its unraveling the world.” The silence in the room was palpable as the realization set in.

 

Rathein bit her bottom lip, scraping her boot on the rug while thinking it over. “You’re asking me to take a lot on faith.”

 

Dorian then nodded, finally confessing that he was one of the people that helped develop the time magic. The real question was why Alexius was suddenly using it now. Athena let out a soft sigh, turning her back from the conversation to hide her facial features. It was difficult acting surprised in all of this. She knew this; she had played this story line countless times and basically knew the lines by heart. Instead of listening in on the conversation, she began reading passages of the Chant of Light that was handwritten in the book before her.

 

Felix entered the Chantry, his voice so grim it cut through the silence with ease. “He didn’t do this magic for the extra troops.”

 

Dorian seemed to cheer up at his presence, prodding him with a small verbal jab. “Took you long enough.”

 

Felix, the son of Magister Alexius, turned towards Rathein with concern worrying into his features. “My father’s joined a cult. Tevinter supremacists. They call themselves “Venatori”. Iron Bull instantly bristled, an angry grunt coming as he cursed: “Fucking Vints” again under his breath in frustration. The Herald shot him a cold look that gestured for him to shut it before turning back to Felix. He continued on, ignoring Bull’s obvious jab towards his people. “And I can tell you one thing: whatever he’s done for them, he’s done it to get to you two.”

 

Athena froze, a shudder shooting up her spine while she whipped around to look at the boy. Rathein sighed, rubbing the back of her neck while taking everything in. “What does he want us for?”

 

Felix shrugged, looking back and forth between the two women. “They’re obsessed with you, but I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because you survived the Temple of Sacred Ashes?” She gestured to argue that she wasn’t at the temple but then fell into a silence, her eyes glued to the blood-covered rug on the ground. The Herald finally found her voice, looking to the young man with a new determined confidence. “What are your suggestions?”

 

Dorian spoke up first, giving a slight smile to the situation. “Knowing you’re a target is the first step in turning it to your advantage. I can’t stay here, but whenever you want to deal with him: I’ll be there. Stay in touch!” With a flick of his hand he disappeared through the back of the Chantry, Felix leaving through the main door. With the party left all by themselves, they all let out noises and sighs of frustration.

 

Iron Bull spoke first, finally putting his large axe away on his back since the Tevinters were gone. “What do you want to do, Boss?”

 

Rathein gave him a small smile, shaking her head back and forth while muttering small curses under her breath. “This is really a shit situation. I think it’s better if we go back to Haven and discuss it with Cullen, Cassandra, and the others. We need to all agree on whatever we do next.”

 


 

 

The trip back had been anxiety inducing for Athena. Every day she was worrying about what plans Alexius had for her. If she was dragged into the future with Rathein, she would see the fate of all of their companions. She would see their bodies flung lifelessly to the side, red lyrium infecting every pore of their body. If she didn’t go, there was a chance she would be doomed to live the fate of the worst times of their lives, being some pawn for Alexius and Corypheus to use at their will. It left her nearly silent on the entire way home, immune to attempts from Rathein and Solas to try and cheer her up. The only solace and escape in all of this was when she went to the Fade.

 

Wisdom was showing her face more, discussing the future and what Athena knew. She paced back and forth in the fade, the energy moving around her in frantic pulses. “I am not prepared for this type of thing. I know every other alternative, every other ending, but this? I am at a loss. How can I help now when I don’t even know what is coming?” Her words were dry, panicked as she tried to seek console from the ever-patient friend in the Fade.

 

The spirit sat with her hands resting in her lap, softly glowing gaze following the anxious girl as she went back and forth. “You must trust your companions, Athena. There are few of them that trust you, have put their faith in you.”

 

She cried out, her magic flaring like flames from her body as she threw her hands in the air and flicked a small burst of flames from her hands like it was water. “I know that! I have betrayed that trust with my dishonesty. They are all looking up to the Herald and she is so strong, my friend.” She looked to Wisdom with weak, tired eyes, tears streaming down her face. “She has the burden of the whole world on her shoulders and I can’t help her.”

 

Wisdom shook her head, standing up and rubbing her hand on Athena’s back. “You are to her what we are to you, guidance. She looks to you to help her make decisions that will change the world. Unlike so many others, you can help her.” She began to sob, tightening her hands into fists while turning her face straight up into the Fade-tinted sky. Wisdom removed her touch, patting her on the shoulder. “You are much stronger than you give yourself credit for, dear. Keep that in mind in the days to come.” The spirit vanished from her presence, probably to go speak to Solas in his own dreams. She continued to break down, her body shaking with every rack of cries. It was an uncontrollable anxiety, her breaths were coming in quick pants and her vision was becoming blurry. The overarching feeling of dread was indescribable and it was constricting every thought in her head. Logical thought was nowhere to be found but thankfully a pair of soft arms wrapped around her, a kind cheek pressing to her back.

 

Inspiration had followed in Wisdom’s steps, stroking her back with soothing touches and soothing words as Athena fell onto her knees in anguish. The spirit then began whispering the lyrics of a song they had sung together weeks ago, a smile coming to her lips as she did. “Keep holding on, just say strong.”  Athena turned around and buried her face within her friend’s shoulder, desperately clinging onto her as the Fade turned to black.

Chapter Text

“We don’t have the manpower to take the castle! Either we find another way in, or give up this nonsense and go get the templars!”

 

“Now you’re calling my decision to help the mages nonsense, Commander?” Rathein responded with a defensive scowl, her gaze challenging him from across the war board. Commander Cullen placed his hands on the opposite end of the table, meeting her challenge with a cold frown of his own. When it came to his strategy he did not back down and would fight it until he heard hard facts as to why it wouldn’t work.

 

“In regards to the Breach the templars could suppress the magic so the Herald could close it. I know what they are capable of!”

 

So. Do. I.” Athena hissed from her position next to the Herald, placing her body alongside the Rathein’s to provide support. Cullen seemed to wince at her response, knowing how charged with emotion the words were especially because her jaw was tightened and it was obviously difficult for her being in the same room where the ritual happened. He softened for a moment, his eyes falling down to the table. She continued, hoping to help him see the point from a logical point of view. “You speak of magical suppression. How is Rathein, a mage, supposed to make it through their walls and spells? It would drain her before she even reached the Rift.” She spoke with Wisdom leading her words, eyes nearly aflame with confidence.

 

The Commander eventually conceded, Cassandra adding in on the side: “Redcliffe is also under the command of a Tevinter Magister. That cannot stand.”

 

The Ambassador Josephine chimed in, swerving her body with her candle-lit clipboard in hand. “The letter from Alexius asked for the Herald of Andraste and Fade-Walker by name. It’s an obvious trap.”

 

Rathein and Athena looked to each other, nodding in acknowledgement before looking to the Spymaster who spoke next. “Even with this looming threat, some of us are okay with doing nothing.”

 

Cullen scoffed, moving his hands to rest on the top of his sword. “Redcliffe Castle is one of the most defensible fortresses in Ferelden. It has repelled thousands of assaults.” He looked to the two women who were the targets of said trap. “If you go in there, you’ll die. And we’ll lose the only means we have of closing these rifts and – “ His gaze flicked to Athena before he sighed and hardened his gaze. “I won’t allow it.”

 

The three council members argued back and forth on until they finally agreed. “The Magister has outplayed us.”

 

They all stopped, going back and forth for a moment more. Athena looked to the Spymaster, her gaze pleading for some sort of realization. Lelianna had used a secret path before, something that was only accessible with a family member’s ring in the Origins game. It would just take a second. . . Ding! The Spymaster then made a face of surprise and turned to the others. “Wait. There is a secret passage into the castle. An escape route for the family. We can send a few of my best through the narrow passages.”

 

Cullen shook his head, a frown on the corner of his lips. “Too risky.”

 

Leliana continued, obviously not affected by the Commander’s lack of support. “That’s why we need a distraction. Perhaps the envoy Alexius wants to badly?”

 

The Commander thought on it, mumbling under his breath “It could work. . . .But it is a huge risk.”

 

Athena spoke up, placing her hand on the war table in front of Rathein. “That we are willing to take. Somebody has to.”

 

The door slammed open and the familiar suave voice of the Tevinter mage rolled through. “Fortunately, you’ll have help.” Dorian walked in with a confident swagger, giving both the Herald and her a wink.

 

“Your spies will never get past Alexius’s magic without my help. So, if you’re going after him, I’m coming along.”

 

Rathein was nearly beaming with a smile, nodding while ordering: “We’ll leave at sunrise. Everyone prepare for the march on Redcliffe.”

 


 

 

The Herald had picked Iron Bull to go as muscle and Solas to go as another magical opinion on whatever was happening. They entered the front of Redcliffe castle only to be greeted by a servant of Alexius’s. Athena took note of the soldiers on guard in front of the gate, their sharp hoods and horned masks concealing their identities and sending an eery chill down her spine. They were the first of many Venatori that would fall by their hand, but it didn’t make their presence any less unsettling. The four arrived, Rathein’s face cold and expecting while she looked to the messenger. “Announce us.”

 

The messenger sneered, giving ugly and hard looks to Solas and Bull. “The Magister’s invitation was for Lady Trevelyan and Lady Athena only. The others must wait here.”

 

Iron bull crossed his arms across his chest with a smirk while Solas stared the messenger down with a hard stare. The Herald kept her cool, responding simply. “If my friends can’t come, I’m not coming either.”

 

The smug messenger scoffed before turning on his heel with a nod to follow him. As the group fell into step with him, Athena looked over her shoulder to see the Venatori agents following them close by with weapons on their sides. They entered the throne room to see Alexius sitting in front of a roaring fire, hands clenching the armrests of the throne with Felix standing behind him. The messenger cleared his throat before announcing the group: “My Lord Magister, the agents of the Inquisition have arrived.”

 

The overly confident Magister stood, extending his arms to the group. “My friend! It is good to see you again. I see you brought Lady Athena as well. . . and your associates of course.” His voice darkened, his gaze flicking to his servant in a look of disapproval. “I’m sure we can work out some arrangement that is equitable to all parties.”

 

Lady Fiona, the elven leader of the mage rebellion who had fallen victim to Alexius’s treachery, walked in from the side, disgust settling into every feature of her face. “Are we mages to have no voice in deciding our fate?”

 

Athena cut off the Magister before he could respond, smiling to Fiona. “I think it would benefit our negotiations if she were able to speak for the mages.”

 

Rathein echoed her sentiments, gesturing for the woman to come in closer to their group. “We welcome her as a guest of the Inquisition in these talks.”

 

Alexius frowned but then nodded, sauntering back slowly to his throne before settling in comfortably. “You need my mages to close the Breach. What shall you offer in exchange?”

 

The Herald thought it over, looking to each member of her party before announcing with a genuine smile that only she could manage in the face of a Tevinter Magister: “Cut the bullshit, Alexius. I know you invited us here to kill us.”

 

Felix cut in, looking to the side at the throne. “They know everything, Father.”

 

The Magister reacted shocked at first but then angry, his brows furrowing as he pierced his son with the daggers of his gaze. “Felix, what have you done?”

 

The Herald scoffed, giving a playful shrug. “We managed to have your traps disarmed before we came in. Sorry to disappoint.”

 

Alexius bristled in rage, rising from his throne while his gaze never left the Herald. “You walk into my stronghold with your stolen mark - a gift you do not even understand – and the Fade-Walker and you think you’re in control?” Athena silently thanked him for not being more descriptive of his titles, her hands itching at her side to throw a barrier up around her skin. The Magister continued, hatred fueling his words and dripping from each syllable. “You’re nothing but a mistake.”

 

Rathein shifted her weight onto one hip, resting one hand on her hip to assume a nonchalant pose. “And tell me, oh Magister, what does this mark do?”

 

He sneered at her and Athena could feel his own magic fuming beneath his skin. It slid like an oil within his veins and it sung an eerie song. He opened his mouth to speak but thankfully Felix stepped in: “Father! Do you know what you sound like?”

 

Dorian entered in from the side, staff at his back, while he looked to his former mentor. “He sounds like the sort of villainous cliché everyone expects us to be.”

 

The Magister fumed, narrowing his eyes at the newly arrived mage with a scowl. “Dorian. I invited you to be a part of this, but you refused.” He then opened his arms and gestured to the whole room, his voice raising in volume as he grew more confident. “The Elder One has power you would not believe. He will raise the Imperium from its own ashes. The mages will rule once more!”

 

Fiona interjected, her own aura flaring from her body. “You cannot involve my people in this!”

 

Felix pleaded, trying to reason with his father. “Stop it, please, give up the Venatori. Let the southern mages fight the Breach and let’s go home.”

 

Alexius shook his head, whispering under his breath but loud enough so they all could hear. “He said. .  if I could only undo the mistakes at the temple.” He then whipped on his heel, waving his arm over the whole courtroom with a booming voice. “Seize them, Venatori! The Elder One demands the mistake’s life and her alive!

 

Athena raised her barrier in response but it was not necessary. Lelianna’s agents had made it through the trench, their blades quickly slicing the throats of the Venatori agents that were about to attack them. One by one their bodies fell to the ground, Rathein’s confidence only growing with each corpse falling as she approached the throne. “Your men are dead, Alexius.”

 

As Alexius brought out a gnarled talisman and began to channel his magic through it, Athena panicked, her hands reaching out for the Herald. “Be strong, Rathein!” The green magic of the amulet expanded, growing in size in a swirling sort of vortex. Dorian shouted “No!” while throwing his own counter attack of the spell. The talisman distorted, it creating a portal that sucked Dorian and the Herald into its depth. It then disappeared with an audible pop, it leaving the rest of the party alone in the room with Alexius. He smiled, feeling victorious in getting rid of the Herald and his former student.  He turned towards the remaining three, his hands summoning a dark magic that filled Athena’s stomach with dread. “You see, the Elder One’s will must be followed. He will not be undone. His plans will succeed. And that is where you come in, Fade-Walker. . . “

 

She backed up towards Bull and Solas, fear setting in on her features while she was somehow entranced within the Magister’s gaze. How long did it take for Rathein to come back? In the game this part took about half an hour, hour most, to complete. Did that mean they had to wait that long for the portal to reopen? Alexius’ spell fired, her barrier shattering in the air as she struck back at him with flames. “I don’t give a fuck what your Elder One wants, but I’m not going anywhere with you!”

 

He prepared another spell, the inky blackness of his magic dripping from his hands like ichor. He was not fazed by her flames, he acted as if they tickled against his Tevinter robes. “That is where you’re wrong. You may have gotten my guards but I have rid the world of the pest that is your Herald. If I have you. . ." The sound of lightning cracking erupted at his side, his gaze suddenly jerking towards the source while snarling in anger.

 

The portal that had just disappeared reopened, Rathein and Dorian walking through it like they had never left. The Herald had a veil of anguish on her face, but was able to push it down before looking to the Magister with a smug grin. “Is that all you had, Alexius?”

 

The Venatori leader, now stricken with shock at the sudden failure of his plans, fell to his knees. Defeated slumped his posture forward as members of the Inquisition captured him and took him outside. Dorian commented “Glad that is over with!” as a slew of new soldiers marched into the castle, holding their formation as a familiar figure walked into the castle in between them.

 

Instantly Athena dropped to one knee, bowing in respect as King Alistair entered. She hid a frown at the absence of her character, Queen Rose Cousland. From the hints given in the game, she was somewhere in Thedas researching a cure for the Call of the Grey Wardens. Alistair walked with such an obvious authority that the rest of the party followed her example in bowing or nodding their heads, except Rathein. He ignored her at first, his face furious as he turned towards Fiona. “We are here to discuss your abuse of our hospitality, Fiona. When we offered the mages sanctuary, we did not give you the right to drive them from their homes!” Fiona pleaded with them but it wasn’t enough. It broke Athena’s heart to see it, considering the hidden relationship between the elf leader of the mage rebellion and the King of Ferelden. Fiona was an accomplished enough of a woman she personally didn’t see the downside in exposing her relation to the now King, but politics were beyond her scope of practice.

 

The sentence from Ferelden? Exile. Athena flinched in her kneeling position, pushing up to slowly stand and walk next to the Herald as she offered to form an alliance with the mages. The relief at such a suggestion was felt around the room, Fiona smiling and nodding in thanks to the Herald. For a moment, things felt right. Rathein and Dorian had survived and thankfully Alexius wasn’t able to complete his plan with either of them. She was lost in her thoughts, ignoring the King as they he left with his party. It did her heart good enough to see him healthy, happy despite the current situation. Hopefully he and her first character wouldn’t get dragged into the whole thing. The Inquisition soldiers moved to follow behind them when Rathein spoke up: “Can you all give us the room? I need to speak with the Fade-Walker privately.”

 

She used my title? Athena looked to her with an arched brow but her friend wouldn’t even flinch. The soldiers all left, Bull and Solas giving them soft smiles of victory before shutting the doors behind them. Moments passed by, the silence spreading thick between them. She could feel that her pulse was beginning to race, her voice shaky with nerves as she asked: “What happened, Rathein?”

 

Crack.

 

The punch came unexpected, striking her across the right eye as it whipped her head to the side enough to cause her body began to fall. The Herald caught her with a fistful of the front of her robes and shirt, holding her up with one arm while screaming in her face, hurt soaking her words. “You knew! How the fuck did you know what would happen?!”

Chapter Text

The punch left her dizzy.

 

She stammered, trying to find words, but the next punch caught her opposite jaw. Blood spurted from her mouth onto the floor on the side, a small groan coming from her lips as she tried to catch an ounce of air. She rolled her neck towards her friend. . .  who was crying while holding her, her hand raised in preparation to strike again. “You knew!”

 

Athena stilled, her mouth dry yet soaked in blood while she thought of how to respond. “What?” This time it was a slap to her opposite cheek, it stinging like a shock against her face. The Herald must have started using magic in her strikes since she could see evidence of small sparks dancing across the skin of her fingers.

 

“Do you know where that portal took me? The future. A horrid, dark, gruesome future where this Elder One-!” She screamed, raising her fist and punching Athena again. She was now helpless to respond, her hands falling lax at her sides. Rathein sobbed, her face a mixture of rage and absolute sorrow. Her grip on her shirt stayed tight but it was shaking in time with her sobs. “You were dead.”

 

She tried to roll her neck to look at her but felt dizzy doing so, blood dripping down her face from the first assault. Her friend continued, her words heavy with the recent memory. “Solas. . .he killed you. He said you asked him to, begged him to because of what you knew.” Rathein shook her so that their gazes would meet. Athena could already feel her eyes swelling but she fought, meeting the icy blue gaze of the Herald of Andraste. “He said you knew our fates. Prove it to me.”

 

Athena remained silent so Rathein shook her by the front of her clothes. “Prove it to me, damnit! You owe me that much.”

 

She held their gaze, tears forming in her eyes as well as she released a deep sigh. It caused her body to slump in her friend’s grasp, the burden of her knowledge finally unwinding her. “Empress Celene will be murdered.”

 

Slap.

 

Her head whipped to the side but she continued, her voice breaking with every syllable. “There was a demon army.”

 

Slap.

 

“They gave their lives for you.”

 

The Herald fell to her knees, bringing Athena down with her while she did it. Tears flowed down both of their eyes but Rathein bristled, sending a shock of lighting into her body. “Why didn’t you say anything? How could you remain silent as I went through that? Stay strong, you said. . .  right before I disappeared. How. Did. You. Know.”

 

Athena was finally released from her grasp, falling forward onto her knees, head rolling around like a doll’s. It was difficult to find her words as darkness threatened to consume her at the edges of her vision. “I. . . was pulled into the Fade from my home. I’m not from this world. Not Thedas, not the Fade, not this. I come from a land with no magic, no dragons. . . “ She raked her hands on the magnificent rug below, trying to find some purchase to clutch onto while she continued, her voice slowly raising in volume. “I knew of this world. I. . . could watch it from where I was. I have seen things happen but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be sucked into it.”

 

They sat in silence for a moment, both of their breaths ragged as the information buzzed between them. Rathein sucked in a gasp her eyes widening in realization, lightning bouncing from her fingertips to the surrounding area. “You have flown through the sky. . . you see the future. . ." When Rathein went to strike her again Athena drew her staff to block the spell, her brown eyes suddenly bright with her own magic that was ready to burst under the surface.

 

“How could you lie to us like that? To me?”

 

They both stood in front of one another. Athena wavered in her posture but held her staff in front of her. At her will a barrier rose skin-tight and with the aid of her ring, it danced along her skin to the beat of her racing heart. Rathein drew her own staff, summoning a barrier with an easy wave of her hand. “Why didn’t you say anything!” She snapped her staff forward, a bolt of lightning sparking out between them.

 

Athena caught it with the hooked blade of her staff, growling at the attack while taking a step back. Blood coated her face like a mask, dripping from her jawline onto the ground. “What did you expect me to say? I had just been literally dragged from my world and thrown into the Fade: a place with demons preying at me from every corner. I barely had any way to defend myself and was fighting for my life while trying to find a way out!” Her voice raised, flames coming to life at her hands while she threw a small fireball towards her friend. It was blocked effortlessly but she continued. “I am then thrust into some ritual where every cell in my body is set on fire just because they did not understand me. I had barely come to terms with my situation when Lysette purged my mind, body, and soul with her magic. Do you know what that feels like, Rathein?”

 

This time she was the one to summon forth lightning, it swirling around the top and shaft of her staff. It sparked outwards in a spiral, hitting a few of the columns before finally hitting the Herald’s staff. “No, not you. Poor Lady Trevelyan, trained in a Circle that allowed her to visit Daddy on the weekends while the other mages starved in their cells!” Another fireball, this time it splintering her friend’s barrier. Blood dripped down into her mouth but she continued, her voice now a desperate scream.

 

“You! You have something that can actually save the world! You are surrounded by people who only wish to serve your every waking command! But me – me!” She pounded a hand against her chest, fighting to maintain Rathein’s gaze. Her friend had stopped fighting back, her face drenched with sorrow and grief. She dropped her staff to the side while walking towards Athena, who was not ready to accept her sympathy. She continued fighting.

 

“I have lost my family, my friends, my entire world! And you ask how could I not tell you.” Rathein pushed through her barrier, wrapping her arms around her as she collapsed into her grip. Athena allowed it, reaching up and grabbing at her own hair while turning her head to the side. “I’m so sorry.” They both broke together, tears and blood mixing together in one another’s clothes. It went for what felt like hours but soon they were facing back to back sitting on the floor taking in the silence in the middle of Redcliffe’s throne room.

 

Rathein offered her a healing potion so they both sipped on one, appreciating each measured bit of silence. She reached back, feeling for her friend’s hand before squeezing. “How are we going to explain this to the others?”

 

Athena was shocked, trying to retract from her hand but failing. “We?”

 

The Herald laughed, something that was a mixture of hurt and hope. “I am still your friend, Athena. We can’t go through this alone. I have your back, even with all of this shit. That is, if your stubborn ass will let me help you.” The humor brought a pained laugh from her lips, her body shaking with the motion until they were both laughing, the sound echoing from the inside of the castle.

 

Athena finally conceded, shrugging while sighing. “Let me worry about what to say. I am not the biggest of the worries. You have to close the Breach and then. . . .a lot more to avoid that future from coming true.”

 

Rathein took this in, humming in acknowledgement before a sly smirk came to her lips. “Say, Athena?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Do you really know what Cullen sleeps in at night? I took him for a foot-longed jammies kind of guy.”

 


 

 

Back in Haven the Herald had reserved the tavern for Athena to make her explanation. There had been rumors going through the party but nobody was brave enough to ask. Solas had returned to being his normal reserved self and he was nowhere to be found in the Fade when she searched for him. Dorian had joked about how the shiner she sported for a week made her look tough but that was all the prying the normal talkative mage did. The group gathered, sitting in their respective bar stools while looking up at the Herald with mixed expressions on their faces.

 

Rathein took a deep breath in, assuming a posture of authority before starting. “I’m sure you all have questions after the commotion we caused in the castle. I’ve briefed the Council on what I learned in my trip to the future but there is something I, well, we want to tell you.” She jerked her chin and gestured for Athena to come stand up beside her.

 

Athena took a deep breath in, summoning every ounce of bravery in her stomach, before walking up and standing by the Herald’s side. She fought to keep her voice from cracking, her eyes from tearing up, and her hands from shaking. Most of them were trained warriors and some of them spies. Honesty was the key here, and she needed to show enough to be convincing. “I know there have been questions of my origin. Where I come from, why I was an untrained mage, and why I tend to have a lot of gut instincts about things.” She swallowed a dry rock of nerves in her throat only to feel Rathein’s hand on her back supporting her. “The truth is. . .difficult. I’m not even sure if you will believe it. But I am not from here.”

 

Varric snorted, obviously unamused but still curious. “Oh really?”

 

She smirked at him for a second before her face fell back into a blank canvas, continuing. “I was torn from my world. It’s not a part of this place. Consider it a different plane and absolutely different in every way. I was coming home from work when a . . " She paused, her gaze flicking to Solas momentarily before moving on. “A strange creature met me at my door. It sucked me into a portal, similar to a rift, and suddenly I was in the Fade. My world does not have magic. It does not have elves, Qunari, dwarves, any of this.” This seemed to get a reaction out of the bunch, Vivienne turning her nose over while whispering “abomination” under her breath. Cassandra went to raise her voice in question but Rathein silenced her with a gesture. “Let her talk.”

 

She looked to the ground, finding her composure while trying to find a way to get through the most unbelievable point. “This world though, is still familiar to me. I know each of you, in a way. I was able to watch your stories, going back as far as the Fifth Blight. I also was able to watch what happens next, which is how I knew what the Herald saw when she went with Dorian into the future.” The Tevinter mage raised an eyebrow as he sat in the back of the group, his arms crossed over his chest. He did not frown like many of the others, he just listened and tried to process it all. Thankfully he was one of the more open minded ones but it was still nerve-wracking to feel every eye, including his, dissecting her from across the bar.

 

There were more questions but she shook her head. “I cannot reveal everything about your future to you. I do not want to derail your fates and send us into some sort of alternate reality that even I can’t help you in.”

 

There was silence among them, every eye on her. It was Cassandra that spoke up, her brashness and bravery speaking through. “Prove it.”

 

She looked up quickly, meeting the Seeker’s gaze with an interested stare. There was anger in her gaze, but there was also something . . .yearning? Yearning to have the right answer. Yearning to have something solid to believe in. The rest of the group seemed to agree with sounds of acceptance so with a deep breath she started. “I won’t divulge too much so I don’t reveal anything you don’t want.” Her brown gaze flicked to Cassandra first. “The Knight Captain.”

 

She took a step back, eyes wide in shock at realization that Athena was mentioning a favorite character of hers from a rather racy series of Varric’s but soon she fell silent, her eyes falling to the floor. She then looked to Leliana. “Marjolaine.” The Spymaster did not flinch nor falter, but there was the slightest change in the weight of her eyes that gave her the acceptance she needed to continue. Her eyes glossed over the Qunari and he made a move like he was going to talk but Rathein snapped her fingers at him and then sliced her hand across her neck, a signal to get him to shut up. He submitted with a growl, crossing his arms over his chest while sinking back into his chair. Athena then looked to Josephine, eyes sympathetic as she softly said: “Fortune.” The Ambassador shifted uncomfortably in her posture as her gaze targeted Cullen next. The words were falling from her lips softer now, pain mixing in with her words as each personal confession brought hurt to her expressions. “Headaches.” She flicked her gaze to the floor and sighed, not being able to look him in the eyes. There was only one more person she needed to convince in her mind, the others were a little kinder and more open to persuasion. Finally, she then looked to Vivienne, who seemed the most confident that she wouldn’t be broken. Before she could speak, Athena almost whispered: “Wyvern.”

 

The room was silent and nobody wanted to meet her gaze anymore. She looked to each of them, and finally rested on Solas. He sat with his legs crossed, his cold gaze meeting hers in challenge. Her jaw fell slightly open as she tried to wet her lips but failed. He almost egged her on, waiting for what she had on him. Wolf. Closing her eyes, she cursed herself mentally before asking: “Does anybody else want me to continue?”

 

Rathein came up behind her, speaking above the small crowd. “You don’t have to. Look, I know this is a really big thing to swallow.” Dorian smirked at the potential innuendo and the Herald fought not to smile. “But she is still our ally, our Athena. She’s gone through hell with us and is willing to go through everything else, helping us out as she can. I still hold responsibility for her but I don’t have to. We all have our own baggage and secrets but she wants to help!” She took her hands off Athena, who was trying not to look defeated in front of them all.

 

Bull, surprisingly, looked to both women and nodded with a huff of a laugh. “I don’t have to confirm for the others, but you weren’t lying. I know liars.” She had to keep from smirking considering his Qunari name Hissrad meant liar, but she kept silent for now and allowed them to process the information.

 

Cassandra spoke first much to Athena’s surprise. “Fine. But. . . it will take some time to earn the trust back. I can only speak for myself. If you are truly here to help us, we cannot afford to not accept.”

 

The group grumbled in acceptance but then Athena smiled softly, at least meeting Dorian’s gaze since he seemed the less abrasive. “I’ll start off by buying everyone a round of drinks?”

 

Varric perked up, standing up from his spot while exclaiming: “Make it two and you have a deal, Walker.”

 

The more frigid and unaccepting members like Vivienne and Leliana left. The rest were cautious but decided they needed liquor more than anything. Cullen was on the way out as well but he pulled Athena to the side, his face pained as he asked with a hand on her shoulder. “You really knew?”

 

She sighed, putting a hand over his while meeting his gaze. “Cullen. Why do you think I didn’t want you to do the ritual when I first came? I knew you would need to drink lyrium and. . . I couldn’t do that.” He took a sharp breath in, his eyes widening in surprise. His gaze fell to the floor and it took a few moments for him to realize his hand was still on her shoulder. He withdrew it quickly a small smirk on her lips as he whispered: “Thank you” before leaving the bar and her to the rest of her companions, who were eagerly waiting for her to buy some much needed alcohol.

Chapter Text

They drank together until darkness conquered Haven. The Herald was cozying up next to Bull, who was about five pints in to whatever ale they had in the back of the tavern. Everyone had calmed and was just asking curious questions now like what they had instead of magic in her world and if she knew anything juicy about the party members. Sera thought the whole thing was weird but she drank to herself and joked around with Blackwall, who completely understood somebody having secrets and didn’t pry unless spoken to.  Athena and him had shared a knowing look where he thanked her for not revealing him with a nod. She smirked, taking a sip of her ale while leaning against the bar away from the group. She figured to give them their space and she needed to cool down from the whole thing. Her heart was still in her throat and it was hard to keep a sip of ale down.  

 

They would include her every now and then in the conversation but for now she was just glad to be a part of the team. Dorian stood up from his position by the Bull and Rathein, pulling up a stool next to Athena with a smile. “Now I have to ask. How did you choose whose secrets you were going to spill?”

 

She finished off the rest of her drink before responding, wincing as the alcohol began to take effect. These conversations were getting harder to answer.  “I went with the ones that would be hardest to convince. I figured they would need to be jarred with something really personal in order to believe me.”

 

The mage smirked, sipping on his brandy before softening his voice. “Whatever you had on me. . . “

 

Athena reached over and put her hand on his shoulder, giving him an encouraging smile. “Honestly? You’re already going to have to go through shit being a Tevinter here. It would be cruel of me to add something on that. Plus you have I have to have something to talk about, right?”

 

He laughed, rubbing this thumb and index finger on his mustache before leaning back in his stool. “You are right about that. I understand though, Athena. I’m the last person who can judge someone for their origins or weird magic. I helped Alexius develop the time magic. . ." His voice dropped, his smile suddenly disappearing from his mouth while he suddenly became focused on finding the perfect grip of his cup.

 

“Dorian. You are not responsible. Perish the thought.” Her words were beginning to slur but she meant them, reaching forward and taking one of his hands into her own.

 

He chuckled under his breath, looking up at her with a flirtatious wink. “Now now, Athena, people are going to get the wrong idea about us if we’re already holding hands.”

 

This made her suddenly feel rebellious, pulling him closer while she whispered into his ear with a grin on her face. “Oh let them talk. I love the gossip. I see no harm in having a bit of fun.” In a moment of bravery, she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek while pulling back into her own chair. He laughed, truly laughed while finishing down his brandy.

 

She felt a small touch of cold run down her spine like a drip of water but she chocked it up to it being the winter environment outside since the door opened and shut with a slam. “You must be absolutely sloshed. Let’s get you back to your cabin. You have a very important meeting with the Council in the morning.”

 

Even with her vision blurred she tried to wave him off. “No, really, I’m fine. You stay here, get to know the people. They’re not. . .all that bad.”

 

He paused from helping her, smirking while responding: “Even after all you’ve been through you still see the good in them? You’re a patient woman.” She smiled with a simple shrug, pushing back from her bar stool while standing with surprising ease. She waved to the rest of the people in the tavern before pushing outside into the winter cold. It bit at her skin but she was acclimated to it now. Instead of shivering and running between buildings she now found the peace in walking alone in the snow.

                                                                                                    

She walked down from the tavern, waving at the guards who opened the main gate for her. As she walked her steps became uneven, her gait staggering as she passed the last of the soldier’s tents on the outskirts of Haven. A thick branch caught her foot and she fell forward but was greeted with a warm furred back instead of ice. “What the-“ Her breath caught in her throat as she stepped back, allowing the moonlight to illuminate what was in front of her. The wolf pack had been waiting by her cabin and the large wolf that had caught her was none other than Kain.

 

The black-furred wolf could not contain his glee, his tail wagging back and forth at such a rapid rate it kicked up snow. He jumped up and knocked her back into the snow, covering her faces in kisses and licks while whining under his breath. Athena wrapped her arms around him, pulling her face into his neck. “Oh my dear! You are so big!” He backed up and stood proudly next to the alpha of the pack who was sitting silently in the snow. She sat up and crawled over to the alpha, giving a small bow of respect before touching her forehead to his. “Thank you, my friend. Thank you for watching over him while I was gone.”

 

The grey alpha pressed his freezing wet nose into her forehead before turning to the woods with the other five wolves. They didn’t go far, but they were going to allow Kain and Athena their privacy. The pair walked to the cabin when she saw the fire was already blazing on the inside, the light shining through the windows. In a sobering moment she crouched down and cursed herself for dropping her staff off earlier. Flames flew forth into the palms of her left hand, her right hand gingerly reaching forward and pushing open the door.

 

The calming heat welcomed her first but then it was followed by a biting cold. It hit her like a truck, sending an instant shudder down her spine while her skin was covered in goosebumps. Solas sat in a chair in her cabin, his back to her as he faced the fire. His aura was unbridled and flowing from him, it lashing out like tendrils coming from his body. Kain stayed close to her side and started a low growl, hackles raised as they entered the cabin with a low prowl. Athena shushed him with a touch of her hand while fighting off a snarl of her own.

 

“Solas.”

 

He didn’t stir but his magic withdrew slightly, his gaze focused on the flames while he sat up straighter in the chair. “Athena. How does it feel having that burden off of your shoulders?” For some reason, it felt like an insult but she chose not to give him the satisfaction of a response. Instead she motioned for Kain to jump on the bed next to Solas while she removed her boots by the door. She smiled, seeing the head of a bear that had been fashioned into a cowl while its skin had been sewn into a robe. That wasn’t her main focus as she walked over and plopped herself on the bed, this putting her to the side of the fire and in front of his gaze.

 

He still didn’t look at her, obviously on purpose as his face remained neutral. She patted the bed next to her and stroked Kain’s head as he lay it protectively in her lap. “The burden of responsibility is still there. It feels nice to not have to lie anymore, but I still don’t like that I hurt my friends, my allies by withholding what I knew.” He rested his hands in his lap, a twitch of his lip grabbing his attention while he cut to the point.

 

“The Herald said in this future she saw. . . I killed you.”

 

She stilled, her breath catching in her throat as he suddenly looked towards her. There was a sadness about his eyes even though his face remained the same, the stormy grey and blue of his gaze pulling a sigh from her. “That. . .is what she told me as well.”

 

He shook his head, resting his head in his hands while pulling his aura completely in. “Why would you entrust me to do such a thing?”

 

Athena reached out for him but retracted her hand, not knowing what to do or what to say. He seemed so grief stricken by the thought it shocked her. Her heart felt as if it were in her stomach being pelted by a million butterflies, her head swirling while she pondered on her answer. “I wasn’t in that future, Solas, I can’t possibly answer that.”

 

He hissed, shooting up from his position and standing from the chair in such a motion it was knocked over onto the side. He placed his back to the fire with his hands in fists at his side. “Do not lie!

 

In response she rose from the bed, walking over until she was in between the door and him. There was such a subtle pain in his features, his eyes brow furrowed, body rigid with an overbearing sense of control. What about her death angered him so much? He wasn’t in that reality; he didn’t know the circumstances they were under. “Solas. . . You were one of the first people to not look at me with fear in your eyes when I arrived here. I trust you because you have identified yourself as kind of an outcast, like me.” She leaned her body against the wall and rubbed her hands on her upper arms, trying to restrain herself from just outright hugging him. It is what she would do with anyone else but him – he was too guarded, too shielded.

 

He let out a shaky breath, his features softening slightly as he looked to her. “It is not often that my. . . .our friend Wisdom does not discuss things with me. You were the first.” In a move that brought a gasp from her lips, he put his hand above her shoulder on the wall, bringing himself in front of her keeping himself an arm’s length apart, capturing her gaze with his. “I think I understand why now. You are different than anyone I have come across here.”

                                                                                                   

She attempted to respond with humor but almost stammered, her voice raspy and catching in her throat with him so close to her for the first time.  “I-I think we covered that with the whole 'I’m not from this world' speech.”

 

He chuckled in a dark tone, the sound rolling over her skin and sending another shudder down her body. “Indeed we did. Even still, I am not used to someone trusting me so outright. In this future, you entrusted me with your secret. . ." His voice trailed off as he looked to the side, sadness settling back into his features as his mind obviously trailed back to the awful future Rathein had discussed with them.

 

Athena could feel her pulse in her throat but even still she almost whispered. “I hope I can re-earn your trust one day, Solas.”

 

He turned back and smiled at her and for a moment they simply held each other’s gazes. She was lost within his, the coolness of his aura sliding over her skin and causing her belly to tighten. With a sigh he shook his head and stepped back, motioning back to the bed. “I see you have no more need for wards with your friends outside. I. . .will leave you to your sleep.”

 

He turned and opened the door, pausing before shooting her a shy but wolfish grin. “Perhaps I will see you in the Fade?”

 

She sighed and pushed him out the door, biting her bottom lip while leaning against her door frame. “Typically when I’m drunk I have a Fade-less sleep. We’ll see.”

 

He then disappeared into the darkness of the forest and she waited until he was gone from her sight. The moment that happened, she slammed the door and slid down the door frame while shaky hands tried to tuck her wavy locks behind her ears. There was a flush in her cheeks and chest, her breath now coming faster while she tried to find her thoughts. What was that? He seemed so open, so vulnerable. It was odd considering how early in the story it was but she was oddly thankful. There was a tightness in her lower abdomen she could not dismiss and it was something she truly hadn’t felt in months. But Gods he was so close to her.

 

Kain whined and tried to urge her back to bed, rolling on his back while exposing his belly to her. She laughed while looking up, licking her lips to try and wet them while getting under the blankets with her pup, the heat from her blush and the fire keeping her warm while she transitioned into a deep dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

The next morning, they gathered in the war room. Athena stood next to the Herald with Kain at their side. He was insistent on being her shadow and not leaving anything to chance. Josephine, Cullen, Cassandra, and Leliana stood in their usual positions across from them. The room was tense from the discussion the day before but there was an air of hope. She could help them; she could smooth out transitions and hopefully save lives in the process. The first plan was the Breach.

 

Cullen looked at his reports before looking up with a confident nod. “The mages have all gathered from Redcliffe and we’re receiving new people drawn to the cause daily. They are ready to help close the Breach at a moment’s notice.”

 

The rest of the group seemed calm but Athena’s eyes were glued to the small map of Haven. The mine she had told Cullen about had thankfully been cleaned out and now had torches lining the whole area with small caches of potions for the weary miner, or more importantly, the Herald when she would be thrown down there by an avalanche. None of them knew that quite yet, the words were difficult to form and she was having trouble spelling things out without confessing the whole event and potentially changing the larger outcome.

 

Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t realize the whole group was looking at her, waiting for some indication that they were going the right way. She blinked away the fog of her mind and looked up to them, focusing on Cullen for now since he was the leader of the troops and needed to prepare. Plus, holding his gaze for extended periods of time made him blush and it was fun to get that reaction out of him. “There is going to be an attack following the closing of the Breach. Allow the people to celebrate. They need hope in these trying times so alerting them all of the impending attack would make matters worse.”

 

Cassandra came in from the side, her hands resting clasped in front of her while she also assessed the map on the table. There surprisingly wasn’t much objection to her suggestion. Perhaps the night before had unsettled them enough to believe her. “An attack? From who?”

 

Athena rolled her neck and gave herself a moment to think. “They fly without banners. It is hard to say. But they will come through the mountains.”

 

Leliana, the Nightingale of the Orlesian court, stepped in with obsidian pieces in her hands that indicated her scout’s movements on the map. “I can send out some of my people to provide extra support there.”

 

Rathein bristled next to her. “They are still people, Leliana. You would basically be sending them to their deaths.”

 

The spy-master met the Herald’s gaze without faltering. “They know their duty.”

 

Athena intercepted them with a smirk, shaking her head while pointing to the mountain pass on the map. “Actually, Leliana, pull back your scouts.”

 

The group didn’t like that suggestion, curses and expletives being murmured under their breath while Leliana simply asked “Why?”

 

She beamed with a smile, looking down to Kain while ruffling him on the head. “I have my own scouts that won’t draw attention that can signal us when they’re coming close. They will blend in with the environment and can talk to each other. Howls in the night aren’t anything to be suspicious of in these woods after all.”

 

If she didn’t know any better she would say Leliana looked impressed, placing her pieces in a pile down on the edge of the table she was standing near. “I will call them back for reinforcements within Haven. What else?”

 

This time she looked to Josephine, her face softening in a silent apology for bringing up her family’s fortune the night before. The Ambassador did not seem to notice or show any offense taken, her quill at the ready to jot down whatever commands there were. “Call for local nobles to donate some goods that won’t perish quickly: salted meats and hearty breads. It won’t hurt to have a supply.” It also won’t hurt to have good food when they’re traveling in the snow to Skyfall.

 

Lastly she looked to Cassandra, earning a nod of acknowledgement from the Seeker. “Get in contact with Solas and some of the rebel mages. This Chantry is the strongest building we have. It would be wise to construct a barrier around it to provide safe Haven for the people in the coming days.” They all sat with their instructions, slowly looking to the Herald waiting for her answer. She was still the official leader after all.

 

Rathein was still rubbing the morning grime from her eyes, one hand palming her eye while the other looked at the map and all of their movements. “Sounds like a plan to me. We’ll leave for the Breach in a day or so. That should give everyone enough time, right?” There were hums of acknowledgement while Leliana broke off from the group to send ravens to her scouts. It left the pair of the Herald and Athena walking through the Chantry together. Vivienne shot Athena an icy glare and she returned it with a polite smile.

 

“Man she does not like you.” Rathein’s voice was playful as she jabbed her elbow into Athena’s ribs.

 

She chuckled under her breath, tucking a stray curl behind her ear while replying. “It’s understandable. I don’t expect everyone to trust me overnight. You and I were able to hash it out.” This drew an echoing laugh from her friend while she continued. “I can’t do that with each of them. I think I would die, especially going up against Bull.”

 

At the mention of the mercenary leader the Herald blushed, bashfully rubbing the back of the neck. “Yeah. . . he’s something.”

 

This time it was Athena who laughed and shoved her to the side with a grin on her lips. “You could not be subtle if you tried.” Something just felt freeing with them finally knowing. There was no pretense, no skipping around thoughts. She still had to choose her words carefully but they at least knew what she was trying to do. And at some points her cheekbone was still sore to remind her to be honest, a scar that the Herald so kindly left her during their duel.

 

Her friend walked down the stairs to run drills against the Chargers while Athena veered left to talk to Solas about the barrier, and learning how to fade-step because it was a useful tool she wanted to learn. As she walked by a cabin she heard a snarky voice come from behind her. “And how are you feeling this morning?”

 

Before she stepped into Solas’s line of sight she turned around to see Dorian leaning against the wall of a cabin with one arm resting on his hip. He gave her a knowing smile, looking her up and down with an exaggerated gaze. “I didn’t think you were going to make it to your cabin last night, let alone to your meeting this morning. You must tell me your cure for hangovers.” Athena came up and stood in front of him, their bodies close enough so they could talk under their breath to one another. She knew it would make the people of Haven talk since she was flirting with a Tevinter, but they both knew it was for play. He always had a sarcastic smirk on his face but there was just a knowing look between them that showed she knew he wasn’t actively pursuing her. There was a small comfort in knowing you could be touchy and flirtatious with someone without there being anything deep to it. It made her feel a little bit at home. 

 

Plus, Rathein seemed to be the only one willing to hug her around here so the extra friendly attitude was nice. She didn’t realize how much she missed the small touches from her past life, a sideways hug, a clap on the shoulder, they were little things that left her not feeling so lonely like she did here. “It’s no secret really, just a skinny dip in the lake and you’ll wake right up.”

 

He laughed, running a hand through his hair while meeting her gaze. “Now that would be bracing. Speaking of bracing, I don’t think he likes me too much.” Athena could feel it too, the subtle cold aura lingering in the air behind her. She had felt it last night in the tavern as well and it was when she was getting up close and personal with Dorian. Well, hmph. Solas couldn’t be interested in her; she wasn’t elvish. Being with her wouldn’t continue on the elven line and help restore his people.

 

She shrugged, leaning against the wall next to Dorian while giving him a knowing wink. Sure enough, the air got colder but she knew Solas wouldn’t be so obvious as to look at them both. He was probably sitting in a chair reading a book or looking out at the village from his spot outside of his cabin. “Well that’s a shame because what isn’t there to love about you?”

 

Dorian genuinely smiled, resting his elbow against the wall while supporting his head with his hand. “I know! I can’t believe it myself. You and the Herald are the only ones that know how good you have it with me being around.”

 

Athena pushed on his chest and knocked him off his balance, shaking her head at him while turning away from him. “I am thankful you’re around, Dorian. Let me know if you need anything or need a drink.”

 

“After last night? Not for a while. Dinner perhaps.”

 

She nodded while turning, finally acknowledging where Solas was sitting. He was resting in his chair, eyes closed with his head leaning back against the wall behind him. His hands were clasped in his lap and now his aura was very reserved, almost absent from the air. She assumed he was in the Fade or just pretending to ignore her. She stood in front of him, arching a brow while she looked him up and down. Instead of tapping him or kicking his feet like she wanted to, she brought her aura to her skin and pushed it outwards. In the air she could see it looked like a wall of flame, licking and igniting with every urge from her mind.

 

It rolled over his skin, this bringing an eye twitch of annoyance from his face. He then shook his head and treated it like it were an annoying insect, his eyes opening to inspect what was happening but seeing her instead. His lips twitched into something of a smile while he waited for her aura to withdraw. “Good morning, Athena. How can I help you?”

 

She drew her magic back with a wicked grin, unfolding her arms from her chest while pointing back to the Chantry. “We are setting up a barrier around the Chantry to fortify it. I asked Cassandra to recruit you and some of the mages from Redcliffe but I wanted to tell you myself.”

 

He hummed, nodding while unclasping his hands and resting them on top of his knees. He then looked to where Dorian was standing with almost a sneer on his lips. “You seem to be comfortable with the Tevinter.”

 

Athena stood her ground, planting her heels into the snow while shoving her hands into her pockets to keep from balling them into fists. “Yes, we’re becoming friends. Is that a problem?”

 

He shook his head, making an aloof gesture that was almost like shooing her away. “Just curious, considering of where he comes from, who he was associated with.”

 

She kept on, frustration now beginning to set into her features while she looked down at him. “Rather a narrow minded view coming from an elf apostate that wasn’t accepted at first either.”

 

He frowned, sitting back in his chair. Even though he was sitting below her his complacent body language challenged her, made it easier for her temper to heighten. He acted as if he didn’t care but that was a lie, she knew it. She was working exceptionally hard to keep her aura skin deep and instead the flames nearly lit her irises aglow. He replied coolly, his own gaze meeting hers. “An elf apostate, hm? Is that worse than a regular apostate?”

 

Then the flood gates opened. She groaned and threw her hands in the air, letting them fall to her side while she rolled her eyes. “Seriously, Solas? At any point in our” She gestured back and forth between them, unsure whether to call what they had a friendship or not. “Encounters have I ever given you the impression that I am unfriendly towards elves or anyone for that matter?”

 

He sighed, shaking his head while looking down into his lap. She kept on him: “And even still. Dorian is from Tevinter. Yes, it is a known fact. That does not automatically make him an evil person. There are good and evil people in every country, in every race. Human, elf, dwarfs, and Qunari alike.”

 

Solas looked up from his lap, anger alighting his features as he rose to stand from his chair. His height had him tower above her but she did not stand down or back away. “Enlighten me then, since you seem so omnipotent.”

 

She gave a beat of a pause between them, her voice coming quick and to the point but heated with frustration. “In recent history? Arl Renden Howe of Denerim was a horrid man who was known as a butcher in the elven alienages. The Arishok was a Qunari that tried to start a full on war in the middle of Kirkwall. Paragon Branka of the Dwarven smith caste allowed her own people to turn into darkspawn broodmothers while she ran mad with power.” She paused, leaving elven for last while taking in a deep breath. “Enchanter Orsino became a horrid abomination made of the corpses of his fallen friends and attacked the Champion of Kirkwall. Need I go on?”

 

She didn’t realize until she stopped but her cheeks were flushed with anger and her breaths short, quick. He furrowed his brows at her, anger hardening his jaw while he was trying to steady his breaths. Eventually, he closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose while letting out an obviously controlled sigh. When he did this she hid her smug grin of victory, stepping back to allow him his space. “I will speak to the Seeker about this barrier. Is that all?”

 

For some reason his dismissal of the conversation they just had hurt, it feeling like a pang of dread within her stomach. She stepped back one more time and nodded, her hand subconsciously falling down to the top of Kain’s head since the wolf was in a defensive position with his eyes locked on the elf. “That will be all.” Before the tears of anger could form in her eyes she sharply turned on her heel and walked down the stairs. Kain remained for a moment, giving what she could assume was a warning glance with an added growl to the elf before following in her step.

Chapter Text

She ran past with a wave towards Varric’s direction, ignoring him as she continued out through the gates towards the soldiers’ training grounds. Cullen hailed her over with a wave, this drawing a curt and angry: “What”!” He winced at her response, this instantly causing Athena to soften and put her hands up in a defensive position. “Sorry, Commander. Someone just got under my skin. That was unworthy of me.”

 

He sighed and shrugged towards her, motioning towards his troops. “For this upcoming event we discussed earlier. . ." He lowered his voice, casually glancing around to make sure there was nobody actively paying attention. “Is there anything my men need to specifically prepare for?”

 

Athena rubbed the back of her neck, looking to the sky for guidance while shaking her head slowly. “I don’t know what I can say without altering things completely. I’m sorry, Commander Cullen.” She looked back to his gaze with an apologetic smile, her hands flopping down and resting at her side.

 

He nodded, resting his hands on top of his sword while looking back at her. “Nothing to be done then. I’m sorry if I disturbed you.”

 

She went to turn back towards her cabin but then got a wicked idea. She patted her staff on her back while tapping him on the shoulder. “Actually, Commander?”

 

“Hm?” He turned back, his face now returning to that of authority and focus.

 

“Would you mind running some drills with me? I could really hit something right about now.”

 

He actually seemed surprised by this, chuckling under his breath while patting on his sword. “Let me get something wooden. . .”

 

“No no, real sword please. Cassandra trained me with her metal so I think I can take a hit.” Did you not hear how Rathein cleaned my clock in Redcliffe? There was a smile to her face but it was still edged in anger from her fight with Solas.

 

Kain sat obediently at her side and it took Cullen a moment to even recognize him. “Maker! He has grown. The soldiers were reporting a wolf pack in the area but I didn’t think it was him.” He then paused, his hands falling from the top of his sword. He knelt down to one knee and looked the wolf directly in the face. A new childlike smirk came up to his face as he glanced up towards Athena. “Can I?”

 

The look he had and the gentle words made her nearly melt, a blush creeping up her neck while she laughed and gestured towards Kain with an open hand. “Unless you’re asking to pet me it’s not my permission you need. Ask him.”

 

The suggestion of petting her made him blush, the fur of his armor hiding most of it that was in his cheeks. He then cleared his voice and looked towards the wolf, giving her an eyebrow raised glance first. “Uh. .  .”

 

“Kain.”

 

“Kain. Nice to meet you.” He then held open one gloved hand. The wolf looked up towards Athena with a look that simply screamed: “Are you kidding me right now.” It brought a small laugh from her lips while she nodded, gesturing back to Cullen. The wolf then sighed, rolling his eyes and head while walking forward and resting his chin in the Commander’s hand. It softened up both the wolf and the leader of the Inquisition’s troops as he scratched behind his ears and eventually made his way to his exposed stomach when Kain flopped on his back.

 

“Oh he must like you. He doesn’t do that for many people. “

 

He laughed, using both hands to give physical attention to her companion. “I have come across Mabari in the past that were ferocious creatures. I’ve always wanted one. Now wouldn’t be the time though.” When it felt like enough for the both of them Kain rolled over onto his side, deciding that now would be the perfect time to take a nap in the sun. Athena laughed, bending down to pat him on the side while gesturing to an open area for the Commander.

 

He rose and fell into step behind her, slowly unsheathing his sword. She swallowed down a new lump of nerves while pulling her staff from her back. They put enough space between each other while both assuming a defensive stance. Before he hardened into a soldier his facade broke and he looked out from behind his sword. “Are you sure? I don’t want to hurt you.”

 

His confidence made her laugh, spinning her staff within her hands just to show off for a second. “I’m a big girl. I can take it, Commander.”

 

Right as the words finished leaving her lips he allowed the playfulness to drain from his face, tightening his grip on her sword while he took a step forward and lunged. She yelped in surprise, pushing back with her feet and bringing her staff up vertically to block the sideways slash he followed up with. She then pushed off his sword, sending him back a few paces while giving her space to think.

 

He didn’t allow this, instantly readjusting his grip while lunging forward again bringing his sword down in a diagonal slash. She was able to side-step it, snapping her staff to the side to strike against the armor of his chest. He didn’t even give her the acknowledgement of a strike well done, turning on the ball of his foot to lunge at her again with his sword close to his body.

 

She did the same motion as before, bringing her staff up to black a following attack but instead of being met with a sword, his elbow struck out and knocked the breath from her lungs. Athena winced with a hiss, grinding her teeth while using the force of his blow to be pushed back in the snow. Cullen paused and gave her an apologetic smirk, taking a moment to tighten his gloves before re-assuming his position.

 

They went back and forth and again Rathein and Varric began to watch. They held hot bowls of soup and silently watched them repeat drill after drill. Cassandra’s training had come in handy but she was still getting knocked on her butt or hit by the flat end of his blade instead of actually cutting her. Athena silently thanked him, using the moment to memorize his stance, where he put his weight on his feet, and which direction he normally came from.

 

His experience showed in the fluidity of his movements. She knew why so many people looked up to him and how his training was even evident to Iron Bull. As the time went on their attacks became more genuine. He stopped babying her with soft blows and was using the actual slice of his blade in attacks. In return, she began using some of her minor spells. When she came down on his sword, flames enveloped her staff and illuminated his features as he attempted to push up with his weapon. He was almost smiling while they fought, sweat on his brow but there was an invisible focus to his movements. Eventually his physical strength overpowered hers and she was pushed back onto her backside, falling into the snow with a grunt.

 

Before she could regain her footing the tip of his sword was at her neck and he gave a smirk of triumph. Both of their breaths were coming in pants. She could feel sweat dripping down her neck and what was probably blood dripping down her arm. He had gotten struck on the side of the head with her staff and already a bruise was starting to form but there was a moment where she felt content. He sheathed his sword and offered an arm to help her up. She gripped onto his forearm and pulled, wincing as some of effects of his strikes became evident.

 

“Are you feeling better?” He asked, looking down with a smile while wiping his brow with the back of his hand. For a moment she had forgotten why she needed to fight. The disagreement with Solas felt like ages ago and the anger was no longer fueling the strikes of her staff. She nodded, itching to give the Commander a hug but instead she shook his hand. “Thank you. I really am. Can I buy you a drink in thanks?”

 

He cleared his throat and looked over to his troops, frowning as he noticed some of them were forgoing their duties to watch their duel. “Another time perhaps.” He looked to her, holding her gaze for a moment before nodding and dismissing himself. She sighed in a moment of exhaustion, wincing as the cut on her arm became more and more painful.

 

“You owe me ten, Herald.”

 

She whipped her head over to not only see Varric and Rathein. . . but now Dorian, half of the Chargers, Bull, Sera, and Blackwall were leaning against the posts watching them. How did she not see them before? The fight had apparently distracted her well enough. She gave a sheepish and embarrassed wave to them with her injured arm. Dorian wiggled his fingers back at her in return, his other hand open towards the Herald. She groaned and dropped a few coins into his palm which he instantly pocketed.

 

Bull laughed, drinking from his mug before commenting. “You know, that wasn’t half bad for a beginner.” There was a communal hum of agreement while Athena turned a curious gaze towards the Herald.

 

“Wait, you bet on me? Against the Commander?”

 

Dorian laughed, shaking his head while gesturing towards Cullen. “Heavens no, I was betting that he would draw blood. She didn’t think he would be that mean. Nobody here thought you would actually win.”

 

She gave an over dramatic frown, looking to the superficial slice that bled through her jacket. Rathein jumped up from her position in between Bull and Dorian while smiling at her. “Let me get that for you.” She placed her hands over the wound and flowed her magic into the cut.

 

Athena felt her arm get warm, the skin stitching itself together. “I didn’t know you knew healing magic. “

 

The Herald shrugged, motioning towards the tavern. “We were going to grab a drink, do you want to join?”

 

Athena stretched up towards the sky in a stretch, wincing at her sore muscles and bruises. “Let me take a bath first then I’ll meet you there.” They all waved her off while Varric murmured about starting a game of Wicked Grace. Rathein had sent a messenger to start fetching a bath to be made. It gave Athena time to grab fresh underclothes, linens, and oils before heading to the bath area. Kain followed her dutifully, sitting by the bath whenever she shut the door behind her. She turned with two vials of oil in her hands. “Which one, boy? Mint or rosemary?” She held up the vials to his nose, allowing him time to sniff each one.

 

He sneezed but then pointed his nose towards the mint. “Good choice.” She dropped a few drops on the surface of the water before stirring it around. The heat dispersed the cool scent of mint in the air, it drawing a happy sigh from her lips as she disrobed and tossed her dirtied, bloodies clothes to the side. She saw where Cullen had struck at her, the bruises already turning a wonderful purple color. The wound Rathein had healed already scarred but she admired the cut proudly. Perhaps he was going easy on her, which he probably was, but she felt like she was getting better at this whole “battle strategy” thing.

 

She lowered herself into the water with a hiss as the scalding hot water sent an almost itchy sensation up her back. There was a combination of “oohs” and “aahs” until her bottom touched the base of the bath. Kain jumped up and put his paws on the edge of the tub, whining while looking at her. “I’m fine, sweetheart.” He licked a few drops of the water as a reward before laying down by the bath. She took a stone and began lightly scrubbing her skin. It was strange seeing hair on her legs now. She wondered if Vivienne had a tonic for hair removal or if there was a dagger she could use like the men did on their faces. The latter was probably the more probable option but damn she would need a steady hand to do that.

 

As she was massaging soaps into her hair she thought about what they would do in the next few days. She would slowly put pillows in the bottom of the mine shaft for Rathein to fall on after the avalanche. She would try and find the tunnel that Chancellor Roderick knew of to make sure there weren’t any leaky walls and that their structure was intact. She would continue to train with Cullen since he was a Templar and was trained under their Order. The Red Templars would put up a hell of a fight but perhaps if she knew what to expect it wouldn’t be as bad.

 

Athena dunked her head underwater, her hands feverishly trying to clean the soap out of it. She had a lot to do in the next few days but she didn’t expect how fast it would go by.

 

Three days later she woke in her bed with anxiety coursing through her veins. It was the morning of the Breach, which would eventually lead to the rise of Corypheus.

Chapter Text

There was a stilled silence in Haven as she walked through with Kain at her side. He could sense it, his hackles raised and gaze stone cold as they met the Herald, Cassandra, and Solas by the stables before heading to the Temple of Sacred Ashes. They all greeted each other with nods of acknowledgement, Solas giving her a particularly icy stare. She rolled it off of her shoulders and looked towards the Breach, lightning striking within the clouds.

 

The Herald looked at the mark on her hand, fear settling into her features. Athena could only imagine what she was thinking, the burdens on her mind. In an effort to ease her worries she walked up and squeezed her shoulders with both hands, resting her chin on her shoulder as she turned the gesture into a hug from behind. “You’ll do great.”

 

Rathein rested her head against her friends, taking the small moment of peace before hardening herself into the future Inquisitor that people would look up to. She looked to their party, the mages, and some of the supporting troops. With a gesture of her hand, they were off and walking towards the fallen Temple.

 

The Breach raged above them as they arrived. It was almost like it knew its impending doom. Athena looked up at it and felt a wave of dread wash over her spine. It was months ago that she fell from that hole. The memories and emotions associated with them all rushed back: the Fade, the exorcism, everything. Her face paled as her grip on her staff tightened. Rathein had determined she should stay up with Cassandra and Solas while the mages worked behind them with their magic.

 

Fiona had the mages on the upper levels with their staffs drawn. They were ready for the order, their eyes focused on the large tear in the Veil above them. She looked over towards her friend with a cautious gaze and saw that the Herald had her eyes closed. She was praying, or that’s what it looked like, hands clasped in front of her with her head bowed. The mage wasn’t vocally a particularly firm believer in Andraste, but even the faithless needed extra help in times of strife.

 

When she opened her eyes, it was time.

 

Cassandra called out: “Mages.”

 

Solas, with a focused gaze, looked to the group and instructed: “Focus past the Herald. Let her will draw from you.”

 

Rathein hesitated, taking in a deep breath but she slowly started moving forward. The force of the Breach was too much, that was obvious from Athena’s point of view. It felt like they were deep undersea, the pressure pushing in on their entire bodies. It drew her breath in small gasps but she knew it had to be worse for the Herald who was literally linked to it by the Mark. Pulling her staff forward, she cast a barrier around her friend, struggling to hold its form while she pushed through the torn pieces of the Veil.

 

Solas glanced at her then gave the mages their cue to start. Starting with Fiona, they all slammed their staffs into the ground and directed their power into the column that led up to the Breach. The sheer amount of power blew past them all like a cutting wind. It invigorated Athena, made her breathing easier but made her nerves feel alive. It was easier to cast her barrier and she pulled on the enchantment in her ring to make it stronger. It caused Rathein to look like a burning sun before casting her Mark up into the sky.

 

Athena smiled. That was something that would one day be painted on a Chantry wall for future generations to bear witness to. The barrier broke but Rathein persevered, keeping her hand extended towards the heavens. The Mark burst with a bright green light, it looking like a lightning bolt as it targeted the Breach. The Rift nearly writhed in response, lighting the sky with its power. It swelled and grew before finally slamming shut with a sound of thunder roaring through the clouds.

 

The group was thrown back from the burst, which left her landing on a sharp jagged piece of debris. With a groan she pushed herself to a sitting position, her brown gaze taking in the epic scene before her. The Herald was crouched down, her left hand glowing with the power from the Mark. Cassandra rushed to her side, exclaiming the victory to the crowd. “You did it!”

 

The mages erupted into cries of happiness. They embraced one another, their eyes looking at the empty sky. Athena sat from her place on the ground and beamed with pride at her friend. She had come from being a prisoner of the Seeker and the Nightingale to being the Hero of Orlais and Ferelden. It was a task that was only capable of being accomplished by her and she stepped up to the plate. Athena hugged her knees to her chest with a grin, allowing herself to remain invisible to the crowd as they walked around her and celebrated.

 

It was Solas who came and found her, offering his hand to help her to a standing position. She looked up at him with a cautious look, her eyes going back and forth between his extended hand and his face. Does he not remember the other day? He sighed and then gave her a pleading look, which made her almost roll her eyes in response, grasping his forearm with her hand. He pulled her up with ease and led her over to the Herald. Athena noticed his hand stayed on her shoulder in the walk over but she was too distracted with happiness from seeing Rathein’s face to say anything.

 

The pair embraced each other, tears coming to their eyes. Athena nuzzled her head into the nook of her friend’s shoulder and it took a moment for her to realize that Rathein was actually crying. Strong, bold, hilarious Rathein was crying into her shoulder. She looked around and realized nobody was noticing so she rubbed her friend’s back and continued to hold her until it passed, whispering words of encouragement into their hug.

 

“You did it, Herald. I knew you could. You just saved so many people!”

 

The Herald nodded into her neck, rubbing her eyes on her shoulder before stepping back with a bright smile. Athena looked to the rest of the group and gestured towards the exit: “Let’s go home and celebrate our group victory and effort in closing the Breach!”

 

The mages agreed with another cheer as they began walking towards the path back to Haven. When they were out of earshot Cassandra walked to her side. “What do we do now?”

 

Athena’s face instantly hardened into one of focus and determination. She flicked her gaze to the Seeker. “I’ll send out my scouts. Tell Cullen’s men to quietly load the trebuchets so they’re quicker to fire when we ring the alarm. Tell everyone else to focus on having a good time. I’ll let you know when to prepare.”

 

They all nodded but looked grim about it. The happiness of closing the Breach was drained away and internally she cursed herself. . . but there was no way she was going to let it come as big of a surprise as it was in the game. The four of them walked towards the path to Haven where Athena unsheathed her staff and slammed it into the ground. She urged the others to continue on, stating that she needed to do some work. The summoning command pushed outwards in a burst of air, the impulse coursing through the trees and the roots beneath them. Kain was already at her side, waiting by the exit per her order, but he rose to attention and pressed his nose to her palm.

 

Within minutes the rest of the six wolves arrived. Their eyes were no longer glossed over by magic like they were the first time. They were friends, a pack, and came when their human alpha called. Athena bent down and touched each of their foreheads to her own, whispering small welcomes and words of gratitude. The alpha of the pack awaited orders, sitting back and looking her in the eye.

 

“Be discreet. Go to the mountain pass. There will be soldiers that feel odd covered in red. Do not attack, just howl out. I will be able to hear you. Once you are finished warning me, run for that mountain clearing behind Haven. I will meet you there. Do not put yourself in danger, my friends. I cannot lose a single one of you. My heart can’t handle it.”

 

You’re some of my only true friends is what she wanted to say. The pack didn’t care about her past. They knew her heart and knew that her words rang true. The alpha pressed his nose to her forehead, paused for a second, and then turned and began running in the forests. Kain whined softly at her side and she wrapped her arms around him, watching the wolves disappear into the trees.

 

“They are loyal to you.”

 

Sneaky bastard. She didn’t turn around to acknowledge the comment, instead she kissed Kain on the side of the head and rose to a standing position before turning onto the path towards Haven. She walked and both the wolf and the other wolf fell into step behind her. The only sound that was between them was the sound of her boots crunching into the fresh snow.

 

“Is something wrong?”

 

This gave her pause, a hollow hurt sound like a barking laugh fell from her lips. She paused and turned on the ball of her foot, giving him a slight sideways profile view of her before responding: “You’re kidding, right?”

 

His face was blank but he arched a brow at her, which elicited an eye roll and for her to keep walking. Kain hung his head low, his eyes constantly glancing to the side at Solas. She could feel that his fur was raised and that he was fighting showing his teeth to the elf. Athena had to smirk at how well her wolf knew her and how he was able to react when she couldn’t. Right now the focus on her mind was Haven and what she needed to do to prepare for the potentially catastrophic event.

 

“Athena. . . “

 

There was something in his voice that gave her pause. They were almost to the outskirts of Haven and so she didn’t want to have a fight in front of the celebrating villagers. Surely Bull had opened a cask already. His Ben Hasserath training would come in handy here because him and the Chargers could have a good time with the people and give them a sense of calm while also being on alert. Taking in a deep breath, she turned towards the fellow mage fighting to keep a passive position: her face calm and her hands at her sides. “Yes, Solas?”

 

He seemed surprised that she turned around, his eyes widening for a moment in surprise before he returned to his hardened stare. He was reserved, she couldn’t feel his aura pressing in on her like he normally did. He opened his mouth to speak but in a move of frustration she lifted a hand to stop him. Her voice was to the point with an edge of anger. “Look, I’ve said it before. You just blow hot and cold on the turn of a coin and I can’t handle that right now, not today. Until you decide which way you want to be and how you’re going to treat me, I’m going to be focusing on my duties for the evening. Please fortify the barrier and . . . be safe.” Her voice softened at the last part and she tried not to show the concern in her eyes.

 

It obviously failed because he softened as well, giving her a slight nod without any sort of verbal response. She turned back towards the village and stopped by her cabin, grabbing quilts and blankets and loading Prince with them to take to the mine entrance. When they got there she saw that Cullen had shut the doors leading to it but upon entering it was well lit and warm. There was still a drop at the bottom of the stairs so she threw the quilts and pillows down in an attempt to soften the Herald’s fall.

 

She slowly led Prince and Kain down the steps and through the mine. The demons weren’t present yet so she assumed they only showed up after Corypheus had arrived and his power pressed on the Veil. Thank goodness. Despair demons were her least favorite and she probably couldn’t take a few of them on her own. Once they reached the opposing mouth of the mine she tied Prince up a few feet inside of the cave where a torch was lit. Kain whined. He could feel the impending dread that was coating her mind. She licked her dry lips and sighed while hugging both of them in an embrace. “Prince, you need to wait here. Kain, once we hear the call you need to stay here too. I’ll wait with you. Protect each other. I’ll create a barrier around you and place some wards so nobody will get to you. . . but please don’t leave it.”

                                                                                                                          

The animals looked to her and made sounds of agreement. Prince put his side against the cave wall and attempted to drift off into a nap. Kain and Athena stood outside the mouth of the cave, waiting in the cold bitter silence for the scouts to report. They could hear the loud comradery of Haven from where they were. They were dancing around their fires, celebrating the closing of the thing that threatened the swallow the skies. They were happy in that moment and Athena was hardened with the burden of knowing it would all end soon.

 

Chapter Text

An hour, maybe two passed, when a distant pitch caught her attention and pulled her from the trance she had entered waiting for their call. Athena pushed off of the cave wall and ran outside with Kain. A second howl called in and soon the air was singing with their warnings, the vibrations sending a chill up her spine and hitching her breath in her throat. “Stay!” She screamed to her wolf, checking Prince and adjusting that his pack with her books and supplies in it was secure before looking to the barriers and fortifying them with a pulse of her staff.  Kain stayed within the barrier but barked at her as she left, his fear and sadness reaching her mind with every cry. Her feet couldn’t take her fast enough as she scrambled up the stairs and around the corner. The guards at the gate gave her a strange look as she pushed through them up the stairs to where Varric normally sat by his fire. Commander Cullen was waiting near the front and his face dropped the moment he saw her and her expression.

 

“Maker help us.”

 

She nodded to him, unaware that tears were stinging her eyes as she pointed out past the gates. “Do you hear them, Cullen? We need to start moving. Get the people inside the Chantry NOW; I need to talk with Chancellor Roderick.”

 

He scowled, gripping the top of his sword hilt while motioning for some of his messengers to start collecting the people. “Why him?”

 

Athena began her ascent up the stairs, her breath now coming in pained bursts. She didn’t have time to answer him. Every second counted now and getting the path open now could save so many lives. The people would have a safe place to hide within the fortified Chantry and its barrier. The Chancellor was at the front of the Chantry, speaking with a few of the other sisters in their last moment of merriment for what could be weeks. He sneered at her, opening his mouth in preparation for what she assumed was a backhanded lecture on the matter of things. Instead she stopped right before him, keeping her facial expressions focused and controlled while pointing to the the Chantry. “Where is the path in the back of the Chantry?”

 

He stirred, face contorting into one of confusion and outrage. “How did you-“

 

Her hands itched with the urge to slap him but instead she gripped him by the front of his robes and pulled him nose to nose with her. Her voice, now almost desperate, grabbed his attention. “No questions. We need it now, Chancellor.” She pushed him away from her then pointed to the Chantry again to reinforce her point.

 

He touched his fingers to his head, eyes closed while he tried to pull in the thought. “I. . .think I still remember. I will do as you say, Fade-Walker.”

 

Athena looked to the sisters he left behind. “Go with him. Make sure it is ready as soon as you can. The moment people start running in here, get them in that tunnel.” The sisters nodded hesitantly but ran after the Chancellor. She turned back and ran through the courtyard, jumping over the small rock wall that was between Threnn’s tent and Varric’s. When she arrived Cullen’s face was white as a sheet as a messenger ran to his side. Josephine, Leliana, and Cassandra had arrived with Rathein trailing from behind.

 

“Under what banner?” The Ambassador asked, her eyes tentatively looking towards the mountain where rows of torches were now visible.

 

Cullen paused, looking to Athena as he stated: “None.”

 

“Shit.” Athena moved past them and went to the gate, pushing the guards out of the way while throwing the doors open with adrenaline-fueled strength. In front of them was a Red Templar, raising his sword but was then stopped by a dagger tip protruding from his chest. The body fell and Athena ran up to the assassin behind him wearing a wide-brimmed hat.

 

Cole, a young boy with dirty-blonde, messy hair, looked her up and down before almost smiling. “Oh! You’re here to help!”

 

Athena nodded with a smirk, pointing in towards the Herald and the council. “Help them, Cole. We’re going to need someone to protect them as they travel. You can make yourself not seen; they need a hidden angel like you. Do good.”

 

He blushed at the compliment before running to the Herald, informing her that the unknown attacker was the Templars. Cole pointed up towards a mountain where Samson and Corphyeus arrived. The blighted Tevinter Magister looked more monstrous in person than the game would allow. Pieces of flesh hung off of his face like a veil, his mouth contorted and gnarled by rot. Anger fueled her, a growl forming low in her throat while she bared her teeth in a snarl. In response she did something that she wouldn’t be able to defend or explain. Just anger. She hardened and focused her gaze on the Elder One, using the mixture of fear and rage in her belly as fuel for an attack. An orb of pure blue fire swirled around her palm and with a knee-jerk reaction she threw the attack towards Corypheus and Samson. It exploded at their feet, causing the traitor Templar to stagger back with his hands raised to protect his face.

 

That got their attention. The self-proclaimed God walked to the edge of the cliff through the flames unharmed and stared her down, a sickly smile coming to his face. She thought she heard his voice in her head, rolling through and sticking to her thoughts like poison: “I see you, Fade-Walker.” It gave her the spirit to run back to the Herald and Cullen, panic raising the volume of her voice. “We need to get everyone to the Chantry, now!”

 

The Commander nodded in agreement, the look of a war-hardened soldier coming to his eyes as he drew his sword. “If we are to survive this we must control the battle. Get out there and hit that force with everything you have.”

 

He ran to command the troops and she could hear him scream: “Inquisition, with the Herald! For your lives, for all of us!” His men instantly came to his call, their weapons drawn and ready. The respective groups ran to command the trebuchets while Rathein looked to the party who had gathered by the front gates. “Bull, Blackwall, Solas, with me. Everyone else. . . .” The Herald looked to Athena with a half apologetic smile, taking the three men and running to the first trebuchet.

 

Athena cursed her for leaving her with the rest of the delegations but it would have to do. Clapping her hands together she pointed up to the higher vantage point where Threnn’s tent was. “Varric, Sera, you guys can pick them off from up there. They have red lyrium on their side so they are going to be a beast to take down. Don’t let it touch you and use poisonous ammo if you have it. Sera: Bees.”

 

Varric cursed under his breath, giving Bianca a pat on the wood before taking off with Sera who was giggling with mad glee. Athena continued on, looking to Cassandra and Vivienne. “The people in the Chantry will need guidance. Help them minimize what they’re bringing and keep the Templars out. Vivienne, you worked with them side by side in the Circle, you are perhaps the only one that knows their weaknesses. Use them.”

 

The First Enchantress gave her a smug smile at the compliment before turning with Cassandra, who lightly touched Athena’s shoulder and met her gaze before running off with her sword drawn. That left Dorian, who was shaking his head while looking at the mountains. “Leaving me for last? I never got picked during school either.”

 

This brought a small laugh from her lips as she caught herself giving him a quick, tight embrace. “Come now, I didn’t want to play favorites in front of the rest of them. Guard the front of the Chantry with the other mages. Solas helped to erect a barrier and I know you can keep it going.”

 

He went to giggle at her use of the word erect to break the obviously growing tension but she playfully smacked him on the shoulder. “Yes, I get it, funny. Don’t die. It would ruin my day.”

 

He began to run towards the Chantry with a swirl of his staff, shouting back over his shoulder: “Just your day! I’m offended!”

 

Athena only had a second of solace between leaving her friend and turning to run and help the Herald. She wasn’t sure where she was going to fit in this whole battle but if they fired the trebuchets sooner they could save the villagers from the encroaching Templar force. As she arrived the first trebuchet had been fired, it landing a small but devastating blow to a group of Templars at the front of the assault. Athena covered Cullen’s soldiers as they ran back towards Haven. She waited until they cleared the front gates before she sprinted to catch up the main party. With a wave of her hand, she cast a barrier over the group before falling behind them in step.

 

Thankfully they looked unharmed but the reality of the situation was settling in. Blackwall and Bull were blatantly avoiding her gaze but Solas and Rathein gave her an appreciative nod at the barrier. The Herald spoke: “We need to get that trebuchet aimed at the mountain. It will trigger an avalanche to slow them down!” Athena nodded, running in time with them to find that the Templars had taken the next trebuchet already. They left their positions and began attacking immediately with wordless cries of battle. The red lyrium twisted their voices, giving them almost a polyphonic tone that broke through the air. A venatori mage on the side levitated his spell book and began laying frost glyphs on the ground as traps. To counteract them Athena spun with her staff and launched a set of fireballs to set off the glyphs so none of them would be harmed. The last fireball was then aimed the mage himself. It knocked him back and then he was paralyzed by a sudden column of frost. Solas was at her side, clenching his fist to will the ice to shatter the Templar's body to the ground in a pile of debris.

 

They both turned to the remaining Templars and threw barriers on their party members. Rathein was in the midst of it, denying the mage’s place at the outskirts of the battlefield to fight alongside Bull and Blackwall. Her storm magic made it easy to stun people in place, allowing her warriors to take advantage of their frozen state and move in for the killing blows. There were still Templar soldiers on the side and with a strange, unified deep breath Solas and Athena began to fire off their spells.

 

They were polar opposites in their elements: fire and ice in the air as their spells fell down upon their opponents.  At some point in the battle, there was a click within the center of her chest. Time slowed around her and it became painfully obvious how in sync her and the mage next to her were. Their bodies moved with the current of the veil, their spells cracking in unison and the magic weaving through their bodies like it was only air. They were both completely aware of everything happening on the battlefield and there were no overlapping barriers or redundant glyphs. Between the two of them their teammates were protected and by the end of it the sensation left her breathless.

 

It was like the magic moved through her, not waiting for her command but following her will. It knew where it needed to go and like the attack towards Corypheus, was driven by the language of her emotion. The last Templar fell and Rathein began to turn the wheel to prime the trebuchet. Only this time Bull came up behind her, using his large physical strength to turn it faster and launch the weapon into the mountains. While he was loading it up, Athena ran to the boulder loaded in the back and quickly traced a fire glyph with her fingertip onto the rock’s surface. When the rock was launched, it landed with an explosive force on the side of the mountain. The avalanche shook the ground and while the people began to cheer Athena threw her arms open and brought up a barrier behind the trebuchet and in front of her allies.

 

It made the blow of the dragon’s flames that much less.

 

Their bodies were thrown to the ground as the Blighted creature flew overhead. She could see its broken wings held together by frayed tendons and bone, its body leaving a streak of tainted magic wherever it touched. There was a sick presence about it and it brought a sense of dread into the air. Rathein rose first but then turned and punched her shoulder with actual force, lightning sparking in static on her blow while leaving Athena’s shoulder numb. “Really?! A fucking dragon!?”

 

She turned quick, seeing the flash of anger on her friend’s face and responding with her own. “Hey! I didn’t bring it here! How do you subtly say there’s a fucking dragon coming?!

 

The Herald scoffed and began to run back towards the gate, taking down templars in her path. Rathein must have been infuriated because she was too angry to focus on spells and instead used the spike at the bottom of her blade to slice through enemies. They passed Harritt who was trying to get into his house, his fruitless kicks not even budging the crates that were barricading the door. The group slowed down but Athena screamed: “Go! I got it!” Bull gave her a nod and led the group forward while she used a blast of flames to shatter the boxes and the door off of its hinges. The blacksmith gave her a curt nod, grabbing his family blacksmith’s hammer off the desk inside and running through the gate and past the Herald.

 

Athena was the last one through Haven’s entrance, Cullen pushing her through while he shut the wooden gates himself. The dragon’s roar thundered overhead, the earth-shattering sound making them pause while the Commander looked to them all. He too seemed to avoid Athena’s gaze. “Most of the villagers are in the Chantry and ready to go. There are still a few stragglers but we have to distract that beast or the barrier around the Chantry won’t hold. It’s the only building that can hold it off.” He began to run up the stairs, turning on one and looking the Herald in the eye. He was focused, read to take on the challenge, but his voice also sounded defeated with the presence of Corypheus’s pet experiment. “At this point, just make them work for it.”

Chapter Text

Cullen turned and ran towards the Chantry, sword drawn and gaze focused. Athena wanted to wish him luck as he left but instead she closed her eyes and took a deep breath in. In the game the next set of quests were all time-sensitive missions in saving the villagers. She had a sinking feeling in her gut that they would all need saving as soon as possible and they wouldn’t have a spare second to lose. She was trying to organize how to do such a thing when the Herald screamed at her: “ATHENA.”

 

Her eyes shot open and looked at her friend who was nearly fuming with desperation and determination. They were awaiting orders from her, weapons drawn. Without a word of command, she turned and ran to the right where she knew Lysette was under attack from the templars. They were coming over the fences like some sort of zombie hoard except their attacks were coordinated and made from a foundation of battle strategy. Lysette, the Templar who had performed the exorcism when she had first arrived, was screaming and holding her own against the red lyrium infected enemies. Athena ran to her side and blocked a sword attack, giving the overwhelmed solider a nod of confidence.

 

There was a silent conversation between them. Lysette looked with a panicked but thankful gaze, tears forming in the corners of her eyes as she looked to the mage who just saved her life. Athena smirked in response, nodding in a way that communicated forgiveness and acceptance. From there the two took off as a pair until the rest of the party arrived to finish up the Templars. As Lysette was running off she grabbed her shoulder, pointing to one of the houses that was on fire. “There is someone stuck in there. Climb the ladder and drop down from above. There is debris blocking the door that you will need to clear. Do you have the strength to do it?”

 

The Templar nodded, her eyes following Athena’s gaze. She ran off with her sword drawn to the location where Seggrit was trapped under some fallen lumber. As she faded off in the distance she looked to the other members, who were all still surprised with the amount of specific knowledge she had. Rathein was growing more and more hesitant as the battle went on; it was as if her trust was fading with every encounter, every potential life that could have been lost or saved. Athena cursed through gritted teeth while motioning them upstairs. “There will be a battle here. We need to defeat them here before we continue on and get overwhelmed.”

 

Sure enough, where Varric’s tent was suddenly arrived a swarm of red templars and their odd creations that had red lyrium crystals protruding from the skin. Everything felt so wrong about them. She now understood what Cole meant about the red lyrium singing something off. It was a vibration that she could feel in her mind, a sickly sweet song luring her to come closer and touch it. She was sure it was how siren’s sounded to the sailors of old making their way through the high seas. In response she cried out in frustration, throwing her hands outwards and expelling six shots of flames from her chest. The attacks bombarded a set of two templars who fell down to the ground with a quick death.

 

With every kill she could feel herself becoming numb to the sensation. The stench of blood and scorched flesh stained her nostrils and it put a pit in her stomach to see so many corpses. There were a few Inquisition soldiers littered on the ground with the templars and she wished she had time to identify them so she could help send letters to their families. Athena headed them to the tavern next. “Wait here and hold off the Templars! I need to go get Flissa. Bull, keep them from coming in. The foundation is really unsteady!”

 

The Qunari nodded, positioning his body in the doorway while she ran inside. The sound of swords clashing and spells firing put a burst under her feet as she ran into the flaming building. The flames were suffocating, putting a pressure on her skin as she ran, jumping over burning debris to find the barmaid trapped under a flaming piece of wood. The environment were already attempting to catch fire her skirts but Athena used her magic to pulse the flames away, helping the woman up. They ran just in time for the roof to collapse, waiting for Bull to finish off the last Templar before she pushed Flissa out. “Run to the Chantry. Do not let anything stop you!”

 

The woman couldn’t even turn around to thank her. Panic transfixed her features as her body took off into the darkness. With every villager the expressions on her companion’s faces were becoming colder. Athena was trying to fight tears but there were still three more people that needed to be saved and the next two were going to be difficult. As they ran up, she turned towards the elf on her right and commanded: “Can you cast a barrier around the pots? They’re going to burst.”

 

He nodded and looked to the pots, quickly throwing up his arms to try and contain the flames that were already starting to bust. Athena ran to Adan’s side, screaming at the others. “Help her!” Minaeve was crying out under the cart of pots, the flames slowly encroaching on them. Blackwall and Rathein helped her up while Bull pulled Adan to his feet with a quick and rough movement. The healers took off for the Chantry just in time for the pots to burst into flame. Solas’s barrier helped contain it but the pressure was too much; the pottery pieces flew out and a fragment sliced the side of Athena’s cheek.

 

She hissed in pain, putting a glove to her cheek to see it stained crimson. Her pulse was already within her throat and the sight of the blood made her head dizzy. It wasn’t just her blood; it was the accumulation of all of the blood. The stench was everything and it was exacerbated by the flames. The smoke was aggravating her throat and it felt like everything was closing in around her. Frozen by panic, she almost fell forward but put her hands on her knees instead. Rathein bent down and looked to her with brows furrowed but face blank of emotion, her voice coldly cutting through the roar of the fall of Haven. “Who. Else.”

 

Athena pointed forward, her words coming out like a whisper as the soot and flames irritated her vocal cords. “Threnn. Chantry.” The four took off, leaving her to recover by herself. The only person to give her a second glance was Solas but she waved him off to go help the Herald. Threnn was the last one then they would be able to regroup in the Chantry with the others and decide where to go from there. Athena stood up and looked at the destruction of the city. All of the buildings except the Chantry were lit aflame. Her eyes glanced to the Chantry; the barrier had begun flickering and it was starting to splinter and crack.

 

No no no no!

 

She ran with her staff in her right hand pumping past her allies and standing on the edge of the barrier. She summoned her magic to her staff and slammed it into the ground, re-enforcing the barrier with her own mana. The surge of the spell brought a wordless cry from her lips, the strength of it bringing her to her knees while she clutched her staff. She looked up and saw that the last enemy Templar fall. Chancellor Roderick came up behind her, strong in his stance and without a fatal wound that was there in the game. “Come in! The Chantry is your shelter!”

 

He looked to her with a grateful glance, noticing that she was keeping the barrier up. The group of four ran in behind her and she noticed one of them dropped a small lyrium vial at her feet. The residue of a cold aura in the air gave her the answer but she drank it regardless. With the burst of magic in her veins she was able to give the barrier more time, turning and walking into the Chantry breathless and empty of energy. The whole group looked the same way, their postures bent over while their faces were drained. “Herald, that dragon has stolen back any time we might have saved.”

 

Athena could feel the Commander’s glance on her when he said it but she chose to ignore it. The fealty of the situation had set in on her. The wounded in the Chantry, the cries of the family’s grieving over their lost loved ones, it was all too real. In the game if she couldn’t save someone she reset and loaded a new save file until she could do it right. Here, they only had the one chance and lives were on the line if they didn’t get it right. She put her head in her hands while crouched down, trying to regain her breath while taking in everything around them.

 

Cole spoke up, his voice soft but sure. “I’ve seen an Archdemon. I was in the Fade but it looked like that.”

 

Cullen snapped back, his face contorting into anger. “I don’t care what it looked like. It helped cut a path for that army! They’ll try to kill everyone in Haven.”

 

The young boy looked up at them. “The Elder One doesn’t care about the village. He only wants them.” He looked to Rathein and Athena and that only increased the weight of the guilt in her stomach. She was still involved in all of this. Every curse word imaginable fell silently from her lips as she cursed whatever being or power brought her into this world. She was one more liability, one more person the Herald had to keep safe.

 

“If he wants me and it will keep the villagers safe. . . “ Rathein’s voice was cold but compassionate, her eyes looking to her party members for more opinions. Athena sighed while standing shaking her head back and forth while looking to her friend, or she hoped she could still call her that after the attack on Haven.

 

Cullen interrupted their silence with more battle strategy. “There is no way to make this whole thing survivable. The only thing that slowed them was the avalanche. We could turn the remaining trebuchets, cause one last slide.”

 

The Herald looked to the ground then up to Cullen. “If we bury the enemy. . .we bury Haven.”

 

The Commander didn’t falter. “The majority of Haven are in the tunnels already, waiting for the clear. Everything else is just material possessions. At least the people will be safe.”

 

Athena ached a brow, noticing there was slightly more hope in his voice and that the dialogue had changed. There no longer was the overarching fear of death; it was just survival. They all thought for a moment, their minds full of different strategies and options. Rathein looked to Cullen: “Will the tunnels hold until we can fire the trebuchet?”

 

He nodded, his lips twitching into a frown. “Yes, but what of your escape?”

 

They were silent, Athena holding her tongue so she wouldn’t be smug and sound like the hero saving the day. Right now that wasn’t her. The true Hero was the Herald who was the face of hope in all of this. She nodded and looked to Athena, blue eyes burning like flames in the Chantry’s light. “Let’s go. Everyone drink some potions and prepare. We will be the force to give them time and we’ll fire that trebuchet our damned selves.”

 

As they went to leave Chancellor Roderick reached out for them: “Herald, if you are meant for this. . . if the Inquisition is meant for this. I pray for you.”

 

Cole smiled at their side, looking to Athena who was finally beginning to give a tired smile as well. For some reason it sounded much bolder when he wasn’t on his death bed because the normally greasy Chantry member was starting to realize that perhaps the Herald had been divine-sent. Although it wasn’t inherently true in Athena’s mind, he could be a voice that turned the tide of the people. Rathein and the other three opened the doors and ran into a group of Templars while Athena took that moment to grab Cole’s shoulder.

 

He turned, his features curious while he read her mind. Once Solas comes back, have him and Bull collapse the tunnel. “But what about you?”

 

Athena grit her teeth and turned to the side. “I don’t know, but I pray that we’ll be fine. Help them, Cole. You know how!”

 

With staff in hand she turned on her heel and fell in step behind Solas, weaving a set of fire glyphs and flicking them out onto the battlefield for Templars to step onto. Minute by minute they cleaved their way through the forces, approaching the trebuchet that would soon lead up to their first confrontation with the Elder One.

Chapter Text

The final trebuchet was before them and Athena could barely hear anything going on around her. The roar of her heartbeat blinded her senses and sent her magic into a fury. It moved off of her like a flame, nearly uncontrolled and wild with her emotions. This came in handy for them since she was firing off spells left and right but it was beginning to lay waste to her mana supply. Even basic attacks felt like she was running a mile, her muscles growing sore and sweat beading on her brow. Rathein was desperately attempting to turn and aim the trebuchet. Athena stood watch by her, casting barriers and keeping Templars off of the stairs that led up to the trebuchet wheel. Solas stood on the other side of the battlefield, keeping in rhythm with her and filling in spaces where she missed or catching enemies that were in her blind spot.

 

The battle was only minutes long but it dragged on for hours. They were allowed a second reprieve, a solitary moment where they all drew a deep breath in before the Knight Captain, the mother of all monstrosities, stumbled into the area. It towered like a giant, red lyrium crystals growing from his body like a cancer. There was hardly anything human about him anymore. There were remnants of a Templar helm covering his skull that was tainted red by the blighted gem. When it roared, it sent all of her hairs on end. It raised its large hand like a club created straight from red lyrium. The warriors began attacking its legs while it turned to the next closest thing.

 

Athena didn’t give herself time to strategist, instead she pulled her staff back and shot her opposite palm out, directing a pulse of raw magic towards Solas to knock him out of the way of the club. He was shot back a few feet, rolling on the ground before stopping on his side, a momentary wince flashing across his face. The club came down barely a foot in front of him, his eyes going wide at the monster’s size and quick movements. It was obvious the group was getting tired. They were becoming slower to react and their stamina stores were low. She turned with a snarl towards Rathein, who was barely able to turn the wheel but kept on going to load the trebuchet. “Keep working. We’ll take this bastard down.” The Herald grunted in response, sweat dripping down the sides of her face while she winced with every turn of the wheel.

 

Everything was becoming harder and Athena knew the next few weeks would only be an uphill battle but this would be the worst.

 

The Knight Captain gestured out with part of his corrupted hand, a large wall of spikes jutting out and trapping her, Blackwall, and Bull on the inside. She cursed to herself, casting a glyph beneath the creature before going to the side of the wall. The wall seemed to have an inverted curve, and suddenly she got a clever idea. Spinning her staff in one hand, she began to run up the side of the wall, using the smaller spikes to give her feet purchase until she reached the end and the highest point. Then, she relied on her will and body to do what she did before. She clenched her fist, drawing forward an attack with the last of her mana in the center of her palm. The blue and white flame burst to life at her will, pulsing with the beat of her heart as she threw the attack directly into the face of the creature.  

 

It burst and caused it to fall backwards, giving Iron Bull the chance to sink his great axe into its face while Blackwall cut through its chest and cleaved at its heart. The attacks were close to butchery, the creature crying out in mixed voices that sounded like something from a horror movie. Athena shuddered, setting fire to the corpse when the warriors were over.

 

The trebuchet was prepped and ready to fire, Athena turning and screaming at the group. “Everyone, move!”

 

They didn’t even hesitate to begin running, the roar of the dragon pounding down on their backs from above. Athena turned to see Rathein jumping down from the pedestal, her body obviously weakened from the battles they had fought. She’s not going to make it. She ran towards her friend, pulling her along and trying to close the space between them and their allies. The dragon’s body descended from the sky, it unloaded a breath of blighted lightning upon the ground. It splashed outwards, sending the two of them backwards and allowing for their friends to retreat.

 

Rathein was knocked nearly unconscious, her head reeling as she tried to rise. Athena had been able to tuck in her shoulder and roll after the impact. Since she was the quickest to recover, she put her body over the Herald’s and screamed into the flames that were spreading around the debris of the trebuchet. “You can’t have her, you bastard!”

 

And from the flames he came. His body was a mixture of old armor and bones. There were pieces of bone that protruded from the old protective wear, red lyrium strengthening his body as he walked from the side. His large claws hung at his side and there was a permanent sneer on his face from where his tightened skin pulled back the side of his mouth. He looked to the both of them and smirked, his eyes piercing through her spirit as there was a sudden change in the air around them. It made her sick, her body weakening and threatening to collapse into a heap.

 

The ground shuddered as the dragon landed and ran up from the side, its body blocking the only exit they could use. Athena stood between it and Rathein and it rose to her challenge, stomping its feet in the ground while roaring in her face. It was a good thing she had already done the brave and stupid thing by standing because the force of the roar froze her in place, as well as the vision of the multiple rows of teeth and the pieces of flesh hanging from its bones. The image of her fear must have put confidence into the dragon’s mind because it then roared to the sky, the clouds thundering at its command.

 

“Enough!”

 

The voice boomed over the dragon, both her and Rathein turning towards the creature known as the Elder One. He raised his arms and burst the air around them, dust flying in their faces and when it cleared he had walked a few steps closer to them. He looked at the Herald first, his eyes twisted with malice. “Pretender. You toy with forces beyond your ken. No. More.” Athena felt a pit drop into her stomach, his voice simply oozed wrongdoings and blood. It was a sound that ground against her mind and brought a wince to her face when he spoke.

 

And to make matters worse he flicked his gaze to her. “Intruder. You are involving yourself in matters that do not pertain to you and you deny me knowledge that would allow me to ascend.”

 

She hissed in response, tightening her grip on her staff while digging her heels into the ground to strengthen her position. Rathein shook her head, looking to the creature while disbelief fell from her lips: “Who are you? Why are you doing this?”

 

He continued, eyes returning to the Herald. “Mortals beg for truth they cannot have. It is beyond what you are. What I was. Know me. Know what you have pretended to be. Exalt the Elder One, the will that is Corypheus.”

 

Athena snapped, her eyes blazing with a mixture of fear and fury. “Even Gods can bleed, Corypheus, and we will make sure you do!” Her emotions were high and she allowed them to control her, her staff snapping forward and sending a blazing trail of flames towards the immortal pretender.

 

He dismissed her spell with a wave of his hand, knocking her back until she was practically under his dragon.

 

Rathein cried out as she was launched back, fear slowly setting into her features as she roared back at him: “You’re forcing this fight for no reason!”

 

Corpyheus’s voice boomed, it a slow and dreadful cadence. “You will resist. You will always resist. It matters not.” He slowly raised an orb with intricate designs in his claw, channeling his energy through it. “I am here for the Anchor. The process of removing it . . . .begins now.” As the orb began to crackle and spark with energy, Rathein’s mark on her hand responded in kind. Athena reached forward to her but was pinned down by the tremendous weight of the dragon’s claw. It snapped down at her, looking back to its master as he continued.

 

“It is your fault, Herald. You interrupted a ritual years in the planning. And instead of dying, you stole its purpose.” The wicked energy within his free claw pulsed, pulling Rathein towards him by the will of the Mark. She tried to grip onto her wrist, trying to regain some control of the thing she was cursed with but it was to no avail. “I do not know how you survived but what marks you as 'touched', what you flail at rifts, I crafted to assault the very Heavens.” He flexed his hand and sent the Herald to her knees, face contorting in pain as the green mark on her hand began to pulse with red magic. The dragon moved off of Athena, leaving her gasping and clutching her chest while it prowled on the side of the other mage, its gaze acting as if the Herald was its next meal.

 

“And you used the Anchor to undo my work. The gall.”

 

Rathein clutched her hand, looking to him with a pleading gaze. “What is this thing meant to do?!”

 

He smirked again, continuing to torment her with the malicious spell that was weaving in his hands. “It is meant to bring certainty where there is none. For you, the certainty that I will always come for it.” He dropped his claws to his side and approached, viciously grabbing her by the hand and pulling her skyward until her eyes were level with his. “I once breached the Fade in the name of another, to serve the old Gods of the empire in person., I found only chaos and corruption, dead whispers. For a thousand years I was confused, no more. I have gathered the will to return under no name but my own. To champion withered Tevinter and correct this Blighted world.”

 

Athena rose from her position with a pained gasp, slowly moving to the side away from the dragon and towards the mine entrance they would fall through. Every movement brought her pain, it being reminiscent of when she first fell from the Fade. There was certainty in her mind that the dragon probably re-fractured a few of her ribs but she dismissed the injuries with a growl. I am not vital in this; She is!

 

“Beg that I succeed. For I have seen the throne of the Gods. . . and it was empty”

 

Rathein’s eyes widened in shock at his words, even more so when he effortlessly threw her to the side near the trebuchet platform. The Herald cried out in pain at the impact, Athena wincing on her behalf while realizing it would be fruitless to throw a barrier over her. Corypheus’s might was greater than theirs by tenfold at this point in the game. He approached Rathein, scowling down at her. “The Anchor is permanent. You have spoilt it with your stumbling.”

 

Instead of remaining behind its master, the dragon now began to pace towards Athena. She held her staff in front of her, keeping eye contact with the great beast while her friend grabbed a sword that was lying in front of her. The Elder One continued on, his anger dripping into his words like poison. “So be it. I will begin again, find another way to give this world the nation and God it requires.” Rathein looked up and beyond the God and Athena knew she was looking to the sky for the signal that the villagers of Haven were safe. They couldn’t celebrate now; not with the journey they still had before them. “And you? I will not suffer even an unknowing rival. You must die.” He then flicked his hand to the side, a single claw pointing at Athena. “Take her.” The dragon nearly growled in delight, stomping over closer to while she shouted in protect.

 

Rathein smirked: “Your arrogance blinds you. Good to know. If we’re dying, it’s not today!” The Herald turned and kicked the pulley and chain system operating the trebuchet, signaling its launch into the mountains. By the time it happened the dragon had its claws wrapped around Athena’s body, its tips tearing small wounds into her skin. She cried out, flames encompassing her hands while she tried to fight the creature off. Rathein began to run off towards the side, the dragon roaring after it. With a large ball of flame, she was able to free herself and run after her friend, shooting the blighted creature and its master a final glare of absolute hatred while the avalanche roared behind them.

 

It caught up to them both, knocking them upwards into the air. Athena looked to the closed mine doors and blasted them open with a push of her staff, both of their bodies falling through the darkness and crashing onto the ground below.

Chapter Text

Their bodies fell with a resounding thud onto the cold mine floors. A soft layer of snow covered them as trickling remnants of the avalanche fell through the shaft door. Rathein was coughing from the hard landing, slowly raising herself up to a position on her arms. Athena was still stunned, her breaths shallow and painful, eyes watering as she was slowly starting moving each of her arms and legs. Thankfully they all worked, even if her nerves were on fire when she did it. Well this isn’t good. The Herald bent down and helped her up, groans of pain coming from them both. She wiped her eyes to adjust to the cave. Thankfully the torches that Cullen lit were still working, it providing a small amount of warmth as they adjusted to the cave.

 

Immediately in front of them was a chest.  The short-haired mage exclaimed: “Thank the Maker!” She threw the lid open without a care and looked down at the cache of health and lyrium potions. Instantly she grabbed a health potion and downed it, suddenly looking more energized even if it was a temporary effect. Athena could barely hold herself up, her body leaning against the cave wall. She could feel it. Her face was pale and her hands couldn’t stop shaking as she tried to wrap her bear-furred robe around her. The cowl had been blown off at some point during the battles. Somewhere in the depths of her mind she was disappointed that she lost the trophy from her first hunting kill but it was not her largest concern.

 

Rathein offered her a health potion and she shook her head, pointing to a lyrium potion instead. “I think my magic is more drained than anything. I’ll take the lyrium ones; you need the health ones more. I don’t know what he did to you.”

 

The Herald stilled, looking to her “tainted” mark with a scowl. She then looked back to where they landed, her eyes suddenly widening.

 

“What?”

 

Her gaze followed her friend’s and rested upon the set of quilts and pillows. A hollow chuckle came from her throat when Rathein pushed her over into the wall, momentary rage fueling her movements. “You knew this too?! Maker damn you, Athena.”

 

He already has. She thought to herself grimly, giving a small shrug. “I think you got the pillow though, my back is killing me. Come on, we need to get to the end of the cave.” She then silently hoped that her companions had made it through the avalanches. Their walk went a little faster than it did in the game due to the pre-planned placement of potions throughout their walk. They then approached a large opening, where Athena knew there were demons potentially waiting for them. She stilled, allowing Rathein to walk forward.

 

The screech of the despair demons belted out like an out of tune fiddle, it causing her to clasp her hands over her ears. The Herald, almost by instinct, opened her hand to the sky, creating a small rift that sucked the demons and a wisp into it before snapping shut at her command. Rathein then looked at her hand, turning it over and down a few times before glancing to Athena, who was a few paces back against the cave wall trying to catch her breath. “What was that?”

 

She smirked, wincing while pushing herself from the wall. “A new gift. Use it wisely. Drink another potion, you look weak.” Her friend frowned before nodding, drinking the second of three potions while Athena sipped on a lyrium potion. Her ribs burned with every breath, constricting her movements even farther but she pushed through. They had an entire mountain to climb and it was more important that the Herald of Andraste made it to the top.

 

When they arrived at the end of the cave she nearly fell down to the ground in relief. Kain and Prince anxiously awaited their presence from behind a barrier. The wolf’s tail was nervously wagging back and forth, his whines coming in small barks while he waited to be released from the wards. Rathein knocked against them with her staff, the barrier bursting into small fragments of mana. The wolf instantly tackled her, laying layers upon layers of kisses and touches on her face and neck. Prince pushed his head against her friend’s shoulder, allowing her to pet his face while checking his bags for supplies and ensuring the saddle security. “You knew this too?”

 

She pushed up from the ground, using Kain as a crutch to lift up to a standing position. She then sighed and nodded again, rubbing the back of her neck while reaching for her staff. Instead of grasping the long shaft of wood, she felt nothing but air. “Ah shit.” Her mind flashed to a resounding crack in her back when she landed in the cave and realized it was her staff breaking underneath her.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“My staff broke. Definitely going to be needing these lyrium potions.”

 

Rathein moved to offer hers but Athena cut her off with a gesture and a shake of her head. “You ride Prince and be on the watch. I’ll keep us warm with my barrier. Kain, do we still have scouts?” She looked to her wolf, who instinctually threw his head back and howled. The sound blurred into the blizzard, it dissipating into the thick snow over the course of minutes. In the distance, six dark dots appeared and only grew bigger. The entire pack survived, much to her relief, the alpha standing proudly in the front while awaiting their command.

 

Athena helped her friend up to the saddle, hiding any traces of pain on her face minus the pallor and furrowed brow. Once Rathein was set she took the last swig of a lyrium potion and threw the empty vial behind her on the ground. There was one on her belt and a smaller vial in the bag with her books she bought in Val Royeux next to a small decorated box that was for later.  She led the horse out into the blizzard, instantly casting a dome-shaped barrier around them to provide heat and shelter from the storm.

 

The wolves made a circle formation around them, using their heightened senses to follow the trail of the villagers and the soldiers. The first part was flat, easy to follow because there was debris in the path to guide them with small fires that had recently been put out. Then they came to the base of the mountain and both of them gulped down a large bunch of nerves. “Maker that’s steep,” fretted the Herald, it drawing a dry laugh from Athena’s lips.

 

“Yeah, you stay up there. Prince, you alright?”

 

The horse paused but then she felt a calm sensation in her mind and she knew that it meant yes. The group began their ascent, staying close to the tree line to keep their navigation straight. The wolves were used to the weather, their thick fur keeping them warm and protected against the blizzard. Athena’s barrier began to flicker in and out of existence after a time, her hands shaking and teeth chattering with every step. She uncorked the last small lyrium potion and downed its contents entirely, getting somewhat queasy from the taste of Titan’s blood on her tongue and lips.

 

The barrier sparked back into existence, its quality small. It was no longer able to block out the storm; it only provided a gentle heat for them as they continued their ascent up the mountain. Rathein began to shiver under her robes, her eyes struggling to stay open as they trudged in the blizzard. Athena then knew the frostbite and exhaustion was beginning to set in. She felt it too. Her feet felt like they were made of lead and she lost feeling in them what felt like hours ago. Her hands were wrapped up in the bear robe, desperately trying to cling on the last bit of warmth before it coated her skin.

 

The night was pitch black and the air was silent when they reached the top. Prince, the champion of the evening, was near the point of collapse as they came to the last fire point. Athena looked to campsite, noticing that there were still dying embers within the pit. She fell to her knees, hands trying to absorb the final bits of warmth in the embers before they blew away in the wind. Her horse companion had halted altogether, Rathein collapsed forward on his back. Her breaths were shallow, her chest rising and then falling in shaky movements. “K-k-kain. . . “ Athena called out, her teeth chattering uncontrollably.

                                                                                                    

The wolf came to her instantly, pressing his forehead against hers. She no longer had the energy to speak but she moved her will through him. Find Cullen. He knows you. Bring him here with the others. He hesitantly backed away from her but before he did he barked to the others wolves to watch over her. The black wolf sprinted down the snowy hill and left the at the peak. Darkness was closing in on her sides, her ribs burning within her chest while a weak cough plagued her. Every moment was a struggle to keep her eyes open, the wolves occasionally coming and nipping at her arms to keep her awake. After a few minutes of their efforts failing, they all pressed their bodies to her and allowed her to share in their warmth. Eventually she fell forward and allowed herself to succumb to the sleep, going against everything she learned in the books.

 

Never fall asleep in the snow. You’ll be dead before sunrise.

 

Right as she shut her eyes she heard a cry from the distance: “There they are!”

 

“Thank the Maker!”

 

She looked up to see Cassandra, Cullen, and Leliana running towards them with Kain leading them. Athena smiled as the wolf returned to her side, licking her face to try and give her some warmth. The wolves surrounded her body, sensing her wounds and protecting her from the people that looked at her with such apprehension it broke her heart. “H-h-h-help the Herald.”

 

Lelianna nodded and led Prince by the reigns while Cassandra and Cullen carried Rathein towards the healer’s huts. . . leaving her alone in the snow. Fitting, she thought, using the wolves around her to stand up and follow their foot steps towards the camp. She looked up and saw that they were getting some of the mages to cast their healing magic on the Herald, assessing her for wounds and ensuring that she was alive.

 

Good. Rathein made it to the campsite. They would all be able to sing Kumbaya and go on with their adventures without her getting into the way. Apathy filled her body with every step, a sense of calm coming to her mind at a potential end coming to be. If she was out of the equation Corpyheus couldn’t use her knowledge against her friends, could she call them that now? She knew without her they would be able to make it through the story and be victorious. She was unnecessary in the whole equation and probably got in everybody’s way.

 

The wolves sensed her distress, soft whines echoing from their mouths as they neared the edge of the camp. Athena walked off to the side, out of the sight of others and finally collapsed against a boulder’s edge. The wind was cool on her face, the wolves lining their body along hers to shelter her from the weather.  The only one that didn’t was Kain. He stood defiant against her, barking and pushing his paws closer to her. She gave him no response; she didn’t have the energy to. Her eyelids fluttered open and close, her lips now blue as the frost set in her body. He barked one last time, growling at her before taking off towards the camp.

 

Perhaps Cullen will adopt him. . . probably not. He thinks he is a beast; Cassandra too. Crystalline tears formed in her eyes and froze on her cheekbone, her body shaking in silent sobs. The pain from those movements overcame her, a gasp leaving her breathless in the snow. She was deaf to Kain’s returns, quickened footsteps following him followed by a string of elvish curses.

 

“Dorian! Come over here, now!”

 

Solas roared into the air, looking at wolves around her, asking their permission before dropping to his knees and allowing his healing magic to keep her from fading into the Fade permanently. “Ir abelas, Athena.” He raised her chin to catch her eyes and she was finally able to awaken enough to see him.

 

“Solas. . . “ He shushed her instantly, looking over his shoulder at the Tevinter.

 

“Athena! What in the blazes-“

 

“Help me lift her.”

 

Solas helped lift her into Dorian’s arms. He put one arm behind her head and one under her legs, running with her to their campsite at the other end from where the Herald was being kept. Her body was placed in a cot while the two worked together, weaving their magics to slowly bring her body temperature back to normal. “Gods, Solas, she’s bleeding.”

 

They looked down to her chest and belly, realizing that the wounds torn in by the dragon’s claws were still seeping into her clothes. Solas hissed, ripping open the fabrics to get a better look at the wounds. “I need bandages, poultices, hot water. Go!”

 

Without so much as a sassy comment he took off to get the supplies. Solas’s hands worked gently but feverishly, his trained eyes trying to find every wound. He whispered under his breath: “Reckless, reckless, woman! What were you thinking?!”

 

Athena coughed weakly, blood coloring her lips. She licked it away with a frown, reaching out for his thigh since he was kneeling next to her. Her voice was weak and sounded foreign. It was so unlike her own she knew she was in trouble. “Solas. . . is she okay?”

 

He didn’t pause, bringing a lyrium flask from his boot before downing it and surging her body full of more healing spells. The coolness of his aura was still warmer than she felt, it giving her the sensation of being filled spiritually. His energy also made her feel safe, her mind drifting in and out of consciousness. “Solas. . . “

 

The healer’s lips twitched into a frown: “Of course, even with you on death’s door you are worried about her. Rest, Athena.”

 

The world then melted into black as she entered a Fade-less sleep.

Chapter Text

Singing awoke her from her coma-like state. She groaned, trying to sit up in her bed before being pushed back down. “Don’t you dare.” The sarcastic yet concerned voice forced her to obey, her body willingly falling back into the cocoon of warmth and protection. Was that a fire rune in her blankets? Everyone around them was standing and walking towards the Herald, a song of faith and hope on their lips. All of the tragedies of the day had been replaced by a new faith in the Herald, the one savior who survived the trials of a Blighted God. The song was much more moving now than the game. The swells and desperation of the people truly reached her spirit, drawing tears to her eyes as she ignored Dorian’s request and sat up. She wasn’t able to see Rathein through the crowd of people but she knew that that was the moment where she truly was made Inquisitor, not in the proceedings done at Skyhold.

 

Solas was off to the side, leaning on his staff for support while watching the Herald, summoning her over once the song was complete and disappearing off to the side. Athena sighed, looking down at her body only to see her sports bra and bandages wrapping the entirety of her torso. A blush instantly came to her cheeks but she didn’t move to cover herself. The shock of seeing the small lines of blood across her chest and abdomen distracted her enough. “Dorian, it appears I’m no longer a maiden by your doing.”

 

The jest drew a snarky laugh from him. He turned to her and shook his head, bringing a jacket from a chest next to the cot and wrapping it around her. “Your other clothes were torn to shreds and bloodied. They made for terrible kindling but were burned just the same. It might be an improvement on your wardrobe. Pity about the bear skin though; I could of used it on my floors.”

 

She scoffed, pulling the jacket on and buttoning it up to the next to last button. Thankfully they had given her a set of heavy pants and were able to clean her boots. She slowly brought her legs to the side of a cot and fully moved into a sitting position. “You know, I hate not being invited to parties.” Athena tore off a piece of the bandages and re-wrapped the ends to fold into the lovely woven job Solas did on her abdomen.

 

She used this to put her frost-styled hair up into a messy bun. “What party did you miss, oh my sweet Tevinter?”

 

He chuckled and offered her a hand to help her up, a smirk never leaving his lips. “That pity party you were throwing for yourself before. It was so droll but still, no invitation? Tsk tsk. Bad form.” She raised a hand to smack him but he caught it and pulled her into a tight embrace, his cheek resting on the top of her head while she fell into the warmth of his body. “Don’t ever scare me like that again. Things would be terribly lonely around here.” He then put her at arm’s length, handing her an empty bowl and pointing over to the line where people were getting food. “Now go get yourself some food. You could use a stretch. Your body must be starving after all the magic we poured into it. Be careful of this one, he’s been growling at anybody that even looks at you wrong.”

 

Kain rose from the side of her cot and pressed his side against the back of her calf, looking up at her with pleased eyes. You’re better? A deep voice whispered into her head. She nodded in response, bending down and kissing him on the nose. He responded by licking her chin and nudging her towards the food line.

 

The general mood of the crowd was hopeful but bitter. The corpses of Haven had barely gone cold and they were left in the snow-capped Frostback Mountains. She was one of the last ones to get soup but already people were glaring at her and whispering a single name under their breaths. Witch. She clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, turning towards Flissa who was behind the serving table.

 

The poor woman dropped the ladle in the soup, her eyes widening not in fear but something else. Athena raised a brow at her, looking around. “What’s wrong?”

 

Flissa shook her head, regathering her ladle while scooping some meaty bits to put into her bowl. She spoke softly, as if she didn’t want the others to hear her praise. “Thank you for saving my life. The others. . .they have heard rumors but I am beyond grateful.”

 

She took a spoon and swallowed some broth, sighing as the heat rolled down her throat and settled in her stomach. “What rumor is that?”

 

The barmaid nervously tucked a hair behind her ear, looking around before whispering: “They heard you knew about Haven. That you just know things sometimes.”

 

Athena froze, slowly putting another spoonful of soup into her mouth. “I’m glad you’re doing better. Thanks for the heads up.” She then turned on her heel and attempted to walk back towards her cot but was stopped by a villager with a scowl on his face. She tried not to be afraid, casually putting a piece of what she assumed was pheasant into her mouth. It went down like a rock and that was due to the fact that not only the one man was standing, but a few others as well that were not drawn to the song of the Herald. She could feel the anger, the betrayal, coming off of them like auras. The man in front of her spoke through gritted teeth, the words spitting like acid upon her heart. “My son. . . his name was Daniel. He was one of the ones we lost and you knew.”

 

She shook her head, putting the bowl behind her on the table. “No-no you misunderstand.”

 

The punch was expected but the speed was not, it catching her cheekbone and whipping her head to the right. She stabilized herself on the table, pressing her left hand to where he punched her. There was no blood, thankfully, but before she had a chance to respond Kain snarled and cleared a space for her. He bared his fangs and raised his hackles, placing his body in between the crowd and hers. Words rang out through the small group, every insult causing her to wince like it was a wound. “Witch! Fade-Walker! That dog is cursed, it is!” A woman in the back shouted out, this bringing an angered flush to her cheeks and her hands to fists.

 

“I am so sorry for the loss of your family members! I tried to help everyone I could!” She cried out, tears threatening to come to her eyes but the anger of the crowd subdued them. She held one hand up in defense while the other hovered above Kain, trying to soothe him from attacking anybody. Somebody threw an empty bowl from the back and it struck the side of her face. Thankfully it was made of a light wood but it brought a reaction out of her anyways.

 

The anger, the flame that fueled her magic lit within her core. It brought a nearly wicked smile to her lips as she rolled her neck back to face him, stretching her shoulders to straighten after the attack. Her eyes suddenly felt hooded with blood lust as she licked the side of her mouth where the bowl had struck. The wound tasted of copper and she knew the strike was true. Mana sparked at her fingertips but someone pushed in from the side, his bravery storming with him. “That is enough!”

 

An unnamed soldier pushed through the crowd, placing his body in between the crowd and hers. Athena swore he looked familiar but she could only see glimpses of the side of his face and could hear the Orlesian accent on his tongue. “But ser-“

 

He turned, meeting eyes with the attacker and snapping: “Haven’t we lost enough today? Do you seek more bloodshed?” His words were full of hurt and remorse and his tone silenced the crowd more than his words did. Athena growled low in her throat, pushing through the crowd with Kain at her heel. She didn’t stop at the camp, ignoring Dorian as he tried to reach out for her. With a slide of her body she fit between the tents and began to run as fast as her body would take her.

 

Some of the superficial wounds reopened but the raw emotion, the rage that sat in the back of her mind urged her to keep going. The snow kicked up behind her as she made it to a full sprint, the camp becoming a distant image behind them. Kain was in full strides beside her, his eyes focused on her as they ran. She could feel him, feel the loyalty of his spirit, the beat of his heart, the smell of the forest. The connection to him rolled over her mind, it nearly turning her eyes white as they jumped over a fallen tree. Faster her body moved, attracting the attention of the rest of the pack that was scouting on the outskirts of the camp. Their spirits were one as they all fell into a run together. Every paw, every stride, every breath, every motion was in unison.

                                                                                                    

Athena felt something within her building. It was a strange pressure, a closeness to the wolves. It was filling her like a cup and the pressure made her feel like she was going to overflow and burst from the sensation. As they came upon a small clearing she jumped over the hill and allowed the feeling to overtake her. It was a tingling sensation that went from her crown to her feet, magic dancing along her skin and controlling her. In a smooth movement her body shifted midair and when she landed on the snow she landed on pure white-furred paws.

 

She panted, brown eyes looking at the ground to take in what happened. There was something heavy behind her, weighing her backside down. With a slow glance she looked over her shoulder and saw a long white tail wagging back and forth in rhythm with her heartbeat. The other wolves seemed delighted, giving small yelps of encouragement while running their bodies alongside theirs. “Friend!” They called out to her, nipping her skin with the front of their teeth to urge her to play.

 

Athena turned and put her front paws down, sticking her tail in the air and teasing them with a position she knew meant play. They rejoiced, taking off running back towards the camp in a game of tag. She took off after them, feeling the wind coarse through her fur. It was an exhilarating feeling, something that freed her from the burden that awaited her back at the camp. The logical side of her knew that this was a temporary escape, but at this moment her instincts took over and she needed to do what felt good. Kain ran at her side as her unnamed beta, his eyes constantly watching for threats while also enjoying the shared time with her.

 

They played for hours, the pack and her. At one point in the night they grew hungry. Athena had could barely eat a few bites of soup before the scorned family members threw their attacks. The grey alpha walked beside her, sniffing the ground before pointing his nose in the direction of a noise in the woods. It wasn’t a scurrying, so it was a larger beast. With her heightened senses, she could hear the chewing of dead grass and the crunch of snow underneath the target’s body. She growled softly in her throat, thinking to the others Ram? They all nodded in response, their bodies low to the ground as the pack began to spread out into an instinctually driven strategy. Athena, Kain, and the alpha were in a close unit at the front, their steps light and gaze hardened as they pressed forward.

 

In the trees in front of them was a mountain ram. It was finishing off its meal and hadn’t noticed them yet, its whole aura saying it was blissfully unaware of the fate it was about to endure.  With quick movement Athena lunged forward, breaking into a sprint and triggering the rest of the pack to move. They all came in from the sides, essentially surrounding their victim who just began to realize what was happening. Athena was in front of its head and took the brunt of a butt of its horns. It pushed her back a little but by the time she returned Kain had already taken the thing to the ground and held it by his clenched jaw. The creature was still alive, its eyes wide and hooves helplessly kicking into the ground. She shook her head and walked next to Kain, somehow knowing where to bite her teeth into before breaking the creature’s neck.

 

The rush of blood into her mouth felt foreign. She stepped back and licked up some snow to clean out her mouth but the thrill of the hunt denied her human mind. With a slow gaze she looked back to the pack and the now dead ram. They were waiting for her, waiting for her to take the first bite so they could begin. Pride swirled within her heart because she knew of this gesture. They truly saw her as alpha and wanted her to eat first. Athena trotted back over the ram and winced while tearing through its hide, finding a piece of thigh to rip off before using magic in her paws to cook it. The pack yelped in delight, digging into their meal with ferocious intent.

 

Athena then felt a call against her mind, a cold wind through her fur that sent a shudder down her spine. A whine fell from her maw, her ears perking up as she looked to the direction of the call. It was strangely familiar and somehow she could feel that the call was full of concern. She whined to the others in a series of sounds, gesturing with her nose to follow her. The pack grabbed a mouthful of food before trotting along beside he, Kain keeping his position by her side. They made a V formation through the snow, Athena sniffing for some sort of trail and following the pull within the woods.

 

Chapter Text

The mysterious call led back to camp and the very sight of it caused her to growl. The memories of their hatred were fresh on her mind, it souring the taste in her mouth like acid. Her fur raised on edge as she remembered the man attacking her by the food table and the others did nothing to protect her. They all spoke words of friendship and the only ones who meant it were Dorian and Rathein. They both had been through enough judgment and hardship in their lives to understand her. Everyone else was just doing her and the Herald a lip-service, she thought. With the thoughts of betrayal pushing her steps she found the source of the call, it nearly halting her in her steps.

 

Solas stood on the edge of the forest with his hands by his side. He appeared to be looking out into the thick of the trees, his expression near blank while his lips twitched into a frown at the corners. The call emanated from his body like a bracing wind and the closer she got the stronger it became. The pack approached him and he did not move from his spot, his gaze simply falling from the trees to the wolves and then to her. “You’re new.” He mused, bending down on one knee in the snow, looking her over with a careful gaze before smirking in realization. “Hello, fen.

 

Wolf. How creative. She rolled her eyes at him allowing the gesture to roll her head as well. This apparently drew a laugh from his lips and confirmed his suspicion. He put a hand to his forehead, shaking his head while sitting back in the snow. “My my my, this is quite impressive, Athena.”

 

She was taken aback by his realization, a growl lightly trickling along her throat and out of her mouth. The rest of the wolves scattered themselves among the outskirts of the camp, leaving them alone in the forest with the biting wind on their backs. He stretched out his legs and put his hands up in defense, which caused her to slowly sit down in front of him with a curious and cautious gaze. “I assume you know where we are headed?”

 

Athena looked up to the sky, giving a long whine of frustration and annoyance from her mouth before nodding. He clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “I thought as much. I am glad to see you have recovered from your wounds. You should not be so reckless, Athena.” He gave her a hardened stare, his voice softening and something about it was enough to jar her from her instincts. A tightness came to her stomach, her fur standing on electrified edges as she met his gaze. In a smooth motion her body shifted back and it left her on her hands and knees a few paces from him. Her jacket was torn open, sports bra bloodied but intact, the bandages on her stomach were thankfully still in place, magic be damned. She used the snow to wipe the blood from her mouth before sitting back in the snow, drawing her knees up to her chest.

 

“Thank you for healing me, Solas. I know I wasn’t too far from. . ." Her words faded off, her gaze falling to the ground between them. He hummed in acknowledgement, his eyes staying on her as she fought for the right words. “You say reckless. . . She might have died otherwise. If I did? You all would continue. You would all go on your quests, learn to love each other, become a family, become a mighty Inquisition with just as mighty of an Inquisitor.”

 

The honesty was brutal but refreshing and at this point she didn’t care. She sighed, rubbing the back of her neck while glancing up at him. He was still listening, his face blank but curious as she continued. “And me? I don’t fit anywhere in that. I don’t have a predestined role. I’m the mistake that fell from the Fade.”

 

He winced at the thought, pinching the bridge of his nose while shaking his head. “Athena. . . “

 

She relaxed her legs out straight in front of her while leaning back onto her hands in the snow. “No, Solas. The burden of knowing what happens is the burden of knowing I don’t fit. I’m an anomaly that nobody can explain, the Witch of the Inquisition.” She then chuckled, the sound dry and hollow as it fell from her lips. She didn’t realize it but there were tears burning in her eyes as she looked up into the starlit sky. Silence filled the space between them, time stretching on for a moment before he spoke.

 

“Your presence changes everything, does it not? If you were not involved in the world and events you know, can you truly say any of it is pre-destined?” He looked up into the sky with her, smirking while stating firmly. “I will stay then. Whatever this new destiny is. . . I will help to guide it and the Inquisition.”

 

Athena laughed, looking down at him with a tear-stained gaze. “Was that ever in question?”

 

He hummed, shrugging while looking from the skies to her. The stars seemed to still reflect within his gaze, it bringing an ethereal gloss to his blue eyes. “Perhaps not. But, we should return. Dorian was worrying about where you went and was about to send out a search party.” He patted the tops of his thighs and stood gracefully from his position, extending a hand to help her up. She took it, wincing as her stomach ached from the wounds reopening. He shook his head at her before leading her back to the camp, his hand lightly touching the small of her back for a few seconds to guide and steady her until they reached the edge of camp. He spoke softly to her, leaning in to where only she could hear him, his voice low and electrifying her skin. “I think I have made a decision.”

 

She stopped, turning and looking at him over her shoulder. He continued walking back to his tent, acting like her response didn’t matter. “Decided what?”

 

He waved a single hand over his shoulder, continuing into the camp past her fire and cot without looking back. “Good night, Athena.”

 

She froze, her eyes widening as a memory replayed in her mind. It felt like days ago with everything going on but it had been less than a day, before the attack on Haven. Until you decide which way you want to be and how you’re going to treat me. . .  Her breath hitched in her throat at the memory, it bringing a blush to her cheeks while she stepped back.  She could feel the remnant of his hand on her back, it feeling like a cool touch even as she stood next to the fire. Dorian stumbled into the camp, his face twisting into anger. “She’s over here! Damnit, Athena!”

 

He stormed over and grabbed her by the shoulders, tearing her gaze from the flames to his own. “The others thought you had run away. I told them the way they treated you I would have as well! What did I say earlier?!”

 

Athena gave him a fake pout, crossing her arms over her chest. “Oh I’m sorry, Father, did I disobey?”

 

The Tevinter pushed her away with a playful scoff. Cullen and Rathein ran into the camp, their faces looking distressed as well. Seeing her play around with the mage softened their features but Cullen was still standing on guard, his left hand atop the hilt of his sword. The Herald stormed through the camp and threw her arms around her. “I was so worried about you. Why didn’t you tell me you were that hurt? ”

 

She paused, looking to the two men before slowly wrapping her friend in an embrace. “You’re not mad at me?”

 

Rathein stirred, pulling back and standing next to the Commander. “I mean. . . in the moment, yeah. But, Commander, how were our losses?” She looked to Cullen who was still recovering.

 

His face was tired but there was hope illuminating his features in the fire. “We had some, but they could have been much worse if we didn’t have warning. The people are still grieving but its mostly from the loss of the town and the few lives we lost, but those of us that know. . . we’re thankful.”  

 

“Now you’re thankful.” Dorian added, a slight hint of anger edging his words.

 

Cullen dropped his gaze to the snow in shame, his grip slightly tightening atop the hilt of his sword. He looked pathetic and she couldn’t help herself. She walked over to him, standing up on her tiptoes while wrapping him in a tight embrace to soothe his worries.

 

She could feel the breath leave him, apparently too stunned to do anything in return. Dorian chuckled under his breath, giving Rathein a smug glance. Athena ignored them all, giving the Commander a quick squeeze before stepping back and giving him his space. “I understand, Commander. It wasn’t easy. . .for anyone.” The Commander cleared his throat, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly while fighting the blush that was evident on his cheeks. Before he could respond she poked a finger in the middle of his chest and hardened her gaze to meet his. “Trust, Cullen. I’m sure you’re aware it is what keeps a squadron together? Knowing your man will be at your back, in formation?” He slowly nodded, looking down at her finger while losing the fight to the blush. It colored his cheeks but she kept on. “I have all of your backs. There hasn’t been a time here where that wasn’t evident. It’s about damn time you had mine.” He stammered, looking for some words to comfort her but in the end, he nodded, returning to his formal position as the Commander of the troops before turning and leaving the group.

 

He left and Rathein and Dorian slowly looked at her, their faces almost wild with mischief. “Athena. . . “

 

She caught their drift and shook her head, waving her hands back and forth in front of her in short, quick motions. “Nope! Not going to happen.”

 

Dorian smirked, “Sure thing. Wait – Is that blood on your mouth?”

 

Rathein arched a brow and closed in on her person bubble, bringing out a cloth to wipe Athena’s mouth like she was a child. She pushed the Herald away, licking her thumb and rubbing some of the blood off her chin. Her friend scoffed, showing Dorian the cloth. “That’s blood alright. What were you doing in the woods?”

 

Athena sighed, rolling her eyes while stuffing her hands into her pockets. Kain slowly trotted in from the patrol, blood on his maw as well, snow sticking into the thickness of his fur. She looked down at him and laughed, leaning down and scratching him behind the ears. “We all went on a hunt.” He closed his eyes and leaned into the affectionate touches, soft grunts vibrating in his throat. Rathein walked until she was in her line of sight, a look of absolute disbelief on her face.

 

“A hunt.”

 

“Uh-yeah.”

 

“You just got on your hands and knees and bit into something with your wolves?”

 

This made her laugh, it echoing from her lips in an almost bell-like tone. It hurt the wounds of her stomach to do it but she didn’t care. The release felt good and it broke some of the tension that was building in the camp with her being around. “Heavens no. I got down on my. . .er. . .paws?”

 

The realization clicked in the Herald’s face, her mouth forming an “o” shape while excitement crinkled in the sides of her eyes. “Wait, you actually did it? I know you said you wanted to do shape shifting but you actually did it?!”

 

Dorian chimed in, looking her up and down before shaking his head, a chuckle bouncing from his mouth as he smiled. “Witch of the Inquisition indeed. I thought I would be taking the most heat for being a dreaded necromancer from Tevinter, but thanks for sharing the load with me. My neck couldn’t take that burden for much longer.”

 

She grinned at him, giving him a thumbs up while winking. “Anytime, friend. You know, I’m starting to like that nickname. Ooooooh fear me, the dreaded Witch of the North!” She gestured towards her friends with her hands like she was casting some dastardly spell, wiggling her eyebrows until she brought a laugh from them both. She then looked to the rest of the camp, noting that the fires were beginning to burn low and people were tucking in for the night. With a smirk, she pointed towards her own cot, motioning for Kain to come lay down next to her. “I think I’m going to head to sleep for the evening. It’s been. . .. a long day.”

 

The other two nodded, giving her quick touches on the shoulder before heading to their respective areas. Athena removed her jacket and placed it at the edge of her cot, bringing the quilts on her bed over her body and up past her shoulders. She wiggled down into the warmth of the cocoon, groaning as Kain rose to lick the sides of her face. Good night. The kisses said to her in all their sloppy goodness.

 

She pushed him off and laughed, giving him a quick kiss in between his eyes before rolling onto her side and succumbing to a good night’s rest.

Chapter Text

It had been a few painful days since she had could transition into the Fade. That night, it felt like the moment she closed her eyes her body simply shifted and she blinked her eyes open to be gazing at the new world. The energy used to be erratic, on edge, and scarred because of the presence of the Breach. It was a foreign attack in a world that had become sacred for spirits; it had to be. They once walked the earth and lived with the people, helping them side by side while they went about their lives. Now that they were separated by the Veil, this was their land and their home. It had been freed now that the Breach was closed by the Herald. Even though her experiences within the spiritual plane aired on the side of fiction, it felt like she could breathe easier. The magic flowed through her body in a rhythmic wave that synced with her spirit. Athena smiled upon entering the Fade, the tops of her bare feet dragging across the ground as she slowly walked, nay, prowled in the feeling of the cleansed domain.

 

“You came back!”

 

She turned with a gaze that was drunk on the feeling of magic coursing through her body, her smile crooked while she opened her arms for Inspiration to run into. The spirit quickly gave her a peppy embrace, her smile evident as the being’s face pressed against her shoulder. She then stepped back and frowned for a second, looking around like there was someone else there. Athena felt it too suddenly, it coming in a hot wave of air against the skin on the back of her neck. A voice rumbled through her mind, it bringing the drunken feeling to a peak. “You called for me.”

 

Inspiration grabbed her friend’s shoulders and tried to pull her away but Athena was nearly intoxicated by the sound, her body slowly turning with a sway in her hips towards the creature in front of her. It looked down upon her, its body towering over hers while heat burst from every pore on its body. The feeling was comforting to her, it matching her own aura and intensity. “You called for me. You know my name.” The growl was carnal, feral sounding like a growl coming from its depths. The creature in front of her appeared to be made of magma but the more she looked at it, the more she understood it, it began to take shape. The amorphous figure of the demon began to tighten, compress down into something more pleasing to her eye. The aura it gave off was borderline erotic, it drawing on her natural emotions and feeding from them.

 

Athena’s voice trembled as she stood her ground, her eyes looking deep into the demon’s body where its face should be. White fire lit up within her and filled her like a cup, each drop bringing a shallow breath from her lips. “Who are you?” She whispered, already knowing the answer but wanting to hear it for herself.

 

The demon rumbled with laughter, its form finally condensing into the stereotypical demon that was portrayed in her world; here it resembled some sort of Qunari half breed. The demon was a tall shirtless male, over exaggerated muscles indented into its skin while two black, gnarled horns rose from his skull. A long tail dragged on the ground behind him as he approached her with a predatory stalk in his gait. “I am the stranger who knows you too well. I am your Rage.”

                                                                                                    

She wasn’t surprised, her body standing confidently still as he walked a circle around her. Inspiration stood in a protective stance, her hands at her sides in fists while there was a yellow, sparkling energy moving around her. Athena smirked in response, shaking her head to rid herself of the fog that was attempting to settle over her mind. It was his influence, no doubt, his magic pulling on the threads that made up her emotions and drinking them down like an ambrosia. “I did not call you, demon. Now begone.” She fluttered her eyelashes while looking up at the creature with a game-winning smile, turning on her heel while extending her hand for Inspiration to grab onto.

 

The spirit didn’t hesitate, intertwining her fingers with hers while Athena crafted a calming scene in front of them into the Fade. It was from her childhood camp, something that would always remain being a rose-tinted veil of nostalgia. The lake was serene, the sky’s beauty and clouds reflected in the undisturbed mirror that was the water. On the edge of the aging dock were canoes flipped upside down to dry in the sun’s glow. The pair of women approached the large, bright, green stretch of grass that led up the lake. Athena stretched her arms to the sky, smiling as the sun’s rays kissed her skin and warmed her enough to nearly glow.

 

Rage was frozen in shock at the utter denial a few paces back from them, his face contorting into anger. Flames summoned above his horns and around his tail, scorch marks trailing his steps as he stomped through the grass towards them. “You called for me! In the village when the people denied you, refused you! It was my rage that fueled your steps into the snow, my magic that allowed you to become the beast that you truly are!” His words rang partially true, drawing a pouted scowl from her face while she closed her eyes. Music began to play in the background of her environment, it bringing an upbeat and almost sensual tempo as she gestured for Inspiration to follow her movements. She started by bending over and stretching to touch her toes, feeling the strain and stretch in the muscles of her lower back, her thighs, and her calves.

 

Inspiration followed easily, not bound by the same physical constraints as mortals simply visiting in their dreams. “What is this?” She asked, her voice not faltering as they acted like the demon was not even there.

 

Athena groaned at the tightness in her back, rising and raising her hand to the skies. “We call it yoga in my land, but I really just like stretching with music playing in the background. It calms me and makes it easier for me to relax.”

 

She got a body like an hourglass but I can give it to you all the time.

 

She incorporated small dance moves, more like subtle twitches with the beat or rolls of her hips into her stretches. A ghost of a smile twitched at her lips as she brought the flat of her right foot onto the inside of her left thigh. She brought her hands together above her head and stretched up towards the sky, lengthening her core and taking a deep breath.

 

See anybody can be good for you, you need a bad girl to blow your mind!

 

She rolled her neck and shoulders while smiling with the song, slowly lowering her leg and switching positions to the other, stretching back up towards the sun. Rage sauntered over in front of her, trying a new boost of confidence to way her mind. “I am you! I am flame and I am fire! I am the first thing you beckon when you’re upset, why do you hide from me?” She appeared unfazed, her eyes staying closed while the sun crafted by the Fade beat down on her skin. A cold feeling rushed over her skin, an insistent wordless question rising goosebumps on her flesh even as she lowered her legs and bent down into a plank position, resting on her elbows while taking deep breaths in through her nose and out through her mouth. Her aura coated her like a warm blanket during a nap, it the perfect temperature as it slid along her skin like a soft kitten nuzzling it with its cheek.

 

With a soft sigh, she nodded in response to the question within her head, and audible pop sounding off to the side as both Solas and Wisdom walked into focus. He instantly took note of the demon, raising a hand to dispel him. Athena slowly lowered her body flat to the ground, pushing up with her front hands to curl her body upwards and stretch out her belly and chest. “Don’t, Solas.”

 

He stopped, jerking his gaze to her, eyes furrowed and twisted in confusion. “Don’t? You are just allowing a demon of Rage to . . . remain in your dream?”

 

She flicked a look of annoyance towards him, shortly explaining. “Just as I am allowing you.” The demon was on his knees in front of her, his flaming rubies of eyes drawing her in from looking over at Solas. He grabbed her chin with one hand almost like a lover would, a charming smile playing on his lips. She remained in her stretch but sighed, arching a brow. “What?”

 

The demon chuckled, the rumbling growl rolling over her mind and skin like a soft vibration. “You won’t leave me behind. Let me show you why you need me, Victoria.”

 

The old name brought a flare of anger to her belly and the demon used that fire as an invitation, putting his hands on the side of her face and bringing memories up in front of her. They played on the surface of the water for the others but were reflected on her eyelids as she gasped and closed her eyes. It all came back to her, the emotions and hurt that nearly controlled her when she was first dragged to the Fade and into Thedas. She saw herself tied in the corner of the war room, being treated like a criminal when her only mistake was falling from the sky. The emotions resurfaced through her as she re-witnessed being exorcised by Lysette, everyone’s mistrust, Rathein’s fight after Redcliffe, and even her recent argument with Solas back at Haven. The rage bubbled underneath her skin but taking a deep breath in she dispersed it through her whole body, using it as fuel to bring a barrier forth and push the demon back.

 

Rage was sliding on the earth from her when she did this, his feet leaving a trail of embers in the earth. Athena opened her eyes and rolled her neck to stretch, almost writhing in the feeling of being in control and being able to use it to fuel her magic. The demon was less than pleased, looking at his palms and flexing his claws like something was wrong with his abilities. “You did not let me in?”

 

She shook her head, bringing her chest down to the ground before pushing herself back to where she was sitting on her haunches with her hands resting on top of her thighs. “I don’t need to.” The creature snarled, almost raising a hand to her but she tilted her head down and glared at him, almost daring him to even try attacking her in her dream when Solas, Wisdom, and Inspiration were there. As enticing as the demon was, this was her realm. He was merely a visitor.

 

She closed her eyes for a moment to focus on her breathing, quelling the flames within her and allowing her barrier to dissipate. The magic dispersed itself through her body, it bringing every nerve alive and sending a tingling sensation up her spine. Athena shuddered then opened her eyes and looked over to the side of the clearing where Rage was suddenly leaning up against a tree with his arms crossed over his chest. It was almost as if he were pouting. The flames around his tail had dulled down and there was some sort of emotion glossing over his eyes, regret? A feeling of being lost? It put a lump of pity within her throat as she looked at the demon, somehow feeling responsible for his well-being if it was truly her unbridled and raw rage towards the villagers that brought him here. Athena rose from her place on the grass, walking over towards the tree where the demon was brooding in his emotions. She copied his stance, looking him up and down while giving him a small gesture to speak his mind.

                                                                                                    

“Other mortals are far more impressionable than you. They cannot wait to throw their rage into me, to accept me into their lives and allow it to take over. You. . .. you acknowledge me? Almost treat me as kin?” His voice had lost the demonic rumble that came earlier, true trepidation and doubt edging into his voice. She looked at him closer and noticed that his body was trembling, hands desperately clinging to his upper arms to contain whatever amount of fortitude he had.

 

Athena sighed, allowing her hands to fall to her sides, resting upon the now foreign feeling of knee-length yoga pants on her legs. “Yes I acknowledge you. I know you. Rage and emotion has been with me all of my life; this. . . is nothing new. It was no surprise that the flame called to me first or that I nearly attacked the Lord Seeker in Val Royeaux.”

 

She heard a “hmph” of agreement from Solas who was standing and watching with a cautious gaze with his spiritual friend near Inspiration, who bless her heart was still going through the stretches singing the lyrics of the next song that was playing through her mind: Take me to church! Athena had to wonder how she had gathered such an odd group of people within her mind, but at this point they were part of the escape that the Fade provided. It was a secret place; a place where she could go and literally dance her cares away at times. Inspiration had brought music back into her life and had given her the drive to go forward from the Fade. Perhaps Rage could help her transition into another part of her journey.

 

Chapter Text

The demon in front of her spit something that resembled ichor to the side, frustration rooting in his features. She shrugged while stepping back from him, gesturing to the camp environment around them. “Where I’m from, we don’t have demons or spirits like you, at least when we do they’re not like this. There is a huge doubt that anything paranormal even exists.” He looked puzzled, fangs biting into his lower lip while he anxiously chewed away. Good he’s doubting. “We have our own personal demons but they carry your names. Fear, desire, rage, pride, they are things we face on a day to day basis and they were enemies I had to conquer by myself. These demons lived harmoniously within me next to compassion, inspiration, intellect. I would beckon them to call whenever I needed but even when they weren’t at the forefront of my mind, even when I wasn’t using one to fuel my words, they were there sleeping within me.”

 

She glanced over at Solas who had leaned against a tree of his own, watching the interaction with an air of curiosity and intrigue. “I accepted you long ago but not in this form. You cannot have my mind because it belongs to nobody other than me. If I allowed Rage to lead my life, I would have no room for others things like compassion, love, and curiosity. All those things are vital to me, even you.” The electric, synthesized notes from one of her favorite childhood songs began to play and as it did a phantom version of her as a child ran from the grass onto the dock, effortlessly jumping into the lake before disappearing into the memory. She held a hand out to the demon, beckoning for him to come forward into the sunlight with her and Inspiration.

 

I got myself a notion, and one I know that you’ll understand.

 

The demon hesitantly reached out to her, allowing his clawed hand to rest in her palm while she brought him next to Inspiration, who had a sly grin on her face since she had learned a dance to the song before on a previous encounter to the Fade. The song continued, Athena urging the lyrics and melody to play from her mind and pump her spirit full of life. We set the world in motion, by reaching out for each other’s hand. Maybe we’ll discover what we should have known all along.

 

Inspiration was trying to teach him the basic dance moves to the chorus that was rapidly approaching but the demon’s body did not behave. He shot her a scowl and backed up while Athena giggled, looking up to Solas with an almost proud grin. One way or another, together is where we both belong. She ignored the fact that he was watching, turning to her ethereal friend with a childlike glee and jumping into the choreographed moves that they had practiced. With their stances wide, they directed their moves at each other and blocked out the world while their bodies took over the movements they knew by heart. The song played on and she let the rhythm and beat guide her body like a maestro over an orchestra, her body following along helplessly to its call.

 

If you’re ever lonely, stop, you don’t have to be!

 

The two balanced on one leg, pointing outwards with one hand while the other balanced on their hip.

 

After all its only, a beat away from you to me.

 

Rage, or the demon formerly known as it, timidly walked back up the group, his body silently asking to form a triangle between them. Athena instantly opened her body to him, dropping her foot down to prepare for the next move. She noted the little changes in him, a smile playing on her lips as she did so. His horns were now coated in gold and were shaped like a ram’s, curling up towards his head in a proud fashion.  He no longer had rows of fangs for teeth but instead just two sharpened canines, their size smaller than a vampire’s but enough to show his past self. He now wore a basic white tunic with tan colored pants but it was obvious there was still muscle tone in his arms and chest. Inspiration did the same movement and opened their group, feeling the crescendo up to the key change and final chorus within their cores.

 

If we listen to each other’s heart, we’ll find we’re never too far apart. The two of them no longer moved in perfect choreographed moves but they certainly moved in time with each other, each of their minds connected and flowing with the weave of music that required no explanation. The male creature didn’t dance persay, but he smirked at them both and tapped his fingers on his crossed arms to the beat. And maybe love is the reason why, for the first time ever we’re seeing it eye to eye.

 

Athena threw back her head and laughed, happy tears forming in her eyes as she danced with spirits that were becoming a vital part of her life. In the woken world, she would be a shoulder to carry the burdens of the Inquisition. She would take as many things from Rathein’s plate as she could to avoid losing her to the trials of responsibility. They would be shaped by their decisions within the world and how others judged them for it. But here, within the Fade, she could slowly start accepting the parts of herself that she had long since pushed aside.

 

At first it was her Desire to see something more within the world, to break free of the monotony that Victoria had found herself shackled to. Now, it was Rage that had helped her accept this new part of her life in Thedas. The male spirit next to her was now being egged on to dance in Harmony with Inspiration, a genuine smile coming to his fanged mouth as he was pulled by her.

 

While the two spirits bickered, she walked up towards Solas and Wisdom, summoning up a light sports jacket to slip over her arms and zip up the front. She was going to use up every opportunity to feel at home in the Fade, and that included wearing some comfortable items from home. The elf mage looked her up and down, an almost sarcastic smile on his lips. “Victoria, hm? Did I not say to avoid being reckless? And here you are with a Rage demon.”

 

Athena scoffed, rolling her eyes while mocking him in his own tongue from the little she knew of it. “Ir abelas, hahren. I did not realize that was a command to be followed. And, Athena, please. It was the name I chose upon entering this world. My former name is foreign to me now. . .but let’s keep it between us?”

 

He laughed, genuinely laughed while clasping his hands behind his back and looking down at her. “If you truly saw me as hahren, you would respect the opinion of an elder, dahlen.” The word was drawn from his lips with sarcasm soaking every syllable. She bristled before blowing a stray piece of hair out of her face.

 

“Ma nuvenin, Solas.” The language came from her memory of the games, it rolling from her tongue like a foreign language would but doing enough respect to it to earn a nod of appreciation from him.

 

He relaxed his arms by his sides, looking to Wisdom with a smirk still on his lips. The elvish spirit moved forward, giving Athena a smile while nodding to her in acknowledgement. “You have grown since I have last seen you. It is good to see my blessing aided you in your travels, lethal’lan.”

 

She thought back to when she shifted, how the knowledge she had about the turn was almost instinct and it allowed her body to surrender itself to the change. It probably wouldn’t have happened as easily if Wisdom hadn’t taught her the basics of the specialization. “I thank you. You were the first spirit I met here. . . you gave my hope when there was none. I don’t know what would have happened if you were not there to greet me first.”

 

The spirit shrugged, coming forward and putting her hands on her shoulders. “You have such strength within you, Athena. Feel free to call on me whenever you need Wisdom.” Athena nodded, watching the spirit fade away into the weave of magic around them. There was a moment of awkward silence as she looked up to Solas, whose gaze was now taking in the environment around them. He hummed with a soft smile, looking down to her. “This is your world?”

 

She could feel her chest flutter but she tried to shake it off by turning and placing her back against the tree next to him, putting her flushing skin out of view of his gaze. “A small part of it. I would come here during my summers as a child. This was always my favorite place to be though. There was just something about it that put me at peace.”

 

He nodded while pointing up in the sky, giving her a curious glance. “The music?”

 

Athena nodded again, realizing that the songs had kept playing. She grabs the yellow bottle, she likes the way it hits her lips. She looked down at the grass and realized that Inspiration was trying to show their new friend how to do the stretches they were doing earlier. At first his body protested but he was slowly bending down to touch his toes, his balance now thrown off because he didn’t have a tail anymore to stabilize him. She laughed, bringing her hands up to rest behind her neck while she stretched back into the bark of the tree. “Music was my escape. We used to have these small devices, amplifiers of a sort that could carry music around. When I wasn’t talking to people I would be lost within it. I’m really glad I can do that here; it’s like a piece of home.”

 

He smiled, looking down to the ground before looking over at her. “If you allow it, I think I would like to see more of your world.”

 

She closed her eyes, relaxing in the soft heat of the sun while smirking. “Oh? Why’s that?”

 

Solas chuckled, looking back to the lake while explaining: “I enjoy exploring the Fade to learn new things, see old and new places. . . you do not think I would want to see your world too?”

 

Athena couldn’t help but smile, opening her eyes to look out at the horizon. The sun was setting in her dream which meant it was probably going to be time for them to wake up. “I suppose not. Hah, perhaps I’ll even show you a movie!”

 

He paused, trying to repeat the word to himself before finally asking, “What is a movie?”

 

She chuckled under her breath, trying to think of a way to explain in terms that a person from Thedas could understand. She put her arms out in front of her and created a rectangle shape with her hands, both hands forming an L shape and expanding out to make the picture. “Imagine if you could capture a play, a story, and cast it out in light. It was a form of entertainment you could enjoy from your own home.”

 

He leaned in to look, trying to wrap his mind around it and she was trying to wrap hers around the fact that him leaning had their shoulders touching. “That is certainly fascinating. This type of thing is common in your world?”

 

She nodded, bringing her hands down and shifting herself just shy enough so that they were no longer touching. Was he always this friendly even with a human Inquisitor in her playthroughs? The flirtation and touching seemed to always be reserved for an elven Inquisitor, and even then, it was reserved. The unknown of the situation put a flutter of anxiety in her stomach while she rested her arms crossed over her abdomen. “Very much so. You have magic, dragons, and different races. . . we have technology. To be honest I much prefer this world though.”

 

He hummed in question, arching a brow at her while she stepped forward from the tree. She felt the pull of daytime arriving, the light peaking in through the Fade dream and shining down on all of them in an overbearing light even as her dream approached Darkness. She felt his gaze on her back, his cool aura accompanying it while bringing the hairs on the back of her neck on end. “Mm-hmm. I craved adventure in my old world, and now I have it.” Solas nodded while rubbing his hands together; she assumed summoning the energy to bring them from the Fade into the waking world. The air around them grew cold and she could already feel Kain’s nose sniffing around her cheeks.

 

 Before she left, she snapped her fingers in remembrance, turning to Solas before quickly saying: “Remind me when we wake: I have something for you!”

 


 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The next morning Athena woke to Kain sniffing around her face, soft whines pulling her from the Fade trance she had just been in. There was a soft smile on her face while she scratched the backs of his ears, sitting up from the bed and looking down at her abdomen. The scratches there were pretty much healed thanks to the healing and rest she had received the day before. She removed the dirty bandages and tossed them into the smoldering remains of the campfire before pulling a cotton undershirt on and then a thicker jacket. It was odd-fitting; she assumed it had come from the pile of generic clothes for the rest of the survivors. No matter, it was warm and there wasn’t much that could keep her down in spirits that morning.

 

With Kain at her side she quickly made her way to the breakfast line where people were getting small portions of a porridge-like material. Her brown gaze quickly glossed over the crowd, looking for any companion or familiar face but there was none. Instead she received the leery and still angry looks of the people. Athena did her best to not give a sarcastic smile and wave in return. Instead, she waited for the line to die down. She put her dominant foot up on a bench and tightened the laces of her boots all the way up to her knee. As she was finishing, somebody was nudging her shoulder with small but hard shoves. “Hey, what the-“

 

She turned to curse at the person but saw a man holding her out a bowl of porridge. There was something familiar about him; he looked like the man from the day before who had stepped in between the angry villagers and her. She stood up straight and looked at the bowl then back to his face. Her eyes followed the curve of his jaw, and the crooked frown that was on his lips. When she realized who it was her breath sucked in as a gasp, her eyes widening as she took the bowl from his hands. “Marquis!” His title fell from her lips in a whisper, her tongue still too stunned to form words. He raised a hand at her, a smirk twitching the corner of his lips while he scratched the stubble that was growing on his face. He was without a mask but sure enough this was the bastard who was attempting to throw the name of the Inquisition in the dirt. . . and now he was here.

 

He spoke, the Orlesian accent giving his identity away even though he no longer wore a mask to conceal his features. “I took up your offer, Lady Athena. Commander Cullen is a hard yet fine leader of the troops. It did me honor to help the people during the attack on Haven.”

 

She nodded, taking the bowl from his hands while finally succumbing to a smile. “Yes – thank you for your service! Uh. . .And for yesterday." She bashfully looked down the bowl, her thoughts running a thousand miles a minute within her mind. She looked up to see Varric walking by with Bianca already on his back; he shot her a good morning nod with a small smirk attached. Once he left she looked back to the Marquis, raising the bowl. “Thank you for breakfast.”

 

The Marquis gave her a small bow before walking over to where some of the other soldiers were sitting. He seemed to fit in with them, regardless of his previous status and attitude. Athena knew from her limited knowledge of the military that traumatic events had a way of bringing people together. It was something she saw in her nursing units at the hospital. Even if she was working with a terrible crew, they all came together and acted as a singular unit when somebody was in trouble. It was like there was a connecting thread running through all of them that caused their hearts to beat in unison and for there to be understanding. The thoughts put a ghost of a smile on her lips as she sat by herself on the bench, slowly eating on some of the lukewarm porridge.

 

Once she was done she cleaned it out with snow and put it in her bag of belongings. Since she had been camping through the Hinterlands it didn’t take long for her to pack up her bedroll, throw it over her shoulder with her bag, and go off to find Prince. He, thankfully, had healed up as well. His coat held almost a brown shimmer in the morning dew as he awaited her arrival. When he caught sight of her, he stamped his hooves into the ground and let out a neigh of happiness. She dropped her bedroll into the snow and wrapped her arms around his neck, nuzzling her face into the front while he brought his chin down and rested it against her back. They sat like that for a moment, taking in each other’s heats while feeling their chests rise and fall in unison.

 

The sound of someone clearing their throat distracted her. She turned on her heel to see her partner from the Fade standing with an almost expectant look on his face. Athena furrowed her brows, trying to figure out what he could want when she had just woken up. Then it hit her, the realization bringing a light to her features as she quickly dug her hands through her bag and brought out a small decorated box. With a casual gesture she tossed it to him and he caught it with one hand, his fingers able to curl around its edges since it was roughly the size of his palm. “What is this?”

 

Athena chuckled under her breath, taking the moment to strap her bedroll onto Prince’s back and prepare him for the day’s journey. “I got it in Val Royeux. There hasn’t been a good time to give it to you. When I was reading on glyphs and ruins I came across a preservation spell. Hopefully it worked, if not, it’s the thought that counts, right?” She glanced over him quickly with a smile while strapping her bag to the side of the saddle. Everything was ready on her end; she just needed instructions from the Inner Council and a word with her personal scouts.

 

The elf turned the package over with one hand before slowly cracking open the box. The preservation spell burst with a small spray of a glitter-like mana, the scent of the Orlesian pastry flowing from the package. He laughed before shutting the box, sliding it into his pack while turning to Athena with a pleased expression on his face. “Of all the things to bring from Haven, you brought this?”

 

She shrugged while giving Prince a rub on the side of his neck while patting her own thigh for Kain to come close. “I suppose I had more time to prepare than everyone else. If you don’t like it, I know Bull would probably eat it. . . “ Her voice trailed off, leaving him bait in the conversation to pick up.

 

Thankfully he did, shaking his head while securing the box within his bag. His hand rested over it for a moment while their gazes met. “No, thank you, Athena. You were kind to think of me.”

 

Her cheeks instantly flushed pink and she used this opportunity to bring Kain’s face into her hands while running her thumbs over his cheekbones. “Don’t mention it. I need to speak to the pack so excuse me for a moment.”

 

Her and Kain rose in a single motion, walking through the camp to its edge. The other wolves weren’t within her line of sight, the snow settling and covering their tracks from the night before. Athena took in a deep breath of cold mountain air before letting out a sigh, rubbing her hands together before bringing them apart and clapping them together in a powerful, singular motion. With the sound of the clap went the call, the summoning of the pack through the forest. They must not have been far off because within moments the six of them arrived, fresh blood on their maws from their breakfast. She shook her head at them, bringing Kain within their ranks while speaking softly but at a normal volume so the villagers wouldn’t get suspicious from her whispering. “I need you to scout the best possible path for us. We are going up north into the mountains for a few days and you can be our eyes. This might shave some time off for us if we know what the best track is. Can you all do this?”

 

The alpha nodded without hesitation, turning to his pack with a bark before taking off. Kain stayed by her side as the messenger, his tail wagging back and forth in excitement. She used this opportunity to find Rathein and the council standing in a circle at the front of the growing caravan that was forming. The Herald was working through her morning exhaustion, crust visible at the corner of her eyes but it felt like every morning she was getting better at putting on a fresh face for the people that needed it. Cassandra held a map of the mountains in her hands and they all gathered around it to try and plan out the best way.

 

When Athena approached the Herald almost slumped over in relief, pulling her in while resting her head on her shoulder and wrapping her arms around her from behind. “Okay, future-teller, where are we going?”

 

She almost barked a laugh, patting her friend on the head while trying to remember where Skyhold fell on the map. “To be honest I only know what the end destination looks like, not necessarily how to get there. I’ve already sent my wolves on a scouting path to clear the way for us so if we follow them we should be safe.”

 

There was a visible sigh through the whole group while Cullen frowned. “I don’t like how vulnerable this leaves us. With that dragon, what if he were to come from above?”

 

She shook her head and looked up to the sky, biting on the inside of her cheek while thinking. “We struck a heavy blow against the number of his forces. I would think they’re probably regrouping.”

 

He rose to a full posture, his frown not disappearing while he asked: “You think so or you know so?”

 

Athena snapped back, wanting to pull forward towards him but Rathein knowingly tightened her grip around her waist. “Hey. Not fair. What did I tell you last night?” Her words spat like fire through the air, her gaze rising to the Commander’s insult.

 

He held it for a moment but then shook his head, his shoulders relaxing while he muttered: “Apologies. I’ll get the people on foot started.” He turned on his heel and left the inner council, leaving Athena to let out a sharp breath through her nose.

 

Rathein removed herself and motioned over to her horses. “Come on, let’s mount up. You and I need to be at the front.”

 

The pair walked and quickly jumped onto their horses. Athena was still bristling from Cullen’s morning attitude, wondering how long it would take him or the rest of the group to trust her. He was a military man and needed to know straight facts. It probably unnerved him that there were things she knew that she could not disclose. Considering he was a man of many backgrounds, it wouldn’t be a far-off accusation to assume that the rest of the people felt the same way. She ran her hands through her long, wavy light-brown hair with a groan growling from her lips.

 

“Frustration. When will they accept me? I only want to help.”

 

She paused, slowly dropping her hands down to Prince’s back while she looked to the young man standing next to her. Cole looked up at her with his blank stare, eyes perking up slightly when she looked down at him. “Are you walking, Cole?”

 

He shrugged, looking around to the others under the shade of his large-brimmed hat and dirty blonde hair. “They need horses more than me. I make them forget I’m here so they won’t worry about me.”

 

Athena shook her head, patting on the back of the saddle behind her. “Nonsense. Get on up here. You deserve to rest your legs as well. I know how much you helped yesterday.” He smiled at her, hesitantly grabbing onto her extended hand and pulling himself up behind her. Since he was small-framed they fit well on Prince’s back. The horse rolled his joints to accommodate for the new weight before looking up behind them, meeting Athena’s gaze. Friend? He asked into her mind, his eyes looking the young man up and down. Athena nodded while running her hands through his mane. “Yes, Prince. He’s good. He helps.”

                                                                                                    

The spirit of Compassion stilled behind her, his voice soft while he whispered: “You know me.”

 

She looked over her shoulder at him, patting him on top of the thigh while answering. “I know of you, but I would like to get to know you if that’s okay?” He paused for a second, really considering the option before he nodded.

                                                                                                    

A voice boomed out from the group, the Herald at the front while Cassandra and Cullen flanked behind them and Josephine and Leliana behind them. “Inquisition! Move out.”

Chapter Text

Kain led the caravan, leading the Herald in the direction that the wolf pack had scouted out for them. As the day went on, Athena found her and Prince falling more back into the group with the villagers. At one point she jumped off of her horse and was having people take turns riding. When an injured woman was lifted onto her mount’s back, she felt a small pull from her pants leg. She looked down and saw a young boy, perhaps about ten years old, looking up at her with such large, curious, blue eyes. “Oh hello there. What is your name?” The boy giggled himself into silence as the other villagers around them still gave her leery looks. They would pull their shawls tighter around their shoulders as they walked past her, venom flinging itself at her every time they shot her a hateful glance. At this point she became so used to it they slid right off of her and she was able to focus on the boy.

 

He then walked up and stood on his tiptoes, grabbing her shoulder to balance so he could whisper in her ear. “Tobi.”

 

Athena nodded, standing up and patting Prince on his flank so he would take off with the soldier on his back. This left her and the child alone in the group of the survivors trudging through the snow. “Where are your parents, sweetheart?” Her face remained friendly, hopeful as she spoke to the young boy. She extended a hand towards him to hold while they walked through the snow and he took it gingerly. His little gloved hand fit within hers and they walked, their boots crunching in the freshly fallen snow. His head dropped and he tried to sniffle some dribble away from his nose. She went to ask the question again but she saw there was a look of utter sadness on his face.

 

It was then that a voice came from behind them. “They were lost at the Temple, Lady Athena.”

 

She looked over her shoulder to see Mother Gisellle walking with a small group of children and teenagers. They were all bundled within their jackets and throws, small windows of air showing their adorable faces as they walked together. The Chantry sister had created a rope out of spare cloth and had them all hold it so they wouldn’t be lost. She nearly sighed with sympathy, her gaze taking in the dozen or so children that walked with her. Their ages appeared to range from five to their teenage years but they all held a unison air of grief. “I understand,” she sighed, looking to the Chantry leader with a smile while rolling up her sleeves to give them some air.

 

That action brought a gasp from Tobi’s lips, his eyes widening as he took in the sight of her scars on her left arm. “What happened?” His voice was still a whisper but there was a confident tone of curiosity laced within it. The other kids looked over at the scar, their eyes widening as well and some of the older ones smiled at the sight of it. Athena looked at them all and took this as an opportunity for entertainment, grinning while leaning in close to them while speaking under her breath:

 

“I fought off a bear!” They all gasped, their voices coming out from hiding to ask all kinds of questions. How big was it? Did it hurt? How did you kill it? Did it have lots of teeth?

 

Their questions brought a chuckle from her lips and she shrugged, looking to Mother Giselle who was giving her an approving nod. “I tell you what. Tonight, after dinner, I will tell you the story of the bear around the campfire before bed, okay?” They all nodded, their steps no longer dragging through the snow as they ran off, hoping that their speed brought help bring the night along. The other villagers continued to avoid her like she was carrying a plague, which brought a small twitch to their lips.

 

“They are still grieving, Lady Athena. They are grieving the lost, the future, and their lives.” Mother Giselle’s voice was somehow still full of Wisdom even though they were trenching through the deep snow, her face soft and her tone pleasant. Athena used her free hand to rub the back of her neck, ensuring that her left hand stayed clutched around Tobi’s. “Give them time. You are . . .a mystery to them, much like the Herald. What role you shall play is unknown, but the world’s eyes are on both of you.”

 

She flinched in surprise, looking over to the faithful woman with a shocked look. “Me? Why me? I don’t have the Mark; I didn’t close the Breach.” The Mother took in a deep breath through her nose and looked to the sky, a smile coming to her lips as she bathed in the light of the Maker.

 

“You, like the Herald, fell from the sky at a time when the world was grieving. You have been influential in shaping the Inquisition and you have the trust of the Inner Council. There are now rumors that you are from another world entirely, Lady Athena.”

 

Of course Mother Giselle with her rumors. Athena shook her head and looked to the sky as well, being thankful for the small amount of sun that beat down upon them. “It’s complicated to explain; I’m not sure how to put it into words for everyone without scaring them off.”

 

The sister then chuckled, clasping her hands in front of her while nodding with a small hum. “Trust them, Athena, and in turn they will trust you.” The words rang within her mind and brought a smirk of a twitch to her lips, her hand squeezing around the child’s next to her.

 

“I suppose you’re right.”

 


 

 

The night came and all of the children were anxiously waiting around the fire, waiting for Athena to arrive. She had been prepping her own bedroll for a night’s sleep, trying to figure out the words for a story to tell them. They needed a distraction from the grief, a distraction from the chaos that surrounded them. Hopefully she could do just that. She walked to the campfire with Kain at her side and the moment she came into view the children stopped their conversations. All eyes were expectantly on her but it was Tobi that broke the silence first. “Tell us of the bear!” His voice was filled to the brim with excitement, his eyes sparkling underneath the hood of his wrap.

 

She put a finger to her lips to silence them all, lowering her hands to be hovering above the ground palm down out to her sides. When she spoke, her voice was low and ominous. Kain was at her side, his mind and spirit linked with hers and ready to take cues to electrify the story. “So there we were, exploring the Hinterlands to find one of the legendary heroes of the Blight: a Grey Warden!” The kids all oohed and leaned in closer as she picked up a stick to use as an imaginary staff. “The Great Warden Blackwall and the Herald of Andraste were talking of alliances, the future, you know, adult stuff.” The kids wrinkled their noses in disgust while she continued. “I didn’t want any of that so I decided to go on a walk.”

 

Athena walked with a slight bounce in her step around the campfire, Kain obediently waiting on the other side of the campfire for his cue. “While I was talking to myself and picking some spindleweed, I heard a very strange noise.”

 

Kain looked up and began to growl, the sound soft and low in his throat. The children all fell silent, their eyes looking to the new beast in her tale. She stopped as well, eyes widening while she held her “staff” out towards her side. “It was soft at first. I could barely hear it but it made the forest shake!” By this point the pair was in front of the fire with it at their sides, the children even further from the fire. They sat on their edges in anticipation, Tobi poking his head out from the safety of his hood.

 

Her wolven companion growled again, this time is growing louder while he raised from his position and approached her. “By the time I knew what the sound was, the beast was upon me!” She looked to the wolf and made a mock sound of surprise, raising the stick to block as he playfully jumped on top of her and pinned her to the ground. The children all raised from their seats, screaming “No!” as she fell down. Tobi even went so far as to throw a snowball at the “bear” in an attempt to protect her, breaking from his usual grief-stricken shyness.

 

Athena put the back of her hand to her forehead, melodramatically looking off to the side. “I thought it was over, this had to be it. How could I defend myself against such a beast?” There was silence between the group, the fire roaring behind her and providing warmth as she was laying in the snow.

 

A small girl, eight at the most, peeked over from behind one of her friends and asked: “What did you do?”

 

She gave her a wicked smile, winking while putting her hand against Kain’s snout. He was still holding character, his teeth bared and wrapped around the stick in her hand. “I fought! First I tried to push him off but he was too heavy!” The black-pelted wolf persisted and put his paws on her shoulders, pushing her further down into the snow while she attempted to fight him off. “I thought I was making some progress but then a large warrior approached! The Iron Bull himself, leader of the Bull’s Chargers, stormed in with a roar and CRACK! He brought his giant axe down upon the beast’s back!”

 

Kain gave out a pathetic howl of pain, flopping onto his stomach on Athena but keeping his teeth around the stick. She looked to the kids and shrugged. “Unfortunately. This did not help in getting the bear off of me.”

 

The children giggled and the sound was accompanied by a pair of passing villagers laughing at her story as well. With a quick glance she noticed that there were a few people who were slowed by her story on their path to their bedrolls. Most of the people continued on their walk, but somehow she had caught the attention of a few. Mother Giselle nodded from her position in the middle of the children, giving her a soft smile to continue on.

 

“The bear was upon me and it gave a large roar! Its mouth was so close to me I could smell the stench of dead rabbit caught between its teeth!”

 

The wolf snarled at her and was almost convincing enough that Athena gave him an eyebrow raise to cool it. He took her coaching and brought the volume down and brought his lips back over his teeth, giving her a wolfish grin. “So I did what I had to. My staff could not be used so all I had left was this hand.”

 

She raised her left hand into the air, acting as if it were some weapon sent down from the heavens. The flames illuminated the scar, bringing it more into their focus as did her best to raise her voice so everyone could hear. “I thrust my hand forward, hoping to bring forth a spell to dispel the beast! But he was simply too fast!”

 

Athena sat up from her position and pushed her left palm out. Kain paused for a moment, looking in her eyes for what to do. She urged the thought into his mind and he quickly, but gingerly opened his mouth and allowed his teeth to rest against her arm, the curves of his canines falling into the grooves of her scar. He was very tender, not wanting to hurt her, but he then strengthened his position on top of her legs and furrowed his brow, a growl trickling from her throat. The children screamed at the motion and the sight of seeing her hand within the mouth of the beast. Tobi turned his head into Mother Giselle’s robes to shield himself from the sight of bloodshed.

 

“Did it hurt?”

 

She couldn’t help but laugh, looking to them with a genuine grin. “Of course it did! A bear was attempting to take my arm for dinner. But I said, no! You will go to bed without supper tonight! He tried to pull me away to his cave, dragging me by my arm in front of my comrades.”

 

Kain pulled back slowly until they were in the same position she was that day. She was on her hands and knees with her left arm outstretched and in his mouth and he was gently tugging on her arm like they were playing tug of war with a rope. His brown eyes nearly glittered in the firelight and she felt that he was enjoying the playtime. “Since my hand was already in my mouth, I thought to myself, how can I vanquish this foe?” Her voice was melodramatically pained but it still did its effect on the children.

 

“Did you stab it?”

 

“Did you eat it?!”

 

“DID YOU DIE?!”

 

The adults surrounding the fire laughed at the thought and then lowered their voices to keep their identities hidden. It was almost like they were trying to keep it secret that they were associated or being entertained by the Witch of the Inquisition. Athena looked to the kids, focusing her gaze particularly on Tobi who held an expression of genuine fear. “No. I prevailed with fire!”

 

Kain fell backwards with an extended and low howl, his body helplessly playing dead in front of the children. She waited until his mouth was off of her arm but when her palm hit the cold air she brought forth a flame into her grasp. It danced confidently in the moonlight, it acting like the shining victor of the entire story as it encompassed her hand and went halfway down her forearm. The children clapped but Tobi still looked petrified. “H-h-h-how did you fix your arm?”

 

Her face fell, eyes wincing as the pain shot down her arm at recollection of the memory. Rathein’s grip was so tight around her, her sobs being silenced in her back by Athena’s wordless screams into her arm. Solas had such a grim look on his face while he did it, like it was hurting him too. To be fair, her aura did attempt to light him on fire but that wasn’t the pain she saw in his features. There was something more. . . and the thought of it brought a blush to her cheeks but she looked to the children anyways, an air of mystery bringing a sparkle to her eyes. “Magic!”

 

She closed her hand with a snap and the fire disappeared, concluding the story. Kain scrambled from his position on his back and stood next to her, strengthening his posture so she could use him to pull herself to a standing position. The children cheered, a few of them rising to run to her but their eyes widened at the sight of the large wolf. One of them reached their hand out slowly, allowing for the creature to sniff it while their wide eyes looked towards Athena. She crouched back down, rubbing Kain’s head in explanation. “It’s okay, he’s a sweet puppy. All of my wolves are.”

 

“All of them?”

 

“Mmm-hmmm.” The children slowly began to pat him, their bodies surrounding him while they poured their affection onto him. She stood up and brushed the snow off of her pants while she heard the equivalence of a golfer’s clap behind her. Varric pulled his gloves on tighter while smirking, looking up at her while the fire’s light danced on his kin. “Good story, Walker. You might have a knack for this kind of thing. Now how did I miss you getting attacked by a bear?”

 

She chuckled, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear while shrugging. “I’m sure there will be other adventures for you to jump in on. Who knows, maybe we can go dragon hunting?”

 

The dwarf shook his head and scratched at his chest, a flash of uncertainty going through his eyes while he groaned. “Naaah, I’m good. You can leave that for the Bull. He’s been itching to get his “blood grooves” dirty.” He continued walking past and waved over his shoulder at her, murmuring a farewell of “See ya in the morning, Walker.”

Chapter Text

Thankfully the exhaustion from the night before had driven her straight into a dream-state of sleep. Her mind melded into the Fade and it didn’t take long until Inspiration showed up, dragging a particularly hesitant horned friend behind her. Athena smiled, taking the first spirit into an embrace before looking to the other. “I don’t think you and I have officially been reintroduced.”

 

The other spirit rolled his eyes while stretching his arms above his head, yawning with his mouth wide open to show off his smaller fangs while answering: “Haaaarmony.” She nodded as he confirmed her theories from before, looking to them both with a small smile on her lips.

 

“What do you guys want to do tonight?”

 

The female spirit instantly jumped off the ground, an idea coming to her face as she clapped her hands together. “What was that thing you were talking about? With the stored plays and the screen?” Inspiration then reattempted to create the box with her fingers, aiming the center over her friend’s face while scrunching up her face tight in a focused expression.

 

Athena smirked. “Movies? You want to watch a movie?”

 

Inspiration’s mouth moved, trying to master the sound of the foreign word before nodding in excitement. “Yes. Absolutely. I want to see the arts from your world!” She then nudged Harmony in the side who gave her a frown before shrugging.

 

“I don’t see why not.” He added while looking to the surrounding area, a familiar chill settling into the area. Athena did not do well in hiding her smile as she tucked a stray hair behind her ear, containing her blush before accepting the other presence into her portion of the Fade.

 

Solas strode in from the side in a casual walk, gaze soft and friendly. She instantly took notice that Wisdom wasn’t there, her eyes looking to the side before she scrunched her lips in a look of confusion. “Where’s Wisdom?"

 

The elf chuckled, shrugging while making a gesture out into the open area. “We are not the only people who require her knowledge. I am sure she is with some other dreamer or spirit discussing philosophy and the like. What are you doing?” He looked around, taking note of the empty canvas of the Fade with a small hum. “You have not explored yet. . . “

 

She shook her head before turning away from him, closing her eyes and trying to craft a comfortable environment for them to watch something in. The memory of a couch formed with pillows on the ground. They were brought into one of her living rooms from childhood. She was still having trouble bringing electronics and their functions into this world, so instead she simply created a white wall in front of them for her to project her memories onto. When she opened her eyes hesitantly, she sighed in relief before walking around and plopping herself down on the couch. It threatened to consume her, just as she remembered it. She looked to the side and smiled as her favorite blanket materialized into view. The feeling was pure nostalgia as she brought it over her lap and curled it up to her shoulder. Athena smiled, rubbing the fabric against her cheek while letting out a soft sigh that was tinted with sadness.

 

Solas sat on the couch at the other end from her, giving her a look up and down. “Something wrong?”

 

Athena shrugged, looking to him with a gleam over her eyes that showed she was close to tears for a moment. “This just makes me miss home. I know this is a dream, a recollection of my memories, but everything just feels the same. The smells, the furniture. . ." Her voice trailed off, her eyes landing on the two spirits that had sat themselves on the floor in front of them between the couch and the wall while using pillows to prop themselves up. Inspiration looked over her shoulder expectantly, jerking her head towards the wall in anticipation for what was about to happen.

 

Her companion on the couch pressed on while leaning back and resting his left foot on top of his right knee in a relaxed position. “This whole experience sounds trying for you.” There was a genuine sincerity to his words and that brought a half laugh and a half sob from her lips. It was the understatement of her lifetime, but it was the reality she was dealt. Thankfully she had friends like Dorian and Rathein. .  .and then the ever changing enigma that was Solas. She looked to the wall while running a hand through her hair and stretching into her position. Her legs were curled up next to her on the side, allowing him his own personal space on his side.

 

For some reason the words were difficult to form so instead she sighed, rubbing her forehead. “What type of story would you like?”

 

Inspiration did not hesitate, turning around and shooting her a glowing smile. “Something with music. I love your music from your world. It gives me so much energy, so much life!”

 

A musical? She thought back on her favorite movies, something she could call to memory with ease. The answer brought a chuckle from her lips, causing her to nod while gesturing to the wall. “As you wish, my friend. If there are any errors, forgive me. I’m still new to this whole Fade dreamer thing.” Harmony scoffed while sitting back on his pillow, making sure to keep an obvious space between him and his spiritual companion. Athena rolled her eyes before shutting them, imaging the opening lines to a classic in her world.

 

The Phantom of the Opera.

 

The images flickered to life on the wall in front of them, it bringing a satisfied hum from Solas while Inspiration smiled in happiness. She then laid on her stomach and hugged the pillow to her chest, obtaining one of Athena’s favorite positions to watch a movie in. Did her personality somehow meld with the spirits when she helped her form? Or was the spirit always this kind and compassionate? It was a curious thought; one she would have to ask Wisdom later. For the moment, she turned and watched the movie while leaning her head against her hand on the arm rest of the couch.

 

This movie was always something to special to her. Its music was moving, the characters were relatable, and it had such a story that made you pity the villain it was astounding. It was also a steady date movie whenever she wanted to set a romantic scene. Fuck. Her eyes widened in a moment of panic, quickly resisting the urge to look over at Solas. A blush filled her cheeks and she pulled the blanket up to her shoulders and curled into the couch as if to become one with the fabric. “What is troubling you?”

 

His voice cut through her embarrassment like a knife and pulled a twisting feeling of anxiety into her belly. “Solas, there are, uh, memories attached to this particular production. Any tips on keeping those separate so you three don’t get dragged into the feelings that come with this?” He chuckled under his breath, shaking his head back and forth while trying to keep his eyes on what was happening on the wall.

 

The main theme was beginning to play and his lips twitched into a smile at the large fanfares and swells within the music. “It is difficult to offer suggestions when I learned to master that so long ago.”

 

It was Harmony who stood up and walked behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders while leaning down and speaking into her ear. “I think this is where I come in. You’ve been using your emotions as a fuel during your magic, yes?” He spoke low to avoid drawing attention away from the movie but he kept his gaze on it, the lights from the wall reflecting in his golden horns. She nodded in response, slowly feeling that pressure in her stomach resolve. He continued on, resting his head on his crossed arms while leaning on the back of the couch. “Use your emotions as a shield, an armor that nobody can penetrate. You are a being that is very in tune with yours. Other mages have been taught to contain themselves, control themselves to avoid drawing attention. You burn like fire within the Fade.”

 

It was something she had been told before but the way he said it suddenly make sense. She wasn’t from here. She was not raised in the same environments, the same schoolings as other mages. She was still a novice barely learning battle strategy, let alone being somebody who was completely in control of her emotions. “I don’t want to suppress anything though, Harmony. I like wearing my heart on my sleeve. It’s an honest trait I’m proud of.” She could feel Solas glance over at her for a second before returning his gaze to the wall, a ghost of a smile twitching at the corner of his lips. The spirit behind her shook his head, placing a hand on her shoulder to help sync her energy with his.

 

“I never said suppress, simply master. Learn your triggers, learn how your feelings move through you like magic. Keep them flowing but keep them from spreading out. Your emotions are yours alone. They drive you and give you guidance. Express them, yes, but only by your choice. You choose how to react to things, Athena. Keep them skin-tight. You know how.”

 

He then patted her on the shoulder and returned to his seat with Inspiration, sitting a hair noticeably closer to her, almost allowing for their thighs to touch while they sat on the floor. Athena sighed and rested her head within her hand again, paying close attention to her breaths as they came in and out. She then focused on how the swells of the music resonated within her. Even if they brought a tear to her eye, she kept the responding swell of emotion within her. It felt like a turbulent wind within her body but it didn’t spread farther than that. After the rousing romantic ballad of the opera, which normally brought her to tears especially with the Phantom’s heartbreak afterwards, Harmony looked over his shoulder and nodded while stating: “Better.”

 

The movie continued and when glanced at Solas barely responded, physically at least, to the things happening on the wall. Inspiration, however, reacted like Athena would have acted if she wasn’t practicing her guard. She cried, laughed, and sighed during most of the scenes. She allowed her influence to be moved by the movie and in a way Athena was jealous. It felt like she was finally getting the hang of this new skill when a rather emotionally charged song began to play through her mind. It was one of the final songs, the buildup of the entire movie where the main female character was being used as bait for the Phantom.

 

Until now Athena had never realized how sexually charged the whole scene was. Their voices were near raspy, their gazes never breaking as they prowled in movements around each other like hunters. The colors of red and black flashed across the scene and she could feel her breath catching in her throat. The music sent a chill down her spine, Harmony looking over his shoulder and arching a brow. She cursed under her breath, giving him a guilty half smile. “Am I leaking?”

 

He chuckled and nodded at her, nestling in his position with Inspiration that had transformed into her resting her head against his shoulder with his arm around her. “You were doing good, keep trying.”

 

When will the flames at last, consume us?

 

She tried to swallow but found her mouth was dry, her eyes taking in every dance move, every lingering gaze that the Phantom gave his victim. They were advancing on each other now and Athena pulled the blanket up to her chin to hide the flush that was spreading over her chest. It was difficult but she kept her aura from spreading, keeping all the awkward tensions contained within her spirit. Her mouth moved with the lyrics since she knew them from heart. She thought she was going to burst and fail when the song had a sudden change in theme. It brought tears to her eyes and they silently fell down her cheeks. Say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime.

 

It was the Phantom’s broken voice in his plea that undid her, her aura trickling out with her emotions following it. Harmony sighed and shook his head, mumbling something like “You’ll learn” from under his breath. Solas looked over to her with a look of confusion, his voice soft while he asked: “You pity this character?”

 

Athena nodded, using the corner of the blanket to wipe the tears from her face. “It’s the beauty of this particular show. He is an awful person, has committed horrid crimes, but he just desires companionship. It’s tragically beautiful and heartbreaking.” He thought on this for a moment, his gaze tearing from hers while looking over to the wall.

 

He answered in a voice that was almost a whisper and for a second she could feel his cool aura sliding over hers. “You think he deserves it after all he has done?”

 

The weight of his words brought a sigh from her lips, tears coming to her eyes again. Thankfully she could lie if need be and say it was the movie, but truly it broke her heart if he felt he was unworthy of love due to his own actions. He crafted the Veil and in that doomed the fate of his people. The Dread Wolf walked a lonely path even though his largest fear was dying alone. She answered with a hum while nodding, turning her gaze back with a smile. “Everybody deserves love, Solas. Nobody should die alone.” His eyes widened and he tore his gaze from hers while keeping his face neutral. She could feel his aura slap back to his skin like a whip. She wanted to reach out to him, comfort him and give him some sort of peace. His body language screamed otherwise so she resigned herself to her corner of the couch with a soft sigh.

 

They finished the rest of the movie in silence, Inspiration nearly sobbing as the final notes echoed through the Fade. The wall returned to its blank canvas and the group sat for a moment in stunned silence. “That was so beautiful, Athena!” The emotional spirit cried out, turning her tear-stained face to her friend. Athena only chuckled while standing and folding the blanket up on the couch.

 

The moment it left her grasp the piece of fabric dissipated into the surrounding Fade. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

 

She continued to walk past the couch when Solas stood from his spot and followed in her step. “Where are you going?” His voice was heavy, sad almost but there was still concern in his tone as he followed her.

 

It was exhausting to keep her emotions bottled up so she rolled back her shoulders and allowed them to flow. “Honestly that training exercise left me exhausted. I was going to wake up early and hunt with the pack while seeing how much travel time we have left. I suspect it isn’t long now.” She didn’t turn to meet his gaze but stilled when she felt his hand on her shoulder.

 

“Athena.” She could feel her pulse racing but she steeled her will and turned to look at him, trying to keep a respectable distance between their bodies. He smiled at her, nodding while saying: “Thank you for sharing that with me. I would still like to see more of your world, if possible.”

 

Athena sighed and placed her hand on his, feeling the small spark between the collision of their auras while smirking at him. “Of course, Solas. Another time perhaps. I suppose I will see you when you wake.”

 

He nodded with a hum, holding her gaze for a few seconds longer before dropping his hand from her shoulder. There was a soft tint of pink at the tips of his ears but he nodded towards her before walking away. “Good night, Athena.” 

 

She then pulled on the tether connecting her to her body and groaned in her bedroll, turning over to find tears on her face. Kain was immediately there to lick them away, soft whines accompanying the kisses to soothe her. “I’m alright, boy. Come on, let’s go get the others.”

Chapter Text

Athena met with the wolves on the edge of the camp, touching each of their heads to hers and taking in their scent with a smile. They beckoned for her to come with them, their bodies moving sideways to try and get her to run with them. With a smile, she shrugged out of her jacket and hung it on a tree branch. She bent down on her knees and searched for that feeling, searched for that absolute instinctual magic that took over her body when she was running with them days before. It lingered within her chest, a shadow of what it formerly was, but it never rose past that: a flicker. She winced at the rejection and sat back on her butt in the snow, defeat taking over her features while Kain walked up and pressed his nose into the side of his neck. “You all go ahead without me. I’ll catch up later.” The alpha gave a small bark of confirmation and order before turning the other six to his side. Her own companion hesitated for a moment, giving her a final kiss on her cheek before running off to his duties.

 

She returned to the camp defeated, her head low and her shoulders slumped. She quickly picked up Prince with her belongings before grabbing a single piece of bread for breakfast. Failure had filled her stomach and left her wanting more than food. Was shifting a onetime thing? Was it the rush of anger from the villager hitting her? Was Rage truly fueling her magic in that moment to give her escape? These were the thoughts running through her mind when she stormed on the edges of camp and collided with a rather large member of the Inquisition Party.

 

Bull turned around with a curious hum, a single eyebrow raised until he set his gaze on her. She rubbed her head where she ran into him and looked up apologetically. He looked her up and down before simply stating: “You look like shit.”

 

She couldn’t help but laugh, scratching her scalp while untangling her hair with her nails. “Thanks for the sensitivity, Bull.”

 

The Qunari looked out through the camp and motioned with his horns out towards the forest. “Walk with me, will you?”

 

With his size and power alone she felt like she wasn’t in a place to refuse. At they walked she tore off small pieces of the hard bread and nibbled on it until they were assumingly out of earshot. Once they hit the trees he turned to her with a curious gaze. She looked up to him, mouth full of bread, while making a motion signaling for him to continue. “What?”

 

He chuckled under his breath and patted the tops of his thighs while leaning against a large tree. “How are you holding up?”

 

She stilled, swallowing down the hard and dry lump of bread while meeting his gaze. Surprisingly, it wasn’t judgmental, but open. His entire body language was nonthreatening even with his size and battle scars. It was slightly jarring as she raised her brows in return. “Why?”

 

He shook his head and shrugged, giving her a soft smile. “Ben Hasserath. You tend to notice things.”

 

The blatant observation brought a rush of heat to her cheeks, her gaze dropping to the snow. She couldn’t help but kick some of the fresh powder that was at her boot while she chewed the inside of her cheek. “Why do you care?”

 

He ruffled her hair to get her to break the self-pitying body language, smiling when she shot him a scowl. “It took a lot of guts to tell everyone what was really going on. I was wondering when you were going to do it.”

 

She rolled her eyes and shifted some of her weight onto one hip. “Okay, I’ll bite. When did you know?”

 

He thought back for a moment, lips thinning into a line before he nodded. “You were really reserved with people, went off on your own, had a certain intuition about things. They already ruled you out for possession or I would have suggested it myself.” The suggestion made her wince, eyes slowly moving from the ground up to meet his gaze. Still, it was friendly. He groaned, messing with his eye patch while continuing. “Look everyone’s going to be weird for a while but it will pass. I was hired on so they’re stuck with me. You on, the other hand, you’re stuck with them. You don’t really have anywhere else to go since we’re all you know.”

 

The more he talked, the heavier her mind felt. She crossed her arms over her abdomen and bit her lower lip, nodding along with everything he was saying. “But look. . . Just be honest in the future, okay? Especially with me. I can tell if you’re lying.”

 

Athena broke for a second and nodded again, tilting her head to one side while shrugging. “I’ll do my best, Bull. But you know there are certain things I won’t be able to share with you guys. It’s not personal; I just don’t know what will happen.”

 

He clapped his hands together and rubbed them together, a smile spreading across his face. “Good! Now that that’s settled. What do you need?”

 

Instantly she froze, shaking her head and waving her hands in front of her. “Nu-uh. Nope. I know what kind of services you offer and I’m not buying.” She took a step back from him but he laughed, the sound echoing from the forests.

 

“I mean, yeah, I think you need that too but I’m not the one to give it to you. Unless you want." Athena quickly shook her head with a hard blush on her cheeks.  "Do you need anything?”

 

Athena paused for a moment, continually shifting her weight back and forth until she smirked. “Actually, can I have a hug?” He stepped forward and reached down, wrapping his arms around her while lifting her off the ground. She froze, her arms firm while her eyes were wide open. He didn’t move at all, holding her like she weighed nothing at all. One hand started to rub her back and it was that motion that forced her to relax within his grip. She rested her head on his shoulder and submitted to the hug, tears forming in her eyes while he did it. She whispered to him, voice nearly breaking under the weight of the emotions pressing forward on her mind. “This is a good hug.”

 

He hummed, giving her a pat on the back before setting her down slowly. “I see how touchy you are with the boss and how she is with you. You’re that way with the Vint too, but that’s it. Are people like you in your world?”

 

She nodded, rubbing her eyes with the backs of her hands. “Yeah. I’m just a hugger I guess.”

 

He touched her shoulder and gestured for them to walk back to camp. As they were about halfway he cleared his throat and smirked. “Say, Athena, what exactly did you have on me?”

 

She laughed, thinking back to her game experiences while looking to the sky. “You’re actually an open book already, Bull, so it is difficult to pinpoint something.”

 

He groaned and threw his hands into the air. “Oh come on that’s not fair!” She thought for a moment, grasping her chin between her thumb and index finger. When something hit her mind, she snapped her fingers and turned on her heel, meeting his gaze with hers. She smiled a wicked grin while biting off the final piece of bread, wiping her hand off on her pants while responding.

 

“Katoh.”

 

His eyes widened and he whistled, the sound tapering off into silence. “You know that?” She nodded and turned back to walk to the village, leaving him chuckling to himself while he finished loading up the Charger’s mounts.

 

 


 

 

“Oh come on I’m not that bad!”

 

The group laughed, Varric slapping his thigh while looking to her. “Look, Walker, we get it. You’re new here, you’re just learning magic. But those things are really obvious in battle.” The rest of the group that had fought with her chuckled in agreement. She looked to anyone for some words of doubt, saying no she was a good fighter, but there was none. Athena leaned back on Prince and groaned, allowing her hands to rest at her sides off of the saddle while she allowed her body to sulk in exasperation.

 

“Thanks, guys. Really.” Rathein pulled up on her own horse, a mocking smile on her face while she leaned to the side so she could extend her leg and try to kick Athena from her horse. Prince would not allow her be unmounted. He moved his body to help her catch her balance, the horse shooting the Herald a glance while a frustrated grunt came from his throat. Her friend raised her hands in defense, showing the mount that she meant no harm. He almost nodded back at her, returning to his steady trot while Athena pulled herself up to a straight posture.

 

“I’ll say though, Athena. You really have a thing with animals.”

 

The rest of the group nodded in agreement and then she saw Sera scrunch her face up in a look that almost resembled disgust. “I heard ya’ could get all furry and stuff, run with your friends there. Weird.” Athena looked over and sighed, looking out at the distance to where she could feel her pack scouting for her. She hadn’t heard any howls of discovery and Kain hadn’t rushed back to deliver messages so they weren’t quite there. She groaned while looking to Sera, giving her a shrug.

 

“Honestly? I did it once. It was actually. . . really great. I can’t seem to replicate the shift though.”

 

The elf archer snorted, nodding while stating: “Good.” The words stung like a bee, ironically enough with Sera’s affinity for the blighted creatures, and when she went to snap back at her she felt a cold call in the back of her head. With an angry clench of her jaw she spun around to see Solas slowly trotting on his own horse. His eyes were focused on a book but he glanced up at her, giving her a small smirk of warning before turning the page and continuing. It was like the look said, “Not worth it.” He was right though and this brought a thankful smile to her face, turning back to the others.

  

“You guys realize this means I’ll be bugging you to teach me, right?”

 

The more sarcastic members groaned while Rathein nodded, using her staff to reach over and prod Athena on the shoulder. “Yeah, yeah. We know-“ She cut off, her eyes looking to the distance while the image of a true battle seasoned mage came to her face. “What was that noise?” The whole group stilled and Athena took the moment to jump off Prince, her own ears attuned to the sound more than theirs. It was a soft note, something that called to her spirit and made her head ring with recognition. Without hesitation, she took off, weaving between their horses and allowing her determination to lead her through the snow.

 

The howls grew louder as she ran towards them, a grin spreading to her face as she used the instinctual grace of a hunter to leap over branches and slide down paths of ice and snow. The wolves were all at the peak of a cliff, overlooking the fall at their destination. Athena skidded to a stop behind them, eyes widening as she nearly lost her breath.

 

The view of Skyhold was breathtaking. The sun perfectly illuminated the path ahead of them. It was gargantuan in real life; she was barely able to take it all in. The bridge connected the mountaintops and the towers rivaled the sky. The game simply not capture its size. She had to fight to keep her jaw closed but excitement lit up every feature of her face. The wolves all sat at her side as Solas and Rathein approached from behind, staffs in hand as he announced the keep: Skyhold. But Athena knew it for its true title: Tarasyl’an Te’las. The place where the sky was held back. The sheer amount of power it held was palpable even from where she stood. It pressed against her skin and called to her, urging her to enter its gates.

 

Rathein turned and was giving orders for the villagers to hurry up so they could in before sundown. When she left Athena finally let the words fall from her lips. “Solas. It’s breathtaking.”

 

He looked to her and nodded, a soft smile coming to his face while he raised a brow at her. “I cannot take credit for its craftsmanship, but yes. It will serve the Inquisition well.”

 

She resisted the urge to scoff at his blatant lie, instead she finally tore her eyes from the castle and looked to him. “Well since the original architect is not here I will give the credit to you for leading us here. Thank you.”

 

She looked to the wolves and gave them a nod, a silent command going to them. Make sure it’s safe. The alpha nodded before barking the order to the rest of them. They took off as a single unit, making their way down the mountain and over the bridge. Almost as if Solas understood them he fell in step behind her and she could feel the smugness coming from his words. “The place is protected by an ancient magic. We should be safe there.”

 

Athena clicked her tongue against the back of her teeth and smiled, steadying herself on a tree before beginning the ascent down. “Oh you speak wolf now? And here I thought I was the only shifter.”

 

He stilled behind her and chuckled, rubbing his fingers across his brow. “Their intent was obvious. They are your scouts, are they not?” Good cover.

 

She smirked while looking at the path which now seemed smooth to the bridge. “You’re correct and if you’ll excuse me I can’t contain myself.”

 

Without waiting for a response, she took off into a breathless sprint. Her arms pumped at her side while a grin spread across her face. The wind bit at her cheeks as she crossed the bridge. It was all coming back to her now. The towers, where the companions would stay, the different staircases and where they led. She stopped in the courtyard and did a quick circle, trying to take it all in before making an excited sigh of delight. The sound of a cracking whip alerted her that he had fade-stepped to follow her. Her eyes jumped from tower to tower, taking in the differences from this and the game.

 

In short, this was just bigger. Much bigger.

 

He laughed at her enthusiasm, gesturing to the courtyard and the castle above them. “You like it?”

 

She nodded wordlessly, gaze still taking it all in. “Honestly? I’m trying to decide where my room is going to be. I need to it to somewhere close to the entrance so my wolves can find me without scaring all of our visitors. . . “

 

Her voice trailed off until she looked to a tower room that was on the battlements closer to the gates. From what she knew, it was unoccupied in the game. With a mischievous smirk, she took off up the stairs and Kain joined her at her side. The stairs and altitude took its toll but when she reached the room it was decided. This place was hers. There was a large window facing the valley, its light shining in on the old and broken floor. There were stairs up and down to lead up to a sort of loft and a dark basement area that would be perfect for a bath. The middle level also had a door going out to the battlements. The foundation was cracked and the furniture that was in there was long since broken but there was a feeling that drummed within her chest. It was an actual gut feeling and she decided to go along with it.

 

Solas leaned in the doorway and crossed his arms over his chest. “This is what you have chosen?” She nodded with a hum, looking to Kain who was inspecting every inch of the rather large room. With a happy smile, she turned and walked towards the doorway.

 

He turned to the side to allow her room and she paused in front of him, rolling her gaze from his chest to his eyes with a soft blush of excitement on her cheeks. “You’ve shown me something in your world. I’ll return the favor next time we get a chance.”

 

Chapter Text

It wasn’t until the next day that everyone was settled within their respective areas and things were starting to get moving. The Inner Council was meeting in the new war room. The table from the extravagant trunk of a tree hadn’t been created yet so for the moment they had the map stretched out on some of the broken tables that were in there beforehand. The state of the Keep obviously made Josephine uncomfortable from the way she kept glancing around and making notes, so on the way in Athena leaned over and whispered: “Don’t worry; it gets better.”

 

The Ambassador stammered and readjusted the grip on her quill. “Oh my, was it that obvious?” She nodded slowly while leaning back against the wall, keeping her body out of the main view of the group. This was not her council; she played no substantial part. She was just here as a friend of the Inquisitor’s. Nothing more.

 

Leliana moved forward first, her hands clasped behind her back while she looked to a spot on the map. “A matter requires your immediate attention, Herald. A local Avvar tribe has captured some of our soldiers and there are reports of demons. The Avvar Chief’s son has challenged you specifically. . . and my sources can assume we will not get our soldiers back until you answer this challenge.” Rathein bristled, a groan coming from her lips while she flicked her hand out before resting it on her temple.

                                                                                                    

“We’ll leave in the morning. I’ll take Solas, Blackwall, and Sera with me.” Athena raised a brow in response, the Herald catching onto this and answering with a smile. “You, my friend, get to train while I’m gone. Use the mages here as a resource and Bull said he would run you through drills with the Chargers. I trust you’ll be up to speed by the time we return.”

 

She rolled her eyes and accepted her fate, not even finding the urge to fight. The Fallow Mire was an awful place to go anyways. In the game the characters always complained of the smell of death and there were just bodies floating in the water. She found it abhorrent that a requisitions officer was requesting flesh pieces from the corpses. So yes, it would probably be better for her to stay at home. It would keep her boots dry and swamp free anyhow. She turned to the side and blew a stray hair from her face, looking to Cullen who was scratching the back of his head while reading from a list. “Repairs are underway on the keep. We have plentiful access to fresh water due to the falls but we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

 

Josephine jotted something down while nodding to the others. “I have sent ravens to all of our contributors and am gathering resources to expedite the process. We need to look presentable if we are to be receiving dignitaries from around the world.” Rathein nodded and looked to Athena, arching a brow in question. “Anything to add, Lady Athena?”

 

She opened her mouth to speak but then looked to the others. Was she seen at the same level as the other three? It was impossible. She was a novice mage who only had a few months’ experience in all of Thedas. Although she knew the outcomes of major events, it was still strange that they were looking to her with guidance. “Um. Don’t touch the water when you go to the Mire. Fight the wisps while you’re there too. They drop useful resources that we will be able to use.” The Herald smirked with a nod dismissing the council with a wave of her hand. They all exited through the door, making sure not to trip on any debris or fallen stone on their way out.

 

Athena playfully pushed Rathein as they were walking down the hallway. “Don’t want me to slow you down, huh?” The short-haired mage turned around with a blush in her cheeks. She fidgeted with her hands, searching for words before she was cut off. “I’m only kidding. I understand. I’ll make a small briefing of what you can expect before you leave tomorrow.”

 

The Herald sighed, quickly pulling her friend into an embrace while patting her on the back. “Thank you, Athena. Look, you’ll do fine here. If it helps, I’ll miss you on the road.”

 

She laughed, feigning a blush while turning to the side. “I didn’t realize you thought of me that way, Rathein. . . “

 

Rathein froze, waving her hands in front of her face. “Wait! No! That’s not- “

 

Athena turned back with a wink. “Kidding. I’ll miss you too, Oh Madam Herald. I’m going to have a look around. I’ll see you off in the morning.” The two separated in the main hall. Rathein went to inspect the lower dungeon area where the blacksmith and the Arcanist would eventually practice. She walked through the hall, pushing any broken wood against the wall with her foot before coming up to the fireplace. Varric already had pulled up a chair and was reading letters in front of the fire. “Fan letters?”

 

The dwarf groaned, rubbing his temples with one hand while throwing down a letter on the table in front of him. “Merchant Guild finally found me. Just have some catching up to do is all. I’ll see you tonight at dinner, Walker.” Without needing any further prompting she let him be, walking through the door and entering the rotunda she was so familiar with entering just out of habit in the game. Now that she was there. . . she didn’t know exactly what she needed. The walls were tall, their canvases blank waiting for Solas to paint on them. He had acquired a desk and was unpacking some of his books from the travels. When the door shut behind her he looked up from his work with a nod of acknowledgement.

 

She smiled in return, walking up to the desk and looking at the covers of the books he had. They were mostly related to the Fade and one was a text on ancient elven artifacts. “Heavy reading you have here, Solas.” He smirked and pushed a quill to the corner of the desk, not fully looking up to meet her gaze. She looked at him, his body language. There was something about it, nervous almost? It was a foreign thing to see on him so she stepped back from the desk, rubbing a hand up and down one arm. “You know it’s not fair.”

 

This got his attention, his gaze flicking up from his papers while his lips twitching into somewhat of a frown. “What is not?”

 

She kept her face neutral, looking from the desk up to his gaze. “You guys keep finding out all about me, but I feel like I barely know anything about you.”

 

This drew an almost sarcastic laugh from him as he shook his head. “That statement is entirely false due to your origin, Athena.”

 

This brought a blush to her cheeks, an embarrassed chuckle bubbling from her lips. “It’s hard to explain but it’s different. Those are facts, little things but they don’t identify a person. It’s not actually getting to know someone, their quirks, their traits. I would like to learn more about you all.”

 

He let out a sigh of content and smiled, pushing back from the desk while looking to her with a gleam in his eye. “You continue to surprise me. . ." Athena fought the gasp at her throat, allowing her gaze to fall back to the desk while her hand continued to fidget at a piece of loose string on her upper arm. That dialogue. In the game, it was attributed to the romance. There was no way that was possible here. It didn't make sense. He walked around the desk while continuing and she could feel his aura stretch out from beyond his body. “Let’s talk, preferably someplace more interesting than here.” She opened her mouth to protest but found her world swirling black.

 


 

 

“Maker damn you! Couldn’t you have given me a bit of warning first?”

 

He laughed, the motion taking over his body while the Fade swirled around them and settled into the image he desired. The laugh was joyous, free almost. She continued, throwing her hands in the air while trying to work through the swirl of emotions currently running through her brain. “Seriously? Are we just slumped on your desk asleep?” He shook his head, leading her up the stairs in Haven. She finally looked around, looking down to see that she was in her old well-fitting clothes that she had before the attack. Athena made a mental note to get in contact with Josephine about getting her some hand-tailored clothes, or some sort of improvement.

                                                                                                    

“No, you are in your room with Kain at your side.”

 

She smirked and looked over to him, giving him a curious brow. “And nobody questioned you carrying me through the courtyard of Skyhold?”

 

He gave her a wink when she asked, shrugging nonchalantly. “I can be discreet when I need to be.”

 

Ah yes, God of the Beyond. The Trickster. Still, it made her chuckle while she continued up the stairs, gesturing to Haven. “Okay. I’ll bite, why here?”

 

He nodded to the direction where her cabin was, passing the Chantry. “It is familiar to us both, and it will always be important to you.” She had a feeling he meant to lead her into the room where he first saw her so she paused, a leery eye looking to the room. A sense of dread filled her stomach, the memory of her first encounter with him flashing before her eyes. He sensed this, looking back to her. When he saw her expression, his face dropped.

 

Athena shook her head with a sigh. “If we could avoid that room I would appreciate it. If we’re being honest, Haven just reminds me that I could have done more. If I had told everyone from the start what was happening, we might have been able to get them all out.”

 

He disagreed, turning his body and pointing to the cliff where Corypheus stood. “We were facing a creature who is aspiring for Godhood. It is unlikely that we would have been able to save many more from his path to power.” He paused, bringing his hand down while she thought she saw a blush come to his cheeks. When he spoke, his voice was softer, kinder. “Did you know that was not my first time seeing you? They had me assess you for damage after you fell.”     

 

Her breath caught in her throat; she rested a hand on her chest while shaking her head slowly. “They were concerned you were marked like the Herald. You were both a mystery.” He paused, clasping his hands behind his back in a stance that was all too familiar to her. “You still are.” He turned and walked towards where his old cabin was and the nerves in her stomach began to tighten. It was playing out like the game, but what would happen? The thoughts made her head swirl and chest and fall in deep, nervous breaths. “You both were mortals that had physically been in the Fade. But you. You lived in it for days, survived, fought and clawed your way out.”

                                                                                                    

Wait this is different. Her eyes perked up while he stopped his walk, turning his body towards her. The way he was looking to her, the gentle and pleasant expression in his gaze, it was worse in person than in the game. It made her feel pinned, but excitedly so. “I had planned to flee but then with the arrival of the Herald. There was hope. Then you fell from the skies. . . and I felt the whole world change.”

 

Her eyes widened, her pulse within her throat while she tried to wet her lips. Her body fought her mind. She could tell her teeth were close to chattering and her hands wanted to shake at her side in a bundle of nerves. She now understood why her previous Lavellan’s repeated what he said. It was hard to believe and she needed to readjust her thoughts, her lips forming the words that ran across her mind. “Felt the whole world change?”

 

His lips twitched into a smile while he unclasped his hands and brought them to rest in front of his body. “A figure of speech.”

 

She could barely hear him over her own pulse roaring in her ears. Since the first time she saw him, she had refused the possibility of him being attracted to her. It didn’t match up with what she knew of Thedas and what she knew of him. He was a God after all. If this changed, what other possibilities or destines could she alter? There was a heavy silence between them and for a moment she had the bravery to look up at him and smile, testing the waters of what she knew to be reality. 

                                                                                                    

“I . . . know the metaphor, Solas. If you would allow me?”

 

She held her hand out to him, and it took him a moment but he understood her meaning, placing his hand in hers. The control was then hers and she closed her eyes, focusing on a location in her world that would completely blow his mind, like when she first came to Thedas. Haven dissipated from view, the colors changing until she had them inside a beige colored box with buttons on the side of the wall. The top button was illuminated and every time they ascended a floor a small bell went off above them.

 

He made a small noise of confusion, his eyes scanning around the elevator. “Athena-“

 

She squeezed his hand in a gesture to quiet him, her brows furrowing in focus. “Give me a moment.”

 

He kept his hand within hers and she prayed that her hands wouldn’t sweat in the Fade. Even still, the small contact between them brought her aura to bear, the heat flaring within the base of her belly while her breath was hitched in her throat. The elevator door opened and before they could exit she opened her eyes and looked to him, putting her body in the exit while catching his gaze. “Close your eyes.”

 

Solas arched a brow, giving her an incredulous stare with a wicked smirk on his lips. She rolled her eyes and plead silently, holding his gaze even with her blood flushing her skin. He conceded with a sigh, shutting his eyes while gesturing with his free hand that he had completed the task. Athena then pulled on his hand and led him up some stairs, ignoring the other people showing up in her memory until they were at the final door of a staircase. The winter cold threatened on the outside, the temperature thankfully cooling the tingling that was settling into her stomach and causing her throat to tighten. “Alright, once you feel the cold, you can open your eyes.”

 

He hummed in response and then she burst through the door. The New York City skyline lit up before them like stars in the sky, the varying heights of the skyscrapers threatening to breach the clouds. The wind whirled around them and it brought a laugh from her lips. She reluctantly let go of his hand and she thought she heard a sound of protest while she walked to the edge of the roof of the Rockefeller building. It came up past her hips, to keep visitors from jumping off. The people in the background were mere shadows, their colors blending in with the background to fill space.

 

The only thing she could focus on was the memory and him. She could hear Solas’s breath catch in his throat, a shock-struck smile on his face as he slowly made his way to the edge. He placed his hands on the edge and looked over, laughing at the height from below. “Is this a kingdom on the clouds?”

 

She shook her head and walked over to his side, pointing down to the ground and all the smaller shadows moving on the sidewalk. “No, this is just a very tall structure. This city in particular is one of the grandest that I have seen. There are millions of people that live here and the lights look like the night sky to me.” Her voice was thin, almost being shrouded by the wind but he heard them well enough. He let out a large sigh, the smile never leaving his face. He looked out towards the other end of the skyline, the words falling from his mouth in a low tone that made her head dizzy.

 

“This. . . you change everything.”

Chapter Text

You change everything.

 

Tears threatened to gloss over her eyes but she fought to hold them back, the cold biting wind of NYC in the wintertime drying her lips, throat, and eyes. She steadied herself by placing her back against the wall of the rooftop, looking to him with a mixture of shock and heat. “H-how?”

 

He chuckled and shook his head, coming directly to her side and placing his hands on the edge of the rail. His arm brushed against hers and remained there, her gaze falling to the point of contact while he spoke. “Never I have met someone with a spirit like yours. It burns within the Fade, attracting spirits and demons of all kind but you have the strength to return demons to their original purpose. You, who have been thrown into this world by forces unknown, put through unthinkable tragedy, and yet you still have hope.”

 

His words swirled within her mind and it only made her more confused. He was complimenting her, but she wasn't in the right state of mind to accept it. He was being this sincere with her? Her, who he had been so hot and cold with since day one? Before she could even catch herself, she found herself responding with a tone that was borderline defeated. “You say all these things. . . even though I’m not. . . “

 

Solas winced as if she had wounded him, tightening his grip on the rail with a hardened stare. “I find comfort within my own people, yes, but. . . also with you.” The tears finally formed in the corners of her eyes as she looked over towards him, her hands wrapping around the rail that was pushing into her back. He looked to the side and caught her gaze, the expression softening as they sat in heavy silence for a moment. There was a longing within his gaze that she was sure she matched. Now her pulse was racing and she could feel his aura, unrestricted, gliding over her skin and licking like a flame against her own heated presence. Their energy mingling drove her wild. He closed his eyes and sighed, his jaw clenched. She didn’t know what was going through his mind, but this was a moment she could not let slip.

                                    

Summoning every ounce of bravery within her stomach, she brought a hand to his chin, leaning her body over to place her lips against his cheek. His eyes shot open and his breath came in a sharp gasp. The reaction caused her to draw back and she instantly cursed herself for reading the wrong signals. She retracted her hand that was on his cheek and quickly tucked a strand of hair that was blown astray behind her ear. Her cheeks flushed hot and she was about to dismiss the whole situation when she caught a familiar and devilish look in her peripheral vision.

 

He shook his head with a smile, catching her gaze before moving his body in front of hers. He gripped her arms and brought her close, capturing her lips with his. She gasped against his mouth, her own hands gripping his shoulders as he brought her closer against his body. The smell of him, the feeling of his body so close to hers, it defeated her and brought a sigh of relief from her lips. He drank the sound in with his kiss, bringing her bottom lip into his mouth and running his tongue along the edge. With that motion his magic filled her, it coursing in time with what she assumed was his heartbeat. It was fast, nervous, like hers, but the feeling of his aura rubbing inside of her like it was an animal, bringing a guttural sound from her throat that resembled a moan.

 

He answered in kind, tightening his grip on her arms while deepening the kiss. She opened herself to him, feeling his tongue slide along hers to explore her mouth. The tightness within her belly spread to her thighs, even more so as he pressed his body up against hers and pinned her against the wall behind her. It had been so long that she had felt romantic touch she thought she would be undone. Every nerve in her body was tingling, her knees weak, and her head swimming and helpless to his touch. She moved her hands from his shoulders to the base of his head, pulling him in while stroking his cheekbones with her thumbs. She could feel him smile through the kiss, and it brought another uncontrollable sound of pleasure from her lips knowing that he was enjoying it as much as her.

 

He pulled back from her and she moved her hands to his chest, grabbing onto the front of his tunic for purchase. The strings of his wolf jaw necklace were caught up in it and she felt the article brush against her chest which sent a shudder into her legs. He chuckled and brought her chin up to kiss her one last time, the caress of his lips so gentle against hers she nearly sagged her body into his grip. Athena rested her head on his chest, and for the moment they took in each other’s ragged breaths. She could hear his heart pounding within his rib cage, it calling out to her like a drum of the wild. She smiled, nuzzling her cheek into his scent like one of her wolves greeting her in the morning.

 

Do you hear my heart saying hi?

 

“We shouldn’t. . . “

 

Even with his refusal she could feel his magic pressing into her, curling up within her body as if it were seeking residence there. It wasn’t something she had done before but it felt natural, letting her guard down and allowing her aura to slide along his like their tongues were doing only moments before. He groaned and pulled her closer to him, pressing his lips against her forehead while breathing in her scent. “Athena. . ." Her name on his lips brought a wicked smile to her own. “It isn’t right, not even here.” She winced against his chest and sighed, knowing with a pit of dread in his stomach that this part was coming. He had to think things through, make sure that he was ready to commit to her.

 

If only for a short time.

 

The thought of this ending caused her to move her hands from his chest to his back. He sighed against her while she whispered against his clothing. “The only difference between here and there is nobody can see us here.” I will still awake in my bed with your body fresh on my mind and your taste on my lips.

 

He nodded and brought her closer in what felt like a final embrace for the evening, pressing his lips against the top of her head. “It is not often I find another dreamer like myself. You are so aware of your presence in the Fade. . ." He pulled back from her and the air bit like a chill between them. In response, she crossed her arms over her abdomen to try and contain some of the heat he left behind.

 

“What is right and wrong is between us, but we can speak of this in the morning.” Athena wanted to be the one to end the conversation, leave him with a feeling of tension in his belly instead of the other way around like it was in the game. She withdrew her magic from his body and used it to pull herself from the Fade. As the dream was disappearing from her mind, she placed a hand on his chest and said: “Now, it is time for us to wake up, Solas.”

 


 

 

And with a groan of frustration Athena rose from her bed in Skyhold, looking side to side and seeing that Josephine was quite speedy in getting some basic furnishings of the companions of the Inquisitor before finer luxuries arrived. If it was already morning that mean that Rathein would be leaving for the Fallow Mire, and Solas along with her. Kain slept loyally at the end of her bed, his head facing the door to take on any intruders that would try to enter her domain. She rose from the bed and felt a chill shoot up her legs and the cold stone floor. Her brown eyed gaze traveled across the room until she saw a pile of clothes with a note on top.

 

We’re about the same size and you need something better to wear than leftovers. Sorry we burned your bear cloak. We’ll whip you up something else. -Rathein.

 

Athena lifted the blue button up shirt up in the air and smirked, slowly sliding it up on her arms and buttoning up the front. It fit quite well, surprisingly enough. She then pulled on the white pants and laced up her boots, which had apparently been cleaned while she had been sleeping. Kain must have been snoozing too if somebody could sneak in and out of her room with ease. A hand mirror was hidden underneath the clothes and she used the opportunity to run her fingers through her wavy locks and sort out the morning frizz.

 

As she was wiping away the morning grime her fingers brushed over her lips and it gave her pause. The memories of the night before came flooding back and a pleasant laugh escaped her. It was probably a good thing Solas was going to the swamp. It would give him time to think and it would give her time to consult with Wisdom and make sure that this was even the best decision for her. It was heartbreaking enough playing a Lavellan character and watching them go through the ordeal. If she invested in this, it would have to be different.

 

Before leaving her room, she scrambled through her bag until she found a small piece of parchment and a quill. She jotted down a few notes for Rathein and her companions for when they went into the Fallow Mire. No water. Wisps. Kill terrors first, corpses later. Avvar’s son is an ass. She opened the door and quickly skipped down the stairs of the battlements, arriving at the gate where the party was starting to pack up before their venture. The Herald smiled and raised her hand for a high five, Athena happily returning it. Rathein’s hand followed forward and clapped her on the back. “I see you saw the note. You must have been really tired from the journey because the wind slamming the door didn’t wake you.” Solas cracked a smile from the side of his horse, his hands tightening the straps of the saddle while he adjusted his bag.

 

She flicked her gaze over to his and smirked in return, shifting the weight in her hips while looking back to her friend. “I suppose I was. Oh, here are some of the notes for you. I hope they help.”

 

Athena brought out the piece of parchment and handed it to the Herald who instantly put it into her bag for later. “Dorian said to meet him near the barn when you wake up. I’ve tasked him to helping you train since you both like to play with fire and you seem. . . close.” The future Inquisitor looked over her shoulder with a wink which made her truly laugh, a faux blush coming to her lips.

 

“Oh how did you know, Rathein? We’ll have eloped by the time you return. It will be the scandal of the century.”

 

Her friend pulled her into a quick hug while shaking her head back and forth. “Behave. We’ll be back soon.” She then dismissed her with a pat on the shoulder so Athena made her way over to Solas, her pulse rising within her chest and a lump of nerves forming in her throat. He seemed to be nibbling on something but it wasn’t his normal light breakfast.

 

Lightly colored crumbs fell to the ground and she arched a brow while leaning against his horse, who paid her no mind. “Now now, Solas. You’ll spoil your breakfast.”

 

He glanced over and smirked at her, packing the rest of the Orlesian treat away into his bag. “Your spell was effective in preserving its taste. You have my gratitude.” She nodded in response while trying not to hold his gaze for too long. The small glances were already forming a blush across her chest and she didn’t want it creeping up into her face before she went and spoke to Dorian. “Sleep well?” His voice was lined with a wicked tone and she almost smacked him in response. Her hands twitched within her pockets and she gave him a mock frown, putting the full of her back against his horse while shutting her eyes.

 

“You know when you just get torn from a really good dream?”

 

He chuckled under his breath, shooting a glance over his shoulder before stepping closer to her and speaking under his breath, the sound of which re-lit the flame in the base of her belly. “It . . . has been a long time. Things have always been easier for me in the Fade.”

 

Athena opened one eye at him and smirked, instantly jabbing back at him. “You didn’t seem rusty to me, Hahren.” The boldness of her words brought a blush to his cheeks while he placed his hands on opposite sides of the saddle. It was very reminiscent of the position they were in within the Fade before he started kissing her, she shut her eyes again and took in a deep breath of the mountain air since she was nowhere near a cold shower to douse herself in.

 

“I am not certain this is the best idea. It could lead to trouble.”

 

Athena fought the mischievous grin that so desperately wanted to come to her lips. Instead she nodded while looking to him and relaxing her arms by her side. “Perhaps it is best you are being called to the Mire. I do not want to pressure you into anything and I know there are considerations we both need to think through.”

 

He hummed in agreement, skillfully lifting himself onto the side of his horse while looking down at her with a smile. “Well. . .you know where to find me if you require my assistance.” She noticed the sudden change in his tone to something more formal and she changed as well, returning to the formality of the Inquisition and its duties.

 

“Yes, ride well. I will see you when you return.” She pressed her hand to the horse and silently thanked him for not freaking out when she was pressed against his side. The horse responded with a grunt with an added flick of his tail. The group took off and she tore her gaze from them so she wouldn’t be stuck staring at the elf like a love-struck teenager and then made her way to Dorian.

 

Chapter Text

Athena used the awkwardness from her conversation with Solas to quicken her path down the stairs and towards the barn. Dorian was waiting for her and without any warning he threw a staff in her direction. “What the-“ She caught it right before it collided with her head and then looked at it. The wood was ironbark, that much she recognized from her previous experience. Instead of a hook at the peak like her old weapon, it had a smaller mace with a metal prong coming from the side. It was wrapped in leather that hummed with an enchantment and the bottom of the stave there was a layer of metal. While adjusting her grip, she spun it in front of her, to the sides, and behind her while trying to get used to the weight.

 

Dorian had a smug smirk on his face while he drew his own staff, expertly twirling it around with one hand before stabbing it in the ground in front of him. “I noticed yours was destroyed in the battle of Haven and figured you could use a new one. This one I found in the mage’s cache they dragged with them; they shouldn’t miss it too much.” He then gave her a wink while clearing his throat. “Now, we’re going to do a little training exercise that I played as a child. You start off with a ball of whatever element school you’re learning. For us, that’s flame.” He opened a palm and summoned a fireball within it. It swirled in an instant, rotating in his hand before he threw it towards her without a warning.

 

She brought her staff forward and blocked the attack with a flash of a barrier, which earned her a “tsk tsk.” He shook his head and summoned another fireball, tilting his head towards her while explaining again. “The point of the game is to catch it, add your own strength to it, and then throw it back. Like a demented game of catch where if you lose you will inevitably set yourself on fire.” Athena gave him an excited thumbs up, placing her staff on her back while digging her heels into the dirt. He started again, throwing the flame towards her and she opened her arms to catch it. She projected a barrier between her hands to use it as a kind of net to trap the attack. The fireball stretched past the barrier as if it were made of rubber before coming to settle within her grasp.

 

His energy swirled within her palms and she added her own, slightly increasing the attack in size before throwing it back to him. Their difference in skill was obvious because it caught the minor attack with the tip of his staff before rotating it and launching it back at her. The two went back and forth for about half an hour and by that time the flame was taking up half of their body size. Dorian was using more of his energy, sweat on his brow as he launched it back towards her with a “Hah!”

 

It collided into her and she braced herself by crossing her arms in front of her face. The flames pushed her back in the dirt but she kept her posture, the barrier blocking her guarded stance while she was moved backwards in the dirt. Her breath came in heated pants and it was getting difficult to turn the attacks around. Instead of launching it back she burst her arms forward with a scream and dispelled it instead, immediately falling forward and resting her hands on her knees. Dorian wiped his forehead with the back of his hand while walking over towards her. He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her up to a full posture with a smile.

 

“Not bad for a first timer. We’ll get you better before the Herald comes back. Let’s try again in the afternoon, alright?” She smiled at him and patted him on the shoulder, trying to slow her breaths and her racing heart. “Did I hear you say that you can’t shift anymore?” He asked, his voice dropping down and softening. Athena licked her lips before nodding, scratching the back of her neck with a sigh.

 

“Yeah. I could do it once after Haven. I’ve tried but I can’t get the same burst of magic that I did then.”

 

He hummed, sliding his thumb and index finger down his mustache while smirking. “You know, when I was learning my magic they used to make us do these ridiculous physical exercises paired with meditation. ‘A strong body makes a strong mind’ they would say. Perhaps try building your strength both here and then here.” He poked her in the middle of her forehead and then where her bicep was.

 

She arched a brow at him while giving him a coy smile. “Dorian, are you calling me fat?”

 

The mage laughed, running a hand through his hair. “What a thing to say. No, you’ve been getting smaller every day it seems like. Are you eating enough?”

 

She bit the inside of her cheek, giving him an apathetic shrug. “The others needed food more than I did, plus it’s hard for me to eat when I’m stressed. I'm still getting used to the kind of food you guys have. It's not really like what I had at home.”

 

He pushed her on her arm, knocking her from her balance while he scoffed. “Stop being a martyr and eat some damn food. I’ll see you later and you better have something in your stomach. Your mana can't refill unless you have the energy to do it.” He scolded, quickly giving her a sideways hug before walking up towards the main castle.

 

She paused, considering his words for a moment before Kain appeared before her. There was a look of determination in his eyes as he pulled at her jacket, motioning with his head towards the gate. Hunt? She could hear him ask in his whines, a puppy like demeanor coming over him as he was trying to get her to join him. She cocked her head to the side and bit her lip, finally succumbing with a nod. The wolf yelped while running up the stairs and she wasn’t far behind him. They reached the top of the stairs and nearly collided into Cullen and his desk. He turned on his heel while handing off something to one of his soldiers, his eyes widening in surprise while grabbing her by her shoulders so they wouldn’t crash.

 

“What’s the hurry? Is everything alright?”

 

Athena gave him a nod, straightening her posture so he could drop his hands. “Don’t worry, Cullen. I’m just going to go on a run with my scouts. Someone won’t leave me alone.” She shot an accusatory glance towards Kain, who was adamantly sniffing Cullen’s gloves. The Commander chuckled, stepping over to the table and grabbing a piece of pheasant that had been served with breakfast. The wolf eagerly took it from his hands, swallowing it down in one bite while Athena looked at them both with an incredulous stare.

 

“You two are like children, you are. You eating on the job and you!” Her voice raised in a false anger towards her companion. “Taking table scraps like some domesticated Ferelden mutt. What will I do with you two?”

 

Cullen chuckled while rubbing the grease off on his pants. “Apologies, Athena. I didn’t realize you had him on such a strict eating regimen.”

 

She cut him off with a wink, reaching down to pat her companion on the head while kissing the tip of his cold, wet nose. “Oh you’re fine. It is nice he has somebody else to play with around here. Should I bring back anything we catch?”

 

His eyes widened at the suggestion while he cleared his throat. “Uh – er. I’m sure we can use whatever resources we have until Josephine starts to set up a reliable income and trade routes.”

 

“Ram and fox it is then. Alert the chefs, I should be back before dusk.” With a wave over her shoulder she took off at a light jog with Kain through the courtyard and over the bridge. The altitude constricted her lungs, so Skyhold would make the perfect training location. The pack was eagerly awaiting them at the edge of the bridge, the gray alpha perking up his nose and howling at their arrival. The other wolves howled in kind, the symphony of sounds swirling within Athena’s heart and bringing a content sigh from her lips. The alpha paused and looked up to her, which resulted in her shaking her head. “This is your pack, sweetheart. You lead.” The wolf nodded in response, walking forward and pressing his nose to her open palm. Claw.

 

“Forgive me, Claw. On your lead, then.” He whipped around and started off at a run and she followed without question. They took to the trees and found a rabbit path. It didn’t take long for the first creature to be found and the wolves shared in the small meal together. She would need to wait until they had eaten their fill for her to begin collecting for Skyhold. They hunted through all hours of the day, Athena keeping up in speed and endurance. Although her legs were screaming and it felt like her kidneys were going to explode, she couldn’t have been happier. Running with the pack was a mindless activity. They all were united in thought and spirit it felt like, so every move, every target, every action was communicated wordlessly throughout them all. She had to wonder if it was a similar sensation to being a solider within Cullen's ranks. 

 

The smell of the forest and the thrill of the hunt satiated her and whenever she got the opportunity she nibbled on a piece of rabbit meat that she scorched with her fire. As the sun was setting, she had tied together three rams and had a handful of rabbits. The wolves helped her in dragging them to the bridge where there were a few leery guards looking at the product with question. She threw them at their feet and let out an exhausted sigh. “Commander Cullen was expecting these. Can you take them to the kitchens?” They looked to one another before slowly nodding in unison and gathering a few men to take them back.

                                                                                                    

Every muscle in her body ached but she felt accomplished. The pack was full of food and of life. Each wolf came up and gave her either a kiss on the cheek or a touch to the forehead with their nose before taking off. She made a mental note to get a type of doggy door installed in her room so they could come in and out whenever they pleased. Kain followed her to the dining halls where she found Dorian already waiting with a plate of whatever was for dinner at his side for her. She nearly collapsed into the chair and began attacking the meal, her wolfish nature already showing through with how fast she was eating because he laughed and rubbed her back. “Well somebody’s been working hard.”

 

In between bites she answered: “You have no idea.” It was barely a few minutes before her plate was cleaned and she was leaning back with a satisfied smirk. The Tevinter looked her up and down and then glanced to Kain. “What were you doing all day, anyway? You smell like outside.”

 

She laughed, running a hand through her hair and realizing it was knotted and messy from wrestling with the wolves and helping them tackle the ram. In her human form, it was not as graceful, but they appreciated the help. “Hunting mostly. It’s a really good physical workout; You can join next time if you want.”

 

He scoffed and pushed his plate in front of him. “I’ll pass, thanks. The blood would never come out. You ready for another exercise?”

 

Athena groaned, rubbing her thighs to try and get some of the soreness out while agreeing in a hum. She hadn’t used any of her magic that day so mana wise she should be okay to toss the flame around a little. He pulled a smaller vial out of his pocket and wiggled it in front of her face and without even considering another option she downed the whole thing. The acidic taste of the healing potion washed away any happiness that was brought with the dinner but it took away a bit of the ache. After going back and forth for another hour with Dorian she returned to her bed, clothes singed and hair full of soot, but it was the exhaustion of a hard day’s work that instantly put her into a dreamed state of sleep.

Chapter Text

It was obvious that Solas was looking for her already. When she entered the Fade there was a familiar hum of magic and cold within the air. It brought a nervous chuckle from her lips while she disregarded it, swatting at the calling like it was a gnat in the air. She needed a day to think about things. Like him, there were many considerations. Was their fate sealed like Lavellan's? Would he break her heart and still attempt to bring the world asunder in a move to bring his people back? Could she ever reveal that she knew his identity? If she couldn’t, there would always be a lie between them and that was the kind of thing that ruined a relationship. There was always the fear that she would end up like Felassan, who failed in his attempts to bring the eluvians to Solas. He was a dear friend of the Dread Wolf’s, and in the end he still died by his hand.

 

There were many things to consider and the thoughts weighed heavily on her mind. The barrier from her body spread outwards but a single spirit came forward. Wisdom approached her, putting a kind hand on her shoulder while trying to meet her gaze. “Your worries are so loud, Athena.” She was snapped out of her trance and looked to the spirit, a blush coming to her cheeks.

 

“I’m still trying to get used to this whole ‘dreamer’ thing. Can anybody hear my mind? Or just spirits?” Out of manners she swirled her hand and brought back an image of Central Park near a bridge where there were enough benches for them to sit on. The spirit hummed in appreciation and sat down, patting on the seat next to her.

                                                                                                    

“Like many have said before, you burn within the Fade. It attracts a lot of attention, good and bad. You will learn to control that fire, use it for your own will. But I was not drawn here to speak of that. What troubles you so?”

 

Her throat was suddenly dry and she began to wring her hands back and forth while she sat next to her friend. She let out a defeated sigh, hanging her head low in her posture. “My friend, do you think things like destiny and fate are set in stone? Are we all trapped in these events?”

 

The spirit thought for a moment, resting her hands on top of her thighs while leaning forward to catch Athena’s gaze. “You have seen how time magic began to unravel the world. As events happen, they are set into stone and cannot be changed. But things that have yet to happen . . . I believe they are still malleable, even if you have seen their future. Have you come across anything that was new to you?”

 

Athena instantly nodded, sitting back in her posture on the bench while crossing one leg over the other. “Corypheus knows of me here.” It almost felt like saying Voldemort in the Fade. She felt like he was listening, or that his Nightmare demon was searching the Fade for either her or the Herald. The name sent a shiver down her spine and a frown to her lips. “He knows of me, has plans for me. I think it’s because of what I know but I was not expecting that.” She swallowed a lump of nerves while shaking her head back and forth. “And between us, I was not expecting for Solas to have taken a liking to me.”

 

The spirit seemed to smirk while sitting back, clasping her hands within her lap while nodding. “He has sought my counsel for many things lately.”

 

The spirit’s voice faded into silence, her tone bringing a blush to Athena’s cheeks. “I know you two are friends; I will not ask to breach your trust. There are. . . things I have seen. Things I know that might happen that could unravel this world. I feel like I’m helpless to stop it but I have to do something.

 

She then put her palms over her eyes and leaned back on the bench, letting out a sound that was a mix of frustration and sadness. “Then do something. This is where you are unique, Athena. You know the outcomes and can help the world avoid the ones that will cause harm. Do what you can and what is within your power.”

 

The cool chill of Solas’s call ran up her spine again and she instantly dropped her hands to her lap and gripped onto the fabric of her pants. “I. . . will try. Thank you for your help, my friend.”

 

The spirit smiled and nodded, placing one of her hands over hers and squeezing it. “I am here, for whenever you need my counsel or an ear to hear your troubles. You only need to ask.” The spirit faded away and Athena took the moment of solace to sit back within the bench and take in the scenery. The New York skyscrapers loomed over the park, protecting her like silent guardians. The small pond in front of her housed a myriad of ducks and pigeons, their small cries echoing throughout her mind.  She let out a sigh and reached into the Fade and felt that small click that would let Solas in.

 

In a smooth whirl of color, he appeared at her side, standing near the bench while he looked around and smiled. “This is beautiful.”

 

She nodded with a grin, pointing up towards the skyscrapers. “We were up there, er- last night.” Her blush was mirrored in his cheeks and he chuckled, gesturing towards the open seat next to her on the bench. Athena waved with her open hand, inviting him to sit while resting her hands in her lap. He sat back and took in the park air, scanning the horizon and taking notes of things. They sat in silence, listening to the birds flying overhead and the shadows of people walking by.

 

Athena spoke first, biting the inside of her cheek. “How come other people aren’t able to do this?”

 

He glanced to the side and shrugged. “Being a dreamer is a rare talent. From the memories I have seen, it was much more common in the times of Arlathan but as the times have gone on, there seem to be only a few a generation.”

 

She smirked, trying not to glance over at him and reveal the almost smug look she had in her mind. Sure, “seen memories” . “So when other people dream, it is just the fantasies within their minds that play out? I almost find that sad.”

 

He nodded in response, resting his left arm on the armrest and stretching his back into the bench. “It is; they are cut off from so much history in this world. They are cut off from so much of themselves.” His voice was tinged with sadness and she just knew why. He created the veil. He was the reason that the dreamers were lost to time and that the Gods of old and new were locked away.

 

She nibbled on a piece of dry skin on her lip while trying to lighten up the conversation: “What was Arlathan like, from what you’ve seen?”

 

He smiled and looked over to her, gesturing to the park. “Imagine tall crystal spires within the forest, magic thickening the air as you walked through it. Immortal beings walked the earth and there was so much time to simply enjoy life and everything it had to offer. Magic was as simple as breathing and it invigorated everything it touched.” There was a look of almost nostalgia on his face.

 

She hummed in response, standing up from the bench and stretching to the sky. “That sounds wonderful. Walk with me?”

 

Solas joined with a smile, standing and falling into step at her side while she walked along the sidewalk around the pond. She tried to not allow the silence to be awkward, looking around and tightening the images of the horse-drawn carriages and the colors of the autumn trees until they were crystal clear like her memories. “How was your training today?”

 

She shrugged and suddenly realized that even in the Fade she could feel the soreness of her legs and abdomen. “Mostly independently driven. I hunted with the pack and then Dorian ran me through a training exercise with fire.” At the mention of the Tevinter’s name Solas seemed to bristle and clench his jaw. There was a barely noticeable flare of his aura that caught her eye, a wicked smirk coming to her face. “Solas.”

 

“Hm?” He answered curtly, suddenly very focused on the path ahead.

 

“Are you. . . jealous?”

 

He flinched and pinched the bridge of his nose, stopping in his tracks while hissing under his breath. “Why do you ask?”

 

Athena chuckled, turning around and walking backwards to look him up and down. “You’re not very subtle, hahren. Jealousy isn’t a good look on you.”

 

He looked up at her with almost an annoyed stare, slowly walking forward and keeping a space between them. “The two of you are close.”

 

She nodded in response and put her hands in her back pockets, occasionally glancing over her shoulder out of instinct to make sure she wouldn’t walk off of the sidewalk or through the shadows of people in the background of her memory. “Yes, we are. Misery loves company he, like me, was automatically hated when he arrived. He. . . is not something to fret over. I take comfort in knowing I have a close friend here with me.”

 

He stilled for a moment then nodded, letting out a controlled sigh. Satisfied with his answer she turned on her heel and began to walk facing away from him, beginning to hum a line from a random song in her head. “I am glad there is someone for you to spend your time with while I am called away.”

 

Something about the way he spoke, how his words almost sounded broken and there was a twinge of sadness to them, stopped her in her tracks. She rubbed one hand around her wrist, while trying to catch her breath which was now trapped within her chest. Suddenly she could feel him behind her, his hands gently resting on her hips as if asking permission. Athena stilled under the touch, eyes widening while she froze for a single moment. Thousands of conflicting thoughts rushed across her mind but instinct won in the end. She took in a deep breath and leaned back into him, feeling his chest against her back. He wrapped his arms around her and brought her into an embrace that pulled a sigh from her lips. She rested her hands on top of his arms and leaned her head back into his chest, closing her eyes while feeling the rise and fall of his breaths underneath her. Solas responded by resting his cheek against the top of her head, pulling her in against him and taking in her scent.

 

They sat for a few minutes, eyes closed, breathing in unison as the park air gently blew over them. The butterflies in her stomach forced her to speak her, her words shaky but manageable. “I thought we were taking a step back?” He chuckled, the rumbling of his laugh vibrating against her back while he rubbed his cheek over the top of her hair.  

 

The action sent a chill down her spine, her hands squeezing on top of his arms. “Even so. . .  it does not mean I do not care about you, Athena.”

 

The words stirred within her gut and she could feel his aura sliding over her skin. She closed her eyes and made a sound that almost resembled a growl. “It’s really hard to keep a clear head when you do that.” The magic acted as a tighter embrace, putting pressure and sending cool chills down her skin. It brushed across her lips and drew a small gasp, bringing her own magic to bear and enveloping her skin in it. He turned his head and pressed his lips against her scalp and she was nearly lost within it. The small action brought her to dig her nails into his arm and pull them firmer against the bottom of her belly.

 

Even though their motions were innocent on the surface, everything within her was ready to burst. She longed to pick up their conversation from the night before, feel his magic within her, filling her like a cup. It felt like that was what he wanted to, but he was the one to break away last night. She knew he needed time; she didn’t want to rush into anything even though as this moment it felt like he was willing to dive in head-first. Unfortunately, they would have to do the adult thing and actually give it time. With a groan of reluctance, she pushed forward out of his grip and turned to face him.

 

He cocked his head to the side in confusion, dropping his hands to his side. “Is everything alright?”

 

She ran her hands nervously through her hair, gaze on the ground while she mumbled. “Words! -ah – hold on.” Athena slapped the tops of her thighs, let out a frustrated breath, and then finally met his gaze. . . which almost made her crumble but she held firm. “I know I – no – we have things to think about. If we don’t allow ourselves space to think, we’ll” Fall. I’ll fall and drown. “Get into trouble. Whatever happens, I want it to be well-considered for both of us.” Good, that hopefully sounded adult enough without turning me into a blubbering mess.

 

He smiled at her, his eyes showing a bit of sadness but he nodded in agreement. “You are correct. I apologize. Perhaps in the Fade I could help you harness your emotion and aura?” The suggestion helped her blush to fade and she nodded, knowing that Harmony would probably like to help her as well. Solas took a quick step forward, aided by magic, to bring him in front of her with a single hand under her chin. She barely even had time to gasp as he bent down and brushed his lips against hers, smiling while whispering against her skin: “I will leave you to your sleep, Athena.” Before she could reach up and touch him his body disappeared into a burst of magic, the wind blowing it against her skin and leaving her alone in the Fade.

Chapter Text

The next two weeks were filled with different series of exercises. She would start off with a drill against Dorian, then she would hunt with the wolves, then it would alternate between another drill with Dorian or spars with the Chargers. Sometimes Cullen or Cassandra would step in as a sparring partner to help her hone her skills against Templars and their movements. And at night. . . Solas and her would practice meditation and using her emotions as a fuel for her magic, keeping a respectable distance between them aside from a few brushes of their hands during exercises and lingering gazes as they passed. She did feel more accomplished by the end of it. Her body was stronger, faster when she moved her staff and her spells came to her more readily. In the time she had even managed to learn a simple healing spell from Dalish, using a small blade to slice a one-inch superficial cut on her arm until she could heal it with only minimal scarring.

 

The morning the party was due to return Josephine pulled her to the side after breakfast, her famous clipboard noticeably gone from her hands. “Lady Athena, I was wondering if I could speak to you for a moment.”

 

She nodded with a smile, allowing herself to be led into the Ambassador’s office where there was a neatly organized stack of letters on the desk. Josephine had been busy making the keep presentable for the Herald when she returned. Already the major repairs were finished and the Herald’s bedroom had been set up with the finest luxuries they could manage in such a short time. Once the door was closed Josephine sighed, gesturing to both Cullen and Leliana who were already present in the room. Athena stilled, looking to all of them, “Uh-oh. Am I in trouble?”

 

Leliana shook her head while Cullen chuckled, shaking his head back and forth while looking to Josephine, who smiled and started. “We were wondering if we could speak to you about something that was troubling us in Rathein’s future she saw.” Athena twisted her lips to the side then nodded, joining them in front of the campfire. “She said she saw the Empress be murdered. That cannot be allowed to happen.”

 

I completely disagree. Athena thought to herself, knowing full well the events that caused Empress Celene to burn the Halamshiral alienages when the elves there tried to revolt. Still, she paused and looked to the others. “Okay, what are our options?”

 

Josephine picked up some letters from her desk. “We already have a way in. The Duchess Florianne is hosting a ball. . . and has insisted that the Inquisition attend. We would be the guests of the Grand Duke Gaspard.”

 

She bristled, rolling her shoulders around while looking to the Spymaster. “The man currently throwing the country into a civil war?” Leliana confirmed her statement with a small hum of acknowledgement, keeping her hands clasped behind her back but there was a certain gleam in her eye that showed almost an appreciation for her knowledge about the Game. “None other.”

 

Josephine continued on, shuffling the letters around until she put them on the desk with a sigh. “Allow us to be frank. We would like your help in this matter because the Game is a very sensitive beast and everything must go well. It will be the Inquisition's first appearance since Rathein. . ."

 

They all paused and looked to each other, Athena smiling and filling in for them. “Will be elected Inquisitor? Do not worry, it is a wise choice that will be well received by the people.”

 

The Ambassador gave a genuine smile, pulling up her clipboard and preparing her quill for whatever came next. “Do you have any suggestions? We will leave for the ball in six weeks’ time and I would like everyone to be prepared.”

 

Athena thought for a moment, shifting her weight between one foot and the other. “Have Vivienne meet with us this evening to discuss the evening’s attire. Even though Rathein will pick her personal party for the evening, I think it would be wise to bring Madame de Fer and Dorian with us. They have intimate knowledge of the Game and will help prove to be a distraction while the Inquisitor is investigating.” Cullen released a sigh of frustration and she flicked her gaze over to him. “Don’t worry, Commander. You do not have to be involved in planning the clothing. I’m sure you’ll need to prepare whoever is coming.”

 

He mumbled a “thank the Maker” before turning to leave the room. “Oh Commander?” She added, a wicked smirk coming to her lips.

 

He turned on his heel and arched a brow at her. “Yes?”

 

Athena looked to Josephine and Leliana before turning her gaze back to him. “I should warn you, from what I know of this event you will be very popular with the ladies of the court. It would be best to sharpen your sword to fight them off.”

 

Leliana and Josephine broke their respective characters and giggled under their breaths while Cullen’s cheeks instantly reddened with a blush. He cleared his throat before leaving the room, leaving behind a string of curses involving the Maker and Andraste. Athena joined in their laughs, looking up to the two women. “If that was all?” Josephine nodded but then Leliana cleared her throat and picked up a letter from Josephine’s desk. “News travels fast, Sorcière of the Inquisition. The Orlesian Court is already quite fascinated with you.”

 

Athena paused with a groan, slapping a hand to her forehead. “I have a damned title already?”

 

The bard nodded, trailing her hand on the desk while walking to exit. “We should take advantage of this. Think of it what you’ll want to wear before we meet with Vivenne’s seamstress tonight.” Josephine sat behind her desk and began to feverishly write things down that they would need. There was a rumbling of voices in the main hall and when Athena went to investigate she heard the horn signaling the arrival of the Herald and her party. Josephine instantly rose from her seat and walked out but she took a moment to stay behind and catch her breath. From the sounds of the whispers everyone was gathering in the courtyard, which meant that Rathein would probably be named Inquisitor soon. She knew the speeches and she knew the words so she followed the group of people towards the front entrance of the hall. The moment she was meant to exit she cut to the left and pushed past the door into the rotunda. Solas had not yet returned, which allowed her a moment to pull over a piece of his parchment and write: Welcome back in a simple script, leaving the note unsigned in the center of his desk. She took the moment of peace to glance up at the beginnings of his paintings. The artistic side of him brought a smile to her lips, a soft blush coloring her cheeks.

 

There was already a growing volume from the crowd outside so she walked out and leaned against the doorway of the hall, staying out of view of the public while being able to see the ceremony.

 

Inquisition, will you follow?

 

The cheers sent a chill down her spine, a smile instantly coming to her face while she looked at her friend. Rathein held the sword up with ease, her face determined as the people screamed their words of worship towards her. Leliana came up to the now Inquisitor’s side and began to brief her on the upcoming ball at Halamshiral. When they walking closer to the door she could hear Rathein stating: “Wait wait wait. I need to scrub the smell of dead corpse off of me, then we speak of Orlesian Balls. Speaking of which.” The brown haired mage turned and punched Athena lightly on the shoulder. “Thanks for the tips but I don’t think that bog water will ever come out of my shoes. You’ll pay for my new ones.”

 

She chuckled and pulled Rathein into a quick embrace. “Missed you too, smelly. Did you come across the Sky Watcher?”

 

The Herald nodded with a smirk. “He’ll be here by sundown. He’s an odd one. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a week’s worth of nasty to get off me. I’ll see you tonight.” Rathein patted her on the shoulder and turned towards her room upstairs, leaving Athena with Leliana.

 

She let out a sigh, looking over towards the red-haired rogue. “You know; I don’t know any of your dances here.”

 

The bard smiled with genuine excitement. “We’ll be happy to teach you. Being a part of the inner circle, there will be many eyes on you.”

 

Athena’s eyes widened, pointing her index finger into her chest. “Wait- what? Me? You’re kidding.”

 

Leliana nodded as if it were a known fact, looking her up and down before returning her face to the cool neutral mask she was fond of wearing. “You have the Herald’s ear and have an insight to events that have yet to unfold. You are a great resource to us.”

 

She was then left alone with a shocked look on her face. It took a moment, but eventually she exhaled in a whistle and rubbed the back of her neck. Halamshiral was one of the largest events of the Inquisition with many opportunities to screw it up. It was definitely not something she was looking forward to. The party would still need to venture to Crestwood first and meet with Hawke and Stroud before conquering the monster that was Orlais.

 


 

 

“Heavens no, not that color.” Athena was adamant, dismissing the horrid red color that Josephine and Leliana suggested.

 

Vivienne hummed in agreement, sorting a few different colors of fabric in her hands. “Agreed, it is so. . .. bold. We do not need such a loud, ugly color for our first appearance. What do you think, my dear?” The Enchantress turned to her showing a silver color in her hands. She looked it over, glancing up to Vivienne with a smirk on her lips. The First Enchanter was being very formal in all of this, not calling her an abomination or throwing any backhanded comments her way. It was refreshing, but the woman was a master at the Game and was probably concealing her true emotions.

 

“It would be a great accent color, perhaps the buttons and the seams with. . .this one for the tops.” She plucked up a deep navy blue for the tops and then a pitch black for the pants. “The silver will make the stitching pop and will be an instant accessory. Can we individualize the uniforms to each person? Who all did Rathein pick for her personal guard?” Josephine pushed forward a list and she scanned it quickly.

 

Iron Bull. Blackwall. Cassandra. Solas.

 

Heat threatened to rise to her cheeks in a flash of anger, the elf’s introduction ringing through her mind: The Lady Inquisitor’s elven servant, Solas. “Shit.”

 

Vivienne arched a brow. “Is something wrong?”

 

She shook her head, “Never mind. What do you think of this color combination, Madame de Fer? They were similar to the salon you held at your estate, no? They show a subtle power while also showing grace.” The mage smirked at the compliment, nodding and passing them to the Ambassador.

 

“These will do.”

 

Athena lifted a finger to add: “Thinner fabric for the ladies. We have figures, we should show them.” Leliana chuckled and nodded, passing the formal uniform designs to the seamstress who was already jotting down measurements and taking notes on who she would need to track down. The Spymaster turned back towards her with a mischievous look in her eye.

 

“And you, Sorcière? Did you think on what I said earlier?” She shifted uncomfortably, shaking her head back and forth with her answer. There were torn up designs scattered all over her room but she could not produce anything substantial that didn’t resemble a poofy prom dress.

 

Vivienne lifted a piece of parchment with a design to Leliana, who looked at hungrily with a smile. “Oh yes, this will do indeed.”

 

The First Enchantress shrugged. “I think it will fit the character, don’t you?” Leliana nodded before passing the paper to Athena, who almost dropped it in shock.

 

“Wow. That’s. . . revealing.”

 

“Yet flexible enough for you to still fight in if the need arises. We can have the man in the dungeons add an enchantment to it if you like. It’s obvious you have been training and we should show that off, my dear. And in the meantime, practice walking in these.” She pushed a thin wooden box with heels out from under the table and already she could see there was a few pairs of sharp-heeled boots and then regular heels as well.  

 

Athena fought the urge to glare at her while submitting with a sigh. “Fine! Whatever the Inquisition desires. I will begin wearing those in the morning if someone can get them to my room. If that will be all for tonight?” The ladies hummed in unison, giving her the cue to leave Vivienne’s lounge and skip down the stairs into the rotunda. Solas was laying on his couch, legs rested up on the armrest with a book in his lap. He nonchalantly turned a page without even looking up at her. She almost walked right past him but his voice stopped her.

 

“You are angry.”

 

She groaned, turning on her heel and walking over towards him. “I guess your lessons are going to waste on me then.” He shook his head and sat up straight, putting the book aside.

 

“No, it was not your aura, it was your expression. What’s troubling you?”

 

She looked to him but then her gaze dropped to the floor, her hands clasped in front of her hips. “There’s something that really bothers me about this upcoming ball.” There wasn’t anything else and she could only feel herself getting more frustrated. She would have to potentially confront Celene and Briala, knowing everything that happened and how Celene only tolerated the elves on her lover’s behalf. There would be so many lies, so many grabs for power, all for the price of snuffing out the weak and those at the bottom.

 

“Athena.” He reached up and touched her hands with his to grab her attention. She blinked, looking to him with her jaw clenched and her lips in a thin line.

 

“They introduce you as a servant of the Inquisition.”

 

He appeared unfazed, shrugging while sitting back in the chair. “Elves do not rise high in Orlesian courts.”

 

This didn’t help, adding fuel to his fire because she knew in his core it wounded his pride. “That’s it? You’re okay with that? They could at least say expert in the Fade, Adviser to the Inquisitor or something!”

 

His face remained passive, eyes searching hers for more. “If I was in agreement with it, do you think it would change?”

 

She paused before throwing her hands into the air in a moment of frustration. “It’s not right! The highest ranking elf in Orlais is a woman who got there through scandal and sleeping with the Empress! All the other people of her kind who have accomplished many things have been ignored. Gah!” Athena balled her hands into fists and crossed her arms over her chest, letting out a huff of anger through her nose. There was a moment of silence between them; she was trying very hard to control her aura which thankfully did not give the severity of her anger away. It was becoming easier to keep her magic under wraps which would definitely be a necessary skill when going to the courts.

 

“It matters that you care, Athena.”

                                                                                                    

This relaxed her posture, face softening while she finally met his gaze. “Of course I do. Any person that calls themselves decent should.” He chuckled and nodded, sitting back while holding her eyes. She smirked, feeling the heat crawling up from her chest before shaking her head and turning away. “I need to go run this off with the pack. I’ll see you tonight?”

 

He nodded, reopening his book and returning to his reserved posture and facial expression. “You shall.” 

Chapter Text

Before she returned to her room for the evening, she exited the rotunda and instantly stopped in front of Varric. By this time Rathein and Hawke had probably already talked and they would be heading to Crestwood in a day or two. She looked down at the dwarf with an expectant smile, one hand resting on her hip while the other rested by her side. He was in the middle of a bunch of letters but he acknowledged her existence with a smirk. “Yes, Walker?” His quill kept moving but she flicked her gaze down to notice that his ink had ran dry and he wasn’t actually writing anything.

 

“You’re seriously not going to introduce me.”

 

He chuckled and shook his head back and forth. “Nah, she’s already on her way to Crestwood. I guess you’ll have to wait like everybody else.” There was an obvious tease in his voice and she groaned, flopping down into the chair across from him and allowing her body to sink into the cushion. After a moment of sulking she sat up and began reading some of the letters. One of them written in a gold ink caught her eye so she lifted it and began reading it softly to herself. “I can’t wait to touch your golden locks on your chest- oh Maker Varric!”

 

He full on laughed and leaned back into his chair, resting his boots on the small table while gesturing for her to hand the letter over. She read the letter over with a groan of disgust, quickly jerking her hand over to him to give him the letter that now felt tainted in her touch. “That’s the kind of fan mail you get? Goodness, man. No wonder you’re smiling all of the time.”

 

He waved her off and continued to chuckle, dipping his quill into his inkpot to get back to work. “That’s what you get for meddling. I hear you guys are leaving for Crestwood tomorrow afternoon.”

 

She paused, arching a brow while completely sitting up within the red chair. “Oh? You’re not coming?”

 

Varric shook his head and grabbed a stack of papers while turning them vertical and knocking them against the desk, straightening them in a neat stack before continuing his writing. “Nah, I heard it’s you, Bull, Cole, and your friend in there.” He looked up from his position with a teasing smile and she didn’t give him the satisfaction of blushing. Instead she rose from her position and wiped imaginary dust off her thighs and backside to keep her gaze from his.

 

“Uh-huh. Good choice. Cole needs to get some outside experience. He could use some fresh air.” He looked up to her one more time before nodding in agreement, shooing her away from his area with a playful gesture.

 

“Go get some sleep, Athena.”

  


  

The next morning Athena rose from a rather intense training session with Solas and Harmony. They were practicing trying to elicit different emotions from her to see how well she could contain her reactions. It was going well until Harmony began whispering thoughts into her mind that reminded her of the kiss she and Solas had shared. In that moment she flared out at the spirit with a push of barrier and they called the lesson over. With a groan she pushed up from her bed and looked down at a rather large crate with a note on top. The script was cursive, elegant, and in a font she could only guess from the hand of Madame de Fer herself.

 

Today marks your quest with your new title in the public’s eye, Sorcière. The longer you wear this mask, the easier it will be to wear it in front of the court. You must be convincing; it is essential. -V

 

She arched a curious brow before opening the crate and then instantly cursing under her breath. “You have got to be fucking kidding me.”

 


 

 

Rathein and the others were already waiting on their horses when she arrived. Bull gave her a whistle and Rathein instantly began laughing to the point where she almost fell from her horse. Cole tilted his head in confusion and Solas smirked with the others. Athena trudged in her heeled boots, wearing tight black pants that tucked into them with a larger skirt that had slits up her sides to bring more attention to her curves. For the top, however, was a halter-toped wyvern bone corset in the colors of blue and silver. She was wearing a scowl, itching the back of her somewhat styled hair thanks to products in the crate while pulling herself to Prince’s back, not even meeting the gazes of the others while stating rather matter of factly: “A word from any of you and there will be consequences.”

 

Bull couldn’t help himself, slapping his thigh while pointing at her. “Fuck, Athena! You know you look like Vivienne.”

 

She bristled, rolling her shoulders to cool herself while looking to the side where his horse was. They all began to move forward but she leaned down to his horse, using her magic to whisper into his mind and have a small conversation. The mount blinked in acknowledgement, waiting until they were on the other side of the bridge before bucking Bull into the snow with a simple kick of its back legs. The Qunari fell off with a groan, snow falling on top of him and burying him underneath with a wave of her hand. The white and black spotted horse shuddered at the loss of weight, shooting her a glance while her voice echoed through Athena’s mind. He rides me too hard anyway.

 

Now she couldn’t help but chuckle under her breath while kicking her leg over her saddle to jump down and help him up. The impact on the thin heel brought a wince from her lips but she extended a hand to help Iron Bull up while raising her voice for the others to hear. “Madam Vivienne and Leliana think I should start dressing to fit my new title that the people have given me.” Bull shook his head to clear his view of snow, smirking while grasping her hand and pulling himself up from the ground. Before he jumped onto his horse she stopped him, flicking her gaze to the mare with a smile on her lips. “Be nice to her, Bull.”

 

He huffed under his breath, making sure to be smoother in his ascent to the saddle with an over-exaggerated gesture. The horse whinnied in appreciation before moving forward after Rathein, who was shaking her head at the whole group. By the time Athena moved to Prince’s back Solas was glancing to his side with a smirk. Athena used the tip of her nail to scratch at the inside corner of her eyes since Vivienne had included a set of basic makeup within the crate as well and she didn’t wish to smear her good work. “What.”

 

Solas looked to her, keeping his eyes above her shoulder while stating an observation. “We could add a warming rune to that.”

 

Athena blinked before smiling in returning, glancing down at the revealing get up with a shrug. “I suppose you’re right. Can we do that with it on me though?”

 

He instantly turned his gaze towards the path ahead, fighting the blush in his ears while he failed to think of a response. Cole was the last one left, holding his reigns loosely while looking her up and down. “I think you look nice.”

 

“Finally! Thank you, Cole.”

 


 

 

When they reached Crestwood, she could instantly feel the sense of death in the area. Thankfully the main camp was on the outskirts of the town where Scout Harding was awaiting the Inquisitor for a report. Athena dismounted Prince, leading him to the side while giving him an embrace around his neck in appreciation for the smooth ride. He leaned down and rested his chin on her back, breathing hot air down the back of her corset. Rathein let out a sound of concern, her gaze fixated on the swirling portal out in the middle of the lake. Athena patted her companion on his flank before joining her, almost having to shield her eyes from how bright the Rift was.

 

“We’re going to that?”

 

“Yup.”

 

“That thing right there?” The Herald was in disbelief, a look of reluctance on her features and posture while they looked to the horizon. Athena patted her on the back while pointing down the hill they were on.

 

“First things first, let’s go meet the mayor.”

 

The party lightened their loads in their packs before taking off towards the town. Athena already had her staff drawn, mana tingling at the edges of her fingers. She hadn't had a chance to use her battle skills since Haven. She hoped that all the training she did would come in handy now. They approached two warriors fighting off a small group of undead and she was quick to notice their Grey Warden armor. She shot Rathein a look of warning, trying to communicate that they should keep the reason they were here a secret. The Herald nodded in return, drawing her staff before entering the fray.

 

Athena planted her feet firmly in the ground, reaching down into the magic of the earth before throwing her arms up. A wall of flame burst forth from the soil, moving forward with Iron Bull and Cole behind it. It ignited the corpses, sending them in a frenzy of unfocused attacks that made them easy targets for the warriors and mages to pick off. A Grey Warden archer landed an arrow directly through one of the skulls of the targets, smirking to himself while standing from his position and nodding to the group. “The Grey Wardens thank you for your help, Inquisitor.”

 

She fought the urge to scowl at them, sheathing her staff on her back and pulling up the sides of her corset in a not-so-attractive gesture. The wyvern bones were rigid and unforgiving. She knew from the night before that they were leaving almost permanent indents in the sides of her waist. Cole came up to her side, looking from the Grey Wardens to her. “You don’t like them.”

 

Athena shook her head, putting a finger to her lips to gesture him to lower his voice. Solas flicked his gaze over to them while humming in agreement with a curt nod. Cole looked to her and she could feel his presence within her mind, she shut him out, pushing her barrier out with a small pulse. “Why?” He asked, a small amount of hurt lining his voice.

 

She stilled, rolling her neck while rubbing the back of it with her hand. “There are things they can’t know yet, Cole. That is one of them. You and I can talk about it later, okay?” The boy nodded while sheathing his daggers and then she forgot where he went. Athena cursed under her breath while moving forward with the others towards the city. There was another swarm of undead at the gates that they dispatched before entering. The villagers were relieved, stating how they didn’t lose anybody during that night. From their tone Athena, could tell it was the first time in weeks they hadn’t lose anybody to the undead swarms. When they entered the town, she grabbed Rathein’s shoulder and pointed up towards the hill. “The mayor’s hut is up there. I need to go talk to someone. Solas, follow me?” She looked to the elf who nodded and fell into step with her without question.

 

She led him to the hut of the female elf who had been initially saved by the Grey Wardens. All she could do is praise them and speak of how she was going to go join them herself. Athena jerked her chin in her direction while looking at Solas and he took the hint. “Now would not be the best time to join the Wardens. The Inquisition could always use an agent such as yourself.” The girl paused, obviously upset by the suggestion that it would be bad to be a Warden, but in the end nodded and agreed.

 

Athena smiled, bringing the elf out of the hut while pointing in the direction of their camp. “There is a Scout there, Scout Harding. We cleared the road so it should be clear for you to make it to our camp. Welcome to the Inquisition, Jana.”

 

Jana beamed, throwing a few of her belongings into a bag before running off down the beaten path towards camp. Solas watched her leave, a twitch of his lips catching Athena’s attention. “What’s wrong?”

 

He began to turn back towards the Herald’s direction and she fell into step with him, even with the added discomfort of her heels. “What would have happened if we did not intervene?”

 

She stilled, her gaze dropping to the ground. “I . . . I can’t. . . Nothing good.” Sacrificed for a blood ritual, nothing major. He nodded and looked to her, a small amount of happiness lighting up his face in the dreary environment that was Crestwood.

 

“I am glad we could change her fate then.” She smiled in response, rubbing her hands up her cold arms while leading him up to sister who needed the location of the corpses before coming down to the mayor’s hut. The sister was surprised she knew where they were even before the dam was emptied but she thanked them nonetheless. By the time they descended the steps towards the mayor’s hut, Rathein and Bull were talking and there was an evident blush on the Herald’s cheeks. Athena chuckled, clearing her throat while slowly approaching them from the side.

 

“Are we interrupting?”

 

Rathein turned on her heel, stammering while trying to find words to dismiss the small flirtations they had just seen. Bull chuckled and shook his head, pointing with his thumb towards a path to the side. “Just talking out the next plans with the boss.” The Inquisitor emphatically agreed with him but the blush was still rosy on the apples of her cheeks. Things between the two of them seemed to progress quicker than in the game and she kind of liked it. Although she and the Herald were like sisters, familial love wouldn’t get them through the trials that lay ahead. Bull would know exactly how to take care of her stubborn personality. Solas. . .. well. That had yet to be decided between the two.

 

“Uh-huh. Sure, Bull. We should probably get headed to camp before nightfall. There’s a wyvern in the caves and I’d like to get settled before that thing wakes up and hears us scrambling around.” The Qunari’s eyes lit up at the suggestion of a fight with a wyvern but Athena denied him by flicking him on the arm. Athena led them on the path and gestured for them to follow her.

 

“Stroud first. Then Wyvern, Bull.”

Chapter Text

As they approached the cave where Stroud was headed, Athena was a bundle of excitement. Even with the agony of Vivenne’s chosen attire digging into every bone in her body, she was about to meet Hawke! Her character had been a sarcastic yet confident person, giving love to all her companions and acting as the mediator between them all. In the end Hawke had supported Anders in this particular story of Dragon Age, regretting how the rebellion had to be started but supporting his beliefs in their foundation. She had run away with Fenris and Athena chuckled at her apparent attraction for hard-to-read elves with voices that sent her head spinning. They would be the end of her.

 

When they walked up Rathein looked the new woman up and down before clasping hands with her in a gesture of alliance. Hawke gave off an aura of power and it wasn’t just her magic. Perhaps it was everything Athena knew she went through. . . but the woman was something to be reckoned with. This rendition of the Hero of Kirkwall had long black hair with red make up surrounding her eyes accompanied with the traditional slash down the middle of the face. It created a fiery look about her, especially with the matching color on her lips. She looked to each of the party members, mumbling their names and trying to match them to the stories she had been told in Varric’s letter. When Hawke looked at Athena, she smiled and extended her hand in greeting.

 

“I feel like I practically know you already, Walker.”

 

It was difficult not to nerd out but she accepted the hand shake with an eager grin on her face. “Yes ! Er – I’m sure Varric is very detailed in his letters.”

 

“I have heard you know all about me as well?” There was trepidation in her voice but it was lined with curiosity. Athena couldn’t help but shrug, resting a hand on her hip while gesturing the other to the air.

 

“Long story short? I know things. It’s frustrating for everyone involved but I’m here to help.”

 

The group made sounds of agreement, Rathein chuckling while Bull did somewhat of a grunt. The mage nodded, her face hardening into one of concentration and determination. “I can accept that for now. Come on, Stroud is inside waiting for us.”

 

The group entered the cave and began to walk through the wavy path with the sharp rocks lining the edges. Rathein and Hawke talked back and forth at the front of the group while Athena trailed in back with Solas. Her gaze was glued to the floor when a wave of dread suddenly ran over her mind. At some point in the future, they would lose either Hawke or Stroud. Every time she played through the game she changed her mind because the choice was just so damn awful either way. She was lucky to have survived the Fade for the few days that she did. Desire had been confused enough at the time to protect her from the others while teaching her the basics in magic. If it had been any other demon. . . even worse if it had been the Nightmare demon? She surely would have been dead.

 

And now Stroud or Hawke could be facing that beast. Hawke was a mage and had experiences in the Fade personally, but it wasn’t physical. The magic was much more intense. Athena remembered how the emotions of everything around her pressed in on her mind and attempted to influence her. The normal tingling that occurred when they were near a rift sent a single shiver down her spine, leaving the sensation that something was wrong. In the Fade? It rocked her very core and gave her an altered sense of self. Towards the end of the few days she knew was bound to go insane. Was there food to eat there? Could a physical creature survive within beyond the Veil?

 

“Tragedy. Choices. Sadness.”

 

Athena snapped, running a hand through her hair nervously. “Cole, No.”

 

The boy stilled, appearing at her side with a neutral expression. “You know things. You can help now.” He spoke low but Solas still looked over his shoulder and met her gaze. There was a shared message of concern and she couldn’t even respond. Instead she let out a heavy sigh while bringing her staff forward, wringing her hands around the middle of the shaft to give her energy a place to go. “You will help, Athena,” Cole pressed.

                                                                                                    

“Thanks, buddy.” He stayed next to her and she knew he was holding off on causing her to forget. Was it that obvious that his words didn’t help her? It was painfully clear that she needed to write down the major events and begin planning on little things she could do to change their fates. Did it even matter at this point? Her thoughts consumed her while she bumped into Solas’s back. They had all stopped and were looking at the Grey Warden, who had his sword drawn at Rathein. Bull was on guard, his Ben Hasserath eyes surveying the situation for any potential harm. The Herald did not seem to be bothered, especially with Hawke at her side to keep the peace. Normally Athena would have smiled in pride at the character but she was stilled when Solas reached behind and gripped her staff, sending a wave of his cool energy through the object to help soothe her.

 

The sudden change in magic in her staff brought a jolt to her hand, gaze slowly trailing up from the ground to the matter at hand. His cold influence helped to center her and she slipped her staff on her back, reassuming her posture as the Sorcìere of the Inquisition and smirking at the Grey Warden. Solas nodded at her recovery, looking back with a frown when Stroud mentioned the Calling that all the Wardens were feeling through Orlais. Hawke snapped, reacting first with reactionary anger. “Maker! Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

Stroud frowned and looked over his shoulder back at them. “It was a Grey Warden matter. I was bound by an oath of secrecy.”

 

Athena couldn’t contain her eye roll. Yes. A Grey Warden matter that affected every Warden in all Orlais. Why would that be out of the ordinary? She wanted to say something to Stroud when she felt a prickling of magic against her skin. It was a white-hot pressure on her mind and with a quick look to both other mages Hawke and Rathein she had a feeling they couldn’t sense it. She looked at Solas with a hardened stare, taking in his features and noticing that he was clenching his jaw and fighting to not clench his fists at his sides. It only continued to get worse when the Warden mentioned a blood magic ritual. She stepped to his side and glanced to the others, who were thankfully all scowling at Stroud with different variations of the expression.

 

With a gentle touch, she pressed her hand onto the small of his back, sending out soft pulses of her aura to try and catch his attention. His back twitched under her touch, his magic snapping back like a rubber band against his skin. He glanced to her, his eyes meeting hers and for a second confusion knit his brows together and there was a small flash of fear racing across his face before he finally softened and nodded at her. Was she not supposed to feel him reacting? As Athena pulled her hand into her pocket, Rathein was moving towards her direction. Stroud and Hawke was walking out of the cave, bickering at each other over the current situation, and she cursed herself for getting too involved in her thoughts and missing important plot points of the conversation.

 

The Herald stood in front of her, waiting expectantly for some thing or words to help her. Athena stilled, looking to her friend before letting out a sigh. “Okay, what do you want to know?”

 

Bull scoffed, sitting against one of the tables Stroud left behind. The Qunari was so large it still looked like just a chair underneath him. “Blood magic? Tevinter rituals? Sounds shitty to me.”

 

Solas chimed in, clasping his hands behind his back and humming in agreement. “Indeed. If what Stroud suggests is true. . . The Wardens may not be able to be saved.”

 

They all looked to her and she felt a pit of dread growing within her belly. What could she tell them? The demon army wasn’t exactly something that could be avoided. The plan was already in progress and if they sent any scouts to Adamant they would be destroyed by the Wardens currently occupying it. For some reason, Athena felt like this was one event that might be able to go smoother without changing major details. There was one thing she was bound to change and that was to save both Stroud and Hawke from being trapped in the Fade. She would just have to be careful with her words. The Herald walked forward and playfully pushed her on the shoulder. “Can’t say?”

 

Athena bit the inside of her cheek and nodded, sheepishly looking up to meet her gaze. “Not exactly something I can think of on the spot. There’s just so much to remember from what I know, it’s difficult to separate that from what I’m living right now. I’ll update you when I think it over?”

 

Rathein let out a sigh, rubbing the back of her neck while looking up at the top of the creepily decorated cave. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this whole thing. First the Wardens disappear and then they are doing rituals in the desert? That sounds just greaaaaat.”

 

This brought a chuckle from both Athena and Bull, their eyes meeting for a moment before Cole materialized next to her. Before he could even speak she shot him a look before putting a barrier up in her mind. He furrowed his brow, looking her up and down and she could feel him trying to “help” her. He was right; she was worried. At this point she felt helpless because she knew of all the things that were coming but didn’t know how to help them quite yet. The Wardens were going to attempt to summon a demon army. What could stop them? Instantly her mind went to the Templar. What if they could recruit Templars to go with them to Adamant and suppress the magical forces so that less demons could come through? The Inquisition could use its resources to find the Littany of Adralla and dispel the demonic forces. . .

 

There were many things to think about.

 

The group sat in silence until Athena let out a groan and pushed herself from the wall, walking away from them while throwing her hands in the air. “Gah! Fuck it. I’ll think of this later.” She turned on her very sharp heel, thanks to Vivienne, and looked back at the group. She pointed out towards the exit of the cave while quickly going through a list. “There’s a cave of red templars. There are some wyverns in a cave we need to kill. Bandits. Dam. Rift. Home to Skyhold in a few days. Think we can knock it out quick?”

 

The Inquisitor laughed, giving her a quick shrug with a nod. “I don’t see why not. The humidity of this place is killing me. Which first?”

 

She thought for a moment. “Probably Templars. They are the larger threat here and should be taken out quickly. There’s a camp by the wyvern cave and then the bandits are on the way to open the dam.”

 

With a gesture their leader instructed for them to get started. Solas, Iron Bull, and Rathein headed out towards the cave entrance. The Herald looked over her shoulder to see why Athena was falling behind and she dismissed her friend with a gesture, mouthing the words “Give me a minute.” The short-haired mage nodded while talking strategy with Solas and Bull to keep them distracted. Athena knew that it wouldn’t work for the either of them. They were both too perceptive. But they would play along to appease both women.

 

Athena leaned against the table where Bull just was, allowing the entirety of her weight to sink against the furniture piece. She had forgotten where he went, but Cole appeared at her side. She sighed and leaned her head on his shoulder, watching the group leave the cave. “Can you keep a secret, Cole?”

 

He nodded wordlessly, looking to the side down at her. She crossed her arms under her chest, relaxing more as the others disappeared from their view and hopefully from earshot. “I don’t know what to do. I feel like everyone is expecting so much of me but I can barely keep up, let alone think of what is going to happen.”

 

The boy slowly turned and looked towards her gaze, leaning his head against hers. “I could help. You go to other spirits for help, let me try.”

 

Could he keep her secrets? She fidgeted in her position before slowly letting her barriers down, allowing the thought of the Littany to come forward in her mind. It would be a touchy position, because it was what a Templar leader used on Cole to try and prove that he was a demon. The boy stilled beside her but did not move, her body tensing but he hummed in a sound of contemplation.

 

“If there are a lot of demons at Adamant, that will work. It makes things. . .hard. I couldn’t hide. They wouldn’t be able to either.”

 

“What do you think of the templars?”

 

He hummed again but it sounded reminiscent of a groan, bringing his hands up to adjust his hat since leaning against her misplaced it on his head. “Cassandra. Organizing something like that would make her happy. . . Cullen too.”

 

The fact that he wasn’t freaking out over the future brought a sense of calm to her mind. She smiled and nuzzled into his shoulder, giving herself and him a moment of alone time before she went out with the others and continued their journey. The others saw him for a demon. . . but he helped. The spirit of Compassion brought a peaceful presence about him, even when he was being accidentally intrusive. “Thank you, Cole. I’ll start working on that when we get back. You won’t tell anyone else?”

 

He shook his head and already she could feel herself forgetting why they were talking. He looked down to her with the faintest traits of a smile. “Telling would hurt you. I don’t want to hurt you.” Athena blinked and looked around, forgetting where he had gone and why the left side of her body was suddenly cold from the absence of warmth. She rubbed her hands on her bare upper arms and walked out of the cave, smiling at Rathein before continuing with the group. 

 

                                                                         

Chapter Text

Athena knew Crestwood wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fucking heels that Vivenne suggested she wear. The thin shoes sliced through the mud and sent a jolt of pain up her calves every time she mis-stepped or nearly rolled her ankle. They had pushed through the camp of Red Templars and were about to venture into the wyvern cave. Iron Bull was nearly giddy with excitement. He was switching his axe from hand to hand while waiting by the entrance, eyes completely glued on the darkness within the cave. Rathein was trying to think of a plan for the creatures when Athena gave her a soft smile. The Herald rolled her eyes in a mock fashion, winking before giving her a smile.

 

“You know about the wyverns?”

 

She nodded, placing her staff on her back while smoothing out the fabric of her pants and skirts. “There’s one large one and a few of its spawn? Children?” She looked with a quick glance to Solas for clarification but he shrugged while taking a drink of water from his flagon. “It’s miniature clones then. They go into a frenzy when you attack so I think we should take out the little ones while Bull keeps the attention of Momma Scales in there.” She pointed with her thumb behind her shoulder towards the cave, leaning her weight into the boulder at her back to give her feet a break.

 

The short-haired mage rubbed her chin and thought it over before drawing her staff with an almost apathetic motion. “Let’s get this over with then.”

 

Iron Bull was the first one through the cave and was speaking a trail of Qunari clips and phrases. Athena had to chuckle at him, keeping his pace with a light jog behind him. She kept her staff at her back. The more she fought with it, for some reason the more unnatural it felt. When she imagined magic, she thought of it was a force, like air, that flowed through everyone. The staff was an unnecessary tool when it felt so much smoother to just use her body in the spells and motions. Even spelling out glyphs was quicker with her fingertips than by using the staff to try and jot it on the ground like a toddler using a life-sized pencil. This battle would be her test to see if it made a difference or not.

 

They approached the glen and it used most of her willpower to not gasp at the sight. The glen and pond within the cave lit up the environment. There were halla statues within a pool of water and the vivacity of the grass, algae, and trees lit up the room. It was obvious that the wyverns were foreign because the place screamed with such serenity they were an odd site in the middle. Magic tingled along her skin and brought a smirk to her lips. She kept to the side of the cave, eyes glued on the wyvern and her children. Rathein was at Bull’s side, motioning to Cole to flank the beasts while Bull came up front. Solas mirrored Athena’s movements on the opposite cave wall, his staff drawn and eyes focused.

 

“Now!”

 

They all jumped at once. Athena pulled within her core at the magic and found her body to feel energized, electric with the thinness of the Veil within the cave. The barriers snapped from her hand in an instant around Cole and Bull as they sunk their blades into the hide of the larger wyvern. The younger ones reacted, throwing their heads back and shrieking into the air while turning to the closest target: Rathein.

 

The mage hissed and brought her staff up to block the small scaled creature’s bite. Athena flicked her gaze to the thing, pulling on the connection she had with her wolves to push out a pulse of magic that was almost like a scolding mother’s No! The baby creature stopped for a moment, eyes slowly turning towards her with the same glossed over look she had seen in the pack the first time she had met them. Rathein took the opportunity to bring her staff down with a crash of lightning into its back. The spell was quick and effective and in a moment, the target was stilled.

 

The sensation was new but Athena felt the snapping of a cord breaking within her chest. It brought her breath from her, eyes wide while she looked to the dragonling. Their eyes met and she could hear its heartbeat within her mind, panicked and frenzied, but eventually it slowed into silence. The feeling left her hollow, face blank as she turned towards the main pest within the cave. Momma Scales whipped her head into Bull and knocked him back a few paces. He laughed at the attack, picking his axe up from the ground before bringing it down into her scales with an echoing crack.

 

Solas twirled his staff and brought it down into the ground, ice forming at the wyvern’s feet and freezing it in place. Its body twitched and fought the spell but soon its suffering was ended. Cole materialized underneath its neck and sheathed his daggers in between her scales, releasing two streams of hot blood from his body. The wyvern slumped to the ground with a fading cry and the whole party sighed in relief, save for Athena.

 

Bull was celebrating their kill, looking in the mouth of the beast and picking a few teeth for himself as a souvenir. Cole patted the creature’s side and mumbled his apologies while Athena walked to the water’s edge. Her gaze wasn’t focused on anything but it landed on the statues of the halla. There were so many emotions attached to this place from her playthroughs of the game. The visage of the glen brought a sense of dread over her mind, it rushing like a cold down her spine and bringing tears to her eyes. If they did go through with this, if they became something more than travel companions, this could be where her spirit would break.

 

This is where he would leave her.

 

She fell to her knees at the water’s edge and splashed water onto her face, trying to rub some of the grime and oily foundation from her face. The water was crisp, clean and pure. The sensation brought a wave of clarity to her mind and allowed her a moment of reprieve before she heard a voice behind her.

 

“Hurt. Questions. Knowing. Will it happen to me too?”

 

Her eyes widened and she snapped to Cole, giving him a look that instantly shut his mouth. Solas was at his side and he gave her a questioning look, tilting his head to the side while looking from her to the statues and pond behind her. He hummed, placing his staff on his back while smirking. “This place is beautiful.”

 

Shit.

 

She nodded in agreement, pushing up from her pained heels to stand. “It ‘tis. It's leaving a sour taste in my mouth though.”

 

He paused, taking a step closer to her. “Why is that?”

 

Cole answered for her while the path of her eyes fell to the green floor, confusion riddling itself in her features. “She felt the fledglings die.”

 

Solas stilled, trying to find her gaze. When he failed, he nodded and looked to the spirit/boy next to him. “Your abilities grant you more than just the power to influence animals. It binds you to them.”

 

Athena looked up with a small groan of acceptance, patting her hands dry on her legs while bringing a cloth from her bag to wipe underneath her eyes and clean some of the old make up from her skin. “I get that now. With the bear I don’t think I successfully influenced it so I wasn’t able to feel it die. This one, this creature heard me. I could feel its panic, its utter shock as it faded into nothingness. Cole, it’s what I imagine you hear when you look at the hurting.”

 

The boy nodded solemnly and wordlessly, sheathing his daggers into the holsters on the sides of his thighs. Before they could continue Rathein gestured for them to leave the cave “Come on, you three. Let’s set up camp and tell the agents about this place. I’m sure they need to come collect the scales.”

 


 

Athena volunteered to be first guard that night. The sky was clear and they had gotten rid of the red templars so the only thing that had to worry about were some local bandits. At this point they probably lived in the Keep or traveled in packs of two or three. She wasn’t too concerned with them, especially since she had befriended and bonded with a Druffalo that was eating dried grass near the camp. She placed her hand on its forehead and smiled, stroking its thick fur while it happily chewed at its meal. Thunder. It named itself, flicking its eyes up to her before going back to its dinner.

 

“You’ll help me keep watch?”

 

The creature groaned, pressing against her body with its large horns. She laughed and patted him on top of the head before returning to camp. Bull and Rathein were about to retire, in separate tents even though they had begun to routinely eat their meals next to one another. The Qunari looked to the druffalo and scoffed, shaking out his bedroll while looking Athena up and down. “You made friends with that thing?”

 

She smiled back at him, pointing towards the creature with pride. “Absolutely. You ever piss off a druffalo? It would take three of you to take him down. He’s going to help me keep watch.”

 

Bull rolled his eyes with a small smile before crawling into his tent and Athena noted that there was a vacant spot next to him. Is that where Cole slept? She couldn’t remember the last time she saw him, was it the cave? She cursed under her breath at the spirit’s ability while bringing her lute out from her side. Night by night she was practicing, trying to get as fluent with the strings like she was in the Fade. The calluses were beginning to form and it was easier to play the music in her head but she knew she wasn’t Jimmy Hendrix. She sat and leaned up against a rock formation that was giving their camp shade and protection. From beyond their camp was the broken-down ruins where they would eventually find the dragons and to their left was the bog. As she was taking note of everything they would need to do she felt the cold trickle down her neck. She smiled, glancing up to Solas while placing the instrument in her lap.

 

“You have to let me guard this time. No sneaking me off into the Fade like in the Coasts.”

 

He chuckled, shaking his head while gesturing back to the tents. “I put your roll next to the Herald’s for when your shift finishes.”

 

Athena nodded in a gesture of appreciation, holding his gaze until she began to feel the blood creep up into her neck. Thankfully before it reached her cheeks he gave her a wave and turned back towards his tent. “Good night, Athena.”

 

The way his voice softened when he spoke to her, it put a pressure in her belly and heat within her chest. She shakily picked up the lute and rested it against her abdomen, waiting to hear their deep breaths that indicated that everyone was asleep. The fire roared next to her and provided a calm, crackling sound throughout the environment. The white noise was good; it helped to clear her mind and allowed her to reach back to the lessons that Inspiration gave her on music.

 

It felt like an hour or two had passed before she finally picked up the instrument and began to play. At first it was wordless songs that she knew. Her eyes kept on the horizon while her fingers strummed, occasionally missing a note by a half step. She could recover without stopping altogether, her body slowly rocking with the beat. Eventually she began to hum along with the lyrics in her head, smiling as the music floated through the air in the camp. The sound of her instrument wasn’t loud; it didn’t attract attention from the bandits or a lingering Templar. There was enough noise with the fire, Thunder’s herd, and the rift’s crackling that her music was trapped within the camp.

 

Athena paused in between songs, glancing in between the tents before her gaze rested on where Solas was resting. If she focused, she could feel his aura expanding and contracting with each of his relaxed breaths. Even in his sleep, he could control his magic, keeping it within himself like a secret from the rest of the world. Rathein’s flared like her storm magic, filling the tent with a static energy while she tossed and turned in her deep sleep and dreams. With a sigh, she turned back to the area and kept watch, a smile creeping on her lips while she tried to play the next song. It started out with a hum and quickly progressed to actual singing, her heart filling with emotion while she performed for the creatures and spirits through the veil that were willing to listen.

 

At the swell of the song she glanced over to his tent, eyes glossing with happiness as a bashful yet honest smile played on her lips.

 

“I know you haven’t your mind up yet. But I would never do you wrong. I’ve known it from the moment that we met. . . “

 

No doubt in my mind where you belong. Her fingers began to strum the next notes but she was quickly cut off by a voice that was softer than her playing. “He can hear you.”

 

She had to bit her tongue to contain the yelp that almost fell from her mouth, eyes wide while she fumbled with the lute in her hand, ceasing the music in a sudden flurry of sounds. Cole sat across from her, one leg bent while his hand rested atop his knee. He watched the horizon with her and they were close enough for the bottoms of their feet to be touching. Athena flushed with embarrassment, gaze shooting to the side while mentally she ran through a series of curses that would make even a sailor blush.

 

Cole continued speaking but didn’t look over at her. “He sleeps but doesn’t. One foot in and one foot out. Always watching. He – oh!” He winced, looking to Athena who only smirked in recognition of what happened. Solas had cut him off. Cole silenced for a moment while crossing his arms in frustration of what to do. “He liked the music.”

 

Athena almost hid her face in her hands like the elf was sitting there watching her instead of sleeping in his tent. The blush had conquered every inch of her face and she could feel the heat emanating from her body. The boy spoke again and it brought her back into the conversation. “I did too. Can you. . . keep playing? It takes away the hurt.”

 

She went to ask “whose hurt” but the expression on his face answered it for him. He was still adjusting to everything as well and she knew how the red templars affected him. With a nod, she picked up the lute again, slowly plucking the strings until she could get into a rhythm and groove again. Cole smiled and relaxed, listening in silence as both of their guard shifts came and went.

Chapter Text

“Why would you want to swing from a chandelier? Isn’t that dangerous?”

 

The rest of the group looked at Cole and Athena in confusion but she simply laughed, rubbing his back with a smile on her lips. “It’s just a song, Cole.”

 

He paused in his walk, nodding to himself in affirmation. “I would like to hear more songs.”

 

She looked over to him and gestured in agreement, looking up and realizing they were reaching the ruins where the dragon rested. They had checked in with the “Naturalist” on the edge of the farms and informed her of the wyvern’s demise. Thunder had escorted the group down to the ruin before returning to his herd at the bottom of the hills. The moment her heels began to click against the stone she tapped Bull on the shoulder. He looked down at her with an arched brow in question and she jerked her chin to the side. While the others were discussing how to approach the keep where the dam was kept she brought the Qunari to the edge of the ruin on the cliff.

 

“What’s up?”

 

She put a finger to her lips while smirking. “I have a surprise for you. Keep quiet though, okay?”

 

He stilled, looking at her in suspicion. “Oooookay. What is it?”

 

Athena jerked her thumb towards the side, over the wall of the ruin. “Look down there. What do you see?”

 

Iron Bull put his hands on the broken wall and bent over and looked down into the rainy abyss. It took him a moment, his eyes searching, but the heavy heaves of breath from the creature helped him locate the dragon sleeping at the bottom of the mountain. Bull smiled, slapping his hands against the wall before standing up tall. “Ataaaashi,” he whispered between them, looking back to her while patting his hand on her shoulder. “When all of this is clear, you and I can come with the Chargers and knock this thing to the dirt. What do you say?”

 

She laughed, looking over to the Herald. “You don’t want to invite the boss? You two seem close.”

 

Bull smirked and crossed his arms over his chest. “Business is business.”

 

“Maybe in the Qun it is, but that there? That’s flirting.” Athena stilled and stepped closer to him, her body adapting a hardened stance while she met his gaze. “Don’t think of her like those kitchen maidens, Bull. She’s not somebody that needs to be told she’s pretty.”

 

“I know.”

 

“I know you do, I’m just making sure. She’s my friend. You have me to deal with if you do her wrong.”

 

He laughed, looking her up and down. “You? I could break you.” There was an almost sexual tone to his words but she pushed it off, flicking her hair over her shoulder with a dramatic gesture.

 

“Me? Oh sure. But what about me, the pack, and my buddy Thunder over there and his friends.”

 

Bull went to scoff at her but stopped to consider her words, glancing over at her before turning back to the group. “Shit, you might be right.”

 


 

 

The bandit’s keep was easily taken. They were a rather unorganized group that attacked first before assessing the group’s strengths and weaknesses. The party was moving along the bridge towards the dam when Athena heard a soft humming sound behind her. Solas was walking in front of her step, softly humming a song that felt oddly familiar. It was one of the songs she had been playing the night before, the song that Cole said he could hear even in the Fade. The thought almost made her stop and gasp but instead she looked to the water on the ground and threw a small splash at him with a force of magic.

 

He touched his hand to the back of his head, rubbing his fingers together while commenting. “Childish.”

 

Another splash, this time on the back of his shirt. “Yeah? Deserved, you were just making fun of me.”

 

Solas shook his head, waiting for her walk past his side. “I enjoyed the music, Athena. I heard it in my dreams last night.”

 

She paused, looking to him with a light blush on her cheeks. “How?”

 

He gave a smug smirk, looking to Rathein and Bull who were also talking back and forth in front of them. “Sometimes when I dream I enter a state of light consciousness. I’m able to stay alert to my surroundings here while exploring the Fade.” She nodded, looking back to bridge while wiping some of the rain from her brow. “A spirit of Inspiration was also doing a poor effort at echoing them.”

 

Athena froze, nearly rolling her ankle on the heel while cursing under her breath. “Ooh I’m going to get her.” On the next step, she did nearly trip, the heel of her boot sliding on the slick stone and sending her body to the side. Without even flinching he placed a hand on her shoulder and the middle of her stomach to catch her. The quick, effortless movement on his behalf nearly took her breath away, her eyes looking down to the touch on her stomach in disbelief. Could he feel how nervous he made her? How her heart dropped into her stomach like a pound of lead? She swallowed a lump of nerves, using his support to stand up to her full posture. She wiggled her feet within her boots and ensured she finally had proper footing before stepping forward again.

 

“Uh- Thank you, Solas.”

 

He nodded back to her, waiting until she was in front of him so he could lean in behind her ear with a wicked smirk on his lips. “Do not think I have forgotten about the-“

 

Rathein whipped open the door to the dam and gestured for them to come into the closed tavern. Bull was already smirking, looking at an image near the fire. Athena and Solas quickly filed through and then she smiled as well, standing next to the Qunari to allow her pulse to calm down. In front of them were two lovers, caught in the almost act, hiding from everyone else. The boy made a noise of frustration, falling to the side, while the girl tried to hide her face underneath the makeshift covers they had brought with them.

 

The Herald chuckled, continuing to the room with the controls for the dam while shouting: “Bull! Could use you for this lever!”

 

The mercenary leader walked into the room and clapped his hands together before working on the pulling the dam open. Which left her, Solas, and suddenly Cole in the room with the embarrassed teenagers. Athena started. “How did you get past the bandits?”

 

The girl sighed, turning and smacking the arm of her partner. “You didn’t say there were bandits!”

 

The boy raised his hands in defense, standing up to full posture. “Better than spiders, anyhow. They never come this way and I could lock the door!”

 

Now Athena smiled, looking the pair up and down before gesturing up towards the hills. “Well, the keep is now safe. I’d give it maybe a day or two before Inquisition soldiers start to arrive and set up here. You might want to make it back to Crestwood before. . . “ She allowed her voice to trail off with a tone of false worry, eyes hardening on the fire.

 

It was the girl who was the braver one, standing up holding the blanket against her stomach. “Before what?”

 

“Before the dragon sleeping in the ruins wakes up.”

 

Boy of the lovers gasped, looking to one another. “Back to town it is!”

 

Without another word, they grabbed their picnic supplies and exited through the front door, leaving it swinging to a close. Solas looked to the side at her, a mischievous smirk on his lips and for a moment she thought she saw a glance of the Dread Wolf peeking through his normally calm visage. “That was clever, Sorcìere.”

 

A soft groan formed in her throat at the title, lips twitching into a frown. “Please don’t. Not you.” He stilled, the playfulness falling from his face while he listened. She continued, glancing to see that Cole had made himself scarce again. “It’s just – You know me. That title this-” She gestured up and down to her garb, the merciless corset still digging into her sides but now it had the discomfort of being moistened by the rain. “Is a mask I’m being forced to wear. Something for the people to throw their emotions at. I haven’t been able to wear the title with pride yet.”

 

The familiarity of the words she used brought a curious look from his eyes but he nodded, readjusting his coat. She could hear the chains on the dam lifting and even near the fire she was suddenly aware of the damp soaked within her clothes. Goosebumps danced along her skin, bringing her teeth to a near chatter. “Are you alright?”

 

She nodded, rubbing her hands up and down on her arms. “Damned rune I drew last night wore off. You’re lucky; you get to at least wear a coat, good fitting pants, and boots.” He smiled, opening his arms to shrug, which left an opening his coat. Without even waiting she took the opportunity, closing the gap between them and wrapping her arms around him in between his shirt and coat. There instantly was warmth and she could tell that he had drawn a rune on his clothes as well, but his was more detailed and potent in its effect. There must have been something else for water repellence because the inside of his coat was remarkably dry. Instinctively she rested her cheek on his chest and let out a content sigh, allowing the heat to soak into her bones. He had yet to rest his arms on her and she could feel his body still underneath her, his breath caught in his throat while his pulse began to climb underneath her touch. She responded in kind, loosening her grip around him and realizing that even though she was probably touchy both in and out of the Fade, he wasn’t. “Sorry! Oh uh - Thought you were offering.”

 

He chuckled, the sound raspy and dry, while looking down at her. The sound tightened her chest and the insides of her thighs but she moved to try and step back from him. He finally relaxed and put his hands on her back, drawing small designs on the back of her corset with his index finger. When he was finished, he tapped the design and all the water disappeared from her clothes into a puddle on the floor. She instantly smiled in relief, going to step back since she was dry but finding that his arms were still on her back, holding her close against his chest. He hummed in reluctance to her movement, looking down at her with a heat in his gaze that nearly melted her into the puddle he already created. She slowly looked up from his neck to his gaze, the flush of her chest following her movements to climb into her cheeks.

 

For a moment, there was a heavy silence between them. Both of their auras were contained and she focused on the rise and fall of his breaths to keep herself standing. Her head was swirling and the memories of the Fade replayed themselves in her mind. This was the first time they touched like this in person. Here she could feel the tone of his body under his shirt, the subtle applications of pressure from his hands on her back as he pulled her closer to his embrace. He looked up from her, checking the door and smirking with confirmation that the Herald and Bull were still fiddling with the damn gears. He then looked back to her, a hand moving from her back to cup her cheek. He slid his thumb over her lips and then down the length of her chin and she fought not to throw herself at him and be lost within his warmth.

 

Solas leaned down and pressed his lips to the top of her head, bringing her in to a tight embrace before resting his forehead on hers. Both of their eyes were closed as they relished in the moment. Her breaths came shaky, her hands nearly trembling on his back while she gripped his shirt as a firm reminder that he was still there. He whispered her name in the space between them and it threatened to bring a soft moan from her lips. The door behind them creaked and a few things happened at once. There was a large whirl of movement in front of her, sudden cold drafting up the front of her body as Solas fade-stepped to the back of the room and assumed a neutral position with his back against the wall and his eyes closed.

                                                                         

In his place stood Cole, his arms wrapped around Athena with his coat open. She was resting her head on his shoulder and chuckled after coming from the trance of romance. Rathein laughed, nudging Bull while pair standing in an embrace in front of the fire. “Vivienne’s choice of clothing not suitable for the rain?”

 

Athena chuckled, pulling Cole into a firm hug while smiling into the crook of his neck. He patted her back in response and she could feel him smile too, just barely. “No, my friend, they are not. Perhaps as the Inquisitor you can put in a good word for me on the safety of your companions and how they should be given proper traveling attire?” She pulled back and turned with a small sway of her hips, the now dry fabric of her skirt following with her body. Rathein took notice, looking her up and down.

 

“You’re dry.”

 

Not entirely. She thought to herself with a chuckle. In a gesture of teasing, she brought her hand up to her face and examined her nails for a moment before pushing the hand away to examine the backs of her hand in the firelight while the other rested on her hip. “Oh you know, just a rune I came up with. I did work while you left me alone in Skyhold.” She flicked her gaze to Solas and he opened his eyes, giving her the ghost of a smirk before pushing off from the wall to walk back over to them. He broke through the joking conversation, his voice cutting like ice through the humor.

 

“Shall we continue to the Rift, Inquisitor? With the dam drained we should be able to reach it.”

 

The leader of their group nodded slowly, motioning for them to all walk out of the tavern. Solas opened the door for them all and when Athena walked by he slid through, allowing for the front of his body to slide alongside the back of hers before falling into step behind Rathein and Bull. With a small smirk, she reached down to the water on the ground and levitated a small amount of water maybe a few teaspoons full above the collar of his shirt. Then without warning, she dropped it, aiming that it would slide down his back and avoid the ruins and glyphs that were keeping his clothes dry and protected. She could see him jolt in a motion of shock and then he gave her a playful glare over his shoulder before continuing forward.

 

 

Chapter Text

“You! You there! I order you to tell me why nothing here heeds my command.”

 

Athena was nearly to the point of grinning in the back of the room, her eyes bouncing back and forth between the spirit and Rathein, who was looking at Command with great curiosity. Iron Bull made a slow sound of confusion, his facial expressions obviously showing some trepidation with the ethereal being floating in front of them. He was keeping guard at the edge of the broken house in the valley that was created by the lake draining through the now open dams. Solas smiled at the being, chiming in for the group as the resident expert on things beyond the Fade.

 

“A lost spirit! This should-“

 

The spirit turned and quickly cut him off with a voice that was used to having people obey. “Silence, let the other one talk.” Athena couldn’t stifle her chuckle, covering her mouth with her hand while looking to the side in a poor attempt to blend in with the wall. The elf looked over his shoulder with a puzzled expression but she ignored it and looked back the red flickering of light in front of them. Rathein froze and shook her head, jerking her chin over to his direction to try and get the thing’s attention from her. “Spirits are your expertise, Solas. . . “

 

Command threw her skeletal looking hands up in the air, frustration rooting itself in her voice. “Then tell me why nothing here changes!”

 

He spoke softly, almost like trying to speak to a friend. “This realm follows different rules from the Fade’s. Will alone cannot overcome what you seek.”

 

“Then what’s the point of it?”

 

“A solid form is both shackle and strength. It affects more than you imagine.” Athena felt the impact of his words more than the others, knowing that if anyone could speak to this subject it would be him. He was the one who was in a deep sleep, venturing through the Fade for eons only to have woken up a short time ago. Was he shackled in his current form? Is that why he needed Corypheus’s power to open the foci?

 

Rathein paused, turning towards Cole who was looking at the spirit in awe. Her voice was uneasy and Athena tried to move to get in her gaze but the Inquisitor was looking for something solid before moving forward with whatever the spirit wanted. “Cole? Maybe you can give it some guidance?”:

 

The boy tilted his head, trying to find words. His face lit up and he was excited about the potential to help in this situation. “Maybe? My name is-“

 

The spirit jerked its nose in the air, scoffing out a sound of disgust. “Compassion. Did I ask your name?”

 

He stammered and already Athena could feel the energy swirl around him, trying to make them forget. She took a step to the side, reaching down and squeezing his hand with hers. He then shook his head and mumbled an apology to the group before returning to his reserved silence. The Inquisitor pinched the bridge of her nose, taking in a deep controlled breath before continuing. “Are you a spirit or a demon?”

 

“Demons? Those dolts that would suck this world dry. I am called to higher things.”

 

Rathein pressed on, using her knowledge from the teachings in the Circle to try and turn the tone of the conversation. "All powerful spirits represent something. Compassion, Justice, Wisdom.”

 

“Soft virtues. I am something more. I am Command.”

 

When the spirit identified herself, Athena felt something hum within her core. She took a step back, pressing a hand to her stomach in confusion while looking down to the source of the sensation. It was close to a calling, but why? It was something she had only felt once before. “What of you? I felt your coming, is there something alike in us?”

 

Rathein shrugged, raising her left hand and in response the green mark flared to life, its energy crackling like lightning upon her skin. “You probably sensed the mark.”

 

Command snapped, her form flaring in the air and solidifying while she scolded the Inquisitor. “No. Not you. Her.” The group then simultaneously looked to her and she could feel the blood drain from her face. Athena slowly looked up, meeting eyes with the spirit and arching a brow while pointing a single finger to the center of her chest.

 

“Me?”

 

The spirit nodded, her form becoming a little clearer in her eyes. She could see traces of armor and she held a posture that demanded authority, like Cassandra but with more unbridled confidence.  In response, she hesitantly nodded her head in respect, placing a fist over her heart. “I. . . I guess that must be it. I know why you are trapped and I will end the enemy who has disgraced your name, Command.”

 

The specter made a noise of acknowledgement before dismissing them from the area. Athena walked in auto-pilot, stunned while trying to find a way to describe what she felt. When Command said her name, there was a pulse of power that came from the spirit. It was like a call, like when she felt Solas searching for her when she was in her wolf form. It tingled on her skin and strummed within her core like a string. It felt foreign but it helped to fuel the drive that led them through the cave and in the direction of the rage demon. As they came across corpses and the dead left behind, she threw her spells and cast barriers but there was a gloss over her mind. Anytime there was a slight differentiation from the canon she knew, it threw her for a loop and this was no different.

 

Cole appeared at her side, nonchalantly sliding his blades together to remove some of the undead residue that was attempting to dry. “That was new?”

 

With a small jump, she snapped from her trance, looking around and taking in where they were. They were at the base of the cave behind the mayor’s house, in the deep roads looking halls that would lead them to the rift. The natural lights illuminated the cave, the ancient dwarven technology still holding true even after all of these years. “Yeah, Cole, that was new. There was something strange too. Why. . . Why did she say we were similar?”

 

He put his daggers away and crossed his arms over his chest, obviously deep in thought on the topic. “Burning, bright, always burning, always bringing in like moths to a flame.”

 

Solas fell back from the group for a moment, obviously eavesdropping because he looked to the side with a small smile. “You are connected with the spirits, more than others.” Athena became victim to her thoughts once more, bringing her staff in front of her body because she knew that when they rounded the corner the rage demon would be there.

 

“I feel like it is more than that. When she identified herself, it’s like I could feel her influence in my body. It was more than just a name, something within me called to follow her. Did. . .you guys feel it too?”

 

Cole nodded without hesitation, his voice rising to a louder volume than his normal ghost of a whisper. “Yes. It knew me, not as Cole, but Compassion. But, you aren’t like me. You are, you want to help, but you’re not like me.” The boy was obviously confused to the exact words that he was trying to say but she gave him a smile, patting him on the back and rubbing between his shoulder blades.

 

“You mean I’m not a spirit?” He gave a curt nod, his hands fiddling with the tops of his blades at his sides. There was a moment or two where she questioned what she was in this world. Could she have been a spirit/human like Cole, who was from one world but existed within the other? She couldn’t make people forget, if anything they remembered her more with every action she did. . . even if it was as little as what jam she ate with her morning toast.

 

“Dreamers are linked with the Fade more than others. You have the ability to shut your eyes and enter the other realm, much like I do. Your magic is also unrestrained, unrestricted like mages that trained here in the Circles. It could leave you more sensitive to spirits and breaks in the veil.”

 

Rathein shot a glare over her shoulder at the mention of Circle mages. “Hey!”

 

Solas flicked his gaze to her, raising a hand in apologies. “No offense meant, Inquisitor. There are just different methods of training and she has had to pick and choose training from a variety of training regimens.”

 

Bull agreed with a grunt, shoving his hands in the pockets of his flared pants while looking over his shoulder. “You mages all have unique fighting styles, like fingerprints. Mages trained in the circles have sharp, quick movements and they are always thinking of how they were taught to summon magic. Elves and the Dalish weren’t taught by books so their magic flows a little better. They call on their own will and magic to perform the tasks. They are harder to fight because there aren’t as many cues to follow on in battle like with circle mages. Athena’s kind of like that. She thinks and the magic just does. Aaaah shit, here’s the thing that spirit was talking about.” The Qunari pointed forward towards a large rage demon that was trudging like a slug along the ground. It had a companion wraith traveling alongside it and the presence of the two sent a chill up Athena’s spine.

 

She cleared her throat, looking to the tank of the group. “I think I need to be the one to kill it since I said I would. Can you keep the smaller thing off me?” He nodded and drew out his axe with a grin, the thrill of the battle infecting him like a disease. He ran forward with a war cry, using his large presence to draw the attention of the demons. Rage looked to the side and roared, its body increasing in size and Athena knew that meant it had raised some sort of guard. She cursed under her breath and ran into the battle, her staff dragging along the ground while she summoned up energy and sent it coursing through the item.

 

The demon turned in a smooth motion, molten claws slashing out at her. She brought up her staff to block it while sending a stream of lightning from her fingertips. Fire would hurt it but since it was made of the element it would be harder to bring it down with her natural element. The demon cried out at the lightning, the spell keeping it stunned in its place. Solas was at the edge of the battlefield and she could feel his spells lash out and keep the creature bound to its place even further with its ice magic.

 

Rage twisted its body and broke free, taking in a deep breath and exhaling flames towards Athena. In a moment of blind panic, she raised her arms up to block the attack, a swell of mana coming into her hands. She meant to guard herself from the flames but instead her hands tore through the veil, warping her body to sprint to the side in a burst of flame. With a few blinks she looked up to see she was now standing next to Bull, who was towering over the fallen wraith with a look of pride and a battle well fought.

 

Athena turned around and looked at the scorch marks in the ground that proved she had just fade stepped but with flame. It was an exhilarating sensation. Her skin was alive and heat emanated from every pore. She laughed and clenched her fists, spinning her staff around in her hand before channeling magic into it. Hot, white fire formed a pointed tip at the edge of her staff, turning her weapon into a sort of spear. With a wordless cry of fury, she pushed the weapon into the demon’s back and twisted it into the place.

 

Rage roared, its body twisted in an attempt to escape, but it inevitably failed, its body crumbling to ash all around her weapon. Athena pumped a fist in the air in a gesture of victory, looking to Bull with a smile. He walked over and patted her on the back, the weight behind his hand pushing the air from her lungs. The rest of the group joined her, Rathein standing in front with a smile on her face. “Did you just fade-step? I thought that was only in the school of frost magic.”

 

Solas hummed with curiosity, clasping his hands behind his back while looking her up and down. “Normally it is.” He then smiled with pride and Athena felt a familiar tightness in her chest as a blush crawled up her neck to her cheeks. “But as the Iron Bull said, her magic is natural, new.”

 

The Inquisitor chuckled and nodded, pointing to the room that was already loud with the sound of the rift. “Let’s go close this thing and get out of here. Crestwood gives me the creeps.”

 

After closing the rift and fighting through the multiple waves of demons, the group returned to the now-sunny sunken village of Crestwood. Command was waiting for them, her ethereal arms crossed over her armored chest. Out of respect Athena dropped to one knee and bowed her head, resting her hands on top of her knee while speaking plainly. “I have disposed of the demon, Command.”

 

The spirit smiled, looking down with pride. “I had no doubts. Now that my sovereignty has been respected, I can depart this unchanging nightmare.” Athena rose from her spot but the spirit remained, tossing an amulet of power at the Inquisitor while looking back to her. “Summon your armies, you will need them in the coming days. My blessing shall be your reward.” With a burst of power the spirit disappeared back into the Fade and she had to take a step back as the impact of her blessing hit her. It was the familiar strum of a string like before within her chest, her magic flaring with a pulse before returning to its natural state of rest. Rathein looked at the amulet then put it in her pocket, looking at her friend with a curious gaze.

 

“What was that?”

 

Athena shook her head, patting her body down to check for any wounds or changes. “No clue, let’s go make camp. I’m with you, I would like to get out of here as soon as possible.”

Chapter Text

The group was able to get out of the proper village of Crestwood before making camp for the night. The veil was stronger where they were and the sense of dread and death lifted from their skin. They all seemed more relieved, especially Cole. He didn’t hide his presence and was allowing them to remember him while he casually listened to their conversations behind Athena on Prince’s back. He didn’t bring his own horse. He still felt like he would inconvenience people, so she and her companion had gotten used to him suddenly appeared behind her on the saddle. Prince enjoyed the boy’s company; he would run off to find his favorite root vegetables and was always sure to thank him for the smooth voyage.

 

They were all settling down for the night. In a not so conspicuous move Rathein put her bedroll in Bull’s tent, making some comment about how she had been having bad dreams and his snoring helped her to sleep. Athena gave her a wicked grin with a wink, which brought a flushed blush to the Inquisitor’s face. Bull couldn’t help but chuckle as he crawled into the larger tent that was made for him. He casually laid back on his bedroll and rested his hands behind his head. Rathein paused for a moment, shuffling on her feet while Athena laughed. “Subtlety is not your strong suit, darling. Get some rest. Cole and I have guard tonight then we’ll be back at Skyhold in less than a week at our pace.” The short-haired mage nodded before sneaking in and fastening the front of the tent to be closed.

 

Athena took in a deep breath and sighed, leaning back into the log that was supporting her weight. Solas came from his own tent while taking a sip of water from his flagon. He came and sat next to her, offering her the drink with a smirk. She smiled, taking down a mouthful of the crisp river water before closing her eyes and letting the sound of the fire crackling to soothe her mind. He bent his knees and rested his hands on top of them, looking out at the forest beyond their camp. “Tell me of your first shift, Athena.”

 

She opened one eye and looked to the side at him, “What do you mean?”

 

He smiled, gesturing to the forest beyond them before relaxing back next to her. “You were able to do it once, perhaps if we trace what led you to do it in the first place we could replicate the process.” She hummed, resting her hands in her lap and looking into the fire. Its heat warmed her skin, brought a sense of familiarity to her that made her smile.

 

“Well, it started when a few of the villagers tried to get the jump on me in the camp. They were mad; Haven had just happened and they were still all mourning the loss of their families and their lives. One of them punched me, a mother in the back threw an empty bowl of porridge at me that drew blood. . .  I was furious.”

 

Solas looked to her, face blank with small signs of a frown around his lips and eyes. He didn’t ask questions; he just simply listened. “I had to get out. A Marquis gave me the space I needed in the crowd to run and I just let my feet carry me. I ran past the camp, past the tree line until I couldn’t hear the sound of the people anymore. The wolves joined me without question. I didn’t even call out for them; they just simply knew I was there.” Talking of the memory sped up her heartbeat, the smell of the trees and the forest washing out her mind and bringing her back to the sense of her pack. Far off, far away in Skyhold she could almost feel them. Kain was resting on her bed after spending a day running with Cullen’s troops and napping in his office. The rest of them were patrolling the edge of the forest and getting to know the guards that were beginning to bring table scraps with them on their shifts at the front of the gate.

 

“At one point it wasn’t me and the pack, we were one unit, one heartbeat that moved through the forest together without thought. We approached a clearing and without thinking I just jumped. I felt my mind go white and when I landed I was one of them.” She finished with a shrug, the remnants of a smile twitching the corner of her lips.

 

He processed all of it and nodded, standing up from his position in a smooth motion. “Your ability is more innate, instinctual it sounds. You used the anger of the attack to fuel your magic and your shift. They teach children to control their emotions when their young because excitability is a great kindling for magic but it can be dangerous and attract demons; that subject is still new for you.”

 

He sounded so academic it brought a chuckle from her lips. “Yes, but I would rather learn how to do it without getting hit every time. That is not worth it.” He gestured for her to stand so she did, arching a brow in confusion at him while he led her to the edge of the camp.

 

There was a mischievous smirk on his lips as he led her with a hand resting on her lower back. “Surely there are other memories you can call upon that had your heart racing.”

 

She nearly tripped over in embarrassment, blood rushing to her neck and face. He laughed at her reaction, smoothing his hand over his head while glancing over to her. She straightened up instantly, scratching the side of her temple while trying to think of a response. Sarcasm won again and she shrugged, straightening her posture to appear somewhat confident in her words. “I had a really good dream once but it feels like so long ago now.”

 

He looked to her with a grin before laughing, rubbing the back of his neck as his cheeks flushed with color. She felt smug about it, rolling her neck and shoulders while trying to re-summon the feeling of her pack. She could feel the wind coursing through the trees and it carried the smell of the wild. The rush of the call of her pack forced her eyes closed while she took in a deep breath through her nose. The scents swirled around in her head, made her world go black when she felt a warm presence in front of her. His hands were cupping her face and before she could make any sounds of protest or open her eyes his lips were upon hers.

 

The shock of the gesture brought a small whimper of surprise from her. He smiled against her lips, moving a hand to the curve of her lower back to bring her in closer to him while still caressing her cheek with his thumb. Her hands were still, stunned at her side but as he moaned against her mouth, softly biting the skin of the swollen bottom lip, she gripped his hips, clawing at the fabric that rested against his skin. She flicked her tongue against the surface of his lips, drawing in his taste and muffling the small cry that echoed from his throat. He gripped against her back, nails slightly digging into the fabric of the corset that Vivienne had packed for her. She could feel a tightness in the base of her belly and between her thighs and her mind went white, her heart racing and pounding in her ears. They were pressed together so tightly; she was certain he could feel her heartbeat against his chest.

 

Solas broke off from her, kissing down her jawline into the curve of her neck. She sighed and reached up on the tips of her toes, wrapping her arms around his shoulders while nuzzling her cheek along his shoulder to the inside of his neck. It was strange. . . but he smelled of pack. She wasn’t sure if he still shifted into the Dread Wolf while at Skyhold but his tunic reeked of the forest and it felt like home. His magic pressed into her body, pulsing and squeezing around her hips and chest while he bit down on a soft piece of skin on her collarbone. “Does this suffice, Athena?”

 

Her name on his lips brought a soft cry of pleasure from her, her arms squeezing him closer while she nodded in response. He laughed, the soft puffs of air against her skin sending jolts of electricity down her spine. He placed a final kiss on her neck before whispering in her ear with a growl in his throat: “Run, Athena.” By this point she could feel his magic pulling at her core, invigorating every nerve, every hair, every breath. She didn’t need more encouraging and her body was already willing to respond to whatever command she thought of. With a sound that was like the crack of a whip her body fade-stepped away from him and into the forest. There was no scorch mark beneath her steps this time, it was pure agility and instinct that pumped her body through the trees and over the obstacles.

 

The color of her eyes disappeared and the beast took over her gaze and with a jump she ran in her furred form through the trees. Her body appeared as a white blur in the night, striking between the trees and bushes like lightning. It felt like hours went by until she finally stopped, her breaths coming in deep pants against the cold air. Athena felt alive. After days of being constrained in the costume of the Witch, she was finally able to be herself and just run away from it all. She missed her pack and Kain, but for now it was calming being alone in the forest with only her heartbeat to guide her. The wind swirled around her and in the moment, she threw her head back and howled. The sound carried through the air, echoing past the forests and hopefully to her pack at home.

 

“This suits you better than the character the others have given you.”

 

Athena whipped on her paws to see Solas standing there with a pleased smile on his face. He bent down on his knee, extending a hand to her. Without hesitating she walked up and rested her face in his hand, tilting her head to his touch and closing her eyes. He chuckled, sitting back on the backs of his heels while stroking his hands over her fur. It was an odd sensation, feeling his touch in a shifted form, but it was soothing nonetheless. If she were a cat she would have purred so an excited wine left her maw instead, her tail slowly wagging behind her. She was still getting used to this body, but the action felt right.

 

“Perhaps in the future you can use that as inspiration to shift in the future.”

 

She laughed and the sound came out as a mixture between a bark and a growl. If she was human she would have blushed but instead she moved her head from his hand and sat back tall on her haunches. The moonlight nearly reflected in her fur, it standing out like a beacon in the forest. He looked to her and smiled, glancing to the surrounding area with her. “Even in this world. . . .you burn. Your fur is like a white flame against the trees.” There was a swell of pride in his face and it reflected in her heart. She looked to the moon and nodded, basking in its glow before turning back to him, walking up to where she could rest her chin on his shoulder.

 

He stilled for a moment but raised his arms to wrap around her, taking a deep breath into her neck before she backed away and rested on the ground, setting her head on the tops of her paws. Solas shook his head with a smile, leaning back against a tree while resting his hands within his lap. She looked up to him and they held each other gazes for a moment. Athena could feel the exhaustion from the Crestwood adventure setting in on her eyelids and he noticed as well. “Spend the night with the woods. Gather your strength. I will take your shift back at camp.” Before he stood up to his full posture she rose and walked over to him, pausing at the realization that she was not in her regular form. She stilled, lifting one paw off the ground while looking between him and the ground with awkward whines of confusion. Did she kiss him good night? There was an unidentified grey area so for the moment she took a hesitant step forward and pressed her nose to his cheek and then rested her forehead against his. It was a gesture that her pack and her shared so she figured it would be appropriate here.

 

She could tell it was appreciated because he instantly smiled, bringing a hand to hold her head against his for a moment before allowing them to part. Athena nodded and watched him take off into the forest before turning to explore the surrounding areas. There weren’t any wolves close by, or at least none responded to her initial howl when she began her hunt. There were a few curious foxes and rabbits that ran between her legs and didn’t seem to fear her. She blended within the woods and it was something that gave her peace. The hours passed and when she returned to camp Cole was sitting at the edge.

                                                                                                    

Twigs, berries, and dirt caked her fur but she collapsed in her bedroll. Her breath still came in pants and it was hard to get comfortable. Cole was silent when he came in, but she felt his hand stroking down her fur while he smiled at her. “You’re happy.” He whispered, pulling a blanket up over her body before going back to his watch by the campfire. The sudden warmth and comfort of being at camp shifted her body back to normal and it didn’t take long before she was peacefully sound asleep.

Chapter Text

“You have done well, Athena.”

 

She opened her eyes in the Fade to gaze upon Wisdom, who was smiling at her while standing next to Command. The newer spirit companion was intimidating, tall, armored, with a gaze that pierced straight through her core and sent a chill down her spine. She had her hair pulled back tight underneath a dragon-scaled helm with horns. Wisdom nearly paled in size and comparison, but their demeanors were total opposites. Athena smiled while looking at the two of them, giving a sarcastic glance to the newest member of the Fade brigade. “I thought you did not want to associate yourself with soft virtues, Command?”

 

The spirit turned her nose up and away from Wisdom, crossing her arms over her chest with a scoff. “This still stands true. However, you showed potential back in that awful world. It has been a long time since a mortal has caught my attention and earned my respect.”

 

Athena arched a brow and nodded, looking around the empty area that swirled its light greens and whites. “Where are Harmony and Inspiration?”

 

Wisdom clasped her hands in front of her and smiled. “They are growing as spirits. They are being called elsewhere to help others. You are growing as well, Athena. You are needing their influence less and less.” She knew this was true but it still made a part of her sad. The spirits were the first people to be kind to her in this world. Wisdom was the first person to approach her when she crash landed into the Fade.

 

Seeing her, a familiar face from the game, gave her hope. “I can still call upon you guys for company though, right?”

 

The spirit laughed, the bell-like sound ringing through the fade while she accompanied the sound with a nod. “Of course, we will always be here for –" Their friendly chat was cut off by a tearing sound, like paper through the air. The three of them turned and looked towards a small rip in the Fade where ethereal chains were forming. Hot, fiery wisps of mana wrapped around them and manipulated their movements. They clanked together and slid as if they had a mind of their own. . . and they were heading straight towards Wisdom.

 

“Someone. . . is summoning me?” The spirit asked to whoever was listening. There was no fear in her voice but suddenly Athena was running in front of her, gripping the chains with her own hands and staring down their length. Through the Fade, in the small tear that led to the other side, she could see the cowardly wizards who were trying to summon a spirit to protect them from the bandits in the Emerald Graves. The chubby-faced one was leading the ritual, the so-called expert from the Kirkwall Circle. She growled, gripping the chains with a mana-wrapped grip before snapping them back towards the would-be mages. The chains passed through her hands and fell to the ground, continuing towards their intended target.

 

The spirit’s virtue shown through and she sighed, falling to her knees while the chains wrapped around her wrists and ankles. Without thinking, Athena turned on her heel and reached her hand out towards the mages on the other side of the temporarily torn veil. A flame-laced whip reached out and struck one of the three from her hand, it leaving a crescent shaped burn on his face. The mage stepped back and touched his cheek. When he saw the blood on his fingers he gasped, looking into circle that made up the ritual. “The spirit is fighting back! We need more power!” He raised his hand and joined his magic into the proceedings and Wisdom cried out. Her body was being dragged forward by the chains. It was as if they were being pulled by a crank and every movement brought her closer to being pulled to the other side.

 

“You can’t have her!” Athena roared, reaching down and gripping the mage’s arm with her hand. Flames scorched her target’s arm, a burn in the shape of her hand print melting through his clothes and onto the skin. They looked into the air, her body like an invisible force pulling the man upwards. She needed to do something. Wisdom was important to her, and to Solas, so losing her wasn’t an option.

 

“We have to finish the ritual or else we’re dead! Hurry now, at once!”

 

The chains grew taught and pulled on Wisdom, her face finally settling into panic. Her body lurched forward and Athena placed herself in her path, catching her friend and wrapping her arms around her to stop it. There was a stilled moment and Wisdom smiled into her chest, looking up into her eyes with a glimmer of hope. “Endure, Athena.” The moment her words left her lips, her body and the chains were pulled through the tear. It slammed shut behind her with a thunderous echo. Hands shaky, mouth dry, Athena fell onto her knees in the Fade. With a wordless scream, she slammed her fists into the ground and lamented yet another failure that she could not prevent.

 

Wisdom would die. There was nothing she could do to stop it.

 

Command stood behind her and gripped her shoulder with an armored hand, bending down to speak low behind her ear. “Remember what I said, Fade-Walker? Summon your armies. Prepare yourself and then you can change the world, command it to do whatever you desire.” As the spirit squeezed her shoulder she felt her influence, her blessing coursing through Athena’s magic and mixing with Inspiration’s, Wisdom’s, and Harmony’s within her chest. Her heart beat within her ears like a battle cry, the drumming pulsing her blood through her veins and ripping her from her sleep with the sunrise.

 

Instantly she flipped from the ground and packed up her bedroll and tent, throwing everything onto Prince’s back. Solas was at the campfire wincing at the tea in his hand, eyes scowling at the drink while he tried to wash away the dreams from his mind. Rathein exited the tent with a pleasant smile on her face and Athena tried not to notice the blushing love mark on the inside of her neck. “Tea gone bad, Solas?” The Inquisitor asked, taking a cup of tea from the kettle while breathing in the morning air.

 

“It’s tea; I detest the stuff.” He frowned, sitting back on the log in front of the campfire. “However, I awoke from a terrible dream last night.” She fastened her roll against Prince’s side, taking a moment to stroke the horse’s head with her hands while communicating her plans to her companion. He looked into her eyes, feeling the fear and dread in her stomach, and nodded, shaking out the morning stiffness to show that he was ready to go. They both pressed to one another and by the time she looked back to the group Rathein was giving her a curious stare.

 

“Going somewhere?”

 

“Mm-hm. The Exalted Plains.”

 

Solas’s eyes widened at the realization that she too knew about Wisdom. She met his gaze, giving him a somber nod before looking back to the Inquisitor. “He’ll tell you. I need to finish packing up then I’m going to get on the road early. Cole, want to join me?” She asked the open air, knowing the boy was listening in and hiding somewhere. He was sitting top of Prince already, hands gently grasping the reigns. It made her smile because somehow he already knew she would not be riding traditionally today. Solas was explaining the situation, describing how a friend of theirs had been captured. The slight differentiation of canon brought a smirk to her lips but soon she took off her jacket and threw it in Cole’s lap, leaving her with just the corset and skirts. The last measure was taking off the blasted heels before shoving them in the side of her pack.

 

“Okay, we will leave as soon as we can get ready. Athena, I’m assuming you’re going to scout the path?”

 

Her answer was simple and exhilarating. She pulled at the feeling in her chest, pulling on the memories from the night before with a ghost of a smile on her lips. In a fluid motion, she knelt and took a step forward, transitioning into her wolf form without any trouble. With a confident flick of her stark-white tail, she nodded back at her friend with an excited yelp. Rathein’s jaw was on the floor and Bull was behind her, a smirk on his lips. “Well that’s a neat trick, Alpha.” He walked out and used a single finger to close the Inquisitor’s mouth with a click of her jaw. The Herald shook her head and gestured for Athena to go off and scout, obviously left speechless by seeing the shift first hand.

 

Alpha? That’s a nickname I can handle.

 

Athena looked to Solas and she didn’t know how to convey that everything would be okay. Even if Wisdom fell, he had made statements in the game that a spirit could come back if it had influenced enough people. Wisdom had made impressions on Harmony, Inspiration, Command, Athena, and Solas. Instead of saying anything she held his gaze, nodding a silent promise that she would try. Between the five of them, she would come back. With a quick turn on her paws she took off down the path at a sprint. Cole urged Prince forward by leaning forward on the saddle and gripping the reigns loosely. The brilliant steed followed with no instructions needed and they took off onto the trail towards Orlais.

 


 

 

By the time she reached the first dead mage she could tell the party was not far behind her. Solas’s influence reached out thin through the air, keeping the two of them connected while she scouted out the path. The stench of the burned skin caused her to curl her nose, baring her teeth and snarling at the corpse. She only had a few moments left before the others arrived so she threw her head back and howled. With the howl went a pulse of magic, one that she had been strengthening every time she used it in preparation for this. The Plains were infamous in the game for their amount of annoyingly strong black wolves. Every time she went to pause the game somehow she was attacked by a group of three or more. They never stopped coming and that was something she could use to her advantage.

 

Summon your armies.

 

The words rang in her head and the battle cry started within her belly. She shifted back into her normal form. feet bare on the ground with her staff in hand. At the outskirts of the horizon she could see the wolves gathering like a thick black line on the tops of the hills. She pulsed out with her staff, sending them a signal to wait. They disappeared back into the brush and she could feel their curious minds within her own. Solas and the group arrived within seconds and Cole was standing by her side.

 

“One of the mages, killed by arrows it seems.”

 

They continued on to the next group of bandits that had been raked by claws on its flesh and burned to death. She kept her face hidden while Solas lamented: “No, no, no, no!” Cole looked over to her and she could tell that he was about to try and “help” them both. She silenced him with a glare, making a movement over to her neck to cut him off while running towards the sight where she knew Wisdom was being kept. As they rounded the corner her body stopped as if she had run into an invisible wall. Even though there was a Pride demon roaring in front of them, she could see and sense her friend trapped on the inside, crying out against her prison.

 

The chains were burning hot and warping her image and Athena let out a growl of frustration at the same time as Solas. Rathein joined behind them, looking between the pair with a leery gaze. “The mages turned your friend into a demon?”

 

Solas went to answer but Athena drew her staff, turning on her heel. She could feel the flame of her aura pulsing out with her pulse and the white of the wild threatened to wash over her mind. Her magic was so close to call it felt like it coursed through her body in waves. “We don’t have time for lessons on spirits, Rathein! We have to – “

 

“A mage! You’re not with the bandits? Do you have any lyrium potions? Most of us are exhausted, we have been busy fighting that demon!”

 

Solas nearly roared, eyes piercing through the mage. “You summoned that demon! Except it was a spirit of Wisdom at the time. You made it kill! You twisted it against its purpose!”

 

The mage stammered, falling back while taking a step and pointing to his friend that was standing in the shadows with a cut across his cheek and a bandage on his arm. Athena fought the urge to grin with pride at the man’s wounds. He was the one she had seen in the Fade and apparently had been the brunt of her attacks. “It fought since the beginning! It hurt us as it crossed the Veil. I can see how it might be confusing to someone who has not studied demons but after you help us – “

 

“We are not here to help you!” he growled, taking another step closer to the lead mage and summoning his own magic to bear.

 

Rathein and Bull smirked, gesturing to Solas. “You really don’t know who you’re talking to here. I’d hold off.” The mage continued and Athena had to keep from gagging at his hubris.

 

“Listen to me! I am one of the foremost at Kirkwall circle!”

 

Athena and Solas turned and screamed in unison: “Shut. Up!” Solas stopped in a moment of surprise, Athena did not. She grabbed the mage in the back by his wounded arm, dragging him in front of the party.

 

“Tell me, ‘foremost expert’, could you really not tell the difference between a spiritual attack and mine?” He looked to her in confusion, fear setting in on the edges of his gaze as he watched her. She clawed at the bandage with a quick gesture and tore it from the nameless mage’s arm, revealing the hand-shaped burn underneath.  “You – “ she looked at the wound, matching her hand up with it perfectly while looking to him with pure hatred in her eyes. “Idiots.”

 

The group was silent for a moment and the “expert” was stunned silent, his eyes looking between Athena and the mark she had left on his companion. “How-“

 

Solas did not give him time to ask questions, anger fueling his voice and movements but he flicked his gaze to her before turning back to the chubby mage. “You summoned it to protect you from the bandits.”

 

Athena growled, pushing the mage away from her with a scowl and turning to Rathein. “We don’t have time. We need to break that summoning circle now. Trust me, my friend.” Her voice was heavy with desperation and before hearing a response she twirled her staff in her hand once before taking off towards the barrier. Wisdom roared, clasping her claws together before turning and placing Athena in her crosshairs. The demon summoned a double whip of lightning and crashed them down on the ground. She pivoted and rolled on her shoulder to the side, recovering quickly to a crouching huntress’s position. The others had hurried as well and she yelled out to them: “You get the pillars; I’ll keep her attention. Please, go!”

 

Chapter Text

The rest of the party started on the pillars while she fought to keep the spirit’s attention. Anytime Wisdom tried to turn towards Bull or the others, Athena launched a well-targeted fireball towards its face. They were small attacks and probably felt like a bug bite, but it was enough to keep it distracted. At one point she turned to face her friend and saw a large ball of lightning aimed directly at her. She clawed through the air in front of her, tearing through and Fade-stepping out of reach of the attack. The scorch marks flared up and created a wall of flame behind her on accident but she used it to her advantage. Athena reached for the flames, gripping her hands into fists and brought the wall closer to the enraged spirit. The wall bent and kept the creature contained; it looked like there were only one or two pillars left to destroy.

 

As each pillar dropped, there was a snapping within the air. Athena looked to the pride demon and she just knew each pillar was a piece of the chain holding Wisdom on this side of the Fade. She stepped to the side, taking in a deep breath and hardening her gaze to regather her focus on keeping the demon distracted from the others messing with its binding circle. There was a wash of cold over her and she looked down to see a light blue barrier dancing across her skin and intermingling with her own magic. She couldn’t bring herself to meet his glance. If this didn’t change. . . it would hurt them both too much.  Instead she tore her eyes back towards the demon and put herself between it and Bull, raising her staff to block another lightning whip that cracked down from the skies. The spell pushed her backwards in the ground and she nearly collided with the Qunari. Bull took the moment to grab her by the shoulders and look her in the eye. He saw the tears already forming in her gaze and he gave her a nod of knowing. The Ben Hasserath was great at reading situations and people. He had to know. There was no way this could end well; it was just a way to end better.

 

With the final pillar down the spell binding Wisdom pushed outward and Athena steadied herself on the tank’s arm. Wisdom was crouched on the ground and she bit her tongue to keep the cry from bursting from her lips. Bull gripped her shoulder before walking over towards Rathein and Cole appeared by her side. Solas crouched in front of their friend and she knew the text too well. The spirits visage flickered in front of them. Wisdom was trying to hold on but the mages had sapped her strength. All that was left was a hollow shell of what she once was. Now you must endure. When Wisdom spoke the words this time she also flicked her gaze back to meet Athena’s. The spirit smiled. Her breath stilled and the tears silently began to flow down her cheeks in small, hot streams. Solas did what only the Dread Wolf could and with a wave of his arms he guided their friend back into the Fade. Dareth shiral.

 

Rathein broke the silence, stepping forward and looking between the two of them. “We. . .did everything we could.” Solas stood from his place and nodded, grief overtaking his features. The sight broke Athena’s heart further but she used the anger to dry her eyes and look at the horizon. They were all still there, in the bushes and past the hills, waiting for her call. So she did. It was a call from her heart to the rest of her pack and there was a feeling in her body that let her know they were coming.

 

“You tortured and killed my friend!” He stalked them like prey, his body language screaming with intention and it fueled her instincts while validating her own rage. The Inquisitor stepped forward with her arm out to stop him. Athena knew she was doing her duty as the mediator of the group but the defiance of justice brought a growl from her lips. Rathein looked to Solas with a pleading gaze.

 

“That’s enough, Solas. No more.” He stilled, looking to her and back to the mages with a look of disgust.

 

Just as he was about to accept her answer Athena pushed from Cole’s side and snarled: “No.”

 

The Inquisitor turned at the rejection of her decision, crossing her arms over her chest. “No?”

 

Athena continued, pulling on the members of her pack while looking back to her friend. “Your choices are not yes and no. They are slow and fast, Inquisitor.” Her words and the tone that came with them sounded foreign to her, like the voice was not her own. She didn’t know where the confidence came from but she could feel the flames of her magic burning within her chest and on her skin.

 

Rathein shook her head in confusion, looking between Cole and Bull to try and find answers. “What do you mean slow and fast?”

 

Bull’s eyes widened. “Shit.”

 

The wolves had appeared. All around them in a circle stood dozens of the dark-furred wolves that were known to roam the Exalted Plains. Their eyes were not glossed over with magical influence; they recognized their alpha when they heard her call. The wolves were not snarling or pressing forward with bared teeth like the beasts people assumed them to be. No, they were waiting on her, their silence thundering within her ears.

 

“Fast. Or slow.” Athena did not still and she was not looking at her friend, instead she was gripping her staff and staring down the mages whose lives were about to be over. The presence of the pack was threatening to wipe out her consciousness with a blanket of white power, the drumming of their cohesive hearts running in her mind like a stampede. Rathein tried to find Athena’s gaze but gave up with a frustrated groan, giving Solas the go-ahead with a flick of her wrist. He did not hesitate and soon the mages burst into flames without another word. It was strange seeing it in person because the contrast of his magic then verse all the other times was so powerful. Ice was his specialty and element to call, but in this moment, he called forth the flame to end the lives of the mages.

 

“I need some time alone. I will meet you back at Skyhold.” The Inquisitor did not respond and turned back to Bull and Cole, allowing Athena and him a moment alone. She took a step towards him and the words were on her mind but they couldn’t make it to her lips. You do not have to grieve alone! Instead, she could only get his name out and the volume was barely above a whisper. “Solas.” He paused, gripping his hands into fists at his side while giving her a glance over his shoulder.

 

“I’m sorry. . . I can’t.” With a sound of thunder through the air he fade-stepped away from them until he was out sight. She choked back a sob, gripping the fabric of her skirts and clenching her eyes shut to try and contain the cries that desperately wanted to escape.

 

“What the fuck was that, Athena?”

 

The Inquisitor’s voice cut through her emotions, bringing her back to reality if only for a moment. “What?” She turned on her heel to see a very unhappy Rathein glaring at her with Bull supporting her at her back.

 

“You heard me. What was that?” Athena wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, placing her staff on her back.

 

“Imagine if it were me, Rathein.”

 

The mage scoffed, shoving her hands into her pockets. “No wa-“

 

“Imagine if it were me. What would you have done? That spirit of Wisdom was the first person to greet me when I was torn into the Fade. She gave me hope and has guided me ever since. She was my first friend in this damned place even before you. Now I ask again: What if it were me?” Her voice had broken its confidence and shook in time with her body’s tremors but the intention was still there. The wolves had gathered peacefully around her now, the larger of the pack coming up and touching her hands with their noses and heads. Rathein was uneasy around them but Bull paid no mind to them. Cole was reaching down and running his hands along their fur with a soft smile on his face. He knew they would not harm them.

 

“I. . . I guess, yeah, I would have done the same thing. But it’s not-“

 

“Not the same because it’s a spirit? Look me in the eye and say that again.” Athena hardened her tear-stained gaze onto her friend and held it. The exchange lasted for a few seconds but Rathein finally broke it with a sigh, rubbing the back of her short hair while looking to Bull.

 

“Well- shit-  warn me next time, okay? Especially with these guys!” A wolf pushed past her to slide its flank against her leg, its eyes hopeful and excited while looking at its new friend. Athena bent down on her knees, pressing her head to theirs and taking in their scent. Rathein and Bull stood like they expected something else, but thankfully Cole stood between them and spoke softly.

 

“She will meet us by the camp at the edge of the area by tonight. She needs her time to mourn as well.”

 

Bull pulled on Rathein’s shoulder and got them all to leave. Cole hesitated, looking to Athena with a small wave before joining the other pair. When they were out of earshot, she scratched behind the ears of the wolf closest to her before whispering: “Want to run with me, my friends?” The wolves all threw their heads back and howled and the mixing cacophony of voices swirled within her heart and soul. She fell on her hands and knees in a smooth shift, joining in their sounds while leading them in a run across the sloped plains. Her stark white fur stood out amongst the sea of black and browns but it fit. They swirled up to the elvish temple and dispelled of the demons without disturbing any other the other tombs. She led the golden halla back to the Dalish encampment without harming another creature on the fields. They defeated the demon surrounding the young elven teenager’s final resting place so they would be able to fetch his body in peace. By the time the sun was setting, she stood out of sight of the Dalish camp and shifted back to her human form. Dirt and mud caked her skin and her clothes were tattered, but she had regained a small piece of sanity from escaping her responsibilities and grief for a few hours.

 

Fang, the alpha of the pack in the Plains, pressed his nose to her palm and whined. She turned and crouched, pressing her lips against his head. “I will miss you too, my friends. I need you to be my eyes and ears for me. Spread yourselves out, stay within howl’s reach. If you see anything odd, call for me and I will hear you.” The pack made small yelps and barks of acknowledgement before they turned and spread out throughout the plains. When they were out of sight she approached the Dalish camp with her hands up in a defensive position.

 

“I mean no harm. Might I speak with you?”

 

The group of elves paused but it was Loranil that waved her over to where he was sitting. She sheepishly weaved through the camp, shooting a glance of greeting to the Keeper who was assessing the golden halla with the herder. Athena sat down and tried to get some of the twigs from her hair while the young elf beside her seemed so excited he could barely stay in his seat. “You’re with the Inquisition, right?”

 

She paused with two pieces of hair in her hands, it veiled in front of her face as her fingers worked on getting a stubborn leaf out of a knot. “How did you know?” The hunter chuckled, sheathing his two daggers at his side with a pat against the sides of his thighs. “A few of our scouts saw the Inquisitor leaving with a Qunari looking fellow. There are few humans in this area that are not related to the shem’s civil war.”

 

Athena gave up on her appearance and flicked her hair back, rolling her shoulders while rubbing the back of her neck to work out a tense spot earned from the wraith in the temple scratching at her. “Yes, I am. I was exploring the area by myself and we’re returning to Skyhold tomorrow morning.”

 

Loranil stood up in a quick motion and the grace that came with his race was obvious. “Could you take me with you? Do you think that would be alright?” She arched a brow at him and then pointed her thumb back towards the Keeper. “Think he would mind?” That stopped him. He hung his shoulders and head low in disappointment.

 

“Probably not.”

 

Athena stood from her position with a smile, clapping him on the shoulder. “Let me try my hand at it. I’ll be leaving here before sundown so pack your things.”

 

He turned around and began darting around camp in an attempt to pack up his life. Thankfully the Dalish were nomadic by nature and typically lived light in terms of possessions. It was difficult to have many material possessions when you had to fit everything within caravans and on the backs of halla. Athena stopped by the elf who was restocking, giving her a written promise of trade with her signature to serve as the seal of the Inquisition. “The great bear furs will take some times; we haven’t come across any of them yet. Everything else should be here within the fortnight.”

 

“Ma serranas, lethallan. This will be very helpful.”

 

Athena smiled, rubbing the area where her bear scar occasionally itched. It had healed nicely, leaving a ring of teeth marks around her forearm like some kind of hipster tattoo she had seen on others of her generation back home. She then walked over to the grieving sister and informed her of her brother’s “bravery”, marking the location of his body on the map. “I did not want to disturb him in case you had practices of your own. We left a clear path for you to find him.” The sister was left thankful, but grieving. She finally walked over to the Keeper who had his arms clasped behind his back. She had to keep from smiling at the familiar posture, bowing her head to hide the expression that could be seen as disrespectful. “Keeper Hawan. It is a pleasure. I am Lady Athena with the Inquisition.”

 

“The Dread Wolf has caught your scent.”

 

She perked her head up and slowly stood back to her full posture. “What do you mean?”

 

He pointed out towards the plains and beyond that where the grave site was. “My scouts observed the pack defeating the demon and herding our halla. You walked out of that pack, the largest grouping of wolves I have seen in years, unharmed. The wolves know you.  It is rare that a shemlen like yourself honors the way of our people. Our Loranil wishes to join you. . .Please watch over him.”

 

Athena dug her heels in the ground to keep her body from twitching in shock. They seemed much more amicable to accepting her this time, maybe it was easier when there wasn’t a whole party of people to judge? She bowed in thanks and looked over her shoulder. “Is there a statue of Fen’Harel where I can place an offering to distract him from my scent? I would not wish to bring a bad omen upon the member of your clan you have entrusted to us.” There was a sarcastic twitch of her lips but she fought and turned into a genuine smile of respect towards the leader of the clan.

 

The Keeper smiled, relaxing his hands by his side. “Indeed there is. Loranil can show you on the way back to your camp. Dareth shiral, Lady Athena.”

 

She turned towards the new recruit and gave him a thumbs up, walking over to him while her lips curled into a wicked smirk. “Hey, do you happen to have any tea?”

 

The elf stilled, digging through his pack and bringing out a small pouch of tea leaves. “What do you need this for?”

 

“Oh nothing, just an offering. Let’s get out of here. I’m sure the Inquisition is expecting us by now and we leave in the morning.”

 

He clasped her hand in thanks before leading her to the wolf statue that stood at the edge of their camp. Athena rested a hand on its chest, feeling the ancient magics that swirled within it. Could he feel those that visited his shrines? Whether they were placed there by the Dalish or the God himself, something about it made her smile. At the bottom of the statue was a stone plate where there were dried flowers and coins. She jostled the tea pouch within her hand before dropping it onto the plate. Athena turned with her new ally, chuckling to herself while leading him back to the camp on the edge of the Path of Flame. If there was one thing that would keep the “horrid” Dread Wolf off her scent, it would be something he detested.

Chapter Text

They arrived at Skyhold just as the sun was setting. Athena let out an uncontrolled groan of gratitude that they were finally home. Loranil was in such awe of the fortress he nearly fell off his halla that he brought from the Plains. Rathein tasked her with bringing their new recruit to the Commander’s office to help get him settled. As she ran up the stairs, she waved towards Blackwall who was walking towards the tavern for the night. The Warden stopped at first but gave her a gruff smile accompanied by a curt2009164 nod in return. Before she knocked on Cullen’s door, she attempted to straighten out the dirtied and tattered clothes that Vivienne had given her. It all looked awful after her run with the wolves, but somehow that gave her a sense of pride. After a few loud knocks, she heard the Commander order them in. She opened the door and brought in Loranil with a smile.

 

Cullen was standing at his desk, hands supporting him in a wide stance on his desk. She could see that he was fighting off a headache from the tension in his jaw and the light amount of sweat on his brow. Athena bent down to try and catch his gaze, smiling when he looked up to her. “Is this a bad time, Commander?” A familiar whine greeted her and soon she was knocked on her back by Kain’s large paws into her shoulders. The wolf sniffed her up and down and she couldn’t help but laugh at the ticklish puffs of air on her skin. Loranil took a step back, murmuring a “Dread wolf take you” towards the supposed beast that was attacking his new friend. Kain licked her cheeks while she sat up, looking towards the elf in the room.

 

“Don’t give him credit for this guy here. The wolves here are mine and they all guard the castle. I’ve raised Kain here since he was a pup. Isn’t that right?”

 

The wolf obediently sat back in a straight posture and nodded in a human-like gesture. The elf stilled, looking back and forth between the wolf and his ally but eventually he nodded. Athena pushed from the ground and winced as the heel of her boot got caught in a crack of the floor and rolled her ankle to the side. “Curse these blighted things!” With a look of determination, she tore the boots from her feet and felt relief when she stood bare-footed on the ground. Cullen rubbed the bridge of his nose but was smiling underneath the pain. She smirked at him, looking down to Kain with a wink. “Well good to see you haven’t fattened my friend here with table scraps. I was worried for what crazy antics you two would get into while I was gone.”

 

The Commander chuckled, glancing up at her and then immediately straightening his posture. She froze and her face twisted into something of confusion before she finally realized they weren’t alone in the room and he still had appearances to keep up, especially in front of his new soldiers. “Forgive me, Commander. This is Loranil. He is a recruit from a Dalish camp in the Exalted Plains and he is very eager to join our cause.” The blonde-haired leader of the Inquisition’s soldiers walked from behind his desk and shook the boy’s hand. Loranil was nearly floored but he assumed the soldier’s posture and neutral face well enough.

 

“Pleasure to meet you, ser.”

 

Cullen nodded and gestured to the door behind him. “There are some Lieutenants past that door. They will show you to your quarters. Training starts in the morning for you. Welcome to the Inquisition, Loranil. You’re dismissed for the evening.” Loranil disappeared without another word for the Commander but he looked to her with a smile, clasping her shoulder and meeting her gaze.

 

“Dareth shiral, lethallan. I will see you around.” Athena beamed with pride. The moment the door shut she heard Cullen let out a wince of pain, leaning his body against the back of the door.

 

“They’re that bad?”

 

He took two fingers from each hand and rubbed his temples. “Today has been one of the bad ones. I can’t get them to go away.”

 

She bit her bottom lip, looking him up and down while making a small sound of sympathy. “May I try something? I used to get these awful headaches after work and sometimes this would help.” He nodded, his eyes still closed while trying to conquer the pain. “I have to touch you though, is that okay?”

 

He groaned: “You could stab me and I don’t think it would hurt as bad.”

 

She stepped forward and tentatively took his hands from his temples. Instead she lightly grabbed a bit of hair and pulled up. He was probably experiencing withdrawal headaches but she knew from her patients these would sometimes manifest as tension headaches. Redirecting that tension, like pulling on the hair, would give hopefully even a moment’s relief. While she did that she directed some of her healing magic, as basic as it was, into his head.

 

He sighed and visibly relaxed against the door and she allowed it to continue for a few seconds in different areas of his scalp before letting go and taking a large step back to give him space. Kain rose from his position and returned to his rightful place directly by her side. “Better?” He nodded and smiled, looking up with a soft blush on his cheeks.

 

“Much actually. Thank you, Athena.”

 

She smiled and looked to the door behind him with a slight raise of her eyebrows. “You’re welcome. Now am I free to leave or am I trapped here forever?”

 

He stammered and stepped to the side while opening the door. “Uh-no. I’m sure there are many things you need to catch up on. Thank you. . . again.”

 

She chuckled under her breath and nearly skipped out of the door and down the stairs. Just as she was about to reach the edge she ran into a familiar boy who was out of breath with a large grin on his face. Tobi instantly wrapped his arms around her legs without hesitation and buried his face into the fabric of her skirts near the bottom of her chest. Athena wiggled to the bottom of the stairs and then fell to her knees, wrapping the child in an embrace. “Oh I missed you, sweetheart!”

 

He giggled. “I missed you too! Can you tell us a story tonight? Like the bear?” He pulled back and brought his hands up like paws while baring his teeth at her. She made a motion of false fear, covering her face with her hands.

 

When he did not attack, her she chuckled and dropped her guard. “Of course! Allow me to freshen up and change into some comfier clothes. Where is Mother Giselle keeping you?”

 

“By the gardens! I’ll see you after dinner!” He took off and joined a small group of children before running back into the castle’s depths. She then walked towards her room and discovered they had done some more improvements since she had been gone. The basement area had been cleaned out and she assumed it was Josephine who put a bath with water and vanity in there. There were candles lit for illumination along ridges in the wall and there was a note on the vanity desk which was already stocked with different make ups and perfumes. Welcome back, Sorcìere. The letter was left unsigned but she was thankful.

 

Athena dipped down into the water and traced a quick heating rune at its base before running upstairs and digging through the new wardrobe that had been set up on the side of the wall by the bed. On the left side were Vivienne’s pickings, soft fabrics and outfits that would make a bard blush. On the right were more comfortable things like coats and basic shirts and pants. It was like having two lives within one closet. She opted for the comfortable tonight and quickly took a bath before running to the main hall for dinner with her hair tied up in a wet bun.

 

There didn’t seem to be any party members in the hall so she shoved a piece of bread in her mouth while using her hands to carry a bowl of soup and a wooden cup full of water. Just as she sat down somebody clapped their hands on her shoulders from behind and plopped themselves into the chair next to her. “Well, you could have at least dried yourself a bit better before showing up to dinner looking like a drowned rat.”

 

She almost spit out the bread from surprise, gently taking off a bite and placing the rest on the side of her soup bowl. “I missed you too, Dorian.”

 

The Tevinter smirked and repositioned himself so he was sitting on the table looking down at her. Athena nudged against his knees while continuing on with her meal. “Are you ready for tomorrow, my dear?”

 

She paused, rolling her eyes and swallowing down a warm bite of soup and bread. “Ready for what?”

 

“Practicing for the ball of course! Josephine has the whole day planned. We are to go over different dances and then by the evening you have a special assignment.” He snapped his fingers in the air while assuming a mock tango posture.

 

Now that made her lose her appetite. Athena groaned and pushed back the meal with a small huff. “What is this special assignment you speak of?”

 

Dorian winked and shook his head. “Can’t tell you yet. I’ll just say. . .you should probably get some rest since we leave in a few days for Orlais. Good night, darling.” He leaned down and quickly kissed her on top of the head, ruffling her hair after on his way out of the hall. Athena took a moment to process what he said, wondering what kind of special assignment they had planned for her. Whatever it was, it probably wasn’t going to be good with the tone he had. 

 

She finished up the rest of her meal even though the taste was going sour in her mouth before heading to the gardens. The area was beautiful and there was something serene about the place when the moonlight illuminated the plants. A large stone on the edge of the garden by the gazebo caught her attention, the moonlight reflecting from its freshly polished surface. She leaned down in front of it and what she saw brought an audible gasp from her lips.

 

Chancellor Roderick. Beloved member of the Chantry.

 

Athena fell to her knees and covered her mouth in shock, her hands shaking as she did it. He was supposed to live. I saved him. She asked out loud just so the world could hear her. “How. . . “

 

“He caught the draft on the travel from Haven and went in his sleep soon after you went to Crestwood with the Inquisitor. He was at peace.” Mother Giselle’s voice was easily recognizable and it was so controlled, so peaceful, it brought tears to her eye.

 

Athena wiped the forming tears from her face but she could not take her gaze from the tombstone. “He wasn’t supposed to die, Mother Giselle.”

 

The Chantry woman came and kneeled at her side, tilting her head in question. “What do you mean? Everyone has a time to meet with the Maker, child.”

 

She shook her head, pointing her finger at the tombstone. “No. He was not supposed to die like this. He died in the world I knew by the hand of a Templar in Haven. I saved him. He wasn’t supposed to die!” She slammed her fists against the ground, letting out a sound of frustration between gritted teeth. “What. . . what if I can’t change anything?”

 

Mother Giselle rubbed her back, still having a slight smile on her face. “At least you are trying, my dear. Some people go through life and allow things to happen. You are someone who will do whatever you can to make a good outcome. That is an admirable trait, Athena. This way of passing was much more peaceful for the Chancellor than a murder. You still helped him.”

 

Those words struck a cord and she nodded slowly even though it hurt, her eyes slowly drying and she could feel the lump in her throat that normally triggered her to cry fade away. Mother Giselle patted her back and rose, motioning down from the garden. “Come now, the children are excited to hear your story. You raise their spirits and in turn they raise yours.”

 

“Wait, I thought their room was in the gardens?”

 

The sister chuckled, pointing in the direction of gathering area that was not in the game. It was a common space with benches and a fire in the center for people to talk at that wasn’t the garden, the healing tents, or the barn. “Word of your first story with the bear has spread. There are more people interested in your tales and of your origins.”

 

Athena instantly blanched and she could feel the color draining from her face. Her hands shook while she tucked a still damp piece of hair behind her head. Kain pressed his nose to her cheek and whined, sensing her fear and discomfort. “Well. . . that’s not something I was expecting.” 

 

Mother Giselle smiled, offering a hand to help the woman up. “There are those who still fear and blame you, but there are also those who see who you truly are and smile. Remember those people when you move forward, not the ones who fear you.”

 

She chewed on the inside of her cheek, making small noises of consideration while idly stroking Kain’s fur and scratching behind his ear. The wolf tilted his head into her hand and the small action made her smile. Are you alright? She could hear him ask into his mind and she nodded in return. As her magic developed, the more she could understand from the animals she interacted with. Kain was the first to their bond would always be the strongest. He could pick up on the subtle changes in her mood and body posture. “All right, let’s go Mother Giselle. Thank you for your kind words and wisdom as always.”

 

They walked through the gardens and through the Rotunda on the way to the fire circle. Athena looked up at the painting outlines Solas had already done, tears forming in her eyes again at the thought of the hurt he was experiencing. She knew in the game he came back, but with Chancellor Roderick’s death her confidence in set events was shaken. Would this be enough to drive him away? Wisdom was a great friend to them both but who knew how many years Solas had been in his sleep with only the comfort of spirits to keep him sane. Mother Giselle moved onto the next room and while she was alone for a moment Athena quickly grabbed a piece of blank parchment and jotted down a message. She put it on the center of his desk unsigned. In the speed of the moment, she pressed the parchment to her lips and pushed forward with her aura to leave a magical signature onto it. Athena slid the message underneath a book with the corner sticking out for him to see, quickly keeping up with Mother Giselle to avoid any suspicion.

 

I’m sorry for your loss. I tried.

Chapter Text

There were a lot more people at the campfire than the first time. The children were front and center, Tobi sitting in the middle with an excited grin on his face, but there were more adults and scattered soldiers on the benches as well. Varric showed his support by sitting towards the back. When Athena arrived, he smiled and raised his mug towards her, nudging Cassandra next to him and getting her to smile as well. She looked through the group and saw a few of the Chargers sitting close to the dwarf and the Seeker. Krem smirked at her and the gesture from the normally reserved lieutenant gave her the confidence to start.

 

“Well. . . my first story was about a bear, but this time I want to tell you a story from my world. It was one of my favorites as a child. It’s a little story called Thumbelina. I’ll be using my friend as a partner in this story. Everybody, this is Kain.”

 

The wolf came up and bowed, putting one paw in front and bowing like a real noble. This elicited a laugh from the crowd and he ate it up, bowing again before sitting at the side of the area with pride in his chest. Athena was trying to find out what details to cut from the story to make it shorter but she started and decided to wing it.  “Thumbelina was a girl who lived on a farm with her mother. Things seemed pretty normal for them. They took care of the animals, worked on their vegetables, and lived a quiet life together. But here’s the thing: Thumbelina was only thiiiiis big.”

 

She then separated her fingers to the size of a walnut and winked. The children, especially Tobi, gasped and shouted their words of disbelief. Athena held up a finger to shush them, smiling before continuing.

 

“Thumbelina had a voice of gold and had a way with people. She could speak with the animals and they protected her. Well one night before bed, Thumbelina was singing in her room and dancing about by herself. Her bed that was made from the shell of a walnut! Her mother had told her a bedtime story about fairies and how there was a handsome, magical fairy prince!”

 

Tobi raised his hand in question silently and this caught her attention. Athena paused then smiled. “Yes, Tobi?”

 

“What’s a fairy?”

 

“They are small winged creatures that fly throughout the air. They kind of look like this!”

 

She opened a palm and concentrated, summoning a small flame. That action was easy, but then she hardened her gaze and willed the flame to take a shape into a small pixie-like-thing. The flame danced and sputtered but eventually it took its desired shape. With sweat on her brow from the delicate workings of the summoning, she urged the flame to flutter through the air and dance before the children before disappearing with a burst of magic. “That night, somebody was listening to her singing. The Fairy Prince himself appeared before her! And! He had wings and rode on the back of a large bumblebee!”

 

The crowd seemed perplexed by the idea but they allowed it. “He invited Thumbelina to come ride with him, and when he did he sang her a song.” She summoned up another flame and it was the shape of the two characters flying on the back of their fluffy flying mount. Athena hummed the opening lines of the song, twirling her body while keeping in control of her small summoned characters. Once she began to sing, she moved into the shadows and allowed the characters to be in the limelight.

 

“Let me be your wings. Let me be your only love. Let me take you far beyond the stars.”

 

The characters began to dance within the air. They swooped down and got within touch of the children, causing them to reach out and grasp. They missed the characters by that much so they wouldn’t be burnt as they continued to dance on over the crowd.

 

“Let me be your wings. Let me lift you high above. Everything we’re dreaming of will soon be ours.”

 

The lyrics brought a swell of emotion inside of her chest. Love songs always made her swoon and naturally she was an empathetic person; it was difficult to separate personal feelings from the story and she drew power from her own emotions and memories. Blood rushed to her cheeks in a blush and in the shadows of the fire Athena smiled, thinking of the God who frequented her dreams almost every night. The last few nights had been cold in the Fade without him. She had not allowed herself to dream to give him some space, but there was a growing doubt inside of her that he would not come back. What if this was the one thing that was different? To keep from getting distracted in the story, she swallowed down her fears and continued with the story.

 

“Anything that you desire, anything at all. Every day I’ll take you higher, and I’ll never let you fall.” She saw movement in the back of the crowd and noted that Cullen had snuck into the back row where Varric and Cassandra were. He didn’t seem to be in pain anymore and he nodded in silent greeting when her gaze glossed over him.

 

“Let me be your wings, leave behind the world you know. For another world of wondrous things.” Athena had to smile at the lyric, manipulating her hands to have the characters dancing in their flight. She had been taken into another world of wondrous things by a creature unknown. Every day the pain of being torn from her old home lessened. Every friendship, every encounter, every. . .  kiss brought her one step closer to normalcy. Athena gestured to Kain and patted her shoulders in a swirl of the moment. He jumped up at her command, using small awkward movements to dance with her around the campfire as she continued to sing. The children laughed at the sight and some of the adults joined in as well. She rubbed her nose against her friend’s. You will have to do until my wolf returns, darling. Kain licked her cheek and continued to “dance” with her until the end of the song.

 

She went through the complete tale. Kain played a wonderful evil toad who tried to steal Thumbelina’s heart and then fought off the summoned flame that was the Fairy Prince. In the end, the enemy was vanquished and the crowd of children cheered.  Once the story was over and the lovers were reunited Athena clapped her hands together and dispersed the flames she had summoned to help tell her story, bowing at the conclusion while the crowd that had gathered clapped. The children all ran around the fire and pelted her with hugs, their voices mixing together in a cacophony of high pitched sounds that were impossible to separate as they attempted to take her to the ground.

 

“I want wings!”

 

“Me too!”

 

“I want to marry a fairy prince!”

 

Mother Giselle approached the children from behind, touching a few of their shoulders with a smile on her face. “Now now, children. It is time for sleep. Thank Lady Athena here for the story and then off to your rooms.”

 

The children all murmured their words of gratitude but Tobi was the one who stuck around last, giving her one more tight hug. She embraced him in return, kissing his cheek before burying her cold nose into the vulnerable spot of his neck. He squealed with laughter, running off and joining the other children that were waiting for him. Varric, Cassandra, and Cullen approached her after and they all seemed relatively pleased, which brought a sigh of relief from her lips.

 

“Adding music was a nice touch, Walker. You might have a future as a bard.”

 

She instantly shook her head and waved her hands in front of her face. “No thanks, leave me out of the Game and all of its workings please. I’ll sing to entertain and get things off of my chest but do it for a living? No thank you, Varric. I’ll leave that up to you and Leliana.”

 

The dwarf chuckled and nudged the Seeker, pointing up to her with a small jerk of his hand. “This one over here wouldn’t stop sighing. I thought Curly was going to have to catch her mid-swoon.”

 

Cassandra scowled at him and pushed him on his shoulder, knocking him from his balance which only made him laugh more. When the Seeker turned back to Athena she smiled, her features taking on one of a love struck teenager.  “I love romance stories. That was so. . .sweet! Thank you, Athena.” Athena’s face brightened while she nodded in response, rubbing a hand up her upper arm sheepishly as their compliments put a blush to her cheeks.

 

Cullen had a small an almost sarcastic smirk on his face and she arched a brow at him, pushing two fingers into his shoulder to knock him off of his balance. “What?”

 

“You say keep you out of the Game, you do realize that we’re leaving for Halamshiral in a few days, right?”

 

She nearly scoffed back at him but instead she put a hand to her forehead and hissed between gritted teeth. “Maker, Josephine is giving us dancing lessons tomorrow, right? I think I’m already coming down with something and suddenly can’t make it. . “

 

The Commander chuckled and shook his head. “If I have to go to that blighted thing, so you do.”

 

“Fine, Cullen. You’ll need all the lessons to win the hearts of the ladies who will be throwing themselves at your feet. You may have fought the strange and inhumane, but have you ever had to fight off a swarm of swooning Orlesian women?” He paled in response, clenching his jaw while utter despair took over his features.

 

Varric walked over and slapped him on the back, “Cheer up, Curly. Keep your sword sharp and you’ll be fine.”

 

Athena turned to the rest of them with a small shrug. “Bright and early then?” They nodded in agreement and began to head towards their respective directions. I am late with an appointment with my bed. Once the campfire had cleared of people she darted up the stairs to her tower with Kain. He jumped onto the bed with her and she set up her appropriate wards before crawling under the covers and drifting into the Fade with Kain snuggled at her side to keep her warm.

 

A wave of sadness took over her mind the moment she saw the familiar swirling colors and it brought a wince to her mouth and eyes. Inspiration and Harmony were there, waiting for her. The artistic spirit instantly walked forward and brought Athena into an embrace, burying her face into the side of her neck. She instantly responded in kind, resting her chin on her friend’s shoulder while looking to Harmony. He appeared more put together but there were still small giveaways that he was upset. His lips were twitching into somewhat of a frown and he had his arms firmly crossed over his chest.

 

“I’m so sorry you guys. I tried – I couldn’t save her.” Add that to the list of people I lost.

 

Harmony stepped forward and put his hand on Inspiration’s shoulders, bringing her back to his side. “We know you did. We heard, Athena. There was nothing else that could be done.”

 

“You used my blessing well, girl.”

 

Athena turned on her heel and looked at Command, who almost appeared smug in her appearance. She was without her helm and so her sharp features were more noticeable. That didn’t make things better. She rolled her shoulders back and ground her teeth down while staring through the militaristic specter.

 

“What.”

 

“The wolves gathered at your call with my power influence. You use it well. You use the blessings of all spirits well.”

 

“I can’t talk about semantics of power tonight, Command. Please, let me think of something else.”

 

In a defensive move Harmony stood between the spirit and her and glared, an image of his former identity shining through with a moment. “Another. Time.” The spirit turned her nose up and allowed her form to dissipate through the Fade, a haunting chuckle echoing through the area as she did. Athena sighed, rubbing the back of her neck while looking around. There was no familiar cold call, no chill running up her spine indicating that he was trying to find her. Did he even know that she was there? She knew the pain he was suffering. She had given him enough space and knew he shouldn’t be alone.

 

“How do I call to someone in the Fade?”

 

Inspiration rubbed her face and tilted her head in confusion. “How do you call your wolves?”

 

Athena closed her eyes and traced the small strings that connected them all together. Even when she was not running with them, their hearts beat within hers and across the Plains she could feel them now. Even far in the distance she could hear Thunder sleeping in front of a cave. “I just. . . feel for them? It’s difficult to describe. The phrase I keep hearing is ‘You think, you do.’ I’m still trying to figure out what that means but I just know I need to get to -”

                                                                                                    

Her voice trailed off as tears stung at her eyes, a sob choking her words within her throat. Endure. The word echoed through her head and she nearly fell forward but instead she hugged her arms to her chest and slowly dropped to her knees. Things felt so empty within the Fade with Wisdom, even though two of her friends she had helped turn were there. The memories of her being taken and dying played on repeat in her head and the overwhelming feeling of helplessness took over. Chancellor Roderick, Wisdom, who would be next? Was there anyone that she could help in this world she was thrown into? Were they all trapped within their pre-written fates that she had seen countless times in the game? Something had to change. Wisdom had once told her to do something.

 

She needed to start doing things her way.

 

Athena dug her nails into her arms and hardened herself, withdrawing the anger, the rage, the unbridled hurt into herself with slow, deep breaths. Harmony gave a small hum of acknowledgement, kneeling in front of her and placing his hands on her shoulders.

  

“Good. Keep it in. Do not let others know how much strength you have inside of you. You burn, Athena. Continue to burn and do not let anybody dull your flame. It is why we care for you.”

 

Inspiration came up behind her and wrapped her arms around her, resting her cheek on Athena’s back while she closed her eyes and quelled the silent sobs that racked her body. The group rested in that position for what felt like hours but after a time she stood and cracked her neck to the side, looking down at Inspiration with a blank expression. “I think I’m going to try and find him, okay? I will come back tonight; I’m going to need your help for something.”

 

Inspiration smiled. “What’s that?”

 

“We’re going to a large ball and I haven’t the slightest idea of how to dance.”

 

The spirit wordlessly nodded in return, giving her a small wave before disappearing with Harmony into the thickness of the Fade. Athena walked forward with a single thought, a single person at the front of her mind, bringing the memories of their time together close to heart. The world swirled around her and opened a path in a peaceful meadow but then it stopped. The temperature dropped to the point of bringing goosebumps to her skin and it felt like he was within reach but there was something blocking her, a barrier? She reached her hand forward and it collided with something solid that sent a chill up her arm and down her back.

 

She rested her hand flat against the barrier within the Fade and sighed, turning and leaning her back against it. Her body slowly slid down until she was in a sitting position and she just rested there. The cold on her back was comforting and there was a certain peace in knowing he was in there somewhere, even if he was blocking people from finding him to give himself time to grieve.

 

“Ir abelas, Solas.” Athena called out to the empty air, resting her head back on the barrier behind her while closing her eyes. “I don’t even know if you can hear me but I have to try. I know you are hurting. . .but you do not have to endure alone. You do not need to shoulder this pain alone. I will leave you be, but please know that I am here for you.” With a deep breath, she rolled her eyes back and brought herself back into the physical world, wrapping her arms around Kain and waking him up with a warm embrace.

Chapter Text

“Again, Athena.”

 

Josephine was relentless but she kept on with a pleasant smile on her face like some sort of demented squadron leader. Dorian, ever the willing partner, chuckled at her attempts and separated from her, bowing to restart the dance while winking at Athena. Everyone had been checked off on most of the basic dances. Cassandra was a noble and had learned them in her youth. Blackwall, the mysterious Grey Warden, somehow already knew them as well. Bull was a natural and toyed around with Rathein, who had also learned them being of noble birth in the Free Marches. Cullen had, much to his gratitude, passed the first few times from his training in the Templar schools for formal events and his sisters pestering when they were children. They all were being fitted into their royal blue outfits and admiring one another while Dorian and Athena danced the Orlesian Waltz #3, which was drastically different from #2 because how dare she point her foot to the right instead of the left on the third turn.

 

Vivenne was running over the designs for The Sorcìere’s outfit one more time, Rathein casually walking over to her. The Inquisitor’s eyes widened at the outfit, her gaze slowly looking up to her friend who paled and nodded in response. Isn’t it dreadful? They seemed to communicate to one another, both smiling at the end of the thought. Dorian was a patient partner, cracking a joke at every mistake but helping her get up to speed nonetheless. As they danced there was no pressure of romance, no worrying about what the other was thinking. He was becoming her best friend and would help her get through this awful event at Halamshiral.

 

“Much better, Athena! You do not need to show me anymore. I’m sure you will do just fine.”

 

She pulled Dorian into an embrace, kissing his cheek before patting his arms in thanks. He looked down to her, resting a hand on her shoulder while smirking. “I can’t be your partner the whole night, little dove. You’re going to have to go wow some of the nobles of the Orlesian Court.”

 

Leliana came from the side, gliding on the dance floor as if it were air. “He’s right. You are going to be instrumental in that night. The Inquisitor is going to be the face of the Inquisition, formal and polite with every duke, comte, and baroness. You, you are the Sorcìere. You are a mystery to everyone and they have already set up a character in their mind. You need to bewitch them and distract them while we are investigating Corypheus’s connection.”

 

Athena smirked, crossing her arms over her chest. “I am aware, Leliana. Do not worry. I have a plan of my own. Rathein and I are meeting after this to go over the details.”

 

Cullen cleared his throat, making a gesture to Josephine and Leliana asking silently “what about us?” She shook her head and gave him a wicked smile. “Nope, sorry. I’m going to help you how I can but. . . it would be easier if the fewest number of people knew what was going on.”

 

The Council shared looks of discomfort before succumbing to a unison hum of acceptance. She put her hands together in a praying position and thanked them before turning and grabbing Dorian by the back of his collar. He arched a brow and looked over his shoulder with a curious look. “Miss me already?”

 

Athena lowered her voice and stepped forward, nearly pressing her chest against his back to keep her words soft. “You and I are going to need a distraction at some point. Nothing magical, just something attention grabbing to keep the nobles and fluffy-skirts occupied. Think you can manage that?”

 

Without hesitation, he grinned, answering with a small nod of his head. “I think I have just the thing. I will see you tonight; don’t forget. You and I have some more training of our own.”

 

She rolled her eyes and pushed him out of the doors, turning back on her heel and seeing Rathein and Vivienne still discussing the wardrobe. Athena walked over, looking at the neatly folded pile of Solas’s outfit. . .with the God-awful hat sitting on top. She picked it up and examined it in her hands, a look of absolute disgust written on her face. “Absolutely not.” Vivienne looked with a blank, uninterested expression at the hat.

 

“And why not, darling?”

 

Athena looked to the fireplace and tossed into the flames without a second thought, wiping her hands clean of the object while Josephine gasped at the waste of fabric and fineries. “It is a ridiculous accessory and I think you know that. Nobody else will be wearing that at the ball.” She spoke with ichor in her voice, eyes drilling into Madame de Fer as she so casually lounged on the chaise next to the table. Vivenne blinked once, nodding in response without so much as a smile.

 

“We all have our masks to wear, dear. We all have our parts to play.”

 

She snapped, taking a step forward. “Not at the expense of our companions. How are we supposed to be the pinnacles of virtue, the breakers of Chaos when we are willing to throw our trusted into the fire for the Game?”

 

Rathein made a hum of agreement while looking over the designs for the Sorcìere outfit. The Inquisitor rolled up the parchment and slid it inside of her jacket, which earned a flick of a glance of curiosity from Athena. The First Enchantress looked Athena up and down with a slow trail, smirking. She bristled, clenching her fists at her sides. “What?”

 

“You walk with ease in those shoes. The ballroom will not be an issue for you now.”

 

Athena went to argue but paused, slowly looking down at her feet and the black heels they were in. Ever since she had been home at Skyhold it didn’t hurt to walk in them. The trudging around Crestwood had made her feet accustomed to the awful footwear so walking in stable flooring like the castle was not a problem. Her words were lost in her throat, eyes wide while the First Enchantress wore a smug smile. “I. . . .uh. . . do I thank you?”

 

“Manners, Athena.” The Iron Lady’s words cut through the air and she was eerily reminded of Command.

 

“Thank you then. Can I be blunt, Vivienne?”

 

The mage nodded while nonchalantly picking up the travel plans and maps, her eyes calmly reading them over while Leliana and Josephine organized the papers on the desk and packed away the men’s formal attires. “I thought you hated me. You and I haven’t really spoken much and I get the general feeling that you don’t trust me.”

 

The Enchantress paused, eyes sliding up from her papers. There was no break in her face but Rathein’s eyes had widened at Athena’s blunt words. “I do not trust any mage. Power is a terrible thing to hold and you hold something you do not even understand. You use your magic like a child does in their youth, ignoring foundations that have been set in places for ages.” She slid her legs off the chaise and stood smoothly, her heels giving her a height advantage over Athena. “You revealed to us information that you could not possibly possess. Which is why I made a recommendation to make you Tranquil once you revealed yourself to us.”

 

Rathein paled, eyes widening with her hands slamming on the top of the table. Josephine and Leliana’s gazes dropped to the floor in knowing while Athena stilled, reigning in her anger and hardening her face while rolling her shoulders back just like Harmony had taught her. “Obviously, you failed.”

 

Vivienne made a gesture of flicking the topic away, turning and idly stroking her fingers over the image of the carriages they would be taking. “Obviously, you have potential or I would have pressed for it again. Time will tell, darling. You are late with your meeting with the Inquisitor. Pack your things for Halamshiral and do leave those clothes at home.” Madame de Fer didn’t even meet her eyes after the comment about the Tranquil but she gestured up and down to her pants and worn in jacket, insinuating she did not care to see her reaction. Athena walked over and grabbed Rathein’s hand, literally pulling her from her state of shock through the castle, up the stairs, and into her room.

 

The moment the door slammed Rathein flopped onto her bed, pulling at her hair with a wordless groan of frustration. “Make you Tranquil? Is she fucking joking?”

 

Athena was somehow not surprised, chuckling while walking over to the door that led to the balcony. “A lot of people were afraid of me. Hell, a lot of people still are. The Sorcìere of the Inquisition, Witch, Fallen, Trespasser.” She calmly listed off her rumor-filled titles and tucked a stray hair behind her ear.

 

“They don’t know you like we do though.”

 

The hurt in her voice caused Athena to turn and look at her friend, who was sitting almost defeated on the bed with her head in her hands. She walked over and knelt, bringing her face down to eye level before pressing her forehead to her friend’s. “Be honest with me before I start, how do you feel about this Game we are joining?”

 

The Inquisitor groaned, dropping her hands while still resting her forehead against hers. “I feel like if people handled their problems like you and I did in Redcliffe there would be a lot less corpses to clean up. I never understood Orlais, even in my teachings the politics did not make sense.”

 

Athena laughed, thinking back to their fight after the events at Redcliffe before walking over and sitting down behind the desk. She drew up a quill and parchment, looking to her friend with a wicked smile. “Good then. Prepare yourself because this could take a while.”

 


 

 

Hours passed and Athena went over every piece of the event and things before it. She went over every detail of the Masked Empire and the pros and cons of each contender for the throne. There were pieces of details scattered all over the Inquisitor’s room, mixed in with maps, crude drawings of the halla statues, and doodles in between. Night was setting in and Rathein was pouring herself a third drink, letting out a heavy breath. “Shit, Athena.”

 

Athena sipped on a glass of wine, raising the glass to her friend. “Yeah, it’s that bad.”

 

The short-haired mage drank down the brown liquor with a wince on her face, slamming the glass down on her desk with a groan. “Alright. Now that the details are worked out. . . I completely support your plan.”

 

“Oh, you put your Inquisitor hat on again.”

 

Rathein chuckled, picking up a throw pillow and aiming it for Athena’s head. “I have to wear it sometimes, Witch. Even still. . . “ She walked up behind Athena and wrapped her arms around her, resting her head on her shoulders with a soft sigh. “Thank you for trusting me with this. I know it wasn’t easy for you.”

 

Athena brought her arms forward and squeezed over Rathein’s, leaning her temple on her friend’s head with a soft smile. “I’m getting fed up of sitting on the sidelines and watching awful things happen. Obviously, my minor hints weren’t doing anything so let’s go big.”

 

With one last squeeze, the Herald looked outside, cursing under her breath before throwing her jacket on. “Shit you’re almost late, Athena.”

 

She looked outside and saw the angle of the first moon, groaning while quickly glancing in the mirror, using her fingers to settle out the knots in her hair and smooth it out. “What is this I’m almost late for?”

 

The Inquisitor rolled her eyes. “Some kind of Game training, I don’t know Dorian planned it. Come on let’s go.”

 

The two women scurried from the room after piling up all the papers and sliding them under Rathein’s pillow for safe keeping. They giggled and pushed each other through the castle, looking and seeing that many of the meeting rooms and tables were empty. As they got closer to the tavern the noise level grew. Athena shot her friend a playful glare before using her shoulder to open the tavern door and take in what she saw.

 

It was completely packed and Dorian was waving them over to the bar with drinks already sat out in front of him. The girls looked at each other, shrugged, then joined him. They each took a respective drink from the cups. Rathein smirked and Athena nearly choked on the gasoline tasting tonic. “What the fuck is this?!” She cursed, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

 

The Tevinter laughed, obviously already about two drinks of whatever this was into his night. “Something to get you loosened up. Look, darling, people here are still afraid of you. Let’s face it. You haven’t done much interacting since we’ve you’ve been so busy with Inquisition matters. If you can’t even mingle with your own people, how are you going to do in a room full of foreign strangers?” His tone and body language screamed with an attitude of ‘you know I’m right’.

 

She went to argue but stilled, looking around the room at the joyous people that were in the middle of their own celebrations and evenings. There were small pockets of people she was comfortable with like the Chargers and a group of the elves but everyone else was foreign to her. Their faces blended in with the crowd that threw things at her in the events following Haven. She was probably just as afraid of them as they were of her. Athena mumbled, swirling the potent liquor in her glass before looking back up to him. “You have a point.”

 

“I know I do. Now, drink, go mingle. In Orlais they are suspicious if you are not drinking so you’re going to need to get a better tolerance. Go now!” He leaned in and quickly kissed her on the cheek, using a quick gesture to pull down her shirt to show just a hair more cleavage before shooing her away with a few annoying gestures. The tavern was packed that night and she could see Varric and Sera sitting at a table on the second floor with cards spread on the table between them. Cole appeared on his third floor, peering over the rails to look down at her.

 

Athena paused, slowly looking up to meet his gaze. He gave her a sheepish wave, face blank with hints of a smile on the edges of his lips. Silly kid. She thought, hoping he could hear her before she took another sour swig of the liquor before walking up to Lanoril’s table. The elf was already four ales into his night, the spottiness of his blush coloring between the lines of his vallaslin. “Oh – Lady Athena!” He attempted to stand to greet her but the liquor took effect on his balance, dragging him back down into the chair.

 

His others friends, “flat-ears”, laughed at him and raised their glasses at her. She leaned against the front of the table and looked at her friend, her eyes going from his feet to his head. “Alcohol takes the grace from your blood, Loranil.” They all chuckled together and she took the opportunity to pull up a chair and join them, a reminiscent smile on her face. Perhaps that night wouldn’t be that bad after all, and then Halamshiral after.

 

Chapter Text

For the next hour or so she met a few of the soldiers after getting to know Lanoril and his friends. They asked her basic questions of her world, about planes, and how there was no magic. In turn they would answer questions about day to day Dalish life and some of the differences between clans and alienages. It was hard to pull herself away from them because she was so fascinated be elven culture but she did with reluctance. The night went surprisingly smooth. There were still a few people who avoided her gaze and moved tables when she tried to come near them, but she kept her physical reactions to their disinterest restrained, taking sips of a sweeter wine while moving back down the stairs. Rathein was sitting with the Chargers, leaning against Bull’s arm and laughing with them without a care in the world. The Inquisitor fit in so well with the group of mercenaries it was adorable.

 

She skipped down the remainder of the stairs, raising her glass in greeting to the Chargers yelling at her in a mixture of phrases and voices. Rathein pushed up from her own chair, standing up to hug her friend. She could smell the thick ale on her breath and this made Athena smirk. The Herald chuckled, standing up straight and readjusting her jacket. “How is it going? Bewitching the crowds, are we?” She gave a suggestive eyebrow wiggle and Athena chuckled in return, taking the joke one step further by stepping forward and bringing their bodies close together. She traced her fingers down Rathein’s jawline, bringing two fingers underneath her chin while summoning a deep and breathy tone to her voice.

 

“You tell me, Inquisitor. . . Is it working?”

 

The Inquisitor stilled under her touch but quickly realized the joke, bringing her hands to Athena’s hips to pull her closer. Athena batted her eye-lashes and tried to emulate a hooded lid, breaths shaky while cupping her friend’s face in her hands. Rathein bit down on her lower lip, looking down in a gesture of embarrassment before moving forward. They advanced towards each other agonizingly slow. It was difficult not to look at the reactions of the other but she could feel their eyes on her, all holding their breath to see what would happen. When the tips of their noses touched the Herald laughed, bringing her head down to her friend’s chest while admitting defeat. “Damnit you win. I can’t do it!”

 

Athena smiled with a smug expression, putting a hand on one hip to put her weight into it. She looked to the others and laughed at what she saw. Bull and Krem’s eyes were nearly as wide as saucers, glued to the visage of the two women almost kissing. The leader of the mercenaries spoke low but she could still hear him. “Krem, I’m sorry. I’ve never regretted not having my other eye . . . until now.”

 

Krem moved his mug up to his face and swallowed the rest of the drink, making a hum of agreement while using the drink to hide the bright red blush on his face and neck. Rathein backed up and returned next to her seat by Bull, kissing him on the cheek with a chuckle before settling into her chair. Athena looked out the window, seeing that one of the moons were high in the sky above them. “Shit it’s late. I should probably wrap this up soon.”

 

“Sing. Orlesians like songs. You need to practice that.”

 

The soft voice threw her off, looking over her shoulder to see Cole leaning against the wall with a hopeful gaze. “Do they now, Cole?”

 

He nodded confidently, looking over towards Maryden and Athena saw the hints of a blush on his cheeks. “I hear her talking about it. She helps a lot of people there just with music. You could too.”

 

She was going to deny him in that moment. It was much easier to sing at camp when only her friends and allies were listening than in front of a tavern of strangers. The fairy tales she told the children were easy because they didn’t expect outrageous quality. Even back at her home she did not like singing karaoke with her friends because the public attention gave her such anxiety. Cole could obviously read her thoughts because he made a small noise of contemplation, stepping forward and placing a hand on her shoulder out of comfort. “They like it, Athena. Do not worry.”

 

He led her around the corner from the Chargers to where Maryden normally stood. The minstrel had retired for the evening and was resting against the wall with her feet propped up on a chair. He picked her lute up from the ground and handed it to Athena who looked awkwardly from the instrument back up to him. Dorian sauntered over from his corner of the bar, smiling at Athena with a glossed-over gaze. “Charming them with music now? Fantastic idea!” He then noticed her nervous expression, clicking his tongue against the back of his teeth before speaking in a softer tone of voice. “If you need to focus, just look at me, okay? I’m your biggest fan.”

 

She nodded, slowly picking up the instrument and holding it properly. Lucky for her, nobody was paying attention yet. They were wrapped up in their own conversations and didn’t notice that she was about to do something potentially embarrassing. Athena took in a deep breath in, trying to find her center and pull on all her practice on the instrument since the time she had been there. Her fingers began to strum along to a song, eyes closed in a desperate attempt to find some center. The tavern door opened and she felt a wave of crisp, cold air come in from outside and her lips twitched into a smirk. The cold would never be a lonely feeling again. It was his signature, his trademark in the Fade and in the physical world. She flicked her eyes open and saw it was not him that entered the bar. . .  but the feeling of the cold on her skin brought her happiness regardless.

 

Athena found her center, and it was him.

 

“Said a lot of words along the way, I meant them all while we reigned.
But the shores of love get beaten by the waves, and after it was done I wish I’d saved time.”

 

Cole sat next to Dorian and smiled, leaning back into the chair and listening into sound of the music flowing from her lips and hand. The intoxicated mage raised a glass to her and fell back into silence to keep from distracting her, a sparkle in his eyes showing his pride. There was nothing that could throw her off, in her mind there was only one person in the room and according to Cole, he liked her music. Wherever he was in Thedas, whatever glen he was sleeping in to grieve Wisdom, this was for him.

 

“One less spark from a flame, one more heartbeat away.
I think I lost your scent after the rain. I’ll find you when our paths cross by the gold mines.”

 

The speed of the music picked up and her hands worked furiously on the strings, her body rocking in a steady beat while her notes climbed to meet the increased pace.

 

“Where you gonna go, where you gonna go – I can tell you that.
Some day in the sky we’ll see the same sun on the rise.
Wherever you go, far as Tokyo, I can say – I’ll see you again!”

 

Her notes climbed to a folk-like croon, eyes closed to center herself and put her emotions, her magic through the music. It wasn’t something she did consciously, but the effect was there. After the first chorus, more people had stopped to listen in with mixed expressions on their faces. Mostly positive. She could see the Chargers had paused in their merriment and were listening in, Rathein and Bull giving her a reassuring smile when she saw them. Even still, their faces were blurs in the crowd and in the center of her mind she imagined it was only the Dread Wolf sitting at a table, giving that rare mile that felt only reserved for her.

 

“Aching with a debt never paid, horses broken and splayed.
Breathing half a breath since you’re away-“

 

She closed her eyes and sighed, realizing the truth of the lyric before continuing.

 

“But while your blood is warm I’ll keep the home fires.”

 

Athena then nearly froze, realizing that soon an almost unreachably high note was going to come up in the song. Would it be safer to sing it an octave down? The impact of the song was in those kinds of notes and she continued, praying that she would have the strength to do it. Then she felt a warmth in her chest, it spread over her body and she was reminded of her friend Inspiration. The magic she felt had the spirit’s touch to it and it spread into her fingers and her throat. The note was coming and somewhere in her mind she just said “fuck it” and used all her might to try and reach it.

 

Thankfully she did with a small burst of magic in her vocal cords and the crowd made hollers of being impressed while she leaned back, letting the note echo through the tavern that had grown much quieter during her song. Dorian’s face had fallen from the beaming grin of pride to a softer, calmer version of awe.

 

“My love is never gone away, it’s gonna come around someday. I’ll see you again. . ." She finished the rest of the song content, letting out a heavy sigh of relief at the end while her friends and more than half of the bar gave her applause. The drunken Tevinter brought her into an embrace and Cole was sure to grab Maryden’s lute from her hands before he did. “You sang that well for me? Oh – I’m touched. Absolutely touched.” He wiped what he was trying to portray as a fake tear from his eyes and she playfully pushed him away, smiling at him in return.

 

“Oh you know it, you devilishly handsome demon you.”

 

He soaked up her praise and then hugged her once more and she could feel the overconfident wall he held up fade away. “We are going to do fine, Athena. Trust me.” She reached up on her tiptoes to give him a better embrace, reaching her hands up around his neck to bring him in closer. They stayed like that for an extended moment before he realized how mushy they were being and patted her back. “Go to sleep. You earned it and I need to sleep these drinks off.  I’ll see you in the morning for breakfast?”

 

Athena nodded in response, taking no time in leaving the tavern and escaping into the cold of the winter night. They were leaving for the ball soon and he still hadn’t returned. In the game, it was simply a skip over time and he came back, waiting was torture. Even before she reached her room she bent down and slid the heels from her feet and continued the rest of the walk barefoot. The stone of the castle was freezing but it provided a step in fighting off the alcohol she had consumed. For the last bunch of steps, she ran them, opening and immediately slamming her door while leaning her back against its surface with her eyes closed.

 

Sure, entertaining a tavern full of half-drunk people was manageable, but a castle full of cut-throat Orlesians who had stabbed the backs of people their entire lives? That would nearly be impossible. Athena rubbed the back of her neck and sighed, looking to her bed in anticipation of getting a good night’s sleep. Her body then stilled, eyes wide and pulse quickened at what she saw.

 

Solas.

 

He was sitting on the edge of her bed, his head in his hands, silent. From the pulsing of his aura she could tell he was asleep in the Fade but the sight shocked her nonetheless. Had he come back earlier today and she had just missed him with all her running around? The sound of her coming in hadn’t woken him, but he was the one who slept “one foot in and one foot out” so surely he knew she was there. Athena dropped her heels from her hands, her eyes never leaving the elf in her room. His features were still carved by grief and his breaths were heavy. . .

 

The sight of him like this broke her heart.

 

Athena took slow, quiet steps forward until she was standing within arm’s reach of him. She reached down and slowly cupped his face in one hand, stroking her thumb over his cheek in a gentle gesture. “Solas. . . “ His eyes shot open and he stood up from the bed in a smooth motion while moving past her in a state of shock.

 

“I am sorry. I saw the note on my desk and I came to speak with you earlier but you were gone. And I - ” He averted her gaze while walking to the door, pain and regret setting even deeper into the edges of his eyes and mouth. She shook her head and grabbed his arm, keeping him from going any further while her mind tried to focus through all the emotions running through it.

 

“Don’t leave.” Her voice was barely louder than a whisper but she let go of his arm, giving him the choice to stay or go.  He paused, resting his hand against the surface of the door wordlessly without committing one way or the other. She sighed with a small shake of her head before turning towards her bed, shrugging out of her jacket and throwing it on a chair near the wall while ripping off her outer shirt, leaving her in an undershirt that resembled a tank top. It actually made her feel more at home; back in her old life her day to day wear was a tank top and jeans so at the end of the day she stripped off all that made her the Witch and was Athena. Just Athena. By the time she turned back she saw that he was a small bit closer to the door but there was obviously a fight in his mind. His hand was clenched into a fist at his side but his face was blank.

 

Athena summoned up her courage and walked over until she was in front of him, placing a hand on his chest to try and catch his gaze. Before she could speak his voice broke through the silence, his hands slowly coming to rest on top of her hips. “I’m sorry. . . it has been a long time since I could place my trust in someone.”

 

She met his gaze for a moment, stepping into his touch and resting her head on his chest. “I know.” He finally accepted her gesture and nearly fell into the embrace, his body sagging against hers while she rubbed his back with a tender touch. He spoke against the top of her head and the words were familiar of a conversation they had already had before.

 

“This could – “

 

“Sh. A day at a time, Solas. Come to sleep; you need a good night’s rest.”

 

With a pull on his shirt she led him back to the bed, moving backwards until she was sitting upright against the headboard and he was resting with his head in her lap, one arm resting on top of her leg. She stroked small designs on his chest with her fingertips, looking down and watching him slowly drift into sleep without another word between them.  Kain trotted down the stairs from the small attic type room located upstairs, looking at Solas then to her with a tilted head and confused expression. She smirked, putting a finger to her lips to silence him before looking back down to the elf within her lap.

 

The peace of him resting with her, arm thrown over her leg to bring him closer to her. . . the image took her breath away. He said it was difficult to trust people but he just allowed himself to be led into her bed. Sleep was when a person was most vulnerable yet here they were. Her eyes fell over every feature, the freckles on his cheeks, the small wrinkles in the sides of his eyes, the curve of his lips. . .

 

Fuck.

 

She was completely helpless. It felt like her heart was in her throat and tears stung her eyes in the silence of the night. He would no longer be the wolf who walked alone. She would stop standing to the side as events went by knowing what she did. Athena rested her hand on the side of his shoulder, leaning her body back into the headboard. The air was still even with Kain’s sleeping breaths at the bottom of the stairs. She closed her eyes to take in the peace when she felt a squeeze around her leg where his hand rested.

 

Solas was bringing himself in closer to her, readjusting his head while whispering: “Come with me, Athena.” He opened his eyes and looked up to her, reaching up to touch her face with his free hand and she couldn’t deny him. She tilted her head into his touch before nestling back into her position against the headboard, closing her eyes and feeling her mind go into the Fade. 

Chapter Text

The Fade was empty but already she could feel his call. It sent goosebumps along her skin but there was something she needed to do first before seeing him and unfortunately for now it would be another secret between them. Athena reached down within her chest at one of the spiritual blessings and called out for Command. The spirit almost instantly appeared, crossing her armored arms over her chest with a scoff. “Now you wish to speak to me?”

 

She turned with a steeled gaze, nodding while meeting eyes with the spirit. “You say you can part the skies if you wish it be done?”

 

The spirit smiled. “Of course. I am Command. The Fade obeys what it will allow.”

 

She didn’t hesitate, stepping forward towards her with hope and determination in her voice. “Could you command a spirit back into existence if they were lost? It is said a spirit can return if it impacted enough people. Using Harmony, Inspiration, and I. . . could you do it?”

 

The spirit sneered, dropping her hands to her sides with a feral sound coming from her throat. “You dare question my abilities?”

 

“Could. You. Do. It.” Athena challenged, taking another step forward and almost meeting the spirit chest to chest. Command looked her up and down before nodding slowly. “I could try. It will take some time to gather the strength needed to do it. This will not be a task I do for free, child.”

 

She finally relaxed and nodded. “I expected as much. What is your price? I will pay it.”

 

The spirit smiled while snapping her fingers together. Her body began to dissipate into the Fade but her voice still echoed around her. “This is something I will need to think of because you are asking for quite a large favor, Fade-Walker. I will call for you when I think of such a price.”

 

Athena put her fist over her heart in a gesture of respect towards the spirit, even though she reminded her eerily of Vivienne. Solas’s presence called to her again, causing her to close her eyes and roll her shoulders as the sensation ran down her spine. She turned and allowed the Fade to turn around her, walking down the path she had previously walked the day before only to run into a barrier. This time, there was none. He stood waiting in a lush glen underneath a large tree to provide them shade. When she arrived, he summoned a bench with a wave of his hand and she took note of the ornate design, green wrought iron swirling up from the ground to form the main shape.

 

She walked up to his side without hesitation and took his hand within hers, looking at the place where she assumed Wisdom normally resided. He took her hand wordlessly, his eyes glued to a fixed place in the glen. They sat in the silence for a moment before Athena leaned towards him, resting her head on his shoulder and squeezing his hand in hers. “Were you able to find some peace while you were away?”

 

He nodded. “I found a safe place to sleep and visited here, where I used to be able to find our friend.”

 

Our friend. The little change in his words still made her heart feel warm. She wanted to soothe his worries, say things like ‘She will come back again’ but that wasn’t a definite promise. It would be the first time she had even attempted such a thing but she had hope that between her and her three spirit allies they would be able to perform such a task. “The pain will fade. You do not need to endure alone, Solas.”

 

“I know; I’m sorry. As I have said before it has –“

 

“Been a while. You stubborn, stubborn man.” She squeezed his hand and stepped in front of him face to face, bringing his other hand into her own so she could hold them both. “Why must you think to do everything alone?” Secretly, she knew the answer. He was the last of his kind, the last of the evanuris that walked this world so many times ago. It was by his hand that the elven people fell into oblivion as an unintended side effect of locking away the feuding Gods.

 

He broke his sad demeanor and chuckled, looking down at her with caring eyes, slowly releasing his hands from hers to rest them on the small of her back while pulling her close. “It is how it has always been done.”

 

She shook her head and wrapped her arms around him, her gaze still locked with hers.  “Not anymore, Solas.” Athena reached up on her toes and touched the tip of her nose to his with a soft smile on her face. “I’ve considered the things that needed to be considered. If that is the same with you. . . ?” She moved her hands up his back until they were resting around his neck, bringing their foreheads to rest against one another’s.

 

“I believe I have, Athena.”

 

He smiled, moving one hand up her back until his fingers were in his hair, pulling her forward into a light brush of lips that brought a smile to her face. He brought her bottom lip in between his teeth and she groaned in surprise, scratching her nails lightly on his back. It then dawned on her that they were essentially standing on Wisdom’s grave. It was the former place where he had been mourning the loss of a friend and Athena stilled, pulling back from the kiss with a sound of discontent. Solas paused as well, looking down to her with an arched brow.

 

“Er- Not here?”

 

He then looked around to where they were and smirked, nodding in agreement. “Ah. I see.”

 

“May I?”

 

He nodded and kissed her cheek, trailing soft kisses down her jawline and into the nape of her neck. Athena playfully glared at him, feeling his magic trickle along her skin. She needed to take him somewhere far away from the thought of grieving. The first time she had showed him something awe-inducing in her world, she took him up. This time, they would be looking down. She fixated on a memory and pushed it outwards into the Fade. Colors of orange, purple, and brown swirled until her back was pressed against the metal railing keeping her from falling down a large large canyon.

 

There was an almost smug smile on her face when he brought her closer in a gesture of being protective to keep her from falling, his eyes trying to take in the large scenic view below them. He kept one arm around her back while putting the other on the rail, looking over her shoulder down into the canyon below. “This is breath-taking.”

 

She decided to be petty and tease him in return, giving him light kisses on the cloth of his shirt near his wolf-jaw necklace. While he was enamored by the Grand Canyon, she moved up to his shoulder then moved her hot, breathy kisses up his neck to his ear. His lips twitched into a wicked smirk but he was still fascinated with the landscape, his nails digging into the small of her back in response. Athena flicked her tongue out onto the lobe of his ear, her hands clawing into his shoulder and the base of his neck to bring him down and closer to her. Their height difference wasn’t that severe but she noticed he was always standing with such a tall posture; she guessed it was where their race difference showed. As she kissed and lightly brought the skin on his neck in between her teeth, he playfully groaned out a sound of frustration, arching his neck out of her reach before cupping her face with one hand.

 

The look in his eyes, the genuine smile on his face nearly melted her. Her heart was already pounding against the restraints of her ribcage, her breath nearly absent from the pure shock of finally being with him. There were small things that didn’t line up to what she knew. They had just decided to be romantic with one another and there was no Ar lath ma. The thought of which brought a tightness between her legs and into the lower bases of her belly. Would they ever get to that point? Maker she hoped so. Rathein and Dorian had been her family since she had been there. They hugged and joked with her, but they didn’t warm her bed at night. Kain snuggled with her occasionally but when she woke it only emphasized that there was nobody there besides her.

 

Perhaps she was being ungrateful, but with Solas in her arms everything else just smaller. He stroked her cheek and chuckled, eyes glancing back to the canyon. “What is this place, Athena?”

 

She sighed in happiness. Hearing her name on his lips still felt foreign, unreal to her. “It is one of the wonders of my world. We called it the Grand Canyon, original I know. Our scholars used it to track the planet’s history back thousands of years. It goes on for miles, outwards and downwards.” His eyes occasionally flicked to the view behind him but while she explained it and gestured to the sides his gaze never left her face. She could feel the heat of embarrassment and lust climbing her neck and at the end of her explanation she slowly trailed her eyes back to him. There was a hungry look in his eyes, the deep of his blues threatening to devour her as he traced her jawline with a finger.

 

“And. . . I’ve lost my words.” Her breath was raspy, barely audible as he closed in on her, the single finger on her cheek bringing her chin upwards so he could take her lips again. This time the hunger translated into his actions. He moved his hands into her hair, pulling on it slightly while his magic opened unbridled into her body. A cold wave plunged into her, drawing a shocked cry that was muffled against his mouth. Her hands gripped onto his chest but he pushed her body against the railing, using the cry to slide his tongue along hers and deepen the kiss. His magic came in pulses, thrusts almost, against the inside of her body. In the fade, they were so much stronger than in the physical world. He always said things were easier in the fade and now she understood why.

 

Every touch, every kiss, every movement was electrified. He was confident here, walls down and willing to show how he really felt. In the physical world, he was the reserved expert on the Fade. The scholar. Here the true wolf showed and she craved it. Her hands roamed his body, feeling the muscles of his arms and back. She had to wonder if their bodies were altered in the fade, if they appeared how they wanted to look or how they truly were. She could feel his muscles and the tone that came from swinging a staff around hours at a time. The hand that Solas had in her hair moved down to the back of her neck, feeling, clawing its way to the middle of her back, moving to her side.

 

She could predict its path, her heart racing and skin alighting in a near flame of her aura. It clashed against the pure opposition of her element, and it made the sensation that much more addictive. Her back arched over the rail behind her and he took advantage of that movement, sliding his hand over her shirt and over her breast. The soft action against the very top of her skin made her cry out, gripping his shirt for purchase. That reaction drew a growl against her lips as he bit against her bottom lip and palmed her breast in slow, gentle movements that were unison with his thrusts of his magic. The combinations made her arch against him still, bringing the leg opposite his hand up and behind him to bring him closer to her.

 

He gripped her thigh and brought her flesh with him to the point where she could grind against his hips, a soft whine coming from her lips. Her mind was white; it was difficult to hold onto the memory of the landmark behind him while he tortured her so. The fade glitched in and out behind them and he smiled against her mouth, using his magic to keep the scene solid while his thumb managed to find the small mound of her nipple underneath her shirt.

 

She was completely lost and the small touch sent her wild. Her mouth broke from his and she moaned his name, words lost as his lips trailed to her neck and kissed upon the skin that his mouth could capture. “Solas!” She cried, gripping onto whatever purchase she could while he conquered her with magic and touch combined. He hummed into the base of her neck, pausing while tilting his head toward her face. Her breath came in quick pants and her mind was nearly lost to his touch but she moved one hand to the rail behind her, looking for something solid within the heat of the magic of the fade.

 

“Hm?” He moaned into her neck, using his hand to curve around her hip in its travel south. Athena gasped and used her leg to pull him forward, bringing a hand to his chin to bring his gaze upwards to hers.

 

“This is something . . .I would like to experience in person. Dreams are one thing. . . “ He kissed upon her cheeks and she groaned, bringing her leg down even with his sound of protest. “But it’s real when its skin on skin. You could trap me here forever and I would be a content woman but. . . “

 

He smiled and sighed against her, trying to keep her thigh elevated so he could press himself against the middle of her legs with a wicked smile. “If you say, Athena.” The image of the canyon stayed strong behind them so she stood straight up, brushing her chest against his with a smirk before turning her back to him and looking at the landscape. He wrapped his arms around her, resting his head on her shoulder from behind. They spent the next few minutes looking things over. Athena smiled, resting her arms on top of his in a moment of pure bliss.

 

“I guess we should wake up now. We leave for Halamshiral tomorrow and that is going to be exhausting.”

 

Solas smiled. “I have always enjoyed the heavy blend of power, intrigue, danger, and sex at those kinds of events.” At the word sex, he pressed himself more against her back and she groaned, arching her back to push back against him.

 

“You may like it. You are going to be doing the fun stuff. I have to play nice and dance with the nobles.”

 

“You give yourself no credit. You will bewitch them all, Athena.”

 

She smirked, giving his arms a final squeeze before allowing the image of the canyon to dissipate in the air. With a deep breath, she rolled her mind back into her body and opened her eyes in the physical world. At some point in the night they had adjusted and moved to where she was lying on her side and he was spooned behind her, his arm underneath her head to support it with his other hand curled around him. Athena smiled, nuzzling her cheek into his arm and pressing herself against his body in an attempt to memorize how it felt for him to be there. There was a stirring behind her and she felt his arm around her tighten, pulling her closer to him while he pressed his lips against the back of her neck.

 

On dhea, Athena.”

 

Chapter Text

Good morning, he said in elvish against the back of her neck. She smiled and nodded, rolling onto her back to meet his gaze. “That it is. Good morning, Solas.” Athena leaned up and kissed the tip of his nose, the content smile on her face never faltering. She stiffened and stretched, whining as he pushed himself into a sitting position on the side of the bed. Kain did not hesitate to rise from his position on the floor and jump into bed where Solas’s warm spot was. The wolf made a series of frustrated grunts, resting his head on top of his paws while looking to Athena. My spot. She laughed and ruffled the fur on the top of his head, pushing her foot from the bed and bringing herself up to a sitting position.

 

“You took his spot last night.”

 

Solas smirked, standing from the bed and looking to Kain with a regretful expression. “Apologies.”

 

The wolf let out a grunt of acknowledgement before drifting into sleep. She laughed, looking to Solas with a small blush on her cheeks. “I guess we should prepare for our journey tomorrow. I have a lot of things to get ready for.”

 

“What are you planning?” Solas mused, adjusting his shirt and pants after sleeping in them through the night. She smiled at him, walking over and untwisting his jaw bone necklace.

 

“You will have to wait like everyone else. No perks because you slept with me.” Athena winked and poked him in the center of his chest, feeling happy as she saw a blush color his cheeks with a smile. She then twirled and walked to her wardrobe to pick out the day’s outfit.

 

“I will see you later then?” He was close to the door now and the confidence she gained from sleeping with him made her bold.

 

She threw her new clothes for the day over her arm and turned with a swing in her hips to face him. “Unless you are going to watch me bathe, yes I will see you later.”

 

He gave her a wicked grin, leaning against the door while crossing his arms over his chest. “As enticing as an idea as that would be, it wouldn’t leave us much time to prepare?” The stubborn wolf was just as daring as her. The hungry look from the night before returned in his eyes and she could feel herself losing sight of her plans for the day.

 

She broke her trance by shaking her head and gesturing him out. “You are right. Go now, you demon, before you make me change my mind.”

 

He nodded, basking in his triumph of the conversation before slipping out of the door without another word between them. She let out a sigh of relief, using the wardrobe to lean against while regaining control of her breaths and heart rate. Kain let out a soft whine and when she looked at him he was tilting his head towards her. “He’s fine, Kain. Friend. Well, more so.” As she began to move down the stairs she heard her companion’s voice in her head. Mate? He asked, a soft sliver of hope outlining his voice. Athena paused, jerking her head to bring the wolf down into the basement area with her. “Perhaps. We will see with time. For now: a bath.”

 

She turned the nobs on top of her bath and began to draw it, quickly tracing heating runes at the base before she gathered her oils. Athena plucked up the vanilla bottle of oil and decided it would be her flavor the day, dripping a few drops onto the surface of the water. She quickly disrobed and slid into the bath, hissing as the hot water raced up her back. As she was going through the motions of bathing her eyes widened in realization that there were a few things from her old world that she missed. At the top of the list: shaving. Athena nearly reeled in disgust at the state of her legs and what was between them. Rathein didn’t seem to have a problem, did she have a razor? It was probably the shortest bath she had taken so far but within minutes she was dried, clothed, and walking briskly towards the Inquisitor’s room.

 

The door to her room was half cracked so she entered without knocking, curving her neck around the door’s edge to see the Herald hard at work behind the desk. The short-hair mage was reviewing their plan for Halamshiral and when she saw Athena her lips broke from the hardened frown of a woman hard at work into a grin. “Good morning, sunshine. Sleep well? You did really well last night in the tavern! People are finally starting to warm up to you.”

 

Last night? She then remembered something had happened before her meeting with Solas in the Fade. The tavern and the drinking. It was a more comfortable version of what they would be facing in a few days. The night before they were going to be hosted at Duke Gaspard’s estate for a formal dinner and briefing on their entrance. After the ball, Vivienne had graciously offered up her lover’s mansion for them to stay in. Fineries and luxuries were in their future and unfortunately Athena needed to play the part. “Yeah let’s hope Orlesians are as welcoming. You looking over the plans?”

 

Rathein nodded, pulling up a piece of paper. “I don’t see why these statues are important but the map helps.”

 

“I have most of the stuff covered, but I really want to try and reduce how many unnecessary deaths happen. Briala talks a mean game about supporting her elves but they seem to be the first to die with no one answering for the crime. Think we can bring a few extra carriages to store some new recruits?” It was always frustrating in the game seeing the trails of blood and the elf that was close to death at the hands of a Harlequin. Briala was a revolutionary, or she tried to be, but she forgot what it was like to be common. It was one of her downfalls and probably the reason it was so easy for Solas to recruit her elves late- game.

 

“I updated Josephine early this morning and she is aware we’re going to need to be flexible for our numbers. They really don’t like not knowing what is going on, but I have to admit, it’s kind of fun. No wonder you tease us all of the time.” Athena went to protect but Rathein winked at her. “I kid. I really like that we’re working together on this. Think we can do it for future things?”

 

Athena smiled with a nod. “I’m definitely going to try. A day at a time.”  Just like with Solas, a day at a time.

 

The thought made her grin but she snapped her fingers to redirect her thoughts. “Oh yeah! I have an awkward question for you.”

 

The Inquisitor stood from her position, packing the pieces of parchment away in her bag while humming in acknowledgement that she heard her. Athena pressed on without hesitation; it was almost like talking to a sister when she was with Rathein. “What do you use for, er, hair removal?”

 

Rathein looked confused for a second before she fell victim to laughter. It didn’t stop until she walked over to a small chest that held her oils and lotions. She brought up a red jar that looked like it had some kind of gel inside of it. She was still giggling, tears in her eyes, when she handed it over to Athena. “What, did you all walk around furry in your home world?”

 

Athena snatched the jar from her hand and stuck her tongue out at her. “No. You know how men have the razors for their face?” Rathein nodded and leaned against the bed to listen. “Shrink those down to roughly half the size of your pinkie and put a handle on it. Ladies had them too for their legs, arms, and other bits. Some people used a hot wax to rip it out with paper but I never could afford that.”

 

The Lady Trevelyan snapped her fingers and pointed back at her. “That we have. I much prefer this stuff though.” She redirected her pointing finger from Athena to the red jar. “Apply a thin layer of that stuff to wherever you want to it to work, leave it on for about ten minutes, and just wipe it off. Sometimes it can burn like mad if you leave it on too long so I like to have a bath or lotion ready as back up. You have a hot date?”

 

She turned away from her to hide the blush in her cheeks. That was part of the reason but from the basic designs she saw for her outfit to the ball it would be appalling to show up with armpit hair that could beat a soldier’s. “We all want to look our best for the Empress, don’t we?”

 

Rathein snorted with a scoff, shaking her head and scratching the back of her head. Athena turned back towards her, stepping forward to bring her in an embrace. Out of the corner of her eyes she caught sight of a pile of rope haphazardly tucked under the bed. “Bull treating you well?”

 

The Herald pushed her away and shot her an embarrassed glare, a hot red color setting in on her cheek and chest. “Uh – er- Is it that obvious?”

 

Athena rolled her eyes and then set her gaze on the rope and Rathein followed with her own eyes, cursing under her breath and quickly hiding the rope in a proper place at the bottom of her wardrobe. “I’m happy for you, Rathein. Don’t mistake my joking with disapproval. I know he makes you happy.”

 

“Uh- yeah. He does. Which is so strange because you look at him and you would never guess how kind he actually is. My parents are going to react terribly when they find out though. I’m not marrying the rich, well-connected noble they thought I would.”

 

“You talking about marriage already? I didn’t see him as the type.” Athena jested only to receive a throw pillow in her face.

 

“Maker no! While you’re here, I need to use some of that stuff too. We could do it real quick and I could help you since it’s your first time. I know they say you burn and all but tomato colored legs would not make a good first impression.”

 

 “Are you trying to get me naked Inquisitor?” She laughed while shrugging out of her jacket, throwing it over the back of a chair while making sure the door was firmly closed. Rathein closed the doors to the balcony before shrugging out of her clothes to the point where she was only wearing her chest bandings. They had bathed in front of each other enough times for it to not be uncomfortable. The Herald started and rubbed the red goop on her legs, arms, and a few other places.

 

Athena followed, making sure to clean up between her legs because in her old world that was a must. For the ten minutes, they brought out the parchment again and Athena reviewed what pieces of evidence they would need to find. They were so engrossed in their talking they were late to hear someone rattling with the door knob.

 

“Hey, boss, you ready to start packing up? I need to brief the boys on what to do when I’m gone for the – Oh hello!

 

Athena barely had two seconds to fade-step behind a curtain when the Qunari strolled in casually, arching a brow and looking his lover up and down before smirking over to Athena, whose head was poking out from behind the curtain just to glare at him. “You two catching up from last night?”

 

Rathein didn’t even flinch, leaning up and kissing him on the cheek before jerking her chin over towards Athena’s direction. “We’re just talking over the game plan for the ball. Go, I’ll see you in about ten minutes.”

 

Bull smiled at her, quickly slapping her backside when she turned away from him to save Athena from the curtain before leaving their room. Athena let out a sigh of frustration, walking out with the red gel still intact on her body. “Does he not knock?”

 

“Normally no. I host most of my official meetings near the war-room or in the main hall so there are witnesses. This is my place. Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”

 

With every wipe of the cloth Athena felt more like herself. It took a few cloths and an application of lotion but her body was soon smooth. It almost felt like a sin to put her pants and boots on again but she felt refreshed, new even. With a wide grin, she gave her friend a high-five before turning towards the door. Rathein hollered out for her as she left: “Just so you know! I’ve put us to share a room at the Duke’s palace. We can suffer together!”

 

Athena laughed and skipped down the stairs from the Inquisitor’s room into the main hall. People were buzzing about, gossiping about which nobles would be at the ball. She weaved through the masses and waved at Varric on her way into the rotunda. Solas was hard at work on his paintings and was about to finish off the one before the space he would dedicate to the ball. As she walked into the room he smirked, glancing over his shoulder at her.

 

“Impeccable timing. Can you grab me the brush on my desk?”

 

She smiled to him, grabbing the smaller brush for finer details from his desk before climbing up the platform ladder to stand beside him. He effortlessly held his color palate in one hand while painting with the other. His focus barely left his work so when she came up next to him she silently handed him the brush with the hand facing towards him. He hummed in acknowledgement, using a twirl of his fingers to switch out brushes before continuing with the smaller one. She looked at the work, taking in the colors and realizing that this close she could see every brush stroke that went into the bigger picture.

 

“Solas, this is beautiful.”

 

He smiled, flicking his gaze over to her for a moment. “Thank you. It is a lost art; I have seen it used frequently in my journeys to the Fade.”

 

“You need to take me on one of these journeys of yours one night. We have been seeing a lot of my world; I would very much like to see yours.”

 

He nodded and dipped his paint in a swirl of blues before turning to the picture. She tucked a stray hair behind her ear while taking a step towards the ladder to descend. “Rathein mentioned that the group leaving tomorrow is meeting at the tavern to play cards and have dinner. Will I see you there?”

 

Solas considered for a moment, pausing mid-stroke with his brush before nodding in return. There were a few people walking through the rotunda so she resisted the urge to kiss him on the cheek. Instead she flared her mana out to run up his spine from his lower back. The visible shudder in response brought a wicked smirk to her lips; she instantly retracted her magic like she had seen him do so many times before as she climbed down the ladder and returned to her room to begin packing for their travels the next day.

Chapter Text

The turnout for the card game was similar to the heartwarming scene she knew at the end of the journey. Varric, Bull, Sera, Josephine, Cullen, Cassandra, and Rathein sat around the table with Cole occasionally appearing next to Athena to listen in or comment on the fact that she looked happier, 'burned' even more than she normally did. Bull and Rathein were unrestrained in their public displays of affection, occasionally earning an eye-roll from Sera who then made faces at Athena to break the awkward silences. Sera was slowly warming up to her but there were definitely things that made the elf uncomfortable.

 

“Furry? That’s weird, yeah?” She asked as she jabbed Athena in the ribs with her elbow. Sera was sitting on her left and she had left a seat open across from her just in case Solas showed up. He was absent from the rotunda before dinner when she had come to fetch him. He never was the social type so if he did show it would be a surprise to everyone. Still, the expectation for him showing put a small pit of anxiety in her stomach that manifested into her ripping off pieces of her paper napkin and rolling them up into little balls before throwing them at people around the table.

 

“You mean me or the wolves?” Kain was sleeping underneath the table and was going back and forth from Cullen to her begging for table scraps. She didn’t give him any but she saw him chewing on something from the table. In those times the Commander avoided her gaze and had a coy smile on his face.

 

“Er. Both. You can change into one of them, run around and things?” The elf made a hand motion to indicate scurrying around while baring her teeth.

 

“Yes, Sera. My magic allows me to be close with animals.”

 

“Ew. Not too close, right?” She then broke off into maddening laughter and Athena pushed her off of her balance until the elf fell from the chair.

 

“You got a rotten mind, Sera. It makes for fun company though.” In a silent truce, she offered her arm for the dirty-blonde to use to get back up to her chair. Sera smirked and used her fork to steal a piece of pheasant from Athena’s plate once she was back up in a sitting position.

 

“You’re almost elfier than he is and that is saying something. I see you being friendly with the newbie you brought back with you.” Athena arched a brow before realizing she was talking about Loranil. She scratched the back of her neck and leaned back into her chair.

 

“He is a sweet kid, full of energy. He’s still doing well, Cullen?”

 

The mention of his name brought him out a conversation about Orlesian shoes and he quickly leaned over to them. “Yes, he is a promising recruit. Speaks highly of you though, Athena.” There was a teasing smirk on his lips and Athena used one of her rolled up pieces of paper as punishment for it, flicking it at his face and missing. Sera let out a disgusted scoff and threw her hands in the air, looking towards Varric with a mock scowl.

 

“Come on it now, I was promised drink and games.”

 

Varric chuckled at the end of the group. He was resting his boots on the table, much to Josephine’s arguing. “Well we have cards or that two truths game Walker taught us. Unless you have another one?”

 

Athena thought for a second, picking up her ale and swirling it around within her mug. Two truths and a lie was getting old and they were beginning to hear the same things go back and forth. Most people didn’t want to get really personal and that took the fun out of it. Her face cracked into a smile as a mischievous idea came to her mind. “We can play cards and play this game at the same time. It’s called ‘Never Have I Ever’ and can get quite dicey if everyone is interested?”

 

The group looked to each other and then nodded or hummed in agreement. She started, gesturing for the cards from Josephine so she could deal while she explained. Rathein quickly cleared the table and put their dirty dishes on top of the bar. “You start off with ten fingers held up. Someone makes a statement like ‘Never have I ever been to Rivain.’ In that case if you have been to Rivain you put a finger down while other people who haven’t get to keep theirs up. You want to keep as many fingers up as possible. You can use strategy in this game if you know someone well enough. You can target questions to get them out. We can play cards after but this is a fun ice breaker.”

 

Bull winked towards Rathein. “I can see this getting messy.”

 

Athena snapped her fingers and pointed at him in agreement. “See, you know it, Bull. The group sets the tone so we’ll see where we go. Let me start so we can get this going. Never have I ever. . . been to Denerim.”

 

Bull, Cullen, Varric and Sera put down fingers while the others kept theirs up. She nodded and looked to the group with a smirk. “We can pick an order or whoever wants to try next.” Varric grinned and shot a playful glance to the Inquisitor.

 

“Never have I ever kissed a Qunari.”

 

Cassandra rose to defend their ruler but Rathein leaned over and kissed Bull on the cheek, proudly putting down her finger. Sera and Bull also lost a point, both with mischievous grins on their face. Rathein raised her hand in response, grinning back at the group. “On that note, never have I ever kissed an elf.”

 

Fuck.

 

Athena felt heat rise to her cheeks and she slowly put her pinkie finger on her right hand down since it was the farthest away from everyone, taking a large sip of drink while other people remarked over one another. Everyone but Cassandra, Josephine, and Rathein had put a finger down. Cullen was getting the brunt of all the questions and he took Athena’s strategy to divert them by drinking some of his ale to hide the color in his cheeks. Sera was the one who looked to her right and then down, her eyes lighting up with devilish glee.

 

“Oh lookie here, furry has gotten a little elfy! Hah!”

 

The table went into stunned silence but they all wore curious expressions. Cassandra tried to be the nice one, leaning forward to catch her gaze. “Do they have elves in your world, Athena?” That made it even worse, especially because she felt a sudden breeze on her back that indicated the door was opening. When the cold didn’t go away she knew who had finally shown up and it had to be at the worst time.

 

“No. No we do not.” Her voice was strained and embarrassed. She pulled her knees up into the chair to hide. In punishment for outing her, she swapped out her empty ale mug for Sera’s full one and began to drink that as well.

 

Varric clapped his hands together, looking to Solas with an almost knowing smile. “Chuckles, you know anything about this?”

 

Solas sat down across from her in the empty chair and raised an eyebrow in response, looking at everyone’s hands in question. “About what, Master Tethras?”

 

Sera couldn’t take a break from her giggling but she managed to get out: “Athena’s kissed an elf!”

 

Athena was mourning with her head in her hands so she couldn’t see Solas’s expression. She felt his magic pulse out for a second but he was quick to restrain it. Once she looked up from her hands she saw that he met her gaze with an almost wicked and daring look. He smirked at her in warning, picking up a drink from the end of the table in one hand, raising it to his lips. Before she could make any signs of protest he announced: “Indeed she has.” He then took a drink of the ale, his eyes never leaving hers.

 

Her pupils constricted in panic and her eyes went wide, the color draining from her cheeks in a flash. The table went silent and she thought she saw Cullen frown for half a second before drinking from his mug again. Varric’s jaw dropped and he was barely able to make out his challenge to the fact: “Bullshit.”

 

Solas shrugged but remained silent, taking in another sip of ale while the table processed the information. Cassandra and Josephine smiled to one another like gossiping girls but it was Rathein who was grinning at Athena like a madman. Athena ran her hands through her hair and stretched back into her chair, shooting Solas a playful glare as her pulse decreased from life-threatening highs.  Josephine had a face of disappointment and Bull caught on as well, gently nudging his elbow into the Ambassador’s shoulder. “What’s wrong?”

 

“Well, the court is under the impression that Lady Athena is . . . unmarried. There have been a number of inquiries as to her marital status, even from the Grand Duke Gaspard. Since we leave tomorrow it would be quite the scandal if we changed our statement.”

 

Athena and Solas shared a quick glance but he was actually the one to speak first towards the matter. “I think considering the circumstances it would be safe to abstain from making any grand announcements.” Athena looked to Rathein who had been waiting for the opportunity to meet her gaze. The Herald mouthed the words: When were you going to tell me? She gave her a sheepish shrug in return, which only earned a rude yet playful gesture from the leader of the table. The conversation drifted back towards her and the other single noble men.

 

She could only rub her palms into her eyes and groan. “I’m going to need to scrub with a stone to get this disgusting feeling off of me.”

 

Sera chuckled under her breath, stealing her drink back to take a sip. “That’s just Orlais. I’m sure Elven Glory over there can help you get the feeling off.”

 

Solas shot Sera a glare but Athena was quick to touch his leg with her foot under the table, giving him a look that said chastising the elf next to her wasn’t worth it. The color in her cheeks had toned down now that the conversation at the table had switched from their romance to the ball. There was a certain freedom in having their romance announced because it meant he wouldn’t have to sneak around, but she couldn’t get rid of the nagging feeling in her stomach that came with knowing that Gaspard was interested in her based-on rumor alone. 

 

He caught onto that, tilting his head slightly to the side with a concerned gaze. Are you alright? He asked silently. Athena thought for a moment, chewing on the inside of her lip while slowly meeting his eyes. The answer was a simple shrug. There was no way of knowing. It felt like she would be fighting off the advances of every single man at the ball while trying to help the Inquisitor keep things safe in the background while they investigated the Empress’s life. The group slowly went into the card game where it was quickly revealed that Josephine and Solas were the two best players at the table. They were silent sharks, stealing everyone’s money without letting onto how good they were with their cards.

 

Since she was new to the game Athena lost her money first. She used the time to clean up around the table and wash the dishes in the sinks behind the bar where Flissa normally helped. Kain was there, begging for any type of scrap she could find, but she refused him. “He has spoiled you, he has. You hunted today and had half of his plate. You are fine, darling.” Athena bent down and kissed her companion on the nose as he whined.

 

Rathein sauntered over to the counter and winked at her in greeting. “So. . . Gaspard. That’s going to make things interesting.”

 

She nodded, stacking the last of the clean dishes on the drying towel on the side. “It also gives me a little more wiggle room to make things all the sweeter.”

 

Rathein looked confused for a second but then everything clicked and she let out a whispering Oooohh. “Crafty Sorcìere, you are. You might have this thing down better than you think.”

 

Athena pointed the end of a spatula at her in warning, flicking some of the lye water at her. “Don’t you dare. Get back to cards, Inquisitor. It’s your turn.” Rathein cursed and turned on her heel to return to the table. By the time the dishes were dried, the table began their travels back towards their rooms. Josephine was reminding everyone to be ready and dressed in clean clothes in the morning. The first part of the journey would be on horseback but the moment they hit the Imperial Roads they would be in carriages. The group waved and embraced each other before leaving.

 

Varric gave Athena a playful wink before leaving and Cassandra approached her with the same coy smile she had after the campfire story. “I’m happy for you, Athena. I’m glad you were able to find happiness here.”

 

She was surprised to hear that statement from the Seeker. Her words were lost for a second but she cleared her throat and shook her friend’s hand. “Thank you, Cassandra. That means a lot, truly.” The brunette nodded before leaving the bar. Solas was holding the door open while giving her an expectant look. Kain pushed on the sides of her legs and the trio took off from the tavern into the night. He led her with a gentle touch on the small of her back through the castle grounds, no longer hiding the small gestures of affection. The wind was surprisingly still and the light of the two moons glowed down on them.

 

“That was a clever surprise back there, Hahren.” She wrapped an arm around his back and rested her head on his shoulder.

 

He chuckled, resting his cheek on top of her head in return as they walked in sync back towards her room. “Did you mean to keep it secret?”

 

“Nuh-uh. I thought you were the more reserved one so I avoided screaming it from my tower room for your sake.” This brought a laugh from him and she felt her heart grow warm feeling the rumbling sensation in his chest. There was something unrestrained about him now and it was refreshing. Grief had finally been erased from his features and he acted like himself again, even more so. They reached her door and she slid in front of him, smiling at the warmth that her room provided with the candles in the walls. Kain took his place on the bed, shooting Solas a warning look before he did so. Athena chuckled at the wolf, shrugging off her jacket and laying it on top of the pile of clothes that would be going with them in the morning. Solas was still standing by the door and she gave him a quizzical look while taking off her main shirt, leaving only the tank top and her wrappings underneath.

 

“Are you staying or going?”

 

He smirked, closing the door before leaning his body against it, his eyes never leaving her frame as she walked about the room and prepared for bed. “I’ll be back. Don’t. . .go anywhere.” She looked to him with a ghost of a smile on her lips. He shook his head at the thought of him leaving and when she went down the stairs she saw in her peripherals that he was taking off his shirt and sitting on the opposite side of the bed from Kain. Athena quickly descended the steps and ran a cloth in water from the tub, wiping off the daily grime from her face and eyes before looking on front of the vanity.

 

Her brown hair fell over her shoulders in wavy, loose curls. Her fingers traced over her more prominent cheekbones and jawline, taking note of the small changes that were continuing to take shape on her body with every passing day. There were muscle lines, actual muscles lines along her sides and abdomen. She shimmied out of her pants and looked at the curve of her hips down her legs. Hot damn, Athena. For the first time in a long time she was happy with what she saw in the mirror. It might have been influenced by the fact that there was an Elven God in her bed upstairs, but it was a step in the right direction either way.

 

She ran her fingers through her hair to straighten out her locks before returning up the stairs, using a pulse of magic to extinguish the candles around the room. From his breathing, she could tell Solas was already asleep or close to it. His chest rose and fell in slow, rhythmic movements and the sound was calming, inviting for her to come and join him. She maneuvered herself between Kain’s body and his, sliding under the blanket to spoon her body against his. He did not fully wake but he took in a deep breath of her hair, wrapping an arm around her and pulling her close to him in a protective gesture.

 

It felt right, complete almost, being there with him, and the safety of knowing that made it easier to fall into the Fade for the evening.

 

 

Chapter Text

“It’s about time you showed up! I’ve been waiting on you, Athena. We have a lot of work to do.”

 

Inspiration was impatiently tapping her foot with a joking smirk on her face when Athena arrived in the Fade. She waved at the spirit and walked over, rubbing her eyes as if she were waking up from a nap even though her sleep was just beginning. “Sorry, got a little – er- sidetracked last night. What do you mean work to do?”

 

The spirit rolled her eyes but came up and poked her in the middle of the chest with an excited grin. “We need to practice dancing, remember? You have been learning the basic waltzes from Orlais?”

 

Athena nodded, thinking back to her lessons with Josephine with a wince. “Yeah, they are all the same basic formula with a few minor changes. They’re very much what I expected of the tight-corseted bunch.” The spirit led her into the depth of the Fade more, gesturing for Athena to summon an image around them. She gave a sideways glare before reaching back into her mind, trying to think of a place that would be perfect for them to practice dancing.

 

There weren’t many places she could think of so Inspiration just tapped her on the shoulder. “What about that green place you took me too? Where we first met Harmony?”

 

The camp? That would work. With a twist of her wrist she brought forth the image of the lake with the large green area in front of it. “Okay, Athena. Now we need some upbeat music. This dance I need to teach you is nothing like the Orlesian waltzes you have learned. It’s, how do I say, fiery?” When she said the word fiery it sounded like the spirit was trying to emulate Dorian. Athena didn’t know if it was on purpose but brought a smile to her face. She was glad the Tevinter was coming to Halamshiral as a political buffer because she didn’t know what she was do if she was alone while the main party explored the grounds. Between the two of the fire mages, they would have a little bit of fun.

 

I met a girl, in east LA. In floral shorts as sweet as May.

She sang in eights in two-barrio chords.

We fell in love, but not in court.

 

The tempo then took off and much to Inspiration’s delight it fitted to the dance she wanted to teach. The spirit walked over to Athena, resting her hands on her shoulders while pulsing magic into her Fade-form. “What is this?”

 

“I’ve taught the dance to your mind, now we must ingrain it into your body. You seem to call on my blessing the most so perhaps it will come easiest to you.”

 

“You were the first, perhaps it is why you resonate the most within her.” The voice was not theirs and both women looked over to Solas who had strode into her dream without his usual knocking. Athena smiled at him, making a sound of agreement with him before assuming the opening stance of the dance with Inspiration.

 

“You think so? I guess that makes sense.” The spirit and her began to go through the opening moves while he assessed them with a curious gaze.

 

“What are you two doing?” There was a twinkle in his gaze when he looked at them both and she couldn’t contain her blush. Athena cleared her throat and slowly went through the next moves with Inspiration, the spirit remaining silent but fixing her poses if they were off or not rigid enough.

 

“Practicing for Halamshiral. Josephine says there are going to be a lot of eyes on me and thanks to you the whole court is going to think I’m available.” She was mostly joking but there was a small pit of hurt within her gut.

 

“You did say they introduce me as a servant, did you not?” He did not falter, leaning his back against a tree that was close to them. His voice stayed in that slow, deep cadence that was infuriating in this moment. Come on, where is your Pride that you’re named after? She wanted to scream at him but instead she nodded to answer his question, allowing Inspiration to dip her back with a hand on her lower back so she could arch over it before being whipped back up into an upright position.

 

“The other option is me being courted by every noble in Orlais and the Grand Duke Gaspard? Great, that option is so much better than me being with the person I care about.” The sarcasm and anger was evident in her voice, her words clipped short while she moved her gaze to the moves in front of her. Inspiration was getting frustrated with her lack of attention, using small pulses of her influence to try and bring her friend into focus. When it wasn’t working, Harmony appeared on the side and his presence alone let Athena know that she must have been off in her control.

 

She felt for her aura and realized that it was flaring out with her heart beat, heating up the area around them while putting them on edge due to her emotions. She gave them a silent apology, rolling her neck while bringing in her magic until it was pulsing underneath her skin. Athena closed her eyes, focusing on her breaths and becoming aware of the fire that was her magic on her skin. As every day went by it was getting stronger. She could tell that the training was paying off. In her and Dorian’s last drill they had been able to go back and forth for an hour before Dorian called it off due to the fact that the flame they were throwing was their body-size and it was scaring the locals. She was so focused on trying to contain herself, she barely noticed Inspiration step back and Solas taking her place, gently placing a hand on her hip while taking one of her hands into his own.

 

“I do not wish to distract you from your duties, Athena.” His voice was soft and in a way broken. The familiar language caused her face to pale, her eyes shooting open to drown in the depths of his. Those words, they were the start of something she was terrified to hear.

 

Dancing forgotten, she brought his hand to her face and steeled her gaze. “You are not a distraction, Solas; you are my foundation. I would not be able to endure Orlais if I did not know you would be there to help me through it and stitch my soul back up at the end of the night.”

 

He paused, bringing her closer by pulling on her lower back as a smile twitched at the corner of his lips and eyes. “Alright, Athena. Now, why were you trying to learn the Rivainese tango? I did not think that was a standard in Orlais.” He tried to get a reason from Inspiration but the spirit remained silent, giving Athena playful wink before allowing the pair to spend time together. They went back and forth through various dances for the rest of the night, talk of distractions and nobles long forgotten by the time morning came around for the Inquisition.

 


 

 

There wasn’t much time in the morning for fooling around so when she came into the physical world it took all of her strength to open her eyes and glare at the sun coming in the crack of the door.  She had turned over in the middle of the night, her hands lazily clutching onto the necklace around his neck. Now that her eyes were open, her breath caught in her throat, eyes slowly falling to look at his bare chest. Her hands released the necklace and lay flat on his skin, slowly feeling his breaths rise and fall under her now shaky touch. He was perfect in the morning light, a blush crawling to her cheeks as she took in the sight of his toned chest and abdomen. The darkness of the blanket hid away what was below his waist but there was a sudden need that wanted to know. He stirred in his sleep, pulling her close one last time before he was fully separated from the Fade.

 

“Good morning, Athena.”

 

She hummed wordlessly in response, groaning while sitting up from the bed and stretching towards the sky. Kain took the opportunity to sit up and lick both her and Solas’s face in a gesture of approval towards the couple. Happy? The wolf asked his eyes sparkling with curiosity as he pressed his forehead against hers. Athena smiled, pressing her lips to his head as an answer. She then got up from the bed and casually sauntered over to the wardrobe, picking out a basic pair of black pants with a formal white blouse. While she was picking her clothes from the hangers and shelves she felt his hands on the outsides of her thighs, bringing her back towards the bed so he could kiss the small of her back.

 

Athena yelped as she lost her balance, falling back into his lap unceremoniously. She tried to brace her hands on opposite side of him but he already had his arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her into him while kissing her cheek. “Be careful! You don’t want to fall this early in the morning.” It might be too late for that. She thought, turning her face and kissing him on the tip of the nose before escaping his grasp and grabbing the pair of pants she had dropped.

 

“It would be a lot easier if somebody was more cooperative with the morning. I’m not strong enough to fight you off so I need a little help here or else we will never leave.” He put his hands up in defeat, his eyes never leaving her body as she struggled to pull the freshly tailored pants up her legs. She put her boots on before messing with the blouse so she could just leave when she was done; plus the floor was cold probably no thanks to his magical presence. Solas collected his shirt from the nightstand on his side and put it on in a smooth gesture. Athena caught one last look at his bare chest before, instantly looking away when he tried to catch her admiring his form. He smirked, pulling the wolf necklace over his shirt and patting it into place.

 

“We are running late. Allow me to fetch some breakfast? Something portable for the road perhaps?” She looked up packing her chest, nodding feverishly while realizing she had stopped halfway in buttoning up her shirt. It was designed to nearly go all the way up to her chin. Athena promptly said ‘fuck that’ and buttoned up past her black chest wrappings, but that was it. She needed to breathe and high-necked shirts always made her feel claustrophobic. As Solas was about to leave the room she scurried over to him, nearly tripping over her lute, kissing him on the cheek.

 

“Just one of the breads should tide me over. Thank you, Solas.”

 

He slowed her by capturing her chin with his hand, lightly brushing his lips over hers before leaving without another word. It took a few moments to collect everything, including her frantic thoughts, and rush out of the room with her lute over her shoulder and with Kain at her side. There was already an attendant there to help bring her things down to where the large Inquisition party was getting packed and started. The moment she descended the stairs from her tower she was greeted by a magical slap in the body that was made of pure heat.

 

Athena paused, her eyes scanning the group to find its source. Dorian was standing with his arms crossed over his chest, an annoyed expression on his face. That must be it.

 

“Do you know what I heard this morning? From Sera of all people!”

 

Shit. She chuckled, trying to bring him into a good-morning embrace but he pushed her back, a sliver of actual anger lighting his voice. Prince looked over his shoulder from his position in the group to see if she was okay and she waved him off with a quick gesture.

 

“Fucking. Sera. Athena. Maker help me I thought we were friends, family almost. I feel betrayed.” The Tevinter looked particularly groomed that morning and she made sure to save a compliment for later when she was warming him back up.

 

“I’m sorry, love, it. .  .wasn’t supposed to be announced that way. Otherwise yes, you would have been the first to know. Will you forgive me?” She plead with him, taking a step closer to where she was nearly nose to nose with him. He scoffed, rolling his eyes before dropping his facade to bring her into a hug. She chuckled into his chest, wrapping her arms around his lower back.

 

“Of course I do. Now if there are anymore scandals - I demand you come straight to me first, alright?” They separated and he finally broke into a smile, which caused Athena to rub the back of her neck and fight off a blush since he now knew like everyone else knew. The teasing would be endless. Solas appeared at her side, silently handing her one of the hearty breads they had in baskets in the main dining hall. With a sheepish smile, she put the bread in her mouth to free up her hands so she could stroke Prince’s mane before climbing onto the saddle. Once she up there she bit off a large chunk of bread and cherished in the taste of the sweet and salty pastry. The group was about ready to go, the bulk of them on their mounts while the carts carrying their chests of clothes and necessities moved on ahead.

 

The last people to show up were the Inner Council and Rathein, who was dressed her most formal of attires with a freshly trimmed haircut and shaved sides. Bull smiled when he saw her and that little bit of affection brought a warmth to Athena’s heart. The Qunari mercenary was a giant teddy bear if people could get past what he looked like. Once Rathein was mounted on her horse the entire party moved forward. The Inner Council was at her back and the rest of them followed. Vivienne seemed content near the front of the group, no doubt she wanted to be close to where the real power was. Which left Cassandra, Solas, Dorian, and Athena in the back to keep each other content.

 


 

It didn’t take long for them to descend the mountain and join the Imperial Highway, where there were carriages waiting for those who wanted them. Athena refused the offer, looking inside the cramped albeit fancy things. Josephine attempted to hide her frown but she smiled. “Are you going to be joining us, Lady Athena?” 

 

She shrugged looking down to the Ambassador while patting Prince’s side. “It has been a while since I’ve rode with my friends here and I can feel a few members of the Plains Pack close by. I think you would rather have me separated from the group if I’m going to talk to them. Unless. . . you want me to invite the pack of wolves here? Allow me to scout. I will join you in those boxes with wheels after first camp in the morning.”

 

Vivienne scoffed across from Josephine, looking out the window of the carriage with an unamused expression. The Ambassador quickly reconsidered, shaking her head before shutting the door. While everyone else took their time in loading the chests on the back of the carriages Athena moved with Prince down the highway a few paces, her eyes on the edge of the horizon, feeling for any enemies.

 

The whispers of the extended pack grew louder as they left Skyhold. Claw and the original six led them to the tree line before returning to their patrols in the surrounding forest of the castle. She hoped to maybe see Fang and introduce him to Kain while he was running by her side. She also had a feeling that Josephine hadn’t informed Gaspard’s people that she was bringing a full sized black wolf to stay with her for the evening.

 

Boy wouldn’t they be surprised.

 

Athena looked over her shoulder, catching Solas and Dorian getting their carriage ready. The two men looked to her with different smiles. The Tevinter winked at her and wiggled his fingers towards her while Solas raised a brow in her direction, a smirk of affection playing on his lips. Could the Dread Wolf sense her impending shift? Could he hear the call of the wild swirling within her head, fueling the beating of her heart? Prince could. He gave her a small buck to get her from his back and closer to the ground.

 

Run, Athena. Prince’s voice echoed within her mind with the memory of Solas’s words at the edge of Crestwood. Knowing her friend’s eyes were still on her she began to run. The wonderful brown mount sprinted with her until she jumped into the air, losing her mind to the pack and shifting into the stark white furred wolf that brought her a sense of joy. When she landed, she looked over her shoulder towards the pair. Solas was smiling with pride on his way into the carriage while Dorian’s eyes widened, his hand going to the back of his head while a string of what she was assuming was Tevinter curses fell from her lips.

 

The steed called for her, anxious for an unbridled run and so she followed, chasing him into the plains at the edge of the highway while the carriages began their travel to Halamshiral.

Chapter Text

Meeting with Fang had been eventful. The alpha of the plains pack and Kain spent their time getting to know one another, exchanging a few growls of warning when one would get closer to Athena than the other. The white-furred wolf rolled her eyes, snipping her teeth at them both as they were getting ready to return to the highway. Fang stated they were slowly getting rid of the demons in the area and they were able to clear an area so an Inquisition soldier could burn the body pit. Good, one less thing for Rathein to do. The shifter nodded and rubbed her cheek alongside her friends, urging them to get out of sight of the highway. She spent the rest of the day in that form, running in between Prince’s legs and enjoying the warm sun on her fur while avoiding her responsibilities as a member of the Inner Council. The idea of planning for the Game made her itch.

 

The Inquisition set up their large camp as soon as the sun went down. Dorian and Solas thankfully didn’t kill each other during their travels in the days. When she trotted up to them at camp they were discussing different spell tactics, Dorian making a comment on how a certain move made his teeth taste funny. Athena gave a wolfish smirk, walking up to her friend and sitting at the Tevinter’s feet with a tilted head. He almost jumped, running a hand through his hair.

 

“Maker – Athena. I forgot that was you. Come back and join us, why don’t you? They’ll be serving dinner soon and I am not letting you eat it out of the bowl like a Mabari.”

 

The sound that came from her maw was a mixture between a scoff and a growl, but thankfully it ended up resembling a laugh enough for him to smile. Solas ran his hand idly across the top of her back, bringing her fur on edge as a shiver ran from her nose to her spine. Cullen’s arrival brought a mischievous smile to her eyes and the elf caught it, nodding while standing to the side. The Commander looked at Kain then to the white wolf, confusion riddling itself into his features.

 

“Wait if Prince is over there and Kain is here. . . where is Athena? Maker you two – “

 

Oh! He didn’t realize yet. This made her excitement grow larger as she took a step back, using her magic to pulse forward for her to stand a pace in front of the Commander. In a smug gesture, she had her hands clasped behind her back with a wicked smirk on her lips. “Yes, Commander?” He jumped back with a cry of surprise, face pale while he cursed under his breath. She laughed with Dorian while Kain walked over to help his shocked friend by licking his gloved hand. Cullen’s hand was on top of his sword and she raised her hands up in defense, tears stinging her eyes while she continued to giggle. “Sorry, Cullen. I couldn’t help it. You should have seen your face.”

 

“Be nice, alpha!” Bull called over from the fire with a hand cupping his mouth. Rathein was laughing at his side, pointing in their general direction with matching tears in her eyes. Blackwall was chuckling with them, his rich and gruff voice bringing a smile to her face.

 

“I heard the rumors but I didn’t actually expect, well, that.” The blonde-haired soldier gestured to her up and down and she flicked her hair over her shoulders, smiling with pride.

 

“What? Is that not a trick I should break out at the ball?”

 

“Absolutely not.” Cassandra and Josephine chimed in unison. The Ambassador was stark white but Cassandra had a bit of a smirk to her lips while she ate her dinner, eyes bouncing back and forth between Athena and the Commander. The reaction of the women brought a low rumble of a chuckle from Cullen. He visibly relaxed and pet Kain behind the ears to regain his bearings. Solas brought her over to the campfire and Dorian sat on her other side. She suddenly felt like there was an odd battle for attention going on but she ignored it, silently eating the meal Solas handed her wordlessly. There were small shared communications between them that didn’t need words and she was infinitely thankful.

 

During her hunt in the day he would occasionally pull down the window of the carriage and pulse his magic out, looking for her. She would feel the familiar cold call and howl in return, alerting him of her location and that she was fine. The small check-ins made her feel cared about, tingly almost. It was a strange sensation but for the first time in weeks, months, she felt like the bottom wasn’t about to fall out from under her. Rathein and her were working jointly on Halamshiral and there was a man who cared about her. Maybe things would finally be okay for a day.

 

The group ate in a busy silence but Josephine spoke up first. “Athena, I have been hearing you have quite the talent for music?”

 

Leliana hummed from her corner of the fire, a curious and delighted look in her eye. “Yes! I have heard the same thing. Might we have a sampling? I would not doubt that the court will ask you to perform. Bards and minstrels are custom at these kinds of events.”

 

Athena fought to not roll her eyes, swallowing down a piece of overcooked meat with a shrug of her shoulders. Kain obediently dug through her tent and brought out a lute and laid it in front of her. Traitor! She thought to him, grabbing his maw and kissing him on the tip of the nose. He exhaled in a quick motion that nearly mimicked a sneeze but she knew he did it when he was trying to be snarky. She raised the lute to her hands and suddenly felt a swell of magic within her chest. Did Inspiration add something else when she “taught” her the tango in the Fade?

 

With a twist of her lips to the side she suddenly smiled, looking to the ever-hopeful Ambassador with a wicked expression. “Let’s dedicate this one to our host tomorrow evening. Can we all agree on that?”

 

Rathein caught onto her tone, humming in response while sipping back on her mug of ale. Bull had packed a cask of his favorite drink to keep them satisfied during their travels that Athena would be staying far away from. The Qunari looked between the two women and smiled, bringing up his own mug with an expectant wiggle of his eyebrows. With that she took in a deep breath, starting a pleasant-sounding string of notes on her instrument.

 

“Look inside. Look inside your tiny mind, now look a bit harder.”

 

Already the group snickered and Josephine’s face faltered, a curious smirk remaining on her lips.

 

“Cause we’re so uninspired, so sick and tired of all of the hatred you harbor. So, you say, it’s not okay to be gay.” Dorian scoffed playfully and nudged her with his elbow. She shrugged in return and continued, ignoring the pressing look Solas was giving her.

 

“Well I think you’re just evil. You’re just some racist who can’t tie my laces. Your point of view is medieval.” She held out the note and led up with a flurry of notes, winking towards the Inquisitor before reaching the punchline of the song.

 

“Fuck you. Fuck you very, very much.”

 

The entire group save for Vivenne erupted into some sort of laughter. Josephine broke her composure and chuckled into her hand, turning her face away to hide the expression. Leliana even was smiling, shaking her head back and forth without objecting to the song. Everyone else was in some sort of deep-throated laughter while still trying to listen.

 

“Cause we hate what we do and we hate your whole crew, so please don’t stay in touch.” She continued the chorus again and decided to stand, walking around the fire and the backs of her companions.

 

“Do you get, do you get a kick out of being small minded? You want to be like your father. It’s approval you’re after well that’s not how you find it.”

 

She overheard Josephine muttering a ‘sweet Andraste’ underneath her poor attempts at hiding her giggles. Leliana smiled at the lyric, giving a shrug at the lyric and confirming that it was true. Athena finally glossed her gaze over to meet Solas’s. . .and there was a swell of pride in his eyes that almost caused her hands to falter on the strings. Instantly she blushed, holding his eyes for a second longer before continuing on through the list. Vivienne was doing her very best to ignore the scenario, turning her nose up at the ground while reading through a book on Orlesian history. Athena made the decision to skip towards one of the ending verses, sitting next to the First Enchantress with a large thump. The mage failed to hide her sneer as she scooted a bit away from her while turning the page of her book.

 

“You say. You think we need to go to war. Well you’re already in one.” The group made sounds of agreement, looking to one another in anticipation of the next set of lyrics. “Cause its people like you who need to get slew. No one wants your opinion.” This time she made sure Vivienne caught her gaze. Before the woman could respond she pushed from the seat with a strong push of her legs, finishing of the sound with a final round of “fuck you’s”. When she was done, she made an exaggerated strum of the string and extended both arms into a bow.

 

The group clapped for her, Rathein putting two fingers in her mouth to whistle when she wasn’t giggling. Athena returned to her seat next to Solas and leaned into him with a beaming smile on her face. He instinctively put his arm around her in response, flicking his gaze down to her with nothing but care in his eyes. “Is that what you meant, Lady Montilyet? Do you think he would like that?”

 

Cullen broke in with a scoff, smirking while resting his head on top of his hands. “Absolutely. Don’t you think he would enjoy that, Lady Josephine?”

 

The Ambassador cleared her throat and tried to regain her official composure. “Your voice was lovely, Madame Sorcìere and your playing matched it. However, I do not thing that specific choice of song would be wise. At least not until we are no longer being hosted by him.” The last sentence was spoke more under her breath but it made Bull smirk nonetheless. Her calling Athena the title of the court brought a twitch of discomfort to her lips while she put her lute away. She supposed it was something she would have to get used it. It was just something that could be negative or positive depending on what connotation and inflection of the voice was added to it.

 

Either way, she would have to wear the title with pride until they were out of Orlais. Rathein dismissed them for the evening and Athena had to giggle at the impatient tone in her voice with Bull’s hand at her back. The two were getting quite touchy but she hadn’t seen any signs of a dragon necklace yet on either one of them. She stood and stretched up towards the sky, sighing in relief at the feeling of her back popping in a few tight places. She placed a hand on her lower back and rubbed it, wincing when her finger rubbed over a sensitive knot.

 

“Are you alright?” Solas asked, standing with her and assessing her up and down with a quick gaze.

 

She winced once more and relaxed into a normal posture, a hand still guarding her back. “Yeah I’m fine. My back just tends to get tight if I spend too much time with the pack. It will go away by the morning though.” He shook his head at her stubbornness, leading them to their tent. Kain made a comment about hunting within her mind and ran off into the plains, staying within mind’s reach of her while she lay belly-down on her bedroll. That twisted her back into an even worse position and she hissed, clawing at the roll as her breath was stolen from her. “Bloody hell I’m not old enough to be feeling like this.”

 

“Relax, Athena. I have something that might help. May I?” He gripped on her shirt and pulled up and she was helpless to fight him, nodding into her pillow as he pulled up her blouse, which was now dirtied, and undershirt until his hands met her bare skin. He palpated around her spine, rubbing softly on her skin until he found the knot that brought another curse word from her lips. It apparently wasn’t completely muffled by the pillow because she heard Dorian from his tent next to theirs.

 

“Andraste’s tits – we just settled in. Can’t you two wait?”

 

“Shut it, Sparkles, or I’ll cut your clothes up in your sleep!” Her voice was strained and pointed but she had enough energy to snap her face from the pillow and shoot the verbal jab towards him.

 

“You wouldn’t dare.” He mumbled under his breath, falling back into silence while Solas kept a finger on the knot in her back to dig through his pack with the other hand. When he found a salve, he dipped his fingers into the jar, working the mixture onto her back while cooling it with his aura. It was difficult to contain the moan of relief from her lips but she managed by biting her tongue and burying her face into the pillow. He positioned himself to where he was sitting on the backs of her thighs, using his body weight to press into the knot and massage it out.

 

“You must have been doing some vigorous activity to earn an ache like this.” He mused, looking up to her while pulsing his aura over her skin in rhythm with the working of his hand on her back. Athena twitched and arched her back under his touch, turning her head to the side while letting out a controlled breath of strain. The pain was slowly subsiding but it was still tender to his touch. Her eyes fluttered open in between steadied breaths to see him working on her back, eyes focused with lips partially parted while he worked. Suddenly the ache in her back was gone and she was more fascinated with how delicate he was being despite the hungry look in his eyes as he worked on her back. A more familiar ache began to grow in the pit of her belly, the insides of her thighs tightening seeing him working on her.

 

“Nothing out of the ordinary. I think Prince might have caught me with his hoof when I was running with him but it didn’t hurt at the time. Thank you, I definitely feel better.” She looked up to him with a smile and he met her gaze, nodding slowly while rubbing in the last of the salve from his hands. Once he was done he slowly moved off her, using one last pulse of magic to ease the tightness in her muscles. She pushed from the ground with a sigh of relief, arching upwards like a cobra to stretch out her back. He was slipping off his shirt, gently placing it at the foot of his bedroll before.

 

She could feel the heat rising to her face but she pushed herself to rest on her knees while she removed her blouse and undershirt, throwing them carelessly near the entrance of the tent while flopping onto her back, working out of her pants while twisting her lips to the side in concentration. The hunt and the day’s ride had left her pants somewhat sticky to her thighs but eventually she kicked them off, laying on her roll with a small sound of content as the cool air ran over her skin. She heard a sharp intake of air from the other side of the tent, her gaze confidently rolling over to catch him staring at her with lips parted and eyes wanting. His eyes started at her face and slowly trailed down her body and with a small chuckle from her throat she twisted her wrist and used a pulse of magic to extinguish the candles around the room. Solas laid at her back, wrapping his arms around her while kissing the back of her neck in slow, controlled movements.

 

There was want, need, in his actions and that only fueled her confidence. Athena smiled arching her back against him and letting out a content sigh. He was persistent on her neck, giving light kisses and at one point he playfully bit down on her shoulder to elicit a response from her.

 

Solas!” She whispered in scorn, rolling over to see he had a wickedly satisfied smirk on his face. He gripped her face in her hands gently, stroking his thumbs over her cheekbones before bringing her lips against his. Athena made a soft sound of surprise before playfully pushing against his bare chest. “The last design I saw for my dress proved to be very revealing so I think love marks must wait until after the ball.” She kept her voice to a whisper, her lips ghosting over his while she spoke to keep the sound they were making as close to silence as possible. He dropped his hands to her waist to pull them forward so he could roll his hips against her body.

 

She could feel his yearning for her against her hips, eyes widening in surprise which only caused him to grin, angling his head so he could whisper hot, breathy words into her ear. “Is that an invitation?”

 

Athena leaned her head onto his shoulder, bringing her hands to rest up against her chest to keep them from shaking. Her head felt from dizzy from the sudden increase in her heartbeat and wanting. He nudged the tip of his nose against her ear, waiting for an answer. She slowly nodded against him, tilting her head to try and find his gaze even in the dark of the night. “I suppose it is. After the ball. Otherwise I’m afraid we would miss it entirely.”

Chapter Text

Josephine was the one to wake them all in the morning, her kind accented voice echoing through the camp. Athena groaned, gripping onto the wolf bone necklace that had become her piece of security in her sleep. She rubbed her cheek on his arm, trying to shake remnants of the Fade from her eyes and mind.  Solas took in a sharp breath as he roused from sleep, pressing a soft kiss of greeting on her forehead while tightening his arms around her one last time. With regret in her heart, she sat up from his embrace, looking down to see that thankfully her bindings were still in place and there was enough light to see her chest of clothes near the front of the tent. These tents were larger than the typical ones for camping. Rathein and the Inner Council had packed cots off of the ground to sleep in but Athena didn’t think that far ahead.

 

She crawled a few paces to the chest, throwing it open with a groan. There was a halter collared top of magnificent greens and whites on top. Underneath were black pants with a matching green stripe up the thighs with slit skirts to flow on top. She placed the objects on top of the chest, standing up while summoning up the patience that would be required for that day. Josephine said she would need to ride in the carriages today but Athena refused. She could get in the boxes when they were close enough to Gaspard’s estate. Prince would not be tied up to pull their belongings like a pack mule. With a crack of her neck she looked over her shoulder and saw that Solas was getting dressed for the day as well. The others weren’t required to put on a character like she so their basic day to day clothes worked.

 

For a moment, she was jealous of them.

 

“Shit I don’t even know if I can wear my bandings with this thing.” She held up the garment and looked at the window of cleavage in the front, showing it to the elf with an exasperated expression. He looked to it and smirked, shaking his head while his hands clasped his chest shut.

 

“Are you going to be able to do the lacings by yourself?” He asked and she already knew the answer from the teasing in his tone. Athena walked over to him and swatted at him with the fabric in her hands, winking at him in a tease.

 

“You are just trying to sneak a peek. I see through you, Solas.” This brought a laugh from his lips and the sound warmed her heart, a faint blush of adoration coloring her cheeks. He walked over to her and rested his hands on her hips, thumbs brushing against the bare skin of her waist on the line above her small clothes.

 

“You are beautiful, Athena. I will not steal looks at what you do not wish me to see.” There was flirtation and sincerity in his voice, his gaze keeping on hers instead of traveling down her skin in a gesture of respect. She smiled turning around while sliding on the medieval torture piece of clothing. Once it was over her head and in a place where her breasts were covered, she undid the tightly tucked fabric at the side and pulled out the bandings from the front. At the sight of how much Vivienne wanted her exposed she groaned, rolling her eyes and throwing the bandings to the ground. Solas chuckled behind her, stepping forward and taking the strings into his hands. He did small tugs to pull on the corset, looking for any signs of discomfort in her face before moving down to the next row. There was a subtle expertise in his movements and it caused her to arch a brow.

 

“Exactly how many corsets have you put on, Solas?” She felt his fingers stumble for a moment before he found his rhythm again. Athena glanced over her shoulder and saw a slight blush of embarrassment on his cheeks.

 

“It is a basic process. There are some mage boots and harnesses that require the same threading.” His voice was calm and cadenced like he was giving a lecture. She smirked, returning to face the front again with her arms resting by her side.

 

“Quick recovery, hahren.” The subtle jab at his age brought another chuckle from him. He quickly tied a small bow at the top of the laces and then rested his hands on top of her shoulders, leaning forward and kissing her cheek.

 

“Is that too tight?” She looked down, twisting her body in each direction before shaking her head. The pants were easy to slip on and before long she was fully dressed. There was a small hand mirror in the side of her chest so she combed her fingers with her hair until the waves and subtle curls behaved. The pair looked to each other with a smirk on the corners of their lips before exiting the tent. The camp was already in full activity by the time they arrived. Dorian and Blackwall were trying to fit in a quick game of Diamondback while the ladies were discussing the carriage order and assigned who would sit where. The moment they left the tent some of the Inquisition soldiers collapsed the rent and began running things to the horses.

 

Kain was asleep by Dorian, basking in the sun’s glow. Athena sent out a pulse of magic and both the Tevinter and the wolf looked over with curious gazes. The black-furred companion came to her side, pressing his nose against her palm until she could lean down within reach of his kisses and whines. “Have a good hunt, my heart?” She asked her friend, the wolf nodded and leaned his head into her touch one more time before returning to his napping place by the fire.

 

Josephine walked over with her clipboard in hand, an uneasy expression on her face. Athena watched the Ambassador’s eyes follow Kain around the camp and she chuckled. “I’m not bringing him to Halamshiral with me. Do not worry, Josephine. He can either stay with the soldiers or sleep in my carriage until I return.”

 

The woman visible relaxed, making a small note on her scroll. “Thank Andraste.” She then turned around to everyone and announced for them to get ready. There were a series of grunts and groans but eventually everyone fell into place in their carriages from the day before. Solas gave her a final kiss on the cheek before joining Dorian. To tease, the Tevinter ran over and kissed Athena on her other cheek before shutting the carriage door. Already Athena could feel their magic having a battle of egos and she rolled her eyes.

 

“Are you not getting into a carriage, Athena?” Cassandra was one of the last ones to prepare. The soldier looked like her armor was freshly polished and the braid across her head was tight; she must have hated these types of things as much as her.

 

“Not until I have to. I want to be. . . .me for as long as possible.” The Seeker smiled, crossing her arms over her chest while looking at the carriages, horses, and the soldiers.

 

“I understand. I always preferred the life of a warrior compared to a noble woman’s. These pleasantries and dresses; they are a waste of time. Enjoy your ride while you can, Athena. I will see you once we get to the Estate.” Cassandra touched the top of Athena’s arm before joining Leliana in their assigned place. Josephine rolled her eyes at her, sticking her head out of the window to call out: “When you do decide to join us, you will be with the Inner Council at the front with Commander Cullen.” The Ambassador then shut the window and Athena felt free to walk over and load onto Prince.

 

The saddle was warm from the sunrise and there was an inviting wind on the horizon. Without waiting for another cue: they rode.

 

 


 

 

When the time came to get in the carriage Athena was already unhappy. There were more and more people in masks on the road the farther they got into Orlais. They were passing different vendors, farmers, and diplomats that were on their way to the grand ball in Halamshiral and it just intensified the feeling of dread pitting itself within her shoulders and stomach. Prince could feel it as well. When she slid from his saddle he made a point to press his forehead to his, urging the word Safe into her head. Athena patted the side of his neck, straightening out her shirt before dipping into the seat across from the Commander, who was reading a list of soldiers by candlelight.

 

“Working hard I see, Commander?”

 

She sat with a straight posture that would make Vivienne proud with her hands in her lap, trying to desperately conform to the image of a proper lady before she got in front of the Grand Duke Gaspard. Normally she did not have a good poker face but it would be vital to keep it straight during their first impressions. The blonde-haired solder smirked, showing her the list of soldiers with an arched brow.

 

“It’s never ending. These are my men I have chosen to be part of our forces for the evening. They departed from Skyhold the evening after we left so they won’t be arriving until the morning.”

 

Her eyes glossed over the names of the soldiers and she smiled when she saw Loranil’s name on the list. Athena pointed to him, looking up to Cullen. “He’s good. We’re going to need him. I would have him around the empty carriages that Josephine is bringing.”

 

Cullen’s instantly turned to one of curiosity. He leaned back in his chair, resting his arm up on the top of the seat. “I meant to ask you about that. Why are doing that? It seems like a waste of resources.”

 

She controlled her sneer, sitting tall while rolling her shoulders back. “Fine. I will tell you. There are those at Halamshiral that would rather serve the Inquisition than Orlais. We can provide safety to those who have been scorned by people who have sworn to protect them.”

 

He shrugged, looking over the list once more. There was an awkward silence between the two and Athena reached forward, snatching the list from his hands and putting it at her side. He reached for it then frowned, sitting back in defeat. “We need to prepare, Lady Athena.”

 

She scoffed. “Don’t get formal with me. You work too hard and I would like to spend some time talking about things other than Orlais until we get there and I’m shoved into a tiny box with a mask.” There was obvious frustration in her voice and that caused him to relax with a sigh, gesturing towards her with a flicker of annoyance.

 

“Fine then. What would you like to talk about?”

             

Athena paused, biting on the skin on the inside of her cheek before smiling with a wicked grin. “You have to tell me. When did you kiss an elf?”

 

“Maker - !”

 


 

 

They arrived at the front of Gaspard’s estate hours later after many probing conversations of past lovers and his training in the Templar order. If it was a drinking game to get him to blush, she would have been sloshed when the Orlesian servants opened their carriage doors. The Inquisition filed out from their cramped places and stretched, trying to get the grime out of their eyes before the messenger arrived and spoke to Rathein.

 

“The Grand Duke Gaspard du Chalons has requested your attendance at dinner. While we dine we will unload your belongings into your respective rooms.”

 

Rathein paused, looking to the rest of the group with an uneasy expression. “Do we not have time to prepare? It has been a long day of riding and I can speak for my team when I say we would love a chance to be at our best selves for our gracious host.” Athena stilled herself, reigning in her annoyance while slowly making her way to where the Inquisitor was standing.

 

The messenger did not pause. “Because of the early rise for the ball tomorrow, there isn’t much time, Inquisitor. Apologies.” He turned on his perfectly polished heel and walked into the estate with other servants on his heels. Josephine sighed, scratching the back of her head while Athena rolled her eyes.

 

“He wishes to catch us off guard and assert his dominance early.”

 

The Nightingale confirmed her theory with a nod and then Rathein and Athena shared a look of mischief. If he was already starting the mind games it would make their plans for the next night that much better. She looked down to her clothes, smoothing out her skirts and readjusting her corset to have the perfect window of cleavage that wasn’t too akin to a harlot but also not too close to the Divine. “We can’t let that happen, Rathein. Are you ready?”

 

The Inquisitor nodded, gesturing to the inner party. Before they all went inside she walked to Solas’s side, glancing around subtly before hanging her hand next to his, allowing them to brush for a moment before they would have to stay silent about their affections. There was something about the mystery, the secret of it all that gave her a small bit of excitement. But their relationship was so new that excitement was overshadowed by the dread of having to not touch him for the next day. He must have felt the same because he allowed their hands to brush again, his eyes flicking over to meet hers before he smirked and clasped his hands behind his back in the pose that was all too familiar to her.

 

Athena took in a deep breath, rolled back her shoulders, and took long confident strides to meet up with the Inner Council before entering the estate.

Chapter Text

The dinner was set at a long-table where everyone could be seated around it. Gaspard chose to be in the middle of the table on one of the longer sides with Rathein at his left and Athena on his right, which annoyed her slightly but she kept it hidden. When he greeted her, he kissed the top of her hand and she never wanted to cut off a piece of her body until then. For the Inquisitor, it was a noble bow and it set the tone that he did see the two of them differently and had different purposes for them both. When he was in the middle of the bow, the two women exchanged a knowing look before nodding and taking their places on either side of him.

 

Bull sat himself across from Rathein so he could watch her and Solas took the same cue, sitting across from Athena with a blank yet friendly expression. He had returned to the sheltered character of the scholar. Knowing who he truly was, Athena saw this as another mask that he wore. There was a part of her that was worried that his care for her was yet another mask, a guise that only the Dread Wolf could pull off. But she wasn’t Lavellan and their story was different. It had to be. There was a sense of home when she was with him now and if that was taken away. . .  her foundation would be broken. To quell those fears, she took a sip of the wine and looked at him over the glass. It was like he knew but he looked up from his own polite conversation with Bull and met her gaze.

 

There was a small twitch of his lips but he kept the smile contained, looking back to Bull and continuing their conversation on the methods of the Qun. Athena was counting down the seconds until the first course arrived when she heard the slimy voice on her left.

 

“Lady Athena, there are so many rumors surrounding you. I must confess, you have the courts in a state of intrigue.”

 

She steeled herself, shoving all bits of her typical reactionary sarcasm and modern-day into a small box inside her, presenting the polite smirk she had seen Vivienne give so many soldiers and curious minds. “My dear Duke, you must tell me what you have heard. It would do me an honor if I knew what to expect before entering the Game tomorrow.” There was a subtle flirtation to her actions. When she spoke, she leaned in slightly towards him and put her hand on the table between them, catching his eyes underneath the mask.

 

He nodded, taking a sip from his drink, which she assumed was something strong to cover the smell of smoke on his breath. “They are wild, crazy rumors. I have trouble believing them myself. They say you run with the wolves and can shift into one under the full moon. My soldiers said they saw you running with a large pack in the Plains next to those ancient wolf statues.” Athena raised a brow, sitting back with a satisfied smirk on her face.

 

“I do not require a full moon. I would think your soldiers would be more concerned with the undead conquering your lands than the whereabouts of a single member of the Inquisition. It is a wonder my troops have had to work so hard.”

 

The Duke did not react to her jab, quickly returning with another question. “Your troops?”

 

Athena hummed in response, breaking his gaze for the first time while withdrawing her hand into her lap. His eyes followed, much to her internal dismay, so she took in a deep breath to draw his gaze back up. The chevalier gave a small chuckle and she took the opportunity to flick her eyes towards Josephine who was seated at the other end of the table with Leliana, Cullen, and Vivienne. The Ambassador gave her an encouraging smile and there was a delighted twinkle that let her know she was doing well.

 

Damn. She was hoping to piss him off.

 

“They also say that you are not from this world at all?” There was now a grave curiosity in his voice. He leaned towards her, his voice low and she could feel his hand move towards her thigh. She kept her face flat but her pulse quickened in her throat. Without drawing attention to the gesture, she pushed his hand back onto his side of the chair and clicked her tongue against the back of her throat, leaning towards him and speaking softly.

 

“The throne is not where you are reaching, Gaspard.” There was no smile, no flirtation to her voice in that statement but she smiled at the servant who reached between them and put a soup on their plates. There was a familiar chill on her skin and she fought to not look at him across the table. “That rumor is also correct. I was expecting something spicier to come from the players of the great Game. How disappointing.” Her voice was colder than she expected, sharper on the consonants while she took her first bite of soup. It had a mushroom base, which she normally despised, but it was an improvement on campfire food.

 

“Tell me of your world, Lady Athena. What are your warriors like?” There was a swell of pride in his chest and she could tell he was fishing for compliments, praying that hers would be weak compared to him and that his troops would be the most impressive thing she had ever seen. Although his battle strategy was unmatched, at least according to Cullen, she was not impressed.

 

“Our warriors? My world’s wars are not the best table conversation.”

 

“Wait – you haven’t talked about this yet, Alpha. What do you mean?” Bull cut in, Rathein instantly shooting him a sharp look from across the table. He ignored her, his eyes focused on Athena. She could see the wild excitement behind his eyes so she focused on him, completely ignoring the man on her left.

 

“Wars in my home are messy and unnecessary. You have magic here but we have. . .technology. Let me put it in these terms: If I had my world’s weapons at my disposal, I could level the entire city of Val Royeaux without leaving my room at Skyhold and plants would not be able to grow there for generations. We try to avoid war the best we can because too many lives have been lost on egos and beliefs.”

 

There was an intentional insult to Orlais in there but her voice was grim and cold. They were all wrapping their heads around the idea of a nuclear bomb and it set in on each of their faces. Their pleasant faces dropped and soon she was the only one eating her soup without a thought in the world. Gaspard scoffed, sitting back in his chair while shaking his head. “War is always messy. It is why I am hoping this one will end tomorrow. Any more death would be unnecessary.”

 

Athena rolled her neck, keeping her hands flat in her lap even though she wanted to clench her fists and glare at him. He was such a hypocrite. Bull caught onto that too because his nostrils flared and he was suddenly very focused on his conversation with Solas. As she reached for her wine she thought that would be the end of it but the Grand Duke cleared his throat before asking her softly.

 

“Are you married, Lady Athena?”

 

This time she stilled, taking a larger sip of wine down her throat before putting the glass down on the table. She could feel eyes on her so she did the expected thing. She feigned a blush, avoiding his gaze while tilting her head in what would come off as a motion of embarrassment but for her it was pure annoyance. “No, not married, Duke. Why ever do you ask?”

 

The smile he had was disgusting, like he was hiding some deep secret they could not see through. “There are rumors that you do not only run with the wolves, Lady Athena.” The inflection in his voice put a pit in her stomach and the wolf within her wanted to snarl back at him and snap in his face. Instead, she took in a deep breath through her nose and rolled her eyes to look up at Solas. There was a clench in his jaw, a subtle defensive posture in his body as he leaned towards Cassandra and spoke with her. That sight gave her pleasure and the confidence to keep moving forward through the conversation.

 

“How crude of you, Duke. Here I thought you despised the Great Game yet here I find myself sitting next to one of its players.” The subtext of his words screamed that he was calling her a bitch, the wolf term. It was obvious from the looks of the Inner Council at the end of the table, especially Cullen whose eyes had gone wide. “If you believe such rumors then you have met my expectations.” There was an audible gasp from the end of the table and she would venture a guess that it was Josephine.

 

The Duke leaned towards her with a smug smile on his face. “Then I believe I have not.”

 

They sat back from each other and he yet again attempted to place his hand on her thigh. This time he succeeded for half of a second, gripping the top of her leg before she dug her nails into the top of his hand as a warning. There was heat in her touch as subconsciously she called her magic to bare, keeping her face plain while she removed him from her leg. To keep the insult going further, she turned in her chair and leaned in towards him close enough to whisper, smiling to hint to the table that she was flirting but her voice was colder than ice.

 

“You may think me a bitch but I roll over for no man, Gaspard. You forget yourself.” He raised a glass to his lips, speechless as the soup bowls were cleared away and the main course was brought in. It appeared to be some variety of game. The meat looked tough and she eyed it carefully. Rathein was the polite one, her voice chipper and perky as she watched the two in their duel of the Game.

 

“This meal looks delicious, Grand Duke. What is it?”

 

He hummed in response and cut off a piece, rotating the piece so she could see the pink inside. “Halla.”

 

Athena couldn’t help the roll of her magic that went over her skin, eyes closed to take in a deep focused breath. The Orlesian on her left continued and there was a blatant teasing in his voice that he could not hide from her. “There are rumors to be a golden halla in the plains where my soldiers reside. Now that would taste divine.”

 

Her magic translated into a message for Kain, who was sleeping soundly within the carriage. Tell the Plains pack. Get the Dalish from their encampment now and move them closer to Skyhold. They are not safe. Kain stirred from his sleep, and she could feel him stand up while tilting her head to the sky. They all then heard the howl that resonated through the estate. Athena lent magic through her connection with Kain, giving his message fuel to reach some of the outlying wolves that were near the edges of Orlais.

 

“One of yours, Lady Athena?” The Grand Duke asked, placing the halla piece in his mouth with a slow, daring move. She pushed the halla to the side of her plate, picking at the vegetables with a wicked smile.

 

“Someone has to keep my bed warm at night, Grand Duke.” This brought a chuckle from Cullen who was immediately smacked on the arm by Cassandra. Gaspard frowned, his first break of the night, but everyone else at the table was relatively pleased. Thankfully the conversation turned into more politics and she was able to tune out, focusing on everything but the halla on her plate while slowly sipping on the same glass of wine, refusing refills when they came around. By the end of the dessert it was obvious everyone was exhausted from the day’s travels.

 

Athena and Vivienne kept their postures up and the First Enchantress actually gave her a small head nod of recognition. Normally this small compliment from the Iron Lady would have delighted her but the travel from Skyhold left her patience sanded down and raw. When the Grand Duke stood from the table nobody hesitated in joining him. “Thank you, my guests, for allowing me to host you tonight. I look forward to what we can accomplish at the ball tomorrow in our peace talks with the Empress. Commander, would you like to join me in my smoking room?”

 

Cullen nodded quietly, separating from the group and meeting with the Grand Duke before leaving the room. Their host’s servants left the room with their hands full with dirty dishes and their cloth napkins. The moment they were all alone, Rathein sighed and visibly slumped, gripping the back of her chair to keep herself up. “Maker help me that was uncomfortable.”

 

Athena almost choked on the water she was sipping, eyes wide when she slammed down the cup and allowed the polite demeanor to fall from her face. “Uncomfortable for you? I will smack you where you stand, Rathein.” There was a playful warning in her voice but it was the first time the entire that she showed how truly bothered she was by the Duke’s advances. He was known to be an honorable man but she knew from reading that there were gray lines he liked to dance between. She went to tuck a stray curl behind her ear and it was then that she realized her hands were shaking. Should of drank more wine, she thought while clenching her fist at her side.

 

The Inquisitor smirked and nodded with her head towards the door, gesturing for all of them to file out and go to their respective rooms. Solas slid to her side again, looking over to her with a concerned glance. She could feel his magic pressing against her side, wrapping up her arm like a snake before squeezing around her skin. The question within it was clear and it made her smile. Are you alright? She could feel him asking silently as the group dispersed through the halls. Athena thought for a moment but nodded in the end, replicating his magical touch with her own around his hand and up his arm.

 

“You two think you’re being subtle, don’t you?” Dorian’s sarcastic voice rang out from her other side as he shot her a quick wink of teasing.

 

“You know just as well as I do, Dorian, that subtlety and I do not get along.” Athena responded with a coy smile on her face. Solas stopped in front of his assigned room which down the hall from hers. Before he entered the room, he paused, his hand hovering over the door while his gaze slowly trailed up to hers. He kept in with the façade and stayed silent, his lips twitching into somewhat of a frown before he disappeared behind the closed door. Before she could even have a moment to mourn his absence, Rathein grabbed her hand and pulled her into their own room.

 

It was large, luxurious, and full of fineries but both women instantly flung themselves on the bed that was large enough for both to fit on. Athena arched her back off the bed and released the ribbon that Solas has tied to give herself room to breathe. Rathein rubbed her face into a pillow while murmuring loud enough to hear: “You ready for tomorrow?” They both made the silent decision to fall asleep in their traveling clothes, Rathein reaching a hand out for her and Athena gladly taking it before answering:

 

“I’m ready for it to be over with already. I don’t think they are ready for us.”

 

Chapter Text

The next morning began as a whirlwind. Before Rathein and Athena even woke from their sleep, Vivienne burst through the doors with a team of stylists and seamstresses at her disposal. Athena rose form her pillow with her palm facing outwards, a spell summoning within its center to fire at the people who barged into their room unannounced. The Inquisitor rubbed her eyes with a corner of the sheet, groaning and flopping her head back onto the pillow when she saw that it was Madame de Fer standing there.

 

“Inquisitor. You will be getting ready in here with Josephine going over the plans. Sorcìere, you will be next door with Leliana. Baths are already being drawn and you two need to be prepared for what is to come in the evening.”

 

The crust from her eyes finally faded and she was able to see that Vivienne was completely prepared for the ball in a gown that resembled the one she wore the first night they met. The First Enchantress was mask-less for the evening, a subtle nod to her position in the Inquisition instead of Orlais. The Iron Lady did not allow for another second to go by before she used her magic to send a chill through the sheets and get both ladies up with small sounds of protest. An unnamed woman shuffled Athena into the room next door, pulling at the laces on her back to undo the corset. She could smell the perfumes in the air from the bath, her eyes darting over to Leliana who was in the deep blue formal attire with the silver buttons and trim. Thankfully the red had been eliminated and there was no sash either. The formal attire ended up looking acceptable and Athena recognized this with a small hum before being shoved into the scalding hot water.

 

“Sleep well, Lady Athena?”

 

The Nightingale mused from the opposite end of the room. Before the attendant could begin scrubbing Athena’s back she shooed her away, snatching the brush from her hand before lathering it up with a soap and exfoliating every inch of her body. There was a different soap for her hair and she took the small moments underwater to collect her thoughts and begin hardening her resolve for the day. Although Rathein and Athena had prepared for almost every detail of the ball, things were bound to happen outside of the plan. Corypheus knew her, called her Fade-Walker, did that mean Duchess Florianne had separate plans for her as well? The thought put a sick feeling in her stomach but the next time she came up she cleared the water from her eyes and looked over to the Spy-Master.

 

“Traveling always exhausts me so it was very easy for me to nearly slip into a coma last night. How about yourself?”

 

The attendant did not leave her be, rinsing the soaps from her hair and gesturing for her to raise from the bath while wrapping a thick sheet around her waist. Leliana’s eyes flicked up to look at her for a second, a ghost of a smile on her lips before she shrugged. “I was up most of the night reading over letters from my ravens. I do not require much sleep to perform my duties.”

 

Athena was seated in front of a chair in a vanity and the attendant began wrapping her hair up in medieval looking curlers that had small runes etched into their sides. Everything was happening in such a whirlwind she couldn’t keep track of what the runes looked like or their origin. A small container of lotion was set in front of her, the helper silently gesturing for her to put it on while she collected the small containers of make-up and products provided by Madame de Fer. Leliana stood up and picked colors from the selection, focusing on golds and a purple to bring out the brown in Athena’s eyes.

 

By the time the foundation and lotions were applied, Rathein walked in with her hair freshly styled and a basic set of makeup applied. The Inquisitor wore a striking blue eyeshadow with an exaggerated eyeliner that brought out the feminine qualities in her face. The formal attire had actually been fitted correctly so it showed her toned physique as well. Athena smiled at the sight of her friend, reaching out for her head and squeezing it in a silent gesture. Rathein had her Inquisitor mask on early that morning, walking over to pulling out Athena’s outfit from the chest. It was difficult to see from the vanity but she was thankful to see long sleeves on it.

 

“That is different than Madame de Fer’s initial sketch.” The Nightingale mused, walking over to stand at the Inquisitor’s side while her hands ghosted over the fabric and designs of the dress.

 

“Dorian and I came together to make something that would fit her a little better. Even if she is going as the Sorciére of the Inquisition, Athena is still in there fighting like the rest of us.” Athena nodded with an enthusiastic hum as something akin to fake eyelashes were set in place on the tops of her lids. With every stroke of the attendant’s brush, every small fix of her hair, the character was being set into place. It had been, what, months since she had worn any real make up? At home, she only wore it for special occasions and on the off day where she needed to feel better about herself, but what the attendant was putting on was a masterpiece. Was there even a slight contour? Athena sat forward in the mirror, ignoring the curlers still present in her hair to touch her face but the attendant slapped her hand and pulled her back into the seat.

 

Dorian slid into the room with two plates full of food and a goblet hanging from between his teeth. He made a small gesture to Rathein to grab one of the plates and when he had an open hand he took the goblet from his mouth and set it on the vanity in front of Athena. “Try and eat, dove. You barely touched your dinner last night.” He leaned over and gave her a greeting kiss on top of the curlers on her head, dropping a small bundle of grapes in her lap before walking over to Rathein’s side. He picked up the dress, turning it over in his hands. It looked like he was tracing some sort of design in the back with his fingertip of it while the Herald watched but it was difficult to see when the stylist was jerking her head back towards the mirror so she could keep on with her work.

 

There was a soft vibration on her head which drew out a surprised yelp from a mouth full of grapes, her hand coming to her mouth while her eyes traveled up to the strange looking things in her head. One by one the attendant pulled them from her head to reveal dry, curled hair underneath. Athena ran her hands through the curls to loosen them slightly, agitating the roots to bring volume. It was something she had seen her mother do when she used to do her hair as a child. As an adult, her job did not allow many opportunities to dress up so the skills were lost through the years but they were slowly coming back now.

 

Looking in the mirror, seeing the foreign painted face that she now wore, it made switching into the Game that much easier. She rolled her shoulders back, slowly standing from the chair once she tucked the front curls behind her ear and smooth a product through her hair that was feather light upon the touch.  Rathein motioned for her to come over, removing the top layer with the sleeves while motioning for her to step into the dress. Athena placed her hands on Dorian’s shoulder to steady her while she got into the dress, which was pitch black on the bottom, before sliding the matching navy blue silk top. “Huh. Leliana’s right. This is not what I initially thought.”

 

Dorian and Rathein shared a mischievous look, him standing to her back and tightening her laces almost a knot too tight. Athena looked in the tall mirror they were standing in front of at the friend at her back, seeing that his hair had been styled and his mustache freshly trimmed. “Looking devishly handsome as always, Dorian.”

 

He smiled, resting his hands on top of his shoulders while meeting her gaze in the mirror. “Did you expect anything else? You’re lucky. You and I are being introduced together, so don’t embarrass me, alright?” He kissed the top of her shoulder while looking back to Leliana, who was stacking up a bundle of letters while looking to him with a nod. “Are we almost ready to leave? How is everyone else?”

 

The Tevinter looked up to the sky to help with his memory, going through the list while making small checks in the air with his finger. “Bull and Solas are in the back carriage ready to go. Blackwall and Cassandra are next. I believe I saw Cullen playing with the wolf in the front l