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Where the Hell Did the Healer Go?

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"Are you fucking KIDDING ME?! DPS get your asses back here, or so help me fucking God I am NOT healing you." I screamed into the mic, watching as at least three Nightblades rush onto the edge of the platform, assaulting the Assembly General's right arm.... not even caring that the tank hadn't had a chance to pull aggro. Throwing shards toward the tank down below, and quickly laying down a Healing Springs, I eased a little as my rotation began to catch up. Buffs, Healing Springs, Shards, weaving light attacks in between.

Keeping my eye on the twelve red health bars on the left corner of my screen, I risked grabbing a sip of herbal tea, my last ditch effort to cleanse myself of all the junk I had consumed in the past week. blegh... Without sugar, it was a tad bitter for my tastes, but I set it back down and continued my rotation; I threw a couple of Breath of Life swirls to my Guildmates, relieved when their wavering health bars filled back up. Healing was by far my favorite role, but it meant that I was always the one to deal with others' stupidity. Fucking DPS.

The Assembly General began to move to the center of the cross shaped arena, and my group jumped down to where he had once stood, some more successfully than others. One Sorcerer jumped too soon and fell short, landing on the poison spewing metal grate. In a flash, his red health bar turned grey. I laid down another Healing Springs, shouting over the din of rotating blades and crackling magicka, "Can someone please pick up Grim? Rezzes take priority, guys..." Inwardly lamenting yet again how I was not getting a clean, no-death run, we then ran to the next sector, setting ourselves once more on the offending mechanical arm.

This process repeated twice more, once for each sector of the + shaped Hall of Fabrication. Two more deaths, heralded by "Oops sorry guys." or "That guy one-shotted me! What the hell?!". The Assembly General, down to a mere 25% of his health, moved to the center of the map for execution phase, and I spammed my heals to my comrades for all I was worth. With only 2% of his health left I ran out of Magicka, and cursed my timing, heavy attacking the boss with my silver Pact Dragon staff. Every bit of Magicka I gained back, I threw into Breath of Life.

Sighs and Fuck-yeahs erupted from my headset the moment the boss shattered to the floor, and I swooped forward to claim my prize: a War Machine ring- nice! I then bid my Guildmates goodnight, promising my Guildmaster that I would see her later to help her complete the handful of public dungeons we had left. The snowy haired Nord made to hug my fiery Breton, my petite scantily-clad frame nestled in hers as I logged out, as had become our customary farewell. I slid my headset off, reaching forward to turn off my PlayStation and TV.

The white light on my PlayStation fading to a dull pulsing orange, I stood up from my bean bag chair and stretched my long, lean frame, peering at my disheveled self in the floor-length mirror a few feet away. My hand tugged down my tight black tank top, selfishly admiring that though I'd lost a few pounds this spring, my breasts had stayed firmly in place. Turning this way and that, I only had to stand slightly on tiptoe to reach six feet tall. I smirked at my reflection, flipping my long auburn hair before messily parting it off center. though I'd never been classically beautiful, I was proud that in the last eight years since graduation, I had seriously outgrown my pizza face and nerdy childish features. Gone were the messy eyebrows, the chubby cheeks, the dopey bobbed locks. I looked forward to my ten year high school reunion.... I was going to get an insane amount of satisfaction from the looks I'd get from those who had bullied me. I was pretty, in a wild, messy way.

Mind a million miles away, I slid my boots over my well worn skinny jeans, grabbing my keys from the side table before heading out the door of my tiny apartment. Bessie's firecracker red glint greeted me as I approached, my hands going through the practiced motions of removing the soft top. I had gotten her a couple of years ago used for super cheap, considering that a Jeep Wrangler's value doesn't really depreciate. Silently thanking the dumbass who owned Bessie before (and got her seized on the Canadian Border by US Customs, wonder what that was all about) I finished quickly, and hopped into the driver's seat, urging the beast to life with a fierce growl. 

I navigated the near-abandoned roads favoring the muddy or the bumpy, making the half hour backroad trek through the New Hampshire forests to the grocery store, intent on grabbing something for dinner beyond fast food. I'm an adult, dammit and I WILL eat a vegetable! I reprimanded myself, painfully aware of the slightly pale tinge of my freckled skin in the evening light. Queso is not a vegetable. Blasting Imagine Dragons, tapping the rollcage bar above the window with my left hand and belting the lyrics, I let my mind wander. Summer teased my stray hairs and kissed my skin, and I knew that my signature fair golden tone was not far behind, provided I didn't burn, otherwise my peeling would erase all progress I had made. The warm breeze tickled my face, and I tilted my head slightly back to soak it up.

In my contented distraction, I didn't notice the wolf.

A huge black streak darted from the woods beside the road ahead, and I veered to avoid it, careening off the road into a steep gulch. Bessie rolled, bouncing with the terrain, finally slamming into a massive ash tree. In a split second, searing pain struck my entire body... the only thing my mind registered before darkness took my mind was the intense pain in my left hand from where I threw it in front of me, a futile attempt to stop my momentum as I shattered the windshield.

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Cold. Fucking cold, I hate it with a passion... which is kinda ridiculous, given that I was born and raised in New Hampshire. There's a reason the state motto is "Live, Freeze and Die." The summers being so mild though, my black tank top would have been practical. So why the hell was I so cold and damp? And this pain. I felt like I had been run over by Bessie. That thought stopped me dead, remembering.... Well, shit.

I opened my hazel eyes with a start, dark lashes fluttering in the chill, and I nearly shrieked. Where the fuck was I, and why was I trussed up like a pig roast? I knew I was a bit kinky but damn.... I struggled against my bonds, grunting with the effort. My rustling noises must have alerted someone outside the door of the room (if you could call it that, it was tiny, smaller than a closet and smelled like dead mice) and the sound of thudding metallic footfalls echoed through the chamber. 

The two women who entered were surreal, their beauty equal but each one in stark contrast to the other... one of fire and stone, like the battle hardened sword on her hip, and one of  fine porcelain, light and airy in her movements. And utterly too familiar. I realized with a shock where I was, and to my further amazement, the women began to speak words I already knew by heart. 

“Tell me why we shouldn’t kill you now. The Conclave is destroyed. Everyone who attended is dead. Except for you.” I panicked, fully aware of the severity of my situation, and prayed to whatever fucking deity would listen that Cassandra and Leliana continued to play out the story I knew. 

“What do you mean everyone is dead?" I rasped, my throat dry and aching.

The dark warrior grabbed my hand, and for the first time I noticed the source of my pain. The Anchor. Fuckfuckfuckfuck.... "Explain this!" she growled, jerking my arm sharply in her spiked grip.

Leliana's smooth chime came from the edge of the room, "Do you remember what happened? How this began?"

I decided to tell the truth, or at least partially. Given what I knew of these events, I could speed things along by feeding things that would come later to my captors. The faster I got into their good graces, the better. "I...I can't. I don't know what it is or how it got there! All I remember is that I was at the Conclave to observe the peace talks and... I heard a struggle. An older woman, screaming. I went to help, I fought someone off her, and then..... pain, and running, things were chasing me..." Cassandra seemed stricken in her fury, unsure whether or not to believe me but too pissed to ponder it further.

"A woman... ?" Leliana mused. She was always the more cautious of the two, but probably the easiest to convince, given that she could tell if I was lying to her. I appealed to her, schooling my features into something other than the panic I felt like a frozen slab of cement in my stomach.

"You must believe me! I know myself, and whatever happened, I only wanted to help!" Leliana nodded, seemingly in agreement with my story. Good, she believed me, at least for now.

Cassandra cooled somewhat in deference to the other woman. "Go to the forward camp Leliana. I will take the prisoner to the rift."  The red headed woman sashayed out the door; Cassandra hauled me to my feet, one spiked gauntlet under each armpit. Grimacing in pain, I cooperated, being led out through the Chantry. I stared her dead in the face, my face a mask of politeness garnered from years in the retail and service industry.

"Syraena." I enunciated each syllable, sih-RAY-nuh. I don't know why I decided to go with my healer's name, and consequently my name in many games, but hopefully having been called by that name for years would make it second nature for me. "Not prisoner. I have a name, and I would prefer that you call me by it, Cassandra. Syraena Dire, at your service."  I realized my fuck up immediately, and with a stony look she stared me down. 

"How do you know my name, Syraena?" She toyed with my name, probably tasting as foreign on her tongue as sushi. Fuck... Leliana had never actually called Cassandra by her name.

I came up with the most believable story, one that even my favorite golden-chest-haired dwarf would be proud of. "I spent quite some time in Nevarra. You nobles are quite fond of your pedigrees, eh? I heard about you once, the Right Hand of the Divine... The sketches don't do you justice milady, though the shorter hair suits you better than the long locks." A disgusted noise belied her slight flush, and she aimed a raised brow in my direction.

"They even have tales of us in the alienages? I did not think the elves cared much for human politics or the Chantry." Ummm... what? I caught sight of my pale face in a tall mirror in the Chantry as we passed. To my utter shock and fascination, I had pointed ears. Not overly long, but about an inch and a half longer than the rounded human ears I'd always had. They looked cute. I was still me, albeit a little worse for the wear, but my ears were definitely new. I didn't see any vallaslin though. Good; I'd never liked the Dalish anyway. Someone should tell them that ass-hats aren't in fashion this season.

Cassandra followed my stare to the rusty mirror, and attributed it to the fact that I was severely underclothed for this trek. She ordered a passing scout to procure me suitable attire. Minutes later I was shrouded in a soft, well-worn black leather armor, with a fine silver mail sewn in panels under each collarbone, coming to a V at my navel before flaring out at the hips. The chain mail panels curved around the sides of my thighs, before ending in squared tails behind my knees. The arms were a tad large and the bosom too tight, and I tried to keep my mind off of who the last owner may have been before the scouts had pulled it off their dead body. Ignoring the stale smell and vowing to get it cleaned if I survived this, we stepped outside into the glaring green light. 

The foul eye of the Breach stared at us, bleeding into the sky like the aurora borealis, but... wrong. Utterly wrong, I could feel it in my core. My PlayStation graphics could not have prepared me for it, nor the scale of Haven itself. It was much larger than depicted in the game, with far more activity and many outbuildings that were not there before. I had always been irked at the quaint portrayal of Haven, both in Origins and in Inquisition. Only like five shacks? Really? This was more like a proper village, but one that I was not entirely familiar with. Cursing my terrible sense of direction, I followed Cassandra as she began to speak. 

"We call it the Breach. It's a massive rift into the world of demons that grows larger with each passing hour. It's not the only such rift, just the largest. All were caused by the explosion at the Conclave." I stared in awe at the Breach, simultaneously geeking out and terrified shitless. My face must have resembled a healthy mix of academic fear, because she continued. "Unless we act, the Breach may grow until it swallows the world."

A grinding sound (not unlike the one Bessie made that time I snapped her axle while crawling) shook the skies, a blinding light erupting behind my eyes. The sheer pain of the Anchor growing stunned me, unable to do anything to stop the screech escaping my throat. Being a wuss to pain probably didn't help, but I'd have to learn to deal with it if I was to remain in Thedas. At least I don't have to deal with needles, I thought, sincerely looking forward to magical healing methods as I straightened, continuing my walk beside Cassandra.

"Each time the Breach expands, your mark spreads. And it is killing you. It may be the key to stopping this, but there isn't much time." She looks to me with pity then, and I harden my features in determination.

"If I can help, I will. Lets get this shit done."

 


 

 

We make our way up the path to the rift, idle chatter passing between us as I scoped out my comrade. Her movements, her conviction in telling me that closing the Breach would save many lives... I had always admired Cassandra, but not nearly as much as my Guildmaster. She would be freaking out right now if she were here.

I thought of my home, realizing that only my guildmates would be concerned for my welfare, and even that would fade after a time. They'd hear the news of my disappearance or death, and rise me to the rank of Rose, an honor reserved for those who had reached Sovengarde; we'd only had two guildmates pass away in the three years since the guild was created, and I bitterly mused that my name would join them. My family would not miss me. I'd had none to speak of, and my foster mother of ten years was abusive, passing away just a couple of years ago. 

A green meteor shot from the sky, collapsing the bridge beneath us. In my reverie, I had forgotten to warn Cassandra. We tumbled in the debris, nearly being crushed by falling pavers. She landed a few feet ahead of me, straightening herself quickly and striding off. What a fucking badass. Doesn't even seem phased.... I thought to myself, watching in amusement, then fear as two demons rose from the ice. One ahead of her, one behind, their creepy hooded figures skating toward the dark warrior.

I remembered the importance of this scene, and cast my gaze around to find a weapon, anything, that would allow me to help. Fuck. Not 10 feet away, a pile of busted crates lay among the debris of the broken bridge, a glinting silver staff the only weapon to be found. Well here goes nothing, I sighed inwardly as I grabbed the staff and promptly drew a blank.

The only spell I had in mind as I watched the warrior stave off the two demons came to fruition as I shot my staff straight in the air. A blinding golden javelin formed, piercing the air and landing in a dazzling display of fragmented golden glitter at the warrior's feet. The demons seemed stunned, and Cassandra's second wind hit as she finished the demons off with renewed vigor. She shot a hard, confused glance my way, nearly shaking the ice beneath us in her furious approach.

"DROP YOUR WEAPON. NOW!" she thundered. I eeped unattractively, flinging the staff to the ground and raising my hands palm-up in the air.

"Alright, alright! I'll disarm O Brawny One, but need I remind you, I just saved your ass with those shards milady. Your stamina was flagging, I could tell. You really should sleep more than two hours a night...."

I made to continue our journey, walking ahead of her, when a gauntleted fist grasped my shoulder gently. Sigh. "Wait... I cannot protect you, but I cannot expect you to be defenseless. Here." Cassandra said, shoving the shitty looking staff in my hands. "And as you are aware, my name is not 'O Brawny One'. I have a name, and I would prefer if you called me by it." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her smirk; one eyebrow cocked as she clapped me on the shoulder, urging us further into the valley.

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Cassandra and I trudged through the god forsaken snow to the top of the path, hearing the sounds of battle just over the crest of the hill. Now, I wasn't out of shape before coming here, but HOLY HELL my thighs hurt from hiking in armor with a fucking metal pole in my hands. I'd been here less than a day and already I was burning out from magical P90X.

But I ached in several different ways the moment I caught sight of who was fighting the rift just ahead. Two figures, one stout and one lean, were attempting to stem the tide of demons pouring from the rift. Varric expertly wielded Bianca, golden chest hair and buttons glinting in the odd light as he whooped and cheered after every take-down. As excited as I was to meet him, he was not the one who captured my attentions.

The tall, graceful bald Adonis with pointed ears that put mine to shame weaved spell after spell, no indication of tiring. This was all just a dance to him, and I craved the ability to move as he did. The limited ability of my graphics yet again did not do the real thing any justice. I realized albeit belatedly that I was grinning like a fool, and jumped in wholeheartedly, eager to test my weird brand of magic that I'm sure did not go unnoticed. That would end up bringing me a whole host of questions for later, but at the moment I was preoccupied with my experimentation. I knew I could cast Luminous Shards to invigorate my allies, but what else? I attempted to draw up my staff to place a Healing Springs, but it was much, much smaller than anticipated. I would have to work on it, but for now, single target Healing Springs would work.

There was a brief respite in the tide of demons, and I looked over to where Solas had been, just in time to see him lunge toward me. "Quickly, before more come through!" Grasping my left arm and pulling me close, too close and not close enough my brain screamed, he jammed my hand skyward; I felt an immense pressure build in my hand, jolting forward like a whip. I struggled for a moment, the tether between the rift and I playing a deadly tug-of-war, before I ripped it back toward myself, effectively sealing it. The electric green lash coiled back into my hand, flickering before becoming dormant once more. The odd sensation that my fingertips had fallen asleep began to fade, and I shook out my hand to relieve the pins and needles.

"What did you do?" I asked Solas, already knowing his answer but dying to hear his velvety smooth voice. He turned his stormy blue eyes on me, curiosity lying coiled in their depths, before he spoke carefully.

"I did nothing. The credit is yours. It seems whatever opened the Breach in the sky also placed that mark upon your hand. I theorized the mark might be able to close the rifts that have opened in the Breach's wake. And it seems I was correct."

Cassandra seemed to be soaking up this information, slowly wiping her blade down her pants. "Meaning it could also close the Breach itself." Solas half nodded, turning to me.

God what a yummy man.... perfectly thick lashes, cheekbones that could cut glass, and dat ass... I probably had that dopey grin again as he said, "It seems you hold the key to our salvation."

Varric chuckled, shaking demon debris off his very open shirt, and I was reminded once more how fucking tall I am. I just wanted to pick him up and hug him, regardless of the fact that he'd be just as likely to deck me as laugh. I'd adored his character in both games, and to meet him in person? EEEEEK! "Good to know. And here I thought we'd be ass deep in demons forever."

I snorted rather unattractively. "Glad to be of service. I don't rightly know what the fuck I'm doing... So long as it works, right?" I grinned, mock saluting with my left hand, hips cocked to the side. That elicited a hearty belly laugh from the brassy dwarf, who slung his crossbow on his back and reached out to shake my hand.

"Varric Tethras. Rogue, storyteller, and occasionally unwelcome tagalong. I think we're gonna get along swell in the valley." Cassandra made her signature disgusted noise, wiping demon ichor off her shield as we rested briefly.

Mr. Tall Wolfy and Handsome inclined his head in a slight bow. "My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions."

Varric cut in, grinning. "He means, 'I kept that mark from killing you while you slept.'"  

My breath curling in the air, I leaned in ever so slightly, keeping my eyes pinned on Solas. "It seems I owe you my thanks. You seem to know a great deal about the rifts, so I think I'll heed your advice in such matters. I bet I could learn quite a lot from you, haren." It could've just been the cold, but I swear to fucking god the tips of his ears turned the faintest pink. My inner wicked siren clapped her hands eagerly at the reaction, curious to see more. My practical side tamped that down, at least for the moment. Plenty of time, my sweet, plenty of time...

Oblivious to the exchange, Cassandra informed me dully, "Like you, Solas is an apostate."

Clearing his throat, he shot back his reply. "Technically, all mages are apostates now. My travels have allowed me to learn much of the Fade, far beyond the experience of any Circle mage. I came to offer whatever help I can give with the Breach If it is not closed we are all doomed regardless of origin. This magic is unlike any I have ever seen, and though your prisoner is a mage, I find it difficult to imagine any mage wielding such power."

Cassandra looked to me with a smirk, muttering, "Do you want to tell him what you told me, 'Prisoner'?" I laughed maniacally, bounding over the low broken wall in my eagerness to get this shit done and over with. My stomach was growling, and I'll be damned if anything was gonna separate me from food and a nap. Our ragtag party fell into an easy banter all the way to the forward camp, dispatching demons intermittently, and I found I was lighter than I was just moments before.

 

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After a brief spat with some old hag calling himself Chancellor Roderick, and some impressive shade thrown by my new best friend Cassandra, we decided to charge the Temple of Sacred Ashes with the soldiers. I had never gone the other route when I had played Inquisition, and despite the fact that I had a platinum trophy for the game, I could not guarantee the things that I didn't know. I had no way of knowing whether or not the scouts had survived in the mountain pass, and from the looks of things my fears would be confirmed anyway.

The four of us made our way through the rubble, and I couldn't help but marvel at how seamlessly we were starting to work together. If things kept progressing the way they were, I honestly didn't think that I would need to change up my party. Though I would need to see if I could bring more than four people. I didn't think it would take very much effort, and even the advisors could not deny the usefulness of having two separate teams on the field.

My musings were cut short when we stepped within the outer walls of the Temple. I couldn't even begin to say how many dead lay here, wrapped in cloth. A woman with a makeshift version of a clipboard had the grueling task of identifying them all. There were rows upon rows of them. Many living wounded sat upon the ground, crying out in pain as they were tended to by healers; moans of anguish and pleading with the Maker rent the air. I could not recall this scene. Whatever had been here in the game was nothing compared to the stark reality I found here. I set my face in a mask of grim determination. That Breach is going down. We pressed on, hearing the clamor of fighting ahead, punctuated my the crackle of a rift.

A handful of soldiers were attempting to stave off the demons, accompanied by a familiar broad shouldered man draped in an odd furry mantle. Cassandra went to help with a terror demon blocking the eerie claws that threaten to swipe through the poor recruits. Their relief was palpable, and I cast them a miniaturized Healing Springs to ease some of their minor wounds, the fine golden mist pooling about their feet.

To the Commander I cast a cluster of luminous shards, his gratitude outshining his confusion. I'd pretty much gotten used to that look by now; though my methods were unusual they worked, and people appreciated results. The flow of demons pouring out of the rift abated, and I realized I had but a few seconds to seal it before more arrived.

Reaching my left hand in the air, my acid green whip cracked through the space between the rift and myself, before I jerk it sharply back. The Rift sucked closed, and the silence that ensued was almost eerie. I stood hunched over, hands on my knees, when I heard a rich voice to my right.

"You are becoming quite proficient at this. Let us hope that the largest of the rifts will close as easily at your touch." Solas said lowly, eyes cast skyward, his hands clasped behind his back. I peered at him in my exhaustion, steeling myself for the hardship ahead. A bright blue bottle was tossed lightly to me, and after catching it rather more dexterously than I thought myself capable, I downed it immediately.

The lyrium potion tasted slightly odd, like the blue raspberry Icee drinks at the gas station, but more metallic, like they hadn't cleaned the dispenser in days. A tingle filled my every vein, and I felt renewed. Blue. It tasted like blue. I chuckled to myself, earning a concerned glance from the Commander as he approached.

His movements were not unlike a great lion, and his stance as he came to a stop - head slightly leaned forward, back straight, chest out, and weight bearing foot forward - suggested his unconscious assertion of dominance. Here was a man you'd want fighting beside you, rather than against you. I had romanced him before in the game, but somehow I always preferred my Solas-sentric playthroughs, regardless of the unavoidable outcome. Looking at them both in the flesh did nothing to help my already overactive imagination. The tips of my ears felt slightly hot, and I made to cover them with my hands. I aborted that movement halfway, after realizing that that would draw more attention to them. Maybe nobody had noticed...

"Lady Cassandra! You managed to close the rift. Well done," Cullen said, seemingly not even noticing me. The dark warrior turned to me, face flush with the slow fading adrenaline of battle. "Do not congratulate me Commander Cullen. This was Syraena's doing."

Cullen turned to me, curious. "Is it? I hope they're right about you. We've lost a lot of people getting you here..." I hung my head slightly, mourning those I had not even known. Raising my head to level my hazel eyes at him, I brought the conviction I had felt from Cassandra earlier to the surface.

"I will do what I must to close that damn Breach, even if it kills me." My shoulders squared, and though I knew I appeared almost Amazonian, I fought to repress the fear that I would fail.

"Let's hope it doesn't come to that, but your determination is admirable." Cullen gathered his handful of recruits, leading the charge into the depths of the Temple of Sacred Ashes. The enormous Rift loomed ahead, dead center of a ragged crater. The earth seemed to be reaching up to devour us, framed by a multitude of jutting red lyrium teeth.

Varric growled as we skirted them, urging us not to touch them. His distaste for the red crystals was palpable, and I could see why: the very air around them warped with the Blighted song they sang, almost like a demon chorus. Warning of death and destruction, but tantalizing and beckoning you to impale yourself on their fiery spikes... Irresistible and deadly. 

A dark, oppressive voice filled the air. "NOW IS THE HOUR OF OUR VICTORY." I stood stock still, not comprehending it. The fade, bleeding its twisted light above us, a crude movie replaying the memory. But... how?

How did it show MY face, elf ears and all, bursting in to save the Divine? Struggling to save her and grabbing the foci? I wasn't even here! I was in New Hampshire, driving to the grocery store, and crashing into a tree! I couldn't remember anything in between, but... maybe that Nightmare demon really had stolen these memories from me. It would know what really happened...right? I warred with myself, not even paying attention really as Solas and Cassandra hashed out a plan to open and then reseal the rift. Leliana's archers filtered in through the crevices in the crumbling walls around us.

I was tapped on the shoulder by a gloved hand, and I turned to see Leliana, eyes brimming with concern. "Are you ready?" she asked and even knowing what was to come, I could not assure her of my preparedness. That Pride demon we were about to face would not be easy, and I would have to hang back for the majority of the fight. I had no offensive abilities, no shields, and my armor was abysmal. I could not risk being killed.

I nodded all the same, and the soldiers around us took up strategic positions. As soon as the last of the archers were in place on the balcony above us, Cassandra nodded to me. Everything hung on my shoulders (or rather, my hand) as I cast my tether out. Bending my knees to brace myself, I twisted my body to rip the poorly sewn Rift open with all of my body weight. A deafening roar split the air, and a thundering weight shook the ground.

Righting myself, I took stock of the massive, spiky bipedal demon who lashed out at us with fists encased in lightning. I jutted my staff in the air, sending a shimmering torrent of shards to land at my comrades' feet. They gained ground, slashing and burning away at the scaly armor. I waited for the other shoe to drop, which happened moments later. 

The Pride demon launched its lightning clad fists outward, back arching as it screamed to the sky. Spikes bristled up its body, and it stomped the ground, the shattering roar sending us flat on our backs. We took only a split second to regain our composure, before setting upon the demon anew. The warriors' blades fought to find purchase in his toughened armor, and I continued to cast Shards and Healing Springs their way, skirting the fight to stand directly under the Rift.

My whip tore at the ragged seam, and the resulting shock sent the shuddering demon to its knees. Cassandra rallied the soldiers, tearing into the demon mercilessly. Its defenses shattered, it did not take long for them to have the Pride demon crippled, favoring one leg even as it stood. It slashed at us with coils of electricity, but glanced off the shimmering blue barrier Solas had flung around us. It was cool, soothing even, and as the warriors brought the demon crashing to the ground; I could feel the refreshing breath of the barrier sliding down to my toes.

I took no pause after Pride's defeat to cast my Anchor's lash upward once more, pulling the edges of the Rift into alignment. It was like a festering wound, and unless I straightened the edges of the Rift it would not heal when stitched back up. I poured every last bit of mana I had into it, and the tether ate it up greedily, demanding more.  The moment the Rift slammed to a close, a earth-rending shockwave sent me flying backwards. I collided with a ruined wall, and my world went black.

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Surrounded by warmth, I pressed my face further into the pillow. Every muscle in my body ached, but I ignored it and tried to fall back into the loving arms of sleep. I had had a really weird dream, where I was stranded in Thedas and got to ogle Solas' ass. Maybe if I went back under, my tendency to lucid dream would... allow me to do... more...

The sound of a door opening had me on my feet in an instant, bare feet pressed against the cold stone. Stone? Wait, what? My bedroom floor in my dinky apartment was an ashy hardwood, with a scattering of dark colored rugs, and... My own memory foam bed was probably twice that size, with a red duvet and black sheets. Realizing with a start that this was not my room in my tiny apartment, I peered at my hands, my left hand bearing the Anchor.

Damn, so it wasn't a dream. The walls of the cabin were a pitted wood, not my deep red. No PlayStation in the alcove, no closet bursting with clothes... There was a mirror here, though, and I was using it to inspect my pointed ears when the person who had opened the door crept in with their massive armload of crates.

Upon seeing me awake, she dropped to the floor in reverence, her burden hitting the stone with a clatter. “Oh! I didn’t know you were awake, I swear!” the words tumbled out of her, meek and threatening to shatter. 

“Don’t worry about it. I only just woke up. Are you okay? why are you-" I rushed, but the woman bent her forehead to touch the pavestones. “I beg your forgiveness and your blessing. I am but a humble servant. You’re back in Haven, my Lady. They say you saved us. The breach stopped growing, just like the mark on your hand. It’s all anyone has talked about for the last three days!” I realized that dreaded gauntlet of adoring fans awaited me outside. I wanted nothing more than to crawl out the back window and skirt the outbuildings in an attempt to avoid detection. 

“I’m sure Lady Cassandra will want to know you’ve wakened. She said ‘at once’! If you hurry you can find her in the Chantry with the Lord Chancellor. 'At once,’ she said!” The young elf scurried out without me having said a word, the rough wooden crates in their disheveled mess where she'd promptly dropped them.

I took a look through the crates, sitting cross-legged on the floor... they were mostly stocked with carefully folded clothes, some built for warmth and functionality; and some were made of finer materials, no doubt for greeting visiting dignitaries. It was a sea of navy blues, charcoals, rich browns and blacks. Well at least Josephine knows what would suit me... Thank God there's no pink; I just woke up and don't feel like throttling people at the moment. I gathered that she was in charge of my wardrobe. It all appeared to fit, even if it was such short notice; I would have to send her my gratitude later. My armor was nowhere to be seen, and I made a mental note to stop by the smithy. The so-called Herald of Andraste couldn't be seen in hand me downs.

The second crate contained a variety of hygiene products: soaps, colored glass bottles of what I guessed were shampoos that once uncorked reminded me of a spiced vanilla, waxes and balms, sachets of herbs that had a calming effect... I set about arranging my haul in the tiny cabin. I'd gotten used to small living spaces in the last few years, but small did not ever mean dismal. I stood back and inspected my work. The various bottles lined the shelves, glinting a myriad of colors in the light. I placed an herbal sachet in the dresser with my clothing, and one under my pillow. If I ever got a chance, I was definitely changing out that hideous bedspread.

As I figured I had stalled enough, I pulled on a pair of woven charcoal leggings, admiring my ass in the mirror before selecting a thick navy blue tunic and a black fur lined vest. Surprisingly, I found that the black boots placed by the door were my own. They had been cleaned and had seen better days, but they were all I had left from home. I slid them on gingerly, taking a steadying breath and stepping out into the frigid air.

I had taken not two steps before the entire bustling populace of Haven fell eerily silent. They parted ways for me, their whispered praises and gossip no louder than my crunching footsteps in the snow. I hurried my steps, trying to ignore the gawking. The Chantry loomed above all the other buildings, so it wasn't hard to find, but I wasn't confident in my ability to find my cabin.

The massive Chantry doors were opened before me, and even from this distance I could hear the spectacular shouting match between Cassandra and Chancellor Rodrick. He was apparently trying to have my happy ass hauled to Val Royeaux and tried by the minimal leadership in the Chantry. Cassandra was having none of his bullshit, however.

I slammed the War Room door open, setting hands on slanted hips, before swaggering in. "Somebody call me? I swear my ears were burning with as much as you were discussing me. You'd think someone as lofty as the fucking Herald of Andraste or whatever the hell they are calling me now would be invited to your little tea party."

Chancellor Roderick turned a delightful shade of puce at my blasphemy, and even Cassandra seemed a bit pink. He pointed at me, venomously hissing orders at the guards who flanked the doors. "Chain the prisoner. I want her prepared for travel to the capital for trial!"

Cassandra waved one gauntleted hand dismissively. "Disregard that, and leave us." The guards exchanged a look before departing. I didn't blame them; Cassandra was downright scary at times. Roderick was more like a yapping ankle biter. I just want to drop kick him across the Chantry courtyard. Can I? Please?

"You walk a dangerous line, Seeker," he grumbled, and I swear he stomped his foot under the table like a toddler. The dark warrior was not phased in the least by his tantrum.

“The Breach is stable, but it is still a threat. I will not ignore it.”

I sidled up to the table, casually leaning against it. “I did everything I could to close the Breach. It almost killed me.” I smoothed the edge of the map, idly tapping each town along a route with the tip of my finger.

Roderick seethed, “Yet you live. A convenient result, insofar as you’re concerned.”

The look from Cassandra was that of a dragon staring down a weak challenger. “Have a care, Chancellor. The Breach is not the only threat we face.”

Leliana gave him a dark look, partially obscured by her hood. “Someone was behind the explosion at the Conclave. Someone Most Holy did not expect. Perhaps they died with the others – or have allies who yet live.” Leliana's voice trilled from the shadows, peeking out from under her hood, passing from behind Josephine at the back of the room.

Cassandra recounted the weird fade memory that played above us at the rift. “I heard the voices in the temple. The Divine called to Syraena for help.”

Roderick was either bravely stupid or stupidly brave, because he continued to argue with the most dangerous women in Haven. “So her survival, that thing on her hand – all a coincidence?”

Cassandra shook her head, dark pixie cut swishing into her eyes. “Providence. The Maker sent her to us in our darkest hour.” I didn't know what the hell brought me here, but I wasn't about to poke the dragon. I knew there was no way to stop the rumor, and it would be bad for morale to do so.

“This is not for you to decide," Roderick said, and he was immediately silenced as Cassandra slammed a big ass book down on the table.

“You know what this is, Chancellor? A writ from the Divine, granting us authority to act. As of this moment, I declare the Inquisition reborn.” Cassandra backed Roderick up against the wall, bearing down on him with a spiky finger to the chest. “We will close the Breach, we will find those responsible, and we will restore order with or without your approval.” Yessssss drag him Cassandra! The sniveling coward stormed out the door, slamming it behind him.

Leliana watched him go, then turned to me and spoke. “This is the Divine’s directive: Rebuild the Inquisition of old. Find those who will stand against the chaos. We aren’t ready. We have no leader, no numbers, and now no Chantry support.”

I hopped down from the edge of the table, doing an about-face and eyeing the advisors each in turn. "We will do what we must to close the Breach and restore order. In the meantime......this has been real, and it's been fun, but now that we've got all the talky talky bullshit out of the way, where does one acquire food...."

This brought a smirk to Cassandra's lips, and she offered to escort me to the tavern. More to my surprise though, she sat down with me at the corner table, requesting two stew meals. We sat companionably eating lunch, discussing random lighthearted topics between bites of rich wild ram stew.

Chapter Text

My appetite finally sated, I asked Cassandra directions to the forge, before bidding her farewell. The snow crunched underfoot, and my breath escaped me in coiled tendrils. There were people bustling down the path, and I managed to avoid them by dodging around a cabin. I did not want the spotlight pointed at me, at least for now, until I found my footing. I knew it'd be unavoidable, but it felt a little like performing on stage. I didn't want to be dancing to the wrong music, or dancing naked. I knew every detail about these people, every major event... but not everything was scripted here, and the nuances of conversations not laid out eluded me. I wouldn't have a set number of options to choose from. Now that'd I'd veered off my course, quite literally, I headed in the general Northward direction of the lakeside smithy.

Walking past a small cluster of cabins, I felt a curious sensation: the cold mountain air felt thicker here, alive. My steps slowed as I realized what it was... magic. There was potent magic here, and it was responding to my presence, seeking me out. I closed my eyes, reaching out with fingertips outstretched, my right hand calmly and curiously testing it. I wasn't exactly sure what I was doing, but it felt nice.

I twisted my fingers around it, coiling it around my hand like a thick silk ribbon. It was warm, and overcome with the sensation, I knelt in the snow cradling it to my chest. A few moments passed, and though the sensation had only built, my curiosity overwhelmed my sense of profound peace. I opened my eyes, staring at my hand as I drew it from my chest. My hand was enveloped in a soft golden glow, and faint sparkles dripped from my palm as I unfurled my fingers. They landed in the snow like glittering gems, before twinkling out of existence. A little disappointed, I scattered the rest of them on the breeze, blowing them a kiss as they flitted away. Slowly I stood, walking forward through the trees. I shook off the peculiar feeling, deciding to test it more later.

The Smithy was a modest structure, and immediately I recognized the man I'd come to see. Harritt greeted me with a gruff but polite handshake, and I set about explaining the armor I wanted. I based it off my armor scheme that had earned me the title "Dread Siren" in my guild. It was close fitted, stormheart scales running up the length of my legs, my sabatons crafted from smooth, shifting angular plates. The scales continued up my torso, my breasts sculpted by smooth panels in the front with buckles that reached around the sides of my torso and up to my shoulders. My arms were wrapped in a silky material, the backs guarded by matching shifting plates, miniaturized versions of the ones that adorned my shins.

Unlike my Elder Scrolls Online look however, knowing that I'd have to contend with the cold, I'd added a deep teal cloak, almost black, lined with a thick silver fur. We spent hours poring over my different sketches and taking my measurements. While unconventional, Harritt seemed eager to take on this challenge. The cloak he'd have to me within the next couple of days. The armor suit would be much longer. He figured it'd be done by the time I'd be needed in the field, maybe a week or two sooner depending on the contents of the next materials shipment. It was getting dark, and as we parted ways he was still grumbling about it to himself, something about making it weigh less....

The exterior of Haven was much more similar to its game rendering than the Interior. the road that ran past the smithy to the front gates and beyond to the training yard was much the same as the one I was used to. I entered the gates, content to spend the remainder of my evening exploring Haven now that people were seeking the warmth of the indoors. A familiar short figure waved me over, seemingly on his way to the Tavern. I fell in step beside him. 

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

I laughed halfheartedly. “I’m just glad I’m still standing after all that.” He returned my laugh, his hand smoothing back his hair in thought. 

“I still can’t believe you survived Cassandra. You’re lucky that you were out cold for most of her frothing rage. For days now, we’ve been staring at the Breach, watching demons and Maker-knows-what fall out of it. ‘Bad for morale’ would be an understatement. I still can’t believe anyone was in there and lived.”

It has been a long ass few days....“I’m still not sure I believe that any of this is really happening.” I said, which is the honest truth. I had no idea how I had gotten here. Varric looked to the last few rays of light on the horizon. 

“If this is all just the Maker winding us up, I hope there is a damn good punch line coming.” We turned the corner into the Tavern, and he grabbed us a table, the only one not surrounded by raucous drunks. “You might want to consider running at the first opportunity. I’ve written enough tragedies to recognize where this is going. Heroes are everywhere. I’ve seen that. But the hole in the sky? That’s beyond heroes. We’re going to need a miracle. And a shitload of  alcohol.” He waved over a barmaid, ordering something I couldn't quite make out, but he waved off my questioning look.

"Alcohol I can do. Heroes? Not so much." I laughed, taking the mug the barmaid set down, staring into its contents. As I braved the first sip, feeling a sweet burn in my throat, a chuckle escaped the dwarf.

"Wording, there. I'm sure by the time this is over, you'll have plenty of heroes you can do." I nearly spit out my fucking drink, leveling a look of mock indignation on him. "Hey!" I squealed, slapping him on the arm. I took several more sips, savoring the sweet aftertaste on my tongue.

I'd had my fair share of alcohol in the past. Hell, midnight on my 21st birthday I'd had my first drink, which had led to several more; and since I hadn't sussed out my tolerance yet it quickly became a hilarious shitshow.... but whatever this drink was, between cracking jokes and absentmindedly downing it like Pepsi, I was feeling warm. Fast. It was deceptively sweet and was progressively hitting me harder. 

Feeling courageous, I stood on the table, not even caring that the tavern had gone rather quiet in odd expectation.... and began to sing. 

 

I was a heavy heart to carry
My beloved was weighed down
My arms around his neck
My fingers laced a crown

 

I was a heavy heart to carry
My feet dragged across the ground
And he took me to the river
Where he slowly let me drown

 

My love has concrete feet
My love's an iron ball
Wrapped around your ankles
Over the waterfall

 

I paused, taking a deep breath, lifting my chin high, arms at my sides lifted slightly. Like a bird about to take wing, my voice sought the higher notes of the song....

 

I'm so heavy, heavy
Heavy in your arms

 

And is it worth the wait
All this killing time?
Are you strong enough to stand
Affecting both your heart and mine?

 

Who is the betrayer?
Who's the killer in the crowd?
The one who creeps in corridors
And doesn't make a sound

 

The entire Tavern was dead silent, listening to my high voice clear through the fog of the alcohol and the sharp tang of wood smoke in the air. My voice navigated the chorus again, a ghost ship through the craggy rocks. I came to the bridge, one I'd sung a million times, while cleaning my apartment and dancing with the mop. 

 

This will be my last confession
"I love you" never felt like any blessing
Ohhhh
Whispering like it's a secret
Only to condemn the one who hears it
With a heavy heart

 

I trilled higher in my lyrical lament, the instrumentals thrummed in my heart, silent to all who heard me. When the song finally came to an end, I wiped a single warm tear from my eye. My movement seemed to break the spell, and the Tavern erupted in whoops and cheers. My head felt light, and before I knew it, I tumbled from the tabletop.... and was caught by a strong, lean set of arms. Solas peered down at me, the both of us knelt on the floor, a glint of awe from the depths of his stormy blue eyes.

Varric stood over his shoulder, and upon seeing me conscious at least he roared with laughter. "You all right there, Siren? You had me a bit worried. That beautiful display and then boom, you gotta be swept up off the floor like crumbs." 

"I'm alright Varric. I am just a lil woozy. Wait what was that you said about heroes earlier," I said, giggling a bit at Varric before staring up at Solas, batting my lashes. Varric laughed so hard I feared he would bash his head on the table, and Solas turned a bit pink. "I heard the impromptu performance on the way back to my quarters. Suffice it to say I was pleasantly surprised to see it was you; less so when you collapsed. I believe you may have had enough liquor for one night. I will escort you to your cabin, Lady Herald." He lifted me up in a princess carry, and I winked at Varric over his shoulder, giving him the thumbs up. The door to the Tavern swung shut before I could see his reaction, however.

The walk back began in silence, until I noticed that odd sensation from earlier was back, and ten times stronger.  I reached out my right hand again, closing my eyes and feeling for the glittering tendrils. My hand felt surrounded in silk again, and I opened my eyes. My fingers looped through the swirls of golden light, twinkling stars dripping from my hand like dew. It felt warmer, much warmer.

"What is it you are doing?" Solas asked lightly, curiosity and amusement ill-restrained on his face.

"I have absolutely no idea..." I mused, and I felt a rumble begin in his chest. Looking up, Solas had his eyes shut, trying to restrain a laugh and failing.

"You- you are... playing... with my aura." 

I giggled. "That sounds soooo much dirtier than it probably is. Wait!" I chirp, noting his slight flush, "Was that you earlier? On the hill behind the smithy?"

He sighed, inclining his head slightly. "Yes, I was out gathering medicinal herbs for Adan, the healer. He had depleted his elfroot stocks. I had simply assumed that a spirit was finding my magical aura amusing." 

Without realizing it, we had arrived at my cabin. Solas gently released my legs, helping me to stand as I slid down the length of his body. I turned to face him, wrapping my arms around his sides. My face pressed into where his neck met his sculpted chest, and his chin had come to rest on the top of my head. He allowed my embrace for a wonderful while, even sinking into it at the last second, before stepping away to help me with the door.

My drunk self held on for just a moment longer, then attempted to navigate past the empty crates I'd left that morning. It was as though he was babysitting me, quickly cleaning up potentially hazardous obstacles as I came to them. 

He was busying himself with an errant crate when I whipped off my tunic, desperate to cool off because I was soooo damn hot... His eyes widened, taking in the curve of my back and the dip where my hips met my waist, turning around to face the door as I collapsed on the bed, boots and pants still on but little else. 

Solas issued a hurried apology, all but fade-stepping from my cabin in a bid to escape. I missed his departure, already sliding deep into the Fade in my drunken slumber.

Chapter Text

The sounds of a babbling brook filled my ears. I opened my eyes, the lush greenery that filled my vision utterly familiar. I walked the path laid out before me, and when I passed a tiny cairn marking a bend in the path, I turned left. Hiking the uneven terrain with bare feet digging into the moist earth, the dark brown soil gave way to bare granite.

The brook flowed over the stone, a thin sheen over the rock, before falling over an outcropping of rock and into the open air. I sat on the ledge, my feet dangling over the edge; I had no fear of falling to my death hundreds of feet below... I had done this countless times. This was my favorite perch on all of Mount Ascutney. It was about half of the way up, still fully surrounded by thriving trees. Though reaching the peak always came with a sense of accomplishment, the tiny bare-rock pines there always made me sad. They were lonely and struggling, and all too easily swept away by a storm. Here, the trees were dense and old, and the view was arguably better. 

It was twilight here, fireflies peeking through the branches, the moonless sky striking me as odd but it did not detract from the serenity around me. The trickling brook flowed around me, fanning out my white silk shift in ghostly patterns, stark against the dark stone. The colors were bolder, more surreal than I remembered. With an idle thought I realized this must be the Fade....

My terrible hiking attire should have been my first clue; I was wearing the white silk shift and nothing else. My freckled shoulders were bared in the moonlight, a sloppy braid hanging over my left shoulder down past my breast. My feet were pristine, no trace of mud or scratches that should have been there had I actually hiked for a few hours to get to this point. I had no fatigue, in fact I felt refreshed, as though the brook around me was revitalizing me. 

I could not shake the feeling that I was being watched however. Searching around me, I called to the darkness, "If you would come out of hiding, Solas, I'd enjoy the company. The view is awesome, and the water's great." There was a pause, and a sigh, closely followed by light footsteps. The faint movements in the water heralded my guest's arrival to my right. He sat, bare toes hanging over the edge, curling in the pleasant evening air.

It was several moments before Solas spoke. "I will not presume to know how you detected my presence, nor how you knew it was me approaching you. You have surprised me more than once in your time with the Inquisition. This place is lovely," he added, his hand absently filling with water before casting it over the side of the mountain.

"Call me psychic. This is my favorite perch on a trail I often used to hike. Some days I would only ever get this far before stopping. I find it peaceful." My fingers traced lazy circles in the surface of the water. He eyed me calmly, face impassive.

"If you would permit me an observation...You do not carry yourself as an elf from the alienages would, nor act as a Dalish does." I chuckled, knowing his distaste for both groups. One professed to know it all but knew nothing, and the other knew nothing of their history and did not care. I squared my shoulders, deciding that truth could not hurt here.

"You are right. I am neither. My own mother could not keep me, and though she loved me and I her, at the tender age of 8 I was taken away to be fostered by a woman who took in 'strays'. The foster mother held me prisoner for 10 years. She was horribly abusive. I was an outcast even among my peers, and subjected to atrocious acts. She would never leave a mark, because who would believe a dirty rabbit like me over a well respected noblewoman, who appeared as a saint for taking in so many children with no homes?"

I recounted my tale hollowly, a sharp edge cutting into my voice toward the end. Solas' mask cracked a little, not with pity but with pain, pure pain. I pointedly looked out into the valley below, forcing my breathing to remain steady. I nervously undid my braid, parting it messily off center. I fidgeted with one of the more stubborn strands as I continued.

"The moment I came of age, beaten but not broken, I packed up my few possessions and left. After some searching, I discovered my own mother was gone, and I had no family left to speak of. I went back only once, to thank her for sending me some coin for my journey. I had not even entered the house - I still stood on the doorstep - when I heard her say to somebody Inside, 'I thought I told that rotten puke never to darken my doorstep again.' I ran crying, wishing with every fiber of my being, praying to any god that would listen that something terrible would happen to her. I wanted for her to feel all the pain I had felt in the ten years I spent under her tyranny. That my tears of anguish had not been wasted." My voice shook slightly with anger. I breathed deeply, reigning it in.

"I received word of her periodically after that. Exactly one year later, she lost a leg to a horrible disease. Exactly one year after that, the other leg. One year after that, a blood infection. Every year, down to the same month, she encountered one misfortune after another. Six years after I ran from her estate, to the month, she passed away."

I flicked back the single tear threatening to fall, setting my jaw in defiance. I felt a slender hand over my own under the cool water, and I turned to Solas. His mouth was set in a grim line, and I knew that with the fury of the Dread Wolf Solas hid, if Ida wasn't dead already she most certainly would be soon for the pain she'd inflicted on me. Everyone deserved freedom, and the downtrodden had nothing to fear from Fen'Harel. 

"I am sorry for the pain you had to endure. But you seem to have dealt with it in your own way. You are a strong soul, the likes of which I have seen rarely aside from my deepest journeys into the Fade. You remain whole, pure, despite the heinous crimes against you. You are wise beyond your years, and the indomitable focus you have demonstrated proves you are not broken."  

My legs had been swinging alternately over the edge, and at his words they stopped. I laid back, the inches deep water pooling about my shoulders, my hair and silk dress swirling out in the lazy current. I was a stone in its path; I could not be submerged or moved. "Indomitable Focus?" I asked curiously, casting my eyes to the handful of stars peeking through the branches of the foliage above us.

His low reply sent shivers through me. "Presumably. I have yet to see it dominated. I imagine the sight would be... fascinating."

I fanned out my arm beside me, soundlessly inviting him to join me in my peaceful rest. I could not help but notice his hungry glance to where the silk clung to my ribs, the water not quite deep enough to wet my entire torso, but making the sheer fabric almost transparent over my sides. The lone mole on my ribcage below my left breast was visible, and he swallowed, mask returning once more as he lay back.

His eyes counted the stars above, hands folded delicately over his stomach... His slow breathing and mine were the only sound in the growing darkness. We spent the remainder of our time in the Fade like this, a scarce foot apart, not touching, just enjoying one another's company. Time seemed to pass too quickly and yet achingly slow, until dawn came and we parted, lifting back up gently into the Waking. 

Chapter Text

I was legitimately considering clubbing Varric upside the head when I awoke. Maybe then he would have half the headache I did. Silently cursing the stubby troublemaker, I stood and stretched, realizing that I  was only wearing my breastband, boots and pants. I saw my tunic and vest cast lazily on the floor, and I was mortified. Solas brought me home and... I stripped in front of him? What the hell was I thinking? Hoping that I hadn't scared the poor man off, I dressed quickly and made my way to the Chantry.

Ignoring the looks I got the whole way there, I opened the door of Josephine's office, only to find her arguing with a man in a foul mustard yellow mask. “The Inquisition cannot remain, Ambassador, if you can’t prove it was founded on Justinia’s orders.” 

Josephine took the man's thinly veiled accusation in stride, and gently replied, “This is an inopportune time, Marquis. More of the faithful flock here each day.” I figured this was as good a time as any to make my presence known. I wiggled my fingers in a tentative wave over Marquis DuRellion's shoulder. Josephine gestured me to her side.

“But allow me to introduce you to the brave soul who risked her life to slow the magic of the Breach. Mistress Dire, this is the Marquis DuRellion, one of the Divine Justinia’s greatest supporters.” DuRellion looked to me disdainfully, deciding I was not worth the trouble of a greeting. Fucking Nobility.

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

I quirked my eyebrow, remaining polite yet firm. “Interesting, considering the Inquisition was begun by the Left and Right Hands of the Divine.” The Marquis bristled, and a look of indignation crossed the slits in his mask. He was unused to being challenged by an elf, let alone one backed by an ambassador of high standing. 

“I’ve seen no written records from Sister Leliana or Seeker Pentaghast that Justinia approved the Inquisition.” Josephine turned to me, subtly including me in the conversation as her equal, try as the Marquis might to butt me out of it like a common servant. My opinion mattered, and Josie would have him see it. 

“If he won’t take her at her word, I’m afraid Seeker Pentaghast must challenge him to a duel.” The marquis spluttered his protest, and I ignored him. 

“It is a matter of honor among the Nevarrans. Shall I arrange the bout for tonight?” It was hard to keep the smirk from my face as he backpedaled.

“No! No. Perhaps my reaction to the Inquisition’s presence was somewhat hasty.” Josephine pressed her advantage, setting the floundering man straight without breaking a sweat. 

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

“I’ll think on it, Lady Montilyet. The Inquisition might stay in the meanwhile.”

He departed, and as soon as the heavy wooden door slammed shut, I grinned at Josephine. "What an asshat. He probably doesn't even have a claim on Haven." Josie smirked, inclining her head and scribbling something on the clipboard that seemed permanently glued to her hand.

“His Grace’s position is not so strong as he presents it. Despite their Ferelden relations, the DuRellions are Orlesian. If the marquis wishes to claim Haven, Empress Celene must negotiate with Ferelden on his behalf. Her current concerns are a bit larger than minor property disputes.”

I glanced around her office, picking up a book on Ferelden Royal Lineage. The last few pages recounted Alistair's rise to the throne, with no queen, but a queen-consort by the name of Elissa Cousland. Good, I thought. Anora is a snakey bitch. She doesn't deserve the precious cinnamon roll that is Alistair. I set the book down, folding my arms over my chest as I addressed Josephine, still scribbling away.

"Did the illustrious leaders of the Inquisition have anything planned for me today?" 

She looked up then, tapping the feathery end of the quill to her chin. "I believe they require your attentions at the meeting this morning, Leliana should be gathering everyone here in a moment. Cullen is more than likely running the troops through drills, and Cassandra beating up on some poor unsuspecting training dummy. If you would like, you are free to wait in the War Room..."

I took my leave, heading for the War Room. I was the first one there, and was leaned over the table memorizing the map, cramming every detail I could into my aching skull. The door swung open behind me, and Cullen stopped short at seeing me there. He rubbed his neck nervously, trying to look anywhere but my ass. I stood, allowing him to pass with some scrap of dignity left.

The Commander wordlessly took his place on the other side of the War Table. He glanced up as Cassandra and Leliana entered, discussing the kind of power needed to fuel the Anchor in order to permanently seal the Breach.. Josie filtered in last, her clipboard stacked high with various missives, which she passed to the various advisors to which they pertained. Cassandra spoke first, setting an armored hand on the rough hewn table. 

“Your mark is now stable, as is the Breach. You’ve given us time, and Solas believes that a second attempt might succeed – provided the mark has more power. The same level of power used to open the Breach in the first place. That is not easy to come by.”

Leliana fussed with her cuff, nodding in agreement with Cassandra. “Which means we must approach the rebel mages for help.”

Cullen clenched the pommel of his sword, visibly agitated. “And I still disagree. The Templars could serve just as well.”

Cassandra set her hand on the Commanders shoulder, attempting to calm him. “We need power, Commander. Enough magic poured into that mark might–” He shook off the gauntleted hand in irritation. 

“Might destroy us all. Templars could suppress the breach, weaken it so–” 

Leliana chimed in, cutting Cullen's retort short. “Pure speculation.”

Cullen did not appreciate being in the minority, and was ironclad in his argument. “I was a Templar. I know what they’re capable of.” He was every bit the lion as he stood tall, his authority rolling off of him in waves. Josephine raised a graceful hand, stilling the room. “Unfortunately, neither group will even speak to us yet. The Chantry has denounced the Inquisition – and you, specifically.”

I scoffed in feigned disbelief. “That didn’t take long. Shouldn’t they be busy arguing over who’s going to become Divine? I'm sure they have bigger fucking problems at the moment, and if we're dealing with the Breach it should ease their burdens a bit.”

Josephine shook her perfectly coiffed head. “Some are calling you – an elf with no discernible origin– the 'Herald of Andraste.’ That frightens the Chantry. The remaining Clerics have declared it blasphemy, and we heretics for harboring you. It limits our options. Approaching the mages or templars for help is currently out of the question.”

Leliana approached me, missive in hand. “There is something you can do. A Chantry Cleric by the name of Mother Giselle has asked to speak to you. She is not far, and knows those involved far better than I. Her assistance could be invaluable. You’ll find Mother Giselle tending to the wounded in the Hinterlands near Redcliffe.” 

Cullen seemed to have calmed, for the moment at least. “Look for other opportunities to expand the Inquisition’s influence while you’re there." 

Cassandra, ever a woman of action, seemed to tire of this meeting already. “In the meantime, let’s think of other options. I won’t leave this all to you, Syraena. My apologies for saying so, but you didn't exactly seem combat ready last we were on the field. I expect Solas will be able to provide you with training. Seek him out, and if you need anything from us, do not hesitate to ask...” 

We parted ways, my stomach screaming in protest. I made my way to the tavern, ordering myself a bowl of oatmeal and some eggs. I scarfed it down quickly, scalding my tongue in the process. It was bland, but it would grant me the strength I needed to train. If Solas was to be my teacher, I knew that it would be more training of the mind rather than the body, and I wasn't about to let myself collapse on him again.

Someday, I'll get Flissa some of my favorite recipes from back home. Clearing my plates from the table, I made a mental note to write down a handful of simple, cheap recipes that I was sure would make the standard tavern fare a little tastier. I was almost positive I could recreate macaroni and cheese.

My footsteps shuffled in the snow, seeking out Solas' quarters. I had to ask for directions, because his cabin was not directly across from the tavern as in the game. I hesitated on the steps to his door, listening for sounds of activity. I knocked, hearing his bid for me to enter not two seconds later.

He sat on the floor at a low table, the entire surface of his work space covered in old tomes and sketches. Scattered pages were everywhere. I must've caught him at a bad time... "If you're busy, I can come back later," I offered, hand still on the door behind me.

He looked up from his work, smiling. "That is not necessary. To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?"  He stood fluidly, pages fluttering slightly from the movement. He approached me, stopping less than two feet away.

I cleared my throat. "Cassandra suggested that because my magical prowess is less than great, I should have you train me. If you would like," I added giving him the option to turn me down. I was pleased when he nodded, and I could already see the different plans formulating in his mind.

"Let us waste no time, then. Tell me, what do you feel is your strongest school of magic?"

Without hesitation I responded, "Healing. I'm also quite fond of fire. But as of right now, I only have two skills worth using..." He was bustling about the cabin, grabbing a staff, complete with harness, and a few bright blue lyrium vials. The staff he handed to me, stowing the potions in his belt pouch.

"We shall not have you train here. Though I am fairly certain no harm will befall my cabin, I will not take that risk. Come. I have a place that will suit our purposes." He directed me to equip the harness, and after some struggling with the damn thing between my boobs and across my shoulder blades, I finally had it tight and secure. The staff sat along my spine, leaning slightly toward my dominant right hand for easy access.

I followed him down the snowy road to the lake, its icy surface smooth and glassy. The morning light glanced off of it, errant snowflakes dancing across its sheen in the breeze. I shivered, standing stock still and tense as I looked around me, wishing I had thought to ask him to borrow a cloak. If he even owned one. He seemed perfectly comfortable at present, and after a moment he noticed my shivering.

He closed the distance between us, uttering only, "Hold a moment." His long graceful fingers traced a tiny rune on my collarbone, each minute stroke lit a flame in my chest. His glowing fingertips swirled through the air. Gently he took each of my curled fists, copying the rune on each of my palms, lingering lastly on my left hand. The moment the three runes were completed, they faded with an amber shimmer into my skin. I felt as though I was wearing a thick fluffy jacket, very warm but not uncomfortably so. The chill of the wind no longer bothered me, and I shook my arms out, relaxing as a small groan of relief escaped me. He stepped back, eyes stormy and deep, his ears slightly pink. I was probably blushing, but I didn't care. I thanked him, watching him retreat several paces from me.

Solas drew a tiny, razor sharp dagger from his belt, its edge glinting menacingly as he swiped it across his palm without warning.

"Heal me."

I cast a miniature version of Healing Springs, a ring of golden glitter swirling around his feet. Even from this distance I could see the faint gold flash at his palm as it sealed the cut. His eyes were closed, focused on analyzing the flow of my magic.

"Again," he said as he sliced himself, and again I healed him. The third time this happened, he Fade-stepped away from where he had stood, and I had to quickly recast upon his new location. He was testing my reflexes, as well as the odd flavor of magic I used. He seemed to draw some conclusion as we repeated this process over and over - sometimes over longer distances, sometimes as he was Fade-stepping. As I was beginning to get used to the steps of this dance, he changed the song.

He Fade-stepped toward me, stopping just a few feet from where I stood. "What is it you call that spell? I have not seen its like before, even in the memories of the Fade, but it is rather effective." I shuffled my feet, looking from the ground to him, and back again.

"Healing Springs. I would like to cast it larger, at least several feet across to heal more targets, but I can't quite seem to broaden it. The other spell that I use I call Luminous Shards, for obvious reasons. It stuns any enemy it hits for a time, and my comrades may use it to replenish lost stamina or mana. I have no idea how I came up with them, my magic has always been... different..." He nodded, pondering my words, his face a mask of stoic academic curiosity.

"May I see it again? The Luminous Shards?" He asked, stepping back several more feet. I complied, the golden javelin around my staff forming in a flash before hurtling through the air towards Solas' feet. Upon impact with the ice it shattered into a million glowing faceted slivers, and a faint pulse filled the air as Solas stepped into it. They burst, flitting away on the breeze like ghostly confetti. I cast it again, and he knelt, inspecting them closely.

"Fascinating. this magic is potent, and yet is seems you have barely tapped into your reserves. Do you feel at all lightheaded? Nauseous?"

I shook my head, and his face lit up into a gorgeous rare smile. "If you would permit me, I would like to try something..." I bit my lip, anxious but eager to please. With anyone else this would have been a nuisance - being poked and prodded like a specimen - but I could not help but feel satisfaction that I knew something the great Fen'Harel did not. He set his hands on mine, right hands on the staff, standing so close behind me that I could feel his breath on my ear. Focus!

He requested that I cast Shards again, going through the motions exaggeratedly. His eyes were closed, analyzing the magic, but I swear the Anchor flared brighter at his touch. I cast, once, twice, each time faster and faster, until finally he released me, eyes wide and brimming with excitement. He took the staff from me, twisting it in his hands as he moved away.

I waited in anticipation as he stood a safe distance from me, and tried to cast what he'd gleaned from me. I felt like I was the teacher, and Solas the student, as he pierced the sky with his javelin, streaking toward the icy surface of the lake in front of me. When it shattered upon the ice, a wash of cool tingles swept through my body. His shards were not golden like mine, they were a starry silver. The array of shards at my feet were blinding, and my limbs and my brain felt like I had just downed three espresso.  

Solas approached his cast magic with a short Fade step, inspecting it as he had mine. "How do you feel?" he asked me simply, and I laughed.

"I can hear colors and taste time! I can do all the things!" I laughed riotously, jumping on the spot as he stared at my face in bewilderment, no doubt fearing I'd gone fucking bonkers. I ceased my giggling, looking at him in amused apology. "Yours is... much more potent. I feel like I won't be able to sleep for days. It is effective it just feels slightly different from mine." 

He seemed pleased at that, and handed me the staff back. A sudden idea struck me, and I formed the javelin around the metal rod, the point of it encasing the odd stone knob at its tip. I kept the javelin steady, not shooting it forth from my grip. Instead, I made a clumsy attempt at jabbing it into the open air, experimenting with a more offensive move than I was used to. Solas just stood there, arms folded, observing my actions.

Jab jab jab, swing, jab. Jab jab, swing, jab jab, swing. Each puncture launched me forward a step. The fiery golden javelin felt awkward in my hands, but I refused to stop moving.

I had not realized how far I'd scooted across the frozen lake. I kept moving forward, pressing my advantage on an invisible foe. I broke the tree line, Haven no longer visible behind me. I directed my attacks at the poor unsuspecting trees, feet dancing through the snow.

A subtle whoosh of air resounded beside me, startling me out of my coniferous battle. I turned quickly, too quickly, and in my attempt to fend off the asshole who had snuck up on me, I tripped backward on a rock and was sent sprawling through the snow. I'd caught the poor bastard's coat though, fist clenched in the fabric with my eyes shut tight braced for impact.

The blow never came, and I opened my eyes. Solas was staring down at me, eyes dark with a feral edge. His firm weight pinned me to the snow, forearms braced on either side of me, a knee between my thighs. My heartbeat pounded in my ears like the drums of war. My fist relinquished his coat, but I made no move to push him off. Instead, I leaned up slowly to whisper in his ear, "Shall we go grab something to eat now haren? I trained hard, and I'm suddenly starving..."

His sigh was ragged. "Ma nuvenin, da'len."

He lingered for a moment more before standing, offering me his hand to help me right myself. I brushed the snow off my ass, then began walking slightly ahead of him, a sway in my hips as I moved. The trip back to Haven was nearly silent, though I savored the memory of his weight each time I closed my eyes. Game on, Dread Wolf.

Chapter Text

Each morning from then on fell into a routine: wake up, check in with the Advisors, eat, train with Solas until lunch. My afternoons usually consisted of wandering Haven and its surrounding terrain, or continuing to explore magical techniques out on the lake by myself. I had practically begged a basic field guide off of Solas, and began memorizing useful plants.

Elfroot was simple enough - a self-supported twining vine with emerald green heart shaped leaves, not dissimilar to those on a lilac tree. The more I explored the valley, the more of it I saw. Following the harvesting notes, I clipped only the bottommost leaves, the darker ones that were still thriving but were bound to fall off on their own given time. That allowed the plant to continue its growth, and would yield more harvests.

I was also pleased to find wintergreen sprouting beneath the trees - waxy, dark green pointed ovals, widespread undergrowth with scattered red berries. This I gathered heartily, my basket lined with it as I walked back to Haven. It was peaceful this afternoon, and the solitude was welcome.

That was, until my magical elfy Spidey Senses started tingling. I leapt at a bush foot first, a kick aimed at its depths. There was a loud squeal, and I peeked under the bush to find not an assailant, but a nug.

A fucking nug.

I just flying kicked a nug to the head. Its gross little feet twitched and then were still, so I figured I'd snapped its neck or something. Not one to be wasteful, I slung it onto my basket to bring to the chef in the Tavern. He may be able to make use of it.

 


 

A scout peeked out from behind a tree just a few feet from where the elven woman had once been, his drab green hood partially obscuring his face. He thanked the Maker that she had not caught him, and skirted the path she had taken.

Leliana is once again getting a boring report, Jim thought. Well, mostly boring.

 


 

I placed my hand on the worn wood of the Tavern door, pushing with my left hand as I carried the heavy basket in the crook of my right arm. It was full of lively chatter, Varric in the corner telling one of his grand tales to a throng of scouts and soldiers. I waved at him cheerily. He excused himself amid the protests of his fans.

"Whatcha got there, Siren? Ooooh bagged yourself your first nug, huh? Congratulations!" He said, chuckling. I nodded, picking it up by one weirdass little hand-hoof.

"I flying kicked it to the head. Fucker was trying to sneak up on me. Jokes on him!" I said, giggling as I shook it about by the foot. 

Hot damn was I in for a shock when the horrifying little beast came to, bending in half and swiping at my hand with his front paws. I screamed none too flatteringly, promptly dropping it on the floor. Amid riotous laughter and shouts of "Get him, Lady Herald!" and "Look at 'im go!" Varric and I chased him across the Tavern, its little squeaks signaling each table it dived under, every chair it climbed in its mad dash.

The entire Tavern was in an uproar as I charged headlong into a table, jumping over it with some effort. Varric was somewhat comical to watch, cussing and pushing chairs out of his way as he waddled after it. I was no better; I ran with all the grace of a swan with a taser up its ass, and I was about ready to set the whole fucking Tavern ablaze when the door slammed open.

The rat-pig-shithead saw his chance for freedom, bolting out the door past Cassandra, Commander Cullen at her back. She barely cast it a glare as she thundered, "WHAT IN ANDRASTE'S HOLY NAME IS GOING ON IN HERE?!"

The scouts and soldiers that had been cheering us on suddenly scattered to the winds, looks of terror on their faces. Varric, Cullen, Cassandra and I stood in a mostly empty tavern, aside from the staff who looked on. I recounted my story to an irate Seeker and a furious Commander, and we were reprimanded for our shenanigans.

 


 

 Leliana stood in the corner of the War room, overlooking reports. The dust motes swirling in the shaft of light from the window were the only movement in the room until her door swung open. A scout came through, panting as though he'd run a great distance. "Scout Jim. How is our charge?" she asked delicately, eyes still on the missive she grasped in her gloved hands.

"The Siren has still had no contact with anyone from outside Haven. She writes no letters, leaves no notes for a deft hand to find. Nothing. Well, almost nothing," he added with a snicker. Leliana looked up then, keen eyes bearing a question. "The Siren almost caught me today, instead kicking a nug in the head that was but a few feet from me." Leliana looked bewildered, but Jim continued.

"She thought she'd killed it, and brought it to the Tavern for preparation, but apparently it was only unconscious. She is currently being chewed out by Lady Pentaghast and Commander Cullen for her impropriety."

"She released a live nug in the Tavern. While that is certainly entertaining, it does not give us anything we need to know. It is almost as if she has no one to write to..." Leliana mused, waving Jim off.

"Continue to monitor her. If she has any ties at all, I want them discovered."

Chapter Text

I awoke earlier than usual. The sun had not yet crested the horizon, and yet I could not fall back asleep. The fire was burning low so I stoked it absently, glancing around my cabin. I had made it my own in the weeks, no, a couple months? I had been here. That hideous bedspread had been replaced with a thick sage green one, nothing too fancy, but it was leaps and bounds better.

My floor was now graced by a large rug, woven from woolen fibers. I had some books and trinkets on my shelves, the majority of the tomes on history or magical theory. There was a hanging rack in the corner with drying herbs I had collected, mostly for tea. There was a wash basin in the corner, a copper bathtub not far away. I dressed, slinging my deep teal fur-lined cloak over my shoulders. It was warm; Solas had run his fingers over it, imbuing it with heat runes, waterproof runes, and anti-battlefield-gunk runes. It was nice to know that wherever I took this cloak, it would always stay clean and dry. Throwing the hood up over my messy braid, I slipped out into the early morning darkness. 

I found myself in the center of the lake atop the giant boulder, great icicles hanging from it like teeth in a monstrous maw. My feet dangled off the edge, and I took in the cold air though parted lips. The stars that began to wink out of existence were my adoring audience as I sang, my voice projecting clearly through the gloom.

The song that came to my throat had always been a joke in my guild. Before I had really become an active member, I was forever taking pictures of my character in beautiful locations, forever alone, and sending them to my guild's social media page. The running joke was that I was always all by my self, and anytime the song was played over mic, we banded together to sing, "sobbing" through our drunken laughter. The happy memories filled me, fueled me. 

 

All by myself
Don't want to live, all by myself anymore

 

Hard to be sure
Some times I feel so insecure
And love so distant and obscure
Remains the cure

 

The sound of my voice reverberated off the empty space, the ice below and the mountains beyond. I could hear the Celine Dion's accompaniment in my mind, along with each of my guildmates. 

 

All by myself
Don't want to be, all by myself...

anymore...

 

I held the high note, my face tipped skyward as I belted it out. I finished the song, my smile conflicting with the tears that wanted to make themselves known. The silence that followed was almost as profound as the emotion the song brought. The faintest rays of pink began to shroud the horizon, and my fingers traced shapes in the snow at my side.

I sat there for several moments, basking in the growing glow. The sound of light footsteps beside me startled me out of my reverie. Solas' low voice came from very near my ear.

"If you did not wish to be alone, da'len, this seems hardly the place to remedy that..." He offered me his hand, pulling me up to stand beside him. His face was calm, and he stared out over the frozen landscape as peach and gold light tickled everything.

"What brings you out here this early in the morning, haren?" I asked, tipping my head to the side to study him. His arms were clasped behind him, his staff strapped to his back. He looked prepared for a fight, and it was slightly disconcerting. He glanced at me from the corner of his eye.

"I was on my way to procure breakfast, and received news that meant our training session would be a little delayed this morning. I had ventured to your cabin to wake you with the news, only to find you gone. Your aura left a distinct trail, however, and I did not need to search too long to find you. I had actually heard you before I saw you."

I panicked a little, and his impassive face gave nothing away."What's happened?!" I asked, imagining every worst scenario. He gestured toward town.

"I think you should see for yourself."

We walked quickly, in complete silence aside from our crunching footsteps. I began to walk toward the main gate to Haven, but a firm yet gentle hand gripped my right elbow, redirecting me. His face still gave nothing away, but the fact that we were now walking to the smithy had completely flipped me from anxiety to giddy excitement. Its ready!!! I thought, redoubling my haste.

Harritt greeted us with a nod, and I watched his retreating back in anticipation. He reappeared from the cabin abutting the forge only a few moments later, bearing a crate. "This should serve you well. Solas here made some tweaks, but let me know if you need any adjustments with the mail. Its my best work, so wear it proudly, My Lady Herald."

Solas gave a stunning smile, slightly smug as he took the crate from Harritt. To me, Harritt passed a silver staff, identical to the one I'd drawn him. It was trident-like, its tines tapered toward each other. Perfect for one who'd already regained her status as The Siren. His last parcel was smaller than a loaf of bread, and wrapped carefully in cloth. I took it in my free hand, and as small as it was it was surprisingly heavy. My last minute addition, something I'd thought of on a whim. I thanked Harritt profusely, and Solas eyed the tiny package with curiosity. He helped me carry my haul to my cabin laying out each piece and explaining the order in which they were worn before leaving me to change.

I chose a pair of deep teal leggings and a strapless corseted top to begin with. Lightweight, but comfortable. Each piece of armor took a bit of finagling, adjusting straps and cinching ties. Layer upon layer of dainty, frail looking scales curved up my thighs, my sides, cupping the bottom of my breasts. The panel guarding my abdomen reached its apex at the bottom of my cleavage, which I notice was accentuated with great care, as there was a diamond keyhole shaped opening there that was covered with a see through watery mesh. Upon closer inspection, the mesh was an impossibly thin mail that traveled from my cleavage to just below the edges of my jaw.

The shifting plates that guarded my shins and forearms were engraved on the inside with glowing runes, ones that I recognized from books Solas had lent me: barrier, sound muffling, temperature regulation, durability, stain repellent, waterproof, and a few I hadn't seen yet. Every strap, every inch of my armor shimmered watery hues, the runes subtly catching the light. It was form fitting, leaving little to the imagination, and I looked every bit the Dread Siren. Lure them in like a vision, and drag them down into the inescapable depths. I sloppily braided my hair, coiling the plait into a bun at the base of my scalp, with a few tendrils of auburn framing my face.

Turning to the bed once more, I unwrapped the tiny cloth parcel, a silver cuff bracelet the length of my forearm glimmered in the fabric. The image of a siren with its scaled tail wrapped around my wrist, her cruel wings partially obscured by her hair at the back of my right hand. I snapped my wrist down toward the floor just slightly, enough to release the mechanism that extended the scales of her tail into a metal whip, each joint deceptively dainty. The wings spread, forming a two-pronged bladed grappling hook. I pulled it back, coiling it once more around my forearm as if it was nothing more than statement jewelry. I affixed my staff and cloak and sauntered outside.

Solas was not standing outside my cabin as I had expected, and I drew my cloak tightly to myself, obscuring my armor. I popped by the tavern just long enough to grab some druffalo jerky and an apple. I walked slowly, leisurely, finishing off the jerky first, then afterwards tossing my apple core into the woods for the nugs to find. I was in no hurry. Solas had anticipated a delay.

My feet danced the path to the lake where I knew I'd find him. I was testing my armor, each minuscule motion, every flex of my thighs and arch of my back. Under the cover of the trees beside the lake, I leapt in the air, my grappling hook flinging upward as It wrapped around a branch. I rolled in midair, surprising myself at the almost natural feel of my acrobatics. I felt a bit like Spiderman as I grappled my way to a perch from which I could view the entire lake. 

He was doing some form of yoga with his staff, serenely stretching in and out of various poses. I waited until his body was angled toward my perch, and casually fell out of the tree. I smirked as my grappling hook caught one of the lower branches and I used my momentum to propel myself in his general direction. I landed in a crouch not twenty feet from him, the whip coiled back around my wrist, my right fist colliding with the ice beside my left foot, my right shin almost parallel with the frozen surface.

That was fucking badass! SUPERHERO LANDING!!! I thought to myself, straightening slowly in front of his surprised gaze. I swaggered toward him, my shimmering scaled hips catching the light as they swayed, and I grinned. There was no mistaking the look in his stormy blue eyes as he angled his face. The Dread Wolf wanted to devour me, and I would make damn sure he'd bite off more than he could chew. 

My cloak had slipped off me as I landed, and lay in a shimmering pool of silver fur behind me. I paid it no mind, being comfortable in my new armor. "Thank you for the improvements, haren. I don't know what all these runes mean, but I have never felt so spry. So... where do we start?" I said, jaw set as I grasped my staff. 

"Now that you are armored, and well defended, and your skills honed, I will not be gentle. This duel will test your mettle, da'len, and I expect you to take it seriously." He handed me three vials of lyrium potion, and put three of his own in his belt satchel. I stowed mine, a plan already forming. I stepped back several paces, and took a defensive position.

"I would not ask you to be gentle with me, haren." He took an aggressive stance, and launched himself at me.

I parried blow for blow with my staff. Neither of us had used magic to start, getting a feel for each other's tempo in earnest. I took a risk, my back nearly parallel with the ice as I leaned backward, hooking my toes around the back of his knee. It paid off; he stumbled and I rolled, standing behind him with my staff gripped in either hand barring his neck.

He ducked, and as he did so I slapped his ass, giggling as I sprinted away toward the treeline and higher ground. A shattering rumble launched from the fade tripped me up, and Solas cast a Winter's grasp at my foot, pinning me before I could reach my destination. I smacked the ice with the edge of my staff, smashing it as an icy bolt whizzed past my head.

He was slowly bearing down on me, flicking ice ball after iceball at me, trying to coax a magical response out of me. I began to match his blows, a fair golden fire flinging from the tip of my staff, dodging his as I danced a deadly ballet.

I was skating backward away from him, and the look of satisfaction on his face when he cornered me against one of the craggy cliffs bordering the lake I savored for only a moment. I blew him a kiss, whipping my right hand high in the air, my silver whip flashing through the morning light. I yanked, hard, and launched myself upward, much to his shock and my pleasure. I rolled backward to the crest of the cliff, waving at him cheerfully before skipping away disappearing out of his view.

While out of his line of sight, I downed a lyrium potion, casting a mini-shards beneath myself. As it dissipated, I heard an unmistakable Fade-Step. Solas appeared of to my left, and  had barely a half second to raise my staff, parrying under his blow that was aimed for my shoulder. He bore down on me again, attempting to take the upper hand.

He was strong, and I marveled at the fact that I was going toe to toe with a would-be God, albeit a weakened one. I slid under his blows, behind him again, and hooked my whip around his ankle, pulling him to the ground. I dashed behind and up a boulder, our fierce fight scattering several druffalo that had been occupying the boulder.

As Solas approached, the golden javelin that had formed around my staff sailed through the air, knocking him back, as though an enormous hand had flicked him in the shoulder and sent him sprawling on his ass. 

The edge of hunger on his face combined with a odd tinge of glee and determination, matched my own. We were coated in sweat, heaving from our protracted battle. He seemed to relish the challenge, trying and failing to keep his marble mask in place as his wolf warred for dominance within him.

In a flash, Solas Fade-Stepped toward me, launching me off the boulder with a shove sent from the Fade. His Fade-step ended no more than a hair's breadth from me, and with a dark look, he had me pinned to the snow. His hand was at my throat, but my whip was coiled around his neck. Neither one of us squeezed hard, just enough to prove our point.

My evasion was more than a match for his careful strategy, my split second decisions on par his tactical strength. I was as impulsive as he was cunning. It was this impulse that drew me upward, my whip giving just enough purchase on him to pull me up... to his thunderous eyes, his sharp cheekbones, and most importantly, his lips.

A small gasp escaped my lips - or was it his? - as I kissed him, seeking him like the mountains sought the sky. Solas' full lips were firm against mine, only softening as he swiped his tongue across my bottom lip. My mouth parted greedily, and his heavy aura crushed me even as the tip of his tongue claimed me. It was not a fight for dominance, for that he would clearly win, but it was two storm fronts meeting on the ocean.

My sweat had my fine auburn hairs stuck to the side of my face, but I cared little. All I wanted was to feel all of that aura, all of him, pressing me to the snow beneath us. My breath came in hot, short pants, and I was sure that the fire that had lit in my abdomen was enough to begin an early spring in Haven, evaporating every trace of snow in its slow consuming heat.

His hand had somehow moved to grasp my side, my ribs just under my breast, arching me toward him. I can only describe the sound that parted from my throat as a keening growl, and he burst from me at the sound, like a drowning man gasping for air.

"Fenedhis, Syraena, I... that was...Ir abelas. I should not have overstepped. That was foolish of me." His voice did not quite hide the longing. He wanted me, wanted this, but was shaming himself for wanting it. I grasped his chin firmly, stroking the alabaster planes of his face with my thumb.

"It is not overstepping if I willingly held the door open for you. Words cannot express how immensely I enjoyed it. And I cannot pretend that I would be innocent in its instigation if it happened again. We have, both of us, been alone for far too long." Before he could argue with me, I released my hold on him, and sent my silver whip slinking back into place around my arm. I bolted into the forest, a satisfied smirk gracing my face.

Chapter Text

Apparently I had passed my test with flying colors, because the next day at my briefing with the Advisors, Cassandra told me to be ready to depart for the Hinterlands the next morning at dawn. Ignoring my protests, they set about making a list of supplies they'd need for Cassandra, Solas, Varric and I. With a chastising look from the Seeker, I was told to pack light, only the essentials.

Like I have a hair dryer and a full makeup bag to contend with, as I had back in the other world. Also, when had I stopped referring to it as Home? The meeting drew to a close, and Cullen caught my attention before I took my leave.

"Can we safely assume you know how to ride?"

I grinned, taking great amusement in the creeping flush up his neck. "Do I? Commander, I excel at it." Cassandra made a disgusted noise, and Leliana giggled. She fucking giggled. The Spymaster seemed to take my innuendo in stride.

"Horses, Lady Herald, horses!" the poor flustered Commander managed to get out, hand rubbing the back of his neck raw. I cackled for a moment, before settling to a more serious tone.

"Yes, I know how to ride. My last mount was a bay named Aquilla. He was a finicky lardass, and I was the only one he let ride him. Horses just take a liking to me for some odd reason, even the stubborn ones. Especially the stubborn ones. Cats too. I can't imagine why..." Leliana inclined her head slightly, her lilac hood partially obscuring her grin.

"Kindred spirits, perhaps," she said, her tone light and amused.

"Fucked if I know. I can't tell ya how quickly I learned not to wear black clothes. Sad really... black goes with everything except cat hair." I sighed, remembering how many lint rollers I'd gone through owning a chubby tabby cat named Willow. None of my work uniforms were safe. 

Josephine made a sigh of approval. Her and I exchanged fashion tips as we walked out through the Chantry, and I promised to lend her some of my sketches. She seemed pleased at this, and I couldn't help but hope that my minimalistic-yet-refined fashion sense caught on here. I refused to be trussed up like the gaudy rich ladies at Halamshiral, but neither would I agree to those horrid red and beige uniforms. 

I spent the rest of the day packing, my leather satchel full with various medicinal herbs I'd ground into teas, a leather bound sketchbook complete with ink and quill, several pairs of smalls, a couple bare-minimum outfits, and a block of soap that smelled like spicy vanilla-infused chai. If I was going to be gone for more than three weeks fighting God knows what, I was gonna need a fair few river baths. I also snuck some toffee I had made in there. Though the ingredients were hard to come by, I had showed Flissa how to make it, spurred on by her success with the baked macaroni and cheese. 

Thinking on how I had already begun to bring my knowledge here to make a difference, I drew a bath, bringing in bucketloads of snow into my copper bath and melting it with my pale golden fire.

My mind moved to the one thing I wanted to change with increasing desire. Solas had shown his interest in me, far sooner than anticipated. As far as I knew from the game, he didn't make his first move until at the Inquisition had at least reached Skyhold. And he had never been quite that physical. Everything in him, from his actions to his aura, was intense, demanding. Moreover, I could feel so much emotion and intent from his aura, something I gathered from others was not common. Those I had asked in passing described another's aura as nothing more than a tang of magic in the air.

The more I read from Solas, the more I was inclined to think the connection had been magnified thousandfold by the Anchor. It made me wonder how much of my aura he could read, and if the open flow of emotion had attributed to his growing tendency to pin me in the snow. We had been in that compromising position twice now, his knee between my thighs, his face sooooo close, his lips fierce in devouring mine... 

I sank into the scented water, everything from my chin and below submerged in the soothingly heated tub. My thoughts continued to linger on the handsome elf, his passion darkened eyes filling my mind's eye. 

 


 

 

Solas approached her cabin at a leisurely stroll, fully intending to have a normal, professional conversation. He wanted to make sure she was prepared for the rough journey ahead. Offer any help or advice he could.

He would keep his calm.

He must.

The skies opened up in the gloom of the evening, light fluffy flakes beginning to dust every surface. The streets were still, the townsfolk already indoors for the evening. He could hear their laughter, the clatter of dishes and shuffling of feet as they settled in after their evening meal. It was peaceful, and the abandoned route to Syraena's cabin made his stroll unhurried.

His aura wound tight around him, he took the last few steps to her door, raising his hand to knock. That movement was aborted however, when he got his first taste of her aura, gently pressing out from the boundaries of the cabin, stretching like a lazy cat in the sun. It was warm - no, heated - and he lingered, curious. A moment more, and the heat built, layers compiled.

She's not... no... Shock glued him to the spot, and he searched with eyes shut tight. There was no other presence in her cabin. She was alone and... Fenedhis...

A growing force of desire shot through the air around him. He should not be here. He should leave, while she was still distracted in her pleasure. But Solas stood rooted to the spot, his pointed ear pressed to the door.

The sounds she made, the tight gasps and low groans an orchestra to him. He could feel the weight of her desire in the air reach a staggering height, and so bound was he by her spell that he felt his own desire pooling low in his groin rather distantly. The sound of water sloshing to the stone floor nearly brought him to his knees in the snow. She uttered only one discernible word, a name carried on her tongue like a prayer, almost inaudible through the wood of the door as her peak shattered the cold air.

"Solas...."

He froze, struck dumb as his name rolled from her lips, realizing that she had taken herself in hand for him, pictured him in her time of need. He was desperately torn between slamming open the door to claim her for himself, and breaking a hole in the surface of the lake to dive into. He backed away, eyes blown wide. The swirling of the snowflakes the only sign he had been there as he disappeared into the growing darkness.

 


 

 

Dawn came far too soon for my liking. I dressed quickly, donning my armor as quickly as I could, attaching my silver cuff to my right wrist as before. I slung my leather sack over my shoulder, a sigh parting my lips as I trudged out into the snow, my cloak just sweeping over the fresh white dusting. It was not hard to find my troupe of oddballs.

The noise they made down by the stables was more than enough of a signal. They had attached a small rickety cart to an equally weathered looking horse, our supplies in a few sacks and covered by a slick tarp. Hot stew was handed out, and I gratefully downed my bowl, eyeing my comrades. Varric calibrated Bianca, a subconscious action as he regaled the stablehand with some tale of debauchery.

Cassandra was discussing something with Cullen, their arms folded over their chests, their stance almost identical. I noticed, or rather hoped I did, the adorably awkward way he shifted as she spoke, or the crooked smile as they departed.  There could be something there, I thought.

I knew that most people in the other world pictured Varric and Cassandra together, but I just couldn't see it. Their views were too different, and Varric would never get over Bianca. If I was betting money, I'd say Varric was still in constant contact with her, regardless of what he would tell others. With Cullen, she could be strong for him through his turmoil, and he would be sweet to her. Awkward and adorable as he was, I could imagine him presenting her with flowers or poetry, rubbing his neck nervously. Their lives would be filled with mabari puppies and grumpy gorgeous babies. I sighed, the ship I'd built out of practically nothing sailing off.

I looked to the last of my travelling companions, to find him standing with his back to me, his aura pulled tight to him. He knew I was there, and was pointedly ignoring me. Fine, stubborn wolf. You can't hold out forever.... 

In due time we departed, trudging through the snow amid yawns and clinking metal, our armor shifting as we walked. I looked forward to finding Master Dennet. That would be my first order of business along with seeking out Mother Giselle. Looking at the map we'd plotted our route by, we would be in closer proximity to his farm than to the camp where Scout Harding waited for us. I saw no sense in walking our happy asses south, only to walk north again.

I brought this up to Cassandra, who agreed to stop there first. It would do us more good than the alternative. It was tiring, but we kept up a pleasant chitchat during our long hike. We had gained decent ground before deciding to make camp. The first tinges of red bled through the sky as Solas began to set wards, and Varric snagged a few fowl. I made clumsy progress with the fire, and Cassandra set about erecting the tents. It was by this rhythm we had paced our journey, day after day. Wake up, hike, make camp, sleep, rinse and repeat.

 


 

 

I was sore as hell the final day of our trek before we were due to arrive at the outskirts of the Hinterlands, and to liven up my grumpy companions, I popped a bottle of some odd liquor I'd found among the stash of supplies on our cart. Three heads poked up curiously as I swaggered toward them, bottle at my lips. I plopped down between Cassandra and Varric beside the fire, passing it off to the Storyteller when I'd sat.

"Who wants to play a game?"

Varric laughed reaching for his satchel for a deck of cards. "I thought you'd never ask, Siren," he said, but I waved him off.

"Not that kind of game. I'm shit at cards... I don't know how to keep my emotions in check. No. I have something else in mind..." That piqued his curiosity, and the four of us hunched closer to the fire.

"The name of this game is, 'Never Have I Ever.' I'll name something I have never done, and if you've done it, you take a sip. The point of this game is to get the others to drink more than yourself. Sooo.... Never have I ever.... woken up naked in public!" Varric took a sip from the bottle in his hand, then passed it to a silent but reaching Solas. Really now....

The storyteller cleared his throat. "Never have I ever.... Been with a man!" Solas passed on the bottle, face impassive. Cassandra took it from him, eyeing it warily before raising it to her mouth for a sip. She offered it to me, and I took a hearty mouthful.  Varric laughed. "Whooooah Siren, it's not a contest! Quality over quantity...."

Cassandra offered herself up next. "Never have I ever... hmm... woken up in shackles." Varric and I both drank. "But only because you put us there, Seeker. I'm just not that kinky!" The storyteller said, his face split in a devious grin. I looked to Solas, almost certain he would not offer his own scenario.

He surprised me though, his face pinned on the flames between us. "Never have I ever.... been caught during an intimate moment in public." I was the only one who took a sip. The three of them eyed me incredulously.  Varric pleaded for details, his eyes glinting with glee.

"What? I was young and dumb. Well, more so, anyway. I was in a secluded alley, late at night with my ex, and we were in the throes of... Well, you get it. Anyway, my pale ass must've been a beacon, because the p ... the guards found us on their patrol, their torches illuminating everything. I thought we were gonna be in soooooo much trouble, but he just asked us to move along." Varric was laughing riotously, Cassandra snorted, but Solas was silent, studying me. His ears had turned a faint pink, but otherwise gave no reaction to my story.

Feeling lighter than we had in days, we parted to our respective tents, Varric staying up to keep first watch. In my fuzzy warm cocoon of alcohol, I drifted off to the Fade. My mountainside perch greeted me, and there I stayed in blissful serenity until dawn.

Chapter Text

Our party reached the rough hewn split fencing of Redcliffe Farms In the late morning. The oddly comforting scent of fresh hay greeted us, and I eyed the fenced in expanse of the paddocks, tall patchy grass softly swaying in the warm breeze. This far from the snowy shadow of the Frostbacks, it was well into spring. There were horses of every color and size as far as the eye could see, and the few that strayed by the rail near us nickered as we approached, friendly and curious. They were sturdy, powerful beings, muscles perfectly sculpted under the last remnants of a fluffy winter coat. The four of us made our way past the paddock and the stables to the main house, and a green glint just beyond caught my eye. 

"Hey guys, hold on to your asses. There's a Rift ahead. I'm sure Master Dennet would appreciate us sealing it for him," I told my party members. Cassandra began to talk strategy with the other two, but I tuned it out, assuming that if the game mechanics applied this would be one of the easier Rifts.

My knees skipped up as I broke into a run, shouting over my shoulder, "All right, time's up, let's DO this! LEEEEEEROOOOOOOOY! JEEENKIIIIIINS!"  

My staff in hand, the Terror demon that had been prowling the base of the tree got a bit of a shock when I ran it through with my golden Aedric Spear. My Puncturing Sweep jabbed it relentlessly, the final strike shattering it into dust. My comrades had handled the other demons, as I had charged in ahead to tackle the hardest foe myself. My glowing green tether snapped forward from my outstretched left hand, yanking the Rift shut. 

"One question Siren. Who the hell is Leeroy Jenkins?" Varric said, a look of amusement with a dash of irritation at my having abandoned the plan.

I laughed. "Once upon a time, there was a legendary group of warriors, who banded together to defeat a powerful evil. Their chances of success were slim, and would only succeed if a carefully constructed strategy was executed to the letter. While his teammates were hashing out the details, Leeroy got cocky, so sure of their victory was he. Charging the enemy full force with a battle cry upon his lips, he doomed the entire group to death. They fought valiantly, but were slaughtered by the beast. A witness regaled the neighboring village with the tale, saying that his last words were of chicken. The great evil was eventually defeated, but the tale of the band of warriors who failed was infinitely more entertaining."

I could see the wheels turning in his head, and I was fairly certain I'd just given him a tale to embellish in the Tavern to the drunken soldiers. Cassandra on the other hand was fuming. "You charged into a fight because of a tale in which everyone dies? And for what? Comedic effect? You are lucky we succeeded, and that this was not some 'Great Evil' ..." The Seeker trailed off, reduced to grumbling irritably.

Solas however eyed the mark on my hand. The group stilled as he approached me quickly, face unreadable. He grabbed my left hand, turning my palm upward under his scrutiny. The Anchor flickered at his touch, and I flinched.

"You knew, didn't you?" he said quietly.

I could not lie to him, not when I was unsure of how much he could detect from my aura, or if he could use my mark against me. I swallowed my anxiety with some difficulty, trying to keep up my humor from moments ago. "I did. Not entirely sure how... maybe I could feel it, I guess? I knew this Rift was small, easily defeated. Pretty nifty, huh?"

"Nifty, my ass, Siren! That's a damn godsend!" Varric's voice broke the tension, and I stifled a giggle. Well he's right about the God part at least. Solas released my wrist, and some part of me felt empty at the loss of contact. We headed back down the road toward the house we had passed.

Master Dennet met us halfway, the older gentleman's scowl falling upon the Inquisition emblems we bore to clasp our cloaks, and the Seekers of Truth symbol emblazoned on Cassandra's armor. He smiled, visibly relaxed. "My stablehand saw you close that hellhole. Well done. Now what do I owe the honor of your visit, Inquisition?"

"We come seeking horses. In exchange, we will erect watchtowers to defend your farm and clean up the demons in the region, as well as financial compensation that our Ambassador Josephine will arrange. We are on our way to the Crossroads to stabilize the area for the refugees. You have seen our strength in battle, and you have my word that you will want for nothing. Should you choose, you are more than welcome to join us in Haven, but I will not require it. You have built yourself a home here, a reputation, a family. I will not have you abandon it to play stablehand. Your horses are the finest, and I will personally see them well cared for."

I had stood with the full authority my height would grant me, my chin high. I felt regal, almost. I held my Anchor at shoulder height, my right hand clenched over my heart in a sincere gesture of promise. The Horsemaster thought a moment, taking in my words.

"Your Josephine will draw up a contract, correct? I will agree to your terms, and grant you four horses in the meantime. You may choose your own in that paddock there. Treat 'em right, and they'll serve you well."

 


 

 

At some length, we had decided upon our mounts, and Dennet had some of his men saddle them up. The tack he had given us was nothing special, per my request. I would not put him out any further than I needed to, but he offered us a few provisions for our trip that we gratefully accepted. My bold red-brown horse stood about 16 hands, and was fiercely built. The black feathering on her legs trailed in the breeze, and I had dubbed her Bessie, much to my companion's amusement.

Varric sat astride his stout golden pony Ser Snuffles, and Cassandra a majestic grey mare she'd called Lady Griffon Wing. Solas had decided his last; a shiny black stallion he'd aptly named Revas. He was spirited and fast, and seemed to allow Solas to ride him out of respect rather than subservience. Varric had tried to pet him, and almost had his ass handed to him. 

Our ride to the Crossroads was greatly expedited, and it was mid afternoon when we reached the first of the fighting. We dismounted, keeping our horses away at a safe distance. We crept around behind a group of Templars, Varric's deft aim took out those with lighter armor, while Solas froze the big guys solid with Winter's Grasp and Cassandra shattered them with her shield. I stood back a bit, casting them Shards and Healing springs. One templar snuck up on Solas, and before his sword could fall I lanced him with a javelin of pure golden fire. He flew several feet through the air before his trajectory brought him slamming full force into a tree, neck broken.

I realized that my first human kill left me oddly hollow. I was slightly nauseous, but I felt only a twinge of remorse. I had defended my own, and that murderous Templar had chosen to fight us rather than lay down his arms. Nothing we could say would stop them. On a hunch, I walked toward his body, pulling off his helmet and opening his eye with my thumb and forefinger. His skin seemed normal, albeit clammy, but the faint red ring around his pupil told me everything I needed to know. Corypheus had already given the order to begin feeding red lyrium to the Templars.

I had not noticed Varric sidle up behind me, a concerned look on his face. I only needed to say two words to elicit a burning rage from him. "Red Lyrium." We checked body after body, every one telling the same story.

The mages that had seen me kill the Templars looked at me warily through the underbrush, and I bade my companions to hold. I slung my staff across my back, walking out among them with hands in the air.

"Fellow mages, please listen to me. These Templars have been fed red lyrium. Their minds were not their own anymore. They were monsters and have been dealt with. I implore you! I am the leader of the Inquisition, and I will give you my protection. No chains, no circles. There are more of these beasts out there, and we need your help to dispose of them. I have reason to believe you are in grave danger. If you can, send a few of your comrades on to Redcliffe to warn Grand Enchanter Fiona. I would meet with her, to discuss an alliance. The rest of you may join me in Haven, as we ride for home in a few days time."

My slow approach came to a halt as I stood among them, and I knelt. There was a great chance this could all blow up in my fucking face, but I knew my path would lead me to ally with the mages, and I refused to kill those who would soon be my allies. My eyes graced every one of them, and they seemed uncertain. A few looked ready to fight me anyway. Two were being held back from their intent to attack. But the majority of them were actually considering my offer as I sat back on my heels. My hands came to rest on my knees.

Cassandra looked livid, and Varric was currently talking her down. "She has this handled, Seeker," the only words I could hear from this distance. The rebel mages looked from them to me.

"How do we know you'll hold to your word?" a brave one said, stepping forward. I stood, my arms at my sides.

"What is your name?" I asked her, inclining my head to inspect her. Her dark hair was neatly parted, her perfectly straight locks as severe as her deep green gaze; she was quite beautiful. "Evelyn. My name is Lady Evelyn Trevelyan, Second in Command to Grand Enchanter Fiona, leader of the Free mages."

She must have mistook the shocked look of recognition on my face. Her shoulders shrugged apologetically. "Sorry, that's a lot of titles. But to be fair, you asked." She reached out to shake my hand, wincing as her arm stretched out straight. A long gash reached down her forearm, and I looked her in the eye, still holding her hand gently.

"Would you trust me for just a moment?" I asked her slowly, not moving a muscle. She nodded tentatively, eyes sharp. I took my staff from my back slowly, stepped back a few paces. My every movement was watched as I cast a large Healing springs, widening the boundaries as far as I could. The relief from the mages was palpable, each of them relaxing as sprains and cuts were sealed, and their pains eased. I approached again, stowing my staff on my back once more.

"You've healed us and saved our asses, and I haven't even asked your name. How rude of me..." I laughed then.

"Oh you're gonna like this one. I am Lady Syraena Dire, so-called Herald of Andraste, Leader of the Inquisition in every way except on paper, The Dread Siren of Haven, and Healer Extraordinaire. Pleased to make your acquaintance," I said with a mock salute. Evelyn grinned as I introduced my party, beckoning them forward. "This here's Seeker Lady Cassandra Pentaghast, Right Hand of the Divine. Varric Tethras, you may be familiar with some of his books; he's quite the accomplished writer. And last but certainly not least, Master Solas, the Inquisition's resident Fade Expert."

The gorgeous mage nodded to each of them, then turned away from us. She ordered two of her team members to send a message to Fiona. They Fade Stepped away, and I tossed a Luminous Shards in their path for an added boost.

"We have a camp nearby, but if I could beg your assistance for just a moment. There are refugees that need healing, fires that need extinguishing and so on. Ask Mother Giselle where you may be best put to use if you are not sure, and once peace is restored here we shall depart for Haven. You are welcome to join us when you can."

We set to work, cleaning up the Crossroads, and a handful of worn-looking horses were procured from the dead Templar's encampment nearby, as well as several crates of looted supplies. I sought Mother Giselle, but I did not have to search for long. Her vibrant white robes and weird hat made her stick out like a sore thumb. I greeted her with a bow of my head. 

She was urging one of the wounded to accept the healing a mage offered, and when he relented, the healer gently mended the nasty wound the man sported. Mother Giselle began to speak of the need for tolerance of mages in the Chantry, with which I wholeheartedly agreed. We spent the better part of an hour talking, intermittently assisting refugees.

She informed me that regardless of my feelings toward the title "Herald of Andraste" the grieving and the lost needed me as a figurehead. The hope I provided to the lowly should be greater than my discomfort. I could disregard the truth for the time being, if it meant I could restore faith and peace. It was a self fulfilling prophecy, in a way. By acting as Herald of Andraste, I would be what they needed most in the most desperate of times, their golden flame in the darkness. She gave me a lot to think about, and parted with the promise that she would appeal to those in Val Royeaux that she knew would be sympathetic to the Inquisition. I gathered my party just before sunset, and we rode up the hill toward the Inquisition Camp.

Scout Lace Harding thanked us for our assistance, and Varric made some lame attempts at humor, but we were all exhausted by that point. There was stew on the fire, and we set upon it like starving dogs. Between bites, I briefed Harding on all we had accomplished, and warned her of a dozen or so mages that would be arriving to seek shelter with the Inquisition.

We erected our tents beside the existing ones, laying wards as darkness crept through the trees. The camp was still bustling, and they had already established watch rotations and patrols. Even with the ceaseless noise outside my tent, I had not been on my bedroll long before I sank into a deep sleep. 

 

Chapter Text

If I had a single gold for each time I wished I somehow had my phone and some service here, I'd be able to buy Skyhold and Haven both outright. Everything from habitually checking my social media, to Googling things I was uncertain of... In the beginning, I kept accidentally drawing attention to my ass every time I subconsciously patted it down looking for my phone, though I had slowly trained myself not to do that. The habit of holding my boobs in my hands while looking for something was somewhat more problematic, given the layers of chainmail between my palms and my chest. It was this motion I was doing on the fifth day of us being in the Hinterlands, gearing up for the day.

I twisted this way and that, looking around our camp for my leatherbound sketchbook. I had taken it out of my saddlebag the night before for some late night doodling, and now I couldn't find it. Evelyn approached me with a grin, copying my motion, her hands holding her ample chest tightly to her body.

"What are we looking for, lady?" 

The pair of us searched the camp high and low with our hands supporting our chests, but the journal was gone. Oh well. I can always get a new one. I'd looted a surprising amount of gold from bandits and rogue Templars we'd saved the refugees from. We had fallen into an easy friendship; where Cassandra and I were built on respect, and Varric and I were purely humor, Evelyn felt more like a sister I'd known since birth.

She hated titles as much as I did, and she didn't mind my constant snark, nor my reluctance to talk about my past. I was pretty certain her dirty mind ran even wilder than mine under her innocent guise, which had already resulted in several fits of laughter unbecoming of a noblewoman and the Herald of Andraste. I enjoyed her company immensely. Evelyn had opted to join the four of us on our bullshit mission. Funny how the Chosen One in any world was somehow reduced to little more than an errand boy, a peon. I liked helping, but some of this crap they could easily do themselves.

Not a five minute walk from the center of Crossroads, just past a hay field there was a metric fuckton of elfroot growing. But they needed ME to skip down there and pick a bunch. Which I did, with a glowing smile. A few of the problems I was able to solve simultaneously. The refugees were cold and hungry? Guess what! I know where there's a decent size herd of ram just grazing away. Eat the meat, use the pelts to keep warm. It wasn't glamorous, but it was better than freezing to death with an empty stomach.

So there we were, chasing down wild rams outside the camp we shared with Scout Harding and her scouts, a wooden cart hooked up to a pair of our horses. The sky was blanketed with dark clouds, threatening rain. I hadn't known how heavy a fucking ram would be. The lightest of them were around 250lbs, but those were the fast ones.

No, we were taking down the sluggish ones just shy of 300lbs. More meat for the people, but holy hell.... Cassandra made hefting them look easy, but it took both Varric and myself to rock one back and forth enough to get the momentum to swing it into the back of the cart. Seven, eight, nine..... An odd movement off to my left drew my attention. Solas had the last ram, levitating it at chest height in front of him, walking it at a leisurely pace to the cart. The frigging goat just kinda flopped down on top of the others, and I stood there staring at Solas with mouth agape.

"How did you..."

Solas stowed his staff on his back, completely deadpan as he said "Magic."

We delivered the haul to an overwhelmed butcher sometime around midday, just leaving the whole cart outside his shop. We had not gotten far when an old elf approached us, wringing his hands in worry. "Can you help us? My wife gets sick when the weather's foul... can't catch her breath, like cobwebs in her lungs. Our son Hyndel makes a potion that lets her breathe. But he's run off and joined that cult in the hills, and he's the only one who knows how to make it! Please find him... get him to make it for her, or she'll die."

After my assurance that we would find him, the five of us stopped by the camp briefly to gather supplies and our tents. At this point, I was positive we would reach the cult's fort before dark, but not long before the promised storm hit. 

 


 

 

The torrential downpour didn't even hold out that long. When it hit, we were just in sight of the crumbling fort, having stopped to pull a letter from the cold body of a pretty blonde woman.

My Lady Vellina,

I know you're frightened, but the light in the sky shouldn't scare you. It's the eye of the Maker, finally coming back to take the faithful to the Golden City. Leave your father's servants and come up into the hills, away from the pointless fighting between the templars and mages. Let me introduce you to Speaker Anais. She'll explain everything, and we'll be together and happy, waiting for everything to be right in the world.

Your Love,
Lord Berand 

Returning it to her beau at the fort was not a conversation I wanted to have, but it had to happen. I tucked the worn parchment in my bag and continued on. The downpour was not unpleasant; the runes on my armor and cloak protected me from the worst of it, and the air was warm. The crag littered paths were mostly still. The local wildlife had sought shelter, and the path to the hold was clear of enemies. We closed the distance unharassed, the sound of our horses beating the forming mud and our armor shifting filling the silence between the gusts of wind. A redheaded mage met us at the gates, hand guarding her eyes from the rain as she greeted us.

"I know you. They say that you are the Herald of  Andraste for what you did at Haven. But are you really?"

I thought for the briefest of moments. "One can never be sure what the Maker has in store for us. What I do know is that I have been called upon to help in every way I can, so how can I question the path I walk?"

Speaker Anais seemed appeased. Her shoulders relaxed, and she bade the gatekeepers to raise the portcullis. "If you are truly here to help, guided by the Maker, prove it. There is an angry green tear in the back of the keep that spits demons and threatens our hold. Our mages are holding the area secure with a barrier, but I fear they can't keep them at bay much longer."

Cassandra parted the throng of doomsday fanatics and Breach-worshippers that had piled into the courtyard before us, discussing the cults belief with Speaker Anais. She seemed rather put off about it all; in Cassandra's eyes, how could they believe the Maker sought  the end of the world, and why could this cult not see the Breach for what it was - the act of a crazed terrorist?

I followed her stoic form, Varric and Evelyn at my sides and Solas bringing up the rear. The mages maintaining the barrier at the back of the keep opened us a space in the shimmering blue surface. It reminded me of the appearance of the Stargate when it powered on, shifting and rippling like water as it sealed shut behind us.

The anchor crackled and flared the closer we got to the Rift, and once the lesser terror demons noticed us everything became a flurry of magic and steel. Cassandra kept them stunned and pinned against the rock face, Varric peppered their acid green flesh with bolts, and Solas gracefully wove spell after spell.

I disrupted the rift just long enough to send the terrors flying back against the ragged wall; when the final demon had finally faded away into ash, the chartreuse tether on my left hand snapped the edges of the Rift closed. It was over mere minutes after it began, and a subtle shift in the air indicated the fall of the barrier, like a vault door being opened for the first time in years. The fresh air rolled over us, and I took the stairs two at a time, ignoring the kneeling masses in search of young Hyndel and Lord Berand. 

The elven boy said that he could brew the potion, but that it would be ready in the morning. He promised to send us off with several doses of the stuff as well as a written copy of the recipe for his father. He set about gathering ingredients and we left him to it. The sounds of clinking glass and shuffling papers was muffled as the door closed between the busy elf and our party. I bade Cassandra and the rest to brief Speaker Anais, as I had a sensitive matter to attend to. Across the way, an anxious man stood, wringing his hands.

"Lord Berand?" I said tentatively, and his head whipped up, eyes pleading. "Ma'am, you wouldn't happen to have seen a young blonde woman on the road here? She was supposed to meet me here for when the Maker comes, but..." I handed him the letter; as he read, he looked about ready to cry, and without a thought I drew him in for a hug.

He stood there awkwardly for just a moment, before burying his head in my hair and dissolving into tears. "Maker why? This is all my fault. I should not have asked her to leave home, alone and defenseless... what am I to do now?" He continued to sob openly. I patted his shoulder gently before pulling back enough to look into his face.

"If you are in need of shelter and protection, the Inquisition has a place for you. You seem a gentle sort, and the Sisters of our Chantry are in need of all the help they can get. The depth of your devotion to the Maker will be appreciated, and you will be in good company in your time of grief. Accompany us back to Haven."

He shook his head then. "I will meet you there after. I must first bury her, if you could tell me where you saw her. Her family must also be told what happened. They deserve to know that their only daughter rests at the Maker's side."

I parted ways with the distraught man, seeking out my companions. They had not gone far; they were preparing the horses to head out into the pouring rain. "Guys I'm ready. I think I saw a decent place to camp on the way in, and I really don't feel like spending the rest of the night telling people to stop bowing to me. It's rather irritating."

 


 

 

The ruined tower was not far. We set our tents inside of it, the fire in the center sheltered by what remained of the upper floor and the roof above. The flickering amber glow glanced off the crumbling stone walls, throwing odd shadows as we cooked our dinner over the flames. Varric and Cassandra were arguing over something or other, and Evelyn heartily joined in. "You can't just waltz into the Viscount's office like that! You need to be..." they began to talk over one another good naturedly.

I sat in silence, picking away at my roasted fowl. The crispy skin, blackened slightly by the fire, was my favorite part, and I was thoughtfully chewing a piece of it as Solas sidled up to me. He sat cross-legged beside me, his own dinner yet uneaten in his hands as he had served himself last. He spoke quietly, his eyes on the fire as he set upon his food.

"You have time and time again proven you are not Andrastian. You've also said you bear no relation to the ways of the Dalish. If you would permit me to ask, what are your thoughts on religion?"

I snorted into my food inelegantly. "Yeah, no... I'm not Andrastian. Though I believe it actually happened in a historical aspect, the truth of the matter is far simpler than the tall tales of the Chantry would have you believe. She was a woman with a cause, and died for her beliefs. Her followers then made her into an icon to be loved and worshiped. That is all. As for the Dalish and their 'Gods'... they existed, absolutely. But again, not divine. They were probably just really powerful mages or some shit, and fancied themselves rulers. They had a time of prosperity, but I wouldn't be surprised if some got greedy and it started a feud that got deadly for those who worshipped them, were enslaved by them. Fen'Harel 'tricked' the Evanuris, my ass. They weren't Gods, and shouldn't have tried to be... their arrogance got them just punishment. If there is a God out there, he or she is probably pissed that they've had so many impersonators over the millenia."

My theological rant had me staring off into nowhere, but an odd choking sound pulled me out of it. Solas was sitting stock still, eyes wide in shock, the last few bits of his food scattered in his lap where he'd dropped it. He recovered after a moment, his mask hiding his anxiety and shock as he brushed himself off.

"You seem certain of this. Tell me, how have you come to this belief?" He stated calmly and academically. I stared him down then, a crooked smirk that would rival Natalie Dormer's playing on my lips.

"Let's just say given my unusual upbringing and far flung journeys, I have had access to countless codexes from a very reliable source. After all, I've met two of the Evanuris already."

My aura must have emitted nothing but certainty and truth, because he could say nothing in the face of it. I stood, waving him off without a second look, ducking into my tent with a laugh. Your move, Wolf.

Chapter Text

My forest ledge in the Fade was the same as ever, fireflies meting out a lazy tempo in the velvety dusk. I found myself in the simple silk dress I always wore here. Something about being so unhindered by my typical armor, being comfortable and at peace, was relaxing in a way that nothing else could be. I'd felt flitting spirits between the trees and though they never came close, I could still sense them around me. They were light, happy things, silvery and insubstantial. Each time I focused too hard on one, trying to discern its identity, it vanished.

Then, all at once, they all vanished. Even the fireflies were gone; the only light was from the stars in the sky, glimmering on the surface of the water. My eyes adjusted to the sudden shift, and though it was dim, I could still see everything clearly. I peered into the quasi-darkness, searching...

A massive force, an aura more powerful than any I'd felt, permeated my little clearing. It wasn't malignant, but it left me rooted to the spot, my ankles surrounded by the faint current in the stream. My white silk shift suddenly felt too skimpy, leaving me vulnerable to my newest guest. From the depths of the forest on the edge of the stream, an enormous black entity took shape.

It crept forward on silent paws, towering over me at more than twice my height. It solidified, the silhouette of a fierce black wolf filling my vision. The Dread Wolf's six ruby eyes opened wide, staring me in the face with head hung slightly to level with me. I felt no fear, only a sense of deference, and he seemed to know this. Fen'Harel crept ever closer, and his great black form sniffed around me, tasting the air for my aura. His disembodied voice was booming, familiar but not, as it echoed in the space around us.  

" Dalen, I have watched you. You are fascinating to me. Do you know me, as I know you?"

"I do. You are Fen'harel, rebel of the Evanuris, creator of the Veil. When you cast the Veil at Tarasyl'an Te'las, it was the end of Immortality for the People. You freed them from the tyranny of the Evanuris, at the cost of everything that made Arlathan beautiful. I know my knowledge may prompt you to kill me. I would understand completely. However, I know what you intend... and I wholeheartedly support you. There may be a way to lower the Veil by degrees, mitigating the destruction. I would help you regain your Foci, if you would let me." I felt the oppressive edge growing as I spoke, his fury and confusion both palpable as his hackles raised.

"HOW HAVE YOU COME BY THIS KNOWLEDGE?" The Dread Wolf demanded, and for the first time my aura was tinted with anxiety. I decided on the truth, as I'd already come this far, and the consequences would be far worse later on if I didn't fess up now. Would he even believe me?

"There is... another world. I have viewed Thedas from my world as a story, one that changes the outcome based upon the choices you've made. Thedas is a fantasy to my world. No magic, no spirits. I followed the tale of the Hero of Ferelden through her eyes. Then the Champion of Kirkwall. The Herald of Andraste was the latest installment in the story... with another on its way. I've been immersed in the story since the Fifth Blight, all the way to approximately four - five? - years from now. I've replayed the story, over and over, making all the alternate choices."

I Kept my gaze locked on his. "I have lived countless lives, I have loved many people during these lives, but... None so much as I loved you. My world was upturned when I found you, even if it was a tale, a dream.... I was brought here by my death in the other world. By whose hand I do not know. It was a black wolf I saw in my final moments, it was the cause of my death. I stupidly thought it was you, but...And then you were real, and I was here. I just want to help..." Tears slid down my face unbidden, defiance and anxiety in equal measure. The Wolf closed the distance between us, his words reverberating in the air as his snout touched the center my forehead.

" SHOW ME."

Images flashed through my mind, one after the other, in a dizzying slideshow.

My sobbing as I clutched my mother's oatmeal colored sweater, her silver pendant hanging in my view as she begged for five more minutes to hold me before I was yanked from her grasp.

My young huddled form on the kitchen floor, sopping wet and freezing as a large red-faced woman screamed at me, a bucket of ice water in her hands.

My arms and legs covered in red marks from her rough grabbing as the older woman flung me into the cold dark garage, before slamming the door between me and the laughter and warmth inside.

My hands gripping a tattered blue chenille scarf tightly around my neck as I faded to near blackness, before loosening as I dissolve into tears, "Four more years" on my lips.

My classmates laughing at me as I climb a  tree, camera in hand, taking my own senior photo.

My first boyfriend introducing me to PlayStation, later introducing me to a different form of heartbreak.

My hands running over the dark wood of the desk at the Inn I worked at, fingers admiring the rich grain.

My home, warm and red and cozy, my collection of Harry Potter books looking worn and battered on my shelf, my Gryffindor robes hanging from the wall as I made my way to my PlayStation.

My slim fingers working the red controller to turn on Dragon Age.

Alistair's face as we fought the ogre at Ostagar.

Leliana in her peachy Sister's robes.

Merrill, Varric, Fenris and I taking down the Qunari in the revolt at Kirkwall.

My Hawke sparing Anders after he blew up the Chantry.

My  auburn haired elf Inquisitor stumbling out of the Fade.

Cassandra and Leliana interrogating her.

The Dark Future in Redcliffe.

The fall of Haven.

Kissing Solas in the Fade.

The Ball with the Empress, Solas gracefully leading my Inquisitor in a dance on the balcony.

The Well of Sorrows.

Corypheus's defeat.

My lonely Inquisitor on her balcony, after Solas had left.

The Exalted Council.

The prowling form of Solas in his golden armor, pelt wrapped around him like a sash, as he cut off my arm amidst my pleas to let me help him.

My Jeep careening off the road away from a dark wolf.

My bloody left arm through the windshield.

My life, my death, my rebirth. 

The darkness that followed the vision was startling, and I found myself sitting in the water, my silk shift hiked up my thighs, my feet on either side of my hips. The Dread Wolf stood there, still as a statue, and I thought for a moment he was frozen solid. My hand reached up to stroke his muzzle, and his eyes flashed open once more. He did not move from my touch. It was several moments before he found his words. His anger was gone, replaced with curiosity and wonder, tinted faintly with apprehension.

" You speak the truth. I ask again. Do you know me, as I know you?"

"I do, Solas. And I would know you more if you'd let me. We have, both of us, been alone far too long." My other hand went up to his face as well, and I cupped the great wolf's head between my spread hands. He shifted then, the dark form melting away into pale freckled flesh, his golden armor glinting in the low light. His head was not bald. Instead, an intricate and fierce warrior's Mohawk flowed down past his shoulders, his sporadic braids and individual locks of hair gathered with tiny golden beads.

He looked like a God here, not the unassuming scholarly apostate. His eyes were dark and roiling like a tempest. My hands now graced his jaw on either side, and it was so easy to pull him closer... 

My silk shift bunched up between us, caught on the edges of his beautiful armor, my chest flush against him. I could feel his breath hitch as I hovered just shy of his lips, waiting. I needed him, mind and body both. My eyelashes felt heavy for the span of a moment.

Solas's arms burst from perfect stillness to crush me to him. His lips claimed mine, his armored hand behind my neck, its twin where my bottom met my thigh. I felt his finger teasing the damp hem of my dress where it gave way to the skin.

More.

I parted his lips with my tongue, my light gasp mingled with his breath. He had somehow leveraged his hand up under me, pulling me higher on him, closer to him. The sweetest torture rocked through me.

More.

Hooking my knee around him,  I laughed as we both crashed into the shallow water. I sat astride him, my hair cascading beside his face as he continued to claim my mouth. He was slowly devouring me, and I shivered in delight.

I broke away from his hungry lips just long enough to whisper in his ear, "This is a first...Typically, you have me pinned. While this certainly has its benefits," I rocked my hips against him in demonstration, which elicited a growl from him, "I prefer our previous arrangement. Plus, not so much armor..."

In the span of a heartbeat, he had flipped me none too gently into the water. His knee rocked against my bare core, and he only moved to replace it with his hand once it was free of its glove. Solas grazed his teeth against my collarbone, trailed his lips up my long neck before nipping my sensitive pointed ear. My moans echoed through the clearing, and he tugged harder. He smiled against my skin, having found my weakness and eager to find more. 

The Dread Wolf had caught my scent, and he devoured me bit by tantalizing bit. His hand that had been teasing slow circles on my thigh migrated northward, lightly trailing his fingers along my slick seam.

He deftly worked me over, pressing firmly then ghosting away, testing me. I rocked against his hand when he flitted over the bundle of nerves that lay there, but I groaned when he moved it away again.

"Damn you, Wolf, you are testing my patience...." I hissed through my teeth, arching against him. He chuckled into my ear, breath hot on my tender neck.

"I thought you preferred our previous arrangement, dalen. Utterly infuriating and just shy of actual pleasure..."

He muted my reply with his lips, and once I was thoroughly unable to come up with a snarky reply, his expert finger worked its way just inside my wet entrance. It was silken and adept at provoking my pleasure.

I gasped as he slowly pumped deeper and deeper, curling upward to faintly press the spot that would shatter me. I melted in his hold, reduced to squirming in the shallow water. My gown was soaking wet and clinging to my every curve, my rosy nipples pebbled through the thin fabric.

Just when I thought Fen'Harel could not torment me more, his mouth moved from my neck to my right breast, sliding the wet silk aside with his teeth. All I could do was weave my hands into his hair; my other hand was having little success in its journey to snake into his pants. Solas's armor was nearly seamless, and under his ministrations I couldn't focus on gaining ground in my battle.

My little tugs and shifting grasps had formed a bulge in his pants however, and he set upon me with a hard ferocity. A second finger had joined the first inside me, his thumb working the bundle of nerves at the fore, and I cried his name as my swift orgasm shook my body.

I felt leaden and drained, and when I could finally move my limbs again I reached to his erection straining in his pants. He shifted his hips away just slightly, much to my disappointment.

"As much I would love to claim you in full, vhenan, I fear morning is here. I do not doubt that the others would dislike waking up to your sleep-borne moans of pleasure..."

My blush at the mental image at Cassandra's horrified face was paired with a laugh. I moved closer to him, my shift hiked up my hips and the strap off my shoulder exposing my breast. I could practically see him warring with his instinct. "I fail to see how that would be so terrible, ma vhenan." I kissed him soundly, his stormy eyes the last thing I saw before I pushed off of the Fade and into the waking. 

Chapter Text

We returned the next day through pouring rain to the Crossroads. I teased Solas subtly, whenever I could get away with it. A wink here, A smirk there. For his part, he remained impassive, aside from the pink tinge of his ears. Two Rifts tried and failed to block our path, as had several bandit troupes. None were quite a match for our group.

Where I favored Fire and Healing, and Solas favored Winter, Evelyn's Lightning completed our elemental barrage. Varric had taken to calling her Stormbringer at my insistence, typically shortening it to Stormy. The three of us lingered toward the back behind Cassandra, who was a force of nature in her own right. 

Our time in Crossroads was brief; we were eager to get back to Haven, and our new charges would be tagging along in a wagon we'd commandeered from camp, if not on the horses we'd taken from dead bandits or Templars. The two other campsites we'd stayed at were marked on a map for Scout Harding. They'd immediately gone to set up more formal bases of operation. Redcliffe Farms especially needed an Inquisition presence, at least until watchtowers were built.

The rain still had not let up, but we'd at least coated the wagon's rough canopy with waterproofing and warmth runes, as well as a minor barrier.  Didn't need a stray arrow making its way through the fabric. By about midday we could no longer see civilization, and we'd gotten quite some distance from Crossroads by late evening.

Solas and I laid runes of protection, silence, alarm and deterrence around the boundaries of the camp, the sounds of tents being erected behind us. Cassandra volunteered herself for second watch, and a mage by the name of Lucas offered to stay up with Evelyn when she'd claimed first watch. He seemed friendly if not a little dazed around Evelyn, but she seemed unaware of the cute, somewhat timid man's ardor. Nevertheless, she accepted his company for the duration of the watch.

I settled into my tent, full of stew and ready to greet the Fade in a matter of minutes. How Solas got to my mountainside perch before I did is a wonder, but the curiosity and glee at my arrival peeked from behind his stony mask. He sat crosslegged on a log, and bade me to sit by him, all business. I did so expecting to receive lessons of a magical variety, but his words turned that notion on its head.

"You are from another realm... Fascinating. And you say there is no magic, none at all? I cannot help but be intrigued by this world. If you would indulge me, I wish to see more..." He demonstrated the trick he'd used to see my memories. It wasn't about him getting into my head, it was about my memories getting out. He tapped my forehead with one graceful finger, a glowing green spot between my eyebrows a focal point, a funnel of sorts. I concentrated on showing him what I wanted him to see, my eyes clenched tight. When I opened them, I was sorely disappointed by the fact that nothing had changed. He took in my frown with a low chuckle.

"Do not be discouraged ma dalen. This spot was already in your world, was it not? We must simply follow the path to see where it leads..." Standing swiftly he beckoned me to the path that would lead back down the mountain. 

The hike was but minutes long, sped up by the intent I pushed into our pace through the Fade. I stopped in front of him at the trailhead however, a hand on his chest to halt him. His eyes looked to me questioningly, but I held up a finger.

"I am not going with you like that in public. Hobo chic thankfully ended like two years ago. Here..." I shut my eyes again in concentration. Upon opening them again, he was dressed in a pair of comfortably worn jeans, a charcoal button up longsleeve with upturned cuffs, and a pair of grey leather hiking boots. "Be grateful I gave you Keens. Those are damn comfortable and they last for like ever. I could've given you skateboarder shoes and a snapback, and then you'd look like a fuckboy."

His startled look was hilarious. "What is .... a fuckboy?" The word rolled off his tongue awkwardly, and his concern was apparent. 

"Trust me. Fuckboys are everywhere. They play all chummy, get in your pants, then ghost you. It's annoying as hell..." a moment more, and my cut off shorts and black tank top clung to my body, mirrored grey aviator sunglasses and black Converse finishing the look. My long auburn hair was pulled up in an elastic, messy strands framing my face.

I pulled his hand along behind me, Bessie's bold Firecracker red stark against the greenery around us. I opened his door for him, Indicating where he should sit and how to buckle. I slammed his door, giggling at the little jump he gave. Once I was behind the wheel, I smiled at him.

"This is a car, one of the best kind. It's kinda like a really fast mechanical carriage. Fastest I've ever gone in her is around 80 miles per hour. Her name is Bessie. She's built strong and she can take a beating, but she's not very efficient compared to other cars. Remember to breathe, I know what I'm doing."

Solas looked a little concerned that I felt the need to warn him, but I fired up the beast with a loud roar. I kept the drive down the trail road slow and steady, progressively getting up to speed. His eyes blew wide as we pulled onto the main road, reaching a 40 zone.

Houses, signs and other cars flew past us, and his head was craning around in all directions trying to take it in. I laughed at the summer wind as it ruffled my loose hairs. He looks like a dog... I drove across the Connecticut river, then through the different towns. I pointed out various stores.

"That's Walmart, everything is crappy there but super cheap... That's Home Depot, you buy house building materials there... That store sells sex toys!" I laughed wildly as all the color drained from his face. "Openly? They - oh... fenedhis ...they're in the windows! Why are they brightly colored?" A laugh was all the response he got.

I drove him through several towns, talking the entire time. "We don't have magic, we have science. Think potions but much more advanced. Those wires up there? They carry electrical current to power homes, businesses... machines do practically everything for us. Computers are integrated into everything. I know its a lot at once, but I'll show you. Because there's no mage/templar war, but people find plenty to fight about. Politics, religion...Here, there's no Andraste, the closest equivalent in religion is Jesus, The Son of God.... He supposedly loved all, especially the weak and the downtrodden. Born from a virgin mother it's... complicated. But he was tortured and nailed to a cross. Much like Andraste's burning." He nodded with each piece of new information, soaking it in. 

"As there is no magic, but there is still war, how do you fight? The representations of people here are all unarmed. Do you not use swords, or wear armor?"

I chuckled. "We did, centuries ago. Our weaponry has advanced to kill more people and from further away. Guns, which are like... hmm.... look in the glovebox. Don't touch it, just look." I pressed the button in front of his knees, revealing my Springfield Arms XD 9mm, a slight black pistol I kept for self defense. "I can show you how it works some other time. But it's rather dangerous in the hands of the untrained. One bullet can kill you, or at the very least take off your foot." He closed the glovebox once more, then began thumbing the stitching on the upholstery.

"Anyway, the age of swords is over, but there are a growing number of people who enjoy swordsmanship for fun, even dressing up in armor and doing mock battles. The people who enjoy such things also use the interactive stories or games I told you about to satisfy their interests. Thedas is part of a game called Dragon Age, but there are thousands of different realms in these games. Another favorite of mine, Elder Scrolls Online, follows a place called Nirn. They too have magic and Elves, dragons and armor; but there Elves are far more respected, even superior. It's what I based most of my magical abilities on. Put simply, I'm typically a healer. Small, dainty, fiery red hair, and pretty - I'm overcompensating, clearly..."

The backroads flew by us, the familiar route home taking shape on my Fade canvas. My tiny green outbuilding was set a ways back from the main house, far enough for privacy on the 11 acre property. Forest had surrounded us once more, and the fireflies swirled around us as I parked Bessie. Solas exited, walking on wobbly legs as I led him inside.

"Welcome to my humble abode... This is the kitchen... that stove there has tiny flames that burn reaaaaally hot to cook food on. This here keeps food cold for preservation... all of it powered by electricity." I showed him room after room, and when we'd finally reached my apple red bedroom, I blushed. He looked around him in wonder.

"You lived here? It is very well decorated, and far cleaner than your current lodgings. Did you live here alone, or were there others?" I did not miss the insinuation in his comment, as innocent as it seemed. 

"I lived alone. I'd had lovers, but they are long gone." I bit my lip. Solas's eyes were drawn to that small motion, and his ears turned noticeably pink. I continued on, tapping the front of the PlayStation and navigating the controller to create a new character in Dragon Age Inquisition. She looked like me, elf ears and all. Solas sat on the floor beside me, watching with rapt attention as the spirit of Faith helped me out of the Fade. Cassandra  and Leliana's interrogation. The first time I sealed a Rift.

Then, his face appeared on the screen for the first time, and he spoke the words the real Solas spoke just months ago. The cutscene ended, and I walked my character forward to look the digital man in the face. I realized just how poor a rendering it was of the man beside me. Solas leaned forward, his fingertips brushing the planes of his digital reflection on the screen.

"This is incredible! It appears that not only did you travel to another realm, you were transported backward in time...You had said that the outcomes change depending on your decisions however. What did you mean by that?"

"Precisely what it sounds like. I don't know if I'm breaking some law of the universe here but... Your foci was possessed by an ancient magister named Corypheus. You know that part. What you didn't know was that he wants to assassinate Celene and throw Orlais into chaos... Turn the Wardens into demon abominations and form an army... And attack Haven purely to kill me. The character's choices affect this. I can save Celene in an unsteady empire, or replace her with Briala or Gaspard. I can Exile the Wardens and spare them the Calling, or force them to help us, at the risk of corruption by Corypheus. I can save the mages who are controlled by a Tevinter servant of Corypheus, or I can save the Templars that are being fed red lyrium by a different servant. Either of those options will get Haven destroyed." I paused making sure the Dread Wolf was following along. 

"And you worry that by telling me this, none of it will come to pass as you expect, thereby rendering the information unusable. Your decisions will impact the real Thedas, changing the outcome."  I nodded sullenly. "Having told me regardless, what is your ideal outcome?" 

I stood, stretching my legs, running my hands along my books and gazing longingly at my collection, only a figment of my memory. I refused to look at him as I spoke, attempting to keep the worry from my voice. "I know that you intend to tear down the Veil and unite the Fade and the Waking once more, as soon as you get your Foci back. I wish to help you get it back intact, and lower the Veil by degrees, thereby reducing the destruction caused by simply tearing it asunder. In... in the events of the game, once we kill Corypheus, your Foci is shattered. You leave me - I mean the Inquisitor, in order to hide your identity and lick your wounds. I don't... ma vhenan..."

There it was, the fear of being alone again. It cracked my voice, and I felt strong arms surround me from behind, wrapping around my waist securely. Solas buried his face in my neck, his lips meeting the tender spot at the junction of my shoulder. "I feel as if I have known you forever, vhenan. Whatever brought you here upon your death, I am grateful they chose to trust me with your care. I cannot express myself clearly enough. I have lived for countless lifetimes, and no magic has come close to the golden spark you brought to this world. Thank you, ma vhenan." 

He gently cuddled me from behind for the longest time, and when dawn graced the Waking, I could scarcely bring myself to leave his embrace.

Chapter Text

She is warm, vivid, like a summer day at Lake Echo, her laughter pealing through the air.

There is a glow, white and gold and green, shimmering, brilliant and like too many lights turned on at night.

She sees him as he is, fur and sadness and hope, alone.

She wants him whole, neither alone anymore. A wolf must have a pack.

Her mind constantly moves, must find a way, cannot lose him.

He is real, the real him. She will not allow him to hide himself from her. 

The smell of books and crisp musk, comforting in her nose.

She knows. She wants to do better. Must succeed.

Can I save them all? Can I save myself?  

Must help.

Must help.

Must help.

 


 

 

Solas interrogated me every night in the Fade for the remainder of our journey back to Haven, and a new favorite spot for our lessons became my high school, oddly enough. The teacher had become the student, and he soaked up all of my information greedily. If his attempt at target practice in my backyard was any indication, learning a whole new world in a short span of time was nothing new to him. After all, waking up from Uthenera must've been a bitch....

He was fascinated by modern medicine, and the fact that machinery had filled the void of magic. He theorized that at one time, Earth had magic, as they had at least a concept of it. We engaged in several scholarly debates as to what had removed magic. Could the lifting of the Veil have affected more than one realm?

Our talks hadn't gotten nearly as sexually charged as they had the first night, and I found myself uncertain. Sidle a little closer, and he began toying with the bookshelves in the library. He constantly flitted out of reach, and I could not help but chase him. In any case, his thirst for knowledge kept me occupied until at last we arrived in the snowy reaches of the Frostbacks.

I could not shake the feeling we were being followed. But when I craned my neck around to peer through the trees, Bessie plodding away underneath me, there was nothing there. The melting snow was undisturbed.

Our arrival at the front gates was met by a tired looking Cullen, arms folded across his broad chest. His eyes were hard, and I got the distinct impression I had fucked up somehow. He beckoned Cassandra and I to the Chantry, and a stable hand appeared out of nowhere to collect our mounts. I kept my jaw set the entire walk in silence.

Whatever it was, I didn't do shit. 

Footsteps crunched in the sodden snow around us, the first signs of a thaw close on our tails. Several new faces had arrived in the Chantry since our departure, and I smiled at them all as we passed.The solid door of the War room swung open before us, and Josephine greeted us cheerfully; Leliana on the other hand looked mildly suspicious of the cloaked figure beside her. Once the door had slammed shut, the elven woman drew back her hood, setting me with a steely gaze.

Well shit.

Grand Enchanter Fiona stood before us, and there were a few terse seconds where nobody spoke. I cleared my throat, shattering the silence. "Grand Enchanter Fiona, what a surprise! It is a pleasure to finally meet you. Your second in command, Lady Evelyn, has been most helpful in our bid to aid the refugees of the Hinterlands. My thanks. Now, to what do we owe the pleasure?"

She inclined her head, walking forward to brush her fingers along the map on the table. "I arrived here two days ago. I must say, it is an honor to see the fabled Herald of Andraste with my own eyes. I received word that you wished to speak of an Alliance. We are in a difficult position to be sure, but the care that you have shown to protect my mages has given me some assurance. Your timing is curious though. For what purpose do you need our numbers?" She watched me closely, arms folded over her navy blue robes.

I sighed, pacing the room. I had thought long and hard about how I would best utilize my knowledge to help them.The Herald of Andraste thing might actually come in handy... "The Anchor, the mark upon my hand, needs more power in order to seal the Breach. Someone ripped the sky apart in order to assassinate the Divine and cause chaos. They need to be stopped. I get... whispers... from the Fade. Hear me out!" I rushed, as Cullen set his hand on the pommel of his sword.

"There is a Tevinter Magister who has discovered a warped, forbidden kind of magic. It's also causing ripples in the Fade. He wants to travel back in time, before the Conclave, to force the Free Mages into servitude. The whispers say that had I not brought you here, in a few week's time he would have already made the jump, and your entire rebellion would have been under his control. I did what I thought was best by warning you. Believe me or don't. I would not deceive you. I do intend to ally with you, and I do not wish to chain you." Cullen looked no less furious, but he was not the one who spoke first.

Leliana prowled around the table, agonizingly slow. She reached for my hand, placing her thumb on the inside of my wrist and looked me dead in the eyes. "Let me summarize. A Tevinter Magister, presumably working for whoever killed the Most Holy, wants to distort time in order to enslave a mass of mages who, at the time of the Conclave, were desperate and reeling with nowhere to turn. You know all this, because of whispers in the Fade. Is this the truth, or are you simply insane?"

I laughed, returning her piercing stare. She was a human lie detector, and she knew I was hiding something, but could not figure out what. Fucking awesome. "Well I'm definitely fucking batshit crazy, but I'm not lying. Whatever it was that showed me his intent, Magister Gereon Alexius is about to use some ancient magic he doesn't fully understand, or at least doesn't care what he fucks up in the process." I jutted my hip to the side, not backing down under her scrutiny.

"Oh, and while we're on the fascinating subject of all hell breaking loose and how nuts I am... the Templars are also in danger. A demon using Lord Seeker Lucius as a meat suit is feeding the Templars red lyrium. He says it will make them stronger in their fight against the mages, but it is turning them into monsters. The spirits of the Fade showed me the so-called Lord Seeker Lucius's mind, and it is poisoned. He cannot be reasoned with. The Templars we fought at the Crossroads are in the beginning stages of red lyrium poisoning, as Varric has confirmed for us. Now that we have the mages on a safer path, Commander, I would ask that you find a way to break the men that have not been tainted yet away from the Templar Order. They do not deserve to be on the flaming ship as it sinks. The demon must be defeated, but my concern is for the innocents."

Five sets of eyes blown wide. Five disbelieving faces. Two unsure if I was an abomination or not. One seemingly satisfied that my pulse had not faltered in a lie. One looked between them all, gauging their reactions. The last seemed torn between fear and awe. Cullen cleared his throat. "Leliana, what do you think? Is she telling the truth?"

Leliana nodded slightly. "She is, or at least believes she is. I am not the one versed in possessions and their treatment, however." 

I shot the Spymaster a glare. She ignored it, slinking back to her spot by the book shelf, looking pensive. I leaned over the War table, hands shaking. "Whoa whoa whoa - what the actual fuck? You think I'm possessed? I fell out of the fucking Fade, touched by Andraste or some other equally ridiculous shit... I am not making deals with demons, I'm not even asking for this information. I never asked for any of it! I didn't want to be a fucking figurehead, I just wanted to HELP!"

I had abandoned my normally glittery personality, my customer service voice. What spilled out of my mouth was pure hurt. Just then, an odd tingle touched my shoulder, and there was a sudden wash of relief. I can help, I am helping. They are just worried...

A familiar, breathy voice pierced the silence following my tantrum. "She is herself, whole, wanting to help. She will shelter, heal the cuts that hurt. The future she saw can't happen, too many dead. Must help. She reaches for some way to tell you what she has learned, and you aim daggers at her. Your eyes accuse her, tongues accuse her, she just wants to use what she knows. Must help. Must help."

There, in the middle of the damn War Table, sitting cross-legged atop the map of Thedas was a young man. His floppy hat shrouded his face, and when he looked up, his sparkling blue eyes shone with compassion. I almost hugged the cute little cupcake. 

"I am Cole. She knows me, there are many things she knows. I want to help too. Ease the hurts, too many dead. Too many sad. She is bright, happy, but also sad. She needs this. Let her help. Let me help." The boy looked hopeful, and eyes flicked to each of us from the shadow of his wide brim. 

Cullen brandished his sword at Cole, and I stepped between the table and the raging Commander, arms thrown wide to protect my precious cinnamon bun. I don't think he was anticipating my sidestep into his path, because he ran smack into me. I hadn't even had time to change out of my armor before getting dragged in for a meeting, and I was glad of this fact. His solid plate armor would have been really painful colliding into me otherwise. As it was, I ended up on the floor, arm and head smacking off the table on my way down. Cullen dropped his sword in shock; it clattered to the floor, and he knelt to help me up.

"Maker, why would you- what- My lady, I apologize... are you alright?" With his assistance, I stood, slightly dazed and pointed ears burning. Cole had disappeared. Cullen stood there rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. I set my hands on my hips.

"I am okay. Cullen, please don't hurt my adorable little friend. Cole is a spirit of Compassion, taken his own physical form so that he may go where he is needed to help. I guess my distress was enough to summon him. Well, unless he somehow followed me here. Anyway he is good, if not a little odd. He wants to help people, ease their pain. I like him, and I'll take full responsibility for him. I'll even feed him and take him on walks! Pleaaaaase can I keep him?"

I pouted, batting my lashes at the Commander. He did not seem entirely convinced, but he sheathed his sword. "Fine, Lady Dire, so long as you clean up after his messes he can stay. Now, if you are indeed telling the truth we do not have much time. Fiona, If you truly wish to join us and help, gather the rest of your people and have them come to Haven. We will offer you protection. I assume you can get them here within the week. I will look into the well-being of the Templars. Leliana, I may need your scouts for that task. Josephine, if you could send King Alistair an urgent message, he will want to know if a Tevinter Magister is planning on amassing a mage army in his country."

 


 

 

We scattered to the winds, though the throbbing in my head from my collision with the gorgeous blond Commander had not abated. Ughh. My cabin was cozy, and I began unstrapping my armor. The various pieces were hung on the wall, glinting faintly in the evening light. I shrugged on a slouchy grey sweater, soft and warm over my black leggings and boots. There were few things I enjoyed more than a cozy sweater. My bed looked tempting, but I doubted I could sleep with as wired as I was.

So I wandered Haven, kicking at the slush. My feet slid through the sloppy white mess, and my odd ice skating/slush ballet left a drunken looking path behind me. I arrived at Solas's cabin without even realizing it. I could feel his aura before I even touched his doorstep. He was warm and content, relaxed. I hadn't even knocked yet when the door opened.

"I had not expected you to leave your cabin for the duration of the evening, vhenan. You made it quite clear a nap and dinner were in order when you arrived." He gestured me inside, and I moved past him to warm my hands front of the fire.

"Lets just say that meeting had me antsy. Fiona arrived, and I may have told them the Fade whispered to me. I told them about the whole mage and Templar shitshow that's coming. I'm determined to save both, if I can. Oh! and I have a surprise for you!"

He seemed dubious as I sprang into movement, running to the door and sticking my head back outside with the rest of my body hanging inside the warmth. "COLE COME 'ERE I NEED YOUR HELP!"

A small voice piped up from inside the cabin. "Why are you shouting? Loud, odd... this man is confused too. But he likes the view." Solas turned a delightful shade of red at the boy's words. I shut the door, slightly sheepish.

"Hello Cole. Solas, I uh... may or may not have adopted a spirit of Compassion in physical form. He is adorable and I'm keeping him. Cullen said I had to take care of him myself though."

Cole shifted his floppy hat slightly, peeking up at Solas. "Hello Fen'harel. No. You're not furry right now, you are Solas... warm and bubbly, she's funny, spirits don't have mothers. Its okay, she is pure, cannot change me. Solid, clear. I am me." Solas smiled, inspecting the spirit boy.

"Fascinating. He has possessed nothing and no one. You say she cannot change you. What does that mean?" The boy smiled. Pale fingers fiddled with the stray threads in his tunic.

"She is like the sun. Bright, like you. The spirits whisper her name, Asha'lean. They feel her, are drawn to her light, they want to be light too. I feel more me, not tugging or warping, helping the hurts. It hurt to die, but the wolf brought you here. I can make the hurts heal, make you forget... Oh but you do not want to forget." Cole reached to hug me. I patted the small bean on the head. The young man suddenly perked up, looking unfocused at a spot on the wall.

"Head pounding, need the blue to cut the grey. Cannot think. The coin is not helping as it once did, silver flashing, thumb stroking the worn down grooves. I should be taking it. It hurts..." and like he'd never been, Cole disappeared again, presumably to go help someone else. Solas chuckled then, his eyes darting from where the boy had stood and up to my face. 

"Thank you for my surprise, vhenan. I admit, I hadn't gotten you anything. I was however about to eat, if you'd like to join me. "It is a simple fare, but it will be enough." He made his way to the low table, his dinner of stew and bread. He grabbed another bowl, and sliced off a small wedge of cheese from a wheel. I watched him, content to sit by the fire.

His cabin was decorated much like mine, books and various pieces of armor. His herbs were neatly bottled and labeled, each perfectly lined up on the shelves. A bowl of stew interrupted my line of sight, floating down from above my head by a slender hand. I took it with a word of thanks, and felt him sit down beside me with his own bowl, his knee bumping into mine. we got most of the way through our dinner before I spoke.

"You know what I miss about food in my world? French Fries. They're thinly sliced potatoes, fried in oil and salted. We'd eat them with ketchup, this sauce made from tomatoes and spices. I always made them from scratch, and topped them with like, cheese or whatever. They're easy to make, I can make them for you sometime...oh wait, you prefer sweets. Hmm, ever had angel food cake?"

He shook his head, swallowing a mouthful of bread, the last of his dinner. His expression was one of interest, and I continued, setting aside my empty bowl. My arms stretched languidly over my head. 

"Its light and spongy, fluffy. Most people top it with berries and whipped cream. Its soooooo good. I haven't had it in like - oh!" I gasped, finding Solas's mouth on mine mid-sentence. He was savory, the hearty taste of the stew still on his lips.

He parted my lips lazily, his hand captured my jaw. I couldn't stop the moan in my throat as his other hand made its way under the grey woolen fibers of my sweater. Gently, lightly tracing my ribs with his finger, finding the mole under my left breast before continuing upward. When it didn't encounter any fabric resistance and was met by only the soft skin of my breast, he growled low in his chest.

I rose up on my knees, my fingers smoothly tugging the sweater over my head. His eyes blew wide as my breasts bounced, nipples pert in anticipation. I pushed him down onto the rug by his shoulders, his knees sprawled as he supported himself on his elbows. The hunger in his eyes matched the clawing desire in my abdomen. One lace at a time, my fingers worked to undo his trousers, pulled taut with his erection. 

When I had finally freed it, I took his velvety smooth shaft in my palm, the slight roll of his head encouraging. A few testing strokes, and his breathing hitched. A few more, and a slight bead of dampness formed at the head. I winked at him, tucking a stray lock of hair behind my ear. He was bigger than I'd thought, or maybe it had been so long since I'd... no he was definitely bigger, and one swipe of my tongue swiping along his crown. I loved what I was doing to him.

His ragged breathing, his gasps... those were for me, and the thought had me sopping wet. Patience, I thought, urging myself to start repaying the ever-so-generous favor he'd lent me a couple of weeks ago. Lips nipped gently, then surrounded his girth.

His hand sought purchase on something, anything, and eventually knotted in my hair, holding me to him. How I managed to take in the length of him I don't know, but I didn't think beyond pleasuring him. This was mine.

Mine. I claimed him, every touch of my tongue, my fingertips, eliciting a noise of utter desire.

Mine. Faster I worked, spurred on by the hand in my hair.

"Mine." I whispered, knowing he was not far from his peak. His moan broke in his throat, the single word I'd said more than enough to shatter his restraint. He pushed hard into my mouth, his hips pinned by my hands barely able to still him as he came. I swallowed every drop greedily, cleaning his length with my tongue for good measure.

"Vhenan, you are... I..." I pressed my finger to his lips, crawling up the length of his body to lay my head on his chest. The fire was warm on my back, and his arms secured around me.

"Hold me, just like this..." I hadn't felt this wanted, this loved, this safe in a very long time. He was strong and solid, his aura drifted over mine like a living blanket. Solas stroked my hair, fingers grazing my bare shoulder. "

Ma nuvenin, Asha'lean."  The fire kept us warm, the tangle of our bodies on the floor of his cabin more comfortable than the best memory foam bed in the world as we drifted off to sleep. 

Chapter Text

We ensured that the Mages were well situated in Haven before departing for Val Royeaux. Even knowing that the Templars would be unreachable, the Inquisition needed to appeal to the Chantry. I also had my own reasons for visiting the ornate city. There was no way in hell I was missing the opportunity to recruit Sera, and Vivienne to a lesser degree. At the very least, I could put the pompous mage in charge of keeping the new throng of mages focused and provide training in magics they may not have had access to in lower class Circles. Solas seemed to approve of this decision. Knowledge is not just for the wealthy and privileged.

Our trip to Jader was rather uneventful, due in part to the fact that we stayed incognito, our faces shrouded and armor covered by our cloaks... our attempt at discretion. I did not want to draw a crowd if we could avoid it. The people we passed on the ship we took across the Waking Sea saw nothing more than five well-armed mercenaries, let alone the invisible spirit boy that tagged along.

That suited me just fine. 

I loved the sea, and I spent the vast majority of my time awake on deck. I played with the sea spray, tasted the tang of salt. Solas joined me, if only to stare out at the horizon. We were quiet for some time before I spoke, eyes on the impossibly blue sky.

"You know what's the best part about this view? The sky.... Have I ever told you why I chose the name Syraena?" Solas shook his head, listening intently.

"It's because I identify so strongly with sirens. Where I'm from, the ancient legend tells of three beautiful women cursed for defying the gods. The gods then turned them into dark, twisted creatures, bound to both sea and sky, fin and feather. From what I gather, your legends are pretty much the same. Anyway... with all the shit I went through, I figured I too was god-cursed. I drowned in my sorrow, day after day... I allowed nobody to get close, because I thought I'd just drag them down with me. It's dumb, but when I finally broke the surface, I realized that I still had wings. The sky is boundless. The sea can only go so deep."

"You are wise beyond your years, vhenan. I am glad that you took wing." He laid his hand over mine, tracing over my knuckles. His slender finger swirled soothing motions over my skin, and I sighed.

"Same. Hey... I've never asked but," I looked around, making sure we were alone with the roaring of the water. "What month is it? Currently?"

He quietly responded, voice close to my ear, "Drakonis... why do you ask?"

I giggled. "Reasons. I was born on the eighth day of the seventh month. Solace, right?" I guessed, trying to remember the lore. He nodded. "So I have what, 4 more months till I'm 26? Something like that?"

His eyes widened. "Your are... oh. I had guessed, but..." His ears turned bright red as he stared pointedly at the railing, the water, anywhere but me.

"Yeah, thanks for rubbing it in haren. You look like you're around 35 maybe 40, so it's not that bad. I'm into older men anyway," I whispered in his ear, grazing the pointed tip with my lips. I laughed, turning on my heel and dodging several crew members in my new quest for food. Solas stood with his hand on the railing, watching me go.

Varric was in the cabin we shared, looking absolutely green. "Andraste's ass, Siren, quit moving so fast. You're making my head spin..." he rolled into a hammock, facedown in the fabric. I dug a loaf of crusty bread from a bag and broke off bits of it with my fingers.

"We should reach port before nightfall... Just go to sleep and it will pass," I said, sending a slight tendril of healing magic to the brassy dwarf. I couldn't help much, but at least I could prevent him from getting sick all over the hammock. I felt the air shift subtly, and I relaxed. No doubt Cole was here, trying to help Varric as well. I decided sleep was in my best interest, and I downed the rest of my bread. My hammock curled around me, and the swaying of the ship rocked me to sleep.

 


 

I should have really stopped being surprised that everything is bigger in reality than it was in the game. The white marble spires of Val Royeaux rose above us; luckily there was no crowd waiting to assail us, no screaming Chantry mothers. It did not take us long to navigate the emptying streets in the early evening rosy glow. Varric, Evelyn, and Solas went to find us accommodations, winding through the streets of Val Royeaux and occasionally stopping to ask for directions.

Cassandra and I entered the massive Grand Cathedral alone, flashing our Inquisition crests and papers to those who tried to halt our progress. There were a few hunched figures scattered throughout the pews, but the majority of the cavernous chapel was empty. A sister in peachy robes directed us to where we'd find Revered Mother Hevara, but warned us that we really shouldn't interrupt her talks with Lord Seeker Lucius.

As we approached we could hear heated argument through the halls. Wonderful. I tentatively felt around. "Cole are you here? If you can hear me, give Sir Barris a message. We know what's happening in Therinfal Redoubt. Cullen has an extraction team ready. Those who have not been tainted by red lyrium may join him, and we will shelter them. Go."

I turned to Cassandra, just outside the door. "Can you smite a demon from a man possessed?" She nodded resolutely.

"I hate to say it, but I hope you are wrong about this, Lady Syraena. Lord Seeker Lucius was an honorable man when I knew him." The arguing from the polished white room grew louder.

Lord Seeker Lucius slammed his armored fist on the desk between the terrified looking Revered Mother and himself. "You will not stop us. Your politics are meaningless. Your pompous posturing is meaningless. The Templar Order is bound for greater things than you can comprehend, and we will not be leashed by you any longer. The only destiny that demands respect here is mine!"

His cold drawl sent a shiver down my spine. He strode around the desk, chokeslamming the poor Revered Mother against the wall like a ragdoll.

That did it. Cassandra and I stormed in, and I shot a spear of light out at Lucius and sent him sailing across the room. "Enough! You will not harm anyone else, and I will see to that. Cassandra!" The pinned man shrieked inhumanly as Cassandra's Holy Smite struck him. He shuddered once, twice, before his body began to contort. It was one of the most grotesque things I'd seen yet. Arms should not bend that way....

The Revered Mother watched on in horror from her spot against the wall. Green clawed hands sprouted from the man's mouth, tearing his cheeks aside in its bid to escape. His face was no more than wet clay as Envy sprang out, a wail pouring from its gaping maw. It never got the chance to attack however. Cassandra drove her sword through its chest cavity, swiping it sideways and severing its spine.

It exploded in a spray of ichor and ashes. The once pristine room was coated in black and grey demon blood. I bent to the Revered Mother, healing the bruising on her neck as I drew her to a standing position. "I'm sorry we did not arrive sooner. Are you alright?" Hevara looked from Cassandra to me in a mix of fear and gratitude.

"I am uninjured, thanks to you... I am grateful you arrived at all. I hate to think what would have happened if you had not."

"The Lord Seeker was no longer himself. The Templars are in danger... he was not working alone, and he's been feeding the Templars beneath him Red Lyrium to form a monstrous army. The Inquisition will be helping those untouched by the vile shit to escape. Please warn the rest of the Spire. The Inquisition needs help to end this madness, so I hope we will have an ally in you. I'm sorry it came to this." After assuring us that she would be okay, we departed from the Grand Cathedral under cover of our cloaks once more.

Just outside the enormous gates, Cole jumped down from the ivy-covered walls to land lightly beside us. I eeped loudly, not expecting him to just drop in out of fucking nowhere. "That was quick. Did you warn Barris?"

The boy looked at me from under his hat. "He is scared, wants to trust, but he trusted Lucius too. He doesn't want to be red. He will go." Cole fell silent, listening. We walked toward the market district as inconspicuously as heavy armor could allow.

"The others are near. The elf worries for you. I should have gone with her. She'll be here soon. Too cold, worrying. Frantic pacing across rough wood floors. The inn is this way." We traversed Val Royeaux in the faded light; every corner held something... shops, homes, stalls... It wasn't empty as it had been in the game.

Cole ducked onto a sidestreet, and a swinging gilt sign greeted us. The White Lion... this is either a very nice inn or a very nice brothel. I giggled under my breath as I opened the door. My nostrils flooded with the smell of roasted turkey and hearty broth. Varric was in the corner chatting up a small yet adoring crowd. Evelyn was reading a book in the corner by the fire. Solas was nowhere to be seen. I waved to the dwarf, gesturing vaguely at my grime coated body.

"I'm headed upstairs for a bath, dude. I am gross. Is Mr. Grumpybutt  up there, or do I need to send out the hounds?" The hairy dwarf laughed.

"Yeah he's up there, Siren. Best hurry, though. I think he had the same idea." Cassandra sat down beside Varric, throwing off her hood. The adoring fans now had two things to geek over, and did so quite noisily. 

I reached the top of the stairs before I realized I hadn't asked what room I was looking for. No matter. I closed my eyes, seeking out his aura with my own. The flow of magic stopped abruptly just ahead, and like a rope tied to a tree I followed it. I opened the door slowly, peeking through the crack.

"Halloooo?" I squeaked as I crept in. Solas's head whipped around. He took three purposeful strides across the room and pulled me inside swiftly, crushing me in an embrace. My arms were pinned to my sides, his hands lifting me to him and arching my spine. He held me there for several moments before releasing me.

"I apologize. I should have gone with you. I do not doubt your abilities or Cassandra's, but... I confess, vhenan, I was worried. You described the Envy demon within Lucius as difficult to defeat. I assume by the.. ah.. ichor on your armor you were successful?"

"You could say that. I think we scarred the poor Chantry Mother for life. Fucking demon crawled up out of Lucius's mouth. Tore his face in half. ugghh." I shuddered remembering that fun filled detail. "All I want at this point in time is a bath. Everything else can wait."

He nodded and turned away. The tips of his ears flushed, and he twisted his hands in the air above a metal basin in the corner. It filled with steaming hot water; he then dumped a small vial of something that faintly smelled of vanilla. "I hope you do not mind. Evelyn insisted we stop first at a shop that peddles these kinds of wares. I am certain you would enjoy it. Candles, oils, soaps.... this was the closest I could find to match your scent."

A long slender finger traced iridescent runes on the door... I recognized Silence and Deterrence. He helped me remove my cloak and armor, bit by bit, gently setting each piece aside. Once freed of my underclothes, I stepped into the glorious bath. I could not contain the small groan that escaped me. Solas had turned away from me, pulling off his tunic in one smooth motion. His back was lean and muscular from centuries of staff wielding. He knelt behind the washtub, a vial of shampoo in hand.

"If you would not mind..." He said delicately while eyeing my reaction. I dunked my head under the water to wet my hair. Those hands I admired so much began to lather vanilla scented soap into my hair slowly and gently. A tingle of magic traced over my scalp.

"What's that you're doing there?" I said groggily. I absolutely loved people playing with my hair; I'd often given the younger foster kids a brush and let them go at it. His touch was divine, his motions practiced.

"I am removing knots and split ends. Long hair like this must be cared for frequently, and I'd hate to see you get frustrated and do away with it. It frames your face nicely." I laid my head back. I was putty in his hands as he worked over every lock of hair. I felt my eyelids grow heavy, and I very nearly fell asleep.

Warm and cozy, don't stop playing with my hair... 

Languidly I washed my body with a cloth, careful not to disturb Solas's work on my hair. It was now waist length, not having had time or motivation to cut it in the months since my arrival, or in the 3+ years since my last cut... The last time I grew out my hair, my entire head was a mess of split ends. I was glad he knew how to rid me of them without sacrificing the beautiful lengths.

"Hey Solas... um... In my world, people have drawn gorgeous portraits of you with long hair, like you had in my dream that time. I absolutely love it. Why do you shave it off? I mean you're sexy as hell either way, but..." 

"I was In Uthenera for a thousand years. I believe you would call it... bed head?" He chuckled. "Since then it was simply a matter of convenience. I'm glad to know you take certain pleasures in my hair. I've considered growing it out again for quite some time." I nodded eagerly. Yes please. Holy fucking hell yes please. I longed to run my fingers through it, to hold him in place as we had primal earth shattering sex...

My skin burned under that train of thought. The edge that had turned his eyes stormy told me he could sense the intense desire in my aura. I looked around for a towel, slightly embarrassed when I didn't see one.

"How do I get dry?" 

Solas took my hand; he looked at my face and nowhere else as he helped me stand. I could practically smell the battle raging within him... keep gentlemanly or devour me whole? One hand slowly traced the air above my skin, and the water evaporated. He held me steady for a moment more before stepping sideways to help me out of the tub. He turned away, inspecting the wards on the door while I dug through my pack for a simple slate colored tunic. It came to mid thigh with the tight off-shoulder sleeves came halfway down my forearm. It left my collarbone and most of my legs bare, and when Solas finally turned around his eyes had not lost that dark edge.

"There's only one bed in here, so either you have your own room, or you get to snuggle me tonight. I'd much prefer the second option," I said with my hips cocked sideways. He unlaced his footwraps slowly with a smirk on his lips. I bounded across the room and dived into the bed. It wasn't the best, but it was better than sleeping in a tent. I buried my face in the pillow in my favorite sleeping position - left leg bent, hip slightly lifted, arms under the pillow. My tunic barely covered my ass, and I felt a hand straighten it before hooking around my hip to draw me close.

I'm frickin' spooning with Fen'Harel! Can it get any more unreal?!?

"I prefer this option too, vhenan." he whispered into my ear, gently kissing the sensitive point. His supple lips trailed kisses down my neck, always passing back up to the tip of my ear. I made to wiggle my ass closer into the crook of his lap behind me. Solas chuckled against my neck and held me still.

"Sleep. It is going to be along day tomorrow." My sounds of mild protest were cut off as he tapped my temple with one finger, whispering "Sleep."

Chapter Text

Dawn broke through the open window of the inn, but it wasn't daylight that awoke me. No, that honor went to the gentle poking on my ass. His faint snoring told me he was still asleep, but he was rock hard against me. I slipped backward through the sheets... closer... closer... until a hand slipped under the edge of my tunic, firmly grasping my ass cheek. 

"Good morning, vhenan. Sleep well?" I asked innocently, still rubbing up on his morning stiffness. He groaned, then worked a hand between us. There was a tugging, a pulling, as he undid his breeches. He repositioned his length between my bare thighs. It was hot and velvety smooth, and positively throbbing. I rocked my hips along him to the rhythm of his sleepy moans. My thighs were slick, eager to move him up toward my center.

He teased my entrance gently with his tip, his fingertips kneading my ass. I shifted my hips to allow him access. So close.... His hard length coated in my juices along my slit, working slowly and torturously. I was practically squirming, and he wasn't even inside me yet... "Solas, please...." I groaned.

A loud thwack sounded from the floor beside us, causing us both to jump. An arrow had sailed through the open window and lodged itself into the rough wood planks of the floor. A piece of paper was wrapped around the shaft of the arrow, and though there was no sign of who had fired the arrow from the rooftop across the street, there was no doubt in my mind who it would have been.

When I see Sera I'm going to beat her ass for cock blocking me. I stood from the bed yanking my shirt down over my ass as as I went. Solas had cast a barrier over me, presumably in worry that whoever it was had more than one arrow. I dislodged the arrow from the floor, and after a cursory glance at the letter which confirmed my suspicions, I handed it to Solas. I noticed he had already righted himself. Dammit.

"It appears whoever sent us this... missive... wants us to meet them. A trap, perhaps?" he mused.

I shook my head. "No she wants to join us. She found a noble asshat who's been conspiring against us and if there's anything that Sera hates, it's conspiring nobles. This is a test; she wants us to confront him. I already know where all of her rendezvous map pieces are anyway." I told him about the caustic elf, her life's mission to help the little people. 

He sighed, standing gracefully. "Well then. Let's not keep her waiting."

 


 

Solas and I descended the stairs to find Varric and Cassandra eating breakfast. A massive mound of food sat before them. Fried eggs, homefries, toast, sausages... All of it greasy, all of it smelling divine.

I sat across from them, assembling a plate of homefries and eggs. As delicious as it smelled, it tasted even better. The eggs were just how I liked them: the whites were dry but the yolks were still slightly runny. I was mopping up the dripping golden deliciousness when Evelyn sat down beside me. The disheveled mage helped herself to the food. 

"Not a morning person, I take it?" I snickered, and was met by a huff.

"I was up far too long last night. The woman in the room next to mine was a bit... loud. At least someone got laid..." She mumbled into her potatoes, and I patted her shoulder in solidarity. I had a sneaking suspicion Sera knew she was interrupting. I'd always adored the wacky woman, but right now, I was a little irked. I was so fucking close...

A man in fashionable robes approached the table, envelope in hand. "Lady Dire. Your presence, and that of your companions, is requested by First Enchanter Vivienne de Fer." He handed me the weighty invitation with a bow. His departure was just as swift as his arrival. The envelope in question was cream and silver, and the invitation inside was much the same, a faint scent of jasmine flitting through the air. 

"Josephine will kill me if we don't attend this. I'm equally dead if we go in grubby armor. So that means we have a bit of shopping to do. Anyone know where to start?"

Evelyn perked up a bit at this. "I have a seamstress here. I can get us a deal." She polished off the rest of her eggs, wiping her mouth with a cloth napkin.

I laughed at Cassandra's look of utter disgust. "Phenomenal. Once you guys are all set, we shall head out."

 


 

I'd never really had what could be considered a "girl's day" - shopping, lunch, the works. But even long after the men had made their simple purchases, the three of us were still perusing the selection of gowns and finery. Evelyn and I had made a game of finding the girliest, most horrid garments for Cassandra. Anything with pink, glitter, or ruffles had her looking murderous. We continued this way for at least an hour before I finally spotted something she'd probably not hate. 

It was floor length and black, with long sleeves and a simple bateau neckline. But where it flowed to the floor behind and around her, it was parted just below the waist in the front, revealing black leather pants. No frills, no glitter, no embroidery.  It was less a gown than a dressy pantsuit, and it finally convinced her to get it. While she was getting it fitted around the waist, Evelyn and I continued to shop. She eventually selected a deep green velvet sheath with an open back. It hugged all the right places, and shimmered in the light of the overhead chandelier. Best of all, it was the exact shade of her eyes.

I had been through the entire shop twice over before I saw something I hadn't before. A large mound of liquid silver on the seamstress's countertop. "What is that?" I asked the kind eyed woman. She looked from it to me with a creeping flush.

"It is nothing. A design I was working on but discarded. It is not my best work, Milady."

"May I see it? Please?" The seamstress passed the silver silk to me, looking at the toes of her embroidered slippers. I shook it out, and though it had been cast in a messy pile on the counter, there wasn't a single wrinkle. It was floor length with a subtle train, and flowed like water. Evelyn helped me into it in the fitting room, and though I was unusually tall, it fit perfectly. The silk flowed across my breasts and around my arms, supported by two impossibly thin silver chains over my shoulders. There was a surprising amount of decolletage nestled in the silken folds, something I was immensely satisfied with.

"What do you mean, 'not your best work'? This is gorgeous!" I asked the woman, and a proud glint grew in her eye. 

"It is plain. There's nothing more to it than silk. Are you sure you don't want something more to the current fashion? Lace is all the rage." She pointed to a line of lacy jewel toned gowns, and I shook my head. I was dead set on not being decorated like a Christmas tree. The Orlesians can have their gaudy styles. It just wasn't my thing. I shook my head.

After Cassandra had paid for our gowns, we decided to have lunch at the cafe on the market. I surreptitiously picked up the red cloth with Sera's map fragment and stuffed it in my hip bag. Evelyn was long past her morning grogginess, thoroughly delighting in the warm sunshine. We talked throughout the meal of honey roasted carrots and ham. Its slightly spicy tang was unidentifiable to my untrained palate but delicious all the same. I thought I saw Cole whispering to various patrons of the outdoor cafe, but when I looked again there was nothing there.  

"The things I've heard about this Madame Vivienne are less than sterling. Slept her way to the top, prefers to keep the circles in place... How else is she supposed to lord over people if she has nobody of lower class?" Evelyn snorted derisively. Vivienne represented everything Evelyn stood against. I assured her that I had a plan for the Iron Lady, but Evelyn was still skeptical. 

"The least we can do is hear her out, and enjoy the free alcohol."

Chapter Text

The Ghislain Chateau was easily the biggest house I had ever seen. The sweeping marble steps into the foyer reminded me of the ones from Cinderella. I was exceedingly glad that I had chosen a pair of ballet flats that laced around my ankle with a silver ribbon. There would be no slipper incidents tonight. As it was, the Iron Lady would probably find enough fault without us providing her fodder.

The squat man at the door announced us through his mask, and the chatter in the ballroom lowered by several degrees at the mention of the Inquisition. I led the pack, head held regally as I glided across the shiny floor. My footsteps made no sound. I twirled to face the balcony, where my gaze was met by a silver owlish mask. Curved horns rose up behind it to complete the ensemble. I dipped into a graceful curtsey, careful to keep my chin high. Vivienne’s shining mask inclined ever so slightly. Respect, not deference. We were equals.

Solas took my attention, handing me a glass of sparkling wine from a passing servant. “Vhenan, you look absolutely stunning. The dress suits you.” He sipped from his own glass lightly.

I spun on my right toe, the liquid silk fanning out. “I had a hard time getting the seamstress to part with it. She felt it was too plain to be seen in public.” The two of us moved off to the side, and watched Evelyn greet family acquaintances. It was easy to forget that she was nobility in our day-to-day, but here she shone. She may not have wanted her titles, but she carried herself with the grace and sociability of one who was raised to wear them. Her gown glimmered like dew in the deep forest moss.

Solas and I, on the other hand, were left well enough alone. A few simpering ladies were brave enough to ask for tales of the Herald of Andraste, but the majority of nobles saw nothing more than well dressed elves, regardless of title.

We’d stayed this way for some time, watching the nobles dance from a safe distance away, when a drunken man with a prissy doublet approached us with staggering steps. “Inquisition, is it? What a load of pig shit. Washed up Sisters and crazed Seekers.. No one can take them seriously. And you ... a filthy knife-ear, the Herald of our Blessed Andraste? You can fuck off back to the burrow from whence you came. Everyone knows this is just an excuse for political outcasts to grab at power. If you were a woman of honor, you’d step outside and answer the charges!” Before he could even draw his weapon, Vivienne had frozen him.

Her descent down the stairs was exactly as it was pictured in the game. Calm, collected, lethal. It was one of the few times I actually liked Vivienne. She knew how to roast a guy without actually setting him aflame. “My dear Marquis, how unkind of you to use such language in my house, and to my guests. You know such rudeness is… intolerable." She strutted past the frozen, whimpering man, stroking his chin.

“My Lady, you are the wounded party in this unfortunate affair; what would you have me do with him?”

I waved him off, airy and unaffected. “He does not interest me in the least. Do with him as you will, I tire of looking at him. His face ill suits the lovely atmosphere you have created here.”

She smirked beneath her silver mask. “Thank you darling. The florist has had a magnificent array of peonies this year. I shall have to give you his address.” she turned toward the man, unfreezing him with a flourishing snap of her fingers. “Poor Marquis, issuing challenges and hurling insults like some Ferelden dog lord. And all dressed up in your Aunt Solange’s doublet. Didn’t she give you that to wear to the Grand Tourney? To think, all the brave Chevaliers who will be competing left for Markham this morning. And you’re still here. Were you hoping to sate your damaged pride by defeating the Herald of Andraste in a public duel? Or did you think her blade could put an end to the misery of your failure? Run along now, and give my regards to your Aunt.”

The drunk man staggered backwards away from her, away from his humiliation, and practically scampered through the crowd and out the grand doors. Spectacle over, the noble gooseneckers filtered away. An assuring pat on the small of my back from Solas helped bring me back to the task at hand. I would be putting my foot forward first, not Vivienne.

“Lady Vivienne, if you have a moment, there is something I wish to discuss.”

 


 

As I’d expected, she agreed to join us. However, she would not be joining us immediately, as there were “things she must attend to at court” or so she put it. That was fine, I’d rather not have to hear her complaints about such humble lodgings in Haven. 

The Fade shaped to our perch on Cascade Falls that night. The two of us sat on the edge, looking out onto the valley below. I thought how best to bring up our transition to Skyhold. I did not want to deal with fixing the ruins and rubble with several hundred refugees and hundreds of mages clamoring for shelter. It was Solas’s castle, after all. Who better to undertake its restoration? 

"Solas, when I saw Skyhold, it was in absolute shambles. Are you sure it can hold all of the Inquisition?" I fiddled with my braid,and looked up at him from where I nestled into his side. "Clean your damn house, haren," I told him, amidst his chuckling.

"You had previously mentioned that Tarasyl'an Te'las was the future home of the Inquisition. I found it was in an astonishing state of disrepair, even given how many years it has lain unoccupied. My forces have been working quickly to make it habitable. Though, from what you've described and shown me... I believe the hold you know and the one I know are very different." 

"What did it look like when you lived there?" I asked, ears pricking up in curiosity.

He smiled then, bending down to kiss each of my eyelids shut.

When I opened them again, I was in the liquid silver gown once more, a moonlit puddle around me in the middle of a massive ballroom. The Great Hall of the Keep. An ornate golden throne sat on a raised marble balcony, hazy blue and green rays of light filtering from the stained glass panes behind it. The stone floors were smooth, polished marble and far more expansive than I'd thought. You could easily fit hundreds of people in this place, a proper ballroom, with ornate wooden chaise lounges on either side of the hall. Four large golden chandeliers shone crystalline light from above, separated by trademark Elvhen marble arches that supported the vaulted ceilings. And there were trees. Living trees, thrumming with magic and perfectly curved to fit the space without being a nuisance. Their branches trailed soft silver-green leaves and the most delicate white flowers I had ever seen. And they moved. Each branch gently swayed to the heartbeat in the stones, the pulse of magic in the air. It was peaceful, soothing. The walls were covered in gold-flecked marble. Though the shape of the keep was somewhat familiar, the Skyhold I new was a poor substitute. No rough grey stone, no bare dirt paths in the courtyard. it was pristine and perfect.

He took my hand, leading me through the gardens filled with gardenias and jasmine. There was an enormous willow tree where the gazebo should have been, and it too drifted lazily in an invisible breeze. The air was warm, thick with the floral scents. The courtyard below was vast, and it was then that I realized the most significant difference. Within the walls of this stronghold was a village. Not just an inn, a smithy and a barn. Narrow garden trimmed streets wove in between homes. The bustling portion was on a lower terrace than the castle itself, reminding me  so much of Whiterun that I anticipated a citrus orange-tabarded guard to accost me for my crimes against Skyrim and her people. And trees! There were so many trees! It wasn't the barren permafrost coated ruin I'd grown to love. It was alive.

We explored the various corners of the castle for hours. When he showed me the spire where his quarters had once been, I was at a loss for words. The same vibrant trees from the ballroom far below us were placed as sentries of the balcony doors. The walls were coated in emerald green ivy, with the exception of the far wall where a roaring marble fireplace stood. A silver chaise and a few low tables were artfully placed in front of the fire, and plush cushions were scattered about.

The bed was framed by four ornate silver posts, which supported a shimmering golden canopy. It trailed over the sides like a sheer waterfall, and the green, gold and silver silk duvet was embellished with dainty vines. The room gave all the peace of being in the forest with all the luxuries living in a castle could give. 

 I stepped out onto the wraparound marble balcony, my moonlit gown fluttering in the light breeze. The view I saw was familiar at least. The jagged mountains reached out to pierce the starry skies. I felt Solas slip his arms around my waist from behind, and I leaned into him. We stayed this way for quite some time, until the peachy rays of dawn crested the Frostbacks.

Chapter Text

I’d decided to put off meeting with Sera of the Red Jennies until the last day we had allocated in Val Royeaux. We had nobles to suck up to, supply routes to negotiate… I doubted Sera could handle those situations with the delicate touch required. But even given our status on rocky ground with the Chantry, our potential allies were fairly easy to convince with the promise of finding favor with the two most likely candidates for the Sunburst Throne.

When we finally entered the back alley marked on Sera’s crude map, it took all I had to keep the grin from splitting my face in two. I dodged two weak fireballs to the face, flung through the doorway by a short, poncy noble in a mustachioed mask.

“Herald of Andraste! How much did you expend to discover me? It must have weakened the Inquisition immeasurably!” he placed his hands on his hips, his every gesture that of a wannabe ballerina. I shrugged, as unconcerned as it was possible to be.

“Nah, Twinkletoes. Somebody gave us a note and a couple dirty rags with your location on them. I don’t know you from fuckall, but the dude that wipes your ass doesn’t like you, I guess.” I picked at an invisible spot on my armor.

He arched his back, attempting to make himself look taller with little results. “You don’t fool me! I’m too important for this to be an accident. My efforts will survive in victories against you elsewhere!” 

“I highly doubt that dude. Your fashion sense sucks almost as bad as your ability to sense people behind you.”

“JUST SAY WHAT.” Sera winked at me, arrow trained on the Napoleonic nutjob as he spun to face her in indignation.

“What is-” THUNK

Sera’s arrow found its mark, lodged deep in his skull. “Uggghhh! Squishy one, but you heard me right? ‘Just say what’ … Rich tits always try for more than they deserve.” She yanked the arrow from his face, boot solidly holding his chest down as a support. “Blah blah blah... obey me… arrow in my face.”

I laughed, slapping her on the shoulder. “I don’t know, I think that arrow was an improvement. His face seriously needed to be reorganized.”

“Well I see you followed the notes finally. Frick took you so long?” Sera said as she tucked her bow onto her back.

“Gee, I couldn’t possibly guess. You interrupted some very important Herald-y work with your first missive. Maybe I figured I’d let you simmer in it. By the way, you’re grounded.”

She grinned deviously at that. “I’m what? You can’t punish me O Divine Elfy Tits, you’re not my mum!”

“Nah, but I’d like you to come work for us. You’re a true shot, and I’ve had dealings with the Friends of Red Jenny of Denerim. I got a lot of shit I need to do with nobles in order to shut the hole in the sky and fix this damn continent. It’d be helpful to have eyes looking out for me. Being the Siren of the Inquisition has its perks... I can keep an eye out for the little guy too.”

She looked to me, then Cassandra and Evelyn. “I’ll say you’ve got some perks. If the rest of the Inquisition looks like you lot, I am definitely in. Name’s Sera. This here’s cover, get round it. For the reinforcements. Don’t worry, someone tipped me their equipment shed. They’ve got no breeches ….” She laughed maniacally as she skipped off.

Sure enough, the guards that came waddling toward us were fully armored from the waist up, but were attempting to hide their shriveling jewels behind barrels and crates. I made it a point to explode said barrels, baring their goods to the world for one last moment of shame. The fight did not last long at all. Sera’s screams of “RIGHT IN THE PLUMS” and “BUTT BUTT BUTT” pierced the air with every shot, and not a single arrow missed its intended target. When all our opponents were defeated, Sera rounded on me, face flush with adrenaline. 

"So, All Touched Lady Herald, you need me, I'm all yours. Plus breeches, 'cuz... you have merchants that buy that pish yeah? Got to be worth something." she indicates a massive sack of trousers nearby. 

With a snort I hefted the bag. "Probably won't sell them. We got too many people running around Haven without pants. I figure we can put them to use." I grinned as Sera screwed up her face with the mental image of half naked people dashing through the snowy streets. Cassandra looked absolutely mortified for her part, wordlessly opening and shutting her mouth. Her shocked fish impression had Sera, Varric and I gasping for air, doubled over with laughter.

"Seeker I do believe our illustrious Herald Syraena is a genius. Who knew recruiting people to a pantsless Inquisition would be so easy?"

"Ugghh," was her only response. She turned on her heel, leading us back to the inn. 

 


 

Much to Sera's delight, Evelyn had offered her the option to bunk together. So when the two of them came down the stairs together the next morning, bags packed and in a considerably more cheerful mood than was Evelyn's norm, I couldn't help but prod the beast.

"So, how was she?" I asked. The two exchanged a look, and I laughed. "To bunk with, I mean. Does Sera snore? Talk in her sleep?" I must have looked like the cat that ate the canary at that point, because Sera got a wicked grin at my goading.

"I'm not the loud one, Lady Herald. I hardly got any sleep at all with this one's mouth going all night. Nonstop, this one." Evelyn nearly spat out her juice as Sera laughed maniacally. 

 


 

The ship to the Storm Coast was rocked by constant thunderstorms, but I’d never slept better in my life. I’d always slept better with the pouring rain and the skies rumbling. It didn’t let up the whole way, even as we tied off our rowboat beside the Inquisition occupied stretch of docks. The camp sat above us, with banners blazing red, black and gold through the torrential downpour. We only stopped briefly to drop off our luggage, before seeking out the mercenary company fending off Venatori down the coast.

We showed up just as the last of the Venatori were being dispatched with Charger steel. “Chargers, stand down! Krem, how’d we do?” The Iron Bull said, striding toward his much smaller second-in-command

“Five or six wounded, chief. No dead.” He reported, scanning his comrades. Wounded was a strong word. They had a couple cuts and bruises, at most. I passed a Healing Springs over their group, and left it to lap over their feet like the surf nearby.

“That’s what I like to hear. Let the throatcutters finish up, then break out the casks.” Krem nodded and strode away with purpose.

“So you’re with the Inquisition? Glad you could make it. Come on, have a seat. Drinks are coming.”

“Actually, Bull, I’d rather discuss this elsewhere. I have a few sensitive matters that need to be addressed.” He raised his one good eyebrow, but said nothing as the two of us trudged along the roaring shore. We had gotten fifty feet or so away from the group when I stopped, turning to him in slightly trembling determination.

“So let’s cut to the chase. I know who you are, and since you’re Ben-Hassrath you’d figure out there’s fuckery afoot where I’m concerned. I’m not exactly… normal. Like, at all. I plan on telling the others eventually, but the Inquisition is too new to withstand the shit I have to say.”

“Well I figured you didn’t take me out here because you wanted to see my rippling muscles in action again. Your elf followed you rather protectively.” Bull said, pointing.

Solas strode toward us, all pretense of listening in abandoned. I could practically sense his wolf coming to defend that which he had claimed. He finally stopped beside me, his posture all but cementing that feeling.

Vhenan, you departed rather suddenly. Are you sure you want to do this now?” he asked, looking from me to the towering Qunari.

“The sooner, the better with him. It’s already weird as shit that I have any connection to the Physical Fade, let alone that I know pretty much all outcomes of the near future.”

Bull looked a little on edge at those words, but he recovered quickly. “So you’re… a Seer?” he summarized.

“Let’s go with that. For instance, I know that you have a thing for redheads, dragons, and drinks that put chest on your chest. Krem is probably gonna complain that they just opened the casks with axes sometime in the next 10 minutes, and your typical response would include something to do with blood magic, because he’s a Vint. To top it off, your safe word is… Katoh? Am I pronouncing that correctly?”

“Chalk that up to weirdest shit I’ve heard today. But I believe you. I gather that’s the official story?”

“Official story is I hear whispers from divine beings in the Fade...yeah. The real story is a lot weirder, and involves me dying violently and being reborn elfy; as I have no idea what the fuck that all means yet myself, I’ll go with Seer. I know almost every permutation of events that may happen in the next 3 years, at least. If I had to, I could guess further out. I also know the past far more than some people should. Like what color underwear the King wore when he lost his virginity to his wife in a tent. Or that he has a weird 10 year old illegitimate child with a hedge witch we’ll meet later.”

Solas gained a sharp edge to his eyes at that. One that said we’ll talk later. This was not missed by the Iron Bull, and he laughed. “Dearly beloved didn’t know you were a fly on the wall for that one, huh?”

I stressed my next words carefully, trying to impart something to the hulking Qunari spy in front of me. “I can’t say everything I know, for fear of influencing people’s decisions. That would possibly change what I know of the future, but I’ll say this. Krem’s a good man, the Chargers are good people. I’d be honored to have you. I’d never choose not to keep you guys, no matter what. Welcome aboard.”

Chapter Text

 

When the three of us walked back to our comrades, Bull gave the order to move this party to the Inquisition camp. As predicted, Krem groaned indignantly. "But Chief! We just opened up the casks... with axes..."

Bull gave me the side-eye, still addressing his lieutenant. "You're a Vint, right? You'll figure it out. Try sealing it with blood magic."

The storm had not let up at all, and I was grateful that the Inquisition camp was walled on one side by a rock overhang, shielding the fires from the rain. Solas made sure that each tent had a waterproofing rune and a heating rune, at least enough to keep us from freezing to death. The lightning over the angry sea was pretty enough to look at, but my face and neck were tired of being pelted by unnaturally fast raindrop-bullets. Sure, I’d lived through two pretty devastating hurricanes one right after the other, but at least I’d lived inland.

I placed my tent as far away from the others as I could get given the space under the rock ceiling. Call it wishful thinking. My task complete I stood there for a moment, and there was a nagging feeling that there was something I’d missed. I bit my lip, wandering over to the fire.

The Chargers hadn’t quite managed to seal the casks. Instead, they had heaved them individually up the hillside, and began to distribute them to the entire camp. There was plenty to go around, and though it wasn’t tasty, it did the job of getting everyone loose in a matter of a couple hours.

Sera was perched in Evelyn’s lap, arm slung around her shoulders. Their armor had to be uncomfortable, but they made it look like the most comfortable armchair this side of the Frostbacks.

Iron Bull had claimed a spot on a log by the fire, surrounded by members of his crew. The log made suffering creaks every time he moved, threatening to give way beneath the mountainous man. He and Varric were comparing tales of debauchery, and as much as I had figured Varric would dislike Bull on principle, he had somehow won the brassy dwarf over. Cassandra stared warily into the flagon she held, listening in on the two men opposite her. Cole and Solas stood off to the side, deep in some spirit discussion or another. Every now and again, Solas would prod the boy with glowing fingers. No doubt testing the spirit's corporeal form.

Varric turned to me then, massive grin on his face. “Soooo Siren, how’d you like Val Royeaux?”

“I fucking hated it. It's pretty, but politics have always made me sick. Why can’t people channel that energy they have for scheming and posturing into scholarly, civilized debate? Seriously people, it's not that fucking hard to be nice.”

“I can respect that. You must be disappointed that you don’t have to share a room with Chuckles anymore though...”

I kept my voice low and even. “Listen here, Halfpint. What I do or don’t do in the wee hours of the night is not fodder for your books. I doubt Cassandra wants to read about the freckles on my pale ass in the moonlight anyway.”

Cassandra spluttered into her drink. “What, that is not-”

“Save it Cass. You don’t need to hide that copy of Swords & Shields. You’re an adult, you’re allowed to read about dicks without being struck by a Chantry mother.”

“I am not having this conversation with you.”

Varric looked from her to me incredulously. “I must have heard that wrong. It sounded like you just said that Cassandra read my books. And the romance serial? I haven’t finished that one, and I wasn’t planning to.”

“But you must!” Cassandra stood in a hurry, spilling her drink.

“You’re probably wondering what happened to the Knight-captain after the last chapter.”

“Nothing should happen to her! She was falsely accused!”

“Well it turns out the guardsman-”

“Don’t tell me!” Cassandra said, plugging her ears with her fingers and striding away like a petulant child.

“You know, this is fascinating, but are you all going to ignore the fact that she says has freckles on her ass?” Evelyn piped up, lap full of Sera.

“Only a couple. Not that any of you are gonna see them. And Varric, remember, if I catch you writing this shit down, I’m tying you around the waist to the top of the tallest tree I can find and leaving your ass there.”

“Alright Siren, I’ll forgo writing a smutty serial about you.”

Iron Bull had been studying us all during this exchange, and cleared his throat. “You know, from everything I’ve heard about the Inquisition, I’d gotten the impression you were professional and lordly. Now that I see you guys in downtime though, I think my men and I will fit in just fine.”

“Us? Professional? Ha! Dude you have no idea. Sera’s a raging lunatic. Evelyn is the epitome of a secretly dirty Chantry girl. Varric is Varric. I have the attention span of a puppy and the manners of a goat. Thedas is totally fucked.”

He laughed at that. “It was fucked anyway. So why do they call you Siren? I take it you don’t like Herald of Andraste.”

“Siren sings. It’s been a while though. Care to give your new recruits a show?” Varric says. Amid whoops and cheers, I walked across the little circle, thinking. I hopped up on the edge of the Chargers' wagon, looking out at my drunken comrades.

"I dedicate my next song to all the noble shitheads who'd rather discuss fashion than actually fucking help. Here goes!" I begin to swing my feet alternately, like a child on the edge of a dock. The effect was innocent and fun, and I smiled angelically.

 

 

Look inside

Look inside your tiny mind

Now look a bit harder

'Cause we're so uninspired

So sick and tired of all the hatred you harbor

So you say

It's not okay to be gay

Well, I think you're just evil

You're just some racist who can't tie my laces

Your point of view is medieval.....

 

I jumped up onto the barrel behind me, standing tall as I proudly sang the chorus, both middle fingers waving in tandem in front of me.

 

 

Fuck you

Fuck you very, very much

'Cause we hate what you do

And we hate your whole crew

So, please don't stay in touch

Fuck you

Fuck you very, very much

'Cause your words don't translate

And it's getting quite late

So, please don't stay in touch

 

I sang the next few verses, a shit-eating grin on my face as my small audience cheered. Even Solas, behind his wine, was a slight pink as he smiled sheepishly. Sera joined me in the next chorus, giggling riotously. Her face lit up, and as she began to skip around the campsite she pulled Evelyn with her. Their skipping was exaggerated, comical. I thought Iron Bull was gonna keel over with laughter. 

 

 

You say

You think we need to go to war

Well, you're already in one

'Cause it's people like you

that need to get slew

No one wants your opinion.......

 

The Chargers were downright howling. It was the best form of entertainment to see Krem join in the last chorus, elbows on top of Iron Bulls head, hands supporting the lieutenants chin between the large horns.

When the song came to an end, Varric wiped his eyes. "Here I expected another soulful lament, but that was quite the song."

"Why thank you. I have plenty more, but I'm gonna leave those for another time. There's that issue with the Blades of Hessarian we need to fix tomorrow. Good news, Bull. You get to see us fight this time!" I trotted off toward my tent, head swimming with exhaustion and alcohol.

 


 

 

Our group sauntered up to the rough stockade fort of the Blades of Hessarian, armor glinting through the afternoon drizzle. Solas's potion helped ease our hangovers, but even with that I was in no sunny mood. We had located the bodies of the missing scouts just hours prior. A sloppily crafted Crest of Mercy shone from under the edge of my cloak as I showed it to the gatekeep. 

"Open the gates!" he cried, and the sound of massive wooden doors scraped through the air before us. Their little fort may have been small but it was well defended, and I felt at least two dozen pairs of eyes follow our path to the center. I stepped forward, bidding the party to stay back and not interfere. Solas looked antsy, but he nodded. They took up subtly defensive postures, nonthreatening but braced for a trap.

I flung my left arm out from under my cloak, brandishing the Crest with the Anchor flaring eerily behind it. "I have come to challenge your leader, as is your custom. I seek the right to avenge my men through fair combat, no magic. You will face me!"

A stout blonde man with a thick scraggly beard slammed open the door to the cabin a few feet beyond. "You? You seek to challenge me? Ha!" he swaggered out, assessing me like prey as he met me in the center of our would-be arena. I did not back down, my smirk feral as I stared back.

"You killed my men. You piled them up like garbage, and did not even give them a proper pyre. I will not let this stand. You will face me, and you will lose. And for every life taken, may you walk every year you stole from them through the void, with all the peace and rest that you granted them. Death will be no Mercy for you."

"If you want justice, then claim it!' he roared, raising his axe above me. I dodged his blow, rolling away as he came down where my shoulder had been. I had angered the ruddy faced man, but his cockiness and his fury made him sloppy. My smirk never left my face, and I continued to dodge every attack. I had not used any magic yet, and I was enjoying the chase. The more I evaded, the pissier he got.

"What's the matter, old man? Is this mud tripping you up?" I asked slyly, my coiled whip yanking his foot out from beneath him. He crashed to the ground and even as he struggled to get up, I cast my eye around to the other men of the keep. None of them seemed worried; none of them made any move to help him. In fact, they all seemed to enjoy watching an elven woman get the better of him. The note we'd found with their bodies implied that he led by force, not honor. None would mourn him. They had not even loosed the dogs to aid him as I'd expected.

I parried his next few blows easily with my staff. The clang of metal rang out through the drizzle with every strike. He launched himself at me, and as I dodged once more, his axe buried itself in the wood of the stockade. I laughed, a dark, pleased sound that I barely recognized as my own. This man was no challenge. Something in me recognized this, and as much as I enjoyed toying with him, a primal urge sought release. I yanked his feet out from under him once more, dragging him away from his stuck axe. For the first time I saw fear, not cockiness. I stood astride him, feet planted in the mud on either side of his torso, the blade of my staff pressed to his throat. With every fiber of my being, I kept myself resolute and immovable. 

"ENOUGH." I thundered, and my voice seemed to freeze him in fear. I raised my staff high, bringing it down on his neck and slamming the earth below. Several moments passed like that, my staff wedged in the mud like a guillotine from the heavens, my armored form a glistening statue above my defeated opponent. When I finally jerked my staff smoothly free, I crossed to the center of the fort in only a few strides. All eyes were upon me now, and I stowed my staff, turning to face each of them. My comrades seemed in shock, and I took stock of them for a mere second.

"It is done." I said, the same commanding tone steeling my voice, my wet hair clung to my face, obscuring one side. I made no move to brush it away however. 

"Syraena, your eyes." Evelyn said, looking tense and staring at my face. 

"What about them?" My tone was still dark. It was not one I'd spoken in before today; it was regal and imposing and fierce all at the same time. Something about it rang through the air, and still nobody moved.

Evelyn seemed both terrified and wonderstruck as she answered in a shaky voice. "They're glowing."

Chapter Text

I stood my full height in the center of the fort, surrounded by wary friends and foes alike. Their trepidation brought forth my self-consciousness and broke through the odd composure that held me. I looked from Evelyn, to Cole, to Solas. I barely registered the confusion and recognition in his aura before he walled it away. 

"What do you mean, my eyes are glowing? That's pretty damn weird," I said, mustering some semblance of my usual demeanor. The marble statue I had become began to dissipate, leaving me worn and loose where the pieces fell away. My comrades began to settle, their anxiety clearing as I returned to normal.

"Friggin right, its weird. They were all like fiery and golden. Come to think on it, all your magic is friggin weird." Sera hopped from foot to foot, trying not to get mud in her boots. I shrugged in response, shaking my head like a dog to try to clear it. "Eughh I'm soggy, so let's get outta this muck, yeah?" the blonde elf shuddered drawing her cloak to her. 

There were murmurs of agreement through our group, and I bid he Blades of Hessarian (who were now mine, apparently) goodbye, simply telling them to defer to Head Scout Lace Harding, and await missives from my Spymaster. I had no intention of keeping them. They were a noble group with a noble purpose once, and I wanted to return them to their path if I could. Even as the stockade gates slammed shut behind us, I couldn't fully shake the numbness in my extremities.

 


 

I was running through a blossom strewn field, dotted with cherry trees and granite boulders. My feet moved of their own volition, and I wasn't sure if I was running toward something, or away. The air was thick with the scent of the pink and white blooms that filled my vision, and I breathed deep. No sign of exhaustion or exertion flagged my lungs. I reached a white marble ruin overlooking the sea, and I realized where I was.

The Fade. But why did it look like Summerset?

I stopped abruptly, and it was as if I hadn't been moving at all; my momentum merely ceased. I laid my hand over a crumbling ivy-draped column. As storm worn as it was, the Corinthian-esque carvings atop it were beautifully rendered and for the most part intact. I ran my slender fingers over the pale white surface for quite some time. The peace and serenity here rivaled that of my Earthbound perch on Mount Ascutney, but for altogether different reasons. I could have stayed there forever if it weren't for my guest.

"ASHA'LEAN." A chiming voice rang through the air from behind me. I turned quickly at the unfamiliar voice, and was nearly blinded by her golden glow. She sat upon the worn marble bench as though it were the loftiest throne in the world. The blinding image dimmed slightly, or my eyes adjusted to it; a woman with a long flowing gown pooling around her, white hair stark against the verdant backdrop. Though she appeared Elvhen, she bore no vallaslin. Four great golden horns curled upward from the sides of her head, and I suspected that they were more a part of her elaborate headdress than her body. Her gold eyes peered out from her ageless face, and I nearly collapsed upon seeing them. I knew those eyes... She was not old and wrinkled, nor was she heavily armored. She appeared pristine, beautiful.

Mythal's hand reached up for me, palm open. I placed my left hand atop hers, marveling at the silken texture of her skin. She sent a piercing glance to my face, my ears, my simple white silk shift and bare feet. She inspected the Anchor, flipping my hand over and over again. I did not speak. This was once a queen, a goddess. It was her court, so to speak.

"I suppose you do remember me then. I cannot remain for long, my vessel is not as strong as she once was. Hmmm...." She thought for a moment, hands still clasping mine. "You seem to have broken a seal, Lightbringer. I cannot say I'm surprised. Uthenera cannot hold one such as you forever." She stood fluidly, grasping my chin firmly in her hands as she lowered me to my knees before her.

At my look of confusion, she sighed. "U- Uthenera?" I asked tentatively. My hazel eyes locked by her golden ones, I couldn't move, and could barely utter that one word.

"Do you remember nothing?"

I shook my head. Mythal reared over me regally, raising my chin to her advantage. Her free hand tapped me gently on the forehead.

Fragmented images flashed through my mind at breakneck speed. A blinding explosion, a winged figure, hovering above a cowering man with dark hair. She brandished a golden staff toward him, and though it appeared she was shouting, no sound was heard. The silent scene shifted, and the golden figure struggled against dark bonds, twin evils holding her down in a smooth basin, while a third cast several runes over her. A drop of blood, the struggle stopped, the bonds released, the marble sarcophagus slammed shut over her. Over ME.

I gasped as though breaking the surface of the sea, and as my vision returned, Mythal's piercing gaze jolted through me. "Your seals are stronger than I thought. I cannot force you to remember- that must come from within you. I cannot say when the Wolf will remember, but I suspect he will when your final seal is shattered..." 

"The Wo- Fen'Harel? Solas knows... what, that I'm Elvhen?" 

"Elvhen... My dear you were, and are far more than that.... The Forgotten Ones sought their justice, and it split your soul. I'm glad you are becoming whole once more, but I cannot say more than that. You are not yet ready." 

"Justice, what- Dammit Mythal, I'm not going through this bullshit. This isn't some RPG, I'm not going to leave and come back here when I've levelled up! TELL ME!" My voice rang thunderously as I rose, that feeling of becoming a marble statue overtaking me once more as it had in the Waking. 

The pristine face before me shifted slightly to one of anger and... hurt? "For your eons of friendship and loyalty, I will forgive your tone Asha'lean. You are not yet fully yourself. But make no mistake, if you mock me so again I will take no time in correcting you. I am helping you as far as your fragmented soul will allow, and my patience will grow rather thin in the face of your impertinence. SIT." She directed me to the bench, snowy brows set in determination. 

Sit, not kneel. She did not want me to submit to her, she respected me too much to lord over me. Something in me rumbled in approval, and I knew that what she said was true. I walked past her to sit on the bench, careful not to step on her ethereal gown, and she sat beside me. Her soft hands grasped my own between us, and she placed a kiss high on my cheekbone. The gesture was not romantic; it was tender, motherly. "I cannot simply tell you millenia of suffering, of triumph. What you have done at my side for countless centuries cannot simply be forced back into your mind; it would break you again, even if your seals would allow me to. The Lady of Light should have been remembered long into the future, and yet none but the oldest spirits and myself remember you. Can you guess why that is?"

"Did the dudes in my vision erase me or some shit? But that doesn't explain why you remember me..." She gave no answer, but her immaculate white mane tossed as she looked over her shoulder. 

"We are not alone. Asha'lean, you will remember... give it time. Do not let your light go out." With that, Mythal vanished as though she'd never been.

I stood, facing the grove of cheery trees behind where Mythal had been. My hands burned with golden fire, but it felt hollow, insubstantial. Like forming cotton candy around my clenched fists. That's right, this is the Fade. My magic won't protect me here.

An eternity passed as I stared into the tree line, searching, waiting. All at once, gentle lights began to blink in and out of existence in the shadows. They did not come closer, but even from this distance i could hear them. Thousands of voices, echoes, whispered sweetly to me. I drank in their call, my feet moving once more on their own as I crept ever closer to the spirits.

...Asha'lean...

...Syraena...

...Asha'lean...

...Syraena...

"Vhenan, you must wake, now." Solas's voice cut through the deafening whispers, clear and near and real. I pushed off the Fade and returned to the Waking with a groan.

 

Chapter Text

Our return to Haven was met with a cold snap. It reminded me of New Hampshire; just when you thought spring was coming, it would freeze over and dump an extra two feet of snow on you. A proverbial "fuck you" from the clouds. This made me feel a dread unlike any I'd felt yet here. In the game, you staved off Corypheus by causing an avalanche and burying Haven in snow. With the quasi-spring I had gotten my hopes up, and now my frenetic worrying took hold.

Do we have enough supplies?

Did Solas's followers finish Skyhold?

How long do we have before...

Before...

I burst into the war room to find Leliana and Cullen poring over the map-laden table. Several new markers had popped up since our departure, a few even in the Hinterlands. I eyed them tiredly, noticing one that pinned a scrap of paper to the map. Looping delicate scrawl that I recognized as Leliana's simply said "Warden." How to broach the subject that he's an imposter... I pushed that thought aside, more pressing matters on the brain.

"Guys, we got a problem. We're gonna be attacked. Here. Soon." I fiddled with a marker over the Fallow Mire. "Anywhoo, um. I've made... arrangements. An abandoned fortress to the north. Trust my Fade-Seer crap or don't, but the one who made the Breach and killed the Divine is coming here, with an army. The vision ended with us barely escaping, Haven buried in an avalanche. Leliana, scout to the north, have Roderick show you the Summer Pilgrimage path. I have... friends... who have verified that the keep is empty but habitable. Send out for food and medical supplies. Have the mages put minor heating runes on small stones, to be handed out to everyone."

Leliana nodded, suspicious but willing. "When does this army attack, and how long do we have to make preparations?" 

"Not long. His signal is the breach closing. It pisses him off enough to come find me for meddling in his shit."

"Is this Keep defensible?" Cullen asked, all military tactician.

"It is. It sits atop a mountain peak, with a deep valley down below. You can see everything around you for miles, and the keep is too high up for siege equipment to breach the walls." I rattled off key features of Skyhold, giving a general sketch, and marking its location on the enormous map. "If they storm the castle on foot, there's plenty of room for oil pots here. It also sits on an ancient elvhen site, so the eons of magic have permeated the stones. Its essentially climate controlled, and with a little work we can produce a small food crop. I suggest apples, herbs and livestock. Eggs and apples won't be a hell of a lot, but with ample stores and some fresher stuff they won't be able to starve us out."

My assessment was met with approval by the blonde Commander, after a slight eyebrow raise.

"What was that look for, Cullen?"

"I was just curious as to how you know so much about siege warfare."

"Study. I built a ballista from scratch once, just for fun. Could probably replicate my results if I tried." I cleared my throat, turning my attention once more to the board. Therinfal Redoubt loomed to my right, and I picked up the piece. "How many were you able to save from red lyrium?"

"47. Not as many as we would have liked, but it was enough. The Lord Seeker's death in Val Royeaux left those infected leaderless. They were dealt with by my men... but I fear some escaped. It seems your precognition is genuine, and it saved lives."

"Glad to be of use. One last thing... the mineshaft between the trebuchets? Make sure that's clear of rubble, and that it is stocked with potions and a small portion of supplies. Have the men regularly maintain and test the trebuchets as well, to ensure they are functioning when... when the time comes."

"By your leave, Herald."

 


 

 

Once the Advisors and my circle knew of the evacuation plan, all our focus went to preparing the mages to assist with the Breach, and to stockpiling for our journey. Headcounts were done, and redone. Thousands of heating runes were made. Leliana's scouts hunted the surrounding area for as much game as they could find to be turned into jerky and leathers. We decided that the end of the mineshaft, once cleared, would be a waypoint for me to meet up with them, to restock and regroup. I would not have to stumble through the frozen wasteland alone, and it would give them a chance to rest. It was too narrow for the bulk of our forces, and impossible to get horses and carts into, but a handful of our men held it secure until it was time. These were the scouts that would likely have died when Corypheus' army set upon them. Instead, Solas cast some runes in the pass the army would arrive from, similar to the ones we used on the outskirts of camp. They would send up a flare once triggered, visible from miles away; they were virtually undetectable, so there was absolutely no way the bumbling mindless monster army could avoid them. 

I got noticeably antsy in the following weeks. I stayed busy to keep from worrying, and crashed heavily into the Fade each night to replenish. It soon became apparent that I could no longer put off closing the Breach. Leliana received word from her scouts that they had indeed located Skyhold, and that it was empty and waiting. Solas assured me that his followers had departed the keep through the eluvian, and were given orders to wait until our arrival to assimilate into the bulk of the Inquisition's forces. All eyes were watching me as I gave the order to move the mages out to the ruined Temple of Sacred Ashes. 

The shuffling footsteps of the mages crunched through the fallen snow, and the trepidation in the group stilled us as we passed under the final crumbling arch. The breach was high and shimmering. I barely registered Cullen and Leliana placing the mages on each balcony above me, and I took unsteady breaths in the piercing cold air. A shout, a rallying cry, and the sound of dozens of staves colliding with the snowy stones. A massive force nearly sent me careening forward toward the Breach, and I harnessed that momentum to rip my acid green tether through the Breach. The Anchor crackled menacingly, and I looked to Solas as the Breach put up heavy resistance. His power joined that of the mages behind us, and the addition of the fallen Evanuris's force tipped the scales in our favor. The scarry skies shuddered, groaned, and erupted in a blinding light. When my eyes cleared of spots, the Breach was gone, leaving only a puckered scar where it had been. 

 A brief pause as the shock dissipated then...

Cheering. Utter relief. My name upon many lips, cries of joy on every tongue. Solas slipped his arms around me as I fell to my knees in exhaustion. His chest made the best pillow, if only for a moment, as we celebrated our first major win. I leaned on him for support for our journey back to Haven.

 


 

The celebrations lasted longer than I'd expected. I mean, I guess it would take time for the grotesque Red Templar army to reach us... But a week of partying, drinking, laughing, it almost made it harder knowing that the town would soon fall. 

I sipped at an ale on the eighth day of such festivities. The twilight settling over the valley was full of laughter, and someone had even found instruments. Their music drifted through the air along with our frosty breath. It hadn't gone unnoticed that I stayed fully armored even inside the fortifications. My trident-staff strapped to my back, my cloak fastened around my neck. It set a few villagers on edge, but with as often as I trained on the lake or spent time with my Inner Circle, it didn't rouse many suspicions. 

I shifted uncomfortably in my stormheart scales, and soon felt a soothing brush on my shoulder. 

"Too happy, too high before the fall. You're worried." Cole sat down beside me, or rather perched on the hewn log bench. I jumped about a foot in the air at his arrival.

"Fuck Cole, give a girl some warning. Sneaking up on friends isn't cool." 

"Whaddya mean, not cool? Some of my best pranks involved sneaking up on someone! Also hiccups." Sera grinned deviously, probably planning something.

"Sera, I shit you not if you sneak attack me and put a frog down my pants I'm dyeing all yours bright. Fucking. Pink. Everything - your entire goddamn wardrobe will look like a barrel of pink paint threw up on it." I gave her a dark look, to which she laughed.

"Remind me not to piss you off, O Elfy Tits. Great idea though, the frog thing. D'you know they give you warts if they piss on you?" 

I sighed. "No, they don't. That's a myth. And you can't outprank me, I invented the glitter bomb. You'll be finding sparkles in places it shouldn't be for weeks."

"Oh you wanna bet? You know I do this for a living, yeah?"

Varric chose that particular moment to arrive at our fireside circle, ale and a sheaf of papers in either hand. "What are we betting on?"

"Sera thinks she can get the better of me, prank wise. I think not. There isn't a single prank she can do that I haven't already done. Anywhoo, by the power vested in me by the Maker or whoever the fuck, I dub thee Official Bookie to the Inquisition. You probably have a metric shitton of pools going, if I know anything about you."

"As a matter of fact, I do. There's already a hefty sum placed on you and Chuckles. You two wouldn't happen to be-"

"KNOCKING ELFY BITS?" Sera made thrusting motions in the air. 

"Sera, no."

"DOING THE DALISH DOGGY?" 

"I don't even know what-"

"RESTORING ELVHEN GLORY? I bet he calls that out when he-"

"SERA."

"OHHHHH GLOOOOOOORY!" she threw her head back, moaning into the cold night air.

I stood up, dashing toward her before she could recover from her riotous cackling. I pinned her to the snowbank, stuffing a fistful of icy white retribution down the front of her tunic. She shrieked as the snow hit her skin, and tried desperately to shake it out of her cleavage. I began to back away casually amidst her spluttering, when I heard it turn to laughter again. 

Solas stood by the fire, very near where I had sat before dishing out my divine punishment. His ears were red, but his face was a mask of stone. "I do not... 'Glory'... fenedhis..."

"Hello, vhenan. Excellent timing, as usual."

"I simply wished to see the source of the commotion, though I suppose I should not be surprised to see Sera at the heart of it." The corner of my lips pulled up into a half smile, and I made my way toward him. I reclaimed my spot on the bench, guiding him down beside me and handing him a wineskin. The circle was quiet for a moment more, everyone idly drinking. The music still drifted lazily through the air, and my previous unease was nearly forgotten. I leaned my head on Solas's arm, breathing deep. He smelled of elfroot and parchment, with an earthy musk I couldn't place. 

Cole reappeared in front of us, wringing his hands. "I didn't sneak up on you, I tried, but... you told me to give you warning. Red, raging, roiling hatred. He comes, the Elder One. He is angry you took his mages. He wants to take them back. He's here."

And as I stood quickly, searching the valley, a single bright flare erupted in the sky from far away.

Chapter Text

As the flare rocketed into the sky, shouts pierced the lazy exuberance in the air. The warning bells began to cry out, and some sick part of my brain kept repeating, "The beacons are lit! Gondor calls for aid!" instead of doing something useful. I couldn't move, other than crane my neck around. People ran by me, infants cried, men urged their wives onward, and still I was rooted to the spot. My breath curled around me in the icy air.

Josephine, Cullen, Leliana and Cassandra found me by the fire a short time later, worried looks on their faces. "It's him. Cole checked. Corypheus is here." I said lowly. I looked to each of them, hoping they'd gotten everything ready in time, that there would be no steps forgotten.

The Antivan bit her lip. "Now is not the time to panic. We must evacuate everyone out through the back of the Chantry."

Cullen frowned, crossing his arms over his breastplate. "Our men have been informed of a potential attack, and are ready to move. I've already given the order to escort everyone to the Chantry for evacuation. With any luck, they'll all be gone before the army arrives. Josephine, Leliana, you'll go with them. Cassandra, if you could assist me in evacuating these homes, it would go a lot faster." 

The women nodded, briskly walking away and ushering passersby to the escape route. Solas, Sera, Varric and Cole helped me sweep the stables, the training yard, the soldiers' camp. We'd barely verified that there we'd cleared the outer reaches of Haven when the first torches could be seen on the horizon. I swallowed hard, steeling myself. The feeling of marble creeping up my skin steadied me. I am the Dread Siren. I can do this. 

"Cole, get to the Chantry. They will need your Compassion. Solas, Varric, with me. Sera, go find Bull, quickly. We're gonna need him, and I'd prefer you stay with Evelyn right now. She's probably with Fiona and the mages. Crack some jokes, distract everyone, keep morale high." I delegated tasks to each of my comrades, shoulders back and chin high. I am a bulwark. I am the picture of strength and authority. I can DO THIS. There was no time for doubt, and they needed me. 

The Iron Bull shut the stockade gates behind him, shoving hard to seal everyone inside. The four of us stood ready, barriers up and Luminous Shards down. Breathe in, breathe out.

The army was crossing the frozen lake, and an idea struck me. "Solas, how hard can you hit that ice with a Fade strike?"

The elf nodded, walking forward gracefully, standing stock still on the edge of the lake for a mere second. His staff raised horizontally above his head, he swung it down with a massive wave ripped from the Fade. It collided with the frozen surface, causing enormous cracks across it. The lake splintered, fragmented, with a mighty roar. As Solas knelt to recover, a large section of the army was crushed between plates of ice. Red Templars were mashed like bugs, heaved, and drowned under the roiling wintry lake. Those that had not stepped onto the lake went around, giving me a few moments to cast shards to Solas, replenishing his drained mana. He returned to my side protectively, ripping a cork from a vial of lyrium potion with his teeth before downing it. 

"I hope that was sufficient, vhenan. I admit it was a brilliant strategy, but let us not use it again."

"I don't think it would take them by surprise twice. Oh goody, Fuckface has joined the party." I pointed to the cliff, where three looming figures stood bathed in a red glow. Three?

Corypheus was there, his monstrous body and wrathful grimace indiscernible from this distance but no doubt present. Samson's red lyrium armor glowed sharply against the bare rock, standing at the Elder One's side. But the third...

Gereon Alexius.

No no no no no no no no. 

I fixed this.

I got to the mages before the time warp.

I averted his plan.

He should not be here.

My stony face became a snarl, teeth bared on one side. 

He will die just the same. 

A purple streak to my right drew my attention, darting through the trees and crackling in the air around it. The figure moved with incredible speed, his Fade Step throwing off lightning as he careened toward us. His breakneck pace did nothing to ruffle his perfectly gelled hair and mustache. My golden glimmer cast from my body as I Fade stepped to meet him. I had the dopiest grin on my face as we collided with all the force of two steam trains.

"Dorian, you absolutely fucking beautiful man!" I yelled giddily, hugging him from where I'd knocked him onto his ass in the snowbank. "I was wondering when you'd show up!"

My labrador enthusiasm was met with complete confusion and wariness. "Oh shit, you don't know me yet... ummmm..." He stood up and brushed himself off haughtily, staring at me with a bemused smile. 

"Indeed I don't, but I see my wonderful reputation precedes me. Dorian Pavus, most recently of Minrathous, at your service. And you are...." he cast a glance at my left hand, my immaculately crafted armor. "Ah."

"Syraena Dire, most recently of The Hovel 'Round the Bend, Haven. So-called Herald of Andraste, Dread Siren of the Inquisition. And though I'm absolutely sure tales of your impeccable taste and dashing good looks have spread far and wide, I'm a Seer. At least, that's what they're calling that thing I do where I see possible futures. I know why you're here, and yes we will stop Alexius from using his fucky time magic."

"Seer indeed. Tell me; do I only get more handsome with age?" He stroked his mustache idly, eyebrow cocked.

"Absofuckinglutely. The most swoon-worthy silver fox in all of Thedas. Men everywhere will fall at your feet." His grin widened at that. "But I'd like to get this show on the road; everyone's already evacuated, we just gotta set off these trebuchets. Come join the fun!"

"I believe I will do just that."

We returned to the group with barely enough time for introductions before we were set upon by the first wave of the gruesome forces.

The lake had swallowed a quarter of the Red Templar army... and when we fired the first trebuchet, the avalanche that followed took out another quarter. Half his army was decimated, and still Corypheus sent more. We fought wave after wave of corrupted Templars, spires of red lyrium warping their features. So sure was he of his triumph, so assured of the fact he could replace his army in an instant, he did not care for a couple hundred Red Templars. It was sickening, his disregard for human life, and that was what spurred me onward as we bolted for the second trebuchet. Primed and ready, thanks to my heads-up to Cullen. The five of us sprinted up the path, and were not twenty feet away when a figure materialized ahead of us, blocking our approach. 

"Dorian, I am most disappointed that you did not accept my offer. The Elder One will bring a glorious new age to us all, and it is a pity you chose the wrong path. You could've been at my side when the world is cleansed." Magister Alexius stood before us, staff in hand. His other hand clenched in a fist in midair. "No matter. Those that stand against the Elder One's Might will be crushed."

"Oh Alexius can't you see that when you are no longer of use to him, Corypheus will toss you aside? He can't cure Felix, but he might make him some red lyrium beast. Mindless and tormented, no longer the son you loved." I stepped closer, trying to drill that last point into the Magister's thick skull. 

"NO! The Elder One has plans! Felix will be beside me, and nothing you say will stop us!" Alexius' gloved hand darted into his robes, pulling out the Amulet. Almost in slow motion, I watched as Dorian dove toward me. The searing light from the Amulet's spell enveloped us both, and all was darkness. 

 


 

They disappeared in a flash of light, Syraena and the new mage both. All that was left of them was a scorch mark upon the gravel. A vicious growl tore through his throat. He was so close, too close, to letting out his wolf. But that would have doomed him immediately, and he could not do that to her. All he could do was fight this Tevinter Magister, and will that his vhenan would find her way back. She must. 

 


 

It was a scene straight out of end-game. The sky was in tatters, and the ground was no better. Haven was destroyed, spikes of red lyrium commanding every available piece of earth between wrecked homes. The ruins of the Temple floated high in the air, ripped from the ground like a weed and pulled toward the bleeding Breach. The eerie song of the Blight infected lyrium was a cruel cacophony in my mind. Somewhere in the white noise was a chorus of a million screams. Dorian and I had only a breath of rest after our sudden arrival. Demons flooded us, and it took every ounce of mana I had to stem the tide. Two lyrium potions were all I had, not only to fight my way to future-Alexius, but to stave off Corypheus upon my possible return. 

No.

I WILL return. 

There is no maybe.

"For a supposed Seer, you seem awfully baffled." Dorian said, panting after our last defense. 

"I thought I avoided this future. In the future I saw, Alexius used his time magic to arrive in Redcliffe before the Conclave. But I took the mages out of the Hinterlands before he made the decision to jump. I didn't know he'd come here..."

"So your visions are subjective? Fascinating. And in this other future, how exactly did we escape?" He cast an eye around us, looking for an out. None could be seen amidst the snow and rubble.

"We need to locate Alexius, and use the same spell he used to send us forward, except re-engineer it backwards. You were excellent at doing so on short notice as I recall, so I have complete and utter faith in your ability to reverse it." I began to walk toward the one remaining structure in the center of what was Haven. The Chantry looked a little worse for the wear, but it was the only conceivable place here that the Magister could lord over all he had wrought. Each alleyway brought a fresh wave of demons and Red Templars, and charred bodies littered our path. All the destruction I had seen on screen could not prepare me for the stench of death, for the primal fight response that reared in me with each slain foe. The closer we got to the Chantry, the more dense the scattering of bodies became. It seemed Alexius had brought us to a future in which the Inquisition had failed to escape Corypheus's siege of Haven. I tried not to see their faces, feeling ill and boiling over with righteous anger. Torn blood red banners flew in place of the Inquisition's, a warped black sword emblazoned in their center. I set each of them ablaze in an act of defiance. This future wouldn't last long, but I would not have our home be marred by such blatant disrespect.

I pounded open the tall oak doors, sweeping the dungeons first. I don't know if I was more disappointed or relieved to find them empty. At least my friends didn't have to suffer the torture they had in the Redcliffe Future... Leliana's office was empty as well, and Josephine's. The last door we hadn't checked was that of the War Room. A logical option, and I knew the layout of the room like the back of my hand. No pillars for him to hide behind, tight enough quarters to finish him off quickly and with minimal fuss... at least, that's what I was hoping.

Alexius stood over the map of Thedas, and the black stains across the continents indicated regions Corypheus had conquered, I realized with horror. As I slammed open the door with an animalistic shriek, the Magister stumble backward, pressed to the wall. 

"Im...impossible. I k-killed you," he stuttered, fear stricken.

My limbs fortified, the form of Asha'lean taking hold in the grip of my fingers, in the solid stance of my feet. A burning ember in my chest set every nerve in my body aflame. "You? Kill me?" I laughed darkly, towering over him. "I have survived far worse than you could ever do to me."

In a flash, an Aedric Spear burned in my palm; I paused for the span of a moment, knowing that my glowing golden gaze would be the last thing this version of Corypheus's minion would ever see. I slammed it forward, pinning him to the wall. Even as the spear disintegrated in a flare of golden shards, the Magister's slumped form hit the floor, and the Amulet rolled from his grasp.

Dorian retrieved it with a wary glance at my face.

"Yes, I know, my eyes are glowing. Get on with it." I urged, shaking loose my stony form. He inspected my face for a moment more, then turning to the oddly shaped magical tool. It was too bulky to be worn as a necklace, and larger than a pocket watch. 

"This is the same amulet he used before. I think it's the same one we made in Minrathous. That's a relief. Give me an hour to work out the spell he used, and I should be able to reopen the Rift." Dorian's hands began to glow as he tinkered with it.

"That's gonna be kinda fucking impossible. We don't have an hour Dorian." I indicated the swarm of red Templars headed up the hill toward the Chantry, visible from here through the two open sets of doors. I Fade Stepped to the outer ones, closing them with a solid thud, just in the nick of time. I hastily drew some runes to hold it, the wooden surface shuddering under my hand as the creatures pounded into it from the other side. I did the same with the War room door, the final rune on the outer barricade fizzling away.

The chunky Amulet began to glow a seafoam green, and floated in the air above Dorian's hands as the demon army set upon the inner door. The air burst in the same pale minty light, a familiar rift opening before us. It enveloped us both just as a Terror demon reached out its clawed hand through the fragmented war room door. 

Chapter Text

The time rift slammed shut with an emerald flurry of light. Dorian stood slightly behind me, wary and slightly panting from mana exhaustion. I saw a slight glint as he shoved the square future-amulet in his pocket. I pretended not to see it, however; of anyone in the Inquisition, I trusted him the most with researching it. I would make no prisoner of Alexius. 

"You'll have to do better than that," Dorian said, a small quirk of his lips slanting his mustache.

I stalked forward, back ramrod straight and chin high. Regal as a queen, deadly as the raging inferno that lit my nerves. Slow, predatory. Unlike his broken and mourning future-self, Alexius had something to lose, and he snarled at me like a caged mongoose. My face remained stoic and impassive as I approached, twenty feet, fifteen feet, ten feet...

"The past cannot be undone. All that you fought for, all that you betrayed... What have you wrought? Ruin and death, there is nothing else. Gereon Alexius, your time is up." And with that, I lunged toward him. My armored toes dug into the gravel, and my body darted forward at a sharp angle, staff aimed for his neck.

He parried my staff like it was second nature, and countered it with a blow of his own to my jaw. The head of the staff resembled a dual edged war axe, one of its round twin blades nearly catching my jugular. As far as I leaned back to avoid it, gravity was not my friend. I compensated for my backward momentum with a somersault. My silver siren whip uncoiled from my right arm and latched ahold of his thigh. Alexius stumbled, and I cast the whip out again, aiming for his staff. He saw my plan, and allowed it to coil around his wrist, effectively stopping me from disarming him. He pulled, hard, setting me reeling forward. 

I saw a flash of red in my periphery....my teammates had their own opponent to deal with. A massive Red Lyrium behemoth had staggered into the clearing, and was being held in taunt by Bull. He was shouting incoherently, a shimmering barrier coating his grey skin. Even without a shield, he was every bit the tank Cassandra would be because he felt no pain. The rage on his face was mixed with something suspiciously close to giddy pleasure. Varric's bolts did little to the beast, however. 

"Use ICE!" I shouted over the din, Fade-stepping around Alexius. It was all the instruction I could spare, given that the Magister was quite literally attempting to rip me to shreds. His staff sliced through the air around me, and I found myself going on the defensive. 

Luminous Shards were cast before me, but they weren't my golden ones. Moonlight silver dusted my calves, filling me with vigor. Solas. Faster and faster I wove around Alexius's slices. I absolutely hated the defensive. My evasion was the only thing saving me, and if he should get a good hit in there would be no restart, no revive.

An inhuman shriek fled my throat, and I flung an aedric spear at him. The shimmering pale shaft of light sent him sprawling in the snow 10 feet away; in his attempt to stand, I wrapped my coil around his foot. It was my turn to yank him across the field, and a fierce grin split my stone mask as he jolted none too gently on his bumpy ride. It was made even more uncomfortable by a wash of lightning sparks that coated the ground. Dorian had covered the area in dancing purple volts that overlapped Solas's frosty crystals. I jerked my whip free, kicking him in the face with a beautifully crafted size 8 stormheart sabaton. It caught him just under his nose, forcing the nub of flesh and cartilage upward. His face was a bloody pulpy mess, and the Magister grasped his broken nose with a gloved hand. Crimson spurted from between his fingers, and before he could heal himself I kicked him again, square in the gut. 

A thunderous roar bellowed to my right, accompanied by a loud cracking. It sounded as if the very earth was shattering, but upon glancing up I realized my friends had brought the behemoth to its knees. Solas was freezing it solid, while Bull shattered off  its red spikes. A final blow tore its tiny helmeted head from its demented body. A brief flash told me one of the mages had cast a basic healing spell, but I had already turned my attentions back to the panting hooded man. 

I stomped harder on the body below me, ribs crunching under my heel. All the anger had fled from the Magister, replaced with fear and spite. My staff bit into his robes, bladed trident piercing deep. Alexius spat blood at me, bold against the deep teal of my scales. 

"You flaunt your stolen mark, a gift you don't even understand, and think you're in control? You're nothing but a mistake. The Elder One has power you would not believe. He will burn this world with a cleansing flame, and He will raise the Imperium from its own ashes." Red trickled from the corner of his mouth, and I knew that I had caused internal bleeding when making foot-ribcage-soup. The second amulet I pried from his grasp, struggling with his fingers as he bled away. 

"And you will not be alive to see it." My blinding spear of holy light leapt to my palm, and as I had in the Dark Future I drove it straight through his chest. 

Every fiber of my being was aflame with power. Something in me roared victorious, a silent battle cry through my body. Even with a million words and all the amulets in the world to buy me time, I could not describe the sensation enough to do it justice. It was as though the glory of the sun sat in my chest, flinging power through my veins. My arms longed to spread wide, no longer flesh but living stone, impenetrable armor of solidified fire in every cell. I could torch everything, or bathe everything in a righteous glow. Every sense was heightened. The smell of blood, the nearly microscopic swirls of magic flitting through the air, the sound of snow crunching underfoot.... It was this amplified hearing that picked up the heavy beating of dragon wings, bearing down on the deep green pines below its gusts.

A booming laugh sounded at my side. The Iron Bull slung his massive weapon over his shoulder, grinning wide. "Please tell me we get to fight that." 

"Not today, not if I can help it. The moment it lands, I need to hit that trebuchet. I'll meet you guys in the tunnel. Now, GO!" I ordered, pointing to the mineshaft. I watched as each of them ducked into the opening, one at a time. Solas was the last one down, and I fade stepped toward him. I grabbed his jaw on either side, firmly planting a kiss on his slightly chapped lips. His arms encircled me like a drowning man would a life raft, taking no heed of the sharp planes of my armor against his lightly armored chest. It was crushing, blazing, and for a moment it was just the two of us in the growing snowstorm. My hands still gripped his strong jaw, and I used the pad of my thumb to push him away just far enough to look him in the eyes. 

"I promise I will meet you on the other side. Take care of yourself, vhenan." Just as quickly as I had fade-stepped toward him, I fade-stepped away.

 


 

 

I positioned myself on the platform beside the trebuchet controls, waiting. I shifted my feet, subconsciously widening my stance and bracing for impact. The corrupted dragon flew low over my head, slamming to the ground with an unearthly scream, a crackling inferno pouring from its maw. This dragon may have been a thing of beauty and power once, and what was left of its deep crimson skin peeled and cracked under the black infection. It looked almost as if it had been doused in a vat of Red Lyrium infused acid; the stench emanating from it was nearly as deadly as the cruel jagged claws on each leg. Corypheus dismounted his dragon in a stereotypically evil fashion, and I laughed at the sight. Fucking hell my nerves must really be shot, I thought.

The corrupted magister stalked toward me through the red haze and flames kicked up by his beast. My laughter only pissed him off more. 

"ENOUGH," he thundered. His long, claw-fingered hands attempted to blast me back with his sick magic, but I stood fast. 

"Wow nice entrance, Fuckface." I indicated the overly dramatic backdrop. "Nice and villain-y."

His sneer could curdle milk, but my sanity was too far gone to strike fear. "Pretender. You toy with forces beyond your ken. No more."

I held my Anchor aloft, gesturing to Fen'Harel's Foci with it. "Oh you mean this thing? I gotta say I'm a little miffed you got to touch my boyfriend's balls before I did. Oh sorry... Ball, singular." 

"You know nothing of what you speak. Know me, know what you have pretended to be. Exalt the Elder One! The will that is Corypheus!" He hissed menacingly. Somewhere in the back of my brain, I estimated he was around eight feet tall. I couldn't tell if the red lyrium ecrusting his torso was armor or actually sprouting from his body. Is that leather or his actual skin? His face was just as gruesome, his fabric hood nearly grown to his cheekbones, and nailed in place by red crystalline spikes.

"I know more than you think, Fucky McFuckface. Speaking of, you really should have a doctor look at that. It's a mess." I broadly waved over my face, stifling a laugh. "But I digress. I know who you are already, I know how you got Fen'Harel's Foci, and I know that you were supposed to die unlocking it. Fortunately for you, that dragon there is one overgrown Nagini Horcrux. You don't scare me, you arrogant tumor-riddled zombie." My face set in determination, shooing away the crazy my mouth spouted unauthorized.

Corypheus roared unintelligibly, his arm ripping through the air, and as though my left hand was held on a leash, he yanked me forward. 

"It is your fault, 'Herald.' You interrupted a ritual years in the making, and instead of dying, you stole its purpose." He yanked again, drawing me toward him. I held my ground as determinedly as I could, my body only shuffling forward a few steps. I grinned in response, even as he redoubled his efforts. I pushed a damp strand of auburn hair out of my face.

"Yeah about that. I don't really remember what happened. One minute I was blasting 'Thunder,' on my way to the store, and then I guess I died... and then I woke up in someone else's dungeon fantasy with Cassandra. It was the weirdest shit. Can you tell your Nightmare pet to give my memories back? That'd be greaaaat..." 

"You fling arrogance like a weapon, but I will not suffer even a rival such as you. You must die." Corypheus raised his hand as though to beckon his dragon. Behind him, a flare rose silently into the sky. The people of Haven were out.

"You? A rival? Pffft. You can't even tell when somebody is using snark to distract you." And with that I kicked the trebuchet dial, launching the last stone toward the snow covered mountainside. The force of the blow brought the entire eastern face crashing toward us, and I fade-stepped toward the mineshaft opening, using every last drop of mana to send me into its depths before the avalanche buried me in. The last thought that drifted through my brain? 

Shit, did I ever put down something soft to land on?

No. No I did not.

Chapter Text

I was being fireman carried. A broad arm between my legs, my armored ass displayed for all to see. I opened my eyes to see nothing but a massive thigh in what looked like circus tent pants. Slow, steady strides gave little jostling, even across the rocky terrain of the mineshaft.

That's a big leg.

A grumbling laugh shook me, a shoulder directly in my stomach rising and falling in short bursts.

"Mornin' Boss. How was your nap?" Bull's voice, directly under me. Shit did I just comment on his leg out loud?

"I hurt. You know, I understand that shirts have it out for you, but why are you not wearing a cloak at least? It's gonna be a long walk in a blizzard."

"I'll manage Boss. Though if you're really concerned, you can always help me and my big leg warm up if I get frostbitten." He continued walking, no sign of weariness or slowing.

I snorted. "Yeah, by lighting your ass on fire. Thanks, but hard pass. You should ask Dorian to help out with that." I kept my voice cheerful and matter-of-fact, as though I were recommending pizza for dinner. A choking, indignant stutter sounded from somewhere ahead. Though I didn't possess the ability to see out my ass, I could tell that Dorian had heard me. "Oh shove it Dorian. You can't tell me that you haven't already thought of his big leg in the ten minutes you've known him."

"That is absolutely preposterous. And I fear you've lost quite the chunk of time. It's been at least four hours since I joined your party."

"Hey... four hours to ogle his big leg, bud." I lifted my hand to the Iron Bull's shoulder blade, attempting to tap out.

"No can do; I've got orders to haul you back. He specified that I was not to let you down. Under no circumstance am I to let you overexert yourself. Sorry Boss." He kept his arm firmly in place. It was hooked between my legs, effectively locking my knee.

"Who, Commander Cullen? You can tell that pompous lion to stuff it where he sits. He's not too pretty to get his ass beat by the damsel in distress. Lemme down." I attempted to wiggle free, feeling a sharp pain radiating from my shoulder down my side. 

"No not him. Solas. I don't know if you'd noticed but it's the quiet ones who are the most dangerous when provoked. Quit fighting me or you'll hurt yourself further." The path began to slope upward below us, and I knew we weren't far from the final corridor. Hmmm no Rift?

"So just you and Dorian came to fetch me, huh? Where are the others?" I asked the sarcastic brute. I craned my head up over his other shoulder, seeing that it was indeed just the three of us. Dorian led the way with his staff acting as a light source, bright and slightly white-purple. The effect was that of cool fluorescent lighting, throwing the damp stone walls and the craggy ground into sharp relief. 

"The bald elf with the unfortunate attire was recruited to heal the evacuees. The dwarf with the obscene amount of chest hair is also helping, I assume. Those with the worst injuries are being kept inside the tunnels ahead. Sadly my healing is not my area of expertise." 

I huffed as Bull shifted my body slightly, his shoulder briefly pushing all the wind from my lungs. "No I know. You prefer lightning and necromancy. I prefer my battlebuddies living, thanks. Besides.... Someone has to keep the DPS's from committing suicide by idiocy. They're always blaming the healer if they fuck up; not my fault they're a dumbass."

Bull looked at me with a sideways glance, his one good eye trained on me. "I've never heard that acronym before, but I'm guessing you mean the hitters. Swords, daggers, that kind of thing...."

"Oh shit; yeah. DPS stands for Damage Per Second. Where I'm from, they calculate how much damage over time you can do mathematically. I was never good with the numbers, but I didn't have to worry about them. I just had to heal and keep everyone supplied with Shards... a support role. I'd only ever fight with my spears if backed into a corner. Anyway, I've had many a cocky dual wielder charge ahead, disregarding the fact that defenses hadn't been established. And they'd die, or blame me for their injuries."

"How would one even calculate damage?" Dorian's interest in science was piqued.

I thought for a moment. Great job. Explain your way outta this one. "It's simple really. Say two mages are using the same fire spell on the same material with the same equipment. The mage that is stronger will burn the object hotter, or burn it up faster. You'd find the time it took to destroy two identical items given the same circumstances. With those proficient in a two-handed sword, you'd have them do the same cut on the same exact type of material with the same equipment. The guy who cuts deeper, more forcefully, is stronger. Force is measured by multiplying mass times acceleration. Again, I was never great with the numbers." I tried to remember what I could from high school. I hoped it would be enough to sate Dorian's hunger for something to research.

"Fascinating. Once we get out of this horrendous cold, I shall have to look into it further. It's quite the concept."

The sounds of crowd chatter reverberated through the tunnel now. I could hear crying, talking, and someone shouting orders. As the three of us turned the last bend, the ruckus was magnified tenfold. From my vantage point I could only see what Bull had already walked past, so no sign of Solas and the others yet. Fiona had set her healers up among the injured; their hands glowed faint green as they mended broken legs, head wounds. Thankfully there were no casualties yet. All the injures appeared to be products of the mad dash to evacuate. But that could change, depending on the long harsh trek to Skyhold. This early spring blizzard could break, or it could just as easily freeze us in our tracks.

It quickly became clear that the crates, barrels and wagons laden with supplies formed a makeshift barricade that the evacuees hid behind for both safety and warmth. The mouth of the cave is where we finally stopped, and I could feel the tingle of magic in the air, sealing out most of the cold like a thin curtain between us and the vast mountain range. 

I refrained from acting the petulant child - are we there yet? - and waited in my undignified position to be put down.

"I see you have located the Herald. Good work. She'll need rest before we plan our next move. Lady Dire, are you quite alright?" The creaking of armor sounded, likely from Cullen crossing his arms over his broad chest.

My voice was perfectly cheerful in response. "Heyyy Cullen. I can't feel my face and my side hurts but I am doing excellent. Being upside down really changes one's perspective. You should try it sometime."

"I believe I will pass." Cullen said. Bull still had not set me down yet, and so Cullen was essentially talking to my stormheart-clad ass. I could already picture his awkward avert thine eyes.

Bull shifted my weight on his shoulder. "She called you pretty and threatened to beat your ass in the same sentence. I think she's going to be just fine."

A breathy, feminine chuckle accompanied Cullen's embarrassed sputtering. "Now that is a sparring match I would pay good coin to see," came Leliana's goading.

"I'd take him. He can't beat what he can't catch. If I wasn't slung over this giant asshat's shoulder like a sack of flour, I'd heal myself properly and show Prettyboy a good time."

"Fair words from someone presenting her backside to the Commander of her armies." Dorian joined in on the roast, and I winked at him from where he stood in my line of sight.

"Don't be jealous Dorian. I'm sure if you asked nicely, we could switch places."

"Maker's breath. Please bring Lady Dire to Solas for healing. We can discuss your sparring practice another time."

"Ayyy he didn't say no! Leliana get your coin purse ready..." As the Iron Bull turned his back to them I grinned and gave them both the thumbs up. Cullen was beet red under Leliana's amused scrutiny. Josephine was mere feet away, inspecting the documents we'd salvaged in a chest, delicate smile dancing on her face.


 

We managed to find Solas in an adjacent passage of the mine, where he tended to the stock of healing supplies alone. Bull finally set me down on a crate, leaving me to get my side mended. I pulled at my mana, my hands beginning to glow golden. With lightning reflexes, Solas grabbed my wrist. "You must not overexert yourself. Allow me."

"I'll tell you what I told Bull. I'm not fragile, and I have a bit of mana left to heal myself; I guess it regenerated while I was unconscious. I didn't even fight Corypheus and his horcrux dragon." I was whining in my defense, and I knew it. Solas ignored me however, pale fingers unfastening the stays in my armor with practiced motions. He hiked up my sweat-saturated undershirt; the extensive bruising coated my entire left side, from hip to shoulder, spanning the majority of my ribs. It was the side I had landed on, my left arm crushed to my side yet miraculously unbroken. It too was decorated with sickly green bruising, fresh and sensitive to the touch. Solas completely removed my cuirass, and my undershirt soon followed it on the floor of the passage. I knew that I'd risk hypothermia with a wet shirt in the cold, but this did not make me feel any better about sitting there in my breastband, my cloak only covering half my torso. The part Solas was currently healing was exposed to the frigid air, and my nipple pebbled through the cotton. I could feel the restraint he struggled with in his aura; to distract myself from jumping him, I stretched my right hand out delicately, fluid gentle swirls of my fingers materializing glittering light-gems from the air. It felt like running my fingers over the surface of a babbling brook. 

Solas seemed to be pondering something as he fixed my tender ribcage. I glanced down at him, letting the flickering glitter roll off my fingertips and fade away. "What's got you so deep in your thoughts?"

"You said his dragon is a... horcrux. I am unfamiliar with the term." His brows furrowed, still focused on his task. A faint itching sensation told me that not only the flesh was bruised, but the ribs themselves. 

I winced through my chuckling. "Oh it's a Harry Potter thing. There was a series of fantasy books about an orphaned kid, a boy who was the subject of a prophecy from birth. He was destined to fight and defeat this evil guy, who broke off seven pieces of his soul by murdering people. Each piece was stuffed into different artifacts... a sword, a locket, a diadem, a chalice, a ring, a book, and a living serpent. Unless you destroyed all of his horcruxes, the Dark Lord was unkillable. The pieces of his soul protected by the artifacts would assure his revival. Corypheus's dragon is the same. If we don't kill the dragon first, Corypheus will just jump into the body of the nearest blighted creature, Warden or darkspawn."

"I see. It is old Tevinter magic, and comes at quite a cost. It is likely why his body is distorted; he could not retain his humanity after such an act."

"No, probably not. He's one of the mages that supposedly broke into the Fade, corrupted the Golden City and thus created the Blight."

"I suspect the corruption of the Golden City had little to do with them. If the Evanuris could not break out, the magisters could not break in. At least not to the Inner Sanctum. I have checked. Their prison remains intact; blackened, but whole."

"The Evanuris are in the Black City? Corypheus said he has seen the throne of the Maker, and it sat empty."

"Because it is not the Maker's. It was Mythal's. I left that chamber separate from the place where the Evanuris are kept. I would not see her seat despoiled by the traitors."

His fingers lingered on my skin a moment more, brushing over the tiny mole that lay there. He picked up my undershirt, brushing magic over it to dry the garment. He turned away from me as he did so, mourning etched in his features. 

I rushed to him, and my arms encircled his waist from behind. "You already know part of her lives on. It's not the same, but if there's anything I know about her she won't let the others have the last laugh."

"Indeed, she would not."


 

We gathered around our fires, cooking stew and drying wet garments in their heat. Night had fallen once more outside the caverns, a full day of waiting for the storm to blow over. We all had packed into the shelter as the worst of the blizzard passed. Most faces were downcast, and many had faded off to sleep already. The stillness bred depression, and it manifested in the tired lines of every frown. Eyes hollow and hearts aching. Cole was doing his best to help, but there was only so much one spirit of Compassion could do for an army. I sighed into the creaking silence, my breath misting before me. A smile tugged at my lips as I decided. This was as good a time as any. My voice echoed off the rock walls, an eerie reverberation cast across the hushed crowd.

 

 

Shadows fall
And hope has fled
Steel your heart
The dawn will come

The night is long
And the path is dark
Look to the sky
For one day soon
The dawn will come

As it had in the heartbreaking cutscene, the hymn raised hope in the hearts of those around me. Leliana's crystal notes were joined with mine, and Cullen hesitated only moments before adding his own voice to the rallying cry.

The words carried us through the next days, our boots through the powder, the sunshine high above us. Call it luck or fate, but the weather smiled on us throughout our journey. No one had died in our march, no one had fallen to chill or fatigue. Solas stayed at my side throughout the hike, and when the dark battlements finally appeared on the horizon, even though my armor was warm and dry, goosebumps covered my arms. The music I knew by heart swelled in my mind, and I couldn't contain my excitement. I nearly barreled down the mountain road toward Skyhold, my face split in a wide grin and flush with joy.

 

 

The night is long
And the path is dark
Look to the sky
For one day soon
The dawn will come.

Chapter Text

Of our army, I was the first to reach the imposing fortress, but the portcullis had been raised by Leliana's scouts. A quick debriefing in the gatehouse told me that they'd arrived the week before last, shortly before the evacuation of Haven. They'd sent a short report to Leliana summing up its emptiness, and one to Cullen reporting their findings after a cursory inspection of the fortification itself. I knew Solas's people... our People I corrected myself, had not only fixed crumbling structures and cleared it of any debris, but mapped every square inch of it. Away from prying eyes, it was this map I consulted. Beside the future tavern, there was no empty alley, no singular crumbling tower. There was a complex. It easily held thirty small rooms, five on either side of a hallway, extending three floors. Only where the roof began did the tower rise, five more rooms within it. The Ferelden influence held true in the uniformly square towers and the postage stamp crenelations. No trace remained of the original Elvhen castle, except perhaps the general layout. Compared to the grand white arches and spire, the breathing trees and the cascading blooms... Skyhold was starkly utilitarian. It was no Tarasyl'an Te'las, but it felt like home nonetheless.

This revelation stopped me. Nowhere had ever felt like home. Even my apartment felt temporary. It had been a place to rest and be my nerdy self, but it never felt as much like forever as these magic-soaked stones did. I felt warm, fingers to toes, every hair on my head awakened by the air singing my name, welcoming me back. Back?

I couldn't think on it long, given the crisp fade step that trailed toward me and came to a fluid halt at my side. His face was impassive as usual, but something in Solas's storm grey eyes danced with anticipation and... hope? It was definitely hope, as though he were gifting me with something and waiting on an inevitable positive reaction. "What is your assessment? Is it what you'd expected?" 

"It's bigger. Much bigger. All of Haven could fit in here, and then some. There is something unexpected though." I raised my eyebrow, gauging his reaction. "I've been here. Before. I couldn't feel it in the Fade, perhaps because it was your memory, but... the magic in these stones. It calls to me. This isn't the first time I've set foot on this site physically." 

His confusion was immediate, and it twisted his eyebrows toward each other. He pursed his lips, the dimple on his chin magnified. "That is impossible."

I stepped outside the door, casting an eye around, before quickly dodging back inside and locking it behind me. Silence runes, unbreakable lock runes... I stuttered through the motions quickly, turning back to him. "I know, it should be. This is where you cast the Veil. But I... had a dream."

His confusion did not ease; he stayed silent, thinking.

I tried to swallow the uncomfortable sensation that my throat was closing over. "I was.... visited. Mythal told me that I am Elvhen. Not just 'hurr-durr I have pointy ears and like trees a lot' elven. Ancient Elvhen. She said that is why my eyes glow, why... I feel like my body is being lit on fire, every bit of me feels like living stone, my magic taking over."

He nodded almost imperceptibly, as though making a mental check mark. "I had suspected something similar. But I cannot fathom how."

I paced. My sabatons clinked on the stones, a rough metronome of my stress. "She said I was, that Asha'lean was, forced into Uthenera, and that it split my soul. I've been unlocking bits of myself, and from what I can tell, Asha'lean was quite the righteous fighter. Fire and light and unshakable protection. Loyalty."

Something clicked in Solas's expression. I watched it dawn on him. From furrowed brow, back to smooth, hopeful recognition. "You were a Sentinel." 

I'd heard that term before. "Like Abelas, the one who guards Mythal's Well of Sorrows?" 

He nodded, then cocked his head to the side, studying me. "At this moment, I do not feel it manifesting. Can you call it, at will?"

I snorted, an unflattering sound that ricocheted off the stone walls around us. "I've never tried, it just happens when I'm pissed off. But hey why not; let's provoke the Ancient Elvhen badass with a penchant for stabbing people with solid fire." I stood there unsure for a brief moment, coaching myself into it. Time to get angry, Hulk. I spread my stance, feet parallel to my leveled shoulders, hands balled into fists. I felt warm, but little else. Think angry thoughts. I called up painful memories of my human childhood, under my wrathful foster mother. Closer. I hashed them over in my head, willingly ripping off the bandaids. I knew in an instant what I needed then. I snapped my head up, meeting The Dread Wolf's storm-filled grey eyes with a searing fury that burned my veins.

"Solas, hurt me." Those three words were detached, and very unlike me. He took a slight step backward. 

"Vhenan, I cannot do that. I will not do that." His impassable mask had returned, stony and unyielding.

"I need... I need you to dump ice water on me. Please." 

A twinge of regret filled his eyes. He knew what these memories would well up in me, he knew their cost, he had seen the pain they'd inflicted. He cast a quick spell with a furrowed brow, and I was doused in melted snow, the runes in my armor ignoring the magically manifested freezeout. Trickles of water ran down my back, slipping between my breasts, coating my shoulders, my hair. He moved toward me, gently taking the back of my neck. His solid grip began to lower me toward the floor. A commanding tone took hold in his voice, deeper and shimmering through the air. "Kneel."

All at once, the blaze that shook me evaporated the ice on my skin, steaming slightly in its heat; my core exploded outwards. I refused to be hurt in such a way again; not by Ida, or by the elf before me, or anyone in any world. I would not feel that fear again, and I would not be held prisoner. My face cleared, and my eyes whipped open, burning in their sockets. Solas's grip had not lessened, and my right knee had almost hit the floor. The roar in my soul commanded every limb to fight back, to rise.

I

WILL

NOT 

KNEEL

My left hand, unbidden, grabbed Solas's wrist, moving it upward and away from the back of my neck. His eyes met my challenge, something wild and fascinated hidden behind his mask. I stood slowly, regally, emphasis on every movement. The stomp of my sabaton-clad heel as it met the floor once more... the leveling of my shoulders... the rearing of my head. The Dread Wolf in his furless Elvhen form met my eyes and sized me up. He inspected my aura, releasing me and prowling in circles. A new predator to rise to his own power, equal yet so very, very different. I was living fire and light to his deep, ferocious determination. The Sun to his full moon.

It was minutes, yet an eternity, before he spoke in slight awe. "No, you are not a Sentinel. Your power is greater than that. But how?"

Lightbringer. The one who will pierce the darkness, protect and lead the People to a brighter age, free of fear. She who bears the weight of the Sun but does not burn. Words burned in my mind, faint memories dug up by the realization. Another piece fell into place with a resounding click. The fire in my chest expanded, and I very nearly let it consume me.  No. Not yet. I stilled under a familiar touch.

Solas had begun tracing his fingers over the exposed skin of my neck, my face, my fingertips. Marveling at the power that I felt in every cell. He could feel it radiating outward, and the slight glimmer of light that ghosted over each finger told of the shining fire that burgeoned behind my living stone. 

He raised his hand slowly, achingly so. I stood absolutely still, silently roiling in my brilliant vigor. Solas cupped the side of my face, the pad of his thumb rested just beneath my glowing golden eye, caressing the pale skin that lay there. I was acutely aware of every minuscule hair displaced by his touch, and in that moment, his eyes began to glow as well. A soft pale blue, like that of a cornflower blossom, or the underside of a stormcloud, emanated from the depths of his gaze. The sun was eclipsed by the thunderhead as our lips met, with all the crushing force a gale could bring. I found myself slammed against a stone wall, the empty room reverberating with the brutal shock of our power. I was quite certain that any mage worth his salt in a one mile radius could feel the rush of our auras colliding, and I smirked against Solas's lips because frankly, I couldn't give a shit. It felt so familiar, nearly identical  to the moment in the Fade where I called him by name. Where I accepted him.

I clutched at him with all the strength I had, my hands finding purchase on his hip and behind his head. I drifted my fingers over the stubble I felt there, that had lain hidden under the cowl that kept him warm on our journey here. Every sensation was magnified thousandfold. 

Which brought a growl to my chest when he pressed more fully against me, a lightly armored thigh prying apart my own. I felt every inch of him beneath his green leggings, and with renewed hunger I pulled his face down to my own. It felt right, perfect, whole to have him there. As though he had always belonged. A tiny monologue in the back of mind realized it had always been this way between us; no awkward introductory, no boundary testing, no uncertainty. Even in the wake of all our discoveries of ourselves and each other, never once had his proximity felt out of place or wrong. 

And here, at Tarasyl'an Te'las it was more perfect than ever before. 

The Dread Wolf nipped at my lip, my jaw, and my neck, his hands working open my armor with inhuman speed. It took only a few deft movements to be bared before him. He took my palms, tracing a rune between them and to the spot just above my heart, a reflex to keep me warm and protected identical to the one he'd acted on that day on the lake. It was unnecessary however. The fire in my nerves kept me plenty warm. 

That didn't stop the shiver that ran up my spine as he tore off his own clothing. No hesitation, no carefully folding his tunic. There was only the urge to collide, the fabric laying bunched and abandoned. His body returned to mine against the wall. A ragged growl in his throat. The blizzard in his eyes unwavering. Searching. Soul-baring. Fierce. Mine.

I launched myself up him, anchoring myself around his waist with my thighs. My back felt every uneven mark on the stone wall I was pressed to, and again, my give-a-shit was broken. I felt his hand leverage between us, moving to position himself at my entrance. Too long I had waited. Too many interruptions. No more. 

I was ready. 

I would claim the Dread Wolf, and be claimed by him.

His glowing eyes held mine for the fraction of a second, and it was then that he moved. His hips rushed forward, a steady sure thrust that glided smoothly. I was ready, and the the moan that tore through my throat at his decisive movement matched his; he was overtaken by the wet heat he found there. Our pairing was profound, perfect. A moment came when he could go no further, and he withdrew nearly completely to strike again. I bit into his shoulder as he drove into me, exaggeratedly taking me with no regard for who heard us, who felt us. The air was alive, and gravity seemed to have both doubled and halved. My fingers dug into his back. I marked him as surely as he marked me, his mouth sucking none to delicately on the point of my ear. The sensation was incredible, shocking me to my toes. A cry tore from my lips, swallowed swiftly by his hungry kiss.

The fire within built, spread. The floor shook and the walls trembled, the bricks absorbing more power than they had in millennia. It would forever be imprinted with the memory of our joining, a thought my pleasure riddled mind found amusing. It was the only coherent thought to slip past the shredding storm that set every nerve ending in both of us alight. Sweat coated every inch of our skin, and yet the exertion did not seem to tire the man before me, under me, inside me. His hand that had worked between us again had found the bundle of nerves that would make me fly apart. The punishing pace remained, built, layer upon layer of ecstasy until his name burst from my throat. It rang with command, with need. I had reached my limit, and I would not allow myself to tumble over the edge alone. 

"Solas!"

A broken growl rent the air with the force of his orgasm. My name barely distinguishable from his war cry, he drove forward a last time, filling me with his spend. His fingers that secured me to him did not release, not until every shockwave had dissipated, until the torrential storm passed, until he finally softened and withdrew. I could smell his scent in my damp hair, feel every place he had marked me with fingers, tongue and teeth. It was deliciously raw, and would remind me of everything that had passed between us. I would not heal them. I could, but I would wear them as a badge of honor. People would stare or comment, or joke when they found us leaving this tower together reeking of sex, but I did not care.

The Dread Wolf was mine, and I was his.

Chapter Text

The sun filtered through the enormous stained glass windows in the War Room, glancing off the finish on the slab table. I watched as Leliana, Josephine, and Cullen set up the map and all its markers, placing the little spikes in the pinprick holes they had been in before. My arms were folded across my chest as I observed quietly. I only removed my hand from the confines of my boobs to flick a ball of golden flame toward the imposing fireplace, lighting the lumber that a soldier had just finished bringing in; he'd barely stood up from his task before the searing orb flew past him, and he yelped as he jumped back.

Commander Cullen looked up from his work, eyeing me seriously. "Please do not torture my men, Lady Dire. I need them whole."

I grinned lopsidedly, my smirk pulling up on one side. "Pffft. I'll leave the torture to Leliana. Besides; my aim was perfect. Not my fault he's slow. You might want to start drilling your men a bit harder." I cocked an eyebrow, smirking lasciviously.

Josephine screwed up her brow in concentration quite suddenly, and I could almost hear her train of thought. Do not laugh. Do not laugh. You are a lady. Ladies do not laugh at dirty jokes.

Cullen made no such effort to hide the creeping blush. "Th-their training is adequate. I may make them practice alongside the mages however. Give them something different than the mannequins to whack at."

"I'm sure that would help. Just keep it civil, please. Mages are people, not training equipment to abuse."  I walked toward the window, fingering the intricate metalwork that held each pane of colored glass in place. Even the cold grey metal hummed with magic. The keep was almost alive. "Solas says this keep is Ferelden in make, with some various additions by other races, but it was built on an ancient Elvhen site of great power. Skyhold is basically climate controlled, and warded from demons and darkspawn. Corypheus cannot attack us here."

Leliana joined me at the window, giving me a sidelong glance. "I am most curious of these friends who helped you find this place. It is most convenient that a keep appeared near to Haven that no one knew about, that is the exact size the Inquisition needs to grow."

I sighed. "You know Bull called me a Seer? I hadn't put it together, but I guess it makes the most sense. I have absolutely no fucking clue. The Fade, or spirits, or whatever, showed me Skyhold. A dagger on the map of the old war table. Our evacuation of Haven. This keep laid empty. But I knew where it was, because I’ve been here.”

This is where I looked at Leliana, and so far she seemed to accept it. I mean, this is the woman who saw the Maker in a rose blossom. I added some reality to the fiction, keeping as close to the truth as possible. “I had a rough childhood. I was taken from my parents at a young age, and sent to live with a woman who puts your methods to shame. When I came of age and escaped, I spent years travelling; later I found myself with a group of women who were fierce warriors, strong and loyal. We called ourselves a guild, and we slew beasts for coin. The woman who led us was fierce and loving, and I was her officer. We were a family, at least, it was the closest thing I’d ever felt to a family."

I paused, remembering our Christmas party at Voljar's Meadery, which went from a neatly planned set of duels and a yankee gift swap, to an all-out drunken mudball fight, our laughter over mic, the singing, the impromptu fashion show. I felt the loving smile creep to my lips. I spun my tale, trying to piece in the mercenary Inquisitor version of events from the game. "We took refuge here briefly, essentially squatting, before being hired as bodyguards to some poncy fuckhead. Three years together, and the explosion at the Conclave… I was yanked through a Rift….. I knew the women who had taken care of me, who had loved me, were gone. I remember hugging her, just before. I’d promised we were going to clear a couple caves together. That I would see her later. I’ll never see her again. I have no one left.”

I hugged Leliana then, burying my face into her lilac cowl. Do not cry. She reluctantly placed an arm around me, allowing me a couple moments of comfort. I felt the Spymaster soften somewhat. I released her, giving her a warm smile. “Out of all three candidates for the Divine, I hope you get it.”

Her confusion registered on her face for a brief moment. “Three?” I had the attention of all three advisors now.

Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck. Well, Haven turned out the same, if not slightly better. I killed Alexius twice... maybe I can't deviate too far from the game script....“You, bringing an age of tolerance and progression, with mages free to study and problem solve as a respected institution. Cassandra, who would set things to order and bring justice, restoring the Seekers to a prouder, more righteous order. And Vivienne, who just by sitting on the seat, would crumble the Chantry; outright war with the mages who would refuse to return to their Circles. At least three revolts in her first year.”

“Maker’s breath!” Cullen said, eyes wide. Josephine looked stunned as well, looking from Leliana to me.

“Haven turned out much the same as it had in the future I saw. The only real difference... well, because I got to the mages before Magister Gereon Alexius, we never fought him at Redcliffe Castle. He came to Haven. He still sent me forward in time to a world where we'd failed, and I still came back to the present and kicked his ass. Haven was still destroyed in our escape, but we evacuated everyone before the army reached us. I had told you what was coming, so my fear that by telling you my visions I could change the future may or may not hold water. In the future where we fought Alexius at Redcliffe Castle, it is revealed that Corypheus plans to have Celene assassinated by Duchess Florianne. We can let her be killed and bring Gaspard to the throne; alone, he rules with an iron fist and gets power hungry. If Ambassador Briala is allowed influence, she will work to break the class system that keeps elves impoverished. If the three of them are forced to cooperate, the war is ended, Briala still does her elf reforms, but their alliance is super unsteady. We can save Celene, either exiling or executing  the other two, but her rule doesn’t stay peaceful for long. All options are rather fucky.”

The three of them were white as a sheet by this point. I continued. “Lastly, Corypheus is using his darkspawn influence to create a false Calling. All the Wardens are following it, and he’s using them to create a demon army. Anything I missed? Hmmm….  Oh. Some dwarves are gonna be having issues with collapse and earthquakes from giant ancient beasts called Titans. Lyrium is alive, because it is Titan blood. Congrats on kicking your vampirism, Cullen.” The man looked about ready to throw up. I realized I had just thrown a shit ton of revelations at them.

Josephine had been dutifully scribbling all this down. “You have given us much to work with. These warnings are helpful. No doubt had we been blindsided by them, lives would have been lost.”

Cullen looked as though he’d seen a ghost. A man desperate, searching for good news. “Do we succeed?” He asked, and the lost puppy look he gave was exactly the reason I’d romanced him in the game, before falling head over heels for Solas.

“Yes. It will be difficult, and we need to try our damnedest. Also, I might lose my left arm. Solas and I are working on that.”

“He knows?”

“I should fucking hope so. I don’t usually fuck a guy without some chronic oversharing on my part.”

“Y-you what?” He turned crimson again. Leliana had regained some of her composure, and smirked.

“Solas and I are doing the diddly doo. The original frick-frack. The primal waltz. I gotta say that guy doesn’t outwardly seem like he’d provide earthshattering-”

“MAKER’S BREATH! NO!”

Laughing, I sauntered to the massive table in the center of the room. I pointed to various spots on the map.

“Josephine, get us an invite to that ball being hosted by Duchess Florianne. That’s where we’ll start. Cullen, send a team out to Crestwood to detain the Mayor; bring him in under charges of mass murder. He slaughtered half the village during the Blight and I'm going to have to unflood the old village to seal a rift there. Leliana, send word to your buddy Alistair; there’s a keep out there, Caer Bronach, occupied by bandits that needs to be taken back. I don’t want to start a war capturing a hold on Ferelden soil. See if he’ll be amenable to relinquishing Skyhold to us for the time being. Nobody owns it anyway, but if the deed can’t be found it’s property of the crown. I’m sure he’ll be grateful we found it for him. Who knows, it could become a major settlement with its proximity to waterways and The Imperial Highway. A booming economic checkpoint on the border of Orlais.”

Leliana joined me at the table, absently stroking Denerim. “You say that the Grey Wardens are experiencing a false Calling. Is King Alistair? And…”

“Unfortunately, yes. For whatever reason, Alistair’s isn’t as bad; distance, maybe? I strongly advise you to make contact with Elissa, though. I know she’s hunting for a cure, but I don’t want her drawn into Corypheus’s bullshit. Have her return to Denerim, or meet us here, for her own safety. We can help her find a cure after Corypheus is destroyed.”

"It seems we have a plan. I shall send the missives right away Lady Dire." Leliana deferred to me, bowing her head slightly as she ducked out of the room. 

"Cullen, I'm adding something else to your plate. Sleep. I need you at your peak, and exhaustion will do you no favors. I can ask the mages, Solas especially, if there's a way we can ward your quarters against demons that might come after your mind. They can't step foot on Skyhold's soil, but the magic of this land doesn't extend to your dreams. I take care of my friends, and I admire your resolve. Go get some rest."

"Yes, Lady Dire. Thank you." He turned to leave as well, giving me a grateful glance, before he disappeared through the door. 

Josephine looked at me expectantly, quill at the ready. "Do you have a task for me as well, my Lady?" 

"Yes, though yours are probably a bit more fun. I give you full creative reign of Skyhold. Decorate it how you please, just keep it a little less ostentatious. You know my tastes, so if you keep to the Inquisition color scheme, crimson, charcoal, burnt gold... I have utter faith in your abilities. The balcony above the door will be a small lounge dedicated to the arts. Easels, any spare materials we can allocate, comfortable couches and chairs. Vivienne will try to claim that area as her own as some passive-aggressive sign of dominance. Do not let her."

"That does seem like the most fun out of the tasks you have doled out today. Anything else?" She jotted down a few things, tapping the tip of the feather against her chin.

"Yes. Once we have acquired significant approval at court, we're throwing a ball ourselves. Nobility across Thedas will clamor for our favor, so pick wisely who you will invite. I call first dibs on the King though... I've always wanted to meet Alistair. Now I gotta go see to some food - I am positively fucking starving. Need anything?" Josephine shook her head I gave her a quick side-hug before heading out. 

I was internally kicking myself, hoping that I hadn't somehow fucked everything up. Well at least I didn't tell them I'm from another world. That would not have gone over well....

Chapter Text

Varric called me to the ramparts one afternoon. He looked a little more shifty than usual, and my suspicions were confirmed when I saw a tall, dark haired woman leaning on the wall. Her eyes were a vivid lyrium blue set against gently sun tanned skin, with a faint scar along her eyebrow, bisecting the dark hair there. She radiated confidence, taking in our approach with one eyebrow skewed up.

"Ahh the fabled Marian Hawke, Champion of Kirkwall. I trust your journey was smooth? I hope you didn't trek all the way down here alone." I shook her gauntleted hand, a smirk tugging up the corner of my lips.

"No, Fenris is seeing to our accommodations. He'd kick my ass if I thought of leaving him behind. You must be the Seer. Tell me something nobody else would know." She grinned, testing me. 

"Hmmmm... Were you aware that you met the grandmother of the King's illegitimate son? Asha'bellanar... A Witch of the Wilds. Her daughter Morrigan had a one- night stand with the King, and the pregnancy it produced ended up saving Elissa Cousland's life. When they killed the archdemon, Urthemiel's soul leapt to the fetus instead of Elissa. Alistair and Elissa lived happily ever after, and Morrigan got her weird baby with a now purified Old God soul. I'm not even shitting you. When Morrigan and Kieran get here, take a look at that boy and tell me he doesn't resemble the King. But that stays between us."

"What the actual fuck?" Hawke sputtered, before bursting with laughter. "I figured you'd tell me deeply personal things about myself, not reveal The Bastard King's Bastard."

"Well nothing about you is deeply personal, there's a fucking book about you." I looked to Varric, grinning. "I don't even wanna know how you knew about Hawke's sex life."

"It took a good amount of alcohol. But Hawke here is quite descriptive when she's drunk." Hawke smacked Varric upside the back of his head, which resulted in him kicking her in the shin. 

"Anywhoo, Stroud, right? He's in Crestwood, evading the Grey Wardens. Corypheus has a guy working inside the Wardens to build an army of demons at Adamant. Your timing is great guys; I have Leliana and Cullen working on resources in Crestwood. King Alistair has already given us the go-ahead to clean out Caer Bronach. He'll meet us there with a contingent of his men to occupy it."

"Well now, guess I didn't really need to show up, huh?" Hawke said peeking over the wall at the courtyard below. 

"Oh no, we totally need you here. I'm sure you'll get on well with the rest of my people. Just keep Fenris away from Solas, I could see those two fighting nonstop over the topic of mages. We don't need two broody elf boyfriends in the same room, it dampens the party mood." I gestured to the stairs, walking with them back to the keep. Spring had sprung here, and the trees in the courtyard had already sprouted their first few leaves, fresh green and hopeful in the sunshine. Most of the snow had melted within the confines of the high stone walls, leaving the ground muddy on our walk back.

Hawke laughed sharply, head tipped back, long wild locks of hair trailing in the breeze nearly to her ass. "Looks like there's something you don't know after all. Fenris is not my boyfriend. He's my husband."

 


 

I brought everyone. Why have a huge Inner Circle and not use them all? Divide and Conquer, or so they say. The only person missing was Blackwall, but a trip to Redcliffe had presented itself once we were done with Crestwood, and I had offered to swing by Lake Luthias on the return trip. Vivienne had finally made an appearance at Skyhold, and was less than pleased that I decided to bring her with us to the land of rain and inconveniences. I kept Solas, Sera, Evelyn, and Bull with me, while Cassandra led the others on the north end of Crestwood. Bull and Solas had begun a mental chess match, which started to give me a migraine trying to keep up. Sera's complaining didn't help, though I suspected Evelyn was distracting her somewhat. Hawke, Fenris and Varric rode ahead, the two rogues in stealth most of the way. The trip to Three Trout Farm was rather uneventful, and I was glad I was not in the village with the undead at the gates. Last I'd seen, Cassandra's party was keeping watch, pinging off the grotesque stragglers as they arrived. 

We set up camp, shielded by a draw between two tall crags and an abandoned barn. The rain was making it hard to see but the tents were erected and a fire lit under the cover of the old wooden structure. Sera hunted, sacking us several water fowl, which were quickly plucked and roasted on a spit. 

"Crap this would be divine with some cheese or something." I lamented through chewing. I swallowed hard, remembering something, and stood up rather quickly. I snatched a large square of oiled canvas that we had used to keep the tents in a bundle, four pairs of eyes on me.

"I doubt you will find cheese in this rain, vhenan. There's no settlement around for miles." Solas said, watching me don my cloak with an amused smile.

I laughed gleefully. "Gimme five minutes. Destiny calls me." I fade-stepped out of camp, climbing the slope that shielded us to the west with magical speed. I peered through the rain, stepping out onto the outcropping above the camp. Where.... Aha!

A small table sat just ahead, abandoned with various picnic supplies, a deck of sorts made from planks of wood. There, in all its holey glory, sat the Wedge of Destiny, a knife protruding from its yellow surface. A harness of sorts had been affixed to the back, with a tiny metal placard that stated its history. I cackled madly, hefting the ancient and inedible wheel of cheese and wrapping it in the square of canvas. Cassandra's gonna fucking hate me. 

I heard murmurs below. "You alright up there, Boss?" came Iron Bull's voice, booming through the steady onslaught of the rain from camp. 

"Yeah no I'm okay. I found Cassandra's next shield!" I shouted to the crevice, and I tucked the wonderful piece of gear under my arm. I embedded my siren's tail into the wooden platform, and secured it with a tug as I rappelled back down to camp. 

"Wot's a shield got to do with the cheese you were lookin for?" Sera asked, eyeing my bundle in utter confusion.

I unwrapped it, widening my stance and picking up a stick in my right hand, the Wedge of Destiny guarding my left. Sera guffawed as I did my very best impression of our Seeker, a grumpy frown and furrowed brow.  "This had better be good, Commander Cullen. I do not take kindly to interruptions. State your business and let me get back to beating the absolute shit out of this training dummy."

The camp was howling, and they watched as I made a go of slicing through the air with my stick. My feet were graceful enough, but my swings were wild and awkwardly aimed. I was definitely not cut out be a warrior. 

Bull wiped a tear of mirth from his eye, and grabbed my stick from me. "Remind me never to give you a sword, Boss. How can you be so skilled with your spears, but so bad with swords? Spears are far more difficult to wield." 

"Wot I wanna know is are you any good with a bow?" Sera inquired, a plotting grin on her pale face. She grabbed her bow and quiver, thrusting them haphazardly into my arms. She grabbed my hips from behind, forcefully steering me to face a boulder that marked the end of the rock wall. An empty glass bottle was placed atop it, a makeshift target taunting me.

"I've used a bow before, but it was a compound bow. Uh... Wheels on top and bottom of the string to draw more smoothly. I sucked..." I was half-assedly apologizing for whatever was about to happen when I let the arrow loose. I imitated Sera's posture, her stance. I breathed deep, pulled as hard as I could, and fired.

The arrow whistled through the air, sailing far to the left of the bottle. 

Again.

It went too high.

AGAIN.

The frustration got to me, and I didn't pull my fingers out of the way of the fletching in time. The spliced feathers shot past my flesh, and a deep gash an inch long tore open my index finger. I threw the bow on the ground, where it landed with a wet clack.

"Motherfuckingshitdick - ughhh" I cussed, healing myself with a golden flurry. The torn skin sewed itself back together seamlessly in an instant, the blood the only remaining evidence of my clumsiness.

"You're supposed to hurt the baddies, not yourself, ya daft twat!"  Sera scolded, brushing mud off her bow. 

"This is why they don't trust me with sharp objects. I cut myself on a damn feather for fuck's sake." I wiped off the blood with a wet rag, tossing it into the fire. "Varric and the others should be back here in a bit. I'm gonna go set wards . Holler when they get here."

Solas assisted me, his delicate wards overlapping mine. I guess given eons to practice, he had learned a subtlety I'd never manage. Some would alert us to intruders. Some would muffle our camp's noise. The corner between the crags made it a little easier to secure our camp, but even still we cut no corners. The torrential downpour had tapered to a steady rain, and the tents were placed on the highest ground we could find, keeping them dry with waterproofing runes. 

The last of the wards hummed and faded under his palms, and I twined my fingers around his. "I don't like Crestwood. I'll be glad to leave."

"I agree that the rain does not make for a pleasant journey. I have noticed that you sleep more soundly with the rain, however." He held me close, tucking my head under his chin. I realized that as far as elves go, we were both incredibly tall, but it felt nice to have him hold me like that. 

"Not just that. When... in the other world... with Lavellan... you remove her vallaslin and then break up with her here. Well, in a cavern to the north." I nuzzled in closer to his chest, feeling the warmth through his tunic. Solas's arms encircled me tighter, and he placed a kiss to the top of my wet head. 

"Whatever my motivation was in that other future, I can assure you I will not leave you vhenan. And thankfully, you do not bear vallaslin." He pulled away the slightest bit, thumbing my cheekbones and the faint freckles that lay there. 

"Slave markings. I know. And you left her so that she could not dissuade you. I've already told you I will help, if not going about it differently than you had originally planned. I will be by your side, always." I brought his face to my own, my kiss a gentle affirmation of my loyalty. The fire that burned in my belly whenever we touched was a low smouldering heat now, slow and sure. He held me there, the hunger not far away but taking a backseat to the tenderness.

A cry rang out from the camp behind us, and we broke apart. We stayed alert, barriers up, but it seemed we needn't have bothered. Varric was back, flanked by Hawke and Fenris. Stroud stood just behind them, scratching his chin as he was introduced to the crew. What I hadn't anticipated, however, was a fifth arrival. Tiny, svelte with strawberry blonde curls that fell to her shoulders, and sea foam green doe eyes set in a freckled face. She was almost doll-like in her beauty. As small as she was, there was no doubt that she was human, delicate rubies hanging from her rounded ears, a matching golden circlet with a single ruby across her brow. She carried herself into camp with all the grace and dignity of a ballerina, which was surprising given that she was wearing a sturdy set of royal blue Grey Warden armor. Twin curved daggers were fitted to her back, only visible for an instant before she turned to face Solas and me.  

Varric noticed us too, grinning ear to ear. "Oh good, the Siren's here. Guys, this is Lady Syraena Dire, our illustrious leader. Don't call her the Herald, she'll kick your ass. Siren, this is Jean-Marc Stroud, Our Grey Warden contact." Stroud nodded, giving a polite wave of his hand that resembled more of a salute. He then moved to sit by the Iron Bull in front of the fire, the log bench creaking under their combined weight. Varric gestured to our unexpected guest, and she stepped forward before he could say a word. 

"Lady Dire, I am pleased to make your acquaintance. Leliana had sent word that you would be meeting here on Grey Warden business. I rode hard for three days to get here in time, so I apologize if I seem too weary for pleasantries." She raised her chin slightly, regal and poised despite her aforementioned exhaustion. "I am Warden-Commander Elissa Cousland. Please tell me you had good reason to sic Leliana on me. I love her dearly, but she can be a bit overprotective. Between her and Alistair, it is a wonder I ever get things done." 

I gaped in surprise, attempting a curtsy but failing horribly. She laughed warmly at my efforts, a dazzling smile gracing her face. I straightened my posture once more, waving a hand vaguely over my armor. "If I'd known the Queen was coming, I'd have dressed a bit nicer."

Chapter Text

I walked slowly through the woods, dappled light from the sun on the stark white of the birch trees. It was not a place I ever remembered visiting, but then again... there was a whole other life I'd lived without remembering wasn't there? The air was pure and fresh, and I walked with purposeful strides to an unknown goal. I was not alone; the wisps stopped to watch my passage, and I felt awe and deference from their tiny lights.

I came to a wall of solid stone, and I could feel my destination on the other side. I placed my hand upon the rock, and the moment my arm came into view, it burst into golden flame. It was not painful, and I paid it no mind. The stone surface before me split in two, revealing an opening. Light poured from the cavern, and I could not see past it. It pulsed, blinding me in it radiance. I felt a presence pushing me forward, staggering in its Influence. Something else pulled me forward, and I gave in to the flow that led me on. I stepped into the light, feeling it fill every fiber of my being. The spirit of Influence behind me, for that's what I knew it to be, purred in approval.

She who bears the weight of the Sun but does not burn.

Asha'lean. 

 


 

The next morning was just as dreary as the day before, and given that I woke at the ass-crack of dawn did not improve my outlook. We broke camp, having sealed the rifts and picked up our Warden contacts. Stroud was a quiet, stoic fellow, and filled with a sense of duty. He spoke only of the state of the Order, the terror that the Calling held on the Grey Warden Strongholds particularly in Orlais. He clutched at his head every so often, so I imagined the Calling was making him less cordial than he normally would have been.

Elissa was a gem amidst the mud, poised and elegant despite the fact that she fought more viciously than I'd expected. Her blades were fast, and she dropped into stealth more quickly than any of my companions, save possibly Cole. It was odd seeing someone as elegant as the five foot tall Queen-consort covered in blood with a calculating grimace. I'd noticed her tendency to fight opponents that angled for the upper hand on our party members; once a shade crept up on Evelyn, and Elissa wrenched her daggers out of her current prey, abandoning it in favor of the shade that the mage hadn't noticed. Strong protective instincts were evident in most of her combat, despite her lack of shield. 

We made our way down the road that would lead to Caer Bronach, our horses coming to a slow halt when we reached the spot we were designated to meet up with the Kingsguard. I was slightly skeptical that the man himself would arrive, but true to his word, when the sound of hoofbeats resonated along the muddy road The King's gilded armor glinted at the fore of the group. I could feel Elissa stiffen on her horse beside me, cursing under her breath. I could barely make out the words idiot and reckless. I half agreed. The King of Ferelden, out and about, making the journey from Denerim with a handful of guards? That was begging for assassination. But upon their approach, I noticed the faint glimmer of a barrier over his skin. So he's got a mage with him... or several... the tang of magic was palpable from as they closed the distance.

"Hail, Inquisition! You have my thanks for alerting me to the vermin problem in one of my keeps. It's been too long since they've let me out of the castle. I almost had to find a dashing knight to rescue me!" King Alistair laughed, stilling his horse in front of us. The painted brown horse beside me lurched forward, nearly colliding with Alistair's white steed as Elissa confronted her husband. 

"You absolute idiot! You're going to get yourself killed! Why in the Maker's holy name did you come?" The tiny redhead smacked the King on the thigh, her gloved hand doing nothing to the gilded plate, but Alistair looked like a scolded dog nonetheless. 

"I thought it would be fun! Leliana said-"

"Fucking Leliana! I swear on the Maker's hairy ass when I get a hold of that woman!" Her irritation quickly smoothed off her face however, as though remembering her propriety, and she looked at her beloved properly. "I'm sorry my love. I worry for you, is all. I cannot have you traipsing all over Thedas..." she sighed. "It is good to see you, though. I have missed you."

Alistair dismounted, handing off his reigns to one of his Guard. He reached up to help his wife dismount as well, his broad calloused hands around her tiny waist. Their embrace was watched warmly by all present, and I inwardly geeked out at the reunion. Alistair deserved only the very best, and it saddened me that the game would have them stay separated. We took time to tie off our horses while the monarchs had their moment, leaving the mounts with a few swordsmen of the Guard.

The King kissed his wife atop her wet forehead, and smiled to us. "I don't know whether to thank you for returning my wife to me, or hate you for getting me grounded. Whatever the case may be, I suppose we must go knock on the door now, hmm?" 

"Would you like me to do the honors, Boss?" Bull grumbled in anticipation. The sheer size of his war axe guaranteed he'd make short work of the rotted wood. I thought for a moment. 

"Bull, take down the door. You two," I pointed at Sera and Varric, "the moment the doors are open, pop into stealth and take out the gatekeepers. I'm fairly certain there will be mabari, so don't let them catch your scent. Take up positions on top of the sheds, or the highest point you can access." I looked to Evelyn and Solas, and swept my eyes over the handful of Kingsguard. "Any mages present, attack at will, but your priority is to keep up barriers. If we can do this without injury I'll be happy, but my heals should keep you whole and my shards will keep you sustained. If you see a pile of glittery lights on the ground, walk through them to refresh your stamina." I smiled apologetically at the King and Queen. "Sorry for taking over the show, if I've missed anything..."

"Your strategy is sound. How many are we anticipating?" Elissa asked, all business.

"Not sure. We should have this keep claimed in short order though. They've been here a decade without interference, they're probably quite cozy in their pajamas and not expecting guests."

"A decade? Are you sure?" Alistair peered at the keep through the rain, slightly incredulous.

"Almost positive. Mayor Dedrick flooded Old Crestwood village during the Blight, attempting to wipe out the infected refugees. It would've remained undiscovered, but that Rift opened up in the broken Thaig beneath the old village, and the dead are getting their revenge. The other half of my group is defending the village until we can drain the lake and seal the Rift. The mayor allowed these bandits to move in under the condition that nobody can get to the dam controls." I summed up the Mayor's crimes as factually as I could. The King would be the one to decide his fate, for crimes against Ferelden during wartime.  "I had Cullen send men ahead of us to detain the Mayor. Had I not, he would've run and left a note of confession behind."

"Andraste's knickers..." The King muttered under his breath in disgust. His face remained somber as we trudged through the mud to Caer Bronach. I reached for Solas, feeling a twinge of unease in his aura. My touch seemed to assuage him as we walked side by side, barriers up.

The Iron Bull led the group to the very doorstep, shit-eating grin plastered on his face. He was a battering ram personified as he swung his massive weapon at the cracks in the wood. Following the first great slamming noise, a cry of alarm went up inside the keep, and we braced ourselves as he swung again. And again. The center of the door was caved in and shattered, and it only took one well-placed swing to shatter the bar that held the door closed. 

All hell broke loose when the barricade fragmented, and as predicted, mabari and arrows began assaulting us through the opening. I felt a slight tingle as the two rogues filtered through the door past me and split off to their positions, successfully dodging the onslaught. The remaining swordsmen pushed through, taking out first the vicious dogs, then their handlers. I continually fed them Healing Springs and Luminous Shards from a safe distance, one where I could clearly see everyone. With only fifteen of us, we were outnumbered, but far more skilled. In mere minutes we cleared out the courtyard. 

The stairs were long, and the doors were only wide enough to go one or two at a time; I worried about being ambushed on the other side while we were bottlenecked. I needn't have worried - Bull charged through the door, roaring and swinging his weapon. The two bandits that had been awaiting us were caught off guard, and were dealt with in moments. An archer took aim at us from the top of the next set of stairs. More accurately, he took aim at the King. I grasped at the air around my staff, preparing an aedric spear with breakneck speed. Faster than I'd thought myself capable, I flung the blinding shaft of light at the would-be assassin, throwing him back into a wall with a sickening crunch. His arrow never even left his hand.

Onward and upward we charged, dispatching the bandit gang several at a time. They were no match for our steel, our magic, the prowess of our seasoned warriors. Fenris's lyrium-infused punch through someone was oddly fascinating to watch. Alistair kept whooping and cheering through the entire thing, and kept morale high. Even I had a hard time keeping track of our expert rogues, but every now and again I'd see a flash of strawberry blonde as Elissa took a target by surprise, or Hawke's dark form practically skating across the flagstones Naruto-style. Somewhere in the part of my mind that took a backseat to my healing rotation, I was in utter nerd bliss. 

The King, the Hero of Ferelden, and the Champion of Kirkwall walk into a fort...

We approached the highest point of the keep just as a mountain of an Avvar bashed open the door. The bandit leader knew he was done for, but he careened toward us anyway. A last ditch effort for a warrior's death, I supposed. I watched as Elissa appeared from nowhere and kicked in his knees from behind; he was frozen solid by magic, and Alistair lunged with sword drawn, stopping just shy of his neck.

"Do you surrender?" He asked, giving the man a hair's breadth of a second to answer.

"Never, lowlander." the man growled, spitting at the King's feet. 

Alistair swiped the blade in a forceful motion, a quick and painless beheading. The shaggy, goat-masked head hit the ground first, the body falling with a solid thud shortly thereafter. The ice that coated him shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces. 

The room the bandit leader had exited still remained open, and I could see the flagpole that would normally trigger the dramatic cutscene of the Inquisitor claiming a Keep. But I had set out with a different motivation. All I needed were the dam controls. I looked to Alistair.

"You wouldn't happen to have the Ferelden flag kicking around in your saddlebags, would you?"

Chapter Text

It took a week to regain control of Crestwood. With the waterlogged Rift sealed, and Mayor Dedrick under custody of the Crown, there was not a lot left for the Inquisition to do. The reinforcements from Denerim arrived five days after we'd captured Caer Bronach, and kept a post in the keep from then on, a small policing force to keep the area from bandits and Red Templars. They'd been given the locations of the Red Lyrium mines we'd found, and worked to repair the village. Alistair commented that it reminded him of the time they'd spent in Redcliffe a decade earlier, the town swarmed with undead.

Elissa spent most of her time with the King, and it wasn't uncommon to see Alistair sneaking off after her somewhere. They were like teenagers.... it was both adorable and slightly envy-inducing. I'd not had a moment alone with Solas since the night she arrived, with the exception of the evenings I'd crash to my bedroll, exhausted. The Queen consort had agreed to come with us, mainly under the promise of extensive magical expertise that would help her cure the Blight. It helped knowing that she would soon have the ability to make use of the Arcanist Dagna, having helped the dwarf find her passion during the Fifth Blight. I myself could not wait for the enthusiastic dwarf's arrival, her eye for runes and mastercrafts a matter of some curiosity to me.

One of our last days in the muddy hellhole, it was a clear day. We had taken to helping out the village folk with fetch quests, and a man named Gauld approached me. He worried for Judith, a woman who lived to the south. To be honest, he appeared to have quite the crush. We offered to check on her, now that the area was secure.

Judith. Judith. Why did that sound so.... oh. 

The dragon. Her hut overlooked the dragon's nest. I kept the look of recognition from my face as best I could. I decided to return to Caer Bronach to resupply our packs. Potions, food... 

"So what are we doing now? The healer need herbs? Somebody lose an earring?" Hawke snorted derisively. She sat atop a barrel, braiding her wild dark hair up in preparation for whatever journey was to occur. 

"This village never ceases to test my patience. If we have to search for one more misplaced item..." Fenris growled, his dark irritation mirroring Hawke's.

"If we're going on another hunt for frigging jewelry at least let us sell it. If it was important they wouldn'ta lost it," Sera piped up from her spot by the targets. She fired arrow after arrow at the straw padded burlap sacks. 

"No. This one will be even more boring I'm afraid. Completely pointless." I sighed. Don't smile yet... don't smile... "Some guy in the village is worried for his lady love, but doesn't have the nuts to check on her in her isolated cabin himself."

"Well if it's a lady love involved, count me in. I'm sure she's lonely out there." Sera cackled.

"You sure? Cuz the dragon seems to be keeping her excellent company." As I said this, I turned my attention to the Iron Bull. He froze halfway on a downstroke cleaning his weapon. 

"Dragon. There's a fucking dragon. Please tell me you're not kidding." The maniacal gleam shone in his eye, a hunger that surpassed the grouchy look he had worn moments before.

I feigned disinterest. "Yeah I guess some Northern Hunter has been causing trouble. Lightning breath in the rain is bad for the general population. And claws. She's stealing horses and shit. I think I'm gonna pass this one off on the new contingent though. Not worth our time." I studied him carefully. He looked like I'd teased him with a new puppy and then taken it away. 

"Oh don't cajole the poor man. He looks positively distraught..." Elissa's pure voice, coming from her spot on the stairs behind me. She stretched her arms over her head, copper curls glinting in the rare sunshine.

"Alright I guess. Who wants to fight a dragon?" I grinned, looking to my team one by one. 


Elissa had opted out. Something about "killing three dragons in a lifetime is enough." To be fair, pretty sure she was stealing time with Alistair. Can't blame her.

Varric declined as well, settling in to write to his various contacts. It was obvious that Bull wanted in, but I was pleasantly surprised when Hawke and Fenris joined us. Solas stayed by my side, as did Sera. A larger group than the four that was allowed in the game, so my confidence held strong. 

Judith's cabin rose beside the hill before us, and we greeted her as she stood from her place in the garden.

She scoffed lovingly at the concern Gauld had shown for her, but she preferred the open spaces. She did promise to check in with the village more often however. She expressed a worry for the Northern Hunter in the valley below, one that had made off with livestock more frequently as of late.

"I wouldn't be surprised if she's nesting." The naturalist said, hands wringing. "As majestic as she is, she's a danger to the townsfolk."

We parted ways, trudging down the steep slope toward the ruined structure that had become the creature's perch. The moment our sabatons clinked against the scattered stones, the beast took notice of us.

She reared her head and released a piercing screech. I clapped my hands over my ears in an attempt to drown it out. Goddamn I shoulda brought earplugs or something... 

Sera took up a spot on the wall behind a fallen stone block, and Bull began to taunt the dragon. 

"Aaaaaaataaaaashiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!!" He bellowed over the din of dragon claws on stone, his weapon striking the front leg. The Hunter leveled her gaze at him, swinging her claws in his direction. Solas coated him in a shimmering starlight blue barrier. The Luminous Shards I cast at Bulls feet served to further draw her attention to his location.

After all, how often had she seen a man with horns to rival hers, glowing like a goddamn Christmas tree?

Healing Springs leapt preemptively from my staff to the Iron Bull, because I sincerely thought the fucker was gonna piss off the dragon a bit too much. 

"Vhenan, she's weak to spirit magics above all else!" I called to Solas, and watched as he slammed her with a Mind Blast. It didn't stun her like it would a smaller target, but at the very least my golden fire bit deeper where the spirit damage had breached. Lightning shot from her maw, and I tried to avoid any puddles. 

The time between casts of Healing Springs and Shards was occupied by my aedric spears, flashing light that sailed through the air to pierce her torn amber scales. One found its mark more easily than the others, and the dragon rose up on her hind legs in outrage. Her voluminous wings beat at the air, the force of her wind yanking us off our feet. She was wounded, one front leg almost completely useless and the other not far behind.

I resolved to end this more quickly, throwing more mana into each glowing attack, every golden missile lit brighter. If she'd had a health bar, I'd imagined it was at 25% or less when she began thrashing us desperately. I almost regretted instigating this fight, until a shock of lightning fired past me at Solas. His barrier depleted, and he dropped to the ground like a stone.

"VHENAN!" I ran to him, allowing Bull, Hawke, Fenris and Sera to finish off the dragon. I barely registered the massive weight of the dragon collide with the earth. All I could focus on was the unconscious man in my arms, and I thought for sure...

Where is his pulse?

I can't...

My hands are shaking I can't...

Please....

I poured my mana into him in pulses, a magical defibrillator, a golden swirl spinning over the two of us rapidly before blinking in and out of existence. Each cast lit us up for no more than a second apiece.

Come on...

Come ON! 

Solas's body shuddered on my lap, and his eyes flew open violently. He sat bolt upright, grasping at the mud and grass around us, eyes darting around him rapidly as he tried to make sense of his surroundings.

I cast my healing out a final time before mana exhaustion took me, and I smiled as I fainted.

I had learned Breath of Life.

Chapter Text

I'd been a fan of the Dragon Age franchise for years. I'd pictured myself in Thedas many times. Alistair's adorable awkwardness, Fenris's sad puppy nature hidden behind a spiky shell, Solas's magnetic brilliance... But in all my daydreaming, actually being here, never in a million years would I have imagined the scolding I got from literally fucking everyone when I finally came to. Cassandra had returned from rebuilding the village, and her group looked irritated at my actions but concerned all the same. Everyone was just so... pissed. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why. I mean, mana exhaustion was pretty common, right? So why the anger?

The moment I asked this of Cassandra, her perfectly slanted dark eyebrows drew together in frustration. "I am told you sacrificed your life for Solas's. We thought you would never awaken."

"Follow up question: what?" I sat up from my pallet, and eyed those around me. Solas cleared his throat; his normally clear and concise voice sounded a little broken.

"They believe they saw me perish. I was struck by the dragon's lightning with no barrier to protect myself." He moved to my side. He looked relieved, but I could see the tiredness that pulled at the corners of his eyes. 

"You were screaming about him not having a pulse. You started using some spell we've never seen before. He was alive again, but you collapsed. You can see how we'd make that conclusion." Hawke quipped from the corner. She'd pulled out a silver coin and was flicking it between deft fingers. Fenris gave her nervous tic the side eye. He caught the coin in one hand, and took her fidgeting fingers in the other. I was the only one to notice his calming gesture, as all other eyes were on me.

"Solas... you're not injured? At all?" I looked more closely at him; there were no wounds on what little exposed skin I could see.

"No vhenan. I am whole."

I looked to Bull, to Hawke, to Fenris, to Sera. The four of them were solemn.

"Did it light up both of us? A swirly golden flash?" I raised my arm over my head, and circled in the air mimicking a helix rising from around me. 

"That's the one. What was it?" came Bull's reply. He looked uneasy. Probably thought I was possessed by some glowy spirit I made a deal with.

"Breath of Life. It's not a resurrection spell, it's a healing spell. Solas was not dead. I probably just flipped shit prematurely. It's a very mana exhaustive spell, so I try not to use it unless it's an emergency. As forcefully as I was casting beforehand, it's no wonder I passed out. Speaking of, how long was I out this time?" 

Cassandra brought back her scolding-mom face. "Three days. You cannot be so reckless again. I understand you were worried but-"

"Do you? I am a capable mage, a capable person. I would not sell my soul to a demon as you are implying. Moreover, I would have done the same for any of you. If I have to use the last drop of my mana to bring you back from the brink of death, and end up taking a long nap after, that's not a bad price in my book. Naps are great." I chuckled, indicating my bare uninjured arms. Someone, probably Solas, had removed all my armor. I was clad only in my thin tank top and the blankets on the floor-bed of Caer Bronach's impromptu infirmary. 

"Vhenan, that was not a nap. Your physical body was ice cold, and I could not find you in the Fade." Solas's pained expression spoke volumes. 

"Now that you mention it... I didn't dream. I slept like the dead." I smirked despite myself. His grey eyes darkened with worry.

"You must be more careful. We cannot lose you." Cassandra's tone implied concern, but her grimace held an unfamiliar edge.

"Right. I'm the so-called Herald. You need me to seal rifts-" 

"Don't be a frigging idiot. The glowy bit is important, sure. But we like you." Sera said with a scoff. 

"Awww you like me? Even though I'm a frigging idiot with glowy bits?"

Sera raised an eyebrow, then cocked her head at Solas. "...Her bits don't glow, do they?"

Solas greatly disapproved.

 


 

Our departure from Crestwood was much like our arrival. The rain had kicked up again; it made the journey south more difficult to navigate. Our horses were constantly sucking their hooves out of the grey-brown mud. Alistair and Elissa had had a very touching goodbye - it took us nearly riding off on them for her to catch up. Her horse sidled up beside me.

"Can I ask you a question, if it is not too much?" Elissa asked me. Her strawberry blonde curls barely peeked from the shelter of her hood. Even fully armored, she rode with her back ramrod straight. Nobility through and through.

"Absolutely. What's up?" 

"You say you are a Seer. We've seen the fruits of your visions, so I believe it is entirely possible. How do they... normally come about?"

"While dreaming. In the Fade. I almost feel like I'm reading a storybook...and the plot isn't set in stone... It's decision based. Hundreds of possibilities. For example, there was a future in which you ended up with Zevran, and one you were with Leliana. There was also the distinct possibility that you'd die. I know how all these choices would end. I know that Hawke," I gestured to the woman behind us, who was listening intently, "could very well have banged Isabela instead, or sided with Meredith. The result would have been much the same. Isabela would have left, Orsino would have turned to blood magic, and Meredith would have destroyed half of fucking Kirkwall with that sword. Cassandra still would have stabbed that book very close to Varric's junk..." I smirked at the dwarf. 

"How far does your Sight extend?" the Queen probed.

"I can see nearly everything as far back as Duncan arriving at your estate, and as far forward as something called the Exalted Council almost three years from now. Ferelden and Orlais will be very uneasy over having a large military force situated directly between them, peacekeeping or no. They will try to disband or re-purpose us."

"Interesting. Are they simply flashes or... detailed?" She asked suddenly; she blushed slightly and looked wary. 

"Something... something... have you ever licked a lamppost in winter?"

Elissa flushed more red than her hair. She spurred her horse forward amidst chuckles.

"Lemme guess... sex thing?" Hawke laughed at her retreating form.

"The colloquial term is usually dick, but lamppost works too."

Hawke flipped her wet braid over her shoulder, giving Varric an amused look. "Well she didn't have a whole Maker-damned book about her." 

"That can easily be remedied." Varric said from her side. The dwarf eyed the Queen hungrily, as though he had noticed a new opportunity.

"NOPE. Elissa is off limits. That kind of thing is treason. If it isn't, it should be." 

"You're no fun." he pouted.

"No, I'm just not condoning smut about the King and Queen."

"That would be fun and lucrative! Just think of the fortune we could rake in."

"Your idea of fun is skewed. You all up in Kirkwall were like a bad sexual decision on legs. A pornographic centipede with a taste for angst."

The group burst into guffaws that startled the birds out of the trees above us. Varric grinned. "Pornographic centipede. I'll have to remember that one."

"Don't forget the angst. That's important."

"I could use a little less angst, Siren."

"Don't I fucking know it."

 


 

We approached Redcliffe a few days later, much to my relief. Rifts along the way were a simple matter; our party was enormous. On the one hand, backup was nice, but our supplies ran out faster... and fenedhis could Bull snore. I feared the Qunari would hoover up his bedroll with the force of his breathing. It would have been funny, had it not kept us awake at night.

This was not just a shopping trip for us. I'd given specific instructions to the Inner Circle to keep an eye out for merchants who would be willing to open supply lines to Caer Bronach and Skyhold. It was my first time setting foot in the city, so I had to keep myself on my own personal mission instead of sightseeing. The city was nestled in close beside a rust-colored stony mountain, dipping down toward the lake. The docks were packed with boats and bustling folk going about their day. 

...There goes the baker with his tray, like always...

...The same old bread and rolls to sell...

I snorted at my train of thought as I watched the people mill past. The neato thing about being an elf with no vallaslin? 

Nobody stares at you. 

It was with this in mind that I slipped away, back toward the gate we had entered.

I Fade-stepped down the road, cautiously weaving my way through the pines toward Lake Luthias.

Chapter Text

The tall pines whisked softly in the breeze overhead, a heady forest scent clean in my nostrils. The underbrush crinkled beneath my stormheart sabatons, new growth released from the slightly decayed stratum. Each blade of grass, each vibrant green vine, told of the easy spring the region was having, and summer wouldn't be too far behind. There was evidence of higher than average rainfall, if the new moss on the back of every hut was any indication. Good for mudding, I thought, missing Bessie in that moment.  The Hinterlands both infuriated me and spoke to me in hushed calm. I imagine that was due to how similar it felt to New Hampshire.... Minus the modern structures and cornfields tucked away in the clearings, of course. I would have stopped a moment to take it in all over again, but I was on a mission.

Blackwall… or Thom Rainier… The cabin he occupied beside Lake Luthias was on the opposite end of the map, a considerable distance to traverse on my own, but I pushed on. Fade step. Fade step. Fade step. Lyrium potion.

The first noticeable difference from when we’d been here before? No Mage/Templar fighting. For that I was grateful, because the worst thing I had to avoid was the occasional druffalo or fennec. The little tan foxes were cute, but if you got to close they tended to nip at your ankles.

I’d gotten about halfway, skirting the Crossroads, when the sensation of being watched - no followed - began to tug at my elfy senses. I looked behind me as Fade stepped, all the while dodging through the trees and underbrush. I saw no one. Fade step. Fade step. Fade step. Lyrium Potion.

Several miles of rocky terrain passed beneath my fleet feet, and with each brief pause the sensation grew stronger. I tried to go further before being forced to stop for lyrium, but I couldn't shake it. It dogged my heels across the region, never fading. I was absolutely certain at this point that someone was going to catch up to me. Whether I'd want them to or not remained to be seen, but I wouldn't let them reach me without being prepared. I reached for a tiny vial at my waist, and raised it to my lips.

The instant I stopped to drink the blue restorative, a cold wind whipped past me. Shit. I threw up a hasty barrier and called my aedric spear to my palm. I turned in the direction of the Fade step, and found myself nose to nose with the Dread Wolf. Solas had followed me. He looked winded. I realized he hadn't stopped for potions like I had.

My spear faded into glittering dust, though by the look on his face the threat was not gone, simply shifted. I was definitely grounded.

“Where are you going, vhenan? Had it even occurred to you to let the party know of your intention to wander off, let alone me?” His eyes burned with thinly veiled worry and anger.

“I can’t tell the others. Not yet. I’m going after the Warden imposter.”

“Yet I did not need to be involved?”

“You’d stop me.”

“What makes you certain of this?”

“You’ve made it clear that you do not tolerate the Wardens. I will be handing him over to them, under no name but his own. Rainier was intended for them, to serve as penance for his crimes. He ordered the slaughter of an entire family, in peacetime, just to curry favor with the man he backs for emperor.” My arms defensively crossed over my chest.

“You are correct; I would have tried to dissuade you. While his crimes are indeed heinous, The Wardens are reckless and irresponsible. They fling themselves at the Blight with no understanding of what it is.”

“Elissa is trying to find a cure. In the meantime, they are the only thing standing between the scum of the Deep Roads and the civilizations on the surface.”

“It is unlikely that she would find one. None have succeeded.” he seemed absolutely positive I would not win this one.

I took a breath. “Grand Enchanter Fiona did. She used to be a Warden. From everything I’ve read and heard, it had something to do with boinking King Maric and conceiving Alistair. People theorize that it is the dragon’s blood in the royal bloodline.”

He pondered my words for a moment as we walked. He said nothing, so I continued.

“I was thinking that, and the fact that revenant hearts do immense damage to corrupted beasts like darkspawn and those infected with red lyrium… The Joining requires darkspawn blood, Archdemon blood, and a magic ritual of sorts. Think that, but in reverse.”  I didn't know the science behind it, but it made some semblance of sense in my head.

Solas’s brows drew together as he considered this. “It is an intriguing concept, and one we should research further at a later date. We have more pressing matters at the moment, and hardly the resources needed to do anything other than speculate.”

“Agreed. Speaking of pressing matters… The eluvian network. I know of two or three in the waking world. The one at Skyhold, the one at Halamshiral… there may also be one in Kirkwall. A Dalish elf by the name of Merrill was trying to repair it… I think she fixed the physical thing itself, but couldn’t get it to work. It’s worth… acquiring. We may also have a valuable ally in her, once our business with Corypheus is concluded. I can’t tell you how tired I am of walking everywhere.”

He laughed at this. “It has not always been this way. In the days of Arlathan, eluvians were far more abundant. Commonplace. It was walking to your destination that was the privilege. When an Elvhen’s time was boundless, a stroll beneath the trees was unhurried, and served to refresh and rejuvenate. Everything was alive with magic.” He looked around him to the barely shifting trees, silent and hollow. Through his aura I could nearly taste the sorrow that laced through him.

I put an arm out to halt our progress. My hand flitted to his shoulder, and I turned him to face me. “It will be that way again. I promise on every life I’ve ever lived, we will succeed. It will take time, but what is a few years to one such as us?”

“Such as us?”

I smirked, pulling his face closer to mine. “Ar lath ma vhenan.”

 


 

As the two of us drew closer to the lake, I remembered something. Between the reeds that swayed gently in the breeze, a dark red shaft topped with hardened pods rose from the muck. Blood lotus.  I picked a few strands of it, and Solas gave me a quizzical look.

“There is a spirit of Valor in this lake… legend has it if you offer it blood lotus blossoms, it grants you a boon. I was curious to see if the legends are true…” I walked to the edge of the decaying dock, where a golden offering bowl sat. It was immovable, as though by magic. I could feel the power emanating from the runes that were etched in its surface.

“This is ancient magic…” The elvhen mage knelt to trail a finger along its surface. I handed him the impromptu bouquet, which he carefully laid on top. The runes grew luminescent, merely a faint crimson flicker, before the bowl dimmed once more. Disappointment made itself known in each of us, until the lake began to move.

Not two feet from the offering bowl, ripples traveled along the water toward us. They came to a point, and from the center a gold and black object arose. The sculpted pommel, the curved guard, and a lengthy dual edged blade as wide as my forearm. Glowing crimson runes that matched those on the bowl lined the center of the blade, and though it was longer than any sword I’d held before, It felt as though it weighed no more than a dagger. 

Solas eyed the sword with wonder. He too hefted the weapon.

“It is a fine weapon, vhenan. What do you intend to do with it?”

“I’m definitely not a sword wielder. But I do know of one nearby.”

“Lead the way.”

 


 

Blackwall - no, Thom Rainier - was outside his cabin chopping wood when we arrived. I raised my left hand in greeting, and flashed the Anchor that graced the crook of my palm.

“Afternoon. You probably weren’t expecting company. I am Lady Syraena Dire, of the Inquisition. Mind if I take a moment of your time?’

“Not at all Inquisition.. Agent, you say? How may I be of assistance?” He looked slightly nervous.

“Firstly, I’m not an agent. I’m the one they keep calling the Herald of Andraste. I tell them not to… but…” I shrugged helplessly. “Secondly; I’m a Seer. I know who you are. Calm your tits, Thom!" I added hastily as he reached for the axe he had left lodged in the logs he had been splitting. I raised my hands, unarmed and unmagicked.

“We come in peace. Sort of. I know that Warden Blackwall, the gent that was handling your joining… He passed before you could complete it. As it happens, we will be assisting the Grey Wardens in a matter of utmost importance. I’d rather have you helping as you were promised, than rotting in a cell for the biggest regret of your life. This is a chance to atone, under no name but your own.”

“You don’t understand. I can’t go back there, as Thom Rainier. They’d hang me in an instant. And maybe I deserve the noose...” he cast his eyes away, hiding his pain.

“Does it help that the Queen of Ferelden, Warden Commander Elissa Cousland is helping us? I’m sure that once Orlais has a writ of intent from her, and she fulfills the conditions Warden Blackwall cleared for you, they’d concede. It’s not a pardon. Merely a delayed sentence.”

“And what until then? Will you throw me in chains? I can’t be of much help there.” He pulled at a stray thread on his quilted jerkin.

“No. We have need of you in the field, until such time as your Joining can be carried out.”

Thom stroked his beard in thought. “In the field, tending to a farm? You need me for manual labor? Not that I’d shirk my duties but-”

“Fuck that! I know for a damn fact you’re a talented swordsman. Help Commander Cullen train recruits, and help us fight Red Templars and other beasts.”

"And this Queen, Warden Commander- what have you... She is to be my handler?"

"Precisely. She's better suited than anyone to keep you out of the hangman's noose. Warden Commander Clarel is having.... issues... at the moment. The entire Orlesian branch has been destabilized. They are in grave need of good men. I hope.... Whatever Warden Blackwall saw in you, see to it he wasn't wrong. The Grey Wardens can make you better than you are. Fight with Valor, and I'm sure I won't regret this." He looked solemn at my words.

Spurred on by a thought, I took hold of the sword the lake spirit had granted us, and held it out to the bearded man. He took it with a bemused expression. I was taking him in for his crimes, yet presenting him with a gift? Solas looked equally confused. But I was steadfast in my reasoning. My mock salute and smirk were in complement to the seriousness in my voice. Professional but earnest.

"Welcome to the Inquisition, Thom Rainier."

Chapter Text

No more than a week later, the looming Frostbacks surrounded us once more. We hadn’t remained in the Hinterlands long, but our progress had been hampered somewhat by the caravan of supplies we now had in tow. Two merchants decided to make the journey with us immediately, lured by the prospect of being the first to sell and the promise of an armed escort. Those who had agreed to our terms but would wait to follow suit would not have the elite of the Inquisition at their flanks. We’d offered the aid of our soldiers nonetheless; couldn’t leave potential assets unguarded, now could we?

Josie had arranged trade routes through Ferelden and Orlais both; nobility that owned some of the lands each path would cross were eager to get a foothold in these merchants as well. Furs, grains, and rare wood for craft, from Ferelden; textiles, delicacies, and precious metals, from Orlais. Even Antiva wanted in, sending coffee, chocolate and spices. My sabatons passed the grates of the grand gate, my horse passed off to a waiting stablehand. I was too tired to make eye contact. Too irritable, and I admit I was less than pleased when I was not immediately allowed to disappear for the remainder of the day. Josie pulled me into my stairwell, looking like the cat that ate the canary. Her poker face was good, but I could tell she was plotting something.

“Can I at least like, sleep or something? Please? I’m too fucking tired to put on my customer service smile.”

“I had no idea you were acquainted with servicing the public. However, I was told to give you these and send you off to take a bath. Once you are presentable, your attendance is requested in the Great Hall.”

Josie visibly shuddered as the draft from my open balcony hit her. Her silks may look nice but they did nothing to keep her warm. But my attention did not stay on her long.

On a stand in front of the open balcony door, surrounded by my billowing curtains, sat the most exquisitely crafted armor I’d ever seen. Ebony black, my preferred scale mail that ran the length of my legs, and familiar shifting plates… but…

The front panel of the cuirass was sleeker, and where my current stormheart set had a distinctly mermaid feel to it, this set was the true definition of Dread Siren. Detachable ceremonial wings, fitted with splayed feathers (were those griffon?) arched from flexible shoulder blades, and were peaked with cruel talons. The cut of the greaves were higher than I was used to, drawing attention to my narrow waist. The wings were mimicked across the breastplate, an ornate siren fitted between. It wasn’t obtrusive however, built for speed and flexibility. The overall look was similar, but the deep charcoal black was more formidable. Hints of ocean-blue stormheart, brilliant gold, and lustrous silver peeked between the plates and scales, and the faintly shimmering runes that graced my old set were present here as well.

I hefted the left gauntlet, running my fingers along the delicate scales, testing the tiny sharp spikes that adorned the knuckles and the larger ones on the back of my forearm. The other gauntlet had these too, and I noticed they ended just before where my siren whip would be. Functional yet still decorative. If forced into melee situations I wouldn't be left entirely weaponless. 

"Josie this is..." I turned to express my gratitude, but she was already gone. Behind where she had stood I noticed a bath had been prepared, and after laying my stormheart garb aside, I washed in a hurry. Best not keep her waiting. The steam of the bath eased some of my aches but it was far too short for my liking. My sweet spiced vanilla soap was like a welcoming embrace that I never wanted to leave.

I gingerly tried each piece of my new armor on. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that it was built to withstand far more than I could do to it by trying it on, but I savored the experience all the same. It fit perfectly, like a second skin. I fastened my midnight teal cloak to my back, forgoing my staff and its accompanying holsters. My damp hair was whipped into a braid, and I attempted to dry it with faint warmth in my fingertips as Solas had tried to show me. It helped, sort of. My hair appeared dry but was still damp enough to leave messy waves when I would eventually pull it out of its confines later on. 

I made my way to the Great Hall, my anxiety mounting. What would they need from me, all dressed up in new finery? Would I be greeting a new dignitary, a potential royal asset perhaps?

No.

Wait.

Shit.

The Great Hall was empty, but a great commotion could be heard on the other side of the massive wooden doors.

They were waiting for me outside.

Fuckfuckfuckfuck.

Now?

I paced before the imposing doors, wringing my hands in my new gauntlets. Breathe Syraena. Breathe. You knew this had to happen. Hell, it's overdue. Now get out there and show them who's Inquisitor!

This spurred me onward, and I flung open the doors with my newfound confidence, pinning a dazzling smile to my face.

Sure enough, Cullen, Josie, Leliana and Cassandra awaited me on the landing above the restless crowd. Leliana held a massive ceremonial sword out to me. It looked every bit as absolutely ridiculous as it had in the game. No one would ever use it for anything other than a prop, a decoration. 

Cassandra turned to me and smiled. "The Inquisition needs a leader. The one who has already been leading it. You."

"Not that I didn't know this was gonna happen eventually, but you do realize what having an elfy mage Inquisitor will do to us? Let alone an agnostic elfy mage?"

Cassandra leveled her smoldering gaze at me. "I will not pretend no one will object, but times are changing. Maybe this is what the Maker intended."

Leliana approached slowly, head bowed; I could see a hint of a smirk beneath her cowl. The ridiculous greatsword laid across her palms.

I grasped the pommel in one gauntleted hand, and soon realized I'd need two. 

This thing was super fucking heavy.

I bit my lip in effort, the pommel in my right hand and the blade across my left, the anchor flickering beneath it. Steady now. Breathe.

"You all know I am not the most regal leader. I am not a genius. I am not rich. I speak what I feel, regardless of how it might be perceived. Sometimes that is to my detriment, because frankly, I'm an utter idiot. I can't promise a lifetime of wealth to those who follow me. I can't promise comfort, or even glory." I furrowed my brow, looking over the bemused crowd.

"Once upon a time, I was beaten. Abused. Starved for the fun of someone who was meant to be my guardian. A toy to a greater being. The horrific acts I saw as a child should never have come to pass. I see before me today mothers, fathers, children. You are not here for my entertainment. You came to help, just as I did. Whatever brought us here together..... Divine intervention, coincidence, or simply the will in all races to push on through the darkness, so that one day we may see the light.... I want you to know that I stand beside the downtrodden. My home is yours. Thedas is yours. We will fight the beast that threatens us, and unravel the messes he has made. And when there is no beast left to fight, when the dust has finally settled, I hope your homes will be open to the downtrodden as well. I fight for you, beside you, and I will continue to fight even after you all go home. Hear me: my sword, my whip, my Anchor, my humor, my heart... they are yours."

A great cheer rose up from below. Roused by my speech, they raised sword and shovel alike. 

Cassandra stepped forward, giving me an approving smile. "Have the people been told?"

"Yes, and soon, the world." Josie lilted.

Cullen prowled before us, rallying the crowd. "Inquisition! Will you follow? Will you fight? Will we triumph?"

The cheering was nearly deafening, echoing off the stones of Skyhold. I shifted my stance, swelling my mana within me. Something deep in my soul resonated with pride and determination. 

"Lady Syraena Dire: your leader, your Herald, your Inquisitor!" Cullen brandished his sword, and several others joined his. I grinned, thrusting my ceremonial monstrosity upward. My magic decided on its own to go with it. The silver sword burst into white-gold flame, glorious as the sun. From the looks I got, I had unwittingly cemented my status as Herald of Andraste.

But I couldn't care less. For the moment, I was someone's hero.

Chapter Text

"That's a shield in your hand, recruit, block with it!" Commander Cullen shouted over the din of clanging steel and the solid thuds of wood. The influx of new recruits saw to it that the fair-haired lion had no moment of peace and quiet. He ran a gauntleted hand through his tamed locks, tousling a few free of their confines. He folded his arms across his plated chest once more, and observed Leliana and I descending the stairs before him. The fiery-haired rogue and I shared an conspiring smile. 

Cullen looked between the two of us suspiciously. "Good afternoon, Lady Dire, Lady Nightingale. To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?"

We stopped before him, and I turned to the Spymaster. "Leliana, I do believe our men are giving the Commander a hard time. It must be difficult to train them without professional demonstration..."

"Quite right, Syraena. I imagine our men are more visual learners. If only the Commander had a real challenger."

My gaze flicked from the hooded Spymaster to Cullen, and he shifted uncomfortably. "Oh, wait. I believe I submitted a formal challenge quite some time ago."

Cullen scoffed. "That request was hardly formal, milady. You were in quite the compromising position if memory serves... I never thought you were serious."

My lips quirked, baring my teeth on the left side in a feral smirk. "Don't tell me you refuse my challenge? I'm hurt, good sir."

He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. His charges watched on in anticipation. We would have an audience if he accepted. Even now I could feel the weight of their stares urging us on, and it was this pressure that caved the poor ex-templar in. He sighed, taking his sword in hand and grabbing a shield from one of his trainees. "And what are the terms of this duel?"

"No fatal injury obviously... No low blows. Stay within Skyhold. First one on the ground loses." I readied my staff, twirling it in my hands once it detached from my harness. Flashy, yet effective. It occurred to me that he hadn't seen me fight since my arrival at Haven. Back then I was fresh, only knew two spells and was barely proficient in those. 

This was gonna be fun.

His stance widened, readying for attack. Leliana's signal, Cullen pounced. Hello defensive, my old friend... I parried his sword blow for blow with my staff, my fingers deftly turning the humming metal rod that jolted with every strike. He drove me back toward the stone wall, and though it would be a good plan with any other combatant, he was fighting me

"Cullen you forget," I grunted between strikes. "I have wings." His confusion was apparent, until his falter gave me all the time I needed to cast my siren grappling hook up. The metal of the cruel wings dug into the landing of the stairs, and a solid yank sent me flying up the wall, toes finding brief purchase in the mortar. I hung there, just out of reach, taunting him. 

"What's the matter Cullen? Never chased a mage before?" He growled in frustration, and strode backwards to the bottom of the stairs, never taking his eyes off me. The moment his boots hit the bottom stair, however, I cast a quick barrier over myself and launched upward away from the wall. My grappling hook detached, and I re-affixed it to the crenelations on the ramparts. I flipped with my momentum, much to the wonder of our little audience. Cullen however looked less than pleased that I had decided to make this a game of cat and mouse. The narrow battlements also gave me the advantage, because the moment he crested the stairs, I hit him with a dazzling array of shards. 

He blinked away the spots in his vision just in time to see my aedric spear driving him back. Cullen danced backward, shield blocking my glowing shaft of energy. Where it struck, shards broke off in a splash of golden glitter. His tactical retreat nearly upended some poor scout, who clung to the wall for dear life.

"Inquisitor, maybe-ah! Maybe it would be safer to fight somewhere else?" He ground out.

"Oh all right. Spoil sport. Catch me if you can!" and with that, I Fade-stepped off the wall. I faintly heard his gasp of concern, but the barrier that encased me absorbed the shock of my superhero landing; Deadpool would be proud. I awaited the Commander's descent, swaying side to side in a dance remembered from my time in Elder Scrolls online. Each pivot of my hips was met by a palm, my feet guided me in small steps, my arms twined in the air above me. It was nearly as taunting as my spider act earlier. At this rate, the poor fellow was getting more tired from the stairs than from the combat. He set upon me once more, and we each strove for dominance, my spears and his sword colliding in a shower of gold sparks. 

The crowd had doubled in size, and even a few members of my inner circle came to spectate. Bull was there, tankard in hand, beside a few of his Chargers. I assumed they'd been drawn out of the Tavern by our ruckus. Cassandra was there too, accompanied by Varric. I saw her mutter something to the dwarf out of the corner of my eye. It appeared he was taking bets. I tipped my head back with laughter, a short fade-step away from the Commander as I dodged a particularly devastating blow. He spun, sword overhead, driving his momentum toward my path of retreat. That slash bounced off my barrier, and I staggered back from the force of it. 

Cullen saw his opportunity, and pressed his advantage. Another strike, nearly depleting my barrier, struck my ribs on the same side. He had discovered my tendency to leave my left side undefended between strikes, and was mercilessly exploiting it. Blow after blow rained down upon me. In a moment of desperation, I flung my whip out toward him with abandon. It lashed across his cheek, leaving a bright crimson welt in its path. I felt a little guilty for marring him, but I drew my tether back and coiled it around his knee. I pulled hard, a solid kick to the chest driving him to the ground. The solid plate armor took the brunt of my kick, but it did nothing for the balance loss. His knee gave way, and he was sent sprawling to his ass in the mud. His hands braced him up, his lower half completely coated in loamy muck. My aedric spear tipped his face up to look at me. 

"I thought you were a healer?" He asked, by way of congratulations. I grasped his hand and pulled him to stand. 

"I am. Best damn healer the Inquisition has. Here," I offered a glowing hand filled with golden glitter, and flicked it across the abrasion on his cheekbone. It healed instantly, and the golden glitter sunk into his skin, leaving him fresh and pink. 

I turned to the gathering of recruits and spectators. I bowed with a flourish amidst the cheering and jeering. 

"That was quite the kick. I nearly won, if not for that." 

"I did promise no low blows. Your nuts are still intact, so I expect to see grumpy babies here at some point."

"My - Maker's Breath, Lady Dire! I'm not even..." 

"Don't give me that. Cassandra and you have this bromance going on I'll never understand."

"She's seven years my senior!" he blushed, but his eye flicked to the crowd.

"And? Solas is much older than I am. I'm only twenty seven. Seven years is perfectly reasonable." I winked at the flustered Commander, and looked to where the Seeker in question stood not twenty yards off. She was handing coin off to Varric. She bet against me! "She's sappier than she looks. Flowers and poetry will work wonders. Just be your usual adorable, awkward, knightly self."

"I am not discussing this with you." He grabbed a canteen off the bench nearby, his chugging an attempt to drown me out.

"Fine, be that way. Just know I've Seen all of you naked at least once. The advisors. The Inner Circle. Nothing any of you could possibly say would embarrass me." I said blithely.

He spluttered, water spewing everywhere. "You W-WHAT?" 

"I'm just gonna go play matchmaker... over there. Nice chatting with you!" I jogged away, leaving the puddle that had once been the Commander of my armies behind.

 


 

It turns out my little performance earlier had gotten quite a bit of attention. I could feel eyes on me all through dinner, and I scarfed down my potatoes and gravy as quickly as possible. My rush scalded my tongue but I paid it no heed as I ducked into the rotunda. Solas was there, on a chaise lounge by the wall, his dinner on an end table beside him. He was bare from the waist up, and was covered in flecks of paint that matched the half-finished mural behind him.

I approached it, and my jaw dropped. This was not the image I had seen in the game. It was similar, the same style and palette, but it was so much more. Central to the image, a sylph of a woman stood with her back to the viewer, her dark copper-brown hair whipping from her braid in a stormy breeze. A turbulent sea rose before her, white lighting splitting the skies. Her aura seemed to glow white, lit from within. The hands at her sides shone bright rays across the image, the left a vivid green, the right a pure white-gold. The green of the Anchor and the copper of her hair were the only real color to the painting. Everything else was harsh shades of black, charcoal and a sandy beige. And far off to her left, guarding her from afar, a black wolf with six vivid eyes that were barely pinpricks on the wall. Though the wind tore at them both, it was clear that the pair stood fast against the storm. 

I walked up to it, tipping my head back as I took it all in. I could feel the smug pride, and something deeper, resonating from Solas. Admiration - no - adoration. Every stroke was lovingly done, precisely placed. And beyond that, I could feel it. The resolute determination and steadfast devotion practically wept from the wall. 

"I can... I feel this painting, vhenan. It calls to me. How?" I looked to him in amazement and a gentle smile flitted across his face. 

"It is an old technique, from the days of Arlathan. Every stroke is done with intent; the magic that impacts every curve, every color, conveys the feeling of the one who paints it. You feel as I feel." Solas stood from his seat, brushing a few stray bread crumbs from his leggings. He moved beside me and placed an arm around my waist, drawing me to him. It was a comforting gesture, and mimicked the painting; The Siren and her Wolf, facing the storm side by side.

"Ar lath ma vhenan." Solas whispered, pulling me closer and tucking my head beneath his chin with a gentle kiss upon my forehead. I dove into the warmth his arms provided, wrapping my arms around his back. No storm could break us apart.

 

Chapter Text

"You cannot be serious, Lady Dire!" Josephine gaped at me over the War Table, which at the moment was strewn with various sketches and swatches. The Invitation had arrived, and rather than being announced as Gaspard's guests, Celene herself had extended the invitation, with the caveat that The Queen Consort of Ferelden Elissa Cousland would be in attendance. Today's matter for debate had tensions high in the room, but I would not give in.

"I am absolutely serious Josie. I'm not wearing that damn uniform. I'd rather go naked." To emphasize my point, I took her stack of designs with the foul McDonald's color palette, and tossed them into the fire. She gave a near shriek of horror. 

"You will use my designs, and Orlais will love them. Or they won't, I really don't give a shit. But I refuse to wear red and-" I shuddered in disgust, "beige. Why would you think those would look good together?"

"They are quite dashing. Commander Cullen for example would be the talk of the ball!" She indicated the blushing blonde, who was doing his damnedest to stay out of this conversation. 

I picked up the pages that contained my own gown. Deep black silk, its sweetheart neckline deceptively delicate. Full skirts that would require hoops. A simple black mask, trimmed with gold and crimson embroidery. According to Josie and Vivienne however, it was far too simple and showed far too much decolletage. I had a similar design for every member of the Inquisition that would attend, with small changes to suit each. Cassandra's overskirts could be removed to reveal leather pants, a style that had served her well at the Ghislain Estate. Vivienne's was more trumpet shaped, and had her typical epaulets trimmed in gold. Evelyn had a hand in my design process, and personally chose a sheath, similar to the one she'd picked to attend Vivienne's salon. I had opted for smart black suits for the men, trimmed in gold with crimson sashes. We would appear as a cohesive unit, yet individuals in our own right.

"Dorian, help me out here." I begged the Tevinter mage.

He picked up his own suit, feeling the grain of the swatches beneath his thumb. "They are eye-catching, no doubt. I quite like them. They are not as ostentatious as I would have suggested, but that may be to our benefit."

"They'll see us as trendsetters. Less is more. We are attending this ball at a time in the season when ladies have been wearing the same designs for a while now. We will be wearing something they haven't seen before, and they'll latch to the new fashion quicker than you can say 'petticoats.'" I rifled through my sheaf of papers, bringing out my secret weapon. I passed this to Leliana, whose eyes immediately widened in admiration.

"These shoes. What are they made of?"

I tapped various parts of the black pumps drawn on the paper. "The structure is metal, including the core of this heel. The whole thing is covered in black leather, shined and polished, until they are brighter than the Empress' diamonds. The insole is cushioned." I indicated the seams where the leather would be bonded, the inside of the heel, the back of the shoe.... 

"They may be uncomfortable after a time. I plan on giving each lady a pair of silk slippers, but once we break these in we should have no trouble. I've walked in similar heels at formal events. The effect is... intimidating."

"I can see that."

Josephine looked over my designs again with a sigh. "Anything else we should note for the seamstress?"

I pounded my fist on the wooden slab table, rattling a few of our markers loose. My advisors looked slightly alarmed at my outburst. "Pockets. Every dress better have some goddamn pockets."

 


 

With designs in hand I went to see Solas. He was there in the rotunda, working on that magnificent mural. Its progress was astounding, and as per usual he had bits of dark paint across his arms and hands. I carefully laid the pages out on his desk for his perusal.

"The attire for the impending event we are to attend?"

I nodded. "Josephine doesn't think they'll go over well with the Orlesians. You should've seen the shit she was gonna stick us in! And you had this weird little skullcap! Ughhh." I eyed his rapidly growing hair. Dark and sleek, he'd drawn it back behind his ears. A strand had escaped at the fore, and dangled before his eyes. He'd mentioned a technique that would help him grow it faster, and though it was just long enough to be tied off with a leather strip, the majority of the short wisps had escaped while he worked. 

It occurred to me then that his height, his build, his power.... if this was any other fantasy realm, he'd be a high elf. It was evident in his jaw, his cheekbones... He was vastly unlike any elf I'd seen in Thedas. Most were porcelain faces and doe eyes...

"Vhenan?"

I was startled out of my reverie, and by the inquisitive look he was giving me, he was awaiting an answer to a question he'd asked. 

"Sorry what? I was staring at your face. Completely blanked out there for a minute." 

A soft smile lit up his face. "I am flattered. I only wished to know how you planned to fight in these, should the need arise."

"Sera will be sneaking in weapons for us. She thanked me quite a bit for not forcing her into a dress. She has Friends in Halamshiral, so she'll be dressed as a servant. I can use my spears if cornered. I'll also have a stiletto in my corset."

"That is most wise. I can only imagine the attention this gown will attract. If I could, I would be by your side for the entire evening."

"Are you sure you can't? I really don't feel comfortable sneaking around someone's house alone, palace or no." I batted my lashes at him in an effort to persuade him. 

He sighed, his eyes closed for the span of a breath. "It would not do for someone of your station to be seen with an apostate servant." 

I leaned into him, hushed tones for his ears only, my hands splayed across his bare chest. "Of my station? If only they knew I take an elvhen god to bed every night..."

A hunger stirred in his eyes, storm clouds across the blues of his irises. He took my wrists where they lay on his chest and gripped them tightly. "Vhenan, please. Not here."

"I'll think of some way to mark you as mine; some subtle favor, a rose perhaps... Even if you can't be at my side, The Court will know that you are the only one who has me." I smoothed imaginary lapels, my eyes tracing his collarbone before flitting back to his face. Hard lines between his brows, hurricane raging in his aura and his eyes; he looked ready to devour me whole. I raised my lips to his - his restraint was apparent, and it was with great disappointment that I withdrew. "No one else can lay claim to me, regardless of what I wear to that damned ball. And I pity anyone who tries." I released him with a wink. "I must go show these designs to the rest of my Inner Circle. I may have to rework Elissa's a bit..." 

He kissed me briefly, the edge of hunger still in his voice as he uttered, "Dareth shiral."

 


 

In the end, I had completely overhauled the Queen's gown. It now had an empire waist instead of a drop waist, fuller skirts than I had originally intended, and sleeves - Anastasia style sleeves, off the shoulder and parted in the front like capelets. In fact, the entire gown had Anastasia vibes; Elissa was the only woman to have a sash, blood red that matched her ruby circlet perfectly. Of all the black silk gowns in my sheaf of designs, hers was the most extra. I caved, mostly because I really didn't feel like pissing off the tiny Queen.

The bickering and running about had me exhausted, so it was no surprise that when my head hit the pillow, the Fade stole me away in an instant. When the air around me decided what it wanted to be, I found myself back in the glittering birch forest, surrounded by blinking wisps. The same force I'd felt before greeted me. Its magnetic push, its sheer force of will... 

"Come out spirit. I would speak with you, if you'd allow." My voice was strong and sure. A moment's pause, then a figure stepped out from behind a tree. Plum tresses fanned out from her head, cascading down her back and across her shoulders. Her gown flowed like wine from her body and was nearly as intoxicating. Vivid maroon eyes peeked from a deeply tanned face. She gave the impression of a rich amethyst peeking from fertile soils, power and will radiating from her. Her approach was slow, measured. Wildflowers parted ways for her. The spirit's impressive presence nearly overshadowed that of the small child behind her.

The frail spirit was liquid moonlight. Platinum blonde hair framed his white antlers, which were strung with trails of ice blue flowers. Where his companion was clad in the finery of royalty, the boy had only a simple white tunic and leggings. He looked no older than ten years old. I was immediately drawn by the crystalline sound of his voice, as he was the first to speak.

"Andaran atish’an, Asha'lean. I am Muse. My companion here is Influence. We have watched you for some time now, Lightbringer."

"Influence, I've felt. I cannot say that I was aware of you, Muse. No offence intended."

"None taken. Those most in need of me feel I am fleeting, unexpected. Soft strings hum beneath the loudest drums."

I smiled at his analogy. "Indeed. I prefer the strings, so they are always what I listen for."

"Then you and I will get along nicely. Influence tells me you have shown qualities that mark you as spirit touched. She moves with hand unseen to help you toward your goal, but she feels there is more we can do to aid you. Even so... We would not have shown yourselves unless you called... and here we are."

"I thank you for your aid, in whatever form it comes. Is there any way I can be of help to you in exchange?"

Influence spoke for the first time, her voice heady and sharp. "Has the Wolf not taught you the ways of spirits? You ask too vaguely. Were we not as benevolent as we are, you would have committed yourself to an open ended deal with a being of the Dreaming," she admonished me. "My first piece of advice comes freely. If you would have the People listen to you, speak with intent. No voice is more deafening or persuasive than the one that knows the right words."

"My apologies, spirit. I will speak more plainly. What is it you intend to aid me with?"

Muse spoke again, his fine silver eyebrow quirked. "You fancy yourself a siren, yet you draw people in with your humor, your charm. You could be more, with us. You sing, but it is just a tune. You speak, but they are just words. A Commander needs to capture the ear of those around them. A prize violin in a sea of drums."

"And what would you request of me in exchange?" the key question slipped off my tongue. Always read the fine print

"Each of us has but one request. Influence wishes to gain knowledge of the future. One prophecy. As for me..." The small boy grinned widely, baring small pearly fangs. A being so pure, so fragile, should have no need for such things, and it left me a little uneasy. "Sing for me. A song you gather inspiration, peace, strength from. If I am pleased with it, we will grant you our favor." 

Why was I suddenly feeling as though I were Ariel, faced with a tiny pale Ursula? "Would you like me to sing here, or did you have a venue in mind?"

The small boy's face smoothed once more, and he gestured broadly to our little clearing as though it were the grandest of stages. I stood before them, breathing deeply and wracking my brains for a song... one that would please them both. 

I gently closed my eyes, and began to sing.

 

Sick of all these people talking

Sick of all this noise

Tired of all these smiles flashing

Sick of being poised

Now my neck is open wide

Begging for a fist around it

Already choking on my pride

So there's no use crying about it...

I flashed my eyes open, staring them down with roiling intent. My lips curled in a devious smile, and I raised my palms at my sides, fingers crooking like delicate claws.

 

I'm headed straight for the castle

They wanna make me their queen

and there's an old man

sitting on the throne

that's saying that I probably shouldn't be so mean...

I lifted my chin regally, channeling my inner Halsey. One step, another, taking my grassy stage in slow strides. It was a dark song, to be sure, but I could remember times I'd pretended I was Queen, all-powerful and lofty as I practiced singing in front of the mirror. The spirits before me gave no indication of approval, but they watched me with steady eyes, never blinking. 

 

I'm headed straight for the castle

They've got the kingdom locked up

and there's an old man

sitting on the throne

that's saying that I should probably keep my pretty mouth shut...

There between the sun dappled birches I found myself losing time as I sang, putting all I was worth into my voice. When I finished, Muse smiled again. That creepy, doll-like smile. He slid toward me on graceful feet, clapping slowly as he studied me.

"Very well done. The music of your other life is truly fascinating. Full of energy. You have my ear and my favor, Asha'lean."

"Influence, I find I am unsure of what to tell you. I..." I blanched. "Wait... do you know the spirit of Wisdom who holds Solas's counsel?"

She nodded imperiously. "I know many spirits of Wisdom. The one of which you speak is a favorite of mine."

"She's probably going to die. I'd hate for it to happen, though. In the future I've seen, idiot mages summon her against her will to defend them against bandits. She becomes twisted into Pride. It's abhorrent."

"That is exceedingly helpful. I will do my utmost to ensure that does not happen. You have my thanks, and my favor."

Each took one of my hands, placing a kiss to the back of them. They felt warm and cold at the same time, the strangest sensation that buzzed throughout my body from the twin points of contact. I could feel it even in the tether that connected me to the Waking, and when they released me, it was with a firm shove that sent me gasping to alertness in the light of dawn. 

Chapter Text

The encounter with Influence and Muse left my body wracked with an unusual sensation, one similar to licking a half-dead battery. It radiated from my hands, up my arms, and throughout my nervous system. I gasped for air, clinging to my silk sheets with shaking fingers. I startled Solas from his rest, and his eyes filled with panic as I struggled against the feeling. 

"Vhenan! What has happened? Are you alright?"  His hands ghosted over my body, searching for signs of injury, illness. Upon finding none the fear in his eyes grew exponentially.

I gritted my teeth to speak. I tasted copper against my tongue. "My- my arms! There were two spirits... Muse and Inf-influence. They touched me..."

"Touched... Did they harm you? Fenedhis... do not tell me you created a contract..." The fear ebbed somewhat, but the worry was tempered by uncertainty and mild irritation.

"No... but yes. Muse wanted me to sing. Influence wanted a prophecy of the f-future." I pulled the blankets up to my chin, fully intending to hide from the foreign jolting. "The song was simple enough but... Influence knows about Wisdom's potential fate, and she... She wants to use her abilities to change it, prevent it." 

"And in return?"

"They said... 'I speak but they are just words, I sing but it is just a tune' and gave me their blessing. Something about a Commander needing to have the ear of those around them." I curled against him beneath the bedspread. He was firm, warm, real. In the shelter of his arms, the stinging receded into my palms, and faded altogether. He seemed to be mulling over my admission. 

"They seemed nice enough, for my first actual conversation with spirits. Muse was a bit off-putting though. A tiny, beautiful child with fangs and stag antlers." 

"It appeared to you as a child?"

"Yeah... why is that weird?" I peeked up at him from my nestled place in the blankets.

"Like the Fade, spirits reflect the world around them and the people they come into contact with. To you, the spirit of Muse appeared as a child. The spirits of Muse I have encountered appear as soft-spoken fair maidens or peaceful sylvans adorned with silver leaves."

I nodded, contemplating his words. "Your happy place seems like it would be quiet and serene... I can see why the spirits you find would emulate that."

"Indeed. But I am very happy in this place, so long as we remain undisturbed." Solas pulled me closer, his skin warm against the silk of my nightgown. Very rarely did we have moments like this, so when hands gently twined into the messy hair at the back of my head, I complied to his unspoken demands.

"I don't have any meetings this morning that I know of, so I'm all yours." I drew myself up to him, reveling in his embrace.  His breath slipped softly over my bottom lip when he used the hand in my hair to tip my head back. Small kisses, a trail of warm lips, from my chin down the column of my throat... I swallowed the moan that burgeoned in my chest. We had all the time in the world, he and I, and we filled it with languid kisses and gentle caresses. My hands were partial to the planes of his back. A single finger snaked down his spine and caused him to shudder, somewhere between tickling and pleasure.

He had me pinned beneath him, and in a flash he flipped me onto my stomach. My fingers left his skin for the soft pile of pillows; I kneaded them when he kissed the crook of my neck, clutched and bit at them when his hands found the hem of my nightgown. His slender fingers ghosted beneath the soft fabric and along the curve of my ass; at my hipbone they paused, gripped firmly and pulled the center of my body up to meet his. He ground against me with teasing touches. All I could do was breathe and allow him to position me... even if I could, I wouldn't have wanted to resist. He had taken the upper hand and I was lost to the feeling he ignited in me. He hadn't even touched my core yet, but the feather-light caresses of his fingers on my waist were filled with a charge that had me squirming. He stilled me with a hand.

"Vhenan - please..." I gasped, needing to feel him. I had no idea what he was doing to my nervous system but hot damn it felt good. A single swipe of a digit to my core, a testing finger, was too much yet far too little. I tipped up toward him, begging for his touch with a simple readjustment.

He growled in my ear - a primal, wolfish sound that shot through my body as deeply as his magic did. Finally I felt him press against me, and with little resistance he pushed inside, barely sheathed to the hilt. Something clicked like a puzzle piece into place, a rightness about the way we fit together. I tried to get him to move, to thrust, to provide some friction, but he seated himself as deeply as my body would allow and stayed there, his grip on my waist keeping me pinned in place for a torturous moment. 

One heartbeat stretched to two, and just when I thought I was going to break with impatience, he withdrew nearly completely, and drove back in. There was nearly a full breath, another pause, another drawn-out thrust. Each snap of his hips against mine came more quickly than the last, but only barely. I could feel the edge to his aura, the burning need to take, to savor, a predator toying with his prey. I keened into the pillow, spine arched against him, on hands and knees amidst the silk sheets. His delays shortened, still delving deeply but the wait was less intense. He leaned over me as his thrusts increased in pace and ferocity; the more I moaned, the harder he drove until he had set a punishing pace. It was as though his want to devour me had overridden his desire to take his time. 

I nearly shattered when he leaned over me, one hand locating the bundle of nerves where we were joined. The hungry thrusts and the expert ministrations of his middle finger had me crying out. My orgasm clenched and shuddered around him, and he finally allowed himself to give into his. He bit down harshly where my neck met my shoulder - definitely leaving a mark. He drove into me with wild abandon until my knees began to cave under him, intent on riding me into the bed before a deafening incomprehensible shout heralded his own climax. He stayed there until his breathing steadied, until my heartbeat became regular again. He withdrew, gently drawing my pleasure out with a few smaller thrusts, before leaving completely. I was a sopping wet mess, caved into the bed. It was several minutes before I could even move, but I could hear the sounds of a bath being prepared. The stone pool behind one of our doors sloshed with water. 

He returned to the bed, if only to help me out of it. My nightgown was discarded in a silken heap, and I stood bare before him. Stormy eyes darkened as he took stock of my disheveled hair, the red marks at my hip, the bite on my shoulder, the wetness that clung to my thighs. He stroked each of his claiming marks with a thumb, lips gently following in a sultry chase.  When he knelt briefly before me, his eyes flitted closed and he placed a gentle kiss just below my belly button reverently. I set my hands lightly upon his hair, absently stroking his dark locks with a single finger.

A gentle smile curved my lips at the mental image this dredged up; my stomach swollen with his child, the same worshipping kiss, the adoration in his blue-grey eyes. A warm giggle escaped me unbidden. Solas rose to his feet gracefully, eyes blown wide. 

"Care to tell me what you find so humorous?"

"Nothing, really. I..." a blush crept up my face, the tips of my ears feeling hot. "I couldn't help picturing what it would be like if you did that..."

"If you were with child." He said it so matter-of-factly, as if it were an eventuality and not simply a far off chance. We'd never really discussed it but...

"Yes. I know now's not a great time for it, and I wasn't even sure if you would ever want to. Fatherhood would suit you, once things aren't so shitty. It's not going to be for a while, I mean if you wanted- if you don't, I completely understand..." I was rambling, and he hushed me with a gentle kiss.

"Vhenan, I have long awaited someone that would be a possibility with. When the world is set to rights, yes, I would want that." 

I buried my face under his chin to hide my embarrassment. Rarely did I show anything near this corny. He embraced me there for a moment, allowing me to collect myself. When my moment had passed and I had suppressed my blush, he led me to the bath. All evidence of our lovemaking, with the exception of that bite mark on my shoulder, was washed away in vanilla-scented waters, white petals and spices floating on the surface and lacing the steam with sweet warmth. We were quiet, pensive, content to wash with no words spoken. I replayed the passion over in my head.

An abrupt snort left me and echoed off the stone walls. Solas looked to me with some concern.

"Sorry I just remembered. You being the Dread Wolf and all.... in the other world, they call that sexual position 'doggy-style.'" I shook with suppressed laughter as his ears turned red with dawning comprehension. 

"Fenedhis." he whispered amidst my giggles. 

Chapter Text

The nights leading up to the ball at Halamshiral were filled with last minute lessons, alterations and general frivolousness. The men were far simpler; their suits were tailored to fit far more quickly than the ladies' elaborate gowns. I had long since learned to steer clear of Cassandra on fitting days. She was bound to be a nightmare when it came time for the real thing. She was snippy and in serious need of some fucking coffee, perhaps heavily blended with whiskey. Vivienne had, of course, lent us the use of her chateau, and no less than five fully-manned carriages. I tried not to let it get to her head that we would probably owe her favors later on down the line. Of my makeshift instructors, she was the most overbearing. The posh mage made Josephine look like a total peach.

All of my time role-playing online paid off somewhat - my redheaded healer character had, after all, been of noble pedigree, even courting King Emeric of Daggerfall's nephew during one such RP session with my guildmates. Surely had they married she would have been no closer to the throne than say, 12th in line, but for the moment I channeled that... I played the duchess perfectly. It would be a matter of convincing the court that an elf of no discernible origin had every right to be there. 

Smile, look pretty, and give nothing away. Take them for everything they have.

It came as a slight shock to me, however, that our visit to the palace was not a single evening - it was slated to be a full day affair that bled into the following day. In the morning, we would tour the grounds, acquaint ourselves with various members of the Orlesian court, and later attend a formal banquet.  A bevy of entertainers would perform for the Empress, heading off the evening's festivities. The entire day held an infinite number of opportunities for an assassin to strike. Josephine was exacting in her itinerary, and The Inquisition would be among the first to arrive and the last to leave. We would be there to ensure that everything went according to plan. 

My black silk skirts had been bustled in such a way that it looked like a new gown without the crinolines. Corset aside, it was easier to move in, but I still preferred them the way I had intended them on paper. With no small amount of effort I had warmed everyone up to the unusual modern styles, yet the alteration to my gown had been Josephine's idea. She had insisted that I would want mobility through the gardens, but the full effect of the voluminous skirts for the peak of the evening. I'd excuse myself, unfasten the stays, and pop a crinoline underneath. It seemed like a hassle, but I let the Ambassador have that one, at least.

I paced the moonlit parquet floors of my massive room in Vivienne's guest wing restlessly, my nightgown whisking across my thighs in the summery breeze. I had been angry that Solas had not been allowed to share my rooms. "Your reputation, my dear." To placate me, she had given me a room that abutted his, one with added...perks. As I awaited his arrival, I fiddled with the ends of my braid, feet padding quietly in the silence of the suite. A soft click, a faint slide of wood against wood, and a panel in the gilded wainscoting opened to reveal my mage lover. He fitted the ornate panel back in place as quietly as he could. Dark grey eyes met mine as he crossed the room in a few long strides. I melted into his embrace with shuttered eyes, content to hold him, hoping to assuage some of my fears. 

"It occurs to me, with all the scheming and playacting, I'm way out of my depth. I only know a handful of people at this event. I have no idea how to greet them, what foods to avoid, hell I don't even know the dances here. Josie and Vivienne drilled book smarts into me. In theory I should be able to do this but in practice..."

"Vhenan, I have complete confidence in your ability to charm them. And you will not be alone."

"I suppose." I cocked an eyebrow. "I guess I could just use you and Bull as my tasters. You have an affinity for sweets, and Bull likes spicy foods... With the two of you I'm positive I won't starve. I may have to avoid Dorian and his wines though. Drunk Syraena is not for polite company."

"Which only leaves..." He stepped back a pace, smiled, and extended a hand to me in a flourishing bow. "Care to dance?" he asked with a delicate smile.

"I would be honored, vhenan." My hand nestled in his, and his other arm went to my waist. I looked between us to our feet, and carefully followed his steps. Left, together. Left, together. In, together. Out, together. Turn sideways 90 degrees, come apart and stand side by side. Join back together, repeat. He did it slowly, deliberately so that I could learn. We danced across the parquet floors, barefoot and nearly silent. The enormous room was filled with sterling moonlight, floor to ceiling sheer drapes billowing softly in the night air. I closed my eyes to tuck this moment away in my memories. I filled my mind with a soft tune, one I'd heard a thousand times before. It had no words, but filled me with such hope, such loss, such pure emotion... My eyes remained closed but I could feel the warmth of his body, the swell of the strings, the mournful cry that floated through my mind. 

Solas tensed almost imperceptibly, but continued gliding with me across the floor. I finally opened my gaze, and upon looking to his face, I saw that he was casting his eyes around in mild curiosity before settling firmly on me. 

"It seems Muse and Influence did indeed grant you their favor."

The song was playing. Not just in my head, but clear as day in our little piece of the world. The air around us glittered slightly with golden motes, tiny ones that resembled those in my Healing Springs. I wasn't casting but it was there all the same. We danced through the glitter that fell around us, pooled low on the floor like a luminescent fog. The suite was cast in shades of pale blue, pristine white and the faint gold sparks in a dreamy palette taken straight from a painting. So long as the music played, we danced.

When the song came to an end, he ceased our steps as well. His eyes glistened with emotion, and for the first time I thought he would cry.

"What was that song, ma lath?"

I looked to him with a soft smile. "It is your song. Lost Elf."

 

Somewhere on the other side of the Veil, the spirit of Muse hummed the new tune to himself contentedly. Elvhen'laim.

 

 


 

"Right, so I dunno how you expect me to sneak all this shite in for ya. You got a rug or something I can roll 'em up in?' Sera took stock of the staves, swords and one very conspicuous crossbow that lay before her on the carriage floor. We crowded around outside the carriage door, trying to not garner any undue attention while we waited for a 'servant' aka Sera to help us. 

"I believe I can assist with this." Dorian reached forward, mumbling a few words under his perfectly trimmed mustache. The tips of two of his fingers turned the faintest shade of purple, and with them he marked each weapon with a tiny rune. One by one, the weapons vanished. Curiosity overtook me and I felt around for them. They were there all right, just invisible. 

"Thank you Dorian, you stunning genius. Remind me to buy you drinks when we get back to Skyhold."

"You're not even going to ask why I would have need of such a spell in the first place? Really darling I thought you'd be itching to know."

"As much as I am dying for the tale, I think it'd be best to not clue your leader in to any illicit activities you've hidden in your past, hun. Not with all these witnesses."

Dorian laughed deviously. "Oh nothing of the sort! I simply smuggled an entire naked man in and out of my bedchambers - during one of the biggest holiday celebrations my family has ever hosted, I might add."

Bull shuffled his feet a bit at that. If I hadn't known better, I would not have caught what that meant. Probably wants to know if it'll work on someone his size.

I handed off the stack of invisible weapons to Sera, who looked like she was trying to give someone an awkward air-hug. "You'll probably wanna make multiple trips. You look super fucking suspicious like that."

"Stupid magic shite. Coulda just done the rug thing but noooooo."

Dorian sighed and poked the bellicose elf with a glowing finger. She too disappeared, but after a few seconds she shrieked. 

"Wot did ya do to me?  Fucking mage bullshite take it off me!"

"I daresay you have about an hour before that glamour wears off. I suggest you hurry."

"I can do my own stealth you purple hairy-lipped cockwaffle! Expect payback!"

"Sera get going. Stash those in the servants' quarters. We'll find you later." I urged, eager to get the ball rolling. Her grumbling could be heard several yards off, and the rest of us eased when it stopped. 

We said our goodbyes, and began taking up our designated positions. My advisors followed me into the gardens, and Elissa walked beside me. The queen had looked a bit green during our carriage ride through Val Royeaux, but she seemed to have gathered herself together. We idly chatted on our stroll, occasionally looping Josephine or Leliana into our conversation.

Cullen was already looking uncomfortable, but that could probably be attributed to the ladies simpering behind their fans and masks nearby, eyes hungry for the blonde ex templar. Cassandra noticed too, and struck up a side conversation with him. Something about the difference between two types of sword....

I tuned it out, turning my attention back to the queen consort. "Elissa I never really asked... do you enjoy these sorts of events?"

"I am of two minds. I love the splendor, the beautiful fashions, the music, the art... but I intensely dislike dishonesty. Fereldans have a banquet and care little to hide lies behind their potatoes. Orlesians use lies like seasonings. What a wonderful world it would be if we could have such a grand affair without ulterior motives poisoning it." 

"I feel the same. The only difference being I'm normally content to sit on the edges of the room admiring the art and not gathering any attention to myself. This will be the first time I seek the spotlight."

Josephine tapped my shoulder from behind. Her face was apologetic. "About that, Lady Dire. We just received a request for you last night. They have heard tell of the Siren of the Inquisition, and several members of the privy council wish to hear you sing this evening."

"Please tell me you politely declined."

"I did not."

I sighed. "Lemme guess. I'm to be a diversion."

"Precisely. Leliana thought it would be best to use your talents as a lure. While the crowd has their eyes on you, our agents will have their eyes on the crowd."

My feet glided over the fine pavestones that wound in intricate paths between the shrubbery. I mulled it over, then-

"I'm glad I've picked up a few tricks. Let's give them a show." I said with a devilish grin.

Chapter Text

 

Halamshiral gardens were quite extensive. It reminded me of the pictures I'd once seen of Versaille in its glory days. Minus the cake-eating peasants. Marie Antoinette and her notorious fashion sense would fit in well with some of the outlandish poofy dresses I saw here. So. Much. LACE. It was disgusting. The colors were gaudy too; pea green paired with cyan? No thanks. 

Cassandra had indeed been a difficult sell on her gown once alterations had been completed, but from her post across the courtyard I could see the "that could've been my outfit" on her face. It was an odd mixture of relief and disgust in equal measure. People seemed to give her space, but flocked to where Elissa stood nearby, amidst doting admirers. 

My attention was drawn back to the overly-affectionate noblewoman that stood before me. Lady Adrilla Marveaux? Was that right? She simpered to us with a heavy Orlesian accent, clearly already having found the expensive alcohol.

"My dear Inquisitor, you are an absolute vision. Who designed your gown?" a gloved hand waved toward my bodice, before it retreated behind her skirts idly.

"I did, with the help of my lovely Ambassador Josephine Montilyet. Surely you've met?" I gestured to the Antivan, who took my compliment in stride. 

"Lady Marveaux, I believe we both attended your cousin Lavinne's party two summers past. Her piano performance was inspired, and attested to the value your family places on the arts. It is gratifying to see in such trying times." 

"Indeed. The Marveaux household does ever hold music in high regard. I'd hoped to perform for the Empress myself, but I will be content simply to watch the display."

"The Inquisitor will be performing, won't you my Lady?" Josephine looked to me, all smiles. I nodded, glad my irritation was at least partially hidden behind my mask. I hadn't even thought of a song yet, and had no Idea when or where I would be brought before the court. But I smiled and bluffed, which came easily as the Lady Marveaux was quite inebriated.

"Yes. I will be performing a song that was dear to an old friend of mine. I do hope you like it. I confess I am likely nowhere near the prowess of some of these musicians."

Adrilla bent slightly toward me at the waist, leaning over her fan. "Nonsense! Everyone who is anyone has heard tell of the Siren of the Inquisition. They say your voice is positively enchanting."

"Your words flatter me. I can only hope the Empress enjoys it." I curtseyed in semi-feigned gratitude. My skirts swept over the grasses as I bent gracefully in a practiced motion.

"I have no doubt she will. You are quite the stunning creature. Surely those lips do the most marvelous things." The drunk lady hid her face behind her fan, and I sorely regretted not having one. I nearly choked as it was. Did she just...? It appeared she wasn't done, however, and turned her sights on Cullen. The blonde Commander practically writhed under her gaze. "Don't you agree, Commander Rutherford? The two of you should come to more of these gatherings. I'll keep you in mind the next time I find myself in need of a party." And with a lascivious wink, she turned on unsteady heel and walked away. 

Staring after her, stock still, I addressed my advisors. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Lady Marveaux invited us to a ménage à trois."

Josephine coughed a little. "It seems you are correct, Lady Dire."

I turned to them then, shielding the bottom part of my face with my hands. "Fucking hell. No thank you. No offense, Cullen."

The poor man looked like he wanted to sink into the pavestones. "None taken, Lady Dire."

"I wouldn't know what to do with a vagina even if it came with pre-printed instructions on the lip."

"Inquisitor, PLEASE."

"Oh all right. You guys are no fun."


 

Though the gardens were astonishingly beautiful and intimately cared for, I found myself not enjoying them as I would if I were alone. The guests just would not leave us be, and did everything they could to curry favor with us. I received no less than 5 indecent proposals, and my advisors had their share as well. Marriages, supplies, troops, gold.... all laid at our feet, if we would back them for whichever title or power play they were angling for. 

I could barely contain my relief when the bells began to chime. The bustling crowd made their way to the palace, where we were directed to a grand dining hall. The gilded ceilings here were easily over twenty feet high, sculpted for the best acoustics. Five enormous tables formed a U shape in the hall, two on either side and the Head Table at the end. The Council were seated there, with Celene in the center, Briala and Gaspard at either side of her. Directly opposite the Head table was a raised marble dais, a stage of sorts, with a balcony behind it separated by a gilded banister. It was on this stage where a string quartet played an unfamiliar, upbeat song to drown out the sounds of idle chatter and people being seated.

The members of the Inquisition took up a table all our own, for which I was glad; I would not be seated with people I didn't know. My advisors flanked me, Cassandra, Cullen, and Evelyn on my right, Leliana, Josephine and Elissa to my left. It was clearly thought of ahead of time, calling forth the image of the Left and Right hands now backing the Inquisitor. This had not gone unnoticed, because on a couple occasions I found people eyeing our seating arrangement and whispering behind fans or gloved hands. Solas had been seated furthest away from me, much to my dismay; Iron Bull and Dorian were also nowhere near me. It would be a long evening.

The crowd began to calm, finally seated. On cue, a line of immaculately dressed servants poured from the kitchen doors, laden with trays of all sorts. I spotted Sera, and several of our elven scouts, amongst the staff. The servants fanned out, placing their servings in perfect synchronization. First came the starter course: soups of every kind, steamed and baked vegetables, three different types of bread, and unfamiliar finger foods that looked like escargot, but were in fact Brussels sprouts wrapped in bacon and dressed in a buttery sauce. The gilded place setting before us had far too many spoons, forks and knives, but after watching Josephine surreptitiously tap a manicured nail on a certain fork in her own setting, I picked that one up first. 

Then came pasta and casserole-like dishes, and though I wasn't sure how many courses this meal would have, I kept my portions small. It seemed like a waste, but in fact very little was left before the courses were swapped out by the staff. It gave the appearance of excess, without wasting sorely needed royal funds. Orlais was in the middle of a civil war, after all.

The main courses were brought out, and I was watering at the mouth. 

Pot roast.

They had authentic New England Pot roast.

The trays were massive, but there was no mistaking the glistening potatoes, the roast that would fall apart under your fork, the bright carrots. The servants had trays of fowl and fish as well, but I ignored them. I was glad then that I'd left room, because when I dug into the roast, it was positively divine. 

Desserts were an array of cakes, candied fruits and pies, and I selected something that looked like a cheesecake with chocolate. It tasted of desire. A quick glance to the end of our table showed Solas nibbling decadently at a 3 tiered lemon and creme confection, and I stifled a giggle. 

He really does like cakes.

It was all I could do not to slouch, sated with the delicious feast, and I watched Celene dab away food from her lips with a pristine cloth napkin before rising. When she stood, everyone stood, wine glasses aloft. I followed suit, and switched the hands that held my own wine glass at a pointed look from Josephine. 

"Thank you all for coming. I would like to propose a toast, to my dear cousin Duchess Florianne, without whom none of this would have been possible." She tipped her head, and amongst sips and polite cheers, Celene continued. "And to our dear Lady Syraena Dire, Inquisitor and Herald of Andraste. Your arrival is like a cool wind on a summer's day. We are most grateful you agreed to head off tonight's celebrations by indulging us in a song."

Celene gestured to the raised marble dais, tipping her head to me. "The stage is yours."


 

The grand hall was filled with hundreds of masked faces, the hushed whispers from their unmoving painted lips barely reached me where I stood in the alcove. My own mask concealed my anxiety. Get on with it, Siren... give these folks a show they won't soon forget. With all the grace of a practiced ballerina, my hands slightly aloft over my voluminous silk skirts, I cut a swirling path to the center of my stage. The lights in the great hall dimmed, leaving only the golden chandelier above me in an elegant spotlight. It was eerily still, as though the audience was nothing but brightly colored statues. I focused my magic, channeling Muse to fill the air with a familiar song. It was dark, sad, and powerful. Something clicked within me and shattered my anxiety. It brought a smirk to my face beneath my ornate mask. I was in control now; more than that... the notes that filled the air, so similar yet so different from the ones I'd once pounded through my headphones, were a spell unto themselves.  The digitized instruments were replaced by soaring strings, deafening drums. My cue came. I parted my lips, head lifting slowly as I began to sing.

 

What's left to say?

These prayers ain't working anymore

Every word shot down in flames

What's left to do with these broken pieces on the floor?

I'm losing my voice calling on you

My black silk billowed around me, shifting slightly from the swell of magic I drew from around me. My palms forward, fingers ending in perfectly almond shaped black nails twisted the air around them, toyed subtly with the tiny golden sparkles I pulled from the Fade. My stage was now coated in magical glitter, and the hem of my solid black gown began to pick them up like dust. The briefest of pauses in the music, instruments laying their lament before the feet of the Empress. I jutted my head up regally, reaching out with one glitter coated hand. 

 

'Cause I've been shaking

I've been bending backwards till I'm broke

Watching all these dreams go up in smoke

Let beauty come out of ashes

Let beauty come out of ashes

And when I pray to God all I ask is

Can beauty come out of ashes?

The gold glitter swirled in a glowing mist around me. It filled the air, shimmering and light. My black mask disintegrated slowly to reveal my face, my mouth curved into a smile. The flecks of gold now reached my elbow, encrusted the slender points of my ears, and the hem of my gown was now encased in it at least a foot deep.  Small gasps flitted through the crowd, both marveling at the display of magic and veiled appreciation at my daring. I was dark and light, song and spectacle. Every movement of my fingers trilling through the air entranced them. Every sway of my glitter-soaked skirts held them prisoner to my song.

I leveled my gaze on the crowd, face tilted slightly to the side, arms drifting through the air at my sides, palms up. I could see Solas at the table, sipping from a glass of wine and looking thoroughly predatory. Mine. My smirk bared my teeth on one side. I was a territorial goddess for as long as I owned the stage, but for now I would revel in it.

The chorus came again, more powerful than before. More pull from Influence, from Muse. More golden flakes, drifting up like reversed confetti. And just as the final line left my lips, a brief burst fanned out from my back. The gold left a shining impression of bright firework wings erupting from my shoulder blades, each five feet long and spread wide. The dazzling image disappeared once more, and the glitter fell to the ground still and lifeless.

The great hall was filled with stunned silence. Then-

The Empress began to clap.

Chapter Text

The party was in full swing, and if I thought we'd been swarmed before, it was worse following my performance. Cullen and Cassandra actually decided to stay together in the ballroom, and I laughed a little when I saw them being grumpy together in the corner. I couldn't help but notice he only had attentions for the unusually glamorous Seeker. His eyes would dart over to her, he'd smile a little, and then he would resume scanning the ballroom with her. Score one for the matchmaker.

I decided to visit the Queen consort where she sat atop a chaise in the gallery. Elissa and Evelyn sat side by side, gossiping and sipping out of sparkling glasses. I moved between the partygoers to reach them, a smirk affixed to my now-bare face, and I silently regretted smoldering the one thing that hid my terrible poker face. "Drinking anything good?" I asked, situating myself at an adjacent chaise lounge. The crinolines beneath my skirt made it rather difficult to get comfortable, but I found if I leaned forward and slightly sideways, I could manage not to flash everyone.

"They seem to have broken out the good champagne for us." Evelyn said smugly, taking another delicate sip from her own. Indeed, the mage looked a bit flushed, and I suspected this wasn't her first glass. And that little chuckle definitely confirmed it.

The Queen raised a fiery brow at Evelyn. "Unlike Lady Trevelyan here, I opted for sparkling cider. I need a clear head tonight, regardless of how I long to drown my distaste for scheming in fine spirits."

"Have you seen Morrigan anywhere yet?"

The tiny redhead's face darkened slightly, but in a flash whatever that emotion that was, it was gone. "I have not."

"Ah. She'll be around here somewhere." I looked around us tiredly. "I do wish Marian and Fenris had decided to join us. They would have livened up the party. Sera's busy, Bull is on his best behavior, and I doubt my advisors would let me drag Solas off somewhere. I already found this..." I pulled the tiny message scroll from my bosom, just enough for the silver to catch the light before I tucked it away again. "Really I thought there'd be more excitement."

"Careful what you wish for, Syraena." came Evelyn's reply. 

"Yeah I know. I'd love to just stay here and chill with you guys, but I gotta go give this to Leliana. Have fun!" I stood carefully, doing my very best to keep my skirts down. It was almost comical, really. I gave a little wave, leaving the two ladies to giggle and gossip in their own corner of court. Through the gallery, past a few of our people nestled in corners, and out into the vestibule. I found Leliana almost immediately, but she was not the only person I found. The Witch of the Wilds, the dark and mysterious Morrigan, was descending the stairs slowly. The air around her thrummed with power.

I made my way to the Spymasters side just as Morrigan drawled, "Well, well, what have we here? The Leader of The New Inquisition, fabled Herald of the Faith... Delivered from the grasp of the Fade by the hand of Blessed Andraste herself. What could bring such an exalted creature to the Imperial court, I wonder? Do even you know?"

"Well hello there Morrigan. I remember you saying much the same to Elissa and Alistair when first you all met. You have a thing for dramatic entrances, and exits, don't you?" I stood with hand on hip, my thumb and finger encircling the curve of my bodice atop my voluminous silk skirts.

"It seems the rumors are true then. How you came to possess such knowledge... They say you are a Seer." Morrigan looked at me now, appraising me. 

"Something like that. I rather think you'll like Skyhold, you and Kieran. Ancient protective magics at work. No pesky mothers getting in your way."

"What does my mother have to do with the events here? Or my son, for that matter?" Uh oh... I must have pissed off momma bear, because at the mere mention of them her golden eyes darkened to a wild fury.

"Everything. But out of everyone that could offer you protection from her, trust me, we're your best bet. Just keep Kieran out of the eluvian."

"I take it you've had a vision, then. If it is as you say,  I welcome your help, for as long as it is needed."

"Trust me dude. The whole story is wild....Anyway," I changed the subject, and turned to Leliana. I fished the scroll out of my boobs and handed the silver capsule to her. She unrolled it, gave it a cursory glance, and tucked it away once more in her own bodice. I placed my hand out to Morrigan then. "You killed a Venatori agent, right? How'd that go?"

Knowing why I'd proffered my hand, she placed the servant's wing key upon it. "He would not stay still. I must admit, t'was quite the hunt."

"Oh don't tell me you went spider form..."

"You are correct. T'was the only way I managed to entrap him."

"Ughhh I don't wanna get spider webs on my dressssss…" I whined, looking down at my skirts.

Leliana set her hand on my shoulder. "That may be the least of your worries, Lady Dire. My scouts have already thwarted two attempts on the Empress. Just before dinner, they detected poison in the tray of seafood meant for her. Agent Mason is dead."

I looked shocked for a moment, before I composed myself. No mask, remember?  "And the other attempt?"

"An elven archer on the balcony above the gardens. He has been dealt with."

"Elven, huh? Thanks for the info. I'll go grab the team and get out to the servant's wing." I decided. "Morrigan, I know it's kind of a big favor to ask of someone I just met but... Can you tail Duchess Florianne in bird form? She's gonna try to make things difficult for me and Celene."

"This, I can do. Tread carefully, Inquisitor. Enemies abound, and not all of them aligned with Tevinter…" She paused, and gave me a wry smile. "What comes next will be most exciting."

 


"Alright Siren, lead the way." Varric said, as he primed Bianca. He'd opened half the buttons on the front of his suit, exposing a tuft of brassy chest hair. Way to customize, Varric.

I separated us into two groups as we re-equipped staves and swords... It was quite the sight to see, all our finery topped with worn leather straps and battle hardened weaponry. I took Solas, Cassandra and Varric with me to the left, just like old times. The rest went right. It was agreed upon that a mage would send up a flare if anything were to go wrong. I told them where to look for blackmail, where to clear Venatori agents. The small gardens that filled the avenues between the servant's quarters and the guest wing were quiet. Distantly, I could hear chatter and the clanging of metal. The late summer air was thick and humid, and the birds had already taken their rest, leaving the crickets to sing in their stead. I breathed it in, knowing I'd never visit here under more pleasant circumstances. 

It didn't take us long to reach the  fountain in the gardens, at the foot of which lay the Council of Heralds Emissary. I dug the dagger out of the body, marked with the De Chalons crest; as it slid free of the corpse, there was no blood pooled around it. It wasn't a fatal wound; in fact...

"It seems that was planted there, on purpose, after his untimely demise. It is not what killed him." Solas said over my shoulder, and I jumped a little. 

"Yeah, but by whom? Florianne or Gaspard? I mean, it doesn't matter anyway. Florianne is the one in league with Corypheus."

"Have you decided then that Gaspard is of no consequence?"

"No, vhenan. I... I normally have Briala pulling Celene's strings but... I can't go back once I've made this decision..." 

"This is true. Do what you believe is right, for the good of the people." I didn't miss the tone in his voice as he said people. I would have Briala there either way to help the elves, but I should be focused on more than just them. Right?

"I will try, vhenan."

A scream to our left brought us out of our quiet conversation. An elven servant was fleeing a handful of Venatori agents in terror, her delicate hands hiking up her tattered skirts above the knee so she could run. I flicked a barrier over her just as the heavy plated agent took a swing, and his blade bounced off the petrified woman. The force rattled her small body, and she collapsed near the fountain on hands and knees. Cassandra stepped between them like a freight train wrapped in silk. Her shield knocked the Venatori agent back several feet, and she engaged him one-on-one; behind her, I tended to the elven woman. In her pain and fear, she was still in a frozen crawl, messily sobbing. Tears, sweat and other fluids dripped down into the dirt, and her face was contorted, eyes unseeing. She vomited amidst her cries, and hardly anything actually came up. I paid no mind to my three companions as I saw to her healing. 

"She's healed but I can still sense a spell on her! Solas gimme a hand please!"

The last Venatori to fall, a mage, dropped a gruesome looking grimoire beside him as he was struck down. The pages spelled open glimmered a sickly purple grey. 

Horror.

I realized now the cause of her suffering, and began dispelling it, though I had no idea how best to go about it. Dorian would know; but Dorian was in the other group. 

I felt Solas beside me, his magic untangling the knotted spell over her mind. More and more he poured into it, and I began to feel as though I were only a reservoir of mana, not really helping at all. 

But I'm not really helping, am I? 

I shook off the dread, trying to focus. It was only the Horror spell's residual effects as we peeled it off her like a scab. Her face smoothed, and after a time she only appeared a bit rattled. 

"Are they gone n-n-now?" She asked squeakily. Her voice was raw from screaming and the bile that had clawed its way up her throat moments earlier. 

"They are gone, for the moment. There are more, and we are working to dispose of them. You should return to the party." Cassandra assured, a warm look softening her fierce features for a brief moment.

"Thank you. P-please, be safe." The elf stood on shaky legs, giving us a small bow before making her way back through the shadows we'd just left to the kitchens.

We gathered anything of importance from the Venatori agents, hoping for a note or missive, but no such luck. They were piled and set aflame, reduced to little but ash in mere seconds. The acrid smoke lingered longer, a telling sign of the fighting that had happened here. I crinkled my nose as we walked past the smoldering pile of powdered remains.

As we set out again between the hedges, our path was once again barred. A woman in ornate green robes, layered over snowy white, stood in the courtyard ahead. A familiar silver mask covered the top half of her face, wrapping her dark hair in a crimson silk; the same shade of red threads embroidered in her clothing in distinctly elven patterns. A pair of sharp, inquisitive eyes peeked from the depths of her mask as she inspected us.

"Fancy meeting you here."

Chapter Text

"Fancy meeting you here." Briala said, stalking toward us. It was then that I noticed the pile of Venatori bodies behind her. "Shouldn't you be dancing, Inquisitor? What will the nobility say?"

I tapped my bare collarbone with my middle and ring fingertips, a smirk upon my lips as I addressed the elven Ambassador. "No doubt there is a line of people breathlessly waiting to dance with me. They're gonna keep waiting. Really Briala I don't know how you put up with them." 

"I do what I must for my people. I came down to save or avenge my missing people but you've beaten me to it." She walked right past us, and indicated the fountain beyond with a lazy hand. "The Council of Heralds' Emissary in the courtyard. That's not your work is it?"

"No. We did happen to find this in him though..." I pulled the De Chalons dagger out of my pocket where it had lain wrapped in a scrap of fabric from his tunic. It glinted menacingly in the dull moonlight, flecked with old blood like rubies along the ornate blade. "Someone will be missing this, more than likely."

Briala recognized the crest, but dismissed it with no more than a flick of her eyes back to my face. "I misjudged you, Inquisitor. You might just be an ally worth having. What could you do with an army of elven spies at your disposal? You should think about it."

"You know how to make a sales pitch, I'll give you that." I looked up then, capturing her gaze; I spoke slowly. "Knowing the right people... opens many doors that would not open otherwise." 

Briala searched my face with her sharp eyes. "Ah, but the key is allying with those people. It is not simply enough to know."

I smiled wide. She had not only picked up the fact that I knew of her connection with the eluvians, but that I wanted in. I imagine I looked slightly feral, and I quirked an eyebrow. "Indeed. We'll speak later, Briala. I have a date with a rift. Fen'harel enansal." I could feel Solas tense slightly beside me, but when I turned away from the elven woman, he was nothing short of composed. 

Cassandra huffed behind me. "More politics and double dealing. Is there anyone here who is not corrupt?"

"Cass, Briala is the only one here looking out for the elves. She's been trying to break the class system for years. Double dealing she may be, but I'd trust her more than Gaspard to rule." I paused. "The rest of these people can fuck all the way off though."

Varric snorted. "I'd be inclined to agree with you Siren, if we weren't trying to get their financial backing." He tagged along behind us all, Bianca slung across his back. 

"I've had about enough of the Game. I swear - once all this shit is done, I'm getting shitfaced and hiding in my rooms for a month." We wound our way back through the gardens, and I began to notice elves. Everywhere. On balconies, in windows, blending into the shrubbery. I knew for a fact that if they didn't want me to notice them, I wouldn't unless I knew where to look. It was a subtle, conscious decision on their part. A sick feeling began in my stomach.

"Cassandra... When Leliana said the elven archer in the gardens earlier had been dealt with... what did she mean?" I fidgeted with my staff as I hid it in the empty barrel we'd taken them from. 

"The assassin is being held in one of our carriages under heavy guard. Why do you ask?"

"I think... I think it was one of Briala's people. I know for a fact that her group is here as a defense, not an attacking force. If I'm backing Briala, I don't want to take out her people."

"Do not worry, vhenan. I expressed the same sentiment. Leliana agreed with me, and I then sealed them in the carriage myself." 

Ah. Leave it to the elfy genius to be two steps ahead of me. Looking out for me, even if he can't be by my side.

Cassandra missed this exchange however, as she righted her skirts once more over the pants. The silks slid in place well enough, but the ties at her back that would hide under the edge of her bodice did not want to cooperate. I surged forward, taking them from her hands. In, over, around, under... She was once more the regal warrior queen, and though she would never admit it, the Seeker liked being beautiful. Feminine. Hated being dressed up, mind you. Getting to know her these past months, her hard exterior and utilitarian nature warred with her secret desire to let go, to be the one rescued by the dashing knight. I'd nudged Cullen as best I could. It was up to them to decide if they wanted to get past their bromance. And when we finally reached the ballroom once more, she immediately gravitated back to him to sulk in the corner. The Commander relaxed slightly, relief that we'd made it back evident on his face, in every line of his tensed body.

I left my group to filter back to their places as well. A new song began, and from the corner of my eye I saw members of the other group return. Dorian walked casually by on his way to the gardens, having acquired a new glass of wine. A wink, and he was gone. Good. The servant's wing is cleared. 

A syrupy sweet Orlesian voice drew my attention. "Inquisitor. I watched your performance earlier. Quite the sight. I am Grand Duchess Florianne de Chalons. Welcome to my party." The malice that dwelled within her was veiled by both her mask and her smile, and her dress fanned about her like a tiger swallowtail's wings. Delicate and deadly. I curtseyed.

"What can I do for you, Your Grace?" I asked, remembering the way Josie had taught me to address the upper echelons of the nobility. Evil or no, she had friends in high places nearby.

"I believe tonight you and I are both concerned by the actions of a certain person. Come, dance with me. Spies will not hear us on the dance floor." She led me to the stairs, proffering her hand to me. Everything about this woman felt wrong, utterly wrong, and even taking her hand made me ill. It felt as though I'd taken the whole of my aura and rubbed it in poison ivy. The itch permeated my entire being , and my eardrums felt as though they would pop. Something.... changed. Fuck.

"Very well. Shall we dance Your Grace?" I shoved the eerie sensations down, and we pivoted in full skirts toward the dancefloor with surprising grace. 

The dance began, and I held her hand aloft between us, slow strides in time to the music. "I imagine being secluded in the mountains as you are, you don't visit court often. Tell me, what do you know of our little war?"

Oh god, this conversation. Ugh. I kept the eye roll in check. "I assure you, the effects of this war reach far beyond the borders of the Orlesian Empire." Yeah 'cuz you fuckers are involving innocent bystanders in your bids for power....

Her slippers barely peeped from beneath the hem of her gown as we stepped. Stepped. Stepped. They were as gaudy as her bodice, adorned with a flight of tiger swallowtail butterflies. "Perhaps it does. I should not be surprised to find the Empire is the center of everyone's world." A sly smile crossed her face that raised the hairs on the nape of my neck. That wrongness, that itchiness, persisted; and when I pulled her to face me for the next step of the dance, I felt like my corset was a steel vice intent on obliterating my chest cavity. It hurt to be near this woman. It felt like...

No.

God fucking damnit!

Even here, in the bowels of the Orlesian court, I could not get away from the shit. We danced, both in our speech and with our bodies, as I searched her eyes. No red ring. Her skin was pale, but then, so was Celene's and Gaspard's. It wasn't as though Florianne had ingested red lyrium, but it was present here nonetheless. Before I could investigate it further, the vile duchess went into a dip, indicating the end of the dance. 

"You have little time. The attack will come soon; you must stop Gaspard before he strikes. In the Royal Wing Garden, you will find the captain of my brother's mercenaries. He knows all Gaspard's secrets. I'm sure you can persuade him to be forthcoming." Florianne curtseyed, as did I, glad to finally be rid of her sickening touch. The further I got from her, the better I felt until the last vestige of the sensation waned, the itching under my eyelids and fingernails faded completely. I pulled Josie, Leliana and Cullen together, to inform them of my decision. They argued a bit, and tried to change my mind, but I was set at last.

I pushed through the sea of voluminous ostentatious skirts and porcelain masks, parting the gaudy tide with my entire being solidified, with only one thing on my mind now. If I'd had a mirror, I would have known that as we strode across the darkened corridors of the royal wing, my eyes spat golden flame. 

Chapter Text

Sera had come through once again, because with a little help from Dorian's cloaking when he left the servant's wing, the barrel of weapons had been moved to the noble wing. Somewhere in the back of my mind I swore to get Sera a bonus, maybe even help her invent a glitter bomb. But that was a mere whisper in my skull compared to the determination and power flooding to my limbs. I had all the force of roid rage with none of the external signs. To my companions, I appeared serious; angry, yes, but aside from the fact that my eyes were bathed in golden flame, nothing. My entire aura shook and poured off me like molten waves, and fed off a similar feeling in Solas's own aura. I took note of none of this as I slammed open the door to the Noble wing garden. Solas, Cassandra and Varric followed me in, their attentions ripped from my fiery countenance to the forming rift that sprang up before us. 

Beneath the rift stood ten archers, weapons drawn. They looked uneasy about the rift overhead, but trained their arrows on us nonetheless. Toward the back, the mercenary captain sat gagged and bound to a post driven into the soil. Unlike the archers, he was openly terrified, and was screaming through his restraints; his wrists bled from his struggling. His head whipped up to the balcony over us, and the clicking of heels upon marble heralded Florianne's arrival. 

"You are such a challenge to read. I had no idea if you had taken my bait. It was kind of you to walk into my trap so willingly. I was so tired of your meddling." The Grand Duchess twirled her fingers around something silver around her throat. A fine, filigreed chain. She tugged it, and a amulet freed itself from the confines of her bodice, crackling with a sickly energy. It pulsed in shades of red laced with acid green, and echoed a dark chorus to the Anchor in my left hand. A whispered word from her lips, a tip of her hand and the corrupted fade-borne amulet dragged me forward by the Anchor.

"Corypheus insisted that the Empress die tonight, and I would hate to disappoint him. Especially when he crafted me this pretty bauble." She continued to pull me under the rippling green rift, and I looked her in the eyes. A flutter of something, fear perhaps, crossed her face, before it gave way to malice once more. "You poor deluded thing. You don't know half of what Samson and I have planned. And now I suppose you never will. In their darkest dreams, no one imagines I would assassinate Celene myself. All I need is to keep you out of the ballroom long enough to strike."

I dug my heels in, my right foot placed wide before my left in a motion I'd seen Cassandra do a thousand times before. The feeling of my skin turning to marble slammed over my body instead of its usual slow climb, and it glimmered faint gold on my bare arms. For the first time, I realized what this must be. I could basically imagine my icon, my health bar, in the top left of my vision, coated with sun bright Guard. Of course. Asha'lean would likely have been a world renowned warrior, a fighter with her own defenses in addition to the offensive ability I'd seen in the brief flash of my memory. How had I not figured this out already? echoed the small part of myself in the back of my mind.

The pulling stopped, but only so that Florianne could clench the amulet in her fist and rip it off her neck. The rift above us tore open. Varric and Solas froze and shattered the archers around me in quick succession, and Cassandra purged the bubbling bits of Fade in the earth where demons would spring forth. One spot was missed, and in our distraction to dispatch the emerging Rage demon, Florianne slipped away. The rift above surged with green spikes laced with red veins. Whatever that amulet was, it was the source of the red lyrium call I'd felt earlier, the itchiness under my fingernails as yet more demons burst from the crack in the Veil. I worked to disrupt the rift with the acid green Anchor in my left hand. My companions kept the demons from reaching me. Each of these creatures were threaded through with red crystals, the menacing ringing in my ears split my head in two - the itch, the burn, make it stop make it stop make it STOP

"MAKE IT STOP!" I roared through the fog, the screams of the damned that echoed from the red lyrium tainted rift cut short as a wave of searing gold fire flung from my body. The few demons that remained screeched as they were incinerated - more aptly, as the gilded light shredded their bodies into nothingness. The Noble gardens, once pristine and beautiful, were now marred by a perfectly circular scorch mark in the earth. The haunting call of the red lyrium ceased, and I cast my left hand skyward to seal the rift. Even that brief contact with the tainted rift itched under my eyelids and fingernails. It rippled out of existence with a bang, and I doubled over in the grass with hands on knees.

It took me a moment to catch my breath. It was by far the hardest rift I had encountered, and I hoped I would never run into one so corrupted again. If Corypheus had indeed given Florianne what was essentially a garage door opener to the Fade attached to a red lyrium amulet, we needed to obtain it, contain it, destroy it, and hope he hadn't made more.

The Inquisition would be fucked if there were duplicates.

Cassandra had freed the terrified mercenary captain while I fumed, pacing the singed ground, unable to quench the flame in my veins. I barely even looked at the man as he fled back to the relative safety of the ballroom. Not even glancing at my companions, I fade stepped in the direction Florianne had gone.

The halls that were empty flew by in the span of a few breaths, but once I reached the vestibule, my magical mode of transportation became impossible to navigate between partygoers. Staff still in hand and my face set in a grim mask, I parted the sea of hideous skirts and slammed open the ballroom doors. Florienne had beat me there, and was taking a leisurely stroll cross the parquet toward the Empress. Her pale hand was sheathed in her swallowtail skirts, and a silver glint told me all I needed to know. 

"MORRIGAN, SEIZE HER!" I thundered, my hand flung forward toward the witch. Influence's boon held true, my voice magnified... and final. The ballroom fell silent as the Witch of the Wilds cast her spell, a ghostly purple hand whipping through the air, enveloping Florianne's torso in a mighty grasp. The dagger in her hand fell to the floor with a clatter that echoed throughout the now eerily silent room; it mirrored the one we found in the Council of Heralds' Emissary a couple of hours before. Florianne struggled against the summoned restraints. I strode quickly toward her. My skirts billowed behind me as I took the ballroom in a few long strides, my entire body alive and strong. The invisible heat rolled off my body in waves, my eyes burning with a golden intensity. 

"All I need is to keep you out of the ballroom long enough to strike," my voice said, twined with an echo of Florianne's, just how she had said it in the Noble Wing Gardens. "You're going to need a lot more than a Rift to keep me away." 

Florianne's entire demeanor changed. No more did she think she'd reign over Thedas for Corypheus. No more did she hope for power. Now, staring me in the face, she wanted nothing more than to escape with her wasted, pitiful life. Something in me knew the moment I would let her escape, she would crawl back to Corypheus. She had failed, and she would either die by his hand or by mine. I chose the latter.

I looked to Morrigan who stood nearby with her fist clenched. "Thank you, Morrigan. You can release her." The dark haired woman let go, a breath leaving her lips. Florianne collapsed to the parquet floor.

"Duchess Florianne De Chalons. You stand before me, before the Empress you nearly got away with assassinating, with a dagger in hand and a trinket delivered to you by Corypheus. You would gladly have thrown The Empire into chaos, and the whole of Thedas with it, in the hopes that the Elder One would send you his scraps." I cocked my head, staring the kneeling woman down. "You would have received nothing. He doesn't share his toys."

My gown whisked across the floor when I took another step toward her. "If I let you leave here today, you would either continue your effort to assassinate the Empress, or run back to your master empty handed. He would give you a far more painful death." I paused, bending at the waist over her. "What do you have to say to the court? Don't forget to smile, your Grace." 

She ignored the court, ignored the Empress and her brother, and peered up at me in terror.

"What are you?"

"I am The Inquisitor, The Dread Siren, The Lightbringer. The one who will pierce the darkness, protect and lead the People to a brighter age, free of fear. She who bears the weight of the Sun but does not burn. I am Asha'lean." and with those words, I called my aedric spear to my palm. It burned bright in the reflection of her eyes, and I pushed it forward with purpose and precision through her heart. The Duchess slumped forward, and I turned on heel toward the Empress.

"I apologize for the display, and for the mess. But I trust you are well?" I looked her over, ensuring the dagger had not yet found its mark. Gaspard was frozen in fear, attempting to collect himself into his usuall brash self but failing miserably as he gawped at me. 

The fire in my limbs subsided, but the burning remained in my chest. It wasn't uncomfortable. 

It was invigorating.

"Gaspard's mercenary captain was found in the Noble wing gardens where Florianne had set a trap for us. Several of his men have also been apprehended. My recommendation: Exile. He must renounce all claim to the throne as well." 

A subtle, invisible hand found its way into my own, dropping the elven locket into my palm with a comforting touch. Cole.

I presented it to the Empress, and a look of longing clouded her eyes over behind her mask. "Ambassador Briala had her own personal guard set around the place, and after some confusion we discovered one of her archers in the gardens was tasked with guarding you from afar. As we speak, one of her contingents is helping my people to clear the Venatori from your Royal Apartments. Ambassador, if the man in our carriages is yours, I shall release him immediately." Briala nodded, moving closer to Celene. whatever she had felt for the pale sovereign, it hadn't died yet and was apparent on both of their faces. 

"I am not an authority in your court and have no say in what you decide to do, but I believe Briala is to be commended for her actions, publicly, and should be given lands of her own. The Dales? As for Gaspard, he will not stop until he has the whole of the Orlesian military's might behind him to take your throne. Do what you will. We have helped all we can. I am going to go dance, drink all of your fine wine, and eat some damned cake." I watched as the Royal Guard took Florianne's body away, and satisfied with my result, I left the three most powerful people in Orlais behind me.

 

Fenedhis that cake was good.

Chapter Text

The down pillows beneath my head were positively divine. Soft, squishy, cozy... I lazed in the late morning sun, my nightgown hitched up over my hip. A warm patch of sunlight streamed through the gap in the sheer curtains and slanted across my skin. And the birds! Skyhold had birds, but they weren't nearly as enthusiastic as the ones who made their home outside Vivienne's estate. If I wasn't so hungover, I'd absolutely love their song that floated in on the late summer breeze. My head ached something fierce, and I buried my face into the pillows again, eyes shut tight against the fabric. A grasping hand flung out to my left found that Solas's spot was cooled. Had he gone back to his own room? I inwardly growled in frustration at the need to separate us. 

A soft sound, a patting, and the weight on the bed shifted. I did not look up, but smirked into the pillow. "You know Solas, Vivienne is gonna have a conniption fit if she finds you here. Not that I give a flying fuck what she thinks." My speech was muffled by the downy mass beneath my face, but I got my point across.

"Warm- no, burning, it shouldn't matter she thinks as she reaches. Love is love. Whispered promises, planning, plotting, pining. It hurts that it has to be hidden. All of it. Bring all of the magic back and then it won't matter." Cole paused. "What is an aspirin?"

I sighed. "It's medicine...it helps with pain. I am very hungover sweetie."

The spirit of Compassion was quiet for a bit. "It hurts?" he asked timidly.

I felt as though I were talking to a small, polite child, and I smiled slightly. "Very much."

Suddenly, the weight from the bed was gone. Chalking it up to Cole being Cole, I dozed a bit, if only to escape the throbbing in my head. Later, though I couldn't tell by how much - minutes? an hour? - the door opened with a click and a soft thud. A girlish giggle, no, two giggles. A deeper, admonishing shhhh. Four sets of footsteps, and a slight rattling of ceramic against metal. I pretended to be asleep still, but they weren't being very sneaky. 

That act was ended abruptly as the flying weight of Sera landed on top of me, bouncing up and down. "It's time to get up, it's time to get up, it's time to get up!" the excitable elf cried, laughing loudly. I covered my head with a pillow to block the intrusion. Three more butts sat on the mattress, scooting toward me. 

"Do get up dear. I have brought something that I have a feeling will help." Dorian's voice, steady and low, less ringing than my first visitor. I peeked from beneath the pillow to find a vial in a tanned hand being offered to me. It glimmered slightly purple. I sat up, shoving Sera off me, and scooted to put the headboard behind me. Gingerly, I took the potion from his long fingers, and uncorked it; it was gone in one gulp, and tasted slightly herbal. It took a moment for it to act; the throbbing lessened, and I could focus on my surroundings. Elissa and Evelyn were there too, setting trays of food down on the massive bed. Fruits, pastries, cheeses, a massive jar of something a crystalline peach colored with an assortment of berries and citrus floating in it... the drink glittered a bit with bubbles. I raised my eyebrow when I recognized it.

"Champagne sangria? Really? I'm in this mess because alcohol is not my friend." I reached for a slice of apple, popping it into my mouth.

"But we are your friends, so we replaced the champagne with sparkling apple cider." Evelyn said, tossing a cube of smoked cheese in the air. Sera caught it, and there was a small round of applause. We made a game of it, tossing higher, or to the side. The cackling elven woman caught it every time, some catches less graceful than others.

The Queen Consort selected what looked like a cheese Danish, the sunlight behind her curls like a fiery red halo. I grinned at her. "Of all of us, Elissa here was the smartest. She didn't get trashed last night." She made a sort of sitting curtsey, mouth full of pastry. 

Dorian wiped a crumb from his mustache. "Or, someone has a lower tolerance than the rest of us." The Altus readjusted his position, lounging back in the pillows. "We saw you dancing with your elven servingman last night. Vivienne looked ready to throw her hat. You're not very secretive are you?"

"I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't care what the court thinks. I'm not going to pretend he's a servant just to tempt alliance marriage offers out of the nobility. If I could, I'd shout it out while standing on the dessert table in my skivvs. Solas is MINE."

"I'd pay good coin to see that!" Sera said, swallowing a gob of cheese. 

Elissa smiled, if slightly pained. "Please refrain from streaking."

I laughed. "The day is still young. Can't make any promises." I poured myself some of the fruity beverage. It was crisp and light, and the berries weren't soggy. "What time is it? I know I probably missed breakfast, but these aren't leftovers."

"Nearly lunch. Sera and I were already raiding Madame de Fer's pantry, and Elissa caught us. Figured you'd need to eat. We met up with Dorian on the way." Evelyn said between bites of pastry. Her eyes rolled back a little at the flavor.

The tiny redheaded Queen threw her hands up in exasperation. "They had a tray of nothing but sweets! I had to intervene on your behalf. You need something more substantial after the day you had." 

I took another sip of the almost-sangria. "Thanks Mom. I'll be sure to get you something nice for Mother's Day." At this, Elissa froze, an unreadable expression on her face. I realized my mistake rather quickly.

"You guys don't do Mother's Day?" I laughed. "Must not be as widespread as I thought. It was something they did where I grew up. Kids would get gifts for their mother or mother figure, as a celebration of thanks. There's a Father's day too, but the gifts aren't as pretty." The queen shot me a look. I backpedaled a bit. "Not that you're old enough to be my mom. You're not, right?" the look intensified. I relented. "Forget I said anything!" 

Dorian watched the exchange with amusement. "We do have something similar to your Mother's day. Though it may be in your best interest not to insult the Queen's age. She's what, thirty at most?" Elissa smiled brightly at this, a blush touching her freckled cheeks.

"You are close. Thirty two. Though I will take that as a compliment." 

I swallowed my sangria quickly. "Thirty two? You fought the blight when you were twenty one, twenty two? I knew you were young, but I never thought... dude when I was twenty one, I was sleeping around and getting drunk! Certainly not mature enough to garner allies and wage war against a horde of fucking darkspawn!" I laughed incredulously. "Hell I'm still surprised they let me lead this thing!"

Glass of bubbly in hand, he deadpanned. "Yes. It's simply a marvel that Skyhold isn't aflame yet." He twirled the glass a bit, eyeing me across the fruit on the top. "I didn't take you for the kind to sleep around." 

I collapsed sideways on the pillows behind me, grinning widely and sated on finger foods. "Years ago. How else do you think I taught Solas everything he knows?"

"Do tell." Dorian asked conspiratorially. A smirk twitched his mustache and glimmered in his eyes.

"Well he does this thing with his fingertips and magic... It's like a tingle..." I bit my lip coyly. "If you haven't tried it, you haven't lived."

"I am glad you like it, vhenan." came a light reply from behind me, and I turned from where I lay on my side to find Solas standing beside the bed. His face was a clean slate, but at seeing my flushed face a sly smile arose. "You taught me everything I know? I hadn't realized my knowledge was so lacking."

Sera spit out a berry stem. "Ughhh gross. I just ate, yeah? Don't wanna hear about your old man bits." 

"I'm sure his bits are satisfactory. Our dear Inquisitor isn't complaining," the Altus supplemented, moving the various dishes to one tray, and setting the second tray aside. "Care to join us?" he asked Solas. My elf merely shook his head gently. 

"Cole came to me not long ago, worried about you. He said you were in pain, but I am glad to see you are doing better. Do not let me interrupt what I am sure is a fascinating discussion." He kissed the top of my head, and departed through the panel in the wall.

I rounded on Dorian. "You've picked on me quite enough I think. How are you and Bull getting on?" The mage choked. A few brief pats of a napkin to his mouth, taking his time, and a few moments of him pointedly avoiding my gaze. Dorian folded the delicate white cloth, and set it aside.

"We are... getting on." 

I giggled, and began poking his shoulder playfully. "You guys are AdoriBull. Do we need to go fight a dragon yet?"

My pun was well received by the ladies who spectated. Sera was rolling around on top of the duvet, kicking her feet. Dorian on the other hand missed the couples name, or ignored it, heading straight for the question instead. "Why ever would we seek a dragon?"

I smiled fondly. "In Bull's culture, a dragon's tooth, worn around the neck, is like a promise ring of sorts. If he's calling you Kadan, we gotta go find a dragon." His eyes were wide as he took in my words.

"My dear Lady Dire. Are you telling me that you saw this in your odd, seery way?" I nodded. He looked a little pale and I hugged him. 

"I've been pushing you guys together because I know how good you are to each other. Or... will be to each other. You guys as a couple in love are the best possible outcome. Oh! and if you wanna get him anything else, he desperately wants a pink weapon."

Evelyn chuckled. "Bull? The Iron Bull? Big guy, grey, kinda horny?"

I shrugged. "He thinks dawnstone is pretty."

Dorian smiled weakly. "I'll keep that in mind."

We stayed lounging around on the enormous, cushy bed until late in the afternoon, until all the food was gone, including the seconds that were delivered. It was the most rest I had gotten in some time, and I reveled in the company of friends. A comforting presence flitted into the room briefly, and I could feel how pleased Cole was with himself.

 


 

His scars don't ache as much anymore. Assurance, acceptance, adoration. "The best possible outcome." she'd said. Is this real? Have I found where I am really meant to be? Warm like the pastries on his tongue, like the embrace of his amatus. Content.

She watches her, lighthearted, free, friends with all who meet her. Life, laughter, love, longing. "I got lucky." Like honey, sweet, savored, saved. 

Bright and fun, finally free and found, weird but right. Veins filled with lightning and ice but the fire is there too. Won't be burned this time. No cookies. But this is sweet enough.

No more throbbing, the sun in her chest warm and happy. Fulfilled, friends and family. Everything will be okay. I can help. I will help.

Lampposts in winter, a single rose. She misses him, but she'll see him soon. Sipping sweet not burning as the summer fades to fall. After wintersend comes spring's beginning. 

Cole let the five figures be, and slipped back out of the room unseen. The hurts are okay for now.

Chapter Text

Upon our return to Skyhold, the first thing I noticed were the people. So. Many. To be fair, we'd lazed around at Vivienne's estate for a few days longer than planned, especially given the barrage of letters that had arrived there for us. Visiting dignitaries had sent ahead a servant or several, and those who hadn't been present at Halamshiral had already made themselves cosy. One lesser noble who arrived just before us had obviously thought the bustle and fanfare was for him, but when the majority of the stablehands made their way past him to us, the indignation quickly faded to a sheepish pout. 

I stepped swung myself off Bessie and handed her reigns off to a stablehand. New, from the looks of him. The red-brown mare shied away from him a bit, but was too tired to protest and let him lead her away to her stall. Likewise, I anticipated a nap, maybe sneak into the kitchens and grab something to eat. My head was filled with dancing slices of olive & rosemary bread topped with butter when I climbed the stairs. Those fantasies were ended quickly when I found myself pulled aside into a dark alcove leading to the gardens. I was already bringing my aedric spear to my palm when a shock of red hair under a burgundy hood greeted my eyes in the darkness. Elissa looked harried, and we hadn't even been here an hour. 

"Shhh sh sh sh. Syraena it is me. Look. If you see her please do not tell her where I am. I have no idea how she arrived before us - she was still at the palace when we left Madame de Fer's estate!" 

I relaxed a bit. The tiny Queen Consort had me pinned against the stone wall, and slowly released me. 

"Are you gonna keep playing the pronoun game, or are you gonna tell me what this is about, Elissa?"

"Morrigan. She's here." Elissa hissed through bared teeth. I must not looked surprised enough, because the tiny strawberry blonde threw her arms up in the air. "Just... don't tell her where I am. I don't want to deal with her or that... thing."

Thing?

Oh... Kieran. 

...oh... 

As the Queen of Ferelden slipped into stealth and departed, I surmised that she still had hard feelings toward Morrigan for her manipulation. True, the ritual that she and Alistair performed the night before they defeated the archdemon saved the monarch's life; but Elissa would see it as forcing her beloved to sleep with someone he so clearly detested and get her pregnant. Not to mention the Witch of the Wilds departing without a goodbye, taking Alistair's bastard old god baby with her. I knew Kieran wasn't a tainted, demented creature, but Elissa didn't and clearly had no interest in finding out. I honestly didn't blame her. It would be like making Solas sleep with Vivienne and knock her up, while I lay in the next room, unable to sleep. 

Already on the path, I sauntered out toward the gardens. There on the patio sat the dark witch in question, the smaller form of Kieran sitting with back ramrod straight beside her, a heavy tome on his lap. She didn't look up, but he did. He stared like a deer in headlights at me my whole approach, and only when she noticed her son's reaction did she look up from the weathered pages. She looked from him to me, and back again. A strange look passed the boy's face, and he shoved the book aside. Morrigan followed him as he met me in the center of the gardens, a wary gleam in the witch's golden eyes.

"I know you." the boy stated flatly. 

I chuckled, hiding my surprise. "I can assure you you've never met me before in your life." 

"You should not be awake." The boy looked confused as the words left his lips. It seemed like images were flashing before his eyes, and they darted back and forth before focusing their amber depths on me. shitshitshitshit

Morrigan already did not trust me from my "visions" at Halamshiral, and I'd just made it so much worse. I sighed, gesturing to the door that held the eluvian behind it. "We need to talk."

 


 

 She looked ready to pounce on me the moment we stepped through to the Crossroads. The beauty of this place was more than I'd anticipated. So many colors, and the air sang my name. I walked ahead, past the sculpted trees, their silver branches curved in a sphere. I turned on heel, facing her. pebbles disturbed by the motion of my feet hovered an inch or so above the ground. I switched my attention from the weird phenomenon to Morrigan, who regarded me with distrust in her sharp gold gaze.

"Speak, then, and we shall see what tale you spin."

"Kieran holds a fragment of an Old God's soul within him. Urthemiel? Uncorrupted by the Blight's taint." I took a steadying breath. "I still don't remember the details of it, but... before Arlathan fell, I lived amongst the ancient Elvhen. I have only a few brief flashes, but from what I gather, I was forced into Uthenera and it fragmented my soul. A piece broke off, ended up in another world where I see this as a story. Everything, every possible permutation of events, a version where you didn't perform the ritual and the Hero died, a version where you did but the one you performed it with was a male Cousland Warden.... The fragment lived 25 or so years in another body, and when that body died it came back here, ages later... I think to the same body. I don't remember waking up, how I got to the Conclave. But somehow, Kieran recognized me. The Old God recognized me. I have no idea what it means... other than it may have something to do with my forced Uthenera."

"A living relic of the ancient Elvhen… 'Twas quite the story, but I see that even if it weren't true you still believe it as such. I wonder, then, if you speak true or are simply mad." The woman stalked around me, looking ready to fight. 

"Watch." 

I forced myself to think of pain, of hate, of injustice. I opened my eyes again, the bright fire that nested close to my heart had spread down my limbs, searing beneath my skin. Gold glitter rose from around me, and I knew without seeing my reflection in a mirror that my eyes dripped white gold flame. I let it linger as she inspected me. She clearly had no clue what she should even look for, and after a moment, I willed it to calm. For being the first time I'd both called it up and sent it away, I did relatively well. 

"Why reveal this to me?" Morrigan asked, eyes critical. 

"You and Solas are the only two who know the full story. Something big is coming, and it involves Kieran; as his mother you have a right to know. Not only that, but I want you on my team. Corypheus will be stopped, and I have information that indicates whatever's coming... It makes that Blighted Magister look like a philanthropist with a taste for red body jewelry. If the Inquisition found out, if they tried to stand against it... I can't guarantee that they'd win. Noble connections and farmer foot soldiers won't be of any use. I need you."

"Such a pretty future you speak of." The scantily clad mage approached languidly, sarcasm dripping from her tongue. "I can offer you my assistance, but I have the distinct impression you are building a team on behalf of someone else."

I laughed, giving her a wry smile. The woman craved power and knowledge, and like her mother, give destiny a nudge. "Welcome to the Agents of Fen'Harel, Morrigan of the Kocari Wilds."

Morrigan broke into laughter. "Fen'Harel? A god that is famed for locking away the Evanuris, if he ever truly existed?"

I let her humor die down, waiting patiently. "Oh he existed. He locked them away because they are the reason Mythal was murdered. He was not a god of Trickery, he was a god of Rebellion. He wanted to free those who served the gods from slavery. Apparently the rest of the gods didn't agree." 

Morrigan began to walk back toward the eluvian. "Very well. You may call on me if I am needed. If you are right, and there is a way to protect my son by joining you, so be it." Her hand on the frame, I called out to her.

"You remember what I said in Halamshiral?" I asked.

"Keep him away from the eluvian. I have already taken precautions." and with that, she disappeared. I let the energy of the Crossroads envelop me for a bit longer, and I smiled. I walked confidently into the eluvian back to Skyhold. It rippled around me like a Stargate, its watery glimmer disappearing and laying still.

 


 

The Dalish scout sat with her back pressed against a shattered eluvian. Her ears rang with the song of the Crossroads, and with the information she had gathered. Her fingertip traced the lines of her vallaslin, her devotion to Mythal in an everlasting tattoo on her cheeks. With a groan, she stood, her knees creaking in protest of how long she'd sat there. The bag of provisions was slung over her shoulder, and she made her way to an eluvian further down the line. "Fen'Harel enansal," she whispered, watching it flare to life, Halamshiral's marble halls on the other side. 

 

Chapter Text

"We need to take every precaution-"

"There's no way we can send the entire army if we hope to negotiate-"

"We have to if Corypheus has taken their minds-"

"Clarel can still be reasoned with-"

We'd been at this all morning. Tensions were high, and my Advisors had resorted to verbal sparring, without any actual plans being formulated. With a feral snarl, I sent an aedric spear sailing over the table to lodge itself into the wall adjacent. "ENOUGH."

Stunned silence greeted me, and Cullen paled a bit at the offensive magic I'd launched between them. 

"Let me put this in simple terms for you, because clearly your wits have left you. Clarel can be reasoned with. Corypheus has only taken the minds of some, not all - everyone is hearing the Calling but only a handful are possessed. If we can save anyone by avoiding all-out bloodshed at Adamant, I'll take it." I leveled a glare on each of them. "Elissa is still Warden Commander of Ferelden. I'm having her send a letter before we depart. Clarel will hear us out... and when the time comes, Elissa will be in my envoy to address the Wardens at Adamant. I don't want to siege them. We're simply going to oust the Venatori mage Erimond and quarantine the mages affected by him."

"How do we know that you'll be able to contain the situation? If they decide to attack and you bring a handful of people with you, what then?" Cullen fumed. His gauntlets glinted in the dim glow of the candles. For the first time since we'd arrived in Skyhold, a storm besieged us. The afternoon sun was completely blotted out by the bruised purple thunderheads, and the skies roared in their fury. It didn't help the current anxieties in the War Room, the ominous dark outside matching the climate inside. In the other world, such thunderstorms marked the end of summer fast approaching, and I found myself shuddering at the thought of a cold Skyhold.

"That's where Leliana comes in. If anyone can sneak reinforcements in, it's her. But from what I've seen... Clarel doesn't want to tear a Rift open. She doesn't want to serve the Blight. She's doing the wrong thing for the right reasons." My words are met with a harrumph from the back of the room. Solas was reclined against a wall, arms crossed. 

I didn't even need to hear what he'd mumbled to know it was something demeaning to the Grey Wardens. I sighed, casting him a heavy glance. "I know you dislike them vhenan but we need them. There are still two Old Gods remaining. If either of those should turn....." 

Leliana whipped her head around. "Do you have reason to believe another Blight is coming?" she asked, eyes narrowed sharply.

"Not direct knowledge, no. As far as my visions have reached, from what the Fade has shown me.... There was worry that the two sleeping dragons would be found; it seemed imminent, but beyond that..." I lifted my palms up helplessly. 

"I see." the Spymaster said flatly. 

"Back to the matter at hand. My attempts to bribe the nobles that own land adjacent to Adamant for maps was... partially successful." Josephine pulled two dusty scrolls from a shelf, rolling them out onto the War Table, pinning the corners with little spikes. One was nearly useless, water damage taking up a good two-thirds of the map. The other was clearly older, in somewhat better repair though. It was detailed, but given its age...

"Are these current?" I asked the ruffled woman. She sighed.

"The Val Firmin Lord I received this from was uncertain... He believes they are more than a hundred and fifty years old, but whether the Wardens have done any major renovations to Adamant fortress is unknown."

I studied the map. It was similar to what I remembered of Griffon wing keep... If that was the case...

"Here." I pointed to a nearly faded circle, a single water drop within it. A well. The one at Griffon Wing Keep had an outlet, a cavern below that had needed to be cleared of beasts. "Can we confirm whether there is a cave, a crevice here? If we can get a few classically trained rogues up through the well, and stealth them into position... I can walk in the front door with Elissa. They'll see an army from miles away. Get with Dorian as well. Maybe he can teach a few of our mages that party trick that got our weapons into Halamshiral." 

"Yes, Inquisitor." Leliana stated as she bowed. She rose slowly, eyes boring into mine before she swiftly departed. A first for her. It was a calculated, passive aggressive move. If I had to override them to avoid war, so be it. 

 


 

After that shitshow in the War Room, I needed some fun. Yet instead of traipsing all the way to the tavern, I found myself wandering into the Undercroft. Dagna had arrived during one of my away trips and I had yet to greet her personally. Harritt was the first person I saw, hammering away at a drakestone plate and barking orders at his apprentices. Further into the cavern, toward the gaping maw over the waterfall, a familiar dwarf stood over her workstation with a faceshield drawn down over her face. Just past her, the storm raged outside. A thin barrier kept the elements out, but still allowed the intense heat of the forge to escape a bit. Lightning cracked not far away, and I walked toward the opening to watch the maelstrom while Dagna worked - I didn't want to interrupt anything. My intent was wasted however. 

My approach noticed, she immediately stepped back, pulled up the face shield, and began fiddling with her hands - a nervous sort of wringing. Her eyes dropped to the mark on my palm, and I tugged the black sleeve of my fitted tunic down in a subconscious motion. I gave her a cheery wave, palm blanketed with the black fabric. 

"Hey there, Dagna! Sorry we haven't had the time to speak face to face yet." She eased a bit at my words; was she expecting a hardass? I hope not. 

"No worries, your Worship. Your team has already found so much for me to do! It's weird that I seem to be... known here already. They knew exactly what they needed me for. Everything they've set me up with is exactly what I used at my old setup, but - well - better! Soooooo much better!" She held up the loupe that looked damn near steampunk with reverence. "I've never seen a pair so intact, or so advanced! This an arcanist's dream workshop. And you pay me! Like, a lot." the dwarf giggled. "Like wow, so much."

I adopted a serious look, and waggled a finger at her. "Okay, first thing. That, right there. None of this 'Your Worship' or 'Herald' shit. It's Syraena, or Siren if you don't feel comfortable with being on a first name basis. I barely let Cullen call me Lady Dire.... but that's only because he gets this kicked puppy look when I chastise him on it." I smirked. ""kay?"

"Yes Your W- I mean La-" Dagna cleared her throat. "Syraena." she shuffled awkwardly, still staring up at me in awe.

"Thank you. Now, I know you're probably busy, but I have a task for you. If anyone can figure it out it's you."

She brightened immediately at the prospect of something to tinker with. "Absolutely! Name it."

"A cure for the blight." I folded my arms behind my back, in a pose I'd seen Solas do countless times.

Her face twisted in confusion. "You're serious."

"Quite. I have a starting point for you though. First... I must have your word that you will not breathe a word of this..." At my warning, Dagna nodded warily. "King Alistair is the son of Maric and Grand Enchanter Fiona. Something about the presence of 'dragon's blood' in the royal line cured Fiona of the Taint. If I can persuade her to give you a blood sample.... something to put under your microscope..." I looked over her shoulder to the workstation. There was a microscope, if a primitive version. I'd given specific instruction for the setup of her lab. It had a lens, and slides with a glowing stone underneath. Rudimentary, and it wouldn't have the magnification a modern one would, but it would get the job done. Dagna may even be able to tweak it with the arcane materials we'd provided.

"Dragons themselves are resistant to the taint, to a degree. I'd recommend utilizing the blood of a fire breathing dragon, as darkspawn are weak to fire. Ah! That reminds me." I called my spear to my palm and held out. "Can you figure out what this is made of? It's like.... crystallized holy fire. I use that word loosely. It's like I weaponized a ray of sunshine. Who knows?" I laughed, my smile cocked to the side.

Dagna looked deep in thought, the gears in her head already turning. She grabbed my palm, still holding the solid shaft of light, and dragged me over to the workstation. The loupe was fitted over her eyes, and I kept my aedric spear going while she inspected it. I sat on a crate, eyeing my surroundings as she twisted my hand to and fro. A sharp jab rang through my palm, and I hissed in pain. She'd poked me with a long metal rod for which I had no idea the purpose of, and dropped my hand. No, not a rod... Really big tweezers. They looked like something you'd pick up a soiled baby diaper with to keep it away from you. She looked at the crystal fragment for a moment, and thinking I was in the clear, my spear faded from my palm.

"Wait don't- ughh." Dagna grumbled in disappointment. "Now I need another piece."

"Oh shit, sorry. I have to maintain it?" I asked. She nodded, and I called the aedric spear back. My arm was getting a bit tired... hmm maybe... let part of the spear go, holding fast to a small section of it; it was far less effort than calling a full five foot shaft of light, and I held my hand out again. Another fragment was taken and inspected. The longer I let the arcanist fiddle with the bit, the more excited she got. If she used up a fragment by smashing it on something or dipping it in a substance, she'd come back for another splinter. The section of spear was no smaller for all the bits taken from it; it appeared to regenerate, even if she gouged out a bigger piece.

Once, she tried to grab it, and the spear section began searing through her glove. Slowly, at first. Like boiling water, or getting a sunburn. Gradually, the small fizzling built until the glove erupted in white gold fire. I immediately dropped the spell, and sent a wash of healing gold sparkles toward her. Oddly enough, she laughed at the mishap. Mad scientist indeed. The entirety of the afternoon passed this way, and a bell sounded from somewhere in the upper levels of Skyhold, heralding dinner.

"I have some more tests I'd like to run on it. I'd hate to keep you though. Maybe come back tomorrow if you have time? It's fascinating... I've never seen anything like it! I wanna see what forging it or putting it in a rune does....." The cheery dwarf clapped her hands and bounced a bit. "So many possibilities! Oh! Can I take a bit off you? Just a little one, I promise."

Laughing, I stepped to her workstation; I grabbed a vial and a scalpel, which I drew down the pad of my thumb. I let the blood flow into the vial, and stoppered it with a cork. I healed the thumb with half a thought, and the look on her face was utterly priceless. A giddy excitement that split her lips in a grin. 

"Best. Job. EVER."

Chapter Text

The Western Approach trip loomed ahead, and even as fall began to make itself known at Skyhold, I knew I would be roasting in the desert. My solution? I commissioned a new cloak, sans fur lining; Solas lined the whole thing with cold and barrier runes with a finesse I'd never manage, and reupped the cold runes on my armor as well. The new cloak was thinner, darker, and looked like the ocean at night... it shimmered with tiny flecks of gold, like stars reflecting off the water's surface. I opted to keep the ceremonial wings off for the duration of our travels, but in a saddlebag carefully wrapped. 

I also undertook a sewing project of my own - a swimsuit. There's no way in hell I'd pass up a swim in any oasis we crossed, but skinny dipping in front of my men didn't sit right with me. There wouldn't be copses of trees to hide me, just flat plains of sand as far as the eye could see. The swimsuit in question was a modest number: black, satiny, and a single piece. My back would be completely exposed, but the front had a sweetheart shape topped with a halter. From the top of the sweetheart line to the hollow of my throat was a panel of mesh-like lace. A hidden shelf inside ensured that I'd have much needed support. I'd also fashioned a flowing black floor length sarong of sorts, so if need be I could always tie it around my waist over the suit.  This was lined with cold runes as well, and earned me a curious glance from Solas. I didn't tell him what it was for, nor did I demonstrate. 

Like I had when Haven fell, I had the mages work on rune stones, this time with cold runes instead of heat. Didn't need any of my people getting heat stroke, regardless of runes already in their armor. They crackled with magic, like they'd been sitting out in the garden when the frosts dusted over everything. Testing them in Skyhold proved of mixed results however; it was already getting cold in the stone halls. September - no, Kingsway, was just beginning the night before we packed our bags. I was used to the muddied browns and ambers of New Hampshire, but the magic rich soils of Skyhold twined through the veins of every jewel toned leaf... vibrant hues of red, copper, and a peachy gold had started to creep onto the edges of the leaves in a dazzling array of color.

Sometime after our arrival in our new home, Cole had stolen a bag of sunflower seeds from the Chargers. I knew Krem at least chewed them, as was evident by the spittoon bucket laden with them not far from his chair, but Cole had somehow gotten ahold of a sachet of them and spread them through the gardens. The enormous blooms had begun to tip, heavy with more seeds, their sunny faces feeding grounds for a variety of birds. Sera had started a beehive from the labors of the garden, and Solas had gotten a happy yellow pigment for one of his latest paintings. I made sure to gather a few of the smaller blooms before they were too far gone, and preserved them to put in Coles room for his help. Sunny flowers for my precious sunny boy.

Speaking of the spirit of Compassion, I'd decided that he and Hawke would be in the group of rogues that had been chosen as backup, rather than in my entourage. If by some small chance we ended up in the Fade...

No, I shook that thought out of my head. I can't afford to give that possibility weight.... I shoved a little harder into one of my bags, the poor thing full to bursting.

I verified that I had indeed packed everything I needed, and bodily flung myself at our massive bed. Solas hadn't come upstairs yet, but I'd buried myself in blankets anyway. No telling when I'd get a good night's sleep like this again.

 


 

 

My bare toes met bright grass, the sun-dappled birch trees that had become as familiar as my perch on Mount Ascutney rising around me. I felt that pull again, drawing me to the cavern in the deep of the forest. Carefully, I rewalked the unmarked path again, and laid my hand upon the rock. This time, as before, my arm burst into golden flame, and the rock wall parted before me. The unbearably bright light within flared when I approached. 

But something was different.

Each and every time I'd been here in this dream I did not control, I was thrust from the Fade before I could make out what lay beyond that blaze. For the first time, my vision cleared enough to see three figures surrounding the gold light. 

The first was a tall, regal Elvhen, his pale blonde locks flowing around him in an unseen current, hanging past his waist. An elaborate headdress crowned him, golden and imposing. It mirrored the golden armor he wore, and so familiar... His face was serious, his lips mumbled a long incantation, and his arms raised with clawed fingers toward the enormous glowing orb. 

The second figure was eerily similar to the one that had visited me so many months ago. The same flowing white gown with an armored bodice, the same gilded horns, the same billowing hair crafted from solid moonlight. The same fierce yellow eyes that were trained on the orb at present. Her arms were held aloft as well, and her incantation wove through that of the man opposite her. Mythal looked younger, if that were possible. Had this been before time and war had taken its toll on the mother of the Elvhen? Had she not known the centuries of hardship and rebellion that had torn her people apart? 

The third person stopped me dead in my tracks. Her auburn hair was woven into intricate braids and hung to her slim waist. Large, round hazel eyes framed with dark lashes. Faint freckles graced her pale sun-warmed cheekbones, and she stood with her back to the other two, facing the entrance of the cavern. Her armor was elaborate, but not quite as intricate as the two Elvhen behind her. Of lower rank than the majestic people nearby, but not to be trifled with. She stood guard between the ritual and any who would dare intrude. The butt of the spear in her grip was dug into the earth, and her posture indicated a readiness for battle. More than that, she looked as though she commanded everything she laid her eyes on. Something about her seemed off from what I would have anticipated. No light leaked from her eyes, and her spear was not wreathed in sunlight. 

Asha'lean looked powerful, yet somehow... mundane. The memory of her, if that's what this was, stood as sentry while Mythal and the other Elvhen man worked, the orb shrinking by degrees. Asha'lean shifted her gaze suddenly. A dark form pushed into the mouth of the cave... the air around it hungry and roiling with hatred. Asha'lean blocked its path with a snarl that contorted her face, my face. The dark entity didn't seem entirely solid, and where it walked the ground blackened with sooty smears.

She grappled with it, but it slipped past her just enough to break Mythal's concentration. The altar the orb had floated above shattered, and the searing light shot away from the Evanuris, tracing a path through the air into the chest of the auburn haired warrior with a blinding flash. When the light was gone, Asha'lean lay crumpled on the floor. The dark figure that had interrupted the ritual was burned away like it had never been.

I looked to the mouth of the cave then, and saw the blood. Dozens of Sentinels lay slaughtered, their ragged wounds festering with a dark haze. Deep red stained the grass, pooling beneath each and every warrior. Their shrouds hung partially over their faces, but could not hide the look of horror that froze on their faces as they'd died, distending the branching vallaslin of Mythal they bore. I felt a sob claw its way up my throat unbidden. I looked back toward the inside of the cave, now dim, to see Mythal kneeling on the floor beside Asha'lean and cradling her head in her lap. The man stood behind Mythal, stroking the goddess's hair soothingly, utterly distraught. 

"Ir abelas, vhenan." the regal Elvhen man said. Elgar'nan - it had to be. He continued on in lilting Elvhen, his stern brow dragged down in anguish. '"There is nothing to be done now. We must wait to see if it accepts her." The pair of Evanuris stayed that way for what felt like forever, and I watched on, unable to tear my gaze away. 

Just as I felt myself waking, the woman strewn across the cavern floor tensed.... and her eyes dripped golden flame as they bored into me. I was pulled from the Fade before I could discern the words on her lips.

 


 

It was decided that Elissa would ride beside me, the rest of our group a protection detail for us. She kept polite chatter, but she looked rather green the further we got from Skyhold. The stone keep was far behind us at this point, but I couldn't help mirroring the Queen Consort's sense of unease. We'd have a resupply in several different towns, but wed never stayed for more than a day. It's just a diplomatic trip. You'll see civilization again. Breathe.

Solas felt my tension and stayed at my side for most of our journey. Snowy mountains passed to thick greenery, which turned to sparse plains. An Inquisition camp in every region ensured we never lost contact with headquarters. When the last of the grass faded beneath our mounts under the heat of a watchful sun, three weeks had passed since I'd seen home. My ass ached, I hadn't gotten more than 5 hours' sleep in over a week, and I smelled like a run down gym. Passing streams just didn't cut it, and my armor was beginning to weigh on me. I'd healed innumerable wounds as we fought bandits, staved off Rifts. I was so tired. So very weary. 

A familiar red craggy rock formation rose in the sand before us, a pair of stark metal colossal sentries far in the distance. The sounds of an Inquisition camp greeted us, echoing off the rock walls around it. Crimson tents spilled from the mouth of a cave, the bulk of the supplies inside the sheltered crevice. I heard a faint trickling of water as we handed off our mounts, and saw a small sprig of branches nestled in the shade.

A few patches of stubborn dry grass crackled underfoot, and just round the bend I discovered a clear, deep spring of fresh water. Several blue cold runes glimmered on the bottom of the pool, and a few fingers dipped below its surface proved it refreshing and cool. I shucked my armor as quickly as I could, leaving only an undershirt and my greaves, and dumped handfuls of the spring water over my face and neck with a pleased sigh. I ignored the sting of the sun on my skin, delighting in the magically regulated waters.

We'd reached Lost Spring Canyon at long last.

Chapter Text

Five o'clock in the goddamn morning, my ass was back in the saddle. Bessie felt my unease and it showed; her gait was clipped, hesitant. Hawke, Cole and the rogues had left an hour prior, making their way to the fortress's well just before dawn. The scouts had confirmed the presence of a cavern below the well, but it was a tight squeeze through the crevice in the rock. They'd had to replace two more muscular rogues because they would not fit. What was left were the more wiry ones. Hawke took extra care to bind her breasts tighter that morning, and Fenris had been thinking of going with her - made impossible by the fact he did not fit through the opening. We'd had a small, tense joke about his size. But the laughter died a bit too quickly, felt a bit too hollow.

I had donned my ceremonial griffon feather wings, and they arched high over my shoulders, the talons a foot or so above my pointed ears. I tugged on the messy braid I'd woven my hair into after a dip in the spring. Elissa had donned her circlet, but the Grey Warden crest upon her chest shone more prominently; for the purposes of this mission, she was a Warden Commander first and a Queen consort second. She fidgeted just as I did, occasionally feeling for the placement of her daggers or adjusting her fiery curls. Adamant was tall and imposing ahead, and it radiated a wrongness that grew the closer we got to its ancient doors.

Solas rode to my left, Elissa to my right, and Cassandra guarded the Warden Commander's other side. Varric, Stroud and Fenris brought up the rear, slowing to a halt as the four of us leading drew up short. A commotion could be heard on the grates above, a handful of Wardens scurrying to prepare for our entrance. I tried to keep calm and remember that though we were outnumbered here, the rest of our group lay somewhere within the crumbling stone fort. With an ominous slamming, the wide doors groaned open.

The first thing I noticed when the group edged inside: the sheer number of archers and mages with weapons trained on us, distrustful and paranoid under the weight of the Calling. The taint within their blood told them only to expect death, not from where they would find it; we the intruders seemed like the most viable source of that encroaching death. A tall, muscular woman with shorn white-grey hair stood with arms clasped behind her as we rode in, her frosty countenance chilling me under the desert sunrise. The reply she'd sent Elissa was terse, but she could not deny the other Warden Commander access to her holdings without invoking the ire of Weisshaupt. The former enchanter seemed colder than I would have anticipated. If we had done as the game had, siege Adamant and kill a great many Wardens, she'd still turn to our side. So why the open hostility? I wondered dismounting and climbing the stairs that led to her, Elissa at my side. 

"Inquisitor. Warden Commander Cousland. Adamant Fortress welcomes you. I thank you for your recent correspondence." Her voice was hard, and something edged behind her eyes like steel. "While we all feel the Calling, I admit it is a little far-fetched that you believe we would build an army of demons in our desperation."

If it had felt hostile here in the courtyard before, it was infinitely more so at her words. The ranged weapons that aimed themselves at us never lowered, despite Clarel's welcome to Adamant.

I stood there, at a loss for words. Elissa looked to me, confused, before her face smoothed and she took a single step toward her fellow Commander. Bow strings creaked as they were pulled more taut, and I feared for the tiny Queen. She held her hands aloft. "We received information that Corypheus was manipulating the Wardens, sending a false Calling through our ranks. I have felt it as well, more and more as of late." 

Clarel jerked her head between Elissa and I. "Impossible. Corypheus is dead. Defeated in the Vimmark Mountains years ago." 

I stepped forward as well, hips swaying jauntily. "Well fuck, I guess the enormous beast with a God complex that yeeted me at a trebuchet and destroyed Haven wasn't Corypheus. Wish somebody woulda told me."

Something flitted across Clarel's expression. Pain?

A sneering voice came from somewhere behind Clarel. She did not turn, the archers and mages did not react to the newcomer, but my party all froze when the standard-issue Venatori robes swirled out of the doorway. "Such cutting insults, from someone with such wounding claims. Clarel, my love, you did not tell me would be expecting guests." Livius Erimond, cliché villain mustache included, hooked his arm around the waist of the Orlesian Warden Commander. Again, the look of trapped pain crossed her face. Her eyes pleaded with me for just a moment before it was once more lost behind a frosted veneer. 

"Fuck, Elissa! Erimond is already controlling them! Get back!" I cried, casting a barrier over the tiny Queen while my party drew their weapons. Erimond raised his hand, and Clarel's staff aimed at us as though held by cruel puppet strings. It was clear to me now that whatever demon held Clarel's mind, she was fighting it with everything she had. Someone brushed past me, his sword arm high as he charged the platform.

"Release her!" Warden Stroud screamed, ignoring the archers in his bid to help Warden Commander Clarel. He was not twenty feet from her when the puppet strings tugged her. Her staff jerked, sending an enormous shock of lightning directly at Stroud. Her face nearly tore in horror as the lightning found its mark, just before the barrier I cast settled over his collapsed body. The woman he looked up to, the woman who had recruited him, had been forced to cut him down  by the will of a demon. The puppet master himself kicked the fallen Warden, the sword skidding across the pavestones.

"Clarel, can you please tell the intruders we no longer require their assistance?" Erimond ordered, his disgust evident in the lines of his lips.

Her body lurched forward with the words, terror plain as the burgeoning sunrise behind her. "Ww-e don't re-"

"That was rhetorical." He dismissed the possessed woman with a leer. "My Master thought you might come here, Inquisitor! He sent me this to welcome you!" The magister raised his arms skyward, a shrill whistle on his lips. 

The air thrummed with the power of the blighted dragon, the rotting horcrux that beat its wings in gusts above us as it heeded Erimond's call. A stream of crackling red energy flung itself at us, clashing with our barriers as it shattered a parapet. The dragon landed on a tower, another stream of red pouring from its maw. Everywhere the stream touched, dark red crystal shards formed, blackening the stones. The path of destruction cut too close for Erimond's comfort, and he retreated. I could not stop the Warden Commander as she chased after him. Elissa. Not the snowy-haired Clarel, whose huddled form lurched toward Stroud's empty body. The Queen Consort of Ferelden was giving the Magister chase, and I fade stepped to try to catch up. 

Somewhere behind me, I heard shouts as the demon controlled wardens were set upon by the rogue reinforcements. Somewhere behind me, Cassandra, Solas and Varric rushed to be with me, panting with the effort. And somewhere behind me, Fenris joined Hawke in the fray, even as she noticed her best friend following me to certain death. 

It was the same, yet different, as Elissa engaged Erimond on the ramparts. She sliced at the magister, dodging in and out of stealth as the dragon raged overhead. Her face crumpled with fury as she  dashed him to pieces. "You destroyed the Wardens!" she shrieked amidst the noise of battle.

The magister laughed. "You did that yourself you stupid bitch! Where were you when the Wardens needed you most?" He spat at her, laughing at her torment, as though she were nothing more than a child in a temper tantrum. "When the world was healing from the Blight, you hid behind your Castle walls until the Blight came back to lay claim to your throne. You are no Queen. Not before my Master. The Elder One will reign and you will FALL." He seethed as he shoved her off of himself, toward the ledge. She hooked her dagger into his collarbone as she fell, flipping him over the edge with her. The dragon fired a blast of crackling red lyrium at the ruined ledge, crumbling it.

My final Fade step was a second too late. The Queen of Ferelden fell, and I followed her into the chasm of the shattering path. I tore a Rift open below, praying that that at least would save us.

 


 

 

Marian Hawke watched on in horror as Varric and the rest of the Inquisitor's party fell from a staggering height, surrounded by falling bricks and debris. Fenris's strong arms held her around the waist as sobs rent her body. The blast of searing green light that followed shook the very foundations of Adamant, and her screams were lost to the deafening roar of the Rift. 

 

Chapter Text

The impact of the warped green ground of the Fade knocked the wind from my lungs. I heaved myself to a standing position, casting a glance at my scattered party. Cassandra and Varric looked pissed, and rightly so. Solas looked like he was in the newest branch of the Smithsonian museum, taking in everything with an academic eye. The tension was still there underneath, but he appeared to be trying to make the best of a shitty situation. It was the sprawled form of Elissa Cousland that yanked my heart from my chest. I ran to her with legs like jelly under the distorted gravity. My knees hit the wet rock, and I spammed Breath of Life for all I was worth; the golden helix rose from her body in flashes, a smattering of gold glitter sticking to the sludge below. My mana pool seemed near infinite. Oh goody, silver lining.

Her tiny body wracked with a spasm, a cough, and she screamed as she sat bolt upright. 

"Elissa - Elissa it's me! You're okay. Breathe."

"Where are we? I thought - we were falling and -" The Queen looked around frantically, dawning recognition on her face. "We're in the Fade," she concluded distastefully.

"Yeah, we just crash landed in the Fade but I know a way out. Gotta find another Rift; I know for a fact there are still several in the Western Approach I hadn't gotten to yet... so maybe we won't have to walk far."

A hateful look came over the tiny woman's expression. "Joy. Last time I was here, I had to deal with a Sloth demon and there were PUZZLES . And we weren't even here physically." She stood, swaying a little as she brushed herself off, adjusting to the odd gravity spikes. "Did not miss that, I can tell you." She shuffled away, retching just out of sight behind a … stalactite? Stalagmite? I could never tell the two apart. The rock formation that pointed upward from the ground, in any case. Now coated in Royal Vomit!

Elissa reappeared, still looking a bit green, but maybe that was the odd light of this realm refracting off her pale, freckled skin. The woman who so closely resembled a porcelain doll looked especially fragile here. The sooner we could get out, the better.

A thought struck me then, one I refused to speak aloud. 

Warden Stroud is dead. Hawke isn't here. The only Grey Warden here, the only person here not a member of the Inquisition, is Elissa. 

No. No no no no no no. 

I shook my head to dispel the thought, but the fear still niggled at my mind like a venomous worm. I forced myself to walk forward, one step, then another. If I found the Nightmare Demon, he'd likely be near a Rift feeding off fears and trying to fit through. 

Almost on cue, The Nightmare spoke. “Ahhh… Inquisitor Dire… Welcome, welcome. Or should I call you Asha’lean? Ashleigh? So hard to keep track of your current identity these days. I do hope you’ll forgive me if I get it wrong.” The cruel demon chuckled darkly, and it sounded as though it were to our right. Hmm. I headed in that direction, my party in tow.

“Did you really think you would be good enough to lead the Inquisition? That they could love you? That you could ever amount to anything? You are nothing. Nothing but a rotten puke.” He echoed Ida’s vile words and for a moment I heard her voice in them. 

“Stay the fuck out of my head!” I snarled, forcing her face out of my mind.

His next words rang in Elvhen, yet I heard them, understood them… “Under your leadership, the Sentinels crumbled. They died for your incompetence, Lightbringer. The power you wield should never have been yours to take. It was not meant for you, and any who followed you paid the price. You could not even protect her, and in the end your… divine retribution… was your own undoing. ” The Nightmare laughed again.

“Give me my memories back, you overgrown tumor!” I yelled into the ether. A quick glance at my companions told me that though they’d all heard it, only Solas understood. What he’d heard left him baffled, pensive. He only spared a glance at me before he withdrew.

We continued on, footsteps slick and echoing tenfold, a ringing cacophony that spoke like a death march. In due time, a spot on the horizon flared a brighter green, and the hazy clouds around us seemed to be sucked in like the eye of a hurricane. It appeared that we had miles yet to traverse, ruined cityscapes and caverns a maze that would lead us there or leave us utterly lost.

A bright spot flitted from a window-like structure, assuming the wizened form of Divine Justinia. Cassandra gasped behind me, her hopes impossibly lifted by the prospect that she was real, even if she knew somewhere deep down that it could not be her. The Spirit of Faith settled on a boulder, a serene smile parting her weathered face. Pale white hairs formed, open, delicate eyebrows above honest eyes. If this was what the Divine had looked like in life, it was no wonder she had such devoted followers. She looked like healing and peace personified. Cassandra stepped forward, her face a tangled mess of soul-crushing despair and hope. 

"Divine Justinia? Most Holy?"

"Cass, this... this isn't her. I almost guarantee it is a spirit of Faith, one that loved her and followed her just as you did. I'm... I'm sorry." I laid my hand on her shoulder, watching the Seeker rationalize this.

"You think my survival impossible, yet here you stand alive in the Fade yourselves. In truth proving my existence either way would require time we do not have. I am here to help you. You do not remember what happened at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, Inquisitor." She nodded to me, then turned in the direction we'd been heading, toward the Rift that would dump us into the desert. "It is the nightmare you forget upon waking. It feeds off the memories of fear and darkness, growing fat upon the terror. The False Calling that terrified the Wardens into making such grave mistakes? Its work."

Elissa paled further at this, if that were possible. "I swear I will end this demon for the injustice it has dealt my men."

Faith looked at me with a solemn expression. "When you entered the Fade at Haven, the demon took a part of you. Before you do anything else, you must recover it." She waved a hand out, and three orbs, wisps of flickering light, materialized before us. I remembered fighting demons to obtain them in the game, but... I already knew what my Lavellan had forgotten. I knew Corypheus had tried to sacrifice Justinia to the foci. I knew Lavellan had interfered and caused the explosion at the Conclave. But I wasn't Lavellan.

I reached a tentative finger out and stroked the first wisp.

 


 

Warm air stroked my bared skin. My ears thrummed with a beat I hadn't heard in months.

Thunder

feel the thunder

lightning and the thunder

I was sitting behind the wheel of my old Jeep Bessie, top down, warm summer wind through my hair. I was not in control of my body, merely a spectator in this memory. I tapped along to the beat, pounding on the rollcage bar three times with a warrior's ferocity. Time seemed to slow as a dark streak darted out of the woods, a wolf of pure darkness. Everything it touched, the brush, the pavement, was corrupted with an inky haze. Its maw dripped the same primordial fog, and its glinting eyes stared me down with a malicious, oddly human intelligence. I saw the subtle differences between this being and my Fen’harel. This wolf was older, more corrupt. 

It stood stock still, watching as for the second time, my firecracker red Jeep careened off the road. I flung my hand out, seeing the cracks spiderweb across the windshield, my left hand spread wide. I watched my own skin shred in painfully slow motion, before I was yanked from the memory. 

I was not out of it for more than a few seconds when I reached for the second orb, trying to chase the memory of my death like a particularly strong whiskey. Maybe the next wisp won’t be so bad…

 


 

I was wrong.

So wrong.

I was shredding, as my hand had in the previous memory. Shredded and fused together in new configurations before shredding again. The Void yawned before me, and suddenly everything stopped. No sight, no sound no feeling. The thing that was me writhed, trying to coax any sensation into what had once been a human body. Death was painful, fuck what Bella Swan said. Not a peaceful snowscape while you dreamed of a loved one’s embrace. That I had any memory of Bella Swan or her misconceptions of death was a good sign, much as anyone would like to forget their Twihard phase. I pondered this for either an eternity or seconds, I couldn’t be sure, before the fusing and tearing began again. This time however, it felt like scratching an itch. Less painful, but I could feel. I couldn’t decide whether I was relieved or dismayed by the prospect of having nerve endings again. 

Nerve endings. Fingers? I twitched them. Yes. I could twitch them. I was alive. Toes. Lungs. Heartbeat, thudding like a bird trapped in a bubble, beating its constraints.

It was still dark, but it was a dark I could see. Not a void of the senses. I blinked, once, twice. For an absurd moment I wondered at the prospect of rebirth with all the memories I’d previously had. I had never wanted to see the inside of a vagina, but I wasn’t wet and wailing so I was in luck. A weight pinned my chest to a lying position, and I pushed upward with my palms. I was still only a spectator in my own body, but even as a spectator I could feel the effort required to push the stone slab aside. The exhaustion in my borrowed limbs…. It felt like I hadn’t eaten in centuries. My arms were cold, and I realized I was naked.... My hand rose up unbidden, and somewhere in my thoughts I pictured my tank top, skinny jeans and boots... the ones  I'd been wearing at the time of my death. A small part of me seemed confused at the attire that rose up under my fingers Elsa style, but the unfamiliar magic would not be dispelled. It took a great deal of energy, and that same small part of me was a bit dismayed at this fact. Clothed, I looked around my cavern.

I realized then I was in a marble sarcophagus. Something clicked for me then. The memory fragments Mythal had given me… the golden figure struggled against dark bonds, twin evils holding her down in a smooth basin, while a third cast several runes over her. A drop of blood, the struggle stopped, the bonds released, the marble sarcophagus slammed shut over her. Over ME.

The tomb I found myself in then was familiar, more than the memory Mythal had released. Tentative shaky steps led me to the mouth of a cave, an illusion placed to block intruders. I placed my borrowed hand upon the rock and a familiar golden glimmer rolled up my arm, if somewhat dim. The rock faded away, and a gasp that was not mine shook me. 

The once lush birch wood now grew in a tangled mass of grey vines. Everything looked dead and taken by a harsh force. The sun no longer shimmered through the leaves, there was only an impenetrable fog that choked the life from the forest. 

But I still recognized it.

I was deep in the Brecilian Forest.

Even If I knew that the body of Asha’lean I found myself fused with in this memory could not hear me, I felt the urge to try. I was about to give some direction - but I heard my voice in English, coming from the borrowed mouth.

“Are you fucking kidding me? What the hell is this?”

I laughed then, because of fucking course that would be my reaction upon waking. What I wasn’t expecting was a reply. 

“Why are you here.” Spoken in elvhen, but the thoughts parallel to me understood them.

“That’s what I wanna know. Where are we?”

“It seems we have awoken from Uthenera. You do not feel foreign, you are no spirit. What are you?”

“Not a fucking clue. I died, then came here. Wait, Uthenera?”

“Yes, traveller. I have slept for millenia, and it appears your arrival woke me.”

“Are you an elf?”

“I am Elvhen.”

“Fucking hell. How long has it been since Arlathan fell? Do you have any idea what year it is?”

This time, there was no response. 

“Great. Well, time to find civilization. Gonna look like a goddamn madwoman asking what year it is. All I need is a beard and I’ll be a meme.”

“I do not understand your words, yet I am humored. If we are where I believe we are, your best hope for civilization Is to walk West. Follow the Sun.”

“Neato burrito. Walk West. Got it.”

My steps faded as I was pulled from the memory. 

 


 

The third memory was much as I had expected in this new body of mine. I had arrived at Haven, in warmer gear... It hadn't been the first settlement I'd reached, clearly. I had a staff, a thick cloak, and my jeans tucked into my black boots. My tank top lay beneath the folds of the cloak, probably several sizes larger than I'd need. I was still cold, but I'd had my magic to warm me. Asha'lean and Syraena, in tandem.... I got the impression that they'd bonded in the time it had taken to travel. 

It all went quickly. Image after image flitted across my vision; the more I tried to hold to the memory the more it slipped through my fingers like water. Where the first memory had been painfully slow, I could barely keep up with this one.

The mention of The Conclave.

My mad sprint to the Temple.

My interruption of Corypheus and his ritual.

The foci rolling across the floor.

The explosion.

With that burst of green light, I was shotputted out of the memory with blinding speed. 

When I came to, standing physically in the Fade with my party behind me, The Spirit of Faith simply offered me another gentle smile. "You have all of your missing pieces now, Asha'lean. Go now. The demon senses you are here. You must leave before it is too late."

The Nightmare spoke with venom laced in his every word. "My, my... why the rush? We've only just begun!" The demon laughed heartily. "Your Inquisitor is a fraud, Cassandra. Yet more evidence there is no Maker, that all your "faith” has been for naught.“

"Die in the Void, demon.” The seeker spat, drawing her sword with a last backward glance at Faith. With that one look, she steeled herself to face the monstrosity that lay ahead. Undeterred, the Demon found a new target. 

"Tell me, Your Highness... why have you not yet told your husband? Your King? You will die here, and he will never know that he lost the heir to the throne of Ferelden with you." My blood ran cold at his words. Elissa sucked in a painful sounding breath... just before she vomited again.

Chapter Text

The Nightmare took great pleasure in our shock, our fear; his words had struck each of us deeply. I did the math in my head. When had we been in Crestwood? Early May?

Elissa Cousland… Warden Commander of Ferelden and Queen Consort to King Alistair… nearly five months pregnant. In the Fade. Shit.

While the cruel demon continued to pick on the deepest fears of our party, I held the tiny woman. Her strawberry blonde curls draped around my arm while her sobs shook us both. I would have cried too, if I could bring myself to break the wall of disbelief that held my mind captive. 

“This is all my fault,” I quavered. I rested my chin atop the Elissa’s head. “I’m so sorry… I didn’t know.”

“What are you talking about, Siren?” Varric asked, still shaken. He fiddled with Bianca while Elissa tried to recover. She needed a moment before we could proceed, that much was apparent.

I took a steadying breath. “This wasn’t supposed to happen this way. In… in the future I saw, we sieged Adamant. Clarel wasn’t possessed. Stroud didn’t die. But the dragon was still there. We all rushed after Erimond. Hawke, Stroud, you, Cass, Solas, me…. Elissa was nowhere near Adamant. We’d still end up in the Fade but… Hawke and Stroud would be in Elissa’s place and….” I swallowed, to ashamed to look in Varric’s eyes at this point.

“And?” he prompted.

“They both were determined to sacrifice themselves to cover our escape. I would have had to choose between Hawke and Stroud. I would have had to leave one of them behind. Every time. With no exceptions. I thought I could change it! I thought maybe if we came diplomatically, we’d never reach this point.”

“I can’t tell what’s more fucked up. The fact that the hypothetical you would let either of them sacrifice themselves to save us, or that you’re letting the pregnant Queen of Ferelden die in their stead.” The brassy dwarf spat, trudging off in the direction of the demon. 

“Varric it’s not like that and you know it! I’m not like that!”

He spun on heel, fear and anger in his eyes. “Really? I call it like I see it Siren, and right now, I see that you fucked up. Since day one, we believed your crazy tale about seeing the future. You yourself told us that you couldn’t tell us too much in advance, that you couldn’t steer it too far from the norm. Don’t fuck with the timeline, you’ve said. You fucked with it, kid.”

“Varric, enough. No good will come from us fighting here. This demon is feeding off of our fears. We must stand resolute, and we will all leave this place together.” For once, Cassandra was the voice of diplomacy. I had a feeling part of her newfound strength came from seeing the spirit of Faith, the kindred soul that had stood fast in such a place, inspired by the life of Divine Justinia. The warrior led the way, sword gripped in a gauntleted hand, shield in the other. I had been a little miffed she'd decided not to bring The Wheel Of Destiny, but now I was glad she'd opted for a tower shield with the eye of the Inquisition emblazoned upon it. 

Elissa finally released me, her eyes glassy with a resignation that stabbed my aching heart. Her shoulders squared, her face went taut, and she was once more the Hero of Ferelden. She’d been doing what she had to do for her people for over a decade, and it never occurred to her to be self serving, even if it meant her life. I noticed now, for the first time, the way her Warden plate distended just so, the way she guarded her front, daggers slicing through demons before they could reach her. The further we fought through the swarm of little fears, the more distant her expression became. 

It hurt just as much that Varric seemed to hate me for my choice. I’d saved Hawke, but at what cost? I’d never wanted anyone to sacrifice themselves for me. I didn’t want this.

I’m a fuck up.

How did I expect to lead if every choice I made got someone killed?

The Fade gave us one hell of a hard time. Maze-like passages and craggy cliffs that looked soaked in bile crawled with spiders and beasts that looked like teratoma tumors. It read our fears, and even though we had taken another path, it still showed us the graveyard of fears. The stones were small, pitiful, barely enough to mark that one of us lay beneath. 

For Varric, his was etched with the words “Become his parents.” if he saw it, he made no mention of it.

For Cassandra… Helplessness. The strongest woman I knew? Helpless? Never.

For Solas… Dying alone. His face paled slightly when he glimpsed his, and I embraced him briefly, reassuringly. 

Mine stood toward the back, far smaller than the rest. It was not marked by any candles, no flowers graced the stone that looked more like an afterthought, an obligation fulfilled by a near stranger rather than by someone who would lovingly hold me in memory. 

Failure. 

Even the engraving was vague, disinteresting. I had clearly failed someone, and they no longer cared to spare me another thought. What choice had I made that made me lose their favor? What inaction? I was never enough, never. I stood over it, and realized there was something I’d missed in my approach. There was something on the reverse. I turned slightly to see the other side of the rock. The same word, Failure… yet written in a looping, ancient script. It seems both Asha’lean and I, pieces of a whole, had the same fear.

The tang of injustice, of regret, lay heavy in my mouth as we crossed the last stretch of warping green stone to the Nightmare’s lair. Cassandra led the way, shield at the ready. I felt Solas’s cool barrier slide over my skin; seemed he discovered the bottomless well of mana from being this side of the Veil as well. 

The first sign that we were near the Nightmare demon? The chittering. Hundreds of invisible creepy crawlies wriggling through the air, so many that I could almost feel their hairy legs tearing at the space around me. The next thing I noticed was the faint sucking. The Rift was pulling us out like a blown airlock door, and when the monstrous Nightmare loomed ahead, it was clear it was trying to be pulled out too. Wretched spindly legs tugged at the festering edges of the rift, a broad expanse of sand just beyond. It lurched toward us when we reached the craggy clearing it had been occupying. 

It was the ultimate trypophobia-inducing beast. Hundreds of holes filled with milky white eyes that never stopped moving, leering down at us as we sized up its companion, its Aspect. The spirit of Faith passed us by, floating in luminous form toward the twenty-foot tall Nightmare. 

“If you would, please tell Leliana 'I’m sorry. I failed you too.'” Faith requested, sailing through the air with a blinding burst, collapsing the Nightmare demon. Its eyes stopped swiveling. The path to the Rift now was only blocked by the menacing Aspect. 

A battle cry tore from the distraught Seeker’s lips, a taunt the Aspect heeded. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Varric cast a handful of caltrops out, as much as they’d help. Elissa dropped into stealth, flanking the near-humanoid demon. Its robes swayed in an unseen current, unseeing face glued to Cassandra. It screeched in fury as Elissa tore at its back, her daggers aiming to paralyze. Six bony Doc Ock arms flailed as it reared back in pain, stunned. I flung a Healing Springs to Cass and Elissa, and Solas ensured they were coated in a cool blue barrier between jabs of ice and Stonefists. Shards seemed to stun it exceptionally well, a win-win in my book as Cass eagerly strode through them; rejuvenation was short lived before she bashed at the Aspect again.

A piercing scream locked our limbs, and it darted about, taunting and teasing and voicing our fears aloud, pulling thoughts from our head like spider silk. It aggravated Varric over the fact that it should have been Marian Hawke that died here. It belittled Cassandra’s efforts with the Inquisition. It hid behind Elvhen to mock Solas for his pride, his failure. It shredded Elissa’s hope of escape, her happily ever after with her husband and unborn child. 

But it took great pleasure in tearing me down.

I’m a fuck up.

This is all my fault.

Shouldn’t have fucked with the timeline. 

But what could I expect? It's all I was ever worth. People are in pain, dying, because I was incompetent, lazy, corrupt, ignorant…

Something shifted within me. Asha’lean’s righteous fury shredded my consciousness, a flash burn toward the surface. Like a nuclear reactor, the exponential growth of the power she wielded, that we wielded, threatened to break my mortal body along with the Aspect and anyone standing too close.

With no health bar, I had no indication of how long we’d fought the Aspect, and only when its six arms coiled around itself did I rest. The space around me thrummed with holy fire, with golden glow. 

The ground beneath us trembled, an earthquake that rocked us on our feet. The death of the Aspect rose the collapsed Nightmare demon. It scrabbled to its spider-like legs once more, moving toward the Rift. 

“RUN! NOW!” I commanded. My voice echoed with the Influence that Asha’lean held. My party bolted toward the exit, and I all but threw Elissa through the opening headfirst. Cass followed her, sending me a worried glance before Varric too disappeared through the opening. Ripples like algae-filled water rushed around us, caustic and heavy. The Anchor sparked as I tugged at it, not allowing the demon to escape with us.

I grabbed ahold of Solas by his front, my lips crushing to his for a brief moment before I launched him backward through the closing Rift. I screamed in despair, and the last thing I saw of the other side was Solas’s stormy grey eyes as I rounded on the Nightmare Demon, body aflame, shattering the air with my anguish. 

 


 

 

Hot sand spread beneath him, yet he felt her lips still, desperate and claiming. A shaking hand slid over his mouth, as if to keep the feeling there. If only to keep her with him for a moment more. The image before him burst in a brilliant golden flash. An eruption of power that sent shudders even into the Waking. As the edges slammed shut, he saw her, wreathed in flame, a spear of pure crystalline light in her palm and an illusory pair of fragmented gold wings shooting from her back. She launched herself toward the demon, and the Rift dissipated entirely.

“Vhenan!”

Chapter Text

The chaos at Adamant had stilled by the time Solas and the others arrived at camp. Elissa had declined his offer to heal her wounds, but at the very least he determined the child she carried was whole and healthy. Though he did not tell her, he could nearly guarantee that it would be born with an innate talent for magic; the fact that Alistair’s mother was a Grand Enchanter of great renown was one thing, but the chance had been heightened to a near inevitability now that it was Fade-touched. Nevertheless, it would be alright despite their abrupt crash landings, both into and out of the Fade. He needn’t trouble her further, given the current climate as far as mage tolerance was concerned. 

Their footsteps were heavy, reluctant to leave the place they had seen the Inquisitor last. The sand grasped at their feet with a clawing, itching hunger. The sludge from the Fade caked the sand into their clothing. On top of all they had lost today, their environment had to needle them in its own way.

The tips of Solas’s pointed ears burned under the blistering sun. He was glad at least that he had decided to grow his dark hair out again at her behest. He’d not want to deal with cranial sunburns with everything else. With little more than a glance at the Inquisition troops around him, he claimed the first crimson tent he could find in camp as his own; the prospect of an empty cot strummed at the pain in his chest, but he gritted his teeth against it. Frost runes, Silence runes, Deterrent wards, Alert wards… he laid them all mechanically. And when he was sure he was alone, utterly alone, he broke.

His jaw tensed in a bellowing scream, teeth bared and eyes clenched shut. He howled for the loss of her, howled in longing and despair. Had he not a firm grip on his magic with tearing fingers, the entire campsite would be frozen over with icy spires, but he clung tight. The Dread Wolf wore himself out before donning the stone mask with purposefully even breaths, and spelling himself to sleep. 

There, he began his search.

 


 

Cassandra sat beside the fire, cleaning demon ichor from her blade. Exhaustion that ran bone deep ate at her, and she took a few moments to compartmentalize herself.

The first part of her allowed Solas his grief, a period of mourning for as long as he would need it. 

The second had urged her to write a missive to Josephine, to Leliana, to Cullen. Especially to Cullen. She had to ensure he… and his contingent were safe. The Inquisition could not function without their Commander, not when they had just lost their Inquisitor.

A third yet hoped Syraena lived still. Cassandra took up the reins, sending a small force to each of the Rifts they had located but had not yet sealed. Maybe the Inquisitor had defeated the demon. Maybe she would find her way to another Rift. Maybe she could still return, and she would need food and water and medical care… When she returned.

 


 

Varric’s first order of business was to locate Marian and Fenris Hawke. He needed to know that they were okay, needed to see them with his own eyes. Siren had said Hawke was supposed to die. That she actually had died, over and over, countless times as Siren watched it in her largely unexplained way. He regretted getting angry with her, it wasn’t her fault that she’d seen that, and now he’d never be able to apologize…

No, he couldn’t think like that. Siren was resourceful, and if he was honest, more powerful than any mage he’d ever met. She’d pop out of a Rift somewhere, in a few hours, maybe tomorrow, or the next day… she’d be tired and dirty but still have some smart ass remark and a cocky salute… and when that happened, Varric would drop a shitload of coin on a lifetime supply of alcohol for her.

He could apologize when Siren returned.

 


 

With heart heavy with sorrow and a determination borne of denial, he sought her glowing presence in the Fade. Countless spirits passed him by, and though they agreed to stop and chat with him a while, none had seen her. He even called Wisdom across a great distance. She had no more insight to give, except to direct him to seek Influence and Muse. They were her spirits, the ones who had bonded with his vhenan. Time stretched thin as he sought them out.

He opened his eyes to a lush, green, sunlight dappled forest. It was peaceful, the growth young and fresh, but the realm this memory mirrored was very, very old. A tug to his left - an answer to his summons.

A tall, majestic spirit approached with measured steps. Her impossibly long hair was the color of a plum in early autumn, and her skin appeared as rich fertile soils. Her gown flowed like the most floral of wines from her ethereal body… and when her gaze met his, her deep burgundy eyes nearly sank him to a bow, like even the blades of grass that parted before her. Influence’s presence commanded respect, filling the clearing around them so completely it staggered him.

Clinging to her skirts, a small boy, no older than ten in appearances, but clearly in equal to Influence. Platinum hair framed a porcelain face, parted by a great pair of antlers. He’d threaded little white blossoms, trailing vines, and frosty moss through the tines in an ornamental net. And it was he who spoke first.

“Hello, Fen’harel. Nice of you to pay us a visit.” Muse said, his tiny voice lyrical, twinkling with starlight. “To what do we owe the honor?”

Solas straightened his spine, folding his trembling hands behind his back in a show of composure. “Syraena… She is missing. I had hoped you knew where she had gone.”

Influence’s deep, sultry voice cut through the clearing. “Asha’lean is not missing.”

“What do you…”

“You know precisely what I mean.” she stated bluntly. 

The elven mage froze. His eyes flicked from Influence to Muse and back again. “No…”

Muse smiled wide, revealing tiny fangs. “Simply because you do not hear her song… It does not inherently mean it has stopped playing.” his smile was eerie, and gave no indication of his true emotion. Fleeting creature indeed.

“I would like to inform you that, as part of the bargain she struck, she granted me a vision of the future. I’m sure she has told you what she exchanged. The vision she gave me allowed us to save our mutual friend Wisdom from a truly awful fate. I fear we three received the better end of the bargain. I cannot allow that to stand, as I detest even an unknown favor.” Her merlot eyes glimmered, full of power, of draw. Her aura was positively intoxicating.  

“Kneel,” she commanded, and kneel he did. Influence laughed for a brief moment at the sight of Fen’harel, The Dread Wolf himself, knelt before her. The humor receded, and she slammed the heel of her hand into his forehead.

 


 

When Solas opened his eyes from the impact that had spiraled him across the Fade, shock raced through every nerve of his body. Influence had sent him to the Great City, the Golden City, the seat of the Evanuris. There lay no trace of blackened corruption, no shattered tiles, no echoing halls empty of the People. No, the corridors were alive with a throng of ornately dressed elves. Even the servants had delicate flowing robes, banded at the waist by gleaming metal bands or supple leather from hip to bust. Pure white walls gleamed with lustrous gold inlay, marble floors vast and polished, and vaulted ceilings held aloft by twining arches carved by magical means... every window was open to the outdoors, no glass to block the flow of energy from the thriving wilderness. Trees made their home inside and out of this magnificent castle, a complex so large and honeycombed with chambers that it was its own city.

He found that he was in his own form, his long dark hair elaborately drawn and flowing down his back in a riotous wave, pinned here and there with a gold hoop or a braid. His robes were of a deep black, banded by an overlapping chevron pattern of gold just under his ribs. A familiar collar mirrored it, high and closely fitted to his jaw, draped over his shoulders, a cloak pinned just underneath. Gold armor rose the length of his legs. He knew this style… It was one he had worn just after his Ascension. He did not remember this moment in particular, so he allowed the Fade to reveal what it wanted in its own time. He spectated, letting his feet take him to the Inner Sanctum. The room could have easily fit three of Skyhold’s Great Hall inside of it, and the vaulted, arched ceilings were open, a dazzling leaded glass mosaic to view the starry skies. A party seemed to be in full swing, and a glance at the front of the room showed the Evanuris being attended to.

Andruil drank to her latest prize, a massive horned beast, whose name had long since been lost; its head was freshly mounted on the wall. 

Sylaise and June complimented the platters of food, goblets of wine, and carved statues that their faithful laid at their feet. 

Ghilan'nain sat surrounded by young elvhen who weaved her moonlit hair, fed the finest grains to the halla at her feet. Each of her ladies were well cared for, wrapped in delicate silks. They were well read and well traveled for their youth, and wanted for nothing under the tender care of the surefooted pathfinder they attended.

Dirthamen and Falon’din had their attendants of course, but the tributes laid at their feet were of a different sort. Rare tomes, arcane relics of every shape and size, and more bundles of herbs and flowers than arms could carry. Elves flocked to them in hopes that loved ones would be care for in the beyond, the incense that bathed them in earthy smoke a plea for their guidance. 

Solas knew each of their faces, knew what day this must be. An annual celebration where the halls of the Golden City were open to all, before the war tore the People asunder. Even the lowest peasant would be invited to eat and drink and lay their pleas at the feet of the Evanuris. But he could not remember bits and pieces of this particular event. Even as his borrowed body strode across the ballroom, he pondered this memory. Had his memory been altered? When? And by whom?

His confusion did not end there… For when he reached the pair of thrones at the center of the line, Elgar’nan and Mythal seated upon them, that was not where his gaze settled. At Mythal’s right hand, standing tall and vigilant and as beautiful as he’d ever seen her, his beloved. She conversed with Mythal, and an unguarded laugh was shared. A tall spear was clutched in her hands. It was gilded, but utterly ordinary. It was not her shaft of golden light; there was no golden fire in her eyes, and her aura was not tinged with holy light. 

At his approach, the auburn haired woman of his memory returned to attention, spine straight and face masked with professionalism. He did note the quirk of her eyebrow, the glimmer in her eye, so very like his vhenan. Not able to remain cold and detached for more than a second. He knew that it was shallow, that it didn’t scratch the surface of who she was. There was no spark of recognition however. Though she knew of him, this was their first meeting, he was absolutely sure of it.

Solas’s body bent at the waist, bringing Mythal’s delicate hand to his lips for a kiss. His remembered smile cocked in familiarity.  "My dearest friend, you are as radiant as ever. New bodyguard I take it?"

Mythal nodded, an indiscernible look at her husband in the throne beside hers. "Elgar’nan has taken this one under his wing. She is skilled, both with a spear and with healing. A promising candidate for Commander, don’t you think?" Mythal said with an appraising eye at the tall elvhen woman. 

The imposing Evanuris beside her spoke. "Skilled beyond her peers, but not ready for the burdens of command quite yet. She needs to be tempered in diplomacy just as surely as she has been forged in the fires of battle. One cannot lead through bloodlust and valor alone." Elgar'nan said admonishingly. Something about his words, his tone spoke as though he were more invested than a king would normally be. As though he had a personal stake in this. 

Solas found himself measuring the woman in the garb of Arlathan. "And what do you think of this… I apologize, I am at a loss…"

The auburn-haired elf hid her cockiness behind her manners as she bowed deeply, spear jutted to the side. "Syr. I am called Syr. It is an honor. I can only hope my rise is well received. A Commander is nothing without her People."

Solas was struck dumb at this. Had some part of her clung to that name through the eons? Part of him knew that it was possible to retain such threads of the past, even if one didn’t know why they clung so tightly to them. His mind reeled, puzzling the enigma that was her multifaceted soul, when his borrowed lips spoke again. "But you… do you have no wants of your own, Lady Syr?" Fen’Harel asked, leading. He gave no emotion, no inflection, yet she hesitated at the question. She looked lost for the barest second, and Solas could swear that she glanced at Elgar’nan wistfully. 

This vulnerability soon hid behind a veneer of dignified poise as she worked how best to answer him. Her hazel eyes studied his face; with finality, Syr stated, "I only want to help."

Chapter Text

With no sign of the Inquisitor, two weeks after her sacrifice, Cassandra was forced to make a hard decision and pulled back troops from the Rifts. Small camps would remain in the area, but they were losing too many people to the demons that exited the Rifts. Two weeks turned to three, and Cassandra gave the order to return to Skyhold. Their supplies were running low, and though they had shelter in Griffon Wing Keep, the severe increase in occupants there overtaxed the food and water stores. The trade route they had set up wasn't enough, and more men were lost to dehydration, to heat stroke. 

The trip back to the snowy fortress was one of low morale. Cassandra in particular had taken it hard; how was Syraena so good at this? Even after the siege at Haven, they'd lost no one. Cass had been in command for three weeks and already there were casualties. 

Solas still spoke little, ate little. He slept every chance he got, and Cass even suspected that he'd napped atop his horse. When she asked him about it, he'd only set his brow to a hard line and informed her that he was searching for the Inquisitor. Whispers began to circulate, the word somniari on many lips. He neither confirmed nor denied the rumors. Cassandra hoped in part that they were right. If anyone could locate her, it was their resident Fade expert. Methods be damned, they needed her.

 


 

 

Solas found himself again in a memory he couldn't recall. Somewhere, his mind had been meddled with. By a spirit perhaps? Or maybe something darker? 

His feet made little sound on the now empty floors of the Golden City. The silence was deafening. The edges of this memory crackled with a menacing energy, peeling back like layers of scabbing. It festered against his mind. The tang of the magic used by the Forgotten Ones was unmistakable. His feet carried him swiftly through the festering aura, and for the first time he noticed the drops of blood across the marble, the odd sooty residue a trail he followed. Dread and curiosity in equal measure coursed through his veins as he rounded the corner, picking up speed as the sound of screaming echoed from the door ahead. 

His hand batted aside the door with a speed he missed in his current body. Blinding light struck his eyes and he was forced to shield himself. The flashes of light punctuated the screams, the string of pained curses leaking from the elvhen woman atop the table in the center of the room. She lay surrounded by Elgar'nan, Mythal, and few healers. They held her down, attempting to cool her, to calm her. Her long auburn hair fanned around her on the table, her face split in a feral grimace; teeth shredded the air as she bit against the pain. The sight of her in such agony tore at him. 

Solas cast a few spells with borrowed fingers that pulled at the magic in the air. Syr's body cooled slightly, the pain ebbed as though numbed with medication. Present, but bearable if only for a moment. The pulsating light faded to a flicker, barely perceptible. He could do nothing for the golden fire that poured from her eyes like tears, nor could he dull the golden glimmer that crawled up her skin from her fingertips. She and the others appeared to have had small surface wounds when they arrived here that had since been healed . That explained the blood on the tiles, then. All that remained were tears in their clothing and a distinct scent of Forgotten magic that clung to them like mold. He could taste its rot on the air.

"How did this happen?" he asked Elgar'nan. The robed sovereign elvhen sighed, a pained expression on his face as he eyed the stilled form of Syr on the soot-stained table. 

"They found us. We tried to contain it before they got their hands on it. They slaughtered the entire unit. Syr tried to hold them back but..." The old elvhen's voice cracked. Solas was puzzled at this display of emotion. It was a concern rarely given to any but his...

Fenedhis. He could see it now; it was there in her cheekbones, in the slight squareness of her jaw, the dark fanning of lashes that only betrayed their gold tips when the sun hit them from the right angle. She was every bit the Sun God's progeny, and it radiated from within her pale warm skin. But there was no trace of Mythal's piercing yellow gaze in her hazel eyes, and her auburn hair stood in stark defiance to the Mother of Elvhenan's snowy locks... not even the ebony ones she'd had in her youth could explain the coppery gleam Syr possessed.

It did nothing to break the motherly look Mythal gave the prone elvhen woman as she descended into a fitful sleep. She stroked a strand of hair away from Syr's forehead, caressing her lovingly, worriedly. Solas realized then that Mythal knew who Syr was. She knew, and accepted. She saw in the injured Sentinel another wounded bird in a storm, another child with enormous potential. Mythal's love transcended the fact that she wasn't Syr's flesh and blood. 

 "I see." Solas said simply.  "And the Fragment?" 

Elgar'nan indicated the woman on the table. The gilded fire still leaked from the outside corners of Syr's eyes, like tears that left flaming trails down her temples as she slept. "The Fragment of the Sun broke free of its containment. It dwells within her now. Given her suffering, I doubt it'll be long now before it burns her from the inside out and we are forced to contain it again."  His face grew dark for a moment. "At the very least, they cannot get it now." 

"For now! When the Forgotten come here to steal it, to finish what they began in the Vault? What then? We should never have kept it. It was foolish to believe we could hold such a power!"

"And what do you believe we do with it? If we release it, it could have catastrophic consequences! We must simply accept that she..." the elvhen man swallowed hard. "She is strong enough. If she is not, we will contain it once more. I will hear no more of this." With that command, he left the room. Swift strides carried him away from his wife and bastard daughter. His departure heralded the end of the memory, the scene shifting under his dreaming eye.

 


 

 

His Evanuris garb faded away, and he was instead clothed in only armored pants and footwraps. In his hands, he gripped a long filigreed staff. He drew on the power of the earth beneath his toes, pulled it through himself, and launched it out of his upper body. The forceful blow was directed by the spinning staff in his hands, aimed at a familiar auburn haired opponent. It cast her backward several yards to an abrupt crash landing in the dirt. She launched herself upright once more, a fluid motion borne of a flexible spine and powerful, practiced legs. She moved like fire spreading over a dry plain, her fury in every sweep of her feet, arch of her core. Fast and deadly. She parried his blows with a spear, the bar that was an extension of her body, and she set upon him with all her strength. 

Solas's borrowed lips tugged sideways - and he Shifted. His form blurred in an inky smoke, six eyes seeing her every possible move. Her weapon did nothing against his immaterial, wolf-like body, and he surrounded her. He knew he'd blinded her, his form an impenetrable darkness. Try as she might, her attacks were futile, and soon she grew frustrated, furious. He felt a flare ignite somewhere within himself. 

Syr stood in the middle of his vaporous form, searing through him like the Sun she carried in her chest. That telltale glow, the fire in her eyes.... He chuckled. With that humor he tugged his form to solidify around her, crushing her under his weight. Wisps became fingers, currents became legs and feet, and his smoky snout flattened to reveal his Elvhen features once more. He knelt atop her blazing armored body, the indignant fire in her eyes no lessened by his victory. In a move he did not anticipate, she crushed her lips to his, searing him to her, flashing through him like wildfire. Armored fingers knotted themselves in his long dark hair. Solas tensed at first, but his body gave in. He gave back every ounce of fire, of crushing desire. 

He didn't notice her fingers weaving further, didn't notice the way she hooked her thigh around his... not until she flipped him onto his back. She knelt above him, spear to his throat. 

"That does not count as a victory." Solas said, mirth in his remembered voice.

"Excuse me? I'm quite clearly the one with the most advantage."

"I don't expect your real opponents to give in to your lust as eagerly as I do."

Syr's brow furrowed in frustration, not allowing him to escape the trap of her body and spear. "I can't use it. Every time I call it forth it burns. That pain makes it hard to focus."

"You must learn. It is a weapon entrusted to your care. It chose you. If you stop rejecting it, it will not fight you. Only through your acceptance will it grow and move with you."

She braced herself on her spear dug into the dirt. Another quick kiss, a promise of more to come. The memory wavered at the edges. Somewhere in the Waking Dawn approached as Syr, his vhenan, his Asha'lean strode away across the courtyard. 

The last thing he saw of the memory was Elgar'nan's impassive stare from a balcony above.

 


 

 

Their arrival at Skyhold was met with little fanfare... more than a month after Inquisitor Syraena Dire disappeared, Cassandra Pentaghast was named acting Inquisitor. Black banners were erected in every hall. A vigil was held was held for all those the Inquisition had lost at Adamant, candles a steady fixture in every nook and cranny of the stone fortress. A new painting appeared in the rotunda several days later; a golden, winged figure locked in a mighty battle with a many-eyed beast... and there in the corner, a lone wolf howled in despair. 

 


 

 

Deep in the Fade, helplessly lost and broken, I staggered through the muck, the massive carcass of a demon smoldered to ash and fading in the distance.

I did not rest, did not sleep, for what horrors would I see when I closed my eyes?

My body should have long given up by now. but as much as I wanted to, this horrid prison would not let me fucking die.

I was soaked from head to toe, weary and half mad from the deafening echo of my footsteps as they carried me across the great distances.

How long has it been?

Sometimes, I'd turn, and walk for what felt like days until I decided nothing in that direction would help me... then I'd pick a different direction to walk in.

Spirits gave no help, flitting away as I approached them. 

I walked on, never stopping, the hollow in my chest eating at me, the hollow that seemed vaguely Solas shaped.

I tried to use the glowing mark upon my hand to tear myself an exit, but it lay unresponsive to me on this side of the one-way mirror. 

Mirror.

What I wouldn't give for a mirror right now. A bath, a brush, some clean clothes.... I probably looked like a hot fucking mess....

I saw something glinting that broke the craggy landscape around me. I sprinted toward it, exhaustion begging me to stop.

Just a little further...

My body weighed metric tons as I neared the object, and I began to collapse before I reached my destination.

No no no NO I CAN'T SLEEP HERE! My mind screamed, but my body would not listen.

I found myself slipping into unconsciousness as my fingers tipped through the cool, glassy surface of the eluvian.

Chapter Text

My dreams were blissfully unharried by demons, though like a trickle of a stream the memories of my days as Syr, as Asha’lean, returned to me. Gentle and natural, as if I’d never forgotten in the first place. I could see the filigree on my spear, the color of Elgar’nan’s eyes. No longer did I feel the sense of loss being a fractured soul gave. No… In my split second act of self sacrifice, I had welded the halves of my soul together with holy flame. I couldn't recall how long I slept, nor could I determine how long I staggered across the vast landscape of the Fade. When I found my way back to consciousness, my arms were bound to a marble platform, my entire body restrained. I wasn't in pain, so whatever my captors had done, they hadn't tortured me; the restraints seemed like more of a precaution.

I wasn't alone in this room. I could feel the weight of their stare but I could not see them. Their rhythmic breathing came from somewhere at the head of the table. I attempted to crane my neck to see, but my observer noticed my movement and immediately stood. I heard a chair slide across stone floor, three measured steps, and a sigh before they entered my view. I was greeted with the sight of a cloaked, armored, and distinctly elvhen man. The branches of Mythal's vallaslin lay across his forehead. He scrutinized my face, not uttering a word as he passed a glowing hand over my face. If I had to guess, he was searching me for any trace of hidden marks, any illusion that would mask my vallaslin. I  assume he found none, because the confusion in his eyes doubled. 

The first words spoken came from his lips, the Elvhen language rolling from them like water, their ripple echoing from the vaulted ceilings. 

“Who are you, and why have you come?”

“I am Inquisitor Syraena Dire. That won’t mean much to you, I’m sure. Do you recognize the name Asha’lean?”

A slight stirring of recognition in his eyes. I must have broken the final seal, then. I wonder if Solas remembers? Mythal told me if I broke the final seal, the memories would return…

“You lie. Asha’lean was slain, just as Mythal was slain. Who are you? I will not ask again.”

I edged my voice with Influence, a mere suggestion weighing heavy in the air. “Release my hand, and I will prove it.” 

The cloaked Elvhen hesitated for the span of a breath, but obeyed. Wards shattered, manacles clinked. Once free, I slowly turned my palm up and called my aedric spear to me. It lay there still between my fingers. The hum of its power was subtle but strong, a crystalline fragment of sunlight that drew from the fire in my chest. 

His eyes grew hardened for a moment, but he hid that fleeting trace of emotion once more and departed without another word. The doors slammed shut behind him with a finality that echoed my fate. I let the spear fade away in glittering fragments. 

I stared at the ceiling, memorizing all the details of the arches that supported it, the gilded mosaics around me diffusing the light. I waited. For a time I even hummed songs from playlists long past. But the sound of footsteps in the hallway, many more than had departed, had me on alert again. 

At least a dozen cloaked Elvhen entered the room, circling the table I lay on. My interrogator from before was among their number. None spoke as the last person entered. He approached with resolute steps, arms folded behind his back. He too bore the vallaslin of Mythal, barely visible under his hood, until he threw it back. His soft brown hair was pulled into a long braid that cascaded down his back, and though by all appearances he was the youngest here, I knew him to be centuries older than any of them. My heart swelled with relief and joy.

His warm hazel eyes lit upon my face, and a genuine smile lit up his entire countenance. “Not once since we began our sleep has the mirror activated. What a sight you are to behold when I awaken, Syr.”

My bonds were released around me, and with a speed I was unused to, I flung myself toward him. My arms went up around his neck, and I buried my head under his chin as I used to when I was little. “Loran!” 

“Be calm, Little Sister. I just woke up.”

 


 

I told him everything I could remember. I told him of my forced Uthenera, told him of the splitting of my soul, told him of the life I’d lived in another world, the marvels I saw there, my death and painful return. I told him of my life with the Inquisition, of the ancient darkspawn magister hellbent on tearing Thedas to shreds. My tale poured from my lips like the water he offered me. I hadn’t realized how much having someone that knew me from before would mean to me. I knew everyone when I woke, but nobody knew me. I realized then how Solas felt. It hurt knowing he spent his first year virtually alone.

When we grew hungry, we hunted together. His bow and my spear. The forests outside the Temple were unfamiliar; they were more temperate than those of the Arbor Wilds. The deer we found weren’t blue, either. 

We spent days this way. He gave me quarters within the Temple, reserved for the highest of Sentinels... but then, wasn’t that exactly what I was? Memories or no, I used to be their Commander, the liaison between the Evanuris and the sanctuaries dedicated to them. In times of crisis, those that stood with me would battle in our chosen ruler’s name. In times of peace, we’d care for the pilgrims that would come to pay homage. I could be that again.

Loran gave me clothing that denoted my status. From wrist to shoulder were billowing black silks, bound at either end with overlapping chevrons of gold. This same gold chevron banding corseted my waist, surprisingly rather armored, and the black robes beneath the corset draped to the floor, split at the hip on either side. My legs were clad in armored breeches that reminded me of the ones Solas had worn in Trespasser, and I had pauldrons to match. All the elegance of noble finery with added protection in the places I’d need it. How he found clothing that fit me precisely I could only hazard a guess - magic. My custom made armor I’d arrived in was repaired, cleaned, and now adorned a mannequin in my chambers. 

All in all, it felt a bit like I was moving in. I knew I could not stay, but I was reluctant to leave the only blood relation that remained in this world. Our mother was naught but a favored slave to Elgar’nan… he took a liking to her when Loran was young. He looked so much like her, it hurt. 

My duties to the Sentinels were “big picture,” and would have to take a backseat to the Inquisition. I spent the better part of three days trying to piece together an explanation that would suffice.

With my armor packed in a satchel along with a few provisions, I found Loran in the Atrium one day, the central chamber from which all the hallways stemmed. A 30 foot statue of Mythal stood prominently in the center with an eluvian before her feet. Trailing vines, flowers in soft shades of burgundy and purple poured from the sides of the eluvian, an indoor garden with a gate to the world. He stood before the mirror, inspecting the quiet surface. No touching or words he spoke awakened it. At my approach, the glassy surface began to glow. The thinly veiled humor on his face made me laugh. I set my satchel on the floor, bridging the last few steps between us with a smile.

“It would appear the eluvian does not like you.”

He finally turned from it then, shifting his weight on the balls of his feet. He moved like a breeze, silent and swift. If I had blinked, I would have missed the motion. And just like the breeze through the leaves of a sturdy willow, he was gentle and more resilient than I could ever be. 

“I imagine not. Much like an ornery cat.” Loran cast the mirror a final scathing glance. It lost its bite to the smile that threatened the corners of his lips.

I laughed again at his mock indingnance. “I’ve always been a cat person anyway.” I allowed the smile to linger on my lips for a moment longer before I let it fall . “Loran, I must leave.”

“I know. Your Inquisition needs you. We will wait.”

I stood there for a moment more, wringing my hands “They won’t understand. They'll see it as me helping the shemlen.” 

“We will wait. You must help the shemlen to seal the sky. And when you finish, you will return to us.”

I shook my head slowly, haltingly. “I’m not sure I can.”

“And why not?” 

“I… Solas and I…”

Loran smiled understandingly. “You found the Wolf again.”

“I did. He… We are continuing our work from before. The People need us.”

“We do. I see you cannot be swayed in this. I never was able to prevent you from doing as you thought was right.” He took my left hand in his own, swiping his thumb over my knuckles. He turned my palm upward, a cursory glance at the Anchor turning the wheels in his mind. “You have our aid, Little Sister. Swear to me you will return and we will assist you.”

“This, I swear. I have a task for you, in fact.”

“What is it?”

“Corypheus will come for the vir'abelasan. In the Temple of Mythal, deep in the Arbor Wilds. The landscape, the names… they may have changed with the centuries, but the Well endures. He seeks to possess it as well as the eluvian it unlocks. Our People there will awaken and they will die in a great number. This cannot happen.”

“And you would see it destroyed? It cannot be allowed to pass into his hands.” Despair and anger at the blighted magister hid somewhere in the depths of his eyes.

“No. Send word to Abelas. Awaken him if you must. Should there come a time where we must destroy it or use it, I myself will drink. I owe it to Her to defend it.” 

“I understand. How will we alert you to his arrival?”

I smiled. “The Wolf gave me Tarasyl'an Te'las. Speak the words Fen’Harel Enansal, and the eluvian will open for you.”

A chuckle escaped Loran’s lips. “Ever the prideful one, your Wolf,” he said, shaking his head. He pulled me into a hug. His chin sat atop my head, and I willed myself not to cry. I’d only just found him again, and already I needed to give him up. We stayed like that for several moments, when with a kiss to my hair he pulled away.

“Shall I escort you, then?” my brother asked, proffering his arm. I accepted it with a pang of guilt, lifting my bag onto my shoulder.

“Take me home,” I said, stepping with him into the mirror.

Chapter Text

I embraced Loran one last time, burying my face in his long brown hair. I could feel his smile atop my head, his arms that threatened to crush me around my shoulders. He sent me through the eluvian into Skyhold with a farewell and a few words for my Wolf on his behalf. I stood there feeling a bit empty, my pack over my shoulder gripped in tight fingers and my filigreed spear in my other hand. My trident staff hadn't escaped the Fade with me it seemed. I took a few steadying breaths as the eluvian solidified once more. 

It was clear upon stepping out into the garden into the burgeoning twilight that I'd been gone a while. Black banners hung in place of the crimson Inquisition heraldry. Nearly all the leaves had been stripped from the trees, their bronze remains littering the cold hard ground. There was no laughter, no idle relaxing in the gardens. In fact, until I reached the door to the Great Hall, I hadn't seen anyone. I thought this odd, foreboding even. 

I opened the door wide, stepping through into a crowded hall. They hadn't noticed me yet, at the back of the crowd, but the hushed whispers rippled through them as they spectated the proceedings at the front of the room. 

Josephine's voice rang out over the shuffling of impatient feet. "Adamant's influence continues, Inquisitor. I submit Lord Livius Erimond of Vyrantium, who remains loyal to Corypheus. We apprehended him, gravely wounded, after the battle. Rather than let him succumb to his wounds and escape justice for his crimes, Warden Commander Cousland thought it best to bring him to trial. He offered extreme resistance after his wounds were tended, likely because the Wardens would have his head... in more colorful terms." 

Inquisitor?

My eyes traveled to the figure sitting astride the throne, decked in black armor. Her face was stern, tired, furious... the stone warrior was lit from within by an anger that put an erupting volcano to shame. I knew then which punishment she had in mind, perhaps even before it had solidified in her thoughts. 

Cassandra spoke with thinly veiled rage, face contorted in a way that scared even me. "As they should. You are responsible for the unjust slaughter and corruption of many. They are not alone in this sentiment."

Erimond spat at her feet, which earned him a gauntleted backhand from one of the guards that held him in runed shackles. "I recognize none of this proceeding. You have no authority to judge me." 

Josie inclined her head slightly, and if I hadn't looked her way when she spoke, I would have missed the grim, slightly smug smile that graced her delicate face. "On the contrary. Many officials have communicated that they will defer to the Inquisition on this matter."

His lip bled as he responded in a vicious sneer. "Because they fear. Not just Corypheus, but Tevinter; rightful owner of every piece of ground you have ever trod on in your pathetic life. I served a living god. Bring down your blade and free me from the physical. Glory awaits me."

Cassandra stood, hand on the pommel of her sword. A sword I recognized now as the one they'd used to dub me Inquisitor. "Livius Erimond, for your crimes against the Wardens, the Inquisition, and Thedas itself, I sentence you to death, by my hand." As she descended the steps slowly, I knew I had to act.

"STOP." I bellowed, my voice magnified by Influence's boon. Everyone in attendance froze in shock. I parted the crowd, my pack discarded at the back of the room. My fingers clenched white around the gold filigreed staff, my black Elvhen garb swirling about me. If I wasn't so focused on my task, I'd laugh at my dramatic entrance. Silks billowed around my arms and legs, my waist corseted in gold. A spectre of death and vengeance. I stood behind Erimond, facing down Cassandra.

"If anyone deserves to take his life for his crimes, it is me." I said darkly. The criminal spun in place and when his terror filled eyes met mine, he sputtered, trying to find his tongue.

"Y-you're dead!" he cried, blood trickling down his chin. "None could survive the demon of Nightmares!"

I felt my entire body catch fire, my soul burning with the Fragment of the Sun that lay within me. I must have made quite the sight; white flame dripping from my eyes, my black silks flooding around me, my spear glowing with aedric light. 

"I faced your Nightmare. Seems I was the thing it feared most."

His words failed him after that, but that may have been because I shoved my glowing spear through his chest. I left it there, sending my flame coursing through him until naught was left but ash.

The crowd behind me was utterly silent. I breathed deeply, once, twice, calming the flame in my chest. when I was certain it lay dormant once more, I turned my gaze to Cassandra's face. Shock and awe were foremost in her expressions, all traces of rage gone. And somewhere beneath that, I saw relief. 

"Welcome back, Inquisitor Dire." Cassandra said, presenting me with the sword of the Inquisition, gesturing to the throne she had vacated. I took them both, but not before hugging her briefly. "You have been missed."

The moment I sat upon the throne, sword across my lap, the crowd gathered before us knelt in reverence. 

"It's good to be home," I said, and I truly meant it. "So... what did I miss?"

 


 

Two months, it turned out. I had lost almost two months. My advisors, after they hugged thoroughly, caught me up to speed. Adamant had been secured, though we had lost a good number of men. 

Some of the wardens that had been possessed were beyond saving, their bodies contorted in wrathful forms. Many were purged and in recovery. A few had died to injuries, to dehydration, to heat stroke. Cassandra felt responsible for these deaths, having made the decision to linger in the desert waiting for me to reemerge from the Fade. Only once I had been presumed dead (I'd been in the Fade without food, and was unlikely to survive starvation after somehow dealing with the demon) had they left Griffon Wing Keep to return to Skyhold.

I told them my tale... most of it, at least. I left my origins out of it. I arrived in an ancient temple occupied by elvhen fresh from Uthenera. I had extracted Corypheus's plan from the demon, his quest for Mythal's Well of Sorrows, and warned the elvhen that helped me heal. So grateful were they for the head's up that they offered their assistance when it came time to fight him in the Arbor Wilds. 

I paused briefly. "Where is Elissa?" I asked. My advisors glanced at one another. 

Leliana spoke first, breaking the tense silence. "She returned to Denerim to spend the remainder of her pregnancy at King Alistair's side." The Spymaster rifled through her stack of missives, handing one to me. The seal of the King was neatly broken, and his scrawled hand bled his joy. Elissa was home, safe and sound, and quite large already according to Alistair. I could almost see him penning this, Elissa reading over his shoulder, smacking him in the arm fondly. 

“I wish I’d returned sooner. I’d have liked to say goodbye.” I sighed wistfully.

Josephine smiled. “Once the babe is born, we have been invited to a banquet held by the King and Queen. Wintersend, by all calculations.”

“Three months… I guess I understand though. Being heavily pregnant in Skyhold in the winter would’ve sucked.” I laughed again at a passage in Alistair’s letter.

I was warned that women with child were a nightmare to satisfy, but Maker that fabled Grey Warden appetite makes these cravings even harder… Where am I supposed to find strawberries this time of year? 

“Anything else I should know?” I asked. My advisors shook their heads. “Good. Send me Solas.”

Sensing their dismissal, they departed. I stood alone in the War Room, assessing the map. There were subtle differences, but nothing important. I waited in the silence, broken only the sound of the logs crackling in the massive fireplace. Now and again, a bird would fly past the stained glass windows, chirping its song in the growing dark.

 


 

The great doors were thrown open behind me, and I spun to sit against the table. Solas entered, magically sealing the doors behind him; finished casting, he then crossed the space in purposeful strides. 

“I remember.” He said simply.

My heart soared at his words. I pulled him against me, his lean body pinning me to the War Table. His lips crushed mine; the gasp that pulled from his throat sounded desperate… like he would die if I proved to be a delusion. Long, slender fingers explored my elvhen garb with wonder. It felt a bit like stealing a boyfriend's t-shirt... He saw me in the clothing of his people, our people, and it consumed him with pride. I laced the fingers of my left hand through his dark hair. It now cascaded to his shoulder blades, shaved on the sides and held together with ties and tiny braids. It wasn’t the dreads of his past, but the magically expedited mane was regal all the same. 

His mouth found my jaw, my neck, kissing and biting the pale skin there. He’d leave his mark, I was sure of it, and the thought flooded me with heat. His hands lifted me to sit fully on the War Table, knocking aside figurines. In that moment I couldn’t give a shit if we wrecked the entire table. 

His hands found the laces in my armored leggings, ripping them aside in his haste. When one hand proved to be ineffective in its task, my lover used both, impatient and overcome. Finally succeeding, my bare ass now rested on the cool wooden surface. I reached for his leggings then, but he pushed my hands aside and knelt. The feeling of his tongue upon my core sent my vision reeling. I grasped at what lay beside me… a map? Whatever it was, it crumpled in my fingers. My head tipped back, his lips, teeth and tongue drawing cries from my chest; the vaulted ceilings gathered my ecstasy and magnified it, casting it back to us. He worshipped me, toyed with me, destroyed me, seeking my ruin and my rise to power. His names tumbled from my lips, in two languages, in every degree of breathlessness. Only when I thought I was utterly spent did he leave my altar, only to rise before me. 

He drew my hands above my head in one of his own, pinning me atop Thedas. His other hand clenched somewhere around Redcliffe. Ostagar saw my joining with him. Denerim bore witness to the devastation we wrought. Val Royeaux watched on as he drove hard into my core, never ceasing in our pleasure. He wouldn’t have stopped in his travels if I’d asked him to, and I couldn’t think of any reasons to do so. 

Time passed with dizzying speed as we travelled, our cries unhushed in the cavernous chamber. His touch was magic as he sought release, and when his body began to shake Thedas like an earthquake, I followed him home. 

Chapter Text

I knew I was taking a risk coming here. It took fucking forever to determine which would lead to my preferred destination, and I couldn’t explain the feeling when I succeeded. I’d say it was a pull, but that’d be too strong a term. Finding the right eluvian felt like following shitty Mapquest directions and seeing the right address number on the side of the mailbox just as you’re about to drive by it.

I knew I was right when the opaque surface opened to reveal the rippling image of a long, narrow white hallway, familiar stone flooring leading out into what looked like a vault or storeroom. Shelves were staggered along the walls, laden with weapons and armor that appeared distinctly elfy. I stepped through, letting the mirror fall dim behind me. What wasn’t familiar was the sudden hostility I walked into. Weapons were drawn on me from all sides, and I raised my palms up, unarmed.

“Heyya everyone. Briala home?”

A few of the weapons twitched as they looked from the Anchor to each other. The elven woman in question stalked out from what appeared to be an office, clad in slightly less ornate robes than I’d seen her last, mask abandoned.

“We meet again Inquisitor.” Briala lilted. “I cannot say I’m not intrigued by your navigation of the eluvians, but given the tales of your recent exploits I suppose I should not be surprised.” With a lazy wave of her hand, her men lowered their weapons. They left us privacy, but I knew they'd not be far.

“Fade walking, showing up in an ancient Elvhen ruin… yeah exciting tales, those.” I snorted.

“I gather from your derision that their accuracy is less than portrayed?”

“You’d be correct. I’ve come with a proposition.” I shifted my stance, widening my feet. I prepared to call forth my fire. It came in degrees, but at a certain point it could no longer be contained. The fire in my eyes, the glow beneath my skin hardening me to impenetrable stone. “What do you know of the Evanuris?”

She laughed. The light show and display of power hadn’t had the effect I’d thought it’d have, and I tucked it away once more.

She knew.

I guess I was a little miffed, but it was to be expected. Just as Solas and I had eyes and ears everywhere, so too did she. She was leading a secret elven revolution, after all.

“Which one?” Briala asked.

“Well, I know a certain someone whose goals align with yours. You wish to free the People, yes? Give them land, rights, power?”

Briala nodded solemnly.

“Everything the People know of Fen’harel is wrong. The Evanuris, save Mythal, were greedy slavers who marked their property with vallaslin and fucked with powers beyond their ability. The Void, the Titans, the Forgotten Ones… It got Mythal murdered. Fen’Harel had been leading a rebellion to free the marked slaves, and Mythal’s murder opened his eyes. The Evanuris and the Forgotten Ones needed to be stopped. He trapped them, but in doing so, split the world in two. The Veil he erected tore immortality from the elvhen. He wishes to see it restored.”

“Do you have proof of your wild tales?”

“I lived it. But if you need to see proof, I can certainly bring your people to his sanctuary.”

Her face quirked. So she knew of my ancient past, too. Seems Morrigan wasn’t the only one with me there in the Crossroads with me that day. No matter, this just saves time.

 


 

 

I led her through the Crossroads, following the same shitty Mapquest printout in my head. When the basin in the verdant mountains surrounded us, Briala’s eyes grew wide. “I still don’t know where this is, but when I saw it in the future, we had to take it back from Qunari. If we can relocate the People here before that, it’ll save a lot of time.” I spoke thoughtfully with her at my side, leading her through this abandoned place. Some part of my mind reconstructed the room, and I found my hand idly flicking toward fallen pillars, sunken patches in the roof. The Veil was thin here, making my impromptu renovation seem like moving figures across the War Table. If the ambassador noticed my power, she said nothing.

“That mural there… He’s removing the vallaslin, saving them from slavery.” I lit veilfire torches beneath the fresco. Her slight hands grazed along the chipping surface of the mural, lingering on the faces of the slaves. Her eyes seemed to glisten in the veilfire light, but I lost sight of her unshed tears as she turned away, walking further along the wall to the balcony.

The lake spread before us, beyond the wildflower strewn grasses. Far in the distant, forested green peaks cradled the sanctuary like water cupped in joined hands.

“This place is…. Incredible.” She marveled.

“I know part of your goal is to make a home for your people in the Dales. I’d ask that you hold off, temporarily, and bring them here. They would be beyond the reach of Orlais, of Ferelden, of Tevinter. This place is a pocket of solitude, with a magnitude of doors to grand forgotten libraries, fertile lands, larger fortresses…”

“Why would you give me this? What do you stand to gain?”

“I too have a rebellion of sorts. Where you want to give them a home and rights, we want to give them their lives, their power, their dignity. If we succeed in lowering the Veil, immortality will be restored.”

“I find that difficult to believe.” she scoffed, running a hand along the marble banister. She turned to lean against it, eying up the rather large wolf statue.

“Because you have never lived in a time where magic came as easily as breathing. Where it wasn’t feared. It was an extension of our very beings. You cannot miss a part of your mind you never had.”

Briala sighed, taking in the large sanctuary. “I suppose so. If your aim is to raise the People up, there will be a vacuum in power. How can I be sure that a greater evil will not take their place?” She brushed away a trailing vine with her hand, fingers tracing the weather worn decorative carvings.

“The People will be free to govern themselves. Elections will be held; if there are factions within the People, each group will see to their own representatives. We’ll be as diplomatic as we can. Freedom is hard fought and hard kept. It won’t be easy, but we can try.”

She thought for a long time. I let her have it, and I watched her wander through the vaulted halls. Sometimes Briala would dip away from sight, but I worried little. She always reappeared. Hushed footsteps swept across the debris scattered floors.

I cleared what I could as I too explored, mending broken walls and shifting benches back into place. The vines were a nice touch, so I left the living strands on the walls while I cast away the dead bits. Broken panes of glass found their way to union, and dust was evaporated. It really was as easy as breathing, particularly now that I had returned to full strength.

Eventually, I was drawn to the lake, to the grasses. The scent of lavender was heavy on the air, calming and rich. I sat in a patch of it, staring out over the sparkling expanse of water. Birds flitted on the breeze, their songs sweet and welcoming. If this wasn’t paradise, I couldn't say what was. Soon after, she joined me.

We were silent for a moment, just taking it all in. She did not look at me, but I felt her relax.

“Tell the Dread Wolf  I accept. I will join your cause.”

“Wonderful. You know, I told him what the password was to the eluvians. He thought it was amusing.”

“I imagine he would. Had I known it would endear a god to me, I’d have sought you out sooner.”

“He’s not a god. Just a powerful man with a need to see his people freed and restored. You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. For all his good deeds, he was reviled through the centuries. He woke from Uthenera to find everything that was once beautiful and natural about the world broken and mundane, and he was utterly alone.”

“What a sad existence.” She mused.

I smiled sadly at the cloudless sky. I closed my eyes to the warm sun. “Indeed. But he’s not alone now. None of us are.”

She stood, offering me a hand to stand. “You paint a pretty picture.”

“I do, don’t I?” I said, and we shared a laugh as we made our way back.

Chapter Text

 

The ground beneath my feet was cold, hard, unforgiving. Not unlike the woman who walked beside me in relative silence. When I arrived back at Skyhold, I had relayed the Spirit of Faith’s message to her, and since then, she’d been more reticent than usual. I’d called her to the garden because she looked ready to throw Baron Plucky down the rotunda opening like a tennis ball over a missive he delivered. The offending piece of paper was still clutched in her fist, though she pretended it didn’t exist. I had a few guesses as to what it contained.

Leliana and I strolled in the general direction of the chapel; the occupants of the garden were burrowed in scarves and furs, rushing to their destinations, runes of heat held tightly to their chests. None lingered here but us, with the exception of a sparrow or two.

“Divine Justinia… she left something for me, I’m sure of it.” She said, steel tingeing her voice. “I have been instructed to visit the Valence Cloister. I am aware that we are preparing to march on the Arbor Wilds but I cannot allow… whatever she has left me… fall into the wrong hands. I must leave tonight.”

I nodded, opening the door to the empty chapel. I may not have believed in the divinity of Andraste, but I understood the core of the Faith and why Leliana clung to it like a boulder in an angry sea. I knew she needed this, needed the forgiveness and relief it would bring, whether she knew it or not. She was the one I’d back as the next Divine after all, and softening her heart would make all the difference.

“I’ll go with you.” I stated, raising a corner of my slightly chapped lips in a reassuring smile. “It’ll take me a bit of time to look for an Eluvian, but we may not have to be gone long.”

She jerked her head up from where she stared at the floor. “You don’t have to-”

“I want to. This is important to you; I’d like to help.”

She regarded me for a moment. Flecks of frost floated in the air between us from a crack in the wall, illuminated by a shaft of light. The light held her face in sharp relief to the dim room around us. “I’ve never asked, not really. Why do you back me? Cassandra proved herself a capable leader in your absence. Why not her?”

“You remember I said the Fade showed me both past and future? Every permutation of events, every possible outcome… At the beginning of it all, Elissa fled to Lothering and you were there, heart full of the Maker. You saw a vision for yourself and for the people you wished to protect. I would see you placed once more upon that path. Justinia knew you could be so much more than a weapon… and so do I.”

“And Cassandra? What do you see for her?”

“Her tale is hers, but she will want to rebuild the Seekers. Perhaps with Cullen by her side, if I have anything to do with it.” I gave the Spymaster a sidelong grin, and as she returned it, she knelt to the statue of Andraste before us. I turned to leave, but something held me in place.

“You do not believe in the Maker, do you?”

“No I… I believe the gods we know are mere figureheads, people with deeds so great they were revered for them. If there is a Maker, He is so far beyond our comprehension that we haven’t grasped what he means yet, and probably never will.”

She nodded, though if she actually conceded my point I couldn’t tell. She had bowed her head in prayer, her cowl falling over her face. I was content to sit in a pew nearby, marvelling at the artistry rendered in the marble. We stayed that way, in reverent silence, for quite some time.

She stood, in the swift, silent, practiced grace that came from years of rogue training. “Thank you for this, Syraena. I believe the Divine would have liked you.”

I snorted. “Oh yes. She would have loved the blaspheming snarky elf with a penchant for catty innuendoes.” With an exaggerated flourish, I opened the door for her. “But I help if I can.”

“And that is precisely why I believe she would have liked you. Under the wit and humor, you are a giving soul. You do what you feel is right, and will defend those you care about with everything you have.”

I laughed. “Thank you for the glowing review.” I jabbed my thumb toward my quarters high above us. “I’ll have to go pack some things and let Solas know what’s going on, but I’ll meet you at the eluvian in a couple of hours.” I started toward the Great Hall, then stopped. “Oh,” I added, “bring knockout powder and rope.”

She dipped her head once, a subtle nod that shook a single strand of copper hair over her brow. “As you say, Syraena.” she said, a hint of curiosity in her icy eyes.

 


 

I’d followed the inexplicable pull to what I assumed was the right eluvian with Leliana by my side. The almost complete darkness that greeted us confused me a bit, until I realized the mirror we had stepped out of was in a dusty attic, leaned up against bared rafters. A sheet that had been draped over it was pulled slightly to the side, and i stepped from under it. We crept through the attic, between crates and barrels of stored junk, to a shuttered window at the far wall. I wasn’t nearly as stealthy as Leliana, but we made it there without incident.

Sunset was upon Valence. The window we stood in was three stories up, a cargo pulley affixed to the apex of the roof. There was no movement in the immediate area below us. People had mostly made their way home, the odd passersby too far away to notice Leliana and I scaling the beams down the side of what appeared to be a warehouse of some kind near the docks.

Far in the distance, the Cloister broke the picturesque seaside cityscape, a stark contrast to the buildings that surrounded us. We walked down the nearly empty streets, but not hastily. We need not draw undue suspicion.

The doors of the Chantry Cloister were shut but not locked, they never were, for as the former home of Divine Justinia the faithful were always welcome. The rose gold light poured through the high windows, painting everything in a cozy peach hue. An ornate statue of Andraste, not unlike the one we had left hours prior at Skyhold, rose in the center of the circular room.

“It’s just as I remember it.” Leliana said, bowing in respect. A fond smirk coupled with something I couldn’t name pulled at her face.

“It’s peaceful here. You must have good memories of this place.”

Leliana sighed contentedly. “It was a place of comfort. It is good to see it’s still untouched by Corypheus.”

A bustling robed figure rounded the corner, an exclamation of joy and surprise on her lips. “Leliana? Is that you?”

Leliana took in the woman, opening her arms for a hug. “Sister Natalie! What are you doing here? I thought you were in Val Royeaux.”

Natalie closed the distance, wrapping herself in Leliana’s arms. “No I’ve been here since Justinia died. This place makes me feel like… like she is still with us.” Leliana shot me a look over Natalie’s shoulder.

“Inquisitor, this is Sister Natalie, a trusted friend.” Leliana introduced, releasing the woman and standing at my side.

“In-Inquisitor?” Natalie stammered. “You brought the Inquisitor here? My Lady, forgive me for not recognizing you earlier.”

I huffed in irritation. I wasn’t about to play along. “Yeah I get that a lot. Must be the ears.”

“I meant no offense!” the Sister urged.

“I get it. Grand Cleric Victoire didn’t know I’d show up with Leliana. She figured strong, silent Sister Nightingale would swing by to pick up whatever Justinia left her, and you could take her out and claim it for yourself.”

All pretense of Natalie’s sheltering Sister act dropped, her face stone.

“Yeah, pretty hard to deceive someone who has seen the future.”

Natalie spat her words, smile long gone, “You speak in blasphemy and deception! Your gift of Sight is bestowed by demons. The Inquisition has turned Thedas away from the true Chantry. It must be stopped.”

“Stop us? You must be joking.” Leliana drawled.

“Mother Victoire is loved by many. The Inquisition has more enemies than you know.”

“And Victoire thinks she can ally with them?”

“Lovely as our conversation is, we have business to attend to, Leliana.” I looked pointedly at her, eyes flicking down to her belt. For a split second, I thought she’d reach for her dagger. Her hand seemed to contemplate it then change its mind, pulling out a pouch of knockout powder instead. She flung it at Natalie, where it explode on impact. The puff of dust clouded her robed face, and she slumped to the floor. I gave it a few moments to settle, before using the rope Leliana brought to tie her up. I left her there, in the middle of the floor.

Leliana followed the clues in the message she’d posthumously received from Justinia, clicking various buttons around the chapel to open a chamber behind the altar, hidden behind a painting of Andraste.

Knowing what that little gold box contained, I turned away from Leliana. I walked slowly toward the door, letting Justinia’s final gift sink into Leliana’s hard heart. When she finally returned to my side, I could almost hear the ice cracking, giving way to the soft, loving heart she’d hidden for so long. She was finally free.

Chapter Text

I was glad that in my absence, Cassandra had followed up on leads I had neglected. They’d sent parties out to the Storm Coast to disrupt the Red Lyrium operations there, and Dagna had crafted a rune to deconstruct Samson’s armor using things they had found at the shattered Shrine of Dumat.

Everyone had geared up for the battle of the Arbor Wilds, per my warning. Harritt had a bit of trouble keeping up on the new orders for armor and weapons, but it was the best haul he had ever produced, with the help of the apprentices. I had reinforced the black and gold Elvhen garb I’d gotten from Loran, adding the wings from my previous set. The effect was… intimidating. I rimmed my eyes with the darkest kohl I could find, a practice I reserved for special occasions - when I needed to strike fear into the hearts of my enemies, or the occasional Orlesian noble. I’d commissioned a new weapon… at first glance it was a spear, but if I depressed a latch where the speartip met the grip, two blades slid out from the center, becoming a deadly sharp trident. My hair was pulled back, not into my usual messy bun or sloppy braid, but a fauxhawk that rivalled Lagertha’s. My ears were on proud display; the tension as I led the forward team through the eluvian was palpable. How could one so…. distinctly elfy… be the fabled herald of Andraste?

That tension increased when I stepped into Mythal’s temple like I owned the place. I did not draw my new weapon, nor did I hide. Solas was my support, striding into the sanctum beside me. As long as this place had stood empty and untravelled, the mosaics on the walls retained their gilded splendor. The roof looked a little worse for the wear, trailing vines dripping from the crevices like rain. The same glass ceilings the Golden city had once had. The sky was bright and clear, golden dust motes drifting through the shafts of light in the air before us. It was unseasonably cold, for a tropical forest. If this is winter, I should look into getting a house here, I thought.

Morrigan marvelled at the room around us, translating what she could of the engravings. Solas looked a little uncomfortable with her roaming, but he hid his discontent well. So long as she did not touch the Well of Sorrows at our feet, I let her glean what she could of our surroundings.

Of the forward party, Solas, Briala and Morrigan knew of my origins. The others of my Inner Circle did not, and I prayed silently that the Sentinels gave nothing away. There were in total forty people that filtered into the eluvian before it slammed shut. Briala had another party arriving to flank Corypheus with the remainder of my army, and the handful she had brought with us would be stationed throughout the temple to aid the Sentinels in its defence.

Testingly, I cast a barrier over the surface of the Vir’abelassan. The golden glimmer of my magic spread lazily over the pool, a safeguard that would remain in place so long as I was conscious. The trickle of magic required to maintain it was virtually nonexistent. The Fragment of the Sun within me, now unlocked, seemed a bottomless well of mana. If I did not wish anyone to drink from the well, they would not be able to.

A sound echoed through the sanctum, armored footfalls on marble. Abelas, flanked by a dozen or so sentinels in matching shrouds, descended the stairs. A familiar hazel eyed Elvhen man stood beside him. He too had pulled his long brown locks back in preparation for battle, and a gentle crooked smile spread across his face. Two in my number startled at the sight of him. Solas I expected.

The Iron Bull, I did not.

Loran addressed me in Elvhen, his arms spread to embrace me. “Little Sister, my heart is gladdened to see you. It has only been a short while, but I find that it was too long for my liking.” I stayed wrapped in his arms a moment longer, then released him. I greeted Abelas, gripping him by the forearm in a handshake of solidarity.

To the forward party, I introduced them. “This is Loran, the elvhen who found me when I was drained from that trip in the Fade. He healed me and cared for me, and this defense of the Temple of Mythal is in repayment of that debt. Abelas here is in charge of the elvhen of this temple; anything he says, goes.” I straightened, folding my arms behind my back. “Touch nothing. There are eyes everywhere, and if you desecrate their sacred space I would not blame them for throwing you out in the wilds alone.” I smiled lopsidedly. “I love all of you, so play nice. Make friends. We have a few days before Corypheus is due to arrive... Briala’s people are keeping tabs on the Red Templars, and the moment they arrive, we’ll know.”

Solas spoke up. “I will bring those magically inclined to the perimeter to set wards and defenses. We will be back before sunset. If any are harmed, send a flare through the canopy and we will aid you,” he said coolly, eyeing his group. A few nodded in understanding.

I turned back to face the ancient elvhen behind me. “Abelas, I thank you for allowing us to bring so many here. Is there somewhere we may set up, so as to be as unobtrusive as possible?” His distrust of the shemlen was accurately portrayed in the game it seems, but his gratitude seemed to surpass it if only by degrees. He and Loran led the forward party to their temporary quarters. I hung back, watching them all break around me like a stone in the path of a brook.

The Iron Bull halted, and as the door slammed shut on the sanctum, he turned to me with a stony expression. “Does the glowing and seeing the future run in the family, or did he miss out on that particular set of gifts?” he asked quietly.

I stood stock still, breathing once, twice. “No, that’s just me. Loran favored our mother… I favored my father.”

“Half-brother?” he asked.

I confirmed this with a single nod, eyes still glued to the door the rest had departed through.

“You said you had no family left.”

“I didn’t know. I was two halves of a whole, and all memory from before the breach was erased. I seem to have righted myself.”

Bull looked at me with new eyes - well, eye, singular - then.

“Are you going to tell them?” I prodded. I was unsure what his response would be, and just as unsure of the question I’d asked. Tell the Qun? Tell the Advisors, my Inner Circle? Tell the Inquisition?

Whatever the question, he had but one answer.

“Tell them what, Boss?”

I grinned.

 


 

Loran found me later that evening as Solas and I ate. My brother proffered a hand to Solas, and he set his food aside to greet him. Forearms clasped at the elbow, as Abelas and I had done earlier. And just as he had done before, Loran favored elvhen for our conversation.

“When she told me she had located her Wolf again, I confess I was equal parts worried and relieved.”

Solas nodded once. “I wish it were under different circumstances. Had I known who she was when we first awoke, I would have gone to her.”

“The creatures of the decaying mist wished to erase her. They nearly succeeded.” Loran lamented.

Loran and Solas sat once more beside me. I spat a curse, the memory of my forced uthenera flashing through my thoughts.   “I will find them, and they will suffer for what they have done.”

“How is it they managed to capture you?”

I took a deep breath. “I was foolish. The day Mythal was murdered, I sought her assassin. When I found him… it was… utter chaos.” And with that, I dove into my tale.

 


 

 

There was blood absolutely everywhere. I had come to her aid hearing her screams, but when I reached the throne room, the cavernous space echoed her voice no more. She had put up a valiant fight, but it was clear from the decay that clung to her limbs, they had used a foul magic.

Her killer attempted to escape, and in a mighty rage my body burst. I wreathed myself in flame and light, chasing him down. Immaculate wings of light sprung from my shoulder blades and launched me forward, spear in hand. I cast a spear of crystalline gold to pin him where he stood. Another leapt to my palm, and I drove it toward him. He tried to meet my burning light with his twisted dark magic, but what could creeping shadows do against the power of the sun?

The room was cast in sharp shades of white as I scorched through him. When the last of him finally burned away, I returned to Mythal’s side. She breathed no more, her lifeless shell broken and eaten away by darkness. I searched within her and found a lone spark of life.... all that was left of her soul in her battered body.

I called a sliver of my crystalline light to me, and wept as I contained the tiny spark within it. Her snow white hair, tinged with blood, faded to grey. Her body dissolved into dust, and I shattered with her.

My sobs drew others to the room, yet the spectators did nothing to help me, save one. He approached swiftly, and sunk to the floor beside me. I clutched the crystal to my chest like a fledgeling bird, and strong arms drew me to a muscled chest as Solas and I mourned the loss of Mythal together.

 

When I’d gathered my senses to me, I found the resolve to grant the spark to a host. Even if she would no longer fully be herself, a part of Mythal’s soul would live on. The former home of the Fragment of the Sun was where I carried the crystal. It led me, or rather  she led me. The entire forest still bore scars of the battle centuries before, but life had sprung back twofold. A small city lay deep in the forest now, miles from the cavern. I watched the elves there for days. The dark haired woman who was chosen to receive it reminded me of the portraits I’d seen of a young Mythal, her blue eyes changed to gold the moment the fragile soul found purchase. The woman knew not what she carried - it was safer for her that way - but she knew that the spark she protected was sacred and pure, and accepted it graciously.

But I’d killed one of the Forgotten, and they sought revenge. They came to me on my journey home, and they dragged me back to the cavern.

Their decay ate away at the silks I wore, at the edges of my hair, at every plant and fungus that grew in the cave. They’d grabbed my arms, silencing my magic with a dark mist. Even my screams were bitten back and they sliced at me with weapons forged of darkness. The sarcophagus that lay in wait surrounded me. Three drops of blood were drawn from my body, and I fought to call my spear to me, to stop them. The blood finished their cruel spell and when darkness closed over me felt myself tear in two. The lid entombed my body, but I had already left it behind, carried away by the void.

 


 

 

I found my body wracking with shudders as I finished my tale, and as they had on the day of Mythal’s death, Solas’s arms wound their way around me in comfort. From where my head lay buried in Solas’s chest, I saw Loran look to Solas gratefully.

“She is all the family I have left in this world. Please see to it you do not hurt her, Wolf. I entrust her to you.”

Solas kissed the top of my head. “She is a treasure I’d not thought I’d find since waking. I was resigned to live alone until…” His voice cracked. “Thank you, Loran.”

I interrupted his sentiment. “SHE is right here, and she says if you break her heart Wolf, her brother will have to wait in line to kick your ass.”

Loran laughed, then clapped his hand on Solas’s shoulder as he rose. “There probably wouldn’t be anything left for me to wait in line for.”

He left us then, the chamber door closing with a groan.

In the still of the silence, I poked Solas in the chest. He flinched, and I pulled away to look him in the eye. “You know…” I said slowly. “In my time on Earth, there was a centuries old tradition. If you wished to be with me, you had to ask my Father for his permission first. Be glad you don’t have to face Elgar’nan for that particular discussion.”

Something in his eye twinkled as he chuckled lightly. “I am glad indeed, vhenan.”

Chapter Text

I stood on a spire atop the temple, having climbed the vine-strewn walls to the highest vantage point. Leliana’s raven had reached us that morning, just after dawn. Her forward scouts were in stealth just behind Corypheus’s army of red templars; they kept tabs on the legion ahead of them. The decimated numbers they reported brought a smirk to my face. I’d wiped out a massive chunk at Haven and he’d never quite recovered.

The Arbor Wilds had grown quiet suddenly, which prompted our need to see the whole of the battlefield. Trees in the distance had shaken loose flocks of colorful birds, and the absence of sound was deafening. From every Hollywood movie, every book, an approaching army was accompanied by the sound of clinking steel and footsteps. The reality of it was nothing close to that. It was like thunder turned white noise. You could feel the movement in the balmy air, the crackle of the tension, and distantly the cruel song of the red lyrium.

We’d set up wards days before that held strong by the closeness of the Fade to this place. The veil is thin here , Solas had said. The first of these mines ignited and tension trembled through my people on the bridge below. Bursts of purple lightning and icy blue shot through the tree canopy, likely killing dozens of red templars as they breached the frontline. It also told us where to look - if other wards hadn’t been triggered, those areas were uncompromised. But from the sparks of magic below us, they hadn’t come in a block-faced swarm. It wasn’t an even line- it was a spear point, led by what appeared to be a considerably large behemoth. It struggled against the wounds it received from our wards. Red templar knights rushed to fill the space behind it like water into a glass. They cared not for the dead beasts beneath their feet as they approached our choke point.

The moment the behemoth set foot on the bridge, the pillars on either side ignited and incinerated him into a pile of blackened shards in a brief flash. The elvhen on the bridge visibly eased a bit. They’d had their doubts that the pillars would work after all this time. When we’d inspected them yesterday they seemed a bit tired; I had used the Anchor to key them in to the veil. Not a rift inside them, not quite, but a conduit that supplied them with mana from the Fade. The glowing force field between them buzzed angrily as a handful more templars fed themselves to it. The next group was more cautious than their compatriots. Their screeches of frustration tore through my head like nails on a chalkboard. They stepped back, allowing a handful of ranged templars take the lead.

Somewhere on adjoining spires on the roof, Loran and Sera fired their bows. I couldn’t tell exactly where they were hidden, but I knew Sera was furthest from me when one arrow flew through the air laced with alchemical ice, followed by a whoop when it found its mark in the throat of a light armor clad templar. Varric had opted to stay firmly on the ground, and stood behind the Iron Bull and Cassandra ahead of the elvhen on the bridge. I’d placed Thom in the inner sanctum with Cole, Vivienne and Dorian, and a small contingent of elvhen. They understood that my Inner Circle acted through me, and with Vivienne’s take-charge nature and Thom’s rallying cries, I trusted that they were in good hands.

Briala’s people were stealthed in the woods surrounding the temple, bolstered by the reinforcements that had followed through the eluvian the on the second day. She’d left a vast majority of her people to defend Skyhold, should the need arise, and I knew that my home would be in Josephine’s capable hands.

I took stock of our battle so far, filing away every bit of useful information with a focus I’d never felt before. A felled tree there meant either a lot of little targets or one very big target. And there, where fires had broken out on the treeline, a ward had been triggered and meant Corypheus’s formation had widened.

On the bridge below, I kept my people supplied with barriers and luminous shards. I had a keen view from here, and knew exactly when a shard of red lyrium had been flung across the barrier. It fizzled but continued its path; once it had left the confines of the barrier its glow had died but was no less a sharp object that would lodge itself in my men. I cast Breath of Life whenever this happened, supplementing the Healing springs at their feet. I was too late for some, a blood red shard protruding from their throats or faces, instantly killing them.

I realized something in a small part of my mind - the pillars’ force field affected the life force of anything that passed through it. Corrupt as they may be, the templars were alive, as was the red lyrium they were host to. The pillars killed the energy within the mineral but the structure of the stones lay unchanged. It seemed the red templars had realized this too, for their volleys of shards rained more densely upon the bridge and those who held it. The barrage was halted briefly by a sheer cliff of ice that rang with Solas’s magic. I took the opportunity he provided to fine tune the healing I spammed to our people.

Either end of the bridge lay littered with bodies. Where we were respectful of our dead and pulled them inside, the Red templars trampled theirs, kicked aside scattered limbs and helmets, commandeered their arrows. It sickened me to the core, the disregard for the loss of life. If I thought of them as former people, it hurt more.

A shrill roar ripped the air asunder, and I signaled the retreat with an aedric spear launched into the sky. That sound meant only one thing, and as I cast my eyes to the sky, I saw my fears confirmed - Corypheus and his Blighted dragon had arrived.

This also meant Cullen and the rest of my army were not far behind. He’d likely seen my spear, for the sound of human bellows and war cries joined the unholy cacophony below. His men rammed the red templars forward, toward the bridge, and picked off those who fell behind.

Like two walls moving closer together to squish whatever lay between, the red templars would die no matter which way they moved. The mages in the flanking army rained fire from above, the force field and the retreating elvhen picked off the front, and Cullen and his footsoldiers cut down the army from the back. They were cornered.

Check mate.

The blighted dragon soared high overhead, and I knew that our near victory pissed Corypheus off to no end. My mouth curled in a feral grin, and I rappelled down the wall of the temple, aided by my grappling hook. No sooner had my sabatons hit the marble bridge and the sounds of Loran and Sera joining me in retreat hit my ears, the skies shred with the blighted dragon’s fury. As the three of us sprinted to the mosaic doors, a crackling ball of blighted lyrium shot toward us, caving the bridge behind us and knocking us forward off our feet.

My ears rang with the blast, yet I scrambled to my feet as quickly as I could. In my disoriented state, I heard a choking cry. Sera lurched back in horror, yanking me with her to help Loran up. His pain filled scream clawed at my heart. His middle was cleaved through by a lancing shard of cruel glittering red.

Sera and I dragged my brother into the temple with our arms beneath his armpits. The massive doors slammed shut behind us, sealing with a golden flare that travelled the seam of the door. Numb with panic, I laid him on the tiled floor. His brown hair had loosened from its ties, stuck to his face with sweat. I cast my gaze around.

“Help me pull this out of him!” I gasped. A few elvhen looked at me in pity, yet the only two to step forward were Solas and Bull.

“Boss, if we pull it out, he’ll bleed out faster…” Bull started, but I waved him of with a sound that had no business in a mortal throat.

“NO HE WON’T. PULL IT OUT NOW!” I screeched. Solas fed healing waves into him, while Bull grasped the shard with hands guarded with someone’s discarded cloak. As soon as the enormous shard was free of Loran’s stomach, blood pooled from the hole. I forced it all back in with a gilded light flaring from my hands. Breath of Life swirled in a pulsing helix around him, again and again and again. Gasps of pain quieted to mere gurgles and gasps. I could feel him slipping, and i couldn’t spare a hand to flick away the warm trail gushing down my cheeks. Every vein in my arms shone with white-gold light, my hands small suns on their own.

“LORAN PLEASE!”

“Vhenan-”

“NO SOLAS HE CAN’T DIE! I WON’T LET HIM”

I shook to my core, a fiery wraith, desperate and clawing. Every bit of healing I possessed poured into my brother. My mind held no thought, my consciousness reduced to searing heat. I had not felt this depth of panic since Mythal’s murder. Not even when I was locked away in Uthenera, not when Ida brutalized me, not when I thought Solas had died in Crestwood.

A crowd had gathered. Some of the mages tried to fuel me with their own mana, concerned that I’d blow myself out. But it was as if they had stood too close to a bonfire - they felt my heat and backed off. The only thing that broke me from my state was a hand on my shoulder.

“VHENAN YOU ARE KILLING HIM! HE CANNOT WITHSTAND THAT MUCH ENERGY!”

Immediately, all the light ceased. I sobbed into my still warm hands, knelt on the floor beside a comatose Loran. The wound on his stomach had healed, but was laced through with telltale cracks of glowing red even my healing wouldn’t be able to take away.

In my periphery, I saw Solas heal the burns on the hand he’d touched me with. Horror registered behind the foggy wall of desperation and sorrow. I tore my gaze from him to the crowd around us, some with weapons drawn. The elvhen in the group knelt in reverence, while the humans in our number looked unsure if I could be as much of a threat as the blighted priest of Dumat and his dragon that raged at the doors behind us.

I knew there was nothing I could say in this moment that could convince them, so I said the only logical thing I could, the despair cracking in my throat.

“We need to move. The Vir’Abelassan needs to be guarded now. Bring the wounded to the atrium. Healers, tend to those you can.”

I stood on shaky legs, downing a lyrium potion Solas handed me in an attempt to refuel before the coming fight. I wasn't the only one taking a potion. Those of us that remained upright sprinted toward the Inner Sanctum to join the other party with various jewel-toned flasks and vials in hand. The dragon screeched overhead, and through the lingering panes of glass in the ceiling I saw flickers of red soar above us.

We flung the doors open to the sanctum, and were greeted by the sight of Samson, brought to his knees by the rune Dagna had crafted. I'd left it with Vivienne, knowing that there was a chance he could have circumvented our defenses. It did not take our vast number long to cut the corrupted man down. He fought hard, but was no match for the swarm that surrounded him. His dying gurgles were laced with venom.

"Not the Well you wretch. You can't take it from Corypheus - you mustn't -"

As with Alexius, and Florienne, and any who stood with Corypheus and hurt those I loved, I cut his pretentious ravings short with a searing white spear through the chest. 

Chapter Text

No sooner had Samson’s corrupted, mangled body hit the ground at my feet than the roof above us trembled with the scream of the dragon overhead. The craggy ceiling began to crack, debris and vines falling from where the beast landed on the dilapidated temple. It beat its wings furiously, determined to collapse it on top of us, or at the very least gain access to the temple. My men stood with weapons and barriers at the ready.

I knew then with absolute certainty that my time had come. I could not debate it with my Inner circle, nor could I allow it to remain unclaimed. I caught Abelas’ eyes from across the sanctum.

“I’m sorry,” I said, and though I knew he couldn’t hear me, I got my point across. I Fade Stepped up the staircase leading to the eluvian. Several Elvhen cried in alarm as I dispelled the gilded barrier that coated the glassy surface of the Vir’abelassan. A distantly familiar scream of outrage sounded over the din of the battle behind me. With no time for theatrics, I did not walk gently into the pool, nor did I gracefully stoop to drink. I let my body fall into the water full force on the tail end of my Fade Step, somewhere between a shallow dive and a belly flop. My arms were spread wide as I hit the surface. It was water, like any other pool, for about three seconds… until I took a deep breath.

I don’t know why I did. Logic should have warned me that taking a deep breath underwater would cause me to fucking drown , but my brain was clear of everything but the urge to protect. My lungs expanded, but it was as though I was breathing damp mountain air. Confused, I took another breath, my eyes flicking open.

Everything around me was a stormy blue fog. The ground was gilded tiles, like that of the bottom of the pool. Little balls of light, like fireflies but blue, bobbed in the air around me. Before me stood a figure of light, gilded horns rising from her head. Her entire body radiated a heavenly glow, and her presence did not feel like a single entity. This was Mythal, but the Mythal that linked thousands of years of her followers’ power and knowledge to her. The consciousness of countless minds, condensed and shaped to the being they so revered. She was the closest thing I’d ever get to seeing the surrogate mother I’d never have again. I knew in my heart that Flemeth was deteriorating, no longer able to carry Mythal’s glimmering fragment through the ages. I stepped across the tiles, each lighting blue as I passed over them; I threw my arms around her, embracing this hivemind recreation of her and clinging fast to it.

The light that she and I produced in every place we touched nearly blinded me; it felt like hugging the sun. When my vision cleared once more, the crumbling inner sanctum greeted my eyes. The dragon had breached the ceiling.

Fire and red lyrium poured from the hole in the roof. Archers and mages had the dragon in their sights, but aside from the maw they had little to fire at; it was careful not to expose its vital areas.

Something echoed in my mind. Not voices exactly, but an urge. My body was alight with power. My aedric spear leapt to my palm, disconnected from any forethought. I reared back and flung the javelin of crystalline light through the air above my armies.

The Night King would have been proud of the blow I struck. Through the hole in the ceiling, along the side of the beasts neck, a wound that was easily four feet long seared its way across its craggy black flesh. It roared in agony, struggling to take flight. Corypheus must have seen me drink from the now empty pool - there was nothing left for him here. His armies eradicated, his resources drained, with the throng of my people below him and more on their way… He was defeated already, even if he refused to see it. The dragon beneath him finally managed to get lift, and as it plummeted off the roof of the temple in a controlled freefall, I tracked its movement. It couldn’t get far with a wound of that severity; certainly not as far as the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Just when I thought it would disappear into the cloudbank or fade to an indiscernible speck on the horizon, the dragon’s wings dipped in exhaustion and failed to pick up enough to compensate for the loss of height. It crash landed several miles out in what appeared to be a break in the tree canopy.

I immediately wheeled about to face my men. “Get scouts out there to keep eyes on him. I don’t think he’ll get very far but I need to rest before I can head out there myself. Get the wounded through to Skyhold. I’ll see if I can’t meet up with Cullen and the reinforcements. We may be able to surround Corypheus.”

Scattered cheers of relief and victory rang out in the sanctum. The Iron Bull parted the small crowd of people and picked up Dorian like a ragdoll with is massive arms around his waist. Here and there, people were checking up on each other, offering potions, healing minor wounds. I tapped the eluvian’s frame, willing it to stay open; it obliged with a cool ripple. Briala’s people carried the wounded on makeshift stretchers back to Skyhold, while Inquisition members followed me back to the collapsed bridge.

I was roughly shoved aside when we exited the front doors, but my anger and confusion died immediately when I saw the unstoppable force that was Cassandra barreling across the marble fragments. The strength of impact with which she collided with Cullen would have turned a bus into a pile of paper clips, and I stifled a laugh at the sight.

The Red Templars had been thoroughly trounced. Soldiers not involved in piling the bodies into a pyre were busy preparing camp. Come to think of it, the sheer size of my armies here seemed a little overkill. I probably could have brought a smaller force and still would have won, but I was glad of the victory either way. Corypheus would be slain sooner than expected.

I hoped.

 


 

 

Supplies were distributed among the troops, and the Sentinels were no less hospitable than they had been in previous days. True, they hated most shems on a deep, irreparable level, but these particular shems obeyed my command and had proven themselves trustworthy in the defense of the Temple.

I found Abelas in the inner sanctum, standing at the edge of the Well with a pained expression, deep in discussion with Solas.

There are other places friend… other duties... your people yet linger .”

Elvhen such as you? ” Abelas asked, knowing full well the answer.

Solas smiled faintly. “Yes, elvhen such as I.” He turned to watch my approach. “Though, none such as Asha’lean.”

I can think of no singular elvhen who could make more use of the Vir’abelassan. Maybe, one day, we may restore the Well and its traditions. Such knowledge will be invaluable in your cause, but it is better shared among those dedicated to preserving it.

I sat along the Well’s edge. I traced the toe of my sabaton along the seams in the tiles. “ Maybe one day, the Well of Sorrows will gain a new name… as will you.

Abelas nodded solemnly. With that, he strode off to join his brethren inside the main halls of the Temple.

 


 

 

The only wounded who remained in the Temple following the departure of Briala’s people were the Elvhen of the Temple. They declined the use of the healers in Skyhold, preferring their own healers and more importantly, familiar surroundings. I made my way to the place where Loran lay atop a marble slab. Faint indentations and magical wardings on the dais indicated that it was used for the Sentinels’ long rest. His armor had been stripped of him from the waist up, and the puckered scar from the shard he’d taken through his stomach.... It looked worse. So much worse. The skin was still sealed, but a deep red spiderwebbed across his abdomen, following his veins in some parts, but seemingly splintering off in others. If it didn’t radiate such corruption, it would almost be beautiful, in a kintsugi sort of way. The blighted lyrium growing in his skin would likely be immensely painful, if Loran were conscious at all. I suppose I should have been thankful for the coma he was in for the simple fact that it kept him from suffering. I laid my hand on his ribcage, feeling the sick heat as his body tried to stave off the Blight. I pushed some healing into his skin, a gentle pulse of gold that was quickly absorbed. I don’t know what I expected, but whatever that was, it’s not what happened.

The red lyrium in his skin glowed a white-hot red, like an iron poker pulled from a forge. It looked eerily familiar, the illuminated patterns under his skin…

An idea struck me then, and I fade stepped out of the hall. I searched for a white-haired elf who might be able to tell me what to expect once I did what I had planned. I knew I would be running short on time, but if I could get Loran to Skyhold, to Dagna, I may be able to save him yet.

 

Fenris was there alright. And when I told him what I had planned, he was pissed.

Are you mad?? You will kill him! None have ever been successful in curing the blight, and even if you were to be the first, what you propose will be excruciatingly painful and will bind him to you! A weapon, a tool, a slave. I did not want this done to me, and I would not wish it upon any other.” He was fuming, his entire body clenched in anger. “Why would you even dare ask ?”

Members of my Inner Circle, Leliana and Cullen, Evelyn, Hawke and Morrigan… they’d gathered here in the largest of the halls we’d been granted to sleep and recuperate in. They all watched on as my request backfired spectacularly. Those that had been present during my initial meltdown when Loran was injured looked a little uneasy. Cassandra, Cullen and Varric in particular. There was no way Cassandra hadn’t already informed Cullen of my… condition. They could no longer pass off my weird powers as residual effects of the Anchor. In Hawke’s eyes, and Cullen’s and Varrics and Cassandra’s and Fenris’s… I saw something forming. The Iron Bull, for his part, was impassive.

“I’m not Anders. I’m not possessed. And I wouldn’t ask this if I weren’t so desperate to save him.”

“Why should we believe you? For all we know, everything you’ve told us is a lie.” Fenris spat.

With great purpose I strode to Cassandra and Cullen. “You two have had training to detect possession.” I said darkly. “Am. I. POSSESSED.”

The two of them looked to each other, and without warning, smited me.

Every nerve in my body screamed in pain. The lyrium I’d taken hours before was set aflame in my blood, Cassandra’s doing no doubt. She stared down at me with a pained, torn expression. The ache under my skin subsided. “No. You are not possessed.” I stood on shaky legs.

“See-”

“But we still don’t know what you are.” she finished. Her eyes held betrayal, uncertainty, and fear, something I’d never thought I’d see from her. “You have displayed powers beyond what any known mage is capable of. Even the most basic of your healing is unlike any I’ve encountered before. You see the future, which is extremely rare, and you have a personal attachment to this ancient elf beyond what would come of the defense of this temple. Tell me why I shouldn’t kill you now.” Her words were identical to the first words she’d ever said to me, in the deep dark cell in Haven.

“BECAUSE I’VE SAVED YOUR ASSES COUNTLESS TIMES!” I screamed. “I’ve never lied to you. I was a member of a guild whose sole purpose was killing beasts for coin and adventuring. Yes, I’ve been to Skyhold before. And yes, the woman who held me captive for most of my childhood was a vile piece of shit. I see the future, every permutation of it, with limited range. This,” I brandished the hand with the Anchor in their faces, “Isn’t the first ancient relic that’s decided it’d be a great idea to fucking ruin my life.” Solas was at my side in a fucking instant. He clenched my upper arm worriedly.

Vhenan…

“No, they have a right to know who they’ve spent the last year of their life defending the world with, getting their wounds healed by. When I kill Corypheus, I’m fucking done with the Inquisition. A YEAR of tolerance and open-mindedness and compassion I’ve tried to drill into you people. Yet after all that time saving the goddamn world, you still don’t fucking trust me.”

I loosed the sun in my chest. My arms were coated in their telltale glimmer, my eyes dripped white-gold fire, and a pair of golden fragmented illusory wings erupted from my shoulder blades. “I am Syr, bastard daughter of Elgar’nan, Commander of the Sentinels, Asha’lean… she who bears the weight of the Sun but does not burn. I am also the Inquisitor Syraena Dire, and I am too fucking old to put up with this shit anymore. I’m going to save my fucking brother, and all of you, and then I’m going to leave and y’all can walk your happy asses back home. I just wanted to help. My whole life, my very long life, has been nothing but me fixing other people’s fuck ups and trying not to fall apart. I’m done. I love you all, but I’m done.”

The stunned silence that greeted me was heavy with emotion. I caved, my knees hitting the floor, all golden glow gone as I dissolved into sobs. “I never wanted this…”

Several things happened at the same time.

Sera and Evelyn made a beeline for the door. Likely headed far away, together, as far as they could get from me. Evelyn looked far more hurt about it then Sera did, whose primary expression was fear. Too elfy and magical for her, I supposed. I didn’t blame her.

Dorian and Bull… they moved slightly. Where they had been standing by the door before, they now stood less than ten feet from me, eyeing those around us.

Morrigan, too, lingered near me.

Cullen and Cassandra backed up, but did not leave, instead putting their weapons away. Their hands still stayed on the pommels though, which I noted with some hurt.

Vivienne left as well. She was cold, but not angry as far as I could tell. The same could be said of Thom Rainier as he too departed. If I had to guess, he’d make his way to the Wardens, as he’d sworn to do so many months ago.

Cole appeared at my side, his hug an attempt to comfort my tears. Bless that boy, he was just doing his best.

Varric looked uncertain, but when Fenris stormed out, Marian Hawke and Varric looked to me apologetically. I saw in their eyes they bore me no ill will, but Fenris needed them now more than I did.

Leliana stayed, and I knew she believed me. Finally, she believed. She’d seen the truth in my previous words before, but the pieces now fit together more snugly.

Some of these departures cut me more deeply than others. Some I could see a potential reunion for, and some I would probably never see again. It had always been leading to this. I’d told them who I was, and once Corypheus was slain I’d leave. There had never been any other outcome. From the moment I had revealed my intentions to Solas a year ago, I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep them all. There was nothing left to do then but move forward.

“Shall we go fight in one last battle as a team?” I asked though the tears, a forced smile playing across my lips.

Chapter Text

"Fuckin hell he really did a number on this forest." I said with mild disgust. Ages-old trees had snapped under the dragon's rough landing and the following attempt at takeoff. The ground was in utter turmoil, turf ripped up and coated in an assortment of blood and red lyrium. It was this trail of destruction that we followed, tracking the blighted red lyrium dragon and his rider.

What remained of my Inner Circle surrounded me. Cassandra and Cullen, Dorian and Bull, Leliana and Morrigan, Cole and Solas. They destroyed shards of red lyrium as we passed, lest they take root and damage this forest further.

This was the first I’d spoken in a couple of hours, and I fell silent again when my comment received no response.

Had I done the right thing? It sure didn’t feel that way, and in some small way I regretted it. In the long run I knew it was necessary but it felt like someone had put their fist through my chest.

Sera.

Evelyn.

Vivienne.

Thom.

Hawke.

Fenris.

Varric.

Out of them all, Sera, Evelyn and Varric hurt the most. My mind flitted back to the day after Halamshiral, the lazy morning Sera, Evelyn, Elissa and Dorian had spent with a decadent amount of food in my massive bed. That evening on the Storm Coast, my shitfaced serenade to the team at Varric’s request. It was warm and happy in those memories. The happiness, the laughter, the sense of family…

...and I had ruined it all by telling them who I was.

Without warning, or permission, tears slipped down my face. I gave an undignified sniffle as I surged ahead of the group. I had a mind to collect myself, to school my features into something more in control, but the footsteps that quickened behind me nixed that plan. Heavy plate clinked, and a gauntleted hand closed around my shoulder, stopping me dead. I couldn’t have escaped her grip if I tried, so I did what any rational, capable leader would do - I sank my entire body into a rather uncomfortable hug. Bits of her armor dug into my face. Cass was dead still as I hugged her. I was about to let go, feeling her lack of reciprocation, when her arms coiled around my back in a vice grip.

“I am sorry.”

“You have nothing to be sorry about Cass. I’ve been fucky since the Storm Coast. At this point it was just too much too ignore.”

“I truly wish you had trusted us enough to tell us… though I suppose I understand why you wouldn’t.”

“Well… no,” I said, pulling away. “I didn't remember until I got stranded in the Fade. I had absolutely no clue what was happening to me, why my magic was acting weird. Besides, would you really have believed me day one if I’d said I was the daughter of Elgar’nan?”

Cassandra sighed. “No, I suppose not.”

“I just want to get rid of Corypheus, get that cure, and ride off into the sunset with Solas. He’s been remarkably accepting, but who knows? Maybe he saw me in the histories of the Fade. I don’t know how I’d live without him, honestly.” Another lie. I was ready to reveal my own identity, but not his. That would be for him to decide, when he was ready.

Cassandra released me fully and began to walk at my side. We were quiet for a moment, the movement of our armor the only sounds breaking the stillness.

“When you were away, he was… distraught. Inconsolable. I believe he only stayed because he clung to the hope you would return.”

I chuckled weakly. “Yeah, he would have left. I guarantee if I hadn’t returned, he would be thousands of miles away dreaming in the Fade. It’s his happy place.”

Cass nodded again. “You are serious, then. You really do plan to leave once this is all over.”

“I do. The choices I’ve made, with the help of the Advisors, should lead to happier times for all of us. Sera and Evelyn will probably go work with the Red Jennies again. The Circles will remain disbanded, and it is my hope that Vivienne will help with the College. I have no idea where Kirkwall’s finest will go. Varric will be made Viscount, you know.”

Cassandra laughed at that. “I am not sure whether I am more sorry for the city or for Varric.”

“Certainly a headache on Varric’s part. He’ll help out to rebuild and they’ll essentially foist the crown on his head. He’ll be in a position to do a lot of good though.”

“Indeed.” Cassandra was quiet for a moment. “And… for me?”

“Well, several things could happen. Mainly, I see you setting out to rebuild the Seekers. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is the fact you and Cullen are together.”

The tall warrior blanched. “That’s not-”

“Easy Cass. I pushed you two together for a reason. You’re good for him. You’ll keep him on the path to recovery, and help him be strong. He’s sweet and charming and a literal knight in shining armor. You two keep at it and you’ll get your happily ever after.”

A blush crept across her face, and she quickly hid it by whacking away at a wayward fragment of red lyrium. A few moments pass before I get my response to that.

“He hasn’t been knighted, yet.”

 


 

 

The forest ahead of us thinned. We could hear the agonized screeches of the red lyrium dragon; if nothing else, we needed to put it out of its misery. It already did not deserve what Corypheus had done to it - the dragon had been an unwilling participant in the would-be god’s fuckery, controlled by the tainted soul it carried.

We stood in the treeline, assessing the battlefield. Massive white pavestones that were bigger than me had been pounded into the ground untold ages ago, weeds and vegetation now poking from between them. The ruins of a castle lay beyond, crumbling white arches and shattered glass roofs reflecting the weakening sunlight. The wide open space before us would likely have been a courtyard, just beyond a winding overgrown garden, but now it was home to a dying blighted dragon. If I was a betting woman, I’d place all my coin on the possibility that Corypheus sought refuge in the bone white castle.

The nine of us stepped into the open, taking cover behind low walls and carved stones. Something about this ruin niggled at my mind. I couldn’t place it… at least, not until I passed a familiar, vine covered statue. The way his armor was rendered, it was unmistakable.

Elgar’nan.

A ten foot tall icon of supposed divinity, royalty at least, preserved in pure white stone, surrounded by flowering trees that lay dormant.. Details here and there had been affixed in sun bright gold, and a brassy citrine sat in a circlet about his head. Beside him, another of Mythal. She too was a pure white, her headdress of horns a matching gold. A deep red stone was embedded in her throat, the only embellishment beyond the gold accoutrements. When I walked further, I found the other Evanuris, each rendered in white, their faces stoic and pure. Each had similar decorative touches. I rerouted the group, afraid that if I continued, the monument to the Dread Wolf Fen’Harel would lay Solas’s secrets bare. We carried on in a different direction, toward the dragon. We had to pick our way around low walls and dead trees to get to the courtyard. The garden gave us some cover, but I’d hate to ruin it if the dragon decided it needed more space to kill us all. I ducked under an arch, my back to the row of statues.

There, nestled between two dormant flowering trees, I found a smaller white statue of a woman clad in familiar garb, standing proud with a gilded spear in her hand. She stood alone, not as tall as the more intricate Evanuris effigies, and stood watch over the courtyard. A radiating sun had been cleaved deep into the marble of her bosom, and filled with gold that reflected the last blood red rays of the sunset. The stone that sat in the center of the sun appeared nearly white, but upon closer inspection was the palest yellow I had ever seen in a precious stone. This statue was newer than the previous ones, clearly ancient, but I knew for a fact it had never been here in all the years I lived here.

I spent my adolescence here, training in the courtyard where the dragon now lay. I knew these stones, walked them countless times. The paired statues of Elgar’nan and Mythal were always there, and I had fought so hard to make those stone faces proud. I had excelled beyond my peers in spear and magic, my determined gaze fixed on those lifeless eyes.

Someone had returned later and added a statue of me. Had it been when I ascended to Commander? Before? After? I couldn’t say, and the stones revealed none of their secrets.

If any of my group had doubted my tale, they had irrefutable proof, quite literally carved in stone. They marveled at it for a moment, and for his part, Solas had an unreadable expression. I’d ask him later.

It seems we didn’t have all the time in the world to gawp at the art, because the dragon chose that moment to catch our scent. 

Its head reared back, attempting to hide the wounded side of its neck from us. We’d taken down dragons as a team between missions, but never had we needed to worry that the dragon ichor would taint us as well.

I cast a large Healing Springs at the feet of my team, where the pavestones lit up with an array of sparkles. The daylight was failing us, and our magics were the only thing giving us light to see by. The grasses that had sprung up between the stones were trampled, singed, coated in gore, and otherwise ruined. The black blood of the dragon splattered in stark contrast to the pale white courtyard.

I hated to see such a lovely place marred by such brutality, such corruption. Anything Corypheus touched in this world was destroyed, and I knew in my heart the castle above us would suffer the same fate.

Morrigan could have shifted if she knew how. Somewhere, it was in her blood. A few times I caught a flutter of black wings, or of hairy spider legs, and begrudged my choice to take on the Well, if only because I knew she could have been more. She could have been a dragon, as her mother was. But that would have injured her to an extent I was unsure she’d fully recover from. In the game, she’d shifted and taken on this red lyrium dragon in an epic sky battle of wings and talons and teeth. She could have been great, for a moment.

It was a tough fight, and I realized that healing would only do so much to help. I called out to my team then, taking on a role I knew well.

“Solas, freeze its mouth shut!”

Run.

“Leliana! Take out its eyes! Cole, shred those wings- if it can’t fly, it can’t escape!”

Breathe in, breathe out.

“Cullen, Bull, Cass, take out its legs!”

Wrap my siren grappling hook around its horns.

“Dorian, disable it with lightning!”

Scale its neck.

The mechanical whir of gears barely registered in my ears above the din. The dragon beneath my feet roared in anguish as his tendons were ripped asunder by dagger and sword alike.

Shove an aedric spear through its fucking skull.

With a final wet shriek and a burst of red light, the dragon collapsed beneath me, and I lost my footing. I wish I could say it was graceful.

Nnnnnnnope.

I rolled a couple of times, and finally came to a stop flat on my back. The sky above me was a dusty indigo velvet, streaked with the final vestiges of a mauve sunset. I was coated in ichor and laying in a pile of something squishy, but I could have laid there for hours admiring the encroaching stars in my triumph.

This bliss was short lived however, as my vision was obstructed by a familiar shaggy head of blonde hair tied back and a haggard brassy face.

Ha. “Short” lived.

Varric stared down at me, offering a gloved hand to help me stand.

“You might not want to take a nap there, Siren.”

Chapter Text

I stared blankly up at the face that loomed above me, blotting out the stars. Maybe it was the adrenaline of the battle, maybe it was delirium from an untended head injury. Maybe I’d finally lost it. Countless centuries of war and death and clandestine games of power… laying in the still-warm ichor of the slain dragon, a blonde dwarf heralded my spiral into madness.

“You alright there, Siren?” the Varric mirage asked.

“Yeah no, totally fine. I’m fucking hallucinating. That or the less likely option, you forgave me and came back.”

“I couldn’t miss out on this one - how would I write the end of my book?” he assured, chuckling.

I sat up with the aid of the callused hand he offered me. “Varric I told you - you write this shit and I’ll tie you around the waist to the top of the tallest tree I can find and leave your happy ass there.”

Varric waved me off with a sly grin. “Let’s go pay Corypheus a visit, then we’ll talk about the book.”

As I stood I noticed Marian and Fenris talking strategy with my party. Fenris still didn’t look too pleased, but whatever Hawke and Varric had said to him seemed to have calmed him down; even being here was more than I expected of him. My feet carried me across the blood spattered stones to the group, and by the time I reached them, I had managed to remove most of the debris from my hair and armor.

“Fenris, Marian, I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Of course! I’m sorry about-” Marian made a vague gesture in the general direction of the Temple of Mythal, “all that. We’re here to help take this bastard down… again.”

I nodded, then cast a glance at Fenris. He let out a sigh, as if fighting with something in his head. “Against my better judgement, I will help you with your… Brother.”

Hawke punched him in the shoulder; it appeared to have hurt her more than him, and she rubbed at her knuckles absently. “Of course he’ll help. If you do manage to cure the Blight out of the lyrium in his blood, you can offer the cure to the Wardens, to the King and Queen, even.”

“That’s the plan, Stan.” I said, as I wrapped my arms around Hawke, and smirked when she had to swipe blood off her chestplate.

“Seriously? I just cleaned this. Usually when I get bloody, I at least get to participate in the fun.”

“You know, I may never understand why southerners consider getting bloody fun.” Dorian said with a scoff; it lost a bit of its bite when he smiled.

“I mean if you wanna get technical, I’m not a Southerner,” I quipped back over my shoulder. I led them toward the crumbling ruin. I could feel the pull of both the Anchor and the red lyrium, one song sweeter than the other.

Dorian was thoughtful for a moment. “No, I suppose not. Where are you from, exactly?”

“Well, I spent what could be considered my adolescence here, actually. I trained here to join the ranks of the Sentinels. My duties would be both to defend the temples and to act as liaison between devotees of the different Evanuris. In war, I would fight at the fore. In peace, we would stand ready to welcome the faithful. But for most of my time I lived elsewhere.”

Dorian considered that. “Why do you not have vallaslin?”

“I was not a slave.”

“What-”

“Vallaslin were slave markings. If you had them, you were owned, body and soul, by the Evanuris whose markings you bore. I am the bastard daughter of Elgar’nan, not his property.” I chuckled darkly. “Besides. Elgar’nan may have sired me but Mythal took me in and Fen’harel mentored me. Kinda hard to put three vallaslin on your face at the same time.”

There were several noises of shock. I could feel Solas stiffen a bit beside me.

“Fen’harel… isn’t that the one Merrill’s always going on about? The evil guy?” Marian asked, nudging Fenris.

I sighed. “He’s not evil. The Evanuris tore our lands apart with war, and during the conflict, Mythal was murdered. The lot of them needed to be locked away for the People’s protection. Look, I’ll write everything I know later. Right now, we need to go dropkick Corypheus.”

Bull rolled his shoulders and neck in anticipation of the fight to come. “Anything we need to know for this fight? Seeing the future could come in handy here.”

I was silent for a few seconds, thinking. “Well, melee fighters are going to have a tough time. He likes to teleport out of reach, then drop an area attack on you.”

Marian Hawke made a grunt of affirmation.

“In that, our ranged users - Leliana, Morrigan, Dorian, Varric, Solas, and myself- will be most effective. Don’t touch the foci, whatever you do.” As if in warning, I raised my left hand, which crackled with green light. “Cullen, Cass, there’s going to be this, I dunno, beam attack he does, looks like two walls he slaps together. Block it from us. We’ll need barriers through that too, it’s not pleasant. He likes to raise little minions, so at least you get to smash something, Bull.”

A screech of anguish sounded high above us, coming from the ruins, our split second warning before the ground rumbled beneath our feet.

“Fuck! I was hoping he wasn’t gonna do this.”

“Do what, Siren?” Varric said warily.

“Rip the fucking building out of the ground. Just don’t look down, you’ll be alright.”

Sure enough, the sounds of stone crashing against itself, the very earth being rent asunder, accompanied the sudden loss of balance everyone encountered. We’d reached what had once been the entrance, and I cast barriers over everyone to avoid injuries from falling rubble. Glass ceilings shattered, raining shrapnel from the now tormented skies. Shields were raised, and Bull yanked a fallen column out of our path. The bone-white ruins climbed higher into the sky. I could see Varric getting queasy as he tried not to look over the side.

As we climbed higher into the ruins, Corypheus began to taunt us. His voice grated on the ear like a radio with poor reception. “Tell me, where is your Maker now? Call him, call down his wrath upon me. You cannot, for he does not exist. I am Corypheus, I shall deliver you from this lie in which you linger. Bow before your new god and be spared.”

“Fuck off buddy, you’re not a god. Your bullshit stops now.” I shouted, though I was unsure if he could hear me.

“You have been most successful in foiling my plans, but let us not forget what you are… A thief in the wrong place at the wrong time, an interloper, a gnat. We shall prove here, once and for all, which of us is worthy of godhood.”

“Didn’t your mother ever teach you to have respect for your elders?” I called back.

Cullen coughed, as if suppressing a nervous laugh. “Lady Dire, I imagine it would be better not to goad him.”

“Hey Cullen before we go into this, can you say, ‘That's got to be the best evil magister I’ve ever seen’ ...I need a laugh.”  

“Why?”

“Just do it.”

“That’s got to be the best evil magister I’ve ever seen.” he parroted. It wasn’t quite the same, but it was close enough to send me into a fit of hysterics.

“So it would seem.”

My laughter was cut short by another upheaval, when the staircase that we were on suddenly broke apart. The lower half crumbled and fell, and Dorian barely made it to the remaining ground; he fade-stepped over the gap, purple sparks flying from his feet and shoulders. Bull helped to support him when he reached the landing as more of the stairs fell away. Some part of me realized that we’d be in for a rough landing. The game really never dealt with how the Inquisitor and their party got down, only how the temple went up.

If Corypheass didn’t kill us, the fall just might.

Speak of the devil, a shade dove at us through the opening in a damaged doorway ahead, so I knew we were close. My team dispatched it quickly, along with its companions that rushed us soon after. All this buildup, all this pain, and the worst thing the blighted magister could throw at us was a handful of shades that were no more difficult than the ones the rifts had spit out at us. It was mildly unsatisfying in a way.

We entered what had once been a library; whatever books that had once been here were either ransacked or decayed and unreadable, pages scattered about the floor and spines cracked with age. A few of the tomes that had been spelled were more preserved on their shelves, likely with wards on them that would injure any but those who knew how to unbind them. It was unlikely that Corypheus came here to take possession of the ancient knowledge held within… no, he was holed up here for the simple fact that his dragon could carry him no further, and he would not abandon that fragment of his soul. He was trapped. He knew it, we knew it.

Solas looked devastated at the loss of such precious relics of the past, and had we time and arms to carry them, he would probably have unspelled the small stack of books that remained here. Dorian too, for his part, looked a bit downcast as he took in our surroundings.

I tried not to look. In my mind’s eye, this place was untouched and whole and radiating sunlight and occupied by elvhen and flora alike. I remembered the scent of magnolia on the air, the lush ferns that had sprung forth from every planter in the corridors. If I closed my eyes tight enough, I could almost block out the devastation time and Corypheus had dealt this place.

My visualization was shattered by the blast of energy that struck us. Corypheus had commanded the next room, the largest of them at the zenith of the ruin. At the far end an eluvian lay dormant, and try as he might, he could not use the foci he had stolen to activate the doorway out. He roared in frustration as he detected our approach, flinging us backward with another blast from the foci.

“You will fall as a warning to those who oppose my divine will!” He shouted, teleporting away from us. Dorian cast a net of lightning over the blighted magister, a cage that would likely not hold him for long. A wave of icy spires ripped across the worn tiles toward Corypheus, the distinct flavor of Solas’s magic that I had grown so accustomed to.

Corypheus yanked free of anything we tried to bind him with, but not until Bull and Cass had at least hacked away at the red lyrium carapace. “You think to best me with your feeble magicks? You are nothing! All you love will be ground under the Imperium’s heel!” He raged. His voice, his presence - everything about him felt wrong to me, revolting, sick. It clawed at my skin from afar and itched under my eyelids. I recalled the feeling I had gotten from Florienne’s amulet. It must have come straight from the source, because as uneasy and itchy as the amulet had made me, Corypheus was a million times worse.

Cullen managed to lay a particularly wrenching blow to the would-be god’s forearm, the one that carried the foci. I involuntarily hissed a sharp intake of breath, concerned that the foci would break free of the ghastly hand when neither I nor Solas were nearby to catch it. Corypheus screeched in agony, the blood that poured from his arm clotting with red lyrium, but too slowly to be of any help to him.

“You dare touch an avatar of divinity? Let it end here, let the skies boil, let the world be rent asunder! You and all the heathen barbarians shall burn!” He was ranting now, pain driven and desperate. Each time he shot away from our reach, the cycle of trapping and slashing and breaking free repeated itself.

Red bolts shot from his grasp, twin walls that slammed into us from either side as Cass and Cullen tried to block the worst of it with their shields. I felt it in every cell, as though it specifically targeted the magic in my blood. Fenris roared in pain, unintelligible curses spewing from his lips while he dropped to his knees on the decimated floor. The lyrium inscribed in his skin sputtered like a dying lightbulb, before the white haired elf collapsed. His greatsword clattered to the floor with a loud clang of steel on marble; the sound hung on the air like a scream.

Let it be said that I had never seen a fighter more vicious than Marian Hawke. Elissa Cousland was a talented rogue, but though the Queen’s kills were bloody, they were graceful, precise, methodical. Hawke was fury and bloodlust and rage, especially when her beloved Fenris was injured. The battle cry that let loose from her throat rent my heart from my chest. Even I felt a tremor of fear at the heartbreak in her voice. She drove forward, her body at nearly at a forty five degree angle to the floor, and in a flash she was gone. Her speed and stealth had always reminded me of how they ran in Naruto, but at that moment I couldn’t find the humor in it. One moment she was silhouetted by the frame of the eluvian and the flash of lightning from Dorian behind her, the next she was rending Corypheus’s breastplate from his chest. By all appearances, his armor was a part of him, the same way a turtle’s spine was embedded in their shell. The cruel daggers she carried in either hand ripped the metal plate free, taking bits of ribcage and viscera with it. An inhuman scream clawed its way up Corypheus’s craggy body. He could barely speak, but as he raised the foci, I knew it was nearly over.

With a fade step, I was at Marian’s side in an instant. The blighted magister teleported as far as he could from us, which was a grand total of four feet. Lime green light clashed with the red of his body as the foci began to disobey him. He no longer had the strength to force it to stay with him, and the foci recognized this weakness within him.

His desperate gurgles rang across the ruined room. “No I will not allow you this victory! Not like this! I have walked the halls of the golden city, crossed the ages!” The foci whirled angrily in his grasp. “Dumat, ancient ones! I beseech you! If you exist - if you ever truly existed - aid me now!”

I laughed at his pleading. “You claim you are worthy of godhood, yet in the end, you are nothing but a servant to gods that would not answer even if they had existed. For all the havoc you wrought, you are still nothing. And you will burn away to nothing.” I ripped the foci from his grasp with my left hand, and as though it was keyed to my anchor, something within me clicked.

Marian dug into the shredded ribcage once more, dragging him to his knees. The gaping hole where his heart should have been now filled with a spear of pure, vivid aedric light; it seared through the remnants of his armor, the scaly plating that was his red lyrium chitin, and finally through the bone and sinew that marked him as little more than a tainted man. When the fire finally died out and the bright flash faded from our vision, naught was left of the dreaded magister that aspired to be a god.

I took in our victory for the briefest of moments, the last glimmers of my spear called back to the sun in my chest. It was a breath of relief, of triumph, until the foci began to reject me.

All vestiges of the crackling red burned away, the green mingled with the pure white of my magic. The glowing aura sparked and burned through the Anchor, shooting up my arm with a lancing pain.

Panicked, I spun to face Solas with arm outstretched. I screamed his name as another spasm rocked through me, and when his slender hand met with the foci, the world imploded.

 

Chapter Text

Downy soft blankets slid off my body with a whisper. The sun had not yet risen, and the chill in the air rose goosebumps across my arms as I silently made my way across the room. I left Solas on the bed behind me, his soft breathing the only sound in the room while I donned a thin pair of leggings, a tunic and corseted vest, followed by travelling boots of lightweight waterproofed leather.

 

My spring cloak and siren grappling hook cuff completed the outfit, before I slung my staff over my back on its harness. Everything I wore was hushed tones of green and brown in an effort to camouflage myself. A canteen, a few lyrium potions, and a couple small sachets for herbs and food were stowed on my belt; I’d be travelling light, no need for extra baggage. I could hunt for most of my food along the way if I was quick about it. Tightened straps, secured buckles, and soft fabrics made for silent movement as I crept to the desk. I grabbed a scrap of parchment, quill and ink, and scrawled two words across the page.

 

Find me.

 

A few drops of my perfume on my neck and wrists, then on the note… something to track me by. The page fluttered onto the pillow beside my still sleeping vhenan.

I didn’t leave through the door, for fear the latch would wake him. Instead, I used my hook to scale the wall outside my window quickly and quietly. He never even stirred.

 

I headed east, toward Lake Calenhad. I doubted I’d make it there, but I wanted to try. Where I could not run, I used my grappling hook to navigate treacherous terrain. Permafrost and sparse grasses crunched under foot when I broke free of the mountain climate on the third day. I rested briefly, not allowing myself to dream. On the first night, I was forced to camp in the open, surrounded by snow and smooth rock. It grew easier after that first night. I could find shelter in trees or cracks in the rock.

 

No doubt he was already on my trail; he was likely travelling in his wolf form. I could picture it - a dense roiling smoke through the trees, ears and tail and ruby bright eyes darting through the foliage. Should any Dalish straggler happen to be in these parts, as slim a chance as that was, they’d surely be struck dumb in fright.

 

That thought brought a smirk to my lips as I vaulted over a boulder. Night on day four had fallen, and I had made my way toward the sounds of rushing water slightly south of my path. A single day remained until I reached Lake Calenhad, maybe less if my fade-steps continued to carry me at this pace.

 

The forest opened before me to a waterfall, no more than twenty feet high or across. If I hurried, I had time to bathe and drink before my rest, and I made camp in a small hollow behind the falls. A crate and a pack lay long since forgotten here, along with a ring of stones for a fire that looked several years old. Curious, I opened the crate - completely empty, but I stowed my clothes in this and headed to bathe.

 

The tiny slice of soap I kept in one of my belt pouches was more than enough to cleanse the sweat of running from my skin; it wasn’t a relaxing bubble bath by any means, but it would suffice. I’d placed a few heating runes below the surface of the water, so at the very least I would not freeze to death.

 

Something in me realized then that I’d never make it to the lake. I could feel it in my blood, in the air. This game I was playing with him, this hunt, he’d been doing it longer than I had been alive. The human part of me had been hopeful that I’d win. The ancient elvhen in me knew that he’d find me and devour me.

 

It raised my heartbeat to imagine it.

 

Oh he would find me, and we’d spend the night hours under the stars with limbs entangled. His teeth would sink into my shoulder, and my howls of pleasure would quake the trees. My hands slipped beneath the water with this lovely image on the brain. My hands were his, claiming myself as he would claim me. Four days of taunting, of waiting, I could feel an itch beneath my skin that wished to break free. I wanted to scream at the skies. I wanted to be torn apart by his teeth and fingers. I wanted to be caught.

 

My fingers had nearly completed their task when the snap of a twig and a menacing growl ripped me from my daze. Soft footfalls from the treeline drew my attention in their direction. A brief flash of panic had run through my blood - maybe Solas would not be the first to find me - but that fear was quelled when six ruby eyes pierced the darkness. A surge of mana in the air, and the eyes disappeared, replaced by a battle ready elven man, his dark hair gathered away from his face and shaved at the sides.

 

His first words to me were laced with anger, and on a deeper level, concern. “Fenedhis, vhenan, do you have any idea how worried I’ve been? Do you understand what is at stake if your little game had resulted in your capture?” He cast his staff aside, setting his pack down at the side of the stream as he sat on a rock. His bare toes nearly touched the water from where he sat.

 

I couldn’t bring myself to be abashed. My hands journeyed south again, heat shooting through my veins with each stroke. I could not hold back the croaking moan that clawed its way up from my chest. I could practically taste the desire in the air around him, even from fifteen feet away.

 

“If I am captured, so be it. I knew better when I taunted the Dread Wolf with my scent.”

 

The water lapped around me when I made my way toward him. Here it was a few degrees colder, this far from my runes. I reached a hand under the water at the base of the rock, tracing another rune, then followed the line of his legs with my dripping hands. Little spots darkened on his leggings, his armored guards, a wet trail where my fingers had been.

 

I had my eyes set on my destination - the laces of his leggings - when his hand caught the back of my wrist. He pulled upward none too delicately, extending the inside of my wrist and the last of the perfume oils there to his nose; he breathed it in deeply, caressing it to his face. His eyes rolled back a bit in his desire, and a subtle growl echoed through his chest. When he released my hand, I made quick work of his laces, though the wet knots made it slightly more difficult.

 

From there it took but moments for him to discard the remainder of his clothing and armor on the bank and slide down the rock into the water. It seemed as if in slow motion; his long lean frame extended fully in the moonlight, arms steadying himself and each coiled muscle pushing off in catlike grace. Water splashed around him, broke around him as he chased me through the stream to the falls. Each time I was just within his grasp, I darted away, and I could taste his frustration and eagerness on the air. I ducked behind the curtain of water, then dropped underwater, aiming to cut behind him back on the other side of the rushing water.

 

I was too slow.

 

A viselike grip caught my ankle, pulling me back toward him as I fought to surface. With a bit of a flail, I managed to break free and take a gasping, laughing breath. I could not get far. He slipped his arm around my waist from behind... a dark laugh caught the breeze above the noise of the falls.

 

“Found you.” He whispered into my ear in a crisp, icy tone. I felt his foot catch my ankle under the water, widening my stance and nearly unbalancing me. Had he not a firm grip on my waist, I may very well have taken us both down under the water.

 

He bent me over forward at the waist, nibbling along my neck and shoulder as he reached behind me with deft fingers. He was toying with me, refusing to end the game and snap me cleanly. No, he wanted only to make me beg, to plead for escape or release. Damned wolf. The warm pressure of his fingertips was like fire on my core. He dipped in with barely the crown of his finger, parting my entrance but not granting me any real satisfaction. I attempted to back into his hand, to force him into me, and received a tug on my hair as he stilled my movements.

 

He called me his prey, callously and deliberately denied me what I sought. Slim fingers first applied tiny crystals of ice, then fire, then sparks of lightning across my clit, just shy of full release, his skin cycling magic across my slit until I could no longer stay quiet. I let a cry of desperation loose, close to tears.

 

“Vhenan please… please…” Two languages begin to spill from my lips in my wanton need. “Fen’Harel… Sathan ver em. I can’t… no more... Ar isala… sathan…

 

Ma nuvenin, ma vhenan.” His teeth grabbed the sensitive tip of my ear, causing me to buck backward. With this leverage he thrust a digit into my core, palm down, finger crooked to catch that spot inside me that would release the torrent, his thumb pressed tightly against the tiny bundle of nerves at the fore. I was nearly bent in half then with my head tipped backward toward him almost painfully. When the first wave subsided, his hand was replaced by something much larger.

 

The head of his member slipped in the first inch and it was heaven. My pleading increased twofold, my cries swallowed up by the rushing of the falls behind us. There was no rush for him, not yet, not when he had just caught his quarry. His arm still remained around my waist, his legs braced to balance us both. His other hand left the steadying of his cock to snake around to my jaw; once he had fully sheathed himself, he wrenched me upright, flush with him, hips propped backward to allow access. My pointed ear was once again between his teeth, the pleasure nearly unbearable.

 

My hands sought to hold something, to do something. The first found its way below the water to stroke the place we were joined; its twin finally decided to stroke my own breast. The waterfall’s mist cooled everything above the stream, and my nipples had hardened to taut points. He remained slow, teasing, filling, stretching… I cried out, needing the friction but loving the slow fucking he made me endure.

 

Each slow thrust dragged through me with carefully deliberate purpose, the full weight of him slamming back home just a bit harder each time. Between his strokes and the hand at my breast, I came again with a ragged sob. I could no longer control the tremors of my body. My knees threatened to give way with an ill-timed wobble. The sudden loss of him inside me was too much to bear; every fiber in me knew we were not done, demanded it.

 

I found myself pressing him toward the rock face of the falls, kissing him with all the passion I had ripping through my core. The impact of his back with the boulder sent a small jolt of guilt through me, as if I had hurt him. But that stone mask revealed no pain, his marble features rendered in perfect control unbroken. My thigh hitched up on his hip, and he entered me again, his tight grip ensnaring the pale flesh of my thigh. I was not allowed control for very long, and soon it was my back pressed to the rock. I hooked my other leg around him as he fucked me into the stone, his pace frenzied now. His hands clutched my ass and thighs in support, but his teeth… oh his teeth.. They dug into every flat plane of my shoulder, the edges of my collarbone, my ear, my neck. Everything within reach surrendered to his onslaught.

 

This is what I had needed. The utter destruction of my body, The ferocity of the wolf, the dreaded god, the man who held his control behind the stormfront in his eyes. I needed to be torn down at his touch, utterly desecrated. He tore and ravaged and claimed. My consuming fire rose to meet his ruinous ice, and when he finally allowed himself release, no earthly force could have withstood the maelstrom of our pleasure.

 

Eventually, our labored breathing and racing hearts calmed. He still placed small bites and kisses across my skin. I felt utterly wrecked. There was a hand at my jaw again, tipping my ear to meet his lips.

 

“Shall I give you a head start back home, ma vhenan?” He whispered with a smile.

Chapter Text

The world was in chaos when I awoke. What had once been a proud castle of pristine marble was now a jagged crater. I could hardly hear above the ringing, and my vision swam as though someone had tossed a truckload of flashbang grenades onto our battlefield. I coughed once, twice, trying to expel the dust and debris from my airways.

Definitely did not stick the landing.

I wasn’t the first to wake. Cass and Bull were prying fallen debris off our party members. Dorian was sitting upright at least. Hawke was just beginning to stir, and she seemed to have draped herself over Fenris. He was breathing, at least - and was using his newfound voice to cuss rather colorfully in Tevene.

Everything in my body hurt. From the feel of it, I had several broken ribs, and I wouldn’t discount a broken leg. Warm fluid dripped down my face, another sign I was likely concussed. The sensation that cut through the haze most efficiently emanated from my left arm. In taking stock of myself, I happened to look down at it.

From palm to shoulder, my skin was marked with fingerprint-like swirls, identical to those that had been on the foci. They glowed the same white gold as my magic, but didn’t seem to be pulling any mana from me. The Anchor had disappeared, which both relieved and terrified me. The last thing I could remember was reaching for -

Solas.

Vhenan !” I screamed above the ringing din. My shout drew the attention of those of us who were conscious. I scrambled across the debris, unable to force myself to stand while searching for Solas. Rocks were thrown out of my way, and I pushed outward, feeling for any trace of his aura, reached for those glowing illusory gems I played with in the air so long ago.

I felt it then, off to my left. He lay buried under a fallen shelf, unconscious and battered. My mana was low, not quite gone as I pushed what I could into the elf before me. Wounds across his face and arm sealed with a golden flurry. I couldn’t see the lower half of his body or his left arm until Bull pried the slab off of Solas.

The moment he was free of his trap, one thing became abundantly clear. The foci was gone, but had somehow seared itself in matching prints onto our left arms. My new marks were of sunshine gold; his were a vibrant green, the green of the Anchor, the green of the foci, the green of the Fade.

Fen’harel now possessed his former might, and I had unlocked it for him.

It took a few hours for Solas to wake, during which time we had extricated the members of our party. Cullen had a few broken bones, not the least of which was his unarmored jaw. His heavy plate had protected him from a worse fate it seemed.

Varric too had sustained significant injuries, and had yet to wake. Marian and Fenris, once the three of them had received healing, hauled the dwarf between them. His poor Bianca would require intense reconstruction.

His wasn’t the only weapon to have disintegrated. Dorian and Leliana’s wood weapons had cracked beyond repair, and Cassandra’s shield had split in two. Solas’s staff was nowhere to be found, likely buried in the fall. Mine had survived, but something about it felt… off to me somehow. Foreign. Counter-intuitive. It felt like a melee weapon, as it once had in the days of Arlathan. I had a sneaking suspicion that the print would allow me to cast more efficiently, more controlled, than I could previously without a staff. I itched to test my theory, once the pain and panic of our situation died down.

When we made camp, it was an uneasy sleep for all of us. I offered myself for first watch, at least until I had healed the ringing in my skull. It would not do to fall asleep concussed. Morrigan had disappeared, as I expected. I hoped that I would find her in Sanctuary, but I would not have lain odds on it.

One of the last things I saw before I fell into a tormented sleep was the dawn through the calm, scarred skies.

 


 

 

When I came to around noon there was a familiar voice in our camp. Abelas and a few of his Sentinels had come to see if we had succeeded, and to let us know that our armies still remained camped outside of the temple, restless for word of their leadership. I thanked him with a tired smile, and was grateful for his help in leading us back.

I walked ahead with him for most of the trip, our conversations masked by Elvhen.

“I have sworn to cure Loran. The elf with the lyrium branding is willing to assist me, but I wonder if we may impose upon your hospitality a while longer.”

“It is no trouble my Lady Commander. Our home is yours as long as you should have need of it. But I imagine your armies are low on supplies and we cannot afford to sustain them for long.”

“We will be sending the soldiers back to Skyhold, and to places where those that have been trained to do so may destroy the remaining red lyrium mines. None should ever need to fear the blighted call of red lyrium. They will be gone from the Arbor Wilds within the next three days or so.”

“Thank you Commander. And what of the rest of our People?” Abelas asked. He seemed resigned to the loss of the Temple, and of the Well which I was now host to.

“Once we have finished with Loran, I will show you the place I call Sanctuary. Already, our People begin to fill it. The primary task that this place requires is a restoration. It has fallen to some disrepair, and it will need to be warded against intruders. The Temple of the Well of Sorrows has stood the test of time due to its defenses. I would have you oversee this, if you are able and willing.”

“Consider it done, Commander.”

“You have my eternal gratitude, for everything you have done and have yet to do, Abelas. This will not be forgotten.”

“Eternity is a very long time, even for our People. Let us hope it stays that way.”


 

 

As promised, my army had departed in the following days. Most of my Inner circle headed for Skyhold as well, back through the Eluvian, upon promise that I would not simply disappear without a proper goodbye. I had sent for Dagna in their wake, and when she arrived with all the research materials, tools, and reagents the few elven scouts behind her could carry, I immediately set her to work in the chamber where Loran lay still comatose. His skin held a pallor that made me feel violently ill, and he was feverish.

She examined him thoroughly, “scraping off bits of him,” as she called it. The peppy dwarf was unusually serious, no trace of her trademark humor as she worked.

Loran did not react to any stimuli, save for one thing - when the concoction Dagna had made primarily of high dragon’s blood, heated with my glowing aedric shards from within, was placed upon the puckered scars, the sickly red glow of the lines in his skin stuttered. The lines seemed to pulse a faint mauve color if only for a moment.

“Fenris, is there a tool perhaps that we’re missing? How were the lines inscribed into your skin?”

"Your first mistake is trying to purify the lines that are already there. Danarius first carved into my skin deliberately and then laid the lyrium, and seared it closed. These lines are already laid, and corrupted. I suspect you will need to carve them open, apply your cure, and let the clean lyrium adapt to the fresh paths."

"How - how would you propose I do that?" I asked, as I swallowed the bile rising into my throat.

"Your spear shards will work well enough. Cut the paths, then pour the cure into the open wounds." Fenris looked at me with a grim frown. "I do not know if he feels, if he knows what is happening to him. I was awake through my ritual. Be grateful he is not."

I looked down at Loran, laying on the slab, still and lifeless but for a labored rise and fall of his chest that was barely perceptible. The eerie red spiderwebbed outward from the epicenter in his abdomen. The lines weren’t graceful and swirling like Fenris’s. They were raw and jagged like broken glass.

Dagna held up a large vial. “This is all that’s left of it for now. I have the recipe, but the hard part is acquiring more ingredients. Bits of High Dragon, bits of you, bits of King Alistair, bits of a lot of things really.…”

“So that’s what you did with my blood. How’d you get King Alistair to agree?”

“His wife.” Her lips quirked upward at that, briefly. “A favor for a favor. She helped me way back, and I told her if we succeeded this would help her family. I love her, she’s so… oh what’s the word… dutiful? No, selfless. She knows what has to be done for the good of the many, even if it puts her at risk.”

“So… this will only be an option as long as Alistair is alive?”

“Maybe. I’m hoping any of his bloodline will do, or anyone who’s been cured.”

“We can hope, then.”

“It’ll be a bit different than what we’re doing here, anywhoo. You’re curing the lyrium inside him of the Blight, not him directly. Elissa may be able to just… drink it?”

“I’m sure she’ll be thrilled about that.” I tried to picture Elissa drinking this red sludge, and the accompanying facial expressions.

Dagna waved me off. “I don’t think she’ll mind.”

“We’re wasting time.” Fenris cut in. “The longer you wait, the less chance of success we’ll have.”

I sucked in a sharp breath. He was right, and I knew it; I was just stalling for time. With another breath, I called a fragment of my aedric spear to my hand. A sliver, no bigger than a dagger. Dagna readied the vial, so that when I began to carve away at the lines in his skin, she’d follow soon behind with a thin trickle of the cure.

Had I not been trying so hard to calm myself, to focus intently on my task, I may have noticed Loran’s knuckle twitch, or the sweat bead at his forehead. No sound escaped him, no scream or flex of pain, no bucking of his body. I took this as a good sign.

I should have known better.

The more I carved, and the more Dagna filled, the more the lyrium in his skin began to change. First, it faded to a harsh pink, then mauve, and in due time, it took on a periwinkle hue. His flesh ripped angrily, cauterizing around the tip of my makeshift light scalpel, searing through the corrupted paths. The smell alone brought tears to my eyes that I fought out of my vision.

I took a step away when the last of the corruption was cut away. Dagna filled the lines with what remained of the cure, and the last of the red faded away. The arcanist moved back toward the tools, eyeing the empty vial in her hands. The spear fragment dissipated, making way for healing as I cast Breath of Life. The gilded helix rose from his body, sealing the wounds closed with a flurry. The lyrium in his skin was not white like Fenris’s, but it wasn’t red anymore… Had we succeeded? Was he cured?

“Dagna, I -” My question was cut off when the lyrium flashed. From epicenter to the furthest reaches of the shattered lines, a wave of brightest blue pulsed outward like an angry tropical sea hitting the shore. The cruel song of the Blight was gone, replaced with a sweeter, more natural song.

Loran sat bolt upright, a bellowing shout upon his lips and an intense shock of blue illuminating in his eyes. Radiating from his pupil, and filtered through the familiar warm hazel was a ring of blue, pure as the sky and energizing as the ocean. And like the ocean, I felt immediately pulled into the tides. I drew him into a hug, and sobbed into his shoulder as I worried what binding him to me would mean.

“I am truly sorry, brother.”

His eyes widened as he looked down at his abdomen. His hands traced the cerulean cracks in his skin in disbelief. “Little Sister… what have you done?”

Chapter Text

Loran was never the boldest of the two of us. He was the air and the earth to my holy fire and water. He was adaptable to pressure yet firm in his beliefs - bending but never breaking. There was no weapon he found difficulty with, but his speed and silent prowess with a bow set him ahead of his peers. In anything he did, he’d greet his task with calm and unshakable poise, with a profound balance and clarity of mind. Most of all, he was protective and kind, enveloping you in a hug like a vine climbing the trunk of a willow tree.

Dagna had taken her travelling lab back to Skyhold some days prior, leaving Hawke, Fenris, Solas and me in the care of the elvhen, until I was sure my brother would no longer require me.

As he stood before me in the courtyard, I was gutted to find that sturdy willow ravaged by disease and uprooted by war, climbing vines torn away by fire. Though his physical wounds had healed, the pain he bore was much deeper than his skin. The problem stemmed from his crisis of faith. With the branching vallaslin on his face, he had sworn himself to an eternity of servitude to Mythal. His only comfort lay in that I was now host to her Well of Sorrows.

It wasn’t that he was compelled to obey me, Ella Enchanted style. But he couldn’t hide anything from me. His pain and conflict tore at me. Fenris had warned me that the lyrium lines I had branded into Loran’s skin would bind him to me… he seemed confused when I explained the phenomenon to him; Danarius had paired the act with some kind of ritual, truly binding Fenris to him until the elf had slain his master and broken the ties. If we had skipped this particular step, maybe it was for the best.

No, the conflict of faith and servitude was in Loran’s mind, in his perception of the world. In the time of Arlathan, these lines were rare, but nobility had used them to mark their property and make the bearer of the marks a tool. That he now had marks denoting his service of two different entities… he felt he was betraying his service to Mythal. I felt all this from him, and more.

Loran was grateful to us for having saved him from a gruesome death, but at the moment he could not bear to look at me. He spent the better part of his time in the courtyard retraining his abdominal muscles; something very close to yoga, likely in an effort to regain his inner balance.

I approached Loran with caution. Partway through a sort of warrior pose, his breath hitched, his calm facade shattered for a moment.

“Brother, we must leave. If we are to make it to Denerim before the Queen gives birth, I must go now.”

He nodded, still not looking at me. “Very well. What would you have me do?”

I smacked his arm in irritation. “None of that. You are my brother, not my servant, you ass. If you want to, head to Sanctuary with Abelas. I have shown him how to get there, but I have things I must do before I can stay there for any length of time. I will be there when I can.”

Loran stood, and in his eyes I saw that he was drained. Had he gotten any sleep? “I will go then, when I have… recovered.” He didn’t elaborate. I didn’t ask him to. If it took him a week, a month, a year... I wanted him to be alright.

I hugged him tightly, probably lingering for longer than was necessary. As a human, I hadn’t known this kind of bond, had forgotten what real family felt like. Now that I had found it again, I wasn’t so eager to alienate him.

“I love you brother. Take all the time you need.”

Reassurance flowed forth from him like the tide coming in.

“Thank you Syr. Mythal keep you on your journey.”


 


Stepping back through the Eluvian into Skyhold was jarring, to say the very least. Cold. Goddamn son of a whore , I’d forgotten how cold it was. My elvhen clothing was warded against the bitter frost, but that didn’t protect my exposed hands or face. I clapped my hands over my pointed ears, trying to keep them from falling off as I sprinted through the gardens. Marian laughed as she and Fenris followed suit. Only when we slammed open the doors to the great hall did I notice Solas wasn’t immediately behind us. It took him a minute or two more to emerge from the room that held the eluvian, and he looked pensive as he strode across the gardens.

When he stepped into the warmth, he leaned into me, trailing his lips along my ear.

“Fen’harel’s blessings are upon Skyhold no more. Asha'lean ghi'la mar vir. ” Solas whispered. Lady of Light guide your way. I hadn’t thought of the possibility, but he was right to change the passphrase.

“Have I ever told you how much I love it when you talk like that?” I asked, curling my fingers under the dark hair at the back of his neck.

Solas let out a soft chuckle, and he nipped at the point of my ear before pulling away. “Come, vhenan, we have much to do before we may depart.”

“Ughhh spoilsport.” I trudged behind him, entering the Great hall into absolute chaos.

The usual loud bustle was there, yet there was an air of celebration. Josie had pulled out all the stops, and every table was laden with roasted fowl and candied candied carrots, fluffy breads and steaming soups. Iron Bull commanded the entire end of one table, arms spread wide in the air when he spotted us.

“Boss! Glad you could finally join us. Here, drink this. It’ll put chest on your chest.” He attempted to shove a rather large tankard into my hands.

“Thanks but no thanks Bull. I still feel hungover from the last time I drank one of your mystery mugs, and it's been several months.”

The Chargers erupted into laughter. Krem snatched the mug from Bull, and took a rather hearty swig. Ya had to give it to him, he set the mug back down loudly without so much as a twitch of the eye. Friggin champ.

"Hey Krem, I’ll give you five sovereigns if you go hit on the minstrel.” I pointed Maryden out from across the room. She sat on a table, idly tuning her lute, her lips moving gently to words impossible to hear over the din of the Great Hall. Krem paled a bit, and his eyes kind of glassed over for a moment.

Something changed in the air then. The next breath I felt more calm, hopeful. I smiled, watching Krem, and I knew that in that moment Cole was somewhere nearby talking the lieutenant into it. Krem rolled his shoulders, took another hefty swig of liquid courage, and strode over to Maryden.

“Thanks for the assist, Cole,” I said to the air.

“Oh come on that’s cheating,” Bull grumbled. He slid two glinting gold coins over to Dorian, who pocketed the coins with a grin.

“I miss something?” I asked.

“My dear, this bet has been nearly six months in the making. He’s been pining over her for Maker knows how long, even standing on his chair to see over the crowds when she sings. I placed coin on the fact that no matter how long we let it go on, he wouldn’t be able to ask her himself. Not quite in the manner I’d thought, though. I imagined he’d get someone to pass her a note or something of the sort.”

I cackled. “Horns up, Bull. Have Krem get drinks next time you’re out. He’ll be good for it. I promised him five gold.” I gave each of them a brief hug, and set off to find the rest of my team.


 

 

Next on my list of people to visit was Cassandra, but I was able to tick several names from said list when I found her at the next table. She sat beside Cullen; both were laughing and nudging each other’s shoulders in good natured camaraderie. The smile she gave him was brilliant, and the commander for his part seemed utterly smitten. They’d take turns sipping from their tankards and laughing at something someone in the group said. Facing them, Varric sat with his own drink; Marian and Fenris seemed to have settled in well ahead of us. The Champion of Kirkwall was sprawled across her husband’s lap.

Cullen looked up when he saw Solas and I approach. “Lady Dire, glad to see you’ve returned safely. How… how is your brother? Loran, was it?”

I sighed. “He took to the cure well. The hard part will be his adjustment to the brands.”

Cullen nodded solemnly. “Where will you go now?”

“Consider this me tendering my resignation. The task is done, the sky is sealed, and I have a cure for the Blight. I’m headed to Denerim to get the cure to the King and Queen. Elissa is due any day now.”

“And after?” Cassandra asked. She seemed a bit dismayed that this was my farewell.

“Who knows? Maybe Solas and I will run away to a ruin in the woods, dream in the Fade together, raise a family...”  I felt Solas wrap his arms around my waist from behind. “I’m not dropping off the face of Thedas. I’ll write letters and shit. But no more Inquisition heroics for me.” It was a small hope I held, that after our work was over, Solas and I could go live happily ever after. It wasn’t impossible, but it would likely take time.

“Where you go, I will follow, vhenan .” I heard him say as he swayed us side to side gently. I caught the light flush of Cassandra’s cheeks at the corny declaration, and her eyes darted to Cullen. His hand found hers on the table, and he kissed it lightly.

“I wish you nothing but the best.” Cullen said, giving a gentle smile.

“Hey Cullen?”

“Yes, Lady Dire?”

“Get that woman a Mabari.”

His smile grew as he looked at Cassandra again. Cass looked stumped, switching her gaze between each of us.

“I’ll take that into consideration.” He said fondly.


 

 

Josephine and Leliana were last on the list. I found them together by the door to the War Room, where the spymaster was trying to calm the fretting ambassador.

“Josie, relax! You’ve done a splendid job. Sit and eat something!”

“Oh, but I can’t! I’m still expecting Comtesse Vienne to arrive, I have not seen her return from her rooms yet!” Josie exclaimed in a flurry of ruffled sleeves. Leliana took her wringing hands in her own.

“And you won’t. The Comtesse is entertaining a guest of her own.” She cast a gloved hand toward the Great hall.

Josie turned her wide eyes on the grinning spymaster. “Surely not?” She asked conspiratorially.

“One of my scouts, actually. I watched my man Jim enter her quarters not half an hour ago.”

“No! You’re certain? Her family wishes to see her engaged to Marquis Gagnon!”

“I have it on good authority that Marquis Gagnon prefers… sturdier bedfellows. And the Comtesse is not his type. That aside, she will not be returning any time soon, Josie, so you have plenty of time to eat.”

“But I -”

Josie!!” Leliana emphasized, giggling. She steered her toward a table laden with food.

The ambassador gave in as she plopped down on a bench, helping herself to a dollop of potatoes and a baked apple.

I chose this moment to interrupt, and parked myself on the bench opposite. “Hey ladies. I just spoke to the rest of the team.”

Leliana nodded, sitting beside Josephine. “So this is truly the end, then.” She helped herself to a roll, prying it open to butter it.

“Yep. Corypheus is dead, Divine Justinia avenged, and the sky is sealed. From what I hear, talks of a Mage College are already in the works.”

Josie daintily dabbed at her lips with a napkin before she spoke. “Indeed. The crowns of both Ferelden and Orlais have granted Skyhold to their use, and a permanent settlement is being established here. The troops that stayed behind discovered a network of tunnels, not unlike the ones beneath Haven. Our best dwarven stonemasons are working to make them habitable.”

“Awesome. And Leliana?” I turned to the spymaster. “Any news yet from Val Royeaux?”

“I received word yesterday. As you predicted, I have been extended the position of Divine.” She tore off another piece of bread and popped it into her mouth, chewing slowly.

“AND?” I prompted.

“And I accepted, of course.”

“Wonderful! Oh it couldn’t have happened to a better person.”

“I am to set off in two weeks time.”

“Solas and I will be heading to Denerim tomorrow with Dagna. Elissa is nearly due. I need to get there as soon as possible.”

Leliana nodded, her smile brilliant and genuine, if a little sad. “I wish I could be there. Send her all my love.”

“I will. And Josephine? What about you? You have plans now?”

“Lady Dire my work is not yet done. Skyhold promises to be a settlement unlike any other. I plan to be here to see it grow and flourish. My family’s trading vessels will see water soon, and Skyhold will be a bridge between Orlais and Ferelden for overland commerce. There is talk of a highway though the mountains that passes here.”

“They’ll probably name you mayor or something. Varric’s probably gonna end up viscount of Kirkwall for the same reasons.”

Josie laughed delicately. “It could be worse, I suppose. I could be kidnapped by Rivaini pirates and destitute.”

I barked a laugh. “I can see it now, you tied to the deck of a pirate ship awaiting a dashing rescuer. In any case, we know of at least one friendly Rivaini Pirate.”

Josie looked confused for a moment.

“Isabela, Varric’s friend from Kirkwall.”

Recognition dawned on her face, quickly replaced by another look Leliana and I knew too well.

I gently slapped at her arm from across the table. “Josie can you stop working for five minutes? You’re giving me a migraine.”

“Apologies, Lady Dire,” the ambassador said with a sheepish look.

I stood, grabbing a slice of bread with olives baked into it. “I’ll write once we arrive in Denerim. I’m sure this will not be the last you all see of me.” My hip cocked sideways, a mock salute with the hand that had once held the Anchor, and a sideways grin were my goodbye.

 


 

 

When I opened my door to my tower for the last time, I was greeted by the sight of Solas’s ass. He was bent over a crate of our belongings, those that meant something to us. The furniture, most of the books, the linens.... Those things could be replaced with ease.

On the bed lay my three sets of armor. I huffed a sigh at the timeline put before me in plain imagery. The deep teal armor of a cocky new mage, stormheart scales and shifting plates. The charcoal black ceremonial armor bedecked with curved feather wings, grand and imposing, but still retaining traces of my human past. Finally, the Elvhen set, rich black and gold, regal and beautifully rendered in the motif of our People, slotted for wings on its back. I traced the lines of each of them, fond memories of the person I was in each. I was a beacon. A leader. A hero.

I carefully wrapped each and laid the bundles in the crate. Solas’s armor had not changed much over the year. More trim and richer materials, but through it all he was still himself, just waiting for me to catch up.

Soaps and journals, sketchbooks and jewelry, maps and a bottle or two of wine. Everything we wanted to take with us from this place fit in a couple of crates. In the morning, they would be loaded onto a carriage for us, with Bessie and Revas pulling us onward to Denerim.

I stepped out onto the balcony, heart heavy as I looked out to the mountains. I knew I wouldn’t be coming back here again. I could feel it in the burning ember within my chest. I made a decision then as Solas wrapped his arms around my waist from behind.

Vhenan, how do you feel about one last mural in the rotunda?”


 

 

Aided by magics older than I, we worked diligently and silently just before dawn, having had a few hour’s sleep. Standing tall and strong, a pair of figures took up the middle of the painting. My armor was unmistakable even in the simplicity of the mural; curved wings rose over my shoulders and a coiled cuff extended from my wrist to my elbow. A burning sun emanated from my chest, and the anchor glowed on my palm.

The second figure was a stark contrast. Deep greens and reds and blacks, a distinct wolf cowl obscuring the top of his face with six red eyes. He too held the Anchor in his palm, and our hands connected in the very center of the painting, a bright explosion radiating throughout. When we finished, we departed quickly, saying goodbye to no one. Not a soul lingered in the Great hall after the festivities of the day before. Dagna was busy loading her luggage onto the carriage when we arrived. With a last fond look at the castle that had grown so much beneath our feet, we urged the horses forward.


 

 

Leliana watched them go from her place in the rookery. She knew what the painting was, knew what it meant for them both. Syraena Dire, the Dread Siren of the Inquisition, Daughter of Elgar’nan, had not been alone here. The Dread Wolf had been by her side all along in sheep’s clothing, and they had never even known. Though the spymaster felt torn between letting the two most powerful people she’d likely ever meet disappear and keeping them in her sights, she turned away from the window. She had letters to write.