Elgara approaches him slowly, but it isn’t in fear, as the Qunari had approached him. Instead, she approaches him as though she fears he will fade away like smoke if she comes too close, like she can’t quite believe that he’s real. Her flushed lips are parted as she keeps her golden eyes on his. Suddenly, her arm ignites a brilliant green as the Anchor flares, and pain shoots up Solas’ own arm as an echo. She bites back an agonised cry, fighting back tears, too proud to cry in front of him even now.
It takes everything he has not to rush over to her side immediately and take her in his arms. Instead, he turns his gaze upon the Anchor, jaw clenched as he takes in what he had done to her. His eyes flash blue, his magic pouring over her. It is too late to stop the Anchor’s spread, as he had suspected, but he can slow it down, if only for a moment.
He needs as much time with her as he can.
Her chest heaves as she struggles to catch her breath as the pain suddenly fades away, offering her perhaps the first moment of peace she’s had in a long while.
“That should give us more time,” Solas says softly, and he’s reminded suddenly of the passing of time. They are the last of the few true Elvhen, and the passage of time doesn’t affect them as it does others, but every single last one of these seconds means something to him in this instant. He had never valued mere seconds so greatly. They will never have enough time together. “I suspect you have questions.”
A small, incredulous laugh bubbles from her lips, but she still seems to be on the brink of tears. He doesn’t know if they are a remainder of the Anchor’s effect on her, or something else. (That’s a lie. He knows why. [He too feels a sob catching at the back of his throat, overwhelmed by her presence. He hadn’t realised just how greatly he had longed for her until she was back within his reach.])
“Questions…” she repeats, face crumpling as she tries not to cry. “Yes, but not about what you think. I know the secret you kept from me this whole time, the one you thought would get me to hate you more than anything else in the world. I always suspected. The voices of the Well suggested as much, and what I discovered in the Crossroads only reaffirmed my suspicions. You could have… Could have…”
“Told you that I was Fen’Harel?” Solas finishes.
Elgara looks down at the ground. “Yes.”
“Would you have believed that I was the monster your people told their children about at night?” he asks. “What would it have changed, vhenan, but you seeing me as a god and not as a man? You know better than most what it is like to be thought of as only a title, and not who you truly are.”
“You lied to me.”
“Never about who I was,” he says. “My name is Solas. Fen’Harel, the Dread Wolf, came later; nothing more than an insult I took as a badge of pride. I intended to tell you, but I did not want you to see me as anything more than what I was.”
“You lied about everything, but you couldn’t bring yourself to lie about your name.” Her voice drips with bitter derision, and he cannot say that her anger is unwarranted. He had given her every reason to hate him, and if Abelas was to be believed, none of it had worked.
Despite his best attempts, she is still in love with him.
“You know now,” he murmurs hoarsely. “What is the old Dalish curse? May the Dread Wolf take you?”
She meets his eyes. “And so he did.”
He grimaces, painfully reminded of the nights they had shared together, with her in his arms. He remembers the taste of her against his lips, the sound of her crying his name as she came undone beneath his touch. He remembers everything, letting the memory of it hurt when forgetting would have been kinder.
Solas swallows. “Everything I said… My affections for you were true. Doubt everything else, if you will, but do not doubt that.”
“I do not doubt your affections for me, Solas,” she says. “I could always tell when you were lying, but I trusted you enough to foolishly believe that you were doing it for my sake, and not for your own selfish reasons. I trusted you. I loved you. You could have told me. Of all the secrets you kept, why was that the one you refused to share? Did you really think I wouldn’t have understood?”
“It is because you would have understood, vhenan, that I did not tell you,” he says. “You must know by now what you are. It is not an easy burden to carry. I sought to spare you from your fate, to free you from the chains that bind you.”
“What fate is that, Solas? To be Mythal, reborn? To save and to guide the people of this world as she did hers? Is that what you sought to spare me from?” Elgara can barely contain her disdain. “Mythal’s fate never kept you away from her, now did it? All the stories you told me… All the things you said about loving another, only to watch her die, were about her. You spoke of her in the same voice you once used to speak of me. Now I know that you only love me because I wear the face of the woman you once loved.”
“No,” he says without hesitation. “It was what drew me to you, but I came to realise that you are not her. You mean more to me than she ever did. I cannot lose you as I lost her.”
“It wasn’t your place to keep this from me, Solas. I am Mythal reborn, and I consumed a part of her soul when I drank from the Well, dooming myself to take up her mantle—” She cuts herself off, going silent. “That is why you pulled away. In Crestwood, you… You were going to tell me, but the Well…”
“The pieces had already fallen into place,” he says quietly. “I saw it in your eyes; it was too late. I knew then you wouldn’t outrun your fate. I will not let what happen to Mythal happen to you. I swear it.”
“That’s not all though, is it?” Elgara presses, her head inclined as she keeps his gaze. “That wasn’t the only thing you kept from me.”
He swallows. “Ir abelas, vhenan.”
“Tel’abelas,” she insists. “You promised me answers, Solas, and then you left before I could get them. If you care about me at all, give me the truth. No more secrets. No more lies.”
If you care about me at all… he thinks. Oh my love, if only you knew the truth. If only you knew that you are the first to know of my identity and still call me by my name rather than my title. If only you knew that I cannot look at you without regretting all the decisions I have ever made.
If only you knew what you still mean to me.
“The stories of me glorify the truth, as they are wont to do,” he says, casting his gaze down over the valley. “Do you know where we are? We stand on the outskirts of the ruins of Arlathan. Once, the city at the heart of Elvhenan, and now… nothing more than a ruin. I was a soldier in Mythal’s war to keep lyrium away from Elgar’nan and his allies, but after the war… After the war, I could not return to my old life, and I sought to set my people free from slavery to would-be-gods. The Evanuris named me Fen’Harel, the Dread Wolf who granted their slaves freedom, and when they finally went too far…”
“You banished them,” she finishes hollowly, understanding dawning upon her. “They killed Mythal, and you banished them forever.”
“It was a crime for which an eternity of torment was the only fitting punishment. She was the best of us, just as you are. I sought to free my people, and in so doing, destroyed their world. The Dalish cling onto their history, their past, their culture as though the shemlen are those who stole it from them. In truth, it was I who stole the elves from themselves. I had no choice. I did what was necessary. You saw the lyrium mines. The amount of power that would be bestowed upon whomsoever controlled it? It would be near limitless. But in the end, Mythal was not slain by her enemies, but by her own son whose very slave markings you so proudly wore.” Solas looks down at his hands. “I ought to have killed him for his crimes, but the first of our people do not die so easily. The mark you bear, the Anchor, would have killed anyone else. I alone could have borne it without consequences. You lasted as long as you have because your blood is as Elvhen as my own.”
“What was it for?” He doesn’t answer her. Not immediately. “That is the great secret you have been keeping from me, isn’t it? Everything else, you knew I would forgive you for, but this…”
“The orb was mine,” he says, voice cracking. “I lay in dark and dreaming sleep while countless wars and ages passed. I woke, still weak, a year before I joined you. The world in which I found myself was unlike the one I had left behind. It was like walking in a world of Tranquil. You knew not what you had lost, and you were numb to all that you could have been.”
“We aren’t even people to you?”
“You weren’t, no,” he answers. “But that changed.”
“You showed me that I was wrong,” he says with a wry, bitter smile. “There is goodness in this world, and that is why I regret what I must do. I destroyed my people. Now, I must save them, even if it means this world must die. It is a truth I have long since avoided. They lie beyond the Veil in uthenera, waiting to be awoken.”
“There has to be a better way.” Already, he can hear the anger, the betrayal leaking into her voice. When he had first met her, she had hated the shemlen, and he’s certain if he’d asked her to join him then, she might have agreed, but now… Things have changed. She had suffered, and rather letting it turn her cruel, and it had done was make her swear that no one else would have to endure what she had. “Solas, please.”
“Abelas said you would try to stop me,” he says. “You have always been stubborn, vhenan. I always admired that about you, but I am doing what must be done, no matter the cost.”
“Dirthamen ignored the cost in his ploy for power too,” she whispers. “Do not do this, Solas. Please.”
“I take no joy in this.”
“Then don’t do it.”
“I swore an oath to protect the Elvhen people.”
“Then break it,” she says, grasping his forearms in some desperate attempt to get him to listen to her. “Swear another oath to me that you will not do this.”
“If only I could, vhenan.” He cannot bring himself to pull away from her, relishing her touch for what little time they have left. “But I must undo what I have done, no matter the cost. And you… You have your own path to follow, just as I have mine. In stopping the Dragon’s Breath, you stopped an invasion by Qunari forces. That should give you a few years of relative peace. I do not wish for your people to suffer.”
“From the beginning, that is what this has been about, hasn’t it?” she asks. “Your plan to restore Elvhenan?”
His heart fills with shame. “Yes.”
“That is why you led us to Skyhold. Why you helped me time and time again, when all others would have fled.”
“I intended to tear down the Veil with my orb, but I was too weak to unlock it after my slumber. I gave it to Corypheus to unlock it, and die in the process. When he survived… I feared that I had failed my people once again, but when you survived… You were the best hope this world had of stopping him. I sought to atone for my mistakes by aiding the Inquisition.”
“All so you could bring back Elvhenan, and destroy everything we worked so hard to create.” She lets him go, and he finds himself aching for her touch. “I was a fool to expect anything else of you. I never thought you would do something so… cruel.”
“You have always thought me a better man than I am, vhenan. It will take some time yet for my plans to come to fruition, but I am not unkind. I did not wish for your people to suffer. If I am to do this, it will quick. Painless. Like falling asleep.”
“The fact that you care at all proves that you are not a bad man, Solas. Bad men do not worry about being kind.”
“I did it for selfish reasons,” he admits. “The thought of you suffering…” He lifts her marked hand, examining the way that the emerald corruption seems to have entirely taken over her arm, now more solid bits of Fade than flesh and blood. “I could not bear it, but we are running out of time.”
She collapses into his arms with a cry as the Anchor flares, and he watches as its corruption spreads further up her arm. He did this to her. He could have spared her this fate, if only he hadn’t failed to unlock the orb.
But then he wouldn’t have met her.
“Drawing you here gave me the chance to save you, to buy you some time,” he says, brushing her hair away from her face. “I hope that you will come to find a place by my side in the future I will create, and if not… I hope you will forgive me.”
“I’m not going to give up on you, Solas,” she says between choked gasps for air. “You do not have to do this. I’ll show you.”
“I would treasure the chance to be wrong again, my love,” he whispers against her lips as he kisses her one last time, just as his magic flares and her poisoned arm dissolves into emerald flakes that float away on the wind.
And for the last time, he walks away.