She is too young.
To have been torn from her world, to have been put forward as the Herald of a religion she probably doesn't know the first thing about. She is too young, Solas thinks.
She is not part of Clan Lavellan, though, when they address her as Lady Lavellan, she answers readily enough. She calls herself Ray, but it is not the name of the Dalish First, whom they’ve mistaken her for. Nobody questions it, however, because nobody ever calls her by that other name anyway. Not even Solas.
She is too young. Even though she often claims to be pushing her thirties, she barely looks old enough to be out of her teens. She's small in stature, sinewy. She moves, he finds, with the easy grace of the dancers of Ancient Arlathan.
Her actions often seem childish, although, she sometimes displays the sort of wisdom that belies her apparent age. The kind of wisdom that comes with experience only. The kind of wisdom that cannot be learned.
And she watches.
Her eyes are sharp, her face full of curiosity over the simplest things. She watches like a child, discovering a new world. Her eyes are the only thing that betrays her otherworldliness. They've seen things that don't even exist in his world.
And they watch now. They watch him, look into his very soul, and see his true self. It's impossible, of course, but Solas finds it harder and harder to remind himself, that she cannot possibly know who he really is.
He remembers sitting by her side, while she slept, with his mark upon her small hand. Her magic already reigned in, even in her sleep she had a tight hold on it. But it reacted to his, like a question he couldn't answer.
He remembers, how he knew at once, that she did not belong here. She was another consequence of his foolishness. It was always others, it seemed, who had to pay the price for his mistakes.
He remembers, when they first locked eyes, under the first rift she closed. He remembers that sharp, hazel-green gaze boring into him. And he remembers her smile. How it turned subtly feral when she saw him.
She always smiles. She throws herself at every problem, every fight, every task with a smile upon her face. Solas doesn't know what she hopes to accomplish by it, but whatever she's doing, it's working. Within days of her awakening after she managed to stabilize the Breach, the heavy air of dread seems to lift from the people of the Inquisition. Solas cannot be sure, if it's the constant, honest smile on the Herald's face that gives them hope, or the birth of the Inquisition, finding a purpose, starting to work towards a common goal.
She smiles and she watches and she asks questions and she learns. She's an eager student and a good listener.
She spends hours upon hours in the first days, just watching the Nightingale. Sitting on the edge of one of her tables and watching. Then they start to talk and soon, the Spymaster seems less sharp, less bitter.
Ray Lavellan watches their ambassador, and soon, she's bringing the Antivan small gifts. Trinkets, tiny conveniences, small luxuries, that never fail to coax a smile onto the ambassador's face. The elven girl watches and sees.
She talks to Cullen, asking about the Templars, about the Circles. She talks to him until he doesn't blush in her presence anymore, until he stops stuttering, until their easy intimacy doesn't even raise eyebrows. They're obviously not lovers. Instead, Ray seems to become akin to a little sister to the Commander, and she never misses the opportunity to bully the man into regular correspondence with his real sister.
Ray watches Cassandra practice with her sword. She watches, then she asks to learn. She moves with her staff, imitating the Seeker's moves, using the bladed edge at the end of the long shaft as a makeshift sword, until she no longer stumbles in her swings. Then they talk. They talk in quiet whispers, in tears, in hushed tales, and in blushing giggles.
The Herald watches Varric. Calls him 'Master Tethras' just to annoy him a little. Then she asks about the Tale of the Champion, she asks about the Hero of Ferelden, and if the dwarf doesn't notice the underlying thirst for knowledge about this world, Solas does. Her eyes shift sometimes, in recognition, it seems, or in curiosity for more detail. But she rarely stops the storyteller in the middle of his tale. Instead, she listens.
And she watches Solas as well. Her eyes wide and full of wonder, that he cannot make sense of. At first, she's hesitant in talking to him. She asks about his opinion about the elves, both the Dalish and the city elves. She never calls him ‘flat-ear’ though, never even references the term.
She runs through a set of topics with him, that seems to be a list, all of her reactions to his words careful, well thought out. And then she seems to run out of the 'list' and her eyes sparkle as she asks for more tales about the Fade. She asks him to teach her, claiming to be not very good at controlling her magic. Her control is better than any of the circle mages he'd ever met.
She hangs on his every word though, be it teaching about magic or telling tales of the Fade. She asks questions that seek answers about the past and Solas has to be very careful not to give himself away. Her eyes flash every time he uses memories of the Fade as a disguise of his vast knowledge. Her smile is infectious.
Then they head to Val Royeaux and she brings home another elf. The blond girl is wild and barely comprehensible. Solas regards her, Sera her name was, with disappointment at the lack of her regard of her own heritage. Ray doesn't seem to be bothered. When Sera claims that the Herold is too much of an elfy-elf, Ray's laughter is like dozens of tinkling bells. She tells about one of the old stories of the Dread Wolf, and Solas is surprised to hear it from her lips. He hadn't told her those stories.
She tells it in a strange way, and it takes Solas a little while to recognize, that he had never heard the story without the hate and distrust toward the Wolf. He never heard it told in a way that paints Fen'Harel as the hero of the story. The words are all the same, yet he can feel the warmth in her voice, the silent admiration toward the villain of the Dalish.
And Sera giggles at the end and says that maybe not all elven gods were such stuck up pricks.
"Oh, but they were, all of them. Even Fen'Harel. Arrogant bastards the lot of them. But some of them realized their mistake and tried to protect the little people," Ray says and Solas listens silently in his corner of the Tavern. He can almost feel her gaze on him. He doesn't dare to move. "Not that they didn't make a mess of it anyway," Ray adds and finishes her drink in one swing. "At least they tried." She hums and bids farewell to her new friend with a kiss on the lips that leaves the blond elf with a huge grin and giggling.
Soon another addition to the ever-growing Inquisition arrives. Just as antagonistic toward Solas as Sera, mostly for the same reasons too.
Madame Vivienne de Fer is the best example of an Orlesian Circle mage. Solas watches, as their Herald spends days just watching the new mage settle before she advances and starts her little ritual. They don't fight, against all of Solas' expectations. Ray seems to charm Vivienne with the right words, the right favours, the respect she shows the older woman.
She studies under the circle mage, and learns how to weave ice, to compliment her skills of using lightning, that she'd learned from Solas. He catches himself feeling jealous of the time the Herald spends with the First Enchanter. Solas has to remind himself, that she doesn't belong to him. No matter how he can feel her through his own magic embedded in her hand. No matter that her gaze scalds him, whenever it’s turned towards him. No matter how those eyes watch him the same way he is watching her.
The growth of the Inner Circle continues with a mercenary Lieutenant. A young man that Ray almost strangles as she jumps at him, her arms flying around his neck, without hesitation, the first moment she spots him.
The young lad is surprised, confused and not a little embarrassed, but she drags him off to the Tavern and only lets him go when he has to deliver her answer to his 'Chief'.
That night she sings along with the minstrel at the Tavern, the woman easily giving over the singing part to the Herald and soon she's only accompaniment to the joyful girl's celebration.
"Solas, teach me the words to this song," she twirls in front of him and with a nod toward Maryden, she starts to sing a song that he hadn't heard in Ages. When the song finishes, he applauds the performance together with their many spectators.
"Seems to me, you know the words perfectly well, da'len," he says. She sticks out her tongue at him.
"Don't be a dick," she says, the ever-present grin returning to her face. "I want to learn the original lyrics. The elvhen. I never took the time to learn them. I didn't understand the words, so I can only barely remember the sound of them..." She hums the song again, the lilt different this time, more melancholy, much closer to the original Solas knows. The girl’s lips move, shape sounds that are not quite there. "Teach me, please."
Solas can't help but smile. He's indulging. But whether he's indulging the girl or himself, he no longer knows.
"Ma nuvenin, da'len," he says and she grins, obviously understanding the expression. Sometimes he wonders, where she'd learned the little elven she knows.
He sings the words for her, and she stares at him, mouth agape, in shock.
"You can sing," she whispers in awe. "I knew you could paint--- never mind… Again! And let me write it down," she demands, and Solas studies her as she drags a small, battered notebook out of her belt where it had been tucked into together with a piece of coal. She looks up at him expectantly.
So he repeats the lines, sings it to her two more times. The second time, she joins him and the concentration on her face, to get the sounds, the pronunciation right, he finds adorable.
They wander through the Hinterlands on their way to meet the captain of the Bull's Chargers on the Storm Coast. They are looking for a Grey Warden.
Ray watches the Warden talking to a small group of farmers before she approaches. She seems hesitant at first, before they are attacked, and then she's back at her joyous self. She throws herself into the fight with gusto. If Solas didn't know her better, he would think she likes the bloodshed.
Afterwards, the questions are awkward, the answers unhelpful. But she seems to say the right things at the right time, and before they know it, she has the Warden's hair captured in a low bun and nicknamed him 'Bunwall'. The warrior seems equal parts horrified and like an indulgent father. Sera is rolling in the grass from laughter.
Ray grins, and warmth, Solas hadn't realized was missing from the Warden's eyes, returns.
The Storm Coast greets them with drizzling rain and a group of Venatori, on whom the Bull's Chargers show off their skills. Ray is fighting with a new-found viciousness that worries Solas.
It turns out, that the captain of the Chargers is a qunari. Not just a Kossith, but also a Ben-Hassrath agent. Ray doesn't even raise a single eyebrow at the revelation. She smiles, negotiates and catches the Iron Bull off balance in the way only she can.
Solas watches as, by the end of the day, when they're all sitting around the campfire, sharing dinner, Ray ends up with her arms cushioning her head as she leans on the Bull's head.
She raises a hand tentatively to one horn, but doesn't touch it yet.
"May I? Touch your horns?" she asks the Iron Bull.
"Knock yourself out, Boss," the Qunari grins, leaning back a little to catch the Herald in his sight with his one good eye. "You don't need to ask." There's a tiny flinch at being called 'boss', but Ray's smile never falters.
"I read it somewhere," she says as she runs her fingertips slowly down one horn, following the sharp angle to Bull's scalp. "That one should never touch a Kossith's horns without permission. Although, I guess, in that book it was sort of implied, that their horns are kind of an erogenous zone." She watches Bull's reaction, but the Qunari just laughs a full belly laugh.
"I can't even feel your touch. It's just bone."
"How 'bout now?" Ray asks and shifts her hand to scrape her nails up and down one horn. Bull is caught off guard and he can't quite stifle the soft, pleased growl that leaves his throat.
"I can feel that," he rumbles.
Solas' eyes narrow as he watches the exchange from the other side of the fire. He's too far to be part of the conversation, but close enough to hear every word. A possessiveness stirs in him, that he can't rationalize away.
"I can hear that," Ray giggles and goes back to rubbing and scraping at the Bull's horns. "You've been neglecting them though. I should've asked Varric to round up some hornbalm already... I just forgot." The Herald sighs, her perpetual smile softening, taking on a sad quality. "I always forget the small things, that matter the most."
Suddenly she looks up and her gaze locks on Solas. They stare at each other for what feels like hours, but couldn't possibly be more than a few seconds before she stands and turns towards her tent.
"I'm calling it an early night. We've a Giant to fight tomorrow," she says before bidding them good night.
They all think she's joking, until the next day, when Sera and the Iron Bull are competing on how to describe just how cool it is, to watch a dragon and a giant fight. And when the dragon notices them and flies away, Ray leads them to finish the giant. The three of them practically glow after the fight. Like a bunch of kids on the day of Satinalia.
Back in Haven, Ray is restless. Her advisors have opposing opinions on whom they should ask for help to close the Breach. They've finally gathered enough influence to get things moving, but it doesn't seem to be enough for the Herald.
They have cleaned out the Hinterlands, helped the refugees. She looked for the Grey Wardens on the Storm Coast but found nothing. She has taken revenge against the killers of her scouts, but recruited the Blades of Hessarian instead of killing them all off. She has rescued their lost scouts from the Avvar chief's son, and laughed all the way as the Iron Bull complained about where the tepid waters of the swaps reached.
Solas watched as her lips moved sometimes, as if she was answering unasked questions, unspoken comments. She often mouthed the words of her companions, when she thought no one was watching, eerily shaping the words in synchrony with the actual speaking party. She skirted the pools of water and looked for herbs, and asked Solas at every turn to teach her more about useful plants and healing magic.
Solas obliged, still wondering how the young elven woman could be so curious, filled with child-like wonder, and turn the next moment and successfully lead their party against a horde of the undead.
And now, she's bidding them to wait, counting back days, hours, moments, until she's ready to make the decision.
A corvid brings the answer she's looking for, and she cries out in joy, tears filling her eyes for a moment, before they are dashed away and she's back at being the untold leader.
The letter is from one of the Templars. She sends Cullen with as many soldiers as they can manage, to head to Therinfal Redoubt and help the Templars there. She briefs him and arranges everything to go down in secret. Because she needs the two parties to happen at once. That's what she calls them, 'parties'.
While Cullen heads out, with the lead of the Nightingale's best agents, to rescue the Templars, the Herald gathers her team to head for Redcliffe. The fancy Tevinter mage, they met after negotiating with Magister Alexius, meets up with them there, insisting on joining their group to go to the castle.
Solas was worried about the strange way time behaved around Redcliffe, the way the rifts twisted, time slowing or speeding up around them. He was worried that the Herald would dismiss the plight of the enslaved mages. She took so long waiting for that letter from the Templars. He should've known better. She's a mage herself, but it never seemed to matter to her.
But she knows her priorities. An unknown time magic on the loose, is a greater threat, than a Lord Seeker behaving strangely.
She bids Cassandra and Varric to stay behind, taking only the Altus, the Iron Bull and Solas with her. The Qunari is eyeing the 'Vint with suspicion and comments again that they shouldn't trust the pretty one.
Ray giggles uncontrollably and has to take a full minute to school her features for meeting with the Magister.
Everything goes wrong.
A year later Solas thinks back on that day and realizes that his life ended when the always smiling girl was reduced to a pile of ash. He continued existing, he even tried to take revenge for her, but he quickly lost the will to fight. The red lyrium took the rest from him. It was all his fault, and the nightmares didn't let him forget for a single moment.
And then she returns, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. And he realizes how stupid he's been. How has he not thought of time travel? It’s all been there, the way Alexius' magic twisted time. And now she’s standing in front of him, her smile full of regret and sadness, but still ever-present.
"I'm so sorry," she whispers. "I'll fix it. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, you had to go through this, but I'll fix it, I promise."
"We should move. We need to find that qunari friend of yours too," the Altus, Dorian, says and Ray nods, quickly dashing away tears and putting her vicious smile back on.
"Let's make them pay."
And they do.
And Solas is back to watching her, as she watches him. He sees how the Herald lets Dorian lead them. She lets the Altus find the key to the puzzles and lets him figure out what they need to get back to their own time.
They find the Bull counting time. Ray jokes that she wants to sing that drinking song with Bull. Until it's not a joke and she starts to sing, boisterously counting back the time they have left.
They find the Nightingale, and Ray hugs her tight and whispers something in the tortured woman's ear that makes the ex-Spymaster laugh out loud, a bitter, feral sound that brings an answering grin to the lips of the Herald. And on they go to find Alexius.
Ray is a whirl of magic in a world where the sky is blotted out by the Breach. Dorian is horrified, Ray doesn't even flinch at all the green and red.
Solas notices when she lags behind and joins her, suddenly worried that all the red lyrium around is getting to her. He hoped the exposure wouldn't be enough, but he's been living with the red stuff for months. He barely notices anymore.
The Herald suddenly has her hands on Solas' face, and she's drawing him down for a fierce kiss. His breath hitches before he reciprocates, an answering hunger coursing through him. He had spent enough time alone, with only the memory of her, to realize that he had fallen for her beautiful mind and strong, shining soul.
He’d never dreamt that she had the same kind of feelings for him.
"I'm sorry," she whispers hurriedly when they break apart. "I'm sorry, to do this now. I am a coward. I'm so afraid of you. I'm so afraid you'll break my heart. But I swear, I'll tell you again. I just need a bit more time... I'm sorry."
"Tell me what, vhenan?"
Her breath hitches at the endearment, and Solas' smile warms. She understands.
"Ar lath ma, vhenan," she says, her words are perfect and make Solas' heart lurch.
"Ar lath ma," he whispers in kind.
"I love you, Solas," she says again, in Common this time, but she's pulling away. They need to go. "I love you, Fen'Harel, I love you in all your forms, and I will save you from yourself." She finishes and runs off after the rest of their group.
Solas stands frozen for long moments.
She's always known. How had he been so blind?
And he'll forget. None of this will be real once she returns to her own time.
But she swore, she'll tell him again.
Solas turns and goes after his Heart.
He doesn't live long enough to see that she made it. He and Bull fall defending the throne room from the horde of demons. It doesn't matter. His last thought is that he believes in her. And that he'll love her even from beyond the Void.
After their victory at Redcliffe, Ray dives into taking care of the mages. She doesn't hesitate in offering an alliance to them. She also tells them that there will be Templars at the Inquisition. Her speech about the necessity of working together is powerful and uplifting.
The effect is only ruined for Solas by the strange looks Dorian gives him. But when prompted, the Altus says nothing.
Before they leave with the select few mages they need for closing the Breach, the Herald makes sure that each and every Tranquil is accounted for and well cared for. Protected. The Nightingale's agents will escort the rest of the mages and the Tranquil back to Haven.
They ride ahead and are greeted by Cullen and a small group of Templars at the gates of Haven. Ray is off her horse before they even came to a full stop, and is throwing herself at one of the new Templars, who catches her on instinct alone.
"Ser Barris, I'm so glad you made it alive!" She squeals and her grin reaches from ear to ear.
"Ser Barris, let me introduce you to Lady Ray Lavellan, Herald of Andraste," Cullen speaks up, ending the Herald's antics. The girl just pouts for a moment before her grin is back.
"Spoil-sport," she fake-grumbles. Then she leads the Templars and mages inside the town gates and arranges the preparations for closing the Breach. They set out the very next day.
Mages and Templars work together and it's a wonder to behold, as Ray directs them and under her lead, they seem to forget their differences and work seamlessly together for a common goal. After they are successful, the Herald is exhausted but exuberant.
There's a celebration, that Ray breaks up early, with a huge grin and a promised surprise in the Chantry. She doesn't let anyone weasel out of it, only leaving a handful of guards on the lookout, and she's not afraid to pull the Herald card to make them all gather inside the stone structure.
When the heavy wooden doors close, her smile fades, perhaps for the first time since Solas met her. And the things she speaks of, in a quiet, but carrying voice, are horrifying and unbelievable. Yet no one questions.
The people of the Inquisition gasp as one, when Ray goes down on her knees, and bows deep, begging for Chancellor Roderick to lead the people through the secret passages only he knows about.
The High Chancellor is stunned at the humility displayed, and only hesitates a little before he agrees.
Solas' heart aches at the scene. To see Ray on her knees, begging for help. But then he catches her eyes and realizes that, while she meant every word, it was as much of an act to get the desired result, as the fake smiles she often puts on for the nobles who still call her 'rabbit' or 'knife-ear' behind her back.
There's the briefest argument with Cullen about how many soldiers are allowed to stay behind before the alarm bells go off.
"Leave, now!" Ray commands, her voice is hard and her smile still absent. She's all determination, a woman on the path of making a miracle reality.
"Does she seriously expect us to just leave her behind? She cannot face them alone. I would lay down my life before I let her fall," a young man speaks, appearing out of nowhere in the middle of their arguing group.
There's a moment of shocked silence. But before Cassandra or Cullen could draw their sword, before Lady Vivienne could cast, Ray has her arms around the young man, babbling almost incoherently through her tears.
"Cole, you're here! I thought you've...," she hiccups. "I'm so happy to see you!"
"Now the Circle is complete," the boy intones before regaining his own voice. "You knew me before I knew you. You won't forget!" His smile is hesitant, even as he returns the hug awkwardly, as if unsure of how to do it right.
"Never. I'll never forget you," the Herald sobs, then she's pulling away, wiping her face clean. "But we have to go now."
In the end, she lets half a dozen soldiers stay, beyond the few scouts, who were watching for the approaching enemy. Varric, Cassandra and Solas go with her, while Cullen leads the few soldiers in their defense of the trebuchets. Everyone else is sent away. No exceptions. No arguments.
When the dragon comes, they're all prepared, and it still takes them by surprise. They can't believe their eyes, even though Ray had warned them. It looks like and Archdemon and they all flee back to the Chantry to regroup.
"I can't believe you were right," Cullen breathes, running a hand through his blond locks only to end up rubbing at the back of his neck. "We can't fight a Maker-damned Archdemon."
"Calm down, Cullen," the Herald says. "It's not an Archdemon, just a red lyrium infected dragon. It's scary as fuck, but we don't need to fight it. Yet."
"He wants you. He wants to kill you. You took his mages and his templars. He cannot figure how you managed to best him," Cole appears next to the elven girl.
"I thought I told you to leave with the others. Cole, I need to know that everyone's safe," Ray doesn't even flinch at the boy's sudden appearance, although many of the soldiers grabbed for their swords, Cullen among them.
"What is he? A mage?" he asks. Ray waves him off.
"Not now," she says. "I'll explain later. For now, the only thing you need to know is that he's here to help."
"Yes," the boy enthuses. "I want to help the hurt. You're hurting."
"Not a word more," the Herald hushes the stranger, her eyes flashing in warning. Then she turns to Cullen. "We need to bury Haven. Even with most of his army taken from him, Corypheus still brought enough soldiers that we're overrun. And that damned dragon won't quit until they think us all dead."
"You can't possibly think what I'm..."
"Yes, I can," she cuts off the Commander. "I'll distract Corypheus, the rest of you leave. I'll stall him until you send up a signal. Then I'll bury Haven under the snow."
Every gaze turns to Solas. He didn't even realize that he spoke up aloud. He stands against the scrutiny, however.
"You cannot fight the Red Templars and the Venatori mages alone, and still manage to aim the last trebuchet. We'll go with you."
"Solas, you don't understand. I changed too much, I can't risk losing-" she stops abruptly as if she caught herself before saying something she didn't mean to.
"We're going with you Herald," says Cassandra too. "There is no use arguing about it."
"She's right, Sunshine," Varric says. "We started this together, we might as well finish it together."
"No," the elf girl shakes her head. She looks so small and resigned right now. But when she looks up, there's fire in her gaze. "Alright. You three can come. On one condition: when I say "run", you run without question. You run and never look back until you’re on the other side of that damned passage and you’ve sent up the flare."
"Agreed," Solas says immediately, cutting off a protesting Seeker.
There's a moment of silence before they all nod gravely. Ray turns to Cullen.
"Take your soldiers and catch up to the rest of the Inquisition."
"Herald... Ray. I cannot just leave you to the mercy of that… monster," Cullen whispers, his hand wrapping around the girl’s arm.
"I'll survive, I swear to you," she says, as sure as can be. "Seek me after the storm passes," she adds and, with a twist, she's free of the Commander's hold and striding out of the Chantry. She does not look back.
Solas follows her, and Cassandra and Varric fall into step behind them.
They fight. They aim the trebuchet. When Ray screams for them to run, they run. Back to the Chantry, through the secret passage, out into a snow-covered forest. Solas sends up the flare of signaling magic and only dares to look back afterward.
A few seconds pass before the mountain rumbles, and the following avalanche buries Haven. The trio is silent, sharp elven eyes follow the retreating dark speck that must be Corypheus and his dragon.
It's all his fault, Solas thinks. His mistake would’ve cost more lives yet again, and somehow Ray tried and managed to save them all. But he failed to save her in return.
Solas leads the way to catch up with the rest of the Inquisition. They're caught in a snowstorm just as they catch up and the Inquisition moves on for three days straight, through the storm, wary of being discovered by Corypheus.
There is no sign of the Herald.
On the third night, Solas roams the Fade in search of her, but there's nothing to find. He wakes to the sudden quiet the passing of the storm brings.
Seek me after the storm passes.
Solas remembers the girl's words and exits his tent.
There weren't any casualties. The worst injuries are some severe burns and deep cuts. But they are easily taken care of by the few mages they have with them. Ray had chosen those, who were well versed in the healing arts, it seemed.
Solas finds a tired Cullen and a dejected Cassandra returning to camp. They found nothing. They are going out again after a brief warming up next to the fire. They won't give up on the Herald.
Solas sends out a plea through the Veil, asking the spirits of the region to guide her back to them. A string of howls echoes through the mountains before all fall silent.
The Seeker and the Commander stand to go out searching again. Solas remains behind. He cannot stand looking for her and not finding her. Then Cullen's voice reaches him.
"It's her! It's the Herald!"
"Thank the Maker!" Cassandra echoes their relief.
Cullen brings an unconscious, broken Herald back in his arms. Solas moves before he makes a conscious decision.
Ray's badly injured. Solas guides them to settle her on one of the empty cots in the infirmary tent. Her left wrist is swollen, the handprint of a much larger being inscribe on her skin in dark bruises. Her right forearm is a shattered mess. Her lungs struggle to pull in air, several of her ribs are broken or cracked.
Solas works on healing her with all his power. He's not the best healer, but he is the best available here, in the middle of a snowy nowhere. He heals her chest, coaxing ribs to mend, lungs to repair. Once she's breathing easier, he concentrates on the non-life-threatening injuries. He manages to save her arm, knitting together shattered bone and torn muscle.
A vial of blue liquid is pushed in front of him and Solas drinks the lyrium without pausing. He doesn't need it. Shouldn’t need it. He is no ordinary mage. But his powers are not what they used to be, and the surge of energy is welcome. He heals her without leaving any scars. His touch is gentle, as he finishes with her marked hand, the Anchor crackling quietly in the proximity of his power.
After she's whole again, and Solas has reassured himself that she'll not only live but make a full recovery, he retreats to his own tent. He doesn't want to see her awaken. He cannot bear putting on the mask of polite disinterest he has been hiding behind lately.
It's hours later, that she wakes.
Solas hears her voice first. Then the growing chorus as a song swells. He finds her in the middle of them. Standing tall, injured arm in a sling and tucked close to her body, her whole presence like that of a queen.
They sing to her, but she sings with them, tears glistening in her eyes, a heart-warming smile wide on her still pale face. When the song ends, she says a few encouraging words about working together, working through their differences for the good of the whole of Thedas. And they listen. They drink in every word and answer with a cheer.
Solas can't stand watching anymore. She has no idea, what they're up against.
"A word," he says quietly, passing by the Herald, not waiting for her to follow him.
But she does.
And she watches him.
She watches him, as he prowls over to an unlit brazier on the outskirts of the camp. She watches him, as he lights a veil fire with a flick of his hand. She watches him, as he starts to speak.
“The humans have not raised one of our people so high for ages beyond counting. Their faith is hard won, lethallin, worthy of pride, save one detail. The threat Corypheus wields, the orb he carried…” Solas says but is cut off by a burst of tinkling laughter.
He turns, half shocked, half outraged for being laughed at.
Ray is in stitches, her breath hiccupping from laughing so hard.
"Sorry... so sorry… but... oh God, it's just so ridiculous like this... pfff... hahahahhhaaa..." she stumbles closer and braces herself on Solas' arm, lest she collapses in the snow from laughter. Solas barely stops himself from just shrugging her off.
When she calms, her stance shifts. She lays her forehead against Solas' chest and whispers quietly.
"I already know, you silly, silly man."
She chances a glance up at him, her eyes bright with mirth. And with a shade of... fear?
"And what do you think you know, da’len?" Solas asks, also quiet, but his voice is edged with the threat of anger.
"That the orb is that of Fen'Harel. It's a focus of his power... your power," she says quietly. Solas freezes, but before he could move, she rushes on. "I tried to get it back. I knew it was impossible, but I had to try. You've seen what Corypheus did to my arm in retaliation. He's more protective of it than I thought. And I was this close." She motions with her right, sling forgotten, and flinches as pain radiates through the still tender flesh. "Thank you for fixing it. I don't think I could’ve lived without a right arm. Left? Maybe. Right? Nope."
Solas grips her by her upper arms, harder than he should, and shakes her.
"What were you thinking???" Solas barely manages to control the volume of his voice.
"That I wanted the man I love not to kill himself on a path that only leads to death and destruction," Ray says quietly.
Solas lets go of the girl like he's touched fire, backing away from her.
The words she's said and their meaning slowly convalesces in his mind.
She knows. She'd always known. She claims she loves him, but her stolen glances are full of fear now.
Ray stands still, lost and alone. She looks more broken than she had when they brought her back half-dead.
Then she shakes her head and takes a deep, shuddering breath of the icy air.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything. I'm not very good at keeping secrets. Never were. Not my own anyway," she adds hastily. "Do not worry, you won't be found out. They don't even believe in your existence," she laughs bitterly. "I'm sorry. Forget what I said." She's wiping away tears, that don't seem to stop falling. "Ir abelas..." she pauses and corrects her inflection, "Ir abelas, hahren. I made a mistake. I shall trouble you no more," she says, before turning and making to leave. She pauses only for a moment. "We should leave for Tarasyl'an Te'las at dawn. I hope you're still willing to help the Inquisition, even in the light of my foolishness."
And with those words, she's gone.
They make it to Skyhold. Solas lets them think the Herald is leading them, while he stays in the background, trying to forget her words. Trying to forget the feel of her under his hands. Trying to forget, how she makes an effort anytime she chooses to speak in elvhen to him.
He tries to forget her claims of loving him. It cannot be anyway. Even if he could afford to reciprocate her feelings, it is not meant to be. It's better for them both if they just forget.
But even as she leaves him behind, taking the 'Vint with her on her quests, it's impossible to forget Ray and her words. As her ever-present smile is back, it's impossible to see how it's just a shade less radiant than it used to be. As she continues to do well by her people, by those who depend upon her.
He watches, as Ray is named Inquisitor.
He watches, as she defends Cole, as she teaches him, as she doesn't push him, as she protects him.
Solas watches, as the Inquisitor becomes the core for the Cause, the solid base everybody relies on. And he watches, as she starts to crack under the pressure.
Until he can watch no more.